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News Story

Federal Judges Beginning to Equalize Punishment for Crack Cocaine

This has long been one of the unfair disparities in sentencing. No question crack cocaine has plagued urban America and destroyed neighborhoods and lives. But should crack have ever been treated differently than powdered cocaine when it came to sentencing?

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
crack-cocaine-deaWASHINGTON — Federal judges are beginning to equalize punishment for crack and powder cocaine crimes, resulting in shorter prison terms for crack dealers and putting pressure on Congress to address a wide disparity in how the legal system handles cocaine-related offenses.

In two recent rulings and interviews, a federal judge in the District and one in Iowa said they had policy differences with Congress and a judicial commission that they said did not go far enough to change the guidelines for crack sentences in 2007.

For Full Story

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Detroit U.S. Atty. Berg Defends Time it Took to Charge Council Member Monica Conyers

U.S. Atty. Terrence Berg/doj photo
U.S. Atty. Terrence Berg/doj photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
For the past several years, the FBI and U.S. Attorney had been probing political corruption in Detroit City Hall, but no indictments came, just reports in the press that something was percolating.

What did come were plenty complaints from the community that the feds were dragging their feet, and that it was hurting the city.

In March, Adolph Mongo, a Detroit political consultant and former aide to the late mayor Coleman A. Young, told the Detroit Free Press: “There’s a cloud over this city.”

“Whatever’s going to happen should have happened. People just want the shoe to drop.”

On Friday, the first shoe dropped when city council member Monica Conyers pleaded guilty to taking bribes in connection with a city sludge hauling contract. No more council members will be charged in connection with that contract.

But more public corruption indictments are expected later this year. Word is those indictments could come by October, according to sources.

Feeling the pressure to defend federal authorities for taking so long to come up with the first set of charges, U.S. Attorney Terrence Berg issued a statement on Friday:

“This investigation took just under two years from the time we first discovered the possibility of misconduct by Ms. Conyers until her plea of guilty today.

“This may seem like a long time to people who are not familiar with the complexity and difficulties of federal public corruption investigations, but the citizens of Detroit and of the whole Eastern District of Michigan deserved a thorough and fair investigation that would lead to a successful outcome.”

Ecstasy Pills Showing Up in Shapes Like Bart Simpson and Snoopy

They look innocent enough. And that is what is scaring local and federal authorities.

bart-simpson

By JOE LAMBE
The Kansas City Star
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Drugs shaped like Snoopy, Transformers and President Barack Obama’s head recently showed up on Kansas City area streets, adding to a trend that worries police and health experts.

Colorful Ecstasy pills started showing up last year shaped as Homer and Bart Simpson, Ninja Turtles and other characters. As more of the pills that look like vitamins or candy go out locally and nationwide, they put children at great risk, police and experts said.

“Someone leaves this around … kids pick them up and boom,” said H. Westley Clark, director of the federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.

The result could be seizures, a spiked blood pressure and heart rate and even death, he said.

Last month, Drug Enforcement Administration officials in Nevada sent out warnings that the cartoon pills were in Las Vegas. Dealers there call Ecstasy “Thizz” and market it to minors, the DEA warned. They also said they had found pills shaped like Ninja Turtles, Transformers and other Simpsons characters.

For Full Story

First Female Native American U.S. Atty. Diane Humetewa Will Soon Lose Job

U.S. Atty. Diane Humetewa
U.S. Atty. Diane Humetewa

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON —   The first female Native American to serve as a U.S. Attorney is expected to soon step down, according to Indian Country  Today.

Indian Country Today newspaper reported that U.S. Attorney Diane J. Humetewa of Arizona will step down ” not because she’s doing a bad job, either. Instead, she will become a casualty of the political appointee process that comes with each new presidential administration.”

At the time of her appointment in December 2007 “Indian country found big reason to celebrate”, the publication noted.

The publication said that  many of  the U.S. Attorneys who were fired during the Bush years were “strong in the area of tribal justice”. It said Humetewa helped to fill that void.

