TRENTON –Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced the creation of a unit within the Office of the Attorney General to combat corruption and strengthen public confidence in government institutions. To lead the effort, Attorney General Grewal has recruited Thomas J. Eicher, a longtime federal prosecutor who has led complex corruption investigations and obtained convictions against numerous public officials, including multiple congressmen.
Eicher will lead the new unit – the Office of Public Integrity & Accountability (OPIA) – that will include both detectives and prosecutors and will report directly to Attorney General Grewal. OPIA will investigate and prosecute criminal abuses of the public trust and handle other sensitive matters that implicate the public’s confidence in both government and the criminal justice system, including:
- Sensitive matters involving federal, state, or local officials;
- Allegations of civil rights violations involving law enforcement officers and agencies;
- Internal affairs investigations; and
- Wrongful conviction claims.
“Since becoming Attorney General, I’ve traveled the state to hear our residents’ concerns and their message is clear: we must root out the corruption and misconduct that undermines faith in our public institutions,” said Attorney General Grewal. “In recent years, the U.S. Supreme Court has chipped away at federal corruption law, making it all the more important for state prosecutors to fill the void. Simply put, we must hold accountable those who violate the public trust or undermine the criminal justice system.”
Before joining the Office of the Attorney General, Eicher served as a federal prosecutor for three decades. He joined the U.S. Department of Justice in 1987, and between 1992 and 1997, he served as a member – and later Chief – of the House Bank Task Force, which investigated the U.S. House of Representatives banking scandal and ultimately secured the conviction of four former Members of Congress, the Sergeant-At-Arms of the House of Representatives, and six House staff members for various offenses, including bank fraud, bribery, obstruction of justice, and campaign finance violations.
In 2003, Eicher joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, where he handled a number of high-profile corruption and civil rights cases. In 2006, Eicher led an investigation into allegations of bribery involving the Atlantic City Council, resulting in the conviction of former City Council President Craig Callaway and three other councilmen in Atlantic City and Camden. In 2016, Eicher obtained a 25-year prison sentence in a civil rights case against a former Essex County correctional officer who sexually assaulted a pretrial detainee and then lied about it to investigators.
Between 2010 and 2018, Eicher served as Chief of the Criminal Division at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, where he managed more than 100 criminal prosecutors and helped to establish the first federal re-entry court in New Jersey. From 2015 to 2018, Eicher served on the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, providing policy advice to the last four U.S. Attorneys General. Earlier this year, Eicher was elevated to Deputy U.S. Attorney, responsible for oversight of the Trenton and Camden offices. Also in 2018, Eicher was recognized by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein with the “Executive Achievement Award” for his leadership during his 30-year career in the U.S. Department of Justice.
Once fully operational, OPIA will handle all public integrity matters within the Attorney General’s Office and will include a team of experienced prosecutors as well as criminal investigators from New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice. To ensure the independence of sensitive investigations, OPIA will report directly to the Attorney General, outside the normal reporting chain of the Division of Criminal Justice.
Among other responsibilities, OPIA will handle the Department’s review of wrongful conviction claims. Earlier this year, Attorney General Grewal established a working group, led by retired New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Virginia Long and former U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, to study whether the Office of the Attorney General should establish a “conviction review” unit, with the final recommendations of the working group expected in the near future. OPIA will be responsible for implementing any recommendations issued by the working group.
“During his three decades as a federal prosecutor, Tom earned a reputation as a dogged investigator, a formidable trial attorney, and a skilled manager,” said Attorney General Grewal. “He has served with great distinction under both Democratic and Republican administrations, and his integrity is beyond reproach. I cannot think of someone better to lead an office dedicated to prosecuting corruption and strengthening confidence in our criminal justice system.”
“I am honored by the opportunity to serve the people of New Jersey,” said Eicher. “Our democracy cannot function unless it has the confidence of all the people it serves, and I am committed to working with Attorney General Grewal to strengthen that confidence.”
Before becoming a prosecutor, Eicher worked in private practice in California and served as a law clerk to the Honorable James R. Browning, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He graduated from Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
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