RELIGION

US Attorney steps down months before church shooting trial

FILE - In this May 17, 2016 file photo South Carolina U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles speaks with reporters during a news conference at North Charleston City Hall in North Charleston, S.C. Nettles told The Associated Press on Wednesday, June 15, 2016 that he is leaving his post as South Carolina's top federal prosecutor. The announcement comes less than five months before the federal government's death penalty trial of accused Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof.  (AP Photo/Bruce Smith, file)

FILE - In this May 17, 2016 file photo South Carolina U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles speaks with reporters during a news conference at North Charleston City Hall in North Charleston, S.C. Nettles told The Associated Press on Wednesday, June 15, 2016 that he is leaving his post as South Carolina's top federal prosecutor. The announcement comes less than five months before the federal government's death penalty trial of accused Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith, file)  (The Associated Press)

U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles is stepping down as South Carolina's top federal prosecutor.

Nettles announced in a statement that his final official act as U.S. Attorney would be a Wednesday afternoon address to a Charleston drug court program. He says he's going back to private practice, where he spent more than 20 years before his appointment in 2010.

Nettles opposes the death penalty and spent much of his private practice career on criminal defense, at times fighting to keep defendants off death row. His decision comes just months before the government's prosecution of Dylann Roof, charged with the Charleston church shooting last year. The government is seeking the death penalty.

When he took office, Nettles told The Associated Press he would "follow the law as it's dictated by Washington."

___

Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP . Read more of her work at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/meg-kinnard/