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Archive for June 22nd, 2009

Fed Judge in William J. Jefferson Trial Expresses Frustration at Pace

William J. Jefferson

William J. Jefferson

By Rachel Leven
ticklethewire.com
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The federal judge in the public corruption trial of ex-Rep. William J. Jefferson chided the government Monday, saying it needed to do a better job focusing its case.

“You, the government, need to focus sharply this case,” said  U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III.

Ellis also criticized the defense for some of its line of  questioning during cross examination of a key government witness and remarked:

“If this case lasts six weeks it will certainly be contrary to my intentions.”

The judge’s remarks came in frustration to the pace of the trial, which is expected to last anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks. Jefferson, 62,  faces 16 public corruption counts including taking bribes and bribing a foreign official.

On Monday, the defense spent time questioning  a government’s key witness Vernon L. Jackson, the president of iGate, a Kentucky company that Jefferson had a financial interest in, and tried to promote in Africa. Jackson is serving a 7 year and 3 month sentence for bribing Jefferson.

Jackson has offered his opinions on the stand, saying his  payments to Jefferson and his family were bribes. But Judge Ellis said it was irrelevant whether any of the witnesses  considered their acts bribes  He said it essentially came down to whether the acts fit the bribery statutes.

Trial resumed  this afternoon with the defense continuing its cross examination of Vernon Jackson.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

FBI Looking into More Allegations Involving Rep. John Conyer’s Wife

Council Member Monica Conyers is not only the subject of public corruption probe involving a sludge hauling contract, but she’s also the target of other suspected payoffs including ones from a Detroit pawnshop.

Monica Conyers/council photo

Monica Conyers/council photo

By Leonard M. Flemming, Paul Egan and Charlie LeDuff
Detroit News
DETROIT — Federal agents are investigating allegations that Councilwoman Monica Conyers received thousands of dollars in jewelry from a pawn shop whose owner urged the council to ease off on plans to increase regulation of his business, people familiar with a City Hall corruption investigation told The Detroit News.

One estimate pegged the value of the jewelry from Zeidman’s Jewelry and Loan at about $40,000, sources said.

Agents also are investigating allegations that Conyers was to receive payment for favorable consideration of an investment proposal or proposals submitted to the General Retirement System, where Conyers was a trustee, by Detroit businessman Melvin Washington and his Phoenix Group companies, sources said.

Conyers, who is the wife of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, has yet to respond to federal prosecutors’ offer to plead guilty to a five-year bribery-related felony charge, the sources said, adding that an indictment could be looming. Conyers doesn’t want to plead to anything more than a misdemeanor, they said.

For Full Story

Fed Judge Tells Prosecutors to Put Up or Shut Up in Gotti Mob Case

John Gotti Jr./youtube
John Gotti Jr./youtube

There’s still a big public fascination with the Gotti family. But the judge isn’t so fascinated to the point that he’s willing to move forward without more evidence on the table.

By Thomas Zambito
New York Daily News
NEW YORK –A Manhattan judge is giving John A. (Junior) Gotti’s prosecutors a week to put up or shut up.

During a pre-trial hearing Wednesday, Federal Judge Kevin Castel quizzed Assistant U.S. Attorney Elie Honig on why he hasn’t offered details of crimes the mob scion allegedly committed in the five years before his 2008 indictment.

“Is that it?” Castel prodded the prosecutor.

The feds say that during the 1980s and early 1990s, the Dapper Don’s kid had a hand in three gangland slayings and trafficked in drugs.

For Full Story

Jefferson’s Strategy: Congressman Acted As Private Citizen and Didn’t Always Tell the Truth

The second week of trial begins in the Jefferson trial. Jefferson is claiming that his business dealings were private. So far, the prosecution has presented some pretty convincing evidence that Jefferson was acting in his official capacity. In any event, with 16 counts, Jefferson has an uphill battle.

By Bruce Alpert
New Orlean Times-Picayune
ALEXANDRIA, VA. — As William Jefferson’s corruption trial moves into its second week of testimony, the former New Orleans congressman’s defense strategy is coming into focus.

Less clear is whether Judge T.S. Ellis III will allow Jefferson’s defense team to present all of its arguments and evidence directly to the 12-member jury.

In his opening statement, Jefferson’s attorney Robert Trout left no doubt about the key element of the congressman’s defense against charges that he demanded and, in some cases, accepted bribes to aid business ventures in Western Africa.

The defense will argue that all the instances cited by the government — including many that the defense says are false or exaggerated — involved private business deals, not official acts, and therefore are not covered by the federal bribery statute.

But Trout also wants to play excerpts of secretly recorded conversations that he said show Jefferson didn’t always tell the truth during conversations with Lori Mody, the Virginia businesswoman who wore a wire for the FBI.

For Full Story

William Jefferson Denies Taking Bribes in Old Campaign Ad

Column: Texas Fed Judge Kent Continues to Disgrace Bench by Trying to Collect $174,000 Salary

Allan Lengel

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent of Texas disgraced the bench. For those who haven’t followed this, he pleaded guilty in February to lying about sexually abusing some female employees. He got 33 months in prison.

But what is also so  disgraceful and appalling is that Kent is trying to get his $174,000 a year salary for a year while in prison by officially resigning in June 2010.

His crafty move has  forced the House to move forward with impeachment proceedings to end this madness. The House on Friday approved four articles of impeachment, and he now faces trial before the U.S. Senate.

First off, there should be some law or mechanism that allows the judiciary to boot the guy from the bench after he gets convicted of felony, if not at least, once he goes off to prison. End of story. No salary.

Why should our lawmakers, who have a full plate of other issues to deal with, have to deal with this silliness?

The  Texas Lawyer wrote that  Kent’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said there was a reason Kent post-dated his resignation for 2010.

“I figure that it will take at least that long for Congress and the Senate to go through all of the motions for impeachment,” DeGuerin told Texas Lawyer. “And he would be entitled to continue the health benefits that he has during that time. They can either have their spectacle or accept his resignation as tendered and go on to more important business that Congress has.”

But the House isn’t biting on that logic — as pathetic and defiant as it is. Thus,the impeachment proceedings.

The Washington Post quoted Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Texas) as saying:”He has already pleaded guilty and  the testimony we’ve heard about his disgusting abuse of power against his female staffers confirms that he should no longer receive the privileges of serving on the bench.”

Sadly, Judge Kent is showing little shame. If he had any, he’d resign now and give up his salary and end this silliness.