Douglas County Dist. Atty. Christine Kenney and one of her prosecutors, Dave Zabel, have accepted jobs with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Topeka.
Kenney will be an assistant U.S. attorney and Zabel will be a special assistant U.S. attorney who will prosecute drug crimes under a federal program, U.S. Atty. Eric Melgren said Monday.
"Christine has a very impressive background," Melgren said in a news release. "Her experience will be a great asset in her new position as a federal prosecutor. I'm very pleased she will join us."
Melgren also said his office was fortunate that Zabel wanted to follow Kenney to the federal prosecutor's office.
Kenney, a Republican, was defeated in the November general election as she sought her third term as county district attorney. Democrat Charles Branson will take over as district attorney next month.
Both Kenney and Zabel said they were honored and excited about their new jobs.
"It gives me a chance to continue my career as a prosecutor locally but at a different level," Kenney said.
Kenney said she always thought that at some point before she finished her career she might become a federal prosecutor.
Zabel also said he had wanted to be a federal prosecutor, and with the change in leadership in the district attorney's office the timing to attempt the move was right.
"It's a chance to keep on working with Christine," Zabel said. "The things we've done under her leadership I'm very proud of."
Zabel's job is funded by the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program. The program provides assistance to regions of the country that face drug trafficking threats.
He has been an assistant district attorney under Kenney since 1996. Zabel also was an assistant in the Harvey County Attorney's Office. He is a 1993 graduate of Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa, and a 1996 graduate of Kansas University's School of Law.
Kenney also is a former assistant Douglas County attorney. She is a 1984 graduate of the University of Houston and a 1987 graduate of KU's law school.
Kenney and Zabel will formally start their new jobs after background checks are completed, they said.
Kenney is not the first Douglas County district attorney to go on to the U.S attorney's office. Former Dist. Atty. Jim Flory was an assistant U.S. attorney in Topeka and served as acting U.S. attorney for Kansas in part of 2001 and 2002, until Melgren was confirmed.
Flory is now the first assistant United States attorney for Kansas.