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Archive for June, 2009

Ala. U.S. Atty. Alice Martin Resigns Amid Criticism

U.S. Atty. Alice Martin/doj photo

U.S. Atty. Alice Martin/doj photo

By Brian Schott
ticklethewire.com

U.S. Atty. Alice Martin of Alabama, whose involvement in the prosecution of ex-Gov. Donald Siegelman has raised concerns of late, is resigning.

Martin, the U.S. Attorney for Northern Alabama, announced her decision Friday in a letter to Atty. Gen. Eric Holder, which was posted on the Department of Justice’s website. She cited the change in administration as the reason for her resignation.

Martin’s departure caps an eight-year career at the Department of Justice, where her office prosecuted several notable cases including terrorist bomber Eric Rudolph for four bombings, including the 1996 attack on Centennial Olympic Park. She also directed the prosecution of 15 HealthSouth employees involved in a $2.8 billion accounting scandal.

Recently Martin had come under fire for her involvement in the conviction of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, who is serving seven years in federal prison for a bribery conviction.

Forty Four former state Attorneys General have called for an investigation into the conviction amid charges that the prosecution was politically motivated, and The American Lawyer reports that the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility is looking into whether Martin committed any misconduct in the case.

The Justice Dept. is also investigating Martin’s unsuccessful prosecution of a corporation charged with selling Blackhawk helicopter plans to China. The plans turned out to be publicly available on the Internet, according to The American Lawyer.

President Barack Obama has nominated Joyce Vance, chief of the appellate division for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Northern Alabama, to replace Martin.

She has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate next week, The Birmingham News reports.

Chicago Fed Prosecutors Trying to Determine if ex-Gov Blago Used Influence in College Admissions

Ex-Gov. Blagojevich in happier days

Ex-Gov. Blagojevich in happier days

Some how you figured there might to be more suspicious activity involving ex-Gov. Blagojevich that went beyond his thick indictment. You also figure U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald plans to bury the ex-gov one way or another.

By KAREN ANN CULLOTTA
New York Times
CHICAGO – Federal prosecutors are trying to determine if former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich and his allies used political muscle to influence student admissions at three state universities.

United States Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald issued subpoenas this week seeking admissions office records from the University of Illinois, Northern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University. The request was related to Mr. Blagojevich and three of his co-defendants on criminal corruption charges, William Cellini, Christopher Kelly and Alonzo Monk.

The investigation also seeks records related to Antoin Rezko, a Chicago businessman and political operative, who last June was convicted of fraud and bribery.

For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Texas Billionaire Stanford Surrenders to FBI Agents in Va.

R. Allen Stanford/bbc news photo

R. Allen Stanford/bbc news photo

Update:  Stanford Indicted Friday Morning (N.Y. Times)

It’s been hard to stomach seeing that swindlers like R. Allen Stanford and Bernie Madoff not only lived the good life, but enjoyed the respect of so many people who admired their wealth.

By MARY FLOOD and TOM FOWLER
Houston Chronicle
HOUSTON — Federal prosecutors are expected to announce an indictment against embattled Texas businessman R. Allen Stanford and others, possibly as early as today in a Washington news conference.

On Thursday, Houston prosecutor Gregg Costa, along with other prosecutors and FBI agents who have been investigating the Stanford Financial Group, obtained an indictment from a Houston grand jury. The same panel indicted Stanford Chief Investment Officer Laura Pendergest-Holt earlier this year.

A grand juror went before U.S. Magistrate Judge Frances Stacy Thursday, accompanied by Costa and the agents. She told the judge she had indictments to return, which Costa asked to have sealed. Stacy then cleared all media from the courtroom.

For Full Story

FBI Discovers Child Porn on Computer of Holocaust Museum Shooter

holocaust-museum-2

Even before all this, James W. von Brunn was never going to win any merit badge for good citizenship.

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — Authorities discovered child pornography on a computer belonging to James W. von Brunn, the 88-year-old white supremacist accused of killing a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum last week, according to court documents filed by the FBI.

FBI agents said they recovered the computer during a search of the Annapolis apartment where von Brunn lived for the past two years.

The discovery was disclosed in a search warrant affidavit filed in federal court Wednesday seeking to make a more thorough inspection of the computer, a Promedia 2000 desktop. Authorities did not disclose the type or extent of the child pornography they found on the computer during their first search.

For Full Story

Ex-Fed Prosecutor Gallagher’s Read on the Jefferson Case: Money Talks But So Do Witnesses

Stephanie Gallagher

Stephanie Gallagher

By Stephanie Gallagher
Fraud With Peril Blog

Everyone knows that “money talks.” The biggest problem for former Congressman William J. Jefferson, however, may be that witnesses talk, even if money doesn’t.

The case against Congressman Jefferson is infamous because of $90,000 in cash found in his freezer in 2005. When that money was found, the story was all over the news, and many people believed Jefferson guilty, without hearing anything more.

Most people don’t have $90,000 in their freezers, and it is an easy issue for the general public to grasp. Recognizing that position, in opening statements this week, Jefferson’s defense attorney began by providing his explanation for the “cold hard cash:” the money was provided to Jefferson for a bribe, but Jefferson never intended to bribe the foreign official in question, and simply hid the money from his household employees.

The plausibility of that explanation can be debated (and has been debated vociferously at the Levin & Gallagher water cooler). If the jury believes the defense’s explanation, or, more importantly, believes that the government has failed to prove that the frozen money was intended for a bribe, then acquittal is certainly possible on that count.

The government’s decision not to call the cooperating witness (CW) who provided the $90,000 in marked bills to Jefferson may help the defense’s position (although Jefferson’s recorded phone calls with that CW may still provide compelling evidence).

To Read More

Atty. Gen. Holder Announces that Immigration Agents Will Have More Powers to Fight Violent Drug Cartels

It’s good to respect the autonomy of different law enforcement agencies. But it doesn’t make sense to restrict an agency like ICE from getting more involved in battling drug violence in places like the Mexican border. This move makes sense. What took so long?

border-fence-photo5

DEVLIN BARRETT and EILEEN SULLIVAN
Associated Press Writers
WASHINGTON – More federal agents will be able to investigate drug cases under a new agreement between government agencies battling Mexican cartels, Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress on Wednesday.

Under a new deal aimed at settling a long-running turf dispute with the Drug Enforcement Administration, more agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement would get authority to investigate drug cases.

The new agreement is a victory for ICE, which has long chafed at restrictions on how and when it conducts drug investigations.

It also shows the Obama administration’s willingness to change long-established law enforcement procedures to aid the fight against the powerful and violent drug cartels operating within Mexico.

For Full Story

Read Joint Statement by Justice Dept. and Homeland Security

ANOTHER STORY OF INTEREST

Supreme Court Rules that Inmates Don’t Have a Constitutuional Right to DNA Testing (New York Times)

FBI Tapes Capture ex-Rep. William Jefferson’s Obscenities and Concern About Going to the “Pokey”

Ex-Rep. Jefferson

Ex-Rep. Jefferson

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson was swearing. Oh was he swearing. And the FBI was secretly recording it all back in 2005, hoping the day would come when it could play the unflattering tapes to a federal jury in open court.

Thursday was that day.

At one point, on one tape amid the swearing, Jefferson expressed concern about going to prison, or the “pokey” as he put it, if word ever got out about his secret business dealings.

The jury in the public corruption trial in U.S. District Court in Alexandria listened to his conversations with headphones as did the bespectacled Jefferson himself.

The 62-year-old looked every bit as dignified as the Harvard lawyer he is, sitting at the defense table, clad in a dark suit, but at times on the FBI  tapes he sounded more like a wayward sailor on a weekend leave.

Read more »

Justice Dept. Corruption Unit in Disarray 2 Months After Stevens Case Imploded

Ted Stevens

Ted Stevens

Unfortunately, the Alaska cases aren’t isolated ones. There are problems around the country. The big questions are: How did things get this way? Who is to blame?
And how long will it take to fix?

By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — Two months after prosecutors abandoned the criminal conviction of former senator Ted Stevens, the Justice Department unit that polices public corruption remains in chaos, coping with newly discovered evidence that threatens to undermine other cases while department leaders struggle to reshuffle the ranks.

William Welch and Brenda Morris, senior managers in the department’s Public Integrity Section who supervised the case against the Alaska Republican, have been moved into other roles following the transfer this month of two of their subordinates, who worked on lengthy investigations of Alaskan influence peddling, according to four sources.

At the same time, document-sharing lapses that provoked the Stevens turnaround are also affecting other bribery prosecutions in the state, prompting authorities to take the extraordinary step of releasing two Alaska lawmakers from prison late last week. A new team of government lawyers and FBI agents is reviewing thousands of pages of evidence, trying to assuage the concerns of judges and fielding complaints from defense attorneys.

For Full Story