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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: u.s. attorney's office

Crackdown on illegal firearms possession

Two gun-toting North Idaho men prohibited from possessing firearms because of prior criminal records are headed to prison.

George J. Bondurant, 35, of Bonners Ferry, was ordered Monday to serve 10 months in prison after a shotgun was found in the backseat of his car in May, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Bondurant was convicted in 1999 of involuntary manslaughter, which prohibits him from possessing firearms, and pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Jason Patrick Day, 35, of Plummer, was ordered Monday to serve 28 months in prison after police discovered a concealed pistol in his possession during a traffic stop in March, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Day doesn’t have a concealed weapons permit, and is prohibited from possessing firearms because of a prior domestic violence conviction. He pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm.

Both men were sentenced in U.S. District Court at Coeur d’Alene. The cases were prosecuted as part of Idaho's Project Safe Neighborhoods Program, which seeks to reduce gun violence in Idaho.

Rogue lumber employee guilty in fraud

An unauthorized sales agreement between a rogue North Idaho lumber employee and a Spokane company has led to a felony conviction in federal court.

Trevor Mokry, 32, received about $581,000 from The Pallet Place for lumber he sold them from Stimson Lumber Company in Plummer, Idaho, but he didn't have permission to sell the wood and never gave his employer the money.

Mokry, who was responsible for loading and unloading trucks in the lumber yard, admitted to selling the lumber to the company between June 2007 and June 2011, the U.S. Attorney's Office said today.

An employee with Pallet Place drove from Spokane to Plummer to pick up the lumber and give Mokry checks.
Mokry's scheme unraveled June 1 when another employee saw him receive a check for $4,666 from a Pallet Place driver.

Employees noticed that Pallet Place did not appear as a costumer in Stimson's bill records, so they traveled to the Spokane Valley headquarters, where they saw about $200,000 in Stimson lumber.

“Pallet Place was paying Mokry sixty percent or less of Stimson's retail price for the stolen wood products, plus $200 per order,” according to court documents.

Mokry was fired June 2. He pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court to aiding the transportation of stolen goods.

Mokry faces restitution of $581,445.24 when he's sentenced, which is scheduled for July 16. He also faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and three years probation.

1 officer cleared, 1 charged in shooting

(AP and staff reports) — A Nez Perce Tribal Police officer has been cleared in the fatal shooting of a Lewiston man, but one of his colleagues could be in trouble.

U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson announced Thursday that the officer who shot 46-year-old Jeffery Allen Flinn would not be prosecuted.

But another officer, Trevor Michael Garrett, had been charged with making false statements to FBI agents investigating Flinn's death.

Flinn died following a 50-mile car chase that ended in gunfire Nov. 12.

Police say earlier that day, Flinn had been released from jail following a drunken driving arrest and then got involved in a one-vehicle crash outside Lewiston. Police say he then stole a truck from another motorist and fled before officers arrived.

Tribal police say they tried to pull Flinn over, but he refused.

The indictment, returned Wednesday by a grand jury in Coeur d'Alene, alleges Garrett lied to FBI agents when he told them he didn't remember the details of what happened between the time he fired at Flinn and the time another officer secured Flinn's rifle.

The indictment alleges those statement were false “because Garrett knew that he remembered that Flinn exited a truck, and that Flinn stood facing law enforcement officers with his hands in the air for three to five seconds before he was shot and killed,” according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. “The indictment further alleges that Garrett's statements were false because he did know the name and identity of the police officer who shot Flinn.”

The incident was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Idaho State Police. 

In a prepared statement Thursday, Olson called the investigation “detailed and thorough.”  “We pursued and obtained all the information necessary to make a prosecutive decision,” she said.  

To prove a violation of the federal criminal civil rights statute prohibiting law enforcement officer misconduct, prosecutors must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer intentionally used more force than he or she could reasonably have thought necessary under the circumstances, according to a news release. 

“That issue was the focus of the investigation,” said Olson.

A decision not to prosecute may be made for a variety of reasons, Olson said, including insufficiency of evidence to prove the police officer intentionally used more force than was necessary.  

