Utah U.S. Attorney Carlie Christensen announced staff promotions via news release on Monday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara Bearnson was appointed senior litigation counsel and will serve as Acting First Assistant U.S. Attorney. Christensen also appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney Felice Viti to head the criminal division. He will supervise the violent crime, narcotics, white collar, national security and appellate sections. Viti, who previously worked as a local prosecutor in New York and as a special agent with the FBI, also served as prosecutor in the Elizabeth Smart trial.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Veda Travis will function as acting chief of the narcotics section, while Assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Lund is on active duty in the military for six months. Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlos Esqueda shifts his role to include civil rights and public corruption, two major concerns for the Department of Justice. He will focus on civil rights outreach efforts, including coordinating training for law enforcement officers, and work with the FBI in the investigation and prosecution of public corruption cases.
“These changes involve very experienced attorneys who have the judgment, administrative skills, and in-depth knowledge to handle increased responsibilities in our office,” Christensen said in the statement. “I am confident these changes will help us meet our responsibilities to law enforcement and client agencies and, most importantly, in serving the residents of Utah.”
The suicide of an undercover operative will not hold up trials against two dozen people arrested for selling illegally obtained American Indian artifacts, the Associated Press reported today.
Acting U.S. Attorney for Utah Carlie Christensen said she is certain that the cases will continue, according to the AP. U.S. Magistrate Samuel Alba set the first case for trial on May 3.
Ted Dan Gardiner shot himself on March 1, becoming the third person connected with the cases to commit suicide.
The Justice Department has been under fire for its handling of the two-year undercover probe that led to 26 indictments in the rural Four Corners area of Utah near the Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona borders.
More than 100 agents, including an FBI SWAT team, participated in the June 2009 roundup of people who allegedly plundered American Indian artifacts from public land. Although some agents reportedly had drawn their guns, the raids were carried out without violence, except for one suspect who claimed his toe had been broken.
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First Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlie Christensen has been named acting U.S. Attorney in Utah, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Christensen will steer the office until President Obama nominates, and the Senate confirms, a successor to Brett Tolman, whose resignation as U.S. Attorney was effective Thursday.
The expected nominee is former Utah Assistant U.S. Attorney David Schwendiman, who is now working overseas as an international prosecutor of war crimes in Bosnia, the newspaper reported. Read our previous report on Schwendiman and his political ties here.