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Tim Purdon to step down

Tim Purdon, U.S. Attorney for North Dakota, is stepping down from the postion to return to private practice after having served in the position since 2010. Purdon, shown in his office on Tuesday afternoon, plans to continue living in Bismarck and will be opening an office for a national legal firm. His final day as U.S. Attorney is March 12.

U.S. Attorney for North Dakota Timothy Purdon announced Tuesday he will be stepping down in March after more than four years on the job.

March 12 will be Purdon's last day as North Dakota's 18th U.S. attorney before returning to private practice in the Bismarck branch of a national law firm, according to a statement from his office.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Myers will serve as acting U.S. Attorney for North Dakota until a replacement is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Purdon's tenure was marked by his heavy involvement in tribal issues — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder named him as chair of the Department of Justice's Native American Issues Subcommittee — as well as a focus on the prosecution of human and drug traffickers in North Dakota.

Purdon's signature initiative, according to the statement, was the 2011 implementation of the Anti-Violence Strategy for Indian Country in North Dakota, which saw his office devote more resources to build ties with the Native American community and increase prosecution of violent criminals on reservations.

The U.S. Attorney's time in office also coincided with the rise of the Bakken shale oil boom and the resulting rise in the drug and sex trades. 

Purdon supervised a number of operations.

• Operation Winter's End, which dismantled a heroin-trafficking ring in the Fort Berthold Reservation

• Operation Pipe Cleaner, which took down a drug organization in Dickinson

• Operation Stolen Youth, which prosecuted a group of people selling synthetic drugs that led to two overdose deaths in Grand Forks

• Operation Vigilant Guardian, which involved a series of stings in Williston and Dickinson where police arrested men seeking sex with underage girls.

"I see myself as a runner in a relay race, and I've had the baton for the last four and a half years," said Purdon in a Tuesday interview, adding that he felt comfortable leaving the office in the hands of Myers and the other assistant U.S. attorneys.

The outgoing U.S. attorney said politics and the upcoming 2016 presidential election played no role in his decision to leave.

"That wasn't part of this. This was my timing, not someone else's timing," Purdon said.

Though he had many accomplishments, Purdon said he also was leaving the job with some regrets. His effort to ramp up prosecution of organized crime fell afoul of federal budget woes, including sequestration and the October 2013 federal government shutdown, that he said forced him to prosecute "with one arm behind my back."

"I'm incredibly proud of the work that I did with the bully pulpit," he said of hes efforts to raise awareness of North Dakota's growing crime.

Purdon worked in Bismarck prior to becoming U.S. attorney and said he planned to remain in the capital city after he steps down. Department of Justice rules forbid him from disclosing the name of the firm in which he will be working, he said.

It's possible his successor will not reside in Bismarck but, instead, may work in the more-populated Fargo. He said living in Bismarck was unusual for a U.S. attorney, but fortuitous for him since it placed him in close proximity to the Bakken oil boom and North Dakota's Indian Country, two areas that would define his time in office.

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(Reach Andrew Sheeler at 701-250-8225 or andrew.sheeler@bismarcktribune.com.)

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