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Tag: David Ashenfelter

Despite All the Hype, The PBS Show on The Jimmy Hoffa Disappearance Didn’t Crack the Case

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com 

DETROIT — As we thought would be the case, the PBS show Tuesday night on Jimmy Hoffa — “Who Killed Jimmy Hoffa?” —  didn’t crack the case as the pre-show hype suggested it might. And it certainly didn’t leave you feeling as if you knew what really happened to the Teamster boss.

It was entertaining, but a little cheesy, particularly for a PBS production.

Greg Stejskal on the right.

Retired FBI Agent Greg Stejskal, who was interviewed in the show, told ticklethewire.com after the show that he thought it was full of “a lot of speculation” and “I thought pretty far fetched as far as some of the connections they made.”

“There’s a lot of information there,” he said. “But I thought they took a lot of literary license making things fit together that didn’t necessarily fit together and basically ignored things that would have argued otherwise.”

The PBS website hyped the upcoming show:

For decades, investigators have searched for clues about what happened to Hoffa and why. Was he murdered? If so, who wanted him dead? After serving prison time for conspiracy and fraud, Hoffa was pardoned by President Richard Nixon. What interest did the White House have in Jimmy Hoffa?

Recently declassified government files reveal shocking evidence of corruption at the highest levels. Interviews with a former mob lawyer, a murder witness, and an FBI agent are among the sources History Detectives unearth as they track Jimmy Hoffa’s final hours and answer the question: “Who killed Jimmy Hoffa?”

The show gave a lot of weight to a death bed confession of Frank Sheeran, a friend of Hoffa who was described as a hitman. Sheeran said he killed Hoffa at a home in Detroit.

Stejskal said the FBI investigated and was dismissive of his claims.

It also talked about President Richard Nixon possibly taking mob money, something that had reported in the past.

David Ashenfelter, a former Detroit News and Detroit Free Press reporter, and a Pulitzer prize winner, who was interviewed in the show, told ticklethewire.com:

David Ashenfelter

“I think Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance remains a mystery. I found the archival footage very interesting. I enjoyed the program.

“I thought they covered all of the major leads and brought a younger generation up to date on one of the biggest mysteries of the 20th Century,” he added. “But as it always turns out in the Hoffa mystery, we don’t know much more than we knew when the FBI wrote the Hoffex Memo six months after Jimmy Hoffa vanished.”

 

Ex-Prosecutor Convertino Fails Again to Get Detroit Reporter to Disclose Sources

David Ashenfelter

By Allan Lengel
Deadline Detroit

DETROIT –– Ex-federal prosecutor Richard Convertino has once again failed in his bid to get ex-Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter to disclose his sources.

U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland ruled Monday that Ashenfelter, who recently retired from the Free Press, had the right to invoke his Fifth Amendment privileges, according to a court document filed Monday.

It was third time in the protracted legal battle that a federal judge ruled against Convertino in his bid to get Ashenfelter to sing. Convertino, now a private attorney, is suing the Justice Department, claiming it illegally leaked information about him to Ashenfelter.

To read more click here.

Ex-Fed Prosecutor Keeps Trying and Trying to Find Out Detroit Free Press Sources

Ex-Prosecutor Richard Convertino

By Allan Lengel
Deadline Detroit

DETROIT — Former federal prosecutor Richard Convertino isn’t giving up in his quest to find out confidential sources in a story Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter wrote nine years ago.

U.S. District Court Robert Cleland in Detroit on Tuesday ordered the paper to produce documents by Jan. 29 related to the story or confidential sources, according to the Free Press.

He also ordered that the Free Press produce a witness other than Ashenfelter who would know about the sources. The judge had previously granted Ashenfelter his Fifth Amendment right not to disclose the sources. Ashenfelter recently took a buyout from the Free Press.

“We respect the court, and we also respect the public’s right to know and the protection of sources,” Free Press Editor and Publisher Paul Anger said in a story in the Free Press. “Our legal fight continues.”

