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Archive for November, 2008

Son and Fed. Prosecutor Applaud Presidential Pardon of Crooked Detroit Cop

Sgt. James Harris was known in Detroit as a tough cop among co-workers and well connected in the police department. Now, 16 years after getting caught up in an FBI sting, he leaves prison legally blind and suffering from diabetes.

Paul Egan
The Detroit News
DETROIT — Detroit Firefighter James C. Harris will never forget the day in 1992 he drove his father, a former Detroit police sergeant, to the federal courthouse in Flint for the final day of his trial in a criminal cocaine conspiracy.
He drove home alone after a jury convicted his dad and U.S. marshals took him into custody.
News this week that President Bush granted clemency to his father, James Russell “Jimmie” Harris, and commuted the remainder of his 30-year prison sentence, is “the best Thanksgiving present ever,” the son said Tuesday.
The elder Harris, 62, legally blind and sick with diabetes and hypertension, is to be released Dec. 22 — more than 10 years ahead of schedule — from the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina. He is one of 14 people who received pardons from President Bush this week.
Snared in a high-profile FBI sting operation that also netted relatives of then-Mayor Coleman A. Young, Harris has no political influence but earned his clemency through his remorse and help he gave to law enforcement after he went to prison, those involved with his case said.
‘He’s changed for the better’
“I think it’s great,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Helland, who prosecuted Harris twice after the first trial ended in a hung jury.
For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Romanian Busted For Trying to Sell Hitler’s Stolen 18-Karat Gold Bookmark To Undercover ICE Agent

Toss in the names Adolph Hitler, Eva Braun and Starbucks and you’ve got yourself one heck of a tale.

By BRAD WONG
Seattle P-I
SEATTLE — An 18-karat bookmark that Adolf Hitler’s mistress reportedly gave him 65 years ago for solace after Germany lost an epic battle ended up this week in a Starbucks parking lot, allegedly peddled by a Romanian businessman.
Federal authorities say that Christian Popescu agreed to sell the stolen item for $100,000. But the gold bauble, reportedly the possession of the Nazi leader and later of his military chief, was no lucky charm for Popescu, 37. The buyer was an undercover federal agent.
The bookmark given to Adolf Hitler by Eva Braun in 1943.
Authorities swooped down on the Romanian national in a parking lot near Bellevue Square on Tuesday, and Popescu was in federal court on Wednesday, facing stolen property charges.
For Full Story

Read Press Release

Read Criminal Complaint

New York Reacts To Reports al Qaeda Considered Attacking Mass Transit

It’s been a while since we’ve heard about these threats. Is this one worthy?

By JAMES GORDON MEEK in Washington and ALISON GENDAR and LARRY McSHANE in New York
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

The city subway system received an infusion of additional police protection Wednesday after reports that Al Qaeda terrorists had considered targeting local mass transit with suicide bombers.
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued a joint warning to state and local officials on Tuesday night about the terrorist threat, said DHS spokeswoman Laura Keehner.
The warning followed “plausible but uncorroborated information that Al Qaeda may have discussed targeting the transit system in or around New York City,” Keehner said.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said police were aware of the terrorist threat, and responded by sending additional cops throughout the subway system.
For Full Story

Washington State Supreme Court Justice Admits Shouting “Tyrant” During A.G. Mukasey’s Speech

Justice Richards/official photo

Justice Richards/official photo

Apparently fainting wasn’t the only news event the night Atty. Gen. Michael Mukasey fainted.

By Adam Wilson
The Olympian
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington State Supreme Justice Richard Sanders
acknowledged Tuesday that he shouted “Tyrant! You are a tyrant!” during a speech by the nation’s attorney general last week.
U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey collapsed about 15 minutes later as he addressed the Federalist Society in Washington, D.C. The incident made headlines that initially overshadowed a controversy about who had heckled him as he defended the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism policies.
Sanders said Tuesday: “It kind of irked me that this is making fun of the Geneva Conventions. … To make a joke about it, when we’re a signator to this convention which prohibits torture.”
For Full Story

Congress Wants to See if Feds Were Out to Get Ex-Gov Eliot Spitzer

Ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer had a bright political future. The question isn’t whether he screwed up, but rather was the federal government out to get him?

