Officer’s lawyer: Criminal investigation of Bijan Ghaisar shooting will be resolved in 20 days – WTOP

The lawyer for one of two U.S. Park Police officers who shot unarmed motorist Bijan Ghaisar during a November 2017 traffic stop has told a federal judge that after discussions with prosecutors, the criminal investigation into the Ghaisar shooting will “be resolved” within 20 days.

During a motions hearing in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, where Ghaisar’s family has filed a wrongful-death civil case against officers Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard, Amaya’s attorney, Kobie Flowers, told Magistrate Judge Ivan Davis he has been in discussions with D.C. prosecutors, who have been investigating whether the officers should be charged criminally.

Flowers went to great lengths to not discuss in open court what the case’s resolution would be, but he mentioned the possibility the U.S. government might “intervene” to represent the officers. Since the Department of Justice would be precluded from representing the officers if it was also charging them with crimes, Flowers comments suggest he had reason to believe the officers would be cleared.

Flowers said Vinyard’s attorney, Stuart Sears was also involved in the discussions with the government.

Outside the courtroom, Flowers declined to elaborate on what led him to believe the case would be resolved within three weeks.

Contacted by WTOP, Kadia Koroma, spokesperson for D.C.’s U.S. Attorney’s Office gave “no comment” when asked if the criminal investigation against the officers would be wrapped up within 20 days.

“This is an outrage,” said Thomas Connolly, who is representing the Ghaisar family in the federal lawsuit. In court was the first time he heard the criminal case might soon be resolved.

“I’ve never seen more hostility from prosecutorial authorities toward a family,” Connolly told reporters.

The Ghaisar family has been seeking answers about the shooting for 18 months, and has sought criminal charges against the officers.

Connolly was incredulous the government had been communicating with officers’ lawyers, but not keeping the victim’s family in the loop. “They won’t pick up the phone.”

While the possibility of the officers being cleared criminally was raised in the courtroom, there is also the possibility the “resolution” Flowers referred to could involve a plea agreement on any charge from the most minor criminal infraction, up to manslaughter or murder.

Typically, if the government was planning on reaching a plea agreement in an officer-related shooting, they would discuss the possibility with the victim’s family during negotiations, to gauge their agreement or opposition.

After meeting behind closed doors with the Ghaisar family, Connolly told reporters: “I’m going to be in touch with prosecutors.”

Officers Amaya and Vinyard were not in the courtroom during the hearing.

In March, the officers were first identified in the family’s civil suit, after Fairfax County police documents identified Amaya and Vinyard as the involved officers.

Fairfax County police were involved in a chase along George Washington Parkway, which continued into the Fort Hunt area of Fairfax County.

Ghaisar was followed by police after his Jeep was rear-ended in a fender-bender in Old Town Alexandria.

As Park Police and Fairfax County police followed Ghaisar down George Washington Parkway, he stopped his car twice, and drove away twice as Park Police tried to pull him over.

After the third stop, at a stop sign, Ghaisar was shot nine times by the police officers, according to the family’s lawsuit. He was unarmed.

Later Friday, Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., said in a statement, “How can Bijan’s family or the people in his community possibly trust in the fair outcome of an investigation, which unfolds in such a manner? A process this bad cannot help but damage citizens’ faith in their government.”

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein reported from Alexandria, Virginia.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2019 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Feds indict Aryan Brotherhood prison gang members on murder, drug and other charges – Los Angeles Times

Five other individuals were also arrested as part of the investigation and authorities are actively searching for two others. Those arrested were Samuel Keeton, 40, of Menifee; Jeanna Quesenberry, 52, of Sacramento; Kristen Demar, 44, of Citrus Heights; Justin Petty, 37, of Los Angeles; and attorney Kevin Macnamara, 39, of La Palma. Warrants have been issued for the arrests of Kathleen Nolan, 64, of Calimesa, and Matthew Hall, 50, of Manhattan Beach.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Lawyers for freed Navy SEAL want war crime case dismissed – PBS NewsHour

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Attorneys for a decorated Navy SEAL facing a murder trial in the death of an Islamic State prisoner will try again Friday to have the case dismissed after their client was unexpectedly freed from custody.

A military judge released Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher from custody on Thursday, which drew gasps in a San Diego courtroom.

The judge, Capt. Aaron Rugh, said releasing Gallagher was a remedy for prosecutors interfering with his Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

Gallagher’s lawyers have condemned the prosecution for launching an unusual effort to find the source of news leaks in the politically charged case by embedding tracking code in emails sent to defense attorneys and a Navy Times journalist.

Defense attorney Tim Parlatore had accused prosecutors of a “rogue, relentless, and unlawful cyber campaign” that may have violated attorney-client privilege and hurt his client’s ability to get a fair trial.

Gallagher’s wife, Andrea, who has led a campaign to free her husband, put her hands to her face and burst into tears.

“I feel like it’s a small victory on the way to the larger victory,” Andrea Gallagher said outside court while her husband stood quietly by her side in his Navy whites.

He declined to comment.

A spokesman for the Navy prosecutors also wouldn’t comment on Gallagher’s freedom or developments at the hearing, which continues Friday.

Gallagher has pleaded not guilty to murder in the death of an injured teenage militant in Iraq in 2017 and attempted murder for allegedly picking off civilians from a sniper’s perch.

His platoon supervisor, Lt. Jacob Portier, is fighting charges of conduct unbecoming an officer for allegedly conducting Gallagher’s re-enlistment ceremony next to the militant’s corpse.

Efforts to get the case thrown out come as President Donald Trump considers pardoning several service members accused of war crimes, including Gallagher, who faces trial June 10.

Evidence at the hearing showed prosecutors enlisted a Naval Criminal Investigative Service intelligence specialist to conduct criminal background checks on three civilian lawyers, including Parlatore, and a journalist with the Navy Times who has broken several stories based on leaked documents.

On Thursday, Rugh said investigators told him privately that they planned to embed code in what he believed to be a court document to help them find the source of leaks but the judge said he didn’t have the power to authorize it and wasn’t told they planned to target emails sent to the defense lawyers or a journalist.

The lead prosecutor downplayed the move at a related hearing earlier in the day. Cmdr. Christopher Czaplak said the code embedded in the email recorded nothing more than where and when messages were opened by recipients.

Czaplak said the tracking ended May 10 after he was confronted by defense lawyers who discovered the code in an unusual logo of an American flag with a bald eagle perched on the scales of justice beneath Czaplak’s signature.

On Thursday, Czaplak said the code was similar to what marketers use to see when an email is opened and on what device.

“It’s still a web bug and it’s still unethical,” countered defense lawyer Jeremiah J. Sullivan III, who represents Portier.

The judge in Portier’s case, Capt. Jonathan Stephens, said from what he had seen the tracking effort wasn’t able to view the contents of any emails.

Several experts testified that the code couldn’t generally be used to identify a specific person or capture content.

Melley reported from Los Angeles.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

White House lawyer Emmet Flood who helped Trump with Russia investigation is leaving – CNBC

Acting White House Counsel Emmet Flood walks in the halls of the Russell Senate Office Building before heading into the offices of Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr on Capitol Hill January 09, 2019 in Washington, DC.

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

President Donald Trump said Saturday that White House lawyer Emmet Flood is “leaving service” on June 14. The announcement comes days after Robert Mueller announced that the special counsel’s office was closing. 

Flood was tasked with helping Trump deal with Mueller’s Russia investigation. He replaced Ty Cobb, who convinced Trump to cooperate with the special counsel investigation. 

Flood previously represented former President Bill Clinton during his impeachment. 

Trump thanked Flood for doing “an outstanding job” and again claimed that the special counsel’s investigation found no evidence of collusion or obstruction. 

In his report, Mueller made clear that he did not investigate collusion, which has no legal definition. The special counsel investigated whether or not the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Though Mueller found extensive contacts between Russians and Trump campaign officials, the investigation did not find sufficient evidence to establish a conspiracy or coordination. 

On the question of obstruction, Mueller pointedly declined to exonerate Trump and laid out several instances in which the president may have tried to obstruct the investigation. 

In his only press conference since he was appointed special counsel, Mueller said Wednesday if his office had confidence that Trump “clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”

His office, however, did not make a determination about whether the president committed crime. 

Mueller made clear that Justice Department guidelines barred the prosecution of a sitting president for a federal crime.  “Charging the president with a crime was not an option we could consider,” Mueller said. 

Mueller said that the special counsel’s office was closing and he was returning to private life. 

Flood had criticized Mueller’s final report as “political” and suffering “from an extraordinary legal defect” in a letter to Attorney General William Barr. “It quite deliberately fails to comply with the requirements of governing law,” he said. 

