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Tag: Ross Parker

Detroit U.S. Attorney’s Office Takes Time Out to Celebrate Its 200th Anniversary

l-r from the top: Ross Parker; Judge Gerald Rosen; The crowd; U.S. Attorney McQuade

l-r From the top: Ross Parker; Judge Gerald Rosen; The crowd; U.S. Attorney McQuade

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT —  Federal court, more often than not, is a pretty serious place.

But on Wednesday, judges, prosecutors, attorneys, courthouse staff and members of the media gathered on the first floor of the U.S. District Courthouse in downtown Detroit to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The crowd included some former U.S. Attorneys: Saul Green and Jeff Collins and Judges Terrence Berg and Stephen Murphy. Some of the federal judges included chief Judge Gerald Rosen, Judge Paul Borman and Judge Bernard Friedman.

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade delivered some remarks, calling the U.S. Attorney’s Office the best law firm in the state. Ross Parker, a former chief of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and a columnist for ticklethewire.com, gave a talk about the history of the office.

Parker is the author of the book “Carving Out the Rule of Law: The History of the United States Attorney’s Office e in Eastern Michigan 1815–2008.″

Column: FBI Agent Critical of Ex-Official Defending the Agency

FBI agent Theresa Foley was the first full-time female FBI agent to be stationed at Guantanamo. She has filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department, saying she was made to bunk with vermin that gave her a tropical disease. Theresa Foley has undergone multiple surgeries since contracting the disease and has been disabled and is living with her parents. She claims her disease was made worse when the FBI refused to let her stand and instead made her kneel in the traditional stance during firearms qualification.The lawsuit also says she was ostracized for refusing to join in a “spring break” atmosphere in which agents were encouraged to drink, date and frolic during off hours.Her lawsuit alleges sexual discrimination and harassment, employment discrimination based on disability and gender and retaliation. 

Theresa Foley/family photo

 
By Theresa Foley
For ticklethewire.com

My name is Theresa Foley and many months ago you printed a letter my Mother wrote regarding the extension of FBI Director Mueller and her thoughts as to what occurred to me on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

It was a sad letter for me to read and several weeks after that I underwent a difficult surgery, thus never wrote. In the past week Mr. Ross Parker commented on the Penn State scandal, mentioning FBI Special Agent Jane Turner and all she had been through.

Mr. Michael Mason responded to this, affronted that the FBI was likened to the Penn State situation due to the reference from Ms. Turner that “It takes enormous strength to put one’s moral integrity over your personal inclination to protect fellow colleagues who have committed malfeasance, or criminal activity…It simply boils down to the fact that those in power have a stronger desire to preserve the reputation of their institution, than taking the road of truth or justice. Entities like Penn State, the Catholic Church and the FBI all share something in common; they operate in an insular world where rules or laws that apply to everyone else, do not apply to them.”

As my Mother noted, I was an FBI Agent assigned to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I was assigned out of the Washington Field Office, when Mr. Mason was ADIC (Assistant Director in Charge).

Frankly, I was disappointed in his column, but not surprised in his defense of the FBI, praising Jane Turner at the end, but disagreeing with her statement. A jury agreed with Ms. Turner, yet to this day, no individuals have ever been held accountable for what occurred with her.

Due to legal issues, I will not comment on those in leadership at the WFO who could have stepped in and obtained some justice.

Their answer, in the few meetings reportedly held regarding what occurred with me, was to tell those who spoke up for me to “back off” and to transfer me. I found the chain of command to be broken, from Guantanamo to WFO, to FBIHQ, Boston and back.

I hope they are at peace exiting those meetings with their lack of truth seeking. One does not become a leader in the FBI speaking out about bad behavior, malfeasance and criminal conduct. Once you speak out, your career is over. Quite a few can attest to this, and the trial of Jane Turner is just a small indication of what goes on once you report “bad behavior”.

I arrived on Guantanamo in the fall of 2003 full of life and whole. I left almost ten months later, never to return, ill, broken and beat down. I arrived idealistically with the idea that it was the most important assignment in the FBI due to the war on terror.

Read more »

Column: Ex-FBI Official Mike Mason Challenges Comment by FBI Profiler on Penn State Scandal

Michael Mason, a former assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, retired as the executive assistant director at FBI headquarters in 2007. His column is in response to a column ex-fed prosecutor Ross Parker wrote in the form of a  letter to his son about the Penn State Scandal in which he quoted Jane Turner, an FBI psychological profiler, who said: “It takes enormous strength to put one’s moral integrity over your personal inclination to protect fellow colleagues who have committed malfeasance, or criminal activity. The FBI, like Penn State and the Catholic Church, are entities that allows their personnel to report allegations up a chain of command but those in positions of power or change, fail to take immediate or strong actions.”

