“Attorneys make opening statements in Somali piracy, murder trial in federal court in Virginia”

June 7, 2013

The Washington Post on June 6, 2013 released the following:

By Associated Press

“NORFOLK, Va. — Defense attorneys for three Somalis charged with murdering four American yachters in a pirate hijacking said Thursday there’s no physical evidence proving their clients fired the shots that killed the Americans during a moment of chaos as U.S. Navy warships and special forces circled nearby off the coast of Africa.

The attorneys also suggested during opening statements in federal court that the other 11 men who have already pleaded guilty to piracy in the case have a vested interest in testifying against their clients, noting that they agreed to testify in exchange for the possibility of a reduced sentence. The 11 are currently serving mandatory life sentences.

The yacht’s owners, Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, Calif., and their friends, Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle, were shot to death in February 2011 after they were taken hostage at sea several hundred miles south of Oman. They were the first Americans to be killed during a wave of pirate attacks that have plagued the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean in recent years, despite an international flotilla of warships that regularly patrol the area.

The men who have pleaded guilty in the case have said they intended to take the Americans back to Somalia and hold them for ransom. Their plan fell apart after U.S. Navy warships began shadowing the Quest.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Samuels said that after the Navy established contact with the Quest, the 19 men who boarded the American yacht split into two factions. One group wanted to accept the Navy’s offer to release the Americans and be allowed to return to Somalia with the Quest. The other faction repeatedly threatened to kill the Americans if they weren’t allowed to proceed to Somalia with them.

Samuels said the three men charged in the murders — Ahmed Muse Salad, Abukar Osman Beyle and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar — fell into the more aggressive camp.

What triggered the killings is unclear, but prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed on the general timeline. They said one of the men aboard the pirated yacht fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the USS Sterett, a guided-missile destroyer that had been maneuvering between the yacht and the Somali coast. Meanwhile, small boats of Navy SEALs were in the water and a U.S. Navy helicopter with a sniper on board was also hovering overhead.

Almost immediately after the RPG was fired, shots rang out aboard the yacht. Each of the Americans was shot numerous times. Scott Adam survived the initial gunfire only to be approached by pirates a second time minutes later and shot again. Two pirates were also killed in a hail of gunfire at the time.

However, defense attorney Larry Dash said it was U.S. Navy snipers that fired the first shots. That contradicts prosecutors’ account. Samuels said the Sterett’s commanding officer had previously given an order not to return fire if fired upon.

Samuels said the Navy fired no shots until a team of SEALs boarded the yacht 10 minutes later, shooting one pirate dead. Another pirate who pretended to be injured fought with a SEAL and was stabbed to death. The Americans were flown aboard the USS Enterprise to be treated for their wounds, but medical personnel were unable to save them.

Prosecutors said they will show video taken by the Navy in the moments before and after the shootings took place. Some of the video shows who was standing where as the shots rang out.

Numerous Navy personnel are expected to testify, along with as dozens of FBI and NCIS agents, including some who specialize in ballistic and forensic evidence. The trial is expected to last six weeks.

Despite all the witnesses, DNA samples and ballistic experts, Dash said there is no physical evidence proving his client fired the fatal shot. Samuels noted that some DNA evidence wasn’t available because of exposure to weather during the two days that the Quest was towed to Djibouti following the shootings.

That distinction could help determine whether the men face the death penalty. In all, In all, 22 of the 26 counts against the defendants are death-eligible offenses. Jury selection took more than two days, in part, because of questions about jurors’ views of the death penalty. Piracy carries a mandatory life sentence.

Executions under federal law are rare. Only three out of more than 1,300 executions in the U.S. since 1976 have been carried out by the federal government, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which tracks death penalty statistics and is opposed to the death penalty

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made the decision to seek the death penalty. Ultimately, the U.S. is trying to send a message to would-be pirates: Stay away from U.S.-flagged vessels”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Appeal

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


A Eugene Federal Judge Rejected Mandatory Minimum Sentences

October 31, 2012

The Register Guard on October 31, 2012 released the following:

“Mandatory sentences rejected

A judge refuses to send a father and son to prison for five years for burning trees and brush on federal land

BY KAREN MCCOWAN

Rejecting mandatory minimum five-year sentences as “grossly disproportionate” to the crimes, a federal judge in Eugene on Tuesday sentenced an Eastern Oregon rancher to three months in prison and his adult son to one year and a day for deliberately setting fires on federal land.

