Full Legal Name: Benjamin Oren Zellinger
Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Benjamin (Boz) Zellinger
Office Sought/District: District Attorney (10th Prosecutorial District)
Date of Birth: 10/7/1981
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 6658, Raleigh, NC 27628
Campaign Web Site: www.BozForDA.com
Occupation & Employer: Assistant District Attorney, Wake County DA’s Office
Years lived in Wake County: 25
Home Phone: 9192608885
Work Phone: 9197925107
1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing the DA’s office? What are
your top three priorities in addressing these issues?
The most important issues facing the DA’s office are the increasing volume of
cases, the resources that are available to prosecutors to address these cases, and
keeping the faith of the public.
My top priority in addressing these issues is to be proactive about crime. Wake
County continues to grow, and to remain a safe place, we must do more to prevent
our children from joining gangs and committing crimes. We can curb crime by
working with community resources to get our children out of the gangs that have
taken over parts of our county.
To address the lack of resources, we must continue to do what we’ve done for my
entire career in the DA’s office – be agile and efficient to always stand up for
victims. I and many others stay well past the close of business, and that is
because everyone knows our victims and their families deserve nothing less. I will
continue this dedication and commitment to our community that can overcome a
lack of resources.
Lastly, we must do more outreach in the DA’s Office. In some parts of our county,
many people are distrustful of law enforcement. With recent stories about
impropriety by prosecutors, or mishandling of evidence in other jurisdictions, we
start every trial at a disadvantage when our potential jurors enter the courtroom.
We must earn the public’s trust, and the way we accomplish that is by doing
outreach. I envision a community based prosecution system where each
prosecutor becomes responsible for a municipality or area of Raleigh. That
prosecutor would be asked to attend community meetings and stay aware of
problems that arise so that each case becomes part of a greater context. The
public would have a resource prosecutor to address their concerns, and would
have faith that the DA’s office is serving as their voice in the courthouse.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to
be an effective district attorney? This might include career or community service; be
specific about its relevance to this office.
My record as an Assistant District Attorney demonstrates I am the best candidate
for this job. I have prosecuted every type of case in our criminal courts, from
murder and rape to driving while impaired offenses to public corruption. Colon
Willoughby has trusted me with the most important cases that have come through
our office, such as prosecuting Brad Cooper for first degree murder, Grant and
Amanda Hayes for murdering and dismembering their victim, and Jahaad Marshall
for several home invasions culminating in a violent burglary in Oakwood that left a
I know how to work with law enforcement to conduct an investigation, and how to
confront corruption, such as when I prosecuted a defense attorney passing illegal
orders and destroying evidence. I’ve stood up for children and sexual assault
victims, worked to curb gang violence, and utilized technologies previously
unseen in our courts. I am also one of the only prosecutors in the state that has
been trained by the Secret Service on digital forensics.
When you have sat across the table from a woman who has been raped, or a
murder victim’s family, you know that they deserve nothing less than the best. We
need a District Attorney who has the experience to keep our community safe and
won’t have to learn on the job. Experience is so critical for this job because the elected DA not only makes the serious decisions in the office on who or when to
charge, but also on how to proceed on cases.
The DA’s office is not just a bureaucracy that needs a competent manager. The DA
must lead, not just manage the office. It is critical that every assistant know that
the DA could sit in his or her chair and confront the decisions he or she face in
every kind of prosecution, from misdemeanors to the most serious felonies. The
DA has to be a credible prosecutor to lead the office effectively.
I’ve also demonstrated my commitment to our community – I’ve been nominated
twice for the City of Raleigh’s Fred Fletcher Outstanding Volunteer award, and I’ve
coached youth basketball with the City of Raleigh for six years. I served on the
Sierra Club Capital Group’s Executive Committee, am a Contemporaries Board
Member at the NC Museum of Art, and lecture and mentor students at UNC School
of Law and Campbell Law School.
3. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself
in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I am a Democrat, but my political philosophy doesn’t and won’t affect how I
prosecute cases. I have prosecuted politicians from both parties, and I will
continue to do what is right, regardless of how my party or any other party might
view it. I am not good at political posturing, and I believe it has no place in the
District Attorney’s Office.
I am dedicated to improving our community, which stems from my core values,
and is why I am running for DA.
4. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you
suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
We must change how we prosecute drug crimes. I have been a drug prosecutor,
and recognize the ineffectiveness in sending drug abusers to short prison terms
frequently. People with substance abuse addictions get out of prison, and return
to the cycle of committing crime to fuel their addiction. Eventually they become
habitual felons, and we banish that person to prison for long periods of time
without addressing the issues that spawned their addiction.
As elected DA I would send more of these drug abusers to alternative
punishments, such as drug treatment court, which have proven successful in
breaking the cycle of addiction. Jail time often can’t stop someone’s addiction;
they must get treatment and want to clean themselves up.
Diverting and using alternatives to jail on drug cases would be unpopular, but it is
the right thing to do. I fully support prosecuting and investigating suppliers of
drugs, as I have seen the ruinous effects these substances have had on our
community. I have worked wiretap cases with the DEA to stop these substances
from entering our community. But we must have a new approach to drug
5. North Carolina is one of only two states that try 16 and 17 year olds as adults. Do you
support raising of the juvenile jurisdiction to 18? Explain why or why not.
I believe in raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction – but only if the courts are given
the resources to change how juvenile court works, and serious crimes are still
able to be bound over to Superior Court. Juvenile court was designed for
misdemeanors and low level felonies; currently we have armed robberies and
homicides being committed by juveniles. Those cases must be prosecuted in
Superior Court, where the penalties are commensurate with the crimes.
However, juvenile court needs to be given the resources to help divert kids from
the wrong path. This needs to start when kids first interact with the court system –
by the time kids are 15 and 16, they are deeply involved with gangs, and no level of
court input can change that. We need to get our children off the path to crime, and
prevent them from being expelled from school, closing many future doors to their
I will create an outreach program working with community leaders to keep
children out of gangs.
6. Would you ever seek capital punishment? Under what circumstances?
As District Attorney I would follow my oath to uphold the law. The DA should seek
the death penalty only in those cases that deeply offend society’s sense of justice
and truly shock our conscience, as reflected in the statutory list of aggravating
circumstances. In only those most rare cases would I allow the people of this
county, through a jury, to decide what would be the appropriate sentence. In
addition, the DA should never see a capital case as part of a win/loss record, but must conduct the prosecution to assure that the result is just, and will be accepted
as just throughout the community.
Capital punishment is rapidly becoming more unpopular as citizens question
whether the tremendous expenses associated with capital litigation could be
better spent on education or other realms of public spending.
7. What are your views on the Racial Justice Act? Do you agree with its repeal?
I believe the Racial Justice Act was a sincere attempt to address a real problem.
Racism or any type of bias has no place in any North Carolina courtroom.
However, there is overwhelming, undeniable evidence of pervasive racial
disparities in the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, race matters in the
criminal justice system because race matters in society. That is true not just in the
conduct of officials in the criminal justice system, but in jury verdicts, as the
Trayvon Martin case reminded us.
Drug use among AfricanAmericans
and whites is about the same, but drug
prosecutions are enormously disproportionately of AfricanAmericans.
office should be constantly aware of that reality in the conduct of prosecutions,
with or without a statute.
The difficulty with the law, as it was drafted, was that it was imprecise as to how
bias could be proven in a case. In certain situations, such as when prosecutors in
other jurisdictions made racially derogatory notes during jury selection and
discriminated against African American prospective jurors, it is obvious that racial
bias existed. In such a case I support the Racial Justice Act, and believe more than
just the sentence should be changed.
However, the legislation needed better parameters; for instance a white defendant
who raped and murdered a white 10 month old attempted to use the Act in a
pretrial motion. It would be preferable for the legislature to have made more
clarifying changes to the Act. The criminal justice system, attorneys, and judges,
would clarify the Racial Justice Act over time by applying the Act to concrete, not
hypothetical cases, and that would be far preferable to repeal.
8. As head prosecutor of the most powerful jurisdiction in the state, what you would do to
address graft, corruption, and lack of transparency among higherlevel
state elected officials and state agencies and departments? How would you ensure that your choice of
investigations were not politically influenced?
Colon Willoughby selected me to prosecute cases of public corruption, and
working with Colon I learned how to conduct an investigation that would be
insulated from any political influences. Additionally, I prosecuted James Crouch.
James was a mentor and a friend to me when I began in the courthouse, and
prosecuting him for passing illegal judgments and destroying evidence was very
difficult. I showed through that case and others that I won’t be influenced or
intimidated by the case before me, no matter who is the defendant.
Credibility as a prosecutor, rather than just political credentials or connections, is
critical to assure that a decision about whether to prosecute or to accept a plea
will not be seen as favoritism on one hand, or selective, politicallymotivated
prosecution on the other. I have earned that credibility by my prosecutions and
investigations of defendants on both sides of the aisle.
9. As DA, how would you deal with a fatal use of force by the local police?
I would request that the SBI conduct an appropriate investigation, and after
receiving the evidence, I would evaluate it to determine if any charges are
I’ve prosecuted a law enforcement officer, and it is a difficult type of case to
address. I realize more than most the pressures and stresses on our law
enforcement officers, and any charging decisions should be made in the context
of the events that were before the officer.
There have been videos shown on television recently of police officers shooting
and killing an unarmed and apparently harmless suspect. Those incidents, like the
Rodney King beating, or pepperspraying
the eyes of kneeling students, do great
damage to the public’s confidence in law enforcement and to the fabric of society.
On the other hand, law enforcement officers should always have the benefit of fair
procedures to allow the truth to come to light, and have the right to clear their
name if charges are unjust.
10. What do you think is the most effective way to deal with lowlevel
The most effective way to address low level drug offenders is to get them
treatment for their substance abuse issues. Too often we give a short jail
sentence, and the cycle of crime to feed a substance abuse issue grows. It is
morally and fiscally more responsible to put the offender in a program like Drug
Treatment Court, which can break that cycle.
11. When is it inappropriate to plea bargain cases?
As a special victims prosecutor, I know that sometimes forcing a child or rape
victim to relive their experience can be extremely damaging. There is a balancing
that must occur between what is best for the community and what is best for the
victim. In some cases a plea bargain can accomplish the appropriate sentence
without needlessly subjecting a victim or a victim’s family to the difficulties of trial.
12. Are you in favor of raising suggested bond guidelines for serious felonies? Are you in
favor of unsecured bonds for Class 2 and 3 misdemeanors? Explain.
I believe the suggested bond guidelines for serious felonies are appropriate –
when a defendant is facing very significant jail terms, they are more likely to go off
bond and flee. Law enforcement does a tremendous job of tracking down
defendants, and forcing them to repeatedly search for defendants that fail to
appear is a waste of resources. Additionally, the bond guidelines are just that –
judges still have the discretion to order a lower bond if a case appears weak, or a
higher bond if a defendant has a history of failing to appear, or is a danger to the
I am in favor of unsecured bonds for low level misdemeanors. As a veteran
prosecutor I know we only have so many spaces in the jail, and they should be
reserved for those that need to be kept away from the public. It is rare that a class
2 or 3 misdemeanant needs that level of restraint.
13. As DA, what would you do to develop a trusting relationship with the large immigrant
community in Wake County?
I have worked with numerous immigrant victims in my career as a prosecutor.
Building trust in every community is paramount for our DA’s office. Victims are
vulnerable in any situation; in a place where they may not speak the predominant
language, or are distrustful of law enforcement, the DA’s Office must do outreach
to overcome these fears or concerns.
I have prosecuted several sexual assault and domestic violence cases where the
victim is terrified about deportation if they come forward. Only by doing outreach
to build trust with all communities can we overcome these fears.
Additionally, as DA, I would make sure that any person, regardless of where they
come from or what language they speak, would receive the same protections
under the law as any other citizen.
14. As DA, how would you have legally dealt with the over 900 Moral Monday arrestees at
the General Assembly last year?
I can’t comment on a pending case, but I would note that it is rare that someone is
arrested for second degree trespassing. With that in mind, I would offer a deferral
in similar second degree trespassing cases where legal questions existed about
the potential to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt of the defendant’s
guilt. Such a deferral would allow a defendant to accept responsibility, allow the
courts to recoup some of the resources allocated to so many cases, and allow the
community to benefit with some small amount of community service.