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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pennsylvania: Ex-attorney general sentenced to jail, then cuffed in court; Update on Perry Cortese

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Former state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, once a rising star in state politics, left a courtroom in handcuffs on Monday after getting a 10- to 23-month sentence for a retaliation scheme a judge linked to her all-consuming ego. Kane, 50, also was sentenced to eight years of probation by a Montgomery County judge, who said Kane's need for revenge led her to break the law and then lie to a grand jury. Kane, who was accused of leaking secret investigative files to embarrass a rival prosecutor, was convicted of perjury and obstruction.
Aside from the conviction, Kane's political career will be remembered for her investigation of pornography that she said was being traded on state computers by judges, lawyers and other public employees. Two state Supreme Court justices resigned amid the fallout.

Former Md. judge sentenced for ordering electrical shock for defendant
From Washington Post:
A former Maryland judge Thursday was sentenced to a year’s probation for ordering a Charles County sheriff’s deputy to administer an electrical shock to a defendant in his courtroom.

Robert C. Nalley, a former Circuit Court judge in Charles County, had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of violating the civil rights of the defendant, Delvon L. King, as King was about to be tried on a gun charge in 2014.

“To say that I’m chagrined to be standing here is an understatement,” Nalley said in brief remarks in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. Nalley said he felt “deep regret” over his “error in judgment,” which he said reflected not just on himself but also on his family and the Charles County justice system. Nalley did not apologize to King, who was in the spectators’ gallery a few feet away, or make any reference to him. You can see the crime on Youtube: 

Here's the full press release from DOJ
Friday, October 21, 2016
Jury Finds Texas Lawyer And Others Guilty Of International Money Laundering And Fraud Conspiracies

Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that a federal jury today found Perry Don Cortese (53, Little River, Texas), Priscilla Ann Ellis (51, Killeen, Texas), and Kenietta Rayshawn Johnson (35, Leavenworth, Kansas) guilty of conspiracy to commit international money laundering and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.  Each faces a maximum penalty of 40 years in federal prison.  Their sentencing hearings will be scheduled at a later date.

Cortese, Ellis, and Johnson were named in a superseding indictment on September 24, 2015.
According to the evidence presented at trial, Cortese, Ellis, and Johnson were members of an international criminal organization that defrauded dozens of victims across the United States and then laundered the funds, much of which were sent overseas.  The fraud schemes took several forms.  Many victims were law firms solicited online to perform legal work, provided counterfeit cashier’s checks for deposit into the firms’ trust accounts, and then directed to wire money to third-party shell businesses controlled by the conspirators.  Others were title companies defrauded in phony real estate transactions.  Other victims were targeted and defrauded by fake suitors on dating websites.  The conspiracy also employed hackers who compromised both individual and corporate e-mail accounts, ordering wire transfers from brokerage and business accounts to shell accounts controlled by conspirators.

Victims were instructed to wire money into funnel accounts held by conspirators, known as “money mules.” The funds were then quickly moved to other accounts in the United States and around the world before the victims could discover the fraud.  Bank records presented at trial indicate that, from 2012 to 2015, several millions dollars’ worth of wires were received in such accounts to be laundered.  Conspirators in Canada, Nigeria, South Korea, Senegal, and elsewhere helped coordinate the fraud and money laundering activity from abroad. 

Cortese, a licensed attorney in Texas, worked for the conspirators by laundering victim money through his interest on lawyers trust accounts (“IOLTAs”).  He also met with individuals in person to retrieve cash withdrawn from receiver accounts. Cortese recruited his paralegal and others to open such accounts to launder funds.  The evidence further showed that Johnson, then a bank employee at Capital One, helped create counterfeit checks and monitor money flows between accounts controlled by conspirators. 

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from various federal and local law enforcement partners throughout the country, including the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Toronto Police Service in Ontario, Canada.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Patrick Scruggs and Eric Gerard.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Former Kerrville Lawyer Perry Cortese Going to the Federal Big House - Potential 40 Year Sentence

Former Kerrville lawyer Perry Cortese found guilty of money laundering and wire fraud 
The Killeen Daily Herald has an indepth report on Cortese's legal troubles, excerpt here:
Two Bell County residents were among those found guilty Friday by a federal jury of international money laundering and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Perry Don Cortese, 53, a Bell County lawyer who worked in Little River-Academy, Priscilla Ann Ellis, 51, of Killeen, and Kenietta Rayshawn Johnson, 35, of Kansas, were all found guilty Friday by a federal jury in Florida. Johnson is Ellis’ daughter, according to the federal grand jury indictment.
Cortese and his accomplices could each face up to 40 years in federal prison. Their sentencing hearings will be held at a later date, a Department of Justice news release said Friday.
The trial lasted more than two weeks.
Evidence presented during the trial showed that Cortese, Ellis and Johnson were members of an international criminal organization that defrauded dozens of victims in the United States and laundered the proceeds. Much of that money went overseas.

Here's a 2014 review from Yelp:
  • Words can't explain how horrible of a person Perry is. He is a alcoholic that hangs out in strip clubs everyday, not to mention just got caught asking my wife to dinner on purpose bc he knew she was with me.
    If you hire this scumbag you are either a drunk home wrecker yourself, or are a complete moron.
    Check out his state records about all the times people have tried to get him disbarred. He is a failure at life.
    On top of all that he's too coward to talk to the husband of the family he wrecked ...
    Down south we call that type 2 things. Coward and sissy.
Fort Sam police officer allegedly killed 2 in drunk driving crash in San Antonio
Fey's vehicle collided head-on with a car carrying two parents and three children, police say.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Kerrville Juvenile Arson Case

Kerrville has recently made national and even international news and not for a good reason. Four 12 year old boys were playing with fire when one of them was accidentally splashed with gasoline and severely burned. The first news reports got it all wrong - claimed that the victim was playing in a field, when the other three lured him into a shed, doused him with gas and intentionally set him on fire. One boy was arrested and charged with arson causing bodily injury. The story went big time when the mother of the victim claimed her son, who has some disabilities - hearing impaired and maybe autistic - was bullied. The authorities fairly quickly corrected that and announced that it was an accident. 

