January 16, 2008
Former Congressman Indicted in Terrorism Fundraising Ring
From washingtonpost.com: A former congressman and delegate to the United Nations was indicted Wednesday as part of a terrorist fundraising ring that allegedly sent more than $130,000 to an al-Qaida and Taliban supporter who has threatened U.S. and international troops in Afghanistan.
The former Republican congressman from Michigan, Mark Deli Siljander, was charged with money laundering, conspiracy and obstructing justice for allegedly lying about lobbying senators on behalf of an Islamic charity that authorities said was secretly sending funds to terrorists.
A 42-count indictment, unsealed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., accuses the Islamic American Relief Agency of paying Siljander $50,000 for the lobbying _ money that turned out to be stolen from the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Siljander, who served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, was appointed by President Reagan to serve as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations for one year in 1987. [Mark Godsey]
October 10, 2007
Question Remains if Congress will Pass Bill Recognizing the Genocide of Armenians
From latimes.com: President Bush and top administration officials urged Congress today to reject a bill that would recognize as "genocide" the World War I-era slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians.
With a showdown on the bill scheduled later today in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Bush warned that passage could damage U.S. relations with Turkey, a key ally in the war against terrorism.
The contentious issue has been simmering in Congress for years, as Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), whose district includes more Armenian Americans than any other, has lobbied for the bill's passage. This year, he has collected more than half the House's 435 members to his side -- including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who has vowed to bring the bill to the floor for a vote for the first time.
The resolution calls on the president to ensure that U.S. foreign policy "reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity" to the issue and to use the word "genocide" in his annual April message about the killings.
Turkey denies that the killings amounted to genocide, saying that Armenians and Turks alike were killed in ethnic clashes after World War I. Turkey, a NATO ally, has threatened to cut off cooperation with the United States on a number of security fronts if the resolution is passed. The country has unleashed a powerful lobbying force, including former House Speaker Bob Livingston (R-La.), to defeat the measure. The bill faces a tougher road in the 100-seat Senate, where Sen. Richard Durbin J. (D-Ill.) has attracted 32 co-sponsors. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
October 03, 2007
University of Maryland School of Law Holds Congressional Field Hearing on Alternatives to Incarceration for Drugs
At the invitation of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), a U.S. House of Representatives' subcommittee held a congressional field hearing Oct. 1 at the Ceremonial Moot Courtroom at the University of Maryland School of Law to evaluate practical alternatives to incarceration to prevent drug use and drug-related violence.
Cummings, a graduate of the School of Law, welcomed the standing-room-only crowd to the hearing. He said he was glad to see "the strong concern that residents have for the safety of their communities."
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, (D-Ohio), chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, swore in the panelists. They included Rita Fayall, program coordinator of the Meet-Me-Halfway Mentoring Program; Sheryl Goldstein, JD, director of the Mayor's Office on Criminal Justice; Ellen Heller, JD '77, administrative judge of the Circuit Court of Baltimore City; and Joshua Sharfstein, MD, Baltimore City Health Department commissioner.
The panelists explained how multiple services are working together with at-risk juveniles and young adults, including mental health and substance abuse treatment, job training, and housing. They also described how drug courts, problem-solving courts, and coordinated community outreach to at-risk individuals and low-level offenders can impact crime levels. [Mark Godsey]
December 26, 2006
Republicans and Democrats May Work Together to Give Prisoners a Second Chance
From NYTimes.com: Not too long ago, you could tell whether an election was under way by watching prime-time television and counting the number of ominous recitatives about prisoners and ex-prisoners in the commercials. This fall, however, the seven million Americans who are in the custody of the state — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — did not loom large on nightly TV; in fact, as has been the case for nearly a decade, they barely received any notice at all. Prisoners are no longer the charged political symbols and campaign-season scapegoats they once were.
This may be due to a change of heart bythe Republican Party. A sign of this change of heart is the fact that the former Republican-controlled Congress came tantalizingly close to passing the Second Chance Act, a bill that focuses not on how to “lock them up” but on how to let them out. The bill may become law soon, if Democrats continue to welcome the new conservative interest in rehabilitation.
By some measures, the Second Chance Act is a small bill. It authorizes less than $100 million over two years to address a significant problem: about 700,000 ex-offenders (the population of a good-size American city) will leave prison in 2007 — and two-thirds of them are likely to be rearrested within three years. The bill would provide states with grants to develop model programs for prisoners returning to society. Those states that accept the grants will be asked to re-examine any laws and regulations that make it unreasonably difficult for ex-offenders to reintegrate themselves into their communities — the classic example is the ban on allowing felons to receive a barber’s license. The bill also provides money to faith-based organizations and other nonprofits for prisoner-mentoring programs. Finally, it requires states to measure how well their programs achieve the bill’s main goal: reducing the rate of recidivism among recently released prisoners.
