Armed robbery, gang violence, cyberbullying, government corruption, prescription drug theft—commit any of these crimes, and you’ll inevitably face the wrath of Risa Vetri Ferman, a real-life version of the well-dressed, street-smart female DAs who populate TV legal dramas.
As Montgomery County’s district attorney, she has a 98-percent conviction rate. She also served as captain of the Sex Crimes Team for 15 years, while establishing the Elder Abuse Unit. And she hopes her nonprofit Mission Kids Child Advocacy Center and Montgomery Child Advocacy Project will serve as models for other counties. “Child protection is at the top of my priorities,” says Ferman. “Building our criminal justice system to do that is critical. One of my goals is to work with DAs in other counties to form a network of child-advocacy centers across Pennsylvania, so that every child can be protected in the same way.”
While Ferman may be the first woman to serve as DA of Montgomery County, she discounts the importance of the designation, saying that women of the prior generation are the real trailblazers. Chief among them: her mother, Barbara Vetri who, in addition to raising Ferman and her two brothers (award-winning restaurateur Marc Vetri and TV producer Adam Vetri), enjoyed a successful legal career in the ’50s and ’60s. “My mom taught me that, even if there aren’t many opportunities, women should not backstab other women—or anyone— in the career world,” says Ferman. “We get farther when we help each other. There’s room for all of us.”