Massachusetts US attorney to resign amid Justice Dept ethics probe

·3-min read
FILE PHOTO: Authorites speak about the march by supporters of the white nationalist group Patriot Front in Boston

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins will resign her post by Friday, her lawyer said on Tuesday, after the prosecutor became the subject of a wide-ranging ethics investigation by the Justice Department inspector general's office.

Rollins, the first Black woman to serve as the top federal prosecutor in Massachusetts, is a prominent figure in the "progressive prosecutor" movement that supports policies designed to eliminate racial disparities in the justice system.

"Rachael has been profoundly honored to serve as U.S. Attorney over the past 16 months and is incredibly proud of all her office has accomplished during that limited time, especially in the areas of gun violence and civil rights," her attorney Michael Bromwich said in a statement to Reuters.

"After the dust settles and she resigns, Rachael will make herself available to answer questions," Bromwich added.

Her resignation comes after a months-long investigation by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz - launched at the urging of a Republican senator - after Rollins last July attended a Democratic National Committee fundraising event in Massachusetts with U.S. first lady Jill Biden.

The investigation later broadened to examine her travel and her use of her personal cellphone for official business, among other things, Reuters previously reported.

The results of the investigation have not yet been made public, though her attorney told Reuters last month that Rollins was in the process of reviewing and providing comments on a final draft of the investigative report.

Rollins is one of the 93 U.S. attorneys appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate to serve as the lead federal prosecutors in various regions around the country.

Bromwich announced her decision to resign her post not long after Rollins met with officials in Washington at the Justice Department on Tuesday. Bromwich said he was unable to discuss the report's findings due to a non-disclosure agreement.

The inspector general's investigation began at the urging of Republican Senator Tom Cotton after the Boston Herald photographed Rollins arriving in a government vehicle at the house in Andover, Massachusetts where the Democratic fundraising event was held.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent government internal watchdog entity, last August launched a parallel probe into whether Rollins violated a law called the Hatch Act that restricts political activity by federal government employees.

Cotton was one of the leading Senate Republicans to oppose her nomination by President Joe Biden. Rollins was narrowly confirmed by the Senate in December 2021 after Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote.

"I warned Democratic senators that Rachael Rollins wasn't only a pro-criminal ideologue, but also had a history of poor judgment and ethical lapses," Cotton said in a statement on Tuesday.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland had vowed when he assumed his post as the nation's top law enforcement official to protect the Justice Department from partisan influence. The controversy surrounding Rollins has threatened to undermine that pledge.

The Massachusetts U.S. attorney's office in the past decade has taken on high-profile prosecutions including mobster James "Whitey" Bulger, the Boston Marathon bomber and a probe into wealthy parents' use of bribery to secure their children's admission into elite universities.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Will Dunham)