Lewis' prosecutor investigated Clintons

Jamal Lewis Indictment

February 27, 2004|By Jean Marbella | Jean Marbella,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

For all the flurry surrounding Jamal Lewis' indictment on federal drug charges, the Ravens star is probably only the third-most-famous person to fall under William S. Duffey Jr.'s prosecutorial gaze.

Numbers one and two would have to be then-President Bill Clinton and wife Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom Duffey investigated as deputy to independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr on the Whitewater case.

For all his high-profile work - Duffey inherited a huge investigation into City Hall corruption when named U.S. attorney in Atlanta in 2001 - he tends to avoid the spotlight, friends and associates say.

That's probably smart, now that President Bush has nominated him as a U.S. district judge for northern Georgia.

After an uneventful hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee this month, he is awaiting confirmation.

"He'd never gossip, unfortunately," said Julia Emmons, a friend and former member of the City Council in Atlanta, who would have welcomed inside information about the City Hall investigation.

"And it was the same with Whitewater - he doesn't discuss that, either."

Duffey, 51, is a Republican - he served as Bush's Georgia campaign finance chairman - but draws praise as someone who has not let politics enter into his day job.

"That doesn't interfere with his work," said Griffin B. Bell, attorney general during the Carter administration and a former law partner of Duffey. "He is a man of very high principles and a hard worker."

Bell recommended Duffey to his friend Robert B. Fiske Jr., the independent counsel prior to Starr, when he was seeking a lawyer who could handle a complicated investigation like Whitewater.

That inquiry into a questionable real estate deal sprawled into a many-tentacled, eight-year inquiry into other aspects of the Clintons' lives, including the president's affair with intern Monica Lewinsky.

Duffey headed the Arkansas portion of the Whitewater probe and stayed after Fiske was replaced by Starr. Duffey accompanied Starr on an interview of the Clintons in the White House.

Duffey served in the independent counsel's office about 1 1/2 years, returning to his firm, King & Spalding, in Atlanta in 1995.

There Duffey specialized in complex civil and criminal litigation and was on a team that Bell organized for internal corporate investigations.

Among them: E.F. Hutton, in the wake of a fraud case in which the company pleaded guilty to about 2,000 felony charges, and Exxon after the Valdez oil spill.

He left the firm after Bush nominated him and he was confirmed as U.S. attorney for northern Georgia.

"He believes in public service," said Atlanta lawyer and friend Michael Warshauer. "King & Spalding is one of the top five law firms in the country, a silk-stocking, high-end law firm where you can make enough in three years to retire on.

"But he'd already given it up once before - and to live in Little Rock, Arkansas."

Warshauer, a liberal Democrat who has ribbed his friend for "wasting the taxpayers' money" with the Whitewater investigation, lauds him as "a public servant, not a politician."

Duffey was born in Philadelphia to a military family that moved often during his childhood. After graduating from Drake University in Iowa and the University of South Carolina law school, he joined the Air Force's Judge Advocate General office. From there, he went to King & Spalding, becoming a partner in 1987.

He has been married almost 27 years to Betsy Duffey, an author of children's books, and they have two sons in college. One is a bluegrass musician - like his father, whose bass fiddle playing is a souvenir from his Whitewater days.

Duffey's other distraction from work is running, which is how he became friends with Emmons, the former City Council member and executive director of the Atlanta Track Club. She counts herself as yet another Democrat who admires this Republican.

"With him, there is right and there is wrong," she said. "He'll be a wonderful judge. I would want to come before him. Well, if I were a real crook, maybe not."

William S. Duffey, Jr.

Age: 51

1981-2001: King & Spalding law firm, Atlanta.

1994-1995: Deputy independent counsel in charge of Little Rock office of Whitewater probe.

2001 to present: U.S. attorney, Northern District of Georgia.

Nov. 3, 2003: Nominated by President Bush as district judge, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Pending confirmation by Senate.

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