Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Obit watch: July 20, 2017.

Thursday, July 20th, 2017

I’ve been going back and forth on this one for a few days, and finally decided it was worth noting here.

Jean-Jacques Susini passed away on July 3rd. To borrow the paper of record’s description of him, Mr. Susini was “a fiery leader of a right-wing terrorist group that opposed Algerian independence from France who was twice condemned to death in absentia for plots to assassinate President Charles de Gaulle of France”.

More:

He was arrested and tried for helping to organize the so-called Week of the Barricades, which turned to bloody rioting. He fled to southern France during a court recess and later to Spain, where he joined the Secret Army Organization, an underground band of right-ring military and civilian extremists that used terrorism tactics to fight against Algerian independence.

Independence finally came to Algeria in 1962, but Mr. Susini was nonetheless involved in plotting to kill de Gaulle later that year and again in 1964. Details of the first attempt — in which de Gaulle’s Citroën was raked by machine gun fire outside Paris but he was unharmed — were used by the novelist Frederick Forsyth to open his 1971 thriller, “The Day of the Jackal.” The film adapted from the novel two years later opened the same way, with de Gaulle and his motorcade attacked by gunmen.

I know this is probably a sign of real geekdom, but I’m still fascinated by the struggle over Algerian independence and would love to find a good history. Wolves in the City: The Death of French Algeria sounds interesting, but it’s pricey.

James Byron Haakenson was killed sometime around August 5, 1976, though his death was not announced until yesterday.

Mr. Haakenson was one of John Wayne Gacy’s victims. His body was unidentified until DNA test results came back earlier this week.

There are six Gacy victims that still have not been identified.

Hookers and meth watch.

Monday, July 17th, 2017

By way of Popehat’s Twitter feed: wow, just wow.

The former dean of the USC medical school liked to party. And by “party”, I mean “take GHB, ecstasy, meth, and ghu knows what all else”.

During his tenure as dean, Puliafito kept company with a circle of criminals and drug users who said he used methamphetamine and other drugs with them, a Los Angeles Times investigation found.
Puliafito, 66, and these much younger acquaintances captured their exploits in photos and videos. The Times reviewed dozens of the images.
Shot in 2015 and 2016, they show Puliafito and the others partying in hotel rooms, cars, apartments and the dean’s office at USC.

He’s also a highly respected eye surgeon.

Puliafito resigned his $1.1-million-a-year post in March 2016, in the middle of the spring term, saying he wanted to explore outside opportunities.

His resignation came three weeks after the hooker ODed in their shared hotel room. And then there’s the curious case of the police report that was filed three months after the incident. But you’ll have to read the LAT article for the rest of the story…

Memo from the police blotter.

Friday, July 14th, 2017

I don’t write about this story lightly. I’m blogging it because I think it brings up some things that need to be discussed.

An APD detective is being sued in Bastrop County. Specifically, the complaint against her is that she was negligent in securing her duty weapon: a child stole it from her and committed suicide with it.

[Defense attorneys] say that [the detective] had kept the gun in her purse in a locked safe, and there was no way for her to know that [the victim] could have gained access to it. Furthermore, they said it would be unreasonable to expect that every gun owner in Texas should be responsible to keep their weapons under lock and key, where they aren’t accessible during an emergency, according to the motion for summary judgment.

Plaintiff’s side:

But [victim’s mother] claims that [defendant] violated Section 46.13 of the Texas Penal Code, which states that “a person commits an offense if a child gains access to a readily dischargeable firearm” and the person is criminally negligent if she “failed to secure the firearm or left the firearm in a place to which the person knew or should have known the child would gain access.”

Plaintiff’s side also claims that the defendant didn’t actually have the weapon in a locked safe.

It does seem kind of callous and cruel to say “there’s no duty to lock up your guns away from kids”. Responsible people are going to do this anyway, duty or no duty.

But there’s a twist: the child in this case was actually 16 years old. Maybe I am jaded, but it seems to me like a 16-year-old is going to be highly motivated to find the forbidden, if they really want it: drugs, booze, porn…or even a gun. Even a gun in a “locked safe” beside a bed. And I really do wonder what kind of “locked safe” that was: as we all know, Bob, many “gun safes” are actually insecure and can easily be opened by a five-year-old who thinks there’s candy inside. How good does a gun safe have to be to stand up against a 16-year-old?

Especially a motivated one.