To read more click here.

Ex-Detroit Prosecutor Convertino Asks Appeals Court to Reinstate Suit Against Justice Dept.

Ex-Prosecutor Richard Convertino

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT — Here we go again?

We shall see.

Ex-Detroit fed prosecutor Richard Convertino is asking a federal appeals court in D.C. to reinstate his privacy suit against the Justice Department over info leaked to Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter, the BLT: Blog of LegalTimes reported.

Convertino, who was acquitted on obstruction charges in a high-profile terrorism case he prosecuted, has alleged that the Justice Dept. leaked info to the Detroit Free Press about an ethics investigation into his conduct.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lambert in D.C. in March dismissed the suit, saying it had dragged on too long, and that after seven years, Convertino was no closer to figuring out who leaked the information.

“Despite seven years of dedicated effort, Convertino is no closer to identifying the source(s) of the leak today than he was when this litigation commenced,” the judge wrote in his ruling.

“In sum, Convertino has made a monumental effort to identify Ashenfelter’s source(s) and has had absolutely no success. Moreover, OIG (Office of Inspector General) conducted its own extensive investigation into the identity of the source(s) and was equally unsuccessful. After seven years of litigation, then, Convertino cannot answer the question that lies at the heart of [his] case.”

“Without knowledge of the leaker’s identity, Convertino cannot establish that DOJ acted willfully or intentionally,” the ruling said.

The BLT blog reported that Convertino’s attorney Stephen Kohn argued Monday against the judge’s ruling that additional time would not benefit Convertino’s case.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

 

Judge Tosses Ex-Fed Prosecutor’s Case Against Justice Dept.

Ex-Prosecutor Richard Convertino

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department won a legal battle against one of its own.

A D.C. federal judge on Thursday dismissed a whistleblower lawsuit by ex-Detroit federal prosecutor Richard Convertino against the Justice Department. The lawsuit alleged that the Justice leaked damaging information about an internal Justice probe into Convertino.

U.S. District Judge Royce C.  Lamberth ruled that  Convertino, after seven years, had failed to show that a Justice Department employee had leaked to  Detroit Free Press  reporter David Ashenfelter information about a Justice Department Office of Professional Responsibility Probe into Covertino’s actions during a high-profile terrorism case.  Ashenfelter published a story about the probe.

The ruling was first reported in the Detroit News.

“Despite seven years of dedicated effort, Convertino is no closer to identifying the source(s) of the leak today than he was when this litigation commenced,” the judge wrote in a ruling.

“In sum, Convertino has made a monumental effort to identify Ashenfelter’s source(s) and has had absolutely no success. Moreover, OIG (Office of Inspector General) conducted its own extensive investigation into the identity of the source(s) and was equally unsuccessful. After seven years of litigation, then, Convertino cannot answer the question that lies at the heart of [his] case.”

David Ashenfelter

“Without knowledge of the leaker’s identity, Convertino cannot establish that DOJ acted willfully or intentionally,” the ruling said.

Convertino convicted three people who were suspected of being part of a terrorist sleeper cell in Detroit. They were arrested right after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and the case became national news.

In fact, then-Attorney Gen.  John Ashcroft mistakenly said initially that the men had prior knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks.  He later corrected the misstatement.

But the convictions were overturned and he was criminally charged with misconduct in the case.  He was eventually acquitted. The entire case created serious tensions in the Detroit U.S. Attorney’s Office.

During the course of his whistleblower lawsuit, Convertino deposed Ashenfelter, a Pulitzer prize winning reporter, but failed to get him to disclose his source.

Convertino continually insisted during the lawsuit that a particular assistant U.S. Attorney had leaked the info to the Free Press. But an internal Justice Department probe failed to confirm that.

Herschel Fink, attorney for the Free Press, told Free Press reporter Joe Swickard that the decision was “a very good development for journalism … and the ability for a journalist to protect his sources.”

The Free Press said Convertino, who is in private practice, did not return calls for comment.

