Sunday, March 29, 2020

Amid Coronavirus in MCC Jail No Soap or Light Says Letter To Inner City Press


By Matthew Russell Lee, PatreonBBC - Decrypt - LightRead - Honduras - Source

SDNY COURTHOUSE, March 28 -- As Coronavirus COVID-19 has spread including in the prison system, Inner City Press has for two weeks reported in person from nearly every bail hearing and appeal in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York courthouse.

  Based on its articles it has received communications from many inmates and their family members. This is one of them: "Mr. Lee, the conditions inside the MCC due to coronavirus, are inhuman.  I have first hand information from an inmate, and would love to share it, so the world is aware of this situation that should be a shame to the authorities.  Since last Saturday March the 21st, and having few confirmed cases of COVID-19 inside the prison, inmates at MCC Manhattan have been practically on lockdown and isolated, only being allowed to call their family a few times for a couple of minutes.     This inmate described To his family the horrible situation for all the inmates.   
They have NO SOAP, no shampoo, no cleaning products, no clean uniforms for 3 weeks, no food or not enough food, they are locked in their cells almost all day and the guards won’t even bother to check on them for hours and hours; the guards close the doors and practically disappear; they can hear people screaming and crying all the time; people are being moved from one place to the other at all time. No sanitary conditions whatsoever, which increases the risk of the coronavirus spread among all the prison.  
 There are no doctors checking on the inmates to verify their health condition; the inmate told his family his eyes and throat were burning, and there was no one to tell, besides, there’s no medication available whatsoever, not even at commissary to buy. No toothpaste or toothbrushes available; no soap or hand sanitizer provided. No cleaning products for their cells.    This inmate reported to his family on Friday March the 20th that his cell had gone out of light; the light was not re established until couple days ago, so he was forced to be isolated in his cell with no light for several days."
 In fairness the U.S. Bureau of Prison tells a different tale, including in letters to SDNY Chief Judge Colleen McMahon, who on March 27 Inner City Press witnessed and conversed with as she experimented with technology to hear from inmates seeking release from the prisons.
  But BOP's letters and the US Attorney's Office arguments are in the PACER database, which unlike most media publication has not dropped its paywall for coverage of Coronavirus.
All of this hypocrisy takes place amid this global crisis as for example the United Nations while laying off UN Delegates Dining Room workers at his headquarters in New York City without any mitigation brags about giving old masks to the City amid a disease its boss Antonio Guterres helped mock and cover up, and bans the Press which asks. We'll have more on this. For now, a song, here.
***
Your support means a lot. As little as $5 a month helps keep us going and grants you access to exclusive bonus material on our Patreon page. Coronavirus and related coverage is free. Click here to become a patron.
Feedback: Editorial [at] innercitypress.com
SDNY Press Room 480, front cubicle
500 Pearl Street, NY NY 10007 USA

Mail: Box 20047, Dag Hammarskjold Station NY NY 10017

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

SDNY Courtroom Sealed Without Notice Or Name of Defendant or Case So Press Seeks Reform


By Matthew Russell Lee, PatreonBBC - Decrypt - LightRead - Honduras - Source


SDNY COURTHOUSE, March 25 --     A Federal courtroom was sealed and the Press ordered to leave on March 25, with no notice or opportunity to be heard.

   Inside the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Magistrates Court, a criminal proceeding took place out of public view. 

