Showing posts with label Stephen Biskupic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Stephen Biskupic. Show all posts

May 22, 2014

Wisconsin Whistle-blowing Veteran Vindicated as Neocons Target Shinseki

To listen to Republicans today, the decades-long culture of the VA of Delay, Deny and Hope You Die sprung into being in January 2009.

During the Bush-Cheney administration Vietnam-era veteran, an early whistle blower of VA abuse and neglect, Keith Roberts of Wisconsin, navigated through the maze-like process of filing his claim for disability benefits for his diagnosed PTSD.

Roberts accused the VA officials at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center of fraud, fabricating the minutes of a benefits hearing and altering his C-file (claim file).

Roberts said the VA were a "bunch of crooks." In retaliation top VA officials and a corrupt U.S. attorney indicted and criminally convicted Roberts in 2004-05 to shut him up. The indictment was based solely on the testimony of VA special agent with the VA regional Inspector General office in Hines, Illinois.

When President Obama announced on December 7, 2008 that he would appoint Eric Shinseki to become veterans affairs secretary, Roberts and a small band of veterans' advocates said Shinseki needed to clean house at the U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs (DVA) (VA).

Rid the VA of bureaucrats from the some 1,700 medical centers, the deputy assistant secretaries at the Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) like Michael McLendon who during the Bush administration blamed PTSD on lack of belief in God and country. (McKelvey, Boston Review) and search out and can the people who don't want veterans to receive benefits.

What eludes most mainstream news is that embedded neocons throughout the VA have sabotaging the VA for decades because they are ideologically opposed to the mission of caring for veterans in the first place, and want to privatize the whole agency.

While former VA staff attorney and Vietnam veteran Robert Walsh (who now works for veterans in private practice), former VBA staffer Paul Sullivan, and Anthony Hardie (Gulf War veteran and advocate) and veterans’ advocate Steve Robinson (a veteran who served in Ranger and Special Operations units) kept spreading the word about the neocons and anti-veterans' cabals at the VA, they found in Secretary Shinseki who a man who didn't listen.

Said Robinson in 2010: "(Y)es, there have been some improvements, ... but it baffles the mind to think that the Administration believes change will occur if they don’t clean house, and remove the entrenched bureaucrats, and policy wonks, who are gatekeepers to affecting that change. I don’t know why they haven’t moved them out, but they are still there, and they are, in fact, sabotaging Shinseki on several fronts."

Shinseki, as noted on the Rachel Maddow Show last night, was a whistleblower himself as a military general on the Bush-Cheney 2003 invasion of Iraq, and now Republicans want him as a fall guy and political punching bag for "(c)hronic VA problems." 

I don't feel too bad for Shinseki. 

As a whistleblower, he didn't bare anything like the injustices of Wisconsin veteran Keith Roberts at the hands of the VA and U.S. Attorney Stephen Biskupic.

Shinseki never listened to the likes of Keith Roberts, Bob Walsh, Paul Sullivan, Anthony Hardie and Steve Robinson.

Feb 1, 2014

Scott Walker Latest $80,000 Criminal Defense Outlay Speaks Loudly

Update: Jamelle Bouie: "Goodbye Chris Christie, and Hello Scott Walker". Lots of time for the nation to get to know Scott Walker, Mr. Bouie.

In the wake of the destruction of New Jersey's Chris Christie, Wisconsin's Scott Walker is being hyped by the same D.C. commentariat hailing Christie before this foolishness became untenable.

The GOP is pretty desperate, and their effort to prop up the latest Republican cartoon figure of a 'leader' will be as fun to watch as the fall of Christie into political and legal oblivion.

That's because as Walker parades around the country with his hand out to GOP billionaires, Walker leaves in Wisconsin a trail of corruption rivaling that of his New Jersey GOP brethren.

The hardcopy (but not the online version) of the Wisconsin State Journal running the AP's report of Scott Walker raising $Millions in 2013 includes the following reference to Walker's latest five-figure pay-out to Steven Biskupic, the disgraced former U.S. Attorney (2001-2008), and one of Scott Walker's go-to lawyers in the two criminal John Doe probes that netted numerous criminal convictions by six Walker aides, appointees and a major campaign contributor when Walker was Milwaukee County Executive.

But the (Walker campaign) documents also reveal that Walker spent about $80,000 of that (money raised in the last half of 2013) on legal fees.

The payments to Biskupic and Jacobs S.C. law firm, based in Mequon (Milwaukee suburb), were reported in the filing by the Walker campaign just one day after a state appeals panel ruling that allowed a secret 'John Doe' investigation to continue into (GOP) campaign finance and spending Wisconsin's recent wave of recall elections. Hundreds of pages of court documents were released Thursday night following the ruling.

The latest payment totaled $73,763.86 and was made in November.

The payments to the firm, which is headed by Steven Biskupic and Michelle Jacobs, were labeled as 'Legal Fees-Compliance/ Administrative' in the filings.

After Biskupic left the U.S. Attorney's office in the Bush-Cheney administration, he joined the GOP-connected firm, Michael Best and Friedrich, leaving to open his own firm with his former chief deputy in 2013.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Patrick Marley, Jason Stein and Daniel Bice reporting on Walker campaign cash and legal fees similarly includes reference to Walker's $86,000 payment to defense lawyers.

So, while many claim to be looking to Walker as an alternative to the defunct Chris Christie, one wonders if the real motivation of publicly hailing Walker is political lust to see another corrupt GOP governor publicly fall.

Dec 10, 2013

Wrongfully Convicted: Keith Roberts Redux

PTSD fraud at the VA is like voter fraud on a national level, there is no 'there' there

Had an interesting exchange with Attorney Robert P. Walsh, a Vietnam War Army combat veteran, who devotes his life to helping military veterans in his law practice.

Walsh was the attorney of Wisconsin's Keith Roberts, a Navy Vietnam-era veteran, unjustly convicted of wire fraud in 2006. [The conviction was upheld on appeal to the federal Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in a July 2008 decision reading in part: "The record might also have supported a jury determination that Mr. Roberts sincerely believed that his statements were true and that he had no intention to defraud the Government," by Justice Kenneth Ripple. But Ripple notes of the guilty verdict, that, "It is beyond our authority to disturb such a finding on appeal."]

Roberts' real crime, in the eyes of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, was hounding the VA (DVA) and taking seriously his right to pursue a disability benefits claim—a dangerous practice for veterans during the Bush-Cheney administration.

And to listen to Walsh, this is a danger that has been carried on in the Obama administration.

Personally, I thought the embedded neocons at the VA and Veterans Benefit Administration and the corrupt US attorneys were mostly gone.

Walsh doesn't give a damn about anything except helping veterans, so he is someone worth listening to, if one takes helping veterans seriously.

Some edited notes from Bob Walsh on veterans and VA:

The VA has used and continues to use the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) as their enforcer, a private police force.

Wisconsin's Keith Roberts is only one example.

The probable cause that a crime had been committed in the Roberts case: "there were inconsistencies in the VA benefits claims file."

Since the benefits disability system is ex parte and non-adversarial and dozens of employees have access to the file, that should not warrant a criminal indictment in Federal District Court, as it did.

Had the VA Office of General Counsel not been a No Show in the entire process (who knows what closet they were cowering in during the criminal proceedings) there would not have been an indictment.

The VA Regional Counsel in Detroit, Michigan, with jurisdiction over Wisconsin, had no knowledge of the indictment at the time Roberts' criminal trial began, as required by administrative law regulations.

The VA Regional Office in Detroit and the VA OIG had attempted the same ploy on a decorated WW II veteran in Michigan a few years earlier. We were able to increase that veteran's benefits to the Special Monthly Compensation rate for his war wounds. When he died he was receiving about $3,500.00 per month. We were never able to recover the $ 50,000.00 that VA stole from him and his family when they created the false overpayment in his case.

