Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Forest Service goons

Consider the case of Chico, California resident Jeff Newman, 53, a life-long avid skier who operates a painting business. As a sideline, Newman "tunes" skis and teaches others how to perform this kind of maintenance.

With the exception of a decade he spent in the employment of the Forest Service (more appropriately called the Sylvan Socialist agency, or SS), Newman has made an honest living. In early 2010, Newman and some friends he had met in the employ of the SS visited Colby Meadows in the Lassen National Forest, one of their favorite skiing destinations.

Years earlier, Newman and his friends built a bulletin board -- with the permission of the SS -- on which could be posted maps and emergency information. During their recent visit, one of Newman's friends, Larry Chrisman, posted an advertisement for Newman's ski tuning service on the otherwise vacant bulletin board.

Neither of them thought more of the matter until a few days later, when an armed, bellicose SS troglodyte named Paul Zohovetz materialized on Newman's doorstep in full battle array. Newman initially thought Zohovetz was a customer. Quite the opposite was the case: He had traveled more than fifty miles to threaten Newman with a citation for posting a commercial flier without the specific permission of the SS.

As is often the case in such situations, the foul-tempered official busybody began to harass Newman about matters that had nothing to do with the flier.

"I'm not sure what this is all about," Newman complained.

"You're under arrest," snarled Zohovetz by way of reply.

Newman commanded the armed intruder to leave his property. Zohovetz, already guilty of criminal trespass, compounded the crime by threatening to attack Newman with a deadly weapon by pointing his Taser at the man's face and neck.

That’s right: Even the Regime's forest rangers are now equipped with portable electro-shock torture devices.

"He had this look in his eyes like he wanted to beat the crap out of me," Newman recalled. A diabetic who suffers from permanent nervous system damage, Newman was understandably concerned that a Taser attack would kill him. So as any rational person would, he fled into his house. His deranged assailant, badly overestimating his physical prowess, tried to kick down the door, succeeding only in leaving a muddy footprint.

Newman called Chrisman to his home as a witness. Zohovetz, having failed in his effort to bully the mild-mannered Newman by himself, called for backup from the local police department. After his friend arrived, Newman emerged from the house, only to be handcuffed. As a result of not taking insulin yet that day, he went into convulsions.

Satisfied that he'd made whatever point he sought to make, Zohovetz released Newman and told him that he was only issuing a "warning" regarding the flier. He also issued a citation for "threatening an officer," a charge that carries a six month jail sentence and a $5,000 fine.

The appropriately named SS spokesman John Heil insisted that Zohovetz behaved appropriately by driving 50 miles to issue a "warning" and then needlessly escalating a trivial matter into a life-threatening confrontation.

When the case went to trial in March 2011, U.S. District Court Magistrate Craig M. Kellison ruled that Zohovetz “had no right to remain on Newman’s property once he had been ordered to leave.” He also cited a Supreme Court precedent acknowledging that the “freedom of individuals verbally to oppose or challenge police action without thereby risking arrest is one of the principal characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police state.”

It’s all but certain that those in the leadership echelons of SS are aware of the outcome of that case – and it’s just as likely that they have made a conscious decision to ignore it.

Original report here

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Active duty cop: ‘The war on drugs is a war on people’

Speaking to Raw Story recently, an active duty police officer who asked not to be named threw down the gauntlet over the part of his job he hates most: the drug war.

“I did not get in law enforcement to destroy a person’s future because that person had marijuana or a pill in their pocket,” the officer explained. “Why would you want to destroy that person’s future and cause them great harm because of that? It’s not worth it.”

Like many Americans, the reality of the drug war was was nothing like what he’d been taught to believe in his youth. But statistics like a citizen being arrested for drugs every 19 seconds in 2010, and 1.6 million people incarcerated over drugs in 2009, were nothing compared to what he actually experienced in the front lines of the drug war on America’s users.

But for those officers who put their lives on the line every day to protect the public from dangerous, violent criminals, the drug war isn’t always just another part of the job. For this officer in particular, it’s much more than that: “The war on drugs is a war on people,” he claimed.

“I just didn’t see problems from illegal drug users that I’d been led to believe,” the officer explained. “Most of the calls that we get on drug use, as police, are alcohol related. Alcohol is a serious drug that can be abused, but I just didn’t see the calls on other drugs like I had been led to believe. I didn’t see these drug-crazed people out there doing crazy things… Even growing up before entering law enforcement, I was always led to believe that the drug war was meant to stop all these people from doing crazy things. But on the street, that’s not what you see. That’s a lie.”

In his view, the officer said that the American public would be much better off if the government would “regulate drugs and keep the control out of the hands of the black market criminals.”

“The cartels have been running a serious drug operation in America for decades, and I don’t think most Americans are really aware of it,” he said. “The money comes from the prohibition of drugs. These criminals are making their money because of the prohibition. If you legalize and regulate it, their profits go to zero.”

For more than two decades in law enforcement, he said that he’s carried an immense guilt: his first drug arrest.

“I was in training, on ‘the other side of the tracks,’ for lack of better words, and we pulled a vehicle over,” he explained. “The guy, I think he had a defective taillight or something. He was sober, polite, respectful, no problems, and my training officer said, ‘Oh yeah, he’s gonna have drugs.’ So, I asked if we could search his vehicle and he gave me permission. Within no time, I found a small amount of (hard) drugs, so he was facing a serious charge. The whole time I was thinking, ‘This is not right. This guy’s keeping to himself, not hurting nobody, he’s a peaceful person.’ I instinctively knew this was wrong. I changed my perspective immediately. This was not the war on drugs that I thought it would be.”

Carrying this guilt for his participation in such a system, he got away from making narcotics arrests and received a transfer to another division. There he worked for years, until one day in 2006. Acting on a whim, he ran a Google search for the peculiar terms, “cops against the drug war,” and rather abruptly found a new calling: an activist group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). He’s followed their work ever since, and in 2012, the officer finally decided that he too must raise his voice against the drug war.

Today, he’s acquired a unique extra-curricular activity: an anonymous blog served up by LEAP, examining the innards of the drug war from a perspective rarely put on public display. If his superiors knew, he explained, “I would probably be terminated.”

And, he claims, it’s not just him that’s come to some stark, personal conclusions on the drug war: fellow officers are coming around as well — especially those who’ve been doing it for a while.

“I remember a case just here recently when an officer was trying to find marijuana on one guy, and another officer started looking around in this area where there’s actual crime, and he was kind of making fun of him for wasting time,” he said. “There’s plenty of officers that do want to get away from the petty, small drug arrests that distract them from fighting real crime, which is what a lot of them get into law enforcement for individually.”

Original report here

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Australian Federal police slow to deal with complaints about abuse of powers etc.

And undue weight is given to the police version of events -- standard procedure when cops investigate cops

THE Australian Federal Police is taking more than a year to address many serious complaints by the public and has ignored repeated calls to fix how it deals with such cases.

In two extreme matters complainants had to wait 1000 days for their problems to be resolved.

A report by the Commonwealth Ombudsman on complaints handling by the federal police also said the public had only a 7 per cent chance of having a complaint upheld, and even less if it related to physical force.

The most common complaint related to discourtesy. Other claims included excessive physical force and corruption.

The acting Ombudsman, Alison Larkins, said the complaints process "continues to deteriorate - particularly in relation to the most serious complaints". The issue had been raised in previous reviews. "But to date the measures the AFP has taken to address the issue have not proven to be effective," Ms Larkins said.

She did not make any formal recommendations in her report, which was tabled in Parliament just before Christmas. No complaint made about excessive physical force from 2007 to 2010 was upheld. But 60 per cent of complaints made internally, including where officers reported themselves, were upheld.

"We continue to see cases where an AFP member's version of events is preferred over that of the member of the public in circumstances where the record does not disclose substantive justification or where corroborating evidence has not been sought," Ms Larkins said.

The federal police aims to resolve minor complaints within 21 days and the most serious complaints within 180 days. But the Ombudsman found it reached this standard in only 6 per cent of cases. Ms Larkins examined 311 cases in which the complaints had still not been resolved after more than a year.

The police received 358 complaints from the public in 2010-11, according to its annual report.

A federal police spokeswoman said a new complaints handling system was in place. "The AFP does recognise that there have been excessive delays in finalising some complaints," she said.

Original report here. (Via Australian police news)

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

$22m for man kept in solitary confinement for TWO YEARS with no trial after DWI arrest

A man held in solitary confinement for two years and forced to pull his own tooth because he was denied dental care has been awarded $22million for violation of his constitutional rights.

Stephen Slevin, 58, from New Mexico, was given the payout after accusing Dona Ana County jail of essentially forgetting about him after he was arrested for driving while intoxicated, not giving him the healthcare he needed and treating him inhumanely.

The settlement is one of the largest federal civil rights awards in history involving an inmate.

Outside the federal courthouse in Santa Fe today, Mr Slevin said it was never about the money for him but more about sending a message that prisoners should be treated more humanely. He still suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder stemming from what he says was physical and mental mistreatment by corrections officials in Dona Ana County, in the southern part of the state.

He told KOB4.com: 'It was never about the money. We made a statement about what happened to me. 'Prison officials were walking by me every day, watching me deteriorate. Day after day after day, they did nothing, nothing at all, to get me any help.'

The 58-year-old was arrested in August 2005 and charged with driving while intoxicated and receiving a stolen vehicle near Las Cruces. His lawyer said that, due to his history of mental illness, he was placed into solitary confinement.

Civil rights attorney Matthew Coyte revealed it was here that his client started to deteriorate.

He said: 'They threw him in solitary and then ignored him. He disappeared into delirium, and his mental illness was made worse by being isolated from human contact and a lack of medical care.'

While Mr Slevin was in solitary confinement, his toenails grew so long they began to curl around his feet, he developed bedsores, fungus and dental problems and lost a lot of weight, according to the lawsuit.

He was eventually released after 22 months as a pre-trial detainee and the charges against him were dismissed.

It was upon his release that he filed the lawsuit, claiming his rights of due process were violated since he was not given a hearing before being placed in solitary confinement.

The county had recently offered to settle the case for $2million, according to CNN, despite previously denying there was a lack of medical care and that, as government employees, county officials deserved immunity from liability.

Mr Coyte told KOB.com that he hopes Mr Slevin's court victory will send a message throughout the state. He said: 'I have never been with or seen a braver man who stood up to these guys for what they did to him. 'It affects everybody and it's not good for this country. 'It's not good for Mr Slevin for sure and it's not good for this country. It has to stop.'

Original report here

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Illinois man gets $25M for wrongful conviction

More details of the case here. He was released in 2009

A Cook County jury awarded $25 million Tuesday to a man who sued the city of Chicago after he spent more than half of his life in prison for a murder he didn't commit.

Thaddeus Jimenez was 13 years old when he was convicted in 1993 for the murder of 19-year-old Eric Morro. Jimenez served 16 years of a 45-year sentence in prison before prosecutors asked a judge to vacate his conviction and he received a certificate of innocence in 2009.

Jimenez, who's now 32 years old, is "thrilled" with the verdict, according to attorney Jon Loevy. "Every time he's ever stepped into a courtroom, something bad has happened," Loevy said. "And this time, justice was served."

In a civil suit filed in 2009 against the city of Chicago and several officers, Jimenez accused police of ignoring the evidence against another teen, including a recorded confession, in order to frame him. That teen, who was also 13 at the time, was charged with the murder weeks after Jimenez was released from prison, attorneys say.

Officers coerced Morro's friend and other eyewitnesses to identify him as the gunman. No physical evidence linked him to the crime. Morro was shot and killed on Feb. 3, 1993, as he walked with a friend.

Chicago Law Department spokesman Roderick Drew said the city is "very disappointed" in the decision. "The city will be exploring all available options," Drew said.

Rob Warden, executive director of Northwestern Law School's Center on Wrongful Convictions, said he believes the $25 million award is the largest ever given in a wrongful conviction civil case.

In 2007, the city of Chicago agreed to pay nearly $20 million to settle lawsuits filed by four former death row inmates who claimed they were tortured by Chicago police officers and wrongly convicted.

Original report here

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

TX: Constable, staffers indicted on bribery charges

Dangerous nut bribes his way into a police job

Constable Jack Abercia, a veteran lawman with more than 41 years of service in Harris County's Precinct 1, faces a bevy of criminal charges in a corruption probe that also has snared two of his top staffers.

A federal indictment unsealed Thursday alleges rampant abuses within Abercia's office, accusing the constable of conspiring to sell information from a law enforcement database, accepting a bribe for hiring an unqualified deputy and sending his employees on personal errands on county time.

Federal agents arrested Abercia, 78, Chief Lt. Weldon Kenneth Wiener, 72, and former Office Chief Michael Butler, 56, on Thursday. Abercia, who has colon cancer and plans to resign at the end of month, pleaded not guilty before a federal magistrate in Houston federal court.

"I'm just shocked and sad that a long career would kind of culminate at that kind of point," said Precinct 1 Commissioner El Franco Lee. "The rest of it will take its own course. I feel bad for him, I feel bad for the office, and hopefully we can do the things that need to be done to shore it up and keep the business moving and restore any integrity that was lost."

Attorneys for Abercia, who has been the constable in Precinct 1 since 1991, said they knew little about Thursday's charges. "I look forward to finding out what the government says and thinks he did wrong," said Rusty Hardin, his attorney.

Access to database

The 13-count indictment accuses Abercia and Wiener of soliciting and accepting money from companies interested in running background checks on prospective employees through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, which is restricted to law enforcement use.

The indictment alleges 11 specific acts of misuse of NCIC in November, accusing Abercia of accepting about $9,000 total for running checks on about a dozen prospective employees of a power washing company with ties to the government's confidential informant in the case. Though the indictment focuses on the November incidents, prosecutors say the practice had been going on in the constable's office for a longer period of time.

Abercia and Butler are charged with bribery in connection with the hiring of an otherwise unqualified deputy constable in return for an alleged $5,000 bribe in July 2010.

As part of their investigation, FBI agents seized the file of one deputy, Allen Tomas James, according to officials within Abercia's office.

Precinct 1 Assistant Chief J.C. Mosier said James, 30, was rejected by a internal screening board that reviewed his background when he applied for a job in mid-2010. "He hadn't worked for five years," Mosier said. "He had already been turned down by seven police agencies before he got to us."

Mosier recalled that James, besides lacking law enforcement experience, seemed to have a fascination with firearms. "Everyone on the review board said, 'No, we aren't hiring this guy,'" he said. "We took it in to the constable and said, 'We can't have this guy; there's no way we can hire him.' Well, a couple of weeks later, they did."

Allegedly split $5,000

The indictment alleges that Butler took the $5,000 bribe related to the hiring of an unqualified deputy and kept $2,000, giving the remaining $3,000 to Abercia.

A Harris County official confirmed Thursday that James is no longer with the constable's office.

During their initial appearance in federal court, Judge Stephen Smith freed the trio on bond with several requirements, including not having guns in their homes and not talking to each other or witnesses.

If convicted of the conspiracy charge, all three men face up to five years in prison. Abercia and Wiener potentially face an additional five years in prison for each count of exceeding authorized computer access. Abercia and Butler also could receive an additional 10 years in prison if convicted of the bribery charge.

"Individuals that commit law enforcement corruption … took an oath at some point in their careers," said Houston FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen Morris. "When they make a conscious effort to sell that or violate it, I think that strikes at the heart of our communities."

Replacement in wings

Abercia withdrew his re-election bid in December, citing his illness, then announced this month he would resign Jan. 31. He has denied that his decision to withdraw his candidacy was related to the FBI probe.

Butler, Abercia's former office chief, left the constable's office at the end of December.

Commissioners Court this week named Ken Berry, a retired major who served 35 years with the sheriff's office, to take Abercia's post at the end of the month. Berry has said he does not plan to seek the office permanently.

The Harris County Attorney's Office is investigating all eight county constable offices in a wide-ranging review focusing on charitable organizations run by constables and a program that allows neighborhood groups to hire constables for local security patrols.

