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Archive for January 24th, 2011

Atty. Gen. Holder Issues Hiring Freeze for Justice Dept.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. has issued a memo calling for a temporary hiring freeze for all Justice Department employees at least until spring, saying the federal government is “facing unprecedented budget challenges”, ABC News reported.

“I anticipate revisiting the Department’s hiring and staff situation in the spring, once we know our likely full-year funding level,” Holder wrote in the Jan. 21 memo, according to ABC’s Jason Ryan. The Justice Department includes prosecutors, support staff and agents from the FBI, DEA, ATF and U.S. Marshals Service.

Holder said he hoped the steps would “allow us to avoid more severe future measures, such as staff furloughs.”

“While we do not yet know what actions will be taken to fund the Justice Department for the remainder of the fiscal year (FY) which ends September 30, 2011, there is a realistic prospect that the Department will have to operate for the entire fiscal year at last year’s levels,” the memo continued. “This presents significant budget challenges as the cost of our operations and staffing is considerably higher this year.”

“The Justice Department’s budget request for the current fiscal year included a 5.4 percent funding increase, with over 2,800 employees being added to department’s workforce.

“This week, I issued a memorandum to all Component Heads outlining the financial measures that we need to take to ensure the Department can operate through FY 2011 within our budget. Given the Department’s vast size and broad responsibilities, the financial restrictions that I announced will be difficult but given our funding constraints are required.

“One of the measures that I announced was a temporary freeze on hiring. I also directed that components curtail non-personnel spending unless it is necessary for essential operations.”

Read memo

Administrative DEA Officer Indicted in Minn. on Child Porn Charges

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A 48-year-old administrative officer for the DEA has been indicted in Minneapolis for producing child pornography involving a 15-year-old boy.

Scott James Whitcomb of Zimmerman, Minn., was indicted Thursday in federal court and charged with coercing a 15-year-old boy into engaging in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing pornography, authorities said. He remains in custody.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Whitcomb’s alleged criminal behavior  was discovered last Aug. 4 while a Minneapolis police officer was conducting an online undercover operation into people sharing child pornography through peer-to-peer networks.

The Sherburne County Sheriff’s deputies executed a search warrant at Whitcomb’s residence, where they seized two computers containing images of the 15-year-old boy, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

He was arrested on Dec. 20, and before he could post bail, federal authorities took him into custody, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

DEA spokesman Will Taylor told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Whitcomb did not carry a gun and did mostly administrative work. He said Whitcomb worked for DEA for at least 10 years and resigned Dec. 31 after his arrest.

Taylor said the DEA was in the process of taking administrative action when he resigned, according to the Star Tribune.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Two St. Pete Cops and a Gunman Dead; A Deputy Marshal Wounded From Gunfire

Gunman Hydra Lacy Jr/pinellas county sheriff's office

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Two St. Petersburg, Fla. cops and a gunman were killed Monday morning and a deputy U.S. Marshal was wounded when gunfire erupted while authorities were trying to serve a domestic battery warrant at a home, the St. Petersburg Times reported.

The dead gunman was identified as Hydra Lacy Jr., a convicted sex offender, the Times reported. The officers were identified as Tom Baitinger and Jeffrey Yaslowitz.

The officers were shot and killed while helping to serve a U.S. Marshal’s warrant through a fugitive task force.

The paper reported that officers arrived at the home at 7 a.m. to talk to Lacy’s girlfriend at 7 a.m. But more officers were called in when it became clear Lacey was armed.

One officer and the marshal were hit first. The second officer was fatally shot when he tried to pull the marshal out of the home, the St. Pete Times reported.

At 2:15 p.m., authorities entered the home and determined that Lacy was dead, the Times reported.

To read more click here.

Gun Advocates Oppose White House Nominee to Head ATF

Andrew Traver/zerocancer.org photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — ATF and the NRA are two acronyms that seldom play together well.

So it’s no surprise that the NRA — the National Rifle Association — and other gun rights advocates aren’t happy with the White House’ nomination of Andrew Traver to head the agency. Traver currently heads up the ATF Chicago office.

USA Today reports that gun rights advocates see Traver as an anti-gun zealot, and they oppose his nomination.

“Traver has been deeply aligned with gun-control advocates and anti-gun activities,” the NRA said in a statement, according to USA Today. “This makes him the wrong choice to lead an enforcement agency that has almost exclusive oversight and control over the firearms industry, its retailers and consumers.”

But Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has a different take.

“I see (Traver’s nomination) as a very big opportunity for the administration,” Helmke told USA Today. “Since this administration took office, they have run from the gun issue. … They need to fight for this.”

Traver’s nomination has yet to be scheduled for Senate consideration.

His nomination comes in wake of the Tucson shooting, which triggered a renewed national debate over gun control.

To read more click here.

Justice Dept. Honors Robert Kennedy’s 50th Anniversary of Swearing in as Atty. Gen.

doj photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — On Friday, the Justice Department took pause to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy’s Swearing-in as  Attorney General in a building named after him.

With Kennedy’s widow Ethel and daughter Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in attendance, along with some other notables,  Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. delivered remarks.

