Saturday, December 24, 2011
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
As you know, I am a former federal prosecutor for over 20 years. Presently, I am a criminal defense lawyer in Augusta, Georgia where I practice law with my son. I have focused on handling white collar crime cases for much of my career as a Georgia attorney.
As we have often discussed in this blog, the elderly are frequently targeted by white collar criminals. The number and types of scams appear to be endless! I recently read about yet another fraudulent scheme focused on senior citizens which allegedly occurred in a nearby town. Here is how it works:
The perpetrator drives around and looks for a potential target: a senior citizen who is driving an automobile alone. Then, the bad guy somehow gets the senior citizen's attention and gets them to pull over. The bad guy then informs the elderly target that he has noticed something is wrong with the elderly target's tire. Naturally, there really is nothing wrong with the tire. The bad guy also offers to repair the tire for them. Of course, the bad guy then demands an exhorbitant payment for supposedly fixing the tire.
In the case I recently read about, the bad guy was arrested and awaits trial. Of course, no one disputes the fact that he is entitled to a fair trial. But if a person is convicted of such a crime, then he should be thrown under the jailhouse! Don't you agree?
Saturday, December 10, 2011
|[Depiction of Dr. Seus book from swotti.com]|
If you want to get depressed, then try googling the words "Christmas theft" and see how many examples of Christmas greed you will find! Everywhere, some people are stealing other peoples' gifts from their cars, decorations from their yards, and even money from their charity's donation kettles! Sometimes, it seems that our dreams of a white Christmas have become overshadowed by nightmares involving white collar crime!
Maybe I am more alert to this problem, because I am an Augusta, Georgia criminal lawyer and former federal prosecutor. But you already knew about this problem, too, didn't you? I'll bet that you have read about or experienced this seasonal problem -- of theft and greed at Christmas -- in your own home town.
So, please be careful! Lock away your shopping purchases in your car trunks. And be more alert to those around you at the mall. Look, Christmas is still a wonderful time of year. Most folks still believe in peace and good will. But be careful and don't let a grinch take away your Christmas from you!
Sunday, December 4, 2011
|[Photo of U.S. Capital from fws.gov]|
In the book, Throw Them All Out, author Peter Schweizer recently exposed, among other things, the problem involving various members of Congress using insider information to profit in the stock market. C.B.S. News also did a follow-up story on 60 Minutes in which they exposed that former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi allegedly profited from such insider information available only to members of Congress.
It is no wonder that Congress is rated below lawyers and used car dealers in the public eye! This practice is outrageous and should be illegal! Part of the problem is that Congress had exempted itself, (its own members), from application of insider trading laws! Now, Senator Lieberman and others are reportedly leading the way in Congress to change the insider trading law and make it applicable to members of Congress, too!
This legislation is long overdue. But is it enough? Do you believe the new legislation will solve the problem? Maybe, Schweizer had it right! Maybe, instead, we should just "throw them all out" and start over! What do you think?
Saturday, November 26, 2011
|[Photo from wikipedia]|
As a former federal prosecutor, I prosecuted a number of election fraud cases, here in Georgia. Election fraud and vote-buying appear to be a world-wide problem, to one degree or another. Various news reports indicate that many Russians won't even vote in next week's parliamentary elections simply because they believe the election results will be manipulated. Nearly fifty percent of those surveyed predicted there will be election fraud. Vladimir Putin's party is expected to retain a majority in the Russian Parliament next week, but other parties appear to be positioned to post some gains.
Of course, if Putin's party officials and bureaucrats are counting the votes, then one might wonder why only fifty percent of Russians believe the election results will be rigged!
Saturday, November 19, 2011
|[Carly Simon and Song Depiction from wikipedia]|
Surely, we all love the classic Carly Simon hit, "You're So Vain." Over the years, as a former federal prosecutor for over 20 years, (and currently, as an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer), I have witnessed some vain criminal defendants! Here are a few quick examples:
1. I once prosecuted a nursing home bookkeeper who stole the patients' money so that she could feed her clothes-buying addiction. She bought so many clothes that her husband had to build an extra room to hold them!
2. I also once prosecuted a bank employee for embezzlement who was so vain that, when her daughter gave birth to a baby, the new grandmother allegedly broke off all ties with her daughter, (and new grandchild), so that her friends would not know that she was, in fact, old enough to have grandchildren!
Now, that's what I call vanity! I'll bet you have met a few vain folks in the past, too!
Sunday, November 13, 2011
|[Photo of Lincoln's Tomb from wikipedia]|
Sometimes, it seems that nothing is sacred, or off limits, any more. And sometimes, it seems that some white collar criminals have absolutely no consciences or sense of shame. I am referring to the reported theft of a three-foot-long copper sword from atop President Lincoln's tomb in Springfield, Illinois. Authorities have indicated that they have no clue who did it or when it occurred.
We have previously discussed here the problem of the growing copper theft epidemic. But this crime goes beyond that problem. This crime offends the honor of a deceased president and strikes at the heart of all we hold dear and sacred in our society.
Sadly, due to budget cuts, security had been removed from the site over a decade ago. And sadly, in my opinion, this is just another sign that some criminals have no sense of shame and that it sometimes appears we are all going to Hell in a handbasket.
What do you think?
Monday, November 7, 2011
|[Photo of De Niro from wikipedia]|
Have you heard the news about who plans to star in a proposed new HBO movie about the life (and crimes) of convicted ponzi scheme king Bernie Madoff? The answer is...Robert De Niro.
According to various news reports, De Niro, the Academy-award winning actor from Raging Bull, (and star of one of my favorite gangster movies, Goodfellas), will both produce and star in the new HBO movie.
You don't have to be a former federal prosecutor, (and currently an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer), to look forward to this movie! What do you think?
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
|[Photo of DOJ Seal from reactf.org]|
As a new federal prosecutor, years ago, I quickly learned that most federal prosecutors shake in their boots at even the thought of being investigated by the Office of Professional Responsibility, ("OPR"). Here is why, in a nut shell!
You see, OPR is, for federal agents and prosecutors, what an internal affairs unit is for police officers. In other words, OPR is the arm of the Department of Justice, ("DOJ"), which is entrusted with the responsibility of investigating and, in some cases, disciplining, federal agents and prosecutors who have been accused of misconduct related to their cases. Each year, OPR investigates hundreds of complaints made by citizens, or referred to them by federal judges and others. It is my understanding that OPR employees actually even troll across the internet looking for reports of alleged prosecutorial misconduct. In short, if they catch you, OPR can get you fired!
According to the DOJ website, OPR was created in 1975 in response to allegations of prosecutorial abuse committed by DOJ employees during the infamous Watergate scandal.
Fortunately, for me, during my 20 year career as a federal prosecutor, I never had to endure any OPR investigations! But I knew or heard about federal employees who did. And trust me, I don't believe it was a pleasant experience! But I'll bet you will agree that OPR serves an important role in ferreting out government misconduct.
Of course, OPR is not the only vehicle for raising complaints about prosecutorial misconduct. For instance, complaints can also be raised with state bar associations and with federal judges, in appropriate cases. But these are all matters which you should carefully discuss with your own criminal defense attorney.
As for me, now that I am an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer, and no longer work for DOJ, I no longer have to worry about receiving a call from OPR to "come on down, you are the next contestant!"
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
|[Photo of White House from valdosta.edu]|
Hey, are you looking for a cheap house to rent in Washington, D.C.? Then, a guy from Atlanta, Georgia may have a real "bargain" for you! But you may have to look him up in an Atlanta area jail!
According to news reports, the man has been charged with leasing homes in the Atlanta area which did not belong to him to various tenants. According to reports, the man allegedly broke into one house, changed the locks, prepared a bogus lease, and rented the house to a poor victim for $1,000 per month, (with a $3,000 security deposit, up front)! Later, the actual owner of the home discovered that someone was living in his house and apparently reported it to police!
Of course, these are only the charges and the alleged perpetrator is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
Look, I realize that this case is not the biggest case of white collar crime "out there." But that is the point of this post. Occasionally, I like to include such posts to illustrate the point that most white collar crime is, in fact, just relatively small thefts or fraud committed by relatively ordinary folks.
Now, does anybody "out there" really need a good deal on a house in D.C.!?
Thursday, October 13, 2011
|[Photo of Scarlett Johansson from wikipedia]|
Did you hear the big news? According to various news reports, yesterday, F.B.I. agents arrested a 35 year-old Jacksonville, Florida man, Christopher Chaney, on federal charges related to his alleged hacking into the computers and email accounts of various Hollywood celebrities, including actresses Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis, and Christina Aguilera. No doubt, you will recall that, for some time, nude photographs and other information had been posted online about the celebrities.
Of course, Chaney, who was released on a $10,000 bond, is entitled to a presumption of innocence and to his fair day in court. But, as a former federal prosecutor, I look forward to following what happens in this celebrity computer hacking case!
One lesson to be learned from this matter involves computer email account passwords. According to news reports, the perpetrator in these cases was able to guess the celebrities' passwords, (and hack into their email accounts), based upon public information which he acquired about each of them. Therefore, we can all learn that it is important for us to create more complex passwords! Don't you agree?
Has your computer even been hacked? Have you ever been a victim of identity theft?
Monday, October 10, 2011
As the Bernie Madoff fraud case demonstrates, restitution often comes too little and too late in white collar crime cases. You will recall that Madoff, the "king of the ponzi scheme," was sentenced in 2009 to serve 150 years in prison for masterminding the largest investment fraud scheme in U.S. history.
Tragically, Madoff's tough prison sentence did little to assuage the losses inflicted on hundreds of crime victims, many of whom were elderly people who saw their life savings taken away. I will never forget the report of one elderly victim who was forced to return to work as a grocery store clerk after losing his retirement nest egg to Madoff's crime.
Since Madoff's sentencing, a bankruptcy trustee, assisted by the U.S. Marshal's Service, has been selling off Madoff's property, including homes, jewelry, and even his clothes, to try to help make some restitution to Madoff's victims. (I started to bid on something in the online auction, but the red tape was too complicated!) Unfortunately, this restitution effort is not enough. For instance, according to reports, last week, the trustee distributed $312 million to victims, but this constituted just pennies on the dollar compared to the total amount stolen.
Also, according to reports, up to one-half of the $17.3 billion taken by Madoff may ultimately be recovered and distributed to victims, but only after time-consuming litigation. However, many of the elderly victims simply don't have the time. At least eight of Madoff's elderly victims have already died during the past couple of years. As a result, sadly, many of Madoff's victims will never be made whole.
And sadly, this case shows that restitution often comes too little and too late in white collar crime cases.
Monday, October 3, 2011
|[Depiction of "The Charge of the Light Brigade" from wikipedia]|
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns,' he said,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
As a young law student, I clerked for an Athens, Georgia law firm headed by a resourceful criminal defense attorney. Let's call him "John Jones." I learned a lot from Mr. Jones about human nature and about trying criminal cases. For instance, I learned that law school doesn't really prepare law students for the real world, or teach you about human nature. I also learned from Mr. Jones that, no matter what challenges or obstacles you face, in life, or during a criminal trial, as a criminal defense lawyer, you must be willing, like Lord Tennyson's Light Brigade, to keep charging ahead!
