Tuesday, January 20, 2009

This and that

Whew -- thankfully, I was able to see the inauguration before my Broward hearing this afternoon. Unbelievable! Even the Broward judge and prosecutor seemed to be in good moods today.

In that vein, we will post the positive article about Alex Acosta, by Julie Kay, not the negative one being discussed by commenters and another blog.

Here's the intro:

When he was named U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, one of the largest and busiest districts in the country with 284 assistant U.S. attorneys, in July 2005, the question on many local lawyers' minds was, "Who is Alex Acosta?"A former assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's civil rights division and staunch conservative who clerked for Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. and served as president of the Federalist Society at Harvard Law School, Acosta, just 36, had little criminal trial experience and was unknown in Miami legal circles.But the Miami native has earned the respect of many in the South Florida legal community for his hard line on health care fraud, his prosecution of a whopping 13 public officials for corruption — including seven Palm Beach County commissioners and four Hollywood police officers — and his open-door policy with defense lawyers, agents, journalists and members of the community.As a Democratic administration prepares to take office — and he prepares his exit strategy — Acosta, now 40, talked to The National Law Journal about his accomplishments during the last 3 1/2 years, what he has learned on the job and what the future holds.

Some of the questions Julie Kay posed:

NLJ: You've been U.S. attorney of one of the largest, busiest and most prominent districts in the country since 2005. What have been your proudest accomplishments and biggest disappointments?

AA: The job of U.S. attorney is the best job that any attorney can have. The U.S. attorney has the ability to have a direct impact on his or her district. Some of the issues I've chosen to focus on are public corruption, healthcare fraud and more recently mortgage fraud. I believe I have left a lasting impact not only on South Florida but on the issues themselves.Public corruption is of the utmost importance. The fact that the largest law enforcement agency in the state has changed the way business has been done in the region is the most important legacy I'm leaving. Health care fraud is not something I fully understood and was disgusted by when I got here. We have now prosecuted $1.5 billion in health care fraud. This is not victimless crime. That is incredibly significant. To have that kind of impact is gratifying.As far as frustrations, public corruption cases are very important and I'm proud of the fact that we've done them right. In each of the cases, we've brought the charges with overwhelming evidence that resulted in guilty pleas of the officials. This is very important because when a public official gets up and says, "I did this, I broke the law," it sends a message, more than a long, protracted litigation. The flip side of this is [that] public corruption cases take time, and what is most frustrating is seeing and knowing the evidence we have but waiting until our cases are ready. Some people feel these cases are put together in weeks or months, and you can't do that, you have to be thorough. That is frustrating to the community — the fact that you want things to move quickly and they don't. I said in my press conference in Palm Beach, I wish I could say this is the final prosecution, but I fear it is not. There are matters that require additional work.


NLJ: Human rights groups like the Center for Justice and Accountability and Human Rights Watch have issued statements commending federal prosecutors for bringing the case. Have you gotten any other reaction and do you think this case will set a precedent?

AA: Human rights groups support it. We've also gotten reaction from victims in Liberia. They never thought that Chuckie Taylor Jr. could be brought to justice. They thought he was above reproach. They realize now that in fact these types of cases can be brought. I think it will set a precedent around the country and other cases will be brought.

NLJ: That was a successful case. A case that has not been as successful has the Liberty Seven/Liberty Six case. That case — in which seven Miami men were charged with scheming to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago — has been criticized by the press and other groups as far-reaching: that these men were Al Queda wannabes and didn't have the ability to pull anything off. One man was dismissed at trial and the rest were subject to hung juries twice.You're retrying the case for the third time, starting this month. Why, and do you regret bringing this case?

AA: Every case we have brought has been based on the evidence, and as prosecutors we have to review the evidence and if we believe it's worth bringing, we do so. It's a pending trial so I can't comment. There have been matters that have hung twice and been retried in this office. It does happen. But as I've said before, this will be the third and final time.

Wow, no more retrials. Interesting. I think two mistrials are enough and the case shouldn't be tried a third time. But it is noteworthy that he is saying in advance that it won't be tried again. Jury selection starts this week.... Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

Oh give me a break. Loser then loser now, still no experience in criminal matters. Ineffective administrator way over his head. Just out looking for a $$$$$$$$ job he will not get. Only thing positive to say he has way more integrity than many of the prior USAttys in Miami, Dexter and Kendall excluded of course.

Anonymous said...

Better subtract a couple $$ off that. Maybe even a third one too.

I know this blog wants to be positive, but there are some serious allegations against Acosta in the ig report. And they should be discussed.

There have been allegations that Acosta has not been vigilent in his supervision of This office (especially re Brady and Brady training) and the ig specifically failed to supervise a subordinate who was committing crimes in the performance of his duties.

Anonymous said...

7:13--It's interesting that you call him an "ineffective administrator." How do you know he's an ineffective administrator? (the medicare and healthcare fraud case as well as the public corruption cases indicate otherwise). I can tell you that he is not. Morale in the office is the highest its been in a long time and besides, the figures quoted in the article speak for themselves. As for your argument that he is looking for a $$$$ job, I would disagree and even if he is seeking a private practice job, is that wrong or even surprising? Get real . . . it's a democratic administration.

Anonymous said...

Moral is so high because the assistants can do whatever they want with out Acosta busting their balls. Whatever happened to that ausa who recently caused embarrassment to the office? Was she disciplined? I guess that kind of support from above is good for moral.

South Florida Lawyers said...

Hey, now I'm just "another blog"?

I've no dog in that fight, other than I am passionate about Julie Kay.

Anonymous said...

"[H]ad little criminal trial experience." -- That phrase by Julie Kay suggests that there was some criminal trial experience but that it was limited. I would be curious to know the names of the criminal cases tried by Mr. Acosta, who was never a prosecutor -- or criminal defense attorney, for that matter. In his prior positions as AAG/DAAG of Civil Rights and on the NLRB, it is hard to believe he tried a criminal case. So, if, prior to becoming a U.S. Attorney, he never actually tried a criminal case, then that phrase is inaccurate and should be corrected.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. The interview makes it seem like Acosta immediately made public corruption, healthcare fraud, and gun cases his top priority . . . You know, he saw a problem and immediately sought to tackle it. That kind of thing. It sounds good that way, doesn't it?

But does anyone remember when he first announced his top priority in August 2005? As Julie Kay reported then, his top priority was not tackling public corruption, taking on crooked doctors, or adding resources to the prosecution of gun cases and violent crimes.

It was the creation of an Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, apparently a priority he shared with then Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez:

"When FBI supervisors in Miami met with new interim U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta last month, they wondered what the top enforcement priority for Acosta and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would be.

"Would it be terrorism? Organized crime? Narcotics trafficking? Immigration? Or maybe public corruption?

"The agents were stunned to learn that a top prosecutorial priority of Acosta and the Department of Justice was none of the above. Instead, Acosta told them, it's obscenity. Not pornography involving children, but pornographic material featuring consenting adults.

"Acosta's stated goal of prosecuting distributors of adult porn has angered federal and local law enforcement officials, as well as prosecutors in his own office. They say there are far more important issues in a high-crime area like South Florida, which is an international hub at risk for terrorism, money laundering and other dangerous activities.

Read the whole thing here:

Apparently he forgot to mention it and, disappointingly, so did Julie Kay. Both probably avoided the topic as it is probably a little awkward nowadays.

On the bright side, maybe it means that Acosta listened to the law enforcement agencies and his own prosecutors after making that first, less-than-fully-thought-out statement about his top priority. If so, kudos to him -- and his advisers.

Anonymous said...

What ausa brought embarrassment to the office, and why do you say so?