U.S. Attorney Moore setting priorities for office

Since the U.S. Senate confirmed his appointment nearly four months ago, Middle Georgia’s top federal prosecutor has settled into his new job and set priorities for the office.

U.S. Attorney Michael Moore, 42, has decorated his office with several items from home and his Houston County law office. Paintings depicting Washington, D.C., scenes hang on the walls. Moore’s personal laptop sits docked on a table in front of a wingback chair in an adjoining meeting room.

He’s met with staffers and court personnel after touring the district, which spans from Georgia’s southwestern corner east through Valdosta, north though Albany and Macon and east through Athens to the South Carolina border. And he’s established goals for the office.

He’s put a new emphasis on identifying and prosecuting cases that could result in forfeitures. And child sex cases, already a department priority, will move through the system faster, he said.

White-collar crimes such as health care fraud and public corruption also are a priority for prosecution, Moore said.

The number of cases handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office will increase, he said, as prosecutors take on more gun and drug cases.

“I’m committed to making an immediate local impact,” Moore said.

He said he’s reaching out to rural law enforcement and prosecutors within the district to let them know federal prosecutors are available to help take cases that could have federal jurisdiction.

“I’m not waiting on one big case” to get involved, Moore said. “Whatever we can do to help, we will.”

Moore said he’s also making a point to get out of the office, getting to know law enforcement officers and the community.

“I think it’s important.”

Although Moore’s job is primarily administrative, he said hopes to try some cases and to go to the courthouse to offer support to prosecutors and stay “plugged in.”

“I miss the courtroom,” he said. “I’m going through a little bit of withdrawal.”

Moore was nominated by President Barack Obama to fill the vacancy left when former U.S. Attorney Max Wood stepped down from his post in July 2009.

During that gap of more than a year, vacant positions couldn’t be filled and promotions sat on hold, said G.F. “Pete” Peterman III, who served as interim U.S. attorney.

There also was a sense of apprehension and uncertainty as employees wondered who would be appointed and what changes that person might make, Peterman said.

But now that Moore has started work, employees are more at ease.

“I think everybody is delighted to have him on board,” Peterman said. “He’s got a great can-do attitude.”

Peterman, who left his private law practice in 1990 to join the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said among the biggest challenges Moore will face will be getting accustomed to the rules, regulations and bureaucracy associated with the federal justice system.

He’s also stepped into an office as a new boss with many career employees.

Moore said he doesn’t want to micromanage the office’s staff of 69 employees.

“They’re a lot of good people,” he said. “It’s a good staff.”

Moore previously worked in the Houston County District Attorney’s Office for five years, rising to the position of chief assistant district attorney before leaving for private practice in 1997.

He won a special election runoff in 2002 to fill the state Senate seat vacated by Sonny Perdue when Perdue resigned to focus on his gubernatorial campaign. Later that year, he lost his bid for re-election to challenger Ross Tolleson, R-Perry.

In his time away from the office, Moore said he enjoys spending time with his wife and two teenage daughters.

He’s a self-taught French cook who also enjoys reading fiction and U.S. history.

While he plays piano for self-enjoyment, he also enjoys walking with his horses and listening to classical music and jazz.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.