Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Blotter.

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

I’m stuck blogging from the phone, but quickly:

Three men, including the previously named suspect, have been indicted for the attempted murder of Judge Kocurek.

I’ve written about this previously, but don’t ask me to find links now. Seriously, phone blogging sucks.

Apparently, two out of three (including the original suspect) are in custody: number three got away during a chase last night and is on the run.

A few notes from the police blotter…

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

…or, in this case, sort of the blotter.

The City of Austin approved a budget for next fiscal year in an 8-2 vote. The approved budget “will charge the typical resident about $87 more in city taxes and fees next year”.

And what will we get for the money?

Next year’s operations include a 2 percent pay increase for city employees, to kick in during the pay period before Christmas. There’s funding for a new curbside composting program, at a cost of $4.2 million to the city and a phased-in cost of $64.80 to homeowners after five years. There’s $600,000 more for housing aimed at reducing homelessness.

But the news isn’t all bad. The city is hiring eight new employees to do DNA testing. (But the lab is relying on grant money and whatever they can scrounge elsewhere to actually get the testing done.) And the Transportation Department is hiring 13 new people, “most of which will be dedicated to traffic signal timing”. Traffic signal timing? In Austin? You don’t say.

And what of the cops? What of APD’s request for more officers?

In the new budget, Adler explained, Austin will add 52 emergency service workers, 12 police officers, 21 civilian police staff and 38 development service employees intended to speed up Austin’s notoriously arduous permitting and building inspection process.

Exactly what the city manager asked for. (Well, the cops and police staff anyway: I don’t know about the development staff.)

As a side note, I mentioned when I was taking the Citizen’s Police Academy class earlier this year that we got to go on a tour of the forensics lab. I’m attending CPA again this fall, but as an alumnus rather than a student. (What this means in practice is that I’m basically volunteering to help set stuff up before the class, knock things down after the class, and sit in the back and keep my mouth shut during the class.)

Point of this digression: the lab tour isn’t being offered to CPA students this time around.

In other news, the APD suspended an officer for 20 days for improper use of a stun gun: specifically, the officer tasered a restrained person.

The other part of the story: the guy who was Tasered is the same guy who got pepper-sprayed in the back of the police van.

Wilson had been arrested on suspicion of public intoxication. At the booking facility, Wilson was restrained with handcuffs and a set of belly chain handcuffs, but later stood up from a chair and argued with several officers. Wilson refused to remain seated and a struggle ensued, the memo said.
Jimenez fired her stun gun once at Wilson, discharging a five-second pulse as the struggle concluded, the memo said.

Apparently, Tasering a handcuffed possibly drunk guy who is struggling with officers is FROWNED UPON IN THIS ESTABLISHMENT!

Jimenez admitted during her disciplinary review hearing that she should have used less violent means to control Wilson. She expressed regret for her actions, the memo said.

No appeal is once again part of the deal.

And from the department of “play stupid games, win stupid prizes”: the APD shot and killed a guy earlier today. The initial reports make it sound like a good shoot: they got a call about a suspicious guy wandering around an apartment complex with a backpack looking into cars, responded, didn’t find him initially, came back 2o minutes later after a second report and found him…

Officers radioed for air support and K9 units to help find the man as they continued to chase him on foot. An officer eventually ran the man down and used his stun gun to try to make an arrest, officials said.

The guy went down, the officers stated yelling at him to show his hands, he initially wasn’t compliant, and then…

“What we can see on video is that the suspect very quickly rolls over, produces a handgun and begins firing shots at our officers,” Manley said. “Our officers immediately retreat and return fire. There are multiple shots that are fired, again by both the suspect who initiated the gunfire and our officer who returned fire.”

Part of the referenced video (taken by a resident of the complex, not the police) is on the KVUE website. It isn’t the best quality, and I swear I saw a better version elsewhere, but it seems to show exactly what the APD is saying happened: they told the guy to roll over, he came up shooting…

(Edited to add 9/16: the video I was thinking of is on Facebook and linked from this Reddit thread. I recommend ignoring the comments.)

Noted: this is the second fatal police shooting in Austin in 10 days. A week ago Monday, the APD shot a man whp was wandering around an apartment complex holding a “high-powered rifle”: the police took cover, repeatedly asked the man to drop the weapon, actually shot him several times with “beanbag” rounds, and finally (the exact chain of events is currently unclear) shot the man. It sounds like classic “suicide by cop”: the man was being described as emotionally distraught after a recent break-up with his girlfriend.

Obit watch: September 15, 2016.

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Julio Gonzalez is burning in hell.

