“Sides in rancorous Whitey Bulger trial make final pitches”

August 5, 2013

CNN on August 5, 2013 released the following:

“By Deborah Feyerick and Kristina Sgueglia, CNN

Boston (CNN) — James “Whitey” Bulger was one of the most “vicious, violent and calculating criminals to ever walk the streets of Boston,” prosecuting attorney Fred Wyshak told the jury Monday as closing arguments began after 35 days of testimony in Bulger’s trial.

Bulger is accused of 19 killings and 13 counts of extortion and money laundering during a 20-year “reign of terror” that defined South Boston from the early ’70s through 1995, when Bulger fled Boston.

Wyshak said Bulger and his cohorts “plotted, they schemed, they robbed they murdered together, they were also informants together.”

Prosecutors contend Bulger was an FBI informant who used protection from rogue agents as he continued his life of crime. Defense attorneys have argued Bulger was not an informant, and that FBI bungling was key in the case.

“If there is one thing you heard during this trial, it’s how secretive that relationship is,” Wyshak said to the jury Monday. “The last thing a criminal wants … is for people to know he’s an informant.”

But he also said that it “doesn’t matter whether or not Bulger is an FBI informant when he put the gun to the head of Arthur Barrett and pulled the trigger.” Arthur “Bucky” Barrett died after being shot in the head in 1983.

“Its not about whether or not the FBI in Boston was a mess,” he said. “… It’s about whether or not the defendant is guilty of crimes charged in the indictment.”

He added, “When he puts a gun in the stomach of Mr. (Michael) Solimando and tells him you own me $400,000, it doesn’t matter if he is an informant or not, it doesn’t matter whether or not the FBI is leaking information to him.”

The defense rested its case Friday with no rebuttal from the government.

During their weeklong defense, Bulger’s lawyers seemed to have three goals:

One: Try to cast doubt on who killed two of the 19 victims, both of them women.

Two: Shift the blame onto the FBI, specifically agents who either did nothing or did too little to prevent several killings.

Three: Convince the jury that Bulger was not an FBI informant, a notion prosecutors called “ludicrous” in light of his FBI informant card and a 700-page file loaded with “tips” on rival gang members.

Each side has three hours to make its final case before the jury decides the fate of the alleged crime boss.

During the trial, jurors heard dramatic testimony from convicted gangsters, bookies, extortion victims, a disgraced FBI supervisor, ex-drug-dealers, retired FBI agents and relatives of people Bulger is accused of killing.

Prosecutors called 63 witnesses. The defense called 10. Former hit man John Martorano testified for both sides for a total of 72 witnesses over 35 days.

Bulger never took the stand despite repeated hints from his lawyers throughout trial he would testify. In fact, Bulger seemed to want to testify. Questioned by Judge Denise Casper, Bulger called his decision a “choice made involuntarily.”

He claimed he had been given immunity for his crimes by the former head of New England’s Organized-Crime Strike Force, Jeremiah O’Sullivan, now deceased.

Bulger, who lost his temper several times during the trial, appeared angry, shaking his finger at the judge and claiming he was “choked off from making an adequate defense.”

“I didn’t get a fair trial. This is a sham. Do what ya’s want with me,” Bulger said.

Families of the victims have been in court every day of the trial. The wife of one of the victims shouted “You’re a coward!”

Patricia Donahue’s husband, a truck driver, was killed in the crossfire of a slaying Bulger allegedly committed. She later explained Bulger had a chance to take the stand and tell the truth.

Bulger’s partner, Steve “The Rifleman” Flemmi, testified as one of the government’s star witnesses, and he said that he saw Bulger strangle the two women. The defense team, however, presented evidence that Flemmi had the greater motive to kill his own girlfriend and his stepdaughter.

The girlfriend, Debra Davis, was about to leave him for another man. The defense recalled Martorano, who testified that Flemmi admitted he “accidentally strangled” the 26-year-old woman.

Martorano joins a laundry list of gangsters gone government witnesses, testifying under immunity after they learned Bulger was an informant for the FBI for nearly two decades.

