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Ex-Rep. William Jefferson Trying to Discredit Key Witness By Getting Psychiatric Records

Ex-Rep. William Jefferson’s defense in his upcoming public corruption case is becoming clearer. For one, he insists any of his actions to drum up business for himself was not done under the official capacity of a Congressman. And two, he plans to discredit the sanity of a key witness, Lori Mody, a wealthy business woman who wore a wire after telling the feds that she was being shaken down for cash.

Regardless whether he can prove that the witness is mentally unstable, he’s got an uphill fight in that area. The government has videotape of him taking money from Mody and audio tapes of him talking to her, sounding more like a mobster than a Congressman, acting paranoid about the FBI and trying to avoid the mere mention of the word “cash”.

By Bruce Alpert
New Orleans Times-Picayune
WASHINGTON — If a key government witness against former Rep. William Jefferson has “qualms” about producing mental health records and answering questions “it is the charges that must yield, ” not Jefferson’s “right to defend against them, ” his attorneys say.

Documents filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., where Jefferson is scheduled to go on trial May 26 on 16 corruption charges, also reveal previously unreleased transcripts of FBI recorded conversations with the witness, Virginia businesswoman Lori Mody. The tapes describe her as worried about a possible stalker and having “a lot of personal issues” at the time she and Jefferson worked together on a Nigerian telecommunications project.

In the papers, Jefferson’s attorneys said that at some of the meetings between Mody and the congressman “considerable amounts of wine was consumed.” They also said the Justice Department had revealed in a previously sealed document that Mody was undergoing something (the phrase is redacted by court order) that affected her ability “to concentrate.”

The attorneys said they are entitled to raise these issues to challenge the credibility of Mody, who they describe as the key witness against the nine-term New Orleans Democrat.

For Full Story

Read One of Jefferson’s Motions for Pyschiatric Records of Witness

Judge Orders Dick Cheney to Give Deposition in Lawsuit Against Secret Service Agents

Just when you thought ex-V.P. Dick Cheney had rode off into the sunset, never to be heard again. Now he’s going to have to testify in a case. Some how you get the feeling he’s probably not too thrilled about this.

By KIRK JOHNSON
NEW York Times
DENVER – Former Vice President Dick Cheney will have to give his account – under oath, in a legal deposition – of what happened at a Colorado ski resort in June 2006 when a man stepped up to protest the Iraq war and was arrested, a federal district judge ruled Monday.

The protester, Steven Howards, sued five Secret Service agents in Mr. Cheney’s security detail after the encounter at the Beaver Creek resort. Mr. Howards’s lawyers have argued that Mr. Cheney’s version of events is crucial to getting at the truth.

Mr. Cheney’s lawyers had responded – successfully until Monday’s ruling by Judge Christine M. Arguello in Denver – that a deposition was unnecessary. A federal magistrate agreed with Mr. Cheney last April; Judge Arguello’s ruling reversed that decision.

For Full Story

Read Ruling on Cheney Deposition

Florida Attorney Accuses Fed Prosecutors of Misconduct in Doctor’s Trial


The missteps of a federal prosecution team could cost the government it’s case in Miami. Prosecutors have already admitted they made a “mistake”. We’ll see if that’s enough to lose the case.

BY JAY WEAVER
Miami Herald
MIAMI — An attorney for a Miami Beach doctor charged with peddling prescription drugs has accused federal prosecutors of ”misconduct,” arguing that the charges should be thrown out because the government authorized witnesses to record phone calls — but didn’t tell the defense lawyer before trial.

Defense lawyer David O. Markus — representing Dr. Ali Shaygan — said he only learned about the questionable phone recordings after cross-examining one of the government witnesses during trial last month. Markus found out he was recorded in two phone conversations.

”Dr. Shaygan respectfully submits that the government’s conduct in this case is so outrageous and was undertaken with such flagrant disregard for Dr. Shaygan’s constitutional rights that dismissal is the appropriate remedy,” Markus and his trial partner, Marc Seitles, wrote in a motion filed Monday.

They filed it with U.S. District Judge Alan Gold, who is presiding over the Shaygan trial, now in its third week.

For Full Story

Read Defense Motion to Dismiss

Justice Dept. Stops One of Two Death Penalty Cases in San Francisco

The Justice Department has intervened to stop one of two death penalty trials in San Francisco. In the one case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office had reached a plea agreement with the defendant, but the Bush Justice Department insisted on going ahead with the death penalty.  It looks like the plea agreement will now stand. The Bush administration had ignored the wishes of some U.S. Attorney’s offices that made deals with defendants, some which involved agreements to cooperate. Those moves hurt the credibility of prosecutors. This reversal by the Justice Department is a clear sign of a change in policy regarding the death penalty and the autonomy of local U.S. Attorneys.

By Bob Egelko
Chronicle Staff Writer
SAN FRANCISCO — President Obama’s Justice Department halted the death penalty trial of an alleged San Francisco gang leader Monday by accepting a 40-year prison sentence that the Bush administration had vetoed.

The plea agreement for Emile Fort remained on hold after a federal judge heard a tearful plea from a murder victim’s mother for a life sentence and summoned prosecutors to a closed-door session to describe their case against Fort.

