The veteran federal prosecutor who has been leading the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia on an interim basis for more than a year and a half has been recommended by the state’s U.S. senators to take over the job permanently.
Sens. Mark R. Warner (D) and Timothy M. Kaine (D) formally proposed that Dana Boente, a longtime Justice Department lawyer who lives in Arlington, be appointed U.S. attorney for the Eastern District, officials confirmed Friday. The job is an important and high-profile one; the office, with about 300 lawyers and other employees working in Alexandria, Richmond, Norfolk and Newport News, has long been viewed as one of the most important federal prosecutor shops in the country.
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In a letter to President Obama, the senators wrote that Boente was “highly recommended” by a panel of lawyers tasked with evaluating applicants and that his “long-time service has provided him with extensive experience in national security matters, public corruption, and securities and financial fraud.”
The Eastern District is home to the CIA and the Pentagon, and its prosecutors often handle terrorism and national security cases, such as the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, a conspirator in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. If Edward Snowden is ever returned to the United States, the government would bring its case against the former National Security Agency contractor through the district.
Boente has been serving as the interim U.S. attorney for the district since he replaced Neil MacBride in late 2013. Under Boente’s leadership, prosecutors won corruption convictions against former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell (R) and his wife, Maureen, and convictions of CIA leaker Jeffrey Sterling under the Espionage Act.
Those victories were not without controversy. McDonnell’s lawyers and a bevy of high-profile supporters — including former U.S. and state attorneys general, White House attorneys, prominent business leaders and law professors — argued that the verdict against the former governor was flawed and that the case could have far-reaching negative repercussions in U.S. politics. Whistleblower advocates criticized the prosecution of Sterling as unfair and heavy-handed and noted that his treatment was far different from that of retired Gen. David H. Petraeus in a leaks case.
Boente has worked in various roles at the Justice Department for more than 30 years. He started his career there as a trial attorney in the tax division and eventually worked his way into management roles there and in the Eastern District of Virginia. He served as the acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District from 2008 to 2009, and before his most recent return, he worked as the interim U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
It is unclear who else applied for the job but did not gain the senators’ recommendation. A spokesman for Warner had previously declined to release a list of applicants. But Dwight Holton, Kaine’s brother-in-law, who applied before the search was temporarily put on hold, did not put his name in the ring a second time around, allowing Kaine to play a part in the nomination.
Boente must be formally nominated by Obama, then confirmed by the Senate, before officially taking over. While those steps might seem ceremonial, experts have said they are important, giving the appointee full license to shape the office.
Boente did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment.