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Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone said Tuesday he would step down from his post next month to become a partner in the law firm of Nixon Peabody.
Leone plans to leave office April 12 and begin work at the firm's Boston office April 29. Gov. Deval Patrick will appoint a new district attorney for the state's most populous county to fill out the remainder of Leone's term, which runs through the end of 2014.
A Democrat, Leone announced in January that he would not seek a third term, but had not previously indicated plans to leave office early.
"After dedicating myself to protecting and serving others and impacting lives in public service for the last 20 years, I'm excited about the opportunity to take on new challenges and provide service to others in a different capacity," Leone said in a statement released by the law firm.
The hiring would be the second by Nixon Peabody of a high-profile Massachusetts political figure in recent weeks. Former Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who lost his re-election bid to Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren last year, joined the firm this month to work in its business and governmental affairs division.
"We're always looking to attract top talent and value for our clients," said Andrew Glincher, chief executive of Nixon Peabody. The international law firm, which has about 700 attorneys in the U.S., Europe and Asia, also employs former New York Rep. Tom Reynolds and former Massachusetts House Majority Leader Jim Vallee.
Leone will work in the firm's government investigations and white collar defense practice, handling cases around the country, Glincher said.
Leone said in an interview that he was confident that as a private attorney he would be able to steer clear of any conflicts with cases the district attorney's office may have been involved with in the past.
He called his decision to leave office early "the intersection of a personal and professional decision."
Leone's prosecutorial career has spanned numerous high-profile criminal cases.
As an assistant U.S. attorney in 2003, he led the successful prosecution of Richard Reid, who was charged with attempting to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight with a bomb in his shoe.
In 1997, as an assistant district attorney in Middlesex County, he was the lead prosecutor in the trial of British au pair Louise Woodward, who was charged with killing an 8-month-old baby in her care in Newton. Woodward was convicted of second-degree murder, though a judge later reduced the conviction to manslaughter.
Leone was elected DA in 2006 and re-elected in 2010. Among the highly publicized cases handled by his office was the 2011 manslaughter trial of Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan's brother for their father's death.
This month, a Middlesex Superior Court jury convicted 20-year-old Nathaniel Fujita of first-degree murder in the strangling and stabbing of his former high school girlfriend, Lauren Astley, in a case that rocked the small town of Wayland.
As a prosecutor, Leone said he was most proud of his work on behalf of victims.
"First and foremost, speaking for people with no voice, standing up for the vulnerable," he said.
This program aired on March 19, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.
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