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DA Gonzalez and Shakespeare


By Michael H. McLendon

In following the tale of DA Gonzalez, I have often wondered if she remembers reading Shakespeare and the phrase “Hoist with one’s own petard.”

Prince Hamlet uses the phrase in Act 3 Scene 4 of Shakespeare’s play when he is talking with his mother Gertrude. His two school mates, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, have been ordered to take him to England and have him killed. The way it turns out, however, is that the plotting of the would-be assassins works against them so that they become victims of their own plot.

This phrase is well-known, and many literary critics along with my high school English teacher, Gladys Crabb, may have revealed deeper meanings hidden in that expression. But for most of us the phrase describes someone who has scuttled their own plan or scheme to create mischief they intended for others.

In this case, the someone is DA Gonzalez, the mischief is her intent to reform the Western Judicial Circuit to be a bastion of woke social and restorative justice, and the others are the law-abiding taxpayers of Athens-Clarke County and Oconee County who expect their DA to be competent and do their job.

So here we are 28 months after DA Gonzalez assumed her office, observing the train wreck she has created. On April 6th she will be hoisted on to the reality of the mischief she has created when she appears in court for a hearing. She will not appear as a prosecutor-in-training, but rather she will appear as a defendant in a civil lawsuit filed by an Athens business owner who accuses her of failing to do her job properly. Are we surprised?

She finds herself in this situation not because of anything others have done to her or her office. She will be in court due to the consequences of her progressive agenda coupled with her demonstrated lack of competence as a leader, manager, and prosecutor. As a recent Atlanta Channel 11 Alive News headline reads - “It’s in Crisis” – referring to the DA’s office. Well, it is...it’s a crisis of her own making.

She planted the seeds of her “hoisting” early on when she ran for the office. She pledged to end cash bail, end mass incarceration while focusing on violent crime, not to prosecute nonviolent crime, and to reform the Western Judicial Circuit among other things. She asserted that that the “system is broken... is often neither fair nor just...I know how to fix it and I’m willing to put the work needed to get it done.” I am speculating here, but do you think it is possible that she never intended to fulfill her oath of office and the responsibilities of the job?

Shortly after taking office Gonzalez issued what amounts to a manifesto of her beliefs and the crimes she would not prosecute. Her mantra of social justice, restorative justice, social equity, CRT, defund -the police, no cash bail, and other far left code words and expressions are pervasive in everything she says and does. Her recurring DA newsletter is a marketing platform for her philosophy.

To her, the DA’s office is a platform for fomenting change in the same way DAs in places like LA, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and New York have gone about eroding the justice system based on embracing far left progressive agendas. Citizens in these places no longer feel safe because of the rising tide of crime driven by DA’s who do not want to do their jobs and fail to prosecute criminals. DA Gonzalez seems to be following their model.

Have you noticed how the progressive DAs across the US appear to be incompetent in managing their offices or is it only me that thinks that way? Are the crime and criminal justice trends in these cities headed or way because of DA Gonzalez’s progressive agenda?

In December 2021 she essentially labeled the citizens of Oconee County as racists when she said that she is the “most hated woman” and where “white supremacists are out to get me.” She was quickly called out by leaders in the OC and forced to apologize. In January 2022 she blamed DA office prosecutor and staff losses on the noncompetitive salaries she could offer, as if to blame ACC for not funding higher salaries.

A recent investigative story by 11 Alive News reported on a fact-check of Gonzalez’s excuse about low salaries demonstrating it not to be true. 11 Alive also found that the adjoining judicial district of Monroe and Covington was fully staffed but had lower starting salaries than Gonzalez’s Western Judicial District. In February, someone with intimate knowledge about the DA staffing issues appeared before the ACC Commission and publicly stated the staffing situation in the DA’s office was not due to compensation, but rather due to the DA’s leadership and management.

When Gonzalez ran for office, she had no experience as a prosecutor or in criminal law and therefore had never tried a case in court, much less managed anything. On 8 March at her meet-and-greet with the public at the ACC Library she stated that she saw her role as DA as being administrative! Really! She then painted herself as a Joan of Arc, having to step in to be a lead prosecutor in January 2022 because of the shortage of prosecutors in her office as if some unknow outside force created the problem she is now solving. She says she stepped into the courtroom herself out of necessity to try criminal cases for the first time. “I might have walked in with no prosecution experience,” she said. “Let me tell you, I have plenty now.” That is very comforting to know.

I attended that meeting on 8 March. She did not deviate an inch from her strident progressive agenda and blamed others for her problems to include ACC’s Commissioners for the DA’s staffing problem due to the low salaries of prosecutors. I had hoped she might use such a highly public opportunity to build bridges, change the tone, and even acknowledge the legitimate concerns of a large number of citizens about her actions. But no, she doubled down on her progressive, in your face activism.

She acknowledged the many activist organizations represented at the meeting thanking them for their support and then criticized citizens who asked hard and uncomfortable questions. She was so ill equipped to deal with hard questions that she cut the meeting short. If she cannot manage the tension in a public meeting, then how can anyone have any confidence in her ability to lead a DA’s office to build trust with the public?

DA Gonzalez has no one to blame for her situation but herself. The root cause of the problems in the DA’s office is the DA! She has been efficient and effective in hoisting herself on her own petard. Whatever the outcome of the hearing on April 6th, it is time for DA Gonzalez to quickly move on to a job that best fits her temperament and skills. Her skill set and temperament seem more aligned with being a social worker or political activist in a setting where she does not manage people and resources.

She took a well-functioning organization that knew its role and turned it into a social justice and restorative justice advocacy office. The office of the DA needs to function professionally and be well led and managed by someone who is not an activist, but by someone who has a pedigree and credibility as a track-record as a successful prosecutor. We have seen enough of this avant-garde experiment, and it is time to close this off-Broadway play.


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