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G. Paul Howes, the controversial, hard-charging D.C. prosecutor who has handled some of the city’s most explosive and highly publicized drug and murder cases, has announced that he will leave the U.S. attorney’s office late next month to practice law with a firm in California. Howes became well-known in the D.C. legal community for his aggressive handling of the prosecutions of Fonda Moore, the former D.C. police officer who allegedly was associated with a local drug gang that ordered the murder of two people, and of the Newton Street Crew, which also allegedly engaged in murder and violence as a means to enforce its drug turf. But his tactics landed him in ethical hot water. In 1988, a defense lawyer complained to then Superior Court Judge Gladys Kessler that Howes had spoken with her client without obtaining her consent. The complaint eventually led to a battle between the Justice Department and officials in New Mexico, where Howes is licensed to practice and where he came under investigation by state bar authorities. The ethical investigation took on national significance when Justice sued New Mexico in D.C. federal court, arguing that only the federal government — not a state entity — had the authority to oversee the conduct of federal prosecutors. Justice lost in the trial court, but has appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where the case was argued last December. A decision has not yet been rendered. Kevin Ohlson, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in the District, says Howes left of his own accord and that the ethics controversy had not diminished the respect he commanded from his colleagues and superiors. “His resignation was a bolt out of the blue,” says Ohlson. “There was not in any way, shape, or form any effort from our office or Main Justice to usher Paul out.”

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