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Three defendants plead guilty in driver's license fraud case (Tennessee Drivers License Scandal)
Memphis Commercial Appeal ^ | May 20, 2002

Posted on 05/20/2002 4:00:34 PM PDT by Shermy

MEMPHIS, Tenn.- Three of four men charged in a Tennessee driver's license fraud case pleaded guilty Monday in federal court.

Mostafa Said Abou-Shahin, Khaled Odtllah and Sakher A. Hammad each admitted before U.S. District Court Judge Bernice Donald that they tried to obtain the licenses illegally.

The fourth defendant, Abdelmuhsen Mahmid Hammad, was to appear in court Monday afternoon.

Each of the four men, three from New York City and one from the Memphis suburb of Cordova, had ties to the Middle East.

The men were charged with operating a scam in which driver's license examiner Katherine Smith would provide driver's licenses for a fee to New Yorkers brought to Shelby County by Odtllah, of Cordova.

The FBI investigated whether Smith's co-defendants were linked to terrorists. But Donald said in April there was no evidence in the record to support the men had connections to Sept. 11 or ties to the World Trade Center bombing.

Prosecutor Tim DiScenza also said Monday that there was "no proof of any terrorist activity."

Smith died in suspicious circumstances Feb. 10, the day before a preliminary court appearance. The 49-year-old Memphis woman was alone early that Sunday morning, driving a car registered to Odtllah. The car veered off U.S. 72 in Fayette County and hit a utility pole, then burst into flames.

After almost a monthlong investigation, the Tennessee Highway Patrol determined that Smith's death was not caused by the wreck, but by "other means." No one has been charged in her death, which wasn't mentioned in court Monday.

Sentencing for the men is scheduled for June 27. Prosecutors have recommended the low end of the scale in federal sentencing, which is a maximum of five years and a minimum of zero.

A fifth defendant, Mohammed A. Fares, pleaded guilty earlier this month.

_____________________________

Earlier story today...

1st of 4 trials in driver's license procurement case starts today

The first of four trials of men charged in a Tennessee driver's license fraud case that has drawn national attention begins today in federal court, three months after the mysterious death of a key defendant in a fiery car crash.

Each of the four men, three from New York City, one from Cordova and all with ties to the Middle East, is charged with one count of conspiracy to fraudulently obtain driver's licenses.

Mostafa Said Abou-Shahin, Khaled Odtllah, Sakher A. Hammad and his cousin, Abdelmuhsen Mahmid Hammad, will be tried separately over the next two weeks before U.S. Dist. Court Judge Bernice Donald.

The trial of Abou-Shahin begins today. His attorney, Clifton Harviel, will ask Donald to waive a jury trial and decide his guilt or innocence on her own.

"We just thought in the current world situation, shall we say, that a professional jurist might give us a better shake than a local jury," Harviel said.

Federal prosecutor Tim DiScenza has agreed to the waiver. If the waiver is granted, Harviel estimated the trial would take a day.

A fifth defendant, Mohammed A. Fares, pleaded guilty earlier this month and is expected to testify for the government at some or all of the trials.

Also charged was driver's license examiner Katherine Smith. But Smith died under suspicious circumstances Feb. 10, the day before a preliminary court appearance.

The 49-year-old Memphis woman was alone early that Sunday morning, driving a 1992 Acura Legend registered to Odtllah.

The car veered off U.S. 72 in Fayette County and hit a utility pole. Witnesses said intense flames prevented them from reaching the unresponsive driver.

After almost a month-long investigation, the Tennessee Highway Patrol determined that Smith's death was caused not by the wreck, but by "other means."

No one has been charged in her death.

Four of the fraud case defendants have been held without bond since their arrests on Feb. 5. Smith was released on her own recognizance the next day.

DiScenza cited the "most unusual and suspicious" nature of Smith's death, as well as "connections" to the World Trade Center, as reasons to deny bond.

When Sakher A. Hammad was arrested, he had in his possession a visitor's identification card that gave him access to the building just a few days before the terrorist attacks.

Hammad, a plumber, told federal authorities he was working on the sprinklers, according to court testimony.

