Monday, November 30, 2009

Arrogant cop to cost his city a heap

Getting a $50,000 payment after flipping the bird at a police officer? That may sound out of hand, but if a tentative settlement approved by the Pittsburgh City Council stands, that is how much David Hackbart stands to gain after filing a free speech lawsuit against the city.

Hackbart says that he was attempting to parallel park in April 2006 when he used his middle finger "to express his frustration" at a driver who pulled behind him and blocked his entry into the space. Upon hearing a voice instruct him not to "flip off" the driver, he "directed his middle finger at the person speaking," according to the lawsuit. That person turned out to be Sgt. Brian Elledge of the Pittsburgh Police Department.

Elledge ordered Hackbart to stop his vehicle and cited him for violating a state statute prohibiting the use of obscene language and gestures, the lawsuit alleges. A district justice found Hackbart guilty of violating the statute, but the district attorney withdrew the charge after the ruling was appealed to a higher court.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued saying Hackbart's gesture was constitutionally protected speech and merited a lawsuit. "Courts have interpreted this section of the statute very narrowly to bar only speech and conduct that is truly obscene and thus outside of First Amendment protection," said Sara Rose, an ACLU attorney. "The law is clear that using one's middle finger to express discontent or frustration is expressive conduct that is protected by the First Amendment."

Rose said ACLU had been getting a number of complaints from Pittsburgh residents that police have be abusing their authority and "infringing on constitutionally protected speech."

A federal judge postponed a September trial indefinitely at the request of attorneys on both sides. The city council gave initial approval to the settlement Tuesday, but must vote again next week to approve the payment. The settlement would also include additional police training, Rose said.

The rub? If the payment goes through, Hackbart will only net $10,000 after $40,000 in attorney's fees.

Original report here

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

British teenager who tried to rape girl, 11, avoids jail in 'pathetic' ruling

A teenager who subjected an 11-year-old girl to a horrific sexual attack has escaped a prison sentence in a ruling branded 'pathetic' by the victim's family. The 15-year-old boy sexually assaulted the youngster as she was playing near her home. He attempted to rape the schoolgirl - leaving the victim frightened and deeply traumatised.

However, after admitting his crime, the teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was handed a 12-month referral order - meaning his punishment includes reporting to a panel of local volunteers to 'address his offending behaviour'. It could mean that he has to meet his victim and her family to apologise for the attack. The maximum sentence for attempted rape of a child is life imprisonment.

The girl's mother, who also cannot be identified, said she was 'disgusted' the teenager had not received a harsher punishment. 'This whole thing has ripped our family apart - when I found out what he'd got, I felt sick,' she said. 'The trauma has been unbearable. My daughter is a different girl now and will have to live with this forever. All he has to do is attend some meetings. 'We are not happy. The whole family are devastated. We've been through a horrible thing.'

The girl was attacked near her home in Chorley, Lancashire, on May 19 by the teenager, who lives nearby. At Preston youth court earlier this month he pleaded guilty to attempted rape and sexual assault. District Judge Peter Ward imposed the referral order and ordered the teenager to pay £85 court costs.

Sentencing guidelines state the orders should be considered when a youth is in court for the first time and admits their offence. He will now have to attend meetings of a youth offender panel consisting of two local volunteers and an expert in young offenders. It will draw up a contract aimed at repairing the harm caused by his offence - possibly meeting the girl or her family if they are willing - and preventing him committing more offences, for example, ensuring he attends school.

Such a conviction is considered 'spent' once the contract has been successfully completed, meaning it would not ordinarily be disclosed to any future employer.

Critics of referral orders say they can be a soft option, but supporters say keeping first-time offenders out of the criminal justice system helps prevent them being sucked into a cycle of reoffending.

Last night the girl's family's MP, Labour's Lindsay Hoyle, said: 'People will be absolutely appalled with this sentence and the way it has been dealt with. 'The punishment certainly doesn't seem to fit the crime and it should be referred back to the courts to be re-looked at. 'The courts have taken a softly, softly approach and people will rightfully be disgusted.'

Claude Knights, director of child protection charity Kidscape, said: 'This must have been a very frightening ordeal for the girl, and imposing such a lenient sentence sends out completely the wrong message. 'The teenager ought to be held in some sort of secure environment to make sure he really understands what a serious crime it was and prevent him from committing more crimes.'

Earlier this year a 16-year-old boy who raped a seven-year-old boy was freed by a court in Manchester and given a community order, only to abduct and rape a boy of five just days later. He has now been locked up indefinitely.

Original report here. (Via POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Racially biased justice in Australia

An Aboriginal man who raped a pregnant woman was given leniency because of his race and background, the Court of Appeal ruled today. Justices Marcia Neave and Robert Redlich said the sentence imposed on Rodney Daryl Moore, who raped a woman who was eight months' pregnant, was "manifestly inadequate". They upheld an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions, who argued that too much weight was given to his background and that Aboriginal offenders should not be sentenced more leniently than non-Aboriginal offenders.

"It appears that his Honour, for reasons of compassion, gave too much weight to the offenders deprived and tragic circumstances," said Justices Neave and Redlich. "The sentence imposed on Mr Moore is so disproportionate to the objective gravity of the offence as to shock the public conscience."

Moore, 24, was originally sentenced in the County Court at Mildura to four years and six months in jail, with a non-parole period of two years and six months, after pleading guilty to rape and aggravated burglary. He was re-sentenced today to five years and six months with a non-parole period of four years.

Justices Neave and Redlich said Judge Michael Bourke recognised that Moore’s Aboriginality had contributed to his disadvantaged background of alcohol, drug abuse and violence. But this had to be balanced against the gravity of the offence, general and specific deterrence, community protection and the respondent’s prospects of rehabilitation.

The DPP argued in the appeal that legal precedent dictated that race should play no part in sentencing. Justices Neave and Redlich said a previous appeal decision had stated "in sentencing persons of Aboriginal descent, the court must avoid any hint of racism, paternalism or collective guilt".

In the judgment, the court said Moore broke into the home of his 21-year-old victim in the early hours of January 10, 2006. The night was extremely warm and the woman, who lived alone, was lying naked on a mattress on the floor to keep cool. Justices Neave and Redlich said that after he raped her Moore said "everyone f***s you’’ which suggested he regarded her as nothing more than an object for his sexual use.

Moore told a psychologist who examined him that he regarded the victim as a "slut". He had prior convictions for aggravated burglary, the appeal judges said, and for offences involving violence. Moore had previously received two community based orders and Judge Bourke found that his prospects for rehabilitation were not good.

"The attack was a violent one," Justices Neave and Redlich said. "The appellant (Moore) invaded the victims home in the early hours of the morning and raped her while she was in an advanced state of pregnancy. "Not surprisingly, the victim was terrified and the rape has had lasting effects on her. (His) impaired mental functioning could not substantially eliminate his responsibility for the offending."

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Federal lawsuit filed against Atlanta police goons over raid at gay club

A federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday against Atlanta police over a September raid at a gay club, on behalf of 19 patrons who say they were forcibly searched and detained. The suit, filed by the gay-rights group Lambda Legal, names Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington and 48 officers who were at the Atlanta Eagle bar the night of September 10.

"The Atlanta Police Department dispatched about 20 to 30 officers to the Atlanta Eagle, including its 'Red Dog' unit dressed in SWAT team gear," according to a statement from Lambda Legal. "But inside the bar, the APD found no public sex, no drugs or illegal weapons." No patrons were charged with any crime, the organization said.

During the raid, patrons were made to lie face down on the floor while background checks were run on everyone, the statement said. "Eagle bar patrons heard anti-gay slurs; were forced to lay in spilled beer and broken glass; and one was forced to lie on the floor even though he had injured his back in the Iraq War."

Some of the patrons were restrained with handcuffs, and officers used excessive force, including shoving some people to the floor and kicking others on the floor, the lawsuit says. Authorities searched everyone on the property, seizing their driver's licenses or other identification, the suit says.

"These actions were taken without particularized reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe that any individual patron, let alone every person at the establishment, was involved in criminal activity whatsoever," said the suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

Atlanta City Attorney Roger Bhandari said in a statement Monday that the city had not been served with the suit or had an opportunity to review it, so he would not comment. Bhandari's office told CNN on Tuesday that its response was the same, as it had not seen the suit.

