U.S. Attorney made name for himself as tough prosecutor - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

U.S. Attorney made name for himself as tough prosecutor

Terry Harris is a soft-spoken cardiologist's son who grew up in Frayser and rose through the ranks to become the Fed's top prosecutor in West Tennessee.

He's taken on politicians, a multi-millionaire college football booster and even the county medical examiner as U.S. Attorney.

"Our citizens should be able to expect that our government is not for sale," Harris said in the early days of the Tennessee Waltz scandal.

Terry Harris and the FBI made a splash this summer with the indictments of politicians and their cronies in the Tennessee Waltz sting. But the top federal prosecutor in West Tennessee had been making a name for himself since he accepted the appointment from President Bush in April 2001.

A hands-on prosecutor, Harris often would show up on the scene when federal agents went to make a bust. He sometimes would go to court to prosecute cases himself.

Harris's office spent nearly five years on the expensive prosecution of Alabama Crimson Tide booster Logan Young for his role in paying off a high school coach. After all that work, Young got six months.

"Anyone who seeks or thinks about engaging in that practice ought to think twice about it," said Harris at the time. "Committing criminal acts to further the recruiting game, you just can't commit criminal acts to do that."

In a strange twist, Harris testified for the prosecution against former county medical examiner O.C. Smith, a onetime colleague and friend of the prosecutor. The trial ended with a hung jury.

People began taking note of Terry Harris when he ran for criminal court judge in 1998. Harris lost that race to celebrity judge Joe Brown who has since left the Memphis bench for the more profitable one in TV-land. Harris ran on his record of service as a career prosecutor.

In his 14-years with the Shelby County DA's office, Harris rose through the ranks as a tough prosecutor of gangs, violent criminals and ultimately became DA Bill Gibbon's right hand man.

Since 2001, he's quietly managed 37 prosecutors in Memphis and Jackson.

As the U.S. Attorney, his enduring legacy may well be the Tennessee Waltz case which has received national attention and jeopardized the careers of a handful of Tennessee Lawmakers.

Harris has also focused on fighting gun crime in West Tennessee, as well as efforts to reduce the methamphetamine epidemic in the 21 counties he served.

Terry Harris also played a key role in the prosecution of Willie Ann and John Madison who were convicted of misusing government child care money.

The prosecutor also helped clean up the mess in the Memphis Police Department property room, where employees created a drug distribution ring with cocaine stolen from police.

Harris called his service as U.S. Attorney the "highlight of his public career."

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