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September 2022


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

News Story

Parker: Congress’s Brutal Sequester of Federal Defenders Offices Harms Law Enforcement

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office. He is the author of the book “Carving Out the Rule of Law: The History of the United States Attorney’s Office in Eastern Michigan.

Ross Parker

By Ross Parker

Congress has modified the Miranda rights:

You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, an attorney will be appointed to represent you, that is, if he or she is not furloughed, laid off or too busy to pay any attention to you.

The initial reaction by some federal prosecutors and agents to the disproportionate and devastating sequestration cuts imposed on Federal Defenders Offices by Congress’s absurd sequester might have ranged from indifference to outright glee. But the reality is that the crisis for that program has harmful implications for the government’s side of the aisle in addition to undermining criminal defendants’ rights. The cuts result in hidden costs to the public and will damage both public safety and the rule of law.

In the 2013 fiscal year FDOs were forced to impose over 100.000 furlough hours on their staff, an average of about four weeks of unpaid leave per person. Many offices have permanently laid off attorneys and staff, including investigators. They have terminated future involvement in death penalty cases as well as curtailed representing complex fraud defendants and in other time consuming and expensive cases. Most have greatly curtailed or eliminated expenses for experts, investigations, and interpreters.

In contrast the Department of Justice has gotten off relatively lightly by being allowed to reallocate its budget in order to avoid most furloughs with some belt tightening. No such clemency for defense attorneys.

FDO caseloads have been creeping up for years because of Congress’s decisions not to allow defense budgets to keep up with DOJ’s. Decimating their budget further can only pile on more cases to this crushing load. A diehard FDO attorney told me recently that work he used to love had become so oppressive that he was casting about for any kind of employment to escape the impossible demands.

That’s the bad news for FDOs. The really bad news is that starting on October 1st in Fiscal Year 2014, the cuts will double. Many offices will be forced to lay off from one-third to one-half of their offices. They may be the lucky ones because those left will inherit a crippled system incapable of functioning effectively even with reduced caseloads. The Attorney General has stated that the cuts threaten the integrity of the criminal justice system to ensure due process.

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Brothers, Father Accused of Running Small Texas Town with Retaliation, Intimidation

Steve Neavling

When it comes to politics in the small Texas town of Progreso, it’s safe to say the Vela family flexed some muscle.

Omar Vela, 35, is the town’s mayor. His brother, Michael Vela, 28 (pictured), is the president of the school board. And their father, Jose Guadalupe Vela, 64, works in management at the school district.

All three are accused of participating in a “pay-to-play” scheme involving contractors, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

Following an FBI investigation, the trio were charged in federal court Wednesday with conspiracy, mail fraud, theft and bribery.

Special Agent Ricardo Ale testified in court Wednesday that the men ruled through intimidation and retaliation.

The border town of Progreso has a population of about 5,000.

Man Gets 15 Years in Prison for Pulling Gun on FBI Agent

FBI stock photo

Steve Neavling

Here’s a little unsolicited advice: Don’t pull a gun on an FBI agent.

That’s what a Mississippi man learned after he was sentenced to 15 years in prison late last month, the Associated Press reports.

Eugene Bernardini, 38, bumped into a car in Olive Branch and then pulled a gun on the occupants.

One of those occupants turned out to be FBI Special Agent Thomas Barlow, who quickly disarmed Bernardini before the man pulled out a knife and fled in his car.

Bernardini was arrested later that day.

Ex-Secret Service Gets 5 Years for Plot of Kidnap Judge

Correction: The original story said that James Bartee pleaded guilty. He was actually convicted by a Oconee County jury in 2013. 
Steve Neavling

James Bartee, a former Secret Service agent, wanted so much to be sheriff that he was allegedly was willing to pay an informant to kidnap a former judge who was going to challenge his credentials for the sheriff position, the Associated Press reports.

The 55-year-old, who spent more than two decades with the U.S. Secret Service, was running for Oconee County sheriff when authorities said he was concerned a former judge would reveal during a hearing that Bartee didn’t have the qualifications for the top law enforcement position.

Bartee ended up allegedly paying an informant to kidnap the former judge.

He was found guilty of solicitation to commit a felony and sentenced to five years in prison and five years of probation.

Coalition of Civil Rights Groups Calls for Congressional Hearings on DEA Surveillance

Steve Neavling

Revelations that the DEA uses NSA data to investigate non-terrorism cases against Americans has prompted a coalition of two dozen civil rights groups to call for congressional hearings, Reuters reports.

The call for hearings comes after Reuters revealed that the DEA uses telephone surveillance from the NSA to build criminal cases against Americans.

“The implications of the Reuters revelations are serious and far-reaching,” the groups wrote Thursday to Congressional leaders on judiciary, homeland security and oversight committees, the wire service reported.

“For too long Congress has given the DEA a free pass,” said Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Our hope is that Congress does its job and provides oversight of an agency that has a long track record of deeply troubling behavior.”

Federal Agents Help Phoenix Police Make 17 Gang-Related Arrests

stock photo

Steve Neavling

A Phoenix apartment complex was rife with gang activity.

So says federal agents and local police after arresting 17 people on gang-related charges following a yearlong investigation, the Arizona Republic reports.

Authorities said they found drugs, weapons and two top gang leaders.

“These individuals sought to take over the neighborhood,” Phoenix Assistant Chief Sandra Renteria said.

Authorities said the men openly sold drugs and intimidated apartment dwellers.


It’s Official: James B. Comey Becomes the 7th FBI Director

FBI photo

By Allan Lengel

Wednesday marked the start of a new era for the FBI.

After 12 years at the helm, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III was replaced by James B Comey.

As noted on the FBI website, Attorney General Eric Holder administered the oath of office at 4:32 p.m., making Comey the seventh director.

“I know Jim brings an impeccable sense of judgment, a commitment to innovative methods and tools, and a lifetime of experience to this new role—which is critical to the protection of our nation and its citizens,” said Attorney General Holder. “As a seasoned prosecutor, a proven leader, and a faithful advocate for the American people—and for the rule of law—I am confident that Jim Comey will continue to uphold the standards of excellence and integrity that the FBI’s outgoing Director, Bob Mueller, helped to establish.”


Boetig, Expert in Cyber Threats, Named Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Buffalo

SAC Boetig

Steve Neavling 

An expert on cyber threats will serve as Special Agent in Charge of the FBI office in Buffalo, reports Buffalo News.

Brian P. Boetig, former director of the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force, was named Tuesday as the new head of the Buffalo office.

Boetig’s career with the FBI began in 1998. He worked as an instructor at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, and as an FBI Counterterrorism Division Liaison Officer to the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, Buffalo News wrote.

Before joining the FBI, Boetig served as a police officer in Auburn, Alabama.

Boetig replaced Christopher Piehota, who departed in April to take the position of director of the Terrorist Screening Center in Washington D.C.