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Column: Feds Drop Tainted Star Witness In Politicized NJ Witch-Hunt

Andrew Kreig is Executive Director of the Justice Integrity Project. Kreig has two decades experience as an attorney and non-profit executive in Washington, DC and is an author and longtime investigative reporter.

Andrew Kreig

By Andrew Kreig

The Justice Department is dropping its disreputable star witness in the latest trial of the 46-defendant “Bid Rig III” corruption case that helped propel former New Jersey U.S. Attorney Chris Christie to his state’s governorship last year. Christie’s image as a crime-fighting, cost-conscious reformer worthy of 2012 Presidential consideration has taken big hits during the last month.

More generally, the case illustrates a bipartisan pattern by which DOJ officials waste vast sums to help their cronies and themselves, with scant meaningful oversight by leaders of either party or career officials who lend their names to whitewashed internal investigations.

The first image-blow to the DOJ was the Oct. 27 acquittal of a former Ridgefield mayor after the defense exposed mind-boggling ways that Christie’s team funded bank fraudster and brothel owner Solomon Dwek to inveigle local political candidates, rabbis and others into corruption schemes.

Then the DOJ’s Inspector General Glenn Fine exposed Christie, right, on Nov. 9 as the nation’s leading abuser among federal prosecutors of wasting taxpayer money on government-funded trips that exceed spending limits.

Christopher Christie/campaign photo

Bid Rig III federal prosecutors last week removed Dwek for unexplained reasons from the witness list for the trial of former state assemblyman Harvey Smith, 61.

Authorities this week will try to prove in Newark’s federal courthouse that Dwek bribed Smith with $15,000 during the defendant’s unsuccessful 2009 campaign to become mayor of Jersey City.

To read more click here.

Nine Busted in Largest PCP Seizure in DEA History

PCP/dea file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Nine people have been busted in what authorities in Houston say is DEA’s largest seizure of the narcotic PCP in its history.

Authorities said it had seized 57 gallons of the drug which goes by street names including angel dust and rocket fuel. A grand jury indicted the nine people last month, and the indictment was unsealed Wednesday.

The Houston Chronicle reported that the seizure of such a large quantity “could signal the emergence of a huge new market for the drug, which was popular in some areas in the 1970s but keeps a far lower profile than cocaine, marijuana or other illegal substances, authorities said.”

“That represents a lot of money and a lot of users,” Stan Furce, director of Houston’s High Intensity Drug Traffic Area, a coalition of federal and local law-enforcement agencies that stretches to the coastal counties, told the paper.

“They almost don’t feel any pain,” Furce said of PCP users. “They become super agitated, rebellious and super strong. I would not want to go one-on-one against a PCP user … wild-eyed, scary-looking dudes.”

Democratic Senator Threatens to Put Confirmation of DEA’s Michele Leonhart on Hold

Sen. Herb Kohl/gov photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON –– The long winding road to confirmation as head of the DEA ain’t over yet for Michele Leonhart, who won the approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. She has been acting head of the agency since 2007 and must still win approval of the full Senate.

Evan Perez of the Wall Street Journal reports that Democratic Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wis.)is threatening to block her confirmation “amid a dispute over restrictions on how nursing homes dispense prescription drugs to patients.”

The Journal reports that the DEA has intensified its crackdown of nursing homes that dispense powerful prescription drugs by nurses and staff without doctor authorization.

The Journal reports that industry groups say nursing homes don’t have enough doctors present to prescribe drugs at every turn.

Sen. Kohl  said Wednesday he’ll put a hold on the nomination “until we have made more progress towards our goal of ensuring that nursing home residents get timely access to the prescription drug care they need,” the Journal reported.

“Every day nursing home patients continue to suffer from agonizing pain and we need an interim solution as soon as possible,” Kohl said, according to the Journal.

The DEA deferred to the White House for comment, the Journal reported, adding that the White House said it is looking into the matter.

President Nominates Christopher Thyer for U.S. Attorney in Ark.

