House Oversight Chair Issa Predicts Disgraced US Attorney General Will Be Held In Contempt (But of course it will be civil, and less than a slap on the wrist…)

June 24, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The top Republican leading the House investigation into Operation Fast and Furious said Sunday he expects a “bipartisan” floor vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress this coming week.

“I believe they will (vote to hold him in contempt),” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., told “Fox News Sunday.” “Both Republicans and Democrats will vote that — I believe it will be bipartisan.”

Issa kept his focus on the Justice Department, clarifying that he has no evidence the White House was involved in any Fast and Furious cover-up. But he repeatedly said Congress is trying to get to the bottom of why the Justice Department “lied” about the operation.

The comments underscored the apparent momentum among majority House Republicans behind the contempt push, following a committee contempt vote against Holder along party lines this past week. That vote proceeded after Holder and Republicans were unable to reach an agreement over subpoenaed documents pertaining to the Obama administration’s Fast and Furious discussions.

Issa said Sunday it’s possible the vote could be delayed or even “eliminated” if the administration produces the subpoenaed documents the House is seeking. He noted the entire schedule is at the discretion of House Speaker John Boehner.

“But we have to see the documents first,” he said.

Barring such a resolution, Issa and his allies are teeing up a major election-year clash this coming week between the Executive and Legislative branches, and between Democrats and Republicans.

President Obama intervened this past week, invoking executive privilege to protect the documents in question, but Republicans dismissed the claim and proceeded with the contempt vote. On the sidelines, minority House Democrats are pleading with Republicans take a step back and work out the document dispute without the threat of contempt. At the same time, both sides are antagonizing each other at the dais and in the press over what Democrats claim has become a political “witch hunt.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings, R-Md., ranking Democrat on the oversight committee, told “Fox News Sunday” that the confrontation was entirely avoidable.

“I think it’s extremely unfortunate,” he said. “The attorney general has made it clear that he is willing to work with this Congress.”

Cummings called on Boehner to intervene and try to reach an agreement with Holder that involves turning over some documents while also halting the contempt proceedings.

“I think that we have a duty … at this critical moment to get the documents,” he said. “I know we can get them. It’s just a matter of sitting down and talking to Holder.”

Cummings suggested the course of the committee’s investigation has lost sight of one of the major reasons for the probe — the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, whose murder scene included weapons from the Fast and Furious operation.

But Issa defended the escalation, saying the committee is trying to obtain critical documents to help explain why Congress was initially told — incorrectly — in February 2011 that the government did not knowingly let guns “walk” across the U.S.-Mexico border. The department later issued a correction to that statement.

“We, in fact, are simply trying to get to the truth when we were told a lie,” Issa said. “It’s about the cover-up.”

“Ultimately, Justice lied to the American people on February 4 (2011), and they didn’t make it right for 10 months.”

Appeared Here


House Oversight Committee To Vote On Holding Disgraced US Attorney General Eric Holder In Contempt Of Congress – Still Hiding Documents And Information On His Department Efforts That Armed Mexican Drug Cartels

June 11, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – CBS News has learned the House Oversight Committee will vote next week on whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. It’s the fourth time in 30 years that Congress has launched a contempt action against an executive branch member.

This time, the dispute stems from Holder failing to turn over documents subpoenaed on October 12, 2011 in the Fast and Furious “gunwalking” investigation.

The Justice Department has maintained it has cooperated fully with the congressional investigation, turning over tens of thousands of documents and having Holder testify to Congress on the topic at least eight times.

However, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., says the Justice Department has refused to turn over tens of thousands of pages of documents. Those include materials created after Feb. 4, 2011, when the Justice Department wrote a letter to Congress saying no gunwalking had occurred. The Justice Department later retracted the denial.

“The Obama Administration has not asserted Executive Privilege or any other valid privilege over these materials and it is unacceptable that the Department of Justice refuses to produce them. These documents pertain to Operation Fast and Furious, the claims of whistleblowers, and why it took the Department nearly a year to retract false denials of reckless tactics,” Issa wrote in an announcement of the vote to be released shortly. It will reveal the vote is scheduled for Wednesday, June 20.