Original report here

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cop "felt threatened" by chained-up dog

A police officer in Dekalb County near Atlanta responded to a 911 call on Wednesday and shot a pet German Shepherd just moments before finding out he responded to the wrong address.

Now, the owners of the dog are outraged, and there seems little they can do about this very sad incident.

One of the owners told WAGA-TV: ”When I opened the door I started screaming, I said this dog has been shot. I saw nothing but blood… he killed that dog. She added ”It frustrated me because he was so quick to kill the dog.”

The 2-year-old German Shepherd, named “Easy,” was still chained up when the officer shot it. He later stated that he “felt threatened.”

Even more agitating for the owners, though, was that the police officer was investigating the wrong home. He was supposed to be on the scene of a domestic disturbance call across the street.

“Why did you shoot my dog?… I did not call you,” Easy’s owner said she yelled at the police officer.

The officer was not placed on administrative leave and is back on the streets already, though internal affairs was apparently investigating.

Original report here

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Monday, January 23, 2012

International Day of Solidarity with Leonard Peltier

The Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee calls on supporters worldwide to protest against the injustice suffered by Indigenous activist Leonard Peltier. Gather on February 4, 2012, at every federal court house and U.S. embassy or consulate worldwide to demand the freedom of a man wrongfully convicted and illegal imprisoned for 36 years!

Leonard Peltier is a Native American activist wrongfully accused in 1975 in connection with the shooting deaths of two agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Government documents show that, without any evidence at all, the FBI decided from the beginning of its investigation to 'lock Peltier into the case'.

U.S. prosecutors knowingly presented false statements to a Canadian court to extradite Mr. Peltier to the U.S. The statements were signed by a woman who was forced by FBI agents to say she was an eyewitness. The government has long since admitted that the woman was not present during the shootings.

Meanwhile, in a separate trial in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Mr. Peltier's co-defendants were acquitted by reason of self defense. Had Leonard been tried with his co-defendants, he also would have been acquitted.

Unhappy with the outcome of the Cedar Rapids trial, prosecutors set the stage for Mr. Peltier's conviction. His trial was moved to an area known for its anti-Indian sentiment —Fargo, North Dakota. The trial judge had a reputation for ruling against Indians, and a juror is known to have made racist comments during Mr. Peltier's trial.

FBI documents prove that the U.S. government went so far as to manufacture the so-called murder weapon, the most critical evidence in the prosecution's case. A ballistics test proved,
however, that the gun and shell casings entered into evidence didn't match. The FBI hid this fact from the jury. Mr. Peltier was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life terms.

According to court records, the United States Attorney who prosecuted the case has twice admitted that no one even knows who fired the fatal shots.

Leonard Peltier is 67 years old and in poor health. An accomplished author and artist, Mr. Peltier is renowned for his humanitarian achievements. In 2009, Leonard was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the sixth consecutive year.

Although the courts have acknowledged evidence of government misconduct—including forcing witnesses to lie and hiding ballistics evidence reflecting his innocence—Mr. Peltier has
been denied a new trial on a legal technicality. Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, 55 Members of Congress and others—including a judge who sat as a member of the court in two of Mr. Peltier’s appeals—have all called for his immediate release.

The Courts may not be able to act but Barack Obama, as President, can. Please join with us to free an innocent man. On February 4, 2012, tell Obama to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.

Original report here

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Britain: Muslim police officer who raped girl, seven, is jailed for 18 years

A policeman was starting an 18-year jail sentence today for sex abuse which a judge described as one of the ‘most despicable’ cases he had ever heard. The 43-year-old officer was sacked from Thames Valley Police after being disciplined for repeatedly threatening witnesses who had lodged complaints against him.

He had also phoned a 14-year-old girl witness in a case he was dealing with and asking her to go on a date him.

Judge Francis Sheriden jailed paedophile policeman Mohammed Younas after hearing how he raped a girl who was just seven years old and continued to abuse her for eight years.

He had also turned up to work drunk after consuming a bottle of vodka and was found wandering the streets randomly stopping traffic whilst on duty.

Despite his dismissal from the force, the judge heard that the sexual abuse of the girl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, increased. Younas attacked the young girl, the court was told, because his wife refused to have sex with him. He also forced another child to touch his genitals.

‘This was the most despicable offence. It's hard to imagine a worse case,’ Judge Sheridan told the disgraced constable as he stood in the dock at Aylesbury Crown Court.

Younas had denied the 15 counts of rape and sexual assault against him but was found guilty by a jury and on Friday was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

The court had heard Younas came to the UK from Pakistan and was descended from a respectable family with two of his sisters being consultant doctors and another being a headteacher. His father was a retired colonel in the Pakistan Army.

However the judge was told that Younas, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, suffered a nervous breakdown due to his unhappy marriage and went off the rails as a police officer. It was during the breakdown that the abuse started and continued until the girl had reached the age of 15 years.

At the height of the abuse Younas would rape her every other day and the court heard he would make her touch him whilst they both played a board game.

Judge Sheridan said: ‘You and your wife were totally incompatible, there was a clash of cultures and views on family life.

‘You were dismissed from the police because you were totally unsuitable to be a police officer. You displayed signs of a man on the verge of a breakdown. ‘You walked around the street drunk, stopping traffic. You threatened witnesses who made complaints against you and you rang a 14-year-old girl to ask her to go out with you.

‘The offending started at around the same time. You showed contempt for your wife and you left your victims psychologically damaged. You robbed them of their childhood. ‘It's the most dreadful, dreadful case I must sentence you for.’

As well as being jailed for 18 years, Younas was handed a Sexual Offences Prevention Order banning him from unsupervised contact or communication with a person under 16.

He was put on the Sex Offenders Register for an indefinite period and given a restraining order banning him from contacting the victims.

Original report here

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Shocking moment a 66-year-old-dementia sufferer is kicked to the ground and beaten by police officer who tried to delete video from his police car camera

This is the shocking moment a police officer launches a vicious assault on a 66-year-old-dementia sufferer. Officer Derek Middendorf then tried to cover his tracks by deleting the recording from his dashcam. [Video at link]

But it has been recovered by technicians in Florida, in the US, and now the attorney for victim Albert Flowers told Florida Today that his client was prepared to sue the city of Melbourne.

'He should be fired,' attorney Paul Bross said of Officer Derek Middendorf. 'Anyone who’s being pulled over by this officer should be terrified.' 'It’s clear (Officer Middendorf) tried to destroy all the video in this case. He thought he had turned off the camera, and that’s why he acted the way he did.'

The video shows Flowers calmly walking towards the police cruiser before Officer Middendorf suddenly delivers a kick to his groin. Before Flowers is able to get up, the policeman drops to his knees and pounds his fists into Mr Flowers’ face. Mr Flowers spent a month in the hospital after the beating.

Melbourne City Attorney Paul Gougelman promised to review the video to see if the city had any responsibility to pay for Mr Flowers’ health care. 'What I urge everybody to do is stand back and let the dust settle,' Mr Gougelman said. 'There is always more to the story. It’s always important to have a good working relationship in the community.'

Charges against Flowers were dropped by the Brevard County State Attorney’s Office after they learned about his dementia.

Middendorf was initially reprimanded for tampering with the recording device, but the city chose not pursue an administrative review at the time.

'Information regarding the arrest of Albert Flowers was sufficient to indicate that an internal investigation was not warranted,' Melbourne Police Chief Steve Mimbs said in a press advisory before the video was released. 'Officer Derek Middendorf is a valued officer whose record since joining the department in 2005 reflects the fact that he has done a very good job for the city.'

Middendorf indicated in his report that he used force against Flowers after the man did not obey orders to stop moving toward him. The officer said he suspected Mr Flowers may have had a knife. 'I had to react and protect myself in fear he was going to attack me,' the report said. 'Not knowing if he was still armed or not … I struck the defendant in the face to distract him.'

Mr Flowers’ dementia has worsened since returning home from the hospital, according to his granddaughter, Donna Jackson. 'The family’s just upset by the whole thing,'Ms Jackson explained. 'We are glad they dropped the charges. We just want to move forward.'

