Friday, December 28, 2007
It's just that it's the deadest week of the year. EXCEPT IN STATE COURT! Are you kidding me? Yes, we have anonymous juries and explosions in buildings, but nothing like the Christmas Eve Massacre (reported by Rumpole).
Monday, December 24, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
Here's the intro to the article:
A federal judge on Friday aired concerns about the possibility of jury tampering in the upcoming retrial of an alleged homegrown terrorism group and ordered that Miami-Dade jurors be selected anonymously for the high-profile proceeding.U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard cited numerous reasons for her order -- including a jury list handed by one defense lawyer to his client's mother so she could pray for an acquittal during first trial deliberations last week. Lenard noted that it was a ''pristine list'' with all 12 of the jurors' names and ''X'' marks next to six of them.''At this point, it's unclear to the court what that list was about,'' she said.Her order -- an edict normally seen in organized crime or major drug cases -- means that potentially hundreds of Miami-Dade voters who receive jury summonses for the retrial in January will be referred to by number, not by name. The judge also ordered the U.S. Marshals to provide criminal background checks on all prospective jurors for both sides.***''I do find there is strong reason to believe the jury needs protection,'' Lenard said. ``Here we have defendants accused of being members of a terrorist cell.''
On the other hand, Judge Lenard ordered the government to keep Lyglenson Lemorin here in the United States because he may be needed for the next trial. (via Sun-Sentinel). From the article:
U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard cautioned the government against moving ahead "with lightning speed so that he would not be available to testify.""I don't know if it's on a fast track or not on a fast track," Lenard said. "I have to protect the rights of these defendants and I intend to do so."
So, do we start calling the case the Liberty City 6 now?
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Past contributions by our firm have enabled the Daily Bread Food Bank to deliver over 1.3 million meals to those in need in our community.
This year, we decided to contribute a truck to help make the deliveries a little easier.
When you see this truck in our community, you may notice that our name is not on it. That is because the gift of this truck is made in your honor. It would not have been possible without you.
A U.S. jury did not think Lyglenson Lemorin was involved in a terrorism conspiracy to topple Chicago's Sears Tower and bomb FBI offices, but he did not walk out of court a free man.
Instead, federal agents took the legal U.S. resident to Georgia, where he remained Wednesday facing possible deportation to his native Haiti, his attorneys said. And Lemorin could be forced to return to court early next year in Miami to testify in the retrial of his co-defendants in the so-called "Liberty City Seven" case.
Lemorin's treatment has led people involved in the case to question the government's motives, especially if he is charged with largely identical terrorism-related offenses in deportation proceedings.
We also haven't had a Go Dore Go segment in a while, but the article quotes blog favorite Dore Louis:
His lawyers didn't know where he was until Monday, and Lemorin told them he feared he would be taken to the U.S. terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A Miami lawyer who represents a co-defendant in the Jose Padilla terrorism case said Lemorin was afraid for good reason.
"This is a category of individuals who are subjected to different rules," said attorney Marshall Dore Louis, who is not involved in the Liberty City Seven case. "I think anybody who is in that system should be terrified about what the government is going to do."
Monday, December 17, 2007
Chief U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno doesn’t expect a pair of U.S. Supreme Court decisions reinforcing the sentencing discretion of federal judges to create much of a ripple. “There will be a little bit of change,” he told the Federal Bar Association last week. The affable judge kept lawyers in stitches as he addressed the association for the first time as chief judge.
Moreno told the association that most sentences will fall within the guidelines but he expects the number of sentencing appeals to drop. In an interview afterward, the judge said the guidelines play an important role. “It eliminates disparities between different judges,” he said. “I like the guidelines because that’s what they are — guidelines — they are not mandatory sentences.” But he also welcomes the latest decisions guaranteeing more discretion to district judges. “We know the case and the individual,” he said. “It gives the opportunity for the exception if someone is young or if something is unusual. Sometimes people do fall outside the standards.”
Witnesses are difficult or impossible to find, some moving to remote African villages accessible only by muddy roads rarely patrolled by police. Many who survived Liberia's bloody civil war and may have seen acts of torture are reluctant to talk to anyone about what happened, let alone a defense lawyer for the notorious son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor.
Then there are the language and cultural barriers. These and other problems have forced a delay until spring in the trial in Miami federal court of Taylor's son Charles McArthur Emmanuel or Chuckie Taylor, the first person to be prosecuted under a law making it a crime for a U.S. citizen to commit torture or war crimes overseas.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
2. Will the next trial be called Liberty City 6?
3. Will there be a next trial?
4. Joel Defabio, the lawyer for the one defendant who was acquitted, will be partying tonight. A lot.
5. The other defense lawyers certainly can claim victory but I'm sure they are dreading the prospect of trying this again. That said, they will be celebrating too.
I can't think of anything worse as a trial lawyer than having to retry a case, except sentencing of course. It sucks as much for the prosecution too. And it's probably the worst for the judge to have to sit through it again.
6. How will this case be compared to the Padilla trial? Other than being 'terror' trials, they really are nothing alike.
--David Oscar Markus
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Moreno explained that he didn't control when the new courthouse would open and there was no fixed date... The over on that January 1, 2008 looks pretty good right now. The new over/under line is January 1, 2009.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas also spoke today to the Palm Beach Bar Association. Here's a report on that talk.
Monday, December 10, 2007
In other sentencing news, Michael Vick got 23 months. Almost two years for a first-time offender with no prior history... Thoughts?
For all your sentencing news, the best place to go is www.sentencing.typepad.com and for the Supreme Court news, go to www.scotusblog.com
Friday, December 07, 2007
All Ken Jenne wants for Christmas is a warm sweat shirt.
''He really wants a sweat shirt because it's cold in prison,'' said his son, State Rep. Evan Jenne.
Jenne, whose prisoner number is 77434-004, observed his 61st birthday in prison in Miami last Saturday. His wife and son saw him Monday.
''We weren't allowed to bring him anything for his birthday,'' Evan Jenne said.
Jenne said his father was ``in good spirits.''
''The guards are treating him well and with respect,'' he said. ``My father doesn't feel in mortal danger. Every time he moves, there is a legion of guards around him.''
Jenne, who once hoped to be governor, now spends his days fighting boredom, his son said.
The former sheriff fills his days by reading a lot. ''Right now, he's reading a biography of Alexander Hamilton. It's a paperback. No hard covers are allowed,'' his son said.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Anyway, back to LC7. The AP's Curt Anderson reports:
Jurors signaled Thursday they are struggling to reach verdicts in the case against seven men accused of plotting with al-Qaida to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower and bomb FBI offices.
Jurors sent a note in their fourth day of deliberations that they have not reached agreement on the guilt or innocence of any of the seven defendants on any of the four terror-related conspiracy charges.
"There has been significant discussion regarding the evidence and the law," said Gregory Prebish, attorney for defendant Burson Augustin. "It's clear that the jury is unable to reach a unanimous verdict for any one of the defendants on any of the counts."
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
SDFLA Blog question of the day -- Why won't the government abandon its appellate waiver so that Robles can litigate (with the government's support) whether district judges should be permitted to reject plea agreements.
In other news, the Liberty City 7 jury has the case (via Vanessa Blum). Over/under on verdict? As with the Padilla verdict, I say verdicts by the end of the week. (Rumpole never did send me my check...)
Monday, December 03, 2007
Wearing all black with a hood over his head, the hit man ran up the driveway of a central Miami-Dade home, pulled out a 9mm pistol and popped the FBI informant.
Seconds later, the shooter jumped into a getaway car. He had just shot his target in the back of the head outside the target's father-in-law's house. In the fleeing car, the shooter told the driver that the victim had ''looked scared'' just before he shot him at close range.
And so began the murder-for-hire investigation into the hit on Mahmoud Elchami on the afternoon of Nov. 19, 2006, according to FBI records filed in federal court. Agents say Elchami was murdered because he was going to testify as a key witness in a drug trial.
Agents allege the man who pulled the trigger is Joshua John Laing, who will be arraigned on Monday in the killing of Elchami, who died one day after the shooting. After his arrest, Laing, 22, confessed he committed the shooting in exchange for thousands of dollars, according to an FBI affidavit.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Lots of coverage here (Miami Herald), here (Sun-Sentinel), and here (AP).
From the Sun-Sentinel article:
Arango urged jurors to reject defense claims that the group's leader Narseal Batiste only pretended to be a terrorist in a fraud to extort money from the informant.
"A fraud is trying to get you to buy into something that is patently not true," Arango said. "That is the only fraud going on here."
The men, struggling construction workers who hung out in a Liberty City warehouse, are charged with trying to join forces with al-Qaida in plots to bomb the 110-story Sears Tower in Chicago and the FBI headquarters in North Miami Beach.
If convicted, each faces up to 70 years in prison.The jury is expected to begin deliberating Friday after defense lawyers complete their closing arguments.
Should Padilla get credit for time served in the brig?
Should he get extra credit because of his treatment?
Should the judge consider the fact that Padilla will likely serve his time at the worst federal prison in America -- ADX Florence?
Here is Caruso on that last point -- from the defense memo:
"By the Bureau of Prisons own admission, ADX Florence is 'hell.' Surely the Court, in arriving at a just sentence for Mr. Padilla, should take into account that he will serve his sentence in hell."
Now that's powerful stuff.
What I find interesting about the state system is that Florida elects its public defenders. I think it's a bad idea to have elections for public defenders (and for judges).
First, how do people campaign for public defender? "I am a really good criminal defense lawyer and will free more criminal defendants than my opponent." I don't think that's going to be too successful.... They certainly can't run on the tough on crime platform. What if a prosecutor decides to run saying that if elected, he would assign the best defense attorneys to the few innocent clients and the rest will rightfully be convicted? Sounds ridiculous, but you see the point.
The federal system has it right -- the public defender should be appointed, based on merit. See, e.g., Kathy Williams.
Luckily, we have had a great Miami PD for the past 30 years in Brummer. It will be interesting to see how this election plays out.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
More here from the Sun-Sentinel:
In a stunning turn, Wellington businessman Dan Miteff changed his plea to guilty this morning at the beginning of the third day of this criminal fraud trial.Miteff entered the courtroom at the U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach late looking ashen and distraught. Then, after conferring with his attorney, Chris Grillo, Miteff told Judge Kenneth Ryskamp, "I plead guilty."Miteff, 56, faced 20 counts in connection with a conspiracy with former County Commissioner Tony Masilotti to purchase 49 acres of land from Archdiocese of Palm Beach County in Royal Palm Beach.
Monday, November 26, 2007
One extorted $7,000 from a friend who raped his girlfriend and then, after accepting the money, beat her up and went to jail.
The other failed an FBI polygraph test while working on an undercover investigation, which one former FBI agent says should have disqualified him from ever working for the government again. Oh, and he was also once charged with roughing up a woman.
And these are supposed to be the good guys.
HT: Fake Admiral
Sunday, November 25, 2007
1. The Liberty City 7 case is slowly coming to a close -- closing arguments should start at the end of this week. Jay Weaver had a story in the Herald this weekend about the case.
2. Chief Judge Federico Moreno will be speaking at the federal bar luncheon on December 12 (CORRECTED) at noon at the Banker's club. Last month's event with Judges Barkett and Marcus sold out and was really fun. If you are interested in attending, RSVP soon.
3. The South Asian Bar Association is hosting a complimentary wine and cheese night on Wednesday, December 5 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. with Saira Rao, author of the Chambermaid, the controversial and entertaining debut novel. The event will take place at SolAmbit's new office located at 700 South Andrews Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301. For more information on the author and the book, please visit http://srv.markuslaw.com/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.sairarao.com/.
4. Judge Cooke denied the post-trial motions in the Padilla case, which means the sentencing (and appeal) will proceed. Vanessa Blum has more here.
5. I found this article really interesting about Judge Paul Cassell leaving the district court bench to go back to being a law professor:
Cassell said he found himself questioning some laws at each turn. "I felt like it was proper judicial role to ask questions, even if we weren't necessarily charged with fixing the problem," he said. But he wanted to do more — he wanted to make a change. Being a federal judge, he couldn't do that. "One of the frustrations about being a trial court judge is that you never set broad principles of law; of course, that's reserved for the appellate courts. ... When I was there for 5 1/2 years, I began to think that maybe I would have more effect in moving the law in a way that I think is desirable by doing appellate litigation."
There aren't too many more powerful positions than a federal judge, yet Cassell was "frustrated" he couldn't do more. He has a lot more to say, including his position on draconian federal sentences... It's worth a read.
(HT: Orin Kerr and Doug Berman)
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
And yes, Thompson has already filed an emergency appeal.
Here's a snippet:
Judge D did just what we want a Judge to do in a sentencing hearing: he weighed the defendant’s entire life against his admitted crimes. Judge D saw beyond the public’s cry for blood lust and vengeance and he fashioned a sentence that punished Mr. Jenne but was proportionate to his crime. Mr. Jenne served the public for over 30 years, and for the most part he served the public well. He left a lucrative law practice for public service, and along the way he made mistakes and lapses of judgment that became crimes. Jenne damn well should have known better, and for that reason the former Sheriff of Broward County sits in jail cell as you are reading this. That along with the public humiliation, probable disbarment, possible loss of pension, and financial burdens now thrust upon Mr. Jenne’s 60 year old wife are sufficient punishment for this man.
But Mr. Mayo cannot (or more likely ,chooses not) to see that the justice system does not exist merely for the judge to be a human calculator in which he or she totals the high possible sentence and then imposes that sentence. We have had (and currently have) our share of those Judges in Miami State court, and none of those Judges are especially admired for their acumen, insight and legal decisions.
In Mayo’s world, every time a judge does not arrive at the maximum sentence, especially for a public figure, it means the justice system is broken and served by a bunch of liberal “turn em loose” Judges who with a wink and a nod let their politician pals loose. That type of column catches the eye of the public, not to mention Hollywood, but it does a disservice to the readers of the Sun Sentinel and the citizens of Broward.
There's a lot more... Go read it.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
The story focuses on the JAABlog and also discusses Rumpole (who just celebrated his 2 year blog b-day) and the new South Florida Lawyers blog. When this blog started almost 2 1/2 years ago, there weren't any other local blogs to read. Now, these three blogs are all on my daily reading list. They are all really good. I especially enjoy the Justice Building Blog by Rumpole; I think he should start an anonymous blog about the federal courts...
A drama of Shakespearean magnitude was supposed to unfold in a federal courtroom, but it was reduced to numbers.
Reporters, come to learn the fate of the fallen Broward sheriff, sat mystified as the judge and lawyers abandoned English and broke into a secret numerical language. They added. They subtracted. They plugged varying values into a mathematical formula to arrive at hypothetical levels.
Of course, if one starts at Level 12 and concedes a two-level enhancer and compares that to a Level 16 with a downward departure worth three levels, the outcome still fits the 12-to-24-month range. Or is it 18-to-24?
It was as if instead of attending a sentencing hearing at the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, I had stumbled into a math class. The professor, U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas, and prosecutor Matt Axelrod crunched the numbers for 30 minutes.
For those of you who thought that the guidelines were a thing of the past, you couldn't be more wrong. Judges still must consider the guidelines and therefore must engage in this ritual of adding and subtracting points. More from Grimm:
And Ken Jenne, once the most powerful politician in Broward County, sat impassively as lawyers debated what numerical values to assign aspects of his life. Criminal transgressions minus good works. Either add or subtract values for acceptance of responsibility, the money he filched, his remorse, his reluctance to admit guilt. Figure years of public service but take an upward departure for betraying the public trust.
It amounted to a downward departure from reality. As if a judge only needed a black robe and hand calculator.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Sara San Martin, 39, also known as Sara Echeverria, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of bank fraud for allegedly writing checks from the personal accounts of the late Miami maritime attorney William Huggett.
In court Tuesday, San Martin tearfully answered questions posed to her by U.S. District Judge Judge Adalberto Jordan, who at one point sent a box of tissues over to her.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Although the parties had agreed that the advisory guidelines were 18-24 months, the probation office recommended a guideline range of 12-18 months. The government lawyers were requesting a high-end sentence of 24 months. Even though the defense was asking for probation, this was a pretty big win for Jenne. U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta came out and criticized the sentence as too light.*
Here's the initial coverage by the Herald and the Sun-Sentinel.
SDFLA blog question of the day: 10 months in jail -- appropriate sentence? too high? too low?
*I thought the U.S. Attorney's office maintains that guideline sentences are always reasonable, so I'm not sure why this guideline sentence -- after a plea and acceptance of responsibility -- isn't reasonable.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
He has submitted a bunch of letters (here) for the judge to consider in imposing a reasonable sentence.
SDFLA blog question of the day -- do these letters make a difference with our judges?
Here's the Herald coverage of the letters and here is the Sun-Sentinel coverage.
And if you are interested in prison condition's for Jenne, here's the Herald's take.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Apparently, Mr. Lat can't get enough of South Florida...
If you want to see the video (I decided to take it down here), then go to AbovetheLaw.
Monday, November 12, 2007
But in practice, here in South Florida, judicial elections in the state system are problematic.
The biggest problem (at least for the lawyers) is campaign season. Everyone is asking for money for this fundraiser or that fundraiser even though the elections are a year away and even though most candidates do not have any challenger. Is it me or is this election cycle the earliest and most intense yet?
Then the election itself is not based on any particular position of the candidate. Candidates can't campaign on their personal beliefs. And it's not based on who is better qualified. There is really no rhyme or reason as to who gets elected.
Plus, it's difficult to tell why certain candidates draw opposition and others don't. Those with the lowest bar ratings oftentimes don't draw opposition, while those with the highest do. Many argue that the choices as to where to run are based largely on race and gender.
Don't get me wrong -- the federal system has its flaws too. It's nearly impossible to get rid of a bad judge, and robeitis (the disease that many lawyers get when they become judges) is particularly acute in the federal system. But I'll take the federal system of choosing judges any day to elections.
As a side note, the concern about politicizing the process is a valid concern, but look at Charlie Crist. He has made superb appointments in the state system, and they have been party-blind appointments.
What about elections from a small group of pre-qualified candidates? Or the state appellate system where voters could remove a poorly functioning judge? Thoughts?
Friday, November 09, 2007
What an honor! He prosecuted Noriega and is currently prosecuting the Liberty City 7.
I've litigated against Dick (the biggest case was USA v. Gilberto Rodriguez-Orejuela) and he is a true gentleman. Congratulations!
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Wiping away tears, the suspected ringleader of a budding terror cell testified Thursday that none of his six co-defendants were told about a plot to destroy the Sears Tower that the leader said he was making up to con a possible terrorism financier out of money.
Narseal Batiste, 33, said he did not inform his six "brothers" about plans he was describing to a Middle Eastern man who appeared to be an al-Qaida emissary, but who was in reality an FBI informant carrying a hidden tape recorder.
"Nobody knew about it. Like I said, this was imagination," Batiste testified. "I would have been deeply embarrassed if any of the brothers knew I was engaging in that kind of conversation."
Batiste got choked up after his attorney, Ana M. Jhones, asked how the "mission" of the six other defendants differed from the violent attacks he was discussing with the informant, a man he knew as "Brother Mohammed."
"The only mission the brothers had was just walking through the neighborhood and preaching about Jesus," Batiste said. A lunch recess was called after he became emotional and was unable to continue on the witness stand.
2. Narseal Batiste is still on the stand in the Liberty City 7 case. Here's the latest from Jay Weaver:
In effect, Batiste and his lawyer, Ana Jhones, tried to leave a dozen Miami-Dade jurors with the impression that the ringleader only talked about waging holy war as a ruse to obtain big bucks from Assad."I wanted the money for support. That was the only reason I was there," said Batiste, who was barely scraping by as he tried to launch a religious group called the Moorish Science Temple in a concrete warehouse in Liberty City. The religion blends Christianity, Judaism and Islam.Batiste also testified that al-Saidi coached him to put on a "show" for Assad, saying that he would likely get his money if he provided details of a terror plot to the Middle Eastern contact."If you're going to get this support, you have to do something," Batiste recalled al-Saidi telling him before Assad's arrival in December 2005."The only plan I had was to clean up our community," Batiste testified.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Batiste, who seemed at ease as he spoke to the jury, said the events leading to his June 2006 arrest began with his desire to raise money for a non-profit religious organization in Liberty City.
