“Sentencing Commission in sweeping review of prison terms for drug dealers”

August 16, 2013

The Guardian on August 15, 2013 released the following:

By: Dan Roberts in Washington

“The US Sentencing Commission has voted unanimously to begin a sweeping review of federal sentences for drug dealers in a move that could herald long-awaited reductions in America’s prison population.

Just days after attorney general Eric Holder called for a new approach to the so-called “war on drugs”, the commission met in Washington to agree a new policy priority that potentially goes far further than the Department of Justice can in lowering sentences.

As anticipated, the independent government agency, which issues sentencing guidelines to federal judges, will now spend the next few weeks reviewing its “drug quantity table” – the grid that determines prison lengths for dozens of different categories of offence – before publishing new recommendations in January.

A reduction in sentencing guidelines could still be blocked by Congress, but Holder’s speech on Monday has coincided with a new mood of reform in Washington that reverses decades of political pressure to increase penalties for drug dealers. His comments were welcomed by Senate judiciary committee chair Patrick Leahy and leading Republicans such as senator Rand Paul.

Currently the guidelines in the commission’s drug quantity table can result in first-time offenders facing sentences of 19 to 24 years, with no parole, for possession of the maximum quantities of heroin, crack or methamphetamine. Even dealers caught with 100g of cocaine can face between 27 and 33 months, according to the table.

A number of specific offences are also subject to mandatory minimum sentences prescribed by Congress, although Holder instructed US prosecutors on Monday to begin circumventing such automatic terms by changing the way they bring charges.

The seven commissioners who voted on the sentencing panel, including five senior judges, are now thought likely to go much further than this by formulating across-the-board changes to the recommended sentences.

Speaking afterwards, Dabney Friedrich, a former associate counsel in the Bush White House who sits on the commission, told the Guardian she thought that pressure in Congress to control the cost of the US prison system would be a key factor in ensuring political support for such a move.

The Department of Justice also issued a supportive statement on Thursday, which welcomed the commission’s progress.

“As the attorney general expressed earlier this week, we think there is much to be done to improve federal sentencing and corrections,” said DOJ official Jonathan Wroblewski. “Moreover, we think the US Sentencing Commission has a very big role to play in shaping that reform.”

In a statement issued after its meeting, the commission noted that drug offenders account for nearly half of all federal inmates, and that “an adjustment to the drug quantity tables in the sentencing guidelines could have a significant impact on sentence lengths and prison populations.”

“With a growing crisis in federal prison populations and budgets, it is timely and important for us to examine mandatory minimum penalties and drug sentences, which contribute significantly to the federal prison population,” added Judge Patti Saris, chair of the commission.

“The Commission is looking forward to a serious and thoughtful reconsideration of some of the sentencing guidelines which most strongly impact the federal criminal justice system,” she said. “I am glad that members of Congress from both parties and the Attorney General are
engaged in similar efforts.”

The Commission also pledged to work with Congress to reduce the “severity and scope of mandatory minimum penalties and consider expanding the ‘safety valve’ statute which exempts certain low-level non-violent
offenders from mandatory minimum penalties”. It will pass its final amendments to Congress in May.

Political reaction to the recent sentencing developments has been broadly positive. Senator Leahy said was pleased at Holder’s call for a review of mandatory minimum sentences.

Although he believes long sentences are appropriate in some cases, but the veteran Democrat said it believes judges should be given more flexibility rather than relying on mandatory requirements.

Others have expressed concern however at the new mood sweeping Washington.

William Otis, a former federal prosecutor at Georgetown University, said stiffer sentences in recent decades had contributed to lower crime rates.

“Two generations ago, in the 1960s and 1970s, our country had the wholly discretionary sentencing system Holder admires. For our trouble, we got a national crime wave,” he wrote in a USA Today op-ed.

“We have every right to instruct judges that some offenses are just too awful to allow an overly sympathetic jurist to burst through a congressionally established floor.””

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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.


“Number of federal wiretaps rose 71 percent in 2012”

July 1, 2013

The Washington Post on June 28, 2013 released the following:

By Peter Finn

“The number of wiretaps secured in federal criminal investigations jumped 71 percent in 2012 over the previous year, according to newly released figures.

Federal courts authorized 1,354 interception orders for wire, oral and electronic communications, up from 792 the previous year, according to the figures, released Friday by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. There was a 5 percent increase in state and local use of wiretaps in the same period.

The office collects the figures from federal and local jurisdictions at the request of Congress, but does not interpret the statistics. There is no explanation of why the federal figures increased so much, and it is generally out of line with the number of wiretaps between 1997 and 2009, which averaged 550 annually. A large number of wiretaps was also reported in 2010, when 1,207 were secured.

