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Newman, Hollocker 
spar over openness, drug court

Mary Ann Hollocker describes herself as “a daughter, wife, mother, attorney, magistrate and professor at Brevard College” but not a politician.

“I’m running because law enforcement asked me to run,” she said during a district attorney candidate forum. “This is not a personal attack against Mr. Newman. I just think with my skill set I can do a better job.”
A county magistrate for the past four years, she said she hears “first-hand how upset they are about how their cases are being handled. And I think with the skill set I have and experience I can fix those problems.”
Newman dismissed that, pointing to his record of trying more cases, adding victims assistance personnel and aggressively prosecuting violent crime.
“Because I’ve defended, I can size up a case quickly, I recognize issues very quickly,” he said. “I know the conversation that are occurring in the jails. I get it. … I’d like to know how many first-degree homicide cases Ms. Hollocker has prosecuted. I’ve prosecuted and defended many of these.”
The forum at times became contentious, with Newman saying Hollocker had “interviewed” for a job in his office and Hollocker firing back that she had merely handed him a resume at a Republican Party event.
As a deputy prosecutor in Hawaii, Hollocker tried everything from traffic tickets to murder, handled her own appellate work and “had a very strong working relationship with both law enforcement and victims,” she said. “The district attorney’s office most important will be open to the public during regular business hours.”
Newman just as aggressively defended the move as a security measure that protects his staff, witnesses and crime victims.

Newman and Hollocker meet in the Republican primary May 8 for election as the top prosecutor for District 42, made up of Henderson, Transylvania and Polk counties. No Democrat filed for the seat. Here is the district attorney Q&A.

Citizens own the courthouse, yet the D.A.’s office is locked and open only for appointments. No human being answers the phone and you have to leave a message for Greg Newman or his staff and those messages are not responded to.

Newman: “To get in my Hendersonville office you must call. This is the reason why. When I became D.A., the office was open to the public. People would leave court and they would come in the office and many times they were upset about what happened to them in court, or they’d just come to the D.A.’s office because we seemed to be a clearinghouse for other offices. They’d send people there to ask questions like who is my lawyer? When is my court date? A lot of these people were criminal defendants, people we were prosecuting. We would have victims of crime there, we would have witnesses there. It was a volatile situation. Then we had an incident, which is why I closed that door. We had a man that didn’t like the decision I had made, barge in on a secured door, assaulted the lady that was working at the front desk and I determined at that point … that my folks shouldn’t have to put up with that. That shouldn’t have their safety jeopardized working in my office. Whoever says they don’t get an answer, we do have people that answer the phone and if it’s not answered immediately we call you back. We’re not ignoring calls. But we do control who comes in there” including witnesses and victims who help with prosecution. “I make no apologies for maintaining the safety of these good people.”

Hollocker said when she worked as a prosecutor in Hawaii, “We had threats, we had problems, we dealt with it. I don’t think that you close a public office to the public. He’s claiming that criminals come in. Well, what about the victims? I can’t tell you how many times I hear in the magistrate’s office, I called the district attorney’s office, I can’t get through. There’s a sign in the clerk’s office that says, ‘We are not the district attorney’s office. We cannot help you. We don’t know why their office is not open to the public.’ If they’re not answering the phone, it’s going to be a problem. It’s trickling down to other offices. All the other offices are open to the public. So why is it just the district attorney’s office the past four years that’s had the problems. If I’m elected, the office will be open during regular business hours.”

Newman: “She doesn’t work in the courts. She doesn’t represent anyone. She hasn’t prosecuted anyone here. So there’s a lot that goes on that she doesn’t know because she’s not in the courts. When she talks about these great relationships with law enforcement I hope she’s more specific.” He said he works closely with all eight police departments and three sheriff’s offices in District 29B. “Trust me, if there’s a problem, these sheriffs and police chiefs would let me know that. We communicate very well. … The law enforcement community backs us, we back them, the results speak for themselves.”

Hollocker: She said she’s in court as a small claims judge and also worked in the clerk’s office before she became a magistrate. “Criminal charges start in the magistrate’s office. I take them out. I was a victim of crime, in small claims court, where the defendant perjured herself. An investigator came and investigated the case. We took out charges and only several months later did I find out that the case had been dismissed by the district attorney’s office and the reason was ‘not in the state’s interest to prosecute.’ Neither the investigator or myself was called and told why and this happens all the time. Mr. Newman can deny it if he wants to. I met with the Transylvania sheriff’s department as well as the police department and they are not happy either.”

Newman: I know the case she’s talking about. I’m glad you brought it up. I was made aware by one of my assistants that Ms. Hollocker removed a lady from a house (in an eviction), I’m sure she owed her money. We were aware because we were already prosecuting (the tenant) for a very serious crime. And then I see this charge for perjury. The problem is, that lady still had procedurally a right to appeal that decision, to have a brand new hearing with an arbitrator. Procedurally, you can’t go charging people when they’re still within their right to appeal. I don’t think there was anything malicious about it. … We don’t dismiss cases unless there’s an issue with the evidence. This idea that before you make a decision, he has to ask permission (of law enforcement), wrong. Discussing it is good, if you need more information, we do that. But we have the duty and the obligation to make decisions about what to go forward with. We don’t defer that or give that to someone else to do.”

 

How would you handle a case of an individual using deadly force to protect himself or herself?


Newman said he supports the Second Amendment. Law enforcement would investigate and bring a charge or not. “We will consult with law enforcement if they ask our opinion about what to charge. Sometimes that happens. We do that most every day frankly. I want to be clear, we depend on people trained to do the investigation and those are your law enforcement detectives and police officers and then take the evidence to us and we use that evidence in prosecuting cases.”


Hollocker: “Like Mr. Newman, I support the Second Amendment. The district attorney doesn’t investigate such a case. That would be law enforcement. There are times when deadly force is justified.”

What makes you the best candidate and in what area would you challenge yourself?

Hollocker: “My skill set is secured because I was a prosecutor for 10 years in Hawaii. I handled all my own appellate work and argued before the Hawaii Supreme Court. For five years I was assigned to family court handling domestic violence and those are some of the toughest cases because your victims will not cooperate with you. You need to figure out a new way to prosecute a case when you have uncooperative victims. It’s very difficult. I was very successful at it.”

Newman: “I’ve been practicing law and trying cases for 28 years, 18 of these here at home. I also did my own appeals in the state of Ohio. I’ve done it here in North Carolina. The private practice part, where you do civil as well as criminal work, has made me a better prosecutor.”

What changes would you make to the organization?


Hollocker: I would move towards having specialized assistants, specializing in specific types of crime, and cross training them, and what I’d like to do is have them travel through the three counties so that law enforcement can work more closely with an assistant who is well educated on the laws that they’re prosecuting. (To prevent burnout) I’d do two- to three-year rotations.”

Newman: “I like the setup we have. Philosophically, I do not want my folks to specialize. I want them to do all areas, because we have to prosecute all types of crime, all types of assault, drug felonies, property crime. I don’t want them spending all their time all over the highways driving between the counties. That’s inefficient.”

What’s your position on a drug court?


Newman: “Our obligation is pretty straightforward. We are to prosecute people that violate the law. I typically resist the suggestion to start what I call boutique courts. They sometimes appear to be very good on the surface. … I have found that these various courts typically are supported by the Democratic Party. Democrats really push these things because they want to try to solve everybody’s problems and they forget the personal responsibility part of things. I work with rehabilitation services in specific cases when I think it’s appropriate. To expect me to go to court and have a judge say, ‘You’re going to go and get treatment and everything’s going to be solved’ is a pipe dream. We’re about holding people accountable.”

Hollocker: “I disagree with Mr. Newman. I don’t think this is a party issue. Here in Henderson County we’ve got an epidemic with drugs, methamphetamine, heroine, prescription drug abuse. Drug courts are not for drug dealers. Drug courts are for offenders who are committing crimes because they have a drug problem. … Drug court is very difficult, it’s not easy. There are severe consequences if you violate conditions in drug court. It’s not for violent offenders. It’s for offenders who want to get control of their drug addiction.”

 

When moderator Bill Fishburne called for questions from the audience, Cheryl Stuller asked Newman about the lack of response from his office when a case was pending against a suspect charged in a crime at her Mills River dog-washing business.
“I called to find out what happened. I never got a return call,” she said. “I never got a return call from your victims’ advocate either. I had to do all the legwork myself.”
“I’m sorry to hear that was your experience,” Newman said. “We handle a lot of cases. I think most of the time we get it right. There are going to be cases that maybe weren’t handled right.”