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Archive for November, 2011

Prosecutor’s Nightmare: Chicago Fed Juror Failed to Disclose Felony Convictions

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

And now stay tuned for a federal prosecutorial nightmare.

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that “court officials acknowledged Thursday that information revealed by the Tribune appears to show that a member of the federal jury that convicted Springfield power broker William Cellini concealed two felony convictions.”

Generally, a convicted felon cannot serve on a jury. Cellini was convicted of shaking down an Oscar-winning producer in a case that stemmed from the Rod Blagojevich investigation.

The Tribune reported that attorneys for Cellini may use this latest bombshell to overturn last week’s verdict.

The Trib reported, citing Cook County court records,that the jury has a felony conviction for crack-cocaine possession and a felony conviction for aggravated driving under the influence without a driver’s license.

“I consider this very important information that I was not aware of,” defense attorney Webb told the Trib. “I don’t know the facts here, but based on what the Tribune has reported to me, we are looking into the matter to determine if we have a basis to file a motion for a mistrial because a juror may have been allowed to serve on this jury who was legally disqualified from jury service.”

The Trib reported that the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined comment.

To read more click here.

Ex-FBI Profiler Gives Insight into Investigation into Missing 2 Year Old

Reviews Mixed on “J. Edgar” Movie

 
 
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Friday marks the official general release of the much awaited “J. Edgar” movie produced by Clint Eastwood and starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

The reviews are mixed, so I thought I’d post some  from papers around the country. The movie, way before its release, became controversial because of its suggestion that J. Edgar Hoover was having an affair with his right hand man Clyde Tolson.

I’d like to hear what you think. Send your comments to lengela@ticklethewire.com. I’ll try to publish as many as I can.

Here’s some of the reviews.

Washington Post

By Ann Hornaday
Washington Post

Anyone with strong opinions about founding FBI director J. Edgar Hoover is unlikely to come away satisfied by “J. Edgar,” Clint Eastwood’s ambitious, ultimately deflating portrait, which somehow manages to elide his worst abuses of power while making a burlesque of his personal vulnerabilities.

Eastwood and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”) shrewdly organize “J. Edgar” around secrets – those that Hoover wielded in order to gain and keep power for an extraordinary 48 years at the bureau and those that he kept about his own intensely guarded private life. But because Hoover so adroitly avoided leaving any kind of paper trail, much of “J. Edgar” necessarily hinges on speculation and hearsay, especially regarding his intimate personal and professional relationship with Associate FBI Director Clyde Tolson.

To read more click here.

Los Angeles Times

By Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Times Film Critic

“J. Edgar” is a somber, enigmatic, darkly fascinating tale, and how could it be otherwise?

This brooding, shadow-drenched melodrama with strong political overtones examines the public and private lives of a strange, tortured man who had a phenomenal will to power. A man with the keenest instincts for manipulating the levers of government, he headed the omnipotent Federal Bureau of Investigation for 48 years. Though in theory he served eight presidents, in practice J. Edgar Hoover served only himself.

Starring an impressive Leonardo DiCaprio and crafted with Clint Eastwood’s usual impeccable professionalism, “J. Edgar” gets its power from the way the director’s traditional filmmaking style interacts with the revisionist thrust of Dustin Lance Black’s script.

To read more click here

The Orlando Sentinel

By ROGER MOORE
The Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel
Although the screenwriter of “Milk” didn’t script a “gay fantasia” on Hoover’s successes and monomaniacal excesses, he has written a film that provokes more inappropriate laughter than any mainstream period piece since Oliver Stone’s “Alexander.”

It’s fascinating to interpret Hoover’s career through his twin obsessions — his experiences battling Bolshevik bomb throwers in the “Red Scare” of 1919-1020 that made him fear communists more than mobsters, and the conflicted, “my big secret” that was his personal life, which made him a fussy hypocritical moralist.

But if you’re not snickering at the sight of Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime “close associate” Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer of “The Social Network”) in bathrobes, reading Hoover’s “secret files” on the sex lives of the powerful and giggling like a couple of gossipy queens, you’re going to be in the minority.

To read more click here.

The New York Times

By MANOHLA DARGIS
New York Times

Even with all the surprises that have characterized Clint Eastwood’s twilight film years, with their crepuscular tales of good and evil, the tenderness of the love story in “J. Edgar” comes as a shock.

Anchored by a forceful, vulnerable Leonardo DiCaprio, who lays bare J. Edgar Hoover’s humanity, despite the odds and an impasto of old-coot movie makeup, this latest jolt from Mr. Eastwood is a look back at a man divided and of the ties that bind private bodies with public politics and policies. With sympathy — for the individual, not his deeds — it portrays a 20th-century titan who, with secrets and bullets, a will to power and the self-promotional skills of a true star, built a citadel of information in which he burrowed deep.

To read more click here

The New York Daily News 

By Joe Numaier
New York Daily News

Despite over two hours’ worth of recalling, recanting, stonewalling and bullying, the secrets that lie at the heart of “J. Edgar” remain hidden.

That may be because director Clint Eastwood’s movie is of two minds about J. Edgar Hoover. The longtime FBI “head cop” is a hard-working, but narrow-minded patriot, an upholder of a limited definition of honor and a corruptible battler of corruption.

That can be a plus in a bio-pic, but in a movie whose scope is several decades’ worth of law and order, fair-mindedness often turns into fuzzy noncommitment.

At least Leonardo DiCaprio, grounded and sure, has commitment to spare. His portrayal of Hoover is undeniably terrific.

To read more click here.

The Wall Street Journal

By Joe Morganstern
The Wall Street Journal

As the peerlessly powerful and widely feared director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation over the course of almost five decades, J. Edgar Hoover saw himself in a constant state of war—against radicals, gangsters, Communists and any politicians, including presidents, who tried to get in his way. “J. Edgar,” with Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role, is at war with itself, and everyone loses.

Clint Eastwood’s investigation of Hoover’s life and tumultuous times seeks the cold facts behind the crime-fighter myths, the flesh-and-blood man behind the dour demeanor and the rumors of homosexuality. Yet Mr. Eastwood’s ponderous direction, a clumsy script by Dustin Lance Black and ghastly slatherings of old-age makeup all conspire to put the story at an emotional and historical distance. It’s a partially animated waxworks.

To read more click here.

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Happy Veterans Day from ticklethewire.com

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A Secretive Nixon Said the Wealthy Better Equipped for Ambassadorships

white house photo

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Assuredly the  Occupy Wall Street folks would find President Nixon’s grand jury testimony of interest.

In newly released documents of President Richard Nixon’s 1974 grand jury testimony, the president admitted to giving precedence to wealthy campaign contributors when assigning foreign ambassador posts.

The president maintained that such assignations were not “commitments” made for contributions. Rather, the president reasoned that big contributors, who are generally wealthy, have justified their qualifications by the mere fact of their wealth.

“Certainly, no sale of ambassadorship should be made,” he told investigators, “but, on the other hand, the fact that an individual has proved himself on the American scene, has proved himself by legitimately building a great fortune, rather than being a disqualifier should be a factor that can be considered and should be considered in determining whether he should get a position.”

Much of the questioning surrounded whether or not an explicit agreement of a “commitment” had been made between among Nixon and his advisors, trading ambassadorships for campaign contributions.

Nixon later stated that he gave “top consideration to major financial contributors mainly for the reason that big contributors in many instances make better ambassadors, particularly where American economic interests are involved.” Still, at times it seems hard to draw the line of distinction.

Regarding another appointed ambassador, Nixon stated, “Pearl Mesta wasn’t sent to Luxembourg because she had big bosoms. Pearl Mesta went to Luxembourg because she made a good contribution.”

In Nixon’s opening statements to the grand jury he expressed the “vital necessity of confidentiality in presidential communications,” saying that information he may reveal to the grand jury, if circulated in the press and among the American public, could hurt American interests.

He cited reports then in newspapers of past presidents okaying assassinations, saying such disclosures, though probably untrue, were not in the public interest. “This is the reason why I have resisted in the courts … attempts to impinge upon the privileged status of such conversations,” he said. Only with absolute guarantee of no disclosure, Nixon told investigators in his opening remarks, “I will reveal for the first time information … which, if it is made public, will be terribly damaging to the United States.”

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The NRA Guns for Atty. Gen. Holder

By Allan Lengel
for Salon.com

While an apologetic Attorney Gen. Eric Holder Jr. went before a Senate committee this week to talk about a failed gun-walking program, the National Rifle Association was gearing up its campaign to get Holder fired.

In a new, slick 1 minute and 55 second television ad flush with with Fox News footage, the NRA expressed outrage over the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm’s gun-running operation known as Operation Fast and Furious. Under the supervision of ATF officials, the operation let guns get into the hands of criminals on both sides of the Mexican border. The NRA claimed Holder perjured himself before Congress and lied about what he knew about the operation and urged the White House to fire Holder. Holder has adamantly denied lying.

The NRA has honed in on Operation Fast and Furious in order to advance its agenda of undermining, not just Holder but the president. The misguided operation, run by ATF officials reporting to the Justice Department, encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell weapons to “straw purchasers,” with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels. ATF lost track of many of the guns, and some surfaced at crime scenes on both sides of the Mexican border including one involving the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry last year in Arizona.

To read full story click here.

 

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

 

Better Late Than Never: Nixon Library to Release Nixon’s Grand Jury Testimony on Watergate

 By Allan Lengel
ticklthewire.com

Better late than never.

The Nixon Presidential Library in California on Thursday is making available Nixon’s grand jury testimony about the Watergate scandal, the Associated Press reports.

This should be interesting.

The public release of the material comes four months after a judge ordered the June 1975 records unsealed.

“This is Nixon unplugged,” said historian Stanley Kutler, a principal figure in the lawsuit that pried open the records, AP reported.

Still, he said, “I have no illusions. Richard Nixon knew how to dodge questions with the best of them. I am sure that he danced, skipped, around a number of things.”

AP reported that Nixon was interviewed near his California home for 11 hours over two days.

To read more click here.

 

Doing the Right Thing in the Penn State Scandal

As head of the FBI’s Ann Arbor office, Greg Stejskal got to know well the legendary University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler. Stejskal, who has retired from the FBI, gives his insights into the Penn State scandal and discusses how he thought Schembechler, who died in 2006, might have handled it.

The author (right) Greg Stejskal and Michigan coach Bo Schembechler

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

“Do the Right Thing –Always,” Bo Schembechler

I want to preface this by saying, I was an admirer of Joe Paterno and Penn State football, which in my adult life have been synonymous. I don’t know Joe Paterno, but I know that he has been head coach at Penn State for 46 years and has been extremely successful, winning 409 games and two national championships.

Paterno achieved this seemingly without compromising sound values. His players were encouraged to be student-athletes with equal emphasis on the student part.

The football program’s slogan was “success with honor.” All of that including Paterno’s legacy is in jeopardy.

There was a seamy underside to all that success, Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky played for Paterno then became a coach. Ultimately, he was Penn State’s defensive coordinator (the face of Linebacker U). He was characterized as Paterno’s heir apparent. But if numerous allegations are to believed, Sandusky was, at least, as far back as the mid 90s, a child molester – using his position and its status to sexually abuse young boys.

Sandusky’s alleged transgressions go beyond despicable, but the issue for Paterno is what did he know, when did he know it and what did he do about it. According to the report of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury, that was investigating the allegations against Sandusky, in 1998 the Penn State police conducted an investigation regarding allegations that Sandusky was in involved in the molesting of young boys.

The case was presented to the local prosecuting attorney, but no charges were brought as a result of that investigation. (It is difficult to believe a case could be presented to the prosecutor without Paterno being aware of the investigation.)

Coincident with the conclusion of that investigation, Sandusky was informed by Paterno that he would not be Paterno’s successor as head coach. Following the 1999 football season, at the age of 55, Sandusky retired from the Penn State coaching staff.

I don’t know what caused Sandusky’s precipitous fall from grace, but the timing, at best, seems curious.

Although Sandusky was no longer on the Penn State coaching staff, he was still a member of the PSU faculty. He remained an Assistant Professor of Physical Education Emeritus with full access to Athletic Department facilities and other perks.

According to the Grand Jury report, March 1, 2002, Mike McQueary, a PSU football graduate assistant (now the wide-receiver coach) saw Sandusky sodomizing a young boy in the shower area of the football building. McQueary knew Sandusky andwas shocked and unsettled, but on the following day he reported what he had seen to Paterno. Paterno then told the Penn State Athletic Director, Tim Curley, of McQueary’s eyewitness account. Later McQueary would be interviewed by Curley and Penn State Senior Vice-President, Gary Schultz. It is not clear what further actions were taken as to Sandusky, but it is clear this incident was never reported to the police or child welfare authorities. Nor apparently was any action taken to identify the young boy or ascertain his welfare.

Sandusky retained his Assistant Professorship (He was listed in the faculty directory as recently as last week.) and his access to University facilities. According to the Grand Jury report, Sandusky’s abuse of young boys continued after 2002.

So did Paterno fulfill his responsibility as head football coach and as Sandusky’s former boss?

I don’t think it can be overstated the prestige and sheer clout that Paterno has at Penn State, but for whatever reason, he apparently never used any of that to further pursue the Sandusky matter or to inquire about the welfare of the alleged victims.

In comparison, I pose the hypothetical question: What would Bo Schembechler have done?

Bo is a man I did know. Bo was a legendary football coach at Michigan from 1969-1989 and a peer of Paterno.

To the best of my knowledge, Bo never had to deal with any of his staff being alleged child molesters.

He did have situations that required staff and players having to take responsibility for their acts even if it might reflect badly on Michigan, a place he loved and revered.

In 1987, the FBI was investigating two sports agents, Norby Walters and Lloyd Bloom, who had ties to organized crime. Walters and Bloom had worked up a scam where they bribed blue-chip college football players to sign post-dated, secret, agency contracts while they were still eligible to play college football – a clear violation of NCAA rules. Ultimately some of the players balked, threats were made by Walters and Bloom, and the whole thing fell apart.

Players who had signed the contracts were identified. They were all star players on prominent college teams. Two of the players were on Bo’s 1986 Michigan team.

When Bo found out, he was livid. He called one of the players, Garland Rivers, an All-American DB, into the office and had Rivers tell him the whole story.

Then Bo called me.

When I got to Bo’s office, Bo told Rivers “Tell this FBI agent everything about your relationship with Norby Walters.” Bo could have distanced himself and Michigan from the investigation.

Michigan would have been just one of many major football programs victimized by Walters and Bloom. But that wasn’t Bo. Damage control doesn’t mean hiding from the truth. It means taking responsibility for your actions and trying to rectify the mistakes.

Walters and Bloom had enticed his players to break the rules. They had besmirched Michigan. Bo knew he had to take a stand and do what he could to protect future players from illicit agents.

Later, when Walters and Bloom went on trial in Federal Court for racketeering and fraud, Bo testified. He was the star witness. His testimony was so strong, the defense declined to cross exam him. Walters and Bloom were convicted. What had been a dark moment in Michigan football history was a comeback win as important as any that had occurred on the field.

So what would Bo have done if faced with an assistant coach who was allegedly molesting young boys.

We’ll never know for sure, but I’m certain that he wouldn’t have just reported the allegations to his boss and done nothing else. Bo would have made sure the police were aware of the allegations. And that assistant coach would not have had access to Michigan athletic facilities or be emeritus anything.

It has been said that Paterno fulfilled his legal responsibility by reporting the allegations to the Penn State AD.

However, it would seem he did not fulfill his moral responsibility by making sure the allegations were pursued and, thus, protecting potential future victims.

We may never know why Paterno failed to pursue the Sandusky matter further. Perhaps Paterno didn’t do more out of a misguided effort to protect the reputation of Penn State, but if that was the motive, far more damage has been done to Penn State’s reputation than would have been done had this matter been fully confronted in 1998 or 2002.

Bo did not see degrees of honor and integrity. You either did the right thing or you didn’t – half way was unacceptable.