BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Department of Correction has flown 130 inmates to a prison in Colorado because Idaho’s prison don’t have enough room to hold the state’s growing inmate population.
The inmates were flown Tuesday morning on a chartered jet to Denver, and from there they took a bus to the Kit Carson Correctional Center in Burlington, Colo. The prison is owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America.
Idaho’s inmate population reached more than 8,000 for the first time in April. The Department of Correction has been renting beds in county jails to ease the pressure, but that wasn’t enough to accommodate the demand.
Department Director Brent Reinke says the move is hard on families, but the state is simply out of room.
Category: General Criminal Justice
Hi Folks! It’s Lenore Skenazy from Free-Range Kids, where one of the issues we visit often is the corruption of the Sex Offender Registry, and how many of the people on it pose no risk to children, yet have their lives ruined. Recently I heard from a mom whose slow-witted 19-year-old son (still a high school sophomore) was convicted of possession of kiddie porn because he was looking at kids his same mental age — under 18. Then I heard from another mom whose son is on the list, too. When young men date women a little younger than them who are legally minors, this is legally considered statutory rape. If it’s consensual sex, I consider it a relationship. Here’s a letter I just got that makes me believe we have to revisit and reform the sex offender laws. It is the perfect companion piece to the post by William Anderson, about how sex crimes get treated in the media and the courts. Any ideas about how to change all this — fast! — are most welcome. – L.
I know the registry is a joke. I live it first hand, as my husband is on it for a false accusation from his ex-wife falsely who manipulated her 13-year-old daughter into signing her name to an email that the mother wrote lying about him touching her. The reason the ex wanted retaliation was because he was given custody of the kids during a divorce because she is mentally unstable and a drunk. She showed him! He would not get custody anymore because of the accusations which she is now trying to do with her next oldest daughter in line…who told us what was going on and that she refuses to go along with it, because it’s not true. She now wants to live with us, but guess what? Se can’t, because her dad is on the registry and the courts will not allow it.
The older daughter that originally went along with the false accusations is now 18 and wants to see her dad. But she has told the next-oldest daughter that she can not come forward and tell the truth because she would “lose everything” she has. She doesn’t understand that she was a minor at the time and nothing would happen to her. Though it would possibly put her mother away for perjury.
My husband had a great job of 7 years and when they found out he was on the registry they canned him. He has not been able to find a job since. It’s been 8 months. No one will hire him because he is on the registry. He is not in the same category as a rapist, but is treated as if he is. The registry needs to be revamped.
I used to think the same as the general public: “Oh, he’s on the registry. He must be a child molester.” I no long believe that. There are many men and women on the registry that are harmless and should not be in the same category as a violent sex criminal. - Stacie in Nebraska
Whenever I read articles dealing with prosecutorial misconduct, I invariably find a statement similar to this: “Most U.S. prosecutors are ethical and try to do the right thing, but there are a few who engage in unethical behavior.” In other words, every barrel has a few rotten apples, but most are just fine.
I used to believe that myself, but no longer. In fact, given what we know about human nature and the functions of boundaries, when prosecutors know that they face no consequences for their own behavior no matter how illegal or despicable it might be, we can expect stories like what recently was posted on this blog.
A bit of history is instructive here. For all of the talk of 1776 and the Constitution, the intellectuals, politicians, and voters of the United States essentially abandoned the constitutional republic that had existed since 1787 and embraced what this country is today: a Progressive democracy. One cannot understand modern law (and especially federal criminal law) and the role of bureaucrats and elected officials without understanding the tenets of Progressivism.
The U.S. Constitution and its Declaration of Independence were written on the premise that individuals are flawed characters that need any number of boundaries in order to keep baser instincts in check. Call it Original Sin or just the way things are, but deep down, most of us realize that we are capable of doing a lot of evil if no one or no thing stops us. Furthermore, there seems to be no limit to the human capacity of excusing or justifying the wrongness of our deeds.
Many of our original institutions were built upon this notion. On the “private” side, we have markets in which consumers can put even the most powerful companies out of business (i.e. General Motors) by refusing to purchase their products. Because government institutions are not consumer-driven entities (voters are not the same as consumers), they have to face different constraints, since governments are given a monopoly on deadly force. Because government agents can do an immense amount of harm to others while acting under the “color of law,” it is imperative that those agents be given consistent boundaries in order to keep them from using their legal positions to deny rights to others.
Progressives, on the other hand, believed that people were advancing through the evolutionary process, and that formal education and the “professionalizing” of various occupations would help create individuals who not only would be able to identify what was the “public good,” but also would carry out actions that would promote public welfare. Not only did they embrace legal institutions that would empower people who worked within government to impose their will whenever they believed it necessary to do so, but they also dismantled many of the boundaries that the law had created to keep government in check because, after all, educated and professional people did not need such constraints.
Living in an age where many, if not most, occupations require a license or some sort of formal training in order for people to engage in providing such services, we forget that occupational licensing and the establishment of credentials a “proof” of expertise and, more important, professional competence, really was a product of the Progressive Era. For example, before law schools became the powerful and influential and prestigious entities that they are today, at one time many lawyers did not even go to law school. Instead, people who wished to practice law would work as apprentices under practicing lawyers to learn their occupation.
Such a state of affairs would seem foreign to us, given that in our political economy, one cannot even cut hair without approval from a state-run agency.The bureaucratic hoops that exist for nearly every occupation might be formidable, but to many of us, they also are the New Normal. In fact, many people could not imagine a political economy in which many people from whom they purchase goods and services were NOT state licensed or approved by an official agency.
There are some among us who are True Believers in this system, those who believe that state-empowered agents, when given proper training and guidance, generally will do the right thing. Furthermore, because individuals outside of the legal system lack the expertise and good sense to be able to understand the law and how to apply it, society then must depend upon the “professionals” who will be well-trained and will have the proper educational and occupational credentials.
In other words, the people in the system really don’t need constraints because their professionalism and their training will ensure that they already know beforehand where the edge of the cliff might be. Such a system of selection, I have seen it argued, ensures that most of the people who become prosecutors are competent (they passed law school and the BAR exam) and ethical (they took at least one ethics class in law school), so nothing else is needed.
Obviously, we are dealing with a huge clash in how people regard human nature. On one side, we have the “good people” (prosecutors) going after the “bad people” (anyone arrested and charged with a crime). Because the “bad people” are so bad, we must give extraordinary tools to those who are performing the public service. Yes, it is true that every once in a while, a public servant becomes overzealous in a good cause and either stretches the law or takes some liberty with the truth.
Like many others, I would like to believe that the rash of prosecutorial misconduct that infects our courts today is just the product of overzealous people who sometimes get carried away going after the bad guys. However, I would be believing a lie if I were to say that is what is happening.
No, what is happening is much darker. First, it is true that most people in the system are guilty, and I would not dispute that point. Second, the actual number of truly innocent people is relatively small compared to the truly guilty, and I have no doubt that the “I am a hammer and you are a nail” syndrome takes effect in prosecutorial circles as it would elsewhere in a bureaucratic system.
But the cynicism I have witnessed in cases of actual innocence, from Janet Reno’s false child molestation prosecutions of 30 years ago to Mike Nifong’s cynical pursuit of rape charges against three Duke lacrosse players, charges he knew were false, to what I witnessed in Tonya Craft’s trial in 2010, tells me that something much deeper is happening. Don’t forget that Reno was rewarded by being named U.S. Attorney General (from where she touched off the biggest U.S. Government domestic massacre since Wounded Knee in 1890). Furthermore, when Nifong was spouting off in his interviews and when he was declaring he had no doubt of the players’ guilt, prosecutors across the country lined up in support of him. The forsook him only after he was caught red-handed in a lie during a December 15, 2006, hearing.
