Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Small updates and notes.

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Rear Adm. Robert Gilbeau has been sentenced to 18 months in prison. Noted here because:

1) His conviction was for lying to investigators. What did someone once say? Trying to remember, on the tip of my tongue…Oh, yeah:

Really, seriously, just shut the fuck up.

2) This is more fallout from the “Fat Leonard” scandal, covered both here and on Battleswarm.

For the record, I don’t have a damn thing to say about Roger Ailes: I don’t watch the news, on any network, unless I’m someplace where I don’t control the means of video reproduction.

In case you haven’t had enough of the Moors Murders, the NYT has chosen to publish a nice historical retrospective. I say that with only a small amount of sarcasm: it’s probably useful if you are a true crime buff who doesn’t have children and won’t lose sleep over the details. For the rest of you, well, content warning.

After a tense nine hours of deliberations, a jury acquitted Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby of a first-degree manslaughter charge in the death of Terence Crutcher.

Andrew Branca at Legal Insurrection.

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#41 in a series)

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

(Hattip to Mike the Musicologist for sending me the image.)

Previously on Battleswarm: Democratic State Senator Carlos Uresti’s Offices Raided by FBI, IRS.

And now, the senses shattering Part II:

Texas State senator Carlos Uresti, a Democrat from San Antonio, was indicted today. He’s facing a total of 13 charges, including “conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and two counts of securities fraud”.

Interestingly, there’s actually two separate indictments that cover two separate “incidents”. The first one is being called the “Four Winds indictment”. Four Winds was a company that supposedly provided “frac sand”.

Documents filed months ago that outline the investigation claim that company officials in 2014 wired money from the company to personal bank accounts controlled by conspirators or their spouses; sent altered bank statements for the Four Winds’ general operating account to potential investors; and emailed an investor a spreadsheet that falsely showed the investor’s investment was used to buy fracking sands.

The main claim seems to be that Four Winds was just a giant Ponzi scheme. Uresti was the company’s general counsel. He’s charged with:

One count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, five substantive counts of wire fraud, two counts of securities fraud, one count of engaging in monetary transactions with property derived from specified unlawful activity, and one count of being an unregistered securities broker.

Also charged were Stan Bates, the CEO, and Gary L. Cain, a consultant for the company. According to the Statesman‘s report, the Four Winds investigation has already resulted in three guilty pleas by officers of the company.

Indictment number two is the “Reeves County indictment”. In this one, Uresti and a guy named “Vernon C. Farthing III” conspired to “pay and accept bribes” so that Farthing III’s company would get a contract for medical services for the Reeves County Correctional Center.

The indictment specifically alleges that Farthing paid Uresti $10,000 a month as a marketing consultant and that half of that sum was then given to a Reeves County official for his support and vote to award the contract to Farthing’s company, federal officials said.

Uresti and Farthing III are both charged with “one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering”.

Quoth the Statesman one more time (and this article is by Katie Hall, who I generally consider to be a pretty solid reporter on the crime beat):

Uresti would face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of being an unregistered securities broker. Additionally, each man could face up to 20 years in prison for each fraud charge and up to 10 years in prison for each money laundering charge.

Here is your obligatory link to Ken White on federal sentencing and why it’s misleading to say things like “up to 20 years”. I find it seriously hard to believe that Uresti will get anything close to that: Russell Erxleben only got 84 months (7 years) for his first conviction, and 90 months for his second.

Then again, Erxleben was a UT football player: Uresti was a Marine, but as far as I can tell, did not play football.

Obit watch: May 16, 2017.

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

(Content warning: be careful about following links.)

Ian Brady descended into Hell yesterday.

Brady and his girlfriend Myra Hindley were the infamous “Moors Murderers”. Between 1963 and 1965, they killed five children. Four of them were buried on Saddleworth Moor: the body of the fifth has never been found. Brady and Hindley were convicted of three murders in 1966.

Moors murders from Wikipedia. There is more to the crime than I’m discussing here, because nobody needs to read that shit first thing in the morning. Both the obituary linked above and the Wikipedia entry give those details, but I strongly suggest you think carefully before following those links.

By the way, Hindley died in 2002.

Edited to add: NYT obit. This gives a longer and more comprehensive summary for a non-UK audience, in my opinion. Same content warning applies.

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#40 in a series)

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

In a bit of a hurry here: this just broke, and I’ve got stuff to do.

But: remember Corrine Brown, the former Democratic House rep from the 5th District of Florida? (I didn’t know this, not being an avid follower of Florida politics, but she lost her primary.)

