The acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, Matt Whitworth, has been appointed to a U.S. magistrate judgeship, a U.S. district court announced today.
Whitworth will succeed William A. Knox, who will retire in January. Whitworth, a 20-year veteran of the Western District, has led the office since February.
The Western District hit turbulence during the Bush administration.
Former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves was one of the nine prosecutors fired by the Bush administration. Graves was replaced by Bradley Schlozman, the controversial former Civil Rights Division official who served as interim U.S. Attorney until 2007. (Attorney General Eric Holder recently decided not to prosecute Schlozman for giving misleading testimony to Congress about partisan hiring decisions at the DOJ. Click here to read our story.) Schlozman was succeeded by John F. Wood, who resigned in February after President Obama took office.
Obama has yet to nominate a new U.S. Attorney to lead the office. Patrick McInerney, a Kansas City, Mo. lawyer with Husch Blackwell Sanders, and Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan are possible candidates for the job, according to the Kansas City Business Journal.
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Justice Department prosecutors used the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act for the first time to bring charges against alleged human traffickers in the United States, The Associated Press reported Sunday night.
The Western District of Missouri U.S. Attorney’s Office handed down in May a 45-count indictment, which accuses eight Uzbekistan nationals and four others of turning foreign workers into slaves, according to The AP. The workers were allegedly forced into housekeeping jobs and required to live with other laborers in cramped apartments with high rents, the news wire reported. A trial date hasn’t been set, according to The AP.
RICO, which is usually associated with mafia cases, was amended in 1995 to include language that addresses slavery. Those convicted of racketeering could face up to 25 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The charge of fraud in foreign labor contracting was also used for the first time since it was added to the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protections Act last year, according to The AP. The Trafficking Victims Protections Act was the first bill to comprehensively prosecute human traffickers when it became law.
Acting U.S. Attorney Matt Whitworth told The AP that the Bush administration started to pay significant attention to human trafficking after the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, but the Obama administration has gone further.
“(Attorney General) Eric Holder is encouraging U.S. Attorneys offices to pursue these cases and has shown a great deal of interest in more and more of this type of prosecution,” Whitworth said. “I think we’re making an impact, and the Department of Justice is encouraging us to do that.”