US Attorney Neronha steps down at AG’s request

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Peter Neronha, the U.S. attorney for the state of Rhode Island for nearly eight years, has resigned at the request of the Trump administration, Eyewitness News has confirmed.

Neronha’s decision is effective at midnight, his spokesman Jim Martin said Friday.

The Justice Department had announced earlier in the day U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was seeking the resignations of 46 U.S. attorneys who were appointed under previous presidents. There are 94 U.S. attorneys nationwide.

In a taping of Newsmakers back in January, Neronha noted it is a new president’s prerogative to choose his own U.S. attorneys. Neronha is frequently mentioned as a possible candidate for Rhode Island attorney general in 2018, but has declined to discuss his plans in detail while still serving as the state’s top federal prosecutor.

Neronha was appointed U.S. attorney in 2009 by President Obama. In a statement Friday evening, he described serving in the job as “the honor and privilege of my professional life.” He added: “Given the nature of this job there is never a perfect time to step away.”

During his tenure Neronha oversaw a number of high-profile public corruption cases, including the prosecutions of former House Speaker Gordon Fox, former House Finance Committee Chairman Ray Gallison, and a group of North Providence town councilmen.

His office also played a central role in a sweeping 2011 bust of organized crime figures including former mob boss Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio, and a case against Google that ended with the company paying a $500 million settlement.

A Jamestown native and North Kingstown High School graduate, Neronha first joined the U.S. Attorney’s office as an assistant U.S. attorney in 2002 and previously served as a special assistant attorney general under former R.I. Attorney General Jeffrey Pine.

“When I began my career in public service as a state prosecutor over 20 years ago, I never could have anticipated what the future would hold,” Neronha said Friday. “I am incredibly grateful to President Obama, and to Senators Reed and Whitehouse, who recommended me to the president, for their confidence in me.”

In a joint statement late Friday night, Reed and Whitehouse said they were “dismayed to hear of the abrupt manner in which Peter and U.S. attorneys across the country were asked to leave their posts,” arguing the move “does not serve the public interest and could needlessly hinder ongoing investigations.”

Reed and Whitehouse also lobbed a shot across the bow regarding their role in choosing Neronha’s successor, saying: “We look forward to following the same process we have used to make nominations in the past to recommend a replacement to the Trump administration.”