A federal jury in June convicted the Harney County pair after a two-week trial in Pendleton.

Jurors convicted Dwight Hammond Jr., 70, on a single count of arson for “intentionally and maliciously” setting the 2001 Hardie-Hammond Fire in the Steens Mountain federal management and protection area. They convicted Steven Dwight Hammond, 43, of the same crime and of a second arson count for similarly setting the 2006 Krumbo Butte Fire. It burned in the same area and in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

The jury acquitted both men on arson charges in two 2006 fires.

U.S. Judge Michael Hogan agreed with the Hammonds’ defense lawyers that setting fire to juniper trees and sagebrush in the wilderness was not the type of crime that Congress had in mind when it set mandatory sentences of five to 20 years for anyone who “maliciously damages or destroys, or attempts to damage or destroy by means of fire” any federal property. The mandate was part of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

Prosecutors alleged that the father-son owners of Hammond Ranches Inc. set a series of fires on U.S. Bureau of Land Management land where the Hammonds had grazing rights. Prosecutors said the fires were set to reduce the growth of juniper trees and sagebrush, and to accelerate the growth of rangeland grasses for the Hammonds’ cattle.

Some 15 friends, relatives and neighbors of the pair traveled from Eastern Oregon to support them at the sentencing. The men’s attorneys submitted dozens of letters of support.

In a sentencing memo, the defense lawyers noted that both men have served on the French Glen School Board, Community Club and Site Council, and were “instrumental” in founding and financing the French Glen Education Foundation, which funds extracurricular activities for area students. The Hammonds also regularly host an annual science and careers fair for seven rural schools, contribute money and food to the Harney County 4-H and FFA clubs, and donate meat to the Harney County Senior Center, the memo said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Papagni acknowledged that the Hammonds, “both of them, have done many wonderful things for the community.”

But he urged Hogan to follow the law, noting that Steven Hammond’s nephew — Dwight Hammond’s grandson — testified that he “thought he was going to get burned up” when flames moved toward him as the then-13-year-old followed his uncle’s orders to light brush with matches.

The arsons also endangered the lives of BLM firefighters and hunters camping near one of the blazes, the government alleged.

“Congress decided that this particular offense should carry a mandatory, statutory minimum term of five years,” Papagni wrote in the government’s sentencing memo. “The evidence of defendants’ guilt was substantial. The jury’s verdict of guilt for this particular offense mandates imposition of the required statutory minimum term, as the statute constrains this court’s discretion.”

Hogan disagreed, imposing the lesser terms. He also sentenced both Hammonds to three years of postprison supervision and required them to surrender their firearms. The judge also allowed the men to stagger their sentences in order to keep operating their ranch. He ordered Dwight Hammond to report to prison in January, with Steven Hammond to begin his sentence upon his father’s release.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Appeal in Insider Trading Case Centers on Wiretap

October 24, 2012

The New York Times on October 23, 2012 released the following:

“BY PETER LATTMAN

In March 2008, the Justice Department made an extraordinary request: It asked a judge for permission to record secretly the phone conversations of Raj Rajaratnam, a billionaire hedge fund manager.

The request, which was granted, was the first time the government had asked for a wiretap to investigate insider trading. Federal agents eavesdropped on Mr. Rajaratnam for nine months, leading to his indictment — along with charges against 22 others — and the biggest insider trading case in a generation.

On Thursday, lawyers for Mr. Rajaratnam, who is serving an 11-year prison term after being found guilty at trial, will ask a federal appeals court to reverse his conviction. They contend that the government improperly obtained a wiretap in violation of Mr. Rajaratnam’s constitutional privacy rights and federal laws governing electronic surveillance.