“To Mrs. Kennedy and the Kennedy family, to our distinguished guests, to my colleagues, and to those who have served and supported our nation’s Department of Justice – it is my pleasure, and my great honor, to welcome you to the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building,” Holder said.

“Today, we come together to celebrate the achievements and enduring contributions of our nation’s 64th Attorney General – a man whose legacy continues to guide us, whose memory continues to touch us, and whose example continues to inspire us.”

Atty. Gen. Kennedy with staff/doj photo

“For me, it is a tremendous privilege to be joined by so many former Department leaders who have made this a truly historic reunion. With us, we have former Attorneys General, and a cadre of Assistant Attorneys General, First Assistants, Administrative Aides, line attorneys, and support staff who worked alongside Attorney General Kennedy – in the Criminal Division, the Lands Division, the Antitrust Division, the Tax Division, the Civil Rights Division, and the Attorney General’s Office, among other components.

“I can still remember sitting in the basement of my childhood home in Queens, watching – on our little black-and-white television – the inauguration of a young, charismatic new President. That was January 20th, 1961 – half a century ago. I was in the fourth grade. And I can still recall my mother’s enthusiasm, my father’s pride, and my own sense and certainty that something exciting – something important – was happening.

“The following day was marked by another historical moment, when Attorney General Robert Kennedy was sworn in and – after Justice Department guards initially turned him away for lack of an ID card – was finally shown to his office on the 5th floor of this building.

“That was January 21st, 1961.

doj photo

“Attorney General Kennedy championed the cause of the least among us – and made our nation more just, more fair, and more humane.

“The lessons of his life inspired my own decision, after finishing law school, to come to work in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division – just as Robert Kennedy did shortly after he graduated from law school.”

To see more photos click here.

To read text of Holder’s speech click here.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Editorial: Despite Emphasis on Terrorism, Justice Dept. Hasn’t Forgotten About the Mob


By Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Editorial Page

PITTSBURGH — American mobsters probably assumed they had a free ride after Sept. 11. East Coast crime families probably breathed easier after the Justice Department turned its attention toward foreigners whose names appeared on terror-watch lists.

For sure, the specter of international terrorism provided the FBI and other law enforcement agencies with bigger fish to fry than guys with nicknames like “Jack the Whack,” “Meatball,” “Lumpy,” “Mush” and “The Claw.” Still, as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder demonstrated last week, there’s nothing wrong with occasionally hauling in “small fry” to keep the nation’s more traditional crime figures on their toes.

On Thursday, 800 agents and officers from the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency and local police in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Florida arrested 110 suspected mob members, making it one of the biggest organized crime busts in recent memory.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Charlotte FBI Agent Jerry Senatore — “Mr Relentless” — Dies at Age 46

Jerry Senatore/charlotte observer

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The Charlotte Observer noted of Jerry Senatore: “As a boy, Jerry Senatore turned to his mother after an episode of the TV cop show ‘Dragnet’ and proclaimed: ‘Mom, I am going to be an FBI agent one day’.”

Last week, Senatore, who spent 20 years in the FBI’s Charlotte Division — the last seven lead a SWAT team, died from non-Hodgkins lyphoma at Duke University Hospital in Durham, N.C., the Charlotte Observer reported. He was 46.

The paper noted that his friends and colleagues referred to him as “Mr. Relentless,” because of his toughness to battle his disease and the way he went after criminals.

“Jerry was a natural-born leader and protector,” FBI special agent Jim Page of Raleigh, Senatore’s second in command on the SWAT team told the Charlotte Observer. “He cared for everybody. He invested in you… Whenever we were on a mission, he’d pull the team together and say: ‘OK guys, it’s 5:30 in the morning, it’s cold out and we’re going after a very bad man. There’s no place I’d rather be.’

“And he meant it.”

The funeral for the father of three is Monday.

To read more click here.

Teresa Chambers to Return as U.S. Park Police Chief on Jan. 31

Teresa Chambers/gov photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Ousted U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers will return to her old job on Jan. 31,  U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar announced.

Chambers was fired in 2004 for publicly voicing concerns about budget shortfalls and staff shortages which she said left citizens vulnerable to crime.

The Merit Systems Protection Board earlier this month ruled that she could have her job back, plus more than six years of back pay. It concluded that the evidence against her was weak, and that the Interior Department retaliated against her.

“It is a tremendous honor to return to the United States Park Police and to work alongside the men and women of that organization who have the privilege of serving the law enforcement profession while also serving our country,” Chambers said in a statement.

In announcing her official reinstatement, Salazar said that the current chief Sal Lauro has agreed to serve as a Senior Advisor to the Interior Department.

“In that position, Chief Lauro will work closely with Kim Thorsen, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Law Enforcement, Security and Emergency Management to launch a comprehensive review of all aspects of the Department’s and Bureaus’ law enforcement activities and programs,” a press release said.

“Chief Lauro and Deputy Assistant Secretary Thorsen will provide recommendations to the Secretary, Assistant Secretary, and Bureau heads on how to strengthen law enforcement throughout the Department and its agencies.”