Donald C. Smaltz is California lawyer who was appointed as Independent Counsel to investigate charges that Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy had received improper gifts from companies with business before his department.
Smaltz is the son of a Bethlehem, Pennsylvania steelworker and an Italian immigrant mother. He attended Penn State University and Dickinson School of Law where he receivid his law degree in 1961.
Smaltz served as a trial attorney for the Army's Judge Advocate General Corps. He then spent several years as Assistant United States Attorney in Los Angeles, where he specialized in white-collar crime.
In 1975, after moving into private practice, Smaltz grabbed headlines when he and another lawyer accused Watergate prosecutors of misconduct and persuaded a judge to dismiss two indictments against Richard Nixon's personal tax lawyer. Other high-profile clients have included the Teamsters and a bank with extensive ties to the late Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife.
During the Bush Administration, Smaltz was asked by Judge George MacKinnon if he would be interested in leading an independent counsel probe into fraud and mismanagement at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and join the Justice Department. Smaltz ultimately turned down the job.
In 1994, Smaltz accepted the offer to serve as independent counsel in the Mike Espy case — a job that he says he originally expected to last six months.
Most prosecutors seek to cultivate a relentless and aggressive image, and Smaltz is no exception. The door to his office sported a poster-size version of the broad mandate he was given by the court to investigate charges against Espy. Above it Smaltz has placed an inscription from Plato, which reads "The servants of the nation are to render their services without any taking of presents...the disobedient shall, if convicted, die without ceremony."
Smaltz had Espy indicted and took the case to trial but Espy was acquitted on all counts. His investigation Espy resulted in 14 indictments, this included 2 convictions (not against Espy), 3 guilty pleas, 4 acquittals, 3 companies fines.