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LI's U.S. Attorney headed for high-level Justice Department job

United States Attorney for the Eastern District of

United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard P. Donoghue. Credit: Charles Eckert

The chief federal law enforcement officer on Long Island, Eastern District United States Attorney Richard Donoghue, has been named to a high-ranking post at the Justice Department headquarters in Washington D.C.

Donoghue is a former paratrooper who as a young assistant United States Attorney on Long Island was one of the first to recognize the dangers of the MS-13 street gang in numerous prosecutions in the early 2000s. Earlier this year, Attorney General William Barr gave him authority to coordinate the politically sensitive investigations involving the Ukraine.

In his new post, Donoghue will deal with all 93 United States Attorneys in the country, with the bureaucratic title of Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General, or in government shorthand, the PADAG. 

In that position he will be chief aide to the number two person in the Justice Department, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.

Donoghue told the employees of the Eastern District, which also includes Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, of his planned move Thursday, according to John Marzulli, a spokesman for the office. Donoghue expects to leave his Brooklyn-based post in two weeks.

Mark Lesko, Donoghue’s chief assistant in the Eastern District, is expected to replace Donoghue, at least on an interim basis.

In Washington, Donoghue replaces former Eastern District prosecutor Seth DuCharme, who is returning to the Brooklyn office.

Among the high-profile cases Donoghue has been involved in are the prosecution of drug lord El Chapo, the mammoth Chinese company Huawei, the Nxivm cult, and, more recently, members of MS-13. Under his stewardship, former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and former Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota were convicted of corruption. 

Donoghue was an assistant United States Attorney on Long Island for 11 years, leaving to become a vice president for CA Technologies.

He was named U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District in 2018. He was widely respected, and his appointment by President Donald Trump was supported across the political spectrum.

Donoghue’s tenure, both as an assistant and as the U.S. Attorney, was praised Thursday by prominent Long Island and New York defense attorneys.

Steve Zissou, of Queens, said: "I have not always agreed with the decisions that Richard Donoghue made as United States Attorney, but I never doubted his integrity and professionalism." 

Joseph Conway, of Mineola, said:  "Rich is a tremendously bright attorney and is undoubtedly the hardest working individual I have had the pleasure to work with. His professionalism is second to none and although he will be sorely missed in the Eastern District he will be a tremendous asset to the Department of Justice.”

And Anthony LaPinta, of Hauppauge, said: “Rich Donoghue represents the highest standards in the legal profession. He is a fair, hardworking and honorable prosecutor who more than deserves this promotion." 

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