The Republican primary is over and Ted Bell has won yet again. There was a total of 12,433 votes cast for District Attorney in the District 29A Republican primary out 57,776 eligible voters. Ted Bell received 7562 votes making him elected by only 13% of the eligible voting population in the district. He has no opponent from any other party so the office is his yet again. SSDD as the younger generation says.
That being said does not mean that the “cloak and dagger” mentality that has existed in the DA’s office under Ted Bell can continue. It was hoped that electing someone new would “clean up” the office but since that is not going to happen then other avenues must be pursued. Can Ted Bell change? It’s possible but unlikely at this point in his career.
Removing an elected (even if only by 13% of voters) District Attorney is difficult, but not impossible. A District Attorney who has admittedly falsified video evidence in a death investigation (considered prosecutorial misconduct), discussed confidential information with others outside his office, and seemingly protected his friend, former Judge Randy Pool, who committed criminal acts (with 33 known victims at this time) so he could retire with his full benefit package to just name a few of his “behaviors,” does not need to be in office.
Last year in Henderson County District Attorney Greg Newman, representing Henderson, Transylvania and Polk counties was removed from office on April 27 by Judge Robert Irwin. On Feb. 11, 2021, an affidavit was filed with the Clerk of Superior Court in Henderson County asking for D.A. Greg Newman’s removal on various grounds pursuant to NC Gen. Stat.7A-66.
At the center of Newman’s removal hearing was a sexual assault case in which the victim’s family claims Newman denied them the right to be heard in court. More than a dozen families from his district came together to file a motion to have Newman removed from office due to an alleged pattern of willful misconduct. Last year Newman was disciplined by the state bar for making a false statement in a child rape case. He was suspended but still allowed to practice
North Carolina state statute 7A-66, allows any person to request Superior Court to hold a proceeding to suspend or remove a district attorney from office if certain criteria are met.
Under the state statute, the following are grounds for suspension of a district attorney for his or her removal from office:
- Mental or physical incapacity interfering with the performance of his duties, which is, or is likely to become, permanent;
- Willful misconduct in office;Willful and persistent failure to perform his duties;
- Habitual intemperance;
- Conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude;
- Conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, which brings the office into disrepute; or
- Knowingly authorizing or permitting an assistant district attorney to commit any act constituting grounds for removal.
If a D.A. is guilty of even ONE of the seven points listed above then ANYONE can request a Superior Court hearing to have them either removed or suspended from office.
According to the state statute, at the hearing the Superior Court judge will hear evidence and make findings of fact and conclusions of law, and if he/she finds that grounds for removal exist, he/she will enter an order permanently removing the district attorney from office, and terminate his or her salary.
The procedure for removal, as set out in GS 7A-66, includes these steps (from UNC School of Government):
- The process begins with the filing of a sworn affidavit charging the district attorney with specific grounds for removal. The affidavit may be filed by any person. It is filed with the clerk of court of the county where the DA lives.
- The clerk is to bring the affidavit to the attention of the senior resident superior court judge immediately.
- The senior resident judge is to review and act upon the charges within 30 days or refer the matter within that time to another superior court judge who either lives in the district or is holding court there.
- The judge reviewing the charges may, but is not required to, suspend the DA pending a hearing if the judge determines that the charges would indeed be grounds for removal if true and that there is probable cause to believe the charges are true. The DA’s salary continues during the suspension.
- If the judge determines that the charges are not grounds for removal, or that there is no probable cause to believe they are true, the judge is to dismiss the proceeding.
- The DA is to be given written notice of the hearing with a copy of the charges. The statute does not specify who is responsible for giving the notice. In the absence of other direction, the superior court judge who sets the hearing should direct that the notice be served.
- The hearing is to be held not less than ten and not more than 30 days after the notice is served.
- The hearing may be before the superior court judge who reviewed the charges or any other superior court judge who lives in or is holding court in the district.
- The hearing is required to be public and must be recorded.
- The judge is to make findings of fact and conclusions of law. The judge must order removal and terminate the DA’s salary upon finding that grounds for removal exist.
- The DA may appeal a removal order to the Court of Appeals for error of law. The DA may not perform duties of the office while the appeal is pending. A DA who is reinstated upon appeal or remand is entitled to back pay to the time of removal.
In practice, district attorneys, who prosecute the bulk of criminal cases in the United States, answer to no one. The State Attorney General is the highest law enforcement officer in state government and often has the power to review complaints about unethical and illegal conduct on the part of district attorneys.
You can file a complaint with them at this link https://ncdoj.gov/contact-doj/ or call the numbers below:
- Toll-free within North Carolina: 1-877-5-NO-SCAM
- From outside North Carolina: (919) 716-6000
- En Espanol: (919) 716-0058
A Bar complaint can also be filed by ANYONE against Ted Bell. You do not need a lawyer to file a grievance. All you have to do is tell the Bar what the lawyer did that you think was improper. Bar counsel will conduct the investigation and any legal research that may be necessary. You must identify yourself in the complaint.
To file a bar complaint contact them at this link. https://www.ncbar.gov/media/490329/grievance-form.pdf or send a detailed email to email@example.com
If you feel that you or your family have been wrongly treated or represented by D.A. Ted Bell or his office please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Knowledge is power. Together we CAN make a difference and help bring integrity back to the D.A.’s office.