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Tag: Bush

Justice Dept. to Stop Pushing Defendants in Guilty Pleas to Waive Right to DNA Testing

Holder delivers speech recently in Orlando/ticklethewire.com photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — A Justice Department policy during the Bush-era is about to get the boot.

The Washington Post reports that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will issue a memo Thursday to U.S. Attorneys around the country saying that he’s overturning a policy which urged prosecutors to push defendants hammering out guilty pleas to waive their right to DNA testing in their cases, a right which is guaranteed under federal law.

The Post wrote that the “waivers have been in widespread use in federal cases for about five years and run counter to the national movement toward allowing prisoners to seek post-conviction DNA testing to prove their innocence. More than 260 wrongly convicted people have been exonerated by such tests, though virtually all have been state prisoners.”

To read more click here.

Obama Lagging Behind Clinton and Bush on U.S. Attorney Appointments

The President in Louisiana/white house photo
white house photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — President Obama is lagging behind his two predecessors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush when it comes to installing U.S. Attorneys.

The news website Main Justice reports that both Bush and Clinton had installed 81 U.S. Attorneys in their first 19 months compared to Obama’s 66. Obama does, however, have 10 U.S. Attorneys waiting to get confirmed, Main Justice reported.

There are 93 U.S. Attorney posts in the country.

Rich Rossman, president of the National Association of former U.S. Attorneys, called the situation “very discouraging” and said he was disappointed with the Senate and the White House over the pace of the appointments, according to Main Justice.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) told Main Justice that the Republicans are to blame, saying they’ve held up some nominees for “months and months and months.”

Obama to Nominate Stacia Hylton to Head up Marshals Service

u.s. marshal patchBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — President Obama announced that he plans to nominate Stacia A. Hylton, a former U.S. Marshals Service official, to head up the agency.

A White House press release issued Friday said that Hylton currently run a consulting company, Hylton Kirk & Associates.

Hylton served in law enforcement positions in the Justice Department for 29 years including acting deputy director, assistant director prisoner operations, chief deputy in the District of South Carolina and Chief of Judicial Security Programs.

She attended Northeastern University and earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Criminal Justice in 1983. She would replace John Clark, who was appointed by President Bush in 2006.

Media Leak Led to Judge Granting Asylum to Pres. Obama’s Aunt

onyangoBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A leak to the media prompted an immigration judge to grant asylum to President Obama’s aunt Zeituni Onyango who lives in Boston public housing, the Boston Globe reported.

The paper reported that the judge, Leonard I. Shapiro, ruled the asylum was granted because of an anonymous federal official in the Bush administration, who leaked information about her immigration status, and consequently  exposed her to potentially more threats in her native Kenya, the Globe reported, citing the court ruling.

Onyango was granted asylum in May, but the reasons why were not released, triggering speculation, particularly among conservative Republicans, that she got favorable treatment because of her relationship with the president. Her two previous requests were rejected.

Immigration Judge Shapiro, a Republican appointee, harshly wrote in his ruling that a Bush administration official leaked the information to the Associated Press, which threw her into the spotlight in a “highly publicized and highly politicized manner’’ days before the November 2008, the Globe reported.

“Moreover,’’ he wrote, according to the Globe, that “the disclosure . . . was a reckless and illegal violation of her right to privacy which has exposed her to great risk.’

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Will Failed D.C. Porn Case Dampen Fed Prosecutors’ Zeal?

John Stagliano/facebook photo

John Stagliano/facebook photo

By Allan Lengel
For AOL News

WASHINGTON — In courtroom 18 in the sterile D.C. federal courthouse, Justice Department prosecutors earlier this month tried nailing a major producer of adult pornography on obscenity charges.

The lawyers, part of the department’s Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, spent four days presenting their case against California porn producer John Stagliano (aka “Buttman”), who had been indicted in 2008, during the final year of the Bush administration. As part of their case, prosecutors even played pornographic videos with names like “Milk Nymph” for the jurors.

