Tag Archives: Attorney General

The Epstein Angle by Clifford Senter

The following is a complimentary post. StraightfromthePen.com expresses no view or opinion on the issue or comments made by the author, neither agrees nor disagrees with content.

The Republican party platform has always favored smaller government. Consistent with that platform and true to his business roots, Trump began cutting the fat his first year in office by eliminating nearly 2000 Bureau of Prisons Jobs. A move that was quickly followed up by a legislative push for prison reforms.

Ostensibly in support of that agenda, Attorney General William Barr accompanied BOP director Horowitz on a visit to the Federal Correctional Institution in Edgefield South Carolina. The prison received glowing praise from AG Barr and the state and Federal VIP’s who accompanied him, including Senator Lindsey Graham. AG Barr would go on to fire Director Horowitz and a Warden in the wake of the Epstein death. However, the prison he just visited with Director Horowitz and conferred his praise upon has the same conditions (but to a greater degree) which led to his removal of those officials.

A few short weeks after AG bar visited the Edgefield prison it had to be placed on a month-long lock-down (an unprecedented duration for that facility and exceptional for any similarly situated facility). The lock-down was actually the culmination of several lesser lock-downs (one occurring just two weeks prior) and other emergency security measures implemented this year alone. According to internal memorandum the month-long lock-down was necessary due to official’s inability to contain violence and disruptive activities associated with cell phones, drugs and other contraband. For years, the prison has been operating under some form or other of modified operations, according to official documents for this same reason. These modified operations have reduced access to educational/recreational and rehabilitative opportunities (already meager) at the prison. Entire portions of the institution have even had to be made inaccessible completely due to officials’ inability to control those areas; And according, once again, to officials long-sad refrain, for the same reasons cited above.

The prison, one of several in the Carolinas, houses inmates from as far away as New York and Chicago and has been called by some Bureau officials materially and geographically redundant. The prison is in a crisis state of disrepair, a fact concealed by gallons of paint, official sophistry and misdirection. Significant financial infusions have been required to keep critical systems functioning and to amend decades of graft, mismanagement and misappropriation. Decades of this misappropriation include funds being indirectly converted for personal aggrandizement and diverted from maintenance and up-keep. This fraudulent management is systemic, long-standing and has compromised the physical infrastructure and security of the facility. According to internal documents, the dilapidation has been exploited for years by violent criminal gangs for production, storage and dissemination of alcohol, drugs, weapons and other contraband. The recent month-long lock-down was extended, in part, to try to patch-up some of these breeches; However, officials’ efforts were mainly cosmetic and amount to nothing more than a band-aid.

Investigations of these conditions and the fraud and misappropriation occasioning them have been superficial and have not looked deeply enough or high enough. (Regional / Central office level complicity) These investigations are largely high-level cover-ups resulting in a warden or department head being scapegoated.

Speaking of Scapegoats, let’s get back to Director Horowitz and the Warden of MDC Manhattan….

We will give Attorney General Barr the benefit of the doubt and assume that the BOP mislead and deceived him when he visited its Edgefield facility; But the conditions which caused or permitted the death of Mr. Epstein, and led to the removal of these officials, were not unique to the facility where Mr. Epstein was being housed. They are standard operating procedures deliberately adopted by the BOP as a counter-strategy to the Presidents attempts to reduce the size of government (including the over-bloated, ineffective Bureaucratic monstrosity known as the Federal Bureau of Prisons.)

           [lockdowns are not a management tool; they are a crisis abatement tool; They represent the inability to manage

           the prison. institutions like Edgefield which lurch from crisis to crisis are management failures, these

           failures, combined with the violence, and recidivism record place the bureau in performance category

           that no business would tolerate]

This standard operating procedure has been implemented with similar consequence at BOP facilities across the country, including FCI Edgefield where AG Barr just visited and gave the thumbs up to.

Jeffery Epstein was an identified suicide threat but was not being housed under the heightened security/treatment protocols established for high-risk prisoners or those evidencing suicidal ideation. This situation is remarkable only due to the stature of the prisoner; Such decisions (non-adherence to policy, proven safety/security protocols and industry standards) have become standard operating procedure at prisons across the Bureau as local officials grapple with the ground-zero logistical conundrums created by Bureaucrats too far removed from their decision to understand their consequences; Or simply indifferent to them. As a routine matter, local officials have largely abandoned many of those safety-security protocols in order to complete the Bureau’s mission within the constraints imposed by a misalignment of human resources, an over-extended labor force, and tighter budgetary controls.

In 2016 The Trump Administration reduced the BOP’s labor force by about 2000 employees. A subsequent hiring freeze, combined with retirements and normal attrition (turn-over, terminations) have further reduced the labor force. These staffing changes have deliberately coincided with projected and actual reductions in the BOP’s prison population. (additional reductions are anticipated but are contingent upon the BOP’s implementation of Legislation and Administration policies intended to bring about those reductions) The natural and unavoidable consequence of these twin developments (reductions in staff and reductions in population) is a corresponding downsizing of structural and material commitments.

The temporary deactivation of some Bureau facilities and the consolidation of populations, staffing and resources at the remaining facilities is the only competent operational model that can meet existing and projected needs and policy objectives. However, instead of conforming its massive footprint to the shifting policy objectives, shifting political imperatives, shifting demographics, shifting operational pressures, and the smart-on-crime agenda of Congress, the President and the public, the BOP is instead trying to fight the paradigm shift and maintain scale. The BOP has committed to maintaining all of its properties and physical infrastructure in an active operational capacity. One of the ways it is accomplishing this is by spreading its staff as thinly as possible across as many facilities as possible and concentrating inmates within those institutions into as small a space as possible in order to allow fewer staff to supervise more inmates. And placing greater restraints on inmates, which has been shown to adversely impact reintegration into society.

This strategy is difficult to explain because the Bureau did an exhaustive and rigorous study in which it concluded that those staff-to-inmate ratios resulted in more violence, disruption and infraction of the rules; Exactly the type of problem that Edgefield has been experiencing and was recently on lock-down for. What is even more inexplicable however, is why is the Department of Justice Hiding money from the President?

The Federal Bureau of Prisons is the Department of Justice’s second largest and fastest growing budgetary expenditure. The White House recently ordered all agencies to conduct internal audits to identify areas where budgetary compromises could be made to re-purpose funds to meet the President’s national security goals on border-security. Funds for this purpose have been scrounged from some very controversial sources such as the military and FEMA. The DOJ, however, does not have to scavenge its budgets to locate the type of funding the President is looking for. Simple compliance by the BOP with the Presidents unrelated criminal justice/prison reform agenda would liberate enough funds to accomplish the Presidents border-security goals almost by itself. Why is the DOJ concealing this funding source from the President?

The answer, according to anecdotal reports is that the BOP is quietly engaged in an undeclared insurrection against the President and his reform agenda. Staff report subtle pressure from union officials to acquiesce to dangerous and exploitative labor practices  (See: Blog post at straightfromthepen.com) in order to outlast an administration, which it is convinced will not survive the 2020 election cycle; An outcome that it is quietly organizing and working in support of.

In a rare occasion of agreement, union officials and Bureau executive management have united behind the scenes in opposition to efforts by the Trump administration to reform and streamline the agency. The Bureau of Prisons, fed by the funding cornucopia ushered in by the Clinton administration and “big-government style policies, grew into a behemoth organization requiring more of the  DOJ’s budget that any other agency but the FBI (and it is fast on the FBI’s heels). However, despite its insatiable appetite for dollars and lives, the BOP under-performs its lesser-funded state counterparts on nearly every metric and has a dismal record on recidivism.

In addition to allowing the BOP’s mutiny on Criminal Justice/Prison Reform, the DOJ itself is quietly spending millions of dollars and resources in its own insurrection against the President’s policies. While the President is touting and being praised for his landmark legislative victory Mr. Barr’s attorney’s general are busy spending copious limited resources making sure as many prisoners as possible do not “actually ” benefit from those reforms. Almost without exception the Government has summarily opposed every motion submitted to the court seeking relief under those reforms; Even when the petitioner is clearly entitled to relief or where the opposition is based solely upon technicalities. The Government has, in some cases, spent thousands of dollars in time and resources fighting to deny relief as meager as a few months, and where the petitioners had already spent decades behind bars and would clearly have received a far shorter sentence had they been sentenced today.

So, what does any of this have to do with Jeffery Epstein? Everything!  The Department of Justice was once an unassailable bastion of public trust. The removal of the Director of the BOP in the fall-out of the Epstein death is the type of swift, decisive accountability which once made American institutions like the DOJ great. However, in the wake of the Attorney General’s actions questions swirl instead about his motivations. Was it political posturing? Deflection? Scapegoating? Or was the Head of the Department of Justice trying to make that American institution great again….  There are mixed messages coming from the DOJ which make it hard to tell. Across the nation the DOJ is spending millions of tax-dollars in a knee-jerk effort to uphold sentences that the people, the Congress and the President say are unjust, fiscally unsound, and which do not reflect who we are as a society. (perhaps the only such political consensus besides 9/11 in over one hundred years)

Perhaps the AG was duped by the BOP, but the prison (Edgefield FCI) he just visited and sang the praises of is ripe with the very same problems he just removed Acting Director Horowitz for. And despite those removals, nothing has been done to address the underlying issues.

If he is indeed trying to make the DOJ “Great Again”, he has a lot more work to do at the Departments second most costly, fastest growing, and least effective agency. But the bottom line is that our prisons are full of people whom the latest criminal justice research says don’t need to be there; That fiscal imperatives say we cannot afford to keep there; And that the Congress, the President and the public say that they don’t want there. The resources which the Department of Justice and Bureau of Prisons are expending on those people divert resources and leave wardens and their prisons overextended. It is predictable, inevitable, and all too common that people will fall thorough those gaps. The only thing unique about the Jeffery Epstein situation is his celebrity; Other than that, it is just business as usual for the BOP.

[For a previous article by the same author, go to https://straightfromthepen.com/2019/04/29/prisoner-requests-pro-bono-civil-litigation-assistance/ ]

Freedom for a Friend

by Wayne T. Dowdy

balance

In the American Criminal Justice system that falls under the Executive branch of the Federal Government, the President of the United States is over the Department of Justice.  Political campaigns designed to get votes by former presidents declaring War on Drugs and War on Crime, lead to the mass incarceration in America.  The first wave of attacks against the citizens came under the guise of the Sentence Reform Act of 1984, where Congress abolished parole for federal offenders and required that prisoners serve eighty-five percent of their sentences, all of which lead to a boom in the incarceration industry.  Hundreds of politicians lined their pockets with cash as a result of the boom due to the influence of private prison corporations.  [1]

The Honorable Eric Holder, former United States Attorney General, and President Barack Obama implemented programs to reduce the federal prison population, reign in overzealous prosecutors, slow the prison growth rate, and other measures to reduce recidivism.  One plan was Clemency Project 2014.  In it President Obama planned to grant clemency to drug offenders serving unjust sentences.  One to benefit from the project was my friend:  Alphonso D.

obama granting clemencyOn December 17, 2015, President Barack Obama granted clemency to ninety-five federal prisoners and pardoned two; sixty-seven of whom are in prison serving lengthy prison sentences for conspiracy to commit drug offenses and other associated charges, thirty-eight of whom had life without parole.

The next day I stood speaking to a factory supervisor when I was blessed with a unique experience.  My friend strutted in flaunting a larger than normal smile.

“How are you doing?” I asked.

“Great now!  I was granted clemency,” Alphonso said.

A smile erupted on my face as tears of joy filled my eyes.  The news made me almost as happy as if President Obama had granted my petition for commutation of sentence.  I have a release date.  He did not.

Alphonso is a well-mannered, polite, soft-spoken, and respectful man in his mid-fifties.  On February 12, 1996, a judge sentenced him to life without parole for Conspiracy to Violate Narcotic Laws (crack), in the Western District of North Carolina.   (Crack is cocaine base people smoke, which is an alkaloid, and not a hydrochloride like powder cocaine that people snort or inject to get high on.)

No actual drugs existed in the conspiracy that lead him to prison to live out the remainder of his life, that is, until President Obama intervened and showed compassion by granting his petition for commutation of sentence.  He will be released on April 16, 2016.  The government convicted him under the conspiracy theory for “ghost dope.”  He deserved the President’s compassion.

CRIMINAL CONSPIRACIES:  Conspiracy is a law Congress first enacted in 1909 as the CONSPIRACY ACT (Offenses Against the U.S.), which prosecutors used to convict mobsters and other criminals without any physical or scientific evidence.  In 1948, Congress enacted Title 18 of the United States Code (U.S.C.), Section 371, “Conspiracy to Commit Offense or to Defraud the United States”; then in 1970, added Title 21 U.S.C., Section 846, “Attempt and Conspiracy” to their arsenal to prosecute drug offenses and allow prosecutors to seek the same sentence as provided for the primary offense; e.g., life without parole for certain drug offenses.  Prosecutors use Title 18, Section 2, “Principals,” and other statutes to achieve the same result in other offenses.

A criminal conspiracy may be based on little more than informants or witnesses claiming a defendant planned to or committed a crime.  Under Section 371, if the government convinces the judge or jurors of an overt act used to activate the plan to violate the law, the defendant gets convicted in most cases.

Prosecutors do not have to prove an overt act under Section 846.  Overt acts may be as simple as making a phone call, or instructing someone who to see or where to go to buy illicit drugs, weapons, or anything used to knowingly violate laws.

Under 18 U.S.C., Section 371, the stiffest penalty is five-years imprisonment and a fine.  Under the conspiracy theory, prosecutors may charge defendants for all crimes involved in the conspiracy; e.g., armed bank robbery, through Conspiracy to Commit Armed Bank Robbery.  (See PERSONALLY below.)

BAD DEALS:  When threatened with absurd prison sentences, some defendants plead guilty to crimes they did not commit because it comes as a package deal to help investigators clear the books, or to avoid an excessive sentence when the government refuses to believe their informant is lying.  Some prosecutors use perjured testimony to get convictions.  Numerous people in American prisons have been freed with DNA evidence that proved witnesses lied or made mistakes.  In some cases, prosecutors, and or law enforcement officials, concealed exculpatory evidence to get convictions (exculpatory evidence proves innocence).

In my opinion, conspiracy became the most abused law in American history.  Many unjust incarcerations resulted from prosecutors who abused the law and forced people into providing false testimony to convict another person; prosecutors also use the law to retaliate against those who won’t cooperate.  Law books are filled with incidents where defendants went to prison due to overzealous prosecutors.

INFORMATION FOR SALE:  On December 14, 2012, Brad Heath reported in USA TODAY about a ring of inmates at the United States Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, selling information to other inmates to use for sentence reductions.  Conspiracy plots were formed inside the prison to fabricate evidence against defendants to get sentence reductions.  Heath stated, “Snitching has become so commonplace that in the past five years at least 48,895 federal convicts, one of every eight, had their prison sentences reduced in exchange for helping government investigators, a USA TODAY examination of hundreds of thousands of court cases found.  The deals can chop off a decade or more off their sentences. …..”

MY CASE:  The government paid the witness against me with eight and a half years, in place of the threatened-life-sentence.  He went inside the bank with a gun.  I sat in a second getaway vehicle, without a gun, down the road from the bank and got sentenced to 420-months.  However, the result in my case does not compare to that of Sammy the Bull and former mob boss, John Gotti.  (Read “The Truth About Incarceration” for more on Gotti and the deal made with Sammy the Bull to testify on him.  [2])

In the Story Highlights, Heath wrote, “Inmates who operated the schemes have alleged that agents knew what they were up to [over] the past five years[.]”  Then he wrote, “Those schemes are generally illegal because the people who buy information usually lie to federal agents about where they got the information.  They also show how staggeringly valuable good information has become; prices ran into tens of thousands of dollars, or up to $250,000 in one case, court records show. …..  Prosecutors have said they were troubled that informants were paying for some of the secrets they passed on to federal agents.  Judges are outraged.  But the inmates who operated the schemes have repeatedly alleged that agents knew all along what they were up to, and sometimes even gave them the information they sold.”

