Donald C. Smaltz is a California lawyer who was appointed as Independent Counsel to investigate charges that Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy had received improper gifts from companies with business before his department.
Smaltz served as a trial attorney for the Army's Judge Advocate General Corps. He then spent several years as Assistant United States Attorney in Los Angeles, where he specialized in white-collar crime.
In 1975, after moving into private practice, Smaltz grabbed headlines when he and another lawyer accused Watergate prosecutors of misconduct and persuaded a judge to dismiss two indictments against Richard Nixon's personal tax lawyer. Other high-profile clients have included the Teamsters and a bank with extensive ties to the late Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife.
During the Bush Administration, Smaltz was asked by Judge George MacKinnon if he would be interested in leading an independent counsel probe into fraud and mismanagement at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and join the Justice Department. Smaltz ultimately turned down the job.
In 1994, Smaltz accepted an offer to serve as independent counsel in the Mike Espy case, a job he said he originally expected to last six months. The same year he and his wife, Lois Smaltz, adopted two young boys (Nick age 6 and Dennis age 7) from an orphanage in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The Mike Espy case lasted four years, most of which Smaltz spent away from his family, who were located in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.
Most prosecutors seek to cultivate a relentless and aggressive image, and Smaltz was no exception. The door to his office sported a poster-size version of the broad mandate he was given by the court to investigate charges against Espy. Above it, Smaltz placed an inscription from Plato, which read "The servants of the nation are to render their services without any taking of presents...the disobedient shall, if convicted, die without ceremony."
Espy was indicted and the case was brought to trial, but Espy was acquitted on all counts. Smaltz's investigation of Espy resulted in 14 indictments, including 2 convictions (not against Espy), 3 guilty pleas, 4 acquittals, and 3 companies fines.
- Frontline: Secrets of an Independent Counsel: Who is Don Smaltz? - Frontline, PBS
- "Secrets of an Independent Counsel." PBS, 1995 
- "OFFICE OF INDEPENDENT COUNSEL - Donald C. Smaltz." CyberCemetery - University of North Texas Libraries & U.S. Government Printing Office. Accessed January 3, 2009.
- "Supreme Court rules Sun Diamond Growers did not violate federal law in Espy case" - CNN, April 27, 1999
- "A Harsh Verdict for Espy's Prosecutor" - The Washington Post, December 5, 1998
- "Was this a bad idea?" - CNN, December 14, 1998
- Espy Acquitted in Gifts Case, Washington Post, December 3, 1998; Page A01