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  1. #1
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    Informant web site worries officials

    http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?...Y3dnFlZUVFeXky

    Whosarat.com


    Saturday, January 20, 2007

    By PETER J. SAMPSON
    STAFF WRITER


    A Web site that aims to expose informants and undercover agents nationwide has law enforcement officials in North Jersey and elsewhere concerned that it could thwart investigations and put government witnesses in danger.

    Federal judges recently were warned that witnesses who testify in open court could be among those added to the Whosarat.com database, which boasts more than 4,000 profiles. Prosecutors fear it could encourage violence The pay site provides biographical data about people its users identify as government cooperators or undercover agents. Users are invited to post court records, news accounts, comments and pictures.

    Whosarat.com lists more than 80 informants from New Jersey, many of whom have been charged with crimes themselves and agreed to testify against others in return for lesser prison sentences.

    ON THE WEB WhosARat requires paid registration to search and view informants in the database.
    Whosarat.com


    The most notorious North Jersey snitches profiled include Robert J. Janiszewski, a former Hudson County executive who became an FBI cooperator after he was snagged for taking bribes; and Peter Caporino, a longtime informant who helped put Genovese crime family members behind bars.

    No one has yet pointed to a case in which a cooperator or officer was harmed because of the site, but is has been blamed for blowing more than one officer's cover. So far, no court has ruled on whether the site is protected by free speech.

    Authorities say it matters little that Whosarat.com carries a disclaimer denying any liability for libel, slander, injuries or death that may result.

    "Anything that compromises our ability to use cooperating witnesses and undercover agents is a detriment," said Christopher Christie, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey. "Many of our cases hinge upon the use of these folks.

    "You out an undercover agent, you could very well put his or her life at risk."

    A spokesman for Christie in Newark, Michael Drewniak, said the site also could give potential cooperators "a disincentive to come forward." The dangers of exposure are particularly dire in gang cases, he said.

    "Gang leaders have long memories," Drewniak said. "They also order retaliation, which is documented to include murder and maiming, if and when they find out later who had cooperated against them."

    Whosarat.com describes itself as designed to help defendants with few resources and their attorneys investigate their accusers -- many of whom are lawbreakers themselves. All of its data, it says, "has been made public at some point ... prior to posting it on this site."

    "If people got hurt or killed, it's kind of on them," said a site spokesman who identified himself as Anthony Capone. "They knew the dangers of becoming an informant."
    The most notorious North Jersey snitches profiled include Robert J. Janiszewski, a former Hudson County executive who became an FBI cooperator after he was snagged for taking bribes; and Peter Caporino, a longtime informant who helped put Genovese crime family members behind bars.

    No one has yet pointed to a case in which a cooperator or officer was harmed because of the site, but is has been blamed for blowing more than one officer's cover. So far, no court has ruled on whether the site is protected by free speech.

    Authorities say it matters little that Whosarat.com carries a disclaimer denying any liability for libel, slander, injuries or death that may result.

    "Anything that compromises our ability to use cooperating witnesses and undercover agents is a detriment," said Christopher Christie, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey. "Many of our cases hinge upon the use of these folks.

    "You out an undercover agent, you could very well put his or her life at risk."

    A spokesman for Christie in Newark, Michael Drewniak, said the site also could give potential cooperators "a disincentive to come forward." The dangers of exposure are particularly dire in gang cases, he said.

    "Gang leaders have long memories," Drewniak said. "They also order retaliation, which is documented to include murder and maiming, if and when they find out later who had cooperated against them."

    Whosarat.com describes itself as designed to help defendants with few resources and their attorneys investigate their accusers -- many of whom are lawbreakers themselves. All of its data, it says, "has been made public at some point ... prior to posting it on this site."

    "If people got hurt or killed, it's kind of on them," said a site spokesman who identified himself as Anthony Capone. "They knew the dangers of becoming an informant."

    The site was created in 2004 by a Massachusetts man who named a few dozen people as snitches after he was arrested on charges of selling pot from his apartment. Since then it has grown into a clearinghouse for mug shots, court papers and rumors. The creator, a former Boston-area disc jockey named Sean Bucci, is still awaiting trial.

    Until November, visitors were able to search the database for free.

    Then, a day after it was discussed at a courthouse conference in Washington, Whosarat.com became a subscription-only service, charging fees of $5.99 for a seven-day trial to $24.99 for a year. Capone said the fees were imposed to offset increasing operating costs.

    Information posted on the site is obtained through a variety of legitimate means. Through the evidence-discovery process, defendants and their attorneys are given all information about cooperating witnesses, including their identities, level of cooperation, whether they are paid informants or are attempting to bargain their way out of more severe punishment for their own crimes.

    In addition, a federal law passed in 2002 requires the judiciary and other government agencies to make more documents available over the Internet.

    The judiciary has been shifting to a system that makes 27 million civil, criminal and bankruptcy cases available for review for a fee.

    "The purported motive behind [Whosarat.com] is to somehow level the playing field for defense attorneys and their clients," said Drewniak, the U.S attorney's spokesman. "That's absurd and belies its real and transparent motivation, which is to put people at risk and thwart criminal investigations.

    "You just got to wonder why somebody would do this."
    Last edited by ihadcabinfever; 01-20-2007 at 06:07 PM. Reason: fix

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