Saturday, January 19, 2008
Maybe it's the post-New Year rush, but the pace of white collar crime stories has picked up noticeably since January 1, so much so that your intrepid bloggers can't keep up with everything. So here's a sampling of developments this past week that will keep us -- and more importantly, the defense bar and prosecutors -- busy in the near future.
- An "Invitation" From Congress: The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee sent out letters (available here) to baseball players Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Chuck Knoblauch, along with their purported steroids and HGH enablers, Brian McNamee and Kirk Radomski, to appear at a hearing on February 13. Is it really an invitation, as the letter states, or would a polite declination draw a subpoena? Each letter also asks the witness to meet with the Committee staff for a deposition or transcribed interview, either of which could trigger criminal charges under Sec. 1001 if the person lied. Only Knoblauch is not represented by counsel, and the reason for his invitation has been something of a mystery, at least to him.
- Another Athlete Pleads to Lying About Steroid Use: Add former NFL All-Pro defensive lineman Dana Stubblefield to the list of athletes to plead guilty to lying to federal agents in connection to receiving steroids from Balco (Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative). Stubblefield entered a guilty plea to one count of violating Sec. 1001 for denying, among other things, that he used "the clear" and that he never dealt with Balco. Stubblefield was a member of the Oakland Raiders at the time, and is the first football player charged in connection with the Balco investigation. An ESPN.com story (here) by Mark Fainaru-Wada, co-author of the famous book about Barry Bonds Game of Shadows, discusses the guilty plea. The guilty plea does not bode well for Houston Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada, who is now the target of an FBI preliminary investigation for making allegedly false statements to investigators from the House Oversight Committee regarding steroid use by Rafael Palmeiro -- is anyone starting to spot a trend here?
- Representative Jefferson On the Hot Seat: Representative William Jefferson testified at a hearing on motions to suppress evidence about the treatment he received from FBI agents executing a search warrant at his New Orleans home during which they found, among other things, $90,000 in cash in a freezer. The Congressman has asked the district court to suppress his statements to agents because they did not give him Miranda warnings, and so his testimony focused on facts showing that he was in custody at the time even though the interview took place in his home. Thus, Representative Jefferson regaled the courtroom with the statement from one agent demanding "Where is my ******* money?" and how another agent followed him into the bathroom during the early morning execution of the warrant. He is also asking the court to prohibit the government from using approximately 1,700 pages of records seized during the raid as falling outside the scope of the warrant. Suppression motions are difficult to win, and this is the rare white collar case in which Miranda is an issue. Interestingly, what Representative Jefferson is not trying to suppress is the $90,000 from the freezer, which was part of a $100,000 payment made to him with money supplied by the FBI, and hence traceable. That strikes me as fairly damaging evidence, but corruption cases can take odd twists so there may be a plausible explanation for putting the money on ice. A Washington Post story (here) discusses Representative Jefferson's testimony -- and for those who were wondering, his statements at the hearing cannot be used by the government in its case-in-chief, and he did not waive his Fifth Amendment right not to testify at the trial scheduled to begin in late February.
- A Former Congressman Charged With Aiding a Terror Group: Former Congressman Mark Siljander was named in a superseding indictment in Kansas City on charges of money laundering, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice related to his work as a lobbyist on behalf of the Islamic American Relief Agency, which has been identified as a terrorist organization. Siljander is alleged to have lied to a grand jury and federal agents regarding his work on behalf of the organization, which was seeking to be removed from the list of terror-related entities. An L.A. Times story (here) discusses the indictment.
- Maybe Everything Is Weirder in Texas, Too: Well, at least when you're talking about the DA's office Houston, things can get a bit strange. We've discussed the travails of Harris County DA Chuck Rosenthal, whose salacious (and in one instance racist) e-mails came to light recently in a federal civil rights case that caused him to drop his re-election bid. Now, a Harris County grand jury indicted a member of the Texas Supreme Court and his wife on charges related to an alleged arson at their home, and the next day the DA's office announced it was dropping the charges because there was insufficient evidence to support them. A runaway grand jury or possible favoritism from the DA's office? While the prosecutors did not want to move forward with the case, the grand jury did, so it voted its indictment despite the lack of support from the DA's office. Now, the Justice wants two of the grand jurors sanctioned for violating the secrecy rules that cover grand jury proceedings for discussing the case and claiming that DA Rosenthal's refusal to prosecute was politically motivated. An investigation of the investigators? A Houston Chronicle story (here) discusses the latest developments, and my friends in Austin are more than a little bemused by all the happenings in Houston.
Whew!! And those were not the biggest stories, either, but each is certainly worthy of some attention. Our little slice of the world remains an interesting place reside. (ph)