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Tag: U.S. Attorney

Bicentennial of U.S. Attorney’s Office in Eastern Michigan

U.S. Attorney McQuade

By Ross Parker

If you run into Barb McQuade, the U. S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan some time in 2015, congratulate her for her Office’s milestone. This year marks the Bicentennial of the appointment of the first USA in Michigan Territory, Solomon Sibley in 1815. This makes the USAO the oldest law enforcement agency in the state.

Before there was a federal district court, a police force, any federal criminal investigative agency, or even the State of Michigan, there was a U.S. Attorney’s Office. Of course the log cabin where Sibley represented the federal government’s interests, among his other legal clients, is hardly recognizable as a USAO by today’s standards. He had a desk, a supply of quill pens, some ancient English law books, and a fireplace to get him through those rugged winters.

For his federal cases he was paid $5 per court day. Transportation was by horseback, mostly on Indian trails. There were few roads. Communication with Washington was slow and erratic. It took about two months to receive letters sent to the rustic village of Detroit. Since the Justice Department would not be created for 55 years, Sibley and his successors had limited support or guidance from the Capitol.

It is difficult to appreciate the uncertainties surrounding law and the judicial system in those early years when the infant nation was struggling to exist. Translating the rule of law and the concept of justice into the hard scrabble everyday lives of the settlers was an uncharted course. Even after determining a rough idea of what the law was supposed to be, the conflict between policy and practice was particularly challenging in Michigan because of its history of occupation by the Indian tribes, the French, the British, and then the American settlers whose heritage was from many different countries. Due process developed case by case involving people of widely diverse cultural backgrounds, people who had very different ideas about what the law was and how it should be applied in particular situations on the frontier.

Civil cases included collecting debts owed to the federal government, sorting out the chaotic French land grants and estates and interpreting Army supply contracts. The first case involved a forfeiture action against a shipment of lumber which had been smuggled into the Detroit port to avoid payment of duty.

Criminal cases involved charges of counterfeiting, receiving stolen goods and larceny, and starting a riot. The early USAs were practical men. When there were not enough grand jurors to make a quorum, they simply sent the U.S, Marshal out to round up some bystanders.

Sibley and the other USAs started out with the elementary principle that this would be a government of laws and not men. The rights and liabilities of the citizenry were given life incrementally by the resolution of disputes about the application of law, not the exercise of discretion by the powerful. However imperfect at times, the process slowly evolved into the due process system we enjoy today.

No law enforcement institution is perfect. There have been cases lost and prosecutions unsuccessful. But the USAO EDMI has been remarkably free of impropriety. Of course there was that attempt by USA Daniel LeRoy in 1828 to resign in exchange for half of a successor’s $250 annual salary. But the USAO soldiered on through the challenges of the Civil War and its aftermath of crime, the explosive expansion of the federal government near the end of the 19th and throughout the 20th Centuries, the failed social experiment of Prohibition with its court congestion, crime and corruption.

Like the rest of America it was a white male institution with no women or African American attorneys until the late 1940s. Appointments of Assistants was a political process into the 1960s with each new administration brooming out the AUSAs to make room for new appointees, who then started from scratch to build an experience level to cope with a burgeoning caseload.

But somehow the legacies and progress continued despite these counter-productive practices. As Justice Cardozo noted a century ago, justice is a concept that is never finished but which reproduces itself generation after generation in ever changing forms.

So happy birthday to my former colleagues and staff in the USAO. Your work is important to that process of rebirth and toward a system which protects every person’s right to a fair day in court.

If your computer is freezing up and a federal judge has been tough on you on a particular day, remember it could be worse. You could be putting your briefs in a saddlebag and trudging through the snow on an Indian trail to get to court instead of scampering across Fort Street.

 

Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association Endorses Loretta Lynch for U.S. Attorney

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) announced Thursday its support for Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch.

Lynch is currently the U.S. Attorney for Brooklyn.

The Association, in a statement said:

 Today, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) announced its support for Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch.

FLEOA stands behind her proven leadership and her support for those who investigate and enforce the federal statutes.  In 2011, Ms. Lynch was selected as the FLEOA Foundation’s Law Enforcement Honoree of the Year. Her accomplishments and her leadership continue to resonate in the law enforcement community, and she possesses the requisite institutional knowledge that is required of the position of Attorney General.

After the President announced his nomination of Ms. Lynch, FLEOA National President Jon Adler stated, “In light of the turbulent climate confronting law enforcement, we need a strong leader like U.S. Attorney Lynch to bring a calm, well‐informed perspective to the Attorney General position. Knowing U.S. Attorney Lynch’s fine character and judicial talents, I foresee her balancing her title with equal strength both as our nation’s lead Attorney and as our legal General.”

Eric Holder Applauds The Nomination of Loretta Lynch for Attorney General

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

President Obama has nominated Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, 55, to replace Eric Holder as attorney general. She would be the first black woman to head up the department.

Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement Saturday:

 “Loretta Lynch is an extraordinarily talented attorney, a dedicated public servant, and a leader of considerable experience and consummate skill. I am certain that she will be an outstanding Attorney General, and I am delighted to join President Obama in congratulating her on this prestigious appointment.

“Throughout her career, and especially during her tenure as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York – during both the Clinton and Obama Administrations – Loretta has earned the trust and respect of Justice Department employees at every level, in Washington and throughout the country. She is held in high regard by criminal justice, law enforcement, and civil rights leaders of all stripes. And from her time as a career attorney, prosecuting high-profile public corruption cases, to her leadership of sensitive financial fraud and national security investigations, she has proven her unwavering fidelity to the law – and her steadfast dedication to protecting the American people.”

 

Ex-Fed Prosecutor Alan M. Gershel Who Helped Convicted Detroit Police Chief is Named Head of the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission

Alan M. Gershel

Alan M. Gershel, a law school professor and ex-federal prosecutor whose high-profile cases included the prosecution of Detroit Police Chief William L. Hart, has been named grievance administrator for the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission.

The commission is the investigative and prosecutorial arm of the Supreme Court for allegations of attorney misconduct.

“Mr. Gershel has a focused vision for the future, decades of experience successfully managing a team of attorneys, and a reputation for professional integrity that will be a credit to the AGC,” Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr.  said in a statement.

Gershel resigned from Cooley Law School last Friday.

Gershel replaces interim administrator John Van Bolt.  Bolt was filling in after administrator Robert Agacinski, was fired earlier this year. Agacinski is suing Young and the Grievance Commission, alleging he was fired for reporting illegal misconduct of commission staff members.

Gershel was one of three prosecutors who convicted Chief Hart in May 1992 for embezzling funds earmarked for undercover operations.  Gershel also helped oversee an FBI sting involving local Detroit judges that resulted in a number of them pleading guilty in the late 1980s.

Gershel, a 1978 graduate of University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, taught at Thomas M. Cooley Law School from 2008-2014. Before that, he worked for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for nearly 30 years, and was chief of the Criminal Division from 1989-2008.

 

Anti-Defamation League to Hold 5th Annual ADL Shield Awards to Honor Law Enforcement

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization which works closely with law enforcement in the battle against terrorism and protecting civil rights, will present its fifth annual ADL Shield Awards on Sept. 17 in D.C.

The awards are in the area of terrorism and civil rights.

The awards were created in 2010 to recognize law enforcement for major achievements in the fight against hate crimes, domestic and international terrorism, and for protecting civil rights.

“The SHIELD Awards give us an opportunity to publicly recognize and express our appreciation to law enforcement for protecting our nation and its values,” Elise Jarvis, ADL’s Associate Director for Law Enforcement Outreach and Communal Security, said in a press release. “They are a way for us to honor the individuals who guard our lives and freedoms.”

