Carraway goes to work as assistant U.S. attorney, criminal division Jackson

Published 6:14 pm Monday, October 1, 2018

By John Surratt

The Vicksburg Post

Monday, assistant district attorney Bert Carraway wasn’t in his office Monday at the Warren County District Attorney’s office.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Monday was his first day on the job as an assistant U.S. Attorney in the criminal division for the Southern District of Mississippi.

It was several months ago that Carraway, a Vicksburg native and Vicksburg High graduate who has spent six years in the District Attorney’s office, applied for a position with the U.S. attorney’s office in Jackson through USAJobs, the online federal jobs listing service.

“Honestly, I did not think I would get a call back on it,” he said. “I applied, I was interviewed and received another call and that is that. I happened fast. It’s something I wanted to do, and I know so many people have applied and they just don’t get in. It’s largest prosecutorial agency in the world. They’re elite trial lawyers.

“That is rare. It’s rare to get a career at the U.S. Attorney’s office. Those are once in a lifetime chances, I think most attorneys would agree to that. You get it and remain in public service. That’s what I do as a state prosecutor and then I’ll be a federal prosecutor.

“The cases will be a little different, law enforcement will be different. Law enforcement is going to be the FBI, ATF, DEA. Different federal rules of evidence, federal court procedures.

The U.S. attorney’s office, they are the national’s principal litigators under the direction of the United States Attorney General.”

The U.S. attorney’s office, Carraway said, conducts most of the trial work in which the United States is a party. It is responsible for prosecution of criminal case brought by the U.S. government, and for the prosecution and defense of civil cases in which the United States is a party, and has civil and criminal divisions.

“I learned recently the office is responsible for the collection of debts owed the federal government. The type of debts where other administrative remedies are not available,” he said.

Carraway has a bachelor’s degree from Mississippi College and his law degree from Mississippi College School of Law. He also served 12 years in the Mississippi Air National Guard as a crew chief on a C-17 transport.

He said he went to law school to help people.

“What I did in the military, we end up doing air evac missions,” he said. “These were people who were wounded, clinging to life, that we pick up at major bases; They’re on life support. We had to fly them to hospitals.

“We flew from the middle of Iraq to San Antonio, Texas to a burn unit; we did not know we were going to be doing that until we got on the ground. But we were helping people.”

When he entered law school, Carraway said, “I knew I wanted to be a prosecutor. I said, ‘I can help some victims out.’

“We have all type of victims we work with here,” he said. “We have people right here in Vicksburg who walk among us, who go to church with us, who are victims of some pretty bad things. We have children who are victims of some pretty violent crimes, and it’s been absolutely fulfilling to do whatever we can do to help them see justice.

“You watch a child take the stand and point out a grown man that hurt her, you don’t forget it. I remember every face. And I think in a way it makes everyone of these prosecutors stronger. In an odd way, I’m going to miss that.

“When I heard back (from the U.S. Attorney’s office), he said, “It hit me; I have this opportunity. It was very difficult.”

Deciding to leave the District Attorney’s office, he said was tough, “Because these people have become family. Being here for six years, I’ve established a lot of relationships. A lot of relationships I never would have been able to make if I did not have this job. I’ve enjoyed it.

“It was very tough (to leave), because I’ve really grown fond of the attorneys I’ve worked with. The employees in this courthouse are phenomenal people. Law enforcement. I went from critic to totally understanding what law enforcement is going through. The work non-stop for them to attain perfection. They work tough.”

Carraway said he interned in the District Attorney’s office when he was in law school, adding when he graduated, “I came right back. One thing about the people, I’ll miss establishing relationships and being able to help people.

“Here, I’m working with the people we all see at Walmart, we see at baseball games, we see at church.

“Ricky Smith — I hope the people know one thing about him — when it comes to violent crimes, victims of violent crimes, children who are victims of crime, they will never have another district attorney who has as much compassion as he does for children and people who are victims of violent crime.

“He and I, Marcie Southerland and Angela Carpenter, we have left here well after dark hundreds of nights. The nights between trial, we come up here on weekends to get ready,” he said.

“Ricky seeks out people to work for him who are going to give it 200 percent, because you don’t get overtime. Their goal is someone hurt this person, hurt their child and we’re going to show that’s it’s not going to be tolerated; we’re going to show that it’s not going to happen again, we’re going to show this child that there are good people out there.

“When I leave, and whoever he hires, I’m confident he’s going to see that same quality.”

His new job also means giving up his position as president of the Warren County Bar Association. Penny Lawson, who is vice president, will take his spot.

“I think we have one of the best bars in the state,” Carraway said. “We have some excellent attorneys in Vicksburg.

“I’ve been fond of every member of our bar. The attorneys appointed from the list for criminal defense, they are not getting rich representing some very heavy cases, and they don’t put money as a measuring stick for how good of a job. They do it; they do a great job. They hold us to task like they’re supposed to do.”

Carraway said he and his family plan to remain in Vicksburg.

“I’m going to be at a different level, so my daily interaction with the public is going to stop,” he said. “Could I go someplace else and make a whole lot more money? You betcha, but I consider myself a true public servant. I like helping people.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

email author More by John