Such a ruling is considered a long shot, but a reversal would have broad implications. Not only would it upend Mr. Rajaratnam’s conviction but also affect the prosecution of Rajat K. Gupta, the former Goldman Sachs director who was convicted of leaking boardroom secrets to Mr. Rajaratnam. Mr. Gupta is scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday.

A decision curbing the use of wiretaps would also affect the government’s ability to police Wall Street trading floors, as insider trading cases and other securities fraud crimes are notoriously difficult to build without direct evidence like incriminating telephone conversations.

“Wiretaps traditionally have been used in narcotics and organized crime cases,” said Harlan J. Protass, a criminal defense lawyer in New York who is not involved in the Rajaratnam case. “Their use today in insider trading investigations indicates that the government thinks there may be no bounds to the types of white-collar cases in which they can be used.”

More broadly, Mr. Rajaratnam’s appeal is being closely watched for its effect on the privacy protections of defendants regarding wiretap use. Three parties have filed “friend-of-the-court” briefs siding with Mr. Rajaratnam. Eight former federal judges warned that allowing the court’s ruling to stand “would pose a grave threat to the integrity of the warrant process.” A group of defense lawyers said that upholding the use of wiretaps in this case would “eviscerate the integrity of the criminal justice system.”

To safeguard privacy protections, federal law permits the government’s use of wiretaps only under narrowly prescribed conditions. Among the conditions are that a judge, before authorizing a wiretap, must find that conventional investigative techniques have been tried and failed. Mr. Rajaratnam’s lawyers said the government misled the judge who authorized the wiretap, Gerard E. Lynch, in this regard.

They say that the government omitted that the Securities and Exchange Commission had already been building its case against Mr. Rajaratnam for more than a year using typical investigative means like interviewing witnesses and reviewing trading records. Had the judge known about the S.E.C.’s investigation, he would not have allowed the government to use a wiretap, Mr. Rajaratnam’s lawyers argue.

Before Mr. Rajaratnam’s trial, the presiding judge, Richard J. Holwell, held a four-day hearing on the legality of the wiretaps. Judge Holwell criticized the government, calling its decision to leave out information about its more conventional investigation a “glaring omission” that demonstrated “a reckless disregard for the truth.”

Nevertheless, Judge Holwell refused to suppress the wiretaps, in part, he said, because they were necessary to uncover Mr. Rajartanam’s insider trading scheme. “It appears that the S.E.C., and by inference the criminal authorities, had hit a wall of sorts,” Judge Holwell wrote.

On appeal, Mr. Rajaratnam lawyers argued that the government’s lack of candor should not be tolerated. They described the government’s wiretap application as full of “misleading assertions” and “outright falsity” that made it impossible for Judge Lynch to do his job.

“The government’s self-chosen reckless disregard of the truth and of the critical role of independent judicial review breached that trust and desolated the warrant’s basis,” wrote Mr. Rajaratnam’s lawyers at the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

In their brief to the appeals court, federal prosecutors dispute that they acted with a “reckless disregard for the truth.” Instead, they argue that omitting details of the S.E.C.’s investigation was at most “an innocent mistake rising to the level of negligence.” In addition, they said that the S.E.C.’s inquiry failed to yield sufficient evidence for a criminal case, necessitating the use of a wiretap.

Once Judge Lynch signed off on the wiretap application, the government’s investigation into Mr. Rajaratnam accelerated. The wiretapping of Mr. Rajaratnam’s phone, along with the subsequent recording of his supposed accomplices, yielded about 2,400 conversations. In many of them, Mr. Rajaratnam could be heard exchanging confidential information about technology stocks like Google and Advanced Micro Devices.

Three years ago this month, federal authorities arrested Mr. Rajaratnam and charged him with orchestrating a seven-year insider trading conspiracy. The sprawling case has produced 23 arrests of traders and tipsters, many of them caught swapping secrets with Mr. Rajaratnam about publicly traded companies.

