Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Obit watch: July 28, 2015.

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

Noted true crime writer Ann Rule passed away on Sunday. LAT.

(Hattip: Mom.)

The Ann Rule origin story is well known to true crime buffs, but since I’m not sure how many of those read this blog, I’ll recap it here: in the 1970’s, she was working at a suicide hotline and writing under pseudonyms. She became interested in some Seattle area murders and started investigating them; ultimately, it turned out those murders were committed by a close friend who worked with her on the hotline…

…one Mr. Ted Bundy. The Stranger Beside Me made Rule’s reputation and career.

“I really care about the people I’m writing about,” said Rule, whose accounts focused as much on the anguish of the victims and their families as on the depravity of the killers. “I finally came to the knowledge I’m doing what I probably was meant to do in life.”

Edited to add: WP article which goes into more detail about Bundy and Rule.

Art (Acevedo), damn it! watch. (#U of a series)

Friday, July 24th, 2015

The latest APD firing: Officer VonTrey Clark.

It seems unlikely that former officer Clark will be appealing his firing for two reasons:

1. He is allegedly in Indonesia. Thing I did not know: Indonesia does not have an extradition treaty with the US. Good to keep in mind…

2. Former officer Clark has bigger problems.

I haven’t written much about this for various reasons, including the lack of non-paywalled links and the fact that the story is just sad and awful. But I might as well try to summarize here.

A woman named Samantha Dean was killed in February. She worked in victim services for the Kyle PD and was seven months pregnant.

The police have been investigating her murder for months now. Apparently, they now believe her baby was the product of an affair with former officer Clark. Clark has not, to the best of my knowledge, been charged with any crime. What I’ve picked up so far is that investigators think Clark arranged for other associates of his to commit the murder, and I suspect that they’re trying to get at least one of those associates to roll.

In the meantime, APD fired Clark for “withholding information during an internal investigation and associating with known felons”.

Here are a couple of half-decent stories from local TV stations KEYE and KVUE. The KEYE story contains a lengthy response from Clark’s attorney: in case you were wondering, Chief Acevedo’s allegations are “slanderous” and consorting with known felons is a “trifling policy violation”.

Art (Acevedo), damn it! watch. (#T of a series)

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

You may recall Blayne Williams, the APD officer who was suing the department for not promoting him, even though he’d been suspended twice and fired once.

Officer Williams has been fired again. I apologize that I can’t find a non-paywalled Statesman link, but the first two paragraphs of the story and the “story highlights” I think convey the gist of the story.

Random notes: July 16, 2015.

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

The Birdman of Altiplano.

“There is already a significant problem every single weekend with widespread, out-of-control peeing,” Mr. Johnson, who represents much of Manhattan’s West Side, said.

(I love the “Citations for public urination” graphic that goes along with this article.)

I’m a little surprised this one hasn’t made FARK yet: local police find an unresponsive man in a car. He had bite marks on his wrist, and there was a non-venomous snake (and other animals) in the car. Man dies.

And it seems like his venomous cobra snake may be on the loose. (Hattip: Lawrence.)

(Huh. I didn’t realize that Frederick Forsyth won an Edgar for “There Are No Snakes in Ireland”. That’s not a bad story, but I like “The Emperor” from the same collection a little better.)

Edited to add:

Austin Animal Services is not actively searching for a missing monocle cobra that may have killed an 18-year-old Temple man on Tuesday.

You know what this means, folks. If Animal Services isn’t actively searching for it, it’s up to the rest of us to be on the lookout. Get that Taurus Judge out of the gun safe and load it up with snake shot! Fun for the whole family! At least, until someone gets bitten…

The monocled cobra causes the highest fatality due to snake venom poisoning in Thailand. Envenomation usually presents predominantly with extensive local necrosis and systemic manifestations to a lesser degree. Drowsiness, neurological and neuromuscular symptoms will usually manifest earliest; hypotension, flushing of the face, warm skin, and pain around bite site typically manifest within one to four hours following the bite; paralysis, ventilatory failure or death could ensue rapidly, possibly as early as 60 minutes in very severe cases of envenomation. However, the presence of fang marks does not always imply that envenomation actually occurred.

Edited to add 2:

Oh, thank God. They’re going to start an organized search. I was afraid they’d be engaging in a disorganized search.

