Monthly Archives: May 2011

Voting Yes on Proposition 102 Strengthens the Colorado Bail System

Proposition 102 has been first and foremost on the minds of Colorado’s bail professionals, as well as thousands of bail agents around the country who have been paying careful attention. And with Election Day 2010 nearing, people will finally get the chance to support the bail industry in Colorado.
Proposition 102, according to the official language, is: “An amendment to the Colorado Revised Statutes requiring that only defendants arrested for a first offense, non violent misdemeanor may be recommended for release or actually released to a pretrial services program’s supervision in lieu of a cash, property, or professional surety bond.”
For Colorado’s bail agents, this proposed amendment represents a key opportunity to save taxpayers millions of dollars and prove that they are more effective at managing defendants than pre-trial services. If you are a Colorado bail professional, vote yes on Proposition 102 on Nov. 2, 2010. If you are outside the state, urge any Colorado voters you know to visit their local voting centers and cast their votes supporting the proposition.

To read the full text of Proposition 102, click here.


Ligambi ordered held without bail

Reputed mob boss Joseph “Uncle Joe” Ligambi was ordered held without bail Thursday after a federal prosecutor argued that he was a threat to the community and would continue to run the Philadelphia crime family if released from prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Troyer cited Ligambi’s “long history” as a member of the Philadelphia branch of La Cosa Nostra and his alleged role as boss of the organization for the last 10 years in urging U.S. District Judge Timothy R. Rice not to grant bail.

Rice agreed with the prosecution.

Ligambi, 71, handcuffed and wearing an oversize green prison jumpsuit, smiled and nodded to several relatives and friends in the sixth-floor courtroom as he was led into the detention hearing.

When Rice, known for his courteous demeanor, said, “Good afternoon, Mr. Ligambi,” the silver-haired defendant casually replied, “How ya doin’?”

Ligambi and 12 others were charged in a 50-count racketeering-gambling indictment unsealed Monday. Authorities allege that he headed an organization that used fear and threats of violence to control an illegal video-machine operation and to extort bookmakers, gamblers, and loan-shark victims.

The hearing Thursday shed more light on the lengthy federal investigation into the Ligambi organization. Troyer said the government had at least seven cooperating witnesses who would identify Ligambi as Philadelphia’s mob boss.

A detention motion filed by the government also pointed to surveillance and secretly recorded conversations that place Ligambi at the top of the crime family.

Ligambi’s attorney, Joseph Santaguida, said friends and relatives were prepared to post property valued at $1.7 million as bail if Rice would release his client.

Santaguida described the charges as a basic gambling case and said there were no acts of violence attributed to his client or any other defendant in the case.

The veteran defense lawyer said the defendants’ alleged mob ties were being used to deny them their basic rights.

“Because of who they are, the government is making the case a lot bigger than it is,” he said.

A second defendant, Louis “Bent Finger Lou” Monacello, 44, who was described as a high-ranking mob associate, was also denied bail during a separate hearing.

On Wednesday, reputed mob soldier Gaeton Lucibello, 58, was ordered held without bail, while Anthony Staino, 53, one of Ligambi’s top associates, was released on $1 million bail and placed under house arrest. Staino is one of the only defendants without a previous arrest or conviction.

Detention hearings are scheduled Friday for alleged mobsters Martin Angelina and Joseph “Mousie” Massimino.

The detention motion filed in Ligambi’s case referred to several secretly recorded conversations the FBI made during the investigation.

On one tape, codefendant Damion Canalichio threatened a loan-shark debtor, authorities said, telling him the cash he owed was “Uncle Joe’s money” and adding that “everything goes back” to Ligambi.

Authorities say they also have tapes of Ligambi discussing loan-shark debts with another cooperating witness. The witness, identified as Associate #1 in court papers, is Frank “Frankie the Fixer” DiGiacomo, a South Philadelphia mob associate, according to investigative sources.

DiGiacomo began cooperating with the FBI and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office sometime in late 2006 or early 2007 and recorded dozens of conversations.

Those tapes figured prominently in the state’s Delco Nostra investigation into a mob-run gambling ring in Delaware County that resulted in an earlier conviction for Monacello.

Now some of those tapes are surfacing as part of the federal case against Ligambi, Monacello, and jailed mob leader George Borgesi.

Borgesi, 47, is Ligambi’s nephew. Authorities have alleged that Monacello ran Borgesi’s Delaware County gambling ring while the latter was serving a 14-year sentence for racketeering.

A volatile mob leader whose relationship with his uncle is said to be strained, Borgesi was scheduled to be released to a halfway house early next year, but instead will now be to brought to Philadelphia to face new federal charges that could extend his time in prison by a decade or more.

