Saturday, February 28, 2015

British mother dragged to court for accidentally hurting a youngster while trying to protect her son from a gang of youths walks free after arguing 'I'm a mum, that's my job'

It appears that the prosecutors listened to only one side of the story

When Samantha Firth-Corner saw her teenage son surrounded by a gang of five youths, she did not hesitate to step in.

But her attempt to protect her child from a ‘horrible beating’ left her facing prosecution for assault.

She spent eight months awaiting trial, only to be found not guilty after telling a jury she was defending her son and saying: ‘I am a mum – that’s my job.’

Now the 43-year-old has spoken of her ordeal, describing it as ‘like a nightmare’. Speaking at the family’s neat semi on a quiet estate, she said: ‘It has been a horrible time. For eight months I’ve dealt with the very real possibility that I could go to jail, something that I’d have considered unthinkable. I’m so glad that common sense has eventually prevailed.’

But she ended up being arrested herself after accidentally injuring a teenage boy in the melee.

The 15-year-old, who admitted to drinking eight cans of cider that night, was hit in the face with a stone, chipping two of his front teeth. Mrs Firth-Corner was charged with assault causing actual bodily harm, an offence which can carry a prison sentence of five years.

She spent eight months awaiting trial and was acquitted at the end of a three-day hearing at Teesside Crown Court.

After the case, nine of the 12 jurors were so emotional they approached her outside court and wished her well, one of them even offering her a hug.

Mrs Firth-Corner, a tutor with the Unite trade union, has campaigned successfully to save her threatened local library and allotments in the historic Yorkshire Dales market town of Bedale.

She had never been in trouble with the law before. Speaking of her acquittal, she said: ‘My thoughts right now are "least said, soonest mended" and I’d like to put the whole thing behind me and get my life back to where it was before all this happened.

‘I wish the prosecution had never been brought, I’m not sure why it was.’ Her friends have also questioned why the mother of three was brought to trial.

One said: ‘It’s madness that Samantha found herself in court. She has been terrified of what might happen to her and had convinced herself she was going to prison. Even the police seemed to be on her side but the Crown Prosecution Service decided to take the case to trial.’

After being acquitted, Mrs Firth-Corner sobbed and thanked the jury as she left the dock, then hugged her partner in the public gallery.

She is 5ft 5in tall, while the teenager is close to 6ft, the jury heard during the trial. She told the court: ‘I just wanted to stop them attacking. I wanted to protect my son. I’m a mum, that’s my job.’

The prosecution case was that Mrs Firth-Corner and her son had gone to the house looking for trouble last May, and she attacked the teenager after he asked: ‘What’s your problem?’

Original report here

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Friday, February 27, 2015

No one will ever be convicted of Jon Benet Ramsey's murder, says lead detective

The former Colorado police chief who led the investigation into the murder of six-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey has admitted that officers botched the initial handling of the crime scene.

Mark Beckner, former chief of the Boulder Police Department, gave his most extensive comments on the case to date in an 'Ask Me Anything' session on Reddit on Saturday. But he has since said that he had no idea he was speaking on a public forum, and that he regretted his 'naivete'.

'I talked to the organizer, and my impression was that this was a members-only type group that talked about unsolved mysteries all around the world,' Beckner, 59, told the Daily Camera.

Ramsey was found dead in the basement of her family's home on December 26, 1996, hours after her mother, Patsy Ramsey, called 911 to say her daughter was missing and a ransom note demanding $118,000 had been found.

Although no one has ever been charged, suspicion has long fallen on her parents, Patsy and John, but there was not enough evidence to bring charges against them and they were ultimately cleared.

On the Reddit forum, Beckner, who joined the investigation nine months after JonBenet's death, said on the day JonBenet's body was found, police should have separated the couple to get full statements from them.

The case was initially mishandled due to a 'perfect storm type scenario', he wrote.

'It was the Christmas holiday and we were short staffed, we faced a situation as I said earlier that no one in the country had ever seen before or since, and there was confusion at the scene as people were arriving before we had enough personnel on the scene,' he wrote online.

'I wish we would have done a much better job of securing and controlling the crime scene on day one. We also should have separated John and Patsy and gotten full statements from them that day.

'Letting them go was a big mistake, as they soon lawyered up and we did not get to formally interview them again until May of 1997, five months after their daughter was murdered.'


On the botched case: 'It was the Christmas holiday and we were short staffed, we faced a situation as I said earlier that no one in the country had ever seen before or since, and there was confusion at the scene as people were arriving before we had enough personnel on the scene.'

On the Ramseys: 'We also should have separated John and Patsy and gotten full statements from them that day. Letting them go was a big mistake... The officers also noticed the how distant John and Patsy seemed to be toward each other.'

On her brother, Burke: 'After a short initial interview that day... Burke was only interviewed one more time and that was by a social services worker. We of course had many other questions we wanted to ask him as the investigation wore on, but were never given an opportunity to interview him again.'

On a possible intruder: 'Most investigators do not believe there was a legitimate point of entry. It is unknown how an intruder may have gotten in.'

On a motive: 'Neither the PD or the FBI believe this was ever a kidnapping. It was a murder that someone tried to stage as a kidnapping.'

On prior sexual abuse: 'Evidence was found that would indicate she was sexually assaulted some time prior to the day of her death.'

On the singularity of the case: 'The FBI told us they'd never seen a 2.5 page ransom note... Ours was and to my knowledge still is the only case in history where a body was found in the same house as a ransom note demanding money.'

On who he thinks is responsible: 'I have avoided saying who I believe is responsible and let the facts speak for themselves. There are several viable theories.'

No one has ever been prosecuted in the case, and Ramsey said he doubt anyone ever would be.

Court documents released in 2013 showed that a grand jury recommended indictments against the Ramseys, contrary to the long-held perception that the secret panel ended their work in 1999 without deciding to charge anyone.

The documents revealed that the parents had been indicted for felony child abuse resulting in death and accessory to the crimes of first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death - but that then-District Attorney Alex Hunter had refused to sign the indictments.

At the time, Hunter didn't mention an indictment, saying only that there wasn't enough evidence to warrant charges against the Ramseys, who had long maintained their innocence.

On the forum, Beckner touched upon the trouble his department had experienced with the Boulder District Attorney's office under Hunter.

'DA involvement in this case was inappropriate,' he said. 'They interfered in the investigation by being roadblocks to getting things done.'

Patsy passed away from cancer in 2006, and two years later, former District Attorney Mary Lacy cleared the Ramseys of any role in their daughter's death, based on DNA evidence that pointed to the involvement of a third party.

Beckner would not say who he believed might be responsible for the killing - 'there are several viable theories' - but he did say that investigators did not believe there was a 'legitimate point of entry' for an intruder to get into the house that night.

He said that the girl was hit hard across the head and then, after it was clear that she had not died, she was strangled between 45 minutes and two hours later, based on her brain swelling.

'The rest of the scene we believe was staged, including the vaginal trauma, to make it look like a kidnapping/assault gone bad,' he said.

He added that they came across evidence that would indicate the girl had suffered prior sexual abuse.

After an apparent sexual abuse the night of the murder, the killer then dressed her - which caused one Redditor to note: 'I guess there wasn't a time problem for the killer'.

Beckner added: 'The killer also took the time to find a pad and sharpie pen, write a 2.5 page ransom note, fashion a garrote and choke her with it, then wrap her in a blanket with one of her favorite nightgowns and place her in a storage room in the basement. He/she/they then neatly put the pad and pen away and escaped without leaving much evidence.'

He added that the FBI told the police they had never known of a 2.5-page note and had never had a case where the body was found in the same place as the ransom note.

When police turned up at the home, they found Mrs Ramsey's tone with them 'very strange'.

'The officers also noticed the how distant John and Patsy seemed to be toward each other,' he said.

