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Archive for March 2nd, 2009

Justice Dept. Probing Interim Philly U.S. Atty. Laurie Magid For Fundraiser

U.S. Atty. Laurie Magid
U.S. Atty. Laurie Magid

It’s never good, even if just for perception sake, when the Justice Department is investigating a U.S. Attorney. The question here is whether interim U.S. Atty. Laurie Magid went beyond the boundaries of a federal employee.

By Emilie Lounsberry and George Anastasia
Philadelphia Inquirer
PHILADELPHIA — A $250-a-person fund-raiser held at the townhouse of interim U.S. Attorney Laurie Magid has drawn the attention of the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General, according to people familiar with the inquiry.

Investigators are examining whether a law that limits the political activities of federal employees has been violated, those sources said. The Jan. 30 fund-raiser was held for former U.S. Attorney Patrick L. Meehan, a likely Republican candidate for governor in 2010. Several hundred people were invited, including as many as 20 prosecutors who work for Magid. The host was her husband, Jeffrey A. Miller, a prominent caterer, and Magid and a handful of of the prosecutors she supervises attended.

Magid, 48, a Republican who became the region’s top federal prosecutor when Meehan stepped down in the summer, declined to comment Friday. She said her husband also would have no comment.

People close to her said she had cleared the fund-raiser with the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency that provides guidance on activities prohibited by the Hatch Act.

For Full Story

Venuzuela Prez Chavez Rejects U.S. Drug Traffic Report; Takes Poke at Obama

President Chavez

President Chavez

President Chavez continues to flap his jaws and poke a stick at the U.S. This latest incident doesn’t bode well for the relationship between Chavez and the freshly-minted Obama regime. As Rodney King once said: “Can’t We All Just Get Along?”

By The Associated Press
CARACAS, Venezuela – President Hugo Chavez on Saturday rejected a U.S. report alleging that drug trafficking is soaring in Venezuela, stepping up his criticism of President Barack Obama following the U.S. leader’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

The State Department report, which covers global anti-drug efforts in 2008, was compiled while President George W. Bush was in office but approved this month by the Obama administration.

“Is there really a new government in the United States, or is Bush still in charge?” Chavez told supporters in a poor Caracas neighborhood. “Don’t mess with me, Mr. Obama.”

The report asserts that drug trafficking soared fivefold in Venezuela from 50 metric tons (55 tons) of illegal drugs in 2002 to an estimated 250 metric tons (275 tons) in 2007 as cartels took advantage of the country’s “geography, corruption, a weak judicial system, incompetent and in some cases complicit security forces and lack of international counternarcotics cooperation.”
Full Story

Read Part 1 of Report

Read Part 2 of Report

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Moving; Could Help Perceptions

Judge Royce Lamberth/court photo

In real estate, they say, it’s location location location. Well, some are saying the same for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in Washington that is moving from the Justice Department to new digs in the U.S. District Court down the street. Some like U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth (in photo) hope the move will erase some perceptions that the court is less than independent.

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — First, the workers encased the room in reinforced concrete. Then came the thick wood-and-metal doors that seal into the walls. Behind those walls they labored in secret for two years, building a courtroom, judge’s chambers and clerk’s offices. The only sign that they were done came recently, when biometric hand scanners and green “Restricted Access” placards were placed at the entrances.

What workers have finally completed — or perhaps not; few really know, and none would say — is the nation’s most secure courtroom for its most secretive court. In coming days, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court will move from its current base at the Justice Department and settle into a new $2 million home just off a public hallway in the District’s federal courthouse.

The relocation is a rare public action by a mysterious Washington institution that is judged by its ability to keep secrets while overseeing the government’s efforts to gather them. Its role, generally, is to determine whether the federal government can spy on U.S. citizens or foreigners in the United States in terrorism or espionage investigations.

For Full Story

Fed Prosecutors in Barry Bond’s Case Bump Up Against Big Obstacles: Trial Delayed

The case against Barry Bonds has always been a tough one. For one, the key witness, his trainer, has refused to testify in trial. And two, the judge recently ruled that positive steroid tests were not admissible as evidence. The two developments have been a recipe for disaster for the assistant U.S. Attorneys, who are appealing the ruling. Jury selection was supposed to begin today (March 2), but there’s been a delay. Some speculate this case could just vanish, leaving the big slugger with the home run of his life.

A.J. Perez
USA TODAY

Prosecutors applied a rarely used maneuver Friday that delayed the start of Barry Bonds’ trial on perjury and obstruction charges for several months – if it ever takes place.

“I think they’re going to abandon their case,” said Peter Keane, dean emeritus of the Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco. “I think you’ll see them dancing away from it. They’re going to wait for the case to get gray in the beard, and then they’re going to quietly dump it.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office notified the court that it was going to appeal Judge Susan Illston’s Feb. 19 ruling to exclude much of the evidence collected in the BALCO raids from 2003, including three of Bonds’ allegedly positive steroid tests between 2000 and 2001, along with doping calendars that detailed how Bonds was supposed to use banned substances.

Minus that evidence, prosecutors would have a more difficult time proving that Bonds knowingly used steroids, the key element of the case.

For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Granddaughter of Slave Audrey Collins is Chief U.S. District Judge in LA

Obviously the election of Barack Obama was a milestone in this country’s racial history. But the story of Audrey B. Collins, the granddaughter of a slave, is also a milestone worth noting.

By Scott Glover
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — Not long after Audrey B. Collins was named chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, she found herself pondering what she might say at an upcoming luncheon, the sort of affair she’d routinely be expected to attend in her new capacity as the public face of the court.

But as Collins considered her remarks, she realized there was nothing routine about this gathering. She’d been asked to speak to a group of female Afghan attorneys and judges visiting the United States, women who risked their lives every day by practicing law in defiance of the Taliban.

The standard fare for lunchtime speeches, such as court statistics, judicial vacancies and cost-of-living increases for federal judges, wasn’t going to cut it with this crowd, Collins concluded.

So she decided to tell her own story, one that makes her, in at least one respect, a highly unusual member of the federal judiciary: Collins, 63, is the granddaughter of a slave.

For Full Story