Flood argued that conclusively finding innocence “is never the task of the federal prosecutor.” Instead, prosecutors complete their investigation and ask a grand jury to decide whether or not to seek charges. 

The relevant passages from the Mueller report “can be understood only as political statements,” Flood argued. Prosecutors are “expected never to be political in the performance of their duties,” he said.  

— CNBC’s Dan Mangan and Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Lawyers for freed Navy SEAL want war crime case dismissed – KSFY

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Attorneys for a decorated Navy SEAL facing a murder trial in the death of an Islamic State prisoner will try again Friday to have the case dismissed after their client was unexpectedly freed from custody.

Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, left, hugs his wife, Andrea Gallagher, after leaving a military courtroom on Naval Base San Diego, Thursday, May 30, 2019, in San Diego. The decorated Navy SEAL facing a murder trial in the death of an Islamic State prisoner was freed Thursday from custody after a military judge cited interference by prosecutors. (AP Photo/Julie Watson)

A military judge released Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher from custody on Thursday, which drew gasps in a San Diego courtroom.

The judge, Capt. Aaron Rugh, said releasing Gallagher was a remedy for prosecutors interfering with his Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

Gallagher’s lawyers have condemned the prosecution for launching an unusual effort to find the source of news leaks in the politically charged case by embedding tracking code in emails sent to defense attorneys and a Navy Times journalist.

Defense attorney Tim Parlatore had accused prosecutors of a “rogue, relentless, and unlawful cyber campaign” that may have violated attorney-client privilege and hurt his client’s ability to get a fair trial.

Gallagher’s wife, Andrea, who has led a campaign to free her husband, put her hands to her face and burst into tears.

“I feel like it’s a small victory on the way to the larger victory,” Andrea Gallagher said outside court while her husband stood quietly by her side in his Navy whites.

He declined to comment.

A spokesman for the Navy prosecutors also wouldn’t comment on Gallagher’s freedom or developments at the hearing, which continues Friday.

Gallagher has pleaded not guilty to murder in the death of an injured teenage militant in Iraq in 2017 and attempted murder for allegedly picking off civilians from a sniper’s perch.

His platoon supervisor, Lt. Jacob Portier, is fighting charges of conduct unbecoming an officer for allegedly conducting Gallagher’s re-enlistment ceremony next to the militant’s corpse.

Efforts to get the case thrown out come as President Donald Trump considers pardoning several service members accused of war crimes, including Gallagher, who faces trial June 10.

Evidence at the hearing showed prosecutors enlisted a Naval Criminal Investigative Service intelligence specialist to conduct criminal background checks on three civilian lawyers, including Parlatore, and a journalist with the Navy Times who has broken several stories based on leaked documents.

On Thursday, Rugh said investigators told him privately that they planned to embed code in what he believed to be a court document to help them find the source of leaks but the judge said he didn’t have the power to authorize it and wasn’t told they planned to target emails sent to the defense lawyers or a journalist.

The lead prosecutor downplayed the move at a related hearing earlier in the day. Cmdr. Christopher Czaplak said the code embedded in the email recorded nothing more than where and when messages were opened by recipients.

Czaplak said the tracking ended May 10 after he was confronted by defense lawyers who discovered the code in an unusual logo of an American flag with a bald eagle perched on the scales of justice beneath Czaplak’s signature.

On Thursday, Czaplak said the code was similar to what marketers use to see when an email is opened and on what device.

“It’s still a web bug and it’s still unethical,” countered defense lawyer Jeremiah J. Sullivan III, who represents Portier.

The judge in Portier’s case, Capt. Jonathan Stephens, said from what he had seen the tracking effort wasn’t able to view the contents of any emails.

Several experts testified that the code couldn’t generally be used to identify a specific person or capture content.

___

Melley reported from Los Angeles.

Copyright 2019 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Fairness for accused? Or danger to all? D.A., defense lawyers slug it out over bail-reform – SILive.com

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – Prosecutors and defense lawyers have sharply divergent opinions of the recently-passed criminal justice and bail-reform laws.

And that’s putting it mildly.

The laws, which take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, eliminate bail for nearly all misdemeanor charges and many felony charges.

The controversial legislation has sparked dueling and tartly-worded opinion pieces in the Advance and on SiLive.com, with District Attorney Michael E. McMahon on one side and the Legal Aid Society and the Staten Island Criminal Defense Lawyers Association on the other.

The Legal Aid Society represents indigent individuals, who comprise the majority of the defendants who appear before the court.

