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Rep. Issa Wants Atty. Gen. Holder and Assist. Atty Gen Lanny Breuer to Testify on Fast and Furious

Blago: Just Another Crooked Ill. Pol or Someone to Be Made an Example of?

Ex-Gov on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Chatty ex-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich may have gotten an added stretch of freedom when a federal judge  in Chicago decided this week to delay his Oct. 6 sentencing date. But legal observers are convinced the reprieve is only temporary and that he’ll get some serious prison time. Predictions range from 8 to 25 years.

“I’m just giving voice to whats generally been a consensus in the community,” said Rodger Heaton, a former U.S. Attorney for Central Illinois and currently with the law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson, “but I’ve been hearing a projected estimate of eight to fifteen years. Some people have also said ten or 11.”

Dick Simpson, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois-Chicago and frequent commentator on local news, echoes those sentiments.

“My guess is ten to 15 years,” Simpson said in an phone interview. “You have to look at other similar cases, and in particular I’m looking at former Governor George Ryan.” Ryan, the Illinois governor immediately preceding Blagojevich, is serving a six-and-a-half-year sentence after being convicted on federal corruption charges in 2006, though sentencing guidelines counseled for more.

“You have to look at both, and you figure how much worse one was than the other,” said Simpson.

Blagojevich engaged with the national media in a way few criminal defendants have. He went on a lengthy tour of popular television news and talk shows like the Late Show with David Letterman and the Daily Show and pleaded his innocence.

Ex-U.S. Atty. Heaton/law firm photo

“In a sense, I have seen public officials who go on trial try to influence public perception,” said ex-U.S. Attorney Heaton, but Blagojevich’s errant behavior was something different. “I have not seen someone go on television talk shows, on reality shows,” the way Blagojevich has. “It is very unique to engage the popular media the way he has done.”

Though there is nothing in the federal sentencing guidelines that talks specifically about that sort of media engagement, says Heaton, it may significantly influence the sentencing judge’s perceptions of Blagojevich’s sense of remorse.

“Throughout, on his television appearances, he showed a failure to accept responsibility for his actions. He maintained his innocence and seemed to be willing to do anything to continue maintaining that,” said Heaton. “I think that will be one factor.”

In his first trial, Blagojevich was convicted on only 1 of 24 counts. The jury deadlocked on the remaining ones. But in the second trial, the prosecution trounced him, getting convictions on 17 of 20 counts. Technically, he faces up to around 250 years, but the sentencing guidelines call for far less. He has been free on $450,000 bond, having put up his North side Chicago home and a D.C. condo as collateral.

Some report that prosecutors will seek a 30 year sentence.

“[James Zagel, the sentencing judge] will be reasonably unhappy about the crime itself–he’s a former U.S. Attorney, a former state employee,” said Simpson, and he will not take kindly to a violation of the public trust. Still, most experts don’t predict the higher end of the sentencing. “You have violent crimes that get less than 30 years,” said Simpson.

Read more »

FBI Paid LA Sheriff’s Deputy $1,500 to Smuggle Phone to Inmate in Sting

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

The LA Times reports that a cell phone smuggled into the Los Angeles County jail to help document alleged inmate abuse was smuggled in by a county Sheriff’s deputy, who was paid about $1,500 as part of an FBI undercover sting.

Ticklethewire.com had previously written about the incident, noting the Sheriff’s displeasure with the Fed’s approach. Sheriff Lee Baca, the county’s top brass, was not notified about the FBI investigation into inmate abuse, which has caused a riff between the FBI and the county police. Baca will meet with U.S. Atty. Andre Birotte Jr. Tuesday to discuss the incident, which he calls a major safety breach.

“It’s illegal,”Baca said, according to the LA Times.  “It’s a misdemeanor and then there’s a conspiracy law that goes along with it.”

The deputy that aided the FBI was Gilbert Michel, 38, who did not know the inmate he was giving the phone to was an FBI informant, the Times reported.  Michel resigned shortly after being put on leave, according to the LA Times. Michel has not been charged with a crime but is now the subject of a criminal investigation by the Sheriff’s Department.

This is not the first investigation of LA County jails. To read more about the case and the context of the county jails, click here.

 

Three TSA Officers and 2 Cops Accused of Taking Bribes in Oxycodone Drug Ring

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Three TSA officers along with a Connecticut county cop and Florida state trooper were indicted in Connecticut Monday on charges of taking bribes to let powerful narcotics travel freely across the country, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The five were among 18 indicted in the drug conspiracy that involved the mass distribution of  oxycodone, authorities describe as a strong,  highly-addictive prescription narcotic.

“The facts of this case are troubling for two principal reasons,” U.S. Attorney David B. Fein said in a statement. “First, we allege that this organization was responsible for the transportation of tens of thousands of oxycodone pills, which, when abused, are dangerous narcotics that destroy individuals, families, and communities. Second, we allege that three officers of the Transportation Security Administration and two law enforcement officers accepted bribes in exchange for permitting the illegal drugs and the cash proceeds of the illegal drug trafficking to travel safely, undeterred by airport security or law enforcement.”

The bust was part of “Operation Blue Coast,” an investigation of the local DEA initiative in Bridgeport, Conn.: the Bridgeport High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force.

The investigation began in April of this year. The DEA task force received information that someone with a large amount of oxycodone was going from Palm Beach, Fla., to Stamford, Conn., to sell thousands of the pills.

That individual was arrested on April 8 in possession of approximately 6,000 oxycodone pills in Stamford.

