Serving Western New York, for Now

By Hope Artis

Few find being in an unstable job position “irrelevant.” However, acting US Attorney James P. Kennedy has found himself in situation where he feels he cannot lose: whether President Trump keeps him on or fires him.

Kennedy was first appointed to the office on Oct. 31 of last year after the departure of William J. Hochul. After Donald Trump took office on Jan. 20, Kennedy continued in his acting role.

Kennedy hosted nine student journalists from Hilbert College Media Camp and their teachers at his office on Delaware Avenue Tuesday morning. He spoke for an hour, offering advice on careers (namely, do something you love and work hard to be great at it), as well his thoughts on the conflict between federal and state laws on marijuana. Marijuana has been legalized for medical and recreational use in some states, but remains an illegal drug under federal law. In New York, it has been legalized for limited medical uses.

He said he still believes marijuana is a dangerous “gateway drug,” leading some to other deadlier drugs like heroin. Regardless of his opinion, though, he said his job is simply to enforce current law.

Kennedy shared a story about what he described as one of the most important cases of his career — his 2004 prosecution of corrupt Buffalo Police narcotics officers. Discovering that cops had been stealing and planting evidence, he decided that this was a case he had to take. However, prosecuting police officers is incredibly hard due to their public reputation.

He said his strategy to prove their guilt was to practically overwhelm the court with witnesses and evidence. Many of the witnesses were ones whom the public would not traditionally trust: prostitutes, drug dealers, and petty robbers, Kennedy said.  Kennedy, however, proved that none of the witnesses knew each other, yet noted they all told nearly identical stories about the corrupt cops. In the end, two former officers were convicted of violating people’s civil rights, and a third took a plea deal in relation to the charges.

It’s not known when the Trump administration will appoint a permanent US attorney for our district. Kennedy said whether he’s offered the job or not, he will be fine with the outcome. If he succeeds in being nominated, he said he would be honored; if not, he will go back to his previous job.

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