Eliot Spitzer/official photo

Eliot Spitzer/official photo

By Danny Hakim
New York Times
ALBANY – Eight months after a federal investigation into a prostitution ring brought about the downfall of Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the question persists in some circles: Was the federal government out to get Mr. Spitzer?
No evidence has surfaced to support such an assertion, and the prosecutor in the case has said that politics played no role in the pursuit of Mr. Spitzer, a Democrat. But that has not put to rest suspicions, expressed on left wing blogs, that Mr. Spitzer, a zealous pursuer of Wall Street wrongdoing who some thought could one day be president, had been singled out.
Now, a congressional committee is pursuing what would be the first public examination of the events that prompted the initial inquiry into his bank transactions, which showed he was sending money to a front company for Emperor’s Club V.I.P.
The House Financial Services Committee intends to take up the matter early next year and tentatively plans to hold hearings that could include testimony from the United States Treasury’s law enforcement unit, along with Mr. Spitzer’s bank, North Fork, and HSBC, a bank used by a company connected to the prostitution service.
“The question was: Why were they looking for this? Is this political retribution?” said Representative Michael E. Capuano, a Massachusetts Democrat and a member of the committee who has been critical of the increased scrutiny of banking transactions, which increased greatly under the passage of the Patriot Act.
For Full Story

Release of FBI Anthrax Documents Show Wrong Suspect Took Cipro Around the Time Fatal Letters Were Mailed

There was a time during the anthrax probe that the head of the FBI investigation advocated indicting scientist Steven Hatfill. One of the things that bothered some investigators was that Hatfill was taking Cipro at the time of the letter attacks. But the U.S. Attorney’s office shot down any suggestions of an indictment.

By LARA JAKES JORDAN

Steven Hatfill/fox news

Steven Hatfill/fox news

The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Pharmacy records and writings initially _ but wrongly _ helped lead the FBI to Army scientist Steven Hatfill in the 2001 anthrax attacks, Justice Department documents released Tuesday show.
Responding to a judge’s order, the government released 78 pages of affidavits and search warrants in the now-closed case of Hatfill, who was cleared of the attacks earlier this year. The documents raise questions about Hatfill but provide no evidence that he masterminded the biological attacks that killed five people, sickened 17 and frightened a nation still shaken by the deaths of 9/11 only a few weeks earlier.

Ultimately, the government focused on another Army scientist: Bruce Ivins, who killed himself in July as prosecutors prepared to charge him in the case. Both Ivins and Hatfill worked at the Army’s infectious diseases laboratory in Frederick, Md. Hatfill was never charged, and the Justice Department in June agreed to pay him $5.8 million to settle a lawsuit he brought against the government for wrongly implicating him.

For Full Story

See FBI Documents

Suburban D.C. School Superintendent Gets 6 Years in Prison

Andre Hornsby/channel 7

Andre Hornsby/channel 7

Andre Hornsby came in as a school reformer and left as a convicted felon. Tuesday he got 6 years. Now that’s a lesson the kids can use.

By Nick Madigan
Baltimore Sun
GREENBELT, Md. — Former Prince George’s County schools Superintendent Andre J. Hornsby was sentenced today to a total of six years of prison time in a federal corruption case.
“I’m totally embarrassed by what situation I’ve put myself into,” Hornsby told U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messite. “I understand the seriousness of my actions. I understand mistakes were made. I understand decisions were made. This has taken a toll on myself, my family, my friends and my colleagues.”
Messite also directed Hornsby to serve three years of supervised release after he leaves prison and pay a $20,000 fine and $70,000 in restitution to the Prince George’s schools. Hornsby also will need to enroll in alcohol treatment and cooperate with the Internal Revenue Service in a probe of his tax returns, the judge said.
“Judge Messite was fair,” Hornsby told reporters after the sentencing. “He could have definitely sentenced me to a lot more.”

For Full Story

Where Will This Tenacious U.S. Atty. Land?

