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Archive for October 14th, 2008

Federal Judge Testifies On Behalf Of Ex-Agent In Mob Case

As if this case wasn’t confusing enough. First an ex-FBI agent is accused of being part of a mob murder. Now comes a federal judge who is testifying on the agent’s behalf. Can a Hollywood script be far behind?

Ex-FBI Agent John Connolly/wbztv photo

Ex-FBI Agent John Connolly/wbztv photo

By Shelley Murphy
Boston Globe Staff
MIAMI — A federal judge from Boston told a jury today that retired FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr.’s crime fighting efforts against organized crime in the 1980s helped decimate the New England Mafia.
“It was without parallel,” said US District Senior Judge Edward F. Harrington, who was the first defense witness in Connolly’s state murder trial.
“Well, John Connolly had great ability and he had a certain flair that attracted a confidence and trust with underworld figures,” said Harrington, who served as US Attorney in Massachusetts from 1977 to 1981.
“And he had several top-echelon underworld figures that he handled who provided the federal government with enormous and critical intelligence which was the basis for successful prosecutions.”
For Full Story

Texas Sheriff Busted On Drug Trafficking Charges

The man in Starr County charged with upholding the law has been charged with something else: drug trafficking.

Sheriff Reymundo Guerra/county photo

Sheriff Reymundo Guerra/county photo

By Lynn Brezosky
San Antonio Express-News
McALLEN, Tex. — Starr County Sheriff Reymundo Guerra was indicted on drug charges and arrested by FBI agents Tuesday at his Rio Grande City office, federal officials said.
The 52-year-old sheriff, also known as “Tio,” is a defendant in an indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury earlier this month.
The charges against him were unsealed today after his arrest. He is expected to appear later this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos.
Guerra is accused of being part of a conspiracy to possess, with intent to distribute, cocaine and marijuana.
For Full Story

Sen. Stevens and Wife May Testify

Sure the running tiff between prosecutors and the defense has been interesting. But it could really get interesting if the Senator or his wife takes the stand. It’s still unclear whether they will. Meanwhile, the trial is coming to a close– just in time for the 84-year-old Stevens to jump back on the campaign trail before the Nov. 4 election.

THE SEN. STEVENS TRIAL
THE SEN. STEVENS TRIAL

By Richard Mauer and Erika Bolstad
Anchorage Daily News
WASHINGTON — The jury could begin deliberations Monday in Sen. Ted Stevens’corruption case, leading to the possibility of a verdict less than two weeks before the veteran Republican stands for re-election in Alaska.
Stevens’ lawyers should finish their defense late Wednesday or Thursday, and prosecutors will have the opportunity to present rebuttal witnesses. They’ll likely have closing arguments Monday, said U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan; then he’ll give jurors the case.
Today, lawyers for the senator continued to work to sow doubt in the minds of the jury as part of their effort to prove the central theme of their defense: that the Alaska Republican thought he was paying every bill he was given for renovations to his home in Girdwood.
For Full Story

