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Justice News

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

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan, Justice Department Leader on Cybercrime, to Step Down

Jenny A. Durkan announced today that she will step down as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington at the end of the month, after serving five years in office.  She has informed the President, Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Senators Murray and Cantwell of her decision.  Durkan, known nationally for her trial and legal work, was in the first group of six U.S. Attorneys nominated by President Obama in May 2009; she was confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate in September 2009.

            “I have been honored to serve the communities in Western Washington, to lead an office of extraordinary people and public servants, and to work with dedicated federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement.  Together we have taken on a range of challenges, threats and bad actors.  We have made our nation and communities safer, while also making our civil rights stronger,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.

“As United States Attorney for Western Washington, Jenny has served as a tireless advocate for the American people, for the citizens of Washington State, and for the cause of justice,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “Jenny has been an exceptional leader in the Justice Department’s fight against cyber-crime… Jenny Durkan exemplifies the highest standards of personal integrity and professional excellence.  For the past five years, I have been grateful for Jenny’s dedicated service and her wise counsel.  I am certain that the people of Western Washington will continue to benefit from her service for years to come.  And although I wish her the very best as she takes the next step in her career, I will miss her leadership, her contributions, and her friendship.”

Durkan served for two years on Attorney General Holder’s original Attorney General Advisory Committee, and has chaired his advisory Subcommittee on Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Enforcement since 2009.

            Durkan is known for her national role in fighting cybercrime, and for increasing the federal capabilities to meet cyber-based national security threats.  She helped craft the Department of Justice’s cyber strategy, and has worked with international partners to increase cyber security.  At the same time, Durkan served on the Terrorism and National Security subcommittee.  Durkan faced the reality of such a terrorist threat when authorities discovered a plot to bomb a military recruiting office in Seattle.  The building also housed a daycare.  The plot was disrupted and the men convicted.

During her tenure, Durkan moved the U.S. Attorney’s office to more proactive enforcement efforts, leading “hot spot” initiatives in areas of persistent crime and by targeting armed criminals and gun crimes.  Under Durkan, these initiatives and other prosecutions were often coupled with forfeiture actions to recover money for taxpayers and strip criminals of their assets.  In January of this year, the office announced that its work with DOJ and other U.S. Attorneys’ offices led to the recovery of over $800 million, while the office’s independent work recovered an additional $22 million.

            Durkan’s office has received national recognition for its work against cartel-related drug trafficking organizations — cases notable for their use of wiretaps and sophisticated financial analyses.  Assuming her position in the wake of the financial meltdown, Durkan took a hard line on “white collar” financial fraud, resulting in a number of convictions and significant prison terms for defendants.  Durkan also formed a civil rights section in the U.S. Attorney’s office that has increased enforcement of civil rights laws, including the employment rights of returning military personnel.

Her office also joined with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division to investigate the Seattle Police Department’s use of force and concerns of biased policing.  This led to broad reforms in the SPD and ongoing monitoring of a consent decree by the federal court.  The team from the U.S. Attorney’s office that worked on the case will receive an award for their work from the DOJ next week in Washington, D.C.


National Leader on Cybercrime  Upon becoming U.S. Attorney, Durkan moved quickly to prioritize investigations and prosecutions of cybercrime and the theft of intellectual property.  Her office increased outreach to and collaboration with cyber-security and privacy experts, academics, local businesses, international companies based in Western Washington, and area schools.  She has hosted in Seattle an annual cybercrime conference, which featured industry leaders, privacy and security experts, government officials, and top national security experts.

Her office has brought a number of successful cyber prosecutions, and is currently prosecuting Roman Seleznev, a Russian national accused of large-scale illegal hacking and credit card fraud.  As chair of the Attorney General’s cybercrime subcommittee, Durkan also has been a national leader in DOJ efforts to fight the rising threat of cybercrime, and has testified before Congress on the issue.  Working with the Justice Department’s National Security Division, she helped form a network of national security cyber prosecutors to ensure that every U.S. Attorney’s office had a prosecutor able to handle such cases.  She also serves on DOJ’s Cyber Advisory Council, helped craft the federal cyber strategy and serves on DOJ’s Intellectual Property Enforcement Task Force. She has worked with international law enforcement partners to increase collaboration in cyber-security issues.

            Durkan believes that cyber-based threats and digital crime are now the most significant challenges facing the country.

“Individual privacy, national security and the global economy are all at risk,” said Durkan.  “We have always been a country built on innovation, but now we must focus that genius on building digital security into every product, home and business.  We cannot afford to let criminal gangs or rogue states outpace us.”

            Proactive Initiatives with Law Enforcement.  As U.S. Attorney, Durkan has emphasized proactive enforcement initiatives to identify and fight crime.  Those initiatives have depended upon strong collaboration among federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement.  Early in her tenure, the office worked with a variety of law enforcement agencies to stem criminal conduct by the so-called “sovereign citizen” movement.  She also prioritized prosecution of gun crimes, including illegal gun show sales, and the illegal possession of firearms by felons.  Working with state and local law enforcement, Durkan’s office has spearheaded a number of “hot spot” initiatives in White Center, Kent Valley, and Tukwila, and focused efforts on the “worst of the worst” criminals who were harming communities in Clark, Skagit and Whatcom Counties.  Durkan increased outreach to tribal partners, and created the first tribal Special Assistant United States Attorney to improve the office’s work in Indian country.  She recognizes that to be most successful, prosecutions need to be combined with strong community outreach, education and prevention efforts.

