Friday, June 29, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Monday, June 25, 2007
It started in opening. And it continued yesterday with the government calling al Qaeda expert Rohan Gunaratna. This is all leading up to the government playing a CNN interview with Osama bin Laden, which Judge Cooke already has said portions can be played.
So can this evidence link any of the defendants to any al Qaeda attacks? According to Jay Weaver:
None of the evidence presented in the Miami trial links the three men to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks or any other alleged al Qaeda attacks during the previous decade.
It's not even clear to me why this expert or the CNN tape is relevant to the charges in this trial. The CNN tape is relevant, the government says, because two of the defendants (not Padilla) watched it and discussed it. Hmmmm. Think about that for a second. You better start thinking about the shows you watch or the websites you visit.
As for Padilla's argument that he only was captured on tape a couple of times, here's Curt Anderson describing the re-direct of the government's case agent:
On Monday, he also said Padilla likely spoke with Hassoun on many more occasions than the seven substantive telephone intercepts on which his voice appears. They met at a mosque in Florida, Kavanaugh said, and also used letters and human couriers to communicate.
Huh? "Likely"? What does that mean? Where's the actual proof? Isn't that what the tapes are for? They recorded hundreds of thousands of calls, but they "likely" spoke on other occassions not captured?
But they loved Osama.
For me, the real controversy is how to spell al Qaeda (Miami Herald spelling). Or is it al Qaida (AP spelling). Blogger doesn't like either spelling.
So, if you are interested in the big Supreme Court decisions that came out today (including the Bong Hits for Jesus case), check out Scotusblog.com.
If you are interested in reading a great legal blog, check out the WSJ blog.
If you want fun legal gossip, check out Abovethelaw.com
And if you want some law and some other interesting stuff all mixed together, check out Althouse.
And there's always Rumpole for our state court updates.
Will get back to SDFLA news as soon as I can.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
This time prosecutors made public the post-arrest statements of the defendants. And the defense lawyers are none too pleased. According to Vanessa Blum of the Sun-Sentinel:
Defense lawyers for Abraham and Augustin lashed out at prosecutors for publicly filing the statements from their clients, which they are trying to keep out of the trial.
A summary of statements themselves:
The man federal authorities accused of plotting with an al-Qaida operative to bomb the Chicago Sears Tower and government buildings in Miami told FBI agents he was trying to hustle a man he knew as Mohammed for money.At first Narseal Batiste, a Liberty City resident, denied ever discussing such attacks, according to notes from an interview conducted after his arrest exactly one year ago.
He changed his story after the agents played a videotape showing him and several accused associates reciting an oath of allegiance to al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden. The pledge was led by an informant working undercover for the FBI who called himself Mohammed and posed as an al-Qaida contact from Yemen."I can't believe I got these guys into this," Batiste said after watching the video, according to the FBI notes.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Did this thing get a wee bit overblown? Thoughts?
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
The agent conceded that Padilla never used any of the code words that the other defendants had used. And he admitted that Padilla was focused on learning Arabic and memorizing the Koran. Some examples from the AP article:
Caruso asked Kavanaugh if Padilla ever was heard using what prosecutors say were code words for violent jihad, such as "picnic," "smelling fresh air" or "eating cheese."
"No, he does not," Kavanaugh replied.
Caruso asked Kavanaugh if Padilla was ever overheard discussing jihad training.
"No jihad training that I've seen," Kavanaugh said.
"He's not referring to anything here but studying Arabic, correct? Study means study, right?" Caruso asked.
"That's what they're talking about," Kavanaugh testified.
More on Caruso's cross from the Miami Herald here.
This isn't the first time that the defense has scored points on cross. See here and here and here and here. My wife says boring (but she's watching a rerun of Brothers & Sisters, so what does she know!). I say fascinating.
You remember Judge Seidlin -- the one who cried during the Anna Nicole litigation. State court, especially in Broward, seems so much more exciting than the Southern District, no?
I'm sure lots of commentary to follow from the Broward Blog.
According to the AP, "William Swor sought to prove his client Kifah Wael Jayyousi was driven to charity by his compassion for his fellow Muslims, not to supporting terrorism, a defense that began last week."
