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Archive for September, 2008

Federal Judge Boozing, Fibbing, Gambling

U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous has become another blemish on a town that has way too many blemishes already. He’s accused of boozing, gambling and fibbing. His attorneys and some judges say, for the most part, his behavior was limited to his private affairs. Nonetheless,  his superiors want him gone.

Judge Thomas Porteous

Judge Thomas Porteous

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By Richard Rainey
New Orleans Times-Picayune
NEW ORLEANS — U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous admits he came to depend on alcohol to get through the day and that he was addicted to gambling. He does not deny that he submitted false statements in his personal bankruptcy, on his annual financial disclosure forms and on his application for a bank loan. He concedes that lawyer friends bailed him out of one financial jam after another over the years, even when they had cases pending in his court.
His own attorney said Porteous deserves the public reprimand he received this month from his superiors.
But Porteous now faces the prospect of the ultimate sanction, impeachment and possible removal from office.
For Full Story

U.S. Atty. Complains in Crack Cocaine Sentences

Judge Friedman/mary noble ours

Judge Friedman/mary noble ours

Sentencing for crack cocaine has historically been controversial. Some judges have always felt the guidelines were too tough. Two federal judges in Washington have knocked down some crack cocaine sentences and the U.S. Attorney is not happy.

By Joe Palazzolo
Legal Times
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia says two federal district judges have gone too far in reducing the sentences of crack cocaine offenders.
Judges James Robertson and Paul Friedman recently knocked down the sentences for two convicted drug felons beyond the policy set by the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
For Full Story

Ex-Police Chief Gets Probation For Stealing Funds


OMAHA, Neb. – The former Walthill Police Department chief was sentenced in U.S. District Court  Friday to probation for taking $3,500 earmarked for drug investigations, the Associated Press reported.

Joel Tyndall, 41, was given four years probation and ordered to repay the $3,500 he took, AP reported.

Dallas Feds Will Try Again in Terror Finance Trial

Federal prosecutors in Dallas will try again to get convictions in a terrorism finance case allegedly linked to Hamas. The first trial turned into one big flop. Can they pull it off this time or do they simply not have the goods?

By Carrie Johnson and Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writers
WASHINGTON – The government’s largest terrorism financing case returned to a courtroom in Dallas this week as prosecutors once again try to secure criminal convictions against five men for allegedly raising more than $12 million in what investigators call “blood money” to support overseas suicide bombings.
The case against former leaders of the Holy Land Foundation, a Texas charity that authorities shuttered seven years ago because of its alleged links to the militant Palestinian group Hamas, comes nearly a year after a previous trial ended in disappointment for the government. Jurors acquitted one man outright on 31 charges and deadlocked on charges against the others. Senior U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish declared a mistrial in October 2007.
For Full Story

Feds In Child Porn Case Raid Arkansas Ministry

The road to a child-porn investigation has led to a ministry in Arkansas. Just how big a scandal will this be?

By Jon Gambrell
Associated Press Writer
FOUKE, Ark. — Federal authorities conducting a child-porn investigation raided the headquarters Saturday of a ministry run by a convicted tax evader once labeled by prosecutors as a polygamist who preys on girls and women.
Social workers interviewed children who live at the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries complex, which critics call a cult, to find out whether they were abused. The two-year investigation involves a law that prohibits the transportation of children across state lines for criminal activity, said Tom Browne, who runs the FBI office in Little Rock.

For Full Story

ICE Halts Deportations to Hard Hit Haiti

ICE decides it would be too cold to deport people back to Haiti following back-to-back storms.

By Georgia East and Luis Perez
Sun-Sentinel
FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. -Immigration and Customs Enforcement has temporarily halted deportations to Haiti, amid mounting pressure from some South Florida members of Congress and local activists.
Critics of the deportations have said it’s inhumane to send people to Haiti after the country has been devastated by back-to-back storms.
“We are aware of the situation on the ground, and based on that, there are no removals planned,” said Barbara Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

For Full Story

FBI Art Sleuth Calling It A Day

A Rembrandt Wittman helped recover

A Rembrandt Wittman helped recover

Robert K. Wittman didn’t surveil terrorists or chase bank robbers for the FBI. He chased down art thieves and helped recover more than a thousand pieces of work. Wittman worked undercover and still does not want to be photographed even though he’s retiring.

By Andrew Maykuth
Philadelphia Inquirer
PHILADELPHIA – Robert K. Wittman, the renowned undercover art sleuth who retired yesterday after 20 years with the FBI, vividly remembers the first art theft he helped solve.
In November 1988, a few days before Wittman arrived in Philadelphia fresh from the FBI Academy, a robber stole a bronze sculpture from the Rodin Museum on the Parkway. Mask of the Man With the Broken Nose was considered Rodin’s first major work.
The thief, an unemployed dancer who Wittman said was “down on his luck,” wrapped the 12-inch bronze in brown paper and hid it beneath a hot-water heater at his mother’s house on Pine Street. That’s where investigators found it a few months later.
“That was the beginning and end of his art career,” said Wittman.
For Full Story

Hitman Gives a Sopranos Like Performance

Mobster Whitey Bulger/fbi photo

Mobster Whitey Bulger/fbi photo

Testimony on Friday from hitman John Martorano was as riveting as a scene in the HBO hit The Sopranos.  Martorano calmly described a murder and said he might have killed mobster Whitey Bulger had he known Bulger had ties to the FBI. His testimony came in the murder trial of ex-FBI agent John Connolly.

By Shelley Murphy
Boston Globe
MIAMI — Confessed hitman John Martorano gave a jury a blow-by-blow description of a murder this afternoon during blistering cross-examination in the trial of retired FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr.
“Can you show the jury where you shot him?” asked defense attorney Manuel Casabielle as he leaned toward the witness box.
For Full Story

Related Trial Story (Miami Herald)