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Noriega Returned to Panama, Still Jailed

Former Panama General Manuel Noriega served 17 years in prison in the U.S. for drugs and 2 years in France for money laundering. This weekend, at his request, he was returned to Panama to begin serving three 20 year sentences. He's now 77 and in a wheelchair.

Noriega was toppled in a US invasion of Panama in 1989. He was convicted in absentia in three homicide cases involving 11 murders, including the 1985 beheading of a doctor who threatened to reveal Noriega’s drug ties. He was also responsible for the executions of nine officers who staged a failed coup.

Here are some photos of Noriega's arrest by U.S. DEA agents in Panama. The lead take-down agent, DEA group supervisor, Rene DelaCova, pleaded guilty 1n 1994 to stealing $700,000 from drug traffickers in an unrelated case. He got a 3 year sentence. [More...]

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Blagojevich Sentenced to 168 Months (14 Years)

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been sentenced to 168 months, 14 years in prison. He will be allowed to voluntarily surrender on Feb. 16. Since there is no parole in the federal system, only good time, he'll do about 12 years.

Blagojevich told the Court this morning he was sorry and accepted that he committed crimes. He asked the court to be merciful. He spoke for 18 minutes. The Judge recessed for 20 minutes and then resumed to impose sentence. The best Twitter coverage hands-down is WCIA Steve, aka Steve Staeger. All of the following comes from him (not in order): [More...]

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Blagojevich Judges Agrees Guidelines Too High

The sentencing hearing of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is underway. The judge has said he won't rule until tomorrow. The best place to follow is Twitter.

This morning the parties debated the sentencing guidelines. The Judge sided with the Government, finding the criminal activity was extensive, Blago had a leadership role and he tried to get $1.5 million for the senate seat. That puts the guidelines at 30 years to life.

"It should be noted that I agree with the government and the defense for that matter that the guideline that is correctly computed for this of 30 years to life is simply not appropriate given the facts of this case."

So the Judge will grant a departure and/or variance from the guidelines, but how much? [More...]

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Rod Blagojevich Sentencing Tuesday

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich faces sentencing tomorrow morning. The Government is seeking a 15 to 20 year sentence. In a filing today, prosecutors argued he has shown no remorse and continues to blame others for his predicament. From their filing, available on PACER:

Blagojevich repeatedly committed serious criminal acts that have done enormous damage to public confidence in Illinois government. He has refused to accept any responsibility for his criminal conduct, continues to blame others for his criminal misdeeds, and has no mitigating factors beyond those frequently found in this
Courthouse.

[More...]

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Tony Rezko Sentenced to 10 1/2 Years

Update: Tony Rezko was sentenced today to 10 1/2 years in prison. Since he's served 45 months, with good time of 54 days a year after the first year, he should be out in about 5 years.

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Antoin (Tony) Rezko finally faces sentencing today in Chicago. Prosecutors are asking for 11 to 15 years. Rezko is asking for time served (53 months.)

Last week I read through the initial 100 pages of sentencing pleadings filed, and summarized the arguments.

On Friday, Rezko filed another response, alleging among other things:[More...]

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Gov't . Seeks 11 to 15 Year Sentence for Tony Rezko

Now that the last of the Chicago corruption cases related to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has concluded (with the conviction of William Cellini last week), it's finally time for Antoin (Tony) Rezko and Rod Blagojevich to learn their fate.

Today the Judge scheduled sentencing for Rod Blagojevich for December 6. The Government has not yet filed its sentencing statement. Tony Rezkco's sentencing is November 22 and the Court recently unsealed Rezko's sentencing position and ordered the Government's to be filed publicly. The Government filed its statement last Thursday, seeking 11 to 15 years for Rezko, which includes a reduction for cooperation and his harsh conditions of confinement. Rezko is seeking time served (44 months.)

I've just read through the 100 pages of pleadings. This post is long, but it contains both sides' arguments and is a lot shorter than the 100 pages filed by the parties. If you're so inclined, read through, and tell us what sentence you think Rezko should or will receive. [More..]

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Brooklyn Detective Convicted of Planting Drugs

Brooklyn Detective Jason Arbeeny has been convicted by the Judge at his bench trial on charges he planted drugs on innocent people. Isolated instance? Hardly.

During the trial, prosecutors described the corruption within the Police Department drug units that Detective Arbeeny worked for; one former detective, who did not know the defendant, testified that officers in those units often planted drugs on innocent people.

Arbeeny was convicted of "falsifying business records, official misconduct and offering a false instrument for filing."

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Judge Denies John Edwards' Motions to Dismiss Charges

A federal judge in the Middle District of North Carolina has denied several of John Edwards' motions to dismiss the criminal charges against him. The motions were argued yesterday and the Judge asked the parties to return this morning. Asked for a statement after the hearing, Edwards said:

"What's important now is that I now get my day in court, after all these years I finally get my day in court," Edwards said. "What I know with complete and absolute certainty is I did not violate any campaign laws."

Some of the motions, according to the Judge, need to be resolved by the Jury. She did express "uncertainty" about whether venue was appropriate for some of the charges and whether legally, John Edwards could aid and abet himself. Edwards had argued that he can't be both a principal and accessory at the same time. Attorney Abbe Lowell said: [More...]

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John Edwards Seeks Dismissal of Indictment, Alleges Prosecutorial Vindictiveness

Among the bevy of motions to dismiss filed by lawyers for John Edwards yesterday, the most interesting to the public should be the motion to dismiss for abuse of prosecutiorial discretion and prosecutorial vindictiveness.

Edwards says former U.S. Attorney George Holding, now running for Congress, investigated him searching for a crime, rather than investigating a crime and searching for the culprit. He says Holding was driven by prior animosity and conflict with Edwards and Holding's own political ambitions.

The brief supporting the motion is 32 pages, I've posted the Statement of Facts here and some of the allegations below.

The crux of the argument by Team Edwards (which now consists of Abbe Lowell, James P Clooney, III and Wade Smith -- Gregory Craig and Skadden Arps are no longer on the case) is : [More...]

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Interview With Jurors in Rod Blagojevich Retrial

There was no holdout for "not guilty" in the retrial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. It's always interesting to get a glimpse of what goes on in the jury deliberation room, and the jurors in Blago's trial are talking.

Instead of secret votes, they used the "fist to five" method:

Secret ballots don’t show where people truly are, Wilson said, so the jurors resorted to what they called the “fist to five” method. If a juror’s fist was closed, Blagojevich was not guilty. If the juror showed five fingers, he was guilty.

“And then you have everything in between,” Wilson explained. “That led us to see openly people’s opinions of where they were in the process.”

The jurors didn't think Blagojevich was credible. They thought he was playing to them. Some of them found him personable, but thought the evidence of his guilt was overwhelming. The downside for Blago taking the stand is that if the Judge thinks he lied during his testimony, he will bump up his sentencing guidelines by two levels. Blago is free on bond until sentencing.

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Blagojevich Defense: Client is a "Motormouth" Who Never Got a Dime

Closing arguments have ended in the retrial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. The jury has been instructed and will begin deliberating in the morning.

Crux of the defense closing: Rod never made a dime and is "a motor-mouth who talks endlessly" thinking out loud:

"He talked over me, over the judge, over the prosecutor,” said Goldstein, reminding jurors that when Blagojevich was on the stand he would often ignore his own attorney’s objections to questions from a prosecutor and answer before Zagel could rule.

“He likes to talk,” Goldstein said. “That’s all you heard. (Prosecutors) want you to believe this talk is a crime. It’s not. He floated ideas and that’s all it is.”

[More...]

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Blagojevich Finishes Testimony, Closings Coming Soon

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich finished seven days of testimony today.

As he stepped off the stand, a jaunty Blagojevich tried to shake hands with lead prosecutor Reid Schar, but the government attorney turned away after the two had sparred for several days.

Judge James Zagel told jurors not to read anything into the rebuff, saying lawyers are instructed not to interact with witnesses.

At least one legal observer at the trial thought Blagojevich did better on the witness stand than expected. Does he have a chance? Can he persuade one juror? Team Blago may call a few more witnesses tomorrow, and then it's time for closing arguments.

Also today, Blagojevich wants the Judge to reconsider his refusal to introduce a transcrip in which Rahm asks Blago to appoint Forrest Claypool to the House seat Rahm was vacating. [More...]

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Rod Blagojevich: Prosecutors Begin Cross Examination

After five days of telling his story on direct examination, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is now undergoing cross-examination by prosecutors.

They began by asking him, "You are a convicted liar." He said "Yes."

More on his testimony here.

The cross-examination didn't begin until late this afternoon. Trial is now recessed until Monday. So Blagojevich gets the weekend to regroup. He better study hard.

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Rod Blagojevich Testifies at Re-Trial

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich testified in his defense today. He was on the stand for five hours and most of the testimony was just telling his life story to date.

Blagojevich began a meandering testimony that had all the melodrama and filigree of a Lifetime movie. It began with his childhood and moved to his college years and beyond in a five-hour performance, one that was not finished by the time the court adjourned for the day. The intricacies were as crosshatched as the tie he wore.

He was self-deprecating, humorous and congenial. [More...]

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Rahm Emanuel Testifies in Blagojevich Retrial

The defense called Rahm Emanuel today in the retrial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Emanuel was on the stand for 3 minutes.

In quick fashion, Sorosky asked Emanuel if anyone had ever asked him when he was congressman in 2006 to have his brother arrange a fundraiser for the governor in exchange for release of a $2 million grant to a school in Emanuel’s congressional district.

"No,” Emanuel said curtly. The mayor also said “no” when questioned if he had ever been asked to set up a nonprofit for Blagojevich to run in exchange for a appointing Obama friend Valerie Jarrett to the U.S. Senate.

Jesse Jackson, Jr. also testified as a defense witness today. [More...]

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