The charges against Ligambi also include an allegation that he threatened a photographer who took photos at the wedding of reputed mob leader Staino in September 2010.

Authorities subpoenaed the photos taken at the wedding reception. According to court documents, Ligambi then “made threatening statements” to the photographer in an attempt to keep him from turning those photos over to a grand jury. Law enforcement sources say the usually camera-shy Ligambi didn’t want federal investigators to have pictures of him with other members of his organization.

The wedding, a lavish affair at the Curtis Center in Philadelphia, attracted about 300 guests, according to investigators who had surveillance set up outside the center on Sixth Street near Walnut.

Mob members and associates, including a contingent of alleged wiseguys from New York and North Jersey, were reportedly in attendance.

Investigators hoped photos from the reception would show Ligambi interacting with other mob figures. That, they said, could be used as physical evidence to establish relationships that might tie into criminal charges.


Bail set at $5M in granddaughter kidnapping case

KNIGHTSEN, Calif.—A judge has set bail at $5 million for a woman accused of kidnapping her 4-month-old granddaughter from her son’s Northern California home and then taking a cab 350 miles to her home in Los Angeles County.
Contra Costa County prosecutors say the judge raised 58-year-old Ericka Gallego’s bail from $150,000 on Wednesday after she was also charged with residential burglary.
Gallego was already facing a kidnapping charge in the disappearance of her granddaughter, Ramy Amadea Gallego, over the weekend from Knightsen, a town about 55 miles from San Francisco.
She was arrested at her home in El Monte on Sunday. According to acquaintances, Gallego said the baby was her own.
The Contra Costa Times reports that she is expected to be transported to Contra Costa County Jail from Los Angeles County in coming days.


Jails could fill as state reduces prison population

The number of inmates in Orange County jails could swell and a $21.8 million contract to house federal detainees could be in jeopardy if California shifts state prisoners to local jails.
Sheriff’s officials are still waiting to hear details of how the state plans to reduce its prison population by more than 30,000 prisoners, a mandate upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision this week the court ruled the state’s prisons have been overcrowded to the point where health services are severely lacking and prisoner’s rights have been violated.

But as the state looks for ways to reduce the prison population, the impact could be felt throughout local jurisdictions. State officials could decide to release convicted felons early, send inmates to local jails or keep inmates in county facilities instead of transferring them to state lockups in the first place. But law enforcement officials agree: the decision will likely have an impact on local crime rates and budgets.
“It’s still a moving target,” said Rick Dostal, executive director of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. “We’re monitoring this.”
Unlike the state’s overcrowded prisons, O.C. jails have been operating under capacity for months, a fact the sheriff’s department has taken advantage of to lease bed space to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Marshals. Facing more than $53 million in budget cuts in the last two years, the sheriff’s department has been able to stave off large cuts to the department thanks to those contracts.
But with the state mandated to reduce its population in the next two years, sheriff’s officials worry that bed space to be eventually filled, and the revenue from federal contracts could evaporate.
Assistant Sheriff Mike James, who heads custody and court operations for the sheriff’s department, said law enforcement officials — including department chiefs and the District Attorney’s office — have been meeting regularly to discuss the possible impact to the county.
One projection is that if the county keeps inmates that are sentenced in O.C. up to two years behind bars, who are convicted for non-violent and non-sexual offenses, the county’s 700 to 1,000 empty bed spaces could be filled within 14 months – without impacting the current contract with ICE, James said. Defendants who receive sentences longer than one year are currently transferred to state penitentiaries.
The O.C. jail population, without counting ICE detainees, is currently just under 5,000 inmates.
The financial impact could be felt in two ways: lost funding from federal contracts and responsibility to pay for housing state inmates.
“There has been discussion to offset cost from the state in some part, but it’s not on the same level,” James said.
“Of course, that’s all contingent on the state having that money,” Dostal said.
If the sheriff’s department loses the bed space and the contract with the federal government, it will be forced to go back to the county to ask for additional funds, or make deep cuts, he said.
Sheriff’s officials are looking at alternatives. One option, Dostal said, is to increase the number of inmates who are placed on ankle GPS monitoring bracelets instead of being jailed.
Law enforcement has already been working with the county’s Probation Department and increased the number of GPS devices being used in the last 18 months, James said.
But for county officials, it’s a waiting game, Dostal said. The state’s plan on how it will reduce the prison population is unclear.
County officials believe the state will likely try not to release inmates onto the streets. Instead, it is expected that Gov. Jerry Brown will push his plan for a large-scale transfer of nonviolent state prisoners to local jails, where costs are lower.
If the state decides to send current prisoners back to county jails, the assumption is that each county will receive its own inmates, Dostal said.
Of the 33,000 prisoners that are to be moved from state detention centers, about 1,500 are believed to be from O.C. That would be enough to fill up the empty bed space in local jails.
If state prisoners are released, James said there have been talks with the District Attorney’s office on how to track them.
But even if state prisoners are not released early, there is concern from law enforcement that it will nevertheless have an impact on public safety.
Another possible effect if state prisons are filled is that the court system court start issuing shorter sentences and the prisoners would be jailed locally. James said.
The Supreme Court on Monday gave the state two years to reduce the population, and two weeks to submit a plan.
According to the most recent crime statistics from the FBI, both violent and property crime has dropped across the country, including among Orange County’s largest cities.
“The worst case scenario is public safety suffers,” Dostal said.


