Monday, October 20, 2014

How British police fitted me up for a vile sex crime they KNEW I hadn’t done, says Met’s gun girl who’s suing over ‘malicious leaks’

When Carol Howard, the former poster girl for the Metropolitan Police, took her employers to an employment tribunal, the verdict was huge embarrassment to the pre-eminent force in the land.

The Met was found to have subjected her to an orchestrated campaign of ‘malicious, vindictive and spiteful actions’, which effectively derailed a glittering 13-year career.

Just how malicious and vindictive, however, she has only now revealed. Because, in a new legal action, 35-year-old Miss Howard says her employers not only discriminated against her, but accused her of crimes – including possession of an indecent image of a child – she had not committed to silence and discredit her.

More shocking still, details of the ‘crimes’ were passed to the media and even to the employment tribunal in an apparent smear campaign, despite the fact that, in at least two cases, the allegations against her had already been quietly dropped.

‘I’m in no doubt at all that these arrests and so-called allegations were a crude attempt to silence me,’ says Carol, a firearms officer attached to the elite Diplomatic Protection Squad, whose image was seen all over London as the face of the Met at the 2012 London Olympics.

‘I have had my reputation besmirched. My personal life was turned inside out, my daughter kept from me and fingers pointed at me as though I was some kind of sexual deviant and unable to do my job properly.

‘I was effectively being punished for daring to think I was as good as the white men I worked with and for speaking up for myself.’

She says she has issued legal proceedings in an attempt to force the Met – which still employs her – to own up to its actions.

Carol was arrested on three occasions between August last year and April 2014, leading to a total of eight investigations against her for ‘crimes’ including criminal damage, harassment and perverting the course of justice.

In fresh employment tribunal papers, seen by The Mail on Sunday, Ms Howard also accuses the Met of maliciously informing Sussex Social Services about an ‘indecent image’ to spark a child protection investigation that prevented Ms Howard from seeing her six-year-old daughter for four weeks. The information was passed on despite the fact Sussex Police had already decided it was not necessary to refer the matter to social services.

In one particularly humiliating instance, five uniformed Met officers arrived at her daughter’s school and marched her away.

She is particularly angry that investigations following her arrest on April 22, 2014 were dropped within a matter of weeks, yet she was not informed and was kept on suspension and police bail until the end of July 2014 when the Met finally told her they would be taking no further police action against her.

Worse still, the Met told both the media and the Tribunal judge about Ms Howard still being on police bail as a result of this arrest as late as July – based on investigations that had already been abandoned. She spent a full 13 months on bail with the threat of legal action that never materialised.

Ms Howard has already spoken about the way she was victimised within the Met’s firearms squad, in particular by her Acting Inspector who had attempted to ‘undermine, discredit and belittle’ her.

But the breakdown of Carol’s ten-year relationship with the father of her youngest daughter made matters worse. She and her husband separated in 2012.

‘In August last year, not long after our separation, we had a dispute. He was upset and under so much stress he stupidly went to Crawley police station and falsely claimed that I had assaulted him 14 months previously and harassed him,’ she says.

She is still astonished, however, at how quickly things spiralled out of control after that.

‘Even if I had scratched him, which I didn’t, it would only have been a minor offence of common assault, but the Police deliberately ramped it up to the more serious allegation of actual bodily harm to justify an arrest.’

Although Rob called the station seven times without my knowledge to withdraw his allegations, he stated he was being fobbed off. Then on the day prior to my arrest, he went to the station in person to make a withdrawal statement and he was told to ‘go away and to come back later at 6:30pm’ and the same officers attended my home and arrested me at 6:00pm – 30 minutes before he was due to return to the police station. It was a set-up.’

Carol says she was held for four hours in a police cell before being interrogated ‘like a common criminal’. And, although this was Sussex police’s jurisdiction, she was confronted on arrival at the police station by a Met police inspector who had been involved in her tribunal complaints and was later found to have acted unlawfully against her. Carol believed this further supports her claims of both forces working together to close ranks against her.

‘I felt the officers in attendance were enjoying the fact that I was frightened and upset.

They didn’t bother to tell me or my solicitor that Rob had withdrawn his statement. Given my clean record they could simply have invited me in for an interview under caution, but it was all done with malice and clearly pre-planned. The Met wanted to have the arrest over me, so they could use it at the forthcoming employment tribunal.’

But when her husband lodged a complaint over their treatment of Carol, he too was arrested by the same police officers for perverting the course of justice and wasting police time. Carol feels he was being punished for standing up for her.

To Carol’s astonishment, in January 2014 she, too, was further arrested for perverting the course of justice and witness intimidation (the police claimed she had cajoled her husband into withdrawing his allegations against her.)

In May 2014, it is alleged that the Metropolitan Police contacted Sussex Social Services and asked them to carry out a child protection referral into an ‘indecent image’.

In her latest employment tribunal application Ms Howard says: ‘There was absolutely no basis on which the innocent picture of my own daughter could be said to be indecent. Even Sussex police had apparently accepted that there was no basis on which to inform child protection or social services about the matter. However, to victimise me and harass me further, the Met had maliciously referred me to Sussex social services and closely liaised with Sussex Police to do so.

‘I did not see my daughter for four weeks. It was awful and heartbreaking. I had to go to my daughter’s sports day and see parents look at me in disgust because they thought I was a paedophile,’ she recalls.

‘It is the worst thing you could say about any woman – especially a mother – and I was unable to defend myself, because of it. It is all connected with my complaints of discrimination against the Met. They appear to victimise officers who complain by arresting them.’

Last month an employment tribunal awarded her £37,000 in aggravated damages for sexual and racial discrimination. But she says it is no compensation for being falsely labelled a ‘child predator’ – or the destruction of her career.

Original report here

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

At least 2,000 corrupt British police officers suspected of 'tipping off criminals, stealing, fabricating evidence and using their power to get money and sex', says Home Office report

At least 2,000 officers have been suspected of tipping off criminals, stealing and fabricating evidence, says a Home Office report.

The Home Office Select Committee will launch an investigation next month into police corruption after claims officers also used their power to get money and sex.

The probe comes amid a series of police scandals that have related to recent inquiries involving phone-hacking and the Plebgate scandal.

In a Home Office report analysis by researchers revealed that the government estimate that at least 2,000 officers of all ranks could be comprimising the police by dealing with criminals.

The report states that intelligence over a one year period from some forces involved in their research showed that between 0.5 per cent and one per cent of the 200,000 police staff were 'potentially corrupt.'

It explains: 'Corrupt activities across these examples have included the protection of criminals for financial payments, the theft and recycling of drugs to criminals, the stealing of money from crime scenes, and the fabrication of evidence to obtain convictions.'

It also adds how some officers 'used their powers to obtain money or sexual favours from the public.'

Among the corrupt practices listed by the 2003 report are dealing and using drugs, fraud and domestic violence as well using 'sexist, racist and homophobic behaviour.'

It also pointed to raids where suspects could have been tipped off because when officers arrived there was no incriminating evidence and they already 'had the kettle on'.

The report also adds that corruption could be taking place at all levels and suggests that police should be dealt with behind closed doors if they commit crimes, to make it 'less damaging'.

Critics say this Home Office report shows why now Home Secretary Theresa May is having to deal with historic police scandals.

Member of the Home Affairs Select Committee and Conservative MP Lorraine Fullbrook told the Independent: 'Labour's kid-gloves treatment of the police bred a lack of accountability which ultimately let down the public.

'There has been a loss of confidence in the police as a result, which is quite dangerous. Theresa is trying to tackle these historic issues to restore the public's trust.'

Earlier this year, it also emerged that dozens of corrupt police officers helped organised criminals hide evidence, intimidate witnesses and access details of ongoing operations.

An internal investigation by the Metropolitan Police claimed officers were bribed to destroy surveillance logs and some officers even co-owned houses and racehorses with suspected gang leaders.

The 2002 report, produced as part of Operation Tiberius, an investigation into police corruption, named 80 corrupt officers. More than half of them were still serving at the time.

However, a statement issued by Scotland Yard said said that the Met continued to investigate corruption, and has 'no complacency' about the matter.

Policing minister Mike Penning told the newspaper: 'The public expect the police to act with honesty and integrity and it is right that the full force of criminal law is available to punish and deter acts of corruption by police officers.'

Original report here

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

British police took away mother's panic alarm in 'huge catalogue' of failings before she was strangled by ex who had killed a previous partner

Police took away a mother's panic alarm in a 'huge catalogue' of failings just months before she was strangled by her ex partner - who had already killed before.

Marc Chivers - who had been convicted of murdering another woman in 1992 - used a dog lead to kill Maria Stubbings at her home in Great Baddow, Essex in December 2008.

A four-week inquest into the death has revealed a series of failures by Essex Police in 'almost every part of its investigation'.

