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WWL>Topics>>10-29 3:10pm Angela, US Attorney Kenneth Polite

10-29 3:10pm Angela, US Attorney Kenneth Polite

Oct 29, 2013|

Angela talks to US Attorney Kenneth Polite about his remarkable journey from the streets of New Orleans to the US Attorney's office

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

New Orleans to -- it would be a new day after Katrina that it wouldn't be business as usual. That would we be a better more transparent. And honest community and that corruption wouldn't be tolerated. Among those who stepped up to move it in that direction with Jim Latin and the office of the US attorney. For years there was a sense that public and private corruption was successfully in its cross hairs. But last year a bombshell. What has been labeled as grotesque prosecutorial misconduct. Ended the career of Jim Latin and his top two prosecutors. It was shocking and disappointing. And on some level infuriating. At the very office we were depending on to help clean up the area was in fact not playing clean. The fallout from this is still going on. But it is a new day for the US attorney's office with a new man at the Helm. And New Orleans whose life may have begun at the Kelly you project. But has taken him to school at Harvard and Georgetown. And to work as a prosecutor. In New York City. Kenneth politte has come home again. So we welcome you back home again and I hope you are feeling very welcome very much so thank you so much crammed into it and I know that your very limited on what we can discuss with the investigation that kind of continues and that again is not the the purpose of this hour long talk with you which we're very grateful he would take time to -- But in fact it did become a sort of a crack in -- Confidence in that department that had had such great success and we were cheering on. And how you handle. Going into the act to -- that. Shore well in terms of the in terms of the case itself of course the Department of Justice has made the decision to appeal the dancing her. Opinion from judging art and we're preparing for that appeal we believe we have strong arguments from both legal and factual arguments. Decisions ever made as part of that. But in terms of moving past. That unfortunate. Situation. What we've had to do is really focus on the work really get people refocused on the work we handle frankly I'm probably a backlog of of cases to right really get out of the office. Morale. In the office was. A real issue. That from day one I've really tried to focus on. As you can imagine this was a group of people in many respects. Repeated with a very broad brush. Most if not the overwhelming majority of employees. Public servants in this office. -- very hard working and had nothing to do it all with that unfortunate conduct. And yet they have suffered. Their morale has taken -- -- so that that is something that is a constant the constant focus of my effort is and as the new leader of the office. And I wanna talk about that to me that's. Leadership does what you will help correct those issues than just on a personal level when you heard about what had happened. Were you surprised that it would be something like. Yeah you know I was certainly surprised just my my -- background. Just to tell you a little bit about my experience with with Jim. And in Japan in particular did not know cell. Personally but it. Back in 2004. -- -- -- A brother half brother of mine. Raised by different mother and father who was killed here in New Orleans on the streets -- -- world. Very difficult time for my family very difficult part for me personally I made the decision to come back home from New York I was living in new York at the time and really the institution that I thought was really making a change in our city for the batter on both the violent crime and political corruption side was the US attorney's office here. Under the leadership of Michelin. And so I applied to the office and got an offer from the offers an accepted in July of 2005. In hurricane at the very next month and my wife and I. My wife's position. We struggled. To try to find a position for her we had a newborn child at the time. Jim NJ and were very. Instrumental in trying to help us as much as possible. To try to relocate here we were still pretty much committed to doing that but ultimately be decided to to stay in New York. For a few -- short period of time but it. I've got a very at a very positive. Relationship with those individuals and thought very highly of them think very highly of them frankly I mean the lifelong career public servants. I think many people are shocked by that. By the conduct in. And obviously we're dealing with the -- now. Well. Well let's start then with what do you walked in the door and based let's just talk about the morale problem him. And it does take a great leader and manager to say OK I've got this problem how to like chip away -- it. So was it one on one just two groups session. Yeah so -- that the very first day. We had a tremendous interim leader in Dana and today if you mature if you get a chance to meet him but Dana was is a career DOJ guy he's currently serving as a as the interim US attorney in eastern district