CEPI Newsletter July 2017

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.

CEPI Updates

Registration for the first ever National Forensic Science Symposium (July 19-21, 2017, Washington, DC) closes on July 12, 2017. This three-day training brings together prosecutors from state attorneys general offices, district/ state attorneys offices, and the federal government to learn from top forensic scientists, law professors, and experienced practitioners. The training is also open to prosecutors from other countries.

Registration for the second annual Anticorruption Academy is also opened to federal, state, local, and international prosecutors. The Academy will be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the week of August 21, 2017.

Ethics

Must Police Disclose Past Accusations Against Them Before Testifying? The Answer Could Overturn an L.A. County Drug Case: A defendant convicted at trial of drug charges is arguing his conviction should be vacated because a Los Angeles County police sergeant who provided key testimony against him did not disclose that he had been found liable in a 2010 federal civil suit that alleged he and other officers planted evidence and perjured themselves. Prosecutors are arguing that the drug conviction should stand, as they were required only to check the names of police witnesses in a specific database; they ran such a check on the sergeant and it did not reveal the civil case; and the sergeant was not required to disclose the information. This is only the most recent disclosure issue in L.A. County, as it follows a separate appeal of the county sheriff’s request to provide prosecutors with a list of approximately 300 deputies who have been disciplined for making false statements, stealing, using excessive force, and other serious misconduct. A union sued the sheriff to argue that disclosing the names would violate a state law that requires the officer’s disciplinary files to remain confidential.

South Carolina Judge Refuses to Remove Special Prosecutor from Statehouse Corruption Probe: First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe, who is leading a corruption investigation after South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson recused himself because of conflicts of interest, has withstood an effort by defense attorneys to remove him from the case against state representative Rick Quinn. Quinn’s attorneys alleged that Pascoe had a duty to ensure that a law enforcement search of the defendant’s father’s law office did not reveal materials that were covered by attorney-client privilege. The judge rejected the defense arguments and allowed the case against Quinn to proceed. Quinn is charged with misconduct in office for failing to report $4.5 million from large corporations and state agencies that hired his father’s firm and for lobbying other lawmakers on behalf of his father’s clients.

Corruption Cases

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams Pleads Guilty in His Federal Corruption Trial: Now-former District Attorney Seth Williams pled guilty nearly to one count of bribery nearly two week into his federal corruption trial. Williams also agreed to resign from office. While the other counts in the indictment will be dismissed as a result of his plea, Williams admitted that he committed the conduct alleged in those remaining 29 counts—which means that the judge can consider those allegations in determining his sentence. The trial revealed that Williams sought expensive gifts, including travel, luxury goods, and cash, and promised those who complied with him that he would use his office to help them when the need arose.

Contra Costa DA Resigns, Is Now a Convicted Felon: In a case brought by the California Attorney General’s Office, Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson has entered a no contest plea to perjury and has stepped down from his office. Peterson was accused of lying on campaign finance forms from 2011 through 2015. Prosecutor David Bass—an alumnus of the NAGTRI/ DOJ Financial Investigation Seminar—said “The Attorney General’s Office wants to make sure every person is treated the same under the law.” Peterson was sentenced to 250 hours of community service and three years of probation, during which he cannot run for office.

New Corruption Charges Filed on Former Legislator: A new indictment returned against former New Mexico Senator Phil Griego charges him with perjury, fraud, and embezzlement in connection with allegations that he pocketed money from his campaign account and lied about it. These charges are separate from those on which he’s scheduled to be tried in October, which relate to a $50,000 broker’s fee he sought to obtain by pushing legislation related to the sale of a state-owned historic building. The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office is seeking to join the new campaign finance charges with the broker-related charges.

Macau Billionaire on Trial in U.S. in U.N. Corruption Case: Ng Lap Seng, a billionaire real estate developer from Macau, is on trial in New York City on charges he bribed senior United Nations offices in an effort to secure support for a multibillion-dollar conference center. Seng previously argued, unsuccessfully, that McDonnell v. United States required dismissal of the federal charges against him. Seng is also arguing that he is entitled to a McDonnell jury instruction on the Foreign Corruption Practices Act charges against him, which prosecutors are disputing.

Former Rep. Michael Grimm's Staten Island Property Seized for Late Restitution Payments from Tax Fraud Case: Prosecutors in Brooklyn have obtained a writ of continuing garnishment on a property owned by former U.S. Representative (and former FBI Special Agent) Michael Grimm, as Grimm has ceased making payments on a money judgment imposed when he pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges in 2015. Grimm, who was sentenced to eight months in prison on tax charges, owes nearly $150,000 to the government.

Appeals Court Throws Out Some Criminal Charges For Angela Spaccia, a Top Official in the Bell Corruption Scandal: A state appeals court in California has reversed five of eleven counts of conviction against Angela Spaccia, the former City of Bell assistant manager who corruptly inflated her salary to over half a million dollars per year. The court concluded that jury instructions did not accurately state the elements of the offense of misappropriating public funds. Spaccia, who was convicted in 2014, was sentenced to 12 years in prison, but had already been released when the five convictions were vacated.

Tools

Our friends at Columbia Law School’s Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity have launched a Members Forum for anticorruption practitioners and scholars to engage in dialogue and post articles and scholarship. Between NAAG’s PAGE (open to only members of the attorney general community, who can email PAGE@naag.org to request access) and CAPI’s Members Forum (open to anyone who is interested in joining it, whether prosecutor, defense attorney, or scholar) corruption prosecutors will be able to benefit from the views of others in the field. CAPI’s new tool comes on the heels of its Global Cities II, at which CEPI’s Director moderated a panel.

International

Colombia’s Anticorruption Chief Arrested on Money Laundering Charges Filed in Miami: Luis Gustavo Moreno Rivera, the national director of anticorruption in Colombia, has been arrested in Miami on federal charges that allege he accepted a bribe to provide information about a corruption probe in Colombia to a target of that probe who lives in Florida. Moreno Rivera was in Florida to speak with Internal Revenue Service investigations about corruption when he obtained the bribe, which was provided by a Colombian ex-patriot living in the United States who was the target of a Colombian investigation. In recorded conversations, Moreno Rivera also promised to inundate his prosecutors with other work so they could not focus on the ex-pat.

Teddy Obiang on Trial in Paris for Embezzlement: Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, a/k/a “Teddy Obiang”—the second vice president of Equatorial Guinea and the son of the president—is on trial in France for embezzling more than $112 million from his home country’s treasury. Transparency International France and Association Sherpa brought the case, which carries with it the potential of ten years in prison and a $55 million fine. Obiang earns less than $100,000 per year, but has spent $225 million outside of Equatorial Guinea to buy, among other things, a $28 million mansion in Paris, luxury cars, and famous works of art. Obiang has argued that he is immune from prosecution because he is a vice president of Equatorial Guinea—a position to which Obiang’s father named him after authorities began their investigation. The French case follows a 2014 settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice that required Obiang to forfeit tens of millions of dollars that were the proceeds of corruption.

Jail Tourism: UP Govt's Innovative Solution to Curb Graft Among Officials: A judge in Uttar Pradesh, India, is giving jail tours to government officials in an effort to deter corruption. The jail where he sent the government employees contains 88 incarcerated former government employees, and the 576 “tourists” were given an opportunity to interact with their former colleagues in an effort to “deter them not to indulge in corrupt practice which might invite similar fate for them," the district magistrate said.


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 aely@naag.org.

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