U.S. Attorney Ronald Sharpe, who has been in charge of the District of the Virgin Islands attorney’s office since 2011, resigned effective midnight Friday, one of 46 U.S. attorney’s asked to resign Friday by the Trump administration.
In his stead, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Joycelyn Hewlett has been named acting U.S. attorney for the District of the Virgin Islands. In that capacity, Hewlett is the chief federal law enforcement officer for the district.
All 93 U.S. attorneys are political appointees. A total of 47 had already stepped down following President Donald Trump taking office. On Friday, the remaining 46 were told to submit their letters of resignation immediately, according to news reports. The request came from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who Trump had picked to run the Department of Justice.
After the Source contacted the U.S. Attorney’s office Monday morning to verify that Sharpe had been asked to resign, Kim Chisholm, public information officer for the office, confirmed Sharpe’s resignation and sent out a news release naming Hewlett as the interim head of the office.
Sharpe was nominated in March 2011 to serve as the United States Attorney for the District of the Virgin Islands by President Barack Obama. He was then confirmed by the United States Senate and sworn in on July 6, 2011.
“To serve as United States attorney for the District of the Virgin Islands has been the highest honor of my professional career,” Sharpe said in Monday’s news release. “Every day, I was inspired by the dedication of the attorneys and members of the United States Attorney’s Office, to do my best to represent the residents of the Virgin Islands and defend the rule of law. I am extremely proud of the work the United States Attorney’s Office has accomplished in and out of the courtroom, including building meaningful bonds of trust with the community we serve. I am confident that the extraordinary professionals of the United States Attorney’s Office will remain tirelessly devoted to the pursuit of justice on behalf of the residents of the Virgin Islands and our great nation.”
A Justice Department statement said the action was taken “as was the case in prior transitions,” according to news reports. Past presidential administrations, including those of Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, have done the same during their transitions.
U.S. attorney’s are the top federal prosecutors in the states and territories. The more heavily populated states are divided into several separate districts and have more than one U.S. attorney. Because the attorneys become prime candidates for judicial appointments it is typical for incoming administrations to want to stock those positions with people of their own political party.
Hewlett has served in the United States Attorney’s Office since 1998. Before serving as first assistant United States attorney, she served as chief of the Civil Division from 2006. In addition to her duties in the district, Hewlett serves on the Executive Office for U.S. Attorney’s Evaluation and Review staff, which provides onsite management assistance to U.S. Attorney’s Offices throughout the country to assure compliance and internal controls are met. She also served for a term of four years on the Civil Chief’s Working Group, a subcommittee of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee.
Prior to serving as an AUSA, Hewlett served as legal counsel with the Virgin Islands Legislature, assistant attorney general with the Virgin Islands Department of Justice, law clerk to Territorial Court Presiding Judge Verne A. Hodge, and as an associate at Bryan Cave, an international law firm in Washington, D.C. She also served as president of the Virgin Islands Bar in 2006.
Hewlett is a 1986 graduate of the College of the Virgin Islands and a 1992 graduate of Howard University Law School. She also worked at the Virgin Islands Daily News.
According to his biography on the V.I, District’s website, before he was appointed U.S. attorney for the Virgin Islands, Sharpe was the court-appointed United States attorney for the District of the Virgin Islands, having been appointed by District Court Chief Judge Curtis V. Gomez on September 7, 2009.
Sharpe, a graduate of Tulane University and Stanford Law School, began his career with the U.S. Department of Justice in 1995, serving as an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Columbia. He had previously served as first assistant United States attorney in the District of the Virgin Islands.
When he assumed the role of United States Attorney, Sharpe designated the top priorities of the district, including aggressively fighting public corruption, which historically has challenged law enforcement’s efforts to effectively address crime in the Virgin Islands. This focus led to significant prosecutions that have enabled federal and local law enforcement and other government institutions operating in the Virgin Islands to enforce the rule of law and strengthen their resistance to continued corruption. Some of the significant public corruption cases handled by the office over the past seven years include:
Roberto Tapia, a former Director of Environmental Enforcement for the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR), was sentenced to 70 months in prison for using DPNR as a criminal enterprise to engage in illegal drug trafficking activities including the possession and trafficking of numerous kilos of cocaine.
– Louis “Lolo” Willis, the former executive director of the Virgin Islands Legislature, was sentenced to five years in prison for federal programs bribery and extortion under color of official right for accepting bribes from contractors.
– Alvin Williams, Jr., a former Virgin Islands senator, was sentenced to 52 months in prison in connection with his guilty plea to racketeering – that is, operating and participating in a criminal enterprise whose members and associates engaged in illegal activities including bribing a Virgin Islands public official, soliciting and receiving bribes from numerous St. Thomas construction project developers, fraudulently soliciting and increasing staff members’ salaries, and using the increase of funds for his personal use.
– Virgin Islands Police Department Captain Enrique Saldana, VIPD Sergeant George Green and civilian Luis Roldan were found guilty of the federal charges of conspiracy to commit extortion and extortion, and the Virgin Islands charges of conspiratorial extortion, extortion under color of official right, conflict of interest and solicitation and receipt of a bribe. Greene was sentenced to 36 months’ imprisonment and Saldana was sentenced to 41 months’ imprisonment. Prior to sentencing, Roldan was murdered.
– Former VIPD officers Enid Edwards and Francis Brooks were sentenced to 151 months in prison for operating a criminal enterprise as well as federal and territorial crimes related to extortion, bribery and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. Former Virgin Islands Port Authority Officer Bill John- Baptiste was convicted of false imprisonment and kidnapping and sentenced to five years in prison.
According to the office’s news release, Sharpe joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of the Virgin Islands in November 2008, as the first assistant U.S. Attorney. From 1995 to 2008, he was an assistant U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia, where he investigated and prosecuted a variety of criminal matters, including narcotics trafficking, illegal firearms, violent crimes and financial offenses. In D.C., he served in both the Homicide and the Fraud and Public Corruption Sections and argued cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. He also was a trial advocacy instructor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C., the George Washington University Law School and the Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training (OPDAT).
Sharpe began his legal career as an associate at the law firm Jones Day in the nation”s capital. A native of Washington, D.C., Sharpe is a graduate of Tulane University and Stanford Law School.