Asked if his group, the Universal Divine Saviors, received many donations, Batiste responded, "Quite frankly, if I'd received donations, I probably wouldn't be sitting here right now. So the answer is no."
I agree with the commentors in the article that it's a high-risk strategy, but it's one the defense had to take. Based on how these guys were portrayed, the only way a jury is going to rule for them is to think of them as real people who were just trying to get by, not terrorists. Stay tuned...
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
2. Mike Mayo on the upcoming Ken Jenne sentencing.
3. Liberty City 7 defense starts up, via the AP's Curt Anderson.
4. Buzzzz off; litigation over the Bee Movie Slogan in Ft. Lauderdale, by Vanessa Blum, Sun-Sentinel.
Monday, November 05, 2007
I particularly liked this question and answer:
Was there ever a doubt that you were going to hand the case over to someone else?
I then got calls from all over the country from lawyers who called themselves First Amendment advocates. Some graciously offered help, others aggressively tried to take the case away from me. One lawyer accused me of not being an appellate advocate and threatened to contact my client and directly to solicit the case from him. So I wrote to Mr. Williams and I honestly told him that I was neither an appellate advocate nor a First Amendment expert but asked him what he wanted me to do. He essentially told me, “I’ve known you for 20 years as a street cop and I’ve seen you work in the federal court building for over 10 years. There’s nobody I want arguing my case in front of the Supreme Court except you.”
Anything new going on in the District? Email me with some tips.
There are two important lunches in the next two weeks.
First, the Anti-Defamation League is honoring my former boss, Edward Davis, and H.T. Smith. Professor Alan Dershowitz is the keynote speaker.
And next Wednesday, November 14, the Federal Bar Association will be honored with Eleventh Circuit Judges Rosemary Barkett and Stanley Marcus. They will be answering your questions, so please come prepared.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
1. Liberty City seven: The expert (Raymond Tanter) is testifying. If the defendants are convicted, this will be issue #1 on appeal. Reports from the Sun-Sentinel & Herald. (I've been told that the expert plans on writing a book about his trial experience in this case -- cross examination is today, so we'll find out more.)
2. Joe Cool: Although the government has yet to decide if it will seek the death penalty, defense lawyers have asked that Bill Matthewman be appointed for his expertise in death cases. (Via Sun-Sentinel). And despite the comments to previous posts, Judge Huck has indicated that he will probably set the trial in about six months -- plenty of time for both sides to prepare.
3. Julie Kay's NLJ column: Her first is here (Florida leads states in wage suits; clogging fed courts).
4. Coverage of US v. Williams oral argument, via HowAppealing:
"An anti-porn law that will survive?" Lyle Denniston has this post at "SCOTUSblog."
"Justices Hear Arguments on Internet Pornography Law": Linda Greenhouse has this article today in The New York Times.
Today in The Washington Post, Robert Barnes reports that "High Court Surveys Child Pornography Law's Scope."
David G. Savage of The Los Angeles Times reports that "High court weighs child porn law; Justices seek to establish whether a tool to punish online purveyors of illegal pictures infringes on the 1st Amendment."
In USA Today, Joan Biskupic reports that "Court puts child porn law to test; Justices appear skeptical of challengers' arguments."
And The Miami Herald reports that "Child-porn law debated; The attorney for a former Miami-Dade officer argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that a law to curb child pornography is too broad."
"Supreme Court hears arguments over child-pornography law": McClatchy Newspapers provide this report.
"Supreme Court Takes Up Child Porn Case": This audio segment (RealPlayer required) featuring Dahlia Lithwick appeared on today's broadcast of NPR's "Day to Day."
And at "The Volokh Conspiracy," Orin Kerr has a post titled "Oral Argument in United States v. Williams."
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Initially Judge Middlebrooks denied Diaz & Guerra's motion to dismiss. The 11th Circuit reversed. And the High Court granted cert.
Go get em Rick and Lou.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
The federal government's leading expert witness in its terrorism case against seven Miami men will take the stand this week to answer what may be the most pressing question facing law enforcement since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: How do ordinary individuals become terrorists?
In what will be the first testimony of its kind in a U.S. terrorism trial, Raymond Tanter is expected to tell jurors that most would-be terrorists start off as unremarkable individuals seeking a sense of belonging and purpose within an extremist group.Prosecutors want Tanter, a political science professor at Georgetown University, to tell jurors the seven defendants accused of plotting to bomb the Sears Tower in Chicago fit that profile and were on a path likely to end in violence.
Tanter's testimony is based on a theory called the radicalization process. It is important to the government's case because the defendants — who have no Middle Eastern roots, mostly grew up in South Florida and practiced a blend of religions — may not fit jurors' notions about terrorists.Defense lawyers tried unsuccessfully to block Tanter from testifying, describing his theories as unscientific and too new to be considered reliable.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
"It's possible not everything is accurate," Assad said.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
To his credit, the prosecutor said the comments were inappropriate. And to the judge's credit, he immediately (and repeatedly) apologized.**
This is the great benefit of blogs -- and the big trouble with them. Stupid comments like this have been going on for a very long time. They obviously aren't right, but blogs make the reaction angrier and more volatile than probably necessary.
