Two former assistant U.S. attorneys have been recommended to President Joe Biden as potential replacements for John Lausch as Chicago’s top federal prosecutor.
April Perry and Sergio Acosta were selected as finalists for the position by Democratic U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin after a screening process that began earlier this year, the senators said. Lausch, who was nominated by former President Donald Trump and sworn into the post in November 2017, announced in January he was stepping down.
“Our screening committee carefully evaluated candidates by reviewing their professional records and application questionnaires, contacting references, and conducting interviews,” the senators wrote in their letter to Biden.
The selections were made as many have called for a more diverse pool of candidates to be considered for the office. Perry would be the first woman to hold the position of Chicago’s top federal prosecutor, while Acosta would be the first of Hispanic descent.
Biden’s ultimate nominee has to be approved by the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority. Durbin is the second-highest-ranking senator and heads the influential Senate Judiciary Committee.
Perry is the senior counsel for global investigations and fraud and abuse prevention at Chicago-based GE HealthCare. Previously, she worked for 12 years as a federal prosecutor in Chicago, and for a time was a coordinator for various programs that concentrated on violence against women, hate crimes and civil rights.
While with the U.S. attorney’s office, she prosecuted television pitchman Kevin Trudeau on allegations that he made deceptive TV commercials, a crime that led to a 10-year federal prison sentence for Trudeau.
Perry left the U.S. attorney’s office to work as chief ethics officer for Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. She left the office while Foxx’s administration was under scrutiny for abruptly dismissing charges against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett.
A special prosecutor later took up the case, and Smollett was found guilty of filing a false police report for falsely reporting to be a victim of a hate crime.
Perry is also a hearing officer for the Chicago Police Board, a panel that decides whether Chicago cops should be fired for disciplinary infractions.
She received her bachelor’s and law degrees from Northwestern University.
Acosta is a partner at the law firm of Akerman in Chicago, where he’s practiced since 2018, and before that was with Hinshaw & Culbertson. At both firms his specialty was white-collar crime.
He spent a total of 18 years with the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago. In 2008, he led a team of FBI agents and federal prosecutors in the investigation that led to the indictment of former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge.
Burge was ultimately sentenced to 4 ½ years in federal prison after a jury convicted him of lying about criminal suspects being tortured during his police investigations.
In 2015, then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel named Acosta, along with future Mayor Lori Lightfoot and others, to a task force asked to develop recommendations for reforming the Police Department after the shooting of Laquan McDonald. Officer Jason Van Dyke was later convicted of second-degree murder in that case.
The Police Department ultimately fell under a federal consent decree following an investigation into its policing practices by the U.S. Justice Department.
Earlier in his career, Acosta was a prosecutor for the Miami-Dade County state’s attorney’s office under Janet Reno, who later became the U.S. attorney general during President Bill Clinton’s administration.
Acosta was also once the administrator for the Illinois Gaming Board.
Acosta received his bachelor’s degree from DePaul University and his law degree from the George Washington University law school.
Separately, Biden on Monday announced the nomination of Chicago-based Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy C. Daniel to serve as a federal judge for the Northern District of Illinois.
A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Daniel earned his bachelor’s degree from Illinois Wesleyan University and his law degree from the University of Chicago.
Chicago Tribune’s Rick Pearson and Jason Meisner contributed.