United States Attorney Erica H. MacDonald To Depart Justice Department
(STL.News) On February 28, 2021, United States Attorney Erica H. MacDonald will step down as United States Attorney for the District of Minnesota. After her departure, First Assistant U.S. Attorney W. Anders Folk will assume the role of Acting U.S. Attorney.
“My highest priority as U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota has always been safety and security of the individuals, families, and communities of this great state and nation,” said U.S. Attorney MacDonald. “Serving as the United States Attorney has been my great honor and privilege. I have always been and continue to be humbled and inspired by the women and men of this office whose dedication to the pursuit of truth and justice is unwavering.”
“We Minnesotans have been very fortunate to have Erica MacDonald serve as our United States Attorney for the last three years. Erica has been a leader in the fight for justice and a great working partner to the Minnesota Attorney General’s office: she’s taken initiative, been responsive, and shown up every time we’ve needed her. She’s been a champion for Minnesotans trying to afford their lives and a leader in the fight against consumer fraud. At start of the pandemic, Erica took the initiative to found the Minnesota COVID-19 Action Team that brought together both of our offices, county attorneys, and federal, state, and local law enforcement to ensure that we were all working together to protect Minnesotans from scams, fraud, and abuse as we navigated America’s deadliest public-health crisis in a century. She provided determined, rock-solid leadership at a time when Minnesotans needed it most — and characteristically, did it not to get credit or praise, but because it was the right thing to do,” said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. “Erica MacDonald has earned Minnesotans’ respect, and I’m grateful for her partnership and her friendship. She’s talented, gifted, and cares about people, so wherever she goes next, she’s sure to be well appreciated and very successful. I wish her the best.”
“As I think back to my time as the special agent in charge of the Minneapolis Division, working with Erica McDonald is one of the highlights of that part of my FBI career. From the day I attended her swearing in, I saw Erica’s dedication to the law, and her unwavering commitment to making Minnesota a better and safter place to live and raise a family,” said FBI Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Jill Sanborn. “All of our Federal partners appreciated her leadership in leading what we called the federal family in Minnesota, where we worked to build on the strong foundation of trust and partnership that the public expects from its law enforcement leaders. I’ve often said that the strongest partnerships often lead to lasting friendships, and I’m proud not only call Erica a colleague, but a friend as well.”
“United States Attorney Erica MacDonald on countless occasions during her tenure showed her care and support to the residents and businesses in the city of Minneapolis. U.S. Attorney MacDonald was an active leader in public safety assisting the Minneapolis Police Department in addressing violent crime and lead a task force last year that brought resources to keep our city safe,” said Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo. “She also recognized the importance in trying to steer young people away from making bad decisions that could harm them and our communities. She was a key member of our local Group Violence Intervention (GVI) program and met regularly with our city’s African American Faith leadership. As Chief of the Minneapolis Police Department I want to thank U.S. Attorney MacDonald for her honorable and dedicated service to public safety and the citizens of Minneapolis.”
Since June 11, 2018, Ms. MacDonald has served as the chief federal law enforcement officer for the District of Minnesota. During her tenure, Ms. MacDonald lead an office of approximately 130 employees, including 18 new Assistant U.S. Attorneys and 17 new support staff she hired.
Office is responsible for prosecuting federal crimes in the district, representing the United States in affirmative and defensive civil cases, and assisting communities throughout Minnesota in appropriate crime prevention and community-building efforts.
Under Ms. MacDonald’s leadership, the U.S. Attorney’s Office prioritized the prosecution of violent crime and narcotics, public safety in Indian Country, prosecutions of child exploitation and human trafficking cases, cybercrime investigations and prosecutions, and national security cases. Ms. MacDonald also led impactful outreach connected to cases involving child victims and human trafficking victims a priority of her work as U.S. Attorney.
In addition to outreach and prosecutions, during her tenure, the U.S. Attorney’s Office recovered more than $36 million in restitution for victims of crime, vigorously defended the government in numerous civil actions, reenforced law enforcement partnerships, and sought to enhance public safety through community engagement. A few of the many significant achievements of the Office during Ms. MacDonald’s tenure include:
On December 9, 2020, Michael Hari was convicted of hate crimes and civil rights violations for his role in the 2017 bombing of the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. Ms. MacDonald described the conviction as a condemnation of hatred and ignorance, and an affirmation of our fundamental right to live and worship free from the threat of violence and discrimination.
Ms. MacDonald took an aggressive approach to combating child exploitation, human trafficking and the growing epidemic of sextortion, a form of cybercrime involving the extortion of vulnerable victims, often minors, by disseminating or threatening to disseminate sexually explicit content. The Office brought several successful sextortion prosecutions and held multiple community education and outreach events around the state to help build awareness about this heinous crime.
Ms. MacDonald’s passion for fighting for the safety and protection of vulnerable individuals extended to elderly populations who are often the targets of scam artists. On October 28, 2020, the Office brought criminal conspiracy charges against 60 defendants for their roles in a $300 million nationwide telemarketing fraud scheme that targeted senior citizens. To date, the Office has secured 24 guilty pleas in these cases. Under Ms. MacDonald’s leadership the Office also hosted roundtables and trainings with stakeholders focused on reporting and combatting elder abuse.
In September of 2019, Ms. MacDonald was appointed by Attorney General William P. Barr to be a member of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee (AGAC). Created in 1973, the AGAC is a group of 15 U.S. Attorneys who advise the Attorney General on matters of policy and substantive issues affecting the Justice Department. Ms. MacDonald also served as the co-chair of the AGAC’s Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Working Group.
In January of 2020, Attorney General William P. Barr appointed Ms. MacDonald to the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. The purpose of the Commission was to conduct a modern study of the state of American policing and determine specific measures to reduce crime and promote the rule of law.
In accordance with one of her top priorities, Ms. MacDonald increased the number of prosecutors and support staff assigned to the violent crime and narcotics section. Under the Project Safe Neighborhood (PSN) initiative, Ms. MacDonald worked in close partnership with local organizations, federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement, and prosecutors to ensure the most significant violent crime problems facing the district were addressed through enforcement actions, treatment options, and prevention efforts.
Under Ms. MacDonald’s leadership, the Office’s PSN strategy focused on the reduction of gang and group violence within the Twin Cities. As part of that strategy the Office continued its active partnership in the City of Minneapolis’ Group Violence Intervention (GVI) Initiative, which consists of a cohesive partnership between local government, state, and federal law enforcement, community leaders, and social service providers who seek to improve public safety by challenging the peer dynamics in violent street groups in Minneapolis. Working with community organizations and leadership and based on the evidence-based successes seen in the Minneapolis GVI, the Office supported the development of a Group Violence Intervention in St. Paul. The Office further supported programmatic planning to reduce recidivism rates and assist in reentry for violent crime and drug offenders, within the City of Duluth.
In the summer of 2020, Ms. MacDonald stood up a Twin Cities Violent Crime Task Force to marshal federal and state resources in response to an extraordinary spike in gun violence and violent crime.
During her tenure, Ms. MacDonald committed additional resources to enhancing public safety and prosecuting crimes in Indian Country, including appointing two Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys (SAUSAs) and a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Coordinator. These resources have increased the Office’s ability to address the violent crime that disproportionately impacts Native Americans, particularly women and children.
The Office’s Civil Division continued its enforcement of federal civil rights statutes, including the ADA, Fair Housing Act, and servicemember rights’ statutes. The Civil Division has a robust program supporting DOJ’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative, which included trainings with community and local housing organizations and a sexual harassment lawsuit against several Minneapolis rental properties. In addition, the Civil Division defended more than 1,200 lawsuits challenging policies and actions of the executive branch with excellent results.
During her tenure, the Civil Division’s Financial Litigation Unit successfully collected more than $36 million in criminal restitution payments for victims of crime and another $25 million in civil recoveries for the United States. Many of the civil recoveries were the result of civil investigations, litigation, and settlement in False Claims Act and other federal fraud statutes enforced by the Civil Division.
Ms. MacDonald also oversaw the establishment and expansion and of a training and mentorship program for new Assistant U.S. Attorneys, and an employee wellness program.