Mike Mason/fbi photo

 
 
By Michael Mason
for ticklethewire.com

I have tried for the past two days to get beyond Ross Parker’s letter to his son and specifically the reference he made to the FBI via a piece apparently written by FBI profiler Jane Turner.

I too, have sons and have always taught them to stand tall when faced with moral imperatives.

I have shared with them many times that never in my FBI career was I ashamed to look at myself in the mirror for my conduct or that of my colleagues regarding the decisions we were called upon to make on a daily basis. I have shared with them times when agents have gone astray and been held accountable for doing so. I have shared with them the times I had to take a stand against conventional wisdom and against my own best interest and proudly did so.

I am not alone in any of the above. I did not inhabit an insular world. As you know I left the FBI as an Executive Assistant Director and there is not a single day of my entire career for which I am ashamed of or would be afraid to put on the front page of the Washington Post or New York Times.

I am proud of the many internal discussions we had in the FBI about choosing the right course of action in a myriad of situations most would find extremely challenging. Did we always choose the right course of action, perhaps not, but I can tell you and the readers of Ticklethewire that we left those meetings believing we had done so.

I never left any such meeting with my head hung low, ashamed that I, or one of my colleagues, had not spoken up when the occasion required us to do so.

I believed I wrestled with enough truly challenging decisions over the course of my career that teaching a masters level philosophy course would have been a natural role for me and many others to fill in retirement. So when I read comments about the FBI, even from FBI employees such as Jane Turner, I find myself wondering to what, specifically, they are referring.

Now that I am in the private sector, I can assure you the significant decisions made by the FBI are more exposed to the light of public opinion than virtually any such decisions made in this arena.

My point here is not to suggest the FBI was or will ever be flawless in their decision making processes or in the execution of their sworn duties. However, throughout my career I worked with some of the hardest working, most honest people I have ever met. I have seen FBI employees give more of themselves than the average American will ever be asked to give.

Every day of their respective careers they tried desperately to do the right thing. So try as I might to simply read Parker’s article and move on, I have been unable to do so. What was essentially a “drive-by” comment linking the unfortunate incident at Penn State to the general environment at the FBI demands a response. Parker’s use of Turner’s piece in his letter to his son suggest at a minimum he agrees with her statement. I categorically do not.

I have no doubt that both Jane Turner and Ross Parker are very fine individuals who served the public well. I have no doubt Parker’s son, if he follows his dad’s advice, will become a fine young man as well.

However, I believe the exact same thing about my two sons and dozens of other sons and daughters of FBI employees who have dispense similar advice to their children.

Far from an “insular world” the one I inhabited while serving in the FBI dealt with extraordinarily complex situations which often called for very difficult decisions. Never did I find my colleagues shrinking from their responsibility to try and make the right call.

Ex-Fed Prosecutor: A Letter to My Son on Moral Decisions in Light of Penn State

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

Dear Son,

As your enthusiasm builds for leaving home and going off to college in a few months, I want to talk with you about having to make on-the-spot moral, legal, and social decisions when you are on your own.

As you know, the news has been filled with reports and commentary about the alleged incidents at Penn State involving former Defensive Coach Jerry Sandusky sexually molesting disadvantaged young boys who participated in his charity. He has denied the charges in the indictment, and due process of law will determine his guilt or innocence.

Up for discussion in the unforgiving public forum are the actions of Assistant Coach Mike McQueary who, on March 1, 2002 at 9:30 p.m., while he was a grad assistant entered the practice facility to obtain some video tapes to review. He heard noises from the shower area and went to investigate. According to reports of his grand jury testimony, he was “distraught” when he saw Sandusky raping a ten-year old boy.

It is unclear what happened next. McQueary apparently made no mention in the grand jury about intervening to save the child, but in the last couple days he has hinted that he forced Sandusky to stop. He then called his father, with whom he had a close relationship, for advice on what to do next. Then he contacted Coach Joe Paterno and reported the incident. Later he also told two other Athletic Department officials. These three, however, say that his report was not detailed enough to cause them to take further action of some kind.

It is clear that no one reported the crime to the police or to Child Protective Services. Allegedly Sandusky’s access to the children and the Penn State facilities was not restricted, and he inflicted other such assaults on children during the nine years that have followed. Both Paterno and McQueary continued to publicly support Sandusky’s charitable activities.

The public reaction to McQueary and Paterno has ranged from commendation to vilification. Paterno, probably the most revered football coach in America, was summarily fired and McQueary, perhaps because of his legal protection as a whistleblower, has been placed on paid administrative leave. Probably neither will have any connection to college football again.

