In 2022, Damon Chetson ran for Wake County District Attorney. He ran because he believes in the promise of our criminal justice system. With a powerful incumbent as his opponent, few gave Damon any chance. In the end, he earned 35,777 votes, nearly 42 percent of the electorate.
But as he told The Assembly, there are two ways to win a campaign. One way to win is to raise important issues and fight for fundamental change.
In September 2021, almost nine months before the vote, Damon helped raise the issue of a Raleigh Police Detective who had arrested more than 20 black men on fake drug charges. Two months later the City of Raleigh settled the lawsuit with many of the wrongfully accused for $2 million.
While Damon is proud of what he and his supporters achieved during his campaign, he is most proud of the fight he brings every day on behalf of his clients, men and women facing the most serious personal and professional difficulties of their lives.
As he has grown in the practice of law, he has come to realize that compassion is an essential component of a good defense. Good defense attorneys learn how to counsel the whole client. This whole-client approach means focusing not just on the legal issue that got the client charged with a crime in the first place. A whole-client approach considers what behaviors, disorders, addictions, or relationships created the circumstances in which a crime could be charged.
A Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law since 2016, Damon has focused in recent years on high-end cases: federal criminal defense, murder, white collar frauds, sex offenses, child pornography, and complicated conspiracies.
He has won trials in murders. In 2019 a federal jury found his client had not committed murders as part of a gang in the largest federal prosecution in American history. Two months later, with co-counsel, he hung a jury in Wake County in a first degree murder at Club Bodi in Raleigh. In 2021, he won a complete acquittal in a Selma, North Carolina murder prosecuted in Johnston County.
He has won “not guilties” in federal cases: in 2019 he hung a jury in a felon-in-possession firearm following a shooting in Henderson. The client later pled guilty to a much lower sentence than had previously available. He has won multiple 924(c) (“firearm in furtherance”) in several cases in 2020 and 2021.
He has won child abuse cases, winning a complete acquittal in a “shaken baby syndrome” case prosecuted in Wake County in 2013.
In 2021, he secured a 24 day sentence followed by post-release supervision in a large fraud conspiracy in federal court.
The son of a Philadelphia school teacher father and a loan officer mother, he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania (BA, 1994), the University of Virginia (MA, 1996), and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (JD, 2009).