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News Story

Judge Ellis in William Jefferson Corruption Case: Quirky, Caustic, Old School

Whatever you think of Judge Ellis, you can only come away with the thought that he’s a bright, no nonsense judge. A little full of himself? Well…you could probably conclude that as well. Closing arguments, which were scheduled for Tuesday, are now set for Wednesday.

alexandria-map

By Jonathan Tilove
New Orleans Times-Picayune
ALEXANDRIA, VA. — It was the last day of testimony in the government’s case against former Rep. William Jefferson and prosecution and defense attorneys, out of the jury’s hearing, were haggling over the relevance of a flow chart showing how some of the money allegedly exacted by the congressman’s family from business deals he aided in Africa ended up paying Harvard tuition for one of Jefferson’s daughters.

“Having paid some Harvard tuition, I doubt that it was worth it, ” said Judge T.S. Ellis III, Harvard Law School class of 1969. He went on to suggest that colleges these days largely serve a purpose once more capably performed by the military of quarantining adolescents from the broader society, while doing little to provide the classical education that was once their charge.

“We’re losing it, our culture, ” Ellis, 69, fretted from the bench. “In the old days every schoolboy could translate the Aeneid, ” he said, though he allowed he is not old enough to have been one of those schoolboys.

For Full Story

5 Detained in Fatal Shooting of U.S. Border Patrol Agent

The violence from drugs and border crossings continues. Is the only answer more agents and troops?

Border Patrol
By Richard Marosi
Los Angeles Times
SAN DIEGO — Mexican authorities have detained five people in connection with last week’s fatal shooting of a U.S. Border Patrol agent, but U.S. investigators have not said whether they are suspects in the case.

The detainees were arrested within two days after Robert Rosas, a three-year agency employee, was shot multiple times by suspected smugglers near the border fence.

One of the men, Ernesto Parra Valenzuela, 36, who was identified as the shooter, was injured and carrying a 9-millimeter handgun, according to police in Tecate, Mexico.

Parra and the four other detainees — believed to be immigrant smugglers and bandits who were near the crime scene Thursday night — are being held at the federal attorney general’s office in Tijuana.

In high-profile cross-border cases, the Mexican government frequently provides U.S. investigators access to suspects, but it is unclear whether U.S. agents have questioned the men.

For Full Story

Some Mexicans Want New Anti-Drug Strategy; Say This One is Failing

Understandably the drug violence in Mexico is making some people rethink the way that nation is fighting the drug war. But not offering an alternative is unacceptable. Plus, the U.S. still has to do more to help — particularly considering the most lucrative market for drugs is in the U.S. There have been more than 12,000 drug related deaths in Mexico in the past 2 1/2 years.

mexico-map21

By William Booth and Steve Fainaru
Washington Post Foreign Service
MEXICO CITY — President Felipe Calderón is under growing pressure to overhaul a U.S.-backed anti-narcotics strategy that many political leaders and analysts said is failing amid spectacular drug cartel assaults against the government.

There are now sustained calls in Mexico for a change in tactics, even from allies within Calderón’s political party, who say the deployment of 45,000 soldiers to fight the cartels is a flawed plan that relies too heavily on the blunt force of the military to stem soaring violence and lawlessness.

“The people of Mexico are losing hope, and it is urgent that Congress, the political parties and the president reconsider this strategy,” said Ramón Galindo, a senator and Calderón supporter who is a former mayor of Ciudad Juarez, a border city where more than 1,100 people have been killed this year.

For Full Story

85-Year Old Chicago Mobster Still Has Soft Spot for Al Capone

Chicago Mobster Sam Valpendesto may be 85. He may appreciate a good early bird special meal. And he may be eligible for a senior discount at the movies. But he’s still very dangerous, prosecutors insist. A judge agreed.

Al Capone/fbi photo

Al Capone/fbi photo

By MIKE ROBINSON
The Associated Press
CHICAGO –– Even at age 85, reputed mobster Sam Volpendesto clearly has a soft spot for the days when Al Capone was boss in Chicago’s ruthless mob scene. In wiretap recordings released by federal prosecutors Monday, he seems to delight in telling how he lived among “very dangerous people” and watched one mobster put a human body through a meat grinder.

Prosecutors argued that Volpendesto is still a dangerous man, and only six years ago set off a pipe bomb that demolished a video poker company in Chicago’s suburban Berwyn. No one was injured, but prosecutors said it was a warning to stay away from the mob’s gambling monopoly in the area.

The recordings made by a confidential informant in May 2005 are part of a sweeping federal racketeering case. Volpendesto, diminutive and white bearded, is among seven men accused of plotting to carry out burglaries, robberies, arsons and other crimes dating back to 2001.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier seemed to agree with prosecutors and on Monday denied bail for Volpendesto, who has pleaded not guilty to racketeering and other charges. He has sought bail several times since his arrest last summer.

