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Attorney general josh stein is being challenged by republican nominee and prosecuting attorney and district district attorney from forsyth county. Jim oneill who joins us now mr oneal for stopping by for a conversation. Well thank you so much for having me.
I appreciate the opportunity republican voters in this state have seen your name on ballots before there are thousands of new voters and residents in north carolina. The past four years tell us about yourself what brings you into the attorney general race well ive been a prosecutor for more than 20 years. Pushing up 25 years now and the attorney general is supposed to be the top prosecutor in the state uh.
I am. The only prosecutor actually in the race. My opponent has never actually prosecuted a case.
While ive been prosecuting and keeping people safe for more than 20 years. What is the difference in an attorney. Say as attorney general.
Why do you envision that our state needs. A prosecutor in that role as opposed to another type of attorney. Well the office.
Unfortunately has become very political uh especially under the current ag instead of doing the job of the people and being sure that the things that they voted for and they supported are the things that are carried out by that office by way of an example we talk about voter id. It was something that north carolinians overwhelmingly passed a couple of years ago. And when it ran into a roadblock in the federal courts.
And was held to be unconstitutional. It was the job of the attorney general to appeal that case to a higher court to try and get a favorable ruling at least on behalf of the citizens of north carolina. Who want that and unfortunately.
The current attorney general refused to do that lets talk about philosophy. How do you see the attorney generals role in context of the council of state and in the context of how the attorney general serves. Our state well the attorney general again is is the top prosecutor in the state.
So they they handle not only criminal issues. But they handle civil issues as well of course. I have a wealth of experience as far as the criminal aspect is concerned and im prepared to come in there and start doing the will of the people and to be sure that we have somebody in that office that cares about victims and understands victims and has stood with victims in court like i have over the years.
What kind of mindset does it take to go into a courtroom as a prosecutor to seek justice on behalf of society and on and on behalf of plaintiffs. Well. Its a wonderful feeling especially giving a voice to people that oftentimes especially the murdered victims.
They have no voice and theyre crying out from the grave and theyre asking for for justice and to pursue that justice on behalf of people that that cant speak for themselves. And dont have a voice. Any longer theres nothing more powerful in the law.
The attorney general has a record from the previous three and a half years three and three quarter years in office you have a record back in forsyth county. As that district attorney tell us a bit about your biggest successes from the winston salem area in your public service up. There.
Well people know me as a hard. Charging prosecutor and somebody that stands for the rule of law uh the rioting and looting that weve seen in some of our big cities and the burning down. We simply did not tolerate that in winston salem.
Although. We had some some protesters too i came out early on and told. The community.
We would accept and stand by the peaceful protesters. But we would not accept the rioters and the looters and people destroying our city uh and unfortunately when you look at a place like raleigh and our attorney general is here in town. And he spoke did not speak up at all to see to it that those rioters and looters would not destroy the city which was a real letdown for people um.
But as far as what ive done in in winston. Salem. And also in addition to being a hard.
Charging prosecutor. I also temper my justice with mercy. I came up with a program about three or four years ago.
That was designed to help people get their drivers license back i partnered with the black ministers conference in town and we said go to your congregation and find out who needs help getting their license restored. Because obviously if you dont have a drivers license. Its hard to get around to get jobs finish your education.
Whatever the case may be well.
We had hundreds of people show up looking for help and we turned it into a program. A licensed restoration program. And it has had tremendous success in our community and its something that is now copied across the state.
So we feel really good about that um as another way that we have reached out and done some good things in our community involves a program that i started its called the data program. Which stands for district attorneys treatment alternatives lost in this covid19 has been the conversation about the epidemic of heroin and opioids and alcohol abuse. Thats killing young lives day after day.
What we did in winston salem. Was i partnered with a pharmaceutical company called alchemiers alkamers produces a drug called vivitrol vivitrol acts as a blocker so if you take heroin or opioids and you receive this injection. You can no longer get high.
So once i was able to get the pharmaceutical company on board. I went to our county commissioners. And said listen if you will give me 250 000.
I can put a program together that will bring our jail population down. It will keep our streets safer. It will reduce crime and will help these people get on their feet.
Well. Im proud to tell you that we have completed our first graduation. I have kids in that program that are back in college.
I have every single person in that program is testing clean every single person in that program has a job every single person that program has had zero contacts with law enforcement. This is a tremendous program that we started here in in winston salem. Were seeing tremendous effects in our own community and we are so looking forward to the opportunity when i become the attorney general of spreading this good news and these good ideas across the state that will benefit all north carolinians.
But clearly if youre elected attorney general youll work at a higher societal level. Youll take on big tent issues. Just like the opioid epidemic you would inherit a problem in north carolina.
But youre also a prosecutor and youre proud on your tough on crime positions. How do you know when to be tough on that issue. Even if youre in the attorney generals office.
When do you crack down on that industry or on that activity. And when do you show empathy. How do you balance that again an excellent question and and the way you you come about those decisions is having experience and and after spending more than 20 years in the courtroom.