I agree with Rumpole that Levenson should be forgiven. (I took out my comment about the PD because it wasn't his client that he was talking about. Obviously still inappropriate, but not in the same way.)
*I have to justify the post on the "federal blog" or Rumpole gets all upset.
**We previously have commented on Judge Levenson's good acts as judge here.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
"In this courtroom sketch, Kirby Logan Archer, 35, of Strawberry, Ark., left, and Guillermo Zarabozo, 19, of Hialeah, right, appear in federal court in Miami. The men, who were picked up in a life raft after hiring a charter boat to take them to the Bahamas, have been charged with murder in the incident. The boat's four crew members are still missing. (AP/Shirley Henderson / September 26, 2007) "
Federal court documents paint a grim picture of a slave-like life for Simone Celestin -- 15-hour work days, seven days a week, no schooling and no freedom. An orphan smuggled into Miami from Haiti at age 14, she lived in a Southwest Miami home for almost six years, fearful of being deported, under conditions that amounted to involuntary servitude, prosecutors say.
Looks like an interesting case, which is headed to trial:
Four people -- a mother, two daughters and one ex-husband of a daughter -- were indicted in connection with the case in April. Charges include human trafficking and forced labor.
The indictment said Evelyn Theodore and her daughters, Maude Paulin and Claire Telasco, hit the girl with hands, fists and ''other objects'' to force her to work as a servant in their house in South Miami-Dade and in other houses.
''The prosecution of individuals involved in human trafficking is a top priority of the Justice Department,'' a U.S attorney's office statement said at the time of indictment.
The defense responds:
''These were well-intentioned people who had high hopes for improving Simone's future lifestyle,'' said Richard Dansoh, the Coral Gables lawyer defending Maude Paulin. ``They did not put any restrictions on her. They did try to advise her that, as she came of age, she needed to be careful about running around with men.''
As further proof, he cited a Miami-Dade police report showing that an anonymous abuse complaint lodged in 2000 was investigated at the home -- and determined to be unfounded.
The police report noted that the complaint involved the 14-year-old girl who reportedly had been ``smuggled into the country from Haiti and was being forced to work in the home as a maid.''
The report said a state investigator found the child to be in good health, that she spoke only Creole and there were ''no signs of child abuse/neglect.'' The report also noted that police had notified immigration officials about a ``possible illegal immigrant.''
A couple of exchanges from the article between Ana Jhones (the lawyer for the lead defendant) and the informant:
"It's all about the money, isn't it?" Jhones asked aggressively.
"No, ma'am," Assad answered calmly. "There is a list, too."
"If I remember, I never promised him anything," he continued. "I only promised I would give the list to my big brother."
The FBI informant then lost touch with Batiste for one month.
Batiste and his followers in the local branch of the Moorish Science Temple -- a religion that combines Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths -- began to suspect that Assad was working undercover for law enforcement. They also had their doubts about the other FBI informant, al-Saidi.
In late January 2006, a few of Batiste's men met the two informants at the group's warehouse in Liberty City, changed their clothes and drove them to Islamorada.
There, inside a tent, Assad and al-Saidi met with Batiste in a tense confrontation. Assad salvaged the FBI's undercover probe when he blurted out to Batiste that he was a representative of al Qaeda, winning his trust again. Assad was allowed to keep his cellphone, which recorded the conversation.
"You're doing all the talking," Jhones told Assad on the witness stand.
The lawyer reiterated that Batiste said his group was "suffering" because it lacked money, suggesting he was only trying to con the informant for big bucks.
"He doesn't say he needs the money because he hates the United States," Jhones said on cross-examination.
But Assad fired back: "He says he needs the money to destroy the United States."
The informant only gave Batiste and his followers boots, supplied by the FBI. Assad later offered to provide them with a second warehouse in Miami, where they could plan their alleged terror mission.
Monday, October 22, 2007
But the Hurricanes beat FSU. That makes it all feel a little bit better, doesn't it?
Unfortunately, the Fins are the worst they have been in my lifetime. It's tough to watch. Rumpole has a funny post about them over at his blog.
As for SDFLA news, the Liberty City 7 trial is still going... Joe Cool arraignments should occur this week.
And it looks like we have a new Justice Watch columnist -- Alana Roberts. Welcome. She writes today about Jack Thompson, which we have covered in detail in prior posts.
Finally, a couple of you have asked about how to join the local chapter of the Federal Bar Association. Go to this site, pay by credit card, and make sue you pick the South Florida Chapter. You'll want to join soon -- our first speakers in November are Judges Barkett and Marcus. Should be fun.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Our first luncheon will be in mid-November. Judges Barkett and Marcus will be speaking. More info to follow...
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard ruled after spending hours questioning jurors about a pamphlet on terrorism found in the jury room Monday. Miami police officers handed out the pamphlets last week at Metrorail stations, and the jurors who were dismissed said they had read or skimmed it.
One of the dismissed jurors said he considered it an "interesting coincidence" that he was handed a pamphlet about terrorism at the Government Center Metrorail Station as he made his way to court for a terrorism trial. The man said he brought the flier into the jury room after receiving it.
