Category: U.S. Attorneys
U.S. Sen. Doug Jones introduced a bill on Tuesday that would make it easier to obtain records for unsolved civil rights cases.
The proposed legislation, the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act of 2018, would mandate that criminal civil rights records held by the government be gathered and maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration. The collection would be available for public viewing. The proposal also would establish a Civil Rights Records Review Board, made up of impartial citizens, that would facilitate the review and transfer of records going into the collection.
Jones said the improved accessibility would allow a wider range of people to participate more easily in unearthing details related to unsolved civil rights cases, many of which are more than 50 years old.
The U.S. Justice Department announced its presence on the Alabama violent-crime-fighting scene this week with a report on a two-month operation in North Alabama that resulted in charges against 71 defendants and 140 guns seized.
U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town has said the U.S. Justice Department and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former U.S. senator from Alabama, had made priorities clear: “It’s guns, it’s dope, it’s illegal immigration, it’s opioids,” he said in an earlier interview.
“The Department of Justice has reserved space in federal prison for gang members, trigger-pullers, violent offenders and felons with guns … and we plan on filling it,” Town said in a press release this week. “We must shift our prosecutorial philosophy more towards Capone rather than Soprano, not conflating the level of crime with the level of criminal.”
Town, U.S. Attorney Richard Moore of Alabama’s Southern District based in Mobile, and U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin of Alabama’s Middle District in Montgomery, all newly appointed by President Donald Trump, earlier discussed their goals for federal law enforcement in the state. Here’s what they had to say. Read more.
U.S. Attorney Richard Moore, who presides over the Southern District of Alabama, based in Mobile, said listening to his community is a big part of tackling the hardest problems in South Alabama.
“You know, first we have tried to start with making sure that we listen to the community, meaning the community leaders – the people who have the most interest in their streets, their neighborhoods – to see what the will is of the community and to talk about possibilities with them,” Moore said.
Listening to community leaders might not be what some would expect from a federal prosecutor appointed by President Donald Trump and working in Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department.
Moore said his priorities are the same as those of all U.S. attorney’s around the country. At the same time, his jurisdiction is facing some particular issues, he said. Read more.
Jay Town, one of the three Trump administration-appointed U.S. attorneys for Alabama, indicates there should be no mystery about his priorities in the Northern District of Alabama. They closely align with those outlined by the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he said.
“I think that General Sessions and the department made it very clear before I was sworn what the priorities of the department and, especially the criminal division, were,” Town said. “So, it’s guns, it’s dope, it’s illegal immigration, it is opioids. And we are executing those priorities very well.
“We recently released our fiscal ’17 numbers, and in all of those areas we had very robust numbers in terms of our prosecutions last year in comparison to the previous year and years.”
Town’s jurisdiction is centered in Birmingham, the state’s most populous city in its largest metro area, and encompasses the Huntsville-Madison County area, a hub of U.S. government work.
His office’s priorities reflect some of the problems endemic to this part of the state. Town said that, while priorities are shared among the 93 U.S. attorneys, “The way we are executing them, perhaps, is a little different.”
On Monday, April 2, U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin, the chief federal prosecutor in the Middle District of Alabama, dropped a bombshell. Alabama Rep. Jack Williams of Vestavia Hills and longtime state lobbyist Marty Connors have been indicted on bribery charges along with the California-based owner of a string of diabetes clinics.
Bringing charges of public corruption against high-ranking state officials is part of the work of U.S. attorneys such as Franklin, the U.S. Justice Department’s number one law enforcer for Montgomery County and the 22 other counties that make up Alabama’s Middle District.
Announcing that a politician is under indictment put a spotlight on the Montgomery-based U.S. Attorney’s Office this week, but the fact is that all USAOs share a set of operational priorities handed down by the U.S. Department of Justice and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Those areas are violent crime, opioid abuse, health care and financial fraud, terrorism and national security, and protecting vulnerable populations, he said.
From the dismantling of multistate crime rings to prosecution of corrupt officials, from pursuit of drug conspirators, human traffickers and terrorists to enforcement of civil rights laws, a U.S. Attorney’s Office is the local arm of the U.S. Justice Department.
Over the decades in Alabama, U.S. attorneys have taken on traditional crime fighting and high-profile cases, including prosecution of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombers. They’ve tackled cases that challenged Alabama government, including abuses in state prisons, restrictions on voting rights and the constitutionality of a state immigration law. U.S. Attorney’s Offices also have provided connective tissue between federal, state and local law enforcement departments on challenging issues such as the opioid crisis.
With the broad span of federal law, U.S. attorneys have an array of priorities they can pursue.
U.S. attorneys in Alabama have been among the appointees made early in the transition from President Barack Obama to President Donald Trump and with the appointment of Alabamian Jeff Sessions as U.S. attorney general.
BirminghamWatch talked with the state’s three U.S. attorneys appointed by Trump to find out their operational priorities.
“The United States attorney is the chief federal law enforcement officer in any given district and therefore should be the leading law enforcement agency in setting priorities and the tone for the district,” said U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. “They should be leading the way with not only other federal agencies, but also supporting as best they can the state and local ones, whether it is through their task forces, joint efforts or training. State and local law agencies can often look to the federal level to help lead the way, and I think the U.S. Attorney’s Offices should be at the forefront of that.”
Read the interviews with Alabama’s U.S. attorneys: