Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Favorite White Collar Crime Movies and American Hustle

[American Hustle Movie Poster From Wikipedia]
As a former federal prosecutor and, currently, as an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer, I love books and movies about courtrooms and crime.

What is your favorite movie about white collar crime? Some of mine include: The Firm, starring Tom Cruise, Silkwood, starring Meryl Streep, and A Civil Action, starring John Travolta.

But after this weekend, if the critics are correct, I may be updating my personal list of favorites with a new David O. Russell film, called American Hustle. This new white collar crime movie has everything, including good directing, good acting, (with Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence, among others), and, apparently, a good, fast-paced script! The film reportedly focuses on the F.B.I.'s use of a two-bit con artist to pull a sting on some crooked politicians!

Speaking of stings, that reminds me of another one of my favorite movies about white collar crime:  The Sting, which starred Paul Newman and Robert Redford!

Here's hoping that American Hustle lives up to its billing and that it becomes one of our all-time favorite movies about white collar crime!

Again, what are some of your favorites?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Former Texas Congressman Tom DeLay Wins Appeal

[Tom DeLay's photo from "Dancing With the Stars" from wikipedia]
Did you hear the news? According to various news reports, a Texas appellate court has set aside the money laundering conviction of former Texas Congressman Tom DeLay. You may recall that DeLay had been convicted of allegedly funneling $190,000 in corporate contributions through his political action committee to various local state Republican candidates. Texas law generally forbids corporate contributions to state candidates. But Texas law also requires that, as an essential element, in order for it to be money laundering, the funds in question must, in fact, be illegally obtained funds.

In setting aside DeLay's conviction, the two-one court majority found that the State had failed to prove that the money which DeLay donated to the local candidates was, in fact, tainted money.

This case illustrates the point that prosecutors must be sure that they can prove each and every element of a criminal charge BEFORE seeking an indictment. As a former federal prosecutor, I faced the same challenge on each federal indictment I sought.

Naturally, DeLay is reportedly elated over the appellate court's decision. It remains to be seen whether or not the district attorney will appeal to the highest Texas appellate court. But one can only hope, in my opinion, that they will get their ducks in a row before proceeding any further on such a questionable course. In my opinion, this was a rank, ill-advised political prosecution from the beginning. The appellate court's finding certainly supports that conclusion!  What do you think?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mark Twain, Crime Rates, And Statistics

[Photo of Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens from wikipedia]
In my opinion, Mark Twain had it right when he said about statistics that, "[t]here are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics!" I don't trust crime statistics, either! I thought about Twain's quote when I read online, today, at neighborhoodscout.com, that, based upon statistical reports, Columbia County, the county I live in, is one of the safer counties in our State, in contrast to neighboring Augusta, Georgia, which reportedly has one of the highest crime rates!

Now, don't get me wrong! As a former state and federal prosecutor, and as a long-time Columbia County resident, I know fully well that, generally, Columbia County is a much safer place. And our local sheriff does a great job. But my point is that you can't believe statistics alone in drawing any conclusions about which place is safer, because, simply put, statistics are unreliable.

Let me give you an example to prove my point! Let's assume that a sheriff in one county works really hard and makes a large number of arrests one year. Ironically, the increase in arrest statistics will indicate that crime is getting worse in that county, even though the sheriff has actually taken more bad guys off the streets! In other words, the crime rate is up, but more bad guys are behind bars! So, it actually should be safer!

The converse is equally true! A lazy sheriff may make fewer arrests and then falsely claim credit when the crime rate appears, on paper, to go down!

So, when it comes to crime rates and statistics, I agree with Mark Twain! Crime rates and statistical reports are often just a bunch of lies!

What do you think?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. Sentenced to Federal Prison

[Photo of Jesse Jackson, Jr. from wikipedia]
Did you hear the news? According to various news reports, on Wednesday, former Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. was sentenced by a federal judge to serve 30 months in prison following his guilty plea to mail fraud and wire fraud, in connection with his siphoning $750,000 from his campaign account. 

One of the allegations in my prosecution, (as a former AUSA), of former Georgia Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker similarly involved using his own campaign account for personal expenses.

In the new case, Jackson reportedly used his political campaign account as a "piggy bank," over the years, using it to purchase luxuries such as a Rolex watch and spa excursions.

Jackson's wife was also sentenced to serve one year for her role in the scheme, according to reports.

