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Tag: Justice Department

Ex-Fed Prosecutor Remembers James K. Robinson as “One of the Finest Lawyers of His Generation”

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.

Ross Parker

Ross Parker

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

Every young lawyer remembers the guy who gave him his first real job. For me and some others, it was a mark of distinction that that guy was Jim Robinson.

His death last Friday from cancer evokes a painful loss but also many happy memories about a man who was one of the finest lawyers of his generation.

Although Jim’s long and successful career as a litigator, public servant, author and teacher included many of the highest achievements available in the legal profession, it was for many of us his term as a 34-year-old U.S. Attorney in Detroit which we remember most fondly.

James K. Robinson

James K. Robinson

During his three-year term from 1977 to 1980, he set a framework for the modern federal prosecutor’s office and inspired dozens of young lawyers along the way.

Jim re-organized and modernized the U.S. Attorney’s Office in ways that are still followed today in this and other districts around the country.

He convinced the Justice Department to let him hire several dozen new lawyers and support staff, and he filled the positions with a diverse group, including women, African Americans and former defense counsel, three groups which had been greatly under-represented.

Read more »

Will Failed D.C. Porn Case Dampen Fed Prosecutors’ Zeal?

John Stagliano/facebook photo

John Stagliano/facebook photo

By Allan Lengel
For AOL News

WASHINGTON — In courtroom 18 in the sterile D.C. federal courthouse, Justice Department prosecutors earlier this month tried nailing a major producer of adult pornography on obscenity charges.

The lawyers, part of the department’s Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, spent four days presenting their case against California porn producer John Stagliano (aka “Buttman”), who had been indicted in 2008, during the final year of the Bush administration. As part of their case, prosecutors even played pornographic videos with names like “Milk Nymph” for the jurors.

But before the defense could even present its side, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon dismissed the case, saying the government had failed to prove the most basic of issues: that the defendant and two related companies were linked to porno videos that the government claimed went beyond the acceptable community standards.

Adult film director John Stagliano arrives at the 27th annual Adult Video News Awards Show at the Palms Casino Resort January 9, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ethan Miller, Getty Images

A U.S. district judge earlier this month dismissed a case against porn producer John Stagliano, here at the Adult Video News Awards Show in Las Vegas in January.

The judge also raised questions about core issues in the case.

“I hope the government will learn a lesson from its experience,” declared Leon, who voiced concerns about the issues of obscenity statute, the Internet, free speech and criminal rights, according to The Washington Post. “I hope that [higher] courts and Congress will give greater guidance to judges in whose courtrooms these cases will be tried.”

With the disastrous outcome in the D.C. case, and the change from the conservative Bush administration to the liberal Obama regime, some now wonder how enthusiastic the Justice Department will be in going after adult pornography cases.

“That’s a big question,” says Penn State University professor Robert D. Richards, head of the Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment. “How much the Obama administration will be interested in pursuing obscenity cases is questionable. It would certainly be hard pressed to pull full steam ahead. It’s not an easy area to prove.

“The real problem with obscenity is you never know if something is criminal until a jury comes back and says it’s criminal and it’s only in that jurisdiction,” he added.

Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media, who blames the FBI for “botching” the D.C. case, also wonders what will become of future prosecutions. He believes even the Bush administration fell far short of its expressed goals — and has far less confidence in the Obama administration.

“We can’t continue to treat [pornography] like a joke, which is largely how the FBI has treated it,” he said. “The FBI is simply unwilling to do these cases other than a token investigation here and there, and that’s not enough.

“Adult pornography has effects on marriages, effects on children and effects on women,” he continued. “The Supreme Court has held repeatedly the First Amendment does not protect obscene material.”

The FBI deferred to the Justice Department for comment. Justice spokeswoman Laura Sweeney declined comment on the D.C. trial or on future plans to prosecute obscenity cases.

A Shift in Priorities?

The dip in the number of cases has been noticeable during the Obama administration. According to the Justice Department, prosecutors charged about 360 defendants with obscenity violations during the Bush years, nearly double the number under Bill Clinton. In 2009, about 20 defendants were charged, compared with 54 the previous year, when George W. Bush was still in office.

After Bush took office, his conservative attorney general, John Ashcroft, vowed to go after obscenity cases involving adult pornography that violated “community standards.” In 2005, Ashcroft’s successor, Alberto Gonzales, took it up a notch, creating the Justice Department’s Obscenity Prosecution Task Force. The FBI also vowed to commit resources.

But the Bush people disappointed, according to Peters.

“Ashcroft failed,” he said. “[FBI Director] Bob Mueller failed and Alberto Gonzales failed. … They talked the talk and then they didn’t do it.”