To illustrate my points, let me give you an example of an actual criminal case. First, it might help you to know that Mr. Jones was confined to an electric wheel chair. But as I learned very quickly, Mr. Jones wasn't actually confined -- he never allowed this mere encumbrance to slow him down one bit. Nor did it prevent him from winning a criminal trial!
I will never forget the Smith embezzlement case. The evidence was largely circumstantial that Mr. Jones' client had stolen company funds. But a problem had cropped up at trial. One of the jurors, a middle aged man who sat near the right front corner of the jury box, kept nodding off during the trial. Ordinarily, as Mr. Jones explained to me, a juror sleeping through a trial could be a good thing for the defense. But Mr. Jones really wanted the juror to wake up for the next critical defense witness' testimony. So, here is what he did to correct this problem!
First, Mr. Jones drove his chair up alongside where I sat, which was just behind the defense counsel table. Then, he whispered, "Watch this, Richard."
Immediately, Mr. Jones wheeled around and drove his electric wheel chair forward, full throttle, toward the front right corner of the jury box! "Half a league, half a league, half a league onward," charged Mr. Jones! Then, everyone in the courtroom was jolted by a loud "bam," as the electric wheel chair hit the corner of the jury box! No real damage was done. Somehow, Mr. Jones had managed to stay upright. But I quickly saw the results!
Naturally, the sleeping juror was jolted awake! Even the judge was awakened from his perch on the bench! Mr. Jones had succeeded in his mission! In fact, after the collision, all the jurors seemed wide awake, attentive, and watchful -- and perhaps a little bit afraid that this crazy-drivin' lawyer might hit them next! I will never really know what role Mr. Jones' mission had played, but we won this criminal case!
I later learned that Mr. Jones knew that, because of his physical challenge, no one -- including the judge and jurors -- would blame or criticize him for "inadvertently" driving his wheel chair into the jury box. And no one did. That is human nature, isn't it? I also learned that, when you are trying a criminal case, while you must always remain professional, sometimes, you must also be willing to "charge for the guns," in order to win!
What do you think? Have you ever had to "charge for the guns?" Wouldn't you want an aggressive criminal defense lawyer, like Mr. Jones, in your corner!?
Friday, September 30, 2011
|[Photo from wikipedia]|
Have you heard the news this week? She's back! Yes, according to various news reports, multi-media mogul Martha Stewart is back on the board of her own company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. According to reports, Ms. Stewart has now completed a five-year ban from participating as an executive or board member of a public company.
The five-year ban had reportedly been part of a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, based upon, or related to, her alleged complicity in insider trading of ImClone stock. You will recall that Ms. Stewart was never actually convicted of insider trading. She was only convicted, in 2004, of essentially lying to investigators about the facts related to the ImClone stock transaction. She served 5 months in prison.
I still maintain, as a former federal prosecutor, (and currently, as an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer), that, if I had been her criminal defense attorney back in 2004, I could have possibly helped her avoid a criminal conviction. In short, as I have written here previously, I believe that, in some grand jury investigations, targets could avoid prosecution if they would avoid making false statements to government agents.
But now, she is back -- on the board of her own company! Don't you agree that she has paid her debt to society? Doesn't she deserve a chance, once again, to rule her multi-media empire? What do you think?
Monday, September 19, 2011
|[Photo from ehow.com]|
Today, as I worked hard to submit an appeal brief to the Court of Appeals, well before the filing deadline, I was reminded of a time when, as a former federal prosecutor, I had worked on another brief, and struggled to meet a filing deadline. Here is what happened in the Smith appeal.
First of all, you need to know a little bit about briefing schedules. Generally, when the defendant is appealing a conviction, he or she files a brief first and serves the prosecutor with a copy of it. Then, generally, the prosecutor has thirty days from the date of receipt of the defendant's brief before the government's responsive brief is due. Thirty days is generally deemed sufficient time in which to prepare and submit such a brief.
But here is what happened to me in the Smith appeal! Instead of serving me personally with a copy of the defendant's brief, the criminal defense attorney mailed it, instead, to my boss, who was the chief of the criminal section of the federal prosecutor's office. My office was located in Augusta; my boss was in Savannah. And there, the brief sat, and sat, and sat, for two-and-one-half weeks, on a corner of my boss' desk! Also, since the defense lawyer had filed his brief two weeks early, I had no way of knowing that it had already been submitted.
I will never forget the day when I received a telephone call from my boss about the brief. He first pretended to be calling about another case. Then, he casually mentioned, "Oh yeah, Richard, I almost forgot that I need to send to you the Smith appellate brief. We got it a couple of weeks ago. But don't worry, because it looks like an easy one for you to respond to." My heart sank! I immediately realized that I would have to work the next two weekends, in order to have any chance of meeting the filing deadline! And that is exactly what happened to me!
And that is also why, whenever I file an appellate brief, I always remember the story of the Smith brief and my insensitive boss!
Friday, September 16, 2011
|[Photo from tools2parts.com]|
While identity theft may be the fastest growing white collar crime in the United States today, I suspect that copper wiring theft might not be far behind. Everywhere, across the country, thieves are hitting and stealing copper wire from construction sites, abandoned houses, and even churches.
According to news reports, one church, St. Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Church, of San Francisco, has been hit four times by copper wiring thieves in the past four months. How low will some thieves go -- to steal from a church?!
