Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced Thursday that five special assistant U.S. attorneys have been deputized to focus on the prosecution of federal crimes in the St. Louis area.
The newly sworn-in attorneys are a part of Schmitt’s Safer Streets initiative. The program was launched in January with the aim of reducing violent crime across Missouri.
“These special prosecutors will handle all types of cases, specifically homicides, carjackings and gun crimes,” Schmitt said. “They will work hand in hand with our federal partners to effectively prosecute violent crimes.”
A major focus for the prosecutors will be crimes committed in a zone identified by St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief John Hayden, Schmitt said. The area, located in north St. Louis and known as “Hayden’s Rectangle,” has been a priority for law enforcement over the last few years.
“Generally speaking, the sentencing guidelines at the federal level are much stricter on violent crime,” Schmitt said. “We’ll be able to utilize those enhanced sentences with our lawyers deputized here.”
Schmitt said he’s had “very productive conversations” with both St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner and St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell. He said the five new attorneys will be able to assist local prosecutors with criminal charges.
“We know that immediately, the five to seven lawyers sworn in today can take between 200 and 300 cases immediately and take bad guys off the street,” Schmitt said. “We think this is the most effective use of our resources.”
Schmitt said the collaboration between the state and federal prosecutors is one that is unprecedented and unique in the U.S. He said the lawyers selected have gone through extensive background checks since the announcement of the initiative.
Jennifer Szczucinski was among the five attorneys sworn in Thursday.
“We’ve seen and we continue to see how violent crime plagues this community,” Szczucinski said. “It tears apart families, it tears apart communities, it tears apart neighborhoods. I’m very excited to be a part of this initiative.”
The five lawyers previously served as assistant attorneys general. He said he's confident the new appointments won't affect the workload of his office.
Three other lawyers are in the middle of background checks to serve in Kansas City and Springfield. Schmitt said he hopes to have those lawyers sworn in over the next few months.
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