According to court documents, [the victim] was sent to stay with her aunt and [the defendant] after her father was convicted of molesting her. Her mother allowed him back in the home, though he was not allowed to be around his daughter. [Victim]’s mother claims there was reason to believe that her daughter was a risk to herself or others because of the abuse and that [defendant] should have been extra cautious to secure the weapons in the home.

“[defendant] should have been extra cautious to secure the weapons in the home…” Or, you know, maybe victim’s mom could have done something else here…trying to think of what that could be…oh, yeah, that’s right.

Did you try not letting the guy who was convicted of raping your daughter back into the house? Instead of sending of sending your kid off to live with other people? Doesn’t that send a pretty clear message: Mom values the man who hurt me more than she does me?

(And I know it seems kind of dismissive, but: what if the victim had taken a whole bottle of Tylenol instead? Or used Google to look up “Japanese cleaning product suicides”?)

This whole thing is just so messed up, I don’t even know where to begin thinking about it.

(In case you need it.)

What class fire extinguisher for hyena?

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Remember Sheldon Silver, former speaker of the New York State Assembly, convicted on corruption charges in 2015? (Previously on WCD.)

His conviction has been overturned. And not for the reason I was afraid it would be overturned (jury issues):

Mr. Silver was convicted on charges that he had obtained nearly $4 million in illicit payments in return for taking a series of official actions that benefited others. But in the jury instructions, the judge’s explanation of an official action was too broad, the appeals court found, because it swept in some conduct that the Supreme Court’s decision would now exclude.

The panel cited the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision involving Bob McDonnell, a former Republican governor of Virginia, that came seven months after Mr. Silver was convicted. Mr. McDonnell had arranged meetings for and attended events with a benefactor who had provided the governor and his wife with gifts worth more than $175,000. The Supreme Court ruled that official action must involve formal and concrete government actions or decisions, like holding a hearing or filing a lawsuit, and not routine political courtesies.

(I’ve also touched very briefly on the McDonnell decision before.)

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have…

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

…baseball bats and machetes.

(Also: “We were looking for ‘knife’ violence. ‘Knife’.”)

(Do I need a “machete” subcategory of “knives”?)

(Well, that guy thinks so.)

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#42 in a series)

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Seth Williams is now the former Philadelphia DA.

He also took a guilty plea in his bribery trial. His resignation was part of the deal.

Williams, who saw embarrassing details about his messy personal life and financial struggles dragged out into open court during the nearly two-week trial, pleaded guilty to one count related to accepting a bribe from Bucks County businessman Mohammad Ali.

More choice excerpts:

Despite a plea by Williams to be allowed to remain free until then, U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond ordered him held until sentencing and U.S. Marshals took the disgraced prosecutor out of court in handcuffs

In addition to accepting that he could face a maximum five-year term when he is sentenced, Williams agreed to forfeit $64,878.22.

While the 28 remaining counts against Williams were dismissed, he “admits that he committed all of the conduct in those 29 counts,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Zauzmer said.

(Previously.)

More quick notes from the legal beat.

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

I’ve written previously about the Hillsborough stadium disaster and the 2012 inquest.

Yesterday, six people were indicted on charges related to the incident. Four of them are “former senior police officials”, and one (this is kind of surprising to me) was a lawyer for the police.

David Duckenfield, who is described as “the match commander for the South Yorkshire Police on the day of the tragedy”, is charged with “manslaughter by gross negligence in the deaths of 95 people”. (I quoted the description of his rank because I’m unfamiliar with police ranks in England: i think this means he was in charge of the police presence at the match.) Peter Metcalf, the lawyer for the police, is charged with “two counts of perverting the course of justice”. (Perversion seems to be a theme here today, but I digress.)

Prosecutors say he “made suggestions for alterations, deletions and amendments” that misled the Taylor Inquiry.
Mr. [Norman] Bettison, a former chief constable, was charged with four counts of misconduct in public office. He is accused of lying to the authorities about his role in the aftermath of the disaster and about the culpability of the fans.
Mr. [Donald] Denton, a former chief police superintendent, and Mr. [Alan] Foster, a former detective chief inspector, each face two charges of perverting the course of justice, both in connection with altering witness statements.

The last guy on the list, Graham Henry Mackrell, was a secretary for Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, the people who ran the stadium.

Mr. Mackrell, the former football club official, faces three charges of violating safety laws. Prosecutors say he failed to organize the use of admissions turnstiles; to make and maintain inspection records about spectator numbers; to “take reasonable care,” as the stadium’s safety officer, to prevent the gathering of “unduly large crowds”; and to make plans with the police “for coping with exceptionally large numbers of spectators arriving at the ground.”

