Tom Diaz

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CASE OF ALLEGED MS-13 “SECRET SHOT CALLER” ALEX SANCHEZ GETS REAL — ATTEMPTED “HAIL MARY SHUFFLE PASS” BY DEFENSE FLOPS

In bad manners, Crime, Drugs, Gangs, Informants and other sophisticated means, Latino gangs, RICO, RICO indictments, Transnational crime, undercover investigations on December 28, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Alex Sanchez's Defense Team Got Nowhere in Appeal to Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and Blew Attempted "Hail Mary" Play Around Judge Manuel L. Real. The Feds' Ball-Control Game Plan Appears to be Working.

Question: Is a dropped shovel pass considered an incomplete pass or a fumble?

Answer: A forward pass, is a forward pass, is a forward pass. It can be thrown overhand, underhand, one-handed, two-handed or between your legs. The direction it travels is the only deciding factor as to whether it’s forward or backward.

So, if a forward shovel pass hits the ground it’s an incomplete pass.

Curt Johnson’s American Football Rules Answers for Coaches

LATER NOTE:  Alex Sanchez was granted pre-trial release on January 13, 2010.  See story here.

Alex Sanchez’s lawyer has played a fan-rousing first-quarter game of razzle-dazzle legal football trying to spring the accused Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) “secret shot caller” from jail while he awaits trial.

Forget the cheers and pom-poms.  The case is right back where it started — in the forbidding courtroom of octogenarian federal district Judge Manuel L. Real.

Underhand, overhand, fumble or incomplete pass, call it what you will.  A desperate maneuver to get the controversial case reassigned to a different judge blew up like a busted shovel pass hit by a play-reading, line-backing locomotive.

Tom Diaz, "No Boundaries: Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement"

“Tom Diaz has worn out some shoe leather—much like a good detective—in gathering facts, not myths or urban legend. “

—Chris Swecker, Former Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“Few people know more about the subject than Tom Diaz and no single book tells the whole story better than No Boundaries. If you really want to know what organized crime in America looks like today, then read this alarming book.”

—Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles

Order No Boundaries from Amazon.com

Full background on the federal racketeering (RICO) indictment, arrest, and incarceration pending trial of Sanchez — an admitted gangster supposedly reformed and turned anti-gang activist, now accused by the feds of being a “secret shot-caller” — can be found in all of its tortured procedural history  here, here, and here.

"Nothing Personal About that Flamethrower, Your Honor."

As Fairly Civil reported in detail here, the appellate brief filed last month on Sanchez’s behalf before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals  torched Judge Real, the government, its witnesses, and the handling of the case.  The brief demanded removal of Judge Real from the case because — paraphrased in layman’s terms — he “just doesn’t get it.”  The defense lawyer’s next appearance before Judge Real should be … um … interesting — a textbook case, perhaps, of “nothing personal about that flamethrower in the Ninth Circuit, your honor.”

Incredibly, while Sanchez’s appeal was still pending, startling “news” broke that the case had been reassigned to another judge.  Sanchez’s many fans popped the corks on the champagne and celebrated an early Christmas.

See how this series of developments unfolded by checking out the excellent (if unabashedly pro-Sanchez) WitnessLA blog here.

This news energized aging California hippy activist and prolific gang fiction writer Tom Hayden like a straight shot of Geritol.  Hayden fired up his rhetorical flying saucer on the tarmac over in Area 51, and beamed an ecstatic account of the thrilling development onto the pages of The Nation magazine.

Premature excitation, it turned out.

The case was promptly — and somewhat curtly — reassigned back to Judge Real!

News of Ephemeral "Reassignmnet" Galvanized Accomplished Intergalactic Saucer Pilot and Gang Fiction Writer Tom Hayden

Never one to let the facts get in the way of a good story, Hayden jumped back into his intergalactic travel machine and fired an email straight from the radical 70s, filled with predictably dark imaginings about the manipulation of the legal system, the sinister hidden hand of LAPD corruption tainting the federal legal system …. yadda-yadda, yadda-yadda.

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. But try not to inhale.

Here, is WitnessLA’s recitative on Hayden’s petulant emission:

Hayden sent around an email Tuesday night containing details and reactions. It read in part:

“The turn of events will raise new suspicions about alleged manipulation of the proceedings which began six months ago with Sanchez’ arrest on gang conspiracy charges. Sanchez, a well-known gang intervention worker who helped expose the Los Angeles police Rampart scandal a decade ago, asserts his innocence in the case. He is being held without bail at a federal prison in Los Angeles.

As of 4:30 Tuesday afternoon, no order reversing the transfer had been received by defense counsel, and no explanation offered for the unusual chain of events.

The order surprised and pleased the Sanchez defense team. His supporters, organized as http://www.wearealex.org, assert that Sanchez is being railroaded and denied any semblance of a fair trial. Sanchez’ court-appointed counsel, Kerry Bensinger, argued in a recent appeal to the Ninth Circuit that the case should be remanded to another judge.

Why the December 4 transfer order was withdrawn less than a day after it was made public will raise questions about the inner workings of the judiciary itself.”

Uh, huh. Something like that.

Or to put it another way: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot???!!

Or, to put it yet another way, “Beam me up, Scotty.”  In fact, the assignment-reassignment is not puzzling at all.

A complete explanation was then, is now, and will be available in full view, on the public record, in the federal court house in Los Angeles for any journaliste or enfant terrible curious — and energetic — enough to bring actual facts to the question.  Anyone without the means to actually get down to the clerk’s office (take a bus or ride a bike) can go onto an amazing thing called “the internet” ( a series of interconnected tubes) and dial into reality.

More Geritol, Ma … please!

The Case of the Mysterious Premature Reassignment Explained

Where to start?

Oh, wait, I know!

How about with the actual court order reassigning the reassignment?  Brilliant idea!

Here is the complete text of the “Order Returning Case to the Calendar of Judge Manuel Real,” United States v. Jose Alfaro, United States District Court for the Central District of California, Docket No. 09-466-CAS, filed December 8, 2009:

As Chair of the Case Assignment and Management Committee, I have been advised by United States District Judge Christina Snyder that she inadvertently signed a transfer order that contained the representation that the present criminal case purportedly “arise[s] out of the same conspiracy, common scheme, transaction, series of transactions or events” that were the subject of CR 05-00539.  Apparently the order was generated when a defense attorney submitted a belated notice of related case status.  That notice focuses on a case handled by Judge Snyder involving one of the numerous defendants in the present case.  Judge Snyder advises that she was unaware of the status of the above-captioned action, does not believe that the relationship of the cases warrants transfer and has referred the matter to me for a determination as to whether the case should be returned to Judge Real.

Even if there is some connection between these two cases, which I note were filed four years apart, the current case is at such an advanced stage and Judge Real has spent such substantial time and effort on the matter that no judicial economy would be achieved by a transfer at this late date.  Indeed, a transfer at this point would undermine the very objectives that provide the reason for the rule.  Accordingly, the transfer to Judge Snyder is VACATED and the matter is ORDERED to be returned to Judge Real’s calendar for all further proceedings.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

DATED: December 8, 2009

[Signed]

Judge Gary Allen Feess

Chair, Case Assignment and Management Committee

[Judge Snyder's original order is also available.  It is simply a "check the box and sign" order form, CR-59 (12-07), the kind of thing some judges whiz through while pretending to listen from the bench to bloviating counsel.  It states in relevant part:  "I hereby consent to the transfer of the above-entitled case to my calendar, pursuant to General Order 08-05."]

Um, plainly, this was an attempt at “judge shopping” by “a defense attorney,” who is not named and may or may not have been Sanchez’s counsel:

We can define “judge shopping” as an effort by a lawyer or litigant to influence a court’s assignment of a case so that it will be directed to a particular judge or away from a particular judge. The adversary usually does this to gain partisan advantage in a case (e.g., to steer it to a judge who is likely to impose a more lenient sentence in a criminal case…)

Memorandum by David C. Steelman, National Center for State Courts, January 21, 2003.

Nice try, Anonymous Mouthpiece!

But … no gain on the play. Ball stuffed.  First down, government’s ball.

Three questions linger, and their answers clear up the rest of the mystery.

  1. What is “the rule” to which Judge Feess refers in the order?
  2. What prompted Judge Snyder to refer the matter to Judge Feess?
  3. What was the allegedly “related” case the unnamed defense counsel was so anxious to hook the present case to?

No Wizard Behind the Mysterious Green Curtain -- Just a Boring Rule

Well, for anyone who is interested in how things actually operate behind the sinister green curtain, here is the relevant text of the rule, General Order No. 08-05.  It pretty well lays out the boring, non-conspiratorial routine procedure — including safeguards — that goes on in such a case of attempted judge-shopping:

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA, GENERAL ORDER NO. 08-05, ASSIGNMENT OF CASES AND DUTIES TO JUDGES

11.0 RELATED CRIMINAL CASES

11.1 NOTICE OF RELATED CASES

It shall be the responsibility of counsel to promptly file a Notice of Related Cases whenever a criminal case previously filed and one or more informations or indictments later filed:

a. arise out of the same conspiracy, common scheme, transaction, series of transactions or events; or

b. involve one or more defendants in common, and would entail substantial duplication of labor in pretrial, trial or sentencing proceedings if heard by different judges.

11.2 PROCESSING OF PROPOSED TRANSFER ORDER

Whenever counsel files a Notice of Related Cases indicating that any one or more of the above circumstances set forth in Section 11.1 exist, the Clerk shall prepare a proposed transfer order which shall be presented to the transferee judge and processed in the same manner as are related civil cases under Section 5.0 of this General Order.

5.2 PROCESSING OF PROPOSED TRANSFER ORDER

The Clerk shall also simultaneously provide an informational copy of the proposed transfer order to the judge randomly assigned to the case later filed (the transferor judge).

If the transferee judge approves the transfer, the case shall be transferred to the calendar of the transferee judge. If the transferee judge declines the related case transfer, the case shall proceed as originally assigned on the calendar of the transferor judge.

If the transferor judge disagrees with the decision of the transferee judge, the transferor judge may appeal the decision to the Committee. The Committee shall determine whether the cases are related.

Z-z-z-z. So much for the first two questions.  No proposed transfer was ever going to just slip by Judge Real in the dark of night.  Whether Judge Snyder figured it out on her own, or got a friendly call from Judge Real and/or the U.S. Attorney’s office is immaterial.  Once a question was raised, the matter was bound to go to the Case Assignment and Management Committee.

So, what was the case the enterprising defense lawyer selected?  For that answer, one must go to Docket No. CR 05-00539 in the same federal courthouse (using the inter-tube thing or skate-boarding to get there).

That docket recounts the case of one Juan Miguel Mancilla, aka “Gato,” a gangster who was arrested in one of the first sweeps by the FBI’s MS-13 National Gang Task Force.  Mancilla was charged with trafficking in methamphetamine. His prosecution was handled by then-assistant United States Attorneys Bruce Riordan and Scott Garringer. In April 2006, “Gato” copped a guilty plea and was sentenced to 97 months in prison.  The case has been closed since then.

When the current indictment was handed up in June, Mancilla was also named as a defendant, this time on racketeering charges, and was accordingly arrested while still in federal custody.  Whoever the enterprising defense counsel was who filed the transfer motion with Judge Snyder was trying to pin the elephant of this case onto the tail of the sleeping donkey of the Mancilla case.

End of mystery.

Oh, Yeah, and About the Ninth Circuit

The government filed a determinedly sober brief in response to Sanchez’s flamethrower.  Many observers believe that Sanchez’s argument that one of the participants in a series of calls was misidentified is possibly correct, and has given prosecutors a bit of grief.  But, the government’s answer — so what, the guilty party confessed independent of the wiretap? — has so far trumped the assertion, especially in light of the hundreds upon hundreds of hours of other wiretaps and informant material in the case.

The government’s brief, however, contained these interesting assertions, which go beyond the four wiretapped phone calls on which the case has been focused in the bail hearings:

Sanchez had contacts with gang members in 1999, when he arranged a meeting of the shotcallers of the Normandie clique of MS-13 in Los Angeles to negotiate a division of their narcotics distribution enterprise. Sanchez was able to organize this meeting because he was a senior Normandie shotcaller who had been one of the founders of MS-13 in Los Angeles and the former MS-13 representative to the Mexican Mafia. Sanchez has continued to be active in gang business; among other things he has directed its distribution of narcotics and collected proceeds of its narcotics trafficking. Sanchez was intercepted on wiretap calls in 2000, 2001, and 2006 and on recorded prison calls in 2008, talking about MS-13 business.

