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Archive for July 23rd, 2010

Weekend Series on Crime History: The FBI Hunt for $19 Million Armored Car Company Robber

High-Ranking Mexican Law Enforcement Official Among 43 Charged in Crackdown on Mexican Cartel

mexico-border-signBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Federal authorities in San Diego charged a high-ranking Mexican law enforcement official and 42 others as part of a crackdown on a major Mexican drug cartel — the Fernando Sanchez Organization — that allegedly was involved in murders and kidnappings, the San Diego Tribune reported.

The Mexican official, Jesus Quinonez Marquez, director of international liaison for the Baja California Attorney General’s Office, was charged with working with the organization, the paper reported.

The paper reported that the leader of the cartel, Fernando Sanchez Arellano, a nephew of notorious brothers and cartel leaders Javier, Ramon and Benjamin Arellano Félix, was not arrested.

“The presence of foreign-based drug-trafficking organization members and associates in San Diego will not be tolerated.” U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy said in a statement. “The San Diego law enforcement community leverages every asset to ensure that this fine city never becomes the safe haven from which drug-trafficking organizations stage their operations as drug wars and law enforcement scrutiny disrupt narco-business.”

To read more click here.

ATF Defends Agent Charged With Murder in Virgin Islands; Controversy Grows

virgin islandsBy Allan Lengel
For AOL News

WASHINGTON — From Capitol Hill to the Caribbean, a controversy is growing over a decision by Virgin Islands officials to charge a federal agent with second-degree murder in a 2008 shooting. The agent, William Clark, remains on the job at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — and his agency is adamant that he has done nothing wrong.

The ATF responded to the charge by removing its agents, including Clark, from the U.S. territory. And in Washington, U.S. Rep. Chris Lee, R-N.Y., on Monday night introduced a congressional resolution applauding Clark for his “heroic action” in the 2008 incident.

“The ATF incident review examined the circumstances and cleared Will of any wrongdoing,” Lee said in a statement to AOL News. “Will is a hero who acted in self-defense while protecting a battered woman from an intoxicated, abusive man.”

But the congressional delegate from the Virgin Islands described her colleague’s actions as an attempt to meddle with a case that is “rightfully before the court.”

Delegate Donna M. Christensen told AOL News that while the Clark incident has created “tension” with some congressional colleagues, she is reluctant to second-guess “my police and attorney general, who felt there was enough of a question that excessive force was used.”

She also dismissed suggestions by critics that the Virgin Islands police are “incompetent or the courts are not giving him a fair hearing. I think it’s an unfair criticism. I think he has every expectation and assurance he’s going to get a fair hearing.”

The trial, which will begin in October, is being prosecuted in the Virgin Islands Superior Court, the equivalent of a state court.

The incident in question happened on Sept. 7, 2008, in St. Thomas, where Clark was living at the time. He had been stationed in the Virgin Islands to help battle the territory’s problem with gun violence.

According to accounts by the ATF and Rep. Lee, Clark left his apartment that morning and found his neighbor Marguerite Duncan crying and trembling.

“She pleaded for his help, knowing that Clark was a federal agent,” Lee wrote to congressional colleagues in a June 30 letter trying to stir support for his resolution backing the agent.

The woman’s boyfriend, Marcus Sukow, who was naked and supposedly intoxicated, reportedly started pounding on her car hood and throwing large landscaping rocks.

According to Lee, Clark tried calming the man, to no avail. The man allegedly made threats and eventually came charging at Clark with a Maglite flashlight, which is considered a potentially lethal weapon. The agent opened fire, killing Sukow.

An ATF shooting review panel found that Clark acted reasonably in the situation.

“Notwithstanding ATF’s conclusion,” Ken Melson, deputy director of the ATF, recently said in an internal message to agency employees obtained by AOL News, “the Virgin Islands Territorial Court refused to consider Special Agent Clark’s claim that, as a federal law enforcement officer, he is immune from territorial prosecution under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.”

The Supremacy Clause provides protections for agents operating within the scope of their job, but Virgin Islands officials have said it’s unclear if it applies in the U.S. territories.

Consequently, there is a movement afoot to try to pass legislation that would provide more protections for federal agents in the Virgin Islands. Meanwhile, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Virgin Islands said today that other federal agencies continue to work in the territory.

The intensity of the controversy knocked up a notch when Lee circulated his June 30 letter to congressional colleagues. “In short, the court ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not apply in the Virgin Islands,” it concluded.

Then on July 14, Christensen fired off one of her own. “I believe this request is an inappropriate attempt to have the U.S. Congress take a position in a matter that is rightfully before the courts,” she wrote in the letter to her colleagues.

“After reviewing the facts of the case, along with interviewing several witnesses, which included an attorney, a former prosecutor and a security guard, the U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General concluded that the Agent Clark acted with excessive force,” she wrote. “Moreover, the domestic abuse victim to whose defense he came has also stated that his response to the incident was excessive.”

Jon Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which has been actively monitoring the Clark case, responded to Christensen’s letter the next day with a press release, saying: “When the Virgin Islands willfully tramples on the integrity of the American rule of law, there is a reasonable expectation that our Congress will in fact intervene on behalf of an American hero: Special Agent Will Clark.”

Adler admits the war of words hasn’t been pretty. But he tells AOL News: “[Virgin Islands officials] were the first to draw blood, so to speak. If you will, they declared war on us.”

Judge Limits Closing Arguments in Blago Case to 1 Day

Ex-Gov. Blago while in office/official photo

Ex-Gov. Blago while in office/official photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

U.S. District Judge James Zagel is throwing down some limits in closing arguments in the public corruption trial for the very talkative ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Zagel told lawyers for both sides that he expects closing arguments will only last one day. Arguments are set for Monday, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Assistant U. S. Attorney Christopher Niewoehner will go first and is expected to take about two hours, the Tribune reported.

Defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. will then take about 2 1/2 hours and Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar, who will give the rebuttal, should take about an hour, the Tribune reported.

On Thursday, the judge said he was “unpersuaded” by the defense motion for acquittal, but said he would rule on the matter after closing arguments.

Washington Post Editorial: No Vindication in U.S. Atty Scandal

Ex-Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzalez

Ex-Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales

By The Washington Post
Editorial Page

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has announced that no criminal charges will be filed in the Bush administration’s dismissal of nine U.S. attorneys in late 2006. The decision, however, is not an exoneration of the Bush officials, including former attorney general Alberto R. Gonzales.

The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility concluded in a lengthy 2008 report that Mr. Gonzales and others had made a series of “inaccurate and misleading” statements about the dismissals and called for a criminal investigation to determine whether obstruction-of-justice laws, or laws barring false statements to Congress or federal investigators, were breached.

Nora Dannehy, a career federal prosecutor in Connecticut, was appointed by Bush Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey to look into the matter and has recommended against further action.

To read more click here.