Tuesday, December 7, 1999
AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn announced today the appointment of former FBI Director William Sessions as state chair of Texas Exile, a statewide initiative funded by a grant from the Governor's Criminal Justice Division, aimed at reducing gun crime.
"William Sessions has had a distinguished career as a law enforcement official, attorney and federal judge. I am pleased to have him head up our Texas Exile team," Cornyn said.
Sessions's lifelong calling began in 1958 when he started a private practice in Waco. In 1969, he was selected by President Richard Nixon to head the government operations division of the United States Justice Department and in 1971 was named U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas.
In 1974, Sessions became a federal judge for the Western District Court in El Paso and in 1979, he was appointed to the post of Chief Federal Judge of the San Antonio district. It was during his tenure there where he presided over the trial of his murdered predecessor, Judge John Wood. Sessions was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987 as the head of the FBI, a position he held until 1993.
"Texas Exile brings an innovative approach to law enforcement in our state, and it is my honor to help coordinate this important initiative. I want to thank Attorney General Cornyn for this opportunity," Sessions said.
Texas Exile is modeled after Project Exile, a program developed in Richmond, Virginia to reduce gun crime. In 1997, Richmond had the second highest murder rate in the nation. To make their streets safe again, law enforcement began an intense effort to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. In September, Governor George W. Bush announced a grant to Attorney General Cornyn's office for $1.6 million to kick off Texas Exile.
Under Texas Exile, eight prosecutors will concentrate solely on prosecuting criminals who illegally carry guns. These prosecutors will use federal and state gun statutes to seek the longest possible sentence for these criminals. The goal is to not only keep criminals off the street, but also to keep them in jail longer.
Additionally the Attorney General's public awareness campaign slogan "Gun Crime Means Hard Time" will be taken to the streets of Texas cities through billboards, radio and television advertising.
By taking advantage of these same federal statutes, Texas Exile ensures any convicted felon or drug trafficker caught with a gun will be sentenced to five years in prison. These sentences increase if the felon was involved in any criminal activity when arrested. Habitual violent offenders are essentially exiled from city streets, and potential offenders are discouraged by the threat of harsh prison terms.
Since the beginning of the program in Richmond, over 300 criminals have been convicted and removed from the streets. The murder rate has dropped by 33 percent and the rate of violent crime has decreased by almost 50 percent.
Attorney General Cornyn began a statewide rollout of Texas Exile Monday in Dallas, joined by Mayor Ron Kirk, U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins and a representative from Dallas District Attorney Bill Hill's office. For the next two weeks, Cornyn will introduce Texas Exile in Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Brownsville, Tyler, Beaumont and El Paso.
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