To his credit, Jackson had accepted responsibility for his crimes and did not use his bi-polar condition as an excuse, at sentencing.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Life in America Today: Drones, the IRS, and the NSA

[Drone photo from telegraph.co.uk]
Are you as alarmed as I am about the growing government intrusions into our lives and privacy in America today? Just recently, we have seen reports about more and more police departments now using drones to spy on us. Drones have also been used by the government to kill American citizens abroad. Okay, maybe that last example won't upset you, because the targets have been overseas and terrorists.

But what about other recent examples, here at home? For instance, aren't you alarmed that the I.R.S. has been targeting conservative Tea Party members? How about the recent revelation that the government has targeted Fox News reporter James Rosen, and obtained his (and family members') telephone records, along with telephone records of other reporters at the AP news agency? Are you alarmed yet?

And now, today, we have also learned that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been secretly obtaining telephone records of literally millions of American citizens from Verizon!

Maybe we aren't all going to Hell in a hand basket, and maybe justifications exist for some of these actions. However, my point is that all of us, as freedom-loving Americans, should be vigilant and concerned about such growing government intrusions into our freedom and privacy. 

What do you think?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Happy Mother's Day from the Goolsby Law Firm!

[Mother's Day depiction from connect-in.com]

"A Mother's Day Memory"

          By Richard Goolsby

Oh, to think of Mother's hug,
Evokes a sentimental tear!
My heart strings pull and tug,
As Mother's Day draws near!

When I was young and ill,
She would rock me through the night.
That old rocker squeaked and squealed,
But still, she held me tight.

I can feel her arms around me,
As she held me late one night.
I can feel her love surround me,
Mother's love makes most things right.

I can see her -- just above me,
I can hear her voice, so clear,
And the words to "Jesus Loves Me,"
From her lips down to my ear.

Yes, it's true -- my mother's gone,
But it's also true, you see,
My mother still lives on,
In my heart and memory!

Happy Mother's Day to all moms "out there!"

Friday, April 26, 2013

Goolsby Brag Board: S.C. Law Practice!

I hope that the followers of this blog, written by an Augusta, Georgia criminal lawyer, (and former federal prosecutor), don't get too tired of reading posts about our lawyers' successes! I have one more accomplishment to boast about today!

Today, we learned that both my sons, Ric and Blake, with whom I practice law have passed the South Carolina Bar Exam, (and on their first attempt, too)! Of course, they already were licensed to practice law, here, in the State of Georgia. But now, we will be able to help clients with legal matters in BOTH states!

Since Augusta, GA is close to the state boundary with South Carolina, it made sense for us to be able to handle cases in both states. And now, we will!

Naturally, I am a very proud, fortunate father to have the opportunity to practice law with my two sons! And I can't wait until my third son, Zachary, graduates from law school and joins us in just a year! So, now you can see why we are so happy today at the Goolsby Law Firm! This is an accomplishment worth bragging about!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My Take on the Atlanta Public School Cheating Scandal

I would imagine that most of you are aware that, in the past week, a total of 35 Atlanta area public school teachers and school officials have been arrested in connection with the law enforcement probe of alleged cheating by teachers on standardized tests, which led to inflated student test scores in various Atlanta public schools.

Look, I am quite sure that we can all agree that such cheating is wrong! There's no room for debate about that! But here is my take on this prosecution -- and you may or may not agree with me!

First of all, I acknowledge that, presently, I am a criminal defense lawyer  in Augusta, Georgia. I proudly defend folks accused of crimes. But even as a former career prosecutor, both state and federal, I would never have made this into a criminal case. In my opinion, such cheating by teachers should be a firing offense, but not a criminal offense!

My teacher friends tell me that our entire school system is a mess. No Child Left Behind has put tremendous pressure on teachers to focus their efforts on test-taking and test performance, rather than on teaching the little urchins how to read and write! It is no wonder that some teachers will feel pressured to fudge on scores.

Again, I am not saying we should reward cheaters! That is not my point! All I am saying is that we shouldn't be trying to put them in prison, either! In short, again, this cheating, in my opinion, should be a firing offense and not a criminal offense!

What do you think?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Goolsby Law Firm, LLC: Meet the Lawyers!