You may not remember the name, but you probably remember the crime. Maybe you were alive then, or maybe you’ve heard me talk about it in the context of gun politics.

Early in the morning on March 25, 1990, Mr. Gonzalez got into an argument with his girlfriend at the Happy Land Social Club, where she worked as a coat check girl. Mr. Gonzales was ejected by a bouncer.

According to testimony, Mr. Gonzalez walked three blocks to an Amoco service station, where he found an empty one-gallon container and bought $1 worth of gasoline from an attendant he knew there. He returned to the club. Upstairs, a disc jockey had just spun the reggae tune “Young Lover,” by Cocoa Tea.
Mr. Gonzalez splashed the gasoline at the bottom of a rickety staircase, the club’s only means of exit, and ignited it. Then he went home and fell asleep.

The resulting fire killed 87 people. At the time, it was the worst mass murder in United States history.

Mr. Gonzalez was tried and sentenced to 87 concurrent sentences of 25 years to life.

The Happy Land inferno left some 90 children as orphans. More than 40 parents lost sons or daughters. Five of the victims were students at nearby Theodore Roosevelt High School.

Mr. Gonzalez first became eligible for parole in March of last year. He was denied at the time, but would have been eligible again in November of this year.

Cahiers du cinéma: September 11, 2016.

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

We were watching movies last night, and a question came up. I don’t remember the exact context, but basically: was The Paper Chase actually John Houseman’s first film?

The answer turns out to be: yes, and no, and it’s interesting.

Before The Paper Chase, Houseman is listed as having an uncredited (and I assume small) role in the film adaptation of Seven Days In May.

But before that, in 1938, Houseman was in something called Too Much Johnson. Just the name sparked immense hilarity among our little group (though to be fair, it was also late) but there’s an interesting story here. Too Much Johnson was never shown in public while Houseman was alive…

As most of my readers probably know, long before he was Professor Kingsfield, Houseman had quite a stage career. Among his other credits, he was a leading member of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre. Welles had an idea: he wanted the Mercury Theatre to do an adaptation of a 1894 comedy, also called “Too Much Johnson”, by William Gillette. But he also wanted to integrate a silent film into the stage production.

Welles planned to mix live action and film for this production. The film was designed to run 40 minutes, with 20 minutes devoted to the play’s prologue and two 10-minute introductions for the second and third act. Welles planned to create a silent film in the tradition of the Mack Sennett slapstick comedies, in order to enhance the various chases, duels and comic conflicts of the Gillette play.

There’s some very funny stuff about Welles editing the film, in his hotel suite, while up to his knees (according to Houseman) in nitrate film. Another of Welles collaborators recalls the film catching fire in the projector, Welles being so absorbed in the editing he didn’t even notice…

“What I remember, most remarkably, is me running with the projector in my hand, burning, trying to get out of the door into the goddamn hallway, and Houseman racing for the door at the same time … while Orson, with absolutely no concern whatsoever, was back inside, standing and looking at some piece of film in his hand, smoking his pipe.”

Anyway, they put the film together and went to stage “Too Much Johnson” at a place called the Stony Creek Theatre in Connecticut before they took it to Broadway. But there was a problem: the ceiling in the Stony Creek Theatre was “too low” for film projection. So the Mercury Theatre staged “Too Much Johnson” without the movie part. Depending on who you believe, the audience reaction was poor. In any case, Welles shelved the “Too Much Johnson” project before he finished editing it: in later years, he claimed that he’d looked at the stored footage, and it still looked pristine. But that footage was destroyed in a 1970 fire at Welles home, and the movie was presumed lost…

…until 2008, when a copy was discovered in Spain. The film was restored and shown for the first time in late 2013. In 2015, the combined film/stage production was staged for the first time. And now you can watch the 66 minute work print and reconstructed 34 minute edit of “Too Much Johnson” at the National Film Preservation Foundation website.

This is probably too much “Too Much Johnson” for most of you, but I make no apologies for my interest in Welles and his work, and I think this is a great story even without Welles and Houseman.

After the jump, topic changes…

(more…)

The other scandal I wanted to touch on…

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

My major source of information on this is an article in the WP. I haven’t seen very much English-language coverage elsewhere, but I welcome links if anyone has them.

There’s a place in Sweden called the Karolinska Institute, a medical school with an associated teaching/research hospital, the Karolinska University Hospital.

The hospital, up until March of this year, employed a scientist, Dr. Paolo Macchiarini. It seems that Dr. Macchiarini was kind of a hot shot:

Macchiarini captured headlines in 2011, a year after he had been recruited by the institute, for his work in regenerative medicine. That year he implanted a “bioartificial” trachea, one made from plastic and the patient’s own stem cells, into a man named Andemariam Beyene.

