Tainted Cases

The potential effects of a feud within the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa keep getting juicier.

Now two of the combatants — U.S. Attorney Paul Perez and one of his assistants, Jeffrey Del Fuoco — have applied for a vacant federal judgeship in Jacksonville. Del Fuoco, meanwhile, has filed a second complaint with the Justice Department against his bosses. His first complaint was against Robert O'Neill, head of the office's Criminal Division, questioning O'Neill's ties to fundraising for Irish terrorists. The new one is a whistleblower claim against Perez, charging that he transferred Del Fuoco from criminal to civil cases in retaliation for the earlier complaint.

The two judicial applications and the two complaints are bound to draw additional attention to two sensational cases handled by the Tampa office — those of Hillsborough Circuit Court Judge Gregory Holder and accused terrorism moneyman Sami Al-Arian.

On the terrorism front, Del Fuoco points to O'Neill's part-ownership of Four Green Fields, an Irish bar in Hyde Park. The bar has hosted fundraisers for Sinn Fein, described by the State Department as a front for the terrorist Irish Republican Army, which has killed 650 civilians since the early 1970s. Ironically, O'Neill once headed the investigation against Al-Arian, whom Perez indicted last year on charges that he raised money for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Most of the alleged actions by Al-Arian occurred when the Jihad was not regarded as a terrorist group by the U.S. government. But O'Neil was involved with Four Green Fields when both the U.S. and British governments listed the IRA as a terrorist group. Al-Arian's attorneys say the two cases demonstrate selective enforcement of the law.

Judge Holder, meanwhile, has filed his own complaint with the Justice Department against Perez, accusing him of squelching a federal probe into local courthouse corruption. According to Holder's supporters, that led Perez's office to retaliate by passing along unproven charges that Holder plagiarized a research paper to earn a promotion in the Air Force reserves. The Air Force suspended Holder after an investigation conducted by Air Force reservist David M. Leta, who is also an assistant U.S. Attorney in Atlanta. Leta said he's been ordered not to answer questions about his potential conflict.

Since Leta's report, most subsequent disclosures have supported Holder's innocence, and the Air Force reinstated him in December. A separate investigation by state judicial regulators is on hold.

Perez wouldn't comment for this story.

Former Weekly Planet Editor (and regular contributor) John Sugg can be reached at 404-614-1241 or at [email protected].