Benjamin "Ben" Edwards asserts that his 17 years as a prosecuting attorney, including 14 years now in the Superior Courts of the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit, prepare him well to be Bulloch County solicitor-general, elected lead prosecutor in the county's State Court.
Edwards, currently an assistant district attorney in the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney's Office, is one of three candidates running for solicitor-general on Bulloch County's May 19 Republican primary ballot. The others are Assistant District Attorney Catherine Sumner Findley and Bulloch County Assistant Solicitor Mark A. Lanier.
"In my position here as an assistant district attorney, we represent the citizens of the entire Ogeechee Judicial Circuit, that being Bulloch, Screven, Jenkins and Effingham counties in all felony matters," Edwards said in a phone interview. "Based on my career, 17 years of being a career prosecutor, I believe that prepares me to continue serving our community as a prosecutor in State Court as well."
The elected district attorney and about
10 appointed assistant district attorneys prosecute felony cases, but also misdemeanor charges that accompany them in the Superior Courts of the four counties. Bulloch County's elected solicitor-general, usually with one appointed assistant solicitor, prosecutes misdemeanor cases exclusively in the single-county State Court.
In his years as a prosecutor, Edwards has successfully prosecuted multiple murder cases and cases involving armed robberies, home invasions and sex crimes against children, among other crimes, his campaign announcement noted. He has been the sole prosecuting counsel for about 40 jury trials and has also authored about 20 appellate briefs in the Court of Appeals of Georgia and the Georgia Supreme Court.
➤ Coming Saturday: A profile of candidate Catherine Sumner Findley
Unlike the most serious felonies prosecuted by the D.A.'s Office, for which sentences range up to life imprisonment and the death penalty, misdemeanor crimes handled by the Solicitor's Office in State Court are punishable by fines of up to $1,000 and up to 12 months in jail.
In addition to the fact that misdemeanors often accompany felony charges in Superior Court, Edwards noted that he gained some experience prosecuting misdemeanor-only cases earlier in his career.
He has been an assistant district attorney here in the Ogeechee Circuit since 2006. But he started his career with the Southern Judicial Circuit D.A.'s office in Valdosta in 2003. After about a year and a half there he went to work for the Alapaha Judicial Circuit, which includes five counties around Adel, Nashville and other small Georgia towns not far from the Florida line.
At that time, four of the Alapaha Circuit counties did not have State Courts. Instead, the district attorney's staff prosecuted misdemeanor cases, even traffic citations, in the Superior Courts.
"So dealing with prosecuting the traffic cases and the higher volume of misdemeanor cases wouldn't be something that's new to me," Edwards said. "It's something that I've done before, and I think that my years of prosecuting have prepared me to handle that challenge."
Upon moving to Statesboro, he also worked briefly in private practice, for about six months in 2006 with the firm that was then Edenfield, Cox, Bruce & Classens, in criminal defense and civil litigation.
Edwards, now 41, grew up in the Egypt community of Effingham County and graduated from Effingham County High. He came to Georgia Southern University for one year, as a dual-enrolled student his senior year of high school. Then he went to the University of Georgia, attaining first a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and then, in 2002, his law degree from the University of Georgia Law School.
Community and family
A 2018 graduate of the Leadership Bulloch Program sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, Edwards is a member of the Downtown Statesboro Rotary Club, where he has served as public relations chair for the past three years.
He is also an active member of First Baptist Church of Statesboro, where he and his wife, Mandy Edwards, serve as 11th-grade Sunday School teachers.
The Edwardses are raising two daughters, ages 15 and 11. Mandy Edwards, who owns local marketing company ME Marketing Services, sent out the original release announcing her husband's candidacy.
In the announcement, he said that he will apply "common sense and judgement to be firm when the facts of a case demand such" as well as "fairness and compassion when the law allows and the facts are compelling."
"For my entire career I've felt the call to give back to the community that I live in. Statesboro, Bulloch County, has been our home since 2006," he told the Herald. "My wife, Mandy, and I have chosen to settle down here and put down roots and raise our family, raise our two girls here. I just think that it's a way for me to be able to use my experience as a veteran prosecutor to give back to the community."
With three candidates in the May 19 primary, a July 21 runoff is possible.
All three have also applied for appointment by the governor as solicitor-general. If named before a deadline in May, the appointee would serve until succeeded in January by the winner of the election.