Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ibragim Todashev's father writes open letter to President Obama

THE father of a man shot to death by authorities in Florida while being questioned during the Boston Marathon bombing investigation has written President Barack Obama asking for help finding out what happened.

Abdulbaki Todashev says in his letter that son Ibragim Todashev, 27, knew dead marathon suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev through boxing but had no connection to the bombing or any other crime. He says his son voluntarily went to an FBI office in Orlando to speak with FBI agents four times before they showed up at his apartment May 22.

Attorney Barry Cohen said Monday the elder Todashev fears a cover-up and is writing to Obama one father to another to make sure that doesn't happen. He is asking Obama to ensure authorities do not interfere with the investigation.

A local prosecutor is investigating the death and an FBI spokeswoman won't comment. Findings are expected to be made public in 2014.

Boston Magazine is reporting the open letter along with graphic images of Todashev's body and his bloody apartment also released by his father.

"I am not asking you to share my pain but I am asking you, as the head of the great country - the guarantor of democracy in the modern world, to help the law and justice prevail," Abdulbaki Todashev writes to President Obama.

He said his son was a loving son who came to America in 2008 to practice English and met Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at the gym when he lived in Massachusetts.

Todashev tells the magazine the FBI "deliberately" killed his son so "he can never speak and never take part in court hearings" and claims the FBI pressured his son's friends also to prevent them speaking the truth.

Ibragim Todashev died in May after FBI agents questioning him about his friendship with Tsarnaev allege he lunged at an agent with a knife.

Images released by Todashev's father can be seen at the Bostonmagazine.com. Warning: Some of the photos are graphic and contain Mr Todashev's dead body.

Original report here




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Monday, December 30, 2013


Trigger happy in New York

Shoot first and find excuses later is the new motto for cowardly police officers in New York City who have no qualms about firing bullets into a crowd of innocent bystanders while attempting to gun down an unarmed man.

We have to wonder whether this is what the cops are taught to do in cadet school or whether they learn it on the job as the most expedient way to protect themselves from the slightest hint of potential danger posed by unruly suspects.

Shooting live rounds into a crowd of people, however, simply cannot be justified under any circumstances.

The latest instance involves 35-year-old Glenn Broadnax, of Brooklyn, an unarmed, emotionally unhinged man creating a disturbance at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue near Times Square in New York City. Apparently, he was attempting to commit suicide by lurching himself into traffic and lunging toward oncoming cars.

Naturally, a crowd gathered to watch. Some tried to help the poor man. That’s when the police arrived with their guns. And when the suspect reached into his pocket for his wallet two frightened cops opened fire, missing him completely but wounding to female bystanders.

"Mr. Broadnax never imagined his behavior would ever cause the police to shoot at him," explained his attorney. Never-the-less, the cops and the prosecutor are blaming him for the shooting.

He "recklessly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death," claims the prosecution in a nine-count grand jury felony indictment containing charges carrying a possible 25-year prison sentence.

So the situation that left two innocent bystanders with gunshot wounds at the hands of trigger happy police thugs was entirely the defendant’s fault say the authorities. That’s their excuse for shooting at an unarmed man on a crowded street and plugging two women in the crowd with lead.

"It’s an incredibly unfortunate use of prosecutorial discretion to be prosecuting a man who didn’t even injure my client," said an attorney for one of the wounded women. "It’s the police who injured my client."

Yes, it’s the police who shot first and found excuses later.

They’re trigger happy in New York.

Original report here




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Sunday, December 29, 2013


London Police sued by suspect who claims officers called him a 'black b*****d' as they smashed the windows of his car with baseball bats

"The Metropolitan Police is being sued for £50,000 over claims a group of six officers allegedly called a suspect a 'black b*****d'.

Jonathan Billinghurst is taking action after officers ambushed him, smashing the windows of the Mini Cooper he was driving with baseball bats.

He claims during the 'unconventional' arrest one officer turned up the music while his colleagues physically and verbally assaulted him, in a manner designed to 'punish, demoralise and humiliate' him.

Dramatic footage released by police shows them attacking...

An Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation found the police officers had used excessive force.

But the Met Police claimed in its defence to Mr Billinghurst's claim that 'officers were permitted to use such force'.

The High Court papers, which were filed in October, have emerged after the six officers failed to sue Channel 4 News for libel after the programme broadcast footage of the arrest.

Specifically, the six claimed journalist Simon Israel had insinuated they misled the IPCC panel on evidence they had against Mr Billinghurst. But the case was thrown out of the High Court.

The video showed the men shouting ‘attack, attack’ before running at the suspect's car, smashing the windows and windscreen and telling him to ‘get out of the car’ before pinning him to the ground.

The arrest took place in 2008 - but the IPCC investigation was not completed until three years later. All of the officers, part of the now-disbanded Enfield Crime Squad, kept their jobs.

But they have come under further pressure now after Mr Billinghurst claimed one officer turned up the music in his car as others assaulted him physically and verbally after they had pinned him down on the side of the road.

The suspect, who was later jailed for two months following the arrest, believed the officers were ‘muggers’ because most of them appeared to be wearing plain clothes.

He said the unconventional manner of the arrest was designed to 'punish, demoralise and humiliate' him.

He also claims police failed to say who they were. In its defence, the Metropolitan Police said officers shouted ‘police, police’ and put a blue flashing siren on one of their cars.

They said Mr Billinghurst ‘was informed that he was under arrest and the grounds of arrest as soon as was practicable’ - though it does not specify when this was.

Mr Billinghurst has also claimed the officers took and failed to return his iPod, CDs and mobile phone.

After going to Edmonton Police Station, Mr Billinghurst was taken to North Middlesex Hospital and treated for a cut on his face believed to have been caused by flying glass.

In its defence, the Metropolitan Police said Mr Billinghurst was suspected of driving a stolen car while disqualified from driving. Officers also claimed that intelligence suggested he would be carrying a knife.

They said smashing the windows was being used as a valid ‘distraction technique’.

The defence also questioned the likelihood that Mr Billinghurst could win the action because the incident took place five years ago.

Original report here




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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Of poker and plunder: Commissarina Olson Strikes Again

In spite of the fact that he has not committed a criminal act, Boise resident Skinner Anderson faces three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Wendy J. Olson, the Soviet-grade legal functionary who afflicts Idaho as U.S. Attorney, has wrung a guilty plea out of Anderson on a single charge of "misprision of felony" because a home he rented was used for what have been described as illegal poker games.

The federal statute under which Anderson was charged is obscure and seldom prosecuted. Private gambling is banned in Idaho by state statutes that are rarely enforced: Since 1975, fewer than 300 people have been arrested or cited in Idaho for gambling. No felony charges were filed following a raid carried out by a federally supervised task force last April. Fourteen people were charged with misdemeanors and issued citations by a state court.

Anderson’s only role in this affair was to receive rent payments from Kings Santy – the poker and billiards enthusiast who organized the games. Yet the landlord is the only defendant to face the prospect of time in a government cage.

Under the relevant provision of the Idaho State Code (18-3802), the worst that could be inflicted on him would be a misdemeanor fine for "knowingly" allowing people to play poker on his property.

Commissarina Olson, displaying the dishonesty and depraved ingenuity for which people in her profession have become notorious, contrived a way to charge him with a federal offense that involves guilty knowledge "of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States" – something he obviously didn’t do, because none of the people arrested last April has been charged with a felony.

Tellingly, Santy – who, once again, organized the "illegal" poker games -- was not charged with a crime. In fact, he wasn’t even arrested. Any time the police allow the "ringleader" to get off scot free, they are indisputably protecting an informant.

Apart from Olson and her band of state-licensed plunderers, Santy is the only individual in this matter who has committed a crime – specifically, an act of deception that injured the rights of another person. When he signed a lease on the home in 2008, Santy told Anderson that he intended to use the property to operate an auto repossession company. He has since admitted that this was a lie.

At some point – most likely immediately after he rented the home from Anderson – Santy became an informant. All of the "evidence" collected by Olson regarding Anderson’s supposed offenses is drawn from Santy’s self-serving conversations with FBI Agent Douglas Hart, who supervised the investigation.

According to Hart’s probable cause affidavit, "Anderson told Santy that he didn’t care what Santy was doing on his property as long as it didn’t cause Anderson trouble." Presumably, "trouble" would have resulted – and an eviction most likely would have ensued -- if those games had become a neighborhood nuisance.

