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Bush picks top federal prosecutor for Western District

Assistant, 38, gets U.S. attorney nod

Wednesday, September 05, 2001

By Torsten Ove, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The White House announced yesterday that President Bush intends to nominate federal prosecutor Mary Beth Buchanan to be the next U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Mary Beth Buchanan

If confirmed by the Senate, Buchanan, 38, of Fox Chapel, will be the chief federal law enforcement official in the region, with jurisdiction over 25 counties.

Buchanan was traveling in Spain yesterday and couldn't be reached for comment, but colleagues, agents and attorneys who have worked with her said she would be a fine successor to former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman, who resigned in April.

"She is a career prosecutor, she is highly motivated, and she is someone who has been very involved in different aspects of community service for many years, not just in her career but in her spare time, too," said Fred Egler, past chairman of the Federal Court Section Council of the Allegheny County Bar Association.

Buchanan was one of seven or eight initial candidates for the job, a list that was later whittled down to three, including Robert Cessar, also an assistant U.S. attorney.

 
  Background

MARY BETH BUCHANAN

Age: 38

Residence: Fox Chapel

Education: California University of Pennsylvania (1984), University of Pittsburgh Law School (1987).

Career: Assistant U.S. attorney since 1988, starting in the civil division and moving to the criminal division in 1992.

Family: She and her husband, Tom Buchanan, an attorney with Buchanan Ingersoll, have a college-age daughter.

   
 

Cessar said any one of the candidates would have made a good choice.

Buchanan has been an assistant U.S. attorney since 1988, first serving in the civil division and moving to the criminal division in 1992.

She was instrumental in starting the Western Pennsylvania Crimes Against Children Task Force. The Pittsburgh-based team of state, local and federal law enforcement officers was formed three years ago to crack down on computer-related crimes involving children.

One of her more notable cases was the prosecution of David Scott Zimmerman, the former cross-country and boys' basketball coach at Vincentian Academy in McCandless who was charged with possessing child pornography.

Zimmerman pleaded guilty last year and in January was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Most federal agents who have worked with Buchanan describe her as thorough and committed, especially in the areas of child sexual exploitation, credit card fraud and identity theft.

"We've always had a solid relationship with the U.S. attorney's office and Mary Beth in particular," said John Wisniewski, U.S. postal inspector in charge of the local Financial Crimes Task Force.

Long-time Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Teitelbaum said Buchanan's wide range of criminal work would suit the office well in dealing with the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and other federal agencies.

"With the years she has put in and cases she has seen from that perspective," he said, "I think she'll understand where all of us are coming from, particularly in our relationships with the agencies."

As a lawyer, Buchanan has a reputation for tenacity and precision. Her legal briefs are well-researched and in court she comes across as focused and intense.

"I'm thrilled to get the news," said Susan Yohe, co-chair of the Women in the Law Committee of the county bar association.

"She's incredibly organized, diligent and gracious. Those are the words that come to mind when I think of her. You can just see that in the [court] work she does and in the volunteer work she does."

Buchanan, who is married to Buchanan Ingersoll lawyer Tom Buchanan and has a college-age daughter, serves on the Child Exploitation Subcommittee of the Attorney General's Advisory Committee and the Pennsylvania Commission of Women in the Profession. She is co-president of the Women's Bar Association of Western Pennsylvania.

She is the past president of the American Inns of Court, University of Pittsburgh School of Law chapter, and a member of the board of directors of the American Heart Association.

Buchanan regularly runs the Great Race and has competed in the Pittsburgh Marathon.

After earning a bachelor's degree from California University of Pennsylvania and her law degree from the University of Pittsburgh, she worked in private practice in Pittsburgh for two years before joining the U.S. attorney's office.

She was named by Bush at the recommendation of Sens. Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter, both Pennsylvania Republicans.

She would succeed interim U.S. Attorney Linda Kelly, who has had the job since Litman left.



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