The U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York took their independence seriously and asked tough questions about their role in the spy exchange between the United States and Russia, the district’s top prosecutor said.
“We took seriously our responsibility to be independent thinkers and responsible enforcers of justice,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told The New York Times. “It’s very easy for me to say that, because we agreed with what was going on, but it’s important for people to know that we thought about that.”
Bharara and two of his aides monitored the arrests from an FBI command center, he said. He sent prosecutors to courtrooms in Alexandria, Va., and Boston to handle the arraignments, while the lead prosecutor on the case and co-chief of the office’s terrorism unit, Michael Farbiarz, oversaw the efforts in Manhattan.
Bharara said he called an emergency meeting on June 29 when he was told the idea of a swap was serious. Farbiarz, his deputy Boyd M. Johnson III and Criminal Division Chief Richard B. Zabel met in his office and conducted a review of the earlier spy swap cases. Bharara said the review was helpful because it indicated that his office was not “in uncharted territory.”
“If something would have violated our principles,” he said, “we would have objected.” Bharara said he felt strongly that the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office and the Justice Department “should never be an extension of or a rubber stamp for the White House.”
The dialogue over whether they were doing the right thing continued as two other Assistant U.S. Attorneys, Jason B. Smith and Glen Kopp, worked to secure plea deals, Bharara said.
Read The New York Times story here.
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The U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York collected $570 million in forfeitures between Oct. 1, 2008, and Sept. 30, 2009, The New York Daily News reported Sunday. The breakdown includes $450 million from criminal forfeitures and $120 million in civil forfeitures. The total amount is more than 11 times SDNY’s annual budget.
Under federal forfeiture laws, federal prosecutors can seize personal items that were were stolen or bought with tainted cash. After the items are seized, they are auctioned off to compensate victims and fund new probes.
“They think they can do some time, get out and then be able to pull out their ill-gotten gains and keep it,” SDNY U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. “Our answer to them is: ‘No, you can’t.’”
“For the victims, we are often all they have, so we are careful not just to get the bad guy, but to get their recompense,” he added.
Over the past five fiscal years, a seven-member asset forfeiture team in the Manhattan-based office, led by Sharon Cohen Levin, has collected more than $2 billion in forfeitures, more than any other team nationwide, the newspaper reported. “They have collected more than the GNP of a country like Belize,” Bharara added.
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Although Attorney General Eric Holder has reconsidered his decision to hold the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Manhattan, some continue to voice support for the location, The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
In November, Holder announced that KSM, the self-described “mastermind” of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, would be tried in the Southern District of New York. The office is headed by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Holder quickly came under fire for the decision and in February decided to move the trial out of SDNY.
One of the locations under consideration from the start was the Eastern District of Virginia, which hosted the spring 2006 trial of Zacarias Moussaoui. The Alexandria, Va.,-based district is the only place to date that has held a Sept. 11, 2001-related trial. The LA Times reports that as Justice Department officials, aided by Holder and President Barack Obama, continue to look for a trial location, they remain steadfast that the trial should be conducted where one of the attacks occurred, meaning New York City, Northern Virginia or western Pennsylvania.
However, those outside the DOJ remain divided on where the trial should take place.
Ron Kuby, a New York City criminal defense lawyer who has represented terrorism defendants for three decades said, KSM “has said repeatedly and publicly, ‘I did it. Kill me.’ And the government has said repeatedly and publicly, ‘He did it. We want to kill him.’” He added, “It sounds like a plan. Not a lot can go wrong.”
However, Larry Homenick and Tina Rowe — the two top U.S. marshals who coordinated security in Denver for the 1997 trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh — said the world has dramatically changed in the past decade. When McVeigh was tried, the concern was that anti-government militias might create trouble. Now, the concerns include suicide bombers and airplane attacks, the U.S. marshals told The LA Times.
Both said the trial should not take place in the crowded borough of Manhattan. “That case in New York would be like the McVeigh trial on steroids,” Homenick told The LA Times.
Another concern is that having New York host the trial would make the city a target for another attack. But Bernard V. Kleinman, a lawyer who represented Ramzi Ahmed Yousef in the 1993 World Trade Center attack disagrees. “New York has been a target for years,” he told The LA Times. Kleinman added that KSM and his co-defendants might plead guilty, which would mean short sentencing hearings. He also told The LA Times, ” It’s important they hold the trial right there” because of what happened there.
