$330,000 In Tax Money Went Towards AIDS Program Opening Washington DC Strip Club

August 31, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan has accused a District HIV/AIDS service provider of spending nearly $330,000 in federal tax dollars to open a strip club.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, Nathan said Miracle Hands Inc. promised the city it was using the cash to renovate a warehouse in Northeast for use as a job training center for residents with HIV/AIDS. Instead, the warehouse was turned into the Stadium Club, a strip club that continues to operate, the suit says. Miracle Hands shares an address with the club, according to the company’s website. Nathan asked in the suit that the city be awarded at least $988,959 in damages.

D.C. Councilman David Catania requested in a February letter to Nathan that the attorney general open an investigation into Miracle Hands and its relationship with Stadium Club.

“I am pleased that the attorney general has decided to take action regarding this egregious impropriety,” Catania said Tuesday.

Attempts to reach Miracle Hands owner Cornell Jones were not successful. Jones is a self-described former D.C. drug kingpin with convictions for narcotics distribution on his record.

In 2009, federal authorities told the Washington Post they had started an investigation into how the money was spent. On Tuesday, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the status of the investigation.

The grants for the renovations to the warehouse at 2127 Queens Chapel Road NE, were first given to Miracle Hands in 2006 by the District’s HIV/AIDS administration. Earlier this month, an inspector general’s audit of the administration found that during the four-year tenure of the agency’s former director, Debra Rowe, little attention was paid to how dollars were spent by service providers, even as the city’s HIV/AIDS rate reached epidemic levels.

When Rowe was fired in 2008, she went to work for Miracle Hands as its executive director. She could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

In November 2006, nearly one year after Miracle Hands first won its grant to renovate the Queens Chapel Road warehouse, a city grant monitor visited the site and found little work had been done toward meeting a March 2007 deadline, the lawsuit said.

The monitor advised Rowe that Miracle Hands’ funding should be cut. But Rowe, called a “close friend of Jones” in the lawsuit, reportedly said the project was on pace and kept the funding in place. By then, though, Jones had already transferred a liquor license from a strip club he owned in Southeast to the Miracle Hands warehouse in Northeast, the suit said.

In March 2007, “the renovation work … was at best, many months from completion,” the lawsuit said. In April 2007, HIV/AIDS administration gave Miracle Hands an additional $139,000 to continue the renovations, adding another year to the nonprofit’s deadline.

In the middle of that year, Miracle Hands informed the administration that it had decided to open the job training center at a different warehouse and it would be applying the funds to that project, the suit said. A job center never opened at either location. Stadium Club opened in early 2010.

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Drunk Washington DC Police Officer Kenneth Furr Crashed Into Car, Opened Fire On Transsexuals

August 30, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – The D.C. police officer accused of drunkenly shooting at transgendered people has been punished at least twice before for alcohol-related incidents, records and sources said.

Charging documents released Monday described how Kenneth Furr crashed his Cadillac into another vehicle early Friday morning, stood on the hood of the victims’ vehicle and shouted, “I’m gonna kill all of you.”

There were five people in the other vehicle, police said. One person suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the arm and hand, and two others were hurt in the attack.

Police said Furr, a 20-year-veteran, blew a 0.15 on an alcohol breath-test machine after the shooting — nearly twice the legal limit for drivers in D.C.

He remains held on charges of DWI and assault with a deadly weapon. His first court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday, and he has been segregated from the other prisoners.

Furr’s attorney said he could not comment about the case or Officer Furr, who police say is on paid leave.

According to charging documents, Furr got into an argument with several transgendered people outside the CVS pharmacy at 400 Massachusetts Avenue at about 4:40 a.m. Friday. He pulled a gun on one of the victims, who then reported the incident to an off-duty D.C. police officer working security at the pharmacy, charging documents said.

The CVS officer determined that Furr was an “off-duty officer, and therefore no further action was necessary,” the charging document said.

The victims later saw Furr driving his Cadillac and followed him in their car, police said.

Furr got out of his vehicle, pointed the gun at the driver. The sequence of the events that followed is unclear is unclear. Patrol officers nearby said they heard the cars crash and then rapid gunfire. The victims said Furr fired first and then the cars struck.

Officers found Furr standing on the hood, pointing his off-duty service weapon at the windshield. Police recovered five shell casings that matched Furr’s weapon.

A spokeswoman said she could not comment about whether police are looking to see if Furr might be connected to the two early morning shootings of transgendered people in Northeast Washington earlier this summer.

It wasn’t the first time Furr has gotten into trouble.

He was arrested in 2004 for driving while intoxicated and operating while impaired, according to court records. He pleaded no contest and the charges were dropped after he completed a diversion program.

He was suspended for between 30 and 90 days in that case, according to city records.

On Christmas Day 1996, Furr and another officer were on duty when they got into a drunken argument with a mother and son. Police brass placed Furr on administrative leave and tried to fire him, but he was reinstated in 1998 after a change in police chiefs.

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ATF Head Kenneth Melson Gets The Boot Amid Investigation Into ATF Operation That Armed Mexican Drug Cartels

August 30, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – The head of the ATF has been removed after months of speculation about his role in a botched gun-tracking operation that could have contributed to the death of a Border Patrol agent.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Tuesday that acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Kenneth Melson was being replaced. Melson is being transferred to the Office of Legal Policy, where he will be a senior adviser.

U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota Todd Jones will take over as acting ATF director, according to the Department of Justice.

In a simultaneous move, the U.S. Attorney for Arizona, Dennis Burke, announced his resignation on Tuesday. Burke oversaw the legal aspects of the Fast and Furious operation, providing advice to agents involved.

The Fast and Furious gun-tracking initiative has been in Congress’s crosshairs for the majority of this year. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) led an investigation of the gun-tracking operation, which oversaw the sale of thousands of firearms to known and suspected straw purchasers for Mexican drug cartels.

Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called for Melson’s resignation in June; two weeks later he backed away from those demands when Melson came to Capitol Hill during the July 4 holiday with his own personal lawyer to conduct a transcribed interview with Issa and Grassley’s staff.

Melson’s reassignment and Burke’s resignation represent the first major investigative victory for Issa, who said he would continue to probe Justice and its botched gun-tracking operation.

“While the reckless disregard for safety that took place in Operation Fast and Furious certainly merits changes within the Department of Justice, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee will continue its investigation to ensure that blame isn’t offloaded on just a few individuals for a matter that involved much higher levels of the Justice Department,” Issa said in a statement.

“There are still many questions to be answered about what happened in Operation Fast and Furious and who else bears responsibility, but these changes are warranted and offer an opportunity for the Justice Department to explain the role other officials and offices played in the infamous efforts to allow weapons to flow to Mexican drug cartels.”

Grassley said the administration’s announcement represented an admission that “serious mistakes were made” and was a step in the right direction. In a statement, he added that there’s blame to go around.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see more fall out beyond the resignations and new assignments announced today,” Grassley said.

Rep. Lamar Smith (Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he was concerned that Melson could be taking the fall for the incompetent decisions of others, and that Congress needs to probe further into the matter to identify and hold responsible any remaining key players.

“This move by the administration indicates that Director Melson may be being used as a scapegoat for a much larger problem within ATF and DOJ,” said Smith in a statement.

“It appears that other senior officials at DOJ may have been involved in this deadly operation. The American people and Congress will not be appeased until we have the whole truth about how and why Operation Fast and Furious was authorized. Congress will not ignore an agency so out of control that its decisions and operations cost American lives.”

The Fast and Furious operation came under congressional scrutiny after whistleblowers within the ATF brought it to Grassley’s attention. ATF agents said they were told to monitor the sale of thousands of guns in the Southwest with the hope of tracking them back to Mexican drug cartels and dismantling their trafficking networks.

But agents were often told to abandon surveillance of the weapons, allowing them — and the straw buyers — to disappear, according to testimony from numerous agents before the House. The only remaining hope for agents to track the guns was if other agencies found them at a murder scene or during a drug raid and identified them by the serial numbers on the guns.

Officials linked two weapons found at the Arizona murder scene last December of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry — according to testimony, they are terrified that some of the thousands of guns still at large will be used to kill more innocent people.

Melson has never been implicitly indicated as approving the tactic of letting the guns “walk,” but Issa has argued that as the head of the agency, he should have been aware of the operation.

Attorney General Eric Holder heralded the promotion of Jones, saying he will provide the ATF with the necessary leadership to strengthen the agency.

“As a seasoned prosecutor and former military judge advocate, U.S. Attorney Jones is a demonstrated leader who brings a wealth of experience to this position,” Holder said.

“I have great confidence that he will be a strong and steady influence guiding ATF in fulfilling its mission of combating violent crime by enforcing federal criminal laws and regulations in the firearms and explosives industries.”

He also lauded Burke’s career, focusing on his role in bringing the alleged shooter of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) to justice. Giffords was shot in the head in January while speaking publicly at a shopping center.

“The office’s quick response to the devastating shootings in January that claimed the lives of several people and critically injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was crucial in arresting and charging the alleged shooter,” said Holder in a statement.

The DOJ inspector general is conducting its own investigation of the operation. Both Holder and President Obama have declined to comment in any detail about the program until the investigation is completed.

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Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke Quits Amid Investigation Into ATF Operation That Armed Mexican Drug Cartels

August 30, 2011

ARIZONA – Dennis Burke, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, has delivered his letter of resignation to President Obama – effective immediately.

The move comes amid fallout from Operation Fast and Furious, that was designed to track gun buyers and major weapons traffickers along the border. One of the guns was linked to the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry last year.

“My long tenure in public service has been intensely gratifying. It has also been intensely demanding. For me, it is the right time to move on to pursue other aspects of my career and my life and allow the office to move ahead,” Burke said in the letter.

Burke was appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona in 2009.

Burke’s departure comes the same day as the transfer of ATF acting director Kenneth Melson to a new post.

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Federal Court Okays Photographing Police Officers In Public – After Crazed Boston Cops Arrested Bysander With A Camera In Public Park

August 30, 2011

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – Remember that nutcase cop who arrested a bystander for recording a public crime scene? Yeah, that was a violation of the First Amendment, according to the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston. This is great news.

The ruling originates with a suit filed by Boston attorney Simon Glik, who was arrested for recording another arrest in the middle of the Boston Common. You know, the enormous, oldest public park in America. A pretty public place.

The cops had cuffed Glik and taken his phone on the basis that his recording was “secret”—a violation of state wiretapping laws. This should be patently ridiculous, but it worked at the time. Until the feds stepped in. The Harvard-affiliated Citizen Media Law Project cuts right to the juiciest, most First Amendmentlicious excerpts from the court’s ruling:

“[I]s there a constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public? Basic First Amendment principles, along with case law from this and other circuits, answer that question unambiguously in the affirmative.”
“Glik filmed the defendant police officers in the Boston Common, the oldest city park in the United States and the apotheosis of a public forum. In such traditional public spaces, the rights of the state to limit the exercise of First Amendment activity are ‘sharply circumscribed.'”
“[A] citizen’s right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment.”
“Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting ‘the free discussion of governmental affairs.'”

In other words, the cops were out of line, and filming them with your phone is not only fair game, but strong a constitutional power of the citizenry. Although this is a district ruling, and it’d take the Supreme Court to make okayed cop-filming the law of the land, this is a terrific victory for the free use of technology, transparent society, and sanity.

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Denver Colorado Police Officer Jeremy Olive Caught Giving Toddler Alcohol In Restaurant

August 30, 2011

DENVER, COLORADO – Jeremy Olive is a decorated Denver police officer. In 2007 the department awarded him a purple heart.

He is now on the other side of the law facing potential felony child abuse charges after restaurant patrons say they saw him feeding his child liquor last week trying to subdue her.

“Cute, darling little girl,” said the woman who witnessed the incident. Her identity is not being released because she is an active part of the investigation.

On the patio outside the Fish City Restaurant, you’ll find the perfect ambiance. Even so, last week one of the restaurant’s youngest patrons wasn’t exactly eating at their tables.

“(I) kind of noticed they weren’t paying much attention to the little girl because she was eating off the ground,” said the woman.

She says over the course of two hours she witnessed the little girl virtually ignored by the two people eating over her … one of them, Denver Police Officer Jeremy Olive.

She claims Olive tried to subdue the child as her behavior worsened.

“Dad picks up the little girl puts her on the lap and starts feeding her straws of margarita,” the woman said. “The bartender came back and I was like I hate to make a fuss about it, but I don’t think this is right for this little girl. She’s like we totally agree but I guess he’s a cop though.”

The woman called Lone Tree Police and witnesses say Olive played his police card and put up a struggle.

The woman says she knows she did the right thing even knowing what Olive does for work

Her thoughts are with his little girl.

“To be just sitting outside in an open bar and you’re giving your kid margarita when clearly it’s because their fussy.” It was just sad.

Olive was arrested and cited with a misdemeanor. Lone Tree police are investigating and just turned the case over to the Arapahoe County District Attorney’s Office. They tell the woman they are investigating Olive for felony child abuse.

Denver police say unless that happens, Olive will remain on active duty

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Los Angeles California Police Waste Tax Dollars Investigating Painting Of A Bank

August 30, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – Standing before an easel on a Van Nuys sidewalk, Alex Schaefer dabbed paint onto a canvas.

“There you have it,” he said. “Inflammatory art.”

The 22-by-28-inch en plein air oil painting is certainly hot enough to inflame Los Angeles police.

Twice they’ve come to investigate why the 41-year-old Eagle Rock artist is painting an image of a bank building going up in flames.

Schaefer had barely added the orange-and-yellow depiction of fire shooting from the roof of a Chase Bank branch when police rolled up to the corner of Van Nuys Boulevard and Sylvan Street on July 30.

“They told me that somebody had called and said they felt threatened by my painting,” Schaefer said.

“They said they had to find out my intention. They asked if I was a terrorist and was I going to follow through and do what I was painting.”

No, Schaefer said. He explained that the artwork was intended to be a visual metaphor for the havoc that banking practices have caused to the economy.

A terrorist certainly would not spend hours on a public sidewalk creating an oil painting of his intended target, he told the officers.

The police took down his name, address and telephone number on a form — Schaefer declined to provide his Social Security number — and departed.

“They were friendly. They weren’t intimidating,” he said. “I figured that when they left, they probably decided the episode was stupid and they’d just wad up the form and throw it away.”

Wrong. On Tuesday, two more officers showed up at Schaefer’s home. This time they were plainclothes detectives.

“One of them asked me, ‘Do you hate banks? Do you plan to do that to the bank?’ ” Schaefer again explained what his painting symbolizes.

He is actually doing a series of paintings depicting banks ablaze, he said. His first one two months ago featured a Burbank Chase branch, and he has a Bank of America painting in progress, he said. He will feature other large banks’ branches as well; he does his own banking at a small community bank, Schaefer said.

“The flames symbolize bringing the system down,” he said. “Some might say that the banks are the terrorists.”

