Buncombe District Attorney’s race heats up

District Attorney Ron Moore speaking to the Council of Independent Business Owners on March 14. Photo by Alicia Funderburk.

The race for Buncombe County District Attorney is heating up, with incumbent Ron Moore touting his accomplishments to a local business group (and taking to Twitter), while challenger Todd Williams accumulating endorsements from some local politicians and judges.

Moore, a Democrat, is running for a seventh term. Williams, a defense attorney, is running against him in the May 6 primary. Williams has criticized the longtime district attorney, asserting that his office has acquired a reputation for a lack of transparency. There is no Republican candidate for the position, so the primary will determine the outcome.

This morning, March 14, Moore spoke to the Council of Independent Business Owners. He touted his office’s major role in cracking down on drunk driving, setting up specialty courts to reduce the court caseload and coordinating the renovation and expansion of the courthouse complex to improve security.

Moore said he was particularly proud of a recent award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In his office’s pursuit of DWI offenders, he said, “We’ve saved lives by being relentless.”

Talking to Xpress afterwards, Moore defended his record as one of efficiency and improvement.

“When I first ran, the platform I ran on was that I would try cases, vigorously prosecute drug dealers and use the habitual felon law, all of which I have done,” he says. “I had a program of what I wanted to do if elected. My program wasn’t ‘This guy’s been here for too long or whatever.’ My program was: ‘This guy’s not running a very good office.’ I have continued to be innovative through the years. We are constantly looking for ways to be more efficient in the system, even [as] our caseload has grown exponentially with the population.”

Even now, Moore says, he’s pushing to improve resources for blood and crime-scene testing so that it can be done closer to Buncombe County and decrease the time it takes to try a case, especially sexual assault and homicide cases.

Moore contends that his refusal in 2012 to release an audit of the amount missing guns, drugs and money from the Asheville Police Department evidence room was what any District Attorney would have done. He added that as soon as former evidence room manager Lee Smith is sentenced, he will reveal the audit to the public.

I n 2012, a number of local media outlets, including Xpress, hit Moore’s office with an open records lawsuit for withholding the documents, and Williams has criticized his refusal to release the audit.

Asked about that controversy, Moore replied, “I have no control over how long the federal government takes to sentence him, but once that is done, I will release it.” He continued, “When there’s a pending case, I’m not supposed to release information about an investigation. … There’s nothing to hide. Once he’s sentenced, I will release it and I will answer questions about it. I don’t think anybody sitting in the District Attorney’s chair would release things like that.”

Moore said that his vision for his next term includes improved use of electronic records for both prosecutors and defense attorneys, and claims that he’s always been open with defense attorneys.

“We’ve had an open file policy [for attorneys] since the first day I took office: come grab our files and copy them,” but he hopes that soon electronic records will show when attorneys for each side received documents and evidence.

“We’ve always been innovative and sought out new programs,” he said. “It’s exciting to try and make the system work even better.”

Both campaigns now have Twitter accounts.

Williams, meanwhile, has gathered several notable endorsements in the weeks since announcing he’d challenge Moore. Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger, former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Harry Martin, retired Chief District Court Judge Earl Fowler and Asheville City Council member Gordon Smith have all publicly backed Williams.

Early voting for primary elections begins April 24 in eight locations throughout Buncombe County. The primary is scheduled for Tuesday, May 6.


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One thought on “Buncombe District Attorney’s race heats up

  1. Heather Rayburn

    The endorsement from Drew, along with the following email I received from Cecil Bothwell, have convinced me to vote for Todd Williams. From Cecil:

    It is long past time for Buncombe County’s incumbent D.A. to vacate the office. Help me elect Todd Williams on May 6. You can donate to his campaign by clicking here.

    When Ron Moore first ran for the office 24 years ago his principal argument was that his 16 year predecessor had been in the job too long. I guess he thinks the rules are different when he’s the incumbent?

    But that’s not the main reason I believe Moore should be voted out of office.

    Moore has made a practice of over-charging suspects, essentially extorting guilty pleas from people who can’t afford a substantial defense. Along the way he has imprisoned innocent people, sometimes for years, at a considerable cost to taxpayers, and immeasurable loss to those incarcerated.

    But that’s not the main reason I believe Moore should be voted out of office.

    Moore routinely hides the results of State Bureau of Investigation inquiries from the public. He’s still sitting on the investigation into the Asheville Police Department evidence locker problems. Given that he had to have been using evidence from that locker, and had to be aware of the state of affairs there, one must wonder what we are not being told. Under Moore’s management, State Bureau of Investigation reports about any matter that might reflect badly on Moore seem to remain buried on his desk.

    But that’s not the main reason I believe Moore should be voted out of office.

    My single biggest reason is that Ron Moore blocked investigation of Sheriff Bobby Lee Medford, protecting the corrupt lawman for years before a Federal investigation finally put Medford in prison.

    Many of you reading this know that I was an investigative reporter in the early 2000s, and that a principal target of my work was Bobby Medford. Anyone who paid the least bit of attention to the Sheriff’s Department knew he was corrupt, but no elected official cared to raise the issue.

    When I had rock-solid proof of corruption and challenged Moore to take action, he chose to cover for his crony. Our county suffered through four more years of Medford’s extortion and profiteering before the Feds finally took him down.

    Thanks Ron.

    Please join me in supporting Todd Williams, a new sort of candidate for District Attorney.

    Todd understands both the law and the impact of the law. As a decades-long Public Defender he has seen Moore’s practice of over-charging suspects to extort guilty pleas and Moore’s appalling lack of transparency.

    Please remember to vote for Todd Williams on May 6.

    More soon, but please, please, do all you can to help Todd Williams’ campaign. — Cecil Bothwell

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