Former Public Defender, Proven Progressive Reformer
Todd Williams, 48, is a North Carolina native and lifelong progressive Democrat. Born in Winston-Salem, he attended UNC-Chapel Hill, graduating in 1992. After college, Todd taught English as a second language and basic literacy skills to immigrant textile workers and the homeless. That experience led Todd to pursue a career in public service law. (For more about Todd's extensive community volunteering, scroll to end of page.)
Todd worked for nearly 15 years as a public defender. Todd represented defendants at every level in our justice system as a public defender and capital defender--from misdemeanors to murder. By 2014, per the NC Innocence Inquiry Commission, five young working-class African American men had been convicted on bad, undisclosed evidence, and had served years in prison for crimes they did not commit.
The integrity of the justice system was at an ebb and Todd wanted to restore it. Todd ran against and defeated a 24-year incumbent, and then Todd defeated another candidate.
As DA, Todd has resolved heinous crimes while concurrently working to reverse questionable past convictions including convictions of the young men who were exonerated (see above) and also to remove a different man from solitary confinement and death row.
Todd has also delivered on promised reforms and advances. Todd was instrumental in creating wraparound services for victims through the Child Advocacy Center and the Family Justice Center, and services for offenders including the Justice Resource Center, the Opioid, and Juvenile Misdemeanor Diversion Programs, Veterans’ Treatment Court, expungement clinics and amnesty days, all focused on pathways for non-violent offenders to achieve employability and recovery without the stigma of a conviction.
Todd recommended investigation of the former County Manager and called for an end to self-investigation of potential criminal behavior by law enforcement agencies. Todd has made it easier for the public and the Bar to access to the District Attorney’s Office through the use of technology, specifically a new website and new online portals.
Todd is a NC State Bar Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Law. He offers unparalleled depth of experience as your District Attorney. He lives in Asheville with his wife and two children. Todd’s endorsers include Clerk of Superior Court Steve Cogburn, Senator Terry Van Duyn, Representative John Ager, Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger, and advocates for criminal justice reform including Civil Rights attorney Frank Goldsmith, Kevin Rumley of Veterans Treatment Court, social worker Noel Nickle, and longtime anti-death penalty and prisoner advocate Cecil Bothwell.
Why didn't you prosecute the cop in September, DA Williams?
Yesterday, again, I heard from a voter who had been told things that are not true. I want my answer to the question to be clear to everyone and so I am writing this today.
I’ve seen the video; you’ve seen the video. It is awful. It has been all the more distressing to many to learn that before I can prosecute I must receive documentation -- the victim's statement of his experience and injuries, all body cam videos, etc. -- in an investigation that has been conducted by law enforcement.
After my multiple requests for an investigation, four of which were made prior to the release of the video, I finally received the investigation March 6 and it gave us what we needed.
The investigation, not the leak, and not public outcry, mandated charges*. With the investigation in hand we crossed our t's and dotted our i's -- because we want justice and no missteps that would imperil justice -- and we sought well-considered charges within two days of receipt of the investigation. My commitment is to vigorously prosecute crime and deliver justice to victims and our community.
What powers does the District Attorney have in excessive use of force cases?
I have the power to drop charges initiated by police, which I did immediately upon seeing the video in September -- I dropped the charges against the victim.
I have the power to recommend investigation. I recommended investigation in September, December, January, February, and again in March, all of which is public record. In September, I recommended that APD continue their investigation. In January, I formally requested that the SBI initiate a criminal investigation because APD had not. In March, I again formally requested that the SBI investigate despite their prior refusal.
I have the power to review, prosecute, or decline to prosecute only upon receipt of a criminal investigation. I am prosecuting the officer.
We must create a more safe, fair, and equitable community. That is the only way to do justice. My belief in justice and in serving people who are disadvantaged by our systems is the reason I was a career public defender. That path led me to seek reform as your D.A.
I ask you to join me in a willingness to have hard conversations, to discover the truth even if it's not what was expected, and to unite in pursuit of justice. I ask for your vote and your support in this Democratic Primary Election.
Buncombe County District Attorney
Board Certified Specialist in NC State Criminal Law
*A charge is merely an accusation, and each and every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The N.C. Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers require prosecutors to make this statement when discussing charges in the media.
April 26, 2018
Distinguished Civil Rights Attorney Frank Goldsmith Weighs In
I am a recently retired lawyer with over 45 years of courtroom experience trying virtually all kinds of cases, from civil disputes to first degree murder (and for a few of those years I was a military lawyer, serving in the United States Army during the Vietnam Era). Much of my work was in prosecuting civil rights cases on behalf of victims of government abuse, and representing those wrongly convicted of crimes.
I know a fair, honest, and competent prosecutor when I see one.
Todd Williams is such a prosecutor and, like me, a seasoned trial lawyer. He understands the obligations his oath of office imposes upon him, and therefore he does not make promises that he cannot deliver. But his overriding concern is, as it should be, justice for all.
Consider some of the things he has done in his short time in office:
Todd has created programs that have helped the migrant community move through the criminal justice system without fear of deportation.
Todd has worked with the NC Victim Assistance Network and other local partners to create a support group for the families of murder victims.
Todd has also demonstrated his concern for victims by supporting the creation of the Family Justice Center and the Mountain Child Advocacy Center where victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or child abuse can report the crime and receive support services.
Todd has instituted changes for people accused of crimes as well. He has instituted opioid diversion programs to help those in need of drug addiction treatment; rehabilitation services for minors rather than punishment, a Veterans’ Treatment Court, a Justice Resource Center and other ways to reduce the jail population and reduce recidivism.
When new evidence is brought to light that shows that a person has been wrongly convicted, Todd does not hesitate to do the right thing and cooperate with defense counsel in having the conviction set aside.
When convinced that legal error has resulted in the imposition of a death sentence, Todd has been willing to reconsider the case and permit a guilty plea and a life sentence. These are courageous acts for a prosecutor.
Some have criticized Todd Williams for moving too slowly to prosecute the officer charged with assault for beating and tasing Mr. Rush, a Black pedestrian arrested for jaywalking. Much of the criticism is based upon misinformation or a misunderstanding of what a District Attorney can do. In fact, Todd made multiple requests for a police investigation of the officer, four of which were prior to the public release of the video, and upon finally receiving the results of an investigation, he immediately filed charges. An investigation by law enforcement is necessary before a prosecutor may charge anyone. He has pledged transparency and swift action in such situations, and I believe him.
Todd Williams’ opponent lacks any significant courtroom experience in trying major cases and lacks administrative experience in managing a staff of attorneys and support personnel. His allegations about Todd suggest that he does not understand the limitations on a District
I urge anyone concerned with the fair administration of justice to vote for Todd Williams.