Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Robin Rosenberg confirmed

Congratulations to Judge Rosenberg who was unanimously confirmed today!

President Obama has really reshaped this District's bench:

Judges Williams, Scola, Gayles, Bloom and now Rosenberg.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Quick news and notes

1.  Julie Carnes was confirmed today to serve on the 11th Circuit.  The vote was 94-0.  We now have two Carneses on the 11th Circuit.  And when Jill Pryor gets confirmed, that will be two Pryors.

2.  But Robin Rosenberg is next up for a vote -- and this is for the District Bench here.  Robin Rosenbaum already got confirmed for the 11th Circuit and actually heard oral argument already a few weeks ago.  But this Robin (Rosenberg, not Rosenbaum) will likely be sitting in Ft. Pierce.

3,  Another 5 year sentence in the Rothstein case -- this time to former Broward Sherrif's Lt. David Benjamin.  Judge Cohn rejected his pleas for leniency and gave him the statutory max (from Paula McMahon's Sun-Sentinel article):

He was handcuffed behind his back and taken into custody in the courtroom — about three feet from Marcy Romeo, a woman whose illegal arrest on trumped-up drug charges he ordered in 2009.

"I think it's important that Ms. Romeo see the defendant taken into custody," U.S. District Judge James Cohn said as he ordered that Benjamin begin serving his prison term immediately.

"Mr. Benjamin, while wearing the cloak of BSO authority, engineered the arrest and incarceration of an innocent citizen," the judge said. "This was done purely for financial gain. This conduct is deplorable — it is unconscionable."

Romeo gave a powerful victim impact statement in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, turning and looking Benjamin in the eye as she spoke.

"I've never met you and I'm 'that bitch' you told [Jeff Poole] to arrest," Romeo told Benjamin, quoting former deputy Poole's account of what Benjamin told him to do.

"Well, my name's Marcy and I'm a mother and I'm a daughter and I'm an aunt and I'm a sister, I'm a cousin — I'm a human being," she said. Her voice shook a little with emotion, but she remained calm.

Benjamin, who was clearly flustered by her direct comments, attempted to apologize to her while she was speaking, but his lawyer, Mike Dutko, told him to let her speak.

Romeo said she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder because of what happened to her. She was arrested, strip-searched a number of times and detained at the Broward County Jail for about 18 hours.

"It felt good," Romeo said later about seeing Benjamin handcuffed and sent to prison.

He spent his first night behind bars at the Broward County Main Jail in downtown Fort Lauderdale, records show.


Benjamin, who now has a thick beard and longer hair than when he worked at the Sheriff's Office, apologized personally to Romeo in court and expressed regrets to everyone he harmed.

"First of all, I'd like to apologize to Ms. Romeo," Benjamin said. "All I can do is apologize for my actions."

He denied that he ever called her "that bitch," but acknowledged the depth of his criminal conduct.

"My actions were absolutely horrible," Benjamin said. "I take full responsibility. I've taken full responsibility from day one. All I can do is apologize."

He said Benjamin has done everything in his power to cooperate with investigators who are still scrutinizing the enormous amount of misconduct by dozens of people linked to Rothstein.

Prosecutor Jeffrey Kaplan told the judge that Rothstein tried to corrupt and co-opt several law enforcement officers and "in the case of defendant Benjamin, he was successful."

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Is our government be manufacturing crime?

One magistrate in Nevada has had enough and has recommended dismissal of an ATF case with outrageous facts.  Think Progress has the details:
An undercover agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) infiltrated Jeremy Halgat’s life for three years before he lured him into drug crimes “designed and engineered by the government.” He had Halgat’s home searched and found nothing. He tried to get Halgat to buy illegal guns and Halgat recited federal gun law. Finally, after many rejected requests and a heavy hand by the agent, ATF Task Force Officer Agostino Brancato got Halgat to play a role in a cocaine sale, in pleas that exploited their false friendship, and Brancato’s false claims of monetary desperation.A federal magistrate judge recommended this week that criminal charges against Halgat carrying a term of up to 20 years in prison be dismissed. 
“[T]he government’s investigation deployed techniques that generated a wholly new crime for the sake of pressing criminal charges against Halgat,” Judge Cam Ferenbach wrote.Brancato was investigating Halgat because he was in a suspected motorcycle gang that was the target of a mission known as “Operation Pure Luck.” But Halgat had no criminal record and appeared committed to abiding by the law. Although he was an occasional cocaine user, he stated many times that he had long ago disavowed cocaine trafficking. When Brancato repeatedly asked him over the course of five weeks to buy cocaine, invoking language that they were “familia” and monetary desperation, Halgat repeatedly refused, stating that “I had a wakeup call one day” and on another occasion, “I can’t fucking help. I can’t help.” 
Finally, Brancato got Halgat to play a minor role by asking him to introduce him to a friend he knew to be dealer, bringing Halgat along and coaxing Halgat to participate in the transaction Brancato had already scripted. He then falsified records about that first transaction, the court found, and a week later, got him to participate in an even bigger ruse. Brancato asked Halgat to come along to a fake major drug transaction set up to involve a drug courier for a Mexican cartel, an airplane rented by the government, and ten kilograms of cocaine from ATF’s own contraband supply. Brancato told Halgat he needed Halgat to “watch his back” and asked him to bring his guns to protect him. Halgat showed up, and he later accepted $1,000 for risking his life.  
ATF used all of this to file felony drug trafficking charges against Halgat. But Judge Ferenbech recommended this week that the charges be dropped, questioning how ATF has in any way furthered the two punishment goals — rehabilitation and deterrence — by actually convincing Halgat to relapse and return to criminal activity he had disavowed.
In the biggest trial in the SDFLA right now, the Miami Herald raises covers the defense's strategy to argue that Michael Pizzi was also targeted:
Shohat repeatedly revealed through his line of questioning that Pizzi was interested in the federal grant program only if it would generate money and jobs for Miami Lakes and Medley and would not cost those towns any administrative costs.He pointed out that after Pizzi met with the two undercover agents and Kesti for dinner at the upscale Miami Beach steakhouse, Smith & Wollensky, on Feb. 29, 2012, the mayor got upset because the agents used such blunt language about the nature of the scam for the first time. 
As the undercover agents sat in a car with Pizzi in the parking lot, Durkacz told the mayor: “I just want to be clear with you mayor, so that there are not any hard feelings down the road. But, you understand a lot of this s--- is just bogus. What we are doing here is just grabbing money.”Pizzi’s recorded response: “I can’t do it if it’s just bogus. That I can’t do.” 
Later, Pizzi emailed Kesti, the lobbyist and FBI informant, to call him. In a recorded phone conversation the next day, the mayor told Kesti that he thought the undercover agents’ language was “over the top” and he wanted to “hold off” on going forward with the federal grant application in Medley.Kesti tried to vouch for the undercover agents, saying he had worked with Durkacz in the past on other grant deals. He also said they just wanted to “share the wealth” with him.
But the mayor warned Kesti: “In our position, you have to be f---ing careful because people might get the wrong impression. … We’re the good guys.”
But the prosecution is arguing that it didn't have to push:
After winning his second term, Pizzi allegedly accepted these cash bribes:• $1,000 paid by Candia at a Starbucks in Miami Lakes, for the Medley deal. The cash was allegedly tucked inside a newspaper.• $2,000 paid by the two FBI undercover agents at the billiard hall, for the Miami Lakes grant application.• $3,000 paid by Candia in the storage closet of Pizzi's town attorney office in Medley, for the Miami Lakes deal.Just before making the final payoff last July, Candia was confronted by FBI agents about the alleged scheme. He agreed to cooperate by wearing a wire for the last sting against the mayor.Candia, a critical witness, is expected to testify later this month.
Read moere: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/19/4244739/alleged-bribe-at-miami-lakes-pool.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/19/4244739/alleged-bribe-at-miami-lakes-pool.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Judge Kopf comments on Lebron leaving for Cleveland

You thought his STFU post was noteworthy?  Well, the good judge has something to say about LBJ bolting Miami, and he did it on this blog.  The blog posted Judge Kopf's decision to continue blogging, and an anonymous poster asked about Lebron's decision: "What does Judge Kopf say about Lebron leaving for Cleveland?" 

Judge Kopf answered (which he often times does on his blog to comments, which is really cool):

I was born in Toledo, and I grew up in NW Ohio for a part of my childhood. What do I say about Lebron leaving for Cleveland? You have got to be kidding.

I truly love Miami. I spent part of my growing up years in the '50s on the other side of Florida in a magical place called Pass-a-Grille. I connected with my absent grandfather on my mother's side in Miami. I had never met him before. I will never forget that experience.

All of that said, Lebron 's heart is in Cleveland, and I'm glad he followed it.

All the best.


Thanks for posting here Judge Kopf.  The blogosphere is better off for your participation!

Cloture filed on Julie Carnes and Robin Rosenberg (UPDATED)

Last night Senator Reid filed cloture on Carnes (candidate for the 11th) and Rosenberg (candidate for the SDFLA).  Glenn Sugameli tells me that this means a final vote on these two judges is likely to occur early next week.  (Note that no cloture filed on Pryor or Boggs).

UPDATE -- The full Senate vote for Carnes will be Monday and then the District Judges on Tuesday.  Also my statement above re Boggs is a bit off.  He has not yet been voted  out of committee.