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— A North County judge has denied a motion that could have granted a new trial to a former Escondido middle schoolteacher who was found guilty of molesting students.

The ruling means that Peter Ziskin, 49, will continue serving a life sentence in prison stemming from his 2006 conviction. His lawyers had argued at a habeas corpus hearing in February that the trial defense lawyers were ineffective and that at least one of the boys that Ziskin was accused of molesting had recanted.

In a written ruling released Friday, Vista Superior Court Judge Runston Maino said he believed the trial attorneys made a competent decision when they told the defendant not to testify in trial and that Ziskin understood and accepted their advice.

The lawyers testified that Ziskin told them he may have touched as many as 10 boys in the genital area, the judge said.

Ziskin's defense was that he was engaging in "horseplay" and "wrestling" with the sixth-grade boys at Rincon Middle School and had no sexual intent. He testified at the habeas corpus hearing that he never put his hands down any of the boys' pants.

Maino said in his ruling that he did not believe most of the defendant's testimony. "When it was candid, it was bizarre," the judge wrote.

The judge also said he did not believe some of the witness testimony at the hearing.

One of the boys who recanted testified in February that he embellished the facts of the horseplay. He said that around the time of the accusations, the Michael Jackson molestation case was in the news and he and others had noticed that "victims" received cash from Jackson. He said the boys thought they might profit from their stories.

But the judge said it didn't make sense that the boys, who did not know one another well, would conspire together.

Dana littlefield • U-T

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Dallas FBI Director Reflects On Career, Retirement

casey robert fbi 20081 Dallas FBI Director Reflects On Career, Retirement

FBI Director Robert Casey, who retires April 30, 2012. (Credit: FBI)

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – As the special agent in charge of the Dallas FBI, Robert Casey has overseen some of the biggest and most important criminal cases in the region's history.

From public corruption cases at Dallas City Hall and Dallas County to a notorious group of violent bank robbers and accused terrorists, Casey has been deeply involved in them all.

And on Monday, he's retiring; turning in his badge for good.

"April 30 is going to be a tough day," Casey said.

It's an especially tough day because Casey's been in charge at the Dallas FBI for six years and in the FBI for more than 25 years.

"It's probably around 300 feet, I would guess, from this office to the front door of this building, but it's going to be like miles when I walk it I'm sure," he said.

Casey started out as a Houston cop in 1981 and was named officer of the year there in 1983. He still wears the Rolex watch he was given.

Casey still marvels at it, saying, "For a young kid who never thought he'd end up in a position like this, you know, briefing the director of the FBI, briefing the Attorney General of the United States."

One of his proudest accomplishments in Dallas happened in June of 2008, when the FBI and area police departments took down the seven notorious bank robbers known as the Scarecrow Bandits.

Armed and dangerous, they'd hit 21 banks.

"That was the longest one-to-two minutes, maybe, of my career after I gave the order to take them down," Casey said.

Before they struck again, Casey said he wanted to use a technique rarely employed during bank robbery investigations.

"I had to personally call the director of the FBI late one night. He had to personally call the Attorney General of the United States and then the director had to call me back and authorize us to wiretap one of the suspect's phones without going to a judge first," Casey said.

Casey said that wiretapping allowed them to listen in to the suspects' conversations as they planned to rob their 22nd bank.

"I'm absolutely convinced we saved lives," he said.

Casey is also proud of his agents arresting 19-year-old Hosam Smadi in September of 2009. Smadi was a lone wolf who pled guilty for plotting to blow up Fountain Place in downtown Dallas.

He also helped investigate a public corruption case that cast a shadow over Dallas's City Hall.

Casey wouldn't, however, discuss his agency's current public corruption investigation into Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.

The FBI has faced accusations that it's targeted black politicians, an allegation Casey has always rejected.

"It's a lot of baloney," he said. "Those allegations can't be supported. They're baseless. We don't make decisions like that."

Casey said the FBI has been "an exciting place to work."

