Nutcase Maricopa County Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Department Falsified Evidence, Killed Diabetic Woman By Denying Her Insulin And Medical Care – Deputies Told Victim “This Is Jail. Get Over It.”

September 15, 2012

MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA – Readers, please add Maricopa County, Arizona to your mental list of places not to get arrested in. Yes, white people, even you.

Deborah Braillard, age 46, was arrested and booked on a minor drug possession charge in January of 2005. Despite being a diabetic, Braillard was not given insulin or any other medication or medical care for four full days, until she was eventually brought to the hospital in a diabetic coma. She died 18 days later of complications from diabetes, and her family’s civil suit against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is now proceeding at trial.

According to the pretrial deposition testimony of the guards and inmates who witnessed the incident, Braillard was constantly moaning and crying out in pain, asking for help, repeatedly vomiting, defecating on herself and having seizures.

“She would shake. Her body would stiffen up,” said Tamela Harper, an inmate in the jail with Braillard. “They never did anything to help her.”

Inmates testified that they begged officers to do something, but apparently prison guards in Maricopa County consider seizures, repeated vomiting, and pooping oneself simply part of the whole prison experience. Harper testified the prisoners alerted the guards to Braillard’s worsening condition, but the guards responded:

“’There’s nothing we can do about it. You just have to deal with it. This is jail. Get over it.”’

Harper added that officers said Braillard was “kicking drugs” and that she was “getting what she deserved.“

On Thursday, plaintiffs’ counsel called Dr. Todd Wilcox, a nationally renowned expert on correctional medical care and services, to testify against his former employer, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. (He eventually quit his job after he became so frustrated with the Sheriff’s Office’s unwillingness to improve training, conditions and access to medical care for inmates and detainees.) Wilcox told the jury that the Sheriff’s Office fostered a culture of deliberate indifference and secrecy.

In this instance, Wilcox testified the medical screening document that should have been created when Braillard was booked into the jail was missing. At trial, the Sheriff’s Office produced a document indicating that Braillard had — for some unknown reason — told jail staff during intake that she was not diabetic. However, the document is dated three days after the intake took place and hours after Braillard had already been rushed to the hospital in an irreversible diabetic coma. The family’s lawyers say the document is a fake. Wilcox explained this sort of thing is not unusual on Sheriff Joe’s watch:

“Many mysterious things happen on the Sheriff’s computer network… I remember going to lunch one day and coming back with my sandwich to find somebody controlling my mouse remotely and locating folders and documents.”

On a related note, Sheriff Joe is up for reelection this year, and he has already raised over $4 million for his campaign — a pretty obscene amount for a local sheriff’s war chest. The vast majority of donations are coming from out-of-state.
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Speaking of which… oh, hey, look what we found!! The campaign sites of Sheriff Arpaio’s opponents in the upcoming election, Paul Penzone (D) and Michael Stauffer (I). Go make a donation. (For the record, The Daily Dolt has no association with Arpaio, Penzone, or Stauffer. We’re just providing the links because we think Sheriff Joe is a dick.)

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House Oversight Chair Issa Predicts Disgraced US Attorney General Will Be Held In Contempt (But of course it will be civil, and less than a slap on the wrist…)

June 24, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The top Republican leading the House investigation into Operation Fast and Furious said Sunday he expects a “bipartisan” floor vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress this coming week.

“I believe they will (vote to hold him in contempt),” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., told “Fox News Sunday.” “Both Republicans and Democrats will vote that — I believe it will be bipartisan.”

Issa kept his focus on the Justice Department, clarifying that he has no evidence the White House was involved in any Fast and Furious cover-up. But he repeatedly said Congress is trying to get to the bottom of why the Justice Department “lied” about the operation.

The comments underscored the apparent momentum among majority House Republicans behind the contempt push, following a committee contempt vote against Holder along party lines this past week. That vote proceeded after Holder and Republicans were unable to reach an agreement over subpoenaed documents pertaining to the Obama administration’s Fast and Furious discussions.

Issa said Sunday it’s possible the vote could be delayed or even “eliminated” if the administration produces the subpoenaed documents the House is seeking. He noted the entire schedule is at the discretion of House Speaker John Boehner.

“But we have to see the documents first,” he said.

Barring such a resolution, Issa and his allies are teeing up a major election-year clash this coming week between the Executive and Legislative branches, and between Democrats and Republicans.

President Obama intervened this past week, invoking executive privilege to protect the documents in question, but Republicans dismissed the claim and proceeded with the contempt vote. On the sidelines, minority House Democrats are pleading with Republicans take a step back and work out the document dispute without the threat of contempt. At the same time, both sides are antagonizing each other at the dais and in the press over what Democrats claim has become a political “witch hunt.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings, R-Md., ranking Democrat on the oversight committee, told “Fox News Sunday” that the confrontation was entirely avoidable.

“I think it’s extremely unfortunate,” he said. “The attorney general has made it clear that he is willing to work with this Congress.”

Cummings called on Boehner to intervene and try to reach an agreement with Holder that involves turning over some documents while also halting the contempt proceedings.

“I think that we have a duty … at this critical moment to get the documents,” he said. “I know we can get them. It’s just a matter of sitting down and talking to Holder.”

Cummings suggested the course of the committee’s investigation has lost sight of one of the major reasons for the probe — the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, whose murder scene included weapons from the Fast and Furious operation.

But Issa defended the escalation, saying the committee is trying to obtain critical documents to help explain why Congress was initially told — incorrectly — in February 2011 that the government did not knowingly let guns “walk” across the U.S.-Mexico border. The department later issued a correction to that statement.

“We, in fact, are simply trying to get to the truth when we were told a lie,” Issa said. “It’s about the cover-up.”

“Ultimately, Justice lied to the American people on February 4 (2011), and they didn’t make it right for 10 months.”

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Secret Documents Prove Obama’s Disgraced US Attorney General Eric Holder Is Full Of Shit – Hid Department’s Documents On Operations That Armed Criminals And Mexican Drug Cartels

June 7, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – With the help of a mole, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has turned the tables on Attorney General Eric Holder.

Issa has long been exasperated with Holder, claiming that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been withholding information on a controversial gun-running operation. But through an anonymous source, Issa has obtained information about the initiative that is under a federal court-ordered seal.

Giving such information out is a federal crime, raising the question of whether the Justice Department will seek to prosecute what Republicans are calling a whistleblower.

Issa has asked the DOJ for the documents — wiretap applications it used in the botched federal gun-tracking Operation Fast and Furious — for months. The California lawmaker has taken preliminary steps to move contempt-of-Congress citations against Holder, but it remains unclear if GOP leaders support that move. This new controversy could help Issa attract more Republican support for a contempt-of-Congress resolution.

If Holder does launch an investigation into where the leak originated, the powerful Republican could paint the move as an attempt by the DOJ to hide the documents’ contents. It would also raise the possibility that DOJ investigators will seek information from Issa, who has been trying to determine who approved the “gun-walking” tactics used in Fast and Furious along the U.S.-Mexico border.

On the other hand, not launching a probe would mean turning a blind eye to a criminal breach and could lead Issa’s source and others to reveal other information sealed by a judge.

Issa told Fox News on Wednesday that he has no intention of shining the light on his source: “We’re not going to make our whistleblower available. That’s been one of the most sensitive areas, because some of the early whistleblowers are already feeling retribution. They’re being treated horribly.”

Asked earlier this week where he got the wiretap applications, Issa told The Hill, “You can ask, but you should have no expectation of an answer. By the way, if I asked you where you got yours, would you give me your sources?”

Of course, there is some political risk for Issa. The Obama administration could point out that he is stonewalling federal authorities after complaining throughout this Congress of being stonewalled by DOJ.

As the lead congressional investigator of Fast and Furious, Issa says the documents show top-ranking DOJ officials signing off on the condemned “gun-walking” tactics used in the failed operation. Senior DOJ officials have repeatedly denied that they approved the botched initiative.

The documents have not been made public, and Issa has apparently broken no laws by being given the information.

Regardless, the DOJ is not pleased.

“Chairman Issa’s letter makes clear that sealed court documents relating to pending federal prosecutions being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California have been disclosed to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in violation of law,” wrote Deputy Attorney General James Cole to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Issa this week.

“This is of great concern to us,” the letter added.

A spokesman for the DOJ declined to comment about whether it was planning to launch an investigation into the leak.

Democrats say that Issa is exaggerating what he has. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member on Issa’s panel, reiterated this week that top-ranking DOJ officials didn’t personally review any of the six wiretap applications related to Fast and Furious. Issa sent Cummings the information he received from his source.

In the past, the DOJ has justified not turning over the wiretap applications to Issa by saying that doing so could jeopardize the current criminal cases it is prosecuting.

Two former prosecutors for the DOJ, who were not familiar with the details of this article, independently told The Hill that defense lawyers could use an instance of documents being leaked in violation of a court-ordered seal to justify seeking a mistrial.

It is unlikely that the DOJ, if it does investigate the leak, will have grounds to go after Issa for accepting the documents. In past instances of court-ordered seals being broken, it is the actual breaker of the seal who is held responsible, which in this case could mean criminal contempt proceedings and possible jail time.

The battle between Issa and the DOJ has escalated over the past month, with House Republican leaders writing a letter to Holder asking him to hand over information about who was responsible for Fast and Furious. The letter also asked whether the DOJ misled Congress on when officials, including Holder, became aware of the program.

Issa is set to square off against Holder on Thursday when the attorney general is scheduled to appear before the House Judiciary Committee. The Republican lawmaker will appear on a panel to discuss oversight of the DOJ.

Under the now-defunct Fast and Furious initiative, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is under the DOJ, authorized the sale of firearms to known and suspected straw purchasers for Mexican drug cartels, but lost track of many of the weapons. Some of those guns might have contributed to the December 2010 shooting death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

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Disgraced US Attorney General Eric Holder – Full Of It – Questioned About His Department’s Operation That Supplied Guns To Criminals And Mexican Drug Cartel

June 6, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC  – Attorney General Eric Holder claimed during congressional testimony today that internal Justice Department emails that use the phrase “Fast and Furious” do not refer to the controversial gun-walking operation Fast and Furious.

Under questioning from Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who read excerpts of the emails at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Justice Department oversight, Holder claimed that the phrase “Fast and Furious” did not refer to Fast and Furious but instead referred to another gun-walking operation known as “Wide Receiver.”

However, the emails refer to both programs — “Fast and Furious” and the “Tucson case,” from where Wide Receiver was launched — and reveal Justice Department officials discussing how to handle media scrutiny when both operations become public.

Among three of the emails, the second, dated “October 17, 2010 11:07 PM,” was sent by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein to James Trusty and it states: “Do you think we should have Lanny participate in press when Fast and Furious and Laura’s Tucson case [Wide Receiver] are unsealed? It’s a tricky case, given the number of guns that have walked, but it is a significant set of prosecutions.”

In the third email, dated Oct. 18, 2010, James Trusty writes back to Weinstein: “I think so, but the timing will be tricky, too. Looks like we’ll be able to unseal the Tucson case sooner than the Fast and Furious (although this may be just the difference between Nov. and Dec).”

“It’s not clear how much we’re involved in the main F and F [Fast and Furious] case,” reads the email, “but we have Tucson [Wide Receiver] and now a new unrelated case with [redacted] targets. It’s not any big surprise that a bunch of US guns are being used in MX [Mexico], so I’m not sure how much grief we get for ‘guns walking.’ It may be more like ‘Finally, they’re going after people who sent guns down there.’”

Operation Wide Receiver was run out of Tucson, Ariz., between 2006 and 2007 by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), a division of the Justice Department.

In his testimony, Holder said that the emails only referred to Operation Wide Receiver.

Holder told the committee: “That refers to Wide Receiver, not to Fast and Furious. The e-mail that you [Rep. Chaffetz] just read [between Trusty and Weinstein] – now this is important – that email referred to Wide Receiver, it did not refer to Fast and Furious. That has to be noted for the record.”

Chaffetz, after a long pause, said, “No, it doesn’t. It says Fast and Furious. ‘Do you think we should have Lanny participate in press when Fast and Furious and Laura’s Tucson case [Wide Receiver] are unsealed?’ It’s specific to Fast and Furious. That is not true, Mr. Attorney General. I’m happy to share it with you.”

Brian Terry, border agent

U.S. Border Agent Brian A. Terry, shot and killed on Dec. 14, 2010, near Rio Rico, Arizona, while trying to catch bandits who target illegal immigrants. (AP Photo)

Operation Fast and Furious was carried out by the ATF. It began in the fall of 2009 and continued into early 2011, during which time the federal government purposefully allowed known or suspected gun smugglers to purchase guns at federally licensed firearms dealers in Arizona. The government did not seek to abort these gun purchases, intercept the smugglers after the purchases, or recover the guns they had purchased.

In some cases, as the government expected they would, the smugglers delivered the guns to Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Two rifles sold to a smuggler in the course of Operation Fast and Furious in January 2010 ended up at the scene of the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010.

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Senate Wants Travelers To Pay More For Mistreatment By TSA Agents

May 22, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday moved forward with legislation to increase airline passenger security fees, beating back a GOP attempt to keep them at current levels.

The 2013 Homeland Security appropriations bill would increase one-way fees for passengers from $2.50 to $5 in order to close a budget shortfall at the Transportation Security Administration.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said the $350 million in funding would otherwise come from taxpayers and argued it is better to stick passengers who rely on TSA with the bill.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) sponsored an amendment to strip out the fee increase and offset the loss of revenue with cuts to state and local grants, emergency food and shelter funding, and dropping $89 million in funding for a new highway interchange leading to the Homeland Security’s new headquarters in southeast Washington, D.C. Hutchison noted that the Senate had decided not to increase the fees in the recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill.

That amendment was defeated on a 15-15 vote. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) joined Republicans in supporting the measure to strip out the fee increase.

Hutchinson joined Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) in voting against the DHS bill as a whole. Johnson and Moran have been voting against non-defense 2013 appropriations bills because they support the House GOP position that the spending caps in last August’s debt ceiling deal should be lowered. The other Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee have all voted to support the August debt ceiling deal levels.

The committee on Tuesday also approved the 2013 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill, traditionally the least controversial of all 12 annual spending bills. The vote was 30-0.

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Former Talbotton Georgia Police Chief Michael Howard Pleads Guity To Lying To Federal Agents For A Slap On The Wrist

May 12, 2012

TALBOTTON, GEORGIA – A former Talbotton, Ga., police chief convicted of lying to federal agents during a corruption investigation was sentenced Tuesday to six months in prison.

Michael Howard, 43, pleaded guilty in January to providing false statements to the FBI. He was one of five law enforcement officers arrested in a federal corruption sting that involved deputies extorting or taking bribes from people they believed were drug dealers.

Prosecutors said Howard, the son of former sheriff Herman Howard, lied about an encounter he had with an undercover informant. That informant, who posed as a drug dealer, told Howard he had $15,000 and would be traveling through Talbot County to buy drugs.

The informant asked if Howard would be interested in providing cover. Howard said he was, but declined the offer because he wasn’t in uniform at the time and couldn’t be of assistance, a plea agreement states.

Howard, however, told the FBI he hadn’t been shown the drug money.

“This is about making a statement to the officers,” said defense attorney Richard Hagler on Tuesday.

Noting his client’s minor involvement, Hagler suggested home confinement as a punishment. U.S. District Court Judge Clay Land then asked about Howard’s job at the time he lied.

Attorneys told Land that Howard was the police chief and also served as a part-time deputy.

“I do not think a sentence at the bottom of the guideline range is appropriate,” Land responded.

Howard faced up to six months in prison. In addition to sentencing Howard to six months, Land also ordered he pay a $1,000 fine and serve three years’ probation.

Three other former law enforcement officiers implicated in the sting have been sentenced. Former part-time deputy Charlie Stephens was sentenced to just less than three years in prison. Jeff P. Sivell and Alvin K. Malone each were sentenced to about 3½ years in prison.

The case against Michael Gamble, a county jailer the Georgia Bureau of Investigation accused of accepting bribes, remains open.

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Dumb As Dirt Los Angeles California Deputy Sheriff Det. Anthony Shapiro Suspended After Lying In Court About Reading Miranda Rights – Charges Dropped After Officer’s Purjury Attempt – Arrest Was Filmed By Reality TV Show

May 8, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA — A reality show meant to catch would-be catch car thieves in the act landed a Los Angeles County sheriff’s detective in hot water when he allegedly lied about reading a suspect his Miranda rights.

As part of the TruTV show, undercover police officers park a car rigged with cameras along the side of the road with the keys still inside.

Then a camera crew waits nearby for someone to take the bait and try to steal the car.

But in a recent segment filmed in cooperation with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, a department detective wound up in trouble instead of the Regular Joe who took the bait.

Footage shot for the show showed suspect Keenan Alex, 28, find a Cadillac Escalade with the keys in the ignition and the engine running.

He got inside and drove off, but deputies quickly pulled him over and slapped handcuffs on him.

Detective Anthony Shapiro later said in court that he read Alex his rights before the suspect made incriminating statements.

But unedited video shows that Shapiro did not read Alex his rights, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“You watch TV. You know your rights and all that?,” the video shows Shapiro telling Alex.

Because Alex’s Miranda rights were violated on tape, prosecutors could not press charges against him in court and the case was dropped.

Shapiro has been placed on paid leave for testifying under oath that he read Alex is rights when he did not, according to department officials.

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Memoir Published By Former CIA Counterterrorism Chief Says Rep. Nancy Pelosi Lied, Saying She Had Not Been Briefed About USA’s Waterboarding Torture Technique

May 1, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – In an explosive memoir released today, former CIA counterterrorism chief Jose Rodriguez provides new evidence that Rep. Nancy Pelosi lied when she declared she had not been briefed about the use of waterboarding.

Recall that in a Capitol Hill news conference three years ago, Pelosi (D-Calif.) vehemently denied being told about the use of waterboarding at a CIA briefing in September 2002. “We were not — I repeat — were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used,” Pelosi said. She later changed her story, telling reporters, “We were told explicitly that waterboarding was not being used.” She claimed she learned about the use of waterboarding the following year, only after other lawmakers were told by the CIA. “I wasn’t briefed, I was informed that somebody else had been briefed about it,” she said.

If Rodriguez is right, each of these statements is false. But other than a chart released by the CIA noting that Pelosi, then the ranking member of the House intelligence committee, and Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.), then chairman of the committee, had been given a “description of the particular [enhanced interrogation techniques] that had been employed,” there was little public evidence to contradict Pelosi’s claims. So she got away with it — until today.

