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Archive for August, 2018

Jury Acquits FBI Agent Accused of Firing Gun During Oregon Standoff

FBI photo of the shooting of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum during the 2016 armed standoff.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

A federal jury has acquitted an FBI agent accused of lying to investigators about whether he fired his gun twice at a militia elder involved in the armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge.

The jury on Friday found Agent Joseph Astarita not guilty of obstruction and making false statements.

The 41-year-old agent repeatedly denied he fired his weapon at Robert “LaVoy” Finicum because he was worried about crossfire.

Astarita’s attorney, David Angeli, told CNN that prosecutors lacked eyewitness and ballistic evidence that would show the agent fired his service weapon in during the 2016 standoff. 

“We are grateful to the men and women of the jury who saw through a case that never should have been brought,” Angeli and another defense attorney Rob Cary said in a statement.

At the time of the alleged shooting, the FBI was told to hold fire while local and state law enforcement handled Finicum, who led police on a chase in his pickup and was then shot by state police after he appeared to reach for his gun.

The jury was focused on who fired two errant shots, not who killed Finicum because the deadly force was deemed justified.

Astarita’s lawyers argued that alleged evidence against the agent was the result of lies from the “reckless” actions of one Oregon State Police trooper who fired most of the shots and later changed his story.

FBI Investigating Weeks-Old Attack on City’s First Latino Mayor over Immigration

Burien Jimmy Matta

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Three weeks after the city of Burien’s first Latino mayor said he was attacked by a man angry about his policies supporting immigrants, no charges have been filed.

Now the FBI is stepping in after several law enforcement agencies have failed to charge the 62-year-old Burien man who Mayor Jimmy Matta said attacked him at a block party in this suburb city in King County, Washington.

Matta told police that a man in his 60s put him into a headlock and pulled him to the ground on July 21, whispering to the mayor, “We’re not going to let you Latino illegal take over our city,” the Seattle Times reported at the time. 

The attack is

Both the King County prosecuting attorney and state attorney general said they have conflicts of interest.

A spokesman for Attorney General Bob Ferguson said state prosecutors are waiting for the FBI to complete the investigation.

“We’re still waiting to receive the investigation file,” the spokesman said in an email to the Seattle Times.  “Hard to guess at a timeline when we’re not sure when we’ll get the file, but I’m sure the team will need some time with it to review the evidence before making a recommendation.”

Matta has been an outspoken supporter of making Burien a so-called sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants.

Jury May Decide Fate of Manafort This Week Before He Faces Another Trial

Paul Manafort

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

A verdict in the bank and tax fraud case against Paul Manafort could come as early as this week, and a guilty verdict could has the potential of putting President Trump’s former campaign chairman in prison for the rest of his life.

Robert Mueller’s prosecutors are expected to wrap up their case today, depending on what the defense does, the case could go to the jury by midweek.

A lot is at stake in the first trial since Mueller was appointed in May 2017 to investigate Russia’s meddling in the election. A victory could restore faith in the investigation, while a defeat could give Trump more ammunition to claim the probe is part of a “witch hunt,” a far-fetched claim that nonetheless has gained traction among many Republicans.

Monday marks the 10th day in Alexandria, Va., federal court.

When the trial resumes Monday afternoon, prosecutes are expected to call to the stand James Brennan, an executive at the Federal Savings Bank.

What’s unclear is whether Manafort’s lawyers plan to call their own witnesses.

Whatever the case, not even an acquittal ends the legal troubles of Manafort, a longtime GOP operative accused of concealing millions of dollars he made from Russian-friendly Ukrainian officials by depositing the money into foreign bank accounts to avoid taxes.

A second Manafort trial is scheduled for mid-September in Washington D.C., a case that alleges Manafort laundered money and failed to register as a lobbyist while working for the Ukrainian government.

Giuliani Backtracks, Says Trump Never Discussed Flynn with Ex-FBI Director Comey

Rudy Giuliani on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

One of the key obstruction of justice allegations against President Trump is that he urged then-FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation into one-time National Security Director Michael Flynn.

The president’s attorney Rudy Giuliani is now saying that Trump will deny he ever encouraged Comey to fire Flynn, contradicting past statements he made to the media.

“There was no conversation about Michael Flynn,” Trump’s personal attorney said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “That is what he will testify to if he’s asked that question.”

Giuliani denied that he told ABC’s “This Week” last month that Trump had asked Comey to give Flynn “a break.”

Giuliana backtracked, maintaining that he “said that is what Comey is saying.”

Confused yet? 

In the ABC interview in early July, Giuliani denied that Trump asked Comey to drop the investigation, saying, “He didn’t direct him to do that. What he said to him was, ‘Can you give him a break?’”

Comey testified that Trump told him, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”

Trump reluctantly fired Flynn when news surfaced that the retired Army general had misled Vice President Mike Pence about conversations he had with a Russian ambassador during the presidential transition.

In December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the Russian contacts.

During Sunday’s interview, Giuliani said that if Trump is forced to testify before Robert Mueller’s investigators, the president will deny he told Comey to “let this go.”

Mueller was appointed to investigate Russia after Trump fired Comey in May 2017.

So far, the president’s lawyers are refusing an interview between Trump and Mueller’s team. The fear is that Trump will perjure himself. 

Weekend Series on Crime History: How John Gotti Became The Teflon Don

Constitutional Law Expert: Enough Is Enough. Time to Subpoena President Trump

President Trump

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump and his lawyers have stalled long enough, and the time has come to subpoena the president.

So says Harry Litman, a constructional law professor at the University of California at San Diego.

“Enough is enough. It’s time to subpoena the president,” Litman argued in a column for the Washington Post

Litman said special counsel Robert Mueller has been “patient while Trump and his representative engaged in scarcely credible gamesmanship.”

Trump continues to call the special counsel investigation “a witch hunt” as he tries to chip away at the credibility of the FBI and Justice Department, an effort that appears to be paying off as most of the president’s most ardent supporters agree with his calculated remarks about federal law enforcement.

“It has become increasingly apparent that neither Trump nor anyone in his orbit has any interest in his answering Mueller’s questions,” Litman wrote. “In a word, they are playing Mueller, and in the process, playing the country.”

Judge in Manafort Trial Grants Request by Special Counsel to Not Disclose Conversation about Trump Case

Ex-Trump campaign leader Paul Manafort.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The special counsel’s team that is prosecuting Paul Manafort on fraud charges successfully urged a judge to keep secret details that could shed light on the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign and whether it colluded with Russia to meddle in the election.

Rick Gates, the former business partner of Paul Manafort, revealed on the stand Tuesday that he was cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors on Trump’s campaign.

Gates and Manafort played integral roles in the campaign.

The judge overseeing the case granted the prosecutors’ request to keep details of the conversations about Trump from becoming public.

“Disclosing the identified transcript portions would reveal substantive evidence pertaining to an ongoing investigation,” the special counsel’s office wrote. “The government’s interest in protecting the confidentiality of its ongoing investigations is compelling and justifies sealing the limited portion of the sidebar conference at issue here. In addition, sealing will minimize any risk of prejudice from the disclosure of new information relating to that ongoing investigation.”

Judge T.S. Ellis III wrote that he granted the request because the conversation would “reveal substantive evidence pertaining to an ongoing government investigation.”

Jury Deliberating in Case of FBI Agent Accused of Firing Weapon During Takeover of Oregon Wildlife Refuge

Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was shot and killed by police during the armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The fate of FBI Agent Joseph Astarita is now in the hands of a jury.

Astarita is accused of obstruction and making false statements after denying to federal authorities that he fired two shots at a militia elder involved in the armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge. The 41-year-old defendant also is accused of removing the shell casings from the scene to hide evidence that he was the shooter.

During the trial, he repeated his denials, saying he did not fire his weapon at Robert “LaVoy” Finicum because he was worried about crossfire.

The FBI was told to hold fire while local and state law enforcement handled Finicum, who led police on a chase in his pickup and was then shot by state police after he appeared to reach for his gun.

The jury is focused on who fired the two errant shots, not who killed Finicum because the deadly force was deemed justified.

“It is with a heavy heart that the United States government asks you to look at one of its own,” Paul T. Maloney, an assistant United States attorney, said Thursday in his final statement to the jury, the New York Times reports. “This case is about integrity; this case is about honesty; this case is about accountability and owning your shots.”

Astarita’s lawyers argued that alleged evidence against the agent was the result of lies from the “reckless” actions of one Oregon State Police trooper who fired most of the shots and later changed his story

Astarita is 13-year veteran of the FBI and is a firearms instructor.

Check back for updates.