After five months in prison for refusing to testify before a grand jury about the political opinions of their acquaintances, Katherine Olejnik and Matthew Duran are to be released from a federal prison in the US state of Washington today. A third man, Matthew Pfeiffer, remains incarcerated in order to “coerce” testimony from him.
Olejnik and Duran have been imprisoned since last September, while Pfeiffer was incarcerated last December. None of the three were accused of any criminal conduct. Instead they have been held on grounds of civil contempt of court for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury. Much of their time in prison was spent under solitary confinement.
Their imprisonment has been at the instigation of federal prosecutors in the Obama administration’s Justice Department.
The grand jury was convened to investigate “ongoing violent crime” relating to May Day protests last year in Seattle, during which minor acts of vandalism were committed.
WASHINGTON — Even the federal prosecutors who put Gordon Lee Miller in prison couldn’t get him out.
U.S. Justice Department lawyers took the unusual step in December of asking a federal judge to throw out Miller’s conviction and free him because, they said, he had not actually broken the law.
But the judge’s answer was still more unusual: No.
The judge’s ruling against Miller is among the latest in a handful of court decisions blocking — at least temporarily — efforts by defense lawyers and prosecutors to overturn convictions in hundreds of cases in which the Justice Department agrees that people were sent to prison improperly because of a misunderstanding of federal law. The decisions raise for the first time the prospect that scores of prisoners still waiting for courts to decide their cases might remain locked up.
“It’s very frustrating,” said Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina, which has been tracking the cases. “These are cases where everybody is on the same page. The government and the defense agree. The only one standing in the way is the judge.”
Miller finished his prison sentence while the case was being decided, but still must serve three years on supervised release.
Flanked by more than 150 advocates from around the country, Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer on Monday put forward his legislation allowing states to legalize medical marijuana in an effort to end the confusion surrounding federal pot policy.
Blumenauer’s legislation, which has 13 co-sponsors — including GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California — would create a framework for the FDA to eventually legalize medicinal marijuana. It would also block the feds from interfering in any of the 19 states where medical marijuana is legal.
At a press conference outside the Capitol, Blumenauer didn’t attack the Drug Enforcement Administration for targeting marijuana dispensaries or blame the Justice Department for forcing marijuana businesses to operate in a legal gray zone. Instead, he pitched his legislation as a solution to the confusion surrounding federal marijuana policy.
“Frankly, the people in the federal hierarchy are in an impossible position,” Blumenauer said, adding: “It gets the federal government and the Department of Justice out of this never-never land.”
On the heels of successful referendums legalizing marijuana in both Colorado and Washington state, Blumenauer and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) introduced legislation to end federal marijuana prohibition and set up a scheme to tax the drug.
The activists surrounding Blumenauer had just come from a four-day conference on medical marijuana, and many of them were veterans of campaigns to legalize the treatment in their home states. Some held a sign that wouldn’t be out of place at a tea party rally against the Affordable Care Act — “GET POLITICS OUT OF MY MEDICINE.”
Karen Munkacy, a doctor who helped lead the pro-medical marijuana side of a successful referendum in Massachusetts, said her breast cancer diagnosis forced her to “choose between breaking the law and suffering terribly. And I chose to suffer terribly.”
Scott Murphy, an Iraq War vet, said medical marijuana could help returning soldiers handle post-traumatic stress disorder or physical injuries. Murphy noted 22 veterans killed themselves each day in 2012.
“If medical marijuana could help just one veteran, it would be worthwhile,” he said.
Blumenauer’s bill isn’t likely to pass, but Americans for Safe Access Policy Director Mike Liszewski said bills in four states — New Hampshire, Illinois, New York and Maryland — have a chance of becoming law this year. In New Hampshire, where backers fell just a few votes short of overriding a governor’s veto last year, advocates are “really confident.” The state’s new governor, Democrat Maggie Hassan, supported medical marijuana as a state legislator.
Read more: POLITICO
Obama on the legalization of pot
A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” — even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.
The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.
Do as we say, not as we do? BECAUSE we can….
Let’s ask the question here: Should Barack Obama and the Congress be arrested and sent to Gitmo for violating the NDAA. After all the Congress passed it and Barack Obama signed it. I’m sure much of you believe that more than that should happen and it wouldn’t just be dependent upon the NDAA, but does what happened last week indicate that such persons as Barack Obama, Lindsey Graham, and John McCain should be wearing and orange jump suit an some leg irons soon?