The raids in April were carried out by the valiant badasses of the Treasure Valley Metro Violent Crimes Task Force, who claimed to be responding to unspecified "complaints" about the poker tournaments. Once again, the only source of those "complaints" would be Santy. The ringleader/informant reportedly told Agent Hart that one of his dealers said a woman whose "husband or boyfriend lost their rent money from a poker game called Anderson to complain," according to the Idaho Statesman.

This hearsay "evidence" offered by an admitted liar (remember, Santy deceived Anderson about his intent in leasing the house) is the only substantive link connecting the landlord to the "illegal" poker games conducted on his property. If Santy had been compelled to testify, he would have been eviscerated on the stand by a reasonably competent attorney.

Federal juries tend to be terminally credulous, and Olson – once again, following the protocols of her despicable profession – would most likely have multiplied the charges against Anderson and threatened him with decades in prison as punishment for exercising his right to a trial by jury.

As I’ve noted before, federal attorneys prefer extortion to prosecution.

"How much does the State weigh?" Stalin once asked a Soviet procurator frustrated by an unusually recalcitrant defendant who refused to sign a confession. As a federal prosecutor in the Soviet mold, Olson is adept at using the weight of the State to break innocent men and women. And in this case, as in so many others, Olson’s objective was to steal Anderson’s property through forfeiture: Before filing criminal charges against the beleaguered businessman, Olson filed a "forfeiture" motion to seize the "gambling house" where Santy had held the poker games.

I guess a lightning-bolt SS insignia would be too obvious.

Anderson was most likely told by his defense attorney that if he fought the charge the Feds – employing a widely used tactic -- would freeze his financial assets, leaving him destitute and unable to pay his legal expenses. Thus he was left with no choice but to submit to the demands of Olson and her comrades.

For his part, Santy remains at large to entrap other potential victims. He has plenty of company in Olson’s feculent stable of informants and provocateurs.

Now that a guilty plea has been extracted from Anderson, confiscating his property will be much easier. Olson has been a tireless evangelist on behalf of the gospel of collaborative plunder, and she has built a large and eager congregation among Gem State law enforcement agencies.

Forfeiture is a tremendously lucrative racket for Olson’s office, which boasted in an October 28 press release that it has seized $1.7 million in "forfeiture" proceeds, while kicking back $1 million to state and local police agencies "via the equitable sharing program." Olson’s office reported a total take of $34 million for FY 2013 – an impressive figure, but a dramatic decrease from 2012’s record $84 million haul. This might help explain why Olson’s plunderbund went after Anderson so zealously: Grabbing a $200,000 home would get the new fiscal year off to a good start.

On the same day that Anderson was arrested and charged with gambling-related felonies, the state’s largest gambling syndicate began its biggest buy-in to date. The state government of Idaho – which will benefit from the seizure of Anderson’s property – announced its Mega Millions lottery jackpot. Tickets cost a dollar each, and are sold at retail outlets state-wide, thereby directly implicating hundreds of business owners – as well as the entire tax victim population -- in an activity that would be regarded as criminal if conducted privately.

Mr. Anderson, who had no direct involvement in a penny-ante poker tournament, may be sent to prison with the connivance of the same state government that -- in addition to the routine crimes of violence and fraud it perpetrates – maintains a multi-billion-dollar gambling operation.

To paraphrase the despondent Danish prince: In our prison society, there is nothing either good or bad, unless the state says so. Thus private poker is a "crime," state-licensed lotteries are a civic blessing, and officially sanctioned theft of an innocent man's property is "justice."

Original report here




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Thursday, December 26, 2013

British auxiliary cop wins £4,000 damages after falling over 3ft fence and injuring her knee on 999 call

A police community support officer who injured her knee while investigating a burglary has been awarded £4,000 in compensation, it emerged last night.

Pauline Harrison, 53, was responding to a 999 call reporting a break-in at a derelict school when she fell over a 3ft-high wooden fence.

Yesterday it was revealed that the case had been settled out of court days before it was due to go before a judge.

Sources said the settlement added up to around £4,000 – just £1,000 less than the maximum amount she could have claimed had the case gone to court.

The incident happened in 2009 when the PCSO was called to Sunshine House, a former school for the blind, after reports that youths had been spotted on the roof of the four-storey building.

Previously trespassers had set fire to part of the grounds, prompting the building’s owner – property development firm Lightflask Ltd – to secure the perimeter with a 6ft fence.

The only gap in the perimeter fence was a small gateway at the front of the site which was secured with a 3ft wooden fence.

Miss Harrison, who serves with Merseyside police, said she suffered ‘soft tissue damage’ to her right knee as she tried to leave the property in Birkdale, near Southport.

In court papers, she claimed Lightflask Ltd was negligent because it had allowed the fence to become a ‘danger and a trap to persons lawfully entering and exiting the premises’.

The former dog trainer said the company had failed to make the wooden fencing safe and failed to properly warn her about the fencing by erecting warning signs.

Miss Harrison also claimed there was no adequate system of inspection or maintenance of the site.

Last night a spokesman for Lightflask Ltd said he was unable to discuss details of the case, which had been settled by the firm’s insurers and is thought to include Miss Harrison’s £25 travelling expenses, £14 prescription charges and £102 physiotherapy costs.

However, he added that it was ‘crazy’ that members of the public could be sued by police going about their duties.

‘Risks cannot be removed from every situation,’ he said. ‘It’s crazy that claims can be made by police officers in their line of work. 'The nature of their job is risky, but they are there to protect the public.’

Miss Harrison’s decision to sue was also condemned by her own force when it was revealed last month. Chief Superintendent Nikki Holland, of Merseyside Police, said the decision to make a claim was ‘not a course of action that the force would encourage or support’.

And earlier this year Home Secretary Theresa May criticised ‘frivolous’ claims being made by officers which she said were ‘not the sort of attitude’ they should exhibit.

Her comments came after WPC Kelly Jones, 33, threatened to sue a garage owner in Thetford, Norfolk, when she tripped over a kerb while investigating a burglary. She later dropped her claim.

Original report here




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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

How the government encourages kangaroo courts for sex crimes on campus

One evening in February 2012, Vassar College students Xialou "Peter" Yu and Mary Claire Walker, both members of the school's rowing team, had a few drinks at a team gathering and left together as the party wound down. After a make-out session at a campus nightspot, they went to Yu's dorm room, where, by his account, they had sex that was not only consensual but mainly initiated by Walker, who reassured her inexperienced partner that she knew what to do. At some point, Yu's roommate walked in on them; after he was gone, Yu says, Walker decided she wanted to stop, telling him it was too soon after her breakup with her previous boyfriend. She got dressed and left.

The next day, according to documents in an unusual complaint that Yu filed against Vassar last June, Yu's resident adviser told him some students had seen him and the young woman on their way to the dorm. They had been so concerned by Walker's apparently inebriated state that they called campus security. Alarmed, Yu contacted Walker on Facebook to make sure everything was all right. She replied that she had had a "wonderful time" and that he had done "nothing wrong"-indeed, that she was sorry for having "led [him] on" when she wasn't ready for a relationship. A month later Walker messaged Yu herself, again apologizing for the incident and expressing hope that it would not affect their friendship. There were more exchanges during the next months, with Walker at one point inviting Yu to dinner at her place. (In a response to Yu's complaint in October, attorneys for Vassar acknowledged most of these facts but asserted that Walker had been too intoxicated to consent to sex and had been "in denial," scared, and in shock when she wrote the messages.)

Last February, one year after the encounter, the other shoe dropped: Yu was informed that Walker had filed charges of "nonconsensual sexual contact" against him through the college disciplinary system. Two and a half weeks later, a hearing was held before a panel of three faculty members. Yu was not allowed an attorney; his request to call his roommate and Walker's roommate as witnesses was denied after the campus "gender equity compliance investigator" said that the roommates had emailed him but had "nothing useful" to offer. While the records from the hearing are sealed, Yu claims his attempts to cross-examine his accuser were repeatedly stymied. Many of his questions (including ones about Walker's friendly messages, which she had earlier told the investigator she sent out of "fear") were barred as "irrelevant"; he says that when he was allowed to question Walker, she would start crying and give evasive or nonresponsive answers. Yu was found guilty and summarily expelled from Vassar.

