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Trial Lawyer Ty Cobb Reflects on 35 Years of Practice

Trial Lawyer Ty Cobb Reflects on 35 Years of Practice

Washington, DC—After a career spanning 33 countries and 44 states, some attorneys would be thinking about leaving the law.  Not Ty Cobb, famous for his work on white collar crime and corruption cases.  “I loved and still love what I do,” he told laws.com in a recent interview.  “Aside from spending time with my family, there is nothing better than being in court.”

(More on News at LAWS.com, Contact Alberto for interviews “support@laws.com”)

Over three decades of practice have brought both high profile and intensely personal cases to Cobb's desk.  “On the personal side,” he says, recalling a case from his time as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, “one of the most important cases was the prosecution of the murderer of a good friend of mine who was an undercover police officer in the city of Baltimore.” 

Even in his work defending corporations he says that personal feelings sometimes enter into the practice of law.  “I took on a case following the death of a partner and close friend who passed away in 1997, Richard E. Dunne III.  It was the case of United States v. Hudson Foods, and won an acquittal of a corporate defendant in a federal criminal case following a five week trial.”  That case, he says, “had personal meaning to me because I did it to address an injustice and to honor my good friend's memory.”

 According to Cobb, young people who are considering the life of a high profile trial lawyer should think twice about whether they're getting into it for the right reasons, and whether their personality will mesh well with the work.  “Being an active trial attorney is a very difficult path.  It's not a nine to five job, and definitely not for the meek.  I advise law students who want to become trial lawyers to focus on evidence, clinical and criminal law courses.”  

 As a high profile defense attorney who started out as a prosecutor, Cobbadvises young attorneys to do the same.  “The most important period is post-law school, where I advise students to gain real federal or state prosecutor or public defender experience as early as possible in their career.  There is no real substitute to being in court.”

 Choosing the right clients can be an important part of being a successful trial lawyer, according to Cobb.  “I think client selection is a very important process,” he says.  “For me, it's not a negative factor to represent a client when there is a lot at stake.  The more complicated and challenging the case is, the more attractive it is to me.  The most compelling and important factors are the justice issues.  If someone comes to me having suffered an injustice or as the victim of government overreaching, that attracts me to the case.”

There are, however, times when a client's character can make Cobb reject the prospect of an attorney-client relationship. Cobb, who has been inducted into the Ethisphere Hall of Fame for his contributions to corporate ethics and compliance, says that ethics matter from the moment clients walk through his door.  “The few times I have turned away a client is when I get a bad feeling, whether the client can't be counseled or can't be honest with me.  I am largely guided by my instincts.”

After 35 years, Cobb still prefers the courtroom to the office.  “It is rare to get cases that go to trial,” he says, “but to me those are the most gratifying ones.  I go to trial if someone is innocent or the government overreaches.  Those are the cases that show you who you are!”

Criminal Defender Fights For Clients For 43 Years

Criminal Defender Fights For Clients For 43 Years

Alexandria, VA—43 years of criminal defense practice have made John Zwerling one of the most experienced and effective criminal defenders in the Washington, D.C. area.  

For Zwerling, the choice to represent criminal defendants was an easy one.  “I have always rooted for the underdog and challenged authority,” he said in an interview with laws.com.  “Beating a bully on his home court while playing by his rules is a challenge, but very rewarding.  Once I decided to be a lawyer, the type of lawyer was an easy choice.”

(More on News at LAWS.com, Contact Alberto for interviews “support@laws.com”)

From the time he got his first case, Zwerling says that he was hooked on defense practice.  “My very first case was my first big case,” he said, joking that “my career has gone downhill since that case.”  In that 1970 case, a brawl involving gay rights protesters and police had led to 12 protesters being arrested.  After the judge said that he could not make a determination about whether the police or the protesters were lying, they took a lunch break—and when they came back, everything had changed.

