Posts Tagged ‘Public Integrity Section’
Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Former federal prosecutors were mostly victorious in their congressional bids for office Tuesday.

Ex-Justice Department lawyers won House and Senate races in Texas, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Arkansas. But two former DOJers lost races for the U.S. Senate seats in Iowa and Colorado.

Michael McCaul

With 91 percent of precincts reporting, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), a former federal prosecutor, was elected to his fourth term with 65 percent of the vote. His challenger, Democrat Ted Ankrum, a former NASA executive, received 33 percent of the vote for the seat representing parts of Houston and Austin.

McCaul served in the DOJ Public Integrity Section and Civil Division in D.C. from 1991 to 1999, and as Chief of Counterterrorism and National Security Division in the Western District of Texas U.S. Attorney’s Office from 2002 to 2003.

Former U.S. Attorneys Tom Marino of the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Patrick Meehan of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut also won congressional elections,  as did former interim U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin of the Eastern District of Arkansas.

But two former Justice Department lawyers did not fare as well.

On Wednesday morning, the Denver Post called the state’s Senate race for Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. The race, between Bennet and Republican Ken Buck, a former Colorado Assistant U.S. Attorney from 1990 to 2001, remained close throughout Tuesday night. With 87 percent of precincts reporting, Bennet leads Buck by about 7,000 votes. According to the Denver Post, state law will require a recount if Buck closes the gap to less than 3,900 votes.

Roxanne Conlin (Roxanne Conlin for Senate)

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Democrat Roxanne Conlin, a former U.S. Attorney, received 33 percent of the vote in her bid to unseat Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). Grassley won 65 percent of the vote.

Conlin was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa from 1977 to 1981. The former prosecutor was also the Democratic nominee for Iowa governor in 1982. Conlin has been in private practice since 1983. She is a partner at Des Moines law firm Roxanne Conlin & Associates PC.

Monday, August 30th, 2010

The new leader of the Justice Department Public Integrity Section told The Associated Press that he had a “dream job” that he did never intended leave — until he was offered the reins of the DOJ’s elite government corruption unit.

Jack Smith, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y., became the Public Integrity Section chief in May after overseeing international war crimes investigations at The Hague in the Netherlands. He succeeded embattled chief William Welch II, who stepped down late last year. Welch oversaw the prosecution of former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). The case was dismissed in April 2009 after prosecutor errors were discovered.

Smith said he read about the case and couldn’t resist the opportunity to lead the section.

“I had a dream job and I had no desire to leave it, but opportunities like this don’t come up very often,” he told The AP. “I left the dream job for a better one.”

The new chief said he found the 30-person unit working “at a high level.”

“I have no excuses if we don’t achieve great things,” Smith said.

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Sunday, April 11th, 2010

The head of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section pushed back against accusations that the disclosure of a federal investigation related to gambling legislation in Alabama was intended to influence an upcoming vote.

“Our actions were neither designed nor intended to cause a particular result with respect to any piece legislation,” Raymond Hulser, acting chief of the section, wrote in an April 5 letter to the state legislature’s Democratic Party caucus.

Justice Department prosecutors met with state lawmakers on April 1 to brief them on a criminal probe of electronic bingo proponents’ quest for votes in support of legislation, which would create a referendum on amending the state constitution to legalize the machines.

The Birmingham News reported Sunday that at least two state lawmakers agreed to wear the wires after going to federal authorities to report offers of large campaign contributions in exchange for their votes in support of the legislation. Republican Gov. Bob Riley has made defeating the amendment a cornerstone of his agenda. The Alabama Senate passed the bill two days before the meeting. The House has yet to vote.

Douglas Jones, a former U.S. Attorney in Birmingham, Ala., representing the Democratic Party caucus in the Alabama Legislature, wrote a letter to Justice Department officials after the meeting, charging that disclosure of the investigation was meant to have a “chilling effect” on members of the state’s House who might have otherwise supported the legislation.

