May 07, 2007

Potential Replacement for SF US Attorney

According to the San Jose Mercury News, California Republicans have provided names to fill the US Attorney position that had been held by Kevin Ryan until he was fired as one of the eight.

California Republicans have forwarded the names of the two finalists to the White House to fill the San Francisco U.S. Attorney's job, vacated earlier this year with the firing of former top prosecutor Kevin Ryan.

As expected, former U.S. attorney Joe Russoniello is one of the remaining candidates, according to Republican lawyers familiar with the process. But the other finalist is Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Crudo, who has taken on dark horse status after emerging from a monthlong screening process.

Although both men work in San Francisco, the job supervises the entire Bay Area, including Silicon Valley.

Russoniello, who could not be reached for comment, served as the Bay Area's top federal prosecutor during the Reagan administration. Crudo, who declined comment, is currently leading the stock options back-dating probes, including the investigation of Apple. He apparently has solid connections to Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff through their former law firm, Latham and Watkins.

There is no word on when the Bush administration might nominate the new U.S. attorney, and the process may get bogged down by the controversy surrounding the Justice Department's firing of Ryan and seven other U.S. attorneys. Meanwhile, career Justice Department official Scott Schools is getting high marks for the job he's doing as interim U.S. attorney after Ryan's tumultuous tenure.

Joe Russoniello has some interesting connections:

Media accounts have suggested that the return of $36,000 in seized funds by the San Francisco United States Attorney's Office to Julio Zavala in 1984, just prior to his cocaine trafficking conviction, was troubling and suspicious. This matter was the subject of both media and Congressional scrutiny in 1986, but investigators for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's 1988 Subcommittee told the OIG that they had never been able to gain access to DOJ records, and could not come to any firm conclusions about why the money was returned. The San Jose Mercury News "Dark Alliance" articles raised the subject again, reporting that "the United States Attorney in San Francisco, Joseph Russoniello, had given $36,000 back to a Nicaraguan cocaine dealer arrested by the FBI." The article went on to report: "The money was returned, court records show, after two Contra leaders sent letters to the court swearing that the drug dealer had been given the cash to buy weapons for guerrillas. Russoniello said it was cheaper to give the money back than to disprove the claim."

It will be interesting to see what DiFi says about these choices.

Posted by Mary at May 7, 2007 06:17 AM | Law/Justice | Technorati links |