Longtime FBI investigator gets new start in DA's office
By Bobby Kerlik
Published: Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012
FBI Special Agent Jeff Killeen, who spent part of his 27-year career in the bureau tracking Soviet spies and investigating corruption in Afghanistan, will now be focusing on criminals a little closer to home.
Killeen, 59, of Mt. Lebanon retired from the FBI on Dec. 18 and started his new job the next day as an Allegheny County assistant district attorney.
"It's meaningful work. I enjoy the dynamics of prosecuting cases. I made some inquiries, and I was encouraged to apply," said Killeen, pushing his glasses up onto his shaved head. "I intend to work until the day I die. What am I going to do• Fish• I can not imagine myself not getting up and doing something."
Typically FBI agents have a mandatory retirement age of 57, but Killeen was granted an extension because he was working the investigation into the 2008 fatal shooting of fellow FBI Special Agent Sam Hicks in Indiana Township.
After Christina Korbe pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter for the shooting, Killeen volunteered for a four-month assignment in Afghanistan, his second tour, to investigate fraud among government contractors as part of the International Contract Corruption Task Force.
Now, as part of the Phoenix Unit in the District Attorney's Office, he's immersed in prosecuting drunken driving offenses and drug cases. Stacks of case files surrounded his cubicle on the third floor of the courthouse, a change from his quiet office at the FBI Building on the South Side where he worked as chief division counsel.
"It doesn't matter. When I worked in Afghanistan, I worked in a metal box. It doesn't dictate who you are or the quality of your work," Killeen said. "It's more social (without an office.)"
Killeen said he consulted Assistant District Attorney Ed Scheid before making the move to prosecutor. Scheid finished a career in the Drug Enforcement Administration before becoming a county prosecutor.
"Jeff was a classmate of mine in law school. He's an honorable guy and professionally, he has a great reputation in the law enforcement community," said District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. "He wants to try cases, and I think it's good for the people of our county."
Once Killeen learns the state system, he'll likely be promoted to handle more serious cases, Zappala said.
But for now, Killeen is making the same starting salary as all county prosecutors -- $39,372.
"I just want to be productive; provide a service. I think that's what I've been put on Earth to do. All my life I've been in public service," he said.
When Killeen came to the FBI's Pittsburgh Division, he immediately established himself as a very valuable person in the office, said FBI Special Agent Bill Crowley, 50, who's known Killeen for 16 years.
"He's someone a lot of people went to for advice," said Crowley.
But Crowley also said he thought Killeen's first love was being an attorney and his working as a prosecutor was a good fit.
"It makes perfect sense to me. He's a local guy and he knows a lot of people," said Crowley. "He's certainly not doing it for the money. He had other options that were more lucrative."
Killeen graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School in 1970 and from Grove City College in 1974. He worked as a school teacher and paramedic before going to law school at Duquesne University. He began work with the FBI after finishing law school in 1984.
He was sent to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., to learn Russian and from 1987 to 1990 he worked in Soviet foreign counter intelligence. He later worked as a trial attorney at FBI headquarters in Washington D.C. and had worked as chief division counsel in Pittsburgh since 1995. He also handled media relations and conducted news conferences on Sept. 11, 2001 at the Shanksville site.
"I played out my FBI career. I spent over 27 years there when many people leave after 20. I have no regrets about my FBI career," said Killeen, who has three children. "The things I saw on an everyday basis, the general population would never see. Am I sad to leave• Yes, but I'm happy to go to a new adventure."
Still, he said he tries to keep up his proficiency in foreign languages by reading Russian and German newspapers online.
"I try to read a little German everyday," Killeen said. "And I still take a crack at Russian once in a while."
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