Sunday, August 31, 2008

White-Collar Justice

Congratulations to Lewis D. Kaplan, the federal judge whose withering critique of prosecutorial abuse in the KPMG tax-shelter case was vindicated yesterday by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

In fact, you can double that applause, because yesterday the Justice Department went further and once again rewrote its white-collar prosecution guidelines to accommodate Judge Kaplan's demolition. Whether Justice anticipated its legal defeat before the surrender is less important than the fact that it has now restored a measure of due process fairness to corporate defendants and their employees.

The new standards, released by Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip, are the latest repudiation of the "Thompson Memo" -- and go far enough to dump it entirely. Drafted amid the Enron political inferno of 2003, the Thompson Memo gave federal prosecutors in white-collar crime cases sweeping powers that often shaded into abuse: For example, prosecutors were told they could punish an entire company if it declined to waive attorney-client privilege or cut off payment of legal fees for employees under investigation.

The result is that businesses had an incentive to admit "guilt" and throw employees over the side even when they believed what they did was legal. The practice also bludgeoned middle-level employees into premature plea deals, lest they be bankrupted merely for trying to defend themselves. Judge Kaplan had dismissed tax-evasion charges against 13 KPMG defendants on grounds that prosecutors violated their Sixth Amendment right to counsel by pressuring KPMG to cut off legal assistance. Justice appealed and has now been routed. Under the new guidelines, credit for cooperation will depend on a firm's disclosure of the relevant facts, not any waiver of privilege or work-product protections.

Congress also deserves credit for promising legislation to curtail such abuses. Sponsored by Senator Arlen Specter, the draft law has the support of business groups, but also the American Bar Association, the ACLU and even liberal Democrat Pat Leahy. You've lost everyone when that's your opposition.

Justice's long delay in admitting error here doesn't speak well of prosecutorial discretion these days. There is legitimate doubt about the substance of the KPMG cases, given that the tax shelters involved had never been ruled illegal by a tax court before the indictments were brought. Prosecutors should have to win their cases in court, not by beating defendants into submission with an abuse of due process. Congress may still want to consider legislation, as a way to prevent such abuse after KPMG is forgotten.

Original report here

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

What does a police state look like?

What does a police state look like? That is a good question. Maybe it looks something like this. Here is a photo of a small group of people trying to hold a demonstration in Denver at the Democratic Party convention. Notice the police overkill.

But at least there is still freedom of the press! Right? Apparently not. Here is how the donutmunchers dealt with ABC news producer Asa Eslocker. Mr. Eslocker was standing on a public sidewalk with a camera crew when Democratic Party officials were exiting a hotel. He was doing a story on major donors to the Democratic efforts and some of those major donors were coming out of the hotel. Police decided that he had no right to do that story and began by manhandling him and pushing him off the sidewalk into traffic. ABC News reports that the donutmuncher told Eslocker: "You're lucky I didn't knock the fuck out of you." Here is some video of the incident. Welcome to America, land of the free. And, if you believe that, I have some swamp land in Florida for sale.

In this next video things are a bit sketchy but USA Today and Rocky Mountain News reported on the incident leading up to it. Alicia Forrest, 24, was watching a protest when a police officer yelled, "Back it up, bitch." He then struck her with his baton causing her to fall to the ground in pain. After she got up she was being interviewed peacefully by reporters about the incident. Apparently those interviews were enough. The police are seen then rushing in and grabbing her and taking her away. That is one way to put an end to interview.

Original report here

Denver police: record this!

It's disturbing enough when police push regular people around for doing nothing more than exercising their First Amendment rights to speak, assemble and petition government officials. It's worse when law-enforcement authorities don't seem to care who's watching.

This week, at the Democratic convention in Denver, we've already seen a mass arrest of almost 100 people, which is expected to result in a lawsuit against the authorities.

We've also seen Code Pink demonstrator Alicia Forrest assaulted by a police officer before being arrested and dragged away even as cameras were very obviously recording the incident.

Are the police getting more comfortable throwing their weight around, no matter who's watching?
They must be, if they're willing to roust network news producers accompanied by camera crews that are guaranteed to get their footage on the evening news. ABC's Asa Eslocker, who was standing on a public sidewalk, was forced into the street by officers before being wrestled into handcuffs and hauled off. His crew captured the whole incident on video.

That demonstrates a remarkable lack of concern about being recorded while violating people's rights. No, I'm not saying that it's worse to harass professional journalists than it is to assault college kids and average people walking down the street. I'm saying that it should be assumed to be incredibly stupid to attack people who have access to satellite transmission facilities and teams of lawyers.

But the police in Denver seem perfectly comfortable doing their worst in front of camera lenses. Do they not get it? Or do they just not care? We'll have to watch events at the Republican convention to see if this is a trend.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Denver police making the law up as they go along

ABC Reporter Arrested in Denver Taking Pictures of Senators, Big Donors

Police in Denver arrested an ABC News producer today as he and a camera crew were attempting to take pictures on a public sidewalk of Democratic senators and VIP donors leaving a private meeting at the Brown Palace Hotel. Police on the scene refused to tell ABC lawyers the charges against the producer, Asa Eslocker, who works with the ABC News investigative unit.

A cigar-smoking Denver police sergeant, accompanied by a team of five other officers, first put his hands on Eslocker's neck, then twisted the producer's arm behind him to put on handcuffs.

A police official later told lawyers for ABC News that Eslocker is being charged with trespass, interference, and failure to follow a lawful order. He also said the arrest followed a signed complaint from the Brown Palace Hotel.

Eslocker was put in handcuffs and loaded in the back of a police van which headed for a nearby police station. Video taken at the scene shows a man, wearing the uniform of a Boulder County sheriff, ordering Eslocker off the sidewalk in front of the hotel, to the side of the entrance. The sheriff's officer is seen telling Eslocker the sidewalk is owned by the hotel. Later, he is seen pushing Eslocker off the sidewalk into oncoming traffic, forcing him to the other side of the street.

It was two hours later when Denver police arrived to place Eslocker under arrest, apparently based on a complaint from the Brown Palace Hotel, a central location for Democratic officials. During the arrest, one of the officers can be heard saying to Eslocker, "You're lucky I didn't knock the f..k out of you." Eslocker was released late today after posting $500 bond.

Eslocker and his ABC News colleagues are spending the week investigating the role of corporate lobbyists and wealthy donors at the convention for a series of Money Trail reports on ABC's "World News with Charles Gibson."

Original report here


We've learned that ABC News' associate producer Asa Eslocker has been advised by his lawyers not to speak about the events of yesterday, when he was arrested for filming outside the Brown Palace Hotel. We've also learned that the hotel today admitted that, no, they don't own the sidewalk, thereby making their arrest of Eslocker all the more suspect.

A memo from Eslocker's lawyers, as well as notes from the ACLU and Reporters Without Borders....

From Eslocker's lawyers:
Mr. Eslocker is innocent of all three crimes with which he's been charged. He and his ABC News crew were standing on public sidewalks covering an event of public significance and performing a press function protected by the First Amendment.

Frankly, we are outraged at the conduct of the individual officers. Their interactions with Mr. Eslocker are captured on tape. Mr. Eslocker was acting courteously and trying to determine where he and his news crew could stand on public sidewalks to report on an event involving some of this nations leader's -- an event that the public has a right to know about. Even the Brown Palace hotel has now acknowledged that the sidewalks are public property.

The case is now in the hands of the Denver City's Attorney's office, which has a well deserved reputation of acting reasonably and fairly. We are confident that when that office has had the opportunity to review the evidence, including our video tapes, it will decide to dismiss all charges against Mr. Eslocker.

The ACLU has put out the following release:
Following news reports and a video showing Denver law enforcement agents ordering a reporter off a public sidewalk and pushing him into the street and later arresting him, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Colorado called for renewed protection of the First Amendment guarantees of free speech and a free press.

The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union:

"The physical removal of ABC reporter Asa Eslocker from public property and his subsequent arrest are a blatant assault on the First Amendment. Arresting a reporter for simply doing his job is both unconstitutional and un-American. That free speech is curtailed during the Democratic Convention underscores the need for continued protection of civil liberties, regardless of the party in power."

Reporters Without Borders:
Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrest of ABC News producer Asa Eslocker on August 27th in downtown Denver and calls on the Denver Police Department to drop all charges against the reporter.

Eslocker had been photographing high-ranking political officials in town for the Democratic National Convention for a story he was preparing on corporate donors and lobbyists. A video posted on ABC News's website shows a Denver sheriff's officer asking Eslocker to move from in front of the Brown Palace Hotel and then pushing him into oncoming traffic after he did not immediately comply. According to ABC News, Denver Police arrived two hours later and arrested Eslocker.

"The use of unnecessary force and the arrest of a journalist who was reporting an important political story is deeply troubling and unacceptable," Reporters Without Borders said. "The attempts at intimidation that were evident in the captured images of Eslocker's arrest simply because he refused to leave a shared, publicly used space reflect negatively on the Denver police and sheriff's departments' commitment to uphold a journalist's right to gather important news."

