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The terror of Babar Ahmad | Victoria Brittain December 3, 2011

As Stephen Lawrence‘s parents sat in court this week, they were a reminder to us of how their son became the trigger for a self-critical look into the dark side of British institutional racism, thanks to Lord Macpherson’s inquiry. Eighteen years after the Lawence murder, the case of Babar Ahmad may be poised to trigger another, equally explosive outcry into the institutional racism and Islamophobia that have allowed him to remain in a high security prison in Britain for more than seven years fighting extradition to the US. The Crown Prosecution Service has refused to prosecute him for the crimes that the US alleges he has committed here.

The Ahmad case became explosive when family and friends amassed 140,000 signatures on an e-petition for a parliamentary debate on his right to a trial here. In places like Bradford and Luton, young people mobilised by mosques, youth leaders and social networking have made their first forays into mainstream politics – deluging MPs with letters and emails.

The initial response of the backbench business committee last week was to tag this e-petition on to a pre-arranged debate on extradition to be held not in the main chamber, but in Westminster Hall. The MPs involved appeared unaware of, or impervious to, the groundswell of real anger among young people in particular, who felt disrespected by the MPs’ decision. And the outrage went much broader, with more than 100 lawyers, including QCs, writing to the leader of the house, Sir George Young, asking for a full debate.

Last Tuesday backbench MPs decided that on Monday there will after all be a debate on a motion “to reform the UK’s extradition laws as a matter of urgency to strengthen the protection of British citizens …”. But it does not mention Ahmad and the e-petition, with Dominic Raab – the MP who was instrumental in securing the debate – refusing to insert the key phrase “pending cases” into the motion, which would have included people facing extradition. This is not the democratic outcome of listening to 140,000 people’s voices.

Five other men, including three Britons, are in the same position of having been fighting extradition to the US for years from prisons in the UK, where they are accused of no crime. The stress on their lives can be gauged from the fact that one has been moved to Broadmoor after a breakdown in the special detainee unit where Ahmad is held.

Ahmad’s ordeal has had particular resonance in part because of the saga of the 73 injuries he received during his arrest, and his subsequent court case against the officers involved. In 2009 the Metropolitan police made an unprecedented admission that officers subjected Ahmad to a brutal beating causing multiple injuries, and offered him £60,000 compensation. The case exposed shocking behaviour by some officers, in which racism and islamophobia were overt; and incompetence, or worse, lay behind the curious disappearance of many sacks of vital evidence.

Two years later, in a criminal case against the officers, the jury was not told of the Met’s admissions, or the payment it had offered, and the four officers concerned were found not guilty.

The stigma of terrorism is behind this story of abuse and corner-cutting by police, compounded by an attempted cover-up in court – which failed once and succeeded the second time. Only last week it was revealed that the police, with extraordinary laxity, in 2003 sent material gathered from his house to the US, without showing it to the Crown Prosecution Service. Along the way, the Home Office, and regrettably some MPs, have failed to see the huge resonance of this case for Britain.

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‘Improper care’ given to Jackson November 1, 2011

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Dr Paul White said during cross-examination that he had never heard of propofol being used in a bedroom

Dr Conrad Murray deviated from accepted medical standards in his care for Michael Jackson, a medical expert said.

Dr Paul White, witness for the defence, was forced to concede during cross-examination that he had never heard of propofol being used in a bedroom.

The expert, who began his testimony last week, had speculated that Jackson took an extra, lethal dose of the sedative without Dr Murray’s knowledge.

Dr Murray denies charges of involuntary manslaughter.

If convicted, he could face up to four years in jail and lose his licence to practise medicine.

Dr Murray has said he administered propofol to Jackson, a powerful anaesthetic normally used in surgery, to help him sleep.

Continue reading the main story

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I think he was providing a service to Mr Jackson that he had requested and in fact insisted on”

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Dr Paul White

After lengthy cross-examination, Dr White, who has been called the “father of propofol”, said that the drug was not usually used to treat insomnia, describing it as “complete off-label use of the drug”.

But he said Dr Murray could have loaded a syringe with propofol and left it in a place where Jackson could access it.

Jackson could have woken up from sedation and injected additional propofol into his intravenous (IV) tube, Dr White speculated.

During his cross-examination Dr White conceded that Dr Murray may have lied to emergency room doctors when he did not tell them he had given propofol to Jackson in the hours before his death.

“I think it was something that he overlooked,” Dr White said initially, before admitting lying was an “option”.

The anaesthesiologist added that Dr Murray should have called 911 earlier.

‘Pushing propofol’

Dr Murray gave Jackson cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) before a bodyguard called 911

The prosecution also asked Dr White if he thought Dr Murray had violated the doctor’s oath to “do no harm” to his patient.

“I think he was providing a service to Mr Jackson that he had requested and in fact insisted on,” Dr White replied.

