A6 · SUNDAY, APRIL 24, 2016

Prosecutors: Stats don’t tell full story

The attorney gen-
Uneven prosecution Depending on which of the 94 U.S. attorney districts a crime
occurs in, some crimes draw more prosecutions than others.
present to prosecutors.
“On the one hand, you
can say, ‘It’s one country
eral is appointed by the Firearms/triggerlock Drug trafficking Simple drug possession and we should have uni-
president, with Sen- If you’re a convicted felon carrying a If you get caught trafficking drugs in A person caught with drugs in Arlington, Va., form justice,’” Eisenstein
ate confirmation, and firearm, it’s better to get caught Toledo, in the Northern Ohio district, is more likely to face federal charges of said. “On the other hand,
oversees U.S. attorneys, on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe you’re likely better off than if you are simple drug possession than someone you say, ‘It’s a diverse
but he or she cannot than in California. north of the city in Eastern Michigan. arrested in the District of Columbia. country and you ought
fire them. The president PROSECUTION RATE PROSECUTION RATE PROSECUTION RATE to take into account local
appoints U.S. attorneys Nevada EasternCalifornia Northern Ohio EasternMichigan EasternVirginia DistrictofColumbia culture and local condi-
to four-year terms with tions.’ ”
the Senate’s approval, 24.4% 84% 24.5% 83.4% 99.4% 26.7% But uneven pros-
and the president can ecution undermines
remove them. public trust in the justice
The result is that system, said Anthony C.
a crime that federal Illegal immigration Thompson, clinical law
prosecutors handle These cases professor at New York
in one district might dominate the five University School of
be declined or left for districts that run Law.
state or county prosecu- along the Mexican Mich.
M “The predictability of
tors elsewhere. While border, from justice is very important
Southern California, Toledo
some districts focus on Lake
Ohio Washington for our democracy,”
intensely local issues — to Southern Texas. Tahoe Thompson said. “That
Together, those Arlington
such as illegal immigra- Nev. Va.
a people can understand
districts prosecuted that they will be charged
tion along the South- 712,124 cases, Calif. N.C. Counterfeiting
Tenn. and treated similarly for
west border or wildlife accounting for Chattanooga and forgery
protection in Western S.C. Counterfeiters in Myrtle similar conduct is very
90.2 percent of
Louisiana — others Ariz. N.M. Myrtle Beach face a tough important. When you be-
immigration Ga.
pursue national or even prosecutions
Beach criminal path compared with gin to change that based
Texas on a political party in
international crimes nationwide. El Paso those caught just across
Fla. the state line in North the White House or ... the
such as telemarketing PROSECUTION RATE Melbourne Carolina. policies of a unique, indi-
fraud and cybertheft, the SouthernCalifornia Vero Beach PROSECUTION RATE vidual U.S. attorney —
Trib found.

Choices to make
99.3% SouthCarolina
and maybe that person’s
political ambition — it
Arizona gets worse.”
The disparities mean
some people have gotten 98.6% 89% 35.7% The public has few
ways of judging how U.S.
away with federal crimes NewMexico attorneys make their
without being charged
by U.S. attorneys, experts 99.8% Financial institution fraud Health care fraud
decisions. The Justice
Department withholds
said. WesternTexas It’s better to get busted for It’s worse to get caught for health care fraud in Vero the names, ages and
“It has to be true,” said check kiting in Chattanooga, Beach, Fla., than 35 miles up the road in Melbourne.
James Eisenstein, a Penn 99.6% Tenn., which is in the state’s eastern Federal prosecutors in South Florida, which includes
addresses of victims and
suspects from its Nation-
State University profes- SouthernTexas federal district, than across the Vero Beach, have been tougher on health care fraud
state line in Georgia. than anywhere else in the country. al Caseload Data, citing
sor emeritus of political
science and criminology. 99.3% PROSECUTION RATE PROSECUTION RATE
a Freedom of Informa-
tion Act exemption for
“There are lots of Nationalaverage EasternTennessee NorthernGeorgia SouthernFlorida MiddleFlorida unwarranted invasion of
crimes around, and a
small proportion of them 88.9% 12.2% 64.7% 74.7% 38.7% privacy.
Federal prosecutors
come to the attention must state why they de-
of the authorities. Of Sources: Tribune-Review research and Department of Justice E. DENISE SHEAN | TRIBUNE-REVIEW
clined to pursue charges
those cases, you can’t in each complaint. Docu-
prosecute all of them,”
he said. Why cases are turned down Top 5 reasons federal prosecutors gave for declining
to pursue charges between 2005 and 2015:
ments the Trib reviewed
showed that during the
The top federal NUMBER OF TIMES USED past decade, the reason
prosecutor for Western
Pennsylvania said tough
Insufficientevidence 171,324 You could have most often cited was
Prioritizationoffederalresourcesandinterests weak or insufficient evi-
choices must be made.
“We are judicious and Matterreferredtoanotherjurisdiction 61,126
a difference in dence. The second most
selective in implement- Legallybarred 28,609
Youngstown, common reason was
“prioritization of federal
ing our resources to
enforce the federal law in Alternativetofederalprosecutionappropriate 17,109 Source: Tribune-Review analysis of Department of Justice data Ohio, from New resources and interests.”
Beyond that, prosecu-
an appropriate, sensible
way,” said David Hick-
Castle, where the tors provide few details.
ton, the U.S. attorney Service incidents might Federal prosecutors “We jointly decide with U.S. attorney in All of that means the
public has little ability to
based in Pittsburgh. “So
we don’t enforce every
account for the high
declination rate, he said,
in South Carolina, for
example, declined 11
our task force partners
who can get the best
Cleveland judge whether prosecu-
tors are acting judicious-
statute against every
miscreant every time.
noting that about 20 percent of counterfeiting bang for the prosecu- would do it en- ly or following personal
That is not possible, and
times a week, the office
seizes mailed mari-
and forgery complaints
— compared with a
tion buck,” Bogden said.
“Our numbers are going tirely different biases and whims, said
Cassia Spohn, a criminal
that is not what the sys-
tem is designed to do.”
juana without charging
declination rate of 64
percent in eastern North
to look a bit skewed, but
each of those firearm
than me. Or not. justice professor at Ari-
zona State University.
U.S. attorneys in
Toledo and the rest
“We don’t generally de- Carolina. While state cases is being given at- It’s the way it’s “Sort of the ‘black box’
of the Northern Ohio
cline big cases from the
DEA, FBI or whoever,”
prosecutors in South
Carolina have long back-
Prosecutors in the supposed to be.” or the great void in our
knowledge is prosecuto-
district declined three-
fourths, or 75.5 percent,
Tobin said. “We’re doing logs and fewer resources Middle Florida district David Hickton, rial decisions and how
heroin cases nonstop.” for taking counterfeiting prosecute civil cases U.S. Attorney for they make those deci-
of the drug trafficking sions,” Spohn said. “We
Eastern Michigan cases, North Carolina of health care fraud as
complaints presented
faces “significant large- has a state law that over- well as criminal cases, Western Pennsylvania know that they’re moti-
there during the past vated by convictions, by
decade — the highest scale drug trafficking laps with the federal one which is one reason
organizations that are and a higher rate of local their declination rate on resources where they the likelihood of getting
rate of any of the 94 fed- are most needed based a conviction, and they
eral districts, the Trib’s also engaged in gun enforcement, a Justice criminal cases is higher
violence,” spokeswoman Department spokesman than southern Florida, on regional priorities, don’t want to lose. But
investigation revealed. Eisenstein and other beyond that, it’s kind of
Just across the state line Gina Balaya said. The said. spokesman William C.
district is a source for Nevada has the most Daniels explained. legal experts said. a giant black hole. ... We
in the Eastern Michigan can’t hold them account-
district, the Detroit- heroin, prescription firearms complaints in “The types of health The top prosecutor
pills and other danger- the nation and the high- care fraud cases prose- in each district sets able for the decisions
based U.S. attorney’s that they make.”
office declined just 16.6 ous drugs, providing a est declination rate at cuted in (Middle Florida) guidelines for what types
percent of such cases. pipeline to other states, 75.6 percent. Every com- are often complex, labor of cases to pursue and
In southern California, she said. plaint gets entered into intensive and time- thresholds — such as Coming Monday:
the declination rate on the system, and federal consuming to pursue. the amount of money Prosecution priorities in
drug trafficking com- Uneven prosecution prosecutors work with Despite these variables, stolen or drugs discov- Western Pennsylvania.
plaints was 1 in 50, or Statistics alone do local district attorneys to the (district) remains ered — that must be met
1.9 percent. not tell the full story, decide which cases each committed to working before bringing charges. Andrew Conte is a member of the
Federal prosecutors Hickton said. Prosecuto- will take based on federal with its partners to in- Those decisions affect Tribune-Review investigations team.
in Northern Ohio have rial decisions vary based interest, severity of the vestigate and prosecute the types of matters Reach him at 412-320-7835 or
made major drug cases a on criminal threats and offense and the defen- these types of cases,” the FBI, Drug Enforce- andrewconte@tribweb.com. Brian
priority, focusing largely the level of interaction dant’s criminal history, Daniels said. ment Administration Bowling is a Tribune-Review staff
on heroin, said spokes- with local prosecutors, said Daniel Bogden, the U.S. attorneys need and other federal law writer. Reach him at 412-325-4301
man Mike Tobin. Postal he said. U.S. attorney for Nevada. the freedom to assign enforcement agencies or bbowling@tribweb.com.

2 of 4 agents captured before they could take part in attacks
TERROR · FROM A1 militants from Iraq. The other by The Post. Remains of the same Islamic State stash of same method often used by arrived in Greece as Syrian mi-
men were Mohamed Usman, a documents found near their seized passports. But when migrants — a wire from Tur- grants on Oct. 3. With the aid of
to Europe with the refugees,” Pakistani who claims to be 23, bodies at the Stade de France questioned by Frontex, the key to Greece. Now flush with German and U.S. intelligence, a
an ISIS commander said in an and Adel Haddadi, a 28-year-old suggested they had come from two men, unlike the Iraqis, cash, the men continued their manifest of the day’s migrant
interview over an encrypted Algerian. a cache of more than 3,800 pass- crumbled. journey. arrivals — including photos
data service. “Some of our Haddadi had been on the ports — all authentic — seized Usman, a Pakistani, did not They were only 25 days be- — was run through databases
brothers have fulfilled their watch lists of Algerian intel- by the Islamic State in its major speak Arabic well — quickly hind their Islamic State com- and a face-recognition system
mission, but others are still ligence for his activities; Us- advances in Syria in 2013. betraying his claim to be Syr- rades traveling to Paris. of known radicals and Islamic
waiting to be activated.” man was suspected of links The men’s claims of being ian. Haddadi knew almost They received fresh orders State terrorists, according to a
The accounts of the two men to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a radical Syrian asylum seekers were nothing about Aleppo, the city to stay put. senior European intelligence
who landed in Leros with plans Pakistani terror group tied to not seriously questioned by the he said was his birthplace. The men entered Austria official.
to die in France, only to stop the 2008 siege of Mumbai, ac- EU border agency Frontex or Under EU guidelines, the without passports and offered The searches returned two
short of their goal, expose the cording to two senior European the Greeks. Along with dozens most the agency could do was fake names, while this time hits — men also claiming to
weaknesses in a haphazard sys- security officials. of other migrants who landed pass them to the Greeks. So claiming to be from their real be Syrian who had arrived
tem that has produced risks of To get as far as Leros, the four that day, they were not detained that’s what they did, and the countries. On Dec. 4, both ap- that day, leading authorities to
unknown dimensions. men were spirited out of Syria and merely told to leave Greece local authorities promptly plied for asylum in Austria, Salzburg.
“The Greeks failed in protect- and into Turkey, where they within six months. lumped them in with a then- then took up residence in a During 150 hours of inter-
ing the borders into the EU,” made their way to the coast. Classified records show the surging backlog of migrants teeming refugee center — a rogation, both men told their
said a senior European intel- From there, they told investiga- Iraqis who claimed to be Syrian who were using fake docu- converted truck storage depot stories. They are being held in
ligence official who, along with tors, they boarded a smuggler’s — and who still have not been ments to enter the system. — about a mile from the Ger- an undisclosed jail in Austria.
11 other senior European, U.S. raft laden with migrants. The identified — quickly traveled In what became a customary man border. Based on their testimony, in-
and Arab officials interviewed vast majority of asylum seek- over land to Serbia, where they practice in Greece, Usman and Their phone records show vestigators are pursuing vari-
for this story, spoke on the con- ers leaving Turkey were arriv- registered Oct. 7 at a refugee Haddadi received suspended they had begun reaching out to ous leads that have led to the
dition of anonymity. ing on Greek islands — some of camp in Presevo. By November, three-month sentences and an contacts across Europe — a list arrest of two migrants in the
“And we all failed by not which are a 30-minute boat ride they had linked up with the order to leave the country with- that, investigators say, included Salzburg camp where the men
pushing hard enough to estab- away. The numbers of arrivals other assailants involved in the in a month. It didn’t matter other newly arrived migrants were living.
lish that security,” he said. were so large, in the thousands Paris attacks. how or which way they went. and longer-term immigrants Officials expect that the two
In September, just a few per day, that Greece could not On Nov. 13, they became the Upon gaining their freedom tied to the region’s criminal men will ultimately be extra-
weeks before the four men handle the caseloads. only non-European born at- on Oct. 28, Haddadi, the more underworld. dited to France to stand trial
landed on Leros, they were On the morning of Oct. 3, the tackers to take part in a series senior of the two, quickly sent European authorities initi- in connection with the Paris
invited to attend a secret meet- four terrorists tried to blend of assaults in which nine men a text via the messaging app ated a massive investigation attacks.
ing in a central Syrian city in with the migrants who had killed 130 people at several loca- WhatsApp to their ISIS handler after the Paris attacks and were “They are sad because they
controlled by the Islamic State. come ashore that day. tions in Paris. in Syria. beginning to retrace the at- are still alive, because they feel
Two of them — the ones When their turn came, the Like the two Iraqis, Usman “We need money,” it simply tackers’ steps. After finding a they should have been mar-
who would blow themselves two Iraqi militants showed and Haddadi produced falsi- said, according to intelligence Syrian passport at the Stade tyrs,” a European security of-
up outside the Stade de France authorities doctored Syrian fied Syrian documents that officials with access to the de France, investigators ran ficial said. “They are sad they
— were later glorified in an Is- passports, according to the senior European intelligence pair’s phone records. fingerprints and discovered did not die with the others in
lamic State video as unnamed classified French files obtained officials think came from the That money arrived via the that two of the dead men had France.”