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Archive for July, 2010

Weekend Series on Crime History: Frank Nitti

Mexican Drug Lord Killed By Soldiers

Mexico border mapBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

These days Mexico chalks up far more defeats than victories when it comes to battling the increasingly violent drug cartels.

But Thursday, Mexico authorities declared a major victory when one of the  top three leaders of Mexico’s  most potent drug cartel, Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, was killed in a gunfight with soldiers, the Associated Press reported.

AP reported that Coronel was killed near the city of Guadalajara.

To read more click here.

Will Failed D.C. Porn Case Dampen Fed Prosecutors’ Zeal?

John Stagliano/facebook photo
John Stagliano/facebook photo

By Allan Lengel
For AOL News

WASHINGTON — In courtroom 18 in the sterile D.C. federal courthouse, Justice Department prosecutors earlier this month tried nailing a major producer of adult pornography on obscenity charges.

The lawyers, part of the department’s Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, spent four days presenting their case against California porn producer John Stagliano (aka “Buttman”), who had been indicted in 2008, during the final year of the Bush administration. As part of their case, prosecutors even played pornographic videos with names like “Milk Nymph” for the jurors.

But before the defense could even present its side, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon dismissed the case, saying the government had failed to prove the most basic of issues: that the defendant and two related companies were linked to porno videos that the government claimed went beyond the acceptable community standards.

The judge also raised questions about core issues in the case.

“I hope the government will learn a lesson from its experience,” declared Leon, who voiced concerns about the issues of obscenity statute, the Internet, free speech and criminal rights, according to The Washington Post. “I hope that [higher] courts and Congress will give greater guidance to judges in whose courtrooms these cases will be tried.”

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

America’s Love Affair With Some Serial Bank Robbers

"Geezer Bandit"/fbi photo

"Geezer Bandit"/fbi photo

By Matt Castello
ticklethewire.com

On the ever-popular Facebook, words of support, encouragement and disbelief plaster a wall with 2,700-plus followers dedicated to the elderly, ever-elusive San Diego bank robber dubbed the “Geezer Bandit”.

“This is the first time I’ve heard of this guy,” wrote one Facebook fan. “And he just became my personal hero.”

“Financial crisis in the US,” another admirer commented. “The old guy rips off banks. I would say totally understandable.”

Similarly, more than 93,000 Facebook users have joined one of the many pages dedicated to the nefarious activities of Colton Harris-Moore, aka the “Barefoot Bandit”, who was recently apprehended in the Bahamas.

The Geezer Bandit and the Barefoot Bandit are among the latest arrivals in a decades long phenomena — America’s selective love affair with serial bank robbers — an infatuation that took hold in the 1930s with such legends as Bonnie and Clyde and John Dillinger. Books have been written. Movies have been made.

“Fascination and hero-worship for undeserving criminals is a pathetic piece of our popular culture,” James Alan Fox, Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law and Public Policy at Northeastern recently wrote in a blog entry on boston.com. “All sorts of offenders, no matter how despicable their crimes, have been revered by a sizable minority of Americans.”

Read more »

Pres. Nominates 2 U.S. Attys and 2 Marshals

Scott Bowen/gov photo

Scott Bowen/gov photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday nominated U.S. Attorneys for the Middle District of North Carolina and the Western District of Michigan along with Marshals for the Northern District of Georgia and the Central District of California.

For the U.S. Attorney post in Grand Rapids, Mi., the President nominated M. Scott Bowen, the Commissioner of the Michigan Lottery.

In North Carolina, he nominated Ripley Rand, a North Carolina Superior Court judge.

For the U.S. Marshal Post in Georgia, the President nominated Beverly Joyce Harvard, who works at the United States Transportation Security Administration as the Director of Transportation Security Coordination.

For the Marshal position in California, he nominated
David Mark Singer, Chief of Police for Whittier, Calif.

Obama Admin. Wants to Give FBI More Access to Email Data

internet-photoBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI could be getting more powers when it comes to getting data on Internet activity.

Reporter Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post reports that the Obama administration wants to change a law so that it would allow the FBI to compel companies over individual’s records of their Internet activity without a court order.

Under the push, the FBI would not be able to get content of the email, the Post reported. But it would be able to get email addresses individuals are writing to; times and dates the e-mails were sent and received; and possibly a user’s browser history.

For Full Story

Column: Ex-FBI Official Mike Mason Says Investigating Cheating Would Be Waste of Time and Money; Better to Re-Administer Test

Mike Mason/fbi photo
Mike Mason/fbi photo

Michael Mason, a former assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, retired as the executive assistant director at FBI headquarters in 2007. His column is in response to the Justice Department investigation into whether potentially  hundreds of FBI agents cheated on an open book test on a computer they took without supervision. Some may have worked with others or gotten answers in advance, a violation of FBI policy.

By Michael Mason
For ticklethewire.com

I was reading your blog today and wanted to respond to the issue about the testing problem at the FBI.

I sincerely believe it would be a complete waste of time and money to further investigate the potential of additional cheating on the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG) examination.

Whereas I do not condone cheating, the objective of this “test” was to ensure all agents and analysts had a thorough understanding of the rules of the road according to the DIOC.

Failure was not an option.

As such, employees who failed the test were required to re-take it until they achieved a passing grade. Rather than go through an unnecessarily long and deliberate investigation to determine who else may have cheated, why not simply re-administer the test, under controlled conditions, to the entire relevant employee population.

I was formerly responsible for running the Washington Field Office and retired as an Executive Assistant Director of the FBI, so I am completely familiar with size and scope of this recommendation.

There would be a need for multiple test dates in each field office and other logistical requirements which are by no means beyond the ability of smart people to arrange.

There will undoubtedly be howls of protest from employees who did not cheat in the first place, but that is a relatively small price to pay to resolve this issue and to give the assurance that the test has been correctly administered to everyone.

Further adding to the need to think a bit differently here is that no inquiry will identify everyone who may have cheated.

Is not a controlled administering of the test a simple, straightforward manner of getting to the aforementioned objective of ensuring that all who pass the DIOG examination have done so without any unauthorized assistance?

I hope this matter will not be used as simply another opportunity to embarrass the Bureau. Sometimes external investigations are required, regardless of the consequences.

However, this is categorically not one of those times. There is far too much important work to be done by the FBI to have the entire agency distracted by this “investigation.”

House Passes Bill Reducing Sentencing Disparity With Crack Cocaine

file photo/dea

file photo/dea

By Glynnesha Taylor
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The House on Wednesday passed legislation drastically reducing the sentencing disparity between crack and powdered cocaine — a longtime disparity critics saw as unfairly targeting African Americans.

Previously, under the 1986 law, a person selling crack got the same sentence as someone selling 100 times the amount of powdered cocaine. The ratio will now go to 18 to 1.

The old bill became law while crack-cocaine was spinning out of control and savaging urban areas. But critics said it amounted to giving harsher sentences to African Americans who sold crack and lesser sentences to whites who were selling more of the powder cocaine.

The bill now goes before President Obama for his signature.

Read more »