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History > 2008 > USA > Justice > Federal justice (I)




U.S. Defends Tough Tactics on Spitzer


March 21, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — The Justice Department used some of its most intrusive tactics against Eliot Spitzer, examining his financial records, eavesdropping on his phone calls and tailing him during its criminal investigation of the Emperor’s Club prostitution ring.

The scale and intensity of the investigation of Mr. Spitzer, then the governor of New York, seemed on its face to be a departure for the Justice Department, which aggressively investigates allegations of wrongdoing by public officials, but almost never investigates people who pay prostitutes for sex.

A review of recent federal cases shows that federal prosecutors go sparingly after owners and operators of prostitution enterprises, and usually only when millions of dollars are involved or there are aggravating circumstances, like human trafficking or child exploitation.

Government lawyers and investigators defend the expenditure of resources on Mr. Spitzer in the Emperor’s Club V.I.P. case as justifiable and necessary since it involved the possibility of criminal wrongdoing by New York’s highest elected official, who had been the state’s top prosecutor.

Bradley D. Simon, a veteran Justice Department trial lawyer who was federal prosecutor in Brooklyn throughout the 1990s, said that although it was rare for the department to use so many resources on the workings of a prostitution ring, the involvement of such a high-level politician must change the equation.

“If they’ve got some evidence of a high-ranking public official involved in violations of federal criminal code, it may not be unreasonable for them to pursue it,” he said. Still, he said, “I don’t think prostitution has been a high priority at the Justice Department.”

The focus on Mr. Spitzer was so intense that the F.B.I. used surveillance teams to follow both him and the prostitute in Washington in February. The surveillance teams had followed him at least once before — when he visited the city in January but did not engage a prostitute, officials said, confirming a report in The Washington Post. Stakeouts and surveillance are labor-intensive and often involve teams of a dozen or more agents and non-agent specialists.

An affidavit filed in the prostitution case did not identify Mr. Spitzer by name, only as Client 9, but it provided far more detail, some of it unusually explicit, about Client 9’s encounter with the prostitute than about any of the nine other clients identified by number in the document.

Government officials, including several who have been briefed on details of the case but declined to speak on the record because they were not authorized to discuss a continuing inquiry, said there was no alternative but to look into Mr. Spitzer’s activities once investigators began examining reports of suspicious transactions that banks filed with the Treasury Department. Those reports suggested to investigators that Mr. Spitzer might have been trying to keep anyone from noticing transfers of his own funds. That is the kind of activity that can bring an investigation of the possibility of corruption.

The reports led prosecutors and investigators to what some describe as a kind of crossroads. While they do not routinely investigate allegations concerning public officials who pay for sex, the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation regard public corruption as a high priority and routinely investigate allegations of even low-level wrongdoing.

“If the government gets a Suspicious Activity Report about a high-ranking public official, they would be negligent not to pursue it, if only to determine whether there was bribery or extortion involved,” said Robert D. Luskin, a defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor. Mr. Luskin said that as the case proceeds, the more difficult questions could well involve how the information about Mr. Spitzer became public and whether the government “will prosecute Spitzer if it doesn’t prosecute others in the same situation.”

The Treasury reports led federal investigators to the Emperor’s Club and Mr. Spitzer’s involvement with prostitutes, and later to the 47-page affidavit filed with the complaint that referred to him as Client 9.

The officials said that once they learned that such a prominent figure was involved in soliciting prostitutes, and had seemed to be arranging sex in violation of the statute that prohibits travel across state lines to engage in sex, they wanted to follow the evidence.

Moreover, several asserted that had they dropped the matter or given Mr. Spitzer’s conduct only cursory examination, they almost certainly would have been accused of a cover-up for failing to aggressively investigate possible misconduct by a public official.

In defending their handling of the case, officials said that in the end, investigators chose to monitor his conduct but made no effort to set up a sting, or an arranged situation in which Mr. Spitzer might implicate himself. They did not surreptitiously record his activities inside the hotel or seek to obtain DNA evidence. It was not necessary, as Mr. Spitzer proved to be easy prey, according to the affidavit, which was signed by an F.B.I. agent.

It indicated that on Feb. 13 federal agents staked out his hotel in Washington, and it contained recorded conversations that amply demonstrated that he willingly had a sexual encounter with a prostitute. Afterward she was recorded on a wiretap telling an Emperor’s Club employee: “I don’t think he’s difficult. I mean it’s kind of like, whatever.”

On March 10, when Mr. Spitzer was first identified by name by The New York Times on its Web site, the affidavit was widely used by news organizations to describe graphic details about his conduct.

Several current and former federal prosecutors and prominent defense lawyers who reviewed the document said the inclusion of such salacious details about Mr. Spitzer’s encounter with the prostitute went far beyond what was necessary to provide probable cause for the arrests and for searches, the purpose of the affidavit.

The government has not accused Mr. Spitzer, a Democrat, of any wrongdoing, although last week the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, Michael J. Garcia, issued a statement saying there had been no deal with Mr. Spitzer’s lawyers, suggesting that a prosecution of some kind might still be a possibility. Some officials have cautioned against drawing conclusions about the case, since it is still under way while investigators try to determine whether Mr. Spitzer misused public or campaign funds.

At the Justice Department in Washington, senior political appointees have said they had little involvement in the case, saying that it was supervised by Mr. Garcia and directly managed by Boyd M. Johnson III, head of the public corruption unit in the Manhattan United States attorney’s office.

Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, a former federal judge in New York, was not told about the case until shortly before March 5, when the complaint was filed against four of the prostitution ring’s employees.

Mr. Simon said it was unusual for the department to bring criminal charges in a prostitution case in which there was no allegation of the exploitation of children, human trafficking or some far more serious crime.

He said that in his eight years in the Brooklyn office in the 1990s, he could not recall a single major criminal case that centered on prostitution charges. “There were a lot of serious crimes — organized crime, narcotics cases, major financial crime investigations,” he said in an interview. “Prostitution was not a high priority.”

Law enforcement officials said the F.B.I. has about 450 active prostitution cases under investigation, almost all involving enterprises and some using techniques like wiretapping. In addition, since 2005, the F.B.I. has led an initiative known as Innocence Lost, which investigates prostitution involving underage women.

Justice Department officials insist that it has a strong record of breaking up large prostitution rings around the country, but many of the cases they cite involve case brought several years ago, especially before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks; after that, the department vowed to focus its attention on national security threats.

And for years, they acknowledge, the department has rarely, if ever, prosecuted or even identified the clients of a prostitution ring.

    U.S. Defends Tough Tactics on Spitzer, NYT, 21.3.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/21/nyregion/21justice.html?hp






Don't execute 9/11 accused: Mukasey


Fri Mar 14, 2008
1:23pm EDT
By Chloe Fussell


LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey said on Friday he hoped the six Guantanamo prisoners charged with the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington would not receive the death penalty.

Speaking at the London School of Economics, Mukasey said the death penalty would allow the six, including the self-confessed commander of al Qaeda's foreign military operations, to portray themselves as victims.

"I hope they don't get the death penalty -- they would see themselves as martyrs," Mukasey said in response to questions at a talk on Anglo-American law enforcement.

If convicted, military prosecutors would seek to execute the men, who are being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre.

Charges are now pending against 13 of the centre's 275 prisoners, as the Pentagon is trying to move the Guantanamo trials along before the end of the Bush administration.

Human rights groups call the proceedings a farce, as detainees do not have legal rights normally accorded to U.S. citizens and prisoners of war.

Pakistani Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and five others are charged with crimes including murder, conspiracy and terrorism for the attacks which killed around 3,000 people in 2001.

But the head of the Department of Justice said if the men were to receive the death penalty, it would at least be a fitting punishment.

"If those are not poster children for the death penalty, I don't know what is," Mukasey said.

(Editing by Dominic Evans)

    Don't execute 9/11 accused: Mukasey, R, 14.3.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSL1435858520080314






$250 Million Settlement Over Asbestos Is Announced


March 12, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — W. R. Grace & Company, a worldwide chemical company driven into bankruptcy by hundreds of millions of dollars in asbestos poisoning claims, has agreed to pay the federal government $250 million for environmental cleanup around its mining operations in Libby, Mont.

The Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency announced the settlement on Tuesday. In a news release, they called it the largest payment ever ordered under the federal Superfund program.

The settlement requires the approval of a federal judge overseeing the company’s bankruptcy proceedings and does not resolve a separate criminal case in Montana also arising from Grace’s alleged asbestos contamination of Libby, a small community in the northwestern part of the state.

A Grace spokesman, Greg Euston, said the company was pleased with the settlement but that he could not comment further on orders of the judge in the criminal matter. The E.P.A. referred questions to the Justice Department, which did not respond to inquiries.

Andrew Ames, a Justice Department spokesman, said Tuesday night that the department could not comment on the settlement because of the continuing criminal case.

In February 2005, federal prosecutors charged W. R. Grace and seven senior employees with knowingly exposing miners and residents in Libby to asbestos. More than 1,200 people became ill, and some died, prosecutors said.

An extensive cleanup operation has been under way in and near Libby since May 2000. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2001. In 2003, a federal court in Montana ordered it to pay the environmental agency $54 million for investigation and cleanup costs incurred to that point, but the money has not been paid because of the bankruptcy proceeding.

