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Lawyer in Anthrax Case: “I Never Had a Client Commit Suicide –It’s a Terrible Experience”

Anthrax Suspect Bruce Ivins

Anthrax Suspect Bruce Ivins

By Allan Lengel
For AOL News

WASHINGTON — Just weeks before government scientist Bruce Ivins’ suicide, a grand jury was convening on the third floor of the federal courthouse, near the U.S. Capitol, looking into the 2001 anthrax murders. Things weren’t looking good for Ivins, the only suspect in the case.

It was July 2008. His attorney, Paul F. Kemp, according to court documents reviewed by AOL News, had just filed court papers to become a death-penalty-certified attorney in the case — a little-known fact. And the chief U.S. District judge in Washington, Royce C. Lamberth, had approved the request.

“I thought this was a precaution to take. My job is to anticipate anything,” Kemp said.

He said he had told Ivins the investigation could turn into a death penalty case. “At some point in the near future I felt the government was probably going to the grand jury and would issue an indictment.”

What Kemp — and the government as well — didn’t anticipate was the unthinkable. On July 27, Ivins, 62, loaded up on Tylenol with codeine in a suicide bid. Two days later, he died.

“I was disturbed over it,” Kemp said in an interview this week . “I never had a client commit suicide. It’s a terrible experience. I’m much more distraught for his family.”

With the suicide, so died the chance for the government to prove its case before a jury or for Ivins to prove his innocence. No charges were ever filed in the case, in which letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to five media outlets and two senators. Five people died and 17 others were sickened.

On Feb. 19, the Justice Department officially closed the case and issued a 92-page summary stating why Ivins not only did it, but acted alone. It concluded that his lab notes showed he “could, and did, create spores of the concentration and purity of the mailed spores.”

Kemp, a suburban Washington attorney, said he read the report, but didn’t buy into it. Not at all.

Kemp said Ivins repeatedly denied that he sent the letters or that he developed the deadly anthrax spores. And Kemp cited Ivins’ fellow scientists, who insisted he was incapable of making such a high-grade, dried anthrax with the equipment available at his workplace at the Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases in Frederick, Md.

“There’s not one shred of evidence to show he did it,” Kemp said.

Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., echoes some of that skepticism. Last week, he called for a congressional investigation into the anthrax probe.

“We don’t know whether the FBI’s assertions about Dr. Ivins’ activities and behavior are accurate,” Holt wrote in a letter to the chairmen of the House Committees on Homeland Security, Judiciary, Intelligence, and Oversight and Government Reform.

Government investigators disagree with the skeptics.

“Suggestions that this is an entirely circumstantial case are not accurate,” said Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman. “We are confident Dr. Ivins acted alone in carrying out this attack. There is the direct physical evidence. The murder weapon was created by Dr. Ivins and solely maintained by Dr. Ivins.

“We wish we had the opportunity to present this case and all the evidence to a jury, but we were not able to, given the circumstances.”

A Justice Department source familiar with the case insisted Ivins was “singularly capable” of producing the deadly product. The person said investigators spent an “extraordinary amount of time” researching who in the science world was capable of producing the high-grade anthrax used in the deadly letters and “Dr. Ivins came up as one of the pre-eminent anthrax researchers.”

Regardless, in his final weeks Ivins had been thinking about the prospect of facing the death penalty. News reports said that during a July 9, 2008, group therapy session, he mentioned that if he faced the death penalty he would go out with a blaze of glory and shoot some of his co-workers.

Kemp acknowledges the government contacted him in the final weeks to say they were concerned about Ivins’ state of mind and well-being.

To many in the public, Ivins’ suicide was viewed as an admission of guilt. But others — particularly some who knew him — saw a man who collapsed under the mighty weight of a government determined to indict him.

Kemp says he still thinks about the suicide and wonders if he couldn’t have conveyed the prospect of a death-penalty case to Ivins more gently. He won’t get into specifics of the conversations with Ivins, citing client-attorney privilege. But he does share this much.

“I question myself. Maybe I was too strong,” he said. “I second-guess a lot the wording I used.”

Read Story on Scientist  Steven Hatfill Breaking Silence

Clint Eastwood to Direct Movie on FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover

Dirty Harry

Dirty Harry

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Could it be: Dirty Harry Meets J. Edgar Hoover?

The Hollywood Insider website reports that actor Clint Eastwood of “Dirty Harry” fame is planning to direct a movie based on the life of the late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

The publication reported that Eastwood will work with screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

J. Edgar Hoover/fbi photo

J. Edgar Hoover/fbi photo

The Hollywood Insider said the film will “follow Hoover’s career, from the founding of the FBI in 1935 to his long tenure as director of the crime-fighting organization that lasted until 1972 when he died.”

The trade publication said it was unclear which studio would make the film. It said it was originally intended for Universal, but it was likely to go to Warner Bros., which has done a lot of work with Eastwood.

Second New Orleans Cop — Who is Now an ICE Agent — Charged in Cover Up of 2005 Police Shootings

new-orleans-map-istock
Udate: Thursday 11:40 a.m. — The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Ex-Cop Jeffrey Lehrmann pleaded guilty this morning  to misprision of a felony (a charge for concealing a known felony), for failing to report a conspiracy to obstruct justice in the investigation of a police-involved shooting on the Danziger Bridge in New Orleans. To read press release click here.
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A second ex-New Orleans cop — who is now an agent with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Arizona — has been federally charged with covering up the infamous Danziger Bridge police shootings in 2005 just after Hurricane Katrina that resulted in two deaths and four injuries, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.

