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Miami U.S. Attorney Guy A. Lewis has reassigned “better than a dozen” veteran federal prosecutors to full-time duty with the FBI and the Justice Department’s new Anti-Terrorism Task Force network. At the same time, in the wake of last week’s attack on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., Lewis’ office has begun to ask the courts to postpone trials. The first case to be delayed, without objection from defense attorneys, is the high-profile kickback trial of former Palm Beach County Housing Finance Authority chairman Lloyd Hasner, finance authority lawyer Richard Ellington and Orlando real estate broker Lisa Fisher. It had been scheduled to begin on Sept. 24. In court papers filed two days after the attack, federal prosecutors John S. Kastrenakes and Bruce E. Reinhart explained that a delay was necessary because “the United States cannot marshal its witnesses” by then. “The FBI is the lead agency investigating the terrorist acts of Sept. 11, 2001. To that end, they have dedicated the resources of the entire bureau,” the prosecutors wrote. “Without disclosing any unnecessary details in this pleading, the resources of the FBI in the Southern District of Florida are fully dedicated to this investigation. The case agent assigned to this case cannot work on this matter until an undetermined future date. … We hope that only a short postponement would be required, perhaps until Oct. 15.” Fort Lauderdale U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas granted the delay on Sept. 14. Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan postponed the Miami money laundering trial of former Hialeah, Fla., police officer Peter Davila on similar grounds. U.S. Attorney Lewis won’t say how many of his approximately 250 prosecutors he’s redeployed to anti-terrorist work, or estimate how long those ostensibly temporary shifts may last. Lewis, however, has named Edward Nucci, his criminal division chief, and Julie Paylor, deputy chief of major crimes, to serve as anti-terrorism coordinators for South Florida. Nucci is one of three finalists seeking nomination to be the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida. Attorney General John D. Ashcroft has directed each of the Justice Department’s U.S. Attorneys to establish an anti-terrorism task force that’s to be the “operational foundation for a concerted national assault” by law enforcement on terrorism. In South Florida alone, more than 500 federal and state agents from 30 agencies, including local police departments, are assigned to the task force. With terrorist hunting clearly the nation’s top priority, Lewis and other federal law enforcement officials in South Florida are also making it clear that despite unprecedented demands on their resources — and notwithstanding the case delays that have already occurred — they intend to meet local responsibilities. “Our design or attempt is to continue ongoing business without missing a beat,” Lewis said in an interview. “I’m not prepared to say that any particular program, be it health care fraud or organized crime or public corruption, is going to suffer.” “What we’ll wind up doing is evaluating and prioritizing criminal matters on a case-by-case, day-by-day basis,” he said. Similar assessments about how to handle the regular crush of cases are being made by other federal agencies, including the 400-agent Miami FBI office. “Priority issues regarding other ongoing investigations are being addressed as they arise,” said Miami FBI special agent Wayne Russell. “There’s nothing necessarily unusual about prioritizing. We did it for Oklahoma City. Now we’re doing it again.” The Drug Enforcement Administration office in Miami, with a similar number of agents, has played a smaller part in the unfolding saga, debriefing informants in search of clues, running down leads on behalf of the FBI and sending relief pilots to New York, said DEA special agent Joe Kilmer. “A lot of agents are having a hard time focusing on our jobs prior to Sept. 11. It’s the result of the shock of what’s gone on, the desire to be more involved than we are,” Kilmer said. “But certainly guys didn’t stop their investigations, and unless something was critical, we’ve continued on.” That could change. According to Lewis, the Miami DEA will redeploy a few agents to serve as temporary sky marshals while the Federal Aviation Administration retools that old program. The Immigration and Naturalization Service, even as its power to detain immigrant suspects was greatly expanded Tuesday by President Bush, downplayed the change. In fact, spokesman Rodney Germaine said the terrorist furor simply hasn’t affected operations at INS Miami. “The bottom line is we are conducting normal, routine business,” he said. The Miami office of the U.S. Customs Service didn’t respond to phone messages seeking comment. How much the aftermath of terror will cost South Florida’s federal establishment is anybody’s guess. It’s early, and no one knows how long these temporary assignments will be needed. Still, Lewis was confident that neither money nor manpower will become a problem. “There’s nothing specific yet on additional resources,” says Lewis. “But the attorney general has indicated to us that this investigation is to receive absolute priority with the goal, first, of making sure that no additional terrorist acts occur and, second, to continue the investigation into these targets and their associates.”

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