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Archive for December 27th, 2012

The Agonizing Death of the Death Penalty in America

This is the first of two parts.
 
 
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

Stephen Simmons slowly walked up the steps to the scaffold in Library Park in Detroit. It was September 24, 1830, his last day on Earth, and he looked out at the festive crowd of 2,000 celebrating spectators.

Men had brought their wives and children, there were refreshment booths, and a military band played a lively tune.

A local tavern owner, Simmons was a pleasant enough guy while he was sober but a demon when he was drunk. One night a month earlier, in a drunken rage, he had strangled his wife Livana when she refused to drink with him.

The crowd quieted as he stepped up to the gallows. In his last words he made a heartfelt confession about his crime and the evils of liquor.

The holiday mood evaporated as he sang a Christian hymn. Then the noose was placed around his neck and he dropped to his death. Public enthusiasm for the death penalty plummeted in the Michigan territory.

Seven years later, across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario, Patrick Fitzpatrick was hanged for murder despite his protests of innocence. A few months later, another man made a deathbed confession that he, not Fitzpatrick, had committed the murder.

When the Michigan legislature considered the issue of capital punishment in 1846, these two factors—the public’s moral repugnance of the death penalty and the fear of executing an innocent man—convinced them to abolish capital punishment for murder. The state was the first English-speaking government in the world to abolish the death penalty.

 

The Simmons hanging in Michigan had defined the capital punishment debate not only in the state but, to some extent, for the rest of the country, in moral and religious terms.

Was the death penalty morally justified as a just retribution for the taking of a life? Did the Bible authorize it or forbid it as a penalty option in the most heinous cases?

Michigan and a handful of states rejected the ultimate punishment, but the overwhelming majority of states embraced the death penalty as morally justified and ordained by God as “an eye of an eye.”

There were other great historical causes in 19th early 20th Century America that were also vigorously debated primarily in terms of morality—temperance, women’s suffrage, and the abolition of slavery. While both sides of each of these issues raged on for decades without a resolution, ultimately it was the pragmatism of economics and politics which settled them, not so much morality. For a growing majority, the country’s future simply could not proceed with unenforceable and corrupting Prohibition and the marginalization of large parts of the population.

Similarly, the future of the death penalty is being decided in terms of economics—taxpayer dollars and cents. Slowly, incrementally, the death penalty is dying in America. Not because most people believe that the worst offenders do not deserve the most severe sanction. Nor has the debate over the efficacy of the penalty produced anything definitive. Studies on both sides of the issue claim to prove that the death penalty either does or does not deter others from committing the worst forms of murder.

Not only are these previously debate-defining terms not coming to any resolution, they are slowly being moved to the role of afterthought. Few people even talk about deterrence and moral justification any more. Instead what little debate that is occurring focuses on questions like: can local prosecutors’ offices afford death penalty litigation? Can the death penalty be administered in a humane and botch-free manner? In a post-DNA world can we guarantee that no innocent person will be executed?

More than any other factor, the future of the death penalty is being determined by the growing sentiment that we simply cannot afford it. Even though a majority of Americans probably continue to believe that capital punishment is justified for the mass murderers we hear about on the news with disturbing regularity, they are no longer willing to pay the increasing price. Just as likely, pragmatic considerations in an era of economic insecurity affect those moral decisions on whether as a society we need capital punishment.

Next week this column will explore this downward trend in the use of the death penalty and discuss one ex-prosecutor’s view on where it is heading—the death of the death penalty in America.

 

FBI’s John Perren Named ticklethewire.com’s Fed Of The Year for 2012

John Perren

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

John G. Perren, assistant director of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) Directorate, who has been at the forefront of the FBI war on terrorism, has been named ticklethewire.com’s Fed Of The Year for 2012.

Perren, whose tenure has been extended beyond the FBI’s mandatory retirement age, has been with the bureau since 1987.

Perren earns the award for a variety of reason. First off, someone would be hard pressed to find a more dedicated FBI agent. Additionally, he’s well respected by his colleagues, and has been known as a fair and good boss over the years, important criteria in determining this award.

Perren has worked in a variety of positions. He was the acting assistant director in charge of the Washington Field Office and was special agent in charge of counterterrorism at WFO, a position that included overseeing the Rapid Deployment Team of agents to the Middle East in probes involving attacks on U.S. citizens and American interests.

Perren was one of three On-Scene Commanders at the Pentagon following 9/11. From January to June of 2005, he was the On-Scene Commander for FBI Field Operations in Baghdad, with responsibility for over 125 FBI personnel in Iraq.

In his current position, he heads up a program the FBI describes as detecting, deterring, and defeating ” acts of domestic terrorism, as well as the actual or threatened use of weapons of mass destruction.”

Perren is the fifth recipient of the ticklethewire.com award and the second FBI agent to receive it.

Last year, Thomas Brandon, the acting number two person at ATF was the recipient.

Previous recipients have included Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (2008), Warren Bamford, who headed the Boston FBI (2009) and Joseph Evans, regional director for the DEA’s North and Central Americas Region in Mexico City (2010).

