UPDATE: Acting on the orders of a pissed off federal judge in Orange County, law enforcement officials this month arrested Brad Keith Lee in Washington state for probation violations; now he'll face the unhappy judge at a future date.
ORIGINAL POST: 3/7/2012: David O. Carter is undoubtedly Orange County's most colorful federal judge.
Inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse this week, the quick-minded Carter made a joke about being submissive to his wife, whined (repeatedly) about his abhorrence for pontificating experts from academia, expressed frustration with Kaiser Permamente insurance bureaucracy, told a story about a risky mission to a Middle East combat zone and showed lawyers a photograph he'd stored on his cell phone of a deadly snake that threatened him during a trip.
The 1998 President Bill Clinton appointee to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and a decorated Vietnam War combat veteran (1968 battle of Khe Sahn) also made clear that, like Texas, it's not wise to mess with him.
If your name is Brad Keith Lee and you're reading this story, several hefty drops of sweat should have just appeared on your forehead because Carter believes you've dissed him and he'd like to see you in his courtroom in handcuffs and surrounded by snarling U.S. Marshals.
Lee—a onetime San Diego County resident—pleaded guilty in January 2010 to federal conspiracy and wire fraud for his role in schemes that included targeting the Fort Peck Indian Tribe in Montana. Lee's downfall? He unwittingly stole the fake, undercover Newport Beach identity of an FBI agent who was posing as a billionaire businessman looking for off-the-book, high yield investments that avoided IRS detection.
Carter ordered Lee to pay $1 million in restitution, serve 24 months in prison and then undergo three years of supervised federal probation.
The felon got out of prison and now can't be found.
“I think he's in the wind,” Carter said to two U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors.
The judge then looked at a middle-aged man wearing a suit and sitting in the audience. He stared at the man, apparently a federal agent, and squinted his eyes.
“Find him,” Carter said.
“Yes, sir,” the man replied quickly.
The judge said he's had only one convicted felon successfully escape serving his full punishment—a man who fled beyond the reach of the U.S. Government to Iran.
“[Mr. Lee] won't be my second one,” said Carter. “Bring him back to me.”
R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.