As you may know, we are the Goolsby Law Firm, LLC, which is composed of father and son attorneys who enjoy practicing law together in Augusta, Georgia. But we also enjoy having fun together, as shown in the top photograph of me and my three sons on a recent hiking trip in the Georgia mountains! The second photo shows my second son, Blake, following his recent swearing in at the Augusta courthouse! I feel very blessed to get to practice law with my sons, and to share good, practical tips and information in this blog for you to discuss with your own criminal lawyer!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Churches, Copper Thefts, and Hot Places in Hades

We have discussed before in this blog about the problems of vandalism and thefts from churches, along with the exploding copper theft epidemic. This past week, both problems intersected. As reported by various news agencies, someone stole part of the copper roof and gutters from the Palisades Community Church in Washington, D.C., (not pictured above).

As a former federal prosecutor, (and currently, as an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer), here's hoping that D.C. police catch the crooks responsible for this theft. Here's also hoping that there is a "special" place in Hades for anyone who would steal from a church! 

What do you think?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Legal Question of the Day: Is Use of Drones to Kill American Citizens Okay?

[Drone Photo from telegraph.co.uk]
So, here is the "legal question of the day:" Do you believe that using unmanned drones to kill American citizens, on U.S. soil, who are suspected of terrorist activities would be legal?

The Attorney General, Eric Holder, has stated his opinion that such an action would be legal and justified. On the other hand, yesterday and last night, U.S. Senator Rand Paul, during a thirteen hour-long filibuster of the confirmation of John Brennan as C.I.A. Director, countered that such strikes would violate our Constitution.

Who is right? What do you think?

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Government, Peanut Butter, and Jam

[Peanut Pic from wikipedia]
Did you hear the news? According to various news reports, last week, the government indicted four former employees of the Peanut Corporation of America, including its former president, Stewart Parnell, for allegedly conspiring to sell tainted peanut products. The criminal charges reportedly center around allegations that salmonella-tainted peanut products were sold as a result of poor, unsanitary conditions at the company's Georgia peanut plant.

You will recall that the plant was shut down, and a massive peanut butter recall occurred last year, reportedly after nine people died and hundreds got sick around the country. Now, this federal criminal indictment follows.

What do you think will come of all this? Will the government get convictions? Frankly, as a former federal prosecutor for over 20 years, I don't know. I can't predict. In other words, it is difficult to predict whether the government can prove the requisite mens rea, or criminal intent. While the government may be able to prove negligence by plant operators, that may not be enough. Put another way, I believe the government will be required to show, at trial, that the defendants knowingly, or intentionally, sold tainted products. And that would be a tall order, don't you agree?

Isn't it more likely that, even assuming these folks may have been (grossly) negligent, they never intended to harm anyone? Of course, we don't know all the facts and all the defendants are entitled to their day in court.

But, in short, in my opinion, if the government cannot prove intent, the government's peanut butter indictment may be in a jam!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Droning On About Drones and Privacy Invasion

Drone Picture from telegraph.co.uk]
Much has been discussed and written about lately about the propriety of using armed drones to kill terrorists abroad. But here, in this blog, that will remain a discussion for a later day.

Here, today, I want to rant some more about the growing, unregulated use of drones by law enforcement agencies for surveillance in this country. In my opinion, not enough is being discussed or written about this  potentially dangerous practice.

Look, I am no "bleeding heart." I have always been a strong supporter of law enforcement. Even though, presently, I may be an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer, I am a former career (state and federal) prosecutor. And as a law-abiding citizen, I want the police to be able to do their jobs. 

But no matter who you are, and no matter what your political philosophy, in my opinion, we should all be concerned by the prospect of unregulated police agencies using unmanned aerial vehicles to spy on any and all American citizens. While some may say that only the criminals have anything to worry about, in my opinion, all of us, as free citizens, should question any unregulated government intrusion into our private matters. Moreover, in my opinion, unregulated police surveillance is subject to abuse, including by following  political opponents, or for stifling political dissent.

I am not suggesting that all drone usage should be prohibited; instead, I am simply advocating for further legislative discussion and some carefully considered regulations to prevent police over-reaching and abuse.

I am heartened to read that, just last week, the Charlottesville, Virginia City Council passed a resolution calling for Congress to regulate police use of drones in this country, including by forbidding the introduction of evidence obtained by drones in any criminal case. While this resolution may be merely symbolic, at least it may help encourage further discussion about this important topic around the country.

What do you think? Should the police be able to use drones to watch citizens and gather intelligence without a warrant? Do you agree that at least there should be some discussion and oversight?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Secret Service Nabs Alleged Counterfeiter

[Secret Service Badge Depiction from wikipedia]

Did you know that the U.S. Secret Service has an important law enforcement function besides just protecting the President and other federal officials? In short, Secret Service agents also have jurisdiction over investigations of various federal financial crimes, including counterfeiting of U.S. currency.

