Posts Tagged ‘Brenda Morris’
Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

A former Alabama lobbyist pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring to bribe legislators in exchange for their favorable votes on a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution that would legalize electronic bingo, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer and Special Agent in Charge Timothy J. Fuhrman of the FBI’s mobile field office announced.

In October, Jarrod Massey of MANTA Governmental was one of 11 individuals — including the owner of the state’s largest casino and four state lawmakers — arrested as part of a public corruption probe.

Massey, along with Thomas E. Coker of Coker & Associates and Robert B. Geddie Jr. of Fine Geddie & Associates allegedly promoted the passage of the electronic bingo amendment on behalf of their clients by offering bribes and campaign contributions to several state lawmakers.

The probe, which the Justice Department first disclosed in April,  inflamed tensions between state Democrats and Republican-appointed U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, who prosecuted former Gov. Don Siegelman (D) and whose husband has close ties to Gov. Bob Riley (R), who strongly opposed the amendment.

Massey alleged in a letter to DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility that he was harassed by federal agents. He requested that Canary’s office be barred from participating in the investigation because of her husband’s political ties to Riley.

Massey pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery and five counts of federal program bribery. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy charge, while  each of the five bribery counts carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Massey is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 26, 2011. This spring, he is expected to testify for the prosecution when the other defendants come to trial. (One of Massey’s assistants pleaded guilty earlier to a conspiracy charge.)

“Jarrod Massey has admitted that he bribed members of the Alabama State Legislature in exchange for their votes in favor of electronic bingo gambling legislation,” Breuer said in a news release. “In a democracy, votes should be cast on the merits and in the best interests of constituents, and not influenced by bribes and the possibility of personal gain.  Mr. Massey has admitted his wrongdoing, and will now face the consequences of his corrupt conduct.”

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Deputy Chief Peter J. Ainsworth and trial attorneys Eric G. Olshan, Barak Cohen and E. Rae Woods of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section; Senior Litigation Counsel Brenda K. Morris of the Criminal Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Louis V. Franklin and Steve P. Feaga of the Middle District of Alabama.

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Bill Welch (© 2009 The Republican Company)

The former chief of the Justice Department’s public corruption unit, who stepped down amid a criminal investigation of his team’s handling of the prosecution of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, emerged Thursday as the lead prosecutor in a high-profile leak case.

William Welch II, who was chief of Public Integrity Section from 2007 to 2009, was named in a Justice Department news release announcing the indictment of Thomas Andrews Drake, a former National Security Agency official accused of providing classified information to a newspaper reporter.

Late last year, Welch returned to Springfield, Mass., where he had been an Assistant U.S. Attorney before joining the Public Integrity section as a deputy chief in 2006. He remains an employee of the Criminal Division with the title “Senior Litigation Counsel” but is based in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts. The Drake indictment was filed in Maryland on Wednesday with Welch’s signature.

The department recently selected Jack Smith, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, to replace Welch as section chief. Raymond Hulser, who will be Smith’s Principal Deputy, has led the section on an acting basis since Welch’s departure.

Welch’s former Principal Deputy in the Public Integrity Section, Brenda Morris, who is also under investigation, left Washington under similar circumstances. In September, she moved  to U.S. Attorney’s office in Atlanta for personal reasons but is still identified by the department as Senior Litigation Counsel in the Criminal Division.

She, too, recently surfaced in a high-profile public corruption investigation involving Alabama lawmakers and gambling legislation.

The cases are the first public indication that the prosecutors have continued to handle sensitive matters for the department since Stevens’ conviction on false statement charges was thrown out roughly one year ago. A court-appointed prosecutor is investigating whether the six lawyers involved in the prosecution violated criminal contempt statutes by withholding evidence favorable to Stevens’ defense.

The department’s Office of Professional Responsibility is conducting a separate investigation. Both probes are near completion, people familiar with them say.

Nicholas Marsh, another member of the Stevens trial team, has also been in the public eye since his transfer out of the Public Integrity Section last summer. As a lawyer in the department’s Office of International Affairs, Marsh was involved in requesting the extradition of Roman Polanski to face sentencing in the U.S. for having sex with a minor three decades ago.

