Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. Poor guy.

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

I’ve mentioned previously that I watched COPS on a regular basis, at least until it left Fox for the wilderness of basic cable. I’ll still watch it if I catch it on somewhere.

I remember seeing some fairly shocking and disturbing things during that time; fatal highway accidents, one carload of police officers (with a camera crew on board) being broadsided during a high-speed chase by another cop car. But I never thought anything like this would happen.

A crew member with the “Cops” television show was fatally struck by police gunfire as Omaha officers confronted a robber — who also was fatally wounded — at a midtown restaurant, law enforcement sources said Wednesday.

The robbery suspect apparently had an air gun, a type of BB gun that looks like an actual firearm. He apparently was a prison parolee from Kansas, law enforcement sources said.

The World-Herald claims that the police were the only ones shooting, and that “at least 30 shots” were fired during the incident.

I’m not sure what else I can say about this, other than it is sad and awful, and I’ll pass along any significant updates.

Busted, again.

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

General hattip on all of this to Romenesko.

A while back, I wrote about Busted, Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Lasker’s book about their coverage of corrupt cops in Philadelphia. At that time, I asked what they had accomplished, given that the bad cops were still on the street.

Last week, the Philadelphia Inquirer (the other daily newspaper, and the one that got soundly beat by Ruderman and Lasker on the story) ran a piece “Why an accused Phila. officer is still on the force” purporting to answer the question of why Thomas Tolstoy hadn’t been fired yet, even though he’d been accused of sexually assaulting three women. There are various reasons, but the Inquirer‘s key one:

The documents also show that actions the victim ascribed to two Philadelphia Daily News reporters who wrote about her assault further undermined the criminal case by damaging her credibility and complicating a federal investigation.
The woman told investigators that the reporters – whose account of the assault and other police abuses would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize in 2010 – provided her with gifts, paid her bills, offered her money to hire a lawyer, and told her that she could collect a financial windfall if she talked to them and not to law enforcement officials, according to the documents.
She also told investigators that the reporters were aware that an associate of hers had pressured her to lie about the circumstances of the attack. And she said one of the reporters encouraged her to give an exaggerated account of the raid, saying it would help in a potential lawsuit.
The woman’s accusations of impropriety by the reporters – included in detailed interview summaries signed by FBI agents – imperiled an already precarious case, according to three high-ranking officials familiar with the investigation.

Uh-huh. Ruderman and Lasker deny this, of course. Ruderman has posted a response on Facebook. And it’s worth pointing out that these accusations only involve one of the three women, and have nothing to do with the separate allegation that Tolstoy was one of the cops caught on tape stealing from bodegas.

Philadephia magazine has published their own piece about the problems of the Inquirer story. Points:

Obit watch: August 26, 2014.

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Missed this over the weekend, but notorious Alaskan serial killer Robert Hansen descended into hell last week.

Bill James, in his book Popular Crime, devotes some space to Hansen and makes two good points:

  1. Hansen’s criminal career was largely symptomatic of the way the criminal justice system worked at the time:

    Robert Hansen was the end product of a criminal justice system that really didn’t want to convict people, a criminal justice system that had lost track of its responsibility to protect the public. But you know what? That was 30 years ago, when Hansen was running wild and nobody would step up to stop him. It was a long time ago. It isn’t that way anymore. The system has, to a large extent, healed itself.

    Specifically, Hansen had a long career, mostly involving petty theft but including some serious crimes against women. Yet somehow he managed to make the charges against him mostly disappear, and minimized the severity of the ones that remained. He was convicted of rape in 1971 and sentenced to five years in prison; Hansen was paroled after three months. And as far as I can tell, that, and a year and half for setting a school bus barn on fire when he was young, are the only time he did until his arrest for the killings; he was at one point sentenced to five years for stealing a chainsaw, but that sentence was overturned on appeal and he ended up on parole again.
    In short, the courts and the cops had plenty of opportunities to stop him before and while he was hunting women, and botched them all.

  2. Hansen, unlike many serial killers, was publicity shy. So much so that, according to James, he used that as a negotiating tool; “I’ll answer your questions about what I did, as long as you keep the press and the people writing books away from me.” This would explain why he wasn’t as well known as Bundy or Gacy, even though his crimes were equally sensational.

Book note.

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

The NYT has a brief interview with Doug J. Swanson, tied to the release of his new non-fiction book, Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker.

This is great news, as far as I’m concerned, for two reasons:

  1. The story of Benny Binion and his foes, especially Herbert Noble, is a fascinating one. Lawrence gave me a copy of The Green Felt Jungle (a work I’m surprised Swanson didn’t mention) for Christmas one year, and that covers the Binion/Noble story at some length. But I’m excited about a more up-to-date book length treatment.
  2. I’m also kind of fond of Doug Swanson’s work. I’ve read and enjoyed (to varying degrees) four out of five of the Jack Flippo books, and was wondering why I hadn’t seen a new one in a while.

So, yeah, I’ll be picking this one up soon.

The Washington Post makes me testy again.

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Actual WP headline:

Waldman: Libertarians silent on Mo. shooting

(I won’t provide a link because 1) the Posties tell me I’ve used up all my articles for the month even though I’m a subscriber, and II) I don’t link clickbait.)

Yeah! Those pesky Libertarians haven’t been talking at all about Ferguson!

Except for Walter Olsen at Overlawyered.

And the folks over at Reason.

And Popehat on the Twitter.

And Morlock Publishing, but technically I think he’s an anarcocapitalist rather than a Libertarian.

To be fair, Balko hasn’t had much to say specifically about Ferguson, though he has been continuing to write about police militarization and misconduct.

Perhaps the WP issues highly effective hearing protection to their staff. Maybe something like these.