“When we returned,” Zwerling recalls, “the prosecutor announces that the one witness that they did not call, but who had been sitting in the witness room for three weeks, came to the prosecutor that lunch break and reported that she could not stand the fact that all the government witnesses were laughing about how they lied.”  After a quick conversation with the judge, the charges were dismissed—and the police who had lied found the court transcript taken to a grand jury.

Today, the field of criminal defense law is different than when Zwerling began practicing.  Asked if he had any advice for new young lawyers interested in a criminal defense career, Zwerling responded, “Think twice about it.  There is a high level of frustration and aggravation in having to deal with an opponent who has the power to destroy your client for simply exercising his rights.”  Attorneys who are “brash or unprepared” will have the hardest time getting off to a good start in criminal defense, he says.

Another way in which criminal practice is changing is that plea deals are more common.  Zwerling says that the choice to plea bargain or go to trial is “very case specific.  One needs to weigh what can be gained against what can be lost if one goes to trial.  Often, especially in federal court, the punishment that a defendant will face if he goes to trial will be several times as great as if he takes a plea … is it better for an innocent person to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and no jail, or go to trial on a felony charge with a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years if you lose?”

According to Zwerling, the unique challenges of representing celebrities and high-profile clients can be difficult not only for their attorneys, but for the defendants as well.  “All criminal defendants need to keep their eyes on the goal, which is exoneration—not continued adoration,” he says.  “Oftentimes, celebrities are surrounded by people concerned with today's headlines and not the end result.”

Even though he has had a long and illustrious career, Zwerling says that it hasn't always been easy.  “Learning how to communicate with the jury members has been the greatest challenge,” he says of his work in criminal defense.


Minneapolis Man Provided Material Support to al Shabaab

Minneapolis Man Provided Material Support to al Shabaab

On October 18, 2012, a trial jury in Minnesota found Mahuamud Said Omar guilty of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization known as al Shabaab.  He was officially convicted of providing material support to a terrorist organization and a foreign terrorist organization, as well as “conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim, and injure.”

Omar has permanent U.S. residency and he is a Somalia native as well.  During the trial, it was found that he recruited young men around the Minneapolis area between September 2007 and August 2009 and helped them travel to Somalia to train and fight in the terrorist organization.  He also visited an al Shabaab safehouse when he was in Somalia, and he provided large amounts of money to by AK-47s.  

The recruited men in Minneapolis would train and fight against the established Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and African Union peacekeeping troops.  One of the men recruited by Omar was Shirwa Ahmed.  He facilitated and committed suicide bombings in five different locations, and he bombed the United Nations Development Program in Somalia.  

Omar was found guilty with evidence that included travel records, money transfers, and testimony from other defendants.  

Omar faces a maximum penalty of life in prison for conspiring to kill, kidnap, maim, and injure.  He also faces a maximum of 15 years in prison for the other crimes.  The sentence has not yet been scheduled.  

U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones stated, “Fighting terrorism at home and abroad and ensuring our national security is the number-one priority of the U.S. Department of Justice.  And while we applaud today’s verdict, we must not forget about the families that continue to mourn the loss of their sons due to these illegal recruitment efforts by the terrorist organization al Shabaab.”

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

13 Hackton Organization Members Charged with Violent Crimes

13 Hackton Organization Members Charged with Violent Crimes

On October 19, 2012, the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana announced that 13 members of the Hackton Criminal Organization were charged with 22 counts in a superseding indictment.  The charges relate to violent crimes to aid in racketeering crimes.  

Those charged in the superseding indictment include the following: Walter Porter, “Urkel”; Nakia Hankton; Shirley Hankton; Telly Hankton, “Third”;Thomas Hankton, “Squirt”; Troy Hankton; George Jackson, “Black”; Derrick Smothers, “Dump”; Andre Hankton; Kevin Jackson; Netthany Schexnayder; Sana Johnson; and Terrell Smothers.  All of the defendants are from New Orleans.  

