Archive for the ‘Cops’ Category

Well, isn’t THIS interesting?

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Some of my readers may recall my review of Busted and my complaints about state, local, and Federal officials not taking corruption in the Philadelphia Police Department seriously.


Well well well. Well.

A group of Philadelphia narcotics officers repeatedly robbed and assaulted the drug suspects they were supposed to be investigating, engaging in a campaign of brutality that lasted nearly six years, federal authorities said Wednesday.


One year later, during an illegal search of a suspect’s home, the officers held a suspect by his ankles off the edge of an 18th-floor balcony while demanding information, according to the complaint.

Somebody’s been watching too many movies.

I have trouble linking to the two Philadelphia newspapers, but I think this one will work for the Inquirer coverage. The names of the indicted cops (Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman, and John Speiser) ring a faint bell with me, but they don’t overlap with the cops in Busted. (Possibly they were peripheral characters in that book, but I don’t have it in front of me to check.)

The LAT claims “five of the six officers could face life in prison”, but we should keep Ken’s advice in mind. In any event, it should be interesting to watch this play out; does the chief go next? Does the Philadelphia PD come under federal supervision? And do Ms. Ruderman and Ms. Lasker have anything to say? (There’s nothing on the Daily News site. Philadelphia newspapers are weird.)

Stay tuned to this blog for more “As the Badge Turns”.

Edited to add: Oh, I wanted to highlight this part, too:

In the midst of the scrutiny, Liciardello, Reynolds and a third member of the unit, Jeffrey Walker, filed suit against Philadelphia trial lawyer Michael Pileggi, saying multiple civil rights suits he had filed on behalf of clients alleging abuse had unfairly tarnished their names.

Man, that’s brazen. That’s like Lance Armstrong brazen.

Pileggi’s insurance company settled the case for a relatively small sum. But in an interview Wednesday, the lawyer said all of the allegations in his client’s lawsuits “came to fruition [in the federal case] – beating up, false arrests, stealing.”

Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass “Go”. Do not collect $1,000.

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Prosecutors said the detective, a 19-year veteran who works at Police Headquarters, forged another detective’s name, as well as the names of a supervising sergeant and a police inspector, on several forms after a November 2012 arrest in which a gun was seized. The arrest report did not include any associated tip, so the detective added one in order to collect $1,000, prosecutors said.

The detective in question, John Malloy, has been charged with six counts of “felony forgery” (is there “misdemeanor forgery”?), five counts of “offering a false instrument”, “attempted petit larceny”, and “official misconduct”.

Interesting note #1:

…the police have seized more than 3,350 illegal guns and arrested well over 5,500 people on gun charges. The program is viewed as a boon to officers, who get weapons off the streets, and easy money for the anonymous tipsters who collect a $1,000 reward. The foundation has paid out more than $2.1 million in rewards, which are financed by donations.

I wonder who donates to “Operation Gun Stop”. Do you suppose that’s a matter of public record?

Interesting note #2:

But the rate of tips coming into the program has declined over the last five years, according to department reports on the program. In 2008, the Gun Stop program received 731 tips, resulting in 319 guns seized. By 2013, the number of tips had fallen to 496, with 235 guns taken.

Hmmmmm. So in 2013, the NYPD got 261 more tips than guns. I wonder about those 261 other tips…

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

Friday, July 4th, 2014

History has shown, Scruff observed, that you can never have too many fireworks.

Indeed. We spent a fair amount of money on fireworks for tonight, but the people of Dyckman Street make us look like pikers.

Scruff, whose real name is Ralphy Sanchez, 27, heads a group known as Down Post, representing a block on Post Avenue between Academy and Dyckman Streets. He is confident his group will put on the best show; he estimated that he had about $1,500 of fireworks at the ready, much of it, he said, bought with the proceeds from sales of marijuana.

Of course, this is illegal in New York City. But the people of Dyckman Street don’t give a rat’s ass.

Each block has a 10- or 20-person explosives team, but anyone is free to join. First, the firecracker chains go down — two long ones can stretch the length of a block and light the pavement in a polychromatic blaze for 15 minutes or more. Soon, they pull out the smaller rockets, handing the Roman candles to the children.

Do you smell that, former Mayor Bloomberg? It smells like…freedom.

Flames! Flames!

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Six current and former members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department were found guilty Tuesday of obstruction of justice and other charges for their part in an alleged scheme to stymie a federal grand jury investigation into civil rights abuses and corruption in the county’s jails.

The convicted:

  • Lt. Gregory Thompson
  • Gerard Smith
  • Mickey Manzo
  • Lt. Stephen Leavins
  • Sgt. Maricela Long
  • Sgt. Scott Craig

Long and Craig are particularly interesting: you may remember them as the dynamic duo who went to an FBI agent’s house and threatened her with arrest.


The second trial involved deputies with more experience in addition to two sergeants and two lieutenants. But at trial they insisted they were only complying with orders from their superiors.

Ah, yes. The good old “Nuremberg Defense“.

Today’s fun fact (suitable for use in schools)

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

Nationwide, only 402 “no-body homicide” cases have gone to trial since the early 1800s, said Thomas A. DiBiase, a former federal prosecutor and now a law enforcement consultant in Washington.


Saturday, May 31st, 2014

Our table at the banquet was only about halfway occupied, and some of my fellow diners were trying to scam additional deserts from the server. (“No, really, they just stepped outside for a couple of minutes. They’ll be right back!”)

The server brought over some extras, with the good-humored comment that “I’m not the Cheesecake Police.”

Which got me thinking:

  • How do you join the Cheesecake Police?
  • Is there a Cheesecake Police Academy?
  • Doesn’t “Cheesecake Police Academy” sound like some sort of cheap knock-off movie that you’d see on a low-rent cable channel in the 1980s? Complete with a very low rent version of Michael Winslow?
  • What’s the training like?
  • Is there a citizen’s ride-along program?
  • What do the uniforms look like?
  • What’s the duty gun for the Cheesecake Police? (Obviously, it should be some sort of Smith and Wesson.)

Why, yes, I am in a weird mood. Why do you ask?

Random notes: May 23, 2014.

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

A couple of things that I’ve run across:

1. The Sunday Statesman had a longish article about problem police officers moving from department to department. I don’t think this is all that unusual – I’ve seen Balko and others write about this problem in other states – but the Texas angle is interesting.

In Texas, a police officer’s license can be revoked for only three reasons. One is for “barratry,” or using his position for financial gain; officials said it is rarely invoked. The second is for a felony criminal conviction. About 35 peace officers annually get their licenses pulled for qualifying crimes.
The third is for egregious misconduct. Unlike some other professions licensed by the state, however, Texas defines this for police in an extremely narrow and specific way — two dishonorable discharges.

The reason a police officer left a department, and the status of his “discharge”, is noted on a form called an F-5, which is filed with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. Part of the problem is that, if an officer’s discharge is noted as “dishonorable”, that officer can appeal their discharge status.

In 2008, Ken Walker, chief of the West University Place Police Department near Houston, fired officer Rosemarie Valdes “after she repeatedly told false and grossly exaggerated version of an on-duty incident,” court documents show. When she appealed her dishonorable discharge, Walker recalled, the small department virtually had to close up shop for a day while it sent two attorneys, the city’s human resources director, a police captain and the chief and a firefighter to Austin for the appeals hearing.

So in a lot of cases, departments agree to make the discharge “honorable”, in return for the fired officer agreeing not to take another job in any nearby department. In other cases, even if an officer is “dishonorably” discharged, smaller departments may not check the F-5, or they’re so hard up to get a qualified officer that they’re willing to ignore it.

(As a side note: isn’t it interesting that police departments have adopted military style language for this: “discharged” instead of “fired”? “honorable” and “dishonorable”?)

One other noteworthy bit of information: remember WCD favorite, former APD officer Leonardo Quintana? Were you wondering what happened to him?

Wonder no more: “In March, the former Austin officer was hired as a deputy by the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department, in the Rio Grande Valley. Quintana didn’t return phone calls seeking comment. Acting Sheriff Eddie Guerra, who took office six weeks ago, said he wasn’t familiar with Quintana’s past.

(I didn’t write about this previously because it was behind the paper’s paywall. Also, it’s been a heck of a week. Hattip to Grits for Breakfast for the non-paywall link.)

2. When I first saw “Stop Leaning In. Put Down Your IPhone. And HELP ME.” come across the Hacker News Twitter feed, I initially thought it was another “women in tech” rant. I don’t know why I clicked through to it, but I’m glad I did; it turned out to be something completely different.

Suddenly a thin figure bumped into me, which I wasn’t unused to in this city, but instead of the normal mumbling apology and eye contact, she didn’t move away. She stayed close and stared at me directly.
“Give me your phone, your purse, your bag, everything

I’d like to see this get more attention in the gunblogging community, as I think this is an excellent example of things we talk about a lot.

People stare and watch.
“Anybody, please, somebody, help me!”
30 eyes follow us.

You are responsible for your own safety. Yes, it would be nice if we could count on other people to help us. Yes, it would be nice if the police were always right there, instead of minutes away. But the world doesn’t work that way, and all of our wishes won’t make it so. The world, and the drug addicts in it, don’t care that you have to give a presentation to 200 people that night, or that you have children. You have to take responsibility for your safety. What are you doing about that?

Coffee in hand I mulled in front of the train station waiting for an Uber because I’d recently torn the ligaments in my foot. Headphones in my ear as I watched the little dot on the screen’s progress, scrutinizing his every move as if he were the worst Pac Man player I’d ever seen.

Situational awareness. Enough said.

Well, maybe not “enough said”. I know that situational awareness is something I sometimes have a problem with. I’ve been trying consciously since I got my CHL to work on improving that, and I feel like I’ve made some progress. But I’d love to find additional resources in that area: Hsoi has written some good stuff on the subject.

I realize it’s your business if you choose to tune out the world. But if you do choose to do so, don’t be surprised if you’re viewed as a ripe target for someone willing to take advantage of you… and your first post-situation thought is “they caught me by surprise… I wasn’t aware of them until they were on top of me”. Be pro-active, don’t let it happen to you, stay aware of your situation. And teach your kids the same.

She caught up to me and latched on.
“ I’m going to stab you and kill you”
By now she was livid. And suddenly we were brawling, she swinging at me with a knife in one hand, and punched with the other. I blocked all I could. panic filling every moment.

How’s that strict gun control working for you, San Francisco?

Okay, that may be a little facile. This post is the only one (so far) at Kirsten’s Amazing; there’s no way of knowing if she’s the type of person who could (or would) use a gun in self-defense, and there might be some practical problems with carrying one in her environment. (Example: what do you do with it at work, if you’re taking public transit instead of a personal vehicle?). But I think Kirsten is damn lucky to have come through this as well off as she did; she could very well have been seriously injured or killed.
Some martial arts classes might have helped Kirsten out in this case (since it sounds like her attacker was a small woman, rather than a 250 pound ex-football player) but it takes time to become good at martial arts. (It takes some time to become good with a gun, too, though.) (Edited to add: and torn ligaments in one’s foot might, perhaps, cramp your martial arts style.) Maybe she would have benefited from carrying pepper spray, though we know that doesn’t always work either. Guns may not always be the answer, but I like Kirsten’s odds a lot better with a S&W Bodyguard or even a little Beretta .25 in her hand.

I threw my hot coffee in her face and made a run back for the train station.

Caleb Giddings, call your office, please. (More seriously, that’s good thinking, Kirsten. Your main weapon isn’t a gun or pepper spray or your martial arts training; it is your brain. Use whatever is at hand if you need to defend yourself.)

I’ve seen two different schools of thought in the community. School number one is what I’d call the “sheepdog” school: “I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf.” School number two is perhaps best described this way: “My gun is to protect me and the people I care about. I’m not going to become involved in some stranger’s bullshit.”

Would I have jumped in to help Kirsten? I find it hard to say. First of all, I wasn’t there; I’m not sure how obvious it was that Kirsten was in trouble and who the aggressor was. What if I was mistaken about what was going on? What if this had turned out to be a fight between Kirsten and, say, an undercover cop who was trying to arrest her for using Uber instead of a licensed taxicab? Surprise! Now I’m facing charges of “assaulting a police officer”!

If it had been clear that she was being attacked by that woman, would I have jumped in? Would you have jumped in? Does it change things that we’re talking about San Francisco (where we both almost certainly would be unarmed) instead of Austin?

Someone (I wish I could remember who) said recently that you should look at self-defense this way; if you have to use your gun, every bullet has a $50,000 bill attached. Are you willing to bear that cost for someone you don’t know? Honestly, I don’t know if I am.

We live in a world where you can be shunned by society for engaging in justified self-defense. Are you willing to become this week’s featured demon on CNN because you jumped in to help a stranger? Even if it was justified? Imagine the family on the nightly news: “He was always sharp, always goofy, loved to dance, he was a respectable boy.” Why did you have to go and shoot Mister “Loved to Dance”, just because he pointed a gun at you? And as bad as those links are, you can bet it’d be even worse if you shot a petite woman with a knife. “He’s a big guy, he could have taken the knife away from her.” “He didn’t have to kill her, he could have just shot her in the leg.” You know the drill.

And are you willing to bear the costs, even if it was justified? This story from the comments is illustrative: time away from work (and I don’t know about you, but I don’t get paid if I’m not working), the risk of infection from junkie blood, being attacked by the bad guy’s lawyers…

…and that’s if things go well. What if the junkie bitch turns around and stabs you instead? Even if you have health insurance, you may end up out-of-pocket a significant amount of money. That is, if you survive being stabbed.

These questions are hard to answer, and I’m not sure of my own answers. But not being sure doesn’t make them any less worth asking.

Banana republicans watch: May 15, 2014.

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Back in June of last year, two LAPD officers were ambushed as they were returning to their station.

Det. Humberto Tovar and Officer Bernard Romero gave investigators harrowing accounts of the gun battle that erupted moments later. Tovar recalled how the man had walked to the back of the car and fired through a back window. The detective described seeing the flash of the gun’s muzzle and hearing the sound of shattering glass as he prepared to return fire. Tovar and Romero detailed how they had traded shots with the man as he retreated across the wide street and then disappeared into the darkness.

Neither man was seriously injured. I remember this being a pretty big deal at the time (though I don’t seem to have blogged it); it wasn’t just that they were cops being shot at, but also the sheer brazenness of shooting at cops basically in their own backyard.

Well. Well well well. Well.

As they poured over the crime scene, however, members of the department’s Force Investigation Division, which conducts in-depth investigations of each officer shooting, could find no conclusive proof the officers had come under attack. The only bullets and spent shell casings recovered were those belonging to the officers. And a careful examination of the car and surrounding area showed no signs of gunfire from the man. LAPD investigators were unable to link the police vehicle’s shattered windows to the suspect.

Everybody seems to be avoiding the use of words like “staged” and “faked”, but that seems to be the unavoidable implication. The question in my mind is, “Why?”. One possible theory:

Romero, meanwhile, was found to have unintentionally fired four times into the police car’s roof and elsewhere inside the vehicle when the shooting began. He then fired several more rounds over his shoulder in what he believed was the man’s direction.

Could someone have been trying to cover up a negligent discharge by staging a gunfight? Stranger things have happened, though I’m having trouble thinking of many at the moment. Perhaps the drunk NYPD cop who shot his partner, but I’m not sure that rises to the same level as staging a gunfight.

Also worth noting: Det. Tovar has a history. He was fired as part of the Rafael Pérez scandal (and later reinstated).

A corrupt officer told federal authorities of a conversation he had with Perez, who was the central figure in the department’s Rampart scandal. Perez allegedly recounted a time when he had fired his gun. Tovar then allegedly fired his gun as well, not because he was in danger, but in an effort to make Perez’s actions appear more justified, court records show.

Based on what I’ve read about Perez and Rampart, I’d take anything the man says with an entire lick of salt. But I do think it is worth mentioning in the context of what’s happening now.

Random notes: May 14, 2014.

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Obit watch: H. R. Giger. NYT. A/V Club. LAT. Lawrence.

Also: Malik Bendjelloul, who directed the Oscar-winning documentary “Searching For Sugar Man”. NYT. LAT. A/V Club.

I haven’t seen “Searching” yet, but Bendjelloul’s death is depressing; it was his first film, and he was only 36.

(Edited to add this. The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.)

The history of red velvet cake.

In San Francisco, where one presumes people know better, the American Cupcake bar and bakery offers chicken that has been soaked in red velvet cake batter, rolled in toasted red velvet cupcake crumbs and fried. The dish comes with garlic- and cream-cheese mashed potatoes and cocoa-infused slaw.

You know, I’d try that. It might be something I’d only want to eat once, but I’d give it a try if I could travel to San Francisco. (I don’t currently have a passport, so I can’t go to places outside of the United States.)

Walter Olson has some good stuff up at Overlawyered and Cato about the bad Philadelphia cops. Interesting development:

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey announced yesterday that Officer Jeffrey Cujdik has been suspended for 30 days with intent to dismiss, the Inquirer reported last night.

About damn time. But let’s wait and see what the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police does.

And while we’re on the subject of bad cops…

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

…I think this is kind of interesting.

A guy named Charley Armendariz used to be a deputy with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. (That’s Joe Arpaio’s outfit, if you don’t recognize it.)

Deputy Armendariz’s life seems to have gone sadly downhill. He engaged in what is described as “a series of standoffs with law enforcement in the last week”, and apparently killed himself; deputies serving an arrest warrant found him dead on Thursday.

But that’s not the interesting part. When they searched his home:

Officials found license plates from unknown vehicles, “hundreds” of drivers’ licenses, ID cards, passports, airport security clearance cards, empty wallets and wallets filled with personal belongings, in addition to various illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia, according to court records.

And they found many of these things stored in MCSO evidence bags.

Detectives located more incriminating evidence in Armendariz’s office, including citations that had been written and torn up, and citations where the court and complaint copies had never been turned in, according to the affidavit.

The Arizona Republic report says that this appears to go as far back as seven years. And it is possible this will result in the dismissal of any criminal cases Armendariz was involved with as a deputy.

It’s just…bizarre, in addition to being sad. The only thing I can think of is that meth is a hell of a drug.

Books in brief: Busted

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

Busted: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly Love is the true story of two crusading female reporters for an underfunded newspaper, who exposed massive corruption in the Philadelphia Police Department and won the Pulitzer Prize for their work.

True tales of journalism appeal to me. And the book has blurbs from two writers I admire, Mark Bowden and Edna Buchanan. So I added it to my wish list when I first heard about it, and my beloved and indulgent brother and sister-in-law picked it up for me as a birthday present. (Thanks, guys!)

Given that it was something I asked for, and received as a present, this review may seem kind of churlish. But, while I appreciated the gift and enjoyed the book, it has some problems. And it would be unfair to my readers not to mention those problems, family matters aside.

The book is listed as by Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Lasker. Ms. Ruderman and Ms. Lasker are the two reporters who did the Pulitzer-prize winning “Tainted Justice” series for the Philadelphia Daily News, and were officially credited with the prize. I do find it odd and interesting that Ms. Ruderman and Ms. Lasker do not mention that they actually shared the “Investigative Reporting” prize that year with Sheri Fink of the NYT. I do remember that there was some controversy over that; Ms. Fink’s work was originally in the “Feature Writing” category, but the Pulitzer board moved it to “Investigative Reporting”. It doesn’t diminish Ms. Ruderman’s and Ms. Lasker’s accomplishment that they shared the prize, but not mentioning that fact makes me wonder.

Additionally, while the book carries both bylines, it appears to have been entirely a Ms. Ruderman production. When Ms. Lasker is mentioned, it is always in the third person as “Barbara”, while Ms. Ruderman narrates the book in the first person. Ms. Ruderman is a talented writer, but I feel the book would have benefited from more of Ms. Lasker’s perspective in the first person, rather than Ms. Ruderman’s recounting of her thoughts and feelings after the fact. For example, I’d love to hear Ms. Lasker’s account of being slapped by a source, and getting upset afterwards, because she lost her pen, from her own mouth rather than Ms. Ruderman’s. (The Daily News, being a broke newspaper, provided reporters with cheap pens. Ms. Lasker sprang for the “four for $3.99″ ones at the grocery store and losing one was “a big deal”. As well it should be. Crappy pens suck. Don’t buy pens at the dollar store, either. Just saying.)

It is possible that I may be mistaken, and this is just an authorial device. If so, it seems to me to be an unusual one; most collaborations of this sort that I’ve read set off the individual contributions by name, for example “Barbara” and “Wendy”.

Busted seems like a short book. It comes in at 242 pages (including acknowledgements) but it feels even shorter than that. And this leads into two more problems with the book. The first one is that it feels padded, and not in a good way. I would have liked more descriptions of the journalistic process Ms. Ruderman and Ms. Lasker followed; but I have to face the fact that their journalistic process was dogged, unrelenting, boots-on-ground going through search warrants and talking to people work. (As opposed to the “reporter with a database” model that seems to pervade much of modern journalism.) Instead, there’s a lot of discussion of the precarious finances of the Daily News and of Ms. Ruderman’s and Ms. Lasker’s personal lives.

And that’s the second problem. Ms. Ruderman spends a lot of time discussing her difficulties striking a balance between being a good wife and parent and pursuing a good story. I get that, I sympathize with that, but lots of women have that problem. Granted, not all of them are spending their days searching for crack dealers, but a little bit of the work/life balance whinging goes a long way.

There’s also some stuff that I think flat out doesn’t belong.

Barbara had long, wavy highlighted blond hair and a tangerine slice of a nose. Her big green eyes, flecked with caramel, reminded me of top-of-the-line granite kitchen counters. She rimmed them with dark olive eyeliner and a hint of grayish blue eye shadow. With her coral lip gloss, silver hoop earrings, snug skirts, and candy-colored blouses, Barbara came off all bubble-gum–wifty and gee-whiz. But that was just her facade.

What the frack? If I was Ms. Ruderman’s editor, I’d have cut everything except maybe the last two sentences, and I would have cut the first half of the second to last one. This isn’t the only paragraph in which Ms. Ruderman dwells on physical descriptions of Ms. Lasker. And there’s also quite a bit of material about Ms. Lasker’s misadventures in the dating scene, including failed dates and her relationship with her neighbor “Hutch”.

(Side note about “Hutch”: “A gun lover, he kept a 9mm Glock in his bedroom dresser and stashed shotguns and hunting rifles in a locked safe. Barbara hated guns.” Yet later on, when Ms. Lasker and Ms. Ruderman are afraid the Philadelphia PD is targeting them, “Hutch” is the person Ms. Lasker looks to for protection. Odd, isn’t it, how people who “hate guns” don’t hesitate to turn to people who have guns for protection? Especially when you’re afraid of “the only ones” you think should have guns?)

I’m not going to throw around my feminist credentials here, because I don’t have any. I believe in equality of opportunity for women. I believe women have a right to go about their lives and make choices without being physically attacked or sexually abused. I think the best rape deterrent is two to the chest and one to the head, administered by the victim at the time of the assault. I support strong, intelligent women. If that makes me a feminist, so be it. I don’t claim the title.

But the dwelling on physical descriptions of Ms. Lasker makes me uncomfortable. If it had been “Mr. Ruderman” instead of “Ms. Ruderman” who had written the paragraph above, would we be hearing complaints from women? “What do her physical attributes and her dating life have to do with her ability to do the job?” What, indeed?

(And how do green eyes remind you of granite kitchen counters, anyway?)

This is a shame, because Ms. Ruderman could have found other ways to fill space. I would have liked to hear more stories about their editor, Gar Joseph, to take one example. You have to like an editor who tells his staff, “I don’t give a shit about the parade unless a small child is entangled in the ropes of the Mighty Mouse balloon and choked to death, so don’t waste a reporter on it.” We could use more editors like that these days. Ms. Ruderman could also, perhaps, have filled in some more context on the Inquirer/Daily News war and the struggles of both papers in the new economy. And it would have been nice to see the “Tainted Justice” series put into the context of Philadelphia’s long history of police corruption.

That leads into my final issue with Busted. And, to be fair, this really doesn’t have anything to do with the writing (which is good) or the book’s narrative (which is compelling). But I feel like I have to ask this question of Ms. Ruderman and Ms. Lasker:

In the end, what did you accomplish?

The only result that’s mentioned in the book is some reforms in the way the narcotics division operates, and most of those reforms seem (from Ms. Ruderman’s account) to be stronger restatements of existing policy rather than actual rule changes.

And these events took place after the book was published, so it may be unfair to drag them in here. However, there is an elephant in the room that can’t be ignored:

The officers involved in the “Tainted Justice” investigation, including Jeffrey Cujdik and Thomas Tolstoy, will not face any charges for their actions. As a matter of fact, while they may face some internal disciplinary action, most reports I’ve read say it is very likely that they will be allowed back on the street and awarded back pay including “lost overtime pay”.

Okay. So let’s set aside the sexual assault allegations against Thomas Tolstoy for a moment. After all, these allegations come down to “he said/she said”, and shouldn’t we give the benefit of the doubt to the accused? Even if there are multiple complaints from multiple women? Even if at least one of those women says she was never contacted by investigators?

Let’s set aside the falsification of warrants charges against Jeffrey Cujdik, too. After all, much of the case against him rests on the word of a convicted drug dealer and known drug addict turned informant. Should we trust someone like that? Even if his charges are backed up by outside evidence, including the search warrants he allegedly lied on?

We still have the raids on merchants, where Jeffrey Cujdik and Thomas Tolstoy, among others, disabled surveillance cameras and took money and property from store owners. This is not a “he said/they said” situation: for God’s sake, these men are on video committing these acts! And those acts weren’t just violations of department policy: if you or I stole stuff from a bodega, we’d be prosecuted.

But Jeffrey Cujdik, Thomas Tolstoy, Robert McDonnell Jr., and Richard Cujdik (Jeffery’s brother) are walking away without charges and with back pay for right now.


Why do the good citizens of Philadelphia tolerate this? Why are the Philadelphia Police Department and the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police not being treated as criminal gangs? There’s evidence that both organizations attempted to intimidate witnesses to Cujdik and Tolstoy’s conduct; where are the RICO charges? Where are any criminal charges?

I know what Lawrence will probably say the answer is: the mayor of Philadelphia is an African-American Democrat, and the Obama administration is unlikely to bring charges against the police department that would embarrass him. Perhaps this is the case. I’m pretty cynical, but I haven’t quite reached that level of cynicism yet.

Busted is a good story. I just wish it was a more satisfying one, with a better ending.

Notes from the legal beat: May 7, 2014.

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Hand to God, I thought this was a joke at first: Bernie Tiede, who killed his “long-time companion” Marjorie Nugent and inspired Richard Linklater’s movie “Bernie”, has been freed from prison.

Special Judge Diane DeVasto agreed to let Tiede live with filmmaker Richard Linklater, who co-wrote and directed the movie and volunteered to take Tiede into his Austin home. Tiede will be under strict bond conditions.

In other news:

The decades-old murder convictions of three half brothers whose arrests were facilitated by a now discredited homicide detective were vacated in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn on Tuesday, as prosecutors acknowledged that the men had been deprived of fair trials because of a questionable witness.

And who was the “now discredited homicide detective”? Louis Scarcella. (I’m starting to think I need a “Scarcella” sub-category. And maybe an NYPD one as well.)