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Federal Judge Blasts ATF Stings, Dismisses Charges

In a very powerful opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Otis Wright has dismissed the charges against three defendants in an ATF reverse sting case, finding the sting constituted outrageous government conduct.

The opinion is here.

The time has come to remind the Executive Branch that the Constitution charges it with law enforcement—not crime creation. A reverse-sting operation like this one transcends the bounds of due process and makes the Government “the oppressor of its people.” ...In this case, the Constitution will not tolerate subjecting an individual to prosecution for an imaginary crime subject to a very real punishment — a punishment which rests entirely on ATF agents’ whims. Since it is the Court’s sworn duty to uphold the Constitution, the Court GRANTS Dunlap’s Motion to Dismiss the Indictment.


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Capetown Police Brutality Captured on Video

A woman named Nicole Peterson Speelman in Capetown, South Africa recorded this two minute video clip yesterday and posted it to her Facebook page. A man is pulled out of his car, stripped naked, and then for no apparent reason, kicked and beaten by police, before being put in a van. Truly disgraceful police conduct. (Click on the "full screen" button for a much better view.)

At the end of the video you can hear Ms. Speelman, who apparently took the video from her office nearby, screaming at the cops, asking why they were beating the man. One cop starts to walk in the direction of her voice, and the video ends. A FB friend asked her whether the officer came after her. Her reply:

Yes he came upstairs banged on our door he came to arrest me for sreaming out the window but all of us asked him why did he do that to the man so he said he was just trying to get him in the van and he arrested my collogue for police interference and the charges was later dropped. [More...]

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Florida Chemist Imperils Prescription Drug Convictions

A chemist with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in Pensacola who conducted drug tests in 2,600 cases in 35 counties around the state has been relieved of duty after it was determined some of the drug samples in his cases were tampered with. The chemist allegedly swapped out some of the prescription pills with over the counter pills. Hundreds of drug convictions are now imperiled.

Head-scratching comment from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi:

"This situation simply underlines the extent of the problem our country faces with prescription drug abuse."

Really? A police chemist falsifies evidence and the blame lies not with him but with those using the medication?

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72 Retired NYC Cops Charged With Social Security Fraud

Larger version here.

This is an amazing story. 72 former NYC cops and 8 former fireman are among 106 people charged in New York state court for a massive social security fraud scam that robbed the Government of an estimated $400 million. The amounts paid to these defendants was over $20 million. You can read the Indictment here.

The scheme was allegedly spearheaded by a former FBI agent who is former prosecutor (in the rackets unit, no less, of the Nassau County DA's office.) He and the other three organizers allegedly collected $28,000 per applicant.

Keep in mind, the Indictment is merely a charge, and all of them are presumed innocent. Their lawyers say they did nothing wrong.

The DA says many of the defendants falsely claimed they were disabled due to PTSD from the 9/11 attacks.

What did them in? Their Facebook pages, showing photos of them doing activities they claimed they were too disabled to do. And recorded undercover telephone calls. [More...]

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MA Lab Chemist Sentenced to Prison

Former MA state chemist Annie Dookhan was sentenced to 3 to 5 years in prison today for falsifying lab tests.

Dookhan’s falsification of drug tests, in an attempt to look like a highly productive employee, prompted the release of hundreds of convicts, raised questions about thousands of cases, and forced the state to spend millions to address the problems

I reported the details of her fraud, and the implications here.

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US to Pay $4 Million to Student for DEA Neglect in Jail

Remember Daniel Chong, the San Diego college student the DEA forgot about and left in a jail cell for 5 days? The cell was 5' by 10' with no bathroom. Since they forgot he was there, no food or water were provided and he had to drink his own urine. Nor did they hear his screams.

The U.S. has agreed to pay him $4 million. DOJ handled the negotiations. More here.

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Aaron Swartz Lawyers Seek Misconduct Review Against Prosecutor

Via Ryan Grim and Ryan Reilly at Huffington Post, Aaron Swartz's lawyers have asked the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility to review the conduct of AUSA Stephen Heymann. In their letter to OPR, available here, they allege Heymann withheld evidence and improperly sought to coerce Swartz into a plea deal. From the letter:

First, AUSA Heymann appears to have failed timely to disclose exculpatory evidence relevant to Mr. Swartz's pending motion to suppress. Indeed, evidence suggests AUSA Heymann may have misrepresented to the Court the extent of the federal government's involvement in the investigation into Mr. Swartz's conduct prior to the application for certain search warrants.

Second, AUSA Heymann appears to have abused his discretion when he attempted to coerce Mr. Swartz into foregoing his right to a trial by pleading guilty. Specifically, AUSA Heymann offered Mr. Swartz four to six months in prison for a guilty plea, while threatening to seek over seven years in prison if Mr. Swartz chose to go to trial.

Swartz' lawyers say they are filing the claim on behalf of Aaron's family. [More...]

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Why Do Police Lie Under Oath?

The New York Times had an op-ed this weekend, Why Police Lie Under Oath. The article quotes Peter Keane, a former San Francisco Police commissioner, who wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Police officer perjury in court to justify illegal dope searches is commonplace. One of the dirty little not-so-secret secrets of the criminal justice system is undercover narcotics officers intentionally lying under oath. It is a perversion of the American justice system that strikes directly at the rule of law. Yet it is the routine way of doing business in courtrooms everywhere in America.”

Why do they do it? [More...]

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Suburban Chicago Cops Charged With Ripping Off Drug Dealers

Three police officers in Schaumburg, Il, a suburb of Chicago, are in jail with bond set at $750,000 on charges they ripped off drug dealers, put the drugs back on the street, and pocketed the proceeds.

