Legal Update: “What is the NYPD hiding?”

This is a story of a cop and the case that haunts him. Forty-six years ago, NYPD Patrolman Phillip Cardillo was gunned down inside Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam Mosque #7 in Harlem. After a lengthy investigation strewn with roadblocks (detailed by Judicial Watch here and here) Detective Randy Jurgensen made an arrest. But evidence had disappeared, the crime scene had been erased, and a special prosecutor later determined there was “a concerted and orchestrated effort” by senior members of the NYPD to impede the murder investigation.

Jurgensen—a legendary NYPD detective who helped put away five cop-killers—believes he got the right man. Much of the law-enforcement community in New York agrees with him. But the trial of Lewis 17X Dupree resulted in a hung jury. At a second trial, he was acquitted. Jurgensen did not quit seeking answers. Years later, after his retirement from the NYPD, he wrote a book, Circle of Six, raising important questions about the case.

Following publication of Circle of Six, a prosecutor in the Dupree case, James Harmon, wrote a letter to then-Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. The letter was included in a paperback edition of the book. Harmon wrote: “Was there a conspiracy to lure police officers into the Mosque as part of a planned ambush, the purpose of which was to kill them?”

Cardillo and his partner had been lured to the mosque by a fake 10-13 “officer-in-distress call.” At the mosque, the front doors, usually manned by a Nation of Islam security detail, were open and unguarded. The officers rushed in.

Harmon also raised important questions about the role of the FBI in the incident. Police officers had “reported contact with unidentified FBI agents in the hours immediately following” the Cardillo shooting, Harmon wrote. He added, “In my long experience in law enforcement, this FBI presence was highly unusual and remains unexplained.”

Jurgensen’s book and Harmon’s letter led Kelly to re-open the Cardillo case in 2006, instructing the NYPD Major Case Squad to take a fresh look.

This was a high-level move. A cop was dead and no one had served a day in jail for the crime. The police commissioner himself was ordering a new look at the crime. Jurgensen and Harmon had several meetings with senior NYPD officials about the case, including Kelly.

Jurgensen assisted the Major Case investigation. He turned over his extensive personal files. He provided his copy of the 10-13 tape. He unearthed a secret NYPD report on the case, the so-called “Blue Book.”

NYPD officials told Jurgensen that the case material he provided, including the 10-13 tape, would be returned to him. They told him a final report on the murder was being prepared. They told him that copies of the report would be provided to him, the Cardillo family, and the Manhattan District Attorney.

None of that happened.

In 2011, Judicial Watch opened its own investigation. By then, according to several police sources, the Major Case Squad investigation had been closed.

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The Silver Standard

Sheldon Silver, the powerful former speaker of the New York State Assembly, went down last week—again—on corruption charges. Silver was convicted in 2015 of pocketing nearly $4 million in kickbacks and bribes, but the verdict was overturned in 2016 after the Supreme Court’s McDonnell decision narrowed the legal definition of public corruption. Prosecutors, said McDonnell, must show a quid-pro-quo “official action” to prove honest services fraud. Actions such as “setting up a meeting, talking to another official, or organizing an event” would not cut it, the court ruled. “To qualify as an ‘official act,’ the public official must make a decision or take an action on that question or matter, or agree to do so.” Much handwringing followed the decision, including from these quarters, saying that the Court had set the bar too high. Those concerns seemed justified last year when Senator Robert Menendez beat a corruption rap in part due to McDonnell.

But in the Silver case, prosecutors got it right. And in doing so, they set a new standard for prosecuting public corruption. Not only were they able to demonstrate clear quid-pro-quos, satisfying McDonnell, but they appeared to draw two other valuable lessons from mistakes in the Menendez case: keep it short, and keep it simple. Menendez rambled on for more than two months and featured a globe-trotting cast of colorful characters, some of whom had little relation to the matters at hand. The first Silver case ran for a month. The second was over in two weeks. Key witnesses quickly made their points and were gone.

The Silver case revolved around two corrupt schemes. In one, Silver steered cancer research funds to a prominent doctor, who in turn referred lucrative mesothelioma cases to a Silver-aligned law firm, which kicked back more than $3 million to the assembly speaker. In the second scheme, Silver promoted favorable tax legislation for real-estate developers. The developers paid a lawyer handsomely for the tax relief, and the lawyer funneled a cut to his old friend, Silver.

