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This November Keep in Mind Who Trump Has Chosen to Punish and Reward

The writer, an FBI agent for 31 years, retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office in 2006.

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

Last week two peoples’ lives changed dramatically. One avoided jail. The other’s military career ended prematurely.

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One’s a hero, the other isn’t.

On Friday evening, the White House announced that President Trump had commuted Roger Stone’s 40-month prison term. Stone, a longtime friend of Trump and a self-described “dirty trickster,” had made no secret of his desire to receive a pardon or clemency from the president. He made it known that he had remained “loyal” to the president. Actually, he had gone beyond loyalty and committed perjury by lying to Congress and threatening a potential witness.

The subject of his lies was his knowledge of Wikileaks’ possession and ultimate distribution of emails that a Russian intelligence agency had hacked from the Democratic National Committee. He had acted as a go-between for the Trump campaign with Wikileaks. Stone refused to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, ostensibly to protect the president.

He was charged with seven counts, including perjury, obstruction of Congress and witness tampering. He was convicted by a jury on all seven counts and sentenced to 40 months in prison.

At his sentencing, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that Stone “was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the president, he was prosecuted for covering up for the president.”

Read more »

Why the FBI was Right to Launch the Russia-Trump Probe and Investigate Michael Flynn

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com


Greg Stejskal: “When Flynn was interviewed, he did lie.”

I first met Bill Priestap (Edward William Priestap) in the mid-90s. I had been talking to University of Michigan football teams every Fall since 1982. I would bring along other agents and federal prosecutors, and we would talk about illegal sports gambling, drugs and other things that college players should avoid. Bill Priestap was head coach Lloyd Carr’s director of operations, responsible for arranging the FBI talks.

Bill and I became friends, and he expressed interest in becoming an FBI agent. He had a master’s degree in educational administration and business administration, and a law degree. He also had the experience of running a major college football program. I encouraged him to apply. 

He did and was accepted, entering duty in 1998. Bill opted to pursue administrative advancement and in 2015 became assistant director of counterintelligence at FBI HQ.

In July 2016, Bill Priestap faced probably the most consequential decision of his career. 

On July 22, Wikileaks released emails that had apparently been hacked from the Democratic National Committee, specifically from John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager. This resulted in the FBI initiating an investigation of the cyber intrusion of the DNC.

Five days later, the Australian government advised American intelligence services that in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a Trump presidential campaign advisor, had told the Australian High Commissioner to Britain that the Russian officials were in possession of politically damaging information relating to Hillary Clinton.


FBI Agent Bill Priestap

Presented with this information, Priestap authorized the opening of an investigation of possible Russian hacking and any connection to the Trump presidential campaign. The case was code-named Cross Fire Hurricane from the opening line in the Rolling Stones song, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” (The so-called Steele dossier played no role in the opening of the investigation. CFH investigators didn’t learn of the Steele dossier until September of that year.)

The FBI was careful not to make this investigation public, to avoid election influence. (Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal server for some emails involving Department of State business was already public information and was being investigated separately.)

Priestap continued to supervise the case. Following the election, the efforts of the Russian government to interfere and influence the election became public, and President Obama imposed significant sanctions on Russia.  

Michael Flynn and the Ambassador

Retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, who had been a close campaign advisor to President Trump, was named to be national security advisor in the new administration. Flynn had several telephone conversations with Russian Ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, prior to the inauguration.

The substance of these calls was known to the FBI through established electronic surveillance of Kislyak. Among other things, Flynn asked Kislyak to advise the Russian government to not retaliate for the new sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. Flynn indicated that the sanctions would be mitigated by the Trump administration.


President Trump and Michael Flynn

When it became publicly known that Flynn had spoken with Kislyak prior to the inauguration, Vice President Pence made a public statement saying that Flynn had not discussed the Obama sanctions with Kislyak.  Apparently, Flynn had lied to Pence about his conversation with Kislyak. This was a big concern for the FBI and attorneys at the Department of Justice.

It was decided by Priestap and others in the FBI and DOJ that Flynn should be interviewed regarding his conversations with Kislyak. Any time an interview of this nature is contemplated, a pre-interview strategy is prepared. Priestap and others were involved in that strategy. 

Memoranda, emails, and other documents discussing that strategy were released to Flynn’s attorney last month. (These documents are not exculpatory, referred to as Brady material, which would be required to be turned over to the defense in discovery.)

The discussion reflected in the documents addressed such topics as when to warn Flynn that lying is a crime. The effort was to learn the truth while balancing his rights. The documents also contain the question, “What’s our goal?” Is it, “Truth/admission or get him to lie so we can prosecute or get him fired?”

When Flynn was interviewed, he did lie. He was not encouraged to lie by the interviewing agents. In fact, Flynn was given several opportunities to change his answers. Once Flynn agreed to be interviewed, he always had the choice to tell the truth or lie. 

Chris Wallace of Fox News characterized it this way: “Did the FBI play hardball? Yeah, guess what?  The FBI plays hardball. And guess what? If you’re talking to the FBI – and a lot of lawyers would say don’t talk to them unless you have to – don’t lie.”

The FBI informed the Trump administration of Flynn’s dishonesty.  Flynn was asked to resign for having lied to Vice President Pence. 

Trump meddling


James Comey

Soon thereafter, at a meeting of President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director James Comey, Trump pulled Comey aside and said he “hoped you can let (the investigation into Flynn) go.” Comey was noncommittal.

In March 2017, Comey testified at a congressional hearing that the bureau was investigating “whether there was any coordination between the (Trump) campaign and Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.” Comey did not say whether Trump was a target of the investigation.

On May 9, 2017, Comey was fired by Trump. The director of the FBI serves at the pleasure of the president and can be fired without cause. However, the following day, in the Oval Office, Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Kislyak, “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” The following day, during an interview with Lester Holt of NBC, Trump said, “And in fact, when I decided to just do it (fire Comey), I said to myself, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election they should have won.”

Following Comey’s firing, Rosenstein appointed a special counsel, Robert Mueller III, to pursue the Russian election interference case. 

Flynn was charged with lying to the FBI by Special Counsel Mueller, and in December 2017, he pleaded guilty. As part of that plea, Flynn admitted under oath that he had lied to the FBI. Flynn thereafter cooperated with Mueller’s investigation. 

At some point, Flynn apparently had a change of heart. In June 2019, he fired his attorneys and hired Sidney Powell, a Fox News contributor and proponent of the “Deep State” conspiracy theory. Since her hiring, Powell has been orchestrating an effort to withdraw Flynn’s guilty plea by alleging prosecutorial misconduct — so far unsuccessfully.

Final Mueller report

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Ex-FBI DIrector Robert S. Mueller III

In March 2019, Mueller submitted his report and concluded the investigation, while prosecutors continued to pursue criminal charges from the lengthy probe. The investigation resulted in 34 indictments (including 12 members of Russian military intelligence service, the GRU, who will probably never be prosecuted), seven guilty pleas or convictions so far and compelling evidence that the president obstructed justice on multiple occasions. (A statement signed by over 1,000 former prosecutors concluded that if any other American engaged in the same efforts to impede federal proceedings the way Trump did, they would likely be indicted.) The Mueller report explicitly states the report does not exonerate the president. The report also concluded that Russian interference was pervasive and ongoing.

Clearly what began as an investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election was not a hoax nor a witch hunt.

In December 2019, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz submitted his report regarding the initiation and the beginning stages of the Russian investigation. The report found serious errors in applications for court orders to eavesdrop on a former Trump campaign aide, Carter Page. (Some similar errors in other applications not related to the Russian probe were also found.)

The IG found no evidence of political bias or improper motivation by the FBI. “The FBI’s investigation had a factual basis and was initiated for an authorized purpose.” The IG “did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political or improper motivation influenced “the agency decision to open the investigation.”

On March 3, 2020, a bipartisan report of the Senate Intelligence Committee found there was no reason to dispute the intelligence community’s conclusion that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election with the goal of helping elect Trump president. The report from the Senate committee, chaired by a Republican, undercuts Trump’s effort to portray the Russian investigation as a hoax perpetrated by the Democrats and a “Deep State” embedded in the government bureaucracy.

Trump, at an April 19 Covid-19 briefing, called FBI leadership involved in initiating the Russian investigation “human scum.” He characterized the investigation as a “takedown of a duly elected president.” He went on to say, “what they did to Flynn was a disgrace.”

On April 30, Trump referred to people “at the top of the FBI” who prosecuted Flynn, Manafort and others as “dirty, filthy cops.” What apparently the president doesn’t understand is that to investigate and prosecute subjects in a case of this magnitude, requires “street” agents to do the interviews, execute search warrants and analyze enormous amounts of documentary evidence. Also involved are U.S.  attorneys — dedicated, career prosecutors. All have forgone more lucrative careers in order to serve their country.

Agents and prosecutors are not political eunuchs. They have political preferences, but in my experience that has not influenced how an investigation or prosecution is pursued. Agents and prosecutors go where the facts lead them. They are not perfect and sometimes make mistakes, but the overarching goal is justice. 

I do not know Comey, but I do know Bill Priestap, and I have seen nothing to indicate that he isn’t the man of integrity and high ideals that I encouraged to join the FBI over 20 years ago. He retired from the FBI in April 2019.

The people Trump is championing are convicted criminals. He may decide to pardon them, but he should not attack the dedicated men and women of the FBI and the Department of Justice and impugn their integrity for doing their job, and in my estimation, doing it well.

Note: The U.S. Supreme Court stated in Burdick v. U.S. (1915) that accepting a pardon is a confession of guilt.

The Unabomber Story in His Own Words

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

A new documentary about the Unabomber/Ted Kaczynski will begin airing on Netflix Saturday (Feb. 22).

“The Unabomber – In His Own Words” is so titled because the documentary liberally uses parts of the only interview Kaczynski has ever given since his arrest and conviction in 1996.

The documentary not only looks at Kaczynski’s 17 years of terror attacks that killed 3 people and injured 23 from 1978-1995, it also explores his youth and time at Harvard where he was admitted at 16.

Ted was then a grad student at Michigan from 1962-1967 when he received his PhD with honors. Based on Ted’s autobiography, Ted’s first thought about killing people was while he was at Michigan.

I’m in the documentary as well, having worked on the investigation. In November, 1985, a package (weighing about 5 lbs. and measuring 3”x 8”x 11”) was received in the mail at the residence of Professor James McConnell. McConnell, who was teaching and doing research in the psychology department at the University of Michigan. The package was opened by an assistant of McConnell. It exploded and caused considerable damage to McConnell’s kitchen, but the assistant only suffered minor injury to his arms and abdomen.

Ted’s brother, David, who ultimately turned Ted in, is interviewed extensively. David provides insights into Ted’s youth and the trauma he experienced when he realized Ted was the Unabomber.

The documentary delves into some of the theories as to why Ted turned from a promising career in theoretical mathematics to a hermit living in the woods and a serial bomber.

Did Our President Provide an Opening for a Racist Remark in Michigan Heard Around the Country?

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

In the late ’70s, I was assigned to the FBI Detroit field office’s surveillance squad. We spent most of the time following Detroit organized crime members, but we were also involved in other investigations. One of those resulted in information that a local group of the Ku Klux Klan were going to Tennessee to obtain dynamite. We were tasked with following them.

The Klan guys left for Tennessee in the evening in one van and drove straight through the night. They switched drivers every few hours — a challenge for us, as we only had one agent per car. A lot of coffee was consumed.

Periodically we would switch the lead car, so they didn’t see the same car following them. We ended up in rural east Tennessee on a two-lane highway. I was in the lead car when the van turned onto a dirt road. I let the van go over the first hill before I followed. There were several steep hills before the road led to an open field. Upon reaching the crest of the last hill, I saw something I didn’t think still existed.

The field was full of men in white robes with tall conical hats. Knowing I wouldn’t be welcome, I put the car in reverse, and backed down the road. I got on the radio and told the rest of the team to not come any further.

Later that night we saw the Klan burn a cross in a nearby town square. The Michigan Klan guys never got their dynamite, but that road trip left me with some indelible images of evil incarnate. No good has ever come from wearing those white robes and pointy hats.

I thought about what I saw in that field in Tennessee when I saw the reports of the August 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that left a counterprotester dead. President Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides.” That’s only true if you can be a very fine person and be a racist and a xenophobe. 

Hate and racism are malignant

Greg Stejskal

Hate and racism are like some cancers. They may be in remission, but never go away. In the last few years, racism has seemed to metastasize.

When Trump announced that he was running, he said: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best… . They’re sending people who have lots of problems and they’re bringing those with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some I assume are good people.”

His statement didn’t evoke Emma Lazarus’ poem on the Statue of Liberty.

When Trump was criticized by four female congresswomen of color, he responded by saying that they should “go back” to the “crime-infested places from which they came.” All but one, who is a Somali refugee, were born in the U.S. and are elected members of the House of Representatives.

The Saline incident

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Mexican American parent Adrian Iraola, standing,  is interrupted by Tom Burtell at right. (Photo: MLive video screenshot) 

So it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that at a school meeting a few days ago in Saline, Mexican-American parent Adrian Iraola, was interrupted by another parent, Tom Burtell. Iraola was talking about his son distress over being called names like “taco” and “enchilada” while attending Saline schools. Burtell interrupted, saying: “Then why didn’t you stay in Mexico?”

The video of the Saline incident (bleow) went viral and precipitated a national discussion. 

Read more »

Here’s Why Chuckie O’Brien Deserves A Clearance Letter in Hoffa Murder

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Chuckie O’Brien in Florida in 2018. (Family photo)

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

It’s time for the feds to give Chuckie O’Brien a letter of clearance that says he’s no longer a suspect in Jimmy Hoffa’s murder.

Why? Because the evidence is overwhelming.

For nearly 45 years, a cloud has hung over O’Brien, Hoffa’s confidante, “surrogate son,” driver, gofer and conduit to the mob. O’Brien, now 85 and in declining health, lives in Boca Raton, Fla.

Shortly after Hoffa’s disappearance July 30, 1975, O’Brien was named as a suspect by the FBI, something he’s had to live with ever since. For decades, the feds theorized that O’Brien picked Hoffa up outside the Machus Red Fox restaurant on Telegraph Road and drove him to his death. Hoffa was supposed to meet Detroit mobster Anthony Giacalone, who never showed for lunch.

Now his stepson, Jack Goldsmith, a former Justice Department official who teaches law at Harvard, has written “In Hoffa’s Shadow,” a book that lays out a pretty convincing case – including a timeline of his whereabouts that day – that O’Brien couldn’t have been involved.

Of course, O’Brien was no Boy Scout and was described by the FBI in 1976 as a pathological liar. Still, the facts strongly favor him.

The 368-page book, released in fall, has interviews with ex-FBI agents and a current federal prosecutor who believe O’Brien had nothing to do with the murder. Some, including current Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric M. Straus, had hoped to give O’Brien the letter officially clearing him of the crime.

But in 2014, after several years of trying, Goldsmith writes that then-U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade nixed the idea. She declined to comment for Deadline Detroit, as did the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Hoffa, 62 when he disappeared, had been released from prison in 1971 and was bent on reclaiming his throne as Teamster president. And he was willing to do almost anything, including expose the mob’s ties to the union and its pension fund, which organized crime essentially used as its private bank for loans. Some predicted Hoffa would get killed crossing the mob, which was happy with the leadership of Frank Fitzsimmons. They were right.

On the day he vanished, Hoffa was supposed to meet Anthony Giacalone for lunch at the Machus Red Fox. Giacalone not only stood him up, he made sure everyone saw him hanging out at the Southfield Athletic Club.

O’Brien surfaced as a suspect quickly.

New Agent on the Case

FBI agent Andrew Sluss, now retired, picked up the case in 2003.

He entered the investigation with the institutional belief that O’Brien was the likely wheelman for Hoffa’s last ride. But “within a year,” Goldsmith writes, “Sluss had concluded that this belief was erroneous and that Chuckie was not at the Machus Red Fox parking lot that afternoon. …Sluss also apparently studied the timeline of Chuckie’s activities during the afternoon of July 30 more carefully than the original investigators, and concluded that it was practically impossible for Chuckie to have picked up Hoffa…based on his known whereabouts that afternoon.”

As for Goldsmith’s account of the Hoffa investigation, Sluss tells Deadline Detroit: “I think it’s 100 percent accurate.” And he says with “no hesitation” that O’Brien is entitled to be formally exonerated with a letter.

Read more »

Deep State? No, These Folks Are American Patriots

The writer, an FBI agent for 31 years, retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office in 2006.

By Greg Stejskal

On March 10, 1975, I reported to the Department of Justice Building in Washington, D.C. — “Main Justice” — to be sworn in as a FBI special agent with my fellow new agents. In a large room that was used for the secret trial of the Nazi saboteurs during World War II, I raised my right hand and took the oath that every agent takes:

“I (my name) do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

The Constitution prescribes a similar oath for the president in Article II.

Unlike those Nazi saboteurs who swore an oath to the Fuhrer, we swore allegiance to the concept that we are a country of laws, and no man is above the law. We would not be taking an oath of fealty to anyone. In fact during the Revolution, those serving in the Continental Army not only pledged allegiance to the United States, but specifically denounced any allegiance to King George III.

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Trial of Nazi saboteurs during World War II.

For me what followed was an almost 32-year career investigating and prosecuting violations of federal laws. I had the good fortune to be involved in a number of high-profile cases, and it was a rewarding career.

So when I watched the recent impeachment hearing, I had a somewhat unique perspective.

Most people didn’t have the time to watch the hearings. Others  prejudged them as a hoax or a witch hunt.

Being retired, I did have time and tried to view the hearings objectively. (Full disclosure: I’m a lifelong Republican.)

I’m not going to recount the evidence or try to make a case for or against impeachment although I thought the evidence was compelling and creditable. But what especially troubled me were the personal attacks on the witnesses by the president. Most of the witnesses were career foreign service officers. All of whom took an oath to support and defend the Constitution.

No right to publicly disparage

The third public witness was Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine and a career foreign service officer. She was removed as ambassador by President Trump. In the now infamous, “perfect,” July 25 call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump characterized Ambassador Yovanovitch as “bad news.”

Whilee Yonanovitch was testifying Nov. 15 at the congressional hearing on national TV, President Trump tweeted:

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second call with him. It is a US President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.”

It is the president’s “absolute right” to appoint and/or remove an ambassador, but I don’t believe the president has any kind of right to publicly disparage a career foreign service officer with an outstanding reputation and stellar career. Leaving aside the issue of whether his tweet constituted witness intimidation.

On Nov. 19, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams testified. Jennifer Williams is a veteran State Department official who has served as a special advisor to Vice President Mike Pence on European and Russian affairs.

Before her testimony, President Trump again took to twitter saying, she [Williams] should read the transcripts of the July 25 call and another one that took place in April. “Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know and mostly never even heard of and work out a better presidential attack!”

The president’s twitter attacks disparaging the witnesses and questioning their veracity were reminiscent of Joseph McCarthy’s attacks on witnesses during his notorious hearings of the early 1950s – those really were witch hunts. Coincidentally, McCarthy’s chief counsel during the hearings was Roy Cohn. Cohn later was Donald Trump’s attorney and according to Trump his mentor.

Impressed, Inspired and Proud


Sen. Joseph McCarthy (Photo: Wikimedia)

As a retired FBI agent, I was impressed, inspired and proud of the foreign service and intelligence officers who testified.

They are dedicated Americans, patriots, who swore an oath to protect and defend the constitution, not an individual. They witnessed or became aware of what appeared to them to be inappropriate conduct by the president and some individuals ostensibly acting on his instructions. They had the courage to report that conduct, to testify under oath and in some cases to suffer the slings and arrows of the president’s wrath.

The witnesses did not have a political agenda. They had a country agenda. They are not denizens of the deep state. They are sailors on the ship of state, not to be vilified, but to be saluted. They are Teddy Roosevelt’s men and women in the arena.

I once served in the company of such people and would be proud to stand with them now.

A Michigan Case That Tested Free Speech in the Early Days of the Internet

The writer, an FBI agent for 31 years, retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office in 2006.

By Greg Stejskal

Free speech has limits, as a famous Supreme Court example illustrates. “Falsely shouting fire in a theater” is not constitutionally protected speech, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in 1919.

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(Photo: Michigan Technology Law Review)

Nearly eight decades later, the first criminal prosecution of threats on the Internet again tested the boundary of free speech. I was a player in that 1995 landmark case.

The defendant was a 20-year-old University of Michigan student who shortened his name to Jake Baker, rather than using Abraham Jacob Alkhabaz. He was described as quiet and nice, and wrote stories with innocent titles like “Going for a Walk.”

But he harbored demons. The stories were lurid, graphic tales of kidnappng, raping, torturing and killing young women – so called snuff stories. Jake posted these at alt.sex.stories, a Usenet chat group, when the Internet was in its infancy. His case raised issues we had not faced.

Urgent questions, still

Almost 25 years later, we still face the tricky, high-stakes questions: Where does freedom of speech end and when does it become a crime? How do you predict when hateful or misogynistic speech will morph into violence? Is it a crime to threaten violence?


Greg Stejskal: Judge Avern Cohn “criticized the government and its ‘overzealous agent,’ referring to me.”

To examine the issue, it’s worth looking back at the federal case of United States v. Alkhabaz, a touchstone in the history of cyber law.

Back then, few people knew of the Internet. Baker’s writings were discovered thanks to a Michigan alumnus, who happened to be in Russia. He stumbled across one of Jake’s stories and knew from the IP address that Jake had some UM affiliation.

The story used the name of a real Michigan coed as a victim. (In court papers and media accounts, she was referred to as Jane Doe.) The real Jane was not aware of her characterization in the story or that she was about to be a player in a First Amendment controversy.

The alum contacted university officials, who notified the campus Department of Public Safety. Detectives talked to Jake and obtained a warrant to search his computer and email account.

‘Torture is foreplay’

Jake lived in the East Quadrangle dormitory, which also housed future mail bomber Ted Kaczynski during the mid-1960s. The search revealed several more snuff stories by Jake. Two used Jane Doe’s name and one had her address and phone number.

One story used Jane Doe’s last name in the title of the story. A paragraph in that story achieved notoriety as it appeared often in the print media. (“As an introduction to his stories, Jake wrote: ‘Torture is foreplay. Rape is romance. Snuff is climax.'”)

This is an excerpt from that story:

Then Jerry and I tie her by her long brown hair to the ceiling fan, so that she is dangling midair. Her feet don’t touch the ground. She kicks trying to hit me, Jerry or the gorund [sic]. The sight of her wiggling in mid-air, hands rudely taped behind her back, turns me on. Jerry takes a big spiky hair-brush and starts beating her small breasts with it, coloring them with nice red marks. She screams and struggles harder.

At this point the story goes from R-rated to X-rated. It ends with Jake’s protagonist lighting Jane Doe on fire.

Vivid, scary emails

The search of his email account revealed numerous messages between Jake and an individual identifying himself as Arthur Gonda, believed to be residing in Ontario, Canada.

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We still face the question of where freedom of speech ends and when it’s a crime. (Graphic: DepositPhotos)

 

In these messages Jake and Gonda discuss actually getting together to commit the acts Jake had depicted. This is part of a December 1994 email from Jake to Gonda:

I’ve started doing is going back and rereading earlier messages of yours. Each time I do, they turn me on more and more. I can’t wait to see you in person. I’ve been trying to think of secluded spots, but my area knowledge of Ann Arbor is limited to the campus. I don’t want any blood in my room, though I’ve come upon an excellent method to abduct a bitch – As I said before, my room is right across from the girl’s bathroom. Wiat [sic] until late at night, grab her when she goes to unlock the door. Knock her unconscious, and put her into one of those portable lockers (forgot the word for it), or even a duffle bag. Then hurry her out to the car and take her away …what do you think?

This was Gonda’s response:

Hi Jake. I have been out tonight and I can tell you that I am thinking more and more about “doing” a girl. I can picture it so well … and I can think of no better use of their flesh. I HAVE to make a bitch suffer!

Jake’s response. in part:

I know how you feel. I’ve been masturbating like the devil recently. Just thinking about it anymore doesn’t do the trick … I need TO DO IT.

I saw an illegal threat

When the Washtenaw County prosecutor told campus police no state statute let the student be charged with a crime, UM’s force contacted the local FBI office.

After reading Jake’s stories and emails, I concluded that the electronic messages in context with the stories constituted a threat as defined by a federal statute [18 USC 875(c)] that deals with transmitting “in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or to injure any person.”

The statute was written long before the Internet, but that new tool clearly was an instrument of interstate commerce.

I presented the case to the Detroit U.S. Attorney’s office, which agreed with my conclusion. Our contention was that Jake had threatened not only Jane Doe, but all coeds in East Quad.

Jake was arrested on a complaint and warrant and arraigned before a federal magistrate in Detroit. We did not request detention, but after reading some of Jake’s literary works, the magistrate felt he was dangerous and ordered him kept in custody.

Fantasies are protected speech


The New York Times covered the case.

The case was assigned to District Court Judge Avern Cohn. It was apparent that Judge Cohn wasn’t a fan of the government’s case. He made it clear that Jake’s stories were protected by the First Amendment’s free speech clause and couldn’t be part of the prosecution.

So when Jake was indicted, all references to the stories were eliminated. (I argued against dropping the stories, as I believed Cohn would toss the case no matter what we did. In addition to providing context, the stories named a potential victim with her actual address.)

Cohn did dismiss the indictment, saying Jake’s emails were nothing more than a private conversation discussing fantasies and were thus protected as free speech. He criticized the government and its “overzealous agent,” referring to me.

The government appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. A 2-1 decision by that Cincinnati court said the emails did not constitute a threat because they were “not conveyed to effect some change or achieve some goal through intimidation.”

The dissenting judge pointed out — correctly, I think — that if Congress intended proof of such an intent, it would have said so. (The appellate judges could not consider the emails in context with the gruesome stories, as they weren’t part of the indictment.)

A modern conundrum

I don’t know where Jake is now, and I have no reason to believe he ever tried to bring his horrific fantasies to life. But he might have if we hadn’t interceded. (He spent 30 days in the U.S. Marshals’ detention facility before Cohn tossed the indictment.)

In an age of terrorism, both domestic and international, law enforcement is left with the conundrum of how to address Internet communications that could be preparation for criminal acts.

Most mass shootings have been preceded by Internet postings from the shooter. The alleged El Paso shooter who killed 22 people Aug. 3 posted a white nationalist screed, saying in part: “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas. They are the instigators not me. I am simply defending my country from the cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by the invasion.”

His Walmart murders occurred minutes after the posting. But if no attack occurred, would the screed constitute a criminal threat that could be prosecuted?

In its effort to combat domestic terrorism, the FBI pays more attention to social media — including chatrooms and sites frequented by white nationalists, as well as sites where misogynistic messages are shared.

Chilling connection from 1995 to 2019

In 1995, we may have been on to something but didn’t know it: Misogyny — the professed hatred of women and or violent acts against women — is a characteristic of shooters in more than half of U.S. mass shootings from 2009-17.

Analysts who monitor these sites are developing profiles of potential mass shooters based on their posts. Their findings, coupled with stricter background checks and a federal red flag law, would not eliminate all mass shootings — but would stop some.

A recent example is the June 2019 arrest of Ross Farca, 23, by police in Concord, Calif., based on FBI information. Farca allegedly had made online threats to do a mass shooting at a synagogue.

He had written, in part: “I would probably get a body count of like 30 k***s (an ethnic slur for Jews) and then like five police officers because I would also decide to fight to the death.”

No date, time or specific synagogue was identified.

This alleged threat led a search warrant to be executed at Farca’s residence, whgere law enforcers found an illegally modified AR-15, 30 high-capacity magazines and Nazi literature. Farca is charged with making criminal threats and possessing an illegal assault rifle. He’s out on $125,000 bail to await trial.

Perhaps this was a mass shooting that didn’t occur because of better vigilance of the Internet and a better understanding of what constitutes a threat.

The Not-So Shocking Revelation that Some Asian Spas are Really Brothels

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

Last week in Jupiter, Florida, the Orchids of Asia Day Spa was raided and closed allegedly for being a prostitution business, a brothel. Making it a prominent story on national news was the identity of one of the spa customers, Robert Kraft, the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots. Kraft has been charged with soliciting prostitution.

Robert Kraft

Surprising to me was the reaction of law enforcement and the media. It reminded me of that iconic scene from the movie, “Casablanca:”

The local police chief, Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) is closing Rick’s American Café. When asked why he’s closing the Café, Renault replies. “I am shocked – shocked – to find that gambling (think prostitution) is going on here!” After delivering that line, the croupier hands Renault a stack of bills and says, “Your winnings sir.” Renault thanks the croupier and quickly walks away.

I find it hard to believe that the media and law enforcement like Capt. Renault didn’t know that many storefront Asian spas/massage parlors are in fact brothels. The story that follows was posted in 2009 on the federal law enforcement website, ticklethewire.com. 

In 1999, the Ann Arbor (MI) Police Department came to me with a proposal. AAPD wanted to know if the FBI would be willing to help investigate Asian spas/massage parlors in Ann Arbor, and prosecute them federally. There were five Asian spas in Ann Arbor, and they strongly suspected that the spas were fronts and were actually brothels. At the time I was the senior agent in the local FBI office and knew next to nothing about Asian spas.

Greg Stejskal

I consulted with US Attorney’s Office (USAO) in the Eastern District of Michigan and FBIHQ. I got the go ahead and learned there were other similar cases being pursued elsewhere in the country. We would coordinate our investigation with those other cases. Further, there were national implications involved, e.g., organized crime, indentured servitude, immigrant smuggling, human trafficking and sexual exploitation which the then US Attorney General had made a priority. The Asian spa/brothel seemed to be a national phenomenon.

I went back to AAPD and told them we could pursue the spas federally, but only if AAPD was willing to commit to a long-term investigation. To AAPD’s credit it made that commitment.

At the outset of the case, we understood the spas could be shut down like the speakeasies of the prohibition era, but to have any lasting impact the owners had to be identified and prosecuted. It was relatively easy to show there was prostitution occurring in these spas, the trick (no pun intended) was to prove the owners had knowledge that prostitution was occurring, and they were profiting from it.

All the spas in Ann Arbor were run by Korean Americans. (We code-named our investigation Seoul Provider.) Surveillance and telephone pen-registers indicated some interaction between spas in Ann Arbor and all over the country. All the spas we became aware of in Michigan and Ohio were run by Korean Americans, and they all had very similar operating procedures.

The working girls were almost exclusively Asian and lived on the premises and seldom left. They moved from one spa to another after six weeks to two months often in other parts of the country. The spas were usually managed by older Asian women, who were in effect madams. Often the spas would have the working girls sign agreements making them independent contractors, thus giving the owners plausible deniability as to knowledge of sexual activity. The working girls were in almost all cases uncooperative with law enforcement and could not be relied upon as potential witnesses. Despite the women being exploited, most had very limited skills, little English language capability and were in an indentured servitude status. Many were told the expenses that were incurred to get them to and into the US was a debt and had to be repaid.

The spas operated seven days a week with very long hours, e.g., 10 AM – 2 AM. (not the kind of hours of operation in legitimate massage parlors and probably a clue). The spas would set fees such as $45 for a half hour and $60 for an hour massage. Generally, these fees went to the house. The money for sex was added to the initial fee and was negotiated based on the agreed sexual activity. The money for sex was split between the house and the girls. All the spas we investigated accepted credit cards. This turned out to be a key element in proving the owners’ knowledge.

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