News that the leading Utah U.S. Attorney candidate is out of the running to be the state’s top federal prosecutor has caused rampant speculation — but few solid leads — on what may have derailed his chances.
The White House declined to comment to The Salt Lake Tribune this week on why officials decided against nominating David Schwendiman to be U.S. Attorney. Schwendiman had been the leading candidate for the post. His candidacy was backed by Rep. Jim Matheson, Utah’s only Democratic member of Congress, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
The Utah U.S. Attorney’s office released a statement last week making the White House’s decision public. In the same release, the office said Schwendiman will return as a senior litigation counsel. Schwendiman, who worked in the Utah U.S. Attorney’s office from 1987 to 2006, held that position before he became a war crimes prosecutor in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2006.
“Is this circumstance odd? A little,” Matheson spokeswoman Alyson Heyrend told the newspaper. “I guess it makes the White House action a little mysterious.”
White House officials notified Matheson that problems had come up with Schwendiman’s nomination during the vetting process, according to the newspaper. But they did not elaborate.
“The White House let Jim know a while back that there was a problem with the nomination,” Heyrend said. “He continued to hope and press for Schwendiman’s nomination.”
The newspaper said some legal and political experts are pointing fingers at Hatch for derailing the nomination. A representative from Hatch’s office denied the accusations in an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune.
Others alleged the White House wanted a minority or younger nominee, according to the newspaper. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office dismissed that suggestion as well.
Some speculated that President Barack Obama is attempting to reprimand Matheson, a conservative Democrat, for votes against bills backed by the White House, according to the newspaper. The House member’s spokeswoman said she doesn’t think the claim is true, noting Obama’s support for Matheson in a recent primary campaign.
Heyrend told the newspaper that Matheson will search for a new candidate, but he will look for guidance from the White House when moving forward.
U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin of the Middle District of Tennessee was sworn in Thursday at a packed Nashville federal courthouse before about 200 friends, family and dignitaries.
U.S. District Judge Todd J. Campbell administered the oath of office, and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Nashville lawyer George Barrett all spoke at the ceremonial investiture.
Cooper, who recommended Martin for U.S. Attorney, said the prosecutor is “truly outstanding,” according to the Nashville City Paper. Barrett, who worked with Martin at Barrett, Johnston & Parsley LLC, said the U.S. Attorney “has wisdom beyond his age and knowledge far beyond his education,” according to the newspaper.
Barrett, Cooper and Alexander also praised former U.S. Attorney Ed Yarbrough, who stepped down in May.
“[He] stepped aside from his law practice at the peak of his career and came into this office, one of the most important in our state. He composed himself with integrity and dignity and professionalism,” Alexander said. He added: “We owe Ed Yarbrough a lot.”
Martin, who was official sworn in May 21, said he would “dispassionately” combat white-collar crimes including, corruption and environmental crimes.
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This post has been corrected.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in Middle District of Georgia has taken an unusual step, recusing itself from a seemingly routine fraud case. The wrinkle: one of the victims of the apparent fraud is the Macon-based district’s U.S. Attorney nominee.
Michael J. Moore, a Perry, Ga., defense attorney and Democratic donor, was nominated to be the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia on Sept. 17, 2009 — nearly 300 days ago. He is the longest outstanding U.S. Attorney nominee in the Obama administration. (The second longest outstanding nominee is Thomas Gray Walker for the Eastern District of North Carolina at a little more than 200 days.)
It’s unclear what has delayed Moore’s nomination. It took nine months from the date of his nomination for the Senate Judiciary Committee to receive Moore’s background questionnaire, a necessary bit of paperwork before the panel can consider a nomination. The panel received Moore’s questionnaire on June 9; most U.S. Attorney nominees file the materials a few weeks after nomination.
But some local observers have pointed to his peripheral involvement in the wire fraud case involving Logo Pro, Inc., a promotional items company based in Centerville, Ga., as a possible source of the delay.
According to court documents filed in the case, Logo Pro, Inc., owner and CEO J. Todd Smith told investors that he had secured a government contract to provide clothing and accessories to the federal government and asked investors for money up front to facilitate the performance of the contract.
But Smith never had a government contract. Instead, he used the money for personal and business expenses and to pay off other investors. According to court documents, about 30 individuals lost about $2 million in Smith’s scheme, which lasted from February 2008 through about September 2009. Smith’s attorney Donald F. Samuel confirmed that Moore was one of the victims defrauded in the scheme.
Smith pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud on April 27. He is slated to be sentenced in August, Samuel said. Smith faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and three years of supervised release.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in the Middle District of Georgia recused itself from the case because of the connection to Moore, Samuel said. The prosecution was handed to the Northern District of Georgia and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen H. McClain, who did not respond to a request for comment.
Moore was recommended to be the U.S. Attorney by the House Democratic delegation from Georgia. Traditionally, a state’s senators make U.S. Attorney recommendations to the president. But when the senators are from different parties — as is the case in Georgia with Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson — the job of making recommendations falls to the House delegation.
Moore has given about $30,000 to Democratic candidates and causes on the federal and state level since 2002 — including $3,300 in donations to President Obama — according to a review of state and federal campaign donations.