DiScenza dropped government objections to a release on bond after Hammad's father, Peter Hansen, put up his Staten Island home as security for a $250,000 bond.

Hansen, a senior engineer for the City of New York, testified at the March hearing that his son was "born again" when he came legally to the U.S. from Jordan.

"America is our country," Hansen said as his son wept. "We are a very dedicated family. We love work . . . We would never think to do harm to anyone."

But DiScenza urged the judge not to grant bond to the others.

When Donald upheld detention without bond for the other four, she called them flight risks because of their immigration status or substantial connections through family to other countries, where they might flee if released.

She noted that Odtllah, the alleged leader of the fraud scheme, has a wife and family in Jerusalem.

But the judge said in her ruling there was no evidence to support "these potentially inflammatory assertions" about connections to Sept. 11.

Here's how prosecutors allege the scheme worked:

Odtllah, who has been living in Cordova for two years, offered Tennessee driver's licenses to illegal immigrants for a fee of around $1,000 each. The Hammads, both self-employed plumbers in Brooklyn, acted as middlemen, finding the clients and bringing them to Memphis, where Smith would issue them licenses.

In early February, the Hammads allegedly drove co-defendants Fares and Abou-Shahin and a juvenile to Memphis from New York City to get four driver's licenses - one in Fares's name and three in names that prosecutors have said appear to be aliases.

But a confidential informant had tipped a New York FBI agent about the Memphis trip. On Feb. 5, FBI agents and Tennessee Highway Patrol investigators were watching as Odtllah met the group from New York outside the testing station.

Sakher Hammad was also in town to get a second Tennessee driver's license. He and his cousin already had Tennessee licenses using the same Morning Lake Drive address of the apartment complex where Odtllah lived.

According to the FBI, Odtllah went inside the testing station and came back out with four applications. Odtllah had the others fill in the names and dates of birth; then he filled in the Morning Lake Drive address.

Odtllah then took the completed applications to Smith, who entered them into the state's computer system, according to the FBI.

The men were not issued driver's licenses that morning because the camera at the Summer Avenue testing station was broken. Odtllah was the only one of the group who met with Smith.

All six adults were arrested that day. The juvenile was not charged.

That is the case the prosecution is expected to make, based on an FBI affidavit and the testimony of FBI agent J. Suzanne Nash at two hearings. But it doesn't begin to explain Smith's death.

Nash testified that the fire that consumed the interior of Smith's car was set deliberately. Traces of gasoline were found on the victim's clothing and in the car, she said.

Harviel said last week that the trial of Abou-Shahin, 27, a carpenter from Egypt, will focus exclusively on the conspiracy charge and won't involve any revelations about Smith's death or alleged ties to terrorism.


TOPICS: Breaking News; Crime/Corruption; Government; News/Current Events; US: Tennessee
KEYWORDS: aboushahin; fares; hammad; hughhewitt; katherinesmith; licensefraud; odtllah; shahin; tennessee; tennesseecell; tnlicensescandals

1 posted on 05/20/2002 4:00:34 PM PDT by Shermy
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To: *TN License Scandals; weegee; Inge CAV; null and void; Blood of Tyrants; Wright is Right...
Ping.
2 posted on 05/20/2002 4:03:07 PM PDT by Shermy
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To: Shermy
I wonder if similar crimes will carry more severe penalties in the future if they are shown to aid terrorists? Wouldn't this be a form of treason?
3 posted on 05/20/2002 4:03:58 PM PDT by lsee
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To: Shermy; ernest at the beach; clovis skeptic; seamole; travis mcgee
Thanks Shermy for this find and posting it.

It appears that 3 and maybe 4 Jihaders in America may be heading down the lonely road to justice.

4 posted on 05/20/2002 4:03:59 PM PDT by Grampa Dave
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To: lsee
Similar crimes? Our states are co-conspirators. Tennessee changed its law last year specifically to profit from the fraudulent license market. The cover story was "safety for illegal drivers." Really they just decided to make money off fraud, by rewriting the laws to overturn the social security number requirement. Guess what happened? The illegals and terrorists headed straight for Tennessee.

