Federal Judge Calls For Reducing Prosecutors Roles And Returning Courtroom Control To Judges – Prosecutors Abusing System With Respect To Mandatory Minimum Sentences – Small Time Criminals Sentenced As “Kingpins”

May 28, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC — Judge John Gleeson hears cases where he used to prosecute them, in the federal courthouse in Brooklyn. There, in 1992, he led the team of prosecutors that put the Mafia boss John J. Gotti in prison for life.

Judge Gleeson is not shy about meting out tough sentences. “Most people, including me,” he wrote in a 2010 decision, “agree that the kingpins, masterminds and midlevel managers of drug trafficking enterprises deserve severe punishment.”

But he has lately been saying that his old employer, the Department of Justice, has stopped living up to its name when it comes to some small-time criminals.

Almost 20 years to the day after delivering his closing argument in the Gotti trial, Judge Gleeson considered the fate of Jamel Dossie, whom he called “a young, small-time, street-level drug dealer’s assistant.”

Mr. Dossie was an intermediary in four hand-to-hand crack sales, for which he made a total of about $140. Two of the sales exceeded, barely, the 28-gram threshold that allows prosecutors to call for a mandatory five-year sentence. “Just as baseball is a game of inches,” Judge Gleeson wrote, “our drug-offense mandatory minimum provisions create a deadly serious game of grams.”

It is a curious game, one in which a participant rather than the supposed umpire can have the last word, Judge William G. Young of Federal District Court in Boston wrote in a ruling in another case a couple of weeks ago.

“Prosecutors run our federal justice system today,” Judge Young wrote. “Judges play a subordinate role — necessary yes, but subordinate nonetheless. Defense counsel take what they can get.”

The prosecutors’ decision to invoke the law calling for a mandatory sentence in Mr. Dossie’s case meant that Judge Gleeson had no choice but to send Mr. Dossie away for five years. Had his hands not been tied, Judge Gleeson wrote, “there is no way I would have sentenced” Mr. Dossie to so long a sentence.

“We had a ‘sentencing proceeding’ that involved no written submissions, no oral advocacy and no judging,” he wrote. “The proceeding had all the solemnity of a driver’s license renewal and took a small fraction of the time.”

The Dossie case illustrates what some judges say is a common problem: Prosecutors’ insistence on mandatory minimum sentences for minor players in the drug trade has warped the criminal justice system and robbed judges of sentencing authority.

The problem, they say, can be traced to a 1986 law enacted in response to the drug overdose of Len Bias, a college basketball star. The law was meant to establish two kinds of mandatory sentences, its sponsors explained at the time. It called for 10-year terms for drug kingpins and five-year terms for midlevel dealers. The law itself, though, used the quantities of drugs involved to signal whether the defendant held a leadership role.

“An addict who is paid $300 to stand at the entrance to a pier and watch for the police while a boatload of cocaine is offloaded,” Judge Gleeson wrote, “qualifies for kingpin treatment.” The law leaves the decision to prosecutors.

As for Mr. Dossie, the judge wrote, “no one could reasonably characterize him as a leader or manager of anything, let alone of a drug business.”

Judge Gleeson called on Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to implement a new policy at the Department of Justice.

“D.O.J. should seek mandatory minimum sentences,” the judge wrote, “only in the cases for which Congress intended them: in cases against leaders and managers of drug enterprises, not the low-level offenders like Dossie who constitute the bulk of the federal drug docket.”

About 74 percent of defendants charged with crimes involving crack cocaine faced a mandatory minimum sentence in the year that ended in September, according to statistics compiled by the United States Sentencing Commission. But only 5 percent of them led or managed a drug business.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said the administration supported the judicious use of mandatory minimum sentencing laws for some serious crimes. In a 2010 report, Lanny A. Breuer, an assistant attorney general, said mandatory minimum sentences “remove dangerous offenders from society, ensure just punishment and are an essential tool in gaining cooperation from members of violent street gangs and drug distribution networks.”

That last point, about gaining cooperation, is the most important one, said Nancy Gertner, who was until recently a federal judge in Boston and now teaches at Harvard Law School.

The goals of criminal law used to be deterrence, punishment and incapacitating violent offenders. “Recent changes,” she said, “are intended to give the prosecutor a menu and tools with which to secure cooperation.”

In a front-page article last year, my colleague Richard A. Oppel Jr. showed that prosecutors use the threat of tough mandatory sentences to extract guilty pleas from defendants and so reduce the number of cases that go to trial.

