Justice Dept. Has to Read Prosecutor’s Hot Sex Scenes

photo/stephen spiegelhalter
By Allan Lengel
For AOL News

WASHINGTON — Officials in the buttoned-down world of the U.S. Department of Justice, accustomed to dull legal briefs and just-the-facts indictments, are getting a dose of steamy sex scenes on their reading list.

That’s because assistant U.S. Attorney Allison Leotta, a D.C. sex crimes prosecutor, recently landed a three-book deal with Simon & Schuster. Her first suspense novel “Law of Attraction,” released in October, included some hot sex scenes. Her second novel, already in the works, promises more of the same.

And her bosses have to read each manuscript before publication to check for any security breach issues.

“It was embarrassing to me,” Leotta, 37, said of the screening of the first book by Justice officials. “There were some steamy sex scenes, not the sort of thing I’d discuss with my boss and ethics officials at the Justice Department. It made rides in the elevator a little uncomfortable for a while.”

In the end, the Justice Department didn’t make her change a thing about the sex scenes. But she did have to make a few minor adjustments in other areas. One involved deleting some details about security at D.C. Superior Court.

Interestingly, the sex scenes and her bosses weren’t the only things that made her squirm before the release of the first book … there was that thing with her dad.

In the first book, the character Anna Curtis, who is expected to appear in the next two novels, is a sex crimes prosecutor — just like Leotta. And in the book, Curtis has an abusive dad — not at all like Leotta’s.

Still, her father, Alan Harnisch, an attorney and ex-Detroit federal prosecutor, initially wasn’t amused. After first reading the manuscript two years ago, he told AOL News, “To be honest, I wasn’t too crazy (about the book). I actually teared up. I always thought I was a good dad, I always worked hard at it.”

He waited a few days before calling his daughter, who said, “Dad, everyone who knows you will know it’s not you. It’s something I had to do to add a little something to the plot.”

Harnisch eventually came around — with the help of some plain talk from his wife, who told him, “Oh, you’re nuts, it’s just fiction.” “That snapped me out of that,” he said. Leotta, a suburban Detroit native, added, “In real life, my dad is really wonderful.”

As for the public’s reaction to the book, so far it has been strongly positive.

Suspense Magazine called her “an author to keep your eye on.” In mid-December, the novel ranked second on Amazon’s Kindle list of legal thrillers.

Critic for Minneapolis’ Star Tribune Carole E. Barrowman wrote, “The balance between romance and suspense can be difficult to sustain in a mystery. In this debut novel, Leotta smoothly blends both into an engaging legal thriller that’s far better than anything I’ve read from Grisham or the like.”

Leotta, the mother of two sons, ages 3 and 1, and wife of federal prosecutor Michael Leotta, whom she met in law school, has the writing bug. She’s on leave from her job to work on her next book. But she still loves being a prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a position she landed in 2003 after working three years at the Department of Justice’s Office of Consumer Litigation.

“The amazing thing about my job is you never know what’s around the corner,” she said. “Every case is fascinating, heartbreaking and tragic. And incredibly touching and emotionally wrenching. In some ways, (the job) just felt like a novel.”

Leotta joked that now that the word’s out about the sexual content, perhaps more people at the Justice Department will volunteer to screen the next book.

All joking aside, she’s not sure how she’ll feel when the bosses go over the next manuscript and come across the tantalizing passages. This time “might even be worse,” she said.

“I was writing a sex scene a couple days ago and I was imagining one of my bosses reading it and I was cringing a little. But I pressed on,” she said.

Does her husband mind her writing those scenes? “He likes it,” Leotta said with a chuckle. “He doesn’t want to brag or anything, but he likes to think he sees a little bit of himself in there.”

Plus, she said, “He likes to help with the research.”

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