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Archive for February 25th, 2011

Weekend Series on Crime History: The Russian Mafia

Judge in Blago Case May Get Jurors No-Trespassing Signs for Homes

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Is a federal judge going too far by restraining the media or just being considerate?

The Chicago Tribune reports that U.S. District Judge James Zagel  in Chicago said Thursday he may have the U.S. Marshals Service offer no-trespassing signs to jurors to put up at their homes following the verdict in the retrial of ex-Ill Gov. Rod Blagojevich to keep reporters away.

“We have clear evidence that some members of the media will disregard the ordinary rights of citizens … to get the story,” Zagel said, according to the Tribune.

The judge made the remark at a hearing in which media outlets argued against proposed restrictions to keep the media away from jurors, the Tribune reported. The judge said he was bothered by the media hounding jurors after the first trial in which Blagojevich was convicted on 1 of 24 counts. The jury deadlocked on the other counts.

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, called the idea distressing because of the message it would send to jurors, the Tribune reported. She said the post-verdict interviews provide the public a better understanding of the process.

“Passing out signs is signaling to them the media is going to make your life miserable,” Dalglish said of Zagel’s comments, ” according to the Tribune. “I don’t think that should be his role.”

Dalglish also noted the importance of post-verdict media interviews of jurors, saying they provide important understanding to the public and the legal system about how a case was handled.

The trial is set for April 20.

Insurance Co. Sues After FBI Agent Smashes Up $750,000 Ferrari

Photo of Ferrari F50 -- not the one involved in suit

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Lesson here: Be careful with the evidence.

A Michigan insurance company is suing to find out more details about a $750,000 Ferrari  F50 an FBI agent smashed up while it was being held as evidence, the Detroit News reports.

Motors Insurance filed a federal lawsuit this week in Detroit to get records under the Freedom of Information Act about the incident. The Justice Department has refused to release the information, the suit claims.

The lawsuit says the car was stolen from a dealership in Rosemont, Pa., in September 2003, and that Motors Insurance paid the claim, the News reported.

Five year later, law enforcement recovered the car in Kentucky.

The lawsuit claims the car was stored during an investigation and prosecution of a thief, the News reported.

At some point, while still in the hands of federal authorities, an FBI special agent took it for a ride, lost control and smashed it into a tree in Lexington, Ky., the News reported.

The insurance company then filed a claim against the FBI for $750,000. But last March, the feds rejected the claim on the grounds that the car was evidence being detained by the FBI. A second claim by the company was rejected in September, the New reported.

Then attempts by the insurance company to get documents from the feds relating to the car were unsuccessful, the News reported.

Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller told the News: “Needless to say we need to see the suit and make a determination on how we’d respond in court.”

FBI Sends Letter Warning Stores About Suspicious Purchases of Fertilizer and Chemicals

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON –The easy to purchase farm supplies and chemicals continue to concern the FBI.

The bureau has sent out a reminder to farm supply stores and other businesses in the U.S. to watch for unusual or suspicious purchases of fertilizer, pesticides and other substances that could be converted into explosives, ABC News reports.

ABC reported that the letters were not sent in response to a specific threat or the arrest this week of a Saudi student in Texas who had purchased chemicals as part of a plot to blow up nuclear plants, President George W. Bush’s home and the homes of some soldiers who had been stationed at Abu Ghraib.

“It’s a continuing outreach effort to develop relationships with business and entities that may come across suspicious activities,” Michael Rankin, acting special agent in charge of the FBI field office in Denver told ABC News.

According to ABC, the letter said:

“Current trends in terrorist bombings show that fertilizer-based explosives are continuing as a threat throughout the world,” the letter states. “Ammonium nitrate and urea-based fertilizers pose an explosive threat if prepared and initiated properly. In addition, certain pesticides can be used to cause widespread harm to people.”

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