For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Pirate Pleads Guilty to Illegally Distributing Slumdog Millionaire

slumdog_millionaire_poster1By Rachel Leven
ticklethewire.com

Not all pirates sail the perilous seas.

Take Pirate – film pirate that is — Owen Moody.

The 25-year-old from San Marcos, Calif., who navigated the Internet under the assumed names “Tranceyo” and “Gizmothekitty”, pleaded guilty last week in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to a copyright violation for distributing a pirated  copy of  the smash hit, “Slumdog Millionaire”.

Last year, Moody uploaded on piratebay.org the Academy Award winning film, which at the time had a limited U.S. release and was not yet on DVD.  He also posted links to that upload at two other sites, authorities said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Ofice said Moody first discovered the film  on the website funfile.org  and distributed it after realizing it was “not readily available to the general public”.

The pirated film originated from a digital copy of a “screener” intended for review by a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for “voting consideration”, authorities said.

Moody is scheduled to be sentenced before U.S. District Judge Gary A. Feess on Oct. 5 and could get up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service.

Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi, co-founder of the  Swedish based website,  The Pirate Bay, where the film was posted, was generally critical on Monday of government crackdowns on the distribution of  materials on the website.

“If users (post) to our website and it turns out it was data that was not legal to spread, they should talk to their government and make sure the government realizes they are ruining the Internet, the culture and also the freedom of speech,” he said in an email to ticklethewire.com. “It’s very important to be able to share material, any type of material. I would consider it a human (right).”

FBI Dir. Mueller Dedicates New FBI Building in Louisville

Robert Mueller III/file photo

Robert Mueller III/file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

FBI Director Robert Mueller III sprinkled a little wit and humor in a speech he delivered Monday during the dedication of the new $40 million, three-story FBI building in Louisville just south of I-64.

“Having had a chance to tour the new space, I am doubtful that any of you will request a transfer to Headquarters anytime soon,” Mueller said. ” Actually, I am thinking of requesting a transfer to Louisville.”

“Kentucky is home to ‘the fastest two minutes in sports.’ In that spirit, I will keep my remarks brief. But first, I would like to recognize some of the many individuals who guided this project every step of the way.”

He went on to thank the people involved in building the facility and then said:

“The Louisville office was permanently established in June of 1935. The main challenges to law enforcement at that time were bank robbers and violent gangsters, who made a habit of crossing state lines to evade local law enforcement. This was captured well in the recent movie Public Enemies, though it is a safe bet that most of the real-life criminals did not look like Johnny Depp.”

“The threats we face today have changed dramatically. Today, the agents, task force officers, and analysts working inside this building investigate everything from cyber crime to organized crime; from public corruption to espionage; and from violent gangs to terrorism. As threats have evolved, so has our approach to law enforcement.

“It has become clear that no one agency, community, or even country can prevent crime and terrorism on its own. We must sit at one table. We must work as one team. This new building allows us to do just that.”

To Read Full Text of His Statement

7 Charged With Terrorism in North Carolina

The U.S. Attorney in North Carolina said it was a reminder that terrorists “can grow and fester right here at home.” The question is, how much of a threat were these people? Hopefully in coming days and weeks we’ll get a sense.

fbi map

fbi map

By The Associated Press

A North Carolina man trained in Pakistan and Afghanistan has been charged along with six of his alleged recruits with conspiring to support terrorism and traveling overseas to participate in “violent jihad,” according to an indictment unsealed Monday in Raleigh, N.C.

Daniel Patrick Boyd, 39, and the six other men were arrested Monday and made their first appearances in Raleigh, charged with providing material support to terrorism.

“These charges hammer home the point that terrorists and their supporters are not confined to the remote regions of some far away land but can grow and fester right here at home,” U.S. Attorney George E.B. Holding said in a statement. He declined further comment.

For Full Story

Read FBI Press Release

Justice Dept. Hopes to Close Anthrax Case Soon

One year after scientist Bruce Ivins killed himself, the department is trying to close up the case. But there are still some folks who believe that Ivins was not the culprit. Is this one of those cases that will continue to produce conspiracy theories that go far beyond this one scientist?

Suspect Bruce Ivins
Suspect Bruce Ivins

By Devlin Barrett
The ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON — A year after government scientist Bruce Ivins killed himself while under investigation for the lethal anthrax letters of 2001, the Justice Department is on the verge of closing the long, costly and vexing case.

Several law enforcement officials told the Associated Press that the department tentatively planned last week to close the case but backed away from that decision after government attorneys said they needed more time to review the evidence and determine what further information can be made public without compromising grand jury secrecy or privacy laws.

For Full Story