It’s hard to shake the notion that in New York, all this is viewed as business as usual. Where’s the outrage? Silver is one rodent in a long line of rats. The former assembly speaker was one of the infamous “three men in a room” who control New York State government in Albany. The other two are the majority leader of the state Senate, and the governor. The former majority leader, Dean Skelos, also got a McDonnell pass after his 2015 corruption conviction and will be retried in June. A former aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo was convicted in March of pocketing more than $300,000 in bribe schemes. Other allies of the governor will go on trial in June in a bid-rigging case involving billions in state funds. The governor, lest we forget, shut down his own corruption commission. In July, the former leader of the New York City corrections officers’ union faces retrial on bribery charges. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is beset by corruption allegations. A sweeping graft case has rocked the NYPD. And the attorney general of the state has been forced to resign and is under investigation for assaulting four women.

McDonnell and Silver remind us that the law is a living thing, shape-shifting through the courts to chase humankind’s ageless propensity to evil. Who is winning the race these days? On that, in New York, the jury is out.

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Micah Morrison is chief investigative reporter for Judicial Watch. Follow him on Twitter @micah_morrison. Tips: mmorrison@judicialwatch.org

Investigative Bulletin is published by Judicial Watch. Reprints and media inquiries: jfarrell@judicialwatch.org

The Zombie Afterlife of the Clinton Global Initiative

The summons from Chelsea Clinton came via email, an invitation to “be the change.”

“I am so excited about the Clinton Global Initiative University,” Chelsea wrote. In October, student leaders from “CGI U” will converge on Chicago, working on “projects big and small to address climate change, poverty, gender inequality, and other pressing issues facing their generation — and all of us.” The email provided four opportunities to donate to the Clinton Foundation. “None of this great work would be possible without you and your continued support.”

In January 2017, the New York State Labor Department issued a statutory notice that the Clinton Global Initiative—the annual glitterati schmooze fest that brought hundreds of millions of dollars into Clinton coffers—would be laying off twenty-two employees. The news went out: CGI was dead. Hillary would not be president; the gravy train had run out of steam. The Clintons closed up shop.

But in fact, reports of the death of the Clinton Global Initiative were greatly exaggerated. It continues in a kind of zombie afterlife, along with other Clinton Foundation efforts, including CGI U. “Building on the successful model of the Clinton Global Initiative,” the Clinton Foundation website says, “President Clinton launched the Clinton Global Initiative University in 2007 to engage the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world.”

Mr. Clinton made a fortune from CGI U. His early partner in the project was the for-profit university system, Laureate Education. Laureate donated between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation and signed Mr. Clinton up as “honorary chancellor” in 2010. Over the next five years, Laureate paid Mr. Clinton more than $17 million. That’s when Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state and gearing up her presidential run. Laureate was controlled Doug Becker, a big Democratic donor. Becker stepped aside as CEO in 2017 with a $23 million package after taking the company public.

What does an honorary chancellor do to earn $17 million? Laureate told CNN that Mr. Clinton “inspired” people. The State Department stonewalled Judicial Watch’s attempt to uncover more details, eventually producing a heavily redacted contract that blacked out descriptions of the former president’s role. Laureate lately seems to have been shoved down the memory hole—it does not appear in current CGI U promotional material and both the Clinton Foundation and Laureate did not respond to requests for clarification. But Chelsea Clinton is carrying on the work. “We’re here with one of the most remarkable world leaders,” a Laureate student said in a video interview at a CGI U event reported by the Washington Post. “We’re here with Chelsea Clinton.”

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Micah Morrison is chief investigative reporter for Judicial Watch. Follow him on Twitter @micah_morrison. Tips: mmorrison@judicialwatch.org

Investigative Bulletin is published by Judicial Watch. Reprints and media inquiries: jfarrell@judicialwatch.org

NYPD Blues: De Blasio Takes Over

In 2011, then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg got himself in hot water when he declared “I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army in the world.”

It was not—not the seventh biggest and not an army—but Bloomberg was not far off the mark. With a current uniformed strength of about 36,000 and powerful unions, the New York Police Department is a profound force in the city, from the streets to the suites and in the corridors of political power. It has shaped the national and even international imagination in countless books, movies and television shows. The mayor rightfully exercises civilian control over the department and to varying degrees, and with varying success, police commissioners rightfully have struggled to keep the NYPD from being bent too far to the political will of the city’s top elected official.

That drama is being played out again today. Mayor Bill de Blasio, his eyes on higher national office, is wrapping his political machine around New York law enforcement, locking down avenues of transparency and independence that could cause him trouble. The mayor cloaks his moves in the progressive politics of his base but no one is fooled. This is about Iowa and New Hampshire and the kind of raw political power that de Blasio needs to exercise to keep his long-shot presidential hopes alive.