Afterward, despite apparent irritation at his lack of authority to change the terms of the plea deal, U.S. District Judge William Alsup indicated he was likely to accept the agreement at a hearing today.

For Full Story

Bush Era Legal Memos Reveal Legal Errors

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder

The Obama administration should be get kudos for releasing these revealing memos which show some of the legal errors of the Bush administration. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. says this is all about government transparency. But the true test will be whether this administration practices a policy of transparency not just for matters involving the Bush years, but the Obama years as well. Let’s hope we don’t see any hypocrisy here.

By R. Jeffrey Smith and Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writers
WASHINGTON –The number of major legal errors committed by Bush administration lawyers during the formulation of its early counterterrorism policies was far greater than previously known, according to internal Bush administration documents released for the first time by the Justice Department yesterday.

Those policies were based on at least 10 legal opinions conferring broad powers on the president that the Justice Department later deemed flawed and ordered withdrawn, including several approving the military’s search, detention or trial of civilians in the United States without congressional input, according to the documents.

While the Bush administration had previously acknowledged rescinding two of those memos — authorizing the infliction of pain and suffering on detainees and claiming unquestioned authority to interrogate suspects outside the United States — the government’s eventual repudiation or rewrite of the eight other early legal memos was secret until now.

For Full Story

Read Memos

Justice Dept. Probing Interim Philly U.S. Atty. Laurie Magid For Fundraiser

U.S. Atty. Laurie Magid
U.S. Atty. Laurie Magid

It’s never good, even if just for perception sake, when the Justice Department is investigating a U.S. Attorney. The question here is whether interim U.S. Atty. Laurie Magid went beyond the boundaries of a federal employee.

By Emilie Lounsberry and George Anastasia
Philadelphia Inquirer
PHILADELPHIA — A $250-a-person fund-raiser held at the townhouse of interim U.S. Attorney Laurie Magid has drawn the attention of the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General, according to people familiar with the inquiry.

Investigators are examining whether a law that limits the political activities of federal employees has been violated, those sources said. The Jan. 30 fund-raiser was held for former U.S. Attorney Patrick L. Meehan, a likely Republican candidate for governor in 2010. Several hundred people were invited, including as many as 20 prosecutors who work for Magid. The host was her husband, Jeffrey A. Miller, a prominent caterer, and Magid and a handful of of the prosecutors she supervises attended.

Magid, 48, a Republican who became the region’s top federal prosecutor when Meehan stepped down in the summer, declined to comment Friday. She said her husband also would have no comment.

People close to her said she had cleared the fund-raiser with the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency that provides guidance on activities prohibited by the Hatch Act.

For Full Story

Venuzuela Prez Chavez Rejects U.S. Drug Traffic Report; Takes Poke at Obama

President Chavez

President Chavez

President Chavez continues to flap his jaws and poke a stick at the U.S. This latest incident doesn’t bode well for the relationship between Chavez and the freshly-minted Obama regime. As Rodney King once said: “Can’t We All Just Get Along?”

By The Associated Press
CARACAS, Venezuela – President Hugo Chavez on Saturday rejected a U.S. report alleging that drug trafficking is soaring in Venezuela, stepping up his criticism of President Barack Obama following the U.S. leader’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

The State Department report, which covers global anti-drug efforts in 2008, was compiled while President George W. Bush was in office but approved this month by the Obama administration.

“Is there really a new government in the United States, or is Bush still in charge?” Chavez told supporters in a poor Caracas neighborhood. “Don’t mess with me, Mr. Obama.”

The report asserts that drug trafficking soared fivefold in Venezuela from 50 metric tons (55 tons) of illegal drugs in 2002 to an estimated 250 metric tons (275 tons) in 2007 as cartels took advantage of the country’s “geography, corruption, a weak judicial system, incompetent and in some cases complicit security forces and lack of international counternarcotics cooperation.”
Full Story

Read Part 1 of Report

Read Part 2 of Report

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Moving; Could Help Perceptions

Judge Royce Lamberth/court photo

In real estate, they say, it’s location location location. Well, some are saying the same for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in Washington that is moving from the Justice Department to new digs in the U.S. District Court down the street. Some like U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth (in photo) hope the move will erase some perceptions that the court is less than independent.

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — First, the workers encased the room in reinforced concrete. Then came the thick wood-and-metal doors that seal into the walls. Behind those walls they labored in secret for two years, building a courtroom, judge’s chambers and clerk’s offices. The only sign that they were done came recently, when biometric hand scanners and green “Restricted Access” placards were placed at the entrances.

What workers have finally completed — or perhaps not; few really know, and none would say — is the nation’s most secure courtroom for its most secretive court. In coming days, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court will move from its current base at the Justice Department and settle into a new $2 million home just off a public hallway in the District’s federal courthouse.

The relocation is a rare public action by a mysterious Washington institution that is judged by its ability to keep secrets while overseeing the government’s efforts to gather them. Its role, generally, is to determine whether the federal government can spy on U.S. citizens or foreigners in the United States in terrorism or espionage investigations.

For Full Story