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After years of prosecuting all manner of thugs, cheats and swindlers, William Taylor, head of the major crimes section for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, thought he’d seen just about everything. Then came the nuns. Early one morning last October, three sisters from a local order, wearing white jumpsuits and armed with bolt cutters, broke into an unmanned Minuteman missile site just outside Denver. There, they opened vials of blood and covered parts of the facility in an act they termed a “symbolic disarmament.” The nuns were arrested without incident. But Taylor was not about to let them off easy, and his decision means that the office is now prosecuting the sisters. “We have a job to do,” he says, “and part of that is to protect sensitive military sites.” One problem: Taylor is in the midst of converting to Catholicism. “I get a few comments at my parish,” he allows wryly. Nuns with blood and bolt cutters weren’t exactly what Taylor anticipated when he joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Before that, the Colorado native and Columbia Law School graduate was one of two senior deputies in the economic crimes unit of the Denver district attorney’s office, and spent five years doing white-collar defense work with McKenna & Cuneo in Washington, D.C. In 2000 the U.S. Attorney hired him to run a gun control task force, and, just two years later, named him head of the major crimes unit. Though Taylor was hired by his predecessor, U.S. Attorney John Suthers says he quickly came to appreciate Taylor’s abilities and promoted him over more senior lawyers. “What I liked about him was that he was great in the courtroom and also managing relations with constituent [enforcement] agencies,” says Suthers. “That’s a big part of what AUSAs deal with, and he has their respect.” Taylor received a baptism by fire — literally. About a week after he took over the major crimes unit, the largest forest fire in state history broke out. Taylor headed the arson investigation for his office. He even walked around the scene where the fire started, while it was still burning out of control. “Not the kind of thing you envision doing, sitting in first-year torts,” he says. Suspicion soon fell on a part-time forest ranger, who eventually pleaded guilty and received a six-year sentence. Taylor is currently working on the massive prosecution of financial wrongdoing at Denver-based Qwest Communications. Taylor is second in command to William Leone, a former partner in the Colorado office of Palo Alto, Calif.’s Cooley Godward who is now the First Assistant U.S. Attorney. In all, Taylor supervises about 20 lawyers, agents and support staff who work more or less full time on the investigation. Four indictments have been handed up so far. “It’s an enormous amount of data,” says Taylor, “it takes a while to run to ground all the rabbits that pop up.” Taylor brings extralegal training to the job. Before college he served in the Army and was trained to interrogate prisoners of war. “The critical thing,” he says, “is to figure out what makes a particular person tick.” If a witness has a strong personal code, you play up that they are good people caught in a bad situation, he says. Real con men, on the other hand, are susceptible to approaches that play to their ego. No comment on whether that approach has worked on the nuns.

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