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Monday, April 5th, 2010

Brenda Morris (Getty Images)

The lead prosecutor in the government’s botched case against former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens has resurfaced in  a controversial federal corruption investigation in the Middle District of Alabama.

Brenda Morris, a veteran trial lawyer in the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, was among a group of federal law enforcement officials who met with Alabama legislators on April 1 to inform them of the probe, which is related to a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would legalize electronic bingo.

The investigation has inflamed tensions between state Democrats and Republican-appointed U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, who prosecuted former Gov. Don Siegelman (D) and whose husband has close ties to Republican Gov. Bob Riley, who strongly opposes the amendment. Canary’s office and the Public Integrity Section are jointly investigating bingo proponents’ quest for votes in support of the bill, which the state Senate passed on March 30.

The state House of Representatives has yet to vote. Alabama Democrats sent a letter to Lanny Breuer, the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, charging that the “unprecedented” disclosure of the investigation was meant to have a “chilling effect” on state legislators who otherwise might have voted for the legislation.

Lobbyist Jarrod Massey, who represented a bingo casino owner, alleged in a letter to the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility that he was harassed by federal agents, and Massey requested that Canary’s office be barred from participating in the investigation because of her husband’s political ties to Riley.

At the April 2 meeting in which the probe was disclosed, Morris and Peter Ainsworth, senior deputy chief in the Public Integrity Section, represented the Criminal Division. Canary’s Criminal Chief, Louis Franklin, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Feaga were also present, according to an April 2 letter from C.E. Higginbotham, FBI supervisory senior resident agent, to the Alabama Department of Public Safety.

FBI Special Agent Angela Tobon in Mobile told The Birmingham News last week that the Public Integrity Section was leading the investigation.

The letter is the first sign that Morris has continued investigating corruption since April 2009, when a federal judge appointed a special prosecutor to investigate whether she and five other Justice Department lawyers violated criminal contempt statutes in their handling of evidence in the Stevens case. (That probe, as well as a separate investigation by OPR, has nearly run its course, as Main Justice reported here Friday.)

Morris was principal deputy chief of the Public Integrity Section until September, when she moved to Atlanta for personal reasons. She remains an employee of the Criminal Division — her title is senior litigation counsel — but is based in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia.

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Henry F. Schuelke III is nearing the end of his investigation of six Justice Department lawyers involved in the botched 2008 prosecution of then-Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), The Washington Post reports.

Judge Emmet Sullivan, of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, tapped Schuelke in April to determine whether the lawyers intentionally withheld material from Stevens’ defense. According to the Post, Schuelke has scheduled interviews with the six lawyers.

The interviews are expected to wrap up in January. Scheulke has already reviewed thousands of documents related to the case, which Attorney General Eric Holder moved to dismiss after learning of prosecutors’ lapses in sharing information and witness statements with the defense.

Earlier this week, Inspector General Glenn Fine said restoring confidence in the department in the wake of the Stevens case was among the department’s highest priorities. The Stevens debacle has prompted a series of reforms, including additional training for prosecutors.

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

The Justice Department on Thursday published the job announcement for Public Integrity Section chief, touching off a nationwide search for the next leader of the Criminal Division’s corruption-fighting squad.

William Welch II, who had been chief since early 2007, stepped down last Friday. He returned to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts, where he was an Assistant U.S. Attorney for more than a decade. Raymond Hulser is serving as acting chief of PIN.

Welch is under criminal investigation for his supervisory role in the public corruption case against then-Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). The Justice Department moved to dismiss the case earlier this year, after prosecution errors came to light. Brenda Morris, the former principal deputy chief, moved to Atlanta in September for personal reasons. Morris, who is also under investigation, remains a trial lawyer in the Public Integrity Section.

According to the announcement, the chief’s job fetches between $117,787 and  $177,000 a year. The application period closes on Dec. 2.