Understand something, Congress passes some 55,000 pages a year in new laws! Yet, for the most part they never read one page of them. They passed the NDAA into law. What’s worse is that GOP presumptive nominee Mitt Romney said that he supported NDAA as written, thus withholding the rights of citizens to due process, under the Constitution, because he says so.
The NDAA text affirms the President’s authority to detain, via the Armed Forces, any person,
“who was part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners,” and anyone who commits a “belligerent act” against the U.S. or its coalition allies, under the law of war, “without trial, until the end of the hostilities authorized by the [AUMF].”
The text also authorizes trial by military tribunal, or
“transfer to the custody or control of the person’s country of origin,” or transfer to “any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity.”
An amendment to the Act that would have explicitly forbidden the indefinite detention without trial of American citizens was rejected by the Senate.
According to a Reuters story from Wednesday, August 1, 2012, Barack Obama and the Congress authorized support, specifically $25 million of taxpayer money, to help Syrian rebels,
President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government, sources familiar with the matter said.
Obama’s order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence “finding,” broadly permits the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust Assad.
This and other developments signal a shift toward growing, albeit still circumscribed, support for Assad’s armed opponents – a shift that intensified following last month’s failure of the U.N. Security Council to agree on tougher sanctions against the Damascus government.
The White House is for now apparently stopping short of giving the rebels lethal weapons, even as some U.S. allies do just that.
What most people aren’t asking is, just who are these rebels? Well the answer lies buried at the bottom of the article:
Recent news reports from the region have suggested that the influence and numbers of Islamist militants, some of them connected to al Qaeda or its affiliates, have been growing among Assad’s opponents.
U.S. and European officials say that, so far, intelligence agencies do not believe the militants’ role in the anti-Assad opposition is dominant.
While U.S. and allied government experts believe that the Syrian rebels have been making some progress against Assad’s forces lately, most believe the conflict is nowhere near resolution, and could go on for years.
Does anyone else sense an Eurasia, Eastasia flavor to any of this? For those no familiar, those are the alleged allies, then enemies of Oceania in George Orwell’s 1984. The people never know if they are at war with one or if they are its allies.
Well America has courted Al-Qaeda in Libya to overthrow Gaddafi and now they are doing it in Syria to remove Assad!
If providing material assistance to al-Qaeda is illegal under the National Defence Authorization Act (2012), and Obama and Congress are sending $25 million of aid to al-Qaeda-affiliated Syrian opposition, aren’t Congress and President Obama violating their own law? Should Obama (or at least the Justice Department) not be using “all necessary and appropriate force” including “the power to indefinitely detain” to prevent Obama and Congress from assisting al-Qaeda? Did anyone in Congress or the Obama administration even bother to read the law that they were signing? Do Federal laws no longer apply to lawmakers?
Washington (CNN) — The U.S. House will vote Thursday on holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for withholding documents involving the failed Fast and Furious weapons crackdown, Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday.
“We’re going to proceed,” Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters. “We’ve given them ample opportunity to reply.”
Late Wednesday, the House Rules Committee approved the procedure for Thursday’s debate and vote, which could bring the unprecedented contempt citation of a sitting attorney general.
The move came the day after House Republicans rejected the latest offer by the White House and Justice Department to turn over some of the documents sought by congressional investigators.
Federal authorities said Wednesday that they plan to sue Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio and his office over allegations of civil rights violations, including the racial profiling of Latinos.
The U.S. Justice Department has been seeking an agreement requiring Arpaio’s office to train officers in how to make constitutional traffic stops, collect data on people arrested in traffic stops and reach out to Latinos to assure them that the department is there to also protect them.
Arpaio has denied the racial profiling allegations and has claimed that allowing a court monitor would mean that every policy decision would have to be cleared through an observer and would nullify his authority.
Looks like they will try to sneak this into a new spending bill now… We would call this a violation of the 10th Amendment… Withholding “federal funds” (money they get from the States) is EXTORTION plain and simple!
