Thursday, April 30, 2015

Duane Swiercznski's Graphic Novel 'The Black Hood' Shows Philly Tough Love

Peter Rozovsky, a copy editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, where I've been a contributor since 1999, looks at Philadelphia crime writer Duane Swiercznski's graphic novel The Black Hood in today's Philadelphia Inquirer.

Philadelphia missed out on the first wave of hard-boiled American crime writing 90 years ago. Civic corruption was a main concern in many of those stories, and Philadelphia famously did not care about such things.

By the time the city made its mark in crime fiction, such social issues had fallen by the wayside, and the individual took center stage. Throughout the 1950s and into the early 1960s, American crime stories offered up legions of small-timers, desperate men who struggled against long odds and almost always lost. Noir had arrived, and Philadelphia produced the greatest noir writer of them all, David Goodis.

That's where Duane Swierczynski comes in. Age 43, a prolific author of novels, nonfiction, comics, and interactive mysteries, Swierczynski was born within earshot of the Market-Frankford El, and his newest project focuses on the Philadelphia he knows best, viewed through the prism of the city's greatest crime writer.

The Black Hood, a four-issue graphic novel, tells the story of a police officer who is shot in the face while breaking up an armed robbery, drowns himself in painkillers, takes refuge behind the series' titular disguise, and becomes an avenging super-antihero (though without superpowers).

"David Goodis was a huge inspiration," Swierczynski says. "His doomed characters roam the dark Philly streets after a major fall from grace. That's pretty much what happens to Greg Hettinger, the man under the hood."

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:
You can also check out Peter Rozovsky's interesting and informative crime fiction blog, Detectives Beyond Borders, via the below link:

40 Years After Saigon's Fall, US Still Hasn't Learned Lessons Of Vietnam

Seth Lipsky offers a piece on the anniversary of the fall of South Vietnam in the New York Post.

Could it be that two generations from now our grandchildren are going to be watching a documentary about the consequences of America’s retreat in the Middle East?

That’s the question I am pondering this week on the 40th anniversary of the communist conquest of Indochina.

The event is being marked by the broadcast on PBS of Rory Kennedy’s documentary “Last Days in Vietnam.” It is a stunning scoop that recounts the desperate scramble — by our GIs, spies and diplomats — to save our Vietnamese friends as a communist army descended on our ally.

Kennedy has come up with film clippings and interviews that are unbelievably harrowing.

They show Vietnamese clambering to get into the American embassy compound in Saigon and onto helicopters, to be ferried out to American warships standing off shore.

So crowded were these vessels — so fast were things collapsing — that helicopters were pushed into the sea to make room on the decks. Kennedy found a photo of a child whose mother dropped her from a Chinook to a rescuer below.

“Last Days” illuminates like few other films the human consequences of America’s retreat. Rory Kennedy showed courage in making the film.

... But there are those of us who were invested in Vietnam and who hunger for a new telling of the history of how we betrayed an ally in pursuit of a peace pact with a determined foe.

Particularly now, when we are once again in negotiations with, in Iran, a hostile regime that is maneuvering against, in Israel, a beleaguered American ally.

All the more so because of the central role in both chapters of John Kerry.

After Kerry got out of the Navy, he actually met with the Viet Cong in Paris, while they were still making war against us. He acknowledged this himself when, in an appearance before the Senate, he testified against our own GIs.

... No one belittles America’s sacrifice in Vietnam. It was enormous.

We gave 58,000 lives and billions in treasure. And we won the war militarily.

Then we gave it up and let it all go — 40 years ago this week.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on the Vietnam War and the lessons learned for Iraq, Afghanistan and the War on Terrorism via the below link:

And you can read about the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk and the Vietnam War via the below link:

Prisoner In Baltimore Police Van Said Freddie Gray Was ‘Trying To Injure Himself,’ Document Says

After the riots in Ferguson, Missouri played out we learned that Michael Brown was not a victim of police brutality. According to witnesses, some of them black like Michael Brown, he did not put up his hands and surrender. He fought the police officer, tried to take his firearm and later charged at him.

Now, as riots are being contained in Baltimore, there is a report that indicates Freddie Gray may also not be a victim.

Peter Hermann at the Washington Post offers a piece on a witness who claims Gray was attemping to injure himself in the police van.

A prisoner sharing a police transport van with Freddie Gray told investigators that he could hear Gray “banging against the walls” of the vehicle and believed that he “was intentionally trying to injure himself,” according to a police document obtained by The Washington Post.

The prisoner, who is currently in jail, was separated from Gray by a metal partition and could not see him. His statement is contained in an application for a search warrant, which is sealed by the court. The Post was given the document under the condition that the prisoner not be named because the person who provided it feared for the inmate’s safety.

The document, written by a Baltimore police investigator, offers the first glimpse of what might have happened inside the van. It is not clear whether any additional evidence backs up the prisoner’s version, which is just one piece of a much larger probe.

Gray was found unconscious in the wagon when it arrived at a police station on April 12. The 25-year-old had suffered a spinal injury and died a week later, touching off waves of protests across Baltimore, capped by a riot Monday in which hundreds of angry residents torched buildings, looted stores and pelted police officers with rocks.  

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Philly Narcs' Supervisor Counted Drug Money, Never Read Indictment Of Cops

Veteran crime reporter Ralph Cipriano is covering the Philly cops corruption federal trial for

Sgt. Joseph McCloskey told the prosecutor that he never read the federal indictment against the six narcotics officers he used to supervise because, "I just don't believe it."

And when the sergeant showed up for an interview at FBI headquarters, he told the feds he'd been "passed over for promotion because of this shit."'

On the witness stand today for more than five hours, Sgt. McCloskey was blunt and prickly, especially when he was standing up for his guys on the narcotics squad.

"The quality of their work was exceptional" McCloskey said of the six defendants that he supervised for some ten years. But Officer Jeff Walker was another story, the sergeant told the jury. That guy used to show up so drunk on the job he couldn't remember where he left his gun.
"I was the supervisor," McCloskey told the jury. The guy on the other end of the police radio who would hustle out to a drug bust or a surveillance site to back up his guys.

The mission of the Narcotics Unit was to get drugs and guns off the streets of Philadelphia, the sergeant testified.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Slated For The Fireplace: Roosevelt And Stalin: Portrait Of A Partnership

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden takes issue with Susan Butler's Roosevelt and Stalin: Portrait of a Partnership in today's Washington Times.

Should I feign surprise? Decades after communism collapsed into rubble, the blame-America crowd — ah, those “intellectuals” — remains determined to blame the Cold War on President Harry S. Truman and British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill.

Such is the thesis lamely touted by Susan Butler in a book slated for fireplace duty once cold weather returns. Ignoring history, she maintains that virtually every postwar decision the United States and Britain made concerning the Soviet Union was wrong. Fortunately for history, unlike President Roosevelt, determined to give Stalin the benefit of the doubt on contested issues, Truman and Churchill had a better historical perspective on the dictator’s record.