The mayor visited Iowa in December, insisting he was not running for president. His wife, Chirlane McCray, was in New Hampshire earlier this month. The New York Times recently noted that Ms. McCray “suddenly seems to be everywhere… [she] has stepped up her out-of-town travel, meeting with political leaders, speaking about her signature mental health initiative, networking and building the family brand outside New York City.”

In March, de Blasio installed a top political aide, Phillip Walzak, as NYPD spokesman, with the rank of deputy commissioner. Walzak was communications director for de Blasio’s successful 2013 mayoral run, a key City Hall aide, and helped run the mayor’s 2017 re-election campaign. New York’s police unions immediately denounced the appointment. “This is the clearest sign yet that the de Blasio administration thinks the NYPD’s primary mission is to serve as a political tool, not to protect the public safety of all New Yorkers,” said Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch.

“With the mayor’s former campaign manager now overseeing information given to the press,” Lynch added, “…how can either police officers or the public have any confidence that it will be dispensed with an eye toward public safety and justice and not filtered through a purely political lens?”

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The NYPD’s Despicable Lie

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Saturday marked the 46th anniversary of the shooting of NYPD Patrolman Phillip Cardillo inside Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam mosque in Harlem. A conspiracy of cover-up and silence immediately surrounded the case. Decades of controversy followed. No one served a day in jail for the murder. In March, Judicial Watch sued the New York City Police Department for records in the case.

The New York Daily News asked Saturday: “Could the secret to unraveling the Cardillo murder be in the withheld records of the NYPD? The Judicial Watch lawsuit may be the last chance to get to the bottom of New York’s most infamous cold-case killing.” The op-ed was written by legendary NYPD detective Randy Jurgensen, who literally wrote the book on the case, “Circle of Six.”

46 years after the Cardillo shooting, Jurgensen notes, “the NYPD won’t release investigative files, a promised report and an audio tape, preposterously claiming an investigation is still ‘active and ongoing.’” A ruling in the case is expected soon. Legal action also is moving forward in a parallel case against the FBI in Washington. Read more about Judicial Watch’s legal moves here. Read more about the Judicial Watch investigation into the Cardillo killing here.

The Cardillo murder has been pursued across the decades because of an abiding sense of injustice: that law-enforcement and politicians conspired to make the case go away; that evidence vanished; that the shooter was arrested and acquitted due to the earlier cover-up. The injustice continues with the NYPD’s despicable lie that there is today, 46 years later, an “active and ongoing” investigation.

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Clinton, Comey, Uranium One: Who Is John W. Huber?

Widespread head-scratching has followed Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent disclosure that U.S. Attorney John W. Huber is leading an investigation into 2016 election controversies. In a March 29 letter to Republican committee chairmen, Mr. Sessions said that Mr. Huber, the U. S. Attorney for Utah, had been appointed to “evaluate certain issues” raised by the GOP. He did not say which issues, but there are plenty.

In a July 27, 2017 letter, GOP leaders had called on Mr. Sessions to “appoint a second special counsel to investigate a plethora of matters connected to the 2016 election and its aftermath.” These included actions by Hillary Clinton, James Comey, Loretta Lynch and others, email controversies, mishandling of classified information, Fusion GPS and the Steele Dossier, FISA warrants, wire taps, leaks, grand juries, the Clinton Foundation and the Uranium One deal.

Mr. Sessions instead appointed Mr. Huber, “an experienced federal prosecutor,” and left the door open to a special counsel. Mr. Sessions noted that Mr. Huber “will make recommendations as to whether any matters not currently under investigation should be opened, whether any matters currently under investigation require further resources, or whether any matters merit the appointment of a Special Counsel.”

Translation: Mr. Huber is investigating the investigations, not the underlying allegations.

Mr. Huber was appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney in Utah in 2002. He was named U.S. Attorney in 2015 by Barack Obama. Mr. Huber has an important backer in Utah’s senior senator, Orrin Hatch. After President Trump requested the resignations of all sitting U.S. Attorneys, Mr. Sessions kept Mr. Huber alive with an interim appointment under the Federal Vacancies Act, until the president could be persuaded to re-nominate him. He was confirmed a second time for the post in August.

