John England III has been named the First Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Northern District of Alabama, The Birmingham News reports.
Joyce Vance, who has been the U.S. Attorney in Birmingham since last August, selected England, spokeswoman Peggy Sanford told The Birmingham News. “It is the usual practice that new U.S. attorneys name their own first assistants,” Sanford told the newspaper. “A first assistant is the U.S. Attorney’s alter ego, so it’s important to have someone who is a good fit to the U.S. attorney’s personal style.”
England, who joined the U.S. Attorney’s office in 1999, most recently served as a criminal division deputy chief, according to The News. He also has headed the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force the newspaper reports.
England replaces Jim Phillips, who had been the First Assistant U.S Attorney for two years. Phillips will remain in the office as a deputy chief, overseeing terrorism, child exploitation and cybercrime cases. He will also oversee the office’s asset forfeiture unit, according to the newspaper.
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Attorney General Eric Holder will attend a ceremonial swearing-in Monday for Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, a spokesperson for Ortiz’s office told Main Justice.
Ortiz was officially sworn in on Nov. 9, a few days after the Senate confirmed her. But U.S. Attorneys often have a later ceremonial investiture with local, state and federal leaders in attendance.
The Attorney General has attended six U.S. Attorney investitures so far. He was at the swearing-in ceremonies for Paul Fishman in New Jersey, Timothy Heaphy in the Western District of Virginia, Neil MacBride in the Eastern District of Virginia, Preet Bharara in the Southern District of New York, B. Todd Jones in Minnesota and Joyce Vance in the Northern District of Alabama.
Read our previous article here about the warm glow U.S. Attorneys get when the Attorney General shows up at their swearing-in ceremonies.
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Attorney General Eric Holder is slated to attend the swearing-in ceremony for the New Jersey U.S. Attorney on Monday, the Justice Department announced today.
Paul Fishman officially took the helm of the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office on Oct. 14. The Senate confirmed him on Oct. 7. Later that month, Holder tapped Fishman to be on the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys, a body that serves as the voice of the U.S. Attorneys at DOJ headquarters in Washington.
Fishman replaced Ralph Marra, who served as acting U.S. Attorney after Republican Chris Christie stepped down to mount a successful run for governor.
The Attorney General has attended five U.S. Attorney investitures thus far. He was at the swearing-in ceremonies for Timothy Heaphy in the Western District of Virginia, Neil MacBride in the Eastern District of Virginia, Preet Bharara in the Southern District of New York, B. Todd Jones in Minnesota and Joyce Vance in the Northern District of Alabama.
Read our previous article here about the warm glow U.S. Attorneys get when the AG shows up at their investitures.
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Tim Heaphy was sworn in as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virgina Friday, with Attorney General Eric Holder on hand, along with Heaphy’s family, friends and colleagues. Holder later delivered a glowing speech to a packed house at the University of Virginia’s law school in Charlottesville, Heaphy’s alma mater. Friday’s swearing-in was ceremonial; he officially took the post on Oct. 16, just two days after he was confirmed by the Senate.
Attorneys General rarely leave Washington to attend swearing in ceremonies, but this marked the fourth fifth time Holder has done so.
Holder has deployed the power of his office in order to spotlight rising stars within the department and to draw subtle contrasts with the Bush administration. Holder was one of Heaphy’s first bosses — hiring him as the assistant U.S. attorney in Washington’s federal district.
During his remarks, Holder said Heaphy quickly became his go-to-guy in the Washington office.
“I have no doubt he will handle his new responsibilities as he handed his previous responsibilities — with confidence, diligence and, most importantly, integrity,” Holder said.
Holder also emphasized his priorities as the country’s chief prosecutor during the speech, stressing the importance of law enforcement and keeping citizens safe.
In addition to Heaphy, Holder has attended the ceremonial investitures for U.S. Attorneys Joyce Vance in the Northern District of Alabama, B. Todd Jones in Minnesota and Preet Bharara in the Southern District of New York.
Heaphy said that he had not sought the position, but was happy for the opportunity. In an interview with WVIR, a Charlottesville television station, he said he would put increased emphasis on rural issues such as the abuse of prescription drugs and methamphetamines and on urban problems such as open-air drug sales and violence.
But Heaphy added that he would not be governed solely by his personal priorities: “The priority is often dictated by events, God forbid there is a terrible tragedy like the Virginia Tech shooting. Prosecutors who articulate priorities, quickly get overtaken by emergencies.”
After nearly 13 years prosecuting cases in federal courts, Heaphy spent three years at the Charlottesville law firm McGuire Woods LLP.
Heaphy replaces acting U.S. Attorney Julia C. Dudley, who stepped in for John Brownlee after he resigned in 2008 in order to make an eventually unsuccessful run for the GOP nomination for Virginia attorney general.