This is kind of cool, at least to me. Regenerative medicine is sort of a holy grail: imagine if, instead of a heart transplant and the lifetime of anti-rejection/immunosuppressivee drugs, you could just grow a new heart? Or liver? Or spleen?

(Tangentially related: Isabelle Dinoire died in April, though her death is just now being reported in accordance with her family’s wishes. Ms. Dinore was the first person to receive a partial face transplant, and her death is being attributed in part to the immunosuppressive drugs she had been taking.)

So what went wrong?

But in January 2014, as the Iceland Review noted, the trachea Macchiarini had implanted became loose, killing Beyene.

“trachea…became loose”. But wait, there’s more: Dr. Macchiarini did three of these surgeries. Two of the patients are dead, and the third has been in intensive care since 2012.

But wait, there’s more:

The investigator who examined his studies said that Macchiarini was guilty of scientific misconduct by omitting or fabricating information about his patients’ postoperative status to make the procedure seem more successful than it really was.

But wait, there’s more: Dr. Macchiarini didn’t get signed consent forms from two of the patients, and the one he did get isn’t valid. (“that one signed form would not have been approved’ since the patient wasn’t afforded the option of discussing the procedure with an independent medical expert”).

But wait, there’s more:

The report pointed out that a different synthetic material was used in each transplant, which hinted at a lack of research into which one actually worked and suggested an unreadiness for usage in human beings.

There was also illegal use of “growth-stimulating drugs” without proper permits.

But wait, there’s more! It isn’t just that Dr. Macchiarini was a rogue researcher who has since been fired:

The English version of the report stated:

There are many instances of KI [Karolinska Institute – DB] employees being involved in the discussions preceding and following up surgery. KI has also, in several contexts, cited the transplantations as part of its own activities. For example, they have been quoted as research successes in KI’s evaluations of how research funding has been utilized.

This report opined that KI never should have hired Macchiarini in the first place, considering the references the institution received concerning the surgeon.

It was the usual stuff: negative references, false information on his CV, you know the drill.

Lastly, the report found the hospital extended Macchiarini’s contract twice — once in 2013 and one in 2015 — with “no real evaluation or assessment of Macchiarini’s work.”

But. Wait. There’s. More.

The Karolinska Institute is very closely tied to the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine.

On Tuesday, the Nobel Assembly, which is in charge of choosing the recipient of the institution’s prize for physiology or medicine, asked Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson and Anders Hamsten, two of its 50 judges, to resign. Both are former vice chancellors of the Karolinska Institute, the Swedish medical university associated with the Karolinska University Hospital that employed Macchiarini.

(If I understand correctly, those 50 judges are just the ones who decide on the medicine prize.)

The Swedish Minister of Higher Education also fired Wallberg-Henriksson from her position as “Sweden’s chancellor of all public universities”. The minister is also demanding that everyone who was on the board of the Karolinska Institute while Dr. Macchiarini was employed there resign. “Any who choose not to resign will be replaced, Reuters reported.”

By the way: Dr. Macchiarini is also being criminally investigated. It looks like the prosecutors may press involuntary manslaughter charges against him, depending on the outcome of the investigation.

(It occurs to me: this would make for another great “Law and Order” script. Your cold open is a guy walking down the street with his girlfriend when he suddenly drops dead, coroner finds the loose trachea, McCoy charges the doctor with murder…)

(Question for any TV writers who might be reading this: is it okay to write spec scripts for shows that aren’t on the air any longer?)

Edited to add: Just found this: a February article from Vanity Fair. Seems that NBC News did a two-hour long documentary on Dr. Macchiarini.

I swear, I need an AutoText for “But wait, there’s more”: Dr. Macchiarini was also involved in a romance with the producer of the documentary. As in, they were going to get married. By the Pope. Who personally approved their marriage, even though they were both divorced and she is Episcopalian. And who was going to host the wedding at Castel Gandolfo.

“…Who the hell are you and what the hell is wrong with you?”

Today’s update from Oakland.

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

Four Oakland police officers involved in a sexual misconduct scandal will be fired, and seven more suspended without pay, for shocking violations that include attempted sexual assault and assisting in the crime of prostitution, city leaders said Wednesday.

Among the alleged offenses, the most startling are that the four officers facing termination committed one or more of the following: attempted sexual assault; engaging in lewd conduct in public; assisting in the crime of prostitution; assisting in the evading arrest for the crime of prostitution; accessing police databases for personal gain; lying to investigators; failing to report allegations of a minor having sex with officers and bringing disrepute to the police department.

In slightly old, but related news, the young woman in question is being held in a Florida jail on charges of “aggravated battery”. Her bail is set at $300,000.

Why was she in Florida? Would you believe drug rehab?

Guap and her mother both told the East Bay Express that the drug-treatment was funded through the Richmond Police Department (RPD), an allegation that has raised eyebrows among people following the investigation into Guap’s prostitution claims (which include RPD officers). “I’m not saying rehab is a bad idea, but there are rehab programs here,” said civil-rights attorney Pamela Price, who is leading a call for the state to take over the investigation from individual agencies involved.

(I feel like I should note here that this is just what “Guap” and her family are claiming. The RPD refuses to confirm or deny that they paid for the treatment.)

And what led up to the aggravated battery? Would you believe drug withdrawal?

Guap’s alleged victim, a detox-center security guard named Joseph Sanders, claimed Guap was getting (verbally) upset with a facility care staffer so he and two other security guards entered the room. At that point, Guap tried to pull a safe off of the room’s countertop and, “when the security officers intervened, [Guap] began resisting, starting a physical altercation,” according to an arrest affidavit. Guap began “screaming at the employees then lunged at one of the female security officers. Sanders attempted to restrain” Guap, at which point she bit his right forearm.

(By the way, “Guap” is not the young woman’s real name, which is why I haven’t edited it out.)

From the blotter.

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

A Wisconsin man was arrested in August after he allegedly drank his friend’s blood, cut off her pinky with a machete, put the severed phalange in the freezer to eat later, and then took a blowtorch to his friend’s hand to try and stop the bleeding, according to media reports.

Damn, dude. Kind of busy, weren’t you? I understand why you saved the finger: probably worked up a bit of an appetite with all the blood drinking and pinky severing and blowtorching.

(Also: “the severed phalange”. Pro tip here: an amateur writer such as your humble blogger would have gone with “the severed finger”. “Servered phalange” is how you know you’re reading a true professional.)

[The alleged victim] told police she voluntarily participated in the ritual and didn’t want anyone to be arrested for the event.

And we ask again: where do guys find these women?

And what was the motivation here?

Schrap, whose body tattoos identify him as a member of the Juggalos, which is the name given to super fans of the Insane Clown Posse group, his friend Nick Laabs, and fellow Juggalo Preston Hyde, who goes by “Bloody Ruckus,” were performing a “ritualistic memorial” when they honored a fellow Juggalo who died a year prior by drinking the blood of [the victim], 27.

Juggalos? I get they probably had the identifying marks, but the blood drinking, phalange severing, and blowtorching (the latter after a cigarette lighter didn’t stop the bleeding) seems like a lot more work than your average Juggalo is willing to do.

Obit watch: September 5, 2016.

Monday, September 5th, 2016

Officer Amir Abdul-Khaliq of the Austin Police Department passed away yesterday.

He was critically injured in an accident on Thursday. According to reports, he was escorting a funeral procession, and was at the Burnet/Ohlen intersection when a woman pulled in front of him (trying to make it into a gap in the procession) resulting in the officer striking her vehicle.

Cmdr. Art Fortune with the Police Department’s Highway Enforcement Command said the department has handled at least a dozen motorcycle crashes involving officers in the past two years, but none had been as serious as Thursday’s incident.

Officer Abdul-Khaliq had been on the force for 17 years and has five children.

Be careful out there, people.

Semi-related: “A Fighter Pilot’s Guide to Surviving on the Roads..”

Important safety tip (#19 in a series)

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

I understand the desire to Instagram your travels. Especially if you are on an long cruise going to exotic places. And especially if you are a decently attractive woman.

But you might want to think twice about drawing attention to yourself.

Especially if you are carrying nearly 210 pounds of cocaine in your luggage.

“Traveling is one thing,” Roberge wrote on Instagram. “But traveling with an open mind, ready to taste everything, see everything, learn everything and get yourself out of your comfort zone … is probably the best therapy and lesson ever. I used to be afraid to get out of my little town and now I feel like I don’t want to see that little town anymore cause it’s beautiful out there and it’s sooo worth it.”

Yeah, she’s probably going to be spending a long time out of her comfort zone.

On Monday, the trio appeared in court in Sydney, charged with importing a commercial quantity of cocaine, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, authorities said.

I don’t know if Australian law is anything like US law, and that “maximum penalty” is more public relations than reality, especially for a first offense with no previous criminal record. I’m also guessing, though, that only one of them is going to get to play “Let’s Make A Deal”, and that the other two will be spending at least tome time making new friends.