            Increased Emphasis on Forfeitures.  Advocating an “all-tools” approach, Durkan’s office has aggressively used forfeiture powers to benefit the community and strip criminals of their profits.  One recent joint law enforcement initiative led to the seizure of three motels in Tukwila, near Sea-Tac airport, and the prosecution of their owners.  Crime in the Tukwila area dropped significantly as a result of these efforts.  Similarly, when her office obtained guilty pleas from Frank Colacurcio, Jr. and his associates, Durkan insisted all of Colacurcio strip clubs be forfeited to the government and sold.  And when Colton Harris-Moore pleaded guilty, Durkan required that he forfeit all rights to his story and all proceeds from a planned movie go to victims.  As noted, in January of this year, the office announced that its work with DOJ and other U.S. Attorneys’ offices had led to the recovery of over $800 million and the office’s independent work recovered to another $22 million.

            Obligation to Protect Civil Rights.  A fundamental obligation of DOJ and every U.S. Attorney is to protect the civil rights of all.  To better discharge this obligation, Durkan formed a civil rights unit in her office, which includes criminal and civil AUSAs.  The unit has brought hate crime prosecutions and has worked to protect a range of civil rights from fair housing, to language access, to the employment rights of returning soldiers.  The office also increased outreach to communities of color, other minority communities and to the Arab, Muslim and Sikh communities.  Together with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s office launched a civil rights investigation of the Seattle Police Department’s use of force and treatment of minority communities.  The investigation led to a landmark consent decree negotiated with the City of Seattle and current monitoring by a federal court.  Today, all new policies required by the decree have been implemented, and training is underway.  The court-approved policies seek to minimize the need for force while keeping officers safe, to enhance skills and resources for dealing with people in crisis and to bridge the gap between police and racial and minority communities.

            Countering Terrorism and National Security Threats.  During Durkan’s term, a terrorist threat against a local military facility that was discovered by the Seattle Police Department and the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.  A Seattle-area man, Abdul Latif and his co-conspirator, Walli Mujahidh, were successfully investigated, arrested, charged and convicted.  Under Durkan, the office also finally brought to conclusion the prosecution and appeals of Ahmed Ressam, the so-called Millennium Bomber.  In October 2012, Ressam was sentenced to 37 years in prison.  Her office also has brought a number of prosecutions for the illegal export of weapons and technology to prohibited countries.

            White Collar Prosecutions.  Durkan’s office has prosecuted several large-scale bank and fraud schemes, as well as a number of serious environmental violations.  Examples include Darren Berg, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in the largest fraud scheme to be prosecuted in Western Washington; Shawn Portman, an executive with collapsed Pierce Commercial Bank, who received 10 years for his role in pushing fraudulent  loans; and Patrick Dooley, who was sentenced to 33 months in prison for illegally dumping a hazardous chemical.  These cases reflect Durkan’s belief that so-called “white collar” defendants must also face serious sanctions, including incarceration when appropriate.        

            Combatting Drug Trafficking Organizations.  Durkan has been outspoken on the threat that cartel-related crime poses for the Northwest.  Her office has been a national leader in prosecuting large-scale drug trafficking organizations, and in seizing the assets relating to those cases.  During Durkan’s tenure, the office has brought a number of cases — often aided by wiretaps and experienced financial investigators— to dismantle and prosecute the drug organizations and strip them of their proceeds.  At the same time, Durkan recognized the need to implement other tools to deal with non-violent addicted offenders.  Working with U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez, Durkan helped form one of the first diversionary federal drug courts in the country.  In addition, Durkan helped craft the federal response to marijuana legalization in Washington, focusing resources on harms associated with interstate trafficking, use of firearms, and sales to minors.  To address clear federal interests and threats to public safety, the office has prosecuted a number of marijuana storefront operators, and moved strongly against any sales to children or near schools.  Recently, the office charged a number of defendants in connection with explosions and fires in multiple cities caused by the manufacture of so-called Butane Honey Oil (BHO) — used in edible marijuana products.

            Recognition and Awards as U.S. Attorney.  Awards and recognition include: Warren G. Magnuson Memorial Award, Seattle Municipal League (2014); Inspiring Women, Seattle Storm (2014); Special Contribution to the Judiciary, Washington Women Lawyers (2013); Jaswant Singh Khalra Award for Social Justice, Sikh Community (2013);Leadership and Justice Award, Mother Attorneys Mentoring Association of Seattle (2012); Distinguished Alumni, University of Washington School of Law (2011); Woman of the Year, Seattle University School of Law (2011); Seattle’s Most Influential People, Seattle Magazine (2011 and 2012); Women of Power In Law, Women of Color (2010); Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers; AV Preeminent (highest) Peer Rating in both Legal Ability and Ethics, Martindale-Hubbell (1997 – 2014).

             Term of Office.   Durkan was appointed to a four-year term.  When her original term of four years expired a year ago, the federal government was locked in budget disputes and a government shutdown.  Durkan’s office faced a rising vacancy rate because of a long-term hiring freeze.  Durkan stayed on to guide the office through the budget challenges, and to shepherd some key cases through important stages.  Durkan says she will take time to find the right “next challenge” after she steps down.

Updated March 20, 2015