Links

Columnists



Site Search


Entire (RSS)
Comments (RSS)

Archive Calendar

June 2021
S M T W T F S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Guides

How to Become a Bounty Hunter



Uncategorized

Were FBI Agent’s Texts Intentionally Destroyed in Gun Trafficking Sting in Philippines?

 
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The question is: Were the text messages sent by an undercover FBI agent to defendants in an 18-month gun trafficking sting in the Philippines destroyed by the government or was there merely a technical glitch that prevented them from being saved?

Deputy Federal Defender John Littrell suggests in a court document filed Monday in Los Angeles federal court that the government may have destroyed the text messages. The government, according to Littrell’s motion, claims it was a glitch: that the phone the agent used only retained incoming texts from the defendants, but not the outgoing ones by the agent.

Littrell says he needs the FBI agent’s texts to help prove that his client, Sergio Santiago Syjuco of Philippines and two co-defendants, were entrapped by the agent who he says used humiliaton and threats to get them to help traffick guns to the U.S. The trial is pending.

The case has already stirred some controversy. Littrell in filings weeks earlier alleged that the undercover agent used taxpayer dollars to pay for hookers in the Philippines for himself and the three co-defendants, and that some of the prostitutes where they went were underage. The agent responded in court documents, calling the allegations about the hookers pure nonsense.

On this latest allegations, Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Los Angeles said Wednesday night: “The government will respond to the allegations in court.”

In the motion, the defense attorney  writes that the government produced as part of the exculpatory evidence, 419 pages of photographs of incoming text messages sent from the defendants to the undercover agent. However, he noted that the government failed to produce any text messages from the agent to the defendant, evidence he says  could prove the men were entrapped.

Littrell writes in the court filing:

“The government’s bad faith in destroying the evidence should be inferred based on the lack of any persuasive explanation as to why all incoming text messages were preserved by the government, and none of the outgoing messages.”

“”Because the defense of entrapment will be presented to the jury, the precise contents of the statements of both the defendants and the undercover agent and the context in which those statements were made, will be critical at trial. ”

“On September 11, 2012, co-counsel George Buehler inquired of Assistant United States Attorney Margaret Vierbuchen why she had produced only photographs of incoming text messages from the undercover agent’s phone, and not the outgoing messages.  Ms. Vierbuchen responded by stating that the cellular telephone used by the agent preserved only incoming messages and not outgoing

“Defense counsel has discussed the government’s claim with an expert, and the expert has indicated that this is unlikely. The government has offered no other explanation as to why none of the outgoing text messages sent by the undercover agent during his 18 month investigation have been preserved.”

Usually text message on phones show a string of incoming and outgoing text messages.

Littrell also wrote that even if the government was correct in that there was a glitch,  it should have realized it and “replaced the agent’s phone with one that does record outgoing text messages in order to preserve what was obviously important evidence. Moreover, because the government preserved the incoming text messages by taking photographs of them as they appeared on the screen of the agent’s phone, why would the government fail to similarly take photographs of the outgoing text messages as they appeared?”

Littrell could not be immediately reached for comment.

Read Defense Attorney’s Motion

What the Heck is Going on With ATF and Fed Prosecutors in Reno?

U.S. Attorney Dan Bogden

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
What the heck is going on in Reno, Nevada?

The Reno-Gazette Journal reports that the U.S. Attorney there have refused for nearly the past year to take any case submitted by ATF.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said the dispute has forced the transfer of four full-time agents from the Reno, according to the paper.

The paper reported that a Sept. 29, 2011 directive from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said :”We are not accepting any cases submitted by your office.”

The paper said the assistant U.S. Attorney and the U.S. Attorney Dan Bogden did not respond for comment.

To read more click here. 

STORIES OF OTHER INTEREST

 

Exclusive: Undercover FBI Agent Accused of Using Taxpayer $$ to Pay for Prostitutes in Philippines for Himself and Defendants in Sting

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

An undercover California FBI agent is being accused of spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on prostitutes in the Philippines “for himself and for defendants” in a gun-trafficking sting and that “many of the prostitutes were likely minors.”

