Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Obit watch: January 14, 2018.

Sunday, January 14th, 2018

Some more from the past couple of days:

Keith Jackson, legendary announcer.

Edgar Ray Killen is burning in Hell.

David Toschi passed away a week ago Saturday. FotB RoadRich mentioned this to me in the middle of the week – he saw it on a low-rent cable channel – but I had a lot of trouble finding a good obit. I couldn’t find the actual obit on SFGate: I was only able to get at an version.

Anyway, “David who”? He was a famous San Francisco PD detective. He was one of the lead investigators on the Zodiac killings.

He was removed from the case after revelations that in 1976 he had sent several letters praising his own work to a San Francisco newspaper writer under fake names.
“It was a foolish thing to do,” he acknowledged at the time.

I don’t remember where I picked up this detail (maybe in the version), but that “newspaper writer” the NYT doesn’t name? Armistead Maupin, who was working as a reporter for the SF Chron at the time.

But that wasn’t the only reason he was semi-famous, at least among us common sewers connoisseurs:

Mr. Toschi was a personality in the police department even before his involvement with the Zodiac case, so much so that Steve McQueen had borrowed from him for the fictional police officer he played in the 1968 movie “Bullitt.”
“They literally were filming in my dad’s office,” Ms. Toschi-Chambers said. “My dad took off his jacket, and Steve McQueen said, ‘What is that?’ And my dad said, ‘That’s my holster.’ And Steve McQueen told the director, ‘I want one of those.’ ”

(I wonder what that holster was: and if it’s out of production, how much do vintage ones go for? There’s a discussion on, but I can’t judge how accurate it is.)

Clint Eastwood also drew on Mr. Toschi for his portrayal of the title character in “Dirty Harry,” Don Siegel’s influential 1971 movie about a San Francisco police inspector, Harry Callahan, who hunts a psychopathic killer. Mr. Toschi, though, was bothered by Callahan’s penchant for administering his own brand of justice. He is said to have walked out of a screening of the movie, which was released when the Zodiac investigation was in full swing.

(Damn shame. He missed out. And I still haven’t seen “Zodiac”.)

Edited to add: this might lead to a longer post later, but: there are certainly worse hobbies in the world than engaging in Steve McQueen cosplay. Though I will concede that could get expensive quick, especially if you go full “Bullitt” and start looking for a Mustang.

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#45 in a series)

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

Pamela Harris, a Brooklyn assemblywoman, was indicted yesterday.

…accused of four counts of making false statements, two counts of wire fraud, two counts of bankruptcy fraud, and a single count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, witness tampering and conspiracy to obstruct justice, according to Richard P. Donoghue, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Ms. Harris is a “retired New York City correction officer” who took office in 2015. She is, of course, innocent until proven guilty, but it sounds like her fraud was wide-ranging, and the prosecution has plenty of evidence:

In one scheme, authorities accused Ms. Harris of trying to capitalize on a natural disaster, improperly receiving nearly $25,000 in federal funds by falsely claiming that she had been displaced from her Coney Island home by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In another, she is accused of siphoning money from a nonprofit she ran to pay her mortgage, take vacations and shop at Victoria’s Secret, according to the indictment.

The charges suggest a striking degree of planning and elaborate attempts to cover up illegal actions. Prosecutors said, for example, that Ms. Harris used a forged lease to draw down discretionary funds from the City Council, money that was supposed to be used to rent a studio space for the nonprofit, which seeks to involve children and young adults in the arts. Instead, Ms. Harris diverted the money to her personal checking account. All told, some $35,000 was received in two separate instances using such funds, prosecutors said.
In the Hurricane Sandy scheme, Ms. Harris is accused of creating fake lease agreements and receipts, and forging a landlord’s signature, to receive housing assistance money from FEMA for 14 months after the storm, a ploy that she also used to receive financial assistance to repair her Coney Island home in 2016. And once she became aware of a federal investigation last year, Ms. Harris told potential witnesses to lie to federal agents, the authorities said.

(Hattip to Mike the Musicologist, who pointed out that the NYPost coverage waits until paragraph 21 to mention Ms. Harris’s party affiliation. Say what you will about the NYT, but they got that into paragraph 2.)

De minimis non curat lex.

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

However, this sounds like an excellent case for small clams court.

This gives a new meaning…

Monday, December 25th, 2017

…to a “white elephant” gift exchange:

A man was shot overnight on Christmas by what police say may have been a stray bullet while gathering with family for a gift exchange at a home in southwest Houston.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… (part IV)

Saturday, December 23rd, 2017

Well, I got an early Christmas present this year. And it sits at the odd intersection of musical theater, law, politics, Christmas…and Rhode Island.

The folks at the Crimetown podcast did a partial reconstruction of “Buddy Cianci: The Musical”.

“There was this whole bunch of possibility. You could write a musical about pee and then you’d be on Broadway. We thought, you know what’s better than pee…is Buddy Cianci.”

—Jonathan Van Gieson

The musical had seven performances at the New York Fringe Festival in 2003. It has not been performed since, and there was no original cast recording.

This made me tear up a little: Jacksonville Jaguars fans decided to send trash cans to Houston Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney after he called their quarterback “trash”.

Jadeveon Clowney’s response? Fill the trash cans and a van full of toys and give them to needy children. Like Lawrence, I’m still mostly checked out of the NFL, but this is a good story.

Quickies from the legal beat.

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

Some serious, some less so.

Stop! Hammer time!

Former Michigan state trooper charged with second degree murder in the death of a 15-year-old boy. He was a passenger in another trooper’s vehicle: they chased after the kid, who was driving an ATV, and the trooper fired a Taser out the window.

Struck and disabled by the Taser while traveling at up to 40 mph, Grimes lost control, struck a pickup and died.

(Hattip: Morlock Publishing on the Twitter. The Powers of the Earth is available in a Kindle edition, and would probably make a swell gift for the SF fan in your life. I already own a copy, but haven’t read it yet.)

Grandma got stopped by a state trooper,
Driving to Vermont for Christmas Eve.
People say “It’s just weed,”
But the state says “60 lbs is a felony.”

(Those lyrics probably need some work.)

Obit watch: December 21, 2017.

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

Clifford Irving passed away on Tuesday.

Mr. Irving, for the younger set, was a somewhat prominent author and journalist in the 1960s and 1970s. Among his works is FAKE! The Story of Elmyr de Hory, the Greatest Art Forger of Our Time. I’ve actually been interested in reading that: nice to know there’s a cheap Kindle edition and I don’t have to seek out the hardcover.

But sometime in 1970, Mr. Irving came up with the idea that made him infamous: an autobiography of Howard Hughes. It didn’t make any difference that Hughes was extremely reclusive and didn’t talk to journalists.

After studying a Hughes letter reproduced in the Newsweek article, Mr. Irving forged letters from Hughes to back up the story. He began calling his publisher from exotic locations where, he claimed, he was meeting with Hughes and developing a close relationship. He was betting that Hughes hated the limelight so much that he would never step forward to debunk anything written about him.

He got $750,000 for the book, $400,000 for the paperback rights, and $250,000 for serial rights.

And he was wrong.

At the end of 1971, with McGraw-Hill and Life ready to go to press, the scheme began to unravel. Mr. Hughes went public and denied knowing Mr. Irving, first through a representative and later in a conference call with seven journalists based in Los Angeles.
Swiss banking investigators soon discovered that a Zurich bank account belonging to “H. R. Hughes” had been opened by Mr. Irving’s wife, Edith Irving, a German-born Swiss citizen, using a forged passport with the name Helga R. Hughes.
As the evidence piled up, the house of cards collapsed. In March 1972, the Irvings pleaded guilty to conspiracy in federal court. In state court, along with Mr. Irving’s research assistant, Richard Suskind, they pleaded guilty to conspiracy and grand larceny. Mr. Irving was given a prison sentence of two and a half years and served 17 months. Mr. Suskind received a sentence of six months, of which he served five.

Mr. Irving went on to write some novels and true crime books.

Orson Welles drew on “Fake!” and on the Hughes hoax when making his 1974 film, “F for Fake,” in which Mr. Irving plays a prominent role.

You can get “F for Fake” in a Criterion edition: I’ve seen it and recommend it.

You can also get The Hoax, Mr. Irving’s account of the affair, and Autobiography Of Howard Hughes: Confessions of an Unhappy Billionaire, the actual book, through Amazon as Kindle books.

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.

So, so close…

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

Hutto is a fairly small city near Austin (about 15,000 people).

Two Hutto residents are facing charges after law enforcement found found meth and cocaine, nearly two dozen firearms, explosive devices and other paraphernalia inside a house.

Inside the home, the release says Hutto investigators recovered 21 rifles and handguns. One of the recovered firearms had been reported stolen 18 years ago, officials said.

Molotov cocktails, pipe bombs and several other weapons were arranged in a “defensive posture” throughout the residence, the release says.
Hutto police also found an illegal alcohol distillery at the property. Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission agents joined the other agencies in the house search to dismantle the distillery.

So we’ve got:

  • Alcohol
  • Firearms
  • and Explosives

Man, if they had just had untaxed cigarettes or something else equally ludicrous, we would have had the BATFE quadfecta.

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#44 in a series)

Monday, December 11th, 2017

This is outside of my usual area of coverage, but there’s a nice twist to it.

On Friday, former Massachusetts state senator Brian A. Joyce was arrested. There are 113 counts in the indictment, including “mail fraud, theft of federal funds, money laundering, scheme to defraud the IRS, 20 counts of extortion, seven counts of money laundering, and conspiracy to impair the functions of the IRS.”

“conspiracy to impair the functions of the IRS”. I love that.

The feds contend Joyce took money in exchange for official action, using his Senate office for private gain in a scheme that may have netted up to $1 million since 2010, according to the 102-page indictment.

But 113 counts? Man, dude is a bit of an overachiever there. What was his secret?

Would you believe…coffee?

Joyce received up to 700 pounds of free coffee, and roughly $125,000 grand in alleged kickbacks, from a Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee owner, who later claimed it was in exchange for legal services. Joyce passed out coffee at town hall meetings and to other senators, authorities said.
“No decaf,” Joyce told the franchisee owner in a December 2014 email for one request, according to the indictment. He added “We like k cups (sic) at my office if possible.”

I know, if you’re going to sell out for coffee, why not make it good coffee? But I don’t think my Texas readers understand the extent to which the Northeast runs on Dunkin’ Donuts. I think I’ve told the story before about traveling in that neck of the woods with some friends and co-workers, and the Dunkin’ Donuts every 100 yards becoming a running gag with us.

Quote of the day.

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

The Los Angeles Police Department has advised drivers to be wary of following navigation apps that direct them through areas that are on fire.

(Previously on WCD.)

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#43 in a series)

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Corrine Brown, the former Congresswoman from Florida about whom we have written previously, was sentenced yesterday.

Five years in federal prison.

Her lawyer, James Smith, said he planned to appeal the verdict and the sentencing. “The sentence was substantively unreasonable, and it was too harsh,” Mr. Smith said in an interview Monday evening. While sentencing guidelines called for a term of between more than seven years in prison up to nine years, Mr. Smith said that politicians convicted of similar crimes had received more lenient sentences.

“Other people got off easy, therefore my client should, too.” Good luck with that.

Brown’s longtime chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, was sentenced to 48 months in prison, and the fake charity’s founder, One Door for Education President Carla Wiley, was sentenced to 21 months.

Mr. Simmons and Ms. Wiley also testified against Ms. Brown.

[U.S. District Judge Timothy] Corrigan criticized as “beyond the pale” some of the remarks Brown made to the media during the run up to her trial, “especially her reprehensible statement implying that the FBI might have been able to prevent the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando if it wasn’t preoccupied with investigating her.”