He remembers his last visit with his boss, FBI Director Robert Mueller, at FBI Headquarters, where he worked after Sept. 11 to change how the agency gathers intelligence.

Casey was honored for his distinguished service.

"It was tough to walk out to know it was my last time there as an FBI agent," he said.

Leaving Dallas, he said, won't be any easier. Casey's new assignment is in the private sector.

He's set to become the chief security officer for Eli Lilly, the world's 10th largest pharmaceutical company.

It's based in Indianapolis –– Casey's hometown.

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Ohio FBI agent took colorful approach to crooks

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — FBI agent Harry Trombitas (trom-BEYE'-tuhs) took bank robberies seriously over his long career, but not always the people who committed them.

The 56-year-old agent who retires Monday became well-known for the humorous spin he put on news releases to draw more attention to the crimes in hopes of making arrests.

He dubbed one robber the "Three-Eyed Bandit" because of an eyeball tattoo on the man's neck. Another he called the "Church Lady Bandit" because witnesses said she dressed like she had come from church.

Trombitas says he began the practice in the 1990s when central Ohio was experiencing more than 100 bank robberies a year and sometimes multiple robberies a day.

University of Dayton criminologist Tim Apolito says the catchy names for suspects get more attention than dry physical details.

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Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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FBI agent who nicknamed bank robbers retiring

Special agent Harry Trombitas spent decades with the FBI. His last day is Monday.

COLUMBUS, ohio — FBI agent Harry Trombitas took bank robberies seriously, but not always the people who committed them.

As a lead agent handling violent crime in the 1990s, Trombitas grew frustrated trying to figure out how to draw attention to the enormous number of bank robberies in those days — more than 100 a year in central Ohio, and five robberies in a single day on at least two occasions.

Trying to cut through the clutter of news releases and catch people's attention, Trombitas began writing his crime notices with a bit of flair.

"Three-Eyed Bandit Robs Huntington Bank" was his release from 2009 about a robber with a tattoo of an eyeball on his neck.

" 'Church Lady' Strikes Again," said a 2010 release about a woman whom witnesses described as dressing "like she just came from church."

" 'Droopy-Drawers Bandit' Hits Reynoldsburg Credit Union," said a 2011 release about a man wearing low-riding trousers.

Trombitas, 56, who lives outside Columbus, retires Monday as an FBI agent just ahead of the mandatory retirement age of 57. In a career spanning almost three decades, he chased car thieves in St. Louis, organized-crime bosses in New York City and several notorious criminals in Ohio, including serial killer Thomas Dillon, who shot to death five outdoorsmen from 1989 to 1993.

"It just occurred to me that if we could take a look at what happened in the robbery or how the person looked, and come up with some kind of a nickname for that robber, that would give him his own identity," Trombitas said.

His FBI supervisors never saw a problem with his approach. Other officers around town were initially uncomfortable with the practice, but they eventually came around.

"After a while they saw the value of doing that, and then it got to the point where everybody expected a nickname," Trombitas said.

He wrote of a female suspect dubbed the "Boo-Boo Bandit" for making the mistake of standing in front of an off-duty Columbus police officer in full uniform and handing the teller a note:

"The officer quickly responded and was able to put the 'habeas grabbus' on the 'Boo-Boo Bandit' as she tried to eat the note for a snack. The robber was arrested and coughed up the note onto the sidewalk. The note was carefully recovered."

Almost all the cases involving the nicknames were solved with arrests within a few days or weeks.

"Its value is it gets attention," said Tim Apolito, a criminal justice professor at the University of Dayton. The public will remember those details "compared to if they just give a physical description of somebody," he said.

Memorable names

"Best of" monikers from the files of Harry Trombitas' news releases:

• The "Grumpy Bandit" for a robber who grunted at a teller

• The "Enviro-Friendly Robber," named for bringing a reusable grocery bag for the loot

• "Mullet Man," because, well, say no more

• The 2011 suspect dubbed the "Dirty Bieber Bandit" because, as Trombitas noted, a witness described the man as looking just like Justin Bieber, "only dirty"

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