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cascadiance Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 01:57 PM
Original message
Judges, lawyers to discuss co-conspirator behind closed doors
Source: San Diego Union Tribune

By Greg Moran
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

August 5, 2007



Tomorrow morning, three judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will gather in a courtroom inside an elegant 104-year-old building in Pasadena for an extraordinary hearing involving one of the co-conspirators in the Randy Duke Cunningham bribery scandal.

The court hearing will be closed to everyone the public, the news media, the defense attorneys save for the judges and a few lawyers from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The extreme secrecy is highly unusual. Veteran lawyers could not remember another time when the appeals court held a completely closed hearing.

The subjects to be discussed are transcripts and documents related to the February guilty plea of Thomas Kontogiannis, a New York developer who admitted to a single count of money laundering in the Cunningham case. Kontogiannis' checkered past includes convictions for bribery and bid-rigging, an estimated $70 million fortune, and a knack for staying out of prison.

Read more: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/state/20070805-9999-...



Folks it looks like the aftermath of Duke Cunningham, Carol Lam firing, Brent Wilkes and Dusty Foggo indictments are still covering up some big things, that they aren't letting out to us! We need to demand that we understand more of what is going on. It really smells like a coverup. When you have the Dems own Intelligence Committee chair trying to sit on the FBI report on Cunningham that got leaked a couple of weeks ago, something's wrong!
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 02:03 PM
Response to Original message
1. Hmm, Wilkes, Welch, or an as yet unnamaed DOD money
launderer for the RNC coffers?

This whole thing is pure dynamite and could result in RICO charges that would nab a lot of GOP key players.
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dglow Donating Member (51 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 04:50 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. Corruption
Yes. The very top! Cheney and thugs are connected with the Cunningham mess. There's a lot of speculation that they've been stealing from the the treasury and laundering the moeny through shell companies.
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cascadiance Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 05:54 PM
Response to Reply #3
9. Some suspect that the CIA is counterfeiting dollars and blaming it on North Korea...
You know the "super dollar" plot that supposedly had North Korea counterfeitting our money and lead us to get new more "bullet proof" currency?

Well not too long ago FrankFurter (a German magazine) did an investigative report where they claim that the CIA is in fact the counterfeitter in at least a lot of these cases and they are using this money to fund their "black ops" projects this administration doesn't want congress to see. And then if this money is found, they just blame it on this North Korean "plot"...

http://www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/46786/
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The Backlash Cometh Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 07:35 PM
Response to Reply #9
13. CIA is a bad remake of Chinatown.
They are the cause and the possible answer to everything that ails us.
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station agent Donating Member (290 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 07:58 PM
Response to Reply #13
14. Worse, a bad remake of the Two Jakes. n/t
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The Backlash Cometh Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 05:33 PM
Response to Reply #1
6. Wouldn't DoD know what was going on? So we can just assume they're
part of the Bush-Cheney conspiracy to install a permanent Republican administration?
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 05:51 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. The Pentagon has basically become a welfare office
for arms dealers. They're certainly stiffing the troops on equipment and medical care.

We know pubbies are real big on shoveling money to them and real small on accountability.

What do you think?
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The Backlash Cometh Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 07:32 PM
Response to Reply #7
12. You'd think the GAO could follow that money.
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 09:45 PM
Response to Reply #12
19. The Pentagon just shrugs its shoulders
and has said it can't account for SEVEN TRILLION DOLLARS lavished on it over a couple of decades.

Nice, huh?
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Old and In the Way Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-06-07 11:43 PM
Response to Reply #1
36. Remember all of those huge fundraisers the RNC would put on?
Raising $10-20MM at a pop? No doubt that there was plenty of money coming in from SA and they laundered it through their fundraisers.

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mrdmk Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 02:30 PM
Response to Original message
2. It is for the publics own good, Hell you do not want to mess with the
Powers that Be. The public will be at the doors City Hall with Pitch Forks and torches. That would make for bad press, heck the press may think it is so bad, it would not be televised.
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donkeyotay Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 05:25 PM
Response to Original message
4. This secrecy stuff has got to stop. There'd better be another prosecution
to justify keeping the public from knowing who and what is being prosecuted:

“The only conclusion you can come to is that (Kontogiannis) is cooperating in some way,” said San Diego defense lawyer Michael Crowley. “And it's likely he is going to get some very favorable sentencing treatment as far as a recommendation from the government.”
...