Here’s the job summary:

The incumbent serves as the Chief of the Public Integrity Section, reporting under the general supervision of the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division and direct supervision of a Deputy Assistant Attorney General. The Chief provides leadership to the section within the Criminal Division that is responsible for overseeing the federal effort to combat abuses of the public trust by government officials.
The Public Integrity Section investigates, and, when warranted, prosecutes, corruption offenses involving public officials at all levels of government, election crimes, and campaign finance offenses. The Section leads the enforcement and regulatory communities in a coordinated, nationwide response to reduce public corruption across the country; develops and supports effective corruption reducing strategies and programs that can be deployed around the country; drives policy, legislative and regulatory reform; provides expert counsel in enforcement matters; and effectively collaborates with the 93 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and with federal, state, and local law enforcement partners. The Section develops law enforcement networks and relationships, and by doing so, leads a dynamic, nationwide process that brings continuous improvement to the integrity of government.

The incumbent serves as the Chief of the Public Integrity Section, reporting under the general supervision of the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division and direct supervision of a Deputy Assistant Attorney General. The Chief provides leadership to the section within the Criminal Division that is responsible for overseeing the federal effort to combat abuses of the public trust by government officials.

The Public Integrity Section investigates, and, when warranted, prosecutes, corruption offenses involving public officials at all levels of government, election crimes, and campaign finance offenses. The Section leads the enforcement and regulatory communities in a coordinated, nationwide response to reduce public corruption across the country; develops and supports effective corruption reducing strategies and programs that can be deployed around the country; drives policy, legislative and regulatory reform; provides expert counsel in enforcement matters; and effectively collaborates with the 93 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and with federal, state, and local law enforcement partners. The Section develops law enforcement networks and relationships, and by doing so, leads a dynamic, nationwide process that brings continuous improvement to the integrity of government.

Any takers?




Friday, September 25th, 2009

Brenda Morris, who is under criminal investigation for her role as lead prosecutor in the dismissed case against former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, has left Washington and her position as Principal Deputy Chief of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, according to department officials.

Brenda Morris is under criminal contempt investigation for her role in the dismissed Sen. Ted Stevens case. (Getty Images)

Brenda Morris is under investigation for her role in the dismissed Sen. Ted Stevens case. (Getty Images)

Morris, who remains a senior trial lawyer in the section, moved to Atlanta earlier this week for personal reasons, according to a person familiar with the situation. She began working out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia on Sept. 21 and will be based there indefinitely.

“The department asked us to give her some space. We had an office, and we said, ‘Fine,’” said Gentry Shelnutt, the Atlanta office’s criminal chief.

The move represented a mutual decision by Morris and department leadership, one person familiar with the situation said. The parties agreed that Morris, who has been a Public Integrity prosecutor since 1991, and Principal Deputy Chief since 2006, could not carry out her managerial responsibilities from afar, so she shed her leadership role, this person said. The Principal Deputy position has not been filled.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said Morris would continue to handle a full caseload. ”Brenda is a valued senior trial attorney in the Criminal Division, and she continues to work on complex litigation matters across the country for the division,” said Laura Sweeney.

Morris came to the Stevens case late. The Criminal Division’s top brass assigned her as lead prosecutor days before the Alaska Republican was indicted in July 2008  on charges he’d failed to reveal on his Senate financial disclosure forms more than a quarter million dollars worth of gifts and home improvements from a political supporter.

Although Morris is widely admired for her trial skills, her last-minute appointment to the prosecution team grated on Public Integrity Section Chief William Welch II and the prosecutors who built the case, including then-Public Integrity trial attorneys Nicholas Marsh and Edward Sullivan, people familiar with the case have said. But their objections were overruled. Matthew Friedrich, the head of the Criminal Division at the time, and Rita Glavin, his principal deputy, wanted a veteran prosecutor first-chairing the trial, people familiar with their thinking have said.

In June, Marsh and Sullivan were transferred from Public Integrity to the Office of International Affairs, an assignment that keeps them out of the courtroom while Schuelke conducts his probe.

The longest-serving Republican in the Senate and a powerful member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Stevens denied the charges. With a re-election battle looming, he moved for a speedy trial in hopes of clearing his name before voters went to the polls.

But last October, a jury in the District of Columbia convicted Stevens, then 85 years old, on seven counts. He  lost re-election last November to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D) by fewer than 4,000 votes, or a 1.24% margin.

What appeared to be a major victory for the department soon turned into a high-profile embarrassment. A whistle blower, FBI Agent Chad Joy, accused the prosecution of mishandling evidence in this complaint. The trial judge, Emmet Sullivan, blasted Morris and other members of the prosecution team in a series of post-trial hearings and orders. In April, Attorney General Eric Holder moved to dismiss the case, concluding that prosecutors improperly withheld evidence favorable to Stevens.