The only charges filed were against Eagle employees, for allegedly violating the city's law about unlicensed adult entertainment "because four dancers were observed, in the words of the arresting officers, allegedly 'wearing underwear' and 'dancing,' " the lawsuit said.

"Imagine if the police walked into a Wal-Mart and see someone shoplifting, and because they see what they think is a crime taking place in Wal-Mart, they take everyone at Wal-Mart, throw them on the floor, spread their legs, put their hands in their pockets, take their IDs, put their name in the computer, simply because they're out of place or someone else may or may not be doing something wrong," co-counsel Daniel Grossman said at a news conference Tuesday.

The suit seeks damages and alleges that police violated the patrons' constitutional rights and that the individual officers committed false imprisonment, assault, battery and trespassing. It also requests a jury trial. "The illegal activity going on in the Atlanta Eagle that night was committed by the APD," Greg Nevins, supervising senior staff attorney in Lambda Legal's southern regional office, based in Atlanta, said in the statement. "If it is APD procedure for elderly men and wounded veterans to be thrown to the floor and harassed simply for being in a bar having a drink after work, then APD should change its procedures."

"People have asked me why I'm doing this," plaintiff Geoffrey Calhoun told reporters. "I'm not doing it because I have a vendetta against the police. I work for a police department. I'm an emergency communications officer. I do my part to make sure these officers go home. I don't work for the city of Atlanta. "I was in the bar drinking beer, playing a video game, and I was dehumanized and humiliated and laid on the floor for no reason," he said. "That's why I'm doing it."

The suit alleges undercover officers entered the bar before 11 p.m. and had a drink, then later "began screaming at patrons and employees to 'hit the floor' and get down on the ground." "Several plaintiffs were in terror and feared for their lives, believing that the Eagle was being robbed or invaded by criminals or gay-bashers who might kill or injure them," the suit continues.

Other officers came in, including the "Red Dog Unit," a special force that provides "aggressive police presence" in areas with high drug use, the suit said, citing the Atlanta Police Web site. Many of the officers in that unit were wearing black, paramilitary-style clothing not immediately recognizable as police uniforms, the suit says.

While lying on the floor, some people asked permission to move away from the broken glass and were told to "stay down and shut the [expletive] up," the suit alleges. In all, they lay on the floor for 30 minutes to more than two hours, as they were released one by one or in small groups, the suit says.

Those who asked questions were also told to shut up, threatened with arrest for disorderly conduct or "threatened with violence and physical harm," the suit says. "Some were retaliated against by being forced to remain at the Eagle long after they had been searched.

"All persons at the Eagle complied fully, promptly and peacefully with all demands made by the officers, no person at the Eagle offered any physical resistance to the officers whatsoever, and none was charged with obstructing the officers in any way," the suit says.

Police have said that if they go into a bar, it is procedure to have patrons lie on the floor and be searched, and everyone's identification is taken and checked, Nevins told reporters. "They didn't say this the night of the Eagle raid ... this happened like a month later," he said of the police comments. "They had plenty of time to figure out all the facts, and they knew they were going to be meeting with the media, and it was ultimately recorded, and they specifically went on record and said, 'This is what we always do, this is standard operating procedure,' and that's what makes this case so outlandish."

Original report here

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

NY: Libertarian activist abused by lying police then paramedics and hospital staff

Penn State University Professor Emeritus Julian Heicklen keeps returning to the scene of the crimes committed against him by Homeland Security police who confront him whenever he attempts to distribute Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) pamphlets to his fellow citizens. But he likely didn't expect to be grabbed, punched, pounded on, stripped, and involuntarily stuck with needles.

Yesterday, Heicklen arrived at his customary position outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan as he does every Monday morning (it's jury selection day) to perform his peaceful and Constitutionally protected act of free speech on public property.

In the past, Department of Homeland Security officers have arrested Heicklen and transported him to a hospital psychiatric ward. On one occasion, as described in Libertarian freedom activist forcibly hospitalized and drugged, Heicklen was taken to Bellevue Hospital where he was forcibly held down by four men and injected with Thorazine, a potent and potentially dangerous antipsychotic drug.

This time, however, when Heicklen informed the police officers that they had no Constitutional right to run him off of public property, "One of them grabbed my arm and placed me under arrest."

Exercising his usual tactic, Heicklen dropped to the pavement and remained limp and silent. The police called fire department medics who "pounded on my chest and shoulders to try to get me to respond." Then, on the way to New York Downtown Hospital in an ambulance, "The ambulance attendants also punched me in the chest and shoulders to get me to talk, which did not work."

At the hospital, he was "treated by 4 nurses, who stripped me naked and gave me the most thorough medical exam of my life. This included two intravenous injections, blood withdrawal," and other involuntary medical impositions. Heicklen later discovered that police had told the hospital that they had found a man lying unconscious in the street.

Heicklen later signed the release form “John Galt” and left.

The libertarian activist explained his continuing cause in a separate email to the Libertarian News Examiner and to his other supporters. "Originally, I went to the US District Court in Manhattan to inform juries of their rights. For me this is now the secondary issue. The primary issue has become freedom of speech. Jury nullification has become the vehicle to reclaim this right."

In spite of this, some people see Heicklen as "insane." One reader, identified only as "duh," commented on Heicklen's Vietnam era antiwar-proven protest tactic of going limp and silent when confronted with arrest. "It sounds to me as if he's been acting crazy all [a]long, has a habit of acting crazy, and needed to be evaluated to make sure he is not a danger to himself and others."

The fact that Julian Heicklen is fighting for the very right of "duh" to disagree with him seems to completely escape "duh."

With the caveat that "The Federal Protective Service is intercepting my e-mails" and "Be prudent if you write to me," freedom-loving people can join Heicklen's open or blind email list at "We now have 88 Freedom Fighters," Heicklen reports.

But this too elicited mockery, from a reader named "Scottish Son" this time. "Why would the Government 'want' to spy on a bunch of insignificant pions [sic] such as yourselves?" The word "pion" was apparently meant to be "peon."

Original report here

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cameraphone makes cops nervous

An excellent development. Video at source. It is pretty clear that the the cop drives the black guy's head through the window

CALIFORNIAN police have taken the unusual step of releasing a damning video to the public before it becomes a YouTube hit. The video shows a policeman dragging a man off a train in Oakland and then appearing to put the man’s head through a window at the terminal.

Police said Michael Gibson, 37, was drunk, however Mr Gibson's family says he suffers from a mental illness and has been in trouble with police before, Fox News reported.

Debate surrounds whether Mr Gibson stumbled into the glass during a struggle with the officer or whether his head was deliberately driven through the window. Both the police officer and Mr Gibson suffered minor cuts in the incident. An investigation is under way into whether the officer used excessive force.

Regardless, the Bay Area Rapid Transit department called a press conference as soon as footage from the phone of a commuter watching the incident appeared on YouTube as “Officer breaks window with drunks face”.

Before it went viral, BART released the video to the media in an attempt to manage any fallout from the incident. “We are keenly aware of what YouTube brings to the public,” BART police patrol Commander Daniel Hartwig said. “We want to assure the public that we are moving forward. We are not waiting. “We are investigating this to the fullest extent.”

It’s not the first time the department has been burnt by YouTube. In January, one of its officers was videoed fatally shooting unarmed man Oscar Grant III, an incident that sparked riots after it went viral on YouTube.

Original report here

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Negligent Australian Federal Police to be sued by wrongly imprisoned man

A PILOT who spent almost 1000 days in jail for a crime he did not commit is planning to sue the Australian Federal Police and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for compensation.

Frederick Martens, 60, was sentenced to five years' jail after being accused of a 2001 sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl in Papua New Guinea. But last week in Queensland's Court of Appeal, Justice Richard Chesterman quashed the conviction on federal child sex tourism charges in 2006 and set aside the jail sentence, finding there was insufficient evidence to support the charge.

And now Mr Martens is demanding a change in the law that left him unable to defend himself against the false accusations. "Because of the nature of the accusations nobody wanted to know me or have anything to do with me," Mr Martens said. "This has totally ruined my life. It has cost my businesses in Papua New Guinea millions in lost earnings. "But more importantly it has cost me the life of my daughter Stephanie, who died at six months old from malaria because I was unable to travel and secure her paperwork to bring her back to Australia for treatment."

The case against Mr Martens, who ran PNG's equivalent of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, hinged on the timing of the assault allegation and the claim he was flying at the time. He requested the official flight records but was told they did not exist.