New Rules for Campus Sex

Yu, a U.S.-educated Chinese citizen, is now going after the Poughkeepsie, New York, school in federal court, claiming not only wrongful expulsion and irreparable personal damage but sex discrimination. His complaint argues that he was the victim of a campus judicial system that in practice presumes males accused of sexual misconduct are guilty. His is one of three such lawsuits filed last summer. St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia is being sued by an expelled student, New York state resident Brian Harris, who likewise claims he was railroaded by a gender-biased campus kangaroo court. And in August college basketball player Dez Wells sued Ohio's Xavier University for expelling him in the summer of 2012 based on a rape charge that the county prosecutor publicly denounced as false.

While the lawsuits target private colleges, they also implicate public policy. That was especially true in Wells' case: When he was accused, Xavier was under scrutiny by the federal government for its allegedly poor response to three prior sexual assault complaints, and his attorney says he was the "sacrificial lamb" to appease the U.S. Department of Education. In the other two cases, there was no such direct pressure, but the charges were adjudicated under a complainant-friendly standard that the Obama administration has been aggressively pushing on academic institutions.

In April 2011, the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights sent a letter to college and university presidents laying out guidelines for handling reports of sexual assault and harassment. One key recommendation was that such complaints should be evaluated based on a "preponderance of the evidence"-the lowest standard of proof used in civil claims. (In lay terms, it means that the total weight of the believable evidence tips at least slightly in the claimant's favor.) Traditionally, the standard for finding a student guilty of misconduct of any kind has been "clear and convincing evidence"-less stringent than "beyond a reasonable doubt," but still a very strong probability of guilt.

Last May the government reiterated its commitment to the "preponderance" standard in a joint Department of Justice/Department of Education letter to the University of Montana following a review of that school's response to sexual offenses. The letter was explicitly intended as a "blueprint" for all colleges and universities; noncompliant schools risk losing federal funds, including student aid eligibility. Meanwhile, the Department of Education also has launched civil rights investigations into complaints by several college women who say they were sexually assaulted by fellow students, then revictimized by school authorities when their assailants either went unpunished or received a slap on the wrist. The schools under scrutiny include the University of Southern California, the University of North Carolina, and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

'Rape Culture'

The federal war on campus rape is unfolding amid a revival of what Katie Roiphe, in her landmark 1994 book The Morning After: Sex, Fear and Feminism on Campus, dubbed "rape-crisis feminism"-a loosely defined ideology that views sexual violence as the cornerstone of male oppression of women, expands the definition of rape to include a wide range of sexual acts involving no physical force or threat, and elevates the truth of women's claims of sexual victimization to nearly untouchable status.

This brand of feminism seemed in retreat a few years ago, particularly after a hoax at Duke University drew attention to the danger of presuming guilt. (In 2007, the alleged rape of a stripper by three Duke lacrosse players sparked local and national outrage-until the case was dismissed and the young men declared innocent.) Yet in 2013, the concept made a strong comeback with a sexual assault case that gained national visibility in January and went to trial in March. This one was in Steubenville, Ohio.

The facts in Steubenville were ugly enough. A 16-year-old girl who got very drunk at an end-of-the-summer high school party was repeatedly sexually assaulted while unconscious or barely conscious. One boy, 17-year-old Trent Mays, penetrated her with his fingers, tried to get her to perform oral sex, and essentially used her as a masturbation aid; another, Ma'lik Richmond, briefly participated in the abuse. Three other teenagers witnessed at least some of these acts (which took place in a car and in the basement of a home after the girl left the party with the boys), taking photos and a video. The next day, Mays bragged about his exploits and mocked the girl in text messages to friends, to whom he also sent her nude photo. When Mays and Richmond, both star players on the Steubenville High School football team, were arrested and charged with rape a few days later, many residents in the football-worshiping small town sympathized with the boys and were inclined to assume that the girl-an out-of-town private school student-was lying to cover up her misbehavior.

This sordid saga arguably shone a spotlight on the dark underside of small-town "football culture," which can breed a sense of entitlement and impunity in popular athletes. Yet the national press coverage, fueled by wild rumors of unspeakable brutalities (the girl was said to have been drugged, kidnapped, urinated on, and gang-raped for hours) and of an official cover-up, turned into a far more sweeping indictment of America's "rape culture"-a term that suddenly migrated from the fringes of feminist rhetoric into mainstream discourse.

Like many radical theories, the idea of rape culture contains plausible elements of truth: Some traditional gender arrangements have indeed encouraged cavalier or even tacitly accepting attitudes toward certain kinds of sexual violence. For much of history women have been treated to varying degrees as men's sexual property, with rape condoned if not legitimized in some circumstances: for example, in marriage (including forced marriage), or toward women who transgressed norms of feminine propriety.

Even in the United States, as recently as 40 years ago, juries could be instructed to consider "unchaste character"-such as being single and on birth control-as a strike against an accuser's credibility, and courts often treated submission to overt physical intimidation as consent (at least in acquaintance-rape situations). And there is some basis for the argument that the conventional script of male pursuit and feminine coyness-with "no" routinely taken to mean "try harder"-can sometimes blur the lines between consent and coercion.

But this history is only one part of a complex mix of cultural attitudes-a mix that has long included genuine societal abhorrence of rape as a violation of female personhood. It is a measure of this abhorrence that when feminists in the 1970s challenged the unjust treatment of rape victims, the reforms they advocated-such as dropping resistance requirements that did not apply to other violent crimes, or barring the use of a woman's sexual history to discredit her-were soon enacted with overwhelming support.

Moreover, the social response to sex offenses has been complicated by many factors besides sexism, from a general human tendency to sweep sordid matters under the rug to the difficulty of proving crimes that occur in intimate settings; these factors have affected male victims, too. Feminist theory offers no convincing explanation for why a homophobic patriarchy would also fail to protect boys from adult male sexual predators.

And yet the "rape culture" trope has gained such sway that even a New Yorker writer highly critical of activist zealotry over Steubenville offered a disclaimer to defend the term. In an article in the magazine's August issue, Ariel Levy cited a 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report stating that one in five American women are victims of rape or attempted rape and a recent Pentagon survey finding that one in four active-duty service members have been sexually assaulted. The problem, she concluded, could not be so pervasive unless there was a rape-enabling culture treating sex as "something men get-and take" from women.

But what do these numbers mean? The Pentagon poll defined sexual assault broadly enough to include a slap on the behind-and half of its self-reported victims were men. The CDC study treats all sex under the influence of alcohol or drugs as rape, with no distinction between unconsciousness and impaired judgment. Even the CDC's definition of rape by force could include such transgressions as unwanted penetration with a finger (no matter how brief) during an otherwise consensual make-out session.

The respondents were never asked if they thought they were assaulted; in a comparable survey, the federally sponsored 2007 Campus Sexual Assault study, two-thirds of the women classified as victims of drug- or alcohol-induced rape and 37 percent of those counted as forcibly raped did not consider the event to be a crime. (And these were college women in the age of mandatory campus date-rape awareness programs.)

Notably, when CDC survey respondents were asked about victimization during the previous 12 months, men reported being "forced to penetrate someone"-an act classified as sexual violence other than rape-at the same rate that women reported forced penetration. Either "rape culture" goes both ways, and women also sexually assault their male partners with alarming frequency, or the CDC definition of sexual violence needs rethinking.

Other claims about America's alleged rape-supportive misogyny typically rely on falsified or out-of-context pseudo-facts. Thus, on the website of The Nation, Jessica Valenti states that "we live in a country where politicians call rape a 'gift from God' -not only distorting a comment made by Indiana Republican Richard Mourdock during his 2012 run for the U.S. Senate, but neglecting to mention that the gaffe almost certainly ensured his defeat in a Republican stronghold. (What Mourdock said was that life was a "gift from God" even when it began "in that horrible situation of rape.")

In The Huffington Post, writer Soraya Chemaly's list of "facts about rape" includes the claim that 31 states allow rapists who impregnate their victims to sue for child custody or visitation. Actually, these states simply don't have laws explicitly barring such suits, mainly because it is presumed to be a non-issue. So far, the only known case of this kind involves a Massachusetts man convicted of statutory rape who sued for visitation with his daughter after a family court ordered him to pay child support.

The Steubenville story, with its evidence of boys behaving abominably documented by social media, came to be seen as Exhibit A for the "rape culture." Never mind that it's quite a leap from the repulsive acts of a few drunk adolescents to the notion that our culture normalizes such acts; or that it's hardly unusual for teenagers to flaunt illegal and socially unacceptable behavior; or that the morning-after text messages in the case made it clear that a number of boys were well aware that something very wrong was done to "Jane Doe" and that legal trouble could follow.

