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Archive for June, 2009

Mexican Drug Cartels Hire American Teens as Killers

mexico-map21The drug trade has long provided dangerous employment and riches for Americans teens seeking the good life. We hear so often of that arrangement in urban areas. Now it’s happening with American teens and Mexican drug cartels.

By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
New York Times
LAREDO, Tex. — When he was finally caught, Rosalio Reta told detectives here that he had felt a thrill each time he killed. It was like being Superman or James Bond, he said.

”I like what I do,” he told the police in a videotaped confession. ”I don’t deny it.”

Mr. Reta was 13 when he was recruited by the Zetas, the infamous assassins of the Gulf Cartel, law enforcement officials say. He was one of a group of American teenagers from the impoverished streets of Laredo who was lured into the drug wars across the Rio Grande in Mexico with promises of high pay, fancy cars and sexy women.

After a short apprenticeship, the young men lived in an expensive house in Texas, available to kill whenever called on. The Gulf Cartel was engaged in a turf war with the Sinaloa Cartel over the Interstate 35 corridor, the north-south highway that connects Laredo to Dallas and beyond, and is, according to law enforcement officials, one of the most important arteries for drug smuggling in the Americas.

The young men all paid a heavy price. Jesus Gonzalez III was beaten and knifed to death in a Mexican jail at 23. Mr. Reta, now 19, and his boyhood friend, Gabriel Cardona, 22, are serving what amounts to life sentences in prisons in the United States.

For Full Story

Fed Judge in William J. Jefferson Trial Expresses Frustration at Pace

William J. Jefferson

William J. Jefferson

By Rachel Leven
ticklethewire.com
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The federal judge in the public corruption trial of ex-Rep. William J. Jefferson chided the government Monday, saying it needed to do a better job focusing its case.

“You, the government, need to focus sharply this case,” said  U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III.

Ellis also criticized the defense for some of its line of  questioning during cross examination of a key government witness and remarked:

“If this case lasts six weeks it will certainly be contrary to my intentions.”

The judge’s remarks came in frustration to the pace of the trial, which is expected to last anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks. Jefferson, 62,  faces 16 public corruption counts including taking bribes and bribing a foreign official.

On Monday, the defense spent time questioning  a government’s key witness Vernon L. Jackson, the president of iGate, a Kentucky company that Jefferson had a financial interest in, and tried to promote in Africa. Jackson is serving a 7 year and 3 month sentence for bribing Jefferson.

Jackson has offered his opinions on the stand, saying his  payments to Jefferson and his family were bribes. But Judge Ellis said it was irrelevant whether any of the witnesses  considered their acts bribes  He said it essentially came down to whether the acts fit the bribery statutes.

Trial resumed  this afternoon with the defense continuing its cross examination of Vernon Jackson.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

FBI Looking into More Allegations Involving Rep. John Conyer’s Wife

Council Member Monica Conyers is not only the subject of public corruption probe involving a sludge hauling contract, but she’s also the target of other suspected payoffs including ones from a Detroit pawnshop.

Monica Conyers/council photo

Monica Conyers/council photo

By Leonard M. Flemming, Paul Egan and Charlie LeDuff
Detroit News
DETROIT — Federal agents are investigating allegations that Councilwoman Monica Conyers received thousands of dollars in jewelry from a pawn shop whose owner urged the council to ease off on plans to increase regulation of his business, people familiar with a City Hall corruption investigation told The Detroit News.

One estimate pegged the value of the jewelry from Zeidman’s Jewelry and Loan at about $40,000, sources said.

Agents also are investigating allegations that Conyers was to receive payment for favorable consideration of an investment proposal or proposals submitted to the General Retirement System, where Conyers was a trustee, by Detroit businessman Melvin Washington and his Phoenix Group companies, sources said.

Conyers, who is the wife of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, has yet to respond to federal prosecutors’ offer to plead guilty to a five-year bribery-related felony charge, the sources said, adding that an indictment could be looming. Conyers doesn’t want to plead to anything more than a misdemeanor, they said.

For Full Story

Fed Judge Tells Prosecutors to Put Up or Shut Up in Gotti Mob Case

John Gotti Jr./youtube
John Gotti Jr./youtube

There’s still a big public fascination with the Gotti family. But the judge isn’t so fascinated to the point that he’s willing to move forward without more evidence on the table.

By Thomas Zambito
New York Daily News
NEW YORK –A Manhattan judge is giving John A. (Junior) Gotti’s prosecutors a week to put up or shut up.

During a pre-trial hearing Wednesday, Federal Judge Kevin Castel quizzed Assistant U.S. Attorney Elie Honig on why he hasn’t offered details of crimes the mob scion allegedly committed in the five years before his 2008 indictment.

“Is that it?” Castel prodded the prosecutor.

The feds say that during the 1980s and early 1990s, the Dapper Don’s kid had a hand in three gangland slayings and trafficked in drugs.

For Full Story

Jefferson’s Strategy: Congressman Acted As Private Citizen and Didn’t Always Tell the Truth

The second week of trial begins in the Jefferson trial. Jefferson is claiming that his business dealings were private. So far, the prosecution has presented some pretty convincing evidence that Jefferson was acting in his official capacity. In any event, with 16 counts, Jefferson has an uphill battle.

By Bruce Alpert
New Orlean Times-Picayune
ALEXANDRIA, VA. — As William Jefferson’s corruption trial moves into its second week of testimony, the former New Orleans congressman’s defense strategy is coming into focus.

Less clear is whether Judge T.S. Ellis III will allow Jefferson’s defense team to present all of its arguments and evidence directly to the 12-member jury.

In his opening statement, Jefferson’s attorney Robert Trout left no doubt about the key element of the congressman’s defense against charges that he demanded and, in some cases, accepted bribes to aid business ventures in Western Africa.

The defense will argue that all the instances cited by the government — including many that the defense says are false or exaggerated — involved private business deals, not official acts, and therefore are not covered by the federal bribery statute.

But Trout also wants to play excerpts of secretly recorded conversations that he said show Jefferson didn’t always tell the truth during conversations with Lori Mody, the Virginia businesswoman who wore a wire for the FBI.

For Full Story

William Jefferson Denies Taking Bribes in Old Campaign Ad

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUwmtzms0MI

Column: Texas Fed Judge Kent Continues to Disgrace Bench by Trying to Collect $174,000 Salary

Allan Lengel

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent of Texas disgraced the bench. For those who haven’t followed this, he pleaded guilty in February to lying about sexually abusing some female employees. He got 33 months in prison.

But what is also so  disgraceful and appalling is that Kent is trying to get his $174,000 a year salary for a year while in prison by officially resigning in June 2010.

His crafty move has  forced the House to move forward with impeachment proceedings to end this madness. The House on Friday approved four articles of impeachment, and he now faces trial before the U.S. Senate.

First off, there should be some law or mechanism that allows the judiciary to boot the guy from the bench after he gets convicted of felony, if not at least, once he goes off to prison. End of story. No salary.

Why should our lawmakers, who have a full plate of other issues to deal with, have to deal with this silliness?

The  Texas Lawyer wrote that  Kent’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said there was a reason Kent post-dated his resignation for 2010.

“I figure that it will take at least that long for Congress and the Senate to go through all of the motions for impeachment,” DeGuerin told Texas Lawyer. “And he would be entitled to continue the health benefits that he has during that time. They can either have their spectacle or accept his resignation as tendered and go on to more important business that Congress has.”

But the House isn’t biting on that logic — as pathetic and defiant as it is. Thus,the impeachment proceedings.

The Washington Post quoted Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Texas) as saying:”He has already pleaded guilty and  the testimony we’ve heard about his disgusting abuse of power against his female staffers confirms that he should no longer receive the privileges of serving on the bench.”

Sadly, Judge Kent is showing little shame. If he had any, he’d resign now and give up his salary and end this silliness.

More G-Women Gaining Prominence with G-Men at the FBI

Women in recent years have made inroads at federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI. Women agents head offices like Baltimore and San Francisco, and there’s sure to be more in the future.

fbi1

By Henri E. Cauvin
Washington Post Staff Writer

The face of the FBI is changing, and to see how, look no farther than the federal courthouse in Greenbelt.

One mortgage fraud case after another has ended up there over the past year, and in case after case, the FBI — long defined by its G-man image — has had a woman as the lead agent.

With white-collar crime no longer taking a distant back seat to terrorism, agents such as Jennifer Perry, who came to the FBI with a knack for crunching numbers, are finding themselves in the middle of some of the most important cases in Maryland.

For Full Story

Ex-Fed Prosecutor Parker: State of Alaska and Prosecutor to Blame in DNA/Supreme Crt Case

Ross Parker

Ross Parker

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com columnist
The greater majority of Americans long assumed that the criminal court system worked just fine. With criminal defendants afforded substantive Constitutional rights, many people assumed the nation’s prison held no innocent men or women.

This blithe assumption was upset in recent times by the use of DNA technology in post-conviction settings, which scientifically demonstrated that the innocent do indeed – even if only rarely– get convicted in this country.

Not only has the infallibility of the jury system suffered a blow by this development, but whole categories of evidence upon which we prosecutors relied upon like confessions and eyewitness identifications, which were utilized in over 75% of the wrongful convictions, have been called into question and become the targets of “reform” movements.

Last week the Supreme Court ruled in the 5-4 Osborne decision that an Alaska inmate did not have the right under the Due Process Clause, in the context of a Section 1983 civil rights suit, to have access, at his own expense, to semen evidence from his rape trial for DNA testing.

Although the Court recognized the “unparalleled ability” of DNA to exonerate the wrongfully convicted and identify the guilty, the majority held that the power to establish rules to regulate the use of this investigative resource belongs primarily to the state legislatures. Since Alaska’s post-conviction relief procedures were not fundamentally unfair, the federal courts could not upset procedures which disallowed “freestanding” discovery rights.

The majority relied on principles such as federalism, comity, finality and states’ rights, to reject the broad-based due process right of access to evidence for testing purposes advocated by Justice Stevens’ four-member minority.

Read more »