Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

And an update.

Monday, June 27th, 2016

(Previously on WCD.)

Paul Tanaka was sentenced today.

Five years in federal prison.

Somebody bring me some water…

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Noted for the record (though I don’t think I ever did a full-blown “you’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena” on this one):

The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously overturned former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell’s public corruption conviction and made it harder to prosecute public officials for alleged wrongdoing.

…Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. described the former governor’s actions as “tawdry” in announcing the decision from the bench.

“tawdry”. A great word. And much like “gargantuan”, the opportunity rarely comes up to use it in a sentence.

110 years ago yesterday…

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Missed it by that much.

On June 25, 1906, Harry Kendall Thaw, professional heir and nutcase, walked up to noted architect Stanford White on the roof of Madison Square Garden (during the opening night of something called “Mam’zelle Champagne”) and shot White in the head.

NYT coverage 1. NYT coverage 2.

When I call Thaw a “nutcase”. I mean that quite literally: historical evidence seems to show that he had a long history of mental problems, and that his enormously wealthy family spent a a great deal of money covering for him. Indeed, the Thaw trial is an early (though not the first) example of the interaction between great wealth and criminal justice.

It is also claimed that Thaw’s family spent a lot of money smearing White. Specifically, Thaw’s supposed motivation for the murder was that White had “ruined” Evelyn Nesbit when she was 16. Ms. Nesbit later went on to become Thaw’s wife: she supposedly told Thaw all about her affair with White, which drove Thaw crazier than he allegedly already was…

The end result was that Thaw went through two trials. The jury hung in the first one, and found him not guilty by reason of insanity in the second one. Thaw was sent to the Matteawan asylum for several years. In 1913, he walked out of the asylum and escaped into Quebec. He was eventually extradited back to the US, where he received a new sanity hearing, was found “not guilty and no longer insane”, and was released. Shortly thereafter, he was arrested and confined again for beating a 19 year old boy. He was released in 1924 and died in 1947. Thaw obit from the NYT.

Evelyn Nesbit died in “relative obscurity” in 1967. NYT obit.

I actually had hopes and plans for doing a much longer and better post on this, but they didn’t pan out. I’ve had trouble laying my hands on the source material I wanted to find. (And I still haven’t been able to find out what gun Thaw used, alas.)

So I’m going to be a little lazy and point to:

The website for the American Experience documentary “Murder of the Century”. It does not have the film available for streaming, but it does have the transcript and background material.

The Thaw trials from Douglas Linder’s “Famous Trials” website. This is actually a website that I keep forgetting about, even though it has been around since 1995, so I’m glad to be able to bookmark it here. Professor Linder has spent the past 21 years documenting everything from the trial of Socrates through Thomas More, Aaron Burr, our old pal Big Bill Haywood, and all the way up to George Zimmerman. This isn’t the be-all end-all website for most of these trials, but it serves as a good jumping-off point if you want to do more research.

(If those NYT links don’t work for you, would you please send an email or leave a comment? I think they should work, but I’m not 100% sure.)

Random notes, philosophical asides, bookmarks, endorsements, and other things.

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Some things I think are interesting, some I want to bookmark, some I want to plug, something for everyone, a comedy tonight! I am going to try to put these in some kind of rough topic order…

“Introduction to GPU Password Cracking: Owning the LinkedIn Password Dump”.

I Sea, “a mobile app that claimed to help users locate refugees adrift at sea”, appears to be a complete fraud.

The developers swapped information, including screen shots of a static image and a weather tool that one person claimed was used to mislead users into thinking they were looking at live images of the sea. Others noted that the app had been coded to tell users that their login credentials were invalid.

Bonus: the NYT mentions my third favorite security blogger, @SwiftOnSecurity. (Sorry, SecuriTay, but I’ve had my photo taken with the Krebster, and I know Borepatch. Third is still good enough for a medal, if this was the Olympics.)

And it isn’t just that the coding is screwy: PopSci makes a pretty strong argument that what I Sea claims to do is physically and logistically impossible.

To provide images of 1 percent of the total area of the Mediterranean would run over $1 million. And that’s just for one set of still photos. If the app were to provide up-to-date imaging, as it claims, the images would need to be refreshed regularly, at $1 million each time. And that cost is for unprocessed data, Romeijn says. Processing will cost more, as will the licensing fees required to make those images available to the public.

And those satellites make one pass a day, so you’re not getting “real-time” imaging, no way, no how.

The Oakland PD mess, summarized. Yes, I’m linking to an anonymous person on Facebook, but much of the information in this summary has already been reported in the media: this is more of a handy round-up if you haven’t been following this mess from the start. (Hattip: Popehat on the Twitter.)

And speaking of Popehat: the guys get shirts! Women, too. I just ordered mine: not only is $23 very reasonable for a shirt these days, and not only do I like Popehat, but I think Cotton Bureau does good stuff. (You may remember them from the BatLabels “Henchman” shirts, which are back in print! Hoorah!)

Flaming hyena #32: Democratic congressman Chaka Fattah.

In addition to racketeering conspiracy, Fattah was found guilty of bribery, bank fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, making false statements to a financial institution, and falsification of records.

A bunch of other folks took the fall with him, including Herbert Vederman:

Through cash payments to the congressman’s children, college tuition payments for his au pair and $18,000 given to help purchase a vacation home in the Poconos, prosecutors said, Vederman bought Fattah’s support in seeking appointment by the Obama White House to an ambassadorship.

(Hattip on this one to Mike the Musicologist.)

Prominent (well, in Chicago, anyway) Chicago journalist Neil Steinberg decides to pull the old “look how easy it is to buy an assault rifle” trick. So he goes to a gun store…

…and they deny his purchase because he’s a drunken wife-beater. (I have seen other versions of this story that state BATF first issued a “delay”, then a “deny” (BATF doesn’t have to give a reason for “deny”), Steinberg threatened to write that they were “denying” his purchase because he was a journalist, and the gun shop then decided to point out that he was a drunken wife-beater. However, this version seems to me to be to be the best sourced, and it doesn’t mention any BATF verdict.)

But at least he had the good taste to go with a Smith and Wesson M&P 15.

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#31 in a series)

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the Bill de Blasio scandal continues to grow.

A while back, I wrote about the suspension of three NYPD deputy chiefs and a deputy inspector, apparently because of their links to two of Di Blasio’s fundraisers.

The other shoe dropped today:

Three New York Police Department commanders, including a deputy chief, were arrested early Monday, along with a Brooklyn businessman, on federal corruption charges stemming from one of several continuing investigations into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign fund-raising, according to court papers.

The NYPD officers are:

  • Deputy Chief Michael J. Harrington
  • Deputy Inspector James M. Grant
  • and Sgt. David Villanueva

This is a little confusing for me: the NYT consistently refers to “three commanders”, but one of these guys appears to be a sergeant. Is that a commander rank in the NYPD?

Of these three, Harrington and Grant were among the officers suspended in April. Also arrested: Jeremiah Reichberg, one of the “businessmen” who has been a “generous supporter” of the mayor. Jona Rechnitz, also a “businessman”, “generous supporter”, and apparently Reichberg’s partner in the deal, has taken a plea on corruption charges and now appears to be rolling on the others involved.

The court papers in the case detail lavish gifts the two senior police officials are accused of receiving in exchange for taking official action, including expensive meals, free overseas and domestic trips, and the referral of business to a security company associated with one of the officials. The deputy inspector was also accused of receiving a trip on a private jet to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl weekend in 2013, and was said to be accompanied by a prostitute.

Hookers. Always with the hookers.

The official action taken by the senior officers included closing a traffic lane in the Lincoln Tunnel to provide a police escort for a businessman visiting the United States, dispatching police officers to the area near a jewelry business run by associates of Mr. Reichberg to disperse people handing out fliers for a rival business, and sending officers to disperse protesters in front of the business of an associate of Mr. Reichberg, according to the court papers. One of the officials also helped the men with their applications to get Police Department pistol licenses.

I’m not sure which “official” is being referenced here, but it makes a nice segue anyway: Sgt. Villanueva’s arrest appears to be related to the pistol license scheme.