The cocaine was packed into suitcases so tightly, agents said in a Facebook post, that “these three Canadian nationals did not have much room for clean underwear or spare toothbrushes.”

Ewwwww. Then again, this was a cruise ship, right? I’ve never been on one, but I assume they have a little store where you can at least get a spare toothbrush and perhaps some clean underwear? I actually checked the Princess cruise lines website, and while they claim the ship has “boutiques”, there aren’t many specifics beyond that. Maybe you have to pick up clean undies and a toothbrush when you go ashore?

The police beat.

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

A while back, I mentioned the case of an APD officer who allegedly pepper-sprayed a suspect who was handcuffed in the back of a police van.

The officer and the chief have made a deal: 45 days of unpaid suspension, along with some additional conditions (“requiring him to be evaluated by a police psychologist and to have a one-year probationary period”).

Despite the reprimand, Acevedo said that Caldwell was right to try to gain compliance from Wilson, noting that Wilson wasn’t being cooperative. Acevedo said Caldwell had other options — such as asking other officers for help to pin him down and restrain his legs — but described him as an officer with no previous disciplinary issues who “but for this incident has done a pretty good job.”

Part of the deal is that Officer Caldwell will not appeal the decision, since he just got an unpaid suspension instead of a firing.

Random notes: August 29, 2016.

Monday, August 29th, 2016

I almost want to give Maywood, California a category of their own.

Today’s update: the city hired ECM Group, an engineering firm, to do some work for them. Nothing wrong with that, is there?

Nothing except that ECM Group was fired by the city of South El Monte for “questionable practices” after an audit earlier this year.

The audit slammed the company, saying that among other things, workers were reporting as many as 27 hours for some work days.

More:

Already facing a state audit and scrutiny by the district attorney’s office over whether the city violated open-meeting laws, Maywood this year hired a laid-off Boeing project manager whom the mayor had met as a customer at his auto shop to be its city manager, even though he had no municipal experience.

This one is kind of old, and I have no excuse except pure laziness for not blogging it before now. But it is still one of the more popular stories on the Statesman‘s website, and illustrates two important points.

Point 1: you know what weapon has a lot of stopping power? A 4,000 pound Lexus.

A woman ran over a man in her silver Lexus after he fired shots at her and her boyfriend in a Round Rock parking lot, according to an arrest affidavit.

More:

It said the man challenged Viera to fight in the parking lot of the Concentra Clinic at 117 Louis Henna Blvd. The man then called his girlfriend — the driver of the silver Lexus — and told her he was going to be involved in a fight and asked her to pick him up, the affidavit said.

Note a: The strip club in question is Rick’s Cabaret, for those who know Austin.

Note b: Where do guys find these women? With all due respect, most of the women I’ve known, if I called them and said, “Honey, can you pick me up at the strip club? Some guy wants to beat my ass.”, they would show up…with a big bag of popcorn to watch the beatdown.

This leads to point 2: you know what matters more than stopping power? Shot placement.

It said Viera then stepped out of his car and pointed his handgun at the woman’s boyfriend. The woman told police she then sped toward Viera to try to hit him, but Viera fired toward her car and stepped out of the way, the affidavit said.

The woman told investigators that she then turned her car around and saw Viera pointing his gun again at her boyfriend and running after him, according to the affidavit. The woman said she tried to hit Viera with her car again but he fired another shot at her vehicle, the document said.

Third time’s the charm:

It said Viera then fired a shot at the woman’s boyfriend. The woman then ran over Viera and struck a parked car, according to the affidavit. The woman’s Lexus became inoperable and rolled to a stop a few feet away from Viera, the affidavit said.

At last report, the bad guy is in jail, the woman wasn’t charged, and there’s no word about the state of the boyfriend or the Lexus.

Obit watch: August 23, 2016.

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

Steven Hill. A/V Club.

My “Law and Order: Original Recipe” fan window is very narrow. I never took to Sam Waterston’s Jack McCoy. For me, the idea lineup was Logan and Briscoe (and Cragen)/Stone and Kincaid. But I did like Hill’s Adam Schiff: he served as a much needed counterweight to, shall we say, the enthusiasms of the other folks in the DA’s office.

I’m pretty sure most folks remember him for that. But let us not forget his other semi-famous role, especially since that gives me an excuse to use this clip:

Even decades later, Mr. Hill declined to discuss his reasons for leaving the series, other than to say that the first season had been a bad experience. Other sources, including Patrick J. White, author of a book on the series, “The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier,” said Mr. Hill was dismissed and learned the news only when he read a Daily Variety announcement that Mr. Graves was being hired.