(Hattp: the Austin Cobra Twitter. Hattip on the Austin Cobra Twitter to the great and good Joe D. in the comments.)

Art, damn it, art! watch (#48 in a series)

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

Apparently, the Detroit PD doesn’t want Shepard Fairey extradited from California to face vandalism charges there. (Previously.)

This comes by way of a LAT think piece:

Fairey’s arrest, and his release, provides a window into the evolution of street art, its growing acceptance in American culture and the extent to which an old question, “Is it art or is it vandalism?” now gets answered through new eyes. The social media and press attention that the Detroit incident received speaks to the artist’s fame, which is itself a marker of how street art has become part of the zeitgeist, public art expert Ed Fuentes said.

Perhaps I am naive. Perhaps I shouldn’t try to be an art critic. But it seems to me that there’s a very simple answer to the “art or vandalism” question: if you have permission from the property owner, it is art. If you don’t, it is vandalism.

Speaking of art being above the law, Joe Gibbons was sentenced yesterday.

Mr. Gibbons, a former lecturer in art at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was sentenced on Monday to one year in prison after he pleaded guilty in State Supreme Court in Manhattan to third-degree felony robbery for entering a Capital One Bank in Chinatown this past New Year’s Eve, stealing $1,002 and filming it all on a pocket-size pink and silver video camera. He claimed it was an act of performance art coupled with dire financial straits.

While acknowledging that Mr. Gibbons had dubious legal standing, Ann Pellegrini, a professor of performance studies at New York University, called the case a classic example of “performance becoming performative,” an act that questions “the relationship between actor, audience and enactment.”

Notes from the legal beat: July 9, 2015.

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

It’s Baltimore, gentlemen. The gods will not save your job as police commissioner.

I’ve been sort of generally following the whole “illegal alien shoots woman on a pier” story, and there’s something I’m wondering about. Set aside for the moment the whole “five-time deportee” thing. Ignore the “gun belonged to a federal agent” thing.

The guy claims he was shooting at sea lions. So? Well, aren’t sea lions generally out to sea? Or at least in the water? Like at a 90 degree angle to the actual pier? Okay, maybe it wasn’t exactly 90 degrees; it could be 45 or 30. But my point is, the sea lions would be in the water; you’d have to swing the muzzle pretty far around to “accidentally” shoot someone on the pier. Then again, your average drug addict is probably not exactly well known for muzzle discipline.

(Edited to add: Mike the Musicologist informs me that they guy has changed his story: “the gun went off accidentally”. Three times.)

(Hattip to Tam on the shirts. I’m planning to order one soon.)

I’ve written previously about Kelly Siegler, the former Harris County prosecutor (famous for re-enacting a stabbing during a murder trial) who helped get Anthony Graves off of death row and Charles Sebesta disbarred for hiding exculpatory evidence. I’ve never met Ms. Siegler, but I’d like to: I have enormous respect for her role in the Graves/Sebesta case, and she’s another person that I’d enjoy having some good barbecue and a large orange with.

So this makes me a sad panda, but honesty requires me to note it:

A Beaumont judge who decided that David Mark Temple deserves a new trial in the 1999 slaying of his pregnant wife cited 36 instances of prosecutorial misconduct in his ruling, most of which are tied to legendary former Harris County prosecutor Kelly Siegler.

“Of enormous significance was the prosecutor’s testimony at the habeas hearing that apparently favorable evidence did not need to be disclosed if the state did not believe it was true,” Gist wrote.

For example, the judge noted, Siegler specifically called only a small number of the many investigators who worked the case to testify in the trial. By doing this, the prosecutor would not have to give the defense team any reports from the investigators who did not testify.

This does raise a question in my mind (and please remember that I Am Not A Lawyer): is the prosecution required to disclose all evidence, even evidence that they don’t believe to be true? Or that is clearly not true?

The “don’t believe to be true” is kind of slippery; I’d tend to think that simple “don’t believe it” isn’t enough to bar disclosure. But let us say that the DA investigator is interviewing someone who claims to be a witness to the murder. And let’s say that witness has spent the past 30 years marinating every one of his brain cells in pruno, Sterno, Thunderbird, and anything else he can get his hands on. And let’s say the witness tells the investigator, “Yes, I saw that man stab the victim. And then the UFO came down with a bunch of little green men, and the guy with the knife climbed on board the UFO, and then it took off again.” Is the prosecution required to give that statement to the defense?