Court papers unsealed on Monday also disclosed that a police officer who was involved in that scheme had previously pleaded guilty to bribery charges and was cooperating with federal authorities. In that scheme, bribes — as much as $18,000 per gun license — factored into between 100 and 150 gun licenses in recent years, according to the court papers.

$18K for a gun license. Come to Texas, guys: here there’s no license required just to own one, and it’s $140 (plus about another $140 for the required training course) for a license to carry either open or concealed. Of course, it is hot as hell here, but the upside to that is never having to shovel snow.

Obit watch: June 20, 2016.

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Donald Shea passed away last Friday at the age of 90.

Mr. Shea served for 36 years with the NYPD. He was perhaps most famous as one of the two patrol officers who captured Willie Sutton.

On that day in February 1952, he was a 26-year-old officer on patrol with a partner, Joseph J. McClellan. A 24-year-old clothing salesman, Arnold Schuster, had alerted the two officers after recognizing Mr. Sutton on the subway and following him out onto the street.

Both Mr. Shea and Mr. McClellan were promoted three ranks on the spot, to first-grade detectives, by Police Commissioner George P. Monaghan, who called the arrest the culmination of “one of the greatest manhunts in the history of the department.”

Mr. Schuster was famously gunned down in the street about a month after the arrest, allegedly on the orders of Albert Anastasia.

Adult supervision needed. Inquire within.

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

This one got past me earlier in the week: I was sort of avoiding media because Orlando and stupids, and the Oakland/SF papers aren’t part of my usual daily media diet anyway. And as it turns out, Peter over at Bayou Renaissance Man beat me to this as well…

So, followup, for the historical record and folks who don’t read BRM: remember the Oakland PD fired their chief, Sean Whent? So of course they appointed an interim chief.

The interim chief lasted five days.

“I have just received information that has caused me to lose confidence in Ben Fairow’s ability to lead the Oakland Police Department at this particular moment in time,” the mayor said in a statement on Wednesday, announcing Mr. Fairow’s departure. She did not elaborate on specific reasons for her decision.

I’m not trying to seem like Judgy McJudgerson here, but this might potentially be relevant to the mayor’s “loss of confidence”: Fairow apparently had “an affair with a consenting adult while married more than a decade ago”, according to the BART chief (who, by the way, has also “welcomed back” Fairow to the BART PD).

The interim chief was previously a deputy chief for BART. So they brought in a new interim chief, who was currently an Oakland PD assistant chief.

He lasted two days.

Mr. Figueroa said in a statement on Friday that he was taking leave and would return to the department as a captain.

More from SFGate:

In a move in which the mayor indicated she had lost faith in police leaders to run the department, she disclosed that she would not appoint another interim or acting chief to the top post. Instead, the department will have no chief, and for the time being command staff will report to City Administrator Sabrina Landreth as Oakland conducts a national search for a new chief.

“a national search for a new chief”. Hmmmm. Hmmmmm. Hmmmm. Gee, is there anyone we can think of that’s from California originally, has experience running a police department that’s even larger than Oakland’s, in a city much larger than Oakland, has been going through some friction with local politicians, and might be interested in a change?

Nope. Can’t think of anyone.

(Sarcasm aside, would Art, dammit, Art even be willing to take over this dumpster fire of a department?)

Followups.

Friday, June 17th, 2016

Lawrence’s backlink for my DNA lab post reminded me that I intended to link to this Grits For Breakfast post on the same subject.

More on MP Jo Cox: NYT. The Guardian (current live blog, historical live blog). Express.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Mr. Mair sent about $620 to the National Alliance for items from its publishing imprint, National Vanguard Books, including works that instructed readers on the chemistry of powder and explosives. Also purchased was a copy of “Ich Kampfe,” a book published by the Nazi Party in the early 1940s.
Heidi Beirich, the director of the center’s Intelligence Project, which tracks and produces reports on extremist groups, said in an interview that it had found the invoices in a database of records it maintains.
When Mr. Mair’s name surfaced on Thursday, Ms. Beirich said, the Intelligence Project matched it with invoices in its possession. She said those records were authentic because they had been leaked by members of the National Alliance. Further, she said, she was confident the records were linked to Mr. Mair because the address on the invoices matched his home address.

