Sunday, November 25, 2007

Concurrent jurisdiction-murder suspects face 2 trials, state and federal

Here is an example of the same incident where a person could be charged in both state and federal court.

Hawaii murder suspects face two trials

By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer

The first trial of Rodney Joseph Jr., one of three men charged with murder in the January 2004 Pali golf course shooting case, is scheduled to begin Dec. 3 in state court.

Joseph's second trial, involving different charges but based on many of the same facts, is supposed to begin in February in federal court.

Joseph has pleaded not guilty to both sets of charges, although negotiations leading to a possible plea bargain are under way, according to recently filed court documents.

Two other defendants, Ethan "Malu" Motta and Kevin "Pancho" Gonsalves, are also charged in both cases and have also pleaded not guilty. Motta and Gonsalves will be tried separately from Joseph in state court but lost requests to be tried separately in federal court.

Parallel or overlapping criminal prosecutions in state and federal court here are rare, according to criminal defense lawyers and a former federal prosecutor.

Defense attorneys involved in the Pali golf course cases declined to discuss the issue, saying they could not comment on pending cases.

Jim Fulton, executive assistant to City Prosecuting Attorney Peter Carlisle, said his office couldn't comment on the substance of the case, but said, "Rodney Joseph requested to go to trial first in state court. It was his choice."

Jury selection in the state trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 3. The federal case is set for trial Feb. 12.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Brady, who is prosecuting the federal case, couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

Defense lawyer Brook Hart said he could not recall any recent criminal cases that were tried both federally and locally. He remembered a gun possession case in the mid-1970s that was prosecuted in both federal and state courts, "but it certainly doesn't happen very often."

Usually one jurisdiction or the other will agree to handle prosecution duties, Hart said.

"You'd expect there would be some coordination and cooperation between law enforcement agencies to avoid what would seem to be wasteful, time-consuming and unduly expensive duplications of efforts," Hart said.

Joseph, Motta and Gonsalves face terms of life without parole if convicted of the state charges.

At one point, federal authorities considered seeking the death penalty against the men, but the Justice Department notified parties in the case in late June that it would not.

If the federal government had decided to make the trial a death penalty case, Carlisle's office was expected to drop its prosecution. But now both cases are on track for trial.

The Pali shooting was the result of rivalries among groups providing security for illegal casino gambling games in Honolulu, according to law enforcement.

Joseph, Motta and Gonsalves are charged with the shooting deaths of Lepo Utu Taliese and Romelius Corpuz and the attempted murder of Tinoimalu Sao, who was critically wounded with a shot to the head. Sao recovered but still carries the metal slug inside his head, according to court files.

The federal case includes charges of racketeering and using violence in aid of racketeering.

Other defendants in the federal case include Kai Ming Wang, also known as "A Fook," alleged to be the operator of illegal gaming casinos here who hired Joseph and other defendants to provide security at the games.

Wang, a restaurant owner, has pleaded not guilty and denied involvement in the gambling operations.

Raymond Gomes Jr., charged with racketeering and a gun charge by federal authorities, is scheduled to stand trial with Wang, Joseph, Motta and Gonsalves in February.

Several other defendants charged with gambling and other offenses in the federal case have since pleaded guilty in the case. They are Siaosi Alapati, Peter Matautia, Matthew Taufetee and Joe White.

Joseph gave a lengthy statement to police when he turned himself in after the shooting, but that statement was later suppressed in state court after Joseph's lawyers argued that the defendant's original lawyer should not have allowed some admissions to be made.

Federal authorities plan to use some of the the contents of that statement against Joseph and other defendants, although arguments about its admissibility under federal rules are still going on.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Freeze "Credit Reports" to protect from identity theft

Here is a "MUST READ" article for those who are concerned about phishing or identity theft.

Consumers can now 'freeze' their credit reports

By Michelle Singletary

WASHINGTON — Just as the holiday shopping rush begins, all three of the major credit bureaus have decided they will provide consumers with a powerful tool to protect themselves from identity theft.

Within the last month, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion began offering consumers nationwide the option of freezing their credit reports. A security freeze is so much better than a "fraud alert," which is what consumers are typically advised to do when they are either victims of identity theft or think their information has been compromised.

A fraud alert simply tells potential lenders that they need to take extra care and certain steps before granting credit. The alert doesn't block access to your files, so it's not foolproof.

With a security freeze, lenders and businesses cannot get access to your credit files or your credit scores without your authorization. This means they aren't likely to issue new credit. That in turn greatly reduces the chance that a thief will be able to get credit in your name and damage your credit profile.

Until now, if you wanted to freeze your credit reports, you had to live in a state where the practice was allowed. Laws in 39 states (including Hawai'i) and the District of Columbia give consumers that option.

For details on security freeze laws, use Consumers Union's "Guide to Security Freeze Protection" at Consumers Union has compiled a detailed list of each state's law, including when and how you can lift the freeze. The site also provides direct links to the three credit bureaus' security freeze information. Just be sure to double check with each bureau when placing a security freeze to make sure you are sending the right information.

To implement a freeze, you will have to send a certified letter to each of the three major credit bureaus. When applying for a security freeze, you get a PIN (personal identification number) or password, which you will need to use to lift the freeze from your file. The security freeze will remain in place until you request that it be permanently removed or temporarily lifted for a specific time or for a particular creditor or company (for example, an employer or landlord wanting to check your credit history).

Experian enables consumers to lift the freeze within 15 minutes by making a request online or by phone. Equifax and TransUnion allow consumers to lift the freeze by phone or by mail, but the request can take up to three days from the date of receipt.