Durbin, Duckworth send 2 names to Biden for new U.S. attorney; first non-white male contenders

If either Sergio Acosta or April Perry are picked to be the next U.S. attorney in Chicago, it will be the first time a non-white male has held the job.

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April Perry (left) and Sergio Acosta are finalists for U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

April Perry (left) and Sergio Acosta are finalists for U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

LinkedIn; Akerman LLP website

WASHINGTON — To fill the vacant U.S. attorney spot in Chicago — a position so far held only by white males — Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth on Monday sent President Joe Biden the names of two former federal prosecutors they recommended. If either ends up being confirmed it would be the first time a Hispanic or a woman held the job.

Durbin, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Duckworth, both Democrats, said the two names being sent to the White House to fill the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois slot are Sergio Acosta and April Perry.

Also on Monday, the Biden White House announced the president intends to nominate Jeremy Daniel, a current federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, to a spot on the U.S. District Court based in Chicago.

Acosta, Perry and Daniel, who is Black, all are the results of the push by Biden and Durbin to break the hold white males have had on the federal judiciary and the top prosecutor spots since our nation was founded. All three were vetted by a screening committee the senators created to determine the qualifications of applicants for these federal jobs.

Under Biden and Durbin, the faces of federal judges sitting in the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Northern District of Illinois have begun to look a bit more like the populations they serve in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.

For Perry and Acosta, the next step is for the Biden White House to evaluate the names the two Illinois senators sent. Since Durbin is the Judiciary Committee chair, it is highly likely the Biden administration will nominate one of the two recommended by Durbin and Duckworth.

The new U.S. attorney will replace John Lausch, who resigned March 11, announcing his intention to leave months in advance, giving the senators time to set in place a process to replace him.

Durbin and Duckworth on Jan. 19 announced that those interested in the job should submit an application for evaluation by a screening committee they formed to help vet the qualifications and fitness of contenders.

“We appreciate the opportunity to provide assistance and input in filling this important position, and we look forward to working with you to ensure a fair and swift confirmation process after you submit a nomination to the Senate,” the senators wrote in a letter to Biden.

An acting top prosecutor, Morris Pasqual, is running the operation until Biden nominates and the Senate confirms the new pick.

Sergio Acosta

Acosta is a partner at Akerman LLP in Chicago; he has been with the firm since 2018. Before that, he was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Illinois for 18 years, including serving as chief of the General Crimes Section and as the criminal civil rights coordinator.

The Akerman website said Acosta is co-chair of Akerman’s white collar crime and government investigations practice and “has extensive experience defending companies and individuals in criminal and regulatory proceedings, conducting internal investigations and counseling clients on compliance programs and related issues.”

According to his biography on the firm’s site, as a federal prosecutor he also, “supervised and handled hundreds of investigations and prosecutions of complex federal criminal cases involving bank fraud, health care fraud, tax fraud, racketeering, violent crime, embezzlement, weapons violations, political corruption, money laundering, obstruction of justice, and terrorism. He also served as the office’s criminal civil rights coordinator, leading the team of prosecutors and FBI agents that indicted notorious former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge.”

He is also a member of the Hispanic National Bar Association and a founding member and past president of the National Hispanic Prosecutors Association.

Acosta received his bachelor’s degree from DePaul University in 1982 and his law degree from the George Washington University Law School in 1985. He speaks Spanish and French.

April Perry

Perry is senior counsel for global investigations and fraud and abuse prevention at GE Healthcare, based in Chicago. Before that, she was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Illinois for 12 years, where she served as the Project Safe Childhood and Violence Against Women Act coordinator from 2010-2016 and as the civil rights and hate crimes coordinator from 2014-2016.

She also serves as a hearing officer for the Chicago Police Board.

Perry served as the chief deputy state’s attorney. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx appointed her as the first ethics officer for the office.

In 2019, the Sun-Times reported that Perry resigned in the wake of controversies over Foxx’s handling of the Jussie Smollett case, objecting to the deferred prosecution deal he had been offered.

Perry received her bachelor’s and law degrees from Northwestern University, and she clerked for now-retired Judge Joel Flaum on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

Jeremy Daniel

Daniel, who served in the Marines, has been a federal prosecutor since 2014, handling among other cases, prosecutions related to the shuttered Washington Federal Bank for Savings in Bridgeport.

Before that, he was an associate at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP in Chicago from 2007 to 2013. Daniel received his J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in 2007 and his undergraduate degree from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2000.

Biden letter, screening panel

The Durbin-Duckworth screening panel was chaired by retired Judge David H. Coar and included Alejandro Caffarelli, Michael Chu, Kevin Conway, Herschella Conyers, Edward Feldman, Betty Y. Jang, Monica L. Llorente, Laurie Mikva, Carlina Tapia-Ruano, Zaldwaynaka Scott and Diana White.

In the letter to Biden, Durbin and Duckworth said: “Our screening committee carefully evaluated candidates by reviewing their professional records and application questionnaires, contacting references and conducting interviews. The committee has submitted recommendations to us, and we have interviewed the finalists, reviewed their records and consulted with each other regarding their qualifications.”

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