The ticklethewire.com has reviewed the allegations  in court papers that were  filed on September 17 in Los Angeles federal court by John Littrell, a deputy Federal Public Defender, who represents one of the three defendants.

“In order to induce the defendants to participate, an undercover agent spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on prostitutes for himself and for the defendants,” Littrell wrote. “Many of these prostitutes were likely minors. These crimes were not victimless.  Indeed, only months after an undercover agent paid thousands of dollars of taxpayer money for prostitutes at a well-known brothel in Manila, the Philippine government raided the brothel, and rescued twenty under-aged girls.”

Littrell has asked the judge to dismiss the case based on “outrageous governmental misconduct,” citing the use of prostitutes  in the case —  including for the agent — and allegations that the FBI manufactured the case after it failed to find real weapons traffickers in its investigation into Transnational Asian Organized Crime that began in 2010 and ended in December 2011 with criminal charges. A Nov. 13  trial has been set.

“The defendants became involved in this offense only after the government’s effort to ensnare a true weapons trafficker fell apart,” the court documents says. “More importantly, the actual crimes charged in this case — importing weapons to the United States — were committed by federal agents acting unilaterially , without help from the defendants.” In other words, he alleged, that the FBI agents, not the defendants, actually shipped the weapons to the U.S., and the FBI deliberately lied on customs declarations — all so the FBI could charge the defendants with illegal importation of weapons.

The Philippino defendants Sergio  Santiago Syjuco, Cesar Ubaldo and Arjyl Revereza are charged  with conspiracy and importation of firearms. Littrell, who represents Syjuco, alleges that the defendants were not weapons traffickers, but the FBI pushed them into obtaining and selling guns. Authorities allege that the defendants sold weapons and helped facilitate the importation of the weapons to the U.S.

Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Los Angeles said Sunday: “As a policy, we’re not authorized to comment on pending prosecution, but the government will respond to the motion in court.” Government lawyers in the case at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles and the Justice Department in Washington did not respond Sunday to emails asking for comment.

Defense attorney John Littrell commented Sunday, saying: “There is no legitimate justification for an FBI agent supporting sex trafficking in a foreign country. I hope these are the actions of a poorly supervised agent, and that they were not sanctioned by the department of justice. Either way, this conduct should be thoroughly investigated.”

The undercover agent, who posed during the sting as an arms broker for the Mexican cartels,  is only identified in the court documents by his undercover name Richard Han.

After the indictment, as  part of its own investigation into the case, the Federal Defender’s Office sent an investigator to the Philippines, who spoke to workers in the brothels and came up with allegations about the prostitutes and the undercover agent.

“On several occasions, the undercover agent invited Syjuco, Ubaldo, Revereza and others to ‘Air Force One,’ “Area 51,’ and other brothels in and around Manila in order to reward them for their efforts and encourage them to continue looking for weapons, “attorney Littrell wrote in the court document, based on his office’s own investigation. “Using the name ‘Richard Han,” he ordered prostitutes and paid for himself and others to have sex with the prostitutes.”

Littrell writes that Ariel Escosio, a manager at Area 51, said that the undercover agent known as Richard Han always paid for everything in the club and that he particularly liked to have sex with someone named Natasha.

Littrell noted in the court document that Gerry Albrido, manager at Air Force One,  said the agent was abusive and degrading to prostitutes.

“One on occasion, Han demanded that several prostitutes in the club line up and drink five shots of hard liquor,” Litrell wrote. “Han demanded that several prostitutes in the club line up and drink five shots of hard liquor. Most of the girls did so, but one them, who was very small, coud not drink the liquor and poured it out. Mr. Alberight stated that Han yelled at the girl and forced her to drink the alcohol until she vomited.

Lattrill noted that the government turned over some documentation from the investigation involving expenses in the Philippines.

“Although the government represents that these expenditures were for ‘entertainment and cocktail (tips included) it is impossible that the agent could not have known that the money went toward prostitutes,” Littrell wrote. “On May 9, 2011, the agent was entertained for several hours in a private room at  Air Force One, a prostitution club. He sought reimbursement of more than three thousand dollars for ‘entertainment and cocktail (tip included) for that night.”