But he told the court he would not have accepted such a job.

“It’s something no amount of money could convince me to take on,” Dr White testified.

The witness also said when a patient was being given a “relatively small dose” of 25ml it may be acceptable for the doctor to leave his patient’s bedside after 15 to 30 minutes.

After further questioning, when the prosecution referred to a statement made by Dr Murray that Jackson used to “push the propofol” into himself, the witness said under those circumstances he would not have left the room.

It is alleged that Dr Murray left Jackson alone on a propofol drip for two minutes to use the bathroom. When he returned, the singer was unresponsive.

After Dr White delivers his testimony, the prosecution and defence are expected to deliver their closing arguments.

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Michael Jackson’s doctor stands trial for involuntary manslaughter September 29, 2011

Prosecution and defence lay out opening statements on first day of the trial of Michael Jackson’s personal doctor, Conrad Murray, in Los Angeles. Murray denies the involuntary manslaughter of the singer by providing him with a lethal dose of the anaesthetic propofol and other sedatives without the proper lifesaving equipment or skills

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Amanda Knox was a ‘faithful woman in love’ says defence lawyer September 27, 2011

There was “no trace” of either Amanda Knox or her former Italian boyfriend in the room where Meredith Kercher was murdered, a court hearing their appeal was told on Tuesday.

Knox, who was depicted as a witch at the previous hearing, was more like Jessica Rabbit in the 1988 animated film Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, according to one of her lawyers. “She can be seen as a man-eater. But in fact she was a faithful woman in love,” said the first defence lawyer to sum up before the judges and jury who will decide if Knox and her ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, are freed.

Giulia Bongiorno, counsel for Sollecito, quoted the cartoon vamp: “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.” And jabbing a finger at the prosecutors, she said: “They drew her that way.”

Her brief foray into the world of animated cartoons was the prelude to a vigorous assault on the prosecution case in which she came within a hair’s breadth of claiming that, like Roger Rabbit, her client and his former girlfriend had been framed. In 2009, a lower court decided Sollecito and Knox murdered Kercher in a drug-fuelled sex game with a third man, Rudy Guede.

Yet, said Bongiorno, “in the room of the crime, there are no traces of either Amanda or Raffaele. This is the absolute truth”. The only alleged evidence was a trace of Sollecito’s DNA on Kercher’s bra clasp, and that was evidence “torn apart by the experts’ report”.

In June, two Rome university professors appointed by the court to review the forensic findings had reported the DNA could have got there by contamination. The bra clasp had laid at the scene of the crime for more than six weeks.

The experts also reported that DNA attributed to Kercher on the alleged murder weapon was not necessarily hers. The knife bore signs that it had been handled by Sollecito and Knox, but was in the young Italian’s kitchen and likely therefore to have been handled by both.

As a result of the experts’ report, Bongiorno said: “Nothing connects Raffaele Sollecito to this crime … The few indications were to do with Amanda Knox and have been transferred to him. There are people who acquire a family along with a girlfriend. He acquired a crime.” But, added his lawyer, there was “nothing on Amanda either”.

Sollecito was a 23-year-old computer science student at the university of Perugia when he was arrested for the murder.

His lawyer warned the court against being misled by the prosecution’s emphasis on the number of judges who had endorsed its case. A footprint in Kercher’s bedroom was ascribed to her client and that version was accepted as fact by judges up to and including Italy‘s highest appeals court. It then turned out to belong to Rudy Guede, she said.

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Casey Anthony’s Defense Expected to Rest Case July 1, 2011

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The defense for Casey Anthony is expected to rest Thursday after calling its final witnesses, though it’s still not known if the central Florida mother will take the stand to answer questions about whether she killed her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.

On Wednesday, the defense may have been dealt a blow when Casey Anthony’s father broke into tears when telling jurors about his suicide attempt some six weeks after his granddaughter’s body was found. Defense attorneys contend Caylee did not die at the hands of her mother but accidentally drowned in her grandparents’ pool and that George Anthony helped cover it up.

Casey Anthony is charged with first-degree murder in Caylee’s death. The prosecution says she suffocated the child with duct tape.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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‘Whitey’ Bulger, Accused Mobster, Seeks Court-Appointed Lawyer June 26, 2011

James “Whitey” Bulger, the accused Boston mobster arrested in California with $800,000, was given three days to show why a lawyer should be appointed to represent him at taxpayer expense.

Bulger, 81, and his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, 60, made initial appearances in federal court in Boston Friday after a trip from California. Bulger, who was a fugitive for 16 years, didn’t oppose his continued detention while awaiting arraignment. Wearing jeans and a white hooded sweatshirt, he was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs by U.S. marshals.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kelly said prosecutors oppose any kind of taxpayer-funded attorney for Bulger, saying he has “family resources available.” Bulger was asked by Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler if he could afford an attorney.

