Monday, August 19, 2013

Federal judge takes advice from colleagues

A federal judge surprised me last week when he said that he and other federal judges review each others' cases and indicate the sentence they would issue.
I’ve never heard a judge say that, or even heard of a judge doing that.
Judge Arthur Tarnow in Detroit admitted as much from the bench last Wednesday in the sentencing of Gregory Austin for production of child pornography. Tarnow went below the sentencing guideline range of roughly 27 to 34 years in sentencing Austin to 15 years, the mandatory minimum established by Congress.
During comments from the bench, he revealed that other judges (I don’t recall if he said how many other judges reviewed the case but he seemed to infer it was a couple of fellow jurists) agreed 15 years was not only sufficient for Austin’s actions, but actually is a pretty harsh sentence.
“Fifteen years – they concluded in their experience that is a severe sentence” for that crime, a longer term than someone receives for manslaughter.
He seemed to indicate he would have gone below 15 years if he could have but didn’t want to “second guess Congress.”
“Congress has decided it is a very serious offense,” he said.
Austin’s behavior involved “catfishing,” tricking males aged 14 to 17 into sending him images of their genital via Facebook by posing as a sexy girl, “Julie.”
Making Austin’s actions particularly revolting was that he was a school teacher and preyed on former students he taught in elementary school.
Judge Tarnow pointed out Austin’s action will impact the victims the rest of their lives. It’s not clear whether Austin shared the images online, but the victims have to worry that he did.
I don’t necessarily see anything wrong with a judge seeking advice from colleagues on the bench, as long as the advisory judge has all the facts. But I wonder how common that is.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Scammer can't pull fast one on reporter

Even though I'm a fan of the Philippines and its people, that appreciation couldn't blind this courthouse reporter's judgment in recognizing a scam.

Below is a short series of emails I exchanged with someone from the Philippines who somehow got an email of an acquaintance and posed as that acquaintance, of course not realizing that I'm not a friend with that person, just a mere contact through work. Notice the typos and poor grammar. Obviously a scam:


I am sorry for reaching you rather too late due to the situation of things right now.My family and I had a trip visiting Manila Philippines,everything was going on fine until last night when we got attacked by some unknown gunmen. All our money,phones and credit cards was stolen away including some valuable items, It was a terrible experience but the good thing is that they didn't hurt anyone or made away with our passports. 

        We have reported the incident to the local authorities and the consulate but their response was too casual, we were ask to come back in 2 weeks time for investigations to be made proper,But the truth is we can't wait till then as we have just got our return flight booked and is leaving in few hours from now but presently having problems sorting out our  bills here and also getting a cab down to the airport, Right now we're financially strapped due to the unexpected robbery attack, Wondering if you can help us with a quick loan to sort out our bills and get back home. All we need is (3,000 $)  I promise to refund you in full as soon as I return home hopefully tomorrow or next. write back now to let me know what you can do.

Thank You.


I responded with two emails:

"I know I’m late responding. I hope everything is OK now.
Where should I send the money?"

 The scammers response:
"Glad to hear from you, We have nothing left on us right now and we are lucky to have our Life and passport with us it would have been worst if they had made away with my passports.

Well,All we need is $3.000  Dollars. to sort out the hotel bills,you can have it wire to my name via any Western Union outlet I'll show my passport as ID to pick it up here,I promise to refund it back as soon as we arrive back home. Here's the info you need:

Name:- John (last name withheld)
Address: 28 Simon Street Manila
Country: Philippine
Amount :$3.000  Dollars.

As soon as it has been done, kindly get back to me with the MTCN confirmation number.Let me know if you are heading to a western union outlet now..

I owe you a Lot.


My response:

"Please send me $300 as a show of good faith and I’ll return $3,300 to you."

It's no surprise that I haven't heard back from my "friend" on the other side of the world.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

It'll be 'usual suspects' for Warren judge post

There’s a lot of speculation about who will be named judge at 37th District Court but I think it’s more like a case of rounding up, “The Usual Suspects,” like the movie, for Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. The tough nerd should have a list of familiar names from which to choose since he named Dean Ausilio to the same four-jurist bench last year to fill Dawnn Gruenberg’s spot. He’s also filled three Macomb Circuit Court vacancies in recent years.
Applications for the Warren-Center Line post are due Aug. 15.
The vacancy occurred when Jennifer Faunce was elevated recently to circuit court to replace new Supreme Court Justice David Viviano.
Assistant Macomb prosecutors J.P. Hunt and Suzanne Faunce, Jennifer’s sister, have been in the mix before and will be again, as will 37th Court Administrator Rob Curtis. An assistant Wayne County prosecutor who made it to the top four for the circuit post also will be in there. Other likely candidates include criminal defense attorney Sal Palombo and probate attorney Terrance Gilsenan.
Cecil St. Pierre has been considered before but apparently isn’t entrenched enough in the Republican Party.
Suzanne Faunce may have the pedigree and the name, but her name also may work against her. Does the governor really want to have three successive Warren judges named Faunce? Suzanne and Jennifer’s dad, Sherman, was a long time judge in Warren.
But then again, the new judge will have to run for election next year, and Faunce could oppose the fresh face. Snyder would risk the embarrassment of his appointment being ousted.
Hunt, meanwhile, not only would be the first black judge in Warren, but the former cop would be a strong pro-law enforcement pick.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Feds nail Detroit Public Schools thieves

Here's the press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit:


Sandra Campbell, 57 a former Detroit Public Schools contract accountant and School Board candidate, and her daughter, Domonique Campbell, 38, a Detroit Public Schools teacher, were convicted today by a federal jury in Detroit on charges of program fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and tax charges, following a five-week jury trial, United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced today. The jury returned its verdict after only one and one half hours of deliberations.
McQuade was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Robert D. Foley, III and Special Agent in Charge, Erick Martinez, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation.
The evidence presented at trial established that between 2004 and 2008, Sandra Campbell and Domonique Campbell, obtained in excess of $530,000.00 from the Detroit Public Schools through a fraudulent scheme in which orders were placed with the Campbells’ sham company for books and educational materials never provided to the schools. Sandra Campbell and Domonique Campbell conspired to launder the fraud proceeds and to defraud the Internal Revenue Service and failed to report the money they fraudulently obtained from the Detroit Public Schools as income on their tax returns.
United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade said, "Anyone who considers stealing from our school children should take note that we are scrutinizing records and conduct, and will prosecute wrongdoers "
FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert D. Foley stated, "The FBI would like to thank all of our partners who continue to assist us in battling corruption. In particular, I would like to note the continued support of DPS Inspector General Van Marsh and his team. The actions of these subjects do nothing more than steal the opportunity for quality education from our children. Such actions cannot be tolerated and will be pursued by the FBI and its partners.”
IRS Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez stated, “"Those who profit at the expense of our children and steal from our community will be held accountable for their greedy actions".
The case was investigated by special agents of the FBI, IRS and Department of Education, Office of Inspector General, with the assistance of Detroit Public Schools, Office of Inspector General. The case was investigated and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys J. Michael Buckley and Bruce Judge of the Public Corruption Unit.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

No quick decision on whether to charge cops

The arrest of two police sergeants from St. Clair Shores and Detroit initially stunned a lot of people at first with the initial media reports that they possibly committed multiple robberies.

But it just turns out they may have trying to mete out some "cowboy justice" on a couple of dudes who stole a phone and money from the daughter of the SCS cop. My bet is the cop probably didn't want potential public exposure to his daughter who apparently was dealing with some undesireables. So he tapped his buddy in Detroit. They have known each other for a long time since they attended police academy together in the early 1990s.

The devil is in the details, and there must be some intricacies to the case since the spokeswoman for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said today they do not expect a charging decision this week.

My guess is there will be some type of charge, but who knows? Maybe it's OK to play cowboy.