After granting Holder’s request and voiding Stevens’s conviction, Sullivan appointed an outside counselHenry Shuelke III of Janis, Schuelke & Wechsler, to investigate Morris and her team for possible criminal contempt of court. PIN Chief Welch is also under investigation in the criminal contempt case. A parallel probe by the DOJ’s internal ethics watchdog, the Office of Professional Responsibility, is also underway.

Critics have said the team lost valuable time acquainting Morris with a case that sped from indictment to trial in about two months. But supporters say Morris added ballast  – despite the outcome — and Judge Sullivan publicly hailed her performance during closing arguments as among the best he’s ever seen.

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Justice Department lawyers last week chose not to withdraw corruption charges against two former Alaska lawmakers who argue that their convictions were the result of Brady violations, The Associated Press reported.

Prosecutors and attorneys for ex-state representatives Pete Kott and Victor Kohring couldn’t reach an agreement on how to move forward on the cases, according to court documents here and here. Now, it’s up to U.S. District Judge John Sedwick to decide in the next year whether they should get new trials.

DOJ lawyers told the court in June that they had discovered documents that should have been disclosed to defense counsel prior to trial. The former lawmakers are not serving prison time as they wait for the judge to rule in their cases.

Former DOJ Public Integrity Section prosecutors Nicholas Marsh and Edward Sullivan and Alaska-based assistant U.S. attorneys Joseph Bottini and James Goeke prosecuted the cases. The four lawyers, along with Public Integrity Section chief William Welch II and his Principal Deputy Chief Brenda Morris, are under criminal investigation for their roles in the bungled prosecution of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens.

Marsh and Sullivan were moved out of the Public Integrity Section to the Office of International Affairs earlier this summer. The other four prosecutors remain in their posts.

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

We’ve seen the first signs of life in Henry Schuelke III’s criminal investigation of the prosecutors who bungled the government’s case against former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens.

Henry F. Schuelke III (photo by Susana Raab)

Henry F. Schuelke III (photo by Susana Raab)

In a filing this afternoon, Schuelke asked U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan for the authority to take deposition testimony under oath and, if necessary, issue subpoenas to compel such testimony, as well as books, papers, documents, data or other materials that may be relevant to the investigation.

The filing asks permission to issue subpoenas to Public Integrity Section Chief William Welch II; his deputy, Brenda Morris; former PIN prosecutors Edward Sullivan and Nicholas Marsh (now lawyers in the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs); Alaska-based Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph Bottini and James Goeke; FBI Special Agent Mary Beth Kepner; Bill Allen, the government’s star witness in the case; and his lawyer, Robert Bundy, of counsel at Dorsey& Whitney.

An FBI whistleblower accused Kepner, the lead agent on the case, of having an inappropriate relationship with Allen.

Sullivan promptly granted the order. Read it here.

The motion may suggest the next phase in Schuelke’s investigation, assuming the Justice Department has been cooperating fully with his requests for case materials. Sullivan dismissed the indictment in April and appointed Schuelke to handle the investigation after the government failed on numerous occasions to turn over materials that were potentially favorable to Stevens’ defense team.

The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility is also probing the Stevens case, and the Criminal Division is conducting a larger review of other Alaska-related public corruption prosecutions.

Click here for our recent profile of Schuelke.

Friday, July 17th, 2009

It would have been hard to add more drama to the April 7 hearing in the Ted Stevens case, which began with a humiliating admission from the government of prosecution errors and ended with dismissal of all charges against the former senator from Alaska.

But Judge Emmet Sullivan managed to pull one last rabbit out of the hat. As the hearing ended, he announced a criminal contempt investigation of the Stevens prosecutors. And a lawyer named Henry F. Schuelke III would lead it, Sullivan said.

Henry F. Schuelke III (photo by Susana Raab)

Henry F. Schuelke III (photo by Susana Raab)

Well-known and broadly admired among Washington’s fraternity of top-tier lawyers, “Hank,” as Schuelke prefers to be called, has cultivated a reputation for discretion. It’s a trait that has served the white collar criminal defense and investigations lawyer well over the years, in matters involving U.S. senators, judges, law firms, and lawyers.

