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South Dakota's U.S. attorney to step down Dec. 31 after surviving Trump firings

U.S. Attorney for South Dakota Randy Seiler

FORT PIERRE, S.D.—U.S. Attorney for South Dakota Randy Seiler, who was one of a few to survive earlier this year after President Trump fired 48 of his contemporaries, has announced he will retire at the end of the year.

He plans to return to private practice where his family lives in Fort Pierre.

Seiler, who served with the office for 22 years, was nominated in 2015 by President Barack Obama as the 41st United States attorney for the District of South Dakota. He was sworn in on Oct. 8, 2015, by U.S. District Judge Roberto Lange in a ceremony at the U.S. Courthouse in Pierre.

The U.S. Senate never confirmed Seiler's nomination as U.S. attorney as it dragged out. Eventually he was sworn in by the U.S. District Court judge.

Seiler was the only Obama-nominated U.S. attorney to survive when Trump announced the firings of U.S. attorneys shortly after he was sworn in.

North Dakota U.S. Attorney Chris Myers also didn't lose his job, but he wasn't nominated by Obama.

Seiler replaced Brendan Johnson, the son of former U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., who also stepped down for a job in private practice.

Before he was appointed, Seiler served as acting and interim U.S. attorney, and also as the first assistant U.S. attorney

In the role as first assistant, Seiler was responsible for the day-to-day management and operation of the office. He also supervised the U.S. attorney's branch office in Pierre, where he was directly involved in prosecutorial matters and decisions.

Also serving as a tribal liaison, he consulted and coordinated with tribal justice officials and leaders, tribal communities and victim advocates in an effort to address any issues in the prosecution of major crimes in Indian country in South Dakota.

Selier said in a phone interview Monday, Nov. 20, that it was "the best and most fulfilling job I ever had," being U.S. attorney for just over two years.

When asked about what he was most proud of, he said simply that he prided himself in "following the law faithfully and honestly and administering justice without regard to bipartisanship or bias."

"I always strived to provide equal justice under the law regardless of a person's standing in society," Seiler said.

His co-workers said Seiler has had a distinguished career. He spent 14 years prosecuting violent crime offenses as an assistant U.S. attorney. In 2001, he received the Department of Justice Attorney General's Award for Fraud Prevention. In 2009, he became the first recipient of the Department of Justice Director's Award for Superior Performance in Indian Country. He has been an instructor at the National Advocacy Center in Columbia, S.C, as well as a presenter at numerous conferences and trainings on various topics including violent crime, sexual assault, domestic violence, and legal issues in the prosecution of violent crime in Indian country.

Some highlights of Seiler's tenure as U.S. attorney include:

• The number of cases filed and defendants charged has risen significantly over the past three years, with about 200 more in both categories since 2014.

• Established a dedicated Civil Rights Section within the office, spearheaded by a civil assistant U.S. attorney, working to protect veterans, gays, the disabled, and to prevent discrimination in housing. In addition to enforcing federal civil rights statutes, the section strives to educate community members about their rights under federal law by engaging in outreach programs throughout the state.

• Instrumental in the inception of the Guardians Project Task Force, which is designed to enhance federal law enforcement efforts to expose fraud and public corruption in Indian country, by uniting the expertise and resources of the participating 13 federal investigative agencies.

• Made drug prosecutions one of the office's top priorities by committing the U.S. Attorney's Office to work with and coordinate drug task forces across South Dakota, including the newly created Northeastern South Dakota Drug Team. South Dakota is now among the top 10 federal judicial districts for drug prosecutions, based on population. This is a marked change from 10 years ago, when South Dakota was not in the top ranks.

• Revised the management structure of the South Dakota U.S. Attorney's Office to include more women and minorities, and has hired minorities as assistant U.S. attorneys and special assistant U.S. attorneys, providing a more diversified approach to the offices' priorities and focus.

• Created "Walk-In Wednesday," wherein a representative of the U.S. Attorney's Office is on-site at Pine Ridge each Wednesday. Seiler implemented this initiative to allow citizens to more easily communicate with the office concerning crime on the reservation, inquire about existing cases, or to obtain any information that might be sought by residents.

• Extended outreach in Indian Country by holding community listening sessions, meeting with tribal councils, appointing tribal prosecutors as special assistant U.S. attorneys and implementing a "First Friday" call with tribal chairmen.

• Initiated regular community-based outreach meetings in Sioux Falls and Rapid City to discuss such topics as civil rights, officer involved shootings, frauds and scams, immigration, and hate crimes.

Before joining the U.S. Attorney's Office in 1995, Seiler was in private practice in Mobridge in north-central South Dakota, where he practiced criminal and civil law.

Seiler grew up in Herreid and served in the U.S. Air Force, which included a year-long tour in Vietnam, and graduated with honors from the University of South Dakota School of Law. He and his wife, Wanda, live in Fort Pierre, and have four grown children and two grandchildren.