I did a little checking on some statistics about this growing problem. According to the Department of Energy, this copper theft epidemic costs crime victims over $1 billion per year. One reason involves the fact that, according to the New York Times, the salvage price of copper has skyrocketed in recent years, from about $1.25 per pound in 2009 to a whopping $4.00 per pound today! It is no wonder, then, that crooks are crawling under vacant houses, and even under churches, to steal copper!
What can be done about this growing problem? As a former federal prosecutor, I would recommend that purchasers of copper wiring be required to maintain better records about those who bring in the copper, (much like the requirements for recording data about pawn shop purchases). Also, it may be inevitable that some law enforcement agencies will be required to form copper theft investigative units. (Should they be called the "a.c. units?!") These are difficult crimes to solve, aren't they?
Do you know of anyone who is a copper theft victim? What do you think should be done about this growing problem?
Saturday, September 10, 2011
|[Photo from wikipedia]|
As a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, I primarily prosecuted white collar crime. I was fortunate to have been able to prosecute some of the largest, most complex fraud and public corruption cases in Georgia history.
However, one of my biggest cases as a former federal prosecutor had nothing to do with white collar crime. Instead, it was the high profile bank robbery, kidnapping, and escape case involving mastermind, Christopher Jeberk. After kidnapping an Augusta bank teller, with two accomplices, and robbing her bank's vault, (while his two accomplices held her family hostage at her parents' home), Jeberk was later captured, but then escaped -- twice! While on the lam, Jeberk and an accomplice committed a number of other bank robberies up along the eastern coast before his re-capture. After his return to Augusta, I asked for, and Jeberk received, a sentence of life imprisonment.
This criminal case was featured on episodes of two popular television crime shows: "America's Most Wanted" and "The F.B.I. Files." I was interviewed for "The F.B.I. Files" episode. Although that program has been cancelled, re-runs of this episode are frequently shown on the Discovery Channel. You can also see it here on Youtube:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-NI-wuAljU (There, you can also see what a Goolsby looks like!)
Sunday, September 4, 2011
[Photo from socyberty.com]
You may have thought you had a bad week. But did you hear about what happened this week to Georgia businessman Jeffrey Wallace Edwards and his company, Frontier Holdings, Inc.?
According to various news reports, Edwards and his company were found guilty in a Rome, Georgia federal courtroom on an indictment charging numerous federal criminal counts, including mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. The charges reportedly centered around on old-fashioned ponzi scheme, or investment fraud scam, in which investors, including thirty retirees, were induced by Edwards to invest their money, with outlandish promises of rates of return, which, of course, never materialized. The news reports indicate that Edwards spent their money, instead, on himself, for vacation cruises, fur coats, and other luxury items.
As a former federal prosecutor, (and currently, as an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer), I have handled a number of fraud cases like this one. Most of them followed this same pattern.
Edwards will be sentenced later, in accordance with the federal sentencing guidelines. Now, compared to this defendant, don't you realize that your week wasn't so bad, after all?!
Sunday, August 28, 2011
[Photo from imfdb.org]
[The following fictionalized account is merely an illustration which is based upon a true story. For instance, the names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty!]
You will never forget your first kiss, your first bike, or your first puppy. Well, trust me, you will never forget your first death threat, either! Let me tell you about my first one.
I was a young, wet-behind-the-ears prosecutor in another part of the state when I received my first death threat. A fellow Assistant D.A. and I had begun an investigation of a top cop in one of the counties in that judicial circuit. Simply put, we thought he was a crooked cop being paid off by drug dealers. And we were determined to prove it. The problem was that he knew we were trying to prove it.
My challenge was that, on a daily basis, I still had to interact with this alleged crooked cop. We'll call him Bubba. As the assigned prosecutor, I still had to handle all the criminal cases which Bubba's office had investigated.
Then, it happened. One day, after court, Bubba asked me to stop by his office. He invited me into a back office, offered a chair, and closed the door behind me. At first, we made small talk -- about the weather and about the Georgia Bulldogs. I felt extremely awkward and simply wanted to go.
Finally, I could tell Bubba was getting around to the point. He prefaced his comments by reminding me about a recent death threat made against a popular local judge. In short, a local narcotics officer had been tipped off by a snitch that a drug dealer had targeted the judge for a hit. The story had fired up the local newspapers. For several weeks, the death threat had been the hot topic at the local diners.
But Bubba had a different take on the story -- and a different message. As he began his remarks, he looked straight at me -- no, it was more like straight through me. I will never forget his icy glare. Bubba first pointed out that he didn't put any stock in the death threat supposedly made against the judge.
Then, he added, "Rick, you don't have to worry about the death threats you hear about. It's the threats you don't hear about that kill you. If I ever want to kill somebody, I won't warn them about it. I'll just get me a high powered rifle and blow their f_ _ _ing head off!" That was it! Understandably, I really don't remember any of our conversation after that! But I got the point! And I got out of there as soon as I could, while struggling to maintain my composure!
I learned a number of lessons from this stressful experience. For instance, I learned that you can be courageous even while afraid. I won't lie. I was afraid. I believed Bubba. And after that day, I went on to endure other threats and harassment. But the point is that I didn't back down from continuing the crooked cop investigation. We never caught Bubba. For me, Bubba will always be the big fish in my career that got away! But I never quit doing what I thought was right. I learned that the true test of courage lies in whether or not you persevere in spite of your fear.
I also learned, thanks to Bubba, that, generally, the most serious threats are the ones you never hear about.
Finally, I learned that, like your first kiss, your first bike, or your first puppy, you will never forget your first death threat, either!
Saturday, August 27, 2011
[Photo from scientistdata.info]
After some serious posts, maybe it is time for......A "Joke of the Day" about lawyers! The following joke was told to one of my sons last week by his law professor!