Random notes: August 12, 2014.

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Garry Kasparov lost his bid to run the World Chess Federation. The incumbent president, Kirsan N. Ilyumzhinov, was re-elected by a wide margin (110 to 61).

Mr. Ilyumzhinov, 52, a native of Kalmykia, a poor Russian republic on the Caspian Sea, has led the chess federation since 1995, but not without controversy. He cultivated friendships with Saddam Hussein, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, and claims that he was abducted by space aliens one night in 1997. He also claims the game was invented by extraterrestrials.

(Previously.)

Tiger, Tiger, burning bright: or, Lawrence goes to the tank museum. Hilarity ensues.

Actual LAT headline: “Convicted smuggler of prized fish bladders gets 1-year prison term“.

When seconds count…

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

the police are only minutes away the phone company will send your 911 call to an answering machine.

Vandalism is wrong, m’kay? Don’t do it.

Friday, August 1st, 2014

A day after former Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez was sentenced to a year in county jail for his role in a public corruption case that nearly left the town bankrupt, the mugshot of Robert Rizzo — the man at the heart of the scandal — was tagged on the walls of his grocery store.

Seriously. Bad tagger. No biscuit.

Flames, hyena, etc. (#17 in a series)

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Last man down.

Victor Bello, former city council member for the notoriously corrupt California city of Bell, was sentenced today for his role in the corruption scandal.

One year in jail, five years probation, 500 hours of community service, and $177,000 in restitution.

The prosecution was asking for the standard four years. Bello is sort of an exception, though:

Bello’s case was unique among the former council members because he alone had approached district attorney’s investigators about financial irregularities in the small city months before The Times exposed the size of the paychecks the town’s leaders were drawing.
Bello had written a letter on May 6, 2009, to the Los Angeles County district attorney with allegations of misconduct in Bell but was not interviewed until 10 1/2 months later.

So it’s at least kind of arguable that he was the rat in the case, and may deserve a light sentence more than the other guys…

Strippers. Always with the strippers.

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

This one gives me qualms, as it is a BuzzFeed article (by way of the Popehat on the Twitters). But I haven’t found any other coverage of it, and I don’t think it needs to be buried. I did a Google search and found a lot of links to press releases about the original arrest, but very few about the following events (and those I found were mostly on less reputable websites, basically repeating the BuzzFeed article).

Lauro Tobias was an agent with Customs and Border Patrol. Last year, he was arrested and charged with participating in a drug deal:

…6 kilograms of cocaine were exchanged with unnamed persons for $100,000. Tobias was paid $4,000 for working as security during the deal, based on court documents.

Tobias claimed he thought he was participating in a legal transaction, and had no idea it was actually a drug deal.

Except it wasn’t actually a drug deal. The entire thing appears to have been set up by the government specifically to go after Tobias. Why him?

Tobias’ attorney, Steven West, argued in an interview with BuzzFeed that federal agents tried to turn Tobias bad in order to use him as mole in the border station. “They couldn’t get close to the so-called ‘suspect corrupt people,’” he said. “I think they took a 90-degree turn.”

Okay, that’s just what his defense attorney claimed. Take it with a grain of salt.

But it seems pretty clear, based on the evidence already introduced, that the government spent many thousands of dollars setting up this case.

For instance, according to a court motion filed by Tobias’ attorney, department officials would not release certain information about the investigation during discovery, including “an accounting of how much money was spent on this operation by the government … on hotel rooms, air fare, frequenting adult entertainment establishments, rental car costs, restaurant bills, and any other ‘perks’ that were used to implement the operation, such as the Pacquiao fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.”

Again, defense allegations, grain of salt, etc.

But Tobias’ attorney moved for dismissal of the case. And the government agreed and filed its own motion for dismissal. That never happens. (Well, maybe “never” is an exaggeration. But it is very rare.)

An FBI source referred requests for comment on the case to the Justice Department.

I recommend that you don’t hold your breath waiting for comment from Justice. Blue is a very unattractive color for faces.

Speaking of tax-fattened hyenas…

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Just for the record: indicted California Democratic State Senator Leland “Uncle” Yee has pled “not guilty” to “a racketeering charge and two counts of conspiracy ‘to obtain property under the color of official right.’”

Surprise, surprise, surprise.

If I understand the LAT correctly, these are additional recently filed charges against Yee. More:

The new charges include allegations Yee sought to extort campaign contributions from people in exchange for favorable votes on legislation affecting the National Football League and mixed martial arts.

The NFL and MMA? Interesting. I sense at least a possibility that some more people are going to be brought down before this is over. These new indictments are on RICO charges as well. Fun fun fun.

(And isn’t “conspiracy to obtain property under the color of official right” a great charge?)

(Also, I’m a little late on this, but I’ve decided I need a Leland Yee category. I’ll go back and tag additional posts when I have time.)

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#16 in a series)

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

The bell continues to toll.

Oscar Hernandez, former mayor of the notoriously corrupt California city of Bell, was sentenced today.

One year in jail, five years of probation, $241,000 in restitution, and 1000 hours of community service.

I don’t know what to make of these sentences. On the one hand, they strike me as being pretty light. On the other hand, a conviction is a conviction. On the gripping hand, I’m wondering if the judges in these cases are buying into the defense argument that it was all Robert “Ratso” Rizzo’s fault. And since Rizzo and his little buddy Spaccia are doing long hard time, maybe this is the best we can hope for.

Edited to add: Hey, guess what Oscar Hernandez is full of?

“I just want to say I’m sorry for not being so aggressive in my questions to the people when I was in charge in the office,” Hernandez told Kennedy before she handed down the sentence. “And I take all the blame, I put blame on myself .… I feel so sorry and I say sorry to the community of Bell and forgive me.”