Original report here

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Presumed guilty: The loving British stepfather devoted to helping autistic youngsters now fighting to clear his name

Every second Thursday, John Pinnington follows the same, rather bleak routine. After breakfast, he heads to his local JobCentre, where he collects his dole money for the week ahead. It is a paltry sum, a mere fraction of what he used to earn when he was the respected deputy headmaster of an Oxfordshire college for young adults with learning difficulties.

He and his wife Rosie no longer enjoy the comforts of the lifestyle they once led. They have to rely on the goodwill of friends with holiday homes in the UK when they need a break, and can barely afford to keep their neat three-bedroom terrace house in the tranquil Oxfordshire village of Benson. Without his $70,0000-a-year income, they have been forced to resort to selling off various family possessions in order to pay their mortgage.

For John's once-excellent career prospects have been destroyed because of a series of unfounded and spurious indecent assault claims made by three young adults in his care. Despite police investigations into each of the claims, none of the allegations has resulted in criminal charges or conviction but, despite this, they remain on his teaching record - preventing him from securing another job. Earlier this month, John, 59, lost a High Court battle to clear his name, despite the judge admitting the 'serious weaknesses' in the allegations.

In a judgment which will affect thousands of carers in charge of children and young adults in Britain, the judge ruled that future employers should always be made aware of such allegations, however 'weak and unreliable' they were. The case is a test of tough new vetting laws introduced after the infamous murders of two Soham schoolgirls in 2002. The girls' killer, Ian Huntley, had been able to get a job as a school caretaker despite having faced repeated allegations of sex offences involving underage girls.

Since then, all criminal allegations, whether or not they are proven in court, have been entered on suspects' police records and disclosed to employers who request enhanced Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) checks. But John, who says his 'life and livelihood' have been destroyed, describes the judgment as 'political correctness gone mad'. He says social workers and police are so afraid of doubting the word of those with special needs that those caring for them have no recourse if accused of any wrongdoing. The fact that he has the support of numerous ex-colleagues and parents of his former charges, he says, counts for nothing.

John's nightmare began in the summer of 2001, when a 19-year-old man, who had a history of making wild allegations against a number of individuals, including his own father and brother, accused John of having sexually assaulted him a year earlier. But, within a fortnight, he withdrew the allegations. What makes John's case all the more disturbing is that all three of his accusers suffer from autism to such a degree that they are unable to speak.

Their allegations have been extracted using 'Facilitated Communication' (FC), a controversial method which relies on one individual resting his or her hand on the arm of a person with restricted mental or physical capacity, effectively guiding them as they communicate using a keyboard. It is a method that is banned in countries such as the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, after critics warned it is like using a Ouija board - but not in the UK.

In John's case, the person helping take the statement from each of the three men in question wasn't properly trained in FC - indeed, on one occasion he says the 'facilitator' was the mother of an accuser. But the allegations were reported to the police who in turn filed them to the CRB, who put them on his record.

John says: 'In the past seven years, I've made complaints to everyone from Oxford Social Services to the Home Office in a bid to try to reclaim my good name. 'Yet I feel like I've been trying to slay the Hydra - every time I chop off one of its heads, up spring two more. 'I have a huge folder full of letters and cards of support from parents of all the children I've taught over the years, my former colleagues, friends at church, family and neighbours. But really, they are all meaningless. 'They help me at my lowest ebb emotionally, but they can't do anything to save my career - or my reputation.

'My once-clean certificate now contains details of these farcical allegations, simply because the police automatically filed them to the CRB. 'I don't see why police CRB checks should include unsubstantiated abuse allegations if there is not a good reason to believe they are true. 'In my case, the allegations are based on lies and are unfounded, untested and unproven. 'Yet their presence on my CRB, which is a mandatory certificate for anyone who works on a paid or volunteer basis with children or vulnerable adults, is costing me my livelihood. 'This is political correctness gone mad, and the reason why is because there are young adults with learning difficulties involved.

'If a woman cries rape and it is proved to be unfounded, a firm line is taken against her and the man she has accused is exonerated. 'But no one is willing to take a firm line and say 'Look, these individuals are not telling the truth' or 'This individual has a history of compulsive lying' because the individuals in question have learning difficulties. It's as though the word of a person with disabilities cannot be challenged.'

Despite gaining the personal support of Boris Johnson, who until recently was his MP, John hit what appeared to be a final brick wall late last month, when, in a High Court case that could have consequences for thousands of carers working with children and vulnerable adults, he tried - and failed - to challenge the decision by Thames Valley Police automatically to include unproven allegations on his CRB......

As parents of a mentally disabled child, the Pinningtons insist they are wellplaced to understand the need to ensure that vulnerable children and adults are protected. 'Of course the vulnerable must be protected, but there has to be a balance when an accusation is as frail as those against John have been,' adds Rosie. 'Common sense still needs to be applied. 'What is really bizarre is that social services have no problem at all with John caring for Stuart. John has said to them: "If you see me as an abuser, why allow me to care for Stuart?" They can't answer that. But still we can't clear his name.'

The High Court case - which John brought against the police himself and was funded by legal aid - was the couple's last hope of a new start. 'The judge conceded the case against John was weak, but still decided that police had done the right thing in adding the information to his CRB,' says Rosie.' John's only option now is to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights. They hope to hear soon whether this can go ahead.

Despite everything, he wants to continue teaching young people with learning difficulties. He says he won't allow his career to be wrecked by what he sees as the over-reaction of the 'rampant' child protection lobby. 'I've devoted so much of my life to helping these vulnerable young people and I just want the chance to continue to do so,' he says.

'We know of three men who, in light of what has happened to me, have left such jobs, as they are scared. That is a terrible shame for everyone involved. If you are innocent, you have no redress. Can that really be right in a civilised society?'

A spokesman for Thames Valley Police said last night: 'The force has a duty to investigate all such allegations thoroughly and we did so in this case. However, we cannot comment on the decision made by the High Court.'

Original report here

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Police making up gun law as they go along

A hunter in Denver, Colorado walked into the hotel where Nancy Pelosi was staying with a rifle case. Secret Service freaks, evacuates the hotel, the guy gets arrested on weapons charges and has been released on $10,000 bond. The stories on this are here, here and here. So far. David has more as well. As does Bitter.

First, I want to fisk elements of these articles. Emphasis in all cases is mine. From the WTOP News article:
Secret Service spokesman Malcolm Wiley said 29-year-old Joseph Calanchini of Pinedale, Wyo., faces a charge of unlawful carrying of a weapon after police officers at the Grand Hyatt hotel noticed him carrying a rifle-type case while checking in. Calanchini did not have a concealed weapons permit, said Lance Clem, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Safety.

Wiley said authorities were not releasing information about whether the weapons were loaded because the case remained under investigation. Wiley said the charge is the same whether the weapons were loaded or unloaded.

Is a concealed weapon permit required in Colorado for the transport of any firearm in a case? If not, the charge should have never been brought. From the 9NEWS article:
He says he had just picked up his rifles from the Sportsman's Warehouse and had them in a locked gun case when he checked in at the Grand Hyatt. The clerk checking him in noticed the rifle case and called security.

Locked case. Answers the questions for the rifle(s).
Police say Calanchini had permits for the rifles, but did not have concealed permits to carry two pistols that were found in his luggage. Calanchini says he forgot they were in there.

Are permits required to own rifles in Wyoming? Otherwise, they are confusing a concealed permit with purchase paperwork. They are not the same thing. As to the pistols, unless Colorado state law and/or Denver local law required the owner to have a concealed permit for mere possession of the pistol off one's person, how have any laws been violated here?
Calanchini, who sells drilling tools across Colorado and Wyoming, says he is a frequent guest at the Grand Hyatt. But the Grand Hyatt General Manager says he was not a registered guest at the hotel. "We don't know why he was walking through our hotel," said General Manager Ed Bucholtz.

Because he was looking to check in and get a room probably, you nitwit! And lastly, from the Fox News article:
Secret Service spokesman Malcolm Wiley said 29-year-old Joseph Calanchini of Pinedale, Wyo., faces a charge of unlawful carrying of a weapon after police officers at the Grand Hyatt hotel noticed him carrying a rifle-type case while checking in. Calanchini did not have a concealed weapons permit, said Lance Clem, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Safety.

Wiley said authorities were not releasing information about whether the weapons were loaded because the case remained under investigation. Wiley said the charge is the same whether the weapons were loaded or unloaded.

Sure, the police don't have to release any information that might weaken their case and show they overreacted but it is perfectly acceptable for the Colorado Department of Public Safety to dig into Mr. Calanchini's background and release the results of that investigation when it doesn't or may not favor him. Double standard at work here?
Authorities were investigating a report that Calanchini was in town on business and had had the weapons worked upon to prepare for the trip.

How is the fact he had a gun worked on prior to the trip have any bearing on this situation? I believe it is an attempt by the media to ascribe a sinister tendency in the readers mind of having the gun worked on just prior to coming to the hotel. Neutral and objective, my ass.

You good and mad yet? No? Fine, let's make you mad. This is a wake-up call. This is not a Democratic vs. Republican issue. This is an authority issue and no gun owner is safe from it. Hunters, sportsman, you think you are safe in your gun ownership and usage? Think again. What follows is my own opinion. I am hoping readers in Colorado can help me correct any bad assumptions on my bad.

How did this man violate any laws? From where I am sitting, if all his guns were unloaded and no ammunition in the same cases, then he adhered to the law. Federal transport law, specifically. And if no permits are required in Denver and Colorado as a whole for the possession of those arms, then he should have never been arrested. All of his actions would have been protected under FOPA'86.

The fact that he was arrested indicates authority gone mad and that should terrify you. Yes, I understand the Secret Service is institutionally paranoid and given recent events, probably reacted sharply at the prospect of an armed man in the hotel. But upon questioning, it should have gone no further than a stern warning to behave.

If my transport assumptions are correct, the Colorado and/or local police are way out of line charging this guy with a concealed weapons charge. Concealed generally means "carried upon one's person". Pistols in luggage and rifles in cases is not concealed carry and any attempt to stretch that meaning to encompass it is a pure abuse of authority.

I am certain the Pelosi or the Democrats in the vicinity had a hand in this. I am sure if this had been any other week, the nosy clerk would have likely said nothing. Or maybe not. Maybe they hated guns and was alarmed at being in their mere presence? Who knows? There is still no excuse for their over-reaction to a benign situation.

The truly frightening part is they are going to destroy this man's life to make an example out of him for daring to have legally owned firearms where it made someone uncomfortable or near a government official who might feel that it is wrong. Generally, $10,000 bond means they are going to carry through on the charges. Otherwise, those in power will lose face by having made a mistake and heaven forbid the police or prosecutors make mistakes! Then they'll get sued. Oh no, better to prosecute him on a technical violation than to admit they were wrong and overreacted. And because they have the power, they can. And will.

And do you think this will be remembered by Nancy Pelosi next year the next time the prospect of a gun control bill comes up? I do. Maybe she'll think something needs to be done about these reckless hunters and their high-powered weapons.

I love this country but I am flat-out terrified at the chasm I see growing between those with authority that is supposedly granted to them by the People and the rest of us unable to challenge it. We've lost our ability to challenge it. If the government juggernaut chooses to come down on you, you lose. It will grind you up, wear you down until you whimper for mercy and then they'll either release you or imprison you. Either way, you'll be broken in spirit and never rise up again. We don't need gulags in this country to break you. Crossing someone in authority who feels you're too uppity for your own good will do the job just fine.

All we can do now as law-abiding citizens and would-be citizens is hope we aren't the ones they choose to come down on and hope we can live our lives and pursue our interests in peace.

That isn't freedom, folks. It is merely slavery without the chains. If the best we can hope for is that the master won't beat us and we get another day without pain, we are no longer free.

This must stop! We must organize, write letters and do everything in our power to pressure our legislatures to reign in these abuses of authority. To return to a time where the primary duty of a police officer is to maintain the peace, not engage in law-enforcement to the exclusion of all others and place themselves above us because of their profession. We're rapidly losing respect for such authority. Those authorities have forgotten that respect is earned, not bestowed. It cannot be forced upon the citizen by baton, pepper spray, taser, gun or the threat of arrest. All that does is widen the chasm. And yet, respect or not, they will persist in these actions unless something is done.

"With regard to firearms, the citizen acts at his peril.". I thought we only had to fear and avoid New Jersey. It seems those words have infected the country as whole and we seem powerless to stop it.

We must stop it. Otherwise, all I am working for to become a citizen of this nation will be for naught. I left Canada and gained freedom. I did not come all this way only to have shackles placed upon me and be told by those unelected authoritarians that I must behave or else. It is not their place to decide such things on a personal level.

We have to stop this. It is becoming too frequent, too close to home. The most frightening part of this is: "What if the usual methods fail? If this status quo remains? What then?!?".

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Canadian Police Battle PR Nightmare Over Taser-Related Death

Incident Paints Ugly Picture of Officers Worldwide. Still nobody fired or charged, though. And it does look like the murderers will get away with it. Canadian Border Services Agency president Alain Jolicouer has said that no one will be disciplined, because the investigation found no wrongdoing!!!! Corrupt Canada!

While Royal Canadian Mounted Police brass and its media relations division scrambled to keep from being "crucified" over Taser use and the death of a man at Vancouver's airport, they also had to deal with an increasing barrage of complaints accusing officers of being everything from clowns to killers. Email documents, released under Canada's Access to Information Act, showed great concern from public safety minister Stockwell Day's office down to the RCMP's British Columbia media relations office over the public's perception about the death of Robert Dziekanski, the Canadian Press reports.

"I am going to get some advice, but I think I might wade in here to set some of the record straight with the media," RCMP chief supt. Dale McGowan wrote in an email to commander Peter German. "We are being crucified on why the Taser usage and our members' actions at the preliminary stages," he added, according to the report.

In one email days after the death, Day's office issued an "urgent" request to RCMP to see the latest media lines Mounties have sent out on the Taser incident. RCMP media spokesman sergeant Pierre Lemaitre outlined suggestions for what the RCMP should tell the media, including that the death was being reviewed on several levels and that the investigation was continuing.

In October of last year, Dziekanski spent hours in the international arrivals area at the Vancouver airport before he was confronted by four RMCP officers. A bystander's video of the confrontation shows the officers attempting a brief conversation with the confused and sweating Polish man before Dziekanski was jolted twice with a Taser. He died minutes after.

The video was seized by officers at the scene for evidence, and the owner later threatened legal action to get it back. In the hours after the death, Lemaitre told the media officers attempted to calm the man, but they felt threatened. When the eyewitness video was finally released, it showed police using the Taser less than half-a-minute after first confronting the man.

After the tape was aired around the world, the RCMP was inundated with angry emails. "Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre should be fired for purposely misrepresenting the facts and suppressing the video on a false premise," wrote one person, who's name was removed from the documents. "It appears you have been caught in an outright lie," wrote another. "You clowns are nothing but a sad, expensive joke," another writer charged.

Original report here

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Monday, August 25, 2008

More unjustified harassment from U.S. immigration officials

A Queensland [Australia] YouTube blogger who went to the US looking for love was denied entry because immigration officials thought he might have been a terrorist. Beenleigh resident Daniel Meadows sold everything he owned to buy a cheap flight via Japan to get to the US to foster an internet relationship. He said he was stopped on arrival as a suspected terrorist, body searched and held for a day and sent home without being given a valid reason.

Meadows's story is the focus of the ABC's Australian Story on Monday, August 25. Having never met the people he was intending to visit and being in possession of a light-hearted email about shoe bombs and box cutters did not sit well with US authorities at Detroit Airport.

"I filled out the standard entry form for a tourist visa and on that form you have to write where you're headed and that was West Virginia and they looked at that and it was suspicion straightaway almost and they made a call and I was just standing there and these two guys came up from Homeland Security," Meadows tells Australian Story.

"One of the officers said 'this guy looks iffy'. "They looked through my bags and pulled out a novelty hat that I had - how it got there, my mum put it in - they said 'have you ever worked for the FBI?' and I just sort of laughed at them and said 'No I don't work for the FBI, it's just a novelty hat'.

"They'd found an email from a friend of mine that was a joking kind of email about 'you better not bring box cutters and, you know, exploding shoes and that sort of thing'."

Meadows, whose YouTube pseudonym is Dr Lemur, said the interrogation included a grilling at the hands of border security who asked him about his personal life, how many dogs he owned and why he had been filming at the airport in Japan. "Well they actually came up to me and said 'good news' almost 'we no longer think you're a terrorist'," he said. "And they were looking more into the fact that I may just disappear into America and work there illegally. They were going from one idea or suspicion to another suspicion and were all over the place. At one point they were almost arguing with themselves about what are we going to pin him on."

Within four days of leaving Australia, Meadows arrived home within minimal sleep and without ever having set foot outside the US airport. The American girl he had become attached to over the internet, Shannon Jones, has since visited Meadows although the relationship is unlikely to develop into anything substantial. Meadows's YouTube blog on his disastrous trip to the USA is at

Original report here (Via Immigration Watch)

There are lots of videos about the affair here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Twisted Police officer humiliates girl in scare campaign

There are sexual predators in the world. No one questions that. But, contrary to the hysterical clamor over the issue, the rate of such offenses has been declining for years. Even at its height the chances of being a victim to such a predator was relatively low. This, of course, doesn't stop police officers from fanning the flames of fear. It is in their interests to do so. It's good for the budgets and a wonderful way to convince politicians (who don't need much convincing) to give them even more extreme powers.

One of these professional fear mongers is Police Officer John Gay of the Cheyenne (WY) police department. His tactic is to go into schools and humiliate, intimidate and embarrass young girls. Maybe it's just me, but he sounds like something of a sexual predator himself -- one who gets off on humiliating women.

Recently Officer Gay went to the high school in nearby Windsor. His purpose was to stoke the fears of using the internet and promoting the idea that students using the internet were increasing their risks of being attacked by a predator. In truth, such a risk is so low as to be inconsequential. But some of the worst sort of state interventions have been built on such inconsequentials.

Office Gay does his job by ridiculing girls from the school. He snoops around, checking out the various web pages the students had on different social networks. Any photo that he thought proved his point was downloaded. This sounds like a stalker; he thinks it was police work.

Shaylay Nordic was one of Officer Gay's victims. He trolled through her MySpace page and downloaded a photo of her. She was in a t-shirt and shorts and was bending over to point to pair of new shoes. On two different occasions at her school he blasted that picture across a screen for all the students in the assemblies to see.

Officer Gay told the students that this photo would entice sexual predators --- perhaps, it certainly got his attention. He ridiculed Ms. Nordic and implied that she was inviting a rapist. That's how the young woman saw it. Her father was furious and said, "He took a pretty innocent picture and made it look sleazy." He said the police officer "belittled, embarrassed and humiliated" his daughter.

Worse, Officer Gay continued this treatment until the young girl ran from the school assembly in tears. He then moved on to doing the same to other young women at the school. During this humiliating experience school officials never tried to step in and stop it.

Office Gay repeated this treatment on six students. A Denver station reports that: "One female student [Nordic] was told by Gay that he shared her online personal info with a state inmate who said he gratified himself with her photo and would `tear her apart.'" This is shocking. If I read that correctly the police officer downloaded a girl's photo, gave it it a criminal to masturbate over and then told the girl about this to scare her. If he did such a thing he is disgusting. If he didn't do it, but only claimed he did, that is just a disgusting a thing to do to this girl.

A police officer should not be allowed to humiliate a young girl the way that Officer Gay did. Whether he should be in the schools inventing imaginary monsters, to terrify students, is questionable by itself. But even if his monsters were a real threat, his actions were not justified. Certainly when the consequences of his harassment are weighed against the minuscule risks the students faced I think it safe to say that the only predator these students need fear was this police officer. What Officer Gay did was sexual harassment and ought to be treated as such. It is one of the worst cases of sexual harassment I have heard about as he did it in front of hundreds of people with the intent of humiliating the girl.

This sort of harassment, from another student, would bring about an immediate reaction. In this case, not only was the harassment sanctioned by the school. But the harasser was a police officer using his authority in an unacceptable manner.

Original report here

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Avoid visiting the United States

Emily Feder's piece entitled "At JFK Airport, Denying Basic Rights Is Just Another Day at the Office" on Alternet is excellent in a bone-chilling way. Feder writes,
I was recently stopped by Homeland Security as I was returning from a trip to Syria. What I saw in the hours that followed shocked and disturbed me.... She concludes: In the past five years I have worked for human rights and refugee advocacy organizations in Serbia, Russia and Croatia, including the International Rescue Committee and USAID. I have traveled to many different places, some supposedly repressive, and have never seen people treated with the kind of animosity that Homeland Security showed that night. In Syria, border control officers were stern but polite. At other borders there have been bureaucracies to contend with -- excruciating for both Americans and other foreign nationals. I've met Russian officials with dead, suspicious looks in their eyes and arms tired from stamping so many visas, but in America, the Homeland Security officials I encountered were very much alive -- like vultures waiting to eat.

Feder's observations accord with my own, far more limited travel experiences. Even the customs guards in Communist China were professional and polite (in a bored way) compared to almost every American security or customs official I've encountered. Travel agents up here (in Canada) say that one of the most common requests they hear is "How do I avoid making a connection in the U.S.?" Going through an American aiport is like being processed through a prison or an animal stockyard. And Feder is correct; one of the most unsettling aspects is that American guards are not just doing a job; they seem to be emotionally invested in it and swollen with an arrogant enjoyment of authority.

Which is not to excuse those security agents who are just doing a job. You do not escape responsibility for brutalizing someone just because you are being paid to do so. Taking money to strip them of rights should make your actions more and not less despicable. And, yet, agents hide their bruality behind "just doing my job" or "just following orders."

The libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick said that some bucks stop with all of us. How we chose to treat the rights and dignity of another human being is one of those bucks. There is no such thing as disappearing into the job or behind the uniform and, so, becoming the bureaucratic "nobodies that Hannah Arendt portrayed in her book Responsibility and Judgment, in which she uses a wonderful term she had coined : the "banality of evil". The banality when evil becomes an unthinking routine -- the agent who says "just doing my job and watching the clock while I violate your rights." Arendt writes, "The greatest evildoers are those who don't remember because they have never given thought to the matter."
The trouble with the Nazi criminals was precisely that they renounced voluntarily all personal qualities, as if nobody were left to be either punished or forgiven. They protested time and again that they had never done anything out of their own initiative, that they had no intentions whatsoever, good or bad, and that they only obeyed orders. To put it another way: the greatest evil perpetrated is the evil committed by nobodies, that is, by human beings who refuse to be persons. Within the conceptual framework of these considerations we could say that wrongdoers who refuse to think by themselves what they are doing and who also refuse in retrospect to think about it, that is, go back and remember what they did (which is teshuvah or repentance), have actually failed to constitute themselves into somebodies. By stubbornly remaining nobodies they prove themselves unfit for intercourse with others who, good, bad, or indifferent, are at the very least persons.

In his work "On Civil Disobedience," Henry David Thoreau made a similar point while pondering the Mexican-American war. Thoreau wondered about the psychology of men who would fight a war and, perhaps, kill strangers out of obedience. He concluded that soldiers, by virtue of their absolute obedience to the state, become somewhat less than human. He wrote, "Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power? Visit the Navy Yard, and behold a marine, such a man as an American government can make, or such as it can make a man with its black arts--a mere shadow and reminiscence of humanity." This is how "the mass of men" employed by the state render service to it, "not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies." In doing so, the men relinquish the free exercise of their moral sense and, so "put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones."

In putting on their uniforms, agents of the state discard their humanity.

Original report here

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Federal Keystone Kops in Australia

More than a year ago, there was strong evidence that the terror case against Mohamed Haneef was a farce. Yet grimly the federal police and the top copper Mick Keelty held firm to the belief that this Indian doctor posed a threat. Based on the word of the Australian Federal Police, Haneef was stripped of his visa. The then minister for immigration, Kevin Andrews, repeatedly said he was in possession of secret information from the police that he relied on to make that decision. It was so powerful and secret that this information could not be publicly revealed. It has now emerged that there was no evidence of criminal behaviour in the document at all.

ASIO [Federal spy organization], too, advised that Haneef was not a threat to national security. The story about the doctor's SIM card being found in a burning car used in an attempt to blow up Glasgow airport was also false. Indeed, that information was already available to the police before they briefed the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions lawyers for the appearance at the bail hearing on July 14 last year. The DPP lawyer who appeared, Clive Porritt, even came with an explanation for the court as to why Dr Haneef would have provided his SIM card if he knew it was to be used in a terrorist attack. Because he intended for it to be destroyed in the explosion, Porritt said.

Meanwhile, the British coppers thought this was a huge hoot. The Herald reported them saying on July 21, 2007, that: "Australian police have got their wires crossed. This is very embarrassing for them." On July 27, 2007, the terrorism charge against Dr Haneef was dropped by the Commonwealth DPP.

As at the end of last year, $7.5 million had been spent on investigating Haneef and related matters. At its peak, 249 AFP officers were involved, 225 Queensland police, 12 employees from the attorney-general's department, 54 West Australian police, 40 from NSW, six from the customs service, two Northern Territory police and one Tasmanian walloper. There were also two British bobbies posted to Australia.

Keelty told a Senate estimates committee in May this year that an investigation was still going on and that the doctor "remains a person of interest". The AFP seemed to to be relatively prompt, just before the last federal election, in clearing a number of Liberal MPs of allegations of electoral expense rorting. You'd think after more than a year and hundreds of police officers, they might by now have drilled to the bottom of the Haneef affair.

Earlier this year Police Commissioner Keelty, in a curious outburst, suggested that restrictions apply to the media reporting proceedings in open court and even the reporting of information in the public domain.

In March, a former NSW judge, John Clarke, was appointed by the Labor Government to examine the key elements of the Haneef affair: his arrest, detention, charging, prosecution, cancellation of his visa, and to report on the deficiencies of the law enforcement agencies. The Commonwealth DPP made a submission and a public version was received by the inquiry on August 14. In it, the prosecutor jumps all over the federal police.