Hulser, in the April 5 response, said the meeting was held because “the leaders of significant government institutions typically find it important and valuable to learn about possible threats to the integrity of their proceedings and the fact that the Department of Justice is conducting an investigation in their institution.”

He said the department reached out to the legislators when it was clear that they would hear of the investigation through other sources.

Jones and his clients were unpersuaded. “Someone involved in this investigation is going to great lengths to deny the people of Alabama the right to vote on this important issue,” the lawyer wrote in an April 9 letter.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Alabama, which is run by Leura Canary, a holdover from the Bush administration, is assisting the Public Integrity Section with the investigation. As Main Justice reported here last week, among the Justice Department lawyers at the meeting was Brenda Morris, who is under investigation for her role as lead prosecutor in the bungled case against former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens.

A copy of the correspondence between Jones and Hulser is embedded below.


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.

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Lawyers for a lobbyist who is representing an Alabama casino called on the Justice Department Friday to prohibit Northern District of Alabama U.S. Attorney Leura Canary from handling a probe of a bill currently before the state Assembly that would regulate and tax electronic bingo.

Leura Canary (gov)

Federal and state law enforcement officials told key Alabama lawmakers Thursday that they have begun a public corruption investigation related to the bingo bill. Canary, a George W. Bush holdover, is married to Bill Canary, who has close ties to Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, a vocal opponent of the bill.

“We strongly agree that, if there is any evidence of wrongdoing in regards to SB380, then it must be investigated,” Jarrod Massey’s lawyers wrote in a letter to the DOJ, according to The Birmingham News. “However, the investigation should not be performed under the direction of the current U.S. attorney, with her close political ties to Gov. Bob Riley, but rather by Main Justice in order to remove any hint of political influence.”

A Riley aide told The Associated Press that the governor was not a part of the probe. FBI Special Agent Angela Tobon told The News Thursday that the probe is being handled by the DOJ Public Integrity Section. She declined further comment to the newspaper.

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

The special prosecutor investigating the Justice Department lawyers involved in the government’s case against former Sen. Ted Stevens (R- Alaska) has completed interviews, signaling that the yearlong probe is nearing its conclusion, said two people familiar with the matter.

Henry F. Schuelke III (photo by Susana Raab)

Meanwhile, the Justice Department’s ethics unit is close to finishing a separate investigation of the six lawyers, which will culminate in a report on whether their failure to turn over critical evidence to Stevens’ defense team amounted to professional misconduct, the people said.

Special prosecutor Henry Schuelke III, whose investigation began in April 2009, is expected to make his recommendation first. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who presided over the Stevens trial, tapped Schuelke to determine whether department lawyers sought to conceal the evidence in violation of criminal contempt statutes or whether they withheld it by mistake.

Stevens was convicted of omitting gifts on his Senate financial disclosure forms in October 2008, but Attorney General Eric Holder dropped the case amid cries of foul by Stevens’ defense lawyers and after an internal review revealed irregularities in the way prosecutors shared documents and witness statements.

Schuelke’s investigation has been complex, reaching back years before Stevens was indicted and drawing from thousands of documents. The people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigations are ongoing, said Schuelke is now evaluating the evidence he’s collected in the past year. It’s unclear when he will make his determination.

Schuelke and investigators in the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility conducted separate interviews with the lawyers, with some sessions lasting 16 hours, but they are sharing information because of the overlap in their investigations, the people said.

Five of the lawyers involved in the Stevens prosecution, including two former supervisors in the department’s prestigious Public Integrity Section, have shifted jobs since the case was thrown out. William Welch II, who was the section chief, is now based in the Springfield branch of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts. Brenda Morris, who was the section’s principal deputy chief, moved to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta for personal reasons.

Both Welch and Morris are employees of the Criminal Division — they are not Assistant U.S. Attorneys — though it’s unclear whether they continue to handle public corruption work. Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney declined to comment on personnel matters.

Two other members of the trial team, Nicholas Marsh and Edward Sullivan, were reassigned from the public integrity unit to the Office of International Affairs. James Goeke, an Assistant U.S. Attorney, transferred from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska to the Yakima branch of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington. Alaska-based Assistant U.S. attorney Joseph Bottini has continued in his position.

