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News Story

Two Pa. Judges Plead To Corruption Charges; Feds Say Probe Ongoing

Some how we’re rarely shocked by news of a crooked politician. But crooked judges? That’s just still hard to swallow. Unfortunately, in Pennsylvania, more courthouse indictments could be forthcoming.

MICHAEL RUBINKAM
The Associated Press
SCRANTON, Pa. – Two Pennsylvania judges agreed Monday to plead guilty to fraud charges accusing them of taking $2.6 million in kickbacks in return for placing juvenile offenders into certain detention facilities.
The plea agreements for Luzerne County President Judge Mark Ciavarella and Senior Judge Michael Conahan call for sentences of more than seven years in prison. Ciavarella resigned from the bench in a Jan. 23 letter to Gov. Ed Rendell. Conahan has agreed to resign within 10 days of a judge’s acceptance of the plea.
Authorities say the judges took kickbacks between 2003 and 2007 in exchange for guaranteeing the placement of juvenile offenders into facilities operated by PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care LLC. In some cases, Ciavarella ordered children into detention even when juvenile probation officers did not recommend it.
“They sold their oaths of offices to the highest bidders,” Deron Roberts, chief of the FBI’s Scranton office, said at a news conference Monday.
U.S. Attorney Martin Carlson stressed the charges were “the first developments in an ongoing investigation” into public corruption at the courthouse in Wilkes-Barre.
For Full Story

Jurors Asked About Sept. 11 in Trial Involving Plot to Blow Up FBI Offices

The ghost of Sept. 11 will forever leave a indelible mark on this country. Can jurors truly set aside the event when sitting on a jury involving suspected terrorists? That’s the question of the day down in Miami.

By CURT ANDERSON
Associated Press
MIAMI – Finding lingering emotions from the Sept. 11 terror attacks emerged as central to questioning prospective jurors Tuesday in the third trial of a group accused of plotting with al-Qaida to destroy Chicago’s Sears Tower and blow up FBI offices.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers want to ensure that the jurors ultimately chosen to hear the case against the six men accused of being a budding al-Qaida cell do not have biases because of the attacks more than seven years ago.
“Have the events of Sept. 11 or any other terrorist act affected you to such an extent that it would make it difficult for you to sit and listen to evidence in this case and be fair to both the government and the defendants?” was one question for the first 34 potential jurors.
Most jurors said they believed they could set aside any Sept. 11-related feelings and be impartial. But some were not so sure.
For Full Story

Breaking News: Ill. Senate Hears FBI Tapes in Blago Impeachment Trial

The Gov. Blago affair goes back and forth between highly entertaining and highly pathetic. And even if he’s removed from office, the show will go on. The man is an entertainer.

Fox News posts Blago-Meter

Fox News posts Blago-Meter

BY DAVE MCKINNEY, NATASHA KORECKI and CHRIS FUSCO
Chicago Sun-Times
SPRINGFIELD – Wiretaps of Gov. Blagojevich’s home phone and his former chief of staff’s cell phone allowed the world to hear for the first time this afternoon Blagojevich’s own voice allegedly discussing a shakedown of a potential campaign contributor.
Lon Monk, now a lobbyist, says on one of the tapes he got in the “face” of the potential contributor, horse racing executive John Johnston.
“I’m telling you, he’s gonna be good for it. I got in his face,” Monk tells the governor during a 9:09 a.m. call on Dec. 4, 2008.
Anticipation built in the moments before tapes were played for the first time in the Senate trial. The chamber grew quiet.
As senators listened to the four brief conversations, one senator chewed on his pen and looked ahead. Sen. Chris Lauzen (R-Aurora), smiled and shook his head as he heard the governor’s brother, Robert, tell Blagojevich that Johnston was “good for it” – an apparent reference to a $100,000 campaign contribution.

For Full Story

FBI Tape 1Transcript
FBI Tape 2Transcript
FBI Tape 3Transcript
FBI Tape 4Transcript

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Bush Rejected Pardons for Some Big Names

Duke Cunningham

Duke Cunningham

Nearly everyone expected Pres. Bush to show some generosity when it came to pardons in the waning days of his presidency. But apparently, the President wasn’t feeling that generous –or feared some pardons would come back to haunt him, as they did for Pres. Clinton.

