Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Quickies: October 26, 2017.

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

NYT coverage of the Suffolk County prosecutor indictments, mentioned yesterday.

This is a bit weirder than I expected at first glance. A heroin addict was breaking into cars. One of the cars he broke into was the police chief’s.

From the vehicle, Mr. Loeb stole a duffel bag that contained cigars, pornographic DVDs and sex toys.

Now, perhaps this is victim blaming, but I really can’t see why you’d leave your porno DVDs and sex toys in the car unattended. But I digress. The chief found the heroin addict and beat the crap out of him.

Four years later, after an investigation by federal agents, Mr. Burke [the chief – DB] pleaded guilty to having beaten Mr. Loeb after he was arrested and shackled to the floor of a police station. Last year Mr. Burke was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for assaulting Mr. Loeb and for trying to orchestrate a cover-up of what had happened.

The charges against the DA, Thomas J. Spota, and his “top anti-corruption prosecutor”, Christopher McPartland, stem from this cover-up:

Federal prosecutors accused them of holding a series of meetings and phone conversations with Mr. Burke and other police officers in which they agreed to conceal Mr. Burke’s role in the assault and to impede the federal investigation.

Everyone knows I’m not a baseball fan. Related to that: I don’t understand baseball. Maybe Borepatch or someone else who’s smart can explain this to me: Joe Girardi out as Yankees manager.

They were in the playoffs, for crying out loud. They almost went to the World Series. What more did they want out of Girardi, and why are people saying it was time for him to go? (See also: Boston.)

Remember the mayor of Lakeway, Joe “John Smart” Bain? (Previously on WCD.)
He was fined $500 by the Texas Ethics Commission and had to pick up the garbage.

The commission, which met Sept. 27 to consider the complaint, considered four posts written by “John Smart” and concluded there was credible evidence that Bain intended to “injure a candidate or influence the result of an election” while misrepresenting the source of the communications, a violation of the election code.
The mayor also did not mark the post containing explicit advocacy as political advertising, another code violation, the commission said. And finally, it said, evidence indicates Bain violated ethics code when he misrepresented his own identity in campaign communications or political advertising.

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.

From the legal beat.

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Two quick notes:

1) Remember our old friends Detective Jeff Payne and Lt. James Tracy? The guys who arrested a nurse for refusing to let them draw blood from an unconscious patient without a warrant?

Detective Payne has been fired. Lt. Tracy has been demoted to “police officer III”.

“In examining your conduct,” Brown wrote to Payne, “I am deeply troubled by your lack of sound professional judgment and your discourteous, disrespectful, and unwarranted behavior, which unnecessarily escalated a situation that could and should have been resolved in a manner far different from the course of action you chose to pursue.”
Brown was similarly critical of Tracy, saying his lack of judgment and leadership was “unacceptable,” and, “as a result, I no longer believe that you can retain a leadership position in the Department.”

Both men have five days to appeal the decision. The criminal investigation into their actions is ongoing.

(Hattip: Reason‘s “Hit and Run”, and Patrick Nonwhite on the Twitters.)

2) The Travis County DA has dropped one of the 13 felony charges against Dawnna Dukes.

Apparently, one of the analysts with the Texas DPS crime lab “examined the wrong date” when looking at Ms. Dukes’s travel activity, leading to “a felony count that erroneously stated Dukes turned in a falsified voucher for Dec. 22, 2013.”

It is unclear how prosecutors, DPS investigators and Texas Rangers failed to notice these holes in the case during an investigation that spanned more than 18 months.

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…

TMQ Watch: September 26, 2017.

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

When we heard about Sunday’s events, our first thought was: Easterbrook is going to be insufferable this week.

In retrospect, “insufferable” may not have been the right word. Perhaps “long winded” is better.

In that vein, and before the jump, we’d like to point you at David French’s National Review piece, “I Understand Why They Knelt”, which is one of the best pieces we’ve read so far on the subject.

After the jump, about 5,600 words of this week’s TMQ…
(more…)

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 and random notes: September 14, 2017.

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

Obit watch: Pete Domenici, former Senator from New Mexico.

Long, but kind of fascinating, NYT article about the hunt for test models of the Avro Arrow.

For those of you who are not Canadian, the Avro Arrow was a legendary Canadian jet fighter project of the 1950s. It was pretty cutting edge for the time, but the project was cancelled in 1959.

In the decades since the program was abruptly dropped, the Arrow’s story has become one of Canada’s greatest bits of folklore, and not just among the military or aviation buffs sometimes known as Arrowheads.

The Smithsonian’s Air and Space magazine ran a good article about the Arrow some time ago, but I can’t find it on their website or in Google. Sigh.

Full internal affairs reports on Payne and Tracy, obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune through a public records request, found both officers violated five policies: conduct unbecoming of an officer; courtesy in public contacts; a policy that states misdemeanor citations should be used instead of arrest ”whenever possible”; violation of the department’s law enforcement code of ethics; and a city-mandated standards of conduct policy.

Remember, folks: that’s Detective Jeff Payne and Lt. James Tracy of the Salt Lake City Police Department. Detective Jeff Payne also failed to file a “use of force” report, which is another policy violation.

Investigators wrote Payne’s conduct was ”inappropriate, unreasonable, unwarranted, discourteous, disrespectful, and has brought significant disrepute on both you as a Police Officer and on the Department as a whole.
“You demonstrated extremely poor professional judgment (especially for an officer with 27 years of experience), which calls into question your ability to effectively serve the public and the Department in a manner that inspires the requisite trust, respect, and confidence,” the report adds.

And as for Lt. James Tracy:

Investigators took a similarly critical view of Tracy’s actions. They noted Wubbels had told them in an interview that she felt Tracy was “ultimately responsible for this incident.”
“[Y]our conduct, including both giving Det. Payne the order to arrest Ms. Wubbels and your subsequent telephone discussions with Hospital administrators, was discourteous and damages the positive working relationships the Department has worked hard to establish with the Hospital and other health care providers,” the report states.

And more:

The report says neither Tracy nor Payne fully understood current blood draw laws or hospital policies, and — unlike the nurse, Wubbels — they did not seek legal clarification from the department’s attorneys or other sources.
It also outlines how Payne visibly “lost control of his emotions” and his “self-control” over the course of the incident — yet no other law enforcement officers at the scene, including those from Salt Lake City and the University of Utah, thought to intervene.

And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street.

Headline of the day.

Friday, September 1st, 2017

Principal in Park Slope is Cleared of Communist Organizing

Berlin 1936? Los Angeles 1952? Nope: New York City, 2017.

Drainage!

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

By way of Patrick Non-White: a series of tweets from Matt Corbett‏ about how flood planning and storm runoff works in Houston.

If you click on that first one, you should be able to follow the rest of the (long) thread from there, though you might have to skip over some stuff about cheerleading.

I’m also not an expert, and haven’t lived in Houston for (mumble mumble) years now, but this fits in with what I do know. I especially appreciate his discussion of the evacuate/don’t evacuate decision: it was more than just partisan politics, it also involved differing sets of priorities.