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President Biden nominates Maryland Delegate Erek Barron (D-Prince George's County) to be the state's first Black U.S. prosecutor and Matthew Graves to be the District's federal prosecutor.
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President Joe Biden announced his nominees Tuesday for U.S. attorney roles in Maryland and the District of Columbia. State Delegate Erek Barron (D-Prince George's County) will serve as Maryland's first Black federal prosecutor if confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Biden chose Matthew M. Graves, a former prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office for D.C.'s fraud and public corruption division, to run the largest U.S. attorney's office in the country.
The nominations of Barron and Graves are part of an eight-person slate of nominees released by the White House.
Barron has been a member of the Maryland House of Delegates since 2015, where he has sponsored and helped to pass bills on criminal justice reform. They include the recently passed Anton's Law, which requires police departments in the state to release officers' disciplinary records, and the 2016 Justice Reinvestment Act, a bipartisan bill that overhauled sentencing and corrections practices.
Barron's colleagues in the Maryland House of Delegates say they know him as a skilled leader who likes to build coalitions. Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) tells DCist/WAMU in an emailed statement that Barron has helped the state become "a national leader on bipartisan corrections and sentencing reform to reinvest in smarter public safety strategies."
Del. Darryl Barnes (D-Prince George's County), chair of the Black caucus, says as friends and colleagues for 10 years, he knows Barron will do a "phenomenal" job. "I think it's an outstanding opportunity for him and a huge loss for our delegation with his leadership skills," Barnes tells DCist/WAMU.
As Maryland's federal prosecutor, Barron would inherit cases involving major tax fraud schemes, drug trafficking, and MS-13 gang violence.
Barnes says Barron's District 24 seat, comprising central and northern portions of Prince George's County, will be filled by a nominee from the state's Democratic Central Committee. The nominee would need to be confirmed by the governor and only serve one legislative session before having to compete for their seat in the 2022 elections.
Barron is familiar with Biden, having served as counsel and policy advisor to the former senator between 2007 and 2009 on a U.S. Senate subcommittee on crime and drugs. Prior to his time working with Biden, he was a federal prosecutor in the criminal division of the U.S. Justice Department. Earlier in his career, Barron also served as a state prosecutor in Prince George's County's and Baltimore City State's Attorney's offices.
Biden has also nominated Matthew M. Graves to be the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, leading the only U.S. attorney's office that prosecutes local, as well as federal, crimes. Graves has experience in the office, having served as an assistant U.S. attorney there from 2007 to 2016. He worked in the Fraud and Public Corruption section and led the prosecution of Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., who ultimately pleaded guilty to fraud. Graves currently works as a litigation and compliance partner at corporate law firm DLA Piper.
Graves was recommended by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). Biden, like the Democratic presidents that preceded him, gave Norton what's known as "senatorial courtesy," meaning that senators get an informal veto power over certain nominations that would impact their state, like judges and federal prosecutors. D.C.'s lack of statehood means that the District does not have senators who can make recommendations on behalf of their constituents for these roles, even as the U.S. Attorney for D.C. has more power over local affairs and policy than other USAOs, and is the largest such office in the country. Republican presidents have not granted Norton senatorial courtesy since her time in office began. (In Barron's case, both of Maryland's senators recommended him for the role.)
The U.S. Attorney for D.C. leads consequential investigations, often dealing with public corruption cases and handling high-profile prosecutions, like those of former Trump advisers Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, and of the people charged with crimes related to the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6. In recent years, the USAO has taken on more D.C. gun cases in a partnership with Mayor Muriel Bowser.
If confirmed, Graves would take over for Channing Phillips, who has been running the office on an interim basis. Phillips was the U.S. Attorney in D.C. during the Obama administration.
The White House in a statement urged the Senate to confirm the nominees "as the chief federal law enforcement officers" to help with efforts to tackle the national increase in gun crime.
This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.