That he caused the deaths of millions of fellow countrymen during the 1920s and 1930s and worked to overthrow other nations is of no import to Ms. Butler. What alarmed Truman and Churchill was Stalin’s blatant breach of a host of agreements, including permitting Poland to elect its own government. Not only did the Communists install a dictated government, they imprisoned opposition Poles who had resisted the Germans from exile in London.

Her book’s framework is the weeklong Yalta Conference in the Soviet Crimea in December 1945, to discuss the imminent unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, the organization of postwar Europe, the Soviet entry into the war against Japan and the founding of FDR’s dream, the United Nations. Much of the book is lifted directly from the State Department’s Yalta volume in the decades-old “Foreign Relations of the United States” series. There is considerable irrelevant padding — for instance, ad infinitum listings of persons with whom FDR shared meals, and the (astounding?) fact that he read his mail.

You can read the rest of the review via the below link:  

FBI Warns Public Of Disaster Scams

The FBI released the below information:

The FBI and the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) remind the public that there is a potential for disaster fraud in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Suspected fraudulent activity pertaining to relief efforts associated with the recent Nepal earthquake should be reported to the toll-free NCDF hotline at (866) 720-5721. The hotline is staffed by a live operator 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the purpose of reporting suspected scams being perpetrated by criminals in the aftermath of disasters.

The NCDF was originally established in 2005 by the Department of Justice to investigate, prosecute, and deter fraud associated with federal disaster relief programs following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. Its mission has expanded to include suspected fraud related to any natural or man-made disaster. More than 20 federal agencies—including the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney’s Offices, Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the U.S. Secret Service—participate in the NCDF, allowing the center to act as a centralized clearinghouse of information related to disaster relief fraud.

In the wake of natural disasters, many individuals feel moved to contribute to victim assistance programs and organizations across the country. The FBI reminds the public to apply a critical eye and conduct due diligence before giving to anyone soliciting donations on behalf of disaster victims. Solicitations can originate as e-mails, websites, door-to-door collections, mailings, telephone calls and similar methods.

Before making a donation of any kind, consumers should adhere to certain guidelines, including the following:
  • Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including by clicking links contained within those messages, because they may contain computer viruses.
  • Be cautious of individuals representing themselves as victims or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.
  • Beware of organizations with copycat names similar to but not exactly the same as those of reputable charities.
  • Rather than following a purported link to a website, verify the existence and legitimacy of non-profit organizations by using Internet-based resources.
  • Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files, because those files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
  • To ensure that contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make donations directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.
  • Do not be pressured into making contributions; reputable charities do not use coercive tactics.
  • Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions. Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
  • Avoid cash donations if possible. Pay by debit or credit card or write a check directly to the charity. Do not make checks payable to individuals.
  • Legitimate charities do not normally solicit donations via money transfer services.
  • Most legitimate charities maintain websites ending in .org rather than .com.
If you believe that you have been a victim of fraud by a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of disaster victims, contact the NCDF by phone at (866) 720-5721, fax at (225) 334-4707, or e-mail at .

You can also report suspicious e-mail solicitations or fraudulent websites to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Police Clash With the Feds At Philly Narco Cops Corruption Trial

Veteran crime reporter and author George Anastasia (seen in the above photo) is covering the Philadelphia narcotics cops corruption trial for

One defense witness said he considers the ongoing police corruption trial a "kangaroo court" and that he can't wait until the six defendants are "set free."

Another called Thomas Liciardello, the lead defendant in the corruption case, an "outstanding investigator" and a "dedicated" police officer "committed to removing narcotics and guns" from the streets of Philadelphia.

Several others contradicted key bits of testimony from drug dealers called by the prosecution earlier in the trial.

That was the scene today in U.S. District Court as the defense called a parade of witnesses in the ongoing racketeering trial of six narcotics officers.

Was it a question of brothers in blue circling the wagons in an us-against-them standoff? Or was it, as defense attorneys claim, the other side of the story, the side that federal prosecutors and FBI agents made no attempt to document as the case was built against Liciardello and five other members of the Philadelphia Police Department's Narcotics Field Unit?

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

FBI: Federal Judge Orders Millions In Restitution In Decade-Long Ponzi Scheme

The FBI web page offers a report on justice for the victims of a ponzi scheme.

For more than decade, up until February 2014, Sacramento businessman (and Ponzi scammer extraordinaire) Deepal Wannakuwatte fooled his investors and his lenders into believing that he and his companies were worthy of their trust and their money. During that time frame, he fraudulently obtained in excess of $230 million from more than 150 victims, including individuals, businesses, government agencies, and financial institutions. Wannakuwatte used this to fund other business ventures, make adequate payments to his investors and lenders to keep the scam going, and line his own pockets.

But on the heels of a joint investigation with the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) and the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG),

Wannakuwatte—who pled guilty last year—got his comeuppance: He was ordered by a federal judge last month to pay millions in restitution to his victims. And he’ll be doing that from his jail cell, where he’ll be serving out his 20-year sentence.

You can read the rest of the report via the below link: 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Defense To Rely On Top Cops To Refute Drug Dealers

Veteran crime reporter Ralph Cipriano is covering the Philly Rogue Cops trial for

It took four weeks for the government to finally run out of drug dealers.
After sending a parade of 16 drug dealers to the witness stand, the government this morning rested its case against six former narcotics officers accused of going rogue by allegedly  beating and robbing the suspects they busted.
The defense then began its case by calling FBI Agent Dennis Drum to the witness stand.
Defense Attorney Jack McMahon took Drum through a list of 15 superior officers and fellow officers in the case who supposedly were eyewitnesses to the various "episodes" of alleged police misconduct in the indictment. 
Drum testified that a dozen of the cops were interviewed by the feds between three and seven months after the defendants in the case were indicted on July 30, 2014. Two of the cops were never interviewed; a third refused to talk.
The defense strategy seems to be to call as many of these officers to the witness stand as possible to refute the allegations made by the drug dealers who testified on behalf of the government. The list of possible witnesses include a chief inspector, an inspector, a captain, a couple of lieutenants, a sergeant, a corporal and some fellow officers.

If the boys in blue stick together, this case is going to come down to the FBI, Jeffrey Walker and a bunch of drug dealers vs. the Philadelphia Police Department.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Friday, April 24, 2015

Modern-Day Slavery: Discussing The Heinous Crime Of Human Trafficking With Homeland Security Investigators

I spent the morning discussing human trafficking with the Homeland Security investigators responsible for combating this heinous crime for a piece that will appear in Counterterrorism magazine.

Meeting at the Philadelphia offices of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), an organizational element of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), I learned a good deal about the victims and the criminals involved in human trafficking.

