Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

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.

Obit watch: August 21, 2016.

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

Convicted Ponzi scammer and boy-band impresario Lou Pearlman.

(Remember O-Town? I do, but only because I had a friend who was into “Making the Band” at the time.)

Jack Riley has also passed away. He was in a whole bunch of stuff, including some of the lesser Mel Brooks movies, but he was best known and regarded (at least to me) as Elliot Carlin on “The Bob Newhart Show”.

I can’t really find a clip I like, but this one comes close:

More from the police beat.

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Lawrence put up a post yesterday on Austin’s murder rate, which is “up nearly 80 percent from the same time last year”.

So what is the cause of Austin’s rising murder rate? Possibly just random statistical variation. Possibly the result of understaffing the police department.

I’m not totally convinced on the “understaffing the police department” argument. It kind of seems to me that the police basically come along and clean up after the murder’s already been done. Even with more cops on the street, what are the odds that one of those cops is going to run across the guy with the knife raised in time to stop him from stabbing a woman to death?

The flip side of this is the “broken windows” theory of policing: by concentrating on reducing disorder in neighborhoods, serious crime can be reduced. When disorder increases:

…many residents will think that crime, especially violent crime, is on the rise, and they will modify their behavior accordingly. They will use the streets less often, and when on the streets will stay apart from their fellows, moving with averted eyes, silent lips, and hurried steps. “Don’t get involved.” For some residents, this growing atomization will matter little, because the neighborhood is not their “home” but “the place where they live.” Their interests are elsewhere; they are cosmopolitans. But it will matter greatly to other people, whose lives derive meaning and satisfaction from local attachments rather than worldly involvement; for them, the neighborhood will cease to exist except for a few reliable friends whom they arrange to meet.

(Hattip to the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy for the link.)

This probably isn’t news to most of you, but I bring it up here because of a second item, from yesterday’s Statesman:

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Obit watch: August 18, 2016.

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Arthur Hiller, noted director. (“Love Story”, “Silver Streak”, “The In-Laws”, “The Americanization of Emily”, “National Lampoon’s Pucked”.) A/V Club.

For the record: John McLaughlin. Should have noted this yesterday, but the day got past me.

John F. Timoney, a blunt Irish-born cop who could outrun crooks and quote Yeats and who, as a ranking police official in New York, Philadelphia and Miami, plotted innovative strategies that reversed years of skyrocketing crime, died on Tuesday in Miami. He was 68.

Citizen Kane.

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

Kathleen G. Kane, the Pennsylvania attorney general whose aggressive investigation of her predecessor unleashed a chain of scandal that ended with her conviction this week on felony and conspiracy charges, said Tuesday that she is resigning.

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#33 in a series)

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

Didn’t pick up on this until this morning. Sorry. But it did probably need some time to perk.

Kathleen Kane, the nutty paranoid anti-gun attorney general of the state of Pennsylvania:

Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!

A jury found Ms. Kane, 50, guilty of nine criminal charges, including perjury and criminal conspiracy, convicting her of leaking grand jury information, and then lying about it, in an effort to discredit a political rival.

More from philly.com:

Under the state constitution, Kane must resign from office by the day of her sentencing. While Kane faces a maximum sentence of 28 years, state sentencing guidelines call for a far less severe sentence for someone like her with no criminal record.

This is interesting:

“There is to be absolutely no retaliation of any kind against any witness in this case, either by your own devices, from your own mouth or your hand, or directing anybody to do anything,” the judge said. She threatened Ms. Kane, who is currently free on bail, with immediate incarceration if she failed to comply.

My first thought was that this kind of warning is unprecedented; but on second thought, I’m sure federal judges have issued this kind of warning in the past to convicted defendants. For example, members of the Crips or Bloods. Or drug gangs. Or organized crime groups. But has a federal judge ever felt compelled to issue that kind of warning to a politician? And has a politician ever done as much to merit a warning like that?

Someone once said…

Monday, August 15th, 2016

“It is morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep their money.”

From Bloomberg News by way of the News@Ycombinator Twitter: the SEC has halted trading in shares of Neuromama Ltd.

Neuromana? Surely you haven’t heard of them: they have a current valuation of $35 billion, and haven’t submitted financials since 2013.

Shares of the company, based in a beach community just south of Tijuana, Mexico, have quadrupled this year to $56.25, giving it a paper value exceeding Tesla Motors Inc., Yum! Brands Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc.

$56.25 a share? What do they do? With a name like Neuromana, you’d think maybe brain science or something like that: perhaps a promising cure for Alzheimer’s?

Neuromama’s website says the company operates in a broad range of businesses: a search engine, licensing “heavy ion fusion technology patents,” and Cirque-du-Soleil-style performances in Tijuana, to name just a few.

Cirque du Soleil sold 90% of the company to a group of equity firms last year for $1.5 billion. So a company that stages Cirque du Soleil knockoffs in Tijuana (“the happiest place on Earth!”) is worth $35 billion? But wait: they’ve also got a search engine! And “heavy ion fusion technology patents” whatever the hell those are (if they’re even valid patents).

“We’re in an industry that has high valuations,” Zubkis said in a telephone interview Monday, citing the company’s social network and oceanfront property.

Did he just say “social network” and “oceanfront property” with a straight face?

“Zubkis” is Steven Zubkis, who has his own “colorful” history. But for that, you’ll need to give Bloomberg their click: make sure to turn on your ad blocker first.

Memo from the police beat.

