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First Assistant United States Attorney

Nelson S.T. Thayer, Jr.


Nelson S.T. Thayer, Jr. serves as the First Assistant U.S. Attorney, supervising the office’s Criminal, Civil, and Administrative Divisions. Mr. Thayer is a career prosecutor with nearly three decades of experience in the Department of Justice. Mr. Thayer joined the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in 1993 through the Attorney General’s Honors Program. As a Trial Attorney in the Division’s Criminal Section, Mr. Thayer investigated and tried hate crime and law enforcement brutality cases across the country, including U.S. v. Davis, the first capital civil rights prosecution and conviction. In 1998, Mr. Thayer joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, prosecuting a wide variety of crimes, and in 2002, transferred to the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office, where he served as a line prosecutor and then as Deputy Chief of its public corruption unit. In 2005, Mr. Thayer took a leave of absence to prosecute war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, where he spent six years prosecuting and convicting eight high-level Bosnian Serb military commanders for their roles in the genocide of over seven thousand Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in July 1995, the largest massacre on European soil since The Holocaust. In two separate cases, Mr. Thayer spent four and a half years in trial, working with survivors, military and civilian witnesses, and, occasionally, perpetrators, to bear witness to unspeakable atrocities committed in the name of ethnic, religious and national purity.

Upon returning to the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2011, Mr. Thayer served as Attorney-in-Charge of the Trenton branch office, then as Deputy U.S. Attorney for the Southern Vicinages, responsible for overseeing the office’s mission in New Jersey’s twelve middle and southern counties. In 2015, Mr. Thayer returned to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia, where was a member of the National Security unit. In the 2017 and 2018 trials of U.S. v. Mohammed Jabbateh and U.S. v Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu, respectively, Mr. Thayer and his co-counsel convicted two Liberian war criminals of immigration fraud and perjury for concealing their roles in Liberia’s vicious civil war during the 1990s. Jabbateh received the highest sentence ever in an immigration fraud case, the maximum of 30 years’ imprisonment; Woewiyu, the highest-ranking figure from the conflict ever prosecuted in a U.S. court, died awaiting sentencing.

During the course of his career, Mr. Thayer has received numerous Department of Justice and agency awards, including the Department of Justice Director’s Award twice, the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force Director’s Award, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director’s Award, and the Department of Justice John Marshall Award.

Mr. Thayer earned a B.A., cum laude with Distinction in the Major, from Yale University. He earned his J.D. as a Public Interest Scholar from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Updated April 17, 2023