Archive for the ·

Uncategorized

· Category...

“[T]his is the most insanely massive violation of the law that I’ve seen”

no comments

That’s Tampa Chief of Police Jane Castor talking about income tax fraud in the Tampa Bay area.

We have a great police force in Tampa.  When Chief Castor says the problem is uncontrollable, Congress needs to listen.  From the Tampa Tribune:

Tampa’s tax refund fraud is getting national attention this week as a city police detective is set to testify before a U.S. Senate subcommittee about what the police chief says “conservatively” amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money being stolen in the Tampa Bay area alone. . .

Based on what he’s seeing in the streets, [Officer Edwin] Perez said, the fraud is “ten times as bad this year” as it was last year.

“Out in the street, everybody is doing it,” said Chief Jane Castor. “We’re hearing stories about high school kids doing this. It’s just incredible.”

Perez said he’s found a 16-year-old on his way to school with a list of names, dates of birth and other identifying information for use in tax fraud and a 76-year-old man with a laptop computer case stuffed with debit cards pre-loaded with money suspected to have been obtained through tax fraud.

Because of the scope of the fraud, Perez said, he was nervous when he filed his tax return. “I knew right away I had to file as quick as I could,” Perez said, and he did. But he wasn’t able to act fast enough to beat the crooks.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for 28 years,” Castor told reporters, “and this is the most insanely massive violation of the law that I’ve seen.”

I don’t write about white collar crime very often, but Tampa is the epicenter of a lot of low-level, high-yield financial fraud.  Medicaid fraud is endemic.  Fake pill clinics, fake back-pain doctors, and other fake medical services seem to fill every other storefront.  Auto insurance is expensive here because of faked hit-and-run fraud.

And the feds aren’t doing enough.  Why?  The Secret Service is partnering with local police; the Postal Service is on the case, but prosecutions aren’t happening.  Hundreds of millions of dollars are being stolen in my community because leaders in Washington can’t get their act together and focus on crime.  I don’t think I need to articulate my feelings about this as I sit down to do my family’s taxes:

[Chief Castor] said criminals are getting the information they need to commit fraud by paying people who work in businesses where personal information is kept, including medical offices, schools and assisted living facilities. Perez [a victim himself] said his best guess is that someone got his wife’s information from a medical office.

Castor said the fraud is too extensive for local police to manage. “It’s no-win situation,” she said. “We could put our entire police force on this now, and we’re not going to keep up.”

Perez said, as a street cop, he constantly sees the fraud – known in street parlance as “TurboTax,” after the popular online filing program. “In one of every seven stops that we make, we’re going to find something that has to do with TurboTax,” he said.

Castor said the media coverage has gotten the attention of lawmakers and IRS officials in Washington. Three IRS officials flew down to Tampa last week and met with the chief.

Castor said the IRS seems to understand the problem and says it’s putting additional filters in place to block fraudulent refund checks from being sent. But Castor reiterated that the existing filters don’t seem to be working.

For example, the IRS says it screens for multiple refund checks being sent to the same address. But in one case, Castor said, police documented more than 200 refunds being sent to a single address.

“They have made some changes, but the insurmountable hurdle still is in place,” Castor said. “They still cannot share information with law enforcement. That needs to be fixed. … But I don’t want anyone to lose sight of the real problem here. It starts at the filing. It has got to be fixed.”

Today, the U.S. Senate Finance Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility, chaired by Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, will hold its second hearing on tax fraud. This one is slated to include testimony from Tampa police Detective Sal Augeri, who has led the department’s tax fraud investigations.

The committee is considering legislation introduced by Nelson last year that the senator says will help victims get their money more quickly when their refunds are stolen.

Senator Nelson needs to do more than this.  Of course the victims need to be reimbursed.  But why isn’t the Justice Department down here fixing the problem?  Oh yeah, they’re busy . . .

From the DOJ Homepage: The Affordable Care Act was enacted on March 23, 2010 . . . This law has become the subject of several lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the provision requiring Americans who can afford it to maintain basic health insurance coverage. The Department is vigorously defending the law in these cases.

Defending the Affordable Care Act
You know what would make healthcare more affordable?  Prosecuting Medicaid and Medicare fraud.  Prosecuting tax fraud.  Prosecuting crime, instead of punishing the law-abiding by not punishing crime, which breeds contempt for the law, which leads to 16-year olds stealing people’s IDs and getting other people’s tax refunds, then getting a slap on the wrist in juvenile court.  But story gets much, much worse.  From the Tampa Bay Times:

Tax fraud thief steals identity of slain Tampa police officer

TAMPA — Months after police Officer David Curtis was slain on duty, his widow tried to file her tax return. But the electronic filing wouldn’t go through.

Someone had stolen the identity of the officer and filed a fraudulent return.

A year later, Kelly Curtis still has no resolution. On Tuesday, her ordeal was a subject of a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on the pervasive tax fraud problem.

“It’s just so frustrating,” she told theTampa Bay Times. “Here Dave’s ultimate sacrifice is being taken advantage of again.

“And I’ve just been thrown something else on my plate that I’ve got to deal with. Sometimes I just throw my hands up in the air and say: ‘No, I’ve had enough. I can’t deal with this.’ ”

David Curtis and fellow Officer Jeffrey Kocab were fatally shot June 29, 2010, during a traffic stop in East Tampa.

The Tampa Police report that they arrested 47 tax fraud suspects but could not prosecute a single one of them for tax fraud, because the IRS cannot share information with the police.  So the rest of us have a choice: we can demand a change in these laws, or we can keep hemorrhaging money to criminals.  And make no mistake about it, one type of criminality breeds other types:

Tax fraud is leading to violent crime in Tampa . . . People are getting rich off these schemes, he said, and other people know it. There have been armed robberies and home invasions targeted at these fraudulent filers, police say.  An attempted homicide last week in Tampa is rumored to be motivated by tax fraud, [Tampa Detective Sal] Augeri testified.  Tampa police Chief Jane Castor told the Times robbers are looking for cash and jewelry — “the proceeds of the tax fraud.”  “People on the street know who’s doing it,” she said. “And they want to get a share.”

This should bother you as you pay your taxes this year.  A lot.  Meanwhile, at least it’s an object lesson in the connection between white collar crime and street crime, and an object lesson for all those who whine that our federal prisons are filled with otherwise innocent drug users.  They aren’t.  They pled down from other crimes:

On Monday afternoon, a federal judge in Tampa sentenced one tax fraud participant to more than 15 years in federal prison. Perhaps underscoring how difficult it can be to bring tax fraud charges, the defendant was not charged with or convicted of tax fraud.

Tarrantzton Barr pleaded guilty to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine.

Barr admitted that he and his cousin, Patrick Shaw, used nearly $40,000 worth of fraudulently obtained Treasury checks to try to buy the kilo from an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration in May. Shaw has also pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentence.

Where is the leadership in federal law enforcement?

Maybe if we changed the name of the offense from “tax fraud” to “bullying,” somebody in the White House would do something.

 

Meet Me at CPAC

no comments

Come see me at CPAC booth 1919 and pick up a copy of my report on George Soros and the Occupy movement.

Police Murdered in 2011: How They Served

7 comments

Hat Tip to Lou . . .

2011 began with the murder of Deputy Sheriff Suzanne Hopper in Ohio.  January 1, Deputy Hopper was shot while photographing a crime scene.  She left behind a husband and four children.  Another officer was shot but survived.

According to her boss, Sheriff Gene Kelly,

Hopper once went six straight years without calling in sick and often put on charity events for the Special Olympics and other causes . . . Her personnel file is filled with accolades and commendations and always service before self.

By the end of January, four police officers were murdered in Florida during a week in which at least fifteen officers were shot:

[1/24/2011] In just 24 hours, at least 11 officers were shot. The shootings included Sunday attacks at traffic stops in Indiana and Oregon, a Detroit police station shooting that wounded four officers, and a shootout at a Port Orchard, Wash., Wal-Mart that injured two deputies. On Monday morning, two officers were shot dead and a U.S. Marshal was wounded by a gunman in St. Petersburg, Fla.  On Thursday, two Miami-Dade, Fla., detectives were killed by a murder suspect they were trying to arrest.

Sgt. Thomas Batinger, St. Petersburg, Florida “just wanted to serve”

Two years ago, Sgt. Baitinger served as mentor for a student at Gibbs High School. Catherine Smith, the former family and community liaison at Gibbs, said he stood out among the 100 or so mentors who volunteer each year. “Some police officers, you know, seem to have like a hard exterior,” Smith said. “This man was just so nice.”  When the sergeant showed up, usually carrying a McDonald’s bag, the student’s face just glowed. “He loved him,” she said. “When that young man came down and saw the sergeant, oh my goodness, it was like he saw his father.”  His hobbies were golf and poker.

Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz, St. Petersburg, Florida “one of the best people I ever met”

He is survived by his wife, Lorraine, 40, and his children: Caleb, 12; Haylie, 8; and Calen, 5.  He was on his way home after his night shift with his police dog Ace when he responded to a call for backup . . . It was like him to go. Just flip through his personnel file down at the police station. . . The night before he died, Yaslowitz helped his neighbor haul new furniture inside.  “He was a great guy, I’ll tell you,” said [Herbert] Kane, 77. “A great father, too, and a great husband. I never heard him even argue, ever. They were a great family and I’m just sick about it.”

Detective Roger Castillo, Miami-Dade, Florida “passionate about his job”

To the residents of his well-kept Davie street, fallen Miami-Dade police Detective Roger Castillo was the type of neighbor you wanted to have around. He was the dad you’d see on the front lawn, tossing around a football with his boys. The one who brightened up the cul-de-sac with Christmas lights and inflatables. A helping hand if you were struggling with a fix-it job. “If I’m fixing something, if he passes by, he will ask if I need help, do I need to borrow tools?” said Andre Jean-Louis, a real estate broker . . . On Thursday, as the tragedy unfolded in Liberty City, Castillo’s relatives and neighbors monitored the news and hoped he was safe. Slowly, through phone calls and text messages and hesitant knocks on the door, they learned that their friend was gone. “They stole him,” neighbor Lisa Tuffy said. “He made this world a better place.”

