U.S. attorney outlines targets

January 06, 2002|By Thomas M. DiBiagio

OVER THE last four months, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland has established that it intends to aggressively prosecute violent crime, public corruption and white-collar crime. The following is intended to be a direct and unambiguous statement of these intentions:

It is my intention to establish this office as a first-rate, aggressive and independent law firm. I intend to hire and retain the best available legal talent in the country. I intend to allow these attorneys to perform their jobs without unnecessary interference and to support them in the face of any political, media or other external pressures.

This should result in a professional environment in which the attorneys share a certain intensity and intimacy and where the fidelity to public service is uncompromising and the commitment to maintaining the fairness, integrity and public reputation of the criminal process remains fundamental.

Violent crime: This office understands the gravity, danger and depth of gun violence in Maryland and, in particular, Baltimore City and Prince George's County. It is one reason for the unacceptable number of murders, declining jobs, the departure of businesses from Baltimore City and the flight of residents to other locations.

The principle championed in New York City by the former mayor and U.S. attorney, Rudy Giuliani, is applicable here. Making the streets safer is integral to Baltimore City's overall health.

Beyond making life more appealing to its residents, a reduction in crime makes Baltimore City more attractive to business and tourists, generating revenues that could be plowed into enhancing services that affect the quality of life in the city. Violent crime, and the perception of a climate of danger, is a serious problem in Baltimore City. This office intends to play a significant role in addressing gun violence, not only in Baltimore City but throughout Maryland.

Federal prosecutions can have a significant impact on gun violence in Baltimore City. This effort will be directed at the three primary sources of gun violence:

First, this office intends to dismantle violent drug organizations that are national and international in scope.

Second, this office intends to aggressively prosecute individuals who use a firearm when committing a violent crime, such as bank robberies, kidnappings, commercial robberies and carjackings.

Third, this office intends to aggressively prosecute convicted felons who possess a firearm. In particular, we intend to focus these prosecutions on individuals who have prior convictions for violent crime or drug trafficking offenses.

This office does not intend to prosecute cases where the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction, where the evidence was gathered impermissibly or where the potential penalty in the state criminal justice system is higher than can be achieved in federal court.

Public corruption: This office intends to aggressively investigate and prosecute public corruption. Four reasons compel this intention.

First, Maryland citizens have the right to a fair and honest government. Public corruption undermines public confidence in the underlying institutional integrity of the political process. Therefore, this office has a critical role in holding public officials accountable for abuse of power and influence.

Second, in Maryland, public corruption has not historically been effectively investigated or prosecuted by local state's attorneys or the state prosecutor. As a consequence, if this office does not do it, it does not get done.

Third, the public perception is that over the last several years there has not been a serious commitment to aggressively investigating and prosecuting public corruption. This perceived lack of intensity has created an unacceptable culture of impunity.

Fourth, Maryland and, in particular, Baltimore City are the beneficiaries of the infusion of millions of dollars in federal aid. The complete absence of credible oversight and accounting results in the perception that these funds are being squandered.

White-collar crime: This office intends to aggressively investigate and prosecute white-collar crime. This includes health care fraud, major frauds on corporations, individuals and financial institutions, and frauds against the U.S. government. Again, if we do not prosecute these cases, they do not get done.

Political influences: Elected public officials may express a convenient perception of what a federal prosecutor should be doing. However, prosecutors must display the character necessary to preclude politics from influencing their most sensitive decisions and obligations.

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