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A bad week for the U.S. attorney’s office turned into a good one for San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris. Anthony Brass, who had left the DA’s office in 2002 to work for U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan, announced Friday he is stepping down as a federal prosecutor to go after gangs for Harris. “I found it difficult to see the unpredecedented gang violence and not be able to help,” the 36-year-old Brass said, referring to a string of recent shootings in San Francisco. “That’s my trade; that’s what I do.” Brass will join Harris’ three-person gang unit, focusing on murders and shootings. He is the first of eight new hires Harris hopes to make in the next fiscal year. Three of those will fill positions that were authorized but in limbo because of the statewide budget crisis. The other five are new positions requested in Mayor Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal. A budget committee has approved the five new slots, but the San Francisco Board of Supervisors still needs to give the final OK. A vote is scheduled for July 27. If all goes according to plan, Harris will have 112 lawyers by June 2005. The new hires will be assigned to gun and juvenile crimes, as well as child abuse, said DA spokeswoman Debbie Mesloh. “With San Francisco being in such a budget crisis, we were concerned that we wouldn’t get any new funding whatsoever,” Mesloh said. “We’re extremely pleased that the mayor [did this].” Harris’ gain, though, is U.S. Attorney Ryan’s loss. Besides Brass, two top prosecutors turned in resignations last week. Martha Boersch, head of the organized crime strike force, is leaving for Jones Day. And Patrick Robbins, supervisor of Ryan’s securities fraud unit, is in talks with Shearman & Sterling. Brass graduated from Golden Gate University School of Law in 1994. He joined the San Francisco DA’s office two years later and eventually worked his way into the gang unit and then into homicide. But after the successful prosecution of alleged Big Block gang member Montrell Vines, Brass left in 2002 to work in federal court. Brass called working for Ryan “a career-making” move that allowed him to expose himself to more of the tools needed to be a good prosecutor. As an assistant U.S. attorney, he prosecuted a variety of crimes, including bank robberies and drug cases. “It was an opportunity that I had always wanted,” said Brass, who was most recently assigned to the organized crime drug enforcement task force. But Brass’ real interest lies with gangs. He said he got a taste for organized street crime when he worked on the Big Block cases during his first tenure in the DA’s office. “With gang cases, you can really make a difference with a whole community,” said Brass, who starts his new job in late August. “At this time, to be sidelined is very frustrating.” Harris’ chief assistant, Russell Giuntini, said Brass’ federal experience makes him a good candidate to help in joint federal-state gang prosecutions. Already one DA is authorized to work as a fed, and Brass might be cross-deputized, too, Giuntini said. Relations between the feds and local prosecutors can be sticky. After the April shooting of police officer Isaac Espinoza by alleged gang member David Hill, federal prosecutors agreed to look at charging the case in federal court after Harris declined to seek the death penalty. Investigators claim Hill is a member of Westmob, the alleged rival of the Big Block gang in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco.

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