Beckner, who was named police chief of Boulder in 1998 before retiring in April last year, is now teaching several law enforcement classes online through Norwich University in Vermont, and said he would consider writing an autobiography about his career.

Despite his misgivings about speaking out on Reddit, he said he believed he had spoken honestly and fairly to readers, the Daily Camera reported.

'I think the only thing I would emphasize is that the unknown DNA (from JonBenet's clothing) is very important,' he told the newspaper. 'And I'm not involved any more, but that has got to be the focus of the investigation. In my opinion, at this point, that's your suspect.'

Current Boulder police Chief Greg Testa told the Daily Camera that he did not know Beckner was going to discuss the case online.

'I learned about it by seeing it posted online,' Testa said. 'I didn't read it line for line, but Mark understands the nature of that investigation, and certainly wouldn't do anything to compromise it.'

He added that the investigation remains open and whenever they receive new tips in the case, they are investigated.

Original report here

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Eric Holder: Patron saint of trigger-happy cops

Attorney General Eric Holder received a tidal wave of laudatory media coverage for his visit to Ferguson, Missouri, in the aftermath of a local white policeman’s killing an 18-year-old black man. Holder assured the people of Missouri, "Our investigation into this matter will be full, it will be fair, and it will be independent."

But Holder’s own record belies his lofty promise. As the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia from 1993 to 1997, Holder was in charge of policing the local police. When police violence spiraled out of control, he did little or nothing to protect D.C. residents from rampaging lawmen.

The number of killings by D.C. police quadrupled between 1989 and 1995, when 16 civilians died owing to police gunfire. D.C. police shot and killed people at a higher rate than any other major city police department, as a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post investigation revealed in late 1998. But Holder had no problem with D.C.’s quick-trigger force: "I can’t honestly say I saw anything that was excessive." He never noticed that the D.C. police department failed to count almost half the people killed by its officers between 1994 and 1997.

Even when police-review boards ruled that shootings were unjustified or found contradictions in officers’ testimony, police were not prosecuted. In one case an officer shot a suspect four times in the back when he was unarmed and lying on the ground. But Holder’s office never bothered interviewing the shooter.

Holder is now being portrayed as a champion of minorities victimized by police, but this attribute was undetectable in the 1990s. The Post noted that "none of the police shootings of civilians has occurred in the more affluent areas west of Rock Creek Park." Because most victims of the police were from the lower-income parts of the city, their plight went largely unnoticed.

Holder is now trumpeting the need for openness, but in the 1990s he acceded to pervasive secrecy on lawmen’s killings. The Post noted, "The extent and pattern of police shootings have been obscured from public view. Police officials investigate incidents in secret, producing reports that become public only when a judge intercedes."

Shortly after Holder became U.S. attorney, a local judge slammed the D.C. government for its "deliberate indifference" to police-brutality complaints. In 1995 the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which supposedly investigated alleged police abuses, was shut down because it was overwhelmed by a backlog of accusations from aggrieved citizens. Despite the collapse of the system’s safeguards, Holder’s office remained asleep at the switch. Even D.C.’s assistant police chief Terrance Gainer admitted, "We shoot too often, and we shoot too much when we do shoot."

Some of the most abusive cases involved police shooting unarmed drivers — a practice that is severely discouraged because of the high risk of collateral damage. Holder told the Post, "I do kind of remember more than a few in cars. I don’t know if that’s typical of what you find in police shootings outside D.C." Actually, D.C. police were more than 20 times as likely to shoot at cars as were New York City police and "more than 50 officers over five years had shot at unarmed drivers in cars," the Post noted.

When he visited Missouri, Holder made a heavily trumpeted visit to the parents of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old killed by a Ferguson policeman. But did Holder ever bother visiting the families of young people unjustifiably slain by the D.C. police? I called the Justice Department press office asking that question but never heard back. Press clips from the 1990s do not include any reports of Holder’s meeting with parents of children unjustifiably slain by the D.C. police.

At 9 a.m. on May 15, 1995, a D.C. policeman pursued a car that he claimed he had seen moving recklessly on Florida Avenue NW. The policeman walked up to the vehicle and shot 16-year-old Kedemah Dorsey in the chest. The car began pulling away, and the policeman hopped alongside and shot the boy again in the back, killing him. Lawyer Doug Sparks, sitting in a nearby car, told the Post, "It was basically at point-blank range. I thought it was some kind of drug shooting." The policeman claimed that he fired because Dorsey, who was scheduled to start his shift at Burger King later that morning, was trying to run him down. Attorney Michael Morganstern, who sued the District government and collected $150,000 for the family, commented, "It’s somewhat difficult to use the car as a weapon when it is wedged in rush-hour traffic and the officer is standing to the side of it, not in front of it." A police department investigation concluded that the shooting was unjustified, but Holder’s office refused to file charges against the policeman.

Banning guns, ignoring shooters

Holder was feckless even when a policeman confessed to lying about killing an unarmed teenager. After Roosevelt Askew killed a 19-year-old motorist during a 1994 traffic stop, he claimed he fired because the driver was trying to run over another policeman. But that story soon collapsed. In early 1995, Askew admitted to Holder’s office that he had lied and then claimed he shot the teenager accidentally. No charges were filed against Askew until a year and a half after his confession. The case lingered on the back burner until after Holder moved on to become deputy attorney general under Janet Reno. The U.S. attorney’s office eventually signed off on a deal that let Askew plead guilty merely to filing a false police report; he received two years probation and a $5,000 fine. Federal judge Harold Greene was appalled at the wrist slap: "This is a bizarre situation. Everybody, including the government and the probation office, suggests that probation is the appropriate remedy. Although I am not entirely satisfied we have the full story, I’m going to go along."

The Post series sparked an uproar that resulted in the Justice Department Civil Rights Division’s investigating D.C. police shootings from the prior five years. And whom did Attorney General Janet Reno put in charge of that effort? Eric Holder. His office denied that any conflict of interest existed, instead insisting that Holder’s "oversight of the review signifies the importance of this endeavor to the Department of Justice." But a 1999 Post article observed, "A closer look at the role of Holder and the U.S. attorney’s office shows the difficulty that arises when law enforcement investigates itself." Holder’s review of D.C. police shootings was careful not to uncover anything that might impede Holder’s political career.

Perhaps Holder did not notice the 1990s’ surge in police killings because he was fixated on banning private guns. He lobbied the D.C. City Council to impose mandatory prison sentences for anyone convicted of possessing a gun and spurred D.C. police to carry out "the most comprehensive gun seizure program in the country" (bankrolled by the Justice Department). In a speech on Martin Luther King Day in 1995, Holder declared that schools should preach an anti-gun message every single day. He also proclaimed that "we" need to "really brainwash people into thinking about guns in a vastly different way."

But Holder has devoted much of his career to brainwashing people to believe that it is safe to trust government at all levels with vast power. In the Clinton administration he worked to expand asset forfeiture and to whitewash an FBI assault that left 80 people dead at Waco. Moreover, Holder championed Barack Obama’s prerogative to kill individuals on his own authority — the ultimate in absolute power.

Holder resigned in September, a month after his Ferguson publicity tour. The controversy around the Ferguson shooting spurred hope for reforms that might curtail perennial police abuses. But it would be naive to expect any new law to make federal, state, or local agencies honest and transparent on their use of deadly force. Nor is there any reason to expect the Justice Department to recognize that the Bill of Rights should trump politicians’ powerlust

Original report here

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Rogue Australian cop admits unlawful assault, dangerous driving and making a false report

But prosecutors want only a slap on the wrist for him. Getting a cop into jail is always mightily resisted

A ROGUE police officer who slammed his patrol car into a motorist, roughed him up, falsely imprisoned him and then lied about it in official reports should only be fined, according to the OPP.

