Monday, October 31, 2011

An amusing -- but revealing -- defeat for an Australian police force

On Sept. 15 I reported on the case of Eaves v. Donnelly in which Renee Eaves was awarded the sum of $93,000 against ex-cop Barry John Donnelly and the State of Queensland.

One would have thought that the Queensland Police Service would have been deeply embarrassed to find that a private prosecution was needed to establish the culpability of one of their officers after they had proclaimed that he had no case to answer.

Had there been any decency at the top one would have thought that prompt payment of the award accompanied by profuse apologies to Ms Eaves would be the order of the day.

Their actual response however established what low types run the Qld. cops. They say that fish rot from the head and it seems that the Qld cops are still in that category. The Fitzgerald enquiry put the Qld. police chief in jail so rottenness at the top is a reasonable expectation in Qld.

And that expectation would seem to be borne out in the Eaves vs. Donnelly matter. Instead of showing any contrition, the police decided to appeal the verdict. The scathing comments about them from Judge Samios were apparently like water off a duck's back. And that decision to appeal can only have come from somewhere close to the top if not the top itself.

But here's the amusing part: Their grounds for appeal were so weak that they had to back out of the appeal. They went to the Court of Appeal (a division of the Qld Supreme Court) but the court either point blank refused to hear them or they were quietly advised that they had no case.

What scum!

Needless to say, Renee is feeling in a very good mood at the moment after the failure of the appeal (though she still hasn't got the money) so she sent me some pix:

Renee's comment on the Pic above: "The boy's club army all to sort out one lil blonde single mum....... Chickens ... but expensive ones for the taxpayers. Sherman Oh is the Asian one and Mark Hinson the senior counsel is front right"

The amount the cops must have spent on legal services in the matter rather boggles the mind. It would have been MUCH cheaper for the taxpayer if they had settled out of court. But to do that would have required at least an implicit admission of fault and they were clearly not adult enough for that.

Original report here

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Secrecy surrounds dubious British conviction

Ian Hitchings, one of Britain’s foremost true-crime writers and author of more than 40 crime-related books, has been refused access to the 1961 inquest records of a murder victim by the coroner for the City of Birmingham, Mr Aidan Keith Cotter.

His latest book will feature the death of Christakis Phitides who was brutally stabbed to death in a local café, Elasanda, in Birmingham. His assailant was local Jamaican construction worker Kenneth Black, who was convicted of the tragic crime and received the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment at Birmingham Assizes in 1961. Mr Black is now a frail 74-year-old and out of prison.

“Throughout his prison sentence Kenneth Black vigorously protested his innocence and he continues to do so to this very day,” says Hitchings, who has interviewed him many times. “There was a lot of racial tension around in those days, which is backed up by investigations by Scotland Yard’s Anti-Corruption Unit.

“During the period 1961 – 1967 the Midlands Police was shown to have had amongst the highest rates of corruption throughout the country. So no matter how damaging this may now appear, back in the 1960’s these were ‘accurate’ facts,” he said.

“While carrying out my research into this particular crime with the view to compiling a manuscript, I have yet to see one shred of evidence which could even get close to suggest Mr Black was the actual perpetrator in this case,” he said.

“What’s even more suspicious is that Mr Black’s entire court papers including transcripts of his trial, have been embargoed for 80 years from the date of his conviction and aren’t currently available. I certainly haven’t come across this before,” said Hitchings.

“I contacted the coroner Mr Cotter and he said ‘deaths that are the result of murder and prison deaths are completely closed to the public and not for viewing.’ I carefully explained to Mr Cotter’s personal assistant Lynne Hart, that I was a professional true crime writer and author, but this was to no avail. Yet, I receive inquest reports from other coroners relating to deaths while in custody, together with victims of murder.”

What Hitchings finds even more suspicious is that Mr Black’s court papers including transcripts of his trial, have been embargoed for 80 years from the date of his conviction by the National Archives office and aren’t currently available for public consumption until after 2042.

“My original application to access his file was refused, and there is currently an on-going appeal in process under the Freedom of Information Act. This is being supervised by my solicitors, with a view to seeking a judicial review should my appeal fail,” he said.

The writer, from Bristol, and who was born in Rhymney, was recently added to the Welsh Academy of writers – the only true crime author to feature in their Literature Wales database. His last book, Portrait of a Prison Killer, just published, was about 29-year-old Manchester born Robert Stewart, Britain’s most dangerous psychopathic prison killer.

He is now committed to delving deeper to find out the truth about what he feels is Kenneth Black's wrongful conviction.

He said: “Mr Black’s whole entire historical case is shrouded in secrecy. I find this remarkable in this day and age. I won't rest until I have uncovered the truth. It won't be easy due to this embargo, but I will try.”

Original report here

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Freed Convict Pushes Rare Probe of Prosecutors

Michael Morton walked out of a Texas prison this month after serving almost 25 years for a murder that DNA evidence recently linked to another man. Now, in an unusual twist, the prosecutors who helped convict Mr. Morton in 1987 are in the hot seat.

Texas's highest criminal court has given lawyers for Mr. Morton the green light to question several former prosecutors about whether they withheld crucial evidence that might have cleared him. The deposition of a former district attorney in Williamson County, north of Austin, is slated to begin Monday.

Separately, the Texas state bar, which investigates complaints about unethical behavior by lawyers and has the power to strip them of their law licenses, has taken the unusual step of opening its own probe into the prosecution. Bar officials declined to comment on the scope of the investigation.

The officials involved in the prosecution have denied any wrongdoing or have called the investigations of their actions improper.

Since 1989, at least 800 convicts nationwide have been exonerated and freed from prison, thanks in part to the greater availability of DNA evidence. In some of these cases, advocates for the wrongfully convicted have contended that prosecutorial misconduct—such as suppressing evidence or relying on false testimony—played a role.

But exonerations have rarely led to scrutiny of prosecutors, who enjoy broad immunity from civil suits and a measure of professional courtesy that discourages defense lawyers and judges from filing complaints that could lead to state bar investigations, attorneys said.

"It is a rare day that discipline is imposed on a prosecutor in Texas," said Chuck Herring, an Austin lawyer who specializes in legal ethics.

That is as it should be, said Scott Burns, executive director of the National District Attorneys Association, adding that prosecutors behave appropriately in the vast majority of cases.

If prosecutors could easily be sued or sanctioned in the rare instance of a mistake, he said, "They may then err on the side of caution in bringing charges, to the detriment of society."

John Bradley, the current district attorney in Williamson County, who wasn't involved in the Morton murder trial, said that as a general rule it sets a dangerous precedent for the bar association to second-guess prosecutors, especially about long-ago cases. "As a prosecutor, I should be worried about prosecuting cases and not covering my butt for something I did 25 years ago," he said.

But, he said, Mr. Morton's lawyers should be able to depose prosecutors and ask questions about whether they may have failed to turn over evidence. His office had agreed to allow such a probe to continue even after Mr. Morton was released from prison Oct. 4.

In the 1987 trial, the government argued that Mr. Morton bludgeoned his wife, Christine, to death out of rage because she refused to have sexual intercourse with him on his 32nd birthday.

Mr. Morton, now 57 years old, has consistently maintained his innocence. He has claimed in court papers that prosecutors suppressed evidence that would have helped him establish his claim that he was at work at the time of the murder and that his wife must have been killed by an intruder.

Mr. Morton contends that prosecutors failed to reveal evidence that a person fraudulently attempted to use his wife's missing Visa card days after the murder and that someone cashed a check bearing her apparently forged signature.

John Raley, counsel to Mr. Morton, declined to elaborate on his client's claims.

One of the prosecutors due to face questions is Ken Anderson, who is now a state-court judge in the Williamson County seat, Georgetown. He is scheduled to be deposed by Mr. Morton's lawyers on Monday. In court filings, Mr. Anderson had tried unsuccessfully to block the deposition, contending that he enjoys immunity from being sued or deposed for actions he took as a prosecutor.

Mr. Anderson has alleged that Mr. Morton's lawyers are on a fishing expedition for evidence they could then use in a civil suit against him. Mr. Raley, Mr. Morton's counsel, declined to comment on a possible civil suit.

An attorney for Mr. Anderson didn't respond to repeated requests for comment.

