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After eight and a half years of running the nation’s highest-profile U.S. Attorney’s Office, Mary Jo White announced Thursday that she is stepping down by the end of the year. In a move that was long anticipated, but delayed because of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the veteran prosecutor said in a prepared statement that she “is not considering any offers of future employment until she leaves government service.” White, 53, leaves office seven months after her greatest triumph, the conviction of four followers of Osama bin Laden for a worldwide conspiracy to attack American installations and kill American citizens. But her departure, prompted by the desire of President Bush to name his own appointees as U.S. Attorneys throughout the country, also comes amid disagreement with U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft over the handling of future terror prosecutions. Ashcroft has said that the focus of the investigation into the events of Sept. 11 will be in Washington, D.C., and he implied that future trials would be held in the nation’s capital. White has argued that trials should continue to be held in New York, particularly for those defendants already in custody who were indicted, along with bin Laden, in the conspiracy that included the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998. But there was no sign of discord in White’s announcement Thursday as she thanked President Bush “for his leadership and commitment to protecting our country at home and abroad when we are at war.” “Our Office, which has been at the forefront in the fight against international terrorism, fully supports the comprehensive counterterrorism measures undertaken by the President to ensure that our nation and its way of life will prevail,” she said. Among those often named as possible successors to White are James M. McGuire, First Assistant Counsel to New York Gov. George Pataki, and Thomas E. Engel, a former Southern District Assistant U.S. Attorney and now partner at Engel & McCarney in Manhattan. White’s tenure in the Southern District of New York is bookended by terror prosecutions. Not long after taking office in 1993, White oversaw the prosecution of four men charged with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center — and the ultimate conviction of ringleader Ramzi Yousef. White’s office also prosecuted Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and 14 other men for a plot to blow up bridges, tunnels and other New York City landmarks. To win the conviction against the sheik, White’s prosecutors stretched the envelope by accusing Rahman of a plot to overthrow the United States government. The charge was seditious conspiracy, last used by the federal government during the Civil War era — and her office is now using seditious conspiracy as the basis for an ongoing investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks. White also leaves office with two significant, political investigations still pending, the probe into pardons issued by President Clinton on the eve of his departure from the White House in January, and the investigation into allegations that Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., improperly accepted gifts from a New Jersey businessman and fundraiser. White also oversaw prosecutions relating to the fund-raising swap scheme in connection with Ronald Carey’s re-election as Teamster president in 1996. While three aides to Carey pleaded guilty in the case and a fourth was convicted, Carey was acquitted last month. Paul J. Curran of Kaye Scholer, Southern District U.S. Attorney from 1973 to 1975, said White deserves ample credit for her work in the nation’s most prestigious office. “I would give her first-rate marks for a long and stellar tenure,” Curran said. “It seems to me the office has had a number of significant convictions and done a very good job in the areas they have pursued, the Teamster cases, the terrorism cases.” CHARTING A CAREER White, a 1974 graduate of Columbia Law School, served as a clerk for Southern District Judge Marvin Frankel before spending three years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York. After 11 years at Debevoise & Plimpton, where she specialized in white-collar cases, she returned to public service, becoming the chief assistant to Eastern District U.S. Attorney Andrew Maloney in 1990. Appointed by President Clinton in 1993, White vowed to make the drug trade and violent street gangs a high priority. Widely considered a tenacious prosecutor willing to expand the reach of her office beyond traditional areas, White oversaw organized crime cases and the tax fraud prosecution of Albert Pirro, husband of Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro. She also made her mark in white-collar cases, although not without controversy. On two highly publicized investigations, she clashed with Manhattan District Robert M. Morgenthau over what White felt was an encroachment on the turf of the Southern District: Morgenthau’s probe into alleged Russian money laundering through the Bank of New York, and a 1997 insider trading investigation into the defunct brokerage A.R. Baron & Co. Despite public assurances that the issue was overblown and the two offices were cooperating, White drew the ire of Morgenthau when her office accepted guilty pleas from Wall Street compliance officer Marisa Baridis after she had already been indicted by state grand juries through the efforts of Morgenthau’s office. In a rare public comment on the fight, White said that “[s]ecurities frauds affecting the national and international markets should be charged federally.” In keeping with her longstanding policy of making few public appearances and refraining from commenting on her office, White declined to be interviewed to discuss her impending departure. But in her statement, White went out of her way to praise her staff for “their commitment, high-mindedness and excellence in the service of the public and the nation.”

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