Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

World’s Most Corrupt Police Departments.

Friday, February 16th, 2018

Coming up on the Justice Network.

(Well, they need to do something, now that those jerks have dropped the midnight Sunday “Most Shocking”.)

(Seriously, Justice Network: was anyone asking for a three hour block of “Rescue 911”? And why are you also airing another three hour block of “psychic” frauds?)

(But I digress.)

I’ve written before about the criminal Philadelphia police department. Latest development:

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office last year secretly compiled a list of Philadelphia police officers with a history of lying, racial bias, or brutality, in a move to block them from testifying in court.

Of course the list is secret.

The list was intended only for internal use, as a guide to determine when a potentially tainted officer’s testimony should be used. Under the office’s policy, front-line prosecutors were instructed to get top-level permission before calling such an officer. Prosecutors, according to sources, did not want to release the list out of concern for the officers’ privacy rights and the broad impact it might have on past convictions involving the officers.

As the article notes, this isn’t unheard of: Seattle is cited as an example, and I seem to recall hearing that the LA district attorney’s office had a similar list. (Edited to add: link to recent coverage of the LADA list. Additional. Denton County has a list, too.) It seems to me, though (and if there are any legal experts out there, please correct me if I’m wrong) that the places that have these lists of problem officers also have a lot of other police related issues, too.

And as a by the way, you know who created the list? Seth Williams.

(Hattip.)

I’ve been sort of negligent in covering the ongoing Baltimore Gun Trace Task Force cases. To be honest, I’ve been a little busy, things have me down, and the most recent trial got pretty widespread national coverage. (Spoiler: two detectives were convicted on Monday.)

As you would expect, now that there’s convictions, there’s also weeping and wailing from the politicians. Which usually isn’t interesting, but:

State Del. Bilal Ali of Baltimore called for disbanding the police department entirely, citing Camden, N.J., as an example where the police force was rebuilt. He said the corruption and wrongdoing highlighted in the trial is an “ongoing experience” for many residents, and have not been sufficiently addressed by the consent decree or other efforts at reforms.

(Previously on Camden.)

My first thought: if you disband the Baltimore PD, where is David Simon going to get material for season six of “The Wire”?

My second thought: if you were going to disband a police department for being corrupt and out of control, B’more would not be my first choice. In order, I think I’d take Chicago, New Orleans, and Philadelphia before Charm City.

Quick update.

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

I touched on the case of Hugh Barry and Deborah Danner a while back. Very briefly: Barry was a sergeant with the NYPD, he responded to a call about a mentally disturbed woman (Ms. Danner), she came at him with a baseball bat, he shot and killed her, and was charged with murder.

Yesterday, he was acquitted of all charges against him.

I have to say it…

Friday, February 9th, 2018

The Jaffer Drug Trafficking Organization, the San Antonio-based drug ring that Wesa was part of, distributed over 40,000 pounds of K2 to cities in Texas as well as cities in Missouri and Oklahoma, officials said.

20 tons of K2. Why, that’s a veritable mountain of K2.

Jarndyce v Jarndyce.

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Charles Dickens, call your office, please:

It seems fair to say, 11 years after James Brown’s death, that his estate planning has failed in its major mission: to distribute his wealth efficiently.
Not a penny has gone to any of the beneficiaries of his will, who include underprivileged children in Georgia and South Carolina, to whom Mr. Brown sought to donate millions, perhaps tens of millions, of dollars.

(Subject line hattip.)

Small update.

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

More from the WP on “Fat Leonard”:

Officers from the Blue Ridge consumed or pocketed about $1 million in gourmet meals, liquor, cash, vacations, airline tickets, tailored suits, Cuban cigars, luxury watches, cases of beef, designer handbags, antique furniture and concert tickets — and reveled in the attention of an armada of prostitutes, records show.

Things I wish I hadn’t read, after the jump (so you can skip it)…

(more…)

Random notes: February 1, 2018.

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

There’s a really good profile in The Guardian of Mary Beard, Cambridge professor of classics and noted historian.

The timing on this amuses me, as I just finished SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome earlier this week. (And Amazon now has the paperback for a shockingly low price.)

The early history of Rome, the era of its fabled seven kings, is notoriously difficult to untangle. There are few, if any, contemporary sources. The whole story slides frustratingly away into legend, with the later Romans just as confused as we are about how an unremarkable town on a malarial swamp came to rule a vast empire. One way of handling this material might have been simply to have started later, when the historian’s footing among the sources becomes more secure. Instead Beard asked not how much truth could be excavated from the Romans’ stories about their deep past, but what it might mean that they told them. If the Romans believed their city had started with Romulus and Remus, with the rape of the Sabine women – in a welter, in other words, of fratricide and sexual violence – what can we learn about the tellers’ concerns, their preoccupations, their beliefs? According to Greg Woolf, “One of the things Mary has taught is to look at the window, not through it, because there isn’t really anything behind it.”

