Sunday, January 31, 2010

British prosecutors grab the first excuse to drop a prosecution for REAL hatred

But just deny the holocaust and you can spend years in jail. Witnesses in court cases often become very upset for one reason or another but that normally leads only to an adjournment. The judge certainly thought that the prosecutors were off-beam. What merits the most severe punishment in Britain is being middle class. The underclass can virtually do no wrong

A teenager who branded Francecca Hardwick, the disabled girl found dead with her mother in a burnt-out car, a “freak” who “deserved what she got”, walked free from court yesterday. The 16-year-old boy grinned and punched the air after prosecutors decided to halt the trial when the main witness collapsed while giving her testimony.

In dramatic scenes at Hinckley Youth Court, the trial of one of the teenagers accused of waging a local hate campaign against the neighbours of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter Francecca was abandoned “in the public interest”.

It was alleged the youth, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been harassing Hazel Smith, 48, a friend of Ms Pilkington, who also worked as a lollipop lady and parish councillor, because he believed she had reported him to the authorities. Mrs Smith told the court the boy had branded Francecca, who had a mental age of 4, “Frankenstein”, and said she and her mother both “deserved what they got”.

No one has been prosecuted over the deaths of Ms Pilkington, 38, who killed herself and her 18-year-old daughter after suffering years of abuse from local gangs at their home in Barwell, Leicestershire. Their bodies were found in a burnt-out car in October 2007. A coroner severely criticised police and council officials for failing to protect the vulnerable pair from the abuse, after an inquest last October.

Mrs Smith told the court that he had confronted her on two occasions, after she caught him shooting at her pet guinea-pigs with an air gun. “He said that I was a neighbourhood watch bitch, a copper’s nark and that I get people into trouble. “He said he was going to smash my windows at the house and he hated me. I didn’t reply to him and he then swore at me and stuck his two fingers up and started to ride off. “That made me feel terrible, like I was a troublemaker causing problems for everyone around Barwell. I was frightened in case I should say something I shouldn’t.”

Moments later she collapsed. She appeared to be having a fit, and paramedics were called. Mark Williams, for the prosecution, said that it was in the “public interest” to end the trial.

District Judge David Meredith said he was unhappy about the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) decision: “I am backed into a corner from which I have no escape. There are particular aspects of this case that have caused me grave concern by the alleged response to Fiona Pilkington and her daughter’s death. The alleged comment that Fiona Pilkington deserved what she got is a matter I would view as significant. I view the [CPS] decision not to proceed as a little hasty.”

The judge ordered that not guilty verdicts be entered to the charge of harassment and a separate charge involving a public order offence. Addressing the youth, he said: “For reasons better known to them than to me, the prosecution has come to the conclusion it is not in the public interest to pursue these matters against you.”

Earlier at the same court two youths, aged 16 and 17, were convicted of harassing another neighbour of Mrs Pilkington. The judge took 30 minutes to convict the teenagers of conducting a campaign of intimidation against Carol Sainsbury, 46, a disabled grandmother, who lived on Bardon Road, between August 1 and October 7 last year. A third teenager Billie-Joe Kenney, 19, was cleared of the charge.

Original report here. (Via POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Three years in jail in Australia - but not guilty

Locked up on speculation. I hope he lodges a BIG claim for compensation

A MAN who had spent three years in custody on remand was today found not guilty of the attempted murder of a New farm pensioner. It was the fourth time Mitchell Clay Dowling had faced a trial in the Supreme Court in Brisbane after Stevo Curaji was left with severe head injuries after being "mercilessly and ferociously" bashed with a machete in a case of mistaken indentity. Two of Dowling's previous trials ended in hung juries while a third was aborted.

Dowling, 40, pleaded not guilty to attempting to murder Curaj, 60, and also not guilty to an alternate charge of causing grievous bodily harm to Curjac with intent. He also pleaded not guilty to attempted robbery in company with personal violence. A jury retired for only 2 1/2 hours before returning with not guilty verdicts to all three charges.

The seven day trial heard two men burst into the boarding house unit of Curaj, tied him hand and foot before bashing him with a machete, on May 19, 2006. Mr Curaj, a loner who spent long periods in his room at a boarding house in Heal St at New Farm, lived opposite a suspected drug dealer who was the likely target of the attack. He was left with severe head injuries including a fractured skull and a lacerated brain.

The prosecution argued that although it had no direct indentification evidence Dowling was one of the men there were indications he had been involved.

Barrister Don Mackenzie, for Dowling, said the case was purely one of identification and Dowling had not been at the attack.

Dowling was remanded in custody since being arrested in June 2006.

Original report here

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Amazing "justice" in Australia

One in eight convicted rapists spend no time in jail

ONE IN EIGHT convicted rapists have walked free from Queensland courts without spending a single night in jail for their crimes. Figures obtained by the State Opposition reveal that 21 men convicted of rape and a further five convicted of attempted rape in 2008-09 were not given a custodial sentence.

Deputy Liberal National Party Leader – and LNP justice spokesman – Lawrence Springborg urged the Bligh Government to back mandatory jail terms for rapists. "Rape is rape no matter what the circumstances," Mr Springborg said. "It can never be justified and must be punished by jail."

The Government's own figures showed that one in eight rapists (21 of 161) convicted in court walked free in the past 18 months and about one in six (5 of 28) for attempted rape. The release of similar figures in 2008 set off a storm when then Attorney-General Kerry Shine said some rapes only had a "minor effect" on women. Premier Anna Bligh slammed him, labelling his comments "insensitive". Mr Shine was forced to apologise, saying he did not mean to offend. Four months later he was out of Cabinet.

Mr Springborg said the Government should amend the Penalties and Sentences Act to ensure judges impose a jail sentence on convicted rapists. "That's not extreme and it's not controversial," he said. "It's . . . justice. Different sides of politics often debate whether a jail sentence is too weak . . . There should be no debate when it comes to the basic question of should a convicted rapist spend time in jail. "Bligh and Labor try to duck this issue by saying the courts are responsible for handing down the sentences. They are. "But it is the Government that is responsible for writing the sentencing laws. And, if those sentencing laws stipulate that a convicted rapist must serve time in jail, then the courts will have to comply. The ball is in Ms Bligh's court."

The maximum rape penalty is 25 years, but the average jail time is four to six years.

Figures obtained by the Opposition also showed that – of 468 offenders convicted for armed robbery in 2008-09 – 131 did not spend a night in jail or more than one-in-four. Of 323 convicted for serious assault, 103 escaped prison time – almost one-in-three.

The Acting Premier and Attorney-General Paul Lucas said judges, not politicians, were in the best position to determine sentences. "Judicial independence is a cornerstone of our democracy and mandatory sentencing regimes undermine this system," he said. "Not only has the Government increased penalties for a number of offences but we have introduced new offences, such as serious assault, to reflect community concerns about offending behaviours. "It is clear that increased penalties have resulted in more people being jailed, as evidenced by our rising prison population at a time when the offending rate in the community is relatively stable."

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

The forfeiture racket

Police and prosecutors won't give up their license to steal

Radley Balko

Around 3 in the morning on January 7, 2009, a 22-year-old college student named Anthony Smelley was pulled over on Interstate 70 in Putnam County, Indiana. He and two friends were en route from Detroit to visit Smelley’s aunt in St. Louis. Smelley, who had recently received a $50,000 settlement from a car accident, was carrying around $17,500 in cash, according to later court documents. He claims he was bringing the money to buy a new car for his aunt.

The officer who pulled him over, Lt. Dwight Simmons of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department, said that Smelley had made an unsafe lane change and was driving with an obscured license plate. When Simmons asked for a driver’s license, Smelley told him he had lost it after the accident. Simmons called in Smelley’s name and discovered that his license had actually expired. The policeman asked Smelley to come out of the car, patted him down, and discovered a large roll of cash in his front pocket, in direct contradiction to Smelley’s alleged statement in initial questioning that he wasn’t, in fact, carrying much money.

A record check indicated that Smelley had previously been arrested (though not charged) for drug possession as a teenager, so the officer called in a K-9 unit to sniff the car for drugs. According to the police report, the dog gave two indications that narcotics might be present. So Smelley and his passengers were detained and the police seized Smelley’s $17,500 cash under Indiana’s asset forfeiture law.

But a subsequent hand search of the car turned up nothing except an empty glass pipe containing no drug residue in the purse of Smelley’s girlfriend. Lacking any other evidence, police never charged anybody in the car with a drug-related crime. Yet not only did Putnam County continue to hold onto Smelley’s money, but the authorities initiated legal proceedings to confiscate it permanently.

