U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger today named Vikas Khanna as First Assistant U.S. Attorney and Lee Cortes as Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney, giving his office’s most powerful roles to two of the government’s prosecutors in the Bridgegate case.
“Vikas is a highly respected alumnus of our office, celebrated by AUSAs, the defense bar, and members of the judiciary for his exceptional intellect and judgment,” Sellinger said in a statement announcing his appointments. “I am confident he will be an extraordinary leader of the office, and I look forward to working together to advance the cause of justice for the people of New Jersey.”
Khanna, the brother of U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), worked in the U.S. Attorney’s office for nine years before joining the private sector; Cortes has been with the office for 11 years and is currently the lead prosecutor in the Sean Caddle murder-for-hire case.
Also joining the U.S. Attorney’s office as deputy chief of the criminal division is Jamel Semper, who was previously under consideration both for U.S. Attorney and New Jersey Attorney General. Bruce Keller will be Sellinger’s special counsel to the front office, and Nicholas Grippo will continue as the chief of the criminal division.
As Selligner noted in his release, the overall team of people joining the office is highly diverse, including 13 women and a large number of people of color.
“I am reaching into [the state’s] well of talent to staff the Office’s leadership positions with a roster of exceptional attorneys who are eminently qualified and experienced, and whose diversity reflects the people of New Jersey,” Sellinger said. “Moreover, hiring, retaining, and promoting diverse personnel is a bedrock value of this Office, and my leadership team and I will continue to prioritize it moving forward.”