Justice Chesterman said: "After his arrest the petitioner was released on bail, a condition of which was that he not leave Australia. It was therefore impossible for him to travel to PNG to conduct his own inquiries ... It was, in any event, eminently reasonable for him to rely upon the resources of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the AFP to obtain the records. They undertook the task and informed the petitioner that the records did not exist. "The records have always existed and have now been produced. It is a poor reflection upon the two organisations that one should have failed to find them, and denied their existence, and the other objected to their use in the reference on the ground that the petitioner should have obtained them earlier."

Mr Martens said it was only when his wife, Rose, went to PNG and made a request over the counter at a government agency that the flight records were discovered. "They were there all along," he said.

Mr Martens' solicitor Chris Rose said it was unjust that "anybody can accuse anybody of having sex with somebody overseas and the AFP can take away your passport".

Mr Martens is now with his family at his farm at Mareeba, west of Cairns."This must never be allowed to happen to anyone again," he said. "It has ruined my life."

The AFP declined to comment.

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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Monday, November 23, 2009

How to get ahead in law

Bernard Baran served 22 years on dubious child molestation charges, but the prosecutor who convicted him was promoted to judge

Last June, District Attorney David Capeless of Berkshire County, Massachusetts, announced that he was dropping all charges against 44-year-old Bernard Baran, a man who has spent half his life behind bars on child molestation charges that the state no longer has the confidence to retry.

Baran was convicted in January 1985 of molesting six children at a pre-kindergarten day care facility in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He was released on bond in 2006 after an appeals court determined that his trial attorney had been incompetent and that the prosecution may have withheld key exculpatory evidence. Baran says that during his jail term he was raped and beaten more than 30 times, necessitating six different transfers to new correctional institutions. Such is the cost the prison system exacts on an openly gay man convicted of molesting children.

Baran was one of the first people in the country to be prosecuted in the day care sex abuse panic of the 1980s, a bizarre nationwide hysteria fed by homophobia, fears of Satanism, and a wing of child psychology that used unproven interrogation techniques that critics say caused children to recount sexual incidents that never took place.

In this case, prosecutor Daniel Ford, now a judge on the Massachusetts Superior Court, showed the grand jury that indicted Baran an edited video interview with the children. According to court documents, the video shows several kids alleging that Baran had sexually abused them. Edited out was footage in which some of the children denied any abuse by Baran, interviewees accused other members of the day care faculty of abuse or of witnessing abuse, and, most important, interrogators asked the same questions over and over—even after repeated denials—until a child gave them an affirmative answer. Some children were even given rewards for their answers.

Withholding the unedited video from the grand jury was itself an act of misconduct. An appeals court suggested that prosecutor Ford may also have withheld it from Baran’s trial attorney. We can only say “may” because there has never been a hearing on the issue, and Baran’s trial attorney was far from competent. (Judge Ford did not respond to multiple requests for comment.) In granting Baran a new trial in 2006, Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Francis Fecteau never moved beyond the inadequacy of Baran’s lawyer. When the case reached the state appeals court, the justices not only upheld Fecteau’s ruling; they looked more closely at Ford’s possible misconduct. “While the record does not settle the question whether the unedited videotapes were deliberately withheld by the prosecution,” the ruling said, “there are indications in the trial transcript consistent with that contention.”

The court further noted that it took years for Baran’s appellate lawyers to get prosecutors to turn over the unedited tapes. It also cited other examples of Ford’s failure to turn over exculpatory evidence, including evidence that two of the children who accused Baran may have suffered prior sexual abuse.

To make matters worse, the case against Baran was awash in homophobia. According to court documents, the first parents to come forward with accusations against Baran in September 1984 had just days earlier registered a complaint with the center that Baran was “queer.” The boy’s mother, who thought gays “shouldn’t be allowed out in public,” much less permitted to work at day care centers, said she “didn’t want no homo” watching her son.

When that child later tested positive for gonorrhea of the throat, Ford used the test against Baran at trial, even though a) the child never accused Baran of forcing him to perform oral sex, b) the child, in fact, specifically denied having sexual contact with Baran on the witness stand, c) Baran tested negative for gonorrhea, d) the boy had told his mother two months prior that his stepfather had orally raped him, and e) on the very day Baran was convicted, charges against the stepfather were turned over to the district attorney’s office for possible prosecution. Baran’s counsel was never informed of the allegation against the stepfather. Addressing the gonorrhea issue in his closing arguments, Ford implied that Baran’s “lifestyle” made it probable that he contracted gonorrhea at other times and knew how to quickly eradicate it to cover his tracks.

In his closing argument, Ford likened Baran at a day care center to a “chocoholic in a candy store,” hypothesizing that in the “five or 10 minutes” he was able to be alone with a child without being seen by other staff or children, Baran “could have sodomized and abused those children whenever he felt the primitive urge to satisfy his sexual appetite.” The appeals court that eventually overturned the conviction ruled that the incompetence of Baran’s counsel “facilitated the speculative, stereotypical, and deeply insidious links between homosexuality, gonorrhea, and child molestation.”

According to an affidavit signed by Baran’s boyfriend at the time, Ford spent an inordinate amount of time asking Baran’s boyfriend about his own sex life, employing variations of the word faggot and a mocking, drawn-out pronunciation of homosexual. Baran’s boyfriend also claims he was pulled over by police officers and further harassed on a daily basis, and that Ford told him, illegally, that if he spoke with Baran or Baran’s defense attorney he would be arrested.

In upholding the ruling that granted Baran a new trial, the appeals court added in a footnote that if the state wanted to retry him, Baran could file a motion for a hearing on Ford’s alleged misconduct. By dropping the charges, the D.A. avoided that hearing. “In my opinion,” says Boston civil liberties attorney Harvey Silverglate, “ the possibility of an embarrassing hearing into misconduct by a former prosecutor and now sitting Superior Court judge was the main reason, if not the reason, they decided to drop the charges. The appeals court opinion cut a bit too close to the bone for them.”

So while Bernard Baran is free after 22 years of incarceration, there are no plans to look into the actions of the prosecutor, now a sitting judge, responsible for his conviction. Ford’s career trajectory indicates the backward incentive structure that prosecutors face: Convictions produce rewards, while abuse rarely comes with a penalty.

Baran has said he isn’t sure he wants to endure a lawsuit, but even if he did, he would be unlikely to get to Ford. Prosecutors enjoy absolute immunity from civil rights lawsuits, even in cases of misconduct that lead to false convictions. They are rarely disciplined in other ways either. Courts and bar associations tend to avoid professional sanctions. A study released earlier this year by the Justice Project, a pro-defense advocacy group, concluded, “Despite the prevalence of prosecutorial misconduct all over the country, states have consistently failed to investigate or sanction prosecutors who commit acts of misconduct in order to secure convictions.”

The only way Ford’s actions in the Baran case might be examined would be for one of the state’s legal ethics boards to open an investigation, either on its own or in response to a complaint. In a September article in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, a spokesperson for the state’s Office of Bar Counsel said that of the 1,000 or so complaints the office investigates each year, just “nine or 10” involve the state’s prosecutors.

One Ford defender told the publication that it’s unfair to hold the judge accountable for something he did a quarter century ago. But it isn’t as if this is some musty, inconsequential case pulled from the depths of a Massachusetts courthouse. There’s fresh damage here. Ford’s successors spent 25 years defending his misconduct. And Bernard Baran spent that time paying for it.

Original report here

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Obscene British "justice" again

Judge orders mother to hand over son to father he despises -- despite the best interests of the child being supposedly paramount

A judge ordered a mother to hand over her distraught young son to her ex-husband despite admitting it would be 'almost cataclysmic' for the child. The boy is happy living with his mother, is doing well at school and fiercely resists the move, a court heard. The 11-year-old child, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, warned that his father had 'ruined my life' and said he would 'punch and kick' rather than leave his mother's home.

But Lord Justice Wall, a leading family judge, gave the woman less than a week to kiss her son goodbye before he is uprooted. She now faces being without her only child at Christmas. Last night a family friend said: 'It is horrific. He has good friends, he is bright and he loves his school, and now he is going to be taken to live two hours away.' Another friend said: 'I don't know how his mother is coping. 'How can it be right to take a boy away from the mother he loves to live with a father who he doesn't even know?' It is understood that the child does not yet know what lies ahead for him.

The child is expected to be taken to his father early next week and it is unclear when his mother will next see him. Last night the boy's father, who lives in an £800,000 detached stone cottage on the edge of a West Country village, declined to comment. A family member on the father's side said: 'The mother just wouldn't let go of her son and wouldn't let him let go. 'It's a very sad situation. You could say she was possessive. They broke up soon after he was born and there had been problems for a long time. She yes'd and no'd an awful lot and sadly broke promises.

'It's been an extremely distressing time for everyone. 'The father is an excellent man who cares deeply for his son so it has been especially hard for him. 'But in a horrible situation like this we recognise that it is also very difficult for the mother so it has been no good for anyone really.' Under the 1989 Children Act, courts must consider the child's interests above all else.

The mother's barrister told the Court of Appeal in London this week that the boy is adamant he wants nothing more to do with his father - with whom he only lived for a few months after his birth before his parents separated. Jane Hoyal told Lord Justice Wall: 'A move from the happy, settled and stable home he has with his mother would be momentous for this young man. 'There is no dispute that he will be very upset, angry and defiant when this hugely disruptive move is implemented.'

But a child psychiatrist and the boy's own court-appointed guardian were unanimous that he is 'suffering emotional harm' due to his alienation from his father, who lives a two-hour drive away. The boy's move to live with his father, who has remarried, was originally ordered by Judge Bond at Bournemouth Family Court earlier this month. That ruling was 'stayed' pending the mother's bid to overturn the decision at the Appeal Court.

But Lord Justice Wall refused permission to appeal. He said the higher court could only intervene if Judge Bond's decision was 'plainly wrong'. Despite the mother's 'ostensible willingness' for the father to have contact with the son, the boy's 'long-term psychological welfare' demanded he live with his father, he added. The father, said Lord Justice Wall, claimed he had found it impossible to build any sort of relationship with his son while he lived with his mother.

Miss Hoyal said the mother had co-operated with all contact arrangements - and gave her 'unconditional support' to her son having a relationship with his father. She told the court the couple had been engaged in 'almost continuous litigation' throughout the boy's life. She said the importance of the boy's relationship with his father had been elevated above all other factors, including the child's own wishes. She said the boy's father and stepmother would often be away working, leaving the boy to be cared for by a nanny.

But Lord Justice Wall said Judge Bond had made a ' sensible, careful, well thought-out and balanced judgment'. He added: 'I appreciate this will be hard for the mother and will be very hard for the boy.'

Original report here. (Via POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

MS: Retrial ordered in Corey Maye case -- at last

The state Court of Appeals ordered a new trial Tuesday for Cory Maye, convicted of shooting to death a Prentiss police officer who raided his home. "Thank you, Lord. I've prayed and prayed over this every night since this took place, " Maye's mother, Dorothy, said after learning of the decision.

Maye testified he was sleeping Dec. 26, 2001, when police burst into his home. He said he shot officer Ron Jones in self-defense, but a Marion County jury in 2004 concluded he was guilty of capital murder and sentenced him to die by lethal injection.

In 2006, Circuit Judge Michael Eubanks tossed out the death sentence after concluding Maye's former lawyer failed to represent her client adequately during the penalty phase of the trial. The judge sentenced Maye to life in prison without parole.

On Tuesday, the Appeals Court concluded Maye deserves a second trial, contending that his trial should have been held, as he requested, in Jefferson Davis County since that is where the crime took place. "Certainly we disagree," said District Attorney Hal Kittrell, adding that the attorney general's office will seek a rehearing on the matter and will appeal, if necessary, to the state Supreme Court.

If the courts all agree that a new trial is necessary, there will be another trial because prosecutors believe Maye is guilty, he said. "We didn't buy it (his self-defense claim), nor did a jury, so we'll go back."

The Appeals Court found that the judge moved the trial to Marion County at Maye's request because of pretrial publicity. But later, when Maye asked for the trial to be returned to Jefferson Davis County, the judge refused. "Our concern was, 'how do you send a case back to a place you said you couldn't get a fair trial?' " Kittrell asked.

Maye was arrested after the Pearl River Basin Narcotics Task Force received a tip from a confidential informant regarding possible drugs in a duplex occupied by 21-year-old Jamie Smith.

The warrant listed Smith's name but not Maye's. Police testified they knocked on Smith's door, announced themselves and that Smith surrendered to police and was charged with sale of cocaine.

Original report here.

The account of Maye's "crime" above is very poor. See here for more details. Lying police thugs is what it is all about.

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Friday, November 20, 2009


As have closed down the companion site to this one -- Wicked Thoughts -- they could also close this one down any time. They give no reasons for their actions so nobody can tell what will happen next.

In case they DO close this site down, however, make a note of the MIRROR SITE for this blog. The mirror site will start to be updated immediately this present site goes down -- if it does.

Wicked Thoughts is now hosted on Wordpress and the archives (past posts) are on Wicked Thoughts Archive

Release ordered for wrongfully convicted NYC man

A New York City man imprisoned for nearly 20 years for a now-overturned murder conviction is set to be freed within days after a judge Thursday ordered him released while authorities determine whether he must serve an unrelated drug sentence. A federal judge in suburban White Plains, N.Y., ordered Fernando Bermudez released without bail on the drug case at least until June 30. That gives his lawyers time to try to persuade federal officials to credit his 27-month sentence as served.

Bermudez' release is expected as soon as Friday, according to defense lawyer Barry J. Pollack said. Relatives readied a homecoming celebration for the married father of three at their upper Manhattan apartment. "It's amazing," said his father, Frank Bermudez.

A state judge last week declared Bermudez innocent in a deadly 1991 shooting near a Manhattan nightclub. He was convicted of murder the next year and sentenced to 23 years to life in prison. The judge said a key witness lied and others influenced one other into implicating Bermudez.

Manhattan prosecutors have said they still believe Bermudez is guilty. They continue to weigh a potential appeal and other options.

Despite the overturned conviction, the 40-year-old Bermudez has remained behind bars because of his federal drug-sale case. His February 1991 arrest in a drug sting at a suburban mall predated the killing, but he had been arrested in the murder by the time he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine. His federal prison term was put off. His lawyers argue that he has effectively more than served his time in that case.

"Had it not been for this wrongful conviction, Mr. Bermudez would have long ago competed his 27-month federal sentence," his lawyers wrote in court papers. " ... Under the circumstances, Mr. Bermudez should not spend an additional day in prison." Defense lawyers ultimately want the federal Bureau of Prisons to count his sentence as served. The agency's telephone rang unanswered Thursday evening.

Federal prosecutors didn't oppose Bermudez' temporary release. They declined to comment on whether they will oppose his request for relief from his federal sentence.

In the murder case, Supreme Court Justice John Cataldo not only threw out Bermudez' conviction but dismissed the charges, rather than calling for a retrial. Cataldo said Bermudez had proven his innocence in the Aug. 4, 1991, shooting of 16-year-old Raymond Blount. He was killed after a fight with another teen inside a nightspot.

The other teen said Bermudez was the gunman, and four bystander eyewitnesses identified him from police photograph files and then a lineup. But the eyewitnesses — who recanted — had improperly consulted among themselves before picking him from police photos, instead of identifying him separately, Cataldo found. And the teen involved in the fight lied as he testified under an agreement sparing him criminal charges, the judge said.

No forensic evidence linked Bermudez to the crime.

Bermudez has completed most of a college degree in prison, his lawyers said.

Original report here

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Injured woman tracks down attacker herself after British police fail to help

And it only took her a few hours

When police drew a blank in the hunt for the woman thug who nearly blinded her in a vicious nightclub attack, Jennifer Wilson did not let the matter rest. Instead, the 20-year-old turned detective herself, and used Facebook to trace the stranger who had rammed a glass into her face. She recognised an acquaintance who was in the yob's group before the unprovoked attack, and trawled through his list of 200 friends on the social networking website.

After several hours, Miss Wilson found a photograph of her attacker, hairdresser Ashleigh Holliman. She even tracked down Holliman's address and workplace through a mutual friend on Facebook and gave them to Hertfordshire Police, who were then able to arrest her. Holliman, 22, of Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, admitted actual bodily harm at St Albans Crown Court and was sentenced to 120 hours' unpaid work. Recorder Nigel Peters, QC, also ordered her to pay Miss Wilson £2,400 compensation for the attack at Walkabout Bar in Watford in March this year.

