By JEFF GERMAN
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Monday upheld the illegal campaign contribution conviction of former political power broker Harvey Whittemore.
Whittemore, 62, was convicted in Reno of unlawfully funneling $133,400 in contributions to the campaign of Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Reid wasn’t accused of wrongdoing and did not testify at the federal trial.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel found there was “sufficient evidence” to support Whittemore’s jury conviction.
In a 19-page decision, the three-member panel said Whittemore’s defense theory — denying he had made illegal conduit contributions — was “not supported by law.”
Harvey Whittemore gonna take it up the butt. No crime was committed because the people were free to do whatever they wanted with the money, the lawyers contended.
The 9th Circuit panel also said it found that the presiding federal judge in the case, Larry Hicks, adequately provided instructions to the jury explaining the defense theory.
Whittemore’s lawyers argued before the panel in October that that there was no criminal intent on Whittemore’s part and the checks he wrote to his family and employees were unconditional gifts.r sentence at a federal prison camp in Lompoc, Calif.
He was convicted of giving money to family members and employees of his former company, Wingfield Nevada Group, and then using them as conduits for contributions to Reid’s 2007 re-election committee to skirt federal campaign laws.
Federal prosecutors alleged at the trial that Whittemore met with Reid at an upscale restaurant on the Strip in February 2007 and promised to raise $150,000 for the senator’s re-election campaign.
Whittemore hatched the scheme days before the March 31, 2007, campaign contribution deadline without Reid’s knowledge to fulfill his promise to the senator, one of the most powerful members of Congress, prosecutors alleged.
At the time, Whittemore was developing Coyote Springs, a master-planned community 50 miles from Las Vegas on the Lincoln and Clark county line, and needed congressional help to overcome government hurdles.
The Reno jury found Whittemore guilty of three felony counts: making excessive campaign contributions, making contributions in the name of another and causing Reid to file a false report with the Federal Elections Commission.
The Nevada Supreme Court temporarily suspended Whittemore’s license to practice law because of his conviction.
By JEFF GERMAN
Former U.S. Attorney Lawrence Semenza II, who once led the government’s prosecution of tax cheats in Nevada, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison Wednesday for failing to pay $290,009 in taxes.
Semenza, 72, was ordered to pay the money to the IRS as restitution and serve one year of supervised release after prison. He has until April 17 to surrender to authorities.
“This is a sorry day for me,” U.S. District Judge James Mahan said in handing down the sentence. “As a former practitioner of the law, it grieves me deeply to see you here.”
Semenza pleaded guilty in August to three misdemeanor charges of failing to file personal and corporate income tax returns from 2006 to 2010.
As U.S. attorney from 1975 to 1977, Semenza led the tax prosecution of notorious brothel boss Joe Conforte. At the time of his presidential appointment, Semenza was 32 and considered the youngest U.S. attorney in the country.
After his days as a prosecutor, Semenza went on to have a long and successful career as a defense lawyer, often sparring in court with members of the office he once ran.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Dickinson sought a two-year prison sentence for Semenza on Wednesday, arguing he was not an ordinary tax cheat.
“He simply knew better,” Dickinson told Mahan “There’s absolutely no excuse.”
In a statement afterward, John Collins, special agent in charge of IRS Criminal Investigation for Nevada, added: “It is especially egregious that a former federal prosecutor should try to skirt his own tax obligations. American taxpayers have a right to expect that everyone will be held to the same standard of tax compliance. No one, regardless of current or former position, is above the law.”
Semenza, who appeared many times before Mahan and other judges, apologized in court and repeatedly accepted responsibility for his actions.
“I offer no excuses for my conduct,” he said. “My heart and soul have been broken.”
Semenza added that he was “embarrassed and sorry” for letting down his family and putting Mahan in the position of having to sentence him.
Defense lawyer Mark Bailus sought a sentence of five years probation with six months of home confinement, calling Semenza a man of “extraordinary character” who spent countless hours providing free legal advice to clients and doing charitable work in the community.
Semenza acknowledged that he didn’t approach his law practice as a business.
“I just practiced law to my own detriment,” he told Mahan. “I didn’t pay enough attention to it.”
According to his plea agreement, for the years 2006 through 2010, Semenza had personal taxable income of about $655,000, and his law corporation had taxable income of about $345,000.
Semenza acknowledged that he did not file individual or corporate income tax returns for those years and failed to pay the $290,009 in taxes.
Attorneys for convicted former power broker Harvey Whittemore asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Friday to block a judge’s decision ordering him to surrender to federal prison authorities on Aug. 6.
At federal prosecutors’ urging, Senior U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks in June ordered Whittemore to start serving a two-year prison term next month for breaking campaign contributions laws.
But attorneys Dominic Gentile and Vincent Savarese said in their court papers Friday that Whittemore deserves to remain free while he appeals his conviction.
The filing of the court papers with the 9th Circuit automatically stays Whittemore’s Aug. 6 surrender until the appeals panel issues a decision, the lawyers wrote.
“This case presents novel questions that have not been resolved by this or any other appellate court,” Gentile and Savarese wrote. “Given the relative dearth of jurisprudence, the testimonial evidence in Mr. Whittemore’s case and the complex issues involved, Mr. Whittemore’s appeal is both hefty and meritorious.”
A Reno jury last year found Whittemore guilty of unlawfully funneling more than $133,000 in contributions to the campaign of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Reid wasn’t accused of wrongdoing in the case.
Hicks ruled in June that there was no longer any reason to allow Whittemore to remain free.
Gentile and Savarese had earlier persuaded Hicks to keep him out of prison on appeal on grounds the U.S. Supreme Court was considering a case that might undermine the validity of his convictions. But the high court’s eventual ruling this year did not have that kind of impact on Whittemore’s case.
Whittemore, 61, an attorney and onetime influential lobbyist, was convicted of giving money to 29 family members and employees of his former company, Wingfield Nevada Group, and then using them as “conduits” for contributions to Reid’s 2007 re-election committee to skirt federal campaign laws.
Contact Jeff German at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-8135. Find him on Twitter: @JGermanRJ.
Carson City, Nev. – Approximately 200 people attended the second of three annual saddle-trained horse adoption events held at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center (NNCC) in Carson City on May 31. The event was hosted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Nevada Department of Corrections.
Following a spirited competitive bid adoption, all of the 16 horses offered were adopted and as well as one burro. Bids started at $150 and the event’s top bid of $2,800 went for a four-year-old chestnut gelding named “Sunset.” The average bidding price for each horse was $1,105 and the total for all the animals was $18,800. The horses were gathered from herd management areas on public lands in Nevada, California and Utah and were saddle-trained for four months by inmate trainers in the NNCC program.
Claims that Nevada prison officials are improperly banning legal rights publications mailed to Nevada inmates have drawn a First Amendment lawsuit backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada.
A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Reno accuses the Nevada Department of Corrections of improperly using a restriction on mail with address labels and envelope tape as a pretext to confiscate and discard copies of Prison Legal News sent to prisoners.
“The First Amendment does not end at the prison door,” ACLU Legal Director Staci Pratt told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Censorship of legal materials through the establishment of arbitrary procedural roadblocks does not comport with the Nevada Department of Corrections’ constitutional obligations.”
Prison Legal News aims to protect inmate legal rights and educate prisoners on various issues.
The ACLU official said the issue goes beyond one publication to encompass the constitutional rights of inmates and publishers to communicate with each other.
Pratt said policies on access to materials could even affect the ability of children to send a report card or other communication to an incarcerated parent.
Officials at the Department of Corrections said they don’t comment on active lawsuits.
The Human Rights Defense Center, which publishes Prison Legal News, is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit. It seeks a court finding that refusing to deliver the publication is a constitutional violation, an injunction preventing prison officials from blocking the receipt by prisoners, and unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.
