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Columnist: DEA Agent Joe Piersante “Is Every American’s Hero”

BY MARY ALICE POWELL
Toledo Blade Columnist

At the Adrian College vs. Kalamazoo College game last weekend the band played the Star Spangled Banner as it always does. Spectators on both sides of the field rose to their feet as the flag was raised, as is expected.

But at this game a wave of patriotism larger than usual swept over the stadium when Joe Piersante walked onto the field and held his right hand over his heart as the national anthem was played.

Adrian College proudly claims Special Agent Joe Piersante as its hero and honored him at the game and two nights previous at the annual president’s dinner. Joe graduated in 1991 from Adrian with a degree in criminal justice. According to Coach Mike Duffy, Joe was a valuable linebacker on the team and still holds the four-year tackle record.

To be accurate, Joe is every American’s hero for what he did for our country and for what he must endure the rest of his life.

Joe was blinded by gunfire in Afghanistan when he was serving as a special agent in the Drug Enforcement Administration on Oct. 30, 2011.

During the short time I chatted with Joe at a pre-game reception before his football pals crowded around him, it was clear that he was honored to be back on campus and appreciates the attention from his alma mater, but he does not want to be drenched with sympathy. Only once did he refer to his blindness.

To read the full column click here.

 STORIES OF OTHER INTEREST

 

 

 

Obama Has Granted Clemency More Rarely Than Any Modern President

By Dafna Linzer
ProPublica

 A former brothel manager who helped the FBI bust a national prostitution ring. A retired sheriff who inadvertently helped a money launderer buy land. A young woman who mailed ecstasy tablets for a drug-dealing boyfriend, then worked with investigators to bring him

All of them and hundreds more were denied pardons by President Obama, who has granted clemency at a lower rate than any modern president, a ProPublica review of pardons data shows.

The Constitution gives the president unique power to forgive individuals for federal offenses. While pardons do not wipe away convictions, they can restore a person’s full rights to vote, possess firearms and obtain business licenses, as well as remove barriers to certain career opportunities and adoptions. For many applicants, a pardon is simply an opportunity for a fresh

But Obama has parceled out forgiveness far more rarely than his recent predecessors, pardoning just 22 individuals while denying 1,019.

He has given pardons to roughly 1 of every 50 individuals whose applications were processed by the Justice Department. At this point in his presidency, Ronald Reagan had pardoned 1 of every 3 such applicants. George H.W. Bush had pardoned 1 in 16. Bill Clinton had pardoned 1 in 8. George W. Bush had pardoned 1 in 33.

Read more »

Secret Service Agent on President’s Detail Apparently Committed Suicide

By Jonathan Allen
Politico

WASHINGTON –– A member of the president’s Secret Service protective detail, who was being investigated for having an unreported romantic relationship with a foreign national, was found dead Saturday in an apparent suicide, according to law enforcement sources.

The official cause of Rafael Prieto’s death is still pending.

The investigation had led to the suspension of his access to Secret Service facilities, according to sources familiar with the case.

The Secret Service does not believe that Prieto passed any sensitive or classified information to the Mexican woman, according to a senior law enforcement official. Instead, Prieto was in the midst of an “administrative process” related to his ongoing relationship, the source said.

To read more click here.

 

Weekend Series on Crime History: The Philly Mob

http://youtu.be/iJlF6LRtkaw

Defense Attorney Still Questions Whether FBI Agent’s Text Messages Were Destroyed: Govt. Says It Did Nothing Wrong

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
The legal battle between the defense and prosecution is heating up in an undercover FBI sting into gun trafficking in the Philippines.

The battle began when deputy Federal Defender John Littrell in Los Angeles accused a a California undercover FBI agent of using taxpayer dollars to pay for prostitutes in the Philippines for himself and targets of the sting. The agent, in court papers, adamantly denied the allegation.

Then Littrell filed a motion last month alleging that the government only saved incoming text messages the FBI agent received from the targets, but didn’t save the ones that the agent sent out to the targets. Littrelle suggested the government may have intentionally destroyed the texts, which might be of  help in proving entrapment.

The government in a document filed on Oct. 24, said  that the undercover phone, which was a pre-paid phone purchased in the Philippines, was not capable of saving outgoing messages the agent sent to the defendants.

The government also noted that another phone used by the agent was lost in a cab in the Philippines and was not recovered.

“The government acted in good faith at all times, and there is no reason to believe that the agents’ outgoing texts were exculpatory in any way, particularly in light of the very incriminating nature of the defendants’ email, text, and other communications to the agent,” the government wrote.

But on Thursday, defense attorney Littrell, who represents one of three defendants, Sergio Syjuco, wrote in a motion:

In its opposition, the government admits that the undercover agent failed to preserve any of the outgoing text messages he sent during the 18-month investigation in this case. The government’s excuse for the undercover agent’s failure to preserve his outgoing messages from September 2010 to May 2011 (the “first phone”) was that  he lost the phone in a taxi in Manila. Its excuse for the undercover agent’s failure to preserve his outgoing text messages from May 2011 to January 5, 2012 (the “second phone”), was that the “undercover phone did not save outgoing text messages, and they are “not available on the undercover telephone.” The government does not explain why messages are unavailable on the second phone, and it does not attach a declaration from the agent. It does not rule out the possibility that the undercover agent deliberately lost the first phone, or deleted the messages or altered the settings on the second phone to prevent it from saving outgoing texts. The government says only that “there were no messages in the “sent” box.” This explanation is not complete, and it is not convincing.

The fight continues. Stay tuned.

Megaupload founder Dotcom Taunts FBI with New Web Site

 
Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Nearly a year after the FBI raided Kim Dotcom, the creator of the file sharing giant Megaupload, the New Zealand man is taunting federal officials with a new site, Computer World reports.

On Tuesday, Dotcom unveiled a teaser page, Kim.com, that is riddled with insults to the U.S. and vows to soon offer file sharing.

“Mr. President, the war on the Internet has begun,” his web page reads. “Hollywood is in control of politics. The government is killing innovation.”

Dotcom was arrested in January on accusations that his Megaupload site allowed for illegal file sharing.

Dotcom is free of jail on $30 million bond.

STORIES OF OTHER INTEREST

Report: Homeland Security Employees Are Disproportionately Affected by Low Morale

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Department of Homeland Security is plagued with low morale, much more so than other federal agencies, according to a Department of Homeland Security report.

The report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office urges the DHS to determine the reason for low morale and solve the problem.

“GAO found that despite having broad performance metrics in place to track and assess DHS employee morale on an agencywide level, DHS does not have specific metrics within the action plans that are consistently clear and measurable,” the GAO report concluded.

The report examined four agencies within DHS: ICE, TSA, Border Protection and the Coast Guard.

Job satisfaction, according to the report, is being affected by perceptions of low pay and unfairness of performance evaluations.

Committee Trying to Narrow Selection for Chicago U.S. Attorney

Jonathan Bunge/law firm photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A selection committee in Illinois is working to whittle down the list of potential candidates for Chicago U.S. Attorney, a post that was vacated by Patrick Fitzgerald.

Chicago Sun-Times reporters Natasha Korecki and Kim Janssen wrote about the following  candidates:

Jonathan Bunge, a former deputy chief of the U.S. attorney’s general crimes section in Chicago, who now works with the Kirkland & Ellis law firm.

Zach Fardon, who prosecuted former Gov. George Ryan in Chicago and was first assistant U.S. attorney in Nashville before going into private practice with Latham and Watkins in Chicago.

Lori Lightfoot, who is the only female and only minority on the list. Lightfoot is one of the city’s leading African-American attorneys and was once the chief administrator at the Chicago Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards. Lightfoot works with the Mayer Brown law firm.

Gil Soffer, who worked in Washington, D.C., under former Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip, who is co-chair of the selection committee, has served as a commissioner on the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission. The Harvard Law graduate is National Co-Head of White Collar Defense, Internal Investigations and Compliance Practice at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP.

The reporters also wrote:

The list does not include two candidates who insiders believed would be among the finalists — U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall, who has traveled the world educating other jurisdictions on how to institute laws and prosecutorial practices against sex trafficking and child exploitation, and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Collins, who spearheaded Operation Safe Road, which led to charges against Ryan — one of the most significant investigations in the history of the office.