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Some U.S. Border Patrol agents told the voiceofsandiego.org in a report Monday that they are still upset about how the new Southern District of California U.S. Attorney handled the prosecution of a 16-year-old convicted of murdering one of their colleagues.
The law enforcement officials told the news website they were unsatisfied with the 40-year sentence Mexican national Christian Daniel Castro-Alvarez received in April for his role in the murder of border agent Robert Rosas. The teenager faced a life sentence in the case handled by Southern District of California U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy.
“It’s just demoralizing for our agents,” Shawn Moran, vice president of the the agents’ union, National Border Patrol Council, told voiceofsandiego.org. “We’ve always known we’re at the bottom of the pecking order. We can’t get an assault charge to save our lives when we are assaulted, but we thought if one of us is murdered, that no deals would be cut. You just don’t cut deals with people like this.”
The news website said it isn’t certain why Castro received a 40-year-sentence. Duffy declined to comment on the matter to voiceofsandiego.org in her first interview since becoming U.S. Attorney last month.
But Duffy, a 16-year veteran of the San Diego-based U.S. Attorney’s office, has support from other law enforcement officials, including the acting Border Patrol deputy chief of the San Diego sector.
“U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy is a top-notch prosecutor who is tuned in to border issues,” Rodney Scott, the acting deputy chief, told the news website. “She has been a good friend of the Border Patrol for many years and we look forward to working with her.”
Duffy told voiceofsandiego.org that combating border crime and national security issues are her top priorities. But the prosecutor said she will also focus on efforts to fight financial fraud.
The U.S. Attorney, who is openly gay, said she hopes her tenure as U.S. Attorney will be known for her work and not just her sexual orientation.
“I am honored that people would follow and celebrate the successes of my career, and I take to heart even the possibility that my being open about my orientation may lessen the stigma or apparent limitations even one individual feels,” Duffy told the news website. “It is my sincerest hope, that in the days and months to come, the thing that I become most known and celebrated for is the quality of my leadership and the continued good work of this office.”
Read the full interview here.
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It wasn’t because of controversies about Mary Beth Buchanan. Or Chris Christie. The Department of Justice swears.
New rules that ensure U.S. Attorneys don’t travel on the taxpayer dime for political purposes are the result of a review process that found the previous guidelines to be confusing, the department said.
“The previous policies and procedures were admittedly inconsistent — and the new memo was a result of a comprehensive review of all travel rules and regulations,” Justice Department spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz said in a statement. “Moving forward, this memo will serve as the single set of guidelines for the U.S. Attorney community, and all other guidance will be based off this memo.”
The Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys updates policies and procedures as needed, Schwartz said. “These updated procedures reflect goals of improved transparency and stewardship of taxpayer dollars,” she added.
The new guidelines came to light earlier this week in a story by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after the newspaper filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the travel records of Buchanan, the former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Those records indicated that Buchanan spent more than half her time on the road, costing taxpayers $450,000.
Appointed during the George W. Bush administration, Buchanan resigned Nov. 16 to run for the Republication nomination for the 4th congressional district in Pennsylvania. She lost that race in May to former Department of Homeland Security official Keith Rothfus.
In New Jersey, a former U.S. Attorney’s travel expenses were an issue in last year’s governor’s race. Incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine (D) used a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain travel records for Christie, his Republican opponent. The records showed the prosecutor often exceeded his government allowance and stayed in luxury hotels while serving as the state’s chief federal prosecutor. Christie won the election.
The new travel policy memo, sent to U.S. Attorneys’ offices in February and authored by Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys Director H. Marshall Jarrett, said the revamped procedures will ensure compliance with travel policies; strengthen internal controls and oversight of U.S. Attorneys’ travel in a user-friendly process; and maintain the integrity and reputation the U.S. Attorney position. The procedures were implemented March 1.
U.S. Attorneys can approve their own travel within their district, but must get approval from the Director of EOUSA or the Deputy Director for Administration and Management if they use premium class travel accommodations or actual subsistence is requested, according to the memo.
When traveling outside of their districts domestically, the U.S. Attorney must notify the Executive Office at least five days in advance of planned departure date. If the travel is being reimbursed by a non-federal source, they must submit their request 10 days in advance and the request will be reviewed by the EOUSA’s General Counsel’s Office. Foreign travel requires authorizations to be submitted 15 days in advance, according to the new regulations.
Under the guidelines, the EOUSA will conduct audits of a sample of each U.S. Attorney’s travel authorizations and vouchers every six months to ensure offices are complying with the regulations.
DOJ rules state that travel conducted by those in higher level positions at Justice Department headquarters has to be authorized by either the Deputy Attorney General or the Associate Attorney General.
The memo is embedded below.
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The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia said during his ceremonial investiture last week that he will “not bend to power,” The West Virginia Record reported Thursday.
B. Booth Goodwin, who was officially sworn in May 27, took the oath of office again on Friday with West Virginia leaders and his supporters looking on.
The Charleston, W.Va.-based U.S. Attorney said he would improve efforts to combat illicit prescription drug distribution, fraud and workplace safety crime.
