District Attorney Jon David: Fighting Crime and Living the Dream
Story By Jo Ann Matthews | Photography By Keith Ketchum
As a child growing up in Gainesville, Fla., Jon David dreamed of playing professional baseball. He recalls spending summers in Baltimore with his grandparents, who took him and his twin brother, Ben, to Orioles’ games. When he asked his grandfather what Jim Palmer’s day job was and learned it was pitching, Jon said, “You mean someone gets paid to have fun and play a game?”
Jon, whose official name is Jonathan Marshall David, has understood that experience since November 2010, when he was elected district attorney for North Carolina’s 13th prosecutorial district, which includes Brunswick, Bladen and Columbus counties.
“I’m disappointed Saturday is tomorrow because I don’t get to go to work,” he says one Friday morning. “This beats playing center field for the Baltimore Orioles. I’m living a dream right now. For me, it’s the most exciting time of my life.”
The Leland resident especially appreciates the opportunity to coordinate his efforts with his brother, Ben, officially Benjamin Randall David. Ben is district attorney in North Carolina’s 5th prosecutorial district, which includes New Hanover and Pender counties.
“It’s a tremendous benefit taking the coordinated regional approach to crime,” Jon says from his office at the Brunswick County courthouse. He hastens to add that he and Ben are not trying to create a dynasty. “The only people who should be concerned about that are the criminals,” he says. “This widens the net for criminals in a five-county area.”
Jon realizes that as D.A. he is recognized and attracts attention, but he plans to stay grounded. “I wasn’t looking for status,” he says. “I’m not using this job as a stepping stone to any other job.”
People may view him as the straight-laced elected official in a suit, but that’s not who he is. “The real Jon David loves to hang out in jeans,” he says. “I’m a pretty laid-back person.”
Jon and his wife, Amy, a practice administrator at Surfside Implant and Oral Surgery Center in Leland, celebrate their sixth wedding anniversary on May 5. Their son, Tyson Reid, turns two on September 3.
“He loves that little boy,” Amy says about Jon. “Tyson is lucky to have such a positive role model for a dad. He is an amazing father. Of course, he’s a great husband.”
Attitudes change when you realize you have a family to support and have more responsibilities, Jon says. “I know I’m a better leader because I’m a father,” he adds. “I’m certain of that.”
Tyson’s antics help Jon maintain his sense of humor, as do the family’s pets, Josie, a white Labradoodle, and Louie, a West Highland terrier. Jon spends his leisure time participating in sprint triathlons, an abbreviated version of the Ironman triathlons. Amy says she has registered for two half-marathons while Jon has registered for a sprint triathlon toward the end of 2011.
“We’re both fitness oriented,” she says.
Jon skis, has gone whitewater rafting and did commercial fishing in Alaska. “I have a love of adventure,” he says.
Although the couple spent their honeymoon in Costa Rica, Jon doesn’t hesitate to tell what his ideal vacation is: “Scuba diving in Honduras with Amy.”
“That’s our favorite,” Amy says. “We always try to include diving in our vacations. It takes you out of this world and into another one.”
Jon became scuba certified 15 years ago in Honduras. He also has backpacked in every Central American country.
“We have a real love for the Spanish culture,” Jon says. “I have a profound love for other people and other cultures.”
His mother, Betsy Randall-David, Ph.D., a medical anthropologist, undoubtedly instilled that love.
Jon explains that he and Ben were born in Manhattan, N.Y., in 1970. Their parents didn’t know they were having twins.
“Ben is my baby brother by three whole minutes,” Jon says with a laugh. The family moved to Florida when the boys were two. After his parents divorced, his mother moved to Durham. His father, a clinical psychologist and also a Ph.D., remarried and remains in Florida.
Jon wasn’t sure what career he would pursue when he entered Florida State University, but while taking a sociology class, he realized that one common denominator of great men from presidents to principals was that they held law degrees. He earned his bachelor’s degree in criminology and graduated with honors. His doctor of law degree is from University of Florida College of Law. He made the decision early in his career to be a prosecutor.
“I care deeply for other people,” he says. “We have a moral and legal obligation to help people. I am committed to seek justice for victims.”
After a handful of years in Miami, Jon listened to his younger brother and moved to North Carolina. Both were assistant district attorneys until 2004, when Ben won a special election for district attorney.
The brothers worked together on the Tyrone Delgado case, which drew national attention and was featured on Dateline NBC. Although the murder of FBI secretary Melissa Mooney took place in 1999, Delgado wasn’t convicted until July 11, 2008.
Jon considers this case his greatest victory as a prosecutor. An engraved disk sits on a stand in his office as a congratulatory memento of the decision. He and Ben also received a letter of congratulations from Robert Mueller, director of the FBI. The FBI office in Louisville, Ky., sent each brother a Louisville Slugger baseball bat.
Jon and Ben continue to work closely to solve crimes. “We’re best friends,” Jon says. “We are two D.A.’s who coordinate on a daily basis.”
At the same time, Jon realizes his jurisdiction is separate from Ben’s, and he has taken steps to fulfill his goals as D.A. He started a luncheon for the chiefs of police and the sheriff’s office in Brunswick County so that law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office can discuss problems and investigations. He has a heightened awareness and concern for victims, so he organized a homicide support group for families and friends of murder victims. Sixty people came to the first meeting on March 24, 2011.
“I view it as a victim justice system, too,” Jon says, explaining that six murders have taken place in his district since he became D.A. “[I’m taking] a victim-centered approach to fighting crime.”
Jon’s concern extends to the community beyond the courthouse. He is a board member of Hope Harbor Home, the nonprofit agency in Brunswick County that assists victims of domestic abuse, and a board member of The Ruth House, a nonprofit organization that plans to build a group home for at-risk teenage girls. He is one of the founders of the Leland Area Rotary Club.
Amy says the couple tries to leave work at work, yet, “Nothing feeds his soul like that job,” she says.
Despite the title of D.A., “I’m the same person,” Jon says.