In making the Schuelke appointment, Sullivan essentially signaled an end to the phase of public flagellation of the Stevens prosecutors. Schuelke would take on the delicate task of figuring out how the case went so wrong – and whether anyone had intentionally misled the defense.

Schuelke is the ultimate behind-the-scenes Washington counselor, and much of his work stops where the public record begins. In the course of a 41-year career, he has represented scores of high-profile clients, from President Jimmy Carter’s budget director, Bert Lance, to former Enron Corp. Treasurer Ben Glisan Jr.

After the April 7 hearing, Sullivan told me he received “countless calls, emails and comments” from D.C. judges and lawyers. They used words like “outstanding,” “perfect choice,” and “a home run,” to describe Schuelke’s appointment.

The federal judiciary is paying Schuelke $200 an hour to investigate the Stevens prosecutors, a fraction of the rate he would charge a private client. (His friends put him in the $750 to $1,000 range.) The lawyers representing the six prosecutors under investigation are also receiving $200 an hour. The Justice Department is footing their fees as well.

So for the lawyers involved, the case obviously isn’t about money. But it gives them something more valuable: the ability to tell clients they were in the thick of a sensitive investigation that could have consequences far beyond the Stevens case.

Broader Review Possible

A criminal prosecution would likely gut the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section of its top officials and add fuel to a broader review of PIN’s recent work.

William Welch II, the section’s chief, and his deputy, Brenda Morris, are both subjects of Sullivan’s criminal contempt investigation. They remain in supervisory roles, according to the Justice Department.

PIN chief Bill Welch (© 2009 The Republican Company)

PIN chief Bill Welch (© 2009 The Republican Company)

But two other prosecutors on the Stevens team, Nicholas Marsh and Edward Sullivan, were recently transferred out of the section to the Office of International Affairs, a department redoubt that offers scant opportunity for court appearances. Alaska-based Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph Bottini and James Goeke, who are also under investigation, have continued in their current positions.

The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsiblity is conducting a parallel investigation, and the Criminal Divison is reviewing other Alaska-related corruption prosecutions, after Justice lawyers exhumed additional documents that were withheld from two convicted Alaska state representatives.

People familiar with the criminal contempt investigation say Schuelke is moving at a steady pace, culling thousands of documents from the Justice Department, though he’s had little contact with the prosecutors’  lawyers — an enviable clutch that includes Hogan & Hartson’s Chuck Rosenberg, the former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; O’Melveny & Myers partner Ken Wainstein, a former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia; and Patton Boggs partner Robert Luskin, former special counsel to DOJ’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Section.

Schuelke’s progress is difficult to track. His friends and colleagues told me he never discusses cases with them, unless they’re involved, and he rarely talks to reporters on the record. (He declined to be interviewed for this story.) His law partner of 30 years, N. Richard Janis, recalled his time working with Schuelke as counsel to the Senate ethics committee. Beginning in the late 1980s, the two lawyers spent 20 months investigating influence-peddling accusations against then-New York Sen. Alfonso D’Amato (R).

“There was never a leak of anything we did. We handled it in a very quiet and discreet manner,” Janis said. “If I were to draw a parallel, Hank’s view of his current assignment is very much the same.”

Throughout his career, Schuelke has seasoned his private practice with work for various bodies that police professional standards and ethics: the Senate ethics committee, the Judicial Tenure and Disabilities Commission, the Committee on Grievances for U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Morgan Lewis & Bockius partner Biz Van Gelder, who has known Schuelke for 20 years, called his ethics work “the functional equivalent of his pro bono.” She said, “He’s very well-versed in matters of professional responsibility and very well-versed in Brady and Giglio. He’s been doing this stuff for years” — all of it behind closed doors.

Van Gelder went on, “There are trial attorneys and there are counselors, and I think he’s always had more of an  interest in being a counselor.”

