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California and the West

Embattled U.S. Attorney to Resign

Personnel: Prosecutor whose office drew criticism in connection with prominent cases has held post for five years.

July 24, 1998| From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — U.S. Atty. Michael Yamaguchi announced his resignation Thursday, effective Aug. 24, after five troubled years as chief federal prosecutor for coastal Northern California.

Yamaguchi, who withdrew his candidacy for a federal judgeship last year, called his time in the office "rewarding and productive." He said he is considering several opportunities but did not announce his plans.

After 13 years in the federal prosecutor's office, Yamaguchi was named U.S. attorney by President Clinton in 1993. He was the first Asian American U.S. attorney in the continental United States.

His office has suffered from a turnover of prosecutors and a steady decline in charges filed, which Yamaguchi has attributed to a staff shortage.

He was recommended to Clinton for the federal bench in San Jose in December 1996 by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Yamaguchi withdrew his name five months later after being rebuked by a federal judge in a major drug case.

The judge declared a mistrial on charges against a reputed gang leader because jurors had learned of comments that Yamaguchi made to a newspaper reporter, linking a drop in Oakland crimes to the arrests of the defendant and his associates.

Some other prominent prosecutions have also encountered problems, including a pending case against a former member of Thailand's parliament who is accused of running a marijuana smuggling ring. A federal judge has criticized Yamaguchi's office for sitting on information that a U.S. Customs agent in the case took kickbacks from an informant, and has raised the possibility that the charges will be dismissed.

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