Friday, August 31, 2012

British Facebook troll 'is a policeman'

Officer Lee Rimell

A policeman has been arrested over vile abuse posted online to a mother who won a landmark case to have his identity released by Facebook.

Nicola Brookes, 45, was hounded by anonymous online bullies after she used the social networking site to write a message of support for an X Factor contestant. But while she was tormented with abusive messages, threatening her with death and accusing her of being a paedophile, she claims police officers initially told her to go home.

After taking her case to the High Court, however, Facebook was for the first time forced to disclose the identities of the bullies.

Now police have arrested Lee Rimell, 32, on suspicion of being one of the trolls allegedly behind months of ‘vicious and depraved’ abuse. Rimell is believed to have been based at Stechford Police Station in Birmingham. He has not been suspended.

Last night, Miss Brookes, who suffers from Crohn’s disease, described the arrest as a ‘significant breakthrough’ but said she was horrified one of the suspected trolls is a policeman.

She added: ‘It’s disgusting. Nothing surprises me anymore. ‘I feel absolutely let down by the system. I’ve had to wait nine months for this arrest.

‘I’m so happy that the authorities are finally doing something about this. My life has been ruined for so long,’ the single mother added.

Her ordeal began last November when her daughter Harley told her people were writing nasty comments about X Factor contestant Frankie Cocozza on his Facebook page. Wanting to defend the young singer, she posted: ‘Keep your friends and your family close, Frankie. They’ll move on to someone else soon.’

Online trolls turned on her in minutes, writing that she was a ‘desperate pedo [sic] b****’ and ‘a ****ing dog’. Within 24 hours she had been hounded with more than 100 messages of abuse.

One of the online bullies set up a Facebook profile in Miss Brookes’s name, using it to send explicit messages to children. It had a picture of her and her email address, with messages falsely describing her as a drug dealer, a prostitute and a child abuser.

On one occasion, a picture of her was placed on an image of Myra Hindley. She also had her email address hacked and, on Mother’s Day this year, trolls published her Brighton home address.

But they didn’t stop there. They also found her daughter Harley’s profile and doctored a picture of her, placing her head on the body of a lap-dancer.

After Miss Brookes began legal action, the High Court granted an order in June compelling Facebook to disclose the bullies’ names, email addresses and their computers’ internet protocol (IP) addresses – used to determine a computer’s location.

Rimell was arrested last week after checks on Miss Brookes’s computer.

He allegedly began the trolling by using a fake account under the name Cuthbert Bollingsworth Smyth.

He is also accused of hacking into Miss Brookes’s email account. Days after her High Court victory, Miss Brookes found someone had logged on to her emails and read crucial case evidence.

When officers from Sussex Police examined her computer they found the hacker had left a trace behind. Rimell has since been bailed while officers continue their investigations.

A police spokesman said: ‘West Midlands Police is assisting Sussex Police in connection with an ongoing inquiry regarding a serving West Midlands police officer.’

Original report here

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Charming British cop

The Cherry on top above

A police officer repeatedly punched his pregnant ex-girlfriend in the stomach because he did not want her to have his baby. Matthew Cherry, 35, is alleged to have barged his way into police officer Caroline Craft’s flat in Bournemouth, wearing a balaclava and hooded top, to carry out the attack and try to force a miscarriage.

He is also alleged to have told her that he had thought about punching her in the stomach so she would lose her baby. The pair split up after she decided not to have a termination.

Miss Craft was six months’ pregnant when she was attacked, Winchester Crown Court heard.

Cherry, from Parkstone in Poole, Dorset, denies attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent and said he was not the attacker.

Matthew Jewell, prosecuting, said Miss Craft, 27, also a Dorset Police officer, was in her ground-floor flat at around 10am on March 24 last year waiting for an estate agent to call because she was selling up.

In the meantime, the barrister said, a man the prosecution claim was Cherry got into the block by buzzing an intercom of another flat and saying 'police'.

Cherry then pretended to be a cleaner using a vacuum cleaner, in what was a planned attack by someone 'forensically aware', Mr Jewell said.

'She opened the door which was then pushed violently from outside and she was either pushed or punched to the floor,' Mr Jewell said. 'She was then attacked with multiple punches to her stomach and back, in a way which targeted her unborn child. 'She shouted for help and a gloved hand was placed over her mouth. She was also kicked.

'She pointed out valuable items in case this was a robbery or burglary but her attacker showed no interest in taking anything.

'She was dragged into the bathroom and forced to sit on the toilet. The male said he would tie her up. 'She was absolutely terrified about what was happening to her in her own home.'

But then the doorbell rang before the attacker could go any further, as estate agent Paul Penny turned up. The attacker fled, the jury was told, using a back door - because he knew the layout of the building.

'He (Mr Penny) saw Caroline bloodied and bruised. She was taken to hospital and although she had extensive bruising and some scratches, she was not seriously harmed. 'Equally fortunately, her unborn baby was unharmed.

'It is quite clear however, that her attacker had begun an assault upon her which he intended to cause her really serious harm, and the only reason that he did not do so was the arrival of Mr Penny.'

Mr Jewell told the jury: 'He had a motive for doing so and who else would have the motive for carrying out the attack in this particular way, targeting the unborn child?'

Mr Jewell told the court that Cherry previously owned the flat and had sold it to Miss Craft. They met in May 2010 and their relationship was not happy, with Cherry even denying he was seeing Miss Craft. The couple moved in together with another woman, Carla Hutchings, renting a spare room.

Miss Craft found out she was pregnant in October 2010. 'The defendant did not take the news well,' Mr Jewell told the jury.

Later, after a party, Cherry told Miss Craft 'she had ruined his life and told her to get out'. The barrister said: 'She sat in the lounge crying. After a short time, he too began to cry and apologised.'

During the following weeks Cherry made it clear he did not want the child and said he wanted Miss Craft to have an abortion. He also said he was not the father.

In October 2010 the couple visited a doctor and it was clear that Miss Craft wanted the baby but Cherry did not, the jury heard.

'He was vocal and forceful during the consultation. She was subservient and tearful,' Mr Jewell said. 'The doctor was so concerned by his behaviour that she left the consultation to speak to a colleague about it.'

The next month Miss Craft told the doctor that she wanted a termination but she was not happy about it. Cherry was present but said little. She later did not go through with it and Cherry was aggressive about the decision. The couple then split.

The barrister said that Cherry spoke to a colleague while on police patrol about how he could bring about a miscarriage but by December he seemed to have changed his mind and said that he would fight for custody, the jury was told.

When arrested Cherry said he had not attacked Miss Craft and that he was at a house he was renovating in nearby Poole when it happened.

Miss Craft gave birth to a boy last year.

Original report here

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The scum got 10 years' jail.

Sad for the kid if he asks where his daddy is. "Your father tried to kill you even before you were born" has to be an all-time shocker of a reply.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Huge probe as senior British crimes scene officer is arrested: 90 cases over last decade 'could be tainted'

A senior crime scene investigator was at the centre of a major police investigation last night over claims he 'undermined' dozens of cases. Stephen Beattie, a civilian member of staff, was arrested and bailed by officers on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and theft.

Senior detectives are now reviewing at least 90 cases involving the married 48-year-old which date back over the last decade. The majority of the cases relate to suspicious or sudden deaths and could have resulted in several miscarriages of justice, police confirmed.

One investigation, involving a sudden death, has already been reopened by detectives and there are fears others will begin to unravel.

By the time Beattie was arrested in May last year, he was crime scene manager for Cleveland Police.

Steve Matthews, Chairman of the Cleveland Police Federation, said: 'My concern is that the police officers I represent have gone through a great deal of time and effort to investigate and convict people. These cases could unravel because of this. 'I would also hate to see innocent people in prison who should not have been convicted or those whose convictions may be rendered unsafe.'

All those affected have been informed of Beattie's arrest in writing and are being kept informed of the investigation's progress.

Beattie worked for Staffordshire Police from 1996 to 2002, Northumbria Police for a short period in 2002 and Cleveland Police from 2002 to 2011. He was suspended in February 2011 and arrested in May.

An investigation was then launched by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the three forces involved.

Both Staffordshire and Northumbria police forces conducted a review of his work and identified no cause for concern. But an internal review of his work by Cleveland Police highlighted 120 suspicious cases.

The force has since narrowed that number down to focus on 90 but has admitted there could be more.

It has set up a special phone line to address the concerns of other people they have not yet been in touch with.

Detective Inspector Warren Shepheard, from Cleveland Police's investigation team, said: 'Our priority has been to identify whether there have been any issues of concern about the man's work on the incidents he attended during his time with Cleveland Police.'

Staffordshire Police said it had submitted an investigation report, which is currently being considered by the IPCC.

IPCC Commissioner Nicholas Long said: 'The allegations are serious and had the potential to impact a large number of investigations.

'The number has been narrowed significantly by the work already undertaken. As this remains a criminal investigation we do not intend to go into specific detail about cases at this stage.'

Original report here

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

US attorneys and the contrived prosecution of Victoria Sprouse

Although much of my writing on prosecutorial abuse centers deals with how state prosecutors time and again deliberately pursue false charges in so-called sex crimes, I actually began this part of my writing career as a critic of federal criminal law and how federal prosecutors enthusiastically find ways to turn legal actions into “crimes” that are accompanied with harsh prison sentences.

There is one connection, as federal law – specifically the various Mondale Acts (or CAPTA) and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) – has destroyed due process and emphasized the mere accusation without corroborating evidence being the standard for conviction and made it easy for state prosecutors to gain wrongful convictions of innocent people. Ever since the Progressive Era of a century ago, Progressives have claimed that federal intervention into state law is a solution, not a problem, and even now many people refuse to believe that federal criminal law has become an instrument of tyranny.

Yet, time and again I have found myself astounded at the ease by which federal prosecutors are able to target anyone they like and pursue criminal charges accompanied with the loaded term “fraud” to make these actions sound much worse than they really are. Teaming with an attorney friend of mine, Candice E. Jackson, the two of us wrote papers and articles demonstrating how U.S. attorneys recklessly cut a swath of human and economic destruction, and how the supposed government watchdogs, such as the mainstream media, have enthusiastically endorsed this tyranny. Even though dedicated attorneys such as Harvey Silverglate have written enlightening books such as Three Felonies a Day that clearly outline the abuses, the media tends to turn a deaf ear.

From Rudy Giuliani’s relentless pursuit of Michael Milken more than 20 years ago to the government’s imprisoning of Martha Stewart to its refusal to help free wrongfully-convicted federal prisoners in North Carolina, incarcerated because the lawyers of the U.S. Department of Justice did not know the law and federal judges looked the other way, government lawyers have engaged in reckless and brutal acts against innocent people. If I could boil all of my writings about federal prosecutorial abuse into a case against one person, that individual would be Victoria Sprouse.

I met Vickie Sprouse three years ago, just after she was convicted by a federal jury in Charlotte, North Carolina, for “mortgage fraud.” Her conviction was a huge story in North Carolina’s self-described Queen City. Television news reporters breathlessly declared that she had “made millions” from her fraud, and that her actions had helped to create the housing meltdown that inundated Charlotte. The Charlotte Observer, a newspaper with “proper liberal credentials” that prides itself on having a heart for justice, wrote an account that – save its lead paragraph in which the reporter noted that Sprouse burst into tears – that was little more than a rehash of the press release given by the U.S. DOJ on its website.

If one only watched the news and read the Observer, Sprouse’s guilt would be an open-and-shut thing. I followed her trial through the Observer’s website and knew there was no chance for her acquittal. I spoke to one of North Carolina’s best-known attorneys before the trial and he told me, “She is going to get screwed.” And she did.

Yet, the government’s case against Vickie Sprouse was a true house of cards, constructed upon a façade that was supported by judicial rulings that ensured that Sprouse would not have an adequate defense. The irony is that it would not have been difficult for a good attorney to have blasted apart the federal charges and there was enough exculpatory evidence available to have shot the case full of holes. However, federal prosecutor Matt Martens was able to rig both the prosecution and the defense by seizing Sprouse’s assets and forcing her to drop her experienced attorney and having to depend upon public defenders that had no intention of mounting a real defense.

I go through the details of the original conviction in this post I wrote three years ago for Lew Rockwell’s page. (I am grateful that Lew provided a forum by which I could write on such issues even though my harsh words have enraged state and federal prosecutors.) When the original article was published, Martens flew into a rage, claiming first that I was a fictitious character and that Sprouse had written the piece herself, and later saying that Sprouse had dictated every word to me. Neither statement was true and the prosecutor’s words demonstrated to me that Martens (like many other U.S. attorneys) was both an egomaniac and a fundamentally-dishonest character.

There is a postscript to the original conviction which further demonstrates the lengths of brutality that the government will go in order to target, convict, and incarcerate someone. While Sprouse was convicted for so-called mortgage fraud, the prosecution relied upon the malleable federal statute of Honest Services Fraud to make its case. When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned much of that law, the legal basis for Sprouse’s conviction collapsed. (I argue in my LRC post that the government did not even prove Sprouse had committed any kind of fraud.)

Government lawyers were demanding Sprouse be incarcerated for 42 years, and she was held under house arrest pending her appeal. When a federal judge overturned her conviction, U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins (the same Anne Tompkins who declared her office could not be “outcome-driven” when confronted with the fact it had illegally-charged dozens of people with statutory crimes that did not exist) and her underlings fashioned bankruptcy fraud charges in retaliation.

I have written a short post on the current set of charges, but that post was incomplete. The feds have used tricks like claiming Sprouse reported fraudulent numbers for rental properties when, in fact, they used gross revenue while Sprouse employed net income. The feds also claimed that a defense fund set up by Sprouse’s sister, a fund of which Sprouse had no personal access and proceeds went directly to pay attorneys, constituted an illegal secret “slush fund.”

One of the ironies in this sorry case has been the fact that Sprouse herself hardly fits the demonized profile that the feds have created and the media have dutifully regurtigated. She is a friendly, kind woman whose mannerisms and language are a throwback to the formal culture that existed in the South many years ago. In all my conversations with her, I never have heard her curse or even use inflammatory language. She seems genuinely confused as to why the feds would pursue her in a Javert-like manner, and I and others who know her all agree.

The sad thing about the personal destruction of Victoria Sprouse is not just in the lost income and opportunities that she and her family have experienced. No, it also has been the very ease by which federal authorities can use the alleged-watchdog media to create caricatures of people that do not fit their real character. Her persecution also is a reminder that any one of us can be targeted in the same manner, and no matter how much proof we produce to demonstrate that federal officials are wrong, the American news media will follow lock-step behind the bureaucrats, even when it is obvious the bureaucrats are not telling the truth.

Original report here

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Monday, August 27, 2012

'I told you I was innocent': DNA tests of police captain jailed for 14 years in wife's murder 'prove he didn't do it'

A former Ohio police captain who has spent 14 years in prison, largely because of a bite mark found on his ex-wife's blood-soaked body, now has new DNA test results that his attorneys say prove his innocence.

If a judge agrees, Doug Prade could become the latest of more than a dozen prisoners across the country to be set free after comparisons between their teeth and bite marks found on victims turned out to be wrong.

An Akron judge, in a ruling that could come as early as October, could exonerate Prade, order a new trial or find that the DNA test isn't strong enough for either.

'I told you I was innocent. Now there's proof,' the 66-year-old Prade said after getting the test results back, according to his attorney, Carrie Wood with the Cincinnati-based Ohio Innocence Project.

In Prade's case, a new test has found that male DNA - taken from around a bite mark on a lab coat that his ex-wife was wearing when she was killed - is not his.

The test conducted for free by the private DNA Diagnostics Center in Fairfield, Ohio, wasn't widely available at the time of Prade's trial.

Prade said on Thursday that he hopes the results are enough to free him, although he'd be happy with a new trial.

'For them to find what I had known all that time was no surprise to me,' he told The Associated Press in a phone interview from a central Ohio prison. 'I guess it was an epiphany to everyone else - "Hey, this guy was telling the truth."'

Once considered cutting-edge science, bite-mark comparisons have been under fire for more than a decade. Across the country, at least 11 prisoners convicted of rape or murder based largely on bite mark-comparisons were exonerated - eight of them with DNA evidence. At least five other men more were proved innocent as they sat in prison awaiting trials.

Some forensic dentists have renounced the practice altogether, while many say it's still a useful tool if applied properly.

While Prade's attorneys say the new test is proof that Prade is innocent, prosecutors are arguing that the male DNA could have gotten on the coat before or after Margo Prade was killed, although further testing on other parts of the lab coat didn't turn up any male DNA.

Both sides have good arguments, said Mitchell Holland, director of Penn State's forensic science college. 'That DNA source is not from the captain,' he said. 'What's not clear is whether that DNA was saliva deposited from the bite mark during the crime.'

He said one way for the defense to strengthen its argument would be to get DNA profiles on as many detectives, forensic analysts and lawyers who may have handled the lab coat since the killing in an effort to exclude them as matches, too.

Margo Prade, a 41-year-old prominent Akron doctor, was found slumped in her minivan outside her office on Nov. 26, 1997. Her death was approximately seven months after their divorce. She had been shot six times and had a bite mark on the back of her arm that suggested she fought her attacker.

There were no witnesses and no fingerprints, and the murder weapon was never found.

Among evidence presented against him, prosecutors accused him of wiretapping her phone, hiring a private investigator to follow her, Prade failing a polygraph exam and detectives having found a scribbled debts on a slip of paper and then subtracting his ex-wife's $75,000 insurance proceeds before her death.

Prade, a 30-year veteran of the Akron police department, was initially publicly exonerated. But, he was arrested three months after the murder, with officials citing forensic evidence that later turned out to be bite-mark analysis.

At Prade's trial, prosecutors hinged much of their case on the bite mark, which left an impression through Margo Prade's blouse and lab coat.

A forensic dentist testified for the prosecution that he was sure Prade was responsible for the mark, while a defense expert said that his teeth, which were dentures, couldn't have left it, finding his set too loose to have been able to bite.

A third expert for the prosecution said there was no way to be certain that Prade made the mark but that it was consistent with his teeth.

Jurors found Prade guilty of aggravated murder after deliberating for less than six hours following the week-long trial, and Prade was sentenced to life in prison; he will not be eligible for parole until 2024.

