Letters to the editor: May 8
Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 8, 2022
Law enforcement officer backs Dry
With the 2022 Rowan County elections fast approaching, it is my hope that the voting public of this great county truly put in the effort in educating themselves on our candidates, their experience and where their passions are. With more than 15 years in law enforcement, I have had the opportunity to observe numerous elections in Rowan County, including judicial positions. I have often found it interesting to take a hard look at these candidate’s supporters and backers for those positions. When you ask yourself, “What do these supporters have to gain by this individual being elected to the position of support?” the answer should never be financial or political gain.
Cynthia Dry has been a champion for children who were victims of reprehensible crimes. Many of these crimes included physical and sexual abuse. Standing up for these victims, immersing herself into investigations that most could not comprehend, Dry has been able to forge ahead for 17 years, committing herself to the young victims of Rowan County, while holding offenders accountable for their actions. Cynthia also was an assistant district attorney for 10 years, in a position to hold offenders accountable.
Many of those who have the necessary experience for judicial positions, have either gained that experience by representing victims, or representing those who were charged with a crime. They either have experience in trying to obtain justice for the voiceless, or they have been attempting to garner plea-deals for those found ultimately guilty of a crime.
Do your research, look at those who support a particular candidate, take into account where the candidate’s experience comes from, and then vote for the candidate who would best serve our county.
As a law enforcement officer, I support Cynthia Dry for District Court judge.
— Jagger Naves
Being on jury leads me to back Cook
I am not a personal friend of Brandy Cook’s, nor I am related to her in any way. I know Brandy because, for three weeks, I witnessed her in action when I served on the jury of a murder trial.
Believe me when I say that if you too had served on a jury where Brandy was the prosecuting attorney and you had the power to do so, you would grant her a lifetime appointment.
To call Brandy highly skilled is an understatement; to call her thorough is another. She is precisely the kind of person we want — and need — in a district attorney. Brandy and her team built their case against the alleged murderer so soundly that when the jury convened for deliberation, we unanimously agreed that she had answered all of our questions with evidence, explanation, experts’ analysis and plenty of witness testimony, including that from the victim’s wife and children. Brandy’s treatment of the victim’s family was profound in its compassion; six years later, I recall it vividly.
With over 20 years of legal experience and additional community service, Brandy understands how all of the public systems in our county work — not only the judicial system, of course, but also the school system, law enforcement and social services. I am blown away by the breadth and depth of her knowledge. As long as Brandy is willing to serve Rowan County, I will cast my vote for her.
— Jennifer Hubbard
Cook fights for victims, their families
I want to show my support for Rowan County District Attorney Brandy Cook. I have known Brandy for over 20 years. I met her during my career as a law enforcement officer. I investigated multiple cases where I had to reach out to Brandy for guidance. Brandy always made herself available and assisted me with investigations. One stands out: a young child was burned severely by a caretaker. The child had to spend a lot of time at UNC Burn Center healing because the injuries were so bad. I watched Brandy try the case before a jury and prepare several expert witnesses, law enforcement and other witnesses for trial. The offender was convicted.
Brandy fights for the victims and their families. She is the only candidate for the position who is a current prosecutor.
Brandy is very dedicated to the community for which she currently serves. I have 30 years of experience in law enforcement and want to re-elect District Attorney Brandy Cook who has a proven track record of being tough on crime.
— Jamie Beach
Change needed in DA’s office
My name is Austin Butler, former resident and first responder of Rowan County. This letter is to speak about my experience with the current district attorney’s office. In early 2021, I was arrested for a fraudulent, private warrant criminal charge in which I had to hire counsel for representation.
I am a career firefighter and have been in the fire service for nine years. I was at risk of losing my job, and was under a very tight timeframe for the hearing of my case. I work for a large municipal fire department where such accusations could have resulted in my dismissal. I had a video recording of the entire event that took place which I provided to my attorney. My attorney’s office delivered the video evidence of the event to the DA’s office, explaining the urgency of and my innocence to the charge. The DA’s office elected to proceed regardless.
Given this action by the district attorney, all my part-time work at multiple fire stations was suspended until the case was resolved. My EMT-Basic license was nearly revoked as well. My attorney had to get involved with my employer to ensure that I kept my job while the charges were pending. My case finally went to trial, and I was found not guilty. There was no evidence against me in this matter, and the DA’s office refused to assist in any way. I was strongly disappointed in the DA’s office given my background, the evidence that was provided, and the delay to obtain justice.
