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Tag: Justice Department

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Advocates Elimination of Crack-Powder Cocaine Sentencing in Speech to Black Prosecutors

The sentencing disparity between crack and powdered cocaine has long been a controversial one. Many critics say the law is unfair and targets the black community. But some federal agents and prosecutors argue that crack is far more likely to be associated with violence, and consequently should carry tougher penalties.

Eric Holder

Eric Holder

By Lawrence Buser
Memphis Commercial Appeal
MEMPHIS — The nation’s top prosecutor told members of the National Black Prosecutors Association today that the pursuit of justice should include eliminating sentencing disparities in cases involving crack and powder cocaine.

Speaking to some 200 association members at the Marriott Downtown, U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder said the Justice Department is reviewing federal sentencing policies, including “the 100-to-1 crack-powder sentencing ratio” adopted in the 1980s.

“Although some may seek to impose the soft-on-crime label on anyone who speaks the truth about this issue, we all know that this egregious difference in punishment is simply wrong,” said Holder, 58, a former federal judge in Washington.

“I have seen first-hand the effect that disparities in drug sentences have had on our communities. In my career as a prosecutor and as a judge, I saw too often the cost borne by the community when promising, capable young people sacrificed years of their futures for non-violent offenses.”

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Read Prepared Text

Justice Dept. Moving Some Operations to South Carolina

Not a bad idea to spread some part of the Justice Dept. around the country. It helps provide another perspective, plus if Washington is ever under a terrorist attack it doesn’t hurt to have a part of Justice Dept. that can maintain operations without worrying about getting out of Dodge. Dep. Atty. Gen. David Ogden made the announcement in South Carolina.

map-south-carolina

By MEG KINNARD
Associated Press Writer
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The U.S. Department of Justice is relocating some of its U.S. attorney operations from Washington to South Carolina under a 20-year lease agreement with the state’s flagship university, officials announced Monday.

The federal agency will be relocating its Executive Office for United States Attorneys to the building that now houses the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden said during a news conference in Columbia.

“I think it’s a good thing to get government out into the rest of the country,” Ogden said.

The move will bring more than 250 high-paying jobs to Columbia, a small fraction of the roughly 100,000 who work at the Department.

The effort, known as the Palmetto Project, will consolidate much of the DOJ’s attorney training program for the whole country in South Carolina. In 1996, the Department broke ground on the National Advocacy Center, a $26 million facility in Columbia where federal, state and local prosecutors participate in a variety of training programs. Since it opened two years later, more than 170,000 prosecutors and law enforcement officials have received training at the center, officials said.

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Read Announcement by Dep. Atty. Gen. David Ogden

Justice Dept. Probing Comments Made By Pitts. U.S. Atty. Buchanan

Pittsburgh U.S. Atty. Mary Beth Buchanan wants badly to stay on as U.S. Attorney. Not only is that NOT likely to happen, but she could make a less than graceful exit with this latest development.

Conservative Holdover- Pittsburgh U.S. Atty. Mary Beth Buchanan
Bush Holdover- Pittsburgh U.S. Atty. Mary Beth Buchanan

RAMIT PLUSHNICK-MASTI
The Associated Press
PITTSBURGH – The Department of Justice has launched an inquiry into comments made by Pittsburgh’s U.S. attorney when she announced she was dropping charges against a renowned pathologist, ending a contentious years-long legal battle.

Mary Beth Buchanan said at the time that she still believed pathologist Cyril Wecht had committed a crime. He had been accused of using his public office , Allegheny County medical examiner , to benefit his multimillion dollar private practice.

Dick Thornburgh , a former U.S. attorney general who was part of the pathologist’s defense team , lodged a complaint with the department after the June 2 news conference, saying U.S. attorney Mary Beth Buchanan’s comments were “completely improper, violate all notions of prosecutorial ethics and decency, and warrant remedial action by the Department of Justice.”

In a letter dated July 8, the department informed Thornburgh it had “initiated an inquiry into your allegations.” The department said it would inform him of the outcome of the inquiry.

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OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Stinging Report Says Bush White House Kept Justice Dept. Lawyers in the Dark on Warrantless Wiretaps

There’s no sugar coating the ugly truth about the way things were handled. The biting report also confirms outsiders’ suspicions that the White House undermined the Justice Department’s mission.

dark

By Carrie Johnson and Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — The Bush White House so strictly controlled access to its warrantless eavesdropping program that only three Justice Department lawyers were aware of the plan, which nearly ignited mass resignations and a constitutional crisis when a wider circle of administration officials began to question its legality, according to a watchdog report released today.

The unclassified summary by five inspectors general from government intelligence agencies called the arrangements “extraordinary and inappropriate” and asserted that White House secrecy “undermined” the ability of the Justice Department to do its work.

The report is the first public sign of a long running investigative review of a program that provoked fierce conflict within the highest levels of the Bush administration in 2004. At the time, the Justice Department’s second in command and the director of the FBI both vowed to resign if President Bush continued with electronic intelligence gathering that they believed was outside the boundaries of the law.

Today’s report was mandated by Congress in legislation last year that updated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to accommodate new technologies. The bulk of the review remains highly classified.

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Read Report

Attorney General Holder Appoints New Chief Immigration Judge

By Rachel Leven
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON— Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has tapped Arlington, Va., Immigration Judge Brian M. O’Leary to become the Executive Office for Immigration Review’s (EOIR) Chief Immigration Judge.justicelogo

As the new chief Immigration judge, O’Leary will guide the immigration program’s direction and define priorities for judges in immigration courts nationwide.

Judge O’Leary served as an immigration judge from May 2007 to June 2009. He also served as a temporary member of the Board of Immigration Appeals from May 2006 to May 2007 and as a deputy chief immigration judge in the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge from March 2003 to May 2006.

His previous jobs have included postitions at the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) Headquarters Office of the General Counsel and U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Miami and Alexandria, Va.

Is Justice Dept. Covering for Saudis Links to Terrorism?

saudi-flagU.S. relations with the Saudis is obviously important. But is it worth covering up that nation’s ties to terrorism? And is it worth compromising the integrity of the Justice Department, which is deeply involved in the fight against terrorism?

By Eric Lichtblau
New York Times
WASHINGTON – Documents gathered by lawyers for the families of Sept. 11 victims provide new evidence of extensive financial support for Al Qaeda and other extremist groups by members of the Saudi royal family, but the material may never find its way into court because of legal and diplomatic obstacles.

The case has put the Obama administration in the middle of a political and legal dispute, with the Justice Department siding with the Saudis in court last month in seeking to kill further legal action.

Adding to the intrigue, classified American intelligence documents related to Saudi finances were leaked anonymously to lawyers for the families. The Justice Department had the lawyers’ copies destroyed and now wants to prevent a judge from even looking at the material.

For Full Story

Read Documents Showing Links

Justice Dept. Wants Charges Dropped Against Mexican; Judge Chastises Prosecutors for Failing to Turn Over Evidence Quickly to Defense

The judge in this case, Emmet G. Sullivan, who presided over the Ted Stevens case, has a low tolerance in instances where the prosecution fails to share evidence with the defense — or do it in a timely manner. In this instance, Sullivan once again was not happy with the Justice Department.

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan/court photo

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan/court photo

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department asked a federal judge yesterday to toss drug charges against a Chinese-born Mexican millionaire, saying that U.S. prosecutors had run into “evidentiary concerns” and that Mexico would be a better place to try him.

The request concerns Zhenli Ye Gon, who was arrested in July 2007 and was indicted by a federal grand jury in the District on charges of aiding and abetting a conspiracy to make methamphetamine that would be sold in the United States.

The charges came several months after a raid of his Mexico City mansion, where Mexican authorities seized $207 million in cash, most of it in $100 bills. Gon, who fled Mexico before the raid, was arrested by the Drug Enforcement Administration while eating dinner at a bistro in Wheaton with a female acquaintance.

For Full Story

Read Government Motion to Dismiss

Justice Dept. Corruption Unit in Disarray 2 Months After Stevens Case Imploded

Ted Stevens

Ted Stevens

Unfortunately, the Alaska cases aren’t isolated ones. There are problems around the country. The big questions are: How did things get this way? Who is to blame?
And how long will it take to fix?

By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — Two months after prosecutors abandoned the criminal conviction of former senator Ted Stevens, the Justice Department unit that polices public corruption remains in chaos, coping with newly discovered evidence that threatens to undermine other cases while department leaders struggle to reshuffle the ranks.

William Welch and Brenda Morris, senior managers in the department’s Public Integrity Section who supervised the case against the Alaska Republican, have been moved into other roles following the transfer this month of two of their subordinates, who worked on lengthy investigations of Alaskan influence peddling, according to four sources.

At the same time, document-sharing lapses that provoked the Stevens turnaround are also affecting other bribery prosecutions in the state, prompting authorities to take the extraordinary step of releasing two Alaska lawmakers from prison late last week. A new team of government lawyers and FBI agents is reviewing thousands of pages of evidence, trying to assuage the concerns of judges and fielding complaints from defense attorneys.

For Full Story