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Tag: federal prosecutor

Column: Ex-Fed Drug Prosecutor Says He’s Found a Book by Drug Policy Wonks Worth Reading

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.

Ross Parker

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

How many books have you read recently that actually changed your thinking on opinions you have held near and dear for decades?

Not many, I wager. In my case, damn few. Like most people I read for entertainment, education, reinforcement, seldom to challenge firmly held views.

As a three-decade drug prosecutor, I admit to some biases and assumptions, which place me among the anti-drug ranter ranks.

Not an “Okie from Muskogee” (Merle Haggard 1969) ranter, but one who is nevertheless skeptical of policy wonks, social “scientists,” and any “expert” who claims to have the answer to the cluster you-know-what which drug use, trafficking, and enforcement have been for the last 80 years in this country.

The book “Drugs and Drug Policy; What Everyone Needs to Know” by Mark A.R. Kleiman, Jonathan P. Caulkins and Angela Hawken (don’t let the deadly title scare you off) challenged some of my views and probably some of those of the readers of this paper. I haven’t converted to a legalization advocate or anything. Nor are the authors of this book.

But they do ask and try to answer some tough questions that permeate this confusingly complex subject. Or else they admit that the question is presently unanswerable.

The book avoids the vocabulary employed by experts in the field that is intended to demonstrate that their academic expertise puts them on a higher plain than the rest of us.

Even technical terms like capture rates and demand elasticity are deciphered in plain English sufficiently to make the point.

Kleiman, a professor of Public Policy at UCLA,   and his two partners, don’t claim to have all the answers or that progress will be easy. But they do ask the right questions, and their answers and discussions can benefit anyone connected to the subject—users and enforcers, policy makers and implementers, innocent bystanders and citizens.

Some of their suggestions do not pass the squirm factor, some seem impractical, others unlikely to ever claim a consensus. But a good number seem worth serious consideration and debate, including a few that concern law enforcement. Here are a couple:

1. Focus enforcement, especially the sanction of longer sentences, on traffickers who use violence and destruction, menace neighborhoods, and cause collateral damage to others. Conduct, not drug volume, should drive enforcement. Dealers not in these categories should be subject to routine attention and sanctions.

2. Eliminate long-delayed punishments for drug dealers like ineligibility for public housing, educational loans, and the like. These serve only retribution and make it more difficult for those who want to join the mainstream.

3. Reduce the number of dealers in prison from the present half million. Reducing sentences for non-violent, run-of-the-mill dealers would have no effect on drug supply and would free up more resources to target more culpable dealers. Plus reduce the pressure on governments to transfer education dollars to prisons.

Drugs and Drug Policy proposes over a dozen other suggestions in areas like treatment, health care, international supply control, harm reduction programs, alcohol and cigarette taxes, consumer marijuana cultivation, and a bunch more.

There will be the temptation for policymakers to applaud the ones they already agree with and reject the others. As if the status quo is so rosy we can’t afford some fresh thought on the subject.

Not all wonks are created equal. These three are worth reading with an open mind.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Man Convicted in Chicago of Conspiring to Kill Fed Prosecutor and DEA Agent

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A former university research technologist was convicted Monday in Chicago of conspiring to kill a federal prosecutor and DEA agent, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The paper reported that it all began two years ago when Frank Caira told a friend that he wanted to make the prosecutor Shoshana Gillers and DEA agent Patrick Bagley, who were pushing his drug case, go away. From there, the plot began to develop.

The plot also included a plan to kill a dog belonging to attorney Jed Stone,who had represented Caira on charges of manufacturing drugs in his Downers Grove, Ill. home, the Tribune reported.

Authorities learned of the plot from a gang member, the Trib reported.

To read the full story click here.

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NY Crime Boss Testifies in Court; Makes Mafia History

Joseph Massino/gov photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

In what’s being billed as a first, a boss of one of the five New York crime families took the stand Tuesday to testify in court for the government.

No New York boss had ever done that before, though it’s generally accepted that the code of silence aint’ what it used to be in the mob.

Joseph C.  Massino, 68, who headed the Bonanno Crime Family in New York for 14 years, and is now behind bars, testified in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn against his successor,  Vincent Basicano,  who is accused of killing Bonanno associate Randolph Pizzolo, the New York Daily News reported. Basciano is already serving a life sentence for a murder and racketeering conviction in 2007.

Massino testified Tuesday that while in prison with Basicano, he  recorded him talking about the killing, the Daily News reported.

“He told me that he had him killed,” Massino testified.  “He said he was a scumbag, a rat, a troublemaker, a bad kid.”

The New York Times reported that Massino became a government snitch after his July 2004 conviction for murder and racketeering. At the time, the government talked about going after the death penalty against Massino. But Massino, as part of his plea,  pleaded guilty to eight more murders and got two consecutive life terms. On the upside, his wife and daughter were allowed to keep their homes.

After his conviction, the Times reports, that Massino offered up info that Basciano was plotting to kill a federal prosecutor and U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, who is presiding over the current trial.

Attorney Barry Levin, who represented Basciano in a 2006 trial,  told the Times that Massino was a “pathological liar” and that the government “had welcomed him with open arms only to prove they could break a boss.” He also said the prosecution was a waste of millions of dollar of government money considering Basciano is already serving a life sentence.

Basciano faces a possible death sentence if convicted.

Read NY Daily News Story

Read NY Times Story

FBI Tries to Keep Unsolved Murder of Seattle Fed Prosecutor in Public Eye

Thomas Crane Wales/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is trying to keep the unsolved 2001 murder of Seattle federal prosecutor Thomas Crane Wales out in the public eye.

The latest: The FBI has posted on its website a summary of the case along with Wales’ photo and reminder that the Justice Department is offering up to a $1 million reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the gunman.

Authorities said Wales, who was a federal prosecutor for more than 18 years, was shot in his basement around 10:40 p.m. on Oct. 11, 2001 as he sat at a desk working on his computer.

Authorities said the shooter stood in the backyard of Wales’ home and shot him several times through a basement. Wales died the next day.

Wales graduated from Harvard University in 1974 and went to Hofstra Law School. He joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle in 1983 and specialized in fraud prosecutions. He is survived by two adult children.

Investigators Looking at Serial Killer in 2001 Murder of Seattle Fed Prosecutor

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Investigators are looking at an imprisoned serial killer and former FBI informant as a possible suspect in the 2001 murder of Seattle federal prosecutor Tom Wales, the Boulder Daily Camera reports.

Wales, 49,  and a father of two, was sitting in front of his computer in the basement of his home on Oct. 11, 2001 when he was shot and killed by someone in his backyard, the Camera reported.  For quite some time, authorities have been focusing on a Seattle businessman whom Wales unsuccessfully prosecuted.

Authorities are now looking at serial killer Scott Kimball, 44, who spent time in Seattle and told the FBI months and years after the killing that he had information about the case, the Camera reported. Kimball was  sentenced last year to 70 years in prison for killing his uncle and three Colorado women in 2003 and 2004, the paper reported. He is also a suspect in other murders.

To read more click here.

All Star Clemens Adds Ex-Fed Prosecutor to Defense Team

Michael Attanasio/law firm photo

Michael Attanasio/law firm photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Seven- time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens, who was indicted last week on charges of lying to Congress about steroid use, is adding a former federal prosecutor to his team, ESPN.com reports.

Michael Attanasio, a federal prosecutor in Washington from 1991 to 1999, who is now a partner in the firm Cooley LLP of San Diego, is hopping aboard the defense team. The firm has a D.C. office.

The all-star defense team once included prominent Washington attorney Lanny Breuer, who was with Clemens when he testified in 2008 before Congress, ESPN.com reported. Breuer now heads up the Justice Department’s criminal division.

Lanny Breuer

Lanny Breuer

“Everybody wants to say we should have a Washington lawyer, and they may be right,” one of Clemens’ defense attorneys, Rusty Hardin of Houston, who noted that  Attanasio is based in San Diego, told ESPN. “But Mike was with the DOJ [Department of Justice] for eight years out of Washington and he knows his way around there.”

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

ATF and FBI Investigate Fire Involving Fed Prosecutor’s Mailbox

mailboxBy Allan lengel
ticklethewire.com

There are mailboxes. And then there are mailboxes that belong to federal prosecutors.

As for the latter, those mailboxes get special attention.

The Palm Beach Post reports that the FBI, ATF and U.S. Postal Service are investigating a firework on Sunday that triggered a fire in the mailbox of an assistant U.S. Attorney in Caloosa, Fla., just north of Palm Beach Gardens.

The paper reported that Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department sent out a bomb squad to investigate and the FBI and ATF have now joined in.

Still, it may be nothing more than a prank.

“It looks more like malicious mischief at this time,” ATF spokesman Carlos Baixauli told the paper. “We don’t know if the people knew she was a U.S. Attorney, or if it was somebody having fun trying to blow up a mailbox. Right now we have nothing to believe it was intended for her.”

Son of Defendant Punches Maryland Fed Prosecutor After Sentencing

boxing glove
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Under things you don’t do in court, comes Raymond V. Jones.

The Washington Examiner reports that Jones on Nov. 16th punched Assistant U.S. Attorney James Crowell IV  in the head with a closed fist in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md.,  after watching his  mother Jennifer McCall get sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison. She had been involved in a $17 million mortgage fraud scheme.

Security officers subdued Jones, who was released into the custody of his grandmother after being charged with inflicting bodily harm, the paper and court records show.

His mother’s case gained particular notoriety when she spent $800,000 of the stolen money on her wedding. Must have been some wedding.

Read Deputy U.S. Marshals’ Affidavit