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Trump nominates Scott to return as U.S. attorney for state’s Eastern District

Sacramento attorney McGregor “Greg” Scott has been tapped by President Trump to return as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California.
Sacramento attorney McGregor “Greg” Scott has been tapped by President Trump to return as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California. rbenton@sacbee.com

Sacramento attorney McGregor “Greg” Scott has been tapped by President Trump to return as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California, a post he held for nearly six years under President George W. Bush.

Scott, 54, still faces confirmation by the Senate and said he looks forward to assuming his duties.

“I’m honored to have been selected for this position and I’m grateful to the president,” Scott said. “I very much look forward to getting back to work with the great people of the U.S. attorney’s office here in the Eastern District of California.”

The district, based in Sacramento, stretches from the Oregon state line to north of Bakersfield and is one of four in California.

In his first stint as U.S. attorney, Scott served on an advisory committee that offered counsel to Attorney General John Ashcroft and his successor, Alberto Gonzales.

He oversaw prosecutions of mortgage fraud cases following the economic meltdown of 2008, and was credited with prodding the U.S. Justice Department to establish a program to pursue damages against companies that ignite fires that damage federal forest lands.

As part of that program, Scott’s office orchestrated a $102 million settlement between the U.S. Forest Service and Union Pacific Railroad for damage to two national forests from the 2000 Storrie Fire, at the time the largest civil settlement in the history of the district.

Scott also spearheaded the prosecution of a Lodi terror case that saw the convictions of Umer Hayat and his son, Hamid Hayat.

That case has remained controversial as defense attorneys continue to rail against the government prosecution of Hamid Hayat, who is serving a 24-year prison sentence.

A hearing into Hayat’s latest attempt to overturn his conviction is expected to begin in January.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Scott “was vetted by my bipartisan judicial selection committee and found to be a qualified choice for U.S. attorney.”

“They also spoke with attorneys and judges in the Eastern District and found him to be respected by his peers,” Feinstein said in a statement. “McGregor Scott has served as U.S. attorney in the past and has nearly 20 years of experience as a prosecutor, and I believe he will serve the Eastern District well.”

Scott was a lifelong prosecutor before leaving his federal post in 2009. He served as a deputy district attorney in Contra Costa County, then moved to Redding to become the Shasta County district attorney.

In that post, he oversaw the prosecution of brothers Benjamin Matthew Williams and James Tyler Williams, who killed a gay couple in Shasta County and set fires at three Sacramento-area synagogues and an abortion clinic.

Matthew Williams killed himself in jail in 2002; Tyler Williams accepted a plea deal and is currently serving his sentence at Mule Creek State Prison.

Scott also witnessed the 2000 lethal injection execution at San Quentin of Darrell Rich, the “Hilltop rapist” who killed four women in a 1978 crime spree.

As U.S. attorney, Scott was the senior federal law enforcement for 34 of California’s 58 counties. He stepped down in January 2009 at the end of the Bush administration.

In private practice, Scott has handled a number of high-profile cases as a partner in the Sacramento office of the Orrick, Herrington, & Sutcliffe, LLP law firm, where he specialized in white-collar criminal defense and corporate investigations.

“McGregor Scott’s nomination to resume his role as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California is a great development for California and for our country,” the firm said in a statement. “In public service and in private practice, Greg has established himself as a leader of the highest quality and integrity.

“We are enormously grateful to him for his service to our clients and our firm, and we will miss him greatly as our partner.”

In 2014, Scott led a defense team that won a huge award on behalf of the Sierra Railroad Co., a Yolo County-based rail operator that was embroiled in a trade secrets misappropriation case.

Scott won $22.4 million in compensatory damages and $17.4 million in punitive damages for Sierra from the jury. A federal judge later tacked on an additional $13.1 million in exemplary damages.

In 2009, Scott was retained and volunteered to serve without charge to help guide Jaycee Lee Dugard and her two daughters through legal issues after they were freed from their captivity by kidnapper Phillip Garrido.

Scott also served alongside former U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag in the independent investigation into former UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, who resigned in 2016 following a Sacramento Bee investigation into UC Davis’ spending to enhance her reputation online and her acceptance of lucrative corporate board seats.

Scott, a Republican, has three sons. His wife, Jennifer, is also an attorney.

The post currently is held by Phillip Talbert, a veteran prosecutor who took over after the April 2016 departure of Ben Wagner, an Obama administration appointee.

Sam Stanton: 916-321-1091, @StantonSam

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