Smelley’s case was no isolated incident. Over the past three decades, it has become routine in the United States for state, local, and federal governments to seize the property of people who were never even charged with, much less convicted of, a crime. Nearly every year, according to Justice Department statistics, the federal government sets new records for asset forfeiture. And under many state laws, the situation is even worse: State officials can seize property without a warrant and need only show “probable cause” that the booty was connected to a drug crime in order to keep it, as opposed to the criminal standard of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Instead of being innocent until proven guilty, owners of seized property all too often have a heavier burden of proof than the government officials who stole their stuff.

Municipalities have come to rely on confiscated property for revenue. Police and prosecutors use forfeiture proceeds to fund not only general operations but junkets, parties, and swank office equipment. A cottage industry has sprung up to offer law enforcement agencies instruction on how to take and keep property more efficiently. And in Indiana, where Anthony Smelley is still fighting to get his money back, forfeiture proceeds are enriching attorneys who don’t even hold public office, a practice that violates the U.S. Constitution.

Guilty Property, Innocent Owners

Technically, civil asset forfeiture proceedings are brought against the property itself, not the owner. Hence they often have odd case titles, such as U.S. v. Eight Thousand Eight Hundred and Fifty Dollars or U.S. v. One 1987 Jeep Wrangler. The government need only demonstrate that the seized property is somehow related to a crime, generally either by showing that it was used in the commission of the act (as with a car driven to and from a drug transaction, or a house from which drugs are sold) or that it was purchased with the proceeds.

Because the property itself is on trial, the owner has the status of a third-party claimant. Once the government has shown probable cause of a property’s “guilt,” the onus is on the owner to prove his innocence. The parents of a drug-dealing teenager, for instance, would have to show they had no knowledge the kid was using the family car to facilitate drug transactions. Homeowners have to show they were unaware that a resident was keeping drugs on the premises. Anyone holding cash in close proximity to illicit drugs may have to document that he earned the money legitimately.

When owners of seized property put up a legal fight (and the majority do not), the cases are almost always heard by judges, not juries. In some states forfeiture claimants don’t even have the right to a jury trial. But even in states where they do, owners tend to waive that right, because jury proceedings are longer and more expensive. Federal forfeiture claimants are technically guaranteed a jury trial under the Seventh Amendment, but can lose the right if they fail to reply in a timely manner to sometimes complicated government notices of seizure.

Federal asset forfeiture law dates back to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act of 1970, a law aimed at seizing profits earned by organized crime. In 1978 Congress broadened RICO to include drug violations. But it was the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 that made forfeiture the lucrative, widely used law enforcement tool it is today.

“The Crime Control Act did a few things,” says the Virginia-based defense attorney David Smith, author of the legal treatise Prosecution and Defense of Forfeiture Cases. “First, it corrected some poor drafting in the earlier laws. Second, it created two federal forfeiture funds, one in the Justice Department and one in the Treasury. And most important, it included an earmarking provision that gave forfeiture proceeds back to local law enforcement agencies that helped in a federal forfeiture.”

This last bit was key. “The thinking was that this would motivate police agencies to use the forfeiture provisions,” Smith says. “They were right. It also basically made law enforcement an interest group. They directly benefited from the law. Since it was passed, they’ve fought hard to keep it and strengthen it.”

The 1984 law lowered the bar for civil forfeiture. To seize property, the government had only to show probable cause to believe that it was connected to drug activity, or the same standard cops use to obtain search warrants. The state was allowed to use hearsay evidence—meaning a federal agent could testify that a drug informant told him a car or home was used in a drug transaction—but property owners were barred from using hearsay, and couldn’t even cross-examine some of the government’s witnesses. Informants, while being protected from scrutiny, were incentivized monetarily: According to the law, snitches could receive as much as one-quarter of the bounty, up to $50,000 per case.

According to a 1992 Cato Institute study examining the early results of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, total federal forfeiture revenues increased by 1,500 percent between 1985 and 1991. The Justice Department’s forfeiture fund (which doesn’t include forfeitures from customs agents) jumped from $27 million in 1985 to $644 million in 1991; by 1996 it crossed the $1 billion line, and as of 2008 assets had increased to $3.1 billion. According to the government’s own data, less than 20 percent of federal seizures involved property whose owners were ever prosecuted.

More here

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

PA: Police beat 18-year-old violinist over Mountain Dew bottle

Pittsburgh police have reassigned three plainclothes officers to uniformed duty pending an investigation into the beating of an 18-year-old student.

A police report indicates that officers became interested in Jordan Miles when they suspected he had a gun in his coat. After beating Miles in the head with a closed fist, the officers discovered the object was a Mountain Dew bottle.

Miles, a violinist and honor student who attends the prestigious Creative and Performing Arts High School, says he resisted arrest because he thought the men were trying to abduct him and didn't identify themselves as police.

The student is black, and the three officers are white. Police and the family's attorney aren't commenting on whether race was a factor, according to the Associated Press.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports, "Miles suffered a swollen face, hair ripped from his scalp and a twig jabbed through his gum during the incident."

Original report here

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Terror, Travesty and Tales of Suppressed Evidence

During the past seven months, I’ve published more than a dozen posts and two widely-circulated articles (here and here) about the case of Army Ranger 1st Lt. Michael Behenna. In my writings, however, I described the lieutenant’s mother, Vicki Behenna, only as a federal prosecutor in Oklahoma City. I wrote very little about the fact that she helped wage the government’s case against Timothy McVeigh, a man who was eventually convicted, sentenced to death and executed for his role in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that left 168 dead and scores injured.

Today, however, I share more details about the unique — and, I suspect, unprecedented — position in which Vicki Behenna finds herself today.


On June 7, only three days after publishing my first brief about Lieutenant Behenna, I published my first post about the Oklahoma City bombing. In the latter post, I drew parallels between the bombing and the July 17, 1996, disaster involving TWA Flight 800 off the coast of Long Island. Little did I know, however, that I would find a thread of irony to link the lieutenant’s case to the Oklahoma City bombing. The thread became visible in late September 2009 after the FBI released footage captured moments after the blast by several security cameras in downtown Oklahoma City.


On Sept. 28, I published the first of four posts in which I cited two highly-credible sources, Jayna Davis and David P. Schippers, who believe the FBI withheld evidence — including, but not limited to, security camera footage shot before the blast took place at 9:02 a.m. Central — from parties on both sides of the OKC Bombing trial.

At the time of the bombing, Davis was an award-winning investigative reporter for NBC affiliate KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City. Unlike most other journalists, who’ve attributed the horrific attack solely to so-called “domestic terrorists” McVeigh and Nichols, Davis turned up seemingly-irrefutable evidence which pointed the lion’s share of the blame to a group of former Iraqi soldiers. One of them was identified by several witnesses as having been in the cab of the Ryder rental truck with McVeigh; hence, the title of the book she went on to write, “The Third Terrorist.”

Davis’ book would make it to The New York Times Best Sellers list with the help of then-upstart conservative radio talk show host Glenn Beck. In addition, she was featured on CNN (Lou Dobbs) and Fox News Channel, in several major newspapers (i.e., Indianapolis Star, London Evening Standard, Philadelphia Daily News, Wall Street Journal and Washington Times) and in articles published on several prominent online news sites, including NewsMax and WorldNetDaily.

Schippers, a Democrat and author of the book, “SELLOUT: The Inside Story of President Clinton’s Impeachment,” is an experienced litigator from Chicago who served as chief investigative counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee during the Clinton Impeachment Hearings and as manager of the proceedings that followed in the U.S. Senate. He became an outspoken believer in Davis and her investigation and wrote the forward for her book.

Regarding the whereabouts of the video evidence likely to show what security cameras captured moments before the blast at 9:02 a.m. Central, Schippers told this writer in September that he thinks “the FBI still has all of those tapes, and I don’t think we’re ever going to see ‘em.” Further, he said he believes the FBI committed a Brady violation — that is, they suppressed evidence from both sides during the trial. Read all of what this man told me about the case in the post, Attorney Says Unedited Versions of the Oklahoma City Bombing Surveillance Tapes Are ‘Somewhere’.

Davis and Schippers, along with nearly two-dozen people who signed sworn affidavits related to events they witnessed related to the bombing, believe that evidence would have played a key role in determining who else, in addition to McVeigh and accomplice Terry Nichols, was behind the attack.


In the court-martial case against Lieutenant Behenna, one expert contends to this day that Army prosecutors committed a Brady violation when they suppressed evidence favorable to the lieutenant’s defense and, in doing so, violated due process and his right to a fair and impartial trial. The real “kicker” in the case lies in the identity of the person from whom the allegation of prosecutorial misconduct came. Surprisingly, it wasn’t someone on the defense side of the court room. Instead, it was the Army’s own expert witness.