I have no criminal history. This case was used by my opposing’s family to seek custody of my child. I was raised in a strict household, and my father is retired law enforcement. I started the fire service immediately after high school. Being a firefighter, I am held to a higher standard and take pride in my occupation. I love my job and being able to serve others. This fraudulent charge nearly ended my dream career. I hope my situation brings light to the need for change in the district attorney’s office and in our criminal justice system.
— Austin Butler
Saleeby for Clerk of Superior Court
I am writing in support of Rebecca Saleeby for clerk of Superior Court. The good thing about Rebecca’s years of experience in the clerk’s office, magistrate’s office and at the Administrative Office of the Courts is that she can hit the ground running day one in the clerk’s office.
Her knowledge of each division includes the deputy and assistant clerk’s duties along with the flow of paperwork, procedures and all software programs. These divisions include estates, civil, criminal, juvenile, special proceedings and child support.
I worked with Rebecca at the Administrative Office of the Courts and she was very much respected for her knowledge of a subject matter, dependable, showed integrity, always prepared for meetings and training classes, volunteered for a task when no one else would, worked tirelessly including working many nights and weekends to ensure the task or tasks were completed and was passionate about her clients in the counties.
A vote for Rebecca will ensure the position of clerk of Superior Court will be in good hands with 30 years of experience and the knowledge that comes with this experience.
— Sherry Rackley
Long-time attorney supports Butler
I am a lifelong resident of Rowan County in my fourth decade of practicing law.
I have spent my entire life serving others, working for the state of North Carolina, Rowan County YMCA and in the practice of law as well as volunteering with Rowan Helping Ministries, Catawba College, various churches and as a youth sports coach. I care deeply about and remain committed to you — my neighbors, friends, and people of this county.
I have known the two candidates for district attorney for many years. Over the years, I have developed a deep and intimate knowledge of the working relationships, trial skills, policies and judgment of both candidates.
I encourage you to research the candidates. Look beyond the political theater and personal favors. Watch the debate videos. Talk to courthouse personnel. Ask judges, attorneys, law enforcement, clerks and others who know these candidates. Listen to the hundreds of jurors who have watched local criminal jury trials.
We all know our community is reeling from violent crime. Think of the deafening silence from leadership within the district attorney’s office when children were shot at the holiday basketball tournament, a murder occurred on Christmas Day, and 27 bullets riddled a City Park home, among so many other violent crimes in our county.
Our criminal justice system is at a fork in the road: we will either continue knowingly with failed policies or we will chart a new course in the right direction.
One candidate has extraordinary trial skills, common sense and judgment. One candidate has lost only five jury trials in nearly a quarter of a century of jury trials. One candidate appreciates that justice requires a swift sword for the evildoer and mercy when appropriate.
I support the clear choice for district attorney. I am voting for Paxton Butler.
— James A. Davis
Retired deputy clerk of Superior Court backs Butler
I am a lifelong resident of Rowan County. I am a retired deputy clerk of Superior Court who took an oath to uphold the constitution and serve the people of Rowan County. I worked at the courthouse for many years and interacted with both candidates for district attorney.
Our county has changed — and not for the better. I no longer feel safe shopping alone or putting gas in my car. I have been the victim of a home invasion, theft, and even a physical assault in a Salisbury parking lot. I am heartbroken at how gun violence and drugs are devastating our community.
Instead of politicians telling you how to vote publicly (while privately is a whole different story), I ask you to consider the facts. Fifty percent of the assistant district attorneys left the office within the last year. More than 15,000 criminal cases are pending in this county, far more than existed when the current district attorney took office. The district attorney’s office voluntarily dismissed a first-degree murder case only weeks before trial after it was pending for almost four years.
Our criminal justice system needs new personnel and practices. It is past time for change. I am voting for Paxton Butler for district attorney.
— Glenda Ball
Vote Allen for sheriff
There are numerous experienced and qualified candidates running for the office of sheriff of Rowan County. Kevin Auten has done an excellent job in that capacity for many years. His retirement is well deserved. Kevin did a good job of training deputies while in office and gave each of these candidates cross training opportunities in various areas of the sheriff’s office.
With that said, I have known Travis Allen most of his entire life. He is a dedicated Christian, husband, father and friend. Travis has worked many years preparing himself to fulfill his lifelong dream of being sheriff of Rowan County. Travis will replace outgoing Sheriff Kevin Auten with dignity and humility. He will work tirelessly to better the department and create a safe environment in Rowan County for the next generation to raise their children. I encourage everyone to vote Travis Allen for sheriff of Rowan County either by early voting or on May 17.
God Bless you all and God Bless Rowan County.
— Melonie Willis
Cook competent, dependable
I have known Rowan County District Attorney Brandy Cook for over 10 years. I have found her to be highly competent, dependable, ethical, and professional in all my dealings with her and her office. She is willing to make tough decisions and if she does not know the answer to a question, she will research it and find an answer.
Having been in law enforcement at the local, state and federal level for over 40 years and worked with dozens of state and federal prosecutors throughout the United States, I would put her near the top of that list. I also know from my interaction with the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys that she is held in high regard by their members.
Cook makes decisions based on evidence and facts and her decisions are non-political and victim oriented. She is not controlled by defense attorneys and is an independent thinker.
Cook and her office have routinely worked with our agency and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina to target violent offenders and major narcotics traffickers. These individuals have been prosecuted federally, where the cases have a high degree of conviction, with lengthy prison sentences and better post-release supervision. This leads directly to better public safety and Cook and her office play a key role.
The Rowan County District Attorney’s Office has long participated in Project Safe Neighborhoods, a United States Department of Justice initiative. This program targets repeat offenders for drug related and violent crimes. There have been many successful federal prosecutions of these offenders.
I highly recommend that Brandy Cook be reelected Rowan County District Attorney.
— David C. Ramsey
Editor’s note: Ramsey is chief deputy of the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office.
Long-time Faith resident backs Butler
I have lived almost my whole life in Faith and care about my home and neighbors.
I have always been active in the community and volunteered for many events. Most everyone knows me and they know I love my family, children and grandchildren. One of my children is in law enforcement, which makes me very proud.
This election for district attorney is very important. I know both candidates. One of them has my total support.
I am supporting Paxton Butler and ask you to support him too.
— Randall Barger
Retired sergeant backs Butler
I am a retired sergeant with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office who spent the last 20 years of my career supervising court proceedings in the courthouse.
I had the opportunity to work with and observe many courthouse personnel to include prosecutors, attorneys, clerks, bailiffs and other key members. I watched the current district attorney and Paxton Butler on hundreds of occasions, including their presentations and interactions with the public and courthouse personnel.
I always found Butler to be a courteous, prepared and well-respected prosecutor. He worked well with stakeholders in the system. Rowan County could not have a better trial attorney than Butler as an advocate for the people.
I am well aware that many of those in law enforcement support Butler, although it is difficult to do so publicly.
I am casting my vote for Paxton Butler.
— Chris Crane
Editor’s note: Crane is a retired sergeant with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office.
Cook has qualities a DA needs
The role of district attorney requires varied skills. They must have knowledge about and experience in all aspects of the law. They must have excellent communication skills, be credible and trustworthy, pay close attention to detail, have the ability to think on their feet and be adept at juggling multiple tasks. Beyond and more important than those administrative and organizational skills, a successful district attorney must possess a fundamental fairness and honesty, be committed to public service and have the ability to work with people across the justice system, including victims. Recognizing that their primary job is not to convict, but to see that justice is done, they must vigorously prosecute crimes while honoring the rights of the accused.
In my opinion, District Attorney Brandy Cook possesses each of these qualities and more. I have worked with Cook since she was first elected and know her to be someone of the highest integrity and ability. We have worked especially closely on issues addressing and preventing juvenile crime. As a member of Project SAFE Rowan since its inception, I can tell you that Cook’s involvement in this initiative has made our community safer. Project SAFE Rowan gives some of our worst offenders a choice: either straighten up or be prosecuted to the highest degree possible. That seems to me to be exactly the message we should be sending.
Everything Cook has done as district attorney has been, and will continue to be, to improve the safety of our community for all of us. I urge you to vote for Brandy Cook and allow her to continue this vitally important work.
— Karen South Jones
Butler is best choice for DA
Did you know Brandy Cook’s district attorney’s office has now lost their last seven jury trials? That half of the assistant district attorneys in that office have left within the last year? Or that there is a 15,000 criminal case backlog in our local courts?
These questions, among many others, demand answers. I watched the last two Republican primary forums to have these questions answered by the candidates. However, only one candidate elected to participate: Paxton Butler. Based on the above statistics, I probably would not have attended those forums either if I were the incumbent.