“The statute sets out a tough standard in cases involving allegations of unreasonable force by a police officer,” she said.  “It requires that we be cautious, thorough and deliberative, and that's what we've been in this case.  We determined that under the circumstances, including the weather conditions, lighting and officer's knowledge and state of mind leading up to the shooting, we could not prove all of the elements of this offense beyond a reasonable doubt.  In such situations, we are obligated to decline prosecution.  We do so here.”

Feds: Woman stole from CdA tribal group

A Spokane woman is accused of stealing nearly $30,000 from the Coeur d'Alene Tribal Housing Authority.

Debora J. Zimmerman, 46, was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury for embezzlement from an Indian tribal organization, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced Wednesday.

An arraignment date has not been set.

The indictment alleges Zimmerman stole more $28,000 from the housing authority between September 2008 and September 2010.

If convicted, Zimmerman faces up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and not more than three years of probation. The case was investigated by the FBI.

5 women plead guilty in fake cash scam

Five of 10 people indicted in a counterfeit money scheme have pleaded guilty, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced today.

Jessica A. Crabtree, 28; Brittney R. Hearn, 24; Robin Knuttgen, 52; Brandy Mueller, age 22; and  Melissa A. Smith, 27, faces up to 20 years in prison and three years probation after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court.
The women were involved in a scheme to to bleach real money and reprint the paper with higher denominations. About $5,000 in fake currency was passed. Local businesses and banks alerted the Secret Service to the scheme.

Also charged is Cole T. Monson, the so-called “nemesis of property owners” already in prison for dozens of property crimes, Ronald Dale Mueller; Tawny M. Rhodes, Angela Olveda and Sean Wright.

The suspects were indicted by a grand jury in June.

Crabtree, Hearn, Knuttgen, Mueller and Smith are scheduled to be sentenced in January and March.

“Well-trained merchants are the first line of defense to this form of fraud. Using Secret Service’s training, a merchant can prevent thousands of dollars in losses that end up in the form of higher prices for the rest of us,” U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby said in a prepared statement.

Said Kevin Miller, resident agent in charge of the local Secret Service office said, “Businesses and consumers should be extra vigilant during the busy holiday shopping season. Genuine Federal Reserve Notes have several security features that include small randomly disbursed blue and red fibers embedded throughout the paper, a watermark (similar to the portrait) that is visible from either side of the note when held up to the light, color shifting ink in the lower right-hand corner, and a clear polyester security thread embedded vertically in the paper which is inscribed with the denomination of the note.”

Sex offender gets 10 years for child porn

A Cheney man who already went to federal prison for distributing child pornography using his former co-worker's stolen identity is to return for a 10-year sentence for another child porn charge.

John Alan Harmon, 58, is to serve 120 months in federal prison and will be on probation for the rest of his life under a sentence imposed this morning in U.S. District Court in Spokane.

He's to forfeit $120,000 in lieu of the forfeiture of his home in Cheney. Investigators found electronic equipment with about 36,000 images of child pornography in Harmon's home during a search in January 2010. Harmon was already a registered sex offender after leaving prison in 2005 after serving three years for distributing child pornography.

Harmon has been in jail since his arrest on Jan. 10. A plea deal dismissed a sentencing enhancement that mandated a 15-year sentence because of Harmon’s prior conviction.

“The network of dedicated law enforcement officers across the country that search for and identify child pornographers (is) invaluable to making our communities safer,” Michael C. Ormsby, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, said in a prepared statement.

A sentencing memorandum prepared by his attorney, Bevan Maxey, said Harmon has a sexual disorder but is otherwise a studious individual.

“Although Mr. Harmon recognizes that his disorder makes him attracted to minors, he has consistently denied ever having any sexual contact with a real child,” according to the memo. “These assertions have repeatedly been confirmed by polygraph tests.”

Still, “Mr. Harmon recognizes, admits to, and regrets the extremely hurtful and damaging nature of the illegal images he possessed,” his lawyer wrote.

Feds want Ed Steele to serve 50 years

A North Idaho attorney convicted of hiring a hitman to kill his wife should  spend 50 years in prison for his “chillingly calculated” crimes, prosecutors said in recent court filings.

Edgar J. Steele, 65, is to be sentenced Nov. 9 at 9 a.m. in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene. A jury convicted him of four felonies May 5 after a two-week trial in Boise for paying his handyman, Larry Fairfax, in silver to kill his wife and mother-in-law with a car bomb so he could spend time with a young Ukrainian woman he met online.

 “To plan the murder of an innocent spouse is unthinkably heartless,” federal prosecutors Marc Haws and Traci Whelan wrote in a 13-page sentencing memorandum filed Oct. 24 in U.S. District Court. “To manipulate a financially desperate neighbor to commit the murder with a violent car bomb explosion is depraved.”

Prosecutors compared Steele, a former lawyer to Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler and the self-described “attorney for the damned,” to  Raskolnikov, the main character in Fyodor Dostoyevski's novel “Crime and Punishment.”

“In his plotting, Edgar Steele seems modeled on Raskolnikov: too far above the law, and too smart to get caught,” prosecutors wrote.

Steele's wife, Cyndi Steele, (pictured with attorney Wesley Hoyt after the verdict in May) believes he is innocent and a victim of a government conspiracy to silence him.

Fairfax secretly recorded Steele discussing the plot but was arrested after Steele was because Cyndi Steele found a pipe bomb under her car that Fairfax had affixed weeks earlier.

 Fairfax told FBI agents he didn't tell them about the bomb because it was rigged not to work and was no longer attached to the vehicle, but testimony at trial showed otherwise. Fairfax was sentenced in May to 27 months in prison.

Steele's lawyer Robert McAllister was disbarred in Colorado shortly after the trial for ethical violations unrelated to Steele's case, including misusing client money. In a motion for a new trial, McAllister has said he was ineffective as Steele's counsel during trial because he was distracted by his pending disbarment.

The motion has not yet been ruled on by the court.

Steele's new lawyer, Wesley Hoyt, did not return a phone call seeking comment today.

The minimum sentences for each of Steele's convictions - use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder for hire, use of explosive materials to commit a federal felony, possession of a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence and tampering with a victim - is 40 years.

But prosecutors say such a sentence “would not adequately reflect the totality of the Defendant's actions in plotting to kill his wife, commissioning pipe bombs and obstructing or tampering with a witness into consideration; it would punish him only for the use of an explosive or destructive device.”

They are recommending U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill sentence Steele to 600 months in prison, or 50 years.

Prosecutors said Steele had opportunities to change his mind but because “heartlessly more insistent” that Fairfax (pictured) “get this job done” by any means, including a gun shot or car crash. (Federal agents actually told Steele his wife had been run off the road in a ruse just before his arrest. They say he stood up and a fecal matter filled the air when they told him they actually knew of the murder plot.)

In the sentencing memorandum, prosecutors include several quotes from Steele's recording with Fairfax prior to his arrest. A sampling: “Go get, get this job done, Larry.” “Okay, I'm counting on it. I mean, Larry I am really up against it, it has to happen right now.” “Well, you better not get your f**king ass caught.”

Prosecutors also quoted Steele discussing the need for Fairfax to make sure Cyndi Steele dies because he doesn't want to take care of a paraplegic.

“These few, chilling words from Steele's own heart, mind and mouth establish the outrageous circumstances of his offenses,” prosecutors wrote.

Steele had no previous criminal record and was a long-time attorney handling civil cases. Steele has said his ideologies and defense of racists like Butler motivated his prosecution, but prosecutors say “nothing could be further from the truth.”

“His ideologies were no reason to bring this case, and his ideologies were no dissuasion from bringing this case,” prosecutors wrote. “Incarceration is warranted in this case, not because of what Edgar Steele's ideologies re, nor because of who Edgar Steele is, but because of what he did to commit these crimes.”

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.”

Meth dealer in Ward case gets 5 years

A methamphetamine dealer and former associate of a Spokane real estate company founder was sentenced recently to five years in federal prison.

 Shad A. Johnson, 39, of Rathdrum, is to perform 200 hours of community service and will be on probation for five years after he serves his 60-month prison sentence, which was imposed last week by U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge in Coeur d'Alene.

