Archive for the Politics Category

Abe Giles Denied Accelerated Rehabilitation

Posted in Connecticut, News, Politics with tags , on August 10, 2010 by punauni

HARTFORD, Conn. — A Hartford political power-broker who once called himself bulletproof has been denied a request for a special type of probation instead of jail time.A judge ruled Tuesday that the felony extortion charges against Abe Giles are too serious for accelerated rehabilitation.Giles was convicted of attempted to extort money from a developer in Hartford in connection with the corruption case against former Hartford mayor Eddie Perez.The 84-year-old Giles faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.


Political patronage led to neglect death of disabled Philadelphia teen under city watch

Posted in News, People Behaving Badly, Politics with tags , , on June 10, 2010 by punauni

PHILADELPHIA — Political patronage contributed to the starvation death of a disabled Philadelphia girl under the city’s watch, a federal judge said Thursday in sentencing a social-services contractor to 17 1/2 years in prison.

The city paid Michal Kamuvaka’s politically connected firm $1 million a year to ensure that its neediest families got specialized attention.

Company workers assigned to the chaotic home where 14-year-old Danieal Kelly was wasting away in a wheelchair were supposed to ensure she and her siblings had proper housing, schooling and medical care.

But after 10 months of supposed twice-weekly visits, Danieal, who had cerebral palsy, was still not enrolled in school and had not been seen by a doctor. By the time she died in the sweltering home in August 2006, she weighed 42 pounds and had maggot-infested bedsores.

City audits of Kamuvaka’s company, MultiEthnic Behavioral Health Services, were “laughable,” since the firm got a heads up weeks in advance to get its paperwork in order, U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell said Thursday.

Dalzell doubted that even a whistle-blower, had one stepped up, could have interested the city in the contractor’s failings.

“It was patronage — plain and simple,” Dalzell said. “It was a deal, and nobody was taking this seriously” within the city’s Department of Human Services.

Case worker Julius Murray made just 10 visits, not the 46 noted in records dummied up on orders from Kamuvaka after Danieal died, Dalzell found.

“Here was a woman with a doctorate in social work who ran the operations of an agency so lackadaisically that, in the words of one of her colleagues, ‘It was just a matter of time’ that one of her charges died,” Dalzell said in giving Kamuvaka the maximum term and revoking her bail.

Later Thursday, Dalzell sentenced another company co-founder, Solomon Manamela, to 14 years for his role in the fraud. Manamela, a 52-year-old political refugee from South Africa, faces deportation when he gets out.

“Part of me died (after Danieal did),” Manamela, who oversaw training, told the judge.

Kamuvaka, 61, came to the U.S. from Liberia on a college scholarship, and went on to earn a Ph.D. and become a beloved mentor to social-work students at Lincoln University, several of whom spoke on her behalf Thursday.

She and co-defendant Earle McNeill, 72, formed the company in about 2000 to bid on the city contract. They had no other clients, and their primary experience was with adults and addicts.

“McNeill was, by whatever magic, indeed able to win the … (contract) in the summer of 2000, notwithstanding the reality that (the company) had no experience whatever in dealing with ‘at risk’ children,” Dalzell wrote in a recent opinion.

Even after Danieal died, the judge said Thursday, Kamuvaka visited an ally at City Hall, a DHS program director, in an effort to keep and even extend the $3.7 million, multiyear contract.

Then-acting Health Commissioner Carmen Paris soon ordered a coroner not to release the grim autopsy results, the coroner testified at Kamuvaka’s trial this year. But it was too late. Investigators — and the public — were becoming aware of the case. Paris resigned in 2008, days after a 258-page county grand jury report on Danieal’s death accused her of interfering with the investigation.

“It took a lot of people to kill this little girl,” said Dalzell, who faulted MultiEthnic, City Hall and the school district, which also made a home visit.

