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FBI Asked To Release Anthrax Attack Information
Legal Career News | 2006/12/12 23:28


US Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) announced Tuesday that they have sent the FBI a lettersigned by thirty-three members of Congress asking it release information from its probe into the 2001 anthrax attacks, in which letters containing anthrax spores were sent to senators and news organizations, leading to the deaths of five people. The letter, signed by members of both parties and addressed to US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, demands that the FBI release information to Congress on the five-year-old investigation. Until now, the FBI has refused to share information about the probe due to possible leaks, but the lawmakers dismissed the idea that the concerns should prevent them from effective oversight of the agency:

Given recent revelations that FBI agents were the anonymous sources for New York Times stories casting suspicion on “person of interest,” Stephen Hatfill, it appears that the FBI may itself be responsible for the inappropriate disclosures of sensitive case information. Whether on Capitol Hill or within the FBI, individuals who make inappropriate disclosures should be held accountable. However, as an institution, Congress cannot be cut-off from detailed information about the conduct of one of the largest investigations in FBI history. That information is vital in order to fulfill its Constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch.

Earlier this month, New York Times asked a federal court to dismiss a libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress lawsuit brought by Hatfill after the newspaper published a story stating that the government's decision not to further pursue him as a suspect was the result of "poor investigation."



Annan urges US to uphold rule of law principles
U.S. Legal News | 2006/12/12 23:23

Outgoing UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday urged the US not to abandon "its own ideals and objectives" in the war against terrorism, stressing that "human rights and the rule of law are vital to global security and prosperity." In his last speech as secretary-general, delivered at the Truman Presidential Library in Missouri, Annan also pushed UN Security Council reform, saying that the body's membership "reflects the reality of 1945, not of today's world."

During his remarks, Annan outlined five lessons he learned during his 10-year leadership of the United Nations, including "that both security and development ultimately depend on respect for human rights and the rule of law."

Annan said:

Although increasingly interdependent, our world continues to be divided "not only by economic differences, but also by religion and culture. That is not in itself a problem. Throughout history human life has been enriched by diversity, and different communities have learnt from each other. But if our different communities are to live together in peace we must stress also what unites us: our common humanity, and our shared belief that human dignity and rights should be protected by law.

That is vital for development, too. Both foreign investors and a country's own citizens are more likely to engage in productive activity when their basic rights are protected and they can be confident of fair treatment under the law. And policies that genuinely favor economic development are much more likely to be adopted if the people most in need of development can make their voice heard.

In short, human rights and the rule of law are vital to global security and prosperity. As Truman said, "We must, once and for all, prove by our acts conclusively that Right Has Might." That's why this country has historically been in the vanguard of the global human rights movement. But that lead can only be maintained if America remains true to its principles, including in the struggle against terrorism. When it appears to abandon its own ideals and objectives, its friends abroad are naturally troubled and confused.

And states need to play by the rules towards each other, as well as towards their own citizens. That can sometimes be inconvenient, but ultimately what matters is not convenience. It is doing the right thing. No state can make its own actions legitimate in the eyes of others. When power, especially military force, is used, the world will consider it legitimate only when convinced that it is being used for the right purpose "for broadly shared aims" in accordance with broadly accepted norms.

No community anywhere suffers from too much rule of law; many do suffer from too little" and the international community is among them. This we must change.

The US has given the world an example of a democracy in which everyone, including the most powerful, is subject to legal restraint. Its current moment of world supremacy gives it a priceless opportunity to entrench the same principles at the global level. As Harry Truman said, "We all have to recognize, no matter how great our strength, that we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please."



Portland archdiocese settles clergy abuse claims
Court Feed News | 2006/12/12 23:19

The US Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland has settled child sex abuse lawsuits with about 150 people, court-appointed mediators US District Judge Michael Hogan and Oregon Circuit Judge Lyle Velure announced. They reported that "the vast majority of the known tort claims were settled... the Archdiocese has agreed to pay...the few remaining unresolved known tort claims...and future tort claims." The amount of the settlement was not disclosed, but Hogan said the diocese had more than $50 million in assets of its own in which to cover the settlements. AP has more. The Seattle Times has additional coverage.