Pratt said ACLU officials are talking with the Nevada attorney general’s office about resolving the case.
It was filed June 28, shortly after corrections officials adopted a new temporary policy prohibiting mailed information related to security issues such as how to make weapons and sexually explicit publications.
The policy also states that inmates should have access to books through approved vendors, and it provides for an appeals process if a request is denied.
Paul Wright, editor of Prison Legal News, said he thought the prison restrictions had no connection with legitimate security-related interests, and were being used to justify illegal censorship by prison officials.
The June issue of Prison Legal News contains a variety of articles, including a state-by-state analysis of prison closures, a report on a New York decision that county jails do not need to provide law libraries and an article titled “How the Prison-Industrial Complex Destroys Lives.”
Wright said there is no consistent, blanket ban at all institutions statewide. He said the magazine has about 50 Nevada inmate subscribers.
The problem was more related to the publication’s book list, Wright said, including such titles as “Beyond Bars, Rejoining Society After Prison” and “Criminal Law in a Nutshell.”
Books ordered by Nevada inmates are frequently sent back, and Wright said it appears to be because of hostility to the organization’s mission to help inmates improve themselves.
The publication won a judgment and settlement in 2000 after suing the Nevada Corrections Department on the issue. The state agreed at that time that prisoners would be able to subscribe to publications of their choice.
Pratt said the agency never honored the agreement.
This motherfucker needs to go to prison along with most of the corrupt Nevada politicians like his ass licking buddy Harry Reid, judges, DA’s and other assholes committing treason, bribery and other heinous corruption.
From the RGJ:
When U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks decides the punishment for fallen power broker Harvey Whittemore on Monday, he’ll weigh Whittemore’s decades of work at the community and state level with the impact that illegal campaign contributions have on degrading the public’s trust of politics, experts said.
Las Vegas political consultant Sig Rogich said the four-year sentence recommended by the federal prosecutor does not fit the crime and fails to recognize Whittemore’s lifelong commitment to charitable work and community service.
But others, including a probation officer and federal prosecutor, said Whittemore was a wealthy, well-connected and intelligent businessman who manipulated his employees and the system to try to hold onto his political power. They said a prison term would send the message that money does not rule the political landscape in Nevada.
At the end of a three-week trial in May, a federal jury found Whittemore guilty on two counts of making illegal campaign contributions to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2007 and one count of causing Reid to file a false contribution report. The jury deadlocked on a fourth — lying to FBI agents. Prosecutors did not refile that charge.
Federal prosecutors and a federal probation officer recommended a 51-month prison sentence and a $133,400 fine for the 61-year-old former lobbyist and land developer, saying Whittemore’s actions were “conceived in greed, arrogance and the lust for power.”
His crime “affected the voting public at large and struck at the heart of the election process,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Myhre said in his sentencing statement. Whittemore deserves “a period of incarceration as a means to promote respect for the law and to deter future abuses by other individuals seeking improperly to influence the electoral process.”
Whittemore’s lawyers argued their client’s support of charities and volunteer activities, his upstanding character, his commitment to his family and his integrity should make him eligible for probation, a fine and community service — not prison.
A federal parole officer has recommended that lobbyist Harvey Whittemore be sentenced to 51 months in prison.
That’s one month longer than former Clark County Commissioner Dario Herrera received. Herrera took at least $60,000 in bribes, lied on the witness stand and did other nasty things as well.
I can’t believe U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks of Reno, the trial judge in both cases, will follow the recommendation from Wendy Beckner, a Las Vegas probation officer.
Hicks can’t possibly equate campaign contributions violations by Whittemore with overt corruption by Herrera, who sought not only cash from a strip club owner in exchange for his votes, but was willing to trade his votes for sexual favors.
The 51-month recommendation is not yet officially public, but I trust my source.
Whittemore, a prominent Reno lawyer and lobbyist before he decided to become a Southern Nevada land developer, was found guilty of funnelling $138,000 in campaign contributions through 29 people — family, employees and their spouses — to fulfill a commitment he made to raise $150,000 for U.S.Sen. Harry Reid’s 2008 campaign. In 2007, when Whittemore did it, conduit contributions were a crime.
But in 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized any amount of corporate contributions to political action committees. So today, Whittemore could just write a $150,000 check on one of his companies to a PAC, and that would be legal. No need to go through the charade of having others donate.
Whittemore faces a potential of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of three counts — making unlawful campaign contributions to Reid, making contributions in the name of others and causing a false statement to be made to the Federal Election Commission.
I am related to Harvey Whittemore and know that he does not use his influence to harm or disenfranchise anybody. Instead of attempting to blame Harvey for some of Nevada’s political mishaps by categorizing him as “above the law”, you should look to the state legislators for direction and accountability as they are the group that is responsible for holding people like Harvey Whittemore accountable.
A lot of corruption goes on in Nevada, and Harry Reid stands alongside Harvey Whittemore. Harvey Whittemore, who takes part in more than 100 Nevada Corporations (making him legally untouchable), is a part of the Lionel Sawyer & Collins law firm, the biggest and most powerful in the state of Nevada, having lobbyist in Carson City, is really untouchable. Both of them are legally above the law for what they have done and continue to do in Nevada. Shame on both of them.
Let’s compare that to what developer Jim Rhodes received for doing the same thing, albeit with smaller sums. Rhodes in 2002 used 14 of his employees to donate $27,000 to the above-mentioned bad guy Herrera, and another $10,000 to Reid. His evil deed was handled civilly, and he settled by paying a $159,000 fine to the FEC.
Ramon DeSage and his company, Cadeau Express, pleaded guilty to using five people to funnel $5,000 to presidential contender Robert Dole in 1996. He and his company paid $205,000 in criminal and civil penalties. He served no time. (This year, DeSage has been charged with defrauding investors out of $190 million and evading $31 million in taxes.)
Ray Novell pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors for arranging for $10,000 in illegal conduit contributions to Dole’s campaign. He and DeLuca Liquor and Wine paid a total of $160,000 in criminal and civil fines for reimbursing the donors, employees and spouses.
Recent sentences in other jurisdictions for conduit contributions have involved larger sums and drew tougher sentences.
A Virginia man who funneled $186,600 to the Obama campaign was sentenced to 28 months and fined $50,000.
Washington lobbyist Paul Magliocchetti made more than $386,000 in conduit contributions to various campaigns over six years. His crimes were described as one of the largest conduit frauds in history. His sentence was 27 months and a $75,000 fine.
Magliocchetti’s illegal contributions were nearly three times that of Whittemore’s, yet he was sentenced to half the time now being sought for Whittemore, a recomendation the judge is not obliged to follow.
How can Whittemore’s crime equal that of Herrera’s, who violated the public’s trust?
I’ve seen Judge Hicks in action and trust his common sense when he sentences Whittemore on Sept. 23. Hicks is not bound by the probation officer’s recommendation or even by what the prosecutors argue for. Judges have flexibility.
But a 51-month prison sentence for Whittemore is over the top.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at (702) 383-0275.
Lovelock Nevada jailhouse resident O.J. Simpson to get another Las Vegas court hearing on bid for new trial
Orenthal James “O. J.” Simpson (born July 9, 1947), nicknamed “The Juice” will be back in Vegas baby. See the story here: http://www.mynews4.com/news/story/OJ-to-get-Vegas-court-hearing-on-bid-for-new-trial/8JY-vxQQv0eywhWNabZBPQ.cspx
In September 2007, a group of men led by Simpson entered a room at the Palace Station hotel-casino and took sports memorabilia at gunpoint, which resulted in Simpson’s being questioned by police. Simpson admitted to taking the items, which he said had been stolen from him, but denied breaking into the hotel room; he also denied that he or anyone else carried a gun. He was released after questioning. Continue reading