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O'Donnell nominated as police agency liaison

President Obama has nominated Denise E. O'Donnell, a former U.S. attorney in Buffalo, to head the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance, which is responsible for directing federal resources to state and local law enforcement agencies.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on O'Donnell's nomination Wednesday, and the committee and the full Senate are expected to approve the nomination.

O'Donnell has "a remarkable record of service," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, a senior Republican on the committee, also said he supports O'Donnell's selection.

Speaking briefly at the hearing, which dwelled mostly on the nomination of Donald B. Verrilli Jr. as solicitor general, O'Donnell said: "I'm committed to do my very best and demonstrate that I am worthy of the trust of President Obama, Attorney General [Eric] Holder and each of you."

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., recommended O'Donnell for the post and introduced her at Wednesday's hearing.

"I know from experience that Denise O'Donnell will be an exemplary leader, helping the BJA assist state and local law enforcement in the fight against drugs, gang violence and violent crime," Schumer said. "With Denise at the helm, police departments throughout New York and across the country will have the backing they need to get the job done."

O'Donnell, a native of Buffalo and a graduate of Canisius College and the University at Buffalo School of Law, joined the U.S. Attorney's Office in Buffalo in 1985.

There, she worked on two of the most prominent investigations in the office's history: Oklahoma City bomber Timothy J. McVeigh, a former resident of Pendleton, Niagara County, who killed 168 people in 1995; and James C. Kopp, who murdered Dr. Barnett A. Slepian, an Amherst abortion provider, in 1998.

President Bill Clinton appointed O'Donnell as U.S. attorney for the Western District of New York in 1997. The first woman to serve in that role in upstate New York, O'Donnell was U.S. attorney until 2001.

She later worked as a partner at the Hodgson Russ law firm and ran an unsuccessful race for state attorney general in 2006.

O'Donnell served as commissioner of the state Division of Criminal Justice and deputy secretary for public safety under then-Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer.

After Spitzer's resignation in 2008, she continued to serve in the Cabinet of Gov. David A. Paterson. Schumer said O'Donnell served "to universal acclaim" in her roles with the state.

e-mail: jzremski@buffnews.com

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