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

The verdict came after prosecutors outlined a pattern of fraud by Brown, 70, and her top aide that included using hundreds of thousands of dollars from the One Door for Education Foundation for lavish parties, trips and shopping excursions. She was convicted of 18 of the 22 charges against her, including lying on her taxes and on her congressional financial disclosure forms.

More:

Key to the government’s conviction was the testimony of Brown’s former chief of staff, Elias “Ronnie” Simmons, and the charity’s president, Carla Wiley. Both pleaded guilty after their federal indictments for misusing the charity’s funds, and testified against Brown.
Federal prosecutors said Brown and her associates used One Door to bring in more than $800,000 between 2012 and 2016, including a high-profile golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass. Brown’s indictment said the Virginia-based One Door only gave out one scholarship for $1,200 to an unidentified person in Florida.

(Hattip to Mike the Musicologist, who points out that former Rep. Brown’s party affiliation isn’t mentioned until paragraph 22 (edit: 18) of the linked story.)

Bad cop! No paycheck!

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

Officer Carlos Mayfield of the Austin Police Department was “indefinitely suspended” (read: fired) on Friday.

What did he do? He accessed a police report about a sexual assault case, one he wasn’t assigned to.

Then he shared the information in that report with his ex-girlfriend and her son: the son was the person accused in the case.

Detectives interviewed the suspect after he had gotten details of the report, the memo says. Investigators didn’t know he had this information at the time.
Mayfield acknowledged that this compromised the case, the memo says.
Travis County prosecutors ultimately decided not to prosecute “the compromised sexual assault case,” the memo says. However, they authorized the Sex Crimes Unit to file assault with injury charges against the suspect.

Not mentioned in the Statesman article: the ex-girlfriend was also a convicted felon, and “consorting” with convicted felons is a pretty serious violation of APD policy. (Sharing the report information wasn’t just a violation of policy: it was “misuse of official information”, a third-degree felony.) Former officer Mayfield also admitted that he had looked up other reports for the ex-girlfriend in the past.

Chief’s disciplinary memo here.

No word yet on whether former officer Mayfield will actually be prosecuted for the felony, but I have high hopes.

Quick update.

Monday, May 8th, 2017

The new cop shop for Lakeway (which I mentioned in a previous post) passed.

By eight votes out of about 2,100 cast. According to other sources, 2,100 votes is about 18% of the total registered voters in Lakeway. I don’t know if that’s higher, lower, or about average for an off-year election with only bonds, city council elections, and a sales tax re authorization on the ballot.

Recommended reading: May 7, 2017.

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

I’ve stumbled across two articles in the past couple of days that I commend to your attention. At least, if you’re as fascinated with this kind of thing as I am.

1) If you own a Patek Philippe Caliber 89 watch (I know many of my readers do: if you happen to be one of the unfortunate ones who does not, Sotheby’s is auctioning one soon), you’re going to have to get it serviced.

Why? The Caliber 89 has a unique feature (or, as high-end watch folks call it, “complication”): it will tell you what day Easter falls on each year.

It turns out that computing the date Easter falls on is simultaneously two things:

a) Relatively hard to do.

Easter is one of the “moveable feasts” of the Christian calendar; it falls on a different date every year. The reason is this: the basic rule for Easter is that it falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon of Spring (that is, the first full moon after the Spring Equinox) and because both astronomical events are variable, the Easter date changes every year. (As with any calendrical irregularity, there have been various proposals over the centuries to just pick a single date, but so far nothing has stuck). For this reason, Easter can fall anywhere between March 22 and April 25.

b) Relatively easy to do for a digital computer. I think you could probably fit a program to do this in 4K of BASIC, or even run it on a good programmable calculator.

But the Caliber 89 is a totally mechanical watch. How does it calculate the date of Easter? There’s the problem:

A method for calculating the Easter date is called a computus; is it possible to make a true mechanical computus, rather than relying on a program disk? The answer is, “sort of.” The first true mechanical computus appears to have been made not long after Gauss came up with his algorithm, and it currently resides in a place more horological enthusiasts should know about: the great astronomical clock in the cathedral at Strasbourg, in Alsace, France. There have actually been three successive astronomical clocks there since about 1354, but the most recent was completed in 1843. Designed by Jean-Baptiste Schwilgué, it has a true mechanical computus – probably the first ever constructed. It’s not the only mechanical computus, but I haven’t been able to find anything in English on other computus devices (although a reprint of a review of a book on the Strasbourg computus mentions at least two other “similar” mechanisms).

