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Acting US attorney for much of Indiana still sees drugs, violent crime as top priorities

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INDIANAPOLIS — Josh Minkler doesn't know how long he'll serve as acting U.S. attorney for central and southern Indiana, but he's approaching the job like he has all his others as a federal prosecutor: He's pulling from his years of courtroom experience to do what's best for the office.

He could be in the post for weeks, months or years. It depends on when the president nominates a permanent replacement for former U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett.

Minkler, 51, served as Hogsett's second in command since 2011, after a year as head of the office's drug unit. Before that, he spent more than a decade working in the trenches as a federal prosecutor.

After laboring for years in the courtroom fighting drugs and the violent crime, Minkler still sees the two as top priorities for the office.

"Drugs are responsible for a lot of violent crime," he said during a recent interview with The Associated Press.

He has traded most of his time in the courtroom for time behind a desk, but maintains a strong connection to the years in the field that helped prepare him for his current role.

"I enjoy doing it, I mean it's fun for me," Minkler said of prosecuting suspected criminals. "Maybe that sounds a bit unusual. I love doing the trial work. ... It becomes almost competitive."

He said the prosecutions that have made him most proud include breaking two gangs that ruled neighborhoods in Indianapolis, Brightwood and Haughville and sending their leaders to prison.

PHOTO: Josh Minkler, acting U.S. attorney for southern Indiana, poses in his office in Indianapolis, Friday, Aug. 29, 2014.  Minkler has traded most of his time in the courtroom for time behind a desk, but he doesn't see the office's priorities changing from what they were under former U.S Attorney Joe Hogsett, who resigned at the end of July amid talk of a mayoral run.(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Josh Minkler, acting U.S. attorney for southern Indiana, poses in his office in Indianapolis, Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. Minkler has traded most of his time in the courtroom for time behind a desk, but he doesn't see the office's priorities changing from what they were under former U.S Attorney Joe Hogsett, who resigned at the end of July amid talk of a mayoral run.(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Minkler was appointed acting U.S. attorney last month. The corner office for the U.S. attorney is furnished with a modern stand-up computer desk, a couch and a larger, more traditional desk. The 22nd-floor window has a sweeping view of the Indianapolis skyline.

Minkler still hopes to get inside the courtroom once in a while, but he realizes such visits will likely be rare.

"Running an office this big is very time-consuming," he said.

Hogsett, who was U.S. attorney for four years, resigned at the end of July amid talk of a mayoral run.

"I'm really happy that they made (Minkler) the acting U.S. attorney," Chief Federal Defender Monica Foster said. "I think he's very competent and I'm sure that promoting from within, even if temporarily, will be good for morale."

It's not clear whether Minkler will be in the running for the position permanently.

Minkler grew up in Muncie — the only person in a family of four who didn't become a professional artist.

"I'm the black sheep of the family," he joked.

He attended Wabash College in Crawfordsville, where he ran cross country and track, and graduated in 1985. After graduating from the Indiana University School of Law at Bloomington in 1988, he moved to Michigan and worked in legal services for the indigent and for a county prosecutor's office after that.

He returned to Indiana in 1994 as an assistant U.S. attorney on the drugs and violent crime team. He worked his way up to leadership of that unit in 2010 and became Hogsett's second in command the following year.

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