The suspected drug trafficker  told agents that over the course of about a year he had regularly purchased the drug from suppliers in Florida, flown or driven it to Connecticut several times a week, carrying up to 8,000 pills per trip, and then sold it to Connecticut traffickers. Airline records confirmed he had traveled from Florida to New York at least 65 times between November of last year and April of this year.  From New York he paid drivers to take him to and from drug deals in Connecticut.

But here’s where law enforcement officials come in: according to the press release,

“The arrested individual also explained that, to ensure the success of the operation, he provided cash and gift cards to Christopher Allen and John Best, TSA officers who screened passengers and luggage at Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) in West Palm Beach, Fla., and Brigitte Jones, a TSA officer who screened passengers and luggage at Westchester County Airport (HPN) in White Plains, N.Y. …

He also said he made several payments, totaling more than $20,000, to Michael Brady, a Westchester County Police officer, in order to ensure that he could carry large quantities of cash, the proceeds of his drug trafficking, through airport security at HPN.  The individual further explained that he provided cash to Justin Kolves, a Florida State Trooper, and gave checks to Jessica Douglas, Kolves’ fiancée, in exchange for Kolves’ assurance that individuals who transported narcotics or currency on behalf of the individual would not be detained by law enforcement while driving through Central Florida.”

“The Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners have no tolerance for corruption in these ranks,” said U.S. Attorney Fein.

Ex-Secret Service Agent Daniel Bongino Running For Senate Talks About President

FBI Says Lasers Pointed at Aircraft Nearly Doubled in 2010


What appears as a dot of light on the ground can illuminate an entire cockpit, disorienting a pilot or causing temporary blindness/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

People pointing hand-held lasers at aircraft — an act that can temporarily blind or disorient a pilot —  nearly doubled in 2010 compared to the year before, the FBI says.

The FBI reported that in 2009 there were 1,489 laser incidents recorded by the Federal Aviation Administration compared to 2,836 in 2010, or an average of more than seven incidents daily.

In releasing the stats, the FBI cited Justin Stouder as an example.

The 24-year-old pointed a laser from his Suburban St. Louis yard at a helicopter last year and was arrested.

“It’s equivalent to a flash of a camera if you were in a pitch black car at night,” said St. Louis Metropolitan Police Officer Doug Reinholz, the pilot on patrol that night when Stouder’s green hand-held laser “painted” his cockpit, according to an FBI press release.

“It’s a temporary blinding to the pilot,” he said during a recent news conference highlighting the danger of lasers directed at airplanes and helicopters.

The penalties are stiff.

Interfering with the operation of an aircraft carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Since the FBI and Federal Aviation Administration began keeping records of laser events in 2004, “there has been an exponential increase every year,” said Tim Childs from the Federal Air Marshal Service, who serves as a liaison officer with the Bureau on laser issues.

The overwhelming number of the incidents involve green lasers—especially dangerous because the human eye is most susceptible to damage from the yellow-green light spectrum, the FBI said.

In the St. Louis case, Justin Stouder said at a news conference, according to the FBI: “I had no idea it illuminated the whole cockpit and blinded everybody inside…It was really a selfish mistake.”

FBI Shows Arrest of Someone Pointing a Laser

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

 
 

Blagojevich Sentencing Delayed, Few Surprised

facebook photo

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

U.S. District Judge James Zagel has delayed the Oct. 6 sentencing for former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich,  reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

The sentencing has been delayed because Judge Zagel is set to start a trial on October 3 for William Cellini, a Springfield power broker who himself is alleged to have extorted campaign contributions for Blagojevich.  That trial is expected to last beyond the October 6.

Blagojevich was convicted on 17 of 20 counts at his retrial, including trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he became president. The first trial ended with Blago being convicted on only 1 of 24 counts, with the jury deadlocking on the remainder.

Prosecutors are expected to seek a 30-year prison sentence, reports McClatchy.

The delay comes as no surprise to most following the case. Speaking to ticklethewire.com last week about a related story, legal expert and frequent television news commentator Jami Floyd predicted the delay because of the Cellini trial.

“A judge who’s in the middle of a big trial is not going to delay that trial for sentencing — no matter whom the defendant is,” she said. “I’m betting the former governor is going to have to get in line, with everyone else, to wait for the Judge’s calendar to open up.”

Blagojevich’s attorney Shelly Sorosky seemed to expect the delay too. “It’s not going to happen,” the Sun-Times had quoted him as saying before the announcement. “[To stop the Cellini trial] would taint the Cellini jury. I’m quite certain it will be continued,” he said.

A new sentencing date has yet to be set.

Criminals Pose as DEA Agents and Try to Scam Prescription Drug Users

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

How much would you pay to make the threat of  drug charges go away? Would you pay if you knew you were innocent?

These questions were not hypothetical for many. TMZ reports that Americans buying prescription drugs online have been the target of scammers posing as DEA agents. The phony agents would call purchasers and say they were indicted by foreign governments for the purchase of illegal drugs online. The con artists even used the names of real DEA agents.

Alarmed, consumers would often be willing to do what the fake agents asked to cooperate and make the charges go away. That’s when the scammers would ask for a civil penalty, a fee, to drop the charges.

So it went with one Hollywood producer. His lawyer spoke with the fake agents, and when they asked for the civil penalty, the lawyer became skeptical, TMZ reported. He recorded conversations with the fake agents and eventually turned over the tapes to the DEA, according to TMZ.

The DEA is now investigating the matter, having received numerous similar complaints over the last year, TMZ reported.

“We’re told the likelihood is … a number of people folded like a cheap suit when they received the call threatening prosecution and sent the money in, hoping the criminal case would go away,” reports TMZ.