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Charlotte Amalie
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HURD: PUBLIC CORRUPTION STILL THE PRIORITY

Comparing the territory to cities with histories of public corruption such as New Orleans and Phoenix, U.S. Attorney James Hurd said Saturday that Virgin Islanders have become "inured" to corruption among their public officials.
But, he added, "I'm not saying we're worse than other places."
Hurd, who spoke at the 32nd annual meeting of the V.I. League of Women Voters, reiterated what he has said before: Public corruption is his No. 1 priority.
As for the widespread public acceptance of corruption, Hurd said the recent charges brought by the V.I. Justice Department against former Gov. Roy L. Schneider spurred many calls to his office to report misdeeds within the government. He expressed hope that residents were beginning to see how public corruption directly affects them.
He promised there will be more public corruption cases "coming very soon," including some "that have been in the pipeline for many years."
He said the cases should be filed before the end of this fiscal year, Sept. 30, but noted it is difficult to prosecute cases years after the fact. Ideally, it is easier "to catch somebody in the act," he said — acknowledging at the same time that it is hard to "investigate the hand that feeds you."
It is not his intent to go after the "little person," he said. "There is corruption going on at the very highest levels, and that's what the public wants to see prosecuted," he said.
The task force formed recently by the V.I. inspector general's and attorney general's offices along with U.S. Interior Department auditors will assist the investigations, Hurd said. When asked what happens when information is withheld from auditors and investigators, he replied, "There are sanctions that can be used; that's all I'll say."
Hurd also addressed the apparent gang-related violence that resulted in two deaths in three drive-by shootings last week. He said that gang task forces made up of federal and local agencies have worked in other jurisdictions and he hopes such a task force will be formed here.
"Until recently, we never thought we had a gang problem," he said, "but that's changing, and you're seeing the result of that. Normally, the feds don't take the lead on violent crime," but it is "on our short list."
He said federal criminal investigation agencies get involved automatically in cases such as a bank robbery or carjacking, but would not step into other cases unless asked to do so by local authorities.
He said the Safe Streets Task Force, which is made up of officers from the V.I. Police Department, the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Office and the Drug Enforcement Agency, was formed under direct orders to solve two specific crimes. They were the murder of two construction workers in Estate Dorothea in 1996 and the shooting of several tourists at the Saga Haven Marina around the same time. Both cases remain unsolved.
Hurd also said his office is charged with prosecuting environmental crimes, in part because the local government often is the defendant. He cited the recent case of the St. Croix sewage bypass in which an "unprecedented hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage was being pumped directly into the ocean." In that case, he said, the prosecution arm of the Planning and Natural Resources Department joined his office in bringing suit against the V.I. government.
The U.S. attorney also investigates and prosecutes crimes involving the Police Department, Hurd noted.

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Comparing the territory to cities with histories of public corruption such as New Orleans and Phoenix, U.S. Attorney James Hurd said Saturday that Virgin Islanders have become "inured" to corruption among their public officials.
But, he added, "I'm not saying we're worse than other places."
Hurd, who spoke at the 32nd annual meeting of the V.I. League of Women Voters, reiterated what he has said before: Public corruption is his No. 1 priority.
As for the widespread public acceptance of corruption, Hurd said the recent charges brought by the V.I. Justice Department against former Gov. Roy L. Schneider spurred many calls to his office to report misdeeds within the government. He expressed hope that residents were beginning to see how public corruption directly affects them.
He promised there will be more public corruption cases "coming very soon," including some "that have been in the pipeline for many years."
He said the cases should be filed before the end of this fiscal year, Sept. 30, but noted it is difficult to prosecute cases years after the fact. Ideally, it is easier "to catch somebody in the act," he said -- acknowledging at the same time that it is hard to "investigate the hand that feeds you."
It is not his intent to go after the "little person," he said. "There is corruption going on at the very highest levels, and that's what the public wants to see prosecuted," he said.
The task force formed recently by the V.I. inspector general's and attorney general's offices along with U.S. Interior Department auditors will assist the investigations, Hurd said. When asked what happens when information is withheld from auditors and investigators, he replied, "There are sanctions that can be used; that's all I'll say."
Hurd also addressed the apparent gang-related violence that resulted in two deaths in three drive-by shootings last week. He said that gang task forces made up of federal and local agencies have worked in other jurisdictions and he hopes such a task force will be formed here.
"Until recently, we never thought we had a gang problem," he said, "but that's changing, and you're seeing the result of that. Normally, the feds don't take the lead on violent crime," but it is "on our short list."
He said federal criminal investigation agencies get involved automatically in cases such as a bank robbery or carjacking, but would not step into other cases unless asked to do so by local authorities.
He said the Safe Streets Task Force, which is made up of officers from the V.I. Police Department, the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Office and the Drug Enforcement Agency, was formed under direct orders to solve two specific crimes. They were the murder of two construction workers in Estate Dorothea in 1996 and the shooting of several tourists at the Saga Haven Marina around the same time. Both cases remain unsolved.
Hurd also said his office is charged with prosecuting environmental crimes, in part because the local government often is the defendant. He cited the recent case of the St. Croix sewage bypass in which an "unprecedented hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage was being pumped directly into the ocean." In that case, he said, the prosecution arm of the Planning and Natural Resources Department joined his office in bringing suit against the V.I. government.
The U.S. attorney also investigates and prosecutes crimes involving the Police Department, Hurd noted.