McMahon blasted the law as the byproduct of legislators’ “irresponsible and soft-on-crime policies.”

The new statute will not only hinder law enforcement’s ability to protect crime victims, but parts of it will put “hundreds of major drug defendants” back on the street, he said.

“This wave (of criminal-justice reforms) will sweep us back to the dark ages of the ‘70s and ‘80s and give the wild gangs, violent thugs, death-dealing pushers and violators of women and children the keys to the city,” the D.A. wrote.

“It is indeed idiotic and outrageous,” McMahon opined, urging borough residents to implore their legislators and the governor to amend the new laws before they take effect.

The Staten Island Criminal Defense Lawyers Association shot back in its own opinion piece. The group contends McMahon, who’s running for re-election in November, is resorting to “fearmongering and misdirection” in a bid to rejigger the legislation.

“The law is here to protect all persons regardless of race, creed, background or economic statuses,” wrote the group.

Statutes, as currently written, give prosecutors an unfair advantage by allowing them to withhold crucial information until the day of trial, the association says.

Not only are defendants left guessing about the strength of the case against them, they are set up for a “trial by ambush,” maintains the group.

“If things were changed to reflect the opinions of D.A. McMahon, your families, friends and neighbors would be at risk of being treated as if they were guilty until proven innocent,” the group contends.

In a separate Op-Ed, Christopher Pisciotta, attorney-in-charge of the Staten Island Criminal Defense Practice at the Legal Aid Society, contends the reforms are “long-needed.”

The new statute will level the scales of justice which, Pisciotta wrote, “tilt in the favor of the government … (and) incarcerates poor people who can’t afford to buy their freedom.”

“Our old, flawed criminal justice system can drive innocent New Yorkers to plead guilty to offenses they did not commit just to secure freedom from incarceration, to return to their families, their work and schools, and their communities,” wrote Pisciotta.

HOW IT WORKS

Under the law, bail will be eliminated for all misdemeanor charges, with the exceptions of sex offenses and criminal contempt for violating an order of protection in a domestic violence case.

Bail and pretrial detention are also scrapped for nearly all nonviolent felonies with the exceptions being witness intimation or tampering, murder conspiracy, contempt charges involving domestic violence and some offenses against children, sex charges and terrorism-related offenses.

In cases where there’s a risk of flight, judges can set a number of conditions upon a defendant’s release, including electronic monitoring for 60 days with an option to renew, supervised release, travel restrictions or limitations on weapon possession during the pretrial phase.

Bail and detention will still be permitted for virtually all violent felonies, except specific sub-sections of second-degree robbery and second-degree burglary.

According to the Center for Court Innovation, only 10% of the nearly 205,000 criminal cases arraigned in the five boroughs in 2018 would have been eligible for bail under the new law.

That means the vast majority of defendants would have been released pending the disposition of their case.

It’s particularly disturbing, say McMahon and Bridget Brennan, the city’s special narcotics prosecutor, that prosecutors will be able to seek bail and detention for only a handful of drug defendants – those specifically charged with “operating as a major trafficker.”

The A-1 felony carries a possible life sentence.

At a recent hearing before the City Council’s Committee on the Justice System, Brennan testified that her office has charged less than two dozen defendants under the Major Trafficker statute in the past five years.

In contrast, Brennan wrote in a Daily News Op-Ed on April 11, she’s charged, over the same time period, more than 1,000 defendants with other A-1 Level felonies, which carry a maximum 20-year sentence.

Brennan said she could not seek bail or detention for those defendants under the new law.

“Once the bail changes take effect, defendants facing these latter categories of serious A level felony charges will walk out of the court with no bail set,” Brennan testified.

EVIDENCE DISCLOSURE

The new law also requires prosecutors to provide most of their evidence to the defense within 15 days after arraignment. If prosecutors don’t have that information or there’s too much material to turn over, they have an additional 30 days to give it to the defense.

McMahon said he’s particularly concerned about releasing witnesses’ and victims’ name and contact information to the defense in the early stages of the case. That information typically had been turned over shortly before the start of trial.

The new law also allows the defense to seek a court order to access a crime scene or other premises, including victims’ or witnesses’ homes, he said.

The D.A. fears the early disclosure of that information could have a chilling effect on witness cooperation.

“It’s hard to imagine a victim of a crime willing to move forward with the prosecution of a criminal case while at the same time being forced to comply with these ridiculous measures,” said McMahon.

