Spitzer Prosecutor Once Targeted Drug Kingpins

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Updated: Boyd Johnson III is known as a likable guy with a self-deprecating sense of humor, but don’t mistake his demeanor for laziness. He’s a determined prosecutor who targeted international drug kingpins before he put together the case against a high-priced prostitution ring that led Gov. Eliot Spitzer to resign, the Wall Street Journal reports (sub. req.).

Johnson, 40, clerked for a federal judge in California after graduating from Cornell Law School. Next he went to work as a litigation associate at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher. But he told his supervisor he had always wanted to be a prosecutor, and he left to pursue his dream at the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan.

Before taking over the public corruption unit in 2006, Johnson was chief of the section that prosecuted international drug trafficking. (He replaced public corruption chief Michele Hirshman, who is now representing Spitzer as a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.)

His prosecutions included cases against Colombian drug cartels and an Afghan heroin kingpin linked to the Taliban. In that role, Johnson developed close ties to FBI agents, including those who investigated the prostitution ring known as Emporers Club VIP.

“Agents love him,” former prosecutor Michael McGovern told the newspaper. There’s no snobbishness about Boyd. … Agents warm up to him because they feel like he’s one of them.”

The Associated Press has summaries of defense lawyers working on Spitzer’s case. Besides Hirshman, they include:

–Mark Pomerantz, also a partner with Hirschman at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, who helped overturn investment banker Frank Quattrone’s conviction for obstruction of justice.

–Ted Wells, also at Paul Weiss, who worked on the Quattrone case and several cases involving indicted public officials.

Updated at 10:57 a.m. to include Associated Press information about Spitzer’s defense lawyers.

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