The indictment alleges that the defendants were part of a violent drug organization around the city of New Orleans and participated in crimes back to 1996.  Certain members and associates of the criminal organization killed rival drug dealers in the area, threatened witnesses, obstructing justice, and even murdered a witness’ family member in one case.  

Andre Hankton, Telly Hankton, Kevin Jackson, Walter Porter, and Thomas Hankton all face the death penalty for the murders of Darnell Stewart, Jesse Reed, Hasan Williams, and Curtis Matthews.  Most of the defendants are already apprehended, and none of the defendants are considered fugitives at this time.  

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten announced, “Today, as the result of the outstanding work of the men and women of federal enforcement and our partners in the New Orleans Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office, yet another powerful blow has been made against an organization whose numbers are alleged to have committed murder and violence against the community.  My deepest gratitude goes to the dedicated members of our own office, together with special agents of the FBI and ATF, along with DEA and the Marshals Service.”  

The defendants must still be proven guilty in a trial, and no other information has been released by the FBI at this time.  

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Two Violent Robbers Receive 486 Years in Prison Combined

Two Violent Robbers Receive 486 Years in Prison Combined

On October 19, 2012, the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania announced that Emmanuel Duran and John Bowie of Philadelphia each received over 240 years in prison for violent armed robberies of pharmacies, businesses, and homes around the Philadelphia area.  Duran received 240 years and two months, and Bowie received 246 years and two months.  

Both of the men robbed different pharmacies in Philadelphia at gunpoint between February and May of 2010.  Duran and the co-defendant, Raheem Brown, robbed the A&G Auto Body shop located on 2015 N. 19th Street as well.  

During the robbery at the A&G Auto Body, a customer was shot in the leg after he took too long to give money to Duran.  Two of pharmacy robberies involved extreme violence as well.  During one of the robberies, Duran and Bowie fired shots at the people trying to escape the store.  During another robbery, Duran and Bowie forced a pregnant woman to the ground and caused her to be hospitalized for several days.  

Duran, Bowie, and Staten were also convicted for an abduction that occurred in 2010.  The defendants abducted and tortured a man they believed was a drug dealer.  After they failed to get anything of value, they went on to commit three home invasions, get involved in a gun fight, and escaped during a high speed chase.  Duran and Staten robbed Han’s Deli on 1639 Susquehanna Avenue just days later.  

The following pharmacies were robbed by the defendants:

M.D. Pharmacy on 1641 Franklin Street: February 8, 2010 and February 23, 2012
Pharmacy of America on 1500 E. Erie: April 21, 2010
Ellis Pharmacy on 2441 Brown Street: April 29, 2012
Germantown Pharmacy on 5100 Germantown Avenue: May 7, 2010
Henneberry Pharmacy on 828 N. 24th Street: May 25, 2010

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Another Man Pleads Guilty to Trafficking Counterfeit Airbags

Another Man Pleads Guilty to Trafficking Counterfeit Airbags

On October 22, 2012, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that Igor Borodin of Indian Trial, North Carolina, pleaded guilty to delivering counterfeit airbags by air commerce.  The investigation was led by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Department of Transportation (DOT).  

According to court documents, Borodin is part-owner of an auto shop in Charlotte called Krugger Auto.  The search warrant was issued on August 16, 2012, and agents found a total of 99 counterfeit airbags at Krugger Auto and 1,514 counterfeit airbags at Borodin’s residence.  

The investigation found that Borodin bought the counterfeit airbags from China and then resold them on eBay.  Firstly, the airbags did not have hazardous material warnings during the shipments—as required by law.  Secondly, Borodin labeled the counterfeit airbags with registered trademarks of certain automobile manufacturers.  

Borodin is believed to have sold about 7,000 counterfeit airbags online.  Between February of 2011 and May of 2012 alone, Borodin made $1.4 million from selling the counterfeit airbags.  During independent testing in September of 2011, an airbag Borodin sold on eBay failed to inflate.  

