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Prosecutor who helped dismantle outlaw Hells Angels in Washington is tapped as acting U.S. attorney

UPDATED: Tue., March 2, 2021

By Mike Carter Seattle Times

SEATTLE – A senior prosecutor who helped dismantle the outlaw Hells Angels motorcycle club in Washington and is overseeing some of the state’s most complex federal criminal prosecutions has been appointed acting U.S. attorney in Western Washington.

Tessa Gorman, who worked as first assistant to retiring U.S. Attorney Brian Moran, has been with the office for 24 years and holds a leadership position in the Federal Bar Association. Moran, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, stepped down on Feb. 28 – a tradition with the change of administration, according to a Department of Justice news release.

Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have recommended Seattle attorney Nick Brown to President Joe Biden to be the next appointed U.S. attorney in the district. He must still be nominated and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Gorman provided guidance to a number of the office’s high-profile cases, including the ongoing oversight of a federal consent decree with the Seattle Police Department, and the prosecution of Chinese business giant Huawei for theft of trade secrets.

She has supervised cases involving pain clinics belonging to a Seattle doctor who defrauded the government and the criminal prosecution of an environmental disposal firm that was committing fraud by falsely claiming it met environmental protection standards.

Earlier in her career, Gorman prosecuted a wide variety of cases from violent crime to complex frauds. In 2008, Gorman and the trial team were honored with a Director’s Award for the successful prosecution of the Washington Nomads chapter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club as a racketeering-influenced criminal organization (RICO). The gang was convicted of crimes including murder and assault, and the verdicts represented the first RICO jury verdicts against the Hells Angels in 25 years.

Complex fraud cases Gorman has prosecuted include a $30 million Ponzi scheme and a bank fraud case that grew out of the failure of a South Sound bank, as well as homicides and sexual assaults in Indian Country. Gorman, a graduate of Yale University, began her career with the Department of Justice in 1998 as part of an Honors Program in Washington, D.C. In 2001, she was hired by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Washington.

In July 2018, then-President Trump announced his intention to nominate Gorman to a seat on the federal bench in Western Washington, to replace U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik, who currently holds senior judge status. However, due to a dispute over a separate nomination, the nomination was never submitted to the Senate.

Gorman has been active in the Federal Bar Association in Western Washington, serving as president in 2015-16. In 2015, the judges here selected Gorman to serve a three-year term as a district court lawyer representative to the Ninth Circuit, which includes federal courts in Alaska, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Hawaii and the territories of Guam and the northern Marianna Islands.

Gorman has taught trial advocacy at the University of Washington School of Law and has served as a professional mentor for students at both University of Washington and Seattle University law schools. She grew up in Olympia and earned her law degree at University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

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