Tuesday, March 11, 2008
From NPR.com: Federal prosecutors might charge New York's Democratic governor, Eliot Spitzer, under a relatively obscure — and controversial — 1910 law that was originally intended to combat forced prostitution and "debauchery." Its official name is the White Slave Traffic Act, but it's better known as the Mann Act, named after its author, Rep. James R. Mann (R-IL).
In recent years, the Mann Act has been used selectively. But it has not faded into irrelevance. Last week, four people suspected of running the Emperor's Club — the prostitution service that Spitzer allegedly frequented — were charged with violating the Mann Act, among other crimes including money laundering.
Enacted during a time of great change and "moral panic," the Mann Act was originally designed to combat forced prostitution. The law, however, has been applied broadly over the years and, critics say, used as a tool of political persecution and even blackmail. In the past century, thousands of people have been prosecuted under the Mann Act, including celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin, Frank Lloyd Wright, Chuck Berry and Jack Johnson. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
Monday, March 10, 2008
From NPR.com: Gov. Eliot Spitzer, accused in news reports of being involved in a prostitution ring, apologized to his family and the public on Monday at a hastily called news conference. He did not elaborate on the story.
With his wife at his side, Spitzer told reporters that he "acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family."
"I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself," he said. "I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family."
The New York Times reported earlier in the day that Spitzer told senior administration officials that he was linked to a prostitiution ring. The report cited an anonymous administration official. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
Sunday, March 9, 2008
From miamiherald.com: Bribery. Drug trafficking. Migrant smuggling.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is supposed to stop these types of crimes. Instead, so many of its officers have been charged with committing those crimes themselves that their boss in Washington recently issued an alert about the ''disturbing events'' and the ``increase in the number of employee arrests.''
Thomas S. Winkowski, assistant commissioner of field operations, wrote a memo to more than 20,000 officers nationwide noting that employees must behave professionally at all times -- even when not on the job.
''It is our responsibility to uphold the laws, not break the law,'' Winkowski wrote in the Nov. 16 memo obtained by The Miami Herald.
Winkowski's memo cites employee arrests involving domestic violence, DUI and drug possession. But court records show Customs officers and other Department of Homeland Security employees from South Florida to the Mexican border states have been charged with dozens of far more serious offenses.
Among them: A Customs and Border Protection officer at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport was charged in February with conspiring to assist a New York drug ring under investigation by tapping into sensitive federal databases.
Winkowski, a former director of field operations in Miami, called the misconduct ''unacceptable.'' He told The Miami Herald that while he wrote the memo because of an uptick in employee arrests last fall, he didn't believe the problem was pervasive. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Thursday, March 6, 2008
NYTimes.com: A small bomb caused minor damage to an empty military recruiting station in Times Square early today, shaking guests in hotel rooms high above "the crossroads of the world."
The blast, which happened around 3:45 a.m., left a gaping hole in the front window and shattered a glass door, twisting and blackening its metal frame. No one was hurt. But Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the device, though unsophisticated, could have caused "injury and even death."
A witness saw a person on a bicycle wearing a backpack and a hood and acting suspiciously, but no one saw the device being placed in front of the recruiting center, authorities said at a news conference.
"If it is something that's directed toward American troops then it's something that's taken very seriously and is pretty unfortunate," said Army Capt. Charlie Jaquillard, who is the commander of Army recruiting in Manhattan. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
From latimes.com: A teacher's assistant was sentenced to six months in jail this week for stealing lunch money from a disabled student at Camarillo High School.
Kristen Rene Santoyo, 37, was also given four years probation during a hearing Tuesday before Ventura County Superior Court Judge James Cloninger. In addition, Santoyo was ordered to pay $285 restitution to the student and to attend at least one year of weekly child abuse counseling sessions.
The victim, a 14-year-old high school freshman who suffers from severe autism and cannot speak, was sent to school with a lunch box that had snacks and $5 to purchase a cafeteria meal, prosecutors said. After she came home from school hungry and went straight to the refrigerator multiple times, her parents grew suspicious and contacted the school principal and teacher.
School officials then alerted police, who conducted a three-day investigation using a hidden camera that showed Santoyo on two occasions stealing the student's lunch money from her backpack. Santoyo was charged with stealing the victim's lunch money on 57 separate occasions between September and November, when she was caught and the complaint was filed, authorities said.
"The whole thing is pretty hard to put into words," said Shawn Spitzer, the victim's mother. "We trusted this caregiver, the assistant teacher, with our child, the most precious thing we have, and she violated that trust day after day by victimizing her. And this was a victim that couldn't speak, that couldn't tell anybody she was hungry or that her teacher was stealing from her." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
From thestate.com: The prison law clerk who convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a fellow inmate's case is being investigated by South Carolina authorities for practicing law without a license, the prisoner's attorney said.
Lawyer Rauch Wise said the state attorney general's office informed him last week they were investigating Michael Ray, a federal inmate in South Carolina.
Ray helped fellow inmate Keith Lavon Burgess appeal his conviction for possession of crack cocaine with the intent to distribute. In the appeal, which the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on March 24, Burgess is arguing that a prior drug conviction prosecutors used to get him the 20-year minimum prison sentence shouldn't have applied because it was a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
Conflicting court rulings have required 10-year sentences for people already convicted of misdemeanors, so a successful appeal could trim Burgess' sentence in half.
Ray, who is a member of the American Bar Association and certified paralegal, earns 29 cents an hour for his work but charges no other fees for his services, Wise said.
"If an inmate were charging for services rendered, that would be some grounds to go after the inmate," Wise said. "But when an inmate is in jail, who is trying to prepare his own petition of whatever sort, and he turns to another inmate and says, 'Can you help me with this?' - that just does not offend me."
Someone convicted of practicing law without a license in South Carolina could face up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Monday, February 25, 2008
From clarionledger.com: An attorney for a New York woman charged with manslaughter in the 2003 death of her 3-year-old daughter in Jackson wants the state to review the autopsy findings.
State pathologist Dr. Steven Hayne ruled that the child died of suffocation. Under state law, a petition can be filed with the state medical examiner, asking for further review of an autopsy conclusion.
But Tina Funderburk's attorney, Hinds County Assistant Public Defender Matthew Eichelberger, said that since there is no state medical examiner, his request might be moot.
"This further review is even more important in Tina's case because of the strange manner in which Dr. Hayne reached his conclusion," Eichelberger said.
Hayne reached his decision after a forensic anthropologist at the University of Southern Mississippi said she couldn't determine the cause of death from the remains, Eichelberger said.
Funderburk, 32, is charged with killing Reina Russell. Funderburk told police she left the child in June 2003 in a wooded, swampy area near the old Jackson Greyhound bus terminal on Jefferson Street. She was passing through with her daughter and son on a bus trip from New York.
Funderburk said she lost her way when she went back to get the child. Authorities later found the child's remains.
Hinds County Coroner Sharon Grisham-Stewart asked Hayne to perform an autopsy on the child's remains. Hayne then engaged the services of Dr. Marie Danforth, a forensic anthropologist, to determine the cause of death, according to Eichelberger.
In the petition for further review, Eichelberger said, "Despite the fact that Dr. Danforth could determine neither the cause or manner of death, Dr. Hayne reported to Ms. Grisham-Stewart the cause of death was suffocation."
The petition said Grisham-Stewart accepted Hayne's conclusion without further review or investigation. Hayne said Tuesday he only vaguely remembers the case, but he couldn't discuss it because it was still an open case.
Hayne's work has come under scrutiny in several recent cases. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
From washingtonpost.com: Two masterworks that were stolen from a Zurich art museum last week were found in good condition Monday in an unlocked car parked outside a nearby psychiatric hospital, Swiss police said Tuesday. Two other paintings are still missing, they said.
The recovered paintings -- Claude Monet's "Poppies near Vetheuil" (1879) and Vincent van Gogh's "Chestnut in Bloom" (1890) -- were found by a 56-year-old parking lot attendant who contacted police about 4 p.m. Monday. The attendant reported that there was a "suspicious white vehicle with two pictures on the back seat" at the University of Zurich Psychiatric Hospital, police said in a statement.
The two paintings, which Swiss police said have a combined value of about $63 million, were among four stolen on Feb. 10 by three masked men in a brazen daylight robbery at a private villa that houses the E.G. Buehrle Collection, a trove of French Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces.
As a man with a pistol guarded the door and kept fearful employees lying in the ground, the other two grabbed four paintings worth $163 million from a nearby exhibit hall. The three then hauled the paintings to a white car parked outside and sped away.
It was Switzerland's largest-ever art heist. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Thursday, February 14, 2008
From NPR.com: New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is suing United Health, one the nation's largest health insurers, and demanding information from more than a dozen others. He accuses the industry of manipulating data so it can charge patients an unfairly high portion of the bill for out-of-network doctors.
Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
Monday, February 11, 2008
From latimes.com: Three armed men in ski masks stole four paintings by Cezanne, Degas, van Gogh and Monet worth $163.2 million from a Zurich museum in one of Europe's largest ever art heists, police said today.
The robbers, who were still at large, stole the paintings Sunday from the E.G. Buehrle Collection, one of Europe's finest private museums for Impressionist and post-Impressionist art, police said.
It was the largest art robbery in Switzerland's history and one of the biggest ever in Europe, said Marco Cortesi, spokesman for the Zurich police. He compared it to the theft in 2004 of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" and "Madonna" from the Munch Museum in Norway.
The three masked men wearing dark clothing entered the museum a half-hour before closing Sunday, police said. While one of the men used a pistol to force museum personnel to the floor, the two others went into the exhibition hall and collected the four paintings.
One of the men spoke German with a Slavic accent, police said. They loaded the paintings into a white vehicle parked in front of the museum.
Police, asking for witnesses to come forward, said it was possible that the paintings were partly sticking out of the van as the robbers made their getaway. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From NYTimes.com: Military prosecutors have decided to seek the death penalty for six Guantánamo detainees who are to be charged with central roles in the Sept. 11 terror attacks, government officials who have been briefed on the charges said Sunday.
The officials said the charges would be announced at the Pentagon as soon as Monday and were likely to include numerous war-crimes charges against the six men, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the former Qaeda operations chief who has described himself as the mastermind of the attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people.
A Defense Department official said prosecutors were seeking the death penalty because “if any case warrants it, it would be for individuals who were parties to a crime of that scale.” The officials spoke anonymously because no one in the government was authorized to speak about the case.
A decision to seek the death penalty would
increase the international focus on the case and present new challenges
to the troubled military commission system that has yet to begin a
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
From washingtonpost.com: Senate Democrats demanded a criminal investigation into waterboarding by government interrogators Tuesday after the Bush administration acknowledged for the first time that the tactic was used on three terror suspects.
In congressional testimony Tuesday, CIA Director Michael Hayden became the first administration official to publicly acknowledge the agency used waterboarding on detainees following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Waterboarding involves strapping a suspect down and pouring water over his cloth-covered face to create the sensation of drowning. It has been traced back hundreds of years, to the Spanish Inquisition, and is condemned by nations around the world.
"We used it against these three detainees because of the circumstances at the time," Hayden told the Senate Intelligence Committee. "There was the belief that additional catastrophic attacks against the homeland were inevitable. And we had limited knowledge about al-Qaida and its workings. Those two realities have changed." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
From NPR.com: British Justice Secretary Jack Straw will investigate allegations that officials eavesdropped on a conversation between a Muslim member of Parliament and a man imprisoned while awaiting extradition to the U.S. to face terrorism charges. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
Monday, February 4, 2008
From NPR.com: Archivist Daniel Lorello was arrested this past week, charged with stealing hundreds of historic documents from the New York State Library over the last six years. Lorello sold the historic documents — some to collectors and some on eBay.
And it was eBay that led to Lorello's demise.
An amateur historian and lawyer named Joseph Romito helped crack the case after he found an 1823 letter written by John C. Calhoun for sale on eBay.
The New York State Library confirmed that the Calhoun letter was indeed missing from the vault. Romito and the Attorney General's office began bidding on the document on eBay, lest some other person buy it. The attorney general's office won the bid and found the thief, along with more than a dozen boxes of purloined documents.
"This crime is particularly repugnant because it's dealing with historic documents, which is literally stealing the history of New York, page by page," said New York's Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
Monday, January 28, 2008
From abcnews.com: A federal judge sent accused Illinois political fixer Antoin "Tony" Rezko to jail today after federal prosecutors accused him of violating his bail terms by a convoluted series of financial transactions with Mideast banks.
Rezko has become an "Achilles heel" for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama after disclosures he and people associated with him had raised almost $200,000 for Obama and that Obama sought Rezko's "help and advice" in the purchase of a new home.
In a court hearing in Chicago, prosecutors detailed a $3.5 million wire transfer from a bank in Beirut, Lebanon that they said was moved through a series of accounts until it reached Rezko or some of his relatives who had posted property for his bond.
Under the terms of his agreement, prosecutors said in a filing with the court, Rezko was obligated to disclose any change in his financial status.