“This is just one more piece of evidence demonstrating the need for a full, informed public debate about the scope, breadth, and pervasiveness of government surveillance in this country,” Mark Rumold, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said in an e-mail. “We have a secret surveillance program churning in the background, sweeping in everyone’s communications, and, at the same time, in the shadows (and frequently under seal), law enforcement is constantly expanding its use and reliance on surveillance in traditional criminal investigations.”

The Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment.

A single wiretap can sweep up thousands of communications. One 30-day local wiretap in California, for instance, generated 185,268 cellular telephone interceptions, of which 12 percent were incriminating, according to the report.

The vast majority of the wiretaps in both federal and state cases were obtained as part of drug investigations, and they overwhelmingly were directed at cellphones, according to the report. Only 14 court orders were for personal residences.

Most jurisdictions limit the period of surveillance to 30 days, but extensions can be obtained. In one case, a narcotics investigation in Queens, the wiretap continued for 580 days. The longest federal wiretap was also a drug case and lasted 180 days in the Western District of Washington state, which includes Seattle.

There were 25 authorized federal wiretaps in the District in 2012, 18 in Virginia and 12 in Maryland. Local authorities in Maryland reported 50 wiretap orders issued by state judges, including 34 in Harford County. Virginia’s attorney general reported nine orders.

The amount of encryption being encountered by law enforcement authorities is also increasing, and for the first time, “jurisdictions have reported that encryption prevented officials from obtaining the plain text of the communications,” the report noted.

Officials said 3,743 people were arrested as a result of the interceptions in 2012, and so far 455 have been convicted.”

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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

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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.


“US Supreme Court to consider Florida couple’s fight to use frozen assets for criminal defense”

July 1, 2013

The Washington Post on June 30, 2013 released the following:

“By Associated Press, Published: June 30

MIAMI — When Kerri and Brian Kaley came under federal investigation for allegedly stealing medical devices, they took out a $500,000 line of credit on their New York house to hire lawyers. Yet after their indictment in 2007, prosecutors sought to prevent the Kaleys from using the money because the government intended to seize the house.

The Kaleys insisted they were legally reselling the medical items. At the very least, they wanted a hearing to determine whether the government’s case was strong enough to justify freezing most of their assets and denying them the right to hire the attorney of their choice.

It’s an issue federal courts around the country are deeply divided over. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has a chance to settle the matter after agreeing earlier this year to hear the Kaleys’ appeal.

The case involves both the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause and the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel, and could potentially affect thousands of cases each year in which the Justice Department seeks to seize defendants’ property. Such cases typically range from alleged drug dealers and Mafia figures to Ponzi schemers and Medicare fraudsters, but also could ensnare people who are wrongly accused.

To property rights advocates, the Kaleys’ case is an opportunity for the court to tip the scales of justice slightly more in the favor of defendants who are routinely deprived of their assets without being convicted. The ruling would not directly impact state courts, which operate under their own forfeiture laws, but lawyers could cite the Supreme Court decision to help a client.

“People who are indicted on criminal charges in the United States are presumed innocent,” said Larry Salzman, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, an Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit law firm involved in forfeiture and property seizure cases nationwide. “Seizing their assets on the basis of an indictment alone turns the presumption of innocence on its head. It follows the rule of punishment first, evidence later.”

Prosecutors, however, say a grand jury’s decision to bring criminal charges shows the case has enough merit to enable them to freeze assets that may have been obtained through illegal activity.

In fiscal 2012, more than $4.2 billion was deposited in the Justice Department’s asset forfeiture fund. That compares with about $1.6 billion in each of the two previous years.

Prosecutors say adding a hearing to allow a defendant to attack the validity of the grand jury’s indictment would force prosecutors to prematurely lay out their case and might even endanger witnesses.

“No reason exists to think that an extra layer of procedure on that score — one that could be undertaken only at significant cost — would be beneficial, much less that it is constitutionally mandated,” the U.S. solicitor general’s office wrote in Supreme Court papers.

The office, which represents the administration of President Barack Obama before the Supreme Court, also asked the justices to settle the question nationally so there would be a single standard in federal courts.

The Kaleys, who live in Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., have been battling the government for more than six years. They declined an interview request through their Miami-based attorneys, Howard Srebnick and Richard Strafer.

It all started when the Food and Drug Administration began an investigation in 2005 into what appeared to be a highly lucrative but unregulated market of resale of various medical devices, from hardware to sutures. The probe led investigators to a Delray Beach middleman in South Florida who was buying the devices from the Kaleys and others and then selling them to other medical providers. He did some $10 million in business in one year.