Colorful Hobbies

His discretion in his professional life contrasts starkly with the flamboyant playthings of his personal life. He owns five motorcycles (two Harley-Davidsons, one of which his wife rides; a 1970 Norton Commando; a 1977 BMW R100s; and a Ducati Sport 1000). He drives a 1998 Porche 911 to his Dupont Circle office. And he keeps a 40-foot Bertram Sportfisherman and a Boston-Whaler Runabout at his home on the Chesapeake Bay.porsche-911

The collection is at least a partial measure of his success, and the success of his seven-lawyer firm, Janis, Schuelke & Wechsler. The firm’s Web site is proudly unglamorous, a relic of 1990s-era design. There are no numbers for any media-relations specialists, no interactive graphics, no photos of the lawyers. The offices are located in an historic, brownstone row house on a leafy stretch of Massachusetts Avenue. The quaintness belies a steady flow of high-profile clients and ironclad relationships with larger firms around the city.

When I asked Janis to talk about some of the Schuelke’s triumphs, he paused. “One of the problems is that some of our best achievements nobody knows about.”

We All Respect Mr. Schuelke

Boards of directors, law firms and lawyers have relied on Schuelke and his colleagues. When the Jack Abramoff scandal exploded in 2004, Greenberg Traurig, the disgraced lobbyist’s firm, hired Schuelke to conduct the internal investigation.  The work was highlighted recently in the case of one of Abramoff’s former associates, Kevin Ring, who is accused of lavishing lawmakers with free gifts, trips and meals, in return for helping his clients. The Public Integrity Section is handling the case, and Schuelke is a government witness. Welch, who has supervised the section since 2006, partially recused himself from the case after Ring’s defense lawyers raised questions about a potential conflict.

The incident underscored the close-knit nature of Washington’s legal community. Ring’s lawyer, Miller & Chevalier partner Richard Hibey, is one of Schuelke’s close friends.

“We’re proceeding on good faith on this, I hope you understand, especially given the relationships outside the courtroom you and I both enjoy,” Hibey told U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle, at an April 20 hearing in Washington.

“Right,” Huvelle said. “We all respect Mr. Schuelke.”

Grand Christmas Parties

Schuelke’s firm is known for its grand Christmas parties. For a few hours each year, the row house is thronged with the District’s top lawyers, judges and prosecutors. (“Everybody goes. It’s like peace on earth and goodwill to all men,” Van Gelder said.) This is not an idle fact, but a reflection of the firm’s business model: Schuelke and his partners are fed much of their work from other lawyers.

Law offices of Janis, Schuelke & Wechsler (courtesy of the firm)

Law offices of Janis, Schuelke & Wechsler (courtesy of the firm)

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom partner Robert Bennett said he regularly refers clients to Schuelke. The two have known each other for more than 20 years, and it was Bennett who recommended Schuelke for the special counsel position on the Commission for Judicial Disabilities and Tenure. (Bennett held the job before Shuelke.)

“When I have a need, I certainly recommend him,” Bennett said.

Crowell & Moring partner Rick Beizer, who has known Schuelke for nearly 40 years, said he often looked to Schuelke when he was representing a corporate client and needed counsel for a high-level executive.

“My first choice was always Hank. Sooner or later, he demonstrated his talents to my partners who work on these types of cases, and he became their go-to guy,” Beizer said.

Sparring with Edward Bennett Williams

Schuelke grew up in Maplewood, N.J., the second-oldest among three sisters. His father, Henry Schuelke Jr., was an underwriter for Metropolitan Life Insurance in New York. His mother, Eleanor Carton Schuelke, was a dietician, and later taught home economics and family living at a high school in West Orange, N.J. Shuelke’s older sister, Margie Schuelke, who still lives in Maplewood, said her brother was an easy-going  kid — the kind who made friends easily, brought home stray dogs and generally stayed out of trouble.

His sister described Schuelke as a devoted husband and father of two who dotes on his four grandchildren, one of whom was born earlier this month. He’s a hard worker, Margie Schuelke said, “but he knows how to enjoy himself, and he enjoys nothing more than his family.”

Schuelke attended St. Peter’s College in Jersey City, where he majored in English and was editor of the yearbook. He was a strong student, and the family was proud, but not surprised, when he was accepted into Villanova University School of Law.

After he graduated in 1967, Schuelke joined the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He spent nearly four years as a JAG officer, including three as a military judge, before joining the U.S. attorney’s office in 1972. Beizer, who is also a former assistant U.S. attorney, said Schuelke established himself early on as one of the office’s top prosecutors.