Original report here

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

From the Right To Resist the 'Duty To Submit'

Anne Dekins was a loud-mouthed party girl – or at least, that's what the arrest warrant suggested. Whatever she may have done in the past, Miss Dekins was quietly minding her own business when Officer Samuel Bray found her on the street and began to haul her away.

Dekins wasn’t inclined to go quietly, and she put up a struggle. Her cries for help attracted the interest of several armed men led by an individual named Tooley, who confronted Bray and demanded to know what he was doing to the frantic woman. The officer produced his official credentials and insisted that he was making a lawful arrest for "disorderly conduct." When witnesses disputed that description, Bray called for backup.

Tooley and his associates ordered Bray to release the woman, and then took action to enforce that lawful order. After Bray’s partner was killed in the ensuing struggle, Tooley and his associates were arrested for murder. The trial court threw out the murder charge, ruling that the warrant was defective. Since the arrest was illegal, the court pointed out, Dekins had a right to resist – and bystanders likewise had a right, if not a positive duty, to assist her. The defendants were eventually found guilty of manslaughter, but quickly pardoned and set free.

By trying to enforce an invalid warrant, Bray "did not act as a constable, but a common oppressor," observed the trial court. Tooley and the other bystanders were properly "provoked" by the act of aggressive violence against Anne Dekins, and their forceful but measured response – first demanding that the abductor release the hostage, then exercising defensive force to free her – was entirely appropriate.

Lawless violence against the helpless "is a sufficient provocation to all people out of compassion" in any circumstance, observed the court, "much more where it is done under a colour of justice, and where the liberty of the subject is invaded…." In fact, an act of that kind carried out by a law enforcement official is nothing less than "a provocation to all the subjects of England."

Every Englishman "ought to be concerned for Magna Charta and the laws," concluded the Queen’s Bench in the 1710 case Queen v. Tooley. "And if any one against the law imprison a man, he is an offender against Magna Charta." .....

Buehler, 34, is a combat veteran of Kosovo and Iraq, West Point graduate, and middle school teacher. He was serving as a designated driver on the morning of New Year’s Day when he saw a woman being abused by police outside a 7-11. The costumed assailants, officers Pat Oborski and Robert Snider, were conducting what they called a DWI arrest of a woman later identified as Norma Pizana.

To Buehler and his friends, the spectacle looked more like a gang assault.

"We hear a loud scream, and we look over, and we see the cop violently yanking the female out of the car onto the ground," Buehler told local ABC affiliate KVUE. "She is screaming. The other cop ran up and they both sort of grabbed her arms. Her hands were behind her back straight out and they lifted her up by her arms. It looked extremely painful."

With the help of a friend, Buehler began to document this act of "street justice" with his cell phone. That prompted Oborski to confront Buehler, who was not interfering in any way.

According to Buehler, Oborski barked, "What the hell are you taking pictures for?"

"My response was, `I am allowed to. Public official in a public place.'"

As he was trained to, Oborski started to lie in an effort to devise a cover charge against Buehler. First he claimed that Buehler was somehow "interfering with the investigation," which was patently untrue. Then the cop assaulted Buhler by pushing the unresisting man – who would have been more than a match for the donut-grazer, had he chosen to fight back – up against a truck.

"Once he had me pinned up against the back of the truck he kept leaning in," Buehler continued. "He kept pushing me."

Eventually Oborski got so close that Buehler actually breathed on him – which gave him a pretext to accuse the witness of "spitting" on him. With some difficulty, and Snider’s help, Oborski wrestled Buehler (who offered only passive resistance) to the ground and handcuffed him. The cops took Beuhler to a BAT van – a patently unreliable mobile alcohol testing unit – in the hope of documenting that the witness was intoxicated, which he wasn't. The cop finally settled on charging him with "harassing a public servant" – a third-degree felony – and "resisting arrest."

As is always the case in incidents of this kind, Buehler wasn’t arrested for an actual crime; he was vindictively punished for "contempt of cop."

"You don’t f*** with cops," Oborski snarled at Buehler. "You don’t get in our f***ing way. You don’t question us, and we’re going to teach you a lesson."

Norma Pizana’s plight was strikingly similar to that of Anne Dekins, with at least one critical difference: Dekins and her rescuers were blessed to live in 18th Century England, a relatively civilized society that recognized and protected a free individual’s indispensable right to resist State-licensed criminal violence.

Original report here

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Supreme Court: Lawyers abandoned Alabama inmate

Ruling gives man on death row a chance to appeal

An Alabama death-row inmate deserves a new court hearing because his lawyers at a top-flight New York firm abandoned him, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in a case one justice called "a veritable perfect storm of misfortune."

The court voted 7-2 to reverse a federal appeals-court ruling that cut off appeals for Cory Maples, who was convicted of killing two men execution-style in 1995. Maples missed a deadline to appeal when court notices to his lawyers at the Sullivan and Cromwell firm were returned unopened and a local clerk took no further action.

Deadlines usually are sacrosanct at the high court, where defendants typically are held responsible for the mistakes of their lawyers. But Maples' case is different because he is facing execution and his lawyers didn't simply err, they abandoned him, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in her majority opinion.

"Through no fault of his own, Maples, an inmate on death row, was left unrepresented at a critical time," Ginsburg said in an opinion that also criticized Alabama for using inexperienced lawyers and paying them poorly to represent defendants in death-penalty cases.

But Justice Samuel Alito, who often votes against criminal defendants, said in a separate opinion that Maples' circumstances were unique: "What occurred here was not a predictable consequence of the Alabama system, but a veritable perfect storm of misfortune."

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented. Scalia said the court should have stuck with its usual practice of holding defendants responsible for their lawyers' mistakes.

Wednesday's decision means a court will hear Maples' claims that his inexperienced trial lawyers did such a bad job that their work violated the Constitution's guarantee of representation.

Original report here

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Smart cyclist refuses to let British cop exceed his powers

They are the bane of motorists' and pedestrians' lives - cyclists who jump red lights - but when one hapless policeman confronted a biker, he was comprehensively out-talked and outsmarted.

A video of the exchange captured on the cyclist's helmet gives a display of police impotence to deal with a minority of cyclists with the rules standing as they currently do.

It is understandable, then, that an officer identified only as PC Stout, appeared to become frustrated and reached out for the head camera in a row over a traffic fine.

After being stopped for allegedly jumping a red light on Edgware Road, Central London, the biker refuses to give his details, telling the policeman that he is not obliged to do so.

PC Stout then threatens the man with arrest citing IDCOPPLAN as a law when in fact it is a police guideline that helps them decide whether or not to make an arrest. However, the biker sticks to his guns, seemingly aware that this is not a law and challenges the officer's knowledge.

The cyclist says 'Before I give you my surname can you tell me what the detail of that law is?' Unable to answer the question directly, PC Stout said: 'You're obliged to give me your details for me to issue you a ticket.'

He does not give the information requested in order for a ticket to be handed to him, and the officer admits that he doesn't know the wording.

After the cyclist asks 'You are telling me you don't need to know what the law is?', the policeman asks if he wants to turn the camera off. The biker said: 'No I don't want to turn it off. It's my right to carry it with me and to film this to make sure for my own protection and for yours.'

He is then asked for his documents but, as he is not driving a car, he does not have any documents to hand over.

PC Stout repeats his threat saying 'I have got no further option but to arrest you.'

The exchange continues until the biker says 'how am I meant to know what I am doing?' but is cut off as PC Stout appears to put his hand over the camera.

Before cycling off he shouts 'Can you not touch me? You touched the camera, you tried to touch the camera, don't you dare do that.'

A Met Police spokesman said: We were first made aware of this video in June 2011 when the incident was published on YouTube and the officer concerned received advice with regards to use of the Road Traffic Act.

'The cyclist concerned was later spoken to about this matter. The officer was right to stop the cyclist and we would like to remind all cyclists of the dangers of not stopping when a red light is shown at traffic lights.'

Original report here

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Eight British cops resign over illegal searches of dozens of people using police files

Eight police staff have lost their jobs after illegally accessing the confidential records of dozens of people on the Police National Computer. Of the eight, one police officer and one community support officer (PCSO) are facing criminal charges after an investigation by Essex Police found them guilty of gross misconduct. Another PCSO has been cautioned.

All eight are alleged to have accessed the personal records of members of the public and passed on the information to people outside the force.

The force launched an inquiry after a whistle-blower told senior officers about ‘routine abuses’ of the computer system, which contains personal information on millions of people.

Essex Police have confirmed the officer and two PCSOs were arrested in December on suspicion of accessing confidential files in breach of the Data Protection Act. The force refused to comment on what information they were accessing.

A source close to the investigation told The Mail on Sunday that those involved had also routinely attempted to access the private details of celebrities – although this has been denied by the force.

An internal investigation was launched by the force in November to analyse the search history of all 5,500 members of staff from the beginning of October.

Last year, three officers in Essex resigned and several other members of staff were disciplined for similar abuses of the computer system.

Chief Superintendent Dave Folkard, of Essex Police, said: ‘Five staff and three officers have resigned under investigation for breaches of the Data Protection Act. We are committed to maintaining the highest professional standards.’

Original report here

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

British cops plied boy, 17, with cider before he admitted crimes he could not have committed (AND they keep their jobs!)

A teenage boy was given strong cider by police before being questioned over a series of burglaries, a disciplinary hearing was told. Sean Wall, 17, was taken to a police station and given alcohol before being quizzed over 11 burglaries - which he admitted while under the influence.

But the plan backfired when it emerged Sean was already behind bars at the time of five of the break-ins.

During the interview Sean managed to make a phone call to his solicitor saying he had been plied with alcohol by police. His solicitor demanded the custody sergeant breathalyse the youngster and he tested positive for alcohol.

The officers were suspended and the Independent Police Complaints Commission was called in to carry out a full investigation.

But the two Cardiff-based detectives have kept their jobs after a gross misconduct hearing held by South Wales Police behind closed doors.

Detective Constable Neville Bradbury, who bought the Strongbow cider, was given a final written warning for gross misconduct.

Detective Constable Geraint Jones escaped with a written warning after the panel found he failed to challenge the provision of alcohol to the under-age suspect - or report it. Both officers were found guilty of misconduct for being obstructive when Sean asked for a solicitor.

The two detectives arrested Sean in February 2010 while he was in a young offenders' institution. The hearing, held in private, was told alcohol was given to a ‘vulnerable male’ who was an under-age drinker at the time.

The police officers were cleared of giving the teenager a KFC meal, cigarettes and a trip to see his mother as inducements to get him to confess to the crimes he did not commit.

The allegations unfolded after Sean, now 19, was collected from Parc Young Offender Institution in Bridgend, South Wales - where he was being held after admitting two thefts.

He was allegedly taken on a trip around the Cardiff suburbs of Rumney and St Mellons where the officers pointed out locations where burglaries had been carried out. They then took Sean to Cardiff Bay Police Station and allegedly asked him to confess to the raids telling him admitting the crimes would not increase his sentence when he appears before a crown court judge.

South Wales Police could boost its detection rate by showing it had solved the crimes - and claim to be providing a better service.

But during interviews the youngster telephoned his solicitor, Nadeem Majjid, and said the officers had given him cider. Mr Majid demanded the custody sergeant breathalyse Sean and tests showed he was over the drink drive limit.

Mr Majid said today ‘Getting my client to admit things he hadn't done in the hope it will improve crime figures takes policing back 25 years. ‘It's likely in his condition he'd have agreed to anything.

‘Sean and his family are pleased that the IPCC upheld their complaint and the matter can be put to a close. ‘This goes as a warning that such behaviour will not be tolerated.’

His mother Angela Rosier, 42, yesterday slammed the decision of South Wales Police to allow the two officers to remain in their jobs. Mrs Rosier said: ‘I think it is disgusting, how can they keep their jobs, they're definitely in the wrong career.

‘Sean cannot believe how they are allowed to stay. ‘I'm not leaving it like this, I am going to take this as far I can and am currently talking to my solicitor about further action.’

Sean's brother Luke, 22, added: ‘This is not on is it? They really stitched Sean up and they should have got more than a slap on the wrist.’

Original report here

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Monday, January 16, 2012

How Arkansas police 'forced innocent boy, 12, to confess to strangling his sister, 11'

A 12-year-old boy found guilty of murdering his 11-year-old sister said he was forced to confess to the murder after hours of 'terrifying' police interrogation - although he had nothing to do with it.

Police suspected Thomas Cogdell, now 18, had strangled his sister at their Camden, Arkansas home after his shock at her death stunned him into silence. Hours later, he admitted he was to blame.

Although found guilty, Cogdell insists he had no part in her murder and was coerced into a confession. After two years in jail, he was released when a judge found he was unfairly questioned.

During questioning following the 2006 crime, the boy - an intelligent bookworm - told police 36 times he had had no part in the killing. But when he asked for food, officers switched off the tape recorder. Three-and-a-half hours later they switched it on again - and Cogdell confessed to the murder.

They had allegedly used tactics such as threatening him with the death penalty. He was unaware a child cannot be sentenced to such a penalty.

He eventually told police he had snapped because his sister was bossy and he put the bags over her head to teach her a lesson, The Commerical Appeal reported. But in reality, he had made up the confession, believing that DNA evidence would clear him.

Police had told him they found a fingerprint on the plastic bags. He can be heard at the end of the recording whispering to his mother: 'I didn't do it. It's OK, Mom. They won't find my fingerprints.'

As it turned out, police were unable to read a clear print and the boy was found guilty of murdering his young sister as she slept.

'I was terrified,' Cogdell, now 18, said in a recent interview. 'They wouldn't believe me and they said they would give me the death penalty.'

The case is just the latest example fuelling the debate about whether police interrogations should be recorded.

In August 2006, Cogdell was awoken by his mother, Melody Jones. Together they found 11-year-old Kaylee sprawled on her bed.

Her head was covered with two Walmart bags, and she had been tied up with the family dog's lead and a measuring tape, The Commerical Appeal reported.

When his mother became too hysterical, he calmly called 911 and gave directions to their family home. Police dragged him in for questioning, turning their attentions away from his mother, who Cogdell and his grandparents insist is guilty of the murder.

Melody Jones admitted to police she had repeatedly smacked her daughter the night before her death when she refused to come home as she had been told. They ignored her confession that she was on Social Security disability due to mental illness, including bipolar disorder, and that she sometimes failed to take her medicine.

A video of the questioning show investigators repeatedly telling the boy: 'You or your mother did it.'

Although an unknown male's DNA was found on Kaylee, investigators ruled out the possibility of an intruder as there were no signs of a break in.

Cogdell said when the recorder was off, he was told he could go home if he told investigators he was to blame and he'd go to jail if he didn't, according to The Commerical Appeal.

But in at least 36 recorded denials, he is heard pleading with police. 'I wouldn't kill my sister. I didn't do it, OK?,' he said. 'I didn't. I didn't kill my sister. Is there any way I can prove that to you?'

Crying, he offered to swear on a Bible or take a polygraph test. One of the detectives asked: 'What are you crying for?' He responded: 'Because you are accusing me of something I didn't do -- of killing my sister.' When police left, Thomas let out shrill cries and said to himself: 'Why? ... I didn't do it, but they won't believe me. Help. I'm scared.'

He was eventually convicted of second-degree murder by a Ouachita County judge in March 2008.

The high court threw out the confession in 2010 - but on technical grounds as he had told police he didn't understand what it meant to waive his rights to remain silent and have an attorney with him. He served two years in jail but has not been cleared.

'I lost my faith in the justice system,' Cogdell said. 'I don't believe in any of it anymore.'

Memphis defense attorney Gray Bartlett told The Commerical Appeal that police are often trained in the type of military tactics used in questioning suspected terrorists. 'It's so contrary to common sense,' he said of false confessions. 'But what happens in these interrogation rooms is that they break down people's will.'

Steve Drizin, a lawyer with the Center on Wrongful Conviction of Youth, said: 'The interrogation is one of the most riveting examples of psychological torture I have ever seen.'

But prosecuting attorney Robin Carroll to the Appeal: 'No evidence or court holding has been forthcoming to cause my office to doubt anything done in the case, or its basis.'

Original report here

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

I fought the law and I won: Clash roadie wins damages over racist beating by 19 British cops in 23-hour ordeal

He would have got millions in the USA

Don Lorenzo has been awarded damages for the physical and racial abuse he suffered at the hands of police. A former roadie for The Clash who was called a ‘f****** n***er’ as he was viciously assaulted by a group of policemen has won more than a year’s wages in damages.

The judge said he made the award to Don Lorenzo, a Rastafarian, to show ‘the courts and society’s disapproval of the racial slurs’.
Mr Lorenzo , 58, suffered cuts and bruises to his entire body in a 23-hour ordeal that happened outside his home and even in a police station after he was arrested for a crime he didn’t commit.

The incident in 2007, in which up to 19 officers were involved, left him with carpel tunnel syndrome in his wrists which ended his career as an African drummer.

Now in his case against West Midlands police a jury found in his favour following a six-day trial at Birmingham County Court.
The judge, Recorder Adrian Jack, awarded the former freelance drummer - a roadie for rock legends The Clash, who sang the hit I Fought The Law And The Law Won - damages totalling £17,000 - including £5,000 in aggravated damage.

He also awarded Mr Lorenzo 100 per cent of his costs estimated in the region of £50,000 against the Chief Constable of the West Midlands.

Mr Jack also pointed out that Mr Lorenzo’s ‘extreme distress’ was ‘excacerbated by the racial abuse received on arrest’.

After the award his solicitor Nick Turner said: ‘I’ve dealt with some cases of assault by police in my time, but this is tinged with terrible racism and leaves an awful taste in the mouth.
‘An innocent father was dealt with in a deplorable way and that was partly to do with the colour of his skin. ‘The case against the police was black and white and the jury rightly found in Mr Lorenzo’s favour.’

On November 20, 2007, Mr Lorenzo’s teenage daughter called the police falsely alleging he’d hit her when he arrived home in Edgbaston, Birmingham, accompanied by the caretaker for his block of flats. His daughter Kaya, now 20, had no marks on her and Don thought the police would tell her off for wasting their time.

But instead began a 23-hour ordeal with him being racially abused and assaulted numerous times by police officers, the court was told.

He was punched in the mouth several times, kicked and dragged down five flights of stairs from his fifth storey home and then when taken to Bournville Lane Police Station - where he was assaulted again, the court heard.

After his victory in court Don said: ‘All along I realised what was going on and that my action was against all the odds. ‘I am a realist and I knew that there was just me saying that 19 police officers were wrong.

‘I was acquitted in the criminal courts and this case was no different. The police officers have been shown to be racist. ‘They were shown to have called me a f***ing n***er when I was on the floor outside my home.

‘They continually racially abused me as they dragged me down the stairs. But justice has now been done with the jury finding in my favour and the judge awarding substantial damages.’

Mr Turner added: ‘The costs for bringing this claim are expected to be in the region of £50,000 on each side - that’s a bill of £100,000 for the British taxpayer.

‘There should be no place in society for racists, to find them in the police force is absolutely sickening. ‘Whilst the Metropolitan Police appear to be learning the lessons of the Macpherson Report they are clearly very hard of hearing in the West Midlands. ‘This was a very highly violent, racist assault by officers of the West Midlands force on a UK citizen with Afro-Caribbean heritage and it was compounded by his false imprisonment for more than 23 hours.

‘It is astonishing that the police have never once apologised for their actions - particularly with the damages being fixed so close to the conviction of Gary Dobson and David Norris for the murder of Stephen Lawrence when abhorrent racism is so prominent on our agenda as a society.’

West Midlands Police requested leave to appeal. The force could not be reached for comment.

Original report here

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Iraq war veteran captures police brutality on mobile phone

An Iraq war veteran has captured dramatic footage of a police officer punching a homeless woman in the face on a city bus back home in Los Angeles.

Police are investigating the assault after Jeremiah Green shot the video on his mobile phone and smuggled the memory card past the officers when they demanded it.

Mr Green was able to pass the card into his mouth while smoking and then to his fiancée with a kiss.

“It turned my stomach,” he said. “You just don’t just swing and sock someone in the face. I think that’s real uncalled for.”

The attack happened after the homeless woman – believed to be mentally ill - called the deputy sheriff a "big shot".

Original report here. A somewhat longer account here. The cops are toughing it out so far.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

NJ: Man beaten by Passaic cop got $350,000 settlement

Ronnie Holloway, the schizophrenic man beaten by Passaic Police Officer Joseph Rios III during an arrest two years ago, accepted a $350,000 settlement earlier this year in which he agreed not to sue the city, documents show.

The settlement, obtained by The Record and Herald News on Friday, precludes Holloway or any of his heirs from collecting further damages from the city, the Passaic Police Department, Rios, or his partner during the arrest, Erica Rivera.

Rios was acquitted last week of police brutality charges in state court, and the settlement prohibits Holloway from any further legal action, such as filing a civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court. The settlement also releases the city from responsibility for future medical costs associated with the beating.

Taxpayers are still not off the hook, however. Rios was suspended for two years without pay while awaiting trial. Now that he's been acquitted, Rios is seeking reinstatement — and that will likely cost the city nearly $200,000 in back pay, based on his salary of $97,294.

"Our position is that Officer Rios should be reinstated as soon as we work out the details," said his attorney, Anthony Iacullo. "We plan to meet with Mayor Blanco, the City Council and Chief Diaz sometime next week."

The city is not expected to oppose Rios' reinstatement, although the timing of his return to the department could not be worse. The city is stuck in a budget crisis and planning the layoff of 45 employees beginning Aug. 14.

Rios, a seven-year veteran of the Passaic Police Department and an Iraq war veteran, was accused of beating Holloway, a diagnosed schizophrenic, after spotting the man standing on the corner of Main Avenue and Sumner Street around 11 a.m. on May 29, 2009. Rios was riding with Rivera, who spotted the man with no shirt on underneath his hooded sweat shirt and ordered him to "zip up."

When Holloway didn't immediately comply and words were exchanged, Rios got out of his squad car and repeatedly beat Holloway with his nightstick, then threw him across the hood of the car. Holloway was arrested, spent the night in jail, but was never charged.

The altercation was captured on a surveillance video camera located outside a tavern on the corner. The incident made national headlines when the video went viral, and the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office began an investigation, which led to his indictment on charges of aggravated assault and official misconduct.

After a nine-day bench trial, Judge Donald J. Volkert Jr. cleared Rios of both charges. In his verdict, Volkert acknowledged that the video shows Rios using a lot of force, but said it was a "textbook" case of police using their power to subdue an unruly man.

Many Passaic residents disagree and are threatening to protest at City Hall when Iacullo meets with city officials next week.

"That's going to open up a whole can of worms," said Kasim Washington, a community activist and onetime City Council candidate. Washington says it would be dangerous for Rios to be put back on patrol.

"We don't want him coming back wearing a Superman's 'S' on his chest," Washington said. "Think about the first time he has to make an arrest. Our position is that he should be transferred out of the city. We don't want him in the city no more."

Holloway, who lived with his mother on Burgess Place off Main Avenue, has since moved. The settlement agreement precludes him, his friends or any family member from talking about the case to the media.

Keith Furlong, a spokesman for the city, said the city had no legal grounds to oppose Rios' reinstatement. But as of late Friday he hadn't heard of any meeting between Rios and city officials.

Original report here

Another account of what happened:

New Jersey cops appear to specialize in unprovoked assaults on harmless people who suffer from mental illness.

On May 29, 2009, Ronnie Holloway was standing on a street corner near a restaurant when Officers Joseph Rios III and Erica Rivera pulled up in a cop car and berated the 49-year-old man for having his jacket unzipped. As is usually the case in such encounters, things went dramatically downhill in a hurry.

Rios, an Iraq combat veteran, appeared to be on "contact patrol" – that is, prowling the neighborhood looking for an excuse to throw somebody to the ground. Holloway, an unassuming man on medication for schizophrenia, presented a perfect target of opportunity.