It's almost Orwellian double-speak,” said Gregg Leslie, the legal defense director for The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “They say, 'We need secrecy, but the reason we need secrecy is also secret, so we can't tell you.' ”

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leveymg Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-06-07 03:57 PM
Response to Reply #4
31. The reason this is being covered up is Greece, like Turkey, was buying GOP Congressmen
Edited on Mon Aug-06-07 04:25 PM by leveymg
with Saudi money. About two weeks ago it finally came out that Thomas Kontogiannis' interest in the matter was arms transfers to his native Greece. The Saudis are lurking in the background of this, as usual, apparently as bankers for the deal.

Mr. Kontogiannis is an agent for the Greek military, which we are told was seeking backroom business with General Dynamics and other U.S. defense contractors. See, http://news.aol.com/story/_a/disgraced-former-us-rep-du...

This is just another side of the same scandal that snared Dennis Hastert, Jerry Lewis, and several dozen other Republican big-wigs and ranking members of various committees, along with the CIA #2, Dusty Foggo. This appears to be part of the Amerrican tie-in to the monster scandal in the UK involving BAE, a big British (and US) defense contractor, the Saudi Royal family, and an $80 billion slush fund, Yamamah ("The Dove", rhymes with "Ya mama"), which has been buying western politicians for years.

Consider this from Josh Marshall:


http://beta.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/week_2006_03...
03.09.06 -- 4:53PM // link

Another piece of the puzzle.

Remember Thomas Kontogiannis? He's the larger than life twice-convicted Greek-born real estate developer who is better known in Duke Cunningham's plea agreement as co-conspirator #3.

If you look through the Duke files, Kontogiannis' role was mainly as a pass through for large sums of money. Yes, he gave bribes and of course he was involved in a boat transaction with Duke. But in the Cunningham corruption club that was almost a rite of passage.

Now, from the records, one of things that Kontogiannis wanted from Duke was some help trying to beat the rap (and later get a pardon for) a bid-rigging scandal back in New York. And for a long time I'd always sort of figured that Brent Wilkes and Mitchell Wade were the real players in this story, with Kontogiannis just added in for comic relief and -- as someone who controlled a mortgage company -- someone who could easily move money around.

But I'm hearing it may not be that simple.

Consider this. Mitch Wade was in naval intelligence before he left to work in the fraud and public corruption sector. Brent Wilkes -- and we're going to be hearing a lot more about this -- was deep into the darker regions of the intel world. Both of their scams were the same, plying the government contracting biz deep in the classified realm where scrutiny and oversight is minimal at best.

Now you have the third player Thomas Kontogiannis (#4 was Kontogiannis' nephew. So I'll consider him an extension of his uncle.). Given the background and habits of the other two, is this guy really just a real estate developer from Long Island?

Consider this passage from a piece in the San Diego Union-Tribune that I excerpted back in November ...

In a previously undisclosed link between Cunningham and Kontogiannis, the developer accompanied the congressman to Saudi Arabia last year. A Saudi-American businessman flew Cunningham to Saudi Arabia twice last year aboard a private jet. On the second trip, the jet stopped in Athens to pick up Kontogiannis, a native of Greece with businesses interests in several countries. Ziyad Abduljawad, founder and chairman of San Diego-based PLC Land Co., paid for Cunningham's two trips to Saudi Arabia, each at a cost of more than $10,000. Cunningham has described Abduljawad as an acquaintance who shares his interest in improving U.S.-Saudi relations.

Kontogiannis "went as a friend of Duke's," said Harmony Allen, Cunningham's chief of staff. "That's the extent of it. Duke asked him to go as a friend. I'm not sure if (Kontogiannis) had a special interest (in visiting) Saudi Arabia or not."

It was unclear who paid for Kontogiannis' trip.

What's that about? Cunningham going to Saudi to smooth the edges of the clash of civilizations? Brings Kontogiannis along to help with the outreach?

Just how did Kontogiannis get into the mix with Wilkes and Wade? What's Kontogiannis's real line of work?