But the blame starts, he said, with the girl’s parents. Her mother, Andrea Kelly, is serving a 20- to 40-year state sentence after pleading guilty to third-degree murder. The girl’s father, Daniel Kelly, was accused of abandoning his daughter and faces child-endangerment charges.

Kamuvaka and Murray also still face a November trial in state court on involuntary manslaughter charges.

In all, nine MultiEthnic employees were convicted in the federal case — Kamuvaka, Manamela and two others at trial and five others through pleas. McNeill was previously sentenced to 7-1/2 years. The two others who went to trial will be sentenced Friday.

“I don’t think anybody should think of Dr. Kamuvaka as an evil person,” defense lawyer William Cannon argued. “This situation certainly got away from her, there’s no denying that. But that she would be indifferent to the situation that enveloped Danieal would just not be accurate.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bea Witzleben said the case is not one where children fell through the cracks. The Kellys, and other families ill-served by MultiEthnic, were identified by the city and assigned help.

“She (Kamuvaka) asked for this responsibility. She was given it and paid for it,” Witzleben said. “There was hope for that child to have a decent life.”

Biden Jokes About Avoiding ‘Blumenthal Mistake’

Posted in Connecticut, News, Politics with tags , , on May 26, 2010 by punauni

WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden has joked about avoiding a “Blumenthal mistake,” a reference to Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s frequent misstatements about serving in Vietnam. Biden met with veterans visiting his official residence on Tuesday night and tried to joke about Blumenthal’s gaffe, for which he apologized last week. The Democratic attorney general is seeking the Senate seat. Biden said: “I didn’t serve in Vietnam. I don’t want to make a Blumenthal mistake here. Our attorney general from Connecticut, God love him.” He later added: “I have a bad habit of saying exactly what I think.” Blumenthal is looking to succeed Sen. Chris Dodd, a Democrat who is retiring. Republicans have been consistent in their criticism and will likely nominate wrestling executive Linda McMahon.

Secret Service Probes Alabama Teacher for Using Obama Assassination as a Lesson

Posted in News, Politics with tags , , on May 19, 2010 by punauni

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A Jefferson County geometry teacher was investigated by the Secret Service after he used a hypothetical assassination of President Obama as a way to teach angles.

School officials say the Corner High School teacher apparently was teaching his students about parallel lines and angles and used the example of where to stand and aim to shoot the president.

Authorities were alerted, and Roy Sexton, special agent in charge of Birmingham’s Secret Service office, says his agency spoke with the teacher, did not find a credible threat and closed the investigation. No charges were filed.

Superintendent Phil Hammonds says the teacher remains at work and there are no plans to fire him.

Blumenthal denies trying to mislead on Vietnam

Posted in Politics on May 18, 2010 by punauni

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — Trying to defuse a crisis that could give the GOP a powerful opening, Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal said Tuesday that he “misspoke” in claiming more than once that he served in Vietnam, and he dismissed the furor as a matter of “a few misplaced words.”

At a news conference where he surrounded himself with veterans, the Connecticut attorney general and far-and-away front-runner to replace retiring Democrat Christopher Dodd said he meant to say he served “during” Vietnam instead of “in” Vietnam. He said the statements were “totally unintentional” errors that occurred only a few times out of hundreds of public appearances.

Democrats in Connecticut and Washington stood by Blumenthal, and neither party said the incident was enough to instantly sink his candidacy. But the controversy raised Republican hopes of taking a seemingly safe seat away from the Democrats and reducing their Senate majority.

“On a few occasions, I have misspoken about my service and I regret that. And I take full responsibility,” said Blumenthal, a trim, square-jawed figure with the bearing of a military man. “But I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country.”

The crisis erupted when The New York Times reported that Blumenthal had repeatedly distorted his military service. The story included quotations and a video of Blumenthal saying at a 2008 event that he had “served in Vietnam.” The newspaper also said Blumenthal intimated more than once that he was a victim of the abuse heaped on Vietnam veterans upon their return home.

