Man Exonerated Of Bogus Rape Charge After 5 Years In Prison – Victim Lied About Kidnapping, Rape, Received $1.5 Million In Civil Suit, And Probably Won’t be Prosecuted For Lying

May 24, 2012

LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA — A former high school football star whose dreams of a pro career were shattered by a rape conviction burst into tears Thursday as a judge threw out the charge that sent him to prison for more than five years.

Brian Banks, now 26, pleaded no contest 10 years ago on the advice of his lawyer after a childhood friend falsely accused him of attacking her on their high school campus.

In a strange turn of events, the woman, Wanetta Gibson, friended him on Facebook when he got out of prison.

During an initial meeting with him, she said she had lied; there had been no kidnap and no rape and she offered to help him clear his record, court records state.

But she refused to repeat the story to prosecutors because she feared she would have to return a $1.5 million payment from a civil suit brought by her mother against Long Beach schools.

During a second meeting that was secretly videotaped, she told Banks, “`I will go through with helping you, but it’s like at the same time all that money they gave us, I mean gave me, I don’t want to have to pay it back,'” according to Freddie Parish, a defense investigator who was at the meeting.

It was uncertain whether Gibson will have to return the money and unlikely she would be prosecuted for making the false accusation so long ago, when she was 15.

Gibson did not attend the hearing and she could not be reached for comment. Prosecutors and defense attorneys said they were unable to find her recently.

Banks, once a star middle linebacker at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, had attracted the interest of such college football powerhouses as the University of Southern California, Ohio State University and the University of Michigan, according to the website, which tracks the recruiting of high school football and basketball players.

Banks said he had verbally agreed to attend USC on a scholarship when he was arrested.

He still hopes to play professional football and has been working out regularly. His attorney Justin Brooks appealed to NFL teams to give him a chance.

“He has the speed and the strength. He certainly has the heart,” Brooks said. “I hope he gets the attention of people in the sports world.”

Gil Brandt, an NFL draft consultant, said Banks would be eligible to sign with any team that might show interest. However, his years away from the game will be hard to overcome.

“History tells us guys who come back after one or two years away when they go into the service find it awfully hard,” Brandt said. “And this has been much longer a time.”

Brandt compared the challenge to someone who has been out of high school for years trying to get an A in their first class in college.

Banks said outside court that he had lost all hope of proving his innocence until Gibson contacted him.

“It’s been a struggle. But I’m unbroken and I’m still here today,” the tall, muscular Banks said, tears flowing down his face.

He recalled being shocked and speechless on the day Gibson reached out to him after he had been released from prison, having served five years and two months.

“I thought maybe it wasn’t real,” he said. “How could she be contacting me?”

He said he knew that if he became angry when he met with her it wouldn’t help, so he struggled to keep calm.

“I stopped what I was doing and got down on my knees and prayed to God to help me play my cards right,” he said.

In court, Deputy District Attorney Brentford Ferreira told Superior Court Judge Mark C. Kim that prosecutors agreed the case should be thrown out. Kim dismissed it immediately.

Banks had tried to win release while he was in prison, but Brooks, a law professor and head of the California Innocence Project at California Western School of Law in San Diego, said he could not have been exonerated without the woman coming forward and recanting her story.

Brooks said it was the first case he had ever taken in which the defendant had already served his time and had been free for a number of years.

Banks remained on probation, however, and was still wearing his electronic monitoring bracelet at the hearing. His lawyer said the first thing the two planned to do was report to probation officials and have it removed.

“The charges are dismissed now,” Brooks said. “It’s as if it didn’t happen. … It was the shortest, greatest proceeding I’ve ever been part of.”

Banks had been arrested after Gibson said he met her in a school hallway and urged her to come into an elevator with him. The two had been friends since middle school and were in the habit of making out in a school stairwell, according to court papers.

There were contradictions in Gibson’s story, as she told some people the rape happened in the elevator and others that it happened in the stairwell.

A kidnapping enhancement was added to the case because of the allegation Banks had taken her to the stairwell. That enhancement also was thrown out Thursday.

Outside court, Banks donned a sweat shirt that read “Innocent,” as several friends and family members wept. His parents were jubilant, and Banks thanked them for standing by him.

“I know the trauma, the stress that I’ve been through, but I can’t imagine what it’s like to have your child torn from you,” he said. “I don’t know what I would have done without my parents.”

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Zimmerman Spoke In Public Forum A Year Ago In Support Of Black Homeless Man Beaten By Son Of Sanford Florida Police Officer And Covered Up By Corrupt Department

May 24, 2012

SANFORD, FLORIDA – Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman accused a Florida police department of corruption more than a year before he shot unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, saying at a public forum the agency covered up the beating of a black homeless man by the son of a white officer.

Zimmerman’s public comments could be important because the Martin family and supporters contend the neighborhood watch volunteer singled Martin out because he was black. Zimmerman has a Peruvian mother and a white father. His supporters have said he is not racist.

Zimmerman, who claims the Feb. 26 shooting was self-defense, was initially not arrested. But after nationwide protests and an investigation by a state prosecutor, he was charged.

Zimmerman is free on bond awaiting his second-degree murder trial for shooting Martin. Martin was walking back to a townhome he was staying at when he got into a fight with Zimmerman, who shot him in the chest at close range.

“I would just like to state that the law is written in black and white,” Zimmerman said during a 90-second statement to Sanford city commissioners at a community forum on Jan. 8, 2011.

The forum took place days after a video of the beating went viral on the Internet and then-Sanford Police Chief Brian Tooley was forced to retire. Tooley’s department faced criticism for dragging its feet in arresting Justin Collison, the son of a police lieutenant.

“I’d like to know what action the commission is taking in order to repeal Mr. Tooley’s pension,” Zimmerman said to the commission. “I’m not asking you to repeal his pension; I believe he’s already forfeited his pension by his illegal cover-up in corruption in what happened in his department.”

Trayvon Martin was talking on his cell phone when he was shot and killed in February.

The Miami Herald first reported details from the January 2011 community forum Wednesday. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the tape from the meeting.

In the speech, Zimmerman said he witnessed “disgusting” behavior by officers when he was part of a ride-along program, though the agency said it did not know when, if ever, Zimmerman was in that program.

“The officer showed me his favorite hiding spots for taking naps. He explained to me he doesn’t carry a long gun in his vehicle because in his words, ‘Anything that requires a long gun requires a lot of paperwork and you’re gonna find me as far away from it.'”

Zimmerman also said the officer in question “took two lunch breaks and attended a going away party for one of his fellow officers.”

Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett and interim police chief Richard Myers were both unavailable for comment.

Tooley’s successor, Bill Lee, temporarily resigned his post following a no-confidence vote by city commissioners.

Lee offered to resign permanently, but his commissioners turned down his request. He is on paid leave.

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Dumbass Cleveland Ohio Police Officer Tickets Man Who Dropped Money On The Ground While Handing It To A Disabled Man – Could Cost $500 For Dropping Dollar Bill

May 23, 2012

CLEVELAND, OHIO — A random act of kindness lands a man in trouble with police.

Last Monday, May 14th John Davis was exiting I-90 at the West 117th ramp when he saw a man in a wheelchair. The man was pale, thin and holding a sign that had a religious sentiment and also a request for help.

John thought to himself, “I think we’re all to help the less fortunate.”

The middle class family man from Elyria works hard for a living and enjoys giving back especially to people who are physically challenged.

“I have a brother that’s paralyzed,” said John, “My brother’s in that same situation and struggles.”

John reached into his wallet and grabbed a couple of bucks to give to the man. As he approached the light at the exit, he rolled the money up vertically and stretched his arm out of his window. He says, the man touched the cash and one of the dollars fell to the ground.

The man then bent over and picked it up.

Moments later as John travelled North on West 117th he says a Cleveland police officer pulled him over.

“He proceeds to tell me he’s pulling me over for littering,” said John.

John and his friends who witnessed the exchange were baffled.

The ticket cited Section No: 613.06 of Cleveland’s Municipal Codes, which is littering from a motor vehicle.

His offense was listed as, “Throw paper out window,” and in parenthesis, “money to panhandler.”

John said he was confused because money is paper but it’s not trash.

Cleveland police can’t comment on the ticket at this time but according to a spokesperson there is another code that may have been violated.

There is a code which states that it is illegal to panhandle or give money to panhandlers near a highway or street including a berm, shoulder, treelawn or sidewalk.

Section No: 471.06 states in part that “No person shall stand on a highway for the purpose of soliciting…contributions…”

It also reads that “No driver” is to “transfer currency….to any person standing on a street or highway.”

But John says that’s not what he was ticketed for. He was cited for littering from a motor vehicle, and the officer advised him to “take it up with the courts.”

John does plan to challenge the ticket in court, mainly because it carries a hefty fine. It could cost him $500 once you add the fine plus court costs.

John says he has always had a deep admiration for Cleveland police, and he isn’t trying to start trouble, but that’s a lot of money for helping out someone less fortunate.

“I don’t mean any disrespect toward the police department at all we need ‘em but I just wish I didn’t have to pay this ticket,” said John Davis.

The experience has left him disheartened, and has already destroyed his joy and willingness to give money to those in need.

“I’d like to do it again but I’m petrified I’m going to get a ticket.”

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Highest Court In Texas Orders State To Pay Just $2 Million To Man Inprisoned 26 Years On Bogus Conviction – Opens Door To Others Wrongfully Imprisoned To Receive Compensation

May 19, 2012

HOUSTON, TEXAS — The Texas Supreme Court has ordered the Lone Star State to pay more than $2 million to a former inmate who spent 26 years in prison for murder, a ruling that could set a precedent for compensating other prisoners whose convictions are overturned.

Billy Frederick Allen, now in his 60s, was convicted of two 1983 Dallas-area murders. Unlike other inmates freed after DNA evidence proved their innocence, Allen was freed in 2009 after a court found problems with witness testimony and his trial attorneys’ representation. Allen sued the state for compensation for wrongful imprisonment.

Allen’s attorney said the Supreme Court ruling may prove key to developing standards for when the state must compensate former prisoners.

“There are many cases where people are struggling and they don’t have DNA, but they now have hope,” Allen’s attorney, Kris Moore of McKinney, Texas, told the Los Angeles Times. “The implications of this for the Texas justice system are probably larger than people realize.”

He said the ruling may make it easier for inmates such as Richard Miles of Dallas – who served 14 years for crimes he didn’t commit, then spent two years awaiting a court ruling that finally came in February – to be compensated more quickly.

But he said it’s not clear what bearing Allen’s case may have on other ongoing high-profile exoneration battles. In one such case, Kerry Max Cook has written a book and attracted celebrity supporters in his fight to prove his innocence and receive compensation for serving 22 years on Texas’ death row for an East Texas murder he says he never committed.

Texas’ compensation law is the most generous in the U.S., according to officials at the New York-based Innocence Project. Freed inmates declared innocent by a judge, prosecutor or a governor’s pardon can collect $80,000 for every year of imprisonment, along with an annuity and medical and education benefits.

Dallas has become a lightning rod in the national debate over exonerations and capital punishment, with the most exonerations in Texas and the state’s first African-American district attorney who has championed the cause of exonerees.

But in Allen’s case, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs resisted paying, arguing that unlike other wrongfully convicted inmates, Allen did not have newly tested DNA or other evidence to prove his innocence.

On Friday, a spokesman for Combs’ office released a statement to the Times saying the state did not plan to appeal and was already processing Allen’s payment.

“Now that we have helpful guidance from the Supreme Court, we have immediately started the process of paying Billy Allen approximately $2 million for wrongful-imprisonment compensation,” spokesman R.J. DeSilva said in the statement. “The court’s decision will also help us pay any other exonerees with similar circumstances to Mr. Allen.”

DeSilva noted that Texas has already paid 80 exonerees $49.5 million in wrongful-imprisonment compensation.

The state Supreme Court ruled Allen had a legitimate claim, despite the fact that his innocence had not been established through DNA.

“While unlikely, it is conceivable that the state could compensate someone who is later found guilty of the crime,” the court said in the ruling. However, the court said, that should not be grounds for limiting compensation to some wrongfully convicted inmates and not others.

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Alan Dershowitz: The Only Real Expert Commenting On Zimmerman Case – Bogus Charges Must Be Dropped

May 18, 2012

SANFORD, FLORIDA – A medical report by George Zimmerman’s doctor has disclosed that Zimmerman had a fractured nose, two black eyes, two lacerations on the back of his head and a back injury on the day after the fatal shooting. If this evidence turns out to be valid, the prosecutor will have no choice but to drop the second-degree murder charge against Zimmerman — if she wants to act ethically, lawfully and professionally.

There is, of course, no assurance that the special prosecutor handling the case, State Attorney Angela Corey, will do the right thing. Because until now, her actions have been anything but ethical, lawful and professional.

She was aware when she submitted an affidavit that it did not contain the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. She deliberately withheld evidence that supported Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense. The New York Times has reported that the police had “a full face picture” of Zimmerman, before paramedics treated him, that showed “a bloodied nose.” The prosecutor also had photographic evidence of bruises to the back of his head.

This Feb. 27, 2012 photo released by the State Attorney’s Office shows George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot Trayvon Martin, with blood on the back of his head. The photo and reports were among evidence released by prosecutors that also includes calls to police, video and numerous other documents.

But none of this was included in any affidavit.

Now there is much more extensive medical evidence that would tend to support Zimmerman’s version of events. This version, if true, would establish self-defense even if Zimmerman had improperly followed, harassed and provoked Martin.

A defendant, under Florida law, loses his “stand your ground” defense if he provoked the encounter — but he retains traditional self-defense if he reasonably believed his life was in danger and his only recourse was to employ deadly force.

Thus, if Zimmerman verbally provoked Martin, but Martin then got on top of Zimmerman and banged his head into the ground, broke his nose, bloodied his eyes and persisted in attacking Zimmerman — and if Zimmerman couldn’t protect himself from further attack except by shooting Martin — he would have the right to do that. (The prosecution has already admitted that it has no evidence that Zimmerman started the actual fight.)

This is a fact-specific case, in which much turns on what the jury believes beyond a reasonable doubt. It must resolve all such doubts in favor of the defendant, because our system of justice insists that it is better for 10 guilty defendants to go free than for even one innocent to be wrongfully convicted.

You wouldn’t know that from listening to Corey, who announced that her jobs was “to do justice for Trayvon Martin” — not for George Zimmerman.

As many see it, her additional job is to prevent riots of the sort that followed the acquittal of the policemen who beat Rodney King.

Indeed, Mansfield Frazier, a columnist for the Daily Beast, has suggested that it is the responsibility of the legal system to “avert a large scale racial calamity.” He has urged Zimmerman’s defense lawyer to become a “savior” by brokering a deal to plead his client guilty to a crime that “has him back on the streets within this decade.”

But it is not the role of a defense lawyer to save the world or the country. His job — his only job — is to get the best result for his client, by all legal and ethical means.

Listen to the way a famous British barrister put it in 1820:

“An advocate, by the sacred duty which he owes his client, knows, in the discharge of that office, but one person in the world, that client and none other . . . Nay, separating even the duties of a patriot from those of an advocate, and casting them, if need be, to the wind, he must go on reckless of the consequences, if his fate it should unhappily be, to involve his country in confusion for his client’s protection.”

The prosecutor’s job is far broader: to do justice to the defendant as well as the alleged victim. As the Supreme Court has said: “The government wins . . . when justice is done.”

Zimmerman’s lawyer is doing his job. It’s about time for the prosecutor to start doing hers.

Dershowitz, a defense attorney, is a professor at Harvard Law School.
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Police Reports And Witnesses Back George Zimmerman – Yet He Still Faces Bogus Charges After Killing Druggie In Self Defense During Brutal Beating

May 17, 2012

SANFORD, FLORIDA – Two police reports written the night that George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin said that Zimmerman had a bloody face and nose, according to police reports made public today.

The reports also note that two witness accounts appear to back up Zimmerman’s version of what happened when they describe a man on his back with another person wearing a hoodie straddling him and throwing punches.

It has been such a contentious case that even the evidence is being disputed.

The police report states that Trayvon Martin’s father told an investigator after listening to 911 tapes that captured a man’s voice frantically callling for help that it was not his son calling for help.

But Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father, claims that is not true. The Martin family lawyer Ben Crump told ABC News that Tracy Martin initially listened to a distorted version of the 911 calls and said he could not identify the voice. But when he listened to a second tape that had been “cleaned,” “He immediately broke down in tears because he knew it was his son calling for help,” Crump said.

The new information is part of a trove of documents released by the Florida State Attorney today in the case against Zimmerman, who is charged with second degree murder for the Feb. 26 killing of Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old African American male.

Zimmerman, 28, is a multi-racial Hispanic man who volunteered for the neighborhood watch committee who claimed that he shot Martin in self-defense after the 6-foot tall, 160 pound teenager knocked him to the ground, banged his head against the ground and went for Zimmerman’s gun.

The documents start with a criticism of Zimmerman’s decision to follow the teenager, who Zimmerman said was looking suspicious.

“The encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin was ultimately avoidable by Zimmerman, if Zimmerman had remained in his vehicle and awaited the arrival of law enforcement,” an investigating officer wrote.

Zimmerman claims he got out of his vehicle to find a house number to let police know where he saw the allegedly suspicious person, and while returning to his car was knocked down by a punch in the nose and attacked by Martin.

Two police officers reported that when they arrived at the scene of the shooting, Zimmerman seemed to have a battered nose and bloodied face. One wrote that his “facial area was bloodied,” and the back of his clothing was soiled with wet grass.

“Zimmerman was also bleeding from the nose and the back of his head,” Officer Ricardo Ayala wrote.

Another officer wrote, “I saw that Zimmerman’s face was bloodied and it appeared to me that his nose was broken.”

Witnesses, whose names were redacted from the report, also lent support to Zimmerman’s version of what happened.

“He witnesses a black male, wearing a dark colored ‘hoodie’ on top of a white or Hispanic male and throwing punches ‘MMA (mixed martial arts) style,'” the police report of the witness said. “He then heard a pop. He stated that after hearing the pop, he observed the person he had previously observed on top of the other person (the male wearing the hoodie) laid out on the grass.”

A second witness described a person on the ground with another straddling him and throwing punches. The man on the bottom was yelling for help, the witness told police.

The documents state that Zimmerman can be heard yelling for help 14 times on a 911 call recorded during the fight.

Yet another witness described the confrontation in emotional terms.

The witness heard “someone yelling, almost crying. Then I heard a gunshot.” The witness wrote that he or she “saw a man on top of a guy laying on the ground. He was putting his hands on his neck or chest.”

The man asked the witness to call 911.

“He stood up and took a couple steps away and put his hands on his head and then walked back over to the guy on the ground. He looked at him for a minute, then started to walk away toward the road. That is when the police walked up,” the witness wrote.

The lead investigator on the case, Officer Christopher Serino, wrote that Zimmerman could be heard “yelling for help as he was being battered by Trayvon Martin.”

Martin’s death sparked public outrage after police released Zimmerman without any criminal charges for the killing. Zimmerman was later charged with second-degree murder, and the killing provoked widespread debate about racial profiling.

The autopsy also shows that Zimmerman shot Martin from a distance of between 1 inch and 18 inches away, bolstering Zimmerman’s claim that he shot Martin during a close struggle.

Martin’s autopsy report also revealed that there was a quarter-inch by half-inch abrasion on the left fourth finger of Martin, another indication of a possible struggle.

The teen, who lived in Miami, was in Sanford while serving a suspension for a bag of marijuana being discovered in his possession. Martin had THC, the drug found in marijuana, in his blood on the night of his death, according to the autopsy. His family told ABC News that it was “trace amounts” of THC.
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Federal Judge Blocks Military Detention Law – Lawsuit Against President Obama, Defense Secretary Panetta And Defense Department To Protect Americans From US Military – Could Have Held Citizens Forever Without Legitimate Charges

May 17, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – A federal judge temporarily blocked enforcement of a part of the National Defense Authorization Act that opponents claim could subject them to indefinite military detention for activities including news reporting and political activism.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan today ruled in favor of a group of writers and activists who sued President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the Defense Department, claiming a provision of the act, signed into law Dec. 31, puts them in fear that they could be arrested and held by U.S. armed forces.