“Government’s Opposition To Defendant’s Appeal From Detention Order; Memorandum Of Points And Authorities,” United States Court Of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit, Docket No. C.A. 09-50525, filed December 3, 2009.

On December 22, 2009, three Circuit Judges from the Ninth Circuit sent Sanchez’s case back to the federal district court, meaning to the courtroom of Judge Real.

Sanchez Case Is Back to the Future With Judge Manuel L. Real: "Good Morning, Counsel. Now, Where Were We?"

SPIES LIKE THEM? REALLY “INTELLIGENT” SPIES DOING REALLY DUMB THINGS — PART TWO

In bad manners, Corruption, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, undercover investigations on November 25, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Convicted Spies Walter Kendall Myers and His Wife Gwendolyn Lived the Good Life of the "Imperialist" Bureaucrat While Selling Out Their Country to Communist Cuba

Walter Kendall Myers spent 30 years as a traitor at high levels in the U.S. Department of State, spying for Cuba.  His wife, Gwendolyn, assisted him.  Both took guilty pleas last week and agreed to cooperate with the government.  Kendall was sentenced to life and Gwendolyn to six and a half to seven years in prison.

The Myers Met and Admired Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro, Whom Gwendolyn Called "The Most Incredible Statesman in a Hundred Years"

This is the second of a two part series quoting from relevant court documents in the Myers case.  In Part One, Fairly Civil described the Myers’s motivation and recruitment by the Cuban intelligence service.  This Part Two covers Kendall Myers’s access, the “trade craft” the Cuban spies used, and how the FBI investigation rolled them up [at least from the point of its contact with them.  There is no doubt a deeper trail, possibly ultimately connected to the Ana Belen Montes case and various cases in South Florida].

KENDALL MYERS’S EMPLOYMENT GAVE HIM ACCESS TO SENSITIVE CLASSIFIED INFORMATION

Kendall Myers held a number of jobs that gave him access over more than 30 years to sensitive classified information:

9. KENDALL MYERS was in the U.S. Army from January 1959 to March 1962, where he completed intensive communications training and served in the Army Security Agency.

11. From in or about August 1977, through in or about March 1979, KENDALL MYERS was employed as a contract instructor at the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute (FSI), a training and professional development institute for Department of State employees located in Arlington, Virginia. After living in South Dakota with GWENDOLYN MYERS from in or about 1979 until in or about 1980, KENDALL MYERS returned to Washington, D.C. In or about August 1982, KENDALL MYERS resumed employment as a contract instructor with FSI and held the title of Chairperson for West European Studies. On or about May 9, 1983, KENDALL MYERS applied for a non-contractor, two-year appointment as a Training Instructor and Chairperson for West European Studies at FSI. On or about April 15, 1985, KENDALL MYERS was offered a two-year appointment as a Training Instructor and subsequently, a second two-year appointment as an Education Specialist at FSI, all while serving in a chair capacity in Western European Area Studies. From at least August 1988 to October 1999, KENDALL MYERS, in addition to his FSI duties, performed work on a periodic basis for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR).

12. Starting in approximately October 1999, KENDALL MYERS began working full time at INR as the Acting Director of the External Research Staff. From approximately July 2001 to October 31, 2007, KENDALL MYERS was a Senior Analyst for Europe for INR. INR is responsible for drawing on all-source intelligence to provide value-added independent analysis of events to policy makers at the U.S. Department of State. During his employment at INR in various capacities, KENDALL MYERS specialized in intelligence analysis regarding European matters. He also served as a Special Assistant for Analyst Training and Development during that time frame.

13. On October 31, 2007, KENDALL MYERS retired from the Department of State

KENDALL MYERS REPEATEDLY  VIEWED CLASSIFIED INFORMATION RELATED TO CUBA

67. During the April 30, 2009, meeting [with an FBI undercover agent], when the UCS asked KENDALL MYERS whether he had ever delivered information to CuIS that was classified more than SECRET, KENDALL MYERS responded “Oh yeah. . . Oh, yeah.” KENDALL MYERS stated that the “best way” to take information out from his job was “in your head.” KENDALL MYERS told the UCS that he removed information from the Department of State by memory or by taking notes. GWENDOLYN MYERS added that he kept his notes locked in his office safe.

68. An analysis of KENDALL MYERS’s classified Department of State work computer hard drive reveals that from August 22, 2006, until his retirement on October 31, 2007, KENDALL MYERS, while employed at INR, viewed in excess of 200 sensitive or classified intelligence reports concerning the subject of Cuba. Of these intelligence reports, more that 75 of these reports made no substantive mention of countries within KENDALL MYERS’s area of responsibility as an employee of INR. Of these reports concerning Cuba, the majority were classified and marked SECRET or TOP SECRET.

EXPLANATION OF TERMS RELATED TO THE MYERS’S “SPYCRAFT”

The affidavit explains a number of the terms that come up in its discussion of evidence about the Myers’s spying activity:

22. I have further learned based on my experience and training that CuIS employs “handlers” in the United States, i.e., persons who maintain some type of personal contact with agents located in the United States. Handlers receive reporting or information from agents, produce tradecraft and communication tools for agents, and sometimes direct and control agent activities based on instructions the handler has received from CuIS. Handlers could be “legals,” that is, persons with diplomatic immunity whose affiliation with Cuba is known. Also CuIS employs “illegals” as handlers, that is, persons whose affiliation to the Government of Cuba is not publicly disclosed, whose intelligence function is clandestine, and who possess no diplomatic immunity.

23. I have further learned based on my experience and training that a dead drop is a location used to pass items secretly between an agent and his or her handler, or between intelligence officers, without requiring them to meet. The location of the drop is agreed inadvance and it typically involves the use of common everyday items to which most people would not give a second glance such as a loose brick in a wall, a library book, a hole in a tree, under a boulder, etc.

24. I have further learned based on my experience and training that a brush pass, pass or hand-to-hand are terms used to mean a pre-arranged momentary encounter between an agent and his or her handler, or between intelligence officers, wherein written messages, instructions, or other items (e.g., a computer thumb drive or a brief case) are quickly and surreptitiously passed between them as they cross paths. Such encounters may occur in public such as on a busy street or on the subway.

25. I have further learned based on my experience and training that a personal contact, contact, or meet are terms used to mean a face-to-face contact between an agent and his or her handler wherein operational training and details can be discussed.

26. I have further learned based on my experience and training that a parole is a password or recognition phrase used between an agent and his or her handler, or between intelligence officers, to identify each other.

27. I have further learned based on my experience and training that CuIS sometimes employs husband and wife “paired” agents to achieve its intelligence goals in the United States. Such CuIS husband and wife “paired” agents were revealed in the investigation of the Miami network of CuIS agents in the case entitled United States v. Gerardo Hernandez, et al., Cr. No. 98-721-CR-Lenard, and of Carlos Alvarez and Elsa Alvarez in the case of United States v. Alvarez,  05-20943-CR-Moore, both arising in the Southern District of Florida.

28. I have further learned based on my experience and training that CuIS employs multiple code names for its agents to safeguard and protect their identities. CuIS also provides false identity and travel documents for its agents to facilitate clandestine travel and to facilitate flight from the United States in case of detection.

SHORT WAVE RADIO

The affidavit describes the use of shortwave radio as a hallmark of Cuban intelligence operations in the United States:

34. Based on my knowledge and familiarity with the communication methodologies of CuIS, I am aware that, during the time frame described herein, CuIS often communicated with its clandestine agents operating in the United States by broadcasting encrypted radio messages from Cuba on certain high frequencies – that is, shortwave radio frequencies. Under this method, CuIS would broadcast a series of numbers on a particular short-wave frequency. The clandestine agent in the United States, monitoring the frequency on a shortwave radio, could decode the seemingly random series of numbers by using a decryption program provided by CuIS. The series of numbers would then be decoded into cognizable text for use by the agent. Once decoded, the text of the message could provide the agent with tasking for intelligence gathering, instructions about operational activities, including communication plans and meets with CuIS handlers. Similarly, CuIS would broadcast similar messages to its handlers.

35. This shortwave radio communication method was employed by some of the defendants convicted of espionage on behalf of Cuba in the previously mentioned Hernandez case in the Southern District of Florida, as well as by Ana Belen Montes and Carlos and Elsa Alvarez.

36. I have further learned that CuIS broadcasts such encrypted shortwave radio messages in Morse Code or by a voice reading a series of numbers.

THE FBI’S INTERCEPTION OF SHORT WAVE MESSAGES AND THEIR LINKS TO THE MYERS

44. The FBI collects high frequency messages from CuIS in Cuba to Cuban officers and their agents abroad, to include illegal agents operating within the United States. Among other high frequency messages broadcast by CuIS that the FBI has collected, I am aware that the FBI has identified messages that it has determined were broadcast to a handler of KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS, hereinafter, co-conspirator “C.”

45. The messages sent to co-conspirator “C” contain many references to standard CuIS tradecraft, including mentions of passes, visual signals, personal contacts, dead drops, counter-surveillance techniques, danger signals, clandestine communication techniques and plans, coded messages, and code names referring to KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS.

46. Further, the message sent to co-conspirator “C” make multiple references to Cuba.

THE FBI UNDERCOVER OPERATION TAKES THE MYERS DOWN

39. On or about April 15, 2009, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) initiated an undercover operation. The purpose of the undercover operation was to convince KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS that they had been contacted by a bona fide Cuban intelligence officer and, in the course of their ensuing discussion and relationship, ascertain the scope, nature, and substance of KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS’s clandestine activities on behalf of CuIS.

40. During the afternoon of April 15, 2009, an undercover source of the FBI (“UCS”) approached KENDALL MYERS in front of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (“SAIS”) on Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., in Washington, D.C. The UCS told KENDALL MYERS that a named CuIS intelligence officer (hereinafter co-conspirator “D”) “sent me to contact you.” The UCS continued that he did not want to “bother” KENDALL MYERS or take “too much” of his time, but that he had “instructions to contact” him and “to get some information . . . and [KENDALL MYERS’s] opinion” because of the “change that is taking place in Cuba and the new administration.” The UCS said that co-conspirator “D” sends “his regards,” offered KENDALL MYERS a cigar, and congratulated him on his birthday.  KENDALL MYERS agreed to meet the UCS later that evening at a nearby hotel, after KENDALL MYERS was done teaching a class at SAIS. KENDALL MYERS volunteered that his wife, GWENDOLYN MYERS, could join them. The UCS agreed.

EXCERPTS FROM THINGS THE MYERS SAID DURING THEIR MEETING WITH THE FBI UCS

• KENDALL MYERS stated that “it’s an honor for us” to meet the UCS. KENDALL MYERS further stated that “we’ve been a little nervous . . . and . . . I think you should tell them that . . . we’ve been nervous because, because we didn’t want to hurt them . . . We were worried . . . .”

• KENDALL MYERS refused the UCS’s offer of a drink of Scotch while he was answering questions in response to the UCS’s tasking of the previous day, noting, “no, no, that’s okay . . . while I work, you know.”

• GWENDOLYN MYERS recalled, and both her and KENDALL MYERS agreed to use in future meetings with the UCS, a parole (or pass phrase) that KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS had used previously.

• Near the conclusion of the meeting, KENDALL MYERS asked the UCS to “send special greetings . . . and hugs . . . to everybody . . . and to all of our friends.”

KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS then listed individuals they believe were located in Cuba, including “two very old friends,” co-conspirator “A” and co-conspirator “B.”

• KENDALL MYERS acknowledged working with CuIS for 30 years.

• KENDALL MYERS stated that CuIS asked him to work at either the Department of State or the Central Intelligence Agency. GWENDOLYN MYERS stated that they both preferred the Department of State because KENDALL MYERS is “not a very good liar.” KENDALL MYERS continued “you had to be a good liar to pass [the polygraph at CIA].”

• KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS agreed that the most secure way to transmit information to illegal agents was “hand-to-hand.” GWENDOLYN MYERS stated that this was because “you can always back off if you want. . . and the person we were meeting would understand.”

• KENDALL MYERS remarked that he “didn’t like dead drops . . . because you lose control of it.”

• GWENDOLYN MYERS further stated that her favorite way of passing information involved the changing of shopping carts in a grocery store because it was “easy enough to do.” She further stated that she “wouldn’t do it now. Now they have cameras, but they didn’t then.”

