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Justice Department to Launch Civil Rights Investigation into Eric Garner’s Death

Eric Garner with his children, via National Action Network

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

Soon after a grand jury declined to indict a white New York City cop in the death of Eric Garner, a black man who was selling cigarettes, the Justice Department will conduct its own civil rights investigation.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a press conference today that Attorney General Eric Holder was preparing to closely examine the case to determine whether civil rights charges are warranted, the Huffington Post reports.

“They made clear that the investigation initiated by the U.S. attorney would now move forward, move expeditiously, and be a thorough investigation,” de Blasio said.

The announcement comes after a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantelo, who placed Garner in a chokehold after arresting him on July 17 for selling single cigarettes.

In a video, Garner can be heard screaming, “I can’t breathe,” before his body went limp.

A medical examiner determined Garner’s death was a homicide caused by the chokehold.

Statement From Attorney Eric Holder:

Good evening. I want to provide an update regarding the case involving Eric Garner, a Staten Island resident, who died tragically in July.

Since Mr. Garner’s death, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the Civil Rights Division and the FBI have been monitoring the local case closely while allowing the local investigation, led by the District Attorney’s office in Staten Island, to proceed first.

Earlier today, the grand jury declined to return an indictment in this case. Now that the local investigation has concluded, I am here to announce that the Justice Department will proceed with a federal civil rights investigation into Mr. Garner’s death.

This afternoon I spoke with the widow of Eric Garner to inform her and her family of our decision to investigate potential federal civil rights violations. I have been in touch with President Obama and Mayor de Blasio regarding our decision as well.

Our prosecutors will conduct an independent, thorough, fair and expeditious investigation.

In addition to performing our own investigative work, the Department will conduct a complete review of the material gathered during the local investigation.

Read more »

FBI Investigates California School District Following Plan to Buy iPads for Every Student

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

The FBI is investigating a Los Angeles school district’s $1.3-billion plan to provide iPads to every student, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Agents seized records from the district on Monday as investigators seek documents related to deals with Apple and the curriculum provider, Pearson.

A grand jury is reviewing the case.

The initiative came under Superintendent John Deasy, who resigned in October.

He declined to speak with the Times.

“No one has spoken to me,” he said. “I have no comment as I do not know anything about this.”

Details of the investigation remain unclear.

Current Superintendent Ramon C. Corines said he is halting any additional iPad purchases.

President Obama’s Close Friend Considered a “Hostile Witness” by Justice Department

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

One of President Obama’s closest friends is not cooperating in a federal investigation, prompting the Justice Department to seek Dr. Eric E. Whitaker as a “hostile witness,” the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Prosecutors filed the motion Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Springfield, where a Chicago businessman, Leon Dingle Jr., is on trial on charges of stealing more than $3 million in tax dollars from state grants.

Prosecutors said Whitaker, who has not been charged, benefited at least three times from the state grant money.

Whitaker incensed prosecutors when he backed off a deal to cooperate with investigators.

The cooperation ended, prosecutors said, when Whitaker was asked about his relationship with Quinshaunta R. Golden, the former state official who oversaw the grants.

Whitaker was asked whether he had a “sexual relationship” with Golden and refused to cooperate.

Prosecutors said he is “a witness clearly hostile to the government.”

Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty Against Suspects in Murder of Off-Duty Border Patrol Agent

Gustavo Tijerina (left) and Ismael Hernandez (right)

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

Two men accused of killing an off-duty Border Patrol agent while he was on a family vacation could face the death penalty if found guilty.

The Valley Central reports that Willacy County District Attorney’s office is seeking the death penalty against Gustavo Tijerina and Ismael Hernandez.

The two men are accused in the death of Border Patrol Agent Javier Vega, Jr., who was fishing with his family when he tried to protect his family from a robbery.

Authorities said the two suspects fatally shot Vega at a remote fishing spot near Santa Monica.

A trial date has not yet been set.

GOP Lawmakers Consider Ways to Disrupt President Obama’s Executive Actions on Immigration

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

While Congressional Republicans pledge to fight President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, there’s little they can do, GOP leaders acknowledged Tuesday.

The USA Today reports that Republicans have limited options.

“We’re looking at a variety of options, both for right now and when Republicans control both houses of the Congress next year,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, “Frankly, we have limited options and limited abilities to deal with it directly.”

One plan calls for a government funding bill, but that could result in another partial government shutdown.

Republicans are considering approving a temporary funding bill for Homeland Security, which oversees immigration.

Democrats were not happy. Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson said a temporary funding bill for DHS “undermines its ability to carry out critical homeland security missions such as protecting our air, land and sea borders and cyberspace.”

Wife, Suspected Son of ISIS Leader Arrested in Lebanon with Fake IDs Near Syria Border

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

The wife and suspected son of the leader of the Islamic State have been arrested in Lebanon, the USA Today reports.

Lebanon officials confirmed the wife and son of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi were detained bu t didn’t provide more details as of Tuesday morning.

The Lebanese daily As-Safir broke the news and said the pair were detained about 10 days ago, when they were found with fake IDs near a border crossing point with Syria.

The suspected son is undergoing a DNA test to confirm his relationship with the ISIS leader.

Former CIA Director Petraeus’ Career Comeback May Be Dashed by FBI Investigation

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

By most accounts, David Petraeus is on the rise after losing his job in the wake of an extramarital affair that forced him to resign as director of the CIA.

But Bloomberg reports that Petraeus, who has secured a job at the private equity firm KKR, is still under investigation by the FBI.

Citing current and former U.S. intelligence officials, Bloomberg wrote that the FBI is still trying to determine whether Petraeus violated the law by providing classified documents to Paula Broadwell, his biographer and former lover.

Authorities said Broadwell received intelligence information that was only available to a handful of senior officials.

“It was inappropriately shared and it should never have been shared,” one former senior intelligence official said.

Despite the investigation, President Obama has defended Petraeus, saying he never endangered national security.

FBI Evidence-Handling Controls Considered Too Lax, Could Jeopardize Drug Cases

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

Serious questions have been raised about the FBI’s evidence-handling controls that could be used by defense attorneys to seek reversals on convictions, The Washington Times reports.

The problem: The FBI doesn’t have video cameras in some of its evidence rooms, including the Washington field office.

The issue was raised by 13 defense attorneys handling a drug conspiracy case.

The attorneys made the revelation in court filings involving Matthew Lowry, an FBI agent accused of stealing seized heroin.

“If there’s a problem in the FBI evidence room, and it’s just a room with shelves and anybody can walk in and out, that would have huge implications as far as the trustworthiness of evidence,” defense lawyer A. Eduardo Balarezo said in an interview.

According to Balarezo, Lowry checked out evidence without any stated purpose.

While cameras aren’t required for evidence room, they are the best way to protect the integrity of evidence, said Joe Latta, executive director for the International Association for Property and Evidence Inc.

“If you look at general law enforcement, I’d say more don’t have video surveillance than do,” Latta said. “Should they? Absolutely. But the evidence room is sometimes low on the food chain in the organization.”