After Mays and Richmond were convicted in juvenile court, the media went into moral panic overdrive. In Time magazine, novelist Peter Smith scolded his fellow men for their failure to reject male solidarity and "say something" against rape-as if a male judge hadn't just "said something" by sending the perpetrators to jail.

MSNBC talk show host Melissa Harris-Perry delivered an on-air apology to the victim for failing to make the world safe for her. Twitter threats to "Jane Doe" from two teenaged girls, one of them Richmond's cousin, were seized upon as more evidence of rape culture's pernicious sway. The barrage of threats to Steubenville residents who had been labeled pro-rapist, including the female prosecutor baselessly accused of a cover-up, went unnoticed until Levy's New Yorker article.

Even CNN, a major promoter of the "rape culture" meme, got hit by friendly fire: Correspondent Poppy Harlow and host Candy Crowley were vilified as rape apologists for daring to voice some sympathy for the defendants-and, it was falsely claimed, failing to mention the harm to the victim.

Much of this reaction was well-intentioned. Yet in the end rape-culture feminism promotes not only a toxic view of relationships but a skewed and dangerous view of justice. Its key tenets: 1) Women almost never lie when they report a sex crime, and to doubt them is to perpetuate rape culture; 2) rape is any sexual act in which the woman feels violated-unless she suffers from false consciousness and needs to be educated about her violation; 3) rape includes situations in which the woman agrees to sex because of persistent advances, "emotional coercion," or intoxication-or because she doesn't have the nerve to say no; 4) no matter how willing the woman appears to be, it is the man's responsibility to ensure explicit consent-or he may be guilty of rape.

The inroads these ideas could make in the actual justice system have been limited by constitutional protections for the accused, including the presumption of innocence, a high standard of proof, and the right to confront the accusing witness. But colleges are almost perfect laboratories for feminist rape prosecutions, even if the penalty can be no worse than getting expelled.

Campus Kangaroo Courts

The campus is a place where sex happens a lot-including sex in random, often drunken encounters rife with potential for misunderstanding and regret. The Online College Social Life Survey, collected from nearly 25,000 students on 20 campuses from 2005 to 2011, found that women and men alike drink heavily when hooking up with a casual partner: an average of five alcoholic drinks for women, six for men.

When you try to criminalize much of this confused and confusing sex, subjecting it to second-guessing by secretive quasi-judicial panels operating under arbitrary rules and influenced by the deference to feminist orthodoxy that prevails on many campuses, the results will not be pretty.

Complaints from all sides about the way colleges handle sexual assault reports raise the question: Why should an offense as serious as rape be "prosecuted" by a college, rather than turned over to the police? The answer is that the vast majority of these charges would be unlikely to survive the most basic legal scrutiny.

Original report here




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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

British cop jailed for 19 years for raping two women and a string of other sex crimes

A former policeman who raped two women and offered a teenage girl, who he had groped, payment for sex has been jailed for 19 years.

Wayne Scott, 37, has been convicted of rape and attempted rape of a woman after a five-day trial, having already admitted to raping a different woman seven times over a number of years.

Branded a ‘disgrace to the uniform’ by former colleagues, he also confessed to two common assaults, one sexual assault and two counts of inciting a child to engage in sexual touching.

Sentencing Scott at Newcastle Crown Court, Judge James Goss QC described him as ‘manipulative, controlling and domineering’.

‘Your offending has had an enormous impact on the well-being, confidence and lives of those against whom you offended, destroying their lives,’ he said.

‘You clearly have a very strong sexual drive and are prepared to satisfy that urge regardless.’

The judge said he agreed with the probation service report which concluded Scott’s risk of causing serious harm to females in future is ‘very high’.

His offences came to light after he was dismissed by Cleveland Police when a member of the public complained about him touching her sexually while he was on duty.

Although he was not prosecuted for that offence, the publicity led other women to come forward and make complaints.

Speaking after the sentence, Detective Superintendent Peter McPhillips, of Cleveland Police, said: ‘I’m really pleased with the sentence today. Wayne Scott is a sexual deviant and a predator who manipulated his victims and had a significant detrimental impact on their lives. ‘Yet he has never exhibited any remorse and he does not appear to understand the horrific nature of his crimes.

‘I would like to pay tribute to all of his victims, in particular those who we managed to trace and who were brave enough to provide us with the details of his crimes.’

The former Cleveland constable wept and fell to his knees during the hearing, where he was sentenced to fifteen years custodial term with a four year extended licence period for his crimes.

After one attack he posted on his Facebook page: ‘Think today is going to be a good day,’ followed by a smiley face.

During another he put a pair of stockings around his victim’s neck and warned he could strangle her.

And the court heard Scott had warned one victim: ‘I’m in charge and I’m going to do what I want to you.’

Scott, formerly of Teesside, was found guilty of one rape and an attempted rape in relation to one of his adult victims.

He had already admitted seven rapes and two common assault charges in relation to another woman.

He also pleaded guilty to one charge of sexual assault and two of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity in relation to the 15-year-old.

Original report here




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Monday, December 23, 2013

After Long Struggle, Justice Finally Prevails

Debra J. Saunders

President Obama commuted the sentences of eight crack-cocaine offenders Thursday, including that of Clarence Aaron, who was serving a sentence of life without parole for a first-time nonviolent drug conviction when he was 23.

Aaron's story represents the worst excesses of the federal criminal justice system. Aaron, of Mobile, Ala., had no criminal record. He had held jobs. In 1992, he was a college student who decided to address his money problems by acting as an intermediary between two career drug dealers. The dealers paid him $1,500 to set up two large cocaine deals. They got caught. The ringleaders knew how to game the system. They pleaded guilty and testified against Aaron.

Aaron wasn't as savvy. He pleaded not guilty and lied on the stand -- which enhanced his sentence. The buyer planned on converting powder cocaine to crack -- that, too, enhanced Aaron's sentence. One deal didn't happen, but federal prosecutors charged Aaron for it anyway. Voila, he won the same sentence that was imposed on FBI agent-turned-Russian spy Robert Hanssen and now-deceased serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

Aaron knows he broke the law. He had earned prison time. But what does it say when federal prosecutors seek and win life without parole for a first-time offender while letting the big fish finagle lesser sentences? All but one of Aaron's cohorts have been out of prison since 2000.

Best Christmas ever

Aaron's cousin, Aaron Martin, said the commutation made this season "the best Christmas ever." Attorney Margaret C. Love said, "We are grateful to President Obama."

In 2001, I began hectoring President George W. Bush to commute Aaron's sentence. Bush asked his pardon attorney to reconsider the petition, but the official misled him, failing to inform him that the judge and the U.S. attorney had come to support Aaron's petition, so the president said no.

When Obama was first elected, Aaron's family was convinced that America's first black president would free Aaron, who is African-American. In the first term, their hopes were dashed. Until Thursday, Obama had commuted only one sentence, that of crack-cocaine offender Eugenia Jennings, in 2011; Jennings died of leukemia in October. Finally, on Thursday, it happened.

"Today, I am commuting the prison terms of eight men and women who were sentenced under an unfair system" that was reformed three years ago under the Fair Sentencing Act, Obama said in a statement. "Each of them has served more than 15 years in prison. In several cases, the sentencing judges expressed frustration that the law at the time did not allow them to issue punishments that more appropriately fit the crime."

Nonviolent offenses

According to the White House, six of the inmates whose sentences were commuted were serving life sentences for nonviolent offenses.

It's about time. Drug-war critics have been waiting for commutations ever since Attorney General Eric Holder told the American Bar Association in August that "certain low-level nonviolent drug offenders who have no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels will no longer be charged with offenses that impose draconian mandatory minimum sentences."

Political science Professor P.S. Ruckman Jr., who hosts the Pardon Power blog, had rated Obama "one of the most merciless (presidents) in history."

Nearing Bush's record

On Thursday, Ruckman observed, "I don't think that changes his record that much." With nine acts of clemency, however, Obama is approaching the 11 commutations granted by Bush.

The American Civil Liberties Union estimates that close to 2,000 nonviolent offenders are serving life without parole in federal prisons.

"If we were reading about this stuff and it were in another country," noted the head of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Julie Stewart, "we'd be saying, 'Oh, my god, they're putting away people for life for nonviolent offenses.'"

