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Two seek North Georgia DA post

Gunter leaving office to seek Court of Appeals judge position

POSTED: May 2, 2010 12:03 a.m.

Jeff Langley

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For the first time in 12 years, there will be a new district attorney next year in White, Lumpkin, Towns and Union counties.

Three-term incumbent Stan Gunter’s decision to run for a judgeship on the Georgia Court of Appeals has opened up a race to succeed him as the top prosecutor for the Enotah Judicial Circuit.

With no Democrats qualifying for the post, the contest will be decided July 20 in the Republican primary.

Here’s a look at the two candidates, Raymond George and Jeff Langley, in alphabetical order:

Raymond George:

George has spent the past 13 years as a private criminal defense attorney but has also been a prosecutor. He touts his varied background, which includes eight years as a Clarke County police officer and stints as an assistant solicitor in Hall County and assistant district attorney for the Northeastern Judicial Circuit.

“I’ve had a lot of different jobs, yes, but all of them have involved criminal law,” George said. “It enables me to look at both sides of an issue, properly evaluate a case, and determine if we have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to continue prosecution.”

George blasted the current administration of the Enotah Circuit District Attorney’s office, which he claims is run on a day-to-day basis by his opponent, Chief Assistant District Attorney Jeff Langley.

“Being a practicing trial attorney in the criminal courts on a regular basis, I’ve seen the gross inefficiency, the gross ineffectiveness that’s become the DA’s office,” George said. “We’ve got to get back to common sense in the courtroom.”

George said in the current economy, “we’ve got to stretch every tax dollar until it screams, and right now, there’s tens of thousands of dollars being wasted on a regular basis, trying cases that shouldn’t be tried, or losing cases that shouldn’t be lost.”

George said he wants to speed up procedures, with formal accusations for misdemeanors filed within 30 days of arrest and pending felony cases presented to the next available grand jury.

“Right now, misdemeanor cases can take over a year for the first papers to be filed, and felony cases can literally take years,” George said. “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

George said he would work to improve coordination with the law enforcement agencies of the circuit.

George said the office is losing too many cases at trial.“If you have the evidence, prosecute the case to the fullest extent of the law,” he said. “If you don’t, take other measures.”

George said if elected, he would ask the office members to reapply for their jobs, while opening up the application process to others.

For the current staff, which consists of 23 people, including 10 attorneys, “I would apply their qualifications and experience against anyone who applied,” George said.

Jeff Langley:

Langley has worked for Gunter for 12 years and is the chief assistant district attorney for the circuit.

He has the endorsement of Gunter and touts his experience prosecuting more than 100 jury trials in the courtroom, with no verdicts overturned on appeal.

“From the time I was a child, I could not stand it when I saw a bully picking on a smaller child on the school playground,” Langley said. “Today, I get to make the bullies of this world answer in a courtroom for what they’ve done. And I have a passion for that. I didn’t just come in and out of prosecution, I’m a professional prosecutor.”

Langley said if elected district attorney, he would be “hands-on” in the courtroom, trying the major cases and leading by example.
“I want to be in the courtroom training our young attorneys as they try cases,” Langley said.

Langley said he would explore sentencing alternatives, including the possibility of converting the old White County jail into a work-release center. He also wants to develop a system for marshaling extra resources to target repeat offenders.

Langley disputes his opponent’s characterization that he runs the office now, saying Gunter “has always been administratively in charge of the office, and still is.”

Langley said allegations of inefficiencies in the office are “not true.”

“Our case backlog is down over the last two years by close to 1,000 cases,” he said. He said while some cases may take a year or more to indict, that’s not true of the majority of cases.

“We have to prioritize, and oftentimes there are pending lab reports, pending investigations, additional evidence, so it rolls over to a later grand jury,” he said. “You can’t make a blanket promise like that.”

Langley denied his opponent’s claim that the office has wasted money. He acknowledged it does lose some cases at trial.

“If you say, ‘I will not try a case if I cannot guarantee victory’, dangerous criminals will walk free,” Langley said. “Someone who wants to only try sure things is not the kind of district attorney the people of the Enotah Judicial Circuit want. We have to try close, difficult cases.”

Langley has not ruled out staffing changes in the office, either.

“I would do a top to bottom review of the staffing situation and there would likely be some changes,” Langley said. “So I am certainly not the incumbent running on the status quo.”


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