Detective Amanda Haworth, Miami-Dade, Florida “just a beautiful person”

Twenty-three years after she joined the Miami-Dade Police Department, Amanda Lynn Haworth, 44, was fatally wounded, along with another detective — both of them members of an elite team that served arrest warrants on violent suspects. Haworth, a single mother and police detective, loved her job, but was most devoted to her 13-year-old son, her stepmother said. “She took him everywhere she went,” said Diane Haworth, 66. She last spoke with her stepdaughter on Monday, she recalled. “She was just so sweet, so very sweet,” her stepmother said . . . she often played baseball with son, Austin, in their backyard, neighbors said. “Her son and her work were everything to her,” said neighbor Bernardo Gonazalez. She was a big fan of the Weston Red Hawks — the team her son played for — and attended all of his games. “She was just a beautiful, beautiful person,” Gonazalez said.

Why were Amanda Haworth and Roger Castillo killed?  Because the justice system failed them.  Not once, but a dozen times.  Because every previous time police risked their lives capturing the thug who murdered them, some lazy judge or overwhelmed prosecutor let him go:

[Johnny] Simms, 22, had been in trouble since he was a teen. Officers first arrested him at 14, for larceny. In all, Simms was arrested 11 times before he was an adult on charges including burglary and auto theft, state records show. He received house arrest in some cases, while others were dropped. His tattoos mirrored his lifestyle: a gun, flames, and the words “savage” and “10-20 Life.” In October 2005 and December 2005, Simms was arrested for separate armed robberies, one with a pistol and the second with a rifle. Prosecutors did not file charges in either case. In 2007, Simms — who also goes by “Sims” — went to state prison for a different 2005 armed robbery and auto theft. He was released in February 2009 on probation. Simms violated his probation when he was again arrested in June 2010, this time for robbery with a deadly weapon and selling cocaine. He pleaded guilty and Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Julio Jimenez sentenced him to one year in prison plus five years’ probation.But Simms served only one month because he had earned credit for time served earlier in a Miami-Dade jail. He was released in September 2010 on five years of court-mandated “administrative probation,” a low-level form of supervision that does not require regular check-ins with authorities. Simms hadn’t been out a month before he was again implicated in a violent act. According to Miami homicide detectives, Simms shot and killed Cornelious Larry, 27, on Oct. 16 in the parking lot of an Overtown apartment complex, 1535 NW First Pl. Miami police say Simms shot Larry to death after the man began yelling and cursing at Simms’ sister. Simms fled on a bicycle. Detectives searched for him for 12 days before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Diane Ward signed an arrest warrant. The charges: first-degree murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Simms had been on the lam since.

Yadda, yadda, yadda.  Shoot, rob, burglar, shoot, beat: get off free.  Our highest law enforcement officials in the Department of Justice grandstand about “alternatives to incarceration” and “emptying the prisons.”  Our sensitive academics whine endlessly about America the police state as if thugs like Johnny Simms aren’t getting away with murder after murder, abetted by lousy criminal fetishists festering in courtrooms until good cops end up in caskets.

February

Detective John Falcone

Detective John Falcone, Poughkeepsie, New York.  Wrestled a three-year old from a man repeatedly charged with domestic violence who had hunted down her mother and killed her moments earlier.  Thanks to Detective Falcone’s sacrifice, the infant survived.

Detective Falcone is survived by his parents.

March

Alain Schaberger

Alain Schaberger’s life began in Vietnam and ended when Officer Schaberger responded to a domestic violence call in Brooklyn, where a repeat felon with 28 prior arrests, mostly for robbery and burglary, pushed the young man over a railing to his death.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg referred to Schaberger as a “quiet, gentle soul” who dedicated his life to service.  “Alain knew a lot about grief,” Bloomberg said of the former Naval officer who joined the NYPD in July 2001. “One of his first assignments as a police officer while he was still in the academy in the days after 9/11 was to go to checkpoints around Ground Zero and help the families who came there to cope with their horrific losses. He brought a lot of comfort to those people.”  Addressing Schaberger’s family, including fiancée Shoshone Peguese, Bloomberg said, “I think he would tell you to remember not the last tragic moment of his life, but the many wonderful moments that came before it.”

 

Schaberger was a 10-year NYPD veteran who was born in Vietnam. He came to the U.S. when he was 5 years old with his father – an Army vet who worked as a civilian guard at the U.S. Embassy when Saigon fell in 1975 – and Vietnamese mother.  Raised in East Islip, L.I., Schaberger grew up on tidy block of single-family homes and played basketball at the local public school. . . Schaberger often returned to East Islip to visit with his parents and sister, Tracey, a nurse with two kids, neighbors said.  “It’s tragic. It’s unbelievable,” said neighbor Mitchell Greif. “He was a great guy from a good family. He was always pleasant and polite. His parents are devastated.” Schaberger’s mother – a hairdresser – and father were too distraught to speak with reporters.  “It’s a shame,” said Bill Conley, 59, an electrician who has lived next-door to the Schaberger family for 25 years. “It’s always the good ones that die young.”

April

Jonathan Schmidt

Officer Jonathan Schmidt

A policeman who died in the line of fire trying to save his sergeant’s life has been labelled a hero.  Officer Jonathan Schmidt, from Trumann, Arkansas, shoved his superior out of harms way when a gunman unexpectedly opened fire during a routine arrest.  He was able to return fire on Jerry Lard despite the fact he was shot in the neck and bleeding. The father-of-three then begged for his life. . . Schmidt worked as a night patrolman so he could spend days with his three children.  He had a 12-year-old daughter and sons aged ten and 18 months. Schmidt recently received a commendation for saving an infant’s life by giving the child mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  Trumann School District Superintendent, Joe Waleszonia said: ‘He wanted to clean up this community. He wanted it to be as safe for the community as it could be.

May

Kenneth Gary Vann

Sergeant Vann was assassinated while stopped at a red light: his patrol car was struck multiple times.  A week later, the killer was caught by police.  He had randomly chosen to kill officer Vann.

Sergeant Kenneth Gary Vann

[During the investigation] Detective Louis Antu, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, said the mood was somber but dedicated at the command post Sunday. Many officers, including Antu and the sheriff, were out of town for the three-day Memorial Day weekend, when they were called back to Bexar County.  “We’re not robots; we’re all taking time to reflect,” said Antu, who joined the Sheriff’s Office with Vann. “But it was a terrible killing, and everybody wants answers. We’re working for the family, to bring them justice.”  Antu said the two men were “kids” when they joined the Sheriff’s Office. Vann was an excellent officer who loved his job and family, Antu said.  Vann was married to sheriff’s Sgt. Yvonne Vann and leaves behind two sons, ages 19 and 15, and a daughter, 25, from a previous marriage, officials said.  Ortiz was at his hunting lease in Rocksprings when he heard about Vann’s death.  “We’re real saddened by the randomness of this incident; there’s really no rhyme or reason,” Ortiz said. “It’s very difficult because we don’t have anything new, but we’re not going to rest until we find the guy who did it.”

June

Kurt Wyman, daughter born the day of his murder.

Deputy Sheriff Kurt Wyman

Whitestown, NY — Fresh out of high school in 2005, Kurt Wyman joined the Marine Corps Reserve. Activated in 2008, he served seven months in Iraq and won the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.  Wyman also became an Oneida County sheriff’s deputy in 2007. He rejoined the sheriff’s office when he returned from overseas. In 2010, he was rookie of the year. He twice was awarded the Sheriff’s Grand Cordon Medal, which recognizes outstanding achievement by a detail of officers.  “His commitment not only to his country but to his county is second to none,” Sheriff Robert Maciol said.  Wyman demonstrated his commitment to the ultimate degree Tuesday. The deputy, 24, was hit by a shotgun blast as he and two other officers tried to take an armed man into custody after a six-hour standoff in the rural town of Augusta. He died after being rushed to St. Elizabeth Medical Center.

Wyman left behind his pregnant wife, Lauren, their 18-month-old son, his parents and a sister.

His wife gave birth after hearing of Wyman’s murder.  That’s June.

July

Officer Brent Long

Officer Long and his canine partner Shadow were shot while serving a felony warrant.

Shadow survived.

A fallen police officer’s K-9 partner is now being honored. Fallen Terre Haute Police Officer Brent Long’s family cut the ribbon on Shadow’s Trail in Terre Haute. Shadow served alongside Officer Long on the force. The trail is beside Brent Long Memorial Way. It’s part of the expansion of the city’s trails and a way to honor the police dog’s service. “They did a good job for our department and to have Brent’s memorial way here and Shadow’s Trail right next to Brent, they’re partners even after Brent’s gone,” Terre Haute Police Chief John Plasse said.

August

Jeremy Henwood, San Diego

Jeremy Henwood, a captain in the Marine Corps Reserves and police officer for the San Diego Police Department, was shot and killed, Aug. 7. He had walked into a fast food restaurant to buy something to eat and also buy a meal for a 10-year-old boy who happened to cross his path. Moments later, while sitting in his patrol car, a man drove up beside him and fired the fatal shot. Henwood was 36.

Officer Henwood, moments before he was shot

Henwood served as an enlisted infantryman before going on to Officer Candidate School to receive his commission with the Marine reserves. The Canadian-born hero became a United States citizen in order to receive his commission with the Marines.  He deployed twice to Iraq, and after his third deployment – this time to Afghanistan as a company commander with Combat Logistics Battalion 2 – Henwood returned to the U.S. in February to continue serving as a police officer with the SDPD.  During the memorial ceremony, Henwood was posthumously promoted to the rank of major.

September

Lt. Joseph Sczcerba

18-year veteran New Castle, Delaware Lt. Joseph Sczcerba was stabbed to death while attempting to subdue a rampaging offender.  Lt. Sczcerba and his wife performed volunteer work at a variety of places.  His service to the community was memorialized by seventy local culinary school students who baked 10,000 cookies in his honor and delivered them to police officers.  6,000 people attended his funeral.

October

Derek Kotecki: His loyal canine wouldn’t leave his side after he was shot.  He wanted a “noisy” funeral.

Patrolman Kotecki and K9 Benny
Lower Burrell, PA, Patrolman Derek Kotecki was shot and killed while investigating reports of a wanted man at a local fast food restaurant. The man was wanted for a shooting ten days earlier and for threatening police officers during the previous week.  As Patrolman Kotecki and his canine, Benny, approached, the man suddenly opened fire. Patrolman Kotecki suffered a fatal wound. The subject then fled but was approached by other officers as he attempted to climb a fence behind the restaurant. He was killed during an exchange of shots with the responding officers.  K9 Benny was uninjured but had to be muzzled after refusing to leave Patrolman Kotecki’s side.
Patrolman Kotecki had served with the Lower Burrell Police Department for 18 years. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Officer Thomas Babinsack, one of five people to eulogize Kotecki, said they had talked about the aftermath of such a situation while driving to a memorial service in April 2009 for three Pittsburgh officers gunned down in a SWAT siege.  They discussed whether it was respectful to use their flashing lights and sirens in a funeral procession, and Babinsack said he’s since learned the protocol is to use lights but no sirens — which police vehicles observed on their way to Kotecki’s funeral. But Babinsack said Kotecki wanted something else.  “Tom, I want you to promise me something: If something ever happens to me, I want everybody to know I was here,” Babinsack remembered Kotecki saying. “I want the fire trucks and police and ambulances going with lights on and sirens.”  “He wanted a parade and he’s going to get one,” Babinsack said from the pulpit of the noisy funeral procession that was to follow.