Even if you are not a high-end watch person, there’s still a lot in this article that I think is interesting: mostly the discussion of how Easter calculations work, and of the Strasbourg clock (which I’d really like to see one of these days).

(Hattip: The YCombinator Twitter.)

2) I’m a fan of Stephen Hunter’s work, and one who wishes he had time to write more non-fiction. I enjoy his novels, but I also think he’s an outstanding non-fiction essayist and writer. (Mr. Hunter, if you’re out there: I’d buy a hardback collection of your shorter works.)

The most recent American Rifleman has a Hunter article that pushes several of my buttons at once: “A Battle At Barrington: The Men & The Guns”.

You may have heard of the “Battle of Barrington”, though not under that name. It is also covered in Bryan Burrough’s Public Enemies, a book both Hunter and I like a lot. This was the famous shootout between agents of what became the FBI and Lester Gillis, aka “Baby Face” Nelson. Gillis, his wife, and his partner John Chase were being pursued by (and shooting it out with) FBI agents when their vehicle was disabled: they were cornered by agents Samuel Cowley and Herman Hollis. In the ensuing shootout, Gillis killed Cowley and Hollis, and fled in their car: however, Gillis himself was mortally wounded by the agent’s gunfire and bled to death. (Chase and Mrs. Gillis were captured later: Chase spent 33 years in prison, and Mrs. Gillis served one year.)

The nice thing about Hunter’s article is that he addresses the firearms and tactics used by both sides. This sort of analysis is not a strong point of Burrough’s book: Hunter and his researcher actually went back to the old FBI files and turned up some new information.

The FBI’s records are full of fascinating facts about the event. For one thing: these guys weren’t just loaded for bear, they were loaded for bears, a lot of them. Found in the abandoned Model A: three bulletproof vests, five empty magazines for .38 Super automatics; two filled machine gun magazines (presumably Thompson 20 rounders); 200 rounds of loose .45 ammunition, three empty .351 magazines, three boxes of .30-’06 Sprg. soft-nose ammunition; one box of Springfield boattailed ammunition, five boxes, .45 Colt automatic ammunition, two boxes of Springfield bronze-pointed ammunition. One tan briefcase containing one loaded 100-round drum for the Thompson submachine gun; 10 boxes .22 Long Rifle; one Colt Ace .22 Long Rifle pistol and magazine. The last is a revelation: Chase had bought the M1911 variant with a lightweight .22 slide and barrel. Perhaps he and Les used it for low-cost practice on their various travels.

And, as you know, Bob, I love me some Thompsons. My one complaint about Hunter’s article, though, is that he consistently places the Miami Dade FBI shootout in 1987: it actually took place April 11, 1986.

This quote is for Karl (wink wink nudge nudge):

[Hollis] should have used his Super .38, firing prone, two handed, as that round’s velocity and straight-line trajectory could have gotten the job done, ending up center mass in Les. But he hadn’t been trained to two-handed prone shooting. In fact he hadn’t been trained to anything! The soon-to-be Bureau’s firearm training program didn’t begin until 1935!

Obit watch: April 28, 2017.

Friday, April 28th, 2017

When I was young, there were giants in the earth.

One of them, Richard “Racehorse” Haynes, died this morning.

His characteristic nickname dated back to his days as a running back on the football team at then-Reagan High School in Houston. He never ran straight down the field, but zigzagged in a way his coach described as running like a racehorse. Haynes embraced the nickname. He had business cards made with a horse’s head on it, Tritico said.

He was one of the greatest criminal defense lawyers ever. He represented John Hill in his first and only murder trial. (And the Chron is wrong: the case ended in a mistrial, not a hung jury.)

Later, Haynes represented Cullen Davis, the first billionaire indicted for murder in the U.S., and Pam Fielder, who was accused of killing her abusive husband. Haynes’ defense on the Fielder case is now embodied in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, giving women the right to defend themselves against abusers, said Tritico.

Tribute from Murry Newman.

If you didn’t know who he was when you saw him, you would never guess that you were in the presence of a Marine who fought at Iwo Jima, or Texas’ most famous trial lawyer.

Knee deep in the schadenfreude.

Friday, April 28th, 2017

I should have worn waders today.

(Fun fact: “Knee Deep In the Schadenfreude” was Starship’s working title for “We Built This City”.)

Local elections are coming up. I’m not sure what’s on the ballot for Austin specifically and Travis County in general. But in Lakeway, where I’ve been spending a lot of my time, three city council seats are up. Also, the city is considering a proposition to issue $23 million worth of bonds so they can build a new police station.

