- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 17, 2004

BALTIMORE (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department recently sent representatives to Baltimore to interview federal prosecutors about the job performance of Maryland U.S. Attorney Thomas DiBiagio.

The department has not released recommendations stemming from those interviews, which were conducted in the fall.

But those familiar with the discussions, who requested confidentiality for fear of retribution from Mr. DiBiagio or the Justice Department, said several assistant U.S. attorneys told auditors that Mr. DiBiagio should be removed, the Baltimore Sun reported.

Mr. DiBiagio declined to comment.

The review came after the Sun published e-mails that Mr. DiBiagio had written to his staff, which urged them to make “front page” indictments in political corruption cases by Election Day.

Mr. DiBiagio said at the time that he simply was pushing his staff to work harder, and said that his references to “front page” and November were not politically motivated.

But after the e-mails became public, the Justice Department issued a public reprimand to Mr. DiBiagio, saying that from then on, Washington-based officials would have to approve all Maryland corruption cases.

There is a regular review process of local U.S. attorney offices, run through the Justice Department’s Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys. But this audit was outside that normal routine, sources told the Sun.

A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment, saying that the department does not confirm or deny investigations.

It is not clear how the recent review will affect whether Mr. DiBiagio, who was appointed by President Bush, will serve another four-year term.

The Justice Department will not comment on whether he will be reappointed, and Mr. DiBiagio declined to talk about his plans.

Jervis S. Finney, legal counsel to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., would not comment on whether Mr. Ehrlich, considered the main political supporter of Mr. DiBiagio in 2001, still backs him for the U.S. attorney position. Mr. Finney said the issue had not come up.

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