New district attorney sworn in by Gov. Siegelman

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 16, 2001

John S. Andrews was appointed by Gov. Don Siegelman to replace Van Gholston as District Attorney of the Second Judicial Circuit at the Capitol in Montgomery Wednesday afternoon.

In front of his family members and approximately 15 well wishers, Andrews was administered the oath of office.

Prior to the administration of the oath, Siegelman commended Andrews for his years of service and experience as a trial lawyer and defense attorney, after spending 14 years as a successful prosecutor.

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"After such a long career as a successful defense attorney, many people have expressed their concerns to me as to whether you could make the transition back to a prosecutorial mode," Siegelman told Andrews. "But many more have contacted me stating their belief that you would have no problem doing so."

Siegelman commented on the importance of the position of district attorney.

"This is the most vital role of all in law enforcement," Siegelman said. "There were several very qualified candidates considered for the position n many people contacted me in support of so and so' n there was not a lot of mention against any candidate, but strong support for one or the other."

Siegelman also commented on the presence of so many that would be in contact with the D.A.

"I'm delighted to see so many people from the district you will serve represented here today," Siegelman said. "After long and careful consideration, I feel confident that you will make a fine district attorney."

When asked why it had taken so long to come to a decision on filling the position vacated in February by the retirement of District Attorney Van Gholston, Siegelman explained his position.

"There were very good candidates being considered for the position n I wanted to listen to what all the concerned people in the community had to say n this was not a decision that I could make hastily," Siegelman said. "And one area that weighed heavily on my decision was the overwhelming views of law enforcement officials n the majority of them expressed their belief that John was the one for the job.

"John has such a wealth of knowledge and practical experience in the courtroom," he said. "This is a very important characteristic n it is the job of the chief prosecutor to be well-versed and experienced in the courtroom."

Tom Sport, assistant district attorney on the preceding staff, was in attendance at the ceremony.

"I'm very happy to have been offered a position in the new administration of the district attorney's office," Sport said.

The sheriffs of all three counties of the Second Judicial Circuit n Lowndes, Crenshaw and Butler, in a show of unison, were also on hand during the ceremony.

Also present in support of the appointment was Greenville Police Chief Lonzo Ingram.

Among the many present to show their support of the appointment, one Butler County citizen was there to oppose it.

Sheila Sellers, a resident of the Brushy Creek Community, stayed in the governor's office on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in attempts to get her concern voiced to Siegelman.

"I think the man appointed to the position of district attorney is a morally bankrupt bottom-feeder," Sellers said.

Andrews defended Gerry Kendrick, a Georgiana man accused of the 1993 death of Sellers' son, Eric DeWulf, involving a .410 ga. shotgun.

Kendrick, indicted by a grand jury in the fall term of 1993 for manslaughter, a Class B felony, was convicted in a plea bargain agreement for the misdemeanor offense of criminally negligent homicide.

The agreement, signed by then Assistant District Attorney Charlotte M. Tesmer, carried a one-year sentence in the Butler County Jail, suspended, and also two years supervised probation. In addition, Kendrick was required to pay $50 to the Alabama Crime Victims Compensation Fund (ACVCF) and $6,540 in restitution to Sellers.

"I had a job to do n to represent my client," Andrews said. "It was not my fault that the prosecution offered the plea agreement n but the fact is that they did, and I recommended to my client that he agree with it."

Of the messages delivered to the governor from Sellers, Siegelman said, "I have seen the messages Mrs. Sellers brought, and she is very upset n I wanted to make sure that we got her some help, and we did so."

On the day of the ceremony, Sellers was followed closely by state police officers of the Capitol Police Department as she walked in the building.

"I am ready to go to work, and I appreciate the confidence both from Gov. Siegelman, and from all the supporters that have contacted me," Andrews said. "I plan to meet formally with the law enforcement agencies of the circuit very soon, so that we can get on the same program together n I am looking forward to a good working relationship with them."

Andrews' appointment became effective immediately, and he said he would be starting work in his new capacity on Thursday morning.

"I have a lot of work to do setting up the office, but I should be all settled in by the weekend," he said. "I am looking forward to serving the citizens to the best of my abilities.

"It is a great honor to be in this position, and to follow my predecessors. There is a long list of very distinguished attorneys that have held this position n I want to live up to those same standards."