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Tag: Federal Defender

Parker: Congress’s Brutal Sequester of Federal Defenders Offices Harms Law Enforcement

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.

Ross Parker

 
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com
 

Congress has modified the Miranda rights:

You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, an attorney will be appointed to represent you, that is, if he or she is not furloughed, laid off or too busy to pay any attention to you.

The initial reaction by some federal prosecutors and agents to the disproportionate and devastating sequestration cuts imposed on Federal Defenders Offices by Congress’s absurd sequester might have ranged from indifference to outright glee. But the reality is that the crisis for that program has harmful implications for the government’s side of the aisle in addition to undermining criminal defendants’ rights. The cuts result in hidden costs to the public and will damage both public safety and the rule of law.

In the 2013 fiscal year FDOs were forced to impose over 100.000 furlough hours on their staff, an average of about four weeks of unpaid leave per person. Many offices have permanently laid off attorneys and staff, including investigators. They have terminated future involvement in death penalty cases as well as curtailed representing complex fraud defendants and in other time consuming and expensive cases. Most have greatly curtailed or eliminated expenses for experts, investigations, and interpreters.

In contrast the Department of Justice has gotten off relatively lightly by being allowed to reallocate its budget in order to avoid most furloughs with some belt tightening. No such clemency for defense attorneys.

FDO caseloads have been creeping up for years because of Congress’s decisions not to allow defense budgets to keep up with DOJ’s. Decimating their budget further can only pile on more cases to this crushing load. A diehard FDO attorney told me recently that work he used to love had become so oppressive that he was casting about for any kind of employment to escape the impossible demands.

That’s the bad news for FDOs. The really bad news is that starting on October 1st in Fiscal Year 2014, the cuts will double. Many offices will be forced to lay off from one-third to one-half of their offices. They may be the lucky ones because those left will inherit a crippled system incapable of functioning effectively even with reduced caseloads. The Attorney General has stated that the cuts threaten the integrity of the criminal justice system to ensure due process.

Read more »

Defense Attorney Still Questions Whether FBI Agent’s Text Messages Were Destroyed: Govt. Says It Did Nothing Wrong

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
The legal battle between the defense and prosecution is heating up in an undercover FBI sting into gun trafficking in the Philippines.

The battle began when deputy Federal Defender John Littrell in Los Angeles accused a a California undercover FBI agent of using taxpayer dollars to pay for prostitutes in the Philippines for himself and targets of the sting. The agent, in court papers, adamantly denied the allegation.

Then Littrell filed a motion last month alleging that the government only saved incoming text messages the FBI agent received from the targets, but didn’t save the ones that the agent sent out to the targets. Littrelle suggested the government may have intentionally destroyed the texts, which might be of  help in proving entrapment.

The government in a document filed on Oct. 24, said  that the undercover phone, which was a pre-paid phone purchased in the Philippines, was not capable of saving outgoing messages the agent sent to the defendants.

The government also noted that another phone used by the agent was lost in a cab in the Philippines and was not recovered.

“The government acted in good faith at all times, and there is no reason to believe that the agents’ outgoing texts were exculpatory in any way, particularly in light of the very incriminating nature of the defendants’ email, text, and other communications to the agent,” the government wrote.

But on Thursday, defense attorney Littrell, who represents one of three defendants, Sergio Syjuco, wrote in a motion:

In its opposition, the government admits that the undercover agent failed to preserve any of the outgoing text messages he sent during the 18-month investigation in this case. The government’s excuse for the undercover agent’s failure to preserve his outgoing messages from September 2010 to May 2011 (the “first phone”) was that  he lost the phone in a taxi in Manila. Its excuse for the undercover agent’s failure to preserve his outgoing text messages from May 2011 to January 5, 2012 (the “second phone”), was that the “undercover phone did not save outgoing text messages, and they are “not available on the undercover telephone.” The government does not explain why messages are unavailable on the second phone, and it does not attach a declaration from the agent. It does not rule out the possibility that the undercover agent deliberately lost the first phone, or deleted the messages or altered the settings on the second phone to prevent it from saving outgoing texts. The government says only that “there were no messages in the “sent” box.” This explanation is not complete, and it is not convincing.

The fight continues. Stay tuned.

Lawyer Claims Oregon Teen Was Entrapped by FBI

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The federal defender for the Oregon teen accused of trying to detonate a fake bomb in an FBI sting, is claiming his client was entrapped by the government, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a Somali-American, pleaded not guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Portland to charges he tried detonating a van filled with fake explosives at a crowded holiday celebration last Friday in Portland, Ore.

The Los Angeles Times reported that federal defender Stephen R. Sady told the judge the FBI had been “basically grooming” Mohamud for months to commit a terrorist act.

He also expressed concern that the FBI’s failed to record agents’ first meeting with Mohamud. Subsequent meetings were recorded.

“In cases involving potential entrapment, it’s the first meeting that matters,” Sady said, according to the paper. “The first meeting was not recorded.”

The paper reported that after the hearing, Sady and Steven Wax, the federal public defender, released a statement saying the FBI’s sting “raises significant concerns about the government manufacturing crime — or entrapment.”

“The affidavit reveals that government agents suggested key actions to this teenager, spent thousands of dollars on him, specified components, drove Mr. Mohamud around, and were instrumental in setting up” the purported bombing attempt, they said, according to the paper.

Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. told reporters on Monday that he was “confident that there is no entrapment here, and no entrapment claim will be found to be successful,” the paper reported.

Holder said undercover FBI agents gave the teen numerous chances “to retreat, to take a different path. He chose at every step to continue.”

To read more click here.

Read FBI Affidavit

Disgraced Ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Pleads Poverty: Gets Fed Court Appointed Attorney

Appointed Atty. James Thomas/law firm photo

Appointed Atty. James Thomas/law firm photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Disgraced ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who lived the good life on the outside, is getting a federally court-appointed attorney after pleading poverty Tuesday during his arraignment on federal corruption charges in Detroit, the Detroit News reported.

The News reported that Kilpatrick, clad in a jail suit, said “that is correct” when U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald A. Scheer asked if he couldn’t afford to hire an attorney.

The Detroit Free Press reported that Federal Defenders Office made one of  Kilpatrick’s attorneys  James Thomas, the court-appointed attorneys. Thomas is a well-known defense lawyer who has appeared in many high profile cases in U.S. District Court in Detroit over the years.

Ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick/official photo

Ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick/official photo

Thomas, who was in court, told the judge Kilpatrick has no funds, the News reported.

Kilpatrick is currently serving a state prison term for violating probation and hiding assets that should have went to help pay $1 million in restitution to the city. He had served a jail term for lying on the stand during a whistleblower lawsuit in state court.

The latest charges in federal court include allegations that he spent money donated to the Kilpatrick Civic Fund on travel, yoga lessons and other personal expenses.