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Archive for July, 2014

Detroit Federal Judge Avern Cohn Turns 90 But Still ‘Sharp as a Tack’

Judge Avern Cohn (Photo by Harold White)
By Allan Lengel
Deadline Detroit

DETROIT — U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn’s second-floor courtroom in downtown Detroit is normally a sobering place where drama unfolds and lawyers do battle.

Judge Avern Cohn (left) poses at his birthday party in the courthouse with Appeals Court Judge Damon Keith (Photo by Harold White)

But on Wednesday, all was different. There was plenty joy in the air. Lawyers and judges, friends and family, reporters and court workers and a group of his former law clerks and staff filled the cavernous room to celebrate a milestone birthday: His 90th. There were soft drinks and little desserts and abundance of smiles and laughter.

Cohn moves these days a little slower than in the past, and certainly more so than in 1979 when he was appointed to the bench by President Jimmy Carter. But Cohn, who has always been considered one of the shining legal minds in the courthouse, continues to display his sharpness and wit.

“The judge’s body may be 90, but his mind is 35 and sharp as a tack,” says defense attorney Robert Morgan, a former federal prosecutor. “He’s also the most voracious reader of pleadings, books, magazines and news articles of anyone I’ve ever known.”

At the party, he told the crowd that his relationship with his secretary Lori Van Hove is based on a “need to know basis. She tells me what I need to know.” 

The day after the party, Cohn told Deadline Detroit that he has no intention of slowing down even though he has taken senior status and is getting on in years.  Most judges with that status take a lighter load, though according to the Oakland County Legal News, Cohn isn’t alone. He’s one of 30 district judges 90 or over in the country on senior status who still take a full load.

He says he gets the same number of cases as the other judges, but adds: 

“The only reason I’m slowing down is because we’re all getting less cases.”

Chief U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen told the Oakland Legal News:

“At 90 years old, Judge Cohn remains what he has been for more than three-and-a-half decades – a vital force in the life of our court family, and the conscience of the court. He continues to preside over a full criminal and civil docket with a razor-sharp mind, astute intellect, and remarkable energy and enthusiasm. He is an institution on our court, and is admired, respected and beloved by his colleagues and our staff.”

Does Cohn still enjoy the job after all these years?

“I never use the word enjoy” when talking about the bench, he said. “I get great satisfaction. Enjoy isn’t a word that a judge should use.”

 

Weekend Series on Law Enforcement History: Jimmy Hoffa Talks About Being In Prison

httpv://youtu.be/PCyZ9-AVNWE

The FBI, Recording Devices and Ford’s World Headquarters

By Allan Lengel
Deadline Detroit

DETROIT — Exciting things are happening at Ford Motor Company’s world headquarters in Dearborn besides talk of the Mustang the future of electrical cars, and it involves potential corporate espionage and the FBI.

John Snell and David Shepardson of the Detroit News reports that the FBI searched the headquarters while investigating one of the automaker’s engineers, and they seized listening devices, computers and financial records.

The News writes that a lawyer for the mechanical engineer said Ford’s security team feared she was stealing trade secrets by hiding secret recording devices in conference rooms at headquarters, The engineer’s home was also searched, the News reports.

The case is being investigated by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel, who heads the National Security Unit in Detroit, the News reported

The News writes:

Searching a Fortune 500 company’s world headquarters instead of issuing a subpoena is a rare step and could indicate investigators were worried about someone destroying evidence, said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University and a former federal prosecutor.

To read more click here.

Prosecutors Dismiss Charges Against Man After Questionable Handling by FBI

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Questionable ties between FBI agents and probation officers preceded Thursday’s decision by Cook County prosecutors to dismiss felony gun charges against a Chicago man Thursday, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Orangelo Payne, 34, was on probation for felony possession of marijuana when his probation officer turned up at Payne’s home with an FBI agent in tow. Using the probation as a pretext to search his apartment, he said an FBI agent squeezed him for information about a murder suspect, and a shotgun was found.

Before Payne could even challenge the charge in court, State Attorney Anita Alvarez declined to pursue the weapons charge.

Instead of facing up to decades in prison, he was charged with a lesser count that will allow for his release from jail within a few days, the Tribune reported.
“They dropped the charges because they didn’t want to air dirty laundry in open court,” Payne’s lawyer, J. Scott Arthur, said. “Under the ruse of probation officers conducting curfew checks, law enforcement is tagging along and illegally gaining access to homes.”

Former FBI Employee, Wife Plead Guilty to Mortgage Fraud

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A former FBI employee and his wife were convicted in a mortgage fraud scheme and now face up to 30 years in prison, the Mercury News reports.

The husband, Charles Espinel, 61, also admitted he lied to the agency about his new properties to prevent suspicion.

Espinel and his wife, Jeanette 58, pleaded guilty to defrauding First California Bank and Wells Fargo Bank to buy a combined $1.3 million in rental properties. The couple lied about their incomes and intentions of living at the properties.

Espinel spent 32 years with the FBI, retiring as a support services technician.

National Guard Troops May Get Authority to Arrest Undocumented Immigrants in Texas

Tex. Gov. Rick Perry/official photo

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The 1,000 National Guard troops who were deployed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to assist with the border crisis may get the unusual authority to make arrests and apprehensions, the New York Times reports.

In the past, troops who were sent by presidents were prohibited from making arrests while they helped at the border. But since Perry ordered the deployment, he has the authority to permit Guard troops to make arrests, the New York Times wrote.

Immigration rights advocates and experts on the National Guard expressed concern that troops were ill trained to handle potentially deadly encounters.
“This does not come from the federal government,” said Jayson P. Ahern, a former Customs and Border Protection acting commissioner who helped coordinate deployment of the National Guard to the border in 2006. “That’s the biggest distinction here. This is the governor taking unilateral action. Not having that oversight and supervision and direction as part of a plan from the federal authorities, I think it is reckless and could lead to significant safety issues.”

The troops are expected at the border next month but they cannot enforce immigration law.

Obama Administration to Assess Need for National Guard Troops at Texas-Mexico Border

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Obama administration is going explore the need for deploying National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border, the Washington Post reports. The administration has dispatched a team of military and national security officials to examine whether the Rio Grande Valley would benefit from a military “temporary assist.”

Despite objections from Democrats, Texas Gov. Rick Perry decided earlier this week to send 1,000 of his state’s National Guard troops to the border over the next month.

“The assessment team will review support options that increase U.S. Customs and Border Protection capacity to conduct enforcement and processing activities and to enable DHS to implement a surge plan that addresses spikes in the influx of UACs [unaccompanied alien children]/migrants along the Southwest Border,” a senior administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

 

CBP Is Hiring 2,000 New Agents Because of New 2014 Spending Plan

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

CBP plans to hire 2,000 new agents thanks to funding provided in the 2014 budget, KTAR reports.

The hiring of agents to secure the air, land and sea ports has nothing to do with the current immigration crisis involving unaccompanied Central American children, officials said. “This was in the pipeline,” said CBP spokeswoman Theresa Small. “It has nothing to do with the influx of Central American children.”

The plan is to fill the positions by the end of fiscal year 2014 to “enhance security, help reduce wait times and facilitate growing volumes of legitimate goods and travelers that are critical to the health of our nation’s economy,” the CBP said in a press released.

For more information on the positions, visit www.cbp.gov/careers.