Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Oregon’s top federal prosecutor steps down

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams will step down from his job as top federal prosecutor in Oregon at the end of the month, his office announced Friday.

Williams, a 20-year U.S. Justice Department veteran, was first appointed by President Barack Obama in 2015 and reappointed by President Donald Trump in 2017 — and unusual move in a presidential transition when new administrations usually clean house.

His last day will be Feb. 28 and his departure comes after President Joe Biden’s administration asked for Williams and other presidentially appointed U.S. attorneys to step down in a call last week.

Williams oversaw the high-profile trial and ultimate acquittal of Ammon and Ryan Bundy, brothers who staged a 2016 armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He also oversaw the trial and acquittal of an FBI agent who was accused of firing shots during that occupation.

More recently, Williams was in the spotlight as he tried to navigate a call for Trump’s aggressive response to Portland’s racial justice protests last summer and a decision by the local prosecutor not to charge many of those arrested by police. Williams’ office eventually began to file federal charges against some protesters in the absence of state charges and filed more than 100 cases related to more than 100 days of protest and unrest in the Pacific Northwest city.

“There is still much work to do in our collective pursuit of justice and equity for all, but I am proud of what we’ve accomplished together,” he said in a statement. “Most of all, I am grateful to have worked with so many federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement officers who daily put themselves at risk to protect Oregonians. You have and always will be a great inspiration to me.”

Following Williams’ departure, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug will become Acting U.S. Attorney pending the U.S. Senate confirmation of a presidential nominee.

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