I understand what are the little things the things that that people need help on and we can get people on the on the heading on the straight and narrow and heading down the proper path and we also have people that are violent that are incorrigible recidivists that need to be put away and taken off the streets. We had a program that i started back in winston salem. Another program.
We started we we we went after those individuals that were committing violent crime and we partnered with our friends in the us. Attorneys office to make a decision as to when we have individuals committing violent crime. Wheres the best place to prosecute them either in state court or in federal court.
I believe firmly that theres only a small percentage of the population thats driving violent crime and if you focus on that small percentage that are driving the violent crime arrest them prosecute them properly pull them out of society and put them in jail. You have a safer community as a result of these programs. That weve put in place in winston.
Salem. Wallethub. Recently ranked winston salem.
As the safest city in all of north carolina. The number one safest city in all of north carolina and a lot of it of course goes to these programs. Weve instituted and the partnerships that weve made with our friends in forsyth county.
Tell me about making partnerships at the state wide level youre touting them at the local level. I would say the district level. How do you take that philosophy to raleigh and work in a fairly part or not even a fairly a really partisan environment well of course.
And everyone understands the partisan environment. That exists in riley uh. Whats important.
I think is when you cut. When you have somebody who is a true prosecutor whos not a politician. Wondering whats the next step in a political career.
But a guy whos coming in to do the job and i think people recognize that and they recognize when i come in with a track record of successes in forsyth county.
The fourth largest city in north carolina and and i can show them hear the ideas hear the concepts and we can all all of us together can work to make it better and at the end. Its amazing. The things that we can accomplish when nobody cares who gets the credit.
What do you make of the rape. The rape kit testing backlog and it being cleared over the past few years. Its an ongoing process your thoughts well one of the reasons that i filed against the current attorney general was that prosecutors across the state have been asking him from day one to focus on the rape kits focus on the rape kids clear the backlog out that was our number one priority.
Unfortunately he ignored those things until i had had enough and in january. I filed and i came out and said one of the reasons. Im running against the current ag is because hes done nothing about the rape kits.
Lo. And behold a month later he held a press conference. Saying that he was now going to focus on the rape kits.
People can draw whatever conclusion. They want from that as to whether or not he was motivated simply. Because he was going to have opposition on it on that issue.
But its it is a it is a backlog it continues to be a backlog and its not getting done the way. The prosecutors across the state want it done how do they want it done is there a better way to administer the kit and test. The kit or is it about the speed of getting the kits tested and getting cases moving well.
Theres a number of problems and one of the things that we look at is whether or not we are outside contracting with with labs from outside of our our own state government. We have been unable to keep agents and lab techs in our own state government. They they come in they get trained properly and they go off to to private labs.
Because theres more money involved so we have to address that issue. I think and figure out how do we pay. These lab techs.
The money that that will entice them to stay in that job. Thats number one number two in winston salem. We we partnered with a private lab out of pennsylvania.
Which has done wonders in terms of getting our drug kits back our dwi kids back faster. Theres been a number of of dna tests that were able to now conduct with these private labs and and thats the second area that we can make we can put an emphasis on is is contracting. More with outside labs to make these things happen at a faster pace.
And since youre running overtly as a prosecutor whos tough on crime. I have to ask you about capital punishment cases. The past 15 years.
Republicans nor democrats in raleigh have seemed to push very very hard on resuming executions. Where do you stand can the legislature. Expect.
An attorney general oneill to be more proactive with capital punishment. You know the overwhelming majority of north carolinians support capital punishment. Overwhelming majority high point university did a poll about three years ago.
And they determined and found from their polling that more than 72 percent of north carolinians support the death penalty. Whats so unfair in our state is that we say and we tell victims of the families of murdered victims. You know we have the death penalty and we can pursue it however.
The reality is that were not actually following through on the sentence recommendations from the juries and and ultimately. The judge and that to me is what i think is so unfair about where we are in capital punishment punishment right now i do believe in the death penalty. Ive seen some of the most horrendous and horrific crimes you can possibly imagine forgotten in the in the in the talk of the death penalty are the victims everybody focuses on the people that have committed these heinous atrocious murders and nobody talks about the victims the same people that i hold hands with in court and stand next to and fight on behalf of their family.
Members. The living family members who are are left with this hole in their heart. It is improper and its inappropriate and and its really shameful that the death penalty has not taken place in north carolina in so long.
We need to either put it to the vote and say north carolinians do you want the death penalty. And if you do lets resume executions and if they dont want it then i can be at peace at that with with that too because thats the will of the people. But right now.
Its on the books. The last polls show the overwhelming majority of north carolinians want it. And we we have not had it and this attorney general has done nothing to push those cases forward.
And get resolution and justice for these people thats jim oneill. The republican nominee for north carolina attorney general and current district attorney out of the forsyth county region good luck safe campaigning sir thank you for being on this program tonight again thank you so much for the opportunity. .
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