US Attorney for DC to step down after 5 years

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Posted: Mar 16, 2015 2:02 PM
US Attorney for DC to step down after 5 years

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia will step down after five years on the job to return to private practice, he announced Monday, leaving behind a record of prosecutions for terrorism, public corruption and violent crime.

Ronald Machen, 45, was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010, and his tenure was the longest for a top federal prosecutor in Washington in nearly four decades.

"Ron Machen has distinguished himself as a skilled leader, a devoted public servant, and a forceful champion of justice on behalf of the American people," Attorney General Eric Holder, one of Machen's predecessors in the job, said in a statement. "I know firsthand the unique demands of leading the nation's largest U.S. Attorney's office. But Ron has never been deterred by a difficult challenge, nor slowed in his pursuit of a safer, stronger Washington."

Machen's top deputy, Vincent Cohen Jr., will become acting U.S. attorney.

Machen will leave April 1 amid an investigation of former District Mayor Vincent Gray and his 2010 campaign. A year ago, a prosecutor in Machen's office said in court that Gray knew about and participated in a scheme to illegally fund his campaign. Gray, a Democrat, lost his bid for re-election about three weeks after that revelation from Machen's office.

Six people who worked to get Gray elected have pleaded guilty to felonies. The investigation of a businessman who admitted to setting up a slush fund to aid Gray's campaign also revealed that the businessman and his associates had done similar work for Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008, albeit on a much smaller scale.

Joseph diGenova, who served as the U.S. attorney for the district for five years in the 1980s, said the investigation of the former mayor should be counted among Machen's successes even though Gray has not been charged.

"He did a really good job on the city, making sure people did what they were supposed to do, and the mayor's case is really the best example of that," said diGenova, now a defense attorney.

Machen's office also secured convictions against the then-chairman of the D.C. Council and two council members.

Also ongoing is the prosecution of Ahmed Abu Khattalah, who's alleged to have taken part in the 2012 terrorist attacks that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya. Under Machen, the office has secured 13 convictions in terrorism-related cases.

"Serving as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia has been the highest honor of my professional career," Machen said in a statement. "I leave this position confident that my extraordinary colleagues will continue to pursue justice and protect the residents of the District and this great nation."

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