WASHINGTON – Eric Sanders has faced a number of obstacles while representing the family of Miriam Carey, the unarmed, suburban mother shot in the back and killed by federal officers, but none, perhaps, as challenging as one happening behind the scenes: a government threat to disbar him.
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That civil contempt investigation was suddenly and mysteriously dropped last month, as suddenly and mysteriously as it began.
Sanders was arrested at his Long Island, N.Y., home on Oct. 15, 2013, just one day after he held a press conference in Brooklyn and called upon the Justice Department to investigate the Carey death, while also warning, "You cannot trust the government."
Just as mysteriously, Sanders said the judge who brought the civil contempt charge against him, U.S. bankruptcy Judge Dorothy Eisenberg, suddenly retired without explanation at the same time the charge was dropped.
And, equally mysteriously, Sanders said the official transcript of the case that led to the charges has simply disappeared without explanation.
He told WND he has tried to obtain that transcript from four different courts without success.
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When WND asked Sanders, back on Dec. 3, 2013, if he felt his arrest was an attempt to either silence or intimidate him, the attorney laughed loud and long.
“Of course I think it was! I can’t prove it,” he said. “I loved the timing of it – the day after our press conference. Exactly one day after I said don’t trust the government.”
Sanders insisted he has no debts and declared bankruptcy solely to fight this judgment and to protect his client. He is still fighting the judgment in which he was ordered to make back-payments to a co-worker because, he said, the court erred in finding he was her employer. Sanders said he was a fellow employee, and it is their former boss who owes her the judgment.
“I am clean. That’s the way I was as a cop; that’s the way I am as an attorney,” he said. “I was a police officer in New York. I’ve never been arrested in my life. The questions is, why was I picked up?”
After his arrest, Sanders spent six days in a federal prison with murder suspects and other accused felons.
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He said the court refused to see him for close to a week, traumatizing him, jeopardizing his safety, and harming his "squeaky-clean image as an African-American legal professional," while negatively affecting his family, friends and clients.
The New York-based attorney said the unjust incarceration has cost him millions of dollars in business, as well as damage to his prestige.
Sanders showed WND a copy of a document from the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, dated March 20, 2015, that simply reads:
"The Committee on Grievances of the Eastern District of New York, having reviewed the relevant documents in 13-MC-885, has determined that no action is warranted."
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It is signed by Paula Marie Susi, Case Manager/Attorney Disciplinary Clerk.
"Isn't that interesting?" Sanders mused rhetorically to WND, about the lack of any explanation as to either why the charge was brought or dropped.
And now that his name has been cleared, he is fighting back.
Sanders issued a statement to WND, declaring:
"Retired bankruptcy Judge Dorothy T. Eisenberg and the attorneys involved in these matters intentionally, in a mean-spirited vindictive manner, damaged my stellar personal and business reputation affecting the handling of this and other client legal matters. Their collective actions caused 'irreparable damage' to me and lost revenue to The Sanders Firm, P.C."
"Therefore, in the very near future, I will be filing complaints with the Second Circuit and related Bar Associations about the conduct of retired bankruptcy Judge Dorothy T. Eisenberg and the attorneys, then file a series of federal torts claims and lawsuits related to violations of my civil rights along with related state and common law legal claims."
Sanders has become a high-profile attorney while vigorously representing the family of Miriam Carey, but he has had a difficult time getting the government to release information about her death.
WND and Judicial Watch filed suit against the Justice Department on Wednesday seeking the release of the official investigation into shooting Carey's death.
She was repeatedly shot in the back, in broad daylight near the shadow of the nation's Capitol, on Oct. 3, 2013, by federal officers.
It appears Carey did little more than make a wrong turn into a White House entry gate, then immediately try to leave.
Uniformed Secret Service agents and Capitol Police officers then chased her down and shot her to death.
The Carey family, unable to get what they consider any reasonable explanation after a year-and-a-half as to why Miriam was killed, is planning to file a $150 million lawsuit against the Department of Justice, the Secret Service and Capitol Police.
On Thursday, WND announced it would sue the Justice Department to get to the truth.
Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit to compel the Justice Department to comply with WND's Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, request for the investigative report into the killing of Carey.
The Justice Department announced on July 10, 2014, that no criminal charges would be filed against the Capitol Hill Police officers and uniformed Secret Service agents who fired a barrage of bullets into the back of Carey's car, fatally striking her in the back, but miraculously sparing her infant daughter strapped in the backseat.
The investigative report was never released to the public.
That report was done by the Washington Metropolitan Police Department and reviewed by the U.S. Attorney's Office for Washington, D.C., a branch of the Justice Department, or DOJ.
"Given the Obama Justice Department’s habit of second-guessing police officers in shooting incidents, it is the height of hypocrisy for Eric Holder’s DOJ to violate FOIA law to keep secret details about the controversial shooting of Miriam Carey, who also happens to be black, by federal law enforcement," said Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch president.
"The illegal secrecy by the Justice Department has forced our journalist client, WND, to go to federal court to get its simple questions answered."