Original report here

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Friday, October 28, 2011

U.S. border agent jailed for improper arrest of suspected drug smuggler

A Stalinist "show trial" to please the Mexican government

A U.S. Border Patrol agent has been sentenced to two years in prison for improperly lifting the arms of a 15-year-old drug smuggling suspect while handcuffed — in what the Justice Department called a deprivation of the teenager’s constitutional right to be free from the use of unreasonable force.

Agent Jesus E. Diaz Jr. was named in a November 2009 federal grand jury indictment with deprivation of rights under color of law during an October 2008 arrest near the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas, in response to a report that illegal immigrants had crossed the river with bundles of drugs.

In a prosecution sought by the Mexican government and obtained after the suspected smuggler was given immunity to testify against the agent, Diaz was sentenced last week by U.S. District Judge Alia Moses Ludlum in San Antonio. The Mexican consulate in Eagle Pass had filed a formal written complaint just hours after the arrest, alleging that the teenager had been beaten.

Defense attorneys argued that there were no injuries or bruises on the suspected smuggler’s lower arms where the handcuffs had been placed nor any bruising resulting from an alleged knee on his back. Photos showed the only marks on his body came from the straps of the pack he carried containing the suspected drugs, they said.

Border Patrol agents found more than 150 pounds of marijuana at the arrest site.

The defense claimed that the smuggling suspect was handcuffed because he was uncooperative and resisted arrest, and that the agent had lifted his arms to force him to the ground — a near-universal police technique — while the other agents looked for the drugs.

The allegations against Diaz, 31, a seven-year veteran of the Border Patrol, initially were investigated by Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Office of Professional Responsibility, which cleared the agent of any wrongdoing.

But the Internal Affairs Division at U.S. Customs and Border Protection ruled differently nearly a year later and, ultimately, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas brought charges.

The Law Enforcement Officers Advocates Council said the government’s case was “based on false testimony that is contradicted by the facts.”

In a statement, the council said that because the arrest took place at about 2 a.m., darkness would have made it impossible for the government’s witnesses to have seen whether any mistreatment took place. It said Marcos Ramos, the Border Patrol agent who stood next to Diaz, testified that he did not see any mistreatment of the smuggling suspect.

The council said other witnesses made contradictory claims and some later admitted to having perjured themselves. Such admissions, the council said, were ignored by the court and the government. It also said that probationary agents who claimed to have witnessed the assault raised no objections during the incident and failed to notify an on-duty supervisor until hours later.

“Instead, they went off-duty to a local ‘Whataburger’ restaurant, got their stories straight and reported it hours later to an off-duty supervisor at his home,” the council said. “Then the ‘witnesses’ went back to the station and reported their allegations.”

The council also noted that the teenager claimed no injuries in court other than sore shoulders, which the council attributed to “the weight of the drug load, approximately 75 pounds, he carried across the border.”

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas, which brought the charges, is the same office that in February 2006 — under U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton — prosecuted Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean after they shot a drug-smuggling suspect, Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, in the buttocks as he tried to flee back into Mexico after abandoning a van filled with 800 pounds of marijuana. Aldrete-Davila also was given immunity in the case and testified against the agents.

Agents Ramos and Compean were convicted and sentenced to 11 and 12 years in prison, respectively.

President George W. Bush commuted the sentences in 2009 after they had served two years.

The same prosecutors also charged Edwards County Deputy Sheriff Gilmer Hernandez in 2005 with violating the civil rights of a Mexican criminal alien after he shot out the tires of a van filled with illegals as it tried to run him over. One of the illegal immigrants in the van was hit with bullet fragments.

Original report here

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sloppy prosecution sees innocent man spend 3 years in jail

Suppressed evidence

MOBILE, Alabama -- In an unusual move today, prosecutors abruptly dropped a robbery charge against a Mobile man in the middle of his trial.

It was the second time Toby Priest, 42, stood trial on the robbery charge. Priest was convicted in 2008 of robbing an Old Shell Road gas station after a store clerk identified him as the perpetrator. A man had slipped a note across the counter, threatening he had a gun and demanding cash.

That conviction was overturned earlier this year by Presiding Circuit Judge Charles Graddick after another witness in the store — who was never called to testify in the 2008 trial — said Priest was clearly not the robber. At that point, Priest had served three years in prison.

Still, the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office pursued a new trial against Priest this week. The prosecution’s case appeared to quickly unravel in court.

On Monday, the store clerk couldn’t identify Priest as the robber in court. Fingerprint and blood samples taken from the note excluded Priest, according to expert testimony.

A Mobile police investigator said Priest only became a suspect after another officer heard a general description of the robber on police radio and suggested that Priest matched it.

The investigator, though, said he did not visit Priest’s home address that night, and instead issued an alert to the news media, declaring Priest a wanted man.

Priest said he was at home and saw himself on Bob Grip’s Fugitive Files on Fox 10 News that night. “It’s like the Twilight Zone,” Priest said outside the courtroom today at Mobile Government Plaza.

After the charge was dropped, Priest’s mother, Shirley Cato, wept and hugged her son. “The D.A.’s office failed the city of Mobile, failed the state of Alabama, and they failed my son,” Cato said.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Wright said that she still believes Priest committed the crime, but she wasn’t prepared to move forward with a case with any doubts. “I felt that this was the right thing to do,” Wright said.

Wright said the clerk couldn’t identify Priest as the robber in court this week because four years had passed.

The store clerk did select Priest’s photo in a six-photo line-up immediately after being robbed.

Priest has a facial disfigurement and a glass eye after he barely survived a shotgun blast to the face years earlier.

According to police testimony, witnesses described the robber as having a black-and-white mustache, glasses, and wrinkles or some kind of disfigurement on his face. Police were told the suspect was driving a black Infiniti car.

Priest says he never wore a mustache or glasses. He did, however, drive a black Infiniti.

Mobile police Detective Jeffrey Hilburn said that after issuing an initial description of the robber over police radio, another officer reported back that he had recently dealt with a man matching that description and car — a man named Toby Priest.

He said after the clerk selected Priest from the lineup, an alert was issued to the news media, although police never visited Priest’s home.

The next day, Priest went to Mobile police headquarters voluntarily, driving his black Infiniti, which police then photographed in the parking lot and used as evidence in the case.

“What robber drives down to the police station in the robbery car to talk to the cops?” said defense attorney Jeff Deen.

Deen said Priest also voluntarily took a lie detector test — which is not admissible in court — and passed outright. He said Priest was the only man in the photo lineup who had a facial disfiguration.

Priest denied any wrongdoing and told police that he was at his mother’s house in Mobile that night, but investigators did not interview her, according to testimony.

After the jury convicted him in 2008, Priest was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He appealed his case, and his family used a locator service to find a witness on the scene that night, Laura Stewart-Wyatt, who had since moved to Wyoming. She had given a written statement to police, and she later testified in appeal hearing that the robber did not have Priest’s facial scars.

In June, Graddick ruled that Priest’s defense attorney in the first trial, Brandy Hambright, failed to track down and interview Stewart-Wyatt, which amounted to ineffective legal representation.

The ruling says that if the witness had testified, “there was a reasonable probability, that but for trial counsel’s errors, the result would have been different.”

Original report here

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

British emergency call handler ignored 140 calls including rape and child abuse reports

He was eventually fired but will not be prosecuted

A police officer who ignored dozens of 999 calls including reports of rape, child abuse and a break-in by a gunman as non–emergencies has been sacked.

The 58-year-old Metropolitan Police officer, who worked for one of Britain’s biggest 999 call centres, failed to send police to a number of life-threatening emergencies.

The ‘appalling and callous’ operator bungled more than 140 calls leaving victims in danger, including one woman who threatened to commit suicide and was merely told to go to her local police station if she wanted help.

In one instance, a terrified householder who reported that a brick had been thrown through his window by a gunman who was sitting outside his house in a car brandishing the weapon was told that the ‘non-urgent’ matter did not require a police response. The caller hung up in frustration and re-dialled 999 to speak to another handler who immediately sent an emergency response.

In another case, a young boy who called 999 begging for help, saying his father had hit him and locked him in the house, was told that he shouldn’t be calling 999, wasting police time. When the boy raised his voice in protest, the officer reprimanded him and ordered him to put his father on the line.

The officer failed to take the boy’s address, so police were never able to trace the boy who never phoned back.

Another girl who dialled 999 to report that her friend had been raped was just told to take her to a local police station, even though police should have been immediately dispatched. Fortunately the alleged victim attended a police station 90 minutes later.