(And, if they did, would any defense attorney actually use that statement in court?)

“I think we need to kill more people. … I think the death penalty should be used more often.”

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

That quote is from Dale Cox, acting district attorney of Caddo Parish, Louisiana.

There’s an interesting profile of Mr. Cox in today’s NYT. I’ve observed before that my feelings about the death penalty are complicated, but ultimately I believe some people deserve to die at the hands of the state. With that said, there are some things in the NYT article that I think are worth highlighting.

Even on a national level Caddo stands apart. From 2010 to 2014, more people were sentenced to death per capita here than in any other county in the United States, among counties with four or more death sentences in that time period.

“Retribution is a valid societal interest,” Mr. Cox said on a recent afternoon, in a manner as calm and considered as the hypothetical he would propose was macabre. “What kind of society would say that it’s O.K. to kill babies and eat them, and in fact we can have parties where we kill them and eat them, and you’re not going to forfeit your life for that? If you’ve gotten to that point, you’re no longer a society.”

“Hey, Bob. Wanna bring the missus over tonight for a baby eating party? Great. Yeah, have Marlene bring her potato salad.”

Mr. Cox later clarified that he had not seen any case involving cannibalism, though he described it as the next logical step given what he at several points called an “increase in savagery.”

He describes this as a natural result of exposure to so many heinous crimes, saying that “the nature of the work is so serious that there’d be something wrong if it didn’t change you.” He went on to describe violent child abuse, murders and dismemberments in extended detail, pointing to a box on his desk that he said contained autopsy photographs of an infant who was beaten to death. He volunteered that he took medication for depression.

“The courts always say, ‘Evolving standards of decency tell us we can’t do this or that,’ ” he said in an interview at his office, where he had been considering whether to seek death in one case and preparing to seek it in two others. “My empirical experience tells me it’s not evolving decently. We’ve become a jungle.”

And here’s an interesting little bit of trivia:

…an incident in 2012, when two senior assistant district attorneys, both of whom continue to prosecute capital cases elsewhere in the state, were forced to resign from the office after they obtained machine guns from a military surplus program through what an inspector general found to be falsified applications. The men had belonged to a group of prosecutors who participated in firearms exercises as part of a unit known as the Caddo Parish Zombie Response Team, sporting arm patches around the office and specialty license plates on their trucks.

Reading that, I’m wondering if these were actual “machine guns”, or NYT defined “machine guns”. And I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: we’ve gone past peak zombie.

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#21 in a series)

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

“…Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.”

Yes, I am chortling.

Indicted former California Democratic State Senator Leland “Uncle” Yee will soon be convicted former California Democratic State Senator Leland “Uncle” Yee.

Former California state Sen. Leland Yee pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering in federal court Wednesday, admitting that he “knowingly and intentionally agreed with another person” to take part in a criminal enterprise and commit at least two offenses and affect state commerce.

More from the SFChron:

In return for the payments, which totaled $34,600, Yee said in his plea agreement that he promised to vote for legislation his donors favored, recommend a software company for a state contract, arrange a meeting with another state senator over legislation, and illegally import firearms, including automatic weapons, from the Philippines. He said the transactions covered a period between October 2012 and March 2014, when he was planning his campaign for California secretary of state.

You may recall that Yee was a gun control advocate, and was honored by the Brady bunch.

Also pleading guilty to racketeering were Keith Jackson, a former San Francisco school board president who served as a consultant and fundraiser for Yee, Jackson’s son, Brandon, and sports agent Marlon Sullivan.

Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!

The racketeering charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

This appears to be the Federal statutory maximum sentence. As we all should know by now, this figure is misleading. But:

Yee’s plea agreement, as described in court, did not include a recommended sentence. But the agreement for Keith Jackson, who admitted the same charge, specified that prosecutors could seek a maximum of 10 years in prison, and the defense could request a minimum of six years.

And the judge can ignore those requests and recommendations.

The important question: what of Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow? Still awaiting trial, but the judge “asked prosecutors to include Chow, who is still in custody, in the next group scheduled for trial.”