Paul G. Cassell, a former federal judge who is now a law professor at the University of Utah, said Judge Gleeson’s proposal to have the Justice Department limit its use of mandatory minimum sentences in drug cases to defendants who played a leadership role was “a brilliant package.” It was, he said, administrable, fair and “doable in this political environment” because it requires no action from Congress.

Jamel Dossie, meanwhile, is serving what Judge Gleeson called an onerous and disproportionate sentence.

“The only reason for the five-year sentence imposed on Dossie,” Judge Gleeson wrote, “is that the law invoked by the prosecutor required it. It was not a just sentence.”

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Manchester UK Police And Prosecutors Didn’t Investigate Gang Of Asians Raping White Children For Fear Of Being Racist – 50 Victims Passed Around While Police Did Nothing

May 9, 2012

MANCHESTER, UK – The nine men from Rochdale were yesterday convicted of abusing five vulnerable teenagers after plying them with alcohol, food and small sums of money in return for sex.

However, the true number of victims, who were “passed around” by the gang, is likely to be nearer to 50, police have admitted.

Greater Manchester Police and the Crown Prosecution Service have now apologised after they failed to bring the case of the first victim – Girl A – to trial following her cry for help in August 2008.

One 13 year-old victim became pregnant and had the child aborted while another was forced to have sex with 20 men in one night, Liverpool Crown Court heard.

Complaints to social workers and the police were ignored because they were “petrified of being called racist”, former Labour MP for Keighley Ann Cryer said.

Mrs Cryer, who has campaigned to bring the issue of Asian sex gangs to light, said the girls had been “betrayed” and condemned to “untold misery” by the police and social services.

“This is an absolute scandal. They were petrified of being called racist and so reverted to the default of political correctness,” she said.

“They had a greater fear of being perceived in that light than in dealing with the issues in front of them.”

Girl A told police that she had been raped and provided DNA evidence from her attacker, however the CPS twice decided not to prosecute him.

The 15 year-old’s abuse continued and at its height she was being driven to flats and houses to be raped by up to five men a night, four or five days a week. She was singled out because she was white, vulnerable and under-age.

Her ordeal only ended when her teachers forced social workers to intervene after she fell pregnant and they became concerned by the number of Asian men picking her up from school.

Girl A said that in a six-hour interview she gave police details about her abusers and where the attacks took place. Crucially, too, she handed officers underwear that proved she had been raped by two men in a single attack.

“I hoped they were going to do something and it would stop,” she said.

“But it just carried on. It just started again with different men and more men this time, and that’s when it started becoming up to five men a day”.

Kabeer Hassan, Abdul Aziz, Abdul Rauf, Mohammed Sajid, Adil Khan, Abdul Qayyum, Mohammed Amin, Hamid Safi and a 59-year-old man who cannot be named for legal reasons were yesterday found guilty of running a child exploitation ring at Liverpool Crown Court.

Greater Manchester Police is now being investigated by the IPCC over the failings of its first investigation in 2008.

When GMP did finally pass a file on Girls A’s rape to the CPS the following year, a Crown lawyer decided not to charge anyone because he said she would not be a sufficiently credible witness to put before a jury. A second CPS lawyer backed that opinion.

It was only after social workers notice an upsurge in cases of child grooming that police reinvestigated and made a series of arrests which led to yesterday’s convictions.

It can be reported that the trial was delayed by two weeks when two Asian barristers quit the case due to intimidation by far right groups outside Liverpool Crown Court.

And a tweet from BNP leader Nick Griffin almost caused the trial to collapse when it led to allegations of the jury having a “far-right bias”.

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood acknowledged that officers could have dealt with the case “better than we did”.

But he denied that the girl’s complaints had been “brushed under the carpet” because officers were reluctant to confront the issue of race.

“At the time we did what we thought was best,” he said. “We have learned a lot of lessons.

“The issue here is genuinely about vulnerability. It just happens that they are Asian men. In no way did we sweep it under the carpet.”

Steve Garner, head of children’s services at Rochdale Council, denied the teenager had been let down by his department.

“No,” he said. “I think it’s really important to remember that what we know now and what we knew in 2008 is very, very different and what we have done is put the lessons in place”.

Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk said: “What’s become clear is that if police had acted seriously on these concerns in 2008 many of the victims of this appalling case would not have had to go through such horrific trauma.

“It is simply unacceptable that these young women were let down in this way by people they should have been able to trust.”

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For 9 Months Alabama Federal Prosecutors Posted Sensitive Details Of Ongoing Criminal Investigations In Publicly Accessable PACER Database

April 22, 2011

ALABAMA – In a shocking failure to protect sensitive details about dozens of ongoing criminal investigations, federal officials somehow allowed confidential information about sealed cases to be publicly accessible via the court system’s online lookup service, The Smoking Gun has learned.

Over the past nine months, details of 40 separate sealed court applications filed by federal prosecutors in Alabama were uploaded to PACER, the web-based records system that counts nearly one million users, including defense lawyers, prosecutors, journalists, researchers, private investigators, and government officials.

The court applications, made by ten separate prosecutors, included requests to install hidden surveillance cameras, examine Facebook records, obtain credit information on certain individuals, procure telephone records, and attach devices on phone lines that would allow agents to track incoming and outgoing calls. Remarkably, the U.S. District Court records–which covered filings as recent as April 11–included specific names, addresses, and phone numbers that should never have appeared on PACER.

The confidentiality breach was first discovered by a TSG reporter and brought to the attention of Department of Justice representatives and court officials in the Middle District of Alabama, which is comprised of 23 counties and includes Montgomery, the state’s second-largest city. By late yesterday afternoon, prosecutors had the confidential information scrubbed from the online records system and placed under judicial seal at the federal courthouse in Montgomery (pictured above).

It is likely impossible to determine if the sensitive information was viewed or disseminated by other PACER users, let alone gauge whether any cases were jeopardized by the posting of the sealed material.

Prosecutors were incredulous when told that law enforcement sensitive information was available on PACER. A Justice Department source termed it a “disastrous situation” for which prosecutors were not responsible. One government lawyer said they were “shocked” to discover that details from sealed court applications were essentially sitting in plain sight.

While Debra Hackett, the U.S. District Court clerk, initially told TSG that federal prosecutors were to blame for failing to have certain information properly sealed, her position apparently shifted after discussions with United States Attorney Leura Canary (seen at left). Canary, a source said, was “appalled” to discover that court employees had made the confidential information publicly available.

In a statement provided late yesterday to TSG, the Middle District’s chief judge, Mark Fuller, noted that, “The confidential information has been sealed. I regret the error was not identified earlier and have adopted procedures to ensure that it will not occur in the future.” It remains unclear why U.S. District Court personnel believed that, while the documents themselves had to be kept in a safe in the clerk’s office, details from those records could be made available through PACER.

The bulk of the 40 court applications involved prosecutors seeking judicial authorization to obtain telephone records and/or the placement of pen registers and trap and trace devices on targeted phones. A pen register tracks outgoing phone numbers, while a trap and trace captures incoming numbers.

The use of the devices is a standard investigative technique employed by federal agents handling narcotics, organized crime, public corruption, and fugitive cases. Information gathered by the devices can provide investigators with a nexus between suspects, help identify additional targets, and aid in the establishment of the probable cause needed to wiretap phone calls.

While the physical court applications themselves were successfully sealed–as were the related orders signed by federal judges–and not available to be downloaded in PDF form from PACER, the online entries for these cases (known as “criminal miscellaneous” files) included the confidential information.

For example, 35 sealed applications dealt with a total of 39 separate phone numbers being targeted by federal investigators. In each instance, the phone number was actually included in the PACER entry. As a result, TSG reporters were able to use public databases and online searches to identify several individuals whose phone usage is of interest to criminal investigators. Some of the targeted numbers included area codes for cities like Miami, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.

The names of five individuals for whom prosecutors sought court permission to obtain credit information were also uploaded to PACER.

Additionally, on March 31, prosecutor Susan Redmond filed separate applications for court orders authorizing the “Installation and Service of Surveillance Camera” at two residences and one business in Montgomery. The applications were approved by Judge Susan Russ Walker, who signed an order sealing documents related to the surveillances.

However, the corresponding PACER entries included the name of the business (which a reporter easily located) and the exact addresses of the two homes now being surveilled by federal agents. Click here to see a since-deleted PACER index page for the three applications, and here for a page containing additional details on one of the applications.

TSG will not further identify where the hidden cameras have been installed, since such a disclosure could compromise the government’s ongoing criminal investigation (though here, here, and here are photos of the targeted locations–blurred, of course, to render them unidentifiable).

Each of the 40 applications prepared by federal prosecutors would have had a notation on its face page that the document was filed “UNDER SEAL,” as seen in this excerpt from a prosecution request for AT&T telephone records.

Perhaps in the future those two words need to be rendered in larger type. And maybe even neon.

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