Prade said that 14 years in prison, mostly amid the general population, has been 'hell on Earth.' 'I mean, it's one thing if someone is guilty of something to be here, but to be not guilty and here is even worse,' he said.

Richard Souviron, a forensic dentist in Coral Gables, Fla., whose bite-mark analysis helped convict serial killer Ted Bundy in 1979, said he's troubled by Prade's case, considering the bite on Margo Prade was made through two layers of clothing.

He also said that responsible forensic dentists don't tell jurors that a suspect's teeth exactly match bite marks on a victim, adding that many bite marks can leave similar impressions.

'You cannot make a positive match between a bite mark and a suspect to the exclusion of everyone in the world. It can't be done,' he said. 'And if you go through two layers of clothing ... you're going to have much less detail.'

In Bundy's case, Souviron compared bite marks, including three unique scrape marks, found on the body of Lisa Levy, a Florida State University student who had been beaten, strangled and sexually assaulted in a sorority house. Three of Bundy's chipped teeth matched three unique scrapes on the bite.

In other cases, forensic dentists have used a similar method of comparison, but have been wrong. Even with competing testimony that bite marks didn't match the people on trial, juries found them guilty.

'With a bite mark, you can literally take a tracing or a model (of teeth) and a jury can sit there and put them together and say, `Yeah, I see," Souviron said. 'It's very, very powerful and very scary if you're wrong.'

Original report here

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Moronic NYC cops -- as big a problem as the crooks

Officers' gunfire injured nine passers-by while gunman fired no more bullets; Evidence shows Johnson did not fire at police; One victim shot by police, Robert Asika, said officers were 'firing randomly'

New York police are coming under fire for their handling of Friday’s shooting near the Empire State Building after officers injured nine passers-by as they targeted a gunman who’d shot dead his former boss minutes earlier.

When two armed police confronted Jeffrey Johnson, 58, minutes after he’d fatally shot his ex-boss, Johnson drew his caliber .45 handgun.

However, ballistics evidence suggests that Johnson did not fire his gun, as witnesses previously testified, meaning that all of the injured by-standers were hit by police gunfire - either stray or ricocheting bullets.

'It appears that all nine of the victims were struck either by fragments or by bullets fired by police,' New York's police chief, Commissioner Ray Kelly confirmed today.

The incident began around 9 a.m. yesterday morning when the disgruntled employee hid behind a car and then pulled out a pistol and shot his 41-year-old ex-boss Steven Ercolino in the head. After Ercolino fell to the ground, Johnson stood over him and shot four more times, a witness told investigators.

The gunman tried to escape but nearby police - alerted by construction workers who'd witnessed the assassination - gunned him down.

Kelly, the police commissioner, said the officers who confronted Johnson had 'a gun right in their face' and 'responded quickly, and they responded appropriately.' 'These officers, having looked at the tape myself, had absolutely no choice,' he said.

Acting immediately, the officers discharged 14 rounds and killed the gunman.

Johnson was struck at least seven times, of which police said some may have been exit wounds.

Johnson's gun held seven rounds, ballistics evidence showed. He fired five times at Ercolino, one round was still in the gun and one was ejected when officers secured it, authorities said.

None of the passers-by's injuries were life-threatening, police said. The seven men and two women injured - whose ages ranged from 20 to 56 - were whisked away to nearby hospitals. Six of the victims had been released by Friday evening.

In the aftermath of yesterday's terror, victims and witnesses are now suggesting that the police were too indiscriminate with their firing.

23-year-old Robert Asika was one of the nine injured; he was shot as he sold tickets for City Sights. He accused police of ‘shooting randomly’ and told the Guardian: ‘If you wanna aim at the target, you got to know what you're doing because it's the street. I could have been dead right now. I could have been dead.'

Asika said that he didn’t start running when he saw others fleeing because he wanted to know what was going on. He was then shot in the right elbow.

Terrified for his life, Asika tried to crawl to the other side of the street. The 23-year-old told the Guardian: ‘I’d never been scared like that in my whole life.’

While being treated in hospital, Asika was visited by Mayor Bloomberg but confirmed that he has received no apology from police.

Robert Neequaye was also among the victims caught up in the shooting. His colleague, Rufai Mohammed, told the Wall Street Journal that he hoped the police ‘would be a little more cautious next time.’ Mohammed added that he knew the police were doing their work and said he wasn’t blaming them.

Another victim, Media Rosario, 43, had just emerged from the subway when she was shot, reported the Wall Street Journal.

Erica Solar, a mother-of-two who works as a receptionist on East 37th Street, was headed to a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts when a stray bullet hit her in the back of her left knee.

Solar’s neighbour, Christopher Collins, who coincidentally stumbled upon her as she lay bleeding in the street, recalled to the Journal how she was nervous and kept asking if she would survive.

The chaotic shootout in one of the busiest intersections in Manhattan was captured in shocking video footage.

Original report here

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

American justice as “the administration of things”

This morning I spent time with a some men aged 80+ at a small roundtable discussion, and the topic dealt with the modern application of Claude-Henri de Rouvroy Saint-Simon’s dictum that “the government of men must be replaced by the administration of things.” While the topic of discussion dealt mostly with the Obama administration’s health care law, nonetheless I could see how it fits exactly into the modern American “justice” system and how it swallows millions of people while many of us watch in horror.

Saint-Simon believed that modern society should be governed by bureaucracies guided by the principles of science, and he certainly found kindred souls within the Progressive Movement in the United States about the turn of the 20th Century. Progressives pictured a state in which wise, science-guided bureaucrats led a system that would replace the entrepreneurial, commerce-driven American society, placing administration into the hands of selfless “experts” who would “professionalize” various occupations and rid the economy and greater society of the messiness that presently engulfed it.

The system of justice did not escape the desire of Progressives for “the rule of things,” and over the years, the “experts” have “captured” the governing apparati. Professional prosecutors supposedly trained in all things pertaining to “scientific justice” rule the grand juries, trials, and then are “promoted” to the office of judge. For the most part, things are long decided any case ever goes to a jury (if it ever is heard by a jury), as juries tend to be “ignorant of scientific principles” and are anachronisms at best. While the district attorneys in the state system are elected and U.S. attorneys are appointed by the president, the nuts-and-bolts of criminal justice is in the hands of assistant prosecutors who essentially have lifetime tenure, are protected from liability from any wrongful actions that might victimize innocent people. If any group of people reflect Saint-Simon’s “the rule of things,” it is the assistant prosecutors that relentlessly grind the gears of the system and grind people into oblivion in the process.

Social scientists have various theories to explain why systems created with checks and balances ultimately degenerate into something a bureaucratic near-dictatorship that supposedly was to be prevented by those same checks and balances. As I see it, we are observing an extension of what economists call “Capture Theory,” in which the regulatory apparati are “captured” by the very entities that are supposed to be regulated. Economist Murray N. Rothbard and others from the Austrian School have added that monopolies tend to be “captured” by their employees, and government certainly qualifies as a monopoly. (I do find it interesting and disconcerting that many economists even today stubbornly believe that the monopoly called government can effectively regulate what it calls economic monopolies and force them to operate as “competitive” entities. Just step back and think about it.)

Prosecutors have had plenty of help as they have quietly and brutally “captured” the “justice” system. Anglo-American law that was here at the founding of this country, with its emphasis upon “due process of law” and “the rights of the accused,” not always is effective at nailing those who are guilty of wrongdoing. The public has dealt with the perception that “loopholes” in the law allow some guilty people to go free by making it harder all accused people to be able to fight charges against them. Politicians, who have found that being “tough on crime” also enhances their changes of be elected and re-elected, have created thousands of new “crimes,” most of them fitting in the category of the failure of an individual to carry out a “public duty” — as defined by politicians and other Progressives.

Obviously, when politicians eliminates the checks and balances and hand authority to tenured and careerist bureaucrats, the system that will come about is one that ultimately will benefit the bureaucrats, and we clearly see that in American justice today. People who are charged with crimes either must use their own resources to fight charges or depend upon court-appointed lawyers who more than not are going to want to curry favor with prosecutors and judges. The monies these lawyers are allotted generally cannot come close to covering the cost of a trial, so the only way for these attorneys to cover their own costs is to quickly plead out their clients, which is one reason that 97 percent of federal cases and 95 percent of state cases end in plea bargains.

Prosecutors, on the other hand, tend to capture the personal benefits of a conviction or guilty plea. (No, it is increasingly rare that “society” shares the benefits, unless one believes that incarcerating non-violent offenders such as drug users confers a “benefit” upon a society that now must pay to house and feed them.) High conviction rates lead to increases in salary, promotions and prestige. Often, they lead to higher political office or a slot with a prestigious (and well-paying) law firm.

As for the “experts” that were supposed to “modernize” investigations and enable prosecutors to better pinpoint proof of guilt, all too often we have seen agents of the government who supposedly were “doing science” actually engage in outright quackery. Radley’s exposure of Mississippi “forensic pathologist” Steven Hayne and “forensic dentist” Michael West as being people who would come up with unbelievable theories to support whatever prosecutors wanted is only a tiny part of the fraud that government “experts” have perpetrated. The highly-publicized problems with the FBI Crime Lab, and corruption in state and even private labs demonstrate once again that the so-called “experts” are not what Progressives want us to believe that they are.

In the end, what occurs is an outright conviction machine that swallows the guilty and the innocent. The Progressive vision was not supposed to turn into this sort of thing, nor was the “administration of things” supposed to morph into a system of institutionalized injustice. Yet, here it is.

I also would like to comment on Lenore’s earlier post on the woman’s conviction because her child drew images with chalk. A bureaucratic system based upon “the administration of things” is going to employ people in positions of authority who operate with a bureaucratic mentality in which rules become those things of highest order. A rule was broken; someone must be punished. Unfortunately, the few people who wish to take a hard look at the wreckage created by this mentality are written off as being “soft on crime.”

Original report here

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Bozo cops only; others need not apply

This is not an unusual theory in police jurisdictions

Robert Jordan wanted to be a New London, Connecticut police officer so he took the exam and passed with flying colors. And was rejected because his IQ was too high.

Since then, according to an ABC News article, a lower court and The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York have agreed with the city's decision.

He was rejected "on the theory that those who scored too high could get bored with police work and leave soon after undergoing costly training."

Based on the ever growing police state as evidenced by ever growing nationwide reports of virtually unchecked and unpunished police brutality and misconduct against citizens libertarians have a different theory.

Robert Jordan wasn't dumb enough. A smart cop might begin to question the requirement of today's uniformed cops to blindly, mindlessly, stupidly follow their master's orders.

They might question why their jobs amount to being little more than tax collectors for their communities by writing tickets for every minuscule infraction with a fine attached to it.

They might question why so much of their job entails acting like a loan shark's knee-capping enforcer whenever a citizen fails to kowtow in their presence.

They might question why they're enforcing blatantly immoral victimless crime laws instead of protecting individuals' rights.

And perhaps worst of all, they might be smart enough to follow up on their questions and become involved with organizations like the anti-drug war Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) or Oath Keepers who vow not to obey illegal orders.

"The average score nationally for police officers," the article reports, is "just a little above average."

Libertarians may suspect that it's significantly below average.

But perhaps the worst part of the circuit court's ruling against Jordan was "the city did not discriminate against Robert Jordan because the same standards were applied to everyone who took the test."

Southern segregationists must be wondering where this cracker judge was when they needed him back in the pre-Civil Rights Movement days.

He could have ruled: "Jim Crow Laws do not discriminate against Old Black Joe because the same standards were applied to every Negro who lives in the South."

One certain hallmark of a police state is populating the lowest police ranks with mindless thugs whose primary job is not to protect rights but to manipulate, control and intimidate the general population.

Robert Jordan should consider himself fortunate to be rejected.

Original report here

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Bleed’em, plead’em and lie”: The state of California vs. Robert Adams

The State of California, which gave us such outrages as the McMartin Case and the Kerns County prosecutions, claims to have learned its lesson, and the Sacramento Bee has solemnly assured its readers that the Bee no longer runs over the cliff when someone is accused of child molestation. That self-congratulatory statement came as the Bee once again stood on the edge of the cliff and jumped.

As of this writing, Robert Adams, the former headmaster of the now-shuttered Creative Frontiers School in Citrus Heights, is charged with child molestation, although the State of California still has not turned over its “evidence” to the defense, despite the fact that it has had this case for more than a year. (This is part of the “bleed ‘em” strategy that prosecutors employ. When they don’t have a case, they lie and hide evidence so that the proceedings will drag out and the defendant will plead to something just to get this thing behind him. It is a smarmy strategy, but most American prosecutors fall into the “smarmy” category, so it all fits together perfectly.)

So it was that the Bee triumphantly claimed that since McMartin, everyone in the system now is careful not to make false accusations. Really. The Bee proclaimed:

The legacy of the notorious McMartin Preschool case of the 1980s is playing out this week in Sacramento.

As the principal of a private elementary school in Citrus Heights stands accused of molesting his students, authorities are warning the school’s parents against aggressively questioning their children about the man they affectionately know as “Mr. Bob.”

It is the exact opposite of what police asked parents to do during the McMartin case, in which members of a Southern California family who ran a highly regarded preschool in Manhattan Beach were charged with numerous acts of sexual abuse.

The Bee continued:

The state Department of Social Services, in a complaint filed in support of revoking the preschool’s license, accuses Adams of “inappropriate physical and sexual contact with female children” on “numerous occasions” beginning in 1997. The complaint cites two specific allegations, including the one by Mertens, and other more general accusations. Those include Adams touching children’s bodies under their shirts and down their pants, and lying with female children on a mat in a secluded area.

However, the article went on to describe how much better investigators do than they did 30 years ago when the McMartin allegations broke out. I must admit, having been involved with a number of faux child molestation cases against innocent people, that the following statement from the newspaper is a howler:

In response to the McMartin debacle, authorities across the country established “child advocacy centers” with special rooms where youngsters can be questioned by trained psychologists or law enforcement specialists.

Sorry, folks, it does not work that way. Most Child Advocacy Center interviewers are poorly-trained, and often are people with an agenda. The two CACs that were involved in the Tonya Craft case had interviewers asking leading and manipulative questions and admitted proudly on the stand that they could not be bothered to have more training or to read any relevant academic and research literature that dealt with their interviews and interviewing techniques. I include the transcript of an interview of Tonya Craft’s six-year-old (at the time) daughter so that readers can see a CAC “expert” at work. It is pretty disgusting.

(Chris Arnt, the lead prosecutor in the Craft case, managed to get six indictments against Craft from this interview.)

Here is what the executive editor of the Bee, Joyce Terhaar, wrote right after the investigation began and the school was closed:

The shadow of the McMartin Preschool fiasco hung over Sacramento law enforcement and media last week.

You likely followed the news of the abrupt closure Monday of a private elementary school in Citrus Heights because of allegations the principal molested students beginning in 1997.

Just as law enforcement learned from the McMartin molestation allegations in the 1980s, and changed its investigative approach in such cases, the media learned to be more skeptical.

Yes, the Bee was so skeptical of the charges that soon after Terhaar’s column that it ran a story claiming that Adams had faked his credentials, thus helping to cement in the minds of its readers that the guy was a fraud, which meant he must be guilty of child molestation. However, when Adams produced the documentation that showed he had the educational credentials that he had claimed, the Bee was too busy to run a correction. (I would add that the Sacramento television news stations have been no better than the Bee, but since the Bee claims to always have a reasoned and correct perspective about nearly everything, I figure that this paper should be held to higher standards than the makeup-slathered folks we see on the evening news.)

Lest anyone think the Bee has simply tried to objectively cover this case, this lead in an article from Sam Stanton should put things into perspective:

On a chilly December day when Bob Adams normally might be thinking about a holiday pageant at his family’s school, he found himself walking into court again to deal with charges that he is a child molester.

He goes on:

Adams faces six felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 and one misdemeanor count of annoying or molesting a child under 18.

Court documents indicate Adams was first investigated in connection with molestation allegations in 2000, but it was not until September that charges were filed accusing him of molesting girls as young as 6 or 7 in alleged incidents dating back to 1996.

Yes, everything Stanton wrote is true, but the way he puts it leaves little doubt he believes Adams is guilty.

At this point the reader might ask me, “Why do you think this guy is innocent?” I use the word “innocence” carefully, but I have no doubt. And neither does the writer, Christian Peet, who has published a number of excellent blog posts that go into this case — and the accusers — into detail. It is Peet, not the faux journalists at the Sacramento Bee, who has done the digging and done the due diligence that the ancients once called research. (They are too busy to do research at the Bee, instead being satisfied with repeating the press releases from the police and Sacramento County prosecutors.)

Peet has an excellent post from last May, and I include a few excerpts:

Prosecutors’ decision to build a case against Adams even in the wake of the public implosion of their original star witness (and, by her own account, their “only witness“), Irma Mertens, has only solidified public doubt about the veracity of the State’s case.

Mertens, a volunteer at Creative Frontiers, who was passed over for paid employment prior to making her felony allegations against Adams in July 2011, went on to embarrass social services and police by giving a string of newspaper and television interviews in which she embellished and contradicted previous statements released to the media, providing sudden new “details” such as watching Adams stick his thumb in a child’s rectum,3 all within 48 hours of authorities having released her original allegations in a press packet that was unblinkingly trumpeted by local papers and recycled by major media across the US and into the UK, destroying the names of the prestigious 35-year-old school and branding its founder, for the rest of his life, an accused child molester.

I would urge readers to go through Peet’s account of the lurid tales that Mertens told the media — and how those tales later fell apart, although one never would guess that from reading the Bee or watching the news in Sacramento. Peet also debunks the notion that the police were careful in their investigation:

Just three days after Creative Frontiers was closed, an article at the Sacramento Bee, as if written by the prosecution itself, sought to reassure the public that city and county authorities, despite appearances, weren’t repeating the same mistakes. Declared the headline: “McMartin Preschool abuse-case fiasco led to new child interview techniques.”

“In [the Mcmartin Preschool] case,” write reporters Hubert and Stanton, “following an initial accusation from one mother, police sent form letters to more than 200 parents at the preschool, urging them to question their children about possible sexual abuse.” The difference, however, between these troubling aspects of McMartin and those of Creative Frontiers, is scarcely any difference at all. Instead of Judy Johnson making false allegations in 1983, we have Irma Mertens making false allegations in 2011. Instead of a telephone-tree panic between parents, we have online comments at the Sacramento Bee and other digital newspapers.

