Top Federal Prosecutor in Mass. Discusses 1st Year on the Job

From immigration to the opioid crisis to the death of Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger, the top federal prosecutor in Massachusetts took questions about a range of topics during a roundtable discussion Wednesday.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling is coming up on a year in the position and minutes before he sat down with reporters, news broke that his office had arrested an eighth Massachusetts State Police trooper accused of abusing the department's overtime system. He said the investigation is not over, but the department needs to turn a corner and get past this.

"I anticipate further investigation," Lelling said. "I don't want to say we necessarily anticipate further indictments. It could happen. We're looking at reams of data."

While Lelling was in the hot seat, he took questions on a number of hot button issues, including immigration enforcement. He was pressed about the controversy over a report by the Boston Globe that a Newton judge helped a defendant evade Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He said he has no plans to prosecute judges, but immigration laws should be enforced.

"If you obstruct what they're doing, you're committing a federal crime because you're obstructing enforcement of a federal law, and in an environment as politicized as this one, it seems to me people need to be reminded about this," Lelling said.

He also reminded everyone that the focus of his office is on the opioid crisis. He defended his decision to send letters to physicians across the state, raising concern about their prescribing practices.

"We need to be careful when prescribing literally what is a deadly substance," he said.

Lelling said they will continue to target their efforts on cities like Lawrence, which he called a source city for fentanyl pouring in to New Hampshire and Maine.

When asked about recreational marijuana, he said it is still illegal under federal law, but beyond money laundering that may be connected to it and the potential of selling it to minors, it is not a big concern.

"Marijuana is not the priority of my office," Lelling said. "Marijuana didn't kill 2,000 people in Massachusetts last year, opioids did."

Lelling was also pressed on the prison killing of Bulger. He said any inmate killed by another inmate in jail is something that should never happen, but he spoke positively about the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

When asked whether or not he thinks the Bulger family deserves compensation, he said he could not comment.

"There's a lot of non-public details about the event that I'm not at liberty to give you," Lelling said.

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