Here's an example of massive fraud in New Jersey:

License to Defraud (May 12, 2002)

5 posted on 05/20/2002 4:07:58 PM PDT by Shermy
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To: Shermy
If Sakher Hammad's cousin is also named Hammad, how can Sakher Hammad be the son of Peter Hansen? Adoption?
6 posted on 05/20/2002 4:08:34 PM PDT by aristeides
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To: lsee
Nope. Per the Constitution Treason can only happen in a declared war. Congress is incapable of recognizing a war, let alone actually declaring one.
7 posted on 05/20/2002 4:09:51 PM PDT by null and void
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To: Shermy
Thanks Shermy...
8 posted on 05/20/2002 4:10:37 PM PDT by Dog
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To: Shermy
It is a shame they could not get the evidence needed to procecute them for murder as well. That woman was killed by these people for sure!
9 posted on 05/20/2002 4:15:57 PM PDT by Cold Heat
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To: honway
Ping
10 posted on 05/20/2002 4:16:25 PM PDT by Tymesup
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To: Isee; sarcasm; Grampa Dave; JDGreen123
The forces behind scam licenses are govts. that want to profit from illegals, and businessess who want cheap trucking labor. Look how this guy "Maddox" plays the race card for his presumed business backers - to get those illegals their licenses. Gives them to terrrorists too. I wonder if they're still lining up down there in Tennessee while this bill is being argued. Of course they could just go back to the old law, but I bet some business interests are lobbying like heck for some kind of bonus.

Here's an article from May 18:

Illegal) Immigrant license law lacks support

Legislation allowing illegal immigrants to obtain a one-year Tennessee driver's license, instead of the full-term license they have been able to get for the past year, is in trouble in the House and may be dead for this legislative session.

The bill had been scheduled for a House vote Wednesday, but its sponsor, Rep. Mark Maddox, postponed action for a week. Maddox said in an interview yesterday that he did so because he did not think it had sufficient votes to pass, even though it earlier cleared the Senate in a 31-0 vote.

Maddox's legislation provides that an applicant who does not have a Social Security number or who cannot provide acceptable Immigration and Naturalization Service documentation can receive the special one-year license. A regular driver's license is good for five years.

The one-year license would be stamped with the words ''For driving purposes only.''

The bill was seen as a compromise between those who want to deny any driving privileges to unauthorized immigrants and those who say immigrants are going to drive anyway so they need to know the rules of the road and have the opportunity to purchase insurance.

A state law that took effect May 3, 2001, allowed people without Social Security cards to obtain licenses. The change prompted immigrants — legal and illegal, many of them Hispanic — to flock to testing stations to apply, resulting in long lines and short tempers.

The situation improved in June when the state Safety Department hired 43 bilingual examiners and took other steps to speed the process. But some lawmakers want to reinstate the Social Security card requirement and otherwise tighten restrictions on who can receive a license.

Some of those opposing Maddox's bill are ''people who want us to close the borders and make sure everybody is free, white and 21 before they come to the states,'' he said. Maddox, D-Dresden, said he and others were working on amendments to try to save the legislation.

''The prevailing mood in the House was last year we were told the bill that passed would not give illegal immigrants the ability to get a driver's license,'' Maddox said. ''In fact, that was not the case.

''My colleagues feel like this bill may be clearer in that regard in that it most definitely will give illegal immigrants an opportunity to obtain a driver's license. The majority of them do not feel this is what we should do.''

Rep. Donna Rowland, R-Murfreesboro, said the Maddox bill was a step in the right direction but did not go far enough.

''We have had plenty of time and ample opportunity — and especially in light of all the national incidents that have happened in the last year — that we should address this issue in its entirety,'' said Rowland, who has campaigned for stricter controls on driver's licenses for immigrants.

Backers of the legislation say illegal immigrants will drive with or without licenses, so they need to know the rules of the road. {Note - this is the standard big trucking lobbyist line. It's untrue. The illegals can have International Licenses that permit them to drive. But showing this license is not enough to get transporation work.)

_________

JDGreen123

How about getting your talk show friend to talk about this. I mean, is there any question what to do? No illegals.