Dr. Herbert Leon MacDonell was flown in from Corning, N.Y., but never allowed to testify. Why? Because, during the trial, he had the opportunity to examine key pieces of evidence prosecutors had not shared with him prior to his arrival at the proceedings. When he told prosecutors that his examination of that evidence had caused him to change his mind and believe Lieutenant Behenna was telling the truth, they opted against having the court hear his testimony — words that should have resulted in a favorable outcome for the young officer. (For all of the details about what the director of the Laboratory for Forensic Science knew, when he knew it and why he was never called to testify in Lieutenant Behenna’s case, read this post.)

In the end, Lieutenant Behenna was found guilty on a single count of unpremeditated murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison — a term twice reduced — for killing Ali Mansur, a known Al-Qaeda operative. Today, he is prisoner #87503 at Fort Leavenworth, serving a 15-year sentence and continuing the appeals process.


As a result of her experience with the Oklahoma City bombing trial and her son’s court-martial, Vicki Behenna knows what it’s like to be involved — once on the prosecution side, once on the defense — in separate criminal cases in which evidence crucial to the outcomes has been suppressed. Indirectly, she fielded questions about that subject during two recent radio interviews.

During a Dec. 29 interview, Pat Dollard raised the possibility that the Oklahoma City bombing might have marked the first moments the Behenna family had been touched directly by jihad. Very politely, Vicki Behenna dismissed his theory.

“There’s been a lot of speculation,” she said. “It’s clear, I think, from the evidence, that there were not a whole lot of other people involved in that and that it was a plot by a small group of men, three men, who were angry and wanted to make a statement against the government.”

During an interview with Vicki Behenna this month, conservative radio talk show host Michael Savage went a step further than Dollard and asked Vicki Behenna if she thinks there was some kind of political payback from somebody related to her involvement in the McVeigh trial.

“I can’t imagine why,” she responded. “I mean, I’m just a little assistant. I’m just a federal employee that does federal prosecutions. I can’t imagine, although that’s been suggested before.”


I cannot imagine being involved in two separate cases over which allegations of suppressed evidence and/or testimony hang like dark clouds. At the same time, however, I’m not going to imply that her son’s wrongful imprisonment is the result of some kind of what-goes-around-comes-around karma tied to her work on the McVeigh trial. Instead, I’ll offer three IF-THEN statements for consideration while maintaining my steadfast and unwavering support of Lieutenant Behenna:

1. IF you find nothing wrong with the fact that the FBI released only post-blast footage from security cameras in downtown Oklahoma City but refuses to release pre-blast footage, THEN you’ll likely agree with Vicki Behenna and most other Americans that “unknown others” were not involved in the Oklahoma City bombing;

2. IF, however, you read Davis’ book — and I have read it twice — and consider the evidence she presents, THEN you’ll find it impossible to agree with Vicki Behenna and others on the prosecution side of the Oklahoma City bombing that there was no Iraqi involvement; and

3. IF it turns out that Lieutenant Behenna’s imprisonment is somehow tied to his mother’s involvement as a prosecutor in Oklahoma City, THEN this nation has even bigger and more troubling problems than most Americans can dare imagine.

Original report here

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Settlement approved in Kansas wrongful conviction

Another false confession extorted by the police

The Manhattan City Commission has voted to approve a settlement with a man who served 10 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit.

In a meeting Tuesday night, the commission voted to have Mayor Bob Strawn sign the agreement for Eddie James Lowery. He was convicted in 1981 of raping an Ogden woman and served 10 years before DNA proved his innocence.

Manhattan was 1 of 18 parties sued by Lowery. The entire settlement is worth $7.5 million and Manhattan will be responsible for just over $1.3 million of that amount.

On Wednesday, the Riley County Commission voted to approve paying $356,000 as its part of the settlement, and the county Law Board approved the settlement on a unanimous vote. The attorney representing Manhattan, David Cooper of Topeka, says the other parties to the lawsuit likely will sign it within 10 days.

Original report here

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

$2m suit after cocaine turns out to be candy

I hope they get every penny of the $2m. Cops don't need to be dumb and arrogant. Can you believe that they did not recognize a popular candy -- even when they were told?. It has to be malice. Even a NYPD cop could not be that dumb, surely

TWO American men who were jailed for a week after police mistook their coconut candy for crack cocaine are planning to file a US$2 million ($2.21m) lawsuit, according to US reports. José Pena, a 48-year-old plumber, and his longtime friend and colleague Cesar Rodriguez, 33, from the Bronx, New York, were arrested on January 15 after police found a bag of what they thought was cocaine, reports The New York Post. The "drugs" were finally tested five days later and determined to be popular Coco (coconut) Candy. The charges were dropped.

The ordeal began when the pair stopped at convenience store on the way to a party. When they came out of the store police asked to search their Ford minivan. "I said ‘Go search.’ I even opened the door," Rodriguez told The Post. An officer rummaged around, came out holding a "Hello Kitty" sandwich bag, and shouted "Bingo!" the men said. "It’s only candy!" Rodriguez said, as the cops handcuffed him and Pena, and several other police cars rushed to the scene.

Rodriguez said he bought a 50-cent bag of Coco Candy, a hard coconut-based treat, almost every day. Because it easily crumbles, he puts it in a sandwich bag. "Can you test it? Can you taste it?" Rodriguez asked the cops. "Shut up!" they replied. "I didn’t know having candy was a crime," he said.

The two men were jailed for cocaine possession. Pena got out after three days, but Rodriguez was held two more, because he could not make $5000 bail the judge imposed on him due to a prior robbery conviction, the New York Daily News reported.

The two men are now planning to file a $2 million (A$2.21m) lawsuit, the Daily News reported. The men’s lawyer, Neal Wallerstein, said the cops could have realized their mistake quickly. "That’s the reason why they have a field-test kit," he said, referring to the New York Police Department’s portable drug identification equipment.

The Bronx District Attorney’s office confirmed that the case was dropped after authorities realized there were no drugs. The NYPD had no comment.

Rodriguez said he still loves Coco Candy. "It’s really sweet," he said. "I could get addicted to this candy."

Original report here

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Los Angeles police "lose" a murder file for 36 years

Comment from Australia

A 36-YEAR-OLD murder mystery involving Patricia Galea, the then-wife of Sydney racing identity Bruce Galea, looks set to be unravelled following the arrest of two Americans accused of killing her during a home invasion robbery in Hollywood. But even if the two accused, John Threlkeld, 57, and Leonard Turner, 64, are convicted, another more profound question remains unanswered: why did it take so long to arrest the two, who were identified at the time of the incident?

Los Angeles police have said the file containing the names of the suspects was somehow "lost" and for decades the two remained at large, until an accidental discovery of the file four years ago. So extraordinary is the lapse that a lawyer defending the men has tried to find whether there was any sinister influence in the series of events, including the misplacement of the file.

The defence lawyers have commissioned a Sydney private inquiry agent, Warren Mallard, of Lyonswood Investigations, to find out all he can about Ms Galea's life in Australia and her connections here. Ms Galea, then 24, a Sydney beauty, left her 10-month old baby, Emily, in the care of her husband while she travelled to the US. She was intent on setting up in business in the Hollywood-Beverly Hills area and in March 1974 returned to Australia to get $6402 in funds. Ms Galea leased an apartment in N. Alta Loma Drive, West Hollywood, which she shared with a 22-year-old rock musician, Eugene Synegal. On April 14, Ms Galea and four friends, including Mr Synegal, left to catch a plane to New Orleans, leaving her flat and her dog in the care of Kristine Murphy, 24.

At 1.30 am on April 15, three men, described as "Afro-Americans", buzzed the apartment from the entrance to the building. One of them said he was "Sonny", the name of Ms Murphy's former boyfriend. She let them in and opened the apartment door to be confronted by a pistol. The men tied up Ms Murphy and began ransacking the flat. Ms Galea and her friends missed their 2 am flight and returned to the flat between 2.30 and 2.45 am. When they buzzed on the intercom, the robbers forced Ms Murphy to let them in, then attacked them, apparently trying to cut Ms Galea's throat.

Ms Galea screamed: "Please don't kill me!" One of the robbers pushed a .410 shotgun into her mouth and pulled the trigger. Another stabbed Ms Murphy in the neck. Camela Bussey, 30, jumped from a window to the ground, breaking her leg. Mr Synegal had his throat cut, Mercury Washington, 27, was wounded in the throat and Dinel Smith, 25, was bashed in the head with a rifle butt. All except Ms Galea survived.

The robbers escaped with $US400, two diamond rings, a cigarette lighter valued at $US1400 and two mink coats. They missed Ms Galea's $6402, which was hidden in her freezer. The same day, police interviewed four women, not involved in the incident, who all knew Threlkeld. Nothing was established to connect them and they were released. But police did discover that it was "common knowledge" among Ms Galea's friends, and Threlkeld himself, that Ms Galea had the relatively large amount of money.

When news of the murder reached Australia, Bruce Galea was overcome by shock and grief. "The bludgers just let go … They shot her!" he said.

Police discovered that three of the surviving victims knew Threlkeld, including Mr Washington, who said Threlkeld had been his friend, and who also knew Turner. Ms Bussey knew Threlkeld and said the other two robbers came from the Detroit area.

Threlkeld and Turner fled in Ms Murphy's white Ford Pinto, which they abandoned in Mexico. On April 17, 1974, the district attorney signed a complaint against the offenders alleging murder, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. The same day, Judge George Zuker, of the Beverly Hills Municipal Court, signed warrants for the arrest of Threlkeld, Turner and the third man, given the name "John Doe" and otherwise unidentified.

Threlkeld and Turner were tracked down to Detroit, where they were being held on other charges. Detroit County law officials said Los Angeles could have them after they were dealt with in Detroit. At this point, according to the detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Homicide Division, the murder warrants for Threlkeld and Turner were "somehow" removed from their case files, and nothing happened for decades.

In late 2005 or early 2006, the owner of the apartment building in West Hollywood, making inquiries into its history, came across the murder and robbery and wanted to find out more.

Detectives could not find the paperwork and referred the matter to their cold case unit, specifically to a retired detective working with the unit, Robert Barrier. Mr Barrier found that the district attorney's file on the case was also missing. But through a check of names, addresses and social security numbers, he was able to identify Turner and Threlkeld. It was not hard to find them. Both had been taken into custody in August 2007. One was in prison, while the other was on parole. Since the events of April 1974, they had racked up convictions for armed robbery, bank robbery and manslaughter.

Why had it taken so long? "The ball was obviously dropped somewhere along the line," a detective said this week. "We can't tell exactly where, because the paperwork can't be found."

Threlkeld and Turner will appear in court in Beverly Hills on February 5 on charges of armed robbery and murder. There have been defence motions to dismiss the case, claiming the belated filing of the charges amounts to a denial of the pair's constitutional right to a speedy trial. In their search for new evidence, the defence is casting a very wide net.

Original report here

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Amazing British coverup of wrongdoing by officialdom

Even the judge in a serious criminal case has been refused access to the findings of an official inquiry into the matter

Care authorities have refused to allow a High Court judge to read a confidential report into their handling of two young brothers who sadistically tortured two children and left them for dead.

The report, prompted by an horrific attack on two children aged 9 and 11 in Edlington, near Doncaster, is said to reveal numerous failings by care professionals who dealt with the brothers and their violent family over years. A copy was leaked to the BBC, which says the report details 31 occasions on which nine different agencies failed to take action over the brother’s offending behaviour before the Edlington attack last April.

The brothers, who were aged 10 and 11 when the assault took place, will be sentenced today after jointly admitting grievous bodily harm, robbery and causing a child to engage in sexual activity.

A request for a copy of the report was made by Sheffield Crown Court at the request of Peter Kelson, QC, representing the elder of the siblings, who had urged the judge, Mr Justice Keith, to read it before passing sentence. He said that a study of the boy’s case by a consultant child psychiatrist, Susan Bailey, had found “a causal link” between the failings of the care authorities and the brothers’ grotesque violence.

A request for a copy of the full serious case review was made on Wednesday to the Doncaster Safeguarding Children Board, a multi-agency body including representatives from Doncaster Council, South Yorkshire Police and health agencies. Mr Justice Keith told the court yesterday: “I have been informed that I won’t be supplied with the document.”

The BBC has revealed that a shortened report that will be published after the boys are sentenced removes references to “very serious shortcomings” by care professionals and a failure “to comply with legal duties”.

Tim Loughton, the Conservatives’ spokesman for children, said there was serious concern that what really happened in the case would never come to light. “This adds to fears that we are witnessing a cover-up,” he said.

Mr Kelson told the court that Professor Bailey described the brothers’ home life as “toxic”. From the age of 9, the older boy had been smoking cannabis, drinking cider and vodka and watching ultra-violent and pornographic DVDs. It was a home characterised by “routine aggression, violence and chaos” and the boys had undergone a “lifelong, neglectful and abusive rearing experience”, according to Professor Bailey.

Mr Kelson said the psychiatric report showed that the help the older boy had been given by the care authorities was “too little, too late”. Proceedings were adjourned for 15 minutes after the younger brother sobbed during the description of his home life.

Earlier the court heard that the brothers told police that they carried out the torture and sexual abuse because they were bored and “there was nothing to do”. They said they ended their attack only when their arms began to ache from the punches and stones they had thrown. A doctor who examined the more seriously injured victim, aged 11, said: “The outcome could have been fatal.”

Original report here

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

More damaging negligence from work-shy British police

Police didn't believe the woman had been attacked by a black cab driver in 2007. Worboys was interviewed but no action was taken. He was finally caught in 2008. A student who reported that she had been sexually assaulted by the taxi driver rapist John Worboys said that police officers laughed when she listed her injuries.

The victim said that she was lied to by police, made to feel like a criminal and was intimidated and patronised by officers who were meant to be trained to deal with sexual assault cases. If officers had investigated her claims properly in the summer of 2007 it is likely that Worboys, 51, would have been stopped, but he went on to attack scores of women before being arrested in 2008.

A review by the Independent Police Complaints Commission of the Worboys investigation found that officers missed “golden opportunities” to gather evidence. After the student, then 19, told police that she had been drugged and assaulted by the driver of a black cab, officers watched closed-circuit television footage of her being dropped off at her college in a black taxi, and arranged for the driver to contact them. He was interviewed before officers knew the extent of the allegations and neither his house nor his taxi was searched. Five officers have since received written warnings or “words of advice”.

Worboys is thought to have attacked hundreds of women as he trawled the streets of London at night. He would regale passengers with tales of winning large sums of money and then ply them with spiked drinks before sexually assaulting them. He was convicted in April 2008 of offences including drugging women and sexually assaulting them and rape.

The student, who had a pill forced down her throat by Worboys, said that when she reported the incident it took more than six hours for anyone to contact her. “When I told them about my injuries they just laughed and said I must have fallen over . . . they didn’t believe that it was a licensed black hackney carriage that I had gotten into. They were convinced it was an unlicensed minicab. And that was in spite of the CCTV footage.”

One officer told her that a file had been sent to the Crown Prosecution Service, but she found out that this was a lie.

Asked what it was like being dealt with by trained officers, she said: “They just went with their opinions. They didn’t act like a specialist force.”

Deborah Glass, IPCC Commissioner for London, said: “This terrible experience was made worse by the patronising, sceptical and insensitive police response.”

The first entry on a crime report made by a detective who became the officer in charge of the student’s case was: “The victim cannot remember anything past getting in the cab. It would seem unlikely that a cab driver would have alcohol in his vehicle, let alone drug substances.”

The student has flashbacks of when she was in Worboys’s cab and has had counselling. She is considering suing the Metropolitan Police for compensation.

“This was supposed to be a specialist unit for rape and sexual assault,” she said. “If the officers had taken my allegations seriously, if they had looked at his car or gone to his property, they would have found evidence. But they didn’t do that and as a result so many women went on to be harmed. It is not enough to get a written or verbal warning.”

Original report here

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wisconsin Innocence Project Files Motion for New Trial in Michigan Man's Murder Conviction

The Wisconsin Innocence Project, a program at the UW Law School’s Frank J. Remington Center, has filed a motion for a new trial based on powerful new evidence of a Michigan man’s innocence. Scott Baldwin was convicted in 2001 of first degree murder after investigators re-opened a 12 year-old investigation into the 1988 murder of Kalamazoo bicycle shop owner Earl O’Byrne. The main evidence against Baldwin was a statement from a jilted ex-girlfriend who failed a polygraph and was dismissed as not credible during the initial investigation. When Cold Case investigators re-opened the case 12 years later, the girlfriend’s statement grew from 3 pages to 42 pages, and her testimony led to Baldwin’s convictions. But Baldwin’s new attorneys believe that dramatic new evidence requires a new trial, or, at the very least, DNA testing that could conclusively prove whether Baldwin or an alternate suspect committed the crime.

The new evidence stems from anonymous tips recently released pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act. While only one tip implicated Baldwin (the tip from his ex-girlfriend), numerous tips implicate a different man, who unlike Baldwin has a history of violent criminal behavior. Baldwin was denied access to the tips before trial, but since obtaining them in 2007 private investigators have been able to interview the daughter of the alternate suspect, who provided a dramatic taped statement in 2008. In the statement, she explains how her father confessed in shocking detail to breaking into the victim’s shop and robbing and murdering him. Several other new witnesses assert that the alternate suspect and his girlfriend confessed to them as well. Additionally, important Prosecution witnesses have provided new information further weakening the Prosecution’s case. Baldwin’s attorneys believe that the new evidence, combined with the lack of any physical evidence connecting Baldwin to the murder, requires a new trial, or at least DNA testing that could prove whether Baldwin or the alternate suspect committed the crime.

