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Archive for May, 2009

New Orleans Fed Jury Sentences Bank Robber to Death for Killing Sheriff’s Deputy

When a law enforcement person is killed a jury’s indignation always seems to be greater. In this case the indignation translated into a death penalty.

new-orleans1

By Paul Rioux
New Orleans Times-Picayune
NEW ORLEANS — A jury sentenced John Wayne Johnson to death Wednesday for killing an Orleans Parish sheriff’s deputy during a botched Algiers bank robbery in 2004, just the second death penalty imposed in New Orleans federal court since capital punishment was restored for federal crimes in 1988.

The jury deliberated three hours before reaching its unanimous decision. That same jury had found Johnson guilty on May 19 of killing Lt. Sidney Zaffuto in a Jan. 8, 2004 gun battle inside the former Iberia Bank on Gen. DeGaulle Drive, where Zaffuto was working an off-duty detail.

In making their case for the death penalty, prosecutors had presented testimony from one of Johnson’s accomplices in the bank robbery that Johnson, 56, had committed a murder in 1974 in Jefferson Parish, which had gone unsolved. That accomplice, Herbert Smith, 63, said in a videotaped deposition, that Johnson had admitted to him that he killed Joe Gennaro, the owner of Ruiz’s Restaurant during a robbery on May 3, 1974.

For Full Story

Feds TKO Nevada Judge

istock_000000458073xsmallBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Federal authorities delivered a knockout punch to a Las Vegas judge — a boxing judge that is.

Judge Paul G. Smith, 65, of Las Vegas, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of unlawfully collecting about $250,000 in Social Security benefits from 1994 to 2005.

Seems the good judge forgot to mention to authorities that he’d been working as a licensed boxing judge in Nevada and was involved in various businesses “inconsistent with his status as a disability benefits receipients”, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Las Vegas.

During the period in question, the government said Smith was paid for judging more than 100 boxing matches.

He is scheduled to be arraigned June 12, where he’ll  go before a real judge.

Ill Sen. Roland Burris Responds to FBI Tape: Denies Buying Senate Seat

Ex-NYC Police Commisioner Bernie Kerik Re-Indicted on Charges of Lying to White House Officials

Bernie Kerik/file photo

Bernie Kerik/file photo

The fall from grace has been a hard one. Kerik, who became a superstar in the post 9/11 era,  came so close to being part of the Bush administration. Now he’s faces the possibility of going off to prison. Kerik was already indicted on these charges in New York, but they were dropped because the violations allegedly happened in Washington.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik was indicted on charges of making false statements to White House officials vetting him for the secretary’s seat at the Department of Homeland Security in 2004, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Kerik, who served as commissioner from 1998 to 2002, allegedly gave false and misleading answers to Bush administration officials about his relationship with contractors who renovated his Riverdale apartment, according to the indictment handed up by a Washington grand jury.

Prosecutors allege Kerik received and concealed benefits of about $255,000 in renovations to his home from contractors seeking to do business with the city of New York.

To Read More

Read Indictment

Women Filling Some Top Fed Law Enforcement Posts in Balt-Washington Region

Baltimore ATF's Theresa Stoop

Baltimore ATF's Theresa Stoop

Federal law enforcement has come a long way. Here’s some  proof.

By Tricia Bishop
Baltimore Sun
BALTIMORE — When Ava Cooper-Davis took over the Washington division of the Drug Enforcement Administration in March, she became the fourth woman in the region to head a federal law enforcement agency’s field office, alongside the “special agents in charge” at the FBI, ATF and the Secret Service.

While most of the SACs, as they’re known, said it was simply happenstance that the best people qualified for the jobs happen to be female, others see significance in the coincidence. Or, at the very least, they think it’s “cool.”

“It’s a sign of the times, I guess. It certainly is indicative of the fact that we have more women coming out of law school becoming lawyers and more women interested in the broader field of law enforcement,” said Melody Drnach, a vice president with the National Organization for Women. She oversees the group’s grass-roots efforts.

“Roles are changing for women in a positive way,” Drnach said. “We certainly hope that other field offices will take note and try to catch up with the standard set by Maryland.” The Washington division is also responsible for Maryland.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Supreme Court Rules that Suspects Can be Interrogated Without Lawyer

supreme-courtThe ruling is a victory for law enforcement, and much to the disappointment of civil liberty groups, the Obama administration pushed for this outcome. The court narrowly approved the change in law. The dissenting judges feel the ruling further erodes the public trust in law enforcement.

By JESSE J. HOLLAND
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned a long-standing ruling that stopped police from initiating questions unless a defendant’s lawyer was present, a move that will make it easier for prosecutors to interrogate suspects.

The high court, in a 5-4 ruling, overturned the 1986 Michigan v. Jackson ruling, which said police may not initiate questioning of a defendant who has a lawyer or has asked for one unless the attorney is present. The Michigan ruling applied even to defendants who agreed to talk to the authorities without their lawyers.

The court’s conservatives overturned that opinion, with Justice Antonin Scalia saying “it was poorly reasoned.”

Under the Jackson opinion, police could not even ask a defendant who had been appointed a lawyer if he wanted to talk, Scalia said.

For Full Story

Feds Win Pre-trial Victory in Bribery Case of Ex-Rep. William Jefferson

Rep. Jefferson/official photo

Rep. Jefferson/official photo

The defense has been continually trying to show that the government charges and evidence have fallen far short.  The judge in the case has ruled to the contrary. Still, in cases like this, there’s never any guarantees of an ultimate victory. Whatever the case, trial starts next week in Alexandria, Va. It’s about time.  It’s been almost four years since the FBI raided Jefferson’s homes in New Orleans and Washington and found the infamous $90,000 in his freezer.

By Bruce Alpert
The Times-Picayune
WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors will not be required as part of their bribery case against former Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, to prove he sought payments in return for decisions he made as a member of Congress, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge T.S. Ellis III said “it is sufficient for the government to adduce proof, including expert testimony or evidence of defendant’s admissions and conduct, that it was customary … for members of Congress in defendant’s position to exert influence — by advice, recommendation or otherwise, on the issues in question.”

Ellis’ ruling came one week before Jefferson is scheduled face trial in Alexandria, Va., on 16 charges including bribery, racketeering, and honest services fraud.

For Full Story

A Number of Mongols Motorcycle Gang Members Involved in Murders and Drug Trafficking Plead Guilty in Calif.

Feds bust Mongols bikers/atf photo

ATF Undercover agents/atf photo

This was a nasty gang that did it all,  including murder. Good to know some of these guys won’t be seeing a motorcycle for a while.

By GREG RISLING
The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES –A number of Mongols motorcycle gang members have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from an indictment that accused them of drug trafficking, murder and other offenses, prosecutors said.

The revelation came in court documents filed earlier this month by prosecutors, who asked a judge to seal all plea agreements in the case against 79 defendants. Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, declined Tuesday to say how many people have pleaded guilty and to what charges.

In October, law enforcement agents served more than 100 arrest warrants in six states after infiltrating the Mongols biker gang, which is based in Southern California and had about 600 members.

A racketeering indictment described a tightly organized criminal organization that engaged in murder, torture and drug trafficking to achieve its goals.

The indictment said the group, which is mostly Latino, attacked black people, committed robberies and stole motorcycles. The gang funded itself in part by stealing credit card account information, prosecutors said.

For Full Story