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By the time he was fired late last year, former San Francisco U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan’s stock seemed to have dropped so low among Justice Department officials that even routine communications were met with dismissiveness and sarcasm. As early as last March, the e-mails show, Justice Department officials were annoyed with Ryan for issuing a press release that crowed about the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s new guidelines for steroid offenses � a pet issue of Ryan’s, since he prosecuted the BALCO steroids case. “After our conversations, I am fairly surprised that you would not consult with me or anyone else in Main Justice before issuing a press release on something that has nothing to do with your office,” wrote Michael Elston, an official in the Office of the Deputy Attorney General. When Elston forwarded the message, a longtime DOJ administrator gave a short response. “UFB!” wrote David Margolis, presumably a common off-color shorthand for “unbelievable.” A trove of internal Justice Department e-mails released over the past week by a congressional committee show that Ryan was the final prosecutor added to the list of eight whose firings have become the first big Washington scandal this year. Not even attempts to cash in political debts were able save his job. While the other seven prosecutors had received favorable performance reviews, Ryan was already on notice by fall that his management style was a problem. In a separate e-mail, Margolis said he got a call from a federal judge � San Francisco-based Marilyn Hall Patel � who was trying to get Ryan’s performance reviews. According to later e-mails, it was a reluctance to fight over releasing the reviews that spurred the department to finally fire Ryan. Leading up to that decision, the 3,000 pages of e-mails and other internal documents released Monday show that the negative reviews were brought up repeatedly. “During his tenure, the office has become the most fractured office in the nation, morale has fallen to the point that it is harming our prosecutorial efforts, and the USA has lost the confidence of many of the career prosecutors who are leaving the office,” says one Justice Department document, apparently prepared for congressional hearings on the firings. Another e-mail string circulated a story that ran last year in the SF Weekly about Ryan’s management issues. So it was with some apparent dismay that on Dec. 10, after Ryan was notified of his firing, top presidential adviser Karl Rove started hearing complaints. In an e-mail to Kyle Sampson, the deputy to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who resigned as a result of the U.S. attorney controversy, Rove aide William Kelley complained that “Ryan is the only one so far calling in political chits (which is reason enough to justify the decision, in my view), but Karl would like to know some particulars as he fields these calls.” One of those calls apparently came from Gerald Parsky, the Los Angeles-based Republican power broker who heads up a committee that vets federal appointments � including Ryan’s eventual successor � in California. “FYI,” Kelley wrote to Sampson earlier on Dec. 7, “Jerry Parsky has put in an outraged call protesting the fact of Ryan’s departure,” and also how the message was delivered. “And he’s having lunch with the president next week,” Kelley added. Those connections didn’t save Ryan’s job, or even buy him extra time. After being told to resign in December, Ryan held out, but finally sent a resignation letter to the Justice Department in January, the e-mails say. Ryan also told Elston that he had contacted a headhunter. That resignation letter, though, said Ryan would quit effective April 27 � three months after the date he had been told to vacate his office. Ryan explained the request for an extension by saying he had a case to finish up. While his wish wasn’t granted, Ryan never took umbrage with his firing the way San Diego U.S. Attorney Carol Lam and New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias did. In a Jan. 18 message to Sampson, just after the firings had first become public, Elston wrote that Ryan’s top assistant, Eumi Choi, “called to let us know that Kevin is not returning calls from [Sen. Dianne Feinstein] or Carol Lam and doing his best to stay out of this. He wanted us to know that he’s still a ‘company man.’” Nearly a month later, as Ryan completed his term, he sent a last message to Elston. “You have been a gentleman in your dealings with me,” Ryan wrote. Elston forwarded the message to group of officials involved in the firing with a short statement of his own. “I have a one-member fan club in California!” he wrote.

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