Wednesday, June 29, 2011

“I’m almost speechless. It’s a kinder, gentler day over there. It happens so infrequently.”

That was Judge Altonaga at a hearing on a passport fraud violation for a Navy petty officer after the government offered pretrial diversion. Both the NY Times and the Miami Herald has been covering the case. From the Herald:

While common in state court, pretrial diversions are so rare in the South Florida federal system that Altonaga said it left her “speechless,” and appeared to reflect “a kinder gentler” prosecutorial office.

They happen so infrequently, she added, that it was unclear whether the clerk’s office in the downtown Miami courthouse knew how to process one.

The idea is to give someone facing charges an opportunity to avoid prosecution through a program designed by the U.S. Probation Services, such as doing community service or perhaps taking a civics class.

Without speaking to the specifics of the Dawkins case, Todd W. Mestepey deputy chief of special prosecutions at the Miami U.S. Attorney’s Office, explained it this way Tuesday:

“Participants who successfully complete the program will not be charged or, if charged, will have the charges against them dismissed. Unsuccessful participants are returned for prosecution.”


Mestepey said the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney’s office consult through their chain of command on a “pretrial diversion” package.

“Politics do not play a role in the decision,” he added.

In court, the case prosecutor, Olivia S. Choe, also raised with the judge the issue of what she called “pretrial publicity” in the case. The New York Times, Miami Herald, CNN and Wired magazine had all put a spotlight on the case of the combat vet turned captive, with the Associated Press distributing a version of The Herald’s article.

The judge seemed unconcerned. “I read one,” she replied, without specifying.

I bet it wasn't Wired...


Anonymous said...

Was the USAO complaining about the publicity? Isn't Jay Weaver on their payroll?

Anonymous said...

Wow - the very conservative .S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, based in Cincinnati, said the ``minimum coverage provision is a valid
exercise of legislative power by Congress under the Commerce
Clause'' of the U.S. Constitution and upheld Obamacare.

Anonymous said...


Steve said...

When I started in the W.D. Pa. USAO, having just moved from the S.D. Fla., I was told that "PTD" might be appropriate in a small check fraud case I was handling. Every S.D. Fla. prosecutor and defense lawyer knows PTD to mean pretrial detention, so I was taken aback. "Really?" I said, "you want to detain him?" Blank stares. Of course, PTD means pretrial diversion in the W.D. Pa. -- something I had never even heard of in Miami. Glad to see PTD now means both things in the S.D. Fla.