Virginia State Police Drug Sniffing Dog With 74% Error Rate Enough To Establish Probable Cause To Search Vehicle

June 30, 2012

WYTHE COUNTY, VIRGINIA – The nose of a drug-sniffing police dog is not so sharp, but it’s good enough to support cocaine charges against Herbert Green.

That was the opinion of federal Judge Glen Conrad, who denied a motion this week to suppress the drugs found in Green’s sport utility vehicle with the help of a police dog named Bono.

Green’s lawyer had argued that Bono’s track record — drugs were found just 22 times out of 85 “alerts” by the dog — was so poor that police lacked probable cause to search Green’s SUV.

Had Bono failed the legal smell test, Green might have escaped prosecution on charges of having a kilogram of cocaine hidden in the back of his Lincoln Navigator.

Bono “may not be a model of canine accuracy,” Conrad wrote in an opinion filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Roanoke.

However, the judge ruled that other factors, including the dog’s training and flawless performance during re-certification sessions, were enough to overcome a challenge raised by Green’s attorney, public defender Randy Cargill.

The ruling clears the way for prosecutors to try Green on charges of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

Green, 45, of Pittsburgh, was arrested in March 2011. A state trooper patrolling Interstate 77 in Wythe County pulled him over on suspicion of having illegally tinted windows and an obscured license plate.

When Bono was called to the scene, he began to wag his tail furiously after catching a whiff of something near the rear panel of the vehicle, according to earlier testimony.

Prosecutors say that gave police probable cause to search the SUV, where they found a duffel bag holding cocaine and about $7,000 in cash.

But after learning that Bono had an accuracy rate of just 26 percent, Cargill filed a motion seeking to suppress the evidence.

At a hearing earlier this month, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ashley Neese defended the performance of the German shepherd.

In some cases where nothing was found after an alert by Bono, police later determined that drugs had been in the vehicle earlier, likely leaving an odor the dog was trained to detect, Neese said.

Taking those cases into account, Conrad found that Bono’s accuracy rate was at least 50 percent.

In determining whether police had probable cause, the judge wrote that he had to consider other factors beyond the dog’s track record.

As a federal appeals court once put it, “the reliability of a drug-detection dog does not rise or fall on the basis of one sniff.”

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Pedophile Former Cartersville Georgia Police Officer James Scott Arrested, Charged With Child Molestation And Other Offences

June 30, 2012

BARTOW COUNTY, GEORGIA – A former police officer who has career ties to Cartersville Police Department as well as the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office has turned himself in to deputies on several warrants, including child molestation, taken for his arrest.

Bartow County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Sgt. Jonathan Rogers confirmed James Scott’s surrender to deputies Monday when approximately five warrants were served against him.

Scott, according to CPD Public Information Officer Lt. Mark Camp, “worked for several departments, including the Cartersville Police Department, Bartow County Sheriff’s Office, Dallas Police Department and the Kennesaw Police Department.” He served with CPD from July 1997 until September 2011.

A request for Scott’s personnel file from CPD was delayed Monday until the department’s employee who manages such files returns to the office to process the request sent by The Daily Tribune News on Monday afternoon.

Further information will be provided as it is made available.

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Warrants Used To Bust Kim Dotcom In New Zealand Raid Were Illegally Obtained – Null And Void – Efforts By FBI To Copy Data And Take It Offshore Were Also Unlawful

June 30, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – German-born Kim Dotcom, also known as Kim Schmitz, was one of four men arrested in January as part of an investigation of his website led by the FBI.

Prosecutors say Dotcom was the ringleader of a group that had netted $175m since 2005 by copying and distributing music, movies and other copyrighted content without authorization.

Dotcom’s lawyers say the company simply offered online storage.

On Thursday, New Zealand High Court Judge Justice Helen Winkelmann found the warrants used in the seizure of property from Dotcom’s mansion near Auckland were illegal and that moves by the FBI to copy data from Dotcom’s computer and take it offshore were also unlawful.

“The warrants did not adequately describe the offences to which they related,” Winkelmann said in her ruling. “Indeed they fell well short of that. They were general warrants, and as such, are invalid.”

In response, New Zealand’s police said in a statement they were considering the judgment and were in discussions with Crown Law “to determine what further action might be required”.

Police said no further comment would be made until that process was complete.

Dotcom is on bail in New Zealand, fighting attempts by US authorities who are seeking to extradite him on charges of copyright theft and money laundering. An extradition hearing is set for August.

Dotcom and his lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Television New Zealand quoted a spokesman for Dotcom as saying he was “pleased” but he would not be making any further comment on the court decision as appeals were likely.

Lawyers representing the U.S. government said the ruling had come as “no surprise” and that their legal team would be discussing options, including whether an appeal will be lodged, TVNZ reported.

Armed officers, backed by helicopters, cut Dotcom out of a safe room he had barricaded himself in within the sprawling country estate, reputedly New Zealand’s most expensive home. Millions of dollars in assets were seized or frozen including almost 20 luxury vehicles, dozens of computers and art works.

