Thursday, January 31, 2008

Postponing Allen and Smith's Sentencing

[Update Sept. 5, 2010:  Someone pointed out that these links are dead.  This one seems to have both pieces still up.]

From The Anchorage Press website today:

Here's an excerpt from today's filing in Allen’s case, dated Jan. 31, 2008:

"As the court is aware, Mr. Allen has been cooperating with the government in its investigation and he continues to do so. The investigation is exceedingly complex due to a variety of issues and is ongoing. Given the substantial amount of work that remains to be done in the government's investigation, the government requests that sentencing continue to be postponed in order to give the defendant time to fully realize the benefit of his cooperation."


An accompanying story by Tony Hopfinger and Amanda Coyne reports that Anchorage Police Department spokesman Lt. Paul Honeman says they were told to call off an investigation of Bill Allen by the FBI so as not to interfere with the FBI's investigation.

"The feds said that if you go down that road, you'll compromise our investigation," Honeman said. "They said they were working an ongoing case that they couldn't tell us about."

But that conflicts with statements from the FBI. Eric Gonzales, an FBI spokesman in Anchorage, said he has heard rumors about the police investigation, but his agency knows nothing about it. "I've spoken to people here and nobody recalls us telling the police to drop an investigation," he said.
That sounds suspiciously like the kinds of denials Congress has been hearing from the Bush administration people. No one says it didn't actually happen, just that they don't recall it. How can something like telling the the APD to stop an investigation be something they 'don't recall?" The FBI and the prosecutors at the various trials last year seemed to remember every detail and now they can't recall?

The investigation itself was related to the Boehm case where the contractor was convicted of luring runaways into sex parties with crack.

I'm not sure whether there is is any fire here or not. The implication in the article seems to be that Allen was involved in more than the prosecution let on to at the Kott and Kohring trials and their attorneys should have known about it so they could have raised more questions about Allen's credibility as a witness. I'm guessing this story had a tight deadline and that explains why the story itself is not as tight as it could be.

9 comments:

  1. My right hand ignores my left and vice versa. Maybe the FBI just doesn't know - hmmm.

    I read you everyday and loved your insights about Murky's return.

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  2. How is it possible that the Feds don't have all the evidence that they can possibly ever get on Ted & Ben at this point? With all that they have done and turning his house over and over and appointing so many to this, how can there be any aspect of his life that they don't know about?

    I am bothered about the witnesses. Are Bill and Rick just saying whenever they have to to please them? "Sure, OK, yeah, I bribed them. Said that too. OK!"

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  3. Anon, Good question. Here's how I see it. They've got plenty of evidence, but they have to present the evidence to the juries. Allen and Smith are certain to be key witnesses in upcoming trials. Once they have been sentenced, the Prosecutors have no more power over them. They could continue to be good witnesses for the prosecutors or they could clam up.

    The prosecutors, as I understand it from the previous trials, can only recommend to Judge Sedwick. He, ultimately, decides. Having presided over the Anderson, Kott, and Kohring cases so far, he's seen the various witnesses testify. He has a good sense of how much they have cooperated.

    So, if I were the prosecutor, I certainly wouldn't want them sentenced until the last trial is over. And perhaps if they are not coming into court to be witnesses from prison they are more credible witnesses - even if they jury knows they will go to prison. And if they can drag out these trials long enough, perhaps now 70 year old and ailing Allen may never go to prison.

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  4. Steve,

    Thanks for posting our story. I realize the article raises many questions, but after several months of trying to pursue answers on the record, this is what we had to offer for now. Few people wanted to talk on the record about the issues in this story, although APD is now confirming this 2004 investigation.

    Why does this story matter? The FBI and DOJ are conducting corruption investigations. Ted Stevens and others have not been charged with crimes and deny any wrongdoing. The government has a deal with Bill Allen, a key witness. Little is known about the specifics of that deal. We’re trying to explore if this APD investigation in which his name came up played any role in his plea agreement. We can’t say yet.

    Folks can speculate why Sen. Stevens or Rep. Young are under investigation. But what is true is that there is an active federal investigation in which many people’s names have come up, thus opening them to public attacks and allegations. We should be keeping a careful eye on how the FBI and DOJ conduct their investigation. Building corruption investigations often entail cutting deals with witnesses, sometimes folks who themselves face crimes. This can be a messy process, one the public often doesn’t hear about because the FBI interviews, court filings and other evidence are placed under seal. In some cases, defense attorneys don’t even get to see all of the evidence.

    For all we know, the feds will never have enough evidence to pursue further corruption convictions in Alaska. It’s important that the federal government conducts a fair investigation, no matter what your opinion is of our politicians, wouldn't you agree?

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  5. wow, I actually know Bambi Tyree, the woman mentioned in the newspaper from the 2004 case. She works at my favorite restaurant!

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  6. Tony, you raise lots of tricky questions. When government and corporate officials stonewall the press, one of the options is to throw up speculation and force them to respond - even if it's a denial. But this is a last resort sort of tactic that you can't use too often.

    When it comes to the FBI, as I've discussed in the blog, they have a lot of power. Each of the three defenses was over $100,000 last year. If you don't have that kind of money, what do you do? Who checks up on them? Well, the courts do have to approve the wire taps, but the FBI, the Public Integrity Section, and the Federal Courts are all part of the Department of Justice.

    So the role of the press here is difficult. I talked to one government official who was reluctant to talk to the press because she thought her job might be in jeopardy. Since she was talking to the FBI - and that gave her some protection against retaliation which the press can't give - she felt it wasn't her obligation to talk to the press. She did in fact talk to the press, but nervously. I can't argue with her logic.

    So, does the APD investigation jeopardize the FBI investigation? Do snooping journalists mess things up? That's the FBI position. I guess there are times when they are right and times when the other players are needed. And then there are times the FBI, I'm sure, is glad the press is out there.

    It would be nice if you could talk directly to the agents, but they are supposed to go through Gonzalez as I understand it.

    But I must say that my impression of the FBI's value has been greatly improved by their work in Alaska. Without them, things might still be the way they've always been.

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  7. Building corruption investigations often entail cutting deals with witnesses, sometimes folks who themselves face crimes. This can be a messy process, one the public often doesn’t hear about because the FBI interviews, court filings and other evidence are placed under seal. In some cases, defense attorneys don’t even get to see all of the evidence.

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    How can a trail be fair if the so-called evidence isn't able to be seen? That isn't right. We got to hear about Monica Lewinsky giving Bill Clinton oral sex in the Oval Office, but evidence in a federal case may be restricted? This is about people's lives!

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  8. Anon, This is what I understand from what from attending the trials last year.

    1. Whatever charges the government makes, they have to back up with sufficient evidence for the jury to believe the defendant is guilty. So, in that sense there is no 'secret' evidence.

    2. Witnesses who are testifying because they have an agreement with the prosecutors expect that their cooperation will lighten their eventual sentences. The Agreements themselves were available to the defense attorneys and parts or all of the Agreements of some of the government's witnesses were introduced as evidence in the Kott and Kohring trials if I remember right.. Don't recall if that was the case for Anderson.

    3. The government wants to share as little with the defense as possible. In part because these agreements have names of other people being investigated and the fewer people who know, the less likely the info is to get out. I'm not sure what they are obligated to simply turn over and what they only turn over if the defense asks for it.

    I do know that the sheer volume of material - written, audio, video - for last year's trials was overwhelming and the time it would take to read all that really runs up the price for the defendant. It also means that the reader has to keep lots of stuff in mind.

    4. The give and take of negotiation between witnesses' attorneys and the prosecutors is probably not written down except in notes that the Govt will surely claim are not public documents. Some of this sort of information came out in the Anderson case when his original attorneys testified at the sentencing hearing.

    5. My best solution would be some oversight body with 'respected and trusted' members who can check on what's going on as representatives of the public. Of course the catch is finding respected and trusted members.

    But no, there is no 'secret evidence' used to convict them. All that has to be made public. they may have information they never present, but the jury can't rule on that. But not everything that went into the plea bargaining gets public, only what ends up in the final plea agreement, and only if the defense attorney insists and the judge agrees. And even that may have names and other identifiers redacted.

    Messy outcomes include:
    1. Some criminals who cooperate early may get better deals and serve less time than others who were far less guilty than others. The government trades off some getting lighter sentences in order to have evidence to convict anybody at all.

    2. To the extent that people cooperate with the government, the public does not hear what actually happened in detail to result in the plea. When it goes to open court then the jury has to be convinced so we get a lot more details.

    3. The results are unfair. But more in the sense that someone who gets a speeding ticket is angry about all the other speeders who never get tickets. That's not fair either, but the alternative is not to give anyone a ticket. If you break the law, it seems you take your chances. I haven't heard of anyone complaining because they didn't get a speeding ticket that they deserved.

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