The pamphlet's cover features a police shield and the word "terrorism" in bold, capital letters. A police representative said the distribution, part of a program to alert the public to terrorist threats, was unrelated to the trial.
All but two of the 12 jurors and six alternates said they had seen a copy in the jury room and noticed it pertained to terrorism. To defense lawyers, that alone was enough to warrant a mistrial.
"To have that in the jury room in this type of trial, I think it's outrageous," said Roderick Vereen, who represents Stanley Phanor, 32.
Other defense lawyers weren't so happy with the jurors being dismissed:
Lawyers for every defendant but Batiste requested a mistrial based on the pamphlet, which includes a watch list of seven "signs of terrorism" and descriptions of deadly materials that could be used by terrorists.
Lenard denied the mistrial motions. However, she excused the three members of the jury panel who said they had read the brochure, explaining she was acting in "an abundance of caution."
Ana Jhones, who represents Batiste, protested Lenard's decision, saying her client had never complained about the pamphlet. "He is now faced with the consequences that he is not going to have the jury he has selected," she said.
Albert Levin, Abraham's attorney, and Joel DeFabio, Lemorin's attorney, also opposed dismissing the jurors.
Ah, the joys of trial. Crazy things always happen, don't they?
Monday, October 15, 2007
There's a new applicant to be interim Broward County sheriff -- a high-ranking federal prosecutor who was involved in the investigation that ousted former Sheriff Ken Jenne.
Jeff Sloman, the No. 2 official in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida, was interviewed by Gov. Charlie Crist at 1 p.m. Monday in Tallahassee.Sloman's application for the job was received on Saturday, said Anthony De Luise, a spokesman for the Governor's Office.
That was quick -- application gets in on Saturday, interview on Monday. Looks like Mr. Sloman will be Sheriff Sloman. He would be great...
He has inherited two big problems -- he has to deal with mold in the old Dyer Building and a recent explosion in the new Ferguson Building. The over on the January 1, 2008 opening is looking pretty good right now.
Julie Kay details in the DBR today (yes, I thought she had left too) that Ervin Gonzalez is investigating the mold issue in the Dyer Building that we covered previously here. And she goes through some of the issues with the new building, including a recent explosion that has disabled the electrical system. (It was supposed to open in July 2005 and is $78 million over budget!) The good news is that a certificate of occupancy has been issued for the building.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Analysis of the opinion here by new (and anonymous) blogger, "South Florida Lawyers".
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Here's the Sun-Sentinel coverage, the AP, the Miami Herald.
U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta on the case: "We believe the evidence is strong. We shouldn't shy away from a case just because it's not an easy one." He said Kirby Archer, 35, of Strawberry, Ark., and Guillermo Zarabozo, 20, of Hialeah, murdered the crew "in cold blood."
From the Herald article:
Archer's attorney, former federal prosecutor Allan Kaiser, said the charges were hollow.
''They're under the gun,'' Kaiser said. 'The magistrate judge said last week, `You better come up with more evidence.' This is the evidence? I don't see a first-degree, premeditated murder case predicated on alleged inconsistent statements.''
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Because the picture is of Hunton lawyers and because of the caption, I read the article looking for the creative ways the firm is appealing to its women lawyers. But this is the only mention in the article:
Firms are trying to reverse the trend as clients demand diverse legal teams. Most big firms offer part-time options, flex scheduling and women's retention/advancement programs aimed at keeping their young female lawyers.
Grace Mora, a Miami labor lawyer, participates in Hunton & Williams' Women's Networking Forum. She believes her firm is moving in the right direction. ''I think it takes time to get the word out there. '' She also believes flex scheduling is evolving from a perk to becoming part of the firm's culture. ''We're not 100 percent there, but we are moving in that direction.'' But Mora says it's not just women who want it, ``men are demanding it too.''
Ah well.... At least the picture is cool.
The article does detail the drop of women applicants to law schools:
Since 2002, the percentage of women in law schools has declined each year, a new study shows. While the number of applicants overall has dropped in the past two years, the percentage decline in the number of women has been even greater, according to the American Bar Association.
What say you, Miami readers -- are there any firms doing cool things to keep women lawyers?
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Well, all I have on the Jack Thompson hearing today in front of Judge Jordan is (what purports to be) Jack Thompson's summary of the hearing posted on GamePolitics here:
I’m delighted to announce that Judge Jordan vacated his order regarding referring me to the disciplinary committee, and he decided to forego all disciplinary remedies.
The judge started out by suggesting that he did not feel comfortable doing so unless I admitted I had done something wrong. I said I did nothing wrong and would not admit that I did. He asked, “Then how do I know you won’t do it again.”
I pointed out to him that Christ said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar and unto God what is God’s.” Christ, then, was making it clear that people of faith are not free to disobey civil authority, and if he now entered a court order for me not to do this, then I would not, as Christians are not free to disobey the law without consequences. But I told him he could not order me to say I did something wrong, because as a matter of conscience I could not do so.
That obviously satisfied him, and he voided out the entire disciplinary matter. Norm Kent was there, which was hilarious, having moved the court last night at 10:30 pm to let him “intervene” and appear before the disciplinary committee against me. Poor Norm, he went away from the hearing sad.