Plus, he claimed, few U.S. attorneys’ offices around the country wanted to take on the cases, and even when they did, the FBI wouldn’t investigate.

Unquestionably there was skepticism within the ranks of the FBI and the Justice Department — and resistance — over the push to prosecute porn during the Bush years.

“I thought they were nuts,” said one former federal prosecutor in Washington. “And they would approach you about taking these cases, making it sound like it was a great honor. They had cases that were just [garbage].”

He said his office found ways to politely pass on prosecuting them. “Nobody liked the cases, nobody thought they accomplished anything,” he said. “They were true believers. They had a moral culture they wanted to push. It had nothing to do with enforcing the law.”

Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent in the Washington field office, said the obscenity cases were tough to prove since they were based on community standards. Plus, many agents questioned whether it was the best use of resources, particularly after Sept. 11, 2001.

“It really boiled down to priorities for most agents,” said Garrett, whose own accomplishments include nabbing a Pakistani national who gunned down two CIA employees at the agency’s headquarters in 1993. “You’ve got a limited number of people. Is it really the best use of our time to be investigating obscenity with consenting adults?”

Regardless, Allan B. Gelbard, one of the defense attorneys in the Stagliano case, said he expects the Justice Department to continue going after the cases so long as the same people are in the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force.

“It strikes me that this particular unit is so driven by ideology that they’ll probably go through [with more prosecutions] until they’re disbanded, and that can’t be too soon in my book,” he said. “They’re going to keep ruining peoples’ lives.”

The Case That Imploded

The indictment against Stagliano and two related companies, John Stagliano Inc. and Evil Angel Productions, came in April 2008, in the waning months of the Bush administration. In early July, the trial started. Things went poorly for the prosecution almost from the start.

For one, the FBI agent in the case copied from the Internet a trailer of a video — “Fetish Fanatic Chapter 5” — that had so many glitches, it failed to play properly for the jury. Consequently, the judge ruled it was inadmissible.

Then prosecutors, who had the porn DVDs shown as evidence shipped via a third party, failed to prove that Stagliano or either of the two companies had anything to do with the films or the shipping.

“It was a colossal disaster,” says Richards, the Penn State professor. “They never connected the dots, and that was fatal to the case.”

Peters of Morality in the Media has concerns about the Stagliano case, but for obviously different reasons.

“The FBI ought to be embarrassed — they blew it,” he said, adding that the FBI agent was either inexperienced or had inadequate resources.

Even after the Stagliano case, however, many in the adult entertainment industry have concerns about what direction the government will take on obscenity prosecutions.

Diane Duke, executive director of the California-based Free Speech Coalition, the industry’s trade association, said she is worried the government may continue filing what she sees as questionable charges against studios, aiming to bleed them to death through legal fees that can run upward of a million dollars.

“They know they’re going to do damage to our companies, no matter what,” she said. “I think there’s people in our government who respect freedom of speech and the Constitution, and it’s my hope those folks will prevail.”

Justice’s OPR Clears FBI Agent and Ex-Acting U.S. Attorney of Wrongdoing in N.J. Press Conference

Dun Weysan/fbi photo

Weysan Dun/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility has cleared New Jersey’s ex-acting U.S. Attorney and the former head of the Newark FBI of wrongdoing related to statements they made in 2009 at a press conference regarding a major public corruption indictment of more than 40 people, the Newark Star-Ledger reported.

The Justice Department concluded that ex-acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra and  Weysan Dun, who headed the FBI’s New Jersey office at the time, but now heads up the Omaha Division, acted properly, the Star-Ledger reported.

The Justice Department had been looking into allegations that the men stepped over the line when they made comments about the probe. Some accused them of making inflammatory comments to help boost ex-U.S. Attorney Chris Christe’s chances in his run for New Jersey governor, the Star-Ledger reported.  Christie won.

“The politicians willingly put themselves up for sale. For these defendants, corruption was a way of life. They existed in an ethics-free zone,” Mara said at the press conference, according to the paper.

The FBI’s Dun, remarked: “This case is not about politics. It is certainly not about religion. It is about arrogance and it is about a shocking betrayal of the public trust.”

The paper reported that a letter issued last week from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility said:

“Based upon the results of our investigation, we concluded that you did not violate any professional obligation and thus did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment in this matter,” wrote Mary Patrice Brown, acting counsel for the office.

The paper reported that Justice Department guidelines say a prosecutor “shall refrain from making extrajudicial comments that pose a serious and imminent threat of heightening public condemnation of the accused.”

To read more click here.

Wash Post Ombudsman and Readers Question Why Paper Ignored Justice Dept-Black Panther Story

blackpantherptylogoBy Andrew Alexander
Washington Post Ombudsman

WASHINGTON — Thursday’s Post reported about a growing controversy over the Justice Department’s decision to scale down a voter-intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party. The story succinctly summarized the issues but left many readers with a question: What took you so long?

For months, readers have contacted the ombudsman wondering why The Post hasn’t been covering the case. The calls increased recently after competitors such as the New York Times and the Associated Press wrote stories. Fox News and right-wing bloggers have been pumping the story. Liberal bloggers have countered, accusing them of trying to manufacture a scandal.

But The Post has been virtually silent.

The story has its origins on Election Day in 2008, when two members of the New Black Panther Party stood in front of a Philadelphia polling place. YouTube video of the men, now viewed nearly 1.5 million times, shows both wearing paramilitary clothing. One carried a nightstick.

To read more click here.

6 More New Orleans Cops Indicted in Post-Katrina Shootings

new orleans police badgeBy Allan Lengel
For AOL News

The Justice Department Tuesday plucked more skeletons from the closet of the New Orleans Police Department, indicting six additional officers in the fatal shooting of two unarmed citizens and the wounding of four others in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The indictment is part of the Justice Department’s ongoing effort to expose police officers who either were involved in the Sept. 4, 2005, Danziger Bridge shootings or took part in covering them up. To date, five New Orleans officers have pleaded guilty to covering up the incident.

“Today’s indictment should serve as compelling evidence of our unswerving and unconditional commitment to … achieve true justice for any victims of the charged killings, shootings and abuse on the Danziger Bridge, and the alleged corrupt cover-up that followed,” U.S. Attorney Jim Letten of New Orleans said in a statement.

The indictment further aims “to restore the trust in the men and women of law enforcement who do serve the people and honor the badge; and to make certain that no one should ever have to fear those whose job it is to protect them,” he said.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Ex-Justice Lawyer Accuses Bosses of Ignoring White Voters’ Rights; Justice Calls Allegations “Baseless”

blackpantherptylogoBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Former Civil Rights Division lawyer J. Christian Adams and the Justice Department are locked in a war of words over his allegations that his bosses ignored white voters’ rights when charges were dropped against members of the New Black Panthers in a voter intimidation case, the website Main Justice reported.

Allegations were that two members of the militant black group stood outside a Philadelphia polling place in November 2008 and intimidated white voters. One had a night stick.

The Justice Department last year dropped the case, citing lack of evidence and that one of the Black Panthers was a registered Democratic poll watcher.

“You’re supposed to be able to go vote without somebody with a weapon shouting racist slurs at you,” Adams said on Fox New Wednesday. “They said, ‘You’re about to be ruled by the black man, Cracker.’ They called people ‘white devils.’ They tried to stop people from entering the polls.”“It is not uncommon for attorneys within the department to have good faith disagreements about the appropriate course of action in a particular case, although it is regrettable when a former department attorney distorts the facts and makes baseless allegations to promote his or her agenda,” Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler told Fox News in a written statement, according to Main Justice.

“It is not uncommon for attorneys within the department to have good faith disagreements about the appropriate course of action in a particular case, although it is regrettable when a former department attorney distorts the facts and makes baseless allegations to promote his or her agenda,” Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler told Fox News in a written statement.

To read more click here.

Read ex-prosecutor’s essay on pajamasmedia.com

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDeUTIGFypQ

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHTfJRp-3ss

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Visits Afghanistan to Talk About Corruption

eric holder-msnbcBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Attorney Gen. Eric Holder came to Afghanistan on Wednesday to talk to officials about the justice system and public corruption, which seems to be running rampant, the Associated Press reported.

AP reported that Holder’s visit comes in wake of Afghan’s top prosecutor’s denial that he was being pressured to look the other way when it came to pursuing cases against high ranking officials.

“Fighting corruption and supporting the rule of law in Afghanistan are top priorities for this administration, and we will continue to assist the Afghan government in creating and sustaining the effective criminal justice system to which the Afghan people are entitled,” Holder said in a statement issued by the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, AP reported.

To read more click here.

Justice Dept., FBI, DEA Getting First Hand Look at Afghanistan Corruption

afghanistan mapBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Members of the Justice Department, FBI and DEA in Afghanistan are getting a first hand look at corruption and how certain citizens are being protected from prosecution and arrest, the Washington Post reports.

The Post reports that the Afghanistan government has repeatedly derailed criminal investigations of connected citizens. The U.S. investigators have  been providing assistance in Afghanistan  including wiretap technology.

“Above a certain level, people are being very well protected,” a senior U.S. official involved in the investigations to the Post.

Karzai spokesman Waheed Omar denied investigations had been derailed, the Post said.

To read more click here.