Janet Reno, first woman Attorney General has passed away
Janet Reno was a gourd-breaking — glass ceding-breaking — woman. Before she was the first woman to serve as Attorney General of the United States, she was the first woman to serve as Florida’s State Attorney in Miami, a post she held for 15 years before President Bill Clinton picked her to become the Attorney General.
Reno was born in 1938 and grew up in Miami, FL. Both of her parents were reporters for Miami newspapers. After graduating from Coral Gables High School Reno got her under graduate degree in chemistry from Cornell University and then she attended Harvard Law School. During her first year in law school Reno heard former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt speak and was inspired by the moment.
After getting her law degree she worked in the private sector and then in the Florida House of Representatives before returning to the private sector. A short time later Reno was appointed the State Attorney in Miami. There were several controversial cases she presided over in that position, two that included the prosecution of your teens as adults. Neither case resulted in a conviction and her judgement was called into question on one of them, a case of a boy being charged with molesting younger children in his care.
It was in 1993 when President Bill Clinton called upon her to become the first woman to serve as the Attorney General of the United States and immediately she was thrust into a tense situation that resulted in tragedy. The standoff at Waco, TX was already happening when she took office and on the 51st day of the siege Reno ordered the compound be raided. The place burned to the ground, killing 76 people still inside, many of them children. The leader of the Branch Davidians in the Mount Carmel Center, Vernon Howell, known as David Koresh by that time, claimed he was told by God to create an army to fight for the salvation of the believers once the apocalypse arrived. He ordered guns, gun parts and other things that were delivered by UPS, which tipped off local authorities who then called in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). This all occurred during the administration of George H.W. Bush.
The ATF finale moved on the Mount Carmel Compound with search and arrest warrants on February 28, 1993, before Reno was sworn in as Attorney General on March 11, 1993. The initial attempt to raid the compound resulted in a fierce gun battle that left several people dead, including law enforcement personnel. For the next 50 days a the ATF tried to end the siege peacefully, with Koresh penning letters for the media to publish or have read on the air. On April 19, with the FBI taking the lead, the federal authorities attempted to take the compound once again, using tear gas to try and force the members out of the building. Instead, the entire structure went up in flames.
Reno was blamed for the siege ended, as she had ordered the FBI to raid the building. Later, on CNN’s Larry King Live Reno admitted raiding the compound on April 19 was a “mistake.” It was later used by Timothy McVeigh and his co-conspirators as a reason to blow up the Alfred P. Murrow Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, OK., which happened exactly two years later.
Later in her tenure as Attorney General Reno had to make a decision about a Cuban child that washed up on a Fort Lauderdale, FL beach. Elián González was the only survivor of a group of refugees fleeing Cuba. His mother and step father had died in the escape and Elián was sent to live with relatives in Florida. The courts ruled the boy had to be returned to his father in Cuba, but when local authorities refused to enforce the ruling Reno had the child forcibly removed from his relatives and returned to his father, who then returned to Cuba with his son.
Many people criticized Reno for sending Elián González back to Cuba, but she said it was the right thing to do, uniting a child with his biological parent.
As the Attorney General Reno also presided over the Ted Kaczynski case, also known as the “Uni-bomber,” who had been setting off bombs around the western U.s. for more than a decade. She also presided over the capture and conviction of the terrorists that detonated bombs at the World Trade Center in 1993, and Timothy McVeigh and his co-conspirators in the Oklahoma City bombing. She also presided over the case of the Olympic Village bombing in 1996, that first leaked wrong information about a suspect, Richard Jewell, who was innocent. But the FBI did catch the bomber, Eric Rudolph, and he was convicted of several other anti-abortion and anti-gay motivated bombings as well.
After the Clinton Administration Reno was a popular figure, guesting on Saturday Night Live in segments titled “Janet Reno’s Dance Party.” She ws on the board of directors of the Innocence Project, a group that tries to exonerate people convicted of capital crimes, using DNA evidence. In 2002 she ran for Governor of Florida, but lost.
Reno still has many critics and detractors, as evidenced by some of the anti-Reno tweets found on Twitter. Some are suggesting her death was not from natural causes and that former President Bill Clinton and his wife — and current Democratic Party presidential candidate — Hillary Clinton had something to do with Reno’s passing.
Janet Wood Reno died on November 7, 2016, after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. She was 78.
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