Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Obit watch: November 20, 2017.

Monday, November 20th, 2017

Man, it was a weekend, wasn’t it? Sorry I didn’t get to some of this yesterday, but I spent a large part of the day foraging for food in Westlake (Why is it so hard to find a restaurant that’s open on Sunday in that part of town?) and then on an expedition to Pflugerville to visit the new Aldi grocery store. (The natives are wary, but I think we started to win them over.)

Anyway: Malcolm Young, AC/DC co-founder. I feel a musical interlude coming on, but I think I’ll do a jump first.

Mel Tillis, who sang both types of music: country and western.

He even went so far as to make the nickname Stutterin’ Boy, conferred upon him by the singer Webb Pierce, the title of his autobiography (written with Walter Wager and published in 1984), and to have it painted on the side of his tour bus. He also named his personal airplane Stutter One and referred to his female backup singers as the Stutterettes.

Dr. John C. Raines is dead at the age of 84. This name is probably not familiar to you, but the story is interesting.

Dr. Raines, along with seven others, broke into a FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania on the night of March 8, 1971 (during the Frazier-Ali fight) and stole a large number of FBI internal documents. They later released those documents to the press and to members of Congress.

The burglary, and subsequent lawsuits by NBC and others, prompted a groundbreaking investigation in 1975 by the so-called Church committee, a special Senate panel led by Senator Frank Church of Idaho. The committee revealed details of the F.B.I.’s secret Cointelpro, or counterintelligence, operation, which included illegal sabotage of dissident groups deemed to be subversive.

The NYT obit gives a pretty good summary of the whole affair. But, if you’re interested, I recommend The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI by Betty Medsger: it gives a detailed account of the planning, the execution, the aftermath, and what happened to the principals (as of 2013-2014).

Last, and definitely least, Charles Manson is burning in Hell. NYT. LAT. Lawrence.

I’ve felt for a while now that we would be much better as a culture if we all agreed to ignore Manson, beyond providing him with basic human needs (food, shelter, medical care). No publicity, no interviews, no cover versions of his “music”: we should have just let him rot silently.

They’re creepy and they’re kooky, they’re all together spooky, the Manson family.

Mr. Manson was a semiliterate habitual criminal and failed musician before he came to irrevocable attention in the late 1960s as the wild-eyed leader of the Manson family, a murderous band of young drifters in California. Convicted of nine murders in all, Mr. Manson was known in particular for the seven brutal killings collectively called the Tate-LaBianca murders, committed by his followers on two consecutive August nights in 1969.

I do like that paragraph: “semiliterate habitual criminal and failed musician”, indeed. This one, too:

Manson was a pathetic, cowardly con man & should be remembered for that alone.

Time for a palate cleanser. After the jump, musical interludes.

(more…)

#EndNurseAbuse

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Alex Wubbels, aka “the nurse who got arrested by a rogue cop for refusing to allow him to draw blood from a patient without a warrant”, settled out of court.

Attorney Karra Porter said at a news conference that the agreement with Salt Lake City and the University of Utah covers all parties and takes the possibility of legal action off the table. “There will be no lawsuit,” she said.

The settlement was for $500,000. What’s she going to do with that money?

Wubbels will use a portion of the money to help people get body camera footage, at no cost, of incidents involving themselves, she said at the news conference. In addition, Porter’s law firm, Christensen & Jensen, will provide for free any legal services necessary to obtain the video.

Good for her, and for Christensen and Jensen.

Wubbels said she also will make a donation to the Utah Nurses Association and will help spearhead the #EndNurseAbuse campaign by the American Nurses Association.

Double good for her.

Porter said she hopes the discussion about the need for police body cameras continues and noted that the footage also protects law enforcement officers.

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, but: this is what we hear from officers in the CPA classes, too. Good officers love body cams because they know, if they act right and it comes down to their word against someone else’s, the body cams will back them up.

