Each year, NAFUSA recognizes an Assistant U.S. Attorney for outstanding performance through the J. Michael Bradford Memorial Award. The award is named after J. Michael Bradford, who served as a U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Texas from 1994 to 2001. Bradford, who died in 2003, had a distinguished career in public service, including successfully defending the government against lawsuits stemming from the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian’s compound in Waco, Texas. NAFUSA annually solicits nominations from current U.S. Attorneys for the Bradford Award. Typically, the recipient has handled a significant investigation and prosecution or series of prosecutions that has had a significant impact and merits special recognition.
Once again, a number of exceptional nominations were made by U.S. Attorneys around the country. The Michael Bradford Award Committee was chaired by NAFUSA Vice President Don Stern. Its members included Ed Dowd, Bart Daniel, Jim Brady, Matt Orwig, Karen Hewitt, and Rich Rossman. This year, the Board voted to give the award to Reid Schar.
Schar was nominated by NAFUSA member Patrick J. Fitzgerald, at the time the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. Schar was an assistant U.S. attorney from 1999 through 2012. (He recently left the U.S. Attorney’s office to join Jenner & Block in Chicago). Schar handled numerous significant cases in his years at the U.S. Attorney’s office, and has repeatedly demonstrated a superior level of performance during his career. The Bradford Award specially recognizes, however, Schar’s work in the investigation and prosecution of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and various other associates.
Since 2003, Schar and a team investigated allegations of illegal activity occurring in the State of Illinois government as part of the Blagojevich administration. Through outstanding, dedicated and zealous investigative work, trial preparation, and trial presentation, Schar led a team that obtained the indictment and conviction of numerous individuals involved in corruption at the highest levels of Illinois government, including former Gov. Blagojevich, two of his chiefs of staff, and a variety of insiders who profited from their relationship with corrupt officials. This series of prosecutions was more involved than the usual complicated public corruption case. The investigation included numerous wiretaps on multiple phones. Indeed, one of these wiretaps in late October, 2008 resulted in recording of the then-governor making incriminating statements. Based upon these statements and other evidence, Schar and a team immediately produced wire applications for Governor Blagojevich’s home phone, campaign phones, and the phones of additional members of Blagojevich’s inner circle. These wire taps were approved and the recordings on those phones began approximately October 28, 2008.
The wiretaps were maintained until December 9, 2008. During that timeframe, Schar worked 7 days a week to analyze the wiretaps and continue the investigation based on leads obtained in the on-going recorded conversations. Through Schar’s hard work, crimes were uncovered related to the attempted selling of the United States Senate seat, and the Blagojevich-led shakedown of a children’s hospital and two individual contributors. Ultimately, Blagojevich, then the sitting governor of the State of Illinois, was arrested on December 9, 2008, along with his chief of staff, John Harris.
In August 10, 2010, the jury convicted Blagojevich of making a false statement to the FBI, but was hung on all other charges. The second trial began in April 2011 and lasted until June of 2011. Blagojevich testified in the second trial, and Schar cross-examined Blagojevich. Blagojevich was found guilty of multiple counts of wire fraud, extortion, and bribery related to his efforts to sell the United States Senate seat for financial gain, shaking down a children’s hospital, and shaking down a contributor in relation to then-pending legislation that would have benefitted the contributor. On December 6, 2011, Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
The Board considered many other outstanding nominations made by U.S. Attorneys. In recognition for the exceptional work performed by these other assistant U.S. attorneys, NAFUSA will award a plaque to each AUSA, which will be presented by the U.S. Attorney in their respective office, along with in some cases a member of NAFUSA from that district.
The other nominations were:
- Sherry W. Hobson, nominated by U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy, Southern District of California, for her work in connection with the San Diego Tunnel Task Force, which discovered, dismantled and destroyed four subterranean cross border tunnels stretching from Tijuana, Mexico, to San Diego, California.
- Theodore Merritt, nominated by U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, District of Massachusetts, for his work as lead prosecutor in a significant public corruption trial involving the then-Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and two of his lobbyist associates.
- K. Tate Chambers, nominated by U.S. Attorney James A. Lewis, Central District of Illinois, for his pursuing violent gangs in Peoria, violent crime in rural counties and the huge increase in meth manufacturing and distribution. Chambers had responsibility for various prosecutions, as well as working with other law enforcement and community partners to develop a violence intervention program.
- Susan Lehr, nominated by U.S. Attorney Debra R. Gilg, District of Nebraska, for her prosecutions against a well known street gang, the South Family Bloods, engaged in multi-state marijuana trafficking.
- David P. Zabel, nominated by U.S.Attorney Barry R. Grissom, District of Kansas, for his work in connection with the investigation and prosecution called Operation Camera Shy. This series of cases involved numerous prosecutions for drug activity and violent crime in certain neighborhoods in Kansas City, Kansas.
- Kimberly Sanchez, nominated by U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner, Eastern District of California, for her efforts in revitalizing the office’s Project Safe Neighborhood program. This resulted in the indictment of approximately 50 illegal firearm possession cases, with most defendants being active gang members.
- Mark A. Trammel, nominated by U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Rose, Northern District of Iowa, for his prosecution of an elementary school principal for sexual exploitation of students.
- Reynaldo P. Morin and Lisa G. Flournoy, nominated by U.S. Attorney John M. Bales, Eastern District of Texas, for their prosecution of members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. The prosecution resulted in 8 convictions, including two generals, one captain, and one lieutenant of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.
- Ann C. Rowland, nominated by U.S. Attorney Stephen M. Dettelbach, Northern District of Ohio, for her successful investigation into widespread public corruption in Cuyahoga County, Ohio’s largest county and home to the City of Cleveland. These prosecutions led to over 50 convictions, including two of the most powerful local political figures and two sitting judges.
- James B. Nobile, nominated by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman, District of New Jersey, for his leadership of the special prosecutions division, which has resulted in numerous significant public corruption investigations and prosecutions in the State of New Jersey.