The complaint was filed Jan. 13 by a group including former New York Times reporter Christopher Hedges. The plaintiffs contend a section of the law allows for detention of citizens and permanent residents taken into custody in the U.S. on “suspicion of providing substantial support” to people engaged in hostilities against the U.S., such as al-Qaeda.

“The statute at issue places the public at undue risk of having their speech chilled for the purported protection from al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and ‘associated forces’ – i.e., ‘foreign terrorist organizations,’” Forrest said in an opinion today. “The vagueness of Section 1021 does not allow the average citizen, or even the government itself, to understand with the type of definiteness to which our citizens are entitled, or what conduct comes within its scope.”

Enforcement Blocked

Forrest’s order prevents enforcement of the provision of the statute pending further order of the court or an amendment to the statute by Congress.

Ellen Davis, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan, declined to comment on the ruling.

The plaintiffs claim Section 1021 is vague and can be read to authorize their detention based on speech and associations that are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Hedges and two other plaintiffs testified in a hearing before Forrest in March, the judge said. A fourth plaintiff submitted a sworn declaration. The government put on no evidence, Forrest said.

Forrest, an Obama appointee who has served on the Manhattan federal court since October, rejected the government’s arguments that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue over the law and that it merely reaffirmed provisions in an earlier law, the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which was passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Plaintiffs’ Activities

In her opinion, Forrest said the government declined to say that the activities of Hedges and the other defendants don’t fall under the provision. Forrest held a hearing in March at which government lawyers didn’t call any witnesses or present evidence, according to the judge. The government did cross- examine the plaintiffs who testified and submitted legal arguments.

“The government was given a number of opportunities at the hearing and in its briefs to state unambiguously that the type of expressive and associational activities engaged in by plaintiffs — or others — are not within Section 1021,” Forrest said. “It did not. This court therefore must credit the chilling impact on First Amendment rights as reasonable — and real.”

Hedges, who testified he has been a foreign news correspondent for 20 years, said he has reported on 17 groups that are on a State Department list of terrorist groups. Hedges testified that after the law was passed, he changed his dealings with groups he had reported on, Forrest said.

“I think the ruling was not only correct, but courageous and important,” Hedges said in a telephone interview today.

The case is Hedges v. Obama, 12-CV-00331, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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FBI May Be Preparing Bogus “Hate Crime” Charge Against Zimmerman For Shooting Druggie In Self Defense

May 15, 2012

SANFORD, FLORIDA – WFTV has learned charges against George Zimmerman could be getting more serious.

State prosecutors said Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, profiled and stalked 17-year-old Trayvon Martin before killing him, so the FBI is now looking into charging him with a hate crime.

Zimmerman admitted to killing Martin in February during a confrontation. However, he claims the shooting was in self-defense. He’s facing a second-degree murder charge, which carries a maximum possible sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. But if Zimmerman is charged and found guilty of a federal hate crime involving murder, he could face the death penalty.

FBI investigators are actively questioning witnesses in the retreat at the Twin Lakes neighborhood, seeking evidence for a possible federal hate crime charge.

Martin was unarmed when he was shot to death, police said, and some accuse Zimmerman of targeting the teenager solely because of the color of his skin.

WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said federal prosecutors would have to prove the hate crime to charge Zimmerman, though.

“What the government would have to prove is that Mr. Zimmerman acted out of hatred toward African-Americans. That’s why he came into contact with him. That’s why he shot and killed him,” Sheaffer said.

Sheaffer said a federal hate crime murder charge could bring more serious consequences than the second-degree murder charge Zimmerman faces now.

“Mr. Zimmerman could be punished by up to life in prison or even the death penalty,” said Sheaffer.

Zimmerman said he used deadly force in self-defense after Martin punched him, knocked him to the ground and repeatedly slammed his head against a sidewalk.

As of late Monday, Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, told WFTV that he’s gotten the first prosecution documents containing the evidence against his client. O’Mara said he’s gotten a redacted witness list with 22 witnesses listed only as numbers.

O’Mara said he believes there are recorded interviews and some documents, but he said he hasn’t even opened it yet.

Prosecutors are required to release information to the defense and the public

However, O’Mara, wants Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. to keep some of the key evidence, especially witness statements, out of the public eye by writing a motion to keep it sealed.

O’Mara posted a statement on Zimmerman’s website that said, “We doubt any of them (witnesses) enjoy the scrutiny they are under due to the coincidence of their involvement in such a high-profile matter.”

In the meantime, a photograph recently surfaced which is said to show Zimmerman’s mother in the arms of her grandfather, who is black.

Zimmerman’s mother testified at his bond hearing that she has met the black child whom he mentored and even risked his safety in a dangerous neighborhood to do it, because he didn’t want to abandon the child.

State prosecutors said Zimmerman gave several inconsistent statements to Sanford police, which is, in part, their basis for charging him with second-degree murder.

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Florida Woman Sentenced To 20 Years In Prison For Shooting A Wall In Her Own Home – Fired Warning Shot While Protecting Herself From Abusive Husband Who Tried To Strangle Her – Same Prosecutor Who Is Pursuing Bogus Charge Against Zimmerman For Protecting Himself

May 12, 2012

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – Saying he had no discretion under state law, a judge sentenced a Jacksonville, Florida, woman to 20 years in prison Friday for firing a warning shot in an effort to scare off her abusive husband.

Marissa Alexander unsuccessfully tried to use Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law to derail the prosecution, but a jury in March convicted her of aggravated assault after just 12 minutes of deliberation.

The case, which was prosecuted by the same state attorney who is handling the Trayvon Martin case, has gained the attention of civil rights leaders who say the African-American woman was persecuted because of her race.

After the sentencing, Rep. Corrine Brown confronted State Attorney Angela Corey in the hallway, accusing her of being overzealous, according to video from CNN affiliate WJXT.

“There is no justification for 20 years,” Brown told Corey during an exchange frequently interrupted by onlookers. “All the community was asking for was mercy and justice,” she said.

Corey said she had offered Alexander a plea bargain that would have resulted in a three-year prison sentence, but Alexander chose to take the case to a jury trial, where a conviction would carry a mandatory sentence under a Florida law known as “10-20-life.”

‘Stand your ground’ plea rejected

The law mandates increased penalties for some felonies, including aggravated assault, in which a gun is carried or used.

Corey said the case deserved to be prosecuted because Alexander fired in the direction of a room where two children were standing.

Alexander said she was attempting to flee her husband, Rico Gray, on August 1, 2010, when she picked up a handgun and fired a shot into a wall.

She said her husband had read cell phone text messages that she had written to her ex-husband, got angry and tried to strangle her.

She said she escaped and ran to the garage, intending to drive away. But, she said, she forgot her keys, so she picked up her gun and went back into the house. She said her husband threatened to kill her, so she fired one shot.

“I believe when he threatened to kill me, that’s what he was absolutely going to do,” she said. “That’s what he intended to do. Had I not discharged my weapon at that point, I would not be here.”

Alexander’s attorneys tried to use the state law that allows people to use potentially deadly force anywhere they feel reasonably threatened with serious harm or death.

But a previous judge in the case rejected the request, saying Alexander’s decision to go back into the house was not consistent with someone in fear for her safety, according to the Florida Times Union newspaper.

A jury convicted Alexander in March and Judge James Daniel denied her request for a new trial in April.

Daniel handed down the sentence Friday after an emotional sentencing hearing during which Alexander’s parents, 11-year-old daughter and pastor spoke on her behalf.

Several people had to be escorted from the courtroom after breaking out singing and chanting about a perceived lack of justice in the case, but Daniel made a point to say that he had no choice under state law.

“Under the state’s 10-20-life law, a conviction for aggravated assault where a firearm has been discharged carries a minimum and maximum sentence of 20 years without regarding to any extenuating or mitigating circumstances that may be present, such as those in this case,” Daniel said.

Brown, the Jacksonville congresswoman, told reporters after the sentencing that the case was a product of “institutional racism.”

“She was overcharged by the prosecutor. Period,” Brown said. “She never should have been charged.”

Brown has been more complimentary about Corey’s work in the Trayvon Martin case, where her office filed second degree murder charges against neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the February 26 death of the unarmed African-American teen-ager.

That case provoked nationwide protests demanding Zimmerman’s arrest after an initial police investigation released him under the “stand your ground” law.

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Dangerous Walking: Crazed Fort Lee New Jersey Police Ticketing Pedestrians For Walking And Talking, Texting And Walking

May 10, 2012

FORT LEE, NEW JERSEY – Forget dangerous driving, pedestrians are the new threat to street safety — phone calls, texting, music and wandering into traffic. Now, one New Jersey town is cracking down on the practice.

Fort Lee’s police chief has seen his share of careless pedestrians texting or talking on the phone in his own town. He said he has counted 23 pedestrian accidents since January, ranging from minor bumps and bruises to three fatalities.

After trying pamphlets and brochures, he’s ordering his officers to ticket careless pedestrians on the spot.

“They’re not alert and they’re not watching what they’re doing,” Police Chief Thomas Ripoli told CBS 2′s Derricke Dennis. “As of now, they are to give summonses to pedestrians who do not adhere to crosswalks and the lights.”

Unlike careless driving, there’s no specific charge for being a careless pedestrian, but Chief Ripoli said his officers are watching, adding they’ll know it when they see it.

Mario Petris can certainly attest to the dangers. One of his personal training clients was hit and killed two months ago.

“She was on the cell phone and she got hit by a car, fatal accident,” Petris said.

The problem has gotten so bad, careless pedestrians in Fort Lee could be committing a fatal offense. Fort Lee is also cracking down on careless drivers, who could face a $200 fine.

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Signal Mountain Tennessee Police And Hamilton County Sheriffs Department Arrest And Jail Man On Warrant For Twin Brother Who Died 2 Years Ago

May 9, 2012

SIGNAL MOUNTAIN, TENNESSEE – Mitch Torbett says it was his twin brother police were looking for. He spent two days in the slammer before he was finally able to convince them of their mistake.

Torbett was arrested on Signal Mountain for a federal charge. He was jailed for nearly two days before authorities realized they were mistaking him for his dead twin brother.

Torbett is working with an attorney to file a civil suit against the Signal Mountain Police Department and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.

He was arrested last week for a federal crime his identical twin brother allegedly committed in Louisiana before he died two years ago.

“If they would’ve trusted me, if they would’ve given me the benefit of the doubt, if they would’ve done that, none of this would’ve happened,” Mitch Torbett says.

Torbett says it all started when applying for a construction permit with Signal Mountain.

“After running my driver’s license, said perhaps I had a federal warrant for my arrest,” Torbett says.

Mitch Torbett told police the federal warrant had to be linked to his identical twin who died two years ago.

Signal Mountain Police Chief Boyd Veal declined an interview, but says the warrant had Mitch’s name on it, so they did their part by arresting him and turning the case over to the FBI.

“I quickly realized I wasn’t being detained for fingerprints, but rather being arrested,” Torbett says.

The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office also says the warrant was under Mitch’s name, but the affidavit shows “Mike Torbett,” Mitch’s twin.

Under the arrestee’s name it says, “unknown– do not change.”

“I saw his name and I realized that I was in trouble, big trouble,” Torbett says.

Mitch was booked, but says he refused to sign any paperwork because it had his brother’s name on it.

“I turned into my identical twin, deceased brother,” Torbett says.

The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office says Mike must have given Mitch’s name when he was arrested before, saying, “that happens with twins all the time.”

When Mitch went before a judge, the FBI presented fingerprints from both brothers.

“She said, ‘your honor, we have the wrong person. He needs to be released immediately’,” Torbett says.

He was released after 36 hours behind bars. The words “wrong person” are now written on his legal documents.

“Emotionally, I can’t even put it into words,” Torbett says.

According the to affidavit, and what Mitch says the FBI told him, investigators had been on their way to extradite him to Louisiana.

Torbett’s attorney says he’s working on a civil suit for false arrest and false imprisonment, and will likely seek compensation for emotional distress.

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Innocent Man Prosecuted By Mesa County Colorado Release After 17 Years In Prison – DNA That Convicted Him Belonged To Someone Else

May 7, 2012

MESA COUNTY, COLORADO – When Danyel Joffe was designated as a court-appointed attorney to represent Colorado Department of Corrections inmate Robert Dewey 11 years ago, she didn’t know whether her new client was innocent.

Not until she spent months in her office in an old Capitol Hill home immersing herself in the case. While her cats prowled around her rolltop desk, she examined the contents of several large boxes of investigative reports. She read every word of the transcript from the five-week-long trial.

She knew then that the wrong man was sitting in prison.

“He (Dewey) had told me, ‘You’ll believe I’m innocent when you see all the evidence.’ He was right,” Joffe said after Dewey’s exoneration last week.

Joffe was front-and-center when a large contingent of representatives of the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, the Colorado Attorney General’s Justice Review Project, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the Innocence Project took the rare step of holding a joint news conference Monday morning to announce something they agreed on: Dewey’s innocence.

“I am here to celebrate that my client will no longer be my client,” Joffe told the packed room.

After Dewey’s exoneration became official in a courtroom later that day, Joffe was the one Dewey singled out to include in his Native American religious ritual.

Dewey waved a burning bundle of sage around Joffe on the courthouse steps. The lawyer, who had visited him several times a year since 2001 and corresponded with him regularly to urge him not to give up hope, closed her eyes and held out her arms as the smoke wafted over her gray suit.

The case that drove Joffe for so long was unusual because rudimentary DNA evidence had helped convict Dewey in 1996 and now newer and much more accurate DNA testing eliminated him as the perpetrator and matched up to someone who previously had not been identified as a suspect.

The case would also become a landmark because it eventually pulled prosecutors, defense attorneys and law officers into a team all working on the same goal — to free Dewey and identify the real murderer.

“To Danyel’s credit, she never came across as adversarial on this, which is different,” said Mesa County Assistant District Attorney Rich Tuttle, who helped both to convict and to exonerate Dewey. “I had a better working relationship with her on this reinvestigation than I’ve had with virtually any other defense attorney. As much of a true believer as she was, she played it pretty well.”

Joffe’s dogged efforts on the case earned her about a quarter of what she would make representing paying clients. But representing those who are indigent,

as well as litigating medical- marijuana cases, has been her mission for much of her 28-year law career.

Joffe, 52, started practicing law as a prosecutor in the Delta County office of the 7th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. Joffe, who is transgender and went by the name Doug Joffe at the time, handled a lot of the child-abuse cases in the year and a half she spent on the other side of the courtroom.

She had gone into law, rather than her alternate wish of radio broadcasting, because of an aunt who worked as an attorney in Raleigh, N.C., and became her role model. The late Debra Greenblatt represented the disabled and the mentally ill. The disenfranchised became her niece’s focus as well.

None would be more difficult than Dewey.

She remembers early on coming to Palisade to look at evidence and to visit the crime scene in a run-down apartment building. She walked the neighborhood. She tried to talk to some of the victim’s associates from an era clouded by methamphetamine use. Some were in prison.

More than one told her, in lewd terms, to back off.

She traveled to New York to persuade the Innocence Project, the organization well-known for exonerating wrongly convicted individuals, to get involved and fund the retesting of DNA evidence.

Several years of testing followed. The results were like cards falling. None of the tests matched Dewey. But Joffe still had a lot of convincing to do.

For Joffe, the hardest part in this years-long process came in the past two months, when the evidence became irrefutable. She had to agree not to share the good news with Dewey until more investigation of the real suspected killer was completed.

Joffe and Dewey developed mutual respect over the years. Dewey wasn’t fazed when his attorney three years ago began outwardly living as a woman. She wears pearls and pink fingernail polish now, but she hasn’t been able to afford to pay for the surgery to complete the process.

That’s where another unusual twist comes into this story.

Officially, Dewey officially doesn’t owe Joffe. But he has told Joffe and others that if he ends up getting a monetary settlement for the nearly 17 years he spent behind bars for a wrongful conviction, he wants to pay for that operation.

“It was a very sweet gesture on his part,” Joffe said. “But he really needs to focus on taking care of himself first. … Let Mr. Dewey get himself a Harley and tour America to his heart’s content first.”

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Dallas Texas Police Arrest And Jail Innocent Woman For Refilling Legal Prescription

May 6, 2012

DALLAS, TEXAS – Anne Lenhart never thought filling a prescription at CVS Pharmacy in Dallas could land her in jail.

The avid yoga practicer raised more $20,000 for Off the Mat, Into the World Global Seva Challenge. OTM is an organization that was founded by Seane Corn, Hali Kouri, and Suzanne Sterling as a way to take the ideas of yoga and translate them into action.

This year OTM was heading to Haiti for a service mission in which they bought and installed lights, worked at Haiti’s tent cities and various other projects.

On their off time, Lenhart and her group headed the Haitian city of Jacmel, a mountainous region with waterfalls and beautiful natural pools.

That’s where the trouble began. Lenhart had waded in the water beneath the waterfall, then climbed up some 30 feet onto a cliff overlooking the water.

“I decided I was ready to come down off the waterfall and it was then that I slipped and I hit an outcropping about 10 feet down and then from there fall another 20 feet into the water,” Lenhart said. The water saved her life but she shattered her kneecap on the way down.

With the help of several men, Lenhart climbed out of the area and after a 3 1/2 hour trip to the nearest hospital in Port-Au-Prince, she underwent reconstructive surgery with no general anesthesia.

A week later she was flown back to the U.S., still in deep pain, and admitted into Baylor Medical Center in Dallas.

“They gave me a pretty high, heavy duty narcotic, Norco, as a painkiller going forward and I had used that up. It had been a month and I had called for my refill,” Lenhart said.

The pharmacy called Lenhart to ask her exactly what time she would be in pick up her prescription. She thought it was odd, but told the pharmacy what time she would be there.

Still on crutches and unable to drive, a friend of Lenhart’s, drove her to a CVS Pharmacy in Oak Cliff.

She wasn’t able to pick up her prescription because a police officer arrived to pick her up.

“He was like ‘we need to go outside,’” she said. “I was on crutches and I had a permanent IV line in my arm. I had a big leg brace. I asked him if it was necessary and he said yes and he rather policingly escorted me out the front door and into the back of a waiting patrol car.”

Lenhart was so stunned, she didn’t think to ask the officer questions. The officer explained to her what was going on.

“He said, ‘Well we believe that you have forged your pain pill prescription and we are calling your doctor now. But I’ve worked with this pharmacist a number of times and he’s never made a mistake,” Lenhart said.

The officer then took her the Dallas County jail, where she remained overnight. After she was released on bond, she was charged with obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, a felony.

“I couldn’t go back to work until HR had received the paperwork that this was a mistake from my attorney,” she said.

Dallas police later dropped the charges after speaking with Lenhart’s doctor. The Dallas Police Department declined to talk to CBS11 about Lenhart’s arrest.

Now she is suing CVS Pharmacy for False Imprisonment, Defamation and more. Her attorney, Jeff Benton, said her arrest could have been prevented had proper procedures been followed.

“Every doctor that prescribes a narcotic had a DEA number that’s unique to them and if that is cross referenced and the correct doctor is contacted then I don’t imagine that this type of thing would happen,” Benton said. “We suspect the wrong doctor was contacted because they didn’t cross reference the DEA number.”

Everyday pharmacies fill millions of prescriptions for controlled substances. Those drugs are monitored by the DEA.

Lenhart’s doctor confirmed in an affidavit that he wrote the prescription for her and that he never received a call from CVS asking to confirm the prescription. Benton thinks the pharmacy may have called the wrong physician.

A representative from CVS Pharmacy said, “We are investigating how this unfortunate incident occurred and we are working to resolve the matter with Ms. Lenhart and her attorney. As this involves pending litigation, we are unable to provide additional comments at this time.”

“I would love to think that they would actually write me a letter that says ‘I am sorry that this happened to you,’” Lenhart said.

But even more than an apology, Lenhart wants to make sure that this never happens to another patient in pain.

“I don’t want somebody else. I don’t want somebody who I love to go there and get arrested,” she said.

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Naples Florida Police Charge Man With Felony For Not Paying $1 For Cup Of Soda – Faces Up To 5 Years In State Prison At Taxpayer Expense

April 23, 2012

NAPLES, FLORIDA – Authorities say a Naples man remains jailed on felony charges after leaving a McDonald’s restaurant without paying for a cup of soda.

Deputies arrested 52-year-old Mark Abaire last week after the restaurant manager told them he had asked for a cup of water and then filled it with soda from the fountain machine.

The Naples Daily News reports Abaire was sitting outside the restaurant when the manager asked him to pay a dollar for the soda. Abaire refused, then would not leave the premises. Police arrived and arrested him.

The charge is petty theft, but it was increased to a felony because Abaire has previous petty theft convictions. In Florida, a third-degree felony can result in a sentence of up to five years and a $5,000 fine.

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Birmingham Alabama Cops File Bogus Charges Against Teen Who Was Legally Carrying Rifle And Minding His Own Business Until Harassed By Police Officers

April 23, 2012

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA – Sean M. Combs, 18, says he’s “100 percent sure” he was acting legally when he strolled on Old Woodward Avenue in downtown Birmingham earlier this month with his M-1 rifle strapped to his back, muzzle to the sky.

What’s unsettling is that Combs is right about what the law says and doesn’t say.

He was arrested April 13 on three misdemeanor charges — for brandishing a weapon, resisting and obstructing police, and disturbing the peace — each punishable by up to 93 days in jail.

But no matter how the case turns out, the Troy High School senior is making his incendiary point.

A teenager out for a Friday night stroll on a crowded street with a classmate friend and his semi-automatic weapon still qualifies as a bizarre night out.

It suggests bad judgment, immaturity and a pathological need for attention — but it’s not banned by law. “You can open carry, like the old wild wild West,” says Michigan State Police spokesman Lt. James Shaw. “It’s legal.”

Still, Sean Combs was deliberately, and perhaps impulsively, pushing the bounds of social acceptability when he grabbed his rifle from the trunk, after deciding not to go to a movie. (Guns are banned from movie theaters, although a pending Senate bill would change that.)

But public strutting with guns is likely one consequence of the au courant embrace of all things NRA, including the state Legislature’s 2011 bill to drop the hunting age from 12 to toddler, or the 2010 law empowering elementary schools to teach children gun safety.

Combs said he believes in “open carry” and the only way to break down social norms against it is to carry firearms openly. He used a rifle, he says, because federal regulations require him to be 21 to buy a handgun. To get the rifle, he only needed to be 18. “It’s like buying a pack of cigarettes,” he explains, correctly.

Why don’t more people walk around with rifles?

Gun law expert Steve Dulan, who teaches firearms law at Cooley Law School, says the law doesn’t differentiate between firearms. “Open carry is certainly lawful and the only reason I advise against it is because of the ignorance of the public and many law enforcement officers,” he says. “You’re likely to be staring down the barrel of a police officer’s gun.”

Combs, who was a captain of Troy High’s cross-country team and gets good grades, is a regular guy, says his friend, Lia Grabowski, who was with him that night. “He’s a really, really nice kid. He’s not someone who’s dangerous or scary.”

A self-described “gun enthusiast,” Combs studies “open carry” laws and websites that advocate carrying firearms out in the open as a political statement. “I did my homework,” he says. He took his gun out of the trunk that night because “I wanted to change a social rule that I don’t agree with” — namely the general social disapproval of guys walking down the street with military weapons slung over their shoulders.

Birmingham Police Chief Don Studt, whose officers arrested Combs on April 13, acknowledges the constitutionality of Combs’ decision to carry his gun, but said “this guy was creating a disturbance and he wouldn’t cooperate.”

Those facts are in contention. The youth’s attorney, James Makowski, says Combs had a clear understanding of the law when he decided to walk down the street with his 1942 military-issue semiautomatic rifle. “It isn’t my style, but it’s his right,” Makowski says. “I’ve never had a client who is so clearly in the right.”

There’s no law against being a jerk. God bless America.

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Newton County Georgia Sheriff’s Department Arrested And Jailed Couple For “Loitering” And “Prowling” At Their Newly Purchased Home – After Neighbor Held Them At Gunpoint

April 22, 2012

NEWTON COUNTY, GEORGIA – The Newton County Sheriff’s Office is investigating why a couple was confronted at gunpoint by neighbors and then arrested and forced to spend the night in jail when they tried to move into the home they had just purchased, Channel 2 Action News reported.

The Kalonji family had just closed on a foreclosed home and were told by their real estate agent they should go over to the house and change the locks.

But when Jean Kalonji and his wife, Angelica, started working at the home, an armed man and another person who appeared to be the man’s son allegedly confronted them.

“He say to put the hands up and get out from the house, otherwise he would shoot us,” the husband told Channel 2.

The neighbors didn’t believe the couple when they told them they had bought the home and called the Newton County Sheriff’s Office. The Kalonjis didn’t have the closing papers with them, so deputies arrested them, charged them with loitering and prowling and took them to jail.

Yvette Harris, the couple’s real estate agent, said they never should have been arrested.

“They rightfully own this house,” Harris said.

Kalonji, who grew up in the Congo, said the experience brought back painful memories.

“There, they put me down with the gun to my head, and come here, the same,” he said.

Mark Mitchell, spokesman for the Newton Sheriff’s Office, said authorities are “looking into it, exactly what occurred, why it occurred.”

A person at the neighbors’ house said no one wanted to talk to Channel 2 about the incident.

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Zimmerman Prosecution: “Not Only Immoral, But Stupid” – Alan Dershowitz

April 20, 2012

SANFORD, FLORIDA – With ABC News’ release of the George Zimmerman photo showing blood flowing freely from his head, the question becomes whether Angela Corey, the prosecutor in the case, had access to the photo before charging Zimmerman with second-degree murder.

The arrest affidavit did not mention the photograph, or the bleeding, gashes, and bruises on Zimmermans’ head. Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School stated upon release of the arrest affidavit that it was “so thin that it won’t make it past a judge on a second degree murder charge … everything in the affidavit is completely consistent with a defense of self-defense.”

After the release of the photo, however, Dershowitz went much further, telling Breitbart News that if the prosecutors did have the photo and didn’t mention it in the affidavit, that would constitute a “grave ethical violation,” since affidavits are supposed to contain “all relevant information.”

Dershowitz continued, “An affidavit that willfully misstates undisputed evidence known to the prosecution is not only unethical but borders on perjury because an affiant swears to tell not only the truth, but the whole truth, and suppressing an important part of the whole truth is a lie.”

When asked if it made a difference whether the prosecution had the bloody photograph at the time they charged Zimmerman, Dershowitz responded, “We do know that there were earlier photographs before the affidavit was done that strongly suggested blood on the back of the head, and we know the police had first access to him, so if there was blood they [the prosecution] would know about it …

“I’ve had cases in Florida against prosecutors,” Dershowitz said, “and this is not the first time they have willfully omitted exculpatory evidence. It’s a continuing problem. Here, it’s not only immoral, but stupid. The whole country is watching. What do they benefit from having half-truths in an affidavit?”

Dershowitz added, “I’m not taking sides, but I’m insisting that both sides play by the rules, and so far the prosecution is not playing by the rules.”

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Bloody Photo Of Zimmerman 3 Minutes After Shooting Casts Major Doubt On Sanford Florida’s Bogus Case Against Victim Who Killed Druggie In Self Defense

April 20, 2012

SANFORD, FLORIDA – A new photograph obtained exclusively by ABC News showing the bloodied back of George Zimmerman’s head, which was apparently taken three minutes after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, gives possible credence to his claim that Martin had bashed his head against the concrete as Zimmerman fought for his life.

The revelation comes as his attorney and prosecutors prepare for Zimmerman’s bail hearing today, which could result in his being released from a Florida jail. Zimmerman, 28, is being held on charges of second-degree murder for the Feb. 26 shooting of Martin, 17, which could carry a life sentence if he is convicted.

The exclusive image shows blood trickling down the back of Zimmerman’s head from two cuts. It also shows a possible contusion forming on the crown of his head. The original police report that night notes that the back of Zimmerman’s head was wet, and that he was bleeding from the nose and head.

Zimmerman told police that night that he shot and killed the teenager in self-defense after Martin punched him and pounced on him. Zimmerman told police that Martin then bashed his head into the concrete sidewalk during the altercation that took place in the tidy middle-class development of the Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, Fla.

Zimmerman was treated at the scene by paramedics, then cuffed and driven in a police cruiser to the Sanford police station. He was questioned for hours and later released. In police surveillance video obtained last month by ABC News, Zimmerman’s wounds are not apparent, and there were no bandages on his head.

Zimmerman was not admitted to a hospital or given stitches the night of the incident.

The person who took the photograph of a bloodied Zimmerman, asking not to be identified, told ABC News exclusively that they did not see the scuffle that night, but did hear it. The person recalled seeing Martin’s prostrate body on the wet grass and said the gunpowder burns on Martin’s gray hoodie were clearly visible.

The photographer said that after the shooting, Zimmerman asked the photographer to call his wife. When the photographer asked him what to say, Zimmerman blurted out, “Man, just tell her I shot someone.”

Investigators have seen the photo.

Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump is skeptical.

“How bad could it have been if they didn’t take him to the hospital [and] didn’t stitch him up,” he said in a statement to ABC News in response to the image. “The special prosecutor has seen all the evidence and still believes George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin.”

Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, said his client has spent enough time behind bars.

“He needs to get out. He should not be in jail,” O’Mara said. “I want him out because I need him out. He wants to get out. His family wants it out. It should happen.”

If Zimmerman is released, his attorney said, he has a number of potential safe houses prepared. In the meantime O’Mara says the former altar boy, who has become America’s highest-profile defendant, has been reading the Bible while in protective custody.

In a bail hearing in Florida, the burden of proof to deny bail, even in a second-degree murder trial, is higher than needed to seek a conviction in a trial.

“They would have to prove that the presumption of guilt is great, and that the proof is evident,” O’Mara said.

In the capias — similar to a warrant — filed against Zimmerman last week, Special Prosecutor Angela Corey and her team set bail at “none.”

In order to avoid a reduction in bail to a set monetary sum, Corey’s team would have to prove its case essentially, something legal experts say is unlikely at this point in the legal process.

Zimmerman attorney O’Mara said he doubts the prosecutor will reveal its case before the trial.

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US Justice Department, Prosecutors, And Law Enforcement Officials Hid Sloppy And Flawed Forensic Evidence From Defendants – Hundreds Incarcerated Or On Parole Due To Questionable Lab Results

April 17, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Justice Department officials have known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people, but prosecutors failed to notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled.

Officials started reviewing the cases in the 1990s after reports that sloppy work by examiners at the FBI lab was producing unreliable forensic evidence in court trials. Instead of releasing those findings, they made them available only to the prosecutors in the affected cases, according to documents and interviews with dozens of officials.

In addition, the Justice Department reviewed only a limited number of cases and focused on the work of one scientist at the FBI lab, despite warnings that problems were far more widespread and could affect potentially thousands of cases in federal, state and local courts.

As a result, hundreds of defendants nationwide remain in prison or on parole for crimes that might merit exoneration, a retrial or a retesting of evidence using DNA because FBI hair and fiber experts may have misidentified them as suspects.

In one Texas case, Benjamin Herbert Boyle was executed in 1997, more than a year after the Justice Department began its review. Boyle would not have been eligible for the death penalty without the FBI’s flawed work, according to a prosecutor’s memo.

The case of a Maryland man serving a life sentence for a 1981 double killing is another in which federal and local law enforcement officials knew of forensic problems but never told the defendant. Attorneys for the man, John Norman Huffington, say they learned of potentially exculpatory Justice Department findings from The Washington Post. They are seeking a new trial.

Justice Department officials said that they met their legal and constitutional obligations when they learned of specific errors, that they alerted prosecutors and were not required to inform defendants directly.

The review was performed by a task force created during an inspector general’s investigation of misconduct at the FBI crime lab in the 1990s. The inquiry took nine years, ending in 2004, records show, but the findings were never made public.

In the discipline of hair and fiber analysis, only the work of FBI Special Agent Michael P. Malone was questioned. Even though Justice Department and FBI officials knew that the discipline had weaknesses and that the lab lacked protocols — and learned that examiners’ “matches” were often wrong — they kept their reviews limited to Malone.

But two cases in D.C. Superior Court show the inadequacy of the government’s response.

Santae A. Tribble, now 51, was convicted of killing a taxi driver in 1978, and Kirk L. Odom, now 49, was convicted of a sexual assault in 1981.

Key evidence at each of their trials came from separate FBI experts — not Malone — who swore that their scientific analysis proved with near certainty that Tribble’s and Odom’s hair was at the respective crime scenes.

But DNA testing this year on the hair and on other old evidence virtually eliminates Tribble as a suspect and completely clears Odom. Both men have completed their sentences and are on lifelong parole. They are now seeking exoneration in the courts in the hopes of getting on with their lives.

Neither case was part of the Justice Department task force’s review.

A third D.C. case shows how the lack of Justice Department notification has forced people to stay in prison longer than they should have.

Donald E. Gates, 60, served 28 years for the rape and murder of a Georgetown University student based on Malone’s testimony that his hair was found on the victim’s body. He was exonerated by DNA testing in 2009. But for 12 years before that, prosecutors never told him about the inspector general’s report about Malone, that Malone’s work was key to his conviction or that Malone’s findings were flawed, leaving him in prison the entire time.

After The Post contacted him about the forensic issues, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. of the District said his office would try to review all convictions that used hair analysis.

Seeking to learn whether others shared Gates’s fate, The Post worked with the nonprofit National Whistleblowers Center, which had obtained dozens of boxes of task force documents through a years-long Freedom of Information Act fight.

Task force documents identifying the scientific reviews of problem cases generally did not contain the names of the defendants. Piecing together case numbers and other bits of information from more than 10,000 pages of documents, The Post found more than 250 cases in which a scientific review was completed. Available records did not allow the identification of defendants in roughly 100 of those cases. Records of an unknown number of other questioned cases handled by federal prosecutors have yet to be released by the government.

The Post found that while many prosecutors made swift and full disclosures, many others did so incompletely, years late or not at all. The effort was stymied at times by lack of cooperation from some prosecutors and declining interest and resources as time went on.

Overall, calls to defense lawyers indicate and records documented that prosecutors disclosed the reviews’ results to defendants in fewer than half of the 250-plus questioned cases.

Michael R. Bromwich, a former federal prosecutor and the inspector general who investigated the FBI lab, said in a statement that even if more defense lawyers were notified of the initial review, “that doesn’t absolve the task force from ensuring that every single defense lawyer in one of these cases was notified.”

He added: “It is deeply troubling that after going to so much time and trouble to identify problematic conduct by FBI forensic analysts the DOJ Task Force apparently failed to follow through and ensure that defense counsel were notified in every single case.”

Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney said the federal review was an “exhaustive effort” and met legal requirements, and she referred questions about hair analysis to the FBI. The FBI said it would evaluate whether a nationwide review is needed.

“In cases where microscopic hair exams conducted by the FBI resulted in a conviction, the FBI is evaluating whether additional review is warranted,” spokeswoman Ann Todd said in a statement. “The FBI has undertaken comprehensive reviews in the past, and will not hesitate to do so again if necessary.”

Santae Tribble and Kirk Odom

John McCormick had just finished the night shift driving a taxi for Diamond Cab on July 26, 1978. McCormick, 63, reached the doorstep of his home in Southeast Washington about 3 a.m., when he was robbed and fatally shot by a man in a stocking mask, according to his widow, who caught a glimpse of the attack from inside the house.

Police soon focused on Santae Tribble as a suspect. A police informant said Tribble told her he was with his childhood friend, Cleveland Wright, when Wright shot McCormick.

After a three-day trial, jurors deliberated two hours before asking about a stocking found a block away at the end of an alley on 28th Street SE. It had been recovered by a police dog, and it contained a single hair that the FBI traced to Tribble. Forty minutes later, the jury found Tribble guilty of murder. He was sentenced in January 1980 to 20 years to life in prison.

Tribble, 17 at the time, his brother, his girlfriend and a houseguest all testified that they were together preparing to celebrate the guest’s birthday the night McCormick was killed. All four said Tribble and his girlfriend were asleep between 2 and 4:30 a.m. in Seat Pleasant.

Tribble took the stand in his own defense, saying what he had said all along — that he had nothing to do with McCormick’s killing.

The prosecution began its closing argument by citing the FBI’s testimony about the hair from the stocking.

This January, after a year-long effort to have DNA evidence retested, Tribble’s public defender succeeded and turned over the results from a private lab to prosecutors. None of the 13 hairs recovered from the stocking — including the one that the FBI said matched Tribble’s — shared Tribble’s or Wright’s genetic profile, conclusively ruling them out as sources, according to mitochondrial DNA analyst Terry Melton of the private lab.

“The government’s entire theory of prosecution — that Mr. Tribble and Mr. Wright acted together to kill Mr. McCormick — is demolished,” wrote Sandra K. Levick, chief of special litigation for the D.C. Public Defender Service and the lawyer who represents Gates, Tribble and Odom. In a motion to D.C. Superior Court Judge Laura Cordero seeking Tribble’s exoneration, Levick wrote: “He has waited thirty-three years for the truth to set him free. He should have to wait no longer.”

In an interview, Tribble, who served 28 years in prison, said that whether the court grants his request or not, he sees it as a final chance to assert his innocence.

“Ms. Levick has been like an angel,” Tribble added, “. . . and I thank God for DNA.”

Details of the new round of hair testing illustrate how hair analysis is highly subjective. The FBI scientist who originally testified at Tribble’s trial, Special Agent James A. Hilverda, said all the hairs he retrieved from the stocking were human head hairs, including the one suitable for comparison that he declared in court matched Tribble’s “in all microscopic characteristics.”

In August, Harold Deadman, a senior hair analyst with the D.C. police who spent 15 years with the FBI lab, forwarded the evidence to the private lab and reported that the 13 hairs he found included head and limb hairs. One exhibited Caucasian characteristics, Deadman added. Tribble is black.

But the private lab’s DNA tests irrefutably showed that the 13 hairs came from three human sources, each of African origin, except for one — which came from a dog.

“Such is the true state of hair microscopy,” Levick wrote. “Two FBI-trained analysts, James Hilverda and Harold Deadman, could not even distinguish human hairs from canine hairs.”

Hilverda declined to comment. Deadman said his role was limited to describing characteristics of hairs he found.

Kirk Odom’s case shares similarities with Tribble’s. Odom was convicted of raping, sodomizing and robbing a 27-year-old woman before dawn in her Capitol Hill apartment in 1981.

The victim said she spoke with her assailant and observed him for up to two minutes in the “dim light” of street lamps through her windows before she was gagged, bound and blindfolded in an hour-long assault.

Police put together a composite sketch of the attacker, based on the victim’s description. About five weeks after the assault, a police officer was talking to Odom about an unrelated matter. He thought Odom looked like the sketch. So he retrieved a two-year-old photograph of Odom, from when he was 16, and put it in a photo array for the victim. The victim picked the image out of the array that April and identified Odom at a lineup in May. She identified Odom again at his trial, telling jurors her assailant “had left her with an image of his face etched in her mind.”

At trial, FBI Special Agent Myron T. Scholberg testified that a hair found on the victim’s nightgown was “microscopically like” Odom’s, meaning the samples were indistinguishable. Prosecutors explained that Scholberg had not been able to distinguish between hair samples only “eight or 10 times in the past 10 years, while performing thousands of analyses.”

But on Jan. 18 of this year, Melton, of the same lab used in the Tribble case, Mitotyping Technologies of State College, Pa., reported its court-ordered DNA test results: The hair in the case could not have come from Odom.

On Feb. 27, a second laboratory selected by prosecutors, Bode Technology of Lorton, turned over the results of court-ordered nuclear DNA testing of stains left by the perpetrator on a pillowcase and robe.

Only one man left all four partial DNA profiles developed by the lab, and that man could not have been Odom.

The victim “was tragically mistaken in her identification of Mr. Odom as her assailant,” Levick wrote in a motion filed March 14 seeking his exoneration. “One man committed these heinous crimes; that man was not Kirk L. Odom.”

Scholberg, who retired in 1985 as head of hair and fiber analysis after 18 years at the FBI lab, said side-by-side hair comparison “was the best method we had at the time.”