A video recording of the event shows Holloway meekly zipping up his jacket. As he did so, Rivera exits the vehicle and distracts Holloway while Rios blind-sides him, slamming him to the ground and beating him repeatedly with his fists and baton. After a brief pause, Holloway – who is clearly terrified, but not putting up any physical resistance – is able to rise to his feet before being slammed onto the hood of the police car.

"I didn't know if I was going to see tomorrow at that point," Holloway later said of the assault, which left him battered and bloody and with a serious injury to one of his eyes. The beating continued until backup – in the form of two additional police cars – arrived to help drag Holloway off to jail.

Despite the fact that he had behaved like a properly docile Mundane, absorbing an unprovoked beating without making any effort to flee or fight back, Holloway was charged with resisting arrest and "wandering," supposedly in search of narcotics.

In filing their official report of the incident, Rios and his partner did what police in such circumstances always do: They committed perjury in the form of "creative writing." Rios claimed that when he and Rivera told Holloway to leave the corner, Holloway "verbally challenged" them. "Step on the sidewalk, you'll see," Holloway supposedly said to Rios, assuming a "fighting stance" as he did so.

Rios had no right or authority to demand that Holloway – who had done nothing to anybody – leave the street corner. It's also clear from the video that the beating began before Holloway would have had an opportunity to fling a verbal "challenge" at Rios. Some measure of Rios's reliability as a witness is found in the fact that his Use of Force Report claims that Holloway wasn't injured in the attack.

After the May 29 assault was publicized, the Passaic Police Department "pulled a Mubarak," as it were: They defied public outrage for as long as possible, keeping Rios on active duty, and then suspending both Rios and Rivera (the latter for failing a fraudulent claim of a job-related injury during the incident) when the outrage failed to dissipate.

Owing entirely to public pressure put on the Passaic municipal government, Rios has been charged with aggravated assault and official misconduct. He has entered a plea of "not guilty by virtue of a government-provided wardrobe." "I did what was proper," lied Rios in a June 2009 press conference. "I did what I was trained to do under circumstances that existed at that time. I stand by my actions."

His attorney, Anthony J. Iacullo, defended the assault as a pre-emptive strike against some unspecified threat posed by an uppity Mundane: "Based upon what Officer Rios feared might happen, and based upon his not submitting to arrest, the actions were taken."

Holloway's "resistance" consisted of cringing and covering up in confusion and terror as Rios rained down punches and baton strikes. In New Jersey – as is the case elsewhere in the Soyuz – even such minimal and reflexive attempts to protect one's self from State-sanctified violence is treated as a criminal offense.

Original report here

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

NY: Testimony continues in wrongful conviction suit

Coerced confession

A man wrongfully convicted of trying to kill his wife was back in court. Daniel Gristwood is suing the state for his time in prison. Back in 1995, he was conviction of attempted murder, which was overturned after another man confessed. Our Iris St. Meran was in court and tells us what Gristwood has to say about how this experience impacted his life.

Daniel Gristwood became a free man in 2005, after being wrongfully convicted of attempting to kill his wife with a claw hammer in 1996 in the Town of Clay.

Another man, Mastho Davis, confessed to the crime. Now Gristwood is seeking damages from the state for that wrongful conviction.

During day two of his damages trial, Gristwood testified post-prison life has been difficult.

Gristwood said, "Instead of having road rage, I think I get store rage. I get so claustrophobic. I don't like being around people. I don't even like leaving the house. That's why my garage is there because I feel comfortable in my own little domain."

He was also questioned about his relationship with his five children. He says he missed some important milestones in their lives. He also testified about not being able to find steady work after being released.

Gristwood told the court he was broke and had to turn in his 401K in 2005 and had limited income last year. "Maybe $10,000 or $15,000,” Gristwood said. “I had a very low income."

After his testimony, an economist, Professor Daniel McGowan, took the stand. He had estimates of Gristwood's monetary loss of earnings while in prison, calling the estimate conservative.

"The total nominal amount, it is not present value. The total nominal dollars for each of the future years lost is summed together was $1,536,626," said McGowan.

What Gristwood will actually get is up to the court and that decision could take months.

The trial continues Wednesday. Others expected to take the stand are Gristwood's son, brother and a social worker.

Original report here

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

British cop forced to say sorry for church leader’s wrongful arrest from pulpit during service

A policeman was forced to apologise from a church pulpit after a woman was wrongfully arrested for assault. Detective Sergeant Nick Westwood publicly said sorry to church leader Alison Richardson after a court made the Metropolitan Police pay her compensation.

Mrs Richardson, 43, was arrested at her home in Croydon, South London, in February 2008 after calling the police to stop bailiffs clamping the family car in a dispute over a fine.

But she was arrested after an officer claimed to have been punched in the face. She was convicted and given a community service order.

However, she was exonerated on appeal by a judge who queried the police’s evidence.

Mrs Richardson sued the Met, highlighting how she had to step down from her church role after losing her criminal records bureau accreditation.

On Saturday, the Met sent Mr Westwood to apologise at Greenwich Seventh Day Adventist Church in London. He said: ‘I hope that this apology goes some way to putting to rest formally and finally the upset and distress that the Richardsons as a family have had.’

In February 2008, Mrs Richardson called police to her Croydon home as bailiffs tried to clamp a car belonging to her husband Clive. They were trying to recoup a traffic penalty linked to a church minibus that was briefly registered to him.

Up to eight police officers arrived and Mrs Richardson was arrested after a woman officer claimed she had been punched in the face. The churchgoer was held in custody for eight hours before being charged with assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest. She was convicted after a crown court trial and a judge ordered her to work for free in the community.

But she appealed and was exonerated by another judge who questioned the police evidence and found officers had unlawfully entered her home.

Mrs Richardson then sued the Met highlighting how the case forced her to step down from her church role as she lost her criminal records bureau accreditation.

Standing in the pulpit, Mr Westwood said it is ‘only right and proper’ to apologise when mistakes are made. ‘It is not surprising when on a day to day basis there are so many police officers and so many people they come into contact with that we get things wrong occasionally,' he said. ‘It is only right and proper that when we make mistakes and errors we are willing to apologise and put those mistakes right.’

His four-minute speech was punctuated with shouts of ‘Amen’ and murmurs of approval before ending with an embrace from the Richardsons.

Speaking afterwards, Mrs Richardson, who has three daughters, said: ‘I felt that the apology was humble and genuine. ‘The apology was necessary because of the humiliation, disgrace and embarrassment that I experienced when I was arrested, charged, tried and convicted of assaulting a police officer, a false allegation of a crime that I had clearly not committed.

‘The public apology helps to heal the wounds and also to close this traumatic chapter, so that I can move forward with my family and get on with my life.’

Last night, Mrs Richardson’s solicitor Terence Channer said: ‘Central to this case was Mrs Richardson’s exemplary character in contrast to the unlawful actions of the officers.’

Original report here

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Piracy in Virginia

The Washington Post recently ran an editorial denouncing the treatment of Victor Ramos Guzman and the process by which Mr Guzman and the parishioners of his church, Nuevo Renacer, were relieved of their money by the Virginia State Police. We recommend the editorial but would like to add some commentary and a few clarifying details based on the accounts relayed to us.

On November 1st, Victor Ramos Guzman and Jose Jeronimo Sorto were driving a rental vehicle on Interstate 95. Their church had raised money to buy a trailer and a parcel of land. Guzman and Sorto were transporting $28,500 in church donations to make the purchases on behalf of Nuevo Renacer.

They were pulled over on I-95 by a Virginia State Trooper, CL Murphy, after the officer ran parallel to them. The trooper did not issue any tickets or warnings to Guzman or Sorto. However, the trooper asked if they had anything in the car. They informed him of the church donations. Trooper Murphy checked their papers, legal status, rental information, et cetera. Having found no violations, the trooper also called the FBI and ICE. The FBI declined involvement. The officer confiscated the cash and issued a receipt for it.

Guzman and Sorto were told by Trooper Murphy that the seizure was being executed “on order of ICE” but that no ICE agents were available because they were in a meeting. Guzman asked that they contact the church to verify their account of the currency trooper Murphy declined to do so and, apparently, told them to shut up. They were also told that they would be contacted by ICE Norfolk.

