CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Voters in Mecklenburg County have known Andrew Murray as their District Attorney for the last six years. Now, Murray has moved on to become the top federal prosecutor in the Greater Charlotte area.
"I wanted this job to make a difference - just in a different arena. At the District Attorney's Office, I had a million population in Mecklenburg County to protect and to keep safe," Murray said. "Now, I have the western district - 32 counties and almost three million people with a little more resources, with an ability to get involved in the direction of where investigations go, of getting to put people in front of the grand jury, to determine where we'd like to use resources. So this is just a different platform doing the same job at a different platform, an opportunity for me to put my footprint in a bigger area."
Murray moved to North Carolina from Pennsylvania in 1980. After six years in the United States Coast Guard, he returned to Charlotte and has lived in the area ever since.
This week, Murray started his new job as US Attorney for the Western District of N.C, after President Trump appointed him.
"It's a political appointment so many people consider it to be political because it's political appointment," Murray said. "I will tell you as I say to everyone that doing justice does not have an R or a D behind it. Doing justice is doing justice and so it's not political from the standpoint of going out there, looking at the laws applies, looking at the facts of any case -the evidence and applying the laws to the facts and politics will not be involved. I won't let it be involved. It's doing what's right for the people of the western district."
In an interview with WBTV, Murray said violent crime will be a major focus.
"Gang activity, guns are a significant part of that. It's not that white collar – white collar is significant and harms people. Their tentacles can go out for a long way and harm people for a long time so that will be a priority." But, Murray added, "If you're asking me straight up – it is making sure we are safe from any type of violent crime."
Murray said as US Attorney he intends to follow the priorities of the Department of Justice. Gangs.
"Trans-national gangs. MS-13, which this office has already indicted a large number of MS, that I will now adopt those cases and be a part of my administration," Murray said. "Certainly the large indictment and the present prosecution going on took a big bite of gang activity but there's plenty of gang activity that we have not even gotten to the root of yet. And they commit crimes. They commit violent crime and we're going to certainly focus on them in order to make certain people feel comfortable going to their homes and to their parks and going to their employment without being frightened."
Murray said that prosecution of gang members "will be a major concentration."
"I will tell you gangs should be aware with me in this seat because we're going to make sure we take care of them," he said.
"In drug trafficking, this is a place where we can work more again in the organization – in the place where cartels are bringing into this district the poison our community," Murray said. "Opioid epidemic is huge. It's the same thing - working with law enforcement, working with those that are out there – non profits to try and make a difference in that arena."
"For human trafficking, this is a place where we can get involved in the organization and structure and human trafficking where at the state level it's just the cases that are charged" Murray said.
"The priority of immigration and those that commit crimes that are here illegally will be a priority of this administration," Murray said. I anticipate that we have laws of this land and my job is to enforce the laws of the land and if somebody is an illegal immigrant and they committed crimes then I anticipate that law enforcement will certainly bring those to the attention of the U-S Attorney's Office and we will be prosecuting them."
As a former district attorney, Murray knows local law enforcement agencies are struggling to get guns out of the hands of felons. He says he intends to work with police.
"We will revive project safe neighborhoods – that targeted towards getting guns and getting those that are violent off the street. It's proven in the past to reduce the amount of crime and we're going to work hard to get into the neighborhoods and reduce crime and make sure people are safe, and they're comfortable and they can let their children play outside - that's what we're going to do."
The western district of N.C, which includes Charlotte and Asheville, is home to major banks and businesses. So what about white collar crime?
"White collar crime is something we need to certainly make certain that we prevent that from occurring. So I'll be using the resources we have here to the best of our abilities," Murray said. "Whether I will be shifting resources to that – that's yet to be determined. I have to figure out what we actually can do, how we can do it and where our priorities should be with all those priorities I just named for you."
The former DA is promising hard nose prosecutions - regardless of who the criminal is.
"All I can tell you is the same thing I did as district attorney and that is when a crime has been committed I don't care who committed it," he said. "We prosecuted crimes as I was a prosecutor as the D.A and I will prosecute crimes here. I don't care who steps out of line. I don't care whether it's a law enforcement officer. I don't care whether it's a politician. I don't care who it is. If you want to step outside the bounds and violate our laws, you're going to be prosecuted."