The Stevens case prompted a series of reforms at the department, including a new training regime for prosecutors and the creation of a new position with oversight of department discovery practices.

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

The Justice Department subpoenaed at least six Las Vegas businesses in connection with a probe of Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), who helped a former staffer secure a lobbying job after having an affair with the staffer’s wife.

Sen. John Ensign (gov)

A lawyer from the department’s Public Integrity Section and an FBI agent issued grand jury subpoenas earlier this month to unnamed businesses that had dealings with the senator and his staff since 2008. According to the Las Vegas television station KLAS, federal investigators are trying to determine whether Ensign pressured the businesses to hire former staffer Doug Hampton, and whether the senator offered anything in return.

The FBI and Senate Ethics Committee are looking into whether Ensign tried to curb political damage to himself by helping Hampton find a new job as a lobbyist. Federal law prohibits congressional aides from lobbying their ex-bosses or colleagues for one year after leaving Congress.

Federal prosecutors are presenting evidence to a grand jury in the District. One of the subpoenas, obtained by KLAS, ordered recipients to testify on March 31 and to produce documents related to Ensign, his staff, Hampton and his wife Cindy (with whom Ensign had the affair), and the lobbying firm that hired Doug Hampton.

If Ensign were indicted, it would mark the second prosecution of a sitting senator since 2008, when Republican Ted Stevens was tried for omitting gifts from his financial disclosure forms. Stevens was convicted, but the case was dismissed after the department determined prosecutors improperly withheld evidence from Stevens’ defense team.

According to the subpoena, Public Integrity trial lawyer Deborah Sue Mayer and FBI Special Agent Frank D’Amico are working the Ensign investigation.

UPDATE: The Associated Press reported Thursday afternoon that the grand jury also issued a subpoena to the National Republican Senatorial Committee in connection with the Ensign probe. The NRSC is a political committee that raises money and recruits candidates in an effort to help elect Republicans to the Senate. Ensign was the chairman of the committee during the 2008 election cycle.

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Monday, March 15th, 2010

The acting chief of the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department has written a letter to the lawyer for Joe Arpaio, the controversial Arizona sheriff, chastising the attorney for dumping a huge volume of documents on the section and mischaracterizing of the DOJ’s actions at a subsequent news conference.

Robert Driscoll (Alston + Bird).

Acting Chief Raymond Hulser wrote a letter to Robert N. Driscoll, a lawyer with Alston & Bird LLP, expressing his dismay that Driscoll’s “mere referral of information to the Public Integrity Section was cited and relied upon in a pleading in federal court and then used as a platform for a press conference.”

That press conference gave the impression that there was an ongoing probe of Arpaio’s adversaries at the Justice Department. Driscoll is a former Justice Department official in the administration of President George W. Bush.

Hulser’s letter, embedded below, was first reported by The Arizona Republic.

At a press conference announcing the voluntary dismissal of their lawsuit against county officials, Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas said that federal racketeering lawsuit against county officials, Superior Court judges and private attorneys was “moot” because it had been referred to the Justice Department. They had “alleged that judges and county officials had conspired to take resources from the Sheriff’s and County Attorney’s offices and hindered prosecutions” according to The Arizona Republic.

The press conference left the impression that Driscoll, who served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division from 2001 to 2003, “had used his connections to get a review of investigative files on the judges, attorneys, county supervisors and the Attorney General’s Office,” according to the Arizona Republic story.

The letter, however, made clear that just because the Justice Department was willing to receive information “does not indicate that we have initiated an investigation or that we have agreed to take any action,” wrote Hulser.

“I indicated that we are always willing to receive information about potential federal criminal violations, and that you should provide your information in writing,” wrote Hulser.

Reached by Main Justice on Monday, Driscoll declined to comment on the letter.

A separate Civil Rights Division investigation into Arpaio remains open and ongoing, according to spokesman Alejandro Miyar.

