Tag Archives: lawyer

New Documents Will Be Released on Former Trump Associate With Mob Ties

Mother Jones

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On Tuesday, the Associated Press prevailed in its legal fight to persuade a New York federal judge to unseal hundreds of documents allegedly pertaining to the criminal past of a business associate of Republican presidential contender Donald Trump. The documents, which could be made public as soon as Thursday, may shed light on one of the more colorful—and allegedly mobbed-up—individuals Trump has done business with during his long career in real estate.

The case involves a man named Felix Sater, a Russian immigrant who worked for a real estate development firm in New York called Bayrock Group, which had an office in the Trump Tower in Midtown. Bayrock was involved in helping develop some of Trump’s properties in New York, Florida, and elsewhere, including Trump SoHo in New York City. In 2011, Trump settled a lawsuit by investors in Trump SoHo after they discovered, thanks to the New York Times, that Sater had a long criminal past. In 1993, Sater was sent to prison after slicing open a man’s face with a glass during a bar fight. More significant, he was later implicated in a $40 million “pump and dump” stock swindle that involved alleged Russian criminals and American mobsters. In 1998, he pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering, apparently in exchange for his assistance as a government informant in a mob prosecution.

As part of the deal, Sater’s own criminal record was kept under wraps for years—until another group of investors sued Bayrock, alleging they had been defrauded. Among the acts of chicanery, they claimed, was the fact that the firm was hiding Sater’s criminal past. The investors and their lawyer put many of the documents regarding Sater’s criminal history into the public realm in the lawsuit. That disclosure prompted a flurry of other litigation and court action against the investors’ lawyers and caused the documents to be sealed on the grounds that their disclosure could put Sater, and future potential informants, at risk or compromise ongoing criminal investigations. Those are the documents the AP has been trying to dislodge from the court.

Some of the documents, many of which have already been leaked, appear pretty innocuous, including a 2000 press release from the Justice Department touting Sater’s racketeering plea deal. It’s unlikely that many of the records soon to be released directly involve Trump, as most were sealed in attempt to protect Sater from retribution for his informant work.

The likely GOP presidential nominee distanced himself from Sater in 2007, after the New York Times reported the details of his criminal history. However, three years later, Trump gave the man an office and business cards, describing him as a “senior advisor” to Trump’s organization, according to the Times. Sater worked for Trump for about six months, the paper reported, drumming up deals for his organization.

Even if the documents don’t reveal more about Trump’s relationship with Sater, they should illuminate plenty about one of the “best people” Trump says he likes to surround himself with in the course of his business dealings—and highlight one of the more unsavory episodes of Trump’s business career.

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New Documents Will Be Released on Former Trump Associate With Mob Ties

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Christie’s Broke Campaign Sells Its Old Furniture for an Enormous Profit

Mother Jones

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At the end of February, Chris Christie’s failed presidential campaign was nearly broke. After blowing through $8.1 million, it had just $286,000 left to wind down the remnants of Christie’s presidential bid. When most campaigns call it quits, there are still invoices coming in and old bills to pay, but campaigns don’t usually have much in the way of assets to help them cover lingering costs. That’s why it’s not uncommon for campaigns to leave some laid-off staffers or vendors unpaid and out of luck. But Christie’s campaign found a way to spin gold out of what may have been the only hard asset it had left: office furniture.

Although office furniture isn’t usually a great investment, Christie may have picked up some tips on dealmaking when he backed the Donald Trump campaign. Christie’s campaign managed to unload its used office furniture for nearly 2.5 times the price it had originally paid for it. The campaign may have also violated campaign finance rules when it turned this impressive profit.

According to disclosures made with the Federal Election Commission on Friday, the campaign sold its used office furniture to a group called Leadership Matters for America PAC on March 9, for $22,769.85. That group is no disinterested party: It’s the leadership PAC set up by Christie before he launched his presidential campaign—a political committee that is allowed to finance Christie’s political interests generally, but is limited to providing just $5,000 worth of assistance to any actual campaign for public office that Christie might make.

And that’s where the problem may lie.

According to its own filings, the Christie presidential campaign bought just $6,889 worth of office furniture last July when it kicked off, giving the campaign a profit of more than $15,880. (It rented another $401 worth in October.) That’s a yuuugely successful furniture sale, as Christie’s new mentor might say.