Question: What do you have with 100 lawyers buried up to their necks in sand?
Answer: Not enough sand!
I hope your weekend is going great and that you are not up to your neck in sand!
Monday, August 22, 2011
What Do You Do When You Are Arrested? Shut Up, Lawyer Up, And Remember That Jail House Walls Have Ears!
[Photo from cityofdelano.org]
What would you do if you, or a family member, were arrested? Here is my perspective. For over 30 years, I have both prosecuted, as a former federal and state prosecutor, and defended, as an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer, in both state and federal courts. As a result, over the years, I have picked up a thing or two about how our criminal justice system really works.
Trust me, getting arrested and dealing with jails and judges isn't all pretty! Hopefully, no one reading this blog will ever be arrested. But have you ever considered exactly what you should do if the metal bracelets are ever placed on your wrists? Here are just a few practical tips for you to consider:
1. SHUT UP AND LAWYER UP! The first important tip for you to consider is the fact that, when you are arrested, under our Constitution, you have the right to remain silent and the right to consult with a criminal lawyer. The point here is that, generally, you should consider exercising these important rights by shutting up and lawyering up!
2. DON'T TALK WITH ANYONE IN JAIL: Another tip for you to consider is the fact that jails are filled with rats and snitches! In other words, you should avoid talking with any other inmates about your own criminal case!
3. REMEMBER THAT JAIL HOUSE WALLS HAVE EARS: Finally, you should assume, or consider as fact, that jailers often monitor everything that goes on in their facilities. For instance, you should be aware that, generally, jail house telephone calls are monitored and recorded. As a criminal defense attorney, I have even actually experienced a case in which the government improperly listened to a tape recording of a telephone conversation between a lawyer and a client! So, the bottom line is: Remember that jail house walls have ears and that you should watch what you say on the telephone!
Again, I hope you never go to jail! But have you ever considered what you would do if you were arrested?
Saturday, August 13, 2011
[Photo from electis.blogs.wm.edu]
One of my proudest career accomplishments happened early in my career when I was a young Assistant D.A. in south Georgia. It involved my investigation of fraud and corruption at one of the county prison camps, or "work farms." The abuses--including thefts by guards and prisoner abuse--are too numerous to list here.
For instance, prisoners told me about witnessing guards loading meat from the work camp kitchen into their car trunks. Also, although money was budgeted for recreational items, there wasn't a single ball of any kind anywhere in the camp! Where did all the money go? Another abuse involved the camp's deplorable solitary confinement cell, which was called "the hole." It was literally a hole dug into the ground, into which rain water, snakes and rats would venture and keep company with the unlucky prisoner confined there.
What could I do? Look, I was a tough young prosecutor. I was no "bleeding heart!" But, in my heart, I knew that the horrendous prison conditions and crimes were unconstitutional and flat wrong!
Although I was just out of law school, and new on the job at the D.A.'s Office, I knew I must do something. But I also soon learned that the local politicians were part of the problem and would not help. Therefore, I decided that the best disinfectant would be to focus the news media spotlight and public scrutiny on the prison problems.
So, with help from a cooperative criminal defense lawyer friend, we essentially utilized a preliminary hearing about a prisoner's escape case to expose the work camp abuses to the news media and public. Over the course of several days, we produced witness after witness who testified about all the fraud and corruption at the work camp! The lawyer for the local sheriff and county commissioners tried to intervene and stop the hearing. But the magistrate judge, who seemed to enjoy the media attention, sustained my objection that the county's attorney had no standing to object! The hearing continued until the public airing was complete. The news media also helped with headline after headline about the prison problems.
Fortunately, this story has a happy ending! After this public exposure, the politicians could no longer hide! The politicians scurried like roaches under an overturned woodpile! Several county commissioners finally got behind an effort to clean up the work camp. A number of prison employees either retired or were fired. Several more were prosecuted by me for theft. The prison kitchen now had meat to serve! Also "the hole" was eliminated!
So, now, I hope you can see why this investigation of public corruption is one of my proudest early career accomplishments!
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
[Photo from Wikipedia]
Sometimes, as a former state and federal prosecutor, (and presently, as an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer), I think I have "seen it all" in courtrooms around the State of Georgia! Here is just a small sample:
1. I once tried a criminal case against a lawyer who wore a pea green leisure suit and gray hush puppies during the trial!
2. I once tried a criminal case in a Georgia courtroom which had brass spittoons strategically located around it!
3. I once tried a case against a lawyer who actually put those courtroom spittoons to good use during the trial!
What unusual things have you seen where you work?!
Friday, August 5, 2011
As you may know, we are the Goolsby Law Firm, LLC, Augusta, Georgia father and son criminal defense lawyers (and divorce attorneys). Previously, I was also a federal prosecutor for over 20 years. As an AUSA, I primarily prosecuted white collar crime and public corruption. But there is also another aspect to my career as a criminal lawyer of which I am also very proud! For many years, I have also taught criminal justice courses, part-time, at two local universities, (Brenau University and Augusta State). I sometimes view my teaching gig as a "hobby that pays!"
I also derive a number of other benefits from teaching. For instance, teaching as an adjunct college professor requires me to keep up with the latest criminal laws and policing trends. Also, teaching, part-time, offers me an opportunity to engage in some lively discussions with bright college students about an array of issues related to criminal justice.
Finally, I also enjoy teaching because I get to meet and interact with former students, following their graduation, as they enter the "real world" of ciminal justice, as attorneys, probation officers, juvenile court case workers, and law enforcement officers. I cannot describe the pride I feel when I meet and work with my former criminal justice students! Teaching is an occupation which keeps on giving!