Likewise only updated technology separates the ill-advised tactics of the police departments in each case. In 1983 police in Manhattan Beach mailed parents 200 form letters. In 2011, Citrus Heights police set up an online form, making the reporting of allegations as easy as clicking of a mouse.

At this writing, the defense STILL does not have the prosecution files on the case, which places the State of California in violation of the Brady ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. Not that prosecutors ever have worried about obeying the law, but it should be noted that the Bee has not reported on this legal transgression.

Peet’s blogging on this case has been extremely valuable, as he has put it into perspective and, like me, he points out the dishonesty and hypocrisy of the Bee’s coverage. He takes apart the allegations and the statements by police and accusers better than I could do. So if you want to better understand why I believe that the State of California is perpetuating a fraud and is being aided and abetted by the Sacramento Bee, read Peet’s work.

Original report here

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Voluntaryist Ademo guilty, sentenced for public photography

The Manchester, New Hampshire chapter of the American Police State got what it wanted this week, another nail in freedom's coffin, pounded in by a dozen jury members conned into believing that laws exist in society for the sole purpose of being enforced by cops even though they knew of their right to nullify.

Adam "Ademo" Mueller was convicted Monday and sentenced Wednesday to three months incarceration for the victimless "crime" of recording public officials performing their public duties in a public place, specifically police being police in a police station.

The run-up to this Orwellian farce was covered in NH Voluntaryist jailed, faces 21 years for 'wiretapping' and details are available at Huffington Post.

Ademo was charged with three counts of "wiretapping," a 120 year old law that has nothing whatever to do with photography.

Wiretapping goes back to 1890. Tapping a telephone line required a wire ending in two taps, typically a pair of alligator clips. Classically, wiretapping occurred when a person gained access to the basement of an apartment or office building where the telephone routing box was located, identified the wires leading to the target phone and attached a clip to each. The wiretapper could then connect his own receiver to the other end of the wire and listen in to conversations.

Police could do this only after they obtained a warrant from a judge based on strong probable cause.

Today the concept, meaning and purpose of wiretapping have been so redefined, perverted and manipulated that it bears no resemblance to its original intent.

Wiretapping was originally used to help the police catch criminals. Today it is widely used across America as a cynical ploy to prosecute responsible citizens trying to civilize their police departments by exposing their criminal behaviors.

Politically elected officials in towns and cities all across America have allowed, and even encouraged, their police departments to run roughshod over the very populations they once swore an oath to protect and serve.

Ademo is yet another victim of the law enforcement, prosecutorial and judicial establishments who will stop at nothing to hide their abuse, corruption, brutality and addiction to carte blanche power from public view.

fortunately, the judge is allowing Ademo to serve his sentence concurrently with his present incarceration for "chalking," an earlier episode of peaceful civil disobedience during another attempt to hold Manchester's Police State gang members accountable for their actions.

Original report here

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Costs and benefits of modern “sex crime” witch hunts

People of our present era like to believe that they are sophisticated, intelligent, and incapable of engaging in the kind of witch hunts that made Salem, Massachusetts, famous, yet in the past 30 years American law enforcement and prosecutors have pursued what only could be described as witch hunts, as they have railroaded innocent people into prison for crimes that clearly have not occurred. There are the more famous witch hunts, such as the McMartin and Kern County cases in California, the Little Rascals Case in North Carolina, the Grant Snowden case in Florida, the witch hunt of Wenatchee, Washington, and many more.

In each of these cases, people have been accused of the most sordid and horrible kinds of child molestation, from outright rape to shoving swords into the rectums of children (and, amazingly, leaving absolutely no trace of injury), cooking babies in microwave ovens, engaging in Satanic rituals in the middle of the day at day care centers, throwing children into shark-infested waters, and more. We would like to think that there at least would be some physical or corroborating evidence for such actions, but these “crimes” were pursued even though nothing seemed changed about the children.

Often, the charges seem to be absolutely contrived. In Dade County, Georgia, for example, Brad Wade was accused of sexually molesting a minor on a very short stretch of I-59 while simultaneously driving more than 60 mph. (While he had been driving in from Alabama, the alleged molestation took place only in Georgia.) That might seem a bit strange, but when one realizes that Alabama authorities had recognized that the accusations and their backgrounds (yet another child custody fight) simply did not make sense, so Northwest Georgia authorities, which push nearly every sexual abuse accusation (as long as the accused is not politically-connected), eagerly jumped on the charges and Wade is serving a lengthy sentence in a Georgia prison.

When one steps back and takes a hard look at these cases, it is apparent that the authorities have depended upon mass hysteria and a news media that soaks up every story, no matter how contrived it might be. Because I have no expertise in psychology (except in dealing with four internationally-adopted teenagers in my home), I am reluctant to deal with psychological aspects of witch hunts except to say that people really do come to believe things that physically seem to violate laws of time and space.

I turn, instead, t0 those things where I do have more formal experience, the cost and benefit patterns that accompany these witch hunts, patterns that would interest an economist like me. Accompanying that curiosity are some questions that never seem to be asked when the hysteria breaks out:

* Why is corroborating evidence ignored, even when it absolutely points to the falsity of the charges?

* Are there any overt patterns that are seen time and again when authorities go after people accused of these horrific things?

* Does anyone benefit, financially, professionally, or otherwise, from the pursuing of these charges?

If we can answer these questions, then we also are able to get a clearer picture of why these charges are levied and why the authorities are hellbent on bird-dogging them, even in the face of corroborating evidence that absolutely debunks the accusations. Furthermore, we might get a better sense of why jurors in such cases are likely to convict innocent people.

In the situation of bogus child molestation charges, there really is a Ground Zero: the Child Abuse Protection and Treatment Act of 1974, commonly known as the Mondale Act. If ever there were an outright federal assault on the Rights of the Accused which came out of Anglo-American Law, it was this law. Congress passed it, of course, because Sen. Walter Mondale (who was up for re-election) claimed that child abuse was epidemic and the federal government had to step in to put an end to this horror.

Now, Mondale was right in saying that there always are horrific cases of child abuse and molestation, and I can say, as one who has been involved in four international adoptions, that such outrages occur inside and outside the USA. No one will dispute that fact. However, the federal “solution” to this problem has been to create huge incentives and moral hazards for false accusations. This is a law that not only eviscerated the Rights of the Accused, but also created incentives for local and state governments to make money and for individuals employed in that system to enhance their own personal prospects.

Economists are fond of saying that incentives matter, and CAPTA and similar laws passed in its wake (including the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and beyond) created numerous financial and personal incentives for police and prosecutors to emphasize these kinds of cases. At the same time, CAPTA lowered the legal threshold for prosecution and denied defendants the right to bring corroborating evidence that might prove exculpatory.

For example, authorities claimed that molested and abused children would be traumatized by having to be in the same courtroom with their alleged abuser, so children often would testify from the judge’s chamber via a closed-circuit television. Such an arrangement only served to make the defendant look to be such a monster that he or she had to be guilty. (The U.S. Supreme Court struck down this practice, saying that it deprived the defendants of the Sixth Amendment right to face one’s accuser.)

The Mondale Act also told states receiving federal money to eliminate the requirement for corroborating evidence, which mean that the accusation itself would constitute all of the proof needed for a conviction, which lowered the legal standard in criminal cases to something akin to preponderance of the evidence, the civil standard, instead of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The Rape Shield laws, which also have applied to sexual abuse cases, encouraged judges to disallow evidence such as the accuser having a history of making false charges, and the courts also permitted the admission of hearsay evidence, especially when it would benefit the prosecution’s case.

We should not be surprised at the results, as numerous people have been wrongfully convicted for something that never happened. Because American courts tend to overturn convictions on issues of procedure and not guilt or innocence, one can say with certainty that in the United States of America today, actual innocence no longer is a legitimate defense, at least in some kinds of cases. Furthermore, the appeals courts constantly are looking for reasons to impose “finality,” which means that they wash their hands of the evidence and the hard fact that those appealing their convictions might well be innocent.

While it almost is impossible statistically to trace the patterns of accusations and convictions, nonetheless we have seen the development of cost and benefit patterns that have followed in the wake of the changes in how such cases proceed. We should remember that witch hunts don’t occur because people mysteriously become hysterical en mass. They happen, instead, because individuals benefit from making and pursuing these charges, and in the case of so-called sex crimes, the benefits can be huge.

Before looking at the benefits, however, let us examine who bears the costs. People who are accused either must depend upon a public defender or must pay for legal representation from their own resources, and it does not take long for the money spigot to run dry. Tonya Craft literally had close to a million dollars to spend on her defense, and she still ran out of funds before the case even came to trial. In the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case, each of the three defendants had to spend more than $1 million apiece just to try to debunk what were transparently-false charges.

In cases involving child molestation or rape, an ordinary criminal defense attorney usually is not enough, as these are very difficult cases to defend because the accused already has been demonized in the media and by prosecutors, and the laws governing such cases are different than most laws regarding alleged criminal conduct. For example, if one is charged with robbery or murder, an actual robbery or murder must take place, and then the question for the jury is whether or not the defendant is the guilty party.