By Jon Perkins
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Fair to say, during his seven-year reign as Chicago’s U.S. Attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald has been relentless. He’s gone after ex-Gov. George Ryan, Gov. Rod Blagojovich and Tony Rezko, a political fundraiser with links to President-elect Barack Obama. He came to Washington as a special prosecutor and rattled the town, sending one reporter off to jail, dragging political operative Karl Rove before a grand jury and prosecuting Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff.
Now, with the Obama transition, comes speculation about the future of the Bush appointee many in the Justice Department consider a “prosecutor’s prosecutor.”
Hall talk – a term they use over at the Justice Department, is that Fitzgerald, a Harvard Law School graduate, may be tapped to run the criminal division or even serve as deputy attorney general to Eric H. Holder Jr., Obama’s choice to run the Justice Department, or become the U.S. Attorney for New York, Fitzgerald’s hometown. The deputy attorney general post-considered the most political of the three – is probably the least likely.
There’s a good number of folks in Illinois, mostly Democratic and Republican politicians and
their supporters, who want the prosecutor moved. Certainly some of those people wouldn’t cry if he was removed from the Justice Department all together – a move one source says would be “gut-wrenching” to Fitzgerald.
Others want Fitzgerald to stay in Chicago to continue chasing criminals.
An appointment to any of the highly-coveted posts in Washington or New York could be
considered a reward. But some skeptics on the left and right say it may be a way for the Obama administration to remove the feisty prosecutor from the Illinois landscape where some feel he’s overstepped and overstayed.
Most agree he would be an “excellent” selection for Washington or New York.
Even so, such an appointment would fly in the face of a campaign pledge by Obama to leave the prosecutor in Chicago where his investigations have led to the indictment and conviction of scores of public officials including former Gov. George Ryan, who is serving time in a federal prison in
Wisconsin for corruption charges. In Washington, Fitzgerald, as a special prosecutor in Washington, helped convict Vice President Richard Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, on charges stemming from the unmasking of former CIA employee Valerie Plame Wilson.
If Fitzgerald is named chief of the Justice Department’s criminal division, many insiders
would consider it a promotion. Others in Justice say it would be a lateral move, but an important job nonetheless.
Then there’s a little complication.
“He really likes Chicago. He married a local gal,” says one source.
Fitzgerald wed Chicago school teacher Jennifer Letzkus in June.
“The smart thing would be to make him deputy a..g.,” although that job may be too political for Fitzgerald, the source said, adding that he thinks that job be “highly unlikely.” Another possibility is to
make him the U.S. attorney in New York, regarded as the highest profile U.S attorney’s post in the country. “He’d love that.”

Fitzgerald was raised in Brooklyn, a son of a Manhattan doorman. He also worked there as an assistant U.S. Attorney where he helped prosecute mob figure John Gotti.

The Obama transition team declined to comment. Randall Samborn, a spokesman for Fitzgerald, said the prosecutor had “absolutely no comment whatsoever.” on the matter. A spokesman for Chicago Mayor
Richard M. Daley also declined to comment.

News of the possible out of town move would reverberate in Illinois.
Bernard Schoenburg, the veteran political columnist for the Springfield Journal Register, said the Justice Department’s gain would be Illinois’ loss.

“He has the reputation for being a straight shooter and tough prosecutor,” Schoenburg said. “He was not warmly received in some quarters when he arrived in Illinois. He has gone after people in a nonpartisan way and been pretty effective.”
Fitzgerald was behind the recent conviction of Tony Rezko, a financier and fund-raiser who has been connected to several Illinois Democrats including Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Obama.
Schoenburg said that Blagojevich has seen several of his associates indicted and convicted. Obama has not been named as a target in the Rezko case.
Fitzgerald has also gone after the Republicans. Besides ex-Gov. Ryan, he’s gone after his co-defendant Lawrence Warner and his political operative Scott Fawell. In all, about 80 Illinois political figures have been convicted in the corruption probes during his reign. That has not sat well in the great state of Illinois, which has a long history of chicanery.
According to the Chicago Tribune, which in an editorial urged Obama to keep Fitzgerald in Illinois, testimony in Rezko’s trial alleged that several high-ranking Republicans conspired with the Bush administration to force out Fitzgerald.
Schoenberg simply calls Fitzgerald a “hard-driving, straight shooter” and “not in it for the ego.”
“It would be a great disappointment if he leaves Illinois.”