WND Chief Executive Officer Joseph Farah said, "It’s time for the Justice Department to live up to its name and bring justice, openness and closure to the Miriam Carey tragedy.
"It’s time to come clean with the American people to ensure no other innocent women are gunned down in the nation’s capital like this for no justifiable reason. If we can’t trust government to hold law enforcement accountable for inexcusable violent behavior that ends in death, then it’s time to clean house in government."
WND has covered the Carey case extensively for 18 months with scores of reports, filing FOIA requests and now a lawsuit against the Department of Justice.
The lawsuit documents how WND's repeated attempts to use a FOIA to obtain the Carey report have been stonewalled by the DOJ.
WND filed the FOIA request on Aug. 4, 2014.
By law, the DOJ had 20 days to fulfill or deny the request.
After a series of inquiries from WND on the status of its FOIA request, the most recent response from the DOJ, received on March 19, 2015, was that the request was waiting to be assigned and processed by a paralegal.
The DOJ said WND was "welcome to check on the status within a few weeks."
Instead, WND enlisted the help of Judicial Watch to sue the DOJ to comply.
Judicial Watch has become a big-time power player in Washington politics, often obtaining materials from the Obama administration that even Congress has been unable to secure.
It is because of the efforts of Judicial Watch that a series of incriminating emails from Lois Lerner became public. Lerner is the central figure in the IRS scandal, as the former head of the tax-exempt division who targeted conservative groups for extraordinary, and possibly illegal, scrutiny.
Judicial Watch has also uncovered critical information on the Benghazi attack, Obama's executive orders granting immigration amnesty, the Fast and Furious gun-running scheme, the swap of five top Taliban leaders for Bowe Bergdahl (now being charged with desertion) and is working to obtain former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails.
Judicial Watch just broke the news on Tuesday that Mexican authorities claim to have learned of an ISIS camp just a few miles from El Paso, Texas.
Judicial Watch lends a powerful voice to WND's year-and-a half long inquiry into the death of Carey, beginning with eye-witness accounts filed moments after the shooting.
WND has published 70 stories on Carey; half of those, investigative pieces.
Informed of the facts of the case, famed civil libertarian Nat Hentoff told WND, "[T]his is a classic case of police out of control and, therefore, guilty of plain murder." Other civil libertarians and law enforcement experts have echoed similar sentiments.
Carey was chased and killed by Capitol police officers and uniformed Secret Service agents after she apparently did little more than mistakenly turn into a White House entry gate, then immediately try to leave.
Mainstream media outlets mistakenly reported Carey had rammed a White House barrier, triggering a chase.
Actually, Carey made an immediate U-turn after apparently driving into the entry post by mistake, when an off-duty Secret Service agent threw a bike rack-type gate in front of her car.
Carey wasn't trying to enter the White House; she was trying to leave when the agent tried to stop her.
Police claimed she posed a danger because, they said, she then led officers on a high-speed chase reaching speeds of 80 mph, weaving through traffic and ignoring red lights.
However, as the Washington Post reported, if it took Carey the four minutes authorities claimed it took to reach Garfield Circle (near where the chase ended) from the White House, "her average speed was 19.5 mph in a 25-mph zone."
Miriam's sister, Valarie Carey, is trying to raise $300,000 to cover legal fees. Donations can be made here.
She told WND, "My family has patiently waited for the authorities to answer the most fundamental questions in connection to my sister Miriam's death. Questions like, who were the officers involved in the shooting death of Miriam Carey? The blatant disregard and disrespect has prompted me to take certain legal actions to seek the answers the Carey family is rightfully due.
"The legal fees in association with my sister's death are beginning to take a financial toll, which is why I created the GoFund Me account to assist my family in the pursuit of Justice for Miriam Carey. Any donation would go directly toward legal expenses."
More than once, the Carey family has told WND it is much more interested in justice for Miriam than filing a lawsuit.
But, Carey family attorney Sanders told WND, a lawsuit may be what it takes to get the government to reveal what really happened to Miriam, and how a simple trip from her home in Stamford, Connecticut, to the nation's capital ended up costing the 34-year-old her life.
"You will never, ever hear them discuss the Miriam Carey case unless the courts allow the case to move forward," Sanders told WND in January.
Sanders has filed a wrongful death claim, the first step toward a lawsuit, on behalf of Carey’s mother, Idealla, Carey’s estate and her infant daughter, who was in the back seat of the car during the chase and during the shooting.
Sanders said the suit is to compensate the family for their "great loss of a daughter, mother, friend and confidant." But he insists the case is about more than the death of just one woman. He says it represents a threat to the rights of all Americans.
"Somehow, the Bill of Rights did not apply to Miriam. Miriam’s life did not seem to be so important. Thus far, Miriam’s death is being treated as simple collateral damage in the government’s zeal to protect itself from terrorism," said Sanders.
He said that zeal should not eclipse the importance of human life.
"The framers of the United States Constitution fought for, died for and demanded it. We should expect no different in today’s society, either," he said.
Follow Garth Kant @DCgarth