The Portland archdiocese, which filed for Chapter 11 in 2004, was the first one to file for bankruptcy in the face of civil litigation over sex abuse claims. Since then, the dioceses of Tuscon, Spokane, and Davenport have also filed for Chapter 11 protection in the wake of hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits filed against the clergy. In June, a federal judge allowed a sexual abuse lawsuit against the Portland archdiocese to continue, rejecting the Vatican's bid to dismiss the suit for lack of jurisdiction. The lawsuit, filed in 2002 in the US District Court for the District of Oregon, alleged that the Vatican, the Archdiocese of Portland and the archbishop of Chicago conspired to protect a priest by transferring him from city to city, even though the church knew he had a history of committing sexual abuse. Earlier this month, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles settled 45 sexual abuse lawsuits for $60 million.



DOJ to Monitor Elections in New Orleans
U.S. Legal News | 2006/12/10 16:21

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department announced that on Dec. 9, 2006, it will monitor the congressional runoff election in New Orleans, La., to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

The Department monitors will watch and record activities during voting hours at polling locations in the city. A Civil Rights Division attorney will coordinate the federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials.

Each year, the Justice Department deploys hundreds of federal observers from the Office of Personnel Management, as well as departmental staff, to monitor elections across the country. In 2004, a record 1,463 federal observers and 533 Department personnel were sent to monitor 163 elections in 105 jurisdictions in 29 states. This compares to the 640 federal observers and 103 Department personnel deployed in 2000. On Nov. 7, 2006, the Department deployed an unprecedented number of federal personnel to monitor the midterm election, sending more that 500 federal observers and more than 350 Justice Department personnel to 69 jurisdictions in 22 states "more than double the total sent on Election Day in 2002" the previous record for a midterm election.



CA accountant barred from operating tax scheme
Lawyer News | 2006/12/09 17:24

WASHINGTON – A federal judge in Los Angeles has permanently barred Stephen Drake of Prescott, Ariz., and Kenneth Sorenson of Buellton, Calif., from promoting or operating an alleged tax fraud scheme, the Justice Department announced today.

Judge Florence-Marie Cooper of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California signed the civil permanent injunction, which the defendants agreed to without admitting wrongdoing. The order also bars Sorenson, a CPA whose office in is Solvang, Calif., from preparing federal income tax returns for customers based on the alleged tax fraud scheme.

The government alleged in the complaint filed in this case that Drake and Sorenson devised and operated a scheme that helped some members of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians claim bogus deductions on their federal income tax returns to offset income the members receive from the Band’s casino operations at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, Calif. The complaint also stated that each Band member received over $300,000 in casino distributions in 2004 and over $400,000 last year.

The injunction order requires Drake and Sorenson to mail a copy of the injunction to all customers who participated in the scheme and to any other persons to whom they sold a similar scheme in the past five years.



Grand Jury Indicts Alaska Republican For Extortion
Court Feed News | 2006/12/09 17:16

WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury in Anchorage, Alaska, has indicted Thomas T. Anderson, a current elected member of the Alaska State House of Representatives, on charges of extortion, conspiracy, bribery, and money laundering, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division announced today.

The seven-count indictment returned on Dec. 6, 2006, charges Anderson with two counts of extortion, one count of bribery, one count of conspiracy, and three counts of money laundering in connection with the use of a sham corporation to hide the identity of the bribery payments. The indictment further alleges that Anderson solicited and received money from an FBI confidential source in exchange for Anderson’s agreement to perform official acts to further a business interest represented by the confidential source.

The indictment also alleges that from July 2004 to March 2005, Representative Anderson, along with an individual identified as “Lobbyist A,” solicited and received $26,000 in payments from an FBI confidential source, in exchange for Anderson’s agreement to take official acts as a member of the Alaska State Legislature. According to the indictment, Anderson and Lobbyist A participated in the creation of a sham corporation to conceal the existence and true origin of the payments, and used the sham corporation to funnel a portion of the $26,000 to Anderson.

According to the indictment, the FBI confidential source was a consultant for a private corrections company located outside the state of Alaska, and Anderson and Lobbyist A initiated contact with the FBI confidential source in order to solicit bribery payments. The FBI confidential source, however, never communicated those solicitations or any other information to the corrections company due to the undercover nature of the operation. The corrections company was not implicated in the corrupt activities that are alleged in the indictment.

If convicted, Anderson faces a maximum penalty of 20 years and a $250,000 fine on the extortion counts; a maximum penalty of 20 years and a $500,000 fine on each of the money laundering counts; a maximum penalty of 10 years and a $250,000 fine on the bribery count; and a maximum penalty of five years and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy count.

An indictment is merely an accusation and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Nicholas A. Marsh and Edward P. Sullivan of the Public Integrity Section, which is headed by Acting Chief Edward C. Nucci, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph W. Bottini and James A. Goeke from the District of Alaska. The case is being investigated by Special Agents of the FBI.



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