Although police elsewhere have occasionally challenged photographers taking pictures of things like refineries and governmental buildings in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, questioning an artist slowly creating an oil painting “is a horribly Orwellian act,” said Andrew McGregor, a photographer who sometimes displays his work alongside Schaefer’s.

A graduate of Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, Schaefer usually paints portraits, cityscapes and lush landscapes. He acknowledges that the bank series has overt political overtones.

The finished paintings will be displayed in a show called “Disaster Capitalism,” scheduled for February at Inglewood’s Beacon Arts Building, he said.

As Schaefer put the finishing touches on his Van Nuys bank painting, passersby stopped to admire his work.

“I like it. It is social justice,” said Travis Stobbe, a Van Nuys apartment building owner.

Albert Acevedo, a salesman from Oxnard, snapped a photo of the painting with his cellphone. “This is great. I’m going in and withdrawing all my money out now,” he joked.

Gary Kishner, a spokesman for Chase Bank, said his institution isn’t sure what to make of Schaefer’s work.

“It’s a situation we don’t take lightly. Hopefully, this is not what his actions are. It’s kind of scary — you don’t know what other people are thinking. We have to look out for the safety of our customers and employees,” he said.

Schaefer said he has been surprised by the hubbub his burning bank has caused.

“I’ve only had two experiences with the police in my life, and these were both of them,” he said. “I have this feeling I’ll get different treatment at airports from now on.”

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Surveillance Photos Catch New Mexico State Police Officer Having Sex On Hood Of Car In Uniform And In Broad Daylight

August 30, 2011

NEW MEXICO – KOB Eyewitness News 4 has obtained surveillance pictures of a State Police officer having sex with a woman on the hood of a car in broad daylight.

State Police aren’t saying anything about the photos, but KOB Eyewitness News 4 is pressing for answers.

Two weeks ago KOB reported a story about an officer caught on camera having sex while in full uniform, an act shown on security camera at the Santa Fe Canyon Ranch.

KOB has blurred out the woman’s image, but you can see it’s during daylight hours and the officer is still wearing his utility belt.

The Santa Fe Sheriff’s office released the pictures to KOB after we filed a public records request. They say they also gave them to State Police over a week ago.

We got reaction from people who saw the photos.

“It’s an inappropriate use of time,” said Cate Campbell of Albuquerque.

“Inappropriate use of our tax money, I mean we pay these guys,” added Jacob Powers.

Albert Loma said if charged and found guilty, the officer should be fired.

“With that kind of judgment you don’t want him carrying a weapon,” said Loma. “I think it’s an embarrassment to the state patrol, they should be ashamed.”

Others say it hurts the reputation built by good officers.

“I expect them to be the mark. State Police should be the standard to which other police departments hold themselves to,” said a man identifying himself as Jeremy.

KOB knows the name of the officer – however, since he has not been charged with any crime, we have chosen not to release his name.

State Police will not comment about the pictures or any internal investigation against the officer, saying it is an ongoing personnel matter.

On Monday, they turned down an on camera interview, saying they need more time to gather the information we’re asking for.

So far no officer faces any charges.

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With Nothing Better To Do In Hurricane Aftermath, Philadelphia Pennsylvania Police Arrested Men On Bogus Charges For Rafting In Floodwaters

August 29, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – Row, row, row your boat, just not down Main Street in Manayunk. That’s the message police are sending after arresting two men who used a raft as an alternate means of transportation down the flooded street Sunday.

CBS 3 reporter Dray Clark caught up with Pete and Pat, best friends and roommates from Manayunk, who paddled their way down the water covered street.

“I thought, Main Street floods a lot, go get a raft and float down,” said Pat, who admitted the idea was his.

“We thought it would be a good time and it turns out it is,” said Pete.

Minutes later, Philadelphia police stopped the men and hauled them away in handcuffs.

When Dray asked why the men were being arrested, he said the officers replied, “for lack of common sense.”

No charges were filed against the boaters.

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Obama’s Drunk Driving Illegal Immigrant Uncle Arrested In Massachusetts

August 29, 2011

MASSACHUSETTS – BARACK Obama’s long-lost “Uncle Omar” has been arrested for alleged drink-driving outside Boston and detained as an illegal immigrant, The Times can reveal.

The arrest ends a mystery over the fate of a relative that the US President wrote in his memoir had moved to America from Kenya in the 1960s, although the circumstances of his discovery may now prove to be an embarrassment for the White House.

Official records say Onyango Obama, 67, was picked up outside the Chicken Bone Saloon in Framingham, Massachusetts, at 7.10pm on August 24. Police say he nearly crashed his Mitsubishi 4×4 into a patrol car, and then insisted that the officer should have given way to him. A report filed with the Framingham District Court said that a breathalyser at the police station registered his blood alcohol at 0.14mg/100ml of blood, above the state limit of 0.08mg.

According to a local newspaper, Mr Obama was charged with driving under the influence and driving to endanger, as well as failing to use a turn signal. He was detained as an illegal immigrant because the US Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement has an outstanding warrant for him because he was previously ordered to be deported to Kenya.

The Times has established from his birthdate that Mr Obama is the Uncle Omar mentioned in President Obama’s best-selling memoir Dreams from My Father. In the 1995 book, President Obama writes of “the uncle who had left for America 25 years ago and had never come back”.

In 2008, The Times mounted a search for Uncle Omar. Instead of finding him, we discovered his sister, President Obama’s Auntie Zeituni, who was living as an illegal immigrant on a Boston housing estate. Uncle Omar and Auntie Zeituni are the children of President Obama’s grandfather Hussein Onyango Obama, by his third wife Sarah, the woman President Obama calls “Granny”, because she raised his father, Barack Sr, who was Hussein Obama’s son by Hussein’s second wife, Akumu.

The 2008 investigation unearthed public records naming an O. Onyango Obama, born on June 3, 1944, living at a house in the Boston suburbs, where he was known as Obama Onyango. Framingham police records list the man arrested last week as Onyango Obama, with the same birth date, June 3, 1944.

According to local reports, Officer Val Krishtal and another driver had to slam on their brakes to avoid hitting Mr Obama’s car, which rolled through a stop sign and took a quick left turn. Mr Obama allegedly told the officer he had right of way and said he doubted the officer was forced to brake hard as he did not hear his brakes squeal.

Mr Obama pleaded not guilty at his remand hearing, but was held in custody because of the immigration warrant. He now faces a legal battle. His sister Zeituni eventually won the right to live in America despite an earlier deportation order. Margaret Wong, the Cleveland lawyer who successfully represented Zeituni, confirmed through a representative last night that she has also been retained to defend Mr Obama.

“Before he went to America, we all knew him as Omar. But he dropped that bit, changing it to Obama Onyango, because he said he preferred his African name,” said Nelson Ochieng, a cousin in the Kenyan city of Kisumu.

Mr Obama’s landlady in Boston went to court to evict him in 2000 for non-payment of his dollars 500-a-month rent. He was also a partner in a convenience store that was set up in 1992, and was attacked in a robbery at the shop in 1994 by two men armed with a sawn-off rifle.

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10 Foot Ramp In San Francisco California Board Of Supervisors Chambers To Cost Taxpayers Nearly $70,000 per FOOT

August 29, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – What costs more: a home in San Francisco’s Sunset District, or a wheelchair ramp in the Board of Supervisors’ chambers?

If you picked the house, you’re wrong.

By the time the final tab comes in, the cost of designing and installing a ramp to the president’s chair at the Board of Supervisors – a project now under way – is expected to top out at $699,413.

That is about $50,000 more than the median cost of a home in the Sunset.

Why so much for a 10-foot ramp?

First, it took two companies, at a total cost of $132,205, to come up with a design that passed architectural muster for a designated historic landmark. The cost in city staff time to oversee the planning hit $38,434. That’s $170,639.

Then came the job itself.

To install the ramp, the board’s majestic podium is being taken apart, raised five steps above the chamber’s floor, then put back together.

Costs include $25,200 for materials, $201,678 for labor and $49,000 for a set of historically accurate brass handrails. Outside historic experts to keep an eye on the work are getting $48,824.

Miscellaneous costs bring the construction job’s total to $477,000 and change.

Also, because the job could take 10 weeks, the supervisors have set aside $51,042 to pay for relocating board meetings.

Supervisor John Avalos – the lone “no” vote on the project when the board approved it in February- said the political math just doesn’t add up.

“This is a tremendous amount of money being spent on something in City Hall that rarely or may never even get used,” Avalos said.

“Meanwhile, there are so many other needs for handicapped access that are really needed that are going unfunded,” Avalos said.

Board President David Chiu defended the project, saying that “San Francisco has been at the forefront of access issues, and it’s important the board reflect that.”

Chiu also said the cost is “significantly” lower than the $1.1 million original plan.

Job play: Even before he announced it, Gov. Jerry Brown knew his call for corporate tax reform for more jobs stood a snowball’s chance of getting the needed four Republican votes in the Legislature for passage.

But as one Brown staffer explained, by doing nothing, the governor would be criticized for inaction on the biggest issue in the state.

Besides, the real play will be in 2012, when Brown will either go to the ballot with a tax overhaul or use reform as the main issue in the 2012 legislative races when the open primary and the newly drawn districts come into play.

Republican Assembly leader Connie Conway of Tulare promptly said GOP lawmakers would fight the governor’s tax reform plan “every step of the way.”

However, Republican state Sen. Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo said that although Brown appeared to be “obsessed” with raising taxes, he was still open to working with the governor.

And with good reason. Brown carried Blakeslee’s newly reapportioned district in 2010 by 16 points.

Odds-on favorites: A new citywide poll commissioned by the San Francisco Police Officers Association, in preparation of their election endorsements, backs what other polls are showing – stand-in Mayor Ed Lee will be very tough to unseat.

And so will appointed District Attorney George Gascón.

Both political newcomers are on track to receive 30 percent-plus of first-round votes in the ranked-choice balloting, more than twice what their nearest rivals are polling.

And even after second- and third-place votes are added to the mix, the two maintain healthy leads.

Plus, according to the poll of 502 likely city voters – conducted from Aug. 14 to 17 by the firm of Fairbanks, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates – 64 percent of those surveyed had a “generally favorable” opinion of Lee, with only 11 percent unfavorable. The remaining 25 percent had no opinion.

Thirty-nine percent viewed Gascón favorably and just 8 percent unfavorably, while 54 percent had no opinion.

Interesting to note, when the pollsters brought up Lee’s tax breaks to keep Twitter in town, his turnabout on his promise not to run and his close ties to “powerbrokers” Willie Brown and Rose Pak, Lee’s favorables actually went up 2 percentage points.

Bike break: Good news for the spandex crowd. It looks like Golden Gate Bridge officials will be able to reopen the span’s west sidewalk a bit early.

The sidewalk repair work began at the end of May and forced bicyclists to mix with walkers on the east sidewalk. It is now expected to be completed in mid-September, about two weeks ahead of schedule.

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Illinois Sex Offenders, Drug Dealers, And Violent Felons Paid With Tax Dollars To Babysit Children

August 29, 2011

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – Cornelius Osborne may not seem like baby-sitting material.

He was convicted of raping two women. A succession of felonies, from robbery to failing to register as a sex offender, repeatedly sent him to prison, state records show.

But over more than two years, the state paid Osborne nearly $5,000 to baby-sit two children, before his latest conviction — for dealing drugs — put him back behind bars.

Osborne, of Chicago, wasn’t the only sex offender paid by taxpayers to baby-sit, according to a Tribune investigation that found cases of convicted rapists, molesters and other violent felons given access to children over the past decade. The money comes from a $750 million-a-year program that subsidizes child care for more than 150,000 impoverished Illinois families.

The state Department of Human Services poorly vetted baby sitters for years — and when a 2009 law forced better checks, it took nearly 18 months to start them, the newspaper’s investigation of the Child Care Assistance Program found.

Also, despite the reforms, the Tribune found that even now the state lacks safeguards to weed out baby sitters who watch children while living in the homes of sex offenders and other felons deemed too dangerous. Based on those findings, the state is vowing further reforms.

It’s nearly impossible to determine just how many of the illegal baby-sitting arrangements the state has allowed. The newspaper found no cases where children were harmed, although privacy laws shield data needed to do an in-depth study.

Still, the Tribune’s findings are frustrating to Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, who pushed for the reforms mandating better checks to weed out illegal arrangements.

“You’re talking about not only the state sanctioning, but the state creating, an economic incentive for someone with a criminal record to be in a room with a kid,” Murphy said. “That’s frankly not a situation that I find acceptable.”

Advocates such as Maria Whelan insist that the vast majority of baby sitters are aboveboard and that the 14-year-old federal-state program is key to helping parents work their way out of poverty. About half of the subsidies are in Cook County, where they are administered by the nonprofit Illinois Action for Children run by Whelan.

“This is a program that is absolutely essential if we are going to, with a straight face, tell families that if they work and if they continue to develop themselves, we can help them make a difference for their families,” she said.

Program administrators have gotten national recognition for weeding out parents who don’t qualify for the subsidies. But records show they’ve struggled for years to weed out disqualified baby sitters, such as Osborne.

The honor system

All it took for Osborne was a 2004 application mailed with the help of his sister, whose two children he would be paid to watch in her Englewood apartment.

She was able to pick the baby sitter, and she told the Tribune she didn’t worry about her brother hurting the kids. But she did worry the state would object.

“I thought he would be rejected,” she said, “but they didn’t. I never got a call. They never asked about it.”

They should have. The program has long barred those convicted of sex crimes and the most violent felonies. But Osborne wasn’t spotted because of how the form was filled out. It asked him if he had been convicted of any crimes and, if so, which ones. His response showed “drug trafficking” — a crime that at the time didn’t disqualify him.

He didn’t mention the prison stints for rape, robbery and kidnapping, which would have.

And there’s no record anyone checked further.

At the time, the state trusted Osborne and tens of thousands of other applicants to be honest.

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U.S. Army Captain Killed Family And Other, Then Himself After Custody Battle

August 29, 2011

VIRGINIA – A US army captain gunned down his ex-wife, mother-in-law and two other people in a shooting spree during Hurricane Irene before he turned the gun on himself, a justice official told AFP on Monday.

Captain Leonard Egland, who is understood to have served in Afghanistan and Iraq, started his rampage on Saturday evening right in the middle of the storm and ended it after a shootout with SWAT teams shortly before dawn Sunday.

Buckingham County district attorney David Heckler said it appeared that Egland committed a triple homicide in Virginia before crossing state lines and killing his estranged wife’s mother, following a recent child custody row.

The soldier, 37, had been the target of a manhunt after the shooting deaths of his 36-year-old former wife, her boyfriend and her boyfriend’s son at a house in Chesterfield, Virginia, as Irene swept up the east coast.

He apparently killed them before driving north into Pennsylvania with his young daughter and gunning down his ex-wife’s mother, Heckler said.