The answer to that last question is here:

http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/000391.php

Cunningham, Felon Met With Saudi Crown Prince
By Justin Rood - April 17, 2006, 1:06 PM Over the weekend, a new profile by Copley News Service added to our understanding of former GOP Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's "Co-conspirator #3," the mysterious Thomas Kontogiannis. Today, we can add a bit more. Recall that Kontogiannis bribed Cunningham through purchasing a yacht from the congressman -- and paying several hundred thousand dollars more than it was worth. His finance company also handled some of Cunningham's questionable mortgages. But reporters and investigators have struggled to understand what Kontogiannis was getting from Duke for all the money he spent on the lawmaker. The latest theory seems to be that Duke was introducing him to world leaders. As Copley reports:

Cunningham "introduced him to people. It was like he had a congressman on retainer," added.

The Copley story notes that he twice accompanied Cunningham to the White House, and kept a picture of himself meeting President Bush in his house. Now, TPMmuckraker has learned he apparently met the man who would shortly become king of Saudi Arabia. It's been known that Kontogiannis, a wealthy businessman and two-time felon, in 2004 accompanied Cunningham and a Saudi constituent, San Diego real estate mogul Ziyad Abduljawad, to Saudi Arabia. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) also went. Abduljawad paid for the trip. Until now, we haven't known much about the trip -- who the group met with, why, what they talked about. Cunningham is said to have gone in order to promote U.S.-Saudi ties, or some other such pap. Beyond that, we've had nothing. I called Calvert last week to ask him more about the trip. (He's the only one of the crew who's talking these days: Cunningham's in the pen, Abduljawad declined an interview, Tommy K's lawyer doesn't return calls.) Calvert's memory wasn't perfect, but he had some details to share. The group met with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah -- then the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, and now its king. Kontogiannis was at the meeting, Calvert recalled, although "he didn't say anything, as I remember," the lawmaker told me. Copley now tells us its sources say Tommy K's purpose "appeared to center on an oil business he owned in Europe." That's not much to go on. The group also met with "ministers of various government institutions within Saudi Arabia," Calvert said. He recalled Kontogiannis being present for "some" of those meetings. As for what was discussed, Calvert recalled only that a number of the ministers pressed Cunningham to help ease post-9/11 restrictions on student visas for Saudis. With Abdullah, Calvert said the discussion was "primarily social," and "trying to build a better relationship with the United States." Now a U.S. citizen, Kontogiannis is worth about $70 million, Copley reporter Joe Cantlupe tells us. He spent over $300,000 on Cunningham. "What Kontogiannis, 59, got from the relationship with Cunningham remains unclear," Cantlupe writes, but notes that the businessman visited the White House twice with the Duke. And now we know they visited the Saudi crown prince together also. Was that it? He bought Cunningham -- a well-positioned but hardly towering member of the U.S. House -- to meet world leaders? Permalink | TOPICS: Duke Cunningham
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donkeyotay Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 05:27 PM
Response to Original message
5. IIRC, didn't Kontogiannis have 70 different bank accounts?
That's a lot of accounts. He only needed 1 or 2 for Cunningham.
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hootinholler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 05:53 PM
Response to Original message
8. Wow. Unfucking believeable.
Rec this up People!

-Hoot
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autorank Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 07:05 PM
Response to Original message
10. Great stuff...thanks. K*R

Now that has me very curious!

Lam was a very hard person to force out because her record was simply exemplary. They had to do
it and maybe we're finding out now. Keep it coming!
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starroute Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 07:19 PM
Response to Original message
11. Kontogiannis has some weird connections
This guy hobnobs with everybody from Saudi government ministers to New Jersey hitmen. Who knows what he might have to tell the court?

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/007143.php

11.30.05

It turns out Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) wasn't the only one on that trip to Saudi Arabia. Yesterday we noted that last December, Cunningham made the second of two trips to Saudi Arabia funded by San Diego real estate developer Ziyad Abduljawad, a naturalized US citizen.

On this second trip, Duke made a pit stop in Athens to pick up Tommy Kontogiannis. . . .

But it turns out that Cunningham wasn't the only member of Congress on the trip. Fellow Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) was also along for the ride. Contacted late this afternoon, Rep. Calvert told TPM that the duo picked up Kontogiannis in Athens and later dropped him off in New York after their trip to Saudi Arabia.

