Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing

So one group didn't know what the other group was doing in the prosecution of this matter.

Unfortunately it sounds entirely too plausible. So which is worse?

That they are incompetent in gathering their information and coordinating the prosecution or that they were trying to finagle the time lines and finesse the prosecution?

Feds ‘misled’ in other bribery lawsuits
Guillermo Contreras - Express-News

A federal judge has blasted the Justice Department for misleading her and three other jurists in lawsuits involving a Fort Sam Houston-based Army major who admitted accepting millions of dollars in bribes from military contractors in Kuwait.

For weeks, Justice Department lawyers have obtained delays in the lawsuits filed by Kuwait-based Gulf Group General Enterprises Co. by giving the judges varying, but inaccurate, stories about the progress of the criminal case of Maj. John L. Cockerham, who is an important figure in the lawsuits.

By getting delays, the Justice Department avoided legal rules that would force the department to turn over evidence to the attorneys for Gulf Group. The firm alleges two of its contracts, for latrines and Dumpsters (and later bottled water), were taken away by Cockerham and given to companies willing to pay kickbacks in 2005.

The Justice Department never told Judge Marian Blank Horn or her three colleagues at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington that Cockerham and his wife, Melissa, pleaded guilty to bribery and money laundering charges Feb. 1 in San Antonio and that Cockerham has been cooperating secretly for months.

In fact, the Justice Department lawyers said in court records weren’t told themselves by prosecutors who work in the same department. They sheepishly told the judge that they found out about the guilty pleas through a news release the Justice Department issued June 24 — almost five full months later.

That angered Horn, who said in a written order last week that she had delayed the discovery deadlines in the suit she is hearing based on the Justice Department’s misrepresentations. That suit was filed in January 2007, and Horn said she was told Cockerham’s trial was scheduled for April 21, 2008, and later informed that it was postponed.

“The Court is disturbed that the Department of Justice chose to mislead the court rather than provide correct information in (the judge’s chambers) about the plea,” Horn wrote. “The court expects that, in the future, the court will not be intentionally and consciously misled by the Department of Justice.”

Gulf Group alleges in its lawsuits that the actions of Cockerham and other Army contracting officers at Camp Arifjan cost it at least $1.1 million in lost work and un-reimbursed expenses.

Contract records completed by Cockerham show Gulf Group’s terminated contracts were immediately awarded to Kuwaiti companies, Jasmine International Trading and Contracting Co., and Green Valley Co., which were temporarily blackballed by the government over allegations of fraud or bribery. Neither has been charged.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said she was unable to get an official response to Horn’s order by close of business Monday. In court papers, the department says it sought the delays to protect its criminal investigation and wants more time in the suits, until 2009. Horn gave the department until Sept. 5.