At the time, Kerri Kaley was a sales representative for Ethicon Endosurgery, a subsidiary of medical supplies giant Johnson & Johnson. She and her lawyers insist that she was legally allowed to resell the medical items she was given because Johnson & Johnson would not accept them as returns after a certain date and because hospitals wanted to clear out space for newer products. Hospitals also traded the older items for newer, free devices from the sales force.

Another sales representative, Jennifer Gruenstrass, was charged along with the Kaleys but went to trial separately. She was acquitted in November 2007. Gruenstrass’s assets were not frozen before the trial.

“There is a vibrant trading culture that exists between reps and between hospitals,” Gruenstrass’ attorney Robert Casale said. “Nobody is reporting a theft at any of the hospitals. Nobody at Ethicon is saying, ‘We were missing stuff.’ No theft.”

The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-Fitzgerald, said there was evidence the Kaleys and Gruenstrass knew what they were doing was illegal. For example, he said, Brian Kaley set up two shell construction businesses that actually acted as only conduits for the checks his wife was getting through the device sales. And, he said, the Kaleys hastily cleaned out their garage of the devices when they were first contacted by the FDA.

“Those were stolen devices,” Watts-Fitzgerald said. “She had no right, title and interest in any of the equipment they were selling.”

Still, the acquittal of Gruenstrass could indicate the Kaleys have a point in questioning the strength of the federal case. What they want from the Supreme Court is a chance to show that weakness to a federal judge so they can win access to the money they need to pay the lawyers they choose.

The $500,000 line of credit the Kaleys took out on their house was based on their lawyers’ estimate of their fees and expenses to take the case all the way through trial.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which handles cases from South Florida, said the Kaleys were only entitled to a hearing on whether their frozen assets were connected to the alleged crimes. Three other circuits have similar standards, while five others do require prosecutors to show at least some evidence of guilt.

The Kaleys face an eight-count indictment on conspiracy, transportation of stolen property, money laundering and obstruction of justice charges that carry maximum combined penalties of 85 years in prison. If convicted, they would likely lose their New York house and the $500,000 line of credit.

“With so much at stake in a criminal case, we believe due process requires a pretrial hearing to determine the propriety of the restraint of assets needed to retain counsel of choice at trial,” said Srebnick, one of the Kaley attorneys.

The criminal prosecution is on hold in federal court in West Palm Beach until the Supreme Court makes its decision. Oral arguments are not expected until October, with a ruling likely in late 2013 or early 2014.”

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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.


Counterfeit sneaker defendant acquitted

October 20, 2012

The Buffalo News on October 19, 2012 released the following:

“BY: PHIL FAIRBANKS

By the time the predawn raids were over, 24 people were rounded up and charged, each one accused of taking part in a multimillion-dollar counterfeit sneaker ring stretching from China to Buffalo.

Five years later, one of the 24 rolled the dice and went to trial, well aware that each of his co-defendants had been convicted.

A federal court jury helped Greg Smiley beat the odds Thursday by finding him not guilty.

“He’s very happy and glad to be heading home to see his family,” said David R. Addelman, Smiley’s defense lawyer.

In understanding why Smiley went to trial – and ultimately got off – while 23 others did not, Addelman believes it is important to understand the defendants’ varying degrees of involvement in the counterfeit sneaker case.

He says Smiley was a relatively small player in the conspiracy, a network that started with manufacturers in China and stretched all the way to two New York City warehouses and ultimately to distribution points in Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

“I don’t think we can read too much into it,” Addelman said of his client’s acquittal. “He was way out there in Atlanta all by himself.”

Prosecutors dismiss the notion that Smiley was anything but a major player in the conspiracy or that the case against him was weaker than against other defendants.

“We certainly felt the case was a strong one,” said U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. “We charged 24 men and women and 23 were convicted.”

As the owner of Top of the Line Fashions, a small neighborhood clothing store, Smiley stood accused of buying and selling counterfeit Nike sneakers.

From the start, he argued that, yes, he bought the sneakers but no, he had no idea they were fakes.

“The prosecution was, he must have known,” said Addelman. “And the defense was, that’s no way to convict someone.”

The jury seemed to agree even though the prosecution, eager to prove Smiley knew what he was buying, played taped recordings of his conversations with one of the alleged ring leaders, Malik Bazzi.

“He’ll tell you how the whole operation ran,” Assistant U.S. Attorney John E. Rogowski said of Bazzi early on in the trial. “He’ll tell you how he found suppliers. He’ll tell you how he found customers. And most important, he’ll tell you how he knew Greg Smiley.”