Defense attorney James J. Brosnahan — who represented John Walker Lindh who was tried in Alexandria, Va., for fighting with the Taliban — told The LA Times neither he nor his client felt they were in any danger. “Courts today are built to deal with all kinds of problems.”
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Allan Lengel, over at ticklethewire.com, brought to our attention this news release from the office of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). Yesterday, Schumer announced he is recommending former federal prosecutor Daniel Alter for a judgeship on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Alter, who was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District, “is a history-making pick, as he is the first openly gay male nominated for the federal court in American history,” Schumer’s release said. (According to our friends over at Above the Law, Judge Deborah Batts, also of New York’s Southern District, is the only openly lesbian federal judge.)
Alter (Columbia, Yale Law) spent six years as an AUSA, specializing in First Amendment matters. He is also an expert on terrorism and national security, having worked on al-Qaeda cases and on the prosecution team for the African embassy bombing trials, the release said.
Here’s what Schumer had to say about Alter:
His outstanding leadership skills, his commitment to justice, and his extensive experience make him an exceptional choice for a position on the federal bench. I’m proud to nominate Daniel Alter. Period. But I am equally proud to nominate him because he is a history-maker who will be the first openly gay male judge in American history.
It should be noted that President Obama nominated an openly lesbian magistrate judge — Marisa Demeo – for a spot on the D.C. Superior Court. (Judges on the District’s local bench are nominated by the president and require Senate confirmation.)
The National Law Journal’s David Ingram reported here [registration required] that Demeo’s nomination has dragged on eight months — longer than any of Obama’s other judicial picks, including his most controversial nominees for federal appellate courts.
Typically, Superior Court nominations chug through the Senate, but Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) told Ingram that he is holding up Demeo’s nomination in his role as chairman of the Senate Steering Committee, a caucus of conservative senators.
“A number of Republicans had concerns and asked me, as chairman of Steering, to ask for limited debate and a recorded vote because of a history of very leftist activism,” he said.
DeMint declined to discuss specific criticisms when pressed by Ingram.
“There are just a number of things that don’t look like a fair and balanced approach that you’d like in a judge,” he said.
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Former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Robert Morgenthau is coming out of retirement to join the New York-based law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, Bloomberg reports. Morgenthau, who is 90 years old, will be of counsel, a non-partner position.
Morgenthau was nominated by President Kennedy to be the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he served from 1961 to 1969. In 1962 he became the Democratic nominee for governor of New York but was defeated by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller.
He resigned as SDNY’s top federal prosecutor nearly a year after President Nixon took office. He ran for the Democratic nomination for governor again in 1970 but withdrew from the race before the primary.
In 1974 he was elected district attorney of New York County (Manhattan) in a special election following the death of Frank Hogan. He served as the D.A. from Jan. 1, 1975 to Dec. 31, 2009. Early in 2009 he announced he would not seek re-election.
Of his new job, Morgenthau said in a statement obtained by Bloomberg, “I have long admired Wachtell Lipton for not only its outstanding reputation as a law firm, but also for its devotion to and support for advancing the law and the legal profession, education and service to New York and the nation.”
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Richard S. Hartunian (Georgetown University, Albany Law School) is nominated to replace Glenn T. Suddaby as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York. Suddaby resigned in 2008 when he became a federal judge. Hartunian is currently the interim U.S. Attorney.
- Born in Evanston, Ill., in 1961.
- Has worked in the district’s U.S. Attorney’s office since 1993. Has served as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney. Is currently an Assistant U.S. Attorney, Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Coordinator.
- Worked as an assistant district attorney in Albany, N.Y., from 1990 to 1997.
- Was a partner at Hartunian and Clark in Albany from 1990 to 1997.
- Was an associate attorney at Devine, Piedmont and Rutnik in Albany from 1987 to 1990.
- Was an employee/manager at Skyview Star Supermarket, the family grocery business, in Latham, N.Y., from 1976 to 1990.
- Has tried approximately 60 criminal cases to verdict and served as sole or lead counsel in all of those cases. Also has tried at least two civil cases to verdict.