In his new book, “Hard Measures,” Rodriguez reveals that he led a CIA briefing of Pelosi, where the techniques being used in the interrogation of senior al-Qaeda facilitator Abu Zubaida were described in detail. Her claim that she was not told about waterboarding at that briefing, he writes, “is untrue.”

“We explained that as a result of the techniques, Abu Zubaydah was compliant and providing good intelligence. We made crystal clear that authorized techniques, including waterboarding, had by then been used on Zubaydah.” Rodriguez writes that he told Pelosi everything, adding, “We held back nothing.”

How did she respond when presented with this information? Rodriguez writes that neither Pelosi nor anyone else in the briefing objected to the techniques being used. Indeed, he notes, when one member of his team described another technique that had been considered but not authorized or used, “Pelosi piped up immediately and said that in her view, use of that technique (which I will not describe) would have been ‘wrong.’ ” She raised no such concern about waterboarding, he writes. “Since she felt free to label one considered-and-rejected technique as wrong,” Rodriguez adds, “we went away with the clear impression that she harbored no such feelings about the ten tactics [including waterboarding] that we told her were in use.”

So we’re left with a “he said-she said” standoff? Not at all. Rodriguez writes that there’s contemporaneous evidence to back his account of the briefing. Six days after the meeting took place, Rodriguez reveals, “a cable went out from headquarters to the black site informing them that the briefing for the House leadership had taken place.” He explains that “[t]he cable to the field made clear that Goss and Pelosi had been briefed on the state of AZ’s interrogation, specifically including the use of the waterboard and other enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Rodriguez asks, “So Pelosi was another member of Congress reinventing the truth. What’s the big deal?” The big deal, he explains, is “the message they are sending to the men and women of the intelligence community who to this day are being asked to undertake dangerous and sometimes controversial actions on behalf of their government. They are told that the administration and Congress ‘have their back.’ You will forgive CIA officers if they are not filled with confidence.”

Rodriguez compares Pelosi’s actions to the opening scene of the old TV series “Mission: Impossible,” “in which the operatives were told that if anything went wrong, their leaders would ‘disavow any knowledge of your actions.’ That is not how it should work in the real world,” he writes.

It is a big deal for another reason. If Rodriguez is right, it means that Pelosi stood up in a Capitol Hill news conference and lied with a straight face to the American people; that she falsely accused a dedicated civil servant of lying to Congress as part of a political cover-up. Pelosi is hoping to become House speaker again after the November elections. Do we really want someone so ethically challenged to be third in line to the presidency?

There is a simple way to settle this once and for all. Pelosi should formally request that the Obama administration declassify the cable that was sent from headquarters to the field reporting on the details of her Sept. 4, 2002, briefing. If she refuses to do so, it should be taken as an admission by Pelosi that her account of events is a fabrication.

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Brooklyn New York District Attorney’s Office Hid Rape Recantation From Defense Lawyers For A Year While Two Men Sat In Jail

April 19, 2012

The Brooklyn DA’s office sat on a rape recantation for nearly a year while two men accused of the crime sat behind bars, documents reveal.

Last June, Damien Crooks and Jamali Brockett were arrested for forcing a 13-year-old Jewish Orthodox girl into prostitution in 2003, and then raping, assaulting and sexually trafficking her for the next 8 years.

Two other men, Jawara Brockett and Darrell Dula, were also arrested and charged with raping the girl.

A day after accusing Jawara Brockett and Dula, however, the girl, then 22-years-old, went back to the police, and told detectives she was simply a prostitute for 5 years and made up the allegations against Brockett and Dula.

“I once again asked [her] if she was raped,” a detective wrote in a police report after the interview. “She told me ‘no’ and stated to me, ‘Can’t a ho change her ways?’ ”

The woman also signed a recantation, but the case proceeded and in spring 2011, a grand jury voted to indict Dula, Crooks and two others who were allegedly part of the crew.

Defense attorneys for the men didn’t receive the woman’s recantation until April 2012, when prosecutor Rebecca Gingold, who replaced Assistant District Attorney Abbie Greenberger, discovered the documents and turned them over.

“[The girl] indicated the night of the alleged rape that she had made up the story,” Crooks’ lawyer, Elliot Kay, told The New York Post. “She indicated that she was in a consensual relationship, as opposed to being the victim of sex trafficking.”

The Brooklyn DA’s office–who publicized the big bust last year–has yet to comment on the newly-discovered documents.

“How do they go on TV talking about this huge sex-trafficking bust when they had written documentation from police officers in which she admitted lying?” Kay asked.

Dula was released from prison Tuesday and spent time with his family in Crown Heights.

“I’m glad to be home with my family,” he told The Daily News. “I’m still in shock. I’m traumatized. It wasn’t a good experience. They took me away on my son’s birthday. It was heartbreaking.”

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Federal Debt Under President Obama Budget Will Rise To $73,000 Per Person – Was Only $33,000 When He Took Office – Certainly Not The “Change” He Promised During His Initial Campaign…

April 6, 2012

The latest chart from the Republican side of the Senate Budget Committee, showing that under President Obama’s budget plan, debt would be $73,000 per American in 2022:

By contrast, debt per person was still an astonishing $33,000 in 2008, at the end of George W. Bush’s term, and $20,000 in 2000, at the beginning of Bush’s presidency.

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Nutcase Hermosa Beach California Police Officer Anthony Parente Intentionally Rear Ended Car With His Motorcycle – Motorist Faced Bogus Charges Based On The Cops Lies – Cop Has Record Of Causing Accidents And Claiming Injuries – Black Box On Motorcycle “Mysteriously Disappeared” – Video Proved Cop Was Lying

March 23, 2012

HERMOSA BEACH, CALIFORNIA – After 18 months of intense investigation, that was the prosecution’s position when it finally came time to put up or shut up in its controversial assault-on-a-cop case filed against South Bay motorist Brian Hitchcock.

Hitchcock had always insisted he was being unfairly blamed for a traffic accident after a Hermosa Beach motorcycle cop rear-ended him in Redondo Beach, flew off his bike and landed headfirst in the backseat of Hitchcock’s convertible — a bizarre mishap that produced a globally viral photo showing the cop’s booted feet sticking up.

But after the Redondo Beach city attorney suddenly dropped charges of assault and reckless driving without any explanation or apology, Hitchcock viewed his ordeal in a more sinister light.

“This was no accident,” he told L.A. Weekly. “This was an ambush by a cop operating under the color of authority.”

Moments before jury selection was to begin in January, Redondo Beach City Prosecutor Brenda Coe dismissed three misdemeanor charges against Hitchcock. Yet the case had turned his life upside-down. Facing up to two years in jail, he was eager for his day in court.

His lawyer, Thomas Beck, said he was ready to prove that Hermosa Beach Police Officer Anthony Parente was lying about the collision and had a record of causing accidents and claiming injuries in which he not only filed for workman’s compensation and collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money but also targeted the victim’s insurance company.

“This was part of a pattern on Officer Parente’s part to scam people for money,” Beck said. “He’s made a career out of it. This guy ought to be prosecuted for filing a false police report and workman’s comp fraud.”

Beck said the 44-year-old Parente had taken medical leave and filed for workman’s comp six times — three times during his four years with the Inglewood School Police Department and three with the Hermosa Beach PD, where he was hired July 1, 2005.

Parente did not respond to a half-dozen messages from the Weekly seeking comment. Coe was not available for comment because she quit soon after she dropped the charges against Hitchcock.

Hermosa Beach interim Police Chief Steve Johnson declined to comment on Parente, who is on disability leave and collecting workman’s comp — 20 months after he suffered so-called soft-tissue injuries.

While the law enforcement agencies that once pursued Hitchcock have gone silent, Beck gladly laid out his version of a prosecution-turned-persecution against the 60-year-old, churchgoing Mormon, who works as a technical writer at Skechers in Manhattan Beach.

Beck said Hitchcock soon will file a lawsuit against Parente and the Hermosa Beach Police Department.

The case became notorious because of a WTF picture of Parente’s legs sticking out of Hitchcock’s backseat on June 8, 2010. Seconds before that, Hitchcock had pulled up next to Parente’s motorcycle at a red light at the intersection of Artesia Boulevard and Ford Avenue in Redondo Beach.

Parente later claimed that when the light turned green, Hitchcock started speeding in the parking lane and then abruptly pulled over, cutting the officer off. Parente turned on his siren, he said, to cite Hitchcock for a traffic violation.

However, there were problems with Parente’s version. By his own written admission, he turned on his siren when he was only two to three feet behind Hitchcock — far closer than law enforcement training guidelines. The noise startled Hitchcock so badly that he hit the brakes — exactly the danger training warns of. The next thing he knew, a cop was upside down in his car.

Parente put out an “officer down” call, and the baffled Hitchcock was swarmed by officers from Hermosa, Redondo and Manhattan Beach. He was interviewed several times at the scene and his car was impounded.

Hitchcock maintained that he was never in the parking lane, had accelerated normally and didn’t cut Parente off. As reported in the Weekly in February 2011 (“Officer Down,”), three eyewitnesses supported Hitchcock’s account and L.A. District Attorney Steve Cooley refused to bring charges.

But Redondo Beach detectives continued their investigation. “They were carrying water for the Hermosa PD,” Beck alleged. “These little suburban PD’s stick together when a cop does something wrong.”

Six months after the collision, Coe filed three misdemeanor charges against Hitchcock. Then, during the discovery process, Hitchcock’s attorney learned that Redondo detectives had a surveillance video of the collision. The detectives claimed the video was too grainy to reveal anything. But Beck took it to a video specialist, who slowed it down. Beck said the tape clearly showed Hitchcock was telling the truth.

Then the dogged Beck learned that Parente’s motorcycle had a “black box,” which records traffic data such as speed — yet Hermosa police reported to the court that it had mysteriously disappeared.

Beck also interviewed three eyewitnesses who were prepared to testify that Hitchcock was telling the truth.

Beck’s star witness, however, was to be another motorist, Peter Brown, who had a similar experience with Parente. Brown, a field engineer for General Electric, told the Weekly that in April 2008 he was stopped at a red light in Redondo Beach when Parente rear-ended him with a police car.

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Busted – PETA Killed More Than 95% Of Pets In Its Care

February 26, 2012

VIRGINIA – Documents published online this month show that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an organization known for its uncompromising animal-rights positions, killed more than 95 percent of the pets in its care in 2011.

The documents, obtained from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, were published online by the Center for Consumer Freedom, a non-profit organization that runs online campaigns targeting groups that antagonize food producers.

Fifteen years’ worth of similar records show that since 1998 PETA has killed more than 27,000 animals at its headquarters in Norfolk, VA.

In a February 16 statement, the Center said PETA killed 1,911 cats and dogs last year, finding homes for only 24 pets.

“PETA hasn’t slowed down its slaughterhouse operation,” said Rick Berman, CCF’s executive director. “It appears PETA is more concerned with funding its media and advertising antics than finding suitable homes for these dogs and cats.”

In a statement, Berman added that PETA has a $37 million dollar annual budget.

His organization runs PETAkillsAnimals.com, which reports that in 2010 a resident of Virginia called PETA and asked if there was an animal shelter at the group’s headquarters. PETA responded that there was not.

The Virginian, the website reports, then called his state’s agriculture department. Dr. Daniel Kovich investigated, and conducted an inspection of PETA’s headquarters.

“The facility does not contain sufficient animal enclosures to routinely house the number of animals annually reported as taken into custody,” Kovich concluded in his report.

Kovich also determined that PETA employees kill 84 percent of the animals in their custody within 24 hours of receiving them.

“[PETA’s] primary purpose,” Kovich wrote, “is not to find permanent adoptive homes for animals.”

PETA media liaison Jane Dollinger told The Daily Caller in an email that “most of the animals we take in are society’s rejects; aggressive, on death’s door, or somehow unadoptable.”

Dollinger did not dispute her organization’s sky-high euthanasia rate, but insisted PETA only kills dogs and cats because of “injury, illness, age, aggression, or because no good homes exist for them.”

PETA’s own history, however, shows that this has not always been the case.

In 2005, two PETA employees described as “adorable” and “perfect” some of the dogs and cats they killed in the back of a PETA-owned van. The two were arrested after police witnessed them tossing the animals’ dead bodies into a North Carolina dumpster.

PETA had no comment when the Daily Caller asked what sort of effort it routinely makes to find adoptive homes for animals in its care.

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Lies: White House Website Still Advertising Broken Obama Promise To Cut Deficit In Half

February 17, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – When President Obama unveiled his budget on Monday, it became clear that he would break his pledge to cut the deficit in half in his first term in office. But the White House website is still prominently touting the promise.

When visitors to the White House website click on “Fiscal Responsibility” under the “Issues” section, they are directed to a page that includes the following:

Cut the deficit in half by the end of the President’s first term. On January 20, 2009, the President inherited a $1.3 trillion budget deficit. The President has put forth a budget that will halve this deficit by the end of his first term, bring non-defense discretionary spending to its lowest level as a share of GDP since 1962.

Though that would mean cutting the deficit to $650 billion, Obama’s budget projects deficits of $1.3 trillion in fiscal year 2012 (ending this September) and $901 billion for fiscal year 2013. Non-defense discretionary spending is not at the lowest level since 1962, either (more like 2008 or 2001, depending on whether you’re comparing it to this year or next).

This was brought to my attention by blogger Pundit Pete, who also notes that when pressed on this broken promise on Fox News Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew tried to chalk it up to the economic picture having deteriorated after Obama made the initial pledge, stating, “as the 2009 and 2010 went on, we all learned more about the deep of the recession we inherited, which we have very — worked very hard to dig out of.”

Of course, this doesn’t explain why the White House website continues to promote the pledge, knowing what we know now.

Ironically, the White House website also includes this vow:

Return to honest budgeting. Too often in the past several years, budget tricks were used to make the government’s books seem stronger than they actually were. The President put forward a budget that rejects many of these gimmicks, most notably, the exclusion of war costs.

But in reality, one of the biggest gimmicks in Obama’s budget is that it relies on phony “war savings,” which pretends that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan would be fought at full force in perpetuity and counts money that would have never been spent anyway as deficit reduction.

Looks like the White House website could use some updating.

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Obama “Change” Limited To Easing Access To Government Websites

February 15, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – President Obama talks to WFLA-TV, NBC’s local news affiliate in Tampa Bay, about his promise to “fundamentally change” Washington.

Obama says he hasn’t been able to change Washington the way he campaigned for, but he did say he has “made a lot of progress” with government websites.

Obama told the local affiliate that he has made using the internet more effective so if someone needs a government service, “they don’t have to navigate through 50 websites, they can go to one website. So on those fronts we’ve done a lot. We’ve made a lot of progress.”

“We’ve used the Internet more effectively to create more transparency so people know where their tax dollars are going. If they need a government service they don’t have to navigate through 50 websites, they can go to one website. So on those fronts we’ve done a lot, we’ve made a lot of progress,” Obama said.

“Where I have not been able to succeed so far, but I haven’t given up, is changing the tone in Congress,” Obama said. “And creating an attitude between Democrats and Republicans where we focus on where do we agree, where are common sense solutions, lets stop trying to score political points or play to the next election instead of playing the long game. We haven’t been able to do that yet, and I am the first one to acknowledge that there are times where it can be awfully frustrating. But what gives me confidence is that’s where the American people are, they’ve got common sense. They’re focused on trying to find solutions instead of just scoring political points and hopefully, over time, politicians who take that same attitude will be rewarded.”

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Disgraced US Attorney General Still Hiding Documents Detailing His Department’s Efforts That Armed Mexican Drug Cartels – Man Be Finally Held In Contempt Of Congress

February 15, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – On Tuesday Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House committee on Oversight and Government Reform, took a major step toward holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his failure to provide subpoenaed documents and other information about Operation Fast and Furious.

In a Jan. 31 letter, Issa had threatened Holder with such a move if he failed to provide all the subpoenaed documents relating to the Fast and Furious gunwalking scandal by Feb. 9. That deadline has come and gone, and Holder’s Department of Justice still hasn’t provided most of those documents. Issa’s subpoena dates back to Oct. 12, 2011.

On Tuesday in a seven-page letter, Issa revealed that Deputy Attorney General James Cole begged Congress to extend the Feb. 9 deadline. Issa wrote that the request was “ironic” and “ignores the reality that the Department has unreasonably delayed producing these documents to the Committee.”

“On its face, the requested extension demonstrates a lack of good faith,” Issa wrote to Holder. “With one exception, the Department has only produced documents responsive to the subpoena on the eve of congressional hearings in which senior Department officials testified. The Department appears to be more concerned with protecting its image through spin control than actually cooperating with Congress.”

“We cannot wait any longer for the Department’s cooperation,” Issa continued. “As such, please specify a date by which you expect the Department to produce all documents responsive to the subpoena. In addition, please specify a Department representative who will interface with the Committee for production purposes.”

Issa added that whoever Holder designates as the go-to DOJ official for delivering subpoenaed documents “should also serve as the conduit for dealing with the contempt proceedings, should the Department continue to ignore the Committee’s subpoena.” (RELATED: Full coverage of Eric Holder)

The California Republican slammed Holder, too, for claiming the congressional investigation into Fast and Furious was a political game for Republicans.

“It is ironic that while the Department’s delay tactics have extended this investigation into a presidential election year, you have had the audacity to characterize it as an attempt at ‘headline-grabbing Washington ‘gotcha’ games and cynical political point scoring,’” Issa wrote to Holder on Tuesday. (RELATED: Read the full letter here)

Issa also attacked Holder for Justice’s failure to comply with Congressional subpoenas. “Had the Department demonstrated willingness to cooperate with this investigation from the outset — instead of attempting to cover up its own internal mismanagement — this investigation likely would have concluded well before the end of 2011. In reality, it is the Department that is playing political gotcha games, instead of allowing a co-equal branch of government to perform its constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch.”

Issa’s letter concluded by warning that Congress will continue to investigate Operation Fast and Furious until responsible parties are held accountable. He pointed to bipartisan support behind efforts to assign responsibility for Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s murder, for the murders of at least 300 Mexican civilians and, likely, for the murder of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata.

“This is not an ‘election year political ‘gotcha’ game,’ but rather a bipartisan sentiment,” Issa wrote. “As Ranking Member [Democratic Rep. Elijah] Cummings promised the family of slain Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, ‘we will not rest until every single person responsible for all of this, no matter where they are, are brought to justice.’ I applaud his resolve, and I want to make it clear that Congress will not give up until this accountability has been achieved.”

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Oversight Committee Letter Questions Disgraced US Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr’s Trustworthiness And Credibility After Lies About His Department Supplying Guns To Mexican Drug Cartels

October 11, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s “lack of trustworthiness” in explaining what he knew about the failed “Fast and Furious” weapons investigation has “called into question his overall credibility” to serve as the nation’s top prosecutor, the chairman of a House committee investigating the operation said Monday.

In a blistering letter, Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, who heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told Mr. Holder that it was time for him “to come clean to the American public” on what he knew and when about the weapons investigation, saying Mr. Holder has made numerous statements about the operation that have “proven to be untrue.”

“The time for deflecting blame and obstructing our investigation is over,” Mr. Issa wrote. “Operation Fast and Furious was the department’s most significant gun-trafficking case. It related to two of your major initiatives — destroying the Mexican [drug] cartels and reducing gun violence on both sides of the border.

“On your watch, it went spectacularly wrong. Whether you realize yet or not, you own Fast and Furious. It is your responsibility,” he wrote, adding that Mr. Holder had an obligation to say who is going to be held accountable “for failing to shut down a program that has already had deadly consequences, and will likely cause more casualties for years to come.”

Mr. Issa has been investigating Fast and Furious for several months with Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The operation involved the purchase of weapons at Phoenix-area gun shops that eventually were “walked,” or taken, into Mexico, where they were delivered to Mexican dug bosses.

Two of the weapons, both AK-47 assault rifles, were found at the scene of the killing of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry in December.

Mr. Issa said the Justice Department from the beginning of the probe has offered “a roving set of ever-changing explanations to justify its involvement in this reckless and deadly program.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman dismissed Mr. Issa’s letter Monday as “recycled” partisanship.

But Mr. Issa said Justice’s defenses were aimed at undermining the congressional investigation.

The Justice Department insisted from the start that no wrongdoing had occurred and asked that he and Mr. Grassley defer their oversight responsibilities because of concerns they would interfere with an ongoing investigation by the department’s Office of Inspector General, Mr. Issa said.

Additionally, he said, the department steadfastly insisted that none of the Fast and Furious guns had been “walked” into Mexico.

“Once documentary and testimonial evidence strongly contradicted these claims, the department attempted to limit the fallout from Fast and Furious to the Phoenix field division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives,” he said. “When that effort also proved unsuccessful, the department next argued that Fast and Furious resided only within ATF itself, before eventually also assigning blame to the U.S. attorney’s office in Arizona.

“All of these efforts were designed to circle the wagons around [Justice] and its political appointees,” he said.

Last month, Mr. Holder claimed Fast and Furious did not reach the upper levels of the Justice Department, Mr. Issa said, although documents discovered through the course of the investigation proved that “each and every one of these claims advanced by the department to be untrue.”

“It appears your latest defense has reached a new low,” he said, adding that Mr. Holder in a letter Friday said he was unaware of the Fast and Furious operation because his staff failed to inform him of information contained in memos that were specifically addressed to the attorney general.

“At best, this indicates negligence and incompetence in your duties as attorney general,” Mr. Issa said. “At worst, it places your credibility into serious doubt.

“Instead of pledging all necessary resources to assist the congressional investigation in discovering the truth behind the fundamentally flawed Operation Fast and Furious, your letter instead did little but obfuscate, shift blame, berate and attempt to change the topic away from the department’s responsibility in the creation, implementation and authorization of this reckless program.”

On Friday, Mr. Holder denied that emails sent to his office showed that he knew of the Fast and Furious operation and did nothing about it. He said public comments about the inquiry and his involvement with it had become “so base and so harmful to interests that I hope we all share” that he had to publicly address the matter.

Mr. Holder said he took “decisive action” when he learned earlier this year about Fast and Furious in ordering the Office of Inspector General to investigate the matter. He said he also overhauled the leadership at ATF and the U.S. attorney’s office in Phoenix, which oversaw the investigation.

“It has become clear that the flawed tactics employed in Fast and Furious were not limited to that operation and were actually employed in an investigation conducted during the prior administration,” Mr. Holder said, referring to a separate initiative known as “Operation Wide Receiver” managed by federal authorities during the George W. Bush administration.

“Regardless, those tactics should never again be adopted in any investigation,” he said.

Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said the Issa allegations, no matter how many times they are repeated, continue to be “baseless.” She said Mr. Holder took concerns about tactics used in Fast and Furious to the Office of Inspector General, where the operation is now under investigation.

“The department will continue to cooperate with both the inspector general and congressional investigations,” she said. “In the meantime, what the American people deserve is less partisan showboating and more responsible solutions to stopping gun violence on the Southwest Border.”

In the letter, Mr. Issa said documents obtained by congressional investigators show Mr. Holder was aware of Fast and Furious in the summer of 2010 at the latest, not April or May of this year as he testified. Mr. Issa said Mr. Holder was informed about the ATF investigation on at least five occasions and was told that straw buyers were responsible for the purchase of 1,500 firearms that were then supplied to Mexican drug-trafficking cartels.

“Yet, you did nothing to stop this program,” Mr. Issa said. “You failed to own up to your responsibility to safeguard the American public by hiding behind” attorneys in your office, “who you now claim did not bring this information to your attention.”

Mr. Issa said the “most disturbing aspect of this intransigence” is that the Justice Department “has been lying to Congress ever since the inquiry into Fast and Furious began.”

“These firearms were not interdicted. They were not stopped. Your agents allowed these firearms purchases to continue, sometimes even monitoring them in person, and within days some of these weapons were being recovered in Mexico,” he said.

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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Changes His Story With Respect To His Department Supplying Guns To Medican Drug Cartels

October 5, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – New documents obtained by CBS News show Attorney General Eric Holder was sent briefings on the controversial Fast and Furious operation as far back as July 2010. That directly contradicts his statement to Congress.

On May 3, 2011, Holder told a Judiciary Committee hearing, “I’m not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.”

Yet internal Justice Department documents show that at least ten months before that hearing, Holder began receiving frequent memos discussing Fast and Furious.

The documents came from the head of the National Drug Intelligence Center and Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer.

In Fast and Furious, ATF agents allegedly allowed thousands of weapons to cross the border and fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

It’s called letting guns “walk,” and it remained secret to the public until Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered last December. Two guns from Fast and Furious were found at the scene, and ATF agent John Dodson blew the whistle on the operation.

Agent: I was ordered to let guns “walk” into Mexico

Ever since, the Justice Department has publicly tried to distance itself. But the new documents leave no doubt that high level Justice officials knew guns were being “walked.”

Two Justice Department officials mulled it over in an email exchange Oct. 18, 2010. “It’s a tricky case given the number of guns that have walked but is a significant set of prosecutions,” says Jason Weinstein, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division. Deputy Chief of the National Gang Unit James Trusty replies “I’m not sure how much grief we get for ‘guns walking.’ It may be more like, “Finally they’re going after people who sent guns down there.”

The Justice Department told CBS News that the officials in those emails were talking about a different case started before Eric Holder became Attorney General. And tonight they tell CBS News, Holder misunderstood that question from the committee – he did know about Fast and Furious – just not the details.

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Phoenix Arizona Police Officers Tedesco, Mills and Neidenbach Brutally Beat And Used Taser Weapon Against Paralyzed Polio Victim, Lied In Reports And Accused Him Of Assault And Running Away – Wife And Children Threatened And He Was Denied Medical Attention By Maricopa County Jail

June 3, 2011

PHOENIX, ARIZONA – After Tasering, kicking and hitting a man in the head with flashlights while calling him a “wetback,” Phoenix police officers falsely accused him of assaulting them and running away, but the man can’t fight or run at all because he is paralyzed on one side of his body from childhood polio, he says in a civil rights complaint.

Refugio Rodriquez sued the city, Maricopa County, Maricopa County Correctional Health Services and the three Phoenix police officers he says assaulted him in the parking lot of a church.

Rodriquez, whom the officers accused of aggravated assault against a police officer after they Tasered, kicked and hit beat him with police-issued flashlights, says he could not have assaulted the officers or run because the left side of his body is paralyzed from polio.

Rodriquez the three officers – Tedesco, Mills and Neidenbach – approached him outside of a church on May 27, 2010.

They told him “you better not run you (expletive) wetback” and then slammed him onto the concrete driveway “in a manner which obviously exceeded the minimal amount of force necessary to accomplish a lawful purpose and continued to brutally assault plaintiff Refugio in the driveway,” according to the complaint in Maricopa County Court.

After they needlessly Tasered him, they handcuffed him and continued to kick and hit him in the head “with their police-issued long flashlight,” the complaint states.

The officers stopped beating him after his wife, Josephine, and his two children “screamed at and pled with the defendant officers to stop the beating,” according to the complaint. The officers told the wife and kids to “stay across the street or that they would be ‘in trouble.'”

s., says the officers did not let his family see him after they beat him, “to cover up Refugio’s bruises, scrapes and severe swelling of the head.”

The officers told his wife and children “that there was nothing wrong with Refugio and that he was ‘the same as when he left home awhile ago,'” the complaint states.

But at the Maryvale police station, one of his assailants asked him, “‘What’s the matter, you can’t take an ass-whipping?'” Rodriquez says.

Rodriquez says the officers lied in their police report: that they wrote that he “ran from the officers when they first came into contact … which is totally impossible because plaintiff cannot run due to the paralysis on the whole left side of his body since his birth with polio.”

The officers “lied so they could try to cover up more lies” by claiming he had resisted and fought them, and by charging him with aggravated assault on a police officer, according to the complaint.

Rodriquez says he was taken from the Maryvale police precinct to the Maricopa County Fourth Avenue Jail, where the intake nurse told him “he was going to be transported to the nearest hospital emergency room via an ambulance because of the severity of his injuries.”

But a few minutes later the intake nurse told him that “if she sent him to the hospital emergency, she was told she would lose her job.”

After Rodriquez was released on bail, his wife took him to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where the emergency doctor told him that “he could have died because a blood clot near his brain was beginning to develop,” the complaint states.

Rodriquez and his wife seek punitive damages and medical expenses for assault, battery, negligence, and civil rights violations. The complaint does not list the three officers’ first names, but it does include their badge numbers.

The Rodriquezes are represented by Jimmy Borunda

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Los Angeles California Police Officer Jeff Stenroos Pleads Not Guilty After Shooting Himself Outside School, Claiming Car Burglar Did It

May 21, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – A Los Angeles police officer charged with staging a victimization hoax by shooting himself outside a public school pleaded not guilty Friday to a six-count indictment, prosecutors said.

Jeff Stenroos, 30, entered the plea before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg after an indictment was returned a day earlier by a grand jury, said spokeswoman Jane Robison of the Los Angeles district attorney’s office.

Stenroos is on paid administrative leave from the school district, Robison said in a written statement.

The indictment supersedes a felony complaint, which will be dismissed when Stenroos is scheduled to return to court on May 18 for a pretrial hearing, prosecutors said.

Stenroos allegedly faked his own shooting while on duty at El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills, California, on January 19, Robinson said. His injury was discovered by a person who saw him lying on the ground near his open car door, she said.

Stenroos allegedly told other officers that a car burglary suspect shot him once in the chest as he was patrolling the campus perimeter, prosecutors said.

More than 550 law enforcement officers from throughout Southern California responded and conducted a 10-hour search, shutting down an eight-square-mile area in the San Fernando Valley and keeping students on lockdown in eight campuses, authorities said.

The indictment charges the school police officer with five felony counts, including insurance fraud, workers’ compensation fraud, preparing a false police report, preparing false documentary evidence and planting false evidence; and with one misdemeanor of falsely reporting an emergency, Deputy District Attorney Paul Nunez said in a statement.

The superseding indictment adds two new counts — insurance fraud and planting evidence — and drops a prior charge of perjury, prosecutors said.

The city is seeking $361,289 in restitution from Stenroos, and the Los Angeles Unified School District is seeking $58,000 in medical costs, prosecutors said.

If convicted, Stenroos would face up to five years and eight months in prison, Robison said.

Stenroos, who was treated and released from Northridge Medical Center the day he was shot, is accused of insurance fraud for seeking medical treatment for the injuries, prosecutors said.

The weekend after the shooting, Stenroos checked himself into Henry Mayo Hospital in Santa Clarita for ongoing complaints of pain, prosecutors said.

Police investigators found that Stenroos allegedly created false evidence when he claimed he was shot, authorities said.

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Scientists Dispute TSA Claims Over Safety Of Full Body X-Ray Scanners In Airport

May 16, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – The Transportation Security Administration says its full-body X-ray scanners are safe and that radiation from a scan is equivalent to what’s received in about two minutes of flying. The company that makes them says it’s safer than eating a banana.

But some scientists with expertise in imaging and cancer say the evidence made public to support those claims is unreliable. And in a new letter sent to White House science adviser John Holdren, they question why the TSA won’t make the scanners available for independent testing by outside scientists.

The machines, which are designed to reveal objects hidden under clothing, have the potential to close a significant security gap for the TSA because metal detectors can’t find explosives or ceramic knives, which can be just as sharp as the box cutters that hijackers used on 9/11.

They are also important for TSA’s public relations battle over the alternative, the “enhanced pat-down,” which has bred an epidemic of viral videos: A 6-year-old girl is touched from head to toe. A former Miss USA says she was violated. A software programmer warns a screener, “If you touch my junk, I’m going to have you arrested.”

After the underwear bomber tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines plane on Christmas Day 2009, the TSA ramped up deployment of full-body scanners and plans to have them at nearly every security line by 2014.

There are two types of body scanners. Millimeter wave machines emit a radio frequency similar to cellphones. Backscatters work like a fast-moving X-ray. In the latter, the rays bounce off the skin and create a fuzzy white image of the passenger’s body. Because the beam doesn’t go through the body, most of its radiation is received by the skin.

The TSA says the backscatter technology has been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute for Standards and Technology and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Survey teams are using radiation-detecting dosimeters to check the machines at airports. The TSA says the results have all confirmed that the scanners don’t pose a significant risk to public health.

According to the agency and many radiation experts, the dose is so low, even for children or cancer patients, that someone would have to pass through the machines more than a thousand times before approaching the annual limit set by radiation safety organizations.

But the letter to the White House science adviser, signed by five professors at University of California, San Francisco, and one at Arizona State University, points out several flaws in the tests. Studies published in scientific journals in the last few months have also cast doubt on the radiation dose and the machines’ ability to find explosives.

A number of scientists, including some who believe the radiation is trivial, say more testing should be done given the government’s plans to put millions of passengers through the machines. And they have been disturbed by the TSA’s reluctance to do so.

“There’s no real data on these machines, and in fact, the best guess of the dose is much, much higher than certainly what the public thinks,” said John Sedat, a professor emeritus in biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF and the primary author of the letter.

The same group stirred controversy last year when it sent a letter to Holdren arguing that while the overall dose to the body may be low, the TSA hadn’t quantified the dose to the skin. Last fall, FDA and TSA officials released a study that estimated the dose to the skin to be twice the dose to the body, though still extremely low.

In the most recent letter sent to Holdren on April 28, the professors note that the Johns Hopkins lab didn’t test an actual airport machine. Instead, the tests were done on a model built by the manufacturer, Rapiscan, and configured to resemble a system previously tested by the TSA.

The researchers’ names have been kept secret, and the report on the tests is so “heavily redacted” that “there is no way to repeat any of these measurements,” they wrote.

The physics and medical professors also took issue with the device used to measure the radiation. Although the device, known as an ion chamber, is commonly used to test medical equipment, they argue that the detector gets overwhelmed by the amount of radiation the backscatter deposits in a short time and might not provide accurate readings.

Helen Worth, a spokeswoman for the Johns Hopkins lab, referred questions to the TSA.

Part of the trouble is that there is no ideal device for measuring the radiation dose given by backscatter X-rays, said David Brenner, director of the Columbia University Center for Radiological Research. The machines emit a pencil beam that rapidly moves across and up and down the body, he said.

“We are one of the oldest and biggest radiological research centers in the country, and we find this to be a very hard technical problem,” said Brenner, who was not involved with the letter.

Another issue is that there is a lot of uncertainty with the model used to estimate cancer risk from radiation exposure to the skin, said Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a UCSF radiologist who also was not involved in the letter.

Smith-Bindman, who has testified before Congress about excessive radiation from medical scans, studied the TSA reports and said she wasn’t concerned about the airport X-rays.

The risks are “truly trivial,” she wrote in an article for the Archives of Internal Medicine. A passenger would have to undergo 50 airport scans to reach the level of a dental X-ray, 1,000 for a chest X-ray, and 4,000 for a mammogram.

Though imperfect, the available models predict that the backscatters would lead to only six cancers over the course of a lifetime among the approximately 100 million people who fly every year, Smith-Bindman concluded.

“There’s really unnecessary fear related to these scans,” she said. “What I’m not as comfortable with is that there has not been access to these machines. They are not being tested on the same regulatory basis that we see on medical equipment.”

After her article was published, Smith-Bindman was contacted by a TSA public affairs officer. During the conversation, she suggested that she or other outside scientists be allowed to test the machine. The official was shocked by the suggestion and said such access could tip off people who want to avoid detection, Smith-Bindman said.

“It was not appreciating that there’s legitimate scientific questions that have to be balanced against the security questions,” she said.

The TSA did not respond to ProPublica’s questions about why it wouldn’t allow outside testing. But at a congressional hearing in March, Robin Kane, assistant administrator for security technology, said doing so would expose a lot of sensitive information the agency wouldn’t normally share publicly. The machines had already been tested several times, he said, and if set up securely, the agency would allow more testing.

The available information leaves scientists with little to work with. Peter Rez, the Arizona State physics professor who signed the letter to Holdren, has tried to calculate the radiation by examining the handful of backscatter images that have been released publicly.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a civil liberties group, sued the Department of Homeland Security, TSA’s parent agency, in federal court seeking release of 2,000 backscatter images used in testing. But it has not been successful.

The few images that have been made public do not reveal faces or detailed private features. The TSA says the images Rez used are out of date, but Rez says the current image on TSA’s website is unusable.

Using the earlier images, Rez concluded in the Radiation Protection Dosimetry journal that it was highly unlikely the machines could have produced such high-quality images with doses of radiation as low as those described by TSA. He estimated the dose, while still very small, is 45 times higher than the results measured by Johns Hopkins.

Applying Rez’s numbers, Brenner wrote a paper for the journal Radiology, estimating that 100 additional cancers would develop for every 1 billion scans.

For Rez, the real danger occurs if the machine stops in the middle of a scan, allowing the beam to focus on a tiny area for several seconds. Given that the backscatter works with a wheel rotating at a high speed, and that the agency plans to use the scanners continuously 365 days a year, mechanical failures are likely, he said.

The TSA says that the scanners have safety systems, such as automatic shutoffs and emergency stop buttons, that will kill the beam in the event of any problem that could result in abnormal radiation. How those fail-safe systems work isn’t entirely clear.