Johnson admitted to traveling with other drug dealers to pick up methamphetamine and bring it back to the Coeur d'Alene area, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He was one of about 20 suspects charged in the case.

Co-defendant Larry McMillan’s lawyer said in court documents that McMillan traveled with Amber Larsen and Shad Johnson to Seattle with the intent of selling his dump truck, but Johnson instead used the truck to settle a drug debt. McMillian was sentenced last November to 77 months in prison.

Johnson was arrested with a stolen Jeep and a handgun on Jan. 7, 2009, as detectives staked out Pinnacle Realty founder Joseph G. Ward’s home on Long Lake.

Ward was arrested that day, too, in a massive Washington State Patrol investigation into a methamphetamine- and sex-fueled criminal enterprise allegedly operated out of his home.

At the time of his arrest, Johnson told detectives the stolen Jeep he was driving had been loaned to him by Ward, according to court documents.

Ward is scheduled for trial Oct. 24 on stolen property charges.

Tribe member guilty of manslaughter

A federal jury in Spokane convicted a 22-year-old Colville tribal member of involuntary manslaughter Friday.

Rudy M. Garcia was acquitted of first-degree murder and other lesser included offenses following a two-week trial in U.S. District Court, said Tom Rice, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Garcia faces a maximum of eight years in prison. His sentencing is set for Oct. 27.

Garcia turned himself into tribal police in December 2010, about a month after tribal member David E. McCraigie, 22, was shot to death at 810 Sixth St. in Omak.

The men argued at a party before Garcia retrieved the rifle from his Jeep about 2 a.m. Nov. 5, 2009, according to court documents. Garcia claimed self defense.

Native American tribe sues over raid

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) — A Washington state Native American tribe is suing several Mississippi municipalities over allegations that their law enforcement officials illegally invaded tribal lands during an FBI-led raid earlier this year.

The target of the Feb. 16 search was property that belongs to King Mountain Tobacco, which was under federal investigation in a black-market cigarette conspiracy. The city of Tupelo and Marshall County in Mississippi are among targets in the lawsuit.

The Confederated Tribes and Bands of Yakama Nation claim police barged onto tribal land without prior notice and invaded their peace.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Washington, seeks a court order compelling the defendants to notify the tribe of any entry onto reservation lands.

News of the lawsuit came Friday in a city of Tupelo memo obtained by the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. In it, the city's attorney, John Hill, asked City Clerk Glenda Muse to put on the City Council's July 19 agenda a proposal to hire a Washington State law firm to represent Tupelo.

In Hill's memo, he explains that a Tupelo police officer has been assisting federal authorities with the cigarette investigation and participated “in an action” on the Yakama reservation in Washington. Other Mississippi entities are named for similar reasons.

The tribe says the raid, which it calls an invasion, was a violation of the Yakama Treaty of 1855 and other federal laws.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said in a memo written June 22 that the warrant to search the eastern Washington state reservation “was to seek evidence of a crime, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed” or used in the commission of a crime.

In this case, the allegations claim King Mountain Tobacco, housed on the Yakama reservation, engaged in efforts to avoid federal and state taxes on their cigarette sales.

Documents obtained by the Daily Journal earlier this year claim King Mountain Tobacco officials repeatedly met with Lee County, Miss., cigarette warehousers and illegally shipped their products through Mississippi to avoid the taxes.

No criminal charges have been made public against any King Mountain Tobacco officials, although the federal documents claim they have been shown substantial evidence against them.

Recently the U.S. Attorney's Office in North Mississippi filed court papers to seize nearly $1 million and some 22 vintage vehicles reportedly purchased with the proceeds of King Mountain's alleged illegal activity.

Tupelo wholesaler Jerry Burke has gone to prison for his parts in the conspiracy, and others have been sentenced or await sentencing for their guilty pleas.

Regional meth dealer pleads guilty

A Spokane man who sold large amounts of methamphetamine in the Inland Northwest pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene.

James Stewart, 49, faces up to life in prison when he's sentenced in October. Stewart, who has a previous methamphetamine conviction in San Diego County, Calif., never failed a drug test while on pretrial supervision, according to court documents. He remains out of custody pending sentencing.

His plea agreement was filed under seal, but a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office says Stewart and co-conspirators picked up methamphetamine in Southern California and transported it back to the area in Stewart's vehicle.

“On at least one occasion, Stewart transported over 500 grams of methamphetamine,” according to the news release.

Stewart will forfeit at least $180,000 under the plea agreement, which is equal to the value of property that he was used to facilitate or was derived from his drug sales.

Co-defendant Shad Johnson, 38, of Rathdrum, Idaho, is to be sentenced Aug. 8 for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

Other defendants in related cases include Brenda Barron and her daughter, Amber Larsen, as well as Larry McMillan.

2 Seattle terror plot suspects arraigned

A federal building that houses the Seattle Military Processing Center is seen June 23 in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

SEATTLE (AP) — The two men charged with planning to attack a Seattle military recruiting station have pleaded not guilty.

 An indictment released by the U.S. attorney's office Thursday charges 33-year-old Khalid Abdul-Latif (pictured) of Seattle and 32-year-old Walli Mujahidh of Los Angeles with conspiracy to murder federal agents and officers, as well as conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.

Abdul-Latif and Mujahidh pleaded not guilty to all counts at a Thursday afternoon hearing. Trial was set to begin Sept. 7.

Both men also face additional weapons charges, and Abdul-Latif is accused of soliciting a crime of violence.

According to allegations previously laid out in an FBI complaint, the two were arrested June 22 after they arrived at a warehouse garage to pick up machine guns to use in the attack. Investigators said they learned of the plot when someone Abdul-Latif recruited to obtain weapons turned to Seattle police and then acted as a paid confidential informant.

Past coverage:

June 23: Two arrested in alleged Seattle terror plot

Montana pot provider warns others

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A medical marijuana provider indicted on federal drug charges warned other Montana caregivers Friday to shut down their businesses or risk being the next arrested.

Jason Burns, of Helena, said federal agents told him before his arraignment Thursday that the Department of Justice plans to indict every Montana caregiver raided this spring and that there may be more searches.

“I would warn every caregiver that is in business right now to shut down because the feds are going to prosecute you,” Burns said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Jessica Fehr, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office, said she couldn't comment on whether criminal charges are pending against other providers. No charges have been filed against Spokane medical marijuana providers targeted by federal authorities in April.

Burns' alert may be moot, however, with a new state law scheduled to take effect July 1 that will bar all commercial medical marijuana operations. Providers will be prohibited from profiting from medical marijuana and will not be allowed to distribute pot to more than three registered patients under the law.

Read the rest of the story by Matt Volz by clicking the link below.

Mobster ‘Gorgeous’ avoids death penalty

By TOM HAYS, ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK (AP) — A combative, fashion-conscious mobster already serving a life prison term dodged a death sentence on Wednesday for ordering a gangland hit while taking control of a once-fearsome crime family.

An anonymous jury deliberated less than two hours before rejecting the government's longshot bid to have Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano (pictured) put to death and giving him another life sentence at the penalty phase of his trial in federal court in Brooklyn.

The jury had previously found the former acting boss of the Bonanno crime family guilty last month of murder, racketeering, conspiracy and other charges. Prosecutors said he had orchestrated the killing of mob associate Randolph Pizzolo.

Basciano, 51, cracked a slight smile and nodded at the jurors as they exited the courtroom.

Moments later, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis told defense lawyers they could meet privately with the jury and Basciano eagerly asked if he could tag along. The judge's blunt response: “There's not a chance in the world of that.”

Prosecutors used the unprecedented testimony of former Bonanno boss Joseph Massino to try to portray Basciano as a stone-cold killer who deserved death. Massino — the highest-ranking member of the city's five long-standing Mafia families to ever take the witness stand for the government — recounted a conversation about the possibility of knocking off an assistant U.S. attorney while the prosecutor dined at his favorite Manhattan eatery to avenge an onslaught of criminal cases brought against the family leadership.

“Let me kill this guy when he comes out of the restaurant,” Basciano said, according to Massino, who by mob rules had to sign off on the killing.

The prosecutor, Greg Andres, had “pretty much destroyed the Bonanno family,” Massino testified.

The government also sought to convince jurors that life behind bars wouldn't prevent Basciano from trying to use visitors to sneak orders to his underworld crew — a tactic he'd used in the past.

“Even with a life sentence, he will not be stopped,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Argentieri said in closing arguments. “His mind will always be in the street. … The defendant has earned the ultimate punishment.”

Defense attorney Richard Jasper argued the former owner of the Hello Gorgeous hair salon would pose no threat if imprisoned with other notorious gangsters and terrorists in the fortress-like lockup in Florence, Colo., “the biggest, baddest house in the federal system,” where “everybody is in lockdown.”

He urged jurors to follow their consciences and “suspend the work of death until Vincent Basciano dies in a federal prison by himself — in God's time, not man's.”

The jury indicated on their verdict sheet that it didn't buy prosecutors' argument that Basciano posed a future threat. Ten of the 12 jurors wrote their decision also was based on the fact that other mobsters who “have admitted to an equal or greater number of serious crimes … are not facing the death penalty.”

Throughout the capital case, Basciano was a colorful presence in the courtroom. He had won Garaufis' approval to wear a wardrobe of five different suits — one for each day of the week — and always kept his full head of gray hair carefully coiffed.

He also gave regular pointers to his lawyers and even sparred with the judge at length over whether he could introduce new evidence while testifying on his own behalf.

“I can't properly defend myself,” he complained in one rant before deciding not to take the stand.

Last year, the judge asked the Department of Justice to reconsider bringing a death penalty case — which at the time had already cost taxpayers more than $3 million — against a defendant who was already serving life without parole for a 2007 conviction. The U.S. Attorney's office in Brooklyn also was defying modern history: There's been only one federal defendant — convicted police killer Ronell Wilson — sentenced to death in the city since 1954, and that decision was overturned on appeal.

But prosecutors decided to press ahead anyway and showcase the straight-talking Massino at the guilt and penalty phases of the trial.

Massino, 68, broke his family's sacred vow of silence and began talking with investigators after his 2004 conviction for orchestrating a quarter-century's worth of murder, racketeering and other crimes as he rose through the ranks of the Bonannos. The bloodshed included the shotgun slayings of three rival captains and the execution of a mobster who vouched for FBI undercover agent Donnie Brasco in the 1980s. Brasco's story became a movie starring Johnny Depp and Al Pacino.

While imprisoned together in 2005, the former Bonanno boss agreed to wear a wire and betray Basciano by recording their jailhouse banter.

Jurors heard one recording of Basciano boasting, “I'm a hoodlum. I'm a tough guy. Whatever happens happens. Let's go.” In another, a wistful Massino mused about the demise of the family.

“We was OK until I got pinched,” he said. “We was on top of the world.”

Ormsby bros. on 2 sides of medical pot

There's an odd family dynamic in U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby's shut-down-or-face-federal-prosecution warning to Spokane-area medical marijuana dispensaries Wednesday.

His younger brother, state Rep. Timm Ormsby (D-Spokane, pictured left), is among the Washington legislators trying to legalize and regulate the production and sale of medical marijuana in this state.

So as one brother readies teams of police and federal agents for potential raids on medical marijuana dispensaries that refuse to comply with orders to shut down, the other is trying to legitimize and control the growth of voter-approved pot use. 

Might be an interesting Easter gathering this year for the Ormsby family.

As for the legislative efforts in Olympia, Senate Bill 5073 is awaiting final approval in the state House, having already passed through the Ways and Means Committee with help from the younger Ormsby.

It's already passed the state Senate. Gov. Chris Gregoire has called for greater clarity in the state's medical marijuana law and has indicated she'll consider signing 5073 into law but wants to see the final version before committing herself.

Whether a legislative fix will be enough remains unclear, though.

The elder Ormsby is bound by federal law, which still considers all marijuana use illegal. It would take an act of Congress to change that.

Although Ormsby's boss, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, issued a directive in 2009 urging federal prosecutors to respect state medical marijuana laws, the memo appears primarily aimed at protecting individuals engaged in state-santioned personal use.

The attorney general's guidance on how to deal with commercial dispensaries is more ambiguous, arguing on the one hand that prosecutors respect state laws but on the other advising that “prosecution of commercial enterprises that unlawfully market and sell marijuana for profit continues to be an enforcement priority.”

Feds warn local marijuana dispensaries

Medical marijuana dispensaries in Spokane face federal prosecution if they do not end their operations immediately, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.

Federal authorities hope for voluntary compliance but are prepared “for quick and direct action against the operators of the stores,” according to a statement by Mike Ormsby, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.

Federal authorities will target both the operators of the stores and the owners of the properties where the stores are located, he said.

“We intend to use the full extent of our legal remedies to enforce the law,” Ormsby said. Depending on the amount of marijuana, some federal crimes carry mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years or more.

Read the rest of my story here.

Federal prosecutor’s son jailed in Idaho

The son of a North Idaho federal prosecutor is in the Bonner County Jail for a drunken vehicle prowling spree last December.

Christopher Alan Cook, 22, was ordered this week to serve 30 days in jail for misdemeanor theft after a felony burglary charge was dismissed. He'll be credited for 10 days already served.

Cook was arrested March 20 for a series of car break-ins in Sandpoint between Dec. 17 and Dec. 20.

He pleaded guilty on Wednesday and was sentenced to 365 days in jail with 335 suspended. He also was fined $1,000 with $700 suspended and will be on unsupervised probation for two years.

Alcohol was a factor in the crime, said Bonner County Deputy Prosecutor Shane Greenbank.

Cook, of Dalton Gardens, is the son of Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Cook. He is being housed away from federal inmates at the Bonner County Jail, according to the court documents. Jailers told him he can be placed in a single cell if problems arise, but only as a last resort.

1 of 20 meth suspects gets 77 months

A Coeur d’Alene man was sentenced this week to 6 1/2 years in federal prison for his role in a large group of methamphetamine distributors.

Larry McMillan, 31, received 77 months in prison Monday after pleading guilty in September to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

Investigators say McMillan and others bought meth in Seattle that was then distributed in the Coeur d’Alene area. He’s one of 20 suspects charged in the case. Eighteen have been convicted and 17 sentenced, including Brenda Barron and her daughter, Amber Larsen.

 McMillan’s lawyer said in court documents that McMillan traveled with Larsen and Shad Johnson to Seattle with the intent of selling his dump truck, but Johnson instead used the truck to settle a drug debt.

“Mr McMillan ended up with no dump truck and approximately two ounces of low grade methamphetamine,” according to the documents. Johnson (pictured) has pleaded guilty to distribution of methamphetamine and is to be sentenced Jan. 25. 

That incident led to the charge against McMillan, who also sold a quarter ounce of meth to Larsen on three occasions, documents said. McMillan turned to selling drugs after his dry wall business went under about two years ago, his lawyer wrote.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office praised the sentence imposed on McMillan.

“Methamphetamine is a horribly addictive drug that poses a threat to our communities,” United States Attorney Wendy J. Olson said in a prepared statement. “The United States Attorney’s Office and its law enforcement partners will continue to aggressive(ly) investigate and prosecute methamphetamine distribution rings such as this one.”

Artifact pillager gets probation, park ban

A Kettle Falls man who collects historic artifacts will be banned from Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area and serve three years probation for removing archaeological resources worth about $2,000.

Sandie Rae McNeil, 45, also will be on home detention for 30 days and will pay a $2,000 fine and $2,000 restitution, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. He’s banned from the recreation site for three years.

Federal agents recovered projectile points, stone weights and tools, stone flakes, a gun cartridge and other protected archaeological objects from his Kettle Falls home in May 2005. McNeil told a park ranger he thought it was legal to remove the items.

In court documents, McNeil’s lawyer described McNeil as a tire shop worker and lifelong Kettle Falls resident who “has seriously pursued his passion for collecting historical artifacts there.”

“He knows the area as few do,” his lawyer wrote. “He loves the area as few do.”

In a prepared statement, U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby called the pillaging “reprehensible.”

“It is nothing less than stealing the cultural heritage of our ancestors,” he said.

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