Len Goodman and Patti Blagojevich Press Conference on Appellate Court Opinion



Obama’s Drone Policy Crashes and Burns Yemen, the poster child for drone-based foreign policy, has collapsed on itself.


Published in In These Times – March 19, 2015

Obama’s Drone Policy Crashes and Burns

Yemen, the poster child for drone-based foreign policy, has collapsed on itself.

BY Leonard C. Goodman

The unraveling of Yemen should be a wake-up call for Obama loyalists. Obama was elected in large part because of his opposition to the disastrous Iraq War and his promise of a smarter Middle East policy, one less reliant on invasion and occupation. Nevertheless, in office, Obama has supported the occupation of Afghanistan and the NATO-led overthrow of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, which led to chaos.

Still, as Obama explained in a September 2014 foreign policy speech, the centerpiece of his strategy in the Middle East has been a more long-distance approach: “taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines.” In other words: air strikes, drones and military aid. He touted the success of this strategy in Yemen and Somalia.

Indeed, Yemen has been the poster child for Obama’s Middle East strategy. Using the U.S. military bases that surround Yemen, we have propped up the corrupt and repressive regimes of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his successor, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi (i.e., our “partners on the front lines”). In exchange, they let us incinerate alleged militants. And when we slaughter innocents (like 35 women and children in a 2009 bombing, or 12 members of a wedding party in a 2014 drone strike), our partners help cover up our crimes, even jailing the Yemeni journalist who exposed the U.S. role in the 2009 attack.

Of course, the cover-up was effective only in the United States, where most of our news comes from corporate sources that almost never challenge official pronouncements about military or CIA missions. The Yemeni people know all too well our criminal acts. Last September, 13-yearold Mohammed Tuaiman al-Jahmi told the Guardian that “he lived in constant fear of the ‘death machines’ in the sky that had already killed his father and brother” in 2011, as they were out herding the family’s camels. In February, Mohammed himself was killed by a U.S. drone.

The Obama “success story” in Yemen had already come to an end in January, when Houthi rebels took control of the presidential compound in Sanaa, ousting Hadi, his prime minister and his entire cabinet. The motto of the new leaders is “Death to America, death to Israel, curse on the Jews, victory to Islam.” On February 10, the State Department confirmed that it had closed the U.S. embassy in Yemen, the third in an Arab country since 2012.

In truth, Obama’s foreign policy is similar to George W. Bush’s. The war contractors want to keep the rivers of taxpayer cash flowing into their coffers, while multinational energy firms want the U.S. to keep supporting brutal, undemocratic regimes that keep their boots on the necks of restive citizens who might object to foreign firms exploiting national resources. And as long as our laws permit corrupt ties between corporate interests and politicians, we will continue to see disastrous failure after failure of our foreign policy.

In February, Obama led a three-day summit on countering violent extremism. The president’s remarks at this summit, of course, made no mention of our odious drone policy. No citizens of Yemen or Pakistan were invited to speak about how living with the constant anxiety caused by armed drones buzzing in the sky drives residents to join anti-U.S. terror groups. Nor was there any talk of the blowback caused by the U.S. military bases which garrison the greater Middle East, or of the corrupt, repressive regimes that those U.S. bases support. Instead, leaders of some of those regimes attended the summit.

Obama did offer empty rhetoric about how we are not at war with Islam. Such words are unlikely to impress Muslims outside the United States, who know that it’s Muslims who populate Obama’s kill list, who are indefinitely detained at Guantánamo without charges and whose systematic torture by the CIA was swept under the rug by Obama.

Americans, who are ill-informed about our actions overseas, will hear Obama’s empathetic rhetoric and quite rationally conclude that the reason we are losing in places like Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan is because Obama is too soft. Perhaps our next president will be someone who promises to get tougher on Muslim extremists. But until we end the partnership between government and corporate power, three things will remain constant: Our foreign policy will be expensive for U.S. taxpayers, profitable for the war contractors and disastrous for everyday people.

Leonard Goodman is a Chicago criminal defense lawyer and Adjunct Professor of Law at DePaul University.