David Chrimes, prosecuting, told the court: 'Miss Wilson was dancing on the stage when the defendant and a friend of hers were staring in a hostile way towards the victim. 'Miss Wilson leans forward to ask what they are talking about and then she is grabbed by the defendant and struck with the glass that connected below the left eye.'

Barry Forward, defending, said Holliman had since stopped drinking and was full of remorse.

Miss Wilson, who has been left with an inch-long scar, said yesterday: 'I honestly thought I was going to lose my eye. She came up to me and just slammed the glass into my face with all her might. Blood was squirting out of the hole on my face. 'My hair and face were covered and my cream top turned red.'

She added: 'I spent hours searching Facebook as I knew I'd seen her friend before. When I finally found her I couldn't believe it. I saw her smiling in the pictures like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth and felt sick inside.' Police had told her the CCTV from the club was blurry and staff had cleared away evidence from the dance floor, hindering inquiries. 'I'm just a receptionist in a tanning salon but I ended up doing the detective work for them,' said Miss Wilson. 'Maybe I'm in the wrong job.'

Original report here

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

He would have been better off shooting first

Most of us would probably think that a man who found himself being followed down a dark street by two people at midnight and turned to ask, "why are you following me?" while holding a folding pocket knife pointed down along his leg was just being careful. His actions seem especially reasonable when you know that he put the knife away upon hearing that his apparent stalkers actually meant no harm. But in New Hampshire, Dustin Almon was convicted of a misdemeanor because the two fellow pedestrians were plainclothes police officers. According to SeacoastOnline:
Officer Anthony Cattabriga, said he was walking behind Almon on Chapel Street on Nov. 8, 2008, when Almon turned around three times to look at him and a new officer he was training. It was dark and Almon was twenty feet away when he displayed a knife with a two-inch blade the third time he turned around, said Cattabriga.

"He pointed it down by his side," the liquor officer testified, while demonstrating with Almon's seized pocket knife.

When he responded by yelling "police," Almon folded the knife, clipped it to his belt and complied with all subsequent police orders, Cattabriga testified.

The two state liquor enforcement officers were "in plain clothes without any indicators that they were members of law enforcement." They both carried concealed handguns and Tasers.

So neither Almon nor anybody else who might have happened along had any easy way to distinguish these two from the sort of common criminals who frequent dark, late-night streets. And Almon quickly dropped his challenge once the police did identify themselves.

It's hard to avoid the conclusion that Almon was charged -- first with that catch-all offense, "disorderly conduct," and later with the harsher "criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon" -- because he caused these two well-armed officers to stain their pants. Despite his gun and Taser, Cattabriga insists, "I feared for my safety."

Perhaps concerned about appearing too solicitous of excitable law-enforcement officers, Judge Sawako Gardner insists that the officers' government-employed status isn't a factor -- Almon would have been sentenced to 30 days in jail (suspended pending a year of good behavior) and a $500 fine (half suspended) no matter who he confronted.

Really? But New Hampshire law explicitly allows for the use of actual force in self-defense -- deadly or non-deadly depending on the circumstances, "a degree of such force which he reasonably believes to be necessary for such purpose." New Hampshire law also allows people to engage in otherwise illegal conduct if it's necessary to prevent a greater harm. The law states:
Conduct which the actor believes to be necessary to avoid harm to himself or another is justifiable if the desirability and urgency of avoiding such harm outweigh, according to ordinary standards of reasonableness, the harm sought to be prevented by the statute defining the offense charged.

So even if holding a knife by your side could, by any stretch of the imagination, be defined as "criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon," it's hard to see how doing so would not meet "ordinary standards of reasonableness" when you're alone, at night, and concerned that two people following you intend to mug and, maybe, kill you.

Dustin Almon's actions seem perfectly justifiable according to existing law, without having to reach further afield for moral justifications for deterring potential assailants. Judge Gardner would apparently strip the people of New Hampshire of rights they possess under current law rather than allow the occasional law enforcement officer to suffer from a moment of inconvenience.

Original report here

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

British childcare watchdog deliberately hid evidence in court case

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

The childcare watchdog has admitted withholding crucial evidence that could potentially hand Sharon Shoesmith, the former head of children’s services at Haringey Council, hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation. Ms Shoesmith was sacked after a damning Ofsted report into how her department was run in the aftermath of the Baby P case. A High Court judge has taken the extraordinary step of reopening her case so dozens of pages of handwritten notes, e-mails and draft reports can be examined. Mr Justice Foskett also ordered Ofsted to pay for all extra legal costs incurred at the penal “indemnity” rate — a bill that could cost taxpayers £50,000.

Ofsted issued a humiliating apology for its handling of Ms Shoesmith’s legal challenge, admitting a “serious and deeply regrettable error”.

The latest unexpected twist in the case of Baby Peter, the 17-month-old boy who died from repeated abuse, has placed in doubt Ofsted’s competence to oversee child protection.

Last month Ms Shoesmith launched judicial review proceedings against Ofsted, Ed Balls, the Children’s Secretary, and Haringey Council over her dismissal from the £130,000 a year job after the Baby Peter tragedy. She accused Mr Balls of putting pressure on Haringey to sack her with no compensation after a media campaign. Her lawyers have argued that a devastating Ofsted report used by Mr Balls and Haringey to justify their actions was deeply flawed and failed to follow proper procedures. That hearing ended a month ago and all parties were expecting the judge to make his ruling this week.

Ms Shoesmith’s lawyers had repeatedly tried to get hold of handwritten notes and various early drafts of the devastating Ofsted report into Haringey children’s services that cost her her job. Ms Shoesmith was told first the notes were not relevant, then that they “did not exist”. However, they were found several weeks ago by a lawyer new to Ofsted’s legal department who was following up a freedom of information request. Of the five key witnesses in Ofsted’s defence, three have produced new material. The judge was alerted on November 6.

Last night the Conservatives said that the court case had called into question Ofsted’s competence. “Ofsted has come out very badly from this tragic affair. An inspection in 2007 gave Haringey three stars, just days after Baby P has died. Their second inspection completely reversed that judgment. Now someone’s incompetence means we’re faced with the risible prospect of the taxpayer shelling out for Sharon Shoesmith’s legal costs,” Tim Loughton, the Shadow Children’s Minister, said. “Ofsted has to get its act together. Inspectors of children’s services need to be spending much more time talking to professionals and less time checking ticked boxes.”

Ofsted has been given two weeks to produce any other documents that could be relevant to the case.

In the emergency High Court hearing yesterday, Mr Justice Foskett also ordered it to give “a full explanation” of how it was that a series of requests from Ms Shoesmith’s lawyers for information on draft reports “was dealt with in the way it was”. He said that they were at first “batted away”, then turned down on the basis that the draft reports did not exist, “and now they do”. “I want chapter and verse on that,” he said.

Among the material are copies of drafts of transcripts of the Ofsted report into Haringey. There had been allegations that earlier drafts of the Ofsted report had been altered, or the assessments that they contained were altered in some way, he said. The reopening of the case means that a judgment is now unlikely until the new year.

Ofsted admitted that it had made a “serious and deeply regrettable error” in failing to disclose potential evidence. “We very much regret that this has happened. We have apologised unreservedly to the court and other parties. Unfortunately, mistakes sometimes happen and, while this is a serious one and deeply regrettable, we have nothing to hide,” it said in a statement.

Ms Shoesmith, 56, was dismissed in December.

During the judicial review it emerged that there were two key phone calls made to Haringey Council from a senior minister and senior official at the Department for Children, Schools and Families after a bruising Prime Minister’s Questions. It also emerged that Christine Gilbert, the Chief Inspector, made special arrangements for Mr Balls to have the Ofsted report before Haringey and gave him a personal briefing on the morning when Ms Shoesmith was suspended.

Original report here. (Via POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Australia: Honest cop back at work after beating corrupt police bosses -- for now

A OFFICER who exposed cronyism and corruption in the police force has returned to duty after 18 months of being forced to see psychiatrists despite being fit. Sergeant Robbie Munn said he was greeted by "a lot of smiles, handshakes and pats on the back" by other officers at the Maroochydore police station after battling against police bureaucracy.