According to a press release, the 2014 ADL SHIELD Award recipients will include investigators and prosecutors from:

  •  The FBI Washington Field Office, New York City Police Department Intelligence Bureau, US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, and US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and Counterterrorism Section for their investigation and prosecution of the founders and leaders of Revolution Muslim, an organization which encouraged terrorist attacks and violence against non-Muslims. Zachary Chesser pled guilty to soliciting murder and attempting to support a designated terrorist group and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Jesse Morton pled guilty to soliciting murder and was sentenced to nearly 12 years in jail. Yousef Al-Khattab pled guilty to using the Internet to place others in fear of serious bodily injury or death and was sentenced to 30 months in prison.
  •  The FBI Baltimore Division and the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Criminal Section for their investigation and prosecution of a Color of Law case in which corrections officers in Maryland beat an inmate over a series of shifts and then subsequently obstructed justice with other officers in an effort to cover up the assault. Fourteen corrections officers were held accountable and convicted under federal law.
  •  The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Richmond Division and Statesboro Resident Agency and the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia for their investigation and prosecution of Michael Lee Fullmore, a member of the Georgia Knight Rider’s, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, who was arrested after confiding to an FBI informant that he wanted to firebomb a local church in retaliation for the church’s support of the Latino community. He was charged with firearms and drug distribution violations and sentenced to 52 months in prison. Following his conviction, the entire Knight Riders Klan organization was disbanded.
  •  The Drug Enforcement Administration, US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, US Customs and Border Protection, and US Department of the Treasury for a multi-agency operation which focused on the financial activities of three Lebanese financial institutions, each of which has been implicated for its involvement with the Hezbollah terror group. As of March 2014, more than $150 million dollars had been seized under this Operation.
  •  The Montgomery County Police Department, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Charles County Sheriff’s Office and Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office for their investigation and prosecution of local members of the Moorish Nation, part of the sovereign citizen movement, for felonies which included First Degree Burglary, Conspiracy, and Theft over $100,000 in connection to their occupation of a home in Montgomery County, MD. Honorees received threats to themselves and their families because of their involvement in the case.

 

FBI’s Tainted Key Witness Creates Big Problems in Mobster Case for NY U.S. Attorney’s Office

This piece originally appeared in Gang Land News on June 26 and is being reprinted with permission. It’s the most recent story Gang Land News has published about the case since disclosing that prosecutors gave sweet plea deals to two Gambino family gangsters on the eve of trial in January rather than allow their lawyers to question the FBI’s key witness about the reason he agreed to cooperate.The witness was arrested on charges of soliciting sex from a person he believed was a 15-year-old girl, a charge that normally carries a mandatory-minimum penalty of 10 years to life.

U.S. Atty. Preet Bharara/doj photo

By Jerry Capeci
Gang Land News

The office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara quietly announced last month that it was dismissing charges against the last three defendants in the snake-bitten labor racketeering case that the FBI made against Genovese gangster Carmine (Papa) Smurf Franco and 28 others. All told, prosecutors have dropped the charges against 10 of the 29 defendants in the indictment.

Throwing in the towel before trial against more than a third of the defendants in the 16-count indictment wasn’t the way things were supposed to turn out. When the arrests were announced, the case was hailed by Bharara and New York FBI boss George Venizelos as a major blow against the Mafia’s control over the waste hauling industry in New York and New Jersey. Instead, this foray against the mob rivals the losing ways of the luckless Mets.

In a two paragraph court filing, prosecutors told Manhattan Federal Judge P. Kevin Castel they were deferring the prosecution of the owner of a Jersey City garbage company and two truck drivers charged with stealing about 130 tons of cardboard between March and July of 2012. The trio, Thomas Giordano, 43, the owner of Galaxy Carting of New Jersey, Michael Russo, 51, and Louis Dontis, 59, were set for trial next month. The charges are slated to be officially dismissed later this summer.

The three men were tape recorded by FBI informer Charles Hughes in dozens of conversations in which they allegedly discussed truckloads of stolen cardboard, and a surprisingly simple, relatively lucrative mob scam. Drivers snatched the cardboard from sites in Brooklyn, Bayonne and beyond. It was then put up for sale by Giordano at a market price that ranged between $106 and $125 a ton, according to an FBI summary of talks that Hughes recorded from March of 2009 until January 8, 2013 – a week before the indictment was unsealed.