As to the Bar’s motion to dismiss, the judge will rule in two weeks. I expect to receive from the court certain federal relief against this Bar. You all don’t know the case, and I do. Norm Kent, who is now unofficial legal consultatnt to Dennis McCauley as to all things “Jack” smugly predicted here and elsewhere that this disciplinary blow by Judge Jordan was sure to unravel everything for me.’
Now the disciplinary matter does not even exist. How did that prediction turn out for Norm and Dennis?
Kids, leave the lawyering to lawyers. I’ll leave the mind numbing games to you all.
I had a great day, standing before a federal judge for a 2 hour and 45 minute hearing, and I did just fine. Even Norm Kent would have to admit that.
Besides, Norm is a Yankee fan, and grew up in Cleveland. I’m having a very good 24 hours. Jack Thompson, Attorney and You’re Not
UPDATED -- GamePolitics has more on the hearing here.
Monday, October 08, 2007
Friday, October 05, 2007
Thursday, October 04, 2007
In an order issued late yesterday, Judge Jordan wrote:
In my opinion, the content of the numerous filings submitted by Mr. Thompson
indicate that he has difficulty separating the legal issues in this case from
broader social issues on which he has strongly-held beliefs. Mr. Thompson
unfortunately appears to believe that every act taken against him, and any
judicial ruling adverse to him, are part of a vast conspiracy designed to
silence him and destroy him.
Judge Jordan has scheduled a hearing for October 9th at 9:30 AM on motions by the defendants (the Florida Bar and Judge Dava Tunis, the referee in Thompson’s Bar disciplinary trial) to dismiss the case.
The judge will also hear from Thompson on a motion regarding the “show cause” order issued from the bench following Thompson’s inclusion of gay porn in a docket filing.
A memorial service for Hugo L. Black III will be held at Plymouth Congregational Church on Sunday, October 7, beginning at 2:00 p.m. A reception will follow in Davis Hall, also located on Plymouth's campus.
Plymouth Congregational Church
3400 Devon Road
There are some very nice comments about Hugo here.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
''These defendants wanted to wage a jihad against the United States,'' Gregorie said. ''They tell us so in unique detail,'' he said, citing wiretaps, videotapes and other FBI surveillances.
''This agreement is clear, ladies and gentlemen,'' he said. ``It's taped recorded and you are there.''
Ana Jhones for the lead defendant countered (from the AP):
Batiste attorney Ana M. Jhones countered that the purported plot was driven mainly by two paid FBI informants, including one known as Mohammed who posed as a representative of al-Qaida. She said Batiste's group was coerced into going along with the violent plan by "this great con man," who was paid about $80,000 by the FBI.
"This case is about an orchestrated event, a play," Jhones said. "These two informants knew how to work the system. They wrote the script."
"He never had any intent to do any of these things the government is accusing him of. He never had the ability," Jhones said. "Narseal Batiste was talking the talk and walking the walk."
And Rod Vereen for defendant Stanley Phanor (from the Sun-Sentinel):
"[Vereen] said the only possible outcome for his client should be a not guilty vote. 'This is a case where nonsense meets common sense,' Vereen said.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
I saw Hugo recently and he appeared to be in good health and good spirits; this is a shock.
As the person who emailed me with this sad news said, "Hugo was one of the good ones. He was thoughtful, hardworking, fair, and a complete gentleman. He never spoke ill of anyone, was diligent in his work, and a good friend to his colleagues. Those who had the pleasure of working with him in the District I suspect came away with the same impression."
I couldn't say it better myself. I've worked with Hugo on a number of cases and he was exactly what a prosecutor should be -- fair and open-minded. He was always quick to say hello and ask how you were doing. He liked talking about his cases and he really loved the camaraderie in the U.S. Attorney's office.
Hugo was the grandson of the great Justice with the same name.
This is really sad news. I am going to open up the comments section to allow you to post your memories of Hugo, and I will post the funeral arrangements as soon as I hear of them.
UPDATED -- here is the obit, written by Jay Weaver, which includes the funeral arrangements:
Hugo L. Black III, a highly regarded Miami federal prosecutor and grandson of a former U.S. Supreme Court justice, died Saturday. He was 54.
Black died unexpectedly from gastrointestinal bleeding at his home in Coconut Grove, according to colleagues at the U.S. Attorney's Office.
''One of our dearest colleagues passed away on Saturday,'' said Eric Bustillo, chief of the office's economic and environmental crimes section.
``We're all very saddened by Hugo's death. He was an outstanding lawyer and an incredible guy.''
Black grew up in Miami, graduating from Palmetto High School and Yale University.
He obtained his law degree from Stanford University and clerked for the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
He later became a partner with a Los Angeles firm that specialized in entertainment law.
But he yearned to return home to Miami and in 1995 joined the U.S. Attorney's Office in South Florida, Bustillo said. He prosecuted major white collar fraud cases in the healthcare, banking and securities industries.
''He was one of our most valued lawyers,'' said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Sloman.
Black is survived by his wife, Jeannine Black; his father, lawyer Hugo L. Black Jr. of Miami; his sisters, Elizabeth Black of Australia and Margaret Black of California.
The family is holding a memorial service at Plymouth Congregational Church in Coconut Grove at 2 p.m. Sunday.