“The strong shouldn’t be able to take from the weak,” Goodwin said. “Our most vulnerable fellow citizens should be protected from exploitation. Workers shouldn’t be forced to earn their living in illegal, unsafe conditions. And everyone—rich or poor, man or woman, old or young, elected official or citizen, from the CEO to the minimum wage earner—should play by the same set of rules.”
The ceremony included the presentation of Goodwin’s presidential commission from H. Marshall Jarrett, director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) and U.S. Appeals Judge Robert B. King of the 4th Circuit also spoke at the event.
Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who died Monday, was not in attendance at the event.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved by voice vote two more of President Barack Obama’s U.S. Attorney nominees at its meeting Thursday.
- Stephen R. Wigginton (Southern District of Illinois): Obama tapped the partner and co-owner of the Weilmuenster & Wigginton PC law firm in Belleville, Ill., on April 14 to replace George W. Bush holdover A. Courtney Cox, who has headed the Fairview Heights, Ill.-based office since November 2007. Read more about Wigginton here.
- Edward L. Stanton III (Western District of Tennessee): The president nominated the Federal Express senior counsel on April 14 to succeed David Kustoff, who stepped down as U.S. Attorney in 2008. Read more about Stanton here.
The panel delayed consideration of North Dakota U.S. Attorney nominee Tim Purdon until its next meeting. Committee Republicans can request to hold over a nominee one time.
President Barack Obama nominated the partner at the Vogel Law Firm in Bismarck, N.D., on Feb. 4 to succeed Drew Wrigley, who stepped down as U.S. Attorney in Sept. 2009. Obama has been criticized for tapping Purdon, who was on the executive committee of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party and has no prosecutorial experience. Read more about Purdon here.
The panel has now approved 59 of Obama’s U.S. Attorney nominees, 57 of whom have won Senate confirmation. The committee has yet to schedule votes for another 12 would-be U.S. Attorneys. There are 93 U.S. Attorney posts.
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The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider another one of President Barack Obama’s nominees at its meeting Thursday.
The panel is slated to vote on North Dakota U.S. Attorney nominee Tim Purdon, a partner at the Vogel Law Firm in Bismarck, N.D. President Barack Obama nominated him on Feb. 4 to succeed Drew Wrigley, who stepped down as U.S. Attorney in Sept. 2009. Obama has been criticized for tapping Purdon, who was on the executive committee of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party and has no prosecutorial experience.
Read more about Purdon here.
The committee is also scheduled to consider Southern District of Illinois U.S. Attorney nominee Stephen R. Wigginton and Western District of Tennessee U.S. Attorney nominee Edward L. Stanton III at its meeting Thursday.
The panel has yet to schedule votes for another 12 would-be U.S. Attorneys. The committee has approved 57 of Obama’s U.S. Attorney nominees, all of whom have won Senate confirmation. There are 93 U.S. Attorney posts.
The Senate confirmed by voice vote two more of President Barack Obama’s U.S. Attorney nominees late Tuesday night.
- Pamela C. Marsh (Northern District of Florida): An of counsel for Akerman Senterfitt LLP and former Assistant U.S. Attorney, Marsh succeeds George Miller, who stepped down as U.S. Attorney in 2008. Read more about her here.
- Peter J. Smith (Middle District of Pennsylvania): The former deputy state treasurer for the Pennsylvania Treasury Department and former Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania succeeds Martin C. Carlson, who resigned as U.S. Attorney last year. Read more about Smith here.
Senate has now confirmed 57 of Obama’s U.S. Attorney nominees, including four confirmed earlier on Tuesday. The chamber has yet to consider another 15 U.S. Attorney nominees who are waiting for votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
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The Senate confirmed four more of President Barack Obama’s U.S. Attorney nominees by voice vote Tuesday morning.
- Donald J. Cazayoux (Middle District of Louisiana): The former U.S. House member will replace George W. Bush holdover David R. Dugas, who has served as U.S. Attorney since 2001. Read more about Cazayoux here.
- James A. Lewis (Central District of Illinois): The Central District of Illinois Assistant U.S. Attorney will succeed Rodger A. Heaton, who stepped down as U.S. Attorney last August. Read more about Lewis here.
- Thomas Delahanty II (Maine): The Maine Superior Court justice will replace Paula Silsby, who has led the Portland, Maine-based U.S. Attorney’s office since 2001. Delahanty previously served as U.S. attorney from 1980 to 1981. Read more about him here.
- Wendy J. Olson (Idaho): The Senior Litigation Counsel has worked in the Boise, Idaho-based U.S. Attorney’s office since 1997. Olson previously served at Justice Department headquarters in the Civil Rights Division as a trial attorney from 1992 to 1996 and Deputy Director of Operations and Assistant to the Director on the National Church Arson Task Force from 1996 to 1997. She will succeed Thomas Moss, who has served as Idaho U.S. Attorney since 2001. Read more about her here.
Senate has now confirmed 55 of Obama’s U.S. Attorney nominees.
The chamber has yet to consider another 15 U.S. Attorney nominees who are waiting for votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Senate also has yet to vote on two U.S. Attorney nominees who were approved by the panel Thursday.