Jerry Martin took over as U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee in July 2010. The City Paper talked with him about what he’s seen as the area’s top federal prosecutor.
Is the job what you expected?
I did not come into the job naive about the presence of serious and dangerous organized criminal activities here in Nashville. I was surprised, though, at the extent of such activities across the district in counties you wouldn’t traditionally think of as hotbeds for gang activity or significant drug trafficking. Since coming into the job, we’ve prosecuted individuals engaged in those activities from Sparta to Pulaski.
I’ve also been surprised to learn that much of my time is spent worrying about the federal budget and how the uncertainty affects this office. We’ve operated under continuing resolutions over half my time in office. A low point in the job occurred the Friday before the government was brought to the brink of a shutdown.
I didn’t enjoy telling employees, both support staff and attorneys, that they were about to be furloughed. Fortunately, that was avoided, but here we are in another fiscal year and still no budget, which makes planning for the future difficult. I don’t mind being asked to do more with less, but I sure would like to know how much less sooner rather than later. It impacts our ability to make strategic decisions.
What direction, or need, you think needs to be addressed in making the region a safer place to live and work?
In terms of violent crime, the U.S. attorney’s office needs to continue to focus on prosecuting the worst of the worst, and we need to be constantly asking ourselves if we are using our resources wisely and efficiently. Like I said, this is a budget climate where we expect to get fewer resources. So we want to make sure we are getting the most impact from the cases we choose to prosecute.
Also, I continue to make health care fraud a priority. No other entity or agency has the ability and tools to protect the taxpayers like the U.S. attorney’s office, and I take that responsibility seriously.