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Natalie Wight nominated as top federal prosecutor in Oregon

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By PETER WONG

Oregon Capital Bureau 

Natalie Wight has been nominated as the next U.S. attorney for Oregon.

Her nomination by President Joe Biden, which the White House announced Monday, June 6, is subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate. She would be the first Black woman and second Asian American to be the top federal prosecutor in Oregon.

Her nomination comes 17 months after Biden became president. He named U.S. attorneys in four other states.

Wight has been with the U.S. attorney’s office, which is based in Portland, since 2012. She is deputy chief of the organized and violent crime section, and a member of the Indian Country team.

She is a 1992 graduate of Cleveland High School in Portland — a three-sport athlete — and was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame in 2007 and the Portland Interscholastic Federation Hall of Fame in 2009. She also was a Rose Festival princess in 1992.

She was one of three lawyers, all current or former federal prosecutors, who advanced from an interview panel convened by U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.

Their statement:

“We strongly support President Biden’s nomination of Natalie Wight to be the next U.S. attorney for Oregon. She brings an outstanding combination of leadership, integrity, independence and community connections to this crucial post. We look forward to advancing her through the Senate confirmation process.”

The position was vacated in February 2021 by Billy Williams, who held it for almost six years. He was appointed in 2015 by President Barack Obama and remained during the presidency of Donald Trump. As a presidential appointee, he resigned when Biden became president.

Scott Erik Asphaug, another assistant U.S. attorney in the office since 2005, has been the acting U.S. attorney and remains in the position until the Senate votes. He was not among the seven lawyers interviewed by the panel in 2021.

The two others who advanced from the panel interviews were Craig Gabriel, chief of the criminal division in the office, and Vivek Kothari, an associate with the Portland firm of Markowitz Herbold and a former assistant U.S. attorney in Atlanta. The senators did not list a preference among the three.

The nomination was up to Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland, who were not bound by the senators’ recommendations.

Wight earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1996 from the College of Idaho in Caldwell, Idaho, and a master’s degree in biology/botany in 2000 from California State University; no campus was listed.

She earned her law degree in 2003 from the University of Notre Dame.

She has worked her entire legal career for the U.S. Department of Justice. She was with the Federal Bureau of Prisons from 2003 to 2008, and an assistant U.S. attorney in San Francisco (Northern District of California) from 2008 until she came to Portland in 2012.

While at Cleveland High School, she was a first-team all-Portland Interscholastic League selection in soccer. She also competed in basketball and track and field. As a lawyer, she returned to coach the mock trial teams at the school.

While at the College of Idaho, she was fifth all-time for assists per game of soccer — and 11th all-time for assists — based on her performances in her senior year in 1995. She took part in 21 games overall during two years.

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