“Scott has maintained his innocence from the start, and now new evidence confirms that he’s been telling the truth all along, and that someone else committed the crime,” said Amanda Riek, one of the current Wisconsin Innocence Project students working on the case. “We are hopeful that the truth will finally come to light.”

The Wisconsin Innocence Project has freed 12 people since the project’s inception in 1998. Nationwide, hundreds of inmates have been freed by post-conviction DNA testing proving innocence; hundreds more have been freed by new non-DNA evidence.

Original report here

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It’s a rule, damn it, it doesn’t have to make sense

I'm parked, with my family, in a tiny bungalow in the Los Angeles area right now. The bungalow belongs to my mother-in-law, who is in Pasadena's Huntington Memorial Hospital, awaiting either a quadruple or quintuple heart bypass operation tomorrow, as the situation dictates at the time (oh hell, why not go for six?).

Anyway, the hospital currently has unusual restrictive limits on visits by kids in place. It's not uncommon for hospitals to have some limits on minors during "RSV season" -- the time of year when kids might catch a virus that causes a cold in adults, but can be nastier in little ones. The RSV concerns often get wound up with flu season fears and result in restrictions -- like those at the Flagstaff Medical Center, near my home, confining the fresh-faced little weaklings (and potential vectors of contagion) to common areas, ground floors, and the like.

At Huntington Memorial Hospital, the restrictions (PDF) are a bit more far-reaching -- as in absolute. Taking the whole oh-so-last-summer swine flu panic and running with it, the hospital administration has apparently barred everybody's favorite beasties from anyplace to which the provider of "quality, uninterrupted healthcare" (editorial note: the word "quality" requires a modifier) can lay claim.

Today, not only was my four-year-old barred from wishing grandma the best, but he and I were then tossed out of an outdoor courtyard open to the street at either end and the sky above -- you know, a place where squirrels and pigeons shit -- while we waited for my wife. The uniformed security guard was polite enough, but he was insistent that the courtyard was hospital grounds, and children can't be anywhere on hospital grounds. He was kind enough to suggest that we could wait outside the main entrance. Thanks anyway. We preferred a stroll through the streets of Pasadena.

Never mind that H1N1 has proved to be yet another disappointment to our neighborhood false Cassandras -- sure it's unpleasant to catch, but that's true of any flu, and lots of other bugs besides. Swine flu just hasn't been as big a threat as originally feared -- it's such a bust, epidemic-wise, that many European countries are trying to unload their wildly excessive H1N1 vaccine stocks, even though half the doses haven't even been delivered yet (buy your swine flu novelty collectibles now and watch the value soar!).

Nobody is putting in place specific swine flu-related restrictions these days -- especially not panicky ones that treat toddlers like emissaries from the Children of the Corn. The Huntington Memorial Hospital policy was clearly implemented months ago, at the height of the panic. Now that flu frenzy is passe, we're still stuck with security guards enforcing draconian policies that kick tykes to the curb.

But so it often is with rules and restrictions of any sort. Some urgent concern (often a social panic of one sort or another) seems to call for immediate response -- a really poorly thought out and wide-sweeping response, thank you. Fears subside, but the boneheaded policies remain in place months or years later, having acquired an awesome bureaucratic inertia that can overcome even irrefutable pointlessness.

As that security guard told me that, for the sake of protecting against an epidemic that fizzled, my son was persona non grata in a place where rodents run free and wind rats rule the skies, I couldn't help imagining what airports will be like, long after the fruit of the loom bomber has, himself, been forgotten.

Original report here

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Move to Britain to shed your debts and carry on as usual

British bankruptcy courts are very lenient. They tend to rubber-stamp prepackaged bankruptcy agreements. Before filing a bankruptcy case debtor and creditors can negotiate an agreed upon plan. The idea is that the bankruptcy petition can then be filed and the plan proposed and confirmed with much less time and expense. There is however no guarantee that all debtors will be equally treated. In Britain, the "pre-pack" negotiations are often with only some debtors but the courts still approve the agreements concerned. Paying only some selected debtors means that important business relationships can be preserved -- but those who get nothing are not at all happy

BRITAIN is in danger of becoming the "bankruptcy brothel of the world", it was claimed yesterday, as furious creditors prepared a landmark legal challenge over the country's largest pre-pack administration. Bertrand des Pallières, who saw the entire investment of SPQR Capital, his hedge fund, wiped out in the pre-pack of Wind Hellas, the Greek telecoms group, in August, criticised the English courts for allowing foreign companies to move to the UK and exploit the controversial restructuring tool.

Mr des Pallières and other investors, who lost a combined €1.5 billion ($2.3bn) in the pre-pack, are preparing a lawsuit that will accuse Wind Hellas of “bankruptcy tourism” and question its right to use British bankruptcy law. Mr des Pallières’s principal objection is that Wind Hellas reregistered as a UK company two weeks before it entered the largest pre-pack administration to date, a circumstance that he asserts is a “blatant and offensive abuse” of the law. Other struggling companies are planning on using the same tactic, Mr des Pallières says. “If nothing is done, London will become a bankruptcy brothel for low-life businesses to come from all over and take advantage of the British system to dump some of their debts and move on,” he said.

That and other such criticisms are the latest in a series of attacks on pre-packs, which are under huge scrutiny because they allow businesses to negotiate deals in secret with some of their lenders and creditors to the detriment of others, who typically end up with nothing.

Pre-packs are particularly controversial because the process is often driven by the existing owners and management, who then remain in control of the business, as happened in the Wind Hellas case. Dozens of high street names have been resurrected under pre-pack deals in the past few years, including MFI, the furniture chain, Karen Millen and Oasis, the fashion retailers, the Laurel Pub Company and Cobra Beer.

European law permits companies to relocate for bankruptcy and other purposes but a UK court has never addressed the question of how long a company using a contested pre-pack must be registered in the UK to do so.

Karl Clowry, a corporate partner with Paul Hastings, the law firm, said: “Other businesses are undoubtedly considering coming to the UK to use our insolvency system, and a lawsuit that clarifies how and when this is appropriate would be watched extremely keenly.”

Mr des Pallières is among many critics who believe that pre-packs are fundamentally unfair. “Debts and contractual commitments must mean something,” he said. “If British courts will allow a family to be chucked out of their home because they cannot pay their debts, why is it possible that a big business backed by reputable advisers can defy gravity and not have to honour its debts in the same way?”

R3, the professional body for the UK insolvency industry, declined to comment on Wind Hellas or on the issue of companies relocating to the UK for bankruptcy. Peter Sargent, the president of R3, said: “Pre-packs are a very misunderstood insolvency tool, and the benefits — for example, the numbers of jobs saved — are often lost in concerns over the impact on unsecured creditors.”

Wind Hellas could not immediately be reached for comment.

Original report here

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Man who alleges police torture free after 23 years

A man who contends Chicago police tortured him into confessing to a murder he did not commit walked out of a courtroom a free man Thursday after more than 23 years behind bars. Assistant Special State's Attorney Andrew Levine said prosecutors agreed to drop the charges against Michael Tillman after concluding that without the coerced confession there was not enough evidence to convict him.

"I'm just glad justice finally prevailed," said 43-year-old Tillman who was convicted of taking part in the 1986 rape and murder of Betty Howard who lived in a building where he had worked as a handyman. The Chicago woman's attackers tied her to a radiator in her apartment building, sexually assaulted her then shot her to death.

Tillman smiled widely as he left a Cook County courtroom and said that until recently he had not believed he would ever be free.

In court papers, prosecutors said Tillman's confession had been a "product of coercion" and that he had been the victim of a "pattern and practice of abuse" that had existed in a particular police station on the city's South Side.

The papers filed this week do not detail what Tillman — along with dozens of other black men who were interrogated in Area 2 Headquarters in the 1970s and 1980s — allegedly went through at the hands of Chicago police detectives.

Tillman and his attorneys say that, in the course of three days in 1986, detectives turned an interview room into a torture chamber. Police, they said, beat him with a phone book, punched him in the face and the body until the floor was slick with his blood. They put a gun to his head and a plastic bag over his head and even poured 7-Up into his nose. "It was a crude form of waterboarding (in which) they induced the feeling of suffocating or drowning," said one of his attorneys, Locke Bowman.

Finally, as Bowman and others say happened to many other black suspects, Tillman told the detectives what they wanted to hear.

Another man, Clarence Trotter, remains in prison for Howard's murder. In court papers, prosecutors say there was substantial evidence, including fingerprints, linking him to the crime.

Tillman's release is just the latest chapter in a story of police abuse that has dogged the department for decades. In 2006, authorities confirmed what the black community on the South Side had known for years: that the police routinely tortured suspects in Area 2 to extract confessions. Prosecutors appointed to look into allegations surrounding the unit and its then-commander, Jon Burge, found that some of the allegations were true but that the cases were too old to bring criminal charges.