Flemmi acknowledged he lured Davis to a home but says Bulger strangled her because she was talking too much and had become a liability.

As for Flemmi’s common-law stepdaughter, Deborah Hussey, Bulger’s lawyers presented evidence Flemmi had apparently been sexually abusing the girl for years.

Flemmi also called her, among other things, a “prostitute … doing drugs.” Flemmi says he took her shopping before bringing her to a home where Bulger was waiting. He said Bulger got a perverse high from strangling her.

A number of retired FBI agents and supervisors also took the stand, many testifying that they believed Bulger should have been shut down as an informant because he wasn’t providing any useful information.

The agents said they never pressed the issue because apparently FBI headquarters felt Bulger was useful in taking down the New England Mafia.

There are 18 jurors,12 with six alternates. Eleven are men and seven are women.”

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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

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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.


“Key witness in ‘Whitey’ Bulger gangster trial found dead”

July 18, 2013

USA Today on July 18, 2013 released the following:

By: Kevin Johnson and Doug Stanglin , USA TODAY

“A friend says Stephen Rakes was looking forward to testifying against the South Boston gangster.

A body found near Lincoln, Mass., has been identified as Stephen “Stippo” Rakes, who was to be a key key witness in the trial of notorious South Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger.

Rakes was scheduled to testify that he was forced at gunpoint to turn over his liquor store to Bulger 29 years ago.

A law enforcement official confirming Rakes death to USA TODAY says authorities are investigating that he may have died of natural causes. The body of Rakes, 59, was found Wednesday afternoon.

The official said there is “no obvious sign” that he was murdered. ABC News reported that police told Rakes’ family that the death appeared to be a suicide. No phone or wallet was found on the body.

A close friend of Rakes, Steve Davis, tells ABC News, however, that he would not have killed himself and “was looking forward to taking the stand.” Davis said Rakes had planned to deliver a “big bombshell” on the witness stand.

Rakes has been attending Bulger’s federal racketeering trial in South Boston regularly over the past six weeks.

ABC says that Rakes was a particularly angry and determined victim of Bulger’s gangland tactics.

He was apparently supposed to testify that Bulger, 83, a member of his Winter Hill gang, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, threatened his daughter at gunpoint and forced him to turn over his South Boston liquor store. The building later became Bulger’s headquarters.

Bulger, a much-feared South Boston gangster for decades, fled the city in 1994 ahead of his arrest. He was captured in California two years ago after 16 years on the run.

Bulger has pleaded not guilty to 48 charges, including 19 counts of murder, extortion, money laundering, obstruction of justice, perjury, narcotics distribution, and weapons violations.”

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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.


“Ex-agent testifies to good FBI reviews while taking Bulger bribes”

June 28, 2013

Reuters on June 28, 2013 released the following:

By Richard Valdmanis

“(Reuters) – Now retired FBI agent John Morris testified that he received excellent performance reviews from the bureau in the 1970s and 1980s while he and a colleague accepted cash bribes from members of Boston’s violent Winter Hill Gang and protected them from arrest.

In a Boston court on Friday, a lawyer for accused gang boss James “Whitey” Bulger showed Morris three of his reviews describing him as “excellent” and “exemplary” – part of his questioning aimed at undermining the credibility of FBI evidence at the murder trial of Bulger, the reputed head of Winter Hill.

Once one of the most feared men in Boston, Bulger, 83, is on trial for killing or ordering the murders of 19 people while running extortion and gambling rackets for decades. Bulger, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges, evaded capture for 16 years and now faces life imprisonment if convicted by a Boston federal jury.

“I received good reviews,” Morris said on the witness stand, as defense lawyer Henry Brennan showed him a series of documents, including one which said other FBI supervisors looked to Morris for guidance.

The trial, which began June 12, has given the jury a glimpse of an era when machine-gun toting mobsters shot associates who talked too much and buried bodies under bridges in a bloody struggle for control of the criminal underworld.

But it also has shown a dark side of the FBI during that period, when some former agents are suspected of having traded information with Bulger and his gang to help them elude arrest and murder “rats” who spoke to police.