The sex crime cases, however, have such a low threshold of proof that real-live evidence of such an assault actually having occurred is not needed; all that is necessary is an accusation, and the law provides plenty of incentives for people to make false accusations for purposes of revenge or, in child custody cases, to get the other person out of the way.

The costs can be substantial. I know one attorney who specializes in such cases who requires a down payment up front of $100,000. Since few people keep $100K in spare change, getting the funds is very, very difficult. Then there a experts in forensics, interviewing, and the like who also do not testify for free. One of the reasons that so many people plead to something in such cases is that they do not have the personal resources to fight the charges.

On the benefit side, one only has to think of Janet Reno, Ed Jaegels, Scott Harshbarger (who prosecuted the notorious Fells Acres Case in Massachusetts), and Gary A. Riesen, the Chelan County, Washington, district attorney who was re-elected until his retirement last year by voters despite his “witch hunt” prosecutions. Reno rode her wrongful convictions to the position of U.S. Attorney General, Jaegels has been a conservative icon in California, and Harshbarger rose to prominence in national Democratic Party circles.

Nancy Lamb, who pursued the Little Rascals Case — the most expensive criminal case in the history of North Carolina — was lionized in the media and even now, according to North Carolina’s Judicial District 1 website, remains as a prosecutor who “specializes in child abuse.” In all of these cases, the individual prosecutors benefited from prosecuting innocent people. None had to face lawsuits, and none were brought up before their various state bars for discipline.

Their actions wasted millions of dollars, destroyed individual lives and families, and unnecessarily created real victims. None paid anything resembling a personal price. Likewise, those employed by the various Child Protective Services agencies and the Children’s Advocacy Centers — all of which were created by federal legislation — are immune from lawsuits and face almost no legal scrutiny for their aggressive questioning that literally demands that children “disclose” abuse, even when the children being questioned vociferously deny that any abuse even happened.

When patterns of costs and benefits are so skewed, and when taxpayers are forced to fund witch hunts while individuals are forced to pay for their own defense, we should not be surprised that witch hunts continue to occur on a regular basis. Witch hunts are just one more example of how the political classes of Washington, D.C., in the name of “doing something” actually create situations in which the so-called cure is worse than the disease.

Original report here

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Dozens of innocent federal prisoners could be freed

Dozens of federal prisoners who are locked up even though prosecutors concede they are "legally innocent" could soon be released under new orders from the U.S. Justice Department.

The department confirmed Monday that it had instructed its lawyers to abandon legal objections that could have blocked — or at least delayed — the inmates from being set free. In a court filing , the department said it had "reconsidered its position," and that it would drop its legal arguments "in the interests of justice."

The shift follows a USA TODAY investigation in June that identified more than 60 people who were imprisoned for something an appeals court later determined was not a federal crime. The investigation found that the Justice Department had done almost nothing to identify those prisoners — many of whom did not know they were innocent — and had argued in court that the men were innocent but should remain imprisoned anyway.

Neither Justice Department lawyers nor defense attorneys would speculate Monday how many innocent prisoners eventually might be released. Some who were convicted of other crimes might receive shorter sentences; others might be tried for different offenses.

Chris Brook, the legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina, called the move "an encouraging first step," but said "much more has to be done for these wrongly incarcerated individuals." He said the department still had not offered to identify prisoners who were sent to prison for something that turned out not to be a federal crime.

Federal law bans people from having a gun if they have previously been convicted of a crime that could have put them in prison for more than a year. In North Carolina, however, state law set the maximum punishment for a crime based in part on the criminal record of whoever committed it, meaning some people who committed crimes such as possessing cocaine faced sentences of more than a year, while those with shorter records face only a few months.

For years, federal courts there said that didn't matter. If someone with a long record could have gone to prison for more than a year, then all who had committed that crime are felons and cannot legally have a gun, the courts maintained. But last year, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals said judges had been getting the law wrong: Only people who could have faced more than a year in prison for their crimes qualify as felons. Its decision meant thousands of low-level offenders are not committing a federal crime by having a gun.

In many cases, prosecutors did not dispute that prisoners convicted of gun possession before that decision were innocent, but argued that they should remain locked up because of strict laws that limit when and how inmates can challenge their convictions. The department's new instructions directed prosecutors to drop those arguments.

Justice spokeswoman Adora Andy said the department had "decided to take a litigating position designed to accelerate relief for defendants in these cases who, by virtue of a subsequent court decision, are no longer guilty of a federal crime." She declined to elaborate on the details of the department's instruction. In at least one case on Monday, the government asked a court to set aside a defendant's gun possession conviction.

The shift was met with cautious praise Monday from defense lawyers scrambling to file challenges based on the court's ruling. Eric Placke, an assistant federal public defender in Greensboro, N.C., said it was "an appropriate response, a fair response, by allowing things to be handled on the merits rather than based just on procedural defenses."

One of those prisoners, Travis Bowman, said in an e-mail that he was hoping for "another chance at life" if his gun possession conviction is overturned. Bowman was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm; he was arrested after a high-speed police chase through rural Murphy, N.C. Under the appeals court's ruling, his prior convictions weren't serious enough to make having a gun a crime.

Bowman said he didn't know he was innocent until USA TODAY contacted him earlier this year. He later asked a federal judge in North Carolina to release him. "If that happens, I got so much stuff I wanna do with my life," he said.

Many of the practical effects of the Justice Department's new instructions remained unclear on Monday.

The legal issue underlying the gun possession cases could also have implications for many other federal inmates. That's because a person's felony record plays a key role in deciding how long a prison sentence he will receive when he's convicted of a federal crime. Hundreds of inmates have already gone to court arguing their prison sentences are too long because at least one of their prior convictions no longer qualifies as a felony under the appeals court's decision.

The ACLU, which last week asked Justice officials to do more to help the inmates, estimated last week that as many as 3,000 people could be eligible to either be released or have their sentences reduced. because of the 4th Circuit's decision. The department did not say on Monday whether it would also drop its legal objections in those cases.

Original report here

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Scottsdale Police Used Excessive Force in '08 Shooting of Man Left as Paraplegic, Judge Rules

Scottsdale police used excessive force in 2008 when they shot a man in the back without a warning, rendering him a paraplegic, a judge has ruled.

David Hulstedt, who was 35 at the time of the shooting, filed a $40 million lawsuit against the city in 2009.

An August 6 ruling in the suit by U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow describes how police showed up to Hulstedt's north Scottsdale home because they were concerned about the safety of the man's 2-year-old daughter, but then caused the girl to be injured in a fall when they shot Hulstedt for no good reason.

One officer may have lied in his statements about the incident to make the shooting seem justified, the judge's ruling states.

The incident unfolded on November 7, 2008, after Hulstedt had a mental breakdown during a fight with his parents.

Under treatment for anxiety and paranoid schizophrenia, he had seen his doctor that morning. At 12:20 p.m., he called police saying there was an "emergency" and he needed then-Governor Janet Napolitano to come to the home. A dispatcher, worried about the baby she heard crying in the background, sent out a top alert to police, who ultimately surrounded the home near Dixileta and 68th Street.

Hulstedt's parents fled the home on the advice of police, and his dad, Walt, told cops that his son had threatened to throw the girl out of a window. Hulstedt opened a door to the house several times, talking to a negotiation team. He reportedly told one officer he would "pile-drive" his daughter into the ground unless his brother was sent to the home.

Twenty minutes later, at about 2 p.m., he told cops he was coming out. But when he did, he held his baby girl over his head. Officers yelled to put the kid down.

One officer later told investigators he could have shot Hulstedt with a Taser, but he was worried the shock would cause the man to drop the girl, injuring her.
hulstedt 2.JPG

Sergeant James Dorer, standing 24 feet away, and Sergeant Richard Slavin, 96 feet away, decided to open fire. Of the four shots they fired, three hit Hulstedt from behind. His daughter suffered a skull fracture when she fell six feet to the pavement.

The failure to issue a warning before shooting the unarmed man was bad enough, Snow stated.

But "by shooting David, the officers caused the very harm that a reasonable officer could believe that David posed to (the child)," Snow wrote.

Snow's ruling awarded summary judgment to the paralyzed man on his claims that Scottsdale PD had committed excessive force and battery. Snow dismissed several of the lawsuit's claims against officers and the city of Scottsdale, but allowed several others to stand for a potential upcoming trial.

Alan Simpson, attorney for the Hulstedts, says it's too early to declare victory in the case because the city has appealed Snow's ruling. He declined further comment, except to say that Snow seemed to "appreciate" the rarity of a summary judgment order in a case like this.

Scottsdale police also declined comment, noting that the case was still pending.

Snow's ruling declined to dismiss one of the lawsuit's claims that Officer Daniel Greene, one of the officers at the scene, had "intentionally lied" about the facts of the shooting.

Greene told fellow officers who interviewed him that it "appeared that David had 'smashed her face,' and that 'her left side of her face was deformed.'" Greene stated twice that blood was coming from the left side of her face, and that Hulstedt had dropped the girl from a height of only two-to-three feet, implying that her injuries couldn't have come from the fall.

Greene's incorrect statements were repeated to the public by the department's spokesman.

"The toddler's head injury was not a result from the fall that occurred when police shot at the suspect," Sergeant Mark Clark told an Arizona Republic reporter at the time.

The truth was plainly seen, however, in a video of the incident made by the Hulstedt's neighbor, Michael Pospisil. Hulstedt's holding the girl above his head, then drops her immediately after the first "pop" of a gunshot.

"A reasonable jury could find that Officer Greene fabricated his statement to convince others that (the girl) was not injured in the fall and that David had injured her in the house, in an effort to make the officers appear justified in shooting David," Snow wrote.

If true, Snow noted, the lie wasn't just a corrupt act to protect a cop's buddies. It may have impeded medical care for the girl because paramedics didn't get the correct info about what happened to her. As it was, the girl was released from the hospital a few days later and has apparently recovered from her injuries -- unlike her father, who was paralyzed.

If this case shows that Snow doesn't always side with law enforcement, opponents of Sheriff Joe Arpaio may want to take note: Snow's the same judge now pondering what to do in the Arpaio racial profiling case.

Original report here

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Misconduct by NY Prosecutors, Once Again

In March 2000, a tough guy named Petros Bedi was convicted of shooting a man dead in an Astoria nightclub. For this and other crimes, he is now serving 42 1/2 years in prison.

The crucial witness against Mr. Bedi agreed to testify only after the police arrested him on charges of dealing drugs.

During Mr. Bedi’s trial, a defense lawyer blasted away at the credibility of this witness and tried to prove he had incentive to lie. Didn’t the Queens district attorney foot the hotel bill to put up you and your girlfriend for eight months? Weren’t you paid handsomely for your testimony?

No, the witness insisted. I paid my own bill. Nobody paid me anything.

This was not true, and the prosecutors who sat in that courtroom and vouched for the honesty and truthfulness of this witness knew it.

Newly disclosed witness protection records show that the district attorney’s office in fact paid the witness, Seraphim Koumpouras, $16,640 for hotel bills. Prosecutors also gave him about $3,000 in cash; he received the last payment six days before he testified.

None of these specifics were disclosed to the defense. Instead, Mr. Bedi, with the help of a private investigator, battled for 10 years to obtain these records, which prosecutors should have turned over at the trial.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in State Supreme Court in Queens, Mr. Bedi’s new lawyer, Joel Rudin, asked the court to overturn the conviction. “This is,” he said, “a reprehensible case of prosecutorial misconduct.”

The district attorney’s office says only that it intends to contest the case vigorously.

Mr. Rudin has found a new witness, who points at a different gunman. Let’s put that question aside for now. Let’s also acknowledge that Mr. Bedi is no Jean Valjean, languishing because of an ugly twist of fate.

Mr. Bedi has been convicted in other cases of drug dealing and conspiracy to murder. But the genius of our system is that our most cherished rights often ride the backs of deeply flawed defendants. As Mr. Rudin says, “Just because the prosecution thinks he’s a criminal, that doesn’t mean they can rig the result.”

Mr. Rudin can lay claim to a real expertise on questions of prosecutorial misconduct. In 2003, a court found that a prosecutor in Queens had lied and tolerated lies by witnesses in order to convict Shih-Wei Su of a pool-hall murder.

Mr. Su served 13 years in prison. When he got out, he sued the city with Mr. Rudin’s help. In 2008, the city agreed, by way of apology, to write him a check for $3.5 million.

Mr. Rudin also handled the case of Jabbar Collins, who served 16 years because of prosecutorial missteps in Brooklyn. With Mr. Rudin’s help, he filed suit last year against the city and Michael Vecchione, chief of the rackets bureau for Brooklyn’s district attorney.

Prosecutorial misconduct has become a legal sore in plain sight. Marvin Schechter, a defense lawyer and chairman of the criminal justice section of the New York State Bar Association, wrote a column recently stating that misconduct stood revealed not as a trickle but as a polluted river.

He blamed district attorneys who valued conviction rates and tough-guy images over adherence to the rights of the accused. “Assistant district attorneys do not emerge from law school with a genetic disposition” to hide vital material, he wrote. “Instead this is something which is learned and taught.”

Prosecutors loosened howls of indignation. Prominent prosecutorial sorts have written letters in the past month and intimated they will no longer serve on committees if such calumnies stand.

Harrumph and all that.

AS Mr. Rudin noted in his filing, in 70 known cases of prosecutorial mistakes and misbehavior in Queens over about a decade, the district attorney, Richard A. Brown, has disciplined just one lawyer.

In Brooklyn, the district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, promoted and gave an award to Mr. Vecchione.

Three years ago, the State Bar Association created a task force that studied 53 cases of wrongful conviction. It found that prosecutorial and police misconduct accounted for over half the cases.

The stakes are primal. Mr. Bedi, 41, falls well short of sainthood, but he has served 17 years for all of his crimes. If his conviction on the murder charge stands, he faces 25 more years in prison.

As for Mr. Koumpouras, the prosecutors said his life was in danger, so they squirreled him away, at quite unusual expense. But when he stepped off the stand, such worries dissipated.

Prosecutors, the records show, handed him a final $100 and bid him goodbye.

Original report here

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Swedish police red-faced after 'nation's most dangerous serial killer' revealed as a compulsive liar who made up confessions to 30 murders

Swedish police have come under fire after revelations that the nation’s most dangerous serial killer is a compulsive liar who made up confessions to 30 murders.

Seen as exceptional crime solvers thanks to the fictional Swedish detective Inspector Wallander, Swedish police have been left red-faced after a book about notorious serial killer Thomas Quick claims he simply made up his confessions and police took his word.

Quick was jailed in 1990 for armed robbery and during his compulsory psychotherapy sessions he confessed to murders in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. He has been convicted of eight murders between 1976 and 1885 and confessed to another 25.

Investigative journalist and author Hannes Råstam claims that Quick, 62, collected details about unsolved murders across Scandinavia from a Stockholm library while on day release and began confessing to crimes.

With his research Quick was able to describe details such as murder weapons, details about victims’ clothes and their appearance. According to Råstam, the police who were eager to close the unsolved murder files took his confessions as fact.

When he was formally charged, Quick and his lawyers were given access to even more detailed information from prosecution documents enabling him to cultivate his confessions further.

Now the families of victims are calling for a parliamentary commission, demanding police find the real killers who remain unpunished.

Bjoern Asplund, whose 11-year-old son disappeared in 1980, said regulations are needed to prevent this happening again.

Quick claimed to have strangled the boy and was convicted of his murder but has since been acquitted. Johan’s body has never been found.

According to The Times Mr Asplund said: ‘The parliamentarians have got to get to the bottom of why and how so much went wrong.’

As the tide of public opinion has turned, Swedes have been lining up to buy the book The case of Thomas Quick: the creation of a serial murderer, to discover how a judicial system could be so easily and badly be misled. The book was published this month not long after the author died of cancer.

Quick became the most ruthless murderer in Scandinavian history after he told psychotherapists in several therapy sessions how he strangled, raped and stabbed victims, even chopping some up and eating them.

While it is unclear why he confessed to such horrific crimes, Quick says he was often affected by strong, mood-altering drugs during police interrogations.

Psychiatrists say he was a compulsive liar who believed he was a hero for helping grateful police close many unsolved murders.

But during TV interviews with Råstam in the mental institution where Quick was serving his life sentence in 2008, the convicted killer retracted his many confessions leaving many unsure whether to believe him or not.

In the description of Råstam’s book The case of Thomas Quick: the creation of a serial murderer, the author’s research made him uncertain about Quick’s confessions. It reads: ‘The answer to the mystery of Thomas Quick turned out to be more terrifying than the man himself.’

According to The Times, Mr Quick is now hoping for an early release from the institution. He said: ‘It has been liberating to tell the truth.’

Original report here

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Two London Police officers 'smashed their way into aircraft engineer's home with a battering ram and kidnapped him'

Two Met police officers will face a court trial in a rare private prosecution over claims they smashed their way into a man’s home and kidnapped him.

Sergeant Gareth Blackburn, 38, and Detective Constable Stephen MacDonald, 42, were summoned to appear at Westminster Magistrates Court today to face allegations of affray, burglary, aggravated burglary, misconduct in public office, kidnap and false imprisonment.

It is alleged they unlawfully entered the home of former aircraft engineer Michael Doherty, 40, in West Drayton, Middlesex and forcibly removed him.

Mr Doherty, who has brought the private prosecution against the officers, claims they smashed their way into his home with a battering ram in front of his terrified wife and daughter on September 4 2008.

Doherty had reported a crime to police but when they failed to take action he repeatedly phoned the police station.

He was then accused of harassing a civilian worker at the station and the two officers came to his address to arrest him.

According to the summons, issued by District Judge Deborah Wright at Uxbridge Magistrates court in west London last month, the two officers trespassed and 'attempted to inflict grievous bodily harm on the home owner.'

The summons says: 'You were on the property as a trespasser and you threatened to smash down a glass-panelled door which the homeowner was holding closed. 'You threatened and used a battering ram to support your threat of violence. The occupants were caused fear for their personal safety. 'You wilfully failed to perform your duty to such a degree that it amounted to an abuse of the public trust which had been placed in you.'

