The lawyer honored with the Criminal Division’s top honor Monday said it didn’t take long in her more than 35-year Justice Department career to realize she’d found her dream job.
Kathleen A. Felton, the Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division’s Appellate Section, was honored with the Henry E. Petersen Memorial Award on Monday at the Justice Department’s Robert F. Kennedy Building. The most prestigious Criminal Division award is given to those who’ve made a “lasting contribution to the Division.”
“It was a little over 35 years ago that I first walked into this building,” Felton said to the large crowd assembled in the department’s Great Hall for the award ceremony. “I was hired in the appellate section and I quickly realized I had found my calling. The work was challenging, always interesting and, even better, it really mattered.”
“A dream job by any measure,” she added.
Felton has worked nearly her entire career in the Appellate Section, save for a stint with the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia and a detail with the Office of International Affairs. Her work in the Appellate Section has included the drafting of numerous Supreme Court briefs and arguing of appeals cases in every regional circuit court. She has also acted as the department’s representative before the courts, but also on rules committees and to foreign dignitaries.
Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, introduced Felton, saying it was a personal honor to award her with the division’s top award. He noted her commitment to acting as a mentor to younger lawyers in the section.
“What may set Kathleen most apart is her remarkable devotion to her colleagues,” Breuer said. “She is ready always with an open ear and a helping hand and never hesitates to take time from her busy day to help others.”
Felton thanked those colleagues during her short acceptance speech in the Great Hall. She remarked on the anonymity of the Criminal Division lawyers.
“We are all quietly working hard every day as part of this institution bigger than ourselves, a cause bigger than ourselves,” she said. “Your fellow citizens may never know your names, and it doesn’t matter.”
She added that she was once describing the lawyers in the Appellate Section. She told them, ” ‘We are anonymous,’ and I didn’t say that apologetically or with any kind of regret. I said it with pride.”
Felton called her colleagues to remember, too, why they are a part of the department. She said she looks up at an inscription on the Justice Department building every day as she waits to cross the street at 10th Street and Pennsylvania Ave. NW. “Justice in the life and conduct of the State is possible only as first it resides in the hearts and souls of the citizens,” the inscription, a Plato quote, reads.
“Whenever I see those words, I say, ‘That’s why I’m here,’ ” she said. “[W]e all represent those people, those citizens with justice in their hearts and souls.”
The annual award ceremony honored a number of top lawyers in the division, and Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole were on hand to give remarks.
Holder and his No. 2 are both alumni of the Criminal Division, and the Attorney General said while he attends a number of award ceremonies every year, “this one in particular means a lot.” Cole said the Criminal Division shaped who he is as a lawyer.
“The Criminal Division is my home,” he said. “It’s where I grew up. It’s where I learned how to be a lawyer.”
Also honored Monday was Jonathan J. Wroblewski, the director of the Office of Policy and Legislation, who took home the John C. Keeney Award for Exceptional Integrity and Professionalism. Wroblewski, who first joined the department in 1988, is an expert in federal sentencing issues and he has helped guide the department in that area, Breuer said. He served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission as the Deputy General Counsel and then the Director of Legislative Affairs. He rejoined the department in 1998 in the Criminal Division’s Office of Policy and Legislation.
A number of law enforcement officers were given an Assistant Attorney General Award for Exceptional Service for their work on the investigation and conviction of fraudster R. Allen Stanford. Stanford orchestrated a two-decade, multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme, and he was convicted in March. He is serving 110 years in prison and was forced to pay $330 million in penalties.
The legal team honored for their work on the cases were: William J. Stellmach and Jeffrey Goldberg, Deputy Chiefs of the Fraud Section; and Andrew H. Warren, a trial attorney in the Fraud Section; Kondi J. Kleinman, trial attorney in the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section; Gregg Costa, former Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Texas; Kristine E. Rollinson and Jason Varnado, both AUSAs in the Southern District of Texas; and Debra Gregory, paralegal specialist in the Southern District of Texas; VanessaWalther, Chad Nunez and Robert W. Martin, all special agents at the FBI; Clayton Gerber, postal inspector at the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Kalford Young, special agent with the Criminal Investigation section of the Internal Revenue Service; Christine Robbins, senior investigator at the Department of Labor; and Meredith Whitfield, a contractor paralegal, was give a certificate of appreciation.
Also honored was a team from the Fraud Section’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act unit and others who worked on the foreign bribery case centered around the Haitian state-owned telecommunications company. The Haiti Teleco case was a six-year investigation that uncovered bribes paid to win contracts with the company. The case resulted in the longest-ever sentence for a defendant in a FCPA case, 15 years.
Those awarded the Assistant Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service include James M. Koukios, Assistant Chief of the Fraud Section; Nicola J. Mrazek, senior trial attorney of the Fraud Section; Daniel S. Kahn, trial attorney in the Fraud Section; Kevin Gerrity, former trial attorney in the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section; Aurora Fagan, Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Florida; and Stephan M. Robinson, Jason Smith, Sergio Ramil Jr., Leandro Briones and Charles Hyacinthe, all special agents with the Criminal Investigation Section of the IRS.