11 posted on 05/20/2002 4:18:08 PM PDT by Shermy
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To: Shermy
This is too strange. I assume they pleaded guilty thinking that they would avoid further investigation into things like the death of the corrupt Dept. of Motor Vehicles employee, the reason they were getting these falsified licenses in the first place, the relationship between "Peter Hansen" and his "son"...? etc.

I assume they're wrong, and now that they're tucked away for a few years, there will be ample time to find the answers to all of these questions.

12 posted on 05/20/2002 5:28:42 PM PDT by livius
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To: Shermy
bump
13 posted on 05/20/2002 5:42:22 PM PDT by Jen
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To: Shermy
The TN license "scandal" has been fascinating to follow. I dobut these lawbreakers could ever be traced to terrorists, so they will probably go free to help their buddies carry out further atrocities.

Interestingly, the burned body of a man 40 years old was found earlier this month in Wethersfield, Connecticut, home of the central office of the CT DMV. As of May 3, 2002, this story came out:

Police identify burning body found near Wethersfield (Connecticut) Dumpster

Hurley was a part time employee at Steve's Price Cutter Liquors. He worked at the state Department of Information Technology.

The body was burned beyond recognition but police suspected it was Hurley, whose car was still in the strip mall's parking lot.

Separately--from the Connecticut State Department of Motor Vehicles web site:

Manufacturer's License
Initial Issue a license to a manufacturer or distributor of motor vehicles who sells products in Connecticut. Note: Only done in Wethersfield DMV office.

Renewal - Re-issue a license to a manufacturer or distributor of motor vehicles who sells products in Connecticut. Note: Only done in Wethersfield DMV office.

Duplicate - Make a copy or duplicate of a license to a manufacturer or distributor of motor vehicles who sells products in Connecticut. Note: Only done in Wethersfield DMV office.

Modification - Make a change or modification of a license of a manufacturer or distributor of motor vehicles who sells products in Connecticut. Note: Only done in Wethersfield DMV office.


14 posted on 05/20/2002 6:18:33 PM PDT by LurkedLongEnough
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To: Grampa Dave
It appears that 3 and maybe 4 Jihaders in America may be heading down the lonely road to justice.

These guys will not see 6 months if that behind bars. Take that and a Memphis {Liberal} trial and they won't see much. The prosicutors as well need to be fired for recommending the lowest possible sentence. The very fact this occured just shows the rest of the nation that a stupid bunch of hicks are running the Tennessee Leglislature for a law to allow illegals to drive in the first place. This is the most corrupt times in Tennessee government since Ray Blanton.

15 posted on 05/20/2002 6:30:08 PM PDT by cva66snipe
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To: Shermy
Thanks Shermy. Good news.
16 posted on 05/20/2002 8:48:43 PM PDT by Victoria Delsoul
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To: wirestripper
Who commits suicide by self immolation other then Budist monks? Hell, maybe the fake licence racket may run deeper than these guys.
17 posted on 05/20/2002 9:50:35 PM PDT by oyez
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To: oyez
Hell, maybe the fake licence racket may run deeper than these guys.

Without a doubt! Sounds like a bunch of bad guys. I am sure the Feds are on it. At least I hope so. If I lived in that area and knew any of these people, I would be concerned.

18 posted on 05/20/2002 10:25:51 PM PDT by Cold Heat
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To: Shermy
Thanks for the continued pings. I seem to stay on the internet too much these days and don't need to further extend myself seeking "new" articles off of FR...

I did find a very interesting bit of news in this article though that confirms my original suspicions. This has details (but doesn't draw deliberate attention to them) that the men were not just seeking a license for driving the company van around. Follow:

When Sakher A. Hammad was arrested, he had in his possession a visitor's identification card that gave him access to the building just a few days before the terrorist attacks.

Hammad, a plumber, told federal authorities he was working on the sprinklers, according to court testimony.

DiScenza dropped government objections to a release on bond after Hammad's father, Peter Hansen, put up his Staten Island home as security for a $250,000 bond.

Hansen, a senior engineer for the City of New York, testified at the March hearing that his son was "born again" when he came legally to the U.S. from Jordan.