“Not after you took my money,” Bulger responded. More than $800,000 in cash and more than 30 firearms, along with false identification, were found in Bulger’s apartment after his arrest, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said.

“We think he has more access to cash,” Kelly said. “We clearly don’t think this was his last stash.”

The government seized all of Bulger’s assets, said Peter Krupp, a lawyer appointed to provisionally represent him. Bowler gave Krupp until the close of business on June 27 to make any filings regarding the appointment of lawyers to represent Bulger. She gave Bulger the same deadline to file a financial affidavit.

Bulger is described in a 111-page indictment dated May 23, 2001, as a leader of a criminal organization known as the “Bulger Group” and “Winter Hill Gang.”

The gangs committed extortion, loan sharking, bookmaking, narcotics trafficking and murder, beginning about 1972, the government said. Bulger was wanted in connection with 19 murders.

Bulger may face life in prison or the death penalty if he is convicted of murder, depending on the jurisdiction, Carmen M. Ortiz, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, said.

Greig, who fled with Bulger in 1995, was charged in an April 1997 complaint in federal court in Boston with harboring and concealing him from arrest. If convicted, she may face a five-year prison term.

After appearing yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jennifer Boal, Greig was returned to the custody of U.S. Marshals. She is scheduled to return to court June 28 for a hearing on bail.

Entering the courtroom, Bulger mouthed the word “hello” to his brother William, who was seated in the second row. Greig’s twin sister, Margaret McCusker, also attended the court appearances.

William Bulger served as president of the Massachusetts Senate from 1978 to 1996 and later became president of the University of Massachusetts. While president of the university, he appeared before a U.S. House committee and refused to answer questions about his brother’s whereabouts, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Bulger and Greig were arrested June 22 in Santa Monica, California, after FBI agents and Los Angeles police put an apartment building under surveillance and lured Bulger outside with an undisclosed ruse, said FBI agent Richard DesLauriers.

The arrests came as the result of a tip received the day before generated as the result of an ad campaign about Greig. The ads ran in 14 cities starting this week and targeted women who were the same age as Greig and might have been her co- worker, hair-stylist or neighbor.

The tip was received by the FBI’s Los Angeles office. While the ads didn’t run in Los Angeles, news coverage of the campaign aired in that market on national news and cable outlets, DesLauriers said.

FBI Informants

U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf was assigned to preside over Bulger’s case. It was in Wolf’s courtroom in 1998 that Bulger’s partner, Stephen Flemmi, revealed that he and Bulger were FBI informants and had been promised immunity from prosecution.

Bulger’s group was also linked to illegally shipping arms to the Irish Republican Army and importing about 36 tons of marijuana into the U.S., both in 1984, prosecutors said.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Bulger worked as an informant on mob activities for the FBI in Boston, according to the agency. He was indicted in January 1995 for racketeering violations, including activities while he was an informant. Five years later he was indicted for multiple murders.

Bulger, who was born in Boston, has a violent temper and was known to frequent libraries and historic sites, the FBI said. He carried a knife and kept physically fit by walking on the beach, the agency said.

Another girlfriend of Bulger’s cooperated with the government in trying to track down the fugitive in 1996, according to a 1997 FBI affidavit in support of the criminal complaint against Greig. The woman, who told the FBI she had been Bulger’s girlfriend for 20 years, found out in 1994 that he had been involved with Greig as well during that time.

The former girlfriend told the FBI in 1996 that, after Bulger was charged in January of 1995, he returned to Massachusetts and picked up Greig, according to the affidavit.

In 2008, the FBI doubled its $1 million reward for information leading to Bulger’s capture. Officials said the disposition of the reward — and a $100,000 reward for Greig — is undetermined.

DesLauriers, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston division, said speculation that the bureau knew of Bulger’s whereabouts before this week’s advertising campaign was wrong.

“Any claim that the FBI knew Mr. Bulger’s whereabouts prior to the FBI’s publicity efforts this week are completely unfounded,” DesLauriers said in a statement posted on the website of the FBI’s Boston division. “When we learned his location, he was arrested promptly.”

The case is U.S. v. Bulger, 94-cr-10287, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston.)

© Copyright 2011 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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2 House Members Want to End Federal Ban on Pot June 24, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two House members have introduced a bill that would remove marijuana from the list of federal controlled substances and cede to the states enforcement of laws governing pot.

The legislation would eliminate marijuana-specific penalties under federal law, but would maintain a ban on transporting marijuana across state lines. It would allow individuals to grow and sell marijuana in states that chose to make it legal.

The bill was introduced Thursday by Democrat Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Republican Ron Paul of Texas. Paul is running for the GOP presidential nomination.

Frank said he’s not advocating marijuana use, but believes that criminal prosecution is a waste of resources and an intrusion on personal freedom.

The bill has no chance of passing the Republican-controlled House.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Petraeus: I’ll Leave Army Behind as CIA Chief

WASHINGTON (AP) — Gen. David Petraeus said Thursday that if confirmed as CIA director, he would arrive alone at the agency’s Langley, Va., headquarters, leaving his Army uniform and extensive military staff behind, as he shifts to the head of the “silent service.”

Petraeus assured senators that he will not impose a military hierarchy at the CIA and will encourage a culture of constructive give and take.

“I wanted this job,” he said, and discussed it with the Obama administration for months.

Petraeus also assured senators that he could be objective about the wars he has just run, saying he can “grade my own work” and provide the president “the most accurate view possible.”

Petraeus said he would work to sharpen the CIA’s analysis, as he had sometimes found it too negative and, at other times, too positive. He blamed that on the agency’s reliance on data collected six to eight weeks prior to the date of the report. He said he hopes to speed that up.

The most recent U.S. intelligence assessment of Afghanistan found little progress in key parts of Petraeus’ counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan. The CIA had a major hand in preparing the assessment.

The report found that special operations night raids, combined with village-by-village security operations, have shown more lasting progress in undermining the Taliban and their influence than attempts by conventional military forces to drive out militants, according to three U.S. officials who have read the analysis and described it to The Associated Press.

The assessment, issued in February, does not favor one strategy over another. But the information gives ammunition to those who support Vice President Joe Biden’s special operations-centered counterterrorism strategy over Petraeus’ backing of traditional counterinsurgency. It was seen as proof for some that the additional conventional forces Petraeus championed made little impact on the overall campaign, and a slam against parts of the strategy designed by its architect, just as he seeks to lead the intelligence service.

Other U.S. officials argue that the success of special operations troops would not have been possible without the logistical support from conventional forces in territory that the U.S. clawed back from insurgents in large-scale operations. The estimate says progress has been made in special operations-led counterinsurgency projects, not just raids, the officials said.

Petraeus and his predecessor, retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, helped bring about an increase in special operations forces to roughly 10,000. That includes about 4,000 elite “direct action” troops who hunt militants, and 6,000 others, such as Green Berets and Marine special operators, who train village security forces.

As for the lack of progress in some areas noted in the analysis, it’s rare that the picture presented to the public by a general running a war matches the private advice and criticism given to him by the intelligence services.

If confirmed, Petraeus would become the 20th director of the CIA, succeeding Leon Panetta, who has been confirmed as defense secretary. As CIA chief, Panetta had won over would-be detractors by championing agency causes on Capitol Hill, such as arguing against the prosecution of CIA interrogators for carrying out enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding.

Panetta faced an agency that initially saw the former congressman and Clinton administration official as an unknown quantity, fearing he did not know enough about the field to direct its staff and operations. CIA staff now worry about Petraeus because they know him as a general they did not always agree with, current and former intelligence officials said.

Panetta won the agency’s trust and many internal admirers by fighting for them on Capitol Hill and at the White House. In the most famous instance, he won a clash with former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair over who would appoint intelligence chiefs at U.S. embassies.

Petraeus signaled that he planned to continue Panetta’s efforts to share intelligence around the government and to give analysts real-world experience. He said he’d also maintain close ties with Congress, as Panetta had, and has told staff he’d continue Panetta’s tradition of meeting once a month with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

At the Senate hearing he also said he’d be “reaching out, and reaching down” to agency employees to get to know them.

With a wink at the agency’s job at winning over spies — and its record of trying to co-opt its leaders — Petraeus said he’d hold a meeting at the main auditorium the day he arrives and tell the audience, “You all should know that I am here to recruit you … and I know you are here to recruit me.”

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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2 Guilty in Murder of Journalist Checking Muslim Group June 10, 2011

OAKLAND, Calif. — A jury on Thursday found the leader of a financially troubled community group and another man guilty of murder in the daytime shooting of the first American journalist killed on U.S. soil for reporting a story in more than a decade.

Yusuf Bey IV, former head of Your Black Muslim Bakery, also was convicted in the murders of two other men in a month-long spree of violence that culminated with the fatal August 2007 shooting of 57-year-old Chauncey Bailey while he walked to the newspaper where he was investigating the financial woes of Bey’s group.

Jurors also found co-defendant Antoine Mackey guilty in the murders of Bailey and 36-year-old Michael Wills, but deadlocked on a murder charge against him in the death of 31-year-old Odell Roberson Jr.

“Justice has finally been done,” Bailey’s cousin, Wendy Ashley-Johnson, said outside court. “Now Chauncey can rest. This chapter is over.”

Founded some 40 years ago by Bey’s father, the bakery, which promoted self-empowerment, became an institution in Oakland’s black community while running a security service, school and other businesses. In recent years, the organization was tainted by connections to criminal activity.

Prosecutors argued that Bey felt he was above the law and was so desperate to protect the legacy of his family’s once-influential bakery that he ordered Bailey murdered. The Oakland Post editor had been working on a story about the organization’s finances as it descended toward bankruptcy.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said the verdicts affirmed “our abiding conviction that violence against the free voice of the press will not be tolerated in our society.”

Bey and Mackey, both 25, appeared stoic during the reading of the verdicts, which prompted tears from the families of the victims and defendants.

Bey’s attorney, Gene Peretti, said he had thought the case would end in a mistrial because jury deliberations lasted more than two weeks.

“It’s a surprise and very disappointing frankly,” Peretti said, adding that his client was “a little bit stunned.” He and Mackey’s lawyer, Gary Sirbu, said they plan to appeal.

Both men could get life in prison without the possibility of parole when they are sentenced on July 8.

Bey was charged with ordering the killing of Bailey, as well as the slayings of Roberson and Wills in July 2007.

Mackey, a former bakery supervisor, was accused of acting as the getaway driver for Devaughndre Broussard, who confessed to killing Bailey on a busy city street with three shotgun blasts, including a final shot to the face to ensure his victim was dead.

Mackey was convicted of murder for shooting Wills. He had been accused of aiding Broussard in Roberson’s shooting, but jurors couldn’t decide whether he was guilty.

Prosecutors said Bey ordered Broussard to kill Roberson in retaliation for the murder of Bey’s brother by Roberson’s nephew.

Mackey was accused of killing Wills at random after Mackey and Bey had a conversation about the Zebra murders, a string of racially motivated black-on-white killings in San Francisco in the 1970s. Bey and Mackey are black, and Wills was white.

Broussard, the prosecution’s key witness, testified that Bey ordered him and Mackey to kill the three men in exchange for a line of credit.

The two-and-a-half-month trial, which included more than 60 witnesses, had been delayed several times before finally getting under way in March. Bey’s two original lawyers resigned after prosecutors accused one of smuggling a hit list out of jail to prevent potential witnesses from testifying.

Broussard struck a plea deal of 25 years in prison in exchange for serving as the prosecution’s key witness. The 23-year-old former bakery handyman inexplicably laughed several times while testifying for more than a week, including while describing Bailey’s shooting on Aug. 2, 2007.

Lawyers for Bey and Mackey questioned Broussard’s credibility, arguing he was “a cold-blooded killer” who killed for sport and had doctored his testimony in exchange for the plea deal.

Prosecutor Melissa Krum told jurors during closing arguments that while Broussard is a “sociopath,” his testimony was credible.

“Sometimes you have to make a deal with a demon to get to the devil,” she said.

Before the killing of Bailey, Cuban-American Manuel de Dios Unanue, an outspoken journalist, was shot in the head in a New York City restaurant in 1992. Police believe drug traffickers and businessmen plotted to murder him in retaliation for hard-hitting stories he had written about their operations, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Experts: Anthony Defense Team Faces Uphill Battle June 5, 2011

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Prosecutors say they’re roughly halfway done presenting their murder case against a Florida woman accused of killing her daughter.

The bulk of their forensic evidence is still to come, but it’s unclear if it will be enough to propel the highly circumstantial case against Casey Anthony to a conviction.

Prosecutors are trying to prove Anthony’s 2-year-old daughter Caylee was suffocated after duct tape was placed over her mouth in the summer of 2008. The defense contends she drowned in her grandparents’ swimming pool.

The state has led jurors through the trail of lies Anthony told friends, family and law enforcement about her child’s disappearance. Still, some court watchers say it’s the drowning theory that the defense introduced in its opening statement that could ultimately bolster the prosecution’s case.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Philly Mob, Once Written Off, Has Bounced Back May 28, 2011

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Just a few years ago, federal authorities thought they had the Philadelphia-area mob close to sleeping with the fishes: One boss had turned government informant, his successor was convicted of racketeering and the underworld organization seemed in disarray.

But a federal grand jury report unsealed Monday, announcing charges against the top two reputed Philadelphia mobsters and 11 others, paints a picture of La Casa Nostra as alive and well.

Its 70 pages detail an operation that has rebounded and is thriving in some of classic staples of organized crime: sports betting, electronic gambling, coded conversations and violent threats.

“Despite the clear history over the past 30 years, there are people still willing to be involved in this type of activity,” said Barry Gross, a former assistant U.S. attorney who helped bring down several city crime bosses. “These allegations seem to be in line with what they’ve always done. … It continues.”

The old-school hallmarks of organized crime are detailed in a report that reads like something straight from the big screen, replete with real-life characters who go by “Uncle Joe,” ”Mousie,” ”Bent Finger Louie” and “Sheep.”

The report outlines a structured world of bosses and underbosses, where members are “made” or “straightened out” in a ceremony where a knife and gun are displayed, and the potential member must agree to be willing to use either of them to help “our friends.” The guiding rule of this underworld is “omerta,” the code of silence, the grand jurors wrote, and the penalty for violating that code is death.