The VA had put him in overpayment and then attempted to have him prosecuted for fraud like Roberts.  Our U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan had the integrity to tell the VA OIG to go to hell. The political hacks in Milwaukee were only too happy to do the bidding of the Bush-Cheney White House and make an 'example' of Keith Roberts.

Roberts was to be the poster boy for PTSD fraud. The 'welfare Cadillac' of veterans benefits.

PTSD fraud at VA is like voter fraud on a national level. There is no 'there' there.

Most of the real fraud turns out to be VA staff and Service Officers, not individual veterans.

Most of the real waste to the taxpayers is in executive compensation and bonuses.

Where else but VA can you have an 85 percent error rate and get a promotion and bonus in the same year?

Maybe on Wall Street in a mortgage unit. Other than that, can’t think of an example.

Justice delayed is not justice in full measure. Veterans are not third-class citizens. They are entitled to the same due process a mass murderer is afforded.

High time the basic due process and the protection of the Administrative Procedures Act is imposed on the VA.

The path through which American citizens can impact the regulation-rulemaking process is through the federal law called the Administrative Procedure Act, mandating federal agencies solicit public comment before instituting new rules and regulations that implement legislative acts such as the Veterans Judicial Review Act and other statutes intended to help veterans, their families and our country.

Jan 17, 2013

Holding Prosecutors Accountable in Killing of Aaron Swartz

Corruption
Update: US Atty Ortiz issues statement. Turley: "the statement is at best misleading and at worse intentionally deceptive."

"There's a reason former Senator Russ Feingold is a college professor whereas former Senator Chris Dodd is now a multi-millionaire. There's a reason DOJ officials do not go after bankers who illegally foreclose, and then get jobs as partners in white collar criminal defense. There's a reason no one has been held accountable for decisions leading to the financial crisis, or the war in Iraq." - Matt Stoller
When prosecutors become overzelaous careerists or corrupt partisans, injustice follows. Most prosecutors are careerists or corrupt partisans.

In Wisconsin, who can forget Bush-Cheney-Rove's US Attorney Steven Biskupic and his reign of terror against innocent defendants?

Well, most everyone.

Our country buries corruption, especially in the judicial branch of govenment where ignorance pervades the American political culture.

Now, we have a moment that can shake the political system.

After being literally 'hounded' to death by the US Attorney's office, 26-year-old Aaron Swartz' suicide should spell the end of the careers of prosecutors—Masachusetts' U.S. attorney Carmen Ortiz and assistant US attorney Stephen Heymann—who are guilty of killing this brilliant young man who worked for free to better our society. But let's be clear: The US government killed Aaron Swartz.

And this death ought to shine a light on what is routine: Use of the prosecutors' office for political retribution and careerism, justice be damned. "The more savage the penalties prosecutors can threaten, the more likely the defendant (guilty or innocent) is to speed things along by pleading guilty and accepting a light penalty," writes Clive Crook in The Atlantic.

Notes Scott Horton in Harper's Magazine. "A petition has now been launched requesting that President Obama remove U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz over her actions in the Swartz case."

There is in this tragic injustice a window for some manner of reflection, and some measure of reform on the what prosecutors are doing to our families.

Ortiz and assistant US attorney Heymann, for their part, should be banned from the legal profession and face disgrace.

Writes Glenn Greenwald:

 [I]t is imperative that there be serious investigations about what took place here and meaningful consequences for this prosecutorial abuse, at least including firing. It is equally crucial that there be reform of the criminal laws and practices that enable this to take place in so many other cases and contexts. ...

This is not just prosecutorial abuse. It's broader than that. It's all part and parcel of the exploitation of law and the justice system to entrench those in power and shield themselves from meaningful dissent and challenge by making everyone petrified of the consequences of doing anything other than meekly submitting to the status quo. As another of Swartz's friends, Matt Stoller, wrote in an equally compelling essay:


What killed him was corruption. Corruption isn't just people profiting from betraying the public interest. It's also people being punished for upholding the public interest. In our institutions of power, when you do the right thing and challenge abusive power, you end up destroying a job prospect, an economic opportunity, a political or social connection, or an opportunity for media. Or if you are truly dangerous and brilliantly subversive, as Aaron was, you are bankrupted and destroyed. There's a reason whistleblowers get fired. There's a reason Bradley Manning is in jail. There's a reason the only CIA official who has gone to jail for torture is the person – John Kiriakou - who told the world it was going on. There's a reason those who destroyed the financial system 'dine at the White House', as Lawrence Lessig put it.

There's a reason former Senator Russ Feingold is a college professor whereas former Senator Chris Dodd is now a multi-millionaire. There's a reason DOJ officials do not go after bankers who illegally foreclose, and then get jobs as partners in white collar criminal defense. There's a reason no one has been held accountable for decisions leading to the financial crisis, or the war in Iraq.

This reason is the modern ethic in American society that defines success as climbing up the ladder, consequences be damned. Corrupt self-interest, when it goes systemwide, demands that it protect rentiers from people like Aaron, that it intimidate, co-opt, humiliate, fire, destroy, and/or bankrupt those who stand for justice.
In most of what I've written and spoken about over the past several years, this is probably the overarching point: the abuse of state power, the systematic violation of civil liberties, is about creating a Climate of Fear, one that is geared toward entrenching the power and position of elites by intimidating the rest of society from meaningful challenges and dissent. There is a particular overzealousness when it comes to internet activism because the internet is one of the few weapons - perhaps the only one - that can be effectively harnessed to galvanize movements and challenge the prevailing order. That's why so much effort is devoted to destroying the ability to use it anonymously - the Surveillance State - and why there is so much effort to punishing as virtual Terrorists anyone like Swartz who uses it for political activism or dissent.

The law and prosecutorial power should not be abused to crush and destroy those who commit the "crime" of engaging in activism and dissent against the acts of elites. Nobody contests the propriety of charging Swartz with some crime for what he did. Civil disobedience is supposed to have consequences. The issue is that he was punished completely out of proportion to what he did, for ends that have nothing to do with the proper administration of justice. That has consequences far beyond his case, and simply cannot be tolerated.

Mar 14, 2012

Wisconsin Veteran Awaits Word from U.S. Supreme Court

C-54 Aircraft killed veteran's friend, began the VA vendetta
against Keith Roberts

Update: Court shoots down veteran; won't hear case.

Innocent man wrongfully convicted, stripped of PTSD benefits for tenaciously pursuing his disability claim. The U.S. government has $1,000,000s at its disposal to pursue a vendetta; a veteran’s family in northern Wisconsin has his service to our country.


The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to soon announce a decision on whether Navy veteran Keith Roberts's case will be granted cert.

Roberts was targeted by top officials of the U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs for in the words of the human rights attorney, Scott Horton, "tenaciously pursuing a claim for VA disability benefits," an alleged crime that led to an indictment on wire fraud.

In a bizarre prosecution, Roberts was specifically accused of not knowing his fellow airman, Gary Holland, and exaggerating his efforts to save his fellow airman who was crushed to death by a C-54 aircraft in a Navy air base in Naples, Italy in 1969.

Weak grounds for a federal prosecution? These are the grounds on which the government successfully pursued a prosecution against this honorably discharged Navy veteran who served during a combat era.