Odom, who was imprisoned for 20 years, had to register as a sex offender and remains on lifelong parole. He says court-ordered therapists still berate him for saying he is not guilty. Over the years, his conviction has kept him from possible jobs, he said.

“There was always the thought in the back of my mind . . . ‘One day will my name be cleared?’ ” Odom said at his home in Southeast Washington, where he lives with his wife, Harriet, a medical counselor.

Federal prosecutors declined to comment on Tribble’s and Odom’s specific claims, citing pending litigation.

One government official noted that Odom served an additional 16 months after his release for an unrelated simple assault that violated his parole.

However, in a statement released after being contacted by The Post, Machen, the U.S. attorney in the District, acknowledged that DNA results “raise serious questions in my mind about these convictions.”

“If our comprehensive review shows that either man was wrongfully convicted, we will promptly join him in a motion to vacate his conviction, as we did with Donald Gates in 2009,” Machen said.

The trouble with hair analysis

Popularized in fiction by Sherlock Holmes, hair comparison became an established forensic science by the 1950s. Before modern-day DNA testing, hair analysis could, at its best, accurately narrow the pool of criminal suspects to a class or group or definitively rule out a person as a possible source.

But in practice, even before the “ ‘CSI’ effect” led jurors to expect scientific evidence at every trial, a claim of a hair match packed a powerful, dramatic punch in court. The testimony, usually by a respected scientist working at a respected federal agency, allowed prosecutors to boil down ambiguous cases for jurors to a single, incriminating piece of human evidence left at the scene.

Forensic experts typically assessed the varying characteristics of a hair to determine whether the defendant might be a source. Some factors were visible to the naked eye, such as the length of the hair, its color and whether it was straight, kinky or curly. Others were visible under a microscope, such as the size, type and distribution of pigmentation, the alignment of scales or the thickness of layers in a given hair, or its diameter at various points.

Other judgments could be made. Was the hair animal or human? From the scalp, limbs or pubic area? Of a discernible race? Dyed, bleached or otherwise treated? Cut, forcibly removed or shed naturally?

But there is no consensus among hair examiners about how many of these characteristics were needed to declare a match. So some agents relied on six or seven traits, while others needed 20 or 30. Hilverda, the FBI scientist in Tribble’s case, told jurors that he had performed “probably tens of thousands of examinations” and relied on “about 15 characteristics.”

Despite his testimony, Hilverda recorded in his lab notes that he had measured only three characteristics of the hair from the stocking — it was black, it was a human head hair, and it was from an African American. Similarly, Scholberg’s notes describe the nightgown hair in Odom’s case in the barest terms, as a black, human head hair fragment, like a sample taken from Odom.

Hilverda acknowledged that results could rule out a person or be inconclusive. However, he told jurors that a “match” reflected a high likelihood that two hairs came from the same person. Hilverda added, “Only on very rare occasions have I seen hairs of two individuals that show the same characteristics.”

In Tribble’s case, federal prosecutor David Stanley went further as he summed up the evidence. “There is one chance, perhaps for all we know, in 10 million that it could [be] someone else’s hair,” he said in his closing arguments, sounding the final word for the government.

Stanley declined to comment.

Flaws known for decades

The Tribble and Odom cases demonstrate problems in hair analysis that have been known for nearly 40 years.

In 1974, researchers acknowledged that visual comparisons are so subjective that different analysts can reach different conclusions about the same hair. The FBI acknowledged in 1984 that such analysis cannot positively determine that a hair found at a crime scene belongs to one particular person.

In 1996, the Justice Department studied the nation’s first 28 DNA exonerations and found that 20 percent of the cases involved hair comparison. That same year, the FBI lab stopped declaring matches based on visual comparisons alone and began requiring DNA testing as well.

Yet examples of FBI experts violating scientific standards and making exaggerated or erroneous claims emerged in 1997 at the heart of the FBI lab’s worst modern scandal, when Bromwich’s investigation found systematic problems involving 13 agents. The lab’s lack of written protocols and examiners’ weak scientific qualifications allowed bias to influence some of the nation’s highest-profile criminal investigations, the inspector general said.

From 1996 through 2004, a Justice Department task force set out to review about 6,000 cases handled by the 13 discredited agents for any potential exculpatory information that should be disclosed to defendants. The task force identified more than 250 convictions in which the agents’ work was determined to be either critical to the conviction or so problematic — for example, because a prosecutor refused to cooperate or records had been lost — that it completed a fresh scientific assessment of the agent’s work. The task force was directed to notify prosecutors of the results.

The only real notice of what the task force found came in a 2003 Associated Press account in which unnamed government officials said they had turned over results to prosecutors and were aware that defendants had been notified in 100 to 150 cases. The officials left the impression that anybody whose case had been affected had been notified and that, in any case, no convictions had been overturned, the officials said.

But since 2003, in the District alone, two of six convictions identified by The Post in which forensic work was reassessed by the task force have been vacated. That includes Gates’s case, but not those of Tribble and Odom, who are awaiting court action and were not part of the task force review.

The Gates exoneration also shows that prosecutors failed to turn over information uncovered by the task force.

In addition to Gates, the murder cases in Texas and Maryland and a third in Alaska reveal examples of shortcomings.

All three cases, in addition to the District cases, were handled by FBI agent Malone, whose cases made up more than 90 percent of scientific reviews found by The Post.

In Texas, the review of Benjamin Herbert Boyle’s case got underway only after the defendant was executed, 16 months after the task force was formed, despite pledges to prioritize death penalty cases.

Boyle was executed six days after the Bromwich investigation publicly criticized Malone, the FBI agent who worked on his case, but the FBI had acknowledged two months earlier that it was investigating complaints about him.

The task force asked the Justice Department’s capital-case review unit to look over its work, but the fact that it failed to prevent the execution was never publicized.

In Maryland, John Norman Huffington’s attorneys say they were never notified of the findings of the review in his case, leaving them in a battle over the law’s unsettled requirements for prosecutors to turn over potentially exculpatory evidence and over whether lawyers and courts can properly interpret scientific findings.

In Alaska, Newton P. Lambert’s defenders have been left to seek DNA testing of remaining biological evidence, if any exists, while he serves a life sentence for a 1982 murder. Prosecutors for both Huffington and Lambert claim they disclosed findings at some point to other lawyers but failed to document doing so. In Lambert’s case, The Post found that the purported notification went to a lawyer who had died.

Senior public defenders in both states say they received no such word, which they say would be highly unlikely if it in fact came.

Malone, 66, said he was simply using the best science available at the time. “We did the best we could with what we had,” he said.

Even the harshest critics acknowledge that the Justice Department worked hard to identify potentially tainted convictions. Many of the cases identified by the task force involved serious crimes, and several defendants confessed or were guilty of related charges. Courts also have upheld several convictions even after agents’ roles were discovered.

Flawed agents or a flawed system?

Because of the focus on Malone, many questionable cases were never reviewed.

But as in the Tribble and Odom cases, thousands of defendants nationwide have been implicated by other FBI agents, as well as state and local hair examiners, who relied on the same flawed techniques.

In 2002, the FBI found after it analyzed DNA in 80 selected hair cases that its agents had reported false matches more than 11 percent of the time. “I don’t believe forensic science truly understood the significance of microscopic hair comparison, and it wasn’t until [DNA] that we learned that 11 percent of the time, two hairs can be microscopically similar yet come from different people,” said Dwight E. Adams, who directed the FBI lab from 2002 to 2006.

Yet a Post review of the small fraction of cases in which an appeals court opinion describes FBI hair testimony shows that several FBI agents gave improper testimony, asserting the remote odds of a false match or invoking bogus statistics in the absence of data.

For example, in testimony in a Minnesota bank robbery case, also in 1978, Hilverda, the agent who worked on Tribble’s case, reiterated that he had been unable to distinguish among different people’s hair “only on a couple of occasions” out of more than 2,000 cases he had analyzed.

In a 1980 Indiana robbery case, an agent told jurors that he had failed to tell different people’s hair apart just once in 1,500 cases. After a slaying in Tennessee that year, another agent testified in a capital case that there was only one chance out of 4,500 or 5,000 that a hair came from someone other than the suspect.

“Those statements are chilling to read,” Bromwich said of the exaggerated FBI claims at trial.

Todd, the FBI spokeswoman, said bureau lab reports for more than 30 years have qualified their findings by saying that hair comparisons are not a means of absolute positive identification. She requested a list of cases in which agents departed from guidelines in court. The Post provided nine cases.

Todd declined to say whether the bureau considered taking steps to determine whether other agents intentionally or unintentionally misled jurors. “Only Michael Malone’s conduct was questioned in the area of hair comparisons,” Todd said. “The [inspector general] did not question the merits of microscopic hair comparisons as a scientific discipline.”

Experts say the difference between laboratory standards and examiners’ testimony in court can be important, especially if no one is reading or watching what agents say.

“It seemingly has never been routine for crime labs to do supervision based on trial testimony,” said University of Virginia School of Law professor Brandon L. Garrett. “You can have cautious standards, but if no one is supervising their implementation, it’s predictable that analysts may cross the line.”

‘Veil of secrecy’

A review of the task force documents, as well as Post interviews, found that the Justice Department struggled to balance its roles as a law enforcer defending convictions, a minister of justice protecting the innocent, and a patron and practitioner of forensic science.

By excluding defense lawyers from the process and leaving it to prosecutors to decide case by case what to disclose, authorities waded into a legal and ethical morass that left some prisoners locked away for years longer than necessary. By adopting a secret process that limited accountability, documents show, the task force left the scope and nature of scientific problems unreported, obscuring issues from further study and permitting similar breakdowns.

“The government has hidden behind the veil of secrecy to shield these abuses despite official assurances that justice would be done,” said David Colapinto, general counsel of the National Whistleblowers Center.

The American Bar Association and others have proposed stronger ethics rules for prosecutors to act on information that casts doubt on convictions; opening laboratory and other files to the defense; clearer reporting and evidence retention; greater involvement by scientists in setting rules for testimony at criminal trials; and more scientific training for lawyers and judges.

Other experts propose more oversight by standing state forensic-science commissions and funding for research into forensic techniques and experts for indigent defendants.

A common theme among reform-minded lawyers and experts is taking the oversight of the forensic labs away from police and prosecutors.

“It’s human to make mistakes,” said Steven D. Benjamin, president-elect of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “It’s wrong not to learn from them.”

More specifically, the D.C. Public Defender Service, Benjamin’s group and others said justice would be served by retesting hair evidence in convictions nationwide from 1996 and earlier. “If microscopic hair analysis was a key piece of evidence in a conviction, and it was one of only a limited amount of evidence in a case, would it be worthwhile to retest that using mitochondrial DNA? I would say absolutely,” said Adams, the former FBI lab director.

The promised review by federal prosecutors of hair convictions in the District would not include cases before 1985, when FBI records were computerized, and would not disclose any defendant’s name. That approach would have missed Gates, Odom and Tribble, who were convicted earlier.

Representatives for Machen, the FBI and the Justice Department also declined to say why the review should be limited to D.C. cases. The Post found that 95 percent of the troubled cases identified by the task force were outside the District.

Avis E. Buchanan, director of the D.C. Public Defender Service, said her agency must be “a full participant” in the review, which it has sought for two years, and that it should extend nationwide. “Surely the District of Columbia is not the only place where such flawed evidence was used to convict the innocent,” she said.

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2nd Circuit Appeals Court Rules That It Isn’t Possible To Steal Computer Code – After Federal Government Brought Bogus Charges Against Programmer For Downloading Source Code From Company’s Computers – Also Reversed Bogus “Espionage” Conviction

April 13, 2012

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Sergey Aleynikov, an ex-Goldman-Sachs programmer, spent a year in prison for downloading source code of the firm’s high-speed trading software before his sentence was overturned in February. Today, the court explained why—downloading computer code doesn’t constitute stealing under the National Stolen Property Act.

The 2nd Circuit Appeals Court ruled that since computer code cannot be physically obtained, it doesn’t fit the legal description of a stolen good. “Because Aleynikov did not ‘assume physical control’ over anything when he took the source code, and because he did not thereby ‘deprive [Goldman] of its use,’ Aleynikov did not violate the [National Stolen Property Act],” the court wrote in its decision.

In addition, the Appeals Court struck down charges against Aleynikov of violating the Electronic Espionage Act since the software was never destined for foreign markets. Specifically, the judges wrote, “Because the HFT system was not designed to enter or pass in commerce, or to make something that does, Aleynikov’s theft of source code relating to that system was not an offense under the EEA.”

The court was quick to point out that this decision should not be interpreted for all cases of electronic theft, however the legal recognition that code isn’t physical property (which people have been saying for years) is sure to make this case a focal point in future MPAA/RIAA wranglings.

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71 Year Old Woman Shot And Arrested For Defending Herself During Warrantless Home Invasion By Lee County Florida Deputies

March 31, 2012

LEE COUNTY, FLORIDA – A 71-year-old woman stood at her bedroom doorway pointing a .45 caliber handgun and warned the visitors in her home that she would shoot.

Patricia Mapes stood her ground. It didn’t matter that the visitors were Lee County deputies, according to arrest reports.

“I don’t care who you are. I’ll shoot you,” Mapes told deputies last Friday night (March 23) after they entered her home, called out for the woman and identified themselves.

Mapes fired at the three deputies and they fired back. During the exchange, Mapes was struck and fell to the ground, according to the arrest report. She was taken to Lee Memorial Hospital with undisclosed injuries.

On Thursday, at the hospital, Mapes was arrested and is facing charges of two counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer.

The deputies had responded to Mapes’ home on the 16000 block of Briarcliff Lane in Lee County after her daughter called authorities, concerned her mother was suicidal, according to reports. Mapes had received bad news earlier in the day and said she “couldn’t take it anymore.”

Deputies say they knocked several times on Mapes’ front door and received no response. The front door was unlocked and Mapes’ car was in the garage, according to reports.

When Mapes confronted them with a gun the deputies started backing off. And after she started shooting the deputies said they “thought they were going to die,” according to the arrest report

Sheriff Mike Scott said last week the deputies were at Mapes’ home for “a little more than a welfare check.” The sheriff also defended the deputies for shooting the elderly woman.

“When someone is shooting at us, we don’t ask them how old they are,” Scott said.

The deputies, whose names have not been released, are on paid administrative leave until the investigation is turned over state, agency spokesman Tony Schall said. Mapes was released on bond on Friday.

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Pilot Has Metal Breakdown While On Duty – So Federal Prosecutors File Criminal Charges And He Now Faces 20 Years In Federal Prison

March 28, 2012

DALLAS, TEXAS – Federal prosecutors in Dallas have filed a criminal complaint against the pilot accused of causing a disturbance on a JetBlue flight that had to be diverted to Amarillo Tuesday.

Clayton Osbon, 49, is facing a charge of knowingly interfering and attempting to interfere with the performance of the duties of a flight crew member and flight attendant of the aircraft.

According to the criminal affidavit, Osbon showed up late for the flight from New York to Las Vegas and missed the crew briefing. The affidavit says he wasn’t acting strangely before takeoff, but “as they were climbing out of JFK, Osbon said something to the (pilot) about being evaluated by someone.”

The pilot told investigators Osbon then began speaking about his church and how he needed to “focus.” The captain then made incoherent statements about religion, the affidavit says.

Osbon’s colleague told investigators he first became concerned after the captain said “things just don’t matter” before yelling over the radio at air traffic control to be quiet.

The affidavit then says Osbon turned off the radios and began dimming the monitors and scolded other pilots for attempting to speak with air traffic controllers.

The pilot told investigators he “became really worried” after Osbon declared “we need to take a leap of faith.” Soon after, the affidavit says the captain told the pilot “we’re not going to Vegas.”

After this, the affidavit says Osbon exited the cockpit and attempted to charge into an occupied bathroom. Another pilot slipped into the cockpit to take over Osbon’s duties, the affidavit says.

Passengers told reporters Tuesday that Osbon began exhibiting bizarre behavior just before realizing he had been locked out of the cockpit. Osbon allegedly began screaming “let me in” and banged on the door so hard the other pilots thought he was going to break through, the affidavit states.

The rest of the crew was concerned, the affidavit says, because Osbon disregarded security protocol upon leaving the cockpit.

He aggressively grabbed a flight attendant’s hand and then began banging on the occupied restroom, telling a passenger she needed to exit because he needed to use it, the affidavit says.

After leaving the lavatory, the affidavit says Osbon mentioned “150 souls on board.”

Colleagues tried to keep Osbon near the back of the plane, but he sprinted back up the cabin’s aisle after asking a male passenger “if he had a problem.”

Passengers said Osbon began yelling about Jesus, Sept. 11, Iraq, Iran and terrorists and asked them to “pray f––– now for Jesus Christ” before a flight attendant jumped on the intercom and asked for those onboard to “restrain him.”

The affidavit says the captain also yelled “Guys, push it to full throttle.”

Osbon was tackled to the floor and pinned until the plane landed in Amarillo. Flight 191 departed New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport about three-and-a-half hours before the disruption and was on its way to Las Vegas. The flight was scheduled to take five hours.

Interference with Flight Crew Members and Attendants is punishable by a $250,000 fine and/or up to 20 years in prison, according to this Federal Aviation Administration document.

JetBlue had already suspended the captain before he was charged. Osbon is currently being held at an in-state medical facility.

Late Tuesday afternoon, CBSDFW received this statement from the FAA:

“This morning, at approximately 9:53 a.m. Central Time, a Jet Blue flight en route to Las Vegas from New York JFK International Airport was diverted to Amarillo Rick Husband International Airport for an onboard medical emergency.

Preliminary information indicates that after landing, it was learned that the co-pilot became concerned that the captain exhibited erratic behavior during the flight. The captain had exited the cockpit during the flight, after which the co-pilot locked the door. When the captain attempted to enter the locked cockpit, he was subdued by passengers. After the flight landed safely, local law enforcement secured the pilot without incident, and he was transported by ambulance for medical evaluation.

The aircraft was towed to the terminal building and the passengers were safely deplaned from the aircraft. Passengers are currently awaiting continuation of their travel to Las Vegas.

The FBI, FAA, TSA and local law enforcement are coordinating on this incident.”

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US Federal Government’s High Profile Michigan Court Case Against “Homegrown Rutal Extremists” Falls Apart At The Seams – Bogus Charges Dismissed By Trial Judge

March 27, 2012

DETROIT, MICHIGAN — A federal judge on Tuesday gutted the government’s case against seven members of a Michigan militia, dismissing the most serious charges in an extraordinary defeat for federal authorities who insisted they had captured homegrown rural extremists poised for war.

U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts said the members’ expressed hatred of law enforcement didn’t amount to a conspiracy to rebel against the government. The FBI had secretly planted an informant and an FBI agent inside the Hutaree militia starting in 2008 to collect hours of anti-government audio and video that became the cornerstone of the case.



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“The court is aware that protected speech and mere words can be sufficient to show a conspiracy. In this case, however, they do not rise to that level,” the judge said on the second anniversary of raids and arrests that broke up the group.

Roberts granted requests for acquittal on the most serious charges: conspiring to commit sedition, or rebellion, against the U.S. and conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction. Other weapons crimes tied to the alleged conspiracies also were dismissed.

“The judge had a lot of guts,” defense attorney William Swor said. “It would have been very easy to say, ‘The heck with it,’ and hand it off to the jury. But the fact is she looked at the evidence, and she looked at it very carefully.”

The trial, which began Feb. 13, will resume Thursday with only a few gun charges remaining against militia leader David Stone and son Joshua Stone, both from Lenawee County, Mich. They have been in custody without bond for two years.

Prosecutors said Hutaree members were anti-government rebels who combined training and strategy sessions to prepare for a violent strike against federal law enforcement, triggered first by the slaying of a police officer.

But there never was an attack. Defense lawyers said highly offensive remarks about police and the government were wrongly turned into a high-profile criminal case that drew public praise from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who in 2010 called Hutaree a “dangerous organization.”

David Stone’s “statements and exercises do not evince a concrete agreement to forcibly resist the authority of the United States government,” Roberts said Tuesday. “His diatribes evince nothing more than his own hatred for — perhaps even desire to fight or kill — law enforcement; this is not the same as seditious conspiracy.”