Related question that you may have been wondering about: does the plea deal mean that Yee is going to roll on Chow? I can’t deny it: I love using the phrase “Yee is going to roll on Chow”. But:

The plea agreements do not require any of the four defendants to testify or cooperate with the prosecution, said Brandon Jackson’s lawyer, Tony Tamburello. Both Brandon Jackson and Sullivan pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy involving the Ghee Kung Tong.

The Ghee Kung Tong was Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow’s organization, which is described as “…as a racketeering enterprise that trafficked in drugs, weapons and stolen goods” in the Federal charges against Chow.

Edited to add: Thanks to Ken at Popehat for linking to convicted former California Democratic State Senator Leland “Uncle” Yee’s plea agreement. I apparently can’t copy or paste stuff from the plea agreement PDF, so I’ll just note that Yee specifically admits to the gun running charges in his plea.

Quick random thoughts.

Friday, June 26th, 2015

1.

Bob Willett, a Malone resident, also called 911 Friday afternoon when he found an opened bottle of grape-flavored gin on the kitchen table at his cabin, his cousin, Mitch Johnson, told CNN.

For me, the most amazing part of this breaking story is: grape-flavored gin exists? Because that just sounds god-awful, and I say that as someone who likes regular gin.

2. Apropos of nothing in particular (no, really), I’m thinking I’d like to own a Spiro Agnew watch. But it would have to be one that works: I’m not going to wear a broken wristwatch.

Random notes: June 26, 2015.

Friday, June 26th, 2015

Obit watches: Patrick Macnee. A/V Club. LAT.

Phil “Nick Danger” Austin, founding member of the Firesign Theater, passed away on the 18th, but the paper of record just got around to running his obit.

Shepard Fairey has been charged with two counts of “malicious destruction of property” for tagging buildings in Detroit.

The police say he tagged as many as 14 buildings with his signature images, which include the face of Andre the Giant. Nine of the building or business owners were interested in pressing charges.

Two things from the WP that kind of tickled my fancy:

1. How much water do California pot growers use? The answer is: well, that’s hard to quantify, for obvious reasons. But a group of researchers have made an attempt to come up with a number, and their estimate is that pot growing uses about the same amount of water as almond growing.

2. Don’t let your pet goldfish loose in the nearest pond, because they will become gianormous and screw up the ecosystem.

(Do I need a “Fish” category?)

Art (Acevedo), damn it! watch. (#S of a series)

Saturday, June 20th, 2015

Blayne Williams is an officer with the Austin Police Department.

Officer Williams has what might be called a “colorful” history. He was fired in October of 2013 after an incident at a local hotel. Last November, the arbitrator overturned Williams’ firing, reducing it to a 15-day suspension.

Previously, in 2011, Officer Williams was suspended for 90 days after he got into a physical altercation with an HEB employee while he was off duty. He was also charged with “assault on an elderly person”, but that charge was dismissed “and eventually wiped from his record after he completed probation and had the charge expunged”.

The hook now is that Officer Williams is suing. Why? He claims the police department “wrongly passed him up for promotion”. Yes, I kid you not: a guy who has been suspended twice in four years and was almost fired is claiming he should have been promoted to either corporal or detective.

Oh, by the way: in addition to his suit against the city, Officer Williams already has a lawsuit pending in federal court, claiming his firing over the cellphone incident was in retaliation for discrimination claims he’d filed previously.

Hand to God, people, I don’t make this stuff up.

Art (Acevedo), damn it! watch. (#R of a series)

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

I would have sworn that I wrote about APD lieutenant Jason Disher back in October, but I can’t find it now. This one may have gotten past me.

Anyway, Lt. Disher was having an affair with a woman who was married. This was a long lasting affair: Disher told a detective “eight or nine years”. At some point, according to Disher, the woman’s husband “started harassing him and making threatening phone calls”. The detective issued an arrest warrant for the husband.

The woman Disher was having the affair with later came forward and said Disher’s claims that led to the warrant were false. There was an investigation, and Disher was fired.

Old news? Not so fast; if you’ve been hanging around here long enough, you can guess what happened next.

Yes! The arbitrator overturned Disher’s firing! The Statesman doesn’t go into detail on the reasons, and I hesitate to speculate. But isn’t it interesting…

Disher told investigators he was aware that some of the information in the husband’s arrest affidavit was not true, but he made no effort to have it corrected.