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In SDNY Clint Edwards Threatened Judge and AUSA Then Unable To See Video But Gets $65 an Hour CJA

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon

SDNY COURTHOUSE, June 3 – After Clint Edwards was sentenced on child sex charges on 30 November 2018 he issued threats against the judge and prosecutor. (Just as the name of the foreperson in the new case is redacted, we are not naming the targets of Edwards rage).

  But now, facing these new charges, he has been unable to watch the video. His lawyer David K. Bertan wrote Judge J. Paul Oetken of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York: "I, along with Jodi Morales, represent Mr. Edwards in the above matter. We are scheduled for a status conference this Thursday, April 18, 2019 at 12:30 PM. I am writing this letter to request an adjournment of the conference. This is my first such request. At our last conference, we adjourned to resolve several matters regarding the conditions of Mr. Edwards’ detention, and to allow him to review the video of the incident. While we are in the process of dealing with the detention conditions, the video review has been paused due to technical difficulties. Unfortunately, when Mr. Edwards finally received a copy of the video, he was unable to view it: according to him, the computer refused to play the video, responding with a status box saying “blank disc”. Both Mr. Edwards and one of the wardens were unable to get the video to play. Ms. Morales and I have discussed with Mr. Edwards possible resolutions to this matter, but Mr. Edwards, rightfully so, wants to see the video of the events before he decides which path to take. I have discussed with the Government several possibilities, one of which contemplates allowing Mr. Edwards to view the video on my computer in court at the upcoming conference. The video is 19 minutes long: a full review, with pauses and rewinds as necessary (the audio is not always clear, and needs to be reviewed several times) would take between 45-60 minutes. In the alternative, the Government has prepared another copy of the video and will send it to Mr. Edwards for his review. It will take several weeks for the video to make its way to Mr. Edwards in the Westchester County Jail, and may take another week for Mr. Edwards to review the video in detail. Accordingly, I am requesting that we adjourn the matter until early June1 for Mr. Edwards to obtain and review the video of the incident. If the matter is adjourned, I consent to an exclusion of time until the next conference. The Government has no objection to my request for an adjournment. In the alternative, I am prepared to show Mr. Edwards the video in court this Thursday."

  The proceeding was pushed back, with a conference scheduled for later on June 3. But how can it take so long for the government to get a working video to one of its prisoners? As an aside, the referenced Ms Morales is clocking in at $65 an hour. The case is USA v. Clint Edwards, 19-cr-18 (Oetken).

  When Frederick Lee Burgos came up for sentencing on May 20 he faced a guideline sentence of 100 to 125 months in prison, and an additional 120 month mandatory minimum, as part of a gang that sold crack in Hunts Point in The Bronx.

After a proceeding in which his Jenner & Block lawyer asked Inner City Press why it was in the courtroom, what it's interest is, Burgos received a sentence of time served. Then there was an order to seal the transcript of the proceeding.

This was in the courtroom of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Gregory Woods, who has imposed other sentences in the wider USA v. Palermo et al. case. On April 15 Inner City Press covered the sentencing of another members of the conspiracy, Felix Cordero Senior, also described as low level but who did not cooperate, to 120 months: ten years.

  If the goal is to send the message the the U.S. Attorney's Office will minimize the gun-play and crack sales of cooperators, why seal the transcript? Why try to pressure the Press to leave the courtroom, or to not report on it?

  The rationale appears to be that the cooperator is at risk. (Judge Woods gave weight to the fact that Burgos choose to remain at risk in the MDC in general population in order to see his son, rather than by moved to "GEO" further away.) But the Assistant U.S. Attorney said that Burgos' cooperation had been disclosed to co-defendant Ramirez, or at least to his lawyer. Was that under a confidentiality agreement? Is this any way to do justice?

  Earlier this year SDNY Magistrate Justice Ona T. Wang issued an oral order that the press covering her bench trial of Ivan Nieves, a defendant who wrote racist graffiti on a sign at the the nearby African Burial Ground should not publish the defendant's address in The Bronx, which had been said in open court. Judge Wang later in the day acknowledged this was or would be prior restraint but asked that the address not be published. Inner City Press voluntarily complied.

  Here, other than the pointed inquiry from the Jenner and Block lawyer, no such request was made (although Judge Woods and his genial courtroom Deputy did confer, perhaps on this topic). As in the case before Judge Wang, Inner City Press is voluntarily self-censoring. But is this any way to run a public proceeding?

  We'll have more on this - there is another Palermo sentencing set for later this month, and the sentencing submission of Palermo himself has just been filed, publicly, in the docket. Burgos' filing is nowhere to be seen. How much is missing? More on Patreon, here. Watch this site.

   In the same Palermo conspiracy, on April 15 when Felix Cordero Sr came up for sentencing he faced a guideline sentence of 120 to 150 months in prison as part of a gang that sold crack in Hunts Point in The Bronx. In the courtroom of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Gregory Woods there were only the judge and his deputy, a court report, a lone Assistant US Attorney and defense lawyer, Cordero, two U.S. Marshals - and Inner City Press. The tale that emerged what that Cordero Senior was previously imprisoned for conspiracy to commit murder, then for trying to sneak heroin into jail, then for fleeing the halfway house to which he was assigned. He then moved back to Hunts Point to work for a gang run by his own son Miguel Ramirez. In a reversal, Felix Senior took phone calls for his son, including inquiries into whether his son had guns for sale. Later Felix Senior was in a car with a Mr. Alicea, less than 18 years old at the time, fleeing the police. Alicea threw drugs and a gun out of the moving car.

 Judge Woods went through this history in detail before sentencing Cordero Senior to 120 months. His lawyer asked that he be assigned to the same prison as his son. Judge Woods said no, he would not recommend that. We'll have more on this sprawling case. 

  As if in a parallel universe the previous week at sentencing Will Baez spoke about his seven year old daughter and dream of opening an auto body shop. His lawyer spoke of conditions in the MCC: 26 men on 13 bunk beds in a unit with one toilet and one shower and rodents in the walls. There was no discussion of the safety value provisions of the First Step Act, which later in the day got a reduction for another defendant caught with five kilos of what he thought was heroin. Judge Abrams showed those in the courtroom the sentencing guidelines book and said Baez need not be defined by the worst day in his life. But ten years are ten years. He waved as they led him to the elevator of 40 Foley Square in shackles.

  Another defendant on April 9 before SDNY Judge Gregory Woods had no fewer than three defense lawyers with him, more than some defendants who face and receive much longer sentences. But Judge Woods' reasoning for imposing a sentence of 48 month in prison rather than the lower guideline of 57 months was that Martinez was that his was the lower level of the gang, that this will be his longest sentence on 15 convictions, and that Judge Woods hopes Martinez can get back to his 13 year old son faster than 57 months. It was as is often the case with Judge Woods a comprehensive and human sentencing, ending with an "I wish you well" and "Thanks." The lawyers, it seems, were from DLA Piper; it contrasts to other cases Inner City Press has witnessed this year, where a defendant complained that his passport was not returned, for example. We'll have more on this.


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