Morris testified on Thursday that he and another ex-FBI agent John Connolly – who cultivated Bulger as an FBI informant – would sometimes invite Bulger and his associate Steven “The Rifleman” Flemmi to dinner, where they would trade information and gifts.

Connolly apparently became so rich on kickbacks that he began wearing jewelry and bought a boat and a second home on Cape Cod, Morris said, adding that he too had accepted at least $5,000 in cash directly from Bulger and provided tips.

“I felt helpless. I didn’t know what to do. I felt awful about everything,” he said.

Morris, who now works as a part-time wine consultant, was offered immunity from prosecution in late 1997 in exchange for his testimony in hearings about FBI misconduct.

“I didn’t want to carry that burden anymore,” Morris said.

Bulger cursed at Morris in court on Thursday and called him a liar as the prosecution witness described how Bulger received special treatment for being a government informant.

Bulger denies providing any information to law enforcement officials, contending that he paid them for tips, but offered none of his own.

The gangster’s story has fascinated Boston for decades and inspired the 2006 Academy Award-winning Martin Scorsese film, “The Departed,” in which Jack Nicholson played a character loosely based on Bulger.

Called “Whitey” because he once had white-blond hair, fled Boston after a 1994 tip from Connolly that authorities were preparing to arrest him.

Connolly is serving a 40-year prison term for murder and racketeering.

Bulger’s attorneys have spent much of the past few days attacking the reliability of the FBI’s 700-page informant file on him, which they contend was fabricated by Connolly to provide a cover for his frequent meetings with the gang boss.”

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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.


U.S. Customs officer arrested on alleged federal bribery charges in scheme to avoid taxes on imports coming from China

October 26, 2012

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on October 25, 2012 released the following:

“LOS ANGELES – Federal authorities arrested a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) supervisory officer Thursday morning on charges of accepting bribes to allow others, including his ex-wife, to smuggle goods into the United States so they could avoid paying duties and taxes.

Sam Herbert Allen, 51, of Diamond Bar, was arrested after being indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy, bribery and making false statements to investigating agents with the Department of Homeland Security.

The probe was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of Professional Responsibility, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Internal Affairs.

According to the five-count indictment, Allen served as a supervisory officer assigned to oversee the examination and release of cargo entering the United States. After he was transferred to other duties within CBP, Allen convinced his ex-wife to operate an import business that would avoid paying duties on shipments coming from the People’s Republic of China. The import business – technically a “foreign trade zone” – would falsely claim that the shipments from China were not imported, but were instead immediately sent to Mexico. The indictment alleges that Allen promised to make the shipments appear to CBP as if they had been exported to Mexico, this in exchange for bribe payments of $2,000 per shipment.

During the course the scheme, which operated from at least September 2009 until March 2010, Allen allegedly received more than $100,000 in bribe payments. The indictment alleges that the scheme caused the United States to suffer a loss of at least $781,000 in unpaid customs duties and taxes.

“When public servants break the law, it leaves behind an indelible stain,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “The indictment alleges that Officer Allen violated the public trust by using his position in a government agency to line his pockets and deprive the United States of legitimate taxes owed in the normal course of business. The criminal charges reflect our commitment to rooting out and punishing corrupt officials.”

The indictment goes on to allege that Allen encouraged his ex-wife to lie – and that Allen himself lied – to federal law enforcement personnel investigating and prosecuting this scheme. Allen is also charged with lying to investigators when he denied discussing a separate scheme to smuggle cocaine into the United States from Mexico.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed crimes. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Allen is expected to be arraigned on the indictment Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

If he is convicted of the five counts in the indictment, Allen would face a statutory maximum penalty of 35 years in federal prison.

Allen’s ex-wife, Wei Lai, was charged with crimes related to her role in the smuggling scheme in July 2011. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is scheduled to go to trial with another defendant Feb. 19, 2013.”

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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

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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.


Ohio man acquitted on federal gun charge

October 23, 2012

The Herald-Dispatch on October 23, 2012 released the following:

“CURTIS JOHNSON
The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON — A federal jury has acquitted a Columbus, Ohio, man on an allegation that he illegally possessed a firearm.