Police had been alerted after Egland entered a hospital and left a note asking medics to check on his daughter’s health but he pulled out a gun and fled in his car when a member of staff confronted him about the youngster.

“He left a note referring to his mother in law. We believe he shot her in the head,” said Heckler, noting that police tracked down the car, leading to a pursuit and shootout with SWAT marksmen.

“He had a semi-automatic rifle and fired around 10 shots at police vehicles,” injuring one officer, the district attorney added. Egland was later found dead in nearby woodland.

“From what we have been told there was a legal visitation order involving the child that had allowed Mr Egland take his daughter to California for one week,” Heckler said, referring to the soldier’s tours of warzones.

“But the ex-wife threatened legal action after the daughter returned from the visit one week late,” he added.

A police pursuit eventually saw Egland pinned down near a gas station. “We have every indication that he died from a self-inflicted gun wound. Everything is consistent with that,” Heckler said.

The dead soldier’s daughter, aged six or seven according to media reports, is in protective custody, authorities said.

Justice officials in Virginia were unavailable for comment on Monday.

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Elko Area Regional Airport Nevada TSA Agent David Ralph Anderson Arrested, Charged With Molesting Girl Younger Than 14 Seven To Ten Times In Past Year

August 27, 2011

SPRING CREEK, NEVADA – A city officer arrested a Spring Creek man Wednesday morning at the Elko Area Regional Airport, where he works for the Transportation Security Administration, on a warrant charging six counts of lewdness with a child.

The Elko County Sheriff’s Office was notified in July of possible sexual contact between David Ralph Anderson, 61, and a girl younger than 14.

According to Elko Justice Court records, the victim told investigators that on seven to 10 occasions between 2010 and this year, Anderson allegedly taught the victim about various sexual acts and had sexual contact in the form of touching each other’s genitals.

Investigators reported Anderson also told the girl to sleep in his bed and taught her to say various vulgar words associated with body parts and sexual activities.

In addition, the girl stated he would rub lotion all over her body, placed his hand up her shirt to touch her breasts, had her watch pornographic films with him, encouraged her to consume alcohol and would French kiss her.

Deputy District Attorney Tyler Ingram submitted a warrant request to Elko Justice of the Peace Al Kacin on Aug. 23, which was granted along with an objection to any reduction of bail.

Anderson, who is a TSA employee according to Elko County Jail records, is being held on $250,000 bail.

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Class Action Lawsuit Charges Florida Highway Patrol With Illegally Ticketing More Than 10,429 Innocent Motorists

August 26, 2011

TAMPA, FLORIDA – When the Florida Highway Patrol pulls someone over on the highway, it’s usually because they were speeding.

But Eric Campbell was pulled over and ticketed while he was driving the speed limit.

Campbell says, “I was coming up the Veterans Expressway and I notice two Florida Highway Patrol Cars sitting on the side of the road in the median, with lights off.”

Campbell says he did what he always does: flashed his lights on and off to warn drivers coming from the other direction that there was speed trap ahead.

According to Campbell, 60 seconds after passing the trooper, “They were on my tail and they pulled me over.”

Campbell says the FHP trooper wrote him a ticket for improper flashing of high beams. Campbell says the trooper told him what he had done was illegal.

But later Campbell learned that is not the case. He filed a class action suit which says “Florida Statue 316.2397” — under which Campbell was cited — “does not prohibit the flashing of headlights as a means of communications, nor does it in any way reference flashing headlights or the use of high beams.”

However, the FHP trooper who wrote the ticket either didn’t know or didn’t care. “You could tell in his voice he was upset,” Campbell says. “He was professional, he wasn’t rude… but you could tell he was irritated.”

However, the lawsuit says the FHP is well aware they are wrongfully applying the state law and they are doing it as a means of generating revenue. In 2005, a court order was even issued saying the state law doesn’t prohibit the flashing of vehicle headlights.

Campbell isn’t the only one. Since 2005, FHP records show more than 10,429 drivers have been cited under the statute.

In addition to seeking the refund of the $100 ticket, the lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $15,000.

What’s that costing you?

If each person illegally cited was awarded $15,000 that would be $156,435,000 in damages if the suit is successful. Then you would throw in at least another $1,042,900 in ticket refunds, all because it appears troopers don’t like motorists warning others about speed traps.

Campbell says he felt as if the trooper thought it was a personal affront. According to Campbell, the trooper did not like the fact somebody was ratting him out.

The Florida Highway Patrol says it can’t comment because of the pending lawsuit.

Campbell says FHP had no right to ticket him or anyone under the current law and he adds the agency is not being honest when it says it doesn’t write tickets to increase revenue or punish people, but rather to get the motorist to slow down on the highway. If that were true, Campbell says the FHP should be delighted with him, because drivers did slow down before troopers could give them a ticket.

The suit evolved out the fact that Campbell says “I don’t like what the government is dong especially now when most people have a hard time affording gas and now they have to defend themselves against a made up charge that doesn’t exist.”

The state will have to come up with the money for damages if the suit is successful, and guess where the money is coming from: your taxes.

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San Francisco California Police Waste Time And Money Investigating Sagging Pants

August 26, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – The saggy pants saga knows no bounds in San Francisco — and, apparently, has yet to end.

This week, a San Francisco high school teacher in the Sunset District called police to intervene in a dispute with a student, who “became belligerent and took a fighting stance” after he was told to pull up his pants, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

Police responded to the 2100 block of 24th Avenue at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday. San Francisco Unified School District’s Lincoln High School is nearby. Lincoln High is the alma mater of Deshon Marman, who catapulted to national attention in June when he was kicked off of a US Airways flight at San Francisco International Airport for allegedly failing to follow flight crews’ instructions to pull up his pants.

Marman was arrested, but was not charged with a crime after the national outcry. He has sued the airline, which has failed to apologize, and which allowed another passenger, a white male, to fly wearing purple lingerie. Marman, a student and football player at the University of New Mexico, is black.

In this latest instance, San Francisco police took no action, according to the newspaper. No further information is available.

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Mesa County Colorado Sheriff’s Department Threatens Man With Criminal Charges For Dancing On Empty Grave

August 26, 2011

GRAND JUNCTION, COLORADO –  A Clifton, Colo., man has been fired from his job as a grave digger after he was filmed gyrating and playing a simulated guitar while standing on a burial vault.

The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office says 27-year-old Christopher Redd could face misdemeanor charges of desecration of venerated objects after his antics on July 23 at Memorial Gardens.

According to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (http://bit.ly/qiGEVJ), Redd says it was a botched attempt to win tickets for a rock jam festival. He says it was an empty concrete vault and it happened before a funeral service was held at the site.

Redd didn’t win the tickets because he did not fulfill a contest requirement of posting the video to Youtube.com.

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Feds Raid Gibson Guitar Taking Wood, Files, And Guitars – Trying To Enforce Laws In Far Away Countries…

August 26, 2011

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – Federal agents swooped in on Gibson Guitar Wednesday, raiding factories and offices in Memphis and Nashville, seizing several pallets of wood, electronic files and guitars. The Feds are keeping mum, but in a statement yesterday Gibson’s chairman and CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz, defended his company’s manufacturing policies, accusing the Justice Department of bullying the company. “The wood the government seized Wednesday is from a Forest Stewardship Council certified supplier,” he said, suggesting the Feds are using the aggressive enforcement of overly broad laws to make the company cry uncle.

It isn’t the first time that agents of the Fish and Wildlife Service have come knocking at the storied maker of such iconic instruments as the Les Paul electric guitar, the J-160E acoustic-electric John Lennon played, and essential jazz-boxes such as Charlie Christian’s ES-150. In 2009 the Feds seized several guitars and pallets of wood from a Gibson factory, and both sides have been wrangling over the goods in a case with the delightful name “United States of America v. Ebony Wood in Various Forms.”

The question in the first raid seemed to be whether Gibson had been buying illegally harvested hardwoods from protected forests, such as the Madagascar ebony that makes for such lovely fretboards. And if Gibson did knowingly import illegally harvested ebony from Madagascar, that wouldn’t be a negligible offense. Peter Lowry, ebony and rosewood expert at the Missouri Botanical Garden, calls the Madagascar wood trade the “equivalent of Africa’s blood diamonds.” But with the new raid, the government seems to be questioning whether some wood sourced from India met every regulatory jot and tittle.

It isn’t just Gibson that is sweating. Musicians who play vintage guitars and other instruments made of environmentally protected materials are worried the authorities may be coming for them next.

If you are the lucky owner of a 1920s Martin guitar, it may well be made, in part, of Brazilian rosewood. Cross an international border with an instrument made of that now-restricted wood, and you better have correct and complete documentation proving the age of the instrument. Otherwise, you could lose it to a zealous customs agent—not to mention face fines and prosecution.

John Thomas, a law professor at Quinnipiac University and a blues and ragtime guitarist, says “there’s a lot of anxiety, and it’s well justified.” Once upon a time, he would have taken one of his vintage guitars on his travels. Now, “I don’t go out of the country with a wooden guitar.”

The tangled intersection of international laws is enforced through a thicket of paperwork. Recent revisions to 1900’s Lacey Act require that anyone crossing the U.S. border declare every bit of flora or fauna being brought into the country. One is under “strict liability” to fill out the paperwork—and without any mistakes.

It’s not enough to know that the body of your old guitar is made of spruce and maple: What’s the bridge made of? If it’s ebony, do you have the paperwork to show when and where that wood was harvested and when and where it was made into a bridge? Is the nut holding the strings at the guitar’s headstock bone, or could it be ivory? “Even if you have no knowledge—despite Herculean efforts to obtain it—that some piece of your guitar, no matter how small, was obtained illegally, you lose your guitar forever,” Prof. Thomas has written. “Oh, and you’ll be fined $250 for that false (or missing) information in your Lacey Act Import Declaration.”

Consider the recent experience of Pascal Vieillard, whose Atlanta-area company, A-440 Pianos, imported several antique Bösendorfers. Mr. Vieillard asked officials at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species how to fill out the correct paperwork—which simply encouraged them to alert U.S. Customs to give his shipment added scrutiny.

There was never any question that the instruments were old enough to have grandfathered ivory keys. But Mr. Vieillard didn’t have his paperwork straight when two-dozen federal agents came calling.

Facing criminal charges that might have put him in prison for years, Mr. Vieillard pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of violating the Lacey Act, and was handed a $17,500 fine and three years probation.

Given the risks, why don’t musicians just settle for the safety of carbon fiber? Some do—when concert pianist Jeffrey Sharkey moved to England two decades ago, he had Steinway replace the ivories on his piano with plastic.

Still, musicians cling to the old materials. Last year, Dick Boak, director of artist relations for C.F. Martin & Co., complained to Mother Nature News about the difficulty of getting elite guitarists to switch to instruments made from sustainable materials. “Surprisingly, musicians, who represent some of the most savvy, ecologically minded people around, are resistant to anything about changing the tone of their guitars,” he said.

You could mark that up to hypocrisy—artsy do-gooders only too eager to tell others what kind of light bulbs they have to buy won’t make sacrifices when it comes to their own passions. Then again, maybe it isn’t hypocrisy to recognize that art makes claims significant enough to compete with environmentalists’ agendas.

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With No Crimes To Investigate, Massachusetts State Police Close Down Children’s Green Tea Stand

August 26, 2011

MASSACHUSETTS – Well it’s not exactly lemonade but it’ll do. Christopher Carr’s twelve-year-old stepson had set up a smoothie and green-tea stand near their house when they moved back to the States after the earthquake in Japan. After they’d set up shop, Christopher took his daughter back inside to get some lunch, leaving his son to manage things at the stand.

After my daughter finished eating and as we approached the end of our street where the drink stand was, I could see from afar that the sign was pulled up and put away, the cooler was shut with everything which we had so carefully arranged on the tray table put away, and my stepson was huddled up and sitting on the rail, staring out between his knees at the ocean.

“What happened?” I asked when I got down there. I wondered if he had gotten discouraged that no one was buying his drinks or maybe that no one could understand his accent. Or maybe he was just lonely down there by himself.

“The police told me to pack up and go home,” he said. Or, more accurately I discovered after making a few phone calls, the town police swung by and wished him good luck, and then afterwards, “someone in brown” came by and made my stepson stop selling drinks at the end of our street, because this required a permit, and my stepson did not have a permit to sell drinks.

After hearing a little more from my stepson and talking to the town police, I discovered that it was the Massachusetts State Police that broke up our lemonade stand. After attempting several times to contact the State Police, I reached only answering machines. Apparently, having someone on call on weekends is not in the Massachusetts State Police’s budget (but breaking up lemonade stands is somehow cost-effective).

This may be the first case of state police shutting down a kid’s green-tea stand, but the list of lemonade stands being closed down by various government agencies is long and growing.

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$325,000 Lawsuit Charges Gretna Louisiana Police Officer Joseph Mekdessie With Taser Weapon Attack On 7 Year Old Boy – Officer Also Subject Of $32 Million Lawsuit In Penis Case

August 26, 2011

A Gretna police officer accused in a lawsuit this month of unleashing his canine on a suspect whose penis was nearly severed has been accused in another lawsuit of injuring a 7-year-old boy with his Taser, a shock intended for the boy’s father who says he wrongly arrested during a traffic stop. Officer Joseph Mekdessie, Chief Arthur Lawson, the Gretna Police Department and the City of Gretna are named in the lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans by attorneys for Marlon Bordelon Sr., and his son Marlon Bordelon Jr., who seek $325,000 in damages in the May 21 incident.

Lawson said Monday he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment, but he knew of no instances in which a child was hit with a Taser.

The Bordelons were “traveling home” when Mekdessie conducted a traffic stop and allegedly shined his flashlight in the boy’s face, leading the father to question why the officer was doing it, according to the lawsuit filed by attorney Edwin Shorty Jr. The officer then asked the elder Bordelon for his license and registration, and asked him to get out of the car.

The father twice asked why he was being ordered out of the car and refused to get out, “prompting Officer Mekdessie to say, ‘Don’t get tased in front of your son.'”

“Mr. Bordelon then asked the officer, ‘So you’re just gonna tase me in front of my son?'” and again refused to get out of his car, according to the lawsuit.

When the father told his son to call his mother, Mekdessie fired his Taser, striking the man and his son. Mekdessie fired the Taser a second time at the man, causing him to fall out of the car and onto the ground, where the officer placed a stun gun to the man’s neck and shocked him before putting him in handcuffs and dragging him and punched in the neck and face, according to the lawsuit.

Marlon Bordelon Jr. was taken to Children’s Hospital, where a burn mark on his leg caused by the Taser was noted, according to the lawsuit. After he was released from jail on charges of battery on a police officer and traffic offenses, Bordelon Sr., was treated for a black eye and first-degree burns, according to the lawsuit.

