Monday, October 31, 2016

Former Prosecutors UNITE against the FBI director

Former federal prosecutor Bruce Udolf wrote this op-ed in the Miami Herald this weekend, saying James Comey "screwed up big time."  From the conclusion:
Sad to say, in this regard, whether by design or inadvertence, Comey failed, and he should take immediate steps to correct his blunder. If that means calling all hands on deck to comb through these new documents, he should do so with all dispatch. He has demonstrated in the past that he is a person big enough to admit his error, and I hope he will do what he can to clean up this mess immediately.
To do otherwise, I fear, could result in history calling into question this most critical election of our lifetime.

And a bunch of former prosecutors signed this letter, railing on Comey:
Director Comey's letter is inconsistent with prevailing Department policy, and it breaks with longstanding practices followed by officials of both parties during past elections.  Moreover, setting aside whether Director Comey's original statements in July were warranted, by failing to responsibly supplement the public record with any substantive, explanatory information, his letter begs the question that further commentary was necessary.  For example, the letter provides no details regarding the content, source or recipient of the material; whether the newly-discovered evidence contains any classified or confidential information; whether the information duplicates material previously reviewed by the FBI; or even “whether or not [the] material may be significant.”
Perhaps most troubling to us is the precedent set by this departure from the Department’s widely-respected, non-partisan traditions.  The admonitions that warn officials against making public statements during election periods have helped to maintain the independence and integrity of both the Department’s important work and public confidence in the hardworking men and women who conduct themselves in a nonpartisan manner.
We believe that adherence to longstanding Justice Department guidelines is the best practice when considering public statements on investigative matters.  We do not question Director Comey’s motives. However, the fact remains that the Director’s disclosure has invited considerable, uninformed public speculation about the significance of newly-discovered material just days before a national election.  For this reason, we believe the American people deserve all the facts, and fairness dictates releasing information that provides a full and complete picture regarding the material at issue.

Some of the local guys who signed: Jeff Marcus, Jerry Greenberg, Dan Rashbaum, Curt Miner, David Buckner, Seth Miles.

Hope everyone has a great Halloween.

Read more here:

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Third case of spying on the defense alleged

After Monday's post, I received an email tip with the following case of alleged spying, which is the third time it is alleged that the prosecution has invaded the defense camp. This one is from the summer but it is still being litigated.  From the Florida Bulldog:
Miami federal prosecutors stand accused of spying on the defense – this time in the case of an alleged $28-million, international sweepstakes fraud.
As described in court papers, the “invasion of the defense camp” appears to have begun in February when one of four defendants in the case cut a secret plea deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and began working undercover.
The informant, John Leon of Wilton Manors, participated in defense team strategy sessions for three months as a government “mole,” obtaining documents and listening to privileged discussions about witnesses and other sensitive defense matters and reporting back to the government, the documents say.
The fallout: defense accusations that the case has been irretrievably “tainted” due to constitutional violations of the attorney-client privilege.
“For a period exceeding two months, Leon, acting as a government informant with the government’s acquiescence, invaded the defense camp where he learned critical defense strategies by actively participating in numerous meetings, after already accepting a government plea and agreeing to cooperate,” say court papers filed by attorneys Marc Nurik of West Palm Beach, J. David Bogenschutz of Fort Lauderdale and Marshall Dore Louis of Miami.
The judge ... has sided so far with the defense. On Aug. 3, after an initial hearing, he ordered the government to turn over to the defense all “rough notes” of interviews of Leon by Internal Revenue Service agents who helped build the government’s fraud case. The defense had sought the agents’ notes, contending the government had “carefully sanitized” memos of interviews with Leon produced to the defense.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

1 Billion Dollars...

Oh, this is such a South Florida story -- about a billion dollar bond.  Paula McMahon has the details:
When a South Florida man's friend sent him photos of a $1 billion bond earlier this year, investigators said, Michael Ifrah quickly pronounced it was genuine.
Ifrah wrote back to his pal that "the bond was real and it was more real than any other bond in the world," federal prosecutors said.
But that assurance was about as credible as the counterfeit bond, prosecutors told a judge Monday in federal court in Fort Lauderdale.
"This case is about two defendants trying to cash an unbelievable amount of money — a $1 billion bond. Few people have actually seen a billion-dollar bond, and that is because these bonds do not legally exist," prosecutor Daniel Cervantes wrote in court records.

Monday, October 24, 2016

More intrusions into the defense camp

This time, the case is before Judge Scola. But it's another Howard Srebnick case involving the DOJ Fraud section from DC.  (You remember the last time this issue came up with the copy service). This time the government allegedly searched a defense team's war room.  Srebnick's 32-page motion is here.  The introduction summarizes truly outrageous conduct:
On October 3, 2016, only six weeks prior to the scheduled trial date, the government executed a post-indictment search warrant at a location that the prosecution team knew was being used exclusively by the defense team as a satellite law office or litigation “war room” for trial preparation. Even after defense counsel cautioned the prosecutor that she was jeopardizing the integrity of the prosecution by invading the defense camp, she nevertheless directed government agents to proceed onward. Refusing to provide the defendants or their attorneys a copy of the warrant, agents entered the space, seized and boxed up documents and electronic data that the defense team had itself generated and was reviewing and using to prepare for trial. In effect, the post-indictment search stripped the defense naked and paralyzed a significant component of the defense.
Perhaps more troubling, government agents became exposed to substantial defense work product, including records that revealed defense strategies. Government agents observed which documents were deemed relevant by defense counsel and consultants. Government agents observed how the defense was preparing for trial. The government’s decision to utilize a search warrant to circumvent discovery and trial procedures contemplated by the rules of criminal procedure – see, e.g., Rules 16 and 17, Fed. R. Crim. P. – resulted in a quagmire of its own creation.
This unprecedented post-indictment invasion of the defense camp, which has disrupted trial preparation and given the government access to insider information about defense strategy, warrants dismissal of the Superseding Indictment. Alternatively, the Court should, at a minimum, a) suppress and order the return of all records seized; b) disqualify the prosecution team from further participation in this case; c) prohibit the government’s review of any materials until a procedure for determining privilege is established; and d) order other and further relief that may be appropriate after an evidentiary hearing.
 I mean, this is getting ridiculous already.  Let's see how this plays out.  

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Bigly delay results in dismissal

Kudos to Judge Scola for dismissing this case (order here) based on speedy trial grounds and to defense lawyer Sam Rabin for raising the issue. We need more judges who are willing to check the government's overreach.  The Herald covers it here:
The judge noted that prosecutors filed the indictment more than six years after Tamas Zafir's role in the alleged crime of washing drug proceeds ended in 2009, then let another year pass before he could surrender on the charges in July.
This week, U.S. District Judge Robert Scola said Zafir's constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated because prosecutors delayed his prosecution while they sought the extradition of the main defendant, Nidal Ahmed Waked Hatum. He was arrested in Bogota, Colombia, in May but has yet to be extradited to Miami.
The U.S. attorney’s office wanted to prosecute Zafir and Waked together, leading to the long delay of Zafir’s trial, according to court records.
Waked is a wealthy and well-connected businessman based in Panama who owned a textile company in Miami-Dade and employed Zafir as its manager. The company, Star Textile Manufacturing, which shut down in 2009, had an account with Ocean Bank in Miami.
Zafir’s defense attorney, Sam Rabin, showed the judge that the government had ample opportunity to arrest Waked because he made 19 international flights from Panama to Canada, Panama to China, and Panama to Colombia, where he was finally arrested earlier this year. As a result of the delay in Waked’s arrest, Rabin argued his client was deprived of his right to a speedy trial.
The judge agreed, saying in his order: “The court finds that, based on the record, the reasons for the delay in arresting Zafir — a delay inextricably linked to the delay in arresting Waked — weigh heavily against the government.”
Scola also noted so many years had passed since Zafir shut down the Miami business, Star Textile, that was allegedly involved in laundering drug money from Panama.
“Zafir is now sixty-eight years old and without business records to rely upon, [he] would be hard pressed to remember details from more than seven years ago to present a defense in the case,” the judge wrote.

Read more here:

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Judge Martinez reimposes 30 year sentence on cruise ship worker

The guidelines called for 14-17 years, and the 11th reversed because there wasn't enough explanation regarding the 30-year sentence for the following facts. Via Paula McMahon:
A former cruise ship worker who sexually assaulted and tried to kill a passenger told a judge Tuesday that he is having a tough time dealing with the violence he sees every day in prison.
Ketut Pujayasa, 31, has already served 2 ½ years in federal prison for what prosecutors said was an extraordinarily cruel and violent attack on the woman during a cruise that left Port Everglades in February 2014.
Pujayasa admitted he used his master key to sneak into the woman's room, hid on her balcony until she fell asleep and then unleashed an astonishingly brutal assault on her.
 The Valentine's Day attack went on for 30 to 60 minutes and included choking her with electrical cords, hitting her with objects from the cabin and trying to throw her into the ocean from the balcony of the moving ship, according to court records.
 This time, the judge imposed the same sentence with quite a bit more explanation:

He said the extra punishment was appropriate because Pujayasa's actions were so extreme and the effect on the victim was so severe, leaving her with post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and physical and cognitive difficulties caused by her injuries.
Pujayasa will be deported when he is released and would be barred from returning to the U.S.
Pujayasa told investigators he wanted to punish the woman because he believed she had insulted his mother when he tried to deliver breakfast to her room on the Holland-America Line cruise.
He claimed the woman said "son of a bitch" after he knocked three times. The Indonesian native, who worked on cruises for several years, said he thought she was insulting his mother.
He fumed about it for hours and looked for her on the deck of the weeklong nudist cruise, planning to punch her in the face. When he spotted her, he said there were too many other passengers on deck so he changed his plan.
Seventeen hours after the perceived slight, he used his master key to let himself into her room, hid on her balcony and fell asleep waiting for her to return. The woman later wrote that she woke up to a "human shadow trying to kill me with his bare hands."
Prosecutors said the woman only survived the lengthy, brutal attack — which they described as "torture" — because she had unusual physical strength from her training as an aerial acrobat and gym teacher. The woman, who lives in the U.S., filed a civil suit and reached a confidential settlement with the cruise line last year.
Pujayasa, who had never been in any kind of trouble before, apologized again in court, though the victim did not attend his second sentencing.
"I am deeply sorry for all my actions," Pujayasa told the judge, speaking through a court interpreter.
He said he had never hurt anybody before but was incensed by what he considered an insult to his mother, describing her as the person he loves most in the world.
"[Pujayasa] still does not understand that words do not justify these kinds of actions," the judge said.
If the victim said what Pujayasa claimed she said, the judge explained to Pujayasa that it was not intended to besmirch his mother: "She stated a fairly common expression when you stub your toe or get awakened in the night."

Monday, October 17, 2016

Florida death penalty found unconstitutional

Judge Milton Hirsch's order is affirmed.  And Judge Martinez is vindicated.  The New York Times has the story:

The Florida Supreme Court ruled Friday that the death penalty cannot be imposed without the unanimous support of a jury, deepening the recent turmoil around capital punishment in a state with a long history of executions.
One of Friday’s decisions, in a case that previously reached the United States Supreme Court and upended Florida’s death penalty system, said that the Eighth Amendment, which forbids cruel and unusual punishment, and Florida state law effectively mandated consensus in capital cases. The court said in a separate case that a new state law, which allowed for the death penalty when 10 of 12 jurors agreed, was unconstitutional.
“Requiring unanimous jury recommendations of death before the ultimate penalty may be imposed will ensure that in the view of the jury — a veritable microcosm of the community — the defendant committed the worst of murders with the least amount of mitigation,” the Florida court said in siding with Timothy L. Hurst, a death row inmate whose appeal led lawmakers early this year to rewrite the state’s death penalty law.
Referring to a 1958 United States Supreme Court opinion invoking the Eighth Amendment, the Florida court added, “This is in accord with the goal that capital sentencing laws keep pace with ‘evolving standards of decency.’”