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade declined to comment. Two years ago, when militia members were arrested, she said it was time to “take them down.”

The FBI had put a local informant, Dan Murray, inside the militia in 2008 and paid him $31,000. An FBI agent from New Jersey also was embedded. Steve Haug, known as “Jersey Steve,” posed as a trucker and spent months secretly recording talks with Stone. He even served as Stone’s best man at his wedding, a celebration with militia members wearing military fatigues.

Haug repeatedly talked to Stone about building pipe bombs and getting other sophisticated explosives. The FBI rented a warehouse in Ann Arbor where the agent would invite him and others to store and discuss weapons.

Haug told jurors he was “shocked” by Stone’s knowledge of explosives, noting it matched some of his own instruction as a federal agent.

Stone was recorded saying he was willing to kill police and even their families. He considered them part of a “brotherhood” — a sinister global authority that included federal law enforcers and United Nations troops.

He had bizarre beliefs: Stone suspected Germany and Singapore had aircraft stationed in Texas, and thousands of Canadian troops were poised to take over Michigan. He said the government put computer chips in a flu vaccine.

He had a speech prepared for a regional militia gathering in Kentucky in 2010, but bad weather forced him and others to return to Michigan. Instead, he read it in the van while a secret camera installed by the FBI captured the remarks.

“It is time to strike and take our nation back so that we may be free again from tyranny,” Stone said. “Time is up, God bless all of you and welcome to the new revolution.”

Swor said Stone is a Christian who was bracing for war against the Antichrist.

“This is not the United States government. This is Satan’s army,” Swor told the judge Monday, referring to the enemy.

Militia members cleared of all charges were Stone’s wife, Tina Stone, and his son, David Stone Jr.; Thomas Piatek of Whiting, Ind.; Michael Meeks of Manchester, Mich.; and Kris Sickles of Sandusky, Ohio.

“It’s hard to believe it’s over,” said Tina Stone, crying as she spoke by phone. “Thank God we live in a country where we do have freedom of speech.”

Joshua Clough of Blissfield, Mich., pleaded guilty to a weapons charge in December and awaits his sentence. Jacob Ward of Huron, Ohio, will have a separate trial.

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Self Defense: Chicago Illinois Charged 80 Year Old Man After He Shot Burglar Stealing Liquor In His Home

March 27, 2012

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – Neighbors are calling on prosecutors to drop charges against an 80-year-old owner of a local tavern who allegedly shot a burglar in his Englewood home on the South Side.

“If a man can’t defend himself from harm, what can he do?” asked Darryl Smith, surrounded at a news conference by dozens of longtime Englewood residents and activists. “If he hadn’t defended himself, we would be here for a different reason — because an intruder came in and killed him.

“We’re outraged as a community and we’re calling for the state’s attorney’s office to drop the charges,” he added. “This man has done nothing wrong.”

Police say Homer Wright and his wife were sleeping when someone broke into their home in the 6400 block of South Morgan Street about 6:30 a.m. Monday. The intruder, identified by police as Anthony Robinson, broke through several boards and entered through a rear bathroom window attempting to steal some liquor.

Wright was awakened by his wife and grabbed a handgun and shot Robinson in the lower right leg, police said.

Robinson, 19, of the 6000 block of South Wood Street, was charged with felony burglary after he was treated at St. Bernard Hospital and Health Care Center and released.

Robinson, wearing a white-and-blue hospital gown and his left hand wrapped in a bandage, limped into bond court this afternoon, where Judge Donald Panarese Jr. ordered him held on $150,000 bond.

Wright was charged with one felony count of unlawful use of a weapon after police discovered he had two prior weapons convictions from 1968 and 1994, officials said. Records show Wright also was convicted of theft in 1990. Wright turned his gun over to detectives.

Panarese ordered Wright released on his own recognizance.

On his South Side block, Wright is known as a hard-working neighbor who runs a bar that has become a neighborhood institution. Known as “Tank,” Wright has operated the bar next to his home for more than 40 years, neighbors said.

“He doesn’t fiddle around and he’s strictly business,” said Delmar Dunn, who operates a barber shop across the street from the bar. “He tries to keep order and he tolerates no foolishness. He’s not an aggressive man, so I’m surprised he shot. He must have been pretty afraid or concerned for his own safety.”

Anita Dominique, head of the block club in the neighborhood, said she has known Wright for more than 30 years. “He is a pillar of our community,” she said. “What does it say to me and other senior citizens that we will be arrested if we defend ourselves?”

Smith said police and prosecutors should have found a way to avoid charging Wright. “Just take the gun,” Smith said.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday at an unrelated news conference, Mayor Rahm Emanuel declined to talk about Wright’s arrest. “I cannot comment on it in the middle of an investigation. It would be inappropriate,” he said.

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

March 23, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Botched Autopsy By Alabama Department Of Forensic Science Led To Woman Being Jailed For 9 Months On Bogus Capital Murder Charge

March 20, 2012

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – Alabama took the first step Tuesday toward paying nearly $119,000 to a church pianist and mother of two who was wrongfully jailed for nine months on a capital murder charge because of a botched autopsy on her newborn son.

The Senate’s General Fund committee unanimously approved the payment Tuesday for Bridget Lee, a 37-year-old from Carrollton in west Alabama.

“I feel blessed they are considering that, but there is no amount of money that will get my life back,” she said in a phone interview.

Alabama law allows the state Legislature to compensate people who are wrongfully incarcerated. The district attorney who initially prosecuted Lee, Chris McCool, said he never would have brought the case against her if he had been provided the correct facts from the beginning. He supports her getting compensated.

“Our job is not just to prosecute and win cases. Our job is to do justice,” he said in an interview.

Lee acknowledges the facts looked bad when she was arrested in November 2006.

The bank bookkeeper and Baptist church pianist had an affair in her small west Alabama town of 1,000, got pregnant and tried to keep it secret. She felt sick on Nov. 6, 2006, went home from work and delivered a premature baby in her bathroom. She panicked, placed the newborn in a plastic container and hid it in her vehicle for several days before a co-worker’s husband notified authorities.

Lee told investigators the baby was born dead, but a state forensic pathologist ruled the child was suffocated.

“I knew something was wrong because I knew I did not suffocate the baby, but I had no way to prove it,” Lee said.

She was indicted for capital murder, which carries the death penalty. She spent nine months in jail and 20 months on home confinement at her parents’ home.

During the ordeal, her husband divorced her and got custody of the children and their possessions.

Then her attorney got an independent expert to review the autopsy. His findings led the Alabama Department of Forensic Science to reopen the case and rule the child was stillborn. The department also reviewed dozens of other autopsies that the forensic pathologist performed during a brief stint with the department, but did not alter any of those.

Lee’s life is partially back in order. She has a full-time data entry job. She’s playing piano again at Aliceville First Baptist Church. And she’s engaged.

But she said she only has visitation with her children, ages 8 and 10, every other weekend. And her life will never be normal again because some people will always question what happened.

“I live in a small town, and it will always be there,” she said.

The payment to Lee is included in an appropriations measure that must be approved by the full Senate and House, and that must be signed by Gov. Robert Bentley.

The committee’s chairman, Republican Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur, said he expects that to happen because the payment has the backing of House and Senate leaders.

The $118,767 payment would amount to about $50,000 annually for the time she faced the capital murder charge.

“I pray and hope it passes because I lost everything. I lost my children and I lost my reputation,” Lee said.

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Burnsville Minnesota Man Thrown In Jail With No Bail And Latter Placed On Electronic Home Confinement After Being Unable To Purchase Proper Siding For His Home

March 20, 2012

BURNSVILLE, MINNESOTA – A Burnsville man on his way to work was arrested and thrown in jail without bond, and then subjected to electronic home monitoring.

But it wasn’t for drugs or a DWI or some other major crime.

Burnsville city leaders say Mitch Faber’s dealings with the law all stem from his failure to properly put up siding on his house.

Yep, siding.

Faber says he had every intention of completing the stucco and decorative rock project on his home but he ran into money troubles when the economy soured. Burnsville leaders say they had no choice to enforce the law.

Here’s how a simple code violation spiraled into a criminal case:

Mitch and his wife Jean say it all began back in 2007 when they received a letter from the city of Burnsville saying, in part, “you must complete the siding of your home.”

“We were in the process of finishing,” Mitch insists. “This wasn’t something that we were trying to avoid doing.”

But in 2009 there were two more warning letters, and in 2010 yet another–this time requiring Faber to appear in court. Burnsville leaders provided 5 Eyewitness News with these 2010 photos of the Fabers’ home as proof there was a problem.

“I was expecting maybe a $700 fine,” Faber said. Instead he was given an ultimatum — finish the siding or go to jail.

So Mitch returned to his house and he and Jean say they spent about $12,000 putting a stucco façade over the plywood exterior. They thought they were finally in compliance. They were wrong.

Faber was then taken into custody in November 2011 after Burnsville inspectors ruled the work was still not satisfactorily completed. A warrant for his arrest had been issued when, according to the city, Faber failed to turn himself in because the house was still not up to code. Faber is adamant it was. Regardless, what came next, he says, was absolutely uncalled for and humiliating.

“I’m walking around in a green and white jump suit, I had to shower in front of a sheriff, I was shackled, my wrists were handcuffed to my waist — for siding.”

“It was insane,” said Jean. “Absolutely insane.”

After two days locked up, a judge agreed Mitch should be released but required him to submit to electronic home monitoring. In Dakota County, that process requires participants — no matter what their crimes — to blow into a drug and alcohol device every time an alarm goes off.

“They could call me at 2 in the morning and they did,” Faber said.

Burnsville city leaders would not grant 5 Eyewitness News an interview about the Faber case but in an email from Communications Coordinator Marty Doll, he wrote, “”The city feels it provided Mr. Faber ample opportunity (nearly four years) to remedy the situation before issuing a citation…the city’s practice is to only issue citations for property maintenance issues (such as this one) as a last resort. In this case, the city determined a citation was the next appropriate course of action. Once the citation was issued, the matter had essentially left the city’s hands and entered the hands of the court system.”

5 Eyewitness News also called Dakota County Corrections as well as Midwest Monitoring (the company in charge of the electronic home monitoring) but calls were not returned. In a letter dated February 21, 2012, Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom wrote the Fabers, “This was a prosecution initiated by the city of Burnsville through their privately-retained city prosecutor. The County Attorney has no oversight or supervision over city prosecutors…While it was a district court judge who heard this case and made decisions pertaining thereto, judges are employed by the state of Minnesota and not Dakota County.”

The Fabers point to what they call far more glaring code violations outside other houses in their neighborhood. They’d like to know why they were targeted and others weren’t.

“It’s selective enforcement,” said Jean.

Most importantly, though, the Fabers say Burnsville made a mockery of an otherwise law-abiding man.

Asked Mitch, “What did you accomplish other than wasting the city’s money, the county’s money, our money, and then all the mental and emotional anguish? What did you accomplish?”

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Millions Wasted On Shoddy FBI Investigation, Prosecution, And 2 Federal Jury Trials – Casino Owner, State Lawmakers, And Others Not Guilty Of Laundry List Of Bogus Charges

March 7, 2012

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA — A jury Wednesday acquitted a casino owner, three state lawmakers and two other defendants on all counts in a high-profile federal case that alleged cash offers for votes to legalize gambling in the state.

The jury returned its verdict after seven days of deliberations in the trial for VictoryLand casino owner Milton McGregor, state Sen. Harri Anne Smith of Slocomb, former Sens. Larry Means of Attalla and Jim Preuitt of Talladega, VictoryLand lobbyist Tom Coker, and Country Crossing casino spokesman Jay Walker.

McGregor was accused of offering large campaign contributions to legislators for their votes for gambling legislation. State Sen. Harri Anne Smith and former Sens. Larry Means and Jim Preuitt were accused of agreeing to accept bribes in return for their votes.

The jury found McGregor and the others innocent of all counts, including conspiracy and bribery.

The case was the latest in a series of government corruption investigations in Alabama, including the conviction of former Gov. Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy on bribery charges in 2006 and a probe of Alabama’s two-year college system that brought down three legislators and the system’s former chancellor in 2008.

The federal investigation of vote buying began with three Republican legislators telling the FBI they were offered campaign contributions if they would support legislation designed to let electronic bingo games operate in Alabama. The three used recording devices to tape calls and meetings and the FBI tapped phones during a yearlong probe that coincided with Republican Gov. Bob Riley creating a task force to shut down electronic bingo. Riley contended the machines, featuring flashing lights and sound effects, were illegal slot machines and not simply an electronic version of paper bingo.

Riley’s task force seized machines and won court battles while casino operators failed in 2009 and in 2010 to pass protective legislation.

Federal prosecutors said behind the scenes, two casino operators and their lobbyists were offering millions in campaign contributions, benefit concerts by country music entertainers, free polling and other incentives for votes.

Ronnie Gilley, the developer of Country Crossing casino in Dothan, and two of his lobbyists, Jennifer Pouncy and Jarrod Massey, pleaded guilty to conspiracy. Former state Rep. Terry Spicer of Elba also pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from Massey and Gilley. All four helped the prosecution and are scheduled for sentencing in April.

Prosecutors said Gilley provided Smith with $200,000 in campaign money, plus a fund-raising concert by John Anderson and Lorrie Morgan. They accused Gilley and McGregor of promising Means $100,000 for his vote. They accused Gilley, McGregor and Walker of promising Preuitt $2 million in contributions, a fund-raising concert by country music starts and other campaign support.

Defense attorneys argued the case was based on lies told by the guilty in hopes of getting lighter punishment.

All three indicted senators voted for the gambling legislation when it passed the Senate on March 30, 2010. The FBI announced its investigation two days later, and the bill died in the House without coming to a vote.

McGregor’s casino, 15 miles east of Montgomery, was once the state’s largest with 6,000 machines, but it has been closed since the crackdown in 2010. Other casinos, including one in Dothan operated by Gilley’s former partners, are operating.

The trial was the second for the defendants. The first ended in August with no convictions, two defendants acquitted, and the jury unable to resolve all charges against the remaining defendants.

One thing that was never in dispute in the trial was the profitability of electronic bingo. McGregor’s attorneys acknowledged his casino in Shorter made $40 million in 2009 when it was operating all year and lost $4 million in 2010 when it was closed most of the year.

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Bogus Murder Charges Against Two Maryland Abortion Doctors Dropped

March 7, 2012

CECIL COUNTY, MARYLAND – Murder charges against two Maryland doctors over abortions they performed on late-term fetuses have been dropped, prosecutors said Wednesday.

“We have exercised our discretion to dismiss them at this point,” said Cecil County State’s Attorney Ellis Rollins.

The doctors, Steven Brigham and Nicola Riley, had faced identical charges: five counts each of first-degree murder, five of second-degree murder and one of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

The investigation began August 13, 2010, when Riley brought a woman into an Elkton hospital due to a “complication resulting from a medical procedure,” police said. The woman had driven from New Jersey to Maryland for an abortion, investigators later determined.

Days later, Elkton police searched the abortion clinic where Brigham and Riley work and found several fetuses “in a freezer chest.” The fetuses were taken to a medical examiner’s office in Baltimore, according a police news release.

Maryland is one of 38 states that have fetal homicide laws, often supported by anti-abortion advocates, which advocates say are intended to protect the lives of both the pregnant woman and the fetus.

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Fags Sue After Being Attacked By Off-Duty Cleveland Ohio Police Officer, Beaten Again A Week Latter By On-Duty SWAT Officers, And Tossed In Jail On Bogus Charges – Without Pants

February 5, 2012

CLEVELAND, OHIO –  Two gay men who say they were punched and pinned to the ground by an off-duty police officer before being called offensive names and jailed without their trousers have sued the city and its police over what they call anti-gay bias.

Steven Ondo and Jonathan Simcox said the off-duty officer, who was a neighbor, complained about a noisy argument on the street and attacked them last April and had them arrested. A week later, they said, they were arrested by SWAT officers and were punched again at their home while lounging in T-shirts and underpants. They said they were denied a chance to get their pants and weren’t provided with any in jail for a day.

The men were charged with assaulting the officer but were acquitted Oct. 20 in a non-jury trial.

Ondo, 22, and Simcox, 25, filed the U.S. District Court lawsuit against the city and its police last month and asked for unspecified damages. They said their goal was to deter biased treatment by police.

During the second arrest, the lawsuit says, the officers repeatedly referred to Ondo and Simcox as “faggots” and said “faggots don’t get to wear pants to jail” when they were transported to the city lockup. Simcox’s brother was at the house and asked if he could get the pants for them, but police refused, although he was allowed to get their shoes, the lawsuit says.

Police usually allow cooperative arrested people to retrieve their clothing.

A top city official said Friday the city wouldn’t discuss details of the litigation.

“The city of Cleveland is aware that the lawsuit has been filed and will appropriately address this legal matter in court,” interim Law Director Barbara Langhenry said in an email.

Ondo and Simcox could not be reached Friday. No phone was listed for Ondo in court records, and a phone number for Simcox provided by his attorney wasn’t accepting calls.

Attorney Dan Chaplin, who represented Ondo in the criminal case, said each man weighs about 120 to 130 pounds and they were tossed around like rag dolls by their 225-pound neighbor.

About a week later, he said, a SWAT team calling them “fags” and “queer” arrested them at their home at about 5:30 a.m. on a warrant accusing them of assaulting a police officer. The team then put them in a police van and drove around for a couple of hours making other arrests, he said.

“They were humiliated and embarrassed. They were shackled to strangers while they were in their underwear and they couldn’t leave,” Chaplin said. “And the other guys that were arrested were allowed to get clothes on.”

At the jail, he said, police mocked them, telling them “fags don’t deserve to wear pants” and asked them questions about their sex lives.

“It was just real old-fashioned gay bashing by the Cleveland police department,” he said.

Cleveland police and the city’s Office of Professional Standards said no complaint had been filed in the case, mayoral spokeswoman Andrea Taylor said.

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Veteran New York City Police Officer Michael Daragjati Expected To Plead Guilty In Federal Court After Charging Man With Bogus Crimes

January 24, 2012

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – An eight-year NYPD veteran is expected to plead guilty to using a racial slur while bragging that he had falsely charged a black man with resisting arrest after stopping and frisking him on Staten Island last spring.

Michael Daragjati, 32, is expected to enter the plea in federal court in Downtown Brooklyn Tuesday morning.

Daragjati, who is white, was charged with arresting a 31-year-old black man who objected to being stopped and frisked on Targee Street last April.

He claimed in a police report that the man flailed his arms and kicked his legs during the arrest, causing him to be detained for about 36 hours before being released.

The next day, Daragjati allegedly used a racial slur in describing the suspect in a conversation with a female friend.

Daragjati was also charged in connection with two other incidents.

The case highlighted civil rights advocates’ concerns about the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy, which they say disproportionately singles out blacks and Latinos.

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Couple Not Guilty After New Jersey Officals Pursue Obviously Bogus “Abuse” Allegations – State Didn’t Like Childrens Names

October 26, 2011

NEW JERSEY – Heath and Deborah Campbell, who named two of their children Adolf Hitler and JoyceLynn Aryan Nation, are claiming that a court vindicated them of all abuse allegations last month. But after 33 months in foster care, the children are still not home.

New Jersey Family Court officials had no comment Tuesday.

“Actually, the judge and DYFS told us that there was no evidence of abuse and that it was the names! They were taken over the children’s names,” Heath Campbell told NBC 10 Tuesday.

Court records last year stated that the children were not removed from the home because of their names, but because of tangible evidence of abuse or neglect.

Protesting the fact that they still don’t have their kids, the Campbells picketed with three other people outside of child services offices in Flemington, N.J. Tuesday. The couple spoke exclusively to NBC 10, saying that the state has no right to keep their children away from them now that the court allegedly ruled that the kids were taken away without cause.

“I don’t sleep, I don’t eat much. I miss my kids. Miss their pitter patters on the floor,” Heath Campbell told NBC 10’s Doug Shimell. “It’s hard. I fall asleep with their pictures.”

The Campbell’s three small children were removed from their Holland Township home by the state in January 2009 after they asked a grocery store in Greenwich, N.J., to write “Adolf Hitler” on their son’s birthday cake.

