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Brittany Lawonn, Published December 19 2008

U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley wants role in Rodriguez appeal

The Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. death penalty appeal arguments are scheduled to soon take place, and U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley wants a role in them.

Wrigley has pitched a departure plan from his appointed position that would allow him to participate in some of the initial appeals and put the government’s case against Rodriguez “in the strongest possible position and ensure that it can withstand what we know is going to be a hotly contested and somewhat lengthy appeals process going forward,” he told The Forum on Thursday.

Wrigley has met in Washington, D.C., with the chiefs of staff of U.S. Sens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad to thank them for their support and to pitch a timeline for his departure.

“I recognize that I’m not going to be reappointed as U.S. attorney,” Wrigley said.

The proposed timeline would allow him to participate in arguments before the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and also let him handle some initial steps after that court issues its decision.

A date for the arguments has not yet been set, but Wrigley said he believes they could be in either January or February. A decision from the court could take about five or six months. Wrigley’s timeline also calls for him to respond to the court’s decision and confer with the solicitor general on any further movement.

Wrigley said his role in handling the appeals is important, not only because of his current position, but because he was the lead prosecutor in Rodriguez’s 2006 trial for the 2003 kidnapping and murder of Dru Sjodin.

“It’s a very complicated matter so I want to do my part in making sure as the lead trial prosecutor that it gets put on the best possible footing,” Wrigley said.

His proposed timeline, which includes specific dates he declined to discuss, also would help ease the transition and the appointment of his successor, Wrigley said.

“The timeline that I have proposed is consistent with their objective as well,” he said.

Both Conrad and Dorgan were out of the office Thursday and unavailable to comment. The two have been in the Middle East for the past week and are expected to return to Washington today.

Several people have voiced support for Wrigley being reappointed to his position, including Sjodin’s mother, Linda Walker. As of late Thursday, 381 people had joined a Facebook group supporting Wrigley being reappointed.

Wrigley said he appreciates such support, saying it speaks to the many accomplishments his entire staff has made.

In the meantime, Wrigley is preparing for the appellate arguments. He said he has not yet made formal preparations for his career after his appointment ends, but has been giving thought to it and is open to many ideas.

“The timeline for that also is going to be determined by this (proposal),” he said. “If it’s sooner rather than later, I’ll need to be more serious about that.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Brittany Lawonn at (701) 241-5541