I’d love to meet Dr. Beard and spend some time talking to her. I suspect we’d disagree on a lot of contemporary issues, but I think she’d be a fun person to talk history with. One of the things I loved about SPQR was how much time she spent on things other authors don’t talk about: the daily lives of the poor, middle class, and other people who didn’t write long letters to their friends, to take one example. For another example, her discussion of the ancient bar in Ostia, with pictures of the “Seven Sages” and their profound advice. Or the discussion of early Roman dice games.

And some of Dr. Beard’s views on contemporary subjects are a bit surprising, at least to me:

She doesn’t feel damaged by scenarios that would plainly be unacceptable today, she said, though “on the other hand you’d have to be blind as a bat to see it didn’t work like that for everybody”. One of the great problems of today, she said, was deciding how far current rules of behaviour could be projected back on the past. This question also informs her academic work: she is more likely to point out how different we are from the Romans than how similar. “As soon as you say things were different 40 years ago, people start to say you’re a harassment denier. But actually, they were. I do not think that the lives of women of my generation as a class were blighted by the way the power differentials between men and women operated. We wanted to change those power differentials; we also had a good time.”

===

Llano is a town northwest of Austin, about 90 minutes away. It’s a small town (a little over 3,000 people in 2010). It is perhaps most famous as being the home of Cooper’s barbecue, one of the top 50 joints in Texas.

As a small town, Llano has a small police force. Which can be…a problem.

Chief Kevin Ratliff and officers Aimee Shannon, Grant Harden and Jared Latta — who make up almost half of the police department in Llano, a town about 60 miles northwest of Austin — were indicted on a charge of official oppression, a Class A misdemeanor. Harden also was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a government record to defraud or harm the person he arrested, court records say.

The four officers are currently on leave. Another former officer was also indicted “on a charge of tampering with evidence and accused of destroying a digital recording of a drug crime scene on March 26”.

So what the hell happened?

The indictment regarding the chief and the three officers accuses them of unlawfully arresting Cory Nutt on May 2. Harden failed to state in his police report that “Nutt was inside his residence when he was arrested” or “that Cory Nutt was forced out of his residence and arrested,” the indictment says.

Officer Shannon allegedly threatened to tase Nutt as well. Nutt was charged with public intoxication, but the charges were dropped.

It sounds like the dispute boils down to: Nutt was drunk and probably making a scene, the officers responded, he stepped outside of his camper briefly and then went back inside, and the officers stepped up into his camper and arrested him for PI. At least, that’s the spin that two of the defense lawyers are putting on it.

However:

Harden was already on leave after a grand jury indicted him in December and accused him of tampering with dashboard camera footage during a DWI investigation in June 2017, according to a report from The Picayune newspaper in Marble Falls.

Ken is the man that we all need.

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Ken White is my new favorite person in the world.

At least, for the rest of the day today.

(Subject line hattip. Yes, I realize it’s about a vastly different Ken in a vastly different context, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to reference one of Kate’s more obscure but still rocking songs.)

Convenience store news.

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

The Trump administration has drafted plans to strip key authorities from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, senior administration officials said on Friday, an acknowledgment that the agency has all but abandoned its legacy of fighting liquor and tobacco smugglers.

Under the Trump administration’s plan, the Treasury Department would inherit the authority to investigate tobacco and alcohol smuggling. The A.T.F. would need a new name. One possibility: the Bureau of Arson, Explosives and Firearms, or A.E.F.

Good, but not good enough. As I’ve said before, there’s no reason for the continued existence of BATFE: let Treasury handle the tax collection part of their mandate (including NFA), and let the FBI handle the criminal investigation part.

Worth noting:

At the heart of the proposal is cigarette smuggling, a venture that becomes more lucrative with every tax increase. Cigarette taxes vary wildly. Virginia charges $3 per carton. New York charges $43.50. A simple plot to buy cigarettes in one state and sell them in another can generate tens of thousands of dollars. Criminal organizations rely on more complicated schemes to move untaxed cigarettes in bulk, evading federal and state taxes. By some estimates, more than half of New York’s cigarettes come from the black market.

Is there really a compelling reason for the Federal government to spend money from Texas taxpayers to keep people from buying smokes in Virginia and reselling them in New York without paying the $43.50 a carton tax? I know, organized crime: but New York has their own law enforcement agencies, and if they really wanted to shut down organized crime, they could drop the $43.50 a carton tax.

