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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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Eric Holder Assigns U.S. Attorneys to Investigate Leaks

Here is the statement of Attorney General Eric Holder today announcing he has named two U.S. Attorneys to investigate the recent alleged leaks of classified information:

“Today, I assigned U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald C. Machen Jr. and U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein to lead criminal investigations into recent instances of possible unauthorized disclosures of classified information.

The Washington Post reports: [More...]

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Feds Charge East Haven Cops For Mistreating Immigrants

The investigation into abuse of immigrants by the East Haven, CT police force has taken years.

Today, the Department of Justice charged four officers, Dennis Spaulding, David Cari, Jason Zullo and Sgt. John Miller, with conspiracy, deprivation of rights and obstruction of justice. Miller is the head of the local police union.

The Indictment is here. The officers were arrested by the FBI. One agent said of the misconduct, "They behaved like bullies." [More...]

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ICE Deportation Agent Busted on Drug Charges

ICE Agent and deportation officer Jason Lowery was arrested in Arizona after taking police on a high speed chase as he tossed "bundles" of marijuana from his government vehicle. It was a government sting operation.

A U.S. immigration officer in Arizona was arrested on drug charges after leading authorities on a high-speed chase as he tossed bundles of marijuana from his government truck, state troopers said on Wednesday.

Jason Lowery, a deportation officer with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was taken into custody on Tuesday in southern Arizona following a 45-minute pursuit that ended when his vehicle flipped, troopers said. Lowery, 34, suffered minor injuries.

[More...]

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Commission Releases New Documents on 1940's Guatamalan Experiments

The new documents released by the President's Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues on the 1,300 Guatanmalan soldiers, prostitutes, prisoners and mental patients who were deliberately infected with sexually transmitted diseases in the 1940's will turn your stomach.

Here's the story of Berta, a mental patient believed to be dying:

During the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues’ meeting today on the investigation of US researchers deliberately exposing and infecting Guatemalans with sexually transmitted diseases from 1946 to 1948, one member raised the story of Berta.

....Dr. John Charles Cutler [the principal investigator for the study] .... “put gonorrhea puss on her eyes, urethra and rectrum.” Soon after, Berta died. She was one of 83 participants who died during the course of the studies.

[More...]

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PA Ex-Juvenile Judge Sentenced to 28 Years

Remember the corrupt juvenile judge scheme in Pennsylvania the prosecutors dubbed "Cash for Kids?" The scheme involved the judges taking money from private detention centers in exchange for sentencing kids to the facilities.

Defiant former Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr., convicted of racketeering, has been sentenced to 28 years in prison.

Ciavarella, known for his harsh and autocratic courtroom demeanor, filled the beds of the private lockups with children as young as 10, many of them first-time offenders convicted of petty theft and other minor crimes.

....In the wake of the scandal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed about 4,000 convictions issued by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008, saying he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles, including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea.

[More...]

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Jury Convicts NOLA Police of Cover-Up in Post-Katrina Shootings

A New Orleans jury has convicted five former police officers of charges related to their unjustified shooting of six unarmed people and attempt to create a cover-up in two incidents on the Danziger Bridge in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Two of the shooting victims died, including a 17 year old and a 40 year old man who was severely mentally disabled. One woman lost her arm.

Four of the shooting victims were from one family. None were armed and they were crossing the bridge looking for food when police opened fire. Not long after, police shot at two unarmed brothers who were also walking on the bridge looking for food. The 40 year old disabled brother was shot seven times in the back.

At trial, lawyers for the cops claimed they were fired on first and feared for their lives. Not so. One of the cops, Retired Sgt. Arthur Kaufman, who was assigned to investigate the shootings, staged the cover-up for the other cops, using his own gun. He was also convicted today. [More...]

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Defendants Sentenced by Drug-Using Judge Seek Case Review

Former Georgia federal judge Jack Camp was sentenced to 30 days for his illegal drug use. As I wrote here, his lawyers argued in their sentencing memorandum that Camp had brain damage:

Camp's sentencing statement contains a plethora of mitigation, from his bi-polar disorder for which he received the wrong kind of medication, to complications from a difficult operation for prostate cancer that required the removal of his entire prostate, to a bicycle accident in 2000 that caused brain damage. Interestingly, the defense says the temporal lobe damage caused by the accident didn't affect him cognitively, it just caused him to have poorer impulse control.

So from 2000 until his resignation in 2010 (which was required by the plea agreement) this judge, who was sentencing drug defendants and others to jail, was suffering from bi-polar disorder and temporal lobe damage, as well as engaging in illegal drug activity

The disclosures by Camp's lawyers have prompted several defendants to seek to resentencing and in some cases a new trial. [More..]

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Justice Dept Issues Report on New Orleans Police Misconduct

The Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, has issued a report finding the New Orleans police department engaged in misconduct that violated the Constitution and federal laws.

Among the findings are that the police department has used excessive force, made unconstitutional stops and searches, and illegally profiled people based on race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. The investigation also found a number of practices that contributed to the illegal conduct, including failed systems for recruiting and promoting officers, poor training and lack of supervision, among others.

The report finds the misconduct is "serious, wide-ranging, systemic and deeply rooted in the culture of the department." [More...]

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San Francisco to Dismiss Dozens of Drug Cases For Police Misconduct

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced today that his office will drop at least 57 drug cases due to perjury, illegal searches and other misconduct by police officers.

The investigation has been prompted by a series of surveillance videotapes — released by Jeff Adachi, the city’s public defender, and private defense lawyers — showing officers suspected of falsifying reports, illegally entering residences and, in one instance, making a purposefully flawed arrest for drug possession.

“This is not a game,” Mr. Gascón said. “This is real, this involves people’s lives, not only for those who have been incarcerated, but for victims.”

The feds are now investigating officers from the city's Southern Station. The public defender says thousands of cases may be in jeopardy. [More...]

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Wrongfully Convicted Man Sues Over Prosecutorial Misconduct

Jabar Collins was released from prison last year after serving 16 years for murder. He's now filed a lawsuit claiming the Brooklyn District Attorney's office under DA Charles Hynes routinely engaged in misconduct.

Michael F. Vecchione, a top assistant in the district attorney’s office, was accused of improperly using court orders to detain witnesses, physically threatening them and coercing them into providing false testimony that would benefit the prosecution’s case.

The 106 page lawsuit alleges these illegal practices were widespread in cases prosecuted by Hynes' office.

When a subpoena is issued, it is to appear in court, at a specific day and time when a hearing or trial is scheduled. It is not acceptable to subpoena someone to the DA's office for an interview. If the DA thinks a witness won't testify and a material witness warrant is necessary, the person picked up on the warrant should be brought before the court and provided counsel to challenge the warrant and seek bail, not brought to the DA's office for interrogation and threatened with jail unless they cooperate. [More...]

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