Russoniello outlines top priorities

January 31, 2008 8:10:48 PM PST
The new U.S. attorney for Northern California held his first meeting with reporters on Thursday, since being sworn into office early this month.

It's a job Joseph Russoniello first held 25 years ago.

He'll oversee the prosecution of Barry Bonds on perjury charges as well as former Supervisor Ed Jew for extortion and bribery.

Joe Russoniello is taking over his old job as the top law enforcement officer in the Bay Area. He was first appointed as U.S. attorney in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan.

Russoniello served eight years during which his office prosecuted a number of high profile cases. They included the stealing of IBM computer secrets by Japanese companies Hitachi and Mitsubishi.

He personally prosecuted People's Temple member Larry Layton for complicity in the murder of congressman Leo Ryan.

Number one on Russoniello's agenda in his new term is to get guns off the streets.

"Guns which are a scourge to communities, which combined with the twin poisons of gangs and drugs are literally enslaving whole neighborhoods," said U.S. attorney Joe Russoniello.

Russoniello wants to send this message:

"If you have a gun charge on the state level, some one gets straight probation, its hardly a message that the conduct is offensive or there's a penalty to pay but that same person comes to the federal court and gets five years, a little light goes off," said Russoniello.

As for child porn cases, Russoniello says its proliferation over the internet must stop. He promises to throw the book at predators.

"Those people face mandatory five years in federal prison and significantly more for other activities related to it," said Russoniello.

Russoniello says he's personally opposed to the dispensing of medical marijuana.

"The overwhelming majority of people in my view who are so-called patients are not," said Russoniello.

But he also believes it's a waste of money to crack down on pot clubs, which under federal law operate illegally.

"We could spend a lifetime closing dispensaries and doing other kinds of drugs, enforcement actions. It would be terribly unproductive and probably not an efficient use of precious federal resources," said Russoniello.

That philosophy seems to be a departure from those of his predecessors.

Russoniello did say there are other things the feds can do to fight illegal drugs like marijuana but he didn't elaborate.

There was one surprise. He may have to recuse himself from the prosecution of Barry Bonds in his perjury trial bacause he may have a conflict of interest. He didn't say what it was, but it might be something related to the law firm he was associated with.


Load Comments