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Archive for June, 2009

Bernie Madoff’s 150 Year Sentence Raises Some Interesting Questions

By Allan Lengel
Former U.S. Atty. Roscoe Howard Jr.
Former U.S. Atty. Roscoe Howard Jr.
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON – Swindler Bernie Madoff was trapped like rat. He really had no choice but to plead guilty. A conviction at trial was a foregone conclusion.

So here’s the two questions I have: Should U.S. District Judge Denny Chin, who gave Madoff a whopping 150-year sentence on Monday, have gone a little easier and taken into account that Madoff, 71, pleaded guilty instead of going to trial? And will this make some defendants think twice about pleading when they think they might get screwed in sentencing like Madoff?

A couple former federal prosecutors here in Washington answered those questions this way: No and No.

“This is clearly not a typical case,” says Stevan E. Bunnell, former chief of the criminal division for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington. He said he doesn’t see it impacting other pleas.

“You have to throw out the conventional wisdom,” said Bunnell of the law firm O’Melveny & Myers. “It’s such a high profile case. It’s kind of in its own universe.”

Roscoe Howard Jr., a former U.S. Attorney in Washington, who is now with the firm Troutman Sanders, concurs and says: “It’s hard to take Bernie Madoff and put him in any category. He’s going to be a name equivalent to Ponzi and Enron, people you can use one name to describe a whole genre of transgressions.”

“I think the 150 years is really an acknowledgment of what these folks have gone through. I think the judge was going to give him a sentence that amounted to a death sentence. He will die in jail. When you’re 71 years old, anything over 10 years, that’s essentially what you’re doing to him.”

And Howard adds that he doesn’t foresee any defendants saying: “I know what you did to Bernie Madoff, so I’m not going to plead guilty.”

Did Congressman John Conyers Step Over the Line to Help His Wife?

Rep. John Conyers

Rep. John Conyers

Congressman John Conyers wrote a letter supporting a project his wife, now convicted city council member Monica Conyers, had a financial interest in. Previously, he had opposed the project, but then made an abrupt about face. The question everyone is asking: Did he write the letter to help his wife financially benefit?

By TODD SPANGLER and JIM SCHAEFER
Detroit Free Press
DETROIT — Before U.S. Rep. John Conyers was for a waste injection well in Romulus, he stood with fellow Democratic Rep. John Dingell who was against it.

In 2003, the influential husband of Monica Conyers appeared at a public hearing in Romulus, standing with fellow Michigan Democratic Rep. John Dingell, who was dead set against a planned hazardous waste injection well in that city.

“We’re trying to keep the God-given resources that this area is blessed with as healthy and as clean as possible,” Conyers told an audience on April 21, 2003.

Early today, John Conyers offered an explanation as to why his position changed before he sent a letter on July 17, 2007, to the Environmental Protection Agency in support of Greektown businessman Dimitrios (Jim) Papas’ efforts to transfer permits that would restart the controversial, leak-prone well.

In a statement e-mailed to the Free Press just after midnight, Conyers’ office said he “determined that this was something the EPA should reconsider” based “on the context of the congressman’s representational duties to his constituents,” including the Detroit police and firemen’s pension board, which was heavily invested in the waste well operation.

The congressman’s letter did not address specific questions put to his spokeswoman by the Free Press, including whether or not John Conyers knew whether his wife had financial ties to Papas when he wrote the supportive letter to the EPA. John Conyers has repeatedly refused to be interviewed directly about the letter, or his wife.

For Full Story

Read Conyers’ Letter to EPA

Holocaust Museum Shooter James W. von Brunn Still Too Ill To Appear in Court

holocaust-museum-2By Rachel Leven
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — The arraignment for James W. von Brunn, charged with fatally shooting a Holocaust Museum guard, was postponed Tuesday after prosecutors indicated that the white supremacist was still not healthy enough to make a court appearance.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Waid told U.S. Magistrate John M. Facciola that von Brunn’s D.C. Department of Corrections doctor said he was still not in good enough health since being shot during the incident earlier this month.

Von Brunn faces a first-degree murder charge.

After the proceeding, defense attorney A.J. Kramer declined to comment on specifics. However, he said that 88-year-old von Brunn was bed ridden. He also confirmed his previous remarks that von Brunn was responsive to statements.

The judge rescheduled the von Brunn’s appearance for July 10 at 9:30 a.m.

Von Brunn is charged with fatally shooting Holocaust Museum guard Stephen T. Johns on June 10. Von Brunn was shot in the face during return fire. He is currently at Greater Southeast Community Hospital.

U.S. Atty. Paralegal in Detroit Suspected of Leaking Secret Info in City Hall Probe

detroit-city-limitsYes, this is the scandal that keeps on giving.

Paul Egan
The Detroit News
DETROIT — A paralegal at the U.S. Attorney’s Office is suspended after officials suspected she leaked confidential information to Detroit political consultant Sam Riddle while he was under criminal investigation, people familiar with the investigation said Monday.