 

Feds Misbehaving in 2012

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Everyday, people in federal law enforcement head to work, grab a coffee, maybe a donut or a bagel, comb through their emails, read a newspaper or website and go about fighting crime, protecting the public from violent drug dealers, public corruption, gun-related crimes,  healthcare fraud and terrorism.

But on occasion, something reminds us that the iconic law enforcement agencies are made up of humans. A few cross the line.  In most instances, it  involves sex, alcohol or money.

This year, perhaps one of the more publicized events involved  Secret Service agents in South America, who brought prostitutes back to the hotel.  That turned into a big big mess. Any time the media can get the Secret Service, the president and hookers in the same story, there’s bound to be trouble.

In what has become part of an annual tradition, ticklethewire.com presents “Feds Misbehaving in 2012.”

 

Too Exposed: There’s something about a motorist exposing himself. It’s particularly noteworthy when that person is an FBI agent. In Buffalo, in December, FBI agent John Yervelli Jr. was charged with public lewdness for allegedly exposing himself to a truck driver as he tooled down the New York State Thruway one Friday night, apparently exposing his tool. Authorities alleged that he had his pants down and made lewd gestures.

 

 

Mind Bender: The idea of downloading child porn has been a crime the feds  and  society takes very seriously. The FBI, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and some local and state agencies put a lot of resources into cracking down on this problem that has exploded with the advent of the Internet. But it’s a mind bender when someone like Anthony Mangione, 50, whose agency so aggressively goes after child porn, gets busted for child porn. Mangione, who headed ICE in Southern Florida, was recently sentenced to 5 years and 10 months in prison for transportation and possession of child porn. Just as an aside,  you have to wonder how a guy in that position could get caught knowing what he knows about how the feds track down these offenders.

He’s not alone.  In Indiana, FBI Donald Sachtleben, a 25-year bureau veteran who worked on such high-profile cases as the Unabomber and the Oklahoma Bombing, was busted on child porn charges as part of a nationwide undercover investigation of illegal child porn images traded over the Internet. His case is pending.

Keep Your Hands Out of the FBI Cookie Jar: Stealing from the your employer is a bad idea. It’s a particularly a bad idea when the employer is the FBI. Bankrupt FBI agent Timothy Kotz, 45, got busted for embezzling $43,190 he was supposed to give confidential informants. He had $11,000 in gambling losses in the past year. He was sentenced to 6 months in prison followed by 6  months of house arrest. He was  also ordered to repay the money.

 

Way Too Tragic: This is one of the sadder stories, partly because there was no malice intended here. But the result was tragic in many ways. FBI agent Adrian Johnson was convicted in October in Prince George’s County in suburban D.C. of vehicular manslaughter and six related charges in connection with the drunk driving crash in Brandywine, Md., in 2011 that killed an 18-year-old man and seriously injured his friend. A tragic ending for a promising career. He’ll be off to prison for a while.

 

Hector Reynaldo CuellarForget Biden, Who’s Protecting the Children? Secret Service officer Hector Reynaldo Cuellar of Virginia who who guarded Vice President Joe Biden’s residence in Northwest D.C. was busted for allegedly sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl he was taking care of.

Fox News reported that Cuellar is charged with  assaulting a “family member several times between August and October.”

Next Time Just Rent a Movie:  Secret Service agents got a little wild in April during a presidential detail in Cartagena, Colombia. Some brought hookers to their hotel rooms. Some claim they didn’t know they were prostitutes, that is until they asked for money. Some of the agents were married. It turned into a major scandal.  By May,  eight agents had left their jobs as a result of the scandal. Some subsequently decided to fight the allegations,  claiming some of that behavior was quietly condoned.

The incident resulted in the Secret Service imposing new rules on the road. Apparently, someone had forgot the first go around to specify in the rules not to bring hookers back to the hotel room.  Recommendation to agents:  Next time just stay in the room and order up a film, a brew and a cheeseburger.

 

Online Shenanigans:  In New Orleans, a couple veteran prosecutors thought they’d be clever by taking pot shots at judges and targets of investigations by posting anonymous comments on the New Orleans Times-Picayune website. Well, guess what. The whole thing blew up. They got caught.

The  two veteran prosecutors — Sal Perricone and  Jan Mann– resigned and this month so did the U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, who was chastised by a federal judge for not adequately dealing with the scandal. The judge, Kurt Engelhardt, called the scandal “skulduggery by the government” and indicated the online postings could result in criminal charges. Note to others: Leave the online b.s. to the junior high kids. They’re better at it — and they usually don’t get caught.

Crossing the Line and Crossing the Border: Two border Patrol agents, who are brothers, were convicted in August in  San Diego of sneaking hundreds of illegal immigrants into the U.S. for money.  Raul and Fidel Villarreal were accused of smuggling in Mexicans and Brazilians.

 

Helping a Little Too Much:  It’s good to help friends and associates.  But FBI agent Robert G. Lustyik Jr., 50, of Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.  may have helped a little too much. A grand jury in Salt Lake City indicted him on charges that he used his position to try and derail a federal probe into a business partner with whom he was pursuing lucrative security and energy contracts.