It is amazing how many liberals will support Obama's reticence to use his clemency power. "Willie Horton!" they chime -- noting that Republicans made former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis answer for the furlough of a murderer who raped a woman during an armed robbery after he was furloughed. Be it noted: Horton was ineligible for parole and should not have been given a weekend pass.

Aaron has no record of violence. He has a clean prison record. He has taken responsibility for the actions that led to his prosecution. His family wants to help him establish a productive life.

During a 2002 phone call from prison, Aaron told me he could not believe that in America, a young man could be condemned to spend the rest of his life behind bars for a stupid, criminal, but nonviolent, decision.

"These people literally would have died in prison without this act of compassion and mercy by the president," Stewart noted. "He will not regret it."

Indeed, I believe Obama will feel so good about these commutations, he'll do it again soon.

Original report here




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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cover-up claim over British police chief's role in lorry 'killing' probe as constable announces plans to retire months after quietly investigating own unit

Police chiefs have been accused of a cover-up as one of Britain’s most senior officers prepares to retire while secretly being investigated over an alleged conflict of interest.

Ian Learmonth, chief constable of Kent, was reported to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in July over a review of the police inquiry into the death of Lee Balkwell, who was found dead in a cement mixer lorry in 2002.

Mr Learmonth faces criticism for letting his officers in Kent investigate how Essex Police handled the case because he himself was working for the Essex force at the time of the original inquiry.

Neither Kent Police nor the force’s elected crime tsar, Ann Barnes, who referred the case to the IPCC, have made the complaint – by Mr Balkwell’s father, Les – public.

Mr Learmonth announced he was retiring in October and will step down on January 3, before the probe begins.

Les Balkwell, who has campaigned relentlessly for justice for his son, said: ‘I made my complaint in June and, six months later, Ann Barnes has not even found an outside force to take on the investigation.

‘I am not surprised to see more attempts to cover up the truth about my son’s death. Mr Learmonth has questions to answer about his role in Essex. 'He should not have been allowed to retire.’

Lee Balkwell, 33, was working as a cement mixer driver for Upminster Concrete when his body was discovered in July 2002 stuck between the drum and chassis of a mixer lorry on an Essex farm.

Despite suspicions of foul play, the death was ruled a ‘tragic accident’ by Essex Police.

In 2010, after a series of reviews, it was announced that Kent Police would look into the case.

Last year, the IPCC ruled that the original inquiry by Essex Police was ‘seriously flawed’, and in March Lee’s body was exhumed by detectives.

Last month, company boss Simon Bromley was charged with manslaughter.

Earlier this year, Mr Balkwell discovered Mr Learmonth had been assistant chief constable at Essex in late 2002, at the time of the original inquiry. Mr Balkwell then wrote to Mrs Barnes, Kent’s police and crime commissioner, to complain.

On July 1, Mrs Barnes’s office referred the complaint to the IPCC, but this decision was not made public. The IPCC told Mrs Barnes that an investigation had to be carried out, but did not specify by whom.

The complaint was initially resolved locally. In early October, Mr Learmonth announced his retirement, but again no mention was made of the complaint.

Mr Balkwell appealed against the dismissal of his complaint, and this was upheld by the IPCC, which ruled his concern had to be looked at externally.

Earlier this month, Mrs Barnes’s office wrote to Mr Balkwell to inform him Mr Learmonth’s involvement would be considered by a senior officer ‘ from outside of Kent and Essex’. Again, this decision was not made public.

Mrs Barnes posted a photograph of herself with Mr Learmonth and his retirement cake, in the shape of a police helmet, on Twitter last week.

Kent Police said: ‘Ian Learmonth was a temporary assistant chief constable at Essex Police in 2002 for three months and was at no time involved in the original investigation into Mr Balkwell’s death.

Mr Learmonth did not have line-management responsibility for the investigation and had no involvement in any review of the investigation.’

A spokesman for Mrs Barnes said only the most serious cases involving gross misconduct have to be publicised.

Original report here




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Saturday, December 21, 2013

I didn't do it, I wasn't there -- The Derek Bromley Story

An Australian black jailed mainly on the basis of dodgy forensic "science"

In 1984, Derek Bromley was convicted of murder on the say of a schizophrenic and disputed forensic evidence. Now, his appeal may finally be heard, writes Mark Whittaker.

His mother, Elva Milera, died of a blood clot shortly after giving birth to Derek. His father, a shearer and itinerant worker, periodically went off chasing work and left the three children with a local woman, Mrs Bromley. In 1957, when Derek was about one, the Aborigines Protection Board arrived.

The police took the kids and that was the last their father saw of them. "Auntie Lill wanted to adopt us but 'the welfare' wouldn't let her," Russell said. Russell and his sister were fostered with a white family, while Derek was taken back to Mrs Bromley, who took good care of him. But when he was five she got sick and he passed to other members of the Bromley family with whom it didn't go so well. He didn't even know he had a brother and sister until he was in his late teens.

When Russell first met him, they were both running wild. "We was all pretty dysfunctional, as they call it," Russell tells me. "Even when we got together we didn't know how to connect."

Derek Bromley got out of jail on April 3, 1984, having served more than three years for being present when a male was sexually assaulted. On the night of his release, he went into Adelaide with a volunteer from a prisoner welfare group, Andrew Lieschke, and stayed out late. Five days later, the fully clothed body of 21-year-old Stephen Docoza was found by rowers in the River Torrens.

When Gary "Beau" Carter heard news of the death, he went to police. Known in Aboriginal drinking circles as "Reverend Beau", he'd get about preaching with a Bible, karate-kicking branches, talking about Bruce Lee and Martians. He told police that he had gone into town in a taxi five days earlier with a man called John Karpany. About 3am, they'd pulled up at a nightspot called Jules, where they saw Derek Bromley and Stephen Docoza on the street outside.

According to Carter, Bromley and Docoza got in the taxi (Lieschke had since left) and they went to another nightspot, where Carter tried to buy a flagon of wine, unsuccessfully, before the four men paid the cabbie and walked off towards the blackness of the parklands that encircle Adelaide at night, towards the River Torrens.

Carter told the police that it was there that Bromley made sexual advances towards Docoza and became enraged when he was rejected. Bromley and Karpany attacked Docoza, punching, kicking and bashing him with a barbell that belonged to Carter. Carter said he tried to help Docoza but "freaked out" and ran off, leaving the men with the bashed and naked body (although the body was found fully clothed), and didn't see any more.

Carter ran towards an Adelaide culinary institution, the Pie Cart, asked for a cup of water, and headed back towards the river. He says he came across Bromley and Karpany again on the Morphett Street Bridge and offered them some of his water.

Police went out and arrested the two young Aboriginal men, both with long histories of juvenile crime. Bromley denied that any of this took place, denied that he'd ever met Carter or Docoza. A police patrol had, however, stopped Bromley that night at the Morphett Street Bridge, as they were inclined to do whenever they found Aboriginal men wandering the streets at night.

The next day, Carter was admitted into Hillcrest Psychiatric Hospital, where he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and where he stayed for three months. According to Milera, a report was made on his state of mind. "We know it says he was at the time - the precise time - overtly psychotic, he was delusional, and also that he was posing as different entities."

Milera had a schizophrenic cousin, so she found it bizarre that the police and courts could place so much importance on Carter's evidence. And she was shocked that the taxi driver who identified Bromley as being the man he picked up that night had said that Bromley wore a white suit, white tie and white hat. Yet no evidence was produced to show that Bromley, a street tough Aborigine who'd been out of jail for just a few hours, owned such a dandified outfit.

Nor was Andrew Lieschke, who had accompanied him into town, called by either the defence or prosecution to say what Bromley had been wearing. The flaws in the evidence of the mentally ill Carter and of the taxi driver's identification were thrashed out at trial and again at appeal, where the High Court found that appropriate warnings had been given to the jury by the trial judge.

The jury perhaps chose to overlook those flaws because there was also a third plank to the prosecution case, the forensic evidence. So long as the forensics supported the other two planks, the case held together. And it was while looking into this, that Milera found Dr Bob Moles.

Bob Moles, tall, grey and just a little dishevelled in the way of a pin-striped law boffin, is a one-man innocence project. He has quit his job as an associate professor of law at the University of Adelaide to pursue his crusade to free the innocent, particularly those who'd been put away by the evidence of South Australia's former chief forensic pathologist, Dr Colin Manock.