Having not been contacted by ICE or the Virginia State Patrol, the church contacted attorney Claudia Flower on November 4th. Flower contacted the state police and ICE. ICE, at that point, declined involvement. Later that day, Flower was able to talk to CL Murphy. Flower inquired of the probable cause for the seizure and was told
1) The members stated that the cash was not theirs but belonged to the church.

This wouldn’t seem to be such a problem as they also told officer Murphy that they were members of the church (Guzman being the Secretary of the church), transporting the money for the church, and possessed and showed a 501(c)(3) IRS letter of recognition for the church.
2) The church was located in Baltimore MD, while the address of the individuals was in Virginia.

Which wouldn’t seem to be much of a problem as many people regularly commute between Baltimore and Virginia.
3) Guzman and Sorto appeared confused.

That might be. Ramos was, apparently, told to shut up when explaining their story and had $28,500 of his church’s money lifted from him by an officer of the law. Confusion seems like one of many understandable emotions. Anger and frustration would seem understandable as well.
4) Guzman and Sorto did not know where they were going.

Guzman and Sorto were driving south bound towards Fayettville, and then to Atlanta, GA as they had told the officer. They knew where they were going and why.

Murphy then stated to Flower, ”People lie to me all the time why do I need to listen to you? The money was seized on behalf of ICE, J.T. Slayton of ICE Norfolk, maybe the chain of command does not know because he has not had time to file a report.”

Murphy then yelled at Flower and hung up.

Flower contacted us at Americans for Forfeiture Reform seeking recommendations on a forfeiture attorney in Virginia. We contacted David B. Smith. Smith offered to represent Mr Guzman, Mr Sorto, and Nuevo Renacer for free.

Most people are effectively precluded from fighting these seizures. Mr Guzman, Mr Sorto, and Nuevo Renacer have received pro bono counsel from Claudia Flower and David B. Smith. Smith is one of the top forfeiture attorneys in the country, a leading expert on forfeiture rules and practices, the former supervisor for forfeiture litigation in the US Attorneys Office, and the Chairman of the Forfeiture Committee in the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Flower is a committed advocate and a former DHS prosecutor. Our friends at the Institute for Justice have also joined the fight. Few victims of civil forfeiture have such attorneys at their disposal. Far fewer have such attorneys donate their services.

We raise their credentials not so much to praise (although that can and should be done) but to question: What shot does a normal person have without an accomplished pro bono legal team and an easily verifiable story? How bad have civil forfeiture practices become that the government isn’t sufficiently shamed (and scared) to return church donations seized without cause, when it can easily verify that the seized funds are church donations?

Too often, victi are left with the choice of either hiring prohibitively expensive counsel (after their funds have been seized… frequently starving them of access to effective counsel) or attempting to navigate the complex, uncertain forfeiture laws on their own. Uncertain because current practice is to share custody of forfeiture cases, vacillating between state and federal custody for convenience and gain. These custody vacillations make it easier for law enforcement to seize property, more difficult for you to defend your property, and make it more profitable for law enforcement to commit seizures (sometimes by explicitly circumventing state law).

Mr Guzman has an obvious and traceable path for the money, complete with collaborating parishioner testimony. Mr Guzman has signed an affidavit attesting to the source of the currency seized. The Nuevo Renacer church confirms the story. The parishioners confirm the story. They even have the donation envelopes to confirm the story. The currency seized hasn’t been accused of any crime. Yet, the government retains the money. If being able to verify the legitimate source of currency isn’t enough to accomplish the return of seized property, what is? How many people are having their possessions taken that can’t afford to fight the government, or are scared to do so, or estimate the fight as a pointless and unwinnable endeavor? The story of the seized church money is a modern low. Formerly, we existed in an environment where property was regularly seized on mere accusation and/or mere suspicion. In this case, there is no accusation and the suspicion has been refuted. Yet, the government retains the money. Is the idea of private property a retired notion? The government’s retention of the church money implies that we are merely holding on to our possessions until, or if, a government agency wants to claim it.

According to the Washington Post editorial, the police are now claiming that Guzman and Sorto were travelling 86 mph in a 70 mph zone. If that were the case, the officer would have, presumably, written a ticket. There is no evidence to corroborate the accusation of speeding. Indeed, there is evidence against the accusation. Guzman’s affidavit claims that they were pulled over after the trooper ran parallel. The absence of so much as a warning implies-given the excessive speed now claimed and the tesstimony that the trooper ran parallel first- that no such speeding took place. Even if there were evidence of speeding, it should not provide sufficient cause to seize the parishioner’s funds.

Original report here

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Monday, January 09, 2012

Australia: Man to be released after decade without trial

His imprisonment may have been reasonable but doing so without a trial to test the allegations is most certainly not. He has always denied the allegations

A mentally impaired West Australian man who spent 10 years behind bars without ever standing trial will be released from prison shortly.

Marlon Noble has spent the past decade in a WA prison on child sex assault charges despite having never faced trial because he was deemed intellectually disabled.

It is alleged he sexually assaulted two children in the state's Gascoyne region in 2001.

Last November the Mental Health Review Board recommended he be released under strict conditions and the State Government has agreed.

Greens spokeswoman for Disabilities Alison Xamon says those conditions are too harsh. "[The conditions] really stop his ability to be able to walk around Geraldton, which is his home town," she said.

Ms Xamon says advocates for Mr Noble will continue to pressure the Government to reduce or abolish the restrictions imposed on him. "I think people need to be aware that the struggle to free Marlon Nobel is far from over," she said. "We're really relieved that he is finally going to be out of prison, but the next step is to be to ensure that the conditions attached to his release are lessened and finally removed."

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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Sunday, January 08, 2012

Crooked British cops withhold exculpatory evidence

Police retained a secret diary that could have cleared a man jailed for life for killing his wife, it was revealed yesterday.

Eddie Gilfoyle protested his innocence for nearly two decades after being convicted in 1993 of murdering his pregnant wife, Paula, and making it look like suicide. But it has emerged that a padlocked box existed containing two volumes of a diary covering ten years. The journal reveals her troubled past and how she had previously tried to take her life.

These facts were not disclosed to Mr Gilfoyle's lawyers or told to the jury. In fact, the diary contradicts the image presented to the murder trial of Mrs Gilfoyle as a happy woman with everything to live for.

Police refused to say where the box had been over the years – because the case is being reviewed by the commission that investigates miscarriages of justice.

Mr Gilfoyle, 59, who was released in December 2010 after two unsuccessful appeals, said yesterday: 'I am completely devastated that the police had these diaries and failed to hand them over to my defence.

'I am disgusted, appalled, words just fail me. They should have been disclosed prior to my two appeals but they were kept hidden. 'I have told the truth all the way through. The police have lied all the way through.'

His solicitor Matt Foot, said: 'Mr Gilfoyle has protested his innocence for 19 years. Meanwhile the police have held on to a locked box containing material that directly contradicts their case. How has this happened?'

Mrs Gilfoyle, 32, who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant, was found hanged in the garage of the couple's home in Upton, Wirral, in 1992.

A suicide note was discovered in her handwriting but prosecutors said Gilfoyle dictated it to her, telling her he needed it for a course in his job as an auxiliary nurse.

Relatives and friends told the jury she was a happy, bubbly woman but the diaries and other personal papers which she kept in the marital home reveal she took an overdose of pills when she was 15.

They also show that as a teenager she was engaged to a boy who was convicted of killing a girl. She bought him a wedding ring while he was in prison.

It was when that boyfriend, Mark Roberts, threatened to leave her that she took an overdose, writing in her diary: 'Mark went mad but I done it to him.'

The new evidence also revealed that two of Mrs Gilfoyle's former boyfriends threatened suicide and among her possessions was a note from one – using similar words to the note found where she died.

Mr Gilfoyle's lawyers have asked the Criminal Cases Review Commission to refer his case back to the Court of Appeal to be overturned.

Merseyside police confirmed they handed papers to Mr Foot last year but refused to comment further.

Original report here

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