Also in attendance at the ceremony was Heaphy’s father-in-law, Eric K. Shinseki, secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
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The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama told members of the U.S. Sentencing Commission that she is concerned about light sentences that the district’s judges are handing down in white-collar cases, The Birmingham News reported.
Joyce Vance said, according to The News, that the district’s judges usually use their discretion in sentencing wisely, but she said that lighter sentences in white-collar cases are “especially troubling.”
Vance, who was sworn in to the job Aug. 27, appeared last Friday in Austin, Texas, at a regional public hearing of the Sentencing Commission. The panel is holding a series of hearings to mark the 25th anniversary of the Sentencing Reform Act, which created the guidelines judges use in crafting sentences. “We have noticed an increasing number of below-guidelines sentences in white-collar cases,” Vance told the commission, according to the Birmingham newspaper.
She added: “A potential white-collar thief could reasonably conclude that fraudulent conduct in the Northern District of Alabama is actually cost-effective.” She said the 2005 Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Booker — which made sentencing guidelines recommended, but not compulsory — might be having unintentional effects by establishing contradictory sentences, according to the newspaper.
Vance, in an interview with The News, cited a order by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals directing the district court for the Northern District of Alabama to re-sentence former HealthSouth executive Ken Livesay in an accounting fraud case. U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre sentenced Livesay to five years’ probation in 2008 after the circuit court overturned two previous sentences of five years’ probation, The News said.
The district judge gave Livesay leeway because of time the former executive served during his original probation sentence, which he received in 2004, according to the newspaper.
“I believe Booker has made sentencing less uniform and thus less predictable for prosecutors and defendants alike,” Vance said in her testimony to the Sentencing Commission, according to The News.
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Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday announced nine appointees to the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys.
In August, Holder tapped Minnesota U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones to chair the committee, an influential policy-making and advisory body that serves as the voice of the U.S. Attorneys at Main Justice.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, of Illinois’ Northern District, served as interim chairman before Jones was confirmed. Chicago’s top prosecutor, a Republican appointee who has been recommended for a second tour of duty, will remain on the committee.
The nine new members are listed below. Click on their names for a summary of their Senate questionnaires.
- Preet Bharara, of the Southern District of New York
- Dennis Burke, of Arizona
- Jenny Durkan, of the Western District of Washington
- Paul Fishman, of New Jersey
- Neil MacBride, of the Eastern District of Virginia
- Peter Neronha, of Rhode Island
- Joyce Vance, of the Northern District of Alabama
- Channing Phillips, acting U.S attorney in the District of Columbia
- John Davis, chief of the criminal division of the federal prosecutors’ office in Alexandria, will represent the views of Assistant U.S. Attorneys.
They will each serve two-year terms.
The Senate so far has confirmed 18 of 93 U.S. Attorneys. One nominee is waiting for approval by the full Senate, and 11 more await a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Holder, in a statement, said he would rely heavily on the the AGAC as the department works to curb violent crime and gang violence, promote civil rights, police the marketplace and protect national security.
The AGAC’s other members, who were appointed during the Bush administration, include U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, of Middle District of Alabama; Rod Rosenstein, of Maryland; Brett Tolman, of Utah; and Gretchen Witt, the civil chief in the District of New Hampshire.
Regulations require only that the committee have an “appropriate” number of members.
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Attorneys General rarely venture out of Washington to attend swearing-in ceremonies for new U.S. Attorneys, according to former Justice Department officials. But Eric Holder has done so three times — deploying the power of his office to anoint rising stars or draw subtle contrasts with the Bush administration.
So far this year, Holder has attended the ceremonial investitures for U.S. Attorneys Joyce Vance in the Northern District of Alabama, B. Todd Jones in Minnesota and Preet Bharara in the Southern District of New York. Both Vance and Jones run offices that were in turmoil during the Bush administration, and Holder — who has said he wants to restore professionalism to the Justice Department — emphasized the department’s new direction by attending the ceremonies.
At the same time, Jones is also an old friend of Holder, while Vance is a respected veteran who is considered an up-and-comer in the department.
And in Manhattan, Bharara heads the largest and most prestigious U.S. Attorney office outside Washington, which prosecutes high-profile financial fraud and national security cases. Bharara is also close to an important Democratic ally on the Hill, Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). Bharara was Schumer’s chief counsel before he was confirmed as U.S. Attorney.
Holder’s visits show his willingness to deploy the authority of his office for public relations purposes and to build internal morale. But it remains fairly unusual for an Attorney General to attend swearing-in ceremonies, according to ex-U.S. Attorneys.