Ms Stubbings' family has lashed out at police claiming they were as much to blame 'as the murderer himself'.

The inquest in Chelmsford heard Ms Stubbings began a relationship with Chivers without knowing he had killed his last partner.

Ms Stubbings was considered to be 'high risk' after she reported an assault by Chivers in July 2008 and was given a panic alarm. But this was taken away a day later when Chivers was arrested.

Later that year he was found guilty of assault but was freed having already spent three months in jail awaiting the hearing - but Ms Stubbings was not told of his release.

The jury heard that she then made repeated 999 calls to police, but officers did not go to her house for a week.

When they finally did, Chivers, who had previously been jailed for murder in Germany, answered the door only for police to leave when he told them Ms Stubbings had gone away.

Her body was found the next day hidden under a pile of clothes in her bathroom. Chivers was jailed for life at Chelmsford Crown Court in 2009.

In 1992, Chivers, who was born and raised in Germany, strangled his first victim with a rope before burying her body in a shallow grave and going on the run.

He was arrested three months later before being jailed.

Speaking after the jury returned a damning narrative verdict, Ms Stubbings' family launched a scathing attack on Essex Police.

A statement issued by her brother, Manuel Fernandez, her daughter Celia Peachey and son, Benji Stubbings, said: 'Maria's murder is as much the fault of Essex Police as the murderer himself. 'They assessed Maria as being at high risk of death or serious harm from Chivers. 'Yet when she called asking for help, they found every excuse to do nothing.'

The family confirmed Essex Police have now admitted civil liability in a case brought against them. 'After six years of fighting for justice we are grateful to the jury for finding a huge catalogue of police failures,' they added.

Essex Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray is sending a report about the case to the Government.

Afterwards Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh admitted Essex Police did not protect Ms Stubbings and apologised to her family. He said: 'I know nothing can ever bring Maria back but I want them to know the way we deal with domestic abuse in Essex has changed greatly. 'Maria's family have shown great courage and determination in holding us to account for the mistakes we made.

This is not the first time Essex Police has been accused of failing a victim of violent crime.

In 2012 an investigation found a catalogue of police failings allowed killer David Oakes to murder his ex-partner and daughter.

The police watchdog said officers took 'inadequate action' to arrest the 50-year-old before he shot Christine Chambers, 38, and Shania, two, at their home in Braintree, Essex.

Oakes, of Steeple, near Maldon, was given two whole-life jail terms after being found guilty of the murders, which happened in June 2011.

It emerged during his trial at Chelmsford Crown Court that police had visited either his address or Miss Chambers' home six times in the two years before the murders.

The trial heard that Oakes stormed Ms Chambers’ house and blasted her and their daughter Shania with a shotgun just weeks after the family gained a restraining order against him. He then shot himself in the face, but survived.

A damning report released by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) concluded there was a number of failings by Essex Police, including missed chances to arrest Oakes before the killings.

Responding to the report, Essex Police said it accepted the findings and apologised for the failings which had been identified.

In March, it was revealed that police had failed to attend a call just hours before a mother was brutally murdered by her jealous ex-partner.

Jeanette Goodwin, 47, was stabbed more than 20 times by her former lover Martin Bunch at her home in Southend, Essex, in July 2011.

Bunch had stalked his ex-partner for months and was on bail for harassment when he broke into her back garden in a jealous rage with a kitchen knife.

A domestic homicide review by the Southend Community Safety Partnership said police failed to attend a call on the day of the murder.

Mrs Goodwin called police at 2.30pm on July 24, 2011, to inform them she was being harassed by Bunch and arranged for officers to check up on her at 4.30pm.

But police failed to attend the arranged meeting and only came hours later when a panic alarm was sounded during the frenzied attack at around 7.30pm.

'I have made it a personal mission that a situation like hers must never be allowed to happen again.

'Protecting every single person at risk of domestic abuse is a huge challenge for the police and our partners, but it is one we are determined to meet.'

In May last year, the Independent Police Complaints Commission judged Essex Police 'missed a large number of opportunities' to deal with Ms Stubbings' case before she was killed.

It concluded: 'It is ironic that Ms Stubbings was offered the most support and protection while Chivers was in prison, when the risk from him was minimal.

'When he was released both she and her son were left completely vulnerable.. 'All the risks that were there when Ms Stubbings called the police in July still existed after his release; indeed arguably the risk was even higher, as Chivers had just served several months in prison as a result of her complaint.

'Ms Stubbings was then murdered by Chivers and her son has endured profound and ongoing trauma as a result of his mother's brutal death.'

Original report here


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Friday, October 17, 2014

Mother of four who spent 19 days in jail now wants compensation after police admit she has not broken the law and release her

A mother of four who was jailed for taking a legal high into a prison during a visit has been released after prosecutors realised they were wrong over the charge.

Sharon Bolton, 38, spent 19 days in prison and missed her daughter's 18th birthday while she was locked up.

She had been jailed for taking Voodoo, a legal high, into prison during a visit to a former partner because it was believed to be on a list of 'banned substances.'

However prosecutors were forced to admit they had made a mistake when they realised Voodoo was not on the 'banned list' and Ms Bolton had not actually committed a crime.

She was then released from prison after 19 days.

The grandmother of three is now set to demand compensation from the Crown Prosecution Service, which has admitted there could be other cases of people wrongly punished for having substances which are not classed as illegal.

She said: 'I was put in a cell on my own and I was really nervous. We were locked up 21 hours a day. 'My concern was for my family. Two of my children live at home. 'My grandson was a few weeks old.'

Ms Bolton, whose children are aged between 16 and 22, was sentenced to nine months in jail after she took Voodoo into a prison where she was visiting a former partner, according to Louise Smith, of the Daily Mirror.

She was told Voodoo was on a list of 'banned substances' and pleaded guilty at a hearing at Lincoln Crown Court on September 18 to 'conveying a prohibited item into prison'.

While she was serving her sentence at HMP Peterborough prosecutors realised their mistake and the 38-year-old was taken back to court where Judge Michael Heath ordered her release.

A spokesman for the CPS admitted there could be other cases where people had been incorrectly punished. He said 'a small number of cases' were now being checked. 'The decision to charge was made by the police,' he added. 'But we acknowledge the issue should have been picked up.'

When he jailed Ms Bolton in September, Judge Michael Heath said: 'There has to be an element of deterrence. Those people who take items like this into prison have to go to prison themselves.'

Ms Bolton, of Rhodesia, Notts, was also given a six-month conditional discharge for possessing amphetamine.

Original report here

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Real Victims of Satanic Ritual Abuse

The dangers were imaginary, but the consequences were not

Among the atrocities that Frances and Dan Keller were supposed to have committed while running a day care center out of their Texas home: drowning and dismembering babies in front of the children; killing dogs and cats in front of the children; transporting the children to Mexico to be sexually abused by soldiers in the Mexican army; dressing as pumpkins and shooting children in the arms and legs; putting the children into a pool with sharks that ate babies; putting blood in the children’s Kool-Aid; cutting the arm or a finger off a gorilla at a local park; and exhuming bodies at a cemetery, forcing children to carry the bones.

It was frankly unbelievable—except that people, most importantly, a Texas jury, did believe the Kellers had committed at least some of these acts. In 1992, the Kellers were convicted of aggravated sexual assault on a child and each sentenced to 48 years in prison. The investigation into their supposed crimes took slightly more than a year, the trial only six days.

And now, even the Travis County district attorney agrees that the trial was unfair.

After multiple appeal efforts and 21 years in prison, the Kellers are finally free. Fran Keller, 63, was released from prison on Nov. 26 on a personal bond, just in time for Thanksgiving. Her daughter was waiting for her with a bag full of the first clothes that weren’t prison-issued that Keller had seen in years. Dan, who turned 72 in prison and now walks with a cane, was released on Dec. 5; this time, Fran was there to greet him. (The Kellers divorced while in prison yet remain close, as close as two people locked up in separate prisons for crimes they say they didn’t commit can be.)

Why did psychotherapists and investigators conclude that these fantastic allegations were true?

The Kellers were released after the doctor who had testified at their trial and provided the only physical evidence that any sexual assault had taken place recanted his testimony. Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg agreed with the findings of appeals filed on the Kellers’ behalf that they were denied their right to a fair trial and that their conviction should be overturned, allowing the Kellers to be released while their appeals move through the courts. In practical terms, this means the Kellers are on a path that may lead to their complete exoneration—and that they were able to celebrate their first Christmas with their families in more than 20 years.

Their release may also finally mark the end to one of the strangest, widest-reaching, and most damaging moral panics in America’s history: the satanic ritual abuse panic of the 1980s and 1990s.

"That was literally a witch hunt," said Keith Hampton, pro-bono lawyer for the Kellers. "We say ‘witch hunt’ in this figurative way, but that was a modern-day literal witch hunt. They really were after people who they thought were worshipping at the feet of the Dark Lord."

