Prosecutors also have stake in Edwards’ trial verdict

May 22, 2012

Myrtle Beach Online on May 21, 2012 released the following:

“By Anne Blythe

GREENSBORO — John Edwards might be the one with the most to win or lose with the jury deliberating his fate, but the U.S. Department of Justice has a lot riding on his case, too.

When the eight men and four women return to the federal courthouse in downtown Greensboro Tuesday morning, they will begin their third day of deliberations in a case that also has put the Justice Department’s small public-integrity section under scrutiny.

Edwards’ trial came almost four years after the unit’s federal prosecutors bungled a corruption case against Ted Stevens, the U.S. senator from Alaska accused of failing to properly report more than $250,000 in gifts.

Stevens was convicted, , but the verdict was appealed and later vacated after it was revealed prosecutors and FBI agents had conspired to conceal and withhold evidence from the defense.

An investigation was launched into the integrity and professional practices of prosecutors in the public-integrity division. A scathing report from that investigation was released earlier this year, showing that prosecutors had “repeatedly ignored the law” and the ethical standards of their profession.

The Public Integrity Section was set up to root out corruption through the prosecution of elected and appointed public officials at all levels of government.

The section has exclusive jurisdiction over allegations of criminal misconduct on the part of federal judges and also supervises the nationwide investigation and prosecution of election crimes.

New chief for federal unit

Since the Stevens case, the unit has a new chief, former New York-based federal prosecutor Jack Smith. The Justice Department also has ordered training to make sure prosecutors disclose key evidence to defense attorneys.

Attorneys who have attended Edwards’ trial have commented throughout that the prosecution as well as the defense has a lot at stake in the case.

Edwards, a former two-time Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. senator who branched into politics after achieving success as a trial lawyer, was indicted last June on six counts related to violations of campaign-finance laws. The violations allegedly occured during Edwards’ campaign for the 2008 nomination, when two wealthy Edwards’ supporters gave more then $900,000 used to help hide Edwards’ extramarital affair with Rielle Hunter and her pregnancy.

Each of the six counts Edwards faces carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. However, Kieran Shanahan, a former federal prosecutor from Raleigh who sat through the trial, said Edwards – if convicted and unable to successfully appeal – would likely recieve a concurrent sentence and serve no more than five years.

Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University in Detroit and co-author of “The Prosecution and Defense of Public Corruption,” said Monday that a not-guilty verdict would be “a black eye” for the justice department.

“It would call into question their decision even to pursue the case,” Henning added.

But he added that he had seen no surprises from the prosecution, and that ultimately the questions that arise from the trial might be those raised by rulings made outside the jury’s presence by Judge Catherine Eagles, who was appointed to the federal bench in 2010 by President Barack Obama.

Eagles prohibited a former Federal Election Commission chairman from offering his opinion to the jury on whether the money from billionaires Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and Fred Baron would typically be classified as a campaign contribution or gift. Scott Thomas, who had more than 30 years with the FEC, testified while the jury was out of the courtroom that he thought the money that went from Mellon and Baron to other people was used for personal expenses that did not need to be publicly reported or subject to campaign limits.

The jury, during its first two days of deliberations, has asked for many exhibits related to testimony about the $925,000 in checks issued by Mellon in 2007 and 2008.

Though only the 12 people on the jury know what is being discussed behind closed doors, the first two counts on the jury verdict sheet are related to the Mellon money.

Toward the end of the trial, the jurors sounded as if they were a collegial group, laughing and talking as they walked into and out of the jury box.

On Monday, the second day of deliberations, the jurors were quieter and somber-looking, barely looking at prosecutors or Edwards as they waited for the judge to answer questions or release them for lunch or the evening break.

As many await the verdict inside the federal courthouse in downtown Greensboro, national political organizations are seeking answers and raising questions outside the tense atmosphere.

Objections to judge’s instructions

On Monday, the Center for Competitive Politics, a conservative group that promotes the deregulation of U.S. elections, harshly criticized the final juror instructions issued last week in the trial, particularly sections about the definition of “influencing an election.”

“If Edwards goes to prison, we will have an Alice in Wonderland world where conduct that would not be punished by a civil fine can result in jail time,” Allison Hayward, vice president for policy of CCP, said in a prepared statement.

