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Tag: Eliot Spitzer

Eric Starkman: The Unethical Preet Bharara and His Despicable Media Enablers

Eric Starkman is founder and president of STARKMAN, a public relations and crisis communications firm based in Los Angeles.  He was previously a reporter at major newspapers in the U.S. and Canada.

By Eric Starkman
For ticklethewire.com

preet-bharara-time

Growing up in Toronto I had a quintessentially Canadian view about government authority: Only bad people ran afoul of the law.

But my innocence was shattered when I was a young reporter at The Toronto Star and Ontario’s Attorney General leaked me some information about some entrepreneurs who had embarrassed his Administration that I knew to be untrue. I didn’t write the story but other reporters happily picked up the narrative, ultimately giving the government the PR cover to seize the businesses of the entrepreneurs without any due process. I’m still shaken by the abuse of power.

I naively believed that such prosecutorial wrongdoing could never happen in the U.S. My bubble was quickly burst when The Detroit News hired me as a business reporter and assigned me to cover the high profile administrative hearing of Stanford Stoddard, a maverick Michigan banker who the Comptroller of the Currency alleged had misappropriated funds from the bank he founded. In her opening statement, a young ambitious OCC attorney alleged that among Stoddard’s wrongdoings was using bank funds to purchase alcohol. As Stoddard was a devout Mormon the charge was exceptionally damning, so I asked Stoddard’s attorney about the allegation. Turns out the alcohol in question was a bottle of wine for a religious ceremony.

Former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who was lionized in the media as “The Sherriff of Wall Street,” jolted me with another wakeup call about prosecutorial wrongdoing. Spitzer and his minions routinely spread false or misleading information about my former client Dick Grasso after he was forced out of the New York Stock Exchange because of bogus allegations the former chairman and CEO was overpaid. An example of Team Spitzer’s dishonesty was leaking a document that showed Grasso’s son accompanied him on the private jet the NYSE chartered so Grasso could host a reception at Davos, Switzerland. Spitzer’s team neglected to provide the documentation showing that Grasso reimbursed the NYSE for the cost of his son’s trip.

Preet Bharara, who was just fired as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, took Spitzer’s prosecutorial abuse to an even higher level. For a time, Bharara was an even bigger media darling than Spitzer, garnering fawning media coverage for his high-profile cases, including this gusher of a puff piece by William Cohan in Fortune. Bharara loved the media limelight, routinely holding news conferences to trump up publicity for his cases and leaking damaging allegations to obsequious reporters who gladly published them and abetted in the smearing of his targets before they had an opportunity to defend themselves.

As Jesse Eisinger noted last week in Pro Publica, Bharara was no hero. His prosecutorial track record was mixed, as several of his high-profile cases were overturned on appeal. And his practice of arguing his cases in the media earned him the opprobrium of the judge overseeing his case against Sheldon Silver, the former NY Democratic State Assembly speaker, who charged that Bharara’s media blitz “strayed so close to the rules governing his own conduct.”

Even Cohan came to appreciate Bharara’s unethical behavior, publishing this impressive story about the questionable tactics used to pressure former hedge fund manager Todd Newman to settle insider trading charges. Bharara tellingly was too tongue tied to talk to Cohan for a story that was critical of him.

Sadly, the universe of reporters who appreciate the dangers of prosecutorial abuse is limited to a handful of some very experienced reporters.  One of them is New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, who has written critically about Bharara and presumably played a meaningful role in the critical portrayal of U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades in the Showtime series “Billions.” (Sorkin is one of the show’s creators).  The Rhoades character is clearly based on Bharara, replete with the latter’s petulance and media manipulation. The show also admirably is unkind in its portrayal of a reporter and his pursuit of a scoop.

Best-selling author Michael Lewis took up the cause of Sergey Aleynikov, the Goldman Sachs programmer who was convicted and sentenced to prison for stealing computer code, Jim Stewart wrote about the questionable charges leveled against Zachary Warren, and Joe Norcera wrote an admirable column about the shameful prosecution of Charlie Engle.

Diane Brady, among the fairest and most ethical journalists, recently commented that stories based on leaked documents should be held to the same reporting standards as any news story.  That’s an admirable requirement, but regretfully we’ve entered the Brian Stelter media age, where reporters who publish leaked documents and give anonymous people a platform for their political agendas are deemed “investigative journalists.”

The media can’t be counted on to protect against prosecutorial wrongdoing. But with Bharara out of office, the Southern District is momentarily a safer place for innocent people.

 

Number 2 at NY U.S. Atty. Office Leaving; Was Once Considered to Lead DEA

Boyd Johnson III/doj photo

 
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Boyd M. Johnson III, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s number 2 person, whose name had surfaced in 2009 as a contender to fill DEA’s top spot, is leaving government to join a private law firm, Globe Newswire reported.

Johnson plans to join the firm of WilmerHale in New York as a partner.

The New York Times reports that he will be replaced by Richard B. Zabel, who has run the office’s criminal division over the past two years.

Johnson, who had served in the number two spot since U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was appointed in 2009. He has overseen a number of major criminal prosecutions including the Bernie Madoff and Eliot Spitzer cases.

In 2009, his name was among of handful of candidates being mentioned for the director spot at DEA. The White House eventually went with Michele Leonhart, who had been the acting director for years.

 

Court Denies NY Times Access to Wiretap Document for Prostitution Ring Patronized by Eliot Spitzer

Let’s forget the legal arguments here. For entertainment sake, how can the court deprive the public the pleasure of seeing these sizzling documents?

Ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer

Ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer

By ANNIE YOUDERIAN
Courthouse News Service

The New York Times has not shown “good cause” to unseal wiretap applications in the investigation of a prostitution ring once patronized by former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the 2nd Circuit ruled Friday.

A three-judge panel in Manhattan overturned U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff’s order granting the Times access to sealed wiretap applications and orders in the Emperors Club investigation
.
The 2nd Circuit also held that the newspaper does not have a First Amendment right to view the requested documents.

For Full Story

Ex-Gov Eliot Spitzer Met Regularly With Hookers For 18 Months Before He Resigned

From Emperors Club
Emperors Club

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Eliot Spitzer — or “Client 9″ as he’s known in some ledger books — is back in the news again.

A lawyer for an ex-worker at the infamous Emperors Club V.I.P. said outside a federal courtroom Monday that his client revealed that Spitzer met regularly with hookers for 18 months before his political demise, the Associated Press reported

Attorney Marc Agnifilo made the comments after his client Temeka Lewis was sentenced to a year of probation, the AP reported.

Lewis pleaded guilty in May 2008 to conspiracy charges. The FBI investigated Spitzer and even surveilled him in Washington, but never charged him.

In a press release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said  Lewis ” arranged over the phone in January 2008 for a prostitute to meet a man at a hotel in New York, New York, and on another occasion, for a prostitute to travel from New York to Washington, D.C. to meet a man in his hotel room.”

Read Press Release

Feds to Fight Judge’s Order to Release Documents in Eliot Spitzer Probe

Ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer

Ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer

Ok. There’s two levels of interest when it comes to these documents. One level: Did the government have justification to go as far as it did to get wiretaps and follow Eliot Spitzer to the landmark hotel, the Mayflower, in Washington? The second level is purely fodder for the tabloids: Juicy details of the underground life of a high profile and sometimes abrasive politician who had a promising future in the Democratic party.

By William K. Rashbaum
New York Times
NEW YORK — Prosecutors of the prostitution case that exposed Eliot Spitzer as a client while he was governor are appealing a court order directing them to unseal records that may shed light on the origins of the investigation. The case led to Mr. Spitzer’s resignation as governor of New York in March 2008.

The Feb. 19 ruling by Jed S. Rakoff of United States District Court in Manhattan ordered the federal prosecutors to provide the records – including sworn affidavits that were part of wiretap applications in the case – to The New York Times, which in December filed a motion to unseal the material.

The prosecutors, from the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, filed a notice in court on Monday saying that they would appeal Judge Rakoff’s ruling to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, a decision that was made by senior Justice Department officials in Washington.

For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Now This Should Be Interesting: Judge Orders Feds to Release Documents in Eliot Spitzer Probe

Eliot Spitzer

Eliot Spitzer

The documents should give us some interesting insights into Eliot Spitzer  and the FBI investigation. Some say the probe was politically motivated and the feds wouldn’t have normally gone so far in a prostitution case. Others say there was enough suspicion of possible corruption to carry out the probe. Documents should be released next week.

By William K. Rashbaum
New York Times

A federal judge on Thursday ordered the federal prosecutors whose investigation exposed former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s involvement with a prostitute to unseal court records that may shed some light on the origins of the case that led to his resignation in March 2008.

The judge, Jed S. Rakoff of Federal District Court in Manhattan, ordered federal prosecutors to provide the records – sworn affidavits that were part of wiretap applications in the case – to The New York Times, which in December filed a motion to have the material unsealed.

Prosecutors argued that the documents should not be released, citing the privacy concerns of the more than 60 apparent clients of the prostitution ring who were intercepted and the need for confidentiality of law enforcement investigations.

But The Times agreed to the redaction of the names of the apparent clients and Judge Rakoff said that there was no longer a need for confidentiality concerning the investigation, which has concluded with charges against four people involved in the ring. Mr. Spitzer was never charged with a crime.

The judge, in ruling for the newspaper, wrote that “there is obvious interest in obtaining information about the origins of an investigation that led, ultimately, to the resignation of the governor of New York.”

For Full Story

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