Durham DA Candidate Denies Copying and Pasting But Says She'll Edit Her Website After Plagiarism Accusation | News

Durham DA Candidate Denies Copying and Pasting But Says She'll Edit Her Website After Plagiarism Accusation

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Following accusations that she plagiarized from Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who has been lauded by criminal justice reformers, a candidate for district attorney in Durham County says she'll amend her campaign website.

In an interview, Satana Deberry says she wrote the language herself but admits that she did "borrow heavily" from Krasner. She says she’s been "up front" that she looks to Krasner, as well as the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office, as a model for how progressive prosecutors can reform the system.

"I give all credit to Krasner for being who I follow on this stuff," she told the INDY.

Language in a section on Deberry's campaign website detailing her platform closely mirrors language on Krasner's campaign site. Some passages are identical. Durham attorney Jonathan Jones, a former reporter and the director of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition, wrote about the similarities on his blog this morning.

"Plagiarism is a major sin in my household," he wrote.

Despite the sometimes identical language, Deberry told the INDY that she didn't copy and paste from Krasner's page. The ideas conveyed are "endemic" criminal justice issues that she built on in developing her platform, which centers on diverting people from the system, limiting the use of money bail, and being more transparent.

"I didn't copy and paste but I did borrow heavily, which I've always admitted and always said.  I think probably the proper thing to do is to attribute. I don't think I've plagiarized ideas. I think when people talk to me they know I understand the issues and that these are my issues and that really these issues are kind of common criminal justice reform issues," she said.

Consider, for example, the opening graph on Deberry’s home page:
For too long the Durham District Attorney’s Office has been driven by a win-at-any-cost culture that prioritizes high conviction rates and harsh sentencing over more effective approaches that are proven to reduce crime. For too long, the priority has been to prosecute poverty in Durham County and to keep the jail full. For too long, the priority has been to incarcerate rather than educate. As District Attorney, I will fundamentally change that culture, from a culture of seeking victory for prosecutors to a culture of seeking justice for victims.
And on Krasner’s platform page:
For far too long the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has been driven by a win-at-any-cost culture that prioritizes high conviction rates and harsh sentencing over more effective approaches that are proven to reduce crime. As District Attorney, Larry Krasner will fundamentally change that culture, from a culture of seeking victory for prosecutors to a culture of seeking justice for victims.
As another example, here's Krasner on treating addiction as a medical problem, not a crime:
Last year Philadelphia had three times as many drug overdose deaths as deaths by homicide. Larry Krasner knows that the solution to drug addiction is treatment, not incarceration. Prisons are ill-equipped to treat addiction. As District Attorney, Larry will build up Philadelphia’s drug court capacity and increase opportunities for diversion, allowing those arrested for drug possession or for minor offenses due to addiction to get the treatment they need instead of incarceration.
And Deberry on treating "addiction and mental health issues as medical problems, not crimes":
Since 2013, six people have died in the Durham County jail – including a 17-year-old girl. None of the people who died had been convicted of a crime. All had either mental health or substance abuse problems or both.

Durham has more drug overdose deaths than deaths by homicide. Satana knows that the solution to drug addiction is treatment, not incarceration. Prisons are ill-equipped to treat addiction – and the Durham County jail is no exception to this. As District Attorney, Satana will build up drug court capacity and increase opportunities for diversion, allowing those arrested for drug possession or for minor offenses due to addiction to get the treatment they need instead of incarceration.
After reading Jones's post, Deberry said she would consider editing her website to say it borrows from Krasner as soon as today.

Asked about Deberry’s claim that she didn’t plagiarize Krasner’s website, Jones says he doesn’t buy it: “It's incredulous. There are way too many identical passages. And she used the same section headings.”

Deberry, who currently serves as director of the North Carolina Housing Coalition, is running against current District Attorney Roger Echols and defense attorney Daniel Meier in the May Democratic primary. Deberry previously practiced criminal defense law.

Look to next week's INDY for more coverage of the district attorney's race.


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