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Silva, Silva and Tsarnaev: A Confusing Story

Yesterday the feds arrested Stephen Silva of Cambridge, MA for heroin dealing and possession of a firearm with a partially obliterated serial number. Leaks from law enforcement claimed the gun is the one used to kill a Cambridge police officer days after the Boston Marathon bombings.

In June, the Judge in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's case said he was very concerned about leaks but declined to issue a gag order. He should be more concerned now. As should the judge in Silva's case, since Silva isn't charged with anything related to the bombing, the Tsarnaev's or the officer's shooting.

He was charged with unlawful possession of a gun that had an altered or obliterated serial number. That police say it's the same gun that killed the officer says nothing about how the Tsarnaev's got it. Silva could have given it any number of people who might have given it to the Tsarnaevs. who ended up giving it to the Tsarnaevs. Maybe someone paid a drug debt with the gun and not being into guns, sold it the next day, and the person he sold it too sold it to Tsarnaev.

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Azamat Tazhayakov Convicted of Obstruction of Justice and Conspiracy in Boston

Azamat Tazhayakov has been found guilty of Obstruction of Justice and Conspiracy as to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's backpack, but not his laptop.

Juror Daniel Antonino told reporters the jury believed the laptop had been taken "because it was valuable, plain and simple," and not to influence the investigation.

The defense will appeal. Among other things, they say Azamat was prejudiced by the split verdict form.

Moral of the story: Don't talk to the Feds without a lawyer. Our prisons are filled with people who thought if they could only tell their side of the story, the cops would see it their way. It rarely happens. Ask for a lawyer immediately and don't talk until you've consulted one. [More...]

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Feds Indict Fedex on Drug Conspiracy Charges

The U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco has indicted Fedex on drug conspiracy charges. Here is the Indictment.

The charges relate to its shipping of prescription drugs on behalf of internet pharmacies. The Indictment claims Fedex has been doing this since 1998 and was told to stop in 2004. The pharmacies are the Chhabra-Smoley organization and Superior Drugs.

The penalties: [More...]

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El Chapo Guzman and "La Barbie" Organize 1,000 Inmate Hunger Strike

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, arrested in February, is in solitary confinement at Altiplano Maximum Security Prison. Édgar Valdez Villarreal, aka "La Barbie" is in the same prison. The two at one time worked together, but later became enemies when La Barbie jumped ship to Beltran-Leyva. But their joint interest in the conditions of their confinement apparently trump old feuds, as the two have engineered a hunger strike (article in spanish)among 1,000 of the prison's inmates, to protest the violation of their human rights. It began Wednesday, and will continue indefinitely. [More...]

Among their complaints: [More...]

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Sentencing Commission Makes Reduction in Drug Sentences Retroactive

Update: Here is Attorney General Eric Holder's press release endorsing the Sentencing Commission's action.

At my direction, the Bureau of Prisons will begin notifying federal inmates of the opportunity to apply for a reduction in sentence immediately. This is a milestone in the effort to make more efficient use of our law enforcement resources and to ease the burden on our overcrowded prison system.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission voted today to make the upcoming two level decrease in drug offense levels under the sentencing guidelines retroactive to cover those already serving sentences. Here is the press release.

The effective date for reductions for those already serving sentences will be delayed until November, 2015, so that courts can consider public safety risks. In other words, the retroactive application is not mandatory. Inmates can begin filing motions in November, 2014, but the reduction won't go into effect until November, 2015.


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NY Judge Rules Bitcoins Subject to Money Laundering Statutes

U.S. District Court Judge Katherine Forrest was not impressed with the legal arguments made by Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht in his bid to dismiss his drug and money laundering charges. In a 51 page ruling, available here, she denied the motion. Among her rulings: Bitcoins are close enough to currency to count as money for the purposes of the money laundering statute. [More...]

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Jailhouse Snitch Caught Trying to Frame Defendant With Episode of "El Capo"

A lying jailhouse snitch got caught at his game in a Miami murder trial this week.

The snitch, Andres Garcia Florez, is serving 30 years for cocaine distribution. He thought he'd shave some time off by testifying against Clifford Friend, who is being tried for the 1994 murder of Friend's wife. (Prosecutors deny they had promised him a reduction, he testified he was hoping for one.)

Florez told the jury the two had watched an episode of El Capo 3 together. In the episode (Episodio 7, you can watch here), a high-level Russian drug dealer figures out his girlfriend is working for a rival group trying to take him down. He lures her onto a boat, ties her up with rope, attaches an anchor to the rope and throws her overboard. Flores claimed while the episode was airing, Friend told him that's what he did with his wife (whose body has never been found.) [More....]

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"El Chino Antrax" Extradited to San Diego

"El Chino" Antrax, Jose Rodrigo Arechiga Gamboa, has arrived in San Diego from the Netherlands via Con Air. He will be arraigned today in federal court.

The young, flashy alleged "sicario" for Sinaloa (Zambada) and logistics coordinator (El Chapo Guzman) is charged with conspiracy to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine, more than 500 grams of meth and more than 100 kilograms of marijuana. He is not charged with any crimes of violence.