Subsequently, a number of convictions have been reversed, some suspects have been freed and millions of dollars have been paid out to settle lawsuits of men who claim they were wrongfully convicted.

Burge faces federal charges that he lied under oath about the use of torture on suspects.

Original report here

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

NC: More stun-gun abuse by cops

Stun gun victim getting $55,000 from Elon police

The Elon Police Department has agreed to pay $55,000 in damages to a man who was standing unarmed on his front stoop in his underwear when an officer shot him with a stun gun. The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina announced the settlement Wednesday.

The suit, filed last year in federal court, alleged that Elon police officers used excessive and unlawful force when they twice shocked Alamance County grandfather John Wayne Paylor, now 55, while trying to arrest him on charges of reckless driving and using profanity on a public highway.

Paylor was seeking monetary damages, and he asked the court to rein in Elon police officers' Taser use until more training was provided. A settlement was reached this week, according to an ACLU news release.

Under the agreement, the Elon police department agreed to provide more training for its officers and change its policy so it's consistent with other law enforcement agencies that the ACLU says have measures to safeguard against excessive use of the stun guns.

"We are happy with the settlement, as this was a flagrant abuse of authority by members of the Elon Police Department," said Mark J. Prak, one of the lawyers working with the ACLU of North Carolina. "John Paylor did nothing to deserve this treatment, as the police videotape clearly demonstrates. This was a case of an officer abusing his position as a police officer to satisfy his own ego." Attempts to reach the Elon police chief were unsuccessful Wednesday.

The ACLU of North Carolina, a founding member of a Taser safety project, wants uniform policies for police and sheriff departments on when, where and how law enforcement should use Tasers.

Paylor issued a statement Wednesday saying he was happy with the settlement. "What these officers did to me was wrong," Paylor said. "My hope is that this settlement will prevent others from having to suffer what I suffered at the hands of the Elon police."

Scott Holmes, a Durham defense lawyer who first brought attention to the case, said he was pleased with the ruling. "This case should send a clear signal to law enforcement agencies that a Taser should be used in situations of self-defense," Holmes said, "and not to force a suspect to comply with commands."

Original report here

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Friday, January 15, 2010

What? You mean there are consequences to calling out SWAT without a reason?

Just about anytime a journalist covers some bizarre excess of law-enforcement behavior, in which armored vehicles, or heavy weapons or military tactics are invoked in obviously inappropriate contexts, the police-state cheerleaders come out of the woodwork. They assure us that we'll regret our words when it's shown that the target of some podunk town's aerial strike to collect overdue parking tickets was a danger to the republic worthy of the harshest measures. So it's with a measure of satisfaction that I report that David Carl, the fellow on the receiving end of a SWAT raid in Cottonwood, Arizona, last summer, not only faces no charges in the wake of that raid, but the city planning department even dropped a civil action against him. Not surprisingly, Carl plans to sue.

"Helmeted officers ... armed with automatic weapons" (according to a local newspaper, the Verde Independent) crashed through the doors of Carl's Wild West Express -- a package handling and delivery service -- last summer, supposedly on allegations that the man had abused his twin teenage daughters. Returning to town after the fact of the raid, Police Chief Jody Fanning justified a subordinate's decision to call out the troops by saying, "We didn't know if he had a safe house or fortress." Officials also said that Carl owned guns and claimed he had anti-government views.

As I pointed out at the time, though, police can always claim that you might have forted up your residence -- we all might have done anything to prepare for a siege. "Might" is a weasel word that requires no evidence. And as for guns and anti-government views ... This is Arizona. Rural Arizona. If the Constitution were to be suspended and anti-government political views and gun ownership declared sufficient rationale for forceful police action, they'd have to build a wall around the state.

But the official story that David Carl was a threat to children and law-enforcement officers seemed flawed from the very beginning. For starters, police didn't take the guns they claimed to fear so much. And after an initial trip to the police station, they let the girls go back home.

In fact, David Carl's conflicts with local authorities are more long-standing, deep-seated -- and boring -- than the dramatic raid suggests. At the time of the raid, Carl insisted that the city was just escalating a zoning battle over signs and an occupancy permit to a ridiculous extreme. In fact, city Planning and Zoning Commission records document precisely such a conflict -- pursued, in particular, by Darold Smith, a then-board member and current City Council member.
From May 19, 2008 minutes (PDF):

Two pending Hearing Officer cases: one involving a contract post office substation owned by David Carl and operating without a certificate of occupancy; and Gardner’s recycling operation on North Main Street.

From June 18, 2008 minutes (PDF):

Commissioner Smith talked about the Code Enforcement report, boarding houses, and that it appears that David Carl is going out of business.

From October 20, 2008 minutes (PDF):

Darold Smith questioned enforcement status of zoning violations against David Carl (Wild West Express) and Angela Lozano (boarding houses).

From November 17, 2008 minutes (PDF):

Darold Smith asked about the David Carl case and why it has taken over a year.

From February 23, 2009 minutes (PDF):

Darold Smith asked when David Carl would be shut down. Gehlert said after the administrative process was exhausted, it went into the criminal phase, but the City Magistrate refused to hear it.

From March 16, 2009 minutes (PDF):

Darold Smith inquired about the David Carl zoning enforcement case. Director Gehlert said there was nothing new. He understood they would send it back through the system.

From April 20, 2009 minutes (PDF):

Darold Smith asked about enforcement on Gila (David Karl) and group homes. Gehlert answered that on the Gila matter they were waiting for the new magistrate to come onboard. The group home code was on the Council agenda the next evening.

Ummm ... Did David Carl run over Darold Smith's dog? The city official's interest seems a bit ... stalker-iffic.

In any case, the April 20 Planning and Zoning minutes were the last mention I could find of Carl (or Karl, assuming that's the same person) in city records, with Darold Smith's pet case apparently going nowhere in the courts. Smith took a seat on the city council in May. And then the police raided Wild West Express on July 20.

And now, according to the latest news, "Police Chief Jody Fanning says the County Attorney's Office will not prosecute Carl at this time. There are no pending charges against Carl or the business. An earlier planning department civil case against Carl was dismissed by the city."

There may well be more to this case than the public record shows. Perhaps David Carl is truly a danger and the police screwed up with their violent raid and its aftermath -- that is, they're incompetent rather than malevolent.

But I wouldn't bet on it. Right now, I'd take the scandal in Cottonwood, Arizona, as a lesson to be careful who you're ticking off when you go head-to-head with government officials. And keep a good lawyer on speed dial.

Original report here

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

MA: Police fear cellphone recordings

Simon Glik, a lawyer, was walking down Tremont Street in Boston when he saw three police officers struggling to extract a plastic bag from a teenager’s mouth. Thinking their force seemed excessive for a drug arrest, Glik pulled out his cellphone and began recording. Within minutes, Glik said, he was in handcuffs. “One of the officers asked me whether my phone had audio recording capabilities,’’ Glik, 33, said recently of the incident, which took place in October 2007. Glik acknowledged that it did, and then, he said, “my phone was seized, and I was arrested.’’ The charge? Illegal electronic surveillance.

Jon Surmacz, 34, experienced a similar situation. Thinking that Boston police officers were unnecessarily rough while breaking up a holiday party in Brighton he was attending in December 2008, he took out his cellphone and began recording. Police confronted Surmacz, a webmaster at Boston University. He was arrested and, like Glik, charged with illegal surveillance.

There are no hard statistics for video recording arrests. But the experiences of Surmacz and Glik highlight what civil libertarians call a troubling misuse of the state’s wiretapping law to stifle the kind of street-level oversight that cellphone and video technology make possible. “The police apparently do not want witnesses to what they do in public,’’ said Sarah Wunsch, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, who helped to get the criminal charges against Surmacz dismissed.

Boston police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll rejected the notion that police are abusing the law to block citizen oversight, saying the department trains officers about the wiretap law. “If an individual is inappropriately interfering with an arrest that could cause harm to an officer or another individual, an officer’s primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of the situation,’’ she said.

In 1968, Massachusetts became a “two-party’’ consent state, one of 12 currently in the country. Two-party consent means that all parties to a conversation must agree to be recorded on a telephone or other audio device; otherwise, the recording of conversation is illegal. The law, intended to protect the privacy rights of individuals, appears to have been triggered by a series of high-profile cases involving private detectives who were recording people without their consent.

In arresting people such as Glik and Surmacz, police are saying that they have not consented to being recorded, that their privacy rights have therefore been violated, and that the citizen action was criminal.

“The statute has been misconstrued by Boston police,’’ said June Jensen, the lawyer who represented Glik and succeeded in getting his charges dismissed. The law, she said, does not prohibit public recording of anyone. “You could go to the Boston Common and snap pictures and record if you want; you can do that.’’

