Bray criticizes opponent’s handling of Project Homestead scandal

by Jordan Green

Susan Bray, a Guilford County district court judge who hopes to unseat incumbent Stuart Albright from the post he inherited from his father as a Guilford County superior court judge, is leveling sharp criticism against her opponent on the matter of Project Homestead.

The Greensboro non-profit was investigated for financial improprieties by the State Bureau of Investigation, which took the case over from the Greensboro Police Department to avoid the perception of conflict of interest given the city’s history of monetary support for Project Homestead. The SBI completed its investigation in August 2005; Albright was appointed superior court judge by Gov. Mike Easley the following December. The newly-appointed district attorney, Doug Henderson, later decided against bringing charges.

“My opponent in this race did not make the tough call when he should have,” Bray wrote in a completed candidate’s questionnaire returned to the News & Record. “His job was to make a decision about whether any criminal charges were warranted after a lengthy investigation into allegations of fraud and misappropriation of public funds. As district attorney, he had been intimately involved in the investigation when the Greensboro Police Department had it, so he should have been familiar with the allegations.

“However, when the appointee got the report, he sat on it for five months, without making a decision, while he bided time, waiting for his father to retire and his own appointment to the bench to come through,” she continued. “Then he passed the buck to his successor, who made the call within 60 days of receiving the report.”

Albright said in an Oct. 4 interview that it’s fair to ask why he didn’t make a decision on Project Homestead, and he’s been happy to provide an answer.

“I had four murder cases,” he said. “Since I started as district attorney I made the conscious decision to take my own caseload because that makes me a better administrator. To assign one of those murder cases to my assistant district attorney that would be unfair to them and it would be an incredible injustice to the families to tell them someone else was going to be handling their case.”

The most challenging case was State vs. Michaux, in which a 7-year-old infant was killed by his father. Additionally there was a double homicide in which the defendant pled guilty and another case in which the prosecution anticipated that the defendant would claim self-defense because the victim had a gun. Albright said he was assigned the four cases well before the completed Project Homestead report crossed his desk.

In her completed questionnaire, Bray continues her attack.

“The appointee will say he had a big murder case to concentrate on and that’s why Project Homestead was put on the back burner,” she wrote. “But as district attorney, he had many able prosecutors on his staff who could have tried that murder case. He was just wanting to beef up his own trial experience rèsumé for the governor. Furthermore, the murder case in High Point that he tried last fall involved the death of a child formerly in foster care and had been tried earlier in the year in DSS court. Mr. Albright had the benefit of a complete transcript from that trial, which included the testimony of medical experts, law enforcement and DSS witnesses. He inherited a slam-dunk case which didn’t require that much prep work.”

Albright disputes his opponent’s assessment of the case.

“The only way to win the Michaux case was to cross-examine the testimony of the forensic pathologist hired by the defense,” he said. “That was an incredibly tough case. Anybody who tells you different, ask them what part of the trial they saw.”

Furthermore, Albright added, he makes difficult decisions on a regular basis. As an example, he mentioned the case of Gil Barber, an emotionally disturbed man killed by a Guilford County sheriff’s deputy in High Point in 2001. Against a backdrop of moderate media attention and public protests by Barber’s family and supporters, Albright said, “I made the tough decision not to prosecute.”

“I’m incredibly disappointed that someone says that – it’s not a slam-dunk case – when they didn’t even bother to show up in court,” Albright said. “These are serious allegations that are trumped up for political gain.”

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