to step down as U.S. Attorney
He'll open his own law practice in
Since surviving a battle with cancer as
a college student, Todd Graves has gone through life checking
off things he would regret if he didn't get them done.
Starting his own legal practice is on
On Friday morning, Graves officially announced
he is stepping down as U.S. Attorney for the Western District
of Missouri. The reason? You guessed it. . .he is ready
to start that private practice.
"It's the farm kid in me," Graves
told The Landmark last Thursday, a day before he publicly
announced his decision to step down. "I value freedom
and value having my own business.
They say timing is everything. Graves
says this has been his timeframe all along.
"I recently turned 40. I always planned
to open my own practice. This has been my timetable,"
The decision to run his own law office
means he will resist offerssome that would have
tripled the salary he's making as the federal prosecutorfrom
large firms to bring his skills to their operations.
He said his law firm will be "a national
practice." He'll focus on items such as governmental
law, regulatory issues and civil litigation, among others.
Graves' practice will be located in downtown
Kansas City, though he indicated he will seek a zoning
change on his property in rural northern Platte County
that will allow him to build an office at his home from
which he will serve legal needs of "neighbors and
Graves and his wife Tracy and children
Katie, Hank, Ben, and Joe live on a farm near Ridgely
that has been in his family since 1867.
In addition to his own practice, Graves
emphasized he will become very involved behind-the-scenes
in local, state and national politics.
"I'm going to get very active in
politics," he emphasized.
He ran unsuccessfully for Missouri State
Treasurer in 2000, and though he said he has no immediate
plans to become a candidate again, he said he is "not
going to rule it out, either.
Graves, a Republican, arrived on the Platte
County political scene when he filed to run against eight-year
incumbent Democrat Vic Peters for Platte County Prosecutor
in 1994. Graves immediately turned heads when he was able
to raise significantly more campaign cash than any other
Platte County politician had ever raised.
He ran an aggressive campaign and convincingly
ousted Peters, with Graves grabbing 12,862 votes to 10,511
for Peters, or 55% to 45%.
Graves quickly established a reputation
as an aggressive county prosecutor. He ran unopposed for
reelection in Platte County in 1998.
After George W. Bush was elected president
in 2000, the opportunity for the U.S. Attorney spot opened
up. U.S. Sen. Kit Bond officially supported Graves for
the position and President Bush named him to the post.
Under his watch, the number of felony
cases prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office increased
from 500 per year to 1,000 this past year. Death penalty
cases occurred with regularity under his leadership, as
did illegal firearms prosecutions, and child abuse and
child pornography cases.
Graves, who was appointed by then-U.S.
Attorney General John Ashcroft to co-chair the Department
of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Working Group,
made crimes against children the district's highest local
priority. Graves launched the Computer Crimes and Child
Exploitation Unit in 2002. Prior to the formation of the
new unit, the district averaged about a dozen child exploitation
cases per year. With 13 child exploitation cases filed
so far this year, the district is on track to continue
that upward trend.
The Western District of Missouri is recognized
nationally for launching one of the first anti-gun violence
programs, and one of the most successful. In 2004, the
district led the nation in the prosecution of gun crimes,
with 352 defendants charged with illegally possessing
a firearm. That increased in 2005, with 373 defendants
Overall, criminal prosecutions increased
by 34% since Graves' first year as U.S. Attorney.
While his top priorities included those
types of cases listed above, white collar crime also continued
to be a focus of the federal office in his tenure. He
pursued high profile cases involving phantom cattle and
automobiles, telephone fraud, and mortgage fraud, among
Graves also brought charges against Jackson
County lobbyist Bill Waris for lying to FBI agents, Pattonsburg
School Superintendent Ronnie DeShon for embezzling district
funds, and three Missouri judges, including one municipal
judge in Kansas City who admitted taking loans from lawyers.
Graves in 2003 hit the courtroom to personally
lead the death penalty prosecution of Wesley Purkey for
the kidnapping and murder of 16-year-old Jennifer Long
His resignation takes effect on March
24. He said the U.S. Justice Department has not appointed
an interim replacement. That interim is often chosen from
among the sitting U.S. Attorney's chief deputies.
President Bush will nominate a permanent
replacement after consulting with Republican Senators
Kit Bond and Jim Talent. The senators forward a name to
the president. Typically the choice is the prerogative
of the senior senator of the president's party, which
would be Bond.
Graves said his only regret in leaving
at this time is that he will not be able to participate
in the prosecution of Lisa Montgomery, who is charged
in the 2004 killing of Bobbie Jo Stinnett and the killing
of her unborn daughter.
That crime occurred in Skidmore, which
is only about 20 miles from where Graves' grew up near
Tarkio. The case was recently delayed until October after
originally scheduled for an April prosecution.
"It's a case that touches on a lot
of personal things for me," he said.
ZAHND WON'T SEEK
U.S. ATTORNEY JOB
Current Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd says he won't
seek the position of U.S. Attorney.
"I'm not interested in being U.S.
Attorney at this time," Zahnd said. "I am completely
committed to running for reelection and continuing my
work in Platte County. This is an important time for the
Platte County Cyber Crimes Unit and our prosecutions of
Jan Helder and countless other Internet predators. In
addition, I am personally prosecuting Jacob McGinnis for
a brutal first degree murder and rape, a case that goes
to preliminary hearing in two weeks.
In 2002, Zahnd defeated interim prosecutor
Tammy Glick, a Democrat, to earn his first four year term.
He has filed for reelection and thus far no Democrats
have filed against him.
Following Graves' appointment as U.S.
Attorney, Glick in the fall of 2001 had been named by
then-Gov. Bob Holden, fellow Democrat, to fill the remainder
of Graves' term. She served until being defeated by Zahnd
in November of 2002 by 53% to 47%.