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Archive for June 16th, 2011

Jury Asks Judge About Jury Instructions Involving Charges that Blago Sold Senate Seat

Ex-Gov on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice

UPDATE: Friday; 11:15 a.m. — The jury finished Thursday and went home for the weekend. Deliberations resume Monday.

Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The jury in the retrial of ex-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich is still working way.

On Thursday, on the fifth day of deliberations, the jury asked U.S. District Judge James Zagel to clarify legal language in jury instructions on 10 wire fraud counts, eight of which deal with allegations that Blagojevich tried to sell the Senate seat vacated by President Obama, USA Today reported.

USA Today reported that it was only the second note passed to the judge from the jury of 11 women and one man since deliberations began last Friday.

Senate Judiciary Approves Legislation to Extend FBI Dir. Mueller’s Term

Robert Mueller/file fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The Senate Judiciary on Thursday approved legislation that would extend FBI Director Robert S. Mueller’s term for two years.

The vote 11-7, paves the way for Congress to approve the extension, something that seems certain to happen. The legislation must be approved by the House and the Senate.

Mueller was appointed by President Bush in 2001 and was supposed to complete his 10-year term this September.

But the White House decided it wanted him to stick around another two years, a move that requires legislation. The current law limits the director to 10 years.

Some members of the committee had raised concerns about constitutional challenges the extension might create.

But Sen. Patrick Leahy of the committee issued a statement Thursday saying:

“The fact that this extension was requested by the President and will take effect only because the President has decided to ask Director Mueller to stay on removes any implication that this legislation somehow offends the Appointments Clause of the Constitution. It does not.”

“There is no effort here by Congress to usurp the President’s appointing authority. What we propose is constitutional and consistent with the powers previously exercised by Congress. We are extending a term of a presidential appointment.”

I Wish I had Friends Like Ex-Sen. Norm Coleman Has

Norm Coleman smiling (probably because he has generous friends)

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

I have some lousy friends, particularly those with money. They haven’t lavished me with tens of thousands of dollars in gifts.

Maybe a beer. Maybe a meal. And oh yes, one once gave me a Jerry Springer “Uncensored” video for my birthday.

I don’t get it. I’m a good guy.

I wish I had friends like ex-Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman has. He must be a great guy. Why else would a wealthy businessman/friend like Nasser Kazeminy give him $100,000 worth of gifts?

After a 3 1/2 year investigation, the Justice Department decided not to file criminal charges against Coleman or Kazeminy, Kazeminy’s attorneys announced Tuesday. The allegations, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, were reportedly that Kazeminy violated campaign finance laws by trying to funnel $75,000 to the family of former Sen. Norm Coleman through a Minneapolis insurance company that employed Coleman’s wife, Laurie.

One rather well-known attorney, ex-FBI Director Louis Freeh, said he investigated the matter on behalf of Kazeminy and found no wrong doing.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Freeh confirmed in his probe that Kazeminy had given Coleman gifts over the years that totaled more than $100,000 in value. He said Kazeminy and Coleman are good friends.

The gifts included at least two suits from Nieman Marcus in Minneapolis and flights to Florida on Kazeminy’s private jets.

Freeh said, according to the paper, that the two “have a long-term, personal relationship that goes back to when he was mayor. … We looked at the gifts and we found no wrongdoing and no impropriety with respect to that exchange.”

So it really comes down to, some people just have better luck finding generous friends.

Maybe my jokes aren’t good enough, my conversation not stimulating enough to warrant such friends.

Or maybe I just have to run for elected office. That way I’d have a better shot at finding generous friends like Norm did.

ICE Agent Busted on Charges of Leaking Sensitive Info to Drug Traffickers South of the Border

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Fed authorities in Arizona have busted a special agent with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) on charges that she illegally accessed, stole and transferred sensitive U.S. government documents to family members and associates with strong ties to drug trafficking organizations south of the border, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Jovana Samaniego Deas, 33, of Rio Rico, Ariz. was charged with computer fraud, theft of government records and making false statements/entries, authorities said. She made her initial court appearance Tuesday in Tucson federal court.

The indictment, which capped a two year investigation, was filed in Tucson federal court.

Authorities said Deas is accused of abusing her position as an HSI special agent to illegally obtain and disseminate government documents classified as “Official Use Only.”

“When it comes to our national security, blood is not thicker than water,” U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke said in a statement. “This defendant used and abused her position as a special agent to illegally help family members south of the border with ties to drug trafficking organizations. That is a violation of the public’s trust and a breach of our security that, thanks to this very thorough joint investigation, will have serious consequences.”

Deas became a U.S. government employee in June 2003 as a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at a Nogales, Ariz., port of entry. In 2008, she became a special agent at the HSI Nogales office.

The two-year investigation of Deas was conducted by FBI and ICE Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) agents at the FBI’s Southern Arizona Corruption Task Force (SACTF).