• KENDALL MYERS stated that his least favorite method for transmitting information “is that goddamn telephone system. . . . We wouldn’t do it.”  GWENDOLYN MYERS stated “we did it once, never again, we threw it away.”

• KENDALL MYERS further stated that he believed that the “telephone system” was responsible for Ana Montes’s detection and apprehension.

• KENDALL MYERS stated that the “best way” to take information out from his job was “in your head.”

• KENDALL MYERS told the UCS that he removed information from the Department of State by memory or by taking notes. GWENDOLYN MYERS added that he kept his notes locked in his office safe.

• KENDALL MYERS stated that “I was always pretty careful. I, I didn’t usually take documents out.”

• KENDALL MYERS stated that he and GWENDOLYN MYERS had bookends that were used as a concealment device at their home.

• In response to a question asking whether he had ever delivered information to CuIS that was classified more than SECRET, KENDALL MYERS replied “Oh, yeah. . . Oh, yeah.”

• KENDALL MYERS stated “I have great admiration for [Cuban spy] Ana Montes. She’s a hero. . . But she took too many chances. . . in my opinion. . . . She wasn’t paranoid enough.”

• KENDALL MYERS stated “Fidel is wonderful, just wonderful.” GWENDOLYN MYERS continued: “He’s . . . the most . . . incredible statesman in . . . a hundred years for goodness sakes.”

• GWENDOLYN MYERS informed the UCS that KENDALL MYERS would be a good teacher at a School of Intelligence in Cuba, adding, “so when can we come?” KENDALL MYERS agreed “that I could see doing. . . [t]hat I would like to do.”

SPIES LIKE THEM? REALLY “INTELLIGENT” SPIES DOING REALLY DUMB THINGS — PART ONE

In Corruption, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, undercover investigations on November 24, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Traitors: Walter Kendall Myers ("Agent 202") and Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers ("Agent 123" and "Agent E-634")

“When I heard they were arrested, I felt like they had arrested Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.”

Neighbor at marina where the Myers kept their 37-foot yacht.

We have also seen that espionage is not simply a relic of the Cold War. Earlier this year, a retired State Department employee and his wife were charged with engaging in a long running conspiracy with the Cuban intelligence service to furnish highly sensitive classified information through coded communications and clandestine meetings. Most recently, a scientist who had access to classified information relating to satellites and Department of Defense programs, was charged with attempted espionage after he gave some of that information to an undercover FBI agent posing as a foreign intelligence officer.

Written Testimony by Attorney General Eric Holder to Senate Judiciary Committee, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Two days after Attorney General Eric Holder testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week about — among other things — the Justice Department’s vigilance in hunting down spies, the traitorous husband and wife team he mentioned in the above quote pleaded guilty before a federal judge in Washington.

Former State Department official Walter Kendall Myers copped to a life term in prison on a revised three-count criminal information.  His wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, will serve between six and seven and a half years in prison on a single count.

Court documents in the Myers case (and the more recent case of Stewart David Nozette, the DOD scientist Holder mentioned) describe a variety of methods used by the FBI to reel in suspected spies and would-be spies.  One method used in both cases:  send an undercover “source” to make contact with the suspects, turn on the recorders, and let the fish reel themselves in.

This two part series quotes from relevant court documents in the Myers case.  In this Part One, Fairly Civil describes the Myers’s motivation and recruitment by the Cuban intelligence service.  Part Two covers the “trade craft” the Cuban spies used, and how the investigation rolled them up.

THE MYERS’ IDEOLOGICAL MOTIVATION – CONTEMPT FOR “NORTH AMERICA”

The Myers are representative of a particularly reprehensible class – people who grow up in privileged status, become “intellectuals” contemptuous of the “imperialist” United States, betray their country … and yet continue not merely to enjoy, but to indulge themselves to excess in, its riches.   The Washington Post summarized Myer’s pedigree thusly (“A Slow Burn Becomes a Raging Fire: Disdain for U.S. Policies May Have Led to Alleged Spying for Cuba,” June 7, 2009.):

Myers, who goes by Kendall, grew up in Washington, the eldest of five children. His father, Walter, was a renowned heart surgeon; his mother, Carol, was the daughter of Gilbert H. Grosvenor, the longtime former president of the National Geographic Society, and was the granddaughter of inventor Alexander Graham Bell.

Myers went to prep school at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania and graduated from Brown University. He went on to get a doctorate in European history from the Johns Hopkins SAIS.

What did Kendall Myers glean from this patrician background and elitist education?

According to an affidavit filed in the case, one thing he said to the FBI undercover agent about the United States was that “the trouble with this country, there’s just too many North Americans.” He also told the agent regarding the possibility of travel restrictions to Cuba being lifted, “You don’t want all those Americans … believe me, those North Americans, you don’t want them.”

Here are more relevant passages of Kendall’s loathing from the affidavit, filed last June (“Affidavit in Support of Criminal Complaint and Arrest Warrant,” United States v. Walter Kendall Myers, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Docket No. 1:09-cr-00150-RBW, filed June 4, 2009):

30 … The investigation has revealed a diary, written by KENDALL MYERS, of his 1978 trip to Cuba.  In his account of his trip, KENDALL MYERS expresses a strong affinity towards Cuba and its revolutionary goals, and a negative sentiment toward “American imperialism.”  Notably, KENDALL MYERS states:

Cuba is so exciting!  I have become so bitter these past few months.
 Watching the evening news is a radicalizing experience.  The abuses of our system, the lack of decent medical system, the oil companies and their
 undisguised indifference to public needs, the complacency about the poor, 
the utter inability of those who are oppressed to recognize their own 
condition. . . .  Have the Cubans given up their personal freedom to get
 material security?  Nothing I have seen yet suggests that  . . . . I can see nothing of value that has been lost by the revolution. . .

[T]he revolution has released enormous potential and liberated the Cuban spirit.
. . . .
Everything one hears about Fidel suggests that he is a brilliant and
 charismatic leader.  He exudes the sense of seriousness and
 purposefulness that gives the Cuban socialist system its unique character.
 The revolution is moral without being moralistic.  Fidel has lifted the 
Cuban people out of the degrading and oppressive conditions which
 characterized pre-revolutionary Cuba.  He has helped the Cubans to save
 their own souls.  He is certainly one of the great political leaders of our
 time. . .

Going through the [Museum of the Revolution in Havana] was a sobering 
experience.   Facing step by step the historic interventions of the U.S. in to [sic] Cuban affairs, including the systematic and regular murdering of
 revolutionary leaders left me with a lump in my throat. . . .

They don’t
 need to try very hard to make the point that we have been the exploiters. Batista was only one of the long list of murderous figures that we thrust upon them in the name of stability and freedom . . .

There may have been some abuses under the present regime, life may be more complicated by rationing, etc., but no one can make me believe that Cuba would have been better off if we have defeated the revolution.  The idea is obscene.

Cuban Spy and Castro Enthusiast Kendall Myers and His Wife Apparently Forced Themselves To Enjoy Life Aboard This Decadent Yacht -- A Product of the Imperialist Capitalist System They Effected to Deplore

Walter Kendall Myers’s ecstatic declaration that “no one can make me believe that Cuba would have been better off if we had defeated the revolution” falls precisely into the category of a certain type of (usually academic) intellectual willing to endure the suffering of other less-enlightened persons – without depriving themselves of the comforts of the parlor life.  Content that “life may be more complicated” under Fidel Castro’s communist regime, Walter Kendall Myers and his wife continued to roll like rich puppies in the American imperialistic good life.  “Communism may suck,” people like Kendall Myers pontificate to the impoverished subjects of the Cuban regime, “But that’s just a sacrifice you’ll have to make.  Wish we were there.”

For all the Myers’s intellectual posturing, among the items that they will forfeit to satisfy the $1,735,054 judgment against them – representing the salary paid to him over years by the State Department – is a 37-foot sailing yacht.  Sale prices for boats of equivalent length are currently listed in Maryland from the mid-thirty thousand dollars for older boats (1970s) to just south of $200,000 for newer models.  Such boats are simply another one of the luxuries that the people of Cuba will just have to do without in the Myers’s precious pseudo-Marxist world.

THE MYERS’ RECRUITMENT

Background on Cuban intelligence activities against the United States. The June affidavit describes in general terms the relevant background of Cuba’s intelligence operations against the United States:

20. … the Cuban Intelligence Service (CuIS) is a general term encompassing numerous Cuban intelligence and counterintelligence entities.  A primary such entity is the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), formerly known as the Directorate of General Intelligence (DGI).  It is charged with gathering worldwide intelligence information of interest to Cuba and its allies.  The United States was, and continues to be, a principal target for Cuba’s intelligence gathering.

21.  … CuIS has a well-established program aimed at spotting and assessing persons within the United States academic community who may be suitable for recruitment to serve a variety of roles on behalf of Cuba’s interests.   The most important of these roles is that of agent – that is, a person who is not an officially recognized employee of CuIS but who is aware that he or she is working for the service and is willing to engage in clandestine operational activity, including intelligence gathering, at the direction, and on behalf, of  CuIS.   An agent-in-place is a recruited agent who occupies a position or job in which he or she has authorized access to intelligence information of value to CuIS, including classified information. One such agent was Ana Belen Montes, who was a senior intelligence analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency prior to her arrest and conviction for espionage on behalf of CuIS in March 2002 before this Court in the case of United States v. Ana Belen Montes.  (See a brief discussion of the Ana Belen Montes case in the Fairly Civil post here.)

Poor Housing Stock is One of the "Wonderful" Conditions Kendall Myers Was Happy for Cubans to Endure

Myers recruited after a 1978 trip to Cuba. Kendall Myers visited Cuba in 1978, during which trip Cuban intelligence apparently spotted him as an easy mark.  (It would be no surprise if one learned that the Cuban agency read Kendall’s diary, quoted above, while he was out touring, watching the socialist proletariat laboring according to its means in idyllic sugar cane fields.)  According to the affidavit:

29. … in December 1978, KENDALL MYERS traveled on “unofficial personal travel for academic purposes” to Cuba for approximately two weeks.  Two other Department of State employees traveled during the same time frame. KENDALL MYERS indicated in Department of State documents that his travel was predicated on an invitation from a Cuban government official (hereinafter, co-conspirator “A”) after co-conspirator “A” had given a presentation at the FSI. … co-conspirator “A” served at the Cuban Mission to the United States … in New York City in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  KENDALL MYERS’s guide in Cuba, was an official with Cuba’s Foreign Service Institute (hereinafter, co-conspirator “B”).   Based on all of the evidence collected during this investigation, I conclude that KENDALL MYERS’s trip to Cuba in 1978 provided the CuIS with the opportunity to assess and or develop KENDALL MYERS as a Cuban agent.

31. The FBI’s investigation has revealed that approximately six months after returning from Cuba, KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS were visited by co-conspirator“ A” in South Dakota, where KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS were living at the time. During that trip, KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS were recruited by co-conspirator “A” and they agreed to serve as clandestine agents of the Republic of Cuba. Thereafter, CuIS directed KENDALL MYERS to pursue a job at either the Department of State or the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Myers’s “wonderful” soiree with Comandante Fidel. According to the criminal information (to the charges of which Kendall Myers pleaded guilty), “In or about January 1995 … [the Myers] … traveled to Cuba via Mexico under false names for the purpose of meeting with their … handlers. [W]hile staying in a small house in Cuba …[they] were visited by Fidel Castro.  Fidel Castro spent the evening with them and spoke through an interpreter.”  (“Violation,” United States v. Walter Kendall Myers, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Docket No. 1:09-cr-00150-RBW, filed Nov. 20, 2009.)

The June affidavit recounts what the Myers told the FBI undercover about that meeting:

43. … KENDALL MYERS stated that the “best one was meeting Fidel. . . Oh, that was wonderful.”

THE POTENTIAL DAMAGE

Gwendolyn Myers did not work for the government.  She took a job in a bank.  But, consistent with a known pattern of Cuban intelligence operating in the United States, she was an active member of the husband and wife spy team.

On the other hand, Kendall wormed his duplicitous way into high positions in the State Department where he had and used access to potentially extremely damaging information, including so-called “sources and methods” of intelligence gathering.

A U.S. Department of Justice Press Release (November 20, 2009) summarizes Kendall Myers’s career, beginning with the period shortly before he was recruited by the Cuban intelligence service:

Kendall Myers began working at the State Department in 1977 as a contract instructor at the Department’s Foreign Service Institute (FSI) in Arlington, Va. After living briefly with Gwendolyn in South Dakota, he returned to Washington, D.C., and resumed employment as an instructor with FSI. From 1988 to 1999, in addition to his FSI duties, he performed work for the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). He later worked full-time at the INR and, from July 2001 until his retirement in October 2007, was a senior intelligence analyst for Europe in INR where he specialized on European matters and had daily access to classified information through computer databases and otherwise. He received a Top Secret security clearance in 1985 and, in 1999, his clearance was upgraded to Top Secret / SCI.

In Part Two of this post, Fairly Civil will provide excerpts from court documents describing how the Myers family spy team operated and how the FBI rolled them up after thirty years of betraying their country.

Mutual Admirer: On Learning of the Myers's Arrest, Fidel Castro Said, "I can't help but admire their disinterested and courageous conduct on behalf of Cuba."

ACCUSED SECRET SHOT-CALLER ALEX SANCHEZ’S TAKE-NO-PRISONERS BRIEF FLAMES TRIAL JUDGE MANUEL REAL — BOTTOM LINE: JUDGE DOESN’T GET IT

In bad manners, Crime, Gangs, Informants and other sophisticated means, Latino gangs, RICO, RICO indictments, Transnational crime, undercover investigations on November 23, 2009 at 1:34 pm

 

 

 

Alex Sanchez — the admitted former Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gangster turned Los Angeles anti-gang worker, now accused by the feds of being a “secret shot caller” — has been repeatedly denied pre-trial release.  Now his lawyer, Kerry R. Bensinger, has taken the matter to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in a take-no-prisoners brief that (in nice, polite lawyer language) flames trial Judge Manuel L. Real.

The brief scorches a few other targets, including the government’s trial lawyers and the principle MS-13 expert witness in the case, Los Angeles Police Department Gang Detective Frank Flores.  Flores’s testimony about the meaning of wiretaps (Sanchez allegedly directing a “hit” on a renegade gang member) was key in the detention hearings.  The defense claims that the government not only got one of the key phone call participants wrong, but Flores misconstrued what happened during the calls.

 

Judge Manuel L. Real

 

But Bensinger focuses his flamethrower on the 85-year old Judge Real, stating, “At a minimum, the matter should be remanded for a detention hearing before a different judge.”

If the judge did anything right, it escaped counsel’s notice.

Reading between the lines, Bensinger is conveying to the appeals court the message that — in his view — Real for whatever reason or reasons is confused or willfully obtuse about what the federal law requires in a bail (“detention”) hearing.  In short, the brief argues that the trial judge just doesn’t “get it.”

The 32-page document landed in the appeals court docket less than a week after that court issued an opinion and order applying its own flame to Judge Real.  (Bensinger has more to say on the matter — he asked the higher court to allow him to file additional material.) Here is the Los Angeles Times on the matter involving Real and the 9th Circuit (November 14, 2009):

Federal judge criticized for handling of claimants’ assets, Los Angeles Times, November 14, 2009

A federal appeals court Friday criticized U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real for his handling of $33.8 million entrusted to him for victims of the late Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos, calling his accounting “curious” and “filled with cryptic notations” that failed to show what happened to the money.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new accounting of the disputed assets by a different judge — a rare act of implied censure that Real has now endured at least 11 times in his long judicial career.

 

 

Tom Diaz, "No Boundaries: Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement"

 

“Tom Diaz has worn out some shoe leather—much like a good detective—in gathering facts, not myths or urban legend. “

—Chris Swecker, Former Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“Few people know more about the subject than Tom Diaz and no single book tells the whole story better than No Boundaries. If you really want to know what organized crime in America looks like today, then read this alarming book.”

—Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles

Order No Boundaries from Amazon.com

 

The Stakes

 

If You Indict Mother Teresa, You Better Convict

 

The stakes are high for Sanchez in an already complicated case:  “Now five months since his arrest, Mr. Sanchez faces an extended pretrial detention as the parties believe this case will not be ready for trial before December 2010.”

Unstated is the fact that careers will be on the line in the case.  Indicting Alex Sanchez was the rough equivalent of indicting Mother Teresa.  If the Sanchez case flames out, the careers of more than one or two on the government’s side will hit the silk.

The following are unexpurgated excerpts from the appeals brief on behalf of Sanchez.  (“Appellant’s Memorandum of Law and Facts In Support [of] Appeal from Detention Order,” United States v. Alex Sanchez, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Docket No. 09-50525, filed November 20, 2009.)  Fairly Civil has inserted a minimum of explanatory background.  Additional materials on the case can be found in posts here, here, and here.

The government has ten days to reply.

The Basic Claim — Sanchez Was Denied a Fair Hearing

The core of Sanchez’s appeal is that he was denied a fair hearing on the only issues relevant to whether he should be released, which are (1) is he a risk of flight, and (2) does he present a threat to persons or a community?  Instead, the brief claims, Judge Real essentially held a “mini-trial” on whether Sanchez is guilty of the offenses with which he is charged.

This appeal from an order of pre-trial detention presents the question whether a defendant has been denied his right to a “full-blown adversary hearing” … when the district court limited the hearing to whether the government possessed evidence of the defendant’s guilt, foreclosed the defense from rebutting the government’s case with contrary evidence, shifted the burden of persuasion, ignored evidence relevant to flight and lack of danger and made only a “conclusory finding” misapplying the statutory presumption.

The Life of Alex

 

 

In Happier Times, Sanchez Enjoyed A Saintly Aura Comparable to that of Mother Teresa

 

Naturally enough, the brief sketches a factual review of a man grievously wronged by arbitrary and misdirected government conduct:

Mr. Sanchez quit gang life nearly 15 years ago, beginning a journey of redemption leading him to become one of the foremost anti-gang interventionists in the United States.  In 2006, he became the Executive Director of Homies Unidos, an organization dedicated to extricating youths from gangs and brokering and maintaining peace in communities afflicted by the scourge of gang violence.

On June 24, 2009, however, Mr. Sanchez, a long time resident of Los Angeles and the 38-year-0ld father of three, was arrested at his home and taken into custody on an indictment charging 24 defendants with various crimes in connection with alleged activities of the Mara Salvatrucha (“MS-13″).  Within days of his arrest, over 100 social workers, professors, politicians, clergy, law enforcement and former gang members from around the country raised a chorus of support to release Mr. Sanchez from custody, all attesting to his good character, commitment to peace and ties to the community.  This overwhelming support included over $2.5 million dollars in bail pledges and property.

At the detention hearing, the government claimed a chest tattoo indicated Mr. Sanchez had not quit the gang and four phone calls where Mr. Sanchez mediated a non-violent resolution to an intra-gang dispute supposedly evidenced a plot to kill  one of the disputants.  Announcing “the only determination I have to make on this motion” is “whether or not Mr. Sanchez was there” and “what they were discussing,” the district court precluded Mr. Sanchez from rebutting the government’s evidence about the significance of his chest tattoo while refusing lay and expert testimony contradicting the government’s interpretation of the calls.  Focused exclusively on whether there was evidence of Mr. Sanchez’s guilt, and ignoring evidence of Mr. Sanchez’s extensive ties to the community and reputation as a tireless and effective gang interventionist and violence prevention advocate, the district judge misapplied a statutory presumption, shifted the burden of persuasion, and ignored overwhelming evidence that Mr. Sanchez presents neither a flight risk nor a danger to others.

…the district judge refused to allow evidence on the three critical issues by (1) rejecting defense evidence undermining the inference the government sought to draw from Mr. Sanchez’s chest tattoo, (2) rejecting testimony refuting the government’s contention Mr. Sanchez spoke to Cameron’s killer, and (3) rejecting Mr. Sanchez’s proposed expert testimony disputing that the calls relayed “coded” messages.

The Right to Explain “the Physical Evidence”: The Tattoo:

The government stressed that “physical evidence,” in the form of a chest tattoo, showed Mr. Sanchez was still active in the gang.  Rosemarie Ashmalla, the Executive Director of the agency that removed Mr. Sanchez’s other tattoos, however, was prepared to testify that a chest tattoo was not evidence of ongoing gang affiliation because the tattoo removal program “had a policy of only removing visible tattoos.”  Ms. Ashmalla would have affirmed that most gang tattoo removal agencies, including hers, “do not generally remove non-visible tattoos, absent extraordinary reasons.”  As the head of an agency dedicated to removing gang tattoos (and the agency that removed Mr. Sanchez’s visible tattoos), Ms. Ashmalla was in a far better position that the prosecutor to explain the significance of a residual chest tattoo.  Rejecting her testimony was error.

The Damning Wiretaps — The Court Erroneously Precluded Mr. Sanchez From Presenting Relevant Expert Testimony to Rebut the Government’s Expert.

A focus of the case so far has been the government’s wiretaps of four calls in which Alex Sanchez certainly takes a leading role.  But the crucial question has developed to be:  was that leading role as a mediator and peace-maker or as a “shot caller” pushing the conversation to the ultimate murder in El Salvador of one Walter Lacinos (aka Camaron) by a gangster known as “Zombie”?  A close second is whether the government got the wrong “Zombie.”

Of critical importance, given the district court’s focus on “the content of these [four wire-tapped] conversations” is the district court’s refusal to permit Father Greg Boyle’s testimony.  Fr. Boyle is the Executive Director of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention program in the country, and a nationally recognized gang expert knowledgeable in gang language, interactions and “codes.”  After listening to the calls and reviewing Det. [Frank] Flores’s declaration re-interpreting the calls and the prosecution’s arguments based thereon, Fr. Boyle concluded that, rather than corroborating a murder plot, Mr. Sanchez’s statements reflected a gang mediator’s peacemaking efforts.

The brief argues that the judge erred in declaring Father Boyle’s statement not “relevant” to the questions in the detention hearing — a specific case of the judge “not getting it.”

The Court Erroneously Rejected Relevant Defense Evidence Explaining the Context of the Conversations in the Four Wire-tapped Calls.

The district court erroneously rejected the testimony of Sonia Hernandez, a witness who knew the government (and Flores) misidentified one of the key participants in the calls, distorting their interpretation of the statements made therein.

The government got its facts wrong.  Although both Hernandez and Bonilla used the name “Zombie,” the person who killed Camaron was not the person Mr. Sanchez spoke to on May 7.  Sonia Hernandez would have identified her brother’s voice (not Bonilla’s) as the Zombie on the May 7 call with Mr. Sanchez.

By authenticating her brother’s voice on the May 7 call, Ms. Hernandez would have confirmed Mr. Sanchez had not talked “to the person who ultimately did, in fact, carry out the murder in El Salvador,” but to another person also nicknamed “Zombie.”

The Court Shifted the Burden of Persuasion

The brief also addresses a technical point that involves the difference between the “burden of production” (producing some favorable evidence) and the “burden of persuasion” (persuading the fact-trier that the evidence is true).  Essentially, Bensinger argues again that Judge Real confused the two:

“The burden of persuasion regarding risk-of-flight and danger to the community always remains with the government…”  As now-Justice Breyer explained, even where the nature of the charges gives rise to “a rebuttable presumption that ‘no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required and the safety of the community,” [citing 18 U.S. Code, Section 3142 (e)] this presumption only served to “shift the burden of production” and require the defendant to introduce “some evidence” to the contrary.

The brief argues that Sanchez met this burden of production with witnesses who could rebut the government’s factual assertions about the tattoo and the calls, his agreement to “many restrictions on his liberty,” and the character witnesses and property-owners willing to support his release.

The brief also points out additional problems with Judge Real’s ruling:  he did not provide the requisite written statement of reason for Sanchez’s detention, including findings of fact, and erroneously placed undue weight on evidence of guilt, as opposed to risk of flight or danger.

Despite its refrain that “this is not trial” — invoked only to exclude defense evidence contradicting the prosecution’s case — the district court transformed the detention hearing into a mini-trial on the merits of the charges…Rather than conduct an inquiry focused on whether the release of Mr. Sanchez posed a clear and present danger to any person or community, the district court devoted himself to prejudging the evidence of guilt even though, as now-Justice Kennedy reminded, “the statute neither requires not permits a pretrial determination that the person is guilty.”

This Case Should Be Reassigned to a Different Judge on Remand

The brief ends up with the following request, not coincidentally accompanied by a footnote referring to other instances in which the Ninth Circuit has corrected Judge Real:

Judge Real rejected Ms. Hernandez’s testimony refuting the government’s claim that Mr. Sanchez instructed Bonilla to kill Camaron because it was “totally irrelevant.”  Judge Real excluded this patently relevant evidence not on technical legal grounds but because he failed to appreciate its logical relevance to the crucial issues at hand.  The same is true with respect to Fr. Boyle’s testimony.  Even if the matter were remanded for renewed consideration, there is little chance Judge Real will accord this evidence it proper weight, simply because the disputed evidence has been found relevant and admissible…[He has already] declared that it is entitled to no weight whatsoever.  At a minimum, the matter should be remanded for a detention hearing before a different judge.

Fairly Civil looks forward to reading and posting excerpts from the government’s reply to this brief.

 

 

Government's Serve

 

NOW ITS PERSONAL–MS-13 GANG LEADERS IN EL SALVADOR ORDERED HIT ON U.S. ICE AGENT IN NEW YORK

In bad manners, Crime, Drugs, Gangs, Guns, Informants and other sophisticated means, Latino gangs, Transnational crime, undercover investigations on November 4, 2009 at 4:53 pm
gang_members12_6_07

Leaders of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) in El Salvador Ordered Hit on ICE Agent in New York

Now it’s definite.

And it’s personal.

Leaders of the transnational organized criminal gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) have upped the ante and ordered a hit on a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent in New York.  An earlier plot to kill an LAPD gang detective, Frank Flores, was detailed in a RICO indictment earlier this year.  (See “The Plot to Whack a Cop” here.)

This case takes MS-13’s violent impudence to a federal level.

Tom Diaz, "No Boundaries: Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement"

“Tom Diaz has worn out some shoe leather—much like a good detective—in gathering facts, not myths or urban legend. “

—Chris Swecker, Former Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“Few people know more about the subject than Tom Diaz and no single book tells the whole story better than No Boundaries. If you really want to know what organized crime in America looks like today, then read this alarming book.”

—Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles

Order No Boundaries from Amazon.com

M16assaultrifle

M-16 Assault Rifle Was One Choice of MS-13 Gangsters to Kill Federal Agent

According to an affidavit filed in support of an arrest warrant, an MS-13 member specifically tasked to kill the ICE agent described the plot to federal agents.  The gangsters were looking for an AK-47 or M-16 assault rifle to do the job.  (“Affidavit In Support Of Arrest Warrant,”  United States v. Walter Alberto Torres, also known as “Duke,” United States District Court for the Eastern District Of New York, Case 1:09-mj-01055-RLM).

This is perhaps not surprising, given MS-13’s violent history — which is detailed in my book, No Boundaries:  Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement (University of Michigan Press, 2009).

As Fairly Civil has noted before, there is no question that gangsters in the United States have access to the firepower to take on U.S. law enforcement agents in the same way that narcotraficantes go after Mexican law enforcement authorities.  The question has been:  would gang leadership risk bringing the fury of America’s cops and agents down on their heads?

Apparently they would.   (Although one experienced gang cop takes exception to this conclusion here.)

ak47

AK-47 Was Other Choice of MS-13 Gangsters

It is worth noting that some gang experts familiar with the Mexican Mafia and their affiliated Sureno gangs insist that the Mexican Mafia made its decision a few years ago to target troublesome cops.

If there were any gloves left on, they are off now.

Here is an extended excerpt from the affidavit. (Under the circumstances, Fairly Civil does not include the name of the agent filing the affidavit.  The target is called “John Doe” in the affidavit.):

2. Over the past several years, my office has engaged in an extended, in-depth investigation of members of the street gang La Mara Salvatrucha 13, also known as “MS-13,” (hereinafter “MS-13″). The defendant WALTER ALBERTO TORRES DUKE, also known as “Duke,” is a self-admitted member of MS-13. MS-13 engages in acts and threats involving murder, attempted murder, robbery and extortion, in violation of the laws of the various states, including New York, and narcotics trafficking, in violation of Title 21, U.S.C., Sections 841 and 846.

3. MS-13 is comprised primarily of immigrants from El Salvador and other Central American countries, with members located throughout the United States and Central America. In the United States, major MS-13 chapters, or “cliques,” have been established in New York, Virginia, Texas, California and elsewhere. Following induction, members of MS-13 frequently demonstrate their membership by wearing clothing containing the colors blue and white and/or the words “MS” or “13.”

4. In the Eastern District of New York, MS-13 cliques have been established in various towns on Long Island, including Hempstead, Freeport, Roosevelt, Huntington, Brentwood and Islip, and neighborhoods in New York City including Jamaica, Flushing, Forest Hills and Far Rockaway. The cliques routinely hold meetings to plan criminal activity, and members pay dues into a clique treasury. The treasury funds are used to purchase firearms and ammunition and to promote other illegal activity. Inter-clique meetings, called “Universals,” are used to coordinate criminal activities among different cliques. Participation in criminal activity by a member, especially violence directed at rival gangs, increases the respect accorded to that member and is necessary to obtain a promotion to a senior or leadership position.

5. In the Eastern District of New York, MS-13 members are frequently involved in violent altercations with members of rival gangs such as the Salvadorans With Pride (“SWP”), the Latin Kings, the Bloods and the Netas. In the Eastern District of New York, MS-13 members have repeatedly carried out “drive-by” shootings and other violent attacks targeting members of rival gangs and others.

6. According to a cooperating witness (“CW”), members of MS-13 have been plotting to kill ICE Agent John Doe (“Agent Doe”), a leader in the investigation of MS-13, since at least December 2006. Specifically, CW stated that he, along with fellow MS-13 gang members in the Flushing clique of MS-13, plotted to murder Agent Doe with either a rifle or a shotgun, in retaliation for Agent Doe’s ongoing investigation of MS-13 in Queens, New York. CW stated that the gang was exceedingly angry at Agent Doe, whom MS-13 blamed for the incarceration of dozens of gang members in Queens, New York, and elsewhere.

7. A second MS-13 gang member, who subsequently pled guilty to racketeering-related charges in this District, admitted to participating in the same plot to kill Agent Doe in late 2006 and early 2007, during proffer sessions with the government.

8. On or about October 16, 2009, at approximately 9:30 p.m., detectives from the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) observed a group of several admitted MS-13 gang members walking on Northern Boulevard, near 150th Street, in Flushing, Queens, and approaching other pedestrians in an aggressive manner. Two detectives requested the individuals to stop, and requested them to take their hands out of their pockets. The individuals ultimately complied, and the detectives recognized four of the individuals as previously identified MS-13 gang members. A fifth individual, the defendant TORRES, was not known to the detectives at the time, but identified himself as a member of MS-13 and stated that he wished to provide information to the NYPD. None of the individuals, including the defendant, were taken into custody.

9. On or about October 20, 2009, defendant WALTER ALBERTO TORRES, also known as “Duke,” contacted detectives from the NYPD and requested a meeting, which was arranged for later that day. Prior to commencing the interview with the defendant, the defendant was advised of his Miranda rights, both orally and in writing. Defendant TORRES indicated that he understood and wished to waive his rights, and signed a written waiver to that effect.

10. During the interview, the defendant stated, in sum and substance and in part, that he has been a member of MS-13 since joining the gang in approximately 1998 in El Salvador. The defendant stated that he emigrated to the United States in 2001, at which point he joined an MS-13 clique in Springfield, Virginia. He later moved to Alexandria, Virginia.

11. The defendant further stated that he and other MS-13 gang members agreed to murder Agent Doe and engaged in planning the murder. In order to perpetrate the murder, the defendant stated that the gang was attempting to procure an AK-47 assault rifle or an M-16 machine gun, in anticipation that the bullets would penetrate the agent’s body armor. TORRES stated that the order for the murder came from gang leadership in El Salvador, and that he discussed the plan with MS-13 gang members as recently as August 2009.

12. During the October 20, 2009 interview, it was determined that there was an outstanding warrant for the defendant’s arrest. Specifically, the defendant is wanted in Fairfax, Virginia, for violation of probation following his guilty plea to grand larceny, a felony. The defendant was subsequently taken into custody.

13. On or about October 22, 2009, NYPD detectives and ICE agents again interviewed the defendant, this time at Riker’s Island. The defendant was advised of his Miranda rights, both orally and in writing. Defendant TORRES again indicated that he understood and wished to waive his rights, and signed a written waiver to that effect.

14. During the interview, the defendant described, among other things, multiple acts of violence he committed on behalf of MS-13. The defendant also described the plot to kill a federal agent, stating that he traveled to New York in or about August 2009 for the specific purpose of participating in the planning and execution of the murder plot. Information provided by the CW, as well as surveillance by law enforcement agents, corroborates the identity and gang membership of the coconspirators identified by TORRES. According to TORRES, he was in charge of putting the plan together, and he agreed with fellow gang members to participate in the ongoing plot to kill Agent Doe with a high powered rifle or similar weapon.

MS 13

Maybe All They Need is a Hug: MS-13 Gangsters Flash Devil's Horns

THE UNITED NATIONS (GANG) — DRUG-TRAFFICKING ACROSS CANADA-UNITED STATES BORDER

In Crime, Drugs, Gangs, Guns, Informants and other sophisticated means, Marijuana Debate, Mexico, Transnational crime, undercover investigations on November 2, 2009 at 11:27 am
SUN0611 Gangstas

Members and Associates of the United Nations (UN) Gang. Clayton Roueche is in First Row Center. (Vancouver Sun Photo)

Around 11:30 p.m. on April 2 [2008] in suburban Vancouver, B.C., Clayton Roueche’s cell phone rang. It was his friend Pam Lee, who was looking for a ride down to Bellingham [Washington] International Airport, where she hoped to catch a flight to a concert in California.

“I know I can’t ask you,” Lee said.

“Yeah,” replied Roueche, as Canadian federal authorities quietly listened in with recording equipment. “I’ll never come back.”

“Do you know anybody that could?” Lee asked.

“Drive you to the States?” asked Roueche.

“Yeah,” Lee replied.

Well, said Roueche, “I wouldn’t even get down [to Bellingham]; they’d throw me in jail.”

Seattle Weekly, “The Last King of Potland,” September 09, 2008

Think of drug lords, drug trafficking organizations, and cross-border drug-trafficking and one naturally thinks of the U.S.-Mexican border, the Mexican Mafia, and Latino street gangs.  But the United Nations Gang in Vancouver, British Columbia has become a major criminal force in the U.S.-Canadian criminal traffic.  In a sentence, the gang has smuggled marijuana and people south across the border, and cocaine and guns north.

This Thursday (November 5, 2009), Clayton (Clay) Roueche, said to be the gang’s founder, will face sentencing in the federal district court in Seattle, Washington.  Federal prosecutors have asked the court to sentence Roueche to 30 years in prison.

bc_rcmp_gang2

One Doubts UN Gang Leader Clay Roueche Will Be Laughing at His Sentencing

In spite of his well-founded suspicion and caution, Rouche was arrested last year.  The collar is described in the government’s sentencing memorandum. (United States v. Roueche, “Government’s Sentencing Memorandum,” U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, Docket No. CR-07-0344 RSL.):

On May 19, 2008, Clay Roueche flew from Canada to Mexico, ostensibly to attend the wedding of a UN Gang member.  Mexican law enforcement learned that Roueche was wanted in connection with drug trafficking crimes and rejected his application for entry into their country.  When Roueche’s return flight to Canada landed in Houston, Texas on a layover, he was arrested on the outstanding warrant [from a sealed indictment] and brought to this district.

Court records demonstrate that, although marijuana enthusiasts may perceive toking a bit of “BC Bud” to be a “harmless” indulgence, akin to drinking a glass of fine champagne, the proceeds of trafficking in the Canadian weed finance cocaine trafficking by the same criminal organizations.  Of course, this marijuana is also pouring into the ersatz “medical marijuana” compassionate use market.

“Tom Diaz has worn out some shoe leather—much like a good detective—in gathering facts, not myths or urban legend. “

—Chris Swecker, Former Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“Few people know more about the subject than Tom Diaz and no single book tells the whole story better than No Boundaries. If you really want to know what organized crime in America looks like today, then read this alarming book.”

—Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles

Order No Boundaries from Amazon.com

Background

The Seattle Weekly described Roueche and the UN Gang in its September 2008 article, “The Last King of Potland,” as follows:

[The] British Columbia’s “United Nations” drug gang, [was] founded by Roueche and some of his high-school buddies in the 1990s. Now comprising as many as 300 white, Asian, and Persian members fond of dragon tattoos and designer hoodies, the gang has its own monogrammed tombstones, jewelry, and kilos of cocaine, as well as its own motto-“Honor, Loyalty, Respect”-and trail of alleged murders.

Canadian court documents describe United Nations members as “involved in marijuana grows and cross-border trafficking, extortion, threatening, and kidnappings and…linked to numerous homicides.” Based in the Fraser River Valley south of Vancouver, the organization is connected to the international Chinese crime syndicate Triad, according to investigators.

With help from local associates, the UN’s money and drugs move through Puget Sound or eastern Washington, then along the West Coast, according to U.S. and Canadian court documents. Cocaine flows north from Mexico, marijuana heads south to California, and cash goes both ways as payment and profit. The gang also deals in Ecstasy-but bud is #1.

The Economist recently estimated that historically low-crime Canada now has 950 major gangs, with Vancouver as ground zero. This decade, the B.C. drug trade has spiked to a now-estimated $7 billion annually. All that money creates a glitzy gang culture in which, a Vancouver policeman observes, “handguns are as ubiquitous as cell phones.”

The Federal Case

Pot Farmers

BC Bud Confiscated in Washington State in 2008. Smuggling of Similar High Grade BC Weed Financed the UN Gang's Cocaine Operations.

Last April Roueche pleaded guilty, and according to the government’s sentencing memorandum,  “[admitted] to conspiring with others to export more than 5 kilograms of cocaine and more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana.  He also admitted to arranging for the collection and transportation of marijuana proceeds in an attempt to conceal or disguise the sources of those funds.” The sentencing memorandum calls this a merely “legalistic description,” and fills in the details, buttressed by an affidavit and other exhibits from the investigation.

Here is how the federal prosecutors summed up Roueche and the UN Gang’s criminal operations:

In this era, where federal law enforcement agents have focused intensely on stopping the international drug trade, the phrases “drug lord” and “international drug-trafficking organization” can be misused and overstated.  But not in this case.  Defendant Clay Roueche oversaw the movement of tens of thousands of pounds of marijuana, thousands of kilograms of cocaine, and millions of U.S. dollars through several states and at least three North American countries.  He used private airplanes, float planes, helicopters, cars, semi-trucks and coded Blackberry telephones to create a secret and successful organization that he planned to extend into the Far East and South America. He employed pilots, drug couriers and money transporters to carry out the objectives of his organization.  His organization was equal parts corporate and violent.  Clay Roueche worked hard, with laudable organizational skills coupled with an attention to detail, to achieve the moniker “drug lord.”  Similarly, his organization deserves the descriptor of “international drug trafficking organization.”

Three separate drug and money laundering investigations dovetailed in 2005 and 2006, and each led to Roueche’s Canadian-based, multi-national, multi-ethnic drug trafficking organization known as the United Nations Gang (hereinafter “UN Gang”). Defendant Clay Roueche was the public face of this violent, quasi-corporate group, and led its drug trafficking endeavors.  The group used guns, threats and violence to keep its contracted workers and gang members in line and to ensure that no one informed on the group’s activities.  The UN Gang is the type of organized, sophisticated drug trading group that presents a significant danger to the safety, peace and security of the United States.

Gang Guns in Vancouver -- Guns Imported from US Civilian Market Empower Criminals Throughout Western Hemisphere

Vancouver Gang Guns -- Firerams from US Civilian Gun Market Empower DTO Throughout Western Hemisphere

In one of the attached exhibits, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent Peter Ostrovsky described one of the “dovetailed” investigations that led to Roueche’s indictment, arrest, and ultimately guilty plea (United States v. Roueche, “Government’s Sentencing Memorandum, Exhibit 3, Affidavit of Peter Ostrovsky,” U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, Docket No. CR-07-0344 RSL.):

3. …most prolific Canadian DTO are involved in the smuggling of Canadian marijuana into the United States in order to generate illicit proceeds which are subsequently used to purchase multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine in the United States for subsequent export and trafficking into Canada. This sort of criminality dramatically increases the United States’ illicit drug supply by causing Mexican and Colombian DTO to smuggle more cocaine, which is subsequently trafficked in the United States and sold to Canadian DTO.

4.  In the fall of 2004, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Border Integrity Program relayed information to ICE that they heard helicopters were being used for the smuggling of drug contraband across the United States–Canada border. The RCMP had no specific information about where the smuggling activity was occurring along the border….”

5.  Based on the information that ICE collected, I conceived Operation Frozen Timber as an ICE-led investigative operation with criminal investigative and homeland security purposes…By conducting such an investigative operation, ICE would also be able to ultimately prevent others from using smuggling via helicopter as a means to conduct National Security-related offenses.

6.  During January 2005, ICE agents began extensive follow-up investigation to positively identify the persons, aircraft and locations that were being used during suspected smuggling via helicopter activities.  Ultimately, ICE investigation determined that the majority of the persons that were involved in smuggling via helicopter activities were working under the direction of Roueche and his subordinates in the UN GANG.

2003095061

Canadian Helicopters Brought Weed Into US

[ICE deployed motion-triggered video monitors in remote locations, and working with informants and other sophisticated investigative techniques, observed and filmed a number of occasions when helicopters from Canada brought in large loads of marijuana, dumping them off in duffle bags to gang members on the ground.  Working through an informant, ICE agents in May 2005 sold “suspected Canadian drug smugglers” Trevor Schoueten and Brian Fews a pickup truck which had been covertly fitted out with a GPS monitor and a “kill switch.”  In June, the kill switch was activated during a run and the investigators gathered further intelligence when “Roueche subsequently contacted the informant and requested that the informant assist Schoueten in recovering the vehicle and marijuana load from the Washington State Patrol.”  Several subjects of the investigation admitted that they had been smuggled across the border in the helicopters.]

16…. Unfortunately on that same date, a RCMP member who was requested to identify the pilot of the helicopter, inadvertently advised the pilot Henry Rosenau that the U.S. Government was aware of his smuggling activities along with the locations from where Rosenau was operating the helicopters in British Columbia, Canada.…

21.  During December, 2005, during telephone conversations with the informant, Roueche solicited the informant to transport the illicit proceeds from narcotics sales in Seattle, Washington to Los Angeles, California in a vehicle with a hidden compartment.  During the conversations, Roueche stated that the transportation of the proceeds to California would enable him “to get what I need.”  Roueche’s statement was a reference to cocaine for the purpose of exporting it to Canada.

23.  Between January and March 2006, on multiple occasions, Roueche and his subordinate [defendant] Daniel Russell, directed the informant to have undercover ICE agents pick up, transport and deliver a total of $748,460 to persons in the Los Angeles area.

26.  During 2006, follow up investigation by ICE agents and local police investigators and the conduct of multiple search warrants resulted in the seizure of over $2,000,000 in U.S. currency and approximately 200 kilograms of cocaine in the Los Angeles area.

30.  As a result of Operation Frozen Timber, ICE agents identified at least 15 helicopter landing sites on federal and state lands in Washington State that were being used by the UN GANG for drug and human smuggling activities.  ICE agents further determined that the smuggling via helicopters was as follows:  there were multiple Canadian-registered helicopters operating from Canada away from traditional airports in rural locations, the helicopters were being loaded with drug contraband in uninhabited, forested mountainous terrain near the border, the helicopters were evading civil aviation radar detection and authorities by flying through cross border mountainous terrain where there is no radar coverage, the helicopters were flying eight to 40 miles south of the border and exploiting uninhabited federal and state lands where they could offload their drug contraband in 43 seconds to 3 minutes and then return to Canada.  Based upon the aforementioned technical data alone, this sort of smuggling activity poses a significant threat to U.S. border and homeland security.

31.  Also as a result of Operation Frozen Timber and its focus on Roueche and the activities of the UN GANG in multiple judicial districts in the Western United States, ICE agents and their law enforcement partners were able to seize approximately 2,169 pounds of Canadian marijuana, 335 kilograms of cocaine, $2,033,388 in U.S. currency, two pounds of crack cocaine, four pounds of methamphetamine, five firearms and conduct the undercover delivery of $748,460 in U.S. currency at the direction of Roueche and Russell.  ICE agents also documented through motion-activated video surveillance systems, that approximately 3,500 pounds of Canadian marijuana was smuggled into the United States by Roueche and the UN GANG which was not seized by the U.S. Government.  Based on the aforementioned seizures, information and proffers by convicted UN GANG members and criminal associates…it is estimated that Roueche and the UN GANG were responsible for importing at least 2,000 pounds of Canadian marijuana into Washington State from British Columbia, Canada and exporting at least 200 pounds of cocaine from California into British Columbia, Canada, per month.

Unrepentant Gang Boss

Roueche may be brilliant as a gang boss and drug lord.  But he did himself no favors as a convicted felon awaiting sentencing.  According to the sentencing memorandum, he painted himself as unrepentant and down with the hoods he met in several lockups:

None of Roueche’s post-arrest actions or writings evinces any desire to change his lifestyle or move in a different direction.  He simply wishes to continue supporting his organization until he can get out and pick up where he left off.  In a letter addressed to “Mrs. Roueche” but which begins, “To my Bro’s [sic],” Roueche spends two handwritten pages re-dedicating himself to his gang.  He muses about the  “hella cool” cellmates he had in the Federal Detention Center, commenting that he closely listened to their stories because he has, “a big thirst for knowledge.”  The first person he described had, “crazy tatts and bullet wounds everywhere as well as stacks of charges LOL.”

Roueche spoke reverentially of this inmate, as well as two others with criminal pasts, and describes that they all “seemed solid.”  He put himself on equal footing with these criminals, explaining, “it seems real men can usually tell what others are real.” Roueche also appears to hold those who refuse to talk to the authorities as more upstanding than those who do not.  He described that the inmates in state prisons are more “solid” than those in the federal system because those in the state system must “show paperwork.”  He described his stay in a Texas jail as “interesting” and noted that he “met a cool crew there too.”

Roueche simply shows no desire to walk away from the very people with whom he surrounded himself during his crimes.  His behavior and his letters evince a continuing need to lead his “crew” and return to the drug trafficking he has lived for the past several years.  He does not show a need or an inclination to change.  When released, Roueche will undoubtedly go back to trafficking in narcotics, or whatever illegal goods make the most money for him.

This, of course, will do him no good when he stands before the bar of justice and gets what’s coming to him.  Meanwhile, local media in Vancouver reports that the UN Gang has recovered from its loss and is still up to its elbows in criminality.

p007_1_1

Here's a Good Idea: Smoke BC Bud and Finance Another Crack Cocaine Addict's Supply!

WRONG ZOMBIE? COULD MISTAKEN IDENTITY STRIKE TWICE IN TWO FEDERAL MS-13 CASES? BOTH INVOLVING ALEX SANCHEZ?

In bad manners, Crime, Gangs, Informants and other sophisticated means, Latino gangs, RICO, RICO indictments, Transnational crime, undercover investigations on October 27, 2009 at 10:53 am
Sorry, Wrong Gangster?

Sorry, Wrong Gangster?

“’Curiouser and curiouser!’ Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English). ’Now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!’ (for when she looked down at her feet they seemed to be almost out of sight, they were getting so far off).

Lewis Carroll, Alice In Wonderland.

Pregnant MS-13 Gangster Brenda Paz Was Slashed to Death on the Banks of the Shenandoah River on the Morning of July 13, 2003 for "Ratting" on Fellow Gangsters

Pregnant MS-13 Gangster Brenda Paz Was Slashed to Death on the Banks of the Shenandoah River on the Morning of July 13, 2003 for "Ratting" on Fellow Gangsters

Here is a curious web of events, the common thread of which is one Alex Sanchez, aka “Rebelde.”

Sanchez is the putative “anti-gang activist” whom the government accused in a racketeering (RICO) indictment handed up in June 2009 by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles of being a fraud — acting in secret as a “shot-caller” while posing in public as the Mother Teresa of the Latino gang world.  (For details of the case, start here, and here and follow links).

Let us, gentle reader, go forth and explore this web together.

O, Shenandoah!

A horrific murder — typical of the work of members of the bloodthirsty transnational Latino gang, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) — was committed the morning of July 13, 2003.

On the banks of the gently flowing and historic Shenandoah River in Virgina, pregnant gangster Brenda Paz was brutally slashed to death by two of her fellow gangsters.  One of them, Ismael Juarez Cisneros, later told investigators, “I loved her with all my heart.”  Skeptics might be forgiven for thinking Cisneros — a deported and feloniously re-entered illegal alien from Mexico — had a curious manner of showing his affection.

Brenda’s offense?

“Ratting out” her fellow gangsters to federal authorities and a host of state and local police.  Paz was scheduled to testify in a federal murder trial, in which she was prepared to implicate as homicidal mastermind a Virginia-based MS-13 shot-caller, Denis “Conejo” (Rabbit) Rivera — not incidentally one of her former lovers.

[The sordid details of Brenda Paz's life and murder are summarized in my book, No Boundaries:  Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement (University of Michigan Press, 2009).  No Boundaries also examines the genesis of MS-13 within the context of the broader history of Latino street gangs generally. Those interested in a book more narrowly focused specifically on Paz's tumultuous life and tragic death should read Samuel Logan's This is for the Mara Salvatrucha (New York: Hyperion 2009).]

In a December 2005 piece on the Paz murder, “The Fight Against MS-13,” the CBS 60 Minutes television program summed up the relevant events:

Not only does MS-13 conduct investigations of its own, but like a corporate organization, most cliques have regular meetings where they discuss recruiting, money and murder – what they call a “greenlight.”

According to witnesses, the gang took a unanimous vote in a hotel that Brenda should be assassinated. The next morning, she was lured away on a fishing trip with her new boyfriend, Oscar Grande, and her friend, Ismael Cisneros.

A former MS-13 member who is now in jail on an ammunition possession charge and asked 60 Minutes not to use his name, went with them.

“I was facing the river. You know, I was watching, I was enjoying the view. Was summertime. It was nice place. And they was behind me fixing the fishing pole. And I turn my face. I see for couple seconds that she was get stabbing. And I freak out and I run away,” he recalled.

Asked to confirm if he saw the stabbing of Brenda Paz, he answered “Yes.”

She was stabbed by her boyfriend Oscar Grande and Ismael Cisneros, who later confessed. He said she had called out “Why?” “Because you’re a rat” she was told. They stabbed her approximately 13 times.

MS-13 Gangster Ismael Cisneros Claimed He "Loved" Paz, Whom He Was Convicted of Slashing to Death

MS-13 Gangster Ismael Cisneros Claimed He "Loved" Paz, Whom He Was Convicted of Slashing to Death

Court records and other news reporting make clear beyond doubt that the anonymous “former MS-13″ gangster quoted on the 60 Minutes program was one Oscar Garcia-Orellana.  Garcia had either somehow slipped between the cracks and evaded a 1998 deportation order, or feloniously re-entered the United States after having been deported to El Salvador.

Garcia was the only defendant in the 2005 Paz murder case trial to take the stand.  Prosecutors claimed that he held a rope around Paz’s neck while the other two men slashed the life out of her and her unborn child.  Garcia admitted that he had been present at the time of the slaughter, but claimed that he did not know in advance that Cisneros and Grande planned to kill her.  He testified that instead of trying to save Paz, he had acted like a coward and run away when they started slashing her.  His lawyers maintained that although he had once been an active member of MS-13, he had drifted away from the gang.

One of the defense witnesses for Garcia was — the aforesaid “anti-gang activist” Alex “Rebelde” Sanchez.

The Expert Witness for the Defense

Here is an excerpt from the report of the Paz murder trial in the May 4, 2005 edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper:

Jurors also heard from Alex Sanchez, a gang expert from Los Angeles and a former MS-13 member. He explained that many young people join gangs like MS-13 to mitigate abuse or neglect at home.

“They feel a sense of knowing that a bigger group will stand up for them, that they are not alone,” he said.

Sanchez also said most older gang members fall away from MS-13 once they reach their 30s, when younger members take leadership roles. His comments dovetailed with the assertions of Garcia’s lawyers, who claim he was a part-time gang member who was not involved in MS-13’s decision to kill Paz.

“Tom Diaz has worn out some shoe leather—much like a good detective—in gathering facts, not myths or urban legend. “

—Chris Swecker, Former Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“Few people know more about the subject than Tom Diaz and no single book tells the whole story better than No Boundaries. If you really want to know what organized crime in America looks like today, then read this alarming book.”

—Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles

Order No Boundaries from Amazon.com

Sorry, Wrong Member

But Alex Sanchez was by far not the only help Oscar Garcia got.

More important was a huge screw-up, belatedly admitted by government prosecutors.  Here is an excerpt from the May 11, 2005 edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch (which, it ought to be noted, cleaned the Washington Post’s clock on the coverage of this case) detailing the blunder:

Lawyer Alexander Levay, representing 32-year-old Oscar Garcia-Orellana, charged that government lawyers manipulated evidence and pursued conspiracy charges against Garcia even after prosecutors recognized their indictment against him was seriously flawed.

“If we can’t count on the government to play fair and by the rules, then each of us are a little less free,” Levay said.

At issue are allegations central to prosecutors’ contention that Garcia conspired with the accused mastermind of the plot to kill Paz, 21-year-old Denis “Conejo” Rivera. At the outset of the case, prosecutors said a taped telephone call between Garcia and Rivera — in which Garcia purportedly informed Rivera that Paz was dead — would prove Garcia’s guilt.

But prosecutors were forced to abandon that assertion after Garcia’s lawyers showed that it was not the defendant’s voice on the call. Rather, Rivera apparently was talking about the Paz murder with another gang member, Napoleon Hernandez, who shares the same nickname as Garcia, “Gato.” Hernandez has been deported.

Prosecutors acknowledged their mistake earlier in the case. Out of the presence of the jury, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald L. Walutes Jr. offered to withdraw the phone-call allegation from the indictment. But Garcia’s defense lawyers refused, hoping to show to the jury that the prosecution misstep made their entire case against Garcia suspect.

Levay said prosecutors had reason last year to suspect that they had the wrong Gato, but chose not to pursue the evidence.

“It didn’t fit their little scenario of the case, so they buried it,” Levay said. “The fact that they would mislead you into believing that the Gato on the phone was my client should be enough to find him not guilty.”

Levay’s attack on the prosecution case was part of a defense strategy to differentiate him from his fellow defendants.

“The indictment lumps everyone together, but the evidence distinguishes them again and again,” he said.

Oops.

Garcia walked — but right into the arms of federal agents, who arrested him on another felony charge of being illegally in possession of ammunition (by reason of his immigration status).  According to federal court records, he took a plea and was sentenced to a year and a day.  He has since presumably been deported to his native El Salvador [although the trail grows cold in official records, one might justifiably assume that the government kept track of him this time.]

His Other Left Foot

Fate takes strange turns in the gangster world.

This June Alex Sanchez found the shoe on the other foot — instead of witness for the defense, he became notorious defendant (for not the first time in his life).

In brief, Sanchez is accused of only pretending to have rejected the gang life and become a prominent anti-gang activist.  In fact, the government claims, Sanchez has all along been a secret leader of an MS-13 clique in Los Angeles.

More specifically, Sanchez is said to have directed the murder of a renegade gang member in El Salvador, one Walter Lacinos (aka “Camaron,” also sometimes spelled “Cameron”).

Prosecutors persuaded a federal magistrate to detain Sanchez when he was arrested.  The issue in a detention proceeding is not guilt, but the risk of flight.  The strength of the government’s detention case was four wiretapped phone calls in which — according to the analysis of Los Angeles Police Department Detective and MS-13 expert Frank Flores — Sanchez allegedly directed one Juan Bonilla (aka “Zombie”) to whack Camaron.

Judge Manuel L. Real promptly confirmed the magistrate’s decision and set a new bail (detention) hearing for last Monday, October 19, 2009.

According to the court’s one page of clinical minutes, the hearing before Judge Manuel L. Real lasted one hour and eighteen minutes.  (Criminal Minutes — General, “Further Hearing re: Defendant’s Application for Review/Reconsideration of Detention Order,” Case No. CR-09-466-R).

Here is what happened, according to the court’s minutes:

Detective Frank Flores is called, sworn and testifies.

Exhibits are identified.

The Court hears arguments of counsel.

For reasons stated, the Court orders the continued detention of defendant.

More or less, open and shut.  Here is a nice, balanced account from LA Weekly about the hearing.

But according to the social justice website WitnessLA, something fascinating also happened.  And it is no doubt this something that prompted Alex Sanchez’s court-appointed lawyer, Kerry Bensinger, to file an interlocutory appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the detention order.  Courts of appeal generally do not fiddle with such fact-based, pre-trial rulings of lower courts, but the 9th Circuit is said to have reversed Judge Real at an exceptional rate and to be “on his case.”

Sorry, Wrong Member, Redux

Alex Sanchez (WitnessLA Illustration)

Alex Sanchez (WitnessLA Illustration)

Miracle of miracles, Sanchez’s defense lawyer,  Bensinger, claimed to have found in the Sanchez case precisely the flaw that brought down the government’s case against Oscar Garcia-Orellana.  Namely, the mistaken identification of a party to a key wiretapped phone conversation!

If there were a convenience store for defense tactics, this one would be right up at the front of the MS-13 impulse shopping shelf!

The whole thing reminds me of a common street defense I encountered during my brief tenure as a defense lawyer for indigent defendants in Washington, D.C. some years ago.  It was commonly known as “the Tyrone defense” and was more or less automatically uttered by any miscreant collared with incriminating swag in hand, but not actually witnessed ripping the swag off.

“I was just standing here when my boy came by and he handed it to me,”  the tarnished angel would state indignantly.  And who would that have been?  “I don’t know.  We just call him ‘Tyrone.'”  Naturally, the ubiquitous Tyrone could never be found.

And, yes, I actually saw the “Tyrone defense” work in at least one poorly “papered” case.

But I digress.

Passing curious, no, this amazing coincidence?  Perhaps beyond strange and approaching incredible?

Here is the self-admittedly and vigorously pro-Sanchez WitnessLA’s description of the argument, which its editor, Celeste Fremon has headlined, “Arresting Alex Sanchez: Part 6: The Judge Real Show.”  (Some among the social justice crowd — but most assuredly not including Ms. Fremon, who is among other things a professor of journalism and who loves her city, including whatever warts she perceives in the LAPD — play a sort of ideological whack-a-mole on this case alternating between whacking Judge Real as some kind of geriatric nut case, the LAPD as a vengeful racist gang determined to “get” Sanchez, and the FBI/Department of Justice as dull-witted, compliant tools of the slavering LA police establishment.  Gangsters, on the other hand, generally conduct themselves with the comportment of wronged angels, who would never lie to, manipulate, or exploit the good intentions of those who come bearing breviaries of redemption.  For the archetypal case of whackfrenzy, see usual suspect Tom Hayden’s piece beamed down from the empyrean to usual outlet The Nation.  )

But I digress again!  Here is the WitnessLA excerpt:

One of the issues that [attorney Kerry] Bensinger brought up during the cross examination was his contention that Flores completely and crucially misidentified a person on one of the calls, a guy with the street name of Zombie. According to Flores, the person, “Zombie,” on the phone call was also the person who was eventually arrested for the murder of Cameron, a murder that Sanchez had allegedly ordered during the last of the four phone calls that are the center of the prosecution’s case.

Yet, according to Bensinger, the guy called “Zombie” on the call was a very different fellow from Juan Bonilla, the killer, who is also called Zombie.

(I know this nickname business is dizzying, but try to stay with me here.)

Evidently there are a number of Zombies in and around the local MS-13 cliques—which is common in gangs. There might be a guy with the nickname of Zombie. But there may also be Lil’ Zombie…..Big Zombie….and heaven knows what other permutation of the nickname Zombie (or Sleepy or Dreamer or P’Nut or Snyper or Loco or…..you get the picture).

Anyway it seems that Bensinger’s Zombie (whom we’ll randomly designate as Zombie 2) dropped a whole lot of identifiers during the course of the long conversation, like references to several family members and—helpfully—his actual name.

With the tiniest amount of police work Flores could have verified which Zombie he had on this call—since it was so important to his case.

When asked if he did any of that follow-up investigation, Flores admitted that he had not. When Bensinger asked why, Flores said that he didn’t need to do any further checking because he knew it was Zombie/Juan on the call. (The exchange between Flores and Bensinger was longer than I am portraying here.) And how did the detective know he had the right Zombie in the face of fairly convincing evidence to the contrary? Flores did not elucidate.

However, what Flores did say is that Zombie/Juan was one of the feds’ informants, that after he was arrested for Cameron’s murder, he began singing like a bird and not only confessed to the killing himself, he also fingered Alex Sanchez and said that Sanchez told him on the phone to kill Cameron. [Fairly Civil's emphasis.]

It would be an understatement to say that WitnessLA is skeptical of the government’s position, notwithstanding its own report of Flores’s testimony that “Zombie/Juan was one of the feds’ informants, that after he was arrested for Cameron’s murder, he began singing like a bird and not only confessed to the killing himself, he also fingered Alex Sanchez and said that Sanchez told him on the phone to kill Cameron.”

