April 4, 2022
The District Attorney is the lynchpin of our justice system here in Rutherford County as well as in McDowell County. Many people, however, do not understand exactly what their duties are or how much power they wield.
Prosecutors (District Attorney officers) are the most powerful officials in the American criminal justice system. They control the direction and outcome of all criminal cases, particularly through their charging, prosecution and plea-bargaining decisions.
Because punishment for a crime is largely determined by the sentence that lawmakers have established in the criminal code, the prosecutor often has more power over how much punishment someone convicted of a crime receives than the judge who does the actual sentencing.
In addition to deciding how to proceed on criminal charges, prosecutors in North Carolina also:
- Make recommendations about bond and other pretrial release conditions.
- Negotiate plea arrangements with defense attorneys.
- Inform victims about the steps in the court process.
- Refer/approve cases for diversion programs, for example specialty courts for people whose charges are related to mental illness or substance use.
- Review cases involving misconduct or use of force by police and decide if charges should be filed.
- Coordinate and consult with victim advocates in sensitive cases, like domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse.
- Refer cases to the Grand Jury for indictment, and at times special investigation.
District attorneys have significant decision-making power and the decisions they make have a big impact on the community. They can decide whether criminal charges are brought to court, which cases are dismissed or diverted from court, and to some extent, the sanctions that people convicted of crimes will face.
Basically they decide who gets charged and for what.
One of the issues historically with this type of power is that certain persons strive hard to subvert it. The longer you hold an office of power the harder it becomes to continue to fight these influences. This is one overwhelming argument for term limits in elected offices throughout the country.
The District Attorney’s office is supposed to be the watchdog of the police as well as the general public. When an ADA subpoenaed the sheriff for trial testimony, Bell canceled it. The missing items in the evidence room, jail deaths, overdoses, and mistreatment of inmates by law enforcement remain critical, but seemingly not handled with transparency for public awareness. However, the lack of transparency is evident in how communication is handled to the people that the law enforcement departments and judicial system supposedly serve.
If not for media coverage of local events, the knowledge of a man’s death at the RC airport, the suspicious death of Van Buskirk at former Judge Randy Pool’s home, and the deputy shooting of Ethan Calton in the back at close range may not have been made public.
Here in Rutherford County during Ted Bell’s administration we have had multiple issues with incidents involving our Sherriff’s Office where silence seems to be the preferred method of communication from the District Attorney’s Office. To the point that people have actually had to take them (The DA’s office) to court to get them to release body cam information that they were entitled to by law and even then their office altered evidence and had to admit to that in court.
The most prominent recent issue is with former Judge Randy Pool. This man committed so many ethically incorrect actions that it is almost unbelievable. It is a known fact (admitted by both Pool and Ted Bell) that he lied to everyone about what was going on. Other judges, court personnel and Ted Bell knew what was going on. A staff member of Mr. Bell’s office actually went to him about it and it was never properly addressed.
A transfer of a court officer was arranged when she complained of sexual overtures made by Pool. Did any of her superiors report these incidents or was it swept under the rug?
These mishandled incidents by themselves are so unbelievably wrong. The Assistant District Attorney was harassed at work, reported it to her superior, and he ignored it.
Now Bell has an entire page on his campaign site devoted to why he did not charge Randy Pool with any wrongdoing. At no time, however, has he condemned Pool’s actions.
This is a quote from his page: “When Pool received the extortion demands from Tierce he called a captain with the McDowell County Sheriff’s Office and asked if he would go talk to Tierce and tell her it is wrong to try and extort money from a judge. Pool’s request to the captain was improper – Pool should have filed a proper complaint with law enforcement. However, it is not a crime in North Carolina to ask a law enforcement officer to explain to someone that what they are doing is a crime, regardless of whether the person making the request is a regular citizen or a judge.”
“The captain and another detective interviewed Pool the next morning to gather information about the alleged extortion. Pool stated in that interview that he and Tierce communicated via Facebook but falsely stated they had not communicated by text, when in fact they had.”
If a “citizen” makes a request that is one thing but when a judge, who has a great deal of power, sends law enforcement to your house that is a completely different matter and everyone knows that. This does leave the question of why has Mr. Bell taken a totally “hands off” policy towards former Judge Pool?
What does this say about the current environment or social culture at the courthouse?
Who else is involved in these types of behaviors that we don’t know about?
Truth is a hard thing to pin down especially when it seems to be convoluted by those who were elected to be in charge. Last Saturday Ted Bell said he had to wait six (6) years to bring a woman to trial who was found innocent because her son, who initiated the charges, was too fragile to testify. Yet during that time the Army thought the witness was stable enough to sign him up and give him a weapon. Judgement call…….hummmm??
Additionally, there is a backlog of untried and unresolved cases of many years.
For example, in the infamous Matthew Fenner and Word of Faith Fellowship (WoFF) assault cases, presiding Judge Pope at the mistrial conclusion of the only case prosecuted (by then ADA Garland Byers, Jr.) ordered District Attorney Ted Bell to retry that case as soon as possible.
In the courtroom Bell replied he could put it on the trial calendar for the next week. It’s now been SIX YEARS and that retrial still has not been put on the trial schedule.
Meanwhile the other WoFF related defendants’ cases have remained in limbo as well. The right to a speedy trial seems at stake.
The only thing I can say about it is if you are happy with the way things have been for the past eight (8) years here in the courthouse in Rutherford and McDowell County, then vote for Ted Bell. If you have questions or concerns about anything, then vote for Krinn Evans, an experienced, respected criminal attorney and successful firm manager. It does seem it is time for a change.
Do remember that no Democrat or Unaffiliated candidates have registered to run for the office of the district attorney. The Republican primary on May 17 will decide who our next DA is. If you want your vote to count for District Attorney, you will have to vote on the Republican ticket in the primary.
All Republicans and Unaffiliated voters can vote during the primary on the Republican ballot. Doing so does not affect your status during the general election in November.