By Josh Meyer
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON — President George W. Bush, on his last full day in office, formally struck down the petitions for clemency of some high-profile politicians and businessmen, including former lawmakers Randall “Duke” Cunningham, Edwin Edwards and Mario Biaggi and “junk bond” financier Michael Milken, the Justice Department said today.
The chief of the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney, Ronald Rodgers, confirmed the pardon rejections through a spokeswoman, in response to queries from The Times’ Washington Bureau.
The Justice Department said Bush also denied petitions for clemency for two men who became highly polarizing symbols of their eras. One of them was John Walker Lindh, the young American serving 20 years in prison for aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan at a time when it was fighting U.S. military forces just after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Bush also denied one of the longest-standing petitions for clemency, for Leonard Peltier, a Native American activist sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment for the murder of two FBI agents during a 1975 shootout on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. His application had been under consideration since 1993, current and former Justice Department officials said.
For Full Story

Legal Observers Say Gov. Blago’s Media Blitz Could Hurt Him in Court

Gov. Blago is creating a nightmare scenario for any attorney who will have to defend him in court. There’s two words you never seem to hear from the guy: “No comment”.

BY NATASHA KORECKI
Chicago Sun-Times
CHICAGO — Gov. Blagojevich’s media blitz might make him feel better about his case, but all those recent high-profile interviews are likely to come back to bite him in a big way, experienced defense lawyers say.
That’s because any statement the governor makes about his case could be used against him by prosecutors at a future trial.
But it isn’t a two-way street. Blagojevich’s lawyers can’t play the governor’s proclamations of innocence to jurors, said defense lawyer Joel Levin.
Since last week, Blagojevich has appeared on radio shows and national television programs including “The View,” and “Larry King Live.” Blagojevich likened his situation to the jailing of peace and civil rights leaders and made references to the charges.
“Given that he doesn’t know all the evidence against him, there’s tremendous risk in what he’s doing,” said Levin, who prosecuted ex-Gov. George Ryan. “Some of the statements . . . might fit nicely into the theories [prosecutors] are laying out.”

For Full Story

Businessman Pleads Guilty in Detroit City Hall Probe; Ex-Mayor Kilpatrick Could Be Implicated

James Rosendall/zoominfo photo
James Rosendall/zoominfo photo

In a town on life support, where the poor are getting poorer, and unemployment is far too high, elected officials are apparently finding ways to line their pockets.

BY DAVID ASHENFELTER, JOE SWICKARD, M.L. ELRICK and JIM SCHAEFER
Detroit Free Press
DETROIT — An executive for a Texas waste disposal company spent seven years and hundreds of thousands of dollars lavishing cash, campaign contributions, airplane flights and a case of Cristal champagne in an effort to win the support of Detroit city officials for a $1.2-billion sludge disposal contract.
But it took Synagro Technologies executive James Rosendall only 10 minutes to confess his deeds Monday when he pleaded guilty to a bribery conspiracy in Detroit federal court.
Rosendall, 44, did not publicly identify the members of former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s administration, City Council and other city officials who are described, but not named, in the court record laying out Rosendall’s pay-to-play scheme.
But the voluminous allegations surrounding the person identified in court as City Official A appear to point to events, travels and activities that line up with Kilpatrick’s years in elected office.

For Full Story

Read Plea Agreement

Read Transcript of Plea Hearing

Mobster Sentenced in Chicago To 20 Years: Judge Calls That Lenient

The old mobsters in this world are fading away, either dying off or going off to prison. Sometimes the offspring have tried to take over, but often times they haven’t been as street wise. Here’s one of from the older generation.

By MIKE ROBINSON
Associated Press Writer
CHICAGO — A longtime organized crime figure accused by the government of helping to murder a friend to keep him from talking was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison by a judge who called the punishment lenient.
Paul Schiro, 71, of Phoenix was the first to be sentenced among five men convicted in September 2007 at Chicago’s biggest organized crime trial in decades.
“When somebody said we want you to help us kill your friend there was no evidence of hesitation,” a stern U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel told Schiro.
Schiro, described by prosecutors as a career criminal, was sentenced to 5 1/2 years just seven years ago after pleading guilty to being part of a gang of jewel thieves led by the Chicago police department’s former chief of detectives, William Hanhardt.

For Full Story

Read Indictment

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Tennesse Man Pleads Guilty to Trying to Sell Atomic Secrets