New U.S. attorney pledges tough stance on crime, drugs

The new top federal prosecutor for Northern California pledged Thursday to work with local law enforcement to eradicate illegal guns.

“In this district, in my view, guns are a scourge to the communities, which combined with the twin poisons of gangs and drugs are enslaving whole neighborhoods,” said U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello during his first roundtable meeting with Bay Area media.

A Republican, Russoniello, 66, was appointed to replace interim U.S. Attorney Scott Schools, who in turn replaced Kevin Ryan, one of nine U.S. attorneys fired by the U.S. Justice Department in 2006 and early 2007. Ryan now heads the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

Russoniello said he wants to create a better relationship with local authorities and is working to cross designate deputy district attorneys and special assistant U.S. attorneys.

District attorney spokeswoman Erica Derryck said they are looking “forward to working with the U.S. attorney on these and other issues to help end the violence and suffering in our city.”

The new U.S. attorney inherits the trials of former Supervisor Ed Jew, who faces extortion and bribery charges, and the Barry Bonds perjury case.

Although Russoniello said he couldn’t discuss pending cases, he made a veiled reference to the headline-grabbing Bonds case when he said, “This office has for years prosecuted people who lied before the grand jury, who testified falsely in giving statements to federal investigators and I think it will be very robust in continuing to do that. We expect them to tell the truth, whether they’re celebrity or ordinary folk.”

bbegin@examiner.com  

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