Archive for the ‘Austin’ Category

Because he got high.

Monday, December 18th, 2017

Because he got high, Ryan Boehle threatened to shoot cops.

Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration: “he planned to celebrate his 50th birthday by shooting police because he was upset about a drunken driving arrest in which his blood test came back negative for alcohol”.

Mr. Boehle was arrested. The police seized a total of 13 guns, “1,110 bullets” (sorry, I’m quoting the Statesman here) and 6.3 grams of marijuana.

Mr. Boehle was never actually charged for the threats. The judge in the case is quoted as calling his writings “marijuana-induced gibberish.” It sounds like this is one of those true threat/not a true threat sort of legal distinctions that Ken White keeps trying to explain to myself and other people, and I keep not understanding, but that’s getting off topic.

(Also, “Marijuana-Induced Gibberish” would be a great name for a band.)

But we have to throw him in jail for something, right?

(“Why?” Hey, that’s not the kind of question you should be asking.)

I know! We’ll get him for “making a false statement in connection with the attempted acquisition of a firearm”! Mr. Boehle has a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction from 1993 in Connecticut: he allegedly “slapped, choked and bit his girlfriend”. As a result of this, he apparently failed the background check at three Austin area gun shops (again, per the Statesman).

However, during pretrial litigation the charge was determined to be insufficient to prohibit gun possession.

Oh, dear. Now what is the state going to do?

Wait: there’s that devil’s lettuce they found!

With their case weakening, prosecutors held tight to the gun-and-weed charge, using it to successfully to argue that Boehle should be denied bond and kept in jail pending the resolution of the case. Characterizing Boehle as a habitual marijuana user took little effort from the government, which not only had the pot found in his home but also test results from the DWI arrest that showed the presence of the drug.

Cutting closer to the end of the story, Mr. Boehle pled out to a charge of “owning a gun as a prohibited person”. You see, pot is still federally illegal, and the law says it is illegal for a pot smoker to own guns.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals established the definition of an unlawful drug user who is unable to own guns in 1999, when it affirmed the conviction of a Midland man who had been arrested several times with marijuana. He argued on appeal that the law fails to establish a time frame for when a person must use a controlled substance in connection with the possession of a firearm. The court ruled that an ordinary person could determine the man was a drug user. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

This doesn’t happen a lot. The Statesman quotes one California attorney who specializes in pot law as saying he’s never seen this in 50 years of practice. On the other hand, though, the Honolulu PD famously recently sent out letters to people with medical marijuana cards: “Give up your guns, or else.” (They apparently haven’t followed through on the “or else” part yet.)

Mr. Boehle was sentenced to five years of probation, and will be drug tested as part of that. The twist at the end is: he has a form of epilepsy, and wants to use a low THC marijuana extract to treat it. But he’s going to have to get his probation terms modified to allow this treatment. Texas has only recently legalized the use of the extract to treat epilepsy (“…only after a patient has tried at least two other treatments”) so Mr. Boehle will be venturing into uncharted territory.

Fizzle.

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

Travis County prosecutors dropped all of the remaining charges against longtime state Rep. Dawnna Dukes on Monday, court filings show.

I expect longer, more detailed stories tomorrow morning. In the meantime, quoted without comment:

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore pinned the prosecution’s collapse on conflicting statements given by a top official in the Texas House, who told prosecutors that travel to the Capitol was required to earn the per-diem payments but recanted that position in a statement to Dukes’s lawyers.

Firings watch.

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Tom Jurich, athletic director at Louisville, was officially fired yesterday.

He joins Rick Pitino, who was officially fired “for cause” on Monday.

Mr. Pitino, of course, denies that he knew anything about payments to athletes. Even better: he’s suing Adidas. The discovery process in that lawsuit should be interesting.

In other news, another APD officer has been fired. Interestingly, his firing was for “insubordination”: specifically, he didn’t show up for interviews with Internal Affairs.

And why was he being interviewed by IA? He’s been charged with making false statements about his wife and her eligibility to receive SSI. (Previouly.)

According to the Statesman, he and his lawyer said they wouldn’t do interviews with IA until the criminal case was resolved. The rules say: you can’t do that. You have to come in and answer IA questions, or you get canned. Whatever information IA gets can’t be used against you in a criminal case; it can only be used for internal discipline. (This is why officers are required to submit to IA questioning. This is also why some things, like officer-involved shootings, are investigated both by IA and the Special Investigations Unit: SIU handles any possible criminal aspect of the case, can seek charges if warranted, and the subject has the standard legal protections. IA investigates internally: the union contract says officers have to answer IA questions, but any information gathered can’t be used to build a criminal case.)

Anyway, IA said “this won’t be used in the criminal case”, the lawyer apparently said, “okay”, and they still didn’t show up. Twice. Which makes it “you’re fired, do not pass ‘Go’, do not collect $200” territory.

Obit watch: September 29, 2017.

Friday, September 29th, 2017

Sergeant Gary Christenberry of the Austin Police Department passed away earlier today.

Sergeant Christenberry was severely burned in an off-duty accident at his home two weeks ago: his death was a result of those injuries. He’d been on the force for 24 years.

Lady Lucan, long suffering wife of the late Lord Lucan.

This may ring a bell for some of you, as I’ve touched on the Lucan case before. Briefly: one night in November of 1974, Lord Lucan allegedly beat his children’s nanny to death, having mistaken the nanny for Lady Lucan. When Lady Lucan came downstairs to see what was going on, Lord Lucan tried to beat her to death as well. She disarmed him, he asked for a glass of water, they spoke briefly, he drove off, she ran to a nearby pub for help…

…and Lord Lucan hasn’t been seen since. Everyone seems to assume he’s dead. He’d be 82 if he was still alive, so there’s a possibility…

Noted.

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Court paperwork filed Tuesday said an armed good Samaritan stopped an attack on a runner on a popular trail near Rainey Street last week.

Another jogger who was carrying a flashlight and a handgun heard the victim scream and ran over to help.
The affidavit said the jogger told police he shined his light in the direction of the screams and saw the victim on her back and the attacker on his left side on top of the victim.
The jogger pointed his gun at the suspect and demanded he get off the victim. The attacker stood up and was naked from the waist down, the affidavit said.

From the flaming hyenas news desk…

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Some of you may recall my entry the other day about the Travis County DA’s decision to suspend pursuing felony charges against State Representative Dawana Dukes.

Now we have some clarity on the reasoning behind that decision.

The guy who runs the House Business Office (which I guess is responsible for things like cutting checks for expenses and reimbursement) apparently told Ms. Dukes’s lawyers that “his office does not require a House member to travel to the Capitol building in order to receive per diem payments when the Legislature is not in session.” Illegally collecting those payments, when she wasn’t present in the Capital, was part of the case against her.

Gee, that seems like a bad screwup by the Travis County DA. Why wouldn’t they have checked on something like that before filing charges?

Answer: they did. And were told something completely different. By the same guy.

Prosecutors said they learned about Adrian’s contradictory statement when they visited with him two weeks ago to prepare for trial. In a sworn affidavit, he had told Dukes’ legal team that she did not need to be at the Capitol to qualify for reimbursement because House District 46, which she represents, is within 50 miles of the building.
Adrian said the House personnel manual did not expressly require a representative to travel to the Capitol building to receive payments. The implication is Dukes would still have been eligible for reimbursement if she was performing legislative duties from another location in Austin.

That seems like an…interesting…interpretation.

A former Dukes staffer told the Statesman last year that the lawmaker did not travel to the Capitol for all of the days that she claimed but directed her staff to prepare the forms as if she did.
Dukes, according to the grand jury indictment, did make “a false entry in a government record, and present and use said government record with knowledge of its falsity, by instructing her staff to add a false entry to her State of Texas Travel Voucher Form.”

So, basically, it seems like the argument is: it doesn’t matter, because she was close enough for government work. Good to know.

But in the meantime, the DA’s office did a new filing outlining some of the other “extraneous acts” they plan to bring up at the misdemeanor trial, which starts in October. A couple of selected high points:

According to the filing, Dukes paid an online psychic $51,348 from December 2014 to January 2016, totaling nearly $1,000 per week.

Responded to a search warrant for her cellphone by providing investigators a phone that did not match the identification number on the phone they had requested.

Was noticeably impaired while trying to perform legislative duties at the Capitol and showed up late to a House Appropriations Committee hearing on March 29, stating, “I know I’m talking a lot. I’m full of morphine and will be headed out of here soon.”