Mekdessie “mislabeled” Bordelon’s “involuntary gestations,” caused by his being shocked, Bordelon alleges. Bordelon says he did nothing wrong, but that Mekdessie “sought to falsely prosecute … and to concoct a false story against him.”

The lawsuit accused Lawson and the police department of not properly training officers to use Tasers and approve their use even when there is no threat to the officer.

Mekdessie, Lawson, Officer Roland Kindell and the police department were sued Aug. 9, by Cody Melancon of Gretna, who alleges his constitutional rights were violated May 31, when Mekdessie, Kindell and other officers went to his apartment to arrest him on a warrant.

Melancon admits he initially tried to hide from the officers. But he said he surrendered, and despite complying, Mekdessie allegedly released his police canine, Zin, without cause. The dog bit at Melancon’s groin area, causing extensive damage and leaving him sexually dysfunctional. Melancon seeks $31 million in damages.

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New York City Police Officers Trained By Resident CIA Agent Who Also “Advises” Department – CIA Still Claims They Don’t Spy In US

August 26, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC –  New York’s police commissioner confirmed Thursday that a CIA officer is working out of police headquarters there, after an Associated Press investigation revealed an unusual partnership with the CIA that has blurred the line between foreign and domestic spying. But he and the CIA said the spy agency’s role at the department is an advisory one.

Speaking to reporters in New York, commissioner Raymond Kelly acknowledged that the CIA trains NYPD officers on “trade craft issues,” meaning espionage techniques, and advises police about events happening overseas. Kelly also said he was unaware of any other U.S. police department with a similar relationship with the CIA.

“They are involved in providing us with information, usually coming from perhaps overseas and providing it to us for, you know, just for our purposes,” Kelly said.

CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood said the agency does not spy inside the United States and also described the relationship with the NYPD as collaborative.

“Our cooperation, in coordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is exactly what the American people deserve and have come to expect following 9/11,” she said.

A months-long investigation by the AP, published Wednesday, revealed that the NYPD has dispatched teams of undercover officers, known as “rakers,” into minority neighborhoods as part of a human mapping program, according to officials directly involved in the program. They’ve monitored daily life in bookstores, bars, cafes and nightclubs. Police have also used informants, known as “mosque crawlers,” to monitor sermons, even when there’s no evidence of wrongdoing. NYPD officials have scrutinized imams and gathered intelligence on cab drivers and food cart vendors, jobs often done by Muslims.

Many of the operations were built with help from the CIA, which is prohibited from spying on Americans but was instrumental in transforming the NYPD’s intelligence unit after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

The NYPD denied that it trolls ethnic neighborhoods and said it only follows leads. The mayor on Thursday defended the police department’s efforts.

“In the end the NYPD’s first job is prevention, and I think they’ve done a very good job of that,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said when asked about the police practices. “The law is pretty clear about what’s the requirement, and I think they’ve followed the law.”

Also Thursday, New York City Councilman Brad Lander said the city council should conduct an oversight hearing on the NYPD’s programs, but Lander is not in a leadership position to enforce that such hearings take place.

“We must be sure that the NYPD’s intelligence gathering does not violate civil liberties, target and profile our city’s diverse ethnic and religious communities,” Lander said.

City Councilman Peter Vallone, chairman of the panel that oversees the police department, said the council already had scheduled two NYPD oversight hearings during which these issues could be raised.

The disclosures about the NYPD’s activities provoked exasperation in the city’s Muslim neighborhoods, where government officials have sought to build relationships in Muslim communities and pledged to ensure that Muslims aren’t targeted for discrimination.

“The NYPD’s credibility is bankrupt in our communities,” Fahd Ahmed, legal and policy director of the Desis Rising Up & Moving group, said in a statement Thursday. “We need accountability, transparency and an overhaul of tactics and policies.”

Government outreach programs have operated in Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Minneapolis, Portland, Ore., and Washington—all cities with large Muslim communities—even as law enforcement around the country has stepped up investigative efforts to stave off attacks.

But the inherent tensions caused by this duality of missions is perhaps most visible in New York. It is the only U.S. city that al-Qaida has successfully attacked twice and continues to be the target of terror plots. New York also is home to the country’s most aggressive local police department investigating counterterrorism.

“It seems to many of the leadership here, there are two kinds of authorities they are playing—one is in the forefront which is very cooperative,” said Zaheer Uddin of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York. “And there is another authority, which is playing against Islam and Muslims, going against the First Amendment and the security of this country.”

Uddin asked, “Are we partners, or are we a suspicious community?”

On Wednesday, the Justice Department said it will review a request by a Muslim advocacy group to investigate.

“These revelations send the message to American Muslims that they are being viewed as a suspect community and that their constitutional rights may be violated with impunity,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which asked for the investigation. “The Justice Department must initiate an immediate investigation of the civil rights implications of this spy program and the legality of its links to the CIA.”

The Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition, an umbrella organization of New York Muslim groups, on Thursday also called for an investigation.

In the decade since the September 2001 attacks, government officials in New York also have met with Muslim leaders and exchanged cellphone numbers. They’ve attended religious services, dinners and teas, and spoken at community meetings. The FBI recently hosted an event for 500 young Muslims in Brooklyn to build trust and get to know federal law enforcement, with a bomb-sniffing dog, scuba boat and helicopter on display.

“I go and visit mosques on a regular basis,” Kelly previously told the AP, adding that he also holds question-and-answer sessions and planned to attend several dinners with members of the Muslim community during the holy month of Ramadan this year.

The police department in 2006 hired Sidique Wai, an African immigrant and member of the New York Muslim community, to coordinate the NYPD’s citywide community outreach program. He said the interaction and outreach between the community and police is unprecedented.

“The majority of the faith-based—particularly the Muslim leaders throughout the city—are absolutely appreciative of the unprecedented relationship with the police department,” Wai said. “I’m not aware of a deliberate effort on the part of NYPD to profile people.”

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9/11 Hysteria: Massachusets State Police And TSA Thugs Pull Folk Musician Off Flight, Question His Reading Book About 1940’s Polish Aircraft

August 25, 2011

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – Folk musician Vance Gilbert on Tuesday posted a lengthy open letter on his website about a recent experience on a flight from Boston to Washington, DC he claims left him “frightened” and “humilated.”

A well-known member of the local folk scene, Gilbert maintains that after boarding a United Airlines flight on Aug. 14, he was pulled off the plane and questioned about his fanny pack (which he’d tucked into his backpack under the seat in front of him) and about a book he was reading on historic planes.

“I am a musician by trade and an amateur aviation historian, studying mostly European transport aircraft between WW1 and WW2, and some after. I was on my way to two different music festivals,” Gilbert explains in his blog post at vancegilbert.com. “When I travel I delve into reading about this era of aviation. I had taken out and was reading a book of Polish Aircraft circa 1946 and I was also looking at views of an Italian aircraft from 1921.”

According to Gilbert, who is African-American, as the plane prepared for take off, “2 Mass State Policemen, 1 or 2 TSA Agents, and the bursar for the flight come down the [aisle] and motion me to get off of the plane.”

Once on the breezeway, Gilbert claims the police officers asked if he’d had “a problem” with his bag and whether he was looking at a “book of airplanes.” Gilbert said he showed them what he was reading (he says they deemed it “Snoopy Red Baron stuff” and said they were sorry for the inconvenience) and was eventually allowed back on the plane.

Gilbert writes that he “silently wept” the whole flight to Washington, DC, and that he was left ”broken hearted and speechless.”

When contacted about Gilbert’s letter, United spokesman Charles Hobart emailed the Globe this statement: “The service Mr. Gilbert described does not reflect the experience we aim to deliver our customers. We are reaching out to Mr. Gilbert and to Shuttle America, the United Express carrier that operated the flight, to better understand what occurred and to ensure Mr. Gilbert knows we value his business.”

In an interview this evening, Gilbert said he has been contacted by United and is arranging a time to discuss the incident.

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Man-Looking Luzerne County Pennsylvania Deputy Sheriff Jennifer M. Roberts Fired After Domestic Dispute With Lesbian Romantic Rival

August 24, 2011

LUZERNE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA – The Luzerne County Commissioners voted Tuesday to fire Deputy Sheriff Jennifer M. Roberts following her arrest earlier this month in a domestic dispute with a romantic rival.

The commissioners unanimously approved the firing, a last-minute addition to their meeting agenda, after briefly adjourning into executive session to discuss the matter with Sheriff John Gilligan and county Solicitor Vito DeLuca.

Gilligan, who suspended Roberts indefinitely following her Aug. 5 arrest and ordered an internal investigation, declined to comment on the firing Tuesday citing the cloak of privacy often attached to county personnel matters.

Commissioner Stephen A. Urban, speaking after the meeting with decidedly less deference to protocol, said Roberts’ firing came after a department personnel hearing Monday where she was found to have engaged in conduct unbecoming of a sheriff’s deputy.

Roberts’ defense attorney, Allyson L. Kacmarski, said the firing Tuesday was a “separate issue” from the criminal case and “has no reflection” on how they would proceed.

According to police, Roberts attacked Sheila Sult, the girlfriend of her former lover, Mary Jean Farrell, in the early morning of July 22 at Sult’s Regent Street, Wilkes-Barre home.

Roberts violently punched Sult in the face and on the head, landing a blow under an eye that caused severe swelling, blurry vision and a headache, police said. Sult, 44, also sustained lumps on her head and scratches on her neck, police said. Farrell, a disabled sheriff’s deputy, intervened to stop the attack, police said.

Sult told police Roberts threatened her at the Wyoming Valley Mall in Wilkes-Barre Township the day before the attack and referred to Farrell as “my wife.” During the same mall encounter, Roberts told Farrell, “If you don’t come see me later, I will find Sheila and punch that Colgate smile right off her face,” according to police.

Roberts, 33, of Prospect Street, Wilkes-Barre Township, is charged with burglary, simple assault and harassment. Her arrest followed a suspension in February after she and Farrell hit each other with protection-from-abuse petitions.

Gilligan ended the suspension in March after Roberts and Farrell agreed to withdraw the protection-from-abuse petitions. Farrell and Roberts were living together in Fairview Township with Farrell’s children, 13 and 11. They broke up in February when Roberts became involved with another woman, according to court papers. Each woman said the other pointed a gun at her and threatened to kill her.

Farrell was not suspended in February because she was not working and was recovering from an on-duty injury. Gilligan said Farrell is still not working. Roberts started working for the county in 2002 and earned $29,850 per year, according to county payroll records. Farrell, who started working for the county in 1988, earns $37,150 per year. She has been receiving disability pay since October, according to payroll records.

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Crazed Feds Charge Man With Shooting Grizzly Bear, On His Own Property, That Was Threatening Children And Pets

August 24, 2011

COEUR d’ALENE, IDAHO – A man charged with unlawfully shooting and killing a grizzly bear had so many supporters at his arraignment Tuesday in federal court that the judge had to move the hearing to a larger courtroom.

Even there, every seat was taken as his family, friends and neighbors, young and old, squeezed in.

Jeremy M. Hill, 33, pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court to killing the animal with a rifle on his 20-acre property near Porthill, Idaho, at the Canadian border. He lives five miles from the closest grizzly bear recovery zone.

The grizzly bear is classified as a threatened species in the lower 48 states, according to the Endangered Species Act, and protected by federal law. Hill’s charge is a misdemeanor.

Magistrate Judge Candy Dale set trial, at least for now, for Oct. 4.

Hill has declined comment. His lawyer, Marc Lyons of Coeur d’Alene, said he plans to defend Hill on the basis of self-defense and protection of family.

Following the hearing, his father, Mike Hill, of Athol, said, “This whole thing is a waste of taxpayer money.”

He said his son was concerned for the safety of his children playing outside when a mother grizzly and two cubs wandered onto his property on May 8.

Jeremy Hill has six kids, ranging in age from 14 years old to 10 months old. At least five were home when the grizzly was killed, Mike Hill said.

The bears had gone after some pigs in a pen that the kids had been raising, Mike Hill said.

He said his son shot one of the bears, then called authorities to notify them of the kill. The other two bears ran off.

He said his son could have just buried the animal and not said anything to law enforcement. He said his son is being penalized for coming forward.

State Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, attended the hearing in full support of Jeremy Hill.

“The charges are simply unjust,” she said following the hearing. “Hopefully common sense will prevail. It’s clearly an issue of protecting the family.”

She predicted that punishing someone who reported killing a grizzly will damage government efforts to protect the animals.

She said nearly $20,000 was raised by community members for Hill’s defense.

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, was asked about the case while appearing in Sandpoint on Tuesday.

While Labrador said he needed to be careful in dealing with the prosecutorial side of things, he did have this to say:

“Clearly, we have a problem with the ESA when situations like this happen.” He later added, “We’re doing everything we can to make sure this man is treated fairly.”

The Boundary County commissioners on Monday said they are standing beside Hill on the charge, saying in a statement that Hill had “not only the right, but the obligation to protect his children and his family.”

The commissioners said they’ll be seeking help from Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and Idaho’s congressional delegation to get the charge dismissed.

The charge of killing a threatened species is punishable by up to a year in prison, a maximum fine of $50,000, and up to one year of supervised release.

Appeared Here

Nutcase Ohio Congressman Steve Chabot Has Police Officer Confiscate Cameras From Those Attending Town Hall Meeting – “To Protect The Constituents” While He Answered Pre-Screened Questions

August 24, 2011

OHIO – A congressman from Ohio had cops grab the cameras of constituents during a town hall meeting. Steve Chabot, a Republican, had cell phones and cameras confiscated in order to “prevent an embarrassing Youtube video from making the rounds,” according to Carlos Miller, who runs a blog documenting efforts by the state to stifle the First Amendment rights of photographers.

Police said the cameras were taken “to protect the constituents.” A local television station, however, was allowed to videotape the meeting and the brazen move by Chabot and the cops.

Think Progress, the Soros-funded media operation, also reported the incident, primarily because Chabot is an establishment Republican and protesters outside the event called for more taxes. The Democrat blog reported:

Media were permitted to record the event, making the ban on citizen cameras all the more baffling. Clearly no “security” threat existed; rather, as one of Chabot’s staffers told ThinkProgress, they wanted to “prevent” people from “making a show” of the event. Indeed, Chabot and his staff were worried enough about citizens voicing their anger at his policies that they only accepted pre-screened questions chosen by the congressman’s staff.

This should not be perplexing – the controlled corporate media can be trusted to not embarrass Rep. Chabot, at least not on points that matter, while citizens cannot.

It is also interesting that Think Progress attributes the current economic implosion to Chabot and the Republicans when Democrat Obama is in the White House and allegedly in control.

In fact, neither Obama or the Republicans control the economy. It is controlled by a Federal Reserve that has doubled the monetary base since last August.

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Obama Racks Up $4,247,000,000,000 In Debt In Just 945 Days – Increases $3,000,000 A MINUTE, Even During His MANY Vacations

August 24, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Swallow all liquids in your mouth before reading any further.

