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Department of Justice, Italian groups commemorate FBI founder

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Assistant Attorney General Thomas J. Perelli speaks to guests in the Department of Justice's Great Hall as Francesco Isgrò, John A. DiCicco, John J. LaCorte, Jr. and Hon. Francis M. Allegra look on.

In a ceremony at the Department of Justice today, members of Washington, D.C.'s Italian American community gathered to commemorate the life and work of Charles J. Bonaparte, the 46th Attorney General of the United States and the founder of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

For the 50th year in a row, distinguished guests from the Department of Justice, the New York-based Italian Historical Society of America and others gathered to honor Bonaparte. Born in 1851, Bonaparte's grandfather was Jerome Bonaparte, the younger brother of Napoleon.

A portrait of Charles J. Bonaparte stands on display in the Great Hall at the Department of Justice.

In 1908 Bonaparte, a resident of Baltimore, became the 46th Attorney General of the United States. He soon discovered that he was hampered in carrying out President Theodore Roosevelt's "trust busting" policies due to the lack of a permanent investigative staff. On July 28, Bonaparte issued the order that made his special investigative unit a permanent subdivision of the Department of Justice. In 1935, what began as a 23-man force led by Bonaparte was renamed the FBI.

Speaking at the event, Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli described Bonaparte as "a bold man and a brilliant lawyer who dedicated his life to serving his country." He noted that today's Department of Justice priorities, including ending corruption on Wall Street and the department's new Access to Justice Division, are very much in line with Bonaparte's vision and work. "I think Bonaparte would feel very rewarded by what we're doing today," he noted. "...We are in many ways following his example."

Cristiano Maggipinto, the Embassy of Italy's First Counselor for Social & Consular Affairs, also spoke at the event, noting that despite the Bonaparte family's original French roots, their descendant's actions were characteristically Italian.

"The interest of the Bonaparte family in law and the administration of justice was a trait they derived from [Romans]," Maggipinto told the more than 100 guests gathered for the event, noting that the Napoleonic Code was basically an adaptation of Roman law. "Charles J. Bonaparte was very Italian from this point of view," he added with a smile.