CYCLING – Bill Powell, a US attorney from the northern district of West Virginia, announced his resignation effective February 28 at midnight.
Powell, a graduate of Salem College and West Virginia University College of Law, previously served as assistant prosecutor in Jefferson County. He also held positions as a member of Jackson Kelly, PLLC, and as an associate US attorney in the US Attorney’s Office for the southern district of West Virginia.
“It has been a great professional honor for me to work with the dedicated men and women in the northern district of West Virginia. With this commitment and their hard work, the districts’ successes were possible. I believe this district is an example of consistency, fairness and effectiveness. I have always done my best to serve justice and have done so in an impartial manner. I will miss serving in this position more than words can express, and I wish every success to everyone who is appointed to the new US attorney. “
During Powell’s tenure as a U.S. attorney, the number of defendants charged at the federal level has increased by 50%, with a conviction rate of 90%. He campaigned for Justice Department initiatives such as Elder Justice, Project Safe Neighborhoods, and the fight against the drug epidemic. Powell and his team took a strong stance on drugs. 85% of the drug suspects were sentenced to prison terms.
He also took a tough stance on firearms convictions, with 90% of those convicted of firearms violations going to jail. He fostered better relationships with law enforcement agencies and understood that working together makes our communities safer. From 2017 to 2018, cities in the northern district of West Virginia saw violent crime decrease by more than 20%. Martinsburg saw a more marked decrease of more than 30%.
Powell worked diligently with his staff, the FBI, and the Inspector General’s Veterans Affairs Office to ensure the murders of eight veterans at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center were fully investigated and the person responsible was brought to justice. Reta Mays, a former hospital employee, admitted her guilt in July 2020. Mays pleaded guilty to seven second-degree murders when seven veterans died and one murder plot with the death of the eighth veteran. Mays will be convicted later that year. She faces life imprisonment.
Powell also oversaw active involvement in solutions to contain the opioid epidemic in the district, understanding that law enforcement is only a small part of reducing the drug abuse problem in West Virginia. The office has acted with several quick response teams in the district offering support and staff to help with their good work. He also provided thousands of hours of staff for prevention presentations to schools across the district, reaching thousands of students each year.
Drugs law enforcement took up the bulk of the criminal complaint each year as the office, along with law enforcement partners, focused on dismantling several drug trafficking operations that involved many other states and jurisdictions. From prosecuting members of the MS-13 gang for trafficking in human beings to dissecting and disbanding criminal companies that shipped hundreds of pounds of dangerous drugs to the mountain state, Powell led his team to take a tough stance on reducing drugs used by brought into the state outside of the state. state drug dealers who want to hunt down West Virgins.
In 2018, Powell announced Operation Synthetic Opioid Surge (SOS), created by the Attorney General, which is focused on a surge in law enforcement against those who sell fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. The Northern District of West Virginia was one of 10 participating districts. SOS focused on efforts in the NDWV in Berkeley County. Berkeley County has consistently had the highest rate of overdose deaths in the district. In 2020, 50 defendants were named in 11 charges under the SOS initiative.
Powell was one of nine U.S. attorneys who were an integral part of the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force (ARPO Strike Force), a joint law enforcement effort that brings together the resources and expertise of the Healthcare Fraud Division within the Criminal Division’s Fraud Division Section (HCF Unit), the US law firms in five states and law enforcement partners at the FBI, the US Department of Health of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The mission of the ARPO Strike Force is to identify and investigate healthcare fraud programs in the Appalachian Mountains and the surrounding areas. Powell insisted that efforts be made to hold doctors and pharmacists accountable for the illicit prescribing and distribution of opioids, and several have been prosecuted. The district’s civilian division also played its part, rallying large settlements of health care providers, including a $ 50 million settlement with Wheeling Hospital, Inc. in 2020.
Powell is vice chairman of Appalachia HIDTA (High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area). Appalachia’s HIDTA mission is to enhance and coordinate efforts by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to enforce drugs in areas designated as drug trafficking areas by pursuing the disruption / dismantling of drug trafficking organizations , particularly regarding the specific drug threat to the Appalachian region. Some of the district’s drug task forces are partially or fully funded by Appalachia HIDTA and Washington / Baltimore HIDTA.
The office also worked diligently on behalf of the victims, ensuring their voices were heard and cases brought to justice. From October 2017 to February 2021, the district reclaimed nearly $ 60 million in civil and criminal collections for victims and secured their perpetrators for several years in prison.
During his three and a half years as a US attorney, Powell hired 13 new US assistant attorneys to continue the criminal and civilian work in the district. He also hired 12 new support staff to work in the four district offices.
Powell was nominated as a United States Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia by President Donald J. Trump on August 3, 2017. He was ratified by the United States Senate on October 3, 2017. On October 13, 2017, Chief U.S. District Judge Gina M. Groh took the oath of office on U.S. attorney Powell, becoming the 28th person to serve in that position.
The northern district of West Virginia comprises 32 counties and includes the cities of Wheeling, Martinsburg, Clarksburg, and Elkins. The US Attorney’s Office with human resources offices in these cities has 25 lawyers and is responsible for conducting all criminal and civil litigation in the district in which the US government is involved.
Powell’s plans after the resignation were not announced.