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January 2010


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Archive for January, 2010

Blago’s Name-Dropping Attorney Invokes the Names of Tony Soprano, Pres. Obama and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

tony-sopranoBy Allan Lengel

It’s not everyday, within the confines of a five-page court filing, that a defense attorney gets to cram in the names Tony Soprano, President Obama and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

But Sam Adams, who represents the fiesty ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich,  did just that the other day in a response to a government filing.

Ex-Gov. Blagojevich in happier days

Ex-Gov. Blagojevich in happier days

As part of the pretrial discovery process,  Adams is asking that the government turn over interviews by the FBI  of “White House family and staff, not the least of whom is the President of the United States, Barack Obama.”

“What justification can the government offer for the government’s refusal to provide material?” he asks, and goes on to cite the government’s reluctance to provide a witness list out of concern for the security and possible harassment of witnesses.

“The government’s alleged concern about the harassment and security of witnesses… cannot be taken seriously,” he wrote. “This defendant is Rod Blagojevich, not Tony Soprano. This is the trial of the former governor for alleged non-violent offenses, not a replay of the “FAMILY SECRETS” trial.

Khalid Sheik Mohammad

Khalid Sheik Mohammad

“A government confident enough in its own rectitude to try purported terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed  in a United States District court in New York should likewise be secure enough to provide the accused former Illinois with the requested statements of the President of the United States. What next, a government motion to limit the tapes to only those the government wants played at trial?”

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Nebraska Man Pleads Guilty to Attacking Scientology Websites

No invite from Cruise/paramount pictures photo
No invite from Cruise/paramount pictures photo

By Allan Lengel

Don’t expect to see Brian Thomas Mettenbrink at the next red carpet event for Scientologists Tom Cruise or John Travolta.

Menttenbrink, 20, of Grand Island, Nebraska, pleaded guilty Monday in Los Angeles  federal court  to participating in a ploy to shut down the Church of Scientology websites in January 2008, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Under his plea agreement, he will serve a one year prison sentence.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “Mettenbrink participated in the attack on the Scientology websites that was orchestrated by a group that labeled itself ‘Anonymous.’”

Authorities said the group led protests against the Church of Scientology at various locations across the country, and in January 2008 announced a new offensive against Scientology.

Mettenbrink admitted downloading computer software from an “Anonymous” message board to bombard Scientology websites with  an inordinate amount of traffic to shut them down, authorities said.

Dmitriy Guzner, of Verona, N.J. was sentenced last year to one year and one day in federal prison for her role in the attacks.

Detroit Area Man Who is Popular Muslim Singer Charged with Lying About Links to Hamas

detroit1By Allan Lengel

A suburban Detroit man charged with lying about his ties to a Hamas-linked charity, the Holly Land Foundation, is a well-known singer in the Muslim world, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The paper reported that Mohamad Mustapha Ali Masfaka, 47, of Farmington Hills, Mich., who is also known as Abu Ratib, sings frequently to Muslim and Arab audiences in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East, his attorney Doraid Elder told the Free Press on Monday.

The Syrian born man was arrested last week while trying to enter the U.S. from Canada via the  Ambassador Bridge,  authorities said.

He is charged with attempted naturalization fraud, making false statements to FBI investigators and immigration officials, and perjury, a press release said.

Authorities alleged that he misled them when they were probing the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a Texas-based Muslim charity that was convicted in 2008 of helping to fund Hamas.

The Free press reported that he sang at Holy Land events and was paid by check for his help. Authorities say he ran the group’s Detroit area operation in the late 1990s.

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Detroit Public Corruption Case: Ex-Aide Calls Cong. Conyer’s Wife “Crazy” And Possibly “Beyond Medication”

Sam Riddle/facebook

Sam Riddle/facebook

By Allan Lengel

In Detroit–  an economically ailing city where routine services are stretched thin, and jobs, like a Detroit Lions victory, are tough to come by —  citizens are witnessing another sad chapter in federal court involving public corruption.

This times it’s the very talkative and controversial political consultant Sam Riddle,  whose trial began Monday. He is alleged to have had a corrupt partnership with his former boss, convicted ex-Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers, the wife of Congressman John Conyers, chair of the House Judiciary.

But with the sad corruption charges has come some entertainment.

In court, prosecutors played wiretapped conversations in which Riddle describes Monica Conyers as “crazy” and possibly “beyond medication”, according to the Detroit News.

“We’re not dealing with a normal person situation here,” Riddle told a business person.

Conyers has pleaded guilty to five  bribery charges and awaits sentencing March 10. Riddle is charged with extortion-related crimes stemming from his time as a top aide to Monica Conyers.

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Other Shoe Drops: 2nd NBA Player Jarvaris Crittenton Pleads Guilty of Gun Charge

Javaris Crittention

Javaris Crittention

By Allan Lengel

WASHINGTON — The other shoe dropped Monday in the gun drama involving suspended Washington Wizards’ star Gilbert Arenas.

The other figure in the scandal, Wizards player Jarvaris Crittenton, 21, who has been injured all year, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of possession of an unregistered Firearm and was sentenced to one year probation, D.C. U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips announced.

D.C. Senior Superior Judge Bruce Beaudin  also ordered Crittenton to perform community service through the NBA’S Haiti project, and perform community service with a children’s organization in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Authorities say Crittenton had brought a firearm to the Verizon Center in the Chinatown district of downtown in December 2009 following an argument with Arenas on a plane two days earlier.

According to a U.S. Attorney press release:

“The factual proffer presented at the plea hearing, on December 19, 2009, into the early morning hours of December 20, 2009, Crittenton and Arenas became involved in a verbal exchange following a card game.

“In a heated exchange, Arenas stated he was too old to fistfight and threatened to shoot Crittenton in the face. Crittenton responded that he would shoot Arenas in his surgically-repaired knee. On the shuttle bus from the airplane to the terminal, Arenas further stated that he was going to burn or blow up Crittenton’s car when they came to practice the following Monday. According to Crittenton, he believed that Arenas intended to harm him.”

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Are We Overreacting to Suspicious White Powder Letters?

powderBy Allan Lengel
For AOL News

WASHINGTON — All U.S. mail — about a billion pieces every 36 hours — passes through a sophisticated biohazard detection system at about 270 processing centers around the country. The U.S. Postal Service says no item with anthrax or any other dangerous substance has passed through the screening since it was put in place seven years ago.

Yet suspicious letters and packages continue to prompt panic, evacuations, decontaminations and fear-provoking headlines in post-Sept. 11 America.

Earlier this month, nine threatening letters with white powder were sent to congressional offices in Alabama. One letter to Sen. Richard Shelby’s office in Birmingham ended up temporarily shutting down a federal building.

Last month, about 500 people were evacuated from the Bank of America tower in Tampa, Fla., after the company received threatening letters with white powder. And in November, about 40 people were decontaminated after suspicious white powder letters postmarked from Texas were sent to New York to United Nations missions of France, Germany, Austria and Uzbekistan.

In all these instances, as well as thousands of others investigated each year by U.S. Postal inspectors and the FBI, the material was found to be harmless.

Are we overreacting? The Postal Service won’t flat out say that. But it will say this: “The (biohazard) system has been tested and tested and refined and found to be foolproof,” says Deborah Yackley, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service. “The equipment is very highly advanced.”

U.S. Postal Inspector Peter Rendina says protocol for some first responders — often hazmat teams from fire departments — hasn’t changed much since 2001 when deadly anthrax letters killed five people and sickened 17 others.

“Most of the first responders, when they hear about an incident, they go with the worst-case scenario, causing evacuations,” he said.

One of the real anthrax letters in 2001/fbi photo
One of the real anthrax letters in 2001/fbi photo

“The odds of anthrax showing up are very slim,” Rendina said. “I really feel the mail is the safest form of communication around. Since 2003, there has not been one positive result or one false positive (at mail facilities) for a dangerous biological substance.”

Alan Etter, who served several years as a spokesman for the District of Columbia Fire Department, said it was heartening for the hazmat teams to know that the suspicious white powder letters had already gone through the postal facility biohazard detectors — essentially vacuum hoods that constantly test the air and sound audio and visual alarms if a suspected biological agent is detected in a letter.

“But just because it’s gone through the mail doesn’t mean we don’t have to do a job,” Etter said. “The first responders have to investigate and determine what the material is. You’re in a situation where you have to react to a worst-case scenario. You have to use whatever resources are available to you to investigate it as the real thing.”

Rendina concurs that authorities need to take the white powder letters seriously. But he said there are steps to be taken before one gets to the decontamination or evacuation stage. He said postal inspectors, if called to a scene, might first see try to see whether they can trace a letter to the sender.

“We don’t jump all the way to the top of the ladder” at the beginning, he said.

If the materials are “field screened” on site, that can take up to a couple of hours. In the meantime, he said, people immediately exposed are isolated.

Since the 2001 anthrax mailing, the only other instance that seemed to raise concerns was the discovery in February 2004 of traces of the biological agent ricin, which was found on a letter-opening machine in the Capitol Hill office of then Sen. Majority leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. No one was harmed, and federal investigators weren’t able to determine whether the substance came from a letter or something else.

Months earlier, authorities discovered two letters with ricin at mail facilities in South Carolina and Washington, D.C. One letter was addressed to the White House and another to the “U.S. Department of Transportation,” which was marked “caution RICIN POISON.”

The writer claimed to be a “fleet owner of a tanker company” protesting a change in government regulations for drivers. Though ricin can be deadly, authorities found that the ricin in this instance was not considered a dangerous biological agent. The ricin cases remain unsolved.

Despite the Postal Service’s screening system, some government agencies take extra precautions with the mail. For instance, mail addressed to Capitol Hill and the White House goes to a New Jersey postal facility, where it’s irradiated to make sure there are no harmful anthrax or biohazard materials inside.

And in Lansing, Mich., mail gets an extra layer of scrutiny before it’s delivered to state agencies and the governor.

“Without getting into specifics, we do have some additional scrutiny that is applied to the mail that comes through the system, and there’s safeguards if anything is suspicious,” said Jason Nairn, head of security and management for the state government facilities.

He said it’s not that the state of Michigan doesn’t trust the Postal Service system. It’s just good to be careful. Plus, he said, it’s tough to tell a panicky employee in the government mail room who’s exposed to a mysterious white powder, “Yeah, the Postal Service takes care of that, I’m sure it’s fine.”

Rendina recommends the following if you get a suspicious letter:

* If smoke or vapors are coming from the letter, or if you’re feeling ill, call 911.

* If you see a little powder, and nothing is happening, leave it be and warn anyone else to stay away. Try to remember what’s on the front of the envelope in case you’re asked to describe it. Make sure there are no fans blowing in the direction of the envelope. Wash hands with copious amounts of water and call U.S. Postal inspectors at 877-876-2455 and select option 2.

Fed Judges Want Congress and White House to Clarify Dententions of Suspected Terrorists

The ongoing debate over how much rights suspected terrorist get needs some clarification. There’s no simple answer, but we also can’t ignore our Constitution and what America stands for when it comes to a fair and just legal system.

Judge Lamberth

Judge Lamberth

By Chisun Lee

Three judges on the federal trial court hearing challenges brought by Guantanamo prisoners are calling on Congress and the Obama administration to enact a law to address one of the nation’s most perplexing moral and legal dilemmas: When can the United States indefinitely detain terrorism suspects?

In lengthy interviews, Chief Judge Royce Lamberth and two of his colleagues on the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., said that deciding whether to release these prisoners raises unprecedented questions about security and liberty that need to be addressed by lawmakers. Their willingness to discuss their concerns in detail — something federal judges rarely do in cases pending before them — underscores the seriousness with which they view the lack of guidance from lawmakers.

“Judges aren’t in the business of making law — we interpret law,” said Judge Reggie Walton, a George W. Bush appointee. “It should be Congress that decides a policy such as this that has a monumental impact on our society and makes a monumental impression on the world community.”

Lamberth, a Reagan appointee, said the judges are struggling “to adapt legal principles to a whole new sphere of human existence that we’ve never witnessed in history as far as I know.” The problem, he and the other judges say, is that the battle against terrorist groups doesn’t fit the classic definition of war, with clearly defined enemies who would be released when the conflict was settled. Because U.S. law doesn’t currently have any other option for captives held in a conflict without end, terrorism detainees could be locked up for life, the judges say.

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Message Supposedly From Osama bin Laden Takes Credit for Failed Detroit Plane Bombing