Krueger Takes Oath As County's First DA
Maureen Krueger took the oath of office Tuesday as the first district attorney of Moore County.
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge James M. Webb Jr. administered the oath as Krueger placed her hand on a large family Bible, with husband Rick Edelman by her side, her children, sister and parents looking on from seats in the jury box.
Courtroom 202, the setting for most Superior Court trials, was filled, with many standing around the room beneath oil paintings of noted judges. A crowd of attorneys from the bar association, district attorneys from other districts, judges, Sheriff Lane Carter and Chief Deputy Neil Godfrey, other law-enforcement officers, county commissioners, friends and others attended the ceremony.
Everyone stood to applaud after Krueger was sworn in. This day had been a long time coming.
In preliminary remarks after welcoming visitors, Webb made a point of expressing gratitude to former state Rep. Richard Morgan of Eagle Springs for making the single-county distinct a reality. Morgan is a former House co-speaker.
"I would be remiss if I did not at least recognize and thank Speaker Morgan today," Webb said. "For the record, this court thanks Speaker Morgan for his efforts in getting this legislation passed that created this district."
Nearly 35 years had passed since the county had its own prosecutor in the form of a county solicitor.
"This is a very momentous day," Webb said.
Webb and Carter have pushed for Moore County to have its own district attorney.
Krueger's first act as district attorney was to present three who would be sworn as assistant district attorneys -- Christopher Willis, Warren McSweeney and Richard Connelly. All had previously worked in the Carthage office. Alan Greene, who also worked there, has moved his office to Troy and will continue to assist District Attorney Garland Yates. His district used to encompass Moore, Montgomery and Randolph counties.
'Moment of History'
Krueger thanked her family and supporters, especially those in law enforcement.
"I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my friends -- and I do consider them my friends -- in law enforcement," she said. "I do not intend to let you down. Your support has not gone unnoticed."
A law-enforcement officer who stopped her in the courthouse one day first suggested she seek the appointment.
"Every single person in the courthouse community has helped me since I first set foot in this courthouse, 10 years ago this month, helping a fledgling assistant district attorney find her way to the courtroom," Krueger said. "You were all very kind. I want to thank Gov. Easley for his 'wise' decision (laughter) and of course I owe forever a debt of gratitude to government. This is a moment of history for all of us, and I thank you all for being here."
She said her goals would embody core values as expressed by the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys -- representing the state in a professional manner, protecting the rights of victims of crime, supporting the law, and promoting justice in North Carolina.
"These are the goals of all district attorneys," Krueger said. "I have some more goals for Moore County. I am going to institute policies to streamline our court process, to reduce time between the institution of charges and their disposition. This office is the office of Moore County, not just my office. You are welcome there. There will be evenhanded justice in Moore County. All people will be treated fairly."
With Superior Court to open at 10 a.m., time was short, but she invited everybody to a reception on the lower floor provided by close friend and former law partner, Joy Alford-Brand, formerly an assistant district attorney in Moore County who now serves in Wilmington.
The hum and murmur of conversations around that refreshment table was interrupted by an announcement from Clerk of Court Catherine Graham. Yates had arrived to bid his old courts farewell, and to offer congratulations and best wishes to the new district attorney he'd brought down a decade ago from Ohio.
Yates, recovering from serious injuries suffered in an automobile accident, is still using a walker to get around -- but he had made a special effort to be present for this day.
Reducing the Backlog
It is a day that represents a huge change for this county, according to Webb.
"It is so important to the people of Moore County to have their own district attorney," he said as court recessed for the reception. "She will be more accessible to law enforcement, more accessible to the lawyers. I do believe it will do what she said -- expedite the disposition of criminal cases in Moore County."
The county is growing. Courts have an enormous burden of cases, according to Webb.
"Over 6,000 criminal processes were issued last year by the magistrates alone," he said. "That is not counting citations issued by law enforcement officers on the highways. We have, by my last information, over 1,400 cases waiting to be tried here in the criminal Superior Court of Moore County."
People will be less likely to have to sit, at public expense, for long times in jail waiting for trial, he said.
"I am hoping that the days of warehousing people in the Moore County jail waiting to be tried for years at a time are over," he said. "I hope this new distinct attorney will prioritize cases for trial and start with rapes, robberies and murders."
That is her hope as well, Krueger had said the day before, taking a short break from moving in. She will talk early on with victims to reassure them. One of her first duties will be completing the calendar for the next term of court.
"That is due Friday," she said with a smile.
She will keep the present staff and add to it. Assistant district attorneys presently in Moore County will stay on.
"March is the first time we have a break in court sessions," she said. "That is when I can get to work on policies."
After being sworn, she said that she would be running for re-election when this term ends.
"I want all of your votes in 2008," she said.
John Chappell can be reached at 783-5841 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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