3rd person eyes race for DA

Jan. 21, 2014 @ 04:08 PM

Durham attorney Brian Aus said he plans to enter this year’s race for district attorney, making him the third person to announce his candidacy for the office.
Aus, a 59-year-old criminal defense lawyer, said he’s been “disappointed with the performance of the district attorney’s office for about the last 10 years.”
“I think it’s time for a fresh approach,” he said. “I think there’s some serious reorganization that needs to be done to the office, and it needs to be responsive to the community as a whole.”
Aus, who plans to file as a Democrat next month, said he would bring “a management style that will be good for this town. I intend to have open dialogue with the public. We don’t need everything hushed up.”
Acknowledging that “there are certain things that you can’t talk about, like pending cases” that could “pollute the jury pool,” Aus said the office needs contact with law enforcement – namely, the Police Department and Sheriff’s Office – “on a regular basis.”
Aus said he was particularly bothered by two cases the DA’s office handled in recent years. One was the so-called “bag of bones” case where a judge accused the prosecutor’s office, Durham police and medical examiner’s office of conspiring to destroy evidence. The case involved a man who turned over a backpack that contained human bones of a Durham woman. He was convicted of voluntary manslaughter.
The other matter was the 2006 Duke University lacrosse case that Aus said involved a “rush to judgment” by then-District Attorney Mike Nifong, who was removed from office and disbarred for prosecutorial misconduct.
That case, Aus said, “made us a national laughingstock.”
Aus said he’s been a criminal defense attorney in Durham for 29 years, and has worked as a public defender in Durham. He’s also been a civil arbitrator since 1993.
He’s a 1985 graduate of the UNC School of Law in Chapel Hill, and earned a master’s degree in public health from UNC in 1977.
At least two other Durham attorneys plan to enter the race: Roger Echols, chief assistant prosecutor in the Durham County District Attorney’s Office, and Mitchell Garrell, a former prosecutor in that office.
The winner will replace Interim District Attorney Leon Stanback, whose term ends Dec. 31. Stanback was named to complete Tracey Cline’s term after she was removed from office in 2012 after feuding publicly with Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson, calling him dishonest and corrupt.
Aus said he looks forward to an interesting debate among the candidates.
“It’s going to be good for the community,” he said. “I think we need to talk constructively about what’s going on there, and then we’ll see what the people think.”