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Archive for November, 2008

One of New Jersey’s Most Powerful Politicians Convicted in Public Corruption Case

Maybe it just seems that way. But lately we’re seeing one crooked politician after another go down. Here is the latest. 

By Troy Graham
Philadelphia Inquirer
TRENTON – Former State Sen. Wayne R. Bryant, once one of the most powerful politicians in New Jersey, was convicted yesterday on 12 counts of selling his influence for personal gain.
In more than 25 years in public life, the Camden County Democrat rose to iconic status in Trenton and his home district, only to become the latest politician sullied by a corruption conviction.
Following the verdict, U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie called Bryant’s conduct “the most reprehensible” and “disgusting” he had seen.
“Wayne Bryant is a disgrace, and [he] is now a federal felon headed for prison, which is where he belongs,” he said. “It is an absolute abomination that Wayne Bryant ever held a position of authority and prominence.”
For Full Story

ICE Agent Arrested on Crystal Meth Charges

Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — A decorated Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent has been arrested here on drug trafficking charges, the Associated reported Wednesday.
Special Agent Kevin Merkel was arrested by the FBI on Oct. 29 on charges of possession and intent to distribute crystal methamphetamine, the Associated Press said in an article attributed to annoymous sources. The indictment remains sealed.
The news agency reported that Merkel is a veteran officer who won the Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Law Enforcement. ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility and the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general were part of the probe, AP said.
Corrie Bassett,a spokeswoman for ICE, said Wednesday afternoon she would look into the matter.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Al qaeda Takes a Shot At Obama (CNN)

Why has Osama bin Laden Been Silent? (CNN)

Convicted Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens Loses Election in Final Count

Sen. Ted Steven’s luck is running dry. With that in mind, can he overturn his conviction?

Sen. Ted Stevens

Sen. Ted Stevens

By Sean Cockerham
Anchorage Daily News
ANCHORAGE — The Democratic Anchorage mayor widened his lead to 3,724 votes in today’s counting of absentee and questioned ballots. The only votes left to count are approximately 2,500 special absentees from people living outside the U.S. or in remote parts of Alaska with no polling place.
The state will count those final ballots on Nov. 25.
Begich issued a statement just before 5 p.m. claiming victory, saying “I am humbled and honored to serve Alaska in the United States Senate.”
He said around 5:30 p.m. that he hadn’t heard from Stevens, and noted it was after 9 p.m. in Washington.
“I would assume I would hear from him probably tomorrow,” Begich said.
Neither Stevens nor his campaign has issued a statement.
For Full Story

Is TSA’s “Suspicious Behavior” Watch at Airports Working?

It’s hard to say these days what suspicious behavior is. Eating a Snickers bar with a knife and fork like George on Seinfeld? Maybe. Maybe not.

By Thomas Frank
USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – Fewer than 1% of airline passengers singled out at airports for suspicious behavior are arrested, Transportation Security Administration figures show, raising complaints that too many innocent people are stopped.
A TSA program launched in early 2006 that looks for terrorists using a controversial surveillance method has led to more than 160,000 people in airports receiving scrutiny, such as a pat-down search or a brief interview. That has resulted in 1,266 arrests, often on charges of carrying drugs or fake IDs, the TSA said.
The TSA program trains screeners to become “behavior detection officers” who patrol terminals and checkpoints looking for travelers who act oddly or appear to answer questions suspiciously.
Critics say the number of arrests is small and indicates the program is flawed.
For Full Story

Justice to Pay for Lawyer to Defend Former Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales

Alberto Gonzales brought some shame to  his position as the country’s Attorney General. Now the country has agreed to pay for his digressions.

By Marisa Taylor
McClatchy Newspapers

Former A.G. Alberto Gonzales

Former A.G. Alberto Gonzales

WASHINGTON– The Justice Department has agreed to pay for a private lawyer to defend former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales against allegations that he encouraged officials to inject partisan politics into the department’s hiring and firing practices.
Lawyers from the Justice Department’s civil division often represent department employees who’re sued in connection with their official actions. However, Gonzales’ attorney recently revealed in court papers that the Justice Department had approved his request to pay private attorney’s fees arising from the federal lawsuit.
Dan Metcalfe, a former high-ranking veteran Justice Department official who filed the suit on behalf of eight law students, called the department’s decision to pay for a private attorney rather than rely on its civil division “exceptional.”
“It undoubtedly will cost the taxpayers far more,” he said.

For Full Story

White Supremacist in Texas Attacks Jewish Cellmate

Just a good guess that a white supremacist would not take a liking to his Jewish cellmate.

By Associated Press
DALLAS – A federal grand jury in Texas has indicted a white supremacist on hate crime charges related to an alleged prison attack on the man’s Jewish cellmate.
Timothy York was indicted on two charges of bias-motivated assault in connection with a December 2007 assault on his cellmate. According to the indictment, York tried to strangle his cellmate using a ligature made from prison clothing.
At the time, York was being held at Seagoville Federal Correctional Institution, about 16 miles southeast of Dallas. Authorities say he is a member of the United/Universal Aryan Brotherhood.
For Full Story

Newsweek Reports That Obama Wants Eric Holder For Atty. General

From the beginning the conventional wisdom was that the A.G. job was Eric Holder’s for the asking. Some just wondered whether Holder would give up  his high paying job at a private law firm.

Eric Holder

Eric Holder

By Michael Isikoff
Newsweek
WASHINGTON — President-elect Obama has decided to tap Eric Holder as his attorney general, putting the veteran Washington lawyer in place to become the first African-American to head the Justice Department, according to two legal sources close to the presidential transition.
Holder, who served as deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration, still has to undergo a formal “vetting” review by the Obama transition team before the selection is final and is publicly announced, said one of the sources, who asked not to be identified talking about the transition process. But in the discussions over the past few days, Obama offered Holder the job and he accepted, the source said. The announcement is not likely until after Obama announces his choices to lead the Treasury and State departments.
Holder, 57, has been on Obama’s “short list” for attorney general from the outset.
For Full Story

Washington City Paper Critical of Holder

Ex-D.C. Tax Clerk Sentenced Monday in Refund Scam

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — A former clerk at the D.C. Department of Tax and Revenue was sentenced yesterday to 15 months in federal prison for operating a refund scam that netted her and her boyfriend $184,000.
Jacqueline C. Wright, 41, of Temple Hills pleaded guilty in August to mail fraud, admitting that she manipulated a government computer system to issue phony refunds in 2007 that she split with her boyfriend.
U.S. District Court Judge James Robertson said Wright deserved prison time because she abused her job as a public official. “There is no excuse for a District of Columbia employee to engage in the outright and outrageous conduct you engaged in,” said Robertson, who also ordered Wright to pay $184,000 in restitution.
Wright told Robertson that she was “remorseful” for her conduct.