Roberts and Holland

Roberts and Holland were both on line duty when Holland was killed, and served together during their time in the Navy:
  • Took two weeks-long classes together while stationed together in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968
  • Were quartered in the same barracks at Lakehurst, NJ where they also trained together for weeks
  • Went into the Naval Air Force base in Naples, Italy together as two young airman
  • Slept in close quarters (feet away from each other) while at the base in Naples, Italy
  • Worked in the same and only base air hangar together
  • Took an advancement test together on the morning of the day Holland was killed on Feb. 4, 1969
Roberts, like everyone else on duty, rushed to save Holland who slowly was being crushed to death by the aircraft in a gruesome scene.

Navy Airman Keith Roberts
Subsequently, Roberts followed the advice of his Veteran’s Service Officer (Shawano County (Wisconsin)) who had determined that Keith Roberts was entitled to an earlier effective date for his diagnosed PTSD.

Roberts is basing his appeal to the Supreme Court on the denial of due process, a long list of administrative law regulations thrown out the window, and an array of misrepresentations made at his trial.

The VA bureaucracy, a hell for many veterans, was the source of outrage for Roberts who reportedly treated the VA like dogs in phone conversations. The VA returned the treatment.

The August 2005 Board of Veterans' Appeals (BVA) decision [page A928] the BVA determined:

Keith Roberts Petition to U.S. Supreme Court

"The evidence cited by the RO (VA Regional Office) (the death certificate) does not refer to the veteran's participation or presence at the time of Gary (Holland's) death. The death certificate, alon, in no way supported the claimed stressor event and was patently inadequate to meet the requirements of Sec. 3.304(f). THE ONLY OTHER EVIDENCE IN SUPPORT OF THE CLAIM WAS THE VETERAN'S OWN UNVERIFIED STATEMENTS WHICH ARE INADEQUATE TO ESTABLISH SERVICE CONNECTION AS A MATTER OF LAW (emphasis and capitalization added)."

Of course. The whole base was on the equivalent of a general quarters alarm, and frantic efforts to save Holland went unnoticed. But a lot of officers were at pains to save their careers.

The BVA's decision raises the question since when is a veteran's unverified statement sufficient to form the basis for a bizarre fraud prosecution, but not sufficient to establish service connection for a claim.

Doesn't this bureaucratic admission constitute a formal waiver of proof that relieves the VA from having to prove the admitted fact and bars the VA from disputing it.

A decision by the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recognizes the weakness of the government argument of the intent of Roberts to allegedly devise a scheme and defraud the VA.

"The record might also have supported a jury determination that Mr. Roberts sincerely believed that his statements were true and that he had no intention to defraud the Government," reads the opinion by Justice Kenneth Ripple. But Ripple notes of the guilty verdict, that, "It is beyond our authority to disturb such a finding on appeal."

The hurdle for an appellate court to overturn the judgement of a jury is high.

At the jury trial, Roberts was faced with knocking down the arguments and investigations of the United States Attorney's office and top VA officials who were determined to get Roberts, as veterans' advocates have said since the inception of the Roberts criminal proceedings.

"[T]he only reason Airman Roberts was ever prosecuted was because he was a ‘belligerent ass’ who kept insisting that he get paid back to discharge. He was demanding an appeal in Washington," said a background source at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee who e-mailed the Lee Rayburn radio show in Madison in early June 2007 about the Roberts affair, and asked to remain anonymous out of fear of losing his job. "I'd have to say that you guys are TOTALLY (uppercase in the original) right about Roberts' conviction being bullshit ... ."

Up to now, the Roberts affair reflects that a veteran can win on the merits (alleged criminal intent for pursuing a disability claim) but still lose on procedure. The U.S. government has two federal agencies and $1,000,000s at its disposal; a veteran's family in northern Wisconsin not so much, except his service to the country.

Jul 31, 2010

Too many laws, too many prisoners

- Never in the civilised world have so many been locked up for so little; too many politicians want to act tough, too many prosecutors never read Robert H. Jackson essays -

The Economist. Spring, Texas -- THREE pickup trucks pulled up outside George Norris’s home in Spring, Texas. Six armed police in flak jackets jumped out. Thinking they must have come to the wrong place, Mr Norris opened his front door, and was startled to be shoved against a wall and frisked for weapons. He was forced into a chair for four hours while officers ransacked his house. They pulled out drawers, rifled through papers, dumped things on the floor and eventually loaded 37 boxes of Mr Norris’s possessions onto their pickups. They refused to tell him what he had done wrong. “It wasn’t fun, I can tell you that,” he recalls.Mr Norris was 65 years old at the time, and a collector of orchids. He eventually discovered that he was suspected of smuggling the flowers into America, an offence under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. This came as a shock. He did indeed import flowers and sell them to other orchid-lovers. And it was true that his suppliers in Latin America were sometimes sloppy about their paperwork. In a shipment of many similar-looking plants, it was rare for each permit to match each orchid precisely.

In March 2004, five months after the raid, Mr Norris was indicted, handcuffed and thrown into a cell with a suspected murderer and two suspected drug-dealers. When told why he was there, “they thought it hilarious.” One asked: “What do you do with these things? Smoke ’em?”

Prosecutors described Mr Norris as the “kingpin” of an international smuggling ring. He was dumbfounded: his annual profits were never more than about $20,000. When prosecutors suggested that he should inform on other smugglers in return for a lighter sentence, he refused, insisting he knew nothing beyond hearsay.

He pleaded innocent. But an undercover federal agent had ordered some orchids from him, a few of which arrived without the correct papers. For this, he was charged with making a false statement to a government official, a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison. Since he had communicated with his suppliers, he was charged with conspiracy, which also carries a potential five-year term.

As his legal bills exploded, Mr Norris reluctantly changed his plea to guilty, though he still protests his innocence. He was sentenced to 17 months in prison. After some time, he was released while his appeal was heard, but then put back inside. His health suffered: he has Parkinson’s disease, which was not helped by the strain of imprisonment. For bringing some prescription sleeping pills into prison, he was put in solitary confinement for 71 days. The prison was so crowded, however, that even in solitary he had two room-mates.

A long love affair with lock and key



Justice is harsher in America than in any other rich country. Between 2.3m and 2.4m Americans are behind bars, roughly one in every 100 adults. If those on parole or probation are included, one adult in 31 is under “correctional” supervision. As a proportion of its total population, America incarcerates five times more people than Britain, nine times more than Germany and 12 times more than Japan. Overcrowding is the norm. Federal prisons house 60% more inmates than they were designed for. State lock-ups are only slightly less stuffed.

The system has three big flaws, say criminologists. First, it puts too many people away for too long. Second, it criminalises acts that need not be criminalised. Third, it is unpredictable. Many laws, especially federal ones, are so vaguely written that people cannot easily tell whether they have broken them.

In 1970 the proportion of Americans behind bars was below one in 400, compared with today’s one in 100. Since then, the voters, alarmed at a surge in violent crime, have demanded fiercer sentences. Politicians have obliged. New laws have removed from judges much of their discretion to set a sentence that takes full account of the circumstances of the offence. Since no politician wants to be tarred as soft on crime, such laws, mandating minimum sentences, are seldom softened. On the contrary, they tend to get harder.



Some criminals belong behind bars. When a habitual rapist is locked up, the streets are safer. But the same is not necessarily true of petty drug-dealers, whose incarceration creates a vacancy for someone else to fill, argues Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon University. The number of drug offenders in federal and state lock-ups has increased 13-fold since 1980. Some are scary thugs; many are not.Michelle Collette of Hanover, Massachusetts, sold Percocet, a prescription painkiller. “I was planning to do it just once,” she says, “but the money was so easy. And I thought: it’s not heroin.” Then she became addicted to her own wares. She was unhappy with her boyfriend, she explains, but did not want to split up with him, because she did not want their child to grow up fatherless, as she had. So she popped pills to numb the misery. Before long, she was taking 20-30 a day.