 

November

James L. Capoot: a life lived very well.

Officer James Lowell Capoot, 45, of the Vallejo Police Department was killed in the line of duty on Nov. 17, 2011 in Vallejo, Calif. A loving and devoted father, husband, son, brother, uncle, officer, coach, neighbor and friend, Jim lived a full and extraordinary life.  Born Nov. 2, 1966 in Little Rock, Ark., Jim attended local schools in Little Rock and graduated from John L. McClellan High School in 1985, where he was a distance runner on the cross country and track teams. Jim enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at age 18 and was stationed at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, where he met the love of his life, Jennifer Eileen DeCarlo. The two were married at St. Basil’s Catholic Church in Vallejo on Aug. 29, 1987.  Jim left the Marines in 1989 but remained on Active Reserve through 1993. In 1990, he joined the California Highway Patrol and began his career as a peace officer. And, in 1993, he joined the Vallejo Police Department.  For 19 years, Jim distinguished himself as a Vallejo police officer while endearing himself to the Vallejo community. He served as a motorcycle officer, motorcycle instructor, driving instructor and SWAT officer. He received two Vallejo PD Medals of Courage, one Life-Saving Medal and many other department commendations. And, in 2000, Jim received the Officer of the Year Award.  Jim coached the Vallejo High School varsity girls basketball team and in his second year led the Apaches to a 25-7 record and a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Championship. Jim left the Apache bench in March 2011 to bring into his home the two children of close friends who were killed in a motorcycle accident in January.

December 20

John David Dryer, tended horses, his son.  Shot during a routine traffic stop.

John David Dryer found his calling as a teenager when he nursed to health a horse that had become entangled in barbed wire.  He turned his grades around, earned his veterinary science degree from Ohio State University, opened his own successful practice — and then became a police officer. . . . At home, Officer Dryer was a doting father to his autistic son, Benjamin. In an interview with the Post-Gazette in 2000 about training bloodhounds, he said his son gave him motivation.  “My son Ben, who is 5, was very sick when he was born. In fact, a couple of times I thought I was going to lose him,” he said. “I think this is why I want to search for missing people, particularly children.”

December 21

Another Tampa Bay Cop in this bloody year: Arnulfo Crispin.

Since Crispin was shot the night of Dec. 18, [Carlos] Cortes and Officer Julio Ruiz have been by his family’s side, offering any assistance they could.  Both officers learned more about their friend and why he always had a big smile on his face.  “His family has been so humble and so giving,” Ruiz said. “They put people and family before themselves.” Cortes agreed.  “It’s a large family and they don’t have that much,” he said. “At one point, they asked my wife and I to come and eat with them. They didn’t have a lot of food, but they made sure we had something to eat. They don’t have much, but what they do have they will give to others.”  That mentality explained a lot about the officer they knew.

Crispin’s parents

Before leaving the family’s house Tuesday night, the officers gave the large family their phone numbers and promised to keep in touch.  Although Crispin can’t be replaced, Ruiz said, the Crispin family has “gained 235 brothers and sisters at the Lakeland Police Department.”

December 29  

Chicago Officer Clifton Lewis: “he took me in as his child”

The off-duty Chicago police officer slain in a West Side convenience store Thursday night had just gotten engaged on Christmas Day, family friends say.  Clifton Lewis, 41, an eight-year veteran assigned to the Austin District’s tactical team, was pronounced dead Thursday at Stroger Hospital, officials said. Two men had walked into the M & M Quick Foods about 8:30 p.m. at 1201 N. Austin Blvd. in the Austin neighborhood, shot the officer, and then grabbed his gun and star and fled, sources said. . . . Lewis . .  has received 81 commendations for his police work, had proposed to his girlfriend, Tamara Tucker, only after asking her 18-year-old son, Keyonta Thomas, for permission. On Christmas morning, Lewis pulled her son aside and asked for her “hand in marriage,” said Thomas, 18.  “I am just at a loss for words,” said Thomas, who said he saw Lewis as a father.  “He was just as a father (to me)… He took me in as his child.”

Addendum: Special Agent John Capano of the ATF was killed yesterday as I was writing this.  He was on his way to pick up prescriptions for his ill, 81-year old father when he encountered an armed robbery at the pharmacy.

James Capano had planned to celebrate New Year’s Eve at his son’s house.  The family is grieving the death of James Capano’s wife of 57 years, Helen Capano, mother of John Capano. She died of cancer on Dec. 18.  James Capano said his son had volunteered to share his explosives expertise with military personnel in Iraq.  “He knew what he was doing, and he was the best one they had,” James Capano proudly said.  A tearful Rep. Peter Kingconsoled the elder Capano on the blood-stained sidewalk outside the pharmacy New Year’s morning.  King’s wife was slain agent’s fourth grade teacher.  “I’ve known John Capano for years,” King said, recalling giving Capano an award for bravery during a four-month tour of Iraq and Afghanistan.  “He had a unique personality, a great personality,” King said. “Everybody loved him.”

James Capano, Agent Capano’s father.  His wife, Agent Capano’s mother, died two weeks ago

Capano was the last officer killed in the line of duty in 2011, bringing the total to 163, 66 of which were gun killings.  Thousands of other police were shot or attacked but survived.
Assassination-style killings — where assailants randomly shoot an officer or lie in wait for unsuspecting targets, are on the rise.  Is cultural anger directed at police — by idiotic Occupy protesters, among others — contributing to an atmosphere in which police are targets?  I think the vast majority of responsibility for the presence of dangerous offenders on our streets lies with the courts and civil rights activists who have succeeded in creating a consequence-free world for criminals.  But every little bit of scapegoating counts.  In 2012, it’s time to start speaking up for cops.

 

Recent Publications in Dissident Prof, The Soros Files, and the Pittsburgh Tribune [and Real Clear Politics]

no comments

I’m posting regularly now at Dissident Prof, a site run by the fabulous Mary Grabar.  Here’s my first post:

Occupy Wall Street — For College Credit

I published a guest editorial in the Pittsburgh Tribune on Sunday:

Occupiers War on Police

 

Real Clear Politics picked up the piece and has a good list of others, here.

