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September 2010


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Archive for September 16th, 2010

Sweet Deal Unlikely for “Underwear Bomber”

Suspect Abdulmutallab/u.s. marshals photo

Suspect Abdulmutallab/u.s. marshals photo

By Allan Lengel
For AOL News

Short of handing over Osama bin Laden, the “underwear bomber” accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day isn’t likely to strike up a deal with prosecutors that will set him free any time soon, legal experts say.

“I don’t think they’re going to be flexible, short of him giving them phenomenal active intelligence,” said Brian M. Legghio, a former federal prosecutor in Detroit. “They’re going to be looking at lengthy prison time, 40 or 50 years, if not life.”

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 24, hinted in court Monday that he might plead guilty to some of the charges. The Nigerian national also fired his court-appointed attorneys, saying they weren’t representing his best interests. He will represent himself.

Just what kind of deal he can hammer out on his own is unclear, but legal experts say he’s made that task all the more difficult by firing his lawyers, who had met with prosecutors on multiple occasions to try to work out a plea deal, according to court records.

“I think that’s a huge tactical mistake on his part,” said defense attorney Thomas Cranmer, a former Detroit federal prosecutor who has represented a number of high-profile criminal defendants. “I have great respect for the people in the Federal Defender Office. I know they were working very hard to achieve the best results for him under the circumstances. I would be surprised if he could do better or certainly as well as the federal defenders.”

Defense attorney Sanford Plotkin, a former federal defender in Detroit, added: “The Federal Defender Office has some of the most capable attorneys in town to handle this case.”

The Justice Department declined comment on the matter. One government source said that if he is convicted or pleads guilty, Abdulmutallab is likely to get life in prison. The ultimate decision would be left up to U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds.

From all reports, the government appears to have overwhelming evidence against Abdulmutallab. The Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit carried nearly 300 people, many of whom witnessed the incident. Many said an explosive device in his pants could be seen smoking after he allegedly tried to detonate it. Others reported hearing Abdulmutallab say he had a bomb.

Abdulmutallab is said to have provided U.S. authorities with information about his contacts in Yemen, where al-Qaida operatives allegedly trained him. And earlier this year, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Abdulmutallab had provided valuable information.

That being said, former D.C. U.S. Attorney Roscoe C. Howard Jr. says Abdulmutallab’s cooperation may not amount to all that much.

“Sometimes in life you get to walk out as a free man again. Sometimes that’s all you’re hoping for. Sometimes the government will say, ‘I can’t promise anything,’ and you can hope the government is lenient at a later time,” Howard said.

He added that the government could offer Abdulmutallab a better prison facility for his cooperation.

When negotiating a plea deal, the Justice Department will have to look at the other issues besides the quality of the information being provided — such as the public’s reaction to a deal that falls short of a life sentence, Howard said.

“I can guarantee you they are concerned about public opinion,” Howard said. “They read the papers, they listen to the news shows.”

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Still, he said, the government has to do the right thing. “Your decision can’t be based on a popularity contest.”

Howard said one test he used while serving as a U.S. attorney in Washington from 2001 to 2004 was “The Washington Post test. If something appears on the top of the page of The Washington Post and you can’t explain it, don’t do it.”

Abdulmutallab could opt to go to trial and roll the dice. But former Detroit federal prosecutor David Griem said that’s probably not a great option.

“Whether Abdulmutallab represents himself or brings in Clarence Darrow from the dead to represent him, the result is going to be exactly the same: He’s going to get convicted on all counts.”

Column: Ex-FBI Official Says He’s “Embarrassed and Ashamed” About Agents Getting Busted For Steroid Use

Anthony Riggio is a former lawyer who went on to work for the FBI for 24 years.  He held a number of posts during that time including assistant special agent in charge of the Detroit office. He retired in 1995 as a senior executive at FBI headquarters.

Tony Riggio

Tony Riggio

By Anthony T. Riggio, FBI Agent (Retired)

I am a retired FBI agent who has devoted almost 26 years to the service of my country, both in the Army and the FBI. I have great affection for my country and tremendous respect for the job the Bureau does for our nation.

I never aspired to become an FBI agent, but when I became disenchanted with the practice of law, I took a big chance, against my Dad’s advice, and accepted a position as an agent. I’ve never looked back and I enjoyed a long and satisfying career. Being an FBI agent was a job, I believe, I was born to do; nothing else would have scratched that itch.

The FBI is always forefront in the public eye, for good or bad, the former far outweighing the latter. Much of the bad press is based on a bias of which politics and personal agendas play a great role. While I find bad press personally disturbing, I recognize it often provides for personal and institutional growth by the Bureau to better serve the American people.

When, however, an FBI agent or a support employee crosses the line, I, like everyone in law enforcement, shed a tear or two. Our hearts break because someone has violated their oath to uphold the law. “Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle against…the devil.” This is part of the prayer to Saint Michael, patron saint of police officers, who expelled Lucifer from heaven.

