What an outrage. The Justice Department has indicted one of Miami's leading, most well-respected, ethical lawyers, Ben Kuene, on charges of money laundering.
Ben Kuehne, a widely respected Miami lawyer whose clients have included former Vice President Al Gore and other major politicians, surrendered Thursday on federal criminal charges for his behind-the-scenes role in a complex international drug-trafficking case.
An indictment, unsealed at his morning court appearance, charges Kuehne in a money-laundering conspiracy with approving tainted legal payments by an accused Colombian drug kingpin to his defense attorney in Miami.
The Indictment is here (pdf). What leapt out at me was Paragraph 15, alleging a substantial amount of the funds that were the subject of Ben's opinion letters to Ochoa's lawyers came not from the clean business of an Ochoa relative as set forth in Ben's letter, but from five undercover law enforcement operations the Government had in place in New York and Miami. [More...]
Were they setting him up? Did they do such a good job of disguising their undercover operation that no one could have detected it wasn't a legitimate business? [Note, this is speculation on my part, I know nothing about the case other than what the Indictment says. It may not have been a undercover operation posing as a legitimate front business.]
Ochoa's lawyers for whom Ben prepared the opinion letters on the legitimacy of the legal fees, stand by Ben. From the first linked article above:
[Roy] Black's law firm -- which headed the Ochoa representation and was assisted by three other prominent lawyers, Martin G. Weinberg, G. Richard Strafer and Lawrence J. Kerr -- issued a joint statement. It said Ochoa's legal fees were legitimate and Kuehne's research into the source of those payments was exhaustive.
''The law firms involved in this case have always believed that Ben's work was extremely thorough,'' the statement said. ``At each phase, he issued detailed written opinion letters advising that the source and transfer of funds was legal and proper.
``During the course of Ben's work on this matter, the lawyers involved in the Ochoa defense saw nothing to suggest that Ben was doing anything other than his typically careful, factual research and legal analysis. They still stand behind Ben's work.
I don't know Kuehne, but I do know Roy Black and Marty Weinberg quite well, and like everyone else who knows them and has worked with them, I can absolutely say they are among the best, most ethical and careful lawyers anywhere in the country. As legal observers interviewed in the Herald article say,
Black hired Kuehne to vet Ochoa's fees precisely because of his squeaky-clean reputation and meticulous standards.
The Southern District of Florida Blog has some analysis and shares its outrage.
I went to court to support Ben. Half of the legal community was there to show their support. (He was released on a $250,000 personal surety bond.) Watching this unfold really stuck in my gut. I am still in disbelief. I actually had a case in the past with the lead prosecutor from DOJ. I went up to him to say hello and he exclaimed without prompting: "This is a wonderful day for the government." The comment was unnecessary and it sickened me.
I walked away from him thinking just the opposite. This is a terrible day for our country. Ben will be acquitted. But at what cost to him? And our justice system? Now, more than ever, it's critical to fight for our Constitution and our justice system.
As to Kuene (a description of his cases and career is here, including his rise to national prominence as a key member of Al Gore's legal team in the Florida presidential recount case.
Here's a statement in support of Kuene I received by e-mail:
STATEMENT OF JON MAY IN
SUPPORT OF BENEDICT P. KUEHNE
An innocent man has been charged with a crime. His name is Ben Kuehne. And I am proud to call him my friend. In the coming days you will hear only what the government wants you to know about the allegations against Ben. And you may be tempted to believe what you hear. But don’t.
The government drafts the indictment and the government is permitted to broadcast its contents to the community. But Ben’s lawyers are not permitted to comment on the evidence. So you will only hear one side of the story.
What is true is that Kuehne was retained by nationally known lawyer Roy Black to research and determine the legality of legal fees paid to Black’s legal team for the representation of Colombian Drug Kingpin Fabio Ochoa Vasquez. This representation of Black, whose legal fees have not been challenged or forfeited, forms the entire basis of the indictment, directed by main Department of Justice officials in Washington, against Kuehne.
This case represents the first time ever in which federal criminal charges were brought against a lawyer whose legal work consisted of representing a fellow lawyer who sought advice about compensation for defending a client in a criminal case. To target an adversary like Ben Kuehne, who is held in such high regard by the community and whose integrity is unquestioned, sends a message that any lawyer is at risk, even concerning previously unheard of prosecution strategies like those used here. Finally the fact that this prosecution is political payback is demonstrated by the government’s efforts to leak its investigation while Ben’s lawyers were trying to convince Washington that these allegations were unfounded. On a number of occasions Washington provided reporters with the details of the investigation in an effort to destroy Ben’s reputation in the community. They did so knowing that there was no one to investigate their unlawful violations of grand jury secrecy.
We would all like to think that our Justice Department seeks to do justice. But the sad reality is that increasingly Main Justice in Washington has been dominated by zealots intent on winning no matter what the costs. Just this year, the Bush Justice Department accused the lawyers representing the Guantanamo detainees of treason. Recently a federal judge in New York dismissed all charges against a number of defendants where the prosecutors threatened their former employer, a major accounting firm, with indictment if it paid for lawyers to represent the accused. And as it has becoming increasingly clear, federal prosecutors who failed to file voting law violation charges against Democrats were fired for not towing the party line.
So now Ben Kuehne, a prominent election lawyer and defense attorney, stands wrongfully accused of participating in a money laundering scheme. A past Dade County Bar President and current member of the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar, Ben Kuehne’s entire personal reputation and legal career have been exemplary.
In 2000, Ben served as National Counsel and Florida Counsel to Vice President Al Gore and the Gore/Lieberman Recount Committee during the Presidential Recount Litigation. His responsibilities included representation before Florida canvassing boards, litigation in both state and federal courts, participation in the recount trial, and preparation of briefs to the Florida Supreme Court, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.
During the 2004 presidential election, Ben was a Senior Counsel to the Kerry/Edwards Presidential Campaign, coordinating the Florida Legal Team in early voting and election day voting issues. Ben was prominent in uncovering abuse by the Department of Justice in commencing investigations of supposed election law violations in Ohio.
Those investigations suppressed Democratic voter turnout, helping bring about President Bush’s 2004 re-election victory. Kuehne successfully represented the public interest in the Miami Voter Fraud case, when he overturned the illegal results of a mayoral election marred by massive voter fraud. Kuehne also prevailed in a politically-charged prosecution of a prominent Florida state senator for alleged campaign finance and reporting violations.
Described by the progressive organization, People For The American Way, as a “lawyer’s lawyer” and “champion for constitutional rights,” Ben received its Spirit of Liberty/Defender of Democracy Award in 2006 for his successful federal court challenge in the Mi Familia Vota case to the unconstitutional Bush administration efforts to prevent the registration of newly sworn citizens as voters after citizenship ceremonies. Kuehne was also named one of the “Lawyers of the Year” by the National Law Journal for his work on behalf of Vice President Al Gore in the 2000 Recount Litigation. Ben leads a coalition of advocates who are regularly called upon to initiate public impact litigation for the redress of constitutional violations arising from government action.
As just a few examples, Ben successfully represented 15 Cuban refugees in a constitutional challenge to the “wet foot/dry foot” policy resulting from the well-publicized repatriation of Cuban nationals who landed on the Old Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys. As lead counsel for Save Dade, he successfully led the effort to prevent an election to nullify the Miami-Dade County Human Rights Ordinance.
Kuehne is well-known for his extensive contributions to the community outside the courtroom, having served as a founding Executive Committee member and Trustee of the Alliance for Ethical Government, a community organization founded to improve the ethical rules governing local government officials. He is a former member of the Board of Legal Services of Greater Miami, and has been the recipient of pro bono awards for providing legal services to the poverty community.
In addition to his meritorious service as President of the Dade County Bar Association and President of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers – Miami Chapter, Ben Kuehne was the recipient of the Criminal Justice Award by the Dade County Bar Association in 2000 for his “outstanding contributions to the criminal justice system.” He is a noted speaker and author on important legal and political issues, regularly appearing as a faculty member at advanced Bar seminars on cutting-edge criminal law issues.
Nationally recognized for his leadership and success as a lawyer and community leader, Ben is named in The Best Lawyers of America (2000-2007) and Chambers USA America’s Leading Lawyers, Litigation: White Collar Crime & Government Investigations (2004-2007). He was named the Best Lawyer in Miami by New Times Newspaper in 2000 .He continues to be included by the South Florida Legal Guide and Florida Trend’s Legal Elite as one of South Florida's Top Lawyers in every annual publication.
Ben, is committed to securing complete vindication by proving that these charges are false and an unprincipled effort to ruin an ethical community leader. It is my hope that the community Ben has selflessly devoted himself to will stand with him and give him the support that he deserves.
A few other notes: Despite paying more than $5 million in legal fees and having the best representation possible, Ochoa was convicted and sentenced to 30 years. The Government got its pound of flesh.
And, Roy and Marty and team are not in any hot water.
Kuehne faces conspiracy and money-laundering charges -- along with two Colombian defendants -- for advising them to accept Ochoa's legal payments. Black and the other defense lawyers are insulated from criminal liability because they received advice of counsel from Kuehne.
And, from reading the Indictment, I see the Government is seeking to forfeit all $5 plus million in legal fees and expenses from Kuehne, even though he only received $220,000 to $260,000 - from Roy's firm which was paid out of expense funds provided by Ochoa, not the legal fees.
Last point: The judge assigned to the case is Marcia Cook, who recently presided over the Jose Padilla terrorism trial.
I can't even imagine what havoc this will bring to Ben's life, career and finances. Even if he wins, he'll be damaged forever. There is no motive set out in the Indictment for his alleged crime ... and there's none I can conjure up. Someone with Ben's background just doesn't make stuff up.
I'm going to be following this case and looking forward to the day I can announce the case has been thrown out or Ben's been acquitted.