That has not stopped the trolls on Facebook and comments sections in the media - some have advocated that the three boys should be burned alive, or locked up in prison for life.

I know it was an accident because I represent the first boy who was arrested and spent three weeks in juvenile detention, have met with him several times, and I've read the police and fire marshal reports. The adults who are writing these hateful things about three children are the bullies. My client feels awful about what happened.

MT Judge Under Fire for 60-Day Sentence in Incest Rape Case
A Montana judge who sentenced a man to 60 days in jail for repeatedly raping his own daughter is facing calls to step down. More than 62,000 people signed a Change.org petition to impeach Montana’s 17th District Judge John McKeon. Under McKeon’s ruling, the 40-year-old man would spend a mere 43 days in jail after admitting to sexually assaulting his 12-year-old daughter.

Bexar Judge Yolanda Uresti reprimanded for incompetence
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct has sanctioned Bexar County Justice of the Peace Yolanda Uresti for failing to comply with state law, incompetence in performing the duties of her office and engaging in willful conduct that violated procedures of her office.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What is wrong with Kerrville?

This is a screen grab from Peggy Stork's Facebook page. Gary (pre-beard) looks like he's had a few drinks. It makes me sick how some of Kerrville's finest are carrying on like he's an innocent victim instead of a child molester and murderer. I've gotten some calls from people with stories about him that put the criminal investigation into a very interesting light.

I found this gem on one of his supporters' Facebook pages:
"Amen! God bless all that loved them. May they rat in peace and love. My thoughts and prayers are with you today and always."

There is something seriously wrong with Kerrville. In less than two weeks we've had the Stork murder-suicide and learned that he was about to be indicted for child molesting, an innocent seven year old girl got shot in the head, and now a young boy was set on fire by two other boys. If I were looking for a small town to move to I'd think long and hard before I came here. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

More on Stork Suicide/Murder (??)

It is fascinating to see how people in Kerrville have reacted to the Gary and Peggy Stork murder-suicide (??) case. It seems that a substantial number of people think Gary was a wonderful person and are stumbling over each other to sing his praises. I am truly baffled at this - he had been accused of sexual contact with a child and Scott Monroe was to present the case to the 198th District Court grand jury last Monday. That presentation was cancelled after Stork and his wife Peggy were both found dead, each with a gunshot to the head.

Friday, over 800 people attended a memorial service at the Cailloux theatre. The city closed its offices so employees could attend. Hill Country Community Journal has a good summary of the event, captioned Pastor: 'Leave the judgement to God'

Greg Cummings, senior minister at Kerrville Church of Christ, had a simple message at Friday’s memorial service for Kerrville City Councilman Gary Stork and his wife, Peggy.
“We are not here to judge Peggy and Gary,” Cummings said at the memorial service. “God will do that. Our friends are being tried in the public opinion and in the media. Let’s leave the judgment to God.”

Pastor Cummings added: "... without the forensic answers to what actually happened in the Storks home that led to their deaths, people can believe one of only three options....You can believe that the case is a murder-suicide; You can believe they chose a mutual suicide and wanted to die together; Or you can choose to believe that they were both victims of a homicide."

He's right, and that's why I believe this case needs to be investigated by an outside agency like the Texas Rangers or preferably the FBI. The Rangers will only investigate if requested by the district attorney.

Some of the comments I've seen on Facebook are interesting. I posted a couple, basically saying what I've been saying on this blog, that is, why are so many people carrying on what a great guy good ol' Gary was, nevermind that little blemish of a child molesting charge or that he may have murdered his wife.

For example, here's a comment from someone, we'll call her Susie, I thought was a friend:
"So....you are privy to police facts?? Wow. None of us are. You must get some sort of thrill out of spouting venom. I remember a few times where you actually acted like a defense attorney and went to bat for a client that was "allegedly" accused of a crime. Innocent until proven guilty is all part of the American Justice system. I guess the Bonnie and Robert White flunkies have their own investigators and obviously attorneys in their pockets! Shame on you. Disgusting!

First off, a defendant is not "allegedly charged with a crime." He either is or isn't accused.

Second, I have to confess that sometimes I've been guilty of rushing to judgment. I have prejudged many people who may have been innocent and decent upstanding citizens - Charles Manson and O.J. Simpson come to mind.

As for the concept "innocent until proven guilty" - that is a legal fiction. It does not mean factually innocent. It means that a jury is instructed to presume a defendant is innocent until all the evidence is in, then decide if the State has proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury is asked one question: do you find Defendant is guilty or not guilty. Not guilty does not mean innocent. That's why defense lawyers don't argue innocence - to do so would be to take on an unnecessary burden.

If I am retained or appointed to defend someone, it is my duty under the Constitution to provide him or her with effective assistance of counsel, whether I think they're guilty or innocent. I no longer talk to the press about criminal cases I'm handling, and rarely discuss other criminal cases because I might later get appointed or asked to defend the person.  But being a criminal defense lawyer does not deprive me of the right to my own opinions or my First Amendment right to express them. 

Another FB member, we'll call him Bob, wrote: "Richard you are a angry man, i use that term lightly, get some help Son, i will pray to the baby Jesus for you." Aside from the almost illiterate grammar, this sounds vaguely mocking of Christianity.

I think after this I'll take a break from blogging - this Stork thing has just stirred up too much nuttiness.