It’s a truism of law enforcement that if you want to pursue high-level political corruption, get yourself a junkyard dog—a strong prosecutor, good in a fight. Hickman Ewing Jr.—the former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee and later the Whitewater Deputy Independent Counsel—comes to mind. Mr. Ewing had a long track record of pursuing political corruption before Kenneth Starr tapped him for the Whitewater probe. The Office of U.S. Attorney in Utah, by contrast, has been toothless. Mr. Huber has not been implicated in any wrongdoing, but for the last three years it has been his shop and his responsibility. Before that, it was his training ground.

In November, for example, a federal judge dismissed the last charges against Terry Diehl, a powerful Utah developer and former Utah Transit Authority board member. The government was widely seen as bungling the case. The Salt Lake Tribune noted that Diehl, “a well-known developer with friends in high places — including [Utah] House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper — once stood charged with 14 felony counts that stemmed from allegations that he lied about or hid assets as part of a 2012 bankruptcy. Prosecutors had whittled the case down three times since early October, dropping counts of concealment and tax evasion.” Prosecutors acknowledged “missteps” to the newspaper, including getting wrong the amount of taxes Diehl allegedly did not pay.

Mr. Huber’s office also lost a 2017 case against real-estate mogul Rick Koerber, charged with running a multi-million-dollar Ponzi scheme. The case—the government’s second try—ended in a mistrial. A judge threw out an earlier case. The government will try again in September.

But the Rosetta Stone for understanding Utah’s corruption problems may be the sprawling saga of John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff, two former Utah attorneys general charged with a multitude of corruption charges. The case gripped the state for years. Mr. Huber’s office recused itself in 2013 from the investigations, transferring the case to Colorado. Later, the Justice Department declined to charge either man and Utah state prosecutors took over. Swallow was acquitted on all counts last year and the charges against Shurtleff were dropped in 2016 by Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings, who bitterly complainedabout FBI and Justice Department conduct in the case.

That’s how the game is played in Utah, locals say. Power brokers have the state wired. Mr. Huber seems like a decent man, but his tenure at the top of Utah law enforcement has been short and undistinguished. Why appoint him to such a sensitive position in Washington?

One explanation is that Mr. Sessions knows precisely who Mr. Huber is and what he wants from him. Mr. Sessions went to bat for Mr. Huber in his re-appointment as U.S. Attorney and named him vice-chair of the prestigious Attorney General’s Advisory Committee. Mr. Huber, a political survivor, knows precisely who Mr. Sessions is and what the attorney general wants from him.

Another more intriguing explanation is that Mr. Sessions needs someone who knows Utah. One part of Mr. Huber’s mandate, as outlined in the GOP letter, is the “purchase of Uranium One by the company Rosatom, whether the approval of the sale was connected to any donations to the Clinton Foundation, and what role Secretary Clinton played in the approval of the sale.”

Uranium One’s assets included significant holdings in Utah and nearby states. Prosecutors—and the media, so transfixed by the Mueller probe that they decline to look elsewhere—should follow the Uranium One money in Utah and the rest of the West. And if Mr. Huber does recommend additional investigations or a second special counsel, Mr. Sessions should get himself a junkyard dog.

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Bell Tolls for Cuomo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been slowly sinking in his own personal purgatory lately, beset by the corruption trial of a former close aide and a primary challenge from the Left by actress Cynthia Nixon. Things got worse last week when news emerged that a Cuomo-appointed parole board was freeing cop killer Herman Bell.

The news sent a shock wave across New York. Bell was one of three members of the radical Black Liberation Army responsible for the brutal 1971 slaughter of two New York City police officers, Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones. Judicial Watch told the story when Bell came up for parole in 2014. Piagentini and Jones were ambushed at a housing project in Harlem, lured there by a fake 911 call. (Readers of Investigative Bulletin will recall a fake call, a year later, lured NYPD Patrolman Phillip Cardillo to his death in Harlem.) Jones died immediately in a hail of gunfire. Piagentini took longer to die, pleading with his killers that he had a wife and daughters at home. They showed him no mercy, firing twenty-two bullets into his body.

Justice caught up with Herman Bell in 1973 and he has been in prison ever since. For decades, he insisted he was innocent. His story began to change only when it became obvious that he would never escape prison without accepting responsibility for his crimes. But as late as a 2012 appearance before the parole board, he still insisted he was “a political prisoner.”

In an appearance before the parole board this year, Bell took a different position. “There was nothing political about the act, as much as I thought at the time,” he said. “It was murder and horribly wrong.”

