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INSIDER: Bulloch County Solicitor General Candidate Ben Edwards

Candidate Insider: Bulloch County Solicitor General candidate Ben Edwards

Due to the social distancing guidelines, we have converted our traditional AllOnGeorgia candidate video interviews into short questionnaires. Each candidate in the race was provided an identical questionnaire with the same deadline. Answers were not edited in any way.

The Primary Election was moved to June 9th.
The last day to register to vote in the primary is May 11th.
Early voting begins May 18th.
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  1. What experience do you have as a prosecutor and attorney?

    I have worked at the Office of the District Attorney for Ogeechee Judicial Circuit of Georgia as an Assistant District Attorney since 2006. I was previously employed by Edenfield, Cox, Bruce & Classens, P.C.as an Associate Attorney from May 2006-November 2006, the Office of the District Attorney for the Alapaha Judicial Circuit of Georgia as an Assistant District Attorney from August 2004-May 2006, and the Office of the District Attorney for the Southern Judicial Circuit of Georgia as an Assistant District Attorney for March 2003-August 2004.

    As an assistant district attorney, I have prosecuted felony cases throughout Bulloch, Effingham, Jenkins, and Screven Counties. I have been responsible for felony cases from inception to disposition, including murder, rape, armed robbery, child molestation, drug trafficking, theft and other white-collar crimes and assault. Over the course of my career, I have been the sole counsel for over forty jury trials. I have also overseen interlocutory and post-conviction appellate matters, including authoring approximately twenty briefs to the Court of Appeals of Georgia and the Georgia Supreme Court. Other responsibilities have included conducting bond and preliminary hearings, probation revocation hearings, civil asset forfeiture proceedings, and juvenile court proceedings. In my time working in the Alapaha Judicial Circuit, I served as the sole prosecuting attorney for all felony and misdemeanor cases arising in Lanier County and as the sole prosecuting attorney conducting all juvenile proceedings throughout the circuit.

  2. How do you view the day-to-day role of the Solicitor General? (The balance between managing the office and being in the courtroom, duties and responsibilities, etc.)

    The Solicitor-General office in Bulloch County is a small office with one assistant solicitor, an administrative assistant, and a victim advocate. The Solicitor-General position requires supervision of those employees to ensure that they receive sufficient training to successfully fulfill their duties as well as managing the office budget in an efficient manner. However, most of the day-to-day work of the elected Solicitor-General will involve managing the caseload of over 3000 traffic cases and 2000 misdemeanor cases per year. This entails reviewing case files, meeting with law enforcement and victims, and presenting cases in the courtroom. While office administration and being an efficient steward of public funds are of paramount importance, if elected, I will be active in the courtroom prosecuting cases and not simply an administrator.

  3. What practices are in place from the outgoing administration that you think should be carried over by the new administration?

    Under Judge Cushner’s leadership, the Solicitor-General’s office added a full-time victim advocate to better serve the victims of crimes being prosecuted. The office also made great strides by updating the technology used for keeping track of case files within the office and providing a copy of all discovery materials to defendants and their attorneys. In addition, the office also schedules court at the Bulloch County Jail every Thursday afternoon in an effort to expedite cases for individuals who are incarcerated. If elected, I intend to make use of each of these practices.

  4. How can the Bulloch County Solicitor’s Office be more efficient and what does it mean for an office like that of the Solicitor to be ‘efficient’?

    I hope to run an office that is fiscally responsible with taxpayer money by effectively prosecuting all cases in a timely and consistent manner while giving each case and the parties involved the consideration that each matter deserves. Ultimately, efficiency is achieved only when justice is done for all concerned. Achieving this goal requires an experienced prosecutor with the ability to be firm when the facts demand such and compassionate when the circumstances are compelling and the law allows.
  5. Bulloch County has more than 400 DUI arrests across jurisdictions each year, but only a handful of those result in convictions due to plea agreements, amendments to lesser charges, and dismissed charges. Should the Bulloch County Solicitor’s Office (choose one):_X_do more to seek convictions in DUI cases
    ___do less to seek convictions in DUI cases
    ___continue ‘as is’ in DUI casesPlease explain your answer.I believe that DUI cases are among the most serious crimes prosecuted by the Solicitor’s Office because they place not only the offender, but also the general public at risk. As such, these cases should be treated seriously and should only be reduced or dismissed if there is a legitimate evidentiary reason to do so.
  6. What can the Bulloch County Solicitor’s Office do to adequately equip officers with the necessary tools to build solid DUI cases from arrest to prosecution?