Though a local Wal-Mart honored the birthday cake request, Adolf Hitler Campbell and siblings JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell were put into foster care.

“They beg to come home all of the time,” Deborah told NBC 10 Tuesday. “They beg to see their dad, they want to see their dad all the time.”

While the Campbells maintained from the beginning that the only reason their children were taken away is because of their given names, New Jersey court documents stated last year that there was alleged abuse and parental incompetence.

A New Jersey appeals court ruled in August 2010 that there was sufficient evidence of abuse or neglect because of domestic violence in the home, and though there was a gag order for both parties in the case (which the Campbells have broken multiple times to deny the allegations), authorities have stated in the past that putting the children into the foster system had nothing to do with their names.

Court records stated last year that both parents were victims of childhood abuse and both were unemployed and suffering from unspecified physical and psychological disabilities.

The Campbells say that a judge will decide by early December if the kids will come home.

“Can’t wait for the decision,” Heath Campbell said Tuesday. “Can’t wait for them to come home.”

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Innocent Man Released After 4 1/2 Years Of Life Sentence In Alabama State Prison

October 24, 2011

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Antonio Williams walked out of prison this summer with a proclamation of innocence.

He had not, a judge ruled, raped a little girl, a crime for which he had served four years, six months and 26 days in prison.

Williams walked out of prison with that proclamation, with the feeling of redemption it brought.

But he walked into the world without much else. The family he left behind was broken, the jobs he could perform had disappeared.

The life he knew was gone.

“You cannot give back five years of my life for something I didn’t do,” Williams said. “Right now, I want justice.”

Williams, 43, says he is able to forgive. But as he tries to restart his life, he cannot promise to forget.

He can’t forget the time he spent in prison, nor the stigma of being convicted — even wrongly — of child rape.

He can’t forget that it’s been almost six years since he has seen or talked to his own little girl, who now is almost a teenager.

And he can’t forget the system that found a way to convict him in the first place.

“I haven’t got no sorry or thank you from these folks.” he said.

‘Tried to be fair’

Williams grew up in Birmingham, according to court documents. He attended Wenonah High School and graduated there in 1986.

After graduation, Williams worked a variety of jobs including as a cook at Burger King and McDonald’s, and a dietary assistant at St. Vincent’s Hospital.

In 2000, he became a father. The relationship with the little girl’s mother had ended before Williams knew she was pregnant.

“I wasn’t denying her,” Williams said of his infant daughter. “She was the spitting image of me.”

The mother told him about the baby, but later tried to claim it wasn’t his.

A paternity test proved otherwise, and he vowed to stay in his daughter’s life, despite the mother’s objections.

Williams spent time with his daughter at her grandfather’s house where she lived. Her mother had four children, and all lived with her father who had custody of them.

Williams said the other girls would get upset if he paid attention only to his daughter, so he did for all what he did for his. “I tried to be fair,” he said.

That included giving the girls baths, a fatherly task that would come back to haunt him.

In 2005, Williams learned that he was accused of rape and sexual abuse of his daughter’s 9-year-old half sister, one of the girls he had helped to bathe and take care of.

The allegations surfaced in interviews at the Prescott House after it was discovered that the little girl had sexually transmitted diseases.

“She said I touched her on her private parts, three times,” Williams said. “She said that I told her if she told everybody what I did, I would kill her.”

The girl’s father was trying to get custody of her. Williams was trying to get custody of his own daughter.

Someone, Williams said, concocted lies to stop that from happening. Lies that wouldn’t go away.

“I was mad as hell,” Williams said. “They were playing with an innocent man’s life.”

Williams was arrested on April 27, 2005, after being indicted by a grand jury.

“I didn’t think it would go that far,” Williams said. “The detective had told me I had nothing to worry about, that a grand jury would never indict me.”

Prosecutors claimed that Williams had sexual intercourse with the alleged victim, and improperly touched her, several times when the girl was between the ages of 3 and 6.

A year later, Williams said he went to trial before an all-white jury, where various family members of the girl — relatives both by blood and by marriage — testified. There were no eyewitnesses, and no physical evidence, such as DNA. Just the word of an abused little girl mired in a dysfunctional family.

A jury on April 5, 2007, unanimously convicted Williams of two counts of rape.

“I cried,” Williams said. “I never was, and never will, be a child rapist.”

Williams waited for jurors outside of the courthouse. He screamed at them as they left, something former Circuit Court Judge Gloria Bahakel noted in Williams’ sentencing hearing three weeks later.

Williams’ pastor, the Rev. Thomas Moon who has since retired from St. Paul Lutheran Church in Titusville, pleaded with the judge not to hold that against Williams. Williams was a member of the church before his arrest, and was in the choir.

“When I went through instruction classes with him, I was aware of the temper problems in the past,” Moon told Judge Bahakel. “I have counseled him on being more respectful of the process and not letting his personal emotions burst out. He has a very strong feeling that he is innocent in this matter.”

At the May 2007 hearing, Bahakel asked Williams if he had anything to say.

“Nothing I can say,” a weary Williams said. “I am still not guilty.”

Prosecutor Jim Neill argued for the maximum sentence.

“This man raped and sexually abused not just once or twice, but several times, according to evidence, a 5 to 6-year-old girl. He deserves the maximum penalty in this case.”

Bahakel sentenced Williams to life in prison. His only previous convictions were for driving without a license, and third-degree trespassing. He was also ordered to enter the prison’s sex offender program.

“I thought it was unbelievably harsh,” Moon said.

Williams went to prison on May 18, 2007.

Prison is not an easy place for convicted child rapists, but Williams said he kept a low profile. Prison records show no infractions, and Williams said he dodged questions from fellow inmates about why he was in prison.

“It was real scary,” he said. “I was nervous at first, but after that I got the hang of it. It taught me a lot.”

Williams repeatedly proclaimed his innocence, and filed appeals to that end, but no one other than his close circle of friends believed him.

That changed in April of this year when the alleged victim, now 15, changed her story.


Problems with the case

On April 14, 2011, the girl was interviewed again at the Prescott House on an unrelated issue. It was then that she admitted Williams had never abused or raped her. In fact, she named someone else as the rapist, and her older half-sister corroborated that with tales of her own abuse.

Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls said his office moved quickly to correct the wrong.

“The victim lied, and she maintained that lie through the investigation and trial,” Falls said. “As soon as we knew that, we contacted the defense attorney and the judge.”

Williams was appointed an attorney and a hearing was set before Circuit Judge Stephen Wallace.

Wallace, in a ruling issued in May 2011, outlined problems with the initial case: From the outset, the alleged victim was reluctant and gave contradictory testimony.

“She merely indicated that the defendant had touched her while giving her a bath. She did not say it was inappropriate,” Wallace wrote. “She was unable to discuss or recall the allegations that she made to the social worker at the Prescott House, even denying at one point that she had made any allegations against defendant. Only in her testimony, and only after being prompted, did she fully implicate Williams.”

In this year’s hearing, the girl was asked repeatedly if he had ever touched her inappropriately or raped her. Each time she categorically denied it. She named the person who raped her and said he threatened her with harm if she ever told, which is why, she said, she wrongly named Williams the culprit.

“The court took exhaustive measures to examine and re-examine,” Wallace wrote. “She was asked every conceivable way whether any touching or abuse occurred, and she repeatedly and unequivocally denied that any such contact or rape ever took place.”

The judge’s order also noted that the girl told her stepmother after trial that she had not been sexually abused or raped by the defendant, but the stepmother never relayed that to authorities. Also, the victim’s half sister testified that she had been similarly abused by the person the victim is now claiming abused her.

Wallace called some of the testimony admitted into the original trial “appalling.”

He also lashed out at William’s original defense attorney, saying he had never requested to look at the victim’s 2003 interview at the Prescott House. “If he had, he would have discovered that she gave no disclosure that anyone had touched her, let alone Williams,” Wallace wrote.

In his findings, Wallace said based on the newly discovered evidence and testimony, “there is a great likelihood that had this information been known, the defendant would not have been convicted.”

There was evidence the alleged victim had had sexual contact, primarily by contracting an STD at age 6, and the judge said he is convinced she was raped by one person, or multiple people.

“The court is hopeful the true perpetrator will be brought to justice,” Wallace wrote. “Regardless, it is the court’s duty to correct the injustice committed here.”

Wallace set aside and reversed the convictions, and ordered a new trial.

Falls said he can’t recall a time in his 14 years at the district attorney’s office that a conviction was secured only to find out the victim was lying.

“I’m not sure there’s anything I can say to rectify the situation. This is a rare circumstance, and it is what everyone in this office works to prevent,” Falls said. “Our job is not to just prosecute, but to honestly seek the truth in every case. We have to rely on witnesses to prosecute those cases. This is a terrible situation where that reliance was betrayed.”

Prosecutors declined to go forward with a new trial against Williams. The person now being named as the suspect has not been charged. “We would have to make sure we had extensive corroborating, independent evidence,” besides the girl’s testimony, Falls said.

Starting over

Williams walked out of the Jefferson County Jail at 6:23 p.m. on Aug. 23.

“First of all, I said, ‘Thank God I am free,'” Williams said.

Wearing his only pair of jeans, a T-shirt and boots, Williams carried with him a partial transcript of his case, and nothing else.

He walked the several miles to the Cotton Avenue apartment of one of his best friends, where he had his first home-cooked meal in years and the support of his good friend Andre Savannah.

“I believe he was done wrong. He lost five years of his life for something he didn’t do,” Savannah said. “It was dirty, and it was wrong.”

Williams came back to virtually nothing.

His apartment, and all of his furnishings, were gone. His daughter’s aunt had kept for him one suitcase of his belongings, such as photos of Williams and his daughter, and his high school diploma.

He recently moved into his own apartment near his best friend, but the efficiency unit is all but empty. He was diagnosed with a learning disability as a child, so he gets a disability check and use it to pay for his apartment. He has a few items of clothing, a pallet on the floor, and a phone with an answering machine. There is no furniture, and no food in the refrigerator which, two weeks after moving in, was still unplugged.

The only decor is a 4 x 6 plaque on the wall that he received from his church before his arrest and conviction. “It was for me being a role model,” he said proudly.

“I don’t like starting over like this,” he said. “It’s very hard.”

In fact, he and his friends aren’t sure where to even start.

“You have to wonder what does a guy do that has been in jail for all these years,” the pastor said. “For him to get back on his feet in this type of economy, with his skill level, is going to be a tough road to go.”

Moon is trying to help guide Williams in this transition.

“I am trying to do what I can to help him out. The state of Alabama just let him out and sent him home, with nothing,” he said. “I would not want to be in his shoes right now. It is an overwhelming task for anyone.”

Though Williams wrote his daughter from prison, he never heard back from her. He has no way of knowing if she ever got his letters. He has not seen her since 2005, when she was 6.

He hasn’t yet tried to see her, he said, because he is afraid of angering her family.

“The hurting part is not seeing my child. It’s very hard,” Williams said. “It’s like a child crying at night, that’s how hard it is.”

“And,” he said, “I don’t know how she’s going to react to me when she sees me.”

“He has every right to see her,” Moon said.

“And is there any way for him to be compensated for the time he was wrongly incarcerated?” Moon said. “Where can he find work? What options does he have? Are they going to ask him where he has been for the past four years? Employers don’t want to mess with that.”

Williams said he has talked to six lawyers since his release, but none would help him. He thinks he finally has found one interested in taking him on as a client.

He wants justice, he said, whatever that may be.

“This part of my life is always going to be forever damaged, and that’s something I’ll never get over,” he said. “Only God knows how frustrated and angry I am.”

He wants his name publicly cleared.

“I ain’t no child molester,” he said. “I don’t just believe in God and his son Jesus Christ, I live it.”

Still, he said he is ready to move forward, somehow.

“I am going to live my life. I am going to get back on my feet,” Williams said. “It’s not by the grace of man, it’s by the grace of God. He done blessed me once; he’s going to bless me again.”

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Los Angeles California Police Make Wearing A Hat Or Hoodie In A Business Illegal With Bogus “Trespassing” Charges

October 13, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA –  The next time you visit a store in the San Fernando Valley, you may have to check your hat at the door or take your business elsewhere.

KNX 1070′s Vytas Safronikas reports it’s part of a new anti-crime effort announced by the Los Angeles Police Department Wednesday to deter criminals from targeting businesses in Studio City and North Hollywood.

The “Hats Off!” pilot program will post signs at nearly two dozen local businesses requesting that patrons remove their hats and helmets and pull sweatshirt “hoodies” from their heads before entering.

Under the program, a “warning notice” will be placed in the window of a business that caters to walk-in customers “to allow the customer time to remove their hat, hoodie or helmet” before entering, LAPD officials said.

If they refuse to comply, “they’d be in violation of penal code 602, which is essentially trespassing within that business,” said LAPD Capt. Justin Eisenberg.

The effort is aimed at suspects who hide their faces during crimes, Eisenberg said.

Headgear is often worn by criminals to shield their faces from security cameras during a break-in or robbery.

“If you think about schools where there are dress codes, or nightclubs or many establishments that have restraints as to what people can wear in their establishments, that’s a right that store owners have,” said Eisenberg. “This is just an additional tool that we’re giving store owners.”

Studio City and other neighboring communities have been hit by a string of robberies in recent months, including a $2 million diamond heist in North Hollywood.

If successful, the voluntary “Hats Off!” effort could soon be expanded citywide.

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Not Guilty: Queens New York Prosecutors Targeted Battered Woman – Former Police Officer Husband Abused Her For Many Years

October 7, 2011

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – She had always admitted to killing her husband, using two guns to fire 11 bullets inside the couple’s home in Queens. But she insisted she had no choice: if she had not shot him, he would have surely killed her first.

On Thursday, a jury in State Supreme Court in Queens agreed, clearing the woman, Barbara Sheehan, of second-degree murder charges in a case that had been viewed as a strenuous test of a battered-woman defense. Her son and daughter, the children of her slain husband, wept with joy.

During the trial, the jury heard how Ms. Sheehan had been relentlessly abused by her husband, Raymond Sheehan, a former police sergeant, during their 24 years of marriage. But the critical question at trial was whether Ms. Sheehan was in imminent danger when she killed her husband; New York State’s self-defense law justifies the use of lethal force when a threat to a person’s life is deemed immediate.

The trial offered two narratives so diametrically opposed that jurors said it had often been difficult to decipher who the real Barbara Sheehan was.

In one version, Ms. Sheehan and her children testified that Mr. Sheehan smashed her head against a cinder-block wall during a family vacation in Jamaica in 2007, threw boiling pasta sauce at her and punched her in the face the evening before the killing took place in their Howard Beach home in February 2008.

But prosecutors characterized Ms. Sheehan as a pathological liar who executed her husband because she despised him after years of a sexless, dysfunctional marriage, and then cloaked herself in a false story of chronic abuse to escape justice.

The physical evidence appeared unpersuasive: Mr. Sheehan had been shaving before he was killed; his body was found on the bathroom floor, the faucet still running.

Ms. Sheehan testified that the couple had a fierce argument the day before, and she had decided to leave, carrying one of her husband’s guns for protection. When her husband saw her, she said, he reached for a gun on the bathroom vanity and aimed it at her.

Ms. Sheehan and her children burst into tears when the verdict was announced, and her lawyer, Michael G. Dowd, put his arms around her. Her supporters, adorned in purple in solidarity with victims of domestic violence, began cheering.

The killing had divided the Sheehan family. Mr. Sheehan’s twin brother sat alone on one side of the courtroom, while Ms. Sheehan’s children and various supporters sat on the other side. The case had also divided the jury: a day before the verdict was reached, the jurors said they were hopelessly deadlocked.

Nonetheless, the jury of nine women and three men unexpectedly reached a consensus on Thursday, in their third day of deliberations. Ms. Sheehan was acquitted of murder and of a gun possession charge, but was found guilty of a second gun possession charge, which carries a sentence of 3 1/2 to 15 years. The judge ordered her to return to court on Wednesday, when she will be remanded into custody. Her sentencing will follow.

Outside the courtroom, Ms. Sheehan, a school secretary, could not contain her tears, clasping the hands of her children. Mr. Dowd said she would not be speaking and wanted to spend time with her family.

“There is no joy today,” he said. “The only thing that can bring joy to this family would be to bring them back 17 years before the first blow was struck.”

In an interview, the jury forewoman, Barbara Fleisher, said jurors ultimately decided to exonerate Ms. Sheehan of murder because the family’s accounts of chronic and vicious abuse had rung true. She said they had believed that Ms. Sheehan reasonably feared she faced an imminent threat of bodily harm when she shot her husband the first time.

“We believed she was justified with all the things she went through over the years,” she said. “We didn’t believe that Raymond Sheehan was the perfect family man or the photographs that were supposed to make him look like a pillar.”

She said that the jury had decided, however, to find Ms. Sheehan guilty of possessing the second weapon, since she had shot her husband even after he no longer posed a danger. The verdict, she indicated, was something of a compromise.

Ms. Sheehan’s son, Raymond Sheehan, said he was happy that his mother had been exonerated of murder, but added, “We don’t want her to go back to jail.”

Mr. Sheehan’s twin brother, Vincent Sheehan, said it was a “bad verdict.”

Asked if his brother would be able to rest in peace, he said: “I think the truth is what makes you rest in peace — not what 12 citizens say about it. But this is the system and you’ve got to live with it.”

“People make decisions based on emotion,” he added.

Ms. Fleisher said the jury’s impasse had been overcome once jurors agreed that they had several doubts about the prosecution’s case. In particular, she said the jury doubted the attempt to show that Mr. Sheehan’s bizarre sexual behavior, which included forcing his wife to watch while he masturbated dressed in an adult diaper, had been a motive for a murderous rage.

Legal experts said the verdict was a vindication for the so-called battered-woman defense. Under this strategy the battered woman chronicles her abuse in intimate and graphic detail with the aim of convincing the jury that she reasonably feared for her life based on her abuser’s past behavior.

“The case is a good marker of the willingness of jurors to realize that a history of abuse can inform a woman’s sense of the need to act in self-defense,” said Holly Maguigan, a law professor at New York University.

Richard A. Brown, the Queens district attorney, said the case was a cautionary tale that those claiming domestic abuse should not take the law into their own hands. “This is a terribly sad and tragic case,” Mr. Brown said. “A family has been torn apart. Their two children will have to pick up the pieces.”

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Richmond Virginia Man, Imprisoned For 27 Years After Wrongful Convictions, Seeks Exoneration – Cleared By DNA Evidence

September 27, 2011

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA – Lawyers for a Richmond man imprisoned nearly 30 years for at least one crime he didn’t commit are asking the Virginia Court of Appeals to exonerate him in two other sexual assaults.

Thomas Haynesworth petitioned the full court Tuesday for writs of actual innocence, which would vacate rape and abduction convictions for two sexual assaults in 1984. DNA testing in 2009 cleared the 46-year-old Haynesworth of sexual assault in two cases after the evidence implicated imprisoned serial rapist Leon Davis.

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli and prosecutors in the two localities where the crimes occurred have backed efforts to secure full exoneration for Haynesworth, who was released from prison in March but is seeking to lift his strict parole and to remove his name from public sex-offender registries.

Cuccinelli and Innocence Project attorney Shawn Ambrust told the 10 judges that several pieces of evidence discovered after Haynesworth’s convictions indicate Davis, and not Haynesworth, also committed the two rapes at issue in the petition and clear Haynesworth from having committed the crimes.

Davis committed a string of sexual assaults during the time that included the two for which Haynesworth was convicted, Ambrust said. Known attacks by Davis occurred in the same area and followed the same pattern, and law-enforcement authorities concluded that the same person committed all five attacks, she said.

Also, Ambrust said, Davis and Haynesworth looked strikingly similar. He said Haynesworth already had been misidentified twice as Davis, and witnesses described the attacker as taller than the 5-foot-6-inch Haynesworth. Davis is 5 feet 10 inches, according to Haynesworth’s attorneys.

Both Cuccinelli, representing the state of Virginia, and Ambrust argued that the body of evidence entitles Haynesworth to have the two convictions vacated because “a rational trier of fact” wouldn’t be able to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that he was the perpetrator.