The indictment alleges that reputed mob leader Joseph “Uncle Joe” Ligambi, reputed underboss Joseph “Mousie” Massimino and 11 others engaged in loan sharking and ran illegal gambling businesses involving video poker machines and sports bookmaking.

There are no murder charges, but authorities allege the men used threats to kill or harm people to recoup business debts.

In April 2002, for example, two of the defendants went to collect “Uncle Joe’s money” and one of them told the debtor that he was “capable of cracking” the victim if necessary, the grand jurors allege. In another instance a month later, two defendants allegedly told a victim they had repeatedly assaulted another debtor, once with a bat.

The indictment paints a picture of a classic world of coded talk, where illegal gambling machines — placed in coffee shops, restaurants and other places — are spoken of as espresso or coffee machines. Reputed mobsters and associates engage in and secret “walk and talks,” the report alleges, having covert conversations on foot to hinder interception.

“Organized crime still exists in the Philadelphia area,” George Venizelos, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia field division, said at a news conference announcing the charges. “It has not disappeared.”

That’s a different tune than authorities were singing several years back, especially after former mob boss Ralph Natale was sentenced in 2005 to 13 years in prison.

Natale is believed to be the first reigning mob boss ever to testify for federal authorities.

It 1999, Natale admitted he ordered or personally committed a total of eight murders in exchange for a shorter prison term. He later testified in four trials, including that of Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino, the man investigators say succeeded him as leader. Merlino and six others were convicted of racketeering and other mob-related activities but cleared on murder and attempted murder charges.

“He helped expose it and helped eradicate the La Cosa Nostra in the Philadelphia area,” Gross said then.

In announcing the latest arrests, however, federal authorities described a revived and reinvigorated criminal enterprise that, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said, “has shown a remarkable ability to reorganize.”

Edwin J. Jacobs Jr., an attorney who has represented Merlino and other alleged mobsters in the past, said prosecutors typically talk in cycles.

“At the conclusion of a racketeering case, the government will announce that they have delivered a fatal blow to organized crime,” said Jacobs, who declined to address the latest charges specifically. “But when they indict the next case, they readily acknowledge a healthy and a vibrant and a powerful organization.”

Gross said every past prosecution has hurt La Casa Nostra significantly, but the potential for making money keeps people coming back.

“It’s about the money. It’s always about the money,” he said.

One notable absence from the indictment is actual violence, something noted by a federal magistrate at a detention hearing for Ligambi and another defendant.

A decade ago, the last big mob indictment alleged three slayings, part of a bloody period in which more than 30 people were killed in gangland violence — starting with the March 21, 1980, assassination of former crime boss Angelo Bruno.

The latest incarnation of the city’s La Cosa Nostra, authorities allege, rules based on past reputation and fear.

“What they’re banking on is fear,” federal prosecutor John S. Han said. “They don’t need to commit actual violence.”

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Man Who Gave Trooper the Finger Has Charge Dropped

DENVER (AP) — A harassment charge has been dropped in the case of a 35-year-old Colorado man who faced prosecution for displaying his middle finger to a Colorado State Patrol trooper.

The State Patrol said in a statement late Friday that it asked that the case be dropped.

The American Civil Liberties Union had argued that while the gesture may be have been rude, it amounted to protected free speech.

According to the ACLU, Shane Boor was driving to work in April when he saw a trooper pull over a car. As Boor passed by, he extended his middle finger in the trooper’s direction.

Boor was later stopped and received a criminal summons ordering him to appear in court to answer a criminal charge of harassment, which carries a possible six-month jail term.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Blood at Scene Becomes Pivotal for Strauss-Kahn Defense May 26, 2011

Evidence that Dominique Strauss- Kahn’s encounter with a hotel maid may have involved force, including reports of blood at the scene, might damage any defense contention that she consented, former prosecutors said.

Strauss-Kahn is accused in a seven-count indictment of forcibly trying to have intercourse with the woman at the Sofitel hotel in midtown Manhattan, and of making her have oral sex with him. Strauss-Kahn, who resigned as head of the International Monetary Fund after being charged with sexual assault and attempted rape, plans to plead not guilty, his lawyers have said.

Since Strauss-Kahn’s May 14 arrest, news organizations, such as the Associated Press and Fox News, have reported the discovery of physical evidence, including semen and a cut on the defendant’s back, that suggest contact between the accuser, a 32-year-old West African immigrant, and Strauss-Kahn, 62. Strauss-Kahn hasn’t confirmed or denied there was an encounter. His attorneys stopped just short of saying that, if there was one, it was consensual.

“If the DNA evidence is straightforward and there are no big surprises along the way here, plea negotiations would seem inevitable,” Samuel Buell, a former federal prosecutor, said in a phone interview. “It may be a matter of some time before the defendant can be brought to understand the necessity of those discussions.”

Crime Scene Unit

A New York Police Department crime scene unit gathered evidence from Strauss-Kahn’s hotel suite, Assistant District Attorney John “Artie” McConnell told a judge last week. While the results of tests performed on material taken in the searches weren’t available as of the May 19 hearing, preliminary indications “support the victim’s version of events,” the prosecutor said.

Strauss-Kahn’s body was examined and photographed after his May 14 arrest. Defense lawyers Benjamin Brafman and William Taylor said their client agreed to a government request for a physical examination.

News organizations including the Wall Street Journal have reported that a DNA sample from Strauss-Kahn matched semen found on the maid’s shirt. The Associated Press reported carpet samples taken from the room may contain semen traces and blood was found on the sheets. Fox News said Strauss-Kahn cut his back on a piece of furniture in the room during a struggle with the victim, who told him that she didn’t want to have sex with him. All the reports cited unidentified sources.

Reports of Evidence

Erin Duggan, a spokeswoman for the New York District Attorney’s office, declined to comment on the reports. Paul Browne, a spokesman for the police department, didn’t return calls seeking comment. Brafman, who declined to comment on the reports, told a judge last week that the evidence was in his client’s favor.

“The forensic evidence, we believe, are not consistent with forcible encounter,” he said at Strauss-Kahn’s first appearance in Manhattan criminal court, stopping short of directly saying it was consensual. “This is a very, very defensible case.”

If convicted, Strauss-Kahn faces as long as 25 years in prison. He has been free on $1 million cash bail and under home detention and armed guard since May 20. His arraignment is scheduled for June 6. In arguing against bail, McConnell said the accuser’s actions and the results of a physical examination supported her account.

‘Multiple Witnesses’

“She made outcries to multiple witnesses immediately after the incident, both to hotel staff and law enforcement,” McConnell said at the May 16 hearing. “She was then taken to the hospital and was given a full sexual assault forensic examination. The observations and findings during that exam corroborate her accounts,”

Any blood from a cut on Strauss-Kahn or the woman that was consistent with her resisting would subvert a defense that the sex had been consensual, said Paul Callan, a former New York prosecutor.

“Blood would be critical to prove physical force. If indeed there is an injury to his back, it corroborates a specific detail in her story,” Callan said in a phone interview. “Corroboration is very important. In a case where it’s he-said, she-said, it gives the jury something to rely on.”

Plea Not Likely

Still, a plea is unlikely, said Callan, who represented the estate of Nicole Brown Simpson in a civil lawsuit against O.J. Simpson. The former football player was found liable for his ex- wife’s wrongful death after being acquitted on charges of murdering her and Ron Goldman.

With a plea, Strauss-Kahn “would become a registered sex offender and it would stain him for the rest of his life,” Callan said. “It’s going to be won or lost at trial.”

Defense lawyers may try to claim the maid exchanged sex for money, Callan said.

“I don’t see the defense being able to make a compelling case” that the woman was “overcome by lust,” Callan said. “The details of the defense are going to be supplied as the case goes along, and it’s not going to be pretty for the victim.”

Callan said he was in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office the day the maid was reported to have testified before the grand jury.

“She had a hat on, large sunglasses and a silk scarf pulled across her face, which she put down as she walked past me,” Callan said. “She was surrounded by police detectives.”

Gained Credibility

Prosecutors said that the woman’s story gained credibility because she immediately reported the alleged incident to fellow workers. She also picked Strauss-Kahn out of a police lineup within 24 hours of the alleged attack. McConnell said Strauss- Kahn could be seen on a hotel video making an “unusually hasty” exit after the attack allegedly occurred.

Defense lawyers said their client was in a hurry to have lunch with his daughter before heading to a scheduled Air France flight. Also, they said, he later called the hotel looking for a mobile phone he thought he had left in his room and told the security staff where to find him. Police used that information to arrest him minutes before his plane was due to take off.

“If you just committed crime at a hotel in New York, the last thing I would want to do is report to hotel security where I am,” Brafman said at a bail hearing.

Brafman told French television’s TF1 on May 22 that, based on the evidence he had seen, his client would be acquitted at a fair trial.

Hard to Convict

Linda Fairstein, a former Manhattan prosecutor who specialized in cases involving sexual attacks, said that while the evidence reported so far seems to favor the prosecution, a conviction will be difficult to obtain.

Strauss-Kahn, a former French finance minister and member of France’s opposition Socialist Party, had been among the most popular possible candidates to contest France’s 2012 presidential election, according to opinion polls.

“I think it’s a tough case — because of the facts and circumstances and the power dynamic between the witness, who is probably an uneducated or less educated employee doing a menial job, and a powerful, well-respected brilliant politician,” Fairstein said.

The New York Post, citing an unnamed French businesswoman, reported that friends of Strauss-Kahn offered money to the maid’s family in Guinea to make the case go away.

‘Fully Exonerated’

“Reports that Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys or representatives are in contact with the complaining witness or her family are false,” Taylor and Brafman said today in a statement distributed by PR Newswire. “We continue to believe that Mr. Strauss-Kahn will be fully exonerated.”

“There will be enormous pressure on her family in Africa, and undoubtedly her reputation will be vigorously attacked by supporters of Strauss-Kahn,” Callan said. “The biggest thing the prosecutor has to do is keep her available for trial.”

Without the victim, Fairstein said, “there is no case.”


© Copyright 2011 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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FBI Wants Unabomber’s DNA for 1982 Tylenol Poisoning Probe May 21, 2011

May 19 (Bloomberg) — The FBI is seeking DNA from Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, who’s serving a life sentence for killing three people with homemade bombs, in connection with the 1982 Tylenol poisonings

Seven people in the Chicago area died, and thousands of bottles of the over-the-counter painkiller were withdrawn. The case was never solved.

Kaczynski made the disclosure in court papers in an effort to stop an auction of his belongings now in progress. It was confirmed today by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“As part of our re-examination of the evidence developed in connection with the 1982 Tylenol poisonings, we have attempted to secure DNA samples from numerous individuals, including Ted Kaczynski,” the agency said today in a statement. “To date, Mr. Kaczynski has declined to voluntarily provide this sample.”

Kaczynski said in a handwritten court document that prison personnel told him the Chicago office of the FBI “wanted a sample of my DNA to compare with the partial DNA profiles connected with a 1982 event in which someone put potassium cyanide in Tylenol.”

“I have never even possessed any potassium cyanide,” wrote Kaczynski, 68, a former mathematics professor.

Kaczynski, who grew up in the Chicago area, said he refused to surrender a sample unless “the FBI would satisfy a certain condition that is not relevant here.”

DNA Request

Kacyzinski wrote that two prison officers approached him on April 27 and told him the FBI would seek a court order unless he voluntarily gave a DNA sample.

He cited the visit in his attempt to prevent the auctioning of his belongings, asking federal courts in San Francisco and Sacramento, California, to keep until his death some of the things seized from his Montana cabin when they arrested him in 1996.

He wants the government to keep all his journals, which “may provide evidence as to my whereabouts and activities in 1982,” for example.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Shelledy, who represented the government in the auction case, said in an e-mail, “We will not comment further on the investigation” Kaczynski mentioned.

In court papers responding to Kaczynski’s motion, Shelledy wrote, “Kaczynski has not been indicted” in the Tylenol case, and “no such federal prosecution is currently planned.”

Possible Evidence

Kaczynski wrote that some of the items the government is auctioning could “turn out to be important” in resolving whether he had anything to do with the poisonings.

DNA testing, he said, might cast suspicion on innocent people because 1 percent to 5 percent of Americans share partial profiles.

He also asked that everything he wrote in code be withheld from the sale, because that’s how he wrote when describing his illegal acts.

Neither court ruled on the auction, which started yesterday and will end June 2.

Kaczynski attended high school in Evergreen Park in suburban Chicago. He graduated from Harvard College, then got master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Michigan.

Tracked and caught by the FBI, he pleaded guilty in 1998 in Sacramento, California, to 13 charges. They included allegations growing from four Sacramento-area explosions that left two men dead and accusations related to a third death, in New Jersey, the Associated Press reported at the time.

Case Still Open

The Tylenol case was being examined by grand juries in two Illinois counties in January 2010, the Chicago Tribune reported, citing people familiar with the investigation. DNA was taken from one suspect after a court order, the Tribune said.

Johnson Johnson, maker of the drug, was viewed as a “hero” for withdrawing 31 million bottles of Tylenol and offering replacements in tablet form, which was safer, according to the New York Times.

Bill Price, a JJ spokesman, declined to comment in an e- mail today.

–With assistance from Michael Riley in Washington. Editors: Charles Carter, Andrew Dunn.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

© Copyright 2011 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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Underage prostitution in the US is organized crime’s third biggest money-maker after guns and drugs… April 16, 2011

Underage prostitution in the US is organized crime’s third biggest money-maker after guns and drugs. But the kids get blamed instead of the criminals. Young girls are put behind bars for walking the streets, with no offer of rescue or help.

­The US State Department regularly puts out reports on how horrific human trafficking is in other countries.

Yet for the home country, the FBI estimates that each year more than 100,000 underage American girls are exploited for commercial sex. The average age is 13 years old. But the usual treatment the children get, when arrested, is either jail time or probation.

In the US, prostitution laws do not exempt minors from prosecution. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention reported 1,600 juveniles were arrested for prostitution within just one year.

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