But in an apparent effort to keep their key witness, undercover operative Hughes, off the stand, prosecutors have decided to drop the charges. A major concern is that Hughes would have to admit that he became a government witness only after he was arrested for soliciting sex with a girl he believed was 15 years old.

In January, prosecutors gave super sweet plea deals to Gambino mobster Anthony Bazzini and mob associate Scott Fappiano, who faced 20 years if convicted, rather than subject Hughes to a biting cross-examination about that by their lawyers.

But prosecutors had no leverage to wangle guilty pleas from the alleged cardboard thieves.  “They rejected plea deals of zero-to-six months early on,” said one source.

“There was no way they were going to plead to anything,” said one defense attorney whose client accepted a plea offer before it became known that Hughes was a convicted sex pervert. “My guy got a really nice disposition, but he’s not happy. And there’s one other guy I know who’s upset that he didn’t hold out until the end,” the lawyer added.

Sources say that following his arrest in August, 2008, Hughes, now 44, was detained until March of 2009, when he was released on bail and wired up by the FBI to see if he could deliver on a claim that he had worked in the waste hauling industry in his teens and could make cases for the feds. News that his cooperation stemmed from a sex-solicitation arrest surfaced five months ago.

Law enforcement sources say the primary reason the government decided to give Fappiano and Bazzini — who received a year and a day sentence on June 24 — much better plea offers was a “real fear” that jurors would be so outraged by Hughes’s conduct that they would hold it against the government for making a deal with him, ignore the law and acquit, no matter what.

Whether the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office should have entered a cooperation agreement with Hughes in the first place is a bone of contention for some law enforcers. But that issue is difficult to assess since his case is still under seal as are the specifics of his deal with the feds.

But there is agreement by several law enforcement officials, and virtually every defense lawyer Gang Land spoke to, that the decision by Judge Castel to permit defense lawyers to question Hughes about lies he told both his wife and the “teenager” he thought he was seducing convinced prosecutors to give deals to Bazzini and Fappiano in January.

Prosecutors Bruce Baird and Patrick Egan had tried to limit the cross examination, but when Castel indicated during a pretrial session that he was going to grant defense lawyers Raymond Perini and Lee Ginsberg some leeway in their questioning of Hughes, the prosecutors gave the gangsters a plea offer they couldn’t refuse.

“The mobsters were charged with extortion but it’s really stealing garbage stops and bid-rigging,” said one source. “That’s pretty tame stuff for jurors to deal with compared to having sex with little girls who but for the grace of God could be their daughters or granddaughters. The chance of jury nullification was very real.”

The decision to toss the charges against the alleged cardboard thieves was presumably even easier to make: The total value of the stolen cardboard was about $16,000, an amount not likely to sway jurors versus a sex-scheming witness.

Nor was playing the dozens of tapes Hughes made without having him testify to authenticate them a good option. Some conversations appear to back up the notion that the men knew they were dealing in stolen cardboard. For instance, according to the indictment, on May 29, 2012, Giordano was recorded saying “he did not care where the cardboard came from as long as it went to him.”

But others, like one a few days earlier, according to an FBI summary obtained by Gang Land, appear to tilt the other way. In one such conversation, Dontis is heard telling Hughes that “he doesn’t want to do anything wrong. He’s not a brokester, he’s just a hard working Greek who just wants to make money.”

Even if convicted, the trio could have received non jail terms, or sentences of less than a year behind bars.

Giordano’s attorney, Michael Bachner, the only lawyer who responded to a Gang Land request for comment, said he and his client were pleased by the deferred prosecution decision. “From the get go,” said Bachner, “we have taken the position that Mr. Giordano should not be prosecuted. And while it took longer than we would have wished, we’re gratified with the result.”

Neither Bharara, nor the FBI, would comment about this week’s deferred prosecution, or the embarrassing decision to drop the charges against a third of the defendants in the case. They also declined to discuss the status of Hughes, including whether he is behind bars, or if, as prosecutors indicated last week, he is free on bail, and what type of supervision he has now.

In court papers, prosecutors wrote that Hughes “remains in virtual hiding, fearful for his safety and the safety of his close family members.” His “ability to earn a living and to support his family is essentially non-existent,” they wrote, adding that his “life will never return to the way it was prior to his arrest.”

Prosecutors also wrote that different accounts they gave defense lawyers about how roll-off containers belonging to a Bazzini-connected carting company ended up in a Giordano company storage lot were caused by “miscommunication or misunderstanding” between Hughes and his supervising FBI agents, “rather than a deliberate effort by (Hughes) to mislead the government.”

Gang Land News, which is run by Jerry Capeci, a noted mobster expert, is a subscription site, but well worth it.

Supreme Court Effortlessly Throws Out Warrantless Cell Phone Searches

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.
 
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

Guessing the correct result and even the basic rationale of the Supreme Court’s cell phone case could be considered a minor achievement, but not even the most ardent defense attorney would have predicted that the opinion would be a unanimous 9-0 decision authored by the normally pro-law enforcement Chief Justice. Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion held, without a single dissent, that the warrantless search of an arrestee’s cell phone incident to his arrest was in violation of the 4th Amendment. It’s embarrassing to miss the ease with which the Court made the decision.

In doing so the Court resolved a split in lower courts and rejected a line of cases which compared the cell phone search to be analogous to the previously authorized search of an arrestee’s papers, diaries and the like. That had been the rationale of one of the two cases reviewed, the California Court of Appeals decision in Riley v. California, which had upheld the police search of a man’s cell phone when he was stopped on a traffic charge and then arrested for illegal firearm possession. The search had produced data linking him to a gang shooting, and he was convicted of attempted murder. Instead the Court followed the other decision reviewed, U.S. v. Wurie, in which the Court of Appeals threw out drug and firearm convictions for a defendant whose cell phone was searched incident to his arrest.

The Court rejected the Justice Department position and reasoned that the invasion of privacy was not comparable to the other cases involving the search of notes, private documents and the like. The extent of private material exposed in a modern cell phone is of an entirely different magnitude than that which could be kept in such papers. The extra-legal consideration was perhaps left between the lines. Everyone including Supreme Court Justices has a cell phone and increasingly relies on it for a variety of private and extensive purposes.

The opinion found a clear distinction in the latest cell phone technology and its ever-expanding capacity to store a vast trove of private information. From a legal analysis standpoint (and foreseeable only with 20-20 hindsight), the case was a logical extension of the Court’s increasing propensity to rein in law enforcement’s use of advanced technology. Thermal imaging, DNA, and transponders are a few of the techniques which had been found to be “unreasonable searches” without prior judicial authorization.

So what does the case portend? The loss of free rein to investigate the secrets of those arrested without prior judicial authorization will be an inconvenience to law enforcement, especially since nearly every person arrested possesses a smart phone. But enterprising agents will mitigate this loss in many cases by imaginative considerations of probable cause to present to a judge. Other advanced tools of the expanding sources of technology should probably be second-guessed in terms of the need for a warrant. But most prosecutors and case agents were already aware of this trip for the unwary.

Does it mean a cutting back from the wide scope of non-cell phone searches incident? Probably not since the prior cases in this category set forth a fairly well defined course of action by arresting officers.

On the other hand, being presumptuous about who your friends are on the High Court can be a humbling experience.

 

Whistleblower, Ex-Arizona U.S. Attorney Says His Office Was Cast As Scapegoat

Fprmer U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Former Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, who blew the whistle on the Fast and Furious gun investigation, said he leaked the information because he feared his superiors in Washington would unfairly blame the problems on his office, Main Justice reports.

During an Arizona State Bar disciplinary proceeding on March 27, Burke said his bosses were more concerned with political expediency than getting to the bottom of the problem.

Burke “believed that his office and employees were not being protected by DOJ, and that accurate and complete information was not being provided to the national media,” according to the disciplinary agreement.

Burke was issued a reprimand and accepted responsibility and agreed to $1,200 to reimburse the state bar, Main Justice wrote.

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