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U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan on Monday tapped Eumi Choi to be his first assistant, filling the void left by the sudden departure of his right-hand man. Choi takes over for C. Don Clay, a longtime friend of Ryan’s who left the office last week after being appointed to an Alameda County judgeship. Choi, recruited to San Francisco by former U.S. Attorney Robert Mueller, was promoted from executive assistant. Though Ryan described Clay’s loss as a blow both personally and professionally, “I think Eumi is quite capable of stepping into those shoes and doing a good job,” he said. “She is someone whose judgment I trust.” Choi’s background is prosecuting violent crimes, only recently moving into the white-collar arena. She started her government career at the Drug Enforcement Agency and worked on narcotics in the criminal division of the Justice Department when Mueller was the assistant attorney general there. She followed Mueller as a homicide prosecutor in the District of Columbia U.S. attorney’s office, where she spent seven years as an assistant before following Mueller to the West Coast three years ago. Choi, 43, began in San Jose. She eventually made deputy chief there before Ryan created the position of executive assistant, diverting some of the first assistant’s traditional duties from Clay, a prosecutorial rookie. Among other responsibilities, Choi helped recruit dozens of new prosecutors for the office. “My overarching goal is to make sure we’re a productive U.S. attorney’s office,” said Choi, adding that she wants prosecutors to “above all, perform ethically and responsibly.” Ryan, who was appointed U.S. attorney a little more than a year ago, has reorganized the office’s top management. Choi said the office is hitting its stride. “I think we’re entering a new stage where we can now concentrate on implementing the priorities,” Choi said. Ryan agreed. “I think what we’re trying to do is fine-tune and focus on our priorities.” Those include the twin jewels of the San Francisco U.S. attorney’s office: high tech and securities fraud. They not only raise the profile of the office nationally, but also win kudos from the bosses in Washington, D.C., and make it an attractive destination for talented prosecutors. Nationally, Ryan said, “Our securities fraud and our CHIP units are the premier units, and [Washington] knows it.” Choi will not retain all of Clay’s duties. He was responsible for civil rights and public corruption cases, which will now be delegated elsewhere. But Choi said those cases will have her support. “I find them very compelling,” Choi said. “I would take a strong interest in them.” Choi’s Washington, D.C., background could help the office. Not only has she worked inside Main Justice, but FBI Director Meuller hired her, and she remains close to his chief of staff, Kenneth Wainstein. “I think it can’t hurt to have contacts in Washington,” Ryan said. “That’s common sense.” Wainstein, who worked with Choi in the D.C. U.S. attorney’s office, praised the choice. “She was a strong prosecutor,” he said. “I think what people would say about her is she’s a team player. � A great colleague.” All of Ryan’s prosecutors, including Criminal Chief Ross Nadel, now report to Choi. Though her duties are largely administrative, Choi will still prosecute a few cases. She is working on one of the office’s biggest securities fraud investigations, involving former executives at Network Associates Inc. Thomas Nolan of Palo Alto’s Nolan, Armstrong & Barton represented a defendant in that case who has since accepted a plea offer. “I was very impressed with her. I enjoyed working with her; she was very responsive,” Nolan said. Nolan said Choi understood the strengths and weaknesses of the case — something important since Choi oversees the day-to-day affairs of the office and rides herd on unproductive prosecutors. “It was very clear,” Nolan said. “We worked very hard together to try to understand what happened.” That Ryan promoted from within is also an indication that he is more familiar with his people. He was a newcomer to federal court when he arrived from the San Francisco Superior Court bench. “I’ve got a pretty good sense of the office,” Ryan confirmed. In other moves, Ryan promoted AUSA Miles Ehrlich to head of the white-collar crime unit and AUSA Sara Winslow to deputy chief of the civil division. As for Judge Clay, his first day on the bench was Wednesday.

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