In some cases the officer even doctored the log, changing the last digit of the caller’s telephone number to cover his tracks, making it impossible for supervisors to call the victim back.

But he was caught out when a woman who called to report a domestic assault on July 26, 2009, mentioned him to a family friend who also worked at Bow Central Command Centre in east London as a supervisor.

The woman complained that she had called to report a domestic assault, but the PC told her he was unable to understand her accent. After spelling her surname seven times to no avail, the woman hung up in frustration.

The officer closed the call log noting only an ‘irate woman had ended a call’ and he failed to respond to the alleged assault.

An inquiry was launched by the Independent Police Complaints Commission in August 2009 which found that out of around 3,000 phone calls handled by the PC in a three-month period from May 2009 when he started handling calls, 141 calls had ‘significant performance issues’ and 19 amounted to gross misconduct.

The officer, who has not been named, failed to respond properly to reports of domestic abuse, rape, potential armed break-ins, a suicide threat and a road traffic collision.

The report found that out of the 19 cases of gross misconduct, nine callers had phoned back or visited a police station, six were offered assistance by the inquiry team, and four callers could not be contacted or traced.

In seven cases he had altered the caller’s telephone number and he put the phone down on other callers, investigators found.

He ‘deliberately obstructed callers’ attempts to get help’ including a number of domestic assaults reported by women and men, which left them in ‘continued danger’.

The PC was placed on restricted duties on July 26, 2009 and was sacked on October 11 this year following a misconduct hearing.

But he will not face prosecution as the Crown Prosecution Service concluded there was insufficient evidence to bring a criminal case.

Yesterday IPCC Commissioner for London Deborah Glass said: ‘When the public call 999 for help from the police they should receive an immediate, professional and sympathetic response.

‘This officer not only did not provide that response, in some cases he deliberately obstructed their attempts to get help and left some callers in continued danger. ‘It is a matter of luck - and the persistence of those seeking help - that his actions do not appear to have resulted in serious harm to a member of the public. ‘It beggars belief that a police officer whose job was to help people in distress should have behaved in such an appalling and callous way. He has rightly been dismissed.’

Commander Peter Spindler, who is in charge of the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards said: ‘It was a fellow call handler who reported him, showing how shocked the vast majority of the hard working and professional call handlers were when they found that this one officer was not treating victims and witnesses with the appropriate concern, seriousness and high standards required.

‘We want to ensure that Londoners feel that we are here for them, that their calls are taken seriously and that the police response meets the high professional standards the public and the Met demand. ‘Therefore we take any allegations of wrong doing extremely seriously - as the dismissal of this officer demonstrates.’

Original report here

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Australia: Why did this case go to court?

The description of the gunman did not fit the accused!

A GOLD Coast man has been found not guilty of the attempted murder of a man in a drug deal gone wrong two years ago.

A Supreme Court jury in Brisbane, took two hours to acquit Joshua Paul Thornbury, 27, who had been charged with shooting Jared Blake, 22, at Runaway Bay, on July 7, 2009.

Thornbury had pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and an alternate charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

The trial heard Blake was shot by a man wearing a balaclava as he attempted to flee an area near the Runaway Bay boat ramp, on the Gold Coast.

He had gone there to buy $17,000 worth of ecstasy pills but had a change of heart.

The trial heard the gunman fired two shots into the car one of which struck Blake in the stomach. He drove to a nearby fast food outlet where he collapsed.

Barrister Chris Wilson, for Thornbury, told the jury his client denied he was the shooter and emphasised the major point was a description of the gunman which did not fit Thornbury.

Original report here

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Monday, October 24, 2011

NY: Ex-cop says NYPD fabricated drug charges to meet quotas

A former NYPD narcotics detective snared in a corruption scandal testified it was common practice to fabricate drug charges against innocent people to meet arrest quotas.

The bombshell testimony from Stephen Anderson is the first public account of the twisted culture behind the false arrests in the Brooklyn South and Queens narc squads, which led to the arrests of eight cops and a massive shakeup.

Anderson, testifying under a cooperation agreement with prosecutors, was busted for planting cocaine, a practice known as "flaking," on four men in a Queens bar in 2008 to help out fellow cop Henry Tavarez, whose buy-and-bust activity had been low.

"Tavarez was ... was worried about getting sent back [to patrol] and, you know, the supervisors getting on his case," he recounted at the corruption trial of Brooklyn South narcotics Detective Jason Arbeeny.

"I had decided to give him [Tavarez] the drugs to help him out so that he could say he had a buy," Anderson testified last week in Brooklyn Supreme Court.

He made clear he wasn't about to pass off the two legit arrests he had made in the bar to Tavarez. "As a detective, you still have a number to reach while you are in the narcotics division," he said.

NYPD officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Anderson worked in the Queens and Brooklyn South narcotics squads and was called to the stand at Arbeeny's bench trial to show the illegal conduct wasn't limited to a single squad.

"Did you observe with some frequency this ... practice which is taking someone who was seemingly not guilty of a crime and laying the drugs on them?" Justice Gustin Reichbach asked Anderson.

"Yes, multiple times," he replied.

The judge pressed Anderson on whether he ever gave a thought to the damage he was inflicting on the innocent. "It was something I was seeing a lot of, whether it was from supervisors or undercovers and even investigators," he said. "It's almost like you have no emotion with it, that they attach the bodies to it, they're going to be out of jail tomorrow anyway; nothing is going to happen to them anyway."

The city paid $300,000 to settle a false arrest suit by Jose Colon and his brother Maximo, who were falsely arrested by Anderson and Tavarez. A surveillance tape inside the bar showed they had been framed.

A federal judge presiding over the suit said the NYPD's plagued by "widespread falsification" by arresting officers.

Original report here

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

S.C. High court frees ex-security guard: Former guard served five years of 16-year term for voluntary manslaughter

For five years, he has been Inmate 00317668 in the S.C. Department of Corrections prison system, serving time at a remote facility in Marlboro County on a 16-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter.

But at about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, 38-year-old Jason Dickey – a former security guard at Columbia’s Cornell Arms apartments – walked out of Evans Correctional Institution a free man, thanks to the S.C. Supreme Court.

Last week, Attorney General Alan Wilson filed a petition for rehearing, delaying Dickey’s release. But late Tuesday, the Supreme Court rejected Wilson’s request for a rehearing.

“This was a classic case of self-defense,” said Lourie Salley, the Lexington attorney who persuaded the high court to rule last month that the judge in the case never should have let the case go to the jury because Dickey was in danger at the time he shot and killed Josh Boot, 24, on a public sidewalk.

“The court is a gatekeeper, and it has a responsibility to rule as a matter of law in cases where there is insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction,” Salley said. “The Supreme Court said the trial court failed in that gatekeeper function.”

As soon as Dickey got out, Salley took him to a Mexican restaurant in Bennettsville, where he had steak fajitas with a salad. Dickey, who lacks one course of finishing college, plans to go to law school, Salley said. Salley declined to discuss whether Dickey is considering a lawsuit against the state for wrongful imprisonment.

The basic facts of the case were not in dispute. On April 29, 2004, Boot and another man had been verbally abusive to Dickey inside the apartments as Dickey tried to evict the two at a resident’s request. They eventually left without serious incident. But once the two were outside, a heavily intoxicated Boot made a threatening remark and advanced on Dickey. Dickey testified at his 2006 trial he saw Boot “reach under his shirt” for an object that turned out to be a liquor bottle.

What was in dispute was whether Dickey helped bring on the shooting, and whether he could have avoided the confrontation since he was outside the building he was guarding. Further, he was on a public sidewalk.

In its Sept. 26 decision, the Supreme Court ruled, 4-1, that Dickey was without fault in bringing on the confrontation, that he believed he was in imminent danger because Boot was advancing on him, and that he had no duty to retreat.

Columbia lawyer Jack Swerling, who represented Dickey at the 2006 trial, said, “This was the clearest case of self-defense I have ever seen.”

Salley said he was retained in the case by Grass Roots South Carolina, a gun rights group that supports the right of people to carry concealed weapons.

“He is glad to see justice done,” Salley said. “He’s extremely happy, glad to be out. For an innocent man to be incarcerated, it’s trying to say the least. Jason did say on several occasions, he wished it had not been necessary.”