And I’m continuing to write for the Soros Files, a project of America’s Survival (here’s the link: http://sorosfiles.com/soros/)

~~~

Occupiers everywhere. When I was up in Washington recently, I was walking through one of the Occupy sites and accidentally stepped on a rotting apple tied to a string, which was attached to a bamboo pole.  “Oh no,” said the pole’s possessor, “you’ve crushed the goddess.”  He seemed serious, though very polite given that I had just gotten most of his belief system stuck to the bottom of my shoe.  He gathered up the remaining pieces of his crumbling yet sweetly-autumn-redolent metaphysics in a paper cup and cradled it while cheerfully and patiently explaining to me that only Ron Paul can preserve a truly originalist interpretation of the Constitution.

I couldn’t help but to like the young man.  I hope he’s OK.

Next, two unlikable, anorectic-looking people wearing urban motley and ominously bearing a flipboard and magic markers (not magic like the apple, just regular magic) made everyone gather in an ampitheatre-ish shape.  The meeting was supposed to be non-hierarchical but ended up being much more hierarchical than any real meeting because we were all forced to endure a long and repetitive lecture from Thing One and Thing Two about how they weren’t acting as “leaders” but as “leaderless facilitators” before proceeding to run the meeting with their iron (actually, hennaed and grubby) fists.

That, my friends, is the pure essence of thought-control: being forced to participate in the illusion that someone isn’t doing precisely what they are doing to you as they keep doing it while demanding that you repeatedly agree that they are not.

And this is what the future will really look like, if, by some colossal societal fail, the Occupiers ever get their way.  The future will look like a giant human resources meeting where the usual petty cubicle fascists control the whiteboard and waste your time while telling you they are doing so for your self-improvement.

Sort of like real human resource meetings.  Only, at these future Occupy human resources meetings, nobody will be allowed to zone out into the deep inviting pool of their Starbucks, contemplating the work piling up on their desks, or that hot guy in accounting whose mid-morning shadow makes your spine-crushing control-top pantyhose entirely worth the pain — there will be none of that, because boredom and whimsy are just two of humorless collectivism’s many enemies.

Instead, at dystopian future Occupy human resources meetings, everyone will be forced to participate continuously in the expression of their views, so long, that is, as their expressions are the same expressions expressed by the whiteboard-wielding, iron-fisted, anti-hierarchical movement non-leaders.

Also, after the Occupy human resources meetings, nobody will be getting back to work because there will be no more jobs, only more human resource meetings.

And that’s what I saw at the Occupy Movement.

The Gods Who Lied: Noam Chomsky, John Silber, Joe Paterno, and the Variations of Bad Education

1 comment

I haven’t been able to muster the equanimity to find much to say about the Penn State football coaches who covered up at least one child rape in the name of the sanctity of college stadium shower stalls.  The spectacle of students rioting because some football coach is finally being held slightly responsible for serially abetting a child rapist — well, that’s a little too res ipsa loquitor to require much embroidery.  And if the administration doesn’t expel everyone involved in attacking cops and toppling vehicles, well, that’s how much a Penn State diploma is worth these days.

But the case did remind me of another where it was the administration itself doing the victim-persecuting-symbolic-lynch-mob thing.  That school is Boston University, which prides itself, of course, in residing on a much higher pedagogical plateau than Penn State, which explains the tony sophistication they brought to their lynch mob.

At Boston U., rather than knocking over anything as pedestrian as a minivan, President John Silber and esteemed lunatic Noam Chomsky joined hands with scores of other useful idiots throughout academia and the media to shove the elderly victim of a sadistic rapist under every available bus.  For years, until she died.

First, they showered convicted rapist Benjamin LaGuer with literary awards and honorary degrees, because, you know, he’s a rapist who said he was being persecuted while writing execrable poetry.  Rapists are second-fiddle to cop-killing terrorists in the literary award circuit: thus, LaGuer has won only one PEN award, while terrorist Marilyn Buck won three, and terrorist Susan Rosenberg four, for their execrable poetry.  But Silber et. al. made up for this dearth of aesthetic recognition with a sort-of in-house degree mill for LaGuer while he lobbied for his freedom.

That’s how much a Boston U. degree is worth these days.

Then DNA technology improved to the point where LaGuer’s test came back positive, and his guilt in an unusually horrific assault was confirmed.  But instead of apologizing to the victim, whom they had personally, viciously, systematically destroyed, John Silber came up with another excuse for freeing LaGuer from prison.  He testified that LaGuer believed so strongly in his own innocence (and thus not incidentally his victim’s perfidy) that he should be freed because of his belief in himself as a persecuted non-rapist, even if he was, in reality, a non-persecuted real rapist.

Then, having having thoroughly salted the earth of pedagogical integrity from Cambridge to Logan International, Silber wrote some book about ethics and moved on.

The kids at Penn State should be expelled for knocking over that van.  That may or may not happen.  Joe Paterno may or may not face real consequences, rather than fake ones in the form of weepy sports columnists expressing hurt feelings.  But everyone involved in the Benjamin LaGuer case — from Silber, to Chomsky, to Deval Patrick, to Henry Louis Gates, to Eli Weisel, to Barbara Walters, to William Styron, to all the reporters who bragged about being “pen pals” (what is it with that word?) and members of the “Benjy Brigade” while pretending to report on the story, have faced absolutely no consequences to date.

And that’s a real crime.

Here are my previous posts on the LaGuer case.  The information in Wikipedia and other sources is dissembling to the point of sheer dishonesty:

The “Benjy Brigade”, Part 1: Boston’s Finest Mount an Attack on an Elderly Victim of Rape

The “Benjy Brigade,” Part 2: After the DNA

The New York Times Manufactures a DNA Scare

Benjamin LaGuer. Brutal Rapist Identified by DNA. His Famous Friends are Still Trying to Blame the Victim.

Today, I am in the Daily Caller

2 comments

In this article by Matthew Boyle about the Marilyn Buck case.

CVMR Will Return Soon

no comments

. . . when the hard drive gets replaced.

Leaving Paradise, More Work Than Expected

no comments

More paperwork to leave paradise than I’d thought.  Crime Victims Media Report will resume on May 10.

Goodbye backyard:

Moving On

no comments

Crime Victims Media Report will resume next week, with new topics:

  • Florida’s fight to lift the statute of limitations on child molestation.
  • Atlanta’s Rodney King Riots
  • What New York City’s council speaker Christine Quinn Won’t Tell You About Hate Crimes Prosecution

Radio Program on Eric Holder

no comments

Thursday morning, 9 a.m. (Eastern), I will be on the Doc Washburn show, WFLA Panama City talking about Attorney General Eric Holder.

Three Strikes Laws: The Myth of Jerry DeWayne Williams and His Pizza Slice

12 comments

As California begins emptying prisons over the protests of voters, a powerful coalition of anti-incarceration activist groups are declaring victory over the quaint notion that people should be punished for crime:

Prison reform advocates such as Jim Lindburg, a lobbyist for the Friends Committee on Legislation, hope that the state’s first significant corrections-policy change in decades ushers in a whole new mind-set on crime.  “There’s really nothing scientific or magical about the length of prison sentences,” Lindburg said. “Those are political calculations made in a political environment. It seems preposterous to me to suggest that letting people out a little bit early is going to have any kind of (negative) impact on crime rates. I think we just need to change the way we think about public safety.”

Well, actually, there’s already been at least one disturbing crime committed by one of the first men released a “bit early,” so scratch the “no negative impact” thing.

Also, there’s nothing “magical” about the length of prison sentences.  To the contrary, imprisonment works in the most mundane and predictable way: it keeps non-reformable offenders away from fresh victims for a set amount of time, and schools others in the consequences of offending again.

What hubris, accusing the public of “magical thinking” because they want offenders off the streets.  Why is it that those who trumpet loudest about their own peace-loving natures and non-hierarchical ways always come off as angry, insufferable elitists?

The Friends Committee on Legislation of California  (FCLCA) , guided by Quaker values, advocates for California state laws that  are just, compassionate and respectful of the inherent worth of every  person.

Make that the inherent worth of offenders, full stop.  Oh please, just do it.  You know you want to.  The Friends do not waste their breath or stationary advocating for the inherent worth of people who aren’t convicts, or ex-cons.  Ditto all those activist nuns getting their jollies on death row.  There’s no thrill in standing alongside ordinary people who fear for their safety — no thrill, and generally no microphones, either.

~~~

As the anti-incarceration movement gears up to exploit the financial crisis, expect more mass early releases and the gutting of three-strike and other recidivism laws.  Consequently, alongside all the faux-Buddhist arguments about one hour in prison being the same as 100 or 1,000 days (the real magical thinking), academic cheerleaders have now exhumed that all-time sorriest argument against three strikes laws: the fake-life-for-stealing-a-slice-of-pizza guy.

Why fake?  Because Jerry DeWayne Williams didn’t get life.  He didn’t serve 25 years under three strikes.  His sentence, like the sentences of 25% to 45% of the offenders who qualify for three-strikes, was downgraded to a “second-strike” offense . . . because judges and prosecutors have that discretion and use it every day.

Here is professor Jennifer Walsh, writing in late 2002:

[S]tatistics indicate that discretion in three strike cases is invoked frequently and consistently. A 1998 survey of California District Attorneys revealed that prosecutors in urban jurisdictions use discretion in approximately 20-40 percent of eligible cases [now higher] . . . An evaluation of judicial discretion exercised in San Diego County found that judges exercised discretion in 29 percent of eligible three strike cases. They were also 100 percent more likely to use discretion if the triggering offense was minor. Moreover, judges were more likely to strike a prior strike if the defendant had no history of violence and no history of weapons possession or weapons use.  Perhaps most reassuring is the data that shows that in San Diego County, over half of the initial third strike filings that involved a minor third strike offense were later downgraded to second strike offenses. This exercise of discretion by prosecutors and judges prevented these defendants from receiving the enhanced sentence when they were perceived as undeserving.  Findings like these confirm that the judicious exercise of discretion under the California three strikes law creates a safeguard for defendants who are technically eligible for the mandatory sentence, but whose past and present conduct is considered to be outside the spirit of the law.

Read that paragraph carefully, because you’re not going to see it in the news, where reporters simply cut and paste rhetoric from various activist groups, wildly misrepresenting the law itself.  Professor Walsh notes that those subjected to California’s three-strikes law generally had violent or serious crimes as their third offense:

State statistics indicate that the third strikers in prison include 294 for murder; 34 for manslaughter; 1,408 for robbery; 356 for assault with a deadly weapon; 416 for other assaults or battery; 136 for rape; 241 for lewd act upon a child; 136 for other sex offenses; 83 for kidnapping; 776 for residential burglary; 288 for possession of drugs for sale; 191 for sale of drugs, 28 for manufacturing drugs; 356 for weapons-possession; and 25 for arson.

First and second offenses must be for serious or violent felonies to trigger the enhancement, another little-noted fact.

But facts simply don’t matter to the activists.  If facts mattered to them, they wouldn’t be holding up Jerry DeWayne Williams as an example of a person who was sent away for 25 years for stealing a piece of pizza, because he wasn’t.

And it’s very much worth asking why criminologists and reporters cling so eagerly to this one story, repeating it endlessly when it is not true in the first place and is also decades old now: can’t they produce a better tale of woe?

But it gets worse.

This week, the Los Angeles Times ran a bizarre feature on Jerry DeWayne Williams.  The gist is that Williams is a victim of three-strikes even though he was not subjected to it.  It is apparently enough that the law exists for Williams to continue to feel victimized by it.  The reporter calls this serving a “life sentence” of having to abide by the law:

“I walk on eggshells,” [Williams] said. “Any little thing that I do, I could be back for the rest of my life.”

Strangely, however, not even that claim holds up under scrutiny.  Williams has received lenience repeatedly since the pizza incident, a fact that neither he nor the reporter seem to view as a contradiction of his profound feeling of victimization.  One of his subsequent crimes was even a threat of violence:

in September 2003, his girlfriend called 911 and reported that Williams was verbally abusing her. A police officer arrived to find Williams moving out after a fight and demanding $150 he had paid toward the bills.  As the officer looked on, Williams told his girlfriend: “I’m going to put a bullet in your ass if I don’t get my money.”

A prosecutor and a judge let him off:

Williams, who was unarmed, was arrested and charged with making a criminal threat, a felony that could have landed him back in prison for life. But Kings County prosecutors did not treat the crime as a third strike. Williams pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor and was released from jail after 17 days.

And then he immediately broke the terms of his probation upon leaving prison, again with no consequences:

As part of his sentence, he was barred from leaving Kings County without permission. Nevertheless, Williams moved to Moreno Valley to live with another sister. An arrest warrant was issued and remains active.

And then again:

Since landing in Moreno Valley, he has been arrested once — for being drunk in public — but was released without charges being filed.

How on earth does the reporter square such facts with his depiction of Williams as a desperate, haunted man peering nervously over his shoulder, terrified of the slightest slip-up?  He was not afraid to violate his probation.  Twice.  He was not afraid to threaten to murder someone — in front of a policeman.  He doesn’t sound particularly frightened at all.  He sounds as if he knows that he can avail himself of a passel of silk-stockinged civil liberties attorneys any time a knucklehead cop dares to take him in for attacking a woman, or some other offense.

He sounds as if he knows that his notoriety has placed him above the law.