When Johns Hopkins researchers visited the Rapiscan facility, the automatic termination appeared to work. But the full results of the shutoff tests are redacted.

What’s more, the test system didn’t have an emergency stop button.

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Veteran Leetsdale Pennsylvania Police Officer Wayne Drish Arrested, Suspended, Charged With Trying To Cover Up Friend’s DUI

April 22, 2011

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA — A Leetsdale police officer was suspended from the job, after investigators said, he tried covering for a friend accused of driving under the influence.

Police said Officer Wayne Drish was a passenger in car that slammed into a utility pole at the intersection of Park Hill and Bradford roads in Economy last August.

When police arrived, investigators said, Drish said he was behind the wheel. DNA tests later revealed that his intoxicated friend was driving. Police said the driver had a blood alcohol level of .249, three times the legal limit.

The accident happened in August, but Drish was arrested on Thursday and charged with lying to police.

Channel 11’s Alan Jennings reported that Drish is a 12-year veteran of the department with an unblemished record. He is currently suspended without pay.

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Charges Dropped After Las Vegas Nevada Police Officer Derek Colling Beat And Falsely Arrested Videographer For Filming Police From His Driveway

April 22, 2011

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – When Mitchell Crooks checked out of the county jail last month and checked into a Las Vegas hospital, the 36-year-old videographer knew he had a fight on his hands.

His face was bloodied and bruised. His $3,500 camera had been impounded by police, and he faced criminal charges for battery on a police officer.

One month later, things have changed for Crooks.

The Clark County district attorney’s office has dropped all charges, and Crooks has retained an attorney of his own. The Metropolitan Police Department has opened an internal investigation into the Las Vegas police officer, Derek Colling, whom Crooks says falsely arrested and beat him for filming police.

And his camera — which captured the entire March 20 altercation between Crooks and Colling — has been returned.

CAUGHT ON TAPE

The words are friendly enough, but the tone is tense:

“Can I help you, sir?” Colling asks from his patrol car after parking it in front of Crooks’ driveway and shining the spotlight on Crooks.

“Nope. Just observing,” Crooks responds, fixing his camera on the officer.

Crooks had for an hour been recording the scene across the street from his home in the 1700 block of Commanche Circle, near East Desert Inn Road and South Maryland Parkway, where officers had several young burglary suspects handcuffed and sitting on the curb.

As Las Vegas crimes go, the activity was fairly boring. But Crooks wanted to try out his new camera, and he figured his neighbors would like to see the suspects’ faces.

When Colling loaded suspects into the back of his car and drove in a circle through the cul-de-sac, Crooks said he thought police were leaving. Then the officer stopped his car.

“Do you live here?” Colling asks.

“Nope,” Crooks says.

Colling steps out of his patrol car.

Crooks said he now regrets not telling the officer that he was in fact standing in his own driveway. His realizes his response seemed cheeky, but he said the officer made him nervous.

Colling walks toward Crooks, his left hand raised.

“Turn that off for me,” Colling orders.

“Why do I have to turn it off?” Crooks responds. “I’m perfectly within my legal rights to be able to do this.”

The officer repeats the command several times; each time Crooks reiterates his right to film.

“You don’t live here,” Colling says, now close to Crooks.

“I do live here!”

“You don’t live here, dude.”

“I just said I live here!”

As Crooks backs away, Colling grabs him by the shoulder and throws him down. On the ground, Crooks grabs the camera and turns it toward his face.

Colling’s leg then enters the video frame. Crooks says he believes that was the kick that broke his nose.

The video doesn’t show it, but it the camera records Crook screaming. He said that’s when Colling was punching his face.

“Shut up!” Colling yells. “Stop resisting!”

‘A WORLD OF HURT’

In his arrest report Colling wrote that Crooks grabbed his shoulders “and attempted to take me to the ground. I in turn took him to the ground.”

At Clark County Detention Center, Crooks was booked for battery on a police officer and obstruction of justice. He was released from jail the next day. On March 26, the Review-Journal reported on his case. Four days later all charges were dropped.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Christopher Laurent said he dismissed the charges because the police report was vague.

“I asked for a more definite description of the battery, because battery requires a violent touching,” Laurent said. Police never provided that information, Laurent said, so the case was dropped.

Crooks said he always believed he’d be vindicated, but after police returned his camera he knew he had proof.

“I was confident I was doing the right thing, but I was excited they (the DA’s office) weren’t wasting any time, and that somebody was smart enough to know I was acting within the law,” he said.

Crooks said the incident looks worse on tape than he remembered.

What bothered him the most, he said, was Colling’s attitude after he was placed in handcuffs.

“Why did you do that? I live here,” Crooks is heard pleading on the tape.

“You just told me you didn’t live here,” Colling says. “You live right here, in this house?”

Crooks asks for paramedics. Colling tells him to shut up and follow orders.

“If you fight again, dude… Hey, if you (expletive) fight again, dude, you’re in a world of hurt. You hear me?

“You’re not in charge here, buddy. You hear me?”

Colling mocks Crooks’ labored breathing.

“Oh yeah, buddy. Hey, when you don’t do what I ask you to do, then you’re in a world of hurt. Then you’re in a world of hurt. Aren’t ya? Huh?”

Crooks was later diagnosed with a deviated septum and a chest wall injury. Crooks believes his ribs were broken, but never got X-rays that could prove it.

LAWYERS REACT

Allen Lichtenstein, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney, reviewed Crooks’ video and said Colling was clearly in the wrong. Officers are trained to avoid escalating situations, but Colling initiated the incident and created a physical confrontation without provocation, he said.

“It raises serious questions about whether the officer used good judgment and whether he was properly trained,” Lichtenstein said. “Those questions require answers.”

Police have no expectation of privacy, and it’s perfectly legal to film officers as long as it does not interfere in their investigation, he said.

Colling also erred in claiming that Crooks was trespassing. By law, only a property owner or resident can make a trespassing complaint, Lichtenstein said.

“Even if the officer didn’t think he lived there, that doesn’t mean he didn’t have permission to be there,” Lichtenstein said. “In the video I heard, that question was never asked.”

Crooks’ attorney, David Otto, on Thursday sent police a statement from Crooks, along with a demand for $500,000 to cover Crooks’ medial care, pain and suffering.

Colling had no legitimate reason to approach Crooks that night, Otto wrote.

“Officer Colling was aggravated that a citizen should have the audacity to video tape, him — a Las Vegas Metropolitan Patrol Officer,” Otto wrote. “Officer Colling decided to use the fear and terror of his physical ability to beat Mr. Crooks into submission — to teach Mr. Crooks and, by example, all citizens and residents of the Las Vegas Valley.”

Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie declined comment, saying the internal investigation remains open. Collings remains on duty, and department officials noted that Crooks has declined several requests to be interviewed by detectives.

The suspects in Colling’s patrol car may have witnessed the event and given statements to detectives, but their names have not been released. Police said they were not arrested or booked, so their names are not public record.

Crooks said he doesn’t want to talk to detectives.

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE

Neither Colling nor Crooks are strangers to controversy.

Colling has been involved in two fatal shootings in his 5 1/2 years as a Las Vegas police officer. In 2006, he and four other officers shot Shawn Jacob Collins after the 43-year-old man pulled a gun at an east valley gas station.

In 2009, he confronted a mentally ill 15-year-old Tanner Chamberlain, who was holding a knife in front of his mother and waving it in the direction of officers. Colling shot him in the head.

Both shootings were ruled justified by Clark County coroner’s juries.

Crooks made headlines in 2002 when he videotaped two Inglewood, Calif., police officers beating a 16-year-old boy. One officer was fired and criminally charged but was not convicted after two trials ended with hung juries. The incident strained race relations in Southern California — the police officer was white, the teenager black.

Crooks first tried to sell that tape and then declined to give it to prosecutors. He was then jailed on old warrants from unrelated drunken driving and petty theft charges. Civil rights advocates decried it as retribution.

In 2003 he moved to Las Vegas, where he makes a living, among other things, shooting video for nightclubs, and says he kept out of trouble right up until the night he met officer Colling.

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New Orleans Louisiana Police Officers Melvin Williams And Matthew Dean Moore Convicted In Federal For Roles In 2005 Fatal Beating And Coverup – Dumped Victim At Hospital After Beating, Saying He Was Found Under A Bridge

April 14, 2011

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – Two New Orleans police officers were convicted Wednesday in federal court for their roles in the 2005 fatal beating of Raymond Robair and a cover-up that kept them out of trouble for several years.

After deliberating for more than 13 hours over three days, a jury determined that veteran officer Melvin Williams violated Robair’s civil rights by beating and kicking him on a Treme street corner, an act the jury said directly resulted in his death.

The jury also found Williams and his rookie partner, officer Matthew Dean Moore, guilty of submitting a false police report about the incident. Moore, who agreed to be interviewed by FBI agents about the case, was also convicted of lying to the investigators.

After the verdicts were read, both Moore and Williams, who had been free on bond, were taken directly into the custody of federal marshals. The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced July 14. Williams faces a possible sentence of life in prison, and Moore, up to 25 years.
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New Orleans Louisiana Police Officers Melvin Williams And Matthew Dean Moore Convicted In Handyman’s Brutal Beating Death

April 14, 2011

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – A New Orleans police officer was convicted Wednesday of beating a 48-year-old handyman to death, while a fellow officer was found guilty of trying to help his partner cover up the deadly encounter nearly six years ago.

A federal jury convicted Officer Melvin Williams of violating Raymond Robair’s constitutional rights by kicking and beating him with a baton while he and Officer Matthew Dean Moore patrolled the Treme neighborhood on July 30, 2005. The jury of seven men and five women also convicted Williams and Moore of submitting a false report and found Moore guilty of lying to the FBI.

The case is one of several probes of the New Orleans police department by the Justice Department, which have resulted in charges against 20 current or former officers.

The officers’ attorneys had tried to shift the blame for Robair’s death to doctors who treated him for a heart attack for about 90 minutes before they discovered his spleen had ruptured. But the jury concluded Williams caused Robair’s death.

Williams faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Moore could get up to 25 years in prison. After the verdict, U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon ordered both remanded into custody while they await a July 14 sentencing hearing. The department suspended both officers without pay after the verdict.

Outside the courthouse, some of Robair’s relatives wept as they embraced.

“I was waiting for this day,” said his mother, Marie Robair. “Now I can rest and my son can rest in peace.”

“It’s a humbling experience. It’s a learning experience,” said his daughter, Judonna Mitchell. “It’s taught me to be patient and to be true to my own faith.”

The jury heard four days of testimony and deliberated over three days before reaching the verdict, which “surprised, shocked and disappointed” Moore’s attorney, Eric Hessler.

“I don’t think the verdict fit the evidence presented by the government,” he said, questioning whether jurors were swayed by emotion.

Prosecutors said Williams beat Robair without justification, breaking four ribs and crushing his spleen before the officers drove him to a hospital, where he died of massive internal bleeding.

Williams, 48, denied kicking or hitting Robair. He claimed Robair slipped and fell on a curb as they approached, but jurors heard from residents who said they witnessed the beating. The officers’ attorneys, however, said the witnesses gave conflicting accounts.

The jury’s foreman — Patrick Goodman, 55, of River Ridge — told The Associated Press he didn’t believe Robair’s injuries could have been caused by slipping and falling on a curb before Moore started to handcuff him. Goodman said he discounted the officers’ version of events because their courtroom testimony didn’t match “written evidence,” including statements they gave after Robair’s death.

“I had to believe the pathologist who stated that the fall alone could not create enough force to cause that injury,” Goodman said, referring to an expert witness called by prosecutors.

Goodman also said he also believed residents who testified they saw Williams kick and beat Robair with a baton, even though some details didn’t match up.

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Unarmed And Shot In The Back: New Orleans Police Officers David Warren And Gregory McRae Murdered Man And Burnt Body – Sentenced To Just 25 And 17 Years In Prison

March 31, 2011

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – A former New Orleans police officer was sentenced to 25 years in prison Thursday for shooting a man to death without justification after Hurricane Katrina, and his ex-colleague was given 17 years for burning the body.

Former officer David Warren was convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of Henry Glover, 31, outside a strip mall less than a week after the August 2005 storm. Ex-officer Gregory McRae was found guilty of burning Glover’s body in a car near a police station.

Warren faced a maximum sentence of life in prison while McRae could have received 50 years.

Lawyers for the men argued they deserved some leniency, partly because of the horrific conditions they faced in the chaos that followed the hurricane.

The judge said he didn’t believe Warren’s testimony that Glover posed a threat. “He was not at the strip mall to commit suicide, he was there to retrieve some baby clothing,” U.S. District Judge Lance Africk said. “You killed a man. Despite your contentious arguments to the contrary, it was no mistake.”

Glover’s family sat in the courtroom as he was sentenced.

“I forgive these men because if I don’t forgive them Jesus won’t forgive me,” said his mother, Edna Glover.

Jurors also convicted former Lt. Travis McCabe of writing a false report on the shooting. His sentencing has been postponed while his lawyers seek a new trial based on what they say is newly discovered evidence.

The jury cleared Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann of charges he burned Glover’s body and beat one of the men who brought the dying Glover to a makeshift police compound in search of help after the Sept. 2, 2005, shooting. Robert Italiano, a retired police lieutenant, was acquitted of charges he submitted a false report on the shooting and lied to the FBI.

Prosecutors said Glover was unarmed when Warren, 47, shot him in the back. But the former officer said he opened fire because he feared for his life. Warren said he was guarding a police substation at a shopping mall when Glover and a friend, Bernard Calloway, pulled up in a stolen truck and started running toward a gate that would have given them access to the building. He testified that the men ignored his commands to stop and that he thought he saw a gun in Glover’s hand before he fired one shot at him from a second-floor balcony.

His partner that day, Officer Linda Howard, testified Glover and Calloway weren’t armed and didn’t pose a threat.

McRae, 49, admitted he drove Glover’s body from the police compound to a nearby Mississippi River levee and set it on fire. The car belonged to one of the men who had driven Glover to the compound. McRae said he burned the vehicle because he was weary of seeing rotting corpses after the storm. Another officer, however, testified he saw McRae laughing after he set the fire.

McRae’s attorney argued his client deserved some leniency for accepting responsibility and admitting during the trial that he set Glover’s body on fire.

“Your conduct was barbaric,” Africk told McRae. “The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina was made uglier by your disturbing actions. At a time when more was expected of you, you failed miserably.”

Warren has been in custody since his indictment last year. McRae has been free on bond but was immediately taken into custody after sentencing.

A total of 20 current or former New Orleans police officers were charged last year in a series of Justice Department civil rights investigations. The probe of Glover’s death was the first of those cases to be tried.

Next week, two officers are scheduled to be tried on charges stemming from the July 2005 beating death of a 48-year-old man. And a trial is scheduled to start in June for five current or former officers charged in deadly bridge shootings and an alleged plot to make the shootings appear justified.

Police shot and killed two people and wounded four others on the Danziger Bridge less than a week after Katrina. Five other former officers already have pleaded guilty to participating in a cover-up of the shootings.

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So Much For Transparency: Obama Administration Appointees Delayed Public Documents Requested Under Freedom Of Information Act – Released Censored Emails Concerning Requests

March 28, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC — Insiders at the Homeland Security Department warned for months that senior Obama administration appointees were improperly delaying the releases of government files on politically sensitive topics as sought by citizens, journalists and watchdog groups under the Freedom of Information Act, according to uncensored emails newly obtained by The Associated Press.

The highly unusual political vetting was described as “meddling,” “crazy” and “bananas!” It is the subject of a congressional hearing later this week and an ongoing inquiry by the department’s inspector general.

Concerns came even from the official put in charge of submitting files to the political staff of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for the secretive reviews. Chief Privacy Officer Mary Ellen Callahan, who was appointed by Napolitano, complained in late 2009 that the vetting process was burdensome and said she wanted to change it.

Callahan is expected to be a central witness during an oversight hearing Thursday by the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. In emails, she warned that the Homeland Security Department might be sued over delays the political reviews were causing, and she hinted that a reporter might find out about the political scrutiny.

“This level of attention is CRAZY,” Callahan wrote in December 2009 to her then-deputy, Catherine Papoi. Callahan said she hoped someone outside the Obama administration would discover details of the political reviews, possibly by asking for evidence of them under the Freedom of Information Act itself: “I really really want someone to FOIA this whole damn process,” Callahan wrote.

Less than one week after Callahan’s email, on Dec. 21, the AP formally requested the records about the controversial political vetting. The agency ultimately turned over more than 995 pages of emails last summer, after a seven-month fight, and the AP wrote about the program. But the emails were heavily censored under provisions in the Freedom of Information Act allowing the government to withhold passages that describe internal policy-making deliberations.

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TSA’s “Safe” Airport Body Scanners Found To Emit 10 Times As Much Radiation As Expected

March 12, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – The Transportation Security Administration announced Friday that it would retest every full-body X-ray scanner that emits ionizing radiation — 247 machines at 38 airports — after maintenance records on some of the devices showed radiation levels 10 times higher than expected.

The TSA says that the records reflect math mistakes and that all the machines are safe. Indeed, even the highest readings listed on some of the records — the numbers that the TSA says were mistakes — appear to be many times less than what the agency says a person absorbs through one day of natural background radiation.

Even so, the TSA has ordered the new tests out of “an abundance of caution to reassure the public,” spokesman Nicholas Kimball says. The tests will be finished by the end of the month, and the results will be released “as they are completed,” the agency said on its website.

TSA officials have repeatedly assured the public and lawmakers that the machines have passed all inspections. The agency’s review of maintenance reports, launched Dec. 10, came only after USA TODAY and lawmakers called for the release of the records late last year.

The agency posted reports Friday from 127 X-ray-emitting devices on its website and said it would continue to release results from maintenance tests for the approximately 4,500 X-ray devices at airports nationwide. Those devices include machines that examine checked luggage. Of the reports posted, about a third showed some sort of error, Kimball said.

The TSA announced steps to require its maintenance contractors to “retrain personnel involved in conducting and overseeing the radiation survey process.”

Some lawmakers remain concerned, however.

The TSA “has repeatedly assured me that the machines that emit radiation do not pose a health risk,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in a written statement Friday. “Nonetheless, if TSA contractors reporting on the radiation levels have done such a poor job, how can airline passengers and crew have confidence in the data used by the TSA to reassure the public?”

She said the records released Friday “included gross errors about radiation emissions. That is completely unacceptable when it comes to monitoring radiation.”

U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz also was troubled by the information posted by the TSA. Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairs a House oversight subcommittee on national security and has sponsored legislation to limit the use of full-body scans. He has been pushing the TSA to release the maintenance records.

