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Tag: Justice Department

Justice Wants to End Disparity in Sentencing Between Crack and Powdered Cocaine

crack-cocaine-dea

This change has been a long time coming. The disparity in sentencing was a simple minded approach to a complicated issue that has plagued America’s inner cities where crack cocaine sales are most prevalent. There has to be a smarter approach to dealing with this problem that has lead to the deterioration of so many inner city neighborhoods and resulted in so many young people going off to prison. If the tougher sentences had worked, that would have been another story. But they haven’t. Time for a smarter approach.

By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — Justice Department officials yesterday endorsed for the first time a plan that would eliminate vast sentencing disparities between possession of powdered cocaine and rock cocaine, an inequity that civil rights groups say has affected poor and minority defendants disproportionately.

Lanny A. Breuer, the new chief of the criminal division, told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee that the Obama administration would support bills to equalize punishment for offenders convicted of possessing the drug in either form, fulfilling one of the president’s campaign pledges.

Breuer explicitly called on Congress to act this term to “completely eliminate” the sentencing disparity.

The issue has received attention from both political parties, but until now, top law enforcement officials have not backed legislative reforms, according to drug control analysts.

Pressure Mounting For Justice to Review Conviction of Ex-Ala. Gov. Siegelman

Could this case be named “Stevens II” after ex-Sen. Ted Stevens, whose conviction was erased because of government misconduct? Pressure continues to mount for the Justice Department to review the ex-governor’s conviction. Chances are there will be a review.

Ex-Gov. Don Siegelman

Ex-Gov. Don Siegelman

By JOHN SCHWARTZ and CHARLIE SAVAGE
New York Times
Less than a month
after the Justice Department asked a judge to drop the case against former Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska because of prosecutorial misconduct, 75 former state attorneys general from both parties have urged Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to conduct a similar investigation of the prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman of Alabama, who was convicted nearly three years ago on bribery and corruption charges.

In a letter to Mr. Holder, the attorneys general said Mr. Siegelman’s defense lawyers had raised “gravely troublesome facts” about his prosecution that raise questions about the fairness and due process of the trial.

“We believe that if prosecutorial misconduct is found, as in the case of Senator Ted Stevens, then dismissal should follow in this case as well,” the group said in the letter, which was organized by Robert Abrams, a former attorney general of New York.

Lawyers for Mr. Siegelman, a Democrat, have long accused the Justice Department under President George W. Bush of conducting a politically motivated prosecution that they say was filled with irregularities, including a failure to turn over pertinent information to the defense team.

For Full Story

Attys For Ex-Rep. William Jefferson Accuse Justice Dept. of Editing Recorded Conversations to Give “Misleading Impression”

The legal maneuvering in this case continues as trial approaches. So far, Jefferson’s attorneys haven’t been able to derail the case despite their best efforts.

Ex-Rep. William Jefferson

Ex-Rep. William Jefferson

By Bruce Alpert and Jonathan Tilove
New Orleans Times-Picayune
WASHINGTON — Attorneys for former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson say the Justice Department has edited secretly recorded conversations to give a “misleading impression” of their client’s guilt in his upcoming corruption trial.

A defense brief, filed with U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III, contains some previously unreleased taped conversations recorded in 2005 before Jefferson learned during an August raid of his house that he was being investigated by the FBI for allegedly seeking bribes in return for his help securing business contracts in Western Africa.

The brief provides both transcripts of the tape selections that the prosecution wants to play for the jury, as well as fuller transcripts that Jefferson’s attorneys say place his statements and actions in a fuller context. Some contain extensive profanity.

 For Full Story

Boston Globe Columnist Blasts Justice Dept. For Blowing Off Victim’s Family in Murder Involving Mobster Whitey Bulger

Whitey Bulger

Whitey Bulger

The ugly chapter involving the questionable relationship between mobster Whitey Bulger and the FBI continues to rear its head in Boston. It seems the Justice Dept. has to owe up to the facts of the case and move on. Boston Globe Columnist Kevin Cullen feels the Justice Department isn’t doing that. He says the department is essentially telling a victim’s family to “drop dead”. Here’s the story.
By Kevin Cullen
Boston Globe Columnist
BOSTON
— You may recall reading in this space not long ago about the family of Michael Donahue, a truck driver from Dorchester who was murdered on the South Boston waterfront 27 years ago by the gangster Whitey Bulger with a very generous assist from the FBI.

The day after the column appeared, lawyers for the US Justice Department informed lawyers for the Donahue family that the government was going to ignore a judge’s recommendation to settle a lawsuit for getting Michael Donahue killed.

In essence, the government told the Donahues to drop dead. It wants to retry the damages part and force the family to go through the whole rigmarole again, on the pretext that the recent death of Judge Reggie Lindsay somehow changes the fact that Lindsay found the FBI liable for causing the murder of Michael Donahue while protecting its prized snitch Whitey Bulger.

 For Full Story

Former Fed Prosecutor Doesn’t Think There’s a Systemic Integrity Problem at Dept. of Justice

Stephanie GallagherBy Stephanie Gallagher
Fraud With Peril Blog

The Department of Justice has had several high-profile incidents in the past few weeks calling into question the integrity of its prosecutors – specifically the aftermath of the Ted Stevens trial, during which prosecutors failed to disclose exculpatory evidence, and the Shaygan trial in Miami, during which prosecutors and agents secretly taped the defense attorney’s conversations with his client. These incidents have caused some to question whether there is a systemic problem within DOJ causing prosecutors to ignore some of the most basic principles guiding the fair pursuit of justice.

I think the answer is no.

In my experience on both sides of the playing field, I have seen several examples of attorneys, for whom I have immense respect, who have come quite close to or crossed lines on occasion, either in the zealous representation of a client or in prosecuting a defendant who appears unquestionably guilty of serious crimes.

To Read More

Law Professor Says Justice Dept. Needs a Better Compliance Program

By Professor Ellen S. Podgor
White Collar Crime Prof Blog

justice-logo1A “not guilty” verdict was returned on a drug case in Miami, but what happened during the investigation and prosecution of this case has now resulted in an award of $601,795.88 under the Hyde Amendment.

The Hyde Amendment allows for attorney fees when a “prevailing criminal defendant” can demonstrate “that the position the government took in prosecuting him was vexatious, frivolous, or in bad faith.” (see Order, infra, citing U.S. v. Gilbert).

Hon. Alan S. Gold, in the Southern District of Florida, issued an Order awarding these attorney fees and enjoined the US Attorneys who practice in that court from “engaging in future witness tampering investigation of defense lawyers and team members in any ongoing prosecution before [this judge] without first bringing such matters to [the judge’s] attention in an ex parte proceeding.”

The judge also issued a public reprimand against the US Attorneys office and specifically 2 AUSAs. And it does not end there, as the judge also makes it clear that a disciplinary body needs to review this matter. (Court’s Order – Download 08-20112 (Shaygan) Prosecutorial Misconduct FINAL )

The judge presents a thoughtful Order that gives credit to the USA’s office for taking “immediate efforts to investigate” this matter when it came to light.

To Read More

Career Prosecutor Mary Patrice Brown to Head Justice Dept. Office of Professional Responsibility

us-capitolBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — As part of a shake up in the Justice Department, career prosecutor Mary Patrice Brown will head up the Office of Professional Responsibilty, an internal unit first established in 1975 following the Watergate scandal to police ethical breaches.

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. announced that Brown would serve as acting head on Wednesday at a time the Department is facing tough scruitiny and sharp criticism over the handling of the prosecution of ex-Sen. Ted Stevens.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan dropped the Stevens conviction on Tuesday at the request of the Justice Department, which conceded that the prosecution had acted improperly.

Brown, who has been with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. since 1989, became the chief of the office’s criminal division in 2007. Over the years that office has handled a number of high profile cases.

From 2004 to 2007, Brown was the Executvie Assistant U.S. Attorney for Operations, where she oversaw civil and criminal cases, according to a Justice Department press release.

From 2002 to 2004, she was deputy of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section.

“She’s got great judgment, unimpeachable integrity and a tremendous reputation around town,” Kenneth L. Wainstein, who worked with Brown as U.S. Attorney during the Bush years, told the Washington Post. “She understands the stresses and strains in litigation, but also understands the importance of following the rules.”

James Cooper, a former assistant U.S. Attorney in the D.C. office told the Washington Post that Brown “is a person of utmost integrity, and I think she will be very effective in that position.”

She replaces H. Marshall Jarrett, who will head the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, the Justice Department said.

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Shaking Up Justice to Restore Integrity

The pressure is on for the Justice Department to get its act together. That pressure was turned up this week when a federal judge not only dismissed the conviction of ex-Sen. Ted Stevens, but appointed an independent lawyer to investigate possible criminal wrongdoing on the part of the government in the case. 

 

justicelogo

By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. began a series of personnel moves yesterday in one of the most sensitive and secretive sections of the Justice Department, part of his effort to restore public confidence in the nation’s highest law enforcement operation.

The department has attracted ferocious criticism from judges and defense lawyers who have sounded alarms about unprofessional conduct and raised allegations about political interference in prosecutions during the Bush administration.

Holder promised lawmakers at his confirmation hearing this year that he would remove the taint of politics from the department’s hiring practices and perform a “damage assessment” of its operations.

Yesterday he took a step in that direction, naming a longtime prosecutor to lead the Justice Department’s internal ethics unit, as well as making two other personnel switches. For Holder, who got his start as a young lawyer in the department more than three decades ago, the announcements put his stamp on a building still reeling from the dismissal this week of criminal charges against former senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). The department is also facing fresh calls to reopen the cases of other prominent political figures.

For Full Story