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September 3, 2014 at 12:19 PM

U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan stepping down


U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan

Jenny Durkan will step down as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington at the end of the month.

“I have been honored to serve the communities in Western Washington, to lead an office of extraordinary people and public servants, and to work with dedicated federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement. Together we have taken on a range of challenges, threats and bad actors.  We have made our nation and communities safer, while also making our civil rights stronger,” Durkan said in a news release.

Durkan, 56, became U.S. attorney in September 2009 after her nomination by President Obama.

Durkan said Wednesday that she had only planned to stay in the office for the president’s first term, but last year found herself and the U.S. Attorney’s Office struggling with a government shutdown, the loss of several key prosecutors to retirement, and “a number of cases that were at a critical juncture.” She opted to stay until things settled.

“I feel like we are on much firmer footing now,” she said.

For the present, Durkan said she has no plans. First Assistant U.S. Attorney Annette Hayes will likely take over the office while U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell seek a replacement candidate to submit to Obama for Senate confirmation.

Before being named U.S. attorney, Durkan had worked for years as a high-end criminal and civil attorney, simultaneously becoming a major figure in the Democratic Party. Durkan also served on two panels, one appointed by former Mayor Paul Schell and another by former Mayor Greg Nickels, to examine misconduct and accountability in the Seattle Police Department. She played a significant role in bringing about the DOJ’s civil-rights investigation that concluded that SPD officers routinely use excessive force and showed disturbing, if inconclusive, evidence of biased policing. 

Durkan helped negotiate the court-monitored consent decree aimed at fixing the problems.

While the Department of Justice settlement with the city and Police Department may have kept her office in the spotlight, federal prosecutors in Seattle under Durkan’s leadership also cracked a major terrorism case and became a leader in the prosecution of cyber-crime. Durkan has chaired the Attorney General’s advisory Subcommittee on Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Enforcement since 2009, and served on Attorney General Eric Holder’s original Attorney General Advisory Committee after his appointment. 

Most recently, her office extradited the alleged ringleader of a Russian hacking ring thought to be responsible for the thefts of tens of millions of credit-card numbers and other personal data. Her office also has focused on prosecuting armed career criminals and felons in possession of guns.

Among other prominent criminal cases her office prosecuted was the dismantling of the Colacurcio crime family, obtaining guilty pleas from Frank Colacurcio Jr. and three associates, and seizing the strip clubs that were at the center of a prostitution and money-laundering enterprise. 

Her office convicted Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, a prison Muslim convert who planned a Fort Hood-style assault on a Seattle military-processing station in protest of American actions overseas.  Durkan’s office also concluded the 14-year prosecution and appeal of Ahmed Ressam, the so-called millennium bomber who in 1999 was caught trying to come across the U.S.-Canadian border with the makings of a powerful suitcase bomb. Ressam, who had trained in Osama bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan, received a 37-year prison term. 

In the wake of the financial crisis, Durkan targeted a number of questionable banks and lenders and was responsible for overseeing a criminal review of the 2008 collapse of Washington Mutual Bank,  the largest bank failure in U.S. history. After a three-year investigation, her office concluded no crimes had been committed by the bank or its officers.

She is the daughter of Martin J. Durkan Sr., who served as chairman of the state Senate Ways and Means Committee and later became a powerful lobbyist. He died in 2005. Her mother, Lorraine Durkan, the onetime executive editor of the Ballard News Tribune, died in February 2008.

Durkan is believed to be the first openly gay U.S. attorney.

“As United States Attorney for Western Washington, Jenny has served as a tireless advocate for the American people, for the citizens of Washington State, and for the cause of justice,” Holder said in a statement. “Jenny has been an exceptional leader in the Justice Department’s fight against cyber-crime. Jenny Durkan exemplifies the highest standards of personal integrity and professional excellence.”

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: Eric Holder, Jenny Durkan, U.S. Attorney for Western Washington


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