United States Attorney Anne M. Tompkins
Western District of North Carolina
IREDELL/ALEXANDER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE AND U.S. ATTORNEY’S OFFICE JOIN FORCES TO TARGET VIOLENT CRIME CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Erin Comerford, Assistant District Attorney for Iredell and Alexander Counties has been appointed to serve as Special Assistant United States Attorney (“SAUSA”) with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Statesville, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina and Sarah Kirkman, District Attorney for Iredell and Alexander Counties. Ms. Comerford will prosecute gang, violent crime and high level drug trafficking cases in federal court.
Erin Comerford was sworn in on November 17, 2011, as a SAUSA with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte. Ms. Comerford has been an Assistant District Attorney in Forsyth County for the past three years and has joined the Iredell/Alexander County District Attorney’s Office for her SAUSA position. Ms. Comerford has prosecuted cases at the State level spanning from domestic violence to impaired driving to drug trafficking. Most recently, Ms.Comerford worked as a member of the Superior Court Drug Division with a focus on cases involving complex drug conspiracies, habitual felon, and firearm by felon charges, and has been the lead prosecutor in numerous felony drug prosecutions.
State and federal authorities share concurrent jurisdiction over many drug and violent crimes. Concurrent jurisdiction allows for prosecution in either state or federal court. To ensure that the appropriate and best choice of venue for prosecution is made, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office have established this formal partnership. As a SAUSA, Ms. Comerford will focus on violent crime, crime associated with gangs, and high-level drug trafficking crimes, and will collaborate with state, local and federal agencies in determining which cases should be indicted and prosecuted federally. Having a dually-sworn state/federal prosecutor will allow the District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to more effectively and aggressively prosecute violent criminals and drug traffickers. The goal of this partnership is to make Iredell and Alexander counties safer through a coordinated enforcement effort.
Ms. Comerford will identify and prioritize cases originating in state court for federal indictment, and then prosecute these cases in federal court. Ms. Comerford’s duties as a SAUSA will also include the review of case reports, and consultation with local and federal case agents, U.S. Attorney’s Office staff, and state prosecutors. Even though she will remain on the staff of the District Attorney’s Office, she will serve in all respects as an Assistant U.S. Attorney including drafting charges, search and arrest warrants, complaints, motions and responses; presenting matters before the grand jury; representing the United States before all federal courts in the Western District of North Carolina; and other such duties necessary for the successful prosecution of these cases. “I am constantly searching for new ways to protect our community an improve the criminal justice system,” said District Attorney Kirkman. “This new partnership between the District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office is another tool we can use to make Iredell and Alexander counties safer. By coordinating our efforts, we will ensure that the violent repeat offenders are out of our neighborhoods and punished to the fullest extent of the law.”
In making today’s announcement U.S. Attorney Tompkins stated, “This unprecedented partnership between my Office and District Attorney Kirkman’s Office will enhance our ability to protect the safety of our communities by taking repeat violet offenders off the streets. Our common goal is to identify violent criminals more expeditiously, and having a local prosecutor serve as a SAUSA with this office will enable us to prosecute these individuals to the fullest extent of the law.
I am thankful to the Governor’s Crime Commission for making this partnership possible, and also thankful to District Attorney Kirkman for appointing Erin Comerford to this position.” The SAUSA position is funded through a grant awarded by the Governor’s Crime Commission (GCC). The GCC serves as the chief advisory body to the Governor and the Secretary of the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety on crime and justice issues. The GCC has 44 members, including heads of statewide criminal justice and human service agencies, representatives from the courts, law enforcement, local government, the General Assembly, and private citizens. The GCC sets program priorities, reviews applications and makes recommendations to the Governor for the state’s criminal justice and juvenile justice federal block grants. Federal block grants are awarded each year to government, education and social service agencies to start new and innovative programs.
In March, the Governor’s Crime Commission approved a grant to fund the special prosecutor position, which is duly sworn in both state and federal courts. The District Attorney’s Office for Iredell and Alexander counties requested the funding. GCC has funded 10 such prosecutors across the state this fiscal year.