Friday, July 29, 2011
[Photo from stockphotos]
Sometimes, it seems like nothing -- not even a cemetary -- is sacred any more. We have posted here before about the growing problem of cemetery thefts. And now, it has happened again. This time, it is in California.
According to various news reports, thieves have stolen approximately 113 bronze vases from graves located in a Newhall, California cemetery. It seems like this is happening all over the country.
As I have concluded before, we can only hope that there is an especially hot place in Hades reserved for anyone who will steal from or desecrate a grave, or cemetery. Sadly, nothing is sacred any more.
Are crimes and criminals getting bolder and bolder? Are there an solutions? Or are we all just going to Hell in a handbasket? What do you think?
Thursday, July 28, 2011
[Photo from babble.com]
As a Georgia trial lawyer and history lover, I have always enjoyed times spent sitting around in court and talking with other (older) attorneys, while waiting for the judge to take the bench. Some of these conversations and "war stories" about the "good ole' days" of practicing law in Georgia are priceless!
One recent conversation involved the topic of the importance of getting to court on time for a trial. After all, you never want to keep a judge waiting! A fellow lawyer, from a nearby town, described his experiences as a young lawyer. He pointed out that the railroad tracks ran between his law office and the local courthouse. Inevitably, a train would always be passing through town whenever he was running late for court. Incredibly, the lawyer said his solution was to park his car, grab his briefcase, jump aboard the moving train, climb down on the other side, and dash off to court on foot!
I recounted my own experience about getting to court on time. As you will see, I took a different, more conservative approach. As a former federal prosecutor, sometimes, I had to travel to federal court in Brunswick, Georgia. The late famous federal Judge Anthony A. Alaimo held court there. The judge, a former p.o.w. during World War II, was well known for holding in contempt any lawyers who were late for court. You never wanted to keep this venerable judge waiting, or cause him to look down from the bench in disfavor at you! As a young lawyer, I was convinced that his piercing eyes, staring down over his eyeglasses, could burn a hole through any disobedient attorney!
Do you recall what happened, in the first Indiana Jones movie, when the Nazi officer looked into the ark of the covenant!? He got zapped! I didn't want to get zapped!
So, here was my dilemma. When staying overnight, prior to his court, in Brunswick, I had a choice to make. I could either stay in town, or stay out at Jekyll Island, a nearby beach. The beach idea was much more appealing! But the problem with the beach idea was that there was a drawbridge located between the beach and town. As a result, if you stayed at the beach, you ran the risk of being late for court, if the bridge was raised to allow a ship to pass through.
I'll be honest here! I was afraid of being late for Judge Alaimo's court! So, I always stayed in town!
What would you have done? Would you have stayed at the beach and risked the judge's ire? (Trust me! You would never want this judge to zap you!) Or would you jump aboard a moving train to get to court on time!? You just never know what you will learn while sitting around in a courtroom and telling war stories with other lawyers!
Sunday, July 24, 2011
[Photo from Wikipedia]
Look, I am not a conspiracy theorist! And I don't go looking for violations of our freedom and privacy rights under every rock. I am simply an Augusta, Georgia criminal lawyer, and former federal prosecutor, who enjoys practicing law with my son and blogging about criminal law.
But, in my opinion, every freedom loving citizen should be concerned about how new technology is affecting our freedom and privacy rights. In some ways, we are already past George Orwell's 1984. We have discussed in this blog a number of the ways in which the government is already tracking our every move. But have you heard about the latest method of collecting data about your movements?
It is called the Automatic License Plate Recognition device, (or "ALPR"). In other countries around the world where this technology is already being used, it is commonly referred to as the Automatic Number Plate Recognition device, (or "ANPR," for short). Different names, but same scary device!
Simply put, here is how this new policing device, or ALPR, works: Police cars have mounted scanners which capture thousands of tag numbers and store the information in computer data bases, which can almost instantly tell the police if any of the motorists who passed by have any outstanding warrants, alerts, or traffic tickets. But data is stored about innocent motorists, too.
According to Wikipedia, these tracking devices, or ALPRs, have been around for several years and are already in common use in other nations around the world. Now, various police agencies in this country are also implementing their usage. For instance, various news reports indicate that, just this week, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety has approved grants totaling $500,000 for police departments to utilize ALPRs in that state.
Look, as I have said before, I am no bleeding heart! I am a former career prosecutor. In short, I am a strong advocate of law and order and police professionalism. I can also see the benefits of using ALPRs, for example, in conjunction with Amber Alerts. But part of me also worries about the growing threats to our privacy rights. I believe that, as free citizens in a free nation, all of us should always be concerned about "Big Brother" watching us and about the potential abuses of new technology.
For example, we should discuss ways to prevent the use of such technology to track and store the movements of innocent, law-abiding citizens. Also, as I observed in my last blog post, concerning police monitoring of citizens through coordination of public and private security cameras, we should also be concerned that such devices could be improperly used to track the movements of opposition political parties. Also, do we know whether such policing devices are really all that accurate?
In short, in my opinion, there should be a public discussion about such technology, careful balancing of competing interests, and clear policies implemented, before such policing devices are implemented. But I don't see it happening! And I don't like the idea of Big Brother knowing where I choose to shop, or vacation, or what movies I choose to see! What do you think?
Thursday, July 21, 2011
|[Photo from visibility911.com]|
This blog is written by a former federal prosecutor. I was an AUSA for over 20 years. Although presently, I am an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer, I have spent much of my career fighting for crime victims and for law and order. However, in my opinion, not everything done in the name of law enforcement is good. And I will continue to take a stand, in this blog, against over-reaching by the police, politicians, or prosecutors, and against bad laws or practices, which erode our right to privacy or freedoms.
