ALEXANDRIA, Va. – United States Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger today announced that he will step down from his post as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA) effective 11:59 p.m. on January 15.
“It is with tremendous gratitude for the women and men of Team EDVA, our selfless federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, and my incredibly supportive family that I conclude my time in public service,” said Terwilliger. “It has been the honor of honors to be in the arena with so many dedicated individuals in the pursuit of justice, and I feel so fortunate to conclude my service as the United States Attorney in the district where it all began. To the people of the EDVA, thank you for the extraordinary opportunity to serve you. May you and your families have a safe, healthy, and productive 2021.”
Terwilliger’s tenure at EDVA will be remembered for his relentless efforts to increase public safety and security across the Commonwealth, as well as his commitment to the approximately 300 employees of the Eastern District whom he always referred to as “Team EDVA.”
Terwilliger directed significant resources towards combatting the opioid epidemic; developed a new illegal firearms trafficking initiative designed to thwart gun running in the DMV; worked tirelessly to further the District’s white-collar footprint by enhancing collaboration with DOJ’s Fraud Section; signed the first MOU with the new Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery; oversaw some of the most important national security cases in the country; was the embodiment of federal, state, and local law enforcement collaboration by regularly hosting and attending law enforcement roundtables and summits, including the Peninsula Violent Crime Summit in June 2019, and the Tri-Cities Violent Crime Summit in September 2019, where he oversaw transformational violent crime initiatives in both Richmond and the Tri-Cities (Petersburg, Colonial Heights, and Hopewell) areas; and frequently traveled the District to meet with police chiefs and sheriffs with a commitment to work hand and glove to provide support to their efforts.
Terwilliger began his career at EDVA as an intern in 1999, returned in 2005 as a summer law clerk, was appointed as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in 2008, and was hired as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in 2010. Terwilliger prosecuted numerous violent crime, fraud, organized crime, and human trafficking cases, and managed law enforcement task forces focusing on human trafficking and firearms. In addition to his prosecutorial duties, Terwilliger served as a counselor to former U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride, then served as a detailed AUSA and counsel to Senate Judiciary Chairman Senator Chuck Grassley. In January of 2017, Terwilliger, then a career prosecutor, was named co-lead of the Department of Justice Beachhead Team and helped to standup the Department during the first weeks of the new administration. Often working 20-hour days, Terwilliger provided critical support to components across the Justice Department as an Associate Deputy Attorney General in the Office of Deputy Attorney General (ODAG). He also supported the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, and had responsibility for oversight and collaboration with the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, as well as many other areas.
“I first met Zach when he arrived in the Deputy Attorney General’s office on January 20, 2017,” said Lee Lofthus, Assistant Attorney General for Administration, Department of Justice. “He hit the ground running and never stopped. Zach’s close work with Justice Department leadership and his teamwork with the Justice Management Division was outstanding.”
In May 2018, after nearly 18 months of service in ODAG including as Chief of Staff, Terwilliger was appointed as U.S. Attorney. With the support of Virginia’s two Democratic Senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, Terwilliger was nominated by the President and in September 2018 was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate as the 62nd United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
In a joint statement, Senators Warner and Kaine said: “We were pleased to recommend Mr. Terwilliger to fill the role of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. He has done critical work these past few years in the position, and we thank Mr. Terwilliger for his service to the Eastern District.”
Notably, Terwilliger supervised investigations into and secured charges or convictions in numerous internationally significant cases, including against two alleged ISIS militants charged with a hostage-taking scheme that led to multiple deaths of Americans in Syria; a Russian national charged with interfering in the U.S. political system; a former CIA officer convicted of espionage; MS-13 gang members charged in connection with multiple murders of juveniles; the extradition of a Senior Sinaloa Cartel leader to the U.S.; the trial conviction of a doctor who performed unnecessary and irreversible surgeries on women; a prolific firearms trafficker sentenced for illegally dealing over 200 guns; a former doctor sentenced for operating a pill mill that illegally distributed over 600,000 oxycodone pills; arrests of 35 defendants in Operation Cookout and recovery of enough fentanyl to potentially kill 14 million people; and corporate resolutions including an $850 million agreement with Petrobras, a $33 million agreement with Lumber Liquidators, a $46 million agreement with Hydro Extrusion Portland, Inc., a $137 million agreement with Walmart, and a $75 million agreement with Samsung Heavy Industries, among many others.
