Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) called on the Justice Department to assist his state in its efforts to combat the illegal sale of prescription drugs.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Brown asked for the deployment of at least two Ohio-based groups of federal, state and local law enforcement officials who would be tasked with stopping “pill mills” and other offenses involving prescription drugs.
At least one of the “Tactical Diversion Squads” should be based in Ohio’s two judicial districts, the Northern District of Ohio and the Southern District of Ohio, Brown wrote. There are 37 of the groups located across the United States, but Ohio doesn’t have any, according to Brown.
“The prescription drug abuse problem in Ohio is worsening by the day. It’s shocking that as the 7th-largest state in the nation, our state is not home to a single tactical diversion squad to combat this issue—even though our neighbors Kentucky and Michigan are,” Brown said in a statement. “That’s why I am urging Attorney General Holder to establish two tactical diversion squads in Ohio—one in the north and one in the south. We must do all we can to stop this epidemic, which has already cost so many lives and futures in Ohio.”
At a Senate hearing this month, Brown initially asked Holder for help from the DOJ to fight prescription drug crimes in Ohio. Holder said he would work with the senator on the matter.
“That is something we have devoted a great deal of attention to and have come up with ways in which I think we are fighting a problem that exists in a great many states,” Holder said.
The Senate on Tuesday confirmed former Cleveland Assistant U.S. Attorney Benita Pearson to be a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.
The confirmation is part of a rapid series of Senate judicial approvals, following a deal reportedly struck by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to break a logjam caused by GOP objections that Democrats had denounced as without substance.
On Tuesday, the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys urged the Senate to confirm more judges.
Pearson, whose nomination was reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee in February, worked in the Cleveland U.S. Attorney’s office from July 2000 to August 2008.
When President Barack Obama signed sweeping hate crimes legislation into law at a ceremony last month, new Northern District of Ohio U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach was there - a sign of the Cleveland prosecutor’s rising influence in civil rights enforcement.
Dettelbach, who was confirmed by the Senate in September, is the new chair of the civil rights subcommittee of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys.
The AGAC advises Attorney General Eric Holder on policy and law enforcement issues. And civil rights is a top priority of the Obama administration.
At his Oct. 26 investiture ceremony, Dettelbach made clear his commitment to enforcing anti-discrimination laws by invoking Tom Perez, the new Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
“We can and must follow Tom Perez’s example of relentless dedication to civil rights, because our citizens must understand that the laws we enforce apply equally to all, not just some,” he said in prepared remarks.
Dettelbach has a long history working on civil rights issues. He successfully prosecuted several civil rights cases during his almost two decades as a federal prosecutor at U.S. Attorney’s offices in Cleveland and Maryland and at Justice Department headquarters in Washington.
He told Main Justice in a recent interview that among his office’s “usual assortment of prosecutorial plaques and knickknacks” are two awards from former Attorney General Janet Reno that he received when he was an attorney in the DOJ Civil Rights Division.
One plaque honors Dettelbach’s work on a case that involved an Indian woman who was brought to Miami as a slave. She endured regular beatings over the course of seven months and was even branded with an iron, according to Dettelbach.
Another award commemorates the prosecution of Ku Klux Klan members who tried to undermine the integration of housing projects in Vidor, Texas.
“He is deeply committed to fighting for crime victims and to holding those who commit crimes, even the most powerful, accountable,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Mythili Raman, who worked with Dettelbach in the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office.
But Dettelbach’s experience extends beyond civil rights cases.
He was a part of the organized crime and corruption strike force during his time as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Cleveland. As deputy chief of the Greenbelt branch of the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, he prosecuted fraud cases. Dettelbach also worked as a Senate Judiciary Committee counsel to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and most recently as a partner in the Cleveland office of law firm Baker & Hostetler.
“He brings a good, well-rounded experience to the table,” said former Deputy Attorney General Craig Morford, who once supervised Dettelbach in the Cleveland U.S. Attorney’s office.
Dettelbach said while his diverse experience has prepared him to be U.S. Attorney, the job presents new challenges.
“There is no typical day,” Dettelbach said. “That’s what makes the job both so rewarding and so challenging. On any day, you are doing a mixture of managing the cases and the investigations that the assistants and agents are doing in the office, representing the office in the community and representing the office within the Department of Justice as a whole.”
The U.S. Attorney said taking over the reins of the Northern District office is “like getting on a train that going 100 miles per hour.”
“Even though I had worked here as an Assistant, it’s a much different perspective being the U.S. Attorney than it is being an Assistant,” he said.
His office is working a number of major prosecutions including a corruption scandal in Cuyahoga County and a civil rights case involving a white supremacist who mailed a noose to an Ohio chapter of the NAACP.
Dettelbach said terrorism will remain his office’s top priority, even as he puts a renewed focus on civil rights enforcement and financial fraud.
The U.S. Attorney said he is meeting with all of the office’s Assistant U.S. Attorneys to discuss his plans and hear their suggestions.
Dettelbach said his new responsibilities have cut into his personal time with his wife and two children. He works a lot and is “not allowed to talk to my wife about it,” he said.
But long hours are nothing new for Dettelbach, said Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein. Dettelbach often worked nights and weekends as the deputy chief of the Greenbelt branch office, he recalled.
“He is a guy who really enjoys working for DOJ,” Rosenstein said.
Dettelbach said his work as a federal prosecutor has “made me the happiest.”
“I have to say one of the great things about this job is you can even explain to a four- and six-year-old the importance of what we do. And that to me is a great thing that Assistant U.S. Attorneys get to do and U.S. Attorneys get to do,” Dettelbach said. “Even at the most basic level, people can understand what you’re doing is something that is important in your community.”
This post has been corrected from an earlier version.
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The Senate confirmed six U.S. Attorneys this afternoon by unanimous consent.
-Steven Dettelbach (Northern District of Ohio): The partner at the Baker & Hostetler law firm was nominated July 14. Dettelbach will replace Gregory White, who resigned in 2008. Read more about Dettelbach here.
-Carter Stewart (Southern District of Ohio): The associate at the Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease law firm was nominated July 14. He will replace Gregory Lockhart, who resigned last month. Read more about the appointee here.
-Peter Neronha (Rhode Island): The Rhode Island Assistant U.S. Attorney was nominated July 31. Neronha will replace Robert Clark Corrente, who resigned June 26. Read more about the appointee here.
-Daniel Bogden (Nevada): The former Nevada U.S. Attorney, who was fired during the 2006 U.S. Attorney purge, was re-nominated July 31. Bogden will replace Gregory Brower, whose resignation is effective Oct. 10. Read more about Bogden here.
-Dennis Burke (Arizona): Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s senior adviser on border security and law enforcement was nominated July 14. Burke will replace Diane Humetewa, who resigned Aug. 2. Read more about the appointee here.
-Neil MacBride (Eastern District of Virginia): The Justice Department Associate Deputy Attorney General was nominated Aug. 6. MacBride will replace Chuck Rosenberg, who resigned in October 2008. Read more about MacBride here.
The Senate has now confirmed all 11 U.S. Attorneys that have been reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
On Thursday, the panel is slated to consider U.S. Attorney nominees Jenny Durkan for the Western District of Washington and Paul Fishman for New Jersey. After the committee votes on Durkan and Fishman, it will still have to consider five more U.S. Attorney nominees. The panel has not announced when it will vote on the five nominees.
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The group of U.S. Attorney nominees endorsed by the panel grew to seven members with the addition of Dettelbach and Stewart. There are another 10 U.S. Attorney appointees that the committee has not considered yet.
The U.S. Attorney nominees reported out of committee (not including Dettelbach and Stewart) are:
-Preet Bharara for the Southern District of New York (nominated June 4; reported out of committee June 18)
-Tristram Coffin for the District of Vermont (nominated June 4; reported out of committee June 18)
-Joyce Vance for the Northern District of Alabama (nominated June 4; reported out of committee June 18)
-John Paul Kacavas for the District of New Hampshire (nominated June 4; reported out of committee June 25)
-B. Todd Jones for the District of Minnesota (nominated June 4; reported out of committee June 25)
The U.S. Attorney appointees that the panel has not considered yet are:
- Jenny Durkan for the Western District of Washington (nominated: June 4)
- Paul Fishman for the District of New Jersey (nominated: June 4)
-Brendan Johnson for the District of South Dakota (nominated: July 14)
-Karen Loeffler for the District of Alaska (nominated: July 14)
-Florence Nakakuni for the District of Hawaii (nominated: July 14)
-Dennis K. Burke for the District of Arizona (nominated: July 14)
-Daniel Bogden for the District of Nevada (nominated: July 31)
-Deborah Gilg for the District of Nebraska (nominated: July 31)
-Timothy Heaphy for the Western District of Virginia (nominated: July 31)
-Peter Neronha for the District of Rhode Island (nominated: July 31)
Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called on the Senate again to move on all Justice Department nominees reported out of committee. Read our previous report on the delays here.
“I remain hopeful that the Senate Republican leadership will work with us to clear all these nominations for confirmation before the extended August recess,” Leahy said in a statement submitted for the record today. “Those that cannot be confirmed by unanimous consent or on a voice vote this week should be scheduled with appropriate time agreements for debate, and up-or-down votes upon the Senate’s return the week of Sept. 8.”
The panel today also approved by voice vote Vermont U.S. Marshal nominee David Demag and President Obama’s nominee to lead the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, David Kappos.
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U.S. Attorney nominees Steven Dettelbach for Ohio’s Northern District and Carter M. Stewart for Ohio’s Southern district were nominated July 14. The Senate Judiciary Committee announced today that the Ohio nominees will come before the panel for a vote this Thursday.
But Washington state Western District U.S. Attorney nominee Jenny Durkan and Paul Fishman, President Obama’s choice to be New Jersey’s top prosecutor, were announced May 15. They still haven’t come before the committee for a vote.
What gives? Are Republicans objecting to Durkan, who is openly gay and a confidante of Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire? Did one of those clients Fishman declined to reveal publicly turn out to be controversial? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to ensure total anonymity.
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Northern District of Ohio Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Pinjuh testified yesterday that indicted DEA agent Lee Lucas “was a loose cannon,” who did a shoddy job during investigations, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported this morning.
The Assistant U.S. Attorney was called to speak at the U.S. District Court in Ohio yesterday because of Brady concerns surrounding the 2007 trial of three men who were sentenced to more than 10 years for drug dealing, according to The Plain Dealer. The men said Lucas was the primary witness in their case, and they should have been made aware of his problems, the newspaper said.
Lucas was charged earlier this year with allegedly overseeing 15 drug buys — two of which were bogus, according to The Plain Dealer. The purchases made by informant Jerrell Bray led to charges against 17 people, the newspaper said.
The informant has pleaded guilty to charges that he incorrectly identified drug dealers and lied, according to the newspaper. Lucas allegedly hid information about Bray from prosecutors, lied at trials and filed bogus reports, The Plain Dealer reported.
“To be blunt, I grew tired of the sloppiness,” Pinjuh said at the hearing, according to the newspaper.
Former Northern District of Ohio U.S. Attorney Greg White testified Monday that his prosecutors didn’t doubt Lucas’ truthfulness, but questioned how quickly Lucas moved through cases, The Plain Dealer reported.
Pinjuh agreed that Lucas moved too fast, but the Assistant U.S. Attorney said Lucas also wrote inadequate reports that made it difficult for the office to carry on investigations, according to the newspaper. The Assistant U.S. Attorney said Lucas was one of most careless agents that he has ever encountered, The Plain Dealer said.
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Former Northern District of Ohio U.S. Attorney Greg White denied allegations from Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora that the Bush Justice Department orchestrated a “witch hunt” against local Democratic leaders, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported last night.
We previously reported that Dimora, who is also head of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, is calling on the Justice Department to review a federal investigation into alleged corruption by local Democrats. Corruption charges were filed this month in federal court against four people, but the indictments did not name Dimora. Multiple references in the indictments to “Public Official Number One” reportedly refer to Dimora.
White, who was the U.S. Attorney when the corruption probe began last year, told The Plain Dealer that the Bush Justice Department did not try to improperly influence the investigation in the wake of the 2008 presidential election.
“Political considerations were never an issue,” White told The Plain Dealer. “No one ever tried to steer an investigation to any individual. The history of the U.S. Attorney’s office is well documented for its public-corruption cases.”
White told the Plain Dealer that his office did not intentionally single out Democrats in investigations. His office successfully prosecuted Republican fund-raiser Tom Noe, who was convicted in 2006 of illegally funneling more than $45,000 in campaign contributions to President Bush’s re-election campaign.
Several Democrats told The Plain Dealer that they do not see a conspiracy plot, pointing out that indictments were not brought before the election of President Obama.
“I’m not opining about whether Mr. Dimora is guilty or innocent, but a strategy of impugning the prosecutors’ motives as being political is misguided, based on the players involved,” Subodh Chandra, a former Assistant U.S. attorney and a Democratic Ohio attorney general candidate in 2006, told The Plain Dealer.