Changes made to suspended monk’s bail

MONTROSE – Additional bail restrictions were imposed Friday on a former monastery priest accused of sexually assaulting a boy on several occasions at a Susquehanna County retreat center.

New bail conditions for Phillip Albert Ferrara, 48, include a provision that he not reside in a home with a child under 15.

Mr. Ferrara is no longer living at the Our Lady of Solitude monastery, in Apolacon and Middletown townships. Court documents now list his residence as Saint Marys, Kan.

District Attorney Jason Legg said his office has received a number of telephone calls from individuals in Kansas, including members of the clergy, who expressed concern because Mr. Ferrara was staying in a home with children.

Mr. Legg said he was not present at Mr. Ferrara’s arraignment when bail was set nor when arrangements were made for the ex-priest to waive his preliminary hearing in district court.

Mr. Ferrara is charged with misdemeanor counts of indecent assault and corruption of minors for incidents between November and January at the Susquehanna County monastery. He is free on unsecured bail.


Dominique Strauss-Kahn bailed over sexual assault allegations

The former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been bailed by a New York court as he faces trial for allegedly sexually assaulting a maid in a Manhattan hotel.

Judge Michael Obus set bail terms of $1m in cash as well as $5m in an insurance bond set against the international politician’s properties in the US. He also demanded that Strauss-Kahn surrender all his travel documents and that he remain under house arrest in Manhattan under 24-hour armed guard.

The ruling, issued at a Manhattan criminal court, will release the former IMF chief from his humiliating custody on Rikers Island, where he was held since being arrested on Saturday accused of having attacked a hotel maid.

Strauss-Kahn attended the hearing wearing a grey suit and light grey shirt.

The judge said he had based his decision on the sole concern of the court: that Strauss-Kahn return to court to face justice.

It was revealed during the proceedings that the grand jury of 23 members that has been sitting this week to consider the case against Strauss-Kahn has voted for an indictment to proceed against him. The precise terms of the indictment, including three counts of violent crimes, are likely to remain undisclosed until he is formally arraigned within the next 10 days, but it removes a major hurdle to the economist facing trial.

According to the charge sheet compiled by police, Strauss-Kahn is accused of sexually assaulting the hotel maid who came into his room at the Sofitel hotel in midtown Manhattan last Saturday lunchtime. The woman entered the room thinking it was empty. Strauss-Kahn is alleged to have come out of the bathroom naked and locked the door to the room before sexually assaulting her twice, once in the main room and once in the bathroom.

Representing the defendant, William Taylor argued to the court that Strauss-Kahn was an “honourable man” who had only one desire at this time, “to clear his name”. He presented the judge with the details of a New York security company, Stroz Friedberg, that would be responsible for ensuring that the former IMF chief would not flee the country.

Stringent conditions would include an electronic bracelet that would send a signal to the company and a police station the moment Strauss-Kahn left the property, video cameras to monitor him inside the property, and a 24-hour rotation of armed guards who would be physically present at the apartment.

Taylor said that Strauss-Kahn’s wife, Anne Sinclair, had bought a property in Manhattan under her name, and that it had been scoped out and approved by the security company as a suitable location for him to remain under house arrest.

“There is nothing more restrictive that can be accomplished along these lines,” Taylor said, adding that a large cash sum, believed to be $1m, had also been proposed as surety. But he complained that the prosecutors’ response had been “no, no, no, not that there has been any question of credibility of these conditions. That position is unfair.”

Taylor pointed to Sinclair and Strauss-Kahn’s daughter Camille, both of whom were sitting in court holding each other’s hand. The lawyer referred to the two women as the defendant’s “beautiful family”. “The idea that he would attempt to live the rest of his life as an accused sex offender in France as a fugitive is ludicrous,” Taylor said.

Taylor sought to rebut the suggestion that Strauss-Kahn had shown a suspiciously hasty departure from his hotel room in Manhattan last Saturday before his arrest at JFK airport by producing Air France paperwork that showed his flight to Paris had been booked in advance. He said the defendant had surrendered both his passports and that his UN passport would be handed over by the weekend.

Of the charges that he faces, he said: “We expect that Mr Strauss-Kahn will be vindicated. But that’s for another day.”

The Manhattan district attorney, who is leading the prosecution of the former IMF boss, told the judge that he was facing serious charges with strong evidence amassing against him. “While the investigation is still in the early stages, the proof against him is substantial and continuing to grow every day,” said John McConnell, speaking for the prosecution.

He said that the maid, a widow from Guinea in west Africa aged 32 who has been named by some French papers, had told a consistent story to investigators and had immediately sounded the alarm to hotel staff and police. Forensic tests taken from the alleged victim have yet to be completed, but “evidence supporting the victim’s account has already been found”.

According to McConnell, Strauss-Kahn presented a “substantial flight risk. He is an international figure who truly has global influence and that gives him potential access to enormous economic resources.”

Under questioning by the judge, it was revealed that the defendant has a US bank account with a “low seven-figure sum” in it.

Given his resources and influence, the prosecution said that no bail could be set high enough to ensure that the defendant would return to face trial. “His own conduct in this case has shown a propensity to compulsive criminal conduct,” McConnell said.


No bail allowed in alleged Houston decapitation

A Houston man accused of using a chainsaw to decapitate the body of his best friend and roommate after shooting him in the head will continue to be held without bail, a judge ruled today.
Dressed in an orange jail uniform, Noe Morin, 32, appeared before state District Judge Herb Ritchie, charged with murdering Marlon Thomas.
Police found Thomas’s body Sunday after Noe asked neighbor Adrian Bias to help him fix his chainsaw, then led him to the backyard of the Fifth Ward duplex Morin shared with his best friend.
Morin told Bias to look through a hole in the fence into the backyard of a vacant house next door.
Bias peeked through the opening and saw a headless body.
Morin said the body belonged to “Marlo,” a nickname for Thomas.
“That is what I do when people steal from me,” he told Bias.
In court today, prosecutor Lisa Collins repeated the phrase for the judge.
Morin was charged Monday with killing 35-year-old Thomas, his best friend of two decades. But Morin denies he’s responsible for Thomas’ death.
“He’s very standoffish and appalled that anybody would say he could do such a thing,” HPD homicide Sgt. Ben Williams said. “That’s his excuse: ‘I would never do this to him. He was my friend.’”
Neighbors say Morin had accused Thomas of stealing drugs and money from him.
Police on Sunday found Thomas’s body covered by debris in the backyard of a vacant house at 4611 Coke, next door to the duplex where Morin and Thomas lived at 609 Schweikhardt.
Court documents reveal that Houston police suspect Morin shot Thomas in the back of the head before severing his friend’s head and one arm from the body. The other arm was partly severed.
After uncovering the body on Sunday, police searched Morin’s duplex.
Williams said in a charging document that he spotted a trash bag sticking out from underneath the house, which sits on cinder blocks. When a female officer pulled the bag out, “a finger poked through the bag from inside,” Williams said.
Another officer opened the bag, which contained a head and arm, along with bloody clothing, Williams said.
Officer M. Khan found a chain saw underneath the house as well, he said.
An autopsy Monday determined Thomas likely was shot in the back of the head before he was beheaded.
Williams said Morin used the chain saw to dismember Thomas.
“It was quite clear that he did use the chain saw, and the damage to the body was very chaotic and ragged, not like something you would see with a knife,” Williams said.
Morin, a small man, apparently was trying to dispose of Thomas’ much larger body, but wasn’t able to finish the job, Williams said.
Morin is about 5 foot 3, the sergeant said, whereas Thomas was over 6 feet tall and 300 pounds.
“There was no way he was going to get rid of that body without getting it into smaller pieces,” he said.
Ritchie today appointed attorney Steven Greenlee to defend Morin. Greenlee said he is in the initial stages of investigating the allegations.
He said Morin is concerned about getting his prescription medication while behind bars. He said the medicine is for a physical impairment not a mental health problem.
Greenlee said he was not aware of any mental health history for Morin.
Morin has a lengthy criminal record in Harris County dating to at least 1998, when he stole a car. It includes convictions for aggravated assault in 1999, when he threw hot water on a man, and felony possession of a weapon in 2009.
Morin also pleaded guilty to evading arrest in 2001, driving without a license in 2005, unlawful restraint in 2005, misdemeanor assault of a family member in 2005 and misdemeanor possession of marijuana in 2007.