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Finalists for U.S. attorney submitted to Florida senators

TAMPA — One man recently led Boy Scouts on a 77-mile backpacking trip across the rugged New Mexico wilderness.

One man has a $300 million link to the Backstreet Boys.

One man was captain of his high school's football, basketball and baseball teams.

Each now wants to be the region's top federal prosecutor.

A nominating panel Wednesday submitted names of three U.S. attorney finalists to Florida's two senators — Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio — who are expected to weigh in before forwarding them to the White House.

The finalists are acting U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III, the Scout leader; Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg, who successfully prosecuted former Backstreet Boys manager Louis J. Pearlman in a $300 million fraud case; and Jacksonville lawyer Curry Gary Pajcic, the athlete who turned into a lawyer.

Bentley took over in July for Robert O'Neill, who joined a risk management company led by a former FBI director.

The Middle District includes 35 counties and stretches from Georgia to south of Naples.

"Whoever is appointed United States attorney will face unprecedented challenges," Bentley predicted in his application.

He noted the likelihood of furlough days next year in an office already under a hiring freeze but said his deep familiarity with the work, the people and the budget will help him build on a legacy, keep morale high and weather the inevitable fiscal problems.

Bentley, 54, a native of Tuscaloosa, Ala., lives and works in Tampa. He graduated with highest honors both at the University of Virginia School of Law and at the University of Georgia, where he obtained a bachelor's degree in business administration. He's a registered Republican.

Handberg, 42, an Orlando native, lives in Oviedo and works in the Middle District's Orlando office. He earned his law degree at Harvard and a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of North Carolina. He's a Democrat.

He put the Pearlman investigation into a Ponzi scheme, bank fraud and bankruptcy fraud at the top of his list of significant litigation.

"The 25-year sentence remains one of the longest sentences for a plea in a while collar case," he wrote, "and I believe that this case remains the largest fraud case ever prosecuted in the Middle District of Florida."

Bentley's list started off with the prosecution of neo-Nazi skinheads accused of murdering homeless men. He said it was gratifying to find justice for men targeted because defendants didn't think anyone would care.

Pajcic's list started with the 1996 prosecution of a serial armed robber in state court, where all but 3 percent of his appearances have been. He last brought a criminal case in 1997, his application stated.

He's 44, a personal injury lawyer who earned his law degree from the University of Florida College of Law after getting a bachelor's degree in history at the University of Virginia.

He's a Democrat, and Federal Election Commission records show him to be the most politically active of the three finalists. He has contributed to the campaigns of Sen. Nelson and President Barack Obama, both of whom will have a hand in determining the next U.S. Attorney.

The three selected and a fourth applicant, Orlando state prosecutor William Charles Vose, were interviewed Monday in Orlando by the Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission, headed by Tampa lawyer John Fitzgibbons.

News researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

What next?

• Florida's two U.S. senators interview the finalists.

• Barring objection by the senators, the names go to the White House.

• The president chooses a nominee.

• The Senate Judiciary Committee considers the nominee.

• If the committee approves, the nomination goes to the Senate floor.

. facts

What's next

• Florida's two U.S. senators interview the finalists.

• Barring objection by the senators, the names go to the White House.

• The president chooses a nominee.

• The Senate Judiciary Committee considers the nominee.

• If the committee approves, the nomination goes to the Senate floor.

Finalists for U.S. attorney submitted to Florida senators 09/11/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 11:10pm]
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