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Tag: Chicago

Blago: Just Another Crooked Ill. Pol or Someone to Be Made an Example of?

Ex-Gov on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Chatty ex-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich may have gotten an added stretch of freedom when a federal judge  in Chicago decided this week to delay his Oct. 6 sentencing date. But legal observers are convinced the reprieve is only temporary and that he’ll get some serious prison time. Predictions range from 8 to 25 years.

“I’m just giving voice to whats generally been a consensus in the community,” said Rodger Heaton, a former U.S. Attorney for Central Illinois and currently with the law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson, “but I’ve been hearing a projected estimate of eight to fifteen years. Some people have also said ten or 11.”

Dick Simpson, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois-Chicago and frequent commentator on local news, echoes those sentiments.

“My guess is ten to 15 years,” Simpson said in an phone interview. “You have to look at other similar cases, and in particular I’m looking at former Governor George Ryan.” Ryan, the Illinois governor immediately preceding Blagojevich, is serving a six-and-a-half-year sentence after being convicted on federal corruption charges in 2006, though sentencing guidelines counseled for more.

“You have to look at both, and you figure how much worse one was than the other,” said Simpson.

Blagojevich engaged with the national media in a way few criminal defendants have. He went on a lengthy tour of popular television news and talk shows like the Late Show with David Letterman and the Daily Show and pleaded his innocence.

Ex-U.S. Atty. Heaton/law firm photo

“In a sense, I have seen public officials who go on trial try to influence public perception,” said ex-U.S. Attorney Heaton, but Blagojevich’s errant behavior was something different. “I have not seen someone go on television talk shows, on reality shows,” the way Blagojevich has. “It is very unique to engage the popular media the way he has done.”

Though there is nothing in the federal sentencing guidelines that talks specifically about that sort of media engagement, says Heaton, it may significantly influence the sentencing judge’s perceptions of Blagojevich’s sense of remorse.

“Throughout, on his television appearances, he showed a failure to accept responsibility for his actions. He maintained his innocence and seemed to be willing to do anything to continue maintaining that,” said Heaton. “I think that will be one factor.”

In his first trial, Blagojevich was convicted on only 1 of 24 counts. The jury deadlocked on the remaining ones. But in the second trial, the prosecution trounced him, getting convictions on 17 of 20 counts. Technically, he faces up to around 250 years, but the sentencing guidelines call for far less. He has been free on $450,000 bond, having put up his North side Chicago home and a D.C. condo as collateral.

Some report that prosecutors will seek a 30 year sentence.

“[James Zagel, the sentencing judge] will be reasonably unhappy about the crime itself–he’s a former U.S. Attorney, a former state employee,” said Simpson, and he will not take kindly to a violation of the public trust. Still, most experts don’t predict the higher end of the sentencing. “You have violent crimes that get less than 30 years,” said Simpson.

Read more »

Head of Chicago FBI Says al-Qaida Still Obsessed With Planes; Office is Probing Mail Bombs


Robert Grant/fbi photo

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

A decade later and it appears that al-Qaeda members are still trying to turn airplanes into deadly weapons.

“Al-Qaida has been obsessed with airplanes, they continue to be obsessed with airplanes,” said Robert Grant, head of the Chicago FBI., according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “They want to use airplanes to kill people. … It continues to be a desire on their part to bring a plane down.”

Grant also disclosed publicly for the first time that Chicago investigators have been looking into international terrorism plots involving mail bombs sent on Chicago-bound flights from over seas. In October of last year the devices were found hidden in printer cartridges pulled from flights in England and the United Arab Emirates following a tip, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Sent from Yemen, the packages “were addressed to former Chicago area synagogues bearing the names of historical figures as a way to stick it in their eyes,'” reports the Sun-Times.

“The person who built that bomb still remains at liberty, somewhere in Yemen,” Grant said in an appearance before the Niagra Foundation in Chicago, according to the Sun-Times. “He has been hunted for a long time, but he is a very, very skilled bomb-maker.” Officials believe al-Qaeda’s Yemeni branch are responsible for the plot, according to the Sun-Times.

Investigators said last year that they found links between the Chicago-bound explosives and the one intended for use by the “underwear bomber” in Detroit.

To read more click here.

Appeals Court Says Dirty Bomber’s 17-Year Sentence Too Light

Jose Padilla

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The man known as the “dirty bomber”, Jose Padilla, got too soft of a sentence, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

The Associated Press reports that the appeals court vacated the 17-year sentence and ordered a new sentencing.

Padilla, a Muslim convert, was convicted in 2007 along with two co-conspirators of several terrorism-related charges.

The ruling affirmed the convictions of Padilla, Adham Hassoun and Kifah Jayyousi on terrorism support and conspiracy charges, AP reported.

Padilla was held as an enemy combatant for three years before he was prosecuted in Miami. He was first arrested in 2002 in the dirty bomb investigation.

 

 

Chicago U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald Marks 10 Years on the Job

Chicago Feds Deny DEA Granted Immunity to Major Mexican Cartel Member

 By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Fed prosecutors in Chicago are denying claims that a major Mexican cartel member had struck a deal with the DEA granting him immunity and others prosecution from immunity in exchange for information, Reuters news service reported.

Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, the son of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, the right-hand man of Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, faces trial in Chicago on drug related charges.

His lawyers claim the DEA struck a deal with cartel attorney Humberto Loya-Castro in 1998 for immunity for some cartel members, Reuters reported.

But in court filings on Friday, Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald wrote: “Contrary to defendant’s claim, no immunity was conferred upon him, nor was any immunity conferred upon Loya-Castro.”

 

Attorneys for Accused Mexican Drug Lord Says Justice Department Protected Him

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Mexico may not be thrilled about the latest allegations coming out of the U.S.

The news service All Headline News (AHN) reports that court filings in an upcoming Chicago case against accused Mexican drug lord Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla claim the Justice Department agreed to protect Niebla from prosecution in exchange for information about other drug cartels.

Zambada, 36, is the son of an alleged leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel that operates in Mexico’s western states, AHN reported

The filing by Zambada’s attorneys claims the Justice Department gave the Sinaloa cartel’s leaders “carte blanche to continue to smuggle tons of illicit drugs into Chicago and the rest of the rest of the United States.”

FBI Assigns New SACs for Utah and Portland

Gregory Fowler/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI has named two new special agents in charge: David J. Johnson for Utah and Gregory A. Fowler for Portland, Ore.

Since 2009, Johnson, who has a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh, has been the chief of the Violent Crimes Section in the Criminal Investigative Division at headquarters. He has been responsible for managing programs that involve federal violations such as bank robberies, kidnappings, extortions, crimes against children, Indian country matters, fugitives, major thefts, transportation crimes, and special jurisdiction matters.

Johnson entered the FBI in 1991 and was first assigned to a violent crime squad in the San Jose Resident Agency. In 1994, he was assigned to the high-technology squad.

In 1997, Mr. Johnson was assigned to a Mexican drug trafficking organization squad. Two years later, he became a supervisory special agent of the Asian organized crime squad in the San Jose office.

As the chief of the Crimes Against Children Unit, he developed the Innocence Lost National Initiative, which identifies and rescues minors involved in prostitution and investigates the pimps who profit from their exploitation, the FBI said.

He was promoted to the assistant special agent in charge of the San Francisco Division, and in 2008, was promoted to inspector in charge and led the task force created by the Attorney General to conduct a criminal investigation into the destruction of interrogation videotapes by the CIA.

Fowler, the new  special agent in charge of Portland,  most recently served as the SAC for counterterrorism in the FBI’s New York Division.

He entered the FBI in  April 1988. He was first assigned to the New York office, where he focused on organized crime and narcotics.

In February 1998, he was promoted to supervisory special agent and assigned to FBI Headquarters, where he managed the Organized Crime/Drug Enforcement Task Force and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area programs. He also went  abroad to train foreign law enforcement officers on organized crime and drug investigations through the International Law Enforcement Academy.

In February 2000,  Fowler transferred to the Seattle Division, where he supervised the organized crime/drug squad, the Special Operations Group, the cyber squad, and two resident agencies. He also supervised the division’s Evidence Response Team and Hazardous Materials Response Team.

In August 2004, he was temporarily assigned to Baghdad, Iraq, where he served as the deputy on-scene commander in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. One year later, he became  assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Chicago Division.

Blago Sentencing Set for Oct. 6

Blagojevich as governor/state photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Oct. 6 won’t be a pretty day.

That’s the day U.S. District Judge James Zagel of Chicago has set for sentencing for the ever-chatty ex-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich, according to court records.

In his retrial, Blago was convicted of 17 or 20 counts. He alos faces sentencing for the one count he was convicted of his first trial — laying to the FBI.

At a hearing on Monday Monday’s court hearing, the judge indicated he wasn’t impressed with Blagojevich’s attorneys 158-page filing seeking a new trial. The Chicago Tribune reported that the judge said:

“There doesn’t seem to be anything new,” he said.

Sheldon Sorosky, one of Blagojevich’s attorneys, hinted outside of court the defense at sentencing would raise Blago’s contributions to the state and the fact two daughters depend on him.

“He cared for the ordinary guy,” Sorosky said, according to the Trib.