Obama Taps Loretta Lynch, Top Prosecutor on Long Island, to be Next AG

Loretta Lynch
Loretta Lynch, right, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, looks on as President Barack Obama announces he’s nominating her to replace Eric Holder as U.S. Attorney General on Nov. 8, 2014.

Long Island crimes prosecuted by Loretta Lynch, the region’s top federal prosecutor, are likely to get national attention now that President Barack Obama nominated her to be the next U.S. Attorney General.

Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York—which prosecutes federal crimes in Nassau, Suffolk, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island—has overseen cases high-profile local cases that include those involving terrorists, gangsters, corrupt public officials, Wall Street scammers and human traffickers. Those prosecutions may be dissected during her upcoming U.S. Senate confirmation hearings.

“Loretta might be the only lawyer in America who battles mobsters and drug lords and terrorists, and still has the reputation for being a charming ‘people person,’”  Obama joked while introducing her during a press conference Saturday in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. “It’s pretty hard to be more qualified for this job than Loretta.”

Obama nominated the 55-year-old North Carolina native and Harvard Law School graduate to replace outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who announced his resignation in December, pending confirmation of his replacement.

Notable cases she’s overseen in her 30 years as a prosecutor include 7-Eleven owners who exploited undocumented immigrants in what Lynch called a “modern day plantation system,” charging reputed mobsters allegedly involved in the infamous $6-million Lufthansa heist 35 years after the fact and al-Qaeda recruits from LI and beyond—those who plotted to blow up the Long Island Rail Road, subway and The Federal Reserve in New York City, one of Lynch’s prior employers.

She also oversaw prosecutions of four sitting elected lawmakers—three fellow Democrats and one GOP member—including U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island) and ex-New York State Senate Majority Leader John Sampson (D-Queens), who were both re-elected last week despite their pending trials. That’s in addition to securing multi-billion-dollar settlements from banks accused of malfeasance and being part of the team that prosecuted an ex-NYPD detective who sodomized Haitian immigrant Abner Louima with a broomstick in ’97.

If confirmed, Lynch would be the first black woman to be appointed the nation’s top law enforcement official. Holder was the first African American and Janet Reno was the first woman. And Lynch, a Democrat who once served as chief of the Eastern District’s Central Islip-based LI office, follows two Republican LI natives who previously held the post: John Newton Mitchell, who served as AG from 1969-72 and Peter Kesiler, who was briefly acting AG in ’07.

The fact that Republicans won the majority of the U.S. Senate back from the Democrats in the recent midterm elections is not expected to impact her confirmation. She was twice unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate—once when President Bill Clinton first appointed her to her current post when the GOP was previously in the majority in ’99 and then when Obama re-appointed her to lead the Eastern District in ’10.

“If I have the honor of being confirmed by the Senate, I will wake up every morning with the protection of the American people my first thought,” said Lynch, adding that she was thrilled and humbled to be nominated. “I will work every day to safeguard our citizens, our liberties, our rights and this great nation.”

U.S. Sen Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman all issued statements congratulating Lynch and echoing the presiden’t call for Congress to confirm her.

“Her experience here as a prosecutor and working on terrorism will serve her exceptionally well in Washington,” Gillibrand said.

Schneiderman added: “U.S. Attorney Lynch has time and time again demonstrated her commitment to ensuring there is one set of rules for everyone and to defending the principle of equal justice for all.”