Before it was shut down in January, Megaupload was one of the world’s most popular websites, where millions of users stored data, either for free or by paying for premium service. Authorities say and related sites cheated copyright holders out of more than $500m.

US lawyers for Megaupload have also argued that US federal authorities cannot charge the company with criminal behavior because it is Hong Kong based, and also that no papers have ever been formally served.

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US Government Case Against Wikileak’s Julian Assange Would Be Long Uphill Battle For Prosecutors That Has Failed In The Past

June 30, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC — If WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange ever ends up in a US courtroom, prosecutors could face an uphill struggle trying to convict him, given America’s legal safeguards for publishers, analysts say.

Citing fears of prosecution in the United States, Assange remained holed up at Ecuador’s embassy in London on Saturday, defying a British police order to turn himself in for extradition to Sweden.

Assange faces sexual assault allegations in Sweden but has refused to set foot there, saying he runs the risk of extradition to the United States, which he insists is intent on charging him with espionage or other serious crimes for releasing troves of once-secret files to the public.

Assange’s lawyers and supporters say his concerns are justified and not driven by paranoia.

They cite tough statements from senior US officials, interrogations of Assange’s colleagues and a grand jury investigation that has reportedly questioned associates of Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of passing hundreds of classified documents to WikiLeaks.

“The grand jury is a serious business,” said Michael Ratner, a human rights lawyer advising Assange. referring to the discussions to determine whether a criminal indictment will be issued.

Some with links to Assange have reportedly faced questioning when trying to travel outside the United States and federal authorities at one point demanded Twitter open the accounts of WikiLeaks figures.

“They’re all over this case,” Ratner told AFP.

The US Justice Department will not comment on the grand jury probe and says it has no role in the extradition proceedings in London. But spokesman Dean Boyd said: “There continues to be an investigation into the WikiLeaks matter.”

Some US lawmakers and commentators have called for Assange to be charged with espionage or for conspiracy to obtain secret documents, arguing that he intended to sabotage America’s foreign policy and endangered lives by revealing the identities of informants.

Charging Assange under the Espionage Act — a vaguely worded World War I-era law — would be a difficult challenge, as it requires the government to show the accused intended to harm the US government or aid a foreign power, analysts said.

Without knowing the evidence held by US investigators, it’s difficult to predict how the government will pursue Assange’s case, said Charles Stimson, a former federal prosecutor.

“It’s a very open question as to whether you could try him for espionage,” said Stimson, a legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation think-tank who oversaw detainee policies at the Pentagon under ex-president George W. Bush.

A better option for prosecutors may be “to see whether or not they could charge him with something like conspiracy to disclose classified documents,” he said.

But such an approach would be breaking new legal ground, experts said.

Unlike Manning, charged with handing over a massive cache of secret State Department cables and military intelligence logs to WikiLeaks, Assange is not a US government employee obliged to withhold classified documents.

The United States has “never really successfully prosecuted a non-government official for taking documents that were classified,” Ratner said.

His defense attorneys portray him as a publisher, who merely came into possession of sensitive information. But US investigators would likely try to paint Assange as a plotter who helped Manning spill secrets, with the aim of tarnishing Washington.

Assange’s supporters can take comfort from a recent case against two pro-Israel lobbyists accused of passing on classified information to Israel, the first time civilians were charged under the Espionage Act.

After a long legal battle, prosecutors eventually dropped the charges in 2009.

The seminal case that proved the limits of government authority over publishing secrets came in 1971 over the Pentagon Papers, when President Richard Nixon tried to stop The New York Times from publishing classified documents on the Vietnam War.

The bid failed, with the courts citing the free speech rights enshrined in the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Renowned First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, who worked on the Pentagon Papers case, said Assange’s website raises questions about the limits of freedom of expression, including the publishing of names of Afghans cooperating with the US government.

Some of Assange’s public comments have seemed to suggest a desire to undermine US foreign policy, comments that could backfire on him in court, Abrams said.

“WikiLeaks has a First Amendment argument, and it is a serious First Amendment argument, if it is ever charged,” Abrams said on C-Span television in 2010.

“At the same time, the government has a genuine and serious national security argument to be made with respect to the behavior, often the misbehavior, of WikiLeaks.”

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Houston Texas Police Officer Charged Woman With Bogus “Standing In Street” Charge And Took Her To Jail For Holding “Speed Trap” Sign On Sidewalk

June 29, 2012

HOUSTON, TEXAS – A Houston woman’s attempt to save drivers from a speeding ticket landed her something worse: 12 hours in jail.

As she rode her bicycle home from a grocery store last week near downtown Houston, Natalie Plummer noticed police officers pulling over speeders. After she parked her bike and turned one of her grocery bags into a makeshift sign warning drivers about the “speed trap” ahead, an officer drove up and arrested her.