"America is our country," Hansen said as his son wept. "We are a very dedicated family. We love work . . . We would never think to do harm to anyone."

But DiScenza urged the judge not to grant bond to the others.

When Donald upheld detention without bond for the other four, she called them flight risks because of their immigration status or substantial connections through family to other countries, where they might flee if released.

She noted that Odtllah, the alleged leader of the fraud scheme, has a wife and family in Jerusalem.

But the judge said in her ruling there was no evidence to support "these potentially inflammatory assertions" about connections to Sept. 11.

Here's how prosecutors allege the scheme worked:

Odtllah, who has been living in Cordova for two years, offered Tennessee driver's licenses to illegal immigrants for a fee of around $1,000 each. The Hammads, both self-employed plumbers in Brooklyn, acted as middlemen, finding the clients and bringing them to Memphis, where Smith would issue them licenses.

In early February, the Hammads allegedly drove co-defendants Fares and Abou-Shahin and a juvenile to Memphis from New York City to get four driver's licenses - one in Fares's name and three in names that prosecutors have said appear to be aliases.

[snip].

Sakher Hammad was also in town to get a second Tennessee driver's license. He and his cousin already had Tennessee licenses using the same Morning Lake Drive address of the apartment complex where Odtllah lived.

The plumber's defense has been that he needed a license to work. I'd think that the company would want a local license if the employee is to be trusted with the company van. The plumber also already had a license and was pocketing another (identity).

The family seems to be pretty well off ($250,000 home). So why didn't he just apply for citizenship if this is his "home"?

19 posted on 05/20/2002 10:52:22 PM PDT by weegee
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To: weegee
There's more to this, for sure. But the company wanting a license? Sure, they probably didn't care where it was from, as long as they could write down on the insurance form or whatever "licensed."

It's a big scam to give jobs to illegals, and taking them away from Americans. Because it's profitable.

Self-employed? And working in the WTC? Very suspicious.

20 posted on 05/20/2002 11:13:57 PM PDT by Shermy
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Comment #21 Removed by Moderator

To: cva66snipe
Thanks for your comments. After I posted my reply, I went back and read the proposed sentences. I was appalled.

It is amazing how corrupt TN has become and is as you noted. I'm glad that all of my ancestors left TN in the late 1800's and moved west.

Thanks for the feedback. Do you live there?

The good news was that the voters of TN voted against the criminal Goron in Nov. 2000.

22 posted on 05/21/2002 7:33:14 AM PDT by Grampa Dave
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To: Grampa Dave
Do you live there?

Yea 45 years now. Bad politicans are nothing new here. If they weren't crooks before they got elected give them a term and they will be then. I've lived all my life under the Gore's being in Washington. Were in a bad mess now we have a senate canidate being pushed upon us by Washington with historically zero chance of winning. This is for Fred Thompsons seat another disappointment himself. A man who helped bring down the most corrupt administration in our states history turned to Jello in the Committee hearings then disgraced it more with a Not Guilty Vote for Slick Willy in the senate trial.

If the GOP would stop trying to be Democrats we wouldn't be in most of the mess we are in now both on a state and national level. It's not going to change till the people get mad enough to say no more of it and stop settling for second best canidates with less than desirable records on issues.

23 posted on 05/21/2002 12:47:18 PM PDT by cva66snipe
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To: lsee
I wonder if similar crimes will carry more severe penalties in the future if they are shown to aid terrorists?

Works for me -- if they can make a simple assault or robbery carry a longer term because is is classified as a "hate" crime, they could do the same for crimes designed to aid terrorists.

24 posted on 05/21/2002 1:03:39 PM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
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To: Shermy;Tymesup
According to the FEMA report, the WTC Towers collapsed because the sprinkler systems were disabled, not from the crash of the airplanes. The Hammad cousins were working on the sprinkler systems days before 9-11. Therefore, in my opinion, the terrorist Hammad cousins are responsible for more deaths on 9-11 than all the hijackers combined. Americans are fighting and dying in Afghanistan in a war on terrorism and these terrorists responsible for the destruction on 9-11 will walk and live in America to attack again. I would expect this from a Clinton Administration, but this is from a Bush Administration.
I am done.
25 posted on 05/21/2002 7:32:37 PM PDT by honway
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To: Shermy
It's been over a year. Any word on the Katherine Smith murder case?