Sleeper Cell Nightmare

We just observed the 8th anniversary of 9/11.
So much has changed since then. It was a watershed moment in American history and has had a profound effect on law enforcement. Priorities have changed; Federal state and local agencies are cooperating at unprecedented levels.
However, not all the effects have been positive. Politics, egos and hubris have come into play. One of the first victims of this Machiavellian landscape was Assistant U.S. Attorney Rick Convertino and his successful prosecution in Detroit of a terrorist sleeper cell, U.S. v. Koubriti; et al. The conviction drew national attention and was hailed by the Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft as a great victory in the war on terrorism.
Then we entered bizzarro world.
Convertino was invited to appear before a Senate committee to discuss what he had learned about potential terrorists obtaining false identity documents and related matters from his prosecution of the sleeper cell case. Despite the fact that Convertino had developed expertise and knowledge, having successfully prosecuted the case, higher-ups in the Department of Justice, including the Detroit U.S. Attorney at the time, thought that they, not Convertino, should have the distinction of appearing before the Senate Committee.
Only thing was that the Senate Committee had specifically requested Convertino, and they issued a subpoena. Convertino could have arguably avoided the appearance, but he had a message, which he wanted to impart. He testified. By all accounts he represented the DOJ well, but egos were bruised and the snowball began to roll down hill. The DOJ initiated an internal investigation of Convertino based on what later proved to be inaccurate allegations of misconduct. These allegations were leaked to a Detroit newspaper by someone in the Detroit U.S. Attorney’s office.
In response to the published false allegations, Convertino filed a “whistle-blower” civil action naming the Attorney General and others as defendants. Ultimately Convertino was criminally indicted for supposed misconduct in the terrorist trial and related activity. Furthermore, DOJ dropped the charges in the sleeper cell case and the convictions were vacated. Those convicted terrorists remain free.
Convertino was forced to defend himself against the U.S. for whom he had been so proud to represent as a prosecutor. The basis of the indictment charging Convertino was there were photos taken by the government of one of sites that was targeted by the terrorists. A sketch of the target had been found in the terrorists’ apartment. It was alleged that Convertino was aware of these photos, but hid them from defendant/terrorists because they might be favorable to the defense. However, at trial the government was unable to show that Convertino knew the photos existed, and even worse, the photos probably would have been helpful to the prosecution because the site depicted in the sketch appeared to be the same as the one in the photos.
After about a three-week trial, and less than a day of jury deliberation, Convertino was acquitted, but not until he and his family were put through the public and painful ordeal of a criminal trial. I had retired from the FBI, and I agreed to help Convertino as an investigator pro bono.
During my career as a FBI agent, I worked with Rick on numerous cases, some of them high profile. Rick helped successfully prosecute the Detroit Mafia case in 1998. He was the lead prosecutor on the Washtenaw County gang case, which resulted in the destruction of gang factions in the Willow Run neighborhood of Ypsilanti Township . He also oversaw the investigation of Eddie Martin; et al. Martin ran a large “numbers” racket, & he had ties to some players in the University of Michigan basketball program. In all those cases and others, Rick demonstrated professionalism and upheld the highest standards of the Justice Department. To be sure Rick was an aggressive and combative prosecutor, but he never compromised his integrity in pursuing justice.
The acquittal in Rick’s case renews my faith in a system that I served for over 32 years. But that faith was badly shaken by these charges and the ” Alice in Wonderland” trial. Time has passed. But one question remains:
Where does Rick go to get his reputation back?