At best, Chaffetz said, the radiation reports generated by TSA contractors reveal haphazard oversight and record-keeping in the critical inspection system the agency relies upon to ensure millions of travelers aren’t subjected to excessive doses of radiation.

“It is totally unacceptable to be bumbling such critical tasks,” Chaffetz said. “These people are supposed to be protecting us against terrorists.”

In the past, the TSA has failed to properly monitor and ensure the safety of X-ray devices used on luggage. A 2008 report by the worker safety arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the TSA and its maintenance contractors had failed to detect when baggage X-ray machines emitted radiation beyond what regulations allowed. They also failed to take action when some machines had missing or disabled safety features, the report shows.

Chaffetz said the TSA’s characterization of the maintenance mistakes “sounds like an excuse rather than the real facts.”

“I’m tired of excuses,” Chaffetz said. “The public has a right and deserves to know. It begs the question, ‘What are they still not sharing with us?’ These are things you cannot make mistakes with.” Chaffetz said he expects to address some of his concerns during a hearing Wednesday.

The full-body scanners, called backscatter devices, are supposed to deliver only a tiny amount of radiation — about as much as an airplane passenger gets during two minutes of a typical flight.

Peter Rez, a physics professor at Arizona State University, said Friday he wanted to scrutinize the 2,000 pages of reports the TSA posted. He has expressed concerns about the potential for the scanners to break and the importance of proper maintenance and monitoring.

“Mechanical things break down,” Rez told USA TODAY in December. Rez also has voiced fears about the potential for a passenger to get an excessive dose of radiation or even a radiation burn if the X-ray scanning beam were to malfunction and stop on one part of a person’s body for an extended period of time.

He said Friday that the contractor mistakes TSA identified only heighten his concerns.

“What happens in times of failure, when they can give very, very high radiation doses. I’m totally unconvinced they have thought that through,” Rez said of the TSA. “I just see a large, bumbling bureaucracy. Of course it’s not very reassuring.”

The TSA’s Kimball disputed such characterizations.

“Numerous independent tests have confirmed that these technologies are safe, but these record-keeping errors are not acceptable,” he said. For instance, “the testing procedure calls for the technician to take 10 separate scans” for radiation levels, “add them up and then divide by 10 to take an average. They didn’t divide by 10,” Kimball said.

“We’re taking a number of steps to ensure the mistakes aren’t repeated,” he said, “and the public will be able to see for themselves by reviewing all future reports online.”

The TSA is responsible for the safety of its own X-ray devices. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said it does not routinely inspect airport X-ray machines because they are not considered medical devices. The TSA’s airport scanners are exempt from state radiation inspections because they belong to a federal agency.

Some of the records were written by employees of the machines’ maker: Rapiscan Systems. In a written statement, the company’s executive vice president, Peter Kant, said, “The mistakes were the result of calculating and procedural errors that were identified by Rapiscan management and have been corrected. In actuality, the systems in these airports have always been well below acceptable exposure limits.”

Rapiscan Systems said in a Dec. 15 letter to the TSA that company engineers who tested the backscatter machines were confused by inspection forms and instructions, leading them to make mistakes on the forms that vastly inflated the radiation emitted by the machines.

Rapiscan vowed to redesign its inspection forms and retrain its engineers.

The TSA released inspection reports from 40 backscatter machines, and reports for 19 of those machines had errors, including six that were deemed “considerable.”

In a written statement sent to USA TODAY, TSA Administrator John Pistole said the equipment is safe.

“Independent third-party testing has confirmed that all TSA technology is safe,” Pistole said. “We are also taking additional steps to build on existing safety measures in an open and transparent way, including commissioning an additional independent entity to evaluate these protocols.”

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Obama Orders Gitmo Trials To Begin – Campaign Promises Nothing But BS To Secure Oval Office

March 7, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – President Obama on Monday ordered trials by military commission to resume at Guantánamo Bay.

The move signals another defeat for Obama, who pledged to close the terrorist detention facility in Cuba within one year of taking office.

In a fact sheet, the White House said Obama “remains committed” to closing the facility, but the president’s decision to lift the ban on military commissions signals the unlikelihood that Obama will successfully transfer all of the prisoners in Cuba.

Shortly after Obama came to office and announced his goal of closing the facility, the administration suspended new charges in military commissions in Cuba.

But on Monday, Obama directed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to “issue an order rescinding his prior suspension on the swearing and referring of new charges in the military commissions.”

The White House said that the president ordered changes in how the commissions were run to make them more fair.

“The administration, working on a bipartisan basis with members of Congress, has successfully enacted key reforms, such as a ban on the use of statements taken as a result of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and a better system for handling classified information,” the White House said.

“With these and other reforms, military commissions, along with prosecutions of suspected terrorists in civilian courts, are an available and important tool in combating international terrorists that fall within their jurisdiction while upholding the rule of law.”

Additionally, Obama by executive order created a periodic review process for detainees who cannot be tried or released because they represent a continued threat to national security.

The White House said the review “will help to ensure that individuals who we have determined will be subject to long-term detention continue to be detained only when lawful and necessary to protect against a significant threat to the security of the United States.”

“If a final determination is made that a detainee no longer constitutes a significant threat to our security, the Executive Order provides that the Secretaries of State and Defense are to identify a suitable transfer location outside the United States, consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and applicable law,” the fact sheet said. “As the president has stated before, no Guantánamo detainee will be released into the United States.”

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Florida Turnpike Authority Illegally Detains Motorists Who Pay Tolls With Large Bills

March 5, 2011

TAMPA, FLORIDA – Meet Joel Chandler, who just paid his $1.00 toll on the Polk Parkway with a $100 bill, he is not allowed to leave unless he provides personal info to the toll taker. The toll taker tells Chandler this is what happens when they get large bills. She says this is what they have to do.

Chandler says to the toll taker, “So I’m being detained?” She says yes sir.

It is a policy the Florida Turnpike authority instituted for people who paid with $20, $50 or $100 bills. After it happened once, Chandler kept testing the system and taped his encounters as he went through the toll booths.

One time a toll taker told him, she wouldn’t give him his change unless he gave her the information. Chandler replied, “So I’m being detained.” He asked why he was being detained but never got an answer.

Chandler says this is a serious criminal offense, to detain someone without proper legal authority. He says that is exactly what the department is doing.

When Chandler called and e-mailed the Florida Department of Transportation to complain about the policy he was told there is no policy to detain people who give large bills. He says that made him more concerned, because that meant there were individual rouge toll takers detaining people.

The practice continued at toll booth after toll booth and if someone refused to provide the information they were threatened with arrest. One toll taker told Chandler’s brother Robert, “I could call FHP would you like me to do that sir.” Robert Chandler asked why she would call the Florida Highway Patrol when he was being illegally detained and the toll taker said he could come up with another form of tender.

Chandler continued to complain and on July 21st at 7:19 pm he received an email from the assistant General Counsel of FDOT saying essentially the department didn’t know what he was talking about and they don’t have sufficient information to investigate, however earlier that same day there were a flurry of e-mails going back and forth in the department saying shut the program down, temporarily suspend it and who should call Chandler and what should they say.

According to Chandler, not only was the D.O.T. not being truthful about the policy existing, but he also says they made a concerted effort to cover it up.

One reason the department might not have wanted the public to know about the program is because of whom was being detained.

Chandler says he thinks it clear from their own documents there was a lot of racial profiling going on.

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Incompetent Phoenix Arizona Police Chief Jack Harris Refuses To Step Down After Department Lied To Get Extra Federal Tax Dollars

March 2, 2011

PHOENIX, ARIZONA – Speaking from the scene of an early morning home invasion in West Phoenix, Police Chief Jack Harris said he will not be stepping down amid controversy over his department’s reported kidnapping statistics for 2008.

“Anyone who wants these stars can come and get them,” a visibly angry Harris said. “But I’ve got news for you. I’m not giving them to you. You’re going to have to take them.

“I am absolutely outraged by what is happening in this community, by some people with a political agenda who are trying to convince the community that incidents like this [home invasion] aren’t happening.”

The controversy stems from allegations that the Phoenix Police Department misrepresented the number of kidnappings in the city. The department received $1.7 million in federal grant money to deal with the problem.

The Office of the Inspector General launched an audit in December to try and determine if the department deserved that money.

Initially, the department reported more than 350 kidnappings in 2008. Based on that number, the department and many politicians labeled Phoenix as the “kidnapping capital of America.”

Supposedly, Mexico City was the only city in the entire world that had more kidnappings. Now the Phoenix Police Department is saying some of the reports, as many as 100, included in that initial number should not have been counted.

“If there is anybody in this community who does not believe that we have a kidnapping/home invasion problem in this community, they either just got off the bus today or they’ve been living under a rock in this community for the last several years,” Harris said.

“I’ve been accused of doing something wrong because I went to the federal government and said, ‘Give me money to help me protect this community and to protect my officers.’ … If I did something wrong by doing that, stand by, because I’m going to do it again and again and again as long as I’m wearing this uniform ….”

In the wake of the revelation that the initially reported number of kidnappings was incorrect, some have been calling for Harris’ resignation. The police chief says they are not going to get it.

“I am not stepping down,” he said. “I am not voluntarily giving up my job.”

In an e-mail sent to city managers Tuesday, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association reportedly requested an independent investigation into the Phoenix Police Department’s management.

The e-mail alleges misconduct, saying, “The kidnapping statistics were manipulated and flawed in order to obtain federal monies.”

There has been talk that Harris, who also holds the title Public Safety Director, could be moved from the Phoenix Police Department to City Hall. Such a move could spark another issue in terms of his pension and recent talk regarding “double dipping.” A public watch group called Judicial Watch sued Harris in late 2009 for douple dipping, which is collecting both pension benefits and a yearly salary.

It’s not yet known if or when any action against Harris might be taken.

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Audio File Surfaces Of Man Being Beaten By Westland Michigan Police Officers Michael Little And Kyle Dawley – Faced Bogus Charges And Was Convicted Of One

January 31, 2011

WESTLAND, MICHIGAN – An attorney plans to use an inadvertent 21-minute recording from an officer’s lapel microphone as grounds to overturn a misdemeanor conviction against a husband who allegedly was beaten by officers trying to mediate a dispute between the man and his wife.

The husband, Jeffrey Kodlowski, suspected his wife of cheating and initiated the March 18, 2009, incident when he took her cell phone in an attempt to prove her infidelity. Marlyn Kodlowski then began a series of phone calls to police that led to the arrival of officers Michael Little and Kyle Dawley to the Kodlowski residence on South Hanlon Street.

Jeffrey Kodlowski’s attorney, Joseph Corriveau, says the recording, captured by Little’s lapel microphone, shows the police overreached their authority and allegedly attacked his client, who was charged with assaulting the officers; he was acquitted of the assault charge and found guilty of resisting arrest.

Although assaulting a police officer is a felony in Michigan, Westland officials did not submit the case to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office for review; instead, Kodlowski was charged in 29th District Court under city code violations of assault and resisting arrest.

“The audio shows these officers clearly stepped over the line,” said Corriveau, who filed a motion with the Michigan Court of Appeals in December, after Wayne Circuit Judge Craig Strong refused to hear the case on appeal.

“If the microphone hadn’t been on, this would’ve been just a ‘he said, she said’ situation. But the audio tells the story,” the attorney said.

Corriveau said he also plans to file a civil lawsuit against the police seeking damages for the beating, but is waiting to see how the appeal plays out first.

“(District Judge Mark McConnell) didn’t allow photos of my client’s injuries, or any mention of the beating these officers gave him,” Corriveau said. “The judge also wouldn’t let the jury see a transcript of the audio.”

Westland Deputy Chief Daniel Karrick said he couldn’t comment on the case because it was still being adjudicated, although he said there’s nothing unusual about trying assault cases against officers in district court.

“Most of those cases are charged as misdemeanors,” Karrick said. “I’d say 99 percent of our cases are charged that way.”
“Try to make me leave.”

The incident began at 4:01 a.m., when Marlyn Kodlowski called the Westland Police Department claiming her husband had taken her cell phone and car keys and wouldn’t allow her to leave the house. The desk officer asked to talk to her husband; Jeffrey Kodlowski told the officer, “There’s no fight, like hitting or nothing.”

“Let me ask you this — how come you won’t let her have the keys to leave?” the officer asked. Jeffrey Kodlowski agreed to give his wife the car keys, and the officer hung up.

Marlyn Kodlowski again called police at 4:12 a.m.

Little and Dawley arrived at 4:17 a.m. to find the woman sitting in her van outside the home. She told the officers her husband had handed over her keys and purse, but would not give up the cell phone. “He thinks I’m cheating on him,” she said.

She told the officers she planned to go to her sister’s house.

Corriveau said “it was obvious Mrs. Kodlowski was free to leave” when the police arrived. “At that point, they should have just left,” Corriveau said.

The officers instead entered the house and are heard ordering Jeffrey Kodlowski to give the cell phone to his wife. He refused.

“You don’t believe me or nothing I say; what because I’m the dude here?” he asked.

“You’re a loudmouth; you’re acting like a jerk,” Dawley said.

“Loudmouth? You’re in my house; no one’s yelling at you,” Jeffrey Kodlowski replied. “You come off with this pumping the chest and throwing your authority at me for nothing, dude. You have no right to sit here over a phone.”

“Because you’re acting like a jerk,” Dawley said.

“OK, well, I will act like a jerk and be quiet,” the husband said. “You have no right to sit here over a phone.”

Dawley cut him off: “Try to make me leave your house. Go for it.”

Jeffrey Kodlowski twice informed the officers that he’d had an operation for a brain aneurysm.
“Let’s take him.”

At one point, Marlyn Kodlowski and the officers tried to use her husband’s wallet as a bargaining chip to get Jeffrey Kodlowski to give up the phone.

Again he refused, saying he wanted to learn the code so he could see who his wife had been calling.

Jeffrey Kodlowski is later heard saying, “I’m the victim. I asked you guys to please leave; she’s got the keys to the car, she wants to leave. I talked to an officer on the phone; he said ‘Just give her the keys and go.'”

A few minutes later, Marlyn Kodlowski says she wants to leave. Her husband is heard saying, “I’m curious . . . this is my wallet there?”

“Don’t touch me,” Little said.

The officers later would say Jeffrey Kodlowski had spun Little around when he touched him, but no struggle is heard on the audio. Instead, Kodlowski apologizes twice.

Dawley then says to his partner, “You know what? Let’s take him. (Expletive) him.”

The sounds of a struggle are heard. “Nobody is touching him . . . I was pointing,” Jeffrey Kodlowski says.

“Don’t resist,” Dawley says.

The husband screams, “Man, dude. Ow, ow!”

“Stop resisting,” Dawley says.

“I ain’t doing nothing,” Kodlowski says. “He punched me in the face.”

Marlyn Kodlowski then begs the officers, “Stop, stop. My son is outside.”

“Go outside with your son,” Little says.

“Don’t touch him,” Marlyn Kodlowski says. “You guys, stop. Oh please, you guys.”

When the struggle was over, Jeffrey Kodlowski was bleeding profusely from a huge gash in his head, and is allegedly rushed to Annapolis Hospital.

Curt Benson, a professor at Cooley School of Law, said police officers are required to leave a private residence once they determine no crime has been committed, even if they were invited inside.

“If they believe someone has committed a crime, they can make an arrest,” he said. “But in a case like this, if they weren’t sure who owned the phone, as long as there was no evidence of a crime, they should have told them to talk to a lawyer. They’re required to leave if they’re asked to leave and there’s no crime.

“The problem is, some people use the police as arbitrators in family squabbles,” Benson said. “The police know that, and their job is to de-escalate the situation. It doesn’t sound like that’s what happened here.”

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Los Angeles California School Police Officer Jeff Stenroos Arrested, Charged After Bogus Police Report Saying He Had Been Shot

January 28, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – Authorities arrested Los Angeles school police Officer Jeff Stenroos on suspicion of filing a false police report after he allegedly admitted to fabricating a story that he had been shot last week in Woodland Hills, according to a senior LAPD official close to the investigation.

The official said investigators are still piecing together how Stenroos pulled off the alleged hoax, which sparked a dragnet that inconvenienced thousands of people after police shut down a large swath of Woodland Hills in search of the supposed gunman.

The source added that Stenroos’ protective vest showed obvious signs of having been struck by a bullet, and the officer also suffered bruising on his chest. Detectives later raised questions about whether the officer shot himself accidentally and then fabricated a story or concocted the whole scenario.

The source declined to say whether additional arrests would be made in the case.

“Obviously, it’s as shocking to us as it is to anyone else,” Steven Zipperman, chief of the Los Angeles Unified School District Police Department, said Thursday night.

Zipperman, who recently left the Los Angeles Police Department, where he had been a captain, said his department is cooperating in the ongoing investigation.

The president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League called the incident an “embarrassment to law enforcement.”

“The law enforcement community is disgusted,” Paul M. Weber said in a statement. “While Mr. Stenroos is a disgrace to his badge, his individual and dangerous actions should not reflect on the hardworking men and women in law enforcement.”

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Pinal County Arizona Deputy Sheriff And Sheriff Paul Babeu Are Pretty Much Full Of Shit

September 30, 2010

PINAL COUNTY, ARIZONA – Experts are now seriously questioning Pinal County Sheriff’s Deputy Louie Puroll’s much-hyped tale of being shot by drug smugglers in a remote part of the Arizona desert. But even if every detail of Puroll’s story is true, it still does not square with many of the claims the Sheriff’s office has peddled about the case.

The department says the original criminal investigation “had concluded and the facts of the case confirmed the accounts of the event as Deputy Puroll described.” And though the case has now been reopened, Babeu told local news this week that he “absolutely” still believes his deputy. Beside Puroll and his alleged attackers, who were never found, there were no other witnesses to the event.

But in the immediate aftermath of the April incident, and to this day, Sheriff Paul Babeu and the department have made statements about the event that clash with the recorded account that Puroll gave to detectives on May 6, and which was released to the public in early July (audio here). These statements have included exaggerations and unverified information, and have been repeated often by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu as his national profile has grown as a voice on border security. Some of the claims have been walked back. Others have not.
Claim: The assailants were members of a Mexican drug cartel

While the April incident made headlines around the country in the context of the debate over immigration and border security, Puroll himself never suggested that his assailants were Mexican or illegal immigrants. The area Puroll was in is a known corridor for traffickers and undocumented border crossers, and the Sheriff’s office told TPM they know cartels operate in the area. But Puroll told detectives that he only got a look at the facial features of one of the men he was tracking that day, and only in profile, through binoculars.