- Has assets valued at $3.3 million, including four properties he owns, in part or full, valued at $1.25 million. He has no liabilities.
Click here for his full Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire.
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Forbes magazine last week released its list of the top 10 CEOs who “showed enough greed, hubris and chutzpah” to give confessed Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff “a run for his (stolen) money.”
We’ve added some information that Forbes left off its list — the top federal prosecutors who get to go after these alleged financial fraudsters, even though some of the investigations began before their time.
Winning a conviction in a high-profile financial case adds a notch to a U.S. Attorney’s belt. A prosecutor might even get to step out at a news conference or two, as Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara did on Nov. 5 when announcing insider trading arrests related to the Galleon hedge fund run by billionaire Raj Rajaratnam.
To be sure, not everyone on the Forbes list is accused of an actual crime. With that caveat, we present Forbes’s “Biggest CEO Outrages of 2009″ list:
1. Lloyd Blankfein. The chairman and CEO made $73 million in 2007 and $25 million in 2008, as the economy entered a deep recession. Although his salary is not a legal offense, Forbes deemed it practically criminal.
2. John Thain. The former CEO of Merrill Lynch approved $3.62 billion in bonuses for his executives last December as the company was being taken over by Bank of America and reporting a fourth-quarter loss of $15.3 billion.
3. Raj Rajaratnam. The founder of the hedge fund Galleon Group was charged with insider trading which allegedly helped him earn more than $33 million in illicit profits. He is being prosecuted in Manhattan by Bharara’s office.
4. Byrraju Ramalinga Raju. The founder of the Indian outsourcing company Satyam Computer Services in January confessed to overstating the company’s profits and fabricating its cash balance of more than $1 billion. He hasn’t been charged.
5. Thomas Petters. The former CEO and chairman of Petters Group Worldwide was charged with orchestrating a $3.5 billion pyramid scheme fraud. He is being prosecuted by the office of Minnesota U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones.
6. Edward M. Liddy. The former CEO of American International Group (AIG) faced criticism this year for high salaries and bonuses in addition to expensive retreats the company funded after receiving a considerable sum as part of the bank bailout of 2008.
7. Danny Pang. The founder of Private Equity Management Group was accused of running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded his investors of hundreds of millions of dollars. Pangdied of an apparent suicide in September at age 42. Had he lived, he would have been prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles, currently headed by acting U.S. Attorney George S. Cardona.
8. R. Allen Stanford. The Texas financier allegedly sold $7 billion worth of certificates of deposit through his Stanford International Bank and misappropriated most of the money. He is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas, currently headed by interim U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson. UPDATE: Stanford also is being prosecuted by the fraud section of DOJ’s criminal division.
9. David Rubin. The head of CDR Financial Products was indicted in October on charges of conspiracy and fraud related to rigging auctions to help determine which banks would assist governments in raising money. He will be prosecuted by Bharara’s office in Manhattan.
10. Robert Moran. The CEO of Moran Yacht & Ship pleaded guilty to tax fraud to avoid indictment. He also promised to pay back taxes and penalties and cooperate with the Internal Revenue Service. He was prosecuted by the office of R. Alexander Acosta, then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
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Correction: An earlier version of this post said Tyrrell had decided on Weil, Gotshal & Manges.
Steven Tyrrell, the outgoing chief of the Justice Department’s Fraud Section, said in an interview Wednesday he has been in job talks with a number of law firms, including Weil, Gotshal & Manges. But he said he had not made a final decision.
“I have not received or accepted an offer from any firm. I’ve had extensive discussions with a number of top-tier firms, including Weil, and expect to make a decision very soon,” Tyrrell said.
Tyrrell, who has led the Fraud Section since 2006, announced his plans to leave over the summer. He’s also been in talks with seven other firms.
A 20-year veteran of the department, Tyrrell is expected to leave the department in late December. He has said he intends to help his successor make the transition.
Two people familiar with Tyrrell’s talks told Main Justice that the Fraud Chief was headed to Weil, Gotshal. Tyrrell did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday and early Wednesday, but after our original story was posted, he clarified that he hadn’t made a final decision.
