Joon H. Kim was named the new U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York temporarily, while the Donald Trump administration searches for an attorney to take the role permanently. The 45-year-old Kim is a longtime friend of and was an adviser to his predecessor, Preet Bharara.
Bharara was fired on March 11, after refusing Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ and Trump’s request that he resign do the administration can put in their own attorneys. Forty-five other U.S. attorneys confirmed during the Obama Administration were also asked to resign.
“I want to thank the amazing people of the Southern District of New York, the greatest public servants in the world, for everything they do each day in pursuit of justice. They will continue to do the great work of the Office under the leadership of Joon H. Kim, the current Deputy U.S. Attorney, who will serve as Acting U.S. Attorney,” Bharara said in a statement on March 11.
Here’s a look at Kim’s life and career.
1. He Worked on Organized Crime & Terrorism Cases With Bharara
The Associated Press reported that Kim will only hold the position as one of the country’s most powerful attorneys temporarily. He could serve in the position for several months, since Trump’s nominee will have to be confirmed by the Senate.
While working for Bharara, Kim worked on cases involving organized crime and terrorism. Before Bharara hired him as chief counsel in April 2013, Kim worked in the Office of the Organized Crime and Terrorism Unit in the Southern District, helping convict members of the Mafia and Asian gangs.
He worked at the office from 2000 to 2006, before leaving to join Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. He re-joined the office in 2013.
“I am thrilled to welcome Joon back to the Office, where we will be lucky to have his smart and thoughtful judgment. I am confident that his rigor and intellect will enormously benefit the people of the Southern District of New York,” Bharara said of Kim in 2013.
In 2015, Kim was promoted to Deputy U.S. Attorney, becoming the highest-ranking Korean American U.S. prosecutor, notes Korea Times.
2. He Helped Convict Mob Boss Peter Gotti
While working in the Organized Crime and Terrorism Unit, he helped convict former Gambino Family boss Peter Gotti for conspiring to kill Salvatore ‘Sammy The Bull’ Gravano.
As The New York Times reported, Gotti was convicted in December 2004 on federal charges of racketeering and conspiracy to murder.
In April 2009, he lost an appeal to have the conviction for plotting to kill Gravano overturned. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison for plotting to kill Gravano, who was arrested for drugs before the murder could happen.
Th 77-year-old Gotti, who is suffering from several health ailments, will be 92 on his scheduled release date, May 5, 2032.
3. He Also Prosecuted Gotti’s Son Junior Gotti
Kim was also on the prosecution team that tried to send John “Junior” Gott to prison. Junior Gotti was on trial four times between 2004 and 2009, with Kim among the prosecutors the third trial, reports the New York Daily News. All four ended in mistrials.
In December 2009, the fourth trial ended in a mistrial as well, the Associated Press reported. The jury couldn’t reach a verdict after a two-month trial.
In January 2010, The New York Daily News reported that he would not be tried again for past alleged crimes.
“In light of the circumstances, the government has decided not to proceed with the prosecution against John A. Gotti,” Bharara said at the time. “The prosecution of the case has ended. I would like to commend and thank the many dedicated law enforcement agents, prosecutors and staff who worked vigorously on this case.”
4. He’s the Son of a South Korean Diplomat
The Associated Press reports that Kim is the son of a south Korean diplomat. Victor Hou, who worked with Kim, told the AP that he was also asked to help train prosecutor in South Korea when it changed its judicial system in 2009.
Kim graduated from Philips Exeter Academy, Standford and Harvard Law School. After earning his degree, he first joined Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton LLP in 1997. He left the firm in 2000 to join the Southern District of New York office until 2006, when he re-joined Cleary Gottlieb. His second tenure there ended in 2013, when Bharara hired him.
“He is one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met in my life,” Michael McGovern, who worked with Kim, told the AP. “Even in the toughest of cases, when either at the end of the day or while the jury is deliberating, we’re sitting there in the trial room, sometimes late into the evening, he’d have me just bent over laughing.”
5. He Was Honored as a Trailblazer by a Korean American Lawyers Group
In 2013, the Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York (KALAGNY) honored Kim with their Trailblazer Award. In 2006, he also received the “Person of the Year” award by the Society of Asian Federal Officers for his work in prosecuting organized crime.
During his tenure at Cleary Gottlieb, he focused on defending those facing white-collar crime charges.
“He represented numerous financial institutions and multi-national corporations in securities, antitrust and other complex litigation, as well as in regulatory and criminal matters involving the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, various state Attorney General’s Offices, and regulators in Europe and Asia,” according to the KALAGNY bio on Kim.