Thursday, July 23, 2015

"Obama Got To Visit Federal Prisoners. The Family Of This Inmate Who Had Brain Surgery Can't."

That's the headline of this HuffPost article in which Marc Seitles is fighting BOP for his client's family to have the right to see him while he is in the hospital:

On July 1, a doctor went to conduct that evaluation, but found that Pierre was no longer at the prison. Seitles was soon informed that Pierre had been hospitalized full-time nine days earlier because of high fever and headaches, and that he was having brain surgery the following day to remove a pituitary tumor.
Seitles wasn't told about this major development, which involved the removal of a tumor about the size of a golf ball that the physician treating Pierre reportedly said was one of the largest he'd ever seen. Pierre's family, it turned out, was also kept in the dark.
"At no time was Mr. Pierre's counsel notified nor was his immediate family all of whom reside in Broward County. Three of his brothers and sisters have already been approved by the FDC for visitation purposes," Seitles wrote in a motion asking the federal judge handling the case to order BOP to allow one family member to visit Pierre for up to two hours a day. The government did not initially oppose the motion, apparently seeing no reason that a man recovering from brain surgery should be denied the right to see family.
The judge granted the request, ordering BOP to allow visitation. Pierre's sister Marie Blot went to visit him on Monday, court order in hand. But the guard wouldn't let her see him, and instead allegedly threatened the sister with arrest.
"She explained to the guard that the district court approved family visitation of one person per day for two hours. The guard told her that she would have her arrested if she persisted," Seitles told the court in a filing Tuesday. "Ms. Blot requested the that guard review the order. The guard reviewed the order and then stated that the 'Judges don’t tell us what to do.'" Blot was escorted out of the hospital.
With President Barack Obama visiting a federal prison in El Reno, Oklahoma, earlier this month and asking the Justice Department to study BOP's use of solitary confinement, those familiar with the bureau's practices say there's plenty the federal government could be doing to improve the conditions of those who are behind bars.
“Obama sent a strong message about prison reform and what can no longer be tolerated in a civilized society. Being chained to a hospital bed for 30 days after undergoing brain surgery and then being told you can’t have your loved ones visit is not civilized," Seitles said in an email. “The BOP knows very well the difference between a first-time offender, low-security risk detainee and a violent habitual offender. The only security risk Mr. Pierre poses is being another casualty of the BOP’s archaic policies.
 Fight the good fight Marc!

Meantime, there is a new call to fix the bail problem in the U.S.  It's absurd how many people are denied bail.  From the Washington Post:

Studies indicate that courts are more likely to view African Americans and Latinos as flight risks or public threats; these groups more often receive higher bail or mandatory pretrial detention. And because African Americans, Latinos and persons with disabilities are disproportionately poor, setting higher bail for them increases the likelihood that they will be unable to pay for release.
One study found that in 2008, 39 percent of all pretrial detainees in New York City were in custody because they could not afford bail. A 2013 study found that 50 percent of the city’s pretrial detainees could not afford bail of less than $2,500. In county courts across the nation, an average of 30 percent of pretrial detainees who are given bail less than $5,000 cannot afford the payment.
The inability to pay bail, however, does not explain prolonged detention. Trial delays primarily occur due to overly burdened criminal courts, prosecutors and defense lawyers. Clogged criminal-court dockets, in turn, are a direct result of the dramatic rise in the use of incarceration as method of social control in the United States — the outgrowth of the “tough on crime” mindset that pervaded the U.S. criminal justice system from the mid-1970s through the 1990s.
The U.S. prison population increased by 400 percent between 1973 and 2013; we incarcerate more people than any other nation. And while the United States is home to just  five percent of the world population, our prisons house 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population. The explosion of incarceration has substantially burdened the criminal process and slowed the pace of prosecution in many jurisdictions.
Prolonged pretrial tradition is inconsistent with U.S. legal norms because it infringes one of the most fundamental rights secured by the Constitution: the right to liberty. The government can detain defendants before trial, but pretrial detention must not constitute punishment, which can only occur upon conviction. When unreasonable and excessive delay occurs between arrest and trial, the distinction between pretrial detention and punishment is merely a facade.

In local news, Dr. Melgen (who is now out on bond... finally!) has filed a motion to suppress, which is covered by the Herald:

When federal agents raided the South Florida clinic of a wealthy eye doctor in 2013, their warrant only allowed them to gather evidence about his prolific Medicare billing for a fraud investigation.
But according to Dr. Salomon Melgen's defense attorneys, FBI agents illegally collected their client's handwritten notebook of personal contacts for a parallel corruption probe targeting the physician's close friend, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, the influential New Jersey Democrat.
The attorneys claim that the day after the January raid in West Palm Beach, an FBI agent went to a federal magistrate judge to obtain a follow-up warrant to justify the seizure of Melgen's notebook, which they say was mischaracterized as a “ledger of prostitution activities” in an affidavit.
Now, Melgen and Menendez — both charged in an influence-peddling corruption case in New Jersey — are aggressively fighting to dismiss their indictment, saying FBI and Justice Department prosecutors conducted an illegal search and misled a federal grand jury involving other evidence.
“Instead of complying with the [initial] warrant, the agents launched a broad and intrusive room-to-room search for materials related to Dr. Melgen’s friendship with Senator Menendez and the outlandish and untrue allegations of sexual misconduct made by the anonymous ‘Peter Williams,’’’ according to court papers filed this week by the physician’s lawyers, Matthew Menchel and Kirk Ogrosky.

1 comment:

non-lawyer said...

Yes, fight the good fight Marc Seitles, Esq.

Given the facts, the DOJ should also advocate for Mr. Pierre’s release so he can go home to Haiti, once he is released from the hospital following brain surgery.

A comment to the HuffPost article by Alyce Garrity Jul 22, 2015 12:12pm wrote in part, "They have a court order. If the BOP won't follow it, the Federal Marshalls can." I believe that is correct. Garrity also wrote "This is cruel and unusual punishment, and punishment for the family as well -- and they haven't been arrested for anything!"

HuffPost update:

"UPDATE: 6:15 pm. -- Hours after this story was published, a federal prosecutor informed Pierre's lawyer that the warden had changed his mind and was evidently able to comply with the order after all. Family members will be allowed to visit individually for one hour from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Thursday, which the warden indicated would be the only visit allowed this month."

So blog stories play an important role in the administration of justice in the United States.

Thank you for this post.