Littrell noted in court papers that on May 5, 2011, that the National Bureau of Investigation, Anti-Human Trafficking Division in the Philippines conducted a “rescue operation” at Area 51 and rescued 60 victims of sex trafficking, including  nearly 20 who were minors.

 

 

Thirty Years Later, Carrying on a Tradition: Talking to U of M Football Team About Gambling and Other Matters

The author (right) Greg Stejksal and late Michigan coach Bo Schembechler

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

 In 1982 legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler called the FBI office in Ann Arbor. Bo wanted the FBI to talk to his team primarily about the perils of illegal sports gambling.

The Senior Resident Agent, Tom Love, agreed to make the presentation. Tom knew I had played (read mostly practiced) college football and asked me to help.

At the time Michigan’s football team was housed in a relatively small one story building that reminded me of a Quonset hut. Michigan’s transition from that modest building to the state of the art facilities they have today is emblematic of the change in Division 1 football in the last 30 years.

In our talk we explained how sports gambling worked. How it’s not about who wins. It’s about covering the point spread. How important it was for gamblers to get inside information as an edge to better divine how a team will perform, and if possible, have a cooperating player or ref with the ability to control the point spread, “point shaving.”

Sports gambling was and is a potential threat to the integrity of sports. The huge amount of money bet illegally in the US on sports is an incentive to gain an advantage in knowing or trying to control the outcome of a game. Recent estimates of the annual amount bet illegally in the U.S. are north of $300 billion.

When I started doing the FBI presentations, a D-1 college team, like Michigan, might be on TV once or twice a year. Now sports programing has become so pervasive that a dedicated fan or gambler can watch just about any game played anywhere in the country.

 

With the increase in TV coverage, sports gambling has also increased. And with the advent of the internet, gamblers have access to more current information and can place bets on-line.

Recognizing the need for educating players, the FBI developed a sports presentation program, and trained agents to address college and professional teams. After my first talk to the Michigan football team, I went through the training and attended periodic conferences with representatives from NFL, MLB, NHL and NCAA.

Over the years I’ve talked to pro and college teams. (I talked to the Michigan basketball teams several times including the “Fab Five” teams. That might have been a case of a failure to communicate.)

Something I didn’t always do, but learned was important, was to ensure that the head coaches stayed during the presentations. If the coaches didn’t think it was important enough to be there, the players would think the same thing.

The FBI program still exists in theory, but priorities have changed. It is no longer as active as it was, although sports gambling is bigger than ever and point shaving scandals continue to surface.

Our first talk with the Michigan football team must have gone well. Bo invited Tom Love and me back the next year. Tom was not as enthusiastic about speaking to the team as I was. So he told me to handle it on my own.

Little did I know that it was to be the “beginning of a beautiful friendship” between Bo and me. It was to have a substantial impact on my career.

Bo and I would work together on several FBI cases – notably the investigation of Norby Walters/Lloyd Bloom, two notorious sports agents who bribed and signed about 20 blue chip college football players while they were still eligible to play college ball. Walters and Bloom post dated the contracts and kept them secret, a clear violation of NCAA rules. Under NCAA rules, once you sign with an agent, your college eligibility ends.

Bo would be the “star” witness in the successful federal prosecution of Walters and Bloom. (Walters had been a New York music agent and had organized crime ties and a NY Mafia family helped finance Walters’ sports operation. It was believed that the ultimate goal of signing so many star athletes was to try to get some of the players in the stable to become involved in point shaving.)

Bo also convinced me –he was very persuasive — to pursue an undercover operation targeting the illegal trafficking of anabolic steroids. That UCO, Equine, was international in scope and resulted in the successful prosecution of over 70 dealers. (I’ve written several stories about Equine.)

Although illegal sports gambling continued to be the primary topic over the years, other concerns were discussed like: drugs, steroids, domestic violence (more specifically don’t beat-up your girlfriend) and recently the improvident use of social media. Obviously social media can also be a source of inside information for gamblers – makes you wonder how many star players’ twitter followers are professional gamblers.