“He got it right away. He has an uncanny sense for getting to the heart of any matter,” Beizer said. “I’m one of those guys who has to read every document and mull it around six ways to Sunday. I’m not sure how the hell he does it, but if he could patent it, I’d buy it.”

Schuelke was eventually elevated to executive assistant U.S. attorney, the third-in-command, in the late 1970s. From that perch, he was involved in every major case the office handled.

In 1978, Schuelke and Beizer famously squared off against Edward Bennett Williams, the founder of Williams & Connolly, and two of his proteges, Gregory Craig (now President Obama’s White House Counsel) and David Kendall (President Bill Clinton’s personal lawyer during impeachment). Williams and his colleagues were defending developer Dominic Antonelli Jr., the chairman of Parking Management Inc. (PMI), against charges that he bribed a D.C. public official in exchange for building leases.

The young prosecutors won at trial in Washington, but the verdict was ultimately thrown out on the grounds of juror bias. The case was re-tried in Philadelphia, and Williams won. Schuelke’s family drove down from North Jersey to watch the show. They were impressed with Schuelke’s pluck, as was Williams, an icon then as now.

The scene after the verdict is recounted in Evan Thomas‘ biography of Williams, The Man to See. When congratulated after the trial, Williams gave a desultory answer. “Victory?” he said. “All we did was split a double-header.”

That was the last case Schuelke tried as a federal prosecutor before founding his firm, in 1979, with Janis and Lawrence Wechsler, another veteran of the District’s U.S. attorney’s office. Schuelke’s first client as a private lawyer was Carter’s budget director, Lance, who was accused of misusing bank funds. Lance was acquitted of most of the counts and the jury deadlocked on the balance. The Justice Department elected to drop the case.

He has since represented several other high-profile clients, including White House Secretary Carolyn Huber, who found Hillary Clinton’s Rose Law firm billing records during the Whitewater investigation; Tyson Foods lobbyist Jack Williams; and former Time reporter Viveca Novak, in connection with the CIA leak case.

And then there are the ones we’ll never know about.

Sullivan’s Deliberations

Now, Schuelke is again at the invisible center of another high-profile probe.

Hank Schuelke in his Dupont Circle law offices. (photo by Susana Raab for Main Justice)

Hank Schuelke in his Dupont Circle law offices. (photo by Susana Raab for Main Justice)

During the six-day gap between the Justice Department’s April 1 motion to dismiss the Stevens case and the April 7 hearing at which Sullivan granted it, the judge made two decisions. The first was hard. The second was easy.

Sullivan, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, pored over the record, and after “much consideration,” resolved to appoint an outside counsel to investigate the six prosecutors for criminal contempt, according to an e-mail from his chambers in response to a list of questions. The government’s numerous failures to turn over potentially exculpatory documents to Stevens’ lawyers had driven the case off a cliff. But the wreckage deserved further inspection, the judge determined.

After the hard decision was made, Sullivan moved on to the easy choice: Hiring Schuelke to lead the probe.

Sullivan knew Schuelke from their days serving together on the D.C. Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure. The judge was a member of the commission from 1996 to 2001. Since 1982, Schuelke has been the commission’s special counsel, a low-profile but powerful position, the duties of which include investigating hundreds of  allegations of judicial misconduct each year and gauging judges’ fitness to serve on the local bench. (Attorney General Eric Holder was also a member of the commission while a partner at Covington & Burling.)

Sullivan said he was swayed by Schuelke’s ability to handle sensitive matters with “great skill, intelligence, discretion, honesty, and fairness.” The judge also sought someone with prosecutorial experience — Schuelke’s seven years as an assistant U.S. attorney in the District fit the bill. Sullivan also cited Schuelke’s service as a military judge and as special counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Ethics.

Sullivan told me in an interview in his courtroom last month that he has received calls from judges around the country, bemoaning the government’s discovery practices and supporting his efforts to reform them. Some, such as Chief Judge Mark Wolf of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, have joined Sullivan in publicly scolding the department for violating discovery obligations.