Wendolyn Greene, formerly Wendolyn Johnson, answered “no” Monday when asked if she still worked for the federal prosecutor’s office in Detroit, where she was a paralegal in the special prosecutions unit. She then hung up her home phone.

“We had an employee by that name; I don’t know her status,” U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Gina Balaya said Monday when asked about Greene. Balaya later called back to clarify, saying Greene “is still an employee of this office.” Beyond that, “we can’t discuss her status at all,” she said.

People familiar with the investigation said the controversy arose about a year ago, close to the time that news of the Synagro Technologies Inc. bribery scandal became public. Riddle had dated Greene and federal officials suspected he got information from her relevant to an ongoing federal investigation, sources said.

For Full Story

Feds Investigating 10 of Madoff’s Associates

Bernie Madoff/youtube

Bernie Madoff/youtube

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Surprise. Surprise. It looks like good old Bernie Madoff — one of the great ripoff artists of the 21st Century — didn’t act alone.

The Associated Press is reporting that the feds are investigating 10 people associated with Madoff.

The news service, attributing the report to “a person who spoke on the condition of anonymity” said the person would not provide details on whether the targets include Madoff’s family members or former employees.

Who knows, if Madoff cooperates, maybe the feds will knock off 10 years off his 150 year sentence he got on Monday.

Lawmaker Calls Federal Air Marshals “Useless”

us-air-marshals

The question many ask: Would the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks have happened had we had Air Marshals aboard those planes?


By Anthony L. Kimery
HS Today

During a five minute speech on the House floor June 19, Rep. John Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn.) declared that the Federal Air Marshals Service (FAMS) is “probably the most needless, useless agency in the entire federal government.”

Duncan said the $860 million in the fiscal year 2010 homeland security appropriations bill “for this needless, useless agency … is a total waste … we will appropriate $860 million for people to sit on airplanes and simply fly back and forth, back and forth. What a cushy, easy job.”

Continuing his dissing of FAMS, Duncan asserted he “know[s] with absolute certainty that this $860 million we are about to give them could be better spent on thousands of other things. As far as I’m concerned, it is just money going down a drain for the little good it will do. When we are so many trillions of dollars in debt, a national debt of over $13 trillion, we simply cannot afford to waste money in this way.”

For Full Story

FBI Informant in Jefferson Case Sent Email to Agent Likening Herself to a “Star”

William J. Jefferson

William J. Jefferson

The defense hopes to show that then Congressman Jefferson was simply dealing with the FBI informant as a business person, not a Congressman. He’s got an uphill battle in this area. But as a defense, it’s worth a shot.

By Bruce Alpert
Washington bureau
ALEXANDRIA, VA. — In an e-mail message to the lead FBI agent in the William Jefferson corruption case, government informant Lori Mody likens herself to a “star” awaiting reviews from the critics.

The Mody e-mail, dated May 13, 2005, was sent the day after she and Jefferson shared a $1,023 dinner in which conversations were secretly recorded by the FBI. The contents of the message were provided by defense attorneys as part of a brief filed Monday.

In the filing, Jefferson’s attorneys ask Judge T.S. Ellis III for permission to play excerpts of tapes not being presented by the U.S. Justice Department in the former congressman’s trial, which entered its ninth day of testimony Monday.

During the dinner, in which Jefferson’s attorneys say “considerable amounts of wine” were consumed, Jefferson allegedly wrote on a piece of paper that he wanted an 18 percent to 20 percent share of a company Mody had created to develop a telecommunications project in Nigeria. The government has labeled that a bribe solicitation.

For Full Story

How the FBI Broke Saddam Hussein

FBI Agent fingerprints Saddam Hussein/fbi photo
FBI Agent fingerprints Saddam Hussein/fbi photo

I remember hearing George Piro speak once and one thing he said was that Saddam Hussein loved Saddam Hussein. I guess there was a reason for a country full of Saddam statues.

By James Gordon Meek
New York Daily News
WASHINGTON –Saddam Hussein loved to talk – and to b.s. his sole interrogator, FBI Supervisory Special Agent George Piro.

But Piro – backed up by a team of FBI agents and crack CIA analysts – knew Saddam’s history too well. Where there were gaps, Piro was able to parry with the imprisoned leader to get credible answers. “High Value Detainee-1” was soon blabbing so freely it was hard for him to keep his lies intact.

As the weeks wore on, Saddam opened up more and more as the FBI-CIA team leveraged its strategy to “overwhelm” – and break – him by confronting the deposed dictator with evidence of his crimes against humanity.

He was soon boasting of terrible misdeeds against his own people – in order to set the historical record straight, which Piro had encouraged.

For Full Story

Read Saddam Hussein Interrogation Reports as Posted by the N.Y. Daily News:

FBI-Baghdad 302 interrogation reports from Mar. 3 – May 1, 2004
FBI-Baghdad Mar. 21, 2004 progress report on interrogations
Read How the FBI Broke Saddam – Part 1
Read How the FBI Broke Saddam – Part 2