Issa says the Justice Department can still put a stop to the contempt process at any time by turning over the subpoenaed documents.

If the House Oversight Committee approves the contempt citation, the matter would likely be scheduled for a full House vote.

For several weeks, there has been closed-door discussions and debate among House Republicans as to whether to move forward with contempt. Some have expressed concern that it could distract from the Republican’s focus on the economy in this election year.

Led by Republicans Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Issa, Congress’ investigation into Fast and Furious is now in its second year. In the ATF operation, agents allowed thousands of weapons to “walk” into the hands of Mexican drug cartels in the hope it would somehow help ATF take down a major cartel. Some of the weapons were used in the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry at the hands of illegal immigrants crossing into Arizona. Mexican press reports say hundreds of Mexicans have died at the hands of the trafficked weapons. The story was exposed nationally for the first time by CBS News in February 2011.

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee have called the Republicans’ move to find Holder in contempt a politically-motivated “witch hunt.”

In 1983, Congress found EPA administrator Anne Gorsuch Burford in contempt for failing to produce subpoenaed documents.

In 1998, the GOP-controlled House Oversight committee found Attorney General Janet Reno in contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena on campaign finance law violations.

In 2008, the Democratic-led House Oversight Committee found former White House counsel Harriet Miers and Chief of Staff John Bolton in contempt for failing to cooperate with an inquiry into whether a purge of federal prosecutors by the Bush administration was politically motivated.

Congress went to federal court to seek enforcement of that contempt action, but a compromise was reached with the Executive Branch before any court decision was final.

Appeared Here


25 Shot Overnight In Chicago Illinois – No Arrests

May 28, 2012

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – 25 people were shot in Chicago overnight.

19-year-old Jaleel Beasley and two other young men were hit just after 2 a.m. outside a bar in the Lawndale neighborhood.

Beasley died later at Mt Sinai hospital.

The other two men were brought to Stroger Hospital and are in stable condition.

Two other people were shot in the same area within 20 minutes of the first incident.

Police are investigating the possibility that the two events were related.

So far, no arrests have been made in connection with any of the shootings.

Appeared Here


District Of Columbia Returns Soldier’s Guns – Took 2 Years, High Power Lawyer, 2 US Senators, Congressman, And National Publicity To Force Police To Return Seized Property

May 24, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The active duty soldier who had his guns confiscated by the District of Columbia two years ago will have his property returned by Memorial Day. It took the help of a high-powered lawyer, two U.S. Senators, a member of Congress and national publicity to force the obstinate District to show some respect for the Constitution. It should never happen again.

On Friday, D.C. property clerk Derek Gray determined the city would finally return 1st Lt. Augustine Kim’s “dangerous articles” because the Army national guardsman fulfilled the plea agreement arranged with the U.S. attorney’s office a year earlier. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) arrested Lt. Kim on four felony charges of carrying firearms in the District after he was pulled over with the items securely stored in his trunk, as is allowed under federal law.

Lt. Kim pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of possessing an unregistered gun, and that charge was dismissed in May 2011. Since then, Lt. Kim’s lawyer, Richard Gadiner, had failed to get the attention of Mr. Gray, who refused to respond to his repeated requests for a hearing.

That changed after The Washington Times published a story about the case last Monday. The long-time firearms lawyer had never known the city to set up a hearing within a matter of days. Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, spoke with Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier on Thursday. Fellow Palmetto State Republican Sen. Jim DeMint and Rep. Tim Scott have also been engaged. “When you get two senior U.S. senators and a member of Congress calling the chief of police, it makes a difference,” Mr. Gardiner explained.

Friday’s hearing was held in a tiny, windowless room in the massive MPD evidence building in Southwest. Mr. Gray (photo, above left) spent 17 minutes going through the papers in Mr. Kim’s file with the attorney before arriving announcing the decision. MPD would transfer the guns to a police department near Lt. Kim’s home in Charleston, S.C. next week. After the hearing, Mr. Gardiner called his client. “Auggie is so laconic,” said his smiling defense attorney. “All he said was, ‘That’s good news.’”

Asked how such situations could be avoided in the future, Mr. Gardiner suggested the District be held to the same standard as the federal government. The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act says the federal government has 60 days from the date of seizure to send out notices to possible claimants. Then if someone files a claim, the feds have 90 days to file a forfeiture case or return the property.

In Lt. Kim’s case, it would have meant getting his guns back 8 months earlier, saving considerable hassle and expense. Lt. Kim was lawfully transporting his firearms through the District and should never have been arrested in the first place.

A soldier who served two tours in Afghanistan and was injured so severely that he spent three months in surgeries and recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center deserves gratitude for his service to the country, not a drawn-out legal ordeal. The South Carolina congressional delegation ought to introduce legislation to make sure this never happens again.

Appeared Here


Victim’s Family Awarded $2 Million By Federal Court After California Highway Patrol Officers Shot And Killed Unarmed Driver

May 23, 2012

CALIFORNIA – A Sacramento federal judge has ordered damages of more than $2 million assessed against two California Highway Patrol officers, the agency itself, and the state in the death of a 21-year-old Stockton man.

In a four-page order and judgment Monday, U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller said she interprets a somewhat ambiguous jury verdict in January to reflect the panel’s intention to assess economic damages of $6,000 and non-economic damages of $1 million against each of the officers, Michael Walling and Stephen Coffman, for shooting to death Joseph Pinasco Jr.

She also ruled that the CHP and the state are jointly liable for the $2,012,000 in judgments against Walling and Coffman.

In court papers and oral arguments since the verdict, the two sides differed on how to decipher the trial’s outcome, and Mueller sided with Arnold Wolf, attorney for Pinasco’s parents, Joseph and Toni Pinasco, who sued over their son’s death.

The parents own a Stockton plumbing and heating company.

Attorneys for the defendants argued the award should be reduced based on a comparative-fault analysis, in which the young man presumably would be found partially to blame.

But Mueller said, “A fair reading of the verdict is that the jury based its wrongful death determination on the officers’ wrongful acts. Accordingly, principles of comparative fault are inapplicable.”

The state is expected to appeal.

Walling and Coffman are still CHP officers, and Walling was promoted to sergeant after the incident.

They responded in the early hours of Aug. 24, 2008, to reports of street racing. Pinasco, who had been drinking with friends that night, was sitting in a parked pickup in the vicinity of the purported racing. As the officers approached in their car, he pulled away and led them on a high-speed chase. The pickup spun out of control on a dirt road and got stuck in a ditch in a rural area of eastern San Joaquin County.

Walling and Coffman exited their car and drew their guns. Pinasco was still seated behind the steering wheel of the truck and, as Walling approached, he started accelerating and rocking the pickup in an attempt to escape the ditch.

The officers yelled commands for Pinasco to stop and show his hands and Walling banged on the pickup’s windshield with his flashlight, but the truck continued to rock and the officers perceived it was getting traction in Coffman’s direction.

Both officers fired their weapons at Pinasco. They did so, they say, based on a shared fear that Coffman would be seriously injured or killed.

In one of the few differences on the facts, Wolf claims in court papers that the truck was traveling away from the officers as Pinasco began to extricate it from the ditch. It traveled 19 feet before coming to rest against a fence.

Of the 23 shots fired by the officers, six hit Pinasco in the head, face and neck, and one hit his left thigh. He was pronounced dead at the scene. His blood-alcohol level was measured at nearly three times the legal limit for driving.

In early 2009, the CHP’s investigative services unit issued a report concluding the shooting was justified because the pickup was moving toward Coffman. In April 2009, the San Joaquin County district attorney issued a report with the same finding.

According to Wolf’s trial brief, “Neither report bears any resemblance to (another unit of the CHP’s) reconstruction of the pickup truck’s movement before and during the shooting,” or to the state Department of Justice’s analysis of the bullets’ trajectory, “neither of which suggested that the pickup’s movement ever jeopardized Coffman.”

