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Top News Story! Honest Services!
Posted: 09/23/2011 - 05:06:43 PM PDT
Former House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi today lost his bid to stay free pending his appeal of his conviction on political corruption charges. In rejecting DiMasi’s request, US District Court Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf said he found no likelihood that DiMasi would be successful in having his convictions overturned or his sentence reduced. Wolf ordered that both DiMasi and his co-defendant, Richard McDonough, report to federal prison on Nov. 16.
“The defendants have not shown their appeal raises a question of law or fact likely to result in a new trial or a reduction in sentence,” Wolf said in remarks that lasted more than an hour at a hearing this afternoon in US District Court in Boston. “I find it is not a close question.”
Once one of the most powerful politicians in the state, DiMasi, a pioneer as the state’s first Italian-American speaker, is facing an eight-year sentence for engaging in a scheme to steer state software contracts to a Burlington company in exchange for secret payments. DiMasi, describing himself as a “broken man,” begged for leniency before his sentencing earlier this month. An attorney for DiMasi, would only say after the ruling, “We’re going to continue to fight to prove Sal’s innocence.”
McDonough’s attorney, who is leading the appeal for both defendants, said outside the courtroom that the defense would ask the First US Circuit Court of Appeals to stay Wolf’s order that the two men report to prison. He argued that appeals courts have overruled district judges before, and said that DiMasi’s case is testing new legal standards that were set by a US Supreme Court decision last year. DiMasi’s case is one of the first to go to trial since that decision. “We will argue that there remain compelling issues that need to be addressed,” the attorney said. “There are issues we consider profoundly important that test the [new standards] of the Supreme Court decision.”
That decision narrowed the scope of evidence allowed in honest services fraud prosecutions – the kind of case brought against DiMasi – to require that prosecutors show a public official knowingly took an action in exchange for money that he caused to be paid to him or an acquaintance. DiMasi and McDonough, both 66, were convicted in June of conspiracy to defraud the United States, as well as honest services mail fraud and wire fraud. DiMasi was also convicted of extortion.
Wolf’s eight-year sentence for DiMasi was the highest federal sentence ever handed out to an elected official in Massachusetts. McDonough was sentenced to seven years in prison.
As part of the scheme, DiMasi was paid $65,000 that was funneled to him through a former law associate. DiMasi, according to the witnesses at the trial, pushed Governor Deval Patrick’s administration to grant contracts to the company, Cognos. The details of the scheme were revealed in a much-watched trial that featured testimony from senior state officials, including the governor himself, and threw a harsh light on the dealings on Beacon Hill.
June 3, 2011 @ 09:10 AM PDT
RALEIGH, N.C. (WCJB) — A federal grand jury charged two-time presidential candidate John Edwards on Friday with soliciting and covering up the secret spending of more than $925,000 to hide his mistress and their baby during the peak of his 2008 campaign for the White House. The grand jury's indictment in the case of USA v. Johnny Reid Edwards contained six counts, including conspiracy, four counts of receiving illegal campaign contributions and one count of false statements. The indictment said the payments were a scheme to protect Edwards' White House ambitions. "A centerpiece of Edwards' candidacy was his public image as a devoted family man," the indictment said. "Edwards knew that public revelation of the affair and the pregnancy would destroy his candidacy by, among other things, undermining Edwards' presentation of himself as a family man and by forcing his campaign to divert personnel and resources away from other campaign activities to respond to criticism and media scrutiny regarding the affair and pregnancy," the indictment added.
One, former Federal Elections Commission Chairman Scott Thomas, said if the FEC had investigated it would have found the payments did not violate the law, even as a civil matter. "A criminal prosecution of a candidate on these facts would be outside anything I would expect after decades of experience with the campaign finance laws," Thomas said.
The indictment is the culmination of a federal investigation begun by the FBI more than two years ago. The probe scoured virtually every corner of Edwards' political career. That included his political action committees, a nonprofit and a so-called 527 independent political group. It even examined whether he did anything improper during his time in the U.S. Senate, which ended seven years ago. But the centerpiece of the investigation has long been the hundreds of thousands of dollars privately provided by two wealthy Edwards supporters — his former campaign finance chairman Fred Baron and Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, the 100-year-old widow of banking heir Paul Mellon. That money eventually went to keep mistress Rielle Hunter and her out-of-wedlock baby in hiding in 2007 and 2008, during the apex of the Democratic nomination campaign.