The Melbourne Magistrates’ Court today heard award-winning police officer Kieran John Atkin, 32, had a "brain snap" when he rammed his patrol car into the car of Hillside motorist Anthony Vittori in August 2013.

Former senior constable Atkin — who joined Victoria Police in 2003 — was initially charged with perjury, perverting the course of justice and assault, but today pleaded guilty to reduced charges of unlawful assault, dangerous driving and making a false report.

Atkin and his partner Brennan Roberts began following Mr Vittori when they noticed him driving an unregistered vehicle and followed him home.

Vittori accidentally backed into the patrol car outside of his home, then tried to drive in to his driveway when Atkin drove the patrol car into the right rear side of the car, spinning it around and destroying a post box.

Vittori was then roughed up and falsely arrested for conduct endangering life, spending about five hours in the police lockup.

"Atkin’s false version of events has resulted in the man’s false imprisonment for a number of hours," said magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg.

The incident was filmed on Atkin’s own dash-cam, and the footage was seized after internal affairs investigators raided his office.

Atkin — who was awarded the Tynan Eyre Medal for highest achievement at the Police Academy, resigned from the force last November and has since been stacking supermarket shelves.

He plans to move to Byron Bay.

Mr Rozencwajg said he was "extremely surprised" the Office of Public Prosecutions was seeking only a fine and conviction given the serious nature of the offending.

Mr Rozencwajg also criticised police for taking so long to lay charges.

Atkin will be sentenced next week.

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

British cops and BBC are savaged over Sir Cliff raid: Singer's privacy violated by secret deal to film swoop on his house over sex assault allegations, says report

Sir Cliff Richard had his privacy violated after a secret deal between police and the BBC to film a raid on his house, a report says.

The horrified pop star was left ‘unnecessarily distressed’ after learning police had swooped on his £3.5million home in Berkshire over a sex assault allegation dating from 1985 only when he saw it on TV while in Portugal.

Images were beamed live around the world last August from a camera filming from a helicopter.

Now a previously unpublished report says the deal between the BBC and the police should never have been done – suggesting Sir Cliff should not have been publicly humiliated in this way.

It brands senior officials at South Yorkshire Police incompetent and calls the BBC dishonest for its explanation of how it came to know about the raid.

After a BBC reporter approached the force, police chiefs allowed a reporting team including a camera crew to show officers searching the star’s home.

The coverage caused a major row, and the findings by independent investigator and former chief constable Andy Trotter will reignite the controversy.

Sir Cliff has not been arrested or charged. But many viewers said the BBC coverage made the 74-year-old singer look guilty.

The damning report – released to the Daily Mail under the Freedom of Information Act – concludes:

* Police were wrong to confirm details of a ‘highly sensitive and confidential’ investigation to the BBC.

* They should not have held a secret meeting between a senior detective and a reporter to agree an exclusive deal.

* The force breached Sir Cliff’s privacy by effectively confirming his identity as the suspect in the inquiry to other media.

* Mr Trotter says: ‘People have seen a search of Sir Cliff Richard’s apartment unfold on television with details of a serious allegation put into the public domain prior to him being interviewed by the police.

The search and the nature of the allegation... certainly interfered with his privacy and may well have caused unnecessary distress.’

He concludes that had the force refused to co-operate, the BBC would probably never have run the story.

Although the BBC reporter, Dan Johnson, was not interviewed, Mr Trotter decided the corporation had not been fully open about how it came to hear about the allegation against Sir Cliff.

The BBC claim – that Mr Johnson had persuaded South Yorkshire Police to agree the deal when all he knew was the name of the celebrity suspect – was ‘not one I believe to be credible’, Mr Trotter said.

Evidence supported the police account that Mr Johnson had detailed knowledge and ‘knew as much’ as police did when he made contact.

The BBC has never revealed the source of the original information.

Sir Cliff has called the allegation that he sexually assaulted a boy under the age of 16 in 1985 ‘completely false’. He was interviewed by police under caution and, more than six months on, inquiries are on-going.

Mr Trotter was asked to investigate police handling of the raid by police and crime commissioner Shaun Wright.

Analysis reveals the BBC journalist contacted the force’s communications director Carrie Goodwin on July 14 after an alleged leak from Operation Yewtree, the inquiry into abuse claims involving Jimmy Savile.

A meeting was held the next day with Mr Johnson and Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick, who agreed to tell him the date and location of the raid in exchange for him holding the story until that day to protect the investigation. The chief constable was also informed of the agreement.

Mr Trotter said Miss Goodwin should not have arranged the meeting with Mr Fenwick, not have confirmed any information about the inquiry to the BBC reporter and not have agreed to notify him of the search. Mr Fenwick should have refused to meet or disclose any details to the BBC.

And Chief Constable David Crompton ‘could have rescinded the agreement’.

A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said: ‘While we believe our actions in relation to dealing with the media were within policy and were well intended, they were ultimately flawed and we regret the additional anxiety which was caused to Sir Cliff Richard.’

The BBC was not directly involved in Mr Trotter’s review. A spokesman said: ‘The home affairs committee has already endorsed the way the BBC handled this story. We have nothing further to add.’

A spokesman for Sir Cliff said he would not comment.

Original report here

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Outrage as 'arrogant' traffic cop issues driver with a speeding ticket - even though he admits he 'estimated' car was over the limit and refuses to show the radar gun

Footage of a driver arguing with a policeman over a speeding ticket has gone viral after the man claims the officer wrongly pulled him over because a radar of speedometer wasn't used.

Truck driver Chris Smith filmed the police officer issuing him a speeding fine near the Coonabarabran area in NSW and uploaded the video to his Facebook page on Saturday.

The officer, who identified himself as Steven when he flashed his name badge, told Mr Smith the fine was based on his 'estimation' and he hadn't used a radar.

Mr Smith repeatedly argues that he wasn't speeding, but the officer continues to write him a ticket.

'I want to know how you can book me when I wasn't speeding?' the driver says.

The officer replies 'my estimations' before saying there was another police vehicle on the opposite side the road who agreed the driver was speeding.

'You're a senior constable, for guessing speed?' Mr Smith said.

'Estimating speed,' the officer responds.

'So obviously you're some sort of computer,' the driver argues.

The police officer hits back: 'Expert. I'm an expert at estimating speed'.

When he asks to check the speed radar, the officer says it wasn't used.

'I didn't check you on the radar. I think you need to realise everything is based on my estimations. All a radar does is back up my estimations,' the officer says.

A clearly frustrated Mr Smith suggests the estimation was wrong because the officer's sunglasses put him off, but the policeman just laughs it off.

'This absolutely ridiculous. I will take it to court because I can't get booked for not speeding. I know I can't get booked for you guessing a speed,' Mr Smith said. 'I wasn't speeding.'

The officer tells the driver it's 'my word versus yours then'.

It is understood police can issue speeding fines using radars in police cars or speed cameras, a speedometer and from an estimate of speed.

A NSW Police spokesperson said the driver was issued an infringement notice for exceeding the speed limit by more than 10km per hour.

'All highway patrol operatives are considered subject matter experts in the eyes of the court in terms of estimating speed,' they said.

'This is included as a part of the training received by potential highway patrol officers. Any LIDAR or radar check that is done has to be reinforced with a valid speed estimation.'

Mr Smith now faces a $254 fine and loss of three demerit points, police said.

Original report here

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Naked female prisoner 'humiliated'

[Wisconsin] Corrections officials forced a female inmate to perform naked jumping jacks last year because they believed - wrongly - she had hidden a bottle of urine in her vagina so she could falsify a drug test.

The plan was developed and put into action by Captain Alfredo Garcia based on the accusation of another inmate, according to internal investigation documents released under the open records law. An officer and sergeant said Garcia told them to conduct a strip search of the inmate and order her to jump up and down while naked in hopes of dislodging the bottle they thought she might be hiding.

