- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 16, 2002

The U.S. attorney for the District yesterday said his office is preparing to prosecute more high-profile federal crimes in the wake of the September 11 terrorism attacks.
"Our District Court after September 11 obviously has become more of a focus with the terrorist activities," U.S. Attorney Roscoe C. Howard Jr. told reporters and editors at The Washington Times yesterday.
He said he plans to "beef up" the District Court side of the U.S. Attorney's Office to attract higher-profile cases, including terrorism cases and cases with international effect like those of John Walker and Zacarias Moussaoui that in the past have gone to other jurisdictions, like the U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
"Hopefully, what we'll start to see is a more and more varied caseload coming out of our District Court side," Mr. Howard said.
A former law professor at the University of Kansas, who worked as a D.C. prosecutor in the mid-1980s, Mr. Howard was nominated by President Bush in August and confirmed by the Senate the week of the terrorist attacks. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District, the largest in the nation with 350 lawyers and an annual budget of $58 million, prosecutes both federal and local crimes.
One high-profile case Mr. Howard would not discuss in detail was that of Chandra Levy, the former federal intern missing since April.
"I can tell you it is not resolved," he said. "I can tell you it is an active investigation."
Mr. Howard said he doesn't believe in doing his investigations in public and denied a suggestion that a November subpoena requesting documents from Rep. Gary A. Condit, California Democrat, was issued to restore structure to an investigation that had been foundering.
"It has been our policy not to comment on targets, subjects or witnesses," Mr. Howard said, declining to say whether Mr. Condit was any of the three.
But despite an emphasis on higher-profile prosecutions, Mr. Howard repeatedly expressed his commitment to maintaining a presence in the community, praising the community-prosecution program, which puts prosecutors within police districts to work with officers and residents.
"I think community prosecutions are important in this town, mainly because [of] the differences in the different communities," he said. "When you have a high homicide problem in Ward 6 or 7, you'll have more sort of immigration issues in Ward 3 or 4. Some wards have high prostitution problems, other ones have high theft problems, and it's really incumbent on us to make sure we're responsive to each one of those."
The program was introduced in the Fifth District as a pilot program in 1996 under former U.S. Attorney Eric H. Holder Jr., and expanded to all police districts in 1999 under his successor, Wilma Lewis.
Mr. Howard said among the changes he hopes to implement would be making the U.S. Attorney's Office "more efficient prosecutorially."
"I'd like to see us move cases faster," he said, adding that he also would like to see an increased caseload.
The Metropolitan Police Department in the past has expressed frustration that the U.S. Attorney's Office dropped the charges on too many felony criminal cases.
Mr. Howard said he and Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey are in frequent communication and have been since he took the job. He said they communicate at least every other week and described their discussions as "candid" and "fruitful."
"Hopefully, with the two of us working together, [what] people see as the inability of the justice system to bring a lot of these cases to closure will be rectified," he said.
" It will take our two agencies [working] more closely together to train each other so we understand police techniques better and they understand what the prosecutorial techniques are."
Mr. Howard also said his office has been working with police and the courts on reducing overtime for officers forced to wait to testify in criminal cases. A study last year by the Council for Court Excellence found that $10 million of the police department's $19 million overtime budget goes to officers appearing in court, and that 75 percent of officers called to testify never do.
"We are certainly, as an office, willing to try any method that we think will help the city and [Metropolitan Police Department] with their finances, and specifically, the overtime issue," Mr. Howard said.

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