Washington (Mooney) Times
Democrats backed off of their effort Tuesday to offer a “Trayvon amendment” to pressure states to drop their stand-your-ground laws after learning it was likely to be ruled out of order under the evening’s rules for debate on the House floor.
Rep. Keith Ellison, Minnesota Democrat, said he will still try to force a debate at a more “appropriate” time in the future, saying action is demanded by the case of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager who police said was shot dead in a street encounter with a neighborhood watch volunteer.
The Ellison amendment would have docked federal criminal justice grants to states that have stand-your-ground laws, which allow residents to use deadly force to respond to an attack without first having to retreat.
Florida’s version of the law has come under scrutiny after Trayvon’s death. George Zimmermann, a neighborhood watch volunteer, has been charged with murder in the case.
“Shoot-first laws make prosecutions harder because they presume the use of deadly force is reasonable,” Mr. Ellison said on the House floor Tuesday as he explained why he wanted to raise his amendment.
His plan would have docked states with such laws 20 percent of their money under the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, which are used to fund a wide array of programs, from law enforcement to drug treatment to jails and prosecutor’s offices. Mr. Ellison said nearly half of all states now have stand-your-ground laws.
He had wanted to raise the amendment as part of the House’s debate over the Justice Department spending bill.
But the way the amendment was drawn made it out of order.
Trayvon’s case has divided the country and prompted a heated debate, including in Congress, where one congressman was escorted off the House floor for wearing a “hoodie” sweatshirt while speaking. Rep. Bobbie Rush, Illinois Democrat, said he wore the garment as a statement against racial profiling.
WASHINGTON — Former Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs and top executives at five major book publishers illegally conspired to raise the prices of e-books, costing consumers tens of millions of dollars, federal and state officials alleged in antitrust suits filed Wednesday.
The collusion began in 2009 and price fixing took effect with the launch of the iPad in early 2010, boosting the average cost of e-books by $2 to $3 each “virtually overnight,” said Sharis Pozen, the acting head of the Justice Department‘s antitrust division.
“We allege that these executives knew full well what they were doing. That is, taking steps to make sure the prices consumers paid for e-books were higher,” she said in announcing the federal suit.
“‘The customer pays a little more, but that’s what you want anyway,’” Pozen quoted Jobs as saying at one point in the negotiations with publishers.
The suit said Apple proudly described the price-fixing plan — which gave the iPad maker a guaranteed 30% commission on each e-book it sold through its online marketplace — as an “aikido move,” referring to the Japanese martial art.
The suit, and another by 16 state attorneys general, was filed against Apple, Simon & Schuster Inc., Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan and Penguin Group.
Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster reached a settlement with the Justice Department that would require them to allow retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble to reduce the prices of e-books they sell from the publishers, the Justice Department said.
The settlement, if approved by a federal judge, would restore competition to the e-book market, Pozen said.
In addition, Hachette and HarperCollins agreed to settle the states’ lawsuit and pay a total of about $51 million in restitution to e-book customers nationwide. The states are still negotiating restitution with Simon & Schuster.
Apple, Macmillan and Penguin did not agree to a settlement, and Pozen promised the Justice Department would purse the case against them vigorously.
Macmillan CEO John Sargent denied the charges in an open letter posted Wednesday on Tor.com, one of the publisher’s imprints.
“Macmillan did not collude,” he wrote.
An Apple spokesman said the company had no comment on the suits.
Amazon cheered the lawsuits and the settlements. The suit portrayed Amazon, which makes the Kindle e-reader, as a victim of the price-fixing because they could not charge lower prices and ostensibly lost e-book sales to Apple.
“This is a big win for Kindle owners, and we look forward to being allowed to lower prices on more Kindle books,” the company said.
The federal suit, filed in U.S. District Court in New York, alleged that the publishers began illegally working together in the summer of 2009 to raise prices in response to Amazon’s offering of e-books for $9.99 each.
They joined with Apple in 2010 to create a system that boosted the prices of books to $12.99 or $14.99, the suit said.
Apple and the publishers “reached an agreement whereby retail price competition would cease (which all the conspirators desired), retail e-book prices would increase significantly (which the publisher defendants desired) and Apple would be guaranteed a 30% ‘commission’ on each e-book it sold (which Apple desired),” the suit said.
