Message from Acting United States Attorney Beth Drake
To the Survivors and Victim Families of the Massacre at Mother Emanuel –
I reach out to you in order to introduce myself to those of you who I have not yet had the opportunity to meet. A few of you may remember me from the meeting of the families on the Saturday morning after June 17. My name is Beth Drake, and I am proud to have served as an Assistant United States Attorney for over 20 years. On June 15, 2016, U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles resigned after over 6 years as our United States Attorney for the District of South Carolina. I have since assumed the position of Acting United States Attorney. However, I want you to know that I have been here the whole time, if in the background as Mr. Nettles’ First Assistant.
Each of you is on a journey, a journey where you are working through not only the horrific crimes that occurred on June 17, 2015, but also how you will live into the future without your loved ones and in light of the very real and personal impact of the shooting. As a part of your journey, you are called to navigate the state and federal judicial system. While the court system is only a narrow path in the challenging road ahead, it is of course important to ensuring that the person who did these awful deeds is held accountable. I am sure you know that the American people are on the side of justice, and are vested in a process at the state and federal level that is full and fair. Justice will be done.
As we draw near to the trial this fall, I want to assure you that this United States Attorney’s Office will continue to give you our best. Working with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the Capital Case Unit, Assistant United States Attorneys Jay Richardson and Nathan Williams will work long, hard hours to ensure your rights are protected, that the United States puts forth a strong case, and that the defendant receives a fair trial. Jay and Nathan are both extraordinary prosecutors. We chose these two lawyers to represent the United States on the trial team because they are both excellent litigators, and fully able and willing to give this case their all. Clarissa Whaley, our Victim Witness Coordinator and Advocate, will continue to have primary responsibility to manage those affairs pertinent to you throughout the case. Let me just say your rights and needs could not be in better hands than those of Clarissa Whaley. She, Jay and Nathan have our complete confidence and will certainly earn yours.
In closing, let me mention that most of us in the U.S. Attorney’s Office got our start in one of our sixteen state Solicitor’s Offices. Several of us worked with Solicitor Wilson back when we were newly graduated from law school in the Richland County Solicitor’s Office. Later, a number of us, including now Solicitor Wilson, moved to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Scarlett Wilson prosecuted complex drug and violent offenders in our Columbia U.S. Attorney’s Office for a number of years, and in that time she demonstrated herself to be a terrific, capable, smart and excellent trial lawyer. Nathan in turn worked for Solicitor Wilson after she moved back into the Solicitor’s Office, and Nathan has prosecuted many cases with Solicitor Wilson and for Chief Mullen. Clarissa began her career in the Solicitor’s Office and continues to work with her counterparts in that office and the Charleston Police Department on this and other cases. My point is this - our relationships with our fellow prosecutors and advocates at the state level are deep and personal. While it may appear in court pleadings that the state and federal court are both working towards a speedy trial, at the end of the day, we are all after the same thing – justice.
In the coming weeks and months, as you have questions and concerns, please raise them. Let me close by saying this - this office, our state counterparts, the Department of Justice and all of the law enforcement agencies involved - we will continue to give you and these cases our best, and to work for justice.
Acting United States Attorney
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