For instance, did you read news reports, earlier this week, that the Atlanta City Council has approved funding for a "video integration center." This proposed center, a $2.6 million recipient of grants from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, will coordinate the watchful eyes of public and private security cameras around Atlanta. The camera network will purportedly watch for "suspicious behavior" and help deploy police officers where needed. That idea sounds good.
However, have you ever wondered whether such cameras could also be used to track the movements of law-abiding citizens? Or could cameras be used to follow the whereabouts of members of opposition political parties? Look, my point is that we, as citizens of a free nation, must constantly be alert to any efforts which threaten our shrinking right to privacy. Simply put, security and privacy rights should both be considered.
What do you think?
Sunday, July 17, 2011
|[Photo from Wikipedia]|
As a former federal prosecutor for over 20 years, (and currently, as an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer), I believe that most federal prosecutors, (Assistant U.S. Attorneys, or "AUSAs"), are good, decent, and honorable attorneys. But in every profession, including among AUSAs, there are a few who will always try to cut corners, or step over the line, in order to win. Doesn't it seem that prosecutorial misconduct seems to occur more and more frequently, especially in federal trials, around the country? While I am not suggesting that the prosecutors in any of the following illustrations are in any way corrupt, or "bad apples," allegations of prosecutorial misconduct have certainly been raised in each of the following cases. You decide about the alleged misconduct in each case.
For instance, no matter what you may think about the jury's verdict, you will recall that, in the recent Casey Anthony trial, the prosecutor was seen laughing, or smirking, during the defense lawyer's closing arguments. In my opinion, there is no excuse for such misbehavior in the courtroom by prosecutors, but it happens more than you might realize. Of course, I have no idea whether or not it had any impact at all on the jury's verdict.
Also, you will recall that the federal fraud conviction of Alaska's Senator Ted Stephens was thrown out, based upon prosecutorial misconduct. In that case, the allegations centered around the government's withholding exculpatory evidence and witnesses from the defense, which, if properly revealed, might have resulted in a not guilty verdict for Stephens. In my opinion, this type is an example of prosecutorial misconduct at its worst.
Finally, just this past week, a federal judge declared a mistrial in the perjury and obstruction trial of former baseball great, and seven-time Cy Young winner, Roger Clemens. Once again, the mistrial was based upon possible misconduct by federal prosecutors. In this case, Clemens is accused, among other things, of lying at a Congressional hearing about whether or not he had ever used performance-enhancing drugs. According to news reports, another former baseball pitcher, Andy Pettitte, is expected to testify that Clemens had allegedly admitted to him that he had used human growth hormone. Supposedly, Pettitte had told his wife, Laura, about the alleged admission. But, as to Laura, that would be hearsay, so the federal judge in Clemens' case had previously ruled that prosecutors could not use her hearsay testimony to bolster Andy Pettite's testimony.
However, according to news reports, what the judge had forbidden is exactly what federal prosecutors did this week! Specifically, the government played a videotape for the jury of a congressional hearing in which a congressman referred to Laura Pettitte's hearsay statement! Understandably, the judge reportedly got upset! He excused the jury and declared a mistrial!
A hearing has been scheduled by the judge for September to decide whether or not Clemens can be re-tried after the government's mistake. Naturally, Clemens' criminal defense attorneys will claim that the prosecutorial misconduct was either grossly negligent, or intentional. His defense team will also raise double jeopardy as a defense against a retrial. The government will, no doubt, claim that the mistake was unintentional and ask for another chance. It remains to be seen how the judge will rule.
Again, I believe that most prosecutors, including most AUSAs, are good, decent, and honorable public servants. But I also know that prosecutors are human and that mistakes occur. Moreover, I also believe that some prosecutors are willing to step over the line, in order to win a criminal case.
What do you think?
Monday, July 11, 2011
|[Photo from Wikipedia]|
One of the recurring themes of this blog about white collar crime is about the rise of various types of computer crimes. In short, as a former federal prosecutor, (and as an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer), I have witnessed in my career that computers and the internet have opened a whole new world to con artists and other criminals. It seems it is only a matter of time that all of us will eventually become victims of identity theft or some other type of computer crime.
Another recurring theme of this blog involves the threat which modern technology presents to our right to privacy. For instance, you can't even go out to get a cup of coffee in this country any more without being watched by Big Brother. (Just think about all the ways you would be watched, or detected, if you visit your local Starbucks!)
But have you heard the news about the burgeoning phone hacking scandal in Great Britain? On Friday, according to various news reports, Andy Coulson and Clive Goodman, two former editors of the popular tabloid, News of the World, were arrested and charged with alleged phone hacking and corruption charges. Of course, they are each entitled to their day in court. The hacking charges reportedly center around allegations that the phone, or voice mail, of a murdered teenager and phones of families of soldiers killed in action were hacked for salacious news stories. As a result, yesterday, the last edition of the tabloid was produced. In short, the tabloid's owners, which include the family of news magnate Rupert Murdoch, pulled the plug on it.
Hopefully, this scandalous news story will serve as a warning to other potential computer and telephone hackers "out there." It will be interesting to watch as the events in this story continue to unfold! For now, I suppose I should put on a disguise as I go out for a cup of coffee! After all, Big Brother is still watching!
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
|[Photo from kvnf.org]|
White collar crime comes in many forms. Put another way, there are more types of white collar crime than Jiffy Pop has popcorn. And sometimes, it appears that such crime is just about as widespread as popcorn, too.