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Vote for Pedro!

and for this blog.

and for Rumpole.


Manrique oral argument summary

From SCOTUSblog is here:
For most of Tuesday’s 53-minute oral argument in Manrique v. United States, the Supreme Court seemed caught between two very different ways of looking at the question presented — whether a notice of appeal from an initial judgment of conviction and sentence in a federal criminal case can also encompass a challenge to the district court’s subsequent restitution determination under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act. On one hand, as Assistant Federal Defender Paul Rashkind argued on behalf of petitioner Marcelo Manrique, there is a longstanding norm that one notice of appeal suffices in criminal cases, so the court of appeals erred by holding that it could not reach Manrique’s challenge to the amount of restitution ordered in his case because he did not separately notice an appeal from that judgment. On the other hand, as Assistant to the Solicitor General Allon Kedem argued on behalf of the United States, the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure don’t appear to cover such a situation – and it would be unprecedented to allow a notice of appeal to encompass matters that have not yet been determined. And although predicting a result based upon oral argument is always a fraught proposition, the six justices who asked questions certainly seemed to be leaning toward the government’s view by the end of the session.

And here is the transcript.  Paul Rashkind did a great job arguing with a skeptical bench.  Requiring a defendant to file two notices of appeal seems so formalistic and silly to me.  The simply solution is to have one notice that covers both the sentence and restitution.  But I guess that's too easy?

And what's with Justice Breyer -- he has just gotten so crotchety lately.  Yes, he has been really bad for defendants for a while now, but he used to be polite about it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Paul Rashkind goes to DC, part 2

Appellate lawyer extraordinaire Paul Rashkind (from the FPD's office in Miami) will be arguing his second Supreme Court case this morning.  It's Manrique v. U.S. and SCOTUSblog has the preview here:

When defendants are convicted of federal crimes, district courts will often enter two different judgments: an initial judgment of conviction and sentence, and a subsequent, amended judgment of restitution after a hearing under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act. In its 2010 decision in Dolan v. United States, the Supreme Court held that, so long as the initial judgment includes a deferred order of restitution, an amended, post-hearing judgment fixing the specific amount of restitution does not have to comply with the MVRA’s 90-day deadline for restitution awards, because the latter judgment was simply attaching an amount to the restitution already ordered by the former judgment. And although the court in Dolan noted the potential consequences of the interaction of such bifurcated restitution orders with appellate time limits, it left resolution of such questions “for another day.”

That day appears to have come, with the justices set to hear argument next Tuesday in Manrique v. United States. Marcelo Manrique pled guilty to one count of possession of material involving a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B) and (b)(2), and was sentenced to 72 months’ imprisonment; a life term of supervised release; and deferred restitution – recorded as $0 in the initial judgment, but determined after a hearing to be $4,500. Manrique filed a notice of appeal from the initial sentencing judgment, but not from the amended post-hearing judgment. This shortcoming, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled on its own motion, deprived the appeals court of jurisdiction to consider a challenge to the appropriateness of the restitution award. Manrique asked the Supreme Court to review the lower court’s decision.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Federal Courts closed, but schools are open.

So is your office open today?
Are your offices open today? free polls
Last week, Judge William Pryor came out with this doosy:

This appeal requires us to decide two issues: whether student speech that objects to the pedagogy of officials of a public college is “school-sponsored” expression under the First Amendment and whether an invasive ultrasound constitutes a “search” under the Fourth Amendment when performed for instructional reasons instead of investigative or administrative reasons. After several employees of Valencia College encouraged students to submit voluntarily to invasive ultrasounds performed by peers as part of a training program in sonography, some students objected. The employees then allegedly retaliated against the objecting students and successfully pressured two students to undergo the procedure. The students filed a complaint against the employees, which the district court dismissed for failure to state a claim. Because the district court erroneously classified the students’ speech as school-sponsored expression and the district court erroneously ruled that the ultrasound was not a search under the Fourth Amendment, we vacate the order dismissing the complaint and remand for further proceedings.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Hurricane Matthew policy

The policy, enacted by Judge Moreno, tracks the public school decisions. If the county decides to close schools, then the courthouse in that district will also close. 