I checked google's news search (don't know how far back it goes) and found nothing when I included "Tennessee" in the search.

All of the google web searches appear to tie closely to the original incident (early last year).

26 posted on 07/07/2003 2:43:19 AM PDT by weegee
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To: weegee; archy; GailA; okie01
I haven't heard a word lately...any final report on Katherine Smith yet? Anybody?
27 posted on 07/07/2003 10:19:09 AM PDT by Shermy
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To: Shermy
I haven't heard a word lately...any final report on Katherine Smith yet? Anybody?

No. Shame on me, I was going to go down to the Shelby County Coroners office and armtwist a look at the report, though I wouldn't be surprised if it's still an open investigation.

But I'm now writing for a new outlet, so I may use that venue to shake the tree a bit. It'd make an interesting teaser for our website, at least.

-archy-/-

28 posted on 07/07/2003 12:05:16 PM PDT by archy (Keep in mind that the milk of human kindness comes from a beast that is both cannibal and a vampire.)
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To: Shermy
Just one more thing that the mainstream media is shy on, besides objectivity, truth and facts, etc.: follow-up.
29 posted on 07/07/2003 8:25:17 PM PDT by okie01 (The Mainstream Media: IGNORANCE ON PARADE.)
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To: archy
Any news on Katherine Smith???
30 posted on 11/03/2003 4:38:52 PM PST by Shermy
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To: Shermy
Any news on Katherine Smith???

Well, sort of. It's really news about O.C. Smith, the Shelby County medical examiner. More after the grand jury indictments all come in, and their term expires, perhaps.

31 posted on 11/03/2003 6:05:43 PM PST by archy (Angiloj! Mia kusenveturilo estas plena da angiloj!)
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To: archy; weegee; GailA; okie01; mrustow
RE: 31.

I was about to ask...read the articles...yes, it's that guy who was "attacked" by the friend of an inmate or sumpthin' story!!!

Extremely bizarre. Very Memphis. Please keep us informed. (This is very FR-comment worthy IMO.)

No lack of stories in Memphis.

This guy work on Katherine? The bio-scientist who was "blown off" the Memphis bridge?
32 posted on 11/03/2003 6:20:51 PM PST by Shermy
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To: archy
BTW, the fellow on death row repreived the day before his execution. That's some story there!
33 posted on 11/03/2003 6:27:08 PM PST by Shermy
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To: Shermy; Alamo-Girl
This guy work on Katherine? The bio-scientist who was "blown off" the Memphis bridge?

Yep. Per following:

Among his recent cases was the death of Harvard University biologist Don Wiley, whose accidental fall from a Memphis bridge in December fueled fears of terrorist kidnappings. The medical examiner also helped identify the body of Katherine Smith, 49, a state driver's license examiner who was found burned beyond recognition in February the day before a hearing on federal charges of helping five Middle Eastern men obtain fake driver's licenses. No one has been charged in her death.

There's a very real possibility that it wasn't Workman's bullet that killed that cop, and that the attempts to have him executed constitute a deprivation of his civil rights *under color of law.* That could make for some real interesting problems for witnesses who've perjured themselves or concealed exculpatory evidence, or worse. And it's interesting to note where Steve Parker, one of the other cops involved in the Workman case has ended up.

United States Code, U.S. Criminal Code, Section 242. -
Deprivation of rights under color of law

Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.


34 posted on 11/03/2003 7:27:21 PM PST by archy (Angiloj! Mia kusenveturilo estas plena da angiloj!)
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To: archy
Thank you so much for the information!
35 posted on 11/03/2003 7:39:41 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: Alamo-Girl; Shermy
Thank you so much for the information!

*More on the Philip Workman death penalty case *here*.

36 posted on 11/03/2003 8:22:39 PM PST by archy (Angiloj! Mia kusenveturilo estas plena da angiloj!)
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To: archy
Thanks for the link! Hugs!
37 posted on 11/03/2003 8:26:13 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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