The police exerted "extreme pressure" to bring the charge, essential information was withheld making it hard to impossible to make an informed judgment about the case, and there were inconsistencies between the oral and written briefings provided by the AFP. However, the DPP did advise the police that Haneef could be charged. Around the same time, Keelty was making noises to the chief prosecutor that he didn't think there was enough to go on, but they were pressing ahead seeking more information. That was contrary to what he had been telling the media: "I can assure you that the investigation … has been driven by the evidence and driven by the facts."

In substantial respects, the DPP reflects the same concerns as those expressed in the submission to the inquiry made by lawyers for Haneef. In keeping with Mick Keelty's beliefs about media blackouts, the federal force doesn't want you to know the contents of its submission. This remains under wraps. If the DPP is sheeting home the blame to the AFP, it's relevant to ask why Clive Porritt was placed in an impossibly isolated position by prosecution management.

At the moment, Mick Keelty is looking like one of the most wretched and plod-like public servants in Australia. It's about time the Government put its foot on his neck. To allow him to continue to run a complex and massively resourced anti-terrorism agency is unthinkable.

Original report here

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

No freedoms for Mormons?

If only they had been Muslims! Polygamy and underage marriages are mostly ignored if Muslims are doing it. And in Britain, Muslim polygamists even get extra welfare money for their extra wives

More than two months after being forced to return children from a polygamist sect to their parents, Texas child welfare authorities want eight of the youngsters put back in foster care. Individual hearings for the four mothers of the children, ranging in age from 5 to 17, are set to begin Monday.

Child Protective Services has asked Texas District Judge Barbara Walther to return the children to foster care because their mothers allegedly have refused to limit their contact with men accused of being involved in underage marriages. "We continue to have concerns in particular for these eight children, which is why we have asked the judge to review the case," said CPS spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner.

None of the children currently live at the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, where authorities swept roughly 440 children into foster care in April. Officials said the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which established the ranch, was forcing girls into underage marriages and grooming boys to be adult abusers.

Six weeks after the children were placed in foster care, the Texas Supreme Court forced CPS to return them to their parents, ruling that the agency presented evidence of no more than a handful of teenage girls being abused. Many of the children taken into CPS custody were infants and toddlers.

In the new CPS petitions seeking foster placement for the eight children, the agency detailed alleged underage marriages involving the children's fathers or stepfathers, though only one faces any criminal charges.

Rod Parker, a church spokesman, said that even though the families are getting individual hearings this time, the argument that they shouldn't be allowed to retain custody of their children remains unfair. The issue, as it was in the earlier case, is "whether the children are in any immediate danger simply because their parents choose to raise them in this religion," he said. "The substance of what they're doing here is fundamentally the same." Parker also noted that the church issued a statement in June saying it would not bless underage marriages.

The FLDS church believes polygamy brings glory in heaven. It is a breakaway sect of the mainstream Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which officially renounced polygamy more than a century ago. Sect leader Warren Jeffs, already convicted in Utah as an accomplice to rape, awaits trial in Arizona on charges of being an accomplice to sexual contact with a minor - all stemming from alleged underage marriages within the sect.

Original report here

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Man arrested for challenging police who ignored no entry sign

Rogue British police again

A man was arrested and locked in a cell for five hours after he took a photograph of a police officer who had ignored a no entry road sign. Andrew Carter, a plumber, has now received an apology from the officer and from the Deputy Chief Constable Rob Beckley, of Avon and Somerset police.

He had been walking his two dogs when a police van driven by Pc Aqil Farooq ignored the no entry signs. The van stopped in the street in Bristol and two officers went into a fish and chip shop to look at CCTV footage relating to an earlier incident.

Mr Carter, 44, said he pointed out the 'no entry' sign to the officer who swore at him and told him he was on 'police business'. The passerby then took a photograph of the van through the window of the chip shop. He claimed the officer smashed the camera from his hand. He was then handcuffed, arrested and bundled into the back of a van. It was alleged he had "assaulted" the officer with his camera, resisted arrest, and was drunk and disorderly.

Mr Carter said: "The no entry signs mean you are supposed to drive all the way around the block, as I do every night. The officer reversed from the main road through the no entry signs, parked up and went into the fish and chip shop with his colleague on what he says was legitimate police business. "When I took the photograph he came running out, battered the camera from my hand onto the floor and arrested me for three crimes, none of which I had committed. All I had done was to photograph these police officers doing something illegal."

Mr Carter, who has not been charged with any offence, was taken to a police station where he was kept for five hours before being freed on police bail. When he returned to answer bail the following week, with his solicitor, he said he was kept at the station for another five hours.

He made a formal complaint about the wrongful arrest by PC Farooq who faced a disciplinary tribunal in July, seven months after the incident in January. PC Farooq apologised to Mr Carter, who later received a letter from Mr Beckley, who chaired the disciplinary tribunal. Mr Beckley said in the letter: "We expect the highest standards of our officers and PC Farooq fell below what was required. I know that his colleagues feel he let us down and he has learnt a difficult lesson. "He realises his actions were totally unacceptable and he could and should have apologised to you much earlier. "His performance will be monitored in the future. I will be meeting him in the next few weeks and will reinforce our expectations of his behaviour."

Mr Carter said he was "relatively" happy with the apology but he pursuing a claim for compensation for wrongful arrest. "As long as the police officer acknowledged what he did was wrong and apologised to me then I didn't want him to be sacked," he said.

Avon and Somerset police declined to make any further comment.

Original report here

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Post-Conviction DNA Testing Shouldn't Depend on Miracles

By now everyone knows that DNA testing is a powerful scientific tool for proving guilt or innocence in our criminal justice system. Often post-conviction DNA testing provides the only evidence that can correct the injustice of wrongful conviction.

But what if all the biological evidence is destroyed while you're still in prison? What if there is evidence but it's not discovered until after state-imposed deadline for seeking DNA testing? What if the state denies your petition for testing because you accepted a plea bargain to avoid a harsher sentence for a crime you didn't commit? And what if you're indigent and can't afford an attorney to help navigate the complex legal and scientific issues involved in obtaining a DNA test?

The sad truth is that it often takes a series of miracles to gain access to post-conviction DNA testing. That's because our criminal justice system continues to place significant obstacles in the way of post-conviction DNA testing that could determine whether the wrong people have been convicted and punished for crimes they didn't commit.

Today, The Justice Project is releasing Increasing Access to Post-Conviction DNA Testing: A Policy Review. This policy review explains the problems surrounding post-conviction DNA testing policies and procedures and identifies the best practices for states to adopt to ensure that post-conviction DNA testing contributes to a more accurate criminal justice system and restores public confidence in the system's ability to correct its own errors.

To date, more than 200 people -- including 16 who were sentenced to death -- have been proven innocent by DNA testing. In many of those cases, the same DNA test helped bring the real perpetrators to justice. But seven states -- Alabama, Alaska, Massachusetts, Mississippi, South Carolina, South Dakota and Oklahoma -- don't even have laws on the books allowing for post-conviction DNA testing. And those that do have laws fall short of what is needed to ensure that DNA testing can be used effectively to correct the injustice of wrongful conviction.

All but 12 states and the District of Columbia lack statutes requiring the preservation of evidence throughout an inmate's incarceration. An investigative series this year by The Columbus Dispatch found that "evidence had been lost or destroyed nearly two-thirds of the time that prosecutors agreed to search for it because Ohio does not require evidence to be catalogued and saved." States should require the preservation of biological evidence throughout a defendant's sentence and devise standards regarding the custody of evidence.

States should also ensure that all inmates with a DNA-based innocence claim may petition for DNA testing at any time without regard to plea, confession, self-implication, the nature of the crime, or previous unfavorable test results. Nearly a dozen of the more than 200 DNA exonerees initially plead guilty, and 50 purportedly confessed to crimes they did not commit. And because DNA testing technology continues to improve, a defendant's right to request testing must not be subject to time limitations. If new technology develops that might change the outcome of a test, the test should be performed.

The complexity of the petitioning process also creates an unreasonable burden for a wrongfully convicted person who needs DNA testing to prove his or her innocence. The steps involved in obtaining DNA testing are difficult even for experienced advocates. That's why states should provide counsel and cover the cost of post-conviction DNA testing for indigent petitioners.

These are just a few of the steps that need to be taken. As with any good policy, the benefits of post-conviction DNA testing statutes outweigh the costs. While improving access to post-conviction DNA testing will require states to incur some initial costs, those costs are minimal and could end up saving states money in the long run.

The federal government recognized the importance of post-conviction DNA testing with the passage of the Innocence Protection Act (IPA) in 2004. The IPA includes the Kirk Bloodsworth Post-Conviction DNA Testing Program, which authorizes $25 million over five years to help states defray the cost of post-conviction DNA testing. The program is named for Kirk Noble Bloodsworth, the first person sentenced to death to be exonerated by DNA evidence.

In Bloodsworth's case, the DNA test results not only proved that he did not sexually assault and murder nine-year-old Dawn Hamilton, they also identified the real perpetrator who then confessed to the crime. But it took another series of miracles for that to happen. It was only through a chance encounter that Bloodsworth's attorney learned that the trial judge had kept some of the evidence in a cardboard box in his chambers. And the attorney paid for the testing out of his own pocket.