Check out the court's website for updates at:

Courts closed Thursday and Friday (except Key West). 

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Big ups to Richard Klugh

Petitions for Panel Rehearing are never granted in the 11th Circuit.  I mean, unless you are the government.  Then, every now and then, they are.  But for the defense, winning a petition for panel rehearing is really really rare; almost impossible. You literally have a better chance of being struck by lightning (1 in 12,000 if you live to 80) than getting your panel rehearing petition granted if you are a defendant. 

But Richard Klugh just put lightning in a bottle in the B-Girls case. Winning a new trial on all the counts but one was a feat in itself (the post on the original entertaining opinion is here).  But then Richard moved for rehearing on the final count.  And won!

Here's the panel:

In Count 21, the government indicted Pavlenko for an email he sent to AMEX on
April 21, 2010.  [DE 953 at 15].  To sustain a wire-fraud conviction, that email must have furthered a fraud scheme, i.e., tricked AMEX into parting with money it would not otherwise have let go.  See Op. at 7–14.  Here, the scheme allegedly worked like this: a B-girl lured a man into Pavlenko’s bar, where the man proceeded to use his AMEX card.  Looking back on the encounter from the clearer light of day, the customer decided he had been defrauded and contested the charge with AMEX.  On April 19, 2010, however, AMEX determined that the charge was not fraudulent and sent its customer a letter saying so.  See [DE Doc. 1142 at 67, 85, 88 (citing Defense Exh. SP 50)].  On April 21, for whatever reason, Pavlenko sent AMEX an email covering up his relation with the B-girl.  But by then, he had nothing left to gain:  AMEX had already upheld the charge.  In doing so, AMEX did not—and, of course, could not—rely on the April 21 email.  [Id. at 88].  And since AMEX had already approved the charge, no reasonable juror could have concluded that Pavlenko defrauded AMEX of that money through the April 21 email, which was the sole basis for Count 21.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Federal courts are OPEN (UPDATED)

But state courts and schools are closed.  I don't get it...

UPDATE -- the Supreme Court is sort of open today:

When the U.S. Supreme Court opens its fall term on October 3, the public won't see a typical First Monday in October. The court won’t hear any arguments on its opening day, instead convening briefly for announcements and the swearing in of new bar members. The cancellation of arguments is meant to recognize the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah while also adhering to the 1916 law that requires the court to begin its term on the first Monday in October. That's not all: the court won't sit at all on October 12, when Yom Kippur starts. And it won’t take the bench on October 10 either. That is the federal Columbus Day holiday....It appears to have taken a 'critical mass' of two Jewish justices on the court to push the court to accommodate the need of observant Jews not to be working on major holidays. That occurred in 1994, when Stephen Breyer joined the court—a year after Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Some news if you are in the office:

1.  Notorious RGB penned this op-ed in the Times.  From the conclusion:
Earlier, I spoke of great changes I have seen in women’s occupations. Yet one must acknowledge the still bleak part of the picture. Most people in poverty in the United States and the world over are women and children, women’s earnings here and abroad trail the earnings of men with comparable education and experience, our workplaces do not adequately accommodate the demands of childbearing and child rearing, and we have yet to devise effective ways to ward off sexual harassment at work and domestic violence in our homes. I am optimistic, however, that movement toward enlistment of the talent of all who compose “We, the people,” will continue.

2.  Paula McMahon covers the insanity of how much we pay informants in the criminal justice system:
Snitching for the feds can be dangerous work, but it also can be pretty lucrative.
One South Florida man who has been working undercover as a confidential informant for 31 years has been paid about $1.5 million for his efforts, according to court records and testimony that shed some light on the usually shadowy world of informants.
The payments, which appear to have started during President Ronald Reagan's second term in office, average out to more than $48,000 per year.
The Drug Enforcement Administration won't say who he is or why he does what he does, but some information about him slipped out in court this week after the DEA used him in a heroin sting.

3.  P.S. We pay the informants more than death penalty lawyers (that David Markus mentioned in the article is NOT me... sigh.).

And now, your moment of zen: