BOISE — Wendy Olson, who has served as Idaho’s top federal law enforcement officer since June 2010, will leave office Feb. 25. She submitted her letter of resignation last week.
Rafael Gonzalez, first assistant U.S. attorney, will step in as acting U.S. attorney until President Donald Trump appoints Olson’s replacement.
“My plan is to stay in Boise and I anticipate I will go into private practice,” Olson told The Idaho Statesman.
She said she hasn’t decided on a particular area of the law to specialize in.
“It’s too early to say at this point. I’ll have to see what the options are,” Olson said.
Olson’s office successfully prosecuted Boise resident Fazliddin Kurbanov, who was convicted in 2015 of supporting a foreign terrorist organization in Uzbekistan and possessing a destructive device. She said she was also proud of the 2014 conviction of four executives of Meridian property management company DBSI, which authorities said became a pyramid scheme as the company struggled to pay investors. The convictions are under appeal.
Olson also mentioned Kelly Schneider, a 23-year-old Nampa man who on Wednesday agreed to plead guilty to a federal hate crime. He beat to death Steven Nelson, a gay man Schneider lured to Lake Lowell before robbing him and beating him. Nelson later died at a hospital.
On Monday, Schneider pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in Canyon County 3rd District Court. Afterward, federal officials took custody of him and unsealed an indictment for the hate crime.
Olson praised the staff attorneys and support staff whom she said made the office successful during her tenure.
“The people who work here are hardworking, federal employees who take seriously their mission and who work very hard for the people of Idaho, certainly, and for the entire nation,” Olson said.
Former President Barack Obama asked all of his political appointees, including Olson and other U.S. attorneys, to submit letters of resignation. Some of the resignations took effect before Obama left office, others when Trump took office a week ago and many, like Olson’s, will take place in the next few weeks.
Republican U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch are expected to make recommendations on Olson’s replacement. It’s unclear how long the process could take.
Ever since Ronald Reagan was president in the 1980s, it has become standard procedure for most U.S. attorneys to be replaced by an incoming administration.