Marshals Service director leaving agency

Benigno G. Reyna, director of the U.S. Marshals Service, announced his resignation Friday amid accusations that his agency failed to protect federal judges and their families. His last day will be July 31.

In a letter announcing his departure to the 4,800 Marshal Service employees, Reyna said that he would return to his home in Texas in August and he looked forward to being closer to his family.

Reyna was not available for comment, according to a Marshals Service spokesman, and there was no word on who would serve as the agency's acting director until a permanent replacement is nominated and confirmed.

Reyna cited in his letter increased staffing levels in the Marshal Service, the creation of the Office of Protective Intelligence for enhanced protection of the Judicial Branch, the creation of an Inspection Office and the reorganization of the Information Technology Office as achievements during his tenure.

The departing chief was confronted by federal judges and members of Congress during a May 18 hearing on the Feb. 28 murder of the husband and mother of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow in her home in Chicago.

Lefkow, testifying before the committee, challenged the Marshals Service to study the issue of protecting federal judges and to assist them when they might be in danger of attack.

"My own experience with my current security detail suggests to me that there is a tremendous need for thinking and planning and training from the top of the Marshals Service," Lefkow said before the Senate Judiciary Committee. "The more that I learn about what is in place for judicial protection in the Marshals Service, the less sanguine I am that judicial security is anything but an ad hoc response to individual requests, and this is very disturbing to me."

Judge Jane R. Roth, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, said at the hearing that the problem with the Marshals Service "is here in Washington, not out in the courts, where marshals work tirelessly to make do with inadequate resources."

"Despite the fact that judges are subject to an increasingly hostile environment, the judiciary is not able to participate in a meaningful way with the Marshals Service, the Department of Justice, to ensure adequate resources for judicial security," Roth said. "Our requests to examine staffing levels have been denied. Our requests to participate in the determination of adequate staffing levels have not been honored."

In response to the murder of Lefkow's husband and mother, Congress appropriated $12 million to the Marshals Service for off-site judicial security and to install home alarm systems.

Karen Redmond, spokeswoman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, said in a statement that Reyna's tenure was "hampered by a perennial lack of resources" that kept the Marshals Service from protecting the federal judiciary.

"We look forward to working with the new director of the U.S. Marshals Service and hope he or she will enjoy the full support of the Attorney General," Redmond said in the statement. "Many challenges lie ahead. The judiciary looks forward to continuing to work with the Marshals Service to meet them."

After his confirmation on Oct. 29, 2001, Reyna oversaw a reorganization of the Marshals Service headquarters and has expanded the agency's national and international cooperative law enforcement efforts, according to the Justice Department.

As the oldest law enforcement agency in the United States, the Marshals Service has broad jurisdiction and authority. Its responsibilities include judicial security, which entails protecting attorneys and jurors in addition to federal judges; federal investigations and arrests; witness security and transporting prisoners.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said in a statement that Reyna served with "integrity and skill," and cited his work with state and local law enforcement in Operation Falcon, which resulted in the arrest of more than 10,000 fugitives, as an example of his leadership.

Reyna worked in Texas law enforcement for 25 years before he was nominated by President Bush to lead the Marshals Service on Sept. 12, 2001. He served as chief of the Brownsville, Texas, police department for six years and was appointed by then-Gov. Bush to the state's Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education in 1997, becoming its presiding officer in 2000.

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