Updated numbers for the national debt are just out: It’s now $14,639,000,000,000.

When Barack Obama took the oath of office twice on Jan. 20, 2009, CBS’ amazing number cruncher Mark Knoller reports, the national debt was $10,626,000,000,000.

That means the debt that our federal government owes a whole lot of somebodies including China has increased $4,247,000,000,000 in just 945 days. That’s the fastest increase under any president ever.

Remember the day the Democrat promised to close the embarrassing Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility within one year? That day the national debt increased $4,247,000,000. And each day since that the facility hasn’t been closed.

Same for the day in 2009 when Obama flew all the way out to Denver to sign the $787 billion stimulus bill that was going to hold national unemployment beneath 8% instead of the 9.1% we got today anyway? Another $4,247,000,000 that day. And every day since, even Obama golfing and vacation days.

Same sum for the day Obama flew Air Force One nearly four hours roundtrip to Columbus, Ohio for a 10-minute speech about how well the stimulus was working in the politically crucial Buckeye state. Ohio’s unemployment rate just jumped to 9% from 8.8% anyway.Obama stops his tour bus to Eat some Ice Cream in Iowa 8-16-11

Or last week’s three-day Midwestern tour in the president’s new $1.1 million Death Star bus? National debt went up $16,988,000,000 while he rode around speaking and buying ice cream cones.

Numbers with that many digits are hard to grasp, even for a Harvard head. So, let’s put it another way:

One billion seconds ago Bill Clinton was nearing the end of his two terms and George W. Bush’s baseball collection was still on the shelves in the Austin governor’s office.

The nation’s debt increased $4.9 trillion under President Bush too, btw. But it took him 2,648 days to do it. Obama will surpass that sum during this term.

Now, how to portray a trillion, or 1,000 billions. One trillion seconds ago much of North America was still covered by ice sheets hundreds of feet thick. And the land was dotted by only a few dozen Starbuck’s.

Obama is saying yes, we can get control of the national debt. But ominously every time he says that he adds that trillions of dollars in infrastructure repairs are badly needed across the country. And with interest rates so low, according to the thinking on Obama’s planet, now is an excellent time to borrow even more money.

So, it looks like not too long before Americans learn what comes after 1,000 trillions.

It’s quadrillion. But for Bernanke’s sake, please don’t tell anyone in Washington.

Appeared Here

9/11 Hysteria: Jacksonville Florida City Hall Evacuated Due To Box Of Light Bulbs They’d Special Ordered – Mayor: “Given the times we live in, safety and security is the No. 1 thing we want to do.”

August 24, 2011

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – After shutting down the area around City Hall for more than three hours Tuesday morning, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office determined a suspicious package sent to the city contained harmless light bulbs.

Workers in the City Hall mailroom called the authorities after a scan of the 8-inch-by-6-inch box showed it contained wires.

After the package was placed in a containment unit and taken away, a more accurate scan revealed the bulbs.

Still, the response was proportional to the potential threat, Mayor Alvin Brown said.

“You’ve got to be careful,” Brown said. “Given the times we live in, safety and security is the No. 1 thing we want to do.”

Later, the mayor noted the upcoming anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I don’t think you can be overly cautious,” he said. “I don’t think you can put a price on life.”

‘A fire drill’
City Hall employees called police around 8:40 a.m. to report the package, and by 9:30, City Hall had been evacuated.

“I at first thought it was a fire drill,” said Tony Hill, who works as the mayor’s liaison to the federal government.

About 300 employees headed to the fire department’s emergency communications center on Julia Street, where they stayed until the all clear was given around 1 p.m.

The mayor was not in the building when the package was reported to the authorities, and many other city workers were just arriving.

Sheriff’s Office Director John Hartley said the package had been delivered by FedEx. It was addressed to the City Council, said mayoral spokesman Abel Harding. City workers said the bulbs were likely for use in council chambers, and that they would have been a special order, not something routinely delivered.

Authorities took the situation seriously from the beginning, and Sheriff John Rutherford said the package was treated as a bomb until the more in-depth scan took place.

At the emergency operations center, where many city employees decamped, other workers were monitoring Hurricane Irene, although fears about a hit had moderated by Tuesday morning.

Having the additional employees there didn’t disrupt that job, said Marty Senterfitt, the city’s emergency preparedness chief.

“There was no interruption of service, no confusion,” he said.

Appeared Here

Wetback Commits Murder, Pleads Guilty, Sues State Of Alabama In Class Action Suit

August 24, 2011

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – An illegal immigrant who pleaded guilty to murder is suing Alabama officials, claiming the defense he received at taxpayer expense was inadequate.

The federal lawsuit has some of the defendants scratching their heads.

“There seems to be something wrong when an illegal immigrant can file something with the judicial system when he was illegal to begin with,” Houston County Commission Chairman Mark Culver said in Dothan.

Cenobio Sanchez is the lead plaintiff in what he hopes will become a class-action lawsuit on behalf of indigent defendants who have had court-appointed attorneys in Houston County. His attorney, Stephen Etheredge, said the case could have statewide impact because several counties are looking at adopting Houston County’s system of indigent defense.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified financial damages, but Etheredge said the real aim is to get a better system in place for representing poor people who can’t afford a lawyer.

In Houston County, two attorneys are on contract to handle indigent defense cases for each circuit judge.

Sanchez, 42, of Gordon was charged in 2007 with the stabbing death of his roommate during an argument over the volume of a radio. He pleaded guilty in 2009 to murder and possession of a fake Social Security card and a fake federal work permit. He was sentenced to 40 years for the murder and an additional five years for possession of the forged instruments.

He is suing the governor, the administrator of the state court system, and several Houston County officials. A second plaintiff, Tina Mikel of Cowarts, is also listed in the suit. She pleaded guilty to a drug charge. They are seeking to be representatives in a class-action lawsuit.

Sanchez argues that his defense was inadequate because his court-appointed attorney had a private law practice in addition to her county work and was handling 329 felony cases in 2008, plus 53 non-felony cases. He says that far exceeds the levels recommended by legal groups. He complains that his attorney lacked time to meet with him and investigate his case before trial. He says Houston County’s system forces people to plead guilty because they know their attorneys will be poorly prepared if they go to trial.

His court-appointed attorney in the murder case, Valerie Judah, said Sanchez wanted to plead guilty because he thought the judge would order him returned to Mexico rather than sentence him to an Alabama prison.

Judah said she and other contract attorneys in Houston County have heavy caseloads. “But we have good win-lose ratios,” she said in a phone interview Monday.

After pleading guilty, Sanchez went back to court in Houston County, contending that he lacked adequate legal representation when he entered the plea, but a Houston County judge rejected his argument. Sanchez is appealing .He is currently confined at the Easterling Correctional Facility in Clio, about 30 miles north of Dothan.

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Union Township Ohio Police Officer Shoots Dog, Hits Another Officer

August 23, 2011

UNION TOWNSHIP, OHIO – One police officer shot and killed a dog that was attacking another officer – and then the bullet hit the officer who was being attacked, but the officer’s boot stopped the bullet from penetrating his skin, said police Lt. Scott Gaviglia.

The officer, Joseph Pangello, suffered an “impact” injury where the bullet hit his ankle, Gaviglia said.

He expected Pangello to be released after undergoing treatment at University Hospital.

The incident happened around 7 p.m. Monday in this Clermont County community.

While police were serving a warrant at a home in the 1000 block of Old State Route 74, a dog – possibly a pit bull – started biting Pangello.

“The officer that was being attacked was unable to free himself,” a news release said, so the other officer fired once, hitting the dog.

But police say they believe the bullet traveled through the dog and struck Pangello.

The name of the officer who fired his weapon was not released.

Under department policy, any officer who fires his gun is placed on a paid, three-day leave, Gaviglia said.

The incident remained under investigation.

Appeared Here

Florida Congresswomen Frederica Wilson Pulls Out Race Card To Explain Unemployed African Males

August 23, 2011

FLORIDA – “When you look at African American males, 40% of them are unemployed, those under 30 years of age. I understand exactly the entire nation must be involved in this recovery but the black community is experiencing a great recession. That’s what we’re experiencing,” Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) told MSNBC.

“And all of the growth in the past 30 years, we see it slipping away. From home ownership, the middle class; it’s slipping away from our hands. And it has a lot to do with many issues. Racism, shipping jobs overseas, access — no access to technology. You know, the digital divide is there and many of the new jobs that’s what it requires. So, we have a problem.”

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Nashvile Tennessee Fire And Police Officals Close Interstate Ramp And Call HAZMAT Crews To Deal With BULL SEMEN

August 23, 2011

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – Canisters of bull semen caused quite a scare on the on-ramp to Interstate 65 South Tuesday morning.

The canisters fell off a Greyhound bus just after 5 a.m. as the bus traveled around the curve of the ramp just south of downtown Nashville.

Fire and emergency crews were called to the scene amid reports of a foul odor.

When they discovered four unmarked canisters with steam and an unpleasant odor coming from them, they shut down the on-ramp and called HAZMAT crews.

Officials traced the containers to Greyhound after finding bus tickets on the ground. The bus did not know it lost its load and had continued on.

Authorities called Greyhound, who, after speaking with the driver the bus, determined the canisters to be filled with straws of frozen sperm packed in liquid nitrogen.

The load originated in Columbus, Ohio and was en route to a breeding facility in Laredo, Texas.

Canisters like they ones strewn across the interstate typically carry between 300 and 400 straws, each containing one-milliliter of sperm.

Depending on the bull the sperm came from, straws are worth between $18 and $50 each, according to experts. It’s possible the load that fell off the bus Tuesday morning was worth as much as $80,000.

Once the leaking canisters were deemed not harmful, they were moved to a grassy area next to the interstate.

A local company was called to assist in the cleanup. The scene was cleared around 9 a.m.

A Greyhound spokesperson said it’s not uncommon that the bus was carrying bull sperm.

In addition to transporting people, the also company transports cargo. The canisters were filled with liquid nitrogen and thus could only be transported by ground.

Greyhound said the sperm was stored in a separate compartment below the bus and not near the belongings of passengers.

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Do-Nothing Sit-On-His-Ass California Federal Judge Omer Harland Gallion Ignores Those Illegally Imprisoned – One Died After Waiting 6 Years

August 22, 2011

CALIFORNIA – Justice delayed was justice denied for Omer Harland Gallion. He died in prison in his sixth year of waiting for U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson to act on a decision that he had been wrongfully convicted and should be released or retried.

Anderson took no action until December, when he dismissed the matter as moot after an attorney brought Gallion’s death to his attention.

Two other cases in which junior judicial officials found grounds for striking prisoners’ felony convictions also languished unattended by Anderson for five and a half and eight years, respectively. Another prisoner who petitioned for relief in 2002 is still waiting for an answer.

Prisoners who appeal to federal judges with claims of wrongful conviction are rarely successful in their quests for relief, known as writs of habeas corpus, “the great writ” that is a hallmark of American justice. Only 1 in 284 petitions is approved, according to a 2006 report by a Vanderbilt University law professor. But ignoring recommendations for relief in the few meritorious cases among the 17,000 or so filed each year raises concern about a judge’s objectivity, judicial scholars say.

Anderson declined to discuss the delays. Legal experts say the years-long inaction is highly unusual, even given the complexity of many habeas petitions that raise dozens of issues about the fairness of a prisoner’s trial and sentence. Some attribute the delays to the court’s staggering caseload and judges’ obligation under the Speedy Trial Act to give priority to pending criminal cases. Others question Anderson’s objectivity in prisoners’ cases and speculate that he may be dismissive of their claims of mistreatment.

The chief judge for the Central District of California defended Anderson, describing the long delays as “extremely unfortunate” but blaming them on the district’s huge caseload.

“Judge Anderson is an excellent judge,” said Chief Judge Audrey B. Collins. “I have absolutely no reason to believe there was any bias that permeated his handling or played any part whatsoever in this.” She noted that the district’s 25 active judges carry caseloads that should be spread among at least 36.

Judicial scholars and defense attorneys say Anderson’s handling of the habeas cases raises concern and should lead to a misconduct inquiry.

“The delay is what makes this troubling,” said Arthur Hellman, a University of Pittsburgh law professor and expert on the federal judiciary. “The delays are unexplained. It certainly raises concerns that are going to persist as long as there’s no explanation.”

A Times review of Anderson’s record found that 565 habeas cases, excluding death row appeals, have been assigned to the judge during his nine years on the bench. He accepted the reviewing magistrate’s recommendations to grant relief in two cases assigned early in his tenure and dealt relatively quickly in denying or dismissing the rest of those in which he has issued rulings. That swift dispatch of denials contrasts with the three long-delayed rulings on recommended grants that were brought to public attention last month by the Daily Journal, a legal publication.

“It brings to mind the comment by one of the James Bond characters: ‘Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, but three times is enemy action,’ ” said Hellman, quoting Ian Fleming’s “Goldfinger.”

“It’s not enough to reach a conclusion but enough to raise concern and enough, in my mind, to raise the desirability of a misconduct inquiry,” he said. “The misconduct process doesn’t exist just to discipline judges who do unethical things, but also to assure the public that the judiciary cares, as an institution, that individual judges are doing their jobs right without any kind of animus or improper attitudes.”

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski has the authority, as head of the Judicial Council, to make a public inquiry into any concerns about potential misconduct, even without a formal complaint, which would be investigated in secret. Asked if he planned to question Anderson on why he failed to act expeditiously in the three cases, Kozinski said he couldn’t comment “on any matter potentially involving judicial discipline.”

Sean Kennedy, federal public defender for the Central District, said that none of the cases in which Anderson delayed rulings was represented by lawyers in his office. But he said he was concerned about the judge’s handling of the three cases.

“If a district judge promptly accepts every recommendation to deny a habeas petition, but sits for years on the very few recommendations to grant relief, it causes petitioners to question the fairness of the proceedings,” said Kennedy, head of the largest public defender agency in the country.

All federal judges are required under the Civil Justice Reform Act to report any cases pending for three years or more, and 17 of 18 cases in Anderson’s latest report involve habeas petitions or other prisoners’ rights issues. For the entire Central District, which spans a population of 19 million over seven counties, there are 265 habeas cases still waiting for rulings after three years or more, Collins said.

Gallion, the petitioner who died in prison, had no attorney representing him for the last five years. Of the other two prisoners deemed by reviewing magistrates to have been wrongly convicted, one’s request to be represented by a volunteer defense attorney was blocked by Anderson and the other’s lawyer has declined to discuss the case before consulting with his client.

The attorney thwarted in his attempt to represent prisoner Randall Amado is unequivocal in his view that Anderson harbors bias against convicts, even when other jurists have found those convictions to be unjust. Amado’s conviction for felony murder on the testimony of a rival gang member and convicted felon facing his own murder trial called into question the reliability of the witness and the fairness of Amado’s trial, a magistrate judge ruled in 2003. The magistrate urged Anderson to order him released or given a new trial.