His case is related to the case of Serafin Zambada-Ortiz, youngest son of Ismael Zambada-Garcia and brother of Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, according to the court docket, but it may just be they were both intercepted on the same wiretap.[More...]

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EX-NOLA Mayor Ray Nagin Sentenced to 10 Years

Former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. He was convicted in February on 20 of 21 counts of bribery, money laundering, fraud and filing false tax returns.

The judge sentenced him below the 15 year guidelines. The Times Picayune says here's why:

  • Nagin didn't lead the conspiracy; he followed.
  • He didn't pad his pockets as outrageously as some.
  • Aaron Broussard and William Jefferson set favorable precedents.
  • He is unlikely to run for office again.
  • He helped his family more than he enriched himself.

That news articles refer to the sentence as "relatively short" is indicative of our out-of-whack sentencing policy. 10 years for a non-violent offense is overkill.

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Pistorius Expert Provides Media With Work Done for Defense

The Evidence Room of Cleveland, Ohio has a problem. It was retained by the defense in the Oscar Pistorius case to create a re-enactment of the shooting of Oscar's girlfriend Reeva.

The reenactment, with commentary by Scott Roder, President of the Evidence Room, as it's being run on a display monitor, aired last night on Australian TV. Since Roder appears in the interview, and takes the interviewer through it, it's not possible he wasn't aware Seven News had it. Roder also talks about what Oscar told him (something a defense lawyer would never do.)

In the exclusive interview, Roder says he is convinced Pistorius did not mean to kill his girlfriend on the morning of February 14, after weeks of interviewing and analysing the evidence. "Absolutely, they physical evidence is consistent and his story remains unchanged," Roder told Sunday Night reporter Ross Coulthart."If you look at the evidence Oscar's clearly not guilty.


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Wedding Bells for Joran Van Der Sloot

Joran Van der Sloot, 26, will marry his 22 year old girlfriend at Piedras Gordas prison in Peru today. The couple are expecting their first child. Joran, who is serving a 28 year sentence for killing Peruvian Stephany Flores, met his bride while detained pending trial at Miguel Castro Castro prison in San Juan de Lurigancho, where she worked in a kiosk with her parents selling cigarettes and sundries. [More...]

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A Good Day for Oscar Pistorius at Trial as Final Defense Witness Testifies

So far, today's trial proceedings have gone very well for Oscar. His final witness, his physician and team doctor, is on the stand. The following is a recap from tweets of several live reporters in the courtroom:

Earlier today, the psych evaluation report of the state panel of experts was read into the record and accepted by both parties. Neither called witnesses to expound on it. The report found Oscar does not have narcissistic personality traits, and he has no history of abnormal aggression of violence. He has no personality traits typical of a rage killer, and he does feel genuinely vulnerable. Oscar has a history of feeling insecure and vulnerable, especially without prostheses

The report also confirmed Oscar and Reeva were in a loving relationship. There were no signs of abuse or coercion. [More...]

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Oscar Pistorius Trial Resumes: Mental Condition Fine

The prosecutor's ploy to have Oscar declared mentally ill didn't work. Doctors at the state hospital found he does not suffer from a mental disease or defect that prevents him from being able to tell right from wrong.

According to the Twitter feeds of reporters covering the trial, today's witnesses included a sound expert and the physician who amputated Oscar's legs. [More...]

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Broward County: Systemic Judicial Misconduct

Frances Robles has an eye-opening article in the New York Times about the number of judges charged with criminal conduct and ethical violations in Broward County.

How could one county have so many misbehaving judges? Some say it's systemic. Others are in denial. The facts speak for themselves.

Added: Robles says "Bad behavior by judges has become distressingly common across Florida in recent months." Here are just a few examples:

  • 3 judges charged with DUI in 6 months.
  • This month, a former judge in Broward was disbarred for exchanging 949 phone calls and 471 text messages with the prosecutor during a death penalty case.
  • Judge John C. Murphy in Brevard County is on leave after he was caught on video this month threatening a public defender, who later accused the judge of punching him in the head.
  • In the Keys, a judge who was replaced on the bench after dozing off told a local news reporter that Ambien made him hallucinate about “ ‘Fantasia’ and the dancing brooms.”
  • Another stepped down because a blogger exposed a sexually explicit profile the judge had posted on a gay dating site.

Broward County has the highest rate of exonerations of defendants in Florida. [More...]

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Sinaloa Cartel Co-Leader Dies of Heart Attack

Juan José Esparraoza Moreno,"El Azul", the veteran narco-trafficker and co-leader of the Sinaloa cartel along with Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and Ismael Zambada-Garcia, has reportedly died of a heart attack while convalescing from an accident he had about two weeks ago in which his vertebrae was injured. He was 65.

"El Azul" spent 40 years in the drug business, first with the Guadalajara cartel, then the Juarez cartel (where at one point he was second to Amado Carrillo Fuentes,aka Senor de los Cielos) before teaming up with El Chapo Guzman and Ismael Zambada-Garcia as leaders of the Sinaloa Federation. [More...]

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