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Biden names Dallas prosecutor Damien Diggs first Black U.S. attorney for East Texas

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has selected career Dallas District Attorney Damien Diggs as his U.S. Attorney in East Texas. If confirmed, he would be the first black attorney to lead the federal law enforcement office from Plano to Beaumont, including Jasper, where an infamous genocide took place.

The nomination, announced by the White House on Wednesday night, ended months of inexplicable delays that have continued despite strong bipartisan support for Diggs.

Texas Republican Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn campaigned for the nomination. So does Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas, who was the state’s top-ranking Democrat in Congress until her retirement last month.

In mid-October, when Biden named his nominees to head the other three US law firms in Texas, Cruz increased the pressure by openly accusing him of snubbing Diggs without explanation. Calling him an “excellent candidate” who met with “enigmatic” opposition, Cruz wrote to White House Counsel Stuart Delery at the time that the election was “particularly significant” given Jasper’s 1998 murder.

After the nomination was secured, Cruz again referred to this incident.

“Upon confirmation, Damien will be the first African-American U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District, a significant milestone considering James Byrd Jr. was murdered in the Eastern District in 1998 after being dragged to death and it is… What is known as remnants of the Ku Klux Klan only operated in the area in the 1990s,” Cruz said. “Damien is a veteran prosecutor and community leader, and his nomination sends a strong, positive message about how far we have come as a nation. I look forward to his quick confirmation.”

Ted Cruz says Joe Biden snubbed the election of a bipartisan US attorney for East Texas

Midway through his tenure, Biden has now appointed US attorneys for 68 of the country’s 93 districts.

“I’m honored to be nominated and look forward to the confirmation process,” Diggs said via email on Thursday, declining to comment further.

The Senate confirmed the other three Texas US attorneys by ballot on December 6th.

In August 2021, the Justice Department’s Association of Black Attorneys sent a letter to White House and Attorney General Merrick Garland supporting Diggs and 15 other black prosecutors to diversify the ranks of US attorneys.

In the last year of the Trump administration, there were two black US attorneys.

The Eastern District comprises 43 of Texas’ 254 counties. In addition to Plano and Beaumont, these include Sherman, Tyler, Marshall and Texarkana.

Diggs has served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Texas in Dallas since 2018, serving in the Criminal Division’s Violent Crimes Unit. That comes after six years as an assistant US attorney in the nation’s capital, handling homicides and other criminal cases.

Prior to that, he worked in the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for five years.

All four of Biden’s US attorneys for Texas were recommended by a panel of Texas attorneys that advises Cruz and Cornyn on judge selection. They were also on lists presented by Johnson, a key player in such matters when Democrats occupy the White House.

Cornyn called him “a seasoned federal attorney with experience handling a wide range of cases…I look forward to seeing him ensure the government is well represented in the Texas courtrooms.”

Diggs graduated from Towson University in suburban Baltimore and received his law degree from American University in 2003.

In the 2020 election, Diggs oversaw complaints in the Northern District related to voter fraud and voting rights.

That same year, he secured guilty pleas from three gun dealers who sold guns at gun fairs in the Dallas area without conducting background checks on buyers. The Northern District has also touted convictions it has been involved in in bank fraud and child pornography cases.

In Dallas, Biden promoted the top appellate attorney for the Northern District, Leigha Simonton, a Yale Law School graduate who joined the office in 2005.

Among her most high-profile cases, in 2017, she tried unsuccessfully to jail Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price for bribery and tax evasion.

For the San Antonio-based Western District, Biden used El Paso County District Attorney Jaime Esparza for 27 years, who secured a murder indictment against the shooter who killed 23 people at a Walmart in August 2019.

In the Houston-based Southern District, Biden hired a longtime assistant US attorney, Alamdar Hamdani, who had worked on national security and counterterrorism cases at the Justice Department.

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