Sgt Munn, who rebelled against a culture he said deterred whistleblowers from reporting "dirty little secrets" in the service, credited an October story in The Courier-Mail with restoring his career. Only days before the story ran, Sgt Munn was barred from duty but within hours of the story's publication his doctor received a report clearing him for service. "The story was the only reason I was allowed back," he said. "I still think they want me out and will try to medically retire me."

Sgt Munn is working three days a week on a rehabilitation program recommended for him last year but only offered to him after the story appeared. Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson said he would meet with Sgt Munn to discuss his concerns, but the meeting has yet to occur.

Sgt Munn was supported by Queensland Police Union general secretary Mick Barnes, Maroochydore's Sgt John Saez, a 37-year veteran, and dozens of Dayboro residents impressed with his services as officer-in-charge in the town.

Sgt Munn, who was in charge of 70 police officers at Maroochydore, said he was smeared in the bureaucracy after exposing that police cheated on promotion exams by plagiarising and paying others to complete their work. He also unsuccessfully tried to reform rosters at the Maroochydore watchhouse after becoming concerned at some work practices. A year later, two officers were charged and eventually jailed for taking advantage of female prisoners.

When he was overlooked for promotion in Dayboro, he appealed to the CMC and won, embarrassing his managers. After having a heart attack, Sgt Munn said he was not allowed to return to duty despite his GP and two psychiatrists saying he was fit. The police service was accused of doctor-shopping for a negative report to keep Sgt Munn from returning.

He was embarrassed to be paid more than $100,000 from a fund for ill police officers while he was on enforced leave. "At least now I have direction. For 18 months I had no direction," he said.

Police bureaucrats sat on a favourable report on his mental condition until after the newspaper article appeared.

Evie, his wife, said her husband had been "honest to his own detriment". Union secretary Mr Barnes said Sgt Munn was a victim of "bastardisation" in the force. "It highlights the mindset within many senior QPS officers who are unable to agree to disagree," he said.

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Crooked Australian Federal Police suppressed exculpatory rape evidence

An Australian wrongly spent more than two years in jail for child rape after the Australian Federal Police and the federal prosecutor denied the existence of crucial documents that would have exonerated him. Pilot Frederic Arthur Martens, 60, is threatening to sue the two agencies for millions of dollars after his conviction was quashed and his 5 1/2-year jail sentence was set aside by Queensland's Court of Appeal yesterday.

The court slammed prosecutors and police over their mishandling of the case. In a scathing judgment, judge Richard Chesterman was critical of the AFP and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for not producing flight records from the Papua New Guinea civil aviation authority that proved Mr Martens was 1000km away from Port Moresby on the night he was accused of raping the girl. The documents were eventually discovered by Mr Martens's partner and were instrumental in the quashing of his conviction.

Mr Martens also blames the AFP for the death of his infant daughter, Stephanie, who he says died from malaria in PNG after his arrest because he was prevented from leaving Australia and his wife could not afford a doctor after police froze his bank accounts.

Mr Martens was the first person convicted under Australia's sex tourism laws, when a Cairns jury found him guilty in October 2006 of raping a 14-year-old PNG girl in Port Moresby in 2001.

Justice Chesterman said that after Mr Martens was arrested, his bail conditions prevented him from travelling to PNG so he had to rely on the federal authorities to find the records. "(The AFP and CDPP) undertook the task and informed the petitioner that the records did not exist," Justice Chesterman wrote. "The records have always existed and have now been produced.

"It is a poor reflection upon the two organisations that one should have failed to find them, and denied their existence, and the other object to their use in the (appeal) on the ground that (Martens) should have obtained them earlier."

Justice Chesterman said Mr Martens had consistently requested the documents since 2004, but the agencies did not produce the records. Justice Chesterman said the records were crucial and critical to quashing Mr Martens' conviction. "The fresh evidence shows the conviction to have been unreasonable, or unsupported by the evidence . . . at the very least it raises a reasonable doubt about (Mr Martens's) guilt," he wrote.

Mr Martens last night said his case was an example of "gross ineptitude on behalf of the AFP, the immigration department and the CDPP. I was defamed with being a child pedophile," he said. "Both the AFP and the CDPP bragged about it in their annual reports, saying I was a predator, a pedophile," he told The Weekend Australian.

Mr Martens's brother Peter Wheatley said Mr Martens and his family had suffered enormously. "I call it our nightmare of reality," Mr Wheatley said. "He's scarred for life. The wounds are not repairable."

Mr Martens's barrister, Michael Sumner-Potts, said his client was considering suing the AFP and CDPP, and called for an inquiry into the handling of the case. "His life has been wrecked, financially, emotionally, psychologically," he said. "His business has crashed."

An AFP spokeswoman declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the office of the CDPP said it had prosecuted the matter in accordance with policy. [Some policy!!]

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Judge tosses conviction after man spends 18 years in the slammer

A Manhattan judge tossed out a murder case today against a man imprisoned for nearly 20 years, declaring that he was innocent after a witness lied about him being the shooter.

Fernando Bermudez, 40, wept inside a downtown courtroom as Supreme Court Justice John Cataldo took the bizarre step of not only overturning his 1992 conviction, but dismissing the charges altogether. Bermudez has "demonstrated his actual innocence,” Cataldo said. “This court wishes to express its profound regret over the past 18 years. I hope for you a better future.”

He remains behind bars for now because of a seperate federal drug-sale conviction that carried a 27-month sentence. His lawyers plan to ask federal authorities to credit him for the time he has served and release him immediately.

“This is too long, but justice is ours today,” his wife, Crystal, told reporters outside court as she wiped away tears.

The August 1991 shooting involved 16-year-old Raymond Blount, who was gunned down as he left a nightspot near Union Square after getting into a fight with another teen inside the club. Another teen identified Bermudez as the gunman and four bystanders fingered him from police photograph files and then a police lineup.

The judge's ruling bars a retrial. The Manhattan DA's office said it would not pursue one because several witnesses have since recanted and would no longer testify. Prosecutors, however, said they still believe Bermudez is guilty and are examining their options, including filing an appeal. “We strongly disagree with the judge’s decision,” said Chief Assistant DA Mark Dwyer. “We don’t think the defense has shown that there was anything wrong with the verdict.”

Bermudez’ lawyers presented evidence that the witnesses had improperly consulted each other before picking him from the lineup. The judge said that one of the teens involved in the fight, who testified against Bermudez under an agreement sparing him criminal charges, delivered “a total fabrication” on the witness stand

Original report here

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Facebook 'pancakes' alibi gets jailed New York teen freed

NYC again. Incredible that such a small thing could make such a big difference. What does it say about the other evidence in the case? One accusation was believed in spite of multiple alibis. Sounds like he was seen as guilty because he was black. This deserves a full inquiry but it won't get one in NYC. This is one occasion when sharpie Sharpton could make himself really useful

Pass the syrup -- this lucky guy is eating breakfast at home instead of on Rikers Island. A Brooklyn teen's playful Facebook message to his pregnant girlfriend about pancakes sprung him from jail and helped him avoid years in prison for a holdup he didn't commit.

Prosecutors dropped a robbery charge against Rodney Bradford, 19, after learning his Facebook account status had been updated with the inside joke "WHERE MY IHOP?" from a computer in his dad's Harlem apartment one minute before an Oct. 17 stickup of two men in Brooklyn's Farragut Houses.

"They had me on Rikers Island for 12 days. It was really miserable," Bradford told The Post last night. "If it wasn't for Facebook I'd still be on Rikers Island."

His joyful stepmom, Ernestine Bradford, agreed, saying. "Facebook saved my son," she said. "Normally, we yell at our kids, 'Oh, you're on the computer!" It's completely different. If it wasn't for Facebook, my son wouldn't be here."

The electronic fingerprints from Bradford's Facebook posting backed up multiple witnesses who said he was at his dad's home that day, and knocked down a victim's claim that he recognized one of the robbers as Bradford, who lives in Farragut Houses.

"This was just a very strong alibi," said Bradford's lawyer, Robert Reuland. "It reflects the pervasiveness that Web sites and social networking has on our lives."

Original report here

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Man is confronted by NY police for apparently committing the crime of free speech on public property

Police arrested a freelance videographer and confiscated the memory card from his camera while he was recording FIJA activist Julian Heicklen Monday. The videographer, who goes by the name of "bile," was standing on public property at the time. Heicklen, for the fourth Monday (jury selection day) in a row, was passing out the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) pamphlets, “A Primer for Prospective Jurors” at the federal courthouse in New York City.

