Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling has submitted his resignation to President Biden and will leave at the end of February to work on government investigations at a private law firm in Boston. He is not identifying the firm until he leaves office.
"I think it's time to go," Lelling said. "It's a new crew at the Justice Department and their law enforcement policies may be different than the ones I would want to enforce. Knowing that the new administration is going to ask you to move on at some point, this seemed like the time to seek new challenges and go do them."
Former President Donald Trump appointed Lelling as Massachusetts U.S. Attorney in 2017 and his appointment was unanimously confirmed by the Senate. Lelling has worked in the Massachusetts US Attorneys Office since 2005.
Lelling said he hopes to be known as a prosecutor who pursued cases without "fear or outside influence," and who made sure that everyone was treated fairly under the law.
"Credibility for the criminal justice system depends on people thinking that, for the most part, people who are caught up in the criminal justice system will be treated the same," Lelling said. "Regardless of wealth or status, people need to be treated the same way. That's always been important to me and I think we've been able to make it come home during my tenure."
During his tenure, Lelling's office prosecuted the so-called "Varsity Blues" college admissions scandal. It also pursued corruption investigations of the Massachusetts State Police, which resulted in charges against 11 current and former members of the state police.
Lelling came under fire for his decision to pursue obstruction of justice charges against suspended Newton District Court Judge Shelley Richmond Joseph. She, along with retired court officer Wesley MacGregor, are accused of helping an undocumented immigrant evade arrest by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2018 by allowing the man to exit the courthouse through a back door to help him.
"I still support having brought that case and I wouldn't make a different decision today," Lelling said. "We spent a lot of time figuring out what to do with this case. At the end of the day, I think we came to a correct use of prosecutorial discretion."
Because of the public and political nature of the U.S. Attorney's post, Lelling has been asked about possibly running for office. He says that's something possible down the road.
"I wouldn't foreclose the possibility, "Lelling said. "There are a lot of options I'm thinking about for the future. I have no immediate plans to think hard about running for any office. For the time being, I'm going to be in the private sector. And by 'the time being,' I mean years."
First Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathaniel Mendell will serve as acting U.S. Attorney until Lelling's replacement is confirmed.
A local advisory committee, set up by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, has been screening potential replacements for Lelling.
Last month, The Boston Globe reported that the four finalists for the U.S. attorney position are Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins; Josh Levy, a partner at Ropes & Gray; and two people who already work in the U.S. attorney's office in Massachusetts, chief of the civil rights unit Jennifer Serafyn and Springfield office head Deepika Bains Shukla.
The committee will make a recommendation to Warren and Markey, who then make a recommendation to the White House.
Material from State House News Service was used in this report.
This article was originally published on February 10, 2021.