Friday, August 12th, 2016

There are a couple of ongoing stories in the news, two of them locally. Both of those two had significant developments today (in other words, “Let’s break this news on Friday afternoon and see if it gets lost over the weekend.”)

First story: You may recall the controversy back in April where our city manager, Marc Ott, accused the police chief of insubordination and fined him five days of pay?

Looks like we know who won that battle.

Austin City Manager Marc Ott, the most powerful man at City Hall, is leaving his post for a prestigious job running a Washington, D.C., association.

Last month, the council gave him a $22,000 raise, bumping his pay and benefits to $361,000 annually. His predecessor at the management association made $478,000 in 2013, the group’s tax returns show.

At least, we know who won for the moment. It will be interesting to see how the replacement process plays out, and how much deference (if any) the incoming city manager will be expected to show to the APD and the chief.

Also worth pointing out is what may have been Ott’s final “F— you” to the APD. There was a recent report (the “Matrix Report”) that called for increasing the number of police officers.

Additionally, the report also calls for the department to create positions for 66 officers and eight corporals beyond what has already been authorized, and to add an average 17 new officer positions over the next four years. Finally, the report calls for adding four officers to the Motorcycle Unit.

So that’s 78 sworn officers over and above the current authorized staffing level, which APD is still about 100 officers short of. What did the City Manager and his team ask for in the current budget?

Currently, the city has taken a phased approach to increasing staffing at APD in FY 2017. Included in the City Manager’s proposed FY 2017 budget are 12 new sworn positions and 21 new civilian positions to transition existing sworn employees back to patrol activities.

Twelve. To quote our great and good friend RoadRich: “‘But first let me deny you most of the required staff to protect the city… and then I shall leave you to your fates. Suckahs.'”

(Another problem which I would like to get into, but the margins of this post are too small to contain: there’s also talk of converting the district representative positions, which are currently sworn officers, into civilian positions.)

Next:

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Obit watch: August 6, 2016.

Saturday, August 6th, 2016

Joaquin Jackson passed away June 15 of this year. I did not learn of his death until I flipped through this month’s Texas Monthly at the grocery store today, and I’m not sure how I missed that. Brief tribute from TM. Statesman.

For those folks unfamiliar with Mr. Jackson, he served for 27 years as a Texas Ranger, from 1966 to 1993. His time as a Ranger spanned what I’d call the end of the old Texas and the beginning of the new Texas; the evolution from horses and cattle to technology. He retired in 1993, ostensibly because of his discomfort at changes taking place in the Rangers organization. (However, he states in one of his books that his reasons were actually more complex and personal than that.)

In 1994, he appeared on the cover of Texas Monthly as part of an article on the changes taking place in the Rangers. The cover made him an icon. He went on to do some private investigation work, and appeared in several movies.

Jackson was a member of the governing board of the National Rifle Association, once getting into hot water over remarks he made about assault weapons.
“I personally believe a weapon should never have over, as far as a civilian, a five-round capacity,” he told then-Texas Monthly editor Evan Smith in 2005. “If you’re a hunter, if you’re going to go hunting with a weapon, you shouldn’t need over but one round. So five rounds would be plenty. … Personally, I think assault weapons basically … need to be in the hands of the military and in the hands of the police.”
He later backpedaled from the remarks, claiming that he was talking only about fully automatic weapons and not about semiautomatic rifles.

I remember that controversy, and I’m convinced Jackson knew exactly what he was saying at the time and was covering his butt later. (If you doubt he knew the difference between fully automatic weapons and semi-automatic weapons, read Chapter 6 of One Ranger and then try to tell me otherwise.)

He also wrote two books. One Ranger is a damn fine book. I try to snap up firsts of this every time I find them, as I am convinced this will be seen as an important Texas book in the coming years. The sequel, One Ranger Returns, had a different co-author and is not quite as good, in my humble opinion. (There are some interesting things in it; mostly background from his family.)

In spite of my disagreement with him, I would have enjoyed meeting him and shaking his hand. I missed the chance, sadly: he appeared a few times as the Texas Book Festival, but I was never able to get down there on those weekends.

His passing leaves a hole that can’t be filled.

Mayors gone wild!

Friday, August 5th, 2016

The mayor of Stockton, California, was arrested Thursday and charged with felony eavesdropping, among other misdemeanor charges, related to a strip poker game that he allegedly played with teenage counselors at a camp for economically disadvantaged kids last year, according to prosecutors in neighboring Amador County.

In October 2015, Silva was detained at San Francisco International Airport upon his return from China, where Department of Homeland Security officials demanded that he hand over his electronic devices, including the passwords. He seemingly complied with their requests, but he publicly objected to how the matter was handled.

Would you like to take a guess what organization Mayor Silva belongs to? Ding ding ding! Yes, Criminal Mayors Against Guns is the correct answer.

silva

Screen snapshot, just in case this goes down the memory hole.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, the mayor of Fairfax City has been arrested in a meth-for-sex scheme:

Richard “Scott” Silverthorne, 50, was arrested as part of an undercover operation by police, authorities announced Friday. The scheme involved offers of meth in exchange for group sexual encounters with men, police allege.
Before his arrest Thursday, police claim Silverthorne provided the drug to undercover detectives at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Tysons Corner.

In fairness to Mayor Silverthorne, while meth is a hell of a drug, he does not appear to be a member of Crooked Mayors Against Civil Rights. At least, he’s not currently listed on that website…

Edited to add 8/6: Well, he wasn’t listed on the website when I checked yesterday. But, according to Uncle, he does appear to be a Bloombergian shill.