Meet Stacey Haynes. This 1986 political science alumna is an Assistant United States Attorney. She’s been a prosecutor for the past 27 years and has tried multitudes of cases including murder, murder-for-hire, kidnapping, rape, burglary, bank robbery, gang crimes, wiretap cases, firearm trafficking and many more. We caught up with her in between cases to ask her a few questions about her Clemson experience and how it prepared her for a career in criminal justice.
Q: Describe your career path since graduating Clemson.
Since I was a child, I’ve always wanted to be a prosecutor. I believe it stems from my father being in law enforcement. After graduating from Clemson in 1986, I attended the University of South Carolina School of Law. After graduation, I started my career as a law clerk to a state circuit court judge, and then as an associate for a small firm in Columbia. But I quickly realized that’s not what my heart was telling me to do, and that I wanted to follow my dream instead. So, I joined Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office as a state court prosecutor in 1992 — finally realizing my dream career. In 1993, while an assistant solicitor (state prosecutor), I was also asked to be a part of a Violent Crime Task Force and was sworn in as a Special Assistant United States Attorney (federal prosecutor) for the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina, and in 1999, I officially joined United States Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina as an Assistant United States Attorney assigned to the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force/Violent Crime Task Force. I’ve had many roles in the office since that time, including Project Safe Neighborhoods Coordinator and Anti-Terrorism/National Security prosecutor.
Q: What is your job?
I am an Assistant United States Attorney for the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina. As part of the Department of Justice, we represent the federal government. The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina is one of 93 offices in the United States. I’m in the Criminal Division and currently the Deputy Criminal Chief over the Violent Crime Section, where I supervise other Assistant United States Attorneys across the state. I also serve as an evaluator for the Executive Office of United States Attorneys, where I am part of teams that evaluate other United States Attorney’s Office across the country. I typically do 1-2 of those evaluations each year. It has allowed me to travel to dozens of other offices across the country and meet other attorneys, law enforcement officers, and judges.
Q: What is a typical week/workday like for you?
No week/day is typical. A day may be made of many things: talking to other Assistant United States Attorney’s about their cases/investigations and helping them with strategies, etc.; fielding calls at all hours from law enforcement agents who need assistance on urgent matters they are investigating; working a case of my own, preparing for a grand jury presentation, court hearing, witness prep, etc.; researching/writing appellate briefs; explaining the process to witnesses/victims, and handling administrative tasks for the Violent Crime Section. One thing about our jobs is that we are always on call – 24 hours a day and 7 days a week – to assist law enforcement. So, I’m never far from my cell phone.
Q: What are your favorite memories about your job?
Some of my favorite memories of my job is making a difference for someone – whether it be a victim or a defendant. People understand that prosecutors can make a difference for a victim, but they rarely understand that we also can make a difference for a defendant and affect their life for the better. I once received a card from a defendant who was serving a lengthy federal sentence for his involvement in a violent large-scale drug conspiracy who wrote, “Happy Holidays to you and yours. I may not be whole yet, but I’m sure on my way. For this, I can thank you.”
Q: What’s one really cool thing about your job?
There are too many to name. Here are a few:
- Getting to make a real difference in the community.
- Helping victims find their voice and obtain justice.
- Working alongside the best law enforcement officers in the country.
- Riding in a presidential motorcade with the Secret Service.
Q: What is your favorite Clemson memory?
Serving as a hugger for Special Olympics at Clemson. The pure joy on the face of every athlete participating in the Olympics was contagious and I’ll always remember it.
Another more recent favorite memory is sitting in the stands of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa when Clemson won its 2nd National Championship in football. It was a wonderful moment and I can remember tears streaming down my face as we all stood there in the stands amazed that it really just happened.
Q: How did Clemson prepare you for your career?
Clemson prepared me by exposing me to different ideas, people, and cultures. That has proved to be great preparation as you encounter people from all walks of life.
Q: Any advice to students?
First thing that comes to mind is to buy a Clemson ring – seriously, it has been the catalyst for so many introductions to people no matter where I am. It usually starts with something like, “So, you went to Clemson?” It has allowed me to start conversations and bond with people immediately.
Also, follow your heart. I was briefly sidetracked in my career by listening to someone else’s advice about what I should do in my legal career. They meant well and had my best interest in mind, but it was not where I was meant to be. I was meant to be a prosecutor and once I got back on track, I have never looked back.
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