The Duke case was one in which the falsity of the charges was transparent from the beginning. We were expected to believe that three young men could beat a woman for thirty minutes, rape her, ejaculate on her, force her to have oral sex, and then not leave on speck of DNA? And U.S. prosecutors went along with that nonsense? Are we dealing with people who are so stupid that they cannot even understand the basic laws of time and space?
For that matter, was Janet Reno so utterly dense that she actually could believe that an adult could stick knives and even swords into the rectums of little children and not leave even a solitary mark? That adults in day care centers could be molesting children literally all day and no one who came into the place actually witnessed these terrible acts. And no one was missing the proverbial child who had been microwaved to death?
That a person who could believe this nonsense would be named the Attorney General of the United States tells us more about the state of American politicians than anything else. (Hillary Clinton claimed that Reno was good on “children’s issues.” Reno was so good that she managed to massacre a number of youngsters just a couple months after taking office.)
Furthermore, if Michael Nifong was a “rogue prosecutor,” then why did so many prosecutors speak on his behalf in the early days of the case? As Jonathan Turley noted in a column in the Washington Post, why in the world is someone like Nancy Grace, a former prosecutor who now is a legal commentator, become respected for her views on the law? He writes:
Consider the career of Nancy Grace. Before becoming a CNN and Court TV anchor, she was a notorious prosecutor in Alabama. In a blistering 2005 federal appeals opinion, Judge William H. Pryor Jr., a conservative former Alabama attorney general, found that Grace had “played fast and loose” with core ethical rules in a 1990 triple-murder case. Like Nifong, Grace was accused of not disclosing critical evidence (the existence of other suspects) as well as knowingly permitting a detective to testify falsely under oath. The Georgia Supreme Court also reprimanded her for withholding evidence and for making improper statements in a 1997 arson and murder case. The court overturned the conviction in that case and found that Grace’s behavior “demonstrated her disregard of the notions of due process and fairness and was inexcusable.” She faced similar claims in other cases.
You might have expected Grace to suffer the same fate as Nifong. Instead, she has her own show on CNN, and the network celebrates her as “one of television’s most respected legal analysts.” On TV, she displays the same style she had in the courtroom. (In the Duke case, her presumed-guilty approach was evident early on, when she declared: “I’m so glad they didn’t miss a lacrosse game over a little thing like gang rape.”)
The Grace effect is not lost on aspiring young prosecutors who struggle to outdo one another as camera-ready, take-no-prisoners avengers of justice. Grace’s controversial career also shows how prosecutors can routinely push the envelope without fear of any professional consequences. Often this does not mean violating an ethics rule, but using legally valid charges toward unjust ends.
So, why do they do it? They do it because they can, and because no one tells them they can’t. Nancy Grace is exposed as a liar and a cheat, so she gets her own TV show and lots of wealth. If Grace had been honest, does anyone think she would be a celebrity?
Indeed, for most prosecutors, crime pays and it pays quite well. Robert Frost, in “Mending Wall,” writes of his neighbor who says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
Good fences also would make for better police and prosecutors. Unfortunately, they don’t exist and the walls that are there constantly are torn down by people who claim we don’t need them at all.
Via the ACLU of Mississippi:
– Eapen Thampy
The American Bar Association Journal reports:
The California Supreme Court has ruled a death-row inmate is entitled to a new penalty hearing because the prosecution withheld evidence in his 1987 trial that he may have been threatened by a Colombian drug cartel.
The inmate, Miguel Angel Bacigalupo, will be sentenced to life in prison if prosecutors don’t pursue the capital sentence, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. A prosecutor in the case, Deputy District Attorney Joyce Allegro, is now a judge in Santa Clara County.
Allegro did not respond to the newspaper’s request for comment.
Bacigalupo told police that a drug dealer had threatened to kill him and his family if he did not carry out orders to murder the owner of a jewelry store and his brother, according to the opinion (PDF). Allegro told the jury there was no evidence of any threats and argued the murders occurred during a store robbery, the Chronicle says. An investigator for the DA’s office, however, had information from an informant that the killings were ordered because the victims had stolen drugs, according to findings by a judge who served as a referee in the habeas appeal.
The DA’s office had argued it met its legal obligations by giving the defense a police report mentioning the confidential informant, who said she had learned the motive for the killings was revenge rather than robbery. The DA’s office says there was misconduct by the investigator, but it is unclear if Allegro had knowledge of wrongdoing, the Chronicle says.
Bacigalupo is challenging his murder conviction in a separate appeal, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
“Could Alcohol-Regulation Policies Tame US Obesity Epidemic?” is the title of this story published over at Newsworks. It does not disappoint (emphasis mine):
What if candy stores were closed on Sundays? What if you needed a license to open a doughnut shop?
As America’s weight problem gets bigger, some health researchers say instead of relying on individual willpower alone, it may be time for some new community-level policies.
Deborah Cohen, a physician and public health researcher with the RAND Corporation, suggests that some of the policies we use to control alcohol consumption could help beat back obesity.
“People realized this a couple hundred years ago, that alcohol was a problem,” Cohen said. “So they developed all kinds of regulations to make it less convenient and reduce the odds that people will drink all the time and get drunk.”
Perhaps now it’s time to rein in our easy access to food, Cohen said.
“Choices and decision making are influenced by the context,” she said. “It’s the environment that really determines our behavior and we just don’t appreciate that enough.”
Shaping the environment to discourage overeating could include warning labels for foods high in fat and sugar, or maybe restrictions on where in the grocery store foods are displayed to curb impulse buying.
There could be unintended consequences, warns Jeff Stier, an analyst with the National Center for Public Policy Research.
Ushering in another Prohibition?
“I don’t want to sound extreme, but these are Prohibition-style interventions. I mean do we really need to create a black market for burgers and fries?” Stier said.
“I think we need to teach young people how to enjoy fun foods responsibly, not to teach people that fun foods are bad,” Stier said.
Cohen said education is not enough.
“What we underestimate is the power of food, of it being there and easily accessible to trigger our desires and cravings,” she said.
Stier acknowledges the obesity problem but says some people are crying “obesity emergency” to justify the roll-out of untested laws and taxes.
He reviewed Cohen’s analysis, which appears in the journal Preventing Chronic Diseases.
“I think we have to be clear this was not a scientific study, this was kind of a mind exercise, and in her mind these types of interventions would be a good idea,” Stier said.
When asked the effectiveness of the control policies to fight obesity, Cohen said, “We have to start trying them and see if they work or not.”
Texas is holding more than 350 prostitutes in state prisons at a cost of more than $6.5 million per year, the Austin American-Statesman reports.
Oh how stupid. In 2001, it seems, Texans were upset with prostitution at truck-stops and on Dallas streets. The legislature provided that after three misdemeanor convictions (or guilty pleas, most likely), acts of prostitution would be punished as felonies.
Consider the utterly unseemly entrapment of women by members of a vice squad. Think of the state of mind of the undercover police officer doing this work. Actually don’t think on this too long, it is disgusting.
Consider the attraction of the work:
“I thought life was a big party,” said [Beatryce] Hall, 42, a mother of two daughters. “I started out dancing, got on drugs, went to the streets where I could make $300-400 a night. I wanted to, but couldn’t get out of that cycle.”
Certainly there are many people who don’t find this idea at all attractive. But at $300 per night, working 5 nights a week for 50 weeks, this work would generate a gross income of $75,000 annually. That’s pretty good pay. I suspect that all of that was cash and that much of it was not reported on a Form 1040 to IRS. Sure the work is may be hard in many ways, and may often be unpleasant and dangerous — lots of work is. Does the work interfere with other priorities? Yes, like so many other jobs. Was it hard to quit the unpleasant job that paid $75,000? Yes, just as it is hard to quit any good paying but unpleasant job.