The organization’s spokeswoman pointed to a U.S. Supreme Court case decided in 1976, the landmark Buckley v. Valeo case, which states that under “due process” a person of ordinary intelligence must understand that his actions could be considered illegal.

“There is no legislative history to guide us in determining the scope of the critical phrase ‘for the purpose of … influencing,’ ” Hayward further stated.

“The Supreme Court said the phrase ‘for the purpose of influencing’ is so vague and broad that it cannot be constitutionally applied to define campaign spending.””

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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.


FBI probes alleged gambling houses in Jefferson County

March 20, 2012

ENewsCourier.com on March 19, 2012 released the following:

“Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The FBI’s gambling corruption investigation in Montgomery wasn’t the only one going on at the same time in Alabama.

The FBI was recording phone calls and meetings in Jefferson County a few months after it did the same thing in Montgomery. Court records show one Jefferson County businessman has agreed to plead guilty and several other people are under investigation over electronic bingo machines installed in the small town of Kimberly, 20 miles north of Birmingham.

Kimberly Mayor Craig Harris said Monday he initiated the investigation and is glad he can finally talk about his role. He worked as an informant who let the FBI record his phone calls and meetings, including ones where he received cash payoffs from gambling operators in return for police protection.

“There wasn’t any fear behind it because I was doing the right thing from the start,” the 38-year-old mayor said.

But he said he regretted he couldn’t be straightforward with constituents in the town of 1,800 when they called to complain about him doing nothing about the illegal operations.

“There were several calls about, ‘Why aren’t you doing anything?'” he said.

The Kimberly investigation and the Montgomery investigation were both run out of Washington by the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section. But they differed dramatically in size. One involved thousands of machines and millions in offers. The other involved dozens of machines and thousands in payoffs.

Justice Department spokesman Laura Sweeney said Monday she could not comment about the ongoing investigation in Jefferson County.

The Montgomery case involved two huge electronic bingo casinos in Dothan and Shorter. The Dothan operator, his two lobbyists and a former legislator pleaded guilty and will be sentenced in July and August. The operator, Ronnie Gilley, admitted offering millions in bribes to get votes for pro-gambling legislation in 2010.

The operation in Jefferson County involved at least four houses in and around Kimberly that had eight to 10 electronic bingo machines each and operated 24 hours a day as makeshift gambling halls, the mayor said.

He said one of the operators approached him on a Saturday in 2010 with an offer of about $150 a week to keep the Kimberly police away and provide notice if there was going to be a crackdown. He contacted the state attorney general’s office on Monday morning to report the offer and was meeting the next day with representatives of the attorney general and FBI to set up the undercover operation.

He said he started collecting $150 weekly payments for one gambling business and then added others, eventually collecting several thousand dollars while the FBI recorded the payoffs in late 2010 and early 2011. The mayor said he handed over all the money to the FBI each week.

Federal court records filed late last week show that Daniel “Boone” Stone of Morris has agreed to plead guilty Thursday to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and operating an illegal gambling business. In return for his cooperation, federal prosecutors agreed to recommend a prison sentence of six to 12 months and a fine of $2,000 to $20,000.

Stone’s attorney, Scott Morro, said his client played a minor role in the case and wanted to put it behind him by reaching a plea deal.

“I guess my guy is a Gilley,” he said, referring to the casino developer who pleaded guilty in Montgomery and helped prosecutors.

Morro said federal prosecutors told him they had built a case on taped recordings, but he had not heard them.

Court documents filed in his case describe at least five others involved in the gambling businesses, and one of the houses they used was owned by Stone’s father. The father was not named, and Morro said he hopes the father will remain out of the case.

The court papers say the machines came from a convenience store owner in Gardendale and a club owner from Warrior, but they are not identified by name.

The mayor said sheriff’s deputies raided the gambling hall that was in the Stone home in 2011, and the others closed voluntarily. He said he knew Daniel Stone because he was part-owner of an IGA grocery store in Kimberly that has since closed, and the other alleged co-conspirators were friends or acquaintances who lived in the area. He said he can’t identify them because the investigation is ongoing.

This is not the first time Kimberly has had a gambling issue. In May 2008, police seized 189 gambling machines, valued at more than $1 million, from a warehouse. They destroyed them in 2011 after winning a three-year legal battle with the owner.”

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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

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch 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 and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

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.