According to Calvert, the three spent their time in Saudi Arabia meeting with government ministers and exploring ways the Saudis could be more helpful in prosecuting the war on terrorism.


http://www.warandpiece.com/blogdirs/003890.html

March 23, 2006

Further research suggests that sort of New Jersey rough bunch is something Kontogiannis had a little bit of exposure to. From a 1992 Newsday story:

'I WANT THE PROBLEM ELIMINATED," Gregory Montagnino told a hit man when they met at the Vince Lombardi service stop on the New Jersey Turnpike in March, 1991.

The "problem" that Montagnino, a financial wheeler-dealer out on bail from auto loan fraud charges, said he would pay $ 5,000 to eliminate was Bergen County assistant prosecutor Robert Wilson. Wilson had been aggressively pursuing Montagnino on charges that he had fraudulently obtained $ 80,000 in auto loans by using false identities. . . .

Thomas Theodore Kontogiannis, president of Olympic, said his company did not sue Montagnino because Olympic found he had defaulted on loans from other lenders and believed it would be unlikely to recover anything.

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Demeter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 08:20 PM
Response to Original message
15. I'm Holding Out for Cheney
It makes a lot of sense.
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peacetalksforall Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 08:34 PM
Response to Original message
16. Govt prosecutors want it kept secret?
"The plea agreement itself was kept secret for four months, until federal Judge Larry A. Burns who initially agreed to the closed proceedings said there was no longer a compelling interest to keep the agreement from the public.

Burns also decided in June to unseal transcripts of the three February hearings and a fourth held in April. But prosecutors objected and invoked a provision of a federal law dealing with handling classified information as a reason why the documents have to remain secret.

When Burns turned that request aside, the prosecutors went to the appeals court. That court agreed to hear the appeal and ordered all material to remain secret."

OK - anyone know who the prosecutors are - their background?
Anyone know who was sitting on the Appeals Court?
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cascadiance Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 11:41 PM
Response to Reply #16
24. Just found this article about Carol Lam's replacement's husband, Andrew Hewitt!
Edited on Sun Aug-05-07 11:49 PM by calipendence
http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/business/20070803-99...

Karen Hewitt, his wife, is Carol Lam's current "interim" replacement who's also a member of the Federalist Society.

Interesting that he looks to be a pretty heavy hitter working for ICx Technologies which specializes in High Tech surveillance for Dept. of Homeland Security, Wal-Mart, etc.! HMM!!!!
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L. Coyote Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 09:06 PM
Response to Original message
17. Will they be discussing the Royal Fifth?
This sort of thing happens when they discuss Presidents. How much money was moved to the 2004 campaign?
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madrchsod Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 09:14 PM
Response to Original message
18. interesting....
the 9th is one of the most liberal in the usa. it`s going to be interesting what the judges do with the information that is being given to them. it must be pretty dam important.
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Diane R Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 09:46 PM
Response to Original message
20. The 9th Circuit is the best court for this. I wish entire court was hearing it, not just 3 judges.
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Jackpine Radical Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 10:33 PM
Response to Original message
21. What is the reputation of the 9th Circuit?
Are they reasonable judges or Federalist Society vampires? I'm sure the admin wants to keep this process out of sight & the court no doubt has to accede to their typical little secrecy ploy here, but are the people behind the closed doors likely to tear off the secrecy wraps, or are they going to stooge along with the Gonzo Gang?
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Diane R Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 10:42 PM
Response to Reply #21
22. Collectively, it's a progressive court. Unfortunately, there are a few conservative judges.
So, it depends on which 3 judges hear the case. That's why I said I would prefer the entire court; the 9th is a very good Appeals court.
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NashVegas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-06-07 12:50 PM
Response to Reply #21
29. They're the Court the Reich Wing Holds Up As An Example
Of what's wrong with the court system and "activist" judges whose rulings are often overturned by SCOTUS.
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orleans Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 11:39 PM
Response to Original message
23. is that rockefeller you're talking about with the report? n/t
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cascadiance Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-05-07 11:47 PM
Response to Reply #23
25. No, it was Silvestre Reyes, chairman of the House Intelligence committee...
Edited on Sun Aug-05-07 11:48 PM by calipendence
Here was the earlier article on him trying to sit on the FBI report on Cunningham.

http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.ph...
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cascadiance Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-06-07 09:02 AM
Response to Original message
26. The only other media source that is touching this story...

It is interesting that they reference the Union Tribune article, but they don't link to it! :wtf:


http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/08/06/politics/poli...