“The idea that this can just sit there and languish for years!” said an exasperated John Lanahan, the San Diego attorney who wrote Amado’s petition for counsel midway into the prisoner’s eight-year wait for Anderson to act. “It’s pretty clear that he has no problems ruling fast when the recommendation is that the petition should be denied.”

Anderson denied the writs for Amado and for spousal abuse convict Adilao Juan Ortiz on July 20, the same day that the Daily Journal sought an explanation from the judge for the delays.

Lanahan said Anderson’s failure to rule on Amado’s request for counsel was particularly frustrating because there was no avenue of appeal, as there would have been if the judge had denied it.

“There is consistent animus with Percy Anderson. He puts you in a place where you can’t get there from here,” Lanahan said. “Inaction is definitely worse than denial.”

Anderson, named to the Los Angeles-based federal court by President George W. Bush in 2002, also experienced the implied censure five years ago of being removed from a case in which a former prisoner was suing the government for wrongful rape conviction in 1986. A federal appeals court ruled that Anderson’s actions during trial of the lawsuit brought by Herman Atkins led the panel to conclude that Anderson’s “impartiality might be questioned.”

Vanderbilt University law professor Nancy J. King, a leading habeas scholar, argues that the system intended to give wronged prisoners a final chance at relief has become widely abused and should be limited to state prisoners who have claims of actual innocence, not procedural missteps.

As Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson famously noted in a 1953 habeas ruling, King recalled, “He who must search a haystack for a needle is likely to end up with an attitude that the needle is not worth the search.”

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Crazed New York City Mayor Bloomberg Wants Red Light Cameras On Every Corner

August 22, 2011

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Mayor Bloomberg wants to blanket the city with red light cameras – and maybe even publish the names of scofflaws who blow through intersections.

“I think we should have ’em on every corner if we could,” the mayor said of the controversial cameras that trigger tickets to drivers caught running red lights.

“If people didn’t go through red lights, you’d save a lot of lives of elderly and kids,” Hizzoner told reporters Monday during a press conference.

Bloomberg was responding to a Daily News report on the $52 million in fines the city issued last year to drivers caught by cameras – really a $55 million haul with penalties included.

Bloomberg wants Albany to increase the number of cameras permitted on city streets to 225, up from the current 150.

A bill to hike the number of cameras passed the state Senate in June, but stalled in the Democratic-controlled Assembly.

The city is allowed to put up as many cameras as it wants but needs state approval to fine drivers for the related infractions.

The mayor mused that the city could put up the cameras – then try to embarrass the rule-breakers.

“Maybe what we should do is do it and start publishing in the paper who does it and then a list of the senators and assemblymen who keep us from having cameras \[that can levy fines\],” the mayor suggested.

“Every time there’s somebody hit, it would be nice to say ‘Ok, assemblyman and senator so-and-so didn’t think that person’s life \[was important\] … This is our lives of our people we’re talking about! This is not something cute and we’ve got to do something about it.”

Bloomberg said he would also support speed cameras to catch drivers going too fast – a proposal that’s the subject of an Assembly bill but has not yet been introduced in the Senate.

“We cannot afford to put a cop on every corner,” Bloomberg said. “We’re going to have to do more with technology.”

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Trial To Begin For Russell County Alabama Deputy Sheriff Tim Watford – Charged After He And Deputy Kirby Dollar Beat Handcuffed Man

August 22, 2011

PHENIX CITY, ALABAMA – The trial of a former Russell County Sheriff’s deputy accused of beating a handcuffed man will begin on Monday in Opelika, a little more than a week after his co-defendant accepted a plea deal.

Former deputies Tim Watford and Kirby Dollar, who accepted a plea deal last week, were indicted earlier this year for violating Patrick C. Harrington’s civil rights by beating him as he lay on the ground in handcuffs on Nov. 26, 2010, in Smiths Station.

Dollar and Watford were charged with one count each of deprivation of rights under the color of the law and aiding and abetting.

The prosecution claims the two former deputies, allegedly off duty at the time, were acting as law enforcement officers during the assault of Harrington while he was in handcuffs. In court documents, prosecutors claim Dollar was responsible for most of the beating, but charge Watford willfully aided in the assault.

The charge carries a potential sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

After initially pleading not guilty with Watford, Dollar changed his plea on Aug. 11 as part of the plea deal. Under the agreement, Dollar pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in exchange for a reduced sentence of 57 months and no further charges, according to court documents. Dollar also agreed to pay restitution.

Dollar is scheduled to be sentenced in Montgomery on Nov. 18.

A U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson said the office could not comment on whether Dollar would testify in Watford’s trial, which will begin Monday with jury selection at the federal courthouse in Opelika. Dollar’s attorney was unavailable for comment Friday afternoon.

In March, the two were indicted by a federal grand jury and arrest by the FBI before being released on $25,000 bonds, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Alabama.

Dollar and Watford, along with former Phenix City police officer Rachel Hauser, former Russell County Sheriff Tommy Boswell and the city of Phenix City, are also defendants in a civil suit filed by Harrington in December 2010 alleging civil rights violations and emotional distress. Harrington is asking for $1 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages from each of the defendants.

The parties are trying to negotiate a settlement outside of court, according to court records.

Harrington, found sleeping in his pickup truck in a parking lot in Smiths Station, was detained by bail bondsmen for allegedly jumping bail on a drug paraphernalia charge. The deputies and Hauser, all narcotics officers, allegedly left Dollar’s residence and drove to the scene of the arrest in an unmarked police car after being contacted by the bondsmen.

After the alleged incident, the three officers were suspended without pay before resigning on Dec. 2, 2010.

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New York City Prosecutor Cyrus Vance Jr. To Drop Very High Profile Sexual Assault Case After Reliance On Lying Witness – Jumped To File Charges Before Looking Into Witness Credibility

August 21, 2011

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. will ask a judge to dismiss sexual-assault charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn because they’d be difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, former prosecutors predict.

Strauss-Kahn, who resigned as chief of the International Monetary Fund after being arrested and charged with sexual assault and attempted rape in an alleged May 14 attack on a housekeeper in his Manhattan hotel suite, will be back in state court Aug. 23 for a status hearing on his case.

Strauss-Kahn, 62, a onetime French presidential hopeful, was released from home confinement on July 1 after prosecutors told the judge in charge of the case that “substantial credibility issues,” caused by the housekeeper’s lies, had hurt their case. His $1 million bail and $5 million bond were returned and his house arrest was ended.

Prosecutors were told in June by Strauss-Kahn’s accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, 32, that she had lied about a gang rape in Guinea before she sought political asylum in the U.S., and she changed her story about what she did right after the alleged attack. Before that, police said, Diallo, 32, a political refugee from Guinea, had given a credible account of the incident, and they found forensic evidence supporting her allegation.
Credibility Paramount

“At the end of the day, what happened in that hotel room, specifically, whether a crime was committed, comes down to what she says, and, therefore, her credibility is paramount,” said Thomas Curran, a former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney who is now at Peckar & Abramson in New York. “If that credibility is called into question in a fundamental way, the DA may find that they simply can’t prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Diallo may find out Strauss-Kahn’s fate as early as tomorrow. Her lawyer Kenneth Thompson told the New York Times yesterday that prosecutors invited him and Diallo to a meeting to preview the Aug. 23 hearing. Thompson said he interpreted the invitation, sent by letter, to mean Vance will drop some or all of the charges. Thompson didn’t immediately return a call or e- mail today seeking comment on the invitation.

Whatever Vance, 57, does, Curran said that those who call for him to let a jury decide any ambiguity are misguided.

“Prosecutors are not unfettered in their advocacy,” he said. “If they don’t believe their case beyond a reasonable doubt, they have an obligation to step back.”

Consensus: Dismissal

New York attorney Paul Callan is a former prosecutor who said the consensus among his colleagues was that Vance would move to dismiss. He said in a case in which a prosecutor decides, based on newly discovered information, that he’s got severe problems with his case and that a jury would not convict, a prosecutor would make a recommendation of dismissal.

The motion could be an oral application before the court, or a detailed written submission, specifying on the record why a dismissal is warranted and would likely say the evidence is not sufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

“I don’t think Vance is going to say Strauss-Kahn is innocent,” said Callan, noting a minority of his colleagues predict Vance will pursue the case.

Michael Obus, the judge in charge of the case, could dismiss the case from the bench, Callan said.

Benjamin Brafman, Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer, said after the July 1 hearing at which Diallo’s lies were disclosed that he thought all of the charges would eventually be dismissed.
Defense Assessment

“We believed from the beginning that this case was not what it appeared to be,” he said.

Brafman declined to comment on whether the case might be dismissed at the hearing next week or later.

“The fact of a sexual encounter was and is corroborated by forensic evidence, and the very brief time period inside the hotel suite strongly suggested something other than a consensual act,” prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said at the July 1 hearing.

Vance said after the session that he would investigate both sides in deciding what to do in light of the lies and the evidence. Vance’s spokeswoman, Erin Duggan, declined to say whether any charges would be dismissed and didn’t return a call or e-mail today to comment on the pre-hearing meeting tomorrow.

French officials and intellectuals called Vance’s handling of the case a rush to judgment. Former Culture Minister Jacques Lang called Strauss-Kahn’s arrest and charging “a lynching.” French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy said Vance, the son of a former U.S. secretary of state, had destroyed Strauss-Kahn’s presumption of innocence.
Going Public

Thompson issued a series of public statements and interviews, starting the day of Struss-Kahn’s release, to argue that no lie his client had told undercut her allegation that she had been sexually attacked. He said the evidence supporting her claims includes hospital photos of a vaginal bruise he said she suffered when Strauss-Kahn grabbed her. The forensic evidence, he said, is consistent with her account that she spit out semen as she fled the room after forced oral sex and that her stockings were ripped during the alleged attack.

Thompson, 45, said Diallo would not be the first victim of an attack to fabricate something. A former assistant U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, Thompson gave the opening argument in the city’s most infamous police brutality case. It involved Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant, who was sodomized with a wooden stick inside a police station house.

Louima claimed police officers had said, “It’s Giuliani time!” as one shoved the stick up his rectum in 1997. The inference was that such conduct was acceptable during the anti- crime administration of then-Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani compared with his Democratic predecessor David Dinkins. Louima later admitted police hadn’t said that.
Didn’t Tell Truth

“Abner Louima didn’t tell the complete truth,” Thompson said. “We didn’t abandon him because the evidence showed that he was sodomized in the bathroom of the 70th precinct in Brooklyn. We took that case to trial, and the jury still convicted.”

Zachary Carter, U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn during the Louima case, said Thompson’s comparison to the Louima case was relevant.

“Ken has personal experience with a very difficult trial that pivots around a witness who — we had to concede and I had to announce — had lied.”

In the Louima case, the evidence showed the victim had been ripped apart internally, Carter said.

“You knew something had happened to him, but who did it was difficult to piece together,” he said

In the Strauss-Kahn case, the physical evidence may not prove more than a sexual act took place, Curran said.

“The physical evidence alone is not dispositive one way or the other,” Curran said. “It’s merely ‘helpful,’ particularly if it corroborates the statements.”
Exactly Right Thing

Vance did “exactly the right thing” in disclosing the accuser’s lies to the defense and the judge in charge of the case last month, Carter said.

“But that doesn’t determine whether the prosecution should go forward,” he said.

One critical decision for Vance is whether his main witness’s credibility has become so damaged with her admitted lies that no jury will decide that Strauss-Kahn, who has pleaded not guilty, is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Those lies include declaring a friend’s child as a dependent on her tax returns. She also said she misrepresented her income in order to maintain her housing, prosecutors told defense lawyers.

Prosecutors also disclosed that she had changed her story during the questioning on June 28th about what happened immediately after the incident in the Sofitel on West 44th Street, where the alleged attack occurred.
Grand Jury Testimony

Diallo told the grand jury she had fled to a main hallway after the attack, then later said she went to clean a nearby room before returning to Strauss-Kahn’s suite — all before reporting the incident, according to a letter prosecutors sent Strauss- Kahn lawyers.

Diallo, whose identity was initially withheld, went public with her case in magazine and television interviews and then sued Strauss-Kahn this month, seeking unspecified damages.

She also had to deal with a New York Times report that quoted her as saying, according to a translation summary of her native Fulani, to a friend imprisoned in Arizona on drug charges: “Don’t worry. This guy has money. I know what I’m doing.”
“Merged Together”

After Diallo, Thompson and prosecutors listened to the taped conversation in its original on July 27, Thompson told reporters her comments had been “merged together” and mischaracterized.

Thompson has gone on the offensive ever since the July 1 hearing about her credibility.

“The victim from Day One has described a violent sexual assault that Dominique Strauss-Kahn committed against her,” Thompson told reporters as Strauss-Kahn was being released. “And she never once changed a single thing about that account.”

He asked Vance in a July 6 letter to recuse himself from the case, accusing prosecutors of “repeated and damaging leaks to the media” that undermined the case. He sued News Corp.’s New York Post unit on Diallo’s behalf after it published a story saying that she was a prostitute.

After first calling such tactics “lunacy” because they might provide the defense with statements Strauss-Kahn could use against Diallo, New York lawyer Ed Hayes reconsidered and said Thompson may have had no choice.

“What he did under the current circumstances drew attention to the case, put it under racial and class circumstances and brought a lawsuit at a time it hurts the criminal case because it may be the only time he thought he could do it,” Hayes said.
“A Goner”

Thompson may have hurt the criminal case because he already thought “it was a goner,” Hayes said.

Thompson’s tactics have created a tension between him and prosecutors, several defense lawyers said.

“There’s clearly been a parting of the ways between the complaining witness and the district attorney’s office,” Curran said.

In highlighting a possible further strain between the two camps, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that New York prosecutors were investigating whether Thompson said in June that he would derail the criminal case if he came to terms with Strauss-Kahn in a civil settlement.

“The allegation against me is absolutely false,” Thompson said in an e-mail. “It’s another baseless attack against Ms. Diallo and her attorneys and designed to distract people from the fact that Dominique Strauss-Kahn violently attacked and sexually assaulted an innocent woman inside that hotel room.”

The case is People v. Strauss-Kahn, 11-02526, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).

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Wetback Awarded $200,000 After Being Shackled By Davidson County Tennessee Deputies During Labor – Now Wants To Stay In US As A “Crime Victim”

August 20, 2011

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – An illegal immigrant who this week was awarded $200,000 in a lawsuit against a Tennessee sheriff’s office will ask a federal judge to grant her permission to remain in the United States legally, her attorney told CNN.

A jury on Thursday awarded Juana Villegas the damages in a civil case against the joint government of Nashville and Davidson County in which she alleged that county sheriff’s deputies violated her rights when they shackled her while pregnant, while in labor and during her postpartum recovery. She had initially filed suit against federal officials, but the judge dismissed that part of the case

Now, her attorney, Elliott Ozment, says that he will ask the judge who oversaw the case to grant his client a U-visa, a special status that can be conferred on victims of crimes who are in the country illegally.

