Veteran prosecutor Boente to be acting U.S. attorney in Virginia

September 18, 2013

A veteran federal prosecutor who more than once has served as a temporary U.S. attorney will once again fill the high-profile post in the Eastern District of Virginia on an acting basis, authorities said.

Dana J. Boente, 59, a longtime Justice Department lawyer who lives in Arlington, is expected to report to work Monday as the acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, authorities said. He had been serving as the interim U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, where legislators recently confirmed Kenneth Polite as the permanent appointee to the job.

Polite will be sworn in Thursday, clearing the way for Boente to return home, authorities said. He replaces Neil MacBride, who formally vacated the post in Virginia on Friday.

In a brief telephone interview, Boente said he has no immediate plans to change an office with which he is very familiar. After a long career working in the Justice Department’s Tax Division, he was named an assistant United States attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia in 2000. He served as the acting U.S. attorney there from 2008 to 2009.

“I’ve done this before,” Boente said. “As an acting, you just kind of try and guide the ship as it is.”

Who will fill the position even on a temporary basis is significant because of the myriad high-profile cases the office is pursuing. Prosecutors are spearheading investigations of Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and the WikiLeaks organization. Should Edward Snowden return to the country and be charged with leaking information about National Security Agency surveillance, he would face trial there.

Kathleen M. Kahoe, 63, another veteran prosecutor, had been acting as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District since MacBride’s departure, but those in Virginia always expected Boente would return. He was working as the first assistant U.S. attorney in Virginia when he was named to the interim position in Louisiana. There, he took over for Jim Letten, a longtime U.S. attorney who resigned amid revelations that his top deputies were posting online comments about subjects of the office’s investigations.

Who will be appointed by President Obama on a permanent basis for the position in Virginia is unclear, although several are mulling bids for the position, according to people familiar with their thinking. Among them are Brian ­Moran, a former Virginia delegate and former chairman of the state Democratic Party; Jay Prabhu, an assistant U.S. attorney in Virginia who heads the cybercrimes unit; Stephen C. Shannon, a former state legislator and attorney general candidate who works in private practice; and Gene Rossi, an assistant U.S. attorney who manages attorneys from elsewhere in the federal government who are temporarily assigned to the Eastern District.

Typically, Virginia’s senators, Timothy M. Kaine and Mark R. Warner, would recommend someone for the job, and the president would consider that strongly in making an appointment. Spokesmen for the senators, both Democrats, said discussions on the process have not begun but will soon.

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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