What we need is the truth. The truth is that the district attorney’s office has lost the majority of jury trials since last summer.
On the other hand, Butler, a 25-year prosecutor, lost only one jury trial in a 13-year span and only five jury trials in a quarter of a century. The district attorney’s office needs Butler’s leadership, skill, and judgment immediately.
As citizens of Rowan County who seek to curb the rising crime in Salisbury, let’s end this trend toward the bottom by putting Butler over the top in this primary.
— Tommy Readling
Why I support Cook
My name is David F. James. I have over 37 years of law enforcement experience in North Carolina, 22 years at the Kannapolis Police Department, seven at the city of Belmont as the chief of police and one year as the interim chief of police for the city of Mount Holly. I currently work part-time as a felony investigator at Bessemer City Police.
The reason I tell you the above, is that during my career, I have worked with many district attorneys their offices across the Piedmont area. Rowan County is very lucky to have a district attorney like Brandy Cook, who is honest and enthusiastic about her job and her office. She is a person of high integrity and is willing to do the correct thing when the correct thing may not be popular.
My mother, who is 83 years old, lives in Kannapolis, and if she was a victim of a crime, I would rest easy knowing that District Attorney Brandy Cook’s office was prosecuting her case to the fullest.
District Attorney Brandy Cook does an excellent job.
— David F. James
Cook upholds office to highest standard
It is my distinct pleasure to write this letter in support of the re-election of Brandy Cook as district attorney in Rowan County. I have known Cook in a professional setting as a law enforcement officer for 18 years.
I have worked along side of Cook and her staff in District and Superior Court trial settings in numerous cases throughout my career. In my experiences, Cook has had great working relationships with members of the law enforcement community and has upheld her office to the highest standard. Cook has my full support for re-election to the office of district attorney.
— Kevin Barringer
Cook a capable district attorney
I have been in law enforcement in Rowan County for over 30 years. I have found Brandy Cook to be an extremely capable district attorney who aggressively prosecutes crime and has a passion for justice. I would like to address a few points her opponent has brought up recently.
Paxton Butler talks about 15,000 “backlogged” cases. I find this number misleading. I believe there are approximately 15,000 pending charges, not cases, and the vast majority are misdemeanors and traffic infractions, not felonies. When we arrest someone for drug trafficking offenses, there are typically anywhere between three and eight charges from one case.
Butler would have you believe that is three to eight separate cases. I believe that number includes the 300–600 new charges that are added weekly and haven’t even made it past the first appearance stage.
As for trial terms “not being used,” I observed this several times during my time as a court bailiff. Assistant district attorneys schedule multiple trials, only to have trials postponed due to unforeseen circumstances. These postponements are usually at the request of the defense attorneys and agreed to by a judge.
At a recent forum, Butler made his views of crime quite clear. He said a person’s brain is not fully developed until the early 20s and people make mistakes. He would have a program to put these first-time, low level felony offenders on probation, then the case would be dismissed.
He cannot even call it what it is, a crime. Calling crime a “mistake” is straight out of the liberal playbook.
It causes me great concern that Butler’s campaign is being pushed so hard by a prominent local criminal defense attorney, who was a Democrat until he recently switched his party affiliation. Butler works directly for this defense attorney.
Vote for District Attorney Brandy Cook.
— Lane Kepley
Keep Gould as judge
Let me preface this letter by saying how lucky the citizens of Rowan County are to have the choice between two excellent candidates seeking the office of Superior Court judge. Both Michael Adkins and Tim Gould are excellent attorneys and honorable men of integrity. I have known them both for many years and have the highest respect for them.
I have had the opportunity to know Judge Gould for more than 10 years. I first met him when I worked in the Rowan County District Attorney’s Office for retired District Attorney Bill Kenerly. When Kenerly hired Judge Gould as an assistant district attorney, I was aware that he was an experienced prosecutor. But it took no time at all to realize that he was an excellent prosecutor. Now as a practicing criminal defense attorney, I have had the opportunity to appear before Judge Gould for everything from arraignments to guilty pleas and bond hearings in murder cases. I even recently tried a jury trial before him.
When he took the bench last year, I knew the transition to Superior Court judge would be smooth since he has likely run across every situation that could occur in the courtroom, criminal or civil. I knew when he first took the bench that he would never come to court without having thoroughly reviewed the case files, picked up on possible legal issues that might arise and researched the law ahead of time.
