New York City’s Top Corruption Watchdog Leaves for Federal Role

Margaret Garnett, the commissioner of the New York City Bureau of Corruption in Local Government, will leave her post and become the No. 2 officer in the U.S. law firm for New York’s Southern District, that office said Wednesday.

Ms. Garnett, who previously served as a district attorney in the Southern District for 12 years, has been the city’s investigating commissioner since late 2018, when she was nominated for the position by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Last week, in perhaps her final report as commissioner, her office, the Department of Investigation, criticized Mr. De Blasio’s use of his security data for political and personal reasons, including for travel he made during his presidential campaign — findings that the mayor sharply criticized. .

During her hearing for the city’s position, Ms. Garnett told councilors she would “hang up” if someone called her and tried to pressure her into stopping a city investigation.

Garnett’s new appointment was announced by Damian Williams, who was sworn in on Sunday as the new US attorney for New York’s Southern District.

Mr. Williams also appointed Daniel M. Gitner, a longtime white-collar defense attorney, to head the district’s criminal division, which includes approximately 175 U.S. assistant attorneys.

The Southern District has long been known for its handling of complex federal prosecutions of fraud and corruption.

The office is preparing to try Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s longtime companion, next month on sex trafficking charges and other charges. Mrs. Maxwell has pleaded innocent. The office is also investigating Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, attorney for former President Donald J. Trump and former attorney for the US Southern District, over his dealings in Ukraine ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Mr. Giuliani has denied doing anything.

In a pending terrorism prosecution, the Southern District has said it will seek the death penalty if it is convicted of Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek man charged with a 2017 truck attack that killed eight people on a busy Manhattan bike path — the deadliest terrorist attack. in New York City since September 11, 2001.

Mr Saipov carried out the attack with the aim of joining the Islamic State, a federal indictment has charged; he has pleaded not guilty.

In announcing the appointments, Mr. Williams said Ms. Garnett’s “public service narrative career leaves no doubt that she will be an exceptional deputy U.S. attorney,” and said that Mr. Gitner was “one of the best trial attorneys in America since he left his previous job as a district attorney in the Southern District in 2005.

Mr. Gitner, who led the Southern District General Crimes Division for a time, has been a partner at the law firm Lankler Siffert & Wohl since 2005. Mrs. Garnett’s career includes working as a senior official in the Attorney General’s office. In an email to her staff on Wednesday, she said she would step down on Nov. 10 and that Daniel Cort, the agency’s first deputy commissioner, would take over as acting commissioner.

She said she felt “extremely fortunate to have been able to serve the people of New York City alongside all of you for the past three years.”

“You have inspired me every day with your dedication to telling the truth, to holding people accountable regardless of power or position, and to giving New Yorkers the fair government they deserve,” she wrote.

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