(Oh, by the way: Lt. James Tracy and Detective Jeff Payne are apparently appealing their discipline.)

Obit watch: special crime and law edition, November 1, 2017.

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

June Robles Birt, better known under her maiden name, passed away September 2nd. Her death was not widely reported until a few days ago, after a writer working on a book contacted the NYT.

In the afternoon on April 25, 1934, Ms. Robles, who was six years old, was returning from her school in Tuscon, Arizona.

A man approached her. He said her father had asked him to give her a lift to his store. After some cajoling, she got into his car, a black Ford sedan.
Later that day, a local boy handed her father a ransom note. The boy said an unidentified man had given him 25 cents to deliver it. The note demanded $15,000 (about $300,000 in today’s money). Mr. Robles scribbled a reply — its text was not reported — and gave it to the boy to carry back to the kidnapper. According to the testimony, however, when the boy looked for the man, he was gone.

To make a longish story somewhat shorter, the Robles family went around with the kidnappers for 19 days. Finally, the kidnappers sent a map and directions to the governor, prompting a search. Clarence Houston, the county attorney, found “…a mound of dirt covered with sagebrush, mesquite and cholla cactus. Beneath it, he discovered a perforated sheet of metal, which proved to be the top of a narrow, coffinlike underground cage.”

June Robles was still alive.

The girl was filthy, blistered by prickly heat and bitten by ants, her ankles chafed by chains attached to an iron stake. She said she had subsisted on fruit, bread and jam, potato chips and graham crackers that the kidnappers had left. She had made do with a ceramic pot for a toilet.
Immediately after her rescue, as she was escorted away, all she seemed concerned about was her report card, which she had left behind in her underground cell. “I went back and got it,” she told The Tucson Daily Citizen. “I wanted my mama to see it.”

Nobody was ever convicted of the kidnapping. One person was suspected, but the authorities were unable to make a case against him. There are hints in the NYT that some people (possibly including Hoover’s FBI) thought the whole thing was some sort of setup.

Ms. Robles lived the rest of her life quietly.

The last time Little June was interviewed, in 1936, she said that all she had wanted was “to be a mother like my mother.” And that was what she became.
Her marriage in 1950 was to Dancey Birt, an aircraft factory supervisor at the time. He survives her. Besides her son James, she is also survived by three other children, Thomas, Bruce and Barbara; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Jon Lester passed away in England on August 14th. According to his family, he committed suicide. He was 48 years old.

Mr. Lester was 17 years old and living with family in the Howard Beach section of Queens on December 20, 1986. Early that morning, he ran into three men whose car had broken down in the neighborhood. Mr. Lester went back to a birthday party nearby.

“There’s niggers on the boulevard,”…[Lester] was quoted as telling the beered-up partygoers, adding (and inserting an expletive), “Let’s go kill them.”
According to later courtroom testimony, the 5-foot-4 Mr. Lester was a ringleader of a dozen white teenagers who jumped into three cars and ambushed the black men at a nearby pizza parlor.

The gang beat the crap out of Cedric Sandiford “with a baseball bat, a tire iron and a tree limb”. Another man, Timothy Grimes, escaped. A third man, Michael Griffith, fled onto a “busy highway”, where he was struck by a car and killed.

Mr. Lester was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and first-degree assault in 1988 and received a prison term of 10 to 30 years. He was paroled in 2001 and immediately deported back to England.

“He suffered from depression due to the fact that he was wrongly convicted,” his sister Jayne Lester said in a telephone interview from Florida, where she lives. “He was just tormented. He was never the same person.” Her brother was haunted by “guilt dreams,” she said, but was not a coldblooded killer.
“He really wasn’t a bad person the way they made him out to be,” she said. “He wouldn’t tell on anybody, and they had to blame someone.”

“In my heart I’m sorry to hear of his death,” Mr. Griffith’s mother, now Jean Griffith Sandiford, said of Mr. Lester in a telephone interview on Monday. “Regardless of what happened, I always forgave them.”