The Herald also covered the defense cross of the agent here:
''It's clear from Dr. Jayyousi's state of mind that he was concerned about getting relief to the Chechnyans in Russia,'' said defense lawyer William Swor, citing one FBI-intercepted phone call in March 1995.
''He made such statements,'' FBI Special Agent John T. Kavanaugh Jr. acknowledged under cross examination.
Kavanaugh has been on the witness stand for the past two weeks in the terror trial against Jayyousi, Adham Amin Hassoun and Jose Padilla, asserting the three Muslim men used code words such as ''tourism'' for ''jihad'' to conceal their true militant mission.
And Vanessa Blum has this very interesting article about Jose Padilla's conversion to Islam, which occurred while he was in the Broward County Jail. After he converts and is released, he gives a radio interview which Blum obtained and covers. Definitely worth a read, but here's a snippet:
Upon his release from jail, Padilla called Islamic organizations out of the Yellow Pages seeking a Koran, the holy text of Islam.He also took a job at a Taco Bell in Davie. The manager, Mohammed Javed, who was Muslim, finally gave him a copy of the Koran, Padilla says. Javed could not be reached for comment.
"I stuck to the book and just read and read and read," Padilla says. "I read it once and then I went back and read it twice."Javed invited him to attend a South Florida mosque. When Padilla saw the clothing and the worshipers' turbans, he recalled his vision."I said 'yes' this is it," Padilla says. "This is what the Almighty wants me to be."At the end of the interview, the host asks Padilla for his advice to non-Muslims."Don't believe all the propaganda that is being portrayed out there about Islam, about terrorism and extremists," Padilla replies.
Monday, June 18, 2007
If you ask a passel of South Florida lawyers about Paine - winners or losers in cases from all quarters - many will mention his impartiality and demeanor. That he is the perfect persona of a judge, and still a humble human being.
Paine, of Palm Beach, spoke at the reception, saying he was flabbergasted by the number of people who came out on the rainy day. "You folks are awfully nice to be here," he said in the genteel way the lawyers speak of.
That is not to say that he demurred from bold statements, very bold.
In 1991, Paine called for controlled substances to be legalized. Drugs. Marijuana. Cocaine.
In a speech to lawyers, he described how the federal courts were overwhelmed with drug prosecutions and that he believed the war on drugs was lost.
"Alcohol didn't cause the high crime rates of the '20s and '30s, Prohibition did. And drugs do not cause today's alarming crime rates, but drug prohibition does," the judge said then.
South Florida's chief federal prosecutor at the time recalls it was a stunner. Former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey said Paine's comments started legitimate debate on the topic. "When a person with that high level of respect makes those remarks, they continue to resonate," Coffey said.
All the best to Judge Paine. We'll miss having you on the bench.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Friday, June 15, 2007
Judge of 50 years resigns for sexual comments.
Lawyer really really really sorry for happy meal comments to judge. (previous coverage here).
And police officers arrest man for asking them for warrant before cutting down his tree during the citrus canker days.* Then they make him watch the cutting down of said tree before throwing him in the slammer for 18 hours. Happy ending -- After a trial before Judge Lenard, a jury awards man some money.
Keep laughing Mr. Lat!!
*The cutting down of our fruit trees was perhaps the dumbest policy decision ever in this State. Is everyone still enjoying their $50 giftcards? (But I'm biased: See Markus v. Department of Agriculture, 785 So.2d 595 (3rd DCA 2001)).
Thursday, June 14, 2007
2. Julie Kay covers an interesting case where a NYSE company asked that its directors' addresses be removed from an animal rights' website. Judge Hurley denied the motion. So, you can get these addresses from websites, but we still can't get plea agreements online. Explain! (And to be clear, I'm not saying that I disagree with Judge Hurley's decision. What I really cannot understand is our District's policy of keeping public documents offline.)
3. Rumpole has been following the strange circumstances surrounding Judge Gerald Klein's recent resignation in state court. The DBR has lots of coverage today, including the resignation letter.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
From an April DBR article:
Playing its hand in the South Florida associate pay stakes, Greenberg Traurig raised the starting base salaries of its rookie lawyers in Miami and Fort Lauderdale to $135,000 and their total compensation packages to more than $150,000....
The base salary of Greenberg’s first-year lawyers now will match that of White & Case, which in February announced that it had raised first-year salaries to $135,000 in Miami.
Holland & Knight, Hogan & Hartson and Akerman Senterfitt recently raised salaries for rookie lawyers to $130,000 in South Florida.
Hunton & Williams has raised its first-year salaries to $145,000 in Miami. Two New York-based firms, Weil Gotshal & Manges and Boies Schiller & Flexner, pay first-years $160,000 in their South Florida offices.
The death penalty phase is coming up. Although many death penalty advocates will point to this case as the prototypical case for death (the admitted shooting of a cop), I'd be surprised if Wilk gets sentenced to death. The federal death penalty is an almost extinct dinosaur. The standards for being qualified to do a federal death penalty case are so high that the lawyering is always at a very high level, as it was in this case.
Any reaction to the life sentence?
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
2. The AP's request (earlier coverage here) for same day access to the tapes played by the Government was denied, but the Court gave the media next day access.
3. The Miami Herald has written about the lead prosecutor and lead defense lawyer in Kenneth Wilk's trial. Here's the story about Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kastrenakes and here's the one on Bill Matthewman.
on the left is Bill Matthewman's picture from the Herald article and on the right is John Kastrenakes' picture from the Herald article
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales came to Miami Monday to talk about the threat of nuclear terrorism worldwide — but ducked questions about whether he will keep his job and about a new immigration judge scandal involving his Department of Justice.
"Ducked"? More like a sitting duck...
Gonzales was the luncheon keynote speaker at the Global Initiative Nuclear Terrorism Law Enforcement Conference in Miami. Law enforcement officials from 36 countries are attending the weeklong conference, featuring speakers including FBI Director Robert Mueller and New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. After his speech about how countries must work together to intercept and foil plots by terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons, Gonzales fended off questions from reporters at a brief news conference. His demeanor was calm, even bemused. He didn’t seem ruffled, as he frequently was during his recent testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee investigating the alleged political firing of eight U.S. attorneys.
Why be upset? Why get ruffled? He works for the Decider!
When asked how he can be effective while facing an unusual no-confidence vote in the Senate Gonzales said: “I’m not focusing on what the Senate is doing, I’m focusing on my job. That’s what the American people expect. I serve at the pleasure of the president.” By deadline Monday afternoon, the Senate had not yet voted on the non-binding resolution. When asked about an editorial in the New York Times Monday calling for his ouster, Gonzales laughed and said, “I haven’t read it.” Like President Bush, he said, “I remain focused on sprinting to the finish line. The issues we’re working on are too darned important. That’s why I’m here today talking about global terrorism. That’s why I was in Mexico recently talking about violent crime.” When asked by a reporter if he could still be effective in his job, he answered: “I’m still meeting with my counterparts and they’re interested in meeting with me.” Gonzales also was asked about a report in Monday’s Washington Post that the Bush administration and the Justice Department emphasized Republican Party loyalty over expertise in selecting immigration judges.
Read a newspaper?! Ha! No need to read newspapers! Let's go sprinting.
Gonzales declined to comment on the Post report except to say, “I don’t approve of practices that are not permitted by law.” He also deflected questions about why Jose Padilla, currently standing trial in Miami with several co-defendants for allegedly plotting acts of terrorism, was never indicted or charged with plotting to detonate a radioactive dirty bomb, as the Justice Department originally accused him. “He’s currently on trial and it would not be appropriate for me to comment,” he said. But he’s not standing trial for the dirty bomb charge, a reporter countered. “I will not comment on any activities involving Mr. Padilla that are not in the indictment,” Gonzales responded.
Yes, he left that to his predecessor John Aschcroft.
Monday, June 11, 2007
Saturday, June 09, 2007
If she wasn't a celebrity, she wouldn't be treated this way. She'd be on house arrest right now and that would be it. She probably wouldn't have even gotten the 45 day sentence in the first place (for driving with a suspended license).