When Ms Collette and her boyfriend, who also sold drugs, were arrested in a dawn raid, the police found 607 pills and $901 in cash. The boyfriend fought the charges and got 15 years in prison. In a plea bargain Ms Collette was sentenced to seven years, of which she served six.

“I don’t think this is fair,” said the judge. “I don’t think this is what our laws are meant to do. It’s going to cost upwards of $50,000 a year to have you in state prison. Had I the authority, I would send you to jail for no more than one year…and a [treatment] programme after that.” But mandatory sentencing laws gave him no choice.

Massachusetts is a liberal state, but its drug laws are anything but. It treats opium-derived painkillers such as Percocet like hard drugs, if illicitly sold. Possession of a tiny amount (14-28 grams, or ½-1 ounce) yields a minimum sentence of three years. For 200 grams, it is 15 years, more than the minimum for armed rape. And the weight of the other substances with which a dealer mixes his drugs is included in the total, so 10 grams of opiates mixed with 190 grams of flour gets you 15 years.

Ms Collette underwent drug treatment before being locked up, and is now clean. But in prison she found she was pregnant. After going through labour shackled to a hospital bed, she was allowed only 48 hours to bond with her newborn son. She was released in March, found a job in a shop, and is hoping that her son will get used to having her around.

Rigid sentencing laws shift power from judges to prosecutors, complains Barbara Dougan of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a pressure-group. Even the smallest dealer often has enough to trigger a colossal sentence. Prosecutors may charge him with selling a smaller amount if he agrees to “reel some other poor slob in”, as Ms Dougan puts it. He is told to persuade another dealer to sell him just enough drugs to trigger a 15-year sentence, and perhaps to do the deal near a school, which adds another two years.

Severe drug laws have unintended consequences. Less than half of American cancer patients receive adequate painkillers, according to the American Pain Foundation, another pressure-group. One reason is that doctors are terrified of being accused of drug-trafficking if they over-prescribe. In 2004 William Hurwitz, a doctor specialising in the control of pain, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for prescribing pills that a few patients then resold on the black market. Virginia’s board of medicine ruled that he had acted in good faith, but he still served nearly four years.

Half the states have laws that lock up habitual offenders for life. In some states this applies only to violent criminals, but in others it applies even to petty ones. Some 3,700 people who committed neither violent nor serious crimes are serving life sentences under California’s “three strikes and you’re out” law. In Alabama a petty thief called Jerald Sanders was given a life term for pinching a bicycle. Alabama’s judges are elected, as are those in 32 other states. This makes them mindful of public opinion: some appear in campaign advertisements waving guns and bragging about how tough they are.



Watching hairs go white, and lifetimes ebb away

Many Americans assume that white-collar criminals get off lightly, but many do not. Granted, they may be hard to catch and can often afford good lawyers. But federal prosecutors can file many charges for what is essentially one offence. For example, they can count each e-mail sent by a white-collar criminal in the course of his criminal activity as a separate case of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. The decades soon add up. Sentences depend partly on the size of the loss and the number of people affected, so if you work for a big, publicly traded company, you break a rule and the share-price drops, watch out.Eternal punishment

Jim Felman, a defence lawyer in Tampa, Florida, says America is conducting “an experiment in imprisoning first-time non-violent offenders for periods of time previously reserved only for those who had killed someone”. One of Mr Felman’s clients, a fraudster called Sholam Weiss, was sentenced to 845 years. “I got it reduced to 835,” sighs Mr Felman. Faced with such penalties, he says, the incentive to co-operate, which means to say things that are helpful to the prosecution, is overwhelming. And this, he believes, “warps the truth-seeking function” of justice.

Innocent defendants may plead guilty in return for a shorter sentence to avoid the risk of a much longer one. A prosecutor can credibly threaten a middle-aged man that he will die in a cell unless he gives evidence against his boss. This is unfair, complains Harvey Silverglate, the author of “Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent”. If a defence lawyer offers a witness money to testify that his client is innocent, that is bribery. But a prosecutor can legally offer something of far greater value—his freedom—to a witness who says the opposite. The potential for wrongful convictions is obvious.

Badly drafted laws create traps for the unwary. In 2006 [a proven-innocent] Georgia Thompson, a civil servant in Wisconsin, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for depriving the public of “the intangible right of honest services”. Her crime was to award a contract (for travel services) to the best bidder. A firm called Adelman Travel scored the most points (on an official scale) for price and quality, so Ms Thompson picked it. She ignored a rule that required her to penalise Adelman for a slapdash presentation when bidding. For this act of common sense, she served four months. (An appeals court freed her (after oral arugments in an extraordinary legal spectacle.) [U.S. Attorney Steven M. Biskupic never publicly apologized. And Biskupic's flacks at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said we should admire Biskupic for prosecuting an innocent woman, sending her to prison and ruining her life.]

The “honest services” statute, if taken seriously, “would seemingly cover a salaried employee’s phoning in sick to go to a ball game,” fumes Antonin Scalia, a Supreme Court justice. The Supreme Court ruled recently that the statute was so vague as to be unconstitutional. It did not strike it down completely, but said it should be applied only in cases involving bribery or kickbacks. The challenge was brought by Enron’s former boss, Jeff Skilling, who will not go free despite his victory, and Conrad Black, a media magnate released this week on bail pending an appeal, who may.

There are over 4,000 federal crimes, and many times that number of regulations that carry criminal penalties. When analysts at the Congressional Research Service tried to count the number of separate offences on the books, they were forced to give up, exhausted. Rules concerning corporate governance or the environment are often impossible to understand, yet breaking them can land you in prison. In many criminal cases, the common-law requirement that a defendant must have a mens rea(ie, he must or should know that he is doing wrong) has been weakened or erased.

“The founders viewed the criminal sanction as a last resort, reserved for serious offences, clearly defined, so ordinary citizens would know whether they were violating the law. Yet over the last 40 years, an unholy alliance of big-business-hating liberals and tough-on-crime conservatives has made criminalisation the first line of attack—a way to demonstrate seriousness about the social problem of the month, whether it’s corporate scandals or e-mail spam,” writes Gene Healy, a libertarian scholar. “You can serve federal time for interstate transport of water hyacinths, trafficking in unlicensed dentures, or misappropriating the likeness of Woodsy Owl.”

“You’re (probably) a federal criminal,” declares Alex Kozinski, an appeals-court judge, in a provocative essay of that title. Making a false statement to a federal official is an offence. So is lying to someone who then repeats your lie to a federal official. Failing to prevent your employees from breaking regulations you have never heard of can be a crime. A boss got six months in prison because one of his workers accidentally broke a pipe, causing oil to spill into a river. “It didn’t matter that he had no reason to learn about the [Clean Water Act’s] labyrinth of regulations, since he was merely a railroad-construction supervisor,” laments Judge Kozinski.



Society wants retribution

Such cases account for only a tiny share of the Americans behind bars, but they still matter. When so many people are technically breaking the law, it is up to prosecutors to decide whom to pursue. No doubt most prosecutors choose wisely. But members of unpopular groups may not find that reassuring. Ms Thompson, for example, was prosecuted just before an election, at a time when allegations of public corruption in Wisconsin were in the news. Some prosecutors, such as Eliot Spitzer, the disgraced ex-governor of New York, have built political careers by nailing people whom voters don’t like, such as financiers. Prison deters? Not much, not the worst

Some people argue that the system works: that crime has fallen in the past two decades because the bad guys are either in prison or scared of being sent there. Caged thugs cannot break into your home. BernieMadoff’s 150-year sentence for running a Ponzi scam should deter imitators. And indeed the crime rate continues to drop, despite the recession, as Michael Rushford of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, an advocacy group, points out. This, he says, is because habitual criminals face serious consequences. Some research supports him: after raking through decades of historical data, John Donohue of Yale Law School estimates that a 10% increase in imprisonment brings a 2% reduction in crime.

Others disagree. Using more recent data, Bert Useem of Purdue University and Anne Piehl of Rutgers University estimate that a 10% increase in the number of people behind bars would reduce crime by only 0.5%. In the states that currently lock up the most people, imprisoning more would actually increase crime, they believe. Some inmates emerge from prison as more accomplished criminals. And raising the incarceration rate means locking up people who are, on average, less dangerous than the ones already behind bars. A recent study found that, over the past 13 years, the proportion of new prisoners in Florida who had committed violent crimes fell by 28%, whereas those inside for “other” crimes shot up by 189%. These “other” crimes were non-violent ones involving neither drugs nor theft, such as driving with a suspended licence.

And now the reckoning, in dollars

Crime is a young man’s game. Muggers over 30 are rare. Ex-cons who go straight for a few years generally stay that way: a study of 88,000 criminals by Mr Blumstein found that if someone was arrested for aggravated assault at the age of 18 but then managed to stay out of trouble until the age of 22, the risk of his offending was no greater than that for the general population. Yet America’s prisons are crammed with old folk. Nearly 200,000 prisoners are over 50. Most would pose little threat if released. And since people age faster in prison than outside, their medical costs are vast. Human Rights Watch, a lobby-group, talks of “nursing homes with razor wire”.

Jail is expensive. Spending per prisoner ranges from $18,000 a year in Mississippi to about $50,000 in California, where the cost per pupil is but a seventh of that. “[W]e are well past the point of diminishing returns,” says a report by the Pew Center on the States. In Washington state, for example, each dollar invested in new prison places in 1980 averted more than nine dollars of criminal harm (using a somewhat arbitrary scale to assign a value to not being beaten up). By 2001, as the emphasis shifted from violent criminals to drug-dealers and thieves, the cost-benefit ratio reversed. Each new dollar spent on prisons averted only 37 cents’ worth of harm.

Since the recession threw their budgets into turmoil, many states have decided to imprison fewer people, largely to save money. Mississippi has reduced the proportion of their sentences that non-violent offenders are required to serve from 85% to 25%. Texas is making greater use of non-custodial penalties. New York has repealed most mandatory minimum terms for drug offences. In all, the number of prisoners in state lock-ups fell by 0.3% in 2009, the first fall since 1972. But the total number of Americans behind bars still rose slightly, because the number of federal prisoners climbed by 3.4%.

A less punitive system could work better, argues Mark Kleiman of the University of California, Los Angeles. Swift and certain penalties deter more than harsh ones. Money spent on prisons cannot be spent on more cost-effective methods of crime-prevention, such as better policing, drug treatment or probation. The pain that punishment inflicts on criminals themselves, on their families and on their communities should also be taken into account.

“Just by making effective use of things we already know how to do, we could reasonably expect to have half as much crime and half as many people behind bars ten years from now,” says Mr Kleiman. “There are a thousand excuses for failing to make that effort, but not one good reason.”

Jul 8, 2010

V.A. Is Easing Rules to Cover Stress Disorder

Rightwingers like American Enterprise Institute's (AEI) Dr. Sally Satel object, but things are getting a lot easier for veterans under the Obama administration.

For one thing the U.S. DoJ does not aggressively seek out veterans with PTSD and prosecute them.

Under the new rules, a Wisconsin resident, U.S. Navy Airman Keith Roberts (1968–71), who served almost four years in a federal prison for wire fraud, would never have been targeted by the national VA Director who pushed former U.S. Atty Stephen Biskupic to indict this innocent Wisconsin veteran for failing to document his disability clam made on the advice of his county veteran service officer.

Roberts' disability benefits case is now before the top administrative law court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, though in his bizarre political prosecution he was prosecuted before his benefits case had even reached the top appellate courts because he was a whistleblower on VA scandals and a major pain to the VA.

By James Dao in the NYT

The government is preparing to issue new rules that will make it substantially easier for veterans who have been found to have post-traumatic stress disorder to receive disability benefits, a change that could affect hundreds of thousands of veterans from the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam.

The regulations from the Department of Veterans Affairs, which will take effect as early as Monday and cost as much as $5 billion over several years according to Congressional analysts, will essentially eliminate a requirement that veterans document specific events like bomb blasts, firefights or mortar attacks that might have caused P.T.S.D., an illness characterized by emotional numbness, irritability and flashbacks.

For decades, veterans have complained that finding such records was extremely time consuming and sometimes impossible. And in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, veterans groups assert that the current rules discriminate against tens of thousands of service members — many of them women — who did not serve in combat roles but nevertheless suffered traumatic experiences.

Under the new rule, which applies to veterans of all wars, the department will grant compensation to those with P.T.S.D. if they can simply show that they served in a war zone and in a job consistent with the events that they say caused their conditions. They would not have to prove, for instance, that they came under fire, served in a front-line unit or saw a friend killed.

The new rule would also allow compensation for service members who had good reason to fear traumatic events, known as stressors, even if they did not actually experience them.

There are concerns that the change will open the door to a flood of fraudulent claims. But supporters of the rule say the veterans department will still review all claims and thus be able to weed out the baseless ones.

“This nation has a solemn obligation to the men and women who have honorably served this country and suffer from the emotional and often devastating hidden wounds of war,” the secretary of veterans affairs, Eric K. Shinseki, said in a statement to The New York Times. “This final regulation goes a long way to ensure that veterans receive the benefits and services they need.”

Though widely applauded by veterans’ groups, the new rule is generating criticism from some quarters because of its cost. Some mental health experts also believe it will lead to economic dependency among younger veterans whose conditions might be treatable.

Disability benefits include free physical and mental health care and monthly checks ranging from a few hundred dollars to more than $2,000, depending on the severity of the condition.

“I can’t imagine anyone more worthy of public largess than a veteran,” said Dr. Sally Satel, a psychiatrist and fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative policy group, who has written on P.T.S.D. “But as a clinician, it is destructive to give someone total and permanent disability when they are in fact capable of working, even if it is not at full capacity. A job is the most therapeutic thing there is.”

But Rick Weidman, executive director for policy and government affairs at Vietnam Veterans of America, said most veterans applied for disability not for the monthly checks but because they wanted access to free health care.

“I know guys who are rated 100 percent disabled who keep coming back for treatment not because they are worried about losing their compensation, but because they want their life back,” Mr. Weidman said.

Mr. Weidman and other veterans’ advocates said they were disappointed by one provision of the new rule: It will require a final determination on a veteran’s case to be made by a psychiatrist or psychologist who works for the veterans department.

The advocates assert that the rule will allow the department to sharply limit approvals. They argue that private physicians should be allowed to make those determinations as well.

But Tom Pamperin, associate deputy under secretary for policy and programs at the veterans department, said the agency wanted to ensure that standards were consistent for the assessments.

“V.A. and V.A.-contract clinicians go through a certification process,” Mr. Pamperin said. “They are well familiar with military life and can make an assessment of whether the stressor is consistent with the veterans’ duties and place of service.”

The new rule comes at a time when members of Congress and the veterans department itself are moving to expand health benefits and disability compensation for a variety of disorders linked to deployment. The projected costs of those actions are generating some opposition, though probably not enough to block any of the proposals.

The largest proposal would make it easier for Vietnam veterans with ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and hairy-cell leukemia to receive benefits.

The rule, proposed last fall by the veterans department, would presume those diseases were caused by exposure to Agent Orange, the chemical defoliant, if a veteran could simply demonstrate that he had set foot in Vietnam during the war.