“On behalf of the women and men of ATF, I would like to express my sincerest appreciation to U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger for his unwavering support of ATF’s mission – protecting the public from violence in our communities and enforcing federal firearms laws,” said Regina Lombardo, Deputy Director of ATF. “U.S. Attorney Terwilliger has been an active member of ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence Governing Board; he understands the value of using technology and science to identify and prosecute criminals who use firearms to terrorize communities and kill innocent people. U.S. Attorney Terwilliger has been a driving force behind the Department of Justice’s Project Guardian initiative, promoting enhanced intelligence collection, information sharing, and coordinated responses necessary to address gun violence. As a United States Attorney, his work epitomizes true leadership and public service, and it was my honor to present him with the ATF Director’s Award this year. U.S. Attorney Terwilliger’s partnership with ATF’s Washington Field Division has been nothing short of extraordinary, and the Eastern District of Virginia is a safer place because of him. I sincerely wish him all the best in his next endeavor. He has my utmost respect.”
Under Terwilliger’s leadership, EDVA saw an increase in the number of criminal defendants charged in 2018 and 2019, going from 924 in 2017 to 1,029 in 2018, and to 1,091 in 2019.
“Our approach was to fish with a spear, not a net,” said Terwilliger. “Meaning it was not about mass arrests, but about strategically using federal resources to arrest those repeat and violent offenders that commit a disproportionate amount of violent crime and who have already had multiple opportunities at the state level.”
Leveraging EDVA’s strong partnerships with federal, state, and local law enforcement, during Terwilliger’s first full fiscal year after being confirmed by the U.S. Senate in September 2018, EDVA increased by over 18 percent the number of defendants charged with public safety and violent crime offenses, including cases involving the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), Project Guardian, Project Safe Neighborhoods, Project Safe Childhood, and/or other violent crimes.
“U.S. Terwilliger showed extraordinary commitment as a partner in the efforts to rid the City of Petersburg of dangerous criminals and change the lives of our citizens who lived in constant fear,” said Travis Christian, Chief of Petersburg Bureau of Police. “His efforts were not just conversations from an office. He helped put actual boots on the ground here in Petersburg. He traveled to the city, walked the streets and met with citizens, and ensured them that he was committed to providing the city with the necessary resources to restore peace and comfort back into our communities. As a result, U.S. Attorney Terwilliger helped remove from the streets some of Petersburg’s most dangerous criminals and prevented them from continuing to bring harm and danger to our city. His effort is representative of the team of true professionals at EDVA that have proven to be invaluable to the safety of the citizens of the City of Petersburg, Commonwealth of Virginia, and the United States of America.”
Under Terwilliger’s leadership, the civil litigation practice in EDVA has achieved significant and numerous successes, including a final Judgement and Permanent Injunction against former CIA employee Edward Snowden; the Justice Department’s largest ever settlement against a property management company for Alleged Violations of Servicemembers Civil Relief Act; an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) settlement agreement with a durable medical equipment company which operates approximately 800 centers in 48 states; and the establishment of a new Civil Rights Enforcement Unit at EDVA, which is the first at a U.S. Attorney’s Office nationwide to have multiple Assistant U.S. Attorneys 100 percent dedicated to enforcing the rights of persons with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For Terwilliger, who overcame severe dyslexia to become a successful student, the establishment of a unit focused on disability rights was a goal from Day One.
Terwilliger invested heavily in filling the attorney ranks across EDVA with accomplished and seasoned lawyers from a diversity of educational and familial backgrounds and welcomed nearly 60 Assistant U.S. Attorneys and long-term Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys in his approximately 32 months as U.S. Attorney. Terwilliger also showed a strong commitment to diversity across EDVA, building the most diverse supervisory team in EDVA history with unprecedented numbers of minorities and women serving in senior management.
“We are pleased to see Mr. Terwilliger’s commitment to pursuing diversity across the attorney ranks in EDVA, ensuring that the office reflects the communities they serve,” said Jane Reynolds, member of the Old Dominion Bar Association. “He has been a thoughtful and dedicated partner, and we are thankful for his continued support of ODBA. We wish Mr. Terwilliger and his family the very best.”
Upon Terwilliger’s departure, Raj Parekh, a career federal prosecutor and EDVA’s First Assistant U.S. Attorney, will serve as Acting U.S. Attorney. Parekh will become the first Indian-American and minority in the 232-year history of the Office to serve as EDVA’s U.S. Attorney (acting or otherwise).
“Lest there be any doubt, the accomplishments above are a credit to the amazing women and men of EDVA and our partner agencies,” said Terwilliger. “I am so humbled to have had the privilege to work alongside them.”
After a brief transition period and a few days off, Terwilliger will be joining Vinson & Elkins LLP as a partner in its Washington, D.C. office.
Terwilliger’s biography and high-resolution photo can be found here.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.