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News Story

“Goodfellas” Mobster is No-Show in Calif Court on Public Drunkenness Charges

goodfellas

By PAUL LAROCCO
The Press-Enterprise
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. –“Henry Hill.”

San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Kyle Brodie matter-of-factly read the name Wednesday in a roll call of small-time suspects: the unlicensed driver; the work-release probationer.

“No answer,” yelled the bailiff.

With that, the mobster-turned-FBI informant — whose life inspired the movie epic “Goodfellas” — was facing two $25,000 arrest warrants.

Once linked to an NCAA point-shaving scandal and a $5 million airport heist, Hill at age 65 is wanted for failing to appear on tickets alleging that he was drunk in public in San Bernardino.

“I would have been asking for his autograph,” said Desiree Gallegos, 27, who was in the courtroom for a suspension of house arrest terms.

Reached by phone later in the day, Hill said he was unaware he needed to be present. He said he had visited the downtown court on Monday to advise the clerks that he would be having hernia surgery later this week and wanted a new date.
For Full Story

Atty. Gen. Holder Says Justice Dept. Won’t Go After Pot Dispensaries

Unlike the Bush administration, A.G. Eric Holder says the Justice Department won’t go after the places that dispense marijuana legally. It makes sense. There’s higher priorities like the Mexican drug wars, which are starting to wreak havoc on our nation.

marijuana-umledu1

By Josh Meyer and Scott Glover
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON — U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. said Wednesday that the Justice Department has no plans to prosecute pot dispensaries that are operating legally under state laws in California and a dozen other states — a development that medical marijuana advocates and civil libertarians hailed as a sweeping change in federal drug policy.

In recent months, Obama administration officials have indicated that they planned to take a hands-off approach to such clinics, but Holder’s comments — made at a wide-ranging briefing with reporters — offered the most detailed explanation to date of the changing priorities toward the controversial prosecutions.

The Bush administration targeted medical marijuana distributors even in states that had passed laws allowing use of the drug for medical purposes by cancer patients, those dealing with chronic pain or other serious ailments. Holder said the priority of the new administration is to go after egregious offenders operating in violation of both federal and state law, such as those being used as fronts for drug dealers.

“Those are the organizations, the people, that we will target,” the attorney general said.

For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Ex-FBI Agent Convicted in Botched Calif. Home Invasion

calif-map

Wednesday was not a banner day for the FBI. First a N.Y. FBI agent was arrested for accessing confidential information and sharing it with an informant. And then this: an ex-FBI agent convicted in a botched home invasion.

By My-Thuan Tran
Los Angeles Times

A former FBI agent who meticulously planned to rob an Orange County residence that he thought was a drug house was convicted in federal court in Santa Ana on Wednesday on charges related to the botched home-invasion robbery.

The “stash house” robbery that lured Vo Duong Tran all the way from New Orleans and for which he was equipped with bulletproof vests, assault rifles and 630 rounds of ammunition was actually nothing more than pure invention by federal agents trying to snare their ex-colleague.

Tran, 41, had conspired with a supposed accomplice to commit armed robbery in Orange County and to develop a crew of criminal associates to commit violent crimes, jurors in the federal case found. The accomplice told him about the Fountain Valley drug house, said to contain $500,000 in cash.

In reality, the accomplice turned out to be an FBI informant who was secretly recording conversations with Tran as part of the sting operation. Prosecutors played the tapes during the four-week trial.

For Full Story

The Joy of the Internet is Causing Big Headaches for the Court System

google

The Internet and the high-tech cell phones may be some of the greatest inventions of our times. But those inventions causing some major headaches in the court system. How can the courts assure these things don’t sabotage our system? Good question.


By JOHN SCHWARTZ
New York Times

Last week, a juror in a big federal drug trial in Florida admitted to the judge that he had been doing research on the case on the Internet, directly violating the judge’s instructions and centuries of legal rules. But when the judge questioned the rest of the jury, he got an even bigger shock.

Eight other jurors had been doing the same thing. The federal judge, William J. Zloch, had no choice but to declare a mistrial, a waste of eight weeks of work by federal prosecutors and defense lawyers.

“We were stunned,” said a defense lawyer, Peter Raben, who was told by the jury that he had been on the verge of winning the case. “It’s the first time modern technology struck us in that fashion, and it hit us right over the head.”

It might be called a Google mistrial. The use of BlackBerrys and iPhones by jurors gathering and sending out information about cases is wreaking havoc on trials around the country, upending deliberations and infuriating judges.
For Full Story

Islamic Group Threatens to Cut Ties to FBI

istock_000007698493xsmallBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON –– The sometimes bumpy ties between the FBI and the U.S. Muslim communities could get bumpier.

The American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT) , a coalition of major U.S. Muslim groups, announced Tuesday that it was considering suspending “outreach relations with the FBI” as a result of the FBI targeting American mosques and Muslim groups.

The move comes several months after the FBI cut off formal ties to the prominent group CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations),  citing its links to Hamas. CAIR is one of several organizations that make up AMT, according to the AMT website.

As part of its effort to patch up the riff, CAIR late last month held an open house dinner in Minneapolis at a local mosque and extended an invitation to FBI director Robert Mueller III, who did not attend.

In response to Tuesdays’ development, FBI spokesman John Miller issued a statement:
“Limiting honest dialogue, especially when complex issues are on the table, is generally not an effective advocacy strategy. The FBI has continued our outreach efforts, across the board, with a number of concerned groups and where we agree-or disagree – most have concluded the best results are achieved through continued conversation. We believe that to be true.”

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Bernie Ripoff’s Accountant Charged with Securities Fraud

Bernie Madoff

Bernie Madoff

Bernie Ripoff’s House of Cards is starting to tumble. It’s hard to believe his wife Ruth was a total innocent. And who knows who else was involved. Madoff is probably willing to dish if the feds cut him a break or at least let him out of jail until sentencing. Let’s see what happens.

By Thomas Zambito
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — David Friehling, a longtime accountant for Bernie Madoff, was charged with securities fraud and surrendered to the FBI.

The accountant for mega-thief Bernard Madoff surrendered Wednesday to the FBI on charges he dispensed years of phony audits and bogus filings as the Ponzi schemer looted thousands of clients.

David Friehling, a CPA with Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, acted as a “rubber stamp” on paperwork sent along by Madoff – and even invested with the crooked financier.

“Mr. Friehling’s deception helped foster the illusion that Mr. Madoff legitimately invested his clients’ money,” said acting U.S. Attorney Lev Dassin.

For Full Story

Breaking News: N.Y. FBI Agent Charged With Sharing Confidential Info

new-york-mapFor the second time in about four months, a New York FBI agent has been charged criminally. In December, FBI agent Mark Rossini was charged with illegally accessing FBI data bases for personal use.

By The Associated Press
NEW YORK — An FBI agent assigned to the New York office has been arrested on charges he shared confidential information with an informant.

William H. Shirk III is charged in a criminal complaint filed Wednesday in Manhattan federal court.

The complaint alleges the 37-year-old Shirk warned the informant he was being investigated for drug trafficking. The information was from a confidential FBI database.

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Read Detailed Press Release

Justice Department to Review Criminal Case Against Ex-Justice Civil Rights Division Head Bradley Schlozman

Bradley Scholzman

Bradley Schlozman

One question is: How much resources and how much resolve does the Holder Justice Department have to continue investigating the question marks in the Bush era? This case may test that question.

By Justin Elliott
TPMMuckraker

The Bradley Schlozman saga might have some life left in it, yet.

The Justice Department is reviewing a decision made earlier this year under the Bush Administration not to charge Schlozman, the former official who was found by an Inspector General report to have made false statements to the Senate about whether he considered political affiliations in hiring.

A DOJ spokesman told TPMmuckraker today the Schlozman case is “under review,” confirming that Attorney General Eric Holder is acting on a promise he made during his confirmation hearings to take another look at the case.

An IG report released in January found Schlozman broke federal law by considering ideological affiliations in hiring at the department’s Civil Rights Division. The report also found Schlozman falsely denied he considered politics in hiring in sworn testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST