The acting U.S. attorney for Massachusetts reflects on his first year in office

Despite being named Massachusetts’ top federal prosecutor amid controversy, Acting U.S. Attorney Joshua Levy said the office has rebounded and he is grateful to have him at the helm.

“I never thought I would become acting U.S. attorney under these circumstances,” Levy said Wednesday during a media roundtable at his office. “But I did my very best every day to show up and stabilize the office.”

Levy was appointed to the post when his predecessor, Rachael Rollins, resigned following two damning ethics reports from federal investigators. The reports outlined allegations of misconduct while Rollins served as U.S. attorney in Massachusetts, including attempting to use the federal office to interfere in local politics.

Levy said the office is strong and that the charges did not relate to the work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“I will not sugar-coat the events that occurred,” Levy said. “It was a significant blow to the office when those reports came out. That said, the former U.S. Attorney’s tenure is a smaller speck in the rearview mirror every day.”

When Rollins resigned last May, Levy was named “acting” U.S. attorney for Massachusetts. Although President Biden nominated him for the permanent post, the US Senate did not vote to confirm the nomination.

“I want the ‘acting’ taken out of my title,” Levy said. “I am now waiting for a vote in the Senate on whether or not it will happen.”

One problem that has grown for Levy is the potential risks to law enforcement. He mentioned a recent case in which a man charged in a federal drug case allegedly said he wanted two federal prosecutors killed.

“We live in very vicious times,” Levy said. “I would say that the threats against members of law enforcement are happening across the country and it became clear to us in that case. When two of our own people were threatened, this was the case I thought about when I could close my eyes at night and when my eyes opened in the morning.”

Now, Levy says, the firm focuses on different issues and prosecutes more human trafficking cases than any other U.S. law firm in the country.

The office’s largest unit deals with crimes involving narcotics and money laundering, tackling both the supply and demand for drugs. He said the drug overdose deaths in Massachusetts show that the opioid epidemic is still a problem that needs to be addressed by law enforcement.

“Our numbers on opioid overdose deaths are not good,” Levy said. “The numbers have come down somewhat, but they are still far too high. We are going after large-scale drug traffickers and we have several cases with international roots, really back to Mexico.”

While there is growing interest in Massachusetts in allowing safe injection sites, where people can use illegal drugs under medical supervision, Levy said he has not yet determined how his office might respond.

“It’s an issue we’re monitoring,” he said. “If and when there comes a time when we have to take a stand, I can tell you it will be a department-wide stand. This is a national issue and I have consulted with officials within (the U.S. Department of State’s Justice Department) to gain knowledge on this subject, but we will address it when it is appropriate.”

Moving forward, Levy said his priorities include efforts to keep communities safe, protect children and work on hate crimes and civil rights cases. He said he also wants to consider innovative criminal justice reforms and ways to reduce recidivism.

“I feel very privileged to have this job,” Levy said. “I feel the same way at 58 as I did at 35 about how lucky I am to be able to work in this office.”

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