“I remember thinking to myself, that man is an Indian, he’s probably not a Mexican smuggler. I remember thinking that because that’s what he looked like,” Puroll told detectives.

But that’s not what the department told the public.

On April 30, CNN reported: “The Pinal County deputy, who was not immediately identified, contacted authorities after being wounded in the desert, saying he had been shot by an illegal immigrant with an AK-47, said Lt. Tammy Villar, a sheriff’s spokeswoman.”

That night, Babeu was interviewed on local news. He said he had spoken to Puroll firsthand about the incident, and said Puroll ” gave a description, as ‘five Hispanic males.'”

Villar told TPM that some media reports suggesting Mexican persons of interest had been detained cited her and the department erroneously. She also said that when she spoke to Puroll after the incident, he asked her, “Where are people getting that these are Mexican nationals?” (Puroll went back to work 3 days after the incident, but has not yet spoken to the media. The Sheriff’s Office told TPM he is waiting for the end of an internal investigation on advice of his lawyer.)

It would seem people are getting that from the sheriff. As recently as Tuesday, Babeu was on Fox News saying that “one of my deputies, as you know, was ambushed — was shot by six members of a Mexican drug cartel.”

When TPM asked Villar how the Sheriff could know definitively that the suspects were Mexican cartel members, she responded, “I can’t answer that,” and then, “I would have the same question.”

Pinal County Public Information Officer Tim Gaffney first told TPM that the department had information from a “federal law enforcement source developed during this case and another subsequent case where two individuals were shot in the desert that those individuals working the area are tied to drug cartels from Mexico.” When asked what specifically tied that to the Puroll case, Gaffney said “The reason we feel that they were in fact members of the drug cartel is because of the witness/victim accounts from individuals in the area told us as much. We have also gotten information from other agencies that is law enforcement sensitive that has also confirmed this information.”

TPM’s requested a direct comment from the sheriff on the matter, but one was not provided.
Claim: Smugglers fired at law enforcement helicopters

In the early reports of the incident, various news outlets cited the Sheriff’s department saying that law enforcement helicopters responding to the scene took fire from the suspects. A report first published on April 30 by KPHO.com quotes Villar: “We had helicopters up in the air. They were taking gunfire from the suspects as well. They had to pull out.”

A few days after the incident, The Arizona Republic reported that the Arizona National Guard told the media:

a clipboard or other metal object within the aircraft apparently fell to the floor, causing a clattering noise. Crew members were at first unclear about the source of the noise and put out an alert that there might be gunfire in the area. During a debriefing, Castillo said, the crew realized what caused the confusion.

Villar said the clarification never reached Sheriff Paul Babeu, who told the media of a helicopter coming under fire during news briefings.

But the National Guard only took responsibility for the confusion over one helicopter taking fire. When TPM asked Villar how she came to tell media that several helicopters had sustained fire she wrote in an email:

when the helicopter pilot (mind you there was more than 1 in the air) reported he had taken fire…….he didn’t immediately identify himself to our incident commander……we had more than one and did not know which one was taking fire…..They means….there were more than 1 and we did not know who was……I could have better stated- one of the helicopters has reported they (again they) were taking fire……it is a matter of semantics that had been later clarified numerous times.

Claim: Puroll was “ambushed”

In his account of the incident, Puroll said the following:

That man stood up in front of me, about 25 yards away… When he first stood up, he did not see me, initially. He did not come up ready to shoot. I don’t believe he knew I was there, until he actually saw me. When he stood up his weapon was in his right hand down by his side pointed at the ground. He stood up, he was looking at the ground. Then he raised his head and looked up and he saw me.

Puroll’s account suggests he surprised the men he was tracking. Yet Babeu has repeatedly described the incident as an “ambush.”

In an article posted April 30, KPHO.com reported Babeu saying, “One of them stayed in the rear, took cover. That person popped up and started firing rounds at our deputy.”

The case has been at the center of his argument that the tactics of drug smugglers have changed recently, that they have become more violent and organized. (An argument he made in a recent interview with TPM.)

On August 2, Babeu appeared on Fox News and told Sean Hannity: “This is America, and we have armed paramilitary squad-sized elements coming through our county every day and every night, and they even ambushed one of my deputies.”

Expanding on Babeu’s argument that the attack used “paramilitary” tactics, Gaffney told TPM that “when the shooting began these individuals were spread out much like tactics learned and practiced in the military.” But according to Puroll:

Everything occurred here within a 25 or 30 yard circle at most. I don’t think those people who were shooting could actually see me, ’cause the rounds were all cracking in air above my head. Nothing struck ’round me close in the dirt or anything like that.

Claim: A large amount of marijuana was recovered at the site

On May 1, The Arizona Republic reported that “Babeu said Puroll was tracking the smugglers, who left behind large quantities of marijuana.” Puroll said he suspected the men he was following were drug smugglers, and he said that five of the six men he saw that day were carrying large backpacks — but no evidence was ever recovered.

On May 3, Babeu appeared on Greta Van Susteren’s show on Fox News and said that Puroll “found some actual backpacks of marijuana and some other suspicious activity.”

The New Times’ Paul Rubin reports that at a press conference on May 4, Babeu “conceded that some information released by his agency in the hours after the incident was inaccurate.” Among the corrected errors Rubin lists: “That the smugglers left behind “bales” of marijuana as they fled. Authorities confiscated no contraband.”

Gaffney told TPM that “Deputy Puroll was following the smugglers to see where they would leave the marijuana they were backpacking. We have evidence bays stuffed full of the backpacks that we seize every week. It is common practice for smugglers to backpack the marijuana through Pinal County and then leave it in a location until it is picked up. Deputy Puroll reported this as well that he was following them to see where they would leave it.”

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FBI Lied To Congress About Terrorism Link To Justify Surveilance Of Anti-War Rally

September 21, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC – The FBI gave inaccurate information to Congress and the public when it claimed a possible terrorism link to justify surveilling an anti-war rally in Pittsburgh, the Justice Department’s inspector general said Monday in a report on the bureau’s scrutiny of domestic activist groups.

Inspector General Glenn Fine said the FBI had no reason to expect that anyone of interest in a terrorism investigation would be present at the 2002 event sponsored by the Thomas Merton Center, a nonviolent anti-war and anti-discrimination group.

The surveillance was “an ill-conceived project on a slow work day,” the IG stated in a study of several FBI domestic terrorism probes of people affiliated with organizations such as Greenpeace and the Catholic Worker.

Earlier, in statements to Congress and in a press release, the FBI had described the Pittsburgh rally surveillance by one agent as related to a terrorism investigation.

In a letter to the IG, FBI Deputy Director Timothy Murphy said the FBI regrets that inaccurate information was provided to the FBI director and Congress regarding the basis for the agent’s presence at the rally.

Speaking generally of the FBI probes it studied, the IG said a domestic terrorism classification has far-reaching impact because people who are subjects of such investigations are normally placed on watchlists and their travels and interactions with law enforcement may be tracked.

The FBI has broad definitions that enable it to classify matters as domestic terrorism that actually are trespassing or vandalism, the inspector general said.

The IG said the evidence did not indicate that the FBI targeted individuals involved with the groups on the basis of their free-speech activities protected by the Constitution’s First Amendment, but rather due to concerns about potential criminal acts.

The IG also concluded that the factual basis for opening some investigations was factually weak and that in several instances there was little indication of any possible federal crime, as opposed to state crimes. In some cases, the IG found that the FBI extended the duration of probes without adequate basis and in a few cases the FBI improperly retained information about the groups in its files, classifying some probes relating to nonviolent civil disobedience under its “Acts of Terrorism” classification.

Regarding the Pittsburgh rally, controversy erupted in 2006 over whether the FBI had spied on protesters at the event several years earlier because of their anti-war views.

At the time, the FBI issued a news release saying the surveillance had been based on an ongoing investigation.

FBI Director Robert Mueller told a Senate hearing that the bureau had been trying to identify a particular individual believed to be in attendance.

The FBI’s statements to Congress and the public were not true, said the IG, who found no evidence that the FBI had any information at the time of the event that any terrorism subject would be present.

According to the IG, the Office of the Chief Division Counsel in the FBI Pittsburgh Field Division created a document that said the surveillance was supposedly directed at an individual living in Pittsburgh who was of interest to the FBI based on evidence developed in a terrorism probe.

“We determined this version of events was not true,” said the IG.

The inaccurate statements may have been inadvertent, but the IG said it is more likely that the document reflected an effort to state a stronger justification for the surveillance.

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Las Vegas Nevada Police Officer Bryan Yant Under Investigation For Drugs He Didn’t Seize In Police Raid That Never Took Place – Lied To Justify Shooting Man In June

August 26, 2010

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – Las Vegas police Detective Bryan Yant is under investigation for apparently lying about drugs he didn’t seize and actions he didn’t take during a 2009 police raid that never happened, the Las Vegas Review-Journal has learned.

Yant, a 10-year veteran of the department who remains on paid leave, last week was cleared by a coroner’s inquest in the fatal shooting of Trevon Cole, 21, while serving a drug warrant in June. In seeking the search warrant, Yant made gross misstatements about Cole’s criminal history.

The department’s internal affairs unit is investigating that case and is questioning Yant’s actions in at least one other drug probe.

In January, Yant and fellow officer David Goris said they sat in a car outside a northwest valley home while a confidential informant bought drugs from a man they identified as William Sigler. That alleged drug buy was used to justify a nighttime search of Sigler’s home 12 days later. Police arrested Sigler and his girlfriend and seized prescription drugs, marijuana and cocaine from the home.

But Sigler’s attorneys and prosecutors now agree that the informant did not buy drugs from Sigler, who was dealing cards at a poker tournament in the Bahamas in January.

Justice of the Peace Joe Bonaventure threw out the case last week. Clark County District Attorney David Roger still can seek an indictment by a grand jury, but he said Wednesday he has not decided whether he will do so.

Investigators also question why Yant tore up and left three documents at Sigler’s home during the January raid. In those documents, obtained by the Review-Journal, Yant describes a different raid of Sigler’s home, one that never took place.

Yant, in a “declaration of arrest” form, describes detaining suspects and photographing evidence at the Sigler home. The form is dated December 2009, but the day of the month is left blank. He also filled out and signed a “preliminary field test checklist” affirming that evidence seized in that nonexistent raid was positive for cocaine but did not list an amount or the specific date.

It’s unclear why Yant filled out paperwork describing events that never happened.

Deputy Chief Joseph Lombardo, who oversees the department’s narcotics section, said the documents pertain to a prior case that went nowhere.

Yant in December said he used department money to buy drugs from Sigler and obtained a search warrant for Sigler’s home, Lombardo said. But Lombardo confirmed that no search was conducted in December, and it’s unclear why the search warrant signed by Justice of the Peace Eric Goodman was never executed.

No December drug buy plays any role in any case against Sigler.

Yant never should have completed paperwork in advance of an anticipated raid, Lombardo said, and leaving those papers in Sigler’s home a month later was “inappropriate.”

Yant’s certification that he had seized cocaine before a raid that never even happened raises “serious questions,” said Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada.

He said Yant’s completion of the form without having the drugs in his possession in particular went “beyond mere laziness and sloppiness. It goes to a process that is totally phony.”

Sigler’s attorneys, John Wright and Jason Weiner, said their client found the torn-up papers in his home after the January raid and pieced them back together. They said that when they asked prosecutors for copies of the department’s marked bills and inventory of drugs bought in January, they inexplicably received only Yant’s paperwork from December.

Weiner said that if the informant really did buy drugs in January, there should be a paper trail. Roger said that his office never received that information from detectives and that his case is based only on the evidence allegedly seized in the January raid.

Sigler’s attorneys challenged that evidence, saying it was obtained through a flawed warrant.

“The money had to go out of Metro and the drugs had to come in, and there is no record of that happening by Metro despite our repeated requests,” Weiner said, adding that, “The bottom line is, our guy was in the Bahamas.”

Lombardo said the department does have records of drugs bought in January. It’s unclear why the records were never given to prosecutors or the defense.

In the Trevon Cole case, Yant in a search warrant affidavit confused Cole, a small-time marijuana dealer, with a man by the same name who had a long history of drug arrests in Houston and California though that man is described as seven years older, at least 3 inches shorter and 100 pounds lighter. Yant and his supervisor, Sgt. John Harney, who is also on paid leave, are under investigation for the way that search warrant was carried out. Goris’ duty status was unclear Wednesday.

The investigations are part of the fallout from police work that district attorneys at last week’s inquest described as “sloppy.”

After the Cole shooting, Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie ordered narcotics detectives to stop serving their own forced-entry search warrants, leaving them for SWAT officers. After the inquest, he extended that order to cover all raids pending a departmental policy review.

In what officials call an unrelated move, the captain overseeing narcotics, Capt. Brett Zimmerman, was recently transferred to the crimes against youth and family bureau, and that bureau’s Capt. Vincent Cannito was sent to narcotics.

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100’s Of Millions Of US Taxpayer Dollars Wasted On Bush’s Tortue Prisons And Guantanamo Bay Base

June 6, 2010

GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA — At the U.S. naval station here, a handsome electronic sign hangs between two concrete pillars. In yellow enamel against a blue metal backdrop is a map of Cuba, the “Pearl of the Antilles,” above flashing time and temperature readings.

“Welcome Aboard,” the sign says.

The cost of the marquee, along with a smaller sign positioned near the airfield: $188,000. Among other odd legacies from war-on-terror spending since 2001 for the troops at Guantanamo Bay: an abandoned volleyball court for $249,000, an unused go-kart track for $296,000 and $3.5 million for 27 playgrounds that are often vacant.

The Pentagon also spent $683,000 to renovate a cafe that sells ice cream and Starbucks coffee, and $773,000 to remodel a cinder-block building to house a KFC/Taco Bell restaurant.

The spending is part of at least $500 million that has transformed what was once a sun-beaten and forgotten Caribbean base into one of the most secure military and prison installations in the world. That does not include construction bonuses, which typically run into the millions.

Also not included are annual operating costs of $150 million — double the amount for a comparable U.S. prison, according to the White House. Add in clandestine black-budget items, such as the top-secret Camp 7 prison for high-value detainees, aptly nicknamed Camp Platinum, and the post-Sept. 11, 2001, bill for the 45-square-mile base easily soars toward $2 billion.

The Obama administration wants to close the detention operation and relocate it to a prison in Illinois, but the prospect of seeing the final detainees depart seems increasingly like a long-term project. If the president does succeed, the Pentagon will leave behind a newly remodeled military encampment, along with numerous questions about whether the cost of creating what then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld once called the “least worst place” for suspected terrorists was worth the price.

In the first public accounting of how much has been spent on the base since the first detainees arrived in January 2002, The Washington Post obtained from the military a line-by-line breakdown of capital expenditures, ranging from the mundane to the exotic.

Overall, the prison camp operation that hugs the Caribbean coastline cost about $220 million to build over several years, a price that does not include Camp 7, which holds 16 of the most notorious detainees, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. And $13 million was spent to construct a courthouse complex that appears custom-designed for Mohammed and his four co-defendants.

But as spending accelerated over the years, and more and more construction and renovation contracts were awarded, the number of detainees steadily declined, from a peak of 680 in May 2003 to 181 now.

Many of the projects itemized in the breakdown are reminders of suburban America — familiar settings re-created in a Caribbean hothouse to comfort the military personnel and contractors who run detainee operations.

Millions went to build artificial-turf football and baseball fields that professional players would envy, surrounded by a cluster of facilities, including a running track, a skate park, an outdoor roller hockey rink and batting cages.

[Story Continues On Original Site Below]

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Hundreds Of New England Police Officers, Firefighters, And EMTs Used Bogus Certificates For Licenses

May 28, 2010

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – More than 200 emergency medical technicians, firefighters and police officers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire may have to surrender their licenses after an investigation into falsified EMT course completion certificates, state officials say.

First responders must complete recertification courses every two years, but the investigation found that although some of them had been awarded certificates, they had not attended all the required classes, said Jen Manley, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

All of those under suspicion had been trained correctly before, she said, and the Public Health Department has not found any incidents in which they provided inadequate care.

However, the department considers this a matter of falsifying training records and those under investigation are voluntarily suspended from providing medical treatment, Manley said.

The investigation, which is ongoing, began a month ago, she said.

Sue Prentiss, chief of emergency medical services for the New Hampshire Department of Safety, told CNN that up to 39 New Hampshire EMTs who received training at Massachusetts facilities also allegedly obtained false certifications.

All individuals under suspicion in the two states have confessed, and some are in the process of obtaining correct recertification, Manley and Prentiss said.

The certifications under investigation were issued in 2008 and 2009, according to Manley, and the state is currently reviewing records from the past two years.

The Boston Fire Department was notified about the investigation, which concerns 18 of their firefighters, on Wednesday, said spokesman Steve MacDonald. He said the fire department is not yet aware of what the 18 firefighters would be charged with, just that their names are on the list.

Although firefighters are not required to receive EMT certification, the fire department issues stipends to individuals who complete the courses as an incentive for them to be trained as first responders, MacDonald said. Recertification courses cost $100 to $200 and stipends can go up to $2,000.

Prentiss told CNN that the New Hampshire Department of Safety became aware of the allegations on May 13 when one of the training institutions came to the department with the results of an internal investigation. All of the training institutions being investigated are cooperating with the state and have provided lists of individuals who attended their classes, Manley and Prentiss said.

Both told CNN that although private employers can discipline workers as they see fit, the states will not pursue punishment until the investigation is complete. However, “we take this very seriously” said Manley, and the state might consider suspending or revoking the licenses of EMTs with falsified certificates.

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Lawsuit Charging Detroit Michigan Police With Killing 7 Year Old Girl In Violent SWAT Raid On Home Highlights Lies By Police Officers

May 18, 2010

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – Calling law enforcement accounts “absurd,” a Michigan attorney sued
police Tuesday in the death of 7-year-old girl killed during a raid in
Detroit.

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger said members of the Detroit
Police Special Response Team acted out of line when they conducted a
raid on the family home of Aiyana Jones, who was severely burned and
then killed by an officer’s bullet. She died Sunday.

“This type
of activity by a police force is unacceptable in America,” Fieger said
at a news conference in his office. “What is equally unacceptable is the
cover-up that has occurred.”

Fieger filed both state and federal
lawsuits alleging gross negligence, a violation of civil rights and a
conspiracy to cover up the violation of civil rights.

Detroit
Assistant Police Chief Ralph Godbee has said that preliminary
information indicated that officers approached the house with a search
warrant for the girl’s uncle in connection with the shooting of a high
school student Friday.

Godbee said the officer’s gun discharged
accidentally inside the home after an altercation and physical contact
with the girl’s grandmother, Mertilla Jones.