Federal agents also testified against Smiley, noting the taped conversations with Bazzi and the repeated delivery of counterfeit sneakers to Smiley’s store in Georgia.

Addelman countered by suggesting the recordings proved very little and that Smiley was nothing more than another victim of the conspiracy.”

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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.


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

————————————————————–

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.


Drug crime sends first-time offender grandmom to prison for life

May 10, 2012

Houston Chronicle on May 10, 2012 released the following:

“Houstonian, who has no secrets to trade, is doing more time than drug lords
By Dane Schiller

FORT WORTH – The U.S. government didn’t offer a reward for the capture of Houston grandmother Elisa Castillo, nor did it accuse her of touching drugs, ordering killings, or getting rich off crime.

But three years after a jury convicted her in a conspiracy to smuggle at least a ton of cocaine on tour buses from Mexico to Houston, the 56-year-old first-time offender is locked up for life – without parole.

“It is ridiculous,” said Castillo, who is a generation older than her cell mates, and is known as “grandma” at the prison here. “I am no one.”

Convicted of being a manager in the conspiracy, she is serving a longer sentence than some of the hemisphere’s most notorious crime bosses – men who had multimillion-dollar prices on their heads before their capture.

The drug capos had something to trade: the secrets of criminal organizations. The biggest drug lords have pleaded guilty in exchange for more lenient sentences.

Castillo said she has nothing to offer in a system rife with inconsistencies and behind-the-scenes scrambling that amounts to a judicial game of Let’s Make A Deal.

“Our criminal justice system is broke; it needs to be completely revamped,” declared Terry Nelson, who was a federal agent for over 30 years and is on the executive board of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “They have the power, and if you don’t play the game, they’ll throw the book at you.”

Castillo maintains her innocence, saying she was tricked into unknowingly helping transport drugs and money for a big trafficker in Mexico. But she refused to plead guilty and went to trial.

In 2010, of 1,766 defendants prosecuted for federal drug offenses in the Southern District of Texas – a region that reaches from Houston to the border – 93.2 percent pleaded guilty rather than face trial, according to the U.S. government. Just 10 defendants were acquitted at trial, and 82 saw their cases dismissed.

The statistics are similar nationwide.

The latest case in point came this week with the negotiated surrender of a Colombian drug boss Javier Calle Serna, whom the United States accuses of shipping at least 30 tons of cocaine.

While how much time Calle will face is not known publicly, he likely studied other former players, including former Gulf Cartel lord Osiel Cardenas Guillen.

Cardenas once led one of Mexico’s most powerful syndicates and created the Zetas gang. He pleaded guilty in Houston and is to be released by 2025. He’ll be 57.

As the federal prison system has no parole, Castillo has no prospect of ever going home.

“Any reasonable person would look at this and say, ‘God, are you kidding?’ ” said attorney David Bires, who represented Castillo on an unsuccessful appeal. “It is not right.”

Castillo’s elderly mother in Mexico has not been told she’s serving life, and her toddler grandson thinks she’s in the hospital when he comes to visit her in prison.

Castillo is adamant about her innocence.

“Put yourself in my shoes. When you are innocent, you are innocent,” she said. “I don’t say I am perfect. I am not … but I can guarantee you 100 percent that I am innocent of this.”

At the urging of her boyfriend, Martin Ovalle, Castillo became partners with a smooth-talking Mexican resident who said he wanted to set up a Houston-based bus company.

But the buses were light on passengers and shuttled thousands of pounds of cocaine into the United States and millions of dollars back to Mexico. Her lawyers argued she was naive.

Castillo claims she didn’t know about the drug operation, but agents said she should have known something was wrong when quantities of money and drugs were repeatedly found on the coaches.

“After hearing all the evidence as presented from both the government and defense in this case, the jury found her guilty … ,” said Kenneth Magidson, chief prosecutor here.

Former federal prosecutor Mark W. White III said if Castillo had something to share, she might have benefited from a sentence reduction for cooperating.

“Information is a cooperating defendant’s stock in trade,” White said, “and if you don’t have any, … the chances are you won’t get a good deal.”

Castillo has faith that she’ll somehow, some day, go free. Her daily routine doesn’t vary: when she eats breakfast, when she works, when she exercises, and when she brushes her hair, which has gone from red-blond to black and gray. The gray gets respect in prison.

“I will leave here one day with my head held high,” she said. “I don’t feel like a bug or a cockroach. I am a human being, with my feet firmly on the ground.””

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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

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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.