So what the hell happened?

The Keller case is typical of the satanic ritual abuse panic and the dozens of cases that popped up in breathless media reports. The trouble started when Christy Chaviers, a 3-year-old girl who was an infrequent visitor to the day care during the summer of 1991, told her mother that Dan had spanked her. With coaxing from her mother and her therapist, Donna David-Campbell, whom Christy had been seeing to deal with acting-out issues, an incident of spanking turned into something much worse—Dan Keller, the little girl said, had defecated on her head and raped her with a pen. From there, the stories Christy told David-Campbell became wilder: The Kellers "had everyone take off their clothes and had a parrot that pecked them in the pee-pee," they made her smoke a cigarette, they "came to her house with a chainsaw and cut her dog Buffy in the vagina until it bled." David-Campbell concluded not that Christy was an imaginative child having trouble with her parents’ divorce, but that she was the victim of ritual abuse.

The case was turned over to the police. Parents of children who’d attended the preschool, however, continued to talk to one another and their children. In October, another child, also a therapy client of David-Campbell, told his parents that he’d been abused; a third child, whose mother was in contact with the parents of the other two, came forward in February 1992. By the time of the trial in November 1992, the stories included the killing of a baby tiger in a graveyard, a person being shot by people in sheriff’s uniforms and then dismembered with a chainsaw, videotaped sex with adults and other children, and the Kellers wearing white robes and lighting candles to assault them. No other children, including those children who were supposedly the targets of abuse, or their parents confirmed the accounts. When put on the witness stand, Christy, by then 5, was at first unwilling to say anything had happened at all, then did, then recanted. Friends and acquaintances of the Kellers, including their landlord, who frequently dropped by unannounced, testified that they’d never seen anything out of the ordinary at the Kellers’ day care.

As with previous panics, the dangers may have been imaginary, but the consequences were not.

Why did psychotherapists and investigators conclude that these fantastic allegations were true? Because at the time, pretty much everyone else in America did.

The seeds of the panic were planted with the 1980 publication of Michelle Remembers, the best-selling account of a Canadian psychotherapist’s work with a woman named Michelle Smith, who, under his care, began recalling forgotten memories of horrific childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her mother and others who were part of a devil-worshipping cult. The book, though riddled with fantastical claims (for example, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the Archangel Michael healed Smith’s physical scars), launched a cottage industry in recovering memories of satanic ritual abuse. (The psychotherapist and Smith later married.)

The panic began in earnest with the McMartin Preschool trial, an investigation that began 30 years ago. The owners of a California preschool and several teachers were accused of molesting a 2½-year-old boy; before it was over, hundreds of children, usually after lengthy sessions with coercive therapists, came forward to say that they, too, had been taken to a church to watch the beheading of a baby, then forced to drink its blood or flown by plane to random cities for sexual abuse, or countless other bizarre stories.

While that investigation and trial unfolded, other cases surfaced. Media poured attention on the claims, which made great fodder for a newly created 24-hour news cycle (CNN Headline News launched in 1982). As televangelists prayed for deliverance from Satan’s scourge, talk show "experts" claimed that every imaginable form of abuse was happening on a massive scale in America and that networks of Satanists had infiltrated schools, the police, and local government. Geraldo Rivera claimed in a televised 1987 special report that more than a million Satanists were plying their evil trade in America right at the very moment. (He has since apologized.) In 1989, Oprah Winfrey interviewed Michelle Smith and another woman who claimed to have recovered memories of being abused by a satanic cult; Sally Jesse Raphael, not to be outdone, ran two shows on the subject. In 1990, Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child’s Book About Satanic Ritual Abuse, a children’s picture book featuring colored-pencil drawings of children being abused in satanic rituals, appeared in libraries and therapists’ offices. In 1992, folk singer Joan Baez released "Play Me Backwards," a song in the voice of a victim of satanic ritual abuse who was forced to witness the sacrifice of a baby and is now recollecting her repressed memories.

"It sounds laughable," says Debbie Nathan, an investigative reporter who co-wrote Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt about the panic and is now a director for the National Center for Reason and Justice, which took up the Kellers’ cause. But there is certainly historical precedent, going back even further than the Salem witch trials: Ancient Romans, for example, claimed that Christians ate babies; Christians later claimed that Jews used Christian babies’ blood in religious rituals.

"Children symbolize the good things about culture, the innocence and purity, the future of the culture," says Nathan. When a culture feels under threat in some way, fear and anxiety focus on the safety of children. America was experiencing upheavals in gender roles, child-rearing practices, and social expectations, and more and more people were embracing fundamentalist religion and belief in the devil. The fear of satanic ritual abuse was perpetuated by both ends of the political spectrum. "In the right wing, you had that kind of preoccupation with Satan, and on the left, you had a lot of concern with the well-being of children, and women going back to work, and I think it was a perfect storm of fear and anxiety," says Nathan. Most if not all of those involved believed they were acting in the best interests of the children—which meant that any healthy skepticism was interpreted as anti-child.

But extensive investigations revealed little to no truth to the satanic ritual abuse panic. The McMartin Preschool trial ended in 1990 with no convictions, even after the government threw more than $15 million at prosecuting it. In 1992, FBI agent Kenneth Lanning, in his report on satanic ritual abuse, declared that satanic ritual abuse wasn’t credible: "Hundreds of communities all over America are run by mayors, police departments, and community leaders who are practicing Satanists and who regularly murder and eat people? Not likely." Two years later, the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, under the federal Department of Health and Human Services, released a report claiming that there was no evidence of truth in satanic ritual abuse claims. Even so, people still believed: A Redbook magazine survey conducted in 1994 found that fully 70 percent of Americans believed that satanic ritual abuse was real.

As with previous panics, the dangers may have been imaginary, but the consequences were not. The real toll of the satanic ritual abuse panic was on the children dragged into it and accused people like the Kellers, who numbered in the hundreds by the end of the decade. (In 1993, a survey by the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law found that 26 percent of prosecutors reported handling at least one case with elements of alleged ritual abuse.)

Satanic ritual abuse was the thread that wound through the Kellers’ trial. Therapist David-Campbell testified for the prosecution that Christy’s acting out was consistent with children abused by satanic cults and that she believed Christy was telling the truth. A ritual abuse "expert," clinical psychologist Randy Noblitt, testified that satanic cults are real, that they are widespread, and that he too believed Christy, despite not having interviewed her. (As Hampton, the Kellers’ attorney, wrote in Fran Keller’s appeal, "In 2003, Noblitt was featured on ABC’s Primetime having a conversation with Satan who, Noblitt agreed, was actually a pretty nice guy, notwithstanding, of course, his role as the dark lord of evil. No court and no jury should ever rely on the testimony of Dr. Noblitt.") In addition, the jury heard evidence that local graveyards had been "disturbed," consistent with the children’s claims of impromptu exhumations, although the jury never heard that those disruptions included natural soil erosion.

Scott Taliaferro, assistant district attorney for Travis County, says that the prosecution’s case didn’t rest on satanic claims but on child abuse claims. He also says that the defense repeatedly raised the issue of satanic ritual abuse, likely in an effort to cast doubt on the claims of sex abuse in general. "This is a case where the state alleged aggravated sexual assault of a child … the ritual abuse in question wasn’t elicited by the state; it was the defense. All of that is in large part extraneous to the allegation of sexual abuse," said Taliaferro, who spoke with me before Fran Keller was released; he and the DA’s office have since declined to discuss the matter. But Hampton, the Kellers’ attorney, disagrees: Common sense and level-headed investigation would have found Christy’s claims incredible if satanic ritual abuse panic hadn’t lent a "distorted lens of hysteria" to the picture.

The methods used by forensic investigators to elicit stories of abuse from the children were taken straight from the ritual abuse panic playbook. University of Texas at El Paso psychologist James Wood, who has written about the suggestive interviewing techniques used in the McMartin trial, for a 1993 episode of American Justice viewed videos of investigators from the Travis County Sheriff’s Department interviewing the young children who made claims against the Kellers.

I have also seen the videos, seven in all, provided by sources close to the Keller case. At first glance, the videos look familiar for anyone who’s a parent of a young child: Christy is 3 years old, and it’s difficult to get her to sit still or remain on the chair or even in the room. Asking her basic questions is even harder: In one video, Christy turns her face petulantly into the back of the chair and says, "No, I’m not gonna talk!"

It becomes more uncomfortable to watch once the anatomically correct dolls, floppy rag dolls with floppy rag-doll genitalia, come out. The interviewer, armed with the now nude dolls, asks Christy to show her what "Danny" (Dan Keller) did to her at the day care. Christy is unwilling. "You tell me," Christy says. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to claim that in a way, Travis County forensic investigators and well-meaning therapists did.