MONEY TALKS:  At the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, I once read confidential reports (three depositions) obtained by Private Investigators in the case of an alleged, wealthy, Canadian Mob Boss (Allan R.), who is in prison for smuggling large shipments of cocaine into America.  Those documents, filed in court, showed where Spanish drug enforcement agents primed a witness with information to tell American authorities about the man the witness first stated he did not know.  After extradition to the State of Texas for a drug case, the informant made a second deposition and claimed to know A.R.

Texas authorities primed him with more information to carry to the State of Florida, where he made a third deposition and agreed to testify against A.R. in an alleged murder of a Florida State Patrol officer.  During the Discovery process, the prosecution only revealed the last deposition made in Florida.  Had A.R. not been a millionaire with International connections, he would have been convicted, but when he proved the government concealed the other two depositions, and proved the witness had lied, the court dismissed the case.

Allan R.’s case is one where justice prevailed, even if it was at the price he paid to hire the Spanish private investigator, and high-powered attorneys in America, needed to obtain information to win against the most powerful criminal justice system in the world.

MORE ON CONSPIRACY:  Reports of corruption in the judicial system by way of paid informants are not new.  Numerous television segments have reported similar incidents, where defendants admitted they lied to get additional time off their sentences, or to get rich.

In 2002, Congress amended one federal statute to put a $500,000 cap on the amount of payment a government informant could receive, without special approval from the Attorney General.  That was because of outrageous reports about “snitches” becoming millionaires by setting people up to get twenty-five percent of seized proceeds.  Prosecutors still used those snitches to get convictions, and more often than not, relied on the conspiracy theory/principles to obtain the conviction to take the defendant’s assets.

REAL CRIMES:  If an actual crime occurs, conspiracy principles apply to the extent that a defendant may be held accountable for all acts committed within the conspiracy, regardless of whether he or she had knowledge of the acts charged in the indictment.  Most criminal offenses require an “intentional” or “willful” act to be proven as an element of the offense, but many prosecutors twist facts to get a conviction by coercing witnesses into saying what is needed to convict the defendant.

A person does not have to voluntarily play a role in the commission of the crime(s).  Perhaps that sounds unbelievable but it is true.  I know hundreds of men in prison due to testimony of people they had not seen or did not know, who helped put them in prison for quantities of drugs that never existed.

PERSONALLY:  I am in prison based upon conspiracy principles, where the government convicted me for all acts because I was with the cohorts who committed crimes I did not agree to commit.  I was involved.  I am not saying otherwise; however, I learned more about the crimes during the jury trial than I knew before the trial began.  Under conspiracy laws, though, I am as guilty as the ones who went inside the bank with guns, even though I did not intend to commit the crimes of conviction when I joined another conspiracy with the cohorts.

(For a brief summary about my involvement,  read “No Sympathy” for free as an eBook or on my blogs [3].  In it I reference “The Price of Change,” which contains excerpts from my trial and past events that changed me.  I also wrote about going to trial with a lunatic.  I combined two essays to make a special eBook:  “Fence Rows & the Price of Change.”  No Sympathy and The Price of Change show my experience with criminal justice and the high cost of recidivism.)

CONCLUSION:  In June 2014, I filed a petition for commutation of sentence; if granted, I plan to help reduce recidivism.  As No Sympathy shows, I am a man with a mission.

___________________________________

[1] For more on prisons for profit, read “The Truth About Incarceration, Part II” (https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com/category/prison-politics/); and “An Inside View of the Criminal Justice System,” first published by PrisonLawBlog.com, Oct. 2014.

[2] “The Truth About Incarceration” (Part I), first published on PrisonLawBlog.com, Nov. 2014.

[3] (https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com/) (http://waynedowdy.weebly.com);

Visit http://www.straightfromthepen.com or https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy to purchase eBooks, essays, or to buy ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN, containing twelve essays, one short story and three poems; also available through Midnight Express Books or from your favorite online or offline bookstore.