In conceding that Haynesworth didn’t commit the crimes, Cuccinelli said that as the state’s chief law enforcement officer, he was acknowledging error in the case.

While the court isn’t obligated to accept such concessions, he argued that it should in this case because the concessions came after a rigorous review by the attorney general’s office, Haynesworth’s lawyers and prosecutors in Richmond and Henrico County, where the attacks occurred. All concluded that Haynesworth was innocent and Davis was guilty.

Judges asked the attorneys whether they thought the victims’ testimony identifying Haynesworth was credible, and whether it should stand because DNA evidence in the two cases is unavailable. Cuccinelli characterized the misidentifications as “innocent inaccuracy” and said that given the combined weight of the new evidence, a rational juror would conclude that the women were mistaken in naming Haynesworth as their attacker.

Police arrested the 18-year-old Haynesworth in February 1984 near his home after a victim in one of the assaults reported that a man resembling him attacked her. The other victims selected his face in photographic lineups. Ultimately, Haynesworth was convicted in three of the attacks and was acquitted of one _ in which DNA testing later implicated Davis. Prosecutors dropped charges in the case of the victim who first identified him as her attacker.

Cuccinelli noted that under Virginia’s actual innocence law, the Court of Appeals must decide the facts and the law given the new evidence implicating Davis in the cases.

Haynesworth, who now has a clerical job at the attorney general’s office, said after the hearing that he hopes the appeals panel with do the right thing, considering “27 years of my life were taken.” He said he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was wrongly arrested and convicted.

Davis is serving several life prison terms for rape and has refused to discuss the cases for which Haynesworth was convicted, Ambrust said.

The appeals court could take several months to issue a ruling. It could dismiss Haynesworth’s petition, grant him the exonerations, or send the case back to a trial court for rehearing.

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Nutcase Kissimmee Florida Police Officer Writes Parking Tickets A Week In Advance, Wrong Times, For Unmarked Areas, And For Cars Parked On Private Property

September 25, 2011

KISSIMMEE, FLORIDA — Kissimmee drivers called Eyewitness News when they got some strange parking tickets, with next week’s date on them, on city blocks where there are no parking restriction signs

“She obviously doesn’t know her numbers, doesn’t know math or anything,” said Osceola County resident Michelle Cintron, “She’s giving wrong dates, wrong times.”

Cintron got a ticket for parking just two hours in the un-posted three-hour parking zone that was dated next Monday.

Kissimmee police said they weren’t aware of not having signs posted along the stretch of Broadway Avenue.

“So I’m taking time from my job to try and figure out this problem, so it’s a waste of my time,” Cintron said.

The parking enforcement officer has also been writing tickets at a parking lot that’s not owned by the city. The police department admitted they have no jurisdiction over it.

Business owners on the block were also fed up. Workers and clients at Massage Works have gotten the tickets, too.

“They were for longer periods of time than people were actually parked – and there is no signage here in the first place,” said Marilyn Farrah, owner of Massage Works.

Police don’t know how many unwarranted tickets have been issued, but the department said to bring any suspicious tickets to the police station. The department said it had already thrown out nearly a dozen tickets, as of Friday.

Police said the area should be posted with 3-hour parking signs and they would fix the problem as soon as possible.

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Palm Beach County Florida Assistant State Attorney Jacqui Charbonneau’s Double Murder Case Fizzles As Judge Dismisses Charges Against Man Who Defended Himself – She Sought Death Penalty

September 12, 2011

PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA – Judy Mohlman thought there would at least be a trial. She said as much to her niece when she called to tell her that Michael Monahan, the man who shot Mohlman’s son Raymond to death in April, had walked out of the Palm Beach County jail a free man.

In an application of Florida’s controversial “Stand your Ground” statute, Circuit Judge Richard Oftedahl last week dismissed two first-degree murder charges against Monahan, 65. The judge ruled he was justified in shooting Raymond “Ramie” Mohlman and Matthew Vittum out of fear for his life during a dispute aboard a 35-foot sailboat anchored near Phil Foster Park.

“I don’t understand it,” Judy Mohlman said. “My whole family, we just didn’t think it would happen this way.”

In the 11-page ruling filed Tuesday, Oftedahl reconstructed details of the Sunday afternoon shooting, calling it a clear case of justified force under “Stand your Ground.” an act signed into law in 2005 which gives a person the right to respond with force when threatened with death or bodily harm.

Riviera Beach police arrived at the park on April 3 to find Monahan paddling his kayak away from the Green Galleon, where Ramie Mohlman and Vittum lay dead. In interviews with police, Monahan said the men had tried to remove him from the sailboat, which he had bought from Mohlman six months earlier for $1,000.

Mohlman, 49, a one-time competitive wrestler who quit his teaching job at Palm Beach Lakes Community High School in June 2010 and spent much of the next 10 months in Belize, had confronted Monahan, claiming the older man had racked up $500 in tickets in his name because he refused to register the boat properly. Mohlman had previously confronted Monahan about the tickets, saying the fees prevented him from taking a trip back to Belize.

But according to Monahan’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramsey, witnesses told police that by the time Mohlman boarded the Green Galleon with Vittum on the day they died, his plans were to either evict Monahan from the boat, or to kill him.

In the motion to dismiss the charges Ramsey filed in August, she pointed out that Monahan said Mohlman never showed him any proof of the tickets and felt cornered when Mohlman and Vittum boarded his boat without his permission. He said he didn’t have time to call police.

“Monahan unequivocally stated, ‘I was afraid for my life,’ ” Ramsey wrote.

Ramsey also noted that autopsy reports later showed that Mohlman’s blood-alcohol level was at .23 when he died, nearly three times the level at which drivers are presumed legally impaired. Vittum’s blood-alcohol level was .11 and the autopsy concluded he had cocaine, oxycodone and marijuana in his system when he was killed.

In her attempt to stop Oftedahl from dismissing the charges, Assistant State Attorney Jacqui Charbonneau pointed out that, among other things, that neither victim was armed when they boarded the boat. Charbonneau said Vittum was standing 20 feet away on the bow of the boat when Monahan shot him. Monahan also admitted that neither man ever touched him during the confrontation, and at the time of the shooting, Mohlman was still the legal owner of the Green Galleon.

Oftedahl noted those facts in his ruling, but said the law didn’t require the men either to be armed or actually commit physical violence for Monahan to have a reasonable fear that they would either kill or severely harm him aboard the boat that had been his home since October 2010.

Prosecutors had originally sought the death penalty against Monahan but later dropped that pursuit. Charbonneau on Friday said she respected Oftedahl’s ruling but stood by her arguments that a jury should have decided whether Monahan acted in self-defense.

Monahan’s release marks the second case in as many years where a shooting at Phil Foster Park ended with freedom for a shooter using the “Stand Your Ground” statute as a defense.

In May 2010, a jury acquitted Timothy McTigue of second-degree murder in the 2007 death of 23 year-old Michael Palmer, who died after the two fought briefly and McTigue shot Palmer in the back of the head as Palmer hoisted himself out of the water around a floating dock.

For Judy Mohlman, the release of the man who fatally shot her son, leaves her with more questions than answers. Her son’s death five months ago marked the second time she has lost a child. Her daughter died at 21 from an epileptic seizure.

Judy Mohlman said her son “wasn’t perfect” but also believes Monahan got away with murder.

“The hardest part is not getting anymore phone calls from him,” Judy Monahan said of her son. “I miss hearing his voice.”

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Debtors’ Prisons: Thousands Of Poor U.S. Parents, Many Without Lawyers, Jailed Without Trial For Months At A Time

September 12, 2011

US – It may not be a crime to be poor, but it can land you behind bars if you also are behind on your child-support payments.

Thousands of so-called “deadbeat” parents are jailed each year in the U.S. after failing to pay court-ordered child support — the vast majority of them for withholding or hiding money out of spite or a feeling that they’ve been unfairly gouged by the courts.

But in what might seem like an un-American plot twist from a Charles Dickens’ novel, advocates for the poor say, some parents are wrongly being locked away without any regard for their ability to pay — sometimes without the benefit of legal representation.

Randy Miller, a 39-year-old Iraqi war vet, found himself in that situation in November, when a judge in Floyd County, Ga., sent him to jail for violating a court order to pay child support.

He said he was stunned when the judge rebuffed his argument that he had made regular payments for more than a decade before losing his job in July 2009 and had recently resumed working.

“I felt that with my payment history and that I had just started working, maybe I would be able to convince the judge to give me another month had a half to start making the payments again,” he told “… But that didn’t sit too well with him because he went ahead and decided to lock me up.”

Miller, who spent three months in jail before being released, is one of six plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit filed in March that seeks to force the state of Georgia to provide lawyers for poor non-custodial parents facing the loss of their freedom for failing to pay child support.

‘Debtors’ prisons’?

“Languishing in jail for weeks, months, and sometimes over a year, these parents share one trait … besides their poverty: They went to jail without ever talking to an attorney,” according to the lawsuit filed by the nonprofit Southern Center of Human Rights in Atlanta.

While jailing non-paying parents — the vast majority of them men — does lead to payment in many cases, critics say that it unfairly penalizes poor and unemployed parents who have no ability to pay, even though federal law stipulates that they must have “willfully” violated a court order before being incarcerated.

They compare the plight of such parents to the poor people consigned to infamous “debtors’ prisons” before such institutions were outlawed in the early 1800s.

“I try very carefully not to exaggerate, but I do think that’s an apt comparison,” said Sarah Geraghty, the attorney handling the Georgia case for the Southern Center for Human Rights.

“And I think anyone who went down and watched one of these proceedings would agree with me. … You see a room full of indigent parents — most of them African-American — and you have a judge and attorney general, both of whom are white. The hearings often take only 15 seconds. The judge asks, ‘Do you have any money to pay?’ the person pleads and the judge says, ‘OK you’re going to jail,’” she added.

The threat of jailing delinquent parents is intended to coerce them to pay, but in rare cases it can have tragic results.

In June, a New Hampshire father and military veteran, Thomas Ball, died after dousing himself with gasoline and setting himself ablaze in front of the Cheshire County Court House.

In a long, rambling letter to the local Sentinel newspaper, the 58-year-old Ball stated that he did so to focus attention on what he considered unfair domestic violence laws and because he expected to be jailed at an upcoming hearing on his failure to pay up to $3,000 in delinquent child support, even though he had been out of work for two years.

The ability of judges to jail parents without a trial is possible because failure to pay child support is usually handled as a civil matter, meaning that the non-custodial parent — or the “contemnor” in legal terms — is found guilty of contempt of court and ordered to appear at a hearing.

He or she is not entitled to some constitutional protections that criminal defendants receive, including the presumption of innocence. And in five states — Florida, Georgia, Maine, South Carolina and Ohio — one of the omitted protections is the right to an attorney.

Randall Kessler, a family law attorney in Atlanta and chairman of the American Bar Association’s family law division, said states have a great deal of leeway in family law, which includes child support cases.

“The main reason states are patchwork is because family law is a local idea,” he said. “It’s very infrequent that the federal government gets into family law, except for international custody every now and then and violence against women. … Each community’s laws are different in the way they treat child support collection, and the right to a lawyer and the right to a jury trial varies.”

He noted, however, that the ABA last year approved a resolution urging “federal, state, and territorial governments to provide legal counsel as a matter of right at public expense to low-income persons in … adversarial proceedings where basic human needs are at stake, such as those involving shelter, sustenance, safety, health or child custody.”

Supreme Court: No right to a lawyer

The child support program currently serves approximately 17 million U.S. children, or nearly a quarter of the nation’s minors, according to a recent study by Elaine Sorensen, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute.

Critics of incarceration without representation had hoped that the U.S. Supreme Court would end the practice in its ruling in Turner v. Rogers, a case involving a South Carolina man who was repeatedly jailed for up to a year after failing to pay child support.

But the court ruled 5-4 in June that poor parents are not entitled to a court-appointed lawyer when facing jail for non-payment of child support. Instead, the justices said, states should use “substantial procedural safeguards” to ensure that those who have no means to pay are not locked up.

That is likely to force the states that don’t guarantee the right to an attorney to tighten their policies, said Colleen Eubanks, executive director of the National Child Support Enforcement Association, which represents state agencies. “Obviously they’re going to have to look at changing the rules,” she said.

Ken Wolfe, a spokesman for the federal Administration for Children and Families, which imposes some rules on state child support enforcement agencies in exchange for funding, said the agency expects to issue guidance to the states next month regarding the Turner case. He declined to provide any details.

But Libba Patterson, a law professor at the University of South Carolina and a former director of the state Department of Social Services, said the Supreme Court ruling provides “very weak protections” for poor parents and is unlikely on its own to solve the problem of wrongful incarceration of poor parents.

“It depends on the extent to which the court is truly interested in making a full inquiry on the ability-to-pay issue and on the resources the court has and the amount of judicial time,” she said.

Even in states where the non-custodial parents do have the right to a lawyer, those without the financial resources to meet their child-support obligations still frequently land in jail.

A 2009 study by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan policy think tank in Washington, D.C., found that only half of the child support debtors in California prisons had reported income in the two preceding years. And the median net income of the others was a mere $2,881.

65 percent of paycheck taken

Geraghty, the Southern Center for Human Rights attorney, said part of the problem is that courts often order poor parents to pay too much for child support in the first place, increasing the likelihood that they will fall behind on payments.

“One of my former clients worked at the Piggly Wiggly (supermarket) and they were taking 65 percent of her paycheck,” she said. “It left her in a position where there was simply no way that she could survive on the amount that she had left.”

No one can say how many parents are jailed each year for failing to pay child support, because states typically do not track such cases.

But an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics in 2002 by the Urban Institute’s Sorensen suggested that approximately 10,000 parents were jailed that year for non-payment of child support, representing 1.7 percent of the overall U.S. jail population.

Most observers believe that number has risen as a result of the troubled U.S. economy.

In fiscal 2009, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the Child Support Enforcement program saw child support collections decline for the first time in the history of the program, dipping 1.8 percent, the GAO reported in January.

At the same time, payments collected from unemployment insurance benefits nearly tripled, and the number of cases in which children were receiving public assistance also rose.

Military veterans, who often struggle to find work when they leave the service, appear to be particularly at risk.

Lance Hendrix of Adel, Ga., an Army veteran, said he fell behind on child support for his 4-year-old daughter after he left the service and couldn’t find work.

“I was arrested and I went to jail and they asked me all sorts of questions,” said Hendrix, who also is a plaintiff in the Georgia lawsuit. “I was never told I was under arrest. And I was never read my rights. So I did not know what rights I had. Of course, I’ve seen all these movies, but half that isn’t true.”

Not having a lawyer in a civil contempt hearing increases the likelihood that the parent will be jailed, even if he or she is not guilty of “willfully” defying the court’s order, say critics of the policy.

‘Wrongfully imprisoned’

“In the absence of counsel … it appears that the opportunity to raise the defense is often missed, and large numbers of indigent parents are wrongfully imprisoned for failure to meet child support obligations every year,” according to a friend-of-the-court brief filed in the Turner case by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups.

The deck is further stacked against the delinquent parent because the state often acts as the plaintiff, seeking to recover the cost of providing public assistance to the child, Geraghty said.

Officials of Georgia’s Child Support Services agency declined to comment on the state’s child support enforcement policies or the lawsuit.

But Seth Harp, a retired Georgia state senator and former member of the state’s Child Support Guidelines Commission, said the state’s judges use incarceration sparingly.

“The methodology to put someone in jail requires that the person be taken to court before a judge and there they have to be found in willful contempt — someone who actively refuses to seek work or is hiding assets, something like that,” he said. “Judges don’t want to put people in jail. … The whole purpose is to get these people to support their children.”

Harp said he’s seen the tactic work repeatedly in his long career as a family law attorney.

“You can’t get blood out of a turnip, but you can put the turnip in the cooler,” he said. “And in 34 years of doing this, it’s amazing, you put someone in the cooler and the money seems to come.”

Judge Janice M. Rosa, a supervising court judge in New York’s 8th Judicial District and a board member of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, said the system in her state adequately protects non-custodial parents by guaranteeing them a court-appointed lawyer if they cannot afford one and carefully determining that they have the ability to pay.

“No one here is going to jail when a factory closes down and you’re one of hundreds looking for a job,” she said. “… Every state has said that debtors’ prisons are illegal, and you have to give these people a way out. You can only put them in jail if they have money and won’t pay.”

Attempt to assist both parents

Eubanks, the National Child Support Enforcement Association official, said state programs in general are doing a better job in recent years of ensuring that the poor aren’t unfairly locked up by instituting programs to help non-custodial parents improve work, life and parenting skills.

“Five to 10 years ago, the program was pretty much about enforcing support. But now it’s moving to the understanding that if parents are going to support their children, they need assistance,” she said. “Our philosophy is to provide whatever tools we can to both parents to support their children.”

She also said the recent Supreme Court decision prompted the association to conduct training and outreach to ensure that state agencies are aware of the issue and have adequate safeguards in place to prevent indigent parents from being wrongly jailed.

That is no comfort to Miller, the Iraq war veteran who was jailed for three months. He said jailing parents who fall behind on their payments is counterproductive and should be reserved for only the most egregious violators.

“I feel like it’s more unfair to the kids, because now not only do the kids not get any money, nor do they even get to spend time with their fathers once they get locked up,” he said. “The closest you can get is visitation, and who wants their kids to see them behind bars or behind glass.”

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South Pasadena California Police Ticket Good Samaritan Who Directed Traffic When Police Wouldn’t – Cleared 30 Minute Wait At Intersection During Power Outage

September 10, 2011

SOUTH PASADENA, CALIFORNIA  –  We’ve all heard the saying: no good deed goes unpunished . . . and that’s exactly what happened to a South Pasadena resident who was issued a ticket by police for his charitable act.

When a major traffic light in the area went out Thursday morning, Alan Ehrlich took matters into his own hands, directing traffic at Fair Oaks and Huntington avenues.

“I grabbed a bright orange shirt that I have and a couple of orange safety flags. I took it upon myself to help get motorists through that intersection faster,” said Ehrlich.

Before Ehrlich stepped in, traffic was backed up for more than a mile and it took more than 30 minutes to get through the busy intersection.

Ehrlich said the Sept. 8 incident wasn’t the first and that the light goes out regularly.

“It was just kind of chaos of cars . . . there were stop signs up. But people were challenging each other to get through the intersection,” said Richard Gerrish who works at an office located at the intersection.

Gerrish said Ehrlich cleared up the mess in 10 minutes. After 15 minutes, South Pasadena police say they finally received a call about their newest traffic officer.

Police responded to the scene and told Ehrlich to stop and issued him a ticket, but never stepped into direct traffic themselves.

“I don’t know if this ticket is $50 or $400 dollars. It’s a small price to pay for the greater good,” Ehrlich said.

South Pasadena Police Chief Joe Payne said he did not have the man power needed to staff officers at Fair Oaks and Huntington Thursday and that is safer to allow traffic to back up.

“We have limited resources . . . we need to prioritize them. One of the major intersections out at rush hour in our city should be a priority,” Ehrlich added.

He already has plans to address the matter at an upcoming city council meeting.

Police and the city of South Pasadena say they currently have no plans to change any procedures.

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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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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 (, 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

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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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Jury Sees Through Orange County Florida Prosecutors Bullshit Case Against Casey Anthony

July 5, 2011

ORANGE COUNTY, FLORIDA – In a case that became a national sensation on TV, Casey Anthony was acquitted Tuesday of murdering her 2-year-old daughter in what prosecutors portrayed as a cold-blooded attempt to free herself to party and be with her boyfriend.

Officials said Casey is back in the Orange County jail and remains in protective custody.

“As to the charge, first-degree murder, we the jury find the defendant not guilty,” read the court clerk.

After a trial of a month and a half, the jury took less than 11 hours to find Casey not guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter and aggravated child abuse. She was convicted of four counts of lying to investigators who were looking into the June 2008 disappearance of her daughter, Caylee Marie Anthony.

Tears welled in Casey’s eyes, her face reddened, her lips trembled, and she began breathing heavily as she listened to the verdict. Casey, 25, could have gotten the death penalty if she had been convicted of murder.

After the verdict was read, Casey hugged her attorney Jose Baez and later mouthed the words “thank you” to him. Prosecutor Jeff Ashton, meanwhile, shook his head in disbelief.

