Wednesday, April 23, 2014



Prosecutor’s Targeting of Gun Range Exec Enters 15th Year

Rachel Alexander

It has been three and a half years since I first covered the case of a Washington State prosecutor targeting Kitsap Rifle & Revolver Club (KRRC) Executive Officer Marcus Carter. Unbelievably, Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney Russ Hauge, a Democrat, has still not stopped his witch hunt, even though his waste of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money for almost 15 years has resulted in no convictions against Carter. As someone who has been targeted for years by zealous, well-connected prosecutors because of my conservative political views, I have taken a keen interest in this case.

Elected prosecuting attorneys are connected to powerful members of the State Bar, judges and other government officials. Hauge is also is a former president of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. While most judges generally won’t side against Carter – evidenced by the 15 judicial decisions in his favor because the charges are so ridiculous – they are hesitant to question or discipline one of their own.

It all appears to stem from an incident that happened at KRRC back in 1999. Hauge originally was a guest instructor on the law for the personal protection classes. At the same time, he was involved in a high-profile prosecution of a man who used a gun in self-defense. After the jury unanimously found the man innocent, Hauge insisted on taking up two classes lecturing the club’s firearms students about the case.

Marcus knew the students weren’t hearing the full story, and after Hauge left the second day, Marcus came in and played defense attorney, presenting the other side. When he finished, he asked the class if they would have found the gun owner innocent, and every single member of the class raised their hand. He also advised the students that is why folks need to know whom they are voting for.

This apparently didn’t sit well with Hauge, because ever since this incident, Hauge has tried relentlessly to prosecute Marcus, accusing him of modifying a weapon to make it fully automatic, attempting to get the range shut down by suing the range and naming his wife, Sharon as a defendant – making it personal by dragging her into it. Hauge also signed many of the pleadings himself, which is odd for an elected prosecutor; usually their deputies sign everything. Incidentally, the chief investigator who accused Marcus of illegally modifying a rifle into a fully automatic weapon, Bruce Jackson, was caught two years later drunk driving and soliciting a prostitute (who was really a police officer) while driving a government vehicle.

Marcus has not been represented by an attorney, even though it’s meant countless trips to court. Hauge tried to shuffle the case off to King County after being accused of bias and conflict of interest, but prosecutors there refused to prosecute Marcus, realizing the case was so poor. Unlike Hauge, who has refused to talk to Marcus for almost 13 years, and will only talk to an attorney, the King County prosecutor talked to Marcus immediately, and after hearing Marcus’ side, placed it right back into Hauge’s lap.

Astonishingly, Hauge resumed the prosecution after the King County prosecutors dropped the case. One Kitsap County deputy prosecutor under Hauge privately admitted to Marcus that if it had been up to him, he would have had a judge dismiss the case a long time ago.

After several years in various courts, Marcus successfully fought off Hauge’s criminal prosecution, but Hauge is still trying to keep Marcus’s seized rifle, reportedly saying, "It doesn’t matter what the Supreme Court says, he will never get that gun back."

Meanwhile, Hauge appears to have joined forces with the Department of Community Development to try and get the range shut down. The County wants to seize the land for a proposed 1,000-acre park. They filed a civil nuisance lawsuit against KRRC and Marcus’ wife, Sharon, in 2010 which is still ongoing.

Initially in 1993, the County agreed to grandfather the range into new zoning restrictions, but now the County is trying to thwart that exception. First they claimed the range was too noisy. When that didn’t work, they said lead from the bullets on the ground was an environmental hazard and needed to be removed. Since virtually all the outdoor gun ranges in Washington permit lead bullets, this is just more evidence that Marcus’s range was targeted. KRRC complies with all EPA regulations regarding lead; in fact, the range goes beyond the requirements. KRRC has an environmental stewardship committee, headed by a retired environmental engineer. The EPA came out and tested the land and found no problems with it; at any point near the property, one could build a children’s playground.

The County next tried to claim the range was polluting wetlands, but that went nowhere; even the Army Corps of Engineers was irritated that they were required to come out and look at nothing.

The County is also trying to get rid of the range by drastically increasing the rent. First the rent was increased from $3,000 per month to $7,000. Now, the County is trying to increase the rent to $28,000, the "full use rate" for a gun range, which is not accurate.

No other properties or ranges are being held to these standards. Camp Wesley Harris, the adjacent naval reserve, has never had lead cleaned up from its property. The reality is, lead is not a huge problem for the environment. It is copper, not lead, that is not good for salmon once it gets into the water.

Having no success at taking on Marcus and KRRC with these initial attempts, the County started discussions to destroy KRRC’s grandfathered status. They proposed that grandfathered ranges would have to additionally qualify for a new "operational permit." This permit would cost thousands of dollars in order to generate the required engineered designs. Ranges would be limited to only .308 ammo, and require overhead baffles; blue sky ranges would be prohibited. The noise would be limited to 86 decibels – not even possible considering a mere piano is 50 decibels. The hours open would be drastically cut back.

KRRC tried to come to a settlement with the County, offering to cut its hours by 1,000 per year and prohibit certain types of firearms. The County refused to budge.

Marcus continues to defeat Hauge at every step The battle has consumed hours of his life that he will never get back. Most people would have buckled under the pressure, either taken a plea agreement or a loan to pay for an attorney. Not Marcus, who is smarter and harder working than Hauge realizes.

Neighboring Pierce County commissioners (Tacoma) were so appalled by what has happened to Marcus, that they passed an ordinance stating that ranges can’t be sued for being a nuisance. Some of the government officials who are forced to come out to inspect KRRC are apologetic to Marcus, realizing they are being sent there solely to harass him.

The NRA is stepping in and filing an amicus curiae on behalf of the range. The NRA generally does not get involved in cases unless there is a reasonable chance of winning, so hopefully this longstanding political vendetta will finally get some exposure. The amount of taxpayers’ money that has been spent on is in the millions. The financial and emotional stress it has caused to Marcus and KRRC is unquantifiable.

Marcus has started a petition at the KRRC website to tell the County to stop prosecuting KRRC and adopt the Pierce County ordinance. Don’t let this continue any longer, Marcus has been harassed long enough. If gun control zealots are permitted to harass one gun range this much, other ranges will be next, in this ongoing assault against the Second Amendment.

Original report here

 

 

 

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014



Nasty Hispanic cop



A TEXAN police officer has created headlines across the US after tripping and bear-hugging students as they tried to celebrate a girl’s high school soccer victory.

George Bermudez – last year’s Georgetown Police Officer of the Year – is under investigation for misconduct after footage emerged of him kicking one student as they ran onto the field, before attempting to trip a girl, tackling a third student and pushing a fourth.

"It wasn’t like they were rowdy. They were just celebrating," parent Lori Digesualda said. "These kids were excited, they wanted to celebrate," added another parent, Karen Morse.

"It was so exciting. In fact, it was so excited, I jumped up and almost blacked out and hit the woman in front of me.

"All the kids are jumping over, friends, boyfriends, everybody’s just running. Then I see this police officer just sticking out his leg."

Bermudez has been placed on administrative leave with an internal affairs investigation ongoing.

"We’ve been inundated all day with not only media but concerned parents, not only from Central Texas/Georgetown but actually across the nation," said Georgetown Police Captain Roland Waits.

"Naturally this is very alarming and concerning to us."

The Vandegrift High School girl’s soccer team claimed the 4A title after beating Wylie East, sparking the celebrations.

It’s the first time any soccer program from the Austin area has won the state championship.

Original report here

 

 

 

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Monday, April 21, 2014



A Monstrous Injustice

On Tuesday, we told the appalling story of Christian Stanfield, a 15-year-old kid with special needs who was, in effect, convicted of the crime of being bullied.

After reviewing the trial transcript, it’s clear that convicting this helpless kid of disorderly conduct was criminally dumb.

As first reported by Benswann.com, Christian, a sophomore at South Fayette High School who suffers from comprehension delay disorder (an information-processing disorder), ADHD, and an anxiety disorder, was subjected to treatment so cruel as to nearly defy description. He was regularly shoved and tripped, nearly burned with a cigarette lighter, and psychologically tortured by his peers. He fought back in the only way he could: by recording audio footage of the abuse during a math class on his school-issued iPad so that he could prove his story. Christian’s mother, Shea Love, submitted the recording to school administrators in the hopes of bringing an end to her son’s terror.

The response? An interrogation of Christian by Principal Scott Millburn and Lieutenant Robert Kurta, followed by a suspension from school and threats of being charged with felony wiretapping; Christian was ultimately charged with disorderly conduct, and he was found guilty by District Justice Maureen McGraw-Desmet on March 19.

Disgusting. And completely without foundation in Pennsylvania law.

Was Christian guilty of wiretapping? No! While Pennsylvania is one of the few states with a "two-party consent" rule when it comes to recording conversations, as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has recognized, the speaker must have a reasonable expectation of privacy that his conversation will not be recorded before the issue of whether he has given consent comes into play. Clearly, nobody, much less a few teenage tyrants, would have a reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to statements made out loud in a classroom full of other students and a teacher.

Was Christian guilty of disorderly conduct? No! Pennsylvania law defines disorderly conduct as conduct that "(c)reates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by acts which serve no legitimate purpose."

As Lt. Kurta admitted during his testimony, Christian’s surreptitious recording did not create a hazardous condition. And, although Kurta testified that he found Christian’s conduct to be offensive, the statute provides that the behavior must create a "physically offensive condition," which was certainly not the case here. And, as for having a "legitimate purpose," memo to Lt. Kurta: a victim making a recording of the physical and psychological abuse he is undergoing so that responsible authorities (are there any at South Fayette?) will make it stop would strike most sentient human beings as constituting a "legitimate purpose."

Thankfully, the charges were dropped today by the district attorney—the first display of common sense by anyone in an official position thus far. But the decision to charge Christian with disorderly conduct was a shameful exercise of prosecutorial discretion, and should have been summarily rejected by the trial court. Christian’s ordeal represents a government failure on every level and his conviction was a monstrous miscarriage of justice. Speaking about the school’s administrators, Christian’s mother told Foxnews.com, "Hopefully they will [apologize], but judging from past actions, I don’t think they will."

They'd better.

Original report here

 

 

 

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Sunday, April 20, 2014



 

Judge rules that Texas inmate still behind bars 34 years after his conviction was overturned is at fault because he NEVER asked for a new trial

A Texas judge has ruled that an inmate with the critical thinking ability of a first-grader is responsible for spending the last 34 years incarcerated on an overturned murder conviction because he never asked for a new trial.

Jerry Hartfield, 56, has been behind bars without a new trial since 1980. But in a recent ruling, Judge Craig Estlinbaum decided that his constitutional right to a speedy trial had not been violated.

While Estlinbaum found the state negligent in failing to retry Hartfield, and agreed that the man's ability to adequately defend himself had sharply diminished, he also found that it was essentially Hartfield's own fault.

As The Atlantic put it, that's more than 12,000 days waiting for justice.

The Bay City native was convicted of robbing and killing a bus station worker in 1976, the Daily News reported.

Hartfield's IQ has been estimated at around 51. He has long maintained his innocence, claiming police used a false confession in the case.

He was initially sentenced to die but in 1980 the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the conviction, ruling that a juror had been improperly dismissed for airing concerns about capital punishment. Prosecutors have tried and failed twice to get the court to reconsider.

Since then, Hartfield's case has met with one legal obstacle after another.

In 1983, then-Governor Mark White commuted his sentence to life at the request of prison officials.

According to Jeffrey Newberry of the Texas Innocent Project, it's uncertain whether White even knew the conviction had been overturned.

But, Newberry added, the commutation was actually issued in error. 'He couldn't commute the sentence because there was nothing left to commute,' Newberry said. 'Mr. Hartfield should have had a new trial. But he didn't get one.'

Because Hartfield had no legal counsel after his trial 'he just sat there,' Newberry said. Hartfield didn't understand he needed to ask for a new trial until a fellow inmate advised him in 2006.

'Someone helped him write documents on his own saying 'Hey, I never got my new trial,'' Newberry said

Original report here

 

 

 

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Saturday, April 19, 2014



Corrupt British cops stole cash and pens from fake 'crime scene' set up to catch them - but left the VIAGRA put out to tempt them

Two senior policemen face jail after they were caught stealing from a fake 'crime scene' in a sting operation set up by their own colleagues.

Detective Sergeant Stephen Phillips and Detective Constable Jason Evans were filmed on secret cameras taking cash and pens planted by their fellow officers.

A court heard today how Phillips, 45, was caught taking £250 when he was called to a house colleagues told him was 'under criminal investigation'.

Evans, 44, was also vidoed pocketing two pens while he carried out the investigation using a search warrant.

Both men however left other items put out by suspicious colleagues as part of the sting - including sex aid Viagra tablets.

The court heard the officers thought they were investigating a burglary but the scene was in fact set up as part of 'trust exercise' by police chiefs.

A team of officers including Evans and Phillips were sent to the house which was filled with 'evidence' including the Viagra, bags, mobile phones, watches and £21,647 of cash.

But they didn't realise the property had been fitted with hidden cameras and covert microphones - and a woman posing as a resident was an undercover detective.

The pair - who have been suspended by South Wales Police - admitting theft today and were warned they faced custody.

Judge Bodfan Jenkins told them: 'There can be few examples of a graver breach of trust. This is a gross breach of trust in relation to the force and what the public expect from the police.

The pair were sent to a fake 'crime scene' by their colleagues, who had planted secret cameras in the property

'It's not about the cost, it's about the breach of trust and at first blush it appears to me that this is a custody case.'

The officers, who are based in Neath, near Swansea, were part of a team investigating organised crime but ended up being investigated themselves by South Wales Police's corruption unit for theft and misconduct.

Cardiff Magistrates Court heard how the force decided to carry out an 'integrity test' on the pair.

They pretended they were asked by Greater Manchester Police to investigate a property allegedly linked to a series of burglaries.

Prosecutor David Roberts said: 'Phillips was filmed putting his hand inside a coat pocket and finding £240.

'He removes his hand and leaves the scene - but then returns 20 seconds later when he removes the cash and places it in his pocket.'

Phillips also took £10 from a bedside table. But he did not realise all the notes had been marked with invisible ink and the serial numbers recorded.

Evans was filmed going into the bedroom and taking two pens during the raid in March this year.

The pair then drove up the M5 to meet plain clothes officers from Greater Manchester Police at a service station.

While waiting for the meeting, Phillips spent £60 of money on a Monopoly-themed gambling machine.

As they drove back to South Wales they were pulled over by a marked police car and arrested by members of their force's Professional Standards department.

The court heard Phillips, of Skewen, Neath, claimed he was going to return the money to the woman who lived at the house.

Evans, of Cilfrew, Neath, admitted stealing the pens while he was interviewed under caution.

The pair have both pleaded guilty to theft and are on unconditional bail while reports are prepared ahead of their sentencing hearing.

Original report here

 

 

 

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Friday, April 18, 2014



Mother slams British cops for HANDCUFFING her daughter after she bit her because she is autistic and has the mental age of a five year old

Police have come under fire for handcuffing a young woman who has autism and the mental capacity of a five-year-old.

Toni Williams, 20, was left with bruises on her wrists after officers refused to remove the cuffs.


 

Her mother Leigh Williams insists they should never have handcuffed a vulnerable adult and has now issued a formal complaint against Merseyside Police.

Officers were called to their house in Birkenhead, Merseyside, after the 20-year-old became over-excited and bit her mother and hit her.

She alerted a social worker, who, together with a community nurse, insisted they call the police.

Ms Williams refused to call police herself to deal with her own daughter, but other relatives did.

She left the house before they arrived, leaving her relatives with Toni as they waited for officers, and later joined up with her at Arrowe Park Hospital, on the Wirral, Merseyside.

She said: 'She kept apologising and asking me to take the handcuffs off - I asked the officers but they kept telling me 'No.'

'They need to be aware and know how to deal with a situation involving a vulnerable adult - they shouldn't have put the handcuffs on in the first place.

'They said Toni had bitten one of the officers, but when we were at the hospital, they wouldn't remove the handcuffs

'It was as if they thought she was still a danger to them - but she was in the hospital.

'I explained that she has autism and the mental capacity of a five-year-old but they wouldn't listen.

'The cuffs were cutting into her wrists and she was covered in bruises.'

Ms Williams said she had asked officers to move the handcuffs to the front of her daughter's body, which would have allowed her to cuddle her toy dog - which she takes everywhere and allows her to feel safe.

The handcuffs were eventually removed after requests from medical staff.

She said: 'I didn't want to call the police, but the social worker and community nurse said we had to.

'There were four officers, one stood in the door and three went into the living room where Toni was - I don't know what happened in there as they wouldn't let my family in.

'Toni was screaming. And when I saw her later, she had a cut on her face and bruises on her arms and on her wrists where the handcuffs had been.'

After arriving at hospital to see her daughter - who also suffers with epilepsy and has been having seizures since she was six months old - Ms Williams found she was in a state of anxiety and deeply upset, made worse by the handcuffs.

'When I phoned up to complain they asked if I wanted compensation - it's not about compo, it's about awareness and making sure this doesn't happen to Toni, or anyone else again.

'I've promised her it won't happen again and I have to keep that promise. I have to protect my little girl.'

Ms Williams, who moved back to her hometown two years ago to be near the support of her family and friends, said she had lost respect for the police.

She added: 'This is an injustice - you are meant to turn to the police for support.'

More than 700 people have joined a Facebook group set up by Ms Williams, calling for more awareness of autism.

She has also gathered the support of Birkenhead MP Frank Field, who has written to the police on her behalf demanding that reports be released.

The distressed mum added: 'Officers need to be trained properly to deal with vulnerable adults and need to assess the situation properly.

'I still don't know what went on in the living room that day - I just want to know what happened.'

A spokesman for Merseyside Police confirmed a complaint had been made in relation to the arrest.

Original report here

 

 

 

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Thursday, April 17, 2014



Sloppy Canadian police work leads to wrongful conviction -- ruins man's life

Gerald Barton is happy to have the court cases all behind him. "I feel good," he told the Courier by phone from Alberta this week. "It’s all behind me and I don’t have to think about any of this stuff no more. I’m one happy guy."

Barton, originally of Jordantown, was wrongfully convicted of statutory rape in 1970, when he was 19, and carried the label of sex offender until a paternity test in 2011 proved he wasn’t involved.

Barton was in civil court in Halifax last week seeking compensation from the RCMP and the provincial government. "They didn’t take the time, they didn’t investigate anything," Barton said of the investigating officers involved in 1970.

Court records show Barton served a few hours in jail and was sentenced to one year of probation for having sex with a female between the ages of 14 and 16.

The girl in the case had become pregnant and had accused Barton of violently raping her.

A statement supposedly from Barton and typed by then RCMP officer Earl Hamilton was entered into evidence in court last week, in which Barton admits to consensual sex with the girl.

Barton denies he made the statement. "They never talked to me, I never met the man," he said about Hamilton. "They just talked to the [girl’s family]. The Mounties did what they did, they wrote it, and they made me guilty."

Retired judge and then crown prosecutor Charles Haliburton however testified last week that Barton pled guilty. Haliburton found a note in some of his files concerning the preliminary hearing that indicates there was a guilty plea, but he testified there are no other documents about the trial.

Haliburton told the court that many Digby court files were lost about 15 years ago when files were moved to Halifax.

Barton, who now lives in Alberta, says the stigma of the conviction forced him to leave Digby.

"There was no work and I couldn’t get anything," he said. "Too many people pointing at me and pointing at the boy saying he was my child. No one would hire me. So I went and looked for a better life for me."

He said the stigma also kept him from applying for jobs that might require background checks.

"I couldn’t look for a job where they might look and if I had a job and they checked, all of a sudden I didn’t have a job no more," he said. "When people tell you you have too much experience for this job, what does that tell you?"

RCMP Corporal Brent Kelly reopened the case in 2008 based on a statement from one of the victim’s brothers. The victim herself admitted in 2008 that she had lied about Barton’s involvement.

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal cleared Barton in 2011 after a DNA test proved that the victim’s brother was in fact the father of the child.

"It was a great relief, cause I knew I never did anything," said Barton.

He’s thankful for Kelly’s work to clear him. "That’s a real honorable man to do all that," he said. "He took the time. The other officers didn’t take the time. They were just worried about closing the case."

Barton says he doesn’t hold anything against Digby. "Tell Digby I’m not mad at them," he said. "I love Digby. It was just the people that we’re around me back me then."

Since the conviction was overturned, Barton has been trying to get compensation.

Barton’s lawyer Dale Dunlop told a press conference in March that the civil case should never have gone to court considering the promises made by the Nova Scotia government after the Marshall inquiry.

Donald Marshall Jr. spent 11 years in jail for a murder he didn’t commit.

The 1989 inquiry into the Nova Scotia justice system recommended independent judicial inquiries should consider compensation in cases of wrongful conviction.

"The province responded to the damning conclusions of the Marshall inquiry by making a promise to all Nova Scotians, and the black and aboriginal communities, in particular, that it would adopt the recommendations as suggested," Dunlop told the press conference.

Dunlop told the court in closing arguments that $250,000 for the stigma and lost income is appropriate while a federal lawyer suggested $25,000 to $50,000 would be more appropriate.

The court is waiting for final written submissions due April 25 before considering a decision.

Original report here

 

 

 

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014



 

Disgraced ex-cop defends his record in DA’s investigation

Disgraced former NYPD Detective Louis Scarcella insisted Wednesday he "did absolutely nothing wrong" in his homicide investigations — even as the Brooklyn DA revealed new information that could scuttle two more murder convictions of suspects he busted.

"I’ve been accused of crushing people’s testicles, beating people up, fabricating confessions and a multitude of other things," Scarcella, 62, told The Post Wednesday outside his Staten Island home.

"I would never let anything happen like that. You would have to be an animal and a devil to put a man away unjustifiably."

Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson is reviewing 50 of Scarcella’s murder investigations from the 1980s and 1990s — since David Ranta was freed in March 2013 after wrongfully spending 23 years in prison, due to a coached witness, for the slaying of a rabbi.

The latest botched case involves two stepbrothers convicted of a 1985 homicide largely because of a drug- addled hooker "witness" that Scarcella had used to bolster several of his cases.

The DA’s Conviction Review Unit sent a letter to Supreme Court Justice Matthew D’Emic that expressed doubt over the convictions.

The letter reveals that prosecutors were reluctant to make an arrest in the case without eyewitnesses — and that’s when Scarcella turned to Teresa Gomez, who has testified in five of his trials.

"Teresa Gomez told Detective Scarcella that she witnessed the shooting of Ronnie Durant and positively identified the defendants," the letter reads.

Gomez testified against stepbrothers Alvena Jennette and Darryl Austin, who were convicted in 1988 and sentenced to 18 years to life, the letter states.

Jennette stayed in prison until his 2007 release. Austin died behind bars.

The letter lists notes from another detective that could have proved the stepbrothers’ innocence and that may not have been turned over to their defense team.

The notes include witnesses that named another man as the killer.

Scarcella insists he is not to blame for any false convictions.

"How can an individual frame a man and send the wrong man to jail for X amount of years? I’ve said this a year ago and I’ll say it again now, you’d have to be a devil to do that," he said.

A crowd of more than 50 people protested at City Hall Wednesday urging DA Thompson to hurry his investigation into the tainted cases.

Original report here

 

 

 

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014



 

Shorter prison sentences for US drug offenders recommended

Up to 70 percent of all federal drug offenses could carry shorter prison sentences if the recommendation passed on Thursday by an agency that advises U.S. federal judges on sentencing is not opposed by Congress.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission's recommendation reflects a policy supported by the Obama administration to bring punishments for low-level drug offenders in line with the severity of their crime. Some Republicans in Congress say more lenient sentences would reverse the drop in crime the United States has seen over recent decades.

The commission unanimously recommended reducing the sentence dictated by the quantity of the drug by two levels, or an average of 11 months. For example, someone caught with 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of heroin would serve 51 to 63 months rather than 63 to 78 months.

Unless Congress votes to stop the amendment, it will go into effect on November 1. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said he opposes lowering sentences.

The amendment would not reduce penalties for drug traffickers with the greatest drug quantities, and sentencing guidelines already take into account whether the drug offense was combined with violence or possession of a firearm.

"Quantity, while still an important proxy for seriousness, no longer needs to be quite as central to the calculation," said Sentencing Commission Chair Judge Patti Saris.

Attorney General Eric Holder recommended that the commission lower sentences for drug offenders as it falls in line with his philosophy of reducing spending on prisons and sentencing drug offenders more justly in accordance with their crime, two goals he has launched a review of the criminal justice system to address.

The Department of Justice estimates that the amendment would reduce the federal prison population by roughly 6,550 inmates over five years. In 2010, nearly half of 216,000 total federal inmates were serving time for drug-related crimes.

Testifying before the Sentencing Commission in January, Holder urged the group of seven to lower sentences based on drug quantities, telling them it would help "rein in federal prison spending while focusing limited resources on the most serious threats to public safety."

In drafting the amendment, the commission looked at the effects of a 2007 law lowering penalties for crack cocaine offenders. Their data showed that those offenders who served shorter time after the law passed were no more likely to return to federal prison than those who served longer sentences.

But critics say that reducing sentences would weaken the leverage of prosecutors.

Scott Burns, executive director of the National District Attorneys Association and former drug czar under President George W. Bush, said district attorneys will be weakened by lower sentencing at the federal level because they often use the threat of tough federal punishment as a tool to convince drug offenders who have witnessed larger crimes to cooperate.

"They can use the leverage of the threat of harsher punishment in order to solve murder cases and prosecute drug kingpins," Burns said.

Original report here

 

 

 

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Monday, April 14, 2014



 

Surprise, surprise

One thing that the FBI does really well is exonerate itself. As I wrote earlier, the bureau’s agents have shot 151 people over the course of the last two decades, killing more than half of them, yet in its own internal reviews, the FBI has exonerated those agents all 151 times — a perfect record of blamelessness that even some of the country’s most gun-happy police departments (even in Albuquerque, NM) can’t claim.

Now another internal review, not by the FBI but by the Office of Intelligence Committee, an obscure unit which supposedly internally "oversees" the work of 17 intelligence agencies including the FBI, has smiled on the FBI’s seemingly lackadaisical investigation of Boston Marathon bomber suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, saying that its Boston office agents did an okay job in checking him out after Russian intelligence warned the US back in 2011 that he had linked up with Islamic militants while on a visit to his family in Dagestan.

The New York Times, in a report on the inspector’s findings, quotes an unidentified "senior American official" as saying that the OIC investigation "found that the Russians did not provide all the information that they had on him back then, and that based on everything that was available at the time, the FBI did all that it could."

What that "everything" included was interviewing the elder Tsarnaev brother (now dead, killed in a hail of police bullets during a night-time chase following the Boston bombing last April), as well as his parents and friends at school. After that brief flurry of interviews, the bureau allegedly lost interest in Tsarnaev, concluding that he was more of a threat to Russia than to the US—an interesting turn of phrase that should suggest something else might have been afoot.

And indeed, there is something missing from that report that is troubling: namely news that the FBI also reportedly sought to enlist Tamerlan Tsarnaev as an informant during its 2011-12 investigation of his activities. If attorneys for Tamerlan’s younger brother Dzhokhar are correct, the FBI, after contacting and questioning the older brother, then at least attempted to pressure him to work for them by spying on the local Chechen community in Boston. It stands to reason they may have also been interested in having him work for the US against Russia, given the US’s long record of support for rebels in former Soviet republics like Chechnya and Dagestan who have been seeking to break away from Russia. Tsarnaev would have been vulnerable to such pressure, as he had been attempting to gain US citizenship, and because had certain assets that the FBI (and the CIA) wanted: knowledge of people in Dagestan and also fluency in Chechen and Russian (a Tsarnaev uncle was already reportedly working for the CIA, even for a time living in the home of, and married to the daughter of a ranking CIA official).

The FBI has denied that it ever signed up Tsarnaev, but that kind of denial has to be taken with not a grain but a whole shaker of salt. The whole Boston bombing story is full of bizarre aspects, such as the complete lack of similarity between the exploded backpack as displayed publicly by the FBI and the two backpacks that videos and stills show the Tsarnaev brothers to be carrying at the finish line of the race, and also the haste with with law enforcement sought to kill the seriously injured Dzhokhar when he was trapped and surrounded by heavily armed and armored police in a trailered fiberglass pleasure boat in Watertown, Mass. (A hail of over 100 bullets were fired at him through the boat’s hull, though he by that time posed no risk to the police, and had no chance of escaping.)

The OIC report claims that the FBI might have investigated Tamerlan Tsarnaev more thoroughly had Russian intelligence only given them more information, such as word that they had tapped calls between Tamerlan and his mother in which the two allegedly discussed jihadism. Supposedly that "crucial" information was only provided to the bureau by Russia after the Marathon bombing.

But really, are we supposed to believe, in this Patriot Act-era America, and at a time when we’ve learned that the National Security Agency has for years been collecting all phone calls made in the country and has the ability to recover any of them, including not just the meta-data but the actual conversations, that the FBI needed the Russians to tell them they had monitored an international call by Tsarnaev? And are we supposed to actually believe that the FBI needed harder evidence about Tsarnaev’s possible link to terrorism in order to monitor him? This is the same FBI, remember, that has been caught putting GPS trackers on the vehicles of peace activists in California, sending informants to monitor environmental protest organizations and animal rights groups, declaring Occupy groups to be "terrorists," and setting up vulnerable low-wattage losers to plot bogus terror attacks that the bureau can then step in and "prevent."

All of this should make us particularly curious about the FBI’s offing of Tamerlan Tsarnaev friend Ibragim Todashev (a "justified" killing according the the bureau’s internal investigation, as always), after an apparently brutal four-and-a-half-hour grilling in his Orlando apartment last May 22. That shooting, as I reported earlier, happened after one of the two FBI agents on the case had physically removed from the area a potential witness to the killing, Khusen Taramov, riding with him in his car to ensure that he was miles from the scene just half an hour before the deadly shooting was done.

The unarmed Todashev was shot three times in the upper middle of his back, once in the chest, two times in the front of his upper left arm and then once in the top of his head in what bears all the markings of an execution or rub-out His body also exhibited a major bruise on the left side of the head that included a contusion on the cheek at the outside of the left eye socket, which a coroner said was the result of a heavy blow of some kind.

With the younger Tsarnaev facing a capital murder and terrorism trial, why would the FBI have slain the person who best knew the older brother just before the bombing took place, unless it was to silence him? And what would they have been trying to silence him about? Could it have been knowledge that Tamerlan was working for the FBI at the time of the bombing?

One thing is for sure. We cannot rely on the FBI or the Justice Department or some intelligence agency "inspector general" to give us the truth about that or about the killing of Todashev.

Original report here

 

 

 

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Sunday, April 13, 2014



'A policeman can shoot a blind man in the back and get away with it?'

Fury of Taser attack victim as blundering officer who mistook his white stick for a samurai sword is let off with an order to APOLOGISE

A police officer who shot a blind man with a Taser when he mistook his white stick for a samurai sword will keep his job - and has only been asked to apologise to the man.

Colin Farmer, 64, was hit with the stun gun in Chorley, Lancashire, by PC Stuart Wright in 2012 as he walked to his local pub.

Mr Farmer, who thought he was suffering a stroke, was then handcuffed by the police constable - who was responding to reports of a man in the town centre with a sword.

Mr Farmer was not released until the arrival of another officer whom PC Wright told: 'I think I’ve got the wrong person.'

Lancashire Constabulary held a two-day disciplinary hearing following a recommendation from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) the officer had a case to answer for gross misconduct.

The meeting concluded PC Wright was not guilty of 'gross incompetence' - but should be issued with a performance improvement notice and that he be told to apologise personally to Mr Farmer.

Mr Farmer condemned the decision today. He said: 'This officer broke a rule, he should never have shot a blind man in the back from 6ft away. There was no urgency for him to pull the trigger -I could very easily have been dead.'

'The odds have not been in my favour. Since it happened I have been diagnosed with traumatic stress disorder because if what has been going on.

'Before it happened I had only been out of hospital five months after having a brain haemorrhage and stroke, my brain hadn't even had chance to recover and then this. Let's just say I'm happy that at least he won't be getting a promotion.

'He can live with his conscience, but I did nothing wrong, I'm the innocent victim. If he can shoot a blind man and get away with it what signal is that giving out to people.

'It wasn't a mistake, he pulled that trigger on purpose, he could have waited. I have lost faith in the police, I have had no justice. If it can get to this then god help anybody.

'These trigger happy police officers are killing people, if I had a pacemaker I would be dead by now. I don't want an apology because it's an insult to me. It seems like he has treated like a naughty schoolboy when I believe it was total negligence on his part.'

An investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) was launched after the incident in October 2012.

It discovered the man was walking away from PC Wright at the time and posed no threat.

A report from the police watchdog found PC Wright failed to take reasonable steps to ascertain if Mr Farmer was carrying a sword before he discharged the Taser.

He had used a level of force that was 'unnecessary and disproportionate to the circumstances' and caused further distress to Mr Farmer by detaining him in handcuffs despite it being 'obvious' he had the wrong man, it added.

PC Wright also ignored instructions and radio transmissions about how to deal with the incident, and failed to comply with local and national guidelines on the use of Taser.

IPCC Commissioner James Dipple-Johnstone said: 'Mr Farmer was subjected to what must have been a terrifying ordeal.

'Our view was that Pc Wright could and should have listened to instructions from his force controller and taken greater steps to ascertain whether Mr Farmer was the sword-carrying man that had been reported by members of the public and when he realised his mistake should have acted quicker to put things right.

'There is public concern about use of force, and, particularly, Taser. Incidents such as this do little to ease that concern.

'I hope that the personal apology to Mr Farmer allows the officer to reassure him that he will learn lessons from these events and that the improvement plan for the officer and measures taken by the force to improve its training and communications prevent further incidents such as this.'

In a statement, Lancashire Constabulary said: 'The officer was dealt with under Stage 3 of the Police (Performance) Regulations 2008 for Gross Incompetence by a panel made up of Assistant Chief Constable Tim Jacques, Chief Supt Richard Goodenough-Bayly and Mr Ashley Judd, the Constabulary’s Head of Human Resources.

'The panel found that the officer failed to perform his duties to a satisfactory standard on October 12, 2012, though his actions did not amount to gross incompetence.

'The officer will be issued with a Written Improvement Notice and be required to demonstrate specific performance improvements over a set timescale.

Additionally, the officer has expressed considerable regret over this incident and arrangements will be made for him to offer a personal apology to Mr Farmer.'

Mr Jacques added: 'First and foremost I would like to sincerely apologise to Mr Farmer on behalf of the Constabulary for what happened that evening and the resulting distress and anxiety he undoubtedly suffered.

'The officer made a dreadful mistake when he discharged his Taser, but was acting on a reasonable and honestly held belief that his actions were necessary to protect the public.

The officer did not perform his duties to a satisfactory standard but we did not feel that this amounted to gross incompetence.

'In addition to the findings relating to the individual officer this investigation has raised a number of issues for the constabulary to consider including the training given to officers carrying Taser."

Last year, Mr Farmer's lawyers said they had lodged a civil claim at the High Court for damages on grounds of assault and battery, false imprisonment and suffering inhumane and degrading treatment.

Last August the Crown Prosection Service said it would not take any criminal action against the officer as there was insufficent evidence to prove he had not been mistaken.

Original report here

 

 

 

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Saturday, April 12, 2014



Pattern of Abuse

A youth under the care of the Department of Children and Families has been transferred to an adult prison with no criminal charge pending

OK, so, N.B.: this Connecticut youth is a 16 year old trans woman and, if confined to an adult prison, is at even higher than normal risk for suffering all kinds of extreme violence while imprisoned.

She is in any case being locked up in an adult prison without any formal charges ever having been filed against her. She is being sent to prison with no charges and no due process because DCF has a statute allowing it to put children in its "care" in prison on their own authority, without any charges at all, for the sake of "treatment" (!). This is considered an appropriate authorized measure.

They are asserting this power here because, although they are not filing any charges and have no intention of subjecting any of this to ordinary due process, they allege that this allegedly fought a guard. She allegedly fought a guard because two of the domming guards ganged up and grabbed her and tried to "bear hug" immobilize her to keep her from walking away to somewhere she wanted to go.

The guard wanted to stop her from walking freely away because she is an inmate confined in a DCF juvie-prison "locked-treatment" "training school," which she is forcibly forbidden to leave.

She is an inmate of a DCF juvie-prison "locked treatment" "training school" because DCF has asserted custody over her, or, as the youth’s "defenders" put it, thinking they are helping, "DCF is this youth’s parent" (the Corps is mother, the Corps is father), and as such, they claim, they are "obligated" (!) to lock her up in the name of "programming and treatment."

DCF took custody, locked her up and started forcing this "treatment" on her without her permission and against her will, because they were going to save her from being "a victim of serious, longstanding abuse."

So, you know, good job on that so far, y’all, I’ll bet prison will really help.

In case you were wondering this story is like everything I hate about the liberal state, rolled into one dystopian package and labeled helpfully FOR HER OWN GOOD.

Original report here

 

 

 

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Friday, April 11, 2014



 

UK man wins 16-yr legal battle over laptop

IT started with an unwanted laptop, and it ended in Britain's Supreme Court.

A Scottish man on Wednesday won a 16-year court battle sparked by a wrangle over a loan he'd taken out to buy a computer.

Oil worker Richard Durkin bought a laptop from a store in the Scottish city of Aberdeen in 1998, using a credit agreement with lender HFC Bank for about STG1,500.

He returned the computer the next day because it lacked an internal modem, and tried to cancel the credit deal.

The bank said he couldn't, and after he refused to pay, declared he had defaulted.

Durkin said the bad credit rating meant he was unable to buy a house.

He took legal action, and in 2008 - a decade after the purchase - a court awarded him more than STG100,000 pounds.

That decision was overturned by appeals judges, and case eventually wound its way to the Supreme Court.

The saga ended on Wednesday when five Supreme Court justices ruled that Durkin had "validly rescinded the credit agreement" and awarded him STG8,000 ($A14,500)in damages, a fraction of his initial award.

Durkin said he had mixed feelings about the judgment.

"I'm glad that I've helped the greater good with a consumer victory," he said.

But, he added, the long legal campaign meant "I've got myself into a lot of debt, basically." Durkin estimated he'd spent STG250,000 ($A453,300) on the case.

Original report here

 

 

 

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Thursday, April 10, 2014



Innocent black man  freed after 25 years in jail

A New York man convicted of murder despite being at Walt Disney World in Florida at the time of the crime has walked free after serving 25 years in jail.

Jonathan Fleming, 51, had lost several appeals against his conviction for the 1989 murder of Darryl "Black" Rush but was finally freed as part of a wider review of unsafe prosecutions. A hotel receipt proved he was 1700 km away in Florida five hours before the killing, and police there had sent a letter confirming that hotel staff remembered him paying.

But prosecutors said the evidence - including a video showing that Mr Fleming was in Orlando with his mother on the day of the murder - was not conclusive, claiming he could have flown from Florida in time to commit the crime. They argued that the shooting, which took place in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, was motivated by a dispute over money.

A key witness to the crime, who placed Mr Fleming at the scene, recanted their testimony soon after his 1990 conviction, but he was not freed for more than two more decades.

Moments after his case was dismissed, Mr Fleming said: "I feel wonderful. I've always had faith. I knew that this day would come."

His mother Patricia, 72, who always maintained his innocence, shouted: "After 25 years come hug your mother." The two then embraced.

During the review of the case, lawyers discovered that prosecutors had failed to provide the defence with a hotel receipt and police letter, in apparent contravention of rules governing disclosure. Brooklyn's district attorney Kenneth Thompson said he had dropped the case because of "key alibi facts that place Fleming in Florida at the time of the murder".

The conviction came under the controversial watch of former district attorney Charles Hynes, who allegedly oversaw a number of questionable convictions.

Asked what he planned to do next, Mr Fleming said: "I'm going to go eat dinner with my mother and my family, and I'm going to live the rest of my life."

His alibi was simple: He was in Orlando at the time of the shooting, on a family trip to Walt Disney World.

During the trial, a woman who said she was an eyewitness, Jacqueline Belardo, identified Mr Fleming as the killer. Though she recanted what she said before sentencing, saying she had identified Mr Fleming in exchange for a dismissal of grand larceny charges against her, the prosecution contended that Ms Belardo was lying, according to the document.

In June 2013, the Conviction Integrity Unit began examining Mr Fleming's conviction after investigators and lawyers for Mr Fleming brought it the new witness statements. In November, the Unit turned over to the defence police logs that it had come across during its look at the case. The logs showed that Ms Belardo, the purported eyewitness, had been brought in after being found in a stolen van and charged with grand larceny. After several hours of questioning, she pointed to Mr Fleming as the killer, according to the defence document.

A little over an hour later, her charges were voided and she was released. Ms Belardo still stands by her recantation, according to the document.

The Conviction Integrity Unit also turned over the phone receipt. At 9.27pm on August 14, 1989, Mr Fleming had paid a phone bill at the Orlando Quality Inn, making it unlikely he could have made it back to Brooklyn in time for the 2.15am shooting on August 15. But the receipt was not a part of trial evidence. One of Mr Fleming's lawyers Tayol Koss said at Tuesday's hearing that Mr Fleming had asked about the receipt at the time of the trial and that a detective at the trial was questioned about the receipt and said he did not recall recovering it. Investigators found the receipt in the case file last year.

Other new evidence was a report from the Orlando Police Department, which had looked into Mr Fleming's alibi at the New York Police Department's request. The Orlando police interviewed Quality Inn staff members who remembered Mr Fleming. At the trial, the only witnesses to vouch for Fleming's presence in Orlando were family members.

It was the new documentary evidence that was most compelling in this case, said assistant district attorney, Mark Hale, specifically the receipt and the Orlando Police Department's letter. "We, in looking at the evidence, do not believe we have the present ability to retry the defendant. Nor will the office be able to retry him in the future," Hale said.

As part of their investigation, the defence and prosecutors then reinterviewed witnesses to the murder, and their accounts pointed to a different suspect.

"They're bringing my baby home," said Mr Fleming's mother. . An innocent man "did all this time", she said. "It was hard on him and it was hard on me."

Original report here

 

 

 

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