The settlement announced on Tuesday takes account of that payment and directs that future payments be directed to a special E.P.A. account to be used to clean schools, homes and businesses in Libby that are contaminated with carcinogenic asbestos dust.

The material came from a vermiculite mine and processing plant the company operated in and near Libby from 1963 to 1990. The vermiculite, which is used in insulation and other building materials, was contaminated with high levels of asbestos.

Asbestos is known to cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, a fatal tumor of the lining of the chest and abdomen. Exposure to asbestos also causes scarring of lung tissue.

    $250 Million Settlement Over Asbestos Is Announced, NYT, 12.3.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/12/us/12grace.html






Pa. Father Awarded $28M Over Son's Death


March 11, 2008
Filed at 1:26 p.m. ET
The New York Times


PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A federal court jury on Tuesday awarded $28 million to the father of a boy killed by police more than five years ago.

The jury found that two state troopers intentionally shot 12-year-old Michael Ellerbe in the back during a foot chase on Christmas Eve 2002 in Uniontown.

The civil rights lawsuit was filed by the boy's father, Michael Hickenbottom, who contended the troopers had no reason to shoot his son as he ran from a stolen vehicle the troopers had been pursuing.

''After five years, my boy has been vindicated,'' Hickenbottom said outside the courthouse. ''That's enough for me.''

A defense attorney had said the shooting was heartbreaking but justified given the tense circumstances.

''This is an enormously disappointing verdict that, in our view, is not at all supported by the evidence,'' said Andrew Fletcher, an attorney for Troopers Samuel Nassan and Juan Curry. He said his clients plan to appeal the verdict.

The troopers said they thought Ellerbe might have had a gun, and that Nassan heard a shot and saw Curry fall to the ground. Thinking his partner had been shot, Nassan fired one bullet that struck Ellerbe in the back and in the arm, the troopers said. Nassan said he learned later that Curry had actually got tangled in a fence that discharged his weapon.

Hickenbottom's attorneys said Ellerbe was unarmed and that he shooting could not have happened as police claimed. They said Curry fired the fatal shot and the two troopers changed their stories to make themselves seem less culpable.

The jury concluded that both Curry and Nassan fired at Ellerbe.

Fletcher declined to comment on that finding, but said he believed Nassan ''was certain his partner was shot.''

An internal state police investigation found Nassan alone shot Ellerbe because he believed his partner had been struck by a bullet. Both the Fayette County district attorney determined the troopers committed no crime and largely supported the state police version of the shooting.

Jurors awarded $4 million for pain and suffering, $12 million for each trooper's use of excessive force, and $4,058 for burial expenses.

    Pa. Father Awarded $28M Over Son's Death, NYT, 11.3.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Police-Shooting.html






Moussaoui Challenges Court Secrecy Rules


February 26, 2008
Filed at 10:29 a.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Admitted al-Qaida member Zacarias Moussaoui is asking a federal appeals court to undo his guilty plea. He says his lawyers were prohibited from discussing with him crucial evidence in his case.

Moussaoui is serving a life sentence. He described himself as the so-called ''20th hijacker'' and says he was supposed to have flown a fifth airplane into the White House during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Lawyers are asking an appeals court in Virginia to toss out Moussaoui's guilty plea. They say the strict rules about what classified information could be discussed made it impossible for attorneys to properly advise him. They say that violated Moussaoui's constitutional rights.

    Moussaoui Challenges Court Secrecy Rules, NYT, 26.2.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Moussaoui-Appeal.html






Court rules for companies in "agent orange" case


Fri Feb 22, 2008
10:51am EST


NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a lower court ruling dismissing a civil lawsuit against major U.S. chemical companies brought by Vietnamese plaintiffs over the use of dioxin, or "agent orange," during the Vietnam War.

The decision was handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York involving a case brought against Dow Chemical Co, Monsanto Co and other companies that had earlier been dismissed by a U.S. District Court.

In a written ruling, the appeals court judges said "we agree with the conclusions reached by the District Court in this case."

(Reporting by Martha Graybow, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

    Court rules for companies in "agent orange" case, R, 22.2.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN2257383520080222






Reporter Held in Contempt in Anthrax Case


February 20, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — A federal judge found a former reporter for USA Today in contempt of court on Tuesday for refusing to name her confidential sources who had discussed a former Army scientist’s possible role in the 2001 anthrax attacks.

The reporter, Toni Locy, now faces fines of up to $5,000 a day for refusing to comply with an earlier order issued by the judge, Reggie B. Walton. Judge Walton said he would decide in coming days whether a second former reporter, Jim Stewart, should also be held in contempt of court for refusing to reveal the sources for his accounts on the anthrax inquiry, broadcast on CBS News.

The two journalists are being pressed to reveal their sources by Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, a onetime bioterrorism expert for the Army, who is suing the federal government, saying his reputation was ruined by leaks to the news media from law enforcement officials linking him to the attacks. In 2002, the F.B.I. and John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, described Dr. Hatfill as a “person of interest” in the investigation into the attacks, which killed five people and remain unsolved.

Judge Walton said Ms. Locy’s testimony was important to help Dr. Hatfill pursue his civil lawsuit against the government, but advocates for the news media said his order was the latest of recent rulings that could hamper the work of journalists.

“Of all the federal court sanctions on reporters for refusing to reveal confidential sources over the past several years, this is perhaps the most disturbing,” said Lucy A. Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

“Toni Locy is being punished for doing what reporters are supposed to do: making sure important information gets to the public about whether the government had the investigation into a major public health threat under control,” Ms. Dalglish said.

Ms. Locy has declined to identify the sources she relied on in three articles for USA Today about the investigation. The articles discussed Dr. Hatfill’s role in the investigation and raised questions about the strength of the evidence against him.

Ms. Locy declined after the hearing to discuss any details of the case but said that the judge’s order could make it difficult for journalists to report on the status of any law enforcement investigation, even a high-profile one, “until someone is charged, tried and convicted.”

“I’m concerned about the ramifications of this order for all journalists, beyond just me,” said Ms. Locy, who now teaches journalism at West Virginia University.

In holding Ms. Locy in contempt, Judge Walton said he would impose fines beginning at $500 a day for seven days, then escalating to $1,000 a day for seven days, then $5,000 a day for seven days. He would then consider other options, which lawyers said could include jail time.

Judge Walton said he would soon rule on whether his order would be delayed pending a probable appeal by Ms. Locy.

Ms. Locy and Mr. Stewart are the only journalists still facing contempt citations in the case. Because of procedural problems and other issues, the court previously threw out subpoenas seeking testimony from a number of other journalists, including Nicholas D. Kristof, a columnist for The New York Times, who first wrote in 2002 about a mysterious Army scientist he called Mr. Z, whom he later identified as Dr. Hatfill. A defamation suit against Mr. Kristof was dismissed last year, a decision now under appeal.

Judge Walton had some cautionary words for journalists on Tuesday, but he saved his harshest judgments for the unidentified officials who linked Dr. Hatfill to the anthrax investigation in the news media.

“There’s not a scintilla of evidence to suggest Dr. Hatfill had anything to do with it,” the judge said, yet the public notoriety has “destroyed his life.”

    Reporter Held in Contempt in Anthrax Case, NYT, 20.2.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/20/us/20anthrax.html?hp






Judge Shuts Down Web Site Specializing in Leaks


February 20, 2008
The New York Times


In a move that legal experts said could present a major test of First Amendment rights in the Internet era, a federal judge in San Francisco on Friday ordered the disabling of a Web site devoted to disclosing confidential information.

The site, Wikileaks.org, invites people to post leaked materials with the goal of discouraging “unethical behavior” by corporations and governments. It has posted documents said to show the rules of engagement for American troops in Iraq, a military manual for the operation of the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and other evidence of what it has called corporate waste and wrongdoing.

The case in San Francisco was brought by a Cayman Islands bank, Julius Baer Bank and Trust. In court papers, the bank said that “a disgruntled ex-employee who has engaged in a harassment and terror campaign” provided stolen documents to Wikileaks in violation of a confidentiality agreement and banking laws. According to Wikileaks, “the documents allegedly reveal secret Julius Baer trust structures used for asset hiding, money laundering and tax evasion.”

On Friday, Judge Jeffrey S. White of Federal District Court in San Francisco granted a permanent injunction ordering Dynadot, the site’s domain name registrar, to disable the Wikileaks.org domain name. The order had the effect of locking the front door to the site — a largely ineffectual action that kept back doors to the site, and several copies of it, available to sophisticated Web users who knew where to look.

Domain registrars like Dynadot, Register.com and GoDaddy .com provide domain names — the Web addresses users type into browsers — to Web site operators for a monthly fee. Judge White ordered Dynadot to disable the Wikileaks.org address and “lock” it to prevent the organization from transferring the name to another registrar.

The feebleness of the action suggests that the bank, and the judge, did not understand how the domain system works, or how quickly Web communities will move to counter actions they see as hostile to free speech online.

The site itself could still be accessed at its Internet Protocol address ( — the unique number that specifies a Web site’s location on the Internet. Wikileaks also maintained “mirror sites,” or copies usually produced to ensure against failures and this kind of legal action. Some sites were registered in Belgium (http://wikileaks.be/), Germany (http://wikileaks.de) and the Christmas Islands (http://wikileaks.cx) through domain registrars other than Dynadot, and so were not affected by the injunction.