Original report here

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Drug-corrupted police

As rampant drug dealing and violent crimes crept into the isolated Mississippi River city of Helena-West Helena, people in town knew something was up. But few bothered calling for help as gunfire rang out near the historic streets lined with boutique shops and boarded-up buildings.

"What are the police going to do? Nine times out of 10, they're just going to look the other way," Bubba Sullivan said, echoing distrust voiced throughout town.

Officials say a four-year federal investigation, dubbed "Operation Delta Blues," revealed that mistrust may not have been entirely misplaced. Hundreds of law enforcement officers swarmed Helena-West Helena in the middle of the night last week and arrested dozens of people - five of them law enforcement officers accused of taking bribes to ignore and sometimes assist drug traffickers who shipped marijuana, cocaine and other illegal drugs throughout Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

The FBI said the probe focused on corrupt officers dealing with criminals who, in some cases, were convicted murderers.

"For far too long, a small minority of individuals has taken over this community," Mayor Arnell Willis said.

Parts of Willis' city of 12,000 remain undeniably inviting. Past a valley bathed in green vines, people have converted Victorian-style mansions into bed and breakfasts. Advertisements on more than one building boast the best Coca-Cola in town. Banners promote the historic downtown drag that drew tens of thousands of tourists just this month for the famous King Biscuit Blues Festival.

But a few blocks away, broken panes of glass and crumbling buildings hint at the crime that's haunted this city in the Mississippi River Delta, where jobs are scarce and the poverty rate has climbed to 30 percent. Financial troubles have led the state to take over the local schools, twice. Eight killings have been reported this year.

Bill Brothers, 60, remembers wandering the neighborhood as a child, without making his parents fret. But Brothers, who buys and sells airplanes, said he has been far more cautious raising his three sons.

"It's gotten where it's not uncommon" to hear gunshots, he said. "It's not something you'd be startled about anymore."

Willis, who took over the mayor's office in January, said he couldn't go to church on Sundays without hearing from people worried about killings and corruption. So just months into the job, he headed to Little Rock to beg U.S. Attorney Christopher Thyer for help.

"To be honest, I got tired of hearing the question," Willis said. "Locally, we were doing all we could do."

Thyer didn't tell Willis during their three-hour meeting that his office already had been investigating for years. He also didn't tell the mayor that at least four area police officers and a sheriff's deputy allegedly had been taking $500 bribes to escort drug shipments through the city and use their authority to prevent arrests or prosecutions. Prosecutors say the deputy was caught on a wiretap referring to it all as "the good old boy system."

The officers, who have all pleaded not guilty, were among defendants listed in seven federal indictments unsealed last week that brought 184 charges against some 70 people. The main indictment alleges a drug trafficking operation directed out of Helena-West Helena "was responsible for the distribution of large quantities of cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana" and other drugs in east Arkansas, Memphis, Tenn., and Clarksdale, Miss., along with other areas.

Local pawn shop owner Vance Kalb III said he often would see and hear flashes of gunfire on the overnight security camera videos he watches every morning.

"We all feel like it can't get any worse, but it always does," Kalb said. "There's a lot of things that don't even show up in the newspaper."

When he came into work the morning after last week's busts, Kalb saw on the video flashes of emergency lights and heard arrests being made. The tapes were much quieter the rest of the week.

Kalb has tried to stay positive after bust, even designing several T-shirts celebrating the operation. One shirt pokes fun at defendants' nicknames listed in the indictments - "Ray Ray," "Cheeseburger," "The Mechanic" and "Pee Wee."

"You can't do nothing but laugh," Kalb said. "It's sad, but at the same time, I'm happy it happened."

Those arrested are being held in Little Rock, more than 100 miles away. People in Helena-West Helena say they're grateful for outside agencies' help, but can't help but wonder if they're only seeing a brief respite from the noise and violence.

"When they get out, what's going to happen?" asked Linda Walters, who drives a school bus. "Is the killing going to start all over again?"

Thyer and other law enforcement officials have said their investigation will continue, though they won't comment on their next steps.

Residents, meanwhile, are coming out on their porches and yards again. For the first time many can remember, people say they have hope. Some are enjoying the silence.

Walters had grown accustomed to dropping from her bed and hiding on the floor when she heard gunfire in the middle of the night.

"Ever since they shot at my house, I hadn't really gotten no rest," Walters said. "I didn't think anybody was going to do anything."

After last week's arrests, she said she got a good night's sleep.

Original report here

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Outrage over British undercover policeman's 'lies on oath to protect his secret identity'

Scotland Yard faced calls for a judicial inquiry last night after an undercover officer apparently lied on oath to protect his secret identity. The demands came after it was revealed detective constable Jim Boyling gave evidence under a false name during the trial of environmental activists he had infiltrated.

A second undercover officer claimed the practice was widespread and sanctioned by bosses as a way of protecting the prized network of informants.

But one former director of public prosecutions warned it could spark a flood of appeals and accused police of making a ‘mockery of the courts’.

Lord Macdonald said: ‘It is highly disreputable to send someone into court to lie about who they are and what they were. It is making a mockery of the courts, the judge and the entire justice system. ‘It is pretty jaw-dropping stuff and shows that the police were taking a cavalier attitude towards the courts. ‘I would have thought that anyone who has been convicted because of an undercover police operation will be considering an appeal.’

The revelations were the latest blow to senior officers who are desperate to maintain police spies among the growing ranks of discontented activists.

The news forced a police watchdog to postpone the publication of a landmark review into the future of undercover policing. Written by Bernard Hogan-Howe before he took office as Metropolitan Police commissioner, it was expected to rule out the introduction of extra scrutiny.

The row comes after claims Mr Boyling allegedly maintained a fictitious alias throughout the trial of a group of Reclaim the Streets activists in 1997. The officer, who remains at Scotland Yard on restricted duties, infiltrated the environmental and anti-capitalist protesters for up to five years.

Mr Boyling and several other protesters were arrested during a protest at London Underground’s headquarters in 1996.

Legal records showed he told police he was ‘Pete James Sutton’, and that his occupation was ‘cleaner’, when he was taken to Charing Cross police station. He then appeared under this name during a series of court hearings that culminated in a three-day trial at Horseferry Road magistrates’ court.

The undercover officer and several others were acquitted, but arts lecturer John Jordan was convicted of assaulting a police officer. His case has now been referred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission and he expects it to be quashed at the Court of Appeal.

Defence solicitor Mike Schwarz said Mr Boyling was present during confidential discussions between Mr Jordan and his solicitor. He said police ‘wildly overstepped all recognised boundaries’ and called for a judge-led inquiry into the affair.

Mr Jordan said the case was ‘totally outrageous’ and the conviction made his career in education ‘pretty difficult’.

Another Met officer, Peter Black, who worked undercover with Mr Boyling, said there were other cases in which officers were prosecuted under false names. He said it was ‘part of their cover’ and suggested it increased their reputation among those they were collecting information about.

It is not clear whether Mr Boyling broke the law, but he could face investigation for perjury, perverting the course of justice or contempt of court.

The allegations came 10 months after the prosecution of six environmental protesters collapsed when an undercover officer offered to give evidence on their behalf. Long-haired climber Mark Kennedy was exposed as an undercover officer who had a series of affairs with activists during seven years working across Europe.

Mr Schwarz added: ‘I think that, for us all to come to reach any conclusions about what should happen in the future, the police must be open about what has happened in the past.’

A Met spokesman said: ‘We are confident that the current legislative and regulatory framework governing the deployment of undercover officers ensures that all such deployments conducted now are lawful and appropriately managed.’

Original report here

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

'Three Days In August' Goes On Sale Everywhere October 19th

U.S. Army Special Forces Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart admitted to having a one-night stand with a 28-year-old German woman the night of Aug. 22, 2008. She did, too. Both knew sex was part of the plan when they left the discotheque near Stuttgart. Two months later, however, her story changed and the highly-decorated combat veteran found himself facing rape and kidnapping charges.

During court-martial proceedings one year later, Stewart faced an Army court-martial panel comprised of soldiers who had recently returned from a 16-month deployment with the Army attorney serving as Stewart's lead prosecutor.

Despite a lack of both physical evidence and eyewitnesses to the alleged crimes, it took only three days for the panel to find Stewart guilty of numerous offenses -- including aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, forcible sodomy and assault and battery -- and sentence him to eight years behind bars.