Borodin faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a fine up to $2,250,000.  The plea agreement states that Borodin must forfeit $1,743,400 in illegal proceeds along with his residence, all of the counterfeit airbags, and the $60,000 of cash found at his home.  

U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins stated, “My office will not allow fake airbags to endanger the safety of the drivers in our communities.  Airbags that do not meet the quality and safety standards of the automobile manufacturers pose a serious threat to human life because they fail to work when they are needed the most, during a car accident.”

This recent guilty plea comes just after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warned of counterfeit airbags earlier this month.  

Source: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Update: Suspected “Chubby Bandit” Arrested

Update: Suspected “Chubby Bandit” Arrested

On October 20, 2012, the FBI, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, and the Carlsbad Police Department announced that Aaron Alan Hyman was arrested for the serial robberies that occurred around the San Diego area.  

The investigation began on October 9, 2012, after several robberies occurred by the same suspect.  After surveillance photos were released to the public, a San Diego County Sheriff’s Deputy identified the suspect as Aaron Hyman.  The deputy recognized Hyman from patrols in the past, and the Carlsbad Police Department helped identify Hyman as the Chubby Bandit as well.  

Aaron Hyman managed to rob five banks and a local pharmacy.  He also attempted to rob a sixth bank.  The robberies are listed below:

-the U.S. Bank on 12655 Scripps Poway Parkway in Poway, California was robbed on October 9, 2012 at about 5:32 p.m.
-the Chase Bank on 7176 Avenida Encinas in Carlsbad, California was robbed on October 11, 2012 around 1:03 p.m.
-Hyman attempted to rob the Chase Bank on 607 Lomas Santa Fe in Solana Beach, California October 13, 2012 around 1:30 p.m.
-the Wells Fagro Bank on 276 North El Camino Real in Encinitas, California was robbed on October 15, 2012 at approximately 2:47 p.m.
-the U.S. Bank on 770 Village Drive in Carlsbad, California was robbed on October 16, 2012 around 2:23 p.m.
-the fifth successful robbery occurred at Wells Fargo Bank on 11986 Bernardo Plaza Drive in San Diego, California around 4:11 p.m.
-the CVS pharmacy on 191 Woodland Parkway in San Marcos, California was robbed on October 10, 2012 around 12:38 p.m.

Hyman is booked at the Vista County Jail, and the FBI has not released information about his trial at the current time.

He was arrested around the area of Highway 78 and El Camino Real.  If you have any information about the Aaron Hyman that could be useful to the FBI, you can call (858) 565-1255.  

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Army Recruiter Guilty of Child Sexual Exploitation

Army Recruiter Guilty of Child Sexual Exploitation

On November 8, 2012, Arnold Gonzales received an 87-month prison sentence and 10 years of supervised release for child sexual exploitation.  He is required to follow sex offender registration requirements as well.  

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico reports that Gonzales worked as a U.S. Army recruiter at the U.S. Army Recruiting Station located in Midland, Texas.  Court documents indicate Gonzales used a computer and cell phone to convince a girl he believed was 12 years of age to have sex, and he was arrested on his way from Oklahoma to meet the girl.  

During the plea hearing, Gonzales admitted that he responded to an advertisement on a website posted by a Curry County Sheriff’s Office undercover agent, which read “Cute/young if age doesn’t matter hit me up.”  A large amount of communication ensued.  Gonzales sent numerous emails and text messages that asked the girl for nude photos and asked what type of sexual acts she would perform.  

Gonzales sent a text message to the undercover agent acting as a young girl on May 1, 2012, and he said he would travel to Clovis the next day to have sex with the girl.  He arrived to the residence the following day and the CCSO undercover agent arrested him immediately.  

The case was investigated by the FBI and the CCSO, and the New Mexico Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force assisted in investigation as well.  The Task Force is made up of 64 agencies at the federal, state, and local level, and the Task Force is funded by the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office.  The New Mexico U.S. Attorney’s Office, Project Safe Childhood, and other federal, state, and local agencies helped as well.  

