Media Week: Three Blog Weddings -- and a Murdoch Funeral?


Tim Armstrong and Arianna HuffingtonAn impressive National Press Club speech by Arianna Huffington last week found its converse in Rupert Murdoch’s meltdown over the phone hacking scandal. The Huffington Post founder and AOL CEO and Chairman Tim Armstrong, left, portrayed a bright future after AOL's $315 million purchase last winter of the company she founded and leads as an AOL subsidiary.

Their story contrasted sharply with Murdoch's firings and financial reverses following a growing scandal that prompted the Sunday arrest of one of Murdoch's top aides and the resignation of London's police chief. A member of Parliament described the situation this way: “The water is now lapping around the ankles of the Murdoch family.” Murdoch, 80, is scheduled to testify with his son, James, on July 19 before Parliament. He is portrayed below at the World Economic Forum in a photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Away from the headlines, last week showed landmark progress for Legal Schnauzer, an Alabama blog on legal refoRupert Murdochrm that recorded its one millionth page view. This is a remarkable achievement for my friend Roger Shuler, who runs a terrific site that he started four years ago as a public service.

 Similar success is reported by CT Watchdog founder George Gombossy, my colleague at the Hartford Courant for many years and now publisher of my commentaries on national affairs.

Gombossy announced this month the launch of Watchdog sites in Florida and Massachusetts, plus job openings for staff. He and Shuler got their start as highly regarded journalists at metro dailies -- and they typify the leadership in the new web-based news platforms that the public needs to bypass today’s information gatekeepers in the traditional media.

In recent years, both Shuler and Gombossy lost their jobs by fighting on behalf of readers and for strong professional standards. So, their current success benefits many people. Kindly click to the next page for details.

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Texas Judge Finally Withdraws From Gambling Casino Case

By Andrew Kreig

Andrew KreigA Texas federal judge has withdrawn from a major political corruption case five years after defendants moved for her recusal, thereby clarifying federal law on the due process right of litigants to a fair judge. U.S. District Judge Alia Moses withdrew at the request of three defendants accused of looting their state’s only legalized gambling facility. The judge attacked defense lawyers as liars in case tied to the White House, the notorious U.S. attorney purge in 2006 and the Jack Abramoff scandal. Also, she implied error by her supervising appellate judges. More generally, the case helps underscore aberrations around the nation when judges insist on deciding cases despite the clear-cut law requiring recusal as a protection for a fair trial.

The judge wrote that governing law compels her to withdraw from a case involving the Kickapoo Tribe's casino on the Texas-Mexico border even though she believes there is no basis for the defense claim she might act unfairly. Her resentment toward defendants and their attorneys is obvious. In the decision, here, she accuses one defendant of "mendacity" for statements about her three years ago. She saves her most sustained invective for defense attorneys. Richard "Racehorse" Haynes, the famed Houston-based defense attorney, is one of her main targets, albeit not criticized by name. To assess his and his colleagues' performance, the judge reached back to the 1808 poem of Sir Walter Scott: "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice [law] to deceive." Her animosity shows why lawyers are reluctant to challenge a judge on fairness grounds. As  result, our Justice Integrity Project has documented that many lawyers around the nation let their clients suffer unfairness from biased judges rather than make hard-hitting filings to obtain recusal -- and thereby incur lifelong resentment from judges in new cases.Jack Abramoff Bush Rove

Other recusal disputes fester right up to the Supreme Court. Common Cause this year exposed Justice Clarence Thomas as hiding his wife's outside income from scrutiny on required disclosure forms, helping thwart litigants and the public from learning about his financial conflicts. In 2003, Justice Antonin Scalia went duck-hunting in Louisiana on vacation with Vice President Dick Cheney, and then refused to recuse himself from a major case challenging White House secrecy regarding a Cheney-led energy task force. Republicans recently have demanded also that Justice Elena Kagan recuse from health care litigation because she was the Obama Administration's Solicitor General. A flagrant abuse of recusal law is the federal prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. Siegelman’s trial judge continues to preside despite many conflicts, as we recently reported in, “Florida Judge Continues Whitewash of Siegelman Frame-up.”

The Texas case became prominent because of ongoing controversies in the gaming industry and allegations that U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, Johnny Sutton, was a leader in a nationwide effort by the Bush Justice Department and White House advisor Karl Rove to target Democrats unfairly. The photo above shows a Kickapoo tribal leader meeting President Bush in May 2001 with tribal lobbyist Abramoff in the background, circled in red. Upon publication by the New York Times, the photo contradicted Bush administration claims denying a relationship with Abramoff. Rove is portrayed at right.

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'Two-Edged Sword’ Author Describes Federal Security Issues

By Andrew Kreig

Donald Tucker Book CoverDonald W. TuckerSecurity expert Donald Tucker told me in a radio interview July 14 how and why he was able to overcome poverty and racial obstacles -- and rise to high levels with the federal security services. Tucker wrote the autobiography, The Two-Edged Sword, and was this week's featured guest on the MTL Washington Update show that I co-host each week with Scott Draughon, founder of the My Technology Lawyer radio network heard nationally.