Ever since the police beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles in 1991 was videotaped, and with the advent of media-sharing websites like Facebook and YouTube, the practice of openly recording police activity has become commonplace. But in Massachusetts and other states, the arrests of street videographers, whether they use cellphones or other video technology, offers a dramatic illustration of the collision between new technology and policing practices.

“Police are not used to ceding power, and these tools are forcing them to cede power,’’ said David Ardia, director of the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Ardia said the proliferation of cellphone and other technology has equipped people to record actions in public. “As a society, we should be asking ourselves whether we want to make that into a criminal activity,’’ he said.

In Pennsylvania, another two-party state, individuals using cellphones to record police activities have also ended up in police custody.

But one Pennsylvania jurisdiction has reaffirmed individuals’ right to videotape in public. Police in Spring City and East Vincent Township agreed to adopt a written policy confirming the legality of videotaping police while on duty. The policy was hammered out as part of a settlement between authorities and ACLU attorneys representing a Spring City man who had been arrested several times last year for following police and taping them.

More here

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Middle-Eastern behavior from British Muslim cop

A senior Scotland Yard officer 'bullied and threatened' an innocent man in a row over money before falsely accusing him of assault, a court heard yesterday. In a 'wholesale abuse of power', Metropolitan Police Commander Ali Dizaei, 47, chased web designer Waad Al-Baghdadi down the street in his car after confronting him in a restaurant, it was alleged. The officer is alleged to have threatened to ruin his life.

Mr Al-Baghdadi then spent nearly 24 hours in police custody after Dizaei lied in an official statement claiming that the civilian had threatened to assault him, Southwark Crown Court heard. A police doctor concluded that damage allegedly suffered by the £90,000-a-year officer during the altercation was 'consistent with self-inflicted injuries', jurors were told. Dizaei, a former president of the National Black Police Association, denies perverting the course of justice and misconduct in public office.

Prosecutor Peter Wright QC said: 'These are allegations of the wholesale abuse of power by a senior police officer for entirely personal motives. 'It involves the bullying of a fellow citizen, intimidating and threatening him, abusing the power invested in him by virtue of his office and rank.'

The allegations centre on a confrontation in July 2008 at the Yas restaurant in Kensington, West London. At the time, Dizaei was one of the most senior figures in the Metropolitan Police - in charge of ten London boroughs. He had commissioned Mr Al-Baghdadi - an Iraqi - to build him a personal website for between £500 and £600. But when the IT expert asked for payment, his calls and emails were ignored, the court heard. Mr Al-Baghdadi eventually took the site off line, prompting the restaurant confrontation.

The prosecutor said Mr Al-Baghdadi asked Dizaei, who was in uniform, for the money he was owed to pay for the work and purchase of the domain name Mr Wright said Dizaei 'threw his weight around', telling the Iraqi: 'You have got five minutes to leave the restaurant or I will show you.' He told Mr Al-Baghdadi: 'Let's go to the next road, I will show you.' The businessman allegedly replied: 'I am talking to you. I did work for you, and you say to me, "Let's go around the corner to fight". 'You are a police commander. If you are police commander of all this world you still have no class.'

Mr Al-Baghdadi left the restaurant and dialled 999 to complain. At this point, Dizaei appeared carrying a pair of handcuffs, interdorupted the call to ask for back-up, and arrested him. Dizaei allegedly told Mr Al-Baghdadi: 'I will f*** your life. Do you think I don't know what you do in London? I will find out every single detail about your life.'

Mr Al-Baghdadi replied: 'I have not done anything.' Mr Wright said Dizaei told him: 'I have ten witnesses, I will show you what I can do.' The jury was played part of the eight-minute 999 call made by Mr Al-Baghdadi at about 11.30pm. Dizaei could then be heard taking the phone and asking for support. He said: 'This man is threatening, I need to get him arrested.' Three minutes later, Dizaei made a second 999 call in which he asked for 'urgent assistance'.

Mr Wright said that in the background Mr Al-Baghdadi could be heard complaining in Persian that his arm or hand might break. When officers arrived, Dizaei handed them the metal mouthpiece of a shisha pipe, held on Mr Al-Baghdadi's key ring, and said he had been 'stabbed' or 'poked' in the stomach. Mr Al-Baghdadi was taken to Hammersmith Police Station where Dizaei told a custody officer he had been threatened and assaulted. The Commander was said to be outraged when no charges were brought against Mr Al-Baghdadi.

He was eventually charged with gross misconduct and perverting the course of justice. The trial is expected to last up to four weeks.

Original report here

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Man, 19, freed after 7 months in jail; robbery testimony at odds

Prosecutors should have seen from ther beginning that their case was weak. A hairstyle is not a crime

For nearly four hours in June, Eric W. Johnson insisted to Prince George's County police detectives that the two armed robbery victims who had identified him as a culprit were wrong, that he was innocent.

For seven months, Johnson, 19, remained in the county jail in Upper Marlboro, awaiting a jury's decision on charges of armed robbery, first-degree assault, using a handgun in a crime of violence, 17 offenses in all, carrying the possibility of decades of prison time.

The jury never weighed in. On Thursday, before what would have been the second day of Johnson's trial, Assistant State's Attorney Ada Clark-Edwards dropped all charges against Johnson.

About seven hours later, he was released from the jail and celebrated by devouring a Big Mac meal at a McDonald's restaurant. "I think the criminal justice system works in wrong ways," Johnson said in an interview less than two hours after he was freed. "I'm completely innocent."

Clark-Edwards referred questions to Ramon Korionoff, a spokesman for State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey. Korionoff said the state dropped the charges because its two key witnesses were contradictory in their testimony and prosecutors no longer had confidence in their case.

For example, one of the victims, Lillian Hall, testified that the attacker she thought was Johnson had dark skin. Johnson is light-complexioned, defense attorneys Andrew Jezic and David Moyse said. The other victim, Timothy Flemmings, told police that the attacker he thought was Johnson hit him in the head with a gun; on the witness stand, Flemmings did not remember that, the attorneys said.

It is highly unusual for prosecutors to drop charges against a criminal defendant in the middle of a trial. In July 2006, Prince George's prosecutors dropped double-murder charges against Edgar "L.A." Reyes when cellphone records provided by a homicide detective during the trial cast doubt on the veracity of the state's lone witness.

At the outset of the Johnson trial, Hall and Flemmings took the stand and testified that Johnson was one of several men who robbed them at gunpoint about 10:30 p.m. June 7 in the 5600 block of Auth Road in Suitland.

According to police charging documents, one victim, Flemmings, surrendered a cellphone and an iPod. Hall gave the robbers her purse, her wallet and $22 in cash. A third victim, a woman, gave up her purse and wallet.

Johnson's hairstyle -- he wears dreadlocks -- is a reason he became a suspect, Jezic and Moyse said. The victims of that robbery said one of the attackers had dreadlocks and a cap.

About 5 1/2 hours after the Auth Road robbery, about 4 a.m. June 8, police were called to the scene of a robbery about five miles away, Jezic said. Johnson, who had been out at a nightclub, was spotted walking with two other men about six blocks from that robbery, Jezic said. The victim of the later robbery was brought to the street where Johnson and his friends were detained and said Johnson was not his attacker, Jezic said.

Nonetheless, detectives put Johnson's picture in a photo array, and Hall and Flemings identified him as one of the men who had robbed them. The third victim said she could not identify anyone from the photo array.

Original report here

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Monday, January 11, 2010

'Innocent’ British driver concedes guilt to avoid cost of court defence

Too many drivers were being exonerated (over 300,000 drivers per year!) for the British government so they are now doing their best to make the courts unavailable to most people. So police persecution of the innocent can now run riot and the police will have splendid statistics to show what a good job they are doing. But the police fear that they might get caught out by it too -- when accused of wrongdoing

A company director has admitted a motoring offence he says he has not committed after becoming one of the first to be caught by controversial new rules on court costs. Ian Harrison says he cannot afford to take his case to court because even if he won he would have to pay nearly all his legal bills of at least £2,000. The 53-year-old has instead opted to accept a £60 fine and three penalty points.

Since October, criminal defendants in England and Wales have only been allowed to claim back lawyers’ fees at the legal aid rate of £60 – often less than a quarter of the real charge – even if they are acquitted, leaving innocent people heavily out of pocket unless they plead guilty or represent themselves.

The Law Society is seeking a judicial review of the regulations, which affect all defendants who do not receive legal aid. Thirty MPs have signed a Commons motion criticising the new rules and nearly 22,000 people have put their names to a Number 10 petition calling for a rethink.

In 2008, 37 per cent of all cases in magistrates courts were motoring offences.

