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U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan Stepping Down After Five Years

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
FILE - Western Washington U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, right, addresses a news conference on police reforms in the city as Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, center, and interim Police Chief Harry Bailey look on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, in Seattle.

Cybercriminals, terrorists, white collar bankers - U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan has taken on all of them in her five years on the job in Western Washington. Now, she says she’s stepping down at the end of the month after holding the post for five years.

She was among the first six U.S. attorneys nominated by President Barack Obama in May 2009 and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in September 2009.

Durkan was appointed to a four-year term that expired last year, but she said she stayed on an extra year to help the office weather budget cuts and a hiring freeze. 

"For the first time since I was about 14, I don't have a job lined up and I have not looked for a job," Durkan said in an interview. "The job of U.S. Attorney is very demanding and one, you don't have the time to look for other employment, but two, more importantly, because of the types of issues that we face, it really is not a job from which you can look for another job."


Durkan is known for targeting cybercrime, including prosecuting the ongoing case against Roman Seleznev, a Russian accused of running a large-scale hacking and credit card fraud. 

"Cybersecurity is, in my view, the greatest threat to personal security, to national security and to the national economy and we have to find a way to do better on that front," Durkan said. 

She also played a significant role in investigating the Seattle Police Department’s use of force and treatment of minorities. That led to a consent decree with the city of Seattle that’s being overseen by a federal court. 

Durkan said she's proud of the dialogue that effort prompted.

"We had a rigorous debate, which we should have," she said. "There's many perspectives on what the best and right way to do policing is, but I think we got some of the best input we got from both the police unions and from the community."


Durkan has also been in the somewhat odd position of being a top federal prosecutor in one of the first states to legalize marijuana. 

Mark Bartlett was an assistant U.S. attorney and second in command until 2010 in the District of Western Washington. He said Durkan's had leeway to decide what to prosecute when it comes to marijuana, which remains illegal under federal law. 

"Clearly, she has used that discretion to focus on what she believes are the most serious harms caused by marijuana sales as opposed to simply a blanket - we will enforce every crime involving sale and production of marijuana," he said. 

Durkan said her focus has been on public safety and making sure kids don't have access to the drug. 

"We've had some frank discussions with the state of Washington. We had great concerns around the area of edible products that are geared toward children," Durkan said. "We made it clear that is something we won't tolerate."


In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.