- Whether you support abortion rights, oppose abortion rights, or are somewhere in between, there’s one position on which we can all join together in agreement: Tennessee Rep. Scott DesJarlais is an asshole.
- Virginia man exonerated of rape after accuser admits to a detective that she lied. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is still blocking the man’s release, claiming the judge didn’t have jurisdiction to exonerate him. Remember, following procedure to the letter is only important when you’re trying to exonerate someone. When you’re trying to convict them, straying from the rules is just “harmless error.”
- Good article looking at how and why conservatives joined the prison reform movement.
- Spokane police officer who beat a mentally disabled man to death after falsely accusing him of stealing from an ATM . . . gets a four year prison sentence. Otto Zehm’s last words: “All I wanted was a Snickers bar.”
- TSA detains, jails a man for wearing a “weird watch” and having “unusually large boots.”
- Headline of the day.
- Step 1: Take advantage of nepotism to get elected to Congress. Step 2: Be corrupt. Step 3: Go into a deep depression when you’re caught for being corrupt. Step 4: Offer to resign, but only on the condition that you get disability pay because of the depression you’ve suffered after you got caught being corrupt.
- The preliminary hearing is underway in the case of Matthew Stewart, the Ogden, Utah man who shot a police raid team as they broke into his home. Stewart had six marijuana plants inside.
- Bubbles likes mail.
- Sweden wants your trash.
- Amazing tales of asset forfeiture abuse at the Bal Harbour, Florida police department.
- Headline of the day.
- Today’s lesson in in why you avoid calling the cops.
- Another exoneration in a shaken baby case.
- Meet America’s least sympathetic undecided voter.
- The patent as sword.
- Mitt Romney is a selfish jerk because he once took on a home improvement project on his own instead of hiring someone else to do it. Or Something. I hear there are also some wealthy people who change their own oil. Monsters, all of them.
- This week in innocence: North Carolina man cleared after serving 24 years for a rape he didn’t commit.
- The “first world problems” meme is getting a bit tired. But if ever there were one . . .
- Headline of the day.
- Man gets a visit from the FBI after photographing a thunderstorm.
- “GMO Opponents Are the Climate Skeptics of the Left” – Yep. And people are unnecessarily starving to death because of it.
- Due to recent events, The Almighty Muhammad’s Porkalicious Toon Jihad has been cancelled.
- I’ve addressed this issue here in the past, but yesterday, USA Today ran a front-page story on how convicts who get released after serving their sentences usually get more government aid than the wrongly convicted.
- Brazil has a law prohibiting anyone from criticizing a politician around election day. How backward of them!
- Headline of the day.
- “The video is one of the most troubling things I have ever seen. It’s simply unconscionable to watch what happens in the back of that squad car.”
- The only remaining certified police officer in the town of Vaughn, New Mexico is the drug dog.
American prosecutors hold enormous amounts of authority and the courts have deferred to them at every step. Even when there is prosecutorial misconduct or when prosecutors bring cases to trial while knowing they have no evidence, they almost never are punished. Only the innocent, who often have to spend themselves into financial oblivion to defend themselves, are made to pay a price.
Last week, a West Virginia jury acquitted former teacher Autumn Rae Faulkner of having sex three times with a 15-year-old student. What is remarkable is the jury was out only for an hour before returning the acquittal, and anyone who has served on a jury knows that when someone is acquitted that quickly, jurors knew almost from the start that the prosecution had a false case.
In a blog post elsewhere, I bring up the question of what should happen to prosecutors who do this sort of thing? A judge earlier in the case had dismissed the original charges because prosecutors had illegally withheld exculpatory evidence, and for spite, the prosecution got a second set of indictments. Why? As far as I can tell, Steven Jory, the special prosecutor hired by the State of West Virginia to oversee the case, did it because he could do it. After all, Jory did not have to spend a dime of his own money while Faulkner and her family had to spend nearly all they had.
Because the U.S. Supreme Court has given prosecutors absolute immunity from lawsuits from private citizens, it is up to government authorities to discipline their own, and the government’s record in that department is abysmal. Defenders of the high court’s rulings say that prosecutors must be free to perform their jobs, and they should be free to make honest errors of judgment, even if the results are tragic.
Such a viewpoint is far to rosy for me. As Lord Acton famously wrote, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In a just system, Faulkner should be free to sue Jory and his staff into oblivion, especially since there will be no disciplinary action from state officials. Jory’s recklessness and abuse of power in a case in which he not only had zero credible evidence, but also suborned perjury should have a better outcome than his going to the office the next day to see who next to prosecute.
In the meantime, Faulkner must pick up the pieces. She was accused of being a sexual predator, had her mug shot plastered throughout the media and the Internet, lost her teaching job, and was the subject of vile abuse from authorities, along with people who immediately assumed she was guilty. Even though the prosecution’s case was weak from the beginning, nonetheless she is the one who pays the price while the real lawbreakers are free to abuse both the law and innocent people again and again. If this is the best that the American system of “justice” can do, then it is a system that is not worth supporting and certainly not worth saving.
Update: The original prosecutor in the case, Richard T. Busch, was found to have engaged in misconduct that apparently was so bad that even West Virginia authorities no longer could cover for him. This website referred to Busch as a “congentital liar,” and The Record, West Virginia’s legal journal, reported last June that the “Lawyer Disciplinary Board, the prosecutorial arm of the state Supreme Court, filed a two-count statement of charges Feb. 13 against Richard T. Busch.”
The article is worth reading if only to see just how dishonest Busch really is. Randolph Circuit Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong finally acted against him after he lied to her in open court in the Faulkner case and in another one.
What is shocking to me, after reading this, is that the State of West Virginia continued to pursue criminal charges against Faulkner even though the state had no evidence other than the boy’s shifting claims of sex. Prosecutors should only bring charges when they themselves are absolutely convinced of the defendant’s guilt and the evidence is clear. Instead, West Virginia authorities continued to push the charges against Faulkner and ultimately ran into a brick wall, which jurors easily exposed.
Busch at the very least deserves to be disbarred and probably should be charged criminally. However, given the state of cronyism and corruption that infects West Virginia, I will be surprised if any real discipline is meted out to Busch at all.
– William Anderson
Folks, it’s Lenore from Free-Range Kids, back here because I just got this email and it points very clearly to the path we must take: CHANGE THE SEX OFFENDER LAWS which are, as this “offender” himself notes, harsher than those we mete out for murder — even when what we’re talking about is CONSENSUAL SEX between two teens. – L.
I am a registered sex offender. My convictions were CSC 4th degree (statutory rape) and CSC 3rd degree. Both occurred in the State of Michigan, my first when I was 17. I was involved with my FIRST girlfriend, who was just about to turn 16 at the time of the offense (we started seeing each other when I was 16 and she was just about to turn 14 and headed into her freshman year of HS.) My second conviction came almost a year later to the day. I was on probation, admittedly not following orders as I was already listed on the sex offender registry, had been expelled from HS 3 months before graduating due to the conviction and convinced my life was pretty much over as I knew it. I ended up in a situation where a young woman lied to me about her age (15 when she was really 13) and I engaged in some sexual activity with her. Cops found out a couple of days later and after being told she was claiming forced rape, I told them what really happened and was given the good ole boy “we knew she was lying” routine, but even if it was not forced it did not matter I knew I was in big trouble because I found out then that she was only 13 and I was now 18.
I was looked at as predator because I was increasing in age and my “victims” were decreasing in age and sentenced to prison for a period of 1 1/2 years to 22 1/2 years.
Now i want to make a few of things perfectly clear. 1) Prison probably saved my life, I was a good kid way in way over his head with partying and living recklessly. 2) For my first conviction I was sentenced to 30 days in jail, 2 years probation and sex offender treatment, along with the mandatory 25 years on the Sex Offender Registry. 3) I was not a Leave-It-to-Beaver kid by any means. I did have issues with sex addiction and low self esteem but had no idea where or who to turn to in order to work on those issues 4) I was never put into treatment of any kind during my probation, my PO kept saying we would get to it eventually, which I did not understand because according the them I was some monster who needed to be tracked and monitored.
That being said, putting a non-violent statutory rapist in the same prison (my prison was actually a sex offender “compound” there was only about a 12 % segment of the population who were not sex offenders) as pedophiles, violent rapists, and true predators can create some very warped views and mindsets.
Eventually I was released and put on 2 years of parole, and after a very bumpy 2 years and a very understanding parole officer who knew I was inherently not a bad person, I was able to get off of parole.
Fast forward almost 7 years later and I am now 31, in college for the first time and doing quite well, but it took a LOT of false starts to get to where I am at. I deal with the registry because I have to, since I committed two sex offenses I am now on it for the rest of my life.
I am a level-three sex offender according to Arizona, the state in which I now reside, and that will also probably never change.
While I can see how my actions led to my incarceration and accept that there must be some punishment for breaking the law, I fail to see how having the stigma of being a “sex offender” hanging over my head for the rest of my life does myself or society any good.
The young man who was convicted of sex crimes at the age of 17 and 18 has finally grown up and I am in no way of the same mindset as I was back then. It’s a process we know as maturing. But I will forever be judged and seen by those actions of my past.
The system is not fair, and justice very rarely can be assigned to more than one party, especially if they are on opposing sides. But at one point can guys (and women) like me, who have served their time and are doing everything they follow the law and become useful members of society, get some sort of relief?
Sex offenders in today’s society face many obstacles, many of them crippling to say the least. With housing options limited, job opportunities almost nil (hope you like working in restaurants or telemarketing), and a legal system designed to induce failure rather than facilitate success, the pathway to become a useful member of society is littered with sinkholes and quicksand. I could have killed someone and have gotten a lighter maximum sentence, no registry and probably better employment opportunities than I have come across thus far.
I do not cry myself to sleep at night, nor am I hopeless. But I know the cards are stacked against me. My career options are limited to say the least and given the state of the nation these days, even with my college degree in hand down the road, my future is somewhat uncertain.
I am not a danger to society, I am not some monster who you need to be warned about. I am someone’s son, brother, mentor, and a friend to many. I am not a hardened career criminal, I am not going to peek in your blinds or steal your baby. I was a young man who made a series of very poor decisions and will pay for them for the rest of his life. And worse of all? I am not unique, I am not alone. There are many more like me, and they may not have the courage or means to speak up, so I am speaking up for them.
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
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.
Hi Folks– Lenore from Free-Range Kids, just alerting you to a big to-do going on over at my blog. I posted a question from a mom about whether dads still routinely — or ever — drive the babysitter home anymore, and 150 comments later, the topic is still on fire. Some fear the man, some fear the teen, but plenty, I am happy to report, fear neither! If you have some thoughts on the topic, or simply wonder why it is even an issue, come visit! Back to weightier topics anon!
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.
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
People of our present era like to believe that they are sophisticated, intelligent, and incapable of engaging in the kind of witch hunts that made Salem, Massachusetts, famous, yet in the past 30 years American law enforcement and prosecutors have pursued what only could be described as witch hunts, as they have railroaded innocent people into prison for crimes that clearly have not occurred. There are the more famous witch hunts, such as the McMartin and Kern County cases in California, the Little Rascals Case in North Carolina, the Grant Snowden case in Florida, the witch hunt of Wenatchee, Washington, and many more.
In each of these cases, people have been accused of the most sordid and horrible kinds of child molestation, from outright rape to shoving swords into the rectums of children (and, amazingly, leaving absolutely no trace of injury), cooking babies in microwave ovens, engaging in Satanic rituals in the middle of the day at day care centers, throwing children into shark-infested waters, and more. We would like to think that there at least would be some physical or corroborating evidence for such actions, but these “crimes” were pursued even though nothing seemed changed about the children.
Often, the charges seem to be absolutely contrived. In Dade County, Georgia, for example, Brad Wade was accused of sexually molesting a minor on a very short stretch of I-59 while simultaneously driving more than 60 mph. (While he had been driving in from Alabama, the alleged molestation took place only in Georgia.) That might seem a bit strange, but when one realizes that Alabama authorities had recognized that the accusations and their backgrounds (yet another child custody fight) simply did not make sense, so Northwest Georgia authorities, which push nearly every sexual abuse accusation (as long as the accused is not politically-connected), eagerly jumped on the charges and Wade is serving a lengthy sentence in a Georgia prison.
When one steps back and takes a hard look at these cases, it is apparent that the authorities have depended upon mass hysteria and a news media that soaks up every story, no matter how contrived it might be. Because I have no expertise in psychology (except in dealing with four internationally-adopted teenagers in my home), I am reluctant to deal with psychological aspects of witch hunts except to say that people really do come to believe things that physically seem to violate laws of time and space.
I turn, instead, t0 those things where I do have more formal experience, the cost and benefit patterns that accompany these witch hunts, patterns that would interest an economist like me. Accompanying that curiosity are some questions that never seem to be asked when the hysteria breaks out:
- Why is corroborating evidence ignored, even when it absolutely points to the falsity of the charges?
- Are there any overt patterns that are seen time and again when authorities go after people accused of these horrific things?
- Does anyone benefit, financially, professionally, or otherwise, from the pursuing of these charges?
If we can answer these questions, then we also are able to get a clearer picture of why these charges are levied and why the authorities are hellbent on bird-dogging them, even in the face of corroborating evidence that absolutely debunks the accusations. Furthermore, we might get a better sense of why jurors in such cases are likely to convict innocent people.
In the situation of bogus child molestation charges, there really is a Ground Zero: the Child Abuse Protection and Treatment Act of 1974, commonly known as the Mondale Act. If ever there were an outright federal assault on the Rights of the Accused which came out of Anglo-American Law, it was this law. Congress passed it, of course, because Sen. Walter Mondale (who was up for re-election) claimed that child abuse was epidemic and the federal government had to step in to put an end to this horror.
Now, Mondale was right in saying that there always are horrific cases of child abuse and molestation, and I can say, as one who has been involved in four international adoptions, that such outrages occur inside and outside the USA. No one will dispute that fact. However, the federal “solution” to this problem has been to create huge incentives and moral hazards for false accusations. This is a law that not only eviscerated the Rights of the Accused, but also created incentives for local and state governments to make money and for individuals employed in that system to enhance their own personal prospects.
Economists are fond of saying that incentives matter, and CAPTA and similar laws passed in its wake (including the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and beyond) created numerous financial and personal incentives for police and prosecutors to emphasize these kinds of cases. At the same time, CAPTA lowered the legal threshold for prosecution and denied defendants the right to bring corroborating evidence that might prove exculpatory.
For example, authorities claimed that molested and abused children would be traumatized by having to be in the same courtroom with their alleged abuser, so children often would testify from the judge’s chamber via a closed-circuit television. Such an arrangement only served to make the defendant look to be such a monster that he or she had to be guilty. (The U.S. Supreme Court struck down this practice, saying that it deprived the defendants of the Sixth Amendment right to face one’s accuser.)
The Mondale Act also told states receiving federal money to eliminate the requirement for corroborating evidence, which mean that the accusation itself would constitute all of the proof needed for a conviction, which lowered the legal standard in criminal cases to something akin to preponderance of the evidence, the civil standard, instead of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The Rape Shield laws, which also have applied to sexual abuse cases, encouraged judges to disallow evidence such as the accuser having a history of making false charges, and the courts also permitted the admission of hearsay evidence, especially when it would benefit the prosecution’s case.
We should not be surprised at the results, as numerous people have been wrongfully convicted for something that never happened. Because American courts tend to overturn convictions on issues of procedure and not guilt or innocence, one can say with certainty that in the United States of America today, actual innocence no longer is a legitimate defense, at least in some kinds of cases. Furthermore, the appeals courts constantly are looking for reasons to impose “finality,” which means that they wash their hands of the evidence and the hard fact that those appealing their convictions might well be innocent.
While it almost is impossible statistically to trace the patterns of accusations and convictions, nonetheless we have seen the development of cost and benefit patterns that have followed in the wake of the changes in how such cases proceed. We should remember that witch hunts don’t occur because people mysteriously become hysterical en mass. They happen, instead, because individuals benefit from making and pursuing these charges, and in the case of so-called sex crimes, the benefits can be huge.
Before looking at the benefits, however, let us examine who bears the costs. People who are accused either must depend upon a public defender or must pay for legal representation from their own resources, and it does not take long for the money spigot to run dry. Tonya Craft literally had close to a million dollars to spend on her defense, and she still ran out of funds before the case even came to trial. In the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case, each of the three defendants had to spend more than $1 million apiece just to try to debunk what were transparently-false charges.
In cases involving child molestation or rape, an ordinary criminal defense attorney usually is not enough, as these are very difficult cases to defend because the accused already has been demonized in the media and by prosecutors, and the laws governing such cases are different than most laws regarding alleged criminal conduct. For example, if one is charged with robbery or murder, an actual robbery or murder must take place, and then the question for the jury is whether or not the defendant is the guilty party.
The sex crime cases, however, have such a low threshold of proof that real-live evidence of such an assault actually having occurred is not needed; all that is necessary is an accusation, and the law provides plenty of incentives for people to make false accusations for purposes of revenge or, in child custody cases, to get the other person out of the way.
The costs can be substantial. I know one attorney who specializes in such cases who requires a down payment up front of $100,000. Since few people keep $100K in spare change, getting the funds is very, very difficult. Then there a experts in forensics, interviewing, and the like who also do not testify for free. One of the reasons that so many people plead to something in such cases is that they do not have the personal resources to fight the charges.
On the benefit side, one only has to think of Janet Reno, Ed Jaegels, Scott Harshbarger (who prosecuted the notorious Fells Acres Case in Massachusetts), and Gary A. Riesen, the Chelan County, Washington, district attorney who was re-elected until his retirement last year by voters despite his “witch hunt” prosecutions. Reno rode her wrongful convictions to the position of U.S. Attorney General, Jaegels has been a conservative icon in California, and Harshbarger rose to prominence in national Democratic Party circles.
Nancy Lamb, who pursued the Little Rascals Case — the most expensive criminal case in the history of North Carolina — was lionized in the media and even now, according to North Carolina’s Judicial District 1 website, remains as a prosecutor who “specializes in child abuse.” In all of these cases, the individual prosecutors benefited from prosecuting innocent people. None had to face lawsuits, and none were brought up before their various state bars for discipline.
Their actions wasted millions of dollars, destroyed individual lives and families, and unnecessarily created real victims. None paid anything resembling a personal price. Likewise, those employed by the various Child Protective Services agencies and the Children’s Advocacy Centers — all of which were created by federal legislation — are immune from lawsuits and face almost no legal scrutiny for their aggressive questioning that literally demands that children “disclose” abuse, even when the children being questioned vociferously deny that any abuse even happened.
When patterns of costs and benefits are so skewed, and when taxpayers are forced to fund witch hunts while individuals are forced to pay for their own defense, we should not be surprised that witch hunts continue to occur on a regular basis. Witch hunts are just one more example of how the political classes of Washington, D.C., in the name of “doing something” actually create situations in which the so-called cure is worse than the disease.
– William Anderson
Hi Folks! Lenore here from Free-Range Kids and yes, that headline is the REAL TITLE of a column by some hack in The Telegraph who was sick of the “no males allowed to sit next to unaccompanied minors” deal, back in 2006, on British Airways.
Oh wait a sec — that hack is Boris Johnson, NOW THE MAYOR OF LONDON!
He was asked to move his seat because he was next to two kids — his own! Once the stewardess realized her error, he was allowed to stay. But the feeling of being presumed a perv occasioned this column.
Can you imagine someone getting elected HERE who dared to say enough with this overblown fear for our kids? Can you imagine your OWN mayor writing:
To all those who worry about the paedophile plague, I would say that they not only have a very imperfect understanding of probability; but also that they fail to understand the terrible damage that is done by this system of presuming guilt in the entire male population just because of the tendencies of a tiny minority.
There are all sorts of reasons why the numbers of male school teachers are down 50 per cent in the period 1981 to 2001, and why the ratio of female to male teachers in primary schools is now seven to one. There are problems of pay, and the catastrophic failure of the state to ensure that they are treated as figures of authority and respect; and what with ‘elf ‘n’ safety and human rights it is very hard to enforce discipline.
But it is also, surely, a huge deterrent to any public-spirited man contemplating a career in education that society apparently regards all adult male contact with young people as being potentially a bit dodgy, a bit rum, a bit you know…
It is a total disaster.
Wow! Boris! And the Olympics, too. You rock! – Lenore (from Free-Range Kids)
Hi Folks : It’s Lenore from Free-Range Kids, already upset by the post below this one – William Anderson’s piece about kids in a Mississippi town being incarcerated for “crimes” like violating the school dress code, or even flatulence!
Which reminded me of today’s “happy” story in the NY Post about a young man who’d been given a $100 ticket for riding his unicycle on a Brooklyn sidewalk — even though he offered to show the cop a government web site on his iPhone that stated it is NOT a crime. The cop didn’t care. Worse — when he got to court, at first the judge refused to listen to him.
[Judge] Delury also warned him not to ride his bicycle on the sidewalk again “or I’ll put you in Rikers.”
Isn’t that a little FLIP? A high school student rides a unicycle on the sidewalk (incidentally NOT breaking the law) and the next thing you know a judge is threatening to send him to JAIL?
Eventually the judge backed down — but only after the kid had the guts to request a second appearance in front of him to ask for a jury trial. By then the judge had finally DEIGNED to read the ACTUAL LAW. He then declared the issue “dismissed.”
What a lucky break! The kid is not going to do hard time for not breaking a law! – L
Hi Folks! I’ts Lenore from Free- Range Kids, where “flying while male” is not a new issue to us (see this post) just a new airline: Virgin, in Australia. In today’s story, a man named Johnny McGirr, 33, was seated next to two unaccompanied minors — boys, about ages 8 and 10. He was supposed to sit next to the window, but switched to the aisle to let the boys look out, because he’s a nice guy.
That, however, is not how the airline saw him. When the stewardess came by she saw only that he was — accckkkk! — a MALE, and she made him move. The reason? Company policy: A woman can sit next to unaccompanied children, but not a man.
The fellow — a fireman — spent the rest of the trip embarrassed and angry. Eventually, he blogged about it, pointing out quite rightly that the assumption seems to be that every male is at least a potential pedophile, even in public, on a plane, with people going up and down the aisles. This is what I call “Worst-First Thinking” — thinking up the very WORST case scenario and proceeding as if it is FIRST on the list of likely possibilities. The airline excused itself by saying, “Most guests thoroughly understand that the welfare of the child is our priority.” As if it’s only a deviant who’d question this practice.
But the airline is wrong. Many people do NOT understand this panicked prejudice anymore. The buzz in Australia is that there is now a “public backlash” that has Virgin (and Qantas, and Jetstar and Air Newland) re-thinking its men-must-move policy.
Let’s hope they get it right this time, as British Airways finally did. Making people sit in a certain place because of their DNA is something Rosa Parks fought a long time ago. - L.
Look! Up in the air! It’s predator panic!
One of the constant themes in both movies and television shows dealing with crime and the courts is the use of shortcuts by the authorities to nail someone who obviously is guilty. Messy things like due process of law and rights of the accused are so 1787 and have no place in modern society where outcomes are more important than the way one reaches those ends.
The ends can be frightening. The New York Times reports that one of the reasons that more than 94 percent of criminal charges in both state and federal cases end in plea bargains is that prosecutors can hang the prospect of stiff sentences over the heads of anyone who decided to go to trial and is found guilty, a situation that led Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy to note that the American criminal justice system has become “a system of pleas, not a system of trials.”
Innocent people often are swept up on that tide of guilty pleas. Regular readers of this blog may understand this is so, but most Americans are incredulous. Why in the world would innocent people agree to plead to something they had not done? Is it not the situation in the USA that if you have done nothing wrong, you don’t have to worry about being charged or convicted?
Unfortunately, one of the things I hear most from people wrongfully accused of crimes has been, “I didn’t know this was happening in America.” Well, it does and much more often than one would think, especially with federal prosecutors, who have weapons at their disposal that the framers of the U.S. Constitution would have considered utterly barbaric.
Not only has federal criminal law essentially done away with the bedrock of Anglo-American law, the mens rea requirement, but federal prosecutors can pile charges upon charges, taking the same alleged act and fashioning multiple offenses from it. For that matter, federal prosecutors are not even required to know the laws they supposedly enforce and prosecute and when they are wrong, they pay no price and innocent people remain in prison.
In a shocking article, USA Today recently reported on a horrific situation in North Carolina in which federal prosecutors went after “scores” of innocent people for acts that were perfectly legal. According to the newspaper:
Terrell McCullum did not commit a federal crime by carrying a shotgun and a rifle out of his ex-girlfriend’s house.
But he is serving a federal prison sentence for it. And the fact that everyone — including the U.S. Justice Department— agrees that he is legally innocent might not be enough to set him free.
A USA TODAY investigation, based on court records and interviews with government officials and attorneys, found more than 60 men who went to prison for violating federal gun possession laws, even though courts have since determined that it was not a federal crime for them to have a gun.
Many of them don’t even know they’re innocent.
Lest one think that prosecutors even care about what they have done, think again. While the U.S. Department of “Justice” worked hard to put them into prison (mostly on plea bargains, of course), it refuses to lift a finger to right the wrong:
Still, the Justice Department has not attempted to identify the men, has made no effort to notify them, and, in a few cases in which the men have come forward on their own, has argued in court that they should not be released.
Justice Department officials said it is not their job to notify prisoners that they might be incarcerated for something that they now concede is not a crime. And although they have agreed in court filings that the men are innocent, they said they must still comply with federal laws that put strict limits on when and how people can challenge their convictions in court.
“We can’t be outcome driven,” said Anne Tompkins, the U.S. attorney in Charlotte.
For Tompkins to make that quote is especially rich, because federal prosecutors in the federal Western District of North Carolina for years have been nothing but outcome-driven. After her office secured a counterfeiting conviction against Bernard Von NotHouse, who had minted silver coins, Tompkins announced that NotHouse was a “terrorist” who threatened “the economic stability of this country.” (One is left asking how the inflationary policies of the U.S. government create stability.)
Tompkins and her colleagues in the Western District also have another weapon they use to try to force innocent people to plead guilty: the Mecklenburg County jail in Charlotte, which also is used as a federal lockup. To put it mildly, conditions in that jail are horrific, and they violate all human decency, and that works to the advantage of prosecutors.
Prisoners there get only a small cup of water each day, the food is especially bad, with dinner in some cases being nothing but a stale piece of cornbread. Authorities do not give prisoners underwear changes, deny them soap, and because bathrooms are not located in cells, prisoners must ask permission to use the facilities, requests that routinely are denied. Forget having soap for showers, and prisoners who are on prescription medications often find those meds either withheld or given in irregular doses at irregular times.
It is not difficult for federal prosecutors to find ways to hold people in lockups indefinitely. They can claim flight risk, or danger to society, or a thousand other things, most of which are not true but federal prosecutors long ago decided that truth was irrelevant to their outcome-driven missions.
Not surprisingly, people held for any length of time in these conditions become malleable to plea agreements. When someone is denied medications, thought processes may become irregular or skewed, and by actively working to destroy both the physical and mental health of people accused of committing federal crimes, prosecutors are easily able to hold out promises of better living condition — as long as the accused give prosecutors what they want.
It is difficult for someone to maintain innocence while being brutalized by the system, and when prosecutors are able to hold out the unhappy prospects for someone to face such horrific living conditions for decades, we should not be surprised that so many people will plead to something — anything — just to get out of their present circumstances.
Such conditions are not limited to Charlotte, although federal prosecutors in the Western District are notorious for using any tricks, including lying to judges and the media, in order to get what they want. The culture of lying and brutality that has been embedded in the U.S. Department of Justice for many decades is alive and well in North Carolina.
Hi Balkons! It’s Lenore Skenazy from Free-Range Kids here, happy to report that Colorado is officially rolling back its Zero Tolerance policy — the policy that, for instance, gave a school no choice but to expel a girl who brought a fake rifle to school. She was on her way to drill team practice with the Young Marines, but was treated like a terrorist.
Let’s hope that other states notice what Colorado is doing. It isn’t giving mayhem a free pass. It’s restoring common sense to schools where it had been sucked out by bureaucracy, fear and the shadow of Columbine. If you wonder how far Zero Tolerance can go, here are a few stories from my site:
Plenty more where these come from. Just go to Free Range Kids and search for “Zero Tolerance.” But be sure you’ve taken your blood pressure medication first. — L.
This comes after West has put dozens of people in prison with bite mark testimony, including several on death row. Two of them, Eddie Lee Howard in Mississippi and Jimmie Duncan in Louisiana, are still awaiting execution.
The office of Mississippi Attorney Jim Hood so far has so far refused to go back and reopen all the old cases in which West has testified. Hood should have done that a long time ago. For that matter, the same goes for Hood’s predecessors. And the Mississippi Supreme Court. We’ve known for nearly 20 years now that this guy was a fraud. Hell, we’ve had video evidence. Lots of it. No much cared. Because, as one former Mississippi prosecutor told me, “Nobody wants to be the one to unravel that ball of yarn.”
Will Hood’s office still defend convictions won on West’s testimony now that even West himself concedes his field of expertise is quackery? I’ll be surprised if he does. My guess is that they’ll begrudgingly offer plea bargains to lesser charges that will be too appealing for defendants to turn down. That way convictions stay intact, and nobody has to admit that the system is broken.
But of course it is broken. I don’t know how you take West’s statements at the Stubbs’ depositions, compare them with the multitude of institutions in Mississippi (and Louisiana, and a few other states) that have defended and upheld West’s testimony and expertise over the years, and not conclude that significant parts of the criminal justice system are fundamentally flawed.
I mean, we could have concluded all of that well before West’s come to Jesus moment. It’s been clear for years that he’s a fraud. But it’s sure as hell clear now that he admits it.
Hi Folks — It’s Lenore from Free-Range Kids, alerting you to the fact you should set down your coffee cup before reading any further, lest you feel compelled to take a bite out of it in sheer frustration. That’s because a mom in Richmond, Va. was just given 50 hours of community service (which really sounds like more than 50 hours if you listen to what she is expected to do) for letting her kid draw with chalk on some rocks in the park.
Apparently chalk is the gateway drug to graffiti.
“It is all the same thing,” said James River Park Systems Park Manager, Ralph White. “A couple of weeks ago, I was covering over pornographic drawings done in chalk. It doesn’t matter what the medium is. It’s offensive.”
Yes, he just compared chalk to paint…and a 4-year-old’s drawings to porn. Here’s the rest of that article.
I wrote a little bit more the case on my site. What I forgot to add there that I’ll add here is that the mom is not even allowed to enter a park until she completes her service. As if she’s a terrifying criminal.
I guess in the eyes of the law, she is. Anyway, the debate raging over by me is about the fact that the mom was convicted two years ago of doing REAL graffiti– with paint — on the same rocks. So maybe that makes her a recidivist? And also the fact that when the cop came to arrest her for the chalk crime this time she allegedly said, “You must hate your f***ing job.”
Does that really equal the punishment? – L.
Hi Folks — It’s Lenore here, from Free-Range Kids. So why am I posting about a sex offender and a dog? It’s sort of a long story, but it boils down to this:
At Free-Range Kids we LOVE safety…we just don’t believe that our kids are in constant danger. Lately, though, a lot of society has decided they are. That’s why, for instance, many schools won’t let the school bus drop a kid off at the bus stop unless there is a PRE-APPROVED GUARDIAN waiting there to escort him or her home. Even if the parents say, “It’s ok! I trust my kid to walk a block!” — no dice.
That same kind of fear of everyday life has come to pervade many adult-child interactions. The idea being: WHY does this adult want to be around a child? PERHAPS HE’S A PERVERT! In this state of panic, our country has passed laws that have little to do with keeping our kids truly safe and lots to do with suspicion of adults. Particularly egregious is the Sex Offender Registry. Instead of it listing adults who pose a big threat to kids, it is littered with people who did things like peeing in public, or going to a prostitute. You can get on the list if you’re a high school senior, age 18, and you sleep with your freshman girlfriend, age 14. Here’s a great article about the whole mess.
And here, at last, is the article about a man on the registry for coming to help a neighbor with an ailing dog.It’s from 2010 but I just saw it today. And wept.
Under the United States Constitution, prosecutors have an obligation to turn over potentially exculpatory evidence — whether it is evidence that is directly favorable to the accused and unfavorable to the government’s case, or evidence that undermines the credibility of the government’s witnesses.
But, as our kind host frequently discusses, there’s a broad gulf between what should happen and what does happen in the criminal justice system. Prosecutors withhold exculpatory evidence all the time, usually without consequence.
Given human nature, the cultural pressures of law enforcement, and the lack of supervision in some prosecutorial agencies, such behavior by “rogue prosecutors” probably doesn’t surprise readers of The Agitator. What might surprise you is that the suppression of exculpatory evidence is sometimes systematic and based on written policy from the highest levels of local government.
Last week the ACLU of Southern California and the firm Bird Marella filed suit seeking to prohibit the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office from enforcing its “Special Directive 10-06,” a policy memo dictating how the office’s hundreds of prosecutors are to treat exculpatory evidence in the tens of thousands of cases the prosecute. You can read it at the ACLU site or here.
The suit alleges that far from assuring compliance with constitutional obligations, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office policy, if followed, violates those obligations. In fact, it purports to require that line prosecutors violate the constitution. For instance:
Materiality: The policy purports to permit prosecutors to withhold exculpatory material that they deem not “material” — that is, not likely to change the outcome of the trial. But that’s not the standard for what prosecutors are obligated to turn over — it’s the appellate standard for determining when a discovery violation is so prejudicial as to require reversal of a conviction. Using that as the standard for what prosecutors should turn over is the equivalent of saying “you may withhold evidence if you can get away with it.” Moreover, speaking as a former prosecutor, I submit that prosecutors hold a very cramped and narrow view of what is exculpatory and what might influence a jury, and are culturally incapable of making a reliable call about what is likely “material.” No doubt that’s exactly why that’s not the standard for what they are supposed to turn over.
Impeachment Evidence: The policy regulates the DA’s “Brady Alert” system, a database that collects information impeaching the credibility of law enforcement officers and government witnesses. The DA’s Office touts this system as assuring discovery compliance, but the lawsuit — and the attached Special Directive 10-06 — suggests that in fact it is a systematic justification for withholding discoverable impeachment evidence (that is, for you non-lawyers, evidence that can be used to question the credibility of a witness). For instance, as the suit alleges and the Special Directive shows, the DA’s Office only includes information about witness credibility if it believes that information is supported by “clear and convincing evidence” — a higher standard somewhere between preponderance of the evidence and beyond a reasonable doubt. But that’s not the law — a prosecutor doesn’t get to withhold impeachment evidence because he or she doesn’t credit it. Prosecutors are culturally prone to believe government witnesses and disbelieve accusations against them; it’s patently ridiculous to make them the gatekeepers of what damaging information is sufficiently credible to be turned over to the defense. Moreover, the Special Directive requires prosecutors to withhold impeachment evidence about government witnesses if it is based on pending criminal or administrative investigations — that is, investigations that have not yet led to a result. Once again, there’s no basis in law for that limitation — if the government’s witness is under investigation for a crime, that goes directly to bias, motive, credibility, and any number of other relevant factors.
Read the lawsuit. This is what the government does openly, in writing, as official policy — so imagine what it does as a matter of practice, behind closed doors.
I’ll offer updates on the lawsuit as it proceeds.
Disclosure: I have litigated against the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office for 12 years, and currently represent defendants charged by them. Moreover, I know both Peter Eliasberg, the ACLU attorney on the matter, and Benjamin Gluck, the Bird Marella attorney on the matter, and think highly of both of them.
Teresa Culpepper didn’t assault anybody. She didn’t throw hot water on anybody. She didn’t match the description of the person who did. For one thing, she was the wrong height, and didn’t have a gold tooth. Nobody claimed she did it. The victim of the assault said that it wasn’t her — he even said it in open court.
Nevertheless, Teresa Culpepper spent 53 days in jail because the state arrested her for that offense and then wouldn’t release her. She spent the time in jail because she couldn’t afford the bail. While in jail, she lost her car and her possessions. She has to pay back the disability payments she received during that period because you aren’t allowed to get federal disability payments when you’re in jail, even if you’re in jail by accident and murderous indifference.
Teresa Culpepper had no prior record.
Aimee Maxwell, executive director of the Georgia Innocence Project, said arrests based on mistaken identities are common. “I think it’s a rare occurrence when people find out about it,” she said.
The state doesn’t try to convince you this never happens — they admit it. The state doesn’t try to deny that mistakes were made — they admit it.
What the state wants you to believe is that this is a bug, not a feature, of the criminal justice system.
Hat tip to Joe.
- Louisiana requires “sex offenders” to post detailed instructions so they can be more easily located for harassment or violence.
- In cash-strapped states, collection agencies are given authority to jail people.
- From the Onion: DNA Evidence Frees Black Man Convicted Of Bear Attack.
- Beware of the Blob.
- Florida Lifeguard Fired for Trying to Save Drowning Man Outside of His Assigned Zone.
- Is an Unknown Drug or an Unverifiable Mental Disorder a Better Explanation for Face Eating Than a Voodoo Curse?
- Methinks Professor Kubistant needs to find himself a regular escort ASAP.
- My column from Monday, about how institutional obsession with “what if?” destroys lives.
(Thanks to Jesse Walker for #2 and Lenore Skenazy for #5).
- The crisis of “vanishingly rare trials.”
- Carlos Miller helping develop a smart phone ap design specifically to record police. And you can help test it out.
- Here’s some local coverage of Leigh Stubbs’ release from prison.
- The Obama administration has shut down 500 California medical marijuana dispensaries in the last eight months.
- NYPD precinct posts mug shot poster of “professional agitators” who record on-duty police officers.
- “Evers began to tell me that he had 19 years on the job and asked me where the ‘brotherhood’ was for being a cop. He indicated that Philadelphia police officers ‘take care’ of one another.”