The paper reported that Jeffrey Lehrmann, 38, was charged with misprision of a felony or failing to report a crime. He is expected to appear in U.S. District Court in New Orleans Thursday and is cooperating with federal authorities, the paper reported.

Lerhmann was not involved in the shootings, but was tasked with interviewing witnesses.

Last month, Lt. Michael Lohman pleaded guilty Feb. 24 to conspiring to obstruct justice. He too was involved in investigating the case and covering up the findings.

The New Orleans paper reported that authorities charged that “Lehrmann knew of the conspiracy among his fellow officers to obstruct justice and participated in the ‘creation of false reports and the provision of false information to investigating agents’.”

To read full story click here.

President Nominates U.S. Attorneys for Idaho and Maine; Senate Confirms U.S. Attys. for NY and Ga.

obamaBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday nominated U.S. Attorneys for Idaho and Maine, the website Main Justice reported.

The nominees include Main Superior Court Justice Thomas Edward Delahanty for Maine and assistant U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson for Idaho.

The website, which closely tracks U.S. Attorney appointments, says President Obama has now made 54 U.S. Attorney nominations and the Senate has confirmed 34 of those.

Meanwhile, the website reported that the Senate on Wednesday night confirmed the U.S. Attorney nominations of William J. Hochul Jr. for the Western District of New York and Sally Q. Yates for the Northern District of Georgia.

Congressman John Conyers’ Wife Gets 37 Months in Prison in Bribery Case

Monica Conyers/facebook

Monica Conyers/facebook

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Ex-Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers, a combative and divisive figure in a town with too little cash and too much crime, was sentenced Wednesday to 37 months in prison in a bribery scandal, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Conyers, the wife of veteran Congressman John Conyers (D-Detroit), was sentenced even though she told the judge she wanted to withdraw her guilty plea, the paper reported.

U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn said Conyers’ conduct on the city council “fell woefully short” of expectations for a public servant, the Free Press reported.

In June,  Conyers pleaded guilty to accepting at least $6,000 in bribes for her support of a  $1.2 billion waste disposal contract with Synagro Technologies.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Column: After 2 Mistrials Involving Radio Host Hal Turner, It’s Time to Give Up

Allan Lengel

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

As I predicted earlier in the week, a mistrial for the second time was declared Wednesday in Brooklyn federal court in the trial of right wing talk show host Harold Turner, who was accused of threatening the lives of three Court of Appeals judges in Chicago by posting their photos on the Internet and writing that they were “worthy of death”.

The New York Times reported that the jurors, after three days of deliberations, told the judge in the late afternoon that they were hopelessly deadlocked.

“Unfortunately positions have solidified and folks have stated they will not change their minds, no matter how much longer we continue,” they wrote in a note presented to the court, the Times reported.  The first trial ended in a mistrial in December.

Hal Turner/msnbc photo

Hal Turner/msnbc photo

The case was flawed from the outset. Why?

The problem was that Turner had been an FBI informant. And in the second trial he testified that back in 2005 the FBI asked him to take his hateful rhetoric up a notch to help them solve a case involving the murder of a Chicago federal judge’s family members.

The FBI apparently thought the killer might be a white supremacist,  Turner’s target audience. Perhaps Turner might be able to draw the person out.

So Turner said he obliged and said  at the time the judge was “worthy of death”. Last summer, he posted on the Internet the photos of three Chicago federal judges who upheld a gun ban and wrote that  they too were “worthy of death”.

It’s not hard to imagine that at least one juror, if not more,  may have saw little distinction between the two incidents and had a difficult time convicting.

The Times reported that a new trial date has been set for April 12.

The Times wrote that lead prosecutor  William Hogan declined to say whether there would be a third trial.

“We’re going to review it,’ he said, according to the Times. “I’d say it’s highly likely.”

Frankly, it would be a good idea to let this one go and chalk it up to a lesson learned.  It’s really not a question at this point as to whether Turner committed a crime.  The answer is Yes.  It’s not a question of whether he’s a racist. He is.

It’s really an issue of who is holding what cards. And frankly, the government’s cards don’t look so hot.  So it would bode well for the prosecution to give up on this one.  Then again, I could be wrong.

FBI Busts Italian Man in Miami Beach With Suspected Ties to Sicilian Mafia

miami beachBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI on Wednesday arrested an Italian man in Miami Beach who’s suspected of helping a Sicilian Mafia family expand operations in the U.S., the Miami Herald reported.

Agents arrested Roberto Settineri as part of a multi-year international probe into his criminal ties to the Cosa Nostra in Italy, the Gambino crime family and three other suspects, the Herald reported.

To read more click here.

Charges Dropped Against FBI Police Officer Accused of Spying on Teens Undressing at W. Va. Mall

west virginiaBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Charges have been dropped against a uniformed FBI police officer who was accused of watching teen girls try on prom gowns  in a dressing room during a fashion show at a West Virginia mall last year, WBOY TV reported Tuesday.

A Marion County magistrate judge last December found FBI police officer Charles Hommema  guilty of criminal invasion of privacy and not guilty of conspiracy, the tv station reported.

Authorities had charged Hommema and fellow FBI police officer Garry Sutton Jr. were working in an FBI satellite control room at the Middletown Mall in Fairmont, W. Va.,  when they positioned a camera on temporary changing rooms and zoomed in for at least 90 minutes on girls dressing for the Cinderella Project fashion show.

Sutton pleaded guilty to conspiracy, but Hommema appealed his conviction.

The station reported that the prosecution decided there was insufficient evidence to retry him.