Incredibly, the conviction was based almost entirely on the testimony of Stewart's accuser, a one-time mental patient who, with the backing of the German government, refused to allow her medical records to be entered as evidence.

When several witnesses came forward during a post-trial hearing to reveal startling proof that the accuser had lied several times during the trial, their words were largely ignored by the court and Stewart remained behind bars.

Today, Stewart's fighting for a new trial so he can shed the "sexual offender" label that will stay with him the rest of his life if justice remains out of reach.

Based on extensive interviews and never-before-published details taken from the actual Record of Trial, Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier's Fight for Military Justice by Bob McCarty paints a portrait of military justice gone awry that’s certain to make your blood boil.

Coming in eBook and print versions. Look for it at booksellers everywhere Oct. 19.

Press release above

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Suburban cop wrongly accused of shootings files lawsuit

A suburban Chicago police officer who was wrongly accused of a deadly rural shooting spree in Illinois and Indiana filed a federal lawsuit Thursday alleging he was framed by authorities who knew he was innocent.

Brian Dorian alleges in the lawsuit that Will County, Ill., Sheriff Paul Kaupas, State's Attorney James Glasgow and a sheriff's detective conspired against him even though they knew he wasn't the gunman. The 38-year-old Lynwood Police Department patrol officer is seeking more than $2 million in damages.

The October 2010 shootings left one person dead and two others injured. The case attracted national attention because Dorian was a police officer and because the gunman was initially dubbed "the honeybee shooter" because he had reportedly asked at least one victim about honeybees before opening fire.

Police later said Gary Amaya, 48, of Rankin was the shooter. Amaya was killed in December with his own gun during what police said was an attempted robbery of a tanning salon in suburban Chicago.

Dorian's lawsuit alleges authorities arrested him based on "alleged coerced and influenced information" from one of the victims and that they withheld information that would have helped Dorian. It also alleges Dorian was arrested even though no evidence was found in his home, he didn't fit the suspect's physical description or drive a vehicle that matched a description of the suspect's vehicle.

Dorian said he told authorities that he was on his computer at the time the Oct. 5, 2010 shootings occurred. He spent four days in jail before he was released after he was cleared by forensic computer evidence that showed he was at home when the shootings happened.

Will County officials said Dorian's lawsuit "misrepresents" the investigation into the shootings.

"The investigation was conducted according to the letter of the law," said a statement from the Will County Sheriff's Department and Will County State's Attorney's office. "We are confident a court will find the actions of the parties named as defendants in this lawsuit to be justified after all of the evidence is presented."

At the time, a sheriff's office spokesman said investigators acted properly, saying that while there was no physical evidence linking Dorian to the shootings, there was compelling circumstantial evidence — including a witness who twice identified Dorian as the shooter.

The sheriff's office also said Dorian was released as soon as investigators determined there was no evidence linking him to the shootings. The office also accused Dorian of bearing some responsibility for his arrest, saying he waited days before he provided specifics about what he was doing the morning of the shootings

The shootings began the morning of Oct. 5 at a rural construction site in Illinois. The gunman shot and killed Rolando Alonso, 45, of Hammond, Ind., and wounded Joshua Garza, a 19-year-old from Dyer, Ind. Later, farmer Keith Dahl, 64, was wounded near Lowell, Ind

Original report here

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Prison-Yard America

The article below overstates the case a bit but it is nevertheless true that no American is safe if some official takes a dislike to him. They can always get you on something

Since September, a public-school district in Florida has been taking fingerprint scans at the entrance to schools as a way to monitor attendance. The scans are compared against a database of students to detect truants. As in most highly intrusive school policies, parents are thrown a bone of control by allowing them to request an “opt out” for their children. An opted-out student needs to pursue a teacher and go through a special sign-in every day. In terms of time, convenience, and avoidance of stigma, students have a strong incentive to comply quietly.

But the current scanner setup is not efficient enough; the location makes it “difficult to keep track of every student.” And so the district is experimenting with supplementary scanners on the school buses that almost every student uses.

The schools' superintendent, Sandra Cook, acknowledges that the transition has not been easy. Why not? Have parents complained about the Orwellian violation of children's privacy? Are they outraged by the state's assumption that children's fingerprints are state property unless objections are raised?

TV station WJHG explains, “One of the biggest challenges they've faced is where to put the devices on the buses. State safety codes require the aisles to be kept completely clear, so one of the ideas they've discussed is to put a laptop on one side of the steering wheel and the finger scan system on the other.” The discussion revolves, not around rights, but around technical issues.

The institutions and interactions of society are slowly coming to resemble a prison yard.A key and defining feature of America's prison system is that the people being processed through it have no rights whatsoever that the authorities feel required to consider. Prisoners are caged like animals, removed from familial and other free exchanges, strip-searched at a guard's whim, beaten with no legal recourse, and forced into a de facto “slave” labor.

In goose step with law enforcement, society at large moves gradually toward the zero-tolerance mass-processing of people who have no rights the authorities need to recognize. Travelers are physically molested and interrogated before being given the privilege of using tickets they've paid for. Children attending government schools pursuant to mandatory-attendance laws are fingerprinted as a condition of receiving the schooling or school-bus rides for which their parents are heavily taxed.

In society at large, people are said to surrender their natural rights when they agree to use “services,” such as air travel. That is, when you buy a plane ticket, you are deemed to be giving permission to have your body and property rummaged, to have your privacy stripped away, and to face the prospect of being arrested for such trivial noncompliance as asking a question.

In vain, people argue that the air-travel “service” is a usurpation of the free market by a government monopoly that demands all providers comply with government security. The arguments fall on deaf ears, because the people to whom they are addressed are the civil equivalents of prison guards.

Agents of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are there to herd and process potential criminals. Their job is to elicit obedience; they do not listen, and they do not care, because either of those responses would be antithetical to their job description. This is true of all the agents used to process masses of people, from sports fans to grade-school children.

The effect on the prison population, whether it lives behind gray walls or walks the streets, is predictable. We obey without question; it becomes so habitual that, at some point, questions do not come to mind. In a St. Louis Today article, columnist Bill McClellan describes vacationing with a friend on a “small motor boat from the Georgia-Florida state line to Miami. We traveled on the Intracoastal Waterway, which is, for the most part, a series of saltwater rivers.”

In no hurry, the men cruised below the speed limit. Nevertheless, as they passed Jacksonville, “a northbound boat turned on flashing blue lights and cut over toward” them. “A young man and young woman wearing FWC (Fish and Wildlife Commission) jackets politely informed us that we had been speeding. ‘Your bow was out of the water,’ the young man said.”

The authorities did a safety check on the boat, including asking whether they had life jackets; both men were wearing jackets at the time.

Then a boat with four U.S. Customs and Border agents joined the FWC boat. A new agent asked “Do you mind if we look through your bags?”

For a moment, McClellan thought of saying “Our bow was out of the water. That hardly qualifies as probable cause.” He decided to say nothing, however, because

were [I] to assert my rights as a citizen, I would be raising red flags. The agents would assume I had something to hide. Maybe we'd be asked to pull ashore until they got a drug-sniffing dog.… So I stood there, feeling uncomfortable about my decision to say nothing, as the agent went through my bag. He looked inside my dopp kit. He looked in the pockets of my bag. He was meticulous. He was looking, I suppose, for a joint or a small container of pot.

When McClellan and his friend discussed the incident later, his friend said “he had felt no hesitation when the agent had asked about searching our bags. He suggested that his attitude probably reflected the fact that he travels a bit and is accustomed to authorities pawing through his things.” And so, the friend had learned to obey without question. He played his role as a “good” member of prison-yard America. As a reward, he did not get strip-searched or sniffed by police dogs.

Pro-Orwell in Pursuit of a Buck

Any criticism of prison-yard America meets a standard counter-argument — namely, that the critic is being paranoid; the “objectionable” policies have nothing to do with a desire to violate rights or to impose social control: Fans are searched at sporting events in order to prevent lawsuits being brought by anyone who is subsequently harmed by smuggled weapons. Air travelers are molested for their own good because it makes the sky safer to fly. Children are fingerprinted to increase the attendance that brings in a set amount of federal funds per child in school; this is money that schools claim to desperately need in order to educate your children.

Who could object to preventing lawsuits, providing safety, and educating children?