  The defendant was brought into and out of the courtroom directly by elevator. Neither his or her name, nor the case's docket number, were disclosed.
   Inner City Press has been covering the SDNY Magistrates Court this week, including government requests to remand defendants to the Metropolitan Correctional Center and MDC in Brooklyn, both with cases of Coronavirus COVID-19.
    The court to its credit has remained open, with a bottle of hand sanitizer at the entrance and social distancing in the gallery and hallway outside.
   But this level of secrecy, particularly without an opportunity for meaningful review, is too much social distance. Inner City Press was in the Magistrates Court on the afternoon of March 25. It witnessed and will report on a guilty plea in the 2011 PokerStars illegal gambling indictment.
   Then it was told to leave the courtroom, initially without any rationale at all. Eventually Magistrate Judge Sarah L. Cave, after summoning the prosecutor and defense lawyer into her robing room, emerged and said that on the motion of the government she found that the safety of the defendant and others justified sealing the courtroom.
   Inner City Press asked if least the docket number would be available.    Magistrate Judge Cave replied, No. Inner City Press left.  
 The process to review a Magistrate Judge's decision is to the so-called Part 1 judge, on this day District Judge Jed S. Rakoff. A call to his chambers resulted in an invitation to submit any request in writing. Inner City Press quickly drafted and submitted a letter, e-mailing copies to the prosecutor and to Magistrate Judge Cave's chamber.  Here is a portion -- in an abundance of caution we are not even publishing the name of the Assistant US Attorney: "Dear Judge Rakoff: 
   This is directed to you as Part I Judge. This afternoon for Inner City Press I was covering the SDNY Magistrates Court, as I do most days but with particular focus these days with important decisions being made in the context of the Coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic.
    After a brief guilty plea proceeding I was told to leave the courtroom, that it was being sealed. I asked Magistrate Judge Sarah L. Cave's deputy what the basis of the closure was and was told to speak to the District Executive.
     While I have much respect for District Executive Freidland, it is my understanding that Federal courtrooms in the SDNY (or 2d Circuit or beyond) can only be closed in accordance with, for example, United States v. Haller, 837 F.2d 84, 87 (before closing a proceeding to which the First Amendment right of access attaches, the judge should make specific, on the record findings demonstrate that closure is essential to preserve higher values and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest)...
 I do not know if it is too late to open that proceeding, but I would like action taken to release the docket number or a more specific reasoning to seal the courtroom.
To avoid this in the future I would like a process instituted or suggested by a ruling by your Honor that notice should be given in advance, so that the press can be heard (as took place under District Judge Crotty in the recent US v. Schulte case, with Inner City Press letters in the docket and a public hearing) and before Judge Engelmayer in the on-hiatus case of US v. Andrews (letter in docket, confidentiality of witness preserved by audio feed into Courtroom 506).
   This was not narrowly tailored, there was no opportunity to be heard and I am not sure if DOJ approval for a request to seal the courtroom was sought or obtained, if necessary. I am in the building and am available to present / argue these requests for redress at any time. I am cc-ing AUSA [  ] and Magistrate Judge Cave's chambers.
  To the system's credit, Judge Cave submitted an explanation, published below in full, and the matter on a going forward basis has been forwarded to the District Executive's Office and Chief Judge. 
"Subject: FW: Press ouster from Magistrates Court this afternoon, request for redress from Part I    
Good afternoon,     In the matter to which Mr. Lee refers, on motion of the Government and with the consent of the Defendant, I found, pursuant to Waller v. Georgia, 467 U.S. 39, 43 (1984), that if the proceedings in this matter were held publicly (i) the safety of the Defendant and others could be at risk and (ii) active law enforcement investigations could be compromised.  I also found that (iii) the Government’s interests in protecting the Defendant’s safety and the confidentiality and integrity of the ongoing investigation were compelling, and (iv) there were no reasonable alternatives to closing the courtroom that would adequately protect the Government’s and the Defendant’s compelling interests and still preserve the public’s right of access.
 Accordingly, I granted the Government’s motion and ordered the sealing of the courtroom, the sealing of related docket entries, and the delay of any docket entries until further order of the Court.     Please let me know if you wish to discuss further.     Respectfully,      
 Sarah L. Cave  United States Magistrate Judge."
 It is a appreciated. But this is, with all due respect, part of a pattern. Recently under Magistrate Judge Lehrburger a guilty plea was moved from the Magistrate's Court to his locked courtroom upstairs. Since the move to 24B, counsels have been allowed to argue privately to Magistrates (mis) using a pre trial services report loophope. There have been other presentments quietly moved to courtrooms where it was thought no one would show up.
   There should be a process for sealing a courtroom that allows an opportunity to be heard so that errors, that cannot be corrected, are not made. We'll have more on this.
***
Your support means a lot. As little as $5 a month helps keep us going and grants you access to exclusive bonus material on our Patreon page. Click here to become a patron.

Feedback: Editorial [at] innercitypress.com
SDNY Press Room 480, front cubicle
500 Pearl Street, NY NY 10007 USA

Saturday, March 14, 2020

SDNY Special Agent Has Coronavirus Filing In Sex Trafficking Trial Inner City Press Fought To Cover Shows


By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive PatreonBBC - Decrypt - LightRead - Honduras - Source

SDNY COURTHOUSE, March 14 – In the sex trafficking trial of US v. Carl Andrews that Inner City Press has been reporting on despite a partially sealed courtroom and US Attorney for the SDNY withholding of exhibits, the defense on March 14 asked for a stay of the trial.

The reason? Coronavirus COVID-19.
  Now in a response filed past 9 pm on March 14, Assistant US Attorney Daniel Wolf has in a footnote revealed that "earlier today a Special Agent of the Office was informed that he tested positive for COVID-19." Filing and more on Patreon here.
Beyond the impact on the already partially sealed trial, how might this impact the US Attorney's Office other cases and (lack of) transparency in the SDNY? Inner City Press is on the case.
   As Inner City Press reported, Chief Judge Colleen McMahon ordered that while upcoming trials should be postponed at least through April 27, already underway trials would continue. Now this - while the US Attorney's Office Press Office did not, respond to Inner City Press' written request for the exhibit that Judge Paul A. Engelmayer ruled Inner City Press should get.
  Past 9 pm on March 14, Assistant US Attorney Daniel Wolf replied opposing any stay, acknowledging the positive test of a US Attorney's Office security officer about whom the US Attorney's Office Press Office refused to answer Inner City Press' question on March 13 - and revealing that a Special Agent has tested positive: "The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York learned last Thursday that a special security officer (“SSO”) assigned to the Office tested positive for COVID-19, and earlier today a Special Agent of the Office was informed that he tested positive for COVID-19. Those assigned to the trial team for the Government have not had any known contact with the SSO or Special Agent, and common areas at the Office have undergone sustained deep cleaning and sterilization in recent days. For the avoidance of doubt, no one on the trial team for the Government is exhibiting any symptoms associated with COVID-19... As a result of the Chief Judge’s Order, there will be substantially fewer people present in the Courthouse this week. Finally, the Government opposes any additional voir dire relating to jurors’ specific views of COVID-19. The jurors have already been asked to commit to being impartial and taken an oath expressing that commitment. In addition, the Court has made abundantly clear to the parties and jurors its attention to the risks of COVID-19 and no juror has expressed any concern. There is no reason to take measures beyond those that have already been taken. For all of these reasons, the Government opposes the defendant’s request for a stay or, in the alternative, additional voir dire." We'll have more on this.
***
Your support means a lot. As little as $5 a month helps keep us going and grants you access to exclusive bonus material on our Patreon page. Click here to become a patron.
Feedback: Editorial [at] innercitypress.com
SDNY Press Room 480, front cubicle
500 Pearl Street, NY NY 10007 USA
Mail: Box 20047, Dag Hammarskjold Station NY NY 10017

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

In SDNY Sex Trafficking Trial Stay Demanded Based on Coronavirus As US Withholds Exhibits


By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon ThreadBBC - Decrypt - LightRead - Honduras - Source

SDNY COURTHOUSE, March 14 – In the sex trafficking trial of US v. Carl Andrews that Inner City Press has been reporting on despite a partially sealed courtroom and US Attorney withholding of exhibits, the defense on March 14 asked for a stay of the trial.
The reason? Coronavirus COVID-19.
   One of Andrews lawyers wants the jurors polled one by one. The other says Andrews constitutional rights are being violated.

