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Jury Picked in Sen. Ted Steven’s Corruption Trial

Sen. Steven/official photo

Sen. Steven/official photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — The slow, methodical and sometimes painful process of picking a jury in the political corruption trial of Sen. Ted Stevens wrapped up Wednesday.
During the first two days of jury selection, some prospective jurors said they simply felt Stevens was guilty. One Christian Scientist said her religion precluded her from judging others.
Still, after the two days, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan had managed to identify about 30 potential jurors who said they could be open minded. By about 1 p.m. Wednesday, 16 jurors — 12 regular and four alternates –had been selected.
Opening statements are set to begin Thursday at 9:30 a.m.
After jury selection, Judge Sullivan emphasized  to attorneys that he wanted to accommodate Sen. Stevens and complete the trial before the November elections. Stevens, a 40-year veteran of the Senate, is running for re-election.
The case is the latest attraction — or distraction —  in Washington. Press interest is high. In fact, an overflow room for reporters who can’t fit into the courtroom is expected to be packed, at least the first day or two of trial.
And during the course of the trial, a number of Washington insiders — including former Sec. of State Colin Powell and Sen. Ted Kennedy — may appear as witnesses.
Stevens, 84, a powerful Republican from Alaska, is charged with knowingly failing to disclose about $250,000 in gifts and services.

Man With Ties To Taliban Convicted in Heroin Trial

By Benjamin Weiser
New York Times
NEW YORK – A federal jury in Manhattan found an Afghan tribal leader guilty on Tuesday of taking part in an international narcotics trafficking conspiracy that sent millions of dollars worth of heroin around the world, including into the United States.
The jury deliberated for about three hours before returning its verdict against Haji Bashir Noorzai, whose case drew widespread attention because of his prominent role in the drug trade and his ties to one of the most wanted men in the world, Mullah Mohammad Omar, the fugitive Taliban leader.
”You have seen the defendant for what he is,” a federal prosecutor, David A. O’Neil, told the jury in closing arguments on Monday, ”a drug dealer on a massive scale, a global heroin trafficker driven by greed for money and for power, a man who has made himself rich off the misery of others.”
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Here Comes The Latest Turn In Detroit’s City Hall Probe

The scandal-ridden city of Detroit is still reeling from the latest chapter involving its disgraced mayor. Now stepping up to center stage is the public corruption probe into city hall. 

Paul Egan
The Detroit News
DETROIT — A second former director of Detroit’s Cobo Center has been charged with a federal felony in connection with a City Hall corruption investigation.
Glenn Blanton, 47, was charged last week with falsifying documents to obstruct an investigation.
In November of 2005, Blanton allegedly wrote three checks totaling $15,000 to former Cobo contractor Karl Kado, who at one time held all or part of the electrical, janitorial, catering and retail contracts at Cobo.
The checks purported to be a $15,000 loan repayment to the contractor when, in fact, this money had been given to the defendant by the contractor as a bribe payment and not a loan,” charging documents filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit allege.
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Politico Wants A Probe of Anthrax Probe

Rep. Holt/official photo
Rep. Holt/official photo

The FBI is convinced that scientist Bruce E. Ivins was the man behind the deadly anthrax attacks in 2001. But some Congressional types aren’t convinced and want to probe the probe.
By SCOTT SHANE
New York Times
WASHINGTON – Congressional critics of the F.B.I.’s anthrax investigation are seeking an independent review of the seven-year inquiry to assess the bureau’s performance and its conclusion that an Army scientist, Bruce E. Ivins, carried out the 2001 attacks alone.                                                                                               
One proposal, in a bill drafted by Representative Rush D. Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, would create a national commission on the anthrax attacks, a scaled-down version of the commission that studied the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Two Republican senators, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, said they would not rule out a commission but thought a Congressional investigation or a series of hearings might work.
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Fed Grand Jury Takes No Action Tuesday In Palin Email Case

Gov. Palin/state photo

Gov. Palin/state photo

In the midst of the nation’s financial meltdown and the hotly contested presidential campaign, a grand jury in Chatanooga heard testimony on the hacking of Gov. Sarah Palin’s email account. The Chatanooga paper reports that the federal grand jury took no action Tuesday.

By Monica Mercer
Chatanooga Times Free Press
CHATANOOGA, Tenn — A federal grand jury in Chattanooga ended its session around lunch time today without indicting a University of Tennessee student who authorities believe may have hacked into vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s personal e-mail account.
Three students arrived at the federal courthouse on Georgia Avenue at about 8:45 a.m. today to provide testimony about UT student David Kernell’s activities. The students did not provide their names and did not answer questions about the case. An attorney with them declined to comment as well.

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Executive Sentenced In Costa Rica Bribery Scheme

MIAMI ––  A former Alcatel CIT (Alcatel) executive was sentenced Tuesday to 30 months in prison in a bribery scheme that involved paying Costa Rica officials $2.5 million to obtain a mobile telephone contract from a state-owned telecommunications authority, the Justice Department said.

U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Seitz in Miami also ordered Christian Sapsizian, 62, an executive with the French-based company, to forfeit $261,500, the Justice Department said.

In The Drug World Toys Just Aren’t For Kids

One of the toys used to smuggle cocaine/dea photo

One of the toys used to smuggle cocaine/dea photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
DEA agents busted up a drug ring  that smuggled cocaine from Puerto Rico to New York by concealing it inside children’s toys, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said .
Authorities unsealed a 9-defendant indictment in New York Tueday, capping a five-month investigation into the ring  that was headed by Jose Diaz, also known as Jose David Diaz-Ortega, authorities said.
Up to twice a week, Diaz went to the Prima Check Cashing at 1740 First Avenue in Manhattan and wired $40,000 to $50,000 in cash to associates in Puerto Rico,  the DEA said. In one instance, investigators recovered more than 2 pounds of cocaine inside a child’s pegboard stool, authorities said.

FBI Looking Into Nation’s Financial Meltdown

Behind every good meltdown is a potential scandal. With the financial market melting quickly, the FBI is stepping in to see if there’s any criminal wrongdoing.

By Lara Jakes Jordan
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The FBI is investigating four major U.S. financial institutions whose collapse helped trigger a $700 billion bailout plan by the Bush administration, The Associated Press has learned.
Two law enforcement officials said Tuesday the FBI is looking at potential fraud by mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and insurer American International Group Inc. Additionally, a senior law enforcement official said Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. also is under investigation.
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