Damning Faint Praise

Julia Hejazi is the Guilford County prosecutor who was fired with a quickness because she planned to run for DA. The News & Record article on Jan. 4 quoted former prosecutor John Nieman saying that Hejazi's boss did what he had to do, that "it would be untenable for him to perform his duties" otherwise. Now Nieman has sent a letter to the editor ("Hejazi had a choice") in which he continues to pump up the current DA while offering Hejazi backhanded compliments.

First Nieman says the fired prosecutor's "so-called supporters" can't have spoken with Hejazi, becuase she certainly understands the importance of loyalty and unity. Translation: Hejazi supporters don't understand the importance of loyalty and unity and maybe Hejazi doesn't either. He also says there are 28 prosecutors in the office, "many, if not most, of whom are as, if not more, experienced, talented and dedicated as Julia." Translation: Julia was among the worst prosecutors in the office (is there another way to read that?). Also, Nieman tells us that Hejazi, like all the prosecuters in the office, had a choice: participate in politics or keep your job. He doesn't address the fact that, if the choice is unfair, it isn't magically transformed into a fair choice by offering it to everyone. ("Give me your lunch money or I'll beat you up" is still a bully's threat whether it is delivered to an individual or over the intercom system.)

Comments to my previous post on this topic seemed sympathetic to the claim that District Attorney Doug Henderson had no choice but to fire Hejazi. I've never been a prosecutor and I'm open to persuasion on the point, but it seems like a weak argument to me. What might have made sense is for Henderson to tell Hejazi that the situation seemed likely to create a conflict, but that they should both make an effort to prevent it. Resignation or firing should have been discussed as options, but options that would kick in if and when the parties' relationship threatened their ability to do their jobs well. Instead, Henderson fired Hejazi his first morning on the job. Nieman's fawning praise aside, Henderson comes out of this looking like he's more interested in the next election than crime in Guilford county.


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