SACTF agents were assisted y agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, HSI, the U.S. State Department’s Consular Integrity Division and the Brazilian Federal Police.

Column: What Does the Blago Verdict Mean for Chicago U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald?

Patrick Fitzgerald/doj photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Soon we’ll get the verdict in the Blago II trial and we’ll start to evaluate what it means for Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. The jury begins the fifth day of deliberations on Thursday.

The first trial did not bode so well for Fitzgerald, the rock star among U.S. Attorneys. The jury convicted ex-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich on only 1 of 24 counts — and that was for lying to the FBI. It wasn’t even a count central to the key charges of shaking down folks and trying to sell President Obama’s Senate seat.

Some argued it was still a victory — particularly those who know Fitzgerald well. They said a felony conviction is a felony conviction, even if it’s on just one count.

I disagree. I say in order for this to be considered a victory for Fitzgerald and his prosecutors, they have to get a conviction on a central count. A conviction on key counts would provide some vindication for Fitzgerald.

What would another embarrassing outcome mean for Fitzgerald?

Probably not a whole lot.

Another embarrassing outcome might tarnish his star power a little. But people forget. And he’s had a lot of big victories in big cases in Chicago. And no one can forget that he came to Washington for a stint as  a dragon slayer — as a special prosecutor —  and convicted Scooter Libby in 2007.

The first Blago trial may have hurt his chances when the White House was recently  considering a replacement for FBI Dir. Robert S. Mueller III (though that has become a moot point since President Obama now wants to keep Mueller on for two more years beyond the 10-year term).

Interestingly, FBI agents who, in general, prefer an ex-agent as a director rather than a prosecutor — seemed Ok with Fitzgerald as a potential replacement.

Nonetheless, the talk inside the Beltway was that the White House wasn’t wild about  the swagger — very Eliot Ness like — that he displayed before the media  when he first announced the charges against Blago in December 2008.

The swagger along with the embarrassing outcome didn’t help. This White House seems to like Robert Mueller’s low-key, fly-under-the-radar style.

So in the end, whatever the outcome in Blago II, Fitzgerald will remain the U.S. Attorney in Chicago.

And frankly, whatever the outcome,  the Blago case won’t short circuit many of his options in the future –including, who knows, even  a run for governor, the office once held by Blago himself.

Chicago Station Features DEA Drug Training

Files Show FBI Investigated Death Threat Against the Late Tim Russert and His Family

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The hard-charging late Tim Russert, who hosted NBC’s “Meet the Press” for more than 16 years, may have been beloved, but apparently not be everybody.

The Hill newspaper reports that FBI files show that someone left a threatening voicemail for Russert at the tv station on March 7, 2001 at about 9:20 p.m. Authorities suspected a 75-year-old World War II veteran in poor health.

“Yeah, Tim Russert, Mr. Clinton’s, uh, polls are down and yours is down. We haven’t forgotten I’ve called you a couple years ago and we still got you on the f—king platter,” the caller said, according to FBI transcript of the message.

“Believe you me, motherf—ker. That goes for your 15- or 16-year-old kid, too. You protect him, you motherf—ker. You’re no good, you’re absolutely no good, and nothing would treat me or do me any better than to put a bullet right between your f—king eyes, you p—k,” said the caller, according to an FBI transcript of the voice mail.

The D.C. police reported that a similar telephone call was made to Russert roughly four months. Authorities believed it may have been the same person, the Hill reported.

In that call,  the person said he “didn’t like the way someone had been treated, possibly ALBERT GORE, and advised he knew where RUSSERT lived and where his son attended school,” according to FBI documents, the Hill reported.

The files showed, according to the Hill, that the FBI’s San Francisco office tracked down a likely suspect — a 75-year-old World War II veteran who was “extremely difficult” to live with. The man suffered from diabetes and arthritis and had suffered a heart attack and a stroke.

The Hill reported that the Justice Department declined to prosecute, but the FBI warned him he’d be prosecuted is he continued his shenannigans.

Pa. Family Suing FBI for Raid

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A suburban Pittsburgh family says sorry, sorry ain’t enough.

The family said it’s suing the FBI for more than $50,000 in damages after agents and police officers in March mistakenly entered their Bellevue, Pa., home, guns drawn, looking for a suspect who moved out two years before and was not related to them, station WTAE reported.

Denise Adams, a grandmother, said she fell to the floor when agents entered her home, the station reported.

“They had all these red dots everywhere … on the floor, on my face, on my chest. I was scared I was going to get shot,” she said, according to the station.

Granddaughter Byra Adams, who was home at the time, said she worried how her brother, who is mentally challenged, would react.

“He was in the basement and they were going down there to get him and I didn’t know if he was going to react,” she said.

The grandfather Gary Adams said no one apologized for the mistake or offered to pay for damages to the home, the station reported.

“Sorry is not going to get it. I’m just truly glad I didn’t have a weapon because they never identified themselves to me,” he said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI declined comment, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.