From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:
Judicial Watch Files Civil Rights Lawsuit on Behalf of "Joe the Plumber"
On March 5, during a news conference held at the National Press Club, Judicial Watch announced a new federal civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher. Most of you know him as "Joe the Plumber." The lawsuit, filed in conjunction with Ohio attorney David R. Langdon, alleges that officials of the State of Ohio violated Mr. Wurzelbacher’s constitutional rights by illegally accessing confidential information from its official databases.
The defendants are Helen Jones-Kelley, Fred Williams and Doug Thompson, the three highest ranking employees of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services at the time of the alleged transgression.
Judicial Watch’s lawsuit stems from an incident that took place on October 12, 2008, right in the midst of the contentious presidential election battle.
Mr. Wurzelbacher was throwing a football with his son in the front yard of his home when then-presidential candidate Barack Obama and his campaign entourage appeared on his street.
Mr. Wurzelbacher, an employee of a small plumbing business, subsequently had the opportunity to ask Obama about the impact of his tax proposals on small businesses. Obama responded by saying, "It’s not that I want to punish your success; I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you that they’ve got a chance at success, too. I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody."
This exchange between Obama and Mr. Wurzelbacher resulted in widespread media attention and references to "Joe the Plumber" in the third presidential debate held on October 15, 2008.
As much attention as this incident received in the media and on the campaign trail, it’s what took place behind the scenes at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services that resulted in Judicial Watch’s lawsuit.
According to an investigation by the Ohio Inspector General, on October 16, 2008, just four days after Mr. Wurzelbacher questioned Obama, Jones-Kelley, Williams and Thompson held a meeting and specifically discussed "Joe the Plumber." Following the meeting the defendants authorized and instructed agency personnel to search confidential office databases to retrieve information about Mr. Wurzelbacher. All three defendants are believed to have been supporters of Obama’s presidential campaign.
The Inspector General found "no legitimate agency function or purpose for checking on [Mr. Wurzelbacher's] name through the [confidential databases] or for authorizing these searches," which he labeled a "wrongful act." The Inspector General also determined that one of the defendants, Helen Jones-Kelley misused state resources to conduct political activities on behalf of Obama.
It is unconscionable that high-ranking state officials pried into confidential government files in retaliation for Joe’s exercise of his First Amendment rights. No American should be investigated for simply asking a question of a public official.
I’m proud that Judicial Watch is representing "Joe the Plumber" in this important civil rights lawsuit. And to be blunt, any help you can give to our work not only helps fight this lawsuit, but aids all of our anti-corruption work. To further help our clause, you can donate here.
I will have much more on this lawsuit in the coming months. In the meantime, you can read the complaint for yourself by clicking here.
JW Earns Court Victory in Pursuit of Ramos/Compean Documents
Former Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, once prosecuted and jailed by the federal government for shooting and slightly wounding a Mexican drug smuggler, are home now thanks to President Bush, who commuted their prison sentences. But Judicial Watch’s fight over documents related to the decision to prosecute the two Border Patrol agents continues.
And on February 25th, Judicial Watch earned a court victory when Judge Richard Leon ordered the government to turn over the documents related to the incident or explain clearly why they are being withheld. The ruling came in Judicial Watch’s lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
According to The Associated Press:
A judge has ordered the federal government to turn over documents related to the shooting of a fleeing drug smuggler or explain why it’s withholding them. The shooting led to the imprisonment and presidential commutation of two U.S. Border Patrol agents.
Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, filed Freedom of Information Act requests two years ago with the departments of State, Justice and Homeland Security for records relating to the drug smuggler, Osvaldo Aldrete Davila."
The federal government had filed a "motion for summary judgment" to kill the lawsuit by making the ridiculous claim that all documents requested by Judicial Watch are exempt from disclosure because of an overriding personal privacy interest. In fact, according to the government’s reasoning, because of this blanket exemption, government officials do not even have to execute a search for responsible documents. Judge Leon rejected this argument. The government made a secondary claim that Judicial Watch would have to prove government wrongdoing before any search for responsive documents would be executed. Judge Leon found this argument, "unavailing."