of Virginia. Really helped steady the course for this office during really the toughest toughest patch of this this time period. In on day one I've basically said look we're ready to start -- forward it's time to move forward it's time to refocus on the work and that's gonna start with. -- meeting with each and every employee of this office. I think that. There was at least a feeling in the office. Amongst some employees that they were shut out shut out or disconnected from the leadership at certain times. And so my my my focus as the new leader in on board was released to re engaged each and every person on a very individual level and that's. That was one of the primary goals that I had in the first couple weeks and that work unfortunately is still an ongoing to shut down kind of slow that process forests. A second part of that process has really been. To begin the process of rebuilding and the credibility in the office and that that begins with reaching out to some of our key stakeholders. In that started with the judges frankly the people who are overrun on in the building for a. Heard that unit and just an enormous job reaching out to. The judge's other enforcement -- -- on on one absolutely trying to get their import a -- needed. -- trying to get their input to what's needed trying to get a better understanding of of what's worked in the office wouldn't -- with which should be in enhancing. What personalities. I know many people over there I don't know every one -- their input on that. I'd I had -- the great fortune of practicing in the US attorney's office in New York. Many people and our law enforcement community have seen other offices throughout this country and so to the extent that they can bring to bear best practices from other places. -- one here that. Perhaps we can implement that in this office to make it frankly my my goal -- to make it most professionally run US attorney's office in the country. And that is noble well yes it is just wake up everyday and saying -- One step for. Yeah I've usually waking up at night time. With thoughts. And emails her. Usually get fired off around 2 o'clock 3 o'clock in the morning to. Law enforcement agents to my staff to other USC's in the office. Thinking. Yeah it's race. With -- on with this -- about it is well. We are talking with Kenneth police who's the new US attorney for our area and in new millennium we have a lot to talk about stay with -- I'm Angela under the that you well. Lucky for us we have the new US attorney Kenneth politte. His of such a wonderful story about being raised here and everything he's already. Accomplished in life and still yet so very young and now given this huge responsibility. Of taking our US attorney's office and continuing great work. And probably in your own mind thinking of what else can I do with -- -- in your own imprint on it. That's right. Yeah I mean part of part of what. You know again going back to the first day. I and I told them changes are inevitable. That that comes with the territory with having a new leader. The office had been in the same leadership of essentially the same administration for. Well over a decade. Without any real changes in terms of the organizational structure of the unit structure of management team. The policies and procedures of the office and so really. My work right now is to try to do the due diligence. Make sure that we make any changes making sure that they're done in the best interest of the public in of the office. And so we've got about fifteen more days in my in my mind by fifteen minutes that the thirty more days before we we make those changes. And you're talking about creating your own management team that's correct and I know that you had to shut down I know the truth. Not because of the sequestration. It's limited in hiring but is your goal ultimately to expand the office. It would be you know might my view of the office is one of in the US attorney's office in my view if you look at the best ground US attorney's offices in this country. Hiring practices for example -- done. Certainly hiring from the local district attorney's office. Which are also hiring from the defense -- hiring from civil practice in and offer mr. during from long. Judicial clerk ships -- from the nonprofit wrong room and so. The result is that you have a fairly diverse office with people coming from all walks of life with in the legal community. I think that the result is that you have a better a better sense of what the just outcome isn't just decision making. Is is done in each case and so. That is something that I'm that would certainly be looking to -- -- relate to diversifying. Office and that in that regard. And then in terms of management I mean we wanna make sure we have the right people in the -- seats and you know I'm I'm I'm -- person on. You know there's people in the office that are very very good lawyers are very good and investigations are targeted trial work that doesn't necessarily mean that the best best managers in so yet to make sure you have the right people. In place. To ensure that the office runs efficiently. You wouldn't -- at the beginning of the program that. The US attorney's office is going to appeal has appealed it has to judge's thoughts on redoing the Danziger. Would you. If if that does not pass and in fact you have to redo. Redo that trial would you be the lead attorney on that. Our office. -- -- would most likely retain its role as a co partner with me injustice. With how the Department of Justice out of Washington that's okay that's the way the trial was and investigated and and tried here in our district. And I would expect that relationship to -- remain in place if a retrial where were necessary and the basis of your appeal is. The basis is essentially we we believe that there was there were factual legal conclusions that were made an error by the judge respectfully. In particular that there was a finding of prejudice. As to some of the conduct that -- that decision and we don't believe that. That some of those. Those conclusions of fact. In fact resulted in prejudicial impact on the the jury's determination. If you have to retry this is there a timeframe would be next year would be longer than that it. Now I'm that we haven't really cross that bridge at this point yes let's let's talk about the feeling you would also mentioned that you had sort of backlog of cases on getting back to the work. As you say is that in motion now absolutely absolutely. I think the Galvin cases it is a key example of that that was one of the cases that when I first walked into the office it was. Burton really ready to go it seemed like it had been on the shelf for whatever reasons and so. Wanted to make sure that he got pushed -- in into the public view. Just for my simple mind and do you handle. Corruption. And white collar crime. What do you do with with violent crime Montana US attorney's office do chores so. Are the the breath. First of all good the US attorney's office is as both -- criminal and a civil division so we have. We do have a approximately 78. Civil attorneys who deal with. Defending the US attorney defending United States against tort claims are employment discrimination claims they do with bankruptcy. They deal with forfeiture of those types of matters on the criminal side. We deal with everything from identity theft environmental crimes to narcotics trafficking arms trafficking. Child pornography child exploitation cases human trafficking. Violent crime and public corruption. And -- national terrorism. And national security terrorism matters. Immigration matters so there's a there's a wide breadth of cases that we deal with on the criminal side in terms of the violent crime cases. US attorney's offices in our offices no exception typically deal with these types of investigations anymore organizational. Level wider net. As opposed to. You know 11. Person type of case were typically looking at. Perhaps building a case beginning with one person but ultimately having much room. Up to addressing -- more organizational level. Crime crime and -- price. One of the things post-Katrina was trying to get a grip on on crime -- And and inroads have actually been made we still fight the fight that's very very difficult. And I I believe that it was one of the issues that your office could do was helping with the guns and felons with guns -- that -- kind of thing going to be continued. It is it is it's that. Frankly that that the two pillars of our priorities will be public corruption and violent crime in in the arms trafficking and felon in possession type cases are ones that are right at the forefront of what we do. Frankly one of the of the ways that were really trying to focus on arms trafficking is in connection with drug activity because. When you're talking about making decisions. Between whether cases prosecuted in the state verses. The federal system. Really what you're basing it on is where we gonna get the biggest bang -- -- where and where are we going to be able to get the the most significant sentenced most deterrent value for that prosecution. And so if we're able to get the a charge of use of the gun in connection with the crime of violence or in connection with the narcotics trafficking offense. Certain numbers of of mandatory minimums -- to kick in 11 gun for example won't get -- five years another gun will be 25 additional years. And so that's the way that you typically you're seeing our office. Utilize our resources to really address what we're seeing out on the streets which is gain level activity. Goes what we've identified right now with our own local state and federal partners is that. There is a disproportionately small group of the of -- group. Group of individuals were responsible for disproportionately large amount of the criminal activity particularly violent criminal activity on our streets so. You send enough messages factories guns are gonna send you up for a while that's correct maybe that will really impact it has to. It has -- can stay with -- we're gonna continue our conversation with Kenneth totally right after this I'm Angela and it's WW well. We are talking with Kenneth police are new US attorney for our area. We were talking about violent crime and what your office can do. And you can do a lot to hang -- to influence the bad guys that the gangs and try to cut them short and I think because you have experience both as a prosecutor and defense and -- You perhaps to bring something. A wider view maybe. But I would like as a person and a person who -- in New Orleans who obviously cares about Iran's. What do you think is. The origin of crime in this airing that even though we fight it and battling and chip away at it. It's still there in much too high numbers. That's interesting because I'm I'm going to be speaking later today. That's part of the big issue over at Tulane on the issue of the origins of crime in -- murder -- and such a complex issue -- Economics I think ultimately our big part of it. I think it's I think it's ultimately economics. That have played my two. -- the educational system here as well. For too long. -- my -- my view the educational system here is kind of tied to. The lack of trust that people having government. In certain respects. Where. How can you trust the government a government. Into the -- from the very beginning of your life the first contact you really have with the it's already let you down. Right I mean in a lot of respects and that's that's kind of the way that our our public school system -- down a lot of a lot of young. Men primarily. Corporate we're talking about criminal defendants in this in this area in in this country. And as our schools improve yeah I think everybody's agreeing and they're on the right road. To improve absolutely but that will be a factor. As will if we. Have a more. Educated populace -- making more money if it's the whole ripple effect at and yet again we were talking in the in the break that. Interviewed Jabrel came yesterday and he is just a big proponent of this moral rehabilitation. And he has. The the vast majority of murderers and Angola and has seen. The impact of its one on on it's it's not a particular religion but it's focused on morality. And it's and the whole time he's talking and thinking to myself. If they had just gotten them twenty years before who eighteen years before. These guys could be good guys. That's frankly the most difficult part about. This job. As a prosecutor. It's a little bit now with -- little bit different now being US attorneys since I do have the ability -- talk a little bit broader about my job but the reality is that as a prosecutor particularly one in the federal system. By the time I meet most citizens if there walking into my office that's a bad thing their life is probably going to be over. I met the end of the process I'm not at the beginning I'm not and and so. That's why the community are -- that's -- giving in our schools that's why getting in our communities. Even in this role as prosecutors this is not all we do we are not limited here -- justice doesn't just mean enforcement and also can mean. Intervention can mean rehabilitation. Can mean re entry. Of former offenders who were trying to get back on the street narrow. That's a big part of our job it has to be because frankly. We cannot simply rest our our way out of this problem. And I think that's I think people understand yeah and and also understanding the price. That we are paying for confinement absolutely and a lot of our tax dollars. It is and I am -- We're we're certainly committed as you know the Department of Justice along -- its consent decree processes and is committed to ensuring that -- the new prison that we have locally is is up to operational and and most importantly constitutional Muster. But you can't build -- prison large enough to really get ourselves out of this problem. I think the statistics are her -- There have been pretty pretty strong showing the core relation between educational attainment. And people staying out of the criminal justice system deadbeat deadbeat that the statistics show that that's the case at the beginning if we get more young men to graduate from high school. The lower. Lower our criminal justice are -- rates will be and then on the fender side I think it's -- also been shown that. The more education we can get to offenders less likely the -- to re offend and to be re committed. It's so. That has to be your high priority. Has to be a big part of the solution to what we're facing. Stay with this we're gonna continue our talk with Kenneth Foley and get to know sort of on a personal level the man who came home right after this. Our guest today is Kenneth police and we've been talking serious to -- shocking legal talk a lot of talk you talk. You grew up in New -- you were born in charity hospital. You had great parents who won him nothing but the best for you but you were very poor. And did you get a scholarship to don't. I did. Full academic scholarship which had to compete for each year. And you know my mom certainly would not have been able to -- to the paper my education if I didn't get that each year's. I was fortunate to get it. Dated for five years street. And you were present it. I was I was present in my class. From. The very beginning. This president a lot of different organizations that speech and B did. Academic gains. Was -- boys state governor. As well. It was it's actually probably the end of the most. Cherished accomplishment from high school for me is that my brother and I both. Attain the position of voice the governor I think we're the only set of Brothers -- The both retain that position. But clearly back then you