Obit watch: January 14, 2018.

Sunday, January 14th, 2018

Some more from the past couple of days:

Keith Jackson, legendary announcer.

Edgar Ray Killen is burning in Hell.

David Toschi passed away a week ago Saturday. FotB RoadRich mentioned this to me in the middle of the week – he saw it on a low-rent cable channel – but I had a lot of trouble finding a good obit. I couldn’t find the actual obit on SFGate: I was only able to get at an arthive.org version.

Anyway, “David who”? He was a famous San Francisco PD detective. He was one of the lead investigators on the Zodiac killings.

He was removed from the case after revelations that in 1976 he had sent several letters praising his own work to a San Francisco newspaper writer under fake names.
“It was a foolish thing to do,” he acknowledged at the time.

I don’t remember where I picked up this detail (maybe in the archive.org version), but that “newspaper writer” the NYT doesn’t name? Armistead Maupin, who was working as a reporter for the SF Chron at the time.

But that wasn’t the only reason he was semi-famous, at least among us common sewers connoisseurs:

Mr. Toschi was a personality in the police department even before his involvement with the Zodiac case, so much so that Steve McQueen had borrowed from him for the fictional police officer he played in the 1968 movie “Bullitt.”
“They literally were filming in my dad’s office,” Ms. Toschi-Chambers said. “My dad took off his jacket, and Steve McQueen said, ‘What is that?’ And my dad said, ‘That’s my holster.’ And Steve McQueen told the director, ‘I want one of those.’ ”

(I wonder what that holster was: and if it’s out of production, how much do vintage ones go for? There’s a discussion on defensivecarry.com, but I can’t judge how accurate it is.)

Clint Eastwood also drew on Mr. Toschi for his portrayal of the title character in “Dirty Harry,” Don Siegel’s influential 1971 movie about a San Francisco police inspector, Harry Callahan, who hunts a psychopathic killer. Mr. Toschi, though, was bothered by Callahan’s penchant for administering his own brand of justice. He is said to have walked out of a screening of the movie, which was released when the Zodiac investigation was in full swing.

(Damn shame. He missed out. And I still haven’t seen “Zodiac”.)

Edited to add: this might lead to a longer post later, but: there are certainly worse hobbies in the world than engaging in Steve McQueen cosplay. Though I will concede that could get expensive quick, especially if you go full “Bullitt” and start looking for a Mustang.

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#45 in a series)

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

Pamela Harris, a Brooklyn assemblywoman, was indicted yesterday.

…accused of four counts of making false statements, two counts of wire fraud, two counts of bankruptcy fraud, and a single count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, witness tampering and conspiracy to obstruct justice, according to Richard P. Donoghue, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Ms. Harris is a “retired New York City correction officer” who took office in 2015. She is, of course, innocent until proven guilty, but it sounds like her fraud was wide-ranging, and the prosecution has plenty of evidence:

In one scheme, authorities accused Ms. Harris of trying to capitalize on a natural disaster, improperly receiving nearly $25,000 in federal funds by falsely claiming that she had been displaced from her Coney Island home by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In another, she is accused of siphoning money from a nonprofit she ran to pay her mortgage, take vacations and shop at Victoria’s Secret, according to the indictment.

The charges suggest a striking degree of planning and elaborate attempts to cover up illegal actions. Prosecutors said, for example, that Ms. Harris used a forged lease to draw down discretionary funds from the City Council, money that was supposed to be used to rent a studio space for the nonprofit, which seeks to involve children and young adults in the arts. Instead, Ms. Harris diverted the money to her personal checking account. All told, some $35,000 was received in two separate instances using such funds, prosecutors said.
In the Hurricane Sandy scheme, Ms. Harris is accused of creating fake lease agreements and receipts, and forging a landlord’s signature, to receive housing assistance money from FEMA for 14 months after the storm, a ploy that she also used to receive financial assistance to repair her Coney Island home in 2016. And once she became aware of a federal investigation last year, Ms. Harris told potential witnesses to lie to federal agents, the authorities said.

(Hattip to Mike the Musicologist, who pointed out that the NYPost coverage waits until paragraph 21 to mention Ms. Harris’s party affiliation. Say what you will about the NYT, but they got that into paragraph 2.)

De minimis non curat lex.

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

However, this sounds like an excellent case for small clams court.

This gives a new meaning…

Monday, December 25th, 2017

…to a “white elephant” gift exchange:

A man was shot overnight on Christmas by what police say may have been a stray bullet while gathering with family for a gift exchange at a home in southwest Houston.