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Less than two years after being recruited by San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris to head her homicide team, Valerie McGuire is stepping down to get back into the courtroom. McGuire, who came from Solano County in 2004, said Thursday that she asked to become a line prosecutor for homicide, which will take effect Feb. 13. Among staff rotations announced officewide on Thursday, George Butterworth, the three-decade San Francisco prosecutor now leading the gang unit, will head the six-attorney homicide team. McGuire tried about 25 homicides in Solano and Sacramento counties, but said she hasn’t done any trials since she came to San Francisco. “In this county, with the number of homicides and the commensurate work that’s required in reviewing cases, reviewing warrant requests, my management duties and the work related to that, it’s just not feasible,” she said. “I have not been happy not being able to try cases.” In total, five of the office’s units will get new leaders by the middle of this month, according to a press release. Pamela Pecora Hansen, a line attorney in gangs, will take Butterworth’s place at the head of that unit. Homicide prosecutor Ana Gonzalez will lead the general litigation team. Gerald Norman, who is now in that position, will take over the career-criminal unit. And Adrian Ivancevich, who currently prosecutes sexually violent predators, will head misdemeanors. Chief Assistant District Attorney Russell Giuntini said Butterworth was a natural replacement for McGuire, given his experience as a prosecutor, especially with gangs. Butterworth was the subject of negative attention in 2003, when a U.S. District judge vacated a first-degree murder conviction Butterworth had won several years before, saying that two police and the prosecutor had suppressed exculpatory and impeachment evidence. On Thursday, Harris’ spokeswoman said via email that Harris retained counsel soon after coming into office to advise her on a “personnel matter” related to that case. She said Harris can “assure the public that she has full confidence in George Butterworth’s professional integrity and abilities.” Butterworth did not return a call seeking comment Thursday afternoon, but attorneys in and outside the office spoke highly of him. “Butterworth is a really fine, incredibly ethical lawyer,” said defense attorney James Collins. Harris and Giuntini were prosecutors in Alameda County, where, Giuntini says, shifting assignments is seen as a way to broaden prosecutors’ skills, stimulate them, and prevent burnout. Sometimes prosecutors request new assignments, sometimes they don’t, he said. Norman says he was among the latter this time, but is quick to add that he wound up with one of the best spots in the office. The career-criminal unit he’ll be managing will only have three lawyers, including himself, but it handles heavy work, like Three Strikes cases, he noted. Ivancevich, a 22-year veteran of the office who was told on Wednesday that he’d be moving to misdemeanors, said he didn’t know the reason behind his rotation. But since Harris’ arrival, he added, “they’re basically routine.”

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