Feds disband L.A. public corruption unit

New U.S. Attorney Thomas O’Brien redistributed the 17 lawyers in the public integrity unit in Los Angeles among the major fraud and organized crime sections, the Recorder reports. The San Francisco legal paper quotes spokesman Thom Mrozek saying those sections will have a higher mandate to battle corruption. “Our view is that it’s a significant enhancement of the public corruption unit,” he said. “We now have over 70 lawyers who essentially will be able to step up to the plate.” But the Recorder says "many other current and former federal prosecutors are skeptical." The unit is known to have a running probe of Rep. Jerry Lewis over ties with a lobbying firm, the paper says.

“Obviously the existence of a division in a prosecutor’s office is not itself a guarantee of competence, much less elan,” said John Hueston [ a partner at Irell and Manella and former assistant U.S. attorney.] “However, the dismantlement of that unit in a time the office is supposed to be growing is troubling.”

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, the website that has led a lot of the reporting on politicizing of the U.S. Attorneys' offices, suggests perhaps the Lewis investigation "was getting a bit too much attention."

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