I do. Even accepting the argument for an innocuous motive at face-value, there is never a proper reason to violate the basic rights of peaceful human beings. Indeed, the innocuous-motive argument is more pernicious than the arguments of people who are clear-cut about their desire to convert American society into a prison yard. At least with them, you are not self-righteously confronted with arguments like the “good of the children.”

There is nothing innocuous about putting a gun to someone's head and demanding “your money and your rights.” It does not matter if the demand is rendered politely, as the FWC agents did with McClellan. The politeness only lulls you into believing that you are still in the presence of civil society — that you are still participating in a reasonable process. You are not. They are the ones with guns; you are the one with no rights.

In the short-term, and pragmatically, the safest way to escape the wrath of the state may be to act as either McClellan or his friend did. Either quash the impulse to stand on your rights, or become so accustomed to totalitarian treatment that objecting does not even occur to you. In the long-term, however, such psychological accommodation results in daily life becoming a prison routine. The long-term has arrived.

Fingerprinting children as the “price” of receiving an education or a bus ride is not innocuous. The state may need to intimidate adults into becoming de facto prisoners; but, with children, the state has an opportunity to instill at an early age the same habits adopted by McClellan's well-traveled friend. Children grow up with an unthinking obedience to searches and fingerprinting. These impositions cease to be travesties and become simply how things are. And so a generation of prisoners are raised without so much as the memory of freedom.

Original report here

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Boxer who spent 26 years in jail for a murder he didn't commit wins his first fight... at the age of 52

Withheld evidence and suborned testimony put him inside

His poignant story reads like a Hollywood film script, but for Dewey Bozella it was a real-life nightmare. He spent 26 years in New York's notorious Sing Sing prison for a murder he did not commit.

But today he is feted by President Barack Obama and has finally fulfilled his dream of boxing professionally - at the age of 52.

He won his first and last fight by a unanimous decision despite giving away 22 years in age to his opponent. 'This is the greatest moment of my life,' said Bozella who fought with a simple message: 'Don't give up.'

For more than a quarter of a century he knew daily despair as he battled to clear his name over the brutal killing of a 92-year-old woman.

He could have become a free man FOUR times if he had pleaded guilty. Each time he refused, maintaining his innocence.

Bozella found comfort in boxing, training daily in the prison gym and studying at night for his bachelor and master's degrees.

Finally In October 2009, Bozella was formally cleared. This summer he was honoured by ESPN as its 2011 Arthur Ashe Award winner for his courage.

Legendary boxer Bernard Hopkins heard Bozella's story and offered him the chance to fight against 30-year-old Larry Hopkins on the undercard of his own championship bout. Hopkins told the Los Angeles Times last week 'This is not a charity case. This man is fulfilling his dream.'

Born in Brooklyn, Bozella was nine years old when he saw his father beat his pregnant mother to death. Later one brother was killed in a stabbing and another shot in the head.

Bozella became a petty criminal, but tried to start a new life by moving to upstate Poughkeepsie and taking up boxing at a gym run by former heavyweight champ Floyd Patterson. But at 18 he was arrested for a local woman's murder. Seven years later he was convicted of the killing.

Bozella said he had been bicycling far from the scene, but two convicts claimed he was the murderer in return for their own freedom. He received a sentence of 20 years to life.

'Every day I had to ask myself, 'How do I survive this nightmare, Sing Sing,' a place where hate and anger are the order of the day,' Bozella told ESPN earlier this year. 'I didn't merely want to survive, I wanted to thrive. Boxing awakened me. I felt free during my workouts for the first time. I was no longer a prisoner.'

In 1990, Bozella won a second trial. The prosecutor offered him a deal - admit the crime and go free. Stubbornly, Bozella refused. And then the jury convicted him.

He said: 'I'd die before I would tell you I did it. I can't, I can't. You are not going to make me say something I didn't do. I’m not a murderer.'

Bozella had to spend 19 more years at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining where he became the prison’s light-heavyweight boxing champion. He fell in love with a woman who was visiting another inmate, and got married.

He said: 'I learned to take myself from the bad position and make it a better position. If I have to die in prison, that's just the way it is.'

Bozella wrote the same letter to the Innocence Project week after week, asking them to take up his case.

Five years after receiving the first letter, the Innocence Project agreed, but police had destroyed all of the physical evidence in the case.

The law firm WilmerHale eventually took on the case and tracked down the senior detective who investigated the murder. It was to be a vital breakthrough. Arthur Regula had kept the only copy of the case file and had taken it home with him after he retired.

He told ESPN: 'I had figured some day someone would come knocking on my door. There were certain things in the case that made me have doubts. I just could never throw it away.'

The file revealed that prosecution witnesses had lied, and that another suspect had confessed to the crime - information withheld from Bozella's lawyers all those years.

On Thursday, as Bozella prepared for his first professional fight, President Obama telephoned him. Mr Obama said: 'I heard about your story and wanted to call and say good luck in your first professional fight.

'Everything you have accomplished while you were in prison and everything you have been doing since you got out is something that I think all of us are very impressed with.'

Bozella told ABC New York station WABC-TV about the dream that kept him going through the years. He said: 'My message is to never let fear define who you are, and never let where you came from determine where you are going.

'When I was in prison, they were telling me, 'You can't do this, you can't do that, it's never going to happen.' And now look. It was something I believed in my heart would happen.'

Original report here

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Senior Australian cop who led the coverup of an unwarranted police killing should be fired

Detective Inspector Russell Oxford is a crook and a liar

THE NSW Police Force is under mounting pressure to take disciplinary action against one of its most senior homicide detectives, and to reassess how officers are trained to deal with mentally disturbed people, after the coroner slammed the police response to the shooting death of Adam Salter.

Nearly two years after police claimed Mr Salter, 36, was shot in the kitchen of his Lakemba home because he was threatening police with a knife, a Deputy Coroner, Scott Mitchell, set the official record straight yesterday, finding that it was likely that he posed a threat only to himself.

Mr Mitchell described the entire police response as an "utter failure" and said that there was "real doubt" that the shooting was justified.
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He said it was likely that Sergeant Sheree Bissett, who called "Taser, Taser, Taser" before shooting Mr Salter in the back, had intended to use her Taser but mistakenly chose her Glock pistol instead.

Sergeant Bissett's explanation that these were "the words that just came out of my mouth" was "no explanation at all".

"There is very strong evidence that her description of the risk posed by Adam Salter is exaggerated, real doubt as to whether she gave any consideration to an appropriate means of dealing with Adam Salter, real doubt as to whether shooting him was justified and whether a less drastic means of appropriately dealing with him was not available," Mr Mitchell said.

Sergeant Bissett's apparent mistake was the last in a string of serious errors in the immediate police response, including failing to remove the knife Adam Salter had used to harm himself and the decision to leave him "in the care of a young and inexperienced and … unresponsive officer" - probationary constable Aaron Abela.

Mr Mitchell slammed the police's critical incident investigation, led by Detective Inspector Russell Oxford from the homicide squad, describing it as "seriously flawed".

He said the recorded walk-through interview Detective Inspector Oxford conducted with Sergeant Bissett was a "failure and a disgrace" and that the high profile officer "gravely misrepresented the truth" in claiming that the evidence of the ambulance officers involved was consistent with that of police.

"As an exercise in the type of scrupulous impartiality, rigour and balance advocated in the critical incident guidelines, it fell far below an acceptable standard, " he said.

Although Mr Mitchell elected not to recommend Detective Inspector Oxford and the others involved in misrepresenting the shooting to the Police Integrity Commission, Mr Salter's father, Adrian, said yesterday it was likely the family would refer the matter themselves.

They are also considering a range of other options including civil action. "I do believe that the people involved should be held to account for it - for the misrepresentations that were made," Mr Salter said.

When asked whether action would be taken against any of the officers involved or new training introduced, a spokesman said: "The NSW Police Force notes the findings of the NSW Coroner's Court … NSWPF will review the judgment before making any further comment."

Original report here. (Via Australian police news)

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

"Distinguished" British police officer jailed after lying under oath to escape DUI driving ban

A 'distinguished' police officer was jailed for 12 months today after he lied under oath to escape a driving ban. Greater Manchester Pc Myles Hughes, 35, from Macclesfield, Cheshire, persuaded his childhood friend and barman at his local pub to lie for him after he was caught driving over the limit.

Hughes was spared a disqualification in November last year when he told magistrates that he did not know he was over the drink drive limit because Paul Doyle, also 35, from Macclesfield, had given him the wrong drinks. Doyle backed up the story claiming he gave Hughes four pints of 'lager top' instead of lager shandy in a bid to 'cheer his friend up'.