I spoke with William S. Walker, the Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, David M. Hepler, an HSI Supervisory Special Agent, and Public Affairs Officer Sarah Maxwell.

Human trafficking is described by HSI as one of the most heinous crimes they investigate.

According to HSI, human trafficking is akin to modern-day slavery. Victims pay to be illegally transported into the United States only to find themselves in the thrall of traffickers. They are forced into prostitution, involuntary labor and other forms of servitude to repay debts. In certain cases, the victims are mere children. They find themselves surrounded by an unfamiliar culture and language without identification documents, fearing for their lives and the lives of their families.

HSI says that "Trafficking in Persons" is defined as sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.

ICE has a Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or you can offer a tip via the below link:

My magazine piece on HSI and human trafficking will be out in the coming months and I'll post a link here.

Letter To FBI Director: Open The FBI's Files On The 'Harlem Mosque Incident' Cop Slaying

Legendary former NYPD detective Randy Jurgensen and two others wrote an open letter in the New York Post to the FBI director, asking him to open the FBI's files on the murder of an NYPD officer at a mosque in Harlem in 1972.

Dear FBI Director James Comey:

We are retired law-enforcement professionals with great respect for the work of the FBI. But we’re calling on you to right a grievous wrong and make one last effort to find justice for a slain police officer.

Open the FBI “special file room” and conduct a comprehensive search of all FBI files for information related to the so-called “Harlem Mosque Incident.”

As The Boston Globe reported, the FBI special file room is “where the bureau stowed documents more embarrassing than classified, including its history of illegal spying on domestic political organizations.”

This includes files on so-called black-nationalist extremists and an “extremely sensitive counterintelligence technique” to sow conflict within targeted groups.

Forty-three years ago, NYPD Patrolman Phillip Cardillo was mortally wounded in a shooting inside the Nation of Islam’s Mosque #7 in Harlem.

No one has ever been convicted of the crime. A suspect, Lewis 17X Dupree, was arrested. His first trial resulted in a hung jury, and he was acquitted at a second trial.

This week, reports in The Post and on the Judicial Watch Web site raised important questions about the FBI’s role in the case.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Note: Randy Jurgensen appears above on the cover of his book, Circle of Six. The book covers the murder of officer Philip Cardillo and Jurgensen's investigation of the murder.

The Philly Rogue Cops Case: Narcotics Cops Work In A Cesspool

Veteran crime reporter and author George Anastasia is covering the federal trial of the Philadelphia narcotics cops accused of corruption for

Spend all your time in a cesspool and you're going to smell.

That's the assessment of retired Philadelphia Police Captain Al DiGiacomo as he follows the ongoing corruption trial of six narcotics cops in U.S. District Court.

Now a professor of criminal justice at West Chester University, DiGiacomo, 65, has been watching the case unfold from his perch in academia. For the veteran cop the allegations are similar to those that surfaced in two earlier and infamous narcotics squad corruption investigations.

But whether the six defendants in the ongoing case end up disgraced and convicted like members of the Five Squad or the tainted cops of the 39th District is still a very much open question.

The prosecution is expected to rest its case in the four-week trial tomorrow at which point the defense will begin calling witnesses. While it's unlikely any of the defendants will take the stand, the defense has promised to call several top Police Department officials who knew of or who were on the scene for some of the "episodes" detailed in the racketeering indictment that was handed up two years ago.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

A Look Back At Rod Serling's 'The Jeopardy Room,' A 'Twilight Zone' Spy Story

Although I disagree with the late Rod Serling's general worldview, I was and remain a huge fan of his 1960s TV program, The Twilight Zone. 

Serling (seen in the above photo) was the creator, writer, narrator and host of the clever and well-written suspense and supernatural TV show. The old show remains popular today and is often aired on cable TV. The DVDs of the show are also popular.

The Spy Command, a web site that covers James Bond and other spy fiction, offers a piece on one Rod Serling-written Twilight Zone episode, called The Jeopardy Room. 

The Twilight Zone, more than a half century after it ended its original run on CBS, remains fondly remembered — an example of how television can be imaginative and thought provoking.

It also, in its final season, deviated from its usual fare of science fiction and fantasy to present a spy story.

The Jeopardy Room, which originally aired April 17, 1964, is essentially a two-man play for television.

On the one side, we have Major Ivan Kuchenko (Martin Landau), a Soviet military officer who served 12 years of hard time in Siberia. He wants to defect to the West. Despite his long imprisonment, he still has information that would be of value to the West.

On the other side, there is Commissar Vassiloff (John Van Dreelan). He has tortured Kuchenko in the past. Moreover, Vassiloff fancies himself as the last of the “imaginative” executioners. Vassiloff has been assigned to kill Kuchenko to make sure he doesn’t reach the West. But Vassiloff wants to do it with style.   

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also watch the full episode of The Jeopardy Room via the below link:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

We Took Care Of That Thing For Ya: As 'Goodfellas' Turns 25, Here Are 25 Things You Never Knew About Martin Scorsese's Mobster Flick

In celebration of the finest and most realistic crime film ever made, Rachel Maresca and Philip Caulfield at the New York Daily News made a list of 25 things you may not know about Godfellas.

We took care of that thing for ya.

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of "Goodfellas" this year, the Daily News has compiled a list of 25 things every movie nut should know about the classic gangster flick, which is being honored on the closing night of The Tribeca Film Festival Saturday.

To celebrate, the cast of the Martin Scorsese movie will reunite and participate in a sit-down conversation hosted by Jon Stewart.

The violent, profane and often funny film, based on Nicholas Pileggi's book "Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family," featured several cameos by the story's real-life characters, and is revered by movie fans for its colorful dialogue and memorable lines.

Now go home and get your shinebox . . .

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read an earlier post on the making of Goodfellas via the below link:

"Ramshacked" At The Philly Rogue Cops Trial

Veteran crime reporter Ralph Cipriano is covering the federal trial of the Philadelphia narcotics cops for

As the prosecution in the rogue cops trial winds down its case, they're scraping the bottom of the barrel for witnesses.

One drug dealer on the witness stand today confessed that he had two different names.

Another drug dealer testifying on behalf of the government who was unsteady on his feet looked and smelled like he may have been drinking his favorite beverage again, Grey Goose Vodka.

Meanwhile, Judge Eduardo C. Robreno announced that the trial was moving much faster than expected, and that the prosecution would be winding down its case this week. As rumors swept the courtroom that one of the reasons why was that another unreliable prosecution witness was about to be ejected from the case.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Police Kill More Whites Than Blacks, But Minority Deaths Generate More Outrage - Analysis Contradicts Widespread Views About Racial Targets

Valerie Richardson at the Washington Times offers a piece on the deaths of whites and minorities by police.

Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison says she wants to see an officer shoot an unarmed white teenager in the back before agreeing that the “conversation about race” is over, but she almost certainly already has received her wish.

An analysis released last week shows that more white people died at the hands of law enforcement than those of any other race in the last two years, even as the Justice Department, social-justice groups and media coverage focus on black victims of police force.

“People keep saying, ‘We need to have a conversation about race,’” Ms. Morrison told the (U.K.) Telegraph in an April 19 interview.

“This is the conversation. I want to see a cop shoot a white unarmed teenager in the back,” said Ms. Morrison, who also has won the Pulitzer Prize for her work, which includes the bestsellers “Beloved” and “Song of Solomon.” “And I want to see a white man convicted for raping a black woman. Then when you ask me, ‘Is it over?’, I will say yes.”

Her comments reflect a widespread view that blacks are routinely targeted by law enforcement while whites shot by police are a rarity. Outrage has surged in recent weeks over the high-profile deaths of black men at the hands of police, notably 50-year-old Walter Scott of South Carolina, who was shot in the back and killed April 4 as he tried to run away from an officer after a traffic stop.

The officer who shot him, Michael Slager, has been charged with murder, and the Justice Department is investigating the case for civil rights violations. Department officials announced Tuesday that they have opened a federal probe into the death of Freddie Gray, 25, who died Sunday from injuries sustained while in Baltimore police custody.

Meanwhile, the deaths of whites at the hands of law enforcement typically receive less attention, even when the case is shrouded in controversy. For example, Gilbert Collar, an 18-year-old white student at the University of South Alabama, was shot and killed while naked, unarmed and under the influence of drugs by a black police officer.

The officer, Trevis Austin, was cleared of wrongdoing in 2013 by a Mobile County grand jury in a case that received little media coverage outside Alabama. Mr. Collar’s parents filed a federal lawsuit last year against the officer.

As researchers are quick to point out, FBI data on police shootings by race is notoriously incomplete, which may explain why Peter Moskos, assistant professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York, decided to use figures from the website Killed by Police.

Based on that data, Mr. Moskos reported that roughly 49 percent of those killed by officers from May 2013 to April 2015 were white, while 30 percent were black. He also found that 19 percent were Hispanic and 2 percent were Asian and other races.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Note: Peter Moskos is the author of Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore's Eastern District.  

NPR: Revisiting A Suburbia-Gone-Sour In Ross McDonald's Crime Fiction

The Library of America has published four of Ross Macdonald's crime novels and Maureen Corrigan offers her view of the late great crime writer at NPR.

Ross Macdonald had a smart answer to the tedious question of why he devoted his considerable talents to writing "mere" detective stories: Macdonald said that the detective story was "a kind of welder's mask enabling writers to handle dangerously hot material." Like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler (the great hard-boiled masters whom he revered), Macdonald set out to excavate the dark depths of American life, but to find his own "dangerously hot material" Macdonald descended into uncharted territory. His hard-boiled predecessors had walked the mean streets of San Francisco and Los Angeles; Macdonald moved to the suburbs — a California landscape of mortgaged dreams that already seems exhausted in the four mystery novels of the 1950s reprinted in this Library of America collection. All those images of suburbia-gone-sour that distinguish the work of a John Cheever, Richard Ford, Tom Perrotta, or even the early seasons of Mad Men owe something to Macdonald's penetrating vision.  

You can read the rest of the piece or listen to it via the below link:

More Witnesses, More Stories Of Corruption, More Questions About Credibility In Philly Rogue Cops Case

Veteran crime reporter and author George Anastasia (seen in the above photo) is covering the so-called Philly rogue cops case for

They came dressed in black, waving their guns and hiding their faces behind ski masks.

They wanted to know where the drugs and money were and when he didn't tell them he said they threatened to take his five young children away from him.

He spent the night in a police lockup without being charged and then, he said, he was literally held hostage over the next five days in a hotel near the airport, forced to give up the names of drug dealers he knew and to set up buys so that they could be arrested.

That was the story, told through a Spanish interpreter, that Rodolfo Blanco told a federal jury today in the trial of six Philadelphia Police Department narcotics cops accused of stealing more than $500,000 in cash and drugs from targeted dealers in what Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey has called one of the worst cases of police corruption in the city's history.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of George Anastasia's Gotti's Rules via the below link:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Special Ops Forces Weakening Terrorist Groups, DoD Official Says

Terri Moon Cronk at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2015 - U.S. special operations forces are successfully taking direct action against multiple global terrorist organizations while building U.S. partner capacity, a top Defense Department official told a Senate panel today.

Michael D. Lumpkin, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, addressed DoD's policy and programs to counter threats to the nation from terrorism and irregular warfare during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee's subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities.

Special operations forces provide "a small but vital component of our comprehensive approach to counterterrorism," Lumpkin said, taking steps to understand and address multiple global threats including terrorist networks, a flow of foreign fighters, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and activities undertaken or sponsored by other states.

Deployed around the world, special operations forces work closely with U.S. allies and partners to leverage the nation's respective strengths and capabilities against common threats, he added.

AUMF Critical to Special Forces

The nation's special operations forces are a "unique asset," Lumpkin said, an asset that can be effective only when DoD has authority to employ them properly through Authorized Use of Military Force legislation.

"I fully support our president's AUMF to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," the assistant secretary said, adding that the authorization would "provide appropriate flexibility to confront ISIL's affiliates where conditions merit."

The president's proposed legislation also would signal to U.S. allies and enemies that the United States is serious about addressing future permutations of this expanding threat.

"I urge you to favorably consider it," Lumpkin told the panel.

By making thousands of strikes against ISIL leadership and its forces, special operations forces weakened the enemy's ability to exert external territorial control and challenged the foundation of its propaganda, he said.

Special Forces Expanding its Reach

Yet while U.S. special operations forces work to destroy ISIL in Syria and Iraq, they also are expanding their reach into Africa and Southeast Asia, Lumpkin said.

"The recent killings of civilians in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen [and] Tunisia ... highlight the expanding nature of the threat," he pointed out. In West Africa, special operations forces are partnered with local and European allies to degrade the extremist Islamic group Boko Haram, which recently pledged allegiance to ISIL, Lumpkin said.

With what he described as a relatively modest investment of personnel and resources, he said, special operations forces and U.S. allies are exerting "significant pressure" on Boko Haram and its facilitation network.

Concern About Libya

"I'm deeply concerned that the lack of unity of government and the deteriorating situation in Libya has created a safe haven for militias and terrorist organizations," Lumpkin said. "ISIL's increased popularity and presence in Libya highlight the need to quickly achieve a lasting political solution."

Across Africa, special operations forces are working with local and regional forces and European allies to degrade terrorist groups, Lumpkin noted. "These efforts have had significant disruptive effects on these organizations," he said.

Special Ops Continue Work in Yemen

Lumpkin said he is troubled by the ongoing military aggression the Houthis are perpetuating in Yemen, and by the resulting unstable security conditions that are widespread in that country. But special operations forces will continue to contribute to the broader U.S. efforts to restore stability in Yemen, and degrade al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula," he told the panel.