Casey’s parents, Cindy and George Anthony left the courtroom without speaking to her as the judge thanked the jury.

Juror number seven, one of the seven women on the panel, appeared to cry as she left court.

Once the jury left, Casey hugged her attorneys and squealed out loud. The lawyers high-fived one another, and minutes later Casey laughed as she was fingerprinted on the convictions for lying to detectives.

Many in the crowd of about 500 people outside the courthouse reacted with anger after the verdict was read, chanting, “Justice for Caylee!” One man yelled, “Baby killer!”

Given the relative speed with which the jury came back with a verdict, many court-watchers were expecting Casey to be convicted in the killing, and they were stunned by the outcome.

Sentencing was set for Thursday. Casey could get up to one year behind bars on each count of lying to investigators. But since she has been in jail for nearly three years already, she could walk free.

The case played out on national television almost from the moment Caylee was reported missing three years ago, and it became a macabre sensation as testimony turned to tape marks on the child’s face and the alleged smell of decayed flesh inside the trunk of Casey’s car.

After the verdict, Casey’s attorney, Jose Baez, took the criminal justice system and the media to task, saying the outcome should make people realize “you cannot convict someone until they’ve had their day in court.”

“We have the greatest constitution in the world, and if the media and other members of the public do not respect it, it will become meaningless,” he said.

State’s Attorney Lawson Lamar said: “We’re disappointed in the verdict today because we know the facts and we’ve put in absolutely every piece of evidence that existed.” The prosecutor lamented the lack of hard evidence, saying: “This is a dry-bones case. Very, very difficult to prove. The delay in recovering little Caylee’s remains worked to our considerable disadvantage.”

The jurors would not talk to the media.

Caylee’s disappearance went unreported by Casey for a month. The child’s decomposed body was eventually found in the woods near her grandparents’ home six months after she was last seen. A medical examiner was never able to establish how she died.

Prosecutors contended that Casey, a single mother living with her parents, suffocated Caylee with duct tape because she wanted to be free to hit the nightclubs and spend time with her boyfriend.

Defense attorneys argued that Caylee accidentally drowned in the family swimming pool, and that Casey panicked and hid the body because of the traumatic effects of being sexually abused by her father.

The case became a macabre tourist attraction in Orlando. People camped outside for seats in the courtroom, and scuffles broke out among those desperate to watch the drama unfold.

Because the case got so much media attention in Orlando, jurors were brought in from the Tampa Bay area and sequestered for the entire trial, during which they listened to more than 33 days of testimony and looked at 400 pieces of evidence. Casey did not take the stand.

“While we’re happy for Casey, there are no winners in this case,” Baez said after the verdict. “Caylee has passed on far, far too soon and what my driving force has been for the last three years has been always to make sure that there has been justice for Caylee and Casey because Casey did not murder Caylee. It’s that simple. And today our system of justice has not dishonored her memory by a false conviction.”

In closing arguments, prosecutor Linda Drane-Burdick showed the jury two side-by-side images. One showed Casey smiling and partying in a nightclub during the first month Caylee was missing. The other was the tattoo Casey she got a day before law enforcement learned of the child’s disappearance: the Italian words for “beautiful life.”

“At the end of this case, all you have to ask yourself is whose life was better without Caylee?” Burdick asked. “This is your answer.”

Prosecutors also focused heavily on an odor in the trunk of Casey’s car, which forensics experts said was consistent with the smell of human decay.

But the defense argued that the air analysis could not be duplicated, that no one could prove a stain found in the trunk was caused by Caylee’s remains, and that maggots in the compartment had come from a bag of trash.

Prosecutors hammered away at the lies Casey told when the child was missing: She told her parents that she couldn’t produce Caylee because the girl was with a nanny named Zenaida Gonzalez, (Zanny) a woman who doesn’t exist; that she and her daughter were spending time with a rich boyfriend who doesn’t exist; and that Zanny had been hospitalized after an out-of-town traffic crash and that they were spending time with her.

Baez said during closing arguments that the prosecutors’ case was so weak they tried to portray Casey as “a lying, no-good slut” and that their forensic evidence was based on a “fantasy.” He said Caylee’s death was “an accident that snowballed out of control.”

He contended that the toddler drowned and that when Casey panicked, her father, a former police officer, decided to make the death look like a murder by putting duct tape on the girl’s mouth and dumping the body in the woods a quarter-mile away. Anthony’s father denied both the cover-up and abuse claims.

Among the trial spectators was 51-year-old Robin Wilkie, who said she has spent $3,000 on hotels and food since arriving June 10 from Lake Minnetonka, Minn. She tallied more than 100 hours standing in line to wait for tickets and got into the courtroom 15 times to see Casey.

“True crime has become a unique genre of entertainment,” Wilkie said. “Her stories are so extreme and fantastic, it’s hard to believe they’re true, but that’s what engrosses people. This case has sex, lies and videotapes — just like on reality TV.”

The Anthonys’ attorney Mark Lippman released a statement on behalf of the family on Tuesday reading:

“The family hopes that they will be given the time by the media to reflect on this verdict and decide the best way to move forward privately. While the family may never know what has happened to Caylee Marie Anthony, they now have closure for this chapter of their life. They will now begin the long process of rebuilding their lives.

Despite the baseless defense chosen by Casey Anthony, the family believes that the Jury made a fair decision based on the evidence presented, the testimony presented, the scientific information presented and the rules that were given to them by the Honorable Judge Perry to guide them.

The family hopes that they will be given the time by the media to reflect on this verdict and decide the best way to move forward privately.

The family also wanted the public to know that if anyone wanted to honor Caylee by leaving stuffed animals or other toys at any area near their home, that they would prefer those items be donated in Caylee’ s name to families in need, religious centers, or any other entity where the toys would be appreciated.”

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Bogus Charges Dropped Against Woman Who Dared To Videotape Rochester New York Police From Her Front Yard

June 27, 2011

ROCHESTER, NEW YORK – The case against a Rochester woman arrested while videotaping police has been dismissed.

Early Monday afternoon, demonstrators rallied outside the Hall of Justice in support of Emily Good, the city woman who was arrested while videotaping police officers during a traffic stop on May 12 in front of her 19th Ward home.

Good kept recording police officers while standing in her front yard even though an officer ordered her several times go inside. She was charged with obstructing of governmental administration. Since then, the video from that night has made it onto news shows across the country.

Good’s attorney, Stephanie Stare, had asked for the charges to be dismissed. In court today, the District Attorney’s office says based on a review of the evidence, there was no legal basis to go forward. The charge was withdrawn and the judge dismissed the case.

Several of Good’s supporters who filled the small courtroom quietly cheered as the case was dismissed. They hugged her outside the courtroom and Good said “I think there are weaknesses in the brotherhood of the police, and they are not above the law.”

Good was asked if she would do it over again. “Yes, I would do it again. And I would encourage other people to do the same thing. Carry a camera. Stand your ground. Go to the seen of flashing lights and observe what’s going on. Keep a safe distance.”

News 10 NBC’s Ray Levato asked “Do you think there is racial profiling going on?” Good answered, “Everyday. Everyday. Absolutely.”

KaeLyn Rich, a spokeswoman for the Rochester office of the New York Civil Liberties Union afterwards called city police actions “a disgusting disregard for an individual’s First Amendment rights to videotape in public spaces. I hope we can repair the relationship between the community and the police by holding police accountable, and making sure police officers are getting the training they need to respect people’s constitutional rights.”

Supporter Rev. Willie Harvey of the Peace baptist Church said “the police did the wrong thing.”

City activist Howard Eagle, a spokesman for a Rochester anti-racism movement said “This case really is about racial profiling. That’s the reason why Emily Good grabbed her camera in the first place and began to record the activity of the police. She suspected that a young black man was being racially profiled.”

A joint statement issued by Mayor Tom Richards, City Council President Lovely Warren and Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard says they support the decision of the District Attorney’s Office to dismiss the charges against Good.

The statement says whatever the specific circumstances that led to Good’s arrest, they see no purpose in pursuing the criminal charges.

The statement continues, “We believe that the incident that led to Ms. Good’s arrest and the subsequent ticketing for parking violations of vehicles belonging to members of an organization associated with Ms. Good raise issues with respect to the conduct of Rochester Police Officers that require an internal review. A review into both matters has been initiated.”

“Police officers must be able to cope with a high degree of stress while performing oftentimes dangerous duties, relying on their training and experience to guide their behavior. As routine as a traffic stop may appear, it has proven over time to be a potentially dangerous activity for police. Nonetheless, police must conduct themselves with appropriate respect for the rights of those involved or who are observing their actions.”

“There is a mandated legal process that governs our internal response when police officer behavior is called into question. We must respect this process and that may be frustrating to those who may have already made up their mind about the outcome. We have confidence that the review will be fair and impartial and invite Ms. Good and anyone else with firsthand information to participate. We will withhold our judgment until the review is completed.”

“Whatever the outcome of the internal review, we want to make clear that it is not the policy or practice of the Rochester Police Department to prevent citizens from observing its activities – including photographing or videotaping – as long as it does not interfere with the safe conduct of those activities. It is also not the policy or practice of the Department to selectively enforce laws in response to the activities of a group or individual. This has always been the case and it is being reinforced within the Department, so that it will be abundantly clear to everyone.”

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

June 3, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rodriquezes are represented by Jimmy Borunda

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Crazed Italian Officals Accuse Seismologists Of Manslaughter For Not Predicting 2009 Earthquake

May 27, 2011

ITALY – Italian government officials have accused the country’s top seismologist of manslaughter, after failing to predict a natural disaster that struck Italy in 2009, a massive devastating earthquake that killed 308 people.

A shocked spokesman for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) likened the accusations to a witch hunt.

“It has a medieval flavor to it — like witches are being put on trial,” the stunned spokesman told

Enzo Boschi, the president of Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), will face trial along with six other scientists and technicians, after failing to predict the future and the impending disaster.

Earthquakes are, of course, nearly impossible to predict, seismologists say. In fact, according to the website for the USGS, no major quake has ever been predicted successfully.

“Neither the USGS nor Caltech nor any other scientists have ever predicted a major earthquake,” reads a statement posted on the USGS website. “They do not know how, and they do not expect to know how any time in the foreseeable future.”

John Vidale, a Washington State seismologist and professor at the University of Washington, agreed that earthquake forecasting is simply impossible.

“We’re not able to predict earthquakes very well at all,” he told LiveScience.

“One problem is, we don’t know how much stress it takes to break a fault,” Vidale told the site. “Second we still don’t know how much stress is down there. All we can do is measure how the ground is deforming.”

Not knowing either of these factors makes it pretty tough to figure out when stresses will get to the point of a rupture, and an earth-shaking quake, LiveScience explained.

The seven scientists were placed under investigation almost a year ago, according to a news story on the website of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) — the world’s largest general-science society and a leading voice for the interests of scientists worldwide.

Alan Leschner, chief executive of AAAS, said his group wrote a letter to the Italian government last year — clearly, to no avail.

“Whoever made these accusations misunderstands the nature of science, the nature of the discipline and how difficult it is to predict anything with the surety they expect,” Leschner told

The case could have a “chilling effect” on scientists, he noted.

“It reflects a lack of understanding about what science can and can’t do,” he said. “And frankly, it will have an effect of intimidating scientists … This just feels like either scapegoating or an attempt to intimidate a community. This really seems inappropriate.”

Judge Giuseppe Romano Gargarella said that the seven defendants had supplied “imprecise, incomplete and contradictory information,” in a press conference following a meeting held by the committee 6 days before the quake, reported the Italian daily Corriere della Sera

In doing so, they “thwarted the activities designed to protect the public,” the judge said.

Boschi’s lawyer, Marcello Melandri, has been taking the news badly, reported the AAAS story. He was particularly stunned because — despite of the near impossibility of predicting earthquakes Boshi had been indicating that a large earthquake would be coming, though he did not say when.

Melandri told the AAAS that Boschi never sought to reassure the population of L’Aquila that there was no threat. On the contrary, the INGV head made it clear that “at some point it is probable that there will be a big earthquake.”

In addition to Boschi, those facing trial are:

* Franco Barberi, committee vice president;
* Bernardo De Bernardinis, at the time vice president of Italy’s Civil Protection Department and now president of the country’s Institute for Environmental Protection and Research;
* Giulio Selvaggi, director of the National Earthquake Center;
* Gian Michele Calvi, director of the European Center for Training and Research in Earthquake Engineering;
* Claudio Eva, an earth scientist at the University of Genoa; and
* Mauro Dolce, director of the office of seismic risk at the Civil Protection Department.

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Teens Who Spent Two Years In Jail On Bogus Murder Charges Released After Gwinnett County Georgia Prosecutors Decide They Didn’t Do It

May 18, 2011

GWINNETT COUNTY, GEORGIA – After spending two years in a youth detention center, two 16-year-old boys were freed on bond Monday when Gwinnett County prosecutors dropped murder charges against them.

Vino Wong, AJC Michael White, left, and Brandon Ennis were accused of killing a man in Gwinnett Tuesday, July 21, 2009. Murder charges have been dropped against both.
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Prosecutors said further investigation revealed Michael Anthony White and Brandon Ennis were not active participants in a shooting June 11, 2009, outside White’s home on Caboose Court in Lawrenceville. The teenagers will still be prosecuted in juvenile court, but their charges will be substantially downgraded.

White and Ennis did not take part in the shooting, but Gwinnett County Assistant District Attorney Mike McDaniel alleged that they did not tell police the truth about what happened.

McDaniel said he is not sure yet what charges they will face, but it won’t be murder or manslaughter. The charges will more likely be related to withholding information from police.

“We are still in a state of flux with regard to the juvenile case,” McDaniel said.

White and Ennis were 14-year-old students at Richards Middle School in Lawrenceville when they were arrested following a shooting that killed one man and wounded another.

The boys were asleep on a plane at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, having just returned from a trip to California, when they were arrested about a month after the shooting.

Their arrests prompted an outcry from their parents, who said the boys were not guilty but were taken as “hostages” by police in an effort to sort out what happened.

Ennis’ mother, Suzette Ennis, declined to discuss the case when reached at home Monday.

“We’re just getting home from court and waiting to see if we can go pick our children up,” Ennis said.

Defense attorney Stan Sunderland, who represents White, said both boys were released on signature bond Monday afternoon. He said White’s incarceration has been devastating for his family. Sunderland said White has kept up with his schoolwork the past few years and is “an excellent high school football prospect.”

“He missed two seasons being locked up, and that’s devastating to someone that’s a gifted athlete,” Sunderland said. “He’s not happy with what transpired, but I think he is looking forward to the future.”

Asked whether his client regrets not cooperating with police, Sunderland said White’s behavior stemmed from being raised in a low-income neighborhood where people are wary of police and believe “the only thing worse than being a police officer is being a snitch.”

Authorities say a man who had been staying with White’s family — Kevin Henderson, 22, of Oakland, Calif. — is responsible for firing gunshots into the victims’ car. Henderson pleaded guilty Friday to voluntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison followed by eight years of probation.

Carl Judson, 19, and Demitrius White, 21, were among eight people who drove in two cars to Michael Anthony White’s home on Caboose Court to fight someone they knew as “Greg.”

The group was angry at “Greg,” who allegedly knew White’s mother, because they believed he snitched on someone in an unrelated case, Sunderland said.

Authorities believe the group confronted Ennis and Michael Anthony White outside the house. The boys went inside and told Henderson that people outside were threatening to shoot up their home. McDaniel said Henderson then walked outside and fired a gun into the car. Judson was shot in the arm. Demitrius White was killed.

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Speeding Tickets Tossed After Man Proves Prince George’s County Maryland Speed Cameras Lie

April 21, 2011

PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, MARYLAND – Will Foreman has beaten the speed cameras.

Five times and counting before three different judges, the Prince George’s County business owner has used a computer and a calculation to cast reasonable doubt on the reliability of the soulless traffic enforcers.

After a judge threw out two of his tickets Wednesday, Mr. Foreman said he is confident he has exposed systemic inaccuracies in the systems that generate millions of dollars a year for town, city and county governments.

He wasn’t the only one to employ the defense Wednesday. Two other men were found not guilty of speeding offenses before a Hyattsville District judge during the same court session using the same technique.

“You’ve produced an elegant defense and I’m sufficiently doubtful,” Judge Mark T. O’Brien said to William Adams, after hearing evidence that his Subaru was traveling below the 35-mph limit – and not 50 mph as the ticket indicated.

The method?

Mr. Foreman, the owner of Eastover Auto Supply in Oxon Hill, examined dozens of citation photos of his company’s trucks that were issued along a camera-monitored stretch of Indian Head Highway his employees frequently travel.

The camera company, Optotraffic, uses a sensor that detects any vehicle exceeding the speed limit by 12 or more mph, then takes two photos of it for identification purposes. The photos are mailed to violators, along with a $40 ticket.

For each ticket, Mr. Foreman digitally superimposed the two photos – taken 0.363 seconds apart from a stationary point, according to an Optotraffic time stamp – creating a single photo with two images of the vehicle.

Using the vehicle’s length as a frame of reference, Mr. Foreman then measured its distance traveled in the elapsed time, allowing him to calculate the vehicle’s speed. In every case, he said, the vehicle was not traveling fast enough to get a ticket.

So far the judges have agreed.

“I’ve never seen this before,” Judge O’Brien said, as he examined a superimposed photo presented by Mr. Adams, who also employed the technique. “How much time did you spend on this?”

Mr. Foreman said he is awaiting trial on about 40 more tickets, all of which he called “bogus.”

Speed cameras “can be good, but not if they’re abused,” he said after the hearing.

The Maryland General Assembly approved speed cameras in 2009 for school and highway-work zones, two years after a pilot program in Montgomery County. Prince George’s officials have long resisted speed cameras, but many municipalities began implementing them in fall 2009.

Supporters of the devices have argued they reduce speeding over time and increase safety, while many opponents call them a cash cow for local governments.

Mr. Foreman’s tickets were all issued in Forest Heights, a town of about 2,600 where officials expected $2.9 million in ticket revenue this fiscal year, about half the town’s $5.8 million budget.

In Prince George’s County, cameras are operated entirely by municipalities, which can set them up within half-mile school zones. The devices are installed by vendors that typically receive about 40 percent of the payout on each ticket, with the rest going to local, county and state government.

Municipalities other than Forest Heights also use Optotraffic cameras. The Lanham-based vendor also serves New Carrollton, Mount Rainier and College Park as well as the city of Cambridge in Dorchester County, Md.

Optotraffic representatives said the photos are not intended to capture the actual act of speeding, and are taken nearly 50 feet down the road from sensors as a way to prove the vehicle was on the road.

“No one has come to us with a proven error,” company spokesman Mickey Shepherd said Tuesday. “Their speed is not measured by the photos. The speed is measured before the photos are taken.”

An Optotraffic technician was sworn in and offered the company’s defense in the courtroom on Wednesday to no avail.

Mr. Foreman didn’t buy it either. He said it was unlikely that his vehicles slowed significantly after passing the sensors, as photos typically show them with their brake lights off.

While Judge O’Brien let Mr. Foreman off the hook, he ruled against several other accused speeders who based their not-guilty pleas largely on gut feelings that the cameras were flawed, while reducing the fines for some who pleaded guilty.

A Forest Heights official declined to comment after court proceeding.

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Nutcase Lawyers In Los Angeles California City Attorney’s Office Charge Graffiti Artists Going Legit With Bogus Charges For Non-Crimes

April 2, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA — The Los Angeles City Attorney’s office is trying a new legal maneuver to try to stamp out graffiti — it’s charging 10 graffiti writers with violating unfair competition laws because they’re selling works on the strength of reputations built on vandalism.

Assistant City Attorney Anne Tremblay says these graffiti writers — all associated with the MTA tagging crew — have an unfair advantage over legitimate artists because they gained notoriety through crime.

But Peter Bibring of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California says artwork, like book or movie deals, is protected under the First Amendment’s right to free expression, even when it involves criminals.

Cristian Gheorghiu (gay-or-Ghee-u), one of the defendants, says authorities are going overboard and are trying to limit his ability to make a legitimate living.

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