Three Schaumburg police officers conspired to steal drugs they had seized during legitimate busts, then split the profits after their informant put the drugs back on the streets, with one of the officers later admitting he did it for “the thrill of it," according to prosecutors.

John Cichy, 30, Matthew Hudak, 29, and Terrance O’Brien, 47, were captured on video surveillance and audio recordings stealing money and drugs from the dealers, and all three have made incriminating statements, prosecutor Audriana Anderson said in court this morning.


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Chicago to Pay $32 Million Settlement in Police Misconduct Claims

The Chicago City Council today unanimously approved payments of $32 million to pay two claims of police misconduct.

A mentally ill woman, Christina Eilman, will get $22.5 million.

Christina Eilman now suffers severe brain damage after police ignored pleas for help from her out-of-town family and turned the mentally ill woman lose in one of Chicago's most crime-ridden neighborhoods. She was raped and either fell or was pushed out of a seventh floor window.

Alton Logan will get $10.2 million for the 26 years he spent in prison for a crime he didn't commit. did not commit. [More...]

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Lousiana U.S. Attorney Resigns Amid Online Commenting Scandal

One month after Jim Letten, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Lousiana, announced the demotion Jan Mann, his first Assistant and Chief of the Criminal Division for anonymously commenting online about an ongoing criminal investigation, he resigned as U.S. Attorney.

Abruptly ending an 11-year run highlighted by the convictions of more than a dozen crooked politicians, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten resigned Thursday morning amid a metastasizing scandal in his office that started with prosecutors posting anonymous screeds on NOLA.com. Letten was the nation's longest-serving U.S. attorney, having been kept in the job by President Barack Obama despite his Republican affiliation.

Also this week, the Justice Department appointed John Horn, First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, as a special assistant to the attorney general to "prepare the required responses and to ensure the government's compliance with [the court's] instructions."

It wasn't just Mann who was commenting anonymously online. Another AUSA, Sal Perricone, was outed for his comments and resigned in May. One of the cases Perricone commented on was the Danziger Bridge case, involving the officers charged and convicted in the shooting deaths of unarmed individuals during Hurricane Katrina. Another news article with background is here. [More...]

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First Asst. AUSA in LA Demoted for Online Commentary

Jim Letten, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana (which includes New Orleans) today announced the demotion of his First Assistant and Chief of the Criminal Division, Jan Mann.

The news came six days after landfill magnate Fred Heebe alleged in a civil suit that Mann had repeatedly used an online alias to slam him and other federal probe targets in comments posted on NOLA.com. Mann's demotion marks the second high-profile takedown of a federal prosecutor engineered by Heebe, who in March unmasked Sal Perricone, the office's senior litigation counsel, as a prolific and intemperate online ranter.

The Complaint in Heebe's lawsuit against Mann, filed in state court, is here. Among Heebe's lawyers filing the suit: Brendan Sullivan of Williams and Connelly.

How Heebee's attorneys linked the online comments posted under a pseudonym to Mann: They used a forensic linguist, who found numerous identical typographical errors in the online comments, pleadings Mann filed in court and e-mails. For example, there were multiple instances in which the online comments and Mann's pleadings contained an extra space after a quotation mark and before the final punctuation mark. Other similarities included the lack of spaces before and after the dots used to designate an ellipsis. (See the complaint if this sounds confusing, I may not have this exactly correct.) [More...]

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Mass. Drug Lab Chemist Arrested

Massachusetts drug lab chemist Annie Dookhan was arrested today on charges of obstruction of justice and lying about her educational degrees. She faces up to 20 years in prison.

Dookan has been the subject of a huge lab scandal in Mass. She tested over 60,000 samples in 34,000 cases over 9 years. She has admitted intentionally faking results. More than 1,100 inmates are still serving time in cases in which she performed or assisted in the drug tests. The lab has since been closed.

The only motive authorities have found so far is that Dookhan wanted to be seen as a good worker, the state attorney general said.

Dookhan is expected to face more charges as the investigation continues. While the state initially tried to portray Dookan as a rogue chemist, the problem seems to be systemic:

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Eric Holder Cleared in OIG Report on Fast and Furious

The Office of Inspector General released a 451 page report today on Fast and Furious. It specifically clears Attorney General Eric Holder of wrongdoing.

We determined that Attorney General Holder did not learn about Operation Fast and Furious until late January or early February 2011 and was not aware of allegations of “gun walking” in the investigation until February. We found no evidence that Department or ATF staff informed the Attorney General about Operation Wide Receiver or Operation Fast and Furious prior to 2011. We concluded that the Attorney General’s Deputy Chief of Staff, the Acting Deputy Attorney General, and the leadership of the Criminal Division failed to alert the Attorney General to significant information about or flaws in those investigations.

Holder's public statement on the report is here.

Some others didn't fare so well. [More....]

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4th Cir. Affirms Overturning Death Sentence for Prosecutorial Witholding of Evidence

Justin Wolfe has been on death row in Virginia since 2002 for killing a fellow drug dealer. He was convicted based upon testimony of the shooter, Owen Barber, that Wolfe had hired him to kill the dealer. Barber later recanted and said he made that up to avoid the death penalty. His affidavit is here.

In 2010, Barber testified at Wolfe's federal habeas hearing that he fabricated Wolfe's involvement to avoid the death penalty. (He was sentenced to 60 years.) In 2011, the federal court vacated Wolfe's conviction and sentence finding he was wrongfully convicted based on the prosecution's withholding of critical evidence. Virginia appealed.

Today the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's order vacating Wolfe's conviction and sentence, finding no error in the district court's findings. Virginia says it is disappointed and most likely will retry Wolfe. [More...]

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