The U-visa would allow Villegas — a Mexican national — to live and work legally in the country for three years, and can be renewed for another three years, Ozment said. During that period, she can adjust her status and become a legal citizen.

It’s a long shot, as a U-visa has been awarded by a federal judge only one time before. Usually, they are conferred by other immigration authorities.

“We think the level of misconduct has risen to such a high level that she deserves a U-visa for what she suffered,” Ozment said. “She has been the victim of a terrible, terrible wrong.”

Consideration of Villegas’ fate comes as the Department of Homeland Security announces its intention to individually review roughly 300,000 pending deportation cases in federal immigration courts. Lower-priority cases — those not involving individuals considered violent or otherwise dangerous — will be suspended.

Villegas’ story begins on July 3, 2008, when she was nine months pregnant and driving home with her three children from a doctor’s appointment in metro Nashville.

A police officer pulled her over and, according to Villegas’ complaint, decided to arrest her for driving without a license because the officer suspected she was in the country illegally. The decision to arrest her was influenced by a controversial agreement between the police department and the federal government that allowed local officers to help enforce immigration laws, known as section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

She was transported to a detention center, where two days later, she went into labor.

According to court documents, Villegas was taken to Nashville General Hospital where she was placed on a gurney with her hands and feet shackled.

Once in her hospital room, two Davidson County sheriff’s deputies refused to leave the room while she changed into her hospital gown, and unplugged her phone so she couldn’t alert her husband about her labor, court documents say.

Afterwards, one of the deputies shackled her left foot and right hand to the hospital bed, something that the medical staff called a “barbaric” violation of medical standards, court records state. The shackles were finally removed before she delivered the baby.

“During the trial she testified about how she was afraid for the safety of her baby,” her attorney, Ozment said. “She didn’t know what to expect. She didn’t know what was going to happen.”

After she had delivered the baby, and against doctor’s orders, a third deputy shackled her to the bed again, according to the court documents.

The sheriff’s department’s policies that led the deputies to shackle her throughout the ordeal were a violation of the U.S. and Tennessee constitutions, her lawyers argued.

In April, U.S. District Judge William Haynes ruled in favor of Villegas, and after a three-day trial this week, the jury set the $200,000 award. Villegas’ lawyers had asked for $1.2 million.

Villegas also sued the U.S. government, alleging that she was wrongly arrested under the program. That lawsuit was dismissed.

Villegas had once been deported from San Diego and returned illegally into the United States, and had lived here for years, her lawyer said. At the time of her arrest, her eldest son was 14, and he had been born in the United States.

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$300,000 Awarded After Chicago Illinois Police Shoot Dog, Handcuff And Hold Shotguns Against Kids Heads

August 20, 2011

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – Thomas Russell III describes watching a police officer shoot his canine “best friend” two years ago as “the scariest thing I ever saw.”

On Thursday, a U.S. District Court jury decided Russell, 20, and his family deserved to be compensated for the Feb. 27, 2009, police search of the family’s South Side home during which “Lady,” the family’s black Labrador, was shot dead. The jury awarded the family about $300,000.

“That was my best friend,” said Russell, who was 18 at the time. “We did everything together. When I worked out, she’d be right there watching me. She’d sleep when I’d sleep.”

The Russell family originally sued the city of Chicago in January 2010, accusing police of excessive force, false arrest and inflicting intentional emotional harm — among other claims — during the 2009 search of the family’s apartment in the 9200 block of South Justine. Though police searched for drugs, they found none in the apartment, the family’s lawyers say. Russell and his younger brother, Darren, were handcuffed during the incident, attorneys for the family said, and both boys had shotguns placed against their heads. At some point, Lady appeared and an officer shot her, the family’s lawyers said. Lady was a sweet dog, and police had no reason to fear her, Russell said.

Jenny Hoyle, a city’s Law Department spokeswoman, said they are “extremely disappointed” with the verdict. “The officers involved in this case were executing a valid search warrant when this incident occurred and were simply protecting themselves,” Hoyle said. “We are extremely disappointed and reviewing all of our options. In particular, we think the damages awarded to the plaintiffs were excessive.

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New York City Police Officer Michael Pena Arrested, Charged After Armed Rape Of Teacher He Grabbed Off A Residential Street

August 20, 2011

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – A drunken off-duty police officer grabbed a teacher off a
residential street, showed her a gun and forced her to a deserted
backyard where he raped her, authorities said.

“You’re coming with me,” he told the woman, after opening his jacket to display his weapon, police said.

Michael Pena was arrested Friday by responding officers after a witness
who lives in the upper Manhattan building saw through her window that
something was happening in the backyard and called 911, police said.

is an officer in the New York Police Department’s 33rd Precinct in
Washington Heights, south of the Inwood neighborhood, where he’s accused
of raping the woman. He was arrested on charges of forcible rape and
was behind held pending an arraignment.

was suspended without pay, chief police spokesman Paul Browne said. He
couldn’t be reached for comment because he was being held by police, and
it was unclear if he had an attorney. A call to a telephone number
believed to be his home rang unanswered.

this summer, two NYPD officers were acquitted of charges they raped a
drunken woman they had been summoned to help get out of a cab. The
officers were convicted of official misconduct for repeatedly returning
to the woman’s apartment while telling dispatchers they were elsewhere.

police department fired the two officers within hours of the May
verdict, which ignited criticism from women’s rights activists and some
city councilwomen who said it spotlighted what they considered unfair
attitudes toward women who bring sexual assault complaints.

approached the teacher shortly before 6:30 a.m. Friday as she walked to
work, asking her for directions to the No. 1 train, Browne said. She
could tell he was drunk, and he grabbed her, showing her his gun.

walked the 25-year-old woman several blocks before stopping at the
backyard, police said. The woman told police she knew he was armed
didn’t know he was an officer.

A passer-by walked through the backyard but, perhaps not realizing the woman was being raped, left without helping, police said.

officers from the 34th Precinct arrived about a minute later. Pena and
the woman were standing, and the woman ran to the officers, warning them
Pena had a gun, Browne said.

The officers
took Pena to the ground and realized he was a colleague when they
checked for identification and came up with his police ID and shield,
Browne said. A loaded handgun was found at the scene. Emergency services
responded and took the woman to a hospital.

27, has been on the police force since 2008, assigned to the 33rd
Precinct since January. He wasn’t working Thursday evening and wasn’t
expected back to work until late Friday for the midnight shift. It’s
unclear whether he was carrying his service weapon or his off-duty
weapon, police said.

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12 Year Old Girl Solves Fitzgerald Georgia Burglary Before Police Even Figure Out How Burglars Got In

August 19, 2011

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – A 12-year-old girl who attended a summer program at the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office that teaches youth how crime fighting works wasted no time putting the things she learned to good use.

Jessica Maple learned well enough to teach the pros.

Just as she attended a forensics class, someone burglarized the home of Jessica’s late, great-grandmother in Fitzgerald, Ga.

Jessica investigated, and found where the burglars broke in. The police had missed it.

She recounted the reaction she received from authorities for Channel 2’s Jeff Dore.

“Like, oh my gosh, how’d she find that?” Jessica said.

But that wasn’t all. Jessica and her mom went to a local pawn shop and found her great-grandmother’s property.

“We called the police station and the guy, the investigator, he was like, ‘Oh my gosh, how’d you find all the stuff here? I was coming here.’ And I was like, ‘I did your job again,’” said Jessica.

Jessica and her mom also learned that the pawn shop owner had copies of the IDs of the guys who sold the stuff.

And then, believe it or not, she and her mom drove to the guy’s house and confronted him.

“And he said he did it,” said Jessica.

“He confessed to you he did it?” asked Dore. “Yes, he confessed.”

At last check, police still haven’t made an arrest.

“The police still haven’t arrested them?” asked Dore.

“No, I don’t know what’s taking them so long,” said Jessica.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard started the junior district attorney program 13 years ago, and said this is a first.

“And we’re hoping that she will take that lesson through life, the things that she’s learned here as a junior DA,” said Howard.

Jessica told Dore that she might pursue a career in law, but that she has other aspirations too.

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San Francisco California Superior Court Running Out Of Money, Plans Cutbacks And Layoffs – Divorces To Now Take A Year Or Two

August 19, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – It takes at least six months to get a divorce in San Francisco, and now unhappy couples can add at least a year to that, thanks to planned budget cuts to the Superior Court.

Katherine Feinstein, the Superior Court’s presiding judge, gave a dire outlook to reporters at a Monday news conference, reiterating the court’s plan to lay off 200 employees and close 25 courtrooms in late September.

The budget recently approved by Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature sliced hundreds of millions of dollars from state courts. San Francisco is facing a $13.75 million deficit, or 15.6 percent of its operating budget.

“We’re left with one painful, unprecedented option, which is a reduction in service that is so severe that it will, for all practical purposes, dismantle our court,” Feinstein said.

Most of the effects will be felt in civil cases, where litigants can anticipate years of delays, according to Feinstein. Reduced office hours for court clerks will make filing and obtaining information more difficult. Feinstein warned of long hours waiting in line just to pay a traffic ticket, and months to get a copy of a criminal or civil court record.

While state law allows for a final decree of divorce after six months and one day, “We anticipate adding a year to that time, which obviously will leave many families in a very uncomfortable state,” Feinstein said.

The court is planning to close one of its three family law courtrooms, according to court spokeswoman Ann Donlan.

Additionally, court family law services — such as a self-help center for those who don’t have attorneys, mediation and case management by judges in contested divorces — are thinly stretched now and will likely become worse, Donlan said.

San Francisco attorney Yasmine Mehmet, a family law specialist, said the court’s planned cuts would be “devastating, really, for a lot of people.”

Divorce is often a very emotional matter, especially where children are involved, Mehmet said. Delays in contested cases will likely only make them more difficult.

“It’s going to push people to really think long and hard about whether they do or don’t want to settle,” she said.

Mehmet said more couples might turn to private judges, a quicker but more costly option.

But many might not be able to afford alternatives.

“What I think is among the most painful things is that we are the place people can come — and we are not free, but we are significantly less expensive than all the private alternative resolution services are,” Feinstein said.



Anticipated court budget impacts

    Hours standing in line to pay a traffic ticket or criminal fine at the Hall of Justice
    Months to obtain criminal and civil records
    Years to resolve many civil cases, including at least a year and a half on divorce cases
    Reduced self-help services for litigants without attorneys
    Reduced hours in clerks’ offices

Appeared Here

Los Angeles California Police Under Investigation After Crazed Cops Search Section 8 Homes Without Warrants, Seeking To Identify Motorists Who Live In Section 8 Housing

August 19, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is being investigated for alleged “systemic” civil rights violations during routine traffic stops by trying to identify people who live in publicly subsidized housing, federal officials said Friday.

The U.S. Justice Department is conducting a civil investigation into the alleged discriminatory policing by the sheriff’s deputies in the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale, both in the Mojave Desert’s Antelope Valley, federal officials said.

Deputies from sheriff stations in those two communities also allegedly conducted warrantless searches of African-American families’ homes under the auspices of a housing authority compliance inspection, and housing authority investigators based at the two stations allegedly accompanied deputies during the compliance checks, federal officials said.

Sometimes, the deputies allegedly approached the home of a recipient of what is known as Section 8 subsidies “with guns drawn and in full SWAT armor,” conducted searches and asked questions unrelated to housing programs, Justice Department officials said.

The Justice Department inquiry will focus on whether the two sheriff stations “engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of race or national origin,” federal officials said.

“In interviews with affected individuals and community representatives, we heard troubling accounts of allegedly unjustified stops and searches,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said in a statement.

“We will be investigating whether there is a pattern of racially motivated stops and arrests,” Perez said. “We intend to peel the onion to its core, and gain a precise understanding of what is happening in these two areas.”

Sheriff Leroy D. Baca appeared at the news conference Friday with Perez in downtown Los Angeles and said his department is cooperating with the investigation.

“We are not going to enforce the laws on the backs of the poor who are in effect obeying the law,” the sheriff said.

The Antelope Valley has experienced explosive population growth over the past two decades, and African-Americans and Latinos now make up almost 60 percent of Lancaster and almost 70 percent of Palmdale, Perez said.

Justice Department officials will also look at whether leaders in the two communities “adopted a policy or practice designed to drive certain residents out of the community,” Perez said.

The cities of Lancaster and Palmdale don’t have their own police forces, and they contract with the sheriff, Perez said. Federal authorities will investigate allegations of deputies working alongside city officials, Perez said.

Palmdale City Hall was closed Friday, and officials there and in the city of Lancaster couldn’t be reached immediately for comment.

The sheriff stations in those communities show disproportionately high rates of misdemeanor and obstruction arrests in comparison with other stations, federal officials said. Also, the two cities have “unusually high rates of misdemeanor arrests and particularly high rates of arrests of African-Americans,” Perez said.

The federal inquiry is being carried out under a police reform provision enacted in the wake of the Los Angeles police beating of Rodney King in 1991, and the Justice Department now has the authority to investigate “patterns or practices of the deprivation of constitutional rights or violations of federal law,” Perez said.

In a recent e-mailed letter to the sheriff, Perez wrote that the Justice Department will conduct its inquiry in conjunction with another ongoing investigation begun in June into allegations that the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster violated the Fair Housing Act.

The Los Angeles County Housing Authority is also being investigated for an alleged “systematic effort to discriminate against African-Americans and Latinos,” federal officials said.

“We’ve been working with (Justice Department investigators) cooperatively since we were notified on June 16,” said Emilio Salas, deputy executive director of the Los Angeles County Housing Authority.

His agency looks forward to the inquiry and any recommendations that the Justice Department may come up with, he said.

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Chicago Illinois Police Officers Brutally Beat Two Innocent Brothers – Caught On Video

August 18, 2011

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – Security tape allegedly shows a group of police officers beating two Chicago brothers Wednesday after apparently mistaking them for robbers while one was closing the store at which he worked.

Michael Ayala, 23, said officers assaulted him during an incident Wednesday after he was closing up shop Wednesday at 7911 Food and Liquor Store.

“He punched me in the ribs,” Michael Ayala, who showed bruises on his upper arms from officers pinning him down, said of one aggressive officer.

He said at one point he blacked out. Adrian Ayala, his 18-year-old brother who was waiting for his brother outside the store, also was punched and kicked, he said.

Michael Ayala said he was closing up the store early, while his brother waited for him on his bike. Michael Ayala is an employee at the store in the 4800 block of South Archer, and his brother sometimes helps stock shelves.

When he completed his task, he turned to see officers handcuffing his younger brother on the hood of a car. Michael Ayala said he went outside to tell police he worked there and that Adrian Ayala was there helping him. He even offered to turn the store security on and off to prove it.