Read it at In These Times: http://inthesetimes.com/article/17762/obamas-drone-policy-crashes-and-burns

The Afghan Militant in the Photo? The Wrong Man, and He’s Not Happy By TAIMOOR SHAH and JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN. FEB. 16, 2015



Len Goodman’s client Shawali Khan released from the prison at Guantanamo Bay


Four Afghan Gitmo Prisoners Repatriated press@ccrjustice.org

December 20, 2014, New York – In response to the repatriation announced today of four Afghan prisoners, including Shawali Khan, whose case the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) has long worked on with lead counsel Leonard C. Goodman and co-counsel Kent Spriggs, CCR Legal Director Baher Azmy issued the following statement:

We welcome Shawali Khan’s transfer. Shawali was sent to Guantanamo on the flimsiest of allegations that were implausible on their face and never properly investigated, and held for 11 years without charge. We hope that soon he will be reunited with his loved ones.
As hostilities in Afghanistan come to a close with President Obama’s announcement that the last combat troops will leave by the end of the year, the conflict in which most of the men imprisoned at Guantánamo were captured and held for more than a decade without charge or trial is also ending. The Afghanistan conflict has been the longest in U.S. history, and under U.S. and international law, including the laws of war, the remaining detainees must be released without delay.
Any ostensible justification for detaining our clients and other Guantánamo prisoners will unravel as U.S. combat troops leave Afghanistan. Any detention authority under which these men were captured will end—if, in fact, it ever properly existed.  Continuing to hold prisoners at Guantánamo under the guise of an endless, worldwide “war on terror” would be both unlawful and, itself, terrifying.  Endless war is anti-democratic and fundamentally inconsistent with basic liberty.
Shawali Khan grew up on a farm in southern Afghanistan.  His family was poor, and he had little formal education.  At the time of the 9/11 attacks, he was living in Kandahar and working as a shop keeper.  After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, he was employed for several months as a driver for the U.S.-backed Karzai government.  He was held at Guantanamo for 11 years without charge.

Len Goodman Interview with NBC5’s Phil Rogers: Blagojevich Approaches One Year of Waiting For Decision



One year and counting.

As of Saturday, that’s how long former governor Rod Blagojevich, his family and attorneys have been waiting for a decision from the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

“This opinion is going to have far reaching effects,” said Leonard Goodman, one of Blagojevich’s attorneys. “Not just for Rod and Patti, and their two daughters, but for any politician who has to go out and raise money.”

But why the wait? Goodman says he believes it’s simply because the Blagojevich case was so complicated, unfolding during two trials, with dozens of undercover recordings and labyrinthine charges. Others aren’t so sure.

“They want to put it out when it’s going to cause the least ruckus!” said Leonard Cavise, professor emeritus of law from DePaul University. He calls the former governor’s 14-year sentence “outrageous” and is convinced the appellate court is prepared to make a change.

“I think they’re going to reduce his sentence,” Cavise said. “And if you’re going to reduce his sentence, it’s a good idea to serve a little more time.”

The appeal rests on two key pillars: that Blagojevich’s behavior did not constitute a crime and that he was not allowed to present an adequate defense.

“Your ordinary political corruption case involves a politician putting money in his pocket, whether it’s taking money from his campaign fund or cash bribes or trips … jewelry,” Goodman said. “Rod never did any of that!”

Indeed, the most famous charge — that Blagojevich hoped to “sell” the Barack Obama Senate seat — actually rests in the eye of the beholder. And that is key to what the court will decide.

“You know, I can’t think of another politician who has been put in the dock for purely political acts,” Goodman said.

During the oral arguments before the court last December, Judge Frank Easterbrook pushed the prosecutor to explain how a political horse trade rose to the level of a crime. Specifically, he cited the example of California Governor Earl Warren, making a deal to deliver his support to Dwight Eisenhower in exchange for an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ironically, it was an argument Blagojevich himself had made during his second trial.

“Under the standard that Blagojevich was held to, Governor Warren should be in jail and so should Eisenhower,” Goodman said.

The bottom line, of course, is that many believe Blagojevich’s stiff 14-year sentence was intended as a message to other politicians not to even think about chicanery lest they join him behind bars. And now observers agree that whatever the Appellate court does, they will be sending a message as well.

“You know, this case is about politics,” Goodman said. “And every politician is going to look at what the Seventh Circuit does.”