Our criminal justice system is too fraught with error to rely on miracles to find the truth. Post-conviction DNA testing serves the interests of fairness, accuracy and public confidence in the criminal justice system, and states should make every effort to facilitate testing for defendants claiming innocence.

Original report here

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Who needs laws when you just know someone 'crossed a line'?

In Marlboro, Massachusetts, a retired chemist named Victor Deeb had the misfortune to call the fire department when his air conditioner burst into flames. I say "misfortune" because, when the authorities arrived, they discovered that, not surprisingly, a chemist keeps a chemistry laboratory in his home. And they freaked.

Pamela A. Wilderman, Marlboro’s code enforcement officer, said Mr. Deeb was doing scientific research and development in a residential area, which is a violation of zoning laws. “It is a residential home in a residential neighborhood,” she said. “This is Mr. Deeb’s hobby. He’s still got bunches of ideas. I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere. This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation. … There are regulations about how much you’re supposed to have, how it’s detained, how it’s disposed of.”

There probably are regulations about keeping and disposing of chemicals -- there are rules about almost everything these days. But Ms. Wilderman cites not a single violation other than petty zoning infractions, and Mr. Deeb has been charged with no crime. If Ms. Wilderman is somewhat unfamiliar with the regulations, she might want to consult Mr. Deeb, who has patents pending and is likely more familar with the applicable rules for keeping and disposing of chemicals than are the city's employees.

For now, Mr. Deeb is reportedly happy to be able to return home, after being forced from his dwelling for three days while the authorities trucked off his laboratory equipment and supplies for disposal -- presumably without compensation. Actually, the disposal process might pose a real risk, since Mr. Deeb has proven himself capable of handling the chemicals without mishap while the authorites are an unknown quantity. Fortunately, there was nothing especially hazardous among supplies to excite concern.

None of the materials found at 81 Fremont St. posed a radiological or biological risk, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. No mercury or poison was found. Some of the compounds are potentially explosive, but no more dangerous than typical household cleaning products.

"No more dangerous than typical household cleaning products"? Uh huh. And no citations for regulatory infractions. So Ms. Wilderman and company are protecting the people from nonexistent risks by enforcing rules that may or may not have been violated, if officials can ever figure them out. Yeah. Somebody "crossed a line somewhere," but it wasn't Mr. Deeb.

Original report here

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cop forms private posse, attacks wrong man

Obsessed with his own “authority” an off-duty cop in New York decided to take justice into his own hands. Everything started when two girls told him that some man had flashed them. So Detective Arthur Molnar and two buddies formed a posse and went in search of the alleged flasher.

At around the same time 52-year-old David Campeas, an ophthalmologist, was walking to synagogue. Detective Molnar and his buddies set upon Campeas. According to Dr. Campeas the police officer and his friend shouted antigay slurs, even though Campeas is not gay. The doctor said: “You couldn’t reason with them. They were yelling and screaming and whacking me in the head.”

According to Campeas the three men ran at him screaming. Molnar, who was not on duty, screamed that he was a police officer and ordered Campeas to lie on the ground. Campeas, having no reason to believe the man, and having done nothing wrong, told Molnar that he wanted to wait for uniformed police officers to arrive. That is when Molnar and his private posse attacked, they slammed the innocent man to the ground and started frisking him. They repeated made antigay remarks and said he had exposed to two girls. Please note the utter ignorance of equating a flasher with being gay. This is the mentality of a cop -- brain dead.

The men then dragged Campeas to a desolate beach where he began to fear for his life. Lucky for him on-duty police officers, who actually live in the town, arrived. Based on the accusations of their brother officer they took Campeas into custody. They very quickly released him since both of the girls were quite adamant that they had never seen Campeas before. The Molnar posse got it wrong. Campeas was then taken to hospital for treatment of the bruises inflicted by this off-duty cop and his private gang.

Campeas says that as soon as the police realized that they had once again been wrong, and attacked the “wrong” man, that they started putting pressure on him not to file a complaint, urging him to let the matter drop quietly. Cockroaches don’t like the lights on folks. So just shut up, treat your wounds and pretend it was a lark in the park.

Campeas has filed charges against the attackers, including Officer Molnar, who is on duty as normal. Campeas says he believes that if he had actually resisted the attackers “I’d probably be dead or in a coma right now.”

Of course, Officer Molnar, angrily insists that the bruises on Campeas magically happened because “Nobody touched anybody that night.” Yes, apparently Dr. Campeas has a form of stigmata except cop-like bruises just magically appeared on his body, instead of the wounds of Christ. Molnar claims he was only “investigating” a flasher.

Apparently to investigate a flasher an off-duty cops solicits two non-cop buddies to patrol the area and grab the first man they come across. They rough him up, make antigay remarks since in copland all flashers must be gay, slam him to the ground and then drag him to a deserted beach area. This is now called an investigation.

I have honestly reached the point where I wouldn’t believe a cop was telling the truth unless I had independent evidence that he was. And if he was, I’d assume it was accident. This sort of things happens day after day after day. It happens so often that most the time we don’t even hear about it. I doubt the assault on Dr. Campeas made much news outside the immediate area.

The typical story is one of police misconduct against an innocent person, or excessive, unwarranted violence against a suspect -- perhaps to the point of death. The cops they always concoct one story that makes them entirely innocent and lays all the blame on the victim they attacked.

Independent witnesses to the event almost always tell a version of the story very different than that of the police officers. I actually don’t remember one case of such an attack where independent evidence actually supported the claims by the cops. But these independent witnesses, and the testimony of the victim, is usually ignored. And the whole matter is swept under the rug. Sometimes there is physical evidence and that physical evidence almost always shows the cops were lying. In a few cases videos of the incident prove beyond any doubt that the police version of events is usually fictional.

But when such physical evidence is missing, when no tapes exist, the courts very stupidly tend to believe the cops arguing that police officers don’t lie. That in the face of hundreds of violent, serious incidents where the evidence actually proved that the cops do lie and lie frequently.

Let us note a few things about this incident. Officer Molnar was not on duty. He was not in uniform. He did not show identification that he was a cop. He was not in New York City where is a cop. What would you do if a strange, belligerent man, and two of his friends, ordered you to lie on the ground? As I see it they ought to be glad Dr. Compeas wasn't armed ,otherwise he'd have every justification to shoot them, with a reasonable fear of his life. The two accomplices in this attack were not police officers anywhere but private citizens.

Even if Molnar was in the right, and he clearly wasn't, there is no justification in attacking the man and dragging him to a deserted beach area. That implies they intended a far more serious assault. Molnar was not allowing the law to work, he was subverting it. And while flashers might be annoying they are rarely dangerous and assault wasn't needed. Molnar could have waited for uniformed officers as the "suspect" was not trying to escape. He was happy to wait for the police to arrive.

There is much talk about "zero tolerance" from government officials. How about a zero tolerance policy toward police misconduct?

Original report here

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

This Week in Innocence

By Radley Balko. See the original for links

Stories pulled from the Innocence blog the last few weeks:

Another exoneration in Dallas (see my interview with Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins here).

DNA testing finally exonerates a Texas man for a rape he always said he didn't commit. Unfortunately, Tim Cole died in a Texas prison nine years ago. Another man confessed to the rape in 1995, but authorities ignored him. It's likely that Cole's wrongful conviction came with a death sentence. A lifelong asthmatic, he'd been able to treat the condition by the time he got to college. Not so in prison. He died of an asthmatic attack in 1999.

Meanwhile in Tennessee, a stubborn prosecutor may finally back down after years of pursuing the wrong man for a 1985 murder, despite the fact that DNA evidence has cleared the man of the rape the same prosecutor said was the motive for the murder. The U.S. Supreme Court has actually heard this case, tossing the conviction on the grounds that no reasonable juror could have convicted the man given the new evidence. Money quote: "Why, after all this evidence has poured in that House is innocent of the crime, does the state continue to so zealously defend the situation? The reason is because state prosecutors typically never admit error." That's from the federal district court judge in Nashville. Paul House spent 23 years in prison, most of them on death row.

DNA testing exposes another wrongful murder conviction, this one in New Mexico. It's also another example in how police can extract false confessions, particularly from the mentally disabled.

Reuters looks at how lax evidence preservation laws are hampering efforts to look for other wrongful convictions.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley (unconvincingly) explains why he's opposed to post-conviction DNA testing in capital cases.

South Carolina is one of just a few states that don't give post-conviction inmates a path to DNA testing in cases where it could prove their innocence. The state legislature passed a bill to correct the problem, and Gov. Mark Sanford was set to sign it. Unfortunately, the legislature then tacked on an 11th-hour poison pill amendment allowing police to take DNA samples from everyone arrested for a serious crime (not just those convicted) for inclusion in a statewide database. To his credit, Sanford had already vetoed a similar bill, and was forced to veto this one. Unfortunately, that means South Carolina still doesn't allow for DNA testing to determine innocence, either.

Original report here

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Wyoming: Hassled for Carrying a Gun by Police

A friend was visiting me from out of town. His concealed weapons permit did not have reciprocity with WYO, so he was open carrying. I was carrying concealed - though on several trips to Powell in the past, I have chosen to open carry.

Anyway, we stopped at a video store, then drove around the block and parked a couple of blocks away. We had a long trailer, so couldn't park in front of the restaurant we planned to eat in. On the way to the restaurant, we decided to walk to the ATM to get some cash. We had commented on the number of police vehicles we had seen. About 30 seconds later, THREE police vehicles came into the parking lot we were crossing, and a sheriff (from behind his open door, in a cover position) shouted to my friend. The other two officers were Powell City Police. One, was a police sergeant that I had met at an auction a couple of weeks earlier.

The initial exchange went like this - Sheriff: "EXCUSE ME... are you wearing a gun sir?"

Friend: "Yes I am."

Sheriff: "I'm gonna need you to come over here please."

My friend complied, but did not give his driver's license. One of the officers warned that he must identify himself with name, address, and DOB. He did. They then began running an outstanding warrant check and verified his address.

At some point the sheriff noticed me leaning on a nearby car with my hands on my hips and shouted that I needed to keep my hands where he could see them. I complied.

Then he asked if I had a gun. I said that I did. He asked if I was open carrying. I said, "no, my firearm is concealed."

He asked if I had a CCW permit and I said that I did. He asked to see it, and I presented my Utah CCW. He then asked if I had a permit to carry concealed in Wyoming. I said, that my Utah permit is accepted in WYO. He said I needed a Wyoming CCW. At this point, I became agitated. I informed him that the UT permit was valid in over 25 states, and WYO was one of them. He said that he wasn't sure, that he'd have to run a check himself, and kept my permit. He then stated that he had a Wyoming permit, but that it was not accepted in MT or CO. (By the way, I have checked this out and it is false... both of those states acknowledge WYO CCW permits)

Then another officer approached and he also didn't know if my CCW was valid in WYO. I stated that I was CERTAIN that it was and if theirs were not reciprocal with contiguous states, they ought to consider getting a UT permit. The sheriff then said, it wouldn't do him any good since he lived in WYO. (Two things struck me. 1. He ought to know that he can get a UT CCW without ever setting foot in UT. 2. As an active sheriff, he can carry a weapon in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Therefore, I figured that he was either very ill-informed or wanted me to believe that he was.)

The next thing that the sheriff said was that he was going to have to see my driver's license and would have to do a Forensic ID check on my gun. At this point I told him that I would not go along with that.

I told him that he didn't need any other ID. He had my carry permit which was cleared by federal and state background checks and it also served as a picture ID. I asked, very annoyed - "Officer, what exactly is going on here?! Did you receive a report of stolen guns? Have you gotten any complaints? Neither one of us has broken ANY law, and we are being detained! Why is that???"

He said, "look, I don't mean to hassle you, and we'll get you on your way as soon as we can."

To which I replied, "I am am feeling very hassled right now. This is Wyoming. Open carry is permitted. I have a CCW, so what exactly are we being detained for?"

He said, "I know, as far as we know, nobody is breaking any laws here, we just want to see that there is nothing else going on. I'm not sure why you need to carry a gun in town... I don't think you are going to come across any snakes in town." (Implying that the only reason anyone would wear a gun would be to defend themselves against snakes.)

I let that comment go, because it was almost too absurd to warrant an answer. I am quite sure that he knows full well that people don't carry concealed weapons because they are afraid of snakes. At some point he also said that he was concerned about my friend's gun because "sometimes people think that a Glock looks like a .45, and they become alarmed..." (Huh? What on earth could that statement possibly mean? I was beginning to think that I was talking to the real-life Barney Fife.)

He seemed hell-bent on satisfying himself that we were not some new breed of terrorists... or that we weren't trying to start any trouble in town. He said "it might look like Powell is a quiet little town, but you'd be surprised what we deal with here." (At this point I suppose that he was saying that on occasion some really big snakes must slither through town. I mean what else would the police need to protect citizens from?)

I said, "what is it that you think we might DO? We are on YOUR SIDE! You have nothing to worry about with us."

I believe it was at this point that the Sergeant came up and said, "you look familiar..." to me.

I said, I should, we spent about an hour next to each other in line at the auction a couple of weeks ago. He nodded as though he remembered and almost immediately, all curiosity in us ceased. We were on our way as though nothing ever happened, and all their concerns were satisfied.

But unfortunately, something had happened. Our rights were violated. We were questioned and detained without probable cause - despite the fact that we broke no laws, and interfered with no one. We were shouted at, they insisted on running computer checks on both of us, and they asked us personal information that should not be requested of ordinary citizens who are minding their own business. They proved that they has less understanding of the gun laws in Wyoming than we had, and that our rights were subject to violation, if their curiosity deemed so.

One of the reasons I chose for moving to Wyoming was because the people appear to have more freedom and less intrusive government than any other state. In my opinion, anyone who is not comfortable with a healthy gun culture, would not be comfortable in Wyoming - which in itself is a good reason to open carry, so that those folks think twice about moving here. But what is worse, is that a law enforcement officer would show concern - even after knowing that we both pasted state and federal background checks. I was a little embarrassed that my out of town friend had to experience such behavior in Wyoming. I felt that these officers greatly overstepped their official duty. Even if we were suspect - which we were not - the moment they verified our information, we should have been released immediately, as we posed no threat to anyone.

I believe Wyoming experiences more freedom because people have kept a close reign on government. But, when we allow "peace officers" to hassle and detain citizens for exercising their rights, we put the rights of EVERYONE in jeopardy. I find it outrageous that the police would treat us like that, with their only excuse being that "a Glock looks like it could be a .45..."

Perhaps it is time that more citizens begin exercising their rights. Perhaps it is time for "open carry Friday" in Wyoming, so that people don't forget that they have them. It is time to remind ourselves that government stems from the people, and that the law enforcement officers are to serve the public. I firmly believe that just as muscles atrophy with years of laziness, so do our rights. I urge others to exercise their rights before they lose them and Wyoming becomes like so many other states.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

British man awarded $1,400,000 compensation over corrupt murder prosecution

Colin Stagg, who was cleared 13 years ago of murdering Rachel Nickell in a frenzied attack on Wimbledon Common, has finally been awarded 706,000 pounds in compensation, his lawyer said today. “Naturally Colin is relieved and it will go some way to compensating him for the vilification that he has received at the hands of the public and media for the least 16 years," said Alex Tribick, Mr Stagg's solicitor.

Miss Nickell, 23, a part-time model, was walking on the common in southwest London with her two-year-old son when she was attacked in July 1992. She was sexually assaulted and stabbed 49 times. Her son was standing by her body, crying “Wake up, Mummy” when she was found. The boy, now aged 17, lives in France with his father, Andre Hanscombe, who was Miss Nickell’s fiance.

Today's Home Office compensation award is final vindication for Mr Stagg, 44, of Roehampton in southwest London, who was the focus of a lengthy police investigation and spent a year in custody before his trial at the Old Bailey in 1994.

He was acquitted when a judge threw out the case and criticised the police for running a “honey trap” operation. A female undercover officer had befriended Mr Stagg and encouraged him to talk about the killing and discuss violent sexual fantasies. Mr Justice Ognall said the use of the tactic was “not merely an excess of zeal, but a blatant attempt to incriminate a suspect by positive and deceptive conduct of the grossest kind”.

Mr Stagg said that being charged with the murder had destroyed his life and, despite his acquittal, many people still believed that he was guilty. He said: “I became a national hate figure. I had to endure every form of vilification. I was insulted, attacked, spat upon. My home was attacked and so was I. My name alone was enough to stop me getting work.”

Last year another man was charged with Ms Nickell's murder. Robert Napper, 42, is due to stand trial in November.

The Home Office announced in January 2007 that Mr Stagg was eligible under a discretionary compensation scheme. The amount was set by an independent assessor, Lord Brennan. Mr Tribick said the offer was made in a letter from the Office of Criminal Justice Reform following an application for compensation. He said Lord Brennan submitted a “carefully considered and reasoned” 70-page document supporting the award.

Mr Tribick said: “This is an offer that has been made and that offer has been accepted. It will allow him to try and rebuild his life and to have some sort of normal existence. “But of course what he really wanted was an apology from the Metropolitan Police and I think he has accepted that is something he will never get. “He is not angry, he is hurt and disappointed. He is gradually getting his life back on track and this will act as a catalyst.” Mr Tribick added: “Colin is realistic enough to realise and accept that his name, no matter what happens, will always be synonymous with the tragic events of Rachel Nickell’s death.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Texas authorities don't want to find the real perp

Why else resist DNA testing? They know they are wrong. That's why

DNA testing for a man convicted of killing his wife in 1987 could prove his innocence, lifting the life sentence he serves. Michael Morton was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife, Christine, in August 1986 in Georgetown. His attorneys are teaming up with the family of a murdered woman, whose case remains unsolved, to file a federal lawsuit seeking DNA testing.

In a strikingly similar crime, Mildred McKinney was murdered less than a mile from the Morton home in November 1980. Both victims were bludgeoned to death after bloody assaults in their bedrooms. Neither crime scene showed any signs of forced entry, yet both cases contained unidentified fingerprints that were found on unlocked, sliding glass doors to the home. Both victims were also found with several household furniture and items stacked on top of their bodies.

Morton was joined by McKinney's daughter in Austin Tuesday afternoon to file the lawsuit in federal court against the Williamson County Sheriff's Department and Williamson County District Attorney. They requested DNA testing and fingerprint analysis in both cases, arguing that the tests could identify one man who committed both crimes.

Papers filed in federal court indicate McKinney's daughter, Patricia Stapleton, argued she is entitled to DNA testing in her mother's case under federal and state law, including the Texas Crime Victims' Bill of Rights.

The Innocence Project said the prosecutor has resisted DNA testing for years and could very well solve both crimes, and Innocence Project staff attorney Nina Morrison said the access to the DNA evidence District Attorney John Bradley denies is imperative to the case. "It's really frustrating," said Morrison. "It's baffling to me. There's no reason why we would not go to court."

Though Morrison said the DNA evidence could conclusively solve two murder cases, Bradley has a different stance. "It's rather silly to turn over physical evidence on an unsolved murder to a person who has no business conducting an investigation," said Bradley. "If there is evidence, you can bet law enforcement is fully pursuing those things, and we'll get them accomplished." Bradley said the investigation into the McKinney murder is ongoing and not closed, and they are working on good leads but do not discuss the details. "We've spent many hours over 3 1/2 years to get the DNA evidence released," said Morrison.

Even though the state would not pay a dime if it took up Morrison's offer to bear the full costs of the DNA testing, anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 for this case, the district attorney's office does not have to turn over the DNA evidence to a private testing lab. "The DPS crime lab is perfectly capable and well-certified to handle things," said Bradley. If the DNA evidence were released, it would take approximately two to six months for the results to arrive thereafter.

Morrison said the DNA on a bloody bandana found near the Morton home could provide overwhelming evidence regarding the case, and it could be cross-referenced with criminals in the convicted-offender databank, potentially yielding a "hit" to someone who has committed similar crimes.

In addition, fingerprints from key areas of the crime scene that did not come from any member of the Morton family can be entered into state and national fingerprint databases, something that was unavailable at the time of Morton's 1987 trial. The case is believed to be the first in the nation in which a crime victim or a victim's relative has joined a prisoner in a lawsuit seeking DNA testing.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Drug warriors endanger us all

By now we all know the story of Mayor Cheye Calvo from Berwyn Heights, Maryland. He, like so many Americans, was the victim of the war on drugs. Note that he was not a victim of illegal drugs. Illegal drugs can only hurt the people who choose to use them. He was a victim of the war on drugs itself, a war that kills, maims, and harms the lives of multitudes of innocents every year.

Calvo’s home was attacked by the jackbooted thugs who enforce the asinine drug laws. It appears that some drug dealers had a plan to ship drugs using the names and addresses of innocent people. The drugs would be shipped to an unsuspecting individual. A courier working for the dealers would intercept the parcel before it was delivered. Though, in at least one case, they actually came by asking for their parcel after it was delivered.

In this case, the drug warriors were monitoring the parcel and perhaps that was enough to put off the courier from intercepting the parcel. It was delivered to the Calvo home, addressed to the Mayor’s wife. The package company left it on the front stoop. Calvo, on returning home saw the package and picked it up. He brought it inside, put it down, and went upstairs to change clothes.

It was then that he heard thugs smashing down his door followed shortly after by gun shots. The drug warriors rushed into his room and assaulted him. In his underwear he was forced downstairs where he discovered the two family dogs had been executed by the drug warriors. His mother-in-law was handcuffed and pushed to the floor next to the dead animals, as the pool of blood around them spread.

Now, even the drug warriors admit that Calvo and his wife were entirely innocent and completely uninvolved in this scheme. But they are defending their actions -- as always.

The lying drug warriors count on public apathy and misinformation. For instance, in this case they justify the murder of two family dogs claiming that they felt threatened. Fuck! They always feel threatened.

They routinely execute family dogs in their botched raids. This is not something that happens periodically or rarely. If they raid a home, if the family owns a dog, they murder the dog in cold blood. Numerous witnesses, to such drug warrior attacks, have testified that they saw dogs being killed, even as the poor animals were trying to flee the drug warriors.

Yes, if a dog is a threat to someone that person has the right to kill the dog. That is true with any threat. But dare I point out that I feel more threatened by these crazed drug warriors than I do by most dogs. Dogs don’t break down people’s doors in the wee hours of the morning and come crashing in with guns drawn. Dogs that kill people are put down. Drug warriors that kill people are honored by other drug warriors. If feeling threatened were itself justification for killing not a drug warrior would be alive today.

Drug warriors are more dangerous than dogs. Drug warriors are more dangerous than the drugs they seek to confiscate. Drug warriors regularly, consistently botch things up and murder innocent people. Mayor Calvo is lucky he lived. He’s lucky he didn’t find his mother-in-law lying in a pool of blood as well.

Calvo’s wife spoke of a young girl who came to her after this horrific incident. The girl asked her how, if the police had done this to her and her dogs, how could this girl ever trust the police. That is a good question. I fear the honest answer is not one that the girl was given --- you can’t.

When the police of this country went from preserving peace to enforcing laws they went from protecting people from crime to protecting government from the people. The police are not there to help us. They are here to control us. And when stupid politicians pass stupid laws it is the job of these officers to pull their guns and force you into submission.

The typical police officer spends very little time actually protecting people from criminals. Most of his time is spent enforcing regulations on the public. A small percentage of his time is taken up standing between you and criminals. The majority of his time is spent controling you for his political masters. There are more laws that violate rights, these days, then which protect them. And most of the police officer’s time today is spent enforcing those laws. In other words, the typical police officer spends more time attacking your rights than he does protecting them.

When government is limited to the proper functions outlined by the Founders, then one should not have reason to fear the police. When government expands beyond those functions of protecting life, liberty and property, then the police are not your friends, they are the armed agents of organized crime. Their job is not to protect rights but to violate them.

They were doing their job when they executed Mayor’s Calvo’s dogs and pointed loaded weapons at Calvo’s head. They were doing their job when they pushed his mother-in-law down to the ground next to the murdered animals. The job of the police today is to violate rights and force you into obeying laws that violate your rights.

I have never been harmed or threatened by illegal drugs. I choose not to use them. I have never used them. According to my own personal morality, I happen to frown on anything that makes one intoxicated so that they inhibit or lose their ability to reason. So I will never use them.

But the drug laws, and the thuggery of the drug warriors, does threaten me. Mayor Calvo had no reason to think drug warriors threatened him until they smashed into his house. When 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston was mistakenly attacked by drug warriors she was terrified. Once again the lying officers started to break down her door, without announcing who they are, which seems routine these days. All the terrified, elderly woman knew was that some bad men were smashing into her home. She took out a handgun and tried to defend herself. The drug warriors executed the old woman -- the same way they execute dogs.

The drug warriors have intentionally created a violent, dangerous situation. They attack people’s homes, often in the middle of the night. They do NOT announce who they are. They do NOT attempt to serve a search warrant. They smash through doors and windows, with guns pulled, screaming orders at people. They use tactics which intentionally create confusion among their victims. And sometimes victims, fearful that they are being attacked by criminals (they are but the police don’t see it that way), defend themselves. If the victims defend themselves the chances the are good that they will be murdered by the cops.

And what will the cops do? Will they take responsibility? Not at all. They will start lying about what happened, as they did with Kathryn Johnston. They will claim that they announced they were cops before they smashed into the house. Invariably witnesses to these crimes say the police are making up their claims. The police will blame the victim of their attack for the attack. And when they can’t do that they will blame drugs and claim this is another reason that drugs should be outlawed and more homes attacked by drug warriors.

Once again the panic mongers have created a scenario where the solution is far worse than the problem. No one says that illegal drugs are entirely harmless. But the harm done by the drug warriors exceeds the harm done by the drugs.

I should also note, in closing, that while I’m glad that Mayor Calvo’s situation is getting publicity, countless innocent victims of the drug warriors are routinely ignored, or given very little publicity, merely because they are not part of the political class. Calvo is a politician, so he gets noticed. Kathyrn Johnston only got attention because she was an old woman. But numerous other victims of the drug warriors are barely noticed and quickly forgotten when noticed.

It’s time to end the war on drugs. And it’s time to start arresting the drug warriors for the violent crimes that they routinely, and regularly, commit.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)