Judge Gould’s judicial temperament is always appropriate. He is polite to court personnel, prosecutors, defense attorneys, defendants and victims. I can say that Judge Gould is firm when warranted and compassionate as the situation calls for. If he rules against you, you can take solace knowing that the decision is well-informed and well-reasoned. And because Judge Gould knows how an efficient courtroom should work, he makes suggestions on how to keep court moving by reminding the parties to be ready when the present matter is concluded.
— Karen S. Biernacki
Butler appears as disgruntled former employee
After doing my homework, which all voters should do, I have been able to conclude a few things from searching public records available to anyone who take the time to search.
First, Paxton Butler, who is a criminal defense attorney, appears to be a disgruntled former employee. I find it interesting he worked for the current DA, Brandy Cook, for over 10 years but only now has negative things to say about the office.
Second, he said he will try all these cases, but he was only able to try a couple of cases each year.
Third, Butler plans to give slaps on the wrist for criminals who commit felonies with deferred prosecution. These felony cases would be dismissed. Victims of crime and our community deserve better.
On Butler’s website video, he says that “since 2008, Rowan County has been my home.” If that statement holds true, then how did he vote in Davidson County in their elections in 2010 and 2012? Butler has only been registered to vote in Rowan County since March 9, 2016 and 2016 was his first time voting in the county. With all the negative in society, we need to keep the positive in the DA’s office. Honesty and integrity are imperative, along with a focus on victims and not the criminals. The choice is clear. Vote Brandy Cook for Rowan County District Attorney.
— Martha Corriher
Recent juror shocked by DA’s office
I recently served as a juror in a criminal Superior Court jury trial. After my experience, Brandy Cook must be fired immediately by the people.
The prosecution and their witnesses were extraordinarily unprepared. We watched a video of the defendant, using curse words, admit to beating up and stealing from the victim. However, we were nearly deadlocked because of how bad the prosecution was. If what I witnessed represents the quality of the district attorney’s office, I can only imagine what happens when citizens are not watching.
It is clear Cook cares about justice for only a certain class of people, not all citizens of Rowan County. This cannot stand. I will vote for Paxton Butler.
— Donna Ridenhour
Cook dedicated to ensuring justice
It is my pleasure to endorse Brandy Cook for re-election as Rowan County District Attorney. I have been honored to know Brandy for 20 years through our respective professional roles.
I have witnessed firsthand Brandy’s determination and dedication to ensuring justice. Brandy has been successful in prosecuting and obtaining convictions for thousands of cases. Brandy has a vested interest in the safety of Rowan County, and her experience and knowledge will continue to benefit the citizens of Rowan County as our district attorney.
— Michelle Adams
Retired deputy supports Butler
I am a retired law enforcement officer with over 26 years of experience, serving as a deputy sheriff with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office for 14 years.
As a bailiff in the courthouse for five years, I know both candidates and the system very well. I know significant problems exist under the current leadership in the district attorney’s office. It is time for change. My law enforcement friends support change as well. Paxton Butler is the candidate with more experience as a prosecutor, far greater trial experience, and common-sense solutions to fix the serious problems. I proudly support Paxton for district attorney.
— Lana Sterling
Editor’s note: Sterling is a retired deputy sheriff with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office.
Serving on jury makes me back Cook
I am not a personal friend of Brandy Cook’s, nor I am related to her in any way. I know Brandy because, for three weeks, I witnessed her in action when I served on the jury of a murder trial. Believe me when I say that if you too had served on a jury where Brandy was the prosecuting attorney and you had the power to do so, you would grant her a lifetime appointment.
To call Brandy highly skilled is an understatement; to call her thorough is another. She is precisely the kind of person we want — and need — in a district attorney.
Brandy and her team built their case against the alleged murderer so soundly that when the jury convened for deliberation, we unanimously agreed that she had answered all of our questions with evidence, explanation, experts’ analysis, and plenty of witness testimony, including that from the victim’s wife and children. Brandy’s treatment of the victim’s family was profound in its compassion; six years later, I recall it vividly.
With over 20 years of legal experience and additional community service, Brandy understands how all of the public systems in our county work—not only the judicial system, of course, but also the school system, law enforcement, and social services. I am blown away by the breadth and depth of her knowledge.
As long as Brandy is willing to serve Rowan County, I will cast my vote for her.
— Jennifer Hubbard