Appeared Here


Judge Orders Man’s Guns Returned After Crazed Cops And State Of New Jersey Tried To Strip Him Of His Constitutional Rights For Being Disabled

May 12, 2012

ROCKAWAY, NEW JERSEY –  A blind New Jersey man is declaring victory in a legal battle over his gun collection.

The state confiscated his weapons citing safety, but now a judge’s order — citing the right to bear arms — means he will get them back.

Steven Hopler of Rockaway knows a lot about guns. The 49-year-old has been handling them since childhood, and practices regularly at a local gun range. His aim is incredible, especially considering he’s blind.

“I’ve handled guns for many years — being sighted and being blind — and I’ve never had a problem,” Hopler told CBS 2′s Derricke Dennis on Friday.

But four years ago, Hopler had an accident. He shot himself in the leg. Police responded and took six of his guns, citing safety concerns. They also accused him of drinking too much.

“They had taken the guns that were out in plain sight,” Hopler said.

That episode began a legal battle that wound up in Morris County Superior Court. Prosecutors argued Hopler shouldn’t have guns because he’s a danger. However, a judge ruled otherwise, saying his disability shouldn’t take away his constitutional right to bear arms.

Robert Trautman is Hopler’s attorney, and said police singled out his client.

“The state argued that Steve drinks too much.” Trautman said. “It’s just simply that the police didn’t want Steve Hopler to own firearms because he’s blind and they felt that was improper.”

In a statement, the Morris County prosecutor said “From the outset, there was concern as to whether Mr. Hopler was suitable to possess firearms…we are satisfied that we had our day in court…and no appeals will be filed.”

With the ordeal finally over, Hopler said the victory is about more than guns.

“I wouldn’t say power, [it's] freedom,” he said.

The judge’s order said Hopler’s guns should now be returned. He’ll make arrangements on Monday.

Appeared Here


Not Yours: Florida Governor Shoots Down Tampa Mayor’s Effort To Ban Guns Downtown During Republican National Convention

May 3, 2012

TAMPA, FLORIDA – Florida Governor Rick Scott has shot down a request by Tampa’s mayor to allow local authorities to ban guns from the city’s downtown during the Republican National Convention in August.

Citing Second Amendment protections in the U.S. Constitution, Scott told Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn that conventions and guns have co-existed since the nation’s birth and would continue to do so during the four-day event beginning August 27.

“It is unclear how disarming law abiding citizens would better protect them from the dangers and threats posed by those who would flout the law,” the Republican governor said in a letter on Tuesday.

Local officials need Scott’s permission to enact the temporary restrictions after state lawmakers last year passed a measure that prohibits local governments from adopting gun ordinances that are stricter than state law.

Florida has some of the most lenient gun laws in the United States and by some counts leads the nation in gun ownership, with about 6.5 percent of all adults licensed to carry a concealed weapon, state records show.

New applications for concealed gun permits have quadrupled since 1998.

In a letter to Scott, Buckhorn said the Tampa City Council had banned a host of items from the area surrounding the convention facility, a list that includes water guns, poles and pieces of wood.

“One noticeable item missing from the city’s temporary ordinance is firearms,” Buckhorn wrote. “In the potentially contentious environment surrounding the RNC, a firearm unnecessarily increases the threat of imminent harm and injury to the residents and visitors to the city.”

Scott said he was confident law enforcement officials, who are expected to number nearly 4,000, would be able to protect the public without having to enforce a blanket gun ban.

That city officials have banned other items is irrelevant, he said.

“The choice to allow the government to ban sticks, poles but not firearms, is one that the people made in enacting their state and federal constitutions,” Scott wrote.

Weapons will not be allowed in the convention center itself or in the immediate area surrounding the site. Security in that venue is being handled by the U.S. Secret Service.

The City Council wants to extend the restrictions to all of downtown, including areas that have been designated zones for protesters expected at the event.

“As governor, you have the duty to meet dangers presented by events such as the RNC where there is a threat of substantial injury and harm to Florida residents and visitors to the state,” Buckhorn wrote

Appeared Here


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