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Gang Leader Gets Life Sentence in U.S. Consulate Murders

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Arturo Gallegos Castrellon, the Barrio Azteca Lieutenant who ordered the March 2010 murders of a U.S. Consulate employee, her husband and the husband of another U.S. Consulate employee in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, was sentenced Thursday to life in prison in federal court in El Paso.

“The DEA is committed to ensuring cold-blooded criminals, like Arturo Gallegos Castrellon, who murder innocent victims, traffic huge amounts of drugs worldwide, and incite violence are taken off the street and remain behind bars,” DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said in a statement. “Castrellon’s conviction and life sentence is a clear sign that the DEA, along with our law enforcement partners, will not tolerate those who attack Americans abroad and is committed to upholding the rule of law, protecting our citizens, and bringing to justice the world’s worst criminals.”

“Arturo Gallegos Castrellon led the teams of assassins who carried out the U.S. Consulate shootings in March 2010 and ruthlessly murdered nearly 1,600 others as part of a cartel conflict over a drug trafficking route from Mexico into the United States,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General O’Neil in a statement. “His gang of killers terrorized and victimized men and women on both sides of the border, but thanks to the hard work of our law enforcement partners he will now spend the rest of his life in prison for his crimes.”

In addition to the sentence,  U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone ordered Gallegos Castrellon to pay $998,840 in restitution and $785,500 in forfeiture.

A  federal jury found Gallegos Castrellon guilty of six counts of murder and conspiracies to commit racketeering, narcotics trafficking, narcotics importation, murder in a foreign country and money laundering.

 


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Pro Publica: Three Things Obama’s New Clemency Initiative Doesn’t Do

By Kara Brandeisky
ProPublica

Today, the Department of Justice outlined expanded criteria that could allow prisoners convicted of non-violent crimes to win early release from prison. Under the new initiative, the Office of the Pardon Attorney will fast-track commutation applications from inmates who have served more than 10 years for non-violent offenses and who were well-behaved while imprisoned.

As part of the shift, the department is replacing Pardon Attorney Ronald Rodgers. Two years ago, we reported that Rodgershad failed to provide critical information to the White House in urging denial of a commutation for Clarence Aaron, a model prisoner who served nearly 20 years for a small role in a drug deal.

Aaron’s release was championed by civil liberties groups, and late last year he was among eight prisoners whose cocaine-related sentences were commuted by President Obama. His case was among the more than 35 stories ProPublica has published over the past three years about racial discrimination in pardon outcomes and questionable practices in the process.

Obama’s commutation reforms cheered prisoners’ rights advocates, who say they are a necessary corrective to an unfair sentencing regime. But the new initiatives, which appear to be aimed at commutations, don’t address other problems identified in our reporting on presidential clemency.

Here’s three areas the new initiative doesn’t address:

1. Whether Outgoing Pardon Attorney Ronald Rodgers Was Disciplined

Aaron was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences for abetting a drug conspiracy – though he had not sold, bought, or supplied the cocaine, and he had no prior criminal convictions. Though he seemed like a model candidate for early release, President Bush denied his petition in December 2008.

Rodgers had misrepresented some key facts about Aaron’s case in his report to the White House. As we reported, both the U.S. attorney for the South District of Alabama and Aaron’s sentencing judge had supported Aaron’s petition. Instead, Rodgers inaccurately informed the White House that the U.S. attorney thought the request was “about 10 years premature.”

In December 2012, the Justice Department’s inspector general said Rodgers’ conduct “fell substantially short of the high standards expected of Department of Justice employees and the duty he owed the President.” In a report, the IG said Justice should review “whether administrative action is appropriate.”

Rodgers has remained in his position until today, when Deputy Attorney General James Cole announced that Rodgers would be replaced by Deborah Leff, the Acting Senior Counselor for Access to Justice. After a transition, Rodgers will take on “another role” in the agency, a Justice Department news release said.

“Over the past several years, Ron has performed admirably in what is a very tough job,” Cole said. “He has demonstrated dedication and integrity in his work on pardons and commutations.”

Asked by a reporter if Rodgers’ departure was related to the inspector general report, Cole said it’s typical for senior officials to change positions within the department. “Ron has expressed some desire for a while to move on, as the senior executive service usually does,” he said.

A spokeswoman from the department was unable to confirm whether Rodgers had been disciplined for his role in the Aaron case. “We can’t comment on personnel matters given Privacy Act concerns,” she said.

Read more »


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FBI Informant’s Ties to Cyberattacks Abroad Raise Questions About Bureau’s Intentions

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Is the FBI using hackers to gain access to intelligence overseas?

The New York Times reports that an FBI informant launched hundreds of cyberattacks on foreign websites, including ones run by other governments, even as the bureau tried to dismantle hacking groups like Anonymous.

New information indicates that the cyberattacks even targeted websites operated by Iran, Pakistan, Brazil and Syria.

What remains unclear is whether the FBI directly ordered the attacks, the Times wrote.

The mastermind behind the attacks was Hector Xavier Monsegur, a hacker within Anonymous, who was arrested and in exchange began working to help the FBI identify other members of the hacking group.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

 


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FBI Seeks Public’s Help Searching for Victims of Serial Child Molestor

Steve Neavling
ricklethethewire.com

It’s a nightmare for any parent or law enforcement officer: A suspecedt serial child molester traveled the globe teaching young children.

Now the FBI is beginning the arduous task of tracking down what could be up to 90 victims, the New York Daily News reports.

The FBI turned to the public Tuesday to help identify potential victims of William James Vahey, 64, who worked abroad at 10 American and other international schools.

Vahey killed himself on March 21 after agents filed a search warrant for his computer thumb drive, which contained pornographic images of more than 90 boys who appeared to have been drugged and unconscious.

They were between 12 and 14 years old.


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Defense Team: FBI’s Attempt to Gather Information from Suspects’ Attorney Has Serious Ramifications

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Defense attorneys for five defendants accused of helping orchestrate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks warned of “staggering” implications after divulging that the FBI tried to recruit a member of the defense team.

The Associated Press reports that the defense team is urging the war crimes tribunal to aggressively pursue allegations of what would be an unprecedented breach.

According to the defense, two agents with the FBI’s Terrorism Task Force approached one of the attorneys at home and asked about the counsel’s work. At issue is whether the visit created a conflict of interest that compromised the defense team’s loyalty to is clients.
The allegations brought the case to an abrupt halt.


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Sore Loser Wrongly Claims His Video Game Opponent Killed Sister, Mother at Long Island Home

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Not everyone responds well to losing.

The FBI is searching for one sore loser who apparently was so upset when he lost in an online video game that he called authorities, pretending to be the teen who beat him in Call of Duty. The prank caller told police Tuesday that he was 18-year-old Rafael Castillo and that he had just killed his mother and brother, the New York Post reports.

The call prompted more than 70 heavily armed officers, along with ambulances and hostage negotiators, to swarm the innocent teen’s Long Island house.

When they arrived, the teen’s mother and sister were fine.

“I thought there was a fire at my house. I ran up and saw my mom running out. I didn’t know what was going on,” the brother, Jose, 21, told the Post.

Now the FBI is trying to figure out who made the call.


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San Francisco Gate: Offering Clemency to Low-Level Drug Offenders Is Long Overdue

By San Francisco Gate
Editorial Board

When Barack Obama ran for the White House in 2008, federal inmates and their families believed that if he won, miracles would follow. They were convinced that the former law professor and critic of federal mandatory minimum sentences would be liberal with his unfettered constitutional power to free low-level and nonviolent offenders sentenced to decades, even life without parole, behind bars.

Then, for the next five years, criminal lawyers and reformers stood around scratching their heads wondering why Obama held the worst pardon record of any modern president. He commuted one sentence in his first term. When Obama was re-elected in 2012, they hoped he would open the gates. In December, a small door opened. The president commuted the sentences of eight crack offenders, all of whom had served at least 15 years.

On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder made the announcement that promises big change. Holder said the Department of Justice will adopt a “new and improved” approach with a bigger team “committed to recommending as many qualified applicants as possible for reduced sentences.” Expect the new team to seek out nonviolent, low-level drug offenders with clean prison records.

Sam Morison, a former staffer in the pardon attorney’s office, fears the new clemency project will be a “technical exercise that only an expert in the federal sentencing guidelines can appreciate.”
But Mary Price of Families Against Mandatory Minimums is ecstatic. For years, the Justice Department’s Office of Pardon Attorney has served as an “office of no” that rejected cases of clear sentencing overkill.

To read more click here.


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American Muslims Claim FBI Placed Them on No-Fly List for Refusing to Be Informants

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

No one has accused Naveed Shinwari of breaking the law.

But that hasn’t stopped federal authorities from placing him on the no-fly list, which has prevented Shinwari from seeing his wife for the past 26 months, the Guardian reports.

Shinwari said he believes he can’t fly because he’s refused to become an informant for the FBI.

“I’m just very frustrated, [and I said] what can I do to clear my name?” said Shinwari, 30, who has lived in the U.S. since he was 14. “And that’s where it was mentioned to me: ‘you help us, we help you. We know you don’t have a job; we’ll give you money.’”

Shinwari is among four American Muslims accusing the FBI in a lawsuit of retaliating against them for refusing to become informants.
The FBI declined to comment.


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