Among the thousands of calls were four that implicated Mr. Gupta, a former head of the consulting firm McKinsey & Company who served as a director at Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble. On one call in July 2008, the only wiretapped conversation between the two men, Mr. Gupta freely shared Goldman’s confidential board discussions with Mr. Rajaratnam. On another, Mr. Rajaratnam told a colleague at his hedge fund, the Galleon Group, “I heard yesterday from somebody who’s on the board of Goldman Sachs that they are going to lose $2 per share.”

Those conversations set off an investigation of Mr. Gupta. He was arrested in October 2011 and charged with leaking boardroom secrets about Goldman and P.& G. to Mr. Rajaratnam. A jury convicted him in May after a monthlong trial.

On Wednesday at Federal District Court in Manhattan, Judge Jed S. Rakoff will sentence Mr. Gupta. Federal prosecutors are seeking a prison term of up to 10 years. Mr. Gupta’s lawyers have asked Judge Rakoff for a nonprison sentence of probation and community service. One proposal by the defense would have Mr. Gupta living in Rwanda and working on global health issues.

Regardless of his sentence, Mr. Gupta plans to appeal. And because prosecutors used wiretap evidence in his trial, Mr. Gupta would benefit from a reversal of Mr. Rajaratnam’s conviction.

Yet a reversal would not affect the convictions of the defendants in the conspiracy who have pleaded guilty. As part of their pleas, those defendants waived their rights to an appeal.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Appeal

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Dozens of ‘innocent’ prisoners could be freed

August 14, 2012

USA Today on August 13, 2012 released the following:

“By Brad Heath

Dozens of federal prisoners who are locked up even though prosecutors concede they are “legally innocent” could soon be released under new orders from the U.S. Justice Department.

The department confirmed Monday that it had instructed its lawyers to abandon legal objections that could have blocked — or at least delayed — the inmates from being set free. In a court filing , the department said it had “reconsidered its position,” and that it would drop its legal arguments “in the interests of justice.”

The shift follows a USA TODAY investigation in June that identified more than 60 people who were imprisoned for something an appeals court later determined was not a federal crime. The investigation found that the Justice Department had done almost nothing to identify those prisoners — many of whom did not know they were innocent — and had argued in court that the men were innocent but should remain imprisoned anyway.

Neither Justice Department lawyers nor defense attorneys would speculate Monday how many innocent prisoners eventually might be released. Some who were convicted of other crimes might receive shorter sentences; others might be tried for different offenses.

Chris Brook, the legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina, called the move “an encouraging first step,” but said “much more has to be done for these wrongly incarcerated individuals.” He said the department still had not offered to identify prisoners who were sent to prison for something that turned out not to be a federal crime.

Federal law bans people from having a gun if they have previously been convicted of a crime that could have put them in prison for more than a year. In North Carolina, however, state law set the maximum punishment for a crime based in part on the criminal record of whoever committed it, meaning some people who committed crimes such as possessing cocaine faced sentences of more than a year, while those with shorter records face only a few months.

For years, federal courts there said that didn’t matter. If someone with a long record could have gone to prison for more than a year, then all who had committed that crime are felons and cannot legally have a gun, the courts maintained. But last year, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals said judges had been getting the law wrong: Only people who could have faced more than a year in prison for their crimes qualify as felons. Its decision meant thousands of low-level offenders are not committing a federal crime by having a gun.

In many cases, prosecutors did not dispute that prisoners convicted of gun possession before that decision were innocent, but argued that they should remain locked up because of strict laws that limit when and how inmates can challenge their convictions. The department’s new instructions directed prosecutors to drop those arguments.

Justice spokeswoman Adora Andy said the department had “decided to take a litigating position designed to accelerate relief for defendants in these cases who, by virtue of a subsequent court decision, are no longer guilty of a federal crime.” She declined to elaborate on the details of the department’s instruction. In at least one case on Monday, the government asked a court to set aside a defendant’s gun possession conviction.

The shift was met with cautious praise Monday from defense lawyers scrambling to file challenges based on the court’s ruling. Eric Placke, an assistant federal public defender in Greensboro, N.C., said it was “an appropriate response, a fair response, by allowing things to be handled on the merits rather than based just on procedural defenses.”