He contends the provisions threaten victims’ and witnesses’ safety and will require more time and resources to keep those individuals safe throughout the case.

At the City Council hearing, McMahon estimated his office would need at least an additional $2.8 million to implement the new reforms.

Pisciotta, of the Legal Aid Society, countered that crime victims’ safety and interests remain protected by the law.

Prosecutors, and the defense for that matter, can seek a protective order that could restrict, deny or set conditions on discoverable material, including witness information.

Said Mark J. Fonte, a St. George-based criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor: “Witnesses do not belong to one side or the other, so both sides should be able to interview them.”

The Staten Island Criminal Defense Lawyers Association said the Brooklyn district attorney’s office has successfully practiced open discovery “for decades,” handing over evidence against the defendant near the start of the case.

“Witnesses are still showing up to court. Victims are still pressing forward and testifying at trial,” the group wrote. “Same thing goes for New Jersey. None of what D.A McMahon warns about it actually happening.”

McMahon said he supports measures that would prevent defendants from being held on bail simply because they can’t pay it; however, he opposes the legislation as written.

“Without hearings or meaningful input from law enforcement, they passed a package of bills written by and served up on a silver platter by the defendants’ lawyers,” McMahon said in a statement to the Advance. “They did not listen to victims’ advocates, police and detectives, judges, corrections officers or prosecutors.”

“We, who every day protect and serve, have been cast as the ‘enemy,’” said the D.A.

McMahon, who said he has reduced the wait in jail to a defendant’s arraignment by almost 33% and deferred over 600 addicted drug defendants from prosecution to treatment, also took a swipe at the Staten Island Criminal Defense Lawyers Association’s charges of fear mongering.

“I find it rich that my critics hide behind the anonymity of a made-up defendants’ organization or question my commitment to fair and effective prosecution in my home community of Staten Island and they drive home every evening to their tony neighborhoods in New Jersey,” he said.

In a Daily News opinion piece, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said the NYPD favors “responsible bail reform.”

However, O’Neill said he fears the new law will have “a significant negative impact on public safety.”

Among other things, he said, judges will be forbidden from remanding or setting bail even for flight risks in the cases of lower-level burglaries and robberies and nearly all drug-trafficking cases, regardless of the defendant’s criminal record.

NO REASON TO FEAR?

Fonte, the defense lawyer and former prosecutor, said Staten Islanders have no reason to fear the reforms.

“There is nothing in the new laws which should cause any concern for the people of Staten Island,” said Fonte. “Violent criminals will remain held and incarcerated. Nonviolent criminals will be given dates to return to court. The new law brings a sense of fairness to the criminal justice system.”

He said the sentencing guidelines will remain the same, and defendants charged with violent crimes “will be subject to the same bail conditions which have existed for decades.”

Pisciotta said New York’s discovery laws are among the most restrictive in the nation and have been referred to as “blindfold laws.”

Under them, state prosecutors are allowed to withhold crucial evidence, such as witness statements, grand jury testimony and other forms of evidence gathered, from the defense until the day of trial, both Pisciotta and the defense lawyers’ group say.

As a result, Pisciotta said, defendants must make vital decisions to go to trial or plead guilty “without knowing critical information and evidence.”

“We cannot continue to use bail to force people to give up their day in court,” wrote Pisciotta. “We cannot force people to make such critical Constitutionally-protected decisions without being informed of the nature of the evidence.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

City lawyer in Mount Vernon charged in probe by state Attorney General's Office – The Journal News | LoHud.com

Mount Vernon’s top lawyer pleaded not guilty today following his indictment in what state prosecutors allege was a $365,000 scheme to use city water department money to fund Mayor Richard Thomas’ criminal-defense legal bills and hire a public relations firm. 

Corporation Counsel Lawrence Porcari Jr. was arraigned on felony charges including corruption and grand larceny after surrendering to authorities earlier in the morning.

Westchester County Judge David Zuckerman released Porcari without bail. Porcari declined to say anything as he left the courthouse with his lawyer.

“We’re looking forward to a speedy resolution at which time we hope Mr. Porcari will be vindicated of all these charges,” the lawyer, Nicholas Kaizer, said.

The most serious charge in the seven-count indictment, first-degree corrupting the government, carries mandatory incarceration and is punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Porcari was also charged with one count each of second-degree grand larceny and defrauding the government and four counts of offering a false instrument for filing.

