Denise O'Donnell

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Denise O'Donnell
Denise O'Donnell BJA Portrait.jpg
Director, Bureau of Justice Assistance
In office
June 6, 2011 – January 19, 2017
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Domingo S. Herraiz
Succeeded by Tracey Trautman
New York State Commissioner of Criminal Justice Services
In office
Appointed by Eliot Spitzer
United States Attorney for the Western District of New York
In office
Appointed by Bill Clinton
Preceded by Patrick H. NeMoyer
Succeeded by Michael A. Battle
Personal details
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) John O'Donnell
Alma mater University of Buffalo (MSW, J.D.)

Denise O'Donnell is an attorney and Democratic politician from Buffalo, New York. She has served as director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), as New York State Commissioner of Criminal Justice Services, and Assistant Secretary to the Governor for Criminal Justice in the Cabinet of Gov. David Paterson. She previously held the roles in the Cabinet of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

She was a candidate in the 2006 Democratic primary for New York State Attorney General. O'Donnell attended high school at Mt. St. Joseph Academy, and then studied at Canisius College—both schools are located in Buffalo. Hers was the first graduating class from Canisius to include women. After graduating from college she worked for the New York City Department of Social Services. While doing so, she earned a master's degree in Social Work. After the birth of her two children, O'Donnell earned a Doctorate of Jurisprudence at the University at Buffalo Law School, graduating second in her class.

In 1985, she became an Assistant United States Attorney. In 1998, President Bill Clinton appointed her the US Attorney for the Western District of New York. While working for the US Attorney's office she worked on two particularly prominent cases. The first was the investigation into Oklahoma City bomber and Pendleton, NY native Timothy McVeigh. She was also the leader in the successful prosecution of anti-abortion extremist James Kopp for the murder of obstratician and abortion provider Barnett Slepian. She was pushed out of her position as US attorney by the Bush administration before her term had ended. Many speculate that this was because the Bush administration was displeased with her efforts in prosecuting Kopp.

Since 2001, she has practiced with the firm Hodgson Russ LLP, has lectured and campaigned for the Attorney General's office. In late 2005, former United States Attorney General Janet Reno announced her support for O'Donnell's campaign. She dropped out of the race for AG shortly after the Democratic convention where she received approximately ten-percent of the delegates' votes. In the announcement ending her candidacy she neglected to endorse any specific candidate for the Democratic nomination but, instead, emphasised her desire to see Eliot Spitzer elected governor.

Spitzer announced her appointment as Criminal Justice Commissioner in January 2007. The New York State Senate unanimously confirmed O'Donnell to the post March 21, 2007.[1] As Criminal Justice Commissioner, O'Donnell oversaw the planning and analysis of criminal justice policies and services for state government.

She was appointed Assistant Secretary to the Governor for Criminal Justice on July 25, 2007 by Spitzer in the wake of a report by State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo regarding the use of the State Police by Spitzer's staff to monitor the activities of Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. As Assistant Secretary, she served as the Governor's top criminal justice advisor and oversaw the State Police, Division of Parole and the Department of Corrections. She also assisted in the development of statewide criminal justice and public safety policies and worked on homeland security efforts for the state.

Governor Paterson retained O'Donnell in his cabinet following his taking office on March 17, 2008.

O'Donnell resigned from the Paterson administration on February 25, 2010, following reports of alleged misconduct by Paterson and members of his administration. Paterson and the State Police were accused of improperly contacting the alleged victim of domestic abuse committed by David W. Johnson, a top aide to the governor. In her resignation, O'Donnell called "[such] actions unacceptable regardless of their intent," and said that the conduct was "particularly distressing" in an administration "that prides itself on its record of combating domestic violence."

In December 2010, President Obama nominated O'Donnell to be the director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, a component of the Office of Justice Programs within the U.S. Department of Justice. After being confirmed by the senate, O'Donnell was sworn in on June 6, 2011.[2][3]

Personal life[edit]

She is married to John O'Donnell, a New York State Supreme Court Justice. Her son, Jack, is active in Democratic campaigns- having managed Denise O'Donnell's run and having advised that of Senator Chuck Schumer in 1998. As of 2007 he ran a consulting firm known as O'Donnell and Associates and is currently the Vice President and Communications Director at Bolton St. Johns.[4]


  1. ^ "Jan-Jun Crime Data". March 21, 2007. Archived from the original on July 28, 2009. Retrieved March 16, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Attorney General Eric Holder Welcomes Denise O'Donnell as Director of Bureau of Justice Assistance". U.S. Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs. 2011-06-06. 
  3. ^ "New BJA Director Sworn in". Association of State Correctional Administrators. Retrieved 2017-01-29. 
  4. ^ "Consulting Ideas Solutions". 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Chauncey Parker
New York State Commissioner of Criminal Justice Services
2007 – 2010
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Patrick H. NeMoyer
United States Attorney for the Western District of New York
2011 – 2017
Succeeded by
Michael A. Battle