Lockerbie Bombing Set U.S. Attorney on Career Path
By Stephanie Woodrow | February 15, 2022 5:09 pm

Richard Hartunian (DOJ)

A family tragedy set Richard Hartunian on his path to becoming a U.S. Attorney, The Syracuse Post-Standard reports. In 1988, Hartunian’s parents got the news that their daughter had been killed in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

Lynne Hartunian, then a student at the State University of New York at Oswego, was returning from a study-abroad program in Europe, the newspaper reports. At the time, 27-year-old Richard Hartunian, who last week won Senate confirmation to be the new U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York, was a new lawyer doing mostly real estate closings.

His mother, Joanne Hartunian, was paralyzed by the news and stayed on the couch for days. Her son brought her food and worked on taking care of the family. “I kind of had to kick into gear,” he told The Post-Standard.

In addition to supporting his family, this included becoming a leader the Pan Am 103 victims group, according to the newspaper. Hartunian was one of the seven original members of the group that lobbied for a presidential commission on security at airports and called for additional investigations from the U.S. and British governments, the newspaper reports. Even though he was only three years out of law school, Hartunian was the legal adviser to the group.

Joanne told The Post-Standard that it was this experience as a crime victim and advocate for others that helped the attorney realize he wanted to be a federal prosecutor.  “The only thing he ever said, and this was a long time ago, was that after being a victim he had decided that he wanted to be a prosecutor,” she said.  Hartunian became a federal prosecutor in 1997.

Before the bombing, Hartunian had hoped to become an assistant district attorney in Albany County, N.Y., which he eventually did for seven years. However, the aftermath of the bombing educated him not only about the power of the federal government but the need to be compassionate toward victims, according to the newspaper. Among the issues Hartunian dealt with were getting death certificates from Scotland, having personal property returned and the identification of the remains.

Although the bombing was a turning point in his life, Hartunian did not want it to overshadow other aspects of his life. “You don’t want to be defined by those events alone,” he told The Post-Standard. “They were an important chapter in my life that steered me, that had impact on me, that taught me a lot about myself, about faith, about family and the importance of living life to its fullest every day.”

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