One bright and lovely morning in September, on the first day of school, three traffic lanes that went from the streets of Fort Lee, New Jersey, to the George Washington bridge were suddenly shut down:
Cars backed up, the town turned into a parking lot, half-hour bridge commutes stretched into four hours, buses and children were late for school, and emergency workers could not respond quickly to the day’s events, which included a missing toddler, a cardiac arrest and a car driving into a building.
The lanes were ostensibly closed for a “traffic study”:
But the workers testified that the Port Authority already collected data on how many cars traveled in each lane, so such a traffic study would have been unnecessary.
The director of the bridge, Robert Durando, testified that in 35 years at the Port Authority, he had never heard of lanes being closed down for a traffic study.
The lanes were shut down for a total of four days. The Port Authority controls the bridge, and gave the order to shut down the lanes. And the members of the Port Authority are appointed by Chris Christie.
The mayor of Fort Lee, a Democrat, complained in a letter in September that the lane closings were “punitive” — Mr. Christie, a Republican, was leaning heavily on Democratic mayors to endorse him for re-election so he could present himself as a presidential candidate with bipartisan appeal, but the mayor was not going along.
So now the New Jersey legislature is holding hearings, and it sounds like there’s very little paperwork documenting exactly why the Port Authority decided to hold a traffic study on one of the busiest days of the year. It also sounds like there’s a lot of…obfuscation, shall we say?
On the one hand, I want to give this the “NYT covers a Republican politician” discount. On the other hand, there seems to be no dispute that three access lanes to the busiest bridge in the United States were closed for four days, and not for emergency repairs. That to me is simply inexcusable; in a case like this, I would support individuals taking it upon themselves to reopen the “closed” lanes, as well as the liberal application of tar and feathers.
Speaking of tar and feathers, here are some excerpts from yesterday’s testimony in the Kelly Thomas trial that are designed to enrage you:
“That would not be good proper police procedure,” [John A. ] Wilson [testifying as a "use of force expert" - DB], a 26-year FBI veteran, said when asked hypothetically about a suspect being hit on the head. Such a blow “is going to cause serious bodily injuries.”
Prosecutors maintain that Thomas was struck repeatedly in the face with the front of [Jay] Cicinelli’s Taser and that the injuries contributed to his death. Audio from the night captures Cicinelli saying he hit Thomas 20 times in the face with his stun gun.
Wilson also testified that when the video captures [Manuel] Ramos putting on latex gloves and threatening to punch Thomas, it was a show of force by Ramos: “It indicates there’s going to be contact made, or blood or some body fluid may be exposed as a result of a violent contact.”
Spaccia probably faces a sentence similar to the 10 years to 12 years in prison that her former boss, Robert Rizzo, is expected to receive, prosecutors said. Rizzo pleaded no contest to 69 corruption charges in October.
I promised more coverage of the LA County Sheriff’s Department indictments, but I’d be doing it anyway. There is a lot of “Wow” going on here.
The indictments allege two assaults on inmates and three on people who visited the jail. They also include claims that deputies wrote false reports to justify using force and conducted illegal arrests and searches of jail visitors.
A sergeant who supervised deputies in the visiting area of Men’s Central Jail was accused of encouraging violence and reprimanding employees “for not using force on visitors … if the visitors had supposedly ‘disrespected’” jail deputies, according to an indictment.
Remember, these aren’t inmates (not that it would be any better if they were): these are visitors. But wait, it gets better:
In one case, prosecutors say, an Austrian consul official trying to visit an Austrian inmate was arrested and handcuffed even though she had committed no crime and would have been immune from prosecution, the indictment said.
There’s even more. A crooked jailer smuggled a cell phone in for an inmate who was an FBI informant.
After the discovery, sheriff’s officials moved the inmate — identified only as “AB” in the indictment — and changed his name. They then altered the department’s internal inmate database to falsely say he had been released, prosecutors allege. Deputies continued to isolate the inmate even after federal authorities had told sheriff’s officials that a judge had ordered the inmate’s appearance before a grand jury, the indictment states.
Can you say, “obstruction of justice”? I knew you could. But it gets even better:
Stephen Leavins, a lieutenant in the unit that handles allegations of criminal misconduct against sheriff’s employees, was accused of directing two sergeants to confront an FBI agent working on the investigation outside her home. The sergeants — Scott Craig and Maricella Long — falsely told the agent that a warrant was being prepared for her arrest, prosecutors said in court records.
They tried to intimidate an FBI agent? Does LACSD make it a practice to hire and promote deputies who are dumber than a bag of hair?
For a while now, I’ve felt like the HouChron is trying to become more like BuzzFeed; if you look at their website, there’s a huge emphasis on slideshows and listicles. I generally don’t like linking to that crap (though the slide shows of fair food are often interesting) but here’s an exception: historical photos of Bonnie and Clyde. The HouChron isn’t kidding around with the “graphic photos” warning, either; there are a couple of photos of Bonnie and Clyde after the shootout. (There’s also some nice photos of a couple of their guns, if you’re into that sort of thing.)
(Yeah, it is tied to the mini-series, which I didn’t watch, but the photos are still interesting on their own.)
Edited to add: Grammar question. “A FBI agent” or “An FBI agent”? “A FBI informant” or “An FBI informant”?