New U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello discusses
Newly reappointed U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello
discussed his priorities today with reporters in San Francisco.
File photo by Luke
By Julia Cheever
January 31, 2008
U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello said in San Francisco today
that his priorities in his new job include national security,
helping to get guns off the street and prosecuting Internet child
Russoniello met with reporters today to discuss his plans in
the first such meeting since he was sworn into office on Jan.
Russoniello said, "Obviously, the No. 1 priority is protecting
the American people, protecting the homeland."
The U.S. attorney said he doesn't view his office as an intelligence
agency but said it can support other agencies by prosecuting crimes
such as document fraud and money laundering when there is evidence
of such offenses in connection with suspected terrorism efforts.
Russoniello said guns are "a scourge to the community"
and "combined with the twin poisons of gangs and drugs are
literally enslaving a neighborhood."
He said transmission of child pornography has proliferated in
recent years through use of the Internet and said, "That
has got to stop."
Russoniello, 66, was appointed by President Bush to replace interim
U.S. attorney Scott Schools, who in turn replaced Kevin Ryan,
one of nine U.S. attorneys fired by the U.S. Justice Department
in 2006 and early 2007. Ryan left amid reports of low morale and
high turnover in the office.
This is Russoniello's second stint in the job. He previously
held the post from 1982 to 1990 and was appointed then by President
Russoniello said he applied for the job because he recently left
positions as a corporate lawyer and dean of San Francisco Law
School and "I saw an opportunity where I could be of service
He said, "There was something I could do to add great value
to an office I have great feelings for."
The office handles federal criminal cases and civil cases involving
the U.S. government in a coastal Northern California district
stretching from Monterey to the Oregon border.
It has about 100 federal lawyers at its San Francisco headquarters
and San Jose and Oakland branches. Russoniello said he hopes to
hire eight or nine more attorneys soon.
Among other cases, Russoniello will supervise the pending prosecutions
of baseball star Barry Bonds on perjury charges, former San Francisco
Supervisor Ed Jew on extortion charges, and former radio talk
show host Bernie Ward on charges of receiving and sending child
pornography by computer.
Russoniello said he may personally try some cases, but said he
couldn't say which ones and said he couldn't comment on pending
He said a federal investigation of the Cosco Busan oil spill
into San Francisco Bay is continuing.
Bonds, track coach Trevor Graham champion and cyclist Tammy Thomas
are all awaiting trial in federal court in San Francisco on charges
of perjury or false statements in a sports steroids probe centered
on the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO.
Seven other people prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office in
the BALCO case have pleaded guilty to steroids distribution, money
laundering or false statements charges.
Without referring to specific cases, Russoniello said, "We
have an expectation that when people talk to a grand jury or investigators,
we expect them to tell the truth."
He said there should "obviously not" be special treatment
When asked whether he thought the office spent too much time
in the past several years on BALCO cases, Russoniello answered
Russoniello, a Republican, was appointed for a four-year term,
but said he realizes he could be dismissed within a year by a
new president of either party. Incoming presidents often appoint
new U.S. attorneys in the 93 offices around the nation, but rarely
dismiss many in mid-term as happened in 2006.
Russoniello said "I understand that a president might replace
me and I respect that, but I don't dwell on it. I'm approaching
this job as if it's a four-year job.
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