Ohio US attorney: shift some attention from terror

AP News
Posted: Nov 13, 2009 5:40 PM

Eight years after the 9/11 attacks, the time has come to shift crime-fighting resources to other areas while keeping terrorism as a top priority, a new Ohio federal prosecutor said.

So many federal agents were moved to terror investigations that prosecutions of more traditional crimes suffered, said Carter Stewart, the new U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, including Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and all of southeast Ohio.

"I would like to have more resources go back to our bread-and-butter cases," Stewart told The Associated Press on Friday.

Carter said his prosecution priorities will include financial crime, mortgage fraud, public corruption, environmental crime and the exploitation of children.

Carter said the shift of resources to combatting terrorism was understandable because of the unprecedented nature of the 9/11 attacks.

"Obviously, we don't want to go overboard, we don't want to shift all our resources out of terrorism," Stewart said. "But I think there's probably a balance to be found."

President Barack Obama nominated Stewart, and the U.S. Senate confirmed him Sept. 15.

Stewart, said he is following the lead of U.S. Attorney Eric Holder, who has instructed new U.S. attorneys to go back to the basics.

Although priorities change from one administration to another, the overall focus of the office is unlikely to change much since the primary job is to enforce U.S. laws, said Ric Simmons, an Ohio State University law professor and criminal law expert.

He said keeping terrorism at the top of the list was a political necessity.

"It's hard for me to imagine terrorism is the number one priority for law enforcement in this area," Simmons said.

Ohio has had several cases of alleged terrorism since 2003, including three Toledo men convicted last year of plotting to recruit and train terrorists to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

In Columbus, federal authorities prosecuted three loosely linked terrorists over four years, including the 2003 conviction of Iyman Faris, accused of scoping out the Brooklyn Bridge for destruction at the request of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged architect of the 9/11 attacks.

Stewart, 40, served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, where he investigated gang and drug-related activity. He also prosecuted drug, gun, social security, environmental and immigration crimes and the illegal distribution of steroids to professional athletes.

Stewart hasn't figured out his top priority after terrorism but indicated the prosecution of financial crimes will be high on the list.

"With today's economy and the issues that we're facing, I think that's a direct result from fraudulent activity," he said.


On the Net:

U.S. Attorney for Southern District of Ohio: http://www.justice.gov/usao/ohs/index.html