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Archive for December, 2011

ACLU: FBI Illegally Surveilling Muslims

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

It will always be a line hard to draw, between protecting the nation from another terrorist attack and reaching too far in the name of preemption. The American Civil Liberties Union sees the latter, though, and on Thursday said the FBI is using extensive community outreach among Muslims to gather intelligence secretively and illegally, reports  Jerry Markon of the Washington Post.

FBI agents in California illegally recorded information about individual’s political and religious affiliations while attending mosque gatherings and other events in Muslim communities, the ACLU says, citing internal bureau documents, according to the Post. FBI officials deny the allegations.

Some of the files the ACLU cites show FBI agents working with local communities to fight drugs and crimes. But others show agents recording Social Security numbers and other personal information, noting their political affiliations in at least one incident. The information seems to be used for follow-up investigations, but heavy redactions make it tough to come to firm conclusions, according to the Post.

To read more click here.

One More Officer Sentenced in New Orleans’ Danziger Bridge Incident

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Add five years to the Danziger Bridge prison time count. A former New Orleans police officer was sentenced Thursday to five years for his role on the bridge in the days following Hurricane Katrina, according to a Justice Department statement.

Robert Barrios rode with other officers in a large Budget rental truck to the bridge on Sept. 4, 2005, according to the statement. The bridge was the scene where several officers were involved in a shooting incident that left two dead civilians, seriously injured four others and drew national attention.

Barrios admitted to agreeing with officers to obstruct justice as feds investigated the incident in April of last year. He also admitted to meeting with sergeants investigating the incident, who told him and other officers to get their stories straight before making official statements. Barrios admitted to lying to cover for fellow officers and sought to provide false and misleading information to make the bridge shooting appear legally justified.

Barrios is the fifth officer to cooperate and face sentencing in the Danziger case. Also serving time in federal prisons are former Lieutenant Michael Lohman, former Detective Jeffrey Lehrmann, and former Officers Michael Hunter and Ignatius Hills.

Round 2: Newark Feds Go for Retrial of Ex-Fed Prosecutor

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Round two is coming in the epic battle between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and ex-federal prosecutor Paul Bergrin, a high-profile  Newark defense attorney who was accused of orchestrating a 2004 murder of an FBI witness in a case in which he had a client.

The first round, for all practical purposes, went to Bergrin, after the jury deadlocked the day before Thanksgiving on the charges and the judge declared a mistrial.

Newark U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman and Assistant U.S. Attorney John Gay sent a letter dated Dec. 1 to U.S. District Judge William J. Martini stating:

“The Government formally requests to try the balance of the Second Superseding Indictment (Counts 1 through 11 and 14 through 33) on January 4, 2012, though it will not oppose a request to sever the tax counts (Counts 27 through 33). Further, the Government will not oppose any reasonable continuance Mr. Bergrin may need to prepare for trial.”

The government has also theorized that Bergrin allegedly orchestrated the hit of a witness to cover up the fact that he was allegedly supplying cocaine to drug gangs.

11 Arrested in Northern Virginia Guns and Weapons Ring

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

A three-year investigation focusing on drug and weapon rings came to an end with 11 arrests in Northern Virginia on Wednesday, reports the Washington Post. Some of those arrested had ties to street gangs.

The operation was primarily in Manassas and Fairfax County, and resulted in charges against more than 60 people.

ATF agents and local police outfits making up the Northern Virginia Violent Crimes Task Force made the arrests during raids on four houses, according to the Post.

Nine of the men were charged with conspiring to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of 40 years prison.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST:

Column: Prosecutors May Be Overreaching in Recommending 15-20 Years for Blago

 

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

In political corruption cases, how much prison time is enough?

Fed prosecutors in the case of Rod Blagojevich — the world’s most talkative ex-governor — are recommending that he get 15 to 20 years at sentencing, which is set for Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

Yes, Blagojevich was a crook with a stupid chip implanted somewhere in that brain of his underneath that helmet-head of hair. But I think a 15 to 20 year sentence is excessive.

What’s the point of piling on?

Blago, who turns 55 on Dec. 10, four days after sentencing, would be 75 by the time he got released from prison if he were to be sentenced to 20 years. If he gets 10 years, he’ll be 65 by the time he goes free.  It’s not as if, when he gets out, the public will be in danger.

A prison term in this case is supposed to provide sufficient punishment and act as a deterrent to other crooked-leaning pols.

I think 10 to 12 years, as a Chicago Sun-Times writer Mark Brown suggests, does the trick.

A sentence of 10-12 is enough to discourage some — certainly not all — crooked politicians from committing crimes.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

 

FBI Lennon Files Released

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Beatles fans have their weekend cut out for them. A newly released trove of FBI files on John Lennon are now available online, through the bureau’s online database.

Along with two other stacks of previously released documents on the British rocker, the newly released documents focus on 1978 investigation of a violent threat made against Lennon. The previously released documents cover investigations of Lennon’s connection to various anti-war and other political and cultural groups.

To browse through the newly released files, click here. All three collections are available here.  

Amish Raid in Hate Crimes Turns Up Marijuana Seeds, Cocaine

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

The Amish beard-cutting saga grows stranger and stranger. Talking Points Memo now reports that, along with scissors and clippers, federal agents also found evidence of marijuana and cocaine during a raid on the compound of the beard-cutting suspects.

As previously reported, the FBI investigated possible hate crimes among the Amish community when members of a breakaway sect began cutting the beards of mainstream Amish in eastern Ohio.

During a Wednesday bail hearing prosecutors also introduced video evidence of drug use, sex and information related to the beard-cutting attacks, according to TPM.

The raid was conducted on the breakaway Bergholz Clan and led to the arrest of the Clan’s leader Sam Mullet and six others, all charged with violating the Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Police found Mullet giving sex counseling to the wife of a fellow Bergholz member, found marijuana seeds in the home and cocaine in the barn.

To read more click here.

 

Respected Ex-Sheriff Arrested, Taken to Prison that Bears His Name

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

In a movie-like twist of fate, a former Colorado sheriff was arrested by officers from the department he once presided over, then taken to the prison named after him, reports the New York Times.

Retired republican sheriff Patrick Sullivan was arrested Tuesday afternoon for attempting to exchange methamphetamines for sex with a man.

Police began investigating Sullivan on November 17, after authorities received tips that the 68-year-old former sheriff of Arapahoe County might be involved in methamphetamines, according to the Times. The investigation led to a home on Tuesday where Sullivan allegedly showed up to exchange drugs for sex with a man.

Two confidential informers admitted to police they had exchanged sexual activities for drugs with Sullivan before.

The Times describes Sullivan as a beloved figure of Colorado law enforcement, “a straight-shooting Republican sheriff who once crashed a Jeep through a fence to rescue two deputies from a gunman.” Many were shocked by his arrest.

“I just cannot believe this happened,” Robert R. Gallagher Jr., a former district attorney for the 18th Judicial District in Colorado, which includes Arapahoe County, told the Times. “This is not the Pat Sullivan I served with and respected so much. Something here doesn’t meet the eye.”

Steve Ward, a former state senator and past Arapahoe County commissioner, said he, too, was stunned by the news.

“It’s like waking up and reading a headline that says ‘Scientists Have Now Determined the Earth Is Flat,’ ” said Steve Ward, a former state senator and Arapahoe County Commissioner. “It’s incomprehensible.”

To read more click here.