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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.

A New Mob Bus Tour in N.Y. That Will Include Some Oldies But Badies

To the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office, the characters were voices on wiretaps or investigative files or criminal case numbers. To the public, they still represent a slice of fascination.

Father John J. Gotti

Father John J. Gotti

BY Erica Pearson
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

That Starbucks over there? Used to be the scene of one of the city’s most notorious mob hits.

This trendy Nolita shoe shop? It was once John Gotti’s hangout, the Ravenite Social Club, where many a bloody murder was planned.

Starting next month, John (Cha Cha) Ciarcia hopes to bring some of the city’s old gangland history back to life with a new bus tour.

“Everybody loves the mob,” said Ciarcia, a restaurateur, radio host and actor who had a bit part in “The Sopranos.” “We’d like to give them a taste of history in the mob.”

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Ex-FBI Agent Says Shooting Detroit Imam 20 Times Was Justified

Greg Stejskal

Greg Stejskal

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Retired FBI agent Greg Stejskal, a columnist for ticklethewire.com, tells the Detroit News that he thinks agents acted appropriately when they fatally shot an imam 20 times during an October raid in Dearborn, Mi, after the imam shot and killed an FBI dog.

“Once you’ve made the decision to use deadly force, you fire until the threat is eliminated,” Stejskal told the News. He said he studied the medical examiner’s report and media reports and spoke to FBI agents.

Stejskal spent more than 20 years on the Detroit FBI’s SWAT and now teaches at the police academy at Washtenaw Community College.

Agents shot and killed Detroit imam in the warehouse raid that was part of a probe into stolen goods.

The News reported that Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Michigan, “said he wants to wait and review the investigative reports of the shooting and have an independent pathologist review the medical examiner’s report.”

“The reality is that none of us were at the scene,” he told the News. “We really don’t know what happened.”

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Christmas Day Bomber Read Rights 9 Hours — Not 50 Minutes– After His Arrest, Administration Says

Suspect Abdulmutallab/u.s. marhsals photo

Suspect Abdulmutallab/u.s. marhsals photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The political bickering and posturing over the questioning of the Christmas Day bomber continued in true Washington fashion Sunday.

Ex-Vice President Dick Cheney, who some may view as being on a campaign to prop up or save his legacy, went on ABC and said the administration should have considered everything up to waterboarding when questioning the infamous Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Then Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) went on Fox and criticized the administration for reading the bomber his Miranda rights “within 50 minutes”.

Then on Sunday, according to the Washington Post, “senior administration officials” released information saying that the bomber was read his Miranda rights 9 hours — not 50 minutes — after his arrest.

After 50 minutes of questioning, the story goes, medical personnel said his condition had deteriorated to the point questioning was no longer possible.

Then nine hours later, the Post reports:”New FBI agents meet with Abdulmutallab in his hospital room. He says he will not answer their questions and “acted like a jihadi. He is read his Miranda rights.”

To Read Full Story click here.

Ex-FBI Agent and Justice Official Allan Kornblum Who Helped Create Surveillance Act

justice logo2By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Allan Kornblum, 71, a Florida federal magistrate, an ex-FBI agent who worked on civil rights cases in the 1960s, and a Justice Department official credited with writing key passages of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act  (FISA), died last week of cancer in Gainesville, Fla., the Washington Post reported.

Kornblum, a former New York City cop, worked for the FBI in the 1960s and joined the U.S. Justice Department in 1975 to “write the FBI’s guidelines for domestic security and counterintelligence work,” wrote Post reporter Patricia Sullivan.

“He was appointed three years later by then-Attorney General Griffin Bell to handle all FBI and National Security Agency wiretap applications as deputy counsel for the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review,” the Post wrote.

In May 2003, he became a U.S. magistrate judge in Florida and “worked until a week before his death,” the Post reported.

To read more click here.

Column: The Rich Irony of the Fall of a Louisiana State Sen. and His Ties to Bill Jefferson

Allan Lengel

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Sometimes public corruption — particularly in Louisiana  — has a way of making you snicker — at least for a moment.

The sentencing in U.S. District Court in New Orleans of ex-State Sen. Derrick Shepherd on Thursday to 37 months in prison for money laundering made me think of the rich irony of his downfall and his ties to disgraced ex-Congressman William Jefferson.

Back in October 2006, as a reporter for the Washington Post, I attended a candidate debate at the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel in the French Quarter in New Orleans  for the 2nd Congressional District where Rep. William Jefferson was making a bid for a 9th term.

At the time, Jefferson was under FBI investigation, but had yet to be indicted.

During the debate, which was attended by citizens and local and national media, the challengers kept taking shots at Jefferson, making references to his FBI investigation, implying his problems made it impossible for him to effectively represent the electorate in the fragile post-Katrina era.

Ex-Sen. Shepherd/senate photo

Ex-Sen. Shepherd/senate photo

One of those challengers happened to be Sen. Shepherd.

At one point, Jefferson could take  no more. He started attacking the integrity of the challengers and when he got to Shepherd, he strongly hinted of an ethical breach, saying:  “I will not say what we have to talk about there. But if pushed I will.”

Jefferson went on to beat Shepherd in the primary and eventually won re-election. (Jefferson lost a bid for a 10th term.)

And two years later, in 2008,  Shepherd pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering after helping previously convicted bond broker Gwendolyn Moyo launder $141,000 from the sale of bogus bonds, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.  Shepherd kept nearly half the money.

Interestingly, the indictment said Jefferson had steered Shepherd to Moyo after he lost in the 2006 primary to Jefferson. (Jefferson was not charged in that case).

And just as interesting, after Shepherd lost in the 2006 primary, he decided to endorse Jefferson in the main election, the guy he had previously declared was crooked and couldn’t be effective as a Congressman while under FBI investigation.

Interesting how all that works.

As we know, Jefferson was eventually indicted and convicted last Fall of  multiple public corruption counts stemming from many crooked business dealings over the years. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison. He is free pending his appeal.

Hopefully, Jefferson and Shepherd will get the opportunity to spend some quality time together behind bars.

I’m sure they’ll  be able to appreciate the rich irony of it all.