The White House needs to butt out of prosecutorial decisions.  If the White House undercuts Attorney General Holder on the issue of where to hold the KSM trial—or any other trial for that matter—they are establishing a HORRIBLE precedent. It would mean that anytime a criminal defendant wanted to change the venue of his trial, all he has to do is arrange for a credible threat to the neighborhood around the courthouse.

It also gives local mayors an unheard of ability to interfere with both the decisions of DOJ and those of the judicial branch. What sort a moron rewards bad behavior that way? Just because Pete King wets his pants every time someone say  “terra- terra- bugga- bugga- boo” does not mean that political operatives in the White House should now be interfering in decisions properly made by the DOJ and the judicial branch.

Ahem, remember separation of powers? The judicial branch, NOT the executive branch, establishes the site of their own courts within the confines of the Judiciary Act of 1789 and Article 3 of the Constitution. So, Congress set the locations of the districts, the judiciary decides where the “court” sits within the district (which is how a FISA Court judge can hear a midnight warrant application in his living room while wearing PJs).

Do you know who do NOT get a say in this? The Executive Branch.  In fact, the Judiciary Act specifically REQUIRES that:

SEC. 9. And be it further enacted, That the district courts shall have, exclusively of the courts of the several States, cognizance of all crimes and offences that shall be cognizable under the authority of the United States, committed within their respective districts, or upon the high seas;

[emphasis added].

So, if the crime was committed in SDNY, it has to be tried in SDNY, so sayeth the very first Congress of the United States. So, Rahm or whatever other cretin got the bright idea that you can tell the court where it’s going to sit, feck off and go get a copy of the goddamned Constitution! And PLEASE stop taking orders from Pete King and Michele Bachmann. Sheez!

This interference with the day to day workings of the courts is certainly a radical change, but I don’t think it’s the kind of “change we can believe in” that Democrats, Independents and crossover voters thought they were voting for.

I previously opined that someone in the Administration took a shiv to The Attorney General over the KSM trial. Now it looks like I was right. Sucks to be right.

Terrorism trials and organized crime trials in SDNY and the attendant “disruptions” to local traffic are nothing new in NY. The first ones I personally remember, was the Croatian Nationalist Trials in the early 1980’s. For those who were not daily visitors to Foley Square in those days, a little refresher:

These appeals from judgments of conviction in the District Court for the Southern District of New York, after a trial before Judge Pollack and a jury, concern the terrorist activities of four Croatian nationalists from mid-November to mid-December, 1980. During this one-month period, a Joint Terrorism Task Force, made up of Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), detectives of the New York City Police Department Arson and Explosives Section, as well as other FBI personnel, including a number of agents and translators able to understand Serbo-Croatian, conducted a large scale investigation, including the operation of four interception devices, the execution of eight search warrants, and around-the-clock physical surveillance of the four appellants and their coconspirators.

There was also a trial before Judge Motley

The massive, complex and convoluted record of this thirteen-week trial established that appellants were members of a Croatian terrorist group operating principally in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, with participants in Cleveland, San Francisco, Toronto, South America, and Europe. Acting through their criminal enterprise, they perpetrated an international extortion scheme against “moderate Croatians” and persons they believed to be supporters of the government of Yugoslavia, resorting to multiple acts of violence against those not sufficiently sympathetic to their cause. We chronicle the history of their activities in some detail.

This latter case involved multiple bomb plots and oodles of explosives.

I remember these trials well because of the crowds of protesters outside the courthouse. There were demonstrations daily. So, there were police doing crowd control. Supposedly, somebody either brought a gun or was apprehended trying to bring a gun into the courthouse; so suddenly you couldn’t just waltz into the courthouse at will, you were stopped in the lobby and had your bags searched.

Later, during the Commission Case (in which the heads of all five NY mafia families were charged, and which was going on at the same time the Gotti case was being tried just a short walk over the Brooklyn Bridge in EDNY) and the Pizza Connection Case, courthouse and USAO SDNY security had to be beefed up again and again. Metal detectors were added to the search and x-ray screening of bags, and finally, in response to threats to blow up the US Attorney’s Office, barricades were installed around St. Andrew’s plaza to stop car bombs. I found this latter innovation a big inconvenience because I used to park on the plaza when I worked really late or worked on the weekends. Once the bollards went up, I had to hike to my car late at night. SDNY has also been the site of the Columbian Drug Cartel trials, the NY 8 ½ trial, the FALN trial and a host of Islamic terrorists trials.

In 2001, Mary Jo White wrote a piece for Middle East Quarterly outlining the relentlessly successful work that the USAO SDNY Counter Terror Unit accomplished. Click the link and READ IT. We have a long history of safely holding trials of supposedly really dangerous people with networks of really dangerous henchmen alleged to be bent of wreaking havoc on lower Manhattan if we dared to hold the trial there. This is nothing new for SDNY.

There is no reason to, once again, jettison the rule of law, separation of powers and longstanding traditions of prosecutorial independence from political concerns, just because Mayor Bloomberg has had a change of heart.

So, I would like to remind Mayor Bloomberg of another second career mayor, Carmel-by-the-Sea’s Mayor Clint Eastwood. During his first career, Eastwood made a movie exemplifying the lengths to which this society ought to go to ensure that thugs don’t dictate where, when, how or whether criminal trials are held. Mayor Bloomberg, rent the movie — I’ll spring for the NetFlix charge and the popcorn.

Cynthia Kouril

Cynthia Kouril

Cynthia Kouril is a former Special Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York under several different U.S. Attorneys, former counsel to the Inspector General for the N.Y.C. Department of Environmental Protection where she investigated threats to the New York City water supply and other environmental crimes, as well as public corruption and fraud against the government, former Examining Attorney at the N.Y.C. Department of Investigation and former Capital Construction Counsel at New York City Parks and Recreation.
She is now in private practice with a colleague whom she met while at the USA Attorney's Office. Ms. Kouril is a member of the Steering Committee, National Committeewoman and Regional Coordinator for the New York Democratic Lawyers Council, a member of the Program Committee of the Federal Bar Council and a member of the Election Law Committee at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. She is active in several other Bar Associations.
Most important of all, she is a soccer mom.