Unfortunately, the transcript of this latest detention hearing is not available as of this writing.  Would that it were, because some observers who were present and have read the above wonder whether everyone was on the same planet.   It is hard, nay impossible, to know what Detective Flores actually said.

Whack!

In any case, some would say that a singing bird (or rat) in hand — a federal informant who identifies himself as the person on  the phone receiving orders — pretty well would establish who was on the other end of the phone line.  If “Zombie/Juan” says it was he….?  But Zombie/Juan/Whoever apparently uttered words that raise some doubt about who he actually was.

Not enough doubt, however, to persuade Judge Real.

Whack!  Whack!

In between blows, it should be noted that gangsters often talk in elliptical ways when on the telephone or in circumstances in which they think someone else might be listening.  For example, in No Boundaries I describe how convicted 18th Street gang hit-man Anthony “Coco” Zaragoza sometimes referred to himself in the third person and sometimes adopted “code” pseudonyms for himself in the course of conversations that were being wiretapped by the FBI.  One of the investigative challenges for law enforcement is breaking through and interpreting the fog of jargon, crude codes, and such attempts at deception on the part of gangland’s little angels.  What seems straightforward to, say, a social justice critic, may have an entirely different meaning to the gangsters involved.

In any event, this is perhaps an appropriate moment to recall the following observation, reported in an earlier Fairly Civil posting:

Experienced gang prosecutors and investigators who are not related to or part of the Sanchez case have told me [first person code for Fairly Civil] that this sort of “back and forth” or what is known as the “battle of the transcripts” is fairly typical of the early stages of a big racketeering case — particularly when you have a case that relies on transcripts that require translation — and that it is best at this stage to keep an open mind and not jump to conclusions but rather to follow the evidence until the “back and forth” sorts itself out.

At this stage it appears to these observers that too many people are jumping to conclusions and making personal attacks (on both sides) when the real issues are evidence-based — namely, “First, “what precisely do the transcripts say?” Then, once that is established, second, “Now that we know what the transcripts say, what exactly does that mean?”

Curiouser and curiouser.

Whack!  Whack!  Whack!

23a_cheshire_cat

The Cheshire Cat

Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’

`That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.

`I don’t much care where–‘ said Alice.

`Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.

Y QUE? ALEX SANCHEZ DENIED BAIL AGAIN

In bad manners, Crime, Drugs, Gangs, Guns, Informants and other sophisticated means, Latino gangs, RICO, RICO indictments, undercover investigations on October 20, 2009 at 4:09 pm
Still in Custody -- Judges denies Bail Request of Alex Sanchez, Accused "Stealth Shot Caller"

Still in Custody -- Judges denies Bail Request of Alex Sanchez, Accused "Stealth Shot Caller"

Details are not only sketchy, they are non-existent, but two close sources confirm that Alex Sanchez was again denied bail at his hearing in federal court yesterday.  Don’t bother searching the Los Angeles Times, to whom this case is apparently not a story in spite of its drama and implications for administration of justice, gangs, and organized crime.

For background on the story of this former gangster, ostensibly turned anti-gang activist, but now accused in a federal RICO indictment of being a secret “shot-caller” or gang boss, go here, here, and here.

Meanwhile, perhaps the most that can be said until the trial and verdict is this.

Whatever the prosecutors served up yesterday, it apparently was sizzling enough to convince federal judge Manuel Real to keep Sanchez locked up.

Experienced gang prosecutors and investigators who are not related to or part of the Sanchez case have told me that this sort of “back and forth” or what is known as the “battle of the transcripts” is fairly typical of the early stages of a big racketeering case — particularly when you have a case that relies on transcripts that require translation — and that it is best at this stage to keep an open mind and not jump to conclusions but rather to follow the evidence until the “back and forth” sorts itself out.

At this stage it appears to these observers that too many people are jumping to conclusions and making personal attacks (on both sides) when the real issues are evidence-based — namely, “First, “what precisely do the transcripts say?”  Then, once that is established, second, “Now that we know what the transcripts say, what exactly does that mean?”

Point taken, but Fairly Civil remains amazed at the virtual news blackout on this case.

Lindsay Lohan grabs more media time? Any media time?

Pathetic.

Newsworthy in L.A.

Newsworthy in L.A.

STEWART DAVID NOZETTE, WOULD-BE ISRAELI SPY, WAS GENEROUS GIVER TO GOP CANDIDATES IN 1999-2000

In bad manners, Crime, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Nuclear Weapons, undercover investigations on October 20, 2009 at 3:21 am
Stewart David Nozette--Stung By FBI--Wanted to Spyt for Israel

Stewart David Nozette--Stung By FBI--Wanted to Spy for Israel

Dr. Stewart David Nozette of Chevy Chase, Maryland, has been accused in a criminal complaint filed in support of an arrest warrant of  having attempted to sell highly classified secrets to an FBI agent posing as a representative of the Israeli government. (Affidavit in Support of a Criminal Complaint and Arrest Warrant, filed in United States v. Stewart David Nozette, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Case No. 09-0565M, October 16, 2009.)

Nozette was born in Chicago on May 20, 1957.  He won a Ph.D in Planetary Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1983, and worked in a variety of super-sensitive positions with the highest of security clearances, according to the affidavit.  His jobs included a stint on the White House’s National Space Council in 1989-1990 (during the George H.W. Bush administration), and work on nuclear weapons and satellite technology in other positions.  These included tours at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he held a “Q” clearance to work on atomic or nuclear-related materials, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Nozette fell for a classic FBI undercover sting operation (very similar to one the FBI used recently to nail a husband and wife who had “retired” after having spied for Cuba for years from various perchs in and around the U.S. Department of State).  Reduced to its simplest terms, an FBI agent simply called up Nozette and said (paraphrasing here) “Hi, I’m from Mossad.  Wanna work for us?”

Nozette was primed and took off like a rocket after the bait.  He told his supposed “contact” that he wanted cash (preferably in amounts under $10,000 to avoid bank reporting rules), because, he said, he knew “how to handle cash … you buy consumables … cash is good for anything … you eat, drink it or screw it.”

Note to would be spies: duh-uh.  Do you really think an agent of a foreign power just calls you and blurts out his or her affiliation?  And by the way, suppose this offer had really come under a “false flag,” say on behalf of Iran or its sinister appendage, the terrorist para-state Hezbollah?  This rapacious clown would have been none the wiser.

Anyway, this story is already wall-to-wall on the main-stream media and national security blogs.

Fairly Civil’s paltry contribution is this little noticed (as of this posting) fact:  Nozette was an active contributor to Republican candidates in 1999 and 2000, according to CampaignMoney.com.  The website lists gifts from Chevy Chase, Md. resident “Stewart Nozette,” and “Stewart D. Nozette” as follows:

  • McCain 2000 — $1,000
  • Kolbe 2000 — $250
  • Snowe for Senate (2000) — $250
  • Gordon Smith for Senate (2000) — $1,000
  • Whitman for U.S. Senate (1999) — $650
  • Snowe for Senate (1999) — $500
  • Snowe for Senate (1999) — $500
  • Whitman for U.S. Senate (1999) — $1,000
  • Christopher Cox Congressional Committee (2000) — $500
  • Lazio 2000 Inc. (2000) — $1,000
  • Bush for President, Inc. (1999) — $1,000
  • Bush-Cheney 2000 Compliance Committee, Inc. (2000) — $1,000
  • Bush-Cheney 2000 Compliance Committee, Inc. (2000) — $1, 925
  • Republican National Committee (2000)  — $500

Go figure.  Not exactly a case of deeply shared values, apparently.

Belch.com asks the cogent question: “Why don’t we execute traitors anymore?”

Good question. A traitor is worse than the skankiest, vilest, most murderous gangster, rapist, or child molester, because a traitor puts every man, woman, and child in America — still the greatest country in the world for whatever faults we have — at risk. Especially, as is clear in this case, selling out information about weapons of truly mass destruction to satisfy unbounded greed.

EVIL STALKS THE WORLD — NO COUNTRY FOR WEAK MEN OR WOMEN

In bad manners, Corruption, Crime, Drugs, Guns, Informants and other sophisticated means, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Obama, politics, Terrorism, Terrorism and counter-terrorism, Transnational crime, undercover investigations on October 8, 2009 at 8:35 pm
"You've been putting it up your whole life, you just didn't know it...You stand to win everything."

"You've been putting it up your whole life, you just didn't know it...You stand to win everything."

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned.

“The Second Coming,” William Butler Yeats.

The book and film of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men ought to have scared the hell out of you.

If it didn’t, with all due respect, you just don’t get it.

The ruthless evil of the narcotraficantes that this story portrays is not just the fancy convention of an extremely talented writer.  It is as close to real as you might get, short of submerging oneself in the hell of the real thing.

Cold-blooded killer Anton Chigurh, the role for which Javier Bardem won his Oscar, is as pure a distillation of evil as anything not capped off tightly in a vial behind the wires at Ft. Detrick, MD.

When you get the Chigurh bug, you’re dead.

Thailand About to Spring Merchant of Death Viktor Bout -- No Time for U.S. Diplomats to Equivocate

Thailand About to Spring Merchant of Death Viktor Bout -- No Time for U.S. Diplomats to Equivocate

The movie’s infamous “call it” scene comes to mind today thinking about another pure distillation of evil, international arms merchant Viktor Bout.

Bout exploded out of the cold war as a well connected Merchant of Death.  He played a pivotal role in the arming of children as warriors in Africa and the continuing agony of that continent.  He was brought down by a brilliant U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sting, overseen by  supervisory agent Michael Braun.

Arrested in Thailand, Bout seemed to have been on the way to justice in the United States.  But our “friends” in Russia leaned on the Thais, who now seem to be close to springing Bout.

Here is how the Russian news agency Novosti summed up the case last month:

Former Russian army officer Bout, 42, was arrested in Thailand in March 2008 during a sting operation led by U.S. agents.

The Bangkok Criminal Court refused in August to extradite Bout to the United States, where he is accused of conspiring with others to sell millions of dollars’ worth of weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), among other illegal arms deals, and “threatening the lives of U.S. citizens.”…

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it will give Viktor Bout all the support he needs. The ministry said it hoped Thailand would not reverse its initial decision of not extraditing Bout to the United States.

“All the support he needs” seems to be working.  Thailand is about to unleash this evil upon the world again, Braun warned in today’s The Washington Times newspaper:

An appellate court in Thailand appears primed to uphold a recent lower court ruling that will unleash Viktor Bout, universally known as the “Merchant of Death,” back on the global community. To say that Bout is upset with the United States after spending more than a year in a Thai prison would be a gross understatement.

Bout exploded onto the international scene shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union, when he effectively leveraged his high-level former Soviet military and intelligence contacts and pounced on a capitalistic opportunity to sell a limitless assortment of Soviet arms that had been stockpiled during the Cold War. I’m talking about everything from AK-47 assault rifles by the millions to such advanced heavy weapons as Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunships, tanks and Igla surface-to-air shoulder-fired missiles that can knock down commercial airliners as easily as a sawed-off shotgun could blast ducks in a barrel.

His clientele were the potpourri of modern-day scum: global terrorists, ruthless dictators, merciless drug kingpins and other transnational organized criminal groups. However, it is the mark that Bout left on Africa that qualifies him as the world’s deadliest “shadow facilitator.”

Bout flooded the continent with hundreds of thousands of AK-47s and other modern weaponry before his arrest. Those arms replaced machetes and other archaic weapons wielded by heavily exploited and drugged young boys, who made up the ranks of several insurgent groups, and instantly transformed them from random murderers into perverse, mindless killing machines operating with assembly-line efficiencies. A million or more innocent Africans were slaughtered.

Read the entire article here.

Braun’s article apparently caused a panic of puckered pants at the State Department.  The Attorney General himself may have been galvanized into action.

Here’s the point: the Russians have tossed the coin and it’s up to the Obama administration to call it.  Bout is not just some guy who sells guns.  He is part of a chain of evil than spans the world:  drug traffickers, terrorists, ruthless and heartless.

The question may be this for the Attorney General:  Is letting Viktor Bout back into the world to sell more death and destruction to terrorist groups like the Colombian narcoteroristas FARC less important than getting admitted pervert and child abuser Roman Polanski back on our soil to serve his time?

When you stand to win everything, you also stand to lose everything.

"Call it!"

"Call it!"

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