This point was illustrated again this week by reports from Georgia's Governor Nathan Deal about widespread cheating in the Atlanta public school system. According to a report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, agents identified a whopping 178 school teachers and administrators who allegedly cheated on students' CRCT test scores, in order to "improve" their schools' test performances. Reportedly, incorrect answers on students' tests were erased and changed by teachers and administrators. Reported improvements in recent years in the Atlanta public school system's test scores had led to raves about school administrators. Also, improvements in test scores had led to increased grants and funding from public and private sources. But now, all of the accolades and reported improvement are seriously in doubt.
Look, I am just an Augusta, Georgia criminal lawyer, not an educator. It is not the goal of this post to address why such cheating occurs. But, in your opinion, is there too much pressure or emphasis put on such school achievement tests? Or is that just an excuse? And what should happen to teachers who (if it can be proven) actually cheated? Should they be fired and prosecuted? What is your opinion?
But the point of this post is to show again that cheating, fraud, and other forms of white collar crime occur in many different ways. And some white collar crime, as shown in the Atlanta school cheating scandal, is as widespread as Blue Bonnet butter on Southern biscuits!
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
|[Photo from Wikipedia]|
Just moments ago, a Florida jury announced its verdict of not guilty for Casey Anthony in the alleged murder of her two year old daughter, Casey. As a former prosecutor and criminal lawyer for more than 30 years, I have learned, long ago, that you just never know, or can guess, what a jury will do. Ms. Anthony was also found guilty of several counts of making false statements to law enforcement officers. But again, she was acquitted on the most serious murder and manslaughter charges related to her daughter's tragic death.
What do you think about our jury system, or this case?
|[Photo from myrecipes.com]|
Can you imagine murdering someone over a pork chop!? As a former federal and state prosecutor, (and currently, as an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer), I have always been amazed at some of the motives, or reasons, why criminal defendants committed various crimes. For instance, we have recently seen, in the Casey Anthony murder trial, a lot of evidence offered by the State concerning why she allegedly murdered her daughter, Caylee Anthony. The state's evidence of motive reportedly centered around Casey Anthony's alleged desire to kill her daughter, so she could return to a single, partying lifestyle. Of course, the defense attorneys deny such proof of motive existed.
But as a former prosecutor and criminal attorney, I have seen many other, even stranger, motives for crimes. For example, as alluded to above, I once prosecuted a man for murdering his son because the son had come home from work and eaten the last pork chop which the father had cooked.
Also, as a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, I once prosecuted a greedy bookkeeper for stealing elderly nursing home patients' money, so she could satisfy her clothes shopping addiction.
Finally, in one of my strangest murder cases, I also once prosecuted a father for murdering his daughter's paramour, because of jealousy. Incredibly, the father, who had had an intimate relationship with his adult daughter, simply wanted to eliminate his competition for her favors and affection.
Perhaps there are as many motives for crimes as there are crimes. Don't you agree? Have you ever heard or read about any unusual motives for crimes? By the way, I claim the last pork chop!
Monday, July 4, 2011
|[Photo from visitahc.org]|
As I am writing this post, the jury has been out for several hours while deliberating in the Casey Anthony murder trial. With little more to report, various television news programs are presently featuring criminal lawyers and former prosecutors who are all trying to predict what the Anthony jury will do. But does anyone really know the particular verdict which this, or any, jury will return?
The straight, simple answer is "No!" No one, not even the criminal defense lawyers and prosecutors who have just given the closing arguments can really guess what the jury will do. Jury deliberations are, of course, done in secret. And that is the way it should be.
Of course, sometimes, as an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense attorney, (and as a former A.U.S.A., or federal prosecutor), I can tell if jurors are making good eye contact with me, or otherwise paying close attention to me, during closing argument. The lawyers in the Casey Anthony case will also know how well each side of the case was presented to the jury.
In other words, the lawyers may have hunches. But that's about it. Trust me, nobody, not even the lawyers in the case, really, truly knows what is going on in the jury room! In short, jury deliberation privacy is one of the wonderful things about our criminal justice system! We, including the public, the lawyers, and the defendant Casey Anthony, will all know the jury's verdict soon enough.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
|[Photo from Wikipedia.org]|
As you may know, as a former state and federal prosecutor, and currently, as a criminal defense lawyer, I have prosecuted, (and now defended), literally hundreds of jury trials over the years. Today, I want to talk a little bit about the length of closing arguments. In other words, how long or how short should they be? Put another way, do you believe that juries of today have the same attention span as juries of one hundred years ago?
As I am writing this post, I am listening to the closing arguments in the Casey Anthony murder trial. It is expected that the closing arguments in this high profile trial will last only a couple of hours each.
But did you know that, years ago, closing arguments often lasted for many hours, or even for days? For example, in 1913, during the infamous Georgia trial of Leo M. Frank for murdering Mary Phagan, the closing argument of Solicitor General Hugh Dorsey lasted a whopping nine hours! This was not unusual!
Today, on the other hand, closing arguments seldom last longer than in the Casey Anthony murder case. Why? How are jurors different today? Here are my guesses. One reason, in my opinion, is that the psyche, or expectation, of today's juror is much different than the juror of one hundred years ago. The pace of life was also slower then. Also, back then, jurors were conditioned or accustomed to long sermons from long-winded politicians and preachers. Maybe they just expected the same down at the courthouse.
But in our fast-paced, instant messaging society of today, jurors simply expect to receive more information much more quickly. Arguably, our attention spans are shorter today, too. For instance, jurors today expect every t.v. drama to be solved within the hour and before the last commercial!
Regardless of the reasons, closing arguments in today's criminal cases will never be as long as in cases tried one hundred years ago. But perhaps we are all better off! Can you imagine having to sit still and listen to any lawyer for nine hours today!? What do you think?