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US prosecutor quitting after Edwards indictment

The federal prosecutor who oversaw investigations into former presidential candidate John Edwards and former Gov. Mike Easley is resigning.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The federal prosecutor who oversaw investigations into former presidential candidate John Edwards and former Gov. Mike Easley is resigning.

U.S. Attorney George Holding on Friday announced that he would step down on July 8. He has headed criminal and civil cases in eastern North Carolina since 2006 and previously worked as an assistant federal prosecutor.

“I came to the United States Attorney’s Office in March of 2002 with the mission of making this office into one of the best law firms in North Carolina. We have succeeded," Holding said in a statement. "I am proud that, during the past nine-plus years, we have successfully addressed our national and district priorities, such as aggressive prosecution of violent criminals, child predators, drug traffickers, white collar criminals, would-be terrorists and corrupt public officials.”

Edwards was indicted a week ago and pleaded not guilty to charges of violating federal campaign finance laws, criminal conspiracy and making false statements. Easley pleaded guilty in November to a felony campaign finance violation in state court.

Holding is a Republican nominated by former President George W. Bush. He stayed in his post as chief federal prosecutor in eastern North Carolina after Democrats took the White House to prevent any disruption in the Edwards and Easley cases.

In addition to Edwards and Easley, Holding's office also prosecuted high-profile Democrats like former House Speaker Jim Black, former Congressman Frank Ballance and former Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps. Still, he said, politics never played a role in the cases.

"The priorities of the Department of Justice from the Bush administration to the Obama administration remained fairly consistent," he said. "The No. 1 priority of the department – the No. 1 priority of this office – is the prevention of terror."

Attorneys in the office already have secured guilty pleas from a Johnston County man who led a local terrorist cell and one of his sons. Five other men charged in the case are expected to go to trial on terrorism charges this fall.

President Barack Obama has nominated Thomas Walker of Charlotte to succeed Holding. Walker, a federal prosecutor in western North Carolina and a former colleague of state Attorney General Roy Cooper, is backed by both of North Carolina's U.S. senators.

“Given the decision of the Department of Justice to have its Public Integrity Section prosecute the case against John Edwards and U.S. Attorney George Holding’s announcement that he is stepping down, I will return Thomas Walker’s blue slip when the Senate reconvenes next week,” Sen. Richard Burr said in a statement.

Holding said the best of his job is recruiting attorneys, not prosecuting defendants.

"When we have an attorney vacancy, we will get hundreds of resumes from all over the country from attorneys who want to come here, wear the white hat and stand up every day and say, 'I represent the United States of America,'" he said.


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