Sullivan has petitioned the federal judiciary’s policy-making body to stiffen rules governing discovery practices. Failing that, he said he would push his court to adopt local rules, and as a last resort, he said he is considering issuing standing orders in each of his cases to ensure timely production.

Holder, Sullivan added, deserves much praise for dropping the Stevens case and requiring additional evidence training for Justice Department lawyers.

No doubt Hank Schuelke will have some advice to offer at some point – but he’ll do it with total discretion, of course.

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Public Integrity Section chief William Welch II has been taken off the case of a Jack Abramoff-related defendant — two months after lawyers for indicted ex-lobbyist Kevin Ring first complained about Welch’s continued invovlement in their case. But Welch remains supervisor of the troubled public corruption unit, according to a Department of Justice spokeswoman.

A June 15 government filing in the Ring case  lists Ray Hulser as ”acting” chief of the Public Integrity Section. Read the filing here. Justice spokeswoman Laura Sweeney told Main Justice that Hulser’s acting status is for the Ring case “specifically.” She declined to comment further about personnel matters, other than to say both Welch and his deputy, Brenda Morris, remain chief and deputy chief of PIN.

Welch, Morris and other DOJ lawyers are under criminal investigation by a court for their handling of evidence in the case of ex-Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens. A parallel Office of Professional Responsibility probe is also underway.

The section has been in turmoil since U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan threw out the charges against Stevens in April and ordered the criminal investigation of the prosecutors. But since then, it’s been unclear how DOJ is handling this sticky personnel situation. Two of the PIN lawyers — Nick Marsh and Edward Sullivan — were recently transfered to the department’s Office of International Affairs, an out-of-the-way spot where they won’t be asked to appear in court. See our story about the transfers here.

Then, The Washington Post published this story today suggesting Welch and Morris were removed from their supervisory roles at PIN. Specifically, the Post reported that Welch and Morris “have been moved into other roles following the transfer this month of two of their subordinates, who worked on lengthy investigations of Alaskan influence peddling, according to four sources.”

The likely explanation is that Welch and Morris have been relieved of day-to-day supervisory duties but not their titles, said Sidley Austin partner Thomas Green.

“This is not an uncommon solution to a situation like this. They are temporarily removing him from the supervisory chain of command because he’s been tainted by the Stevens case,” said Green, a former federal prosecutor who manages the firm’s white collar defense practice group. “Bill Welch’s title is still chief of the Public Integrity Section. Whether it’s going to remain that way or not, we all will have to wait and see.”

Ring is a former associate of Abramoff who faces trial in September on public corruption charges. We here at Main Justice have covered the Ring case closely — because it’s so bizarrely entwined with many of the key players in the Stevens debacle.

Welch, of course, headed PIN during the Abramoff probes as well as the massive Alaska public corruption investigation that snared Stevens. In April, Judge Sullivan dismissed the Stevens case and voided his conviction, then ordered a criminal investigation into Welch and other DOJ lawyers for their mishandling of evidence.

Here’s where it gets weird: The special investigator hired by Sullivan to investigate Welch is Washington lawyer Hank Schuelke. Schuelke is also a key witness for the case Welch helped build against Kevin Ring. Ring has alleged that Welch committed the same kind of Brady violations in his case as Schuelke is investigating him for in the Stevens debacle.

In April, Ring’s lawyers asked Judge Ellen Huvelle in Washington to remedy the situation. But Huvelle said she didn’t see a problem with the Schuelke-Welch situation. The judge did muse in open court that the DOJ should somehow “wall” Welch off from Ring’s case. But when we asked the DOJ how they planned to do this, the DOJ didn’t have any answers, other than to say Welch wouldn’t appear in court. Read our story here.

Then on June 8,  Main Justice published this story describing a court filing in which Ring alleges that Welch improperly redacted information during discovery. From the transcript of the April hearing before Judge Huvelle, it seems apparent that Welch is alleged to have improperly redacted an FBI 302 witness interview summary with none other than the infamous Abramoff himself.

Read our previous coverage of the Ring-Welch issues here, here and here. The news of Welch’s removal from the Ring case was first reported by BNA’s Daily Report for Executives, according to the AP.

Mary Jacoby contributed to this report.

jpalazzolo@mainjustice.com, mjacoby@mainjustice.com