AP Interview: Mass shootings haunt federal prosecutor

Posted at 8:15 AM, Oct 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-30 08:16:53-04

CINCINNATI (AP) — The kind of crime that most worried the federal prosecutor for southern Ohio finally happened near the end of his tenure. And it's one he thinks will continue across the United States.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman awoke Sunday morning Aug. 4 to see that Attorney General Bill Barr, among other law enforcement officials, was trying to reach him with the call that he had dreaded. There had been a deadly mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio.

Often during his three years as lead federal prosecutor for the region that includes Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus, Glassman had reacted to such shootings elsewhere by calling the Cincinnati FBI's leader to discuss what they might need to do, concluding "but for the grace of God go us."

Glassman discussed the Dayton shooting, other major cases, and his future in a wide-ranging Associated Press interview Tuesday. Appointed during the Democrat Barack Obama's administration, Glassman will step down Friday in favor of Republican President Donald Trump's just-confirmed nominee, David DeVillers, a Columbus-based veteran assistant U.S. attorney.

The Dayton gunman's motive remains under investigation, with the FBI looking into what role interest in violent ideologies might have had on Connor Betts, 24. Glassman said he couldn't give a timetable on the probe.

But while he can't speculate about Betts, he believes there are many more potential mass killers still out there.

"What we have increasingly seen in the last few years are individuals who for whatever reason seem like they're really inclined to commit violence. And they can find on the internet the reasons that are sufficient in their own minds to go out and commit mass violence," Glassman said.

"Of course, it's just really easy to access weapons and ammunition that can cause horrific violence. And with all these things together, that (mass shootings) is going to be a continuing problem."

Glassman said while still part of the Justice Department he wouldn't discuss public policy changes he'd like to see on gun ownership. But he appeals to everyday Americans to reach out to authorities if they see that a friend or family member appears to be turning toward mass violence.

His office successfully prosecuted several cases of U.S. residents who wanted to kill either here or abroad in support of the Islamic State extremists.

Although he said it's clearly better for national security to have fewer active Islamic State extremists, Glassman added that susceptible people will adopt varying ideologies. He said U.S. authorities have seen people appear headed to becoming jihadi extremists, disappear from the federal radar, then reappear communicating with violent white nationalists. He said just as the Islamic State recruits Americans via social media from the Middle East, white nationalists are recruiting from Europe.

His office has also prosecuted economic espionage cases involving other countries targeting U.S. companies, such as in last year's arrest of a Chinese spy accused of trying to steal trade secrets from U.S. aviation and aerospace companies.

"I think we're beginning to get a handle on it and I think it is probably more pervasive than we have been aware of until recently," Glassman said. "I think it's fair to say that pretty much any company that is engaged in any kind of high-tech research and development probably has been targeted."

Glassman provided quick updates on some pending cases:

— Efforts are continuing to return for trial in Cincinnati a Catholic priest, Kenneth Hendricks , charged with multiple counts of child sex abuse in the Philippines.

— His prosecutors are "prepared to move forward" in the case of a young man charged with lying to FBI agents about being a long-missing child. Brian Rini , 24, is being held without bond in Butler County Jail pending a ruling on his competency.

A review continues into the possibility of prosecuting a white former University of Cincinnati police officer for civil rights violations in the case of an unarmed black motorist he fatally shot in 2015. Two juries deadlocked on murder charges against Ray Tensing, who said he felt his life was in danger when he Sam DuBose, 43, in the head after pulling him over for a missing front license plate.

Glassman plans to remain temporarily as an assistant to help DeVillers' transition.

At 44, the married father of young twins isn't sure what's ahead for him in the future.

"Public service has been a joy for me," he said, saying that while stepping away soon, "I hope it's not the last time that I am involved in public service."