Longtime federal prosecutor Sally Quillian Yates got an early Christmas present Thursday when the White House nominated her to serve as the next U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.
Yates has been acting U.S. attorney for the district, which includes Gainesville, since David Nahmias was appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court in August.
"I am very honored to be nominated by President Obama," Yates said in a statement. "It would be a great privilege to serve the people of the Northern District as U.S. attorney."
Yates, perhaps best known for prosecuting former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell in a federal corruption trial, has worked in the office since 1989. She served as an assistant U.S. attorney from 1989 to 1994, chief of the Fraud and Public Corruption Unit from 1994 to 2002 and first assistant U.S. attorney from 2002 to 2009. She had a previous stint as acting U.S. attorney in 2004.
From 1986 to 1989, she was an associate at King & Spalding. Yates graduated from the University of Georgia in 1982 and the University of Georgia School of Law in 1986.
Speculation by legal observers had Yates on the short list of President Barack Obama’s nominees, along with former antitrust lawyer Jeffrey Berhold of Atlanta and Rome attorney Christopher Twyman, according to published reports.
The Wall Street Journal in September reported that U.S. Rep. John Lewis sought to take Yates’ name off the short list. Georgia’s Democratic congressional delegation submitted three names to the White House from an initial list of 10, according to the report. The newspaper said Lewis wanted Yates removed from the list because of her prosecution of his friend, Campbell.
Lewis’ office later issued a statement strongly denying that any action he took in the nomination process stemmed from the Campbell case.
In March 2006, Campbell was acquitted of racketeering, bribery and wire fraud charges but convicted on three counts of tax evasion. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Story sentenced Campbell to 30 months in prison.
If confirmed, Yates will oversee an office with about 80 attorneys that indicts and prosecute hundreds of cases each year.
Yates was one of seven U.S. attorney nominations made Thursday by the White House.