Today Judge Elgan Edwards, sitting at Liverpool Crown Court, jailed Hughes and Doyle for 12 months and four months respectively. Both men pleaded guilty to perjury at an earlier hearing.

Judge Edwards said: 'Perjury strikes at the very heart of the criminal justice system. 'Both of you deliberately lied to magistrates and the magistrates accepted your word. And indeed, why shouldn't they? 'They were faced with a police officer with a distinguished record. 'You, Mr Doyle, had no previous convictions. So they accepted your evidence. 'But that was a lie, put forward quite deliberately in order to deceive.'

Duncan Bold, prosecuting, told the court that Hughes, who was a Pc for the Hazel Grove Neighbourhood Policing Team in Manchester, was stopped in his Vauxhall Astra on April 28 last year after he was seen by a police officer leaving The Flower Pot pub in Macclesfield.

He was pulled over for speeding, but then breath-tested after the officer could smell alcohol inside the car. A roadside breath test showed Hughes had 47 microgrammes of alcohol per 100ml of breath - the legal limit is 35 microgrammes.

Hughes admitted drink driving at Macclesfield Magistrates' Court last November but escaped a driving ban and was given a £475 fine and six points on his licence after he and Doyle presented their fake story to the court.

The court also heard that Hughes, who has since resigned from the police, even confided in two police colleagues about his plan to lie under oath. Both officers urged him not to do it and then subsequently reported the matter to the force's Professional Standards Department, which launched an investigation against Hughes shortly after his case was concluded by magistrates.

Patrick Thompson, defending Hughes, said the defendant had been a police officer for 10 years and was 'extremely proud' of his career. He said the episode had brought 'great shame on him and his very respectable family.' Mr Thompson added: 'He dug himself deeper and deeper in. He was absolutely desperate to keep his job and keep his career.'

Simon Parry, defending Doyle, said his client's loyalty to his friend had been 'wholly misplaced' and that he was 'ashamed and embarrassed' by what he had done.

Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Keller said: 'Rather than just admit what he had done, this officer concocted a story to excuse the fact he had been caught driving while under the influence of alcohol. 'In doing so, he went to great lengths to lie to the court, his employers and the people in the communities he served.

'The public have a right to expect both the very highest standards from its officers and be able put their trust in them. Sadly this officer let his community down.'

He added: 'We have worked very closely with our colleagues in Cheshire Police to resolve this case and the message needs to be sent out that no one is above the law, and officers who commit crimes will, quite rightly, be treated exactly the same way as everyone else.

'Greater Manchester Police expects high standards from its police officers, whether on or off-duty, and any evidence of criminality or misconduct will be dealt with.'

Original report here

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Schoolgirl raped after British police failed to act on TWO warnings from witness to the attack

And all the negligent cops get is "advice"

A schoolgirl was raped after police failed to act on two phone calls from a member of the public who saw the victim being attacked, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has ruled.

Paedophile Colin Riddall pounced on the teen outside the gates of her school in Quedgeley, Gloucestershire as she walked home from a friend's house. Riddall, 44, gagged and blindfolded his victim and drove her to a quiet lane where he beat her up.

The attack was witnessed by an ex-Metropolitan Police Officer who called 999 - but police at Gloucestershire Police graded the call a 'Category Two' incident, meaning it only required a response within the next four hours.

The former policeman followed Riddall's car and again phoned 999 less than fifteen minutes later, this time giving the fiend's registration. But officers still graded the call a Category Two, despite Riddall's registration being linked on police computers to another suspicious incident just four months earlier.

An IPCC spokesman said yesterday: 'There was intelligence indicating that the vehicle had been seen in suspicious circumstances, apparently following a group of young girls in June 2010. 'This intelligence report was not viewed and the incident was therefore not re-graded.

'At 8.19pm the same evening, a 999 call was made to the police reporting that a 13-year-old girl had been kidnapped by a man in a white car and seriously sexually assaulted. 'It was later confirmed that this was the same vehicle and driver that had been reported in the two earlier 999 calls.'

Riddall - who had no previous convictions - snatched his 13-year-old victim on October 16 last year. He was jailed indefinitely in February after admitting kidnap, false imprisonment, sexual assault and assault causing actual bodily harm.

Tim Beer, 54, the former policeman who witnessed the attack taking place said he had felt compelled to chase Riddall to get his car registration. Mr Beer, who lives in Cornwall but was visiting relatives at the time of the offence, said: 'I was just having a drive in the country when I passed this car, parked up in Elmore.

'As I looked in I could see a female being frenziedly assaulted by a male. I couldn't see her face, so didn't know at the time how old she was. 'I parked up around the next corner, dialled 999 and told them what I'd seen. This was about 5.40pm. 'I thought I should try and get his number plate so told them I'd go back, which I did.

'But by this time, he'd gone. I sped around looking for him, but was certain I'd lost him, so I went back to Elmore. 'To my surprise, there he was again, parked up near the original spot.

'As I drove past he turned his face away from me, but I could see the girl looked terrified - her face was all red and crumpled as though she'd been crying. 'I turned around again, but as I got close to his car he put his foot down and sped off.

'I've been trained in pursuit, but we were doing 60mph down country lanes and it was getting silly. 'In the end, I memorized the number plate, gave up the chase, and called 999 again with the car's make and registration.

'I left it to the police to do their job. If I'd known this guy had a young girl in the car with him, I'd have forced him off the road without a second's thought. I do feel bad now that I let him go.'

Astonishingly, police only alerted their Automatic Numberplate Recognition cameras to Riddall's car after his victim called them hours later. She was dumped half naked by the side of the road and stumbled to a friend's house where she raised the alarm.

Car valeter Riddall was spotted by police later that night in Wales after fleeing to Aberystwyth, and was arrested just after midnight. Beads from his victim's top were found in his car.

And after he was confronted with CCTV images of him loitering outside the school gates he led detectives to the scene of his attack where they found his victim's phone and shoes.

Her mother said yesterday she felt 'betrayed and abandoned' by the authorities. The woman, now living in London with her daughter, said the findings of the police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission meant nothing to her family.

'The simple fact is the police should have come out when they got that call - they had a witness saying someone was being attacked in a car. How serious does it have to be before they go and check.

'Yes, they've admitted they've made mistakes and they've now made some changes, but that's not good enough. I'm disgusted with the whole system, we feel completely and utterly abandoned.'

IPCC Commissioner Rebecca Marsh said: 'We will never know whether a much earlier response to the first 999 call would have been able to partially prevent this assault. But it is clear that the errors in the initial grading of the first call meant that this incident did not receive the appropriate response and led to it being viewed with a misguided lack of urgency by those who subsequently dealt with it.'

The IPCC ruled the 999 calls were not dealt with efficiently and resources were not deployed to the incident, but said the calls made no reference to the victim being a child.

'The control room staff were clearly unaware of her age and vulnerability,' said a spokesman, adding that two inspectors, one sergeant and five control room staff were subject to performance advice for their individual inaction in handling the initial 999 call.

Original report here

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Supreme Court Reviews Necessity of Strip Searches for Prisoners Facing Minor Charges

The Supreme Court is debating whether a man who was arrested on a warrant for an unpaid traffic ticket should be among prisoners strip-searched when taken into custody at the county jail.
The warrant was the result of a computer error, and defendant Albert Florence had paperwork proving that he had paid his tickets and served probation for the pile-up of outstanding violations collected in his 20s.

But, Florence said, he went from having a good day with his family to being horrified and humiliated and detained for days.

Florence was removed from the car where his pregnant wife and son were, arrested, taken to two county prisons, where in each he had to remove his clothing, bathe, stand in front of an officer, spread arms, squat, cough and get manhandled. "The sense of going from hot to cold (is) something I won't forget," he said.

In the arguments to the high court on Wednesday, many of the justices seemed perplexed about just where to draw the line when it comes to who should be subject to a thorough strip search when being processed in jail.

Corrections officials and the Obama administration back a policy that allows close searches of anyone entering the general jail population. Lawyers for Florence argue that while people brought in on minor charges can be asked to disrobe and shower while being watched at a distance, they should not have to submit to a more thorough search without reason.

