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November 2015
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Tag: U.S. Attorney

Detroit U.S. Attorney’s Office Takes Time Out to Celebrate Its 200th Anniversary

l-r from the top: Ross Parker; Judge Gerald Rosen; The crowd; U.S. Attorney McQuade

l-r From the top: Ross Parker; Judge Gerald Rosen; The crowd; U.S. Attorney McQuade

By Allan Lengel

DETROIT —  Federal court, more often than not, is a pretty serious place.

But on Wednesday, judges, prosecutors, attorneys, courthouse staff and members of the media gathered on the first floor of the U.S. District Courthouse in downtown Detroit to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The crowd included some former U.S. Attorneys: Saul Green and Jeff Collins and Judges Terrence Berg and Stephen Murphy. Some of the federal judges included chief Judge Gerald Rosen, Judge Paul Borman and Judge Bernard Friedman.

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade delivered some remarks, calling the U.S. Attorney’s Office the best law firm in the state. Ross Parker, a former chief of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and a columnist for, gave a talk about the history of the office.

Parker is the author of the book “Carving Out the Rule of Law: The History of the United States Attorney’s Office e in Eastern Michigan 1815–2008.″

Justice Department Public Integrity Section Gets New Leader

By Steve Neavling

The Justice Department’s powerful Public Integrity section, which investigates politicians and judges, has a new leader, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

U.S. Attorney Jack Smith, who has been a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, brings a wealth of background and knowledge to the position. Smith was a criminal prosecutor, for example, in the International Criminal Court at the Hague.

Smith has tapped a top deputy – Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Raymond Husler, who has been acting chief of the Public Integrity section.

The Washington Post has more.

ATF Director B. Todd Jones Calling it Quits; Tom Brandon Will Step Up

US Attorney B. Todd Jones

Todd Jones

By Allan Lengel

B. Todd Jones, the head of ATF, who first stepped in as acting director in 2011, and later became the first ATF directory in history to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, is stepping down, effective March 31.

The announcement from ATF came in a press release, which said he’s departing to pursue opportunities in the private sector. Jone’s number two person, Thomas Brandon, will step in as acting director.

“ATF employees are hard-working, dedicated individuals who serve the public to make our nation safer every day,” said Jones in a statement. “I have seen firsthand their extraordinary commitment to combatting violent crime, ridding the streets of criminals, and leveraging all available resources to keep our communities safe.”

“I will truly miss leading and working side-by-side with these men and women in their pursuit of ATF’s unique law enforcement and regulatory mission,” Jones added.

Jones initially held two jobs in 2011: He was named acting director of ATF while still serving as U.S. Attorney in Minnesota. President Obama nominated him for the permanent post on Jan. 24, 2013, and he ended his job as U.S. Attorney after being confirmed as ATF director.

Tom Brandon/atf photo

ATF Deputy Director Thomas E. Brandon will serve as Acting Director. Brandon was appointed Deputy Director of ATF in October 2011.



Federal Judge Terrence Berg Shot and Wounded in Detroit

Terrance Berg/doj photo

By Allan Lengel
Deadline Detroit

DETROIT — U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Berg, a former federal prosecutor and former acting U.S. Attorney, was shot and wounded Thursday night on Detroit’s northwest side.

George Hunter of the Detroit News reports that it was an attempted robbery. He was shot in the leg outside his home in the city’s University District and taken to Sinai-Grace Hospital. He’s undergone surgery.

Two robbers tried to force Berg inside his home, but he didn’t comply with their demand. One shot him in the leg and both men fled. Berg’s wife and teenage son were inside.

Berg was appointed by President Obama and has been on the bench since 2012. It’s unclear what the circumstances are behind the shooting.

Berg, a very affable person, was born in Detroit in 1959.

More details to come.

Puerto Rico Man Charged with Threatening U.S. Attorney from Prison

By Steve Neavling

A Puerto Rico man has been arrested and charged with threatening a U.S. Attorney while in jail, the FBI said Monday.

Jose Villafane-Cotto was charged last week with mailing threatening communication and threatening a federal official.

He is accused of threatening U.S. Attorney Rose Emilia Rodriguez Velez of the District of Puerto Rico in a letter.

“I want to inform the federal court that Rosa Emilia Rodriguez has a few days to announce her resignation or she will pay with her life,” the letter reads in Spanish.

The return address was the Pomce Correctional Facilities, where Villafane-Cotto has been lodged.

Villafane-Cotto also is accused of making threatening phone calls. In one, he allegedly said, ““Rosa Emilia, it’s me, Jose Villafane Cotto; remember I am after you and I’m searching for you. Please remember that. Don’t think that because I’m inside I can’t be outside. I’ll leave you with that. I know where you are and where you are going. I am not going to tell you anything else. I left you a very clear message. I hope you have received my letters. In an alerted war, nobody dies.”

Former Mississippi U.S. Attorney George Phillips Dies at 65 After Battle With Cancer

George Phillips

By Allan Lengel

George Phillips, who served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi from 1980 to 1994 and oversaw corruption cases, including the FBI’s Operation Pretense, which led to the prosecutions of 57 Mississippi supervisors on corruption charges, has died the Clarion-Ledger reports.. He was 65.