Flaming hyenas watch.

Friday, September 15th, 2017

Sorry about the delay: this news broke last night while I was downtown at the cop shop and couldn’t blog.

The Travis County district attorney will not pursue, at least for now, the most serious charges against state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, saying prosecutors have renewed their investigation into the travel vouchers at the heart of the 13 felony counts the Austin Democrat is facing.

The DA is still prosecuting two misdemeanor charges “relating to allegations of her using legislative staffers for personal gain”. The charges the DA is not pursuing at this time are felonies related to misuse of travel vouchers.

I don’t quite know what to make of this.

District Attorney Margaret Moore confirmed to the American-Statesman on Thursday that prosecutors have obtained new information relating to the vouchers, which Dukes is accused of falsifying for financial gain. But Moore declined to elaborate on what the new information is.
“The district attorney’s office recently received new, unexpected information pertinent to that case and the new information has created a need for further investigation by this office and the Texas Rangers,” Moore said.

“New information”. Is it exculpatory? It seems to me that if there was exculpatory evidence, Ms. Dukes and her legal team would have offered it in her defense a long damn time ago, as well as spreading it to every media outlet they could find.

If it’s not exculpatory, is the DA playing hardball again, trying to get her to take a plea? “Look, we’ve got new leads. We’re turning the Rangers loose again. Take a plea now, resign, and we drop charges. Otherwise, we’re going to dig up even more dirt and you can spend the next 28 years experiencing the joy of busting rocks.”

I don’t have any idea, and I don’t think anyone outside of the highest levels of the DA’s office does either. Buy popcorn futures.

Obit watch: July 28, 2017.

Friday, July 28th, 2017

John Kelso, columnist for the Austin American-Statesman since Jesus was a corporal, passed away earlier today.

The staff of WCD extends our condolences to his family and friends.

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.)

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.

Hookers and blow watch.

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

I swear that I wrote about the “resignation” of Don Pitts as the city of Austin’s “music manager” ($97,000 a year) back in February when it happened. But I can’t find that blog entry now, and even search engines don’t help.

Anyway, Mr. Pitts resigned after a city audit turned up the fact that one of his employees had submitted a fake invoice so she could get reimbursed for what was represented as a “zero-cost” “2014 work trip to Europe to promote Austin’s music scene”.

There’s a little more to the story than that, however. The employee claims that Mr. Pitts told her to submit the trip as “zero-cost” so the approval would go through, and told her to submit the fake invoice so she could get reimbursed. Mr. Pitts denies that he told her to submit the fake invoice, but he admitted that he didn’t tell anyone about the fake invoice when he found out about it: that’s what led to his forced resignation, apparently.

And meanwhile, the city filed an ethics complaint against the also now-ex employee.

That complaint was dismissed Wednesday evening.

A divided and half-present Ethics Review Commission cleared [the employee] of wrongdoing Wednesday night after failing to reach consensus on whether she or Pitts was primarily responsible for the scheme.

Because only six of the ethics board’s 11 members were present, they needed a unanimous vote to find that [the employee] abused her position and violated city policies. Four members were inclined to give her a pass in light of testimony that Pitts was at least aware, if not the architect, of the attempts to pay [the employee] under the table.

It seems odd that almost half of them didn’t even bother to show up.

Also worth noting: the employee in question made other complaints about Pitts.

…a Human Resources Department investigation into a dozen of [the employee]’s claims, which found three violations by Pitts of employee conduct policies. Records show he sent staff a copy of a resignation letter from a former job in an effort to motivate, but it came across as threatening, and he said he wouldn’t hire a temporary employee who complained that [the employee] was mistreated in the department.

Not sure how saying “I’m not going to hire a temp” is a violation of HR policy, but okay. Nut:

A third violation involved using the slang term “hookers and blow,” which Pitts said was common in the music industry when referring to excess, but human resources investigators deemed inappropriate. Investigators also found Pitts had called [the employee]’s mother to try to talk about her performance at work, though they didn’t consider that a violation of city policies.

So you can’t say “hookers and blow” at work. But you can call someone’s mother to talk about their work performance. Good. To. Know.

Remind me again: why does this office exist?

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.