The indictment refers to $725,000 in payments made by Mellon and another $200,000 made by Baron. It accused Edwards of lying when he told the media he never knew about any payments. It said the money was used to pay for Hunter's living and medical expenses and for chartered airfare, luxury hotels and rental for a house in Santa Barbara, Calif., to keep her hidden from the public. Mellon sent her money through her decorator. The indictment said she listed items of furniture in the memo lines of her checks such as "chairs," ''antique Charleston table," and "book case" to hide the true purpose.
The indictment refers to Edwards' discussions with a former employee in summer 2009 in which they prepared a statement to the media in which he would admit he was the father of Frances Quinn Hunter. A person familiar with the investigation has identified the former employee as speechwriter Wendy Button. The indictment said Edwards told her that he was aware Baron provided money to hide Hunter from the media.
Former campaign staffer Andrew Young, who initially claimed paternity of Hunter's child, has said Edwards was aware of the private financial support that helped keep the mistress satisfied and secluded. "Edwards further told the employee that this was a huge issue and that for 'legal and practical reasons' it should not be mentioned in the statement they were preparing," the indictment said. The statement Edwards eventually issued seven months later claiming paternity did not mention the money spent on Hunter. Prosecutors believe the private gifts should have been considered campaign contributions since they aided his candidacy. Edwards did not comment directly, but his attorneys issued statements from campaign finance experts advising him. The experts argued the Mellon and Baron payments were not campaign contributions.
With one of Edwards' former campaign rivals now sitting in the White House, the case includes a measure of political intrigue. Greg Craig, who was previously White House counsel for President Barack Obama, emerged as a leading figure on Edwards' legal team just as Obama's Justice Department was reviewing the case that prosecutors in North Carolina had prepared. Meanwhile, with the backing of North Carolina's two senators, Republican-appointed U.S. attorney George Holding stayed on the job in the Obama administration to finish the Edwards probe.
Edwards and Hunter began their relationship in 2006, just as the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee was plotting a second run for the White House. She was hired to shoot behind-the-scenes video footage of the prospective candidate. Edwards' political action committee and a nonprofit affiliated with him both paid Hunter's video-production firm about $100,000 for the work. Edwards initially denied having an affair with Hunter but eventually admitted to it in the summer of 2008. He then denied being the father of her child before finally confessing last year. His wife, Elizabeth (pictured above) died of cancer in December.
Young has said that Edwards agreed in 2007 to solicit money directly from Mellon. The long-time Edwards aide, now estranged from his former boss, has said he received hundreds of thousands of dollars in checks from Mellon — some hidden in boxes of chocolate. Mellon and Edwards are still friendly despite the glare of the federal investigation. They had lunch together at her Virginia estate last week even as the indictment appeared imminent.
"Democracy demands that our election system be protected, and without vigorously enforced campaign finance laws, the people of this country lose their voice," said Holding. "The U.S. Attorney's Office and the Department of Justice are committed to the prosecution of individuals who abuse the very system of which they seek to become a part." Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, head of the Justice Department's criminal division, said, "As this indictment shows, we will not permit candidates for high office to abuse their special ability to access the coffers of their political supporters to circumvent our election laws." The case opens a new front in how the federal government oversees the flow of money around political campaigns. An attorney for Edwards said last week that the government's case was "novel and untested" and argued that the government's theory was wrong on both the facts and the law.
Baron's support was even more direct. The wealthy trial lawyer said in 2008 that he helped Young and Hunter move across the country to protect them from media scrutiny. Baron, who died a few months later, said Edwards wasn't aware of the aid, but Young has said that Edwards did know. Young, Hunter and Baron's wife were among many Edwards aides and supporters who were called to testify before a federal grand jury or have been interviewed by investigators.
The indictment and an arrest warrant were filed in Greensboro, N.C., which is in the district where his campaign was headquartered. Edwards, 58, was scheduled to make an initial appearance Friday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick Auld in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Negotiations between Edwards' attorneys and federal prosecutors to settle on a charge to which Edwards was willing to plead guilty continued through Thursday, but proved fruitless, according to people with knowledge of the negotiations. Prosecutors had insisted on a plea to a felony, which would endanger his ability to keep his license to practice law. If convicted, Edwards faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the six counts. First time white collar offenders usually don't receive prison terms in federal court, but the Justice Department typically presses for at least a short prison sentence for public officials. While Edwards was a private citizen as a candidate, he was receiving taxpayer money for his presidential campaign.
May 31, 2011
Mahmoud Abdel Salam Omar is now "awaiting arraignment Tuesday on charges of sexual abuse, unlawful imprisonment, forcible touching and harassment." The alleged attack comes two weeks after IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a maid at the Sofitel in Times Square.
