U.S. Department of Justice
Music and Economics Double Major
When Brian Skaret '98 graduated from high school, he was sure he wanted
to be a doctor. The Knox-Rush Early Admission Program seemed like the
perfect fit. But once on campus, Knox opened doors that Skaret had never considered -- doors that led to the jungles of Peru, Notre Dame Law School, and -- eventually -- to the U.S. Department of Justice.
"After my first year, it was abundantly clear that I was not destined to be a doctor," explains Skaret with a laugh as he reflects on his first terms at Knox. "The science was killing me, and I wanted to be done forever with math."
He changed his major to music and economics, where he found more success. As graduation approached, Skaret knew that he didn't want to follow in the footsteps of many of his economics classmates who were going into business or banking. He thought he might like to get an advanced degree in music and pursue a career in education or piano performance. It was his indecision that led to his mother's suggestion that he apply to law school. He got into Notre Dame.
But Skaret wasn't quite ready to go. Instead, he put his studies on hold for a year to pursue another interest he discovered at Knox -- international travel.
"I roomed with an international student from Sweden my first year, which sort of plugged me into the whole international student scene," he says. "Before coming to Knox, I didn't have a world view, and I didn't anticipate getting that at Knox -- a school in the Illinois cornfields."
Skaret contacted his church missionary organization and asked to go somewhere remote. He was sent to Lima and Iquitos, Peru, where he worked with homeless boys, teaching English, hygiene, religion, and other courses. "It changed my life in many ways. It gave me a heart for people I really didn't know existed and changed my heart toward the plight of the poor."
Skaret returned to the states and began his studies at Notre Dame in the fall of 1999. In the summers, he worked for a professor in the Department of Treasury, where he had the opportunity to learn about federal law enforcement entities such as the Secret Service, Customs, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. "Working with him and seeing the close relationship he had with law enforcement made me want to do the same," Skaret says.
After law school, Skaret clerked for a U.S. District Court Judge in Chicago and then accepted a position in Washington D.C. as a prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice in the Domestic Security Section of the Criminal Division.
"There's a law enforcement angle to being a federal prosecutor. You interact with the agents during the investigate stage, sometimes on a daily or hourly basis -- advising them of the best ways to fulfill the elements of a offense or the best ways to complete an undercover operation or giving local police advice on whether they can search a car or if they'll need a warrant," says Skaret. "And fortunately, it's the part of the job that I like the most."
Skaret is currently prosecuting two high-profile cases. The first is a 10-defendant terrorism, smuggling, and money laundering case out of Columbia, which is being prosecuted in Miami. "My time in Peru has really paid off because not only did it give me a little bit better touch with the reality of the world, but it also gave me the gift of Spanish," he says.
He is also prosecuting a death penalty case against a former U.S. soldier charged with committing murder, aggravated sexual abuse, and obstruction of justice while serving in Iraq. That case is being prosecuted in Louisville, Kentucky.
"Looking back on it, what made Knox so valuable to me is that it allowed me to change lanes when I needed to," says Skaret. "Knox exposed me to a broad variety of topics and interests I didn't even know that I had, which I was able to take forward with me in my life."