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Archive for May, 2009

Such a Deal: Indicted Ex-Gov. Blagojevich to Pay Lawyers $110 an Hour

Ex-Gov Blagojevich

Ex-Gov Blagojevich

The ex-Gov is getting quite a deal on the legal fees considering how expensive they are these days.

By Mike Robinson
The Associated Press
CHICAGO — Ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers have reluctantly agreed to be paid far below the rate some of them usually charge in return for being allowed to tap his $2.3 million campaign fund.

In court papers filed Friday morning, the lawyers accepted the rate of $110 an hour, which is the legal limit court-appointed lawyers can charge in federal cases. Big-name criminal defense attorneys often work on a flat-fee basis but when computed as hourly rates, their charges can range up to $700 and beyond.

The debate over fees between prosecutors and the Blagojevich defense team headed by attorney Sheldon Sorosky has been dominating developments in the case for weeks.

Blagojevich is charged with scheming to sell or trade President Obama’s U.S. Senate seat and use the muscle of the Illinois governor’s office to squeeze companies with state business for campaign contributions. He has pleaded not guilty.

For Full Story

He’s Coming, He’s Going? The Latest: Suspected Nazi John Demjanjuk Due in Germany by Tuesday

John Demjanjuk/msnbc

John Demjanjuk/msnbc

This guy has had more detours than a California freeway under construction. The latest is that he’s supposed to be in Germany by Tuesday. We’ll see.

By M.R. Kropko
Associated Press
SEVEN HILLS, Ohio — Suspected Nazi guard John Demjanjuk is expected to be deported to Germany by Tuesday, a German Justice Ministry spokesman said as the retired autoworker remained inside his suburban Cleveland home.

Reporters gathered outside the home Monday morning in anticipation that he could turn himself over to U.S. immigration authorities.

“According to our current information, we anticipate that he will arrive in Germany tomorrow during the course of the day,” Justice Ministry spokesman Ulrich Staudigl told The Associated Press on Monday.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials went to Demjanjuk’s home Friday to serve a government notice asking that he surrender. The move came one day after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Demjanjuk’s appeal to stop his deportation

For Full Story

How We Got Our Son Off The Terrorist Watch List

Charlie was on the terrorist list

Charlie was on the terrorist list

The silly problems with the FBI’s terrorist list is perhaps best exemplified with this story by Mary Jacoby, founder of the new website Main Justice.  Here’s her amusing — and not so amusing– story about her son Charlie.

By Mary Jacoby
Main Justice

WASHINGTON — The release last week of a Department of Justice Inspector General report documenting enormous problems with the FBI’s Terrorist Watch List was of personal interest to our family.

Our now 8-year-old son was apparently on the list – or some variant of it – for several years. From kindergarten through the 2nd grade, he was repeatedly pulled aside at Customs entry points for hours of secondary screening. It took repeated inquiries, FOIA requests and personal phone calls to get him removed from the list.

Our first inkling of trouble came in December 2005, as we passed through customs at Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport. We were returning to the U.S. for a Christmas visit from Brussels, where my husband and I were correspondents for the Wall Street Journal.

The Customs official in the passport line looked into his computer, peered over the counter at Charlie, and rolled his eyes. We were sent to secondary screening.

To Read The Rest

New 2010 Budget Reveals FBI’s Development of New Surveillance Technology

The FBI, which has been criticized in the past for not always being up to snuff in the area of computers, is trying to advance its high-tech capabilities. The money is there. Now it’s up to the bureau to follow through.

high-tech-person1

By Jason Ryan
ABC NEWS
WASHINGTON — The release of the 2010 budget request has shed more light on some FBI surveillance programs the bureau is currently developing and testing.

While the FBI has been criticized at times for its slow reforms after the 9/11 attacks, which revealed the FBI did not have adequate computer resources, some of the new programs sound like something out of a high-tech cloak and dagger film.

The budget request shows that the FBI is currently developing a new “Advanced Electronic Surveillance” program which is being funded at $233.9 million for 2010. The program has 133 employees, 15 of whom are agents.

According to the budget documents released Thursday, the program, otherwise known as “Going Dark,” supports the FBI’s electronic surveillance intelligence collection and evidence gathering capabilities, as well as those of the greater Intelligence Community.

For Full Story

Weekend Series: More on J. Edgar Hoover and the Kennedys

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSkBs2HCvM0

Calif. Woman Pleads Guilty to Selling Endangered Sea Turtle Guitar Picks

A hawksbill sea turtle, an endangered species

A hawksbill sea turtle, an endangered species

By Brian Schott
ticklethewire.com
China has a well-known taste for trading in strange and exotic animal parts. Bear bile. Rhinoceros horn. But endangered sea turtle guitar picks?

Qing Song, a Santa Rosa, Calif., woman, pleaded guilty Wednesday in San Francisco federal court  to violating the Lacey Act by importing from China guitar picks and turtle shells of the hawksbill sea turtle.

Song admitted to selling just 50 of the offending plectrums,  but was found in possession of 900 of them when authorities got wind of her unusual business, according to a Department of Justice press release.

Hawksbill sea turtles are one of seven sea turtle species listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act or international treaty, according to the release. Hawksbills are rated as critically endangered – one step above being considered extinct in the wild, according to the World Conservation Union’s rankings of endangered species.

Right after pleading guilty, U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer sentenced Song to  10 months of home confinement and a $2,000 fine. She also received received three years probation and was ordered not to sell sea turtle parts, including guitar picks or instruments made of sea turtles, according to the release.

Tomato Industry “Ripe” with Fraud: Former Sales Broker Convicted in Fed Court of Bribery

The former purchasing director for Nabisco had steered contracts for tomatoes to SK Foods at inflated prices in exchange for bribes. SK Foods had formerly been in trouble for lying about the quality of potentially mold-filled shipments of tomato.Fresh tomatoe Maybe these people should face a firing squad armed with moldy  tomatoes.

By Denny Walsh
Sacramento Bee

The national scandal of corruption in the food industry unfolding in Sacramento federal court claimed another corporate executive Tuesday with a guilty plea to fraud charges by a former purchasing chief of two industry giants.

Robert C. Turner Jr., who was purchasing director for Nabisco Inc., and later for B&G Foods Inc., admitted accepting $65,000 in bribe payments from Randall Lee Rahal, a former sales broker and director of SK Foods LP.

Nabisco, a manufacturer, distributor, and seller of cookies, snacks and other products, and B&G, a multinational manufacturer, seller and distributor of a wide array of food products, are both based in New Jersey.

Monterey-based SK Foods is one of the nation’s largest growers of tomatoes and processors of tomato products. It has plants in Williams, 50 miles north of Sacramento, and Lemoore, south of Fresno.

For Full Story

FBI to Pay $879,550 For Scientific Review of Deadly Anthrax Case

Suspect Bruce Ivins

Suspect Bruce Ivins

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — Nine months after the real suspect in the anthrax killings committed suicide, there are still plenty unanswered questions as to why the FBI let its top investigator on the case focus for so long on the wrong guy, Steven Hatfill, even after some investigators and prosecutors expressed serious skepticism internally.

Now the FBI has agreed to pay the National Academy of Sciences $879,550 to review the case. Unfortunately,  some of the perplexing questions  about the investigation won’t be answered in this 15-month review, according to the New York Time’s Scott Shane.

The review, Shane writes “won’t assess the bureau’s detective work or its conclusion that an Army microbiologist, Bruce E. Ivins, sent the deadly letters in 2001.” Ivins committed suicide last summer before authorities could file charges in the case.

Instead, Shane writes: “The academy panel will review genetic fingerprinting that led agents to Dr. Ivins’s Maryland laboratory, as well as clues to how and where the anthrax was grown and dried.”

The money for the research on the case is far short of the $5.82 million the government agreed to pay scientist Steven Hatfill last June to settle his lawsuit, which alleged that the FBI and Justice Department ruined his reputation and career after publicly naming him a “person of interest”.

Some remain skeptical that Ivins sent the letters.