Gonzales promises to outdo Ashcroft

    Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Monday he would move aggressively to prosecute obscenity cases, and he laid out a broader agenda much like that of his predecessor, John Ashcroft.

    In his first lengthy address since becoming attorney general in early February, Gonzales said people who distribute obscene materials do not enjoy constitutional guarantees of free speech.

    “I am committed to prosecuting these crimes aggressively,” he said to a Washington meeting of the California-based Hoover Institution.

    The Justice Department is appealing the dismissal of an obscenity case in Pittsburgh in which a federal judge said prosecutors went too far in trying to block the sale of pornographic movies over the Internet and through the mail. The case initially was prosecuted under Ashcroft.

    Gonzales, the son of Mexican immigrants, said the Justice Department also would continue its recent stepped-up activity in human trafficking investigations and prosecutions. “Its victims are usually aliens, many of them women and children who are smuggled into our country and held in bondage,” he said.

    The Justice Department also is sending teams of federal agents to five more cities struggling with violent crime, Gonzales said, extending a program begun last year in 15 cities. Investigators focus on prosecuting people for firearms violations, which often accompany gang activity, illegal drug organizations and organized crime groups.

    The cities are: Camden, N.J.; Fresno, Calif.; Hartford, Conn.; Houston and New Orleans.

    Among other priorities Gonzales noted:

    • Ending Senate blocking of judicial nominees, a “broken process that must be fixed” before there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court.
    • Renewing provisions of the USA Patriot Act that are set to expire at the end of the year, saying the law has been an important tool in preventing terror attacks in the United States.
    • Amending the Constitution to give crime victims the right to participate in prosecutions and sentencings.

    Also Monday, the Justice Department announced that Christopher Wray, head of the criminal division since June 2003, was resigning.

    Wray is the first high-ranking official to leave since Gonzales took over as attorney general. No replacement has been named.

    On the Net:

    Justice Department: http://www.usdoj.gov

    © 2005 The Associated Press