Tyrrell joined the Justice Department in 1989 as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Florida, where he handled securities, health care, government contracts, consumer and bank fraud cases. He transferred to the Northern District of New York in 1999, focusing on all manner of white-collar crimes, before coming to Washington. Tyrrell was a Deputy Chief in Counterterrorism Section from 2003 until he took over Fraud.
Tyrrell is leaving as the Fraud section is expanding its might. The department is in the midst of hiring 10 additional trial lawyers, five of whom will be devoted to ferreting out health care fraud. A Justice official said the department is waiting for Congress to pass the 2010 budget before filling some of the posts.
Two other Fraud Section supervisors are planning their exits: Deputy Chief Mark Mendelsohn, who oversees Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prosecutions, and Paul Pelletier, Principal Deputy Chief for Litigation.
Pelletier, the goverment’s lead lawyer in prosecution of Texas Financier R. Allen Stanford, reportedly plans to see the case to its conclusion. Mendelsohn is being courted by many law firms, according to current and former Justice officials, but it’s unclear when he’ll make his decision.
McInerney, a former prosecutor in Manhattan, comes to the job after about 15 years in private practice at Davis Polk, a white-shoe firm based in New York.
He was on the defense team that represented Arthur Anderson in the wake of Enron, taking the lead on law arguments during the six-week trial in Houston, and has represented numerous high-profile corporate clients, including CVS Caremark Corp. and Siemens AG.
He’s also represented victims of Bernard Madoff’s multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme, and in 1994, he worked alongside Robert Fiske Jr., who served as special counsel in the Clinton-era Whitewater investigation before the appointment of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr.
Fiske, who is a senior partner at Davis Polk, said McInerney was the second lawyer he recruited for the team. He charged McInerney with preparing a case against three Whitewater figures: Eugene Fitzhugh, David Hale and Charles Matthews.
Though McInerney had little lead time, all three men pleaded guilty — one of them before trial and two during.
“He’s a prodigious worker and he’s extraordinarily thorough,” Fiske said of McInerney. “He leaves no stone unturned.”
McInerney (Columbia, Fordham Law) was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York from 1989 to 1994. He was deputy chief of the office’s criminal division from 1993 to 1994.
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If you’re wondering what went into Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to prosecute Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his alleged confederates in federal court, and why he settled on the Southern District of New York, The Washington Post’s Carrie Johnson has some answers.
Top prosecutors in Alexandria, Va., and Manhattan twice made their pitch to Holder in the command center in department headquarters. Holder favored New York for security reasons. According to Johnson:
In the end, the biggest factor that influenced Holder’s decision-making, according to senior Justice Department officials, turned out to be a confidential security study prepared by the U.S. Marshals Service. That agency operates behind the scenes to protect courthouses, judges and witnesses in scores of facilities across the country. The marshals concluded that the Southern District of New York — with its hardened courthouse, secure Metropolitan Correctional Center and underground transportation tunnels through which to bring defendants to and from court each day — was, hands down, the safest option.
The politics were easier, too. In New York, Holder enjoyed the support of New York Gov. David A. Paterson (D), New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, as well as Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). But in Virginia, Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R) and Sen. James Webb (D) have opposed bringing detainees to U.S. soil.
When the decision was made, Holder called Neil MacBride, the U.S. Attorney in Alexandria, and Preet Bharara, the top prosecutor in the Southern District. MacBride pledged his support without complaint, Johnson reported.
Prosecutors from EDVA will head to New York to present evidence to a grand jury and help try the case. Holder’s national security adviser, Amy Jeffress, will decide the final composition of the trial team.
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Lev Dassin, the former acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is going into private practice. The career prosecutor will join Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP as a partner, the law firm announced today.
Dassin was deputy to former U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia, an appointee of President George W. Bush who stepped down in December. Dassin served as acting U.S. Attorney from January until August, when new U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was confirmed.
Dassin ran the Manhattan office during the most intense period of the financial industry crisis, overseeing fraud cases against Bernie Madoff and Marc Dreier and federal interests before the Chrysler and General Motors bankruptcy proceedings.
Dassin served as Deputy U.S. Attorney in 2008 and chief of the criminal division from September 2005 to January 2008. He was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in SDNY from 1992 to 1998, leading the prosecution of Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.