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Bush Meets with Congressional Leaders on Iraq
Law & Politics | 2006/12/08 19:22

President Bush says it was a very constructive meeting with Republican leaders who now control Congress and Democratic leaders who will take charge in January.

"We talked about Iraq," he said. "We talked about the need for a new way forward in Iraq. And we talked about the need to work together on this important subject."

The president assured Democrats that the "White House door will be open" when they become the majority party in the next Congress, and said he hopes they can meet regularly.

"The reason you meet on a regular basis is so that the American people can know that we are working hard to find common ground. That is what they expect us to do. They expect us to work on big problems and solve them," he said.

Mr. Bush thanked outgoing Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert who lost their leadership positions in last month's electoral defeat for Republicans. With Democrats set to take charge of Congress in January, the president said he looks forward to working with incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Bipartisanship is central to the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which said the United States deserves a debate on Iraq that prizes substance over rhetoric.

Among the study group's recommendations are talks with Iran and Syria and the withdrawal of most U.S. combat troops by early 2008.

But, following talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair Thursday, President Bush said there will be no direct talks with Iran until it gives up what he says is its nuclear weapons program. Iran has long denied that is seeking to make nuclear weapons. It says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. Mr. Bush also said there would be no dialogue with Syria until it stops interfering in Lebanon.

As for troop levels, Mr. Bush said he needs to be "flexible and realistic" about U.S. withdrawals from Iraq.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the president will also consider pending reports on Iraq from the Pentagon, State Department, and National Security Council with the goal of making an address to the nation on the issue sometime before Christmas.



Roy Belfast Jr. Indicted on Torture Charges
Court Feed News | 2006/12/07 17:46

WASHINGTON – A federal Grand Jury in Miami charged Roy Belfast Jr. with various crimes related to the alleged 2002 torture of a person in Liberia, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta of the Southern District of Florida, Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Assistant Director Joseph Billy Jr. for the Counterterrorism Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced today.

           Roy M. Belfast Jr., 29, aka Chuckie Taylor, aka Charles Taylor, Jr., aka Charles Taylor II, aka Charles McArther Emmanuel, was charged in an indictment returned today by a federal grand jury in Miami with one count of torture, one count of conspiracy to torture, and one count of using a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. The indictment charges Taylor, son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, with participating in the torture of an individual on or about July 24, 2002, in and around Monrovia, Liberia. The defendant, who was born in the United States, is alleged to have been serving in his father’s government in Liberia at the time of the incident.

According to the indictment, on or about July 24, 2002, the victim was abducted from his home and transported to various locations, finally arriving at the residence of then-Liberian President Taylor.  The defendant observed questioning of the victim at this location.  The victim was then transported for continued interrogation to the residence of a co-conspirator, who was a member of the Liberian Special Security Service.

           According to the indictment, while at this residence, the defendant and others tortured the victim. The torture included repeatedly burning the victim's flesh with a hot iron, burning various parts of his body with scalding water, including forcing the victim to hold scalding water in his hands at gunpoint, repeatedly electrically shocking the victim's genitalia and other body parts, and rubbing salt into the victim's wounds.

“This marks the first time the Justice Department has charged a defendant with the crime of torture,” said Assistant Attorney General Fisher. “Crimes such as these will not go unanswered.”

“The allegations in this case include acts of torture, such as burning flesh with a hot iron, burning flesh with scalding water, and applying electric shocks,” U.S. Attorney Acosta stated. “Such conduct is criminal and constitutes torture and must be prosecuted.”

“Today’s indictment against Charles "Chuckie" Taylor marks a key milestone in ICE’s longstanding efforts to bring human rights violators to justice,” said Assistant Secretary Myers.  “This is a clear message that the United States will not be a safe haven for human rights violators.”              

“This case is a demonstration of our tireless efforts to ensure that justice is served,” said Assistant Director Joseph Billy, Jr. of the FBI.    

         This defendant is currently in federal custody in connection with a criminal charge of passport fraud, to which he pleaded guilty on Sept. 15, 2006.  His sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 7, 2006. This defendant is being prosecuted under a statute that criminalizes torture and provides U.S. courts jurisdiction to hear cases involving acts of torture committed outside the United States if the offender is a U.S. national or is present in the United States, regardless of nationality.

