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Tag: Justice Department

Convictions Overturned and Sentences Reduced Because of Fed Prosecutorial Misconduct, USA Today Report Says

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON –A USA Today investigation shows that federal prosecutorial misconduct has not only put innocent people in prison, but also set guilty people free, sometimes  by shortening their sentences and allowing them to commit crimes again when they should have been behind bars.

The USA TODAY investigation found 201 cases since 1997 in which federal judges found that prosecutors violated laws or ethics rules.

“Each was so serious that judges overturned convictions, threw out charges or rebuked the prosecutors,” wrote USA Today reporters Brad Heath and Kevin McCoy. “And although the violations tainted no more than a small fraction of the tens of thousands of cases filed in federal courts each year, legal specialists who reviewed the newspaper’s work said misconduct is not always uncovered, so the true extent of the problem might never be known.”

To read full story click here.

Justice Department Response as printed in USA Today:

“Once again, USA TODAY misleads readers by providing a statistically inaccurate representation of the hard work done by federal prosecutors daily in courtrooms across the country by cherry-picking a handful of examples dating back to the 1990s and confusing cases where attorneys made mistakes with cases where actual prosecutorial misconduct was involved.

“An internal review conducted by the department last year found prosecutorial misconduct in a small fraction of the 90,000 cases brought annually. When mistakes occur, the department corrects them as quickly and transparently as possible.

“Attorney General (Eric) Holder has made a priority of preventing mistakes before they occur, instituting a comprehensive training curriculum for all federal prosecutors, and mandating annual discovery training. The Justice Department has taken unprecedented steps to ensure prosecutors, agents and paralegals have the necessary training and resources to properly fulfill their discovery and ethics obligations.”

Critics Say Justice Dept. May Be Gun Shy Going After Lawmakers

Lanny Breuer says Justice Dept. not gun shy

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Is the Justice Department losing its nerve to go after Congress members?

The New York Times reports that critics feel that way in wake of the dismissal of some high profile probes into members of Congress like Sen. John Ensign (R-Nevada) and Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.).

“They’re gun-shy,” J. Gerald Hebert, the executive director of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan group that seeks greater disclosure of how money influences politics, told the Times.

But Jack Smith, chief of the Public Integrity Section at the Justice Department, and his supervisor, Lanny Breuer, the assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division, disputed that, according to the Times.

“It’s just not the case that anyone is gun-shy,” Breuer told the Times. “If a case cannot be brought, it’s because we’ve taken a hard look and made the determination that this case cannot be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. And with all due respect to those outside the department, they haven’t seen the evidence. They don’t know the materials, and we’ve looked at it all.”

To read more click here.

ATF Wants Gun Dealers Along Mexico Border To Report Rifle Sales of 2 or More to Same Person

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — ATF has asked the White House to ok an emergency order to require gun dealers along the Mexico border to report sales of two or more rifles to the same person within five days, the Washington Post reported.

The measure is part of an ongoing crackdown on the flow of guns from America into the hands of the Mexican drug cartels.

The  Post reported that the plan revives a proposal the Justice Department and White House have sat on.

The NRA is none too happy, the Post reported.

“This administration does not have the guts to build a wall, but they do have the audacity to blame and register gun owners for Mexico’s problems,” Chris Cox, chief lobbyist for the NRA told the Post. “NRA supports legitimate efforts to stop criminal activity, but we will not stand idle while our Second Amendment is sacrificed for politics.”

To read more click here.

LA Times Editorial: Stings Can Be Legitimate Tool in Terrorism

By The Los Angeles Times
Editorial Page

From Abscam to the arrest of former Washington Mayor Marion Barry on drug charges, sting operations have brought accusations that the government was entrapping its targets.

This perennial complaint has acquired a new sensitivity with charges that the FBI, as part of its anti-terrorism activities, is inducing Muslims to take part in fictitious plots and then arresting them. So far the accusations seem exaggerated, but the FBI needs to be careful that it doesn’t propose violations of the law to individuals who have shown no propensity to commit crimes.

The latest suggestion of entrapment comes from the lawyer for Mohamed Osman Mohamud, the 19-year-old Somali American accused of plotting to explode a bomb at a Christmas tree lighting in Portland, Ore., last month. The lawyer said undercover agents had been “basically grooming” Mohamud for months to commit a terrorist act, and complained that they failed to record their first meeting with Mohamud — the meeting at which evidence of entrapment would be most evident.

The notion that Mohamud was entrapped brought a defiant response from Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. Addressing a group of American Muslims, Holder said he would make no apologies for the FBI’s conduct in the case, which included providing Mohamud with a large and elaborate “explosive.” More generally, Holder said undercover operations “have proven to be an essential law enforcement tool in uncovering and preventing potential terror attacks.”

If the government’s recitation of facts in the Mohamud case is to be believed, Holder is on solid ground.

To read more click here.

GAO Report Finds U.S. Attorneys Declined 50% of Cases in Indian Country

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — A government report found that U.S. Attorney’s Offices declined 50 percent of the cases from American Indian reservations from 2005-2009, the Associated Press reported.

The Government Accountability Office report found that Federal prosecutors resolved 9,000 of the 10,000 cases they got during that period. Half were declined for prosecution and the others were prosecuted or administratively closed, AP reported.

“The most frequent reason for declining cases was weak or insufficient admissible evidence, followed by no evidence of a federal crime, witness problems and a lack of evidence that a suspect had criminal intent,” AP reported.

AP reported that the report came as a result of congressional inquiries in the declination rate.

AP reported that H. Marshall Jarrett, director of the Department of Justice’s executive office of U.S. attorneys, said the declination rates was not indicative of the efforts to imrpove public safety in Indian Country.

“Each case must be evaluated on the evidence available to the prosecutor,” he said in a letter responding to the findings. “Accordingly, it would not be appropriate to use the data contained in this report to promote any kind of prosecutorial quota system or incentives to prosecute a higher number of individuals.”

U.S. attorneys in Arizona, South Dakota, New Mexico, Montana and North Dakota received 73 percent of all Indian Country criminal matters, AP reported.

To read report click here.

IG Report Cites Fed Court Security Concerns About Training and Broken Equipment

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Walk through any federal courthouse and it seems security is pretty tight.

Still, a Justice Department Inspector General report on courthouse security says federal judges and personnel could be at risk because of poor training, questionable contracts and broken security equipment, the Washington Post reports.

The Post’s Ed O’Keefe writes that the Justice Department report found “multiple district offices failed to detect mock explosive devices sent to them in February 2009 by agency officials as part of a test of local security procedures.”

The report  also said three unnamed federal district court chief judges expressed serious concerns about security procedures, the Post reported.

Jeff Carter, a Marshals spokesman, said the agency worked with the inspector general’s office on the investigation and is making changes recommended by investigators.

“We take these responsibilities seriously and realize there is always room for improvement and continue to make great strides in our efforts to protect the federal judiciary,” Jeff Carter, a Marshals spokesman told the Post via e-mail. “The Marshals Service is proud of our ability to ensure the safe and secure conduct of judicial proceedings.”

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Justice Dept. and FBI Probe 2008 Fatal Shooting by Off-Duty Deputy Marshal in LA

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division  and the FBI are investigating a deputy U.S. Marshal who fatally shot a tattoo parlor employee while off duty during a confrontation in Los Angeles in 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The local prosecutor had found inconsistencies in deputy marshal Matthew Itkowitz’s story, but declined prosecution for insufficient  of evidence.

Itkowitz shot Ryan Gonzalez, 26, in an alley after a night of drinking.

Itkowitz claimed the shooting was in self defense while he was being beaten and threatened with a gun, the LA Times reported.

“The footage, made public by The Times last week, shows Gonzalez twice knocking Itkowitz to the ground and at one point brandishing what authorities said appears to be a gun,” the LA Times reported. “But Itkowitz does not open fire until after the confrontation has ended.

“The footage shows Gonzalez walking away and apparently waving back at Itkowitz for him to do the same when Itkowitz pulls a gun from his rear waistband and tucks it behind his leg. When Gonzalez turns and begins walking back toward Itkowitz, the off-duty deputy marshal pulls out his gun and begins firing. As Gonzalez flees down the alley, Itkowitz chases after him, firing a total of five shots.”

The confrontation began after Itkowitz’s wife came running to several people in the alley asking for help, saying she feared her husband was going to hurt her, the Times reported.

Itkowitz remains on duty.

To read more click here.

Justice Dept. to Stop Pushing Defendants in Guilty Pleas to Waive Right to DNA Testing

Holder delivers speech recently in Orlando/ticklethewire.com photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — A Justice Department policy during the Bush-era is about to get the boot.

The Washington Post reports that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will issue a memo Thursday to U.S. Attorneys around the country saying that he’s overturning a policy which urged prosecutors to push defendants hammering out guilty pleas to waive their right to DNA testing in their cases, a right which is guaranteed under federal law.

The Post wrote that the “waivers have been in widespread use in federal cases for about five years and run counter to the national movement toward allowing prisoners to seek post-conviction DNA testing to prove their innocence. More than 260 wrongly convicted people have been exonerated by such tests, though virtually all have been state prisoners.”

To read more click here.