Related: “Why Britain Is Consumed With a 28-Year-Old Stadium Disaster”.

Closer to home: a member of the “F.B.I.’s elite Hostage Rescue Team” has been charged with lying and obstruction.

(Have you ever noticed how it’s always the “elite Hostage Rescue Team”? Never just “the Hostage Rescue Team”, at least on first reference. It’s like “Elite Hostage Rescue Team” is the full name of the organization, and they’ve got “Elite Hostage Rescue Team” on their patches and tactical windbreakers.)

Mr. Astarita was accused of lying to supervisors about firing his weapon in the effort to arrest Robert Finicum, known as LaVoy, who was killed during a standoff at a remote federal wildlife refuge in January 2016. Mr. Finicum led a small band of armed militants who said that the federal land had been improperly taken from area ranchers and demanded that it be returned to local or private control.

And three Chicago PD officers indicted:

The three officers, two of whom have since left the force, are accused of covering up for Jason Van Dyke, the police officer who fired the lethal shots that night, in an effort to protect him from being investigated and charged, court documents show.

Hey, you know what else seems to be a theme today? Lies and coverups.

This is taking vegetarianism a bit too far for my taste…

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

So there’s a story in the Statesman: guy gets life in prison on a tampering with evidence charge. That’s technically true, in that he did get life for the charge, but you have to read further into the article to discover that he also was convicted of meth possession (and got 20 years for that) and that he had nine previous felony convictions.

You don’t have to read that much deeper into the article to get to the truly weird stuff, though:

After Ransier’s arrest, authorities searched the truck again and found multiple items of children’s clothing, Barbie dolls, candy, balloons, baby oil, Viagra, Extenze male enhancement, duct tape, rope and a cooler with frozen cucumbers, the release said.

Shoot, a fellow could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff. But wait, there’s more!

Previous cases against Ransier include a Nov. 10, 2012, incident on Word Ranch Road, in New Braunfels, where Ransier was found naked by authorities and admitted to committing a “deviant sex act involving a squash,” the release said. On March 9, 2014, police responded to a call at the baseball fields off of Loop 337, where they found Ransier wearing nothing but women’s stockings, and again, engaging in a deviant sex act with a vegetable, the release said.

I’d almost have some small amount of sympathy for the guy (meth’s a hell of a drug) if it wasn’t for some of the other things on his record:

Other court records showed Ransier was previously convicted for manslaughter of an Arizona State Trooper and driving under the influence, the release said.

Maybe, just maybe, this is the kind of person the habitual offender law was written for?

Memo from the police beat.

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Remember a few months ago, we had a guy who shot himself in the back of a patrol car while under arrest, because the cop missed his gun during the patdown? (Previously.)

Chief Slate Fistcrunch Manley suspended the officer for 20 days. This is one of those “let’s make a deal” suspensions: the officer took the 20 day suspension, agreed not to appeal, and in turn the chief agreed not to fire him.

“A twenty-day suspension is like a vacation,” Sayeed said.

Except he’s not getting paid for it. And he loses benefits for that period. And it is a blot on his permanent record. And he can’t do any part-time work related to law enforcement while he’s on suspension, as I recall. (I think he could mow lawns, or drive for Uber, or other temp jobs, but I don’t think he could work security. At least if I remember the APD discipline policy correctly.)

I hate to seem like I have callouses on my soul. I get that the family is sad and upset, and I get that some people will think I’m a cop apologist. But look: it isn’t like the cop pulled his own gun and shot the guy. It isn’t like the cop killed him in a negligent discharge, or shot him in the back as he was running away.

This man pulled his own gun, held it to his head, and pulled the trigger on his own. What the officer did wrong here was missing the gun in the frisk.

Is that a firing offense? Or is this guy possibly salvageable, and a 20-day suspension, a year of probation, having to go out to the acade4my and tell cadets “this is how I f’ed up, don’t be like me”, and the memory of this incident, is enough? I think maybe it is.

Chief’s memo here.

Meanwhile, in another odd story, another APD officer and his wife are being charged federally with social security fraud Specifically, “making a false statement to an agency of the United States and misprision of felony”. It sounds like he lied about having a joint bank account with the wife, and lied about living in the same household with her.

I love that word, “misprision”. Almost as much as I love “barratry”.

But lying about having a joint account – something that’s so easy to check – is such a stupid thing to do, it makes me wonder: were these two just getting really bad advice from a lawyer, or someone pretending to be a lawyer? Or were they desperate and made bad choices? Or were they really trying to scam the system? The Statesman is oddly short on details at the moment.

