U.S. Attorney Hochul says it's simply time to retire, denies conflicts of interest
William Hochul says it is simply the right time to step down as U.S. Attorney. He announced late Wednesday that he's leaving the office on October 28th. On Thursday, he met with local reporters, and says his decision has nothing to do with any perceived conflicts of interest.
Hochul was appointed by President Obama in 2009 to serve as the U.S. Attorney for New York Western District and was confirmed the following year. But his work as a public prosecutor spans back to the years of the Reagan Administration.
He says the time is simply right to step aside. His last day will be October 28 and Hochul says he will leave an office that has never been as integrated with the community as it is now.
"Having begun that journey all those decades ago to help the public, I am able to say as I leave that not only are we helping the public because of our cases, we are helping the public because of our service," Hochul said.
During his meeting with news reporters Thursday, Hochul looked back on some of the cases he worked on over three decades. They include the prosecutions of Buffalo gangsters including notorious L.A. Boys gang leader Donald "Sly" Green, the arrests and guilty pleas of the "Lackawanna Six," the Tonawanda Coke environmental pollution case, the arrest and conviction of a recruiter for the terror group ISIL, and cases connected with an ongoing opioid addiction crisis.
"The amount of carnage gangs commit pales in comparison to that committed and caused by heroin and opioids," Hochul said.
Hochul's wife, Kathy, is the Lieutenant Governor of New York State. With New York City based federal prosecutors continuing an investigation into alleged state government corruption, including connections to Governor Andrew Cuomo's Buffalo Billion program, some question whether Mr. Hochul's upcoming departure may have something to do with a perceived conflict of interest with Mrs. Hochul's position.
William Hochul denies there was ever any problem doing his job while his wife has served as Lieutenant Governor.
"When our office has a situation where one of their assistants or any one of the office has a potential conflict, we do have procedures in place," said Hochul. "As to what I recuse myself on or what I don't recuse myself on, generally does not become public."
Hochul was reported by the Buffalo News to have recused himself from the bribery and extortion case against longtime local political operative Steve Pigeon.
The U.S. Attorney recommends his First Assistant U.S. Attorney, J.P. Kennedy, replace him. It will be up to the White House to appoint a successor, who would then need the approval of the U.S. Senate.
When asked what advice he might pass on to his ultimate successor, Hochul recommended prosecuting aggressively and quickly but also fairly. He told reporters that by not using his office's power in an intimidating way, he was able to get many defendants - including members of the Lackawanna Six - to become cooperative witnesses for the government.
Hochul says he will enter private practice following his departure but did not disclose any plans.