Monday, February 24, 2014

Ex-hijacker's case mired in bureaucracy

William Potts in Alamar, east of Havana
Lawyers are asking for a delay in ex-hijacker William Potts' trial because the State Department still hasn't turned over documents about the defendant and his time in Cuba.
The State Department allowed a prosecutor to view the documents in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 5, but wouldn't allow copies to be made. The department's legal adviser and its Office of Law Enforcement and Intelligence must approve the request for copies and they haven't done so despite repeated requests from the prosecutor.
The case had been set to go to trial on March 3. The prosecutor and defense attorney asked for a 30-day continuance in a document filed today.
Meantime, Potts said in a letter to Along the Malecón:
Alan Dershowitz
Well, I am waiting for this showdown in March. I have great expectations for a favorable decision, but you can never be sure with these people. For that reason I'm not just sitting with my arms crossed. I'm preparing to lay out my case in the best legalese I can muster before Alan Dershowitz, a famous Harvard law professor, for the hope of him making a pronouncement on it, a public pronouncement that is, with the aim in mind gathering more public interest in the case, which might further act as a safeguard against an arbitrary decision against me... 
I feel like one of those Japanese soldiers who has been hiding out in the jungle for the past 50 years and never go the news that the war was over. I've been back going on 5 months and I realize, just as I had long suspected, that the war is over and black people lost. I've reconciled myself to this fact and now only want to go home.
A hearing to discuss the trial schedule is set for 12:30 p.m. Wednesday in the U.S. District Court's Fort Lauderdale Division. The presiding judge is Robin S. Rosenbaum.
Potts' lawyer needs the State Department documents to prove that the ex-hijacker served time in Cuba. It's not clear why a seemingly simple request for copies was taken to such a high level in the department, a $47 billion agency with tens of thousands of employees.

The State Department website says its legal adviser:
...furnishes advice on all legal issues, domestic and international, arising in the course of the Department's work. This includes assisting Department principals and policy officers in formulating and implementing the foreign policies of the U.S., and promoting the adherence to, and development of, international law and its institutions as a fundamental element of those policies.
Mary McLeod
The acting legal adviser is Mary McLeod, a career State Department lawyer. She reports directly to Secretary of State John Kerry.
The department's Office of Law Enforcement and Intelligence:
...coordinates international extradition and promotes mutual legal assistance in criminal and other law enforcement matters; negotiates treaties; manages the international extradition caseload; coordinates U.S. and foreign criminal proceedings with foreign policy implications; assists U.S. federal and state law enforcement agencies with investigations in foreign countries; advises on proposed legislative initiatives and international agreements on anti-terrorism, narcotics matters, and other law enforcement issues; coordinates the legal/foreign aspects of illicit payments by U.S. firms; and advises on U.S. intelligence activities.
The document filed today stated:
The United States, by and through the undersigned Assistant United States Attorney, hereby files this joint motion to continue the trial date set in this matter for thirty (30) days because the United States Attorney’s Office has not yet received potentially discoverable material that is in the possession of the Department of State and that the defendant may be entitled to review. 
On September 26, 1985, Defendant William Potts, Jr., was indicted on one count of air
piracy, in violation of Title 49, United Code, Section 1472(i) (1984). [D.E. 1] Defendant was arrested on November 6, 2013, at Miami International Airport, and had his initial appearance on November 7, 2013, at which time the Federal Public Defender’s Office was assigned to represent him [D.E. 8]. 
On November 8, 2013, this Honorable Court entered an Order setting trial for December 6, 2013. On November 13, 2013, Defendant was arraigned [D.E. 10 and 11], and the Standing Discovery Order was entered [D.E. 12]. 
At the December 18, 2013, calendar call, this Honorable Court granted the parties’ motion for continuance of the trial and the matter was re-set for the two-week trial period beginning March 3, 2014. During the December 18, 2013, hearing the United States informed the Court that the Department of State (DOS) was in possession of materials pertaining to the Defendant and his time in Cuba and that these materials might be discoverable. The parties requested the continuance in order to obtain and review the documents. 
On February 5, 2014, the DOS gave the undersigned AUSA access to those documents at a facility in Washington, D.C. At that time, the DOS permitted the undersigned AUSA to only review the documents. The undersigned AUSA requested copies of the documents on that same day. The DOS advised that they would send copies of the documents only after the Office of the Legal Advisor/Office of Law Enforcement and Intelligence approved the request for copies. 
Undersigned AUSA has not yet received the documents. To date, despite several inquiries by undersigned AUSA, the Office of the Legal Advisor has not provided undersigned with any information about when the DOS expects to send these documents to undersigned. 
For the reasons explained, the parties respectfully request the trial be continued an additional thirty (30) days, so that the parties have sufficient time to obtain the above-referenced materials from the Department of State. 
Respectfully submitted, 
By: s/ Robert Berube
Robert Berube
Assistant Federal Public Defender
Florida Bar No. 304247
One East Broward Boulevard
Suite 1100
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301
Tel.: (954) 640-7106
Fax: (954) 356-7556 
By: s/Maria K. Medetis
Maria K. Medetis
Assistant United States Attorney
Court ID No. A5501214
99 N.E. 4th Street
Miami, Florida 33132-2111
Tel: (305) 961-9010
Fax: (305) 579-7976 
I HEREBY CERTIFY that on February 24, 2014, I electronically filed the foregoing Joint Motion for Continuance of Trial with the Clerk of Court using CM/ECF.
/s Maria K. Medetis
Maria K. Medetis
Assistant United States Attorney