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Northern District U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan has filled several top management positions left vacant after a series of high-profile departures last year. Most significantly, he permanently appointed his first assistant, Eumi Choi, to take on additional duties as criminal division chief. Choi has been acting chief since office veteran Ross Nadel stepped down in September. Nadel’s move — he is now a line assistant in San Jose — came around the same time several well-known prosecutors went into private practice. Ryan’s critics blamed the departures, in part, on low morale and unhappiness with management decisions. But Ryan and others characterized the resignations differently, calling the attrition natural and healthy. Indeed, attorneys in and outside the office say it’s normal for people to go back and forth between private practice and government work, as well as to cycle between management and line assistant assignments within the office. On Tuesday, Administrative Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Caporizzo said management changes are a part of being a federal prosecutor. “I don’t think there is a morale problem,” she said. “We’ve been getting some good responses to the management changes.” Among the highlights announced this week: Michael Wang will be chief of major crimes; previously, he was in the securities fraud section. Haywood Gilliam will head up securities fraud; before, he was in white-collar crimes. And Brian Stretch, formerly major crimes chief, becomes head of the Oakland office. Jack Laettner, who ran the Oakland office but for the last four years had devoted himself to the state death penalty prosecution of Stuart Alexander, will be a line assistant on the drug task force in Oakland. And Laurel Beeler, who was deputy chief of the criminal division, steps down from management to work in the white-collar section. Late last year, Ryan announced that Anjali Chaturvedi, who worked for the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., will become the new head of the organized crime strike force. That unit and the securities fraud section were without chiefs after their managers left for the private sector last summer. Although some past and present subordinates criticized Ryan for not promoting people from within those divisions, others said he may just not have found the right fit. Caporizzo said Ryan wanted to import some new faces. “There have been great people in the past, but now it’s time to move on,” she said, adding that all management positions are now filled. Choi will occupy positions previously held by two people. First assistant and criminal chief can have different or overlapping duties, depending on the approach of the U.S. attorney. Some offices don’t have first assistants at all. In San Francisco, the criminal chief has typically reviewed cases and plea agreements, created and implemented office policies, and overseen training, among other duties. “Kevin and others have really liked the work that she’s been doing. He felt that it’s been working better than it has in a long time,” Caporizzo said. The changes, which go into effect Jan. 18, also include: Douglas Sprague becomes deputy chief of major crimes. Douglas Wilson becomes special counsel in the criminal division, working on criminal policy matters. Stephanie Hinds and Stephen Johnson become senior litigation counsel for criminal and civil, respectively. Also, Philip Kearney Jr. moves from major crimes to the organized crime strike force. Hartley West leaves securities fraud also to join the strike force. Kirstin Ault and Dana Wagner go to Oakland. And Elise Becker joins the securities fraud section.

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