The FEC has dealt with this issue before. Campaigns may legally sell old assets (usually office furniture) but can’t sell them for more than they are worth.

“Unless they already made a gift, the leadership PAC could pay the campaign up to $5,000 above the normal value of the furniture—$5,000 being the limit on PAC contributions to a candidate, per election,” says Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics (where I used to work). “So unless the campaign has receipts showing that they paid more or evidence that they got a great deal on furniture that’s actually worth more, the leadership PAC has likely exceeded the contribution limit.”

The leadership PAC had already made a $5,000 gift to the campaign in early February, so it could not have bought the furniture for more than it was worth without making an improper gift. Office furniture does not usually appreciate in value, meaning that unless the campaign bought the furniture for a real bargain in the first place, the improper gift could be even bigger than $15,900. Splitwise, a website and app that calculates fair values, estimates that $6,800 of furniture purchased new less than a year ago would now be worth around $5,800 if it’s in nearly new condition. And if most campaign offices are any indication, it probably isn’t.

So how did Christie turn this brilliant deal? His spokesman in the governor’s office referred requests for comment to Bill Palatucci, the lawyer who worked for both the campaign and the leadership PAC. Palatucci said he was trying to track down the treasurer (again for both the campaign and the leadership PAC) but had no immediate answer.

Update: Palatucci said that the sale of equipment to the leadership PAC included items other than just simple office furniture. Although both organizations had the same treasurer, he said he was not sure why the campaign might have had a more narrow definition of what constituted office furniture when it reported its purchases, but he said the campaign had records to show the equipment sold was worth the amount it charged the leadership PAC.

“There was lots of very expensive sound and lighting equipment and other office equipment, that is fully accounted for, and inventoried, so to insinuate that somehow there was a report was anything but accurate would be false,” Palatucci told Mother Jones.


Christie’s Broke Campaign Sells Its Old Furniture for an Enormous Profit

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Bowe Bergdahl Ordered to Face Court Martial

Mother Jones

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Bowe Bergdahl, the Army sergeant whose 2014 release by the Taliban prompted a firestorm of controversy over the nature of his five-year captivity, was ordered by a high-ranking Army commander on Monday to face a court martial on charges of desertion and endangering his fellow soldiers.

If convicted of leaving his post in Afghanistan without permission, the New York Times reports, Bergdahl could face a life sentence. The date of the hearing will be announced at a later time.

An Army lawyer had previously recommended Bergdahl face lesser charges for his alleged offenses. The decision on Monday also comes just days after the popular podcast Serial launched its second season, which will investigate Bergdahl’s divisive story.

In 2014, five Taliban leaders were released in exchange for the Taliban’s release of Bergdahl.

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Bowe Bergdahl Ordered to Face Court Martial

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This Judge Just Said Everything You Want to Say to the Anti-Gay Marriage Crowd, But Better

Mother Jones

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On Thursday, federal judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s ruling striking down gay marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana. This marks the 22nd time since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last year that a federal court has found bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. On Wednesday, a different federal judge issued an opinion upholding Louisiana’s ban, making the total post-DOMA record 22-1.

Posner’s opinion is special, though, because, as Gawker notes, it’s, well, amazing. And bitchy. And delicious.

Our pair of cases is rich in detail but ultimately straight-forward to decide. The challenged laws discriminate against a minority defined by an immutable characteristic, and the only rationale that the states put forth with any conviction—that same-sex couples and their children don’t need marriage because same-sex couples can’t produce children, intended or unintended—is so full of holes that it cannot be taken seriously.

Indiana defended its ban by arguing that the state had no reason to extend marriage to gay people because gay people can’t have children—that marriage is designed, in part, to force fathers in hetereosexual relationships to raise children they may or may not have wanted.

