Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Chief Chosen for Public Integrity Section


Press reports state that Justice Department officials have a new chief for the embattled Public Integrity Section, the specialized unit dedicated to fighting public corruption around the United States.

The Washington Post reported that John L. “Jack” Smith was offered the job, and the Associated Press has the news that he has accepted the position. The newspaper described him as “a career department prosecutor from Brooklyn who in recent years has supervised sensitive investigations of foreign officials at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.”

The website characterizes Smith as “a tireless worker and Washington outsider who often biked to crime scenes and whose self-effacing personality and trustworthiness helped endear him to judges and juries.”

Smith will need that sense of balance and that tirelessness. He takes over a unit battered by two probes into the conduct of the prosecutors in its most recent big trial, the case of then-U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens (R.-Alaska). Six lawyers who worked on the case face an internal investigation run by the Department of Justice as well as a separate criminal probe controlled by special counsel selected by District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, the trial judge in the Ted Stevens case. Judge Sullivan overturned the jury’s guilty verdicts and dismissed the case last April in the wake of disclosures regarding prosecutors’ failures to turn over evidence.

Raymond Hulser, a long-time prosecutor who had been serving as the Public Integrity Section’s acting chief since last year, has agreed to become Smith’s principal deputy.

Smith would become the Section’s seventh chief in seven years. It was almost seven years ago that the federal government began its federal investigation into Alaska public corruption, and Smith will apparently have a big role in deciding when and how to wrap it up.

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