The rule, still under review, is projected to cost more than $42 billion over a decade.

Senator Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia and a Vietnam veteran, has asked that Congress review the proposal before it takes effect. “I take a back seat to no one in my concern for our veterans,” Mr. Webb said in a floor statement in May. “But I do think we need to have practical, proper procedures.”

More than two million service members have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001, and by some estimates 20 percent or more of them will develop P.T.S.D.

More than 150,000 cases of P.T.S.D. have been diagnosed by the veterans health system among veterans of the two wars, while thousands more have received diagnoses from private doctors, said Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, an advocacy group.

But Mr. Sullivan said records showed that the veterans department had approved P.T.S.D. disability claims for only 78,000 veterans. That suggests, he said, that many veterans with the disorder are having their compensation claims rejected by claims processors. “Those statistics show a very serious problem in how V.A. handles P.T.S.D. claims,” Mr. Sullivan said.

Representative John Hall, Democrat of New York and sponsor of legislation similar to the new rule, said his office had handled dozens of cases involving veterans who had trouble receiving disability compensation for P.T.S.D., including a Navy veteran from World War II who twice served on ships that sank in the Pacific.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are an infantryman or a cook or a truck driver,” Mr. Hall said. “Anyone is potentially at risk for post-traumatic stress.”

Aug 12, 2009

Rove Behind US Attys' Firings

Update: NYT: More Evidence of a Scandal

Not exactly news about Karl Rove.

But this morning's Times piece (Eric Lichtblau and Eric Lipton) does offer more evidence that the Bush Dept. of Justice and White House were composed of corrupt hacks. Now, they are mostly gone.

What's not over is the damage inflicted by the U.S. attorneys who kept their jobs (Adam Cohen, April 16, 2007).

Take former Bush U.S. Atty Stephen Biskupic who left numerous shattered lives behind in the Eastern district of Wisconsin. Consider:

- The proven-innocent Georgia Thompson [see also Biskupic tried to 'squeeze' Georgia Thompson, and Investigate Biskupic]

- Top partisan prosecutor for the Republican "voter fraud" myth pursued several overturned voter fraud cases [see also Voter Fraud Complaints by GOP Drove Dismissals]

- And the yet-to-be-proven-innocent Vietnam-era veteran, Wisconsin Navy Airman Keith Roberts, [see also U.S. Attorneys Scandal–Milwaukee] who was convicted for receiving VA benefits after the national VA launched a vendetta against Roberts for being a pain, per the benefits-hostile American Enterprise Institute scholar, Dr. Sally Satel

As the former U.S. Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson put it in 1940:

"Any prosecutor who risks his day-to-day professional name for fair dealing to build up statistics of success has a perverted sense of practical values, as well as defects of character. ... he can have no better asset than to have his profession recognize that his attitude toward those who feel his power has been dispassionate, reasonable and just."

Using the prosecutor's office as a political club is not just unreasonable and unjust; it's reprehensible. One wonders how Biskupic and Rove sleep at night, likely not by falling asleep reading the disquisitions of Justice Jackson.

House Judiciary Chairman John M. Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) said, "Under the Bush regime, honest and well-performing U.S. attorneys were fired for petty patronage, political horse-trading, and, in the most egregious case of political abuse of the U.S. attorney corps -- that of U.S. attorney [David C. Iglesias] -- because he refused to use his office to help Republicans win elections."

After a slow start Biskupic fell down on the office and proved himself a loyal Bushie, Rove's kind of man.

May 12, 2009

Diane Wood for SC Already Under Attack

The National Review (NRO) hates that Diane Wood acclaimed the humanity of gays in questioning the Christan Legal Society, an anti-abortion and anti gay outfit, during oral arguments in Christian Legal Society v. Walker, No. 05-3239.

Wood, a justice on the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh District is considered a leading candidate for Justice Souter's seat.

Bigotry and discrimination are not "about hatred, it is about love. To tell something, somebody something that's wrong is right is not loving, and that's what this chapter would be doing," said the CLC attorney. The NRO's Ed Whelan writes this exchange shows Wood "displayed a hostility to orthodox Christian beliefs."

Trying to fire up the religious right just maybe.

This nomination fight is going to be more fun than I thought, and I thought it was going to be a lot fun!

The NYT has a profile on Diane P. Wood who is drawing attention as a leading candidate to fill Justice Souter's expected vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wood famously (in Wisconsin) voiced disgust towards Stephen Biskupic, former U.S. Atty for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, who launched several political prosecutions during his tenure with the Bush administration's Department of Justice, including the political prosecution of an innocent woman, Georgia Thompson, and GOP-inspired voter fraud prosecutions.

"It strikes me that your evidence is beyond thin; I’m not sure what your actual theory in this case is,” said Wood to Biskupic.

Of the GOP voter fraud obsession, the New York Times reported Wood saying of a Biskupic prosecution (many of which were overturned): "I find this whole prosecution mysterious. I don't know whether the Eastern District of Wisconsin goes after every felon who accidentally votes. It is not like she voted five times."

Reads the NYT profile

WASHINGTON — When President Bill Clinton had a rare opportunity in 1995 for a Democratic president to fill a vacancy on the federal appeals court based in Chicago, a bastion of conservative thinking, he received an unusually strong recommendation from Senator Paul Simon.

Mr. Simon, an outspoken liberal from Illinois who died in 2003, told the president the new judge should be a reliable progressive who would be cerebral enough to go up against the court’s two formidable conservatives, Judges Richard A. Posner and Frank H. Easterbrook. He said it should be Prof. Diane P. Wood of the University of Chicago law school.

Mar 11, 2009

Where Justice Is a Game

The news last week that an innocent Alabama man who was subjected to a political prosecution by Karl Rove and his minions demonstrates well the state of the American justice system.

The American justice system is malfunctioning as the persecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman continues.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld most of the bribery and corruption against Siegelman who is without a doubt an innocent victim of a political prosecution.

We have seen too many political prosecutions in Wisconsin of the same corrupt nature during the Bush-Biskupic years: The proven-innocent Georgia Thompson (see also Biskupic tried to 'squeeze' Georgia Thompson), several overturned “voter fraud” cases (see also Voter-Fraud Complaints by GOP Drove Dismissals) and Wisconsin Navy veteran Keith Roberts (see also U.S. Attorneys Scandal–Milwaukee).

Numerous victims of the Bush justice department remain behind bars. Let's not forget them.

Feb 26, 2009

Bush DOJ Not Over Yet

Former state rep Sue Schmitz of Alabama was indicted and convicted on fabricated federal corruption charges yesterday. The charges are ludicrous and won't stand the light of day, though they're good enough for an Alabama federal jury.

The question is what will Obama and his Department of Justice do to free Schmitz and other innocent victims of Bush's DOJ?

These people, Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney Alice Martin and Bush-appointed federal judge R. David Proctor among others, have absolutely no remorse over what they are doing to this innocent woman. What goes on in these minds? How do they sleep at night?

We have had a few innocent serving time in Wisconsin courtesy of former US Atty Stephen Biskupic.

Now how do we free and compensate the victims and what will Obama do to help?

Feb 7, 2009

"Beyond Thin" Judge Draws Notice for a SC Vacancy

Justice Diane P. Wood is drawing attention as a leading candidate to fill the first vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wood is famous in some circles (especially in Wisconsin) for her judicial equivalent of voiced disgust shown towards Stephen Biskupic, former U.S. Atty for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, who launched several political prosecutions during his tenure with the Bush administration's Department of Justice, including the repulsive political prosecution of an innocent woman, Georgia Thompson.

Wood was nominated to serve as an appellate judge by President Clinton and confirmed in 1995.