Assume that many prostitutes don’t like the work. So what? I know lots of lawyers who don’t like the work, too — renting their mind for thousands of hours a year for clients they find disgusting. They are highly demoralized (in a couple of senses of the term).
Why do we judge this work to be illegal, other than on the basis of legal tradition?
How are these women benefited by being arrested or by going to prison? How are the families of prostitutes benefited by sending a family member to prison? How is society benefited by sending prostitutes to prison? How are their legitimate employment prospects improved by arresting them?
Prostitution in brothels should be legal as it is in parts of Nevada. Prostitution by escort service should be legal. If street walkers are disturbing your neighborhood, legal brothels in commercial districts and legal escorts would be an efficient way to solve the problem.
And perhaps the rest of us might not have our taxes wasted on the pointless costs of enforcement.
Randy Barnett has a new paper out, this one titled “From Antislavery Lawyer to Chief Justice: The Remarkable But Forgotten Career of Salmon P. Chase” (SSRN download), abstract:
Salmon P. Chase was as responsible as any single person for the abolition of chattel slavery in the United States. Yet his name is barely known and his career is largely forgotten. In this paper, the author seeks to revive his memory by tracing the arc of his career from antislavery lawyer, to antislavery politician, to Chief Justice of the United States. In addition to explaining why this is a career worth both remembering and honoring, the author offers some possible reasons why his remarkable achievements have largely been forgotten.
Worth the read.
If you do not know who Eric Sterling is, permit me to excerpt his bio:
Mr. Sterling was Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary from 1979 until 1989. On the staff of the Subcommittee on Crime, (Rep. William J. Hughes (D-NJ), Chairman), he was responsible for drug enforcement, gun control, money laundering, organized crime, pornography, terrorism, corrections, and military assistance to law enforcement, among many issues. He was a principal aide in developing the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, the Anti-Drug Abuse Acts of 1986 and 1988, and other laws. He has traveled to South America, Europe and many parts of the United States to examine the crime and drug problems first hand. In the 96th Congress, he worked on comprehensively rewriting the Federal Criminal Code. Mr. Sterling was honored by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
In other words, when Eric Sterling says anything about justice system or drug policy reform, it is probably worth your time. In this case, I wanted to discuss Sterling’s recent analysis of marijuana legalization and America’s international treaty obligations. This is a pertinent topic as Colorado, Washington State, and Oregon will all be voting on marijuana legalization initiatives this fall and a conflict with federal law is inevitable (and some would argue that it is already here). In any case, here is Sterling:
Alternet.org has a very thoughtful article by three members of the New York City Bar Association’s Drugs and the Law Committee on the way international treaties impact efforts to legalize marijuana in the U.S.
The U.S. has signed the Single Convention on Narcotics (1961) and Article VI of the U.S. Constitution provides that federal law and treaties are the “supreme Law of the Land.” The various states are governed by these treaties, and thus limit the ability of any state to legalize marijuana. This is certain to become an issue in the summer and fall of 2012 as the voters of Washington State, Colorado and Oregon consider initiatives to legalize marijuana. If one or more of these pass, these international treaties will be a factor in how the federal government responds.
The authors — Heather J. Haase, Esq., Nicolas Eyle, and Joshua Schrimpf, Esq. — note that the international consensus behind these treaties is being shaken.
A major change in the traditional protocol of the treaties — don’t rock the boat — is coming from Bolivia. When Bolivia (and Peru) acceded to the Single Convention (what we in the U.S. call ratifying the treaty), they agreed to ban their long-time practices of coca chewing and drinking coca tea after 25 years (Article 49.2(e), Single Convention of Narcotics). Since 1987, they have not been in compliance.
A couple of years ago, Bolivia rewrote its constitution and decided to try to change the requirement that it disapprove of coca use. (Bolivia’s President, Evo Morales, came to political prominence as the leader of the union of coca growers!).
Bolivia tried to get the U.N.’s Commission on Narcotics Drugs to change the prohibition on coca use, unsuccessfully.
Now Bolivia is using different approach which is to “withdraw” from the treaty (called “denunciation,” Article 46, Single Convention on Narcotics) and then joining the treaty again (“accession,” Article 40) but with reservations (Article 50.3). The reservation can be rejected if it is objected to by one-third of the countries that are party to the Single Convention within twelve months after a country notified the U.N. Secretary General it wants a reservation. That means that one-third of the 183 nations (“parties”) have to object.
This type of strategy is outlined in chapter 6 in the excellent book by Robin Room, Benedict Fischer, Wayne Hall, Simon Lenton and Peter Reuter, Cannabis Policy: Moving Beyond Stalemate, (Oxford U. Press, 2010).
Moving beyond the strictures of the Single Convention on Narcotics is a worthwhile goal. I am reminded of that line from Keynes:
“The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”
Although much of my writing on prosecutorial abuse centers deals with how state prosecutors time and again deliberately pursue false charges in so-called sex crimes, I actually began this part of my writing career as a critic of federal criminal law and how federal prosecutors enthusiastically find ways to turn legal actions into “crimes” that are accompanied with harsh prison sentences.
There is one connection, as federal law – specifically the various Mondale Acts (or CAPTA) and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) – has destroyed due process and emphasized the mere accusation without corroborating evidence being the standard for conviction and made it easy for state prosecutors to gain wrongful convictions of innocent people. Ever since the Progressive Era of a century ago, Progressives have claimed that federal intervention into state law is a solution, not a problem, and even now many people refuse to believe that federal criminal law has become an instrument of tyranny.
Yet, time and again I have found myself astounded at the ease by which federal prosecutors are able to target anyone they like and pursue criminal charges accompanied with the loaded term “fraud” to make these actions sound much worse than they really are. Teaming with an attorney friend of mine, Candice E. Jackson, the two of us wrote papers and articles demonstrating how U.S. attorneys recklessly cut a swath of human and economic destruction, and how the supposed government watchdogs, such as the mainstream media, have enthusiastically endorsed this tyranny. Even though dedicated attorneys such as Harvey Silverglate have written enlightening books such as Three Felonies a Day that clearly outline the abuses, the media tends to turn a deaf ear.
From Rudy Giuliani’s relentless pursuit of Michael Milken more than 20 years ago to the government’s imprisoning of Martha Stewart to its refusal to help free wrongfully-convicted federal prisoners in North Carolina, incarcerated because the lawyers of the U.S. Department of Justice did not know the law and federal judges looked the other way, government lawyers have engaged in reckless and brutal acts against innocent people. If I could boil all of my writings about federal prosecutorial abuse into a case against one person, that individual would be Victoria Sprouse.
I met Vickie Sprouse three years ago, just after she was convicted by a federal jury in Charlotte, North Carolina, for “mortgage fraud.” Her conviction was a huge story in North Carolina’s self-described Queen City. Television news reporters breathlessly declared that she had “made millions” from her fraud, and that her actions had helped to create the housing meltdown that inundated Charlotte. The Charlotte Observer, a newspaper with “proper liberal credentials” that prides itself on having a heart for justice, wrote an account that – save its lead paragraph in which the reporter noted that Sprouse burst into tears – that was little more than a rehash of the press release given by the U.S. DOJ on its website.
If one only watched the news and read the Observer, Sprouse’s guilt would be an open-and-shut thing. I followed her trial through the Observer’s website and knew there was no chance for her acquittal. I spoke to one of North Carolina’s best-known attorneys before the trial and he told me, “She is going to get screwed.” And she did.
Yet, the government’s case against Vickie Sprouse was a true house of cards, constructed upon a façade that was supported by judicial rulings that ensured that Sprouse would not have an adequate defense. The irony is that it would not have been difficult for a good attorney to have blasted apart the federal charges and there was enough exculpatory evidence available to have shot the case full of holes. However, federal prosecutor Matt Martens was able to rig both the prosecution and the defense by seizing Sprouse’s assets and forcing her to drop her experienced attorney and having to depend upon public defenders that had no intention of mounting a real defense.
I go through the details of the original conviction in this post I wrote three years ago for Lew Rockwell’s page. (I am grateful that Lew provided a forum by which I could write on such issues even though my harsh words have enraged state and federal prosecutors.) When the original article was published, Martens flew into a rage, claiming first that I was a fictitious character and that Sprouse had written the piece herself, and later saying that Sprouse had dictated every word to me. Neither statement was true and the prosecutor’s words demonstrated to me that Martens (like many other U.S. attorneys) was both an egomaniac and a fundamentally-dishonest character.
There is a postscript to the original conviction which further demonstrates the lengths of brutality that the government will go in order to target, convict, and incarcerate someone. While Sprouse was convicted for so-called mortgage fraud, the prosecution relied upon the malleable federal statute of Honest Services Fraud to make its case. When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned much of that law, the legal basis for Sprouse’s conviction collapsed. (I argue in my LRC post that the government did not even prove Sprouse had committed any kind of fraud.)
Government lawyers were demanding Sprouse be incarcerated for 42 years, and she was held under house arrest pending her appeal. When a federal judge overturned her conviction, U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins (the same Anne Tompkins who declared her office could not be “outcome-driven” when confronted with the fact it had illegally-charged dozens of people with statutory crimes that did not exist) and her underlings fashioned bankruptcy fraud charges in retaliation.
I have written a short post on the current set of charges, but that post was incomplete. The feds have used tricks like claiming Sprouse reported fraudulent numbers for rental properties when, in fact, they used gross revenue while Sprouse employed net income. The feds also claimed that a defense fund set up by Sprouse’s sister, a fund of which Sprouse had no personal access and proceeds went directly to pay attorneys, constituted an illegal secret “slush fund.”
One of the ironies in this sorry case has been the fact that Sprouse herself hardly fits the demonized profile that the feds have created and the media have dutifully regurtigated. She is a friendly, kind woman whose mannerisms and language are a throwback to the formal culture that existed in the South many years ago. In all my conversations with her, I never have heard her curse or even use inflammatory language. She seems genuinely confused as to why the feds would pursue her in a Javert-like manner, and I and others who know her all agree.
The sad thing about the personal destruction of Victoria Sprouse is not just in the lost income and opportunities that she and her family have experienced. No, it also has been the very ease by which federal authorities can use the alleged-watchdog media to create caricatures of people that do not fit their real character. Her persecution also is a reminder that any one of us can be targeted in the same manner, and no matter how much proof we produce to demonstrate that federal officials are wrong, the American news media will follow lock-step behind the bureaucrats, even when it is obvious the bureaucrats are not telling the truth.
When the Arizona State Bar earlier this year separated former Maricopa County District Attoney Andrew Thomas from his law license, a number of people who had been victimized by this man and his staff felt some sense of vindication. The unfortunate thing, however, was that Thomas was disbarred for bringing a criminal case into a political fight between Sheriff Joe Arpaio and people in the courthouse when, in reality, the conduct of his staff in the wrongful conviction of Courtney Bisbee should have been enough to have a number of prosecutors disbarred forever.
Because I am at a retreat in the high desert hinterlands of Colorado, my posting time is severely limited, and I am going to let the article from the Phoenix New Times tell the whole terrible story in all of its details. What I will say is that this not only was a wrongful conviction, it was a conviction driven by prosecutorial ambition, the greed of families that believed telling lies under oath would enable them to sue someone else for Big Money, and by the general lies and hysteria that have accompanied the Mondale Act since its inception in 1974.
Andrew Thomas was not satisfied with bringing a wrongful case against Courtney; no, he and his political allies had to send an entire SWAT team to arrest an unarmed, diminutive and non-violent woman. Lest anyone think that the prosecution had the “right” motives but wrong facts in this case, think again. The article details the deliberate myopia of Andrew Thomas and others who wanted a scalp for their trophy cases.
I will include a few snippets from the NT piece to point out why I believe this was a travesty of justice:
The state alleged Bisbee had engaged in a mutual grope session with a 13-year-old named Jon Valles. Incredibly, she was supposed to have done this in a room full of teenage witnesses, some of whom had babysat her daughter.
Two weeks following her arrest on February 11, Bisbee was charged with three counts of child molestation and three counts of indecency. The media lumped her in with various high-profile cases of improper student-teacher relations, though Bisbee was not a teacher, and Jon was not her student. Rather, he attended Desert Shadows Middle School, a mile or two south of Horizon.
Bisbee pleaded not guilty, aced a polygraph test, and passed a rigorous screening designed to sniff out pedophiles. Still, she was convicted after a six-day bench trial in early 2006. Despite conflicting testimony and a lack of physical evidence, Superior Court Judge Warren Granville believed Bisbee’s accuser and found Bisbee guilty on two counts of child molestation, resulting in a sentence of 11 years in state prison.
But the case had holes in it, and things started to come apart after Bisbee was convicted:
In 2007, Jon’s elder brother Nik recanted his testimony against Bisbee in a sworn affidavit; he accused his mother and his brother of concocting the tale to establish grounds for a lawsuit.
Since the trial, other witnesses have maintained that Jon lied about Bisbee. Numerous individuals have communicated this information to County Attorney Andrew Thomas, to no avail. The conviction took place under Thomas’ watch, and legal experts assert it is Thomas’ duty as a seeker of justice to investigate this new information.
As I see it, the evidence was there all the time, but people like Thomas who already are fundamentally-dishonest run from the truth like a vampire runs from a cross. And when Thomas left office for his ill-fated run for attorney general of Arizona, his successor was no more willing to take a hard look at the Bisbee conviction than was Thomas.
Unfortunately, prosecutors and judges tend to take convictions as hard-and-fast and in their minds, innocence cannot be a defense, since all accused people MUST be guilty, otherwise they would not have been accused in the first place.
Henry, Tenn.- At the Henry Mayor and Board of Alderman meeting on Tuesday, board members decided to allow police chief David Andrews to institute a K9 program for the Henry Police Department.
Andrews told board members that the city is missing out on possible revenues that a K9 would bring. He said when you make traffic stops and the driver refuses to allow a search, their hands are tied. If a drug dog alerts on a vehicle, its gives officers probable cause to search a vehicle for drugs or illegal proceeds from drugs. More drug arrests and drug, cash, and vehicle seizures lead to more revenues coming in for the police department and city.
Andrews said the military has a drug dog program and he could get a dog for the city at no upfront cost. The dogs are usually labs and are very gentle, and come trained as drug dogs. Andrews said four hours per week of training is required but the officers will work that into their regular hours. The dog would stay at the officers residence at night and any monies for food, water, and vet care would come from the drug fund.
The board of alderman also approved to allow city recorder Sonya Clayton to call in Jessica Lucas for some part time help in the office whenever needed.
Mayor Joe Qualls said the workload on Clayton has become very heavy and some part time help is needed certain days of the month and to allow backup for sickness and vacation for the city recorder.
Lucas has worked with the city part time before, and was called in a couple of weeks ago when they really needed some help. Lucas never quit or was terminated, but the new budget never allowed for the part time help so she didn’t come back on a regular basis.
The part time help will be at the city recorder’s discretion, brining her in an average of a couple days per week and training her on court paperwork, water bills, deposits, and all aspects of the office. This will be part time, temporary help for the rest of this budget year. It would be up to the city whether or not to budget it again once the new budget year starts next July.
The Institute for Justice reports that Tennessee’s asset forfeiture law rates a “D”:
Tennessee has broad civil forfeiture laws that fail to protect the rights of property owners. There, the government must establish by only a preponderance of the evidence that property is related to a crime and subject to forfeiture. Tennessee also effectively presumes owners are guilty, as the property owner bears the burden of proof for innocent owner claims. And, while it cannot be used to supplement salaries, local drug enforcement nonetheless keeps 100 percent of property forfeited, and there is no requirement to collect or report data on the use of forfeiture or its proceeds in Tennessee.
Turns out there previously has been misuse of forfeited vehicles, cash, and drugs by law enforcement in Henry County:
A state comptroller’s special investigation of West Tennessee’s 24th Judicial Drug Task Force turned up instances of theft by the agency’s administrative assistant and jail trustees smoking seized crack cocaine.
It also reveals that District Attorney General Hansel McCadams and Henry County Sheriff Monte Belew had a penchant for using a confiscated BMW Z-3 car for their personal use.
The examination of drug task force operations was conducted by the Comptroller’s Division of County Audit with aid from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Auditors said items from drug seizures were stolen or misused with a task force administrative assistant and her ex-husband admitting to taking drugs and other seized items, including utility trailers and a flat-screen television, from the task force.
The report from the Comptroller’s Division of County Audit said McCadams and other directors of the task force were lax in reviewing the agency’s operations. The task force itself didn’t have adequate record-keeping or inventory management practices.
Auditors said they found a group of jail trustees on a work detail had access to seized items without sufficient supervision. Because of that, the report says, some trustees gained access to drug case files, smoked crack cocaine and marijuana while at the Drug Task Force headquarters and stole cash, old coins and other equipment.
According to auditors, McCadams sometimes used a variety of confiscated equipment including a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a golf cart, a go cart, a four-wheeler and a trailer for his personal use. He flew on Drug Task Force airplanes and a helicopter on non-official business, according to the report.
Hat Tip: Orin Kerr at Volokh.
In my previous post about how the Sacramento County District Attorney continues to push the prosecution of Robert Adams for child molestation even though there is no evidence, I said that it was part of the typical “bleed ‘em and plead ‘em” strategy employed by most American prosecutors. However, after doing some digging, I have found that there very well could be some other motivation for government officials in that county, and specifically the city of Citrus Hill.
No doubt, the district attorney wants to “win” because prosecutors are all about getting convictions, guilt or innocence be damned. However, some developments after the arrest of Adams and his subsequent demonization by local officials and the local news media, including the Sacramento Bee, raise the possibility that this whole affair may help the City of Citrus Heights meet some of its own development goals. Furthermore, a conviction via plea bargain also would save the city from having Adams and his family sue the police and others for fabricating the case.
Adams was the headmaster of Creative Frontiers School, a private school which Citrus Heights officials closed down after Adams was charged. Later, some people associated with Adams wanted to re-open the school with others in charge, but the city shot down that request, claiming that it essentially would be the same school. While that argument really did not make sense, given that no one else had been accused, nonetheless the decision stood.
The property went into foreclosure, but it was to be sold to nearby Bayside Church for $1.2 million, which would have covered the $1 million principal owed to Zions Bank. However, the bank suddenly balked (claiming the price was too low) but then a few months later sold it to Bayside Church for only $700 thousand. Now, this would not make sense at all, except the City of Citrus Hill also would like to have the property.
In its Action Plan of November, 2011, the city outlines a number of services that it wants to provide, but bemoaned the fact that there is “very little vacant land available for development.” The report continues:
Non-governmental barriers include the availability and cost of land. The primary barrier to the creation of affordable housing in Citrus Heights is a very small supply of vacant land. As the vacant land supply decreases, the availability and cost of suitable vacant land for housing development becomes a barrier to the development of affordable housing.
Creative Frontiers School’s former property has seven acres, which is a huge amount of land for a place like Citrus Heights, and there is no doubt that when a disgruntled former employee made what turned out to be outlandish accusations, as outlined by Christian Peet in his blog post and detailed in my previous post, Citrus Heights officials sensed an opportunity for a land grab. As readers of this blog and other sites, such as Reason Magazine, have come to know, city officials in this country are notorious for stealing private land under flimsy pretenses.
For the most part, the land seizures, such as what happened in the infamous Kelo case in New London, Connecticut, where city officials took private property in order to sell it to a private firm that supposedly would “develop” it and ultimately create more tax revenue for the city. However, in the situation with Citrus Heights, it turns out that it would like to use at least part of that property for a homeless shelter.
Ordinarily, that would not make sense, given that one does not associate homeless shelters with “development.” However, the county and specifically the nearby city of Sacramento have been under fire for what has been called “inadequate” facilities for homeless people. Furthermore, using that property for housing and homeless-related activities would bring in millions of dollars of federal government money, and given the sorry state of California’s economy, federal money probably is the only game in town when it comes to injections of new funding.
In other words, continuing the prosecution of Robert Adams not only would financially ruin Adams and his family, leading to a plea bargain that would keep Citrus Heights and others from being sued, but also would further justify the land grab activities that have been going on behind the scenes. Ironically, government officials have called Adams a “predator,” but it seems that the real predatory activities are those being pushed by Citrus Heights and Sacramento County.
Over at Keep Columbia Free, my friend Mark Flakne has a post up about how the Columbia, Missouri police department targeted Matt Akins, a mutual friend and activist in Columbia. Akins runs a small nonprofit organization, Citizens for Justice, that records the cops. From Akin’s Facebook page:
This poster was prominently displayed in several locations throughout the Columbia Police Department during the Fall of 2011 while a group of Shepard Boulevard Elementry School students were given a tour of the department.
cfjweb.ssos.us was the original home of Citizens For Justice (now located at www.CFJComo.com). This site was never public, but had been being tracked by the CPD/CPOA(Columbia Police Officers’ Association) as they sent emails letting us know this (Scare tactic? Maybe).
The arrest being referred to occurred in May of 2010 and was one of the primary reasons I started Citizens For Justice.
I was LEGALLY carrying a concealed weapon on my person within the confines of my vehicle (as defined under Missouri’s Peaceable Journey Statute), but the arresting officer didn’t agree with me and went so far as to supplant evidence against me by loading a round into the chamber and reporting he had recovered it from me this way.
My car was impounded, I was booked for unlawful use of a weapon, and had to hire an attorney for the 6 month legal battle that would ensue.
After repeatedly asking for the footage of the arrest to show the officer engaging in misconduct, I was told that it either had been deleted, disappeared, or never existed AND MY CASE WAS DROPPED.
I believe that makes this a closed record(and therefore a HUGE violation of my civil rights), but I’m not an attorney so I could be wrong.
Either way, the poster was used to make me look like a wanted criminal to a bunch a elementry school kids and I couldn’t even get an answer as to who created it or put it up.
Thanks a lot CPD!
At around 13:40 (edit: substantive discussion doesn’t begin till 20:30) in this video, the Springfield, Missouri City Council discusses the proposed marijuana decriminalization ballot initiative that they now must approve at the City Council meeting on Tuesday or send to the voters in the November general election. Leave a comment if you notice any incorrect information about marijuana and the drug war. it would be much appreciated.
Hat Tip: National Cannabis Coalition
By David Bratzer, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
I worked yesterday (and I’m working later today) so my ability to post comments is limited. I am still following the Ask a Cop thread and I will (eventually) answer all the questions. As always, please note that my posts and comments on The Agitator represent my personal views only.
- For Twitter folks, #copchat is happening tonight at 9pm EST. Each week has a themed topic and there are some house rules so check out the link before participating. This is an opportunity for police officers and members of the public. The officer who co-founded #copchat is from Toronto. He runs it while off-duty.
- The British Columbia Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner has rejected a one day suspension of a police officer for this incident. The case will now move to a formal disciplinary hearing, to be held on October 5th.
- An external investigation has been called into allegations that two Vancouver police officers did not warn a pregnant woman that she was at risk of being murdered.
- We’ve talked a bit in the comments about Freedom of Information requests. A few weeks ago I filed these FOI requests, and then a complaint. Here is the result. The goal of these requests is to examine how public funds will be spent to provide police services in my hometown. The details are not super exciting, but it does reinforce my point: If you don’t file a request, nothing happens.
The State of California, which gave us such outrages as the McMartin Case and the Kerns County prosecutions, claims to have learned its lesson, and the Sacramento Bee has solemnly assured its readers that the Bee no longer runs over the cliff when someone is accused of child molestation. That self-congratulatory statement came as the Bee once again stood on the edge of the cliff and jumped.
As of this writing, Robert Adams, the former headmaster of the now-shuttered Creative Frontiers School in Citrus Heights, is charged with child molestation, although the State of California still has not turned over its “evidence” to the defense, despite the fact that it has had this case for more than a year. (This is part of the “bleed ‘em” strategy that prosecutors employ. When they don’t have a case, they lie and hide evidence so that the proceedings will drag out and the defendant will plead to something just to get this thing behind him. It is a smarmy strategy, but most American prosecutors fall into the “smarmy” category, so it all fits together perfectly.)
So it was that the Bee triumphantly claimed that since McMartin, everyone in the system now is careful not to make false accusations. Really. The Bee proclaimed:
The legacy of the notorious McMartin Preschool case of the 1980s is playing out this week in Sacramento.
As the principal of a private elementary school in Citrus Heights stands accused of molesting his students, authorities are warning the school’s parents against aggressively questioning their children about the man they affectionately know as “Mr. Bob.”
It is the exact opposite of what police asked parents to do during the McMartin case, in which members of a Southern California family who ran a highly regarded preschool in Manhattan Beach were charged with numerous acts of sexual abuse.
The Bee continued:
The state Department of Social Services, in a complaint filed in support of revoking the preschool’s license, accuses Adams of “inappropriate physical and sexual contact with female children” on “numerous occasions” beginning in 1997. The complaint cites two specific allegations, including the one by Mertens, and other more general accusations. Those include Adams touching children’s bodies under their shirts and down their pants, and lying with female children on a mat in a secluded area.
However, the article went on to describe how much better investigators do than they did 30 years ago when the McMartin allegations broke out. I must admit, having been involved with a number of faux child molestation cases against innocent people, that the following statement from the newspaper is a howler:
In response to the McMartin debacle, authorities across the country established “child advocacy centers” with special rooms where youngsters can be questioned by trained psychologists or law enforcement specialists.
Sorry, folks, it does not work that way. Most Child Advocacy Center interviewers are poorly-trained, and often are people with an agenda. The two CACs that were involved in the Tonya Craft case had interviewers asking leading and manipulative questions and admitted proudly on the stand that they could not be bothered to have more training or to read any relevant academic and research literature that dealt with their interviews and interviewing techniques. I include the transcript of an interview of Tonya Craft’s six-year-old (at the time) daughter so that readers can see a CAC “expert” at work. It is pretty disgusting.
(Chris Arnt, the lead prosecutor in the Craft case, managed to get six indictments against Craft from this interview.)
Here is what the executive editor of the Bee, Joyce Terhaar, wrote right after the investigation began and the school was closed:
The shadow of the McMartin Preschool fiasco hung over Sacramento law enforcement and media last week.
You likely followed the news of the abrupt closure Monday of a private elementary school in Citrus Heights because of allegations the principal molested students beginning in 1997.
Just as law enforcement learned from the McMartin molestation allegations in the 1980s, and changed its investigative approach in such cases, the media learned to be more skeptical.
Yes, the Bee was so skeptical of the charges that soon after Terhaar’s column that it ran a story claiming that Adams had faked his credentials, thus helping to cement in the minds of its readers that the guy was a fraud, which meant he must be guilty of child molestation. However, when Adams produced the documentation that showed he had the educational credentials that he had claimed, the Bee was too busy to run a correction. (I would add that the Sacramento television news stations have been no better than the Bee, but since the Bee claims to always have a reasoned and correct perspective about nearly everything, I figure that this paper should be held to higher standards than the makeup-slathered folks we see on the evening news.)
Lest anyone think the Bee has simply tried to objectively cover this case, this lead in an article from Sam Stanton should put things into perspective:
On a chilly December day when Bob Adams normally might be thinking about a holiday pageant at his family’s school, he found himself walking into court again to deal with charges that he is a child molester.
He goes on:
Adams faces six felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 and one misdemeanor count of annoying or molesting a child under 18.
Court documents indicate Adams was first investigated in connection with molestation allegations in 2000, but it was not until September that charges were filed accusing him of molesting girls as young as 6 or 7 in alleged incidents dating back to 1996.
Yes, everything Stanton wrote is true, but the way he puts it leaves little doubt he believes Adams is guilty.
At this point the reader might ask me, “Why do you think this guy is innocent?” I use the word “innocence” carefully, but I have no doubt. And neither does the writer, Christian Peet, who has published a number of excellent blog posts that go into this case — and the accusers — into detail. It is Peet, not the faux journalists at the Sacramento Bee, who has done the digging and done the due diligence that the ancients once called research. (They are too busy to do research at the Bee, instead being satisfied with repeating the press releases from the police and Sacramento County prosecutors.)
Peet has an excellent post from last May, and I include a few excerpts:
Prosecutors’ decision to build a case against Adams even in the wake of the public implosion of their original star witness (and, by her own account, their “only witness“), Irma Mertens, has only solidified public doubt about the veracity of the State’s case.
Mertens, a volunteer at Creative Frontiers, who was passed over for paid employment prior to making her felony allegations against Adams in July 2011, went on to embarrass social services and police by giving a string of newspaper and television interviews in which she embellished and contradicted previous statements released to the media, providing sudden new “details” such as watching Adams stick his thumb in a child’s rectum,3 all within 48 hours of authorities having released her original allegations in a press packet that was unblinkingly trumpeted by local papers and recycled by major media across the US and into the UK, destroying the names of the prestigious 35-year-old school and branding its founder, for the rest of his life, an accused child molester.
I would urge readers to go through Peet’s account of the lurid tales that Mertens told the media — and how those tales later fell apart, although one never would guess that from reading the Bee or watching the news in Sacramento. Peet also debunks the notion that the police were careful in their investigation:
Just three days after Creative Frontiers was closed, an article at the Sacramento Bee, as if written by the prosecution itself, sought to reassure the public that city and county authorities, despite appearances, weren’t repeating the same mistakes. Declared the headline: “McMartin Preschool abuse-case fiasco led to new child interview techniques.”
“In [the Mcmartin Preschool] case,” write reporters Hubert and Stanton, “following an initial accusation from one mother, police sent form letters to more than 200 parents at the preschool, urging them to question their children about possible sexual abuse.” The difference, however, between these troubling aspects of McMartin and those of Creative Frontiers, is scarcely any difference at all. Instead of Judy Johnson making false allegations in 1983, we have Irma Mertens making false allegations in 2011. Instead of a telephone-tree panic between parents, we have online comments at the Sacramento Bee and other digital newspapers.
Likewise only updated technology separates the ill-advised tactics of the police departments in each case. In 1983 police in Manhattan Beach mailed parents 200 form letters. In 2011, Citrus Heights police set up an online form, making the reporting of allegations as easy as clicking of a mouse.
At this writing, the defense STILL does not have the prosecution files on the case, which places the State of California in violation of the Brady ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. Not that prosecutors ever have worried about obeying the law, but it should be noted that the Bee has not reported on this legal transgression.
