United States Attorney David Kustoff, who oversaw most of the Tennessee Waltz prosecutions, announced his resignation Tuesday, effective May 16th.
Kustoff, a Republican who was formerly active in Shelby County politics, became United States attorney for western Tennessee in March, 2006. He was appointed by President George W. Bush. He plans to join his former law firm, Kustoff and Strickland, in partnership with Memphis City Councilman Jim Strickland.
The announcement came in the form of a press release faxed and e-mailed to news organizations. Coming in the midst of the presidential campaign, an ongoing congressional investigation of the removal of federal prosecutors by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and the Eliot Spitzer scandal, Kustoff's resignation invited speculation, which he took pains to squelch.
"Personally, the timing is right," Kustoff said in an interview. "Recently I have had people across the community ask me if I would seek to be renominated after the presidential election. I came to the conclusion that I would not. I can leave on my own terms and go back and practice law."
Kustoff said he and his wife, who is also an attorney in his former law firm, are expecting their second child in three or four weeks.
"There is nothing more to it than that," he said.
Kustoff did not try cases himself, however, he was frequently in front of news cameras at press conferences announcing indictments and convictions in big federal investigations including Tennessee Waltz, Main Street Sweeper, Tarnished Blue, and the closing of Memphis strip clubs.
United States attorneys are political appointees and often choose to leave office when a president from the other party is elected. Because there are only about five months between Kustoff's resignation in May and the November election, an interim United States attorney is likely to be appointed, with a permanent replacement announced after the new president takes office. Kustoff said his resignation should not be interpreted as an indication that he thinks the Democrats are about to take the White House.
I'm not going to prognosticate anything," he said. "Regardless of who is elected, it will be time for somebody else to serve as United States attorney."