At oral argument the state‘s lawyer was asked whether “Indiana’s law is about successfully raising children,” and since “you agree same-sex couples can successfully raise children, why shouldn’t the ban be lifted as to them?” The lawyer answered that “the assumption is that with opposite-sex couples there is very little thought given during the sexual act, sometimes, to whether babies may be a consequence.” In other words, Indiana’s government thinks that straight couples tend to be sexually irresponsible, producing unwanted children by the carload, and so must be pressured (in the form of governmental encouragement of marriage through a combination of sticks and carrots) to marry, but that gay couples, unable as they are to produce children wanted or unwanted, are model parents—model citizens really—so have no need for marriage. Heterosexuals get drunk and pregnant, producing unwanted children; their reward is to be allowed to marry. Homosexual couples do not produce unwanted children; their reward is to be denied the right to marry. Go figure.

My favorite bit is Posner’s response to Indiana’s assertion that “homosexuals are politically powerful out of proportion to their numbers.”

No evidence is presented by the state to support this contention. It is true that an increasing number of heterosexuals support same-sex marriage; otherwise 11 states would not have changed their laws to permit such marriage (the other 8 states that allow same-sex marriage do so as a result of judicial decisions invalidating the states’ bans). No inference of manipulation of the democratic process by homosexuals can be drawn, however, any more than it could be inferred from the enactment of civil rights laws that African-Americans “are politically powerful out of proportion to their numbers.” It is to the credit of American voters that they do not support only laws that are in their palpable self-interest. They support laws punishing cruelty to animals, even though not a single animal has a vote.

Go read the whole thing. It’s wonderful.


This Judge Just Said Everything You Want to Say to the Anti-Gay Marriage Crowd, But Better

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European Court Orders Google to Remove Links That Annoyed a Lawyer

Mother Jones

The European Court of Justice has ruled that Google can be required to delete links to public records even when the records themselves are allowed to remain active:

The case began in 2009 when Mario Costeja, a lawyer, objected that entering his name in Google’s search engine led to legal notices dating back to 1998 in an online version of a Spanish newspaper that detailed his accumulated debts and the forced sale of his property.

Mr. Costeja said that the debt issues had been resolved many years earlier and were no longer relevant. When the newspaper that had published the information, La Vanguardia, refused to remove the notices, and when Google refused to expunge the links, Mr. Costeja complained to the Spanish Data Protection Agency that his rights to the protection of his personal data were being violated.

The Spanish authority ordered Google to remove the links in July 2010, but it did not impose any order on La Vanguardia.

Generally speaking, I’m in favor of greater privacy rights, and I mostly support the EU’s more aggressive approach to privacy than what we have in America. But this ruling is troubling. Not because Google has to delete some links—I can imagine circumstances where that might be justified—but because they’re being treated differently than the newspaper that published the information in the first place. It’s as if the court recognizes that La Vanguardia enjoys freedom of the press, but not Google. I’m not sure how you justify that, aside from a vague notion that La Vanguardia is a “real” press outlet and Google isn’t. But whatever notions you have of press freedoms, they shouldn’t rely on distinctions between old and new media. If La Vanguardia is allowed to publish it, Google should be allowed to link to it.

We’ll see how this plays out. To me, though, it doesn’t even seem like a close call. These are legal records; they were published legitimately; they’re potentially relevant regardless of whether the debts were cleared up; and they aren’t even that old. I certainly understand Costeja’s annoyance, but that’s not a good reason to abridge press freedoms so broadly.

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European Court Orders Google to Remove Links That Annoyed a Lawyer

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An American Just Disappeared From a Prison in Yemen, and No One Will Say What Happened

Mother Jones

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Sharif Mobley—an American accused by the US government of wanting to join Al Qaeda, and by the Yemeni government of shooting a prison guard—has disappeared from the Sana’a prison where he was being held, his lawyer, Cori Crider of the British charity Reprieve, said Monday. Crider believes the Yemeni secret police are holding Mobley in an undisclosed location, and has written to the US Embassy requesting the government’s help. “We have not had any news of Mobley for 39 days, despite strenuous attempts to locate him,” she wrote.

Mobley’s is one of the forgotten stories of the war on terror. In early 2010, the New Jersey-born Muslim was living in Sana’a, Yemen’s capital. He says he had moved there to study Arabic; US officials have told reporters that he planned to join Al Qaeda. Mobley was running errands one morning, he says, when he was kidnapped by Yemeni secret police, shot in the leg, and held incommunicado, tortured, and interrogated for weeks.