In one of the many courtrooms, Williams has been sentenced in, a prosecutor “unfurled a computer printout of Williams’ criminal history that extended from his outstretched arm to the floor,” and yet Williams is not behind bars.  Considering the gang and drug activities that consumed his earlier years, the threat of three-strikes has probably saved his life, but he is far too busy whining to be grateful.

~~~

What the criminologists and the activists will not admit, will not acknowledge, let alone discuss, is this: for every Jerry DeWayne Williams, there is a John Floyd Thomas, arrested repeatedly in California over the span of more than two decades for sex crimes and burglaries but released repeatedly, to rape and (now we know) kill again.

Jerry DeWayne Williams may owe his life to the three strikes law, but it did not arrive in time to save the lives of the thirty women in Los Angeles Thomas is now suspected of raping and strangling.

Thirty murdered women.

Funny, you never hear Quakers (or most criminologists) talking about that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To read more factual material about California’s three-strikes law, go to the Three Strikes and You’re Out: Stop Repeat Offenders website.  Rather than trumped-up anecdotes and accusations of fascism, you’ll find data on California’s three-strikes offenders, statistics on use of judicial discretion, examples of dangerous offenders who would have been out of prison, but for the law, and studies evaluating the effect of the law on California’s crime rate.

Crime Victims Media Report Will Return Dec. 28 — No, January 4

no comments

Crime Victims Media Report will return in its new format Dec. 28 (sorry, January 4). Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

Interesting Editorial on Criminal Defense by Judge Dan Winn

no comments

Hat tip to Dan, who passed along the following must-read editorial from the Rome News-Tribune on funding criminal defense.

I found this editorial in today’s paper and thought you would like to read it. I do not know anything about the judge but it sounds like an interesting proposal and a fair assessment of the anti-capital lawyers.  — Dan

Judge Winn has many interesting things to say about the problems with our current system of criminal, and especially, capital defense.  I would add that in other Western court systems, the responsibilities for criminal defense are more frequently spread out among lawyers, as they used to be here.  Unfortunately, in some of those countries, they’re moving closer to a system like ours, with its abuses, excess, and “cult of the defense bar.”

Today, I Am Appearing on Doc Washburn’s Show

no comments

Doc Washburn and I talked about Mike Huckabee’s record of commuting the sentences of violent felons this morning at Fox News Radio Panama City,  94.5 WFLA.

I don’t know if there is a way to catch a re-play of the show on-line.  Luddite, I am.

More Proof of Mike Huckabee’s Lifetime Membership in the Empathy/Leniency Cabal

6 comments

Mike Huckabee made a troubling appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s show yesterday, where O’Reilly praised him for his forthcomingness.

Only . . . he wasn’t.

Journalists in Arkansas and Washington state are raising serious questions about Huckabee’s version of events regarding cop-killer Maurice Clemmons’ release from an Arkansas prison, among other things.

The Arkansas Leader says Huckabee misrepresented Clemmons’ actual record on O’Reilly’s show:

Clemmons, who killed the four officers in Tacoma, wrote Huckabee in 2000 that he had discovered Jesus and he prayed that God would move the governor to reduce his 108-year sentence to time served. . .

To tell his side, Huckabee on Monday arranged to go on the Bill O’Reilly show, where his friend questioned him ever so gingerly. He fudged the details, claiming that Clemmons had gotten those 108 years in prison for only two crimes (there were eight).

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has more details of the real circumstances leading up to Clemmons’ 2000 release:

Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley, whose office opposed Clemmons’ parole in 2000 and 2004, said Huckabee created a flaw in the Arkansas justice system by freeing the number of prisoners he did. . . Huckabee . . . noted local prosecutors didn’t object to Clemmons’ commutation. Jegley said his office doesn’t have any record that the governor notified him of the intention to grant clemency.

So did Huckabee lie about the prosecutor’s position on O’Reilly’s show?  Here is what he said on O’Reilly:

We didn’t have any information from the prosecutors. We sent notices, which is the practice in Arkansas, to five different people: the attorney general, secretary of state, the prosecutor, the judge, and law enforcement. The only official that we have record of getting notification from is the judge who agreed with the recommendation of the parole board. So that’s what we acted upon, what I acted upon.

Did the dog eat the letter Huckabee was supposed to send to the prosecutor?  The prosecutor says outright that he didn’t receive notification, whereas Huckabee is resorting to time-honored low-bar legalisms about ‘the records he did receive’ and ‘the standard practice being notifying the prosecutor.’

In other words, he’s saying he did not not send that letter to that prosecutor.

Huckabee also claimed that nobody else objected to Clemmons’ release.  The Arkansas Leader reports that the victims objected.  So what are they, non-persons?

~~~

Details of Clemmon’s pre-release record, which included aggravated robbery, firearms possession, and burglary, are still emerging.  Bear in mind that criminal records often represent only a fraction of the crimes a defendant has been involved in: others get “disappeared” in a variety of ways — permanently shelved when one crime is charged, horse-traded into oblivion through pleas, or sealed and abandoned if the defendant is a juvenile, as Clemmons was.  And whenever I see a burglary charge for someone later charged with rape, I wonder if it was an attempted rape, a fishing expedition for victims, or a rape pleaded down to a lesser offense.

For, DNA database hits are uncovering scores of serial rapists whose only prior convictions were for burglary and other lesser offenses.

In any case, he must have been a real monster to garner such a sentence in the first place — though Huckabee saw things differently:

In 1990, the then 18-year-old Clemmons was sentenced as a habitual criminal to 60 years in prison for burglary and theft of property.  Just before he was sentenced Clemmons reportedly took a padlock off his holding cell and tried to throw it a court bailiff, but accidentally struck his mother, who had come to bring him street clothes. . . . Clemmons was found guilty of breaking into the home of a state trooper and taking more than $6,000 in valuables, including the trooper’s gun.  In May of 1989, Clemmons was arrested for allegedly carrying a weapon on a Little Rock, Ark., high school campus. Clemmons, then 17, reportedly told officers he brought a .25-caliber pistol to school because he had “been chased and beaten by ‘dopers,’ ” and if they got after him again he “had something for them.”

Prosecutors say the record was bad:

[T]he Pulaski County prosecutor’s office twice objected to parole recommendations for Clemmons.”For us to prosecute a 17-year-old, and for him to get a 95-year sentence without a homicide — you’ve got to be a bad little dude to draw that kind of a sentence,” said Mark Fraiser, who prosecuted the earlier cases against Clemmons in Pulaski County.

“He had an obvious propensity for future violence,” Fraiser said today. “To wake up this morning and turn on the news and hear his name, I can’t even imagine the suffering of those families and the suffering of people in those communities.”

~~~

Details about the prosecutor’s position on clemency and Clemmon’s criminal record aren’t the only things Huckabee fudged on O’Reilly’s show.

Simultaneously, he insinuated that there were too many clemency appeals to look at them closely:

I looked at every case file, and I had 1,200 of these a year. This is what people need to understand.

but that he nevertheless looked at this one very carefully:

O’REILLY: Now, did you study it? Did you study it? I mean, look, governors have a lot of this stuff.

HUCKABEE: Yes.

O’REILLY: Did you study this guy? Did you spend a lot of time on it, or did you just take the advice of your advisers?

HUCKABEE: No, I looked at every case file, and I had 1,200 of these a year. This is what people need to understand. Ninety-two percent of the time they were denied. But in this case, the judge in the case was also recommending and the parole board on a 5-0 vote, because at the age of 16, the sentence he got for the crimes he committed back in 1989 was excessive for anything else that was in Arkansas.

Is there anything he won’t say?  That doesn’t even make any sense.

Huckabee might have had 1,200 commutation requests every year, but so do other governors who don’t behave as if releasing violent offenders is a badge of honor.  Or a hobby:

Saline County Circuit Judge Robert Herzfeld, who as a prosecutor successfully sued Huckabee over clemency practices, said Huckabee’s decision to give Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards a pardon for a 1975 traffic offense after meeting him at a concert showed how lightly the ex-governor approached the practice.

“That just said volumes about how he considered this serious ultimate power over freedom as a joke,” Herzfeld said.

Having 1,200 commutation requests doesn’t mean a thing — it certainly doesn’t mean you should go beating the bushes to let rapists off easy.  If you read one thing about Huckabee, read this detailed and damning expose on his efforts to cover-up his role in the release of rapist and murderer Wayne DuMond:

New sources, including an advisor to Gov. Mike Huckabee, have told the Arkansas Times that Huckabee and a senior member of his staff exerted behind-the-scenes influence to bring about the parole of rapist Wayne Dumond, who Missouri authorities say raped and killed a woman there shortly after his parole [DNA confirmed Dumond’s guilt].  Huckabee has denied a role in Dumond’s release . . . Huckabee has shifted responsibility for Dumond’s release to others, claiming former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker made Dumond eligible for parole and saying the Post Prison Transfer Board made the decision on its own to free Dumond.  But the Times’ new reporting shows the extent to which Huckabee and a key aide were involved in the process to win Dumond’s release. It was a process marked by deviation from accepted parole practice and direct personal lobbying by the governor, in an apparently illegal and unrecorded closed-door meeting with the parole board (the informal name by which the Post Prison Transfer Board is known).  After Huckabee told the board, in executive session, that he believed Dumond got a “raw deal,” according to a board member who was there, and supported his release, board chairman Leroy Brownlee personally paved the way for Dumond’s release, according to board records and former members. During that time — from December 1996 to January 1997 — Brownlee regularly consulted with Butch Reeves, the governor’s prison liaison, on the status of his efforts, two state officials have told the Times.

Read the rest here.

~~~

Meanwhile the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports this appalling exchange.  I think it says everything that needs to be said about Huckabee’s real attitude towards crime victims:

A county prosecutor in Arkansas, Robert Herzfeld, wrote Huckabee arguing that his clemency policy was “fatally flawed” — and would later sue to overturn a Huckabee decision to set free a murderer who bludgeoned his victim.

The reply to his letter came from Huckabee’s chief of staff: “The governor read your letter and laughed out loud. He wanted me to respond to you. I wish you success as you cut down on your caffeine consumption.”

Huckabee “laughed out loud” at an urgent plea to keep a convicted murderer behind bars.  Now he says he’s “heartbroken” at the four officers’ deaths.  What a difference a little negative publicity makes.