were motivated. You were disciplined. -- mother that was probably holding a whips and -- great things threes and three boys. She was she needed it. That community and you and you had a dream mean it was law that then yeah now pretty much I expected to go to law school. In my father is in a PD officer and and I also have several -- -- law enforcement. People in my family and so. Going into law was certainly on my radar from very early on. My middle brother is now. Police officer in Houston as well so we've got a lot -- law enforcement sold the family so you get to Harvard. I did and you think. While I'm at Harvard student there nervous. Yeah me nervous I mean the for the very first day I accomplished. My biggest. Biggest accomplishment was meeting my wife actually matter the first day of school hook up -- victory at Harvard we didn't start dating till much later but it. Good we -- to remain friends and ultimately won her over. She tells this story about meeting me the the first day amber coming going around the room and introducing ourselves and whoever from them when to do it. Apparently yes that I consider him Kenneth from New Orleans when I go back home and practiced law and in she leans into her best friend and says -- that's too bad he's kind of cute but I never move into the south and so. You know I kind of one -- -- deaths. By getting here here marrying her and then getting here and then to beautiful girls hands. This is not a bad place absolutely absolutely. You then went on to Georgetown at Georgetown law and excelled and then just. You're on fire yes I if I kind of followed my wife for round she's a physician here in her medical training took her from Philadelphia to New York. And so like I work for a law firm in the Philadelphia area and into the federal. Appeals court -- -- in the Philadelphia area as well and then we moved to new York and I -- to march from there in New York before going to the US attorney's office in Manhattan. So. Pretty good career now but I think it's it's what we need to hear more and more in this country's. Put your mind to -- you can do and that's really what historians. And yes you had a phenomenal mother parents who want you to do justice absolutely but did it. Yes I I am I must say it does it does require a lot of family support though I mean is this is something that I certainly did not accomplish in any -- by myself. My mother my two Brothers. And in my wife who walks with me throughout this. This entire process of of going into public service as you know it's not something that one individual whoever's out in front. Does it by himself for by herself it does require the support of the entire family and and really the prayers of the community and that's something that we've been fortunate to get. You know when I first we moved first moved back to New Orleans about three and a half years ago when. We've got our our daughters and you know we really for a long time have been struggling to find a church -- and so. We decided to. To tries saint Peter cleaver where I met father Michael. Jacques who recently passed away as you know was -- lost our community but he. I remember very early on he said you know I'm gonna get your -- and winning pitcher Reich is you've got something to be common in remember him telling me that very early on in talking to him. And he was right. Like he was absolutely. Stay with this group and continue our top with Kenneth police right after this financial under the W. Our guest today has been Kenneth police to lose the new US attorney big big job ahead of them. But before we sign -- -- just have to say. He's thrilled everything that at one point at Dallas now he was an audience in election that's right that the real. I was an audience while you were on stage at -- now. Oh that's right that's right so bill out of drama and plays that were there there deterrent but I I bring that up because this really is a community of relationship loses and you are reaching out to men that's exactly on Orleans and Jefferson. To the thirteen parishes here in charge that's exactly right -- the united that's been. My month from my of my. Message to my office from the very beginning is that our mission is to reach out and ensure that justice reaches every. Every president of southeast Louisiana man think that is. There's many people in the other districts in Indian and other parishes that feel at times underserved by our office they feel like victims of of crime or civil rights violations have been. Unaddressed. And at the same time they feel like you know look we are wrongdoers amongst our our district that have. That feel like they're above reproach. The the won't be touched by any law enforcement agency and so that's. That is our mission we have to make sure that we are here to ensure justice for every error free resident of this of this southeast Louisiana region. Well we will be looking forward in the coming weeks hearing about. How do you believe that your office soon your plan of action excellent and we wish him nothing but success thanks so much very very much for joining us -- to -- well this is spending open mind show we're now going to joins newsroom washing arrows.

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