Fans of the site and its mission rushed to publicize those alternate addresses this week. They have also distributed copies of the bank information on their own sites and via peer-to-peer file sharing networks.

In a separate order, also issued on Friday, Judge White ordered Wikileaks to stop distributing the bank documents. The second order, which the judge called an amended temporary restraining order, did not refer to the permanent injunction but may have been an effort to narrow it.

Lawyers for the bank and Dynadot did not respond to requests for comment. Judge White has scheduled a hearing in the case for Feb. 29.

In a statement on its site, Wikileaks compared Judge White’s orders to ones eventually overturned by the United States Supreme Court in the Pentagon Papers case in 1971. In that case, the federal government sought to enjoin publication by The New York Times and The Washington Post of a secret history of the Vietnam War.

“The Wikileaks injunction is the equivalent of forcing The Times’s printers to print blank pages and its power company to turn off press power,” the site said, referring to the order that sought to disable the entire site.

The site said it was founded by dissidents in China and journalists, mathematicians and computer specialists in the United States, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa. Its goal, it said, is to develop “an uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis.”

Judge White’s order disabling the entire site “is clearly not constitutional,” said David Ardia, the director of the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard Law School. “There is no justification under the First Amendment for shutting down an entire Web site.”

The narrower order, forbidding the dissemination of the disputed documents, is a more classic prior restraint on publication. Such orders are disfavored under the First Amendment and almost never survive appellate scrutiny.

    Judge Shuts Down Web Site Specializing in Leaks, NYT, 20.2.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/20/us/20wiki.html?hp






In Big Mob Sweep, Gambino Leaders Are Indicted


February 7, 2008
The New York Times


Federal and state authorities early Thursday began rounding up scores of accused organized crime figures on a series of indictments charging murder, racketeering, construction extortions and other crimes in the largest such sweep in recent memory, law enforcement officials said.

About 80 people — among them the entire Gambino family hierarchy and reputed figures from the Genovese and Bonanno families — are named in two indictments, along with union and construction industry officials, the law enforcement officials said.

By about 10 a.m., 52 people were already in custody, including the family’s acting underboss, Domenico Cefalu, and consigliere, Joseph Corozzo, the officials said. The acting boss, who prosecutors identified as John D’Amico, known as Jackie the Nose, was not yet in custody and several officials said he was believed to be on vacation.

The arrests were announced this morning at a news conference at the office of United States Attorney Benton J. Campbell in Brooklyn.

The charges, which are being brought in United States District Court in Brooklyn and state Supreme Court in Queens, also include seven murders — three dating back more than a quarter century — along with racketeering, extortion and state gambling charges, officials said.

“This investigation was extraordinary in that it penetrated the inner workings of the Gambino family and simultaneously reached back in time to hold several members of the Gambino family accountable for their prior crimes,” Mr. Campbell said at the news conference this morning.

New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo said the case was built in large part with the aid of an informer who helped record hundreds of hours of mob conversations.

“The message today is clear: organized crime still exists in the city and the state of New York,” Mr. Cuomo said. “We like to think that it’s a vestige of the past. It’s not. It is as unrelenting as weeds that continue to sprout in the cracks of society.

“The second message, which is equally clear,” he added, “is that we will not rest until organized crime is a distant memory in New York.”

The arrests by the F.B.I. and investigators from several other agencies were coordinated with a sweep that netted dozens of accused organized crime figures in Sicily. Those charges are not directly linked to the New York arrests, but officials said they were part of a new American-Italian strategy aimed at severing the close cooperative relationship between the Gambino family and the Sicilian mob.

In addition to Mr. D’Amico, Mr. Cefalu and Mr. Corozzo, the 82-count federal indictment charges six Gambino captains, who serve as the family’s midlevel managers, along with more than a dozen soldiers, officials said. A large number of family associates are also being charged.

The construction extortion aspects of investigation, which began more than three years ago, focused on the trucking industry, which hauls away dirt excavated from major construction projects, officials said. Several union officials were also charged in a scheme to steal union benefits.

Among those charged was Anthony Delvescovo, a project manager and director of tunnel operations for Schiavone Construction Company, a heavy construction firm that has worked on major public works projects in the New York area, according to the indictment.

Four trucking company executives, from companies including SRD Contracting, Firehawk Enterprises, Jo-Tap Industries, Andrews Trucking and Dump Masters of NY Inc., were also charged.

The trucking firms were licensed by the city’s Business Integrity Commission, an agency which polices private carting companies and businesses that haul construction debris. The commission, which also had a role in the investigation, was expected to move to revoke the companies’ licenses today.

The construction projects cited in the case include a Nascar track in Staten Island, where site preparation work was done but which was never completed because racing officials scuttled the plan in the face of community opposition, officials said.

Also the subject of extortions was the Liberty View Harbor project in Jersey City, the officials said.

The seven murders include five that prosecutors are charging were committed by one Gambino soldier, Charles Carneglia, between 1976 and 1990, officials said. The first was the slaying of Albert Gelb, a highly decorated court officer who arrested Mr. Carneglia in a Queens diner after noticing he was carrying a pistol. Mr. Gelb was shot four days before he was to testify against Mr. Carneglia in that case.

The last killing was an armored car guard, Jose Delgado Rivera, an armored car guard who was shot in the back during a robbery, the officials said.

Law enforcement officials also described a case in which they said Mr. Corozzo, the consigliere, ordered the shooting of a member of the competing Luchese crime family. The victim, Robert Arena, was fatally shot at close range as he sat in a car in Brooklyn in 1996 in retribution for the murder of a Corozzo crew member.

“The shooter in that case was already arrested,” New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said in a statement. “But the boss who ordered it was indicted today.”The federal case, which was investigated by the F.B.I. along with the United States Department of Labor, the Waterfront Commission, the State Organized Crime Task Force, among other agencies, was based on hundreds of hours of secretly recorded conversations made by a construction executive who had gained the confidence of crime family members, officials said.

In the state case, brought by the office of Queens District Attorney Richard A. Browne, 26 people were charged with gambling, loan-sharking and promoting prostitution, officials said. Twenty of the people had been arrested by about 10 a.m., officials said.

The leadership of the family — Mr. D’Amico, Mr. Cefalu and Mr. Corozzo — were all charged in federal court with racketeering conspiracy and extortion and, if convicted, face up to 20 years in prison on multiple counts.

Anahad O’Connor contributed reporting.

    In Big Mob Sweep, Gambino Leaders Are Indicted, NYT, 7.2.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/07/nyregion/07cnd-mob.html






In Court Ruling on Floods,

More Pain for New Orleans


February 1, 2008
The New York Times


NEW ORLEANS — There is disappointment but little surprise here at a federal judge’s grudgingly absolving the Army Corps of Engineers of liability in the flooding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Although the decision, issued Wednesday, was sharply critical of the corps, the judge’s finding has if anything only hardened the ill feelings against the government that have hung over this city since the storm.

The plaintiffs in the class-action suit dismissed by the judge were many of the hundreds of thousands of people who filed claims here against the corps last year because of the levee breaches that flooded the city. They lined up in cars and on foot and jammed the streets around the agency’s district headquarters, acting out what has been a loudly spoken article of faith since the days in 2005 when water covered 80 percent of New Orleans and ruined the homes of thousands: the corps — not nature, not a record-breaking storm surge and not local politics or local negligence — was to blame.

The judge, Stanwood R. Duval Jr. of the Federal District Court here, a son of South Louisiana, heartily seconded that notion on Wednesday, suggesting that the corps was guilty of “gross incompetence.” But Judge Duval said he was powerless to rule favorably on the lawsuit because the Flood Control Act of 1928 granted legal immunity to the government in the event of failure of flood control projects like levees.

Kathy Gibbs, a corps spokeswoman, said the agency agreed with the dismissal, but declined further comment because other suits over Hurricane Katrina damage are pending, The Associated Press reported.

Local reaction to the ruling was muted. In part because the judge said last year that he would probably have to find the corps immune from damages, expectations appear to have been low, even as bitterness over the losses festered along with a desire to fix blame on the agency.

“There was almost a general understanding that — guess what? — they’re exempt from prosecution,” said Bari Landry, president of the Lakeview Civic Improvement Association, in a neighborhood devastated by the failure of the flood walls.

“We knew there was a very good chance this would not go forward,” Ms. Landry said. “I’m not at all surprised.”

Ms. Landry was one of some 350,000 people who filed claims. The lawyers who brought the suit dismissed Wednesday represented about 65,000 of those claimants. They said Thursday that they would appeal, arguing that the corps was not protected by the 1928 law’s immunity clause, largely because a change it had made to its flood protection plan for New Orleans had not been authorized by Congress.

If Judge Duval’s conclusion provided no comfort, his language did, echoing in legal terminology what has been strong criticism of the corps by activists, politicians and the local media.

“While the United States government is immune for legal liability for the defalcations alleged herein, it is not free, nor should it be, from posterity’s judgment concerning its failure to accomplish what was its task,” the judge wrote. “This story — 50 years in the making — is heart-wrenching. Millions of dollars were squandered in building a levee system with respect to these outfall canals which was known to be inadequate by the corps’s own calculations.”

Though the ruling spotlighted many missteps by the corps over the years, it made little of other possible factors, including culpability of former local officials overseeing levees and drainage, and particularly their rejection of the corps’s original plan for floodgates on the drainage canals that so devastated the city.

Supporters of the claimants applauded Judge Duval’s language, suggesting that it might yet fuel their cause. “What we’ve had so far is just a suspicion,” said Joseph Bruno, a lawyer in the case. “You now have a U.S. federal district judge who’s had a chance to evaluate the facts and draw legal conclusions. Now you’ve got a determination where a guy says, ‘Look, but for the nuances of the statute, these people will be called on to pay.’ ”

Sandy Rosenthal of the activist group Levees.org said: “Clearly Judge Duval is frustrated by what he had to do. It’s outrageous these levees were fragile. He and I agree the corps was responsible for the failure of the levees. It’s a positive thing that Judge Duval outlined all those things in his statements.”

The text of Judge Duval’s opinion is online at nytimes.com/katrina.

    In Court Ruling on Floods, More Pain for New Orleans, NYT, 1.2.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/01/us/01corps.html






Court Won't Reconsider

Guantanamo Ruling


February 1, 2008
Filed at 11:17 a.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal appeals court refused Friday to reconsider a ruling broadening its own authority to scrutinize evidence against detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

The Supreme Court is also closely watching that issue.

The decision is a setback for the Bush administration, which was displeased by the court's three-judge ruling in July and had urged all 10 judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review it.

The ruling held that, when Guantanamo Bay detainees bring a court challenge to their status as ''enemy combatants,'' judges must review all the evidence, not just the evidence the military chooses.

When detainees are brought before military combatant status review tribunals, they are not allowed to have lawyers and the Pentagon decides what evidence to present. Unlike in criminal trials, the government is not obligated to turn over evidence that the defendant might be innocent.

''For this court to ignore that reality would be to proceed as though the Congress envisioned judicial review as a mere charade,'' Chief Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg wrote Friday.

If the military reviewers designate a prisoner an enemy combatant, the prisoner can challenge that decision before the appeals court in Washington. The court was evenly divided 5-5 on whether to reconsider its earlier decision. A majority of judges must vote to reconsider a ruling as a full court.

    Court Won't Reconsider Guantanamo Ruling, NYT, 1.2.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Guantanamo-Detainees.html






U.S. appeals court

dismisses Guantanamo torture suit


Fri Jan 11, 2008
3:34pm EST
By James Vicini


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court ruled on Friday that four former Guantanamo prisoners, all British citizens, have no right to sue top Pentagon officials and military officers for torture, abuse and violations of their religious rights.

The decision by a three-judge panel to dismiss the lawsuit came exactly six years after the first detainees arrived at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The prison, which has been widely criticized by human rights advocates, now holds about 275 prisoners. President George W. Bush has acknowledged the prison's damage to the U.S. image and has said he would like to see it closed eventually.

The four who brought the lawsuit -- Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed and Jamal al-Harith -- were released from Guantanamo in 2004 after being held for more than two years.

The suit sought $10 million in damages and named then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and 10 military commanders.

The men claimed they were subjected to various forms of torture, harassed as they practiced their religion and forced to shave their religious beards. In one instance, a guard threw a Koran in a toilet bucket, according to the lawsuit.

The appeals court cited a lack of jurisdiction over the lawsuit, ruled the defendants enjoyed qualified immunity for acts taken within the scope of their government jobs and held the religious right law did not apply to the detainees.

Eric Lewis, the attorney who argued the case for the detainees, vowed to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.



"It is an awful day for the rule of law and common decency when a court finds that torture is all in a days' work for the secretary of defense and senior generals," Lewis said.

Another attorney for the plaintiffs, Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights, expressed disappointment that the appeals court failed to hold "Rumsfeld and the chain of command accountable for torture at Guantanamo."

The appeals court, in an opinion written by Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, ruled the lawsuit does not allege the defendants acted as rogue officials who adopted a policy of torture unrelated to the gathering of intelligence.

"Here it was foreseeable that conduct that would ordinarily be indisputably 'seriously criminal' would be implemented by military officials responsible for detaining and interrogating suspected enemy combatants," she wrote

The judge ruled the prisoners were not covered by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because they "are aliens and were located outside sovereign United States territory" at the time of the alleged violations.

In a separate ruling, the appeals court rejected a group's efforts to obtain information about the advice non-government lawyers gave the Defense Department regarding regulations for trials of Guantanamo prisoners.

In 2001, Bush issued an order establishing military commissions to try suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo.

The Pentagon issued regulations for the trials, after consulting former high-ranking government officials and academic experts. A group called the National Institute of Military Justice sued seeking access to those recommendations.

In a 2-1 opinion, the appeals court held the records were exempt from disclosure under the freedom of information law.

More than 80 people protesting the Guantanamo prison were arrested at the Supreme Court, which is considering a case on the rights of Guantanamo prisoners.