Peet’s blogging on this case has been extremely valuable, as he has put it into perspective and, like me, he points out the dishonesty and hypocrisy of the Bee’s coverage. He takes apart the allegations and the statements by police and accusers better than I could do. So if you want to better understand why I believe that the State of California is perpetuating a fraud and is being aided and abetted by the Sacramento Bee, read Peet’s work.
– William Anderson
Been watching this story over the weekend and enough credible sources have picked it up that I’m interested. From Carlos Miller:
Law enforcement officials said they did not arrest Brandon Raub for his anti-governmentFacebook postings, even though they slapped handcuffs on him and forced him into a car before transporting him to a psychiatric hospital where he will remain for at least 30 days.
No, they merely went to “interview him” last Thursday, the FBI told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“Our office had received a complaint about threatening posts,” said Dee Rybiski, spokeswoman for the Richmond FBI office. “As we would do in any circumstance such as this, our office along with Chesterfield Police (Department) officers went to interview Mr. Raub.
“The FBI did not arrest him,” Rybiski said. “We are not commenting any further.
Meanwhile, Raub is locked away in a psychiatric ward in John Randolph Medical Center outside Richmond, Virginia where he was allowed to be interviewed by the Richmond Times-Dispatch via telephone.
“I’m currently in John Randolph in the psychiatric ward being held against my will,” Raub said in a telephone interview.
Raub said Secret Service, FBI and Chesterfield police officers came to his home Thursday. “They were concerned about me calling for the arrest of government officials,” he said.
He was taken to the Chesterfield police station and then to the hospital, he said.
“I talked to a Secret Service gentleman for 20, 30 minutes,” Raub said. “I was very cooperative and answered everything honestly.
“I really love America, and I think that idea that you can be detained and sent somewhere without due process and a lawyer … is crazy.”
Raub said he has been raising questions about 9/11 and signed a petition to reopen investigation of the terrorist attacks.
The Rutherford Institute, a Virginia-based civil rights organization, has come to the defense of Raub, a retired U.S. Marine who served from 2005 to 2011, including stints in Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to a statement the Rutherford Institute sent to Cop Block:
The Rutherford Institute has come to the defense of a former Marine, 26-year-old Brandon Raub, who was arrested, detained indefinitely in a psych ward and forced to undergo psychological evaluations based solely on the controversial nature of lines from song lyrics, political messages and virtual card games which he posted to his private Facebook page. Although the FBI and Chesterfield County police have not charged Brandon Raub, a resident of Chesterfield County, Va., with committing any crime, they arrested Raub on Thursday, August 16, 2012, and transported him to John Randolph Medical Center, where he was held against his will due to alleged concerns that his Facebook (FB) posts were controversial and terrorist in nature. In a hearing held at the hospital, government officials disregarded Raub’s explanation that the Facebook posts were being interpreted out of context, sentencing him up to 30 days further confinement in a VA psych ward. In coming to Raub’s defense, Rutherford Institute attorneys are challenging Raub’s arrest and forcible detention, as well as the government’s overt Facebook surveillance and violation of Raub’s First Amendment rights.
Raub’s statements might seem far-fetched to many people, even to those who don’t normally buy into government rhetoric.
But they’re not much different than what many people have been posting on the internet, especially after 9/11 when a small but vocal movement began spreading their views that the government somehow played a role in the terrorists attacks.
- A Fistful of Freedom: Using 3D printers to distribute firearms around the world (via Dave Killion and the Libertarian Book Club).
- Do you think this brochure will make officers safer… or more paranoid?
- Police Need New Professionalism, by Christopher Stone: “There will always be a certain degree of force in policing. What matters is whether policing—when it asserts its authority—makes democratic progress possible or impedes it. Professional policing enhances democratic progress when it accounts for what it does, achieves public support, learns through innovation, and transcends parochialism.”
- Automatic License Plate Recognition: In Minnesota, license plates are not considered private information. This means license plates in police ALPR databases are subject to FOI access requests by anyone in the state. What could possibly go wrong?
Hi Folks! Lenore Skenazy from Free-Range Kids again. Tell me when you start getting sick of these stories: The ones where parents let their kids actually PLAY OUTSIDE and the cops come a-calling. I get these letters ALL THE TIME and am at my wit’s end, as I don’t know what to tell these traumatized parents. In fact, I just asked a cop on a post below this one (aptly titled, “Ask a Cop”). So here’s the latest letter. Since when does the government get to decide whether or not our kids are allowed to FROLIC?
Dear Free-Range Kids: I might be labelled as an overprotective parent. I don’t allow my children to spend the night at anyone’s house, and also don’t allow anyone to spend the night here unless I know the parents very well. This is due to my own childhood trauma.
That said: I have had social services called on me twice and the police interrogate me 4 times, because apparently I am one of only two families that allows my children to play outside at all in our neighborhood (which is very safe . Just today, I allowed all four of my children (they were all together) to go play in the field adjacent to my house. I could literally see them outside my kitchen window. My 10 year old ran home to tell my husband and I that a cop had stopped and was interrogating my oldest daughter.
No, this was not after dark, it was at 4pm on a Saturday. So my husband walked out to see what was going on, and the police officer even wrote up a report, stating that the children were left outside unsupervised.
So, since I am new to Virginia, I asked my neighbors if this was a “Virginia” thing. Their response was, “Well, you know it just isn’t safe anymore to allow your kids to play outside.” I thought I was overprotective making them carry cellphones to check in every 30 mins, and only allowing them wander off 1/2 of a block. Seriously? We asked the police if they were doing anything wrong, he said, “No they were very respectful kids, I just wanted to make sure they were okay because it was odd seeing them outside unsupervised.” We are not talking toddlers, we’re talking teens, pre-teens and one 5 year old all together. – A Mom of 4
The Law.com Daily Report has details:
Murray County Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran has resigned, ending a judicial ethics investigation that included the judge’s practice of distributing pre-signed, blank arrest and search warrants to local law enforcement officers.
Cochran resigned effective 5 p.m. Wednesday, his attorney, Christopher Townley, said Thursday. The resignation was delivered to Governor Nathan Deal, who accepted it Thursday morning. Cochran’s departure comes just two weeks after his re-election to a third term.
Cochran agreed never to seek or hold judicial office again, according to a consent order the JQC posted on its website Thursday.
The JQC’s public report said its investigation focused on “whether the judge pre-signed blank arrest warrants for completion by law enforcement officers while he was absent from office.” The report also said the inquiry included “whether the judge allowed the prestige of his office to advance his private interests.”
JQC director Jeffrey Davis would not elaborate on how the judge may have misused his office to advance his private interests. “The matters we investigated, many of which have been made public, are those matters which are referred to in the reported disposition,” he said. “That’s about as specific as I can get.”
Two women have told the Daily Report and the JQC that Cochran sought sexual favors from them. One woman, Angela Garmley, and her attorney, former Georgia legislator McCracken Poston, have said that Cochran asked Garmley to become his mistress in return for a favorable ruling against several people against whom she had sworn out criminal warrants. A second woman who previously had sought help from the judge in a criminal matter told the Daily Report that Cochran had crudely propositioned her last year.
Townley said Cochran’s decision to step down from an office he has held for eight years was not related to the sexual harassment allegations. “He’s just furious” about those complaints, Townley said.
Cochran’s two-sentence resignation letter to the governor offered no explanation for his decision but simply his thanks “to the people of Georgia and Murray County for allowing me to serve.”
In a written statement Townley forwarded to the Daily Report, Cochran said, “I accept full responsibility for the warrants that were pre-signed. This is SOLELY the reason for my resignation.”
Makes one wonder what a more through and public investigation would turn up. I have heard of cases where judges accepted asset forfeiture kickbacks from local law enforcement for similar services…did Cochran have a similar payday?
