The job of United States Attorneys is important, rigorous and complex. That was the message U.S. Attorney for the Kansas District Barry Grissom told noon Rotary members at their Tuesday meeting in dePaul Hall at Via Christi Hospital.

The job of United States Attorneys is important, rigorous and complex. That was the message U.S. Attorney for the Kansas District Barry Grissom told noon Rotary members at their Tuesday meeting in dePaul Hall at Via Christi Hospital.

There are 93 U.S. Attorneys who are distributed to states based on their population numbers, Grissom said. Kansas has one attorney slot, which Grissom occupies. Missouri, to compare, has two; one each for the east and west districts. California, because of its large population, has four.

The office for the District of Kansas employs 49 Assistant U.S. Attorneys and 53 support staff. They work in three offices under the federal courts in Kansas City, Kan., Topeka and Wichita. The jurisdiction includes all 105 Kansas counties, and is organized into civil, criminal and administrative divisions.

Grissom graduated from the University of Kansas in 1977 and the Oklahoma City University School of Law in 1981. He was nominated by President Barack Obama in April 2010 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in August of that year. Grissom’s law enforcement priorities, he told the group, include protecting against terrorism, civil rights violations, public safety, drug trafficking, public corruption and white collar crime and crimes against children. After his Rotary presentation, Grissom met with local law enforcement agencies to discuss their issues.

Grissom went into detail about each of his priorities. People typically don’t associate Kansas with terrorism. But several of the most extreme acts of domestic terrorism in the U.S. can be tied to the state, Grissom said.

The terrorist who carried out the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and nearly brought it down, Eyad Ismoil, attended Wichita State University.
“He wasn’t even on our radar,” Grissom said.

And in preparing to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, Timothy McVeigh stole blasting caps from a quarry in Marion and rented the infamous Ryder truck from Junction City.

Grissom’s office also works to protect civil rights.

“You can say whatever you want, but as soon as that threatens somebody it’s a violation of federal law,” Grissom said, illustrating the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, which was inspired by the cases of Matthew Shepard, who was beaten to death in Wyoming for being gay, and James Byrd, who was beaten and dragged to he death for being black. “People like that, and people like Fred Phelps, those people don’t represent who we are.”

The state office has solved witness murder cases in Junction City and helped spawn the rebirth of a school in Kansas City by getting rid of drug dealers with the use of video cameras. It is working to fight off the rising use of prescription drugs and heroine, which Grissom said is the fastest-growing drug issue. More people die from prescription drug abuse than auto collisions, he said.

“Mexican black tar heroine is going gangbusters,” he said. “It’s cheaper than one pill of Oxycontin. You can crush it, snort it, whatever.”

Their efforts aren’t limited to violent and drug-related crime. Grissom said his attorney’s spend about 36 percent of their time fighting white-collar crime such as health care fraud and embezzling. He related the story of Kansas City woman Roxanne Jones, who was busted for adoption fraud when she unwittingly tried to scam a man who worked as a reporter for the network CBS. Grissom said that man now works for 60 Minutes and is doing a report on the scam.

“I think the issue is going to explode,” he said. “That woman wasn’t smart enough to figure this out for herself.”

Grissom also pays close attention to child pornography cases, which he says is a problem that’s growing. Because people don’t have to take their film to developers anymore, they can simply upload their images via “peer-to-peer” sharing online.

“It’s shocking, the amount of child pornography there is,” he said, adding that attorneys who work those cases have been given a clearance exception to see counselors. “We are incredibly lucky with the men and women we have in the intelligence community and law enforcement. I’ve never been around a more committed and passionate group.”