The jury disagreed with federal prosecutors, who argued Deshawn King had possession of a .357 caliber pistol, even though authorities found the weapon in a woman’s apartment at a time when King was outside of the residence.

Jurors returned their verdict Friday after two and half hours of deliberation. The case had stemmed from a June 20 incident in the 900 block of 11th Avenue.

King had been prohibited from possessing any firearm due to a May 30, 2002, conviction for aggravated robbery in Franklin County, Ohio.

Defense attorney R. Lee Booten and his client were relieved by the jury’s verdict. The attorney described the case as complicated. It was never a matter of King having the gun in his hands, pocket or personal residence, but instead it being stored inside someone else’s apartment that he had access to.

Booten praised U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers for his use of prior case law to fairly instruct the jury as to the complexities of the case.

A criminal complaint, filed at the beginning of the case, alleged that King admitted to having purchased the pistol in Columbus. Booten said that statement was part of the prosecution’s case, however he argued King made up that story as he went along.

Prior to last week’s trial, federal prosecutors had dismissed another count of the indictment. It alleged King had possessed a ,22 caliber pistol, a .45 caliber pistol and a 9 mm pistol Dec. 9, 2011, in Huntington. That dismissal was upon Chambers deciding some of King’s statements to police were inadmissible at trial, according to court documents.

Despite Friday’s acquittal, King remained in custody Monday morning at the Carter County Detention Center in Grayson, Ky.

The continued incarceration stems from a probation revocation in the state of Ohio. It involves allegations that King left Ohio without permission to stay with a woman at her 11th Avenue residence in Huntington, Booten said.

Friday’s result marks the second not-guilty verdict in a federal firearms case since August for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Huntington. The first verdict followed defense arguments indicating that defendant, also a prior felon, had possessed his weapon in self-defense.

Booten placed no significance in the two acquittals, instead saying both were the result of rare, atypical and complex firearms cases.

The greatest majority of felon-in-possession cases end with a guilty verdict as defendants typically come to an agreement with prosecutors to avoid trial.”

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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.


Miami feds fight defense plan to question witnesses in Pakistan for South Florida terrorism case

October 22, 2012

The Miami Herald on October 21, 2012 released the following:

“Federal prosecutors are fighting the defense’s plan to question key witnesses in Pakistan in a Miami case accusing two South Florida Muslim clerics of aiding the Taliban.

BY JAY WEAVER []

Two South Florida Muslim clerics — a father and son separated by more than 50 years in age — are struggling to persuade a Miami federal judge to allow their lawyers to travel to Pakistan to question alleged Taliban sympathizers who might help their defense against terrorism charges.

Lawyers for Hafiz Khan and Izhar Khan, former imams of mosques in Miami and Margate, have already lost their first bid to travel with federal prosecutors to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad to take depositions from five witnesses who do not want to come to Miami to testify at the upcoming trial.

Among the potential witnesses are two other Khan family members and another suspected Taliban supporter who were accused in the same case of conspiring to aid the Taliban with money and guns.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Robert Scola rejected the defense’s initial deposition plan — which was strongly opposed by federal prosecutors — as “unsafe and impractical.” But Scola left open the possibility for the defense’s alternative: allowing the Khans’ lawyers to question the witnesses at a hotel such as the Marriott in Islamabad in a live, videotaped deposition with the prosecutors participating from Miami.

“If there is a way for you to take their deposition, I’m going to let you do it,” Scola said, setting the stage for a final hearing Oct. 29.

The clock is ticking, however, because the “material-support” trial that initially drew national headlines is scheduled for early January. Bottom line, the defense said: No deposition, no fair trial.

“These witnesses are so important if we’re going to have any defense,” Izhar Khan’s lawyer, Joseph Rosenbaum, told the judge. “Without [the deposition], we don’t have a shot.”

Rosenbaum argued that that the prosecutors oppose any deposition of the Pakistani witnesses because their testimony could poke holes in the government’s case, which is built on phone recordings of the Khan family’s alleged network of fundraising for the Taliban, a U.S.-designated terrorist group.

He further argued that witnesses would provide “context” for the phone calls, proving that the defendants wired about $50,000 from Miami to Pakistan to aid schools and families in the embattled northwest territory known as the Swat Valley — not to fund the Taliban’s violence against the U.S. government interests in the region.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Pat Sullivan and John Shipley said in court they were opposed to any deposition, even if it were taken at a modern hotel in Islamabad. They declined to say why at Thursday’s hearing.

In court documents, they opposed the defense’s initial deposition plan, saying Pakistan is dangerous and that the witnesses could not be questioned at the U.S. Embassy because of their involvement in the alleged crime of aiding the Taliban. A fourth witness for the defense, Noor Mohammed, is suspected of being a Taliban soldier, and a fifth is a Pakistani pharmacist who received some of the money transfers from Hafiz Khan’s foreign bank accounts.

On Thursday, the prosecutors called an FBI witness who served at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad over the past year to testify about the safety risks of taking the deposition there as well as outside the diplomatic zone.

In court papers, they argued: “The entirety of the government’s case against these defendants concerns the Pakistani Taliban’s hostility, animosity and lethality towards United States citizens.”

By contrast, Rosenbaum called two female professors from the University of Colorado and University of Illinois who testified that Islamabad was a modern city of diplomats, business people and relative wealth. The witnesses said the city would be safe for both prosecutors and defense attorneys to conduct the deposition in an off-site hotel.

But Scola kept raising the question about whether it would be safe for U.S. prosecutors to travel to Pakistan if the public knew the purpose of the trip: Gathering testimony for a high-profile terrorism trial in Miami against alleged Taliban supporters.

“The question is whether it is safe for prosecutors to go to Pakistan,” said Scola, who also noted the well-known case of a teenage girl, Malala Yousufzai, who was recently shot in the head by the Taliban to silence her because she advocated education for girls.

The Miami terrorism indictment was filed with much fanfare in May 2011. Prosecutors charged Hafiz Khan, 77, former imam of the Flagler Mosque in Miami; Izhar Khan, 25, the one-time leader of the Masjid Jammat Al-Mumineen mosque in Margate; his sister, Amina Khan; her son, Alam Zeb; and Ali Rehman with conspiring to provide financial support for the Taliban from 2008 to 2010.

In June of this year, prosecutors dropped the charges against the elder Khan’s son, Irfan Khan, a one-time Miami cab driver, without explanation. Khan, a 39-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen, had been detained for almost a year before obtaining bail last April.

The FBI used a confidential informant, bank transfer records and more than 1,000 wiretapped phone calls to build the case against the Khan family and others.

In Pakistan, Hafiz Kahn’s daughter, Amina, and her son, Zeb, have said the federal case distorted the patriarch’s good deeds to help their family and relatives. Zeb, 20, said money sent from Miami was meant to repair a religious school founded by his grandfather and to help poor relatives rebuild houses damaged in fighting between the Pakistan army and the Taliban.

But the conspiracy indictment portrays Hafiz Khan as a talkative Muslim spiritual leader who solicited thousands of dollars from donors in the United States, directed family members to help disburse them and openly discussed deadly plots against foes who disagreed with strict Islamic law, or Sharia.”

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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.


Christopher Tappin, extradition’s forgotten victim who is awaiting US trial, talks of his strange life in Texas

October 22, 2012

The Telegraph on October 21, 2012 released the following:

“By Philip Sherwell

As he strolled off the fairway with his scorecard at the 18th hole, the white-haired man in blue polo shirt and khaki shorts could have been just another relaxed late-afternoon golfer.

But a closer look revealed two pieces of extra “kit” not needed by his playing partners at the country club in the affluent leafy suburbia north of Houston.

Inside the white sock on his left foot was the bulge of an ankle bracelet, while a satellite GPS tracking device blinked in a holster on his belt.

For this was Christopher Tappin, the retired British businessman, former president of the Kent Golf Union and epitome of Home Counties respectability who will go on trial in two weeks [NOV 5] in a Texas courtroom charged with conspiring to supply batteries for Iranian missiles.

His case made headlines as he fought extradition from Britain for five years, under the lopsided treaty passed by the Labour government after the Sept 2001 terror attacks.

This requires evidence of “probable cause” before an American is extradited to Britain, a far higher standard of proof than the “reasonable suspicion” that suffices to send a Briton to trial in the US.

Mr Tappin, 65, who has consistently denied the charges, eventually lost that battle in February and was handed over to the US authorities. The next two months were spent in the hellish conditions of a federal prison in New Mexico, much of the time in solitary confinement.

In April, he was released under strict bail conditions – including wearing the ankle bracelet and GPS tracker to ensure that he does not leave the three Texas counties where he is allowed out before his overnight curfew.

And last week, he spoke for the first time about his life since then in a wide-ranging interview with The Sunday Telegraph.

As he finished the 18 holes in a brisk round of 75, the 65-year-old grandfather looked as calm as the new friends he has made among the businessmen and lawyers at the club.

There was no indication of the inner turmoil that he must feel as he prepares to face an agonising dilemma next month in a federal courtroom in El Paso.

If he pleads not guilty and loses in a country with one of the world’s highest conviction rates, then he could be jailed for up to 35 years in the US – effectively a life sentence away from his sick wife, two children and grandson.

But in a common US legal move, prosecutors are expected to offer him a plea bargain that would give him a much shorter prison term and to probably repatriation to a British jail – provided he admits at least some of the charges.

Mr Tappin, from Orpington, owned a freight shipping company and is accused of trying to buy 50 oxide batteries to power Iranian Hawk missiles after a colleague made contact with a front company set up by the Department of Homeland Security.

He has, however, always insisted he was the unwitting victim of an FBI sting operation and believed the batteries were for commercial use in the Netherlands.

For Mr Tappin, the rounds of his beloved golf that he plays most days are a solace and escape. “Without the golf, I’d go raving mad,” he said. “It keeps me from thinking too much about the case, but it’s tough, it’s very tough.”

His failed battle against extradition was one among a series involving Britons accused in the US of alleged crimes that took place on UK soil.

Last week, he heard some bittersweet news about the most high-profile of all such cases during his daily telephone call from his wife [] Elaine, who is in Britain and unable to visit him because she suffers Churg-Strauss syndrome, a severe allergic condition that endangers the body’s vital organs.

She told him that Theresa May, the Home Secretary, had ruled that the Briton, Gary McKinnon, accused of hacking into US military computers and causing 300 of them to crash, would not be handed to the US authorities for trial. Her last-minute decision to block his extradition frustrated US officials, who said publicly that they were “disappointed” but were privately furious.

Mrs May took the decision on medical grounds – Mr McKinnon suffers from Asperger’s, a form of autism and his family had argued that he would not survive life inside an US jail, even awaiting trial.

But she also announced plans to introduce a so-called “forum bar” under which judges would decide whether alleged offences should be tried in Britain rather than in the US. If such a law had already been in place, Mr Tappin might have been tried in Britain rather than in America – and as key evidence was collected from a sting operation, the case could have been thrown out before reaching court.

“I’m delighted for Gary and his mother Janis,” he said. “I’ve met them several times and this is great news.

“Gary would never have survived the prison they slung me into, not in his condition. It was the psychotic screaming throughout the night that got me. And the head-banging. And God help him if he’d had to go through solitary like I did, with the lights on 24 hours and the only human contact when they give you a meal three times a day. He couldn’t have coped.

“I desperately hope this presages a change to the system. Something has to be done with that treaty and we’ve been advocating for a ‘forum bar’ for a long time. It’s got to be changed.

“I hope I am the final Brit to be extradited under this treaty as it stands. My case should never be being tried here in the US, I was living in the UK when these alleged offences took place, the crimes were allegedly committed in Britain and the evidence against me comes from the UK, so why am I not being tried in the UK?”

As Mr Tappin awaits that trial, he is trapped in a “gilded cage” existence, and one that is eating up the money he made running his freight business.

After his release on bail, he initially lived at his lawyer’s $2 million home in an upmarket neighbourhood that is built around a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course and protected by private guards and security barriers.

He is now renting his own one-bedroom apartment in a nearby gated community in the wealthy suburban belt north of Houston called Woodlands. “There’s a gym and a swimming pool that I use and I try and keep myself physically fit, though mentally is a whole different challenge,” he said.

“It a very nice area with some lovely people, but you pay a heavy price for life in a paradise,” he noted wrily. “I miss my family and friends and home deeply. Life is boring, to be honest. Each day is deja deja deja déjà vu.”

He is not allowed access to email or the internet under the terms of his bail, but talks each day with his wife and friends and also spends several hours writing and answering letters in longhand.

And he does of course have his golf, playing with his own clubs after they were brought out on a visit by his son Neil, the deputy editor of Golf Monthly magazine. “I’m playing well and happy to get my game back after his two months in jail,” he said. “But these are hardly the circumstances in which I’d want to sharpen my game.”

Pointing to his ankle bracelet and GPS device he added: “And of course, I have to wear these things. It’s not comfortable, but you get used to it. The court charges me a $9 fee a day for the honour of wearing them.”

He has to be home each night from 10pm to 6am under a curfew, and most evenings he cooks for himself. So one big plus, he said, was the discovery of Goodwood’s British Market, a nearby store that specialises in foods from Britain. “They’ve got it all, bangers, fish and chips, Heinz baked beans, HP sauce, Robinson marmalade and the like,” he said.

But he is lonely and desperately pines for home. “It’s nice to hear an English accent,” he said during the interview. “At least the heat of summer has relented. This is the only place where I know where they have to chill the outdoor pools with ice.”

Adding to the strain is the deterioration in his wife’s health. Mrs Tappin visited him in June, but is now no longer allowed to fly on doctor’s orders and is awaiting an operation.

“Elaine is very unwell and this whole situation is really aggravating her condition,” he said. “It used to be me who cared for her. That’s now fallen to my daughter Georgina, but it’s a real strain for her.”

No family will be in El Paso on Nov 5 when appears in court – quite possibly in the manacles and jumpsuit that he had to wear for earlier hearings. “It really wouldn’t serve any purpose to have them there,” he said with resignation. “I just need to get home to them.” As the trial date approaches, the strain is taking its toll. “I used to feel OK, that I have a strong case and didn’t worry too much about it. But the nearer it gets the more I worry.”

He has lost weight and runs his hand through his thinning hair as he spoke, sighing and blowing out air as he talks about his exasperation at his plight.

“It’s utterly devastating to be in this situation at my stage in life,” he said. “I should be spending my retirement looking after my wife, enjoying my new grandchild and playing some golf. Extradition was a very bitter pill to swallow.”

He is not only dealing with the enormity of his legal challenge. He is also undergoing a crash course in American culture, and in particular that of its biggest state, as he finds himself living in a country that he only ever visited as an occasional tourist, the last time 10 years ago.

“Texas is a funny old pace and everything’s just so very different from Kent,” he mused. “They go on about road deaths here but there are guns everywhere and they don’t seem to care. There’s even a Gun Channel on the TV, for heaven’s sake.

“I have made some good friends playing golf, but it is difficult to reconcile how nice some of the people are and how harsh the system is. It’s not just me of course. They’re just as harsh on their own people. They don’t call it ‘Incarceration Nation’ for nothing. There is a huge prison population and the prison industry is a big business.”

Mr Tappin talks regularly to David Bermingham, one of the “NatWest Three”, the British bankers who were also controversially extradited to the US for financial crimes allegedly committed in the UK. The men were jailed in the US after admitting a single offence and sent home to serve out their sentences.

“It’s good to talk to someone who has been in this situation,” he said. And he hopes that a change in the extradition treaty will come in time to help Richard O’Dwyer, a 24-year student in Sheffield, who faces jail in the US for hosting a television download website from his bedsit.

Meanwhile, Mr Tappin is tangling with another immediate headache. His passport has been removed so he cannot board a flight. But his bail conditions restrict his movements to two counties in and around Houston, as his lawyer is based there, and El Paso, where he faces trial – but not the swath of Texas through which he would have to drive between them.

“I’m not quite how I’m even going to get to court,” he said. “What a situation.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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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.