Media sources reports that Omar had asked for a box of tissues on Sunday around 6 p.m.: He "quickly locked the door behind her, according to police. Then, the elderly banker"—who was either wearing a robe or pajamas at the time—"allegedly grabbed her breasts and began kissing her on the lips and neck." The maid said, "I'm not up here for that." Then Omar allegedly asked her for her phone number, and the maid supplied a fake one.
The maid went to the hotel manager to report the incident, but the manager apparently told her she needed to report it to a supervisor...who wasn't working on Sunday. So the maid had to wait until Monday to report the incident to the police. Police spokesman Paul Browne said, "Experienced NYPD detectives found the complainant to be credible." The NYPD said more details would be released upon the arraignment.
Posted: 05/24/2011 06:27:05 PM PDT
Updated: 05/26/2011 10:16:12 PM PDT
It was Maria Shriver who leaked the revelations about Arnold Schwarzenegger fathering a child with a family servant, media sources reported Tuesday. And another report says that Shriver has hired a private investigator to find out whether her estranged husband fathered more children in secret. Media source quoted external sources as saying friends had to talk a "hysterical" Shriver into not holding a news conference as soon as she found out about her husband's love child with housekeeper Mildred Baena (pictured above, left). Sources say she agreed and kept quiet until a week after the couple announced the end of their 25-year marriage -- and then tipped off the Los Angeles Times to the story. The source did not explain why she went to the newspaper at that point. Another sources said Tuesday that Shriver has hired a private detective to search for more Arnold love children, as well as pore through the ex-governor's finances, particularly any signs that Schwarzenegger lavished cash and gifts on Baena and their now-13-year-old son. Shriver has not said yet whether she plans to divorce Schwarzenegger, but she has hired high-profile divorce lawyer and several reports said Tuesday that she's expected to file papers soon to dissolve the marriage. Shriver and Schwarzenegger's combined net worth has been estimated at between $200 million and $500 million.
Bail Denied! Republican Threat!
May 24, 2011 - 05:02 PDT
AUGUSTA, Maine (WCJB) -- A Maine lawmaker charged with pulling a gun in a parking lot offered an unsolicited comment after his first court appearance: "I believe in America. I believe in God. I believe in sunshine." Rep. Frederick Ladd Wintle, a Republican from Garland, was not required to enter a plea Monday to charges of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and carrying a concealed weapon.
Wintle was arrested Saturday after a confrontation outside a Dunkin' Donuts in Waterville. He remains held on $3,500 bail. Some lawmakers had expressed concern about Wintle's increasingly erratic behavior. As part of court-ordered bail conditions, Wintle is barred from the State House complex. The judge also included provisions requiring him to submit to a mental evaluation and barring him from having a gun.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich! Guilty as Sin!
Saturday, Jun 27, 2011 - 4:43 pm PT
CHICAGO (WCJB) — Rod Blagojevich (pictured left) who rode his talkative everyman image to two terms as Illinois governor before scandal made him a national punch line, was convicted Monday of a wide range of corruption charges, including the incendiary allegation that he tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama's Senate seat. The verdict was a bitter defeat for Blagojevich, who had spent 2½ years professing his innocence on reality TV shows and later on the witness stand. His defense team had insisted that hours of FBI wiretap recordings were just the ramblings of a politician who liked to think out loud.
He faces up to 300 years in prison, although federal sentencing guidelines are sure to significantly reduce his time behind bars.
After hearing the verdict, Blagojevich turned to defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky and asked "What happened?" His wife, Patti, slumped against her brother, then rushed into her husband's arms. Before the decision was read, the couple looked flushed, and the former governor blew his wife a kiss across the courtroom, then stood expressionless, with his hands clasped tightly. The verdict capped a long-running spectacle in which Blagojevich became famous for blurting on a recorded phone call that his ability to appoint Obama's successor to the Senate was "f---ing golden" and that he wouldn't let it go "for f---ing nothing."
The former governor spoke only briefly with reporters as he left the courthouse, saying he was disappointed and stunned by the verdict. "Well, among the many lessons I've learned from this whole experience is to try to speak a little bit less, so I'm going to keep my remarks kind of short," Blagojevich said, adding that the couple wanted "to get home to our little girls and talk to them and explain things to them and then try to sort things out."
Blagojevich, who has been free on bond since shortly after his arrest, becomes the second straight Illinois governor convicted of corruption. His predecessor, George Ryan, is now serving 6½ years in federal prison.
