Arrested Gates Not Ruling Out Defamation Lawsuit
Up as Police Organizations Criticize Obama for Jumping Into the Controversy
MCPHEE, RUSSELL GOLDMAN and HUMA KHAN (ABC News)
The police sergeant who arrested Harvard University
professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. last week in his own home may be considering a
defamation lawsuit against Gates who has implied his arrest was racially
Alan McDonald, who represents Sgt. James Crowley, said the veteran cop
who teaches a racial profiling class for rookie police officers has not ruled
out filing a defamation of character or libel lawsuit.
exploring all of his options,'' McDonald told ABC News.
charges were dropped, Gates has loudly asserted his arrest was a result of
and subsequent storm of racially charged comments has enveloped the White House
after President Obama said on Wednesday the Cambridge police acted
"stupidly" in arresting his friend, Gates, who is a prominent black
organizations and others across the country are lashing out at Obama for
calling out the Cambridge Police Department.
"It's not a case of racial profiling," said NPR analyst Juan
Williams on "Good Morning America." Williams made clear there are dangers when blacks are confronted by
police. "As someone who has been stopped, as a black person in America, I have
a very deferential approach to cops. I don't speak to them in aggressive tones.
... It's just that cops can be very prickly, especially with a black guy."
But Williams said the president went "way too far" without
seeing the police report and knowing all the specifics of the case, as Obama himself
"I think what he now has to do is walk it back and say, you know
what, I spoke out of turn here. ... I was reacting in support of a friend, and
aware of larger racial issues in society. But it doesn't specifically apply to
this case, which is not about racial profiling," Williams advised.
Sgt. Dennis O'Connor, the president of the police union that represents
Crowley and other superior officers in the
Cambridge Police Department, told ABC News that Gates' arrest was "100
percent lawful" and that Obama should apologize to "Sgt. Crowley and
"Sgt. Crowley has been called a racist, a liar and stupid,''
O'Connor said in an interview with ABC News. "Barack Obama just devastated
the morale of the Cambridge Police Department. There are a lot of disheartened
police officers out there. The remark was completely uncalled for. Sgt. Crowley
-- and the entire Cambridge
police force -- are owed an apology."
In an exclusive interview with ABC News' Terry Moran Thursday, the
president defended his comments, stressing that "cooler heads should have
"I have to say I am surprised by the controversy surrounding my
statement, because I think it was a pretty straightforward commentary that you
probably don't need to handcuff a guy, a middle-aged man who uses a cane, who's
in his own home," Obama said.
news conference Wednesday night that was dominated by health care issues, the
president, acknowledging that he did not know all the facts of the case and what
role race may have played, said "the Cambridge police acted stupidly in
arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own
president told ABC News that it doesn't make sense to him that the situation
escalated to the point that Gates was arrested.
"I think that I have extraordinary respect for the difficulties of
the job that police officers do," the president said. "And my
suspicion is that words were exchanged between the police officer and Mr. Gates
and that everybody should have just settled down and cooler heads should have
prevailed. That's my suspicion."
Cambridge police unions and Massachusetts Municipal Police Officers
Association, which represents police officers from 25 Massachusetts cities and
towns, are holding a press conference to "voice their support for their
fellow officers, and to express criticism for President Obama and Governor
[Deval] Patrick," McDonald said.
Question Whether Obama Should Have Strongly Backed Gates.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who called Gates a friend, would not
comment on the president's remarks.
"I was not there, and the words I would use are troubling and
upsetting," he told reporters Thursday. But he did say that he was glad the charges were dropped and that
Gates' arrest was "every black man's nightmare."
"I guess you ought to be able to raise your voice in your own
house without risking arrest," Deval said.
organizations rallied behind the officer yesterday, with The International
Association of Chiefs of Police saying it was "disappointed" by how
the president characterized the police.
Bill Cosby weighed in on the debate, telling Boston's WZLX yesterday that he was
"shocked" to hear the president's statement.
Crowley made it clear he
is not apologizing. He told Boston's
WEEI Radio that he regrets putting the city and police department "in a
position where they now have to defend something like this," but he stood
behind his claim that he simply tried to resolve the situation.
"I just have nothing to apologize for," he said. "It
will never happen."
Go Too Far With Race Remark?
remarks have stirred national debate over whether Gates' arrest was an issue of
racial profiling, as he himself asserted. Some say
the president was right to bring up this discussion in a primetime speech.
some people wanted him to bring this up sooner?" asked civil rights
activist, the Rev. Al Sharpton. "Of course, we have. But the timing had to
be right. He had the courage to take a position at a time when he knows some
people will disagree."
hadn't addressed it, it would have looked like he was ducking. I was surprised
he said what he said, because his words brought the conversation to a new
level," Sharpton said.
Obama has been vocal on past civil rights issues, he largely avoided race
during the presidential campaign except for a singular speech he gave on the
issue after his pastor was found to have made anti-American statements.
one wants to talk about race," said Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist
and ABC News consultant. "He [Obama] does not inject race into the
conversation regularly because it clears the room. There are designated times,
like Martin Luther King Jr. Day or when we have a large gathering of black
folks, like at the NAACP recently, but that's about it."
this case, he was asked a question directly, and he answered it honestly,"
to his specific comments about Gates' arrest, the president Wednesday also
weighed in about the race issue, saying that while he didn't know whether it
played a role, "I think we know separate and apart from this incident is
that there's a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos
being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That's just a fact."
Some observers questioned whether the president should have so strongly
backed Gates, a longtime friend, over the police who arrested him without fully
knowing exactly what took place between the professor and Crowley.
is the president for all American not just black Americans," Brazile said.
"He has enough on his plate as commander in chief -- two wars, an economy
in the tank -- that he should not necessarily become the healer in chief."
2009 ABC News Internet Ventures
From the White House:
As a Senior Advisor to the President, I'm here in Cairo, Egypt where I
watched President Obama deliver an unprecedented speech calling for a new
beginning for the United States and Muslim communities around the world.
We all know that there has been tension between the United States and
some Muslim communities. But, as the President said this morning, if all
sides face the sources of tension squarely and focus on mutual interests,
we can find a new way forward.
The President outlined some big goals for this new beginning in his
speech -- including disrupting, dismantling, and defeating violent
extremism. It was a historic speech, and since many Americans were asleep
at the time it was given we wanted to make sure you had a chance to see
Majority-Muslim countries around the world are filled with extraordinary
people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live
better lives, just as in America. Indeed, part of what makes America
great is having nearly seven million Muslim Americans living here today
and enriching our culture and communities.
We can extend that kind of relationship abroad. It won't always be easy,
but if we make an effort to bridge our differences rather than resigning
ourselves to animosity, we can move toward a more peaceful world over
Senior Advisor to the President
The White House ? 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW ? Washington, DC
20500 ? 202-456-1111
Stevens case closed, case against prosecutors open
By NEDRA PICKLER and MATT APUZZO, Associated Press Writers
WASHINGTON ? A federal judge dismissed the corruption conviction of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens on Tuesday and took the rare and serious step of opening a criminal investigation into prosecutors who mishandled the case. "In nearly 25 years on the bench, I've never seen anything approaching the mishandling and misconduct that I've seen in this case," U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said.
Sullivan appointed a special prosecutor to investigate Justice Department lawyers who repeatedly mishandled witnesses and withheld evidence from defense attorneys during the monthlong trial. Stevens was convicted in October of lying on Senate forms about home renovations and gifts he received from wealthy friends.
The case cost Stevens a Senate seat he had held for 40 years. Once the Senate's longest-serving Republican, he narrowly lost to Democrat Mark Begich shortly after the verdict. As Sullivan dismissed the case, Stevens turned to his friends and held up a fist in victory as his wife and daughters broke into loud sobs.
"Until recently, my faith in the criminal system, particularly the judicial system, was unwavering," Stevens told the court Tuesday, his first public comments since Attorney General Eric Holder announced he would drop the case. "But what some members of the prosecution team did nearly destroyed my faith. Their conduct had consequences for me that they will never realize and can never be reversed."
Sullivan appointed Washington attorney Henry Schuelke as a special prosecutor to investigate contempt and obstruction by the Justice Department team. Schuelke is a former prosecutor and veteran defense attorney who was tapped to oversee a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into influence-peddling allegations against former New York Sen. Alfonse D'Amato in 1989.
Sullivan said the matter was too serious to be left to an internal investigation by the department, which he said has dragged its feet looking into the misconduct. He criticized former Attorney General Michael Mukasey for not responding to complaints of misconduct in the case: "Shocking, but not surprising," Sullivan said.
In a criminal case, the prosecutors could face prison time and fines. The decision raises the question of whether the prosecutors, who include the top two officials in the department's public corruption unit, can remain on the job while under criminal investigation.
Subjects of the probe are Brenda Morris, the lead prosecutor in the Stevens case and the No. 2 official in the Public Integrity Section; Public Integrity prosecutors Nicholas Marsh and Edward Sullivan; Alaska federal prosecutors Joseph Bottini and James Goeke; and William Welch, who did not participate in the trial but who supervises the Public Integrity section.
Judge Sullivan repeatedly scolded prosecutors for their behavior during trial. After the verdict, an FBI whistleblower accused the team of misconduct and Sullivan held prosecutors in contempt for ignoring a court order. The prosecution team was replaced and, last week, new prosecutors acknowledged that key evidence was withheld from Stevens. That evidence included notes from an interview with the government's star witness, contractor Bill Allen.
On the witness stand, Allen said a mutual friend told him not to expect Stevens to pay for the home renovation project because Stevens only wanted the bill to cover himself. It was damaging testimony that made Stevens look like a politician scheming to cover his tracks while accepting freebies. But in the previously undisclosed meeting with prosecutors, Allen said he had no recollection of such a discussion. And he valued the renovation work at far less than what prosecutors alleged at the trial.
"I was sick in my stomach," attorney Brendan Sullivan said Tuesday, recalling seeing the new evidence for the first time. "How could they do this? How could they abandon their responsibilities? How could they take on a very decent man, Ted Stevens, who happened to be a United States senator, and do this?"
With the prosecution team now under the scrutiny Stevens felt for years, the 85-year-old smiled and posed for pictures with his family on the courthouse steps.
"I'm going to enjoy this wonderful day," he said.
END - Is a new day dawning in American justice? For the inside story stay tuned to www.twistedbadge.com
PRESIDENT OBAMA ORDERS INCREASED TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
By Mike Madigan
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was enacted by Congress in 1966 and went into effect in 1967, despite the opposition of President Lyndon Johnson. In 1974, after the Watergate Scandal and the resignation of President Richard Nixon, Congress passed significant amendments to FOIA which were vetoed by President Gerald Ford. Congress overrode this veto and the amendments became law. Since then, many government agencies have routinely withheld information from the public by claiming privileges to which they may not have been entitled. Such arbitrary refusals to comply with a lawful FOIA request may soon end if President Obama has his way.
Unlike many of his predecessors, our newly inaugurated Harvard trained President appears to embrace the Freedom of Information Act. On January 21, 2009 President Barack Obama issued two executive orders which are intended to "usher in a new era of open government". Quoting Justice Louis Brandeis in a memorandum to all executive agencies, he wrote "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants."
The mission of this website is to shine a bright light on the corrupt practices of those who use their positions to dishonor the badge. I applaud these actions by the President and look forward with renewed confidence to the increased accountability his administration promises.
I hope you will please take a moment to read these two short memos so you will understand what may well be a path to better government:
MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
SUBJECT: Freedom of Information Act
A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires
transparency. As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, "sunlight is said to be
the best of disinfectants." In our democracy, the Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA), which encourages accountability through
transparency, is the most prominent expression of a profound national
commitment to ensuring an open Government. At the heart of that
commitment is the idea that accountability is in the interest of the
Government and the citizenry alike.
The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a
clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness
prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential
merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure,
because errors and failures might be revealed, or because
of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based
on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials
at the expense of those they are supposed to serve. In responding to
requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies (agencies) should
act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such
agencies are servants of the public.
All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure,
in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA,
and to usher in a new era of open Government. The presumption of
disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.
The presumption of disclosure also means that agencies should
take affirmative steps to make information public. They should not wait
for specific requests from the public. All agencies should use modern
technology to inform citizens about what is known and done by their
Government. Disclosure should be timely.
I direct the Attorney General to issue new guidelines
governing the FOIA to the heads of executive departments and
agencies, reaffirming the commitment to accountability and
transparency, and to publish such guidelines in the Federal Register. In
doing so, the Attorney General should review FOIA reports produced by
the agencies under Executive Order 13392 of December 14, 2005. I also
direct the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to update
guidance to the agencies to increase and improve information
dissemination to the public, including through the use of new
technologies, and to publish such guidance in the Federal Register.
This memorandum does not create any right or benefit,
substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party
against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its
officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
The Director of the Office of Management and Budget is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.
MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
SUBJECT: Transparency and Open Government
My Administration is committed to
creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will
work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of
transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will
strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in
Government should be transparent.
Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for
citizens about what their Government is doing. Information maintained
by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will
take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose
information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and
use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies
to put information about their operations and decisions online and
readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies
should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest
use to the public.
Government should be participatory. Public
engagement enhances the Government's effectiveness and improves the
quality of its decisions. Knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and
public officials benefit from having access to that dispersed
knowledge. Executive departments and agencies should offer Americans
increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and to provide
their Government with the benefits of their collective expertise and
information. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit
public input on how we can increase and improve opportunities for
public participation in Government.
Government should be collaborative.
Collaboration actively engages Americans in the work of their
Government. Executive departments and agencies should use innovative
tools, methods, and systems to cooperate among themselves, across all levels of Government, and with nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals
in the private sector. Executive departments and agencies should
solicit public feedback to assess and improve their level of
collaboration and to identify new opportunities for cooperation.
I direct the Chief Technology
Officer, in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management
and Budget (OMB) and the Administrator of General Services, to
coordinate the development by appropriate executive departments and
agencies, within 120 days, of recommendations for an Open Government
Directive, to be issued by the Director of OMB, that instructs
executive departments and agencies to take specific actions
implementing the principles set forth in this memorandum. The
independent agencies should comply with the Open Government Directive.
This memorandum is not intended to,
and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural,
enforceable at law or in equity by a party against the United States,
its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees,
or agents, or any other person.
This memorandum shall be published in the Federal Register.
Bush commutes sentences of Two Ex Border Patrol Agents
By Steve Miller
With less than 24
hours left in his presidency, George W. Bush at last granted clemency to two
former Border Patrol agents, Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos. The two had
received lengthy prison sentences after being convicted of shooting a fleeing
Mexican drug dealer. Clemency for the two former agents was a major goal of USBC and attracted
considerable support among all advocates of tougher border security, who had
repeatedly argued that the agents were just doing their jobs.
A large number of senators and representatives, both Republicans and Democrats,
had supported clemency for the two men. A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in
2007 emphasized that the drug dealer had crossed the United States-Mexican
border illegally and drove a van containing 743 pounds of marijuana worth
almost $1 million.
The commutation granted by President Bush means the prison sentences of Ramos
and Compean, both from El Paso, Texas, will expire on March 20, but leaves
intact the three years of post-imprisonment probation and fines of $2,000 each.
Both had been in prison since early 2007. Much of that time was spent in
solitary confinement, which was said necessary to protect the former law
enforcement agents from other inmates.
Bush commuted the sentences before he received a recommendation from the
Justice Department's pardon attorney. "The Office of the Pardon Attorney
was still in the process of reviewing the clemency requests from Compean and
Ramos at the time these commutations were granted," a Justice official
In fact, the Justice Department was still reviewing the applications and had
not made a recommendation to the White House.
Ex-O.C. Sheriff Carona guilty on 1 count, cleared on 5
Carona, once called 'America's sheriff,' is convicted of witness
tampering but found innocent of other corruption charges. His wife and
mistress still face trial in the case.
By Christine Hanley
Former Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona was found guilty today
of one felony count of witness tampering and cleared of five other
charges in a public corruption case that ended the career of a lawman
once christened "America's sheriff" and hailed as a charismatic leader
with a bright political future. The verdict was reached at 10:50 a.m. and was read in court at 11:45 a.m. Jurors had deliberated for 32 hours over six days.
