An Illinois senator is choosing outsiders as U.S. Attorneys in southern Illinois for fear that local candidates would be corrupted, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The Justice Department often defers to U.S. senators of the president’s party when selecting top prosecutors.
Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald is recommending a career federal prosecutor from Maryland to be U.S. attorney for Southern Illinois. He said that it was not coincidence that he keeps recruiting outside the state. “I don’t want to lie awake at night and wonder who is trying to influence the U.S. attorney,” he told the Post-Dispatch. “I do want somebody who is independent of the politicians.”
Fitzgerald’s choice is Ronald J. Tenpas, 40, a Rhodes scholar, former law clerk to U.S. Chief Justice William Rehnquist and deputy prosecutor in the Maryland U.S. attorney’s office. It is the third time that Fitzgerald, R-Ill., promoted an East Coast lawyer for a job usually filled from within a court district. The one exception was Miriam Miquelon, a Chicago transplant who spent years in the Southern Illinois prosecutor’s office before being appointed to the top spot. She resigned amid controversy effective Sept. 1, after about 11 months on the job.
Don W. Weber, former chief prosecutor in Madison County, Ill., said, “It’s very disappointing that the senator doesn’t think there are any honest Republican prosecutors in Southern Illinois. I think it’s bad for the morale of career prosecutors like me. He does not seem to get it. Maybe he’s better off in private life.” Fitzgerald is not running for re-election next year,
Tenpas has handled violent crimes, drug cases and a bribery case against several government contractors and a federal employee. He helped prepare charges in the sniper case in the Washington area.