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Christopher Wray, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, has told new Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that he plans to step down after nearly four years at the DOJ. Wray, a former federal prosecutor in Atlanta, joined the department in May 2001 as a top aide to then-Deputy AG Larry Thompson and was named to run the Criminal Division in May 2003, succeeding Michael Chertoff. During Wray’s tenure, the Justice Department won its first criminal convictions related to the accounting scandal at Enron Corp. and brought charges against former top Enron executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. “I may have been here for four years, but it’s been a lifetime worth of challenges,” says Wray, who also played key roles in the department’s aggressive response to Sept. 11, the anthrax investigation, and the passage of the USA Patriot Act. “Chris Wray . . . has been a steady leader of the Division in a time of challenge, and his hard work has helped produce great successes in the war on terror and in the fight against crime,” Gonzales said in a statement. Wray’s colleagues, who credit the 38-year-old lawyer with improving relations between Main Justice and federal prosecutors across the country, say his shoes will be tough to fill. Deputy AG James Comey says Wray made a point of interacting with line attorneys in the Criminal Division. “He just has the right mix of practical experience, a touch for people, and book learning,” Comey says. IRS Commissioner Mark Everson says that Wray was able to defuse the usual rivalries between turf-conscious federal law enforcement agencies. Wray plans to remain in his post until a successor is named. Possible replacements include Alice Fisher, a Latham & Watkins partner and Chertoff’s former deputy, and McGuireWoods partner Richard Cullen, the former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Vanessa Blum can be contacted at [email protected].

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