           The statutory maximum penalty for conviction on all offenses is life imprisonment.

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

           The joint investigation is being conducted by ICE and the FBI.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney John Cox of the Criminal Division, Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Rochlin of the Southern District of Florida, and Trial Attorney Brenda Sue Thornton of the National Security Division.



Former U.S Army Contractor Pleads Guilty to Bribery
Court Feed News | 2006/12/07 17:34

WASHINGTON – A former Director of Contracting for the U.S. Army has pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in exchange for awarding U.S. Army contracts at an Army recreational facility in Germany and to filing false federal income tax returns, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher for the Criminal Division announced today.

Steven G. Potoski, 46, of Shriesheim, Germany, a former civilian employee of the U.S. Army, pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with one count of bribery and three counts of filing false tax returns in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York in Central Islip before Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein.

According to the information filed, between August 1998 and July 2005, Potoski served as Director of Contracting for the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort, Armed Forces Recreation Center (AFRC Europe), in Garmisch, Germany. The Department of the Army serves as the executive agent for the AFRC Europe and operates it on behalf of the Department of Defense. Patrons at the AFRC Europe include active duty U.S. military personnel serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

While serving as Director of Contracting, Potoski accepted bribes from contractors and subcontractors in exchange for contract awards related to work at the AFRC Europe. To fund and conceal the bribes, the contractors and subcontractors agreed with Potoski to fraudulently inflate the price of the contracts and to submit the inflated contracts to Potoski for approval. In some instances, the contractors and subcontractors would pay Potoski, and others at Potoski’s direction, the difference between the inflated and actual contract price. In other instances, the contractors and subcontractors would split with Potoski the difference between the actual and the inflated price of the contract. In all, Potoski accepted over $350,000 in bribes from 15 contractors or subcontractors – two American contractors, 12 German contractors, and one British contractor. Potoski also accepted bribes from defense contractors in the form of home renovations, automobile maintenance, airline tickets, hotel rooms and furniture, among other things.

Potoski faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the bribery count and a maximum of three years in prison and $100,000 fine for each count of filing false tax returns.   The case was investigated by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division Command and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations Division. It is being prosecuted by Deputy Chief Steve A. Linick and Trial Attorney Suzanne R. Clement of the Fraud Section of the Criminal Division, with assistance from Allen Bode, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of New York.

This case is part of the National Procurement Fraud Initiative that was announced by Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty in October 2006, which is designed to promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with the increase in contracting activity for national security and other government programs. As part of this initiative, the Deputy Attorney General has created the National Procurement Fraud Task Force, which is chaired by Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher, and which includes U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the FBI, the U.S. Inspectors General community, and a number of other federal law enforcement agencies.



President Bush Accepts Bolton's U.N. Resignation
Law & Politics | 2006/12/05 21:20

Washington -- President Bush has accepted “with deep regret” the resignation of U.S. Representative to the United Nations John Bolton.

In a statement released by the White House December 4, the president credited Bolton with leading negotiations in the U.N. Security Council that resulted in unanimous resolutions on North Korean military and nuclear activities, a resolution calling on Iran to suspend the enrichment and reprocessing of uranium, and a U.N. peacekeeping commitment to Sudan.

Bolton was appointed to the post in August 2005 during a period when the U.S. Senate, which normally would vote on the nomination, was in recess.  Under the U.S. Constitution, a president may make temporary recess appointments without Senate confirmation.

The president re-nominated Bolton on November 9, but administration officials believed that his nomination did not have enough support in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to come to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

Bush said some senators were practicing “stubborn obstructionism” by “obstruct[ing] his confirmation” despite Bolton having the support of the majority of the Senate.  “[T]heir tactics will disrupt our diplomatic work at a sensitive and important time,” Bush said.

White House press secretary Tony Snow blamed Bolton’s difficulties in the Senate on “partisanship and not performance,” adding, “for whatever reason the confirmation process seems to be broken.”

The press secretary called on both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate to cooperate on “a confirmation process that allows competent people who share the president’s goals and policies to become confirmed for key positions.”