To contact Greg Stejskal write: gmanstejskal@yahoo.com

Listen To NPR’s “This American Life” Report On Convertino

We Need To Do More About Illegal Steroids

In 1994, I wrote an article, “They shoot horses, don’t they? Anabolic steroids and their challenge to law enforcement.” I was involved at the time in an undercover operation, codenamed Equine, and the case had moved into the prosecution phase. Ultimately more than 70 dealers were convicted.
Fourteen years later, the problem not only persists, but has been complicated by the ease in which people can buy illegal steroids on the Internet. These days we still hear too much about athletes using steroids to enhance their performance. Unfortunately, what we hear is only the tip of the iceberg.
That said, we need to continue cracking down on this dangerous drug. We also need tougher penalties. The drug not only poses a health risk, but undercuts the integrity of sports. In 1994 I warned Major League Baseball of steroid use by some high-profile players- a warning that was apparently ignored to MLB’s detriment.
It’s helpful to know the history and nature of anabolic steroids.
Steroids are a synthetic version of the male hormone testosterone. Anabolic refers to a substance that promotes growth. (Although all steroids are not anabolic, for simplicity, the terms will be interchanged.) When taken internally, steroids will, in conjunction with weight training, promote extraordinary weight gain and muscular development.
Steroids have become especially prevalent in football, professional wrestling, track and field, swimming, and bodybuilding. One bodybuilder indicted in Equine admitted, “to appear in the Nationals (the National Bodybuilding Championships) without using steroids would be like competing in the Miss America Contest without makeup.”
Taken over a period of time, steroids can have detrimental effects on the body. Men may suffer from hypertension, sterility, female breast development, premature hair loss, infections, cysts or irreversible heart and/or liver damage. Studies also indicate that steroid use increases the risk of developing cancer and can even result in death. Further, prolonged use of steroids may result in the body discontinuing the natural production of testosterone, a condition that could become permanent.
Because women, by nature, have little testosterone, steroids pose an even greater threat to them. In addition to most of the problems noted above, women develop many masculine traits, such as increased body and facial hair and a deepened voice.
Though athletes may benefit from some aggression, aggressive behavior brought on by steroid use can be difficult to control and can result in unacceptable social behavior that may even be dangerous to the user or others. It has sometimes been referred to as “roid rage.”
Last year, wrestler pro wrestler Chris Benoit strangled his wife, suffocated his 7-year-old son and placed a Bible next to their bodies before hanging himself with a weight-machine pulley. Authorities found anabolic steroids in the house.
During the time when we were preparing to begin Equine, I learned an FBI agent’s son had committed suicide as a result of depression caused by his use and then cycling off steroids.
Recently, a study indicated that steroid use may lead to criminal or violent behavior, especially in 12-to17-year-olds. To boot, in some instances, police officers taking steroids have used excessive force in subduing subjects.
Unfortunately, steroids have been even easier to get since the Equine case. Steroids are readily available via the internet and the predominant source of the active ingredient, the synthetic testosterone, is China .
This scenario raises concerns regarding quality control, contaminants, etc. Often the steroid ingredient is sent from China to another country such as Mexico , where it is bottled, packaged or compressed into pill form for distribution with no accompanying oversight by any regulating agencies.
Even back during Equine , nearly 50 percent of the approximately 10 million dosage units of steroids seized during the course of the investigation was counterfeit, i.e., the purported steroid contained no steroid.
Today most steroids for the human black market are no longer manufactured by legitimate drug companies so the same problems that were associated only with the counterfeit steroids are now prevalent with all steroids.
The illegal sale of anabolic steroids has been a felony under Federal law since 1988. On November 28, 1990, President Bush (the first) signed into law the Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990. Effective February 27, 1991, the law placed 27 anabolic steroids and their derivatives into Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule III drugs, by definition, have the potential for abuse, but less than substances in Schedules I or II, which have a “high potential for abuse.” Abuse of a Schedule III drug may lead to “moderate or low physical dependence.”
Unfortunately, classifying steroids as Schedule III drugs has resulted in light sentencing guidelines, and only a dealer selling massive quantities of steroids gets a sentence beyond nominal incarceration.
This criticism surfaced during the prosecution phase of Equine, and unfortunately, the guidelines have not changed.
They need to.
Aspiring athletes should not have to use steroids to achieve greatness in their sport.. Steroid use perverts the goals of sports and athletic competition. A victory achieved through steroid use is hollow, at best. At worst, the athlete may face prosecution or even death.
I would like to dedicate this article to the late University of Michigan Football Coach Bo Schembechler , who first alerted me to the problem of steroids in athletics and inspired our pursuit of the illicit distribution of steroids.
To contact Greg Stejskal write: gmanstejskal@yahoo.com

FBI Agent Tells Of Infiltrating The Mob

Legendary Miss. FBI Agent Roy K. Moore Dies

Roy K. Moore leaves behind a legacy, working for justice during an ugly era in the civil rights movement.

By Holbrook Mohr
Associated Press Writer
JACKSON, Miss. — Roy K. Moore, an FBI agent who oversaw investigations into some of the most notorious civil rights-era killings, including those depicted in the movie “Mississippi Burning,” has died. He was 94.
Moore’s daughter, Sandra Giglio, said he died Sunday in a Madison, Miss., nursing home of complications from pneumonia and other ailments.
Moore, a former Marine and native of Oregon, had established a solid reputation in the FBI when bureau director J. Edgar Hoover sent him to Mississippi in 1964 after the disappearance of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman.
Nearly two months later, their bodies were dug out of an earthen dam in Neshoba County. “Mississippi Burning,” released in 1988 and starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe, was based on the case.
Bill Minor, a veteran Mississippi journalist who covered the civil rights struggles, said Monday that Moore established the first “full-fledged FBI bureau” in Mississippi and set his sights on the Ku Klux Klan.

For Full Story

Pact Will Let Michiganians Cross Border With Driver’s License

Michiganians who cross the border on a regular basis (some just go to Canada for dinner or lunch) won’t have to carry a passport under a pact signed with Homeland Security.

Michigan Sec. of State Terri Lynn Land/official photo

Michigan Sec. of State Terri Lynn Land/official photo

Paul Egan
The Detroit News
DETROIT — State and federal officials signed an agreement Monday that will allow U.S. citizens in Michigan the option of using a driver’s license, rather than a more costly passport, to cross the U.S.-Canada border when tougher security rules take effect next June.
Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and Stewart Baker, an assistant secretary with the Department of Homeland Security, signed documents authorizing a new and enhanced Michigan driver’s license at a ceremony at the Detroit Regional Chamber.
The new cards, which contain an electronic chip that can be read by border guards, should be available next spring at a cost of less than $50, Land said at a news conference.

For Full Story