And what a shame Bill O’Reilly is covering for Huckabee.  O’Reilly is usually one of the only people in the media who speak up for crime victims, as he did last year in this truly appalling case.  O’Reilly says he’s going after the judges — presumably the one who helped get Clemmons off and then officiated at his wedding:

“I figure young people make some mistakes,” [Judge Marion Humphrey] said. Also a Presbyterian minister, Humphrey said he believes in giving people a second chance.  Humphrey in 2004 also officiated Clemmons’ wedding when he married his fiance Nicole Cheryleen Smith, according to a copy of the marriage certificate [this, after how many additional offenses?].  “It would be the furthest thing from my mind that he would go out and kill four police officers, if in fact he did,” Humphrey said.

~~~

It’s this mindset that’s the problem. Huckabee, like far too many politicians, parole board members, judges, and even prosecutors (who are often defense attorneys-in-training) work hard to minimize criminals’ records at every turn, endlessly seeking any golden ring to justify releasing them back onto the streets.

They are abetted, and praised for this by a wide variety of extremely influential people — law professors, criminologists, academic and foundation leaders, religious leaders, and, of course, virtually everyone in the media: the Empathy/Leniency Cabal.  Our legal system is suffused with empathy for the worst offenders, and a culture of extreme leniency that gets cops, and other living things, killed with chilling regularity.

This was the worldview Huckabee chose, and to deny that now is simply dishonest.

Peter Hermann (Baltimore Sun) Sheds Some Light on the Murder Rate, Looks for Light in the Courts

no comments

If you read nothing else this week, read the following two articles by Peter Hermann.  Baltimore struggles with crime and court issues very similar to Atlanta’s.  More severe, in their case:

Delving More Deeply Into Shooting Stats

Here are some statistics about recent killings in Baltimore:

The 107 people charged with murder last year had accumulated a combined 1,065 prior arrests – 380 related to guns and 99 related to drugs.

The 234 people killed last year had a combined 2,404 prior arrests – 162 related to guns and 898 related to drugs.

That’s an average of 10 arrests per suspect and 10.3 arrests per victim.

If murderers and their victims have been arrested, on average, ten times, then nothing will reduce the murder rate more dramatically than taking recidivism seriously.  Unfortunately, in Baltimore, as in Atlanta, there’s little of that:

Police repeatedly complain that the people they put in handcuffs only return to the streets to do more harm. Here are the number of times some murder suspects and victims from last year had been arrested: 74, 71, 49, 40, 38, 34, 29. … The list goes on.

These numbers don’t say anything about conviction rates, and there’s a sad tale behind each case, a book-length reason why someone can get arrested 74 times before dying on a street corner or get arrested 71 times before being charged with murder.

I wonder who has the highest number of arrests in Atlanta?  Hermann offers a list of factors that result in multiple arrests without significant prison time:

Many are hopelessly sick addicts arrested on petty charges, such as loitering, or involving small amounts of drugs, which tend to pile up but don’t result in much jail time. Cases fall apart in Baltimore for a myriad of reasons that include an overwhelmed court system, distrust of police, jury nullification and witnesses and victims who are too scared or just don’t care to testify. [italics added]

Read the rest here.

~~~

Hermann on transparency in the courts:

Time for Open Records

I had hoped that a video of a juvenile court hearing would help explain how a teenager with a long criminal record who had just been arrested in a drug bust could be sent home from a detention center only to be charged with killing a man two hours later in the front seat of a Buick Park Avenue.

Unfortunately, what I saw not only fails to explain why state officials freed 17-year-old Maurice Brown, but it raises new questions about the case, while revealing proposed procedural changes that would make it easier for more young offenders to avoid detention. . .

The story of Maurice Brown — released to his mother’s custody, committing murder two hours later, could be any one of a dozen recent cases in Atlanta, or more than a dozen.  How many more?  Nobody knows.

Read the rest here.

City of Laws, or City of Individual Armed Compounds?

4 comments

There were 39,000 property crimes reported to the police in Atlanta last year. Think about that.  That’s more than 100 a day.

Now think about how many more crimes there would be if people weren’t constructing armed compounds around themselves, at enormous financial and psychological expense.

I read a neighborhood post yesterday that really made me think.  A woman reported that she was alone in her house with her baby when somebody rang the doorbell in the middle of the night, then kicked in the door.

She grabbed her child, went to a secluded place, and hid there while dialing 911.

That’s really smart.  I probably would have headed right for the front door to see who was there, which could have been disastrous in this case.

A second incident was also reported on the website — starting with a doorbell ringing in the middle of the night.  So be prepared to act defensively if somebody rings your doorbell or knocks on the door at a strange time.