You know, I dislike Nazis as much as the next guy or gal, but: does this bother anyone else? The SLPC apparently has a database of people’s book orders that was “leaked” to them? And they, in turn, are providing those records to the press?

Setting aside our individual lack of love for the Nazis, isn’t it possible that there are people on that list – students of modern day extremism, university libraries with collections of extremist literature for reference purposes, etc. – that would object to having their purchases revealed to unrelated third parties?

And where does this stop? Anyone remember the Tattered Cover case?

You know what Travis County needs?

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Strict dog control.

A pack of dogs killed a 36-year-old woman in North Travis County, the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release Thursday.

More:

Animal Protection officers impounded six dogs that were on the property, most of which appeared to be Labrador/Great Pyrenees mixes, the release said. They also found 14 puppies. Fraga said city records show no prior animal complaints at the property.

I come from a family of dog owners. My mother currently owns a Corgi, and my sister owns a German Short-haired Pointer. But nobody except maybe the police and military needs these large deadly high capacity assault dogs that are capable of maiming or killing dozens of people with one bite of their jaws. No private citizen needs 20 dogs.

And do you realize that just anyone can walk into a pet store and purchase one of these deadly assault dogs with no background check?

Sensible dog control now!

Quote of the day 2.

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Because it is my blog, dammit, and I can have more than one if I want. Especially if the second one is from a new Ken White post:

Urging vague and unconstrained government power is not how responsible citizens of a free society ought to act. It’s a bad habit and it’s dangerous and irresponsible to promote it.

This is not an abstract or hypothetical point. We live in a country in which arbitrary power is routinely abused, usually to the detriment of the least powerful and the most abused among us. We live in a country in which we have been panicked into giving the government more and more power to protect us from harm, and that power is most often not used for the things we were told, but to solidify and expand previously existing government power. We live in a country where the government uses the power we’ve already given it as a rationale for giving it more: “how can we not ban x when we’ve already banned y?” We live in a country where vague laws are used arbitrarily and capriciously.

Quote of the day.

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

So today’s murder victim is nearly twice as likely to be bludgeoned as shot with a rifle, and three times more likely to be punched, kicked, strangled or shoved to his doom by his murderer’s bare hands or shod feet.

Random notes: June 13, 2016.

Monday, June 13th, 2016

I was busy all day yesterday, and I have nothing profound or interesting to say about Orlando. Go look at the smarter people on my blogroll if you’re looking for that: I’d suggest Tam and Lawrence as good starting points.

In other news: there’s now an official lawsuit pending to remove Williamson Count District Attorney Jana Duty from office. And I’m thinking I need a WCDA tag.

I missed this until Lawrence sent me a link to a Daily Mail story: Sean Whent, the police chief in Oakland, resigned on Thursday.

Chief Anthony Batts quit in 2011 after receiving a scathing report from Robert Warshaw, the court monitor assigned to ensure that the Police Department was implementing reforms ordered by a federal judge. Batts’ successor, Howard Jordan, left suddenly in 2013 amid a spike in violent crime and a wave of anger over how police were handling Occupy protests. Interim Chief Anthony Toribio, who came in after Jordan, lasted only two days.

The general belief seems to be that Whent was working to stabilize and clean up the department, but there were a whole host of recent scandals on his watch:

Officer Cullen Faeth was charged with misdemeanor battery, public intoxication and trespassing after he allegedly tried to break into a home in Oakland’s Redwood Heights neighborhood in December and attacked a woman who lived there. In February, Officer Matthew Santos was arrested for allegedly pulling his gun on a man painting Santos’ apartment in Emeryville. Santos was fired shortly thereafter.

But the biggest issue is a messy sex scandal. Five officers have been placed on administrative leave so far.

The woman at the center of the sex scandal is claiming she had sex with two dozen current and former officers in five cities, a newspaper investigation published Sunday found.

More from the Mercury News:

…she slept with three of the 24 officers — all from Oakland’s police department — before she turned 18 last August.

She also said that two Oakland officers provided her confidential police information, including tips on scheduled anti-prostitution stings…