Dubya says that only a vote for Republicans will bring us peace and prosperity. Hold the laughter for a moment. He really followed Mitt Romney's statement about Democrats being friends of terrorists with a statement about Republicans being the path to peace and prosperity.
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As Our 2008 Fundraiser Winds Down, Please Contribute Today to MyDD From The Plain Dealer: It's on! Barack Obama said he will debate Hillary Clinton in Ohio before the March 4 primary. "I think we said we will do two more debates, and at least one of[...]
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This an Open Thread: This wheel spins letting me off It's not the lack of tryingFriday's Headlines: Miscalculations Dogged Romney From the Start: Airport Security Technology Stuck In the Pipeline: Australia ends 'Pacific Solution': House arrest: judge's[...]
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There's been a lot of Islamophobic mouthbreathing over the Archbishop of Canterbury's comment yesterday that Sharia Law in the UK is "unavoidable". British politicians and pundits on both sides of the pond have picked up on the bare bones of the story and fallen over each other to demand the Archbishop's resignation or to complain that this would be the "thin edge of the wedge".
But all he actually said (see the BBC's original story) was that Muslims should have the same option to choose a private court (using Sharia Law) for civil disputes as Jewish Brits do. Indeed, Williams said he was fully aware of how draconian full Sharia Law can be:
He stresses that "nobody in their right mind would want to see in this country the kind of inhumanity that's sometimes been associated with the practice of the law in some Islamic states; the extreme punishments, the attitudes to women as well".So why the outcry over a reasonable call for parity? Well, mostly it seems to me because Islamophobia is the new anti-Semitism and politicians are appeasing such "Protocols of the Elders of Islam" rightwing conspiracy theorists as long as their Blimpoid bigotry goosesteps to a nationalistic beat.
...Dr Williams noted that Orthodox Jewish courts already operated, and that the law accommodated the anti-abortion views of some Christians.
"The whole idea that there are perfectly proper ways the law of the land pays respect to custom and community, that's already there," he said.
People may legally devise their own way to settle a dispute in front of an agreed third party as long as both sides agree to the process.
Muslim Sharia courts and the Jewish Beth Din which already exist in the UK come into this category.
The country's main Beth Din at Finchley in north London oversees a wide range of cases including divorce settlements, contractual rows between traders and tenancy disputes.
I certainly would not wish to have the question ?Who will rid us of this troublesome priest?? answered as Henry?s question was answered. But where Becket faithfully served his church and was savagely punished for it, Rowan Williams loses no opportunity to besmirch his Church and is lavishly praised for his perfidy.There will continue to be more outrage directed at Archbishop Williams for suggesting parity of rights for Jews and Muslims than there will be at the US art critic and ideologue for sailing so close to a call for the assassination of the clerical head of the Church of England. That's your appeasement right there.
Two faced, fraud man Mitt Romney is gone..can you give me a hell yeah..HELL YEAH!!!I know, I know he’s not gone forever but I’m still going to relish the fact that he spent 35 million and got nothing, except maybe name recognition for that sum.. 35 million of his own money and HE GOT NOTHING!!! LOL>>LOL>>You know I don’t normally [...]
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The regular listIf you like to trade books, try BookMooch.What are you reading? is crossposted to dailyKosSame stuff as last week.... the boy would live forever by Fred Pohl. In the Gateway series. Fun. Statistical models: Theory and[...]
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Ilan Goldenberg tells us that the "Anbar Awakening" forces, essentially the Sunni groups we gave money and weapons to so they'd drive out the minor (if oft-cited) al Qaeda elements in Anbar, are close to open conflict with the major elected Sunni parties. I know, it's hard to believe that giving a large group of people a bunch of money and weapons might make them think about using it to gain political power (and not just do whatever we tell them), but it's true:
It looks like tensions have reached a new level between the Sunni Green Zone politicians and the "Awakening" movement. What's scary here is that the level of distrust and hatred in intra-Sunni politics probably doesn't even come close to what you have to deal with in terms of getting the Awakening Groups and Concerned Local Citizens integrated into national Shi'a dominated institutions. And trying to change the leadership by holding elections may only make the situation worse. On top of that, if violence between the Green Zone politicians and the Awakening Councils breaks out in Anbar we're in for a whole new set of problems and "bottom up reconciliation" could very well go up in smoke.The Bush administration strategy in Iraq continues to make things worse, not better. Day by day, worse and worse.
The most recent Time magazine poll shows that Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton, is the candidate who can beat McCain. According to Time:
Obama captured 48% of the vote in the theoretical match-up against McCain's 41% ... while Clinton and McCain would deadlock at 46% of the vote each. Put another way, McCain looks at the moment to have a narrowly better chance of beating the New York Senator than he does the relative newcomer from Illinois.
The difference, says Mark Schulman, CEO of Abt SRBI, which conducted the poll for TIME, is that "independents tilt toward McCain when he is matched up against Clinton But they tilt toward Obama when he is matched up against the Illinois Senator." Independents, added Schulman, "are a key battleground."