In a speech before the Mobile Bar Association, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama Richard Moore discussed his plans for his new office and how it might support the broader agenda of his friend and former boss, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Moore spent more than decade as the Inspector General for the Tennessee Valley Authority but returned to the world of federal prosecution last month to take the helm of an office he worked in for 18 years, a few of which were during Sessions’ tenure as the local U.S. Attorney.
More than a few times, Moore referenced the criticism Sessions has faced from national media since his appointment by President Donald Trump, saying, “They don’t know him. We do.”
“[Sessions] is probably the biggest source of inspiration for me in terms of public service,” Moore added. “He still considers this his U.S. Attorney’s office, and I didn’t argue with him. He cares about this district and this city. He wants us to do well, and he wants us to do our duty.”
While Moore didn’t share many details on the direction he’d like the office to take, what he did share was directly in line with priorities Sessions has identified since taking the helm of the Justice Department (DOJ), including his concern with increased rates of violent crime.
Moore downplayed critics who’ve characterized Sessions’ position as fear mongering, telling the audience he trusts the attorney general’s judgment and “if he’s concerned about a rise in violent crime, I’m concerned about a rise in violent crime.”
“Our office has been focusing on that already, and we will continue that,” he added. “This office actually has more prosecutions of gun cases per capita than anywhere in the country. It’s already an extremely aggressive, forward-leaning office when it comes to fighting violent crime.”Moore also spoke about his support for law enforcement officers, whom he says have been “beleaguered” in recent years. Once again, he brought up Sessions and his “staunch” support for police — something he claimed to share. However, Moore said his office would be committed to protecting the civil rights of those who policed as well.
“We’re not going to tolerate violations of anybody’s civil rights … [Sessions] has been very clear about that, and we’re going to enforce it,” Moore said. “Everybody’s civil rights are incredibly important to the attorney general and they are just as important to us as well.”
Moore also touched on the importance of supporting victims of crime and witnesses called into criminal cases — adding that prosecutors are ultimately responsible for making sure no one who goes through the U.S. judicial system is revictimized in the process.
“When we’re prosecuting crimes, we have a lot of people who are witnesses or victims that we bring in. In the press of doing our job, sometimes we can be careless in dealing with these folks … that would be a mistake,” he said. “We’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
One of the few things Moore discussed with any specificity was the way the U.S. Attorney’s office in Mobile will handle charging offenses in criminal indictments under his leadership.
According to Moore, local prosecutors will return to the practice of charging the “most serious, readily provable offense” in every criminal case — a change Sessions directed federal prosecutors throughout the country to make earlier this year.
With a DOJ memo in May, Sessions effectively rescinded 2013 guidance that urged federal prosecutors to avoid mandatory minimum sentences for “nonviolent” or “low-level drug offenders,” reserving them instead for “serious, high-level” or “violent drug traffickers.”
Like Sessions, Moore said he supports a return to the more rigid guidelines established at the height of the federal government’s war on drugs, though the policy shift does still allow for prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis, subject to the approval of a U.S. Attorney.
“[Sessions] thought it was a good idea when we were doing it back in the ‘80s, and I think it’s a good idea now,” he added. “If the evidence supports it, we will be charging the most serious, readily provable offense.”
In a broader context, Moore spoke about the importance of building trust within his office and with local law enforcement, judges, court employees and lawyers in the Mobile area. He said if local prosecutors remain trustworthy and highly motivated, they will also be very productive.
Concluding his comments, Moore acknowledged he has remained a member of the Mobile Bar Association for nearly 40 years and said he was very proud of the opportunity he’s been given to return to Mobile and “make a difference.”