Christopher Thyer

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday nominated Christopher R. Thyer, a former state lawmaker, for the U.S. Attorney post in the Eastern District of Arkansas.

According to a White House press release, Thyer has been a partner at Stanley & Thyer in Jonesboro, Ark., since 2007.

Before that, he was a partner at Halsey & Thyer, PLC from 2005 to 2007, and at Mooney Law Firm from 1997 to 2005.

From 1995 to 1997, he was a sole practitioner. He also served in the Arkansas House of Representatives as a State Representative for the 74th District from 2003 to 2009.

He attended the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1995.

Authorities Break Ground for New FBI Office in Portland

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Federal and local officials broke ground Wednesday for a new $60 million, four-story FBI field office in Portland, Ore., The Oregonian newspaper reported. It is third FBI field in the  nation under construction.

The new office is part of an effort by the FBI to update offices and make them more secure, the Oregonian reported. It said after Sept. 11, when the agency started adding more agents, the FBI found that 35 of its 56 field offices had insufficient security or no room to expand.

The Portland office is being built in the northeast sector of the city, near the Portland International Airport.

The Portland field office will consist of three buildings: a four-story office complex, a maintenance and repair annex and a 203- space parking structure, the Oregonian reported.

Office are also being built in Minneapolis and Cincinnati, the Oregonian reported.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Lee Harvey Oswald’s Coffin Goes on Auction (AP)
Delaware Jury Awards $30 Mil to Priest Abuse Victim (AOL News)
Snowman With Noose Appalls Idaho Neighbors (AP)
Court Rejects Appeal in Calif. Fatal Dog Mauling Case (AP)
Elizabeth Smart Storms From Courtroom During Psychiatrist’s Testimony (AP)
Phone Prankster Gets 5 Years in Prison (The Smoking Gun)
Justice Department Drops Probe of Sen. John Ensign (AP)
Pretrial Hearing Set in Blagojevich Case (AP)

Mary F. Rook Named Head of FBI’s Anchorage Office

Mary Rook/fbi photo By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Mary F. Rook, the chief in the FBI’s Training Division’s Law Enforcement Programs Section, will head the Anchorage Division, the agency announced Wednesday.

Rook began her FBI career in the laboratory as a serology technician in 1984. She became a special agent two years later and was assigned to the Milwaukee Division.

In 1990, she transferred to the Los Angeles Division where she investigated Mexican drug trafficking organizations.

Read more »

Senate Judiciary Gives Nod to Leonhart for DEA and Hylton for U.S. Marshal

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Michele Leonhart/dea photo

WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday gave the nod to Michele Leonhart to head the DEA and Stacia Hylton to head up the U.S. Marshals Service. The approval came by way of a voice vote on both presidential nominees.

The nominations now go before the full Senate for a final vote.

For Leonhart, who has been acting head of the DEA since 2007, the nod by the Judiciary brought her one step closer to getting the permanent post.

Some current and former DEA agents have complained that the Obama administration has been slow to push the confirmation through.

Thomas Harrigan Rumored to be Front Runner for #2 Spot at DEA

Thomas Harrigan/dea photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON —   The rumor mill has  Thomas M. Harrigan, chief of DEA operations, as the  front runner for the number two spot in the agency, according to people familiar with the situation.

The number two spot was held by Michele Leonhart, who has been acting head of the agency, and has been nominated for the permanent spot by President Obama.  On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee gave  her nomination the nod. She must still be confirmed by the full Senate.

The DEA declined comment on Wednesday on the number two spot in the agency.

In the past several months, other names that have surfaced for the number two spot include Anthony Placido, chief of intelligence, and John P. Gilbride, head of the N.Y. DEA.  However,  Placido has now opted to retire.

John Gilbride

Harrigan, who joined the DEA in 1987, heads up all domestic and foreign offices as well the Special Operations Division, the Aviation Division, and the Office of Diversion Control. He was appointed to the post in 2008.

Gilbride was appointed head of the N.Y. DEA in 2005. Prior to that, he headed up the Detroit office.