When I read about three FBI Agents and one support employee being arrested for using Human Growth Hormones (HGH) as part of a regiment to enhance their strength and musculature, I was embarrassed and ashamed. They will be fired from an honorable profession that hundreds of thousands of law enforcement professionals honor every day. Should these four be found guilty, they will be among other fallen demons in our jails across the country. They turned their backs on those of us who honor the profession every day of our lives.

Read more »

GAO to Examine Science Behind Anthrax Investigation; Some Still Skeptical

Anthrax Suspect Bruce Ivins

Anthrax Suspect Bruce Ivins

By Allan Lengel

By the FBI’s account, the anthrax case that triggered a wave of panic in this nation in 2001 with the death of five people, has been solved.

But not all are as convinced as the FBI that the real culprit is government scientist Bruce Ivins, who committed suicide in July 2008 before authorities could charge him.

So, as a result of a request by one skeptic, Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), the Government Accountability Office will exam the science behind the FBI’s conclusion that Ivins was the guy, reporter Evan Perez writes in the Wall Street Journal.

The Journal noted that a separate review of the FBI’s work by the National Academy of Scientists will likely be wrapped up this fall.

2 Undercover ATF Agents Infiltrate and Help Bust Motorcycle Gang

doj photo

doj photo

By Allan Lengel

Two undercover ATF agents agents infiltrated the violent Pagans Outlaw Motorcycle Gang and derailed a plot to kill rival Hells Angels members with homemade grenades, the New York Daily News reported.

That interesting tidbit came out as federal agents rounded up 19 members and associates of the Pagans Outlaw Motorcycle Gang, including a 70-year-old man, in Long Island,New Jersey and Delaware, the Daily News reported. An explosive device packed with nails and 34 guns was seized, according to an ATF press release.

During the 21-month probe, one of the undercover ATF agents was inducted into the gang and was given access to its bookkeeping, which inclued names, addresses and motorcycle descriptions, the Daily News reported.

The agent became the Long Island chapter’s second-highest ranking member, the paper said, citing court papers.

To read more click here.

Sen. Judiciary Gives Nod to 2 U.S. Attys and 4 Marshals

Joseph Hogsett/law firm photo

Joseph Hogsett/law firm photo

By Allan Lengel

WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary on Thursday gave the  nod to two U.S. Attorneys and four U.S. Marshals.

The U.S. Attorney’s who passed that hurdle in the long process were Michael J. Moore (not to be confused with the filmmaker) for the Middle District of Georgia and Joseph H. Hogsett for the Southern District of Indiana.

The U.S. Marshals who got the go ahead included:

Michael R. Bladel for the Southern District of Iowa; Kenneth J. Runde for the Northern District of Iowa; James E. Clark for the Western District of Kentucky; Beverly J. Harvard for the Northern District of Georgia.

Ex-FBI Agent Jody Weis Has His Problems as Chicago Police Chief

Chief Johy Weis/police photo

Chief Johy Weis/police photo

By Allan Lengel

Since the beginning, Chicago Police chief Jody Weis, an ex-FBI agent, has been battling the perception of being an outsider in an agency that doesn’t take so kindly to such things.

The latest attack on Weis came Wednesday when more than 300 off-duty Chicago cops stood outside police headquarters  to protest his reign, the Associated Press reported.

The protesters carried signs: “More police, No Weis”, and “Resign,” while chanting, “Jody’s got to go!”, the AP reported.

Weis was appointed by Mayor Richard Daily in 2008 to clean up the department. But Daily has chosen not to run for re-election, which could spell the end of Weis’ tenure as chief.

To read more click here.

Long Island Man Charged With Shifting Pakistan Funds to Times Square Bomber

times square artBy Allan Lengel

A 44-year-old Long Island man was arrested on Wednesday on charges of unwittingly helping fund the Times Square bomber Faisel Shahzad, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.

The indictment charged that Mohammad Younis transferred thousands of dollars from Pakistan to the U.S. to Shahzad through an unlicensed money transfer business known as a hawala.

Authorities said Younis was unaware of the plot. He was arrested at his Long Island home by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.

“By engaging in the alleged conduct, Mohammad Younis unwittingly funded a terror plot that, if successful, would have caused mass casualties in New York City,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

Charges Dropped Against Wall Street Journal Reporter in Blago Case

Douglas Belkin/facebook

Douglas Belkin/facebook

By Allan Lengel

For a while, during the public corruption trial of ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich in downtown Chicago, the only sure conviction appeared to involve defendant Douglas Belkin, a Wall Street Journal reporter.

In July, the 42-year-old reporter was arrested while covering the trial of Blagojevich and his brother Robert, the Associated Press reported. The U.S. Marshals Office accused Belkin of leaving a designated reporters area in the courthouse to pursue an interview and failing to stop when ordered to, AP reported.

But Belkin is now off the hook.

AP reported that the U.S. Attorney’s office decided to drop the charges — petty citations for disturbance and  disobeying signs and directions.

AP reported that the The Wall Street Journal complained the reporter was wrongfully detained while doing his job, but it was glad the ordeal was over.