  As Inner City Press reported, Chief Judge Colleen McMahon ordered that while upcoming trials should be postponed at least through April 27, already underway trials would continue. Now this - while the US Attorney's Office Press Office did not, respond to Inner City Press' written request for the exhibit that Judge Paul A. Engelmayer ruled Inner City Press should get. We'll have more on this.
  For the now concluded trial of accused CIA leaker Joshua Schulte, US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman asked to have the public and press excluded from the courtroom during the testimony of several witnesses.
In that case District Judge Paul A. Crotty scheduled a public hearing on Berman's request, held on January 27 before the trial scheduled to began February 3. Inner City Press was and has been there for both, picked up for example here.
  But dated March 6 and only made available over the weekend was a request by Assistant US Attorney Daniel H. Wolf the same office, asked Judge Paul A. Engelmayer to close his courtroom for another impending trial - with no proposal of a public hearing or any opportunity to be heard by the Press or public. Inner City Press as it did before Judge Crotty opposed this closure, now twice, see below.
  With transcripts promised but live tweeting still not allowed, ostensibly even in the "overflow" Courtroom 506, see below, Inner City Press on March 10 and on the morning of March 11 went to Judge Engelmayer's courtroom.
  At the end of the March 11 trial day, with the jury gone but still on the record with a court reporter, Judge Engelmayer brought up the issue of the partially sealed courtroom. He summarized some of Inner City Press' objection and offered a chance to amplify or explain them at the lectern.
   After the advocacy, Judge Engelmayer said that live blogging - the phrase he used - is allowed in Courtroom 506 since there is no jury, etc there. He directed the US Attorney's Office to comply with his order concerning transcripts in 24 hours without cost, and after oral advocacy added in exhibits.
 On March 12 after answering Judge Engelmayer's question in the courtroom on 13, Inner City Press went to Courtroom 506 and live tweeted the testimony of the sealed witness, here.  In essence after drug buys were described and audio and video played, the defense implied that one of the sealed witness' police colleagues may have followed Andrews' girlfriend - perhaps we'll have more in closing. The trial is suspended until Tuesday. Watch this site.
  The last witness of the day before that was John Jay full professor Chitra Raghavan, who became telling the jury how a victim can be sex trafficked by a pimp's use of "micro regulation," punishment and reward, surveillance and "gaslighting" (her word). It was said the direct will go another 45 minutes on March 12, then an hour of cross-examination.
 So Inner City Press hard-won live blogging (or tweeting) from Courtroom 506 and beyond will begin then. Watch this feed and this site.
  On March 11, the cross examination of victim Ms. Greener continued, along the lines of, How much crack did Andrews give you daily? She said she didn't remember.
  Defense lawyer Nelson confronted Ms. Greener with her grand jury testimony, and notes from meetings with the US Attorney's Office on August 16, 2018 and February 27, 2020. On these too, the victim witness said she didn't remember.
 At 1 pm on March 11 Inner City Press went to Room 516 - locked - and to Judge Engelmayer's courtroom: lawyers leaving. Earlier before 9 am Inner City Press filed this: " This follows up on my March 9, 2020 submission opposing the request of the US Attorney's Office to "partially" close your courtroom to the press and public in the above-caption case. While appreciating the slight modifications Your Honor made to the USAO's requests - providing for 24 hour later access, without cost, to transcripts (still not implemented) - I am writing again in light of this afternoon's impending restrictions, worse than in the recent US v. Schulte CIA leaks trial before Judge Crotty.     Although that trial involved CIA agents, a video feed was provided which simply turned the camera away from the witness stand when the confidential witnesses testified. Here, however, you have provided only for an audio feed. And yesterday Inner City Press was informed that no feed into the Press Room would happen because for some reason audio cannot be fed there. This makes no sense.     Then I asked if in the otherwise empty Courtroom 506 where the audio feed it to be provided, I would be able to at least use my smart phone, if not laptop, to live tweet the proceeding. Without explanation, I have been told "no." This also makes no sense. If the rationale to ban cameras in the courtroom is to not encourage lawyers, witnesses and even judges to grandstand or "play to the cameras," those concerns do not exist in an overflow courtroom without lawyers, witnesses or judge(s).     Given your order that the confidential witness(es) will occur this afternoon, and be only audio fed only into Courtroom 506 where I am told I cannot use a phone, I am writing to oppose this at this time, before court on March 11." Watch this feed.
  Hours after the March 10 session, still with the US Attorney's Office not having uploaded any transcript, or even started a file, this was issued: "PAUL A. ENGELMAYER, District Judge:  This notice is to inform members of the press and the public that an audio feed of the  testimony referenced in Dkt. 345 will be available in Courtroom 506 of the Thurgood Marshall  U.S. Courthouse, 40 Foley Square, New York, NY." But, Inner City Press is informed, even there no live tweeting will be possible - it is unclear why not. We will have more on this, and on the inaccessibility of the promised transcripts. How can it be that for this sex trafficking trial there is less transparency than for a Central Intelligence Agency trial?
   Back on March 10 Ms. Greener described being addicted to crack and asking a man named Mafia, in Brentwood, Long Island, to find her a pimp. That would be De / Andrews, who with his friend Gucci bought gift cards in a 7-11 in Brooklyn, to convert into Bitcoin into a Backpage ad.
  At that point Judge Engelmayer called a break and summoned the lawyers up to the sidebar, saying No court reporting. Nor could the press go forward. The sidebar discussion was not summarized. And it has been made more difficult to cover this trial than the just complete CIA leaks trial of US v. Schulte. This case is US v. Randall, 19-cr-131 (Engelmayer). Watch this site.
  Here's from the order proposed by AUSAs Daniel Wolf, Maurene Comey and others: "Dear Judge Engelmayer: "(5) because the defendant’s immediate family will be permitted in the courtroom during the UC’s testimony, the transcript of the proceeding will be made available to the public shortly after the testimony is given, and a live audio feed in another courtroom also will be provided, the proposed partial courtroom closure is no broader than necessary to protect the UC’s safety and the integrity of ongoing investigations."
  But it was broader than necessary. So, this immediate opposition, to Judge Engelmayer's Chamber (as was done with Judge Crotty in the Schulte case) and cc AUSA Daniel Wolf, see below and now Docket Number 343.
  Judge Engelmayer for now said the transcript has to be available at no cost in 24 hours - but how? - and that a reporter can enter the courtroom during the "closed" witness sessions. But live reporting? Watch this site.
Inner City Press' opposition: "Re: Press Access to US v. Andrews, 19 Cr. 131, including actual same day access to transcripts and exhibits, and press access to the courtroom Dear Judge Engelmayer:    This concerns the request of the US Attorney's Office to "partially" close your courtroom to the press and public in the above-caption case. The request was dated March 6, but Inner City Press only became aware of the request this morning, and immediately opposes it in the same fashion - email to Chambers and deputy to be filed inthe docket and on ECF - as it did in January 2020 to your colleague Judge Paul A. Crotty on a near-similar request by the USAO. 
This timely opposition is filed on behalf ofInner City Press and in my personal capacity. The  access restrictions are unacceptable, and go beyond those requested even in the Central Intelligence Agency trial before Judge Crotty, US v. Schulte, 17 Cr. 548 (PAC).   In that case, the AUSO proposed allowing thepress into the courtroom during the closure, and provided for a continuous live video feed of the proceedings, with camera turned away for certain witnesses,allow for live tweeting of the proceeding as Inner City Press has done. The AUSO also provided exhibits, and in some cases transcripts, in an online file for the press.     Here, AUSA Wolf's letter does not propose any press access to the courtroom during the proposed "partial" closures.Live tweeting would not, apparently, be possible of any portion of the proceedings(see, e.g., your case US v. Jones." 18-cr-834, at #364, pg 23 (October 17,2019). In that case, Inner City Press' live-tweeting drew an "incident report" a copy of which I have yet to see.) This hinders reporting. Given that and the simultaneous US v. Nejad and US v. Schulte, see above, provisions must be made for live-tweeting of this proceeding.
   AUSA Wolf said the public would have the transcripts the night after proceedings - but how? For hundreds of dollars? That is not access. He does not mention access to exhibits, as Inner City Press advocated for and has largely obtained in US v. Schulte, see e.g. its filings in the docket, viewable free (not 10 cents a page) herehere and here.

  The U.S.Supreme Court has recognized that reporting by the news media allows members ofthe public to monitor the criminal justice system without attending proceedings in person. Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v Virginia, 448 U.S. at 572-73  (1980). By attending and reporting on court proceedings, members of the press "function[] as surrogates for the public." Id. at 573.We ask that this be placed in the ECF docket and that these issues be addressed by Your Honor before the trial begins." Watch this site.

Friday, March 13, 2020

UN Guterres Only Told His Favorites UNnamed Philippines Dip Has Coronavi...

Exclusive: SDNY Lawyers Tell Inner City Press Press Jails To Be Closed For 30 Days With No Legal or Medical Visits, Nationwide


By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Patreon
SDNY COURTHOUSE, March 13 -- A well placed defense lawyer in the Southern District of New York courthouse on March 13 before 3 pm told Inner City Press that "the jails are being closed for 30 days."
  Further inquiry by Inner City Press with other SDNY lawyers confirmed "no legal or medical visits for thirty days, nationwide."
 A quick check-in at the SDNY Magistrates Court found an Assistant US Attorney arguing for the remand to the Metropolitan Correctional Center of a defendant named Sepulveda. 
 Earlier on March 13 SDNY Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang, with Inner City Press the only media in the Mag courtroom, said without the court reporter transcribed that "This court will remain open [albeit] with social distancing." 
Also on March 13 in SDNY Courtroom 15A Inner City Press came up a witness testifying by video to a Federal trial elsewhere, seemingly to avoid travel. The times they are a changing. Watch this site. 
***

Your support means a lot. As little as $5 a month helps keep us going and grants you access to exclusive bonus material on our Patreon page. Click here to become a patron.