In politics, I have learned that there are show horses and work horses. Many of the most consequential legislators and staffers are people that few have ever heard of. While show horses have their purpose, workhorses are the silent heroes in government. Over the past three years, New Jersey has benefitted from one of these silent heroes, and one of the most quietly effective leaders of our time – recently departed United States Attorney Craig Carpenito.
If you know Craig, you know he is a person who does what he says he is going to do. When he returned to the office in January 2018 he had high aspirations. He wanted to grow the office so that it could more effectively address quality of life issue for all of New Jersey’s citizens. Over the next three years, he did just that, and developed an impressive record of accomplishments with little fanfare.
The numbers don’t lie. Craig almost doubled the number of criminal prosecutions during his term – raising prosecutions from 870 in 2017 to 1,535 in 2020. He squeezed every public dollar out of the budget, and found enough extra money to increase the size of the office by adding 40 extra federal prosecutors.
He started the nation’s first standalone Opioids unit to tackle the devastating effect of a nationwide epidemic. He formed the District’s first Cybercrimes unit. He doubled the number of healthcare fraud prosecutors and welcomed its first DOJ Medicare Strike Force. He then proceeded to do what a workhorse does – drive cases. As the newspapers reported at the time, they included Purdue, Olympus, the SEC EDGAR hack, Samsam ransomware attack, the Novartis and Cognizant FCPA cases, Bitclub Network, Operation Brace Yourself and many, many more.
Craig also recognized that the most fundamental requirement of good government is public safety. He addressed violent crime, and achieved great results. He created a standalone Violent Crimes Unit, and dedicated resources towards cracking down on major gang violence. The results were palpable. Violent crime dropped in Newark, Camden, and Jersey City while neighboring states saw violent crime rates soar. Obviously something was working.
The impact of Craig’s brand of quiet leadership could be felt far beyond the four walls of his office. It also extended to local law enforcement all over the state. By fostering true partnerships with local law enforcement, a quiet gift had been given to New Jersey. At a time where Republicans and Democrats were at each other’s throats all across the nation; Craig began forming strong bonds with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, his Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose and Acting Essex County Prosecutor Ted Stephens. Newark benefited greatly. During the national demonstrations of 2020, New Jersey reported no violence. Something went very right in New Jersey and credit belongs to the mayors and their partnership with law enforcement.
But maybe the greatest example of Craig’s quiet leadership was his handling of two of the most tragic days in New Jersey history – the domestic terrorism attack on the Kosher Market in Jersey City and the murder of Judge Esther Salas’ son Daniel Anderl. The U.S. Attorney’s Office took the lead without grandstanding. They focused on the investigations. Because that is what workhorses do. They work.
Craig would be the first to say that these monumental changes and achievements were only brought about because of the astonishing and constant good work of the small legion of dedicated lawyers and professionals in United States Attorney’s Office, most of whom are lifers, committed to quietly protecting the rest of us, and most will toil in normal anonymity and be content and fulfilled doing so. We owe them a great debt of gratitude.
Let me end by stating that few of the nine million who call the Garden State home know his name, but we all owe a hearty thank you to Craig Carpenito for a job well done!
Ps- I have a sneaking suspicion that this isn’t the last that we have seen or heard from public servant Craig.