Assistant U.S. Attorney Charlyn E. Rees was in charge of prosecution.  

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Shaykh Aminullah on Seeking Information—Terrorism List

Shaykh Aminullah on Seeking Information—Terrorism List

On November 14, 2012, the Federal Bureau of Investigation placed Shaykh Aminullah on the Seeking Information—Terrorism List.  Individuals on this list are believed to be connected with terrorist organizations with hostility toward the United States.  

The FBI wants to question Shaykh Aminullah about his connection and possible material support to al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT).  The LeT has links to al Qaeda and is one of the largest militant groups to date.  The Department of State labeled LeT as a foreign terrorist organization starting in 2001.  

Aminullah may have provided funding and recruits to al Qaeda starting in 2008.  He is believed to have provided items like explosive vests and other items to militant organizations in Afghanistan, and the FBI believes he recruited people to conduct suicide bombings.  

Aminullah founded the religious institution called Ganj Madrassa, and the FBI believes he may currently reside in the Ganj District of Peshawar, Pakistan.  He is about 50 years old and about 5’10” tall.  He has light skin, a round stomach, and he has a long dark and grey beard.  He usually wears thick glasses.  

He goes by the following aliases: Fazeel-A-Tul Shaykh Abu Mohammed Ameen Al-Peshawari, Abu Mohammad Amin Bishawri, Sheik Aminullah, Shaykh Ameen, Shaykh Aminullah al-Peshawari, Abu Mohammad Aminullah Peshawari, Abu Mohammad Shaykh Aminullah al Bishauri, and Shaykh Abu Mohammed Ameen al-Peshawari.

Aminullah is one of six people on the Seeking Information—Terrorism List.  This list is for people who are not indicted in the United States, and the list is connected to the Most Wanted Terrorists List.  

If you have any information about Amindullah, especially his whereabouts, you should contact the FBI or the closest American Embassy or Consulate.  The FBI has not released information about whether or not Amindullah is considered armed and dangerous.  

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

New England Crime Boss Nailed with 78 Months

New England Crime Boss Nailed with 78 Months

On November 14, 2012, the Department of Justice announced that Anthony L Dinunzio received 78 months in federal prison for a racketeering conspiracy that extorted payments from adult entertainment businesses in Rhode Island.  Dinunzio is the acting leader of the New England La Cosa Nostra (NELCN) crime family.  

Court documents indicate that Dinunzio was the NELCN leader since 2002.  He pled guilty, and during the hearing, he admitted to extortion and criminal racketeering in order to obtain between $2,000 and $6,000 per month from the owners and operators of the adult entertainment business.  

Seven leaders, underbosses, members, and associates of the NELCN have admitted to involvement in the extortion conspiracy, have pleaded guilty, and have been sentenced.  The NELCN crime boss Luigi Manocchio received 66 months in prison; Edward Lato received 108 months in prison, Alfred Scivola received 46 months in prison; Raymond Jenkins received 37 months in prison; and associated Richard Bonifiglia and Albino Folcarelli both received 84 months in prison.  Thomas Iafrate is currently serving 30 months in prison.

Assistant Attorney General Breuer stated, “Today, the admitted leader of the New England La Cosa Nostra was sentenced to prison for the years of significant harm he caused to the people of Rhode Island.  Anthony Dinunzio and his NELCN subordinates used threats of violence to extort protection payments from business owners throughout the state, and his sentence sends a powerful message about the department’s determination to hold mafia leaders and associates to account.”

Colonel Steven G. O’Donnell with the Rhode Island State Police stated, “La Cosa Nostra historically prides itself on preying on the weak to exploit their ideology of greed and power.  The factors that brought them ‘power’ have contributed to their demise.”  

The case was investigated by the FBI, the Rhode Island State Police, and the Providence Police Department.  

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation