Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Obit watch: April 30, 2016.

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

I found out yesterday that Tom Deeb passed away about a month ago. I had not seen this previously reported: apparently, I should be reading more blogs.

For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Deeb, he was the founder of Hi-Point and designer of their firearms.

I actually discovered this in a moderately amusing way. Yesterday, RoadRich and I had the chance to tour the Austin Police Department’s Forensics Lab as part of our CPA course.

One of the stops on our tour was the firearms and toolmarks lab, and we got to spend a few minutes talking with one of the examiners. I want to go out drinking with this guy, but I digress. I asked him how much truth there was to the old movie/TV show cliche, “The bullet has six lands and grooves and a right hand twist, so it’s got to be a Smith and Wesson or a Taurus…”

He commented that yes, generally, they can at least narrow things down to two or three makes of weapons, and sometimes they can do even better than that. Paraphrasing as closely as I remember: “If we see one with nine, we KNOW that it’s a Hi-Point, because TOM DEEB ALWAYS HAS TO DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY THAN EVERYONE ELSE!

After the tour, RoadRich and I went to lunch, and got to talking about this. So I did some searching on my phone and found this recent profile of Hi-Point and Mr. Deeb from the American Rifleman. Turns out there’s more to it than Mr. Deeb just wanting to be different:

Deeb became fascinated with the science of forensic firearm examination, which is how, as an examiner, I met him. “I included design elements in my guns to be of specific use to the forensic community, beginning in 1994,” said Deeb. “We now start with a particular number for each model of pistol. Rifles start with letters that are easily identifiable.” Beyond this, Deeb uses uncommon rifling patterns and makes breech faces that leave readily identifiable markings on fired cartridge cases. He began doing workshops for firearm examiners at the Ass’n of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners (AFTE) annual training seminar and became a Technical Advisor to AFTE in 2002. Currently, he conducts about 20 tours of his plant a year for firearm examiners.

(And I know it is trendy to sneer at Hi-Point, but: the guys at Tex-Guns used to tell people when they asked about Hi-Points, “We’ve sold hundreds of them, and we’ve only had one, maybe two, come back to us for repair.” Another take.)

(And if you find someone on Gunbroker selling a Model 19 for $125, please let me know. I already have two, but at that price, I’d buy one and give it to a friend.)

Cop watch.

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Two quick notes:

Remember the Tulsa Sheriff’s Office reserve deputy who thought his gun was a taser and ended up killing a guy last April?

Guilty of second-degree manslaughter.

Followup to the latest Art Watch: I usually don’t link to Statesman editorials, but I’m making an exception in this case. This one contains Chief Acevedo’s response to the reprimand, and the “he did not find any violation of APD or city policy” memo from the city manager.

In other news, it seems at least some members of the city council are not pleased…with the city manager.

Council Member Don Zimmerman said it was that lack of transparency that has led to his growing desire for Ott to be fired.
“When the city manager notified us, he didn’t even bother to attach the same documents that were sent to the media,” Zimmerman said. “I call that secrecy.”

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

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

Remember my asking a while back, “Will we get to “Z” in the series?”

That question has suddenly become a lot more pertinent.

The Austin city manager has:

  • accused the chief of insubordination
  • fined him five days of pay
  • reprimanded him
  • and warned him that “he could be fired for future misconduct” (No!
    Really?)

What happened? You know that naked unarmed 17-year-old that got shot back in February? The city manager’s complaint basically amounts to: “I told you to shut up and stop talking to people about this, and you didn’t.” I apologize for the length of this quote, but I feel it is necessary to show the timeline of events that caused the city manager to lose his you-know-what:

Acevedo responded with a news conference Feb. 11 with representatives from several community groups, including Black Lives Matter — a decision that angered many officers and their union who thought the gathering showed Acevedo had already decided that Freeman erred.
Documents show that, several weeks later, Acevedo visited the department’s police training academy, where he again discussed the shooting.
That meeting prompted a formal complaint to Ott by the union, and Ott hired an outside investigator, Larry Watts, to look into whether Acevedo’s comments were inappropriate or showed a bias against Freeman.
Watts found Acevedo hadn’t violated any policies, but wrote that “while I do not find a policy violation, I do believe that the department and city of Austin would have been better served if he had refrained from discussing the Freeman case at that time.”
Soon after Acevedo’s visit to the academy, Ott met with Acevedo and, the city manager wrote, “I directed you to let the administrative investigation process proceed in its normal course; to cease meeting with groups, including APD officers and cadets, and talking about matters connected with the pending officer involved shooting investigation.” He also was told not to discuss the case with union President Ken Casaday, Ott wrote.
According to the memo, Acevedo proceeded to discuss the case with Casaday on March 3, and returned to the police academy March 4 to hold a mandatory meeting with cadets and training staff.

The Statesman goes on to say that, according to the city manager’s memo, he met with Chief Acevedo on April 12th, and “Acevedo agreed that his actions had been insubordinate.” However, the Statesman also quotes the chief:

“I respectfully differ with the city manager and Austin Police Association about my public remarks and response to the officer-involved shooting on February 8, 2016. I acted in the best interests of the City of Austin, Austin Police Department, and community after a tragic incident that cost a young life and ended a police officer’s career.
“While I disagree with the manager’s reprimand, I recognize his right to exercise that authority,” Acevedo said. “The manager and I have worked together for nearly nine years. Disagreements are inevitable. I look forward to putting this behind us and continuing a productive partnership.”

Some thoughts:

  • In case you were wondering, when the chief pulled out of the running for the San Antonio job, he got a five percent pay raise, plus an agreement to pay out “up to six months” of severance if he gets canned. The Stateman puts Chief Acevedo’s current pay at “about $206,086″ (about?), and claims five days of pay “would mean a loss of about $4,000″. I’m not sure where that number comes from: the paper doesn’t specify that $206,000 is yearly, but I feel it is safe to assume so. Divided by 365.25 (to account for that pesky leap year) I get $564.23 a day, or $2,821.16 for five days. Anybody want to double-check my math on that?
  • The Statesman also spells out some additional background: briefly, Acevedo was hired by a former city manager (Toby Futrell) and the claim is that there’s been a simmering ongoing conflict between the chief and the current city manager (Marc Ott).
  • The documents show publicly for the first time dissatisfaction among some in city management for an official who has been arguably the most visible in local government since arriving in Austin in 2007.” On the one hand, in my experience so far with the Citizen’s Police Academy, the rank-and-file seem to love the guy. Yes, they could be blowing smoke up my you-know-what. And I suppose they wouldn’t pick people to come down and present if they knew somebody was going to publicly say, “Chief’s an a–hole.” But the feelings I’ve heard expressed seem heartfelt and genuine: the chief has made the department more professional, more accountable to the city, better equipped, and more transparent. Many people in high law enforcement positions (from what we’ve been told) look to APD as a national model, and are actually calling the chief daily looking for advice.
  • On the other hand, I’m sure there are at least some officers who are disgruntled by the disciplinary action taken as a result of the shooting. I’d like to express an opinion on that myself, but I’m still turning over some issues related to the use of force in my own mind. The question I’m wondering about is: if Acevedo is fired, how does the rank-and-file react? Also, what does this mean for recruiting in an already understaffed department?
  • I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m not sure how the city government works in the case. Does the city manager have the absolute authority to fire the chief? Or does the council have to agree? And if the city council has to agree; give the current composition of the council, would they? How would the votes break down?
  • Finally, if the chief does go, I’m worried about me, Al Franken the future of the Citizen’s Police Academy, and of quite a few of the folks I’ve met through it. I’m hoping things don’t come to that. At least, not before May 19th, when we graduate.

Worthy of note II.

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Five former New Orleans police officers were pleading guilty Wednesday (April 20) in federal court to their role in the post-Katrina shooting of civilians on the Danziger Bridge and subsequent cover-up, a move that would wrap one the most notorious prosecutions of police brutality in the storm’s aftermath.

Here’s the sentence each officer would face under the proposed plea deals presented Wednesday, followed by their previous sentence:
Kenneth Bowen, 10 years, previously 40 years.
Robert Faulcon Jr., 12 years, previously 65 years.
Robert Gisevius, 10 years, previously 40 years.
Anthony Villavaso, 7 years, previously 38 years.
Arthur Kaufman, who was involved in the cover-up but not the shooting, 3 years in prison, previously 6 years.

(Previously. Those convictions were later thrown out due to misconduct by the prosecution.)

(See also.)

They’re Masons, Donny.

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

Remember the Masonic Fraternal Police Department? Wasn’t that a couple of days wonder?

Latest developments: charges against one of the defendants, Brandon Kiel, have been completely dropped.

And a second defendant, David Inkk Henry, who was apparently the “chief”, died suddenly.

Obit watch: April 18, 2016.

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Richard Ransom, founder of Hickory Farms.

Mr. Ransom sold Hickory Farms for $41 million in 1980 to the General Host Corporation of Connecticut. Analysts thought the price was steep and attributed it to Hickory Farms’ shrewd marketing. The company has since changed hands more than once and has shifted to catalog sales.

Now I’m nostalgic: I remember the Hickory Farms stores in the malls when I was a child, and going in to scam some free samples. These days, I have to get my free samples of meat and cheese at the gun show…

By way of Popehat (which also calls him “the meanest sonofabitch who ever wore the black robe”), the WP obit for Joe Freeman Britt, whose passing we noted previously.

The WP obit fills in some context:

A 1983 study by an organization investigating justice in rural America found that Mr. Britt’s near-total control of the court system in Robeson and Scotland counties led to “a widespread and serious denial of [the] rights” of poor defendants.
Bails were set unreasonably high, the study found, and the court calendar — set by Mr. Britt — often forced defendants to wait for weeks before their cases were heard. Minority defendants were prosecuted at higher rates, and many were improperly told that they would have to repay the state if they asked for a court-appointed lawyer.

“Because I ain’t killed nobody,” McCollum said. “I want to tell you something, Joe Freeman — God got your judgment right in hell waiting for you.”
McCollum and Brown served more than 30 years in prison — including years on death row — before they were exonerated by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission. A cigarette found at the scene of the crime contained DNA from the man who had been convicted for the other nearby killing while the brothers were jailed.

Obit watch: April 14, 2016.

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

Two! Two! Two themes in one!

Theme 1: people who had interesting lives and careers.

Anne Jackson, noted actress.

Ms. Jackson, who had endured a difficult life growing up in Brooklyn, carved out an impressive stage career of her own. Critics hailed her range and the subtlety of her characterizations — including all the women, from a middle-aged matron to a grandmother, in David V. Robison’s “Promenade, All!” (1972) — and a housewife verging on hysteria in Alan Ayckbourn’s “Absent Friends” (1977).

She was also married to Eli Wallach from 1948 until he died in 2014. And they were good together:

They both won Obie Awards for their work in Mr. Schisgal’s 1963 Off Broadway double bill, “The Typists” and “The Tiger.” They also starred in his hit 1964 Broadway comedy, “Luv,” directed by Mike Nichols, which ran 901 performances and won three Tony Awards, and in another pair of Schisgal one-acts, “Twice Around the Park,” on Broadway in 1982.

Arthur Anderson. He was perhaps most famous as the voice of the Lucky Charms Leprechaun. But he did a lot of other stuff, including working with Orson Welles:

After acting in “The Mercury Theater on the Air,” Mr. Anderson was cast in 1937 as Lucius, the herald to the 22-year-old Welles’s Brutus, in a Broadway production of “Julius Caesar” set in Fascist Italy. Arthur sang, accompanying himself on a ukulele camouflaged as a lute.
His most memorable moment during the show occurred offstage. After heeding an order to stop hurling light bulbs at a brick wall, he decided to light matches to test the melting point of the sprinkler heads. Besides setting off a fire alarm, he triggered a deluge just as Brutus ascended the pulpit above the body of Caesar on the stage below.

Remember, folks, the sprinkler is not a toy, nor is it a load-bearing device.

Theme 2: the death penalty.

Jack H. Smith passed away a few days ago.

Mr. Smith had convictions for robbery-assault and theft in 1955 and another robbery-assault conviction in 1959 that earned him a life prison term. He also had a prison escape attempt in 1963.
He was paroled from his life sentence on Jan. 8, 1977, after serving 17 years. One day short of a year later, on Jan. 7, 1978, Mr. Smith and an accomplice were arrested in the killing of Roy A. Deputter, who was shot to death while trying to stop a holdup at a Houston convenience store known as Corky’s Corner.

Mr. Smith’s accomplice testified against him and was sentenced to life. Mr. Smith was sentenced to death:

Mr. Smith, a former welder who completed only six years of school, arrived on death row on Oct. 9, 1978, and remained there until his death.

Joe Freeman Britt also passed away a few days ago. He was a prosecutor in North Carolina:

As the district attorney for Robeson and Scotland Counties from 1974 to 1988, Mr. Britt oversaw cases that led to more than 40 death sentences. Only two of the defendants were executed — appeals court rulings led to many altered sentences, and some suspects were later exonerated [Emphasis added: -DB] — but his courtroom record ranked him at one point among the country’s most prolific advocates for capital punishment.

After his time as a prosecutor, he became a judge:

Mr. Britt’s candidacy for the court seat was not without controversy. His opponent, a Native American, died in what the authorities concluded was a domestic dispute. The death essentially guaranteed a victory for Mr. Britt, and it prompted a period of unease and suspicion. Investigators, however, never accused Mr. Britt or his supporters of wrongdoing.

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#29 in a series)

Monday, April 11th, 2016

Okay, maybe not flames, since this is a civil suit. But I run an equal opportunity blog here, and there are also criminal charges involved.

The SEC is suing Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

According to the SEC, Paxton recruited investors for Servergy Inc. in 2011 without disclosing that the company was paying him to drum up support and without trying to confirm Servergy’s claims that it had developed a revolutionary new server that was, in reality, based on outdated technology.

The SEC claims that Paxton was paid $100,000 worth of stock, and, when asked about it by the SEC, claimed the stock was a “gift” from William Mapp, who was Servergy’s chairman at the time. Mapp is also accused of fraud, and a third man (“Caleb White, a Tyler businessman”) is also accused of failing to disclose commissions he received. According to the HouChron, “Servergy and White already have settled their cases by paying a combined $260,000 in penalties.”

More from the Chron:

The complaint alleges that Paxton told the SEC that he intended to pay for the shares and even offered to pay $100,000 to Mapp during a meeting at a Dairy Queen in McKinney, Texas.
According to Paxton, Mapp then said, “I can’t take your money. God doesn’t want me to take your money.” So, Paxton took the shares as a gift.

I think the important question here is: what did AG Paxton order at the Dairy Queen? Is he a Blizzard man? Maybe some sort of sundae, or possibly even a banana split? A Peanut Buster Parfait? Or is he just a humble dipped-cone sort of guy? The people demand to know!

(Damn it. I went to the DQ web site to check spellings. Now I want a S’Mores Blizzard, and the nearest DQ is miles away.)

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#28 in a series)

Monday, April 11th, 2016

I probably should have covered this last week, but it got past me. Work’s been kind of rough. Anyway:

The NYPD reassigned three deputy chiefs and a deputy inspector:

Two of the four officers were placed on modified duty, stripped of their guns and badges and limited to administrative duties, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said. The other two were transferred from their current assignments to less prestigious positions.

Meanwhile, a prominent NYC restaurateur was arrested and charged with running a Ponzi scheme:

The restaurateur, Hamlet Peralta, who owned the now-closed Hudson River Café in Harlem, misappropriated more than $12 million from investors for use in what he said was a wholesale liquor business, according to the complaint, which was unsealed on Friday in Federal District Court in Manhattan. The business was, in fact, fictitious, prosecutors said.

What do these two things have in common? Glad you asked. They both seem to be tied to a federal investigation involving two of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fund-raisers:

A federal grand jury in Manhattan has begun hearing evidence in the case, according to several people briefed on the matter. The inquiry has come to focus on the two fund-raisers: Jona Rechnitz, who raised money for Mr. de Blasio’s campaign and was also a donor to both the campaign and to a nonprofit group that supported the mayor’s agenda; and Jeremy Reichberg, who held a fund-raiser for that nonprofit.

More:

Two of the people briefed on the matter suggested that investigators were trying to determine whether Mr. Rechnitz and Mr. Reichberg benefited from some type of favorable municipal action, or the promise of some action, in exchange for their donations, their fund-raising or some other gesture. But the precise allegations under scrutiny by federal prosecutors in Manhattan and agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation are unclear. The two people, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the case publicly.

In recent months, agents and prosecutors investigating Mr. Rechnitz and Mr. Reichberg learned that they were both also in close contact with roughly a score of high-ranking police officials, and may have lavished gifts upon them, some of the people said. This tangential discovery led the police commissioner, William J. Bratton, to reassign four senior police officials to desk duty last week. Two were stripped of their guns and badges and two others were transferred to less prestigious posts, a rare public rebuke.

Mr. Rechnitz and Mr. Reichberg were also investors in the Peralta Ponzi scheme.

Like I said, I’ve been kind of behind the 8-ball, so here’s another one I should have blogged before now: Paul Tanaka was convicted of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice last week.

Mr. Tanaka was the undersheriff of Los Angeles County: basically, he was Lee Baca‘s second-in-command.

The criminal charges centered on allegations that in 2011 Tanaka orchestrated a scheme to derail the FBI’s jail investigation by intimidating the lead agent in the case, pressuring deputies not to cooperate and concealing the whereabouts of an inmate who was working as a federal informant.

Dumber than a bag of hair.

The LAT claims that Mr. Tanaka could get “as long as 15 years in prison”: as we all know, such claims should be taken with soy sauce and wasabi.

Obit watch: April 5, 2016.

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

Winston Moseley is burning in hell.

If that name doesn’t ring a bell with you, and you think I’m being harsh: Moseley is the man who killed Kitty Genovese.

Mr. Moseley, a psychopathic serial killer and necrophiliac, died at the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., near the Canadian border. He had been imprisoned for almost 52 years, since July 7, 1964, and was one of the state’s longest-serving inmates.

I apologize for quoting at length from the NYT obit, but there are some interesting things in it that deserve to be called out. For example:

While there was no question that the attack occurred, and that some neighbors ignored cries for help, the portrayal of 38 witnesses as fully aware and unresponsive was erroneous. The article grossly exaggerated the number of witnesses and what they had perceived. None saw the attack in its entirety. Only a few had glimpsed parts of it, or recognized the cries for help. Many thought they had heard lovers or drunks quarreling. There were two attacks, not three. And afterward, two people did call the police. A 70-year-old woman ventured out and cradled the dying victim in her arms until they arrived. Ms. Genovese died on the way to a hospital.
But the account of 38 witnesses heartlessly ignoring a murderous attack was widely disseminated and took on a life of its own, shocking the national conscience and starting an avalanche of academic studies, investigations, films, books, even a theatrical production and a musical. The soul-searching went on for decades, long after the original errors were debunked, evolving into more parable than fact but continuing to reinforce images of urban Americans as too callous or fearful to call for help, even with a life at stake.

(Previously.)

Captured five days later during a burglary, Mr. Moseley confessed to the murders of Ms. Genovese and two other Queens residents: Annie Mae Johnson, 24, who had been shot and burned to death in her South Ozone Park apartment in February, and Barbara Kralik, 15, who had been stabbed in her parents’ Springfield Gardens home the previous July. Both women had been sexually assaulted.
Mr. Moseley was never tried for murdering Ms. Johnson or Ms. Kralik, though he recited details only the killer could have known, the police said. He testified at the trial of Alvin Mitchell, who had already been charged in Ms. Kralik’s murder. The conflicting accounts left a hung jury. Mr. Mitchell was convicted in a second trial.

Well. I wonder what happened to Mr. Mitchell. (I tried a Google search, but “Alvin Mitchell” is too common a name.)

In 1968, on the visit to a Buffalo hospital for treatment of a self-inflicted injury at Attica, Mr. Moseley overpowered a guard, took his gun and fled. In his several days on the loose, he took five hostages and raped a woman before he was finally recaptured by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He received two 15-year terms, to run concurrently with his life sentence.

That’s something I didn’t know. (It is perhaps worth noting that Moseley was originally sentenced to death for the Genovese murder, but had his sentence reduced to life imprisonment on appeal.)

Also among the dead, and one I’ve been meaning to note: Adrienne Corri, actress, perhaps most famous for her role in “A Clockwork Orange”.

Erik Bauersfeld.

Things: April 1, 2016.

Friday, April 1st, 2016

You know something? I still don’t like bullies.

Obit watch: Bill Green. Mr. Green worked as a newspaper editor, public affairs officer for NASA, and university professor at Duke.

He also worked for the Washington Post as their ombudsman from late 1980 to 1981. If you’re thinking, “Hey, that period sounds historically significant.”: yes, yes it was. “Jimmy’s World” was published shortly after Mr. Green became ombudsman, and he conducted the paper’s investigation when it fell apart.

Since it fell off the front page, I wanted to also note here that I updated the “Use of force” post: now with pyramids!

Interesting times (part 2).

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Great and good friend of the blog RoadRich is taking the CPA class with me. Actually, the whole thing was his idea, so now you know who to blame for the blog posts.

And as far as blaming people for blog posts, he also sent a thoughtful reply to the use of force post. I liked it enough that I asked him for permission to use it here, which he granted. What follows after the jump are his comments, with a few personal asides edited out.

(more…)