Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#26 in a series)

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

I haven’t been paying as much attention to the LA County jail scandal as I used to: things sort of got away from me.

But this is stunning and noteworthy: the former LA County sheriff, Lee Baca, has pled guilty to lying to the feds.

In a plea agreement filed in federal court Wednesday morning, Baca admitted that he lied when he told federal authorities that he was unaware that his subordinates planned to approach the FBI agent leading the jail investigation at her home.
Baca agreed not to contest other allegations leveled by federal prosecutors, including that he directed subordinates to approach the agent, stating that they should “do everything but put handcuffs” on her, the agreement said.

I believe this is the incident in question.

Baca’s plea deal apparently includes a provision that he won’t serve more than six months, and it seems possible that he could get probation. His #2 man, Paul Tanaka, is going to go on trial in March; the plea deal also apparently does not require Baca to testify against Tanaka.

Edited to add: longer article from the LAT about Baca’s plea.

“Operation Pandora’s Box”, summarized for your convenience.

Obit watch: special all UKOGBNI edition.

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

Gordon Goody, one of the Great Train Robbers.

While Mr. Goody was always considered one of the masterminds of the plot, he resented the fact that Mr. Reynolds was most often identified as the gang’s chief architect. (Mr. Reynolds died in 2013.)
“I do take exception to being referred to, as I have been from time to time, as Bruce’s number two,” Mr. Goody wrote. “I wasn’t number two to anybody.”

Richard John Bingham, the seventh Earl of Lucan, also known as Lord Lucan.

Okay, so, technically, he’s been dead since 1999, but this time he’s really most sincerely dead.

Something lighter.

Friday, January 29th, 2016

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s list of “Institutions Whose Degrees are Illegal to Use in Texas”.

Good for a few chuckles, at least. For example, the entry on “Eastern Caribbean University”: “…master’s degrees were offered in “Classical Studies” which actually was the study of any ‘classic’ TV or movies series such as ‘I Love Lucy’ or the James Bond movies. Closed by action of the CB.”

I also like “Irish International University”: “The Irish government has requested that Malaysia close this entity on grounds that it is neither Irish nor a university.”

(“The Partridge Family were neither partridges, nor a family. Discuss.”)


Friday, January 29th, 2016

In another life, I used to travel between Austin and Rhode Island regularly (once a year or so).

The first time I went, I stayed downtown, at the Biltmore. This was 1995, I think, and it seemed that downtown was dead.

But I kept going back (this was the business I had chosen) and downtown Providence got better. They built a big new mall within walking distance of the Biltmore. They started Waterfire. The last time I was in Providence, it was a fun, exciting place to be. I miss it.

Buddy Cianci was responsible for a lot of this.


He wasn’t a hero of mine, and I never really “met” him. I did encounter him a couple of times.

It was a running joke among my coworkers (and the folks we worked with in Rhode Island) that you should eat at Joe Marzilli’s Old Canteen at least once; not only was the food good, but if you got lucky, you might see Buddy.

Well, one night I was in there with some of my coworkers and some of our Rhode Island contacts. So was Buddy. He actually came over to our table and commented on how cute and well-behaved the young child who was with us was. (As I recall, he was accompanied by a stunning, and very young, woman.)

Later on that trip, I shared an elevator ride with him. I didn’t say anything to him; didn’t seem like the time or place. I kind of wish I had said something nice to him now.


The Prince of Providence is a swell book about Buddy and Providence politics, though I don’t know if it has been updated since 2003.


Buddy reminds me some of Robert Moses. Both were examples of The Man Who Got Things Done. And it seems that both were also examples of the “rude to the waiter” rule. (I watched him get kind of snippy once with a desk clerk at the Biltmore who didn’t recognize him. To be fair, though, he was actually living in the Biltmore at the time…)

I was always conflicted by him. As a Libertarian, he represented a lot of what I hate about big government. As a connoisseur of politicians, especially crooked ones, he was one of the last examples of a type we probably won’t see again.

And I always thought his second conviction was questionable. He was charged on 27 counts, and was acquitted on 26. The one thing he was found guilty of was “racketeering conspiracy”. What the hell does that even mean? What “racket” was he “conspiring” in, if he wasn’t guilty of the other 26 charges?

Then again, I Am Not A Lawyer, and maybe I’m inclined to make excuses for someone I kind of liked.


He may have been a crook. But he was my crook, damn it.

Crime and punishment.

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

The first three paragraphs of this article push one of my hot buttons, so you might take that into account when considering my recommendation.

However, I really like Kathryn Schulz’s “Dead Certainty”, about “Making a Murderer” specifically, and the general trend of reporters conducting their own “extrajudicial investigations”.

Nearly seventy years have passed since Erle Stanley Gardner first tried a criminal case before the jury of the general public. Yet we still have not thought seriously about what it means when a private investigative project—bound by no rules of procedure, answerable to nothing but ratings, shaped only by the ethics and aptitude of its makers—comes to serve as our court of last resort.

