Legal experts say prosecutors investigating mayor may be running out of time

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Legal experts say prosecutors investigating Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton may be racing against the clock to make an indictment stick.

That's because a new United States president could mean a new U.S. Attorney, and a new set of priorities.

Tuesday, local attorney Larry Moore said the federal probe into suspicions of corruption by Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton could be dead in the water when the new president appoints a new U.S. Attorney for West Tennessee.

"Anything that is not set in court is subject to be removed, dismissed or not prosecuted by the new U.S. Attorney," Moore said.

Former U.S. Attorney Hickman Ewing said when he was in office, he tried to wrap things up when the new president came on board.

"If they've already got an ongoing investigation, you would probably try to wrap it up by January," he said.

Ewing said priorities shift with different regimes.

"They may say, "Okay, our priority is terrorism...our priority is corruption.' So you have certain priorities that are set. Now there's no administration that can come in and say corruption is not a priority."

Moore said if federal prosecutors have ducks, they should have already been in a row by now.  Rumblings of a Grand Jury investigation into Mayor Herenton's dealings have been dragging on for eight years.
"Instead of 'where there's smoke there's fire,' well sometimes, 'where there's some there's hot ice,'" he said. "So at this point, they don't want to indict on hot ice because by the time they get to trial, it will all have evaporated."

If there is a case, according to Ewing, it won't just go away with a new U.S. Attorney.  Ewing said the experienced staff usually stays behind, and they help that new U.S. Attorney set priorities.

Click here to send an email to Kontji Anthony.