Just today, according to various news reports, including one by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a Woodstock, Georgia man, Heath Kellogg, was indicted in Atlanta, along with five other people, for allegedly counterfeiting $1.1 million in counterfeit fifty dollar bills. One unusual feature of this case, in addition to the huge amount, is the fact that this case involves fifties. Most counterfeiting cases involve printing fake twenties or hundred dollar bills.

As a former federal prosecutor, in Augusta, Georgia, (presently, I am an Augusta, GA criminal defense lawyer), I handled a large number of counterfeiting cases over the years for Secret Service agents. In fact, my first federal trial was a Secret Service case. Thankfully, I won it! Generally, I found Secret Service agents to be very professional and thorough in their investigations.

So, now, we have talked a little bit about the fine investigative work done in counterfeiting cases by the U.S. Secret Service. Now, if only we, as taxpayers, could get them to investigate the printing and wasting of our tax dollars by the federal government!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Accused of Mortgage Fraud

Lady Justice depiction from wikipedia]
I was a federal prosecutor in Augusta, Georgia for over 20 years. I thought I saw a little bit of everything! But I never saw a criminal charge brought against a judge. But that is exactly what happened on friday in the State of Michigan.

According to various news reports, a criminal information has been filed in federal court against Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway. Justice Hathaway is reportedly accused of mortgage fraud based upon alleged steps she took to conceal property she owned in Florida in connection with the sale of a Detroit home. 

In federal court, an "information" is simply the word which refers to the formal accusation, or the charging document, filed by an Assistant U.S. Attorney, in a criminal case. Generally, the government must obtain a grand jury indictment, in felony cases, unless the defendant is willing to waive it. If he or she waives the grand jury process, then the federal prosecutor is authorized to simply file the information, or accusation, to begin the criminal court process.

I thought that criminal charges being brought against a judge were unheard of. But then, I googled the keywords "criminal charge against judge" and got a long list of such cases.

So, maybe I didn't see "everything" after all, while working as a federal prosecutor!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin Indicted on Bribery and Kickback Charges

[Photo of Former Mayor Ray Nagin from wikipedia]
Did you hear the news? According to various news reports, former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was reportedly indicted today by a federal grand jury for allegedly using his former office for private gain. 

According to the reports, the federal charges include, among other things, $160,000 in bribes to Nagin and truckloads of granite for his private business in exchange for allegedly giving millions of dollars in city contracts -- post Hurricane Katrina -- to certain "preferred" businessmen. 

As a former federal prosecutor, and, currently, as an Augusta, GA criminal defense lawyer, I have seen this type of "mutual back-scratching" deal occur over and over. The names may change, but the white collar crimes stay the same!

Of course, an indictment is not evidence and the former mayor will be entitled to his day in court. It will be interesting to see what happens! What do you think?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A New Melissa McCarthy Movie About Identity Theft!

[Identity Thief movie poster depiction from wikipedia]
Look, just because we are Augusta, Georgia criminal lawyers, and just because I am a former federal prosecutor, it doesn't mean that we don't like to get out sometimes and have some fun, too! And if the fun somehow relates to our work, then that is fine, too!

I plan to have fun on February 8th by attending the premiere of the new comedy movie Identity Thief. The movie stars actors Jason Bateman and Molly McCarthy. I am a big fan of both of these actors, especially Ms. McCarthy. You will recall that Ms. McCarthy, who currently stars in the t.v. series Mike & Molly, stole the show in the movie Bridesmaids. According to previews, in this new flick, Ms. McCarthy's character steals the identity of Bateman's character and he is out to get her!

Although identity theft -- which is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States -- is no laughing matter, here's hoping that this new movie about this nefarious type of white collar crime will be entertaining! What do you think? 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Edwin Edwards In New Reality Show

[Gov. Edwin Edwards' Portrait from La. Sec. of State's site]
So, what does a former governor and convicted white collar criminal do following a ten year stint in a federal prison? Well, according to A&E and various news sources, they sometimes get their own reality television shows! At least, that is what is reportedly occurring in the case of former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards!

The flamboyant Edwards was released from prison in 2011 after serving a ten year sentence based on federal racketeering and extortion charges. That same year, following his release, the now 85 year old former governor reportedly married Trina, a 32 year old woman who had written to him while he was in prison.

And now, according to reports, A&E will produce "The Governor's Wife," which premieres in late February. What do you think? Will you tune in?