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Archive for June 19th, 2009

FBI Files: Watergate’s Howard Hunt Sought Pres. Pardon Based on “Executive Authorization”

Howard Hunt/msnbc photo

Howard Hunt/msnbc photo

The great thing is that decades later the released FBI files still provide information to help fill in some of the blanks in history.

By The Associated Press
Watergate break-in planner E. Howard Hunt sought a presidential pardon by saying he thought the infamous burglary had “executive authorization,” according to FBI documents released two years after his death. He died without getting a pardon.

The FBI released 167 pages of Hunt’s files following a Freedom of Information Act request by The Associated Press. Wednesday marks 37 years since police caught the burglars in the Washington break-in. The case ultimately made Hunt a household name and led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Despite working as a CIA agent for more than two decades and his role in Watergate, Hunt’s file is remarkably thin. As a CIA agent Hunt was involved in a U.S.-backed coup in Guatemala in 1954 and the botched Bay of Pigs attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro. He worked in China, Mexico, Japan and Spain, among other places.

For Full Story

Atty. Gen. Holder Says DNA Evidence Can Free the Wrongfully Charged: Disagrees with Supreme Crt. Ruling

The Supreme Court decision seemed to fly in the face of logic. Why wouldn’t an inmate be entitled to a scientific test to assure that everything was done beyond a reasonable doubt? Even if it frees 1 in 1,000 inmates or 1 in 10,000, that should be reason enough to give inmates the right to the tests. No one should serve time for a crime they didn’t commit. It’s not a conservative or liberal issue.  It’s called Justice!

A.G. Eric Holder

A.G. Eric Holder

By The BLT: The Blog of LegalTimes
WASHINGTON — A day after the Supreme Court ruled defendants have no constitutional right to a review of DNA evidence in post-conviction proceedings, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. underscored the Justice Department position that seeks to expand access to DNA evidence in the courts.

Addressing the 34th Annual D.C. Courts’ Judicial Conference today in Washington, Holder, the keynote speaker, spoke about the impact of technological advances on the administration of justice, and he vowed the Justice Department will embrace science and technology.

Law enforcement, Holder told the audience, which was brimming with local and federal judges, is placing “more emphasis on DNA evidence than ever before” in the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases.

“And we are mindful that DNA evidence can be used to exonerate those who are wrongfully charged,” Holder said today. “Our mission at the Justice Department is not simply to win cases. It is to do justice, and science and DNA can help us accomplish this.”

For Full Story

Throw Them to the Dogs: Couple Pleads Guilty to Selling Tainted Pet Food That May Have Killed Thousands of Cats and Dogs

dog-foodThere’s little sympathy for people who harm dogs and cats. And clearly, some people believe this couple is deserving of nothing more than dog or cat food.

By Heather Hollingsworth
Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Las Vegas-based company and its owners have pleaded guilty to distributing a tainted ingredient used to make pet food that killed potentially thousands of dogs and cats.

Sally Qing Miller, 43, and her husband, Stephen S. Miller, 56, along with their company, Chemnutra Inc., pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of selling adulterated food and one count of selling misbranded food, both misdemeanors.

They initially were charged with 13 counts of introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce, 13 counts of introduction of misbranded food into interstate commerce and one felony count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The charges were contained in a February 2008 federal indictment that alleged the Millers and ChemNutra, along with two Chinese companies, brought wheat gluten tainted with the chemical melamine into the U.S. It was then sold to pet-food makers, and thousands of cats and dogs reportedly became sickened or died.

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OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Sen. Roland Burris Dodges Bullet: State Prosecutor Won’t File Perjury Charges

Well, he dodged one bullet. But will he remain in the Senate? Who knows. This guy has had a rocky road to Capitol Hill.

By Lynn Sweet
Sen. Roland Burris/official photo

Sen. Roland Burris/official photo

Chicago Sun-Times
Roland Burris will not be charged with perjury, Downstate prosecutor says
Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Schmidt declined to press perjury charges against U.S. Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) stemming from allegations he misled a legislative panel about the circumstances behind his appointment.

Schmidt said that while Burris’ answers to the House committee probing former Gov. Blagojevich’s impeachment were “incomplete,” and vague, that did not rise to the level of a crime.

“Based upon our review of the facts and the applicable law, there is insufficient evidence to charge Senator Roland Burris with perjury,” Schmidt wrote in a letter to House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), whose office encouraged the probe.

