Thursday, April 30, 2009

Seven Plead Guilty to Supporting Iran Terrorist Group

According to the Miami Herald, seven people in California has pleaded guilty to providing material support to an Iraq-based terrorist organization. Each of the seven face up to twenty years in prison.

According to prosecutors, the defendants raised funds for the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). According to the State Department, the militia was supported by Saddam Hussein and works against the Iranian government. The group was designated a foreign terrorist organization in 1997.

Al Qaeda Sleeper Agent Pleads Guilty to Terror Charges

According to FoxNews, Ali al-Marri, a man held since 2001 as an alleged Al Qaeda sleeper agent, has pleaded guilty to supporting terrorism. The plea was entered in United States District Court in Peoria, Illinois. According to the report, Marri pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.

Marri, a legal U.S. resident, was declared an "enemy combatant" in late 2001 and held without charges for more than five years at a Navy brig in South Carolina. The designation of "enemy combatant" was later dropped when a grand jury in Illinois indicted him. Marri will be sentenced in July.

The Washington Post had a story regarding Marri this morning in anticipation of his possible guilty plea.

Prosecutors and lawyers for Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri are engaged in negotiations that could produce a guilty plea by the suspected al-Qaeda associate in a federal courtroom as early as today, according to sources familiar with the talks.

The discussions have ebbed and flowed in recent weeks but the core arrangement would involve a plea by Marri to a single criminal conspiracy charge that would send him to prison for 15 years, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks are not complete.

A plea along those lines would cut by half the prison time Marri is facing under statutory maximum sentences if he was convicted of conspiracy and providing support to al-Qaeda.

Among the most sensitive issues are conditions of Marri's confinement and whether he will win credit for the 5 1/2 years he has served in a South Carolina military brig. Complicating the talks are questions of whether Marri would be incarcerated in the United States or be moved to another country, perhaps his homeland of Qatar, requiring sensitive diplomatic intervention.

The case has been closely watched because Marri was the sole remaining "enemy combatant" held on American soil without criminal charges. U.S. marshals moved him to Peoria, Ill., last month after a grand jury there issued a bare-bones, two-count indictment against him.

In a speech in Germany yesterday, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. cited Marri's case as an example of a break from practices of the Bush administration on national security, and an early signal that at least some of the 241 inmates held in a military facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, would be sent to the United States to face trial in courts here. Holder is on an extended European tour this week, meeting with government officials across the continent to seek their help in relocating Guantanamo detainees.

Marri long has been a source of fascination for investigators. He entered the United States one day before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes on a visa he secured to attend graduate school. Military officials later filed a sworn statement allegedly linking Marri to hazardous chemicals and a plot to disrupt the financial system. None of those allegations appeared in the grand jury indictment in February, however, giving rise to questions about the strength of the government's case. . .

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

US Army Soldier Pleads Guilty to Desertion

Jurist reports that a US Army soldier, Spc. Cliff Cornell, who fled to Canada to avoid serving in the Iraq war has pleaded guilty to charges of desertion. Cornell received a one year prison sentence and an bad conduct discharge.

Cornell spent four years in Canada, but was denied asylum by the Canadian government in February. Canadian advocacy group War Resisters Support Campaign decried Cornell's sentence, calling the Iraq War "illegal and immoral." Cornell had reportedly become actively involved with the group.

Several other US soldiers have sought asylum in Canada. In 2005, US Army Pvt. Brandon Hughey, who fled to Canada after refusing a deployment order to Iraq and deserting his unit at Fort Hood, formally asked the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board for asylum. Hughey's application was denied, and he is currently waiting to find out whether he will be allowed to remain in Canada. Several others are also appealing denials of asylum.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Marc Dreier to Plead Guilty

According to the defense counsel for Marc Dreier, a prominent New York City attorney accused in a $700 million fraud, his client will plead guilty on May 11 to securities fraud and money laundering charges. The AP, courtesy of Forbes.com, had this regarding the deal.

Shargel says Dreier wants to enter the plea to demonstrate his acceptance of responsibility and his profound remorse.

Until December, Dreier had led a law firm with 250 attorneys and celebrity clients. He was arrested after hedge funds complained he was stealing from them.

Prosecutors say the 58-year-old could face a maximum of 30 years to life in prison.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Guilty Plea in New York Pension Fund Investigation

According to the WSJ Law Blog, Barrett Wissman entered a plea of guilty this morning to charges of paying kickbacks in exchange for state pension fund investments. The guilty plea was part of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's ongoing investigation into how state officials sold access to billions of dollars held by New York's state pension fund in return for kickbacks and other payments.

Earlier today Barrett Wissman, who managed Texas-based Hunt Financial Ventures Asset Management, which manages money for the Hunts, the prominent oil family, pleaded guilty to charges of paying kickbacks in exchange for state pension fund investments in HFV. Raymond B. Harding, a past Chair of the former New York State Liberal Party, was also criminally charged for being a “sham placement agent” for three pension fund investments when, allegedly, he was only being paid for doing political favors for state officials.

Harding allegedly obtained over $800,000 in illegal fees on state pension fund investments as a reward for opening up a New York State Assembly seat for then-Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s son and for over 30 years of prior political endorsements. Wissman, a classical music impresario will pay $12 million in penalties and forfeiture to the state over a period of three years. His guilty plea was first reported in today’s New York Times.

Last month, David J. Loglisci, the state’s former deputy comptroller and chief investment officer, and Henry “Hank” Morris, a top political adviser and chief fundraiser for former New York Comptroller Alan Hevesi, were charged in a 123-count criminal indictment. They have denied wrongdoing. Wissman, the hedge fund manager, is alleged to have paid kickbacks to Morris while working at Hunt.

The Securities and Exchange Commission also has brought a parallel civil case against the four men charged by Cuomo.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Former Senator Ted Stevens Rejected Plea Offer

Law.com is reporting today that former Senator Ted Stevens rejected a plea deal early in his public corruption case. According to Law.com, Stevens rejected the offer and made clear that he had no interest in pleading guilty regardless of the offer to serve no jail time.

Defense lawyers and their clients routinely face this dilemma: Take a plea for leniency, or roll the dice with a jury. The Ted Stevens case was no different.

Stevens was offered a deal -- sometime before his indictment in July -- to plea to one felony and stay out of prison. Stevens' lawyer, Williams & Connolly partner Brendan
Sullivan Jr., said the deal was rejected, according to a transcript of a bench conference that had been sealed until now. Sullivan did not elaborate about the decision to reject the offer.

"I'd like to make it clear on the record that there is no offer at this point," said Brenda Morris, principal deputy chief of the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, who spoke at the bench conference July 31 in U.S. District Court for the District of
Columbia.

"That's true," Sullivan responded."

Is that alright?" Morris asked.

"And if one is made, it will not be accepted," Sullivan replied.

Stevens opted for speedy trial, forcing the government to put together its case in a compressed time frame. Stevens, of course, lost. A jury returned seven guilty verdicts in late October just days before the November election. A sentencing law expert says Stevens faced a likely prison term had his case gotten that far. A sentencing date was never set.

At the request of the Justice Department, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan last week dismissed charges and vacated the verdict. Judge Sullivan cited prosecution misconduct, saying he'd seen nothing in nearly 25 years on the bench approaching the mishandling of the Stevens case. Morris and five Justice prosecutors -- including William Welch II, the Public Integrity chief -- are now under investigation for criminal contempt.

Cozen O'Connor partner Barry Boss, who specializes in white-collar criminal defense work, says if Stevens had taken a plea -- more than 90 percent of federal defendants do just that -- none of the alleged abuses in the case would have ever come out.

"The Stevens case is a watershed event highlighting something that goes on in many more cases," Boss says. "Many other defendants would have probably taken a plea like that to get the case over with. If that had happened, then none of this would have been uncovered."

The client, Boss says, is the driving force behind whether or not to accept a plea. Stevens had made it clear before, during, and after the trial that he did not believe he was guilty of charges of filing false Senate financial disclosure forms.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Resurrection Plea

According to news reports, a former member of a religious cult, Ria Ramkissoon, pleaded guilty to starving her one year old child to death with the condition that her plea will be withdrawn if the child is resurrected. Under the deal with prosecutors, Ramkissoon will also testify against four other members of the cult, formerly known as 1 Mind Ministries, who are also charged in the death.

According to abcnews:

[T]he cult members stopped feeding the boy when he refused to say "Amen" after a meal. After Javon died, Ramkissoon sat next to his decomposing body and prayed for his resurrection.

Ramkissoon's attorney, Steven D. Silverman, said Ramkissoon believes the resurrection will occur. She agreed to plead guilty only after prosecutors said they would drop the charges if the child comes back to life, Silverman said.

"This is something that she absolutely insisted upon, and this is indicative of the fact that she is still brainwashed, still a victim of this cult," he said. "Until she's deprogrammed, she's not going to think any differently."

Baltimore Circuit Judge Timothy J. Doory assured Ramkissoon that the plea would indeed be withdrawn if the child is resurrected.

Ramkissoon pleaded guilty to one count of child abuse resulting in death. She will remain in custody until she testifies against her co-defendants and will receive a suspended 20-year sentence and serve five years probation. Sentencing was scheduled for Aug. 11.

By then, Ramkissoon would have spent about a year behind bars.

As part of her probation, Ramkissoon must submit to treatment, including sessions with an expert on cult behavior.

The maximum sentence for child abuse resulting in death is 30 years, and defendants typically receive between 12 and 20 years, according to Maryland sentencing
guidelines.

Ramkissoon will fare much better under the plea deal than if she had pursued an insanity defense, Silverman said. A court psychiatrist found that she was both competent to stand trial and could have been held criminally responsible for Javon's death because she knew the difference between right and wrong.