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Lawyer sets sights on DA's office, upcoming election

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

A defense attorney and municipal judge, with prosecution experience, plans to challenge the Clayton County District Attorney in the upcoming election.

Herbert Adams, Jr., said he is running on his "education, experience and ethics," and "would bring an experience factor to the district attorney's office, which I believe is missing."

Adams, who lives in Riverdale, filed his notice of intent to raise funds and campaign for the position last week.

Clayton County District Attorney Jewel Scott announced she was running for re-election about a year ago, and has already held several fund-raisers and purchased some billboard space around the county.

Scott, who was elected for her first term in 2004, has said she's wants to be re-elected to "finish the job." She said she is running on her record, and cites the office's conviction rate of 100 percent on murder, child abuse and child molestation cases. Scott also cites the "Deferred Prosecution Program," started her first year in office, as proof she's focused on justice, and "balancing the scales of justice."

Adams said he would not directly criticize the current district attorney, in his campaign to unseat her. He is running, he said, because he believes he is more qualified and believes the county's citizens should have a choice of leaders.

"I feel a sense of urgency in Clayton County," he said "I believe what it needs is new leadership -- educated, ethical and experienced leadership."

Adams is a native of the metro Atlanta area, but only moved to Clayton County last year. He is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology, has a law degree from Southern Methodist University and has a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

He was an assistant district attorney in Dekalb County from 1989 to 1991.

Currently, Adams runs The Adams Law Group, with offices on Peachtree Street in Atlanta and in Jonesboro. His practice is mostly criminal defense, but he also does some work with personal injury claims and small businesses. Adams is a judge in Forest Park, a position he was appointed to in April 2007.

"I know my way around the courtroom," he said. "I believe that when you have experience in the courtroom ... you learn how to separate politics and the decision to prosecute or not prosecute cases. That decision should be totally and absolutely free of any political influences, especially personal political influences."

Scott has been criticized for a lack of courtroom experience and has been accused of political entanglements. She maintains that the district attorney's office is run "without fear or favor, for the greater good of our community."

Alex Cohilas, Adams' campaign manager, said Adams may be the most qualified candidate who has ever run for district attorney in Clayton County.

Cohilas is also chief of the county fire department, but said he's working on the campaign as a private citizen, during off hours. He refused to talk about the campaign on the county's phone, and listed his home phone number on the campaign form.

"I understand what the rules are and they're very clear," said Cohilas, referring to the rules about county employees engaging in politics. "I don't precieve this as a problem."

Cohilas said he's never been a campaign manager before.

He said he got involved, this time, not through any disagreement with Scott or her prosecutorial decisions, but because he is so impressed by Adams, whom he met socially through mutual friends, who are lawyers.

"How many times have you asked yourself, 'God, is this as good as we get? Are these our choices?' I've been a citizen of Clayton County since 1974 and I've asked myself this question many times, so when I see someone of Herbert Adams' caliber, quality and class ... I believe he's the kind of person who is a corner stone around which we can build the future of Clayton County," Cohilas said.

Along with his his legal affiliations, Adams is also a member of the board of trustees at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and has taught Sunday school there. He is on the board of the Clayton County Housing Authority, a member of the Clayton Countywide Homeowners Association and is a graduate of Leadership Atlanta. He is married to Shelby, a school teacher, and has no children.

Both Adams and Scott are running as Democrats and, pending candidate qualifying next month, will face off in the primary in July.