U. S. District Judge Valerie Caproni
On August 20, 2019, the Honorable Judge Valerie Caproni filed a Memorandum Order in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York as Document 87 in the case of D. George Sweigert vs. Jason Goodman. This Order referenced conspiracy theories and conspiratorial speculation as being a contributing factor to the many legal defects in this civil RICO lawsuit.
Our topic today pursues the idea that often a conspiracy theory is the result of a perceived failure of both law enforcement and the judiciary to prosecute criminal acts because of partiality.
The Port of Charleston dirty bomb incident: did the FBI display partiality towards the primary originator of the hoax, who appears to be a former FBI informant?
This lawsuit was originally filed June 14, 2018, in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina as a Complaint Pursuant to Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, but later was moved to New York where the defendant resides. [see sweigert rico doc 1 614 2018]. As a result of this lawsuit sitting idle for several months, the plaintiff, D. George Sweigert filed a motion recently, asking for the Judge to recuse herself since one of the elements of his Complaint involved the FBI’s investigation into the Port of Charleston dirty bomb hoax in 2017, and Valerie Caproni had once held the position of General Counsel for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
As someone who has followed the backstory of this RICO lawsuit, there are two elements of the Plaintiff’s Complaint that are interesting to me as a matter of public interest. The first element deals with the Port of Charleston dirty bomb hoax incident which originated when broadcast journalist George Webb relied on information provided by his hidden source, Deep Uranium, who is alleged to be a former FBI informant who had betrayed his West Virginia militia in 1995. That unverified information from the hidden source became the basis of a publicity stunt on Jason Goodman’s You Tube channel, Crowdsource the Truth that resulted in the shutting down of the Port of Charleston for eight hours on June 14, 2017. The cost of investigating this incident and of shutting down commercial operations ran into several millions of dollars.
As a result of the failure of the FBI to charge those involved in the hoax incident in accordance with applicable criminal laws, the plaintiff, a private citizen certified in Homeland Security infrastructure protection, attempted to bring this matter to the forefront through the use of a RICO lawsuit.
The second element of this RICO lawsuit concerns the documented history of the unrelenting defamation by Goodman on CSTT against the plaintiff, Dave Sweigert. Although this latter complaint could have been dealt with in a federal civil defamation lawsuit, these activities were included as examples of the type of activities taking place on a regular basis in Goodman’s business enterprise known as Crowdsource the Truth.
U. S. District Judge Valerie Caproni has been involved in high profile, controversial issues, but overall, she has had a long and respected career as a lawyer and prosecutor which includes, in part, holding the position of Assistant U. S. Attorney, Eastern District of New York, 1985-1989, 1992-1998; chief, Special Prosecutions Unit, 1993; chief, Organized Crime and Racketeering Unit, 1993-1994; and chief, Criminal Division, 1994-1998. She was also General Counsel of the FBI from 2003-2011; followed by Vice President and Deputy Counsel for Northrup Grumman Corporation from 2011-2013.
The Legal Weaknesses of this RICO lawsuit
The August 20, 2019, Memorandum Order filed by Judge Caproni in the Sweigert vs. Goodman RICO lawsuit begins by stating, “This is a frivolous dispute between two litigants whose voluminous court filings rehash their incomprehensible and illogical online conspiracy theories.”
Caproni notes that, “All told, the parties have filed over twenty frivolous motions in short order, most of which were submitted before the undersigned was even assigned to the case, prompting the Court to order the parties to file no more motions (Dkt. 65) pending resolution of the Court’s order to show cause why the case should not be dismissed. That order preventing further motions was not obeyed.”
Caproni also observed that the “Plaintiff appears to regard himself as a roving knight in shining armor, intent on vindicating, through this lawsuit, the rights of anyone harmed by Defendant’s nonsensical ranting. Unfortunately for Plaintiff, that is not the function of the civil RICO statute.”
So the question arises: As a matter of public concern, is there a remedy in American law for addressing a public safety matter in a situation where it would appear that prosecutors have declined to apply criminal laws against the instigators of a bomb hoax, possibly because it involved one of their former informants?
The matter of the Plaintiff’s Standing
Judge Caproni observes on page 6 of her Memorandum Order, “A private citizen may not prosecute a criminal action in federal court. See Leeke v. Timmerman, 454 U. S. 83, 86 (1981) (per curiam) (reaffirming that “a private citizen lacks a judicially cognizable interest in the prosecution or non prosecution of another”). Federal prosecutors have discretion to determine whether to bring a criminal action, and private individuals cannot displace the Attorney General by bringing civil actions to enforce the criminal laws of the United States….The Court therefore dismisses, for lack of standing, all claims in the amended complaint that assert violations of federal criminal law.”
Judge Caproni addresses numerous other legal defects of the Sweigert vs. Goodman lawsuit, which can be read in their entirety in this Memorandum Order PDF: sweigert v goodman doc 87 August 20 2019.
Judge Valerie Caproni is no stranger to “conspiracy theories”
According to a 2004 Corporate Legal Times resume of Valerie Caproni, who presently serves as a United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York, Caproni is no stranger to conspiracy theories as a result of her prior involvement with the investigation of the TWA 800 flight disaster. [see caproni corporate legal times]
The Corporate Legal Times interview related that, “On July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800 bound for Paris crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island after taking off from JFK at 8:31 p.m. All 230 people aboard died. Because officials at first believed it was a criminal act (some witnesses said they saw a missile hit the plane), the FBI and Caproni were brought in to investigate and ensure the site was treated as a crime scene. That meant that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which normally investigates plane crashes, was pushed to the sidelines. That fueled rumors that the feds were covering something up.”
“Caught up in these rumors was Caproni, who conspiracy theorists accused of running roughshod over the NTSB during the first few days after the accident. Apparently, she is quite clear that the FBI was in charge and that the FBI would conduct all interviews with witnesses. In addition, Caproni ruffled some feathers when she charged James Sanders, a freelance journalist, for removing a piece of the wreck in order to test it in a lab for explosive residue. To this day, some people still believe terrorists blew up the plane or that a wayward Navy missile struck it, and that Caproni tried to silence witnesses and journalists.”
The Corporate Legal Times adds, “Caproni laughs at the accusations.”
“Conspiracy theorists came out of the woodwork before the last piece of the plane hit the Atlantic,” she says. “This was the most thorough investigation that had ever been done. We followed every lead and there was no doubt the plane exploded. It was not brought down by a rocket or a bomb. It exploded because of the center fuel tank. Anyone who believes otherwise is not listening to the facts.”
“The FBI stepped up to the plate because we believed we were investigating a criminal case,” she says. “We indicated that we were in charge.”
Into the Buzzsaw
Kristina Borjesson, journalist and independent producer. In 1996, she worked for CBS and investigated the TWA 800 disaster and related her findings for the CBS evening news and 60 Minutes.
In 2002 Prometheus Books published Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press, edited by Kristina Borjesson.
On page 102, Borjesson relates in her 47 page article, Into the Buzzsaw, her personal experiences with covering the TWA 800 crash story when she worked for CBS.
Jim Kallstrom, head of the FBI Task Force, was later employed as a CBS consultant
Under the subtitle, The Assignment from Hell, Borjesson says that right after the TWA 800 flight disaster, Jim Kallstrom, “the man in charge of the FBI task force” boasted, “We have a very, very active investigation. We’re still getting very good information, so when the day comes, and I think it will be soon…whether it’s going to be three or four days or a week..that we decide collectively and based on science and based on good forensic investigation, we will be able to move swiftly, aggressively, and professionally”.
Yet later on, NTSB investigator Hank Hughes “would provide shocking details to a senate judiciary committee about just how ‘swiftly, aggressively, and professionally’ Kallstrom and his men moved for sixteen months after Kallstrom made that statement.”
On page 127 of Borjesson’s story, she relates how she lost her job at CBS a few weeks after the FBI paid a visit to her employer. Also, CBS’s law enforcement consultant Paul Ragonese eventually “got his walking papers, too.” Ragonese was a “no-bullshit cop from Brooklyn, and was on the NYPD’s bomb squad and counter-terrorism team for six years.” (page 106). As Kristina Borjesson relates, “Bill Felling’s farewell comment to Ragonese was, “You and Kristina were wrong about TWA 800.” Ragonese was replaced by none other than the FBI’s TWA 800 task force chief, James Kallstrom.” [bolding mine].
On page 107, some of Ragonese’s notes from his investigation of the TWA 800 disaster, included this quote: “NYPD: ‘From day one, there were military guys everywhere on the scene…thinks military is involved. Finding absolutely of bomb or missile. He says that the military was doing something twelve miles off the coast of Moriches. The whole thing is screwed up. Just a mess. People running around, touching stuff.'”