In this particular segment, Christy’s interviewer first calls attention to the dolls’ genitalia and then says, "Show me what happened at the day care"—implying both that something did happen and that the interviewer knows what happened involved genitalia. Then the interviewer asks if there’s a boy or a man at day care, leading Christy to say "Danny." Handing her the doll, she says, "Show me what Danny does at the day care to Christy." In an interview with another investigator present, the woman tells Christy, "I think you forgot to tell us about some things that happened … about some stuff that you have to talk to me about that you told [therapist David-Campbell]."

Another child who was interviewed, a 5-year-old boy, is much more willing to talk, so willing, in fact, it’s strange. When the interviewer asks him what they’re here to talk about, he says matter-of-factly, "Yeah, Fran and Dan." "What is it about Fran and Danny we need to talk about?" the interviewer asks. "The things that they did wrong … at the time, we didn’t know that those things were wrong, but they were." But even though he’s had some preparation, it’s impossible for the interviewer to get him to say that anything sexual had happened—no matter how much she tries.

"Does anybody touch your privates?"


"Has anybody wanted you to touch their privates?"



"Are you telling me what really happened over at Fran and Danny’s house?"


"Are you forgetting to tell me some stuff that happened?"

"Only the things I forgot."

"What are those things?"

"I can’t remember!"

"Did anybody tell you not to remember?"

The implication is that the child isn’t telling the full story, that he needs to keep trying until he gets it right—the kind of dynamic that Nathan, Wood, and others say enables children to come up with some of the strange allegations. In this case, the interviewer is steering the conversation toward something physical; the boy brings up things like Dan falling asleep in the toy room or allowing the children to ride on the riding mower, or that he heard that Dan shot a pit bull. Eventually, she says, "Would it be easier if you showed me what happened with the dolls?" later adding, "Remember we looked at the doll’s penis; did anything happen with a penis?" When he says no, it’s evident that she doesn’t believe him.

These kinds of suggestive techniques were used throughout the questioning of the children in the Keller case, as they were in other satanic ritual abuse trials; by the time of the trial, allegations that emerged under questioning like this would form the basis of the prosecution’s claims.

Assistant DA Taliaferro is right in pointing out that the Keller convictions weren’t entirely about believing in satanic ritual abuse. They also relied on another piece of fantasy: the alleged physical evidence. This, too, was consistent with other satanic ritual abuse cases, where inaccurate physical evidence frequently played a major part in convincing otherwise skeptical juries.

Michael Mouw was the emergency-room doctor who examined Christy Chaviers after she told her mother that Dan Keller had abused her. Mouw testified during the trial that Christy’s labia minora and hymen had appeared reddened and that he had observed some lacerations to the hymen. Those lacerations, he said at the time, were consistent with sexual abuse. Mouw’s testimony was then taken as corroborating evidence that Christy had indeed been abused.

Except his observations weren't evidence of abuse at all. Mouw has since recanted his testimony, declaring that he knew soon after the trial that his conclusion was inaccurate and "not scientifically or medically valid." At the time he examined her, he said during a hearing about the Kellers’ appeal in August, he was an inexperienced emergency-room doctor who had little direct experience with or training to handle pediatric sexual abuse cases; subsequent research showed Christy’s "lacerations" were simply a natural formation of her genitalia. (Echoes of this junk science evidence are heard in the case of the San Antonio Four, four lesbians who were convicted and imprisoned for more than 15 years for the alleged sexual abuse of two young girls.)

And that was what finally freed the Kellers—that and the attention paid to the case by dogged Austin Chronicle reporter Jordan Smith, attorney Hampton’s efforts, and the support from the psychology community in Texas. Travis County District Attorney Lehmberg agreed that Mouw’s testimony had likely "affected the judgment of the jury" and violated the Kellers’ right to a fair trial; she agreed that the Kellers should be freed on bond.

More here

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Drug War's Medical Quislings

When police dragged Felix Booker, naked and shackled, into the emergency room at the Methodist Medical Center in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, they knew Dr. Michael LaPaglia would set aside his Hippocratic obligation to the patient and act as an agent of the State.

On at least two previous occasions, LaPaglia had performed invasive, non-consensual procedures in order to extract narcotics evidence on behalf of the police. Though he was acting as a deputy interrogator rather than a private physician, narcotics investigators disingenuously insisted that LaPaglia wasn’t subject to Fourth Amendment restrictions because he wasn't a sworn law enforcement officer.

Booker was charged with felony marijuana possession, despite the fact that a search of the vehicle and his clothing turned up only 0.06 grams of the innocuous yet prohibited substance. Under what the State of Tennessee calls the "law," that amount justified, at most, a misdemeanor citation.

During the traffic stop the arresting officer, Oak Ridge PD K-9 handler Daniel Steakley, claimed to have smelled marijuana and said that he saw "crumpled marijuana" on the floor of the vehicle. No evidence directly linked Booker to the contraband; it could have belonged to his brother William, who was driving the car. Steakley let William go without so much as citing him for an expired registration tag, which was the pretext for the stop.

The decision to arrest Booker clearly wasn't dictated by the evidence, but grew out of Steakley's history with Booker. On a previous occasion he had found a dozen bags of marijuana hidden in Booker's underwear. A pat-down search during the more recent traffic stop found a substantial amount of currency in Booker's pockets, which he claimed was a cash payment for a job pouring concrete.

In his report Steakley claimed that while he was reviewing William Booker's license and registration documents, he could see Felix squirming in the passenger seat as if he were trying to conceal something. That furtive behavior supposedly continued after Booker was taken into custody.

At the Anderson County Jail, Booker was told to strip down in the shower and grab his ankles to facilitate a body cavity search. The officer conducting the inspection said that he saw a small string protruding from the relevant aperture. Still naked, Booker was shackled hand and foot, wrapped in a blanket, and taken to the Emergency Room. Invoking "exigent circumstances," his captors didn't bother to apply for a search warrant.

Booker's vitals were normal when he was admitted to the hospital. He neither displayed nor complained about symptoms of any kind. He was adamant in refusing permission to conduct what was euphemistically called a DRE. (The "D" stands for "digital"; the "E" for "examination." No extra points will be awarded to those who guess what "R" signifies.) Dr. LaPaglia told the captive patient that he was required to find and remove any drugs Booker had concealed in his body because of the potential risk to his health. Booker was told that if he didn't submit, he would be given a paralyzing agent and the search would be happen anyway.

"That exam was going to occur with or without his consent," LaPaglia later testified in court. He also attested that Booker eventually gave his verbal assent to a "digital search." That claim was strenuously denied by Booker, and wasn't corroborated by any of the nurses or officers who were in the room at the time. The doctor proceeded with the probe, only to be stymied by Booker's instinctive resistance to the violation.

This inspired an utterance by LaPaglia that really should define his medical career: "If an individual does not want you to enter [his] rectum, you are not going to."

In defiance of the principle – valid in both romantic and medical contexts – that "`no' means `no,'" LaPaglia gave Booker a roofie. That is, he instructed an emergency room nurse to administer a sedative and paralytic agent intravenously. This meant that the victim (at this point, neither "suspect" nor "patient" is a suitable description) had to be intubated to control his breathing during what was now a life-threatening medical procedure.

Booker was paralyzed for about eight minutes, and unconscious for about a half-hour. During that time LaPaglia removed a five-gram "rock" of crack cocaine, which was turned over to Steakley.

Booker was indicted on a charge of cocaine possession with intent to distribute. His defense attorney filed a motion to suppress, contending, correctly, that the initial arrest was unlawful and that the involuntary medical examination -- which, once again, involved a life-threatening procedure – was a mortifying violation of the protections supposedly afforded by the Fourth Amendment.

In August of last year, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals threw out Booker's conviction, ruling that the "un-consented procedure" inflicted on him "shocks the conscience at least as much as the stomach pumping that the Supreme Court long ago held to violate due process."

The 1952 Supreme Court ruling to which the Sixth Circuit referred, Rochin v. California, resulted from a case in which a doctor – acting on behalf of two sheriff's deputies – delivered an emetic via a feeding tube into the stomach of a suspected drug dealer in order to force him to expel two capsules found to contain morphine. The High Court described the conduct of the officers and the doctor as "too close to the rack and screw to permit of constitutional differentiation."

It is, or should be, self-evident that since it is unconstitutional to shove a feeding tube down a suspect's throat, the forcible violation of a suspect's antipodal bodily orifice must likewise be impermissible. It should be just as obvious that a doctor who commits an act of that kind is not behaving as a physician, but a police interrogator – a member of Mengele's despicable fraternity, rather than a disciple of Hippocrates.

Hippocrates trumps the State: Dr. Faria.

A patient who arrives in an ER with a rock of crack cocaine lodged in his descending digestive tract does face a potential medical emergency, notes neurosurgeon and historian Dr. Miguel Faria. However, the physician is morally and ethically required to obtain the patient's consent if he is not in immediate danger.

"All the risks should be explained to the patient or his guardian," Dr. Faria explained to me. "And then informed consent obtained. If the patient is unconscious and there is no family around, then the doctor may proceed on an emergency basis. The point is that the doctor must act in the interest of the patient first; society, the government, and the police come second."

If the danger to the patient is minimal and if he "refused to give consent," and the physical "acted solely in the interest of the police" because of the "refusal of the patient," then "the doctor acted inappropriately and unethically," continues Dr. Faria. It is never appropriate, at least under the canons of Hippocratic discipline, for a physician to act as a "government agent" in violation of the best interests, and informed decisions, of the patient.

On September 27, LaPaglia was informed that his claim of "qualified immunity" was rejected by the federal court that is now considering a lawsuit filed by his victim. The same news was given to Steakley and two other police officers who took part in the molestation of Felix Booker.

Although the officers continue to draw salaries as members of the State's enforcement caste, LaPaglia is no longer licensed to practice medicine – not because of his treatment of Booker or his conduct in two similar cases, but because of allegations of grievous domestic violence and narcotics-related offenses.

In September of last year, LaPaglia’s then-girlfriend, Christina Maria Becker, called the police and obtained a protective order against the doctor. A search of LaPaglia’s home revealed the remnants of an extensive marijuana growing operation, in addition to substantial amounts of prescription pills and controlled pharmaceuticals.

In her affidavit, Becker claimed that LaPaglia frequently assaulted her and claimed that "if I ever contacted police for help or reported his drug use [he] would use his powers as a physician to have me committed to a psychiatric facility."

Lurid accusations of this kind are commonplace in domestic disputes, and often quite difficult to corroborate. LaPaglia’s conduct as a Drug War collaborator lends a certain plausibility to Becker’s claims: Threatening to send an innocent and rational woman to the psychiatric gulag is what we should expect from a "medical professional" willing to adulterate his Hippocratic duty in the service of a totalitarian government policy.

In Deming, New Mexico, doctors carry out DREs and forced colonoscopies on behalf of the police; in Utah, forced catheterization in search of DUI and narcotics evidence is a well-established practice. In several states, "No refusal" DUI checkpoints result in compelled blood draws that are carried out either by police with no legitimate medical credentials, or people who have the credentials but lack the moral character to behave as physicians, rather than instruments of state policy.

Until we stop pretending that the State has a proprietary claim on us, and the corresponding authority to police the content of our bloodstreams, Prohibition will continue to provide career opportunities for medical Quislings of Michael LaPaglia’s ilk.

Original report here

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

British council slammed by judge and ordered to pay £80,000 after social workers snatched pensioner with dementia from her house while her son was out

A council has been slammed as 'woefully inadequate' and ordered to pay a legal bill of more than £80,00 after its social workers snatched a dementia-sufferer from her house while her son was out.

The 81-year-old woman was removed after a manager at a daycare centre she visited raised concerns about bruises and scratches on her face and legs.

It took the son 19 days to get Milton Keynes Council to tell him where they had taken her.

Taking on the council in the Court of Protection he racked up huge legal fees - which he claimed were a 'direct consequence' of the council's 'actions and omissions'.

At the Court of Protection, District Judge Paul Mort today ruled that the local authority must foot the bill.

Back in May he described Milton Keynes Council’s treatment of the pensioner, a former magistrate with severe dementia, as ‘woefully inadequate’.

In today's judgment, published on a legal website, he said that the council had set a 'juggernaut in motion' when it initially failed to investigate - and concluded that an 'award of costs' was 'manifestly justified'.

The judge did not identify the woman but named Milton Keynes Council as the local authority with responsibility for her welfare.

In September 2012 the manager of a care centre the woman attended had raised concerns about bruises and scratches on her face and legs. A month later, a visiting student social worker saw more injuries and alerted her bosses.

The council’s social services staff removed the woman and put her in a care home as they thought she may have been abused by her son, who lived with her. But their own inquiries and a subsequent police investigation found no evidence.

Judge Mort said the manner in which the social services removed the woman without getting the correct court orders violated her human rights, and described it as ‘unlawful detainment’. He also said she now has little prospect of being able to return to her home.

The judge said the woman had lived at her house for 32 years and was rooted in her local community. Her son sold his business abroad so he and his partner, along with a care worker he employed, could look after her.

Earlier in the year, he described to The Mail on Sunday in May how he returned home to find his mother gone. He said: ‘The care worker said to me, "The council have taken her to a place of safety." ‘I thought you need a warrant to enter someone’s house, but they just came and took her away.’

He said he was eventually given access to his mother at the care home, but under severe restrictions. ‘I was only allowed to visit her in the afternoons, and a staff member sat with us,’ he said.

Judge Mort lifted council restrictions that prevented the son from seeing his mother without being monitored by social workers. He can now see her as many times as he likes and take her out.

Original report here

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Iowa cop tries to search car because ‘Everybody that plays frisbee golf smokes weed’

Ankeny’s police chief is apologizing after a video surfaced showing an officer trying to search a motorist’s car because, according to the officer, everyone who plays Frisbee golf smokes pot.

The video, which was taken by the motorist, starts with the officer giving that unknown motorist a warning about driving without headlights.

Then the officer begins his interrogation. "You play frisbee golf?" the officer asks. "I do actually. I play out at Heritage (Park)" the motorist replies. So the officer says, "OK. I need you to answer me a question. Why is it that everybody that plays Frisbee golf smokes weed?" "No, it’s not everybody," the motorist insists. "It’s everybody, man. You can’t tell me you never smoked weed," the officer says. The motorist replies, "I’m not gonna tell you one way or another." So the officer says, "See, there you go. How much weed do you have in the car today?"

The driver tells the officer he doesn’t have any marijuana. So the officer says, "You understand you’re free to go and everything but you wouldn’t have a problem with me looking through your car?" The motorist denies the request saying, "I actually would. Just because I have a disc golf bag doesn’t mean that every disc golfer does have weed." The officer says, "So you have weed in the car then is what you’re saying?" The motorist answers, "No I would say I have a problem with you searching my car because you’re profiling me based on being a disc golfer."

Eventually, the officer lets the driver go.

Drake Law Professor Robert Rigg says the officer broke the law by trying to search the car during an equipment violation stop.

"What the officer did after that was try to extend that stop into a general search of the defendant’s car, or the individual’s car. That’s not permissible anymore," Rigg says, adding that if the driver had allowed the officer to search the car, and the officer found something illegal, chances are that evidence would be thrown out of court. "The Iowa Supreme Court has held that under the Iowa constitution you can’t convert an equipment violation stop into a general search. and any consent that would have been given would have been invalid in any event."

The city of Ankeny did release a statement saying, in part, "The officer engages the driver in a line of questioning that is foolish and not representative of the Ankeny Police Dept.’s training or interactions with the public. This verbal exchange did not meet the level of professionalism expected of Ankeny police officers. Ankeny Police Chief Gary Mikulec respectfully apologizes for the officer`s demeaning statement."

As for the motorist, Rigg says, "I think the young man did exactly what he was supposed to do. He did not admit to smoking marijuana. He didn’t answer that question at all and he has the right not to answer that question. And he has the right to say, look, if you want to ask me questions, why don’t you call my lawyer."

Original report here

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Innocent grandmother walks free after 17 years in prison

An American woman who spent 17 years in prison for the death of a homeless man hugged her grandchild for the first time after her conviction was overturned and she was freed.

"I always knew that one day God would bring the truth to the light," 59-year-old Susan Marie Mellen, told reporters on Friday, after she was released from a California courthouse.

A Los Angeles County judge overturned her conviction saying her attorney failed to properly represent her and a woman who claimed she heard Mrs Mellen confess was a "habitual liar".

Based solely on witness testimony, Mrs Mellen was convicted of orchestrating the beating death of Richard Daly at a Lawndale home where Mrs Mellen and others lived.

The mother of three was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

Three gang members subsequently were linked to the crime, and one was convicted of the killing.

Mrs Mellen said she held no ill will against those who put her behind bars.

Original report here


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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Overkill: Militarizing America

Why are police arming for war in a time of relative safety?

"Is it overkill? Yeah, it is," says Sheriff John Thomas of Page County, Virginia, referring to his department’s mine-resistant armored personnel carrier (MRAP), a tank-like vehicle left over from U.S. wars in the Middle East. "I mean, for our use, it’s more armor than we need. But it’s free."

The rural county (population 24,042) obtained the 20-ton, $733,000 armored vehicle for free from the Pentagon as part of a program to funnel unused war materials to local police.

Thomas tells NPR that although some citizens are uneasy about it, "What most people don't understand is that an MRAP is nothing but a truck with a big bulletproof box on it.… There is no offensive capability." But his requisitions are not all so defensive: a database compiled by the New York Times shows that Page County has also acquired an arsenal of 27 military assault rifles in the last eight years.

While it’s hard to imagine Andy Griffith rolling through Mayberry with M4 carbines and an armored personnel carrier, it’s possible that policing is just a lot more dangerous today than it was in the 1960s. Sheriff Thomas thinks his new equipment is necessary to protect cops from "all the guns out there in the hands of dangerous people."

Although this sentiment may have originated among the sheriffs and SWAT teams loading up on military hardware, the assumption that officer safety requires this kind of "overkill" has become quite widespread.

In his defense of the recent police crackdown on protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, conservative legal scholar Richard Epstein cites the number of police fatalities in recent years, implying that cops are at greater risk today than in years past. Meanwhile, on the left, UCLA law professor Adam Winkler concurs with Sheriff Thomas, arguing that police militarization is an inevitable reaction to cops at risk from America’s "gun culture."

But an in-depth look at the numbers fails to substantiate these arguments. Officer fatalities have been declining for decades, both in absolute terms and adjusted for population.

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which maintains "the largest, most comprehensive database of line-of-duty officer deaths," 2013 had the fewest officer fatalities, at just 100 deaths, of any year since World War II. The 31 firearms-related deaths were the fewest since 1887, while traffic incidents, with 43 deaths, were the leading cause of fatal injury.

Between 1992 and 2013, officer fatalities fell by over a third, but fatalities relative to the size of the population being policed show an even steeper decline. Over the same time, according to NLEOMF and Census Bureau data, officer fatalities per 100,000 residents fell by an astounding 50 percent. Although 2014 will likely see an increase in fatalities over last year’s record low, it will be well within the downward trend of the last several decades.

Law enforcement fatalities and murders relative to the size of the total police force are also on the decline, based on the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, which track the number of felony killings of police each year, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ census of state and local law enforcement. Between 1992 and 2008 (the last year for which BJS numbers are available), police fatalities per 100,000 full-time sworn officers fell by over 27 percent, while homicides per 100,000 fell by 49 percent.

Nor are fatalities falling only because of better medical treatment. Although quality emergency care surely had an impact, all assaults and injuries suffered by police are down as well.

According to the FBI’s annual report Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted, the percentage of officers assaulted each year declined by 43 percent in the last two decades, down from nearly 18 percent in 1992 to just over 10 percent in 2012. Over the same period, the percentage of officers injured by assault declined by over half, from 6.5 percent to 2.8 percent. Police are not just being saved more often—they are also being attacked less frequently.

None of this should be very surprising. Workplace safety for police officers is directly linked to crime rates, and crime (contrary to popular belief) has been declining for decades. Since 1993, FBI data show that violent crime has fallen by 48 percent, and the murder rate is down by over half. Property crimes, such as burglary and auto theft, are down by nearly 40 percent.

Moreover, the United States also has more law enforcement per capita than at any other time in its history. BJS census data show that between 1992 and 2008, the number of full-time sworn officers increased by 25 percent, while the U.S. population grew by only 18.5 percent. In 2008, there was one police officer with general arrest powers for every 400 American residents. Since then, while no definitive data exist, the NLEOMF estimates that the number of sworn officers has increased to more than 900,000—the highest figure ever.

No one should think that police officers have an easy job. It involves daily interactions with belligerent suspects, intoxicated drivers, and reluctant witnesses. It is often difficult, sometimes injurious, and occasionally deadly work—but far less so than many common professions, such as fisherman, garbage collector, or truck driver. A tough job is not grounds for turning peace officers into a standing army. A tough job is exactly what cops have been hired to do.

Police officers’ first responsibility is not to protect themselves at any cost but to run certain risks in order to keep citizens safe while protecting their rights. Defending officers is a laudable secondary goal, but police cannot arm and armor themselves in a way that hurts their primary objective: catching criminals and protecting civil liberties. Militarized equipment, tactics, and training put police on a war footing, leading to excessive force, alienating the community, and eroding public confidence in the law. No one is better off with such an outcome.

But disproportionate fears about officer safety are leading inexorably to the disproportionate use of force seen on American city streets, from Ferguson to Los Angeles to New York. And, thanks to government policies subsidizing that kind of response, it could happen almost anywhere.

The reality is that there are more police than ever, and they are safer than ever, in almost every way we can measure. There is less crime and violence for them to combat, and commensurately fewer assaults and injuries suffered by police. The unprecedented force and weaponry being displayed by cops today are not justified by the facts about officer safety. It’s time to demilitarize the police and return them to their proper role as members of the community, charged to keep the peace.

Original report here


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Friday, October 10, 2014

Video Shows Police Smash a Car Window, Taser Passenger As Children Watch

Sometimes a picture (or a video) is worth a thousand words, but does it tell the whole story?

A video taken by a 14-year-old boy is the focus of increased media attention after his family sued the city of Hammond, Ind., police officers for allegedly using excessive force while stopping their vehicle for a seatbelt infraction.

The lawsuit alleges that Jamal Jones, his girlfriend Lisa Mahone, and her two children were pulled over by Hammond police officers because Mahone was not wearing a seatbelt. The officers requested that Mahone produce her license and registration, which she did.

One officer then asked the front seat passenger, Jones, to produce identification. Because he was not carrying it with him, Jones offered instead to show the police a copy of a ticket that listed his address. Unsatisfied, the officers ordered Jones to exit the vehicle.

The video shows the police smash the car door window after Jones refused, and then use a Taser while forcibly removing him from the vehicle. Mahone’s 14-year-old son recorded the incident from the backseat while her 7-year-old daughter cries in the background.

According to the lawsuit, Jones was arrested for resisting law enforcement and refusal to aid an officer. Mahone was cited for not wearing her seat belt. The complaint alleges that the police had no reason to use such force, stating:

The actions of the individual defendants created a reasonable apprehension of imminent harm by and constituted harmful or offensive contact with each Plaintiff. The actions of the individual defendants were objectively unreasonable under the circumstances and were undertaken intentionally with malice, willfulness, and reckless indifference to the rights and safety of Plaintiffs.

In response, the Hammond Police Department released a statement arguing instead that the officers "were at all times acting in the interest of the officer’s safety and in accordance with Indiana law."

Because the video only shows the second half of the incident (the Hammond police stated the video began 13 minutes after the initial stop), it is premature to determine whether their actions were justified or necessary. Even so, the courts have given clear guidelines that are relevant to this issue.

According to the U.S. Supreme Court in Pennsylvania v. Mimms, the police have the authority to ask a driver to step outside the vehicle during the course of a stop. The Court has also held in Maryland v. Wilson that an officer may order passengers to get out of the car pending completion of the stop. The purpose of this request is to protect both the driver and the officer from the surrounding traffic, and "diminishes the possibility, otherwise substantial, that the driver can make unobserved movements; this, in turn, reduces the likelihood that the officer will be the victim of an assault."

But the question of whether the police are authorized to remove a passenger from a vehicle must be balanced against whether the officer’s use of force was justified. According to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Lester v. City of Chicago, an officer’s use of force is unconstitutional if, "judging from the totality of circumstances at the time of the arrest, the officer used greater force than was reasonably necessary to make the arrest."

Thus, the Hammond police officers must establish, based upon the totality of the circumstances leading up to and concurrent with the arrest, that their actions were both reasonable and necessary.

Several factors are pertinent to this analysis. The basis for whether excessive force was used is derived from a three-part test articulated by the Supreme Court in Graham v. Connor. This objective test examines:

1) The severity of the crime at issue;

2) Whether the suspect posed an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others; and

3) Whether the suspect was actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.

If the Hammond police can successfully show that their decision to break into the car to remove Jones was justified, either because they perceived he was reaching for a weapon or engaging in threatening behavior, they will have an easier time in court defending this incident, although there is little evidence from the video that this appeared to be the case.

Serious questions must be raised about the wisdom of smashing the car door window to Taser Jones–all while two young children watched in horror from the backseat. Was it truly necessary for officer safety to escalate the situation in such an aggressive manner?

This picture isn’t pretty.

Original report here



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Thursday, October 09, 2014

68 rape cases re-opened after British police incorrectly concluded no crime had been committed as scores of officers warned they may face disciplinary action

Police are to reopen 68 rape investigations where officers dismissed allegations that should have been pursued, it emerged yesterday.

A review by Northumbria Police found that 54 allegations of rape were not investigated properly, possibly allowing sexual abusers to go unpunished.

And Cleveland Police is reopening 14 rape investigations after an audit by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) revealed similar problems with the way its officers had dealt with allegations.

The officers have been told they could face disciplinary action.

Rape charities said it was extremely worrying that so many cases had been handled incorrectly. The reinvestigations by Northumbria and Cleveland highlight growing concern that the problem may be widespread.

Earlier this year HMIC criticised South Yorkshire Police for its ‘unacceptable’ handling of serious sexual crimes.

