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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: Eric Holder

Feds nearing end of pot legalization review

The U.S. Justice Department reportedly is nearing the end of its review of Washington and Colorado's new laws legalizing marijuana and could be announcing soon how it will respond.

The issue is that while voters in Washington and Colorado have legalized pot under state laws, it remains illegal under federal law.

Attorney General Eric Holder told a meeting of state attorneys general he is examining policy options and international implications of the issue, The Associated Press reported today.

Holder's assessment could result in the federal government suing the states over the new laws, the wire service said. Alternatively, Holder could decide not to mount a court challenge. The Justice Department examination has been under way since shortly after last fall's elections. Washington and Colorado became the first states to pass laws legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.

State and local authorities have said they're hoping to get some sense of how the federal government will respond to voters' wishes before spending a lot of time and effort developing regulatory systems to control production and sale of legal pot.

Tips sought on prosecutor’s ‘01 slaying

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder walks into the Thomas C. Wales Conference Room at the U.S. Federal Courthouse on Wednesday in Seattle. (AP Photo/seattlepi.com, Joshua Trujillo)

By DONNA GORDON BLANKINSHIP, Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — Attorney General Eric Holder sought help from the public on Wednesday in renewed efforts by federal authorities to find the killer of an assistant U.S. attorney who was fatally shot through a window in his Seattle home.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Wales is believed to be the only federal prosecutor to die in the line of duty, although authorities have not established a motive in the 2001 slaying.

“We will never give up our search for the truth,” said Holder, who came to Seattle to reassure friends and family of his former colleague that the investigation remained active, even after 10 years.

He emphasized that new information was coming in on a regular basis. But law enforcement officials believe witnesses who hold the key to solving the crime possibly are too afraid to come forward.

Wales was 49 when he was killed on the night of Oct. 11, 2001, as he sat at his computer in the home in the Queen Anne neighborhood. The shots went through a window from his backyard.

The longtime federal prosecutor mostly handled white-collar crimes and had been active in a gun-control group.

His son, Tom Wales, told The Associated Press that anniversaries, like this 10th one, are for the public. They remember their dad every day, especially at happy times such as his sister's wedding earlier this month, he said.

“We're patient,” he said, a reference to the time that has passed since his father's death. “We know this kind of complicated investigation can take a very long time indeed.”

“Things have been progressing every year,” added Amy Wales, his sister.

In a video created for the case and in their comments to the media, both children said Wales was respected in his community and at his job, but he was primarily a great father.

Amy Wales urged witnesses to be brave and make an effort for justice, just as her father did during his career.

Tom Wales compared his father to the character Jimmy Stewart played in “It's a Wonderful Life,” and talked about the ways he affected other people's lives, from planting trees on the top of Queen Anne hill to climbing mountains with his children.

For a time, police and FBI focused on an airline pilot who was bitter over being prosecuted by Wales in a case involving the sale of helicopter parts. His home in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue was searched three times, but he was not charged.

A Bellevue gun dealer also was arrested as a material witness in the case because he had purchased parts for a handgun like the one used to kill Wales. A unique gun barrel had been used in the shooting.

The gun dealer was convicted in 2007, but the conviction was overturned in 2009.

Wales' killing remained a top priority of the FBI, said Gregory Fowler, the head of the bureau's office in Portland. The Justice Department has offered a $1 million reward for information leading to a conviction of the shooter.

“We know there are people out there who haven't come forward,” Fowler said. “Even the smallest clue may help.”

Holder vows to clarify medical marijuana

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, right, tours the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence in Providence, R.I., Thursday, June 2, 2011. With Holder are Teny Gross, left, executive director of the institute, Ajay Benton, second from left, and Juan Carter, third from left. Holder promised Thursday to clarify the Justice Department's position on state medical marijuana laws after federal prosecutors warned they might prosecute everyone from licensed growers to regulators. (AP Photo/Bob Thayer, Pool)


LAURA CRIMALDI, Associated Press
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder promised Thursday to clarify the Justice Department's position on state medical marijuana laws after federal prosecutors warned they might prosecute everyone from licensed growers to regulators.

“We're going to bring clarity so that people understand what this policy means and how this policy will be implemented,” Holder said during a visit to a Providence, R.I., institute that specializes in nonviolence.

Holder didn't go into detail about plans for clarification. But he said the department was wary of medical marijuana dispensaries being seen as a form of de facto marijuana legalization.

Several U.S. states have started reassessing their medical marijuana laws after U.S. attorneys recently sent stern warnings that everyone from licensed medical marijuana growers to regulators could be subjected to prosecution. The cautions were sent to officials in California, Colorado, Montana and Rhode Island. Federal authorities also recently conducted a series of raids at grow operations in Montana and at dispensaries in Washington.

More than a dozen states have approved the medical use of marijuana, which is not legal under federal law. About half of those states regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.

In Rhode Island, Gov. Lincoln Chafee suspended plans last month to license three such dispensaries after U.S Attorney Peter Neronha sent him a letter warning that they could lead to prosecutions.

Chafee does not believe Holder's comments imply a change in the Justice Department's underlying position and dispensary plans will remain on hold, his spokesman Michael F. Trainor said.

“He will await whatever resolution that Attorney General Holder indicated would be forthcoming,” Trainor said of the governor. “He will take that under advisement. At that point, he'll make a decision concerning whether or not he feels it's prudent to move forward with issuing certificates to the three applicant dispensaries.”

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