As Mark Pitsch notes in a State Journal piece in 2007 [largely an it's-not-what-Biskupic-did-that-really-matters piece]:
Georgia Thompson, a state purchasing agent for Doyle's Department of Administration, was indicted in January 2006 and convicted six months later in the midst of a heated gubernatorial election.

She spent four months in prison before the federal appeals panel reversed the conviction and ordered her immediately set free - with one judge saying the evidence was 'beyond thin.'

The same judge, Diane P. Wood of the 7th U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, also had harsh words when the panel rejected a 2005 voter fraud conviction won by Biskupic's office against a woman who voted despite having a felony record, The New York Times reported.

'I find this whole prosecution mysterious,' Wood said. 'I don't know whether the Eastern District of Wisconsin goes after every felon who accidentally votes. It is not like she voted five times.'

Biskupic said he hasn't prosecuted for political reasons.

The evidence for the conclusion that Biskupic was an apolitical US atty is beyond thin, and Wood was not shy about pointing out the many deficiencies in Biskupic's prosecutions.

Wood's name has been mentioned in numerous news reports on President Obama's likely leaning toward appointing a woman to the court, and Wood came up again today in a piece in the Washington Post by Carrie Johnson:

At the White House, advisers already had begun drafting a short list for the court in case one of the several aging justices decided to retire this summer. Speculation has been that the list includes Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan, who has been nominated to serve as solicitor general; Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit; Judge Diane Wood of the 7th Circuit; and Stanford University law professor Kathleen M. Sullivan.
-

via mal contends

Feb 3, 2009

A New DOJ

Good-bye to Bush and his desecration of the U.S. Dept of Justice.

U.S. Atty for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Stephen Biskupic, is already gone and everyone of these low lives who misused their positions in the DOJ should be held accountable.

From ThinkProgress:

Yesterday, the Senate confirmed Eric Holder as the nation’s first African American attorney general by a vote of 75 to 21, 'opening a new chapter for a Justice Department that had suffered under allegations of improper political influence and policy disputes over and harsh interrogation practices.'

Dec 20, 2008

Jailed Vet Files for En Banc Hearing

Wisconsin Navy Airman Keith Roberts (1968-71), a Vietnam-era veteran, [see Wisconsin Navy Airman Keith Roberts and U.S. Attorneys Scandal–Milwaukee] jailed for receiving U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits filed a petition for an en banc hearing before the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit this week.

Roberts was indicted, tried and convicted on five counts of wire fraud for receiving VA disability benefits though he had been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The indictment and conviction remain highly controversial because of the perceived flimsy nature of the allegations and the widespread criticism that the VA has received in its treatment of veterans.

The questions presented for review in Roberts petition are as follows:

A. Whether it is a denial of a veteran’s due process rights to require him to answer a criminal indictment alleging the same misconduct which served as the basis for the denial of veterans’ benefits, where the appeal of the decision of the Department of Veterans Affairs is still pending before the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

B. Whether the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals erred in concluding that the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to sustain a conviction for wire fraud, when the government had failed to establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, the necessary elements for such a charge.

C. Whether the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals erred in finding that Mr. Roberts’ right to due process was not violated by the government’s withholding of material information.


See also:

  1. Michael Alan Leon: MAL Contends . . .: US Atty Biskupic and VA ...

    Write to Keith Roberts - Wrongly Imprisoned Vietnam-era Veteran ..... In June of 1999, Airman Keith Roberts (1968-71) was granted a disability rating by the ...
    malcontends.blogspot.com/2007/06/us-atty-biskupic-and-va-defied-us-law.html -
    Similar pages
  2. Michael Alan Leon: MAL Contends . . .: Fight Is on to Free ...

    Write to Keith Roberts - Wrongly Imprisoned Vietnam-era Veteran. Keith Roberts .....Keith Roberts (1968-74) sits behind bars, ...
    malcontends.blogspot.com/2007/05/fight-is-on-to-free-wisconsin-vet.html - Madison, Wisconsin—As Airman
    Similar pages
  3. Michael Alan Leon: MAL Contends . . .: National VA Director Pushed ...

    Write to Keith Roberts - Wrongly Imprisoned Vietnam-era Veteran ..... In the PTSD case of U.S. Navy Airman Keith Roberts (1968–71) the U.S. Dept of Justice ...
    malcontends.blogspot.com/2007/09/national-va-director-pushed-us-atty.html -
    Similar pages
  4. Michael Alan Leon: MAL Contends . . .

    Write to Keith Roberts - Wrongly Imprisoned Vietnam-era Veteran. Keith Roberts, 07827-089. FCI Englewood, East-Upper FCI 9595 West Quincy Avenue ...
    malcontends.blogspot.com/ -
    Similar pages
  5. Michael Alan Leon: MAL Contends . . .: Jailed Wis Vet Files Reply ...

    Write to Keith Roberts - Wrongly Imprisoned Vietnam-era Veteran ..... Keith Roberts, an honorably discharged Navy veteran (1969-71) from Gillett, Wisconsin, ...
    malcontends.blogspot.com/2007/08/jailed-wis-vet-files-reply-brief-calls.html -
    Similar pages
  6. Michael Alan Leon: MAL Contends . . .: Jailed Wisconsin Veteran ...

    Write to Keith Roberts - Wrongly Imprisoned Vietnam-era Veteran ..... Madison, Wisconsin - Keith Roberts awaits the decision of his appeal before a ...
    malcontends.blogspot.com/2008/06/jailed-wisconsin-veteran-awaits.html -
    Similar pages
  7. Michael Alan Leon: MAL Contends . . .: Law Firms Rushing to ...

    Write to Keith Roberts - Wrongly Imprisoned Vietnam-era Veteran ..... Walsh is representing Wisconsin Navy veteran Keith Roberts who is a victim of VA ...
    malcontends.blogspot.com/2007/09/law-firms-rushing-to-veterans-aid.html -
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  8. Michael Alan Leon: MAL Contends . . .: Jailed Wisconsin Vet Loses ...

    Write to Keith Roberts - Wrongly Imprisoned Vietnam-era Veteran. Keith Roberts, 07827-089 ... Contact Airman Keith Roberts' (Ret.) Attorney, Robert Walsh ...
    malcontends.blogspot.com/2008/07/jailed-wisconsin-vet-loses-appeal-va.html -
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  9. Michael Alan Leon: MAL Contends . . .: VA Document Contradicts US ...

    Write to Keith Roberts - Wrongly Imprisoned Vietnam-era Veteran .....Keith Roberts did not seek out an earlier effective date on his own. ...
    malcontends.blogspot.com/2007/05/va-document-contradicts-us-atty-in.html -
    Similar pages
  10. Michael Alan Leon: MAL Contends . . .: Commending Wisconsin ...

    Write to Keith Roberts - Wrongly Imprisoned Vietnam-era Veteran ..... Navy veteran Keith Roberts — An innocent victim of the U.S. Dept of Justice and U.S. ...
    malcontends.blogspot.com/2008/12/commending-wisconsin-citizens-in-2008.html -
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Dec 17, 2008

Pardon Jailed Wisconsin Veteran

President-elect Barack Obama has tremendously more on his plate than reinventing government and restoring some semblance of accountability to Americans.

Ensuring that the world does not enter into a second depression, halting a war or two, saving the environment, formulating an industrial policy on alternative energy, one can go on; all are problems of a massive scale.

But readers of Uppity Wisconsin may notice a comment from a veteran posted this week about another veteran who is serving a four-year sentence in federal prison.

That jailed veteran is Navy Airman Keith Roberts (1968-71), a Vietnam-era veteran, [see Wisconsin Navy Airman Keith Roberts and U.S. Attorneys Scandal–Milwaukee] from Gillett, Wisconsin; and he’s an innocent man wrongfully imprisoned.