At a veterans event in Shelton, Conn., for example, he said, “When we returned from Vietnam, I remember the taunts, the verbal and even physical abuse we encountered,” according to a 2008 Connecticut Post story.

Blumenthal, 64, joined the Marine Reserve in 1970 and served six years, none of it overseas. He put in much of his time in Washington, where he took part in such projects as fixing a campground and working on a Toys for Tots drive, according to the Times.

He received at least five military deferments that enabled him to stay out of the war between 1965 and 1970, during which time he went to Harvard, studied in England and landed a job in the Nixon White House. Once he secured a spot in the Marine Reserve, he had almost no chance of being sent to Vietnam, the newspaper reported.

One of Blumenthal’s Republican opponents, former WWE wrestling executive Linda McMahon, claimed to have given video of the Norwalk event to the Times after more than two months of “deep, persistent” research.

The Times refused to comment on its sources.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said it was not surprised that McMahon’s campaign “cherry-picked” the quotes, “considering all of the debauchery” at the WWE under her watch. And Connecticut Democratic chairwoman Nancy DiNardo called the accusations “the lowest kind of political smear.”

Blumenthal is widely known for his dedication to veterans issues, attending numerous funerals and military sendoffs. He has spoken at hundreds of events, many times about the mistreatment veterans received after returning from Vietnam. Blumenthal is also known as a straight-arrow and a man of integrity.

“People are going to look at him differently,” said John Feehery, a GOP consultant in Washington. “For someone like him it’s even worse, because he’s got this squeaky-clean image.”

Blumenthal received draft deferments while attending Harvard, completing a fellowship in England, working on a project at The Washington Post and serving as an aide to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then President Richard Nixon’s adviser on urban affairs.

Blumenthal bristled at the way the Times characterized his military record, saying the story “really implies that there was kind of special favors or treatment involved in my entering the reserves, which is in fact completely untrue.” He said he joined the Reserve by looking it up in the phone book and calling, and added that there were no guarantees that he wouldn’t be sent to Vietnam.

“A lot of people were making different choices during that period. Some people decided not to serve. I could have continued in the White House with a deferment,” he said. “I wanted to move on with my life. I wanted to serve the country, and I’m proud of the fact that I made that decision and served and reached the rank of sergeant in the Marine Corps reserves.”

Veterans who stood behind him at the podium at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in West Hartford said Blumenthal’s commitment was without question.

“I’m here today because I couldn’t let these malicious, deceptive charges against my good friend Dick go unanswered,” said Peter Galgano, a spokesman for the Marine Corps League of Connecticut. Galgano said he had seen Blumenthal speak at dozens of veterans events and he was always “completely straightforward about his honorable service.”

Another Republican opponent, former Rep. Rob Simmons, a Vietnam veteran, said he had not heard Blumenthal make any misstatements, but added: “He owes an apology to those whose service he has undeservedly capitalized on for his own political purposes.”

Questions about Blumenthal’s military service come just days before Connecticut Democrats meet at their party convention on Friday to endorse a candidate. Blumenthal is facing a challenge for the nomination from Mystic businessman Merrick Alpert, but is expected to easily win the party’s endorsement.

Polls in recent days showed Blumenthal leading his GOP challengers in hypothetical head-to-head matchups by 30 to 40 percentage points.

Given the stakes for both sides — the tough environment for Democrats, and the GOP’s determination to retake control of the Senate by picking up 10 seats — the Democrats moved quickly to contain the damage, circulating videos showing the candidate being careful to portray his Vietnam service accurately.

In a televised March debate, Blumenthal stated clearly he had not actually served in Vietnam during the war when asked a question about using military force in Iran.

“People know him, they know he has a strong record of fighting for people in Connecticut for a long time,” said Chris Kofinis, a Democratic consultant in Washington. “People, I think, are forgiving.”

Dodd called Blumenthal “an honorable man who has served his state and country proudly” and “will be a great United States senator.”