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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Texas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, May 8, 2018

U.S. Attorney John F. Bash Announces Additional Supervisory Staff Changes

Today, United States Attorney John F. Bash announced changes to his supervisory staff within the District.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg Sofer is now the Chief of the Criminal Division.  Sofer has been an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Austin Division of the Western District of Texas since 2007.  He has handled, among other types of cases, terrorism, public corruption, violent crime, white collar, espionage, and export-control matters.  Most recently, Sofer led the successful prosecution of Chimene Onyeri for the attempted murder of Judge Julie Kocurek.  Before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Sofer worked at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.  There, he last served as the Director of the National Gang Targeting Enforcement Coordination Center (GangTECC), where he supervised senior agents from six federal law enforcement agencies in targeting our nation’s most dangerous gangs.  Prior to accepting that position, he served as the first ever Director of the Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism.  That office is responsible for, among other things, monitoring the investigation and prosecution of terrorist incidents overseas in which Americans are killed and injured.  Before being named Director, Sofer was an attorney in the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism Section.  In that position, he was responsible for investigating and prosecuting a wide variety of terrorism cases, many of which focused on the murder of American citizens overseas.  Sofer traveled extensively in pursuit of these cases and has worked with foreign law-enforcement and intelligence authorities in several countries.  Sofer has also lectured around the world on issues relating to the confluence of the collection of classified information / intelligence and the criminal prosecution of terrorism cases.  Before joining the Department of Justice, Sofer was an Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office for over eleven years.  While serving as a Deputy Chief, Sofer supervised and prosecuted complex violent gang cases.  Before that, Sofer prosecuted hundreds of cases ranging from murder to white collar offenses.  Sofer is a graduate of Rutgers University and the New York University School of Law.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Fernald is now the Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division.  Fernald, who served as Deputy Chief of the Austin office for the past six years, began her service in the Western District of Texas in 1996 after leaving her positions as a state prosecutor and a Senior Assistant Attorney General for the State of Arkansas.  In those roles she served in the Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Unit and later in the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.  Since becoming a federal prosecutor, Fernald has prosecuted a variety of offenses, including in the areas of violent crime, narcotics, immigration, financial fraud, firearms, money laundering, and immigration enforcement.  In 2014, Fernald was named as a “Winning Woman” by Texas Lawyer for her role in the prosecution of members and associates of the Los Zetas Cartel for money laundering through the American Quarter Horse Industry, an honor only given every three years to 19 women across the state.  Fernald graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1987 and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1991. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Erica Giese is now the Chief of the Financial Litigation Unit (FLU).  Prior to joining the District, Giese served as a prosecutor for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.  In 2006, she began her federal service as a prosecutor in the Del Rio Division of the Western District of Texas, where she prosecuted a variety of cases involving immigration, narcotics, public corruption, gangs and organized crime (RICO), violent crime, child pornography, civil-rights violations, fraud, firearm-trafficking offenses, human smuggling, juvenile offenses, and Indian Country crime.  In 2012, she was promoted to Chief of the Del Rio Division and later became the Chief of the San Antonio Division.  In 2014, Giese received the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys Director’s Award for Superior Performance in recognition of her handling of a firearms-trafficking case that resulted in the prosecution of over fifty defendants and the seizure of approximately seventy firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition before they could be smuggled into Mexico.  In 2017, Giese joined the Civil Division’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement section.  Giese is a 2002 graduate of St. Mary’s University School of Law, a 1999 graduate of Texas State University, and a 1996 graduate of The University of Texas at Austin. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Gibson is now the Chief of the San Antonio Division.  Gibson began his service with the Western District of Texas in 2003 as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Border Interdiction Group in El Paso, where he prosecuted immigration and drug-trafficking crimes on the southwest border.  He then joined the Organized Crime Drug Trafficking Task Force (OCDETF), prosecuting high-level drug-cartel and transnational-gang members for eleven years and ultimately being promoted to Chief of the OCDETF Unit in El Paso.  Before becoming a federal prosecutor, Gibson was an assistant district attorney for the 34th District Attorney’s Office and an attorney for the Texas Department of Public Safety.  He has been awarded the Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award and the Director’s Award for Superior Performance as a Criminal Assistant U.S. Attorney, and he is a three-time recipient of the James H. DeAtley Award for exceptional trial work.  Gibson graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 1995 and Sul Ross State University in 1992.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Guess is now the Chief of the Austin Division.  Guess began his service with the Western District of Texas in January 2011 in the Austin Division.  Before joining the office, Guess served as the Lead OCDETF attorney and Deputy Criminal Chief for Major Crimes in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas.  Guess began his legal career as an Assistant District Attorney in the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, where he was responsible for appellate, misdemeanor, felony, and specialized-crime matters.  In addition to his accomplishments as a prosecutor, Guess served on active duty in the U.S. Air Force from 1987 to 1991 and as a reservist from 1991 to 1999, ultimately attaining the rank of Major.  Guess graduated from Georgetown University with a Bachelor of Science Foreign Service degree in 1986 and from the University of Texas School of Law in 1994.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Grant Sparks is now the Deputy Chief of the Austin Division.  Sparks has been a prosecutor since 1995 and an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Austin Division of the Western District of Texas since 2007.  Before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Sparks was an Assistant Attorney General assigned the Cyber Crimes Unit in the Texas Attorney General’s Office, where he also served as Unit Commander of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.  Sparks also served as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney for both the Western and Eastern Districts of Texas for several years prosecuting computer-related crimes.  Earlier in his career, Sparks was a prosecutor in Williamson County, TX, a briefing attorney to the Honorable Bill White of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and a field representative to U.S. Representative Frank Lucas of Oklahoma.  Sparks received his B.A. from the University of Oklahoma and his J.D. from The George Washington University Law School.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jody Gilzene is now the Deputy Chief of the Del Rio Division.  Gilzene previously served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney within the Del Rio Division, where she prosecuted a variety of offenses, including in the areas of drug importation, illegal-alien transportation, and immigration-document fraud.  Gilzene began her federal service in 2008, when she left her position as an Assistant Prosecutor in Eaton County Michigan to join the U.S. Air Force as a Judge Advocate General.  During her active-duty service, Gilzene served as a military prosecutor, a military defense attorney, the Chief of General Law, and a civil-litigation counsel.  Gilzene also deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, where she served as Chief of Military Justice and Deputy Staff Judge Advocate.  After an honorable discharge from active duty, Gilzene worked as an Assistant City Attorney for the City of Austin, where she defended various city departments in personnel actions.  Gilzene graduated Western Michigan University Cooley Law School in 2007 and the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2003, where she was also a member of the Women’s Division I basketball team.

In addition to the foregoing supervisory changes, U.S. Attorney Bash has selected Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret Leachman to serve as Senior Litigation Counsel.  Leachman previously served as Chief of the Criminal Division.  In her new role, Leachman will focus on the office’s discovery and disclosure obligations and will work on prosecutions and other matters of particular significance.

Bash previously promoted Ashley Hoff to First Assistant U.S. Attorney and Kristy Callahan to Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney.

“I have selected this team of supervisors from an outstanding pool of prosecutors and civil attorneys in the Western District of Texas,” stated U.S. Attorney Bash.  “I look forward to working with this team and our other supervisors to enhance the safety and security of the people of Central and West Texas.  I am especially grateful to Margaret Leachman, one of the hardest-working attorneys you will ever meet, for her continued service in the district as a Senior Litigation Counsel.  Her guidance has been invaluable to me.”

Topic(s): 
Office and Personnel Updates
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Updated May 8, 2018