The U.S. special operations forces represent a relatively small slice of the U.S. government's efforts against these threats, Lumpkin said. "However," he added, "they are achieving meaningful and positive effects."

The Gadgetless And Tired Assassin: A Look Back At Ian Fleming's James Bond Short Stories

Edward R. Grainger at looks back at the late great thriller writer Ian Fleming's James Bond short stories.

Every so often the caretakers of the James Bond movie franchise talk about getting back to author Ian Fleming’s original creation, distancing themselves from the outlandish stunts, gadgets, and cartoonish violence that helped turn 007 into a billion dollar staple but undermined any sense of believability in the series. A reboot featuring Daniel Craig’s stark portrayal in Casino Royale (2006) helped wash away some seriously low points in Bond history. Though I may never be able to completely forget the burned-in-my-brain scene of 007 snowboarding down a mountainside, in 1985’s A View to a Kill, to the playful tune of the Beach Boys’ “California Girls,” the recent Casino makeover did much to right the rudder, so to speak, navigating Commander Bond closer to Fleming’s darker waters.

But, let’s dream a bit. What it would really be like if they got back to those Fleming fundamentals. Back to the uncompromising British emissary that  villainess Vesper Lynd describes in Casino Royale (1953) as “something cold and ruthless." The man with the license to kill who soberly reflects in Goldfinger (1959), “it was his duty to be as cool about death as a surgeon. If it happened, it happened. Regret was unprofessional—worse, it was a death-watch beetle in the soul.” And though I appreciate the iconic Fleming novels, let me scale even further back to basics where the definitive essence of James Bond — the tired assassin, the man on the edge — lies … in the short stories.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

I wrote about Ian Fleming's James Bond short stories in my Crime Beat column.

Bond in the short stories, as well as the novels, is more human, less promiscuous and less flippant than the film character. Bond is an extraordinary character in the stories and he encounters extraordinary people and lives through extraordinary events, but he is not Superman or a cartoon character.

Fleming wanted Bond to simply be a blunt instrument in the hands of the government and let the action of the book carry him along, but Fleming also infused Bond with his own ”quirks and characteristics.”

You can read the column via the below link:

The Philly Rogue Cops Case: The Otter Defense

Veteran crime reporter Ralph Cipriano is covering the so-called Philly rogue cops case for

We're entering our fourth week in the rogue cops trial, and so far the poster boy is Jeffrey Walker.

He's the dirty cop who got caught red-handed in an FBI sting operation walking out of a drug dealer's house with $15,000 and five pounds of marijuana. The drunk who showed up loaded at work and got so bombed at his favorite bar every night that he passed out while drooling on himself. The office screw-up who dozed off during stake-outs, bailed on a raid because he needed a hit of Milk of Magnesia; the bumbler who forgot where he left his gun.

Meanwhile, over at the defense table sits Tommy Licardello. If the prosecution's story line is to believed, Liciardello is the dark criminal mastermind who knew how to placate the department brass with headline-grabbing busts while he and his gang were beating and ripping off drug dealers. An amoral, ruthless bandit with a badge who was so slick he supposedly knew how to hide the booty from the feds and all their undercover cameras and FBI accountants.

The jury seems to have gotten their fill of Jeffrey Walker. When the marshalls led him away in handcuffs last week after three days on the witness stand, every juror I saw was looking the other way. Meanwhile, as the trial enters its fourth week, the jury has only seen and will probably never hear from Tommy Licardello. All the jury knows about Liciardello, the pale guy at the defense table who's being held in solitary confinement, is a bunch of allegations from some drug dealers he busted. As for the rest of the defendants, as far as the testimony goes, it's hard to tell Michael Spicer from John Speiser. They're just a bunch of anonymous RICO conspirators.

The feds, already guilty of sloppy detective work in the rogue cops case, can also be faulted for bad story-telling.
The sloppiness of the feds in this case has been ampty demonstrated.

On the eve of trial, the government had to drop a couple of counts from a 26-count indictment because one of their sleazeball witnesses got busted again. And because the feds didn't do their homework in checking out another sleazeball witness's story.

Mistakes were made, an FBI agent admited on the stand. The defense has already made hay out of their plan to call several of the rogue cops's supervisors to the stand, witnesses that the feds never even bothered to talk to.

We didn't interview one lieutenant, an FBI agent testified, because we didn't think he would tell the truth.

Or as the defense suggested, maybe it was because it was only your version of the truth that you wanted to hear.

There are plenty of other problems with the prosecution's case. If Tommy Licardello and the boys stole $500,000 from the drug dealers, as the feds have alleged, what did they do with the money? If the defense is to be believed, there's no paper trail on the alleged booty, or undercover screen grabs of cops getting caught red-handed. Just the word of Walker and a bunch of drug dealers all singing the same song in the federal choir.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

U.S. Marshals Coordinate the Arrest of 307 Fugitives to Honor Victims of Crime

The U.S. Marshals Service released the below information:

Phoenix, AZ – Beginning March 2nd, the U.S. Marshals Service in the District of Arizona coordinated a state wide fugitive operation involving law enforcement agencies from Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties. This operation targeted over a thousand fugitives wanted for higher level felony crimes, including homicide, robbery, rape, dangerous drugs, and assault.

During this time period, Task Force members made a concentrated effort to go after the most violent career criminals and gang members across the state of Arizona in line with a National strategy. This strategy was not about increasing arrest numbers, but rather an effort to further protect communities by targeting the most dangerous felony fugitives. The approach was quality versus quantity and was strengthened by working with our law enforcement partners to get the worst of the worst fugitives off the streets.

This apprehension effort was designed to coincide with National Crime Victim’s Rights Week. Since 1981, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime has observed an annual week of remembrance for victims of crimes. Since 2008, the U.S. Marshals Service in Arizona has coordinated targeted law enforcement partnerships to seek out and arrest fugitives, thereby ensuring the justice process continues unabated in an effort to bring closure to the victims of crime. While the U.S. Marshals Service targets and prioritizes the worst of the worst every day, operations such as this allows valley law enforcement agencies to come together in a focused initiative netting hundreds of arrests which diminishing resources does not allow to take place on a daily basis.

"In the last 7 years that the U.S. Marshals Service in Arizona has been conducting these interagency fugitive apprehension programs, more than 35,000 felons have been arrested,” said U.S. Marshal David Gonzales. “By taking these criminals off the street we have made our communities safer. Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies will continue to combine resources to deal with the problem of violent and career criminals".