Bell will walk free in April and there appears to be little anyone can do about it. Political leaders and police unions have bitterly protested the move, aiming much of their wrath at Cuomo. The governor claims he is powerless to reverse the parole board’s decision. But Cuomo’s appointees, noted the New York Post, “have been much more parole-friendly than their Republican-appointed predecessors.” That’s an outrage. And it’s contributing to Cuomo’s deepening electoral problems.

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Micah Morrison is chief investigative reporter for Judicial Watch. Follow him on Twitter @micah_morrison. Tips: mmorrison@judicialwatch.org

Investigative Bulletin is published by Judicial Watch. Reprints and media inquiries: jfarrell@judicialwatch.org

 

NYPD to Judicial Watch: Drop Dead

Cardillo FOIL Case Update

Courtroom action opened Tuesday in Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Law lawsuit against the NYPD in New York State Supreme Court. Under state FOIL laws, Judicial Watch sought records, a final report and a key audio tape of a 10-13 “officer in distress” call made in the 46-year-old Phillip Cardillo murder case. The NYPD told Judicial Watch to go to hell.

Instead, we went to court.

Cardillo, an NYPD patrolman, was gunned down in a Nation of Islam mosque in Harlem in 1972. The NYPD claims the Cardillo case, after more than four decades, is still “active and ongoing.”

Judicial Watch argued that, on both the facts and the law, the case is closed, and that the public has a right to the information.

Judge Verna Saunders is presiding in the case. Despite a late shift of the lawsuit to her courtroom, she was well-prepared, asking sharp questions of both sides on the facts and the law.

The NYPD took an absolutist position on the Judicial Watch request—absolutely not. Judge Saunders inquired, might the NYPD be open to providing redacted documents? The NYPD lawyer side-stepped the question.

Might the NYPD, which claims it cannot find the 10-13 tape, turn it over if discovered on a further search? No, replied the NYPD, because the tape was part of an active and ongoing investigation.

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Cop-Killing Cover-up? Judicial Watch Goes to Court Against NYPD, FBI in Famed Cold Case

Tomorrow in New York State Supreme Court, Judge W. Franc Perry will hear arguments in Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Law lawsuit against the New York City Police Department in the murder of NYPD Patrolman Phillip Cardillo. The 1972 shooting of Cardillo inside Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam mosque in Harlem is the most notorious cold case in New York history. We told the full story here, and here. It’s an American tragedy, a tale of cover-up and betrayal in an era of dirty tricks and disintegrating cities. No one ever served a day in jail for the crime. A special prosecutor concluded there had been a “concerted and orchestrated effort” by members of the NYPD to impede the investigation. The FBI had informants in the Nation of Islam and information about the case—facts that were not revealed for decades.

Who orchestrated the NYPD cover-up and why? How deeply was the FBI involved in the actions that got Cardillo killed?

In New York, Judicial Watch filed FOIL actions last year seeking case records and a key audio tape in the murder. The NYPD responded with the astonishing claim that, 46 years later, the case is still “active and ongoing,” and thus no documents need be produced.

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Arkansas & the Clinton Connection

 

Rumors have been floating up from Little Rock for months now of a new investigation into the Clinton Foundation. John Solomon advanced the story recently in a January report for The Hill. FBI agents in the Arkansas capital, he wrote, “have taken the lead” in a new Justice Department inquiry “into whether the Clinton Foundation engaged in any pay-to-play politics or other illegal activities while Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state.” Solomon reports that the probe “may also examine whether any tax-exempt assets were converted for personal or political use and whether the foundation complied with applicable tax laws.” Main Justice also is “re-examining whether there are any unresolved issues from the closed case into Clinton’s transmission of classified information through her personal email server,” Solomon notes.

Solomon is not alone. The Wall Street Journal is tracking the story. And earlier this month, investigative journalist Peter Schweizer cryptically told SiriusXM radio that federal authorities should “convene a grand jury” in Little Rock “and let the American people look at the evidence” about the Clinton Foundation.

Judicial Watch continues to turn up new evidence of Clinton pay-to-play and mishandling of classified information. In recent months, through FOIA litigation, Judicial Watch has forced the release of more than 2,600 emails and documents from Mrs. Clinton and her associates, with more to come. The emails include evidence of Clinton Foundation donors such XL Keystone lobbyist Gordon Griffin, futures brokerage firm CME Group chairman Terrence Duffy, and an associate of Shangri La Entertainment mogul Steve Bing seeking special favors from the State Department. Read more about Judicial Watch’s pay-to-play disclosures here.

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