Of course, the feds allege that he had some incentive to help out (so much for any Boy Scout defense). His business partner allegedly offered  Lustyk a $200,000 cash payment and  interest in some lucrative contracts. Lustyk had been assigned to an counterintelligence unit for the FBI out of White Plains, N.Y.

 

 

Column: The Agonizing Death of the Death Penalty in America

Ross Parker

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office. He is the author of the book “Carving Out the Rule of Law: The History of the United States Attorney’s Office in Eastern Michigan 1815–2008″.
 
This is the first of two parts.
 
 
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

Stephen Simmons slowly walked up the steps to the scaffold in Library Park in Detroit. It was September 24, 1830, his last day on Earth, and he looked out at the festive crowd of 2,000 celebrating spectators.

Men had brought their wives and children, there were refreshment booths, and a military band played a lively tune.

A local tavern owner, Simmons was a pleasant enough guy while he was sober but a demon when he was drunk. One night a month earlier, in a drunken rage, he had strangled his wife Livana when she refused to drink with him.

The crowd quieted as he stepped up to the gallows. In his last words he made a heartfelt confession about his crime and the evils of liquor.

The holiday mood evaporated as he sang a Christian hymn. Then the noose was placed around his neck and he dropped to his death. Public enthusiasm for the death penalty plummeted in the Michigan territory.

Seven years later, across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario, Patrick Fitzpatrick was hanged for murder despite his protests of innocence. A few months later, another man made a deathbed confession that he, not Fitzpatrick, had committed the murder.

When the Michigan legislature considered the issue of capital punishment in 1846, these two factors—the public’s moral repugnance of the death penalty and the fear of executing an innocent man—convinced them to abolish capital punishment for murder. The state was the first English-speaking government in the world to abolish the death penalty.

The Simmons hanging in Michigan had defined the capital punishment debate not only in the state but, to some extent, for the rest of the country, in moral and religious terms.

Was the death penalty morally justified as a just retribution for the taking of a life? Did the Bible authorize it or forbid it as a penalty option in the most heinous cases?

Michigan and a handful of states rejected the ultimate punishment, but the overwhelming majority of states embraced the death penalty as morally justified and ordained by God as “an eye of an eye.”

There were other great historical causes in 19th early 20th Century America that were also vigorously debated primarily in terms of morality—temperance, women’s suffrage, and the abolition of slavery. While both sides of each of these issues raged on for decades without a resolution, ultimately it was the pragmatism of economics and politics which settled them, not so much morality. For a growing majority, the country’s future simply could not proceed with unenforceable and corrupting Prohibition and the marginalization of large parts of the population.

Read more »

FBI Asked to Investigate Leaked Sex Tape of Ex-Wide Receiver Chad Johnson

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Former wide receiver Chad Johnson isn’t denying he had sex with two women at a hotel in front of a camera, but he wants the FBI to find out who leaked the tape online, the Celebrity Cafe reports.

Posted on WorldStarHipHop.com, the video was posted with the statement: “The photo is really a video that was taken as a screen-shot during Chad’s alleged sexcapades with a full audience in the background.”

Johnson, who played for such teams as the New England Patriots,  confirmed on Twitter that he was the subject of the tape, the Celebrity Cafe wrote.

It’s unclear whether the FBI plans to investigate.

 

STORIES OF OTHER INTEREST

FBI Crime Lab Overstated Accuracy of Forensic Tests Used to Prosecutor Suspects

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI’s crime lab has come under intense scrutiny after a Justice Department review showed the bureau bungled up to tens of thousands of cases, the Huffington Post reports.

Flawed forensic work means many innocent people are likely behind bars, the Huffington Post wrote.

The errors were first exposed in a Washington Post piece that also said local and state labs may be committing even more errors.

The Justice Department has known about the errors for years, but has done little to enforce corrections, the Huffington Post wrote.

FBI Brings Heat on Small Indiana Town over Questionable Bid Awards

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

City officials in a small Indiana town were served grand jury subpoenas as part of an investigation involving loans and grants since 2007, FOX 19 reports.

The mayor, city council president and treasurer were served in what a city councilman described as illegal bid-awarding deals.

FOX 19 wrote that state police and IRS investigators were on hand.

The news agency was unable to reach the city officials for comment.

FBI: Guns Killed More Than 550 Children Between 2006-2010

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Firearms killed more than 550 children ages 12 and under between 2006 and 2010, the Associated Press reports, citing FBI records.

The number of deaths which do not include accidental shootings, have been relatively consistent throughout the five-year period – about 112 annually.

Those deaths are getting closer scrutiny following the shooting massacre at a Connecticut elementary school that claimed the lives of 20 first-graders this month, the AP reported. The total number of shooting deaths of small children won’t be known for another two years.

“This happens on way too regular a basis and it affects families and communities — not at once, so we don’t see it and we don’t understand it as part of our national experience,” Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, told the AP.