This initiative proved effective here in Arizona with arrests totaling 307 throughout the state. Of that 307, arrests included 44 for Murder/Aggravated Assault, 23 for Child Abuse/Molestation, 21 for Sex Offenses/Sex Assaults, and 17 for firearms related offenses. This was a strategically focused approach through the use of the U.S. Marshals multi-jurisdictional investigative authority and its fugitive task force networks at the local level. The following arrests are examples of the type of career criminals and predators focused on during this operation:

 - David Ponce, 39, was wanted by the Peoria Police Department on nineteen counts of Sexual Conduct with a Minor, Child Molestation, Aggravated Assault, Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, Furnishing Harmful Items to Minors, Kidnapping and Surreptitious Videotaping. Ponce had been on the run for approximately ten months and it was believed that Ponce had fled either to Mexico or California. On April 13, 2015, information was developed indicating Ponce was in the Southern California area. On April 14, 2015 Ponce was taken into custody in Los Angeles.

 - Jose Araujo Flores, 18, was arrested in Phoenix on April 13th. Flores was wanted by Phoenix Police Department for his possible involvement in the shooting death of a rival gang member. It is alleged that Flores, a documented member of a criminal street gang, and four associates got into an altercation with three members of another rival street gang. Flores was seen leaving an apartment complex in Phoenix in a vehicle. Flores was taken into custody without incident.

 - Christopher Handy, 28, was located and apprehended in the area of 19th avenue and Northern. Handy was wanted by Mesa Police Department on Probable Cause for Home Invasion, Aggravated Assault and Kidnapping. Handy was observed walking on the sidewalk and ignored commands made by law enforcement, continuing to drop his hand towards his waist. Once Handy was placed in restraints it was discovered Handy had a hand gun in his waistband.

- Alex Mundo Lara, 28, was arrested in North Carolina on information provided by U.S. Marshals in Tucson, AZ. Lara was wanted on a warrant issued by Pima County Superior Court charging Lara with Murder in the First Degree and Attempted Murder in the First Degree stemming from a drug related shooting that occurred in Tucson, AZ. During a drug transaction with the victim(s) an argument occurred and Lara produced a handgun. Lara shot the victims several times before fleeing the area.

“The Arizona Department of Public Safety is very proud to have been a part of this combined federal, state and local effort to make communities safer by helping to dismantle illegal business operations conducted by criminal gang members,” said Frank Milstead, Arizona Department of Public Safety Director.

"This multi-agency approach to apprehending violent offenders in our community has proven to be a successful method of focusing resources from various agencies towards one common goal,” said Chief Sean Duggan of the Chandler Police Department. “With every apprehension the victims of crimes in our communities can be reassured that the offenders are off the streets making our City a safer place for people to live, work and thrive.”

“This operation is a clear illustration of how effective Law Enforcement can be when they work together towards a common goal,” said Chief Larry Hall of the Buckeye Police Department. “Criminals know no boundaries and Law Enforcement must constantly adapt to the criminal element in order to be successful and better protect our citizens. This partnership shows that we did just that.”

The United States Marshals Service is the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency. Annually, U.S. Marshals arrest more than 50 percent of all federal fugitives and serve more federal warrants than all other federal agencies combined.

National Crime Victim's Rights Week

The FBI released the below information:

Every year at this time, the U.S. observes National Crime Victims’ Rights week—promoting victims’ rights and honoring crime victims and those who advocate on their behalf. Millions of Americans each year are victimized by crime—acts of terrorism, violent crime, human trafficking, hate crimes, financial fraud, child abuse, cyber crime, kidnapping, bank robbery...the list goes on. And the FBI’s Office for Victim Assistance (OVA) is responsible for ensuring that victims of crimes investigated by the Bureau are afforded the opportunity to receive the services and notifications they are entitled to and the assistance they need to cope.

The OVA manages the day-to-day operational aspects of our victim assistance program in each of our 56 field offices, where our victim specialists work with those who have suffered physical, emotional, and/or financial harm as a result of a federal crime. In addition, OVA is also responsible for providing training and information that equips FBI agents and other Bureau personnel to work effectively with victims.

Individuals impacted by crime face the daunting task of rebuilding and healing from loss while navigating the criminal justice system—treating them with fairness and respect greatly benefits these victims and allows us to build better cases.

You can visit the OVC web site via the below link:

Crucible Of Command: Usysses S. Grant And Robert E. Lee - The War They Fought, The Peace They Forged

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review in the Washington Times of William C. Davis' Crucible of Command: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee - The War They Fought, The Peace They Forged.

For serious historians of the Civil War, William C. Davis is the ultimate go-to source for reliable information on a conflict that spawned a staggering amount of mythology. He is the author of more than 50 books on the war and the South, and until recently was director of the Virginia Center for Civil War History at Virginia Tech.

At hand is a thick — and very readable — volume that culminates a life of serious research into all aspects of the war, including personalities, strategies and politics. Mr. Davis, fortunately for all of us, is a stickler for original and contemporaneous sources, rather than long-after-the-fact memoirs. And, indeed, the chapter notes (112 pages of them) should be read along with the text.

An example: The popular depiction in “history” of Gen. Ulysses Grant as a drunk? After studious research, Mr. Davis concludes, “This is all based on a considerable array of mythology, and virtually no contemporary evidence.” Previous biographers relied on 60-year-old “recollections.” One so-called source was an officer who was “dismissed from the service in 1863 for disloyalty,” and vainly pleaded with Grant for reinstatement. Mr. Davis also demolishes a sensational story in the Union press that Gen. Robert E. Lee personally horsewhipped a runaway slave woman.

You can read the rest of the review via the below link:  

Monday, April 20, 2015

Sky Soldiers: U.S. Military Begins Exercises In Ukraine And The Philippines

Cheryl Pellerin at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, April 20, 2015 - Military training exercises begin today in Ukraine for Fearless Guardian, and in the Philippines for the 31st iteration of Exercise Balikatan, a Pentagon spokesman said today.

During a briefing with Pentagon reporters, Army Col. Steve Warren said that about 300 Sky Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, will train members of the Ukraine National Guard at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center in Yavoriv near the Polish border.

The United States has trained at the same center for years with other allies and partners, he added.

"This latest training, which is as valuable in peacetime as it is in times of conflict, is to establish a professional force that protects and defends Ukraine's people [and] the country's sovereignty," Warren said.

Sky Soldiers

Three hundred Sky Soldiers will train about 900 Ukrainian national guardsmen during three training rotations, each about two months long, he said.

The small-unit trainers will focus on defensive and civil military operations.

Specific blocks of instruction include medical training, casualty evacuation, counter-unmanned-aerial-vehicle tactics, counter-insurgency training, counter-improvised-explosive-device training, and more, Warren said.

Human rights and use-of-force training also will be conducted, along with common soldier and collective tasks such as individual conduct and law of war, first aid, survival, land navigation, communication, unit operations, and counter-chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear training.

Joint Commission Plus Canada

"The Defense Department will continue to work closely with Ukraine to provide assistance, training and advising support," Warren said, "including through our U.S.-Ukraine Joint Commission on Defense Cooperation, to Ukraine, over the long term."

The Joint Commission formed in July 2014, and Canada was an observer at the inaugural meeting in October 2014. Later, Canadian leaders requested an invitation for membership on the Joint Commission.

On Feb. 2, Canada's Defense Minister Rob Nicholson announced that Canada would join the commission "to better coordinate Canada's ongoing provision of assistance to the Ukrainian Armed Forces."

Nonlethal Aid to Ukraine

Warren said the United States also jointly hosts two Partnership for Peace exercises each year in Ukraine, a ground forces peacekeeping exercise called Rapid Trident and a naval exercise called Sea Breeze.

The training in small-unit tactics includes instruction on how to shoot, how to move, how to communicate and other individual soldier skills, Warren added, during which the National Guardsmen use Ukrainian weapons and their own munitions.

"Thus far, we have provided the Ukrainians with nonlethal aid only," he said, adding that the department delivered 30 Humvees to Kiev in March and will deliver another 300 in the coming months.

The DoD is monitoring events in Ukraine, Warren said, "particularly in Eastern Ukraine where we know Russian forces are contributing to the destabilization and unrest."

Exercise Balikatan

Also today in the Philippines, U.S. and Philippine forces began the 31st iteration of Exercise Balikatan, Warren said.

The annual bilateral training exercise and humanitarian assistance engagement seeks to improve the readiness of participating U.S. and Philippine forces.

"It is a signature element of our alliance," Warren said.

Balikatan takes place in the Philippines starting today to April 30, and about 6,000 U.S. personnel will participate this year, he said, noting that 4,100 of the forces will be U.S. Marines.

Humanitarian Assistance

The exercise trains Philippine and U.S. military forces to provide relief and assistance in the event of natural disasters and other crises that endanger public health and safety.

"This training proved invaluable during the relief mission [of November 2013] in the wake of super typhoon Haiyan," Warren said. The typhoon devastated more than 35 provinces in the Philippines and displaced nearly half a million residents.

Military service members from both countries also will conduct combined command-post exercises and field training and live-fire exercises, the colonel said.

Note: In the above U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Allison DeVries, Philippine Army Special Forces freefall parachutists jump from a KC-130J "Sumos" aircraft over Crow Valley, Philippines, May 15, 2014, during high-altitude low-opening jump training at Balikatan 2014. 

Six Minnesota Men Charged With Conspiracy To Provide Material Support To The Islamic State Of Iraq And The Levant

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:

A criminal complaint was filed today charging six Minnesota men with conspiracy and attempt to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, namely, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman, 19, Adnan Farah, 19, Hanad Mustafe Musse, 19, and Guled Ali Omar, 20, were arrested in Minneapolis yesterday.  Abdirahman Yasin Daud, 21, and Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, 21, were arrested yesterday in California after driving from Minneapolis to San Diego.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger of the District of Minnesota and Special Agent in Charge Richard T. Thornton of the FBI’s Minneapolis Division made the announcement.

“The six defendants charged in the complaint allegedly planned to travel to Syria as part of their conspiracy to provide material support to ISIL,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin.  “One of the National Security Division’s highest priorities is to identify, disrupt, and hold accountable those who provide or attempt to provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations.  I would like to thank the many agents, analysts, and prosecutors who are responsible for this investigation and the charges in this case.”

“As described in the criminal complaint, these men worked over the course of the last 10 months to join ISIL,” said U.S. Attorney Luger.  “Even when their co-conspirators were caught and charged, they continued to seek new and creative ways to leave Minnesota to fight for a terror group.  I applaud the hard work and tireless efforts of the FBI Minneapolis Division and their colleagues around the country.”

“Preventing acts of terrorism is the FBI's highest priority,” said Special Agent in Charge Thornton.  “Disrupting individuals from traveling to join and fight for ISIL is an important part of our counter terrorism strategy.  As a result of this investigation and arrests, these six Minnesota men who planned to travel and fight for ISIL will answer these charges in U.S. District Court instead of taking up arms in Syria.

The FBI remains committed to ending both recruitment efforts and travel on the part of young people from Minnesota to fight overseas on behalf of terror groups.  These arrests today signify this continued commitment.”

According to the criminal complaint and documents filed in court, the FBI has been conducting an investigation for the last 10 months into a group of individuals who have tried to join – and in some cases succeeded in joining – overseas designated foreign terrorist organizations.  At least nine Minnesotans have now been charged as part of this conspiracy to provide material support to ISIL.  The men are all alleged associates and friends of one another.

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force, U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Minnesota and the Counterterrorism Section of the Department of Justice National Security Division.  Assistant Attorney General Carlin is also grateful to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of California and the FBI’s San Diego Division for their contributions to the investigation of this case.

The charges contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Philly Rogue Cops Case: Soldiers In The War On Drugs Or Urban Bandits With Badges

Veteran crime reporter and author George Anastasia (seen in the above photo) is covering the so-called Philly rogue cops case for

Disgraced narcotics cop Jeffrey Walker spent three days on the witness stand this week in the federal corruption trial of six fellow officers.

Walker, depending on  your perspective, provided either the high or the low point of the now three week-old trial. By his own admission, he was a liar, cheat and thief during most of his 24 years with the Philadelphia Police Department. But that's a description he and federal prosecutors say that also fits the six members of the Narcotics Field Unit sitting at the defense table in U.S. District Court.

Planting drugs, stealing cash and narcotics, falsifying reports and lying in court were all part of a day's work  in the unit, Walker said.

When the indictment in this case was handed down last year Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey called it one of the worst cases of corruption in the department's history. A more troubling possibility, and one hinted at by the feds, is that the dark side of law enforcement that has been the theme of this prosecution is SOP in narcotics squads.
Walker, 46, took the stand after the jury had heard tales of corruption and abuse from a half dozen admitted drug dealers who in one way or another said their constitutional rights had been trampled  on by lead defendant Thomas Liciardello and his five-co-defendants.

The jury heard more of the same today from several other witnesses arrested by what authorities allege was a rogue unit led by Liciardello.

But it's hard to generate sympathy for criminals which is part of the dilemma facing prosecutors in this case. From many of the reader comments on this website it's clear that there are those who believe the defendants were the front line of defense in a war of drugs and that in that war all that mattered was winning.

Prosecutors, on the other hand, have painted the six accused cops as urban bandits with badges.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Friday, April 17, 2015

U.S. Navy Officer Pleads Guilty To Selling Classified Ship Schedules As Part Of Expanding Navy Bribery Probe

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:

A lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy pleaded guilty to bribery charges in federal court today, admitting that he accepted cash, hotel expenses and the services of a prostitute in return for providing classified U.S. Navy ship schedules and other internal Navy information to an executive of a defense contracting firm.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy of the Southern District of California, Deputy Inspector General for Investigations James B. Burch of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), Director Andrew L. Traver of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and Director Anita Bales of the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) made the announcement.

