Candidates emerge to replace Schneider as U.S. attorney in Detroit

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider announced Thursday that he has resigned as the top law enforcement official in southeast Michigan after leading a crackdown on public corruption and imposing federal oversight of the United Auto Workers.

The move coincided with the inauguration of President Joe Biden, who will nominate new U.S. Attorneys nationwide in coming months. Schneider will be replaced next month on an interim basis by veteran federal prosecutor Saima Mohsin,who will become the first female, immigrant, Muslim U.S. attorney in American history.

Matthew Schneider

A diverse field of current and former federal prosecutors has signaled interest in becoming the next U.S. attorney in Detroit. The group is emerging as Biden has signaled interest in fixing racial injustice at a time of heightened focus on disparities within the criminal justice system.

Schneider,whose departure was expected with the change in presidential administrations, will join the Honigman law firm in Detroit as a partner and co-leader of its white-collar defense and investigations practice. He also will be a member of the firm's government relations and regulatory practice.

“It has been the honor of my lifetime to serve the people of eastern Michigan, alongside the incredibly hard-working team at the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” Schneider said in a statement. “In the last three years, this team has overcome tremendous challenges, from the longest federal government shutdown in American history to an enormous rise in violent crime, the greatest increase in civil unrest since 1967 and a global pandemic.

"Through it all, the lawyers and support staff of this office have faithfully enforced the law, supported our law enforcement partners, and protected our fellow citizens, and I could not be more proud of the work that they have accomplished."

Schneider bulked up the office's team of prosecutors, hiring more than 100 people, including 40 assistant U.S. attorneys, about 70% of whom are women.

He also oversaw notable prosecutions, including:

• A proposed deal — coming after prosecutors secured the convictions of 15 people, including two former UAW presidents — for oversight of the United Auto Workers union for six years. It would let rank-and-file workers decide whether to alter the union's constitution to allow for direct election of future leaders. Such a constitutional change would be groundbreaking and give members the right to hold elections and directly vote for new UAW leaders for the first time in more than 70 years.

• The largest number of public corruption cases in the U.S. More than 108 public officials, bureaucrats, union leaders and police officers have been charged with federal crimes in recent years in the Detroit region.

• His office also teamed with federal prosecutors in Grand Rapids to charge six men with plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Michigan Democratic U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters are fielding applications from interested parties and will recommend candidates to be the next U.S. attorneys in Detroit and Grand Rapids.

The Eastern District of Michigan covers a wide geographic area, spanning 34 counties and serving 6.5 million people across the eastern half of the Lower Peninsula.

The diverse field of candidates interested in the U.S. attorney nomination includes:

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark Chutkow and Eaton Brown walk away from the Theodore Levin Federal Courthouse in Detroit on Tuesday, May 21, 2019.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow, chief of the office's criminal division. Chutkow, who could not be reached for comment, was one of the two lead prosecutors who secured the landmark conviction of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, contractor Bobby Ferguson and others during a broad crackdown on City Hall corruption.

Eric Doeh

Eric Doeh, deputy CEO/chief operating officer of the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network. He is a former assistant U.S. attorney who served alongside Chutkow and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bullotta in the Kilpatrick case. Doeh served as deputy chief assistant U.S. attorney from 2015-17 after working in the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, handling homicide cases.

Doeh said he is particularly interested in working with other members of the law enforcement community to address racial injustice and jail reform.

“We can come together and be reasonable, recognizing public safety comes first but it cannot be at the detriment of constitutional rights and liberties,” Doeh told The Detroit News on Thursday.

Christopher Graveline

Christopher Graveline, director of professional standards and constitutional policing for the Detroit Police Department. Graveline, who declined comment, ran for Michigan Attorney General as an independent in 2018 but lost to Dana Nessel.

He is a former assistant U.S. attorney who headed the violent and organized crime unit, and prosecuted a large-scale racketeering case against the Seven Mile Bloods street gang in Detroit. The case was highlighted in the narrative series Death by Instagram in The News.

Dawn Ison

Dawn Ison, a federal prosecutor assigned to the public corruption unit. Ison, who declined comment, was appointed last fall to oversee how the U.S. Attorney's Office handled Election Day complaints about fraud and helped ensure voting was safe and secure amid concerns about voter intimidation and foreign interference. 

Louis Gabel

Louis Gabel, a partner with the Jones Day law firm in Detroit who handles white-collar defense work and government and civil investigations. He is a former assistant U.S. attorney.

Mohsin, meanwhile, declined comment on whether she will pursue the job on a permanent basis.

rsnell@detroitnews.com