I actually think the fight between the judge and the jail as to who controls release dates and other prison decisions is very interesting. Most would think that of course the judge trumps the jail, but criminal practitioners know that judges oftentimes defer to jailors and marshals even though I believe that judges would and should win if a true showdown occurred.
Here's a prior post about a judge not backing down to the jail in a case that I was involved with.
Oral argument in the 11th Circuit on Thursday in a sexual harassment case where the defense was, apparently, that the sexual gestures/advances were welcomed by the receiver.
Judge Wilson made the point that, even if there was no sexual harassment at the outset, it at least became a jury question by the end, when defendant allegedly had opened his pants to the plaintiff in the workplace and exposed his genitalia to her, to which defendant's counsel replied, as best I recall:"I cannot leave the inflammatory comments from Judge Wilson hanging out there." Not the best choice of metaphor . . .
The trial is expected to last months, and Judge Cooke has taken pains to keep jurors happy — letting them take Monday off, for example, because one is getting married over the weekend and wants a break.
The tapes have been playing and there has been lots of dispute as to what an FBI agent could "translate":
The intercepted calls, many in Arabic, are crucial to the government’s case. But on the surface, they seem to have nothing to do with terrorism — one caller, for example, tells Mr. Hassoun of plans to go on a picnic and smell fresh air.
All week, defense lawyers fiercely protested the government’s plan to let an F.B.I. agent who led the investigation tell jurors his interpretation of such words, so-called code for terrorist activities. The agent, John T. Kavanaugh Jr., testified that the defendants spoke in code because they suspected their calls were being monitored.
Judge Marcia G. Cooke responded to the defense by limiting what Mr. Kavanaugh could say about the conversations and telling the jurors his interpretations were nonexpert opinions.
Friday, jurors heard Jose Padilla's voice for the first time:
Mr. Padilla mumbled and chuckled throughout the conversation played Friday, sometimes calling Mr. Hassoun “bro.” Mr. Hassoun appeared impatient, asking Mr. Padilla if he was “ready.”
“Inshallah, brother,” Mr. Padilla replied, using the Arabic for “God willing” and urging Mr. Hassoun to have patience. “You know, it’s going to happen.”
Trial resumes Tuesday.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
For six weeks, jurors in the trial of Kenneth Wilk sat in court and heard a lot of evidence about how easily people can get tripped up by their online comments.On Wednesday, an alternate juror got kicked off the jury after she admitted posting a comment online about the case during the trial. The woman was not one of the 12 jurors who convicted Wilk on Tuesday for the murder of Broward Sheriff's Deputy Todd Fatta, but she had been scheduled to return to court today for the death penalty phase of the trial.
Kimberly Ann Martin told the trial judge she posted a comment on the Internet because she was upset by other readers' remarks attached to a news article. She did not identify which Web site she visited or when but said she wrote that nobody, other than Wilk and police, knows what happened in Wilk's Fort Lauderdale home .U.S. District Judge James Cohn had warned the jurors and alternates every day of the trial that they were not to get any information about the case, other than evidence presented in the court. They were not to discuss the case with anyone, they were not to read about it in newspapers, watch anything about it on TV, and they were not to get any facts about it online.Cohn was clearly displeased by the juror's answers and said she had a somewhat "cavalier attitude" but told her he would not punish her because he could not say she intentionally violated his orders. She could have been called on to decide Wilk's fate if one of the 12 jurors is unavailable. Only one alternate juror remains.Martin said she did not read the news report but clicked on a link at the bottom of the article, read other readers' comments and added her own."I didn't think I was really violating [the order] by reading the comments," she told the judge. "I didn't think it was facts, I thought it was opinions... I also thought I didn't discuss the case."Martin's actions came to light because the judge and attorneys on the case were trying to find the identity of a person who posted another online comment to a Sun-Sentinel.com report, claiming to have been a juror who was excused from the case during trial. "Burrowingowl" predicted on May 24 that Wilk would get life in prison because there are "a few jurors I can't see going along with the death penalty." The person, who has not been found, knew other details that indicated he or she was in court.
The death penalty phase is coming up. Although many death penalty advocates will point to this case as the prototypical case for death (the admitted shooting of a cop), I'd be surprised if Wilk gets sentenced to death. The federal death penalty is an almost extinct dinosaur. The standards for being qualified to do a federal death penalty case are so high that the lawyering is always at a very high level, as it was in this case. Thoughts?
In the hearing on Wednesday, Senior Circuit Judge Donald Walter, outlining a hypothetical situation, asked ACLU attorney JoNel Newman whether it would be acceptable to remove a book about Adolph Hitler that failed to mention the Holocaust.
"The political reality in Cuba is not what the book is about," Newman said, arguing the book about Cuba focused on daily life on the island, not Castro. "The school board can't remove it because it wishes to inject a political message into it."
Overruling the decision of two academic advisory committees and the county school superintendent, board members voted last year to remove the book after a parent who spent time as political prisoner in Cuba complained. Critics of the book say it does not mention Cuba's alleged lack of civil liberties, the political indoctrination of public school children, food rationing and forced child labor.
"These books are rife with factual omissions, misrepresentations and inaccuracies," said Richard Ovelmen, the school board's attorney.
The move was contested in federal court, with the judge ruling last summer that the board's opposition was political, and the issue would best be addressed by expanding the collection instead of removing books espousing views with which the board did not agree.
Circuit Judge Ed Carnes noted that "there's a difference in enormity" between the Holocaust and actions by Castro's government, but that Walter's hypothetical addressed the "omission of facts."
The 2001 book by Alta Schreier contains images of smiling children wearing uniforms of Cuba's communist youth group and celebrating the country's 1959 revolution. In discussing the daily life of Cuban children, the book says they work, study and play the same way children in other countries do.
Walter and Carnes both took issue with that premise.
"That's simply not true," Carnes said.
Carnes also presented his own hypothetical, asking Newman if a book about North Korea could be pulled from shelves because it failed to mention problems in that communist government.
Newman said such political discussions should not be required for books for elementary students.
The court did not indicate when it would rule.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
"The value of freedom is found not only in the larger issues of life but also in the fanciful and strange."
The case involved what it means to be the prevailing party in a civil rights case. Here's David Savage, from the LA Times on the case:
The Supreme Court's first ruling on an Iraq war protest is not likely to be remembered as a landmark in the law. In a 9-0 ruling, the justices rejected a claim for legal fees filed on behalf of a Florida nudist who wanted to form a peace symbol out of naked bodies on a state beach.Toni Anne Wyner's planned demonstration ran afoul of the state's Bathing Suit Rule, which, as its name suggests, requires beachgoers to cover up. In February 2003, she went to court to challenge this rule as a violation of her 1st Amendment right to free expression. In the past, the Supreme Court has said that nudity and nude dancing can be a form of expressive conduct, though it can be regulated. At first, a judge saw merit to her complaint and allowed the nude protest to take place — but behind a screen, to shield other beach patrons at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park in Palm Beach County. "The value of freedom is found not only in the larger issues of life but also in the fanciful and strange," said U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks. He continued: "Protesting a potential war through naked protest seems a bit quixotic, but it is also part of the freedom that both those supporting the war and those who oppose it seek to protect."After forming their peace symbol behind the screen, the nudists went into the water naked. When Wyner went back to court seeking a permanent order allowing such protests, the judge refused and ruled for the state. However, he said that the civil liberties lawyers who represented Wyner were entitled to be paid because they had won at least one round of the litigation. The Supreme Court reversed that decision Monday in Sole vs. Wyner. Federal law entitles the "prevailing party" in a civil rights or civil liberties case to obtain legal fees from the government. "Wyner is not a prevailing party, we conclude, for her initial victory was ephemeral," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court. A plaintiff who wins a preliminary injunction, then loses on the merits, wins a battle but loses a war, Ginsburg wrote.
A Muslim convert testified Tuesday that he grew suspicious and distanced himself from the leader of an Islamic charity after an associate returned from war-torn Chechnya with part of a leg missing from a land mine explosion.
Jeremy Collins, 33, said he worked at American Worldwide Relief that was headed by Kifah Wael Jayyousi, who is on trial along with alleged al-Qaida operative Jose Padilla and an another man on charges of contributing to Muslim extremist causes worldwide. All three face life in prison if convicted.
“It was just chaos. There was no relief work,” Collins said he learned from his associate. “There seemed to be more fighting than relief work.”
Collins’ testimony focuses on Jayyousi’s years in San Diego, well before Padilla, a U.S. citizen held for 3½ years as an enemy combatant, came on the scene.
Questions about the organization also were raised when the group’s $20,000 satellite telephone was shut down in early 1996 at the request of the Russian government, said Collins, who was the organization’s then-vice president.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Wilk guilty of 7 counts in murder of BSO deputy, wounding of another
By Paula McMahon
June 5 2007, 4:40 PM EDT
FORT LAUDERDALE -- Jurors in a federal death penalty case convicted Kenneth Wilk on Tuesday of three capital counts in the murder of a Broward Sheriff's Office deputy and the wounding of another deputy almost three years ago.
The complete article can be viewed at:
Monday, June 04, 2007
The plaintiffs are thousands of boys from South Asia and Africa who say they were abducted, enslaved and forced to ride racing camels to entertain the rich in the Middle East. The defendants live in the United Arab Emirates.
But the case is pending in Miami, and the jockeys are represented not by human rights groups but by Motley Rice, a leading contingency-fee class-action firm based in South Carolina known for its work in tobacco, asbestos and other domestic injury cases.
The class-action bar is going global. Until recently, international human rights cases in American courts were brought mainly by public interest lawyers more interested in calling attention to abuses and in establishing universal legal standards than in a potential payday.
The prominent plaintiffs’ firms, their critics say, are in it for the money. And the fact that they have started to embrace international human rights law may be a reflection of the relatively limited opportunities left in domestic class-action suits after legislative and judicial efforts to cut them back.
Friday, June 01, 2007
2. Snitch testimony outside the presence of the jury in the Jose Padilla case. Why is the government calling these types of witnesses? Here's the LA Times on how it went for prosecutors:
In testimony that appeared to backfire for the prosecution, an ex-convict who attended the same mosque as terrorism suspect Jose Padilla testified Thursday that he himself had considered going abroad for training to become an Islamic holy warrior, as Padilla allegedly did.Herbert Atwell, 38, was the second prosecution witness to characterize the alleged actions of Padilla and two codefendants not as terrorism but as acts of altruism in helping Muslims under siege in foreign countries.
Inarticulate and at times surly under questioning by defense lawyers, Atwell conceded that he offered to testify against Padilla and Hassoun in hopes of getting out of prison. He said he was never promised any special consideration in return for supplying the government with accounts of what occurred at the Sunrise mosque, which he said he attended most evenings in the late 1990s."He was asking for money and for the brothers to be mujahedin fighters," Atwell recalled of Hassoun. "On several occasions he always had mujahedin fighters from all over the world — Chechnya, Palestine."The prosecutors seemed surprised when Atwell, under questioning by Baker, said he had considered becoming a holy warrior."I was thinking about going to be a mujahedin fighter myself," he said. "My wife was pregnant. If she wasn't pregnant, I would probably have gone to be a mujahedin fighter too."Asked whether he had wanted to become a terrorist, Atwell vehemently replied no. He said that the media now portrayed mujahedin as terrorists but that at the time they were simply Muslims coming to the aid of fellow believers.Atwell said Padilla "never talked that much" and that he remembered him mostly because of the Spanish-language Koran he would often read. Padilla is a U.S. citizen of Puerto Rican descent.Atwell will be brought back to testify before the jury Monday.But his credibility as a witness is in question. Judge Cooke noted that Atwell adamantly insisted he saw photos of Padilla and Hassoun on an NBC News broadcast in 2002, when Hassoun was not yet charged with a crime and no connection with Padilla had been made."These two things cannot be allowed to exist together in a truthful universe," she said of the witness' statement after he had left the courtroom. She added that she was curious how the prosecution would "deal with his credibility."Atwell reportedly has five felony convictions, including aggravated assault and battery of his now ex-wife. He contradicted himself repeatedly about what he could recall, depending on whether he was answering a question from the defense or prosecution.
Now I wonder whether the defense should have just waited to cross him in front of the jury. Will the government still call this guy?
3. Some advice for Rumpole: Don't blog about your own cases. See here.