WASHINGTON - The troubled Justice Department unit that investigates corruption of public officials is getting new leadership amid a criminal probe into how it handled evidence in the prosecution of Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska.
Career prosecutor Jack Smith has accepted the job of heading the public integrity section, and prosecutor Ray Hulser has agreed to become Smith's principal deputy, Justice spokeswoman Laura Sweeney said Thursday.
Stevens served 40 years in the Senate but lost re-election days after being convicted on corruption charges in 2008. The guilty verdict was dismissed after the Justice Department acknowledged it had improperly withheld evidence from lawyers for Stevens.
The previous head of the unit, William Welch, is now a federal prosecutor in Massachusetts.
Smith is moving from the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, which oversees sensitive investigations of former government officials for war crimes. The court is in The Hague in the Netherlands.
Previously, Smith supervised 100 prosecutors at the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn. He has tried more than 50 criminal cases.
Cases brought by the public integrity section are some of the most important in the Justice Department and "Jack is well-accustomed to doing high-intensity prosecutions under a microscope; he's well-suited for the job," said Ben Campbell, a prosecutor with the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn, N.Y., for 15 years.