As the DOJʼs disciplinary agency
all but disappears, judges take
matters into their own hands
BY JOHN GIBEAUT
The government’s evidence linking reputed mob figures Vincent
“the Animal” Ferrara and Pasquale
“Patsy” Barone to a 1985 murder
was pretty thin—an accomplice who
escaped prosecution in exchange
for testimony against the pair.
But a little over a year after the
1990 racketeering indictments of
Ferrara, Barone and six other members of New England’s Patriarca
crime family, a federal prosecutor in
Boston learned his putative star witness had recanted.
Yet the prosecutor never told defense about the recantation, which
he and a detective recorded in writing. Indeed, the defendants didn’t
learn of the memos until 2003, when
the detective spilled the beans at a
hearing on habeas corpus petitions
they filed seeking their release from
long prison sentences.
Ultimately both went free, Barone
in 2003 from a life sentence and Ferrara in ’05 from a 22-year term. Chief
U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf,
who had imposed both sentences,
was forced to cut them short.
The prosecutor, Assistant U.S.
Attorney Jeffrey Auerhahn, was investigated by Massachusetts state
bar authorities. Wolf dropped a dime
on him after learning that Auerhahn’s
boss had simply reprimanded him behind closed doors. That just wasn’t
good enough for Wolf, considering
he had to release two defendants
regarded as especially dangerous.
SENTENCES OF REPUTED
MOBSTERS VINCENT FERRARA
(ABOVE WITH DAUGHTER
BIANCA) AND PASQUALE
BARONE (RIGHT) WERE CUT
SHORT AFTER A PROSECUTOR
BURIED KEY INFORMATION.
Auerhahn still works at the U.S.
attorney’s office in Boston, prosecuting terrorism cases.
But, going where few judges would,
Wolf also penned an extraordinary
series of letters—first to Attorney
General Alberto R. Gonzales and
then to his successor, Michael B.
Mukasey—stating his case for stiffer
punishment and voicing his frustration with the Justice Department’s
secretive Office of Professional Responsibility, which is supposed to investigate complaints of misconduct
by prosecutors and law enforcement
officials who work for the department.
“The department’s performance
in the Auerhahn matter raises serious questions about whether judges
should continue to rely upon the department to investigate and sanction
misconduct by federal prosecutors,”