Borjesson also describes an October 18, 1996 memo, which Paul Ragonese lists “unanswered questions that no one else at CBS was asking, among them,
What was a sub hunter doing in the area?
Why was a missile cruise ship on patrol in the area?
Why did the Pentagon deny military presence in the area that night?
Why was the FBI involved from day one when normal procedure is to have the NTSB determine cause?
How do you write off the findings of missiles experts who stated what the witnesses saw was consistent with a missile?
How is it that no military personnel that were in the area (P-3 Orion, USS Normandy) saw anything when civilians saw a lot?
Shouldn’t we question the effectiveness of our defense if two high-tech military units missed something that was in the sky that night?”
An insider source called Hangerman smuggled out a copy of the downed plane’s debris field that undercut assertions that the center wing tank was the site of the ‘initiating event’ that caused the plane to explode. On page 109, Borjesson quotes from a letter which includes this statement: “during the first few hours after the accident, some FAA personnel made a preliminary assessment that recorded ATC [air traffic control] radar data showed primary radar hits that indicated the track of a high-speed target that approached and merged with TWA 800…”.
As noted in Valerie Caproni’s interview by Corporate Legal Times, the reason that Caproni exerted her authority to enable the FBI to usurp the NTSB investigation of the TWA 800 crash, was because they regarded it as a crime scene, rather than as an unfortunate accident. So it is unsettling to observe Caproni’s offhand dismissal of the serious concerns of journalists and the over six hundred witnesses which had given their testimony to the FBI, as being mere conspiracy theorists because they believed that a missile had been the cause of the plane’s disintegration.
Investigative reporter John Kelly gave Kristina Borjesson a document dated October 28, 1996 from the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General which discussed the ‘hysteria’ at Calverton, where the recovered parts of TWA 800 were being reassembled. Apparently FBI Examiner Bill Tobin wrote a memo to the NTSB as he “questioned the behavior of [the FBI’s] Explosives Unit Examiner Tom Thurman, because they felt some of his behavior was unscientific and that he had acted inappropriately during parts of the investigation.” Tobin described Thurman as “exhibiting storm trooper behavior.” Apparently evidence was being tainted and “FBI agent Kallstrom had a posse of agents (including Tom Thurman) picking up evidence, and mishandling it, which was to be used to support Kallstrom’s bomb scenario.”
On page 126, Borjession remarks, “I couldn’t help thinking about how the American public had not only paid for the investigation of TWA 800, but for the cover-up, too.”
The CIA is commissioned to undermine the testimony of 600 witnesses to the TWA 800 disaster
“Perhaps the most startling effort the FBI made in this regard”, Borjesson notes (page 137) “was to commission the CIA to create an animated sequence that would convince the public that what the eyewitnesses said they saw was actually an optical illusion.”
In concluding her article, Borjession remarks, “But what’s interesting about TWA 800 is the number of independent investigators who are, even to this day, working hard to get to the bottom of this disaster. This has angered government investigators…”.
At the heart of the Sweigert RICO lawsuit is a serious concern of public interest
To return to the RICO lawsuit, D. George Sweigert vs. Jason Goodman, it is apparent that United States District Judge Valerie Caproni has rightly noted the many legal weaknesses in this lawsuit. Yet the heart of the underlying matters presented in this lawsuit are not of a frivolous nature.
The Memorandum Order concludes that “the Plaintiff may be able to plead a civil copyright claim”…and she grants Sweigert the “leave to re-file, within twenty-one days of the date of this order, a second amended complaint that complies with the requirements set forth herein”. Caproni adds, “The Court cautions Plaintiff that his second amended complaint can be dismissed as frivolous and he may be subject to sanction if he re-files a complaint in substantially the same form as the amended complaint or the proposed second amended complaint. If no second amended complaint is filed by September 10, 2019, this case will be immediately dismissed.”
Although I consider U. S. District Judge Valerie Caproni’s Memorandum Order to be fair and reasonable in describing the defects of this lawsuit, the underlying issues remain untouched. Not all conspiracy theories are mere speculations; some are based on observable facts.
I understand that the plaintiff, Dave Sweigert intends to refile his complaint within the short three week period allowed.
I sincerely hope that we do not see another hoax event arising from a YouTube channel that wants to tests the limits of restraint. But as Ecclesiastes 8:11 warns, Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.