Police let Adrian Ayala go, he said, but when a frustrated Michael Ayala yelled at officers that he had video tape of the incident, an officer he described as a sergeant “flipped” and put his head into a side window.

A store surveillance video posted on YouTube shows several officers rushing the brothers back into the store.

An investigation has been launched by the Independent Police Review Authority, and the Chicago Police Department said in a statement the department is fully cooperating.

“The alleged conduct does not represent the high standards of professionalism and excellence maintained as core values of the Department and which officers demonstrate on a daily basis serving and protecting the community,” News Affairs said in a statement.
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August 18, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – The Homeland Security Department said Thursday it will halt deportation proceedings on a case-by-case basis against illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria such as attending school, having family in the military or are primarily responsible for other family members’ care.

The move, announced in letters to Congress, won immediate praise from Hispanic activists and Democrats who had chided President Obama for months for the pace of deportations and had argued he had authority to exempt broad swaths of illegal immigrants from deportation.

“Today’s announcement shows that this president is willing to put muscle behind his words and to use his power to intervene when the lives of good people are being ruined by bad laws,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat.

In the letters to Congress, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said her department and the Justice Department will review all ongoing cases and see who meets the new criteria on a case-by-case basis.

“This case-by-case approach will enhance public safety,” she said. “Immigration judges will be able to more swiftly adjudicate high priority cases, such as those involving convicted felons.”

The new rules apply to those who have been apprehended and are in deportation proceedings, but have not been officially ordered out of the country by a judge. Miss Napolitano said a working group will try to come up with “guidance on how to provide for appropriate discretionary consideration” for “compelling cases” in those instances where someone has already been ordered deported.

It was unclear how many people might be affected by the new rules, though in fiscal year 2010 the government deported nearly 200,000 illegal immigrants who it said did not have criminal records.

The Obama administration has argued for months that it did not have authority to grant blanket absolution, and Miss Napolitano stressed that these cases will be treated individually, though the new guidance applies across the board.

In June, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that handles interior immigration law enforcement, issued new guidance expanding authority to decline to prosecute illegal immigrants. The goal, ICE leaders said, was to focus on their priority of catching illegal immigrants who have also committed other crimes or are part of gangs.

The chief beneficiaries of the new guidance are likely to be illegal immigrant students who would have been eligible for legal status under the Dream Act, which stalled in Congress last year.

“Today is a victory not just for immigrants but for the American people as a whole because it makes no sense to deport Dream Act students and others who can make great contributions to America and pose no threat,” Mr. Gutierrez said. “It is not in our national interest to send away young people who were raised in the U.S. and have been educated here and want only to contribute to this country’s success. “

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat who earlier this year wrote asking Homeland Security to exempt illegal immigrant students from deportation, said the move will free up immigration courts to handle cases involving serious criminals.

Both men said, though, that they will continue to push for legislation that would grant a path to citizenship to illegal immigrants and expands new pathways for more immigrants to come legally in the future.

But groups pushing for a crackdown on illegal immigration said the administration’s move abused the Constitution by usurping a power Congress should have.

“Supporters of comprehensive and targeted amnesties for illegal aliens have consistently failed to win approval by Congress or gain support from the American public,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “Having failed in the legislative process, the Obama administration has simply decided to usurp Congress’s constitutional authority and implement an amnesty program for millions of illegal aliens.”

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Orange County California District Attorney’s Office Seeks Witnesses After Fullerton Police Officers Brutally Beat Homeless Man To Death

August 18, 2011

FULLERTON, CALIFORNIA – The Orange County District Attorney’s Office is looking for witnesses to a physical altercation between Fullerton police and a homeless man that led to his death.

Kelly Thomas, 37, was taken off life support and died five days after the altercation with police, who believed Thomas to be a burglary suspect.

Ron Thomas, Kelly’s father, has said repeatedly that police beat his son to death.

The DA’s Office, which is investigating the case, released a statement Wednesday asking anyone with information to contact investigator Stan Berry at 714-347-8831.

The incident occurred about 8:30 p.m. July 5 when officers responded to reports of a shirtless “homeless-looking man,” who may have been trying to burglarize cars in a parking lot next to a bus depot in the 100 block of South Pomona Avenue, Sgt. Andrew Goodrich said.

Officers spotted Thomas, who fit the description.

Items in his backpack led the officers to believe that Thomas had committed either a burglary or was in possession of stolen property, the sergeant said.

Thomas, who suffered from schizophrenia, began to fight officers as they tried to search him, police have said.

Thomas sustained head and neck injuries during the fight and was taken to UCI Medical Center in Orange, where he was taken off life support July 10.

The investigation was turned over to the DA’s Office on July 7 when “it became apparent that death was imminent, Goodrich said.

Ron Thomas, a former Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputy, spoke to members of the media Wednesday afternoon at the site of the fight with his wife Cathy at his side.

After seeing his son’s injuries and talking with witnesses, Thomas said his son “was brutally beaten to death.”

“When I first walked into the hospital, I looked at what his mother described as my son … I didn’t recognize him,” Thomas said. “This is cold-blooded, aggravated murder.”

Witnesses told Thomas that his son was sitting on a bench when first approached by police, Thomas said.

Witnesses added that officers hit him on the back of a leg with a baton and Tasered him, he said.

Thomas tried to run away but only made it a few feet before being caught by two officers and “then that is when it all happened,” said Ron Thomas, based on what he was told by witnesses.

Witnesses told Thomas his son wasn’t moving but was still hit with the butt ends of flashlights and Tasered, he said.

“There is no explanation for it,” Ron Thomas said. “I call it rogue bad cops, not the Fullerton Police Department. There is no justification for beating someone to death.”

Ron Thomas said his son, who was supposed to be taking medication, had likely not been taking his medication “for a long time” and didn’t understood officer’s commands.

No information will be released until the investigation is completed, according to the statement from the DA’s Office.

“The media and public will be notified at that time and the investigative findings and legal conclusions will be available at http://www.orangecountyda.com.”

Fullerton Police are also conducting an internal investigation, Goodrich said.

Ron Thomas said he hopes anyone with information will contact the DA’s Office.

“Right now,” he said.

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Salem Oregon Officials Shut Down Dying Woman’s Yard Sale

August 17, 2011

SALEM, OREGON – A woman fighting a terminal form of bone cancer is trying to raise money to help pay bills with a few weekend garage sales, but the city of Salem says she’s breaking the law and is shutting her down.

Jan Cline had no idea, but the city of Salem has a clear law that states a person can only have three yard sales a year.

Cline has been selling her stuff in the backyard for a few weekends and said she thought she’d be fine by keeping the sale out of everyone’s way.

“It’s a struggle,” Cline says. “It’s a struggle for me because I’m very independent, used to taking care of myself.”

She’s run businesses and supported herself for years but this summer she was diagnosed with bone cancer.

“It’s a bone marrow cancer that eats through the bones and causes holes in the bones so that just by walking I can break a bone,” she says.

In one day she lost her independence, her ability to work and earn an income that could pay for all those medical bills.

So she decided to sell what she owned. The sale was bringing in several hundred dollars each weekend until one neighbor complained and she got a visit from the city.

“He said, ‘I’m sorry. Rules are rules.’”

Cline says she understands the city is trying to prevent nuisances in neighborhoods but she doesn’t think she’s causing any trouble.

“We make such an effort of making it back here (backyard) so that it’s not goobering up the neighborhood, so it’s not like a garage sale all laid out day after day after day,” she says.

Cline says she’s not looking for special treatment but maybe some understanding.

“I just hope that nobody else has to go through this kind of thing. I hope no one else has to give their lives away for nickels and dimes and then be told they can’t even do that. I hope nobody else has to do this ever.”

According to the Community Development Department, there is a reason for the law. In the past some people had set up what ended up being permanent flea-market-type sales on their property.

After hearing more about Cline’s situation, a supervisor said he is going to take another look to see if there’s anything she can do to operate within the law. But if she reopens now, it is a misdemeanor and about a $300 fine.

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Secret Service Agent Daniel L. Valencia Busted For Drunk Driving Ahead Of Obama Iowa Visit

August 17, 2011

DECORAH, IOWA – A Secret Service special agent was arrested and charged with drunk
driving last weekend in Decorah ahead of President Obama’s visit to

Police said Daniel L. Valencia, 40, of Washington, D.C., ran a red
light about 1:30 a.m. Saturday, and an officer pulled him over.

He was alone in the vehicle. Police said his eyes were bloodshot and
watery and he smelled strongly of alcohol. Valencia told a police
officer he had had two drinks that night.

After a field sobriety test, an officer decided Valencia was too
intoxicated to drive. Valencia refused to take a preliminary breath
test, and refused to give a breath sample at the jail. He was then
charged with operating while intoxicated.

He was released from jail Monday, according to court documents.

George Ogilvie, a spokesman for the Secret Service, said the law
enforcement agency is aware of the charges against Valencia and has
turned the matter over to its Office of Professional Responsibility. He
declined to say what Valencia was doing in Decorah.

President Obama visited Decorah on Monday night and spoke in Peosta, just west of Dubuque, on Tuesday.

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Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Patrick Venable Quits, Charged With On-Duty Rape Of Drunk Female Motorist

August 16, 2011

GUTHRIE, OKLAHOMA – The Logan County District attorney has charged a
former Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper with second-degree rape.

Patrick Venable, 27, resigned June 29 after OHP began investigating
allegations of sexual misconduct against him. In July, OHP officials
said the investigation had been ongoing for several weeks, but they
would not reveal details of the allegations.

In a news release Tuesday, Logan County District Attorney Tommy Lee
says while on duty as a trooper, Venable pulled over a woman on the
Broadway Extension in Oklahoma City. Lee says Venable took the woman
into custody for driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor.
He’s accused of then transporting her to a residence in Guthrie where he
had sex with her.

Venable is scheduled to make his first appearance in court at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16.

If convicted of second-degree rape, Venable faces one to 15 years in prison.

Appeared Here

GUTHRIE, Oklahoma – The Logan County District attorney has charged a former Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper with second-degree rape.

Patrick Venable, 27, resigned June 29 after OHP began investigating allegations of sexual misconduct against him. In July, OHP officials said the investigation had been ongoing for several weeks, but they would not reveal details of the allegations.

7/22/11 Related Story: Accusations Of Sexual Misconduct Rock OHP

7/22/11 Related Story: OHP Trooper Resigns After Sexual Misconduct Alleged

In a news release Tuesday, Logan County District Attorney Tommy Lee says while on duty as a trooper, Venable pulled over a woman on the Broadway Extension in Oklahoma City. Lee says Venable took the woman into custody for driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor. He’s accused of then transporting her to a residence in Guthrie where he had sex with her.

Venable is scheduled to make his first appearance in court at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16.

If convicted of second-degree rape, Venable faces one to 15 years in prison.

Kingsport Tennessee Police Officer Richard Chandler Used Neighbors, Businesses, And Church Routers To Access Child Pornography Network – Sometimes While On Duty

August 16, 2011

KINGSPORT, TENNESSEE – Investigators say a former Kingsport police
officer accessed child pornography over wireless networks belonging to
neighbors, businesses and a church.

Richard Chandler is one of 72 people indicted in an investigation
into an international child pornography network that prosecutors say
used an online bulletin board called Dreamboard to access thousands of
images and videos of sexually abused children.

WJHL-TV reports that the federal search
warrant alleges Chandler made 117 posts to the site, including twice
when he was on duty.

According to court papers, members used screen names rather than
actual names and accessed the bulletin board via proxy servers, with
Internet traffic routed through other computers to disguise a user’s

Special agents said Chandler was able to access the Internet from
more than 30 locations, including one belonging to the Higher Ground
Baptist Church.

“Chandler’s residence … is uniquely positioned such that numerous
wireless networks from adjacent streets appear to be accessible,”
according to the warrant.

The Kingsport church’s network is now password protected.

“As soon as we found out we took care of it,” said Wayne Bledsoe, who is in charge of pastoral care.

Another connection allegedly accessed by Chandler belonged to Marty Blevins.

“To believe that man’s in there going online on my account to get on
there to do something like that with children and stuff, I hope he rots
in jail,” he said. “That’s putting it nicely.”

The U.S. indictments were unsealed in Shreveport. La. The Greeneville
attorney listed as representing Chandler did not return a message from
The Associated Press seeking comment.

Blevins said he planned to change to increase his security settings.

“I don’t want nobody on my stuff,” Blevins said. “I want it private.”

Appeared Here

Prince George’s County Maryland Deputy Sheriff Jennifer Nicole Douglas Arrested After Pulling Her Gun During Argument

August 15, 2011

OCEAN CITY, MARYLAND – A Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Deputy was
arrested by Ocean City Police for an assault involving a handgun.

to police, 26-year-old Jennifer Nicole Douglas, of Fort Washington,
Md., became involved in physical confrontation with another female
during an argument over keys to a vehicle. Douglas allegedly produced a
star-shaped badge and pointed a handgun at the female.

left the scene in a vehicle and was later arrested by Ocean City Police.
Authorities recovered a .40 caliber Glock handgun.

Douglas has
been charged with first-degree felony assault, second-degree misdemeanor
assault and reckless endangerment. She was held on $150,000 bond.

Appeared Here

OCEAN CITY, Md. – A Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Deputy was arrested by Ocean City Police for an assault involving a handgun.

According to police, 26-year-old Jennifer Nicole Douglas, of Fort Washington, Md., became involved in physical confrontation with another female during an argument over keys to a vehicle. Douglas allegedly produced a star-shaped badge and pointed a handgun at the female.

Douglas left the scene in a vehicle and was later arrested by Ocean City Police. Authorities recovered a .40 caliber Glock handgun.

Douglas has been charged with first-degree felony assault, second-degree misdemeanor assault and reckless endangerment. She was held on $150,000 bond.

Floyd County Georgia Police Officer Mark Tanner Killed Woman With Patrol Car

August 15, 2011

FLOYD COUNTY, GEORGIA – A Floyd County police officer was involved in a fatal wreck that killed a
woman on Alabama Highway near Oaknoll Cemetery on Monday.

to police, Floyd County police officer Mark Tanner was responding to a
call heading westbound on Ga. 20 when he came over a rise and struck a
dark colored Saturn.

According to Floyd County Police Department Maj. Mark Wallace, Tanner struck the vehicle in the driver’s side.

driver of the Saturn was pulling out into traffic as she was struck.
Wallace said the female driver of the Saturn was killed.

County Coroner Barry Henderson identified the woman who was killed as
Johnette Regina Elkins, 51, of 30 West Ross St., Rome.

“She was pronounced dead on arrival at Floyd Medical Center by a physician at 5:15 p.m.,” Henderson said.

A child was also taken to the Floyd Medical Center for treatment.

The Georgia State Patrol has been called to investigate the wreck.

Henderson said the body would be sent to the GBI crime lab in Decatur on Tuesday for an autopsy according to procedure.
Appeared Here