If BIden's smart, he'll keep DeVillers as U.S. attorney

opinion

A presidential transition is inbound, like a new weather pattern. But the changing winds could blow away Ohio’s ability to hold corrupt politicos accountable. To forestall that, Joe Biden should keep United States Attorney David DeVillers as the top federal law enforcer in the Southern District of Ohio.

There’s compelling precedent for such a decision. President George H.W. Bush maintained President Ronald Reagan’s U.S. Attorney in Ohio, Michael Crites. One reason was that Crites was in the middle of investigating baseball superstar Pete Rose for tax fraud. More recently, President Trump allowed Obama appointee Ben Glassman to remain U.S. Attorney for two years before replacing him with DeVillers.

I know what it’s like to offer a resignation at the end of a presidential administration. As a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, I understood that one president appointed me and the next would replace me. But incoming presidents aren’t required to send everyone packing. In some cases, preserving the status quo can show a commitment to good government.

Every president is entitled to, with Senate approval, his own team of federal prosecutors.

However, as Ohioans know, DeVillers is leading an aggressive and much-needed effort to stem the tide of pernicious public corruption that shatters faith in government. In just a year on the job, he’s convinced grand juries to indict the Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives as well as one third of Cincinnati’s city council. He’s also advancing corruption cases against political players in Dayton city government. DeVillers’ bi-partisan caseload of politicos gone bad could eventually make Santa’s naughty list look like a post-it note.

In the 2020 election, Ohioans widely rejected Joe Biden’s candidacy. If he wants to demonstrate evenhandedness and deference to keeping these complex and crucial Ohio prosecutions on track, he’ll retain DeVillers. The thicket of the H.B. 6 investigation alone is reason to keep him.

I know and respect David DeVillers. He started as a prosecutor here in Franklin County, taking on the most heinous of violent crimes. Later, he was deployed to emerging democracies like Romania, Georgia, and Bulgaria to teach leaders how to spot and prosecute corruption. 

After that, he became a career federal prosecutor, working in that role until his present position. He’s earned the right to shepherd these corruption cases through conclusion.

If Biden maintains DeVillers, it would rebuff those who seek to undermine these corruption cases. Sadly, one of the politicians charged with exchanging bribes for political power — Cincinnati City Council member P.G. Sittenfeld – has claimed without evidence that the charges against him are politically motivated. 

As a prosecutor, I’ve litigated public corruption cases. This bracing undertaking is not for those seeking popularity or an easy path. Too often, the lowest muck in the political pond use innuendo and partisan blather to thwart the machinery of justice. Free speech and presumption of innocence are sacred underpinnings of our republic, but unfair and unfounded cheap shots at prosecutors are the province of prevaricators and provocateurs.

Corruption is a bad look for Ohio. David DeVillers understands that. He doesn’t know I’m advancing this idea and perhaps he already has other plans. But, if Joe Biden wants to start his tenure on the right note, he’ll keep DeVillers.

Mark R. Weaver is a former Deputy Attorney General of Ohio and is a litigation partner at Columbus law firm Isaac Wiles. He is the author of the book “A Wordsmith’s Work.” Twitter: @MarkRWeaver.

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