The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute
CEPI Newsletter January 2020
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.
Training Opportunities with U.S. Department of Justice: The Money Laundering & Asset Recovery Section of the U.S. Department of Justice (MLARS) has openings for a small number of attorney general office prosecutors and investigators in upcoming Financial Investigations Seminars in Tucson, Arizona from February 25-27, 2020 and Chicago, Illinois from March 10-12, 2020. Please email Craig.Newell2@usdoj.gov, and cc email@example.com, by January 24, 2020 to apply to these free and comprehensive trainings. (Please note that NAGTRI cannot pay for travel costs or per diem for these trainings, but will offer scholarships for a Financial Investigation Seminar for which we will partner with MLARS later this year.)
Nessel Completes Investigation of Former Sex-Crimes Prosecutor from Macomb County: The Michigan Attorney General’s Office has finished its investigation into Brian Kolodziej, a former assistant attorney general who prosecuted sex crimes, who had an inappropriate relationship with a victim in one of his cases. When that relationship came to light, the office reviewed other cases he charged, and permitted the defendant who allegedly raped the victim with whom Kolodziej had the relationship to withdraw his guilty plea. The victim has spoken out about her “complicated” relationship with the prosecutor and a former supervisor alleged he had been previously reassigned from sex crimes prosecutions as a local prosecutor because he behaved inappropriately with victims. Two other cases Kolodziej handled were dismissed outright.
Michigan Attorney General Clarifies Status of Nassar Inquiry, Saying It’s at an Impasse: The Michigan Attorney General’s Office says it is at an impasse with Michigan State University as it continues to seek the release of more than 6,000 documents the university is withholding. Despite this impasse, the office is continuing its investigation of the role the university played in allowing former gymnastics coach Larry Nassar access to the female athletes he coached and abused. Nassar is now serving several life sentences for sexually abusing dozens of victims. In a statement, the attorney general noted that as part of this investigation, the office has successfully convicted a former MSU dean and trials will begin soon for two other defendants.
$10,000 in a Coffee Cup: 8 Swept Up in N.J. Political Corruption Cases: The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office charged eight political corruption cases over five days in December 2019, offering what TheNew York Times called “a striking picture of entrenched small-time corruption at a time when questions of impropriety consume the national political debate.” The defendants—all but one of whom were current or former elected officials or candidates for office—included a mayor, a school board president, and a county freeholder. Tens of thousands of dollars were paid in cash bribes, and the defendants face sentences of up to ten years in prison, or more for those who were holding public office. At least five of the defendants were arrested as part of a lengthy sting operation. In another case, Middlesex Borough Mayor Ronald DiMura was charged with stealing approximately $190,000 from other political campaigns and using a charity he ran to launder the money.
AG Files Lawsuit Against Private Equity Fund Manager: The New York Attorney General’s Office filed charges against Laurence G. Allen, the manager of a private equity fund, for transferring money from investors to a company he owned to pay his own salary and keep that business going.
NY Atty Gets 4.5 Years for $11.8M Estate Theft and Tax Plot: Former Guilderland, New York, town justice Richard J. Sherwood, who pled guilty last year to charges brought by the New York Attorney General’s Office, has been sentenced to 54 months in federal prison, which he will serve concurrently with his 3-to-10 year state sentence. Both cases related to Sherwood’s scheme to steal $11.8 million from an elderly couple’s estate. Sherwood was town justice during at least some of the scheme, which he executed with the victims’ estate planner.
Ex Puerto Rico Official Pleads Guilty in Corruption Case: Jaime Perelló, the former president of Puerto Rico's House of Representatives, pled guilty to charges that were filed in 2017 by Puerto Rico’s Special Independent Prosecutor Panel. The case involved an allegedly fraudulently awarded contract of nearly $500,000 to set up a phone system for the House of Representatives. Perelló was ordered to pay a fine but will not be incarcerated.
Cheryl Glenn, Recently Resigned Democratic State Delegate from Baltimore, is Charged with Bribery, Wire Fraud: Federal prosecutors have charged now-former Maryland State Delegate Cheryl Glenn with accepting $33,750 in bribes that allegedly bought her support in increasing the number of state medical cannabis licenses, easing the experience requirement to be a medical director of an opioid treatment clinic, and creating new liquor licenses. Glenn, who allegedly accepted bags of cash over the course of a year, resigned only days before the charges were announced. Proof against her appears to include recordings, including one in which she said “You’re saying that ... if I put this in an email, he’ll cough up this money?” The article also recaps key corruption cases that were brought by federal and local prosecutors in Maryland in 2018.
Turkey’s Halkbank ‘Almost Certainly’ a Fugitive, Judge Says: In New York, Federal District Judge Richard M. Berman tentatively concluded that Turkey’s Halkbank—a state-run bank—is “almost certainly” a fugitive, and rejected the bank’s request for a special appearance that would have let it claim the court had no jurisdiction without formally appearing in court. The case follows the arrest of gold trader Reza Zarrab, who later testified against Halkbank’s former manager in a trial that implicated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan directly in violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. In a thorough opinion, Judge Berman applied the fugitive disentitlement doctrine to the bank, a corporation, and concluded that Halkbank had two choices: make a formal appearance in court or face the risk of being found in contempt.
Sotomayor Voices Concerns in Case Stemming from Court Staffer’s Suicide Note About Pro Se Appeals: A suicide note left by the chief of central staff for Louisiana’s Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal said that the court had summarily denied pro se appeals for 13 years. In his note, Jerrold Peterson said he prepared the rulings on inmate petitions, which were then “signed by a judge, without so much as a glance” at the underlying petitions or any review of the merits. The Louisiana Supreme Court has approved a review of the hundreds of dismissed cases, to be conducted by judges from the same court that is alleged to have summarily dismissed them.
Missouri Judge has Literally Been Ordering Overworked Public Defenders to Violate Ethics Rule: In Missouri, several judges have ordered public defenders to take additional cases even after the defenders argued that they are unable to provide constitutionally effective counsel due to high workloads. One judge has ordered that a public defender “violate Missouri Supreme Court Rule 4”—which appears to refer to all of the rules of professional conduct—and enter his appearance in additional cases after the defender said he was unable to provide competent representation.
Ossining Town Justice Censured for “Improper” Behavior: Part-time Ossining, New York, Town Court Justice Michael Tawil has been censured for invoking his position during a court proceeding in which he was practicing as an attorney and during a confrontation in a store. Tawil accepted the censure by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, acknowledging his conduct was “improper” and that he “expressed remorse.”
Funding Boost Engenders Cautious Optimism for NYC Prosecutors, Defenders Over Criminal Justice Reform: Prosecutors have expressed concern about their ability to comply with New York’s new discovery laws, which require them to provide discovery—including witness statements—within 15 days of a defendant’s indictment. Some additional state funding may help alleviate some of the strain, but is unlikely to address potential issues with maintaining victim and witness cooperation.
'Annoyance Lawyer' Seeks Rehearing After 2nd Circ. Ejection: Todd C. Bank, a New York lawyer, has asked that the Second Circuit consider en banc his case after he was removed from oral argument last month for being “disrespectful and discourteous.” Bank was escorted from the courtroom after Judge Denny Chin concluded he had acted inappropriately, refused to let him rebut the government’s argument, and excused him from the courtroom.
Constitutional Challenge to NY Prosecutorial Watchdog Panel Questioned in Albany Court: A lawsuit by the District Attorneys Association of New York arguing that the Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct is unconstitutional is pending in state court. During a recent oral argument, state prosecutors argued that the law was facially invalid, and that they should not have to risk their careers to challenge the law. Counsel for the legislature argued that prosecutors should be required to test the law by being investigated and sanctioned by the commission, which has the mandate to investigate complaints related to “the conduct, qualifications, fitness to perform, or performance of official duties.”
Prosecutor's Closing Remarks About Defense Lawyers Lead to New Trial for Murder Defendant: The South Carolina Supreme Court has reversed the conviction of a defendant who spent 13 years in prison for murder because of a prosecutor’s “blatantly improper” closing argument. That argument included telling the jurors that his job was “to show the truth,” while “the defense attorneys’ jobs are to manipulate [and] shroud the truth,” and to “confuse jurors” in an effort “to get a not guilty verdict.”
‘Scot-Free’: What Happens When Prosecutors Behave Badly: An article by Law360 argues that “[p]rosecutors are rarely held to account for misconduct,” citing a review of what the Innocence Project characterized as cases with a finding of prosecutorial misconduct—which it described as anything that violates a defendant’s rights.
Perhaps the Toughest Job with the Toughest Questions: Professional Responsibility and Criminal Prosecutors: In an ABA article, a former ABA Ethics Counsel argues that “the use of jailhouse snitch testimony–particularly absent other credible evidence–as a basis for conviction raises serious ethical questions.”
Independent Justice: Fighting Crime in the Southern District of New York: Columbia Law School’s Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity presents a conversation among five former Southern District of New York U.S. Attorneys, who discuss, among other things, the importance of that office’s storied independence, commitment to remaining apolitical, and merit-based hiring system—all of which provide firm grounding for the aggressive investigation and prosecution of public corruption.
Despite Predictions of Doom, McDonnell v. United States Has Not Derailed U.S. Anticorruption Prosecutions: A student argues that the impact of McDonnell v. United States has not been as detrimental to federal prosecutors as many commentators originally feared. In support of his argument, he cites—among other things—the successful re-prosecutions of defendants whose convictions were overturned because of jury instructions that were incorrect after the Supreme Court narrowed the definition of “official act.”
Canada’s SNC-Lavalin Scandal: Why Prime Minister Trudeau Was Wrong to Interfere, Even Though He Was Right on the Merits: A writer argues that while Canada’s prime minister may have correctly concluded that SNC-Lavalin should receive a deferred prosecution agreement (“DPA”), he was wrong to pressure his attorney general to give that company a DPA. The attorney general in Canada is required to exercise independent judgment without political influence, and the prime minister’s attempts to force her to provide the company a DPA arguably violated Canada’s Ethics Act and its international commitments under the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“OECD”) Anti-Bribery Convention. In related news, a former SNC-Lavalin executive was recently convicted of charges including bribing a foreign public official, fraud, and laundering the proceeds of crime.
Italy’s Mafia Corruption Laws Are Causing More Confusion than Clarity: At the Global Anticorruption Blog, a law student argues that Italian legislators should codify concorso esterno, a concept that courts have extrapolated from two statutes to allow prosecutors to charge and punish “individuals who support mafia actors—including politicians and other government officials—almost as if they were mafiosi themselves.” The student notes that the court-provided powers have been used to hold powerful politicians accountable, but argues that the current caselaw-derived crime rests on shaky foundations and is too vague and inflexible.
Treasury Sanctions Evil Corp, the Russia-Based Cybercriminal Group Behind Dridex Malware: The U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned Evil Corp. (yes, really), a Russia-based cybercriminal organization that developed and distributed malware. The Secretary of the Treasury said that the “goal is to shut down Evil Corp, deter the distribution of [the malware], target the ‘money mule’ network used to transfer stolen funds, and ultimately to protect our citizens from the group’s criminal activities.”
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.