“I was completely abiding by the law,” Plummer told ABC’s affiliate KRTK. “I was simply warning citizens of a situation ahead.”

But Houston police saw it differently, and arrested Plummer for standing in the street where there a sidewalk was present, a misdemeanor charge.

Houston police spokeswoman Jodi Silva said that officers found Plummer standing in the street, waving her arms as she held the sign.

But Plummer denied ever leaving the sidewalk on West Dallas Street, alleging that the arresting officer invented a reason to detain her.

“He couldn’t take me to jail for holding up this sign or he would have. So all he could do was make up something fake about it,” Plummer told KRTK. The officer searched Plummer’s backpack, she said, and threatened to arrest her for obstructing justice, a felony charge.

Michael Dirden, Houston’s executive assistant police chief, said in a statement that if Plummer believes the police acted inappropriately, she should file a complaint with the department’s internal affairs division.

After being held in jail for 12 hours, Plummer was released on bond, and will soon appear in court to face her misdemeanor charge.

While Plummer’s method of alerting drivers to police activity might have been unprecedented, state laws covering such warnings are decades old. Their most common form, flashing headlights, is legal in some states but illegal in others.

Laws in New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Florida allow headlight flashing, while other states, such as Arizona and Alaska, forbid it. In Washington, drivers may be fined $124 for flashing their high beams within 400 feet of another vehicle for any reason. Other states forbid headlight flashing in some circumstances but not in others.

In Massachusetts, flashing car lights is not illegal, but it may result in an encounter with a police officer. If a driver says no when an officer asks whether headlights were flashed to warn drivers of a speed trap, the officer might ask if the motorist was driving with defective lights — which state law forbids.

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8 New York TSA Air Marshals, Including Supervisor, Fired For Drinking On A Training Day – 6 Other Marshals Suspended For Not Reporting The Drinking

June 29, 2012

NEW YORK – The Transportation Security Administration is firing eight federal air marshals, including a supervisor, for allegedly drinking alcohol on a training day and suspending six others for not reporting the misconduct, the agency said Friday.

The 14 marshals belong to the New York office. All can appeal except a probationary employee who was terminated immediately.

The TSA told The Associated Press the drinking occurred at a restaurant in February and was reported to a website that allows employees to alert leadership of inappropriate behavior.

None of the marshals was scheduled for flight duty the day of the drinking. But the TSA said consumption of alcohol is forbidden anytime they are on the job.

The TSA didn’t know if any had yet retained attorneys.

Some of the marshals at the restaurant had their service weapons with them, the agency said.

Those being fired were required Friday to turn in their weapons and credentials.

“TSA holds all of its employees to the highest professional and ethical standards and has zero tolerance for misconduct in the workplace,” said Nico Melendez, an agency spokesman. “TSA’s decision to remove the individuals involved in the misconduct affirms our strong commitment to the highest standards of conduct and accountability.”

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7 Year Old Girl Gunned Down In Chicago Illinois While Selling Lemonade In Front Of Her Home

June 29, 2012

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS — One day after a 7-year-old girl was gunned down as her mother watched while she sold lemonade in front of her West Side home, a ministers’ group is trying to persuade people to turn over the killer.

“It’s a sad day in Chicago,” said the Rev. Ira Acree of the Leaders Network ministry, which put up the $3,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the gunman who killed Heaven Sutton, 7, while she was with her mother and other family members outside of their home in the 1700 block of North Luna Avenue in the North Austin neighborhood.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports

Acree was no less indignant than Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who said to the unknown killer Thursday, “How dare you?”

“She’s an innocent seven-year-old,” Acree said, saying the girl had to try to dodge bullets as if she were in Afghanistan or the Wild West of the 1800s. “It’s horrific.”

Acree said the shooting had struck a nerve, and he said he hopes that someone who knows comes forward with the information without being prompted by the cash.

“You never know what kind of baggage might be associated with other cases, but come on. What can a 7-year-old baby be doing?” he said.

Heaven had told her mother, Ashake Banks, 38, that she wanted to move out of North Austin – which the family had called home for six months – because of all the violence in the area.

She had just gotten her hair done for a trip to Disney World that had been planned for next month, and was outside with her mother as they sold lemonade, candy and snacks under a canopy set up in front of their home. Two men opened fire around 10:40 p.m. Wednesday, and Heaven was struck in the chest.

“I had just called Heaven. She was sitting right next to me on my shoulder. Just laying on my shoulder,” Banks said Thursday.

Banks described the horrific sight of seeing her young daughter lying dead.

“For her to die like this – 7 years old, lying on a slab cold, her eyes just open, blood coming out her nose – I just want him to turn himself in. That’s all that I ask of him. And I’m asking for Chicago to help me,” she said.

The shooting also wounded a 19-year-old man in the ankle. That victim is recovering.

The fatal gunshot was fired by a gangbanger who was aiming at a rival who apparently had stopped to buy lemonade.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said detectives know which gangs were involved in the shooting, and said he expects them to wrap up the investigation quickly.

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