Jones denied such an
altercation Tuesday. Fieger said he plans to file another lawsuit for
false arrest and accused the police of covering up their own mistakes by
blaming the family.

Fieger said videotape of the incident shows
that the shooting was not accidental. In an interview Monday, he told
CNN affiliate WDIV that a crew was filming the raid for the A&E
network’s show, “The First 48.” The program documents police
investigations in the first 48 hours after a homicide.

Tuesday,
Fieger recounted the events shown on the video that he said led to the
girl’s death. At times, he had to pause, his voice drowned out by
sobbing family members.

Fieger said officers tossed a smoke bomb
– described by police as a “flash bang device” to distract occupants –
into the house, severely burning Aiyana, who was on the couch in the
front room with her grandmother. She was then struck in the neck by a
bullet fired from outside the house, he said.

Godbee has said he
doesn’t know how Fieger saw the video, according to WDIV.

“If Mr.
Fieger has access to anything that would be evidence in this case, he
should, as an officer of the court, get it immediately to the Michigan
State Police, which will be investigating,” he said in a statement.

Fieger
said the police and the city owe apologies to the family, especially to
Mertilla Jones for trying to blame her for her granddaughter’s death.
He said officers need to be held to account just as anyone else would.

“The people of the city of Detroit have got to believe the police
will protect them, and not kill them,” Fieger said.

“This is an opportunity to come together, not to tear
us apart,” he said. “Apologize now and we can start the road to
healing.”

Family of Michigan child killed in raid sues police – CNN.com


Video Surfaces That Proves Detroit Michigan Police Lied About Their Violent Attack On A Home Where They Killed An Innocent 7 Year Old Girl

May 18, 2010

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – An attorney for the family of a 7-year-old girl slain during a weekend raid at their Detroit home says video footage contradicts the police department’s version of events.

Geoffrey Fieger (FI-ger) said Monday that footage shot by the A&E crime-reality show “The First 48″ shows that police fired into the home at least once after lobbing a flash grenade through a window.

He says that contradicts the police department’s explanation that an officer’s gun fired during a confrontation with a resident inside the home.

Seven-year-old Aiyana Jones was shot in the neck and died.

Fieger says he viewed three to four minutes of footage but declined to say who showed it to him.

The police department says it is trying to acquire the video.

An A&E spokesman declined to comment.

Atty: Video
Shows Police Fired Into Detroit Home – ABC News


Many Criminal Cases Under Review After Dash Camera Catches Four Hollywood Florida Police Officers Staging Crime Scene After Officer Rear-Ended Woman’s Car

July 31, 2009

HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA – Broward public defenders have begun reviewing some pending and past cases in the wake of a police video that shows four Hollywood police officers possibly conspiring to falsify an official report after a crash.

Three categories of cases are being reviewed by the public defenders.

For those closed within the last 30 days, and in which the officers testified, there’s still time for a defendant to withdraw a plea, officials said.

The office plans to then review cases going back further, starting with two years, to see whether any convictions could be thrown out or other motions filed in light of the officers’ diminished credibility, said Mindy Solomon, chief assistant public defender.

The public defender’s office also has at least 27 pending cases in which the officers are due to testify.

“We’ve also filed public records requests for the internal affairs files on these cops, in preparation for what we believe will be many battles,” Broward Chief Public Defender Howard Finkelstein said. “I don’t know if these officers will ever be able to remove that cloud over their heads.”

A dashboard camera installed in a Hollywood patrol car recorded the officers at the crash scene discussing ways to write their report to blame the other driver involved, though it appeared the officer may have been at fault.

Broward prosecutors on Wednesday dropped the case against Alexandra Torrensvilas, 23, a Hollywood resident who was arrested on drunken driving charges after crash about midnight Feb. 17 in the 2800 block of Sheridan Street.

Finkelstein has called on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI to investigate, sending them a copy of a letter he sent to Hollywood Police Chief Chad Wagner demanding answers.

Wagner could not be reached to comment Thursday despite attempts by phone, nor could an official with the department’s police union.

Echoing Finkelstein’s concern, the Florida Civil Rights Association, based in Orlando, on Thursday called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.

Federal and state officials said it’s too soon to know whether they would get involved. Typically, they wait for a police department to complete an internal review, they said.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, at times, steps in if an agency requests it. Hollywood police officials have not made such a request, said FDLE spokeswoman Heather Smith.

Hollywood police officials this week – after the video became public – began an internal investigation and placed Officers Joel Francisco and Dewey Pressley, Sgt. Andrew Diaz and community service Officer Karim Thomas on administrative duty.

Police officials said Thursday that they were still in the process of fulfilling several public records requests, including one from the Sun Sentinel, for copies of the officers’ personnel and disciplinary records with the department.

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Charges Dropped Against Woman Framed By Four Hollywood Florida Police After Officer Rear-Ended Her Car And Lied

July 30, 2009

HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA – Public humiliation for Hollywood police continued Wednesday as state prosecutors dropped criminal charges against a driver some officers tried to blame for a rear-end crash that may have been an officer’s fault.

As the four officers talked about what to do late one night last February, a video recorder in one of their cruisers captured their words.

After reviewing the video, Broward prosecutors opted Wednesday not to charge the female motorist because the recording had thrown the police version of events into question, said State Attorney’s Office spokesman Ron Ishoy.

The 23-year-old Hollywood woman, who had been accused of drunken driving, could have gone to prison for close to three years had she been convicted as charged.

The video, seen by tens of thousands of South Floridians on the Sun Sentinel website and on news broadcasts, was the latest black eye for Hollywood police.

The episode also had justice officials and defense attorneys raising questions about the Hollywood officers’ credibility in other cases, and demanding answers from the top brass.

“If these officers were willing to lie and manipulate their story when nothing was at stake, what would they have been willing to do when there was something at stake?” said Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein.

If the officer who rear-ended a woman’s car on Sheridan Street had been found legally responsible, he likely would have faced only a ticket, Finkelstein said.

The public defender’s office is involved in at least 27 other criminal prosecutions in which the four officers are supposed to be material witnesses, Finkelstein said. Those cases could be affected if doubts about the officers’ credibility remain.

Finkelstein said he sent a letter demanding an explanation to Hollywood Police Chief Chad Wagner, who could not be reached to comment Wednesday.

The allegations against the officers stem from a videotaped exchange among them after Officer Joel Francisco, 36, rear-ended a car late Feb. 17.

A dashboard camera in one of the patrol cars at the scene recorded what the officers said, including this remark: “We’ll do a little Walt Disney to protect the cop because it wouldn’t have mattered because she is drunk anyway.”

Officer Dewey Pressley, 42, wrote the report detailing the midnight crash in the 2800 block of Sheridan Street. Pressley wrote “a large gray stray cat” that had been sitting on Alexandra Gabriela Torrensvilas’ lap jumped out of her car window. That caused her to veer into Francisco’s lane, where she abruptly braked, and Francisco’s car hit hers, the officer wrote in his report.

Torrensvilas subsequently was charged with four counts of drunken driving and given a citation alleging she made an improper lane change.

The case against her evaporated after the video recording and a transcript of the officers’ remarks surfaced Tuesday.

The same day, the Hollywood Police Department began an internal investigation and put Francisco, Pressley and the others involved at the Sheridan Street crash scene – Sgt. Andrew Diaz, 39, and civilian community service officer Karim Thomas – on administrative duty.

Publicity about Torrensvila’s case prompted another woman to come forward Wednesday and accuse Hollywood police of misrepresenting the facts of her case. She had been charged with leaving the scene of an accident. Pressley wrote the arrest report.

Jacelyn Glinton, through her lawyer, said she did not flee the accident scene in May.

“My client’s version of what happened is very different than what’s in the report,” said defense attorney David Williams. “The case filing attorney who investigated this matter seems to be in agreement with my client’s view, as he has chosen not to file some of the charges that were presented.”

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Dashboard Camera Catches Hollywood Florida Police Officers Lies – Woman Framed After Officer Rear-Ended Her Car

July 29, 2009

HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA – After a Hollywood police officer rear-ended a car in February and then arrested the driver on drunken driving charges, he and other officers talked about doctoring the report — it said a jumpy cat created a distraction — to cover up the crash.

The exchange was recorded by a dashboard camera in one of the patrol cars. The officers apparently didn’t realize it was on.

“I don’t want to make things up ever, because it’s wrong, but if I need to bend it a little bit to protect a cop, I’m gonna,” one of the officers can be heard saying. “We’ll do a little Walt Disney to protect the cop because it wouldn’t have mattered because she is drunk anyway.”

Alexandra Gabriela Torrensvilas, 23, of Hollywood, ended up charged with four counts of drunken driving and cited for improper lane change.

On Tuesday, Hollywood police officials placed Officer Dewey Pressley, 42, Officer Joel Francisco, 36, Sgt. Andrew Diaz, 39; and civilian Community Service Officer Karim Thomas, age unavailable; on administrative duty pending an internal affairs investigation and a review by the Broward State Attorney’s Office, said spokesman Lt. Scott Pardon.

Francisco was driving the car in the crash; Pressley wrote the report and made the arrest.

Pressley’s report detailing the Feb. 17 midnight crash in the 2800 block of Sheridan Street said “a large gray stray cat” that had been sitting on Torrensvila’s lap jumped out of her car window and distracted her, causing her to veer into Francisco’s lane, where she abruptly braked, and he hit her.

“I will do the narrative for you,” one of the officers says on the tape. “I know how I am going to word this, the cat gets him off the hook.”

Torrensvilas’ attorney, Larry Meltzer, said this is a disturbing “abuse of power.”

“Actually seeing it transpire on video in front of you, it really kind of sickens you,” he said. “It’s really nauseating to sit there and watch your client’s rights go out the window.”

Torrensvilas’ four DUI charges carry a maximum penalty of nearly three years in jail, Meltzer said. He declined to say what will become of her case: “In my opinion, as of this time, it’s being handled appropriately.”

A spokesman for the Broward State Attorney’s Office declined to comment .

Appeared Here


Two Fired Veteran Hollywood Florida Police Officers Finally Charged And Arrested After Faking Crime Scene Following Accident In Which Officer Rear-Ended Woman’s Car

June 2, 2009

HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA – Two longtime Hollywood police officers fired earlier this year after allegations they falsified records in a police-involved crash were arrested Wednesday on criminal charges in that case.

Joel Francisco, 37, and Dewey Pressley, 43, turned themselves in at the Broward County Main Jail in downtown Fort Lauderdale, according to the Broward State Attorney’s Office.

Both men were charged with four counts of official misconduct, four counts of falsifying records, one count of conspiracy to commit official misconduct and one count of conspiracy to falsify records.

Francisco and Pressley were in jail Wednesday night, with bail set at $100,000.

The charges stem from a February 2009 crash in which Francisco, while on duty and driving a patrol vehicle, rear-ended a Hollywood woman’s car. Francisco’s personnel file listed eight other crashes in his 12 years with the Hollywood Police Department.

Other officers, a crime scene technician and a community service aide were at the crash scene. Some of them were recorded by a police car dashboard camera discussing how they would doctor the crash report to absolve Francisco in the collision, authorities said.

Alexandra Torrens-Vilas, whose car Francisco rear-ended, was arrested on DUI charges in the Feb. 16, 2009, crash.

Five months later, the dashboard video became public, and Hollywood police officials began an internal investigation into what happened at the crash scene.

Prosecutors later dropped the DUI charges against Torrens-Vilas, saying the video from the dashboard camera cast doubt on what police officers initially said happened.

Pressley had written in a police report that a gray cat jumped from Torrens-Vilas’ lap out of her car window and distracted her, causing her to veer into Francisco’s lane. There, she abruptly hit the brakes and Francisco struck her car, the report stated.

A camera on Pressley’s patrol car recorded one of the investigators saying: “We’ll do a little Walt Disney to protect the cop because it wouldn’t have mattered because she [Torrens-Vilas] is drunk anyway.”

Prosecutors said they were still working Wednesday with Hollywood police in investigating the matter.

Pressley, a Hollywood police officer for 22 years, and Francisco were fired in January. So were three other Police Department employees who were at the crash scene: Sgt. Andrew Diaz, Community Service Officer Karim Thomas and crime scene technician Andrea Tomassi, none of whom have been charged in the case.

Appeared Here


53 Drug Convictions Based On Bogus Information And Resulting Warrants And Arrests By Philadelpia Pennsylvania Police Officer Jeffrey Cujdik And His Informant Challenged

April 14, 2009

PHILADELPIA, PENNSYLVANIA – The drug convictions of 26 more people – three-quarters of whom are behind bars, serving prison terms – were challenged yesterday by Philadelphia’s public defender on the grounds that all were tainted by false information from veteran narcotics officer Jeffrey Cujdik and his paid confidential informant.

Together with 24 petitions filed on April 3 and three on Wednesday, yesterday’s filings bring to 53 the number of people whose convictions could be dismissed.

The new Common Pleas Court filings, like the earlier petitions, are based on allegations by Cujdik’s former paid informant, Ventura “Benny” Martinez. Martinez, in a Feb. 9 interview with the Philadelphia Daily News, said he and Cujdik often falsified information to persuade judges to sign search and arrest warrants for drug suspects.

Had information about the alleged conduct by Cujdik and Martinez been known, Assistant Public Defender Bradley S. Bridge argued in court papers, the defendants would have been acquitted or would have decided not to plead guilty.

Bridge said the fact that all the petitions resulted from Martinez’s allegations that he and Cujdik lied “raises important questions about the entire process of utilizing confidential informants, and demonstrates yet again the critical role the courts have in acting as a check on such abuses.”

Arguing for new trials, Bridge said “the untenable alternative is that an innocent man would continue to be in state prison and on state parole for several more years.”

The District Attorney’s Office has in two filings argued that it is premature to take any action involving the convictions of those arrested through the work of Cujdik and Martinez.

Nothing should be done, the prosecutor has argued, until the results of investigations by the city and FBI are known.

Cujdik, 34, a 12-year veteran, has surrendered his service weapon and since late January has been assigned to desk duty. He is the only member of the Narcotics Field Unit police officials have reassigned.

Cujdik has not commented publicly on the allegations made by Martinez – with whom he worked building drug cases for almost eight years – but he has been backed by Philadelphia’s Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police. Cujdik’s attorney, George Bochetto, has called Martinez a career criminal and a liar who incriminated Cujdik out of anger.

Of the 26 cases filed yesterday, most involved arrests occurring between 2003 and 2005. Two-thirds of the defendants were men and almost 70 percent were Latino. Most had prior encounters with the justice system. The arrests were in Kensington and North Philadelphia.

For some, such as Tammy Michenselder, 31, who was arrested Aug. 17, 2005, the arrest and conviction was her first and only. Michenselder pleaded guilty in January 2006 to conspiracy and possession with intent to deliver, and was sentenced to six months’ house arrest and two years’ probation.

Others, such as Wilfredo Baez, 46, arrested Nov. 4, 2005, and charged with drug and gun crimes, had longer records that resulted in longer prison terms. Baez pleaded guilty and was sentenced in August to 31/2 to 10 years in prison. He is serving that sentence at the state prison at Laurel Highlands in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Now those 26 convictions are in play, and common to all is the defender’s contention that none of the defendants should have been arrested because Cujdik’s search warrants were bogus.

Bridge filed his first 24 petitions on April 3 under Pennsylvania’s Post Conviction Relief Act, a secondary appeal law that allows a judge to reopen a criminal case based on evidence discovered after conviction that could call a guilty verdict or plea into question.

Bridge said that yesterday’s filings are likely the last based on Martinez’s allegations in the Feb. 9 article. Bridge said state law requires that petitions based on after-discovered evidence be filed within 60 days of the date the information becomes known to the defense attorney.

None of the petitions is likely to result in immediate legal action. The District Attorney’s Office must formally respond to each. Then the court must decide how to handle the 26 cases: assign one judge to hear all, or send them back to the original sentencing judges.

Cujdik’s hugely productive relationship with Martinez, 47, came undone in October when Martinez’s identity was disclosed in court by the lawyer and investigator for a defendant whose criminal case the informant helped Cujdik develop.

Martinez was also photographed leaving a Kensington rowhouse owned by Cujdik and leased to a woman who was the informant’s girlfriend and mother of two of his children.

Martinez said he went to the newspaper after his requests for protection and relocation were rebuffed by authorities.

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Video Catches Chicago Illinois Police Officer Joe D. Parker Lying, Falsely Charging Motorist With DUI

March 13, 2009

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – The video from top DUI cop Joe D. Parker’s squad car shows a man walking a straight line, without stumbling or flailing his arms.

When prosecutors viewed this video of Officer Joe D. Parker’s July 2008 sobriety test of motorist Raymond L. Bell, they dropped DUI charges.

But Parker, a Chicago Police officer who has won acclaim for being among the leading DUI enforcers in the state, told a different story in his police report.

He wrote that Raymond L. Bell lost his balance and used his arms to steady himself. And he arrested the 33-year-old Oak Lawn man on charges of driving under the influence, speeding and negligent driving.

Now, after reviewing the squad-car video, Cook County prosecutors have dropped the July 2008 charges against Bell.

And they’re considering filing criminal charges against the 59-year-old Parker, who is one of three Chicago cops whose prolific DUI-busting has now come under scrutiny. Dozens of DUI arrests by Parker alone are under review, sources say.

“There is an ongoing investigation, but we are not going to comment in further detail,” said Sally Daly, spokeswoman for Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.

Prosecutors have charged one of those cops — Officer John Haleas — with trumping up a DUI case. A review of his DUI arrests led to 156 cases being dismissed, Daly said.

Parker has been placed on desk duty while the Chicago Police Department conducts an investigation of his DUI arrests, sources said.

Chicago defense lawyers say there are two reasons police officers might cut corners or even lie to boost their DUI arrest numbers: First, they stand to profit from the resulting overtime for going to court on the cases; also, there are accolades to be had.

Both Parker and Haleas have been named “top cops” by the Schaumburg-based Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists for having more DUI arrests than almost any other officer in the Chicago area.

In the squad-car video of Bell’s July 7, 2008, arrest, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, Parker is seen pulling over Bell in the 3900 block of South Lake Shore Drive around 1:30 a.m. Bell, driving a black Lexus, was headed south. Parker, northbound, flipped on his emergency lights and made a U-turn to stop the Lexus.

The video taken from Parker’s car shows Bell immediately slowed down but continued to drive for about 40 seconds until he was able to exit Lake Shore Drive at the first off-ramp.

But Parker wrote in his report: “Due to speed, operator refused to stop.” His arrest report put Bell’s speed at 85 miles an hour — 40 mph over the limit.