Carona was indicted in late 2007 on charges of conspiracy, mail fraud
and witness tampering. He resigned a year ago, during his third term,
and went on trial in October, becoming the highest-ranking
law-enforcement official to be prosecuted in Orange County.
Over about two months, the panel of 11 men and one woman heard
testimony from 58 witnesses and listened to hours of undercover tapes
that prosecutors said showed that Carona misused the powers of his
office in a furious pursuit of cash and gifts for himself and others,
including his wife, Deborah, and a longtime mistress, Debra Hoffman.
The two women are scheduled to stand trial next month.
During the federal court trial in Santa Ana, jurors heard tawdry
testimony about Carona's extramarital affair with Hoffman, a local
attorney, complete with tales of a love nest, getaways to Las Vegas and
a secret bank account set up as their future nest egg.
The prosecution's star witness was former Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl,
a wealthy Newport Beach businessman who made millions auctioning
government fleet cars. Haidl cooperated with prosecutors for nearly two
years and was in the witness box for 10 days.
As part of a plea agreement on separate tax charges, Haidl secretly
recorded three conversations with Carona in the summer of 2007, tapes
that were played repeatedly for jurors. In the recordings, Carona
sounds nothing like the polished orator who frequently spoke to church
groups and civic groups; the conversations are punctuated with
obscenities and racial slurs.
The tapes were crucial as prosecutors tried to prove that Carona
accepted $1,000 monthly cash bribes from Haidl, who testified that he
made the payments to both Carona and another assistant sheriff, George
Jaramillo. Haidl testified that he handed over the payments once or
twice in the sheriff's office but primarily in the kitchen of his
Newport Beach home. The money, he said, came from his private safe and
was stuffed in envelopes before it was delivered.
Haidl was unwavering in his testimony that he bought his way into the
Orange County Sheriff's Department by providing Carona a taste of his
wealth and luxury lifestyle. He said that, with Carona's blessing, he
laundered at least $30,000 into Carona's initial sheriff's campaign in
1998, paid for vacations and tailored suits, gave Carona a boat and
allowed him unlimited use of his own private yacht and planes. He also
said he gave Hoffman $65,000 at Carona's request, loaned her money and
helped her lease a Mercedes-Benz.
What he got in return, Haidl testified, was a virtual
get-out-of-jail-free card and the full power of the Sheriff's
Department. He said that, with Carona's knowledge, he appointed
relatives, friends and associates as reserve deputies who carried
official badges. Haidl also testified that Carona made sure his son got
preferential treatment in a drug case and exerted his influence --
though unsuccessfully -- in trying to have the teenager tried as a
juvenile in a high-profile sexual-assault case.
Defense attorneys Brian A. Sun and Jeff Rawitz, white-collar-crime
specialists, represented Carona free of charge. They struggled to line
up witnesses, some of whom they acknowledged were reluctant to appear
at the high-profile trial. Ultimately, 25 testified, including
philanthropist David Gelbaum and Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas. None
directly contradicted Haidl's serious accusations.
Sun and Rawitz were not afraid to play the tapes in defending Carona,
telling jurors that they actually showed that the former sheriff was
innocent. The lawyers also focused on attacking Haidl's credibility and
motivations. Among other things, they tried to show that Haidl was
upset because he felt Carona didn't do enough to help his son when he
was arrested in the sexual-assault case. Greg Haidl ended up being
tried as an adult, convicted and sentenced to six years in prison. The defense also tried to show that Donald Haidl was motivated by his
hope for leniency in his own tax case, that he actually never got any
favors from Carona, and that the money and other items Haidl gave to
Carona were mere gifts between close friends.
Jaramillo, meanwhile, was portrayed by the defense as the villain in
the case. Jaramillo was fired by Carona in 2004 and later prosecuted in
an unrelated case for perjury and misusing a county helicopter. He was
ultimately sentenced to a one-year jail term. The defense tried to show
that Jaramillo had been seeking revenge against his former boss ever
since. Jaramillo never testified for either side in Carona's case.