Roberts was convicted on five counts of wire fraud for receiving U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits after the national VA office launched a vendetta against Roberts for being a pain to the VA regional office in “tenaciously pursuing a claim for VA benefits" (Harper’s).

U.S. Atty Stephen Biskupic's office took up the VA’s case that resulted in the 2006 conviction.

In sum, Roberts served his country and was railroaded by a corrupt VA and an appalling U.S. DOJ.

President-elect Obama should grant an extraordinary pardon that will not only serve the cause of justice but will also repudiate a VA that has become outright hostile to veterans.

U.S. v. Roberts

The title of the case is fitting for this honorably discharged veteran diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The crux of the case against Roberts is that Roberts was not friends with his fellow Navy airman (Gary Holland) when both the men were on line duty at a Naval base in Naples, Italy on February 5, 1969 when Holland was crushed to death by a C-54 aircraft.

The prosecution also says that Roberts exaggerated his efforts to save Holland, which constituted fraud for which Roberts was convicted by a jury in northern Wisconsin. And that Roberts therefore lied about the friendship and the effort to save Holland.

Holland and Roberts did not have a friendship, and Roberts exaggerated his efforts to save Holland. That’s the alleged fraud, that’s the intent to engage in fraud? Yes.

In fact, the two men had parallel service histories that would make it unlikely that Holland and Roberts were not at least friendly in their relationship, and that contradicts the prosecution’s indictment and trial statements.

So what happened, why the prosecution on such a slender reed?

"[T]he only reason Airman Roberts was ever prosecuted was because he was a ‘belligerent ass’ who kept insisting that he get paid back to discharge. He was demanding an appeal in Washington," said a background source at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee who e-mailed the Lee Rayburn radio show in Madison in early June 2007 after a program about the Roberts case, and asked to remain anonymous out of fear of losing his job. "I'd have to say that you guys are TOTALLY (uppercase in the original) right about Roberts' conviction being bullshit ... ."

Said Roberts’ attorney Robert Walsh, a combat Vietnam Army veteran, at the oral arguments in October 2007 before the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, referencing this VA standard for judging any first-person account by veterans of what happened to them during their service:

… I submit to you that they are inconsistencies in every veteran's record, combat or peacetime. And that Congress has recognized that. And that’s why VA benefits is a very paternalistic, claimant-friendly, non-adversarial system. It’s even more paternalistic that the Social Security benefits adjudication system (per the Veterans Judicial Review Act). So, where’s the intent (for fraud)?
Good question.

Roberts criminal case is before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (U.S. v. Roberts, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin) where Roberts is seeking an en banc hearing, and his benefits case is on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC).

A three-member panel for the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in July found that, "The record might also have supported a jury determination that Mr. Roberts sincerely believed that his statements were true and that he had no intention to defraud the Government ... (but) (i)t is beyond our authority to disturb (a guilty) finding on appeal (in this case)."

As for the comment by the veteran who served with Roberts in Italy, it corroborates what Roberts has claimed for decades had occurred:

James W. Ervin PH3 (not verified) on Tue, 12/16/2008 - 4:13pm. I was stationed @ NAF (Naples), Italy at the time of this "incident". July 1968 thru Nov.1969 . I also remember the young sailor be trapped / crushed up inside the wheel well (nose) of the aircraft inside the hangar of NAF naples,Italy. I do remember someone wanting to drive a forklift into the side of the aircraft ; but an officer or someone of authority would not let them do that....so what they did was have men climb up into the plane & go to the rear of the plane to put weight in the rear of the plane to let the nose come up to release the trapped sailor. (Unfortunately) that process was too slow to save the sailor from death. I also remember taking photographs of the " Pin " that was in the nose gear at the time. I remember it as being a homemade looking pin without a locking clip to keep it from being removed without unlocking the device. As for the names of the people involved , I don't remember ; but there definitely was someone there who wanted to use the (fork) lift to rescue the sailor from the collapsed nose wheel and was ordered NOT to use the fork lift. Sincerely ,

Roberts' family and fellow veterans supporting him in his case remain hopeful, but desperate.

President-elect Obama should grant this family a full pardon and make things right.

- Contact author at: maleon64@yahoo.com

See also:

  1. Michael Alan Leon: MAL Contends . . .: US Atty Biskupic and VA ...

    Write to Keith Roberts - Wrongly Imprisoned Vietnam-era Veteran ..... In June of 1999, Airman Keith Roberts (1968-71) was granted a disability rating by the ...
    malcontends.blogspot.com/2007/06/us-atty-biskupic-and-va-defied-us-law.html -
    Similar pages
  2. Michael Alan Leon: MAL Contends . . .: Fight Is on to Free ...

    Write to Keith Roberts - Wrongly Imprisoned Vietnam-era Veteran. Keith Roberts .....Keith Roberts (1968-74) sits behind bars, ...
    malcontends.blogspot.com/2007/05/fight-is-on-to-free-wisconsin-vet.html -
    Madison, Wisconsin—As Airman Similar pages
  3. Michael Alan Leon: MAL Contends . . .: National VA Director Pushed ...

    Write to Keith Roberts - Wrongly Imprisoned Vietnam-era Veteran ..... In the PTSD case of U.S. Navy Airman Keith Roberts (1968–71) the U.S. Dept of Justice ...
    malcontends.blogspot.com/2007/09/national-va-director-pushed-us-atty.html -
    Similar pages
  4. Michael Alan Leon: MAL Contends . . .

    Write to Keith Roberts - Wrongly Imprisoned Vietnam-era Veteran. Keith Roberts, 07827-089. FCI Englewood, East-Upper FCI 9595 West Quincy Avenue ...
    malcontends.blogspot.com/ -
    Similar pages
  5. Michael Alan Leon: MAL Contends . . .: Jailed Wis Vet Files Reply ...

    Write to Keith Roberts - Wrongly Imprisoned Vietnam-era Veteran ..... Keith Roberts, an honorably discharged Navy veteran (1969-71) from Gillett, Wisconsin, ...
    malcontends.blogspot.com/2007/08/jailed-wis-vet-files-reply-brief-calls.html -
    Similar pages
  6. Michael Alan Leon: MAL Contends . . .: Jailed Wisconsin Veteran ...

    Write to Keith Roberts - Wrongly Imprisoned Vietnam-era Veteran ..... Madison, Wisconsin - Keith Roberts awaits the decision of his appeal before a ...
    malcontends.blogspot.com/2008/06/jailed-wisconsin-veteran-awaits.html -
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  7. Michael Alan Leon: MAL Contends . . .: Law Firms Rushing to ...

    Write to Keith Roberts - Wrongly Imprisoned Vietnam-era Veteran ..... Walsh is representing Wisconsin Navy veteran Keith Roberts who is a victim of VA ...
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  8. Michael Alan Leon: MAL Contends . . .: Jailed Wisconsin Vet Loses ...

    Write to Keith Roberts - Wrongly Imprisoned Vietnam-era Veteran. Keith Roberts, 07827-089 ... Contact Airman Keith Roberts' (Ret.) Attorney, Robert Walsh ...
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  9. Michael Alan Leon: MAL Contends . . .: VA Document Contradicts US ...

    Write to Keith Roberts - Wrongly Imprisoned Vietnam-era Veteran .....Keith Roberts did not seek out an earlier effective date on his own. ...
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  10. Michael Alan Leon: MAL Contends . . .: Commending Wisconsin ...

    Write to Keith Roberts - Wrongly Imprisoned Vietnam-era Veteran ..... Navy veteran Keith Roberts — An innocent victim of the U.S. Dept of Justice and U.S. ...
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