And think about how you would escape from your own house, if somebody came in through the front door, the back door, the garage.  Terrible to have to think this way, but there it is.

~~~

There is one self-defense book I think everybody should read.  It’s called The Gift of Fear, by Gavin De Becker.  Ignore the title.  It’s an important book because it actually trains you to listen to your instincts — not just to cope with situations that involve strangers, but also to evaluate the possible dangers from people you meet or know: intimate partners, potential dates, work colleagues, and so on.  De Becker isn’t paranoid, and he certainly doesn’t view all men as potentially violent towards women — none of that.  He simply teaches readers to “give themselves permission” to act on gut feelings by seeking safety.  You won’t hear me spout New Age lingo like that very often (not to mention the word “lingo”), but that’s his method.  And people nowadays need permission, sometimes, to react to an unexpected situation or to get away from an abuser.  We have been trained to be too sensitive towards all the wrong things: I think of all those people on the MARTA train studiously saying nothing while “MARTA Girl” threatened that elderly woman.

Much of the book is about anticipating danger.  If you know a woman who is in or has ever been in a violent relationship, buy her this book today.  It is better than talking yourself blue in the face, even if she is not ready to protect herself.  It will save both of you a lot of time.  If you have a daughter or son going off to college, or starting to date, make them read this book.  If you have friends moving to a new neighborhood, buy them this book, because people are especially vulnerable to crime when they move.  If you have friends or employees who work late in restaurants — well, you get the point.

If you’re going to do one thing to protect yourself, read this book.  It’s really that good.

The Genesis of a Lie: How Brutal Killers Become Victims, Part 1

no comments

This is what Michael King looked like when he was caught in 2008 after abducting, raping and murdering 21-year old mother Denise Amber Lee:

Normal looking guy, right?  King was a husband and father, a home-owner, a businessman who worked as a plumber.  But he’s recently gotten a make-over:

This is King in the courtroom, stumbling around slack-faced, pretending to be incompetent in the interest of setting up a post-conviction defense of mental insufficiency.  He kept this face on for the entire trial.

His attorneys alleged that he had diminished intelligence and capacity from a sledding accident he had at six.

You know, before he went to school, got married, started a business, had a kid. . . and then abducted a beautiful young mother and tortured her in a “rape room” before slaughtering her, while expertly eluding authorities.

Expect the European press to automatically (and mindlessly) add King to their list of “mentally handicapped child-men sitting helplessly on American death row.”

Tomorrow: Two Newspapers, and How They Covered the King Trial

Two Crime I Didn’t Report: Part 2

1 comment

Yesterday, I wrote about crimes that don’t get counted in the official statistics and people who don’t get to live decent lives because powerful people work so hard to deny the terrible daily impact of crime.

A new anti-crime ethic is percolating in the neighborhoods and on-line.  This ethic, however, is being slandered because it flies directly in the face of the tired old excuse-making and crime-downplaying that has long been the status quo among politicians and criminologists.

One of the ironies of this status quo is that people who study crime seem intent upon denying its existence.  Every year, the FBI releases raw data on crime reports, and then, inevitably, like the swallows returning to Capistrano, a great cry emerges from the hallways of sociology departments:

Crime records are meaningless!  We need to understand criminals, not punish them!  Shame on people who worry about crime!  They’re hysterics, “perceiving” danger that does not really exist.

Well, OK, that’s a little exaggerated. Criminologists don’t shout.  They sit quietly at their desks and wait for journalists to call them so they can discuss their latest modeling techniques that show that crime simply is not the problem that the great unwashed public believes it to be.  And this is as predictable as the Capistrano swallows: not a season passes without some new statistical effort to “adjust” crime rates downward.

A great deal of the statistical jostling that occurs at the release of the Uniform Crime Reports has to do with the ranking of cities in terms of relative danger.  Nobody wants to be #1 in homicide, after all.  Nobody wants to be #1 in any crime rate, which is why the criminologists get crunching and the politicians start working the microphones as soon as the new UCR hits the streets.

It’s a cynical game, and a dangerous one. As I said yesterday, no politician should ever be allowed to declare victory over crime so long as people have to cover their front doors with metal bars in order to keep criminals from kicking the door down.  Criminologists in particular have a lot to answer for in their quest to excuse offenders, oppose incarceration, and downplay crime prevalence — more or less the official mantra of the profession since the 1970’s.

One of the more curious efforts at adjusting crime rates downward originates at Georgia State University, where Professor Robert Friedmann has gained national attention for arguing that crime data should be adjusted based on the number of poor, unemployed, black, and single-female-headed households in the city in question, a measure he equates with “social and economic disadvantage.”

Here is how Professor Friedmann’s formula works.  In 2007, Atlanta ranked 8th in the nation among large cities for prevalence of homicide based on population and the number of homicides reported to the Uniform Crime Reports.  Professor Friedmann took that raw data and “factored in” census information about the percentage of poor people, black people, unemployed people, and single-parent, female-headed households in Atlanta compared to other cities.  When you factor in these characteristics in a particular way, he argues, Atlanta is no longer the 8th most dangerous city in America: it drops to number 43.

Here is his mathematical model for “adjusting” Atlanta’s homicide rate:

The statistical model used to estimate adjusted homicide rates for the 63 large US cities was specified as follows:

Homrate = a + b1(Poverty) + b2(MdInc) +  b3(MaleUnem) + b4(Black) +  b5(FemHead), where

bullet

Homrate = Homicides per 100,000 city residents;

bullet

Poverty = Percentage of families with incomes below the poverty line;

bullet

MdInc = Median household income;

bullet

MaleUnem = Percentage of males age 20-64 unemployed;

bullet

Black = Percentage of the population black; and

bullet

FemHead = Percentage of families with children under the age of 18 headed by a female.

I am deeply uncomfortable with this theory: I think it presumes a certain level of pathology among minority populations and then measures nothing more than the deviations from this micro-engineered pathology rate.

Here are the before-and-after top ten rankings for 2007 (go here and click on table-1 for the full list):

  • Highest unadjusted homicide rates: Detroit, Baltimore, St. Louis, Newark, Washington D.C., Oakland, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Cleveland, Memphis.
  • Highest adjusted homicide rates: Newark, Baltimore, St. Louis, Oakland, Phoenix, San Francisco, Alburqueque, Washington D.C., Miami, Tulsa.

The clear winners of Dr. Friedmann’s approach are Atlanta, which drops from 8th to 43rd place, and Detroit, which drops from 1st to 23rd (well, prior to this week’s revelation that they under-counted murders by some 25%).  So, Atlanta alone benefits from this approach, at least in an academic sense.

At the cost, one might say, of a quantification of the soft bigotry of lowered expectations.  Instead of measuring incidents of crime in order to arrive at the crime rate, Friedmann measures the race of the population and then contextualizes crime within race.  Even murders committed by whites are reflected through the presence or absence of a black population, and while I cannot imagine that being the intent of this exercise, it is an unavoidable result.

Instead of blaming crime on the criminals who commit crime, Friedmann blames socio-economic “crime producing” factors.  He blames everybody, in practice, with the exception of the criminals themselves, who are partially acquitted of blame in the process.  This shifting of blame from “criminal actors” to “everyone” has been the main project of criminology since at least the mid-Seventies, which is probably why a theory like Friedmann’s didn’t raise more eyebrows, when what he is saying may actually be paraphrased: “Well, you must expect a certain amount of murder from poor, jobless, fatherless black people.”

One columnist in San Francisco expressed wry amusement that their 88 slayings placed them higher on the homicide list than Detroit for 2004 (the figures above are 2007):

A new study by the Improving Crime Data Project shows that San Francisco had the highest homicide rate among the 67 largest U.S. cities in 2004, when our fair burg racked up 88 slayings. In effect, the study posits that with our generally boffo quality of life — think fabulous ocean views and Gavin Newsom’s hair — we should have far fewer murders. Instead, we’re the new Baltimore. . .

“That’s the price you pay for living well,” quips criminologist Alfred Blumstein, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, who worked on the project with Friedmann and Richard Rosenfeld, a criminal justice professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Blumstein suggests that, given our relatively high median income of $55,000, low unemployment rate, and stable residential base, the number of homicides ought to decline. “It’s a problem you should be able to do something about.”

Detroit, for its part, was delighted to be knocked from #1 to #23 for 2007:

If you consider Detroit’s socioeconomic status, it’s not the deadliest city in the country after all, according to rankings released this week by the Improving Crime Data Project.

This was, of course, before the other bodies showed up off their books.  But there’s the rub, and it is far from amusing: all those people murdered in Detroit in 2004, and 2005, and 2006 and so on did not stop being dead just because some criminologists found a sophisticated way to justify away Detroit’s high rate of crime, or some police official found a clever way to avoid recording murders in which the victim lingered in I.C.U. for two days before dying.

All the homicide victims in Detroit would still be just as dead if the standard of living in San Francisco were to suddenly plunge below that of the Motor City.

You can play with statistics all day long, but crime is still out there, bearing down on people like that girl and her grandmother living in the war zone that is Thomasville Heights.  If any lesson is to be learned from the existence of studies that add “socio-economics” to crime statistics, it is that we have a greater emergency on our hands, not a lesser one.  If children are being born and raised in environments so destructive that it must be presumed that they will be far more likely to kill or be killed, that ought to be cause for alarm, not quiescence.

And Now, Back to Crime, Or: My Latest Trip to Atlanta

no comments

I am back home in Florida after a sad trip to Atlanta.  No matter where I am, I read the Atlanta Journal Constitution every day, so sometimes it seems as if I never really leave the city.  Weirdly, now when I’m actually in Atlanta, it seems like I’m not completely there, too, because I’ve gotten used to reading the Atlanta paper while looking out the window at this:

(my Florida backyard)

Such are the dislocations of the internet age.

Anyway, the new FBI crime statistics are out, and already being debated.  Meanwhile, a Real Clear Politics report ranking cities by safety is out, and already being debated — that is, the part about Atlanta being the second-most dangerous large city in America, after Memphis.  And on the flip side of the coin — the “crime is perception, not reality” side, one might say, other studies attempting to minimize the impact of crime using extremely odd criminological arguments about the meaning of criminal activity are still drifting through the atmosphere.

So this week, in an effort to feel a little less personally dislocated (relatively), I’m going to tackle to far more dislocated subject of crime stats: what they are, what they aren’t, and, most importantly, what they cannot be.

One pretty glaring thing crime stats cannot be is accurate.  There are many reasons for this, but let me just offer one:

I did not report the attempted crime I saw happening in the parking lot of the Walmart on Highway 41 on June 7, so next year it will not be part of the statistics on crime in Atlanta.

More Tomorrow…

Blog Will Resume

no comments

Blog will resume Monday, June 15.

In Transit

3 comments

In transit, due to a death . . .

Helen Rose Trent, 1940 – 2009

The More Things Change . . .

no comments

Thirty years ago this month, the murder of a young cancer researcher sparked outrage in Atlanta.  Dr. Mark Tetalman, a nuclear medicine specialist from Ohio, was attending a conference at the downtown Hilton Hotel when armed robbers shot him to death in front of his wife near the corner of Piedmont and Ponce de Leon Avenues.

The business community accused Mayor Maynard Jackson and Police Chief George Napper of dismissing public concerns about crime.  Atlanta had the highest murder rate and the highest overall crime rate of any city, and the numbers were rapidly climbing higher, with a 69% increase in homicides between 1978 and 1979 alone.

The police force was demoralized and severely understaffed – far down from the 2,000 budgeted positions, which had never, in reality, translated into anywhere near 2,000 cops on the force.  The size of the force had dwindled by 25% between 1975 and 1979.

A month later, the bodies of fourteen-year old Edward Hope Smith and thirteen-year old Alfred Evans were found on Nisky Lake Road in southwest Atlanta.  The Atlanta child murders (or at least the officially recognized ones) had begun.

It is not inspirational to realize that these headlines could be from 1979 or 2009: “Police Demoralized, Underpaid, Understaffed.”  “Mayor Accused of Not Caring About Public Safety.” “Youths Found Murdered.”  “Cancer Researcher Killed in Robbery.”

How could so little have changed?

One thing changed.  In 1979, the metro area’s population was 2,233,000.  Thirty years later, it stands at 5,626,000.  The population increase in Atlanta itself is much smaller —  (approximately) 425,000 in 1979 and 519,000 today.  Nearly 3.5 million more people in the region; nearly 100,000 more people in the city itself – and Atlanta still can’t seem to achieve those 2,000 cops.

I will be travelling to Atlanta today.  Blogs will resume in a few days.  Look for my blog postings and an op-ed on the Police Benefits scandal in Sunday Paper.

Another Post on the Ramage Report

no comments

See my latest blog on the injured Atlanta Police Officers scandal at today’s Ramage Report.

Injured Police and Atlanta’s Political Class

no comments

I am blogging at the Ramage Report on the City of Atlanta’s denial of benefits for injured police.

Five Ugly Pieces, Part 1: The Georgia Public Defender Standards Council Blows Millions on Brian Nichols, Cries Poor

no comments

I’m gonna pull the chain on you, pal. And you wanna know why?  Cause you’re f****** up my city.  Cause you’re walking all over people like you own them.  And you wanna know the worst part?  You’re from out of state. — Tom Sharky, Sharky’s Machine (1981)

Wonder why our courts are falling apart? Remember this headline, from February, 2008?

Tab climbs to nearly $216k quest for Nichols jurors

Fulton County taxpayers have spent nearly $216,000 to pick a jury to hear the death penalty case of courthouse rampage suspect Brian Nichols. Yet after more than a year, not a single juror has been chosen.

And it’s possible many, if not all, of those expenses will have to be paid again if a new jury pool is needed because so much time has passed since the current group of 1,000 potential jurors took their oaths in January 2007, some legal experts say.

“I would imagine you’re not going to be able to recoup that money,” said veteran death penalty defense attorney Jimmy Berry. “Almost everything that’s been allocated is gone.”

A couple of million dollars later, Nichols was convicted, though not sentenced to death.  At every stage of the trial, however, his attorneys gamed the system to run up bills, and the actions of some jurors and judges drove costs even higher.  Judge Hilton Fuller sent the case into a deep tailspin after he granted an interview to attorney and author Jeffrey Toobin, who quoted the judge chatting about Nichols’ obvious guilt, thus providing Nichols’ lawyers with even more opportunities to derail the system.

Nichols carried out his murders in front of witnesses and confessed to the crimes; nonetheless, were you among the many who breathed a sigh of relief only after he was actually convicted?  Such is the twisted state of our trial system, where expensive game-playing by defense attorneys has taken the place of sanity, the people’s interests, or reasonable efforts to arrive at the truth.

The Gideon decision required American taxpayers to foot the bill for defendants who said they were too poor to pay for a lawyer. Since then, the defense bar has often used Gideon as a weapon in their ongoing efforts to undermine laws they oppose — particularly the death penalty. In essence, they are forcing you to pay for their activism under the cover of providing counsel for poor defendants. Such efforts get ramped up wherever there are state-funded “Defenders Councils” mixing advocacy with representing clients, all on the taxpayers’ dime. Why should we be paying for the infrastructure of what has become an activist organization?

And why, precisely, was Brian Nichols given such stretch-limousine legal representation at the expense of every other “indigent” defendant in the state of Georgia?  Because the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council said that nothing less would do.  From the New York Times:

ATLANTA, March 21 [2007] — A high-profile multiple-murder case has drained the budget of Georgia’s public defender system and brought all but a handful of its 72 capital cases to a standstill.

The case involves a rape suspect, Brian Nichols, who is accused of escaping from a courthouse here in 2005 after overpowering a guard, taking her gun and then killing a judge, a court reporter and two other people before he was recaptured.

Prosecutors say the evidence against Mr. Nichols, including a videotaped confession, is overwhelming. But the case has cost the public defender system $1.4 million, and, on Wednesday, the judge in the case postponed jury selection until Sept. 10. . . .

The Georgia Public Defender Standards Council, which manages the public defender system, has run out of money. That means it can no longer pay the three private lawyers on Mr. Nichols’s defense team. . . .

The case “is testing the will of the state of Georgia with regard to whether or not the death penalty is worth the amount it costs,” said Mike Mears, director of the standards council.

I thought the case was supposed to determine Brian Nichols’ guilt, not test the taxpayers’ will.  What an astonishing display of hubris.  Usually when people misuse public monies, they have the decency to not brag about it in the New York Times.

What’s even worse than legislating from the bench? Legislating from the defendant’s table.  What’s worse than that?  Using the bench to legislate from the defendant’s table.  It’s hard not to conclude that Brian Nichols’ obvious guilt actually enabled the Standards Council to exploit the case for political gain:

Judge Fuller, a Superior Court judge in neighboring DeKalb County who was brought out of retirement for the Nichols trial, has been put in the unusual position of approving all spending for Mr. Nichols’s defense, a responsibility that would ordinarily fall to the Public Defender Standards Council, which oversees the Office of the Georgia Capital Defender.

But in 2005, the Office of the Capital Defender was disqualified from managing Mr. Nichols’s defense after Judge Fuller learned that one of the first four public defenders assigned to represent him was not qualified to practice law in Georgia.

Judge Fuller then appointed four new lawyers to defend Mr. Nichols, and the judge agreed to pay Henderson Hill, a noted defense lawyer from North Carolina, $175 an hour, about half what Mr. Hill customarily bills his private clients. Two of Mr. Nichols’s other lawyers are being paid $125 and $95 per hour, and the fourth is a state employee.

Hmmm, we need a Capital Defender’s Council because we need highly trained, specialized lawyers to take on all the vagaries of capital defense, but this crack team of lawyers conveniently forgot the extremely basic rule that one must be licensed to practice law in Georgia in order to practice law in Georgia?

Or was this just another expense-producing delay tactic?  Funny how, either way, the defense wins.

Real, actual, elected legislators should not yield to these tactics. An excellent way to free up money for indigent defense is to simply stop funding the defense council, which has proven itself untrustworthy with the taxpayers’ money.

Sure, they’ll threaten even more endless appeals for inadequate representation, especially in cases with truly heinous offenders, the bread-and-butter of such advocacy (theory being that standing up for the truly indefensible is a badge of real courage, while standing up for a small-potatoes felon is both boring and hard to publicize).

But they’ll file endless appeals in every high profile case anyway.  So why keep giving in to their demands?

This past year, the Georgia Legislature proposed stripping the Council of its funding oversight authority. The bill died in the House, but it’s worth reconsidering. Why should the rest of us, and the justice system itself, be held hostage by an advocacy group? Why should indigent defense allocations be determined by people whose real, admitted goal is to shut down the system?

Once again, Georgia State Senator Preston Smith (R – Rome) served as a voice of reason on both the Nichols case and the Defender Standards Council.  Georgia is lucky to have Mr. Smith in office.  In the New York Times:

In Georgia, State Senator Preston W. Smith, a Republican and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he thought the high price of Mr. Nichols’s defense was by design rather than necessity.

“You’re building in an incentive to destroy the death penalty by building in a financial nuclear weapon,” Mr. Smith said. “There’s one cynical view that says this isn’t at all by accident.”

The Standards Council knew precisely what it was doing when they created a giant cash sinkhole out of the Brian Nichols case. Heck, they bragged about it. And now they’re complaining that they simply cannot provide lawyers for poor people because all the money’s spent.  A must-read article on this, from last week’s Atlanta Journal Constitution:

In Georgia, Lawyers Abandoning [the] Poor

Across Georgia, poor people accused of crimes are being abandoned by their lawyers because there is no money to pay their legal fees.

There are also 10 death-penalty cases proceeding to trial with $1.1 million in expected billings. But there is no money to pay for those cases, either.

And another must-read article: also from the AJC last week:

880 Fulton Inmates Still Await Trial a Year Later: Court System, State Funding, other factors blamed in backlog

Jonathon Robinson is charged with raping three women, but he has sat in the Fulton County jail for four years without a trial at an estimated cost to local taxpayers of more than $100,000.

Robinson may be one of the worst cases of justice delayed but it is far from an isolated one. The Fulton county jail currently has a backlog of about 880 prisoners who have been awaiting trial — most for felonies like murder, rape or armed robbery — for more than a year, according to county figures. . . .

There are a number of contributing factors: The case backlog is blamed on various reasons: a fragmented and largely unaccountable court system, lack of state funding for enough judges, wily defense lawyers, mandatory sentencing that makes it difficult to plea bargain and the failure of Superior Court judges to manage their dockets and set cases for trial.

Robinson’s case touches on most of those factors. Last May, Robinson asked the Georgia Court of Appeals to void his indictments on the grounds his constitutional rights have been violated for lack of a speedy trial. No ruling has yet been handed down.

“He has been failed by the court system, the prosecutors and his defense lawyers,” said his former lawyer Scott Dawkins. “He was in front of a judge … who didn’t move cases very well. He kept getting bounced from attorney to attorney and the prosecutors kept switching.”

The Superior Court has been taking steps to address the backlog to eliminate jail overcrowding and develop a more efficient court system. It’s a tall order in a system in which the 19 judges are independently elected with little accountability, answerable only to voters. They generally run unopposed.

I’ve been critical of the AJC for its criminal justice reporting in the past.  But I’ve been nothing but impressed by their coverage of the last several months of funding crises and other crises in the state justice system.

Meanwhile, it’s time for the state to stop handing blank checks to the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council. Take the state checkbook away from the activists, and put somebody neutral and accountable in charge of allocating funds for indigent defense.

The “Benjy Brigade,” Part 2: After the DNA

12 comments

(this is part 2)

On March 23, 2003, DNA specialist Edward Blake announced that the semen taken from the victim’s public hair was, indeed, Benjamin LaGuer’s. The victim had not been lying, and she was not a racist monster. The things that had been written about her and spoken about her in the halls of Harvard Law and judge’s chambers throughout the city were false. Benjamin LaGuer was the racist, and a sadistic rapist and attempted murderer, as well. After the shock subsided, Boston’s elite went into mourning. Several journalists wrote weepy paeans to their own good intentions. “I put the covers over my head, and for the next six hours, I just couldn’t get out of bed,” said reporter John Strahinich, whose thoughts under the covers apparently did not stray to retracting the bile he had directed at the frail victim of his jailhouse pal.

The Boston media had finally found a victim they could believe in: themselves.

Yet even the very public unraveling of their unprofessional alliance with LaGuer failed to move them to go back and correct the record. Most simply abandoned the story, retreating into a cowardly silence, refusing to comment further on a case they had obsessively scribbled on for years. Only Dianne Williamson of the Worchester Telegram & Gazette actually apologized to the victim in print.

This behavior, however, was hardly the worst exhibited in the wake of the DNA results. Boston University president John Silber came out and reiterated his belief that “Benjy” should be released, even though he was guilty, even though he still refused to take responsibility for the crime, and even though he had recently managed to harass the victim on her deathbed by posing as a priest on the phone from prison (with his lawyer’s help? with a journalist’s help?) and then “absolving” her when he was tapped through to her hospital room, making his voice one of the last voices she heard and re-traumatizing her family.

“I think he’s a fine person,” Silber told the press.

What could possibly underlie this degree of cognitive disconnection, short of poisonous hatred for the victim of the crime? Only by despising her could you look at the violation of her body, the twenty-year public excoriation of her, and the violation of her deathbed, and see in her tormentor “a fine person.”

This was Boston: a city ironically weaned on literary tales of the danger of scapegoating “witches” had created, and destroyed, another one.

As journalists mourned in uncharacteristic silence, politically savvy supporters of LaGuer scrambled for cover. Intent on winning the governor’s mansion, Deval Patrick attempted to play down his long association with LaGuer, getting caught in serious lies in the process.

But John Silber, Noam Chomsky, and William Styron continued to support LaGuer’s release. Silber told the press that he believed LaGuer had come to believe his own lies about not having committed the crime, so — technically — LaGuer was not lying when he continued to claim his innocence. “I think he can be quite sincere in saying he didn’t do it,” Silber said, “I still think that’s a psychological misconception on his part . . . I think he’s a perfectly good example of a screwed-up kid who was on drugs and making every mistake you can imagine.”

Silber went on to explain that, for Benjy, having to admit guilt in order to be freed when he did not actually believe he was guilty because he had convinced himself he was not was a “Catch-22.” Consequently, LaGuer should be freed even though he was both guilty and refused to admit guilt, Silber explained at a parole hearing a year after the DNA results confirmed LaGuer’s guilt.

Here is a picture of John Silber’s book:

As I watched John Silber and all the judges and professors and lawyers and writers rally around Benjamin LaGuer, I wondered what it must have felt like to be a rape victim attending Boston University or Harvard or Harvard Law School at that time, knowing that the president of B.U. and other authority figures on those campuses were doing their utmost to smear the reputation of another victim of rape and free her assailant. What would it be like to get up in the morning and go to class and actually work for your degree (not to mention pay for it), while Benjamin LaGuer got showered with literary awards and honorary degrees — because, let’s be blunt here, he was a rapist who cried racism?

What would it be like to walk into a classroom knowing that your professor was spending his free time preening for the cameras on behalf of a man who bound a frail, elderly woman, beat her senseless, sexually violated her, broke her cheekbones, tried to kill her, and then cajoled others to treat her like a monster?

I don’t think I could have taken it. I think I would have left that place.

I wonder if there were victims who did leave, knowing full well that to speak out on behalf of the victim would be to be labeled by extremely powerful people — labeled a racist, a hate-monger, and a woman who lies about rape.

Update on Jamal (Shamal) Thompson: Is the Law of Georgia Being Enforced in the Courts of Georgia by Judges in Georgia?

no comments

WSB-Channel 2 Atlanta Reporter Tom Jones has been following the Jamal Thompson case more closely than anyone, and he confirmed last week that DeKalb County Judge Cynthia Becker, relying on Thompson’s lies about his past, inappropriately granted him first offender status when he had already received that status in a different county in a prior case.

The murder of cancer researcher Eugenia Calle by a recidivist who should have been behind bars raises several questions about the actions of judges and the enforcement of Georgia’s recidivism statutes.  Legislators should move to investigate the application of these laws, to make certain the law of Georgia is being enforced in the courts of Georgia by judges in Georgia.  I suspect any investigation of sentencing outcomes would uncover many instances of first-time offender rules being abused and recidivism statues being ignored in some jurisdictions.

Are there consequences for judges who fail to abide by sentencing laws?

Also, why should every convicted criminal get a second bite of the apple, as it were, with first-time offender status?

Also, there are loopholes in our recidivist code that need to be reformed.

It’s never too early to start thinking about the next legislative session . . .

“Cops Matter. Police Count”

1 comment

Crime is down in Los Angeles, despite the economy:

Police Chief William J. Bratton sounded his familiar refrain when asked to explain why crime has not increased. “Cops matter. Police count,” he said.
Bratton has long clashed with prominent criminologists who argue that police cannot counter larger societal forces — such as the economy and drug epidemics — that they contend drive crime rates.
Criminologists like to point to 1990 – 1991, when a recession coincided with the highest crime rates seen in decades, to justify predictions that economic hardship causes people to commit more crime.  But does it? The types of crime that peaked in the early 90’s were largely fueled by inner-city drug-and-gang behavior related to crack cocaine and inter-generational poverty.  The crime wave preceded the financial crisis and persisted after the recession faded.  Crime rates really began to drop when sentencing laws were toughened, starting in 1993 (now those laws are being rolled back).
 
The stock market doesn’t cause or prevent crime (except white-collar crime).  More cops, and tougher sentencing laws prevent crime; fewer cops and lenient sentencing increases crime.  L.A. is experiencing a terrible unemployment picture, but crime is down, thanks (virtually everyone agrees) to Bratton’s policing.  In other part of the country, the economy is not so bad, but crime is still up.  It’s simple, really: nobody in this country has to steal bread to feed their children.  Trust the cop, not the criminologists.