The Justice Department doesn’t keep formal count, according to a DOJ spokesperson. It’s unclear how many — if any — ceremonies President George W. Bush’s first AG John Ashcroft attended. Ashcroft told Main Justice in that he couldn’t recall. Also, many of the federal prosecutors who were sworn in under Ashcroft arrived not long after the 9/11 terrorist attacks — not a time for pomp and circumstance. Still, Bush’s first AG commended Holder for attending investitures.
“The more you attend, the better,” Ashcroft said, adding that during his four years of service, he eventually visited about half of the U.S. Attorneys offices.
Ron Woods, National Association of Former U.S. Attorneys executive director, told Main Justice that Attorneys General have attended investitures for the District of Columbia U.S. Attorney in the past. But he said their appearances at swearing-in ceremonies outside of Washington are “fairly rare.”
“Our members recall the Attorney General making office visits during their term, but not individual investitures,” said Woods, who served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas from 1990 to 1993. “Keep in mind that there are 93 U. S. Attorneys and most of the investitures will occur within a few months of each other. That would be a significant commitment of time and travel by the Attorney General.”
Holder developed close relationships with the federal prosecutorial community while serving President Bill Clinton as District of Columbia U.S. Attorney and later as Deputy Attorney General, former prosecutors interviewed by Main Justice said. Only three of the last 10 Attorneys General worked as federal prosecutors before becoming the nation’s top cop.
One of the prosecutors Holder got to know was Jones, who was the Minnesota U.S. Attorney during the Clinton administration. Shortly after Jones returned as U.S. Attorney in August, Holder named him chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, an influential policy-making and advisory body that serves as the voice of the U.S. Attorneys in Washington.
But an Attorney General does not show up to an investiture just to say hello to an old friend, according to former DOJ officials. The nation’s top federal prosecutor also attends swearing-in ceremonies for political and public relations reasons.
An official trip to a U.S. Attorney’s office by an Attorney General for an investiture or another event will often attract the media, which will draw attention to the office. It is also an opportunity to energize prosecutors in the field. ”When the Attorney General shows up, it shows the importance of the work being done,” Ashcroft told Main Justice.
A Justice Department spokesperson told Main Justice in August that Holder’s first trip to a U.S. Attorney investiture was part of ongoing effort by the Attorney General to reach out to the 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices.
“The Attorney General is making it a priority to visit U.S. Attorneys’ offices around the country to personally meet with prosecutors and other staff to hear firsthand about the cases they’re working on, the issues they face, and ways in which he can help them do their jobs,” spokesperson Hannah August said this summer. “The visit to the Northern District of Alabama was made to coincide with U.S. Attorney Vance’s swearing-in.”
Regardless of the Attorney’s General reasons behind a trip to a U.S. Attorney’s office, former prosecutors told Main Justice that a visit by the nation’s top federal prosecutor has a major impact on the office. ”It is very meaningful when the Attorney General visits,” said John Richter, who served as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma from 2005 to 2009.
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Former Northern Alabama U.S. Attorney Alice Martin, whose tenure was mired in controversy over allegations that she singled out Democrats for prosecution, has joined an executive search firm in Birmingham.
She began work as a senior partner at Wheless Associates Executive Search on Sept. 14, according to a statement issued by the firm on Wednesday.
“After eight years of recruiting talent into the public sector it is clear the significant impact attracting and retaining the right talent has on an organization,” Martin said in the statement. “I chose to join the outstanding professionals at Wheless to bring that experience to serve private sector leaders in a search process focused on yielding a competitive advantage for our clients.”
Martin, reached by phone, declined to comment further.
President George W. Bush appointed Martin to head the Northern District’s office in 2001. She stepped down in June, after the second of two “courtesy calls” she said she received from officials at Justice Department headquarters in Washington informing her of the progress of her successor’s nomination.
Joyce Vance took over as interim U.S. Attorney on June 19 and was confirmed by the Senate on Aug. 7. Attorney General Eric Holder attended her swearing-in ceremony.
Martin came under scrutiny during the Bush administration for what critics called a pattern of politicized prosecutions of Democratic state legislators. Supporters say she aggressively pursued crooked politicians of all stripes. In 2002, Martin created the North Alabama Public Corruption Task Force, which tallied more than 125 corruption-related convictions during her tenure.
She also came under criticism for her role in the prosecution of military contractor Axion Corp., whose CEO was acquitted in October 2007 of violating the Arms Export Control Act. The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating the matter. (You can read Scott Horton’s piece in The American Lawyer about the Axion case here.)
Martin has denied wrongdoing in that and other cases.
Mike Wheless, CEO of Wheless Associates, expressed confidence in the former prosecutor, who has practiced law for 28 years. In her new position, Martin is ferreting out top talent for executive, senior and mid-level management roles. The Birmingham-based firm has operations in New York, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas and Naples.
