Alamdar Hamdani, a federal prosecutor in Houston whose career has been focused on combatting terrorism and public corruption, is the leading candidate to become U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas, sources tell The Texas Lawbook.
Hamdani, 50, is an assistant U.S. attorney in the district’s public corruption and national security section. Before moving to Houston in 2015, he spent five years with the Justice Department’s counterterrorism section in Washington, D.C., the last two as deputy chief.
According to multiple sources, Hamdani was recommended to Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn by the Federal Judicial Evaluation Committee, a nonpartisan panel of Texas lawyers that screens applications for judicial vacancies. The two Republican senators, both Judiciary Committee members, are said to have signed off on his nomination, now believed to be pending at the White House.
Through a spokesperson, Hamdani declined to comment.
According to a January profile in the Houston Chronicle – which identified him as one of three finalists for the top job (all persons of color) – Hamdani was born in Manchester, England, to parents from India. When he was 10, the Chronicle said, his family moved to Euless, where his father drove a taxi and his mother worked in restaurants and in retail. He and his wife, childhood sweethearts, have two children.
Hamdani holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Texas at Austin and a J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center.
Before taking the counterterrorism post in Washington, he was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Kentucky for nearly two years.
In July 2019, Hamdani was on the Houston team that secured a guilty plea from Kaan Sercan Damlarkaya, a 20-year-old ISIS sympathizer. According to investigators, Damlarkaya instructed fellow travelers on how to build bombs and homemade automatic weapons, and he exhorted those too poor or inexperienced to wield more sophisticated weaponry to buy a “GIANT machete for $15.”
According to the Department of Justice, Damlarkaya, a U.S. citizen, in online conversations expressed a longing to travel to Syria or Afghanistan to join ISIS’s jihad. If he couldn’t do so, he said, he’d settle for attacking non-Muslims in the United States. He added that it was his dream to die a martyr.
Damlarkaya is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 22 by U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen. He faces up to 20 years in prison. He’s been in custody since his arrest in December 2017.
Hamdani has also played a prominent role in an intensely publicized case against two crooked narcotics officers from the Houston Police Department. Steven Bryant and Gerald Goines were charged with lying to cover up their actions in a bungled 2019 no-knock drug raid, one that ended in a wild shootout that left the two occupants of the raided home dead and four police officers, including Goines, wounded.
Bryant pleaded guilty in June 2021 and agreed to testify against his former partner. His sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 30.
Goines faces state charges of felony murder and tampering, in addition seven federal criminal counts. His state trial is scheduled to begin next month; the feds have not said publicly whether they, too, plan to try him.
The prosecutor’s office in the Southern District is one of the busiest in the nation, with more than 200 lawyers serving 9 million Texans in 43 counties stretching Houston to the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
To the consternation of some seasoned Texas litigators, including former federal prosecutors, President Joe Biden has yet to nominate a U.S. attorney for any of the state’s four judicial districts – the Eastern, Western, Northern and Southern. Almost 19 months into his presidency, all four offices remain in the hands of interim bosses.
“When it comes to achieving goals in Washington, especially with important issues like getting additional resources or funding for the office, the ability of an appointed U.S. attorney to get things done compared to an interim really can’t be overstated,” said Jeff Ansley, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Dallas and now a Vedder Price shareholder specializing in white-collar defense work.
The Lawbook reported earlier that, according to sources, Leigha Simonton is the front-runner for the top job in the Northern District, as Damien Diggs is in the Eastern District. Both are highly regarded assistant U.S. attorneys with a combined 36 years’ in government service.