The new cop shop is kind of a big deal. I haven’t heard a lot of opposition to it, but most of the people I’ve been around in Lakeway are police or police supporters. I’ve been down and toured the current police station, and it is small and cramped and crowded: there’s no room to grow. On the other hand, the figures I cam up with for a certain property owner I know came out to around %6 a month more in property taxes. This is someone who is on a fixed income: six dollars here, six collars there, pretty soon you’re talking about City of Austin property taxes.

Reasonable people can differ on the merits of the proposition and the candidates. But here’s the problem: Lakeway’s mayor, Joe Bain, who is active on NextDoor (and has a blog on the city website) decided he’d be smart.

“John Smart” on NextDoor, to be exact.

Posts made under the name “John Smart” included advocating that residents vote for incumbent City Council candidates Bridge Bertram and Ron Massa.

“Vote for Bridge Bertram and Ron Massa – they actually volunteered for the City and worked hard to make it better, unlike the other candidate that hasn’t attended a council meeting for a long time nor has every [sic] done any work to try to improve the city – no committees, commissions or any other volunteer work,” a post by John Smart reads.

The mayor has confessed and deleted the account.

Bain confirmed by phone Thursday evening that he was behind the “John Smart” account, adding, “The city really doesn’t have anything [to do] with this … there are reasons behind all this.”

I’m not currently on NextDoor, but looking over their rules, Mayor Bain’s behavior is a pretty clear violation. I had thought that NextDoor actually did some validation on signups to make sure you were a real person and lived in the place you signed up for. (I know, I know, silly me: expecting a website on the Internet to do validation.) The one person I’ve heard from so far who is on NextDoor says they didn’t go through any validation process, but they used an invite code provided by their local neighborhood association. Maybe that bypasses the validation?

The first question this leads to is: how did he get a fake NextDoor account? Was someone else…helping him out?

The second question: how is this going to impact the election? Early voting started Monday. I can’t vote in Lakeway, but if I could, I’d be looking cynically at Mayor Bain’s endorsed candidates. Perhaps it is time for some new leadership? (I’d also be thinking about my support for the new cop shop. But honestly, I’d probably end up voting for it anyway.)

Random gun and cop crankery, some filler.

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Easter Sunday, a group of us went shooting at the KR Training range. Because what better way is there to celebrate the resurrection of Christ than to shoot off guns? Hey, didn’t the man say “If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one?”

(Also: KR Training, official firearms trainer of Whipped Cream Difficulties.)

While we were out there, the actor we’ve hired to play Karl mentioned that you can get AR pattern lowers (and uppers) in pistol calibers…that take Glock magazines. Here’s an example. (Not endorsed by WCD: I have no experience with the company or product.) Since most folks who are serious Glock users have a bunch of magazines around, this is an attractive idea. Even more so when you know that you can get magazine extensions for those standard Glock magazines and load up even more rounds.

My mind immediately went in a particular direction, but I’m going to come at it from the long way around. Because that’s just the kind of hairball I am. Let’s start with the question: what calibers do Glocks come in?

I can almost visualize a .380 ACP Glock AR carbine (or an AR pistol). The vision I have of it in my head is that it would be a kind of cute plinking gun…that shoots relatively expensive ammo and doesn’t have a fun switch. It reminds me of the old MAC-11, but even less useful. (Though the AR platform carbine would perhaps be more reliable.)

9mm seems to be where the AR/Glock action is, and for good reason: 9mm ARs are fairly popular in various places, 9mm ammo is relatively cheap, and this seems like a very practical pistol caliber carbine. Perhaps even more so if you pay for the tax stamp and make it a short-barreled rife. I think a lot of folks are looking at these, even without the SBR tax stamp, as good home defense weapons: easier to handle, point, and shoot than a pistol, without the possible over penetration issues of 5.56.

You could make the same argument for .40 S&W, except that the ammo isn’t as cheap as 9mm. and I don’t think it has the same following that the 9mm carbine has in the tactical community.

.45 ACP could be an interesting build. I don’t see a lot of tactical operators talking about operating tactically with .45 ACP carbines. But I don’t hang out with a lot of tactical operators, either. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

.45 GAP? Well, that’d be weird. The Winchester ballistics calculator on my phone says that .45 GAP will drop a little less and have slightly more velocity at 50 yards. But my impression is that .45 GAP is a dying caliber (even though Glock still chambers guns in it) and is maybe a little more expensive than .45 ACP by a few dollars a box for comparable ammo. However, I haven’t shot or bought .45 GAP, so don’t take that as gospel truth. Check prices at your local dealer or online ammo vendor.