Schulz puts her finger on something that’s bugged me for a while. I’m not proud of this, but I used to watch “America’s Most Wanted”. Sometimes, it reminded me of a scene from “Fahrenheit 451″, where Montag is being pursued and the pursuit is broadcast live on television, complete with a host who sounds a lot like John Walsh.

I don’t have a dog in this fight: I didn’t watch “Making a Murderer” and I didn’t listen to “Serial”. But I think what Schulz says is worth thinking about:

It is largely because of these systemic weaknesses in our judicial system that we find ourselves with a court of last resort. While that court cannot directly operate the levers of the law, it has drawn attention to cases that need review, and innocent people have been freed as a result. Yet in the decades since Erle Stanley Gardner launched his column, none of the forces that put those people in prison in the first place have changed for the better. Nor have we evolved a set of standards around extrajudicial investigations of criminal cases. However broken the rules that govern our real courts, the court of last resort is bound by no rules at all.

Quick notes: January 14, 2016.

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Obit watch: Lawrence Phillips, former Nebraska running back, first round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams, and current prison inmate.

Phillips went to prison in 2008 on a sentence of more than 31 years after he was convicted of twice choking his girlfriend in 2005 in San Diego and of driving his car into three teens later that year after a pickup football game in Los Angeles.

He was also suspected of having killed a cellmate. His death is believed to have been a suicide.

Well. Chip Kelly is the new coach of the San Francisco 49ers. This should make Gregg Easterbrook’s head explode.

One hundred and sixty two.

Friday, January 8th, 2016

Somehow “tax-fattened hyena” doesn’t seem fitting, and crustacean related jokes seem inappropriate.

So. Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow: guilty.

On 162 counts, “including murder in the service of racketeering, murder conspiracy and racketeering.”

(They said “murder” and “racketeering” twice. They must like “racketeering”. And “murder”.)

LAT. SFGate. SF Examiner. Of course the defense plans to appeal.

Your Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow update.

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

It took us a non-trivial amount of digging to find this, but:

The case against Chow went to the jury on Tuesday.

We will keep an eye out for the verdict, or lack of one.

Random notes: December 30, 2015.

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

Okay, so it isn’t exactly Ninja Part 3: The Ninjaing. But I was entertained by Pete Wells’ review of Señor Frog’s in the NYT.

Señor Frog’s is not a good restaurant by most conventional measures, including the fairly basic one of serving food.

(Spoiler: he still liked it better than Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar.)

From the HouChron: off-duty HPD officer lists a couple of personal firearms on Texas Gun Trader, meets up with potential customers, and gets into a shootout.

Mildly interesting, but I call it out here for this quote:

Senties did not know how much Curry was asking for the guns, but on the website, the price tag for pistols can range from about $300 to almost $2,000 depending on the model and the condition.

“…from about $300 to almost $2,000″. Wow. That certainly narrows it down.

Seriously, if you don’t have specific information on what Curry (the HPD officer) was selling and how much he was asking, why put that in? Does the HouChron even have editors these days?

110 years ago today…

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

…early in the evening on December 30, 1905, Frank Steunenberg, the former governor of Idaho, returned to his home in Caldwell after a busy day downtown. (Among other tasks, Steunenberg renewed his life insurance policy.) He opened the side gate to his home…

…and set off a massive explosion that gravely wounded him. He was carried into his home by family and neighbors, and lingered for a short period of time before succumbing to his injuries around 7:10 PM.

For days thereafter, passerby were picking “little bits” of the governor out of the debris.



Thursday, December 24th, 2015

Speaking of Ross Thomas, I’ve been meaning to link to (and bookmark) Ethan Iverson’s “Ah, Treachery!” essay for a while now. There are a few things in it that I disagree with, but I think Iverson’s essay is generally perceptive about Thomas and his writing; I find myself referring to it periodically.

Young Joseph Wambaugh and the hobo, from the LAT.

Dave Barry’s year in review, in case you haven’t seen it yet.

An OPM statement plays down the seriousness of the data breach, stressing that “if anybody publishes any photos allegedly depicting an alleged Cabinet secretary with an alleged goat, those are fake,” further noting that “it was totally a consenting goat.”

For the record: NYT obit for Joe Jamail.

Obit watch: December 23, 2015.

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Joe Jamail, noted Houston attorney.

He was also a major booster, contributor, and power behind the scenes in University of Texas football. Here’s an article from Texas Monthly in 2014 about the relationship between Jamail and UT.

And another TM article (by way of Popehat) profiling Jamail.

He once took a $675,000 judgment against Sears into the retail chain’s downtown Houston location, commandeered the intercom, and informed employees that he’d just taken over the store.

“Some plaintiff’s lawyers have a tinge of dishonesty. When they leave a room, you smell a little brimstone. I’ve never heard anyone suggest that about Jamail. He may kill you, but he won’t cheat you.”

Now that’s a eulogy.