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News Story

Supreme Court Rules that Suspects Can be Interrogated Without Lawyer

supreme-courtThe ruling is a victory for law enforcement, and much to the disappointment of civil liberty groups, the Obama administration pushed for this outcome. The court narrowly approved the change in law. The dissenting judges feel the ruling further erodes the public trust in law enforcement.

By JESSE J. HOLLAND
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned a long-standing ruling that stopped police from initiating questions unless a defendant’s lawyer was present, a move that will make it easier for prosecutors to interrogate suspects.

The high court, in a 5-4 ruling, overturned the 1986 Michigan v. Jackson ruling, which said police may not initiate questioning of a defendant who has a lawyer or has asked for one unless the attorney is present. The Michigan ruling applied even to defendants who agreed to talk to the authorities without their lawyers.

The court’s conservatives overturned that opinion, with Justice Antonin Scalia saying “it was poorly reasoned.”

Under the Jackson opinion, police could not even ask a defendant who had been appointed a lawyer if he wanted to talk, Scalia said.

For Full Story

Feds Win Pre-trial Victory in Bribery Case of Ex-Rep. William Jefferson

Rep. Jefferson/official photo

Rep. Jefferson/official photo

The defense has been continually trying to show that the government charges and evidence have fallen far short.  The judge in the case has ruled to the contrary. Still, in cases like this, there’s never any guarantees of an ultimate victory. Whatever the case, trial starts next week in Alexandria, Va. It’s about time.  It’s been almost four years since the FBI raided Jefferson’s homes in New Orleans and Washington and found the infamous $90,000 in his freezer.

By Bruce Alpert
The Times-Picayune
WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors will not be required as part of their bribery case against former Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, to prove he sought payments in return for decisions he made as a member of Congress, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge T.S. Ellis III said “it is sufficient for the government to adduce proof, including expert testimony or evidence of defendant’s admissions and conduct, that it was customary … for members of Congress in defendant’s position to exert influence — by advice, recommendation or otherwise, on the issues in question.”

Ellis’ ruling came one week before Jefferson is scheduled face trial in Alexandria, Va., on 16 charges including bribery, racketeering, and honest services fraud.

For Full Story

A Number of Mongols Motorcycle Gang Members Involved in Murders and Drug Trafficking Plead Guilty in Calif.

Feds bust Mongols bikers/atf photo

ATF Undercover agents/atf photo

This was a nasty gang that did it all,  including murder. Good to know some of these guys won’t be seeing a motorcycle for a while.

By GREG RISLING
The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES –A number of Mongols motorcycle gang members have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from an indictment that accused them of drug trafficking, murder and other offenses, prosecutors said.

The revelation came in court documents filed earlier this month by prosecutors, who asked a judge to seal all plea agreements in the case against 79 defendants. Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, declined Tuesday to say how many people have pleaded guilty and to what charges.

In October, law enforcement agents served more than 100 arrest warrants in six states after infiltrating the Mongols biker gang, which is based in Southern California and had about 600 members.

A racketeering indictment described a tightly organized criminal organization that engaged in murder, torture and drug trafficking to achieve its goals.

The indictment said the group, which is mostly Latino, attacked black people, committed robberies and stole motorcycles. The gang funded itself in part by stealing credit card account information, prosecutors said.

For Full Story

FBI Tape: Sen. Roland Burris Promises Gov. Blagojevich’s Brother “I Will Personally Do Something Ok?”

The FBI tape raises more questions about the appointment of Sen. Roland Burris. The big question will be whether Burris can survive all this and remain in the Senate. It only seems to get uglier.

Sen. Roland Burris/official photo

Sen. Roland Burris/official photo

BY NATASHA KORECKI
Chicago Sun-Times
CHICAGO — In a Nov. 13 conversation recorded by the FBI, Roland Burris told Rod Blagojevich’s brother he feared he’d “catch hell,” with the public if he gave the governor money at the same time he was lobbying for a Senate seat appointment.

Still, Burris ends the call with a promise: “I will personally do something OK? And it will come to you before the 15th of December.”

