US attorney ousted in 2006 returning to Nevada job
LAS VEGAS – Daniel Bogden never really got a good answer why President George W. Bush fired him from his post as U.S. attorney for Nevada in 2006. But it doesn’t matter to Bogden anymore. He’s got his old job back.
“It’s my decision to move forward as U.S. attorney and not dwell in the past,” Bogden said as he prepares to become the only one of nine federal prosecutors ousted in 2006 to return to his appointed post. He expects to begin before Oct. 10.
“I did not do anything wrong that merited my firing without notice,” said Bogden, a 53-year-old career criminal prosecutor who measures words and their meaning and calls himself politically nonpartisan. Bush nominated him in 2001 at the suggestion of Republican U.S. Sen. John Ensign of Nevada.
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader, wanted Bodgen to return to his old post to “right the wrong” of his dismissal, said Reid’s spokesman, Jon Summers. President Obama gave his blessing, and the Senate confirmed Bodgen on Sept. 15.
A Justice Department inspector general’s investigation concluded that the 2006 purge of Bogden and top federal prosecutors in Arkansas, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, Phoenix, Seattle, San Diego and San Francisco was “unsystematic and arbitrary.” It blamed then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his top deputy, Paul McNulty.
“We find it remarkable that Attorney General Gonzales and Deputy Attorney General McNulty stated that they did not know why Bogden was being removed,” the report said, adding that Bogden’s ouster “demonstrates the flawed nature of their oversight of the U.S. attorney removal process.”
Jeffrey Stempel, a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Boyd School of Law, called Bogden’s reinstatement a positive.
“All sorts of people were pretty appalled when they saw what the Bush administration was doing … injecting political and loyalty considerations on Justice Department appointments,” Stempel said.
“In law enforcement, the focus should be on quality first, with things like party loyalty or politician loyalty or ideology well down the list,” Stempel said.
U.S. attorneys are presidential appointees who can be named and fired for any reason, or none at all. But Republicans and Democrats generally agree prosecution decisions should be nonpartisan – not influenced by political pressure.
A federal prosecutor is still investigating whether Gonzales, other Bush administration officials, or Republicans in Congress should face criminal charges in the dismissals.
The ousted U.S. attorney from New Mexico, David Iglesias, told the Hispanic National Bar Association annual conference in Albuquerque this month that U.S. attorneys could be appointed for six-year terms that overlap administrations to minimize the influence of politics.
Iglesias has been reactivated in the Navy as a captain and is a prosecutor in the Office of Military Commissions.
Bogden has been handling mostly commercial and employment law at a prominent Reno law firm. He said he still has to take the measure of the U.S. attorney staff. He had 38 prosecutors in Las Vegas and Reno when he left in January 2007, but the staff has grown to an all-time high of 52 under the man who replaced him, Gregory Brower.
“The office is in very good shape,” said Brower, a Republican former state assemblyman and general counsel to the federal Government Printing Office.
Bogden said he never felt he had enough resources in the high-profile Las Vegas area, which has grown from about 1.4 million residents in 2000 to more than 2 million today. He termed it “a target-rich environment” for scams.
Bogden’s office won convictions and prison time for a strip club owner and four former Clark County Commission members in the 2006 “G-sting” political corruption case. The seven-member elected commission oversees the Las Vegas Strip and is considered one of the most powerful political bodies in the state.
Bogden also acknowledged mistakes by prosecutors in another 2006 case that led to a mistrial and dismissal of federal racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud charges against three men accused of running a multimillion-dollar securities fraud.
A federal appellete court upheld a lower court’s ruling that U.S attorneys improperly withheld some 650 pages of documents from defense lawyers, calling it “prosecutorial misconduct in its highest form.”
Bogden this week noted that a Justice Department investigation concluded the misconduct was not intentional, and said that before he left the job he instituted an automated litigation support unit to assign paralegals and support staffers to cases involving voluminous documents.
Bogden earned the ire of top Justice Department officials, according to the inspector general report, when he cited “severe manning and personnel shortages” and declined to assign a prosecutor from the Las Vegas office to head a task force targeting adult obscenity cases.
Franny Forsman, who is nearing her 20th year as chief of the federal public defenders in Las Vegas, didn’t fault Brower. But said she welcomed Bogden’s return.
“You need someone in that office who has visited a jail, who understands the role of defense counsel in a case,” she said.
Before being confirmed for his first U.S. attorney stint in October 2001, Bogden was a judge advocate general in the U.S. Air Force, a deputy district attorney in Reno and a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in Reno.
“What was different about Dan is that Dan doesn’t appear to be politically ambitious,” Forsman said. “I don’t believe he ever approached it as a steppingstone to something else. Dan’s interest has always been just prosecuting cases.”
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