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Archive for March 29th, 2011

Executions of Fed Prisoners May Be Rare But the Denver U.S. Atty. Will Try for Dealth Penalty in 2 Cases

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Going for the federal death penalty is one thing. Putting a federal inmate to death is another.

Since the reinstatement of the federal death penalty in 1988,  three  federal inmates have actually been executed and 60 are sitting on death row, according to Death Penalty Information Center. The last inmate to be executed was Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh by lethal injection on June 11, 2001.

Now comes one of the latest pushes:  U.S. Attorney John Walsh in Denver is seeking  the death penalty for two inmates already convicted of murder, who face fresh charges of killing inmates at the Supermax” federal prison  in Colorado, according to the Denver Post. It is the first time a U.S. Attorney in Denver has filed notice to go after the death penalty since 2001, the paper reported. The inmates names are Richard Santiago and Gary Watland and are charged in separate murders.

The Denver Post reported that  Santiago, 51, is accused of beating a man to death at the Supermax prison in 2005. Authorities charged that he and another inmate, Silvestre Mayorqui Rivera,  stomped  on inmate Manuel Torrez until he was unresponsive. After walking away, Santiago returned and kicked him in the head and torso several times, the Post reported.

Prosecutors are only seeking the death penalty against Santiago, who claims to be in the Mexican Mafia,  and  was involved in a previous murder while in custody in Fresno, Calif., the Denver Post reported.

In the other case, inmate Gary Douglas Watland, 48, is accused of stabbing fellow inmate Mark James Baker in the neck and head with a homemade metal “shank” in 2008, the Post reported. The paper reported that Watland was serving a life sentence for a state murder at the time of the prison slaying.

Column: ATF Needs to Clean the Manure Off Its Boots Now

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — ATF has stepped into a big pile of manure and it hasn’t been doing a very good job of trying to clean off its boots.

I’m referring to the dust up over Operation Fast and Furious , a program out of Arizona in which ATF let “straw purchasers” buy guns and transport them to Mexico, all with the hopes of tracing them to the Mexican cartels.

The problem is that ATF couldn’t possibly keep tabs on all those guns. Some reportedly were used to kill some federal agents. When word of the program got out, folks like Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Ia) demanded answers.

ATF has been slow to produce answers for Congress.  Grassley is now accusing ATF of stonewalling.

The press has had a field day. One story after another has appeared in papers and on television stations around the country.  None of them good. ATF looks like the stuff it has stepped in.

“The feeling is that somebody was sleeping at the switch, although they had good intentions,” one ATF official told me. “It was not a well thought out plan. I think there’s a lot of finger pointing right now.”

Agents say clearly letting so many guns walk was a big mistake. The goal was too ambitious, the risk too great. Maybe the agency was responding to criticism that it needed to go after bigger fish. That’s still not an excuse.

atf file photo

Regardless, agents say they’ve been left in the dark. The ATF honchos at headquarters aren’t telling them anything. They’ve had to rely on  information from the media. Many have been demoralized by the mess.

Plus, it’s caused a strain between Washington and the Mexican officials, who feel that the Americans don’t respect them. Let’s face it: It’s highly unlikely ATF would let that many guns walk if the guns wound up in the hands of American criminals instead of the Mexican cartels.

It was a bad plan. And the Justice Department needs to shoulder some blame since someone fairly high up knew about it and gave the blessing.

Attorney Gen. Eric Holder Jr. says he never gave the OK.

“Questions have been raised by ATF agents about the way in which some of these operations have been conducted. I think those questions have to be taken seriously, and on that basis I have asked the Inspector General to look at it,” Holder recently said.

Some are taking a wait and see attitude. They say the facts haven’t all come out. And cracking down on straw buyers isn’t always so easy because their true intent — buying guns on behalf of other people —  can be disguised and made to look legit.

That being said, ATF and the Justice Department need to come clean — as soon as possible.  Whenever I speak before law enforcement groups, be it a police precinct or at a university — I tell them: “Get as much of the story out as possible and be truthful. If you hide things or lie, the press will turn one story into five.”

Best to clean up the mess before the manure becomes a permanent fixture on those boots.

(Just in: CBS reports that Kenneth Melson, head of ATF,  has decided not to testify before a Senate hearing on Thursday where he would likely be asked about the gun program. Not good. He’s the boss. He needs to get out there in public.)

Fed Prosecutors Looking Into Possible Manslaughter Charges Against BP Managers

By Justin Blum and Alison Fitzgerald
Bloomberg

WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors are considering whether to pursue manslaughter charges against BP Plc (BP/) managers for decisions made before the Gulf of Mexico oil well explosion last year that killed 11 workers and caused the biggest offshore spill in U.S. history, according to three people familiar with the matter.

U.S. investigators also are examining statements made by leaders of the companies involved in the spill — including former BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward — during congressional hearings last year to determine whether their testimony was at odds with what they knew, one of the people said. All three spoke on condition they not be named because they weren’t authorized to discuss the case publicly.

