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Column: The Clemens Case — Beware of the Hunt for Big Game

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

When you go hunting for big game — particularly dangerous targets — you better be prepared. You also better be a good aim.

Screw up and it can cost you — particularly if it’s a lion or a tiger or some other creature that can devour you.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. went hunting for big game the other day by prosecuting major league baseball legend Roger Clemens, who was accused of lying to Congress about using performance enhancing drugs. The hunter in this case got devoured — not so much by the major game it was hunting — but by itself.

On Thursday, on the second day of testimony, it screwed up big time by mistakenly presenting congressional testimony that referenced the wife of former pitcher Andy Pettitte, a friend and former teammate of Clemens’s. Pettitte had told his wife that Clemens had taken the performance enhancing drugs. Clemens claimed he was mistaken.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton had ruled earlier that the prosecution could not reference the wife. Walton said the wife repeating the hearsay would be unfair to Clemens at trial.

So a highly annoyed Walton declared a mistrial. A Sept. 2 hearing is set to determine whether the government will get a second shot.

Either way, it’s a major major embarrassment for  the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Justice Department.  The two prosecutors on the case — Steven Durham and Daniel Butler — are both very able, seasoned and well respected attorneys. The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not screw up by assigning them to the case.  Nonetheless, the prosecutors screwed up.

The pain for them is unimaginable — almost  like dropping the ball with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning  during the seventh game of the world series, with bases loaded — and you’re up by 1 run. Painful. You want to hide in your room. You want to knock back a few shots of single malt Scotch or tequila. And that’s just for breakfast.

There’s nothing  to do now but try and salvage the case and figure out why the lapse in judgment. There’s no excuses here.

Alan M. Gershel, a professor at Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Michigan and former chief of the criminal division for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 20 years, said the misstep “to say the least is certainly an embarrassment.”

Gerhsel said the judge could rule against a new trial. That being said, Gershel said it may help the prosecution, when seeking a new trial, that the misstep appeared to be inadvertent.

So we’ll see what the judge decides in the case that some critics, frankly, thought should never had gone to trial anyways.

On the upside, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the Ted Stevens case when prosecutors from the Justice Department won the case, but had the conviction thrown out because they withheld key evidence from the defense.  That case was a plain old mess and the prosecutors needed to pay for that.

Whatever, this is just another one of those embarrassments the Justice Department could do without.

P.S. Beware of the hunt for the big game.

Feds Indict Man Who Used Internet to Encourage Terrorist Attacks on Police Stations, Bridges, Water Plants and Synagogues

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A 22-year-old Pennsylvania man was indicted in Virginia on Thursday on charges of using the Internet to solicit Islamic extremists to commit terrorist acts on such targets as police stations and synagogues within the U.S. and posting bomb-making instructions.

Emerson Winfield Begolly, of New Bethlehem, Pa., was indicted by a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va.

“Emerson Begolly is accused of repeatedly using the Internet to promote violent jihad against Americans,” said U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride. “These allegations demonstrate how young people in the United States can become influenced by – and eventually participate in – jihadist propaganda that is a serious threat to the safety of us all.”

Authorities alleged that Begolly has been an active moderator of a popular, internationally known Islamic extremist web forum, the Ansar al-Mujahideen English Forum (AMEF).

Authorities charged that since July 2010, Begolly has placed a number of postings encouraging attacks within the United States, including the use of firearms, explosives and propane tanks against targets such as police stations, post offices, synagogues, military facilities, train lines, bridges, cell phone towers and water plants.

Book Review: The Insider Who Brought Down the Cali Cartel

By Lisa Sweetingham
LA Weekly​

William C. Rempel, who for 36 years worked as an investigative reporter and editor at the L.A. Times, has written the book At the Devil’s Table: The Untold Story of the Insider Who Brought Down the Cali Cartel, which came out last month. The insider in question is Jorge Salcedo, the former head of security for the Cali Cartel in Colombia, who secretly turned on his employer in the late ’90s by becoming an informant for the DEA.

Rempel discusses and signs his book at Vroman’s Bookstore tonight, but if you can’t make it to Pasadena, here are seven astounding revelations about Colombian drug lords from the book.

7. The vicious blood feud between the Cali Cartel in the south (headed by the Rodríguez Orejuela brothers) and the Medellín cartel in the north (Pablo Escobar) all started in the late ’80s in New York City, when a pair of mid-level cocaine traffickers had a fatal feud over a woman. The dead man’s friends were allies of Escobar. The shooter sought sanctuary with Cali boss Hélmer “Pacho” Herrera. When neither side would back down, Escobar vowed to his former comrades: “Then this is war — and I’m going to kill every one of you sons of bitches.”

6. Herrera, the youngest of the four Cali godfathers, oversaw the most brutal wing of killers in the entire cartel. He was also openly gay, looked as if he had just stepped off the pages of GQ, and lived in an all-white compound with white marble floors, white walls and ceilings, and white leather furniture.

To read more click here.

FBI Opens Investigation into Murdoch’s Reporters

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is now looking into the scandal involving Rupert Murdoch’s Brit reporters to see if they tried to access cellphone record messages and records of 9/11 victims, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The FBI has opened up a preliminary probe into the scandal that has rocked Great Britain, and raised questions about the future of Murdoch’s prosperous media empire, News Corp.

The Times reported that U.S. officials said the FBI is trying to determine whether to launch a full-fledged investigation.

To read more click here.

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Prosecution Goofs: Judge Declares Mistrial in Roger Clemens Case

Roger Clemens/file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

That was quick.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton declared a mistrial Thursday on the second day of testimony in D.C. federal court in the perjury trial of pitching legend Roger Clemens, who was accused of lying about steroid use.

MSNBC reports that the judge declared the mistrial after the prosecution introduced evidence against his orders.

The Washington Post reported that the judge will hear arguments in coming weeks about the possibility of a retrial.

The Post’s Del Quentin Wilber reported that the mistrial request came from the defense after the prosecution mistakenly played a portion of Congressional testimony.

The testimony, the Post reported, had a reference to the wife of former pitcher Andy Pettitte, a friend and former teammate of Clemens.

The Post reported that Pettitte told Congressional investigators Clemens confided in him about taking performance-enhancing substance.

The Post also reported that Pettitte told told Congressional investigators he mentioned that to his wife Laurie, who ended up providing an affidavit to Congress.

The Post reported that Walton had barred prosecutors from mentioning Laurie Pettitte’s statements in trial because it would be unfair to Clemens.

Gun Owners Express Outrage Over New ATF Rules

Ex-U.S. Atty. Who Charged John Edwards to Run for Congress

U.S. Atty. George Holding

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

It didn’t take long for Raleigh U.S. Attorney George E.B. Holding — who charged ex-Sen. John Edwards with campaign violations shortly before stepping down this month — to figure out what he wants to do next.

The former U.S. Attorney announced Wednesday that he plans to run for Congress in the 13th District in North Carolina, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. The seat is currently held by Dem Brad Miller.

“I’m committed to run for Congress,” Holding, 43, said, according to the paper. “Our nation faces its greatest problems ever, and the only way to solve them is to stop sending politicians to Washington and start sending public servants to Washington.”

Holding resigned July 8.

He was appointed the U.S. Attorney by President Bush in 2006.  The Obama administration let him stay on for more than 2 years so that he could complete the investigation into ex-Sen. John Edwards without interruption.

The trial is pending for Edwards.