One of those prisoners, Travis Bowman, said in an e-mail that he was hoping for “another chance at life” if his gun possession conviction is overturned. Bowman was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm; he was arrested after a high-speed police chase through rural Murphy, N.C. Under the appeals court’s ruling, his prior convictions weren’t serious enough to make having a gun a crime.

Bowman said he didn’t know he was innocent until USA TODAY contacted him earlier this year. He later asked a federal judge in North Carolina to release him. “If that happens, I got so much stuff I wanna do with my life,” he said.

Many of the practical effects of the Justice Department’s new instructions remained unclear on Monday.

The legal issue underlying the gun possession cases could also have implications for many other federal inmates. That’s because a person’s felony record plays a key role in deciding how long a prison sentence he will receive when he’s convicted of a federal crime. Hundreds of inmates have already gone to court arguing their prison sentences are too long because at least one of their prior convictions no longer qualifies as a felony under the appeals court’s decision.

The ACLU, which last week asked Justice officials to do more to help the inmates, estimated last week that as many as 3,000 people could be eligible to either be released or have their sentences reduced. because of the 4th Circuit’s decision. The department did not say on Monday whether it would also drop its legal objections in those cases.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

Federal Crimes – Appeal

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Judge won’t bar evidence of other crimes allegedly committed by defendant in death-penalty case

June 15, 2012

Chicago Tribune on June 15, 2012 released the following:

“Prosecutors plan to connect man charged with killing Navy officer to rape in Virginia, murders in Lake County

By Dan Hinkel

A federal judge has denied defense lawyers’ efforts to bar potentially damaging evidence at the sentencing phase of the death penalty case against Jorge Torrez, the former Lake County man charged last month with murdering two young girls in Zion in 2005.

Federal prosecutors plan to seek Torrez’s execution if he is convicted of killing 20-year-old Navy petty officer Amanda Snell in 2009 on the Virginia military base where they both lived. To aid that push, prosecutors plan to offer evidence that Torrez raped a woman in Virginia in 2010 and killed Laura Hobbs, 8, and Krystal Tobias, 9, seven years ago in Illinois.

Jerry Hobbs, Laura’s father, had confessed to the killings and spent five years in jail before DNA pointed to Torrez, according to court records. Hobbs was freed in August 2010, but nearly two more years passed before Lake County prosecutors tacitly acknowledged his confession was false when they charged Torrez with the crime last month.

Torrez, 23, is serving five life sentences for a series of attacks on women in Virginia, including the rape.

In the federal case, Torrez’s lawyers had asked the judge to bar prosecutors from using his convictions in those attacks as “aggravating factors” at sentencing, arguing that the attacks happened after the petty officer’s murder. His lawyers also asked the judge to strike other factors proposed by prosecutors, which range from the charge that he killed the Zion girls to contentions that he viewed violent pornography and tied up a female friend with a dog leash.

U.S. Judge Liam O’Grady put off ruling conclusively on whether he will allow the Zion killings and other alleged acts to be used as factors until after a hearing in December, though he denied the defense lawyers’ call to have the factors immediately stricken.

The judge denied Torrez’s lawyers’ attempt to block prosecutors from using Torrez’s convictions in the attacks in Virginia as factors at sentencing. O’Grady cited case law in ruling that prosecutors seeking to introduce aggravating factors can use crimes committed after the alleged crime that is the basis for the death penalty case.

Those aggravating factors are central to death penalty cases because of case law dictating that murder, absent circumstances adding to the horrific nature of the crime, does not justify execution, said David Bruck, a law professor at Washington and Lee University and an expert on the death penalty.

Even if a defendant has not been convicted of a crime — as Torrez has not been convicted of the Zion murders — prosecutors often can still introduce evidence of the alleged criminal act during the sentencing phase, Bruck said.

Federal authorities have only rarely executed defendants. In the past 35 years, federal courts have executed three men, one of whom was Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Lake County authorities have said they plan to try Torrez in the Zion killings, though a spokesman for federal prosecutors said the death penalty trial will go forward first.