He added, however: “I accept responsibility for Michael Griffith’s death. If we hadn’t chased him, he wouldn’t have died.”
Charles J. Hynes, the special prosecutor in the case, rejected Mr. Lester’s version of events and expressed dismay at his release from prison after he had been rejected four times for parole.
“Jon Lester can try and rewrite history all he wants,” Mr. Hynes wrote in an email on Monday. “Some would say 15 years’ imprisonment is significant punishment, but after 15 years he was alive, and Michael Griffith is dead.”

“I was just a typical cocky teenager who got involved in a situation which I couldn’t control,” he told the British newspaper The Sunday Mirror in 2001.
“I’m not that baby-faced thug anymore,” he told The Daily News.
“I’m responsible for someone being dead,” he said in an interview with The Times Herald-Record of Middletown, N.Y. “I can never undo that, and I will live with it every day forever.”

“In his last days he was a successful and caring businessman with a high degree of integrity who tried to live his life and give back to society,” his sister Jayne Lester said. “He always regarded the Howard Beach case as a huge tragedy to everyone involved.”
She added, “The fact that he couldn’t come back to America is basically what killed him, because he couldn’t be with his family.”

Quick followup.

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

Those two NYPD cops who claimed they had “consensual sex” with a woman who they arrested?

They’ve been indicted.

Typically, when officers are charged with crimes, their colleagues come to court in a sea of blue uniforms to support them. But on Monday, not one officer appeared in court with Detectives Martins and Hall.

Quickies: October 26, 2017.

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

NYT coverage of the Suffolk County prosecutor indictments, mentioned yesterday.

This is a bit weirder than I expected at first glance. A heroin addict was breaking into cars. One of the cars he broke into was the police chief’s.

From the vehicle, Mr. Loeb stole a duffel bag that contained cigars, pornographic DVDs and sex toys.

Now, perhaps this is victim blaming, but I really can’t see why you’d leave your porno DVDs and sex toys in the car unattended. But I digress. The chief found the heroin addict and beat the crap out of him.

Four years later, after an investigation by federal agents, Mr. Burke [the chief – DB] pleaded guilty to having beaten Mr. Loeb after he was arrested and shackled to the floor of a police station. Last year Mr. Burke was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for assaulting Mr. Loeb and for trying to orchestrate a cover-up of what had happened.

The charges against the DA, Thomas J. Spota, and his “top anti-corruption prosecutor”, Christopher McPartland, stem from this cover-up:

Federal prosecutors accused them of holding a series of meetings and phone conversations with Mr. Burke and other police officers in which they agreed to conceal Mr. Burke’s role in the assault and to impede the federal investigation.

Everyone knows I’m not a baseball fan. Related to that: I don’t understand baseball. Maybe Borepatch or someone else who’s smart can explain this to me: Joe Girardi out as Yankees manager.

They were in the playoffs, for crying out loud. They almost went to the World Series. What more did they want out of Girardi, and why are people saying it was time for him to go? (See also: Boston.)

Remember the mayor of Lakeway, Joe “John Smart” Bain? (Previously on WCD.)
He was fined $500 by the Texas Ethics Commission and had to pick up the garbage.

The commission, which met Sept. 27 to consider the complaint, considered four posts written by “John Smart” and concluded there was credible evidence that Bain intended to “injure a candidate or influence the result of an election” while misrepresenting the source of the communications, a violation of the election code.
The mayor also did not mark the post containing explicit advocacy as political advertising, another code violation, the commission said. And finally, it said, evidence indicates Bain violated ethics code when he misrepresented his own identity in campaign communications or political advertising.

Random notes from the legal beat.

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Andrew M. Cuomo, the corrupt governor of the state of New York, has vetoed knife law reform. Again.

“In so doing, the Legislature has gone far beyond the innocent laborers carrying these knives for legitimate purposes and has grossly disregarded the concerns of law enforcement,” he wrote.

“the concerns of law enforcement”. Would this, by any chance, be the same law enforcement that says it is okay to have sex with an 18-year-old woman who is under arrest and in custody because “it was consensual”?

Speaking of having sex with teenage girls, a judge in Oakland dismissed conspiracy and bribery charges against a former Oakland PD officer.

Walterhouse faced two felony counts of conspiracy to obstruct justice after he was accused of tipping off a prostitute to an undercover FBI sting operation on International Boulevard on Oct. 13-14, 2016. The stings included finding suspects and victims of child sex-trafficking.

But Judge Murphy said the information Walterhouse offered was unsolicited advice and said it seemed like a “puppy love situation.” Walterhouse was infatuated with her, the judge said, and perhaps offered the information because he wanted to have sex with her.

Brad Heath, a reporter for USA Today, is tweeting that the DA for Suffolk County, NY, has been indicted for obstructing a federal civil rights investigation.

Fizzle.

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

Travis County prosecutors dropped all of the remaining charges against longtime state Rep. Dawnna Dukes on Monday, court filings show.

I expect longer, more detailed stories tomorrow morning. In the meantime, quoted without comment:

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore pinned the prosecution’s collapse on conflicting statements given by a top official in the Texas House, who told prosecutors that travel to the Capitol was required to earn the per-diem payments but recanted that position in a statement to Dukes’s lawyers.

On the importance of having a good backup strategy.

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

I’m shocked that Borepatch and ASM826 aren’t on this like flies on a severed cow’s head at a Damien Hirst exhibition. But apparently it falls to me, as the ex-backup guy.

A non-profit organization in NYC called Bronx Defenders wants to study the NYPD’s asset forfeiture records. They filed a request for this information (under New York’s Freedom of Information law) in 2014, and litigation is ongoing.

The latest revelation? Not only is the NYPD saying they don’t have the technical capability to pull the data Bronx Defenders wants…

New York City is one power surge away from losing all of the data police have on millions of dollars in unclaimed forfeitures, a city attorney admitted to a flabbergasted judge on Tuesday.

More from Ars Technica:

…an attorney for the city told a Manhattan judge on October 17 that part of the reason the NYPD can’t comply with such requests is that the department’s evidence database has no backup. If the database servers that power NYPD’s Property and Evidence Tracking System (PETS)—designed and installed by Capgemini under a $25.5 million contract between 2009 and 2012—were to fail, all data on stored evidence would simply cease to exist.

When it was activated in 2012, Capgemini vaunted PETS—which was built using SAP’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) software platform as well as IBM DB2 databases—as a flagship public sector project. The company went as far as submitting PETS as a nominee for the 2012 Computerworld Honors awards. But the system was apparently designed without any scheme for backing up the database or any sort of data warehouse to perform analytics on the data.

Adding to this, the NYPD now actually disputes that the PETS database runs on DB2:

Neil tells me our whole argument is that the NYPD’s database is not an IBM database so he definitely didn’t say that NYPD personnel said “the database is in IBM.” He says he was referring the Petitioner’s expert, not any NYPD personnel. The “He” would be Robert Pesner, the Petitioner’s expert, not NYPD personnel.

Okay. So it doesn’t run on DB2. What the frack does it run on, and why are there still no backups?

(It looks to me like both Backup Exec and Commvault have DB2 agents. But I’ve been out of the business for a while, and can’t tell if those have been deprecated.)

Edited to add: Now the NYPD is saying that PETS is backed up:

Contrary to some published reports suggesting that NYPD does not electronically back up the data in its Property and Evidence Tracking System (PETS), all such data is backed up continuously in multiple data centers.