It had started when a student came to Moles with a project that examined Manock's evidence in a murder trial. "I wasn't particularly interested in miscarriages of justice," says Moles. "I said, 'Can you bring me any evidence?' The student brought me a barrow load. I read it and thought, 'This is crazy. It can't be right.' But it was, and because Manock was the chief forensic pathologist, we thought there must be more cases like this. So we had a look and quickly came up with a dozen more." One of those cases was Derek Bromley's.

When Moles met Bromley in prison, he knew he was someone he could work with. "Derek's very much on the front foot. He's intelligent, articulate ... Sometimes he'll ring me up and say, 'You have to talk to this fellow and that fellow.' Half an hour later he'll ring me back and say, 'I've talked to the other fellow and he's agreed to meet you.' Then, half an hour later, he'll ring back and say, 'I've arranged the meeting for Friday at 10.' "

The thrust of Moles's argument - tabled by the South Australian Parliament's legislative review committee - is that Manock, as the chief forensic pathologist for the state, performed 10,000 autopsies and yet was not properly qualified as a forensic pathologist. "It's important to appreciate that the so-called scientific evidence he gave at the Bromley trial was utter nonsense," says Moles.

In that evidence, Manock had asserted the various cuts and bruises on Docoza's body had occurred in the hour before death and that Docoza had drowned. Adds Moles, "Manock gave a number of descriptions of injuries: this one would have been caused by a kick; this one could have been caused by a barbell; this one could have been caused by scraping on the ground. All those descriptions exactly correlated with [Carter's] description of the fight. So you have a good match between the scientific evidence and the eyewitness evidence. You put them together and you come up with a conviction."

Manock's opinions went through the trial and the appeal uncontested. But one of Australia's foremost forensic experts on drowning, Professor Vernon Plueckhahn, as quoted in the tabled document, said it was his "firm opinion that there is no scientific basis in the post-mortem findings for an unequivocal diagnosis of death from drowning".

In fact, Moles says, there wasn't enough evidence to say that Docoza was even murdered. "Once a body's been immersed in water for about two days," he says, "the tissues become putrefied and they become a bit like jelly, so if you could identify injury to the body you couldn't possibly determine if it's happened before or after death.

"A body initially sinks to the bottom, rolls around for a couple of days, coming into contact with debris on the bottom. After that, because of the gases building up in the body, it begins to rise. If it's busy, like the Torrens, boats can knock it around. The body is face down with the arms hanging down. The head gets bumped around.

"Dr Manock said at trial that none of the damage to the body was done post-mortem. He didn't have any rational basis for saying that, because you can't distinguish post-mortem from ante-mortem injuries when they've been in the water that long."

David Szach was in prison when Bromley and Karpany were arrested for murder. It surprised him. He'd known them both and he didn't believe it. Bromley was a "stand-up guy". "I found the whole scenario bizarre. He allegedly killed this guy with a dumbbell in an attempted rape. It didn't make sense to me."

But Szach knew more about the system than most. In 1979, he had been convicted of murdering his 44-year-old lover, prominent Adelaide lawyer Derrance Stevenson. Stevenson's body was found in a foetal position in his freezer with a single bullet through the back of his head.

It was made all the more notorious by the fact that Szach, then 19, had been in a relationship with Stevenson since he was in year 9, having been recruited in Adelaide's Rundle Mall by Gino Gambardella, a chiropractor who was active in the city's gay scene in the 1970s and who fled Australia for Italy in 1980. "Gambardella was procuring people such as myself for prominent people around Adelaide," says Szach. "That's what his primary activity was."

Colin Manock had testified that the time of Stevenson's death was between 5.45pm and 6.40pm, which just happened to coincide with the time that Szach was at the house. Gambardella had also been at the house later that night, and there was no other hard evidence against Szach.

Thirteen days after Stevenson's murder, Alan Barnes, 17, disappeared. Barnes had also been introduced to Stevenson by Gambardella. But any murky connections that might have existed between the murders weren't pursued by police because they already had Szach in the frame.

Szach became a busy campaigner from jail. He got some of the most prominent forensic pathologists in the world to say that it was impossible to pinpoint the exact time of death for a body in a foetal position in a freezer. Szach became an embarrassment to the authorities. He was encouraged to apply for a parole date under new sentencing laws, but refused, saying that such a move would recognise his own guilt.

"I think the government got to a point where it was either going to hold an inquiry into the circumstance of my arrest and conviction or release me," says Szach, now middle-aged and suffering from motor neurone disease.

Szach was released in 1993 and says the South Australian government had to amend legislation so that it could give him a parole date without him applying. "It didn't matter what I did, they just wanted me out of jail," Szach says. "That's why I find it so difficult to understand why my situation is so far removed from Derek's situation and why he's had to spend these additional six years in jail for a stance which has been no different from my own, other than he's black. The government bent over backwards to give me a get-out-of-jail free card and yet they are re-sentencing him year after year."

Colin Manock comes to the front door of his sandy brick house in a cute Adelaide street. He is affable, with short silver hair and a grey beard, but not interested in talking about Bromley or any other case. He fought a defamation action against Channel Seven for seven years, he says. "The court case almost cost me my marriage. But my wife eventually saw the sense of going through with it."

"Do you have anything to say about Bob Moles?"

"Yes, he's a c...."

When I tell Moles of the exchange, he lights up. "He's often said, 'If you see Bob Moles crossing the road, put your foot on the accelerator, not the brake.' "

Bill Rowlings, CEO of Civil Liberties Australia, credits Moles's campaign against Manock with having created a huge breakthrough for the wrongfully convicted. Once a person has been convicted in Australia, they have one right of appeal within 30 days. If new evidence subsequently emerges, their only means of getting back before the courts is by a pardon petition to the state governor. As the Queen's representative, the governor hands the petition to the state's attorney-general, who effectively decides whether the case has merit. Leaving such a potentially unpopular decision in the hands of a politician explains why few people are ever freed this way unless they have a strong media advocate.

But earlier this year, South Australia became the first state to take that decision away from the attorney-general and give it to the courts, a direction which Civil Liberties Australia wants other states to follow. "South Australia has done a terrific service to the nation," Rowlings says.

One of the first people to appeal on the day the new system came into effect in June was Robyn Milera, who, at 53, is halfway through a law degree - she may well be qualified by the time the matter has ground its way through the legal mill. (David Szach also wants to appeal his conviction under the new system but has been unable to get legal aid because, it was decided, it is not in the public interest to pursue the innocence of a freed man.)

Original report here




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Friday, December 20, 2013


Sister's amateur detective work helps solve sibling's murder, shows up bumbling NZ cops

A damning internal New Zealand police report says a woman may have got away with murder had it not been for amateur detective work by the victim's sister.

Lee-Anne Cartier, 44, spent thousands of dollars on flights and phone calls searching for the truth about what happened to her brother, Philip Nisbet, and is now taking legal advice on possible action against the police.

"They did a half-arsed job," she said. "There are consequences when you screw up."

Helen Milner, 50, on Thursday was found guilty of the murder of Nisbet, 47, in their Christchurch home on May 4, 2009.

Fairfax Media has learned an internal police document details failings in the initial police investigation which concluded Nisbet's death was suicide.

It is understood the report says Milner may have got away with murder had it not been for the work of Cartier and the coroner.

It also says:

- A senior front-line officer brushed aside concerns about Milner's unusual behaviour the day Nisbet's body was found, telling suspicious police constables it was suicide.

- Members of Milner's and Nisbet's family later confronted police with the belief she killed her husband, but detectives who investigated made basic errors.

- The file was not reviewed by a senior investigator before it was sent to the coroner.

Nisbet's family want changes to police procedure, requiring all sudden deaths to be investigated as homicides.

Police have refused to release any reports or documents prepared about the initial inquiry for privacy and employment reasons.

However, Canterbury District investigations manager, Detective Inspector Tom Fitzgerald, yesterday confirmed the police's initial investigation, which concluded Nisbet's death was suicide, failed in several respects, but he would not comment about the internal document Fairfax Media has learned of.

"We accept . . . that some aspects [of the initial inquiry] were not handled thoroughly," he said.

"The initial investigation wasn't treated as a homicide as it should have been [and] many of the points you raise are as a result of that."

Officers involved in the initial inquiry had the errors brought to their attention but faced no other punishment, Fitzgerald said.