For Full Story

Ala. U.S. Atty. Alice Martin Resigns Amid Criticism

U.S. Atty. Alice Martin/doj photo

U.S. Atty. Alice Martin/doj photo

By Brian Schott
ticklethewire.com

U.S. Atty. Alice Martin of Alabama, whose involvement in the prosecution of ex-Gov. Donald Siegelman has raised concerns of late, is resigning.

Martin, the U.S. Attorney for Northern Alabama, announced her decision Friday in a letter to Atty. Gen. Eric Holder, which was posted on the Department of Justice’s website. She cited the change in administration as the reason for her resignation.

Martin’s departure caps an eight-year career at the Department of Justice, where her office prosecuted several notable cases including terrorist bomber Eric Rudolph for four bombings, including the 1996 attack on Centennial Olympic Park. She also directed the prosecution of 15 HealthSouth employees involved in a $2.8 billion accounting scandal.

Recently Martin had come under fire for her involvement in the conviction of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, who is serving seven years in federal prison for a bribery conviction.

Forty Four former state Attorneys General have called for an investigation into the conviction amid charges that the prosecution was politically motivated, and The American Lawyer reports that the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility is looking into whether Martin committed any misconduct in the case.

The Justice Dept. is also investigating Martin’s unsuccessful prosecution of a corporation charged with selling Blackhawk helicopter plans to China. The plans turned out to be publicly available on the Internet, according to The American Lawyer.

President Barack Obama has nominated Joyce Vance, chief of the appellate division for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Northern Alabama, to replace Martin.

She has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate next week, The Birmingham News reports.

Chicago Fed Prosecutors Trying to Determine if ex-Gov Blago Used Influence in College Admissions

Ex-Gov. Blagojevich in happier days

Ex-Gov. Blagojevich in happier days

Some how you figured there might to be more suspicious activity involving ex-Gov. Blagojevich that went beyond his thick indictment. You also figure U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald plans to bury the ex-gov one way or another.

By KAREN ANN CULLOTTA
New York Times
CHICAGO – Federal prosecutors are trying to determine if former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich and his allies used political muscle to influence student admissions at three state universities.

United States Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald issued subpoenas this week seeking admissions office records from the University of Illinois, Northern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University. The request was related to Mr. Blagojevich and three of his co-defendants on criminal corruption charges, William Cellini, Christopher Kelly and Alonzo Monk.

The investigation also seeks records related to Antoin Rezko, a Chicago businessman and political operative, who last June was convicted of fraud and bribery.

For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Texas Billionaire Stanford Surrenders to FBI Agents in Va.

R. Allen Stanford/bbc news photo

R. Allen Stanford/bbc news photo

Update:  Stanford Indicted Friday Morning (N.Y. Times)

It’s been hard to stomach seeing that swindlers like R. Allen Stanford and Bernie Madoff not only lived the good life, but enjoyed the respect of so many people who admired their wealth.

By MARY FLOOD and TOM FOWLER
Houston Chronicle
HOUSTON — Federal prosecutors are expected to announce an indictment against embattled Texas businessman R. Allen Stanford and others, possibly as early as today in a Washington news conference.

On Thursday, Houston prosecutor Gregg Costa, along with other prosecutors and FBI agents who have been investigating the Stanford Financial Group, obtained an indictment from a Houston grand jury. The same panel indicted Stanford Chief Investment Officer Laura Pendergest-Holt earlier this year.

A grand juror went before U.S. Magistrate Judge Frances Stacy Thursday, accompanied by Costa and the agents. She told the judge she had indictments to return, which Costa asked to have sealed. Stacy then cleared all media from the courtroom.

For Full Story

FBI Discovers Child Porn on Computer of Holocaust Museum Shooter

holocaust-museum-2

Even before all this, James W. von Brunn was never going to win any merit badge for good citizenship.

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — Authorities discovered child pornography on a computer belonging to James W. von Brunn, the 88-year-old white supremacist accused of killing a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum last week, according to court documents filed by the FBI.

FBI agents said they recovered the computer during a search of the Annapolis apartment where von Brunn lived for the past two years.

The discovery was disclosed in a search warrant affidavit filed in federal court Wednesday seeking to make a more thorough inspection of the computer, a Promedia 2000 desktop. Authorities did not disclose the type or extent of the child pornography they found on the computer during their first search.

For Full Story