Parker wrote that Bell’s eyes were bloodshot and that he had a strong odor of alcohol when he stepped out of the car.

He also said Bell “staggered” and that his gait was “unsteady” exiting the car — which the video contradicts.

Parker is heard asking Bell if he’d been drinking. Bell said no, then said he’d had one glass of wine more than five hours earlier.

“You’re drunk, man,” Parker told Bell.

After checking Bell’s driver’s license, Parker told him to do the walk-and-turn test, in which he had to put one foot on a line, with arms at his sides, then take nine steps heel-to-toe, turn and walk back with nine more steps.

Bell was confused about which line in the parking lot he was supposed to stand on. Parker showed him where to stand. The video showed Bell appearing to be perfectly balanced when he performed the test.

But, according to Parker’s arrest report, Bell flunked the test.

Next came the one-leg stand: Bell was ordered to raise one foot about six inches off the ground and count to 30. He put his foot down at first when Parker told him to keep looking at his foot. Then, Bell stood almost still with his foot off the ground as he counted past 30.

In his report, Parker marked Bell down for lowering his foot and also for hopping, using his arms for balance and swaying.

After those tests, Bell asked to take a Breathalyzer, but Parker said he didn’t have the device in his car. Later, Bell refused to take the test at the station.

Before Bell was placed under arrest, Parker told a fellow officer to remove three passengers from the car, saying he didn’t want to turn his back on those “m———–s.”

Parker, who joined the department in 1985, could not be reached for comment.

A spokeswoman for the city Law Department said she couldn’t discuss Bell’s case because he hasn’t filed a lawsuit and Law Department attorneys haven’t seen the video. The Law Department is representing Parker in an unrelated class-action lawsuit filed by attorney Gregory Kulis on behalf of anyone falsely arrested by Parker for DUI, including a man stopped for drunken driving in May 2008 on South Lake Shore Drive.

Bell’s criminal defense attorney, Gregory Reeder, said he subpoenaed the Chicago Police Department for all records — including videos — but was provided only with Parker’s arrest report. Later, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office independently mailed Reeder the video on Dec. 1, he said.

Prosecutors dropped the case against Bell on Feb. 20, after viewing the video.

“If we didn’t have the videotape, he could have gotten a conviction and lost his license,” Reeder said. “This was a blatant falsehood. They [prosecutors] definitely did the right thing.”

Records show that Parker himself was once arrested for DUI, charged with drunken driving on Feb. 17, 1996. That case was dismissed the following year.

Appeared Here


Video Catches Chicago Illinois Police Officer Joe D. Parker Lying, Falsely Charging Motorist With DUI

March 12, 2009

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – The video from top DUI cop Joe D. Parker’s squad car shows a man walking a straight line, without stumbling or flailing his arms.

When prosecutors viewed this video of Officer Joe D. Parker’s July 2008 sobriety test of motorist Raymond L. Bell, they dropped DUI charges.

But Parker, a Chicago Police officer who has won acclaim for being among the leading DUI enforcers in the state, told a different story in his police report.

He wrote that Raymond L. Bell lost his balance and used his arms to steady himself. And he arrested the 33-year-old Oak Lawn man on charges of driving under the influence, speeding and negligent driving.

Now, after reviewing the squad-car video, Cook County prosecutors have dropped the July 2008 charges against Bell.

And they’re considering filing criminal charges against the 59-year-old Parker, who is one of three Chicago cops whose prolific DUI-busting has now come under scrutiny. Dozens of DUI arrests by Parker alone are under review, sources say.

“There is an ongoing investigation, but we are not going to comment in further detail,” said Sally Daly, spokeswoman for Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.

Prosecutors have charged one of those cops — Officer John Haleas — with trumping up a DUI case. A review of his DUI arrests led to 156 cases being dismissed, Daly said.

Parker has been placed on desk duty while the Chicago Police Department conducts an investigation of his DUI arrests, sources said.

Chicago defense lawyers say there are two reasons police officers might cut corners or even lie to boost their DUI arrest numbers: First, they stand to profit from the resulting overtime for going to court on the cases; also, there are accolades to be had.

Both Parker and Haleas have been named “top cops” by the Schaumburg-based Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists for having more DUI arrests than almost any other officer in the Chicago area.

In the squad-car video of Bell’s July 7, 2008, arrest, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, Parker is seen pulling over Bell in the 3900 block of South Lake Shore Drive around 1:30 a.m. Bell, driving a black Lexus, was headed south. Parker, northbound, flipped on his emergency lights and made a U-turn to stop the Lexus.

The video taken from Parker’s car shows Bell immediately slowed down but continued to drive for about 40 seconds until he was able to exit Lake Shore Drive at the first off-ramp.

But Parker wrote in his report: “Due to speed, operator refused to stop.” His arrest report put Bell’s speed at 85 miles an hour — 40 mph over the limit.

Parker wrote that Bell’s eyes were bloodshot and that he had a strong odor of alcohol when he stepped out of the car.

He also said Bell “staggered” and that his gait was “unsteady” exiting the car — which the video contradicts.

Parker is heard asking Bell if he’d been drinking. Bell said no, then said he’d had one glass of wine more than five hours earlier.

“You’re drunk, man,” Parker told Bell.

After checking Bell’s driver’s license, Parker told him to do the walk-and-turn test, in which he had to put one foot on a line, with arms at his sides, then take nine steps heel-to-toe, turn and walk back with nine more steps.

Bell was confused about which line in the parking lot he was supposed to stand on. Parker showed him where to stand. The video showed Bell appearing to be perfectly balanced when he performed the test.

But, according to Parker’s arrest report, Bell flunked the test.

Next came the one-leg stand: Bell was ordered to raise one foot about six inches off the ground and count to 30. He put his foot down at first when Parker told him to keep looking at his foot. Then, Bell stood almost still with his foot off the ground as he counted past 30.

In his report, Parker marked Bell down for lowering his foot and also for hopping, using his arms for balance and swaying.

After those tests, Bell asked to take a Breathalyzer, but Parker said he didn’t have the device in his car. Later, Bell refused to take the test at the station.

Before Bell was placed under arrest, Parker told a fellow officer to remove three passengers from the car, saying he didn’t want to turn his back on those “m———–s.”

Parker, who joined the department in 1985, could not be reached for comment.

A spokeswoman for the city Law Department said she couldn’t discuss Bell’s case because he hasn’t filed a lawsuit and Law Department attorneys haven’t seen the video. The Law Department is representing Parker in an unrelated class-action lawsuit filed by attorney Gregory Kulis on behalf of anyone falsely arrested by Parker for DUI, including a man stopped for drunken driving in May 2008 on South Lake Shore Drive.

Bell’s criminal defense attorney, Gregory Reeder, said he subpoenaed the Chicago Police Department for all records — including videos — but was provided only with Parker’s arrest report. Later, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office independently mailed Reeder the video on Dec. 1, he said.

Prosecutors dropped the case against Bell on Feb. 20, after viewing the video.

“If we didn’t have the videotape, he could have gotten a conviction and lost his license,” Reeder said. “This was a blatant falsehood. They [prosecutors] definitely did the right thing.”

Records show that Parker himself was once arrested for DUI, charged with drunken driving on Feb. 17, 1996. That case was dismissed the following year.

Appeared Here


Baltimore Maryland Police Officer Michael W. Woodlon Suspended After Lying To Justify An Arrest

March 10, 2009

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – A Baltimore police officer accused of lying in charging documents to justify a drug arrest has been suspended pending the outcome of an internal investigation that has spread to the second in command of the city’s elite violence-reduction division.

Police suspended Officer Michael W. Woodlon of the Violent Crimes Impact Division on Friday, after The Baltimore Sun supplied the department with a transcript of his radio communications with a civilian running a police surveillance camera. The civilian, Irma Reed, is also under investigation.

A tape of the communications between Woodlon and Reed appears to contradict the charging documents that Woodlon filed against defendants Michael Davis, Hattie Wade and Troy Thomas, who were accused of being the seller, buyer and lookout, respectively, in a March 11, 2008, drug case.

A prosecutor noted the apparent discrepancies and dropped drug distribution charges against Davis on Jan. 22, but not before Wade had pleaded guilty in District Court to cocaine possession. She is now on probation.

Related links

*
Apparent discrepancies in drug arrest
*
Threats against city officers not linked to shootings, records show
*
Death of man who died 11 years after ’97 shooting ruled a homicide
*
City police identify victim of fatal shooting

The city’s chief drug prosecutor notified Maj. John Hess, a commander in the Violent Crimes Impact Division, that Woodlon might not have seen what he described in charging documents. Police are investigating Hess’ handling of the matter.

“Everyone who touched this case is being reviewed by internal investigations,” said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. “This is getting the attention of the department at its highest levels.”

In charging documents, Woodlon wrote that while working in a covert location, he watched Davis, 20, and Wade, 40, spend 10 seconds inside a store at North Monroe Street and Walbrook Avenue and emerge without bags and with Wade’s right hand clenched.

Woodlon wrote that he followed Wade to West North Avenue and North Payson Street, where she tried to put cocaine in her mouth but dropped it as he moved to make an arrest.

“At no time did I lose sight of defendant Wade,” Woodlon wrote.

But the recording suggests that Woodlon saw little and that there was another buyer, a white woman, whom he did not arrest.

On the tape, Woodlon, who had been on the force for three years, reported that he was “clearing the area” so he wouldn’t “scare off” the buyers and the seller, who were being monitored by Reed on a police surveillance camera. Reed had retired as a police officer in 2005 and returned as a camera operator about three months before the arrest.

“You let me know when they separate and I’ll go stop them,” Woodlon told Reed.

Secondslater, Reed told Woodlon that she was “almost sure” that a drug deal had occurred inside the store.

“What’s their direction of travel?” Woodlon asked.

Reed then described the movements of the two buyers – a white woman in a purple jacket and black woman in a black jacket.

“Are they still walking up [North Avenue]?” Woodlon asked a few seconds later.

“I’m at Pulaski and Walbrook,” he said. “When they walk past Payson toward Pulaski, let me know. I’m going to get out and walk up on them.”

The intersections are three blocks apart and around a corner.

Seconds after Reed told Woodlon that the women were crossing Payson Street, he replied: “I see them. I’m walking right toward them.” Reed said, “All right. The black woman went up to her mouth.”

The charging documents do not mention Reed or the role that she and the surveillance system played in the arrests.

Appeared Here


Baltimore Maryland Police Officer Michael W. Woodlon Suspended After Lying To Justify An Arrest

March 10, 2009

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – A Baltimore police officer accused of lying in charging documents to justify a drug arrest has been suspended pending the outcome of an internal investigation that has spread to the second in command of the city’s elite violence-reduction division.

Police suspended Officer Michael W. Woodlon of the Violent Crimes Impact Division on Friday, after The Baltimore Sun supplied the department with a transcript of his radio communications with a civilian running a police surveillance camera. The civilian, Irma Reed, is also under investigation.

A tape of the communications between Woodlon and Reed appears to contradict the charging documents that Woodlon filed against defendants Michael Davis, Hattie Wade and Troy Thomas, who were accused of being the seller, buyer and lookout, respectively, in a March 11, 2008, drug case.

A prosecutor noted the apparent discrepancies and dropped drug distribution charges against Davis on Jan. 22, but not before Wade had pleaded guilty in District Court to cocaine possession. She is now on probation.

Related links

*
Apparent discrepancies in drug arrest
*
Threats against city officers not linked to shootings, records show
*
Death of man who died 11 years after ’97 shooting ruled a homicide
*
City police identify victim of fatal shooting

The city’s chief drug prosecutor notified Maj. John Hess, a commander in the Violent Crimes Impact Division, that Woodlon might not have seen what he described in charging documents. Police are investigating Hess’ handling of the matter.

“Everyone who touched this case is being reviewed by internal investigations,” said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. “This is getting the attention of the department at its highest levels.”

In charging documents, Woodlon wrote that while working in a covert location, he watched Davis, 20, and Wade, 40, spend 10 seconds inside a store at North Monroe Street and Walbrook Avenue and emerge without bags and with Wade’s right hand clenched.

Woodlon wrote that he followed Wade to West North Avenue and North Payson Street, where she tried to put cocaine in her mouth but dropped it as he moved to make an arrest.

“At no time did I lose sight of defendant Wade,” Woodlon wrote.

But the recording suggests that Woodlon saw little and that there was another buyer, a white woman, whom he did not arrest.

On the tape, Woodlon, who had been on the force for three years, reported that he was “clearing the area” so he wouldn’t “scare off” the buyers and the seller, who were being monitored by Reed on a police surveillance camera. Reed had retired as a police officer in 2005 and returned as a camera operator about three months before the arrest.

“You let me know when they separate and I’ll go stop them,” Woodlon told Reed.

Secondslater, Reed told Woodlon that she was “almost sure” that a drug deal had occurred inside the store.

“What’s their direction of travel?” Woodlon asked.

Reed then described the movements of the two buyers – a white woman in a purple jacket and black woman in a black jacket.

“Are they still walking up [North Avenue]?” Woodlon asked a few seconds later.

“I’m at Pulaski and Walbrook,” he said. “When they walk past Payson toward Pulaski, let me know. I’m going to get out and walk up on them.”

The intersections are three blocks apart and around a corner.

Seconds after Reed told Woodlon that the women were crossing Payson Street, he replied: “I see them. I’m walking right toward them.” Reed said, “All right. The black woman went up to her mouth.”

The charging documents do not mention Reed or the role that she and the surveillance system played in the arrests.

Appeared Here


Video Catches 3 Ft. Lauderdale Florida Police Officers Brutally Beating Man In Elevator – Officers Lied In Police Reports. Bogus Charges Against Their Victim Dismissed

March 6, 2009

FT. LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA – After a beat down in an elevator, Joshua Daniel Ortiz ended up with his nose broken and facing a charge of battering a Fort Lauderdale police officer.

The 22-year-old Sunrise man was surprised and delighted to learn Wednesday that Broward prosecutors were dropping the case against him after reviewing an elevator surveillance video showing three officers aggressively rush and beat Ortiz to the ground.

Once the Dec. 5 video surfaced, it altered the course of the case. It contradicted police reports that Ortiz provoked and attacked Officers Derek Lade, Stefan Silver and Steve Smith.

“They were just sitting there watching my life go down the drain with those charges,” Ortiz said Wednesday. “I’ve been going crazy thinking my life is over. It’s barely started and it’s over.”

The looming legal charges delayed Ortiz’s enrollment in college classes, he said.

Police first charged Ortiz with felony battery on a law enforcement officer.

But after seeing the video obtained by Ortiz’s defense attorney, Stephen Melnick, prosecutors downgraded the charge to a misdemeanor resisting charge. Upon further review, prosecutors dropped the case entirely.

“We thought based on the facts and the evidence, including the videotape, that there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction at trial,” said Lee Cohen, assistant state attorney in charge of misdemeanor cases.

Fort Lauderdale police internal affairs investigators reviewed the incident more than a month ago and found no violations of policy or procedures, said Sgt. Frank Sousa, the department’s spokesman.

“It was not a beating,” Sousa said. “The video clearly shows that [Ortiz] made a movement toward the officer.”

The 4:10 a.m. incident unfolded in a bank lobby at 200 SW First Ave. as Ortiz, his girlfriend and friends piled into an elevator, heading to a parking garage after a night out.

Acquaintances of Ortiz’s started fighting in the lobby, he said, drawing police to the scene.

According to Lade’s police report, Ortiz yelled at the officers from the elevator when they tried to break up the disturbance.

Ortiz “walked right up to me hitting his nose to my nose,” Lade wrote, adding that he pushed Ortiz.

“As I approached Ortiz to take him into custody, Ortiz spun around to face me and assumed a fighting stance (both left and right hand clenched into fists and body bladed),” he wrote.

Ortiz said he exchanged agitated words with the officers, but the rest is fiction.

“They were on a power trip,” Ortiz said. “I don’t trust them anymore.”

Melnick said the officers embellished their reports to justify their aggression without knowing the videotape existed.

“I think the video speaks for itself,” he said.

Appeared Here


Video Catches 3 Ft. Lauderdale Florida Police Officers Brutally Beating Man In Elevator – Officers Lied In Police Reports. Bogus Charges Against Their Victim Dismissed

March 6, 2009

FT. LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA – After a beat down in an elevator, Joshua Daniel Ortiz ended up with his nose broken and facing a charge of battering a Fort Lauderdale police officer.

The 22-year-old Sunrise man was surprised and delighted to learn Wednesday that Broward prosecutors were dropping the case against him after reviewing an elevator surveillance video showing three officers aggressively rush and beat Ortiz to the ground.

Once the Dec. 5 video surfaced, it altered the course of the case. It contradicted police reports that Ortiz provoked and attacked Officers Derek Lade, Stefan Silver and Steve Smith.

“They were just sitting there watching my life go down the drain with those charges,” Ortiz said Wednesday. “I’ve been going crazy thinking my life is over. It’s barely started and it’s over.”

The looming legal charges delayed Ortiz’s enrollment in college classes, he said.

Police first charged Ortiz with felony battery on a law enforcement officer.

But after seeing the video obtained by Ortiz’s defense attorney, Stephen Melnick, prosecutors downgraded the charge to a misdemeanor resisting charge. Upon further review, prosecutors dropped the case entirely.

“We thought based on the facts and the evidence, including the videotape, that there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction at trial,” said Lee Cohen, assistant state attorney in charge of misdemeanor cases.

Fort Lauderdale police internal affairs investigators reviewed the incident more than a month ago and found no violations of policy or procedures, said Sgt. Frank Sousa, the department’s spokesman.

“It was not a beating,” Sousa said. “The video clearly shows that [Ortiz] made a movement toward the officer.”

The 4:10 a.m. incident unfolded in a bank lobby at 200 SW First Ave. as Ortiz, his girlfriend and friends piled into an elevator, heading to a parking garage after a night out.

Acquaintances of Ortiz’s started fighting in the lobby, he said, drawing police to the scene.

According to Lade’s police report, Ortiz yelled at the officers from the elevator when they tried to break up the disturbance.

Ortiz “walked right up to me hitting his nose to my nose,” Lade wrote, adding that he pushed Ortiz.

“As I approached Ortiz to take him into custody, Ortiz spun around to face me and assumed a fighting stance (both left and right hand clenched into fists and body bladed),” he wrote.

Ortiz said he exchanged agitated words with the officers, but the rest is fiction.

“They were on a power trip,” Ortiz said. “I don’t trust them anymore.”

Melnick said the officers embellished their reports to justify their aggression without knowing the videotape existed.

“I think the video speaks for itself,” he said.

Appeared Here


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