“Another Navy officer has now pleaded guilty and admitted to taking bribes to reveal classified military information to a major supplier,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “It is both troubling and disappointing how many Navy officers we have exposed as willingly falling prey to GDMA’s corruption, and our investigation remains active and ongoing.  Those who serve in our nation’s military must uphold the public’s trust or pay the consequences for their crimes.”

“The receipt of envelopes of cash and lavish hotel stays by our public officials at whatever level erodes the public’s trust in our institutions and our government,” said U.S. Attorney Duffy.  “Today’s guilty plea reflects the next step in our ongoing effort to regain that public trust.”

Todd Dale Malaki, 44, of San Diego, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mitchell D. Dembin of the Southern District of California to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.  A sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 6, 2015.

As part of his guilty plea, Malaki admitted that in 2006, while he was working as a supply officer for the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, he began a corrupt relationship with Leonard Glenn Francis, the former president and chief executive officer of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), a company that provided services to the U.S. Navy.  As part of the scheme, Malaki provided Francis with classified U.S. Navy ship schedules and proprietary invoicing information about GDMA’s competitors.

In exchange, Malaki admitted that Francis provided him with luxury hotel stays in Singapore, Hong Kong and the island of Tonga, as well as envelopes of cash, entertainment expenses and the services of a prostitute.  Malaki admitted that the total value of the benefits he received was approximately $15,000.

Malaki is the eighth individual to plead guilty in this expanding probe into corruption and fraud in the U.S. Navy.  GDMA pleaded guilty in January.  Two other individuals, Paul Simpkins, formerly a Department of Defense (DOD) contracting officer, and Michael Misiewicz, a Captain-select in the U.S. Navy, have been charged and entered pleas of not guilty.

The ongoing investigation is being conducted by NCIS and DCIS, with substantial assistance from the DCAA.  The case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Brian R. Young of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark W. Pletcher and Robert S. Huie of the Southern District of California.

Those with information relating to fraud, corruption or waste in government contracting should contact the NCIS anonymous tip line or the DOD Hotline at, or call (800) 424-9098.

The Philly Rogue Cops Case: A Gun And A Bottle of Tequila

Veteran crime reporter Ralph Cipriano is covering the federal trial of six Philadelphia police narcotics officers for

Police Officer Jeffrey Walker had parked his car in his garage and left the engine running. He'd brought along a gun and a bottle of tequila.

Despondent over his failed marriage, Walker hadn't figured out yet whether he wanted to end it with carbon monoxide or a gunshot. In the meantime, he had his tequila.

Asked if he was going to commit suicide that day back in 2002, the 46-year-old Walker replied, "I was going down that road."

Then, Walker said, his girlfriend showed up and talked him into going to the emergency room at Lankenau Hopsital. On medical records displayed in the courtroom, Walker's "chief complaint" was listed as "suicidal, depressed." His diagnosis: depression.

Walker was taken by ambulance to the psychiatric ward at Bryn Mawr Hospital, the medical records showed. It would have been just another chapter in the life of the government's star witness at the rogue cops trial, a star witness one defense lawyer has aptly described as a train wreck. Except that Walker had made a big deal out of telling the jury that when he became a government witness he had finally stopped lying.

The hitch was, the day he signed his cooperation agreement with the government, the judge had asked Walker if he'd ever been hospitalized or treated for mental illness. Walker's answer was no. To defense lawyer Jeffrey Miller, this was proof that Walker was still lying.
"I walked away the treatment they suggested" at Bryn Mawr, Walker explained on the witness stand. "I wasn't treated."

So that's why Walker said no when the judge asked if he'd ever been hospitalized or treated for mental illness.

Five defense lawyers spent most of the day quizzing Walker. The subjects of discussion included all the incriminating details Walker gave the government in 45 sessions with the FBI about his escapades over the years with six fellow narcotics officers. All six are charged in a RICO conspiracy to beat and rob drug dealers and cover their tracks with falsified police records.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

The FBI Looks Back At The Oklahoma City Bombing

The FBI offers a story on the Oklahoma City bombing, an act of domestic terrorism that occurred 20 years ago.

As Oklahoma City and the country prepare to mark the 20th anniversary of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing on April 19, 1995, looks back at the deadliest act of homegrown terrorism in the nation’s history through the eyes of special agents who were there and a survivor who continues to honor the victims by sharing her remarkable story.
The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995 was the deadliest act of homegrown terrorism in U.S. history, resulting in the deaths of 168 people. In a matter of seconds, the blast destroyed most of the nine-story building, incinerated nearby vehicles, and damaged or destroyed more than 300 other buildings.
The Ryder truck packed with nearly 5,000 pounds of explosives that Timothy McVeigh parked in front of the Murrah building that Wednesday morning killed 168 people, among them 19 children—most of whom were in the building’s daycare center. The youngest victim was 4 months old. Hundreds of all ages were injured.
In a matter of seconds, the blast destroyed most of the nine-story concrete and granite building, and the surrounding area looked like a war zone. Dozens of cars were incinerated, and more than 300 nearby buildings were damaged or destroyed. Immediately, the FBI turned its full attention to Oklahoma City. The OKBOMB investigation, as it became known, remains one of the largest and most complex cases the FBI has ever undertaken.
You can read the rest of the story and view photos and videos via the below link:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

'Child 44': A Film Based On Tom Rob Smith's Thriller

Although the early reviews of the film Child 44 have not been kind, I look forward to seeing the film, as I enjoyed the Tom Rob Smith thriller that the film is based on.

The thriller, set in the bad old days of Stalin's Soviet Union, is about a Russian serial killer and the MGB (forerunner to the KGB) officer out to catch him.

I wrote about Tom Rob Smith's Child 44 in my Crime Beat column.

Andrei Chikatilo is not as well known as his fellow serial killers Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer, and if the Soviets had their way, no one would have ever heard of him.

 According to the Soviets, crime did not exist in their worker’s paradise. But as the dead bodies piled up, the killer who came to be known as The Rostov Ripper was finally caught and convicted of brutally murdering 52 women and children between the years 1978 and 1990.

Chikatilo told the Soviet court that he performed a service for the Soviet system by eliminating what he called “worthless people.” Chikatilo was executed in 1994.

HBO made a good film about Chikatilo called Citizen X and Tom Rob Smith has written a good fictional account of the Chikatilo case, called Child 44.

The 30-year-old writer said he was researching a screenplay when he came across the Chikatilo case.

“The more I dug into the case, the more clear it became that he evaded capture not because he was ingenious but because the Soviet criminal system was reluctant to admit he even existed,” Smith wrote in his web page

“Their preconceptions about their society were as important, if not more important than stopping these terrible murders,” Smith continued. “Reading the nonfiction account of the investigations was incredibly frustrating. My reaction was so strong I knew I wanted to tell my own version of the story.”
You can read the rest of the column via the below link: