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Archive for April 10th, 2009

Retired Professor Wants to Unseal Hoffa Grand Jury Material to Prove His Theory That Robert Kennedy Used Illegal Wiretaps

The mystery as to where Jimmy Hoffa was buried, and the mystery as to what really happened to him, remains more than 30 years after he disappeared from a suburban Detroit restaurant parking lot. Now a retired law professor wants to add to the mystique by trying to unseal grand jury records in Hoffa’s jury tampering case.

Jimmy Hoffa

Jimmy Hoffa

 

By BILL POOVEY
Associated Press Writer
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The government’s hard-won conviction of Jimmy Hoffa on jury-tampering charges is under assault 45 years later.

A retired law professor has persuaded a federal judge to consider unsealing secret grand jury records to set the historical record straight. William L. Tabac wants to prove his theory that the Justice Department – then led by Hoffa’s nemesis, Robert Kennedy – used illegal wiretaps and improper testimony to indict the Teamsters leader.

“I think there is prosecutorial misconduct in the case, which included the prosecutors who prosecuted it and the top investigator for the Kennedy Department of Justice,” Tabac said.

James Neal, the special prosecutor who convicted Hoffa in 1964 in Chattanooga, calls the claim “baloney.”

 For Full Story

A Judge’s Wayward Son

Phillip Winkfield/Baltimore Police-courtesy of Baltimore City Paper
Philip Winkfield/Baltimore Police-courtesy of Baltimore City Paper

By Jeffrey Anderson
For ticklethewire.com
BALTIMORE — U.S. District Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson has had a lengthy career on the federal bench in Washington, presiding over a host of big-name defendants including D.C. City Councilman Marion Barry, former vice presidential adviser I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and NBA star Allen Iverson.

In the late 1980s, she presided over 12 days of preliminary hearings for Rayful Edmond, later convicted as one of Washington, D.C.’s most infamous drug traffickers.

On Friday, April 10,  however, she was in federal court in Baltimore,  not as a veteran judge but as the concerned mother of her 21-year-old son Philip Robinson Winkfield, who was sentenced to five years in federal prison for possession with intent to distribute heroin.   She watched as her son was led off in handcuffs.

Besides the fact that mother is a judge, Winkfield was not your typical defendant facing sentencing for heroin trafficking in Baltimore.

A 2005 graduate of the prestigious Maret School in Northwest D.C., he was arrested last April 25 in a townhouse in Baltimore. Police seized five loaded guns, including two semiautomatic pistols, two shotguns and a semiautomatic assault rifle; a bullet resistant vest; 157 grams of heroin; 180 grams of crack; more than six pounds of marijuana and $8,000 cash.

The Morgan State University student was indicted in Baltimore City Circuit Court last May 23 before the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland took over the case in November. Winkfield waived indictment and pleaded guilty to the heroin charge in December. He has been detained since his April 2008 arrest on grounds that he posed a risk to the safety of others.

What began as a routine pot bust escalated after Drug Enforcement Administration agents, acting on a tip from the DEA office in Providence, R.I., sought to intercept a FedEx package from Eureka, Calif., destined for Winkfield’s apartment but addressed to someone else.

After a forced entry, inside the Baltimore townhouse agents found Winkfield and a cache of weapons with large quantities of hard drugs and cash. Prosecutors have declined to say whether others were involved.
Since his arrest, the case has yielded few clues about Winkfield, who, before moving to Baltimore in 2006 to attend Morgan State, lived for 18 years with his mother, Judge Robinson, in Northwest D.C. Before coming to Morgan as a legacy student – his mother graduated from there in 1975 – he attended University of Delaware in 2005 and 2006. Winkfield has two prior misdemeanor convictions from 2007 in Virginia, for gun possession and drug paraphernalia.

On Friday, Robinson and her ex-husband, John C. Winkfield, a lawyer for the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, sat silently waiting for their son’s sentencing hearing to begin. Philip Winkfield entered the courtroom dressed in a t-shirt and jeans with his dread locks pulled back. Incarcerated for a year, he appeared more muscular than at his first appearance in state court last May. He nodded to his parents.

Addressing the court, Assistant U.S. Attorney George Hazel said he read every letter submitted on Winkfield’s behalf by family and friends.

“He comes from a family of two attorneys and strikes me as a smart, well-mannered young man,” Hazel said. “But he did make a lifestyle choice. He didn’t just wake up and find himself in that townhouse with those drugs and weapons. He’s not just some mule, but he’s not some kingpin either.”

Then Hazel recommended to U.S. District Court Chief Judge J. Fredrick Motz that Winkfield, a first time federal offender, receive the mandatory minimum of 60 months in prison.

“I’ve known Philip since he was 12,” said Winkfield’s D.C.-based defense attorney Robert Mance. “I’ve had a lot of interaction with him over the past year. What I have gleaned is he has accepted the consequences of his actions. A lot of my clients, especially those incarcerated for the first time, have a lot of complaints and are looking for breaks and exceptions. That’s not been the case with Philip.”

Winkfield then rose and spoke to the judge. He apologized for “my lack of judgment” to the court and his family and “all of those who I’ve hurt.” In a steady, clear voice he continued, “This has been an eye-opening experience.

I am not looking to further this lifestyle. I’m looking to put it behind me.”
Motz sentenced Winkfield to five years in prison with credit for time served; four years supervised release, with drug and alcohol and mental health counseling; and 200 hours of community service to be waived if he finds a job.

The judge also granted a request made by the defense that Winkfield be sent to a particular federal prison for safety reasons and so he could enter into a residential drug abuse treatment program. “Be who you were born to be,” Motz said to Winkfield. “Live the kind of life and be the kind of person your parents want, and that you want.”

After seeing her son led off in handcuffs, Judge Robinson declined to talk to a reporter, as she struggled to hold back her emotions. John Winkfield, who is a former D.C. prosecutor and former appellate lawyer in the criminal division of the U.S. Justice Department, declined to comment as well.

Mexican Cartels Using YouTube and Internet

youtube1It was inevitable that the crude and violent Mexican drug cartels would evolve and start using some of the modern technology of the Internet to promote their trade. This is just the start.

By Rick Jervis
USA TODAY

The violence among Mexican drug cartels is not filling just the streets of Mexican border towns: It’s also spilling into gruesome online videos and chat rooms.

The videos on YouTube and Mexican-based sites are polished – professional singers croon about cartel leaders while images of murdered victims fade one into the next. In the comment area, those loyal to the opposing cartels trade insults and threats.

Such videos are used to intimidate enemies and recruit members by touting “virtues” of cartel leaders, says Scott Stewart, vice president of tactical intelligence for Stratfor, a Texas-based global-intelligence company.

Howard Campbell, an anthropologist at the University of Texas-El Paso who studies border issues, says the videos also signal how the cartels have evolved from pure moneymaking ventures to sophisticated groups with political agendas.

For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Miami Judge Blasts Fed Prosecutors and Fines Gov $601,795

For the second time in recent months a federal judge has lashed out at federal prosecutors and accused them improper conduct. In Washington, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan not only just dismissed the conviction of ex-Sen. Ted Stevens, but ordered an independent attorney to probe the misconduct of the government. Now in Miami, a judge has taken offense to the government’s conduct and fined the government big timemiami-map.

BY MICHAEL VASQUEZ
The Miami Herald
MIAMI — Accusing federal prosecutors of knowingly and repeatedly violating ethical guidelines in a high-profile narcotics trial, a Miami federal judge Thursday reprimanded multiple assistant U.S. attorneys who took part in the case — and fined the federal government more than $600,000.

U.S. District Judge Alan Gold’s harshly critical 50-page order takes the federal government to task for acting deceptively and ”in bad faith” in the case of Miami Beach doctor Ali Shaygan, who was acquitted last month of 141 counts of illegally prescribing painkillers.

The $601,795 fine will be paid to Shaygan as reimbursement for much of his legal fees and costs. Gold formally reprimanded prosecutors Sean Cronin, Karen Gilbert and Andrea Hoffman and said he would send a copy of the order to the Florida Bar for its review.

While prosecuting Shaygan, the U.S. attorney’s office began a secret, undisclosed side investigation of Shaygan’s legal team, citing a suspicion of witness tampering on the part of the defense.

For Full Story

FBI Hostage Negotiating Team Brings Experience to Pirate Situation

Perhaps it’s a testament to its reputation that the FBI hostage negotiation team has been called in to help with the pirate hijacking on the high-seas. The unit has been involved in a lot of high profile situations and this is the latest.
By Rebecca Cole
Chicago Tribune
WASHINGTON fbi-logo — The FBI, brought in to help negotiate with the Somali pirates holding an American freighter captain, is no stranger to overseas hostage crises.

Since 1990, its Crisis Negotiation Unit has worked on more than 100 foreign hostage situations in Iraq, the Gaza Strip, Haiti and elsewhere.

The unit, based in Quantico, Va., routinely deploys negotiators to assist in kidnapping and other incidents involving U.S. citizens. Called the negotiating arm of the U.S. government, the FBI has about 340 crisis negotiators in 56 field offices.

FBI spokesman Bill Carter confirmed that the agency is assisting Navy personnel in negotiations with the pirates but would not comment on specifics. Among the cases on which the FBI has worked is the kidnapping of Jill Carroll, the American freelance journalist who was held for 82 days in Baghdad in 2006.

Judge in Ted Stevens Case No Shrinking Violet

Judge Emmet Sullivan has never been shy about voicing his opinion on the bench and during the trial of Sen. Ted Stevens, he showed just how tough he could be, chastising the government.  He may have dismissed the conviction in the Stevens case, but he’s not done going after the government in that case.

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan/court photo

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan/court photo

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan was irate when he accused the Justice Department of “hiding the ball” after its lawyers did not produce a document that undercut a key witness.

“Unfortunately, I can’t trust the government,” he said, adding that “someone’s going to pay a price.”

It was the first of two tirades in a week that the judge let loose on government lawyers over their handling of evidence.

First, he rebuked them in a case challenging the detention of a man at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The second scolding came during a packed hearing Tuesday, before he dismissed the conviction of former senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) on corruption charges.

The harangues captured the vintage Sullivan, who has spent more than 20 years on the bench, recently presiding over a series of high-profile cases and building a reputation as a formidable, if unpredictable, presence in the courtroom.

For Full Story