Read Opinion

Reporter Scores Victory in Fight to Protect Confidential Sources

The press scored a big victory in Detroit on Tuesday when a federal judge ruled that a Detroit Free Press reporter did not have to disclose sources during a deposition because he feared incriminating himself. It’s an interesting defense and an interesting ruling.

David Ashenfelter

David Ashenfelter

By Sandra Svoboda
Detroit Metro Times
DETROIT — Veteran journalist David Ashenfelter had been ordered three times to submit to a deposition in a former federal prosecutor’s lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department.

The former prosecutor, Richard Convertino, is seeking the identity of an unnamed source or sources in a January 2004article Ashenfelter wrote about an internal investigation into Convertino’s handling of a high-profile terrorism-related trial following 9/11.

Convertino won convictions against three of the four men tried, but those verdicts were overturned after it was discovered Convertino withheld evidence from the defense.

Convertino alleges that the leak was a violation of his rights under the federal Privacy Act. He can’t win his case without knowing who talked to Ashenfelter, his attorney has said.

Ashenfelter faced the possibility of jail or fines for contempt of court if he didn’t cooperate with the deposition.

Although U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland had previously ruled that Ashenfelter had to answer questions from Convertino’s attorney, Tuesday in a closed-door deposition Cleland agreed with Ashenfelter and the paper’s attorneys that the Pulitzer Prize winner had sufficient grounds for a Fifth Amendment defense – in other words he could refuse to answer questions on the grounds of possible self-incrimination.

For Full Story

Court of Appeals Orders Detroit Reporter to Answer Pre-trial Questions in Case Involving Confidential Sources

David Ashenfelter

David Ashenfelter

The chess game between an ex-federal prosecutor and a Pulitzer Prize reporter continues to play out in Detroit. The media and federal law enforcement community is watching. The latest court order came down on Thursday.

By JOE SWICKARD
Detroit Free Press
DETROIT — A federal appeals court said this afternoon that Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter will have to sit for pretrial questioning by attorneys for a former federal prosecutor wanting to find out who leaked word to Ashenfelter that he was under an internal investigation.
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Free Press attorneys had asked the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to halt the deposition process ordered by U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland for next Tuesday, but the appellate court said in a two-page order that Ashenfelter hadn’t shown Cleland abused his discretion.

Ashenfelter has refused to name his source for his 2004 story, citing First Amendment freedom of press protections and Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

The former prosecutor, Richard Convertino, came under fire and stood trial for alleged misconduct in a discredited 2003 terror trial. He has said that Ashenfelter may have conspired with the leakers to break federal laws. Convertino was acquitted in 2007 of hiding evidence from defense lawyers in the terror trial.

Cleland has said he’ll decide if Ashenfelter’s assertions are valid on a question-by-question basis.
For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Ex- New York Times Reporter Judith Miller Says Press Battle With Ex-Fed Prosecutor Shows Need For Shield Law

By Judith Miller
New York Post

ON April 20, Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter may win his second Pulitzer Prize.

Judith Miller/photo judithmiller.com

Judith Miller/photo judithmiller.com

The next day, he may head to jail.

Ashenfelter, 60, is the latest reporter to face prison for refusing to reveal his confidential sources — in this case, for a story he wrote in 2004 about alleged misconduct by a prosecutor in a terrorism case in Detroit soon after 9/11.

Jail time became a real possibility when US District Judge Robert Cleland recently refused to delay Ashenfelter’s deposition about his sources or let him take his case to an appeals court.

The case is unusual in that Ashenfelter claims that his refusal to divulge the identify of his sources is justified not only by the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech and expression, but also by the Fifth Amendment, which protects him against self-incrimination.

Many journalists have been uneasy about this invocation of the Fifth Amendment — arguing that it suggests, inaccurately, that he may have done something wrong. But the lack of a federal shield law that would legitimize his stance has forced Ashenfelter to resort to some legal creativity.

For Full Story