.357 SIG? Ah. That’s the first place my mind went. I remember .357 SIG being touted as having a flatter trajectory than the .357 Magnum, but the same punch at range, higher capacity, and the ability to actually feed it in auto pistols. That same Winchester calculator (which only goes out to 50 yards on the iPhone) does show slightly less drop and a slightly lower velocity for the .357 SIG at 50 yards. If I can find a better calculator, I’d love to run numbers out to 100 yards.

Apparently, I’m not the only person who has this thought. there’s an interesting discussion over at Better and Better where Matt G mentions much the same idea (and also responds to a question from your humble blogger about the current role of the police shotgun).

And finally: 10mm? Why not? I like this idea, too. It reminds me of Jeff Cooper’s “Thumper”. I could see a SBR version of this working perhaps as a compact police carbine, but more so in Cooper’s original conception: a personal defense weapon for tank crews and other people who need something they can carry and deploy in tight quarters. I think I’d pick a 9mm or .357 SIG version for my daily use. But if I was in an appropriate military position, I’d build up a few 10mm ARs for experimental purposes in the sandbox.

More crankery after the jump.

(more…)

New York, New York, it’s a hell of a town…

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

..the cops are crooks and the gun dealers are too. The mimes are food for the bums underground! New York, New York!

(Sorry, had to shoehorn that in somewhere.)

Anyway, more indictments in the NYC bribes for gun licenses scandal. NYT version here, but I prefer the NYPost version Mike the Musicologist sent me.

Paul Dean and Robert Espinel, worked in the NYPD’s Licensing Division before retiring, and allegedly approved permits for kickbacks including cash “food, alcohol, parties, dancers and prostitutes” from gun expediters, the newly unsealed complaint says.

So, wait. The cops were being bribed with hookers? Because I’m thinking, if I’m a crooked cop, I can just go out, flash my badge, and get my own hookers. But maybe there’s less risk of an IA investigation if you let someone else procure the hookers for you. Trade offs.

Dunn and Espinel…

…allegedly accepted bribes and kickbacks from gun expediters, including Gaetano “Guy” Valastro, 58, a retired detective who owns firearms store Valastro International Tactical Academy in Queens and is also charged in the scandal.

Should I feel bad for Valastro? On the one hand, he’s a party to a massive scheme to shake down citizens for exercising their rights. On the other hand, he’s trying to run a gun store in Queens: can you blame him if he felt like he had to go along to get along? On the gripping hand, he’s a retired cop who decided to run a gun store in Queens, instead of someplace in free America.

In a separate complaint, also unsealed Tuesday, a fourth man, John Chambers — the former prosecutor who calls himself the “Top Firearms Licensing Attorney in New York” on his website touting his legal services — allegedly bribed NYPD Sgt. David Villanueva, 43, with Broadway shows, tickets to sports game and an $8,000 Paul Picot watch to expedite gun licenses, sometimes as quickly as a day.

Here’s that website for you. Note the URL. I wonder how much that cost him.

(Also: someone please tell me the “Broadway shows” Villanueva got tickets for included “Hamilton”.)

Have to go back to work now. Will update later if I see any more revolting developments.

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#39 in a series)

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

Sherry Cook is retiring May 23rd.

Ms. Cook, if you didn’t know, was the executive director of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, the agency that enforces the state’s liquor laws. (And yes, I recognize the…irony?…in having someone named “Sherry” in that role. Onward!) She’s been in that post since 2012.

Why retire now?

The decision comes a month after the Texas Tribune reported that Cook and other agency employees spent thousands of dollars in taxpayer money for trips to resorts in Florida and Hawaii, among other places, for meetings hosted by the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators, an industry trade group.

But the thing that seems to have really upset people?

Cook was grilled last week during a House General Investigating and Ethics Committee hearing about, among other things, a flyer that depicted Cook and other top agency officials holding or drinking Lone Star Beer as they rode on a plane on their way to a liquor administrators conference.
According to the Tribune, Cook told lawmakers that the flyer was an “inappropriate use of our time” and agreed it was a misuse of state resources to exchange emails about creating it.

You get the feeling that this would have kept on, if she hadn’t rubbed her travel in the faces of her employees? Seems like an important safety tip or two: if you’ve got to go to conferences, make them someplace not exotic, like Buffalo in January. Or if you do have to go somewhere exotic, complain the whole time. Don’t make up a flyer with shiny happy beer drinking people on a plane to Cali.

Reacting to the announcement, Gov. Greg Abbott said in a tweet: “It’s time to clean house from regulators not spending taxpayer money wisely. This is a good start.”