After police briefly spoke to Heicklen and left, bile approached him and conducted a short interview. As he explained on the Free Talk Live radio call-in show that evening, bile had heard about Julian's previous activism and arrests and decided to support him by acting as a witness.

The police, with additional officers, returned and asked Heicklen to leave. He declined, so they announced he was under arrest. As Heicklen always does, he dropped to the ground and went limp and silent.

It was then that Police confronted bile with his digital camcorder. When bile informed them that, "I was working for Free Talk Live," they said he was under arrest for breaking a federal statute that regulates what people on federal property may photograph. Bile was told he was guilty of photographing "without permission."

After convincing the police to take only his memory card "for evidence" rather than his camera, and accepting a receipt for it and a citation for his offense, bile was released. Meanwhile, police confiscated Heicklen's remaining FIJA brochures, his JURY INFO sign, and left him a receipt and a citation.

Joel Kupferman, a lawyer and Executive Director of the New York Environmental Law & Justice Project, appeared at the scene and observed the events. An NBC reporter was also noted to be present.

For the first time in four trips to the courthouse to hand out FIJA fliers, Heicklen was released rather than arrested and then transported to a psychiatric hospital.

Articles covering Heicklen's previous efforts can be read at the Libertarian News Examiner. Also, Heicklen always writes his own reports on the day's events and Len Flynn always posts them in their entirety on the New Jersey Libertarian Party homepage. Bile also wrote and posted his own detailed account of his encounter with the American police state, "Arrested for filming the arrest of Julian Heicklen on federal property."

But bile was one step ahead of the police. As he revealed in his report on Free Talk Live (he's in the second half of the broadcast), "I had a little spycam that I had tucked in my belt that was recording the whole time just in case something happened with my camcorder." Bile's spycam video can be seen at blog of bile. Bile also escaped with his audio interview of Heicklen and it is posted on the same blog page just below the video.

In an email to his growing number of supporters nationwide, Heicklen explained the motivation behind his actions. "Originally, I went to the US District Court in Manhattan to inform juries of their rights. For me this is now the secondary issue. The primary issue has become freedom of speech. Jury nullification has become the vehicle to reclaim this right."

However, a growing number of supporters have been responding to Heicklen's call to action. The presence of bile, Joel Kupferman and the NBC reporter are part of that response.

Original report here

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Perverted British justice again

More than 100 rapists have been let off with a police caution, it was revealed yesterday. The 111 cases included 66 incidents of child rape. The extent to which police forces have handed cautions to rapists, whose crime carries a maximum sentence of life in jail, was made public as Justice Secretary Jack Straw announced a full-scale review of the system of punishing crime with cautions and on-the-spot fines.

Mr Straw acted after a weekend when senior police chiefs and the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC called for curbs on the use of out-of-court punishments. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson also condemned the 'uncontrollable increase in cautions' and said that on-the-spot fines, now often used to punish offences such as shoplifting, 'in the public's minds equate to a parking ticket.'

The system of fixed-penalty fines and cautions has been introduced over the past six years as a way to deal with minor crime cheaply and effectively. But the disclosure that cautions have been used repeatedly to deal with rapists is the clearest demonstration that the system is now being used to keep the most serious crimes out of the courts.

The figures released to MPs by the Home Office show numbers of cautions handed to rapists after the 2003 Sexual Offences Act became law in May 2004. Between that date and the end of 2007 there were 45 cases of rape of adults in which the rapist admitted guilt but was released with a caution. In a further 66 cases individuals who admitted raping a child under 13 were freed with a caution.

The figures from the Home Office gave no indication of why police chose to use cautions to punish a crime which, in the case of adult rape, typically attracts a prison sentence of five years. Nor do they say how many rapists have been cautioned rather than tried since 2007. A high proportion of the 66 child rapes may have involved very young offenders, and the offenders in many of the cases of adult rapes may have been intimate partners of the victims.

However no caution can be given in any case except where the suspect admits guilt. Therefore in all 111 cases prosecutors denied the courts an opportunity to examine the evidence and decide on sentencing.

Tory home affairs spokesman James Brokenshire said: 'It is deeply disturbing to think that the rape of a young child could be dealt with by little more than a telling off. The law should protect the vulnerable, yet Labour's caution culture is increasingly letting them down.'

Decisions to allow crimes as serious as rape to be dealt with by cautions are taken by the Crown Prosecution Service rather than police officers, the Ministry of Justice said yesterday. Nevertheless the punishment faced by a rapist who is cautioned does not amount to anything more than two years on the sex offenders' register.

Figures also show cautions proliferating for lesser offences. Last year, according to the BBC's Panorama programme, 39,000 people were cautioned for assault causing actual bodily harm. There were 739 cautions for the much more serious offence of grievous bodily harm. More than half a million offenders have been given repeat cautions since 2000 and in eight years between 2000 and 2008 some 2.2million cautions were handed out in all for crimes, including burglary and assault. Another half million penalty notices for disorder, handed out of drunkenness, shoplifting and similar more minor crimes, were handed out between 2005 and 2007. In half of the cases, the criminal did not pay up. There are also concerns that the penalty notices are now being used for burglary and robbery.

Mr Straw said yesterday that he and Home Secretary Alan Johnson are concerned at the use of out- of- court punishments. He added that a review would be run by the Office of Criminal Justice Reform. He denied the Government had encouraged the use of cautions to reduce the prison population.

Original report here

Rape OK in sick Britain but bad paintwork is serious

A pregnant woman who invited a policewoman into her half- decorated home ended up being reported to social workers for being a potentially unfit mother. Mary Cooke, 27, was visited by police after she called 999 to report that she had nearly been run down by a speeding car. The officer did not mention that she was unhappy about the state of Mrs Cooke's rented house, but after leaving wrote a memo to the social services.

Days later, Mrs Cooke received a letter from Staffordshire County Council, warning her of a potential 'referral' for her unborn child. In addition, the council contacted her midwife.

Last night, Mrs Cooke, a housewife who is 12 weeks' pregnant with her first child, said: 'The letter made me feel sick. I believe someone was judging me for decorating the house and I can't believe it. I'm in the first stages of pregnancy. I'd never dream of bringing a child home to a house being decorated. 'I told the policewoman we are moving in February. We've been renting privately and we had started decorating, then a bigger house came up for rent and we decided to take it. 'But we thought it was only right to finish off what we'd started for the next people who come here.'

Mrs Cooke, of Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, added: 'They contacted my midwife behind my back, but apparently she said she had no worries. 'Now they've accepted that the policewoman may have been a little over zealous, so none of this will go against me in the future. They've decided to let the matter rest. 'It seems that the police and social services go from one extreme to another, they either do nothing and a little child dies or they go completely over the top.'

Mrs Cooke was visited by police after ringing to say that she had nearly been run over by a car that went through a red light. During the conversation she told the policewoman she was pregnant. Mrs Cooke said the officer spent five minutes in the hall and living room of her semi-detached home and would have seen the stripped walls and floors. She added: 'I know the wallpaper is off the walls and there were a couple of nails lying around, but the policewoman didn't say anything while she was here. Other expectant couples should be warned: be careful when you let police officers into their homes, because they can be judging you.'

The letter was sent from the council's children's services first response service, in Stafford. It says a referral regarding the unborn child had been made by police. A spokesman for Staffordshire Police said: 'Our officers aim to act in the best interests of everyone they come into contact with. 'Their role can include making sure people get any extra help and support they might need.' [Like having their kids taken off them??? That's "support"???] He declined to confirm whether the officer had referred Mrs Cooke to social services.

Original report here (Via POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

This is not your mother’s America … nor your father’s

In The Examiner, Gary Reed reports on the "kidnapping" by law enforcement and forced medication of libertarian activist Julian Heicklen. The synopsis: on Monday and for the 3rd Monday in a row, Heicklen arrived at the US District Courthouse in New York City in order to pass out pamphlets to prospective jurors informing them of "their right to judge the law and its application as well as the facts in a case." Yep...the fully informed jury strategy. Homeland Security police told him to leave; Heicklen said he had a 1st Amendment right to stay. He ended up being forcibly transported to a hospital where he was injected with Thorazine against his will.

