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Graham picks U.S. attorney candidate

The senator suggests a former Miami prosecutor become central Florida's next top federal prosecutor.

U.S. Sen. Bob Graham has recommended that former Miami prosecutor Donna A. Bucella succeed Charles R. Wilson as central Florida's top federal prosecutor, Wilson said Tuesday.

Bucella's name now goes to the White House for formal nomination by President Clinton. The U.S. Senate must confirm Bucella's appointment.

Regardless, Bucella will take over in an acting capacity starting Sept. 13, thanks to an interim appointment from Attorney General Janet Reno, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department said Tuesday.

Bucella, 43, prosecuted police corruption cases in Miami's federal courts in 1991. She later followed Janet Reno to Justice Department headquarters in Washington. In 1994 Bucella served four months as interim U.S. attorney in Tampa, during a period of transition.

These past two years, Bucella has directed the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, the liaison between the attorney general and the nation's 93 U.S. attorneys.

Wilson, leaving the U.S. Attorney's Office for a judgeship on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, said Tuesday that Bucella "will quickly earn the confidence and respect of this community with her sound judgment and her commitment to justice."

"She has been a close confidante of the attorney general," Wilson said.

"She is the person the attorney general selected to come in and stabilize the office (in 1994)."

Bucella was declining requests for interviews Tuesday.

Members of the local federal bar contacted late Tuesday said Bucella comes back to town with a good reputation.

St. Petersburg lawyer Jack Helinger said, "I don't personally know her, but what I've heard about her is all good."

Bucella will take control of an operation with about 220 employees and a $16-million budget. Its sprawling territory, termed the Middle District of Florida, stretches from Jacksonville, through Orlando and Tampa Bay, south to Fort Myers.

The job pays about $116,000 a year, and comes with a significant hitch. U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president.

The election of a Republican to the White House next year would in all probability lead to Bucella submitting her resignation.

The jurisdiction of U.S. attorneys includes all federal criminal statutes and some civil litigation on behalf of the United States.

Bucella, a New York native, is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the law school of the University of Miami.

She is a major in the U.S. Army Reserve and has served as a member of the Judge Advocate General's Corps. She has family in Fort Myers, Wilson said.

Bucella had been regarded as one of two finalists for Wilson's job. The other was Michael L. Seigel, who is Wilson's second-in-command.

Seigel said Tuesday that "I'm obviously disappointed for myself, but I congratulate Donna Bucella and wish her well."