     

    The most important tool for adequately equipping officers is having an open line of communication between the Solicitor’s Office and the law enforcement personnel investigating DUI cases to discuss any concerns that either the officer or the prosecutor may have. Additionally, DUI law is constantly evolving and it is imperative for the Solicitor’s Office to ensure that officers are up to date on any changes to the law and while offering periodic training sessions on these issues.
  7. A number of prosecutors around the state have opted not to prosecute misdemeanor marijuana offenses due to concerns over field testing and the evolving public opinion on marijuana generally. What is your position on this?

    I strongly believe that it is not appropriate for local courts and prosecutors to determine which laws to follow and which laws to ignore. It is the job of the judicial system to enforce the law as it is, not as we may wish it to be. We elect legislators to determine which laws to enact and which actions are criminal in nature. As Solicitor-General, it would be my duty to enforce the State of Georgia’s marijuana offenses as well as all other misdemeanor offenses and I intend to do so.

  8. Does the Bulloch County Solicitor’s Office adequately assist defendants who may be in need of a public defender? If not, what could be done to improve this necessity?

    Yes, defendants have the opportunity to seek the assistance of the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s Office. In my fourteen years practicing with the attorneys in the Public Defender’s office, I have found each of their attorneys to be professional and qualified to represent their clients in criminal matters. They have the ability to efficiently manage their caseload while also providing the attention necessary to defend each individual case.

  9. How should the Bulloch County Solicitor’s Office measure success?

    My goal is to efficiently manage the caseload of the office by ensuring that cases move through the court system in a timely manner while also protecting the rights of all parties, victims and defendants, that appear before the court. Specifically, this office has the responsibility of prosecuting each matter based on the facts specific to the case while also taking into consideration how similarly situated individuals are treated in order to promote consistency in administering justice. Doing so allows for all individuals appearing before the court to have clear expectations as to possible outcomes of any case while also giving consideration to the particular facts and circumstances surrounding each individual. While results are important, success should not be measured by wins and losses but whether justice was done in each case.

  10. Is there anything else you would like the public to know about you? (This area may also be used to include a bio and of er information on where people can learn more about you?)

Community is very important to me. I feel that in order to adequately serve your community in an elected position, you need to be involved in that community long before you decide to run. I come from a family of public servants. My father was Coroner in Effingham County for almost a decade and my mother was a school teacher (they have since moved here to Bulloch County). I was raised in church and serving is a part of who I am. Here in Bulloch County, I am a member of the Rotary Club of Downtown Statesboro for which I have served as the public relations chair since 2017 and routinely participate in the club’s community service projects, such as the quarterly Willie McTell Trail clean-up. I am a 2018 graduate of the Leadership Bulloch program through the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce. We are members of First Baptist Church Statesboro, where my wife and I have served as co-leaders of the eleventh grade Sunday School class for over 4 years. Our family has been deeply involved at First Baptist Church since joining in 2006.

My wife Mandy is a local Bulloch County business owner, owning the marketing firm ME Marketing Services. We have two daughters, Allie (15) and Eliza (11), who attend Bulloch Academy. You can often find us at Statesboro School of Dance practices and performances, where our daughters have danced since 2008.

I invite readers to learn more about me on my website, https://votebenedwards.com, my Facebook page, https://facebook.com/votebenedwards, or my Instagram account, https://instagram.com/votebenedwards. I humbly ask for your vote to be your next Bulloch County Solicitor General on June 9.

Jessica Szilagyi is a Statewide Contributor for AllOnGeorgia.com. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and "Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers."

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