Blagojevich himself recently moved from the low security Federal Correctional Institution in Englewood, Colorado, to an adjoining camp. That minimum security facility has more freedom of movement and is generally considered to be a bit more accommodating.

But it’s still prison. And unless he gets good news from the Appellate court, Illinois’ famous former governor is not scheduled to be released until 2024.

Source: http://www.nbcchicago.com/investigations/Blago-Approaches-1-Year-Anniversary-of-Wai-285678621.html#ixzz3M6jJMJMv
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Blagojevich Oral Argument Set for December 13, 2013: Read Blagojevich’s Reply Brief


Oral arguments for Rob Blagojevich have been set for December 13, 2013. Our office’s reply brief has been filed and can be accessed through the link below.

reply brief-Blagojevich

Len Goodman Appears on ‘Chicago Tonight’ to Discuss Blago Appeal


Click the following link to view Mr. Goodman’s interview: Len Goodman appeared on WTTW’s television program, Chicago Tonight, to discuss Rod Blagojevich’s appeal.

Rod Blagojevich’s Appellate Brief


On July 15, 2013, the Law Office of Leonard Goodman filed Blagojevich’s appeal. To read the brief, click here: appeal brief-Blago-final

Jury Acquits Oliver of Murder, Deadlocks on Neglect Offense


Journal Gazette and Times Courier, February 1, 2013.

CHARLESTON — After hearing different stories about whether Christopher P. Oliver took part in the attack that killed Dustin Higgins, including one from Oliver himself, a jury decided he wasn’t guilty of murder.

But whether Oliver did enough as an employee of the group home where Higgins lived to keep him from being attacked and injured was a decision the jury couldn’t make.

After about 4½ hours of deliberation that ended late Friday, the jury acquitted Oliver of a first-degree murder charge. It deadlocked on a charge of criminal neglect of a disabled person, and whether Oliver will be retried on that charge could be known by next month.

Oliver, 29, was accused of a role in the death of Higgins, which came eight days after he was beaten on Aug. 24, 2008, at the Graywood Enterprises group home that was located at 1511 B. St., Charleston.

Some of the testimony the jury heard during the four-day trial came from Daniel Clark, who also worked at the home, and Robert Gardner and Edward Flexter, two of the home’s residents.

All were accused and convicted of roles in the attack and said they witnessed Oliver take part. However, each version differed in how the attack began and exactly what Oliver did.

Clark said the attack escalated from “horse play” involving Oliver and Higgins; Gardner said the beating was punishment for Higgins stealing food; and Flexter said it was because Higgins stole another resident’s money.

Oliver gave his account during his own testimony on Friday, saying he did see Higgins beaten, first by Gardner, but he didn’t think Higgins was seriously injured. He said he left the home but came back after Clark called and asked him to return, and he found Higgins in a far worse condition.

He and the others also all said a third Graywood employee, James Wynn, took part in the attack and, in earlier statements, Gardner and Flexter said he instigated it. Wynn wasn’t charged with a role in Higgins’ death but did admit lying to investigating police when he said he was away from the home with some of its residents at the time of the attack.

Also during his testimony Friday, Oliver said he followed Graywood procedure by calling a supervisor instead of immediately calling 911 for an ambulance.

“I don’t think there can be any dispute that there were two attacks on Dustin Higgins that night,” defense attorney Len Goodman said during his closing arguments to the jury. “There was another attack after Chris left.”

Prosecution team member Ed Parkinson said there was nothing to show Oliver’s claims of a second attack “except his own words.” Gardner’s and Flexter’s accounts did differ but, when they testified, both maintained that Oliver took part in the attack, he said.

“Do they have trouble remembering? Sure,” Parkinson said. “Just because they’re mentally challenged, you should not discount them and say they’re liars.”

Oliver also told the jury that, when he returned, he tried to revive Higgins, who was unresponsive.

He said he first notified the supervisor instead of calling an ambulance because he’d gotten in trouble for taking an injured resident to the hospital without authorization before. Parkinson attacked him on that point during his cross examination.

“You didn’t take him to the hospital because you thought you might get in trouble for not following those stupid rules?” Parkinson asked.

