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Archive for April 21st, 2009

Reporter Scores Victory in Fight to Protect Confidential Sources

The press scored a big victory in Detroit on Tuesday when a federal judge ruled that a Detroit Free Press reporter did not have to disclose sources during a deposition because he feared incriminating himself. It’s an interesting defense and an interesting ruling.

David Ashenfelter

David Ashenfelter

By Sandra Svoboda
Detroit Metro Times
DETROIT — Veteran journalist David Ashenfelter had been ordered three times to submit to a deposition in a former federal prosecutor’s lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department.

The former prosecutor, Richard Convertino, is seeking the identity of an unnamed source or sources in a January 2004article Ashenfelter wrote about an internal investigation into Convertino’s handling of a high-profile terrorism-related trial following 9/11.

Convertino won convictions against three of the four men tried, but those verdicts were overturned after it was discovered Convertino withheld evidence from the defense.

Convertino alleges that the leak was a violation of his rights under the federal Privacy Act. He can’t win his case without knowing who talked to Ashenfelter, his attorney has said.

Ashenfelter faced the possibility of jail or fines for contempt of court if he didn’t cooperate with the deposition.

Although U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland had previously ruled that Ashenfelter had to answer questions from Convertino’s attorney, Tuesday in a closed-door deposition Cleland agreed with Ashenfelter and the paper’s attorneys that the Pulitzer Prize winner had sufficient grounds for a Fifth Amendment defense – in other words he could refuse to answer questions on the grounds of possible self-incrimination.

For Full Story

Indicted Ex-Gov. Blago Gets a Dose of Realty: He Can’t Go on Reality Show

blago-on-lettermanEx-Gov. Blagojevich loves the spotlight, but he’ll have to stay closer to home to find it.  That’s the reality of it all.

By The Chicago Tribune Staff
CHICAGO — A federal judge today denied permission to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to travel to Costa Rica to participate in a reality TV show.

U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel called modifying the terms of Blagojevich’s bail on political corruption charges “a bad idea.”

Prosecutors voiced fears that the indicted ex-governor might flee if allowed to go to Costa Rica, noting that he faces 25 to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky said television show producer NBC was willing to pay for two security guards to watch Blagjojevich around the clock. But Zagel noted that such personal monitors would have no authority to arrest him. He also said Blagojevich needs to stick around to read the government’s evidence, because only then will he be able to understand the jeopardy he is in.

For Full Story

FBI Police Officers in W. Va. Charged with Spying On Teen Girls Undressing at Mall Changing Room

Unless these teen girls were linked to al Qaeda, this is quite the embarrassing incident. So far no evidence of a link to al Qaeda. These men were FBI police officers, not agents, the FBI said.morgantown-w-va

By The Associated Press
MORGANTOWN, W.Va.- Two FBI workers are accused of using surveillance equipment to spy on teen girls as they undressed and tried on prom gowns at a charity event at a West Virginia mall.

The FBI employees have been charged with conspiracy and committing criminal invasion of privacy. They were working in an FBI satellite control room at the mall when they positioned a camera on temporary changing rooms and zoomed in for at least 90 minutes on girls dressing for the Cinderella Project fashion show, Marion County Prosecutor Pat Wilson said today.

Gary Sutton Jr., 40, of New Milton and Charles Hommema of Buckhannon have been charged with the misdemeanors and face fines and up to a year in jail on each charge if convicted. Sutton has been released on bond, Wilson said, and Hommema is to be arraigned later this week. Wilson did not know Hommema’s age.

The workers were described in a complaint as “police officers”.

For Full Stories

Homeland Sec. Janet Napolitano to Get Tough at Canada Border

Chicago U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald and FBI Chief Testify in Mob Witness Protection Leak

Patrick Fitzgerald

Patrick Fitzgerald discussing a previous case

Things aren’t looking up for you when a high-profile U.S. Attorney and the special agent in charge of the local FBI testify against you in a federal trial. 

By Robert Mitchum
Chicago Tribune
CHICAGO — When Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose reported to Chicago FBI headquarters on Sept. 6, 2006, he thought he was receiving information on a terrorist fugitive authorities wanted him to pursue.

But when he opened the door of a conference room on the building’s 10th floor, he found the two most powerful men in Chicago federal law enforcement: U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald and Robert Grant, special agent-in-charge of the Chicago FBI office. There was a leak in the witness protection program, they told Ambrose, and investigators had traced the breach to him.

On Monday, Fitzgerald and Grant took turns on the witness stand at Ambrose’s trial, testifying about what happened on that morning 2½ years ago. After being confronted with evidence, Ambrose admitted to telling a family friend about the valuable witness he had protected twice, both officials testified.

“He said, ‘I bleeped up, I shot my mouth off … but it’s not what you think,'” Fitzgerald quoted Ambrose as saying that day.

 Fitzgerald’s nearly four hours of testimony was the centerpiece Monday as Ambrose’s trial entered its second week. Ambrose stands accused of an unprecedented leak of information from the highly confidential witness-protection program while he served on the security detail of hit man-turned-witness Nicholas Calabrese in 2002 and 2003.

Attorneys for Ambrose tried to block Fitzgerald’s and Grant’s testimony in pretrial hearings, arguing that he was not read his Miranda rights before the 2½-hour interview. But U.S. District Judge John Grady ruled that Ambrose’s admissions that day were valid evidence, clearing the way for Monday’s high-powered testimony.

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

Patrick James Maley to Head FBI’s Birmingham Division

birminghamBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — The FBI has named Patrick James Maley, a chief inspector at headquarters, as the new special agent in charge of the Birmingham, Ala., division.  He replaces Carmen Adams.

Maley started his career in 1982 in the white collar squad in Charlotte. The following year he went to Portland where he investigated the division’s first bank failure, the FBI said.

He later went on to work in Baltimore, Louisville and headquarters, where in 2007  he was promoted to inspector of the Inspection Division, the FBI said.