LaKeisha Gantt, President of the ACC School Board, recently criticized interim District Attorney Brian Patterson on social media for a 20-year sentence for cannabis trafficking given to her brother, Ken Campbell. Although Patterson did not personally prosecute this case, he defended Campbell’s jury conviction on appeal and even expressed pleasure when his appeal was denied.
“We are pleased that the sentence and conviction have been affirmed, and we intend to fight to keep Mr. Campbell in state prison for the entire 20 years,” Patterson said.
Gantt called the sentencing “harsh,” arguing that it would do little to address the underlying causes of crime in our community. Instead, she felt that it would cause further problems as it left Campbell’s children to grow up without a father. “So we address one problem, to create a few more,” Gantt said.
Although Gantt didn’t explicitly endorse Deborah Gonzalez, Patterson’s reform-minded opponent, she indicated that she would not be voting for Patterson. James Chafin is also running in this election, although his platform and “tough on crime” approach seem similar to Patterson’s.
Patterson maintained his position and defended his comments about Campbell’s sentence in a Facebook post of his own on September 29.
Patterson reminded readers that Campbell was working with Jamie Hood, one of Athens’ most infamous criminals in recent memory. Hood murdered both Elmer “Buddy” Christian III, an ACC police officer, and Athens resident Kenneth Omari Wray. Hood’s rampage was apparently sparked when Campbell cut Hood out of his cannabis distribution network.
Campbell’s network was the largest in Athens at the time, being responsible for importing 2,500 pounds of cannabis and laundering $1.5 million in drug profits, according to police. Patterson says Campbell is a “hardened, career criminal” who has a long arrest record from running an “extremely violent” illegal business.
Patterson then implied Gonzalez may have been more lenient on Campbell, saying that in contrast he would always take his “job of keeping our community safe seriously.”
In a comment to APN, Gonzalez rejected Patterson’s implication that she would not take the job of prosecution seriously as DA. She called this idea “fearmongering,” saying that criminals “will be held accountable for the acts they commit” when she is DA.
Nevertheless, Gonzalez stressed the need for change. She promised that her approach to prosecution would not be “punitive and cruel” and that it would be based “on the principles of restorative justice.” Furthermore, she implied that those casting doubts on her resolve to fight crime were in fact “gatekeeping” in order to “perpetuate systemic racism and the status quo.”
Still, Gonzalez admitted that she is not a “traditional” candidate for this position (in fact, she would be the first Latina DA in Georgia history). Instead, she seeks to reorganize the office because “what we’ve had here doesn’t work for the majority of our community, even if it works fine for people like my opponent and others like them.”
(Disclosure: APN’s editor has worked for Gonzalez’s campaigns in the past, and she donates to APN. APN’s editor is currently volunteering for her to assist with field strategy. He was also paid to produce a video recently for Gonzalez v Kemp’s fundraising arm, Justice Warriors PAC.)