0313joe Arpaio Attorney Letter

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

A federal judge in Alaska this week rejected another motion for a new trial or dismissal of charges for a former state lawmaker convicted of corruption in a 2007 case that included errors by federal prosecutors.

Pete Kott (

U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick denied a motion filed late last month by a lawyer for former Alaska House Speaker Pete Kott (R) to dismiss the charges against him or have a new trial for him since the lawyer received new documents pertaining to the case. Late last month, his lawyer received handwritten notes made during Justice Department and FBI meetings with the attorney who represented a key government witness who admitted bribing Kott.

Earlier last month, Kott’s lawyer filed another motion for dismissal statement filed last month, citing new DOJ guidelines that encourage prosecutors to list all witness interviews and keep their rough notes. Sedwick also rejected this motion.

U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick wrote in a court order on Monday that Kott’s most recent motion and the handwritten notes “do not compel a different result” from the earlier rulings.

“Much of Kott’s briefing attacks the previous ruling, but in a manner not squarely based on the new documents,” the judge wrote.

Sheryl McCloud, a lawyer for Kott, told Main Justice she was disappointed with Sedwick’s ruling this week and said she will continue to appeal her client’s conviction.

“We really wanted to get to the bottom of the matter and figure out who stopped the flow of information about the moral, ethical, and perjury problems with their principal witness,” McCloud said.

Prosecutors in Alaska have admitted evidence was inappropriately withheld, but have said their actions didn’t cause any harm.

Kott previously asked Sedwick in November to toss his corruption conviction, arguing the same prosecutors withheld evidence in both his case and the unrelated prosecution of former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). Stevens conviction was later thrown out by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., at the request of Attorney General Eric Holder.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph Bottini and James Goeke, as well as former Public Integrity Section lawyers Nicholas Marsh and Edward Sullivan prosecuted Kott. A court-appointed counsel and the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility are probing the prosecutors’ handling of evidence in the Stevens case.

The former state lawmaker was released from prison in June, after prosecutors said they did not hand over exculpatory evidence to the defense.

The story was first reported by The Anchorage Daily News.

This post has been updated from an earlier version.

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

A former Alaska lawmaker is citing new Justice Department guidance for prosecutors on discovery procedures in his effort to have his 2007 conviction on public corruption charges repealed, The Associated Press reported today.

Pete Kott (

In a motion for dismissal statement filed this week, a lawyer for former Alaska House Speaker Pete Kott cited new DOJ guidelines that encourage prosecutors to list all witness interviews and keep their rough notes. The lawyer, Sheryl Gordon McCloud, said the Alaska U.S. Attorney’s Office has yet to hand over items from a 2006 interview with ex-VECO Corp. chief Bill Allen, the AP said.

Allen was a key witness against Kott as well as ex-Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), whose conviction on public corruption charges was overturned last year after the Justice Department said it had mishandled potentially exculpatory evidence.

“[T]hat memo is based on existing law, and sets forth materials that government attorneys must seek out, review, and disclose,” McCloud wrote in the court filing. “It includes not just material from the U.S. Attorney’s files but from all those associated with the prosecution team, and it includes not just information memorialized in written statements but also evidence favorable to the accused that is transmitted in a ‘conversation.’ ”

Prosecutors in Alaska have admitted evidence was inappropriately withheld, but have said their actions didn’t cause any harm.

Kott previously asked Judge John Sedwick in November to toss his corruption conviction, arguing the same prosecutors withheld evidence in both his case and the Stevens trial.

Kott was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph Bottini and James Goeke, as well as former Public Integrity Section lawyers Nicholas Marsh and Edward Sullivan. A court-appointed counsel and the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility are probing the prosecutors’ handling of evidence in the Stevens case, which was thrown at the request of Attorney General Eric Holder.

The judge has several options. He could let the Kott conviction stand, dismiss it and order a new trial, or dismiss it with prejudice. He has not said when he will rule.

Kott was released from prison in June, after prosecutors said they did not hand over exculpatory evidence to the defense.