Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Top Prosecutor Is Switching to Defense Politics Also May Be in Higgins' Future

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Top Prosecutor Is Switching to Defense Politics Also May Be in Higgins' Future

Article excerpt

After spending part of last weekend cleaning out his desk at the U.S. attorney's office here, Stephen B. Higgins reflected Tuesday on his three years as the top federal prosecutor in eastern Missouri.

On Friday, Higgins will leave an office he remade along the lines of a private law firm, with section chiefs over assistant prosecutors who specialize in chasing drug dealers, white-collar crooks, polluters or other criminals.

Next month, he is to begin work as a partner at Thompson & Mitchell, one of the city's largest law firms. He noted that part of his job could be to defend the same types of fraud artists he works now to put in prison.

"Someone in trouble needs an advocate who understands the system," he said.

Higgins, 47, is out as U.S. attorney because Bill Clinton, a Democrat, is in as president. The Clinton administration announced months ago that it would replace U.S. attorneys appointed by President George Bush, the Republican who picked Higgins in 1990.

Higgins said Tuesday he would have left the office anyway after a single four-year term. He added that, for now, he will concentrate on re-establishing himself as a lawyer in private practice.

But he is not excluding a run at politics. Talk in political circles last year was that Higgins, who lives in the West End, wanted to be mayor of St. Louis.

"I certainly wouldn't rule out a run for public office in the future," he said. "I wouldn't rule out anything right now. But it's still too early.

"I think the opportunities are great. I think public life is very stimulating and rewarding."

He will leave as U.S. attorney without personally trying a case. In 1991, he said he would be in the courtroom to try Malcolm Cheek, accused of defrauding banks by twice pledging the same stock in his engineering consulting company to get loans totaling $1 million. Cheek, formerly of Town and Country, vanished March 4, 1991, from his hotel room in New York. …

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