The court noted that "Judicial Watch wants to know ‘what their government is up to.’ Reporter’s Comm., 489 U.S. at 773. Such information, to say the least, goes to the very heart of FOIA’s purpose."
Judicial Watch was also very active in helping to secure the release of Ramos and Compean from prison. In addition to our lawsuit and our efforts to call attention to this incident in the media, Judicial watch also delivered 8,862 signed petitions urging President Bush to issue full pardons to the two former Border Patrol Agents. And we were grateful when President Bush at least commuted the prison sentences. But in our view, the story is not over until we learn how and why the decision was made to help Mexican drug smuggler while throwing two of our own Border Patrol agents under the proverbial bus.
This is one way we can hold those government offiicals responsible for this decision accountable. And it’s one way we can help make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.
Ramos and Compean, their families and the American people deserve to know the truth about their prosecution. That’s why we’re after these records. And that’s why we’re so pleased with Judge Leon’s decision.
I will keep you posted on any future developments…
Illegal Alien Charged in Chandra Levy Murder Case
The 8-year mystery surrounding the murder of Chandra Levy appears to be over. The high-profile investigation, which once focused on California Congressman Gary Condit, with whom Ms. Levy had conducted an affair, ultimately led to an illegal alien from El Salvador, Ingmar Guandique.
According to The Washington Post:
D.C. police and prosecutors said yesterday that they will charge a 27-year-old Salvadoran man with first-degree murder in the killing of Chandra Levy nearly eight years ago during a sexual assault along desolate hiking trail deep in Rock Creek Park.
Saying they had solved a case that transfixed the nation, authorities issued an arrest warrant for Ingmar Guandique, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence for attacking two other women at knifepoint in the park around the time the 24-year-old federal government intern disappeared.
Guandique, who entered the United States illegally in 2000 and had trouble scraping together a new life in Washington, will be brought to the city within weeks to face the new charge, police and prosecutors said.
I suppose The Washington Post deserves some credit for at least noting that Guandique is an illegal alien, something other news sources, including The New York Times, failed to do.
But there is one glaring omission in this particular Post story. Just six days after Guandique allegedly murdered Ms. Levy, he was arrested on a burglary charge. Guandique did not speak English and had no social security number and no identifiable address. After being questioned by the District’s "Pretrial Services Agency," the agency that helps determine if a criminal suspect will be released on bail, Guandique was let go on a "personal promise" that he would appear at his trial. Federal immigration officials were not notified of his presence.
Six days later, Guandique was in Rock Creek Park again, this time sexually assaulting a 30-year old woman at knife-point. Thankfully, the victim fought off Guandique and managed to survive.
Five weeks later Guandique showed up to plead guilty on the burglary charge and was released again onto the streets. Eleven days after that he attacked again in Rock Creek Park. This time the victim was a 26-year old attorney. She also managed to survive.
It likely won’t surprise you that Washington, DC, is a sanctuary city. In fact, you might even recall that Judicial Watch has an ongoing investigation of Washington, DC’s, illegal immigration enforcement policies. (You can read about it here.)
Judicial Watch is leading the charge against cities across America that continue to put law-abiding citizens at risk by coddling illegal alien criminals with sanctuary policies. I have no idea whether or not stricter immigration enforcement would have prevented Chandra Levy’s death. But one thing we know for certain, it could have prevented two sexual assaults. We’ve initiated a Freedom of Information Act request with the DC government to find out if Guandique had any contact with our local police prior to the Levy murder.
Some in the mainstream press would have you believe Guandique is the victim here. Just take a look at how the Washington Post subtly blames Guandique’s violent spree on the fact he had "trouble scraping together a new life in Washington."
Guandique is a twisted and unrepentant predator. The idea that a taxpayer-funded day labor site or some other government handout would have prevented him from attacking Chandra Levy and his other victims is a joke. And a dangerous one at that.
In the end, as a sanctuary city, our nation’s capital will continue to attract more dangerous people like Guandique. And, in the end, it is an innocent like Chandra Levy who pays the price for this lawlessness by our government officials. I have no doubt that sanctuary kills.
Congress is now considering an unconstitutional plan to allow District residents a congressman. If Congress were being truly responsible, they’d be legislating out of existence the DC government’s illegal and dangerous sanctuary policy.
Until next week…
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