The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute
CEPI Newsletter August 2018
This monthly compendium of news reports about corruption and ethics issues is brought to you by the Center for Ethics and Public Integrity (CEPI). Neither the National Association of Attorneys General nor the National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute express a view as to the accuracy of news accounts or affirm any position taken by the authors of the hyperlinked articles.
Ex-Town Clerk Sentenced for Stealing $32,000 From Pinetop-Lakeside: A former town clerk of Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona, will spend one year in prison after pleading guilty to stealing more than $32,000 from that town. Leah Chavez, previously pled guilty to theft and misuse of public monies. The Arizona Attorney General’s Office brought the case.
Judge Theresa Brennan, Once Poised to Lead State Judges Association, Resigns From Group: Livingston County, Michigan, District Judge Theresa Brennan—who faces both criminal and ethics investigations that will explore, e.g., allegations that she had an affair with a police detective-witness in a murder case over which she presided—has stepped down from a state judges’ association. Brennan’s conduct will be reviewed by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office once a state police investigation is complete.
Prison Guards Accused of Using ‘Unjustified Force’ on Inmate: Two former corrections officers in Nevada have been charged by the Nevada Attorney General’s Office with using unjustified force on an inmate and then falsifying reports about the incident. Paul Valdez and Jose Navarrete, who both worked at the Southern Desert Correctional Center, face up to four years in prison on felony oppression under color of office charges, and are also charged with two misdemeanors.
Former State Worker Admits He Coerced Sex From Clients: In a case prosecuted by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, a former employee of the state’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency has admitted he coerced sex from two women he supervised during court-ordered child visits. Lamont King faces a recommended three years in prison and will be barred permanently from public employment in New Jersey.
Pa. Supreme Court OKs Release of Interim Report Naming 300 'Predator Priests': The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has approved release of a grand jury report discussing allegations of sexual abuse by clergy in six Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses. The grand jury report, which the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office pushed to unseal, accuses over 300 people of committing criminal or morally reprehensible conduct.
Texas Attorney General Seeking to Remove Members of Austin’s Planning Commission: The Texas Attorney General’s Office has requested removal of eight members of the 14-member City of Austin Planning Commission. The quo warranto action alleges that the eight members are directly or indirectly connected with real estate and land development, in violation of a 1994 city charter amendment that requires that two-thirds of the Planning Commission not be so “connected.”
Firefighter Allegedly Lied to Grand Jury About Affair with Ex-HPD Chief's Wife: Hawaii County Battalion Chief Jesse Ebersole has been charged with lying to a grand jury about his affair with Katherine Kealoha, a former prosecutor who has been separately charged with stealing money from her relatives and others. Kealoha, who is married to former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha (who is also facing criminal charges), allegedly used some of the money she stole to pay for flight tickets and hotel rooms to liaise with Ebersole. Notably, Ebersole is charged in an information, rather than an indictment, suggesting that he may be cooperating with the government.
3 Lessons From Corruption Convictions: The New York Times summarizes recent New York City-area corruption cases against politicians Sheldon Silver, Dean Skelos, and Robert Menendez, and two men associated with New York’s governor, Joseph Percoco and Alain Kaloyeros. After noting that the McDonnell case was responsible for Silver and Skelos getting new trials, and that both of those retrials resulted in convictions (and, for Silver, a seven-year prison sentence), the article distills three lessons: (1) strong corruption cases will still succeed; (2) cases with unclear motives remain difficult to prosecute; and (3) some corruption cases will never be brought.
Former State Official Hit with $85,000 Judgment: Former New York Deputy Secretary of State Joseph Felix Strevell, who was convicted in 2017 of financial crimes and lying to authorities, faces a new $85,000 judgment. A judge found that Strevell transferred nearly $160,000 to his adult daughter in an effort to avoid paying $111,500 in restitution to the state. Strevell’s state pension is now being garnished to ensure he pays restitution.
DOJ Free to Pursue Alternate Theories for FCPA Jurisdiction: In a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) case against the head of a Hong Kong-based NGO, a federal judge is permitting the government to move forward on counts that allege two different, allegedly competing, bases for jurisdiction. The case may be of interest for, among other things, its analysis of why multiplicitous charges are permissible through trial—although, of course, a defendant may be sentenced on only one of two multiplicitous counts.
District Attorney Demands More Funding for Public Integrity Unit: In remarks to her county supervisors, Kern County, California, District Attorney Lisa Green demanded more money for her Public Integrity Unit—the same unit that charged now-former County Supervisor Leticia Perez. Green said over 100 new complaints have not be acted on by her office, given the “severe backlog” occasioned by having too small of a staff. Green’s concerns were echoed by the district attorney-elect.
Fifth Circuit Criticizes Houston Federal Judge for Alleged Sexist Remarks: Southern District of Texas Judge Lynn Hughes has been criticized by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for telling a female federal prosecutor that “[i]t was a lot simpler when you guys wore dark suits, white shirts and navy ties . . . we didn’t let girls do it in the old days.” Hughes, who has been the subject of criticism in the past for racist comments, offered his observations in connection with his order to dismiss the indictment in a case prosecuted by that prosecutor. In overruling him, the Fifth Circuit found he erred in dismissing the indictment for discovery violations and sua sponte directed the chief judge to reassign the remanded case to a new district judge—a not-unprecedented order by that Circuit in a case over which Hughes presided. The Washington Post also examined Hughes’s remarks, quoting his claim that he did not favor men: “After I’ve made it through my career with a woman’s first name, of course I’m going to be sympathetic.”
New Mexico Attorney Suspended for Filing Frivolous Lawsuits: The New Mexico Supreme Court has suspended an attorney for filing frivolous lawsuits. Arash Kashanian is suspended for at least one year as a result of filing lawsuits that promoted conspiracy theories, including bizarre allegations about a judge being the head of a “lesbian sisterhood” that was dedicated to cover up judges’ crimes.
Shifting Answers Earn Milton Lawyer an Ethics Inquiry: A Milton, Massachusetts, attorney who made apparently contradictory filings in a criminal forfeiture case is now the subject of an ethics referral by a federal judge who questioned her candor. The judge cited Professional Rule of Conduct 3.3, which prohibits attorneys from making a false factual statement or offering evidence they know to be false. After learning that an affidavit that she submitted (as part of an attempt to assist a client in obtaining a BMW that was seized from a drug dealer) was clearly false, the lawyer submitted a second affidavit from a second individual that made the same claims as the first affidavit. When the judge presiding over the case questioned the lawyer about the affidavits, she said an “unknown person” came to sign the first affidavit—an explanation the judge did not find believable.
Supreme Court Cautions Courts On Deference to Foreign Governments: An article about the Supreme Court’s decision in Animal Science Products Inc. v. Hebei Welcome Pharmaceutical Co. discusses the Court’s new standard regarding how much deference courts should give to foreign governments when interpreting the laws of another country. In vacating a decision by the Second Circuit concluding that another government’s interpretation should be given “conclusive effect,” the Court set forth relevant considerations for courts to consider. This decision may be of interest to FCPA prosecutors, in particular.
What Happened to Hong Kong?: Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has been cited as a success since its 1974 creation. The Global Anticorruption Blog argues that ICAC’s glory days are behind it, however, citing a number of corruption cases that reflect—in its view—the “slow invasion of corruption” from China since its 1997 reversion to Chinese sovereignty. The GAB also makes several suggestions about steps Hong Kong might take to restore integrity.
Credit Suisse to Pay $77 Million to Settle Princeling Probes: Credit Suisse Group AG has paid the U.S. government $77 million to settle a case alleging that the bank’s Hong Kong unit offered jobs to friends and family of Chinese officials in an effort to win banking business. These “relationship hires” were sometimes tracked so closely by the firm that they were linked to specific business deals. They resulted in at least one $1 million payment to a “princess” who was given a low-show job and—when she did come to work—was unprofessional.
Malaysia’s Ex-Leader, Najib Razak, Is Charged in Corruption Inquiry: Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been charged with criminal breach of trust and corruption. Razak is alleged to have diverted billions of dollars from a state investment fund. Prior to his arrest, Malaysian police seized a number of items from properties owned by Razak and his wife, including 567 handbags and 14 tiaras.
Top Job Opens In Romania—But No Candidates Apply: After the chief anticorruption prosecutor in Romania, Laura Codruta Kovesi, was fired in July, the government that let her go sought to fill her position. No one has applied. The country’s justice minister, Tudorel Toader, argues it is because no one is willing to work as hard as the role requires; others say that Kovesi’s dismissal was a bid to rein in the fight against corruption and has deterred candidates for applying for the position. The firing and apparent lack of a replacement come within weeks of Parliament pushing through changes to Romanian criminal code that reduce substantially the sweep and penalties associated with the country’s anticorruption laws.
Amie Ely is the Director of the Center for Ethics & Public Integrity and the Editor of the CEPI Newsletter and may be reached at 202-326-6041. The CEPI Newsletter is a publication of the National Association of Attorneys General. Any use and/or copies of this newsletter in whole or part must include the customary bibliographic citation. NAAG retains copyright and all other intellectual property rights in the material presented in this publication. For content submissions or to contact the editor directly, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.