Links

Columnists



Site Search


Entire (RSS)
Comments (RSS)

Archive Calendar

January 2019
S M T W T F S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Guides

How to Become a Bounty Hunter



Archive for January, 2019

Stjeskal: Of Rats and Witch Hunts

Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office.

By Greg Stejskal

“Conspiracies hatched in hell can not have angels for witnesses.” – is an adage sometimes used by prosecutors in criminal cases. The point being that in order to prove the existence of a conspiracy, which by design is done in secrecy, it may be necessary to have as witnesses a person or persons who were involved in the conspiracy. (A good Hollywood dramatization of how this works is depicted in Elia Kazan’s film, “On the Waterfront.”)

Greg Stejskal

Coconspirators turned cooperating witnesses are problematic for the prosecutor because the witness by his/her own admission was a participant in a criminal conspiracy. In order to make a strong case, these non-angelic witnesses’ testimony is usually corroborated by other evidence.

Further strengthening their credibility, the testifying conspirator has admitted their involvement in the conspiracy and have often pleaded guilty and been sentenced for the act(s) for which they are testifying.

Using coconspirators as witnesses is a long established and necessary practice in criminal prosecutions. The federal rules of evidence allows for an exception to the hearsay rule: the conspirator can testify as to statements by another conspirator in furtherance of the conspiracy. It is also common practice for the defense to attack the credibility of these witnesses.

What is unusual in my experience is attacking the practice of using a conspirator as a witness as something to be “outlawed” and referring to such witnesses as “flippers.” Such attacks were recently made by the president of the United States.

President Donald Trump

Flippers are apparently witnesses who have admitted to their participation in a criminal conspiracy, pleaded guilty to their involvement and agreed to truthfully testify under oath about the conspiracy. The president has also characterized some of these witnesses as “rats,” saying they are disloyal and lying to get a more favorable sentence. Thus, sounding more like Johnny Friendly, a mob boss, in “On the Waterfront” than the president.

The president has also seemed to imply that those who don’t flip and remain loyal to him will be rewarded with a presidential pardon – the ultimate “get out of jail free card.” (A pardon presupposes guilt for the act or acts that are being pardoned.) And this is where it gets really bizarre – the president using his pardon power to encourage potential witnesses to not cooperate with the US Department of Justice. That would seem to be a prima facia case of obstruction of justice.

If as the president has repeatedly said, the special counsel probe is a “witch hunt” then the president has nothing to fear from cooperating witnesses who will be under oath and subject to perjury charges should they lie.

It was Abraham Lincoln who said: “I have never met or heard of anyone who could out-smart honesty.”

 

Shutdown Irony: Country Less Safe As Federal Law Enforcement Works with No Pay

Photo via Border Patrol

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The irony of President Trump shutting down the federal government in the name of public safety is nothing short of incredible.

Trump is refusing to budge on his demands for a border wall as the government shutdown is now in its second week.

But the agencies that protect Americans’ safety – the FBI, DEA, ATF, Coast Guard, TSA and yes, the Border Patrol –  are affected by the shutdown.

Since the federal law enforcement employees are considered “essential,” they are still on the job, but they are not getting a paycheck. And that is lowering morale and prompting some to resign.

Tens of thousands of TSA employees, many of whom make less than $40,000 a year, are protecting airports without a paycheck.

Nearly 13,000 special FBI agents also are working without pay, prompting the FBI Agents Association to urge politicians to quickly find a solution.

“As the country celebrates the New Year, the American public can be assured that the FBIAA’s membership—which includes nearly 13,000 Special Agents of the FBI  are on the job 24-hours a day, seven days a week to protect our country from criminal and terrorist threats,”  FBIAA President Tom O’Connor wrote in a statement. “These men and women are doing so while facing a confluence of policies and gridlock that are causing financial hardship for Agents and their families.”

The American Federation of Government Employees union filed a lawsuit Monday, arguing that “essential” employees should be paid for their work.

So far, Trump has shown no willingness to budge on his call for billions of dollars for a wall that even many Republicans say appears to be a waste of money.

Democrat-Controlled House to Re-Introduce Bill to Protect Special Counsel Mueller

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

As Democrats take control of the U.S. House today, the new leaders are expected to introduce new legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller.

Incoming House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-NY, plans to re-introduce legislation that would allow Mueller and future special counsels to challenge their termination in the courts, CNN reports.

Nadler is the incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which would be in charge of any future impeachment proceedings.

But the legislation faces an uphill battle because Republicans still control the Senate, which defeated a similar bill last year.

TSA Begins Using More Floppy-Ear Dogs for Airport Screenings to Avoid Scaring Children

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Pointy-ear dogs are sometimes scaring airline passengers, especially children, so the TSA is looking for more floppy-ear canines to engage with people in airports.

Turns out, dogs with droopy ears are less frightening to children, an internal TSA review found, The Washington Examiner reports.

“We find the passenger acceptance of floppy ear dogs is just better. It presents just a little bit less of a concern,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “Doesn’t scare children.”

The TSA uses about 1,200 dogs to screen passengers and luggage. About 80% have droopy ears, while the rest have cone-snapped ears, such as the German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois..

The floppy-ear dogs tend to be  Labrador Retrievers, German Short-haired Pointers, Wirehaired Pointers, Vizslas, and Golden Retrievers.

Investigation Underway After Border Patrol Agents Used Tear Gas on Migrants

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

U.S. Customs and Border Protection its investigating agents who used tear gas and paper spray on more than 100 migrants who were illegally trying to enter the country.

The incident began Monday and continued into Tuesday morning as some migrants threw rocks and others helped lift children wrapped in jackets and blankets over razor-edged wire, CNN reports.

“Once again we have had a violent mob of migrants attempt to enter the United States illegally by attacking our agents with projectiles,” said Katie Waldman, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security. “As has happened before — in this and previous administrations — our personnel used the minimum force necessary to defend themselves, defend our border, and restore order.”

No injuries were immediately reported.

Gun Rights Group Sues ATF Over Bump Stock Ban

Photo: WASR

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

You might recall on Oct. 1, 2017, gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd at a concert in Las Vegas, killing 58 and leaving 851 injured, more than 400 by gunfire. You might also recall that he used a bump stock, a device that converts a semi-automatic rifle into an automatic weapon.

Now, the ATF has announced an official ban on bump stocks.

But that isn’t sitting well with a gun right group, the “Gun Owners of America,” which has filed a lawsuit against the ATF, claiming the ban is illegal, reports WILX.

 

Fed Judge Tosses Statement of NSA Contractor Because FBI Failed to Mirandize Him

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Here’s a big mistake that’s been made over the years by law enforcement.

This time it involves a National Security Agency (NSA) contractor.

Dell Cameron of Gizmodo reports:

In the case of a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor accused of stealing a huge cache of classified documents, a federal judge this month agreed to toss out statements made by the contractor, Harold “Hal” Martin, on the basis that FBI agents failed to Mirandize him properly during four-hour interrogation, even though the suspect was not under arrest at the time.

Charged with 20 counts of willful retention of national defense information and theft of government property, Martin, 54, was arrested following a search of his Glen Burnie, Maryland, residence on Aug. 27, 2016. There, FBI agents discovered both digital and physical copies of documents that, according to prosecutors, contain classified and top-secret information said to be critical to “a wide variety of national security issues.”

 

In Midst of Government Shutdown, FBI Agents Association Pushes For Better Pay and Tax Breaks For Agents

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

In the midst of the government shutdown, the FBI Agents Association issued a statement assuring the public agents will continue to do their job.

At the same time, the association in its statement is pushing for better pay and tax relief for agents who are transferred:

“Due to years of pay freezes, federal employee pay lags significantly behind the private sector, and this disparity makes it more difficult to recruit skilled professionals to government service.  At a minimum, the 1.9% pay increase for federal employees that the Senate passed with over 90 votes should become law and applied retroactively to 2019 wages when the shutdown ends.

Special Agents can be transferred to different offices around the country and the world to meet the needs of the FBI.  The 2017 tax law eliminated the moving expense deduction, which offset the relocation expense burden for Special Agents and their families.  As a result, moving reimbursements are now considered taxable income.  FBIAA urges Congress to enact legislation to provide tax relief to Special Agents similar to the bipartisan Relocation Expense Parity Act that was introduced during the last Congress.”

As for protecting the nation, the association stated:

“As the country celebrates the New Year, the American public can be assured that the FBIAA’s membership—which includes nearly 13,000 Special Agents of the FBI  are on the job 24-hours a day, seven days a week to protect our country from criminal and terrorist threats. These men and women are doing so while facing a confluence of policies and gridlock that are causing financial hardship for Agents and their families.

FBIAA members and others are currently working without pay or paid leave because of a fourth government shutdown in five years.  The FBIAA calls on elected officials to work together to end the shutdown and restore Agents’ pay.