Bagatelle (#5).

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

Could it be…SATAN?!

No. Actually, it wasn’t Satan at all. It was mass hysteria and a doctor who made a mistake.

I’ll throw this in just for fun: if you are a “dancer” who performs “in paint, latex, wax, gel, foam, film and coatings”, are you a nude dancer in the eyes of the law?

And why does it matter? Because clubs with “fully nude” dancers have to collect a state-mandated $5 entry fee.

…n January 2017 the comptroller amended its rules to include clubs that employ latex and paint-covered dancers as sexually oriented businesses.

Department of I Wasn’t Going to Blog This.

Friday, June 9th, 2017

Really, I wasn’t. But I tossed off a quick email mention to a few friends last night, and I was surprised at the reaction. Then I saw that the story made the WP

Terry Thompson was indicted Thursday on murder charges. His wife was also indicted as an accessory.

The twist is: Mrs. Thompson is a Harris County Sheriff’s deputy.

Backstory: On May 28th, Terry Thompson and his kids went to a Denny’s. There, they ran into John Hernandez, who was allegedly urinating in public outside the restaurant. Thompson confronted Hernandez and the confrontation got physical at some point. Thompson took Hernandez to the ground, pinned him down, and put his arm around Hernandez’s neck.

There isn’t video of what led up to the confrontation, but there is about 50 seconds of video showing Thompson pinning down Hernandez. Mrs. Thompson is also shown helping her husband pin down Hernandez. (My understanding is that Mrs. Thompson also tried, or encouraged other people to try, to stop the video, but I can’t find my original source for that. I may have misread or misremembered one of the stories.)

Hernandez eventually stopped breathing and passed out, at which point Mrs. Thompson administered CPR. Hernandez was taken to the hospital, where he died three days later from “a lack of oxygen to the brain caused by chest compression and strangulation” according to the coroner.

The sheriff’s office, rightly (in my opinion) asked the Texas Rangers and Department of Justice to assist with the investigation, and suspended Deputy Thompson. But there was a significant amount of community pressure in this case, including a demonstration in front of the DA’s offices Wednesday afternoon.

Keep in mind: Hernandez passed on the 31st, and the Thompsons were indicted on the 8th. I’m not sure if anyone knows how far the Rangers and DOJ have gotten in their investigation. But the sheriff his ownself today announced that Internal Affairs is looking at eight other deputies who responded.

That’s probably not unusual: from my understanding pf APD policy, this would be considered a “death in custody”. APD’s Special Investigations Division would be tasked with investigating it, IA would probably be involved as well, and they’d be looking at everyone who showed up to the scene.

What is unusual is that this was presented to the grand jury as a “direct to grand jury” case, and the speed with which it was presented to the grand jury. Murray Newman, who I’ve mentioned many times in the past (former Harris County prosecutor, now defense attorney) has a good explanation: briefly, “direct to grand jury” means the prosecutors present whatever evidence they have, but leave the decision on whether and what charges to file up to the grand jury.

Cases that are presented directly to Grand Jury are usually complicated ones. They often take weeks and weeks, if not months and months, to investigate before a presentation is made. The idea that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to file charges on Thompson last week but there is enough for a full Grand Jury presentation this week doesn’t really compute. The skeptical side me thinks that there is more in play here.

HouChron coverage of the indictment. WP story. Both of these include the video.

So is the DA’s office trying to railroad a guy and his wife for acting in self-defense, because elements of the community are demanding it? Or did this guy and his wife the deputy figure they could get away with choking a minority because of their law enforcement connections?

Or does the truth lie somewhere in the middle? I have no idea. This is why we have judges and juries. But it will be an interesting case to follow.

Quick followups.

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

Jonathan Paul Koppenhaver, aka “War Machine”, was sentenced yesterday. (Previously.)

Yeah, he got life.

Jonathan Paul Koppenhaver will be eligible for parole in 36 years, when he will be 71 years old.

ESPN obit for Jimmy Piersall, which I note here for the following reason:

But Piersall also had furious arguments with umpires, broke down sobbing one day when told he wouldn’t play and got into a fistfight with the New York Yankees’ Billy Martin at Fenway Park, followed minutes later by a scuffle with a teammate.

As far as I can tell, there is no Wikipedia entry, or other comprehensive list, for “People Billy Martin Got Into Fistfights With”. This seems like a failing of the Internet, and perhaps one I need to remedy here. But would it be easier to do a list of people Billy Martin didn’t get into a fistfight with?