A prosecutor in the Middle District of Florida is close to becoming President Obama’s nominee to lead the Tampa-based U.S. Attorney’s Office, St. Petersburg Times’ The Buzz blog reported today.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert O’Neill is undergoing a background investigation to be the next Middle District of Florida U.S. Attorney, according to the blog. He was the interim U.S. Attorney for the Middle District in 2008 and currently leads the office’s criminal division.
O’Neil was one of three finalists who were recommended to Obama by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and then-Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) The two other candidates were Middle District of Florida Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg and former Florida state attorney Harry Shorstein.
Detractors of O’Neill and Shorstein have lobbed harsh criticism at the two candidates since they were recommended last year.
For example, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Del Fuoco sent letters and e-mails to the White House and Nelson claiming that U.S. Attorney office investigations were compromised because of a extramarital relationship that O’Neill allegedly had with an office staffer. Del Fuoco, who blames the loss of his job on O’Neill, was sanctioned for misrepresenting the facts in a suit he filed against his former boss.
Jacksonville-based state attorney Angela Corey wrote to the Florida senators in September asking them not to recommend her former boss, Shorstein, for U.S. Attorney. Three years ago, Shorstein fired Corey and later publicly opposed her bid for election to state attorney post.
Then late last year, state circuit Judge Kim Hammond unsealed a 2008 court order that was critical of Shorstein. In the order, Hammond denounced Shorstein for the ex-prosecutor’s management of a still-sealed grand jury examination into state attorney John Tanner’s investigation of the Flagler County, Fla., prison.
Shorstein was told last week that he was no longer in consideration for the U.S. Attorney post, according to The Buzz.
”I was sad and frankly a little bothered by how long this took and the way it happened,’’ Tampa lawyer Bill McBride, who was on the state’s U.S. Attorney selection panel, told the blog.