- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2015

U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., the District’s top prosecutor who has successfully leveled corruption charges against several city officials, will step down April 1 to return to private practice after more than five years in office.

“Throughout his remarkable tenure, Ron has applied his boundless talent and consummate judgment to protect the safety and security of all Americans in cases involving violent crime, national security threats, and public corruption,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in a statement issued Monday.

“As one of Ron’s predecessors as U.S. Attorney in Washington, I know firsthand the unique demands of leading the nation’s largest U.S. Attorney’s Office. But Ron has never been deterred by a difficult challenge, nor slowed in his pursuit of a safer, stronger Washington,” Mr. Holder said.

Mr. Machen’s top deputy, Principal Assistant U.S. Attorney Vincent H. Cohen Jr., will serve as the office’s acting director, according to a news release the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

A permanent replacement must be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

Battling public corruption in the District became a focus for Mr. Machen’s office, leading to the guilty pleas of three sitting D.C. Council members.

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However, Mr. Machen’s departure comes without any criminal charges filed against perhaps his biggest target — former Mayor Vincent C. Gray. A year ago, Mr. Machen said Mr. Gray had firsthand knowledge of an illicit “shadow campaign” that funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to his 2010 mayoral campaign. The announcement is widely thought to have cost the mayor re-election, yet despite nearly four years of investigation into the campaign finance scheme, no charges have been brought.

The release announcing Mr. Machen’s departure notes that six felony convictions have resulted from the investigation into the 2010 mayoral campaign, but it makes no mention of Mr. Gray.

“The investigation is continuing,” said U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman William Miller.

The investigation so far has resulted in a guilty plea from D.C. businessman Jeffrey Thompson, who admitted establishing a slush fund for Mr. Gray’s campaign.

The criminal investigation also uncovered similar but lesser activities by Thompson for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid.

Joseph diGenova, who served as the U.S. attorney for the District for five years in the 1980s, said the investigation of the former mayor should be counted among Mr. Machen’s successes even though Mr. Gray has not been charged, The Associated Press reported.

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“He did a really good job on the city, making sure people did what they were supposed to do, and the mayor’s case is really the best example of that,” said Mr. diGenova, now a defense attorney.

Also ongoing is the prosecution of Ahmed Abu Khattalah, who is alleged to have taken part in the 2012 terrorist attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, were killed in the attacks.

Under Mr. Machen, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has secured 13 convictions in terrorism-related cases.

But there have been missteps along the way too, such as the 2012 acquittal of Roger Clemens in his perjury trial. A first trial of Mr. Clemens, who was accused of lying to Congress when he testified that he did not use performance enhancing drugs, by Mr. Machen’s office ended in a mistrial after prosecutors presented barred evidence.

Mr. Machen, 45, was sworn into office in 2010 and oversaw more than 300 attorneys in the agency, the largest U.S. Attorney’s Office in the country.

His resignation comes as his boss, Mr. Holder, is preparing to leave office, pending Senate confirmation of his nominated successor — U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.

Mr. Machen’s tenure was one of the longest for as the top federal prosecutor in the District.

“Serving as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia has been the highest honor of my professional career,” he said in a statement.

“I leave this position confident that my extraordinary colleagues will continue to pursue justice and protect the residents of the District and this great nation.”

⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Andrea Noble can be reached at anoble@washingtontimes.com.

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