Her replacement is expected to be Dennis Burke, a former aide to then Gov Janet Napolitano, who  now heads up the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Movie Review: The Man Who Got J. Edgar Hoover’s Attention: John Dillinger

John Dillinger drove the FBI nuts, robbing banks with a machine gun in tow. Now actor Johnny Depp plays Dillinger in the movie “Public Enemies”. Here’s a trailer and a review below.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=og_gKBi7Od8


By Richard Corliss
Time

To become rich and famous in the depression ’30s, a fellow could make movies, play baseball or rob banks. John Dillinger chose Way 3, and for a while he enjoyed the celebrity of a Clark Gable or a Lou Gehrig.

Newspapers breathlessly limned his exploits as he made sizable withdrawals from vaults throughout the Midwest, using his machine gun as collateral.

But killing cops puts a man at greater risk than hitting a homer or kissing the girl. Dillinger stirred the hunter’s blood in J. Edgar Hoover, the young director of the FBI, and Hoover’s most resourceful agent, Melvin Purvis.

They, and Dillinger too, knew that a life of crime was not a profession from which one gracefully retired. Purvis and his team caught up with their public enemy as he emerged from a theater showing a Gable gangster film. The real-life tough guy was 31 when he died on that Chicago street.

For Full Review

Cong. John Conyer’s Wife Pleads Guilty to Taking Bribes

Monica Conyers had become such a divisive figure in the city. Frankly, it’s no loss to the city and it’s a disgrace that politicians in such a poor city like Detroit are lining their pockets, looking out  for what’s best for themselves. The acting U.S. Attorney said this marks the end of the FBI probe into the  city council and a  sludge hauling contract. But this certainly isn’t the end of public corruption indictments that some say could come this October.

Monica Conyers/council photo

Monica Conyers/council photo

Paul Egan
Detroit News Staff
DETROIT — Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Monica Conyers pleaded guilty to a felony today in connection with the city sludge contract hauling scandal. Detroit’s top federal prosecutor said no other City Council members would be charged in connection with the contract.

Conyers, 44, spoke softly in federal court as she admitted taking bribes in connection with the $1.2 billion Synagro Technologies Inc. contract the Detroit City Council awarded in 2007.

Conyers changed her position from opposing to supporting the deal to cast the deciding vote.

Conyers could be facing about three years in prison under her plea agreement. Her attorney, Steve Fishman, believes federal sentencing guidelines of 30-37 months apply.

For Full Story

Read  charging document and plea agreement.

Say it Ain’t So: People Who Pose National Security Risk Retain Aviation License

Jet

It never ceases to amaze how many things still slip through the cracks in the post-9/11 era. Things like this obviously shouldn’t slip through the cracks. As Ricky Ricardo would say, the government has some “splainin to do”.

By MATTHEW L. WALD
New York Times
WASHINGTON — At least six men suspected or convicted of crimes that threaten national security retained their federal aviation licenses, despite antiterrorism laws written after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that required license revocation. Among them was a Libyan sentenced to 27 years in prison by a Scottish court for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie.

In response to questions from The New York Times, the Transportation Security Administration, which is supposed to root out such individuals, announced that the Federal Aviation Administration suspended the licenses on Thursday.

The two agencies appeared to be unaware that the men were among the nearly one million people licensed as pilots, mechanics and flight dispatchers. They were identified by a tiny family-owned company in Mineola, N.Y., demonstrating software it developed to scrub lists of bank customers for terrorism links.

The list also includes an Iranian-American convicted of trying to send jet fighter parts to Iran and a Lebanese citizen living near Detroit who was convicted of trying to provide military equipment to Hezbollah.

For Full Story

Convicted Texas Fed Judge Samuel Kent Loses Chutzpah; Resigns Instead of Facing Impeachment

Judge Samuel Kent

Judge Samuel Kent

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent of Texas has lost his chutzpah.

The judge, who is serving a 33-month sentence in a Massachusetts federal prison for obstruction of justice for lying about sexually
harassing some female employees, had initially handed in his resignation, effective June 2010.

The sly move would have allowed him to collect his $174,000 a year salary while in prison for a year. That didn’t sit well with lawmakers who moved forward with impeachment proceedings to undermine  Kent’s plan to scam tax payers.

The Houston Chronicle said the resignation was announced at the first meeting of the Senate’s impeachment trial committee Thursday in Washington.

The Chronicle said on Wednesday Kent gave a one-sentence resignation letter, effective June 30, 2009, to Senate officials who showed up at the Devens Federal Medical Center in Massachusetts to see the imprisoned judge.

That should effectively put a stop to him getting paid in prison.

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