"I'm confident that they will never make those mistakes again."

He paid tribute to Cartier's amateur detective work, saying: "She did a fine job. Unfortunately she should not have had to have done that. I can feel for the families."

On the day of Nisbet's death, the first two police officers on the scene were suspicious about Milner's behaviour and the way events were unfolding, according to evidence in the trial. The internal report says they then raised their concerns with their supervising sergeant.

However, the sergeant told them the death was a routine suicide, the report says.

The decision meant a detailed scene examination was not carried out and valuable evidence was potentially missed or lost.

Days later, Milner's family raised concerns she had murdered Nisbet and detectives were assigned to the case.

However, after months of work they also concluded Nisbet's death was suicide and passed the file to the coroner.

Fairfax Media has learned the internal document suggests the investigation had basic failings including:

- There were not enough resources assigned to the inquiry.

- The Checketts Ave home was not searched after Nisbet's death, which meant evidence, including the box that had contained the fatal dose of Phenergan, was never found.

- A suicide note given to police by Milner was not treated as an exhibit and instead hole-punched and put in a folder. Fingerprints were not taken.

- Electronic equipment, including Milner's computers, was not seized to try to establish when the suicide note was written.

- Milner and Nisbet's text message records for the months leading up to the death were never obtained.

- Inquiries to establish where the fatal dose of Phenergan was bought were not thorough enough.

- Only a limited number of family, friends and work colleagues of the couple were interviewed.

Cartier's amateur detective work began after she became suspicious of her brother's death - particularly a suicide note she was shown by Milner.

She spent thousands of dollars on flights and phone calls gathering information.

Detective Inspector Greg Murton eventually picked up the file after Coroner Sue Johnson found no evidence Nisbet intended to commit suicide. He launched a murder investigation.

The inquiry team of at least six police had to build a largely circumstantial case, because potential physical evidence was not fully investigated at the time.

Family, friends and work colleagues of the couple were interviewed, financial, phone and email records examined and Milner's home searched twice before she was arrested on October 27, 2011.

Detective Superintendent Rod Drew, national manager of criminal investigations, said officers were required to treat all deaths as suspicious until proven otherwise.

If an officer had any concern about a death they should notify their supervisor and the police's Criminal Investigation Branch, Drew said.

"While police are careful to consider every death with caution it is not necessary to treat every sudden death as a homicide, and the resource required to do so would be prohibitive," he said.

Original report here



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Thursday, December 19, 2013


Spanish cop jailed for a year for blowing off a villain's testicles with a stun grenade after dropping it on his lap when he refused to get out of his car

I am inclined to sympathize with the cop here

A policeman has been jailed for a year and ordered to pay his victim €168,000 (£140,000) after blowing off a suspect's testicles with a stun grenade.

The Catalan officer had been tasked with arresting two extortionists with a history of violence when the incident happened.

As the men were experts in martial arts and owned two dangerous dogs, his squadron's commanding officer had allowed him to use stun grenades if needed.

The devices are designed to disorientate the victim by causing temporary loss of hearing and balance when detonated a short distance away.

But when one of the men refused to leave the car, the Barcelona Mosso D'Esquadra officer threw the stun grenade into his lap, it was reported by The Local, which translated an article by Spanish daily 20minutos.

The blast blew away the 25-year-old's left testicle and caused him to lose most of his right one, leaving him infertile.

Sentencing the officer on Tuesday, Spain's supreme court said the incident in 2008 had been an act of gross negligence.

It also ordered that he be suspended from his post.

Original report here




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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Police Claim Teen Shot Himself In Head—While Handcuffed Behind Back

If the police found a dead body in the back of your car, hands tied behind the back, with a hole in the head, and your defense was that the person shot himself, how do you think they would react?

And yet this has happened in police cars at least three times. This time, in Durhman, North Carolina, a teenager, searched, arrested, handcuffed behind his back, shoved in the back of a police car, supposedly shot himself in the head with a firearm the police apparently had failed to find. If the cops’ story is true, we have a case of a suicidal young man who could have easily made a fortune on the Vegas strip mimicking David Copperfield, or at least done well as a contortionist on a traveling circus act.

The police chief explains: "I know that it is hard for people not in law enforcement to understand how someone could be capable of shooting themselves while handcuffed behind the back. . . . While incidents like this are not common, they unfortunately have happened in other jurisdictions in the past."

Yes, they’ve happened in other jurisdictions. Or so other police have said.

Now, one doesn’t have to be a paranoid troublemaker to suggest another possible scenario.* A good detective would consider alternatives in the case of any homicide, and if a non-police officer were found with a body in the back of his car, the presumption would probably not be suicide. Of course, it is at least possible that the cops in this case are simply lying—that they had held the gun to the boy’s head to instill fear in him, and they accidentally fired the weapon, killing him, and came up with a ridiculous story to cover it up—one so ridiculous it just might work, as it’s apparently worked before. The other possibility, which in a sane world anyone would realize is also much more likely than suicide, is that a police officer simply murdered the kid in cold blood, execution-style, for whatever reason.

If the inquiry goes as it usually does, and the officers involved simply take a little time off and come back to work in a month or so, I predict we will be seeing this kind of thing happen much more often. If all it takes to explain this away is "he must have shot himself," any economist will tell you the incentive structure will encourage more such mystery shootings.

There will be some outrage over this, some demands for more police accountability and transparency, as there always are. But it will not result in any sort of actual change in policy or meaningful restraint of officers. For one thing, American culture is thoroughly statist when it comes to law enforcement issues. It is the one area where folks skeptical of government are most likely to cave, as respectable members of society still fear ordinary street crime more than the police state emerging around them. Modern American police forces are characterized by gangsterism and a fetishization of "officer safety" as the primary value. The rest of us are just potential collateral damage in their war on crime. And perversely enough, there exists among conservative and other circles this myth that the media are too hard on police, and so they work overtime to support their local law enforcers. In truth, of course, the mass media hardly report the daily killings, injuries, false imprisonments, rapes, burglaries, and crime sprees police are responsible for in most urban jurisdictions nationwide.

More fundamentally, government monopolies are prone toward corruption and a lack of accountability. It’s in their very nature. The main arguments free-marketers might have against government monopolies in education or medicine apply at least as well to the original sin—the government’s monopoly over law itself. It is this power, after all, that allows government to monopolize anything else, by threatening legal violence against those who refuse to obey. Because the state has a monopoly on law enforcement, we can never expect government police to operate with any more accountability toward the public or respect for individual rights than we can expect of any other state socialist entity. Of course, there are degrees of horror and folly, and the U.S. police situation is surely moving toward one extreme rather than the other. It would be nice to see things move the other way, but the impossibility of a truly civil and moral governmental police system must be acknowledged.

*I should note that as a radical skeptic, I am open to the possibility that this kid and the two other suspects indeed committed suicide. I have no idea how and why, but I suppose it’s a metaphysical possibility. In terms of probability, however, it’s hard to imagine a more slam-dunk case that the officers are responsible for the boy’s death. Most prison inmates were convicted on much less evidence than we have here. Which is why I think it’s important to flip this whole spectacle around and imagine it was your everyday person caught with a dead body, shot in the head and handcuffed in the backseat. There is no reason we should give any benefit of the doubt to police that we wouldn’t for anyone else.

Original report here




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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bad cop, worse cop: Officers from just one force axed for sex on duty, forging an old lady's will and groping a colleague

A police force has revealed a list of officers who have been fired for misconduct in a bid to be more 'transparent'.

South Yorkshire Police published the information which includes a policeman who forged an elderly woman's will and another who had sex with a 'vulnerable' woman he met while on duty, on its website.

Among other offenders is an officer who assaulted a female colleague and another who tried to recruit models for his photography business while on duty.

Lee Wilcox was sentenced to nine months in jail after abusing his position to have sex with a woman he came across while working.

It was revealed the 45-year-old visited the woman's house when off-duty, but had formed a relationship with her when he was called to a domestic incident at her home.

Jon Webb [above] was put behind bars for six years after being branded 'an utter disgrace to the uniform' for stealing £23,000 from an elderly woman he had befriended and altering her will to make himself the beneficiary of a £400,000 estate.

Other officers, who were not named in announcement, did not face legal repercussions for their offences.

A constable who showed inappropriate photographs to colleagues and 'engaged in sexual discussions' was dismissed alongside another who pursued an 'unauthorised photography business interest'.