But before the defense could even present its side, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon dismissed the case, saying the government had failed to prove the most basic of issues: that the defendant and two related companies were linked to porno videos that the government claimed went beyond the acceptable community standards.

Adult film director John Stagliano arrives at the 27th annual Adult Video News Awards Show at the Palms Casino Resort January 9, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ethan Miller, Getty Images

A U.S. district judge earlier this month dismissed a case against porn producer John Stagliano, here at the Adult Video News Awards Show in Las Vegas in January.

The judge also raised questions about core issues in the case.

“I hope the government will learn a lesson from its experience,” declared Leon, who voiced concerns about the issues of obscenity statute, the Internet, free speech and criminal rights, according to The Washington Post. “I hope that [higher] courts and Congress will give greater guidance to judges in whose courtrooms these cases will be tried.”

With the disastrous outcome in the D.C. case, and the change from the conservative Bush administration to the liberal Obama regime, some now wonder how enthusiastic the Justice Department will be in going after adult pornography cases.

“That’s a big question,” says Penn State University professor Robert D. Richards, head of the Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment. “How much the Obama administration will be interested in pursuing obscenity cases is questionable. It would certainly be hard pressed to pull full steam ahead. It’s not an easy area to prove.

“The real problem with obscenity is you never know if something is criminal until a jury comes back and says it’s criminal and it’s only in that jurisdiction,” he added.

Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media, who blames the FBI for “botching” the D.C. case, also wonders what will become of future prosecutions. He believes even the Bush administration fell far short of its expressed goals — and has far less confidence in the Obama administration.

“We can’t continue to treat [pornography] like a joke, which is largely how the FBI has treated it,” he said. “The FBI is simply unwilling to do these cases other than a token investigation here and there, and that’s not enough.

“Adult pornography has effects on marriages, effects on children and effects on women,” he continued. “The Supreme Court has held repeatedly the First Amendment does not protect obscene material.”

The FBI deferred to the Justice Department for comment. Justice spokeswoman Laura Sweeney declined comment on the D.C. trial or on future plans to prosecute obscenity cases.

A Shift in Priorities?

The dip in the number of cases has been noticeable during the Obama administration. According to the Justice Department, prosecutors charged about 360 defendants with obscenity violations during the Bush years, nearly double the number under Bill Clinton. In 2009, about 20 defendants were charged, compared with 54 the previous year, when George W. Bush was still in office.

After Bush took office, his conservative attorney general, John Ashcroft, vowed to go after obscenity cases involving adult pornography that violated “community standards.” In 2005, Ashcroft’s successor, Alberto Gonzales, took it up a notch, creating the Justice Department’s Obscenity Prosecution Task Force. The FBI also vowed to commit resources.

But the Bush people disappointed, according to Peters.

“Ashcroft failed,” he said. “[FBI Director] Bob Mueller failed and Alberto Gonzales failed. … They talked the talk and then they didn’t do it.”

Plus, he claimed, few U.S. attorneys’ offices around the country wanted to take on the cases, and even when they did, the FBI wouldn’t investigate.

Unquestionably there was skepticism within the ranks of the FBI and the Justice Department — and resistance — over the push to prosecute porn during the Bush years.

“I thought they were nuts,” said one former federal prosecutor in Washington. “And they would approach you about taking these cases, making it sound like it was a great honor. They had cases that were just [garbage].”

He said his office found ways to politely pass on prosecuting them. “Nobody liked the cases, nobody thought they accomplished anything,” he said. “They were true believers. They had a moral culture they wanted to push. It had nothing to do with enforcing the law.”

Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent in the Washington field office, said the obscenity cases were tough to prove since they were based on community standards. Plus, many agents questioned whether it was the best use of resources, particularly after Sept. 11, 2001.

“It really boiled down to priorities for most agents,” said Garrett, whose own accomplishments include nabbing a Pakistani national who gunned down two CIA employees at the agency’s headquarters in 1993. “You’ve got a limited number of people. Is it really the best use of our time to be investigating obscenity with consenting adults?”

Regardless, Allan B. Gelbard, one of the defense attorneys in the Stagliano case, said he expects the Justice Department to continue going after the cases so long as the same people are in the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force.

“It strikes me that this particular unit is so driven by ideology that they’ll probably go through [with more prosecutions] until they’re disbanded, and that can’t be too soon in my book,” he said. “They’re going to keep ruining peoples’ lives.”

The Case That Imploded

The indictment against Stagliano and two related companies, John Stagliano Inc. and Evil Angel Productions, came in April 2008, in the waning months of the Bush administration. In early July, the trial started. Things went poorly for the prosecution almost from the start.

For one, the FBI agent in the case copied from the Internet a trailer of a video — “Fetish Fanatic Chapter 5” — that had so many glitches, it failed to play properly for the jury. Consequently, the judge ruled it was inadmissible.

Then prosecutors, who had the porn DVDs shown as evidence shipped via a third party, failed to prove that Stagliano or either of the two companies had anything to do with the films or the shipping.

“It was a colossal disaster,” says Richards, the Penn State professor. “They never connected the dots, and that was fatal to the case.”

Peters of Morality in the Media has concerns about the Stagliano case, but for obviously different reasons.

“The FBI ought to be embarrassed — they blew it,” he said, adding that the FBI agent was either inexperienced or had inadequate resources.

Even after the Stagliano case, however, many in the adult entertainment industry have concerns about what direction the government will take on obscenity prosecutions.

Diane Duke, executive director of the California-based Free Speech Coalition, the industry’s trade association, said she is worried the government may continue filing what she sees as questionable charges against studios, aiming to bleed them to death through legal fees that can run upward of a million dollars.

“They know they’re going to do damage to our companies, no matter what,” she said. “I think there’s people in our government who respect freedom of speech and the Constitution, and it’s my hope those folks will prevail.”

Obama Admin. Wants to Give FBI More Access to Email Data

internet-photoBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI could be getting more powers when it comes to getting data on Internet activity.

Reporter Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post reports that the Obama administration wants to change a law so that it would allow the FBI to compel companies over individual’s records of their Internet activity without a court order.

Under the push, the FBI would not be able to get content of the email, the Post reported. But it would be able to get email addresses individuals are writing to; times and dates the e-mails were sent and received; and possibly a user’s browser history.

For Full Story

Ex-Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales Angry About Criminal Probe into U.S. Atty Firings; Bush Congratulated Him On Report

Justice Dept. Fights to Keep Rejected Pardons and Commutations Secret

shhhhBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration, which vowed to have more transparency in government, is working very hard to keep some secrets.

At issue: The names of more than 9,200 people President George W. Bush denied pardons and commutations, the National Law Journal reports.

Last year, a D.C. federal judge ruled against the Obama Justice Department and said the names should be made public. The Justice Department has appealed that ruling, insisting the privacy interest of the applicants outweigh the public’s right to know.

“The case is a politically sensitive one for the Justice Department, given Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.’s involvement in the decision to pardon fugitive Marc Rich at the end of the Clinton administration,” the Journal wrote. “The Rich pardon turned into a Washington scandal that compelled Holder to apologize for mistakes when it came up during his confirmation hearing last year.

The Journal wrote that the case applies only to the Bush years, but could open up the door for the public to see applicants from other administrations.

Under the current policy, the Justice Department can confirm a specific pardon, but won’t comment on a list of denials, the Journal reported.

Since October 2009, Obama has received 382 pardon petitions and 2,275 applications for commutation, but none have been acted upon at this time, the Journal reported.

The Journal said the case was initiated by retired Washington Post reporter George Lardner, who is writing a book on the history of clemency.

To read more click here.