“I’m following my orders,” Oliver replied. He added that he regretted the decision and said he “never would have left if Dustin Higgins was not OK” after the earlier fight he said he witnessed.

After the jury’s decisions, Circuit Judge James Glenn scheduled a hearing for March 15 to check the status of the remaining neglect charge. State’s Attorney Brian Bower, who didn’t take part in the trial but was in the courtroom when it concluded, said his office will decide before the hearing whether to retry Oliver on the neglect charge.

Had Oliver been convicted of the murder charge, a prison sentence of at least 20 years would have been required. The prosecution also alleged that the attack on Higgins came to “exceptionally brutal or heinous behavior,” which would have meant that Oliver could have received more than the normal 60-year maximum.

Allegations in the neglect offense that Higgins’ death resulted meant that offense could bring a three- to 14-year prison term, though prison time wouldn’t be required.

Higgins’ death was followed by that of another Graywood client at different one of the company’s Charleston facilities in January 2011. Two employees were convicted of crimes in connection with that death, and it led to Graywood closing its facilities for the developmentally disabled.

For a link to the article, please click here.

Goodman Law Update: Jury Acquits on First Degree Murder, Hung on Criminal Neglect


Our client, Chris Oliver, was a college student at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, IL, working part-time as a staff person at a group home for young men with severe mental illness, earning $8 an hour. Some of the residents of this home had long histories of violent and antisocial behavior. Chris had worked at the home for 2 years and the trial testimony established that he actually cared about the residents and was patient and professional in dealing with their behaviors.

On August 24, 2008, a resident of the home was severely beaten after Chris had clocked out for the day. The other staff members, who allowed the beating to take place, called Chris on his cell phone and asked him to come back and deal with the gravely wounded young resident. The Charleston, IL police department showed up 2 hours after the 911 call. The lead detective looked at Chris, who is 6-5 and black, and decided he was guilty. The detective then pressured these mentally ill young men to say they saw Chris beating and stomping the victim. Recorded interrogations show that every time the residents strayed from the story that Chris did it, they were firmly brought back around. It came out at trial that following the initial police interviews with the residents, the former lead detective told the executive director for the Graywood foundation, the company that ran the group home, that “we will not be able to put the boys on the stand because I was able to manipulate their statements 3 different ways last night.”

A critical piece of evidence was the surveillance footage from the corner store which showed that a staff member gave a false alibi and also would have confirmed Chris’s account of the time he got back to the house. The assistant state’s attorney elicited false testimony from the detective that the store did not have the equipment to preserve that surveillance tape and thus it is unavailable. We later called the store manager who testified that absolutely, they could have preserved the surveillance tape if the request had come within 35 days. Just pop in a disk, put in the dates, hit record.

The Coles County States Attorney pushed the case against Chris to the limit, charging him with a “brutal and heinous” murder, which would have given him a life sentence, and with a separate charge of criminal neglect of a disabled person.

At the trial which began January 29, the State relied on the testimony of 2 of the mentally ill residents of the group home and one of the on-shift staff members. All 3 of these witnesses were given plea deals which required them to testify against Chris. Prior to trial, both of the mentally ill residents gave statements on videotape admitting that Chris was not involved. But the detective immediately re-interviewed them, reminded them of their obligation to help the prosecution and of their earlier statement that they saw Chris beating the victim, and got them to flip back. One of these men shook the prosecutor’s hand as he got off the stand. The other young man named, who was off his meds, admitted he would lie for anyone.

Chris was acquitted on the murder charge. The jury hung on the second charge which was criminal neglect of a disabled person. But we are praying that the state’s attorney’s office will do the right thing and dismiss that charge. The basis for this neglect charge is that Chris followed company policy which was to call his supervisor and the nurse before calling “911.” The evidence showed that while Chris was trying his best to care for the injured victim, another staff person named, who was on shift (unlike Chris), was playing basketball. The evidence also revealed that this staff member originally gave the police a false alibi. Yet, this staff member was never charged in connection with the beating death of the resident in his charge. He was charged with misdemeanor obstruction of justice for lying to the police. He received a sentence of supervision.

Jury Acquits Oliver of Murder, Deadlocks on Neglect Offense. February 1, 2013. Journal Gazette and Times Courier.

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