Friday, November 27, 2015


In 2005, Christopher Edward Byrd shook 11-month-old Savannah Quake so hard that she never regained consciousness before she died from ‘shaken baby syndrome’ in January of this year

By Bo9b Walsh

PACOVILLA Corrections blog
November 26, 2015

Christopher Edward Byrd, 39, is not a nice man. He pleaded guilty to child abuse for the violent shaking injury of an 11-month-old girl in La Habra, California that took place in January 2005. He got four years on that beef. He is currently doing nine years in Orange County for running a chop shop.

The girl never recovered from the original incident and had to be on a ventilator to keep her alive. She never regained consciousness and died in January of this year. Byrd is now being prosecuted for murder in her death. He could get 25 to life if convicted.


By Kathleen Hennessey

Associated Press
November 26, 2015

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama is making a hard case for overhauling the U.S. criminal justice system, but where he stands on the death penalty is unclear.

Obama has hinted that his support for capital punishment is eroding, but he has refused to discuss what he might call for.

A Justice Department review has dragged on for 18 months with little mention or momentum. The president recently repeated he is "deeply concerned" about the death penalty's implementation, though he also acknowledges the issue has not been a top priority.

"I have not traditionally been opposed to the death penalty in theory, but in practice it's deeply troubling," Obama told the Marshall Project, a nonprofit journalism group, citing racial bias, wrongful convictions and questions about "gruesome and clumsy" executions. His delay in proposing solutions, he said, was because "I got a whole lot of other things to do as well."

Obama said he plans to weigh in, and considers the issue part of his larger, legacy-minded push for an overhaul of the criminal justice system. White House officials say the president is looking for an appropriate response and wading through the legal ramifications.

Capital prosecutions are down across the United States. A shortage of lethal injection drugs has meant de facto freezes in several states and at the federal level. Spurred in part by encouragement from Supreme Court justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, advocates are debating whether the time is right to push the court to take a fresh look at whether the death penalty is constitutional.

A solid majority — 61 percent — of the public supports the death penalty in murder cases, but that share has crept downward while opposition has inched up, according to a Gallup poll last month.

Obama isn't alone in struggling with the issue.

"We have a lot of evidence now that the death penalty has been too frequently applied and, very unfortunately, often times in a discriminatory way," Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said. "So I think we have to take a hard look at it." She also said she does "not favor abolishing" it in all cases.

For Clinton's Democratic presidential rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the issue is settled. "I just don't think the state itself, whether it's the state government or federal government, should be in the business of killing people," he said.

On the Republican side, candidate Jeb Bush says he's swayed by his Catholic faith and is "conflicted."

"We should reform it," he told NBC's "Meet the Press."

In September, Pope Francis stood before Congress and urged that the death penalty be abolished. Obama specifically noted the comment when talking about the speech to aides. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama was "influenced" by what the pope said.

Such hints have death penalty opponents likening Obama's deliberations to his gradual shift toward supporting gay marriage.

Charles Ogletree, a Harvard law professor who taught the president, said: "Though not definitive, the idea that the president's views are evolving gives me hope that the he — like an increasing number of prosecutors, jurors, judges, governors and state legislators — recognizes that the death penalty in America is too broken to fix."

White House officials caution that any presidential statement disputing the effectiveness or constitutionality of the death penalty would have legal consequences.

For example, would the administration then commute the sentences of the 62 people currently on federal death row to life in prison?

Every lawyer representing a death row inmate would make that case in an appeal, said Douglas Berman, criminal law professor at Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law. Among those inmates: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, convicted of murder in the Boston Marathon bombing.

"There's not been a president who in the modern use of the federal death penalty has indicated a disaffinity for it," Berman said. "And if this one were to say, 'I don't think it's something we ought to be doing,' that's a policy statement and personal statement, but it is also one that indisputably would be put in the legal papers and would require courts to grapple with its significance."

If Obama went further, perhaps formalizing the federal freeze, it could affect other major terrorism cases. The Justice Department has yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty in the prosecution of the man charged in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, for example.

A moratorium might serve as a model for the states — where most capital prosecutions occur — and would make more of a mark than expressions of concern, advocates argue.

"On an issue like this, it's important to make judgments on what people actually do," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes the death penalty. "We have seen in many states governors who say they are against the death penalty, nonetheless denying clemency in controversial cases. ... Whether people say they're personally supportive of the death penalty or not doesn't really matter. It's what they do that matters."

EDITOR’S NOTE: Obama struggles with just about every issue. Like with a lot of the issues he’s faced, if he opts for abolishing the (federal) death penalty, Obama will be getting it wrong again. I’m guessing that Obama wouldn’t consider this if it weren’t for the fact that he thinks his fellow blacks are getting screwed by the criminal justice system.


Released from a New York prison despite the parole board’s recommendation that this murderer be kept locked up, Scott Kratlian murdered again, but since he did it in California and not New York, the conditional release program can claim another success

By Richard Krupp, PhD

PACOVILLA Corrections blog
November 26, 2015

On a few occasions I have read commentaries about two interesting points of view that I have not agreed with.

The first often cited evidence/opinion is that murderers are not known to commit serious crimes when released after several years in prison.

The second often cited evidence/opinion is that the state of New York has a relatively low recidivism rate for inmates released from prison.

I always found both of these theories suspicious. It is true that a man who murders his wife will probably not murder her again after being released, but he can kill someone else. I recall an inmate I interviewed who was sentenced to prison for murdering his third wife. He had served two prior prison terms for killing his first two wives.

As far as the state of New York is concerned, prison releases and parole violations may be viewed a little differently there. I do not believe they have a better class of criminal there or that inmates are rehabilitated in New York prisons.

A recent story from the Los Angeles Times brings both of my suspicions to light:

New York parolee sentenced to 56 years to life for killing L.A. pen pal, 82

A New York parolee who exchanged letters from prison with a retired Hollywood teacher was sentenced to 56 years to life in prison Wednesday for killing his pen pal after he was freed. Scott Kratlian, 46, was convicted of first-degree murder last month for killing former Hollywood High School teacher Harry Major in February 2014.

Three months after he was released from prison, where he served 20 years for murder, Kratlian showed up in Hollywood and briefly lived with Major, 82, before strangling him. The relationship between the convicted killer and Major probably was one of many the inmate fostered over the years while imprisoned at Marcy Correctional Facility outside Syracuse, one of Kratlian’s other pen pals, Jason Ward, told The Times last year.

Authorities said Kratlian was released from prison two days before Thanksgiving, less than a year after a state parole board determined that his crime had been so horrific that releasing him would be to “undermine respect for the law.”

In 1992, Kratlian used a belt to kill a man, tying the victim’s hands and feet together and beating and burning him, parole board records show.

In prison, Kratlian had a “horrendous” disciplinary record, and his conditional early release was delayed more than four years because of infractions, according to records. He eventually was released under the state’s conditional-release program — a separate avenue that doesn’t require parole board approval.

New York officially listed Kratlian as a fugitive Feb. 14 after police identified him as their suspect. He was arrested by an LAPD and FBI fugitive task force at a Pasadena mental health and substance-abuse treatment center Feb. 18, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department records show (for full story read

There are several things troubling about this incident.

1) The New York parole board evidently felt this murderer should not be released from prison.

2) Evidently in-prison behavior does not count when it comes to release from prison.

3) Apparently in New York the parole board can be circumvented through a “conditional release” program.

4) Conclusively the rehabilitative programs in New York (adopt a prison pen pal) and in California (mental health and drug treatment) did not prevent this murderer from murdering again.

Is this case typical? I don’t know, but it is disturbing.

Theories about isolated incidents and miracle rehabilitative programs sometimes don’t look so good when examined closely. Since this murderer did not commit a crime in New York would he be considered a “conditional release program” success?

Because the murderer was found in a mental health/drug treatment center does that mean he has an addiction problem that can explain away his murderous behavior? Perhaps he can be cured so that he won’t murder others again and again.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Police officer Jason Van Dyke gets charged with first-degree murder in a case the Chicago Police Department and City Hall covered up

Lately I’ve been accused of cop bashing, especially in the case of South Boston, Virginia police Cpl. Tiffany Bratton who repeatedly tased a shackled prisoner who then died in the back of a police car. It pains me to be slammed for bashing cops since I try to defend them whenever possible. But, I will not defend bad policing and if that constitutes bashing, so be it.

We now have a year-old case in Chicago that deserves bashing not only of one cop, but of a whole group of cops, including higher-ups, way higher-up. It involves the killing of a black teenager armed with a knife who was shot 16 times by Jason Van Dyke, a white cop with 20 prior citizen complaints of police misconduct.

The police dash cam video of that shooting has only just now been released. It shows 17-year-old Laquan McDonald walking around when Van Dyke gets out of his cop car and opens fire on the teenager. I’ve watched that video about a dozen times and see no evidence that McDonald rushed at the officers. Worse yet, McDonald appeared to be about ten feet from any cops when Van Dyke emptied his pistol at the teenager.

That looks like cold blooded murder to me, and in fact, Van Dyke has now – 13 months after the shooting – been arrested and charged with first-degree murder. His attorney argues that Van Dyke was in fear of his life, but that just doesn’t fly when one looks at the video.