A lawyer for Torrez declined to comment.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


An aggressive, all-out defense

June 6, 2012

ESPN on June 6, 2012 released the following:

“By Lester Munson

WASHINGTON — It would be easy for Roger Clemens and his legal team to poke a few holes in the evidence against him and then argue to the jury that federal prosecutors have failed to meet the Constitution’s requirement of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If they managed to convince one or two jurors, they could hope for a deadlock in the jury’s deliberations and a mistrial and a technical victory.

That is not what they are doing. As they presented their 14th witness on Tuesday, they were in the middle of a massive effort that seeks nothing less than the total destruction of the government’s effort and a not-guilty-on-all-counts verdict that will vindicate Clemens and begin to restore his legacy as one of baseball’s greatest pitchers.

It’s a highly unusual strategy. There was enough doubt about the government’s evidence after the four-day cross-examination of the prosecutors’ star witness, Brian McNamee, that many defense lawyers would have concluded their efforts and relied on the jury to find the necessary “reasonable doubt.” McNamee confessed to numerous lies, mistakes and exaggerations, the kinds of admissions that most defense lawyers agree are enough to persuade one or more dubious jurors to hold out for a not guilty verdict.

But lead Clemens attorney Rusty Hardin’s cross-examination of McNamee was only the beginning, not the end, of the defense effort.

Relying on a high school teammate, retired ballplayers, expert witnesses, a housekeeper, two masseuses, a broadcaster, and even an FBI agent, Hardin is offering answers to every element of the government’s charges against Clemens. And there is more to come. Hardin says he’ll finish his presentation of as many as 21 witnesses on Friday, and when he is done, it promises be an impressive accumulation of evidence.

Here’s a look at how the Clemens lawyers have responded so far to the government’s charges that Clemens lied to Congress when he denied that he had ever used steroids or HGH.

At the center of the government’s case is a trove of syringes, cotton balls, vials, and ampoules that McNamee claims he used to inject Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs. McNamee gathered the physical evidence after injecting Clemens in August 2001, stored it in a beer can and a FedEx box in his house, and finally turned it in to the government in January 2008. The prosecutors used an FBI expert and a forensic scientist from a private lab to show that Clemens’ DNA was present on some of the materials.

On Tuesday afternoon, Bruce Goldberger, a Ph.D. forensic toxicologist who is the founder and director of a lab at the University of Florida, explained to the jury that the physical evidence did not meet the standards that apply to the collection and preservation of physical evidence.

Goldberger’s testimony came after a vigorous and extended argument from Asst. U.S. Attorney Daniel Butler, who insisted to U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton that Goldberger was not qualified to offer expertise on the collection of evidence and was qualified only to examine substances (blood, urine, drugs) in his laboratory. Clearly impressed with Goldberger and his knowledge of evidence collection, Walton allowed Hardin to present the expert to the jury.

Commingling the cotton balls, the syringes, and the other materials in what may have been a damp beer can, Goldberger said, leads to the possibility of “cross-contamination” and precludes the connection of any of the materials to anyone.

Speaking calmly and persuasively in what was the most powerful testimony in the entire trial, Goldberger told the jury that “the possibility of contamination leads to unreliable laboratory conclusions” and “there must be certainty beyond a reasonable doubt before we can make the scientific connection” between the material and an individual.

In the course of Goldberger’s testimony, the language of the trial was transformed with words like “manipulation” and “fabrication” and “garbage” suddenly being used in connection with materials the prosecutors had described as “medical waste.”

Goldberger told the jury that the material was doubly suspicious because it had been “collected and preserved by the accuser.” Hardin was soon referring to McNamee as the “accuser-collector.”

Butler’s cross-examination of Goldberger did not help as he quarreled with Goldberger about his qualifications and picked at him with questions about the “back story” of a piece of evidence. Butler succeeded only in allowing Hardin to come back with a question that prompted Goldberger to conclude that the physical evidence was the worst Goldberger had seen in 30 years of working with trial evidence.

On another central issue in the trial, Hardin has managed to suggest something that seemed totally unlikely ballplayers’ use injections of Vitamin B12 the way most of us use aspirin or Tylenol. Clemens, in what once seemed to be a weak response to allegations that he had been injected with steroids, claimed that the injections were B12.

