Matthew M. Graves, the new U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, in his first public appearance, pledged to engage District residents and actively work with them to fight crime and deadly violence.
“Our city has seen an unacceptable rise in homicides,” said Graves, who delivered remarks at the Ward 7 & 8 Joint Faith Leaders Prayer Breakfast that took place on Dec. 11 at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church in Southeast. “My job as U.S. attorney is to see that 2022 doesn’t look like 2021. Prosecuting and incarcerating people will not make our communities safer.”
Unlike other cities, the District’s U.S. attorney serves as the local and federal prosecutor of crime. President Biden selected Graves for the position earlier this year upon the recommendation of D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton. The Senate confirmed him in October and he took office in November. Graves supervises the largest U.S. Attorney’s Office in the country.
Graves comes into his position as the city grapples with 211 homicides, the highest number in years and having to prosecute high-profile incidents such as the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Graves hails from Reading, Penn. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Washington and Lee University and a juris doctorate from the Yale University School of Law in 2001. He clerked on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for Judge Richard W. Roberts from 2001-2002 and worked as an associate for the law firm of WilmerHale from 2002-2007.
In 2007, he joined the District’s U.S. Attorney’s Office where he supervised and prosecuted a wide range of cases as an assistant U.S. attorney and as the chief of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section. He also prosecuted a number of cases involving shootings, robberies, kidnappings and other violent crimes.
In 2016, Graves left the U.S. Attorney’s Office to go into private practice with the law firm of DLA Piper’s Washington, D.C. office as a litigation and compliance partner.
Graves told the 150 attendees at the breakfast he wants to develop active relationships with community groups.
“We want to partner with organizations like the Anacostia Coordinating Council, the Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church and the East of the River Clergy Police to fight crime and make our neighborhoods safer,” he said. “We need our faith-based organizations to provide guidance on criminal justice issues. As the new U.S. attorney, I promise you I will spend a lot of time in our community.”
Graves told the Informer that “things are going well” in the first few weeks of his job.
“We have had a number of challenges as a result of COVID-19,” he said. “We’ve had to make some adjustments in the way cases are processed but we are serving the people of D.C. We have a great team at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. I was able to hit the ground running. I know a number of the division heads and I understand the work they do. I have the foundation to run the office successfully.”
Graves said appearances before community groups will be a staple during his tenure. He said building relationships will remain a priority.
“I am looking forward to working with our youth,” he said. “Unfortunately, most of the violent crime taking place in the city is being caused by young people. I look forward to visiting neighborhoods and schools to try to stop the violence. I like working with kids.”