The court will have to balance Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure against the safety concerns of prison officials who must make sure that no one comes in with contraband, whether they were arrested on a violent crime like murder or a non-violent offense like a traffic violation.

After the arguments, Florence said he's waited six years for justice, and is happy to get his day in court. His lawyer Susan Chana Laska acknowledged that it's a difficult case, but entrusted the justices to come up with the right ruling.

"These prison guards are trained professionals in using reasonable suspicions," she said, arguing that guards can't get away with saying everybody is an equal threat.

Original report here

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Welsh cops on trial for fabricating evidence

'Vital evidence was changed to implicate innocent men in Lynette White murder trial'

Innocent men were implicated in a high-profile murder hunt after vital evidence was 're-written', a jury was told today. Detectives investigating the murder of South Wales prostitute Lynette White had been 'stumped' after a nine-month investigation into her death, on Valentine's Day 1988, came to a standstill, a court heard.

However police suddenly acquired a crucial new line of inquiry after changes were made to a key witness statement and within three weeks of the 'development' three innocent young men were charged with her murder, it is alleged.

The body of Lynette White was discovered in a squalid first-flat in what was then the rough docklands area of Cardiff. The 20-year-old was found with more than 50 stab wounds and slashes to her throat and wrists.

Swansea Crown Court was told police conspired to bully weak-willed witnesses into agreeing with fictional accounts of the killing.

The outcome saw Stephen Miller, Yusef Abdullahi and Tony Paris all eventually jailed for murder it what became known as a notorious miscarriage of justice.

Cousins Ronnie and John Actie, who stood trial with the men who became known as the Cardiff Three, were acquitted at the time.

A campaign to release the Cardiff Three eventually saw the trio freed when their convictions were quashed on appeal in 1992.

More than a decade later, Jeffrey Gafoor, a client of Ms White, admitted murdering her and is now serving a life sentence.

Police involved in the murder hunt which culminated in the jailing of innocent men were later arrested themselves. Most senior among them are ex-superintendent Richard Powell, 58, and ex-chief inspectors Thomas Page, 62, and Graham Mouncher, 59. They are accused of conspiring with Michael Daniels, 62, Paul Jennings, 51, Paul Stephen, 50, Peter Greenwood, 59, and John Seaford, 62, to pervert the course of justice. The 10 defendants deny all the charges.

Today, the spotlight turned on crucial written statements given by key witnesses to police from November 22 1988.

Nicholas Dean QC, prosecuting, said previously that the date signals the start of a 'co-ordinated and deliberate policy' to break some witnesses.

Among them, it is alleged, was Mark Grommek, a key witness in the eventual trials against the five men. He has already given evidence in the trial, claiming intense police pressure and bullying forced him to change his story.

A statement he gave to retired officer, defendant John Seaford, was highlighted by a forensic expert today. Dr Catherine Barr demonstrated how a statement written up by Seaford appeared to have been changed to implicate previously unidentified people.

She said that impressions on page 4 of the six-page statement appeared to show a previous version of page 3 had existed.

Original report here

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Feds busy making all of us criminals

Many of the tens of thousands of federal criminal statutes don't even require proving criminal intent in order to win a conviction

Figuring on going somewhere? Stay home and remain seated, because the federal government may otherwise throw you in jail. If you think I am kidding when I explain that tens of thousands of criminal laws are out there waiting to grab you, listen to John Baker Jr.

"Congress has made every American potentially indictable for a federal crime," the law professor said to me as he explained the threat that began growing when Richard Nixon was in the White House. This president wanted a war on crime and got that and a lot more. As decades passed, liberals and conservatives joined forces in passing all kinds of criminalizing measures, often without knowing what the laws actually said.

They did this despite the fact that criminal law is meant to be primarily a state function. The Constitution outlined just three federal offenses – piracy, treason and counterfeiting – but Congress has added more than 4,500 statutes to the list since then, and that's without counting the arduous, undying assistance of bureaucrats.

These happily busy public servants have squeezed in so many additional federal offenses on some 27,000 pages of the U.S. Code that groups trying to calculate the total have given up, including the U.S. Justice Department, the American Bar Association and the Congressional Research Service

Given that no one even has a handle on the number of these laws, it's obvious that not a soul out there can possibly know what most of them say, and then there is the related issue that many of them allow conviction with no proof of criminal intent, known by the Latin phrase, "mens rea," or "evil-meaning mind."

Some of these laws are big-time with big-time sentences, but are so vague you can step on the cliff thinking you're on a legal bridge, and others are trivial, everyday stuff that can still can put you in jail, cost you a big fine and subject you to public humiliation. Maybe you somehow misappropriated the Smoky the Bear or Woody the Owl character. It could be handcuff time, friend.

Chances are it won't happen to you, but it could even though you had absolutely no idea you were doing anything wrong and are far removed from entertaining criminal thoughts.

Consider Bobby Unser, the race car driver, who was out snowmobiling with a friend and got lost. They abandoned one snowmobile, went in the direction of possible help and then struck out on foot, eventually finding their way to safety after two days of facing death.

Federal officials wanted to know where Unser lost his snowmobile, and he told them and they said, well, that means you were on protected federal land and broke the law and face a $5,500 fine and six months in jail.

He fought back with the help of several large organizations that think highly of justice, but even though the government never found the snowmobile, he had failed to prove himself innocent and was declared guilty.

He was fined $75, but this was after he and those groups had spent as much as $800,000 fighting the case and the government spent something like $1 million, according to his version on an online video.

The Wall Street Journal has been doing running a series of articles on this over-criminalization, and a number of groups are doing their best to get more politician involved, among them the Federalist Society (with which Baker is associated), the American Civil Liberties Union, the Heritage Foundation and the Washington Legal Foundation.

Solutions? Some of those suggested are outright repeal of many of the laws, rewriting others, careful codification and switching some from criminal to civil penalties only. Before some of this can happen, the government will maybe need to assign people for years and years just to read everything that's there.

Original report here

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Former EPA criminal investigator from Dallas indicted for hiding relationship with FBI agent, feds say

Attempted cover-up of a crooked prosecution

Keith Phillips, 61, a former criminal investigator with the Environmental Protection Agency's Dallas office, has been indicted in Louisiana for lying in a deposition about having a fling with a Louisiana FBI agent.

Phillips, who is from Kent, Tx., and the FBI agent, Ekko Barnhill, were working on an EPA investigation that was eventually dismissed. The investigation's target, Hubert Vidrine Jr., sued the government and deposed Phillips, who denied being involved with Barnhill while the two were on the case.

"The indictment alleges that it was material to the civil lawsuit to determine any potential motives of the criminal investigators in investigating and prosecuting the charges against Vidrine, and that Phillips committed perjury when he testified falsely about the affair and obstructed justice when he provided this false testimony," the DOJ news release says. "The indictment further alleges that he then contacted the FBI Special Agent to influence her not to disclose the existence of the affair."

The news release out of Washington.

A former Special Agent with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Criminal Investigation Division (CID) in Dallas, Texas, was charged today with allegedly lying under oath and obstructing justice, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department's Criminal Division. A two-count indictment returned today in the Western District of Louisiana charges Keith Phillips, 61, of Kent, Texas, with obstruction of justice and perjury stemming from his sworn testimony in relation to a case currently pending in the Western District of Louisiana.

According to the indictment, from September 1996 to Dec. 14, 1999, Special Agent Phillips and a Special Agent from the FBI participated in a criminal investigation that led to the indictment of Hubert Vidrine Jr., and several others. The criminal charges against Vidrine were ultimately dismissed, and Vidrine, in turn, filed a civil lawsuit against the United States for malicious prosecution.

During a deposition taken in the course of Vidrine's civil suit, Special Agent Phillips allegedly falsely testified that he did not have an affair with the FBI Special Agent, when, in fact, he did. The indictment alleges that it was material to the civil lawsuit to determine any potential motives of the criminal investigators in investigating and prosecuting the charges against Vidrine, and that Phillips committed perjury when he testified falsely about the affair and obstructed justice when he provided this false testimony. The indictment further alleges that he then contacted the FBI Special Agent to influence her not to disclose the existence of the affair.

‪If convicted, Phillips faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on the obstruction of justice count and five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on the perjury count.

The case is being prosecuted by Marquest J. Meeks of the Criminal Division's Public Integrity Section. The case was investigated by the EPA Office of Inspector General.

‪An indictment is merely an allegation, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Original report here. He later pleased guilty

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