Such a promise of money is something Burris did not disclose to an Illinois House impeachment panel in sworn testimony after Rod Blagojevich appointed him to the U.S. Senate.

The revelation comes as a transcript of a conversation between Burris and Robert Blagojevich were unsealed by Chief U.S. District Judge James Holderman today, at the request of a U.S. Senate ethics panel investigating Burris.

Burris, a Chicago Democrat who Rod Blagojevich appointed to the Senate seat Dec. 30, can be heard repeatedly expressing worry that a donation to the governor would look like he’s trying to buy the seat. Burris tells Robert Blagojevich: “I’m in a dilemma right now, wanting to help the governor.”

For Full Story
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Some in Little Montana Town Want to House Gitmo Detainees

Al-Qaeda Supporter Pleads Guilty After 5 Years of Legal Wrangling

st-paul-mapIt took five years of hard work  by Justice Dept. attorneys, but it has paid off with a guilty plea from an al-Qaeda collaborator. Sentencing is set for July 9th, where he could get over 12 years  for working with terrorists.

By Elizabeth Stawicki
Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL,  Minn. — A former Minneapolis man who’s been imprisoned for more than five years awaiting trial on terrorism charges has struck a plea deal with the U.S. government.

Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to provide support to a terrorist organization. In exchange, the government will drop four other charges that include providing support to a terrorist organization and lying to the FBI.

Warsame, a Canadian citizen of Somali descent, lived in Minneapolis as a community college student before he was arrested in 2003. The government later charged him with providing support to al-Qaeda, alleging he took part in military camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan; attended lectures by Osama Bin Laden; taught English to al-Qaeda operatives, and lied to the FBI.

Warsame’s lawyers say he’s spent more time in prison awaiting trial longer than anyone else in U.S. history — five and half years, primarily in solitary confinement. Warsame had maintained that he never knowingly attended an al Qaeda training camp but was on a spiritual journey seeking a “utopian” society in Afghanistan.

For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Retired Chef Mistakenly Jailed in Massive Fed Gang Round Up in Calif.

This mistake certainly doesn’t negate all the work that was done to round up this massive gang.  Nonetheless, it is an embarrassment, and a big one.

By Scott Glover
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — As Ramon Huerta stood shirtless and shivering in the frontla-mapyard of the Pico Rivera house he’s called home for more than four decades, the 64-year-old retired chef struggled to comprehend the questions being shouted by the heavily armed police who began pounding on his front door some time before dawn.

Where are the guns, they wanted to know. Where are the drugs?

Huerta — a soft-spoken grandfather who retired last year to care for his wife, who is battling colon cancer — said he tried to tell them he didn’t know what they were talking about, that they had the wrong man.

Nonetheless, he was handcuffed and hauled away as part of a massive gang sweep last week that federal authorities touted as the largest of its kind in the nation.

Huerta would spend the next two nights in a federal lockup in downtown Los Angeles before authorities acknowledged that “there exists the very real possibility” that he isn’t the heroin dealer they were looking for.

He was released from custody on Saturday after inquires by The Times.

For Full Story

Fed Witness in Baltimore Put in Cell With Defendants Accused of Murdering a Witness

oops-artYes, people make mistakes. But this is a bad one. Hopefully the Marshal’s office will learn from this. The upside: the  outcome could have been worse.

By Tricia Bishop
Baltimore Sun
BALTIMORE — A fight broke out (last week) in Baltimore’s federal courthouse after U.S. marshals mistakenly placed a witness in the same holding cell as the three men he was testifying against, despite a separation order requesting that they be kept apart.

The error was particularly disturbing given the nature of the case: The defendants are accused of killing a federal witness.

The U.S. Marshal’s Service refused to comment on the specific occurrence, concerned it would jeopardize the trial. But spokesman David Lutz said the protocol, if something like that were to have happened, would be “to learn from our mistakes and realize there was a break in communication and ensure something like that doesn’t happen again.”

He added: “People are people. … It’s a difficult job.”

For Full Story