New U.S. Attorney Jay Town says office will aggressively prosecute violent crimes, ‘pill mill’ doctors

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Jay Town, the new U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, told WHNT News 19 Friday that his office will increase cooperation with local law enforcement and aggressively pursue prosecution of violent crimes.

“So the (Justice) Department has its priorities: guns, drugs, bad guys, violent crime, opioids,” Town said. “Those are all priorities of the department. And it’s my job to make sure those priorities are executed in the Northern District.”

Cooperating and sharing information with local law enforcement will be a priority, Town said, and federal charges will be brought more often in what have long been state court cases.

“As an example, if you are a previously convicted felon and you are caught by law enforcement in possession of a firearm, you’re going to go to federal prison, you’re not going to get on state probation,” he said.

Town said the Department of Justice, led by U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions have given a clear mission to the U.S. Attorney’s offices around the country.

“It’s incredibly important that the federal government take up some of that leadership in prosecuting our worst offenders,” he said. “And that’s exactly what General Sessions has tasked us to do.”

Town said his office will continue to pursue public corruption and civil rights cases as well, without regard to political connections or other influence.

“Regardless of how I got the job or from whom, politics has absolutely no place on my desk,” he said. “So, if someone is violating a federal law if it’s a civil rights law, if it’s public corruption, criminal, civil, whatever, my office is going to prosecute it, and that’s it.”

Town said the Department of Justice is also bringing more resources to the problem of opioid abuse. The DOJ is funding a pilot program, Town said, that will pay for an assistant U.S. Attorney to focus her attention on doctors and medical practices who are providing excessive pain pill prescriptions.

“One hundred percent of her time working these types of cases,” Town said. “We’re not going after heroin and fentanyl dealers. What we’re going after are the medical providers who are operating outside the boundaries of the law, outside the boundaries of medical practice.”

Town said it’s another kind of drug-dealing.

“We’re going to rid the Northern District of these pill mills,” he said. “They’re just as bad, if not worse, as a drug dealer that we typically think of when we think of opioids.”

A report released this summer by health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield found that 16 of every 1,000 Alabama patients it covers had an opioid use disorder in 2016. That’s twice the national average.

“These death experiences, these overdoses, these are things that are all too common now and too great a risk, too great a cost to the citizens of the Northern District,” Town said. “So we’re going to go after them in full force, and that is already under way.”