We’ve sort of figured it was an aberration the way things were handled in the U.S Attorney’s office in Boston as compared with the rest of the country. For some reason it appeared this office had become an outlier with its attempt to steal the Caswell Motel from a hard-working guy on frivolous evidence; and with things relating to Whitey’s case and other local cases such as its charging the probation officers with RICO violations for using the US Mail to send letters telling candidates who applied for jobs that another person was hired. Unfortunately, what we thought was a local problem seems to be symptomatic of the way the federal prosecutors are acting nationwide. For me a recent case I read about yesterday would be shocking if I had not been inured to federal prosecutor practices that I’ve seen here and had not known about the Ted Stevens case.
Ted Stevens the late U.S. Senator from Alaska was prosecuted by the Department of Justice before Judge Emmet Sullivan in DC . He was convicted but it turned out the Justice Department prosecutors hid evidence from defense counsel. The prosecutors also “possessed documentary evidence of Mr. Allen’s [the prosecutor’s main witness] subornation of perjury by Ms. Tyree” which it also hid. Defense counsel stated: “The government lied to protect its chief witness and to prevent the defense from using this damning information during cross-examination of Allen. Had the defense been permitted to demonstrate that Allen had previously suborned perjury about his own sexual misconduct, the government’s case would have been destroyed.”
Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., Stevens’ defense lawyer and a senior partner at Williams & Connolly LLP, described the misconduct of prosecutors as “stunning.” He says the case is a sad story and a warning to everyone that any citizen can be convicted “if prosecutors are hell-bent on ignoring the Constitution and willing to present false evidence.”
As I’ve said, we’ve seen that in the Whitey case with the serial perjurers Martorano, Salemme, Flemmi, Morris and Weeks being paraded before juries with the knowledge they’re not being candid. But in the Ricin case in Texas, according to this article the federal prosecutors have reached new depths.
You’ve heard of the ricin-laced letters that were sent to President Obama and some other highly placed folk in Washington, DC. The FBI was quickly involved in the case. Lickitey split it had Elvis impersonator Paul Kevin Curtis under arrest. The evidence against him was that the ricin-laced letters were signed “I am KC and I approve this message” which is the way Curtis signed previous letters he had written.
That was it. He was seized, chained to a chair, and then the FBI began looking for evidence that he committed the crime. It searched his house tearing it apart, his car, his cell phone, his GPS and anything associated with him and came up with nothing. All that time he sat in jail.
I recalled the time an experienced assistant DA and fire investigator came into my office. The ADA said he wanted to get my approval before they arrested a man for arson. This raised a warning flag since we allowed our ADA’s to act without anyone’s approval. I asked them for the facts. After listening I told them I didn’t think they had a case. The investigator said that may be so but once they arrested the guy he’d confess. I said what if he doesn’t. I explained you get the evidence before you arrest, not afterwards, which some people seem to forget as the FBI did in Curtis’s case.
The FBI was under the gun. It had a guy in jail in a nationally watched case but it was the wrong guy. While Curtis sat in jail the FBI learned that James Everett Dutschke had bragged to another person about sending the letters and it soon retrieved a face mask that Dutschke was observed to having disposed in a trash bin. It had ricin residue in it. The FBI had the evidence to charge Dutschke.
I know it’s no big deal to arrest the wrong person and then come up with the right suspect. It happens on occasion. But what happened here is particularly disturbing. You’d expect the prosecutors and FBI to run to do everything in their power to release the innocent man. But rather than that, they tried to keep him in prison to avoid embarrassment.
According to the article, “three days after the arrest, prosecutors asked for a psychiatric evaluation — a request usually made by defense lawyers. That could have extended his stay in federal prison by several months and allowed investigators to continue to question him.”
That wasn’t bad enough but “after a judge denied the request, federal prosecutors filed a motion seeking to postpone a court hearing at which they would be required to reveal the evidence they had against Curtis. That was also turned down.”
Curtis’s attorney noted: “They wanted to keep Mr. Curtis in custody while they built a case. They knew early on he wasn’t the right guy, but they fought to hold on to him anyway.”
Here’s something that shouldn’t surprise you. According to the article the “FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oxford, Miss., did not respond to requests for interviews or to written questions.”
Things like this should not happen. How can any prosecutor seek to keep an innocent man in jail for a second longer than necessary? Something is off kilter in the U.S. both in the FBI and the Department of Justice. Prosecutors act irresponsibly and are not in any way called to account for their misbehavior. We deserve better.