By David Bratzer, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
My name is Dave, and I work as a police officer in Canada. I’ve been on the job for six years. I’ve worked in patrol, a dedicated beat section and now community policing. I’m married to my lovely wife, Colleen, and together we have a little boy (and a cat).
In my spare time, I volunteer as a board member with LEAP. That’s how I wound up on a panel with Radley Balko a few years ago at the Netroots Nation convention in Pittsburg. I’ve followed The Agitator since then (although I never thought I would be guest blogging here).
If you have questions about policing, please ask away in the comments section. I’ll try to answer them throughout the week.
Eapen Thampy of Americans for Forfeiture Reform here. Brian Majeski, editor of Music Trades, published the following op-ed this past week on the raids of Gibson Guitars over alleged Lacey Act Violations:
Gibson’s agreement to pay $350,000 to settle with the Department of Justice over alleged Lacey Act violations prompted a flood of press releases from environmental groups, lawmakers, and U.S. wood manufacturers. In unison, they hailed the settlement as a win for the world’s forests, a blow against slave labor, a victory for American jobs, and a triumph of diligent law enforcement. The actual settlement agreement, jointly signed by Justice officials and the Gibson legal team, paints a far different picture. Presenting a set of facts both sides agree on, it depicts overzealous and poorly informed enforcement officials in hot pursuit of a company that was trying in good faith to comply with contradictory foreign statutes. It also inadvertently sums up all that is wrong with the Lacey Act provision that holds U.S. firms criminally liable for violations of foreign laws.
Suspecting a Lacey violation, in 2009, the Environmental Crimes unit of the Justice Department, aided by the FBI and Fish and Wildlife Service, raided Gibson’s Nashville factory and seized pallets of ebony fingerboard blanks that had been imported from Madagascar. In 2006, Madagascar had banned the export of unfinished ebony, and two years later had prohibited the export of all ebony, so the DOJ felt they had a strong case. On a closer reading of the statutes, however, their case started to unravel. The order banning “unfinished” ebony contained a provision specifically permitting the export of guitar fingerboards. While it didn’t make a clear distinction between fingerboard blanks, and partially finished and fully finished, fretted fingerboards, does the global environment truly hang on whether a piece of ebony has a fret slot?
Upon banning ebony exports in 2008, the Madagascar government simultaneously issued licenses permitting select forest operators to legally ship wood that had been cut previously. The DOJ acknowledges that Gibson’s ebony came from a logger who had obtained one of the coveted export licenses. Documents seized during the raid also showed that Gibson had acquired the wood from a Forest Stewardship Council certified broker, who had provided ample assurances that it was in compliance with all relevant statutes. DOJ said that these circumstances partially exonerated Gibson, but that an internally circulated email from a company wood buyer stating “Proving legality is a major problem,” somehow showed criminal intent.
While they were sorting through the complexities of Madagascar law, in 2011 the DOJ raided Gibson again, seizing Indian rosewood fingerboard blanks from plants in Memphis and Nashville. This time, they charged that the wood was “unprocessed” under Indian law and unlawful to export, because it was several millimeters too thick. The Indian Foreign Trade office, along with several local industry groups, pushed back immediately and said that the DOJ had completely misread the law, noting that millions of similar fingerboards had been exported without issue over the past three decades to guitar makers around the world.
Proven wong on a factual point, the DOJ returned the seized rosewood and gave Gibson the green light to continue importing it as they had in the past. To save face, they sheepishly noted that if India ever changes its laws to prohibit such export, and Gibson fails to act accordingly, another raid may be in the works.
So three years and two armed raids later, the Justice Department admitted that Gibson did nothing wrong in importing Indian rosewood. Ambiguously drafted statutes make the Madagascar case less clear cut, but the best the presiding Assistant Attorney General can say is that the guitar maker “may have” violated some foreign statutes. This “may have” cost Gibson $350,000 in fines, the loss of wood valued at $261,000, and $2.4 million in legal fees. Not to mention the costs associated with disruptions in production, and having a reputation tarred by a government agency.
The biggest argument against the amended Lacey Act is that it holds U.S. companies liable for violations of the laws of all the world’s 200 countries. But if the U.S. Department of Justice, with its virtually unlimited resources, has a demonstrated problem grasping the nuance of foreign law, is it fair to hold private enterprises like Gibson to a higher standard? Furthermore, should arguments over the fine points of Madagascar law be elevated to criminal status? Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz rightly calls his company’s legal odyssey “a matter that could have been addressed with a simple contact by a caring human being representing the government. Instead, the Government used violent and hostile means with the full force of the U.S. government and several armed law enforcement agencies costing the taxpayer millions of dollars.”
But what’s worst about this case is how an unlikely coalition of environmental groups, U.S. wood manufacturers (whose wood consumption dwarfs the music industry), and the Department of Justice can transform the use of raw coercion on flimsy legal grounds into some kind of a victory. For anyone who thinks our assessment is overly harsh, we suggest they go to Gibson’s website, where they can read the Department of Justice Settlement for themselves. There is no argument against proper stewardship of finite wood resources. However, there is something wrong with abandoning basic concepts of due process and proportionality, and creating scapegoats in the name of a worthy cause.
“Treating Drug Abuse as a Public Health Issue, Not a Crime” Forum and Panel Discussion in Chicago on Monday (8/20)Saturday, August 18th, 2012
Title: Treating Drug Abuse as a Public Health Issue, Not a Crime
Location: John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County 1901 W. Harrison Street, Chicago, IL (Cafeteria: Lower Level)
Description: Treating Drug Abuse as a Public Health Issue, Not a Crime Forum and Panel Discussion
When & Where
Monday, August 20, 2012, 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County
1901 W. Harrison Street, Chicago, Il (Cafeteria: Lower Level)
(Free parking in the hospital garage at Polk and Wood St. – enter at Polk St. entrance)
The epidemic of mass incarceration in America has resulted in what Professor Michelle Alexander describes in her book, The New Jim Crow, as a permanent under class or
“caste” of second class citizens. Over half of the more than 2.3 million prisoners in the U.S. are there as a result of drug convictions, 80% for drug use and possession.
This event will explore what has been learned since the declaration of the “War on Drugs,” examining the political framework, the challenges to our community, and
critically, alternatives to the current criminalization of those with drug addictions.
You should attend if you are:
◊ A medical professional with a desire to understand the link between the drug war and the issue of mass incarceration and ways to begin to reverse this humanitarian disaster
◊ A public servant who wants to see new possibilities amidst the challenges of drug abuse in our communities
◊ A community activist/organizer who is looking to grow your understanding of the systemic challenges, and build alliances with like-minded organizations
◊ A citizen who believes in a just society and are willing to work for it
5:30 p.m – 6:00 p.m – Registration & Refreshments
6:00 p.m. – Panel Discussion and Q&A: Welcome by the Honorable Toni Preckwinkle,
Cook County Board President; Moderated by Dr. Terry Mason, CMO, CCHHS; Keynote by Ethan Nadelmann, J.D., Ph.D., Exec. Dir., Drug Policy Alliance. Panelists: Major Neill Franklin, Exec. Dir., Law Enforcement Against Prohibition; Dr. Kameron Matthews, M.D., J.D., physician, Cook County Jail; Pamela Rodriguez, Illinois President, Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC); and Tio Hardiman, Illinois Director, CeaseFire.
Registration is helpful, though not mandatory: Call 773-966-1500
x2354 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org, with your name, telephone number and email address. Questions? Contact Patricia Simples, M.D. 312-864-7513.
Start Time: 17:30
End Time: 20:00
This sounds like an all-star panel featuring some of the most serious speakers in drug policy reform. As Tyler Cowen might say, this is “self-recommending”.
Hat Tip: Shaleen Title