The chief state attorney in North Dakota at the time was the Philadelphia District Attorney. He chased the girl’s attacker. When he was explaining his job, the child interrupted him and said she understood, “You are the lawyer who walks around,” she said.
“At this moment I never hoped as much as I did at this moment,” he said in an interview on Friday, February 26th. “I’ve had many moments over the years that I’ve never hoped again.”
The 55-year-old said his focus as a U.S. attorney in North Dakota had the most impact instead of piling bodies in jail. Upon his resignation, he will hand over the reins to United States First Assistant Attorney, Nick Chase, who will serve as acting U.S. attorney until the U.S. Senate approves Wrigley’s replacement.
Sunday is Wrigley’s last day in office.
Wrigley said it has been a privilege to work with dedicated employees who are interested in the public service. He knew he would eventually leave, so he said he wanted to make sure his staff had authority to continue the work of the U.S. Attorney General.
“I sleep very well at night and know that I have done my best to put that power in the hands of people who have the ethics, have the objective mindset and believe in the idea of justice,” he said.
Wrigley said he has no immediate plans other than watching his children play high school basketball for Shiloh Christian in Bismarck after the season. President Joe Biden, asking for Wrigley’s resignation, came sooner than expected, he said, and the attorney is taking time to figure out what’s next.
“I’m not afraid of it,” he said. “I take on the idea of taking some time to really work through some options.”
Wrigley said he did not rule out running for public office. He also said he owed a lot to the public because his community did not pull him and his family in different directions.
“We live in a very special place,” said Wrigley. “It’s worth protecting, and I believe in my work here.”
In the end, he said, he has no regrets.
“Recently I was asked several times, ‘Do you think it was worth coming back for two years? ‘I said, “It would have been worth coming back for two weeks.”
Drew Wrigley, North Dakota Bar District Resignation Letter. Chris Flynn / The Forum
A native of Bismarck, he graduated from the University of North Dakota before graduating from the American University in Washington, DC with a law degree. After serving as the assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, he returned to North Dakota to practice his first US attorney practice in 2001.
At 36, he is one of the youngest US lawyers in the country.
Wrigley is well known for prosecuting Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., a sex offender who kidnapped, raped and killed UND student Dru Sjodin in 2003.
Rodriguez is the only person sentenced on death row in North Dakota after being convicted of Sjodin’s murder in 2006. His lawyers continue to argue that he should not be killed.
Wrigley said he was 100% behind his decision to prosecute Rodriguez for the death penalty. In his second tenure as a US attorney, he continued to argue that Rodriguez’s previous acts of raping and harming other women, as well as the cruelty with which he treated Sjodin, justified the death penalty.
After leaving the US attorney’s office in 2009 at the request of former President Barack Obama, he was lieutenant governor from 2010 to 2016. He then worked for Sanford Health before being appointed a US attorney by former President Donald Trump in 2019.
There were easy moments and challenging days, said Wrigley. He noted that he was focused on various values including transparency, accessibility, accountability, and service-minded efforts.
“The public pays our wages and we have no right not to talk about what we are doing to the public,” he said.
US attorney Drew Wrigley announces the prosecution of a major drug trafficking in Detroit that targets Indian reservations in North Dakota during a press conference held at the Quentin N. Burdick US courthouse in Fargo on Wednesday, February 24th. Michael Vosburg / Forum photo editor
Wrigley highlighted the civil practice of his office. This included a settlement that gave more support to adults with disabilities so that they could stay in their homes. He also noted a federal agreement regarding an accessibility violation in a North Dakota State University multisport arena known as SHAC.
On the criminal side, Wrigley focused on increasing drug enforcement in Native American tribal areas, resulting in some of the largest fentanyl charges in North Dakota history. He also highlighted efforts to prosecute firearms violations and said they had prevented violent crimes.
“This is someone in the community who will be on the front page next week for murdering someone in a drug fight,” he said.
Wrigley has been criticized for following several protesters charged with rioting in downtown Fargo last summer. Describing the behavior during the riot as outrageous, he noted that officials were injured, public safety was at risk and property was damaged.
He promised to pursue every federal case he could prove related to the uprising. He said he was with the person who threatened former U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, DN.D., and a defendant accused of destroying U.S. Republican Senator John Hoeven’s Fargo office dealt with the same answer.
“We will not tolerate crossing the line between language and freedom of assembly, violence, threats and chaos,” he said.