There are two especially serious problems with this case. To begin with, the police reports of the shooting were a pack of lies intended to protect Van Dyke. Higher-ups had to know the reports were not true, but they conspired with the cops on the scene to cover up this obvious murder. The question now is, how high up in the Chicago PD did this cover-up go?

City Hall even went along with the cover up by paying McDonald's family $5 million in hush money. The only reason they paid the family anything is because Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his city hall cohorts must have been very well aware of the true facts in this case and paid off the McDonald family as part of the cover up.

The other problem is the number of citizen complaints that had been lodged against Van Dyke with no disciplinary action ever taken against him. One of those complaints even cost the city $500,000 in a civil lawsuit. While some of those complaints may very well have been bogus, the sheer number of complaints should have told higher-ups that they had a loose cannon within the Chicago PD. The failure to discipline Van Dyke most certainly contributed to the death of Laquan McDonald.

Even though most law enforcement agencies try to weed out unfit applicants through extensive background checks and psychological screenings, too many cops are hired that are not fit to wear the uniform of a police officer. There has got to be a better way to prevent the hiring of loose cannons like Jason Van Dyke.

With the falsification of police reports and the hiding of the dash cam video, it would seem to me that a lot more arrests are in order in this tragic case that columnist Curtis Black calls a police execution.


By Curtis Black

The Chicago Reporter
November 24, 2015

It was just about a year ago that a city whistleblower came to journalist Jamie Kalven and attorney Craig Futterman out of concern that Laquan McDonald’s shooting a few weeks earlier “wasn’t being vigorously investigated,” as Kalven recalls. The source told them “that there was a video and that it was horrific,” he said.

Without that whistleblower—and without that video—it’s highly unlikely that Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke would be facing first-degree murder charges today.

“When it was first reported it was a typical police shooting story,” Kalven said, where police claim self-defense and announce an investigation, and “at that point the story disappears.” And, typically, a year or 18 months later, the Independent Police Review Authority confirms the self-defense claim, and “by then no one remembers the initial incident.”

“There are an average of 50 police shootings of civilians every year in Chicago, and no one is ever charged,” said Futterman. “Without the video, this would have been just one more of 50 such incidents, where the police blotter defines the narrative and nothing changes.”

Last December, Kalven and Futterman issued a statement revealing the existence of a dash-cam video and calling for its release. Kalven tracked down a witness to the shooting, who said he and other witnesses had been “shooed away” from the scene with no statements or contact information taken.

In February, Kalven obtained a copy of McDonald’s autopsy, which contradicted the official story that McDonald had died of a single gunshot to the chest. In fact, he’d been shot 16 times—as Van Dyke unloaded his service revolver, execution style—while McDonald lay on the ground.

The next month, the City Council approved a $5 million settlement with McDonald’s family, whose attorneys had obtained the video. They said it showed McDonald walking away from police at the time of the shooting, contradicting the police story that he was threatening or had “lunged at” cops. The settlement included a provision keeping the video confidential.

“The real issue here is, this terrible thing happened, how did our governmental institutions respond?” Kalven said. “And from everything we’ve learned, compulsively at every level, from the cops on the scene to the highest levels of government, they responded by circling the wagons and by fabricating a narrative that they knew was completely false.” To him this response is “part of a systemic problem” and preserves “the underlying conditions that allow abuse and shield abuse.”

In April, the Chicago Tribune revealed Van Dyke’s name and his history of civilian complaints—including several brutality complaints, one of which cost the city $500,000 in a civil lawsuit—none of which resulted in any disciplinary action. In May, Carol Marin reported that video from a security camera at a Burger King on the scene had apparently been deleted by police in the hours after the shooting.

“This case shows the operation of the code of silence in the Chicago Police Department,” said Futterman. “From the very start you have officers and detectives conspiring to cover up the story. The question is, why are they not being charged?”

Van Dyke’s history “also shows what happens when the police department consistently chooses not to look at patterns of abuse complaints when investigating misconduct charges,” he adds. This failure “is one of the reasons an officer like Van Dyke has an opportunity to execute a 17-year-old kid.”

Rather than acknowledging the systemic failures, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is now trying to frame the issue as the action of one bad officer, as the Tribune reports. “One individual needs to be held accountable,” he said Monday.

Kalven calls Emanuel’s “reframing” of the narrative “essentially false.” He points out that “everything we know now, the city knew from Day One. They had the officers on the scene. They knew there were witnesses. They had the autopsy, they had the video.... They maintained a false narrative about those events, and they did it for a year, when it could have been corrected almost immediately....They spent a year stonewalling any calls for transparency, any information about the case.”

