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Archive for April, 2009

Woman Charged With Exortion and Lying to FBI in Connection With Louisville Coach Rick Pitino

Who thought college basketball could be this exciting?

The Louisville Courier-Journal
LOUISVILLE — Six days after the disclosure that University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino was the target of an extortion attempt, a Louisville woman was charged today with extortion and lying to the FBI.

According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S District Court, Karen Sypher (see video below), with the help of unnamed others, tried to extort money from Pitino with threats to harm his reputation in connection with events that occurred in 2003.

The complaint, filed by FBI agent Steven J. Wight, said she lied to the FBI when she told investigators that she didn’t know the identity of the person who was making threatening phone calls to Pitino.

According to an affidavit by Wight, Pitino told investigators that he received three voice-mail messages in late February threatening to go public with criminal allegations against him.

Pitino said that after receiving the first two messages he met with Sypher and her husband, Tim, according to the affidavit, and asked what she wanted.

For Full Story

Nine-Year-Old FBI Report on Corruption in the Philly Police Narcotics Squad Remains Under Seal

philadelphia-policeSome information in the 9-year-old report on corruption in the Philly police narcotics unit is finally surfacing. Maybe it should have been publicly disclosed long ago. Perhaps the department wouldn’t be dealing with the same issues today.

By Joseph A. Slobodzian
Philadelphia Inquirer
PHILADELPHIA — The FBI memorandum describes a pattern of corruption among a group of Philadelphia narcotics officers: false information used to get search warrants, planted evidence and perjured testimony, thefts of drugs, cash, and valuables from dealers.

It’s called the Roberts report and, though it’s nine years old, it deals with the same issues that a federal-city task force is now investigating.

The report, written on Sept. 5, 2000, by FBI Agent John Roberts – now head of the FBI’s public-corruption unit in Philadelphia – remains under seal by order of a federal judge and has never been made public. It’s unclear who received the report and what became of its recommendations.

But what has surfaced from court documents is that the report foreshadowed some of the allegations involving brothers Jeffrey and Richard L. Cujdik and other officers in the Narcotics Field Unit.

“At the very least, a department investigation should have been conducted into whether or not police were fabricating evidence simply to obtain convictions,” defense attorney Jerry S. Goldman said.

The report, according to court documents, looked at 12 allegations involving a group of narcotics officers. Some were determined to be credible, others unfounded.

For Full Story

Is it OK to Shout Fire in a Chatroom?

When Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes posed the question about falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater, he was illustrating that freedom of speech does have limitations.

In 1995,  the first criminal threat case on the Internet would again test the limits of free speech. In 1994, Jake Baker (Jacob Alkhabaz) was a University of Michigan student, who was described as quiet and nice.

He wrote stories with innocent titles like “Going for a Walk”.  But he harbored some demons. The stories were graphic depictions of kidnapping, raping, torturing and killing of young women – so called snuff stories. Jake posted these stories on the Internet at a site called alt.sex stories (ass). The Internet was in its infancy. His case raised issues we had not faced before.

Interestingly, 14 years later, we’re still faced with the perplexing question: Where does Freedom of Speech End? And when does it become a crime?

To examine the issue, it’s interesting to look back at the Baker case, which I was involved in. Back then, few people knew of, let alone used the Internet. Baker was discovered, thanks to a Michigan alum, who happened to be in Russia. He was using the Internet and stumbled across one of Jake’s snuff stories and knew from the IP address that Jake had some affiliation with the University of Michigan.

The story was one that used the name of an actual Michigan coed as a victim in the story. (In court papers and media accounts, she would be referred to as Jane Doe.) The real Jane was not aware of her characterization in the story or that she was about to be a player in an international cyber – 1st Amendment controversy.

The Michigan alum contacted University officials about Jake’s snuff story. The matter was turned over to the University Department of Public Safety, which talked to Jake and obtained a search warrant for Jake’s computer and email account.

Jake was residing in the East Quadrangle Dormitory (the same dorm where Ted Kaczynski once resided).The search revealed several more snuff stories authored by Jake. Two of the stories used Jane Doe’s name and one of these had her actual address and phone number.

One of the stories used Jane Doe’s last name as the title of the story. A paragraph in that story achieved some notoriety as it was repeated often by the media:

“Then, Jerry and I tie her by her long brown hair to the ceiling fan, so that she’s dangling mid-air. Her feet don’t touch the ground. She kicks trying to hit me, Jerry or the gorund (sic). The sight of her wiggling in mid-air, hands rudely taped behind her back, turns me on. Jerry takes a big spiky hair-brush and starts beating her small breasts with it, coloring them with nice red marks. She screams and struggles harder. I’ve separated her legs with a spreader-bar; now I stretch out her pussy lips and super-glue them wide open. Then I take a heavy clamp, and tighten it over her clit. Once it’s tight enough, I let go.”

In addition to Jake’s stories UMDPS gained access to Jake’s email account. The search of the email produced numerous messages between Jake and an individual identifying himself as Arthur Gonda, believed to be residing in Ontario, Canada.

In these messages Jake and Gonda also discuss actually getting together to commit the acts Jake had been depicting in his stories. This is an excerpt from an email sent by Baker to Gonda in December, 1994:
“I’ve started doing is going back and rereading earlier messages of yours. Each time I do, they turn me on more and more. I can’t wait to see you in person. I’ve been trying to think of secluded spots, but my area knowledge of Ann Arbor is mostly limited to the campus. I don’t want any blood in my room, though I have come upon an excellent method to abduct a bitch — As I said before, my room is right across from the girl’s bathroom. Wiat (sic) until late at night, grab her when she goes to unlock the door. Knock her unconscious, and put her into one of those portable lockers (forgot the word for it), or even a duffle bag. Then hurry her out to the car and take her away …what do you think?

This was Gonda’s response:
“Hi Jake. I have been out tonight and I can tell you that I am thinking more and more about ‘doing’ a girl. I can picture it so well … and I can think of no better use of their flesh. I HAVE to make a bitch suffer!”

Jake’s response in part:
“I know how you feel. I’ve been masturbating like the devil recently. Just thinking about it anymore doesn’t do the trick …I need TO DO IT.”

UMDPS were advised by the Washtenaw County Prosecutor that there was no appropriate state statute with which to prosecute Jake’s actions. UMDPS then contacted the local office of the FBI. After reading Jake’s stories and emails, I concluded that the emails in context with the stories constituted a threat as defined by 18 USC 875(c), “Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or to injure any person….”

I presented the case to the Detroit US Attorney’s office, which  agreed with my conclusion. Our contention was that Jake had threatened not only Jane Doe, but any coeds in East Quad.

Jake was arrested on a complaint and warrant and arraigned before a U.S.  Magistrate. We did not request detention, but after reading some of Jake’s literary works, the Magistrate on his own motion detained Jake as he believed him to be dangerous.

The case was assigned to U.S.  District Court Judge Avern Cohn. It was apparent that Judge Cohn was not a big fan of the Government’s case. He made it clear that Jake’s stories could not be part of the prosecution as they were protected by the 1st Amendment’s free speech clause.

Consequently, when Jake was indicted, all references to the stories were eliminated. (I argued against dropping the stories as I believed Judge Cohn would toss the case no matter what we did. In addition to providing context, the stories named a potential victim with her actual address.) Judge Cohn did dismiss the indictment, saying Jake’s emails were nothing more than a private conversation between two males discussing their shared sexual fantasies and were thus protected as free speech. Judge Cohn went on to criticize the Government and its “overzealous agent”.

The Government appealed to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. A 6th Circuit three -judge panel in a curious opinion said Jake’s emails did not constitute a threat because it was, “not conveyed to effect some change or achieve some goal through intimidation.” The dissenting Judge, I think correctly, points out that if Congress intended to require proof of such an intent, they would have said so. In fact in section 875(b) of the same statute, Congress specifically criminalizes threats made with the intent to extort money and provides for more severe penalties. (The case made it into the Criminal Law textbook, but it’s in the chapter on attempt not threats.)

I don’t know where Jake is today, and I have no reason to believe he ever tried to bring his fantasies to life. Maybe he would have had we not interceded. But in an age of terrorism, both domestic and international, law enforcement is left with the conundrum of how to address internet communications that could be preparation for criminal acts — or just fantasies.

Such communications of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were ignored ten years ago – Columbine resulted.

To contact Greg Stejskal write: gmanstejskal@yahoo.com

Weekend Series: History: J. Edgar Hoover and His Relations With U.S. Presidents: Part 9

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHPKkjsJAgM

Disturbing Rise in Arrests of U.S. Border Enforcement Officers

istock_000000654506xsmallThe trend is not only disturbing, but it makes you wonder how many aren’t getting caught as we see a rise in drug cartel activity.

By Rick Jervis
USA Today
WASHINGTON – A rising number of U.S. border enforcement officers are being arrested on corruption charges as Mexican drug cartels look to bribes as a way to get around tougher enforcement, border officials say.

Investigators arrested 21 U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers on corruption charges in the fiscal year that ended last September, up from eight in the previous 12 months, according to CBP. This year, 14 have been arrested.

Since 2004, 84 officers have been arrested and 62 were convicted, says James Tomsheck, assistant commissioner for internal affairs at CBP, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. That number represents a small fraction of the more than 52,000 people employed by the agency, which enforces U.S. law along the 2,000-mile border with Mexico.

Still, the trend is alarming, Tomsheck says. “We’re deeply concerned. The numbers are disturbing.”

For Full Story

Jason Weinstein Named Deputy Assistant Atty. Gen. in Criminal Division

justice-logo2Sounds like he is certainly qualified. And anyone who can quote Seinfeld episodes, as the author notes, can’t be all bad.

By Steve Levin
Fraud With Peril

Congratulations to Jason M. Weinstein, who has been asked to serve as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division.

AUSA Weinstein is a 1990 graduate of Princeton University (where he served as President of his class) and GW Law School (where he more often than not attended class. Actually, he must have gone to class. He did, after all, graduate cum laude).

Mr. Weinstein has previously served as a special investigative counsel in the DOJ IG office and as an AUSA in SDNY. Also, he signed my ketubah. While with SDNY, Mr. Weinstein was awarded the prestigious Director’s Award for his prosecution of a lawyer-gone-bad. AUSA Weinstein, clearly a lawyer-gone-good, currently serves as the Chief of the Violent Crime Section in the US Attorney’s Office in the District of Maryland. He has been in the Maryland office since 2002.

To Read More

FBI Says Toledo College Football Player Shaved Points

Sometimes you watch a game and figure the team just isn’t that good, that it keeps blowing big plays. Then once in a great while you find out the players really are blowing it on purpose. It’s always a sad day in sports when this happens.

toledo-blade-footballBy MAUREEN FULTON
The Toledo Blade
TOLEDO — A former University of Toledo football player admitted to his participation in a point-shaving scheme involving UT football and basketball teams, according to documents unsealed in U.S. District Court in Detroit earlier this week.

According to the criminal complaint, originally filed last August, Adam Cuomo, who was a senior backup running back in 2003 for the Rockets, told FBI agents he began the point-shaving scheme with “Gary,” who is believed to be Ghazi Manni of Sterling Heights, Mich.

The scheme is thought to have began in the fall of 2003 and continued until the winter of 2006.

Mr. Cuomo, of Hamilton, Ont., rushed just six times for 23 yards his senior season, but said he provided information to “Gary” about upcoming UT games to help “Gary” place bets on the games, according to the documents.

He also introduced “numerous” UT men’s basketball and football players to “Gary” for the purpose of asking them to participate in point-shaving.

For Full Story

Read Unsealed FBI Affidavit

Texas Congressman John Carter Wants Homeland Security Chief Napolitano Fired

congressman-john-carter2There’s nothing wrong expressing displeasure over something. But there’s a point, particularly on an issue like this, where it’s time to move on. Belaboring the point only smells of partisan politics. And guess what? The country is still in big trouble. It’s best to suspend politics as usual and address the problems that matter to the American people.

By MARIA RECIO
McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON – Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, doesn’t just want Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to resign: “I called for her to be fired.”

Carter and a growing chorus of Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Michael Burgess of Lewisville, are complaining about a recent Homeland Security memorandum to law enforcement that warns of homegrown terrorism from conservatives and military veterans.

“The Department of Homeland Security’s controversial report released last week listed, among others, many of our nation’s veterans as possible domestic terrorists or assassins,” Burgess said. “I find this astonishingly insensitive.”

Carter, Burgess and several other conservative members took to the House floor Wednesday evening to rail against Napolitano, the former Arizona governor, who was sworn in as Homeland Security secretary Jan. 21.

“Singling out political opponents for working against the ruling party is precisely the tactic of every tyrannical government from Red China to Venezuela,” Carter said.

For Full Story

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