Which, I guess, is good for the NYPD. But as Ars points out, it isn’t consistent with the statement in court that there are no backups of the forfeiture database, unless that database isn’t stored in PETS after all. That seems like the more likely explanation, but it raises the questions: where is it stored, why isn’t it backed up, and why is the NYPD so secretive about those first two questions?

Firings watch.

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Tom Jurich, athletic director at Louisville, was officially fired yesterday.

He joins Rick Pitino, who was officially fired “for cause” on Monday.

Mr. Pitino, of course, denies that he knew anything about payments to athletes. Even better: he’s suing Adidas. The discovery process in that lawsuit should be interesting.

In other news, another APD officer has been fired. Interestingly, his firing was for “insubordination”: specifically, he didn’t show up for interviews with Internal Affairs.

And why was he being interviewed by IA? He’s been charged with making false statements about his wife and her eligibility to receive SSI. (Previouly.)

According to the Statesman, he and his lawyer said they wouldn’t do interviews with IA until the criminal case was resolved. The rules say: you can’t do that. You have to come in and answer IA questions, or you get canned. Whatever information IA gets can’t be used against you in a criminal case; it can only be used for internal discipline. (This is why officers are required to submit to IA questioning. This is also why some things, like officer-involved shootings, are investigated both by IA and the Special Investigations Unit: SIU handles any possible criminal aspect of the case, can seek charges if warranted, and the subject has the standard legal protections. IA investigates internally: the union contract says officers have to answer IA questions, but any information gathered can’t be used to build a criminal case.)

Anyway, IA said “this won’t be used in the criminal case”, the lawyer apparently said, “okay”, and they still didn’t show up. Twice. Which makes it “you’re fired, do not pass ‘Go’, do not collect $200” territory.

From the legal beat.

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Two quick notes:

1) Remember our old friends Detective Jeff Payne and Lt. James Tracy? The guys who arrested a nurse for refusing to let them draw blood from an unconscious patient without a warrant?

Detective Payne has been fired. Lt. Tracy has been demoted to “police officer III”.

“In examining your conduct,” Brown wrote to Payne, “I am deeply troubled by your lack of sound professional judgment and your discourteous, disrespectful, and unwarranted behavior, which unnecessarily escalated a situation that could and should have been resolved in a manner far different from the course of action you chose to pursue.”
Brown was similarly critical of Tracy, saying his lack of judgment and leadership was “unacceptable,” and, “as a result, I no longer believe that you can retain a leadership position in the Department.”

Both men have five days to appeal the decision. The criminal investigation into their actions is ongoing.

(Hattip: Reason‘s “Hit and Run”, and Patrick Nonwhite on the Twitters.)

2) The Travis County DA has dropped one of the 13 felony charges against Dawnna Dukes.

Apparently, one of the analysts with the Texas DPS crime lab “examined the wrong date” when looking at Ms. Dukes’s travel activity, leading to “a felony count that erroneously stated Dukes turned in a falsified voucher for Dec. 22, 2013.”

It is unclear how prosecutors, DPS investigators and Texas Rangers failed to notice these holes in the case during an investigation that spanned more than 18 months.

Obit watch: October 9, 2017.

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Two obits from the past few days that I find sadder than usual:

Connie Hawkins. As a young man, he was a basketball prodigy.

Even as a playground legend, Hawkins had the jaw-dropping flash that superstars like Elgin Baylor, Julius Erving and Michael Jordan would display, turning pro basketball into a national sports spectacular.
“He was Julius before Julius, he was Elgin before Elgin, he was Michael before Michael,” the longtime college and pro coach Larry Brown once said in an ESPN documentary on Hawkins. “He was simply the greatest individual player I have ever seen.”

But he was banned from college ball and the NBA in 1961.

College basketball at the time was engulfed in its second point-shaving scandal after players had received money from gamblers to affect the final score of games. Hawkins was questioned by the New York City authorities about possible connections with one of the fixers, but he was never accused of wrongdoing.

He played with the ABA and the Globetrotters for a while.

Hawkins’s path to the N.B.A. was buoyed in part by a 1969 article in Life magazine by David Wolf. “Evidence recently uncovered,” Mr. Wolf wrote, “indicates that Connie Hawkins never knowingly associated with gamblers, that he never introduced a player to a fixer, and that the only damaging statements about his involvement were made by Hawkins himself — as a terrified, semiliterate teenager who thought he’d go to jail unless he said what the D.A.’s detectives pressed him to say.”
On Hawkins’s behalf, Roslyn Litman, a civil liberties activist, along with her husband and law partner, S. David Litman, and another lawyer, Howard Specter, sued the N.B.A. on antitrust grounds, arguing that the league had in effect illegally barred Hawkins and deprived him of the “opportunity to earn a livelihood.”
They won. The league paid Hawkins a settlement of nearly $1.3 million and dropped the ban. Hawkins joined the N.B.A. in 1969 and became an instant star with the Suns.

He played seven seasons in the NBA, was a four-time all star with the Suns, and was named to the Hall of Fame in 1992.

John Thompson.

Mr. Thompson was arrested in 1985 and charged with carjacking and an unrelated murder.

After being sentenced to 49 years in prison for the carjacking that he insisted he did not commit, Mr. Thompson was convicted of murder and received the death penalty.

He spent 14 years on death row in Angola.

Just 30 days before his scheduled execution, a private investigator hired by his lawyers stumbled upon a forgotten microfiche.
The film included images of a laboratory report that had been received by the district attorney two days before Mr. Thompson’s trial was to begin. The report categorically undermined the prosecution’s case, revealing that the blood type of whoever committed the carjacking did not match Mr. Thompson’s.
Moreover, in a deathbed confession, a former assistant prosecutor admitted he had deliberately hidden the blood evidence from Mr. Thompson’s trial lawyers.
After tests confirmed that Mr. Thompson’s blood type and DNA did not match the perpetrator’s, his robbery conviction was overturned. In 2002, the murder verdict was reversed. A year later, he was retried and acquitted after the jury deliberated for 35 minutes.

Mr. Thompson was awarded $14 million for his wrongful conviction.

But in 2011, an ideologically split United States Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that Mr. Thompson was not entitled to damages after all.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who dissented, said at least five prosecutors had been complicit in violating Mr. Thompson’s constitutional rights because “they kept from him, year upon year, evidence vital to his defense.”
But Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, said Mr. Thompson had not demonstrated that the office of District Attorney Harry Connick Sr. (father of the singer) had systematically withheld exculpatory evidence, particularly from black defendants, or had not trained his assistants sufficiently.
“The role of a prosecutor,” Justice Thomas wrote, “is to see that justice is done. By their own admission, the prosecutors who tried Thompson’s armed robbery case failed to carry out this responsibility.
“But the only issue before us,” he added, “is whether Connick, as the policy maker for the district attorney’s office, was deliberately indifferent to the need to train the attorneys under his authority.”

Obit watch: September 29, 2017.

Friday, September 29th, 2017

Sergeant Gary Christenberry of the Austin Police Department passed away earlier today.

Sergeant Christenberry was severely burned in an off-duty accident at his home two weeks ago: his death was a result of those injuries. He’d been on the force for 24 years.

Lady Lucan, long suffering wife of the late Lord Lucan.

This may ring a bell for some of you, as I’ve touched on the Lucan case before. Briefly: one night in November of 1974, Lord Lucan allegedly beat his children’s nanny to death, having mistaken the nanny for Lady Lucan. When Lady Lucan came downstairs to see what was going on, Lord Lucan tried to beat her to death as well. She disarmed him, he asked for a glass of water, they spoke briefly, he drove off, she ran to a nearby pub for help…

…and Lord Lucan hasn’t been seen since. Everyone seems to assume he’s dead. He’d be 82 if he was still alive, so there’s a possibility…