The topics may have changed, but the message never really did. The common theme was using good judgment, having good values and making good decisions.

Bo had a concept of a “Michigan Man” (not meant to be gender specific). A Michigan Man not only demonstrated traditional values like integrity, honor and responsibility, on the field, but he/she lived them.

When Bo retired in 1989, I continued to talk to the Michigan football teams.

Later I was fortunate to become friends with Lloyd Carr during his 13 year tenure as Michigan coach. Lloyd reminded me of Jimmy Stewart, whereas Bo was more like George C. Scott playing General Patton. Both men led by example and practiced the values they taught.

During four of the seasons Lloyd coached (2000-03), my son was a walk-on. Those presentations were special for me. When I spoke to those teams, I was not only a FBI agent speaking to Michigan’s football team, but a father seeing his son in a group of men representing a program that I had come to respect.

This week I will again talk to the Michigan football team. Brady Hoke is Michigan’s coach now.

Before leaving to be head coach at Ball State and San Diego State, Brady was an assistant at Michigan under Lloyd Carr for 7 years (1995-2002). Brady has embraced the traditions of Michigan and the concept of the Michigan Man.

It is Michigan’s 133rd football season, and it will be my 30th year.

The topics have changed. There are still the perils of illegal sports gambling, but now there are the issues of social media: texting, sexting, twittering, etc. New problems, but the message stays the same: making good choices based on good values.

I always end my talks with a quote attributed to John Wayne: “Life is tough. It’s tougher if you’re stupid.”

Law Enforcement Needs to Take On Mental Illness If It Wants to Reduce the Chances of More Mass Shootings

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Looking at the mass shootings in the U.S. in recent years, from Tucson to Aurora, Colo. from  Columbine to Oak Creek, Wisc., two things become apparent: The gunmen all had easy access to guns and they all had severe psychological problems.

I won’t address the issue of the guns. Not in this column.

But I want to address the issue of mental illness.

Law enforcement has to recognize this as a crime problem.

Law enforcement needs to partner with social services and psychiatric agencies and address mental illness in this country that is being played out in such deadly ways these days.

When states cut budgets, social services and mental health facilities often take hits. That means more untreated mental illness or people going without their meds.   That potentially opens us up for the next Aurora or Sikh temple shooting. That should be unacceptable.  Law enforcement should let that be known.

As early as elementary school, we can often identify problem children. Teachers and counselors need to play a bigger role in identifying those kids.  Law enforcement needs to make sure funding and  treatment is there.

In junior high, I could already see that some of my classmates were destined for trouble. One ended up being fatally shot during an armed robbery right after high school graduation. Another had the distinction of being known as “the west side rapist.”

Not to suggest addressing mental illness is the end-all solution.  But it is  part of the solution.

Law enforcement needs to recognize that.  Responding to the massacres  isn’t good enough.  We can’t keep watching these massacres unfold and simply wonder why.

Penn State Cover Up is Lesson for Institutions Including Fed Law Enforcement

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

There’s a lesson to be learned from the Jerry Sandusky-Penn State child sexual abuse scandal for institutions, including federal law enforcement agencies.

The main lesson is that institutions aren’t more important than people.

We’ve seen this play out so many times before. Institutions protecting their image, avoiding disgrace.

We’ve seen it in the Catholic church with the pedophile scandal. High ranking church officials covering up disgraceful criminal acts of sexual abuse to protect images and people in the institution.

We’ve seen it with the old FBI in Boston that covered up the misdeeds of mobster Whitey Bulger.

When cover ups like that happen, people get killed. Children get molested. Lives are ruined.

What happned at Penn State is unforgivable. Yes, as the Louie Freeh report points out, even good ole coach Joe Paterno was involved in the cover up.

So when scandal surfaces in institutions, including federal law enforcement, it’s best to come clean, lick the wounds and move on.

Cover ups are so much more dangerous to the things that matter most to us: People.

 

Now More Than Ever I Believe Bo Schembechler Would Have Done Right Thing in Penn State Scandal

The author (right) Greg Stejksal and Michigan coach Bo Schembechler

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

Last November I wrote a column about how I thought legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler would have handled the Penn State scandal.

Since then Joe Paterno was fired and subsequently died from cancer. Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 46 of 48 counts of sexual child abuse involving 10 boys.

Now the results of an independent investigation, the Freeh report, have been released.

As I had speculated in my column, Joe Paterno knew of allegations of Sandusky’s sexual child abuse as early as 1998. He apparently forced Sandusky to “retire” from the PSU coaching staff (after the 1999 season), but gave him a unique severance package including $168,000 and the designation Assistant Professor Emeritus – thus, allowing Sandusky continued, unrestricted access to Penn State athletic facilities.

This makes Paterno’s actions and inaction in 2002 all the more indefensible. When confronted with an eyewitness account of Sandusky sexually abusing a child in a shower at the PSU football facility, Paterno passed the report to his superiors.

But rather than actively pursue it, Paterno counseled that the allegations not be reported to law enforcement or child welfare services.

Paterno was an active participant in the cover-up. Then he lied about it under oath.

I am more certain now that faced with the situation that occurred at Penn State, Bo Schembechler would have handled it differently from the beginning, and it would not have ended like this.

Here is the column as it appeared last November:

“Do the Right Thing –Always,” Bo Schembechler

I want to preface this by saying, I was an admirer of Joe Paterno and Penn State football, which in my adult life have been synonymous. I don’t know Joe Paterno, but I know that he has been head coach at Penn State for 46 years and has been extremely successful, winning 409 games and two national championships.

Paterno achieved this seemingly without compromising sound values. His players were encouraged to be student-athletes with equal emphasis on the student part.

 

The football program’s slogan was “success with honor.” All of that including Paterno’s legacy is in jeopardy.

There was a seamy underside to all that success, Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky played for Paterno then became a coach. Ultimately he was Penn State’s defensive coordinator (the face of Linebacker U).

He was characterized as Paterno’s heir apparent. But if numerous allegations are to believed, Sandusky was, at least, as far back as the mid 90s, a child molester – using his position and its status to sexually abuse young boys.

Sandusky’s alleged transgressions go beyond despicable, but the issue for Paterno is what did he know, when did he know it and what did he do about it.

According to the report of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury, that was investigating the allegations against Sandusky, in 1998 the Penn State police conducted an investigation regarding allegations that Sandusky was in involved in the molesting of young boys.

The case was presented to the local prosecuting attorney, but no charges were brought as a result of that investigation. (It is difficult to believe a case could be presented to the prosecutor without Paterno being aware of the investigation.) Coincident with the conclusion of that investigation, Sandusky was informed by Paterno that he would not be Paterno’s successor as head coach. Following the 1999 football season, at the age of 55, Sandusky retired from the Penn State coaching staff.

I don’t know what caused Sandusky’s precipitous fall from grace, but the timing, at best, seems curious.

Although Sandusky was no longer on the Penn State coaching staff, he was still a member of the PSU faculty. He remained an Assistant Professor of Physical Education Emeritus with full access to Athletic Department facilities and other perks.

 

According to the Grand Jury report, March 1, 2002, Mike McQueary, a PSU football graduate assistant (now the wide-receiver coach) saw Sandusky sodomizing a young boy in the shower area of the football building. McQueary knew Sandusky and was shocked and unsettled, but on the following day he reported what he had seen to Paterno.

Paterno then told the Penn State Athletic Director, Tim Curley, of McQueary’s eyewitness account. Later McQueary would be interviewed by Curley and Penn State Senior Vice-President, Gary Schultz. It is not clear what further actions were taken as to Sandusky, but it is clear this incident was never reported to the police or child welfare authorities. Nor apparently was any action taken to identify the young boy or ascertain his welfare.

Sandusky retained his Assistant Professorship (He was listed in the faculty directory as recently as last week.) and his access to University facilities. According to the Grand Jury report, Sandusky’s abuse of young boys continued after 2002.

So did Paterno fulfill his responsibility as head football coach and as Sandusky’s former boss?

I don’t think it can be overstated the prestige and sheer clout that Paterno has at Penn State, but for whatever reason, he apparently never used any of that to further pursue the Sandusky matter or to inquire about the welfare of the alleged victims.

In comparison, I pose the hypothetical question: What would Bo Schembechler have done?

Bo is a man I did know. Bo was a legendary football coach at Michigan from 1969-1989 and a peer of Paterno.

To the best of my knowledge, Bo never had to deal with any of his staff being alleged child molesters. He did have situations that required staff and players having to take responsibility for their acts even if it might reflect badly on Michigan, a place he loved and revered.

In 1987, the FBI was investigating two sports agents, Norby Walters and Lloyd Bloom, who had ties to organized crime. Walters and Bloom had worked up a scam where they bribed blue-chip college football players to sign post-dated, secret, agency contracts while they were still eligible to play college football – a clear violation of NCAA rules. Ultimately some of the players balked, threats were made by Walters and Bloom, and the whole thing fell apart.

Players who had signed the contracts were identified. They were all star players on prominent college teams. Two of the players were on Bo’s 1986 Michigan team.

When Bo found out, he was livid. He called one of the players, Garland Rivers, an All-American DB, into the office and had Rivers tell him the whole story. Then Bo called me.

When I got to Bo’s office, Bo told Rivers “Tell this FBI agent everything about your relationship with Norby Walters.” Bo could have distanced himself and Michigan from the investigation. Michigan would have been just one of many major football programs victimized by Walters and Bloom. But that wasn’t Bo. Damage control doesn’t mean hiding from the truth. It means taking responsibility for your actions and trying to rectify the mistakes.

Walters and Bloom had enticed his players to break the rules. They had besmirched Michigan. Bo knew he had to take a stand and do what he could to protect future players from illicit agents. Later when Walters and Bloom went on trial in Federal Court for racketeering and fraud, Bo testified. He was the star witness. His testimony was so strong, the defense declined to cross exam him. Walters and Bloom were convicted. What had been a dark moment in Michigan football history was a comeback win as important as any that had occurred on the field.

So what would Bo have done if faced with an assistant coach who was allegedly molesting young boys. We’ll never know for sure, but I’m certain that he wouldn’t have just reported the allegations to his boss and done nothing else. Bo would have made sure the police were aware of the allegations. And that assistant coach would not have had access to Michigan athletic facilities or be emeritus anything.

It has been said that Paterno fulfilled his legal responsibility by reporting the allegations to the Penn State AD. However, it would seem he did not fulfill his moral responsibility by making sure the allegations were pursued and, thus, protecting potential future victims. We may never know why Paterno failed to pursue the Sandusky matter further.

Perhaps Paterno didn’t do more out of a misguided effort to protect the reputation of Penn State, but if that was the motive, far more damage has been done to Penn State’s reputation than would have been done had this matter been fully confronted in 1998 or 2002.

Bo did not see degrees of honor and integrity. You either did the right thing or you didn’t – half way was unacceptable.

 

The Legacy of the Racist Murder of Vincent Chin

Vincent Chin

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

Thirty years ago this week, a young Chinese-American man, Vincent Chin, was bludgeoned to death by a man wielding a baseball bat, only a few steps away from a strip club where he and his friends had been celebrating his bachelor’s party.

The crime and its state and federal prosecutions raise the question of whether the case’s anomalous circumstances detract from its impact on American history, the criminal justice system and civil rights for Asian Americans. I became familiar with the case as a resident of the area and as a prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit.

It all began at the tawdry Fancy Pants Lounge in Highland Park, Michigan. Across the stage from Chin and his friends, sat Ronald Ebens and his step-son Michael Nitz doing what men do in such places.

Ebens was a popular supervisor at the nearby Chrysler plant in 1982. It was a tough time for American auto companies and their employees as Japanese companies made steady inroads into the market. Anti-Asian sentiment was common around Detroit. Chin was an outgoing and lively guy who had a wide circle of friends. His parents had emigrated from China to the United States in the 1940s to escape the harsh realities of life in Communist China.

Fueled by alcohol and senseless machismo on both sides, a shouting match ensued between the groups. The accurate content of the argument was both disputed and was soon lost in the fog of time. Chin’s friends later claimed that Ebens made racial remarks, “It’s because of you little mother-fuckers that we’re out of work.” Ebens and Nitz denied the statement and asserted that it was Chin who escalated the trash-talking by hitting Ebens with a chair and then calling Ebens a “chickenshit.”

The dispute spilled out into the parking lot and then across the street near a McDonalds restaurant. As two off-duty policeman watched, Ebens chased Chin onto Woodward Avenue and then struck him on the head several times with a baseball bat he had grabbed from the trunk of his car.

According to a friend, Chin’s last words were, “It isn’t fair…” The veracity of even this, later to be, iconic dying declaration is in doubt since experts later testified that the injury to the brain was so severe that speech would have been impossible. Whether true or not, the words would become a battle cry for Asian-Americans across the country.

Four days later, Vincent Chin died on his mother’s birthday. On the day after the wedding had been scheduled, the guests instead attended his funeral.

The state prosecution, Eben and Nitz’s nolo contendere pleas to manslaughter, and the subsequent sentences of only probation and a fine, were not great moments in Michigan justice.

But sadly, neither did they deviate substantially from the routine in the violent Motor City and its imperfect criminal justice system at the time. Anyone interested in exploring the facts and evidence, from the perspective of both the defense and the prosecution, can read my article in The Court Legacy, Volume XIV, Number 4 (November 2007) or other accounts such as the Academy Award-nominated documentary, Who Killed Vincent Chin? by Rene Tajima and Christine Choy (Filmmakers Library 1989).

In his op-ed piece in the New York Times a few days ago, Frank Wu, Dean of University of California Hastings School of Law, wrote in moving terms about the legacy of Vincent Chin and the response by those who took up the cause of his death and awakened the consciousness of a generation of Asian-Americans as well as the public recognition of their civil rights.

After thirty years, I continue to believe that the Chin case is one of those anomalies. Four levels at the U. S. Attorney’s Office, including me I should disclose, concluded that the evidence of a racial motivation for the homicide was insufficient. Without such proof, there could have been no federal jurisdiction for a civil rights violation. U. S. Attorney Len Gilman recognized the injustice of the state criminal result but declined prosecution.

However, under the glare of publicity, the effective campaign of the American Citizens for Justice, and the influence of nine Congressmen who had sizeable numbers of Asian-American voters, the Justice Department countermanded the U. S. Attorney’s Office decision and sought and received a criminal indictment from the Detroit federal grand jury.

The tortured, four-year history of the federal case supports Gilman’s conclusion. Nitz was acquitted in the first trial, the Court of Appeals reversed Ebens’ conviction, and he was acquitted after venue in the case was transferred to Cincinnati for the re-trial.

This ultimate result, as it bears on whether Vincent Chin’s death was a tragic example of racial bigotry or the tragic result of a stupid bar fight, is remembered by few, but it does not diminish the importance of the case in transforming Asian-Americans from the “silent, model” minority to people who demanded their rights under the Constitution.

A single case did not, of course, reverse two centuries of bigotry. The oppressive importation of Chinese laborers, like Vincent Chin’s grandfather, to build the nation’s railroads, the involuntary detention of 120,000 loyal Japanese-Americans into internment camps during World War II, and countless other public and private acts of discrimination remain as stains on American history.

But the importance of the case in mobilizing Asian-Americans remains as true and real today as if the perpetrator had clearly and indisputably announced a racial purpose to his crime rather than engaged in a drunken bar fight.

Moreover, there is clear evidence that the case contributed significantly to reforms in the criminal justice system nationally as well as in Michigan. These include prosecutor participation at the sentencing stage, the recognition and mandate of victim-witness rights, and restrictions on prosecution policies for plea-bargaining.

Those of us who have Asian-American family members whose rights and opportunities are near and dear, as well as the American public who have benefited so greatly from the many contributions of Asian-Americans to American history, can only celebrate the legacy of the Chin case and not be overly troubled by its messy facts.