Another officer said she heard Garcia give the order, as well. But Garcia maintained the staff at the Robert E. Ellsworth Correctional Center near Union Grove, Wiconsin, had misunderstood him.

He said he told staff to make the inmate "squat and cough and spring up real quick like a jumping jack and go back down to squat. I never told her to jump up and down."

"I think there was a breakdown in communication if they had her do jumping jacks. I guess they did," Garcia told investigators. "I don't recall [the inmate] having been out of breath from doing jumping jacks."

Garcia was later disciplined for not following procedures and neglecting his duties, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Joy Staab said. She did not provide specifics about the discipline that was imposed, but said it was "commensurate with the actions of the employee."

In response to the incident, staff members were trained on what to do if they believed they were given an order that violated work rules, Staab said.

Garcia, who has been with the Department of Corrections for about 30 years, did not respond to a request for an interview.

Garcia put together the plan in April 2014 after another inmate alleged the woman was using drugs and had hidden a small shampoo bottle of someone else's urine in her vagina in case an unexpected drug test were conducted. The 25-year-old inmate he targeted is incarcerated for drug-related convictions and officers said her eyes were dilated the night of the strip-search.

Sargeant Donna Elliott and Officer Tracy Robertson told investigators Garcia ordered them to take the inmate to a shower stall, have her take off her clothes and go through a routine strip-search.

They were then to have the inmate jump up and down while naked and to remain naked while she squatted and urinated into a cup. Ordinarily, inmates are allowed to put on their undergarments or other clothes before urinating.

The inmate was to hold the cup with one hand and keep her other hand on her head, in an apparent attempt to prevent her from interfering with the urine sample.

Before he had officers conduct the search, Garcia asked women on staff about how strong a vagina is and whether a woman could hold a bottle inside her body. He told investigators his staff had not raised any concerns about the procedure.

"If they would have said this would not work, we would not have done it," he said. "That's why I got female input. One person said [it] may be able to work, but [was] not sure how strong the vagina is."

But at least among themselves, officers had reservations, the records show.

"I told Sargeant Elliott that I wasn't going to do that because I didn't think we could do that," Robertson told investigators. "It's humiliating for the inmate."

Robertson consulted Sargeant Yesica Cruz and told her she didn't think the plan was in keeping with department policy. Cruz agreed and said health workers should be brought in to conduct a body cavity search if the inmate was suspected of hiding something, according to the records.

"[Robertson] said, 'Can you believe Garcia told me to have this inmate jump up and down, butt naked during a strip search,' " Cruz told investigators. "Officer Robertson asked, 'Can he do that? Isn't that humiliating?' Officer Robertson said that she did not feel comfortable doing this."

Robertson and Elliott carried out the standard strip-search Garcia had ordered while he monitored the situation from a control room. Garcia could hear what was going on but did not have a direct line of view of the inmate, according to the investigators' interviews.

After the strip search was conducted, Elliott mouthed "Should I do it?" to Robertson and Robertson told her no, according to the records.

"After that, Sargeant Elliot glanced toward the (control room) where Captain Garcia was and we could see his silhouette inside," Robertson said. "Sgt. Elliott then said to (the inmate), 'This isn't me, but per the captain, he wants you to jump up and down.' "

They didn't find a bottle and afterward they made the inmate urinate in a cup. Corrections officials considered the results questionable, so they did another test with a mouth swab. Garcia performed the swab but initially got inconclusive results. He did a second mouth swab, which came back negative.

An investigation was launched days later, after the inmate complained about her treatment. After the incident she said she had bad dreams and felt "trapped in my mind."

"I understand (their suspicions), and I respect that they're doing their job, but that's my body," she told investigators. "If you thought you needed a search warrant for me, bring me to the hospital and let me do that. You didn't need to do that."

Larry Dupuis, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, said inmates have fewer privacy rights than others, but that the treatment of the inmate seemed "extreme." There would have been other ways to check whether the inmate was using drugs, Dupuis said after the Journal Sentinel described the incident to him.

"The approach this captain took seems really boneheaded," he said, "if not abusive."

Original report here

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

An Innocent Man: Scott Molen's Bittersweet Victory

"I’m trying not to hate, but rather to enjoy the beauty we can see in life," observes Scott Molen. That worthy sentiment is all the more remarkable coming from someone whose life has been permanently disfigured by the State’s proprietary brand of ugliness.

In June 2007, Scott was convicted in Ada County, Idaho of "lewd and lascivious conduct" with his step-granddaughter and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The case presented against Scott consisted of the uncorroborated, self-contradictory testimony of the young accuser. The prosecution quite thoughtfully kept their presentation otherwise uncluttered by evidence.

During voir dire, assistant prosecutor Josh Taylor explained to the jury that "you’ll hear testimony from a small child. There won’t be any DNA evidence or other types of evidence of that sort." So zealous was the prosecution to avoid confusing the jury that they suppressed – until half-way through the trial -- the results of a detailed medical examination that found no physical symptoms of sexual assault.

While austere in providing proof, the prosecution was very generous in defining the offense for which Scott was on trial. He was formally charged with sexual assault – in essence, the rape of a child – but the lead prosecutor, assistant Attorney General Justin D. Whatcott, was permitted by the trial judge to redefine the offense as "lewd and lascivious conduct," which had a much lower threshold: Rather than physically violating the child, the defendant was accused of improperly "touching" her. This approach allowed the prosecution the luxury of barraging the jury with lurid claims it was not required to prove.

The prosecution was well aware of the fact that it was riding a very weak case.

Theresa Gardunia, the original prosecutor in the case, "told me I could plead guilty to one count of injury to a child, with one year in jail," Scott recalled to me. "I was also promised that I wouldn’t be a registered sex offender. But I didn’t do what they accused me of doing. I would never do such a thing to a child. I had made a lot of mistakes, and I had been in trouble with the law. I didn’t try to hide it. But I was not going to volunteer to serve time for something I would never do."

Most people convicted of crimes maintain their innocence. Few, however, can cite concurring testimony provided by the foreman of the jury that convicted them.

"When you boil the whole thing down and look at it," jury foreman Ken McKay admitted to a private investigator roughly a year after Scott was sent to prison, "there wasn't a single shred of evidence." Four members of the jury, McKay recalled, were "dug in" on behalf of Scott’s innocence. Several others "had decided that he was guilty pretty early on and there was really no reasoning with them about that."

An engineer by training – his professional credo was "In God we trust, everybody else bring your data," the jury foreman told the investigator – McKay maintained that he had been skeptical about "fantastic charges" made by the prosecution. For instance, the jury was told that "there was a pair of [girl's] undergarments that had a blood stain in them." His misgivings grew when that critical piece of evidence, although being prominently referred to in the prosecution’s case, was "never produced."

This was not an oversight, nor the product of mere incompetence. It was a "Brady violation" – deliberate prosecutorial misconduct intended to conceal exculpatory evidence. This much-discussed but never-seen piece of evidence was supposedly discovered at a time when the alleged victim was living with her mother and an abusive boyfriend in Phoenix, roughly 1,000 miles away from Scott. Furthermore, the mother claimed to have found it several months before she sent the girl back to visit the alleged molester a second time....

More here

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Romeo Phillion can sue police for $14m over wrongful conviction

Supreme Court of Canada clears the way for Phillion to seek compensation for three decades in prison for a killing he didn’t commit

The Supreme Court of Canada has cleared the way for a wrongfully convicted man to sue police and the Crown over his three decades of imprisonment.

The court has refused to hear an appeal that was seeking to block Romeo Phillion’s multimillion-dollar lawsuit for negligence and prosecutorial wrongdoing.

Phillion’s suit was originally barred by a lower court, but was reinstated by the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Now in his mid-70s, Phillion was convicted of second-degree murder in 1972 in the death of Ottawa firefighter Leopold Roy based on a confession he recanted almost immediately.

The federal government ultimately referred the case to the Ontario Court of Appeal, which quashed his conviction and ordered a new trial in 2009.

The Crown then withdrew the charge, arguing too much time had passed.

In quashing the conviction, the appeal court found that police had initially verified an alibi showing Phillion’s innocence but never told the defence about it, apparently because investigators subsequently found it to be untrue.

Phillion sued for $14 million, alleging negligence and wrongdoing by prosecutors and two Ottawa police officers.

In April last year, an Ontario Superior Court justice decided the suit would be an abuse of process because the appeal court had rejected suggestions of wrongdoing by police or the Crown and that too much time had passed to try Phillion’s claim now.

However, the appeal court then ruled Phillion should at least have a chance to put his case to a jury.

"It would further bring the administration of justice into disrepute to grant a stay in these circumstances and deprive the appellant of any opportunity to seek financial redress for his conviction when he did not have the opportunity to present a full defence at his trial," the court said.

Phillion was the longest-serving inmate in Canada to have a murder conviction thrown out.

Original report here

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Paedophile British police sergeant who committed 'most horrendous' sex attacks has his sentence increased to 20 years

A paedophile police sergeant who committed a series the 'most horrendous' sex attacks against his victim for more than a decade has had his jail sentence increased to 20 years.

Disgraced former Cambridgeshire Police officer Nick Lidstone, 56, was jailed for more than 14 years at Norwich Crown Court last December after admitting to a string of offences.

But Attorney General Jeremy Wright claimed the sentence was 'unduly lenient'. And today, judges at the Court of Appeal in London ruled that five-and-a-half years should be added to sentence.

Lindstone from Barrington, Cambridgeshire, admitted a series of rapes and child sex attacks relating to one victim last November.

The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, reported the years of abuse, which culminated in being raped as an adult, early last year.

Announcing the decision today, Lady Justice Macur, sitting with Mr Justice Green and Judge Keith Cutler, said: 'This offender's status in society as a serving police officer was a position which he abused.'

He had committed 'what can only be described as the most horrendous sexual offending', she said.

Lidstone, who was dismissed from his role at the force's headquarters after 30 years of service, was placed on the sex offenders' register for life.

Original report here

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Chinese man gets big payout over wrongful conviction

A Chinese man who was freed after six years on death row following a wrongful murder conviction has been paid $189,000 in compensation, state media has said, amid anger at the flawed legal system.

Nian Bin, a former food-stall owner who was convicted of poisoning two children and condemned to death in 2008, was finally freed after a court quashed his conviction last August.

A court awarded him 1.14 million yuan for loss of personal freedom and mental suffering, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

His case went through multiple appeals, with lawyers arguing that the evidence against him was insufficient and saying police had tortured him to obtain a confession.

Nian applied in December for 15 million yuan in compensation from the government at a court in the eastern province of Fujian which had upheld his death sentence three times, the China Daily reported at the time.

He also requested the court make a public apology through the media, it added.

Acquittals in China's Communist-controlled court system are extremely rare -- 99.93 percent of defendants in criminal cases were found guilty last year, according to official statistics.

The use of force to extract confessions remains widespread in the country and defendants often do not have an effective defence in criminal trials, leading to regular miscarriages of justice.

China has occasionally exonerated wrongfully executed convicts after others came forward to confess their crimes, or in some cases because the supposed murder victim was later found alive.

The Communist Party is attempting to allay public anger over injustices by lessening the influence of local officials over some court cases, and reversing verdicts in some high-profile cases.

Original report here

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

British cop slammed arrested man's head into desk in custody suite - leaving him with stitches and a £13,000 pay-out

This is the shocking moment a police officer slammed a handcuffed man's head onto a custody suite desk, leaving him needing stitches in an attack that led to a £13,000 damages pay-out.

Mark Cheesman was taken to Birkenhead police station in Merseyside, after he was arrested in 2010, accused of running in between traffic.

CCTV footage taken from the station's custody suite shows that as Mr Cheesman protested his innocence, he was grabbed by constable Gregory Hawkswell.

His head was forced onto the desk, leaving him bleeding from wound on his chin and requiring stitches.

The footage emerged as Merseyside Police agreed to pay £13,200 in damages to Mr Cheesman, from Tranmere, Merseyside.

Mr Cheesman was 23 in 2010 when he was arrested outside the Beach bar, in Birkenhead, and accused of running in between traffic, which he denied. He was handcuffed by Pc Hawkswell and arrested.

The footage, from the police station cameras, shows Mr Cheesman taken to the custody desk to be checked in by the custody sergeant.

He was told to stop swearing after protesting that he had 'done nothing f****** wrong'.

Handcuffed Mr Cheesman is seen to turn away from the custody sergeant to briefly look at Pc Hawkswell, and at that point, the officer grabs him and forces his head on to the desk.

Mr Cheesman was later taken to hospital for stitches before being handed a fixed penalty notice the following day.

Pc Hawkswell was charged with assault but found not guilty by a jury in criminal proceedings in 2011. He claimed he had feared for his safety. [From a handcuffed man?]

In defence documents the officer said: 'At the custody desk, Cheesman refused to face the custody sergeant, preferring to face myself instead, which I believed to be a threat. I attempted to lead Cheesman back to face the sergeant, at which point he became tense and attempted to rear at me.

'I applied force to the handcuffs and forced him down towards the desk in order to regain control of him. 'I believe that, as a result, Cheesman suffered a cut to his chin from a fixed sign on the custody desk.'

Mr Cheesman's law firm, Bootle-based James Murray Solicitors, said the video showed that PC Hawkswell's account 'clearly was not plausible'.

'Mr Cheesman was in handcuffs, he was a young man of exemplary good character, had done nothing wrong and the video shows that,' said Mr Cheeman's lawyer, Lee Massingham.

Mr Cheesman claimed false imprisonment, trespass to person, personal injury, aggravated and exemplary damages.

Merseyside Police settled the claim for £13,200, plus costs, just weeks before a civil trial was due to start at Liverpool county court. The force has not accepted liability.

Mr Massingham said: 'Viewing the footage of the incident that took place in the custody suite was very distressing for both Mr Cheesman and his family. 'It is absolutely paramount the public are made aware that they do not have to accept such treatment by police officers.

'Mr Cheesman is a man of good character and was not only subjected to a serious assault by an acting police officer but was also unlawfully arrested.

'It is disappointing that it took so long for the matter to resolve favourably for Mr Cheesman, but it is hoped that he can now move on with his life.'

A force spokesman said: 'Merseyside Police considered this civil action and it was examined by the force's legal team. 'The force can confirm that it sought appropriate advice and that a settlement amount was negotiated before trial.

'Merseyside Police remains absolutely committed to the highest integrity and the professional standards of its officers at all times.' [Except where Pc Hawkswell is involved?]

Original report here

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Tyrone Hood freed in wrongful conviction case after serving 21 years

Tyrone Hood truly became a free man as he was exonerated at a Monday morning hearing.

With a judge's order throwing out his murder conviction in-hand, Tyrone Hood truly became a free man as he was exonerated at a Monday morning hearing after spending more than 20 years in prison for a slaying he's continued to insist he did not commit.

"I can't even describe how I feel right now," he said.

Nearly a month ago, outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn commuted Hood's sentence, releasing him from prison.

The decision by Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez to dismiss the convictions against Hood and his co-defendant Wayne Washington, Jr. follows more than two years of investigation by her office's conviction integrity unit - which began looking into the case in 2012 after the University of Chicago's Exoneration Project championed Hood's innocence.

"We're so appreciative of the state for taking the time to reinvestigate the case and reach the right resolution," said Gayle Horn, Hood's attorney.

A now 51-year-old Hood was serving a 50-year prison sentence after he was convicted of the 1993 shooting death of Marshall Morgan, Jr., an Illinois Institute of Technology basketball star.

According to authorities, Hood and Washington committed the murder during a holdup.

Washington - who was released from prison years ago - was not present Monday.

"He was ecstatic. He continued to fight. It's an albatross, a murder conviction around your neck, especially one you didn't do," said Steve Greenberg, Washington's attorney.

Attorneys for Hood say the victim's father was a more likely suspect. Marshall Morgan, Sr. was struggling financially and took out an insurance policy on his son's life before he was murdered.

But the jury heard none of that. "Unfortunately that was the reason I think why Tyrone was convicted," said Jim Mullenix, Hood's trial attorney.

Since his release, Hood has reconnected with his three now-adult children and remains excited about rebuilding his life.

"I'm going to take it one day at a time," Hood said. "I've got to get my job, my life back in order."

Original report here

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Man who spent 10 months in jail for father's murder is released after PACEMAKER records prove his alibi

A man who was charged with the murder of his father and spent 10 months in jail before pacemaker records proved his alibi is now seeking $5million in damages from Ontario police.

Frank Cara was visiting his grandparents on an early February morning in 2012 when his father Claudio, who he lived with at the time, was stabbed to death five times.

It was Frank who found his father bleeding on the kitchen floor, the knife still in his chest.

Cara was charged with his father's murder, despite his protestations he was visiting his grandmother when his father was attacked.

Claudio's pacemaker had recorded his heart's very last beat, at 10:35am that morning.

But that very evidence which proved Frank's innocence, and was provided to police by St. Jude Medical in July, lay sitting for months in a 15,000-page folder deemed 'marginally relevant,' according to the Toronto Star.

Meanwhile Frank was sitting in jail, having been charged for his father's murder and denied bail by police in November.

Models like the one Claudio used also record if an electrical pulse was unsuccessful in its attempt to contract the heart.

Which is how the pacemaker was able to record when exactly his heart beat last.

It would be 10 months before his lawyers found the data that would set him free.

Frank is now seeking compensation, recently filing a claim for wrongful arrest and detention, as well as investigation negligence.

The 31-year-old said police ruined his life, destroying his career and reputation.

Despite the fact that four witnesses confirmed Frank had been visiting his ill grandmother at the time his father was killed, Durham police were convinced he was the murderer.

They tracked Frank's car, read his text messages and intercepted his phone calls, and even asked his sister to wear a wire while confronting him.

And, according to the suit, one officer tried to ruin Frank's reputation with his family and friends, while another made threats to his girlfriend.

It claims one officer said Frank 'was a drug addict, as well as a liar and a murderer,' and another warned Frank's girlfriend, who had children, that she would be reported to child protective services if she did not kick him out of the house.

Bernie O' Brien, one of Frank's lawyers, said Frank was accused of the crime 'long before any sensible investigation had been undertaken.'

'On the flimsiest of evidence, they came to him and suggested he had been complicit.'

Frank maintained his innocence and some family members, as well as his girlfriend, still stood by him.

He also co-operated with police, providing DNA, fingerprint samples, his car and clothes.

But the suit alleges police continued to fumble the investigation.They waited eight months to do a DNA analysis, didn't request Frank's clothes until days after the murder, and, although they had already searched the house immediately after the killing, they decided to search it again three months later.

And when Frank refused to take a polygraph test because he found them unreliable, police took it as 'further evidence of his guilt'.

Investigators had actually used the pacemaker as a threat to Frank, telling him it would have 'a lot of information' on it.

Frank told the Toronto Star he remembered replying, 'go ahead and do that'. But they didn't and the suit alleges they instead chose to 'ignore and bury it'.

Frank's charges were withdrawn in December 2013, after his lawyers had experts analyze the pacemaker data.

It was ruled that 'there was no longer a reasonable chance of a conviction' based on medical evidence.

A Durham police spokesman said they could not comment on the case because of current legal proceedings.

As for Claudio, his murder is listed on the Durham police website as an unsolved homicide.

But Frank said that, instead of trying to figure out who killed his father, he owes it to Claudio to restore the family name 'back to where it once was'.

Original report here

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Was Loretta Lynch Complicit in Wrongful Conviction Cover-up?

The AG nominee charms Senators while innocent man languishes in prison

Just last week, Loretta Lynch assured the Senators of the Judiciary Committee that she would be different from Eric Holder. She said she would make a "full and fair review of every matter" brought before her.

Loretta Lynch smiled warmly at the Senators. Deftly parrying the hard questions, she pledged to be independent and follow the rule of law. Yet while she convincingly promised to "seek Justice—not convictions," an innocent father of three languished in his sixth year of prison as a result of egregious injustice at the hands of prosecutors from her district and a complete system breakdown.

We have learned that she knows about and has refused to acknowledge—much less address—these wrongs. Indeed, at least two former United States Attorneys can attest to this extraordinary injustice and her refusal to resolve it. She would not respond to them herself, and her subordinates see nothing wrong with the prosecution or its result.

This case of prosecutorial misconduct, abuse of power, and judicial complicity was brought to me by a friend. It illustrates everything that can and does go wrong in our criminal justice system: politically motivated prosecutions; targeting of individuals; over-criminalization (making a crime out of business judgment, innocent mistakes, or less); abusive and headline-grabbing prosecutors gone wild; negligent, complicit or flat-out biased judges. The results aren’t pretty: a family devastated, lives ruined, and the needless, long-term imprisonment of someone who was and still should be a productive, tax-paying member of our society.

Rabid prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York—now Ms. Lynch’s office—brought this case as part of the massive effort of the Corporate Fraud Task Force formed by the Department of Justice in July 2002. That Task Force racked up 1300 convictions of businessmen in six years, appeasing the outrage after the implosion of Enron. Like the Enron Task Force, they were given extraordinary resources, and their mission was to target high-profile individuals and companies. The highest value targets had CEO or CFO behind their names.

Bradley Stinn was the Chief Executive Officer of Friedman’s Jewelers. Brad is the father of three children. He was their athletic coach, a devoted husband, and well-respected citizen. He has been in federal prison for six years now on a trumped-up case built on smoke and tied with baling wire by prosecutors known for their abusive, roughshod tactics. Prosecutors were determined to extract the pound of flesh from Bradley Stinn—and they’ve done more than that. His wife and three children have been devastated.

Mr. Stinn did not take a dime from anyone, and he didn’t sell a share of his stock. The charges of wire fraud, securities fraud, and mail fraud, which require theft of money or property, were based on him receiving his salary and a bonus—knowingly paid to him by the company. He did not steal those—and the statutes don’t criminalize people’s salaries and bonuses. If they did, everyone is a criminal.

Not only did Mr. Stinn not steal anything, he lost heavily when Friedman Jewelers’ stock eventually went down. Ironically, he was required to pay "restitution" in excess of $4 million, although he took nothing from anyone. The Stinns were forced to sell their home, and their savings were wiped out. His wife and three children now live with relatives and face every day without the husband and father they love.

Indicted by United States Attorney Benton Campbell, a member of the notorious Enron Task Force cabal about which I have written at length, Assistant United States Attorneys Seth Levine and then Scott Klugman used every trick in their dirty books. They threatened to prosecute witnesses who would have testified in defense of Brad Stinn. The prosecutors yelled, screamed, and intimidated people at will. They refused to provide documents that were favorable to the defense—with rare exceptions, which they grudgingly produced and heavily redacted.

It appears that the government’s case was a sham—enabled by a federal judge who, despite her generally good reputation, in this case seemed biased at best. As in the prosecutions of Senator Ted Stevens and the Merrill defendants in my book Licensed to Lie, it was the prosecutors who were running a fraud. And as in the Merrill case, the judge appears to have been running a railroad, and the Second Circuit panel just rode the train.

Peeved with the defense overall, Judge Nina Gershon sentenced Bradley Stinn to twelve years in prison, while those who admitted committing multiple real frauds, lying, cheating and stealing, walked out of the courtroom with sentences of probation. Justice for all?

Two former United States Attorneys wrote Ms. Lynch specifically. One of them had been her supervisor. Rather than examine the case for misconduct, order the release of the files, agree to vacate or reduce the twelve-year sentence, or take any other investigative or corrective action, Ms. Lynch did not even reply.

At least three outstanding lawyers, two of whom are former United States Attorneys, repeatedly wrote the various United States Attorneys including Ms. Lynch, the Solicitor General, Attorney General Holder, and the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility, pleading for review of the outrageous conduct, suppression of evidence believed favorable to the defense, and the barbaric sentence imposed in this case.

Two former United States Attorneys wrote Ms. Lynch specifically. One of them had been her supervisor. Rather than examine the case for misconduct, order the release of the files, agree to support vacating or reducing the twelve-year sentence, or take any other investigative or corrective action, Ms. Lynch did not even reply.

Neither did Attorney General Holder, and the Department’s "Office of Professional Responsibility" refused to investigate because no judge had found any misconduct. (Wait for Parts II and III of this series).

As a "favor" to one of the former United States Attorneys, Ms. Lynch’s subordinates, prosecutors James McGovern, Marshall Miller, and Ilene Jaroslaw, did speak by telephone with him. They were adamant that nothing was wrong in this prosecution, and they shifted the burden to the defense to "come up with something to chew on."

That’s difficult to do when even the SEC, which decided not to file so much as a civil complaint against Brad Stinn, refuses to release the documents that caused it to decline any case against him. And of course, Ms. Lynch’s office still refuses to release notes, grand jury testimony, and unredacted information of inconsistent statements by their "cooperating" witnesses—the admitted liars, thieves, and fraudsters to whom they gave "get out of jail free cards." The prosecutors had even instructed agents not to take notes of "cooperators’" statements.

According to well-respected attorneys, it is common knowledge that the Eastern District of New York engages in such abusive and wrongful tactics. In fact, many of the prosecutors there are proud of it. If a criminal "cooperates" in the Eastern District of New York—which means saying what the prosecutors want said—then the cooperator gets his "get out of jail free" card.

So as Ms. Lynch awaits her confirmation as our new Attorney General, Brad Stinn is helping other inmates get their GED in prison. He faces an additional six years for receiving his agreed compensation. His wife and his children are forced to bear the unbearable pain of his absence from their daily lives and his unjust imprisonment.

The mob mentality of Eastern District of New York is already running the Department of Justice. If confirmed as Attorney General, Ms. Lynch will join a cabal of former Eastern District of New York prosecutors—her colleagues who proudly used these abusive tactics. She goes way back with them. Mr. Obama and Mr. Holder have stacked the Department hierarchy with prosecutors known as "terrors"—including Leslie Caldwell, head of the criminal division, and Andrew Weissmann, now chief of the powerful fraud section—gearing up for War on Wall Street (and Main Street) Part II.

Abusive and wrongful prosecutions cut across party, political, and socio-economic lines. Innocent people are imprisoned while families are destroyed. The Innocence Project and other good lawyers are freeing people weekly who have lost the better part of their lives in prison for crimes they did not commit. It is far too hard to correct these injustices.

The notion that everyone in prison deserves to be there has taken a beating lately. The subject of the megahit podcast Serial, Adnan Syed, was just granted an appeal after 15 years in prison. And the New York Times recently published a piece entitled "The dollar value of a stolen life" a story arising from New York’s recent payment of $17 million dollars to three men who spent a combined 60 years in prison—wrongly convicted by Ms. Lynch’s now infamous counterpart in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office.

There is no similar remedy against federal prosecutors yet. Bradley Stinn can’t even get the evidence and grand jury transcripts that will likely exonerate him. What will it take? Who will stop this?

Senators, take note.

If Ms. Lynch meant what she said in her confirmation hearings, she should produce all of the Stinn files now—including the grand jury transcripts and the documents from the SEC—and agree to Brad Stinn’s immediate release from prison. Perhaps the Senators will demand the documents.

Original report here

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Friday, February 13, 2015

It's hard to convict a cop

British cop filmed punching a colleague 33 times is CLEARED of assault after claiming he was acting in self-defence

A police officer who got into a row with a colleague over a French woman has been cleared of assaulting him and claiming he was acting in self-defence.

PC Kevin Wasboonma, 30, was accused of punching PC Michael Scullion 33 times after spending hours drinking together at the Alwyne Castle in Highbury, north London, after work.

A team of decorators, who were renovating the pub at the time, captured footage of the brawl - which showed Wasboonma hitting Mr Scullion - but he was found not guilty this afternoon.

Southwark Crown Court heard that Wasboonma had drunk seven pints of cider and several Jagerbombs before the pair started fighting outside on the pavement.

Wasboonma insisted he punched Mr Scullion in self defence after his colleague came ‘steaming’ towards him but denied kicking him and said the camera footage only showed part of the fight.

A jury of six men and six women cleared Wasboonma of assault occasioning actual bodily harm after just one hour and 23 minutes.

During the trial the judge Mr Recorder Gregory Mitchell QC had asked prosecutor Senghin Kong why only Wasboonma was charged. 'Just as a matter of law, two people fighting in the street, is that the offence of affray?,' he asked. 'Potentially your honour,' replied Mr Kong. 'Two police officers being drunk and fighting in the street - they could both be in trouble for that,' said the judge. 'Potentially, yes,' replied Mr Kong.

Robert Morris, for Wasboonma, added: 'Self-defence is also a defence to affray but very much the Crown here have pinned their colours to the mast.'

The pub was packed with French people meeting for a social event organised on Facebook, jurors heard. Wasboonma and Mr Scullion started talking to a group of girls before numbers dwindled at closing time.

In interview Wasboonma said: 'As we went inside, the group sort of got smaller so there were two French girls that we met, everything was fine.

'I got up, went to the bathroom, everyone was leaving. As we have left the pub the two girls that we were talking to most of the night and this guy were walking off as if they were upset about something.

The man turned to Mr Scullion and told him: 'Maybe you should just leave it', jurors heard.

'I said to the guy what had happened and he said they just want to go home now and the girls didn't even say goodbye.

'I didn't know what had happened so then I said to Michael "you know what happened?" at which point he started shouting "It was me, it was me!" but I didn't really understand why he was saying that,' Wasboonma said.

'Michael started going mad at me, calling me a f****** p**** - all of that, being really abusive towards me.'

He said Mr Scullion then launched himself at him, pushing him in the neck and causing him to fall back onto a table.

'He starts to be abusive, he says stuff about my personal life - quite hurtful, insulting someone who is important to me at which point I have turned around and said to him "I want nothing more to do with you don't ever contact me again".'

He said he turned to leave the pub but Mr Scullion punched him again and the pair grappled to the floor, the court heard.

'I then said to him "stop, we are going to lose our jobs over this" because I was worried because obviously if police came past and we are having a roll-around on the floor.

'He has refused to let go of me, he is still grappling with me, he has punched me in the ribs and he wouldn't let me get up so I have punched him,' he said.

'He is grabbing me and all the time he is saying I am going to glass you in the face and then I hit him repeatedly to get him off me,' he said.

They were broken up by decorators who recorded part of the incident on a mobile phone.

But Wasboonma said he was not angry or drunk and pressed he was acting in self-defence from his 'violent' pal.

'I felt tipsy and stuff but not to the point I was unaware of what was going on, I can't stand up straight or I needed help to get home,' he said.

'I wasn't angry, I wasn't angry I just wanted to go home and wanted to take myself out of that equation and leave.'

Wasboonma, of Waltham Cross in Hertfordshire, denied assault occasioning actual bodily harm and was found not guilty.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said Wasboonma automatically faces misconduct proceedings and added: ‘No other police officer is subject to misconduct proceedings as a result of this case.’ (Indicating that they did not believe Wasboonma's story)

Original report here

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Father-of-two who was wrestled to the ground and charged using a 168-year-old law during row with police is awarded £5,000 for being falsely imprisoned

And the cops are still denying what the CCTV showed

A grandfather-of-three has been awarded £5,000 compensation after being assaulted and falsely charged by police under a 168-year-old law. Eddie Blakeway, 49, was falsely imprisoned while he attended Halesowen police station in the West Midlands to complete a form to report how his son had been the victim of a hit-and-run.

Following a disagreement about identity documentation required to go with the form, the part-time lorry driver was wrestled to the floor, handcuffed and locked in a cell for more than nine hours.

Mr Blakeway - who suffers from back pain following an accident at work - was then charged with being violent in a police station contrary to section 29 of the Town and Police Clauses Act (1847).

He pleaded not guilty at court and prosecutors dropped the case at his trial in March 2010. He then pursued a compensation claim against West Midlands Police and settled out of court in December.

The grandfather said trouble began in October 2009 after he gave the form to the duty officer, who refused to take it and said his son's ID documents were required - which he did not have on him.

Mr Blakeway, who then asked to talk to the inspector in charge, added: 'When the inspector arrived, he said I was being aggressive and asked me "to get out of his station".

CCTV footage shows a scuffle in which Mr Blakeway said the inspector, a sergeant and a third officer forced him to the ground. He said he was then locked in the custody suite

'I couldn't walk properly afterwards. Then they put me in the cell for nine-and-a-half hours. There was nothing in there. There was nothing to drink, nothing at all.

'They had arrested me but I wasn't violent. I did nothing wrong. I phoned the Independent Police Complaints Commission straight away. All I wanted out of it was who was right.

Mr Blakeway, who is also a father-of-two, instructed police claims solicitor Iain Gould to pursue his compensation bid for false imprisonment and assault by the officers in Birmingham County Court.

Mr Gould said: ‘My client merely complained about poor service. His reward was an unprovoked and painful arrest; detention in a cold, stark cell; and the stress of a criminal prosecution.

West Midlands Police spokesman said the jury 'found, as a matter of fact, that Mr Blakeway had not been told that he was under arrest and, therefore, as a matter of law, his arrest and all that followed was unlawful'

‘Mr Blakeway took the case to trial to clear his good name, especially in front of his wife who stood by him throughout. He agreed only £5,000 out of court rather than trouble the jury any longer.’

She added: ‘There was an internal investigation into the actions of the sergeant regarding Mr Blakeway, but no action was taken against him as the complaint was not upheld. There is no official complaint recorded against the inspectors’ name.'

Original report here

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Police Shoot and Kill 74-year-old Vet They Were Supposed to be Helping

Did they announce themselves using loud hailers before they broke in? Apparently not.

A 74-year-old Army veteran was shot and killed by a North Carolina police officer Saturday night, after police were called to check on the man's welfare, the Charlotte Observer reports.

A relative, concerned about James Howard Allen’s condition after a recent surgery, called the Gastonia police to check on Allen.

When an officer arrived at Allen’s door at 10:20 p.m., there was no answer, so he left. At 11:08 p.m., Anson County officials checked local hospitals but Allen wasn’t in any of them. At 11:30 p.m., Gastonia cops asked for assistance from the local fire and EMS to check the house again. This time, they broke in, according to Reobert Helton, police department chief.

"A decision was made to enter the house, concerned that he may be inside in need of emergency assistance," Helton said.

Gastonia Officer Josh Lefevers entered the home through the back door with the help of the fire department, according to Helton. When officers entered the home, they allegedly found Allen holding a handgun.

"He was challenged to lower the gun down," Helton said. "The gun was pointed in the direction of the officers, and a shot was fired that fatally wounded him."

Allen’s sister, Mary Battle, told WSOC-TV that she learned about her brother’s death while watching the morning news as she was getting ready for church Sunday morning. She said the Army vet underwent heart surgery last week.

"Maybe the police was frightened, maybe they were," she said. "I don’t know, but he wouldn't hurt a fly."

Allen’s brother-in-law Robert Battle thinks the police could have avoided the whole thing, and that Allen was the one who was frightened.

"He probably woke up, someone’s breaking in on me so when you're by yourself you try to protect yourself," Battle told WSOC-TV.

Another friend agreed. "You kick the man’s door in. He’s disoriented and he’s in his own house, privacy of his own home; my first reaction would be to grab a gun, too," Allen’s friend, Otis Thompson, told WSOC-TV.

The N.C. State Bureau of Investigation is reviewing the shooting. In the meantime, Officer Lefevers has been placed on administrative leave.

Original report here

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

British cops saved fish from broken tank while psychiatric patient was suffocating to death in front of them'

Police officers saved fish from a broken tank while a vulnerable man suffocated and died in front of them, an inquest has heard.

PCs Maurice Leigh and Neil Bowdery, of Kent Police, were sent to the home of escaped psychiatric patient Colin Holt when he started behaving aggressively, and during the struggle one of them was thrown against a fish tank which broke across the floor.

The officers restrained Mr Holt, 52, by holding him down on an armchair with his face to one side, while three other officers arrived as back up - PCs Lynda Edwicker, Glen Rickersey and Neil Bowdery.

PCs Edwicker and Rickersey said they both recalled PC Leigh say Mr Holt was 'out cold', an inquest in Maidstone has heard. But despite his condition PC Edwicker was said to have desperately tried to save the fish and not the man. PC Leigh, giving evidence at the inquest, said he heard her say: 'I've saved the fish, I've saved the fish.'

David Bentley QC, representing Mr Holt's family, told Pc Leigh: 'Others were looking after the fish, you were looking after Mr Holt. 'There were some quite active efforts of people trying to save the lives of some fish but in the meantime there were no efforts to tend to Mr Holt.'

Mr Bentley went on to suggest that Mr Holt was indeed 'out cold' at that point but PC Leigh responded: 'Mr Holt was never out cold.'

The inquest heard that Mr Holt later died of positional asphyxia, which occurs when a person's position prevents them from breathing while being detained.

It has taken nearly five years to hold the inquest, which is before a jury in Maidstone, Kent.

The inquest was told Mr Holt had escaped from the psychiatric ward in Medway Hospital before being found in his flat in Twydall, Kent. Officers were sent to his home as Mr Holt, who was a paranoid schizophrenic, was wanted on a Mental Health Act order.

He began acting strangely, claiming 'that's not me, I'm Alfred Marx', before becoming agitated and aggressive towards the police officers.

When the other officers arrived following the struggle, PC Reeves left to get treatment leaving PC Leigh to look after him, the jury was told. An ambulance was called and paramedics tried to revive him for 20 minutes.

Despite the post-mortem proving he died of suffocation PC Leigh insisted Mr Holt remained conscious all the time he was restraining him. He said: 'When I left the premises he was alive, his eyes were open.'

Mr Bentley challenged his account and suggested he was losing consciousness.

He said: 'He's out of breath, he's breathing heavily, he's becoming quieter and more tranquil.

'Looking back at what was going on, this man must have been suffocating at the time you were monitoring him.'

Mr Bentley said the officers had been worried that water from the fish tank could cause an electrical fault and quoted a statement from PC Edwicker. He said: 'I heard PC Rickersey say "Colin, tell us where the electricity box is". I heard PC Leigh say "don't waste your breath Glen, he's out cold."

PC Leigh refuted that too, saying: 'I did not say it. I did not say those comments.' PC Leigh and PC Neil Bowdery were cleared of misconduct in public office at a trial at Maidstone Crown Court in May 2013.

Original report here

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