U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan announced today he is stepping down as the top federal prosecutor for the eastern part of Pennsylvania amid indications that he is positioning himself for a possible run for governor in 2010.

Meehan, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter (R., Pa.) and former Delaware County District Attorney, held a news conference this afternoon and said he will step down effective July 15.

Meehan sidestepped questions about a possible run for governor, saying he wanted to make the transition into private practice.

"I do not know what the future will hold," Meehan said at the news conference. "If an opportunity for public service is there at some point in time, I will consider that." He said that "those kinds of decisions can be made at a future time."

Meehan said that Laurie Magid, currently the First Assistant U.S. Attorney, would succeed him, becoming the first woman to serve as the top federal prosecutor in this district.

Magid said she is looking forward to the new position. "He's going to be a tough act to follow, but I am looking forward to it," she said.

There has been wide speculation that Meehan is interested in running for governor.

"He has an ideal profile for that position," said Shanin Specter, a pre-eminent lawyer, Republican strategist and son of Specter. "Many prosecutors have advanced to important statewide office, both in Pennsylvania and elsewhere."

The younger Specter said that a run for governor is a "natural progression for Pat. He's perceived as having done an excellent job in the U.S. Attorney's Office. He served there with great distinction."

Meehan, 52, a Republican from Delaware County, was nominated by President Bush for the powerful federal position in August 2001.

During his tenure, prosecutors in his office won convictions in a number of corruption cases, including those involving former City Treasurer Corey Kemp, who is serving a 10-year prison term, and former City Councilman Rick Mariano, who was sentenced to seven years behind bars.

Meehan was thrust into the public spotlight in 1996 when, as the new Delaware County prosecutor, he handled the John E. du Pont murder case.