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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Acting U.S. Attorney To Investigate Justice Department Dismissals

Acting U.S. Attorney To Investigate Justice Department Dismissals
The Hartford Courant by EDMUND H. MAHONY - September 30, 2008

Acting U.S. Attorney Nora R. Dannehy became the third, senior federal prosecutor from Connecticut to land at the center of a high-profile, Washington political case when she was appointed Monday to look for criminal violations in the dismissal by the Justice Department of nine prosecutors in 2006. Dannehy, a career prosecutor known for winning convictions against Gov. John G. Rowland and state Treasurer Paul Silvester, was named by Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey to investigate "unanswered" questions about the Bush administration's dismissal of the U.S. attorneys, which was widely assailed as being politically motivated. Dannehy's appointment followed the release Monday of a report on an 18-month-long, internal Justice Department investigation that concluded top department officials "abdicated their responsibility" by failing to supervise subordinates who carried out the nine dismissals. What's more, the inquiry found "significant evidence" that partisan political factors played a role in some of the dismissals. The report, by the Justice Department offices of Inspector General and Professional Responsibility, said that former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales "bears primary responsibility" for what amounted to a series of botched removals. But it said that gaps remain in the investigation because of the refusal by key witnesses — among them former White House officials Karl Rove and Harriet Miers and U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M. — to submit to interviews. The authors of the report recommended that Mukasey name a special counsel to "ultimately determine whether the evidence demonstrates that any criminal offense was committed with regard to the removal of any U.S. Attorney, or with regard to the testimony of any witness related to the U.S. Attorney removals."

"Alberto Gonzalez is in trouble," said Connecticut defense attorney Hugh Keefe, who traded blows with Dannehy while representing Rowland co-chief of staff Peter N. Ellef Sr. in the corruption prosecution that led to the imprisonment of both Ellef and Rowland. "She is analytical and she is thorough, and if she suspects wrongdoing she will not let it go." Dannehy's grueling work schedule, her success at supervising long and complex investigations and her reputation for unstinting pursuit of what at times can seem to be tenuous evidence of criminal conduct are traits regularly volunteered by colleagues and attorneys on the defense side of her cases. But she just as frequently is applauded for forthrightness. Members of the relatively small group of defense attorneys who have done battle with her in high-profile Connecticut criminal trials have said that she means what she says and does what she promises — behavior that often falls by the wayside in pricey legal fights.

An Exodus Of Talent

Dannehy's appointment marks the most recent in what has become a series of high-level migrations to Washington from the U.S. attorney's office in New Haven. In April 2007, Gonzalez named former Connecticut U.S. Attorney Kevin O'Connor to be his chief of staff, just as Gonzales' job was beginning to unravel over political fallout from the dismissal of the U.S. attorneys. In November 2007, President Bush nominated O'Connor to be associate attorney general, the No. 3 position at the Justice Department. The U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination.

In January, Deputy U.S. Attorney John Durham — a veteran mob-buster, public corruption prosecutor and Dannehy mentor — was appointed to lead the Justice Department's investigation of the destruction of CIA videotapes documenting the interrogation of al-Qaida terror suspects. Durham's temporary transfer to Washington, which is ongoing, followed his long-term assignment to Boston, where he was assigned to investigate law enforcement corruption. One of Durham's Boston targets, former FBI Agent John Connolly, is on trial for murder in Miami, where he is accused of leaking information that compelled gangsters to kill a potential witness. Dannehy's assignment to Washington could give her more time with her husband, Leonard Boyle, another former Connecticut federal prosecutor who has been commuting between Connecticut and his job as director of the FBI Terrorist Screening Center's 350 employees.

The 5-year-old center operates a watch list of suspected terrorists. At times Monday, news of Dannehy's appointment seemed to submerge amid talk in legal circles of the continuing — if mostly temporary — exodus of federal prosecutorial talent. "It's really quite amazing," said defense attorney Hubert Santos, who represents Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez, now embroiled in a corruption investigation. "Durham and Dannehy have the two major criminal investigations in the country." Said Carl Tobias, who is on the faculty of the University of Richmond School of Law in Virginia, "It is somewhat curious that three attorneys for these critical positions all come from the same Connecticut U.S. attorney's office. She seems like a highly qualified career prosecutor who will carefully lead this investigation." Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, whose office has at times bumped uncomfortably against Dannehy in political corruption cases, called her "a superb choice to conduct this much-needed, indeed, long-overdue investigation."

Formidable Opponent

Characteristically, Dannehy, 47, would not discuss her appointment and instructed her office not to do so. She has tried mightily throughout her career to avoid the limelight, even as that task has become more difficult with her involvement in high-profile political corruption cases. She became acting U.S. attorney following O'Connor's appointment as associate attorney general. Dannehy's acting appointment is expected to remain in force until the White House and Congress agree on a replacement for O'Connor.

A Justice Department spokesman in New Haven said that Dannehy is expected to begin the Washington investigation almost immediatelyand will divide her time between responsibilities in Washington and New Haven. Dannehy, an almost compulsive runner, is a formidable legal competitor. In one of her more memorable prosecutions, she emerged victorious after a three-year legal fight with top members of the Boston defense bar in the prosecution of a financier charged with bribery in the Silvester case. The Boston lawyers tried repeatedly to have her disqualified. She threatened to indict one of them for obstruction of justice. All but three of the state's federal judges removed themselves from the case over potential conflicts. Another withdrew in frustration. In the end, financier Frederick McCarthy was fined $40,000 and imprisoned. His company, Triumph Capital, was fined $4 million and driven out of business.


Anonymous said...

Now we know why things are so bad.... It's bad from the top ALL the way down to the bottom - to us little people in the dirty local courts of New York. Disgraceful.

Anonymous said...

Time will tell where this Investigation will lead and what will be done but appears to be a Long Time Coming! The stories of assistant or US attorneys who "suddenly" die from alleged natural causes while investigating Major Medic Aid Fraud and corruption in the Health Care industry is truly alarming and it appears these interestingly timed "natural deaths" from Texas were close in time to some of the US Attorney firings.

The story of the State of Washington assistant US Attorney murdered in 2001 is even more alarming! Bring out the truth and clean this system up Top Down, Top first!

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See Video of Senator John L. Sampson's 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption

The first hearing, held in Albany on June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:

               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
               The June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:
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