Former pitcher Mike Boddicker told the jury that B12 injections were common during his 13 years in the big leagues and that he once walked into the Boston Red Sox training room and was surprised to see Clemens with his pants down being injected in the buttocks with B12. Boddicker, another charming and engaging witness for the defense, told the jury that he could see “B12” on the vial on the training table.

Like the other MLB players that Hardin and Clemens have presented, Boddicker seemed to capture the attention of the jury with his stories that he survived in the big leagues for 13 years with an 84-mph fastball and that he was once traded from the Baltimore Orioles to the Red Sox for Brady Anderson and Curt Schilling.

Prosecutor Steven Durham tried to cross-examine Boddicker by raising the well-known, unwritten law of an MLB clubhouse that what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse. It was supposed to show that Boddicker would skew his testimony to help Clemens. But, instead, it opened the door for Hardin to return with Boddicker’s report that Clemens would frequently leave the clubhouse in uniform to visit children in Boston hospitals and that he insisted that his teammates tell no one, especially media, about it.

The enormous Clemens-Hardin effort clearly has the prosecutors scrambling. In his attempt to prepare for Goldberger’s testimony, Butler was on the phone with Goldberger on Tuesday morning, only hours before Goldberger appeared before the jury. To prepare for Boddicker’s testimony, the prosecutors sent an FBI agent to interview him on Sunday before his Tuesday appearance.

The defense strategy is proactive, and it is aggressive. It fits what we know of the Clemens way of doing things. It’s working now, but as another great ballplayer said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Rep. Darrell Issa won’t testify in Roger Clemens trial

June 5, 2012

The Washington Post on June 4, 2012 released the following:

“By Del Quentin Wilber and Ann E. Marimow,

A powerful congressman will not be forced to testify in the perjury trial of baseball legend Roger Clemens, a judge ruled Monday, siding with federal prosecutors and lawyers for the House of Representatives.

Clemens’s defense team had subpoenaed Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, to take the witness stand about 2008 hearings in which the former pitcher testified; Clemens is accused of lying during those hearings and to congressional investigators when he denied having ever used performance-enhancing drugs.

Court papers from both sides foreshadowed a titanic constitutional clash during arguments Monday, but U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton decided the matter on narrower grounds. He ruled that Issa would probably not have been able to provide “competent” testimony about the decision-making process used by legislators to hold the hearing. Issa was not even the ranking Republican on the committee in 2008.

The judge also said he was concerned that allowing defense lawyers to call Issa would lead to a “swearing match” as lawmakers offered their impressions of the relevance of Clemens’s testimony and the legitimacy of the proceedings.

Prosecutors must prove that Clemens’s alleged lies were “material,” or relevant to Congress’s work, and that the hearing served a legitimate legislative purpose.

The defense team has called the hearing a “show trial” designed to garner publicity, and Issa had been extremely critical of the proceeding, essentially calling it a witch hunt. Clemens’s attorneys hoped that Issa would echo those comments on the witness stand.

House lawyers sought to block Issa’s testimony, arguing that the lawmaker was too busy and was protected by a relatively obscure provision of the Constitution known as the “speech or debate” clause that is designed to shield lawmakers from interference with their official duties by other branches of government. Clemens’s lawyers countered that their client’s right to a fair trial and to confront his accusers trumped such protections.

Though Walton did not rule on the constitutional questions, he said he would likely have ruled that Issa was protected by the “speech or debate” clause.

Legal experts said last week that they expected Walton to rule in favor of House lawyers, though they noted that the showdown highlighted a central absurdity of the trial: Lawmakers, the alleged victims who requested the Justice Department investigation, have elected not to testify at Clemens’s trial on charges of perjury, obstruction of Congress and making false statements. Instead, the committee tapped a top staffer to tell jurors that the hearings were a proper use of congressional power.

Issa has aggressively used his own subpoena power to investigate the Justice Department and complained that the attorney general has not fully complied with his demands.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.