No one expects the Second Chance Act to solve the prisoner-re-entry problem overnight. The bill’s authors are probably too confident that drug treatment, education and housing assistance can reduce recidivism on their own. Such services, many criminologists say, are effective only when paired with the tight supervision of ex-offenders. Some researchers point to the “broken windows” response to crime and suggest trying a similar approach with prisoner re-entry: quickly punish any small violations of the terms of a prisoner’s release with graduated sanctions while returning ex-offenders to prison only for new crimes, not for technical parole violations like missing a meeting with a probation officer. The Second Chance Act does nothing to support this sort of approach.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
October 03, 2006
New Law Focuses on the War Against. . . Online Gambling?
From USATODAY.com: The $12 billion online gambling industry could turn into a house of cards now that the Congress has passed a law banning the use of credit cards, checks and electronic fund transfers for Internet gaming, industry experts warn.
President Bush is expected to sign the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which makes it illegal for banks, credit card companies and online payment systems to process payment to online gambling companies.
The federal government has been cracking down on Internet betting on sports, poker and other casino games that it considers illegal under the 1961 Wire Act. Considering that American bettors generate 50%-60% of industrywide revenue, many operators will be forced to either cash in their chips and go out of business or sell or merge with another provider, experts say.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
November 17, 2005
U.S. House Budget Cuts Could Increase Youth Crime
From The Times-Tribune: "Law enforcement leaders Wednesday blasted proposed budget cuts by Congress, which they say will increase crime by slashing support to authorities and proven investments that help kids get the right start in life and avoid crime. [Leaders in Pennsylvania discussed the cuts' effects on the state's local programs.] [P]rograms such as Head Start, SMART, PRIDE and the Educational Assistance Program would lose more than $1 million and force hundreds of children throughout the Scranton School District out of after-school activities, officials said during a morning news conference at City Hall. “We did extremely well on our state assessment tests because we are able to offer after-school tutoring free,” said Scranton School Supervisor of Special Programs Lou Paris. “It’s a service that usually would cost parents about $35 per hour and not many could afford that.
Earlier this year the U.S. House of Representatives proposed a $50 billion budget cut that reduces by more than $8 billion federal support for vital crime-fighting investments. According to Bruce Clash, director of the nonprofit organization Fight Crimes: Invest in Kids Pennsylvania, by 2010 one out of 10 children would be shut out of after-school programs, one out of seven would be denied access to Head Start, and one out of six children of working parents would be denied access to quality child care under the new budget cuts." [Mark Godsey]
October 26, 2005
CrimProf Comments on House's "Second Chance Federal Death Sentence" Provision
From NYTimes.com: "If all 12 members of a jury in a capital case in federal court cannot agree on whether to impose the death penalty, a convicted defendant is automatically sentenced to life in prison.
But that may be about to change. A little-noticed provision in the House bill that reauthorized the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act would allow federal prosecutors further attempts at a death sentence if a capital jury deadlocks on the punishment. So long as at least one juror voted for death, prosecutors could empanel a new sentencing jury and argue again that execution was warranted.
The Senate bill does not contain the provision, and representatives of both chambers will soon meet to discuss the differences between the two measures and potential compromises.
Sentencing deadlocks in federal capital trials are not unusual. In a federal terrorism trial in New York in 2001, for instance, the government sought the death penalty against two operatives of Al Qaeda for their roles in the deadly bombings of two American embassies in East Africa in 1998. The jury deadlocked 9 to 3 in favor of death in both cases, interviews conducted by The New York Times later revealed...
California and a handful of other states already allow new capital sentencing hearings...
State prosecutors said the federal jury provision could start a welcome trend. 'It sounds pretty even-handed,' said Joshua Marquis, the district attorney in Clatsop County, Ore. Just as juries must generally reach unanimous verdicts for conviction or acquittal, he said, they should be required to reach a unanimous decision on life or death.
[CrimProf Franklin E. Zimring of the University of California, Berkeley]...disagreed. 'It's not supposed to be a level playing field,' he said. 'It's supposed to be a penalty available when nothing else will do.'
Jennifer Daskal, a lawyer with Human Rights Watch in Washington [echoes Zimring's sentiments]....The possibility of repeated attempts to obtain death sentences from such 'death qualified' juries, she said, would only heighten the advantages prosecutors have." Story... [Mark Godsey]
July 14, 2005
Senate Considers Law Ending Suits Against the Gun Industry
From Law.com: "Municipalities' pending lawsuits against the gun industry would come to an abrupt halt if legislation that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist wants to bring to the Senate floor as early as this week passes. The bill would effectively ban suits against gun makers when their guns are not used for legitimate self-defense, recreational or sporting purposes. Critics say the bill will immunize an entire industry against negligence lawsuits and undermine government's ability to revoke rogue gun dealers' licenses." Full story from Legal Times... [Mark Godsey]
May 24, 2005
Former Prosecutor Named Chief Counsel of Senate Judiciary Committee
Preet Bharara was named chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, working on judicial selection for U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). His portfolio includes all judicial nominations, crime, terrorism, laws relating to privacy, civil rights legislation, and abortion rights. Before joining Sen. Schumer in Washington, he was an assistant U.S. Attorney in Manhattan. He served as a member of the organized crime and terrorism unit and was involved in cases involving Chinese and Russian organized crime, as well as the Colombo crime family. Press release here. [Mark Godsey]