Both officers are alleged to have carried Doherty away 'when you had no lawful authority to do so. 'There was no consent from the victim and you used unlawful violence to carry out this kidnap.'

'You were tasked to carry out enquiries into allegations of harassment, however when lawfully refused entry to the home of Mr Doherty you did without lawful authority force entry into their private home,' it says.

The officers, who remain on full duties and gave their address as Uxbridge Police Station, will appear at Southwark Crown Court for a plea and case management hearing on October 19.

The issuing of a summons by a district judge against police officers is extremely rare. Criminal cases are usually brought by the Crown Prosecution Service. The Metropolitan police opposed the granting of the summons.

Original report here

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Your “duty” to protect and serve the police

Police have no enforceable duty to protect an individual threatened by criminal violence. A lawsuit recently filed in New Hampshire demonstrates that police are taught to assume that citizens have a moral and legal duty to protect them.

Beverly Mutrie of Greenland, New Hampshire is being sued by four police officers who were wounded during an April 12 shootout at the home of her late son, Cullen. Greenland Police Chief Michael Maloney was killed in the gunfight. Following an eight-hour standoff involving SWAT operators and dozens of police officers, Cullen and his girlfriend, Brittany Tibbetts, were found dead in what was described as a murder-suicide.

Mrs. Mutrie’s only connection to the events of April 12 is the fact that she owned the home where the shootout took place. The lawsuit filed by the officers claims that she “indirectly supported and facilitated” illegal activity that supposedly occurred on the premises. She has not been charged with a crime.

In addition to being an act of simple vindictiveness, the lawsuit against Beverly Mutrie is probably an attempt by the municipality – which wasn’t cut in for a share of the “forfeiture” haul – to confiscate her home. An interrogatory interview of Mrs. Mutrie focused entirely on her insurance coverage. The DEA seized three vehicles found on the property and $14,320 in cash that was found on the body of Brittany Tibbetts.

The raid itself may have been prompted by concerns that the case against Cullen Mutrie was weak. An aspiring firefighter who spent much of his time in the gym, Cullen came to the attention of a state narcotics task force in July 2010 when an officer serving a restraining order found anabolic steroids during a search of the home. In a bench trial, Cullen was found guilty of domestic assault against a live-in girlfriend. He was put on probation and required to undergo an anger management assessment.

In January, an informant working with the state drug task force allegedly bought a small amount of oxycodone from Cullen’s girlfriend. Over the next several weeks, while the police continued their surveillance of the home, Cullen reconsidered his initial guilty plea on the steroid-related charges. His attorney, Stephen Jeffco, filed a motion to suppress the drug evidence as the product of an illicit search. As Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams points out, the case was “set for trial when the shootout began.”

Police arrived at Cullen’s home on April 12 to serve a no-knock warrant. Two of the officers, who were acquainted with Cullen and aware of the home’s surveillance cameras, gestured to be let inside. When Cullen refused to grant entry, Task Force agents forced open the door. Cullen reportedly opened fire, wounding four of the officers and killing Chief Maloney. An eight-hour standoff ensued, during which time the alleged murder-suicide took place.

If Cullen Mutrie, who was 6’3” tall and weighed 275 pounds, was involved in criminal conduct, what was his mother supposed to do about it – spank him? Assuming that she was aware of his activities, she could have called the police, who had already been investigating her son for nearly two years. If she had been an accomplice or an accessory, Mrs. Mutrie would face criminal charges, rather than what amounts to an extortion attempt.

The persecution of Beverly Mutrie is neither the first, nor the worst, case of its kind.

In June 2007 Karen Mies, a 66-year-old hospice nurse from Shingle Springs, California, suffered two losses no wife and mother should ever endure. Her husband, 72-year-old Arthur, was killed in an entirely unanticipated act of irrational violence on the part of their 35-year-old son, Eddie.

After the police were notified, Eddie was killed in an armed stand-off involving the local SWAT team, a helicopter provided by the state police, and several deputies from the El Dorado County Sheriff's Department.

More than one hundred rounds were fired in the June 5, 2007 shoot-out. In addition to the deaths of Arthur and Eddie, three deputies -- Jon Yaws, Greg Murphy, and Melissa Meekma -- suffered gunshot wounds. The injuries suffered by deputies Yaws and Murphy required multiple surgeries and lengthy hospitalization, but weren’t life-threatening.

In the months prior to that horrible day, Eddie’s behavior had become erratic, leading his friends and family to wonder if he suffered from a psychological condition. Karen and Arthur had tried, unsuccessfully, to find suitable help for their troubled son – but they certainly didn’t anticipate that his problems would culminate in murder.

Displaying preternatural grace, Karen inquired after the health of the injured deputies, telling a friend that her sole consolation was the fact that they would survive. A measure of the depth of her good character is offered by the fact that she didn’t recant that statement after Yaws and Murphy filed a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against her and her husband’s estate.

The deputies claimed that Karen – who was not charged as an accomplice – shared the culpability for the injuries allegedly inflicted on the deputies by her son. Eddie Mies was characterized in the document as "a diagnosed schizophrenic" with a "criminal history" who displayed "paranoia and [a] propensity for violence." For these reasons, insisted the deputies, Karen should have known it was "necessary to avoid allowing Eddie Mies access to firearms," and they claimed that she displayed actionable negligence by permitting such access.

In a television interview, Yaws appeared to accuse the Mies family of conspiring to endanger his life and those of his fellow officers. When Jake Mies, Eddie's brother, made a frantic 911 call to report that his father had been shot, he told the operator that he didn't know who had committed the crime. Yaws characterized this as a deliberate lie, and accused Karen of being a party to the deception.

"We were directly lied to when they said they didn't know who had done it," asserted Yaws. "We thought it was a random person [on the ground] through the neighborhood. We would have handled it entirely differently if we had known it was someone from the residence."

Even if this had been true, it's difficult to see how the knowledge that the shooting was an aggravated domestic dispute would have changed the tactical situation. The police deployed overwhelming force, then used a CHP helicopter to flush Eddie into the open where he was quickly killed by the SWAT team.

Immediately after the incident the El Dorado Sheriff’s Office peddled a self-dramatizing version of the episode in which Eddie Mies supposedly “tried to bait the officers” into a thicket near the house. The department also claimed that he had devised "an elaborate system of bunkers and tunnels" akin to the labyrinth Colonel Hogan's resistance cellcreated beneath Stalag 13. The lawsuit asserted that Eddie was "found dead in a bunker with a cache of weapons and ammunition, as well as a change of clothes."

After the suit was filed, Karen Mies took a reporter from the Sacramento Bee on a walking tour of the family's 2.5 acre property, where she and her late husband had raised six children.

The "ammunition cache" was an old toolbox containing bullets, birdshot, and useless junk. The "change of clothes" was a jacket. At the time of his death, Eddie was armed with a shotgun and a revolver he had purchased legally as an adult. The warren of "bunkers" and "tunnels" consisted of a handful of small depressions and sunken trails "where the kids used to play," Karen pointed out.

In similar fashion, Eddie's psychological problems and "criminal" history were generously embroidered by the deputies. Although his behavior had become alarming to his friends and family, Eddie was never diagnosed with schizophrenia or any other mental disorder. His "criminal history" consisted of traffic arrests in Wyoming and Nevada.

Although it is clear that Eddie had killed his father, it was never firmly established that he actually shot the deputies, who may well have been injured as a result of “friendly fire.” When asked about this possibility, Bill Clark, who at the time was chief deputy DA for El Dorado County, blithely replied that his office had been “too busy” to complete its official inquiry.

Lawsuits of the sort filed against Beverly Mutrie and Karen Mies are generally foreclosed or dismissed on the basis of the "Fireman's Rule,” which recognizes that police and emergency workers assume certain risks inherent in their jobs.

In 1996, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME, the official tax-feeders' union) enacted a resolution denouncing the “Fireman’s Rule” as a form of "unfair and indefensible treatment of public safety employees and law enforcement officers" and supporting efforts to "reform or abolish the Fireman's Rule wherever it exists." The AFSCME, through its affiliate, the National Law Enforcement Officers Rights Center, has quietly lobbied for modifications to the “Fireman’s Rule” while looking for a promising lawsuit that could abolish it outright.

The lawsuit against Karen Mies was quickly snuffed out by a gale-force outburst of public revulsion, at least some of it inspired by the fact that the female deputy who had been wounded didn’t join in the suit.

The shootout that prompted the lawsuit against Beverly Mutrie is much better suited to the needs of the cynical tax-feeders’ lobby. It involves the death of Chief Michael Maloney, who – in a cinematic touch -- was eight days from retirement (at age 48, following a 26-year law enforcement career that was otherwise devoid of danger).

Thousands of law enforcement personnel attended Maloney’s funeral, including career criminal Eric Holder, who apparently wasn’t too busy fomenting racial tensions, covering up FBI torture-murders, or supplying high-performance weaponry to Mexican criminal syndicates.

If Beverly Mutrie had been visiting her son on April 12, and been shot by one of the officers during the raid, her assailant would be shielded from a lawsuit by the spurious principle of “qualified immunity.” The lawsuit filed against her is intended to advance the perverse principle that citizens have a legal responsibility to act as the equivalent of human shields for police officers – a development that is both revolting and entirely predictable.

Original report here

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