He points to Cincinnati, where last summer a university officer was indicted for murder and video from his body camera was released within days following the shooting of an unarmed African-American man in a traffic stop.

“The policy in Cincinnati is that you should release within 24 hours unless there are compelling investigatory reasons to hold on longer,” said Kalven. “The policy should be that the presumption is that this is public information and it is released as quickly as can reasonably be done, except in cases where there is a genuine and very specific investigatory need to withhold it.”

That’s not the same as waiting until an investigation is concluded. Friday’s ruling that the McDonald video must be released—and the absence of any affidavit from investigators about the need to withhold it—showed that “there was absolutely no legal or investigatory impediment to releasing this” long ago.

“This was an incredible test of leadership, a major challenge to [Emanuel’s] leadership,” Kalven said. “Think how different the situation would be right now if the city had acknowledged the reality of what happened in the days or weeks after it happened. That would have built confidence.”

And instead of vague and politically self-serving calls for “healing,” it could have begun a real process of accountability of the kind necessary to start addressing the extreme alienation between police and wide segments of our communities.

Instead, with only Van Dyke indicted, it looks like he’s being sacrificed in order to protect the system that created him.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Because anti-Semitism was rampant in America prior to the Holocaust, I feel extremely fortunate that my family was allowed to enter the U.S. in 1936

Thanksgiving Day has always had a particularly special meaning for me. I’m a very fortunate guy. I escaped the death camps of the Holocaust because my parents had the foresight in 1936 to leave Germany for America. And becoming an American is what makes the Thanksgiving Day holidays so special for me.

My father served in the Kaiser’s army during WWI. After recovering from wounds he received while fighting in Poland, he was sent to the Western Front where he served as a machine gun platoon leader until the end of the war. However, because he was Jewish, my father’s service to his country was not rewarded. Instead, he was fired from an executive position with Karstadt, a large department store chain, because the Nuremberg Laws forbade Aryans from employing Jews.

Many German Jews believed the persecution of Jews was just a passing phase and made no effort to leave, but my father was smart enough to see the handwriting on the wall. He wanted to take us to America. While the Nazis were only too eager to see us leave – after they confiscated most of our savings and personal property – it wasn’t that east to get into the U.S. We had to have a sponsor. Fortunately a distant relative who was an executive with Macy’s offered to sponsor us, and away we went with a few personal belongings and 10 silver dollars.

Before I go any further, let me say that to this day, I am thoroughly thankful for getting the opportunity to start life over in this wonderful and great country of ours. I enlisted in the U.S. Army on my 17th birthday during WWII as one way of showing my appreciation for that. And as a small gesture, I proudly fly the Stars and Stripes in front of my home 24/7.

My family was one of the lucky ones. Other Jews were not as fortunate because anti-Semitism was rampant in this country and Americans simply did not want any damn Jews coming over here.

In 1939, a ship – The St. Louis – left Germany with 935 passengers aboard, almost all of them Jews fleeing persecution by the Nazis. They were supposed to embark in Cuba, but when they arrived, the Cubans changed their minds. The ship then left for Miami, but the government sent a Coast Guard cutter to keep the ship out of American waters.

The ship then returned to Europe where England took in most of the Jews aboard, while France, Belgium and the Netherlands took in the remaining 254 Jewish passengers. Unfortunately for them, the Nazis overran those three countries and shipped each of them to the death camps in Poland. The 254 were not only victims of the Nazis, but they were also victims of American anti-Semitism.

My early impression of America was not a particular good one. There were those signs I saw in front of upscale apartment complexes in Manhattan and Brooklyn. “No Jews or Dogs Allowed.” They were commercially produced billboards, not words scribbled on cardboard.

My parents enrolled me in a Brooklyn elementary school, but because I could not speak any English, I was placed in the first grade. There was no bilingual education then. Within a few months, I spoke English well enough – I learned it on the streets, not in school – to be placed in the fourth grade. I had a black girl sitting next to me. One day we got into some sort of argument and she snapped at me, “You damn Jew.”

I also learned quickly that Banks (unless they were owned by Jews), insurance companies and oil companies refused to hire any Jews above the janitorial level. The thinking must have been that it takes trash to find trash.

Later on while I was in the army, I heard the expression that “a Jew is nothing but a nigger turned inside out.” And I was often called or referred to as that “Jew boy.” Of course, overseas we were all brothers in arms.

For a time, before WWII, my family also lived in Ardmore, Oklahoma and Marshall, Texas where there was little anti-Semitism. I suspect that was because there were only a handful of Jewish families living there. As a matter of fact, Louis Kariel, my father’s employer, