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Fed Judge Rules Out Death Penalty in Cleveland Arson that Killed 9

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Citing mentally disabled issues, a federal judge in Cleveland has taken the death penalty off the table in an upcoming trial of a man accused in the arson death of eight children and one adult, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.

U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. ruled last week that a low IQ and a history of cognitive and behavioral problems was enough to put the kabosh on capital punishment in the case against Antun Lewis, 27, who faces trial on Jan. 5, the Plain Dealer reported.

Lewis was charged with breaking into a multi-family home at about 3 a.m. on May 21, 2005, and pouring gasoline on the floor before lighting it ablaze, the paper reported. The group of children were at the house for a sleepover.

Lewis had insisted he is innocent.

Convictions Overturned and Sentences Reduced Because of Fed Prosecutorial Misconduct, USA Today Report Says

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON –A USA Today investigation shows that federal prosecutorial misconduct has not only put innocent people in prison, but also set guilty people free, sometimes  by shortening their sentences and allowing them to commit crimes again when they should have been behind bars.

The USA TODAY investigation found 201 cases since 1997 in which federal judges found that prosecutors violated laws or ethics rules.

“Each was so serious that judges overturned convictions, threw out charges or rebuked the prosecutors,” wrote USA Today reporters Brad Heath and Kevin McCoy. “And although the violations tainted no more than a small fraction of the tens of thousands of cases filed in federal courts each year, legal specialists who reviewed the newspaper’s work said misconduct is not always uncovered, so the true extent of the problem might never be known.”

To read full story click here.

Justice Department Response as printed in USA Today:

“Once again, USA TODAY misleads readers by providing a statistically inaccurate representation of the hard work done by federal prosecutors daily in courtrooms across the country by cherry-picking a handful of examples dating back to the 1990s and confusing cases where attorneys made mistakes with cases where actual prosecutorial misconduct was involved.

“An internal review conducted by the department last year found prosecutorial misconduct in a small fraction of the 90,000 cases brought annually. When mistakes occur, the department corrects them as quickly and transparently as possible.

“Attorney General (Eric) Holder has made a priority of preventing mistakes before they occur, instituting a comprehensive training curriculum for all federal prosecutors, and mandating annual discovery training. The Justice Department has taken unprecedented steps to ensure prosecutors, agents and paralegals have the necessary training and resources to properly fulfill their discovery and ethics obligations.”

Suspected Terrorists Targeted U.S. Embassy in London

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — A group of suspected terrorists arrested last week in Britain had included the U.S. embassy in London as a target, Reuters news service reported.

The news surfaced after 12 people were arrested on Dec. 20 in raids in Britain. Three people were later released without charges, Reuters reported.

“I am aware and … obviously our folks in London are aware of this,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters, Reuters reported.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Retired FBI Agent James F. McGuire Dies at Age 82

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Retired FBI agent James F. McGuire, who joined the bureau in the 1950s in Connecticut and went on to specialize in counterintelligence in Washington, died late last month at an Arlington, Va. hospital, the Washington Post reported. He had leukemia and was 82.

The Post reported that McGuire, after leaving the FBI in 1979, served as the chief of security services for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

Six years later, he became a contractor for the State Department’s diplomatic security service performing background checks, the Post reported. He retired in 2007.

James Francis McGuire served in the Marine Corps during World War II and the Korean War, the Post reported. He had a son, William McGuire, who died in 1988.

FBI Releases List of Some of its Top Terrorism Cases in 2010

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The year 2010 was full of almost-disastrous terrorist acts  from the Times Square Bomber to the the Portland teen who tried to detonate a car bomb during a Christmas-lighting ceremony in Oregon, only to find out it was an FBI  sting.

Not everyone agreed with the FBI tactics when it came to  stings like the ones in Portland, Baltimore and the Washington area. Some accused the FBI of making terrorists out of lost souls looking for a mission. But Attorney Gen. Eric Holder Jr. forcefully defended the FBI stings, saying they were legitimate investigative tools.

In a speech earlier this month in California, Holder specifically defended the FBI tactics in the Portland, Ore. case at the Christmas lighting ceremeony that led to the arrest of the teen Mohamed Osman Mohamud.

“Those who characterize the FBI’s activities in this case as ‘entrapment’ simply do not have their facts straight – or do not have a full understanding of the law,” he said.

“I make no apologies for the how the FBI agents handled their work in executing the operation that led to Mr. Mohamud’s arrest,” Holder said, according to a text of the speech distributed by the Justice Department.

The FBI on Monday released a list of what it considers some ofr its most significant terrorism cases of 2010.

