Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Nominating commission narrows U.S. attorney candidates to three

ORLANDO — Former interim U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill landed on a list of three finalists Wednesday to take over the Tampa job for good.

Or, for as long as such appointments ever last.

The new U.S. attorney would replace A. Brian Albritton, a President George W. Bush appointee who began Oct. 15 and did not reapply after the change of party in the White House.

Joining O'Neill as finalists were Roger Handberg, chief of the Orlando office, and Harry Shorstein, who served five terms as state attorney for Duval, Clay and Nassau counties.

Those three men, and six others, submitted to half-hour interviews with a federal judicial nominating commission that met in Orlando Wednesday.

Next, it's up to U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Mel Martinez, R-Fla., to nominate one of the three to President Barack Obama.

The U.S. attorney serves as top federal law enforcer for the Middle District of Florida, which includes 35 of the state's 67 counties, Hillsborough among them.

O'Neill, chief of the office's criminal division in Tampa, told the panel that he thinks well of the Obama administration and likes its direction.

"I think they've put the right people in the right places," O'Neill said.

Having the advantage over other applicants of serving temporarily as U.S. attorney, O'Neill talked in specifics about problems facing cities across the district.

He's met with Jacksonville's mayor and knows the city needs help with its violent crime problem. He knows Hillsborough's sheriff is focused on ridding the county of gang activity. And he knows mortgage fraud has hit Fort Myers hard.

He said he's worked to address those issues.

"The office has done really well, but not well enough for a district this size," O'Neill said, adding that he wants to see his prosecutors work harder and take more cases to trial.

Handberg, put in his Orlando chief's position when O'Neill was temporarily running the U.S. Attorney's Office, appeared to impress the panel with his application. One commissioner called him a "breath of fresh air."

Handberg wants the U.S. Attorney's Office to tackle more significant cases. He said he's increased the number of white collar cases his office handles and added more prosecutors to take on Orlando's growing violent crime problems.

Shorstein, a Jacksonville native, was state attorney in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties for five terms, after he was first appointed in 1991 by then-Gov. Lawton Chiles. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War.

One of the commission members called him an "innovator" in crime prevention programs. Shorstein served on state Supreme Court committees dealing with mental health, gender bias and the death penalty.

Kevin Graham can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or kgraham@sptimes.com.

Nominating commission narrows U.S. attorney candidates to three 07/22/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 23, 2009 11:51am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Jason Aldean fires up a country-dude party at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre

    Blogs

    Country music has a dude problem.

    I’m not talking about the proliferation of mindless bro country over the past half-decade, nor am I referring to the fact that most of Nashville’s best music these days comes not from said bros, from female singers and songwriters.

    Jason Aldean performed at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa on Aug. 18, 2018.
  2. President Trump offers prayers for Kissimmee police

    Blogs

    President Donald Trump reacted to the police shooting in Kissimmee:

  3. Kissimmee police officer dies, one gravely wounded; Jacksonville officers shot

    News

    KISSIMMEE — A Kissimmee police officer died and a second was gravely wounded Friday night, police Chief Jeff O'Dell said.

    Two police officers have been shot and killed in Kissimmee, authorities say. The shooting happened in the area of Palmway and Cypress around 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. Photo courtesy of WESH.com
  4. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  5. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming

    Roads

    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]