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Mistrial Declared in Detroit Public Corruption Case After One Juror Holds Out on Conviction

detroit-city-limits
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The corruption case against ex-Detroit City Council aide and political consultant Sam Riddle ended in a mistrial Wednesday after one juror refused to convict, the Detroit News reported. The government said it will retry the case.

“On the steps of the federal courthouse, angry jurors said the holdout refused to deliberate and accused them of wanting to “hang the black man’,” they said,” according to the News.  The mistrial,  declared by U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn,  came on the 6th day of deliberations

The News reported that the jury foreman Matt Lefevre said the African American juror who held out had her mind set against conviction “before the (jury) door shut.”

Riddle was charged with shaking down business people along with his ex-boss City Council member Monica Conyers, wife of Rep. John Conyers. She has been convicted on public corruption charges and awaits sentence.

For Full Story

Ooops! TSA Apologizes for Making Boy Take Off Leg Braces at Airport Checkpoint

tsa_logo
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The Transportation Security Administration has apologized to a boy who was forced to take off his leg braces at the at Philadelphia International Airport, the Associated Press reported.

A Philadelphia Inquirer columnist wrote that Camden, N.J., police officer Bob Thomas said the incident happened in March when he and his wife were headed with 4-year-old son Ryan to Orlando, the AP reported.

AP reported that “TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis said the agency’s regional security director apologized to the Thomases on Friday.”

TSA to Have Roving Explosive Testers at Airports

Airport crowdBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The Transportation Security Administration is taking airport security up a notch.

USA Today reports that airport screeners in a few weeks will begin randomly going up to people at airport security checkpoint lines or at gates and taking chemical swabs from passengers and their bags to check for explosives. Metal detectors cannot detect such material.

The paper reported that the program has already been tested at five airports since the Christmas Day bombing incident in Detroit.

A private security analyst told USA Today that random checks will “create increasing uncertainty for the adversaries, which is always positive.”

To read more click here.

Nail Biting Continues in Detroit: Deliberations Enter 6th Day for Ex-Council Aide to Cong. John Conyer’s Crooked Wife

Sam Riddle/facebook

Sam Riddle/facebook

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The nail biting continues in Detroit where a federal jury on Wednesday is set to enter its sixth day of deliberations in the trial of Sam Riddle, an outspoken  former city council aide accused of shaking down business people along with his ex-boss, Council member Monica Conyers, wife of Congressman John Conyers.

The jury last week said it was at an impasse, but U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn directed it to continue deliberating.

The Detroit Free Press wrote that ” Riddle, meanwhile, continues to post various thoughts on Twitter that are open to interpretation.

“Late Tuesday night, he posted: “Musings: Lawyers that won’t represent should be cast aside. When is a deal not a deal? You’ll know when your lawyers say ‘be realistic.'”

Conyers wife Monica Conyers was convicted on public corruption charges and is no longer a city council member. She is awaiting sentencing.

Feds Don’t Want Attys For Right Wing Shock Jock to Mention That he Was an FBI Informant in 2nd Trial

Hal Turner/msnbc photo

Hal Turner/msnbc photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Fed prosecutors will take a second bite out of the apple next month and retry New Jersey right wing shock jock Hal Turner for allegedly threatening three appeals court judges in Chicago through inflammatory comments on his blog.

But this time prosecutors are asking the judge to bar Turner’s attorneys from disclosing  that he was an FBI informant — that is unless, they can present evidence through testimony from Turner himself, according to NorthJersey.com. He did not testify in the first trial.

If not, prosecutors wrote in a motion that “allowing argument or questioning of the government’s witnesses about [Turner’s] status as an informant is nothing but an irrelevant sideshow designed to distract and confuse the jury,” according to the website.

The first trial, which was moved from Chicago to Brooklyn,  ended in a mistrial after the jury deadlocked in December. Turner’s attorneys had argued that the FBI had taught Turner, as an informant, what he could and could not say.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Ex-D.C. Mayor Marion Barry Doing What He Does Best: Courting Trouble

Ex-D.C. Mayor Marion Barry

Ex-D.C. Mayor Marion Barry

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Trouble is a constant companion of Ex-D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, who is now a city council member.

Now the latest.

An independent report conducted by attorney William Bennett on behalf of the D.C. City Council has accused Barry of public corruption. The report says Barry  secured a $15,000 contract for an ex-girlfriend and then took a cut, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

“Barry obtained a contract for Donna Watts-Brighthaupt after lending her money to help pay her bills, according to a report delivered to the council by Washington lawyer Robert S. Bennett,” the Post reported. “To get some of his money back, Barry at one point delivered a city check to Watts-Brighthaupt, drove her to a bank and waited in the car until she came back with the cash.”

The paper said the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office has been looking at the matter and will review the report. Barry has denied wrongdoing.

To read more click here.

Justice Dept. Says NYPD Cops Off the Hook in Racially Charged Fatal Shooting

sean bell-websiteBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The New York City officers involved in the highly controversial fatal shooting of Sean Bell — he was shot 50 times on his wedding day in 2006 — are off the hook.

The Justice Department announced Tuesday there was insufficient evidence to file civil rights charges against the officers in the shooting of Bell and his two friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, who were wounded.

Three officers were acquitted of criminal charges in state court in 2008 in the shooting outside a Queens strip club. Bell, who was unarmed, was out with friends celebrating before his wedding. The shootings brought cries of outrage from the black community.

“Officials from the department’s Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the FBI met today with Bell’s family, his fiancée and their representatives to inform them of this decision, as well as with Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, friends of Bell who were wounded during the tragic incident,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

Read more »

For a Calif FBI Agent: When a Beer is Neither Here Nor There

beer

A Los Angeles Times report stirred up a lot of angry reader comments about an FBI agent shooting his gun at men who were trying to steal beer. The problem was: there was no beer and the real story appeared to be far more serious than reported. Here’s a detailed account.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The brief story posted on the Los Angeles Times web page last month said two men, who were being sentenced, had broken into a garage in Yorba Linda, Calif., looking to steal beer.  The garage happened to belong to an off-duty FBI agent, who confronted the men around 2 a.m.

One of the men struggled with the agent, who had identified himself as law enforcement. Afterward, both men fled in a car.

The agent,  identified as “James M” ,  “shot at the car as it drove away but neither man was injured,” the paper reported on its online edition on Jan. 5.

The paper also reported that the two men –Jeffrey  Michael Drach, 20, and Justin Wesley Case, 21 — were sentenced to two years in prison for residential burglary for the Nov. 18 incident.

The LA Times account was enough to trigger a barrage of negative comments online from agitated readers.

“So the FBI agent shoots at their car as they flee after trying to steal beer, and nothing happens to him? This is ridiculous,” read one of the typical reader responses.

Another reader wrote: “The FBI officer shot at their car as they drove away?! From an attempted beer-heist? Sounds like the FBI officer should be brought up on charges next.”

Perhaps the comments would have been totally justified, except for a few key facts:

For one, there was never any beer involved in the case, period, said the prosecutor and FBI. The door leading from the garage to the house was ajar. The agent’s wife and young child were inside.

Plus, after one of the men attacked and struggled with the agent, both men fled and hopped into a Ford pickup with the agent in pursuit.

“The driver of the vehicle allegedly turned his truck toward the agent,” according to the Orange County deputy district attorney Keith Bogardus. “The agent was acting in self defense.”

The article also failed to mention that the FBI has launched an internal review to determine whether the agent was justified in discharging his gun.  Had some readers known that, perhaps they may not have suggested that the matter was being swept under the rug.  (FBI policy essentially says agents can fire a gun if they fear that their life or others are in immediate danger).

The story is an example how the media in the Internet era can trigger an instant outpouring of online criticism in the community —  in this case against a federal agent — and how those quickly formed opinions often rely on a collection of facts,  which can sometimes be incomplete or not quite right.

Granted, any reporter will tell you it’s nearly impossible — particularly in this era of online immediacy — to always get things 100 percent, 100 percent of the time, and capture all the nuances. To boot, sometimes key details are not always available to a reporter.

That being said, the story caused some heartburn for the FBI, an agency hyper-sensitive about its image ever since the J. Edgar Hoover days.

“The public perception based on the coverage was that this was an out of control FBI agent rather than a victim who was home who happened to be an agent who was trying to protect his family, including his wife and baby,” said Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Times reporter for the story said she would consult with her editors before commenting, but did not respond after that. And the attorney who made the comment about the beer did not return a phone call for comment.  Eimiller said she called the paper to complain about the story, but declined to get into details.

The original story, first posted at 9:02 a.m., stated that officials had said the men were looking to steal beer from the Orange County home.

About 90 minutes later, at 10:37 a.m., the paper — instead of posting a correction- simply posted an “updated” version,  which said: “A previous version of this story stated that officials said the men were stealing beer, but it was an attorney who made the comment.”

The headline for the updated version read like this:  “Two O.C. men sentenced to prison for trying to steal beer from FBI agent’s garaged (Updated).”

Meanwhile, some agitated citizens continued to post critical remarks about the FBI agent and the beer.

“So the FBI agent shoots at their car as they flee after tying to steal beer, and nothing happens to him? That is ridiculous….The agent should be sentenced to prison for endangering the community and attempted murder.”

Not all the comments were critical of the FBI.

“I have no problem with the FBI agent(‘)s action,” wrote one reader. “He found strangers in his garage, he had a physical confrontation with one…..shoot away.”

In the mean time, the agent remains on active duty.

A request made to Eimiller to speak to the agent was declined. She said the matter is under internal investigation and it wouldn’t be wise for him to comment. She also asked that his name not be disclosed for his and his family’s safety.

“I can say he’s an agent with a great reputation,” she added.