The case exploded into scandal when Blagojevich was awakened by federal agents on Dec. 9, 2008, at his Chicago home and was led away in handcuffs. Federal prosecutors had been investigating his administration for years, and some of his closest cronies had already been convicted. Blagojevich, who was also accused of shaking down businessmen for campaign contributions, was swiftly impeached and removed from office.
The verdict provided affirmation to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, one of the nation's most prominent prosecutors, who, after the governor's arrest, had condemned Blagojevich's dealings as a "political crime spree."
"The jury sent a loud and clear message that Governor Blagojevich committed very serious crimes shaking down a children's hospital, trying to sell a Senate seat and demanding cash campaign contributions in advance before signing a bill," Fitzgerald said. "This is a bittersweet moment." Referring to the verdict against Ryan five years ago, he said: "I hope that that message is heard this time." Mentioned at times as a possible future FBI director, Fitzgerald pledged to retry the governor after the first jury deadlocked on all but the least serious of 24 charges against him.
This time, the 12 jurors voted to convict the 54-year-old Blagojevich on 17 of 20 counts after deliberating nine days. He also faces up to five additional years in prison for his previous conviction of lying to the FBI. Blagojevich was acquitted of soliciting bribes in the alleged shakedown of a road-building executive. The jury deadlocked on two charges of attempted extortion related to that executive and funding for a school.
Judge James Zagel has barred Blagojevich from traveling outside the area without permission. A status hearing to discuss sentencing was set for Aug. 1. Two legal experts speculated that Blagojevich would probably receive around 10 years in prison, with little chance that he would get more than 15.
Posted: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 4:42 pm
(In this May 2, 2011 file photo, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich addresses the media accompanied by his wife Patti, at federal court after opening arguments in his second corruption trial in Chicago. Blagojevich is set to return to the witness stand for a third day Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at his political corruption retrial, which is now heading into its fifth week of testimony.) Rod Blagojevich Tuesday denied shaking down a road builder for campaign contributions in exchange for signing a massive bill to improve the state’s tollways. Testifying for the third day on his retrial on corruption charges, the ex-Illinois governor also denied using his influence to get his wife, Patti, a job. He also stated that he never shook down the CEO of Children’s Memorial Hospital or demanded the CEO hold a fund-raiser for him. Blagojevich is accused of holding up a promised increase in pay for pediatric doctors serving Medicaid patients in making threats to the CEO, Patrick Magoon. Blagojevich denied delaying the increase and said he told a staffer to “find the money’’ to do it.
In earlier testimony Tuesday at the federal courthouse downtown, Blagojevich said he really wanted a massive capital bill to pass — one that would have improved tollways as well as given a lift to other capital projects throughout the state. Road-building executive Gerald Krozel had testified that Blagojevich hit him up for money at the same time Krozel was pushing the $1.8 billion tollway package. “I felt there was a connection between the two,” Krozel previously testified in the prosecution’s case. “If I couldn’t raise money, there wouldn’t be a tollway bill.”
But Blagojevich said he simply explained to Krozel in that 2008 meeting that a new state ethics bill would prohibit Krozel from legally giving the then governor money after the end of the year. “The good news for you and the bad news for me is that you can’t contribute money,” Blagojevich said he told Krozel. “Whatever you can do to help us during this campaign fund-raising cycle. ... I would be appreciative of it.”
“I may have said something like, ‘This is your last hurrah,’ ’’ he continued. “And he was very supportive, and said he’d do the best he can to raise money.”
Blagojevich’s lawyer asked: “During this meeting, did you demand that he fund-raise for you?” “No,” Blagojevich replied.
Attorney: “Communicate that in order for him to get any of these tollway plans he had to fund-raise?” Replied Blagojevich: “No.”
He also played an Oct. 31, 2008 recording of a call between Blagojevich and Harris, where the then-governor is heard pushing for the capital bill. Blagojevich can be heard dropping an f-bomb and later apologizing for it. Blagojevich smiled while on the stand, shaking his head a little bit in apparent disbelief at his caught-on-tape self. On the tape he discusses DuPage County Bob Schillerstrom, who wanted state funding to build a western access to O’Hare. Blagojevich is heard saying that if Schillerstrom wanted the bill to pass, he’d better “bring all their influence to bear” to get House Speaker Michael Madigan to lift a brick preventing its passage in the Illinois House. “You’re a big, tough guy with a lot of influence, get down to Springfield. ... Lobby your government there,” Blagojevich said he wanted of Schillerstrom at the time. “You’ll get your western access road and a lot more. You’ll get schools and roads and a lot more.”
Judge James Zagel again tells Blagojevich he understands there’s a tendency to explain how government works in each of his answers. However, he tells him to instead: “Just answer the questions.”
Blagojevich also attempted to rebut testimony from his chief of staff, John Harris, who said that the governor ordered him to set up meetings between state contractors and his wife. Harris said that after those meetings went sour, Blagojevich told him to cut off the contractors from future state work.
But Blagojevich said Patti did meet with contractors, and they told her she’d have a tough time getting work in using her Series 7 license to be a financial adviser because of a potential conflict involving her husband being governor. “She was going to get bubkis for it. Nada, nothing,” Blagojevich said. He denied he took any retaliation against contractors that wouldn’t hire her. Blagojevich, who spoke at length about his efforts to keep his family separate from his administration, did admit that he asked Harris whether his wife could be appointed to the Illinois Pollution Control Board. But in the end, “she was not nominated to the Illinois Pollution Control board,” he said. “I made a decision to not appoint her.”
By MIKE ROBINSON, Associated Press Writer
Story date: 12-9-08 - 07:45 a.m.
CHICAGO – Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on charges of conspiring to get financial benefits through his authority to appoint a U.S. senator to fill the vacancy left by Barack Obama's election as president.
According to a federal criminal complaint, Blagojevich also was charged with illegally threatening to withhold state assistance to Tribune Co., the owner of the Chicago Tribune, in the sale of Wrigley Field. In return for state assistance, Blagojevich allegedly wanted members of the paper's editorial board who had been critical of him fired.
A 76-page FBI affidavit said the 51-year-old Democratic governor was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps over the last month conspiring to sell or trade the vacant Senate seat for personal benefits for himself and his wife, Patti.
The affidavit said Blagojevich discussed getting a substantial salary for himself at a nonprofit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions. It said Blagojevich also talked about getting his wife placed on corporate boards where she might get $150,000 a year in director's fees. He also allegedly discussed getting campaign funds for himself or possibly a post in the president's cabinet or an ambassadorship once he left the governor's office. "I want to make money," the affidavit quotes him as saying in one conversation.
U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in a statement that "the breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering." "They allege that Blagojevich put a for sale sign on the naming of a United States senator," Fitzgerald said." Among those being considered for the post include U.S. Reps. Danny Davis and Jesse Jackson Jr.
Blagojevich also was charged with using his authority as governor in an attempt to squeeze out campaign contributions. His chief of staff, John Harris, also was arrested. Corruption in the Blagojevich administration has been the focus of a federal investigation involving an alleged $7 million scheme aimed at squeezing kickbacks out of companies seeking business from the state. Federal prosecutors have acknowledged they're also investigating "serious allegations of endemic hiring fraud" under Blagojevich.
Political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko who raised money for the campaigns of both Blagojevich and Obama is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of fraud and other charges. Blagojevich's chief fundraiser, Christopher G. Kelly, is due to stand trial early next year on charges of obstructing the Internal Revenue Service. According to Tuesday's complaint, Blagojevich schemed with Rezko, millionaire-fundraiser turned federal witness Stuart Levine and others to get financial benefits for himself and his campaign committee.
Federal prosecutors said Blagojevich and the chairman of his campaign committee have been speeding up corrupt fundraising activities in the last month to get as much money as possible before the end of the year when a new law would curtail his ability to raise contributions from companies with state contracts worth more than $50,000. According to the affidavit, agents learned Blagojevich was seeking $2.5 million in campaign contributions by the end of the year, with a large part allegedly to come from companies and individuals who have gotten state contracts or appointments.
Blagojevich took the chief executive's office in 2003 as a reformer promising to clean up former Gov. George Ryan's mess. Ryan, a Republican, is serving a 6-year prison sentence after being convicted on racketeering and fraud charges. A decade-long investigation began with the sale of driver's licenses for bribes and led to the conviction of dozens of people who worked for Ryan when he was secretary of state and governor.
FBI spokesman Frank Bochte said federal agents arrested the governor and Harris simultaneously at their homes at 6:15 a.m. and took them to the Chicago FBI headquarters. Bochte said he did not know if either man was handcuffed or if the governor's family was their North Side home at the time of his arrest. He did say Blagojevich and Harris both were given time to get dressed before being taken to the headquarters. He also did not have any details about Blagojevich's arrest, only that he was cooperative with federal agents. "It was a very calm setting," he said.
The governor was to appear later Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan to answer the charges. The time was not immediately set.