Mr Harrison, a deputy manager of a firm of bailiffs in Bolton, was issued a penalty notice for using a mobile phone while driving earlier this month, but he says he was using a Bluetooth device which is legal. He has been told by lawyers that he has a “better than evens” chance of being found not guilty at court but that he would be liable to pay nearly all of his costs, likely to reach more than £2,000. “I don’t have that sort of money so I’m just going to take the fine and the three points,” he said. “If I had been able to get my costs back then because I had a good chance of winning I would have gone for it. But even if I’m vindicated I’ll still be the loser because I’ll have lost £2,000.”

Jeanette Miller, the founding president of the Association of Motor Offence Lawyers, said her law firm, Geoffrey Miller Solicitors, had seen a drop of 34 per cent in the number of motorists taking their speeding claims to court in November 2009 compared with November 2008, when costs were still met from central funds. Figures from the Ministry of Justice show that 24 per cent of the 1.4 million motorists taken to court in 2007 were cleared, which meant nearly 380,000 drivers recouped about 80 per cent of their costs.

Legal aid is not available for most motoring cases and defending speeding cases typically costs at least £2,000, while costs for fighting a drink-driving charge can range between £5,000 and £10,000.

The Ministry of Justice hopes to save £25 million a year by paying only legal aid rates.

Robert Heslett, president of the Law Society, said: “The human cost of this grossly unfair regulation cannot be underestimated. “It will result in financial disaster for many innocent people, who, having been cleared of any wrong doing, will have endured the stress of these charges, and then face legal fees running into the thousands for the privilege.”

The Law Society’s judicial review has been backed by the Police Federation of England and Wales. Stephen Smith, the deputy general secretary of the federation, which defends officers accused of wrongdoing, said: “The result of the proposed change will put the Federation under severe financial strain or place police officers in a position where the direct cost to them is prohibitive of fighting a charge that they categorically deny. “To that end, the new regulations are unfair and a backward step to equal access to representation and justice.”

Ms Miller said she hoped the review and the increasing pressure on the Government from MPs and the public would force ministers to review the legislation. “They haven’t thought it through before making the changes,” she added. “Hopefully putting this pressure on will work, otherwise people who are innocent could be convicted or face financial ruin after fighting a case.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “While the Government accepts that acquitted defendants should continue to have access to central funds, it is essential that we also target our resources effectively, secure value for money for the taxpayer and control areas of overspend in our budget. “We believe that the rates we pay for criminal cases under legal aid are both fair and sustainable and should be available on the open market. We also believe it is fair to taxpayers that those who can afford to pay for all or part of their legal representation do so. “We believe that lawyers are able to provide a reasonable service at legal aid rates, but if a defendant wants to have, for example, a senior partner’s undivided attention, they may be prepared to pay more for a 'premium service’ but would have to understand that they would not recover all of these costs.

Original report here

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Remember Eric Williamson? He was convicted

Remember Eric Williamson? He was the Fairfax, Virginia man arrested for making coffee while naked and alone in his own kitchen last October. Apparently, he was 'viewed' by a woman and her 7-year-old who were taking a shortcut near or through his property, which allowed them a clear view of Williamson's nudity through his own window. Rather than apologize, rather than knock on his door to complain or just shrug it off, the woman called the police to report a pervert and Williamson now faces a year in jail. Of course, the woman was the wife of a police officer so appealing to a gun-toting authority is probably what she does when a lightbulb needs changing.

According to CBS (12/21/09), a jury of his fully-clothed peers has convicted Williamson of indecent exposure because two women said they saw him naked while walking by the windows of his house in October. He received neither jail time nor a fine, but is appealing anyway, saying a larger principle is at stake. I don't know where the second woman came from; she certainly wasn't present in the initial arrest and, so, not necessary to the criminalization of drinking coffee naked in one's own kitchen. After Williamson's arrest garnered international attention, however, the hyper-defensive police did an intensive sweep of the neighborhood and their interviews may have turned up someone who had glimpsed some skin...or someone with a grudge. It would be 'nice' if the police gave rapes or other real crimes such attention.

The CBS article comments, If Williamson follows through on his plans to appeal, though, a circuit court judge could impose a tougher punishment, technically up to a year in jail. That's the kind of incentive defendants are given to drop complaints against the cops or the courts; there is almost always something the authorities can use to plea bargain or otherwise induce you into silence about abuse. Nevertheless, through hook-or-by-crook, the Va. police got their "guilty" verdict on the charge of "drinking coffee naked in your own home"...and this is what they desperately wanted -- the appearance of exoneration; the patina of a righteous arrest.

I hope the Men's Rights Movement champions this case on the basis of what I believe is a clear double standard. Williamson stated, "If I was looking in her window, I think we'd be having a whole different conversation." Of course, he would still have been arrested...this time as a peeping tom.

Original report here

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

Crooked prosecutor caught

There was corruption behind the virtuous pose. He was a self-seeker all along

Bobby DeLaughter, the prosecutor who secured the conviction in the infamous Medgar Evers Mississippi murder case, is himself now headed to prison. It was DeLaughter's dogged 1994 prosecution and the subsequent conviction of Ku Klux Klan member Byron De La Beckwith that helped trigger the reopening of dozens of civil rights cold cases.

His years in the robe came to an end in 2009, when DeLaughter pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for lying to an FBI agent in a far-reaching corruption probe that has rocked Mississippi's judicial system. When DeLaughter was sentenced in November, Byron De La Beckwith's son sat in the chamber wearing a Confederate flag pin on his red blazer. His father had also worn a Confederate pin during the 1994 trial.

DeLaughter is to begin serving his 18-month prison sentence today at a facility in Kentucky. "The man has now been destroyed, politically and economically. It's that serious," said Charles Evers, the brother of Medgar Evers. He said he is trying to raise money to help pay DeLaughter's expenses while he's in prison. "What can we do but fight for a man who fought for us?" he said. "I want DeLaughter to know I'm behind him 100 percent."

DeLaughter's attorney, Tom Durkin, refused CNN's request to speak to the prosecutor-turned-judge ahead of his incarceration. "Bobby DeLaughter remains a civil rights hero, and nothing is going to tarnish that," Durkin said. "The penalty he's paying is enormous, and I think it's sad and unfortunate. But that's simply the way it is."

Over the past month, CNN spoke with more than a dozen lawyers in Mississippi about DeLaughter's fall from grace. They paint a picture of an ambitious man with a brilliant legal mind who ran afoul of the law -- of friends betraying friends and of big-time money corrupting the system. Some take delight in his downfall; others call it a tragedy that has stained the legal community. In the end, the lawyers said, DeLaughter trusted one man too much: his mentor, Ed Peters, who exploited their friendship and then turned on DeLaughter to avoid prison.

"This is a Shakespearean tragedy in the sense that a person falls from grace due to their own character defects -- in this case, misplaced trust in a friend and, perhaps, some combination of ambition and hubris," said Matt Steffey, a law professor at Mississippi College School of Law.

The story of DeLaughter going from civil rights hero to convicted felon is complicated, involving years of contentious litigation in his courtroom. At the heart of the case is Dickie Scruggs, a high-powered lawyer who made tens of millions of dollars in tobacco and asbestos litigation. Scruggs is the brother-in-law of former Sen. Trent Lott and is now serving seven years in prison for trying to influence Mississippi judges, including DeLaughter.

According to prosecutors, Scruggs wanted to get to DeLaughter through his mentor, Peters, to try to influence DeLaughter's ruling in a high-stakes case, potentially worth $15 million. Peters received $1 million in illicit payments as compensation for his actions, prosecutors say. Peters was granted immunity in exchange for his cooperation.

"Mississippi would like to shake its image of being tied to civil rights crimes and the good ole boy network, and we see these two things overlap here," Steffey said. "It's enormously unfortunate for a person like Judge DeLaughter who, at the very least, accomplished heroic things with bringing Byron De La Beckwith to justice. And it's tragic for the people of Mississippi -- that the end story here is that he is a corrupt judge in prison."

DeLaughter has denied taking any money in the case or that he was improperly influenced. In his guilty plea, he admits to only obstruction of justice; the more serious charges of involvement in a bribery scheme and mail fraud conspiracy were dismissed as part of the deal....

"Bobby DeLaughter betrayed every single oath he ever took. He betrayed the whole system of justice that we live by," Kirksey said. "You measure a man by the whole of his life, not part of it. When the measure of the man is that he's dishonest in the end, then you have to wonder why he did anything in the beginning."

Merrida Coxwell was one of two lawyers who represented De La Beckwith in the 1994 trial. He has known DeLaughter for three decades, first as a defense attorney, then a prosecutor and finally as a judge. "Quite frankly, I thought he was a very moderate, straight-down-the-line judge," he said. He was shocked when allegations first surfaced. For a judge to be caught up in such a scandal, Coxwell said, is unfathomable. "If you can't have justice inside the justice system, then it's no good at all."

Original report here

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