South Yorkshire Police has been publishing details of officer dismissals on its website since April and says it will also divulge instances when officers resign in 'disciplinary circumstances'.

The force revealed one PC left voluntarily in March while facing six accusations of misconduct, including harassing a woman, lying about his whereabouts and failing to carry out police enquiries but telling his supervisors they had been completed.

Chief Constable David Crompton said: 'Since April this year, South Yorkshire Police has published information on misconduct hearings to make it easier for the public to see details about officers who are dismissed when serious misconduct is proven.' 'The force is continuing to be open and transparent and I have always said we take integrity matters seriously.'

In February South Yorkshire and Cleveland Police announced plans to disclose details surrounding officers who were dismissed or resigned due to disciplinary circumstances.

Original report here




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Monday, December 16, 2013

FBI, Medical Experts Pin Kelly Thomas’ Brutal Death on Police Beating

The thugs, Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli

Critics of police misbehavior may be pleased to hear that the trial of the Fullerton, Calif., police officers accused of beating homeless schizophrenic Kelly Thomas to death has not been ignored by the Southern California media. The Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register, OC Weekly and several local news stations have been covering the case since it opened last week. Two former officers, Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli, are on trial for killing him. A third faces separate charges.

Damning testimony came Monday when a retired FBI agent was called by prosecutors to the stand to analyze the use of force by officers and declared it excessive. Here’s how the OC Weekly described it:

During [Monday]'s testimony in the Kelly Thomas murder trial, a retired FBI supervising special agent and tactical police training expert told jurors that the 37-year-old homeless man had a right to use force to defend himself against two Fullerton police officers who'd essentially converted themselves into heavily armed thugs with badges.

John Wilson, who spent 60 hours studying the gruesome, July 2011, police attack on an unarmed Thomas, said that officer Manuel Ramos began the minor encounter unnecessarily by immediately taking out his baton, swinging it in both hands and poking it at the victim, who hadn't been physically threatening.

But, according to Wilson, the most unprofessional moment prior to the killing occurred when Ramos mocked the schizophrenia-addled Thomas as stupid, dramatically put on gloves as he towered over him and said, "Now, you see my fists? They're getting ready to fuck you up."

District Attorney Tony Rackauckas played related portions of a surveillance tape of the brutality and, over Ramos defense lawyer John Barnett's incessant objections, asked Wilson if he considered the cop conduct appropriate under the circumstances.

"Clearly, no," replied the 26-year FBI veteran, who at one point served on the U.S. Attorney General's protection detail in Washington, D.C. "I have problems with everything that happened after Ramos put the gloves on."

On cross, defense for the two officers on trial tried to paint Wilson as a guy who didn’t know what it was like to walk a beat or what the work of a street cop was actually like, according to the OC Weekly.

Yesterday, the trauma surgeon who treated Thomas when he was brought in following the beating testified. He said Thomas’ death was ultimately caused by oxygen deprivation to the brain, a result of his inability to breathe properly during the beating. From the Los Angeles Times:

When he arrived, Thomas was breathing through the tube, which was attached to an air bag that was squeezed by hand, [Dr. Michael] Lekawa said. His blood pressure was extremely low and his PH score indicated that his body was producing so much acid that, the doctor said, he has never seen a patient with a similar PH score live. "I've never seen a survivor, ever, in my 18 years," he said.

The cause of Thomas' death, Lekawa said, was inadequate oxygen to his brain. During the confrontation with police, "various persons were on [Thomas] and holding him down … preventing him from breathing," Lekawa said. "He was doing everything he could to breathe but becoming less and less mentally with it to do what he could to breathe," he said.

Ultimately, Thomas stopped breathing, which caused his heart to stop, leading to "irreversible brain damage," he said.

Original report here




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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Chief Judge For 9th Circuit Cites 'Epidemic' Of Prosecutor Misconduct

The dissent by Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, from a decision not to rehear U.S. v. Olsen starts off with a bang:

"There is an epidemic of Brady violations abroad in the land. Only judges can put a stop to it."

Brady, of course, is shorthand for the Supreme Court decision that requires prosecutors to turn over exculpatory evidence to defense attorneys. In Olsen, a ruling from a three-judge 9th Circuit panel in January detailed extensive questionable conduct on the part of the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl Hicks, who works for the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. (Kozinski's opinion this week doesn't name Hicks, nor do most press accounts of the decision, but I will. These prosecutors need to be identified by name.)

Kenneth Olsen was convicted of "developing a biological agent for use as a weapon." While there was little question Olsen did try to produce ricin, the problem for the government was that there was little specific evidence that Olsen intended to kill someone with it. He attributed his chemistry to morbid curiosity. The strongest evidence from the government was a bottle of allergy pills found in Olsen's lab that, according to forensic specialists, contained traces of ricin. This would seem to indicate that Olsen was preparing to use the ricin to poison people.

But at the time of the trial, one forensic analyst who handled the pills, Arnold Melnikoff, was under investigation for forensic misconduct. His testimony had already led to three wrongful convictions. A broad and damning internal investigation of his work looked at 100 randomly chosen cases and found improprieties in 14 of them, including contaminants in his tests; "mistakes in case documentation, administrative documentation, evidence analysis, data interpretation, and written reports"; and "a tendency for conclusions to become stronger as the case developed, from notes to written reports to testimony."

AUSA Hicks knew about the investigation of Melnikoff and its sweeping scope. But not only did he fail to disclose this to Olsen's attorneys, he allowed Melnikoff's attorney to characterize it as an "administrative" review that was limited to one case from 10 years ago.

While the 9th Circuit panel found that the investigation was evidence unfavorable to the prosecution that wasn't turned over to Olsen's attorneys, the court also determined that the evidence wasn't "material" to Olsen's conviction. That is, even if it had been turned over to Olsen's attorneys, Olsen would likely have been convicted anyway. (The opinion did not address whether the evidence had been suppressed.) Here's where Kozinski, dissenting from the 9th Circuit's decision Tuesday not to rehear the case before the full court, rips into his colleagues:

"The panel's ruling is not just wrong, it is dangerously broad, carrying far-reaching implications for the administration of criminal justice. It effectively announces that the prosecution need not produce exculpatory or impeaching evidence so long as it's possible the defendant would've been convicted anyway. This will send a clear signal to prosecutors that, when a case is close, it's best to hide evidence helpful to the defense, as there will be a fair chance reviewing courts will look the other way, as happened here."

Kozinski also has some choice words for Hicks, though again, it's unfortunate that he doesn't call the prosecutor out by name.

"Protecting the constitutional rights of the accused was just not very high on this prosecutor's list of priorities. The fact that a constitutional mandate elicits less diligence from a government lawyer than one's daily errands signifies a systemic problem: Some prosecutors don't care about Brady because courts don't make them care."

Nor, unfortunately, do bar associations or disciplinary boards. In a phone interview today, Olsen's attorney Peter Offenbecher says he's profoundly disappointed with the decision. "My client did not get a fair trial. And it's because of a systemic problem of misconduct that the courts fail to correct. It's a sad day for the criminal justice, and it's a sad day for the Constitution."

The U.S. Department of Justice is stingy when it comes to releasing information about disciplining federal prosecutors for misconduct, but it seems unlikely Hicks will face any real sanction. Recent media investigations have found that such discipline is rare. Even in cases involving high-profile, egregious misconduct, like the prosecution of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, prosecutors can usually duck any serious sanction. In the Stevens case, the DOJ imposed light suspensions on the offending prosecutors, and even those were later overturned by an administrative law judge. (You could make a strong argument that federal prosecutors have more protections against professional sanction than criminal defendants do against violations of their constitutional rights by federal prosecutors.)

Offenbecher says it's unlikely that he'll file a complaint against Hicks. That isn't uncommon, either. Defense attorneys have to work with prosecutors on behalf of other clients, including negotiating favorable plea bargains. Putting yourself in the cross-hairs of a U.S. attorney's office can make it very difficult to be an effective advocate. That's a lot of risk to take on, especially if it's unlikely that anything will actually come of the complaint.

Offenbecher didn't cite those reasons, though. He said that at the moment, he's just more interested in achieving justice for his client than seeing a federal prosecutor get punished.

That's certainly understandable. But it highlights a system that provides strong incentives for prosecutors to shortcut constitutional rights (convictions are good for a prosecutor's career) and provides no incentives whatsoever for the courts, defense attorneys, bar associations or anyone else to do anything about it.

Original report here




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