By Edna Ward
Brandon Hughes, a candidate for Lee County District Attorney, is passionate about support for crime victims, support for law enforcement officers and community involvement. In a recent interview Hughes described ideas he would implement if the citizens of Lee County elect him as their district attorney.
Hughes feels, “Crime victims must come first. This is what Lee County desperately needs in its district attorney. This means seeking justice on their behalf at every turn. Justice is what the victim says it is and not what is easiest for the district attorney.” He explained, “Law enforcement needs a district attorney who will respect and support their work. The district attorney is merely a steward of the law enforcement officers’ cases and must act accordingly. Once a case has been made, support for the officers’ work is important. I believe it is disrespectful to the officer and his or her work when their cases are reduced or dismissed without their knowledge or input. If I am elected, that is going to stop and each case brought to me will be pursued with the same diligence as it was investigated. Also, citizens should know about offenders who may be released from jail early. There simply has to be better communication with crime victims and law enforcement officers when it comes to resolving cases.”
“Community involvement is also very important to me and I believe it is a vital piece to reducing crime. I believe the D.A.R.E. program continues to be great. There is another program, Project LEAD, that I would like to bring to Lee County. The program began in the Los Angeles district attorney’s office in 1993. This program allows volunteers from the district attorney’s office to work with fifth-graders for one hour each week for 20 weeks and teach them about the criminal justice system, about the legal and social consequences of juvenile crime, conflict resolution, how the choices they make can affect their lives forever, and promotes the value of education. By reaching them at the fifth-grade level, the children are old enough to understand but not too old to listen. We just can’t take for granted our children are going to grow up knowing these things.” Hughes said.
About his ideas for unsolved crimes, Hughes replied, “We need to provide law enforcement with whatever it is they need to do their job. Whether that is assistance with unsolved crimes or with any matter with which we could help. The district attorney has funds which can be allocated to assist law enforcement. To help, one must want to help – and I do. I believe in a hands-on approach to doing this job. I believe the district attorney needs to be in the courtroom. I feel having an able bodied prosecutor in the office who chooses not to try cases is not the best use of the office’s resources. With a population approaching 160,000 Lee County just is not large enough to have a district attorney who takes a hands-off approach to this job.”
Asked about what he considers public enemy number one in today’s crimes, Hughes said, “Drugs are responsible for about 80 percent of the prison population. When one considers possessing drugs, selling drugs, robbery and theft to buy drugs, crimes committed while under the influence of drugs, and murders– it’s easy to see the problems. This impacts what we do every day.”
With Alabama currently short of funding, are there cost saving measures that you would implement? Hughes said, “I would start by collecting money that is out there and not being collected. There are fees and court costs that have been ordered but remain uncollected and these fees and costs are intended to help fund the court system. Part of the job of the district attorney is to collect overdue restitution along with these fees. This money must be collected for the crime victims as well as to help the courts operate. Collecting overdue restitution, fines, and fees will be a priority and I will hire investigators to handle this. I promise you that I will start collecting all the monies that are owed and not just the monies that go to the district attorney’s office. Another reason the district attorney’s office needs investigators is to relieve local law enforcement of the burden of administrative duties that should fall on the district attorney’s office to handle. This would free up local officers to focus on their primary law enforcement duties instead of being pulled off the street to do work normally reserved for a DA’s investigator.”
What are the worst cases that face district attorneys? “For me, it is any case involving a child victim.”
About Hughes: He is a 1997 graduate of Auburn University at Montgomery with a BS in Business Administration and a 2002 graduate of Thomas Goode Jones School of Law in Montgomery – earning a Juris Doctorate. He worked with the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office from October 2002 until April 2006. In April 2006 he went to work as a prosecutor for the Alabama District Attorneys Association where he prosecuted cases throughout Alabama over the course of the next eight-plus years. In his more than 12 years as a prosecutor he has prosecuted thousands of cases from traffic court to class A felonies. Additionally, Hughes has published numerous articles in The Alabama Prosecutor. He has served as chairman of the Alabama Impaired Driving Prevention Council, Vice-Chairman of the Alabama DUI Prevention and Ignition Interlock Advisory Council and a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Working Group member.
He lives in Auburn where he works with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. He is a member of the Lee County Bar Association and Opelika Rotary Club. He is married to the former Karen Story and they have three children: Paxton (16), Piper (16), and Brock (14).
Hughes promises, “If elected I will put victims first. I will not waiver in support of law enforcement. I will never turn a blind-eye to the community and its many needs. At my heart, soul, and core I am a prosecutor and I will do whatever it takes to make our streets safer and our community stronger.”