To me, the most interesting aspect of Heicklen's story is not the most obvious part. Heicklen is a veteran at civil disobedience and, so, upon being told by police that he was under arrest, he dropped to the ground and went limp as he had done many times in the past. He maintained silence as well.

Reed reports, In the past, he was arrested, handcuffed, placed on a gurney and transported to a hospital where he was examined and eventually released in time to be home later the same day. (Full accounts of this and his first two trips to Manhattan can be read on the New Jersey Libertarian Party website.) But this time something different happened.

This time, Heicklen lay limp on the ground for over an hour. He was not handcuffed, not cited, not read his rights... He was simply hoisted into an ambulance, strapped down and taken to Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital, where he remained unresponsive to questions. As evening drew near, Heicklen explains, "I made a fuss to see someone in charge, so that I could either be released or brought in front of a magistrate. My requests were ignored, and became more persistent. Against my wishes four attendants grabbed me and gave me a shot of Thorazine to calm me down." He was released the next day.

The significant sentence is "this time something different happened." The response of police and others in authority has been changing for some time now; recently, there seems to be a tipping point in the willingness of authorities to use brutality and utterly disregard civil rights. In fact, willnessness may not be the best word. The attitude is more perfunctory as though Heicklen were meat being processed by people jaded in their jobs. The only time he experienced brutality was when he caused a problem, an annoyance; that is, he complained too vigorously at Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital. If he had maintained silence, I expect they would have let him just alone sit in a cell. They would have been content to process him like a good, quiet piece of meat. Equally, had Heicklen acted up with the police by talking back or even by wagging a finger at them, I expect they would have tased him, beaten him down, etc. instead of just hoisting him into the ambulance like the piece of meat he was to them.

This is not your mother's America any more. It is not an America in which the authorities feel a need to even pretend you have rights. Listen to the real lesson of Heicklen's experience: "this time something different happened." The police did not bother going through the motions of issuing a citation or making a formal arrest. The doctors at Bellevue medicated him without consent and probably without any necessity; the hospital held him far longer than on previous occasions. The relationship that individual Americans have with authority is changing...and rapidly so.

BTW, on Tuesday I blogged about the police brutalization of another libertarian who was stopped for a traffic offense. (See Prominent libertarian tased, shot in back by police) I don't mean to imply there is a crackdown on libertarians going on. I think the explanation is different but no happier for that difference. I think there is a great deal more violence and disdain for rights on the part of authorities; I think this trend is going to markedly accelerate. If an unusually high number of libertarians are experiencing brutality -- and I don't know if that is true -- then it is probably because libertarians tend to question authority and otherwise have a bad attitude.

The iron fist has tossed away its velvet glove.

Original report here

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Manufacturing felons

In an earlier blog post entitled "Sex Offender Pleas for Prison", I wrote, "I would like to be optimistic about a "turn around" in the economy...but I can't be. The rise of homelessness is merely one of about five social factors that (IMO) must "turn around" and sharply so before optimism is justified". A reader wants to know what the other "social factors" or trends are.

I will address them one at a time. Another trend that must sharply reverse in order to allow the economy to heal is a marked increase in the criminalization almost everything. The most pronounced increase has been in 'crimes' that involve children and sex. A zero tolerance policy has resulted in a soaring rate of children being arrested and branded as sex offenders, often for behavior that would have formerly been considered reckless hijinx or hormones. For example, streaking, sexual contact between two pre-18-year-olds, mooning, etc. For sexting their own photos, children are being charged and convicted of distributing and/or possessing child porn. This, despite the fact that a recent study by Peter Cumming, an associate professor at York University in Toronto, the practice to be a modern variation on "playing doctor or spin-the-bottle" and no more harmful than those 'games.' (For more on the surge of children being convicted of sex offenses, see the excellent critique on Classically Liberal.)

The criminalization of the formerly non-criminal extends far beyond what any reasonable person would consider sexual behavior. Consider an earlier blog post entitled "Man arrested for making coffee naked and alone in own kitchen." He was arrested after a woman and her son -- who cut across his property -- looked through his window. The most interesting aspect of the story is that the arresting officer ran the 'crime' past the D.A.'s office before acting. This is interesting because it signals that the arrest was not an aberration or due to a rogue cop. And, when the news story went viral, the official response of the police was not an apology but a ramping up of the case; cops that could have been investigating real crimes were sent instead to conduct mass interviews in the hope of getting anyone to file a complaint against the nude coffee-maker. In short, his arrest got both official pre-approval and a vigorous post-defense. If convicted, the fellow faces up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

You hear this over and over again; the police brutalization of innocent people is both sanctioned and defended by the higher-ups. Consider another instance: the fellow who was innocently walking home from a pizza parlor in Pittsburgh during the G-20 Summit and protests in that city only to encounter about 15 policemen who forced him to his knees to facilitate a "trophy photo" reminiscent of those snapped of enemy prisoners during a war. The most interesting aspect of that story? Police supervisors were among the photo-op hungry thugs.

Today my eyes were caught by the headline "Arlington Catholic football player charged"; the story that followed...A criminal charge has been filed against an Arlington Catholic football player who allegedly head-butted an opposing player whose helmet had been knocked off in a football game last month....Daniel Curtin, who could not play football for 10 days after the incident because of concussion concerns, suffered two lacerations and an “apple-sized’’ lump on his forehead, his mother said. LaShoto, who was an honors student and captain of the team, was suspended for two games by Arlington Catholic, said his lawyer, Ronald Martignetti of Winchester. Martignetti said the suspension, which was formulated in conjunction with both Arlington Catholic and Abington High School officials, was adequate. "We see this as an unfortunate incident,’’ Martignetti said, and the filing of charges as “a misuse of the criminal process.’’

Yes, you agree (as prudent readers are wont to do) this destroys civil liberties, but what does this have to do with the economy...?

The juggernaut of criminalization has a profound impact not only on the individuals involved but also upon society as a whole.

The impact on the individuals involved is more obvious and, so, can be stated briefly. The accused must spend money on fines, attorney fees, bail, etc. -- money that is diverted from productive uses like education or investment. If convicted, most will lose jobs, their place at college and, those who fall behind in bills, may lose their homes and be forced into bankruptcy. They could also forfeit the most productive years of life. They could be legally barred from certain professions, from 'privileges' like acquiring a Passport and from receiving some government benefits. On a less official basis, finding a good job or renting in a desirable area could be a problem; employers and landlords reject people due to bad credit scores these days; a felony conviction will be huge black mark.

Criminalization is creating a large segment within society that consists of second-class citizens in terms of both civil liberties and economic prospects. Every non-violent individual who is rendered "a criminal" is someone who no longer functions productively in society. What percentage of people can be legally stripped of upward mobility without making society stumble? I don't know but we may be currently testing the limit.

The economic impact on society is immense in other ways as well. The taxpayer -- that is, you -- pays the staggering cost of arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning "criminals" for acts such as making coffee in the nude. (Indeed, the high prison population in California is one of the reasons for that state's bankruptcy.) As a taxpayer, you also pay to settle the lawsuits that occur more frequently in response to abuses of process. Meanwhile, when police and the courts focus on non-violent people, you are less safe from those who assault, steal, rape or murder.

Law enforcement is one of the few areas of employment growth these days but, remember, it is tax-paid employment that adds to the drain of money from productive, private hands into yet another bureaucratic purse. Government cannot create money or wealth; government only redistributes it. Every non-violent person who is arrested represents money taken from your family and your future; it goes instead to the families and futures of government employees. Understandably, this reduces your incentive to create wealth because more and more of it is stolen to feed fat bureaucrats and those who damage your life, your police officers.

I do not see the criminalization juggernaut stopping any time soon. There are glimmers of progress, like the de facto legalization of medical marijuana, but I think they are aberrations; the general trend remains solidly toward the manufacture of felons as fast as they can be cranked out. Politicians cannot be elected on a platform of "let's get softer on crime!" Huge and rich industries (including the police, courts, the probation system, prison guards, name a few) depend on continuing and expanding the criminalization process. That process has been institutionalized, which means it is very difficult to confront successfully. Moreover, too many people seem to want a police state. The government has done a wonderful job of scaring the hell out of the public and everyone wants to be safe. As long as it is not their door that is being broken down, a large percentage of people applauds and defends the police's brutality and totalitarianism

So...along with a soaring rate of homelessness, the criminalization of everyday life is one of the trends that must be reversed if society is to economically recover.

Original report here

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