In court, prosecutors said Rezko had become a "flight risk" because of his secretive transactions in the Mideast. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
From NYTimes.com: Jose Padilla, the Brooklyn-born convert to Islam who was once accused by the government of plotting to detonate a “dirty bomb” in the United States, was sentenced on Tuesday to 17 years and four months in prison for his role in a conspiracy to help Islamic jihadist fighters abroad.
he sentence was more lenient than the federal sentencing guidelines recommended and was a blow to the government, which had requested the maximum penalty of life imprisonment for Mr. Padilla, 37.
In explaining her decision, Judge Marcia G. Cooke of Federal District Court in Miami acknowledged the gravity of the crimes Mr. Padilla had committed. But she questioned the range and impact of the conspiracy, saying that there was no evidence linking the men to specific acts of terrorism anywhere or that their actions had resulted in death or injury to anyone.
She also noted that defendants in other well-known American terrorism cases had received life sentences for more heinous crimes, including Zacharias Moussaoui, who was convicted of conspiracy in connection with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Terry L. Nichols, who was convicted of murder in the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Thursday, January 17, 2008
From washingtonpost.com: The CIA's destruction of videotapes containing harsh interrogations of detainees at secret prisons drew bipartisan criticism from House lawmakers who attended a closed hearing yesterday at which the agency's acting general counsel testified about the matter.
Intelligence committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.) said afterward that he remained convinced that the CIA did not meet its obligation to fully inform congressional overseers about the tapes and their destruction. He called the failure "unacceptable."
Reyes said that John A. Rizzo, the CIA's acting general counsel, answered all questions, provided "highly detailed" responses and "walked the committee through the entire matter, dating back to 2002."
Rep. Peter Hoekstra (Mich.), the panel's ranking Republican and former chairman, said Rizzo suggested that Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., the CIA's head of clandestine services, acted on his own authority in November 2005 when he ordered that the tapes be destroyed. "It appears from what we have seen to date that Rodriguez may not have been following instructions" when he ordered the destruction, Hoekstra said.
"There was a long debate about what should be done, and all indications are that Rodriguez should have halted when he gave the go-ahead," he added. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
From latimes.com: Alleged "dirty bomb" plotter Jose Padilla and two codefendants were engaged in terrorism when they conspired to fight in foreign holy wars and should spend 30 years to life in prison, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
The sentencing guidelines imposed by U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke seemed to indicate that, at least in the case of 37-year-old Padilla, she would heed prosecutors' call for life without parole.
A jury convicted Padilla and his co-defendants in August of conspiracy to murder, maim or kidnap persons abroad and material support to terrorism.
The federal government's allegation that Padilla had been plotting to detonate a radioactive bomb in a U.S. city was dropped before his four-month trial, despite having been the basis for holding the U.S. citizen at a military brig for 3 1/2 years.
Federal sentencing guidelines are advisory, but Cooke's rulings on various defense motions indicated she was following them to the letter in calculating the sentences for Padilla, his alleged recruiter Adham Amin Hassoun, and Kifah Wael Jayyousi, a former San Diego school administrator accused of delivering aid to Muslim fighters in foreign conflicts. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Thursday, January 10, 2008
From washingtonpost.com: Telecommunications companies have repeatedly cut off FBI access to wiretaps of alleged terrorists and criminal suspects because the bureau did not pay its phone bills, according to the results of an audit released yesterday.
The report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said that more than half of nearly 1,000 FBI telecommunications bills reviewed by investigators were not paid on time, including one invoice for $66,000 at an unidentified field office.
The report cited a case in which an order obtained under the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act -- which covers clandestine wiretaps of
terrorism and espionage suspects -- was halted because of "untimely
payment." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Friday, January 4, 2008
From aol.com: The release of Charles Chatman, 47, added to Dallas County's nationally unmatched number of wrongfully convicted inmates.
"Every time I'd go to parole, they'd want a description of the crime or my version of the crime," Chatman said. "I don't have a version of the crime. I never committed the crime. I never will admit to doing this crime that I know I didn't do."
District Judge John Creuzot, whom defense lawyers credited with shepherding Chatman's case for exoneration through the legal system, recommended that Texas' Court of Criminal Appeals find Chatman not guilty. With several relatives dabbing at their eyes with tissues and cheering, Chatman was released.
Chatman became the 15th inmate from Dallas County since 2001 to be freed by DNA testing. He served more time than any of the other inmates, four of whom were in court Thursday to show their support.
has freed more inmates after DNA testing than any other county
nationwide, said Natalie Roetzel of the Innocence Project of Texas.
Texas leads the country in prisoners freed by DNA testing, releasing at
least 30 wrongfully convicted inmates since 2001, according to the
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]