For the record, 3:50 p.m. April 11: An earlier version of this post misspelled the last name of the chief executive of Macmillan. His name is John Sargent.
From our friend Keith:
This is just out from the feds…. the Dions are real heroes in my opinion. They actually set up the “backbone” if you will of the business structure that hundreds of people used for their small business. They also set up the trust that owns both the house and commercial property of the Browns (Ed and Elaine). Both of which still haven’t been sold yet, maybe because of the trust? Its a shame that these people went down and I’m sure a lot of people have gone down since – because of the records they kept.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE TAX
MONDAY, APRIL 2, 2012 (202) 514-2007
WWW.JUSTICE.GOV TTY (866) 544-5309
NEW HAMPSHIRE AND MASSACHUSETTS RESIDENTS CONVICTED FOR PROMOTING AND USING TAX DEFIER SCHEMES
WASHINGTON – A federal jury in Worcester, Mass., convicted William Scott Dion and Catherine Floyd, both of Sanbornville, N.H., and Charles Adams of Norwood, Mass., for conspiracies to defraud the United States through the promotion and use of multiple tax fraud schemes, the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced today.
Dion and Floyd were released on electronic monitoring bracelets pending sentencing and Adams was released on call in/voice recognition pending sentencing. Dion’s sentencing is scheduled for June 21, 2012, Floyd’s sentencing is scheduled for June 26, 2012 and Adams’s sentencing is scheduled on June 27, 2012, all before U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor.
Dion, Floyd and Adams were convicted of conspiracy to defraud the IRS by promoting an “under the table” payroll scheme. Dion and Floyd were also convicted for conspiracy to defraud the IRS through the use of an “underground warehouse banking” scheme designed to conceal customer income and assets from the IRS. Floyd and Dion were also convicted separately for corruptly endeavoring to obstruct the IRS’s ability to determine their own income. Adams was separately convicted of tax evasion.
According to the evidence presented at trial, Dion, Floyd and Adams ran a payroll tax scheme in order to pay employees “under the table” without properly accounting for, withholding and paying over to the IRS the payroll taxes required by law. The three promoted the payroll scheme to employers and individuals who wanted to avoid payment of employer payroll taxes and individual payroll taxes. The three ran the payroll scheme under three different names: Contract America, Talent Management and New Way Enterprises. Approximately 150 individuals subscribed to the payroll scheme and in excess of $2.5 million in unreported wages and compensation were paid through the system.
The evidence at trial also proved that Dion and Floyd conspired to defraud the United States by promoting and operating an “underground warehouse banking” scheme which helped subscribers conceal income and assets from the IRS. According to the evidence, the warehouse scheme operated under three different names: Your Virtual Office, Office Services and Calico Management. As part of the warehouse banking scheme, the defendants maintained accounts at several banks and used the accounts to deposit and commingle business receipts and other funds received from subscribers in order to mask the true ownership of the funds. According to evidence presented at trial, more than $28 million in deposits were made into the various bank accounts used in the scheme.
In August 2009, the three defendants were indicted with four other individuals relating to the promotion and use of these schemes. On Dec. 9, 2011, prior to trial, Gail and Myron Thorick of West Warwick, R.I., pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States by helping operate the “warehouse banking” scheme and for filing false tax returns. On that same date, Gary Alcock pleaded guilty to conspiracy by using the payroll scheme, as well as to tax evasion and willful failure to file tax returns. On Jan. 24, 2012, Kenneth Scott Alcock pleaded guilty to conspiracy relating to the payroll scheme and to multiple counts of tax evasion. All four defendants are awaiting sentencing.
The defendants face up to five years in prison on each count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and tax evasion, together with fines of up to $250,000 or twice the financial gain to the defendant or loss to the IRS, to be followed by three years of supervised release. The charges for obstructing the IRS carry maximum penalties of three years in prison, fines of $250,000 and one year of supervised release.
The U.S. Attorney and the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Tax Division jointly announced the verdict.
The case was investigated by Special Agents of the IRS-Criminal Investigation. It is being prosecuted jointly by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston, and the Tax Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington DC. Assistant U.S. Attorney Victor A. Wild, and Assistant Chief John N. Kane and Trial Attorney Jeffrey L. Shih of the Justice Department’s Tax Division prosecuted the case.
More information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/tax.