Charging individuals would be significant to environmental- safety cases because it might change behavior, said Jane Barrett, a law professor at the University of Maryland.

To read more click here.

Az. Border Agent Shot Fleeing Mexican 3 Times in the Back, Sheriff’s Dept. Says

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The deadly drama at the Mexican border continues to play out in so many different way.

The latest: The Associated Press reports that the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department on Monday said that a Border Patrol agent fatally shot a Mexican man three times in the back as he tried climbing a ladder at the wall of the Arizona-Mexican border.

Sheriff’s spokesman Carol Capas said there was no indication the man, Carlos La Madrid, 19, tried to assault the agent before the shooting on March 21, AP reported. The agent’s name was not released. He was placed on administrative leave after the incident.

Authorities said La Madrid fled police in a truck in the border town of Douglas and was climbing the wall when another man started throwing rocks at the agent, AP reported. La Madrid’s truck contained 48 pounds of marijuana, AP reported.

The Border Patrol referred questions about the case to the FBI, which declined to comment because of the ongoing investigation, AP reported.

Feds Bust Philippine Man for Selling Spy Plane on eBay

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Go on eBay and you’ll find it all: a Bottega Veneta handbag; a 1956 Chevy Bel Air van; an uncirculated Eagle quarter shrunk to the size of a dime.

But a U.S. spy plane?

Yes, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa said Monday that it had charged Henson Chua, 47, of the Philippines with trying to sell a U.S. spy plane known as a Raven on eBay for $13,000 to federal agents with the Homeland Security Department, Reuters news service reported. He was arrested in Los Angeles in February during a visit to the U.S.

Specifically, he was charged with smuggling and violating the Arms Export Control Act, Reuters reported. The news service did not report how he had obtained the plane.

Reuters reported that the four-pound plane, which can easily be taken apart and reassembled,  has three cameras and is used for battlefield surveillance.

Reuters reported that federal agents discovered last May that the plane was for sale.  Chua sent them the plane in pieces in separate packages in exchange for the money.

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Barry Bonds’ Ex-Girlfriend Delivers a Punch for the Prosecution

Kimberly Bell/fox news

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

As days go, Monday was not Barry Bonds’ best one.

His ex-girlfriend Kimberly Bell testified in U.S. District Court in San Francisco that the former baseball slugger for the San Francisco Giants told her he used steroids but “didn’t shoot it up everyday like bodybuilders did,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Bonds is charged with lying about his steroid use while testifying before a federal grand jury.

Bell also testified that Bonds blamed a career-threatening elbow injury in 1999 to the use of steroids, the paper reported.

The drugs “somehow caused the muscles and tendons to grow faster than they could handle and (the elbow) somehow blew out,” Bell testified, according to the Chronicle.

She testified that after taking steroids Bonds became increasingly angry and controlling and muscular and “developed acne on his upper shoulders and back,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “His hair was falling out quickly, and he ended up shaving it all off.”

She testified that his testicles changed shape and shrunk.

The defense went after her during the cross examination, trying to portray her as a jilted lover who tried to profit from the relationship. She posed nude in Playboy and pitched a book about Bonds, the Chronicle reported.

Ex-Secret Service Agent Jerry Parr Describes Scene at Reagan Shooting

Del Quentin Wilber, author of  the new book on the shooting, “Rawhide Down”,  discusses the shooting.

Inmate Pleads to Threatening Boston Fed Prosecutor

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Some people don’t really want to get out of prison. Michael Crooker might be one of those folks.

Crooker, 57, who has been in prison since June 2004, pleaded guilty Monday in Boston to illegally possessing deadly ricin and using the mail to threaten a federal prosecutor.

The prosecutor told the court Monday that Crooker was charged on June 23, 2004 with using the U.S. mail to transport a firearm.

At the time, agents searched Crooker’s Agawam, Mass. apartment and found a weapons lab replete with deadly chemicals that could be used to make powerful explosives, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Agents also found castor seeds, which can be used to make deadly ricin and other dangerous materials.

While jailed and awaiting trial on the firearms charge, Crooker told two fellow inmates that he knew how to make ricin and possessed ricin and discussed how to mail it.

On July 22, 2004,  while behind bars, he sent a letter to the Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting the firearms case, invoked the name of Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh and wrote: “As Martyr McVeigh’s T-shirt says: ‘The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time by blood of patriots and tyrants.’” Crooker challenged the prosecutor to “bring on your [expletive deleted] and I’ll bring on mine,” and warned that even someone in prison could send toxins through the mail and cripple the postal system.

In August 2004, Crooker’s father unearthed a buried vial of powdered ricin on the his property that belonged to his son —  enough to kill 150 to 750 people, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.  Authorities said Crooker admitted to possessing the ricin and had it stashed at his father’s home for  three or four years. Sentencing is set for June 20.

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