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Archive for February 14th, 2011

Column: Justice Dept. May Not Have Served Up Justice Following Mob Hit

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

I have mixed feelings about a  ruling last week by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston. The court rescinded an $8.5 million judgment handed down two years ago against the government in the 1982 murders of two people by James “Whitey” Bulger, a notorious Boston mobster who was an FBI informant.

I’m not questioning the court’s ruling. But I am questioning whether the Justice Department served up justice in this instance by spending, in all likelihood, millions of dollars to fight a case, when in fact, the government was in the wrong.

The story goes like this:

Whitey Bulger was an FBI informant during the dark years in Boston when mobsters like Bulger and FBI agents — and local law enforcement as well — got way too cozy.  Information flowed freely between the two sides. Mobsters, who acted as informants,  did bad things and got away with them.

Long after the fact, Stephen “Rifleman” Flemmi testified in court that then-FBI agent John Connolly Jr. told him and Bulger that Edward “Brian”  Halloran,  a Bulger associate, was snitching and had implicated them in a murder. Bulger responded.

Whitey Bulger

The Boston Globe’s Shelley Murphy reported that Flemmi testified that  one night  when Michael Donahue, 32, a truck driver and innocent bystander, was giving Halloran a ride home from a bar on Boston’s waterfront, Bulger and an unknown accomplice gunned them both down. By 1998, the media was reporting about the corrupt relationship between the FBI and Bulger and Flemmi, and in 2000 and 2001, the families filed lawsuits against the government.

U.S. District Judge Reginald C. Lindsay subsequently found the FBI responsible, saying the agency was negligent in handling informants Bulger and Flemmi, according to the Globe. In March 2009, after a trial on the damages, U.S. District Judge William G. Young warded $6.4 million to Donahue’s wife and sons and $2 million to Halloran’s widow.

But the Court of Appeals last week concluded that the statute of limitation had run out — that the families should have filed their lawsuits within two years of the intense media coverage exposing the  corrupt relationship between the FBI and Bulger and Flemmi.

Sure the Justice Department did what any good law firm would do: Try to win the case for a client. The Justice Department did just that.  On the other hand, the Justice Department isn’t just another law firm; It’s called the Justice Department for a reason.

The lawyers for the families are expected to appeal.

What should the government do?

One of two things:  Settle out of court with the families or grab a dictionary and figure out what the word “Justice” actually means.

As an aside: Flemmi is serving life for 10 murders. Bulger is on the lam, accused of 19 murders. And FBI agent John Connolly Jr. is behind bars for second-degree murder for providing information to mobsters who put the hit on former World Jai-Alai President John Callahan in 1982.

That’s some justice. But not quite enough.

Patricia Donahue, whose husband was killed told the Globe how disappointed she was that the court essentially ruled that she should have paid closer attention to the press reports so the lawsuit would have been filed within the statute of limitations.

“There’s no apologies, no ‘I’m sorry,’ from the government,’’ Patricia Donahue said. “What kind of government tells me I should have read the newspaper and we lose because of that?’’

DEA Sting Nets 7 Charged With Supporting Taliban

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A DEA sting resulted in authorities charging a group of people with plotting to move large shipments of drugs and weapons for the Taliban, authorities announced Monday.

In court documents unsealed in New York, authorities charged seven people with conspiring to provide “various forms of support to DEA confidential sources whom they believed to be representatives of the Taliban in Afghanistan.”

The defendants included: Maroun Saade, Walid Nasr, aka “David Nasr,” Francis Sourou Ahissou, aka “Francois,” Corneille Dato, aka “Pablo,” Martin Raouf Bouraima, aka “Raul,” Alwar Pouryan, aka “Allan,” aka “Alberto,” and Oded Orbach, aka “Dedy,” aka “Jesse”.

Authorities said some defendants allegedly agreed to receive, store, and move ton-quantities of Taliban-owned heroin through West Africa, “portions of which they understood would then be sent to the United States.  Some also were willing to move  large quantities of cocaine.

Read more »

More Charges Come Raining Down on Ex-D.C. Suburban County Exec Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson/wusa

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Jack Johnson, who in his final weeks as a county executive in suburban Washington got busted on a wiretap advising his wife to hide evidence as FBI agents knocked on the door, was indicted Monday on charges of conspiracy, extortion, tampering with a witness and evidence and taking more than $200,000 in bribes.

The indictment against former Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson, 61, highlighted the rampant corruption in one of the most affluent  African-American majority counties in the nation. Johnson, a former state’s attorney in Prince George’s County, and his wife, a newly elected county council member,  were originally arrested in November on a criminal complaint for evidence tampering.

“Pay-to-play government is not democratic government,” Baltimore U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement. “Anyone who seeks benefits or approvals from the government should be evaluated on the merits, without being extorted for payments or losing out to competitors who pay bribes. Government employees flagrantly abuse the public trust when they take money in return for official acts.”

Read more »

Opera Pokes Fun at Ex-Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales

Ex-Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Washington can be a way too serious place. Then occasionally someone comes along and figures out how to turn all the manure into entertainment.

Over the past two weekends people have flocked to the Baltimore Theater Project to see “The Gonzales Cantata”, an opera by composer Melissa Dunphy who set music to the transcripts from the 2007 congressional hearings on the dismissal of seven U.S. attorneys that involved then-Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales, according to the Washington Post. The opera first debuted in 2009.

“Clever, certainly, was her idea of turning to a Handelian style, using 18th-century musical conventions to send up the 18th-century conventions and forms of American political protocol (though her tick of pausing the music on pregnant dissonances, like an audible nudge to the ribs, got a bit old),” wrote Anne Midgette in the Washington Post.

The show proved to be such a hit, the theater website posted this: “Due to popular demand, we’ve added another performance on Saturday, February 12 at 8 pm.”

Read Washington Post Review

Congressman Opposes Plan to Name Museum Research Center After J. Edgar Hoover

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II/gov photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The FBI’s legendary director J. Edgar Hoover continues to stir up controversy.

The latest: the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.) is voicing opposition to a plan to name the research center at the yet to be built National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington after Hoover, USA Today reported.

“It is not healthy for the nation if his legacy does not include an asterisk for his (archaic) views on race,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo. said, according to USA Today. “I’m wondering what Dr. King would say to us.”

Cleaver expressed particular concern about the FBI’s campaign to discredit Martin Luther King Jr.

USA Today reported that Cleaver is even bothered by the fact the FBI headquarters building on Pennsylvania Avenue is named after Hoover. He calls it  a “sore point for a lot of people.”

USA Today reported that the National Law Enforcement Museum, authorized by Congress, is set to open in 2013.

J. Edgar Hoover/fbi photo

The paper reported that foundation Director William Branon, a former FBI agent, defended the naming of the center, saying it was “in keeping with the goals of the foundation: to perpetuate the good name of Mr. Hoover. … No editorializing.”

“I can’t think of a more fitting place to carry his name,” Branon said.

Hoover’s name has resurfaced in the media lately in relation to a movie being made by Clint Eastwood on Hoover’s life. The movie is reportedly going to show Hoover having a long-standing romantic relationship with his right hand man, Clyde Tolson. Some former and current FBI agents have expressed dismay over that aspect of the movie.

To read more click here.