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N.Y. Prosecutor in 6 Terrorism Trials to Resign

November 16, 2001|JOHN J. GOLDMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — Mary Jo White, who prosecuted more terrorism cases than any other U.S. attorney, announced Thursday that she will resign by the end of the year.

White said in a statement that the Sept. 11 attacks delayed her departure. She praised President Bush for his "comprehensive counter-terrorism measures."

White, who left high-paying private legal practice to become a prosecutor, said she would not consider future employment until after she leaves the job.

White, 53, was appointed by President Clinton on June 1, 1993, to head the Southern District of New York, regarded by many lawyers as the most prestigious prosecutor's office in the nation. She has directed six terrorism trials since the bombing of the World Trade Center in February 1993. Six people were killed and more than 1,000 injured in that attack.

In May, in her latest victory, a jury found four followers of Osama bin Laden guilty in the bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998 that killed 224 people.

The fact that six terrorism trials took place in Manhattan reflected the confidence the Justice Department had in White's abilities, other prosecutors said. Federal officials had no comment on who would succeed White.

"Mary Jo White's dedication to justice is unquestionable and her term as United States attorney has been one of steadfast commitment to law enforcement," Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft said in a statement Thursday.

White lobbied for her office to play the lead role in the investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, but Ashcroft decided to consolidate control in Washington.

White had launched a criminal investigation into Clinton's late-night pardon of fugitive commodities broker Marc Rich and allegations the president's half brother, Roger Clinton, sought money to intervene in clemencies.

It is no secret that White was angered over Clinton's pardon of Rich, whom her office sought for 17 years to bring back from Switzerland. White was not consulted before Clinton's decision.

A grand jury in White Plains, N.Y., has heard testimony about the pardons, but there have been no indictments.

White's style was deceiving. Outwardly unassuming, the 53-year-old prosecutor often would come into court and sit in a rear row during trials and watch her assistants cross-examine witnesses and present evidence.

The New York Southern District office is the country's busiest.

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