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February 2010


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Archive for February 16th, 2010

Ex-D.C. Mayor Marion Barry Doing What He Does Best: Courting Trouble

Ex-D.C. Mayor Marion Barry

Ex-D.C. Mayor Marion Barry

By Allan Lengel

WASHINGTON — Trouble is a constant companion of Ex-D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, who is now a city council member.

Now the latest.

An independent report conducted by attorney William Bennett on behalf of the D.C. City Council has accused Barry of public corruption. The report says Barry  secured a $15,000 contract for an ex-girlfriend and then took a cut, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

“Barry obtained a contract for Donna Watts-Brighthaupt after lending her money to help pay her bills, according to a report delivered to the council by Washington lawyer Robert S. Bennett,” the Post reported. “To get some of his money back, Barry at one point delivered a city check to Watts-Brighthaupt, drove her to a bank and waited in the car until she came back with the cash.”

The paper said the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office has been looking at the matter and will review the report. Barry has denied wrongdoing.

To read more click here.

Justice Dept. Says NYPD Cops Off the Hook in Racially Charged Fatal Shooting

sean bell-websiteBy Allan Lengel

The New York City officers involved in the highly controversial fatal shooting of Sean Bell — he was shot 50 times on his wedding day in 2006 — are off the hook.

The Justice Department announced Tuesday there was insufficient evidence to file civil rights charges against the officers in the shooting of Bell and his two friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, who were wounded.

Three officers were acquitted of criminal charges in state court in 2008 in the shooting outside a Queens strip club. Bell, who was unarmed, was out with friends celebrating before his wedding. The shootings brought cries of outrage from the black community.

“Officials from the department’s Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the FBI met today with Bell’s family, his fiancée and their representatives to inform them of this decision, as well as with Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, friends of Bell who were wounded during the tragic incident,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

Read more »

For a Calif FBI Agent: When a Beer is Neither Here Nor There


A Los Angeles Times report stirred up a lot of angry reader comments about an FBI agent shooting his gun at men who were trying to steal beer. The problem was: there was no beer and the real story appeared to be far more serious than reported. Here’s a detailed account.

By Allan Lengel

The brief story posted on the Los Angeles Times web page last month said two men, who were being sentenced, had broken into a garage in Yorba Linda, Calif., looking to steal beer.  The garage happened to belong to an off-duty FBI agent, who confronted the men around 2 a.m.

One of the men struggled with the agent, who had identified himself as law enforcement. Afterward, both men fled in a car.

The agent,  identified as “James M” ,  “shot at the car as it drove away but neither man was injured,” the paper reported on its online edition on Jan. 5.

The paper also reported that the two men –Jeffrey  Michael Drach, 20, and Justin Wesley Case, 21 — were sentenced to two years in prison for residential burglary for the Nov. 18 incident.

The LA Times account was enough to trigger a barrage of negative comments online from agitated readers.

“So the FBI agent shoots at their car as they flee after trying to steal beer, and nothing happens to him? This is ridiculous,” read one of the typical reader responses.

Another reader wrote: “The FBI officer shot at their car as they drove away?! From an attempted beer-heist? Sounds like the FBI officer should be brought up on charges next.”

Perhaps the comments would have been totally justified, except for a few key facts:

For one, there was never any beer involved in the case, period, said the prosecutor and FBI. The door leading from the garage to the house was ajar. The agent’s wife and young child were inside.

Plus, after one of the men attacked and struggled with the agent, both men fled and hopped into a Ford pickup with the agent in pursuit.

“The driver of the vehicle allegedly turned his truck toward the agent,” according to the Orange County deputy district attorney Keith Bogardus. “The agent was acting in self defense.”

The article also failed to mention that the FBI has launched an internal review to determine whether the agent was justified in discharging his gun.  Had some readers known that, perhaps they may not have suggested that the matter was being swept under the rug.  (FBI policy essentially says agents can fire a gun if they fear that their life or others are in immediate danger).

The story is an example how the media in the Internet era can trigger an instant outpouring of online criticism in the community —  in this case against a federal agent — and how those quickly formed opinions often rely on a collection of facts,  which can sometimes be incomplete or not quite right.

Granted, any reporter will tell you it’s nearly impossible — particularly in this era of online immediacy — to always get things 100 percent, 100 percent of the time, and capture all the nuances. To boot, sometimes key details are not always available to a reporter.

That being said, the story caused some heartburn for the FBI, an agency hyper-sensitive about its image ever since the J. Edgar Hoover days.

“The public perception based on the coverage was that this was an out of control FBI agent rather than a victim who was home who happened to be an agent who was trying to protect his family, including his wife and baby,” said Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Times reporter for the story said she would consult with her editors before commenting, but did not respond after that. And the attorney who made the comment about the beer did not return a phone call for comment.  Eimiller said she called the paper to complain about the story, but declined to get into details.

The original story, first posted at 9:02 a.m., stated that officials had said the men were looking to steal beer from the Orange County home.

About 90 minutes later, at 10:37 a.m., the paper — instead of posting a correction- simply posted an “updated” version,  which said: “A previous version of this story stated that officials said the men were stealing beer, but it was an attorney who made the comment.”

The headline for the updated version read like this:  “Two O.C. men sentenced to prison for trying to steal beer from FBI agent’s garaged (Updated).”

Meanwhile, some agitated citizens continued to post critical remarks about the FBI agent and the beer.

“So the FBI agent shoots at their car as they flee after tying to steal beer, and nothing happens to him? That is ridiculous….The agent should be sentenced to prison for endangering the community and attempted murder.”

Not all the comments were critical of the FBI.

“I have no problem with the FBI agent(‘)s action,” wrote one reader. “He found strangers in his garage, he had a physical confrontation with one…..shoot away.”

In the mean time, the agent remains on active duty.

A request made to Eimiller to speak to the agent was declined. She said the matter is under internal investigation and it wouldn’t be wise for him to comment. She also asked that his name not be disclosed for his and his family’s safety.

“I can say he’s an agent with a great reputation,” she added.

Master Hacker of Credit Cards Gets Record 13 Years

hacker-artBy Allan Lengel

Max Ray Vision’s impressive hacking skills were only equal to his impressive prison sentence: 13 years — the longest hacking sentence in U.S. history, according to the website WIRED.

Last Friday in Pittsburgh, a federal judge sent the skilled San Francisco hacker off to prison and ordered him to pay a whopping $27.5 million in restitution for his masterful theft of credit card numbers, WIRED reported.

The San Francisco computer hacker was accused of stealing roughly two million credit card numbers from banks, businesses and other hackers.

WIRED reported that he “ran an online forum for thousands of identity thieves called CardersMarket, where he sold credit card magstripe data to the underground for about $20 a card. He was caught with 1.8 million stolen credit card numbers belonging to a thousand different banks, who tallied the fraudulent charges on the cards at $86.4 million.”

Column: TSA Makes 4-Year-Old Boy Take Off Leg Braces to Pass Through Security

airport scanner 2
By Daniel Rubin
Philadelphia Inquirer Columnist

PHILADELPHIA — Just when I thought I was out of the Transportation Security Administration business for a few columns, they pull me back in.

Did you hear about the Camden cop whose disabled son wasn’t allowed to pass through airport security unless he took off his leg braces?

Unfortunately, it’s no joke. This happened to Bob Thomas, a 53-year-old officer in Camden’s emergency crime suppression team, who was flying to Orlando in March with his wife, Leona, and their son, Ryan.

Ryan was taking his first flight, to Walt Disney World, for his fourth birthday.

To Read more click here.

Ex-Special Prosecutor Ken Starr Named President of Baylor Univ.

kenneth starBy Allan Lengel

Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor who toiled in the eye of the political hurricane during the President Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal that rocked Washington, will become the new president of Baylor University in Texas, the Associated Press reported.

Starr has been dean of Pepperdine University Law School in Malibu, Calif.

The AP said Baylor cited Starr’s Christian ideals and experience heading Pepperdine law school as some key reasons for his selection.

“While I look forward to the honor of serving as Baylor’s next president, my wife Alice and I know how much we will miss Pepperdine,” Starr said in a statement released Monday by Pepperdine, according to AP. “Working with Pepperdine students, faculty, and the law school’s alumni has been one of the most satisfying and rewarding experiences of our lives.”

A New Mob Bus Tour in N.Y. That Will Include Some Oldies But Badies

To the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office, the characters were voices on wiretaps or investigative files or criminal case numbers. To the public, they still represent a slice of fascination.

Father John J. Gotti

Father John J. Gotti

BY Erica Pearson

That Starbucks over there? Used to be the scene of one of the city’s most notorious mob hits.

This trendy Nolita shoe shop? It was once John Gotti’s hangout, the Ravenite Social Club, where many a bloody murder was planned.

Starting next month, John (Cha Cha) Ciarcia hopes to bring some of the city’s old gangland history back to life with a new bus tour.

“Everybody loves the mob,” said Ciarcia, a restaurateur, radio host and actor who had a bit part in “The Sopranos.” “We’d like to give them a taste of history in the mob.”

To read more click here.