Seven Questions: Dave DeVillers Takes a New Job

The former U.S. Attorney talks about joining the private sector, his most memorable case and whether he’ll write a book about his vaunted law enforcement career.

Dave Ghose
Columbus Monthly
Dave DeVillers is departing as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio. As a prosecutor for almost his entire career, he handled notable cases such as the convictions of Short North Posse members who terrorized Columbus and convictions, and of Fairfield County Municipal Court Judge Don McAuliffe, who was convicted in an arson-for-hire scheme in which his Buckeye Lake home was set ablaze for the insurance money.  DeVillers also initiatied the ongoing criminal case against Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder.

For the first time in his professional career, Dave DeVillers isn’t a prosecutor. The veteran lawman spent 29 years putting bad guys behind bars—a decade with the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, then 19 years with the U.S. Justice Department. He estimates he’s been the first-chair attorney on 85 jury trials, including several involving notorious gangs like the Short North Posse and X-Clan.

His law enforcement days ended in early March, however, following a memorable 15 months as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, where he oversaw several major cases, including the indictment of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder. As is customary when a new presidential administration takes office, DeVillers stepped down from his post. But that doesn’t mean he liked it. “I totally got fired,” he says. “They asked me to resign.” If left to his own devices, “I’d keep that job forever,” says DeVillers, who, as a Senate-confirmed presidential appointee, isn’t allowed to work in federal government for at least five years.

Now, DeVillers has moved on. On Monday, he started a new job with Barnes & Thornburg, one of the largest law firms in the country. DeVillers will serve as a partner in its Columbus office, where he’ll focus on white collar crime and corporate investigations.

Recently, Columbus Monthly spoke with DeVillers about his new job, his most memorable case and whether he might write a book about his experiences in law enforcement. (This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

What’s the most memorable case you've ever handled?

Probably the X-Clan, which is the Ronald Dawson murder trial. That was one of the most intense ones, where I knew that if we lost, it was going to be a lot of problems. And it wasn’t a dead-bang winner. It was a rough case.

I saw the video you did with The Dispatch recently talking about your career, including the X-Clan case, where a witness was murdered and your family received police protection following a highway chase. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Have you thought about writing a book about your experiences?

My wife's an author. She writes teen fiction. So it's completely different from what I do. But she's bothered me about it, and I've talked to some people. In fact, I really couldn't do anything while I was working for the government. But I did talk to some literary agents—a couple of days ago, matter of fact. So we'll see.

Are you going to team up with her on the book?

No, she would hate that. She would kill me in a second. She definitely would help me, but she's got her own work to do, as she puts it.

Why did you take the job with Barnes & Thornburg?

 I just think it's a really good fit. The people here are fantastic. There are a lot of ex-U.S. attorneys that work for Barnes & Thornburg. And the kind of stuff I'd be doing, mostly investigations, it really kind of falls into what I did at the U.S. Attorney's Office and at the county, these long-term investigations.

Police have faced lots of criticism over the past year. What is your response to concerns about racial injustice in connection to law enforcement?

As I was leaving, we were investigating some pretty horrific shootings by police officers. So it happens. All that being said, I'm a big fan of the Columbus police department in particular. I've traveled all over the country and worked with different agencies, and it's an extremely professional agency. But it needs to be accountable.

Have you thought about running for political office?

I've thought about it for a split second, and then I came to my senses. I really don't think it's for me. I think there are really good politicians and officeholders, but I spent a lot of time investigating and prosecuting corruption cases. And even the ones that are completely legit—that have no corruption, that dot every “i,” cross every “t”—that ask to raise money and that constant pressure to raise money are just not anything that I would ever want to be part of.

What about becoming a prosecutor again?

Oh yeah. I definitely would consider that. I don't want to tell my firm that, but yeah. It's all I know. It's a fantastic job. Put it this way: I would definitely not exclude that possibility.