"When your life is a two-edged sword, you learn to tread carefully or to live with the consequences," was Tucker's mantra as he began as an undercover agent for the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (now the DEA) and worked for the Secret Service during the civil rights era. Tucker rose through the ranks to become one of this country’s foremost federal law enforcement administrators and reformers. He became U.S. Marshal for Arizona. Then he was named as the chief security officer for the nation’s federal courts, supervising a $150 million annual budget. He described taking bold risks, both in his early law enforcement work as an undercover agent and later in bureaucratic politics, fighting for promotions both for himself and others he thought might be passed over unfairly.

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Florida Judge Continues Whitewash of Siegelman Frame-up

By Andrew Kreig 

Andrew KreigA Florida federal judge has ruled that former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and his co-defendant have been treated so fairly that no one can reasonably suspect the appearance of bias. The decision by U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle denied a hearing or other discovery on whether Siegelman’s trial judge should be recused. Hinkle thus continued the whitewash of the nation’s most notorious political prosecution of the decade.

Hinkle's decision absolving Chief U.S,. District Judge Mark E. Fuller of Alabama's Montgomery-based Middle District carries the veneer of independence and fairness. But Hinkle trivializes Fuller's mind-boggling irregularities and a judge's legal duty to avoid even the appearance of unfairness. Most important, Hinkle severely undermines public confidence in the judiciary when he protects his colleague Fuller from scrutiny regarding the fabulous sums Fuller has been making Frank M. Johnsonon the side while implementing the Bush administration's long jihad against Siegelman, his state's most prominent Democrat. Hinkle, a wealthy man with many investments, fails to see any potential conflict in Fuller's repeated, dubious rulings in favor of his Bush administration patrons while also being enriched by Bush contracts totaling $300 million to the judge's closely held company, Doss Aviation, Inc.

Further, Hinkle was a substantial stockholder in another company, ChoicePoint -- exactly when ChoicePoint used despicable methods in 2008 to thwart a private detective’s researches into Fuller's Doss holdings. ChoicePoint, since acquired by Lexis-Nexis, is notorious for other reasons in Florida's state capital: At the request of Gov. Jeb Bush's administration, ChoicePoint furnished the state with flawed records that enabled the state government wrongly to remove thousands of African-American voters from eligibility to vote in 2000. This helped George W. Bush win the Presidency that year in disputed Florida vote returns with a reported margin of just several hundred votes. The 5-4 Bush v. Gore Supreme Court decision sealed the victory by forbidding Florida from continuing vote recounts.

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Jersey Feds Indict Critic Third Time To Win Christie Case

By Andrew Kreig

Louis ManzoFederal prosecutors indicted for the third time on corruption charges a former New Jersey assemblyman who has emerged as one of their sharpest critics nationally among defendants. Defendant Louis Manzo, left, forced the government to drop its second indictment this spring because federal appeals court judges agreed with his argument that his bribery charges were invalid.  On July 9, Manzo responded to the new indictment by describing it as revenge by what he called “corrupt law enforcement officials.”

The new indictment signed by New Jersey’s U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman accuses Manzo of three felonies: Twice crossing a state border, from New Jersey to Staten Island in nearby New York, to talk with Solomon Dwek, a federal informant who pretended to be a prospective donor to Manzo’s unsuccessful campaign to become mayor of Jersey City in 2009. The third felony charge is that Manzo failed to report as a crime promptings by his brother, Ronald Manzo, and a Jersey City official to accept Dwek’s offered payments. Manzo responded with this statement (which initially had two typos later corrected):

Because I reported crimes committed by federal prosecutors in corrupting a sting operation for the purpose of affecting the 2009 NJ Governor's election, and for personally and professionally benefitting themselves, I am and will be continually pursued by corrupt law enforcement officials. They previously targeted me and brought charges against me unlawfully. They have allowed their own confidential informant to break the law under their own direction by having him put money into active elections, corrupt those election results and disenfranchise voters -- in violation of federal law and the United States Constitution.  The U.S. Attorney’s office has now used evidence they know is untruthful to corrupt the sacred grand jury process for the purpose of indicting me a third time.

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DC Politics Author, NJ Crime Writer Share Insights

By Andrew Kreig

The Washington Update radio show I co-host on July 7 featured Michael J. Kerrigan, author of Politics With Principle: Ten Characters with Character and New Jersey crime reporter Terrence T. McDonald. They provided enlightening perspectives on topics featured heavily on this site during recent days.

Michael J. KerriganKerrPolitics With Principleigan, right, focuses upon 10 civic leaders from around the country who exemplify virtue in public life.  One of them is former Massachusetts State Senate President William Bulger, brother of accused Boston mob leader and murderer James “Whitey” Bulger.  Kerrigan described his reasons for maintaining his extraordinary respect for the former legislator when so many others have turned their backs on him. Kerrigan described also his other selections and his passion for chronicling what he regards as under-appreciated lessons in character observable in the nation’s capital. McDonald analyzed a July 6 jury verdict convicting a former Secaucus mayor for receiving a $10,000 cash payment from a government informant in a major federal sting. The defendant was acquitted of two other charges in a major case that helped propel Republican former New Jersey U.S. Attorney Chris Christie to his state's governorship in 2009. The reporter's view is that only a few readers have much time or interest in analyzing the politics of such trials, aside from the basics of whether a jury found guilt. .

Scott Draughon, founder of the My Technology Lawyer radio network, co-hosted the live call-in show. It may be heard nationally also by archive.

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