During this time, FBI agents visited and questioned Mobley, leading him to believe that the Yemeni government had arrested him and tortured him on behalf of the US government. (Documents Crider obtained through the Freedom of Information Act in 2012 proved that the US government was aware of Mobley’s detention even as US officials were telling his wife they did not know where he was.) Eventually, Mobley tried to escape, and US and Yemeni officials say he shot and killed a guard in the process. He’s been held in the Sana’a central prison ever since. His supporters believe that he was a victim of proxy detention—civil libertarians’ term for the US government’s practice of having allied countries detain suspects the United States doesn’t want to arrest and detain itself.

More MoJo reporting on proxy detention

Locked Up Abroadâ&#128;&#148;for the FBI

Obama Administration Interrogating Terror Suspects Locked Up Abroad (Again)

Document Shows US Government Knew About American Locked Up in Yemen

American Muslim Alleges FBI Had a Hand in His Torture (Updated with Video)

US Charges Yonas Fikre, American Who Claimed Torture, With Conspiracy

READ: Letter to Justice Department About Alleged Proxy Detainee Yonas Fikre

Obama Administration Sued Over “Proxy Detention”

Mobley disappeared sometime between February 27, when Crider’s colleagues saw him there last, and March 22, when they visited the prison and discovered he was nowhere to be found. The timing is noteworthy for a couple reasons. The same week Mobley turned up missing, Kel McClanahan, an American lawyer who helped with Crider’s FOIA, filed suit in federal court in Washington alleging that the FBI had hacked his emails after he obtained classified documents relating to the case.

Moreover, just before Mobley disappeared, Crider and her team were about to publicize a bevy of US government documents they obtained through FOIA. “I am certainly concerned that this is about someone trying to discourage embarrassing evidence from coming to light,” she wrote in an email. “Why move him now? There have been security incidents in the centre of town, but that has been the case before. So all is very odd.”

The big question now is whether the US had any connection to Mobley’s latest disappearance. It’s not so far-fetched. Consider the case of Abdulelah Haider Shaye, a Yemeni journalist who had been accused of associating with Al Qaeda because he had interviewed Anwar al-Awlaki, the now-dead American Al Qaeda propagandist. In February 2011, Yemen was set to release Shaye. But, as Jeremy Scahill reported in The Nation, President Barack Obama intervened personally to prevent Shaye’s release. The journalist was held for another two years.

The State Department said it was aware of “reports” that Mobley had been moved but couldn’t comment further out of concern for his privacy. A spokesman for the Yemeni embassy said he didn’t know where Mobley was, but he’d check.

Here’s the letter Crider sent to the US Embassy:

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Sharif Mobley Is Missing, His Lawyer Says (PDF)

Sharif Mobley Is Missing, His Lawyer Says (Text)

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An American Just Disappeared From a Prison in Yemen, and No One Will Say What Happened

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Music Review: "SLC" from Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs’ All Her Fault

Mother Jones

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from Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs’ All Her Fault


Liner notes: “Don’t get your hopes up in Salt Lake City/’Cause you ain’t gonna have a good time,” sing Holly Golightly and Lawyer Dave (a.k.a. the Brokeoffs) on this jaunty country-blues shuffle, adding that you “can’t get fucked up, can’t get shitty” there in the heart of Mormon country.

Behind the music: The British-born Golightly, a former member of Thee Headcoatees and onetime Jack White duet partner, has 20 solo albums to her name. She recorded All Her Fault at home outside Athens, Georgia, where she shelters rescue horses.

Check it out if you like: Rootsy acts such as Pokey LaFarge and Alabama Shakes.

This review originally appeared in our March/April 2014 issue of Mother Jones.

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Music Review: "SLC" from Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs’ All Her Fault

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Op-Ed Contributor: The Truth About Tornadoes

Global warming is real. But it is not causing more twisters. This article is from – Op-Ed Contributor: The Truth About Tornadoes Related Articles Developing Nations Stage Protest at Climate Talks National Briefing | Midwest: Great Lakes Recover Substantial Water Levels Chevron Assails Lawyer Who Led Multibillion-Dollar Suit Against It

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Op-Ed Contributor: The Truth About Tornadoes

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