The issue worth thinking about is whether McQueary’s response, whatever it was, presents a moral and legal lesson for the rest of us. In my generation a woman named Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death in New York’s Central Park while dozens failed to take action when they heard her cries for help. Social psychologists have labeled the phenomenon diffusion of responsibility or bystander effect, but the bottom line is that, when confronted with a moral imperative, people who could have saved her life failed to act.

McQueary has been showered with the moral opprobrium of the commentators who have assumed he failed to stop the assault. They have hastened to assure their listeners that they would have assuredly stepped up stopped the violence and called the cops. Jane Turner, an FBI psychological profiler who specializes in child sex crimes, however has indicated that in her experience most people would have walked away as McQueary is alleged to have done. She writes:

“It takes enormous strength to put one’s moral integrity over your personal inclination to protect fellow colleagues who have committed malfeasance, or criminal activity. The FBI, like Penn State and the Catholic Church, are entities that allows their personnel to report allegations up a chain of command but those in positions of power or change, fail to take immediate or strong actions. It simply boils down to the fact that those in power have a stronger desire to preserve the reputation of their institution, than taking the road of truth or justice. Entities like Penn State, the Catholic Church and the FBI all share something in common; they operate in an insular world where rules or laws that apply to everyone else, do not apply to them.”

Early in my career as a prosecutor, my boss Len Gilman made it clear to us that our job was to do what was right even if we as individuals or our office had to pay the price of being embarrassed or worse. And a couple times we were.

Assume for the sake of this letter that Mike McQueary is neither a hero nor a villain but just a guy who hesitated, as a majority of others would have in 2002, when suddenly confronted with a terrible moral issue. Just a guy who knew that the price to be paid for more aggressive action would be to jeopardize the head coach he idolized, the powerful institution and football program to which he was so loyal, and the future he wanted so badly.

So he called his dad for guidance, then Joe Pa. And that apparently was it, for nine years, until it hit the fan, as it seems with increasing frequency to do. If we have learned nothing else from the massive tragedy that has so damaged the Catholic Church, it is that doing nothing, protecting people and institutions that seem so invulnerable at the time, will usually be disastrous for everyone concerned. And now a legend will die, a great university tarnished for a generation and saddled with millions of dollars of civil settlements, and an apparently otherwise fine young man’s dreams dashed forever. Worst of all, boys who had tough enough lives already were damaged by a man who should have been isolated so he couldn’t harm others.

Son, I hope you always have the luxury of time for meditation and parental guidance before you have to act on a moral issue. But if you don’t, consider this your father’s advice.

Demonstrate the courage I know you have to step up, do what is right, protect the vulnerable, call the police and support them in any way they ask. If there is a price to pay, we will share it together and you will be compensated by the respect of your family and friends.

Oh, and call your mother once in a while.

Dad

Prosecutors Need More Accountability

Some believe that prosecutors are the most powerful figures in the criminal justice system. Many of their decisions are virtually unreviewable: charging, case disposition, dismissals, plea bargains, and sentence recommendations, to name a few. Local and State prosecutors can be held accountable to the voters.. But given the power of incumbency, that checks and balance is rarely exercised.

The advent of DNA exoneration reversals (233 at last count) in the last decade has hammered home the point: The criminal justice system is not perfect. A 2003 study by the Center for Public Integrity claims that prosecutorial misconduct contributed to decisions on charge dismissals, conviction reversals, and reduced sentences in 2,012 cases since 1970.

Conversely, some say, given the millions of cases during that 23 year period, the “error rate” of less than .1 % is probably the lowest of any civilization in human history. Likewise, almost everyone active in the system would probably say that that rate has fallen dramatically in the last half-century with the judicial reforms of criminal procedure.

Still, a raw number of instances of material misconducts in the thousands is alarming to a public who blithely assumed that the system was always right and that procedural reforms have guaranteed that no innocent person could get convicted.The misconduct figure, plus various estimates of 1% or higher of wrongful convictions, i.e., conviction of the factually innocent, have spawned a nationwide movement to require more transparency and accountability for prosecutorial decision-making.

Such groups as The Justice Project conclude: “This lack of accountability has led to widespread abuse of prosecutorial power, and a flawed and inaccurate criminal justice system.”

In response to this over-generalization, the group recommends sweeping reforms, including: Clearly defined official policies and procedures, open file discovery, documentation of all witness and informant agreements, mandatory judicial reporting of every instance of prosecutorial misconduct, and a review board to investigate and sanction any such misconduct.

For those of us who were and are federal prosecutors, these “reforms” are essentially the status quo, but for many state prosecutors, these changes would severely curtail the wide discretion in which such an overworked system has come to depend.

The Project also advocates wide ranging reform to criminal procedures generally, including: improving and standardizing eyewitness identification practices, electronic recording of interrogations and confessions, expanded discovery rights, and higher standards for the performance of counsel in capital cases.

No doubt some jurisdictions need some of these reforms. Scientific studies on the need for more objective lineup protocols and methods of avoiding false confessions are increasingly persuasive.

Forensic testing problems, likewise, are likely to receive more attention by a public which is getting used to the forensic infallibility of the many television shows on the subject.

The mind-boggling misconduct alleged in the prosecution of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, and its very public consequences, demonstrates that even federal prosecutors are not immune from such controversies.

Every case like Stevens fosters a new wave of increased and unjustified public cynicism that prosecutors commonly railroad the innocent. The significant difference in these high profile federal cases is that it is the Justice Department itself which has aggressively investigated and taken action in response to allegations of such behavior.

The public is largely unaware that there is a highly effective review and accountability function in the federal system. The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is a meaningful deterrent of misconduct, as well as a source of exoneration for federal prosecutors unfairly accused of misconduct.

Prosecutors, both state and federal, cannot ignore this “reform” movement. They need to participate actively in the public forum, contribute to legislative debate, and acknowledge that, in some jurisdictions, and in some areas of the criminal justice system, changes need to be made.

Ross Parker, a former assistant U.S. Attorney,  is the author of a new book: “Carving Out the Rule of Law: The History of the United States Attorney’s Office in Eastern Michigan 1815-2008”  The book is available on amazon.com and rparker54@comcast.net.

Griffin Bell’s Contributions to Federal Criminal Justice

I saw Griffin Bell’s name every morning for almost three decades when I entered my office in the Detroit U. S. Attorney’s Office. His signature was on the DOJ certificate which hung behind my desk. His death this week, at age 90, brings to mind subjects like civility and the gradual approach to solving problems and making improvements, subjects which get scant attention in most prosecutors’ offices.

Griffin Bell told the 1977 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination as Attorney General that he had integrated more schools than any other judge. He accomplished this on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals during a very difficult era of American civil rights by gradually implementing pragmatic plans which moved the South to a new educational system. His detractors said that this approach defied Brown v. Board of Education’s order to integrate “with all deliberate speed.” But few of them lived with the tens of thousands of angry Southerners who feared that equality of opportunity for African American children would doom a way of life for the majority. Griffin Bell’s civil and courtly gradualism made it possible for men like Barack Obama and Eric Holder to hold leadership positions thirty years later.

In the Justice Department, Bell brought this same incremental approach to a department desperately in need of both image rehabilitation and modernization. It has always been a challenge for the Attorney General to set a course which reconciles its dual, and often bipolar, responsibilities, political and nonpolitical. Advising the President, vetting judicial nominees, proposing legislation-all of these functions and more require the Department to be immersed in the political circus. But increasingly in the last half of the 20th Century, more was expected of the country’s legal department. People expected fair adjudicative procedures and policies and guaranteed independent enforcement of its laws free of personal, partisan, or popular bias. Ironically, it was the reaction to the Watergate incident, Saturday Night Massacre and criminality of John Mitchell which defined how important this principle of de-politicization had become.

Justice Department historians, if there are any, will record the 1970s as an important time in this progression, as well as its modernization to meet the needs of a more complex system of law enforcement. The mission of federal prosecutors and agents was beginning to include proactive cases and methods to go along with their traditional reactive staples such as buy-bust drug cases, bank robberies and customs seizures. These new cases would require better technology, specialized prosecutors and investigators, and more nuanced criminal laws. Griffin Bell’s policies to promote these objectives would gain him no headlines and are hardly discernible looking back 30 years later. But they laid the groundwork for the complex work of the 21st Century Justice Department.

The other principle that Griffin Bell stands for is the emphasis on civility and ethical obligations. He reminded us in the U. S. Attorney’s Office of these subjects when he visited Detroit in 1978. America has always been schizoid about expectations for its prosecutors. On the one hand, we must be hard-nosed, tough zealots advocating the longest sentence and the draconian result. But we are also expected to be fair, even merciful, and most of all, advocate a just resolution, even if contrary to “winning” a case. Griffin Bell could have penned the instruction commonly given by trial judges to juries in federal criminal trials at the close of the evidence, an instruction which admittedly causes Assistant U. S. Attorneys to wince occasionally: The jury need not be concerned with whether the government wins or loses the case because the government always wins when justice is done.

Justice Cardozo in a previous century explained that justice is a concept which is never finished but is always reproducing itself, incrementally, generation after generation in ever changing forms. Griffin Bell grasped this concept like few others in his generation and, in doing so, made an important contribution to the development of the rule of law in this country.

By Ross Parker

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