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More MS news articles for September 2003

Curran Steps Down from U.S. Attorney Post

Rhode Island's first female in the job and the lead prosecutor behind the Cianci conviction leaves office today

August 26, 2003
The Providence Journal
Tom Mooney - Journal Staff Writer

Four years ago when U.S. Attorney Margaret E. Curran shared her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis with her staff, she told them "that if I felt in any way for a second that it affected my ability to do the job, I would step down."

At the time, Curran said, "I have no reason to think it will."

But yesterday, Curran, who is 50 and Rhode Island's first female U.S. Attorney, announced she was resigning as of today.

Her two-page announcement noted her illness in the first paragraph. Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease of the central nervous system which in the last few years has hampered Curran's movement and eyesight.

U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft is expected to name an interim replacement for Curran by day's end today, according to Thomas Connell, Curran's spokesman.

Connell said he couldn't speculate whether the replacement would be Bradford Gorham, chairman of the state Republican Party, whom U.S. Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee nominated for the post last February. (The U.S. Senate must approve the nomination before President Bush can appoint him.)

Gorham was out of town until Monday and unavailable for comment, a secretary in his Scituate law office said yesterday.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, who recommended Curran to lead the federal prosecutors' office, yesterday commended Curran "on five years of extraordinary service" as the U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island. "She has performed her duties with superb ability, professionalism, and competence."

"I am pleased to have recommended such a capable candidate who has exceeded with her excellent work, commitment and high standards. Her presence will certainly be missed in the U.S. Attorney's office and I wish her and her family all the best."

Curran has served as Rhode Island's chief federal prosecutor since May 1998 after Sheldon Whitehouse resigned from the post. President Clinton later appointed her full-time.

After President Bush was elected, Chafee recommended to the White House that Curran remain in office. Curran has served longer under the Republican administration of President Bush than under Clinton, a Democrat.

Her tenure was highlighted by the successful corruption probe of former Providence Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. and several City Hall officials.

Curran worked in private practice before joining the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney's office in 1986, then under the direction of Lincoln Almond. When Almond become governor, he nominated Curran to the state Supreme Court but the Democratic House of Representatives rejected her nomination.

In April 1999, almost a year after becoming U.S. Attorney, Curran remained in awe of the gravity of her job.

Her office's investigation into corruption at Providence City Hall had just become public. Curran told The Journal: ". . . As prosecutors, we really are in a very special position. We have so much power to affect other people's lives, and it's so important to keep that in mind all the time."

Curran publicly revealed her illness that day, too.

"I have to tell you I was not happy to hear this," she said of her diagnosis. "But I think that part of my world view has always been that for me, I never felt in control of what was going to happen, and what's in the future is always unknown." Good things happen, bad things happen, and "that's just the way the world works."

Copyright © 2003, The Providence Journal