In 2010 a rapist Northumbria policeman who attacked up to 30 women during a five-year reign of terror was jailed.

PC Stephen Mitchell, 44, assaulted drug addicts in the cells and interview rooms of a city-centre police station, knowing that if they complained they were unlikely to be believed.

One of them, a 19-year-old drug addict when he first struck, estimated she had been abused 100 times as he kept track of her using the police computer.

Yet his colleagues ignored a series of warnings about his behaviour – some of them from his own wife. They were unaware that he had already stood trial for sex offences before he was recruited to the force.

He was eventually sacked in 2007 for having ‘consensual’ sex with one of his victims, only to be reinstated on appeal eight months later.

And when he was finally stopped, a senior detective with Northumbria Police offered him ‘a get out of jail free card’ if he agreed to resign. He refused, opting to take his chances in court.

Mitchell – a tall, muscular former soldier – was found guilty of two rapes, three indecent assaults and six charges of misconduct in a public office, involving a total of seven women.

He was cleared of three further rape charges, two indecent assaults and counts of misconduct involving another nine women. But police suspect he attacked at least a further 14.

The watchdog found officers were put under pressure not to record rapes as crimes and police had spent a great deal of time trying to disprove the word of alleged victims.

It has also recently been revealed that nearly a quarter of rape allegations made to police in parts of London were never recorded as crimes in 2013.

An HMIC audit into the Northumbria force earlier this year found it may have incorrectly deemed 11 rape cases to be ‘no crime’, meaning that officers decided no law had been broken. After the audit the chief constable ordered a review of 153 allegations dating back to October 2011. Yesterday the force said it is to reinvestigate 54 of those cases.

A 50-year-old man from Newcastle upon Tyne has already been arrested and subsequently bailed in connection to an allegation that was previously downplayed by investigating officers.

Chief Superintendent Neil Adamson said the force had moved 48 officers from its rape investigations team to other units while the review was under way.

The officers were served with gross misconduct notices, which could result in disciplinary action following the investigation.

Potential victims who were initially told that rape had not been committed will now be contacted by officers, which police admitted could be stressful. Andrea Terrett, of Tyneside and Northumbria Rape Crisis Centre, said: ‘It is extremely worrying that victims have reported rapes and on investigation it is being stated that there has been no crime.

‘Only 10 per cent of rape victims that we help report to the police. But for these victims who have stepped forward, it is very disappointing and worrying for them to see that these cases have not been investigated properly.’

Northumbria’s police and crime commissioner, Vera Baird, described her ‘grave concerns’ when the HMIC report, which has yet to be made publicly available, flagged up the 11 suspect cases.

She said the report showed police did not take seriously cases where a female complainant had consumed a lot of alcohol, or those arising in a domestic setting.

Yesterday she said: ‘We took immediate action when the HMIC and, indeed, my office identified some rape ‘‘no crimes’’ of serious concern.’

Original report here


(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today. Now hosted on Wordpress. If you cannot access it, go to the MIRROR SITE, where posts appear as well as on the primary site. I have reposted the archives (past posts) for Wicked Thoughts HERE or HERE or here

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Britain's top cop reprimanded by judge

Iranian crooked cop, Ali Dizaei

A judge has attacked Britain’s most senior policeman over’s his force’s treatment of the innocent man framed by disgraced Met commander Ali Dizaei, saying he had ‘thrown him to the wolves’.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe was blasted over his force’s reluctance to pay damages to web designer Waad al-Baghdadi, whose evidence helped bring down the lying police chief.

In an extraordinary broadside, His Honour Judge Freeland QC attacked Sir Bernard’s claim that the Met was not responsible for Dizaei’s conduct.

He added that Mr al-Baghdadi had been to ‘hell and back’ by twice giving evidence against Dizaei, who arrested him unlawfully while serving in the force.

Details of Judge Freeland’s attack on the Yard boss can be revealed after the Mail won a battle lasting several months to obtain transcripts of the court showdown between lawyers representing Mr al-Baghdadi and Sir Bernard.

The Met had previously declined to comment when asked if it had been rebuked by the judge during a hearing at the Central London County Court – at which no journalists were present.

This meant the Mail had to make a special application to get transcripts of what was said.

Dizaei, 52, was first convicted of framing young businessman Mr al-Baghdadi in a street row over money in 2010.

He was jailed for four years, but his convictions for misconduct in public office and perverting the course of justice were quashed by the Court of Appeal a year later.

The Iranian-born commander - dubbed a ‘Criminal in Uniform’ by the head of the police watchdog - was found guilty for a second time at a retrial in February 2012 and received a three-year prison sentence.

A panel of judges headed by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, has since thrown out another appeal bid by Dizaei, a former president of the National Black Police Association who repeatedly played the race card to bully cowardly Yard bosses into tolerating his conduct.

Now it can be revealed that in the aftermath of Dizaei’s second conviction, Mr al-Baghdadi, 30, launched a damages claim against the Met over his ordeal.

At the Central London County Court barrister Rajeev Shetty, representing the Met, said that the force was not responsible for Dizaei’s actions and suggested that Mr al-Baghdadi should sue the former officer for damages instead.

But Judge Freeland said Mr al-Baghdadi ‘has at least in part been put through hell and back again because he has given evidence in support of a prosecution where his name has been pilloried in cross examination’.

‘He has achieved partial vindication by virtue of the jury convicting Dizaei twice,’ he added. ‘But here he is asserting his civil rights, only to be thrown to the wolves by the Commissioner, I assume on cogent instructions at the highest level.’

The judge paid tribute to Mr al-Baghdadi’s stand against Dizaei, whom he described as being ‘a blatant and downright liar’.

‘Without Mr al-Baghdadi’s evidence there would have been no prospect whatsoever of convicting Dizaei,’ he added.

Clearly irritated by the Met’s stance, the judge ruled: ‘I hold that the defendant (the Met) must inexorably and inevitably and beyond any reasonable argument be responsible for his actions, which are manifestly so closely connected with his office as a police commander employed by the Metropolitan Police Service.’

It is understood Mr al-Baghdadi received a ‘substantial five figure sum’ from the Met.

Scotland Yard declined to comment on how much compensation it had agreed to pay Mr al-Baghdadi.

‘His Honour Judge Freeland found that the Commissioner was vicariously liable for the torts committed by former Commander Dizaei. An apology did not form part of the settlement,’ said a spokesman.

Asked whether the judge had criticised the Met, the spokesman said: ‘Various arguments were put forward by both parties for the judge to consider. The judge found in favour of the claimant.’

Last Autumn Scotland Yard sparked fury after it paid off Dizaei to escape an embarrassing public legal battle.

The ex-Met officer had launched a claim against his former employer for racial and religious discrimination and hoped to win a payout of more than £1million.

In return for Dizaei dropping his legal claim, the Met and its oversight body the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (Mopac) made a contribution towards Dizaei’s legal costs – thought to be worth more than £50,000 – but did not pay him any compensation.

In addition, Mopac said it was seeking to seize a large portion of Dizaei’s police pension.

A Mopac spokesman said last night: ‘We can confirm that a decision to forfeit a portion of Mr Dizaei’s pension has been approved. This decision is now subject to a judicial review in the Crown Court.’

Original report here



(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today. Now hosted on Wordpress. If you cannot access it, go to the MIRROR SITE, where posts appear as well as on the primary site. I have reposted the archives (past posts) for Wicked Thoughts HERE or HERE or here


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

How Cops Became Robbers

Three features of civil forfeiture law and five Supreme Court decisions make it easy for police to take money from motorists

One afternoon in August 2012, Mandrel Stuart was driving with his girlfriend into Washington, D.C., when a Fairfax County cop pulled him over on Interstate 66, ostensibly because the windows of his SUV were too dark. Lacking the device necessary to check whether the tinting of the windows exceeded the legal limit, Officer Kevin Palizzi instead cited Stuart for having a video running within his line of sight. While Palizzi was filling out the summons, another officer arrived with a drug-detecting dog. Claiming the dog alerted to the left front bumper and wheel of Stuart's GMC Yukon, the cops searched the car and found $17,550 in cash, which they kept, assuming that it must be related to the illegal drug trade.

Stuart, who had planned to use that money to buy equipment and supplies for his barbecue restaurant in Staunton, Virginia, was astonished that a routine traffic stop could so easily turn into grand theft. But as Washington Post reporters Michael Sallah, Robert O'Harrow Jr., and Steven Rich explain in a revealing and troubling series of stories that ran last week, taking Stuart's hard-earned money was perfectly legal, thanks to civil forfeiture laws that turn cops into highway robbers.

"I paid taxes on that money," Stuart told the Post. "I worked for that money. Why should I give them my money?" Although the financial difficulties that ensued from his encounter with Officer Palizzi forced him to close his restaurant, Stuart ultimately got his money back after challenging the forfeiture in court. Because the government lost the case after a federal trial, it even had to pay Stuart's legal bills, which totaled nearly $12,000.