In a joint press release with Attorney General Letitia James, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said Porcari “violated both his duty as a public servant and as an attorney by diverting public money and falsifying records.”

“New York has zero tolerance for those who cheat taxpayers, commit fraud, or violate the public trust,” said James.

MAYORAL CANDIDATES: Weight in on Mount Vernon indictment

HAVERSTRAW KILLING: Eugene Palmer added to FBI’s Most Wanted List

SUPERINTENDENT RESIGNS: Valhalla’s suspended schools chief resigns in deal with school board

Porcari was indicted by the same grand jury that voted not to charge Thomas after hearing evidence about the use of city water department funds to pay for the mayor’s legal bills.

The mayor, running for a second term and facing a stiff challenge in the June 25 Democratic primary, is still facing grand larceny and false statement charges. He is accused of stealing $12,900 from his campaign committee and failing to report on city ethics forms more than $75,000 he received from his inaugural committee and several individuals and companies. His trial is scheduled for July 8.

Two of Thomas’ opponents, City Council President Andre Wallace and Shawyn Patterson-Howard, a former city planning commissioner, called on the mayor to resign.

“It’s time to stop pretending that the buck doesn’t stop with Mayor Thomas, that it’s always someone else’s fault,” said Wallace, who later penned a letter to Thomas demanding Porcari’s ouster. “This administration has lost its way, clearly, and they have repeatedly acted like the rules don’t apply to them.”

Patterson-Howard, who recently hosted a Town Hall on integrity in government, said public officials cannot use their positions for financial gain.

“Mount Vernon cannot afford any more indicted elected officials,” she wrote on  a post to Medium.com. “We cannot afford any elected officials who misuse and attempt to defraud the  people.”

The fourth candidate on the ballot, former police commissioner Clyde Isley, stopped short of calling on the mayor to step down but said he was clearly responsible for what Porcari did. Isley questioned how the mayor can expect taxpayers to fund his criminal defense and suggested that water-rate hikes coincided with the mayor’s personal need for money.  

“It appears that he knowingly sought counsel regarding use of water department funds to pay his legal expenses and seemingly has no problem doing so,” Isley said in a statement.

Councilman Marcus Griffith said Thomas should be held responsible because he’s the sole beneficiary of Porcari’s alleged scheme.

“The Mayor is in charge of these agencies and he either knows what went on or he’s willfully blind to what’s going on,” Griffith said.

Late in the afternoon, Thomas issued a statement defending his administration’s top lawyer and predicting he would be vindicated. He cited instances in which Porcari had obtained court orders blocking obstruction of the Thomas administration by the city council and comptroller.

“I have the highest confidence in Corporation Counsel Porcari’s legal judgment as he has served with distinction since joining my administration in 2016,” Thomas said. “Larry did nothing wrong and everyone must remember that an indictment is simply an accusation based on allegations that must be proven in court.”

He suggested that the charges were based on the same “false narrative” that grand jurors rejected by choosing not to indict him. He said it was part of the “Rich-hunt being facilitated by political enemies.” 

The Journal News/lohud reported extensively last spring on Thomas’ efforts to have the city Board of Estimate & Contract retain the firm of Boies Schiller Flexner for unspecified purposes as well as the hiring of the public relations firm, Todd Shapiro Associates. The PR firm was already working for Thomas as of the day of his arrest in March 2018. And within weeks Thomas was being represented in his criminal case by Randall Jackson, a lawyer for Boies Schiller.

The PR firm stepped down in May days after Thomas’ indictment. An official said they had been paid but refused to disclose the source of the payment.

A spokesman for the law firm on Wednesday would say only that they were cooperating with the Attorney General’s investigation. Asked if the firm has returned any of the water department money, he would not respond.

The misappropriated money came from the Mount Vernon Board of Water Supply, which runs the city water department as a separate agency outside the oversight of the city comptroller.

Prosecutors contend that Porcari arranged for water department funds to go to the lawyers as well as the public relations firm. And in the fall, they said, he directed more water department money to go to a second law firm representing Thomas.  

“To further the scheme, Porcari allegedly submitted memorandums to the Board of Water Supply for “emergency” payments to the law firms, including memorandums containing false statements,” according to the press release.

Prosecutors have not publicly identified any of the firms that got water department money

Asked last week whether the grand jury had indicted anyone, including Porcari, one of the mayor’s lawyers, Michael Pizzi, said he did not. 

Porcari, who lives in Yonkers, has run the city’s law department since Thomas took office in January 2016. He has also served as the vice chairman of the Industrial Development Agency. He had previously worked as an associate lawyer in the office of the Yonkers Corporation Counsel.

He has been the point man regarding several controversial moves by the Thomas administration. Early on in the administration, it was Porcari who signed a contract for the emergency demolition of a home while bypassing the rules requiring the involvement of the city council and the Board of Estimate and Contract. When the comptroller refused to pay and the contractor sued, Porcari settled the lawsuit for the entire amount. 

He was among the administration officials who successfully sued then Comptroller Maureen Walker and the city council when they tried to block their employment because they did not live in Mount Vernon. His living in Yonkers did not violate residency requirements.

Besides Thomas himself, Porcari is the latest member of the mayor’s administration to face legal trouble.

Fraida Hickson, a deputy police commissioner in charge of the parking bureau, pleaded guilty last month to a federal insurance fraud charge, admitting the unauthorized use of someone else’s credit to get more than $7,000 worth of plastic surgery.

Buildings Commissioner Dan Jones was charged with DWI in New Rochelle in January after driving his city SUV into a car and a tree and onto a sidewalk. He had eight license suspensions at the time. His license is still suspended, according to the state DMV, and his DWI case is pending.

Businessman Joseph Spiezio, a key campaign advisor who Thomas made his deputy police commissioner, was pulled over by a New Rochelle police officer in February when he was seen using the siren on his city SUV to get around traffic. He was cited for driving with a suspended license, a misdemeanor, but pleaded guilty to a violation of not having his license with him at the time and paid a $100 fine.

Twitter: @jonbandler

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Prosecutors Want to Use Crime-Fraud Exception to Compel Bloomfield Attorney's Testimony | New Jersey Law Journal – Law.com

The defense bar is fighting a move by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office to compel a criminal defense lawyer to testify against his former client.

The prosecutor’s office has served a subpoena on Landry Belizaire, an attorney in Bloomfield, over his representation of Roydell Cameron on sexual assault charges. The prosecutor’s office claims the crime-fraud exception permits it to pierce the attorney-client privilege. But a lawyer representing Belizaire says the breach of attorney-client privilege is unwarranted. The Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is seeking to join the case as an amicus curiae.

Belizaire made arrangements for his client to turn himself in to the prosecutor in connection with the sexual assault, but Cameron, of Bronx, New York, did not appear at the scheduled time. Cameron was apprehended at John F. Kennedy Airport on March 29 as he was about to board a flight to Jamaica. Cameron, 40, was charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, unlawful possession of a weapon, and making terroristic threats. The arrest stems from the sexual assault of a woman at gunpoint in Palisades Park in April 2005.

The prosecutor’s office served Belizaire with a subpoena duces tecum for documents, including all communications with his client, and any third parties concerning the voluntary surrender. The subpoena also seeks to compel Belizaire to testify against his client before a grand jury.

When Belizaire sought to invoke attorney-client privilege, the prosecutor told him the crime-fraud exception applies.

Belizaire is represented by Raymond Brown of Scarinci Hollenbeck in Lyndhurst. Brown called efforts to compel Belizaire’s testimony “overreaching.”

Belizaire, now conflicted out of representing Cameron, withdrew from the case. Hackensack attorney Brian Neary now represents Cameron.

Lawyers in the case were scheduled to hold a conference call with Superior Court Judge Margaret Foti of Bergen County on Tuesday to set a briefing schedule.

Belizaire “was placed in an unenviable position by a prosecutor with a reputation for overreaching,” said John Azzarello, president of the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey, in a May 23 email to members of that group. The subpoena was issued by Assistant Prosecutor Danielle Grootenboer, and its issuance was approved by Dennis Calo, Azzarello said in that email.

Calo served as acting prosecutor until May 21, when Mark Musella was sworn in. The ACDL agreed to serve as amicus because prosecutors’ attempts to pierce attorney-client privilege represent a “very important and seemingly recurring issue,” Azzarello said in the email.

Grootenboer has made clear that she believes Belizaire was not complicit in Cameron’s attempt to flee, but the state believes Cameron used Belizaire without his knowledge to stall the date and time for surrender, Azzarello said in the email.

In 2018, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office lost its bid to breach attorney-client privilege in a civil suit accusing it of blowing the cover of a confidential informant. The prosecutor’s office sought to compel testimony of Robert Tandy, a lawyer representing a detective who induced Frank Lagano to become an informant. After Lagano was shot and killed in 2007 outside an East Brunswick diner he owned, in a crime that remains unsolved, his estate sued the prosecutor’s office.

In that case, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office claimed Tandy waived his attorney-client privilege when his client filed a suit against the attorney general raising allegations similar to the ones in the Lagano case. But U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy Waldor rejected the office’s argument, saying that no court “has construed the filing of a complaint as a blanket waiver for all communications between an attorney and his or her client.”

A spokeswoman for the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, Maureen Parenta, declined to answer questions about its subpoena of Belizaire because it is an open matter.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

SEAL's lawyer wants prosecutor, judge booted off war crimes case – NavyTimes.com

SAN DIEGO — A lawyer for a Navy SEAL accused of murder wants military prosecutors and a judge removed from the case for their roles in snooping on emails sent to the defense team and a journalist in an effort to find the source of news leaks.

Navy investigators and the prosecutor misled a judge and didn’t get search warrants or the necessary approval from higher-ups to investigate civilians, defense lawyer Tim Parlatore told The Associated Press on the eve of a Wednesday hearing on the matter. They also snooped on emails of military lawyers and judges in the case, he said.

“Everything I’ve suspected turned out to be true,” Parlatore said. “The prosecutor did participate in the spying on the defense … the prosecutor did lie to the court.”

Parlatore, who represents Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher at his court-martial, declined to provide details, saying he would do so Wednesday in a San Diego military courtroom.

Gallagher is charged with killing a wounded Islamic State prisoner under his care in Iraq in 2017.

Dozens of Republican congressmen have championed Gallagher’s cause, claiming he’s an innocent war hero being unfairly prosecuted. President Donald Trump got him moved from the brig to better confinement in a military hospital with access to his lawyers and family.

#nl-modal-dialog–header-text-color:#1C62A0

Revelations about the extent of the leak probe come amid efforts by defense lawyers to have prosecutors and a judge removed just a week before Gallagher is scheduled to face trial at Naval Base San Diego.

The documents — about 180 pages of investigation reports — were turned over to Parlatore in advance of the hearing on whether to put the case on hold while he finds out what prosecutors and the judge knew before allowing the targeting of defense lawyers and Navy Times editor and reporter Carl Prine.

A Navy spokesman says the government wouldn’t comment before the hearing.

Defense lawyers accuse prosecutors of misconduct by spying on communications and say that may have violated the sacred attorney-client privilege.

Prosecutors said Gallagher fatally stabbed a wounded teenage Islamic State fighter and also shot two civilians in Iraq and opened fire on crowds.

Gallagher has pleaded not guilty to all counts. His lawyers said he did not murder anyone and disgruntled SEALs made the accusations because they wanted to get rid of a demanding platoon leader.

Gallagher’s supervisor, Lt. Jacob Portier, is fighting charges of conduct unbecoming an officer for allegedly conducting Gallagher’s re-enlistment ceremony next to the corpse.

Parlatore said the leak investigation also targeted Portier’s civilian attorney, Jeremiah J. Sullivan III and attorney Brian Ferguson, who represents SEAL witnesses in the case.

The tracking software embedded in an unusual logo of an American flag with a bald eagle perched on the scales of justice beneath the signature of lead prosecutor Cmdr. Christopher Czaplak was discovered two weeks ago by defense lawyers. Two days later, the prosecutor acknowledged the scheme in a closed-door hearing, but refused to provide details.

The discovery has led to criticism that the prosecution trampled on press freedoms and violated the defendants’ rights to a fair trial.

Capt. David Wilson, chief of staff for the Navy’s Defense Service Offices, wrote a scathing memo this week saying the lack of transparency has led to mistrust by defense lawyers in whether attorney-client communications are secure on the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet. An Air Force lawyer representing Portier had his computer and phone seized for review.

“The Air Force is treating this malware as a cyber-intrusion on their network,” Wilson said.

Parlatore said the documents show intelligence specialists conducted deep background checks on the lawyers and Prine, who has broken several stories based on documents under court order not to be shared with news media. The reports he reviewed indicate they found nothing on the lawyers or Prine.

He said most of the leaks have benefited the prosecution’s narrative and the likely leakers were on the government side of the case or in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

“The leakers are investigating the non-leakers and, funny, they found nothing,” Parlatore said.

Melley reported from Los Angeles.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link