In New York's Times Square, activists marked the sixth Guantanamo anniversary by staging a demonstration of waterboarding in the middle of a rainstorm. The interrogation practice has been at the center of a bitter dispute about what constitutes torture.

(Additional reporting by Claudia Parsons)

(Reporting by James Vicini, Editing by David Alexander and Chris Wilson)

    U.S. appeals court dismisses Guantanamo torture suit, R, 11.1.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSN1129837820080111






Woman Who Tried to Shoot Ford



January 1, 2008
Filed at 2:32 a.m. ET
The New York Times


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Sara Jane Moore, who took a shot at President Ford in a bizarre assassination attempt just 17 days after a disciple of Charles Manson tried to kill Ford, was paroled Monday after 32 years behind bars.

Moore, 77, was released from the federal prison in Dublin, east of San Francisco, where she had been serving a life sentence, the Bureau of Prisons said.

Bureau spokeswoman Felicia Ponce said she had no details on why Moore was let out. But she said that with good behavior, inmates sentenced to life can apply for parole after 10 years.

Moore was 40 feet away from Ford outside a hotel in San Francisco when she fired a shot at him on Sept. 22, 1975. As she raised her .38-caliber revolver and pulled the trigger, Oliver Sipple, a disabled former Marine standing next to her, pushed up her arm. The bullet flew over Ford's head by several feet.

Moore had been picked up earlier in the day by police and Secret Service agents because she had made a phoned threat. They took her .45-caliber pistol, charged her with carrying a concealed weapon and released her. She promptly bought another weapon from a gun dealer and waited for Ford in the crowd outside the St. Francis Hotel.

Two weeks earlier, Lynette ''Squeaky'' Fromme, a follower of Manson's, tried to kill the president in Sacramento. Fromme, 59, is serving a life sentence at a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas.

Manson, who led a cult that carried out the 1969 murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others, was convicted of those murders and the slayings of a musician and a former stuntman. He is serving life sentences.

In recent interviews, Moore said she regretted her actions, saying she was blinded by her radical political views and convinced that the government had declared war on the left.

''I was functioning, I think, purely on adrenaline and not thinking clearly. I have often said that I had put blinders on and I was only listening to what I wanted to hear,'' she said a year ago in an interview with KGO-TV.

During what was expected to be a routine pretrial hearing before a federal judge, Moore blurted out that she wanted to plead guilty, and her lawyer couldn't stop her. The judge immediately accepted the plea.

Moore's background -- which included five failed marriages, name changes and involvement with political groups like the Symbionese Liberation Army -- baffled the public and even her own attorney.

''I never got a satisfactory answer from her as to why she did it,'' said retired federal public defender James F. Hewitt. ''There was just bizarre stuff.''

Ford insisted the two attempts on his life shouldn't prevent him from having contact with the American people.

''If we can't have the opportunity of talking with one another, seeing one another, shaking hands with one another, something has gone wrong in our society,'' he said. ''I think it's important that we as a people don't capitulate to the wrong element.''

The two assassination attempts in the same month shocked the nation and set in motion a Capitol Hill investigation into Secret Service protection of the president. In congressional hearings it was revealed that the agency kept a list of nearly 50,000 names of persons considered potentially dangerous to the president. Neither woman's name was on it.

Ford died just over a year ago.

There was no immediate comment from the Ford family on Moore's release. Family spokeswoman Penny Circle said in an e-mail to the AP that she did not expect to hear from them until Wednesday.

Moore was born Sara Jane Kahn in Charleston, W.Va. She acted in high school plays and dreamed of being a film actress.

In the 1970s, Moore began working for People in Need, a free food program established by millionaire Randolph Hearst in exchange for the return for his daughter Patty, who was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974.

Moore soon became involved with radical leftists, ex-convicts and other members of San Francisco's counterculture. At this time, Moore became an informant to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

She has said she fired at Ford because she thought she would be killed once it was disclosed that she was an FBI informant. The bureau ended its relationship with her about four months before the assassination attempt.

''I was going to go down anyway,'' she said in a 1982 interview with the San Jose Mercury News. ''If the government was going to kill me, I was going to make some kind of statement.''

Moore was sent to a West Virginia women's prison in 1977. Two years later, she escaped but was captured several hours later.

After Sipple gained worldwide fame for thwarting the assassination attempt, he filed an invasion of privacy lawsuit against several newspapers that identified him as gay. He claimed he was abandoned by his family after they learned of his sexual orientation by reading published accounts of his heroics.

Sipple died in 1989.


AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch and Associated Press writer Jeff Wilson in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

    Woman Who Tried to Shoot Ford Released, NYT, 1.1.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Assailant-Released.html




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