The Clarion-Ledger reports that he died of cancer.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Dowdy of Jackson told the paper that Phillips was “like a second Dad to me. He was a Christian, and his character reflected that. He was honest, truthful and passionate about life, both personally and professionally. George is the reason I have a career as an Assistant U.S. Attorney.”

To read more click here.

Bicentennial of U.S. Attorney’s Office in Eastern Michigan

U.S. Attorney McQuade

By Ross Parker

If you run into Barb McQuade, the U. S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan some time in 2015, congratulate her for her Office’s milestone. This year marks the Bicentennial of the appointment of the first USA in Michigan Territory, Solomon Sibley in 1815. This makes the USAO the oldest law enforcement agency in the state.

Before there was a federal district court, a police force, any federal criminal investigative agency, or even the State of Michigan, there was a U.S. Attorney’s Office. Of course the log cabin where Sibley represented the federal government’s interests, among his other legal clients, is hardly recognizable as a USAO by today’s standards. He had a desk, a supply of quill pens, some ancient English law books, and a fireplace to get him through those rugged winters.

For his federal cases he was paid $5 per court day. Transportation was by horseback, mostly on Indian trails. There were few roads. Communication with Washington was slow and erratic. It took about two months to receive letters sent to the rustic village of Detroit. Since the Justice Department would not be created for 55 years, Sibley and his successors had limited support or guidance from the Capitol.

It is difficult to appreciate the uncertainties surrounding law and the judicial system in those early years when the infant nation was struggling to exist. Translating the rule of law and the concept of justice into the hard scrabble everyday lives of the settlers was an uncharted course. Even after determining a rough idea of what the law was supposed to be, the conflict between policy and practice was particularly challenging in Michigan because of its history of occupation by the Indian tribes, the French, the British, and then the American settlers whose heritage was from many different countries. Due process developed case by case involving people of widely diverse cultural backgrounds, people who had very different ideas about what the law was and how it should be applied in particular situations on the frontier.

Civil cases included collecting debts owed to the federal government, sorting out the chaotic French land grants and estates and interpreting Army supply contracts. The first case involved a forfeiture action against a shipment of lumber which had been smuggled into the Detroit port to avoid payment of duty.

Criminal cases involved charges of counterfeiting, receiving stolen goods and larceny, and starting a riot. The early USAs were practical men. When there were not enough grand jurors to make a quorum, they simply sent the U.S, Marshal out to round up some bystanders.

Sibley and the other USAs started out with the elementary principle that this would be a government of laws and not men. The rights and liabilities of the citizenry were given life incrementally by the resolution of disputes about the application of law, not the exercise of discretion by the powerful. However imperfect at times, the process slowly evolved into the due process system we enjoy today.

No law enforcement institution is perfect. There have been cases lost and prosecutions unsuccessful. But the USAO EDMI has been remarkably free of impropriety. Of course there was that attempt by USA Daniel LeRoy in 1828 to resign in exchange for half of a successor’s $250 annual salary. But the USAO soldiered on through the challenges of the Civil War and its aftermath of crime, the explosive expansion of the federal government near the end of the 19th and throughout the 20th Centuries, the failed social experiment of Prohibition with its court congestion, crime and corruption.

Like the rest of America it was a white male institution with no women or African American attorneys until the late 1940s. Appointments of Assistants was a political process into the 1960s with each new administration brooming out the AUSAs to make room for new appointees, who then started from scratch to build an experience level to cope with a burgeoning caseload.

But somehow the legacies and progress continued despite these counter-productive practices. As Justice Cardozo noted a century ago, justice is a concept that is never finished but which reproduces itself generation after generation in ever changing forms.

So happy birthday to my former colleagues and staff in the USAO. Your work is important to that process of rebirth and toward a system which protects every person’s right to a fair day in court.

If your computer is freezing up and a federal judge has been tough on you on a particular day, remember it could be worse. You could be putting your briefs in a saddlebag and trudging through the snow on an Indian trail to get to court instead of scampering across Fort Street.


Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association Endorses Loretta Lynch for U.S. Attorney

By Allan Lengel

The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) announced Thursday its support for Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch.

Lynch is currently the U.S. Attorney for Brooklyn.

The Association, in a statement said:

 Today, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) announced its support for Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch.

FLEOA stands behind her proven leadership and her support for those who investigate and enforce the federal statutes.  In 2011, Ms. Lynch was selected as the FLEOA Foundation’s Law Enforcement Honoree of the Year. Her accomplishments and her leadership continue to resonate in the law enforcement community, and she possesses the requisite institutional knowledge that is required of the position of Attorney General.

After the President announced his nomination of Ms. Lynch, FLEOA National President Jon Adler stated, “In light of the turbulent climate confronting law enforcement, we need a strong leader like U.S. Attorney Lynch to bring a calm, well‐informed perspective to the Attorney General position. Knowing U.S. Attorney Lynch’s fine character and judicial talents, I foresee her balancing her title with equal strength both as our nation’s lead Attorney and as our legal General.”