The following was included in a press release:

  • Attempted bombing of Armed Forces recruiting center: A 21-year-old U.S. citizen earlier this month parked what he thought was an explosives-filled vehicle in front of a military recruiting center near Baltimore and tried to detonate it remotely. The bomb was fake, thanks to our undercover agents working the case. Details
  • Attempted bombing in Oregon: A naturalized U.S. citizen was arrested the day after Thanksgiving when he attempted to set off what he thought was a car bomb at a crowded Christmas tree lighting ceremony in downtown Portland. The 19-year-old had been the subject of a long-term undercover operation by the Bureau. Details

  • D.C. Metro bomb plot: In October, a 34-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen believed he was joining members of al Qaeda to plan multiple bombings of Metrorail stations in the Washington area. Instead, it was a sting. Farooque Ahmed researched peak rider periods so the attacks could cause mass casualties. Details
  • Al Shabaab indictments: In August—in Minnesota, Alabama, and California—two Americans were arrested and 12 others, including five U.S. citizens, were charged with terrorism offenses and providing material support to the Somali-based terrorist organization al Shabaab. Details
  • Northern Virginia man indicted: In July, 20-year-old Zachary Chesser—also known as Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee—told agents he twice attempted to travel to Somalia to join al Shabaab as a foreign fighter. On one of those occasions he tried to board a plane with his infant son as part of his “cover.” Details
  • Al Qaeda plotters indicted: In July, five senior members of al Qaeda were indicted for their roles in the 2009 plot against the New York subway system. Details
  • Missouri man guilty of supporting al Qaeda: In May, a 32-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen pled guilty to providing material support to al Qaeda and to bank fraud and money laundering. Details

Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad

  • Attempted bombing at Times Square: After a three-day nationwide manhunt, a naturalized U.S. citizen was arrested in May for an attempted bombing at New York City’s famous tourist area. Details
  • Michigan militia group indicted: In March, nine members of a militia group called the Hutaree were charged with attempted use of weapons of mass destruction and related offenses. Details
  • Jihad Jane indicted: Also in March, U.S. citizen Colleen LaRose—also known as Jihad Jane—was indicted in Philadelphia for her role in recruiting jihadist fighters to commit murder overseas. A month later, a Colorado woman and colleague of LaRose’s was indicted on similar charges. Details

Ooops! FBI May Have Blown Mob Informant’s Cover as Snitch

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI may have blown the cover of a mob informant by being a little careless, the Gang Land News website reported.

Jerry Capici of Gang Land News, a former mob writer for the New York Daily News, reports that the cover of mob associate Howard Santos may have been blown about a year ago when Gambino capo Alphonse Trucchio was driving along Queens Boulevard in New York  and spotted Santos’s car parked near the FBI office. It was empty.

Gang Land News reports that Trucchio drove around and spotted Santos, 44, sitting in another car with an FBI agent he recognized. The site reported that  Santos’s relationship with the FBI became a well-known secret.

Santo is scheduled to testify in an upcoming trial.

Panamanian Pres. Ricardo Martinelli Wanted DEA to Wiretap Political Opponents

Panama Pres. Ricardo Martinelli/wikipedia photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Good or bad, one thing is certain: The WikiLeaks documents are pretty fascinating.

One of the latest ones of interest has surfaced in some publications including  the Washington Post, which reports that Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli was trying to put the squeeze on the DEA to wiretap his political opponents.

“He clearly made no distinction between legitimate security targets and political enemies,” then-U.S. Ambassador Barbara Stephenson wrote in her Aug. 22, 2009 report, the Post reported.

The Post reported that Martinelli via a BlackBerry message wrote to Stephenson: “I need help tapping phones.”

In her cable, the U.S. ambassador said Martinelli’s requests were rebuffed, the Post reported.

“We will not be party to any effort to expand wiretaps to domestic political targets,” Stephenson wrote.

Another cable reported that head of the Mexican military told U.S. authorities last year that Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the head of the Sinaloa drug cartel, moved around a lot and was “difficult” to capture because he surrounds himself with hundreds of armed men and a sophisticated web of snitches, the Post reported.

To read more click here.

Related Story: Cables Portray Extended Reach of DEA (NY Times)

Column: TSA and the Child Pat-Down

Petula Dvorak/washington post

By Petula Dvorak
The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Over the river and through the body scanner to Grandmother’s house we go!

What a fun, new twist on traveling with the kids this year. And you thought getting them to take their shoes off and let Bunky the Bear go through the dark tunnel was hard.

For this holiday season, parents get to choose between a scanner that will generate portraits of your kids looking like nude ghosts and, according to some reports, give off questionable levels of radiation, or they can take the little ones for a rubber-glove pat down that will upend years of stranger-danger training.

To read more click here.