Kontogiannis Hearing In Federal Appeals Court Set For Monday
By John Bresnahan

Aug 5, 2007
(The Politico)
Anyone who cares about corruption in Congress and Washington should read this story by the San Diego Union Tribune.

A federal appeals court is holding a secret hearing on Thomas Kontogiannis, a New York developer who has pleaded guilty to money laundering in the corruption probe that brought down former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.).

The Justice Dept. is trying to keep the details of Kontogiannis' plea agreement secret, claiming that it involves classified information, but the press and lawyers for former defense contractor Brent Wilkes, who has been charged with bribing Cunningham, want it all out in the open. A federal district court judge agreed to unseal the Kontogiannis plea deal, but the Justice Dept. has asked the appeals court to intervene.
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loudsue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-06-07 09:07 AM
Response to Original message
27. K & R
Have I mentioned that I'm SICK & TIRED of having the mafia run this country?

:argh:

:kick:
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NashVegas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-06-07 12:49 PM
Response to Original message
28. February 13 - Dusty Foggo Charged; Feb 15 Lam Out; Feb 23
Kontogiannis cops a plea?


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cascadiance Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-06-07 01:36 PM
Response to Original message
30. TPM story up now...
http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/003868.php

Some folks in the comments here are speculating here also that Kontogiannis might have served as a way of laundering money for overseas and domestic black ops. That ties in a little with my earlier theory of perhaps the CIA counterfeitting money might be tied in with this too.
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DemReadingDU Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-06-07 04:47 PM
Response to Reply #30
32. Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler): Kontogiannis
TPMM reports that there is a non-public hearing on whether the plea bargain hearings for Tommy Kontiagiannis will be unsealed.

Now, the problem here, for District Court Larry Burns is that the government didn't say the contents of those hearings were classified until recently. Which is why we're at the Appeals Court in the first place.

Now, I'm frankly not that surprised about the secrecy surrounding today's hearing. But I can easily understand why Ray Granger, the lawyer for Kontogiannis' nephew John Michael, is pissed about it. That's because the apparent cooperation that the plea deal permitted ended up netting Michael an extra money laundering indictment. And, more specifically, I suspect the subject of the sealed proceedings would be Michael's best means of impugning Kontogiannis as a witness.

You see, Kontogiannis' plea deal mentions a great deal of other money laundering Kontogiannis and Michael and others have done, while it never reveals why Kongtogiannis bribed Cunningham or engaged in the other money laundering.
.
.
.
Whether my tinfoil has merit or not, though, the government seems to be claiming a compelling interest in preventing us--and John Michael--from learning the facts surrounding the other frauds Michael and Kontogiannis propagated.

more...
http://thenexthurrah.typepad.com/the_next_hurrah/2007/0...
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Joanie Baloney Donating Member (801 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-06-07 06:13 PM
Response to Original message
33. Here's an update from the U-T
Apparently they did open it up to the public very briefly:


http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20070806-1531-...

3:31 p.m. August 6, 2007

PASADENA A federal appeals court hearing, involving secret documents connected to the guilty plea of a key figure in the Randy Duke Cunningham case, was opened briefly to the public Monday. The hearing was centered on sealed court transcripts of the February guilty plea of Thomas Kontogiannis, who admitted to financing the convicted congressman's properties.


Monday's hearing was supposed to be completely closed to the press and the public, at the request of the U.S. Attorney's Office.
But after listening to prosecutors for about 30 minutes behind closed doors Monday, three judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opened the hearing to allow arguments from a lawyer for The Copley Press Inc., publisher of The San Diego Union-Tribune, which is fighting to have the documents unsealed.

At the end of the hearing, the judges said they wanted more arguments from the newspaper and the government on a key question: Can members of the executive branch of government such as federal prosecutors declare records generated by the judicial branch as classified?


Curiouser and curiouser...

JB
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donkeyotay Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-06-07 06:15 PM
Response to Original message
34. Someone was saying that classifying to cover up a crime is a crime
Makes sense to me. Is this case closed because it's really embarrassing and the wrong people would go to jail, or is it national security, or only a temporary closing because the prosecutor plans on bringing other charges and will make it public at a later date?
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DemReadingDU Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-06-07 06:35 PM
Response to Original message
35. additional info in a new thread
leveymg is connecting the dots here...

Cunningham Bribery - Foggo (CIA)-MZM Cases Linked to Saudi Slush Fund Scandal
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.ph...
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