New Federal Prosecutors Confirmed in Manhattan and Brooklyn
Damian Williams, one of the two, will be the first Black person to oversee the powerful United States Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York.
Damian Williams was confirmed as the new United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York by the United States Senate late Tuesday, according to Senator Chuck Schumer's office. Mr. Williams is the first African American to lead one of the nation's most powerful federal prosecutor's offices.
The office, based in Manhattan, prosecutes high-stakes fraud, terrorism, and public corruption cases, including those that have reached former President Donald J. Trump's inner circle in recent years. Mr. Williams, 41, has worked as a prosecutor in the Southern District of New York for nearly a decade, most recently supervising the team that investigates Wall Street fraud.
Additionally, the Senate confirmed Breon S. Peace, a private practice attorney, to run the federal prosecutor's office in Brooklyn, dubbed the Eastern District, according to Mr. Schumer's office.
The Eastern District has successfully prosecuted high-profile offenders such as R. Kelly in a racketeering trial last month and El Chapo, the famed Mexican drug lord.
Mr. Peace is a partner at the legal firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and is also Black. He formerly served as an Eastern District prosecutor and as a clerk for U.S. District Judge Sterling Johnson Jr. in Brooklyn.
Mr. Williams and Mr. Peace were nominated to the positions by President Biden in August, following Mr. Schumer's recommendation. Mr. Schumer is the Democratic majority leader and the party's senior senator in New York State. Presidents have historically deferred to their party's top lawmaker in each state when appointing US lawyers and judges.
Mr. Schumer said in a statement late Tuesday that both Damian Williams and Breon Peace have devoted their lives to ensuring equal justice under the law. “They will bring a strong commitment to the rule of law, civil rights, and justice to their individual appointments, as well as a high level of integrity and expertise.”
Mr. Williams assumes charge of the Southern District as it prepares for Ghislaine Maxwell's high-profile sex-trafficking trial next month. (She has entered a not guilty plea.)
Mr. Williams will also oversee the ongoing investigation of Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City and Mr. Trump's personal lawyer, regarding his dealings in Ukraine prior to the 2020 presidential election. Mr. Giuliani, who previously served as Manhattan's US attorney, has denied any misconduct.
Mr. Williams, a Yale Law School graduate, clerked for Merrick B. Garland, a federal appeals court judge in Washington, and Justice John Paul Stevens, a Supreme Court justice. (Mr. Garland is currently the United States Attorney General.)
Mr. Peace takes over the prosecution of Thomas J. Barrack Jr. in the Eastern District, a close friend and ally of Mr. Trump who was charged in July with lobbying crimes and obstruction of justice. Mr. Barrack has entered a not-guilty plea.
The Eastern District of New York also conducted its own investigation into Mr. Giuliani, focusing on whether current and former Ukrainian officials provided him with false material in an attempt to influence last year's presidential election. According to The New York Times, Mr. Giuliani is not a subject of that investigation.
Mr. Peace, a law graduate of New York University, did not reply quickly to a request for comment. Mr. Williams declined to respond via a spokesman for the Southern District.
Mr. Williams' and Mr. Peace's confirmations are expected to instill some stability in their respective offices, which have seen fast change at the top under Mr. Trump.
Two of the last four United States attorneys in the Southern District have been sacked by the Trump administration, most notably Geoffrey S. Berman, who refused to retire when then-US Attorney General William P. Barr attempted to replace him with a political buddy. Additionally, the Times stated that Mr. Barr and other senior Justice Department officials attempted to meddle in several of the Southern District's most high-profile cases and investigations.
Audrey Strauss, Mr. Berman's deputy who was promoted to the senior position following his termination, has overseen the office for more than a year.
“Damian is a special talent who is very much a part of our family,” Ms. Strauss said late Tuesday in a statement. "He will uphold our beliefs and traditions while propelling the office ahead."
Mr. Peace will be the eighth United States Attorney in the Eastern District since President Barack Obama elevated Loretta E. Lynch to the position of United States Attorney General in 2015. Mr. Peace's predecessors served in acting or interim roles for only a few months.
Mr. Peace succeeds Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, an office veteran who has been serving as acting United States attorney. Mr. Peace succeeds three other Black lawyers who previously served as United States attorneys in Brooklyn, including Ms. Lynch, who held the post twice before becoming attorney general.
The Senate confirmed Trini E. Ross as the United States attorney in Buffalo on Sept. 30. She previously worked as a federal prosecutor there and most recently held a top position in the National Science Foundation's inspector general's office.