The murders of two prosecutors in Kaufman County, Texas has caused heightened security measures to protect court staff and prosecutors. However, few expected those concerns to lead to the withdrawal of a federal prosecutor in Houston. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Hileman has reportedly announced that he will withdraw from a case out of personal safety concerns. If true, it is a rare case for a federal prosecutor to refuse to litigate a case out of fear.
Defense attorney Richard Ely expressed understanding for Hileman’s unwillingness to put himself at risk in the case against the Aryan Brotherhood. There have been warnings that the white supremacist group might try to retaliate for the prosecution. However, no one has been able to pinpoint the source of these rumors.
Last Saturday, District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found shot to death in their home and two months earlier, felony prosecutor Mark Hasse was gunned down in a parking lot near the county courthouse.
About the time of Hasse’s killing, Hileman received protection from the U.S. Marshal service. Many prosecutors are likely to view Hileman’s decision harshly since threats are unfortunately common for prosecutors. Scott Burns, executive director for the National District Attorneys Association, told reporters that “there are 40,000 prosecutors in the country, and anyone who has spent some time trying a case will probably tell you that they receive threats all the time . . . This is unfortunately something we deal with all the time. The only good news is that to be murdered because of your position as a prosecutor is still very (unlikely).”
By withdrawing, Hileman will require another prosecutor to step forward to carry out these duties. It also suggests that the Justice Department cannot protect its staff, which leaves the agency looking like its counterparts in drug cartel countries. The Justice Department has not given any information on the connection to these other cases of state prosecutors or how the department will proceed if a prosecutor was refusing to serve out of concern for his personal safety.
Source: Dallas Morning News