Other innocent motorists who lose their cash to cops are not so lucky, finding that the cost of fighting a forfeiture leaves them with a fraction of their money even if they convince the government to return it. Since 2001, the Post reports, some 62,000 cash forfeitures have been pursued under federal law in cases that, like Stuart's, did not involve search warrants or criminal indictments. Legal expenses help explain why only one-sixth of those forfeitures were challenged. If the cops take a few thousand dollars from you, it makes little sense to spend thousands of dollars to get it back, especially since there is no guarantee of success and your expenses will be reimbursed only if you go to trial and win.

Three key features of civil forfeiture law give cops this license to steal:

The government does not have to charge you with a crime, let alone convict you, to take your property. Under federal law and the laws of many states, a forfeiture is justified if the government can show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the seized property is connected to a crime, typically a drug offense. That standard, which amounts to any probability greater than 50 percent, is much easier to satisfy than proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard for a criminal trial. Some states allow forfeiture based on probable cause, a standard even weaker than preponderance of the evidence.

The burden of proof is on you. Innocent owners like Mandrel Stuart have to prove their innocence, a reversal of the rule in criminal cases. Meanwhile, the government hangs onto the money, which puts financial stress on the owner and makes it harder for him to challenge the forfeiture.

Cops keep the loot. Local cops and prosecutors who pursue forfeiture under federal law, which is what happened in Stuart's case, receive up to 80 percent of the proceeds. Some states are even more generous, but others give law enforcement agencies a smaller cut, making federal forfeiture under the Justice Department's Equitable Sharing Program a tempting alternative. The fact that police have a direct financial interest in forfeitures creates an incentive for pretextual traffic stops aimed at finding money or other property to seize. The Post found that "298 departments and 210 task forces have seized the equivalent of 20 percent or more of their annual budgets since 2008."

The Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act, a billintroduced by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in July, addresses each of these issues. The FAIR Act changes the standard of proof in federal forfeiture cases from "preponderance of the evidence" to "clear and convincing evidence." That change does not go as far as the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm that has been fighting forfeiture abuse for years, would like. I.J. argues that civil forfeiture should be abolished, meaning that a criminal conviction, based on proof beyond a reasonable doubt, would be required for the government to take property allegedly connected to a crime. But Paul's reform would make it harder for the government to prevail if a forfeiture case goes to trial, which might deter seizures of large sums in situations where the evidence is weak.

Another provision of the FAIR Act probably would not have much impact on cash forfeitures, but it would help innocent owners of other property. The bill requires the government to prove that the owner of an asset allegedly used to facilitate a crime, such as a car or a home, himself used the property for illegal purposes, consented to that use, or was "willfully blind" to it. Current law puts the burden on innocent owners to show they did not know about the illegal use or "did all that reasonably could be expected under the circumstances to terminate such use."

The FAIR Act also would abolish the Equitable Sharing Program, which allows police and prosecutors to evade state reforms aimed at reducing forfeiture abuse. Those reforms include channeling forfeiture revenue to functions other than law enforcement, a change designed to eliminate the profit motive that warps police priorities. Similiarly, the FAIR Act would assign federal forfeiture proceeds, which last fiscal year totaled more than $2 billion, to the general fund instead of the Justice Department.

In addition to the statutory provisions that facilitate forfeiture, several Supreme Court decisions have made it easier for cops to take money from motorists:

Schneckloth v. Bustamonte (1973): Police pulled over a car with a broken headlight and a broken license plate light. When an officer asked if he could search the car, one of the six occupants said, "Yeah, sure." The cops found three pilfered checks under a rear seat and charged Robert Bustamonte, a passenger, with possession of stolen property. The Supreme Court held that a vehicle search based on consent is constitutional even without proof that the person who agreed to the search knew he was free to refuse. In several of the forfeiture cases examined by the Post, police said drivers agreed to allow searches of their vehicles.

Ohio v. Robinette (1996): A deputy sheriff stopped Robert Robinette for speeding. After giving Robinette a ticket, the deputy asked him if he was carrying contraband. When Robinette said no, the deputy asked for permission to search the car, which Robinette granted. The search discovered a small amount of marijuana and an MDMA tablet. Extending the logic of Bustamonte, the Court held that consent to a vehicle search can be voluntary even if police do not tell a motorist he is free to go after he receives a ticket.

Whren v. United States (1996): Plainclothes police officers patrolling a "high drug area" thought a truck was suspicious because it had temporary plates and lingered at a stop sign. When the officers made a U-turn and headed back toward the truck, it suddenly turned right. The cops stopped the truck, ostensibly because the driver turned without signaling and drove at an "unreasonable speed." They caught a passenger, Michael Whren, holding two bags of crack. The Court said detaining a motorist for a traffic violation does not violate the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable seizures, even if a reasonable officer would not have done so without an additional law enforcement objective. The upshot is that police can use alleged traffic infractions such as Mandrel Stuart's tinted windows as a pretext for pulling people over in search of loot.

Illinois v. Caballes (2005): A state trooper stopped Roy Caballes for speeding. While the trooper was writing a warning ticket, another trooper arrived with a drug-sniffing dog, which he walked around the car. After the dog alerted near the trunk, the troopers looked inside and found 292 pounds of marijuana. The Court ruled that "the use of a well-trained narcotics-detection dog…during a lawful traffic stop generally does not implicate legitimate privacy interests." That authorized police to turn any traffic stop into a canine search for drugs like the one that led to the discovery and seizure of Stuart's cash.

Florida v. Harris (2013): A police officer pulled over Clayton Harris's truck because it had an expired license plate. After Harris declined to allow a search of the truck, the officer walked a drug-sniffing dog around the vehicle. According to the officer, the animal got excited and sat down in front of the driver's side door handle. A search of the truck did not find any substances that the dog was trained to detect, but it did turn up 200 pseudoephedrine tablets, along with other chemicals and supplies used to make methamphetamine. The justices unanimously ruled that "a court can presume" a police dog's alert by itself provides probable cause for a search unless the defendant proves the animal is unreliable.

Taken together, these decisions mean a cop can stop vehicles pretty much at will for the sort of minor traffic violations that people routinely commit and then search those vehicles based either on "consent" that may not be truly voluntary or a dog alert that could be inaccurate, imagined, or invented. It is important to recognize that drug-detecting dogs, whether or not they are properly trained, are not nearly as reliable as the Supreme Court seems to imagine. They may react to food and other distractions, legal items that smell like contraband, and conscious or subconscious cues from their handlers, who may be mistaken or dissembling when they report an alert. Vehicle searches based on dog alerts are frequently fruitless, failing to find contraband anywhere from 56 percent to 96 percent of the time, depending on the setting. Even the best-trained dog may be wrong most of the time when it indicates the presence of drugs because the percentage of cars carrying contraband is low.

In Harris, the dog alerted to drugs that were not there. The same thing happened when Mandrel Stuart was pulled over. Recall that a police dog supposedly alerted to the left front bumper and wheel well of Stuart's SUV, implying that he had drugs stashed there. But in the end, the Post reports, the only contraband police found was "a few flecks of marijuana," totaling 0.01 gram, "in the bottom of a bag holding DVDs that were there to entertain Stuart's four kids when he drove them around." Even if we charitably assume that the dog could have smelled that minuscule measure of marijuana while standing outside of the car, that would not explain why it alerted to the left front bumper. Police nevertheless took Stuart's money on the theory that it had something to do with illegal drugs.

In another case discussed by the Post, José Cristobal Guerrero, a legal U.S. resident living in Raleigh, North Carolina, was driving to Mexico when he lost $13,630 to police in DeKalb County, Georgia, after a dog supposedly alerted to his SUV. According to Guerrero's lawyer, the Post says, "The money represented several years' worth of savings and was intended to pay for land in Mexico and bills for Guerrero's extended family there." Although no drugs were found, federal prosecutors still tried to keep the cash "on grounds that it was furnished or intended to be furnished in exchange for controlled substances." They finally agreed to return the money three years later, which never would have happened if Guerrero had not found an attorney who was willing to do the necessary legal work for free. Given the time involved, the lawyer told the Post, the bill would have been around $50,000, more than three times the amount Guerrero was trying to recover.

How sad is it that Guerrero, on his way to a country where police arenotoriously corrupt and have been known to shake down innocent travelers, had that experience on our side of the border, where police are supposed to be constrained by constitutional guarantees that protect our privacy and property? Here is a warning the State Department should consider adding to its webpage of advice for visitors to this country: If you travel by car in the United States, don't carry a lot of cash, because the cops might steal it.

Original report here



(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today. Now hosted on Wordpress. If you cannot access it, go to the MIRROR SITE, where posts appear as well as on the primary site. I have reposted the archives (past posts) for Wicked Thoughts HERE or HERE or here