Maryland high court considers same-sex marriage ban
Headline News | 2006/12/05 20:43

The Maryland Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on Monday in a case challenging a 1973 state law banning same-sex marriage. Plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), argued that marriage is a fundamental right which should not be denied according to the parties' genders. In response, Maryland Attorney General Robert Zarnoch argued that no court in the country has identified same-sex marriage as a fundamental right, and he urged the court to defer to the legislature. The state is appealing a January ruling by the Baltimore City Circuit Court in which the law was held to be discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Currently, Massachusetts is the only state to allow same-sex marriage, which was legalized when the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled in 2003 that a ban on such marriages was unconstitutional. Several cases similar to the Maryland case have been decided or are pending in other states including California, New Jersey, Washington, Tennessee, Nebraska, and Connecticut.



Fight Against Child Sexual Exploitation
Legal Career News | 2006/12/05 20:40

WASHINGTON – Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales today delivered remarks at the Justice Department’s Project Safe Childhood conference on Department efforts to prosecute sex predators and protect children from sexual exploitation through Project Safe Childhood. He called upon Americans to report suspicious behavior and signs of abuse, and upon federal and state prosecutors to aggressively pursue sex predators. Project Safe Childhood, announced by the Attorney General in February 2006, creates a coordinated national response to the growing threat posed to America’s youth by online sexual exploitation. It brings federal, state and local law enforcement communities together in order to maximize resources and obtain the strictest penalties available against sex predators under federal and state law.

As technology advances and as the Internet becomes more accessible, the number of computer-facilitated sexual exploitation crimes committed against children — including child pornography offenses and “traveler” or enticement crimes — continues to grow.

“The sexual abuse and exploitation of children is one of the most disturbing crimes known to humankind,” said Attorney General Gonzales. “Much has been done to protect and defend them, but more must be done. Through Project Safe Childhood, the Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners are able to work together to pursue and prosecute sex predators with greater coordination and determination than ever before.”

In addition to its emphasis on increasing the prosecutions of sex predators, Project Safe Childhood works to increase public awareness about the presence of pedophiles on the Internet. Project Safe Childhood has partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and The Ad Council on a public education campaign targeted to children and their parents. The campaign, including print, broadcast and web content, will debut in early 2007. Project Safe Childhood includes five key components:

*INTEGRATED FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL EFFORTS TO INVESTIGATE AND PROSECUTE CHILD EXPLOITATION CASES:

The U.S. Attorneys have partnered with ICAC Task Forces that exist within their districts and other federal, state and local law enforcement partners working in their districts to implement Project Safe Childhood. Working with these partners, the U.S. Attorneys have developed district-specific strategic plans to coordinate the investigation and prosecution of child exploitation crimes; to identify and rescue victims; and to coordinate local training, educational and awareness programs.

*MAJOR CASE COORDINATION BY THE CRIMINAL DIVISION:

The Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), in conjunction with the FBI’s Innocent Images Unit, has integrated the Project Safe Childhood Task Forces into pursuing local leads generated from CEOS major national operations.

*INCREASED FEDERAL INVOLVEMENT IN CHILD PORNOGRAPHY AND ENTICEMENT CASES: Given the beneficial investigative tools and stiffer punishments available under federal law, U.S. Attorneys and the federal investigative agencies have increased the number of sexual exploitation investigations and prosecutions. The goal is to ensure the worst offenders get the maximum amount of jail time possible.

*TRAINING OF FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT:

Members of the Project Safe Childhood Task Forces have attended training programs facilitated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the ICAC program and other ongoing programs, in order to be taught to investigate and prosecute computer-facilitated crimes against children, as well as to pursue leads from national operations and from NCMEC’s CyberTipline and Child Victim-Identification programs.

*COMMUNITY AWARENESS AND EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS:

Project Safe Childhood has partnered with NCMEC and the ICAC Task Force program to raise awareness about the threat of online sexual predators and to provide the tools and information parents and youngsters need in order to report suspicious activity on the Internet. The public education campaign, featuring print, broadcast and web content, will debut in the spring of 2007



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