2017-03-16 / Front Page

Neronha forced out as U.S. attorney for state

BY ROBERT BERCZUK


— Peter Neronha — Peter Neronha Peter Neronha knew the day was coming. In fact, he already had his letter handy.

So when he, along with about four dozen other U.S. attorneys, were asked to immediately resign by the Trump administration Friday, the fourth-generation Jamestowner took it in stride. He packed up a few things with his sons, pulled out the already-penned notice and walked away.

“I was ready to go; I actually had written that (resignation letter) a few weeks ago,” he said Saturday.

In part, the letter said: “It has been the honor and privilege of my professional life to serve the people of Rhode Island as United States attorney for nearly eight years.”

He added Saturday: “I never really envisioned having the opportunity that I did. I was very proud to have been appointed by President Obama.”

Neronha said he already planned on stepping down in May as he never anticipated being asked to stay on by the new GOP administration nor likely would have, if asked, he said.

His reaction stands in contrast to others, who labeled the sudden firings and forced resignations as unprofessional and disrespectful. While it is customary for the 93 U.S. attorneys to be let go by a new administration, the departures are not automatic and rarely happen en masse. Often, as was the case when Neronha was appointed, the previous U.S. attorneys remain in place until their successors have been confirmed.

“I wasn’t too bothered by it,” Neronha said. “It’s the president’s prerogative to have the U.S. attorneys of his choice.”

U.S. attorneys are responsible for prosecuting federal crimes in their state or region. They report to the Justice Department, and their priorities are expected to be in line with those of the attorney general.

Neronha had served as Rhode Island’s U.S. attorney since being confirmed in September 2009 after being nominated by U.S. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed, a fellow Jamestowner. Prior to that, he had served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the state since 2002.

Neronha said he was proud of how his office took on public corruption, human trafficking — particularly child sex trafficking — and public health crises involving opioid and heroin use. He said his office was able to accomplish this while being apolitical and letting cases stand on their merits.

In his statement, he thanked “the dedication and outstanding ability of the men and women of the office I have been so fortunate to lead. Some have been my colleagues for nearly fifteen years, and I will miss them all, very, very much.”

While he’s unsure what’s next, the 53-year-old said he would like to continue serving the public in some capacity even if as a volunteer. He also wants to give back to the place he’s called home since returning to the island in 1995.

“I love this town and I want to help it in any way I can,” he said.

Neronha hope his successor prospers, as well as the man responsible for Friday’s actions.

“I want this country to succeed,” he said. “I don’t bear President Trump any ill will. I’m a citizen of this country and I have children and a family here so I want him to do well.”

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