“Alice Martin has the contemporary knowledge to understand how boards, senior officers and selection committees can best contend with the challenges facing today’s executive leadership,” Wheless said in the statement.
Martin (Vanderbilt, University of Mississippi Law) served on the Attorney General Advisory Committee from 2003 to 2005. Before her appointment as U.S. Attorney, she served as a state judge and a federal prosecutor in Memphis. In private practice, she specialized in medical malpractice and product liability defense.
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Attorney General Eric Holder’s trip to Birmingham, Ala., last month for the swearing-in of Northern District of Alabama U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance was freighted with symbolism.
Vance was taking over an office that had been in some turmoil during the tenure of her predecessor, Alice Martin, who’d been accused by Democrats of pursuing politically motivated prosecutions. (Martin has denied the allegations). Holder’s presence at Vance’s investiture was seen as a quiet rebuke of the Martin era.
Moreover, Birmingham was the scene of important civil rights battles in the 1960s. And Holder, the first African-American to lead the Justice Department, has made enforcement of anti-discrimination laws against minorities a priority, after it was downplayed during the Bush administration. Vance is the daughter-in-law of an appellate judge who was killed by a nail bomb mailed to his home by a man who’d also targeted the NAACP.
So, maybe it’s a little snarky to ask … you know … how much it all cost. Fortunately, The Birmingham News did the deed for us. In a blog item posted earlier today, The News revealed the taxpayer’s tab for Holder’s Aug. 27 trip was $17,038.
Holder was in Birmingham from 10:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., The News reported. He flew on a government airplane and was accompanied by his counselor, Monty Wilkinson, and a press aide, Hannah August. An advance man, Vin Fazio, flew commercial.
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The office of Northern District of Alabama U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance rejected allegations that some of its prosecutors failed to disclose exculpatory information about a government contractor, according to a motion filed today.
The U.S. Attorney’s office urged the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama to deny a motion for criminal sanctions against former U.S. Attorney Alice Martin and government employees involved with the investigation and prosecution of Defense Department contractor Alex Latifi.
Lawyers for Latifi said Martin and two Assistant U.S. Attorneys should be held in contempt of court for allegedly violating their Brady obligations by withholding information from the defense. Read our previous report about the defense team’s motion here.
“[The defense team's] accusations are serious because the penalties for criminal contempt— fines, imprisonment, or both — are serious,” Vance wrote in a court filing today. “But those penalties are not warranted just because [they] have requested them.”
Latifi, CEO of military parts manufacturer Axion Corp., was acquitted in October 2007 of charges he violated the Arms Export Control Act. Prosecutors alleged that Latifi falsified a report to the Defense Department and sent a drawing of a Black Hawk helicopter part to China.
The Latifi legal team of Henry Frohsin, James Barger Jr. and J. Elliott Walthall from Frohsin & Barger said they have “explicit, unequivocal evidence” that Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Estes and Angela Debro and Army investigators David Balwinski and Marcus Mills allegedly conspired with trial witness James Oglesby to conceal evidence and defraud the court.
Latifi’s lawyers said a series of e-mails between the prosecution and a lawyer for Oglesby’s employer, metal manufacturer Allegheny Technologies Incorporated, purportedly contradict Oglesby’s testimony and allegedly show a conspiracy by the government. Oglesby was a plant manager for the Tungsten Products unit of Allegheny Technologies Incorporated, which did business with Latifi.
Oglesby’s testimony was central to the false report charge, the defense team said. The e-mails — which include Tungsten Products records previously unknown to the defense — were obtained last month through a related lawsuit.
“The … e-mails demonstrate that the government was well aware of the import of these documents and was desperate to have them explained before the trial,” the defense motion said. “Yet, upon receiving whatever explanation was forthcoming, the Government elected to bury this evidence. Instead, the government called Oglesby not once, but twice, to offer misleading half-truths as well as outright lies.”
Vance wrote in her court filing today that the defense team’s claims were “little more than speculation.” Martin told Main Justice earlier this month that the motion from Latifi’s lawyers was “baseless.”
DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility is already investigating a complaint from Latifi that prosecutors mishandled the case. Vance wrote in the filing that OPR was “an appropriate forum” for reviewing allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.
Some Alabama lawyers have raised questions about whether politics motivated the prosecution against the Iranian-born Latifi, who has donated money to Democrats.
Martin’s critics have accused her of targeting Democrats, including ex-Gov. Don Siegelman (D) in a bid-rigging case. Her office dropped the case after a judge barred crucial evidence. Middle District of Alabama U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, however, later successfully prosecuted Siegelman on corruption charges. The former governor is attempting to appeal his conviction, alleging prosecutorial misconduct.
Martin, who served as Northern District of Alabama U.S. Attorney from 2001 to June 2009, has denied the allegations.
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