From Witness to Prosecutor: Career Changes, Choices
By Jenny Steffens
Coming full circle certainly isn’t a cliché in Carol Crawford’s life. Initially a stockbroker at a financial services firm, Crawford realized she didn’t like the unethical practices she was witnessing. So she did some soul searching, decided this wasn’t what she wanted to do with her life and chose to go into law.
Fast forward 14 years.
Now, Crawford, a 1982 Trinity graduate with a degree in English, is the team leader for Montgomery County’s (Maryland) Economic and Cyber Crime team, prosecuting white-collar crime and complex fraud schemes in the state’s attorney’s office. Her cases have included the successful conviction of a Harvard Ph.D. who gained access to various Washington, D.C. embassies to steal large sums of money, as well as the prosecution of a complex identity theft scheme involving the illegal acquisition of luxury automobiles and subsequent attempted deportation of those vehicles to Africa through the Port of Baltimore.
Oh, and along the way, the Bethesda native has prosecuted just about every misdemeanor and felony crime there is, ranging from drug distribution to murder, not to mention the successful prosecution of boxer Mike Tyson in a road-rage case.
“Essentially, that brings me full circle,” Crawford said of her work with white-collar crime. “I didn’t like what I saw as a stockbroker.
“I enjoy where I am,” she continued, “and I want to serve this community well.”
And serve she has, in several different capacities, including an initial stint as a public defender following a year-long judicial clerkship after she earned her law degree from the University of Maryland.
“As a defense lawyer I learned a lot about crime,” Crawford said. “But again, it was a choice. On the prosecution side I felt I could represent the interests of not just one person, but of the entire community.”
Case in point: the Mike Tyson case. In 1999, Tyson was driving in Gaithersburg, Md. and was involved in a minor three-car accident. His actions, according to news coverage of the event, included kicking one person and punching another in the face. Though the plaintiffs sued and settled out of court, Montgomery County, and Crawford specifically, prosecuted the assault case.
“With this case we hoped to impress upon the judge and the public that everyone should be viewed the same in the eyes of the law,” Crawford said. “It doesn’t matter if you have money or if you’re a celebrity. The only thing that made this case different,” she continued, “was the amount of media involvement. That was truly a learning experience.”
Crawford’s learning hasn’t stopped there. She is a graduate of the “Top Gun” course in undercover narcotics investigations at the Northeast Counterdrug Training Center in Fort Indiantown Gap, Penn. and has prosecuted cases from varied law enforcement agencies including the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI, U.S. Customs Service and the Maryland State Police. She is also an adjunct instructor with the National White Collar Crime Center in financial investigations.
Though the path from stockbroker to prosecutor may not be the most common for an English major, Crawford said her liberal arts education from Trinity has paid off.
“I never wanted to be an English teacher,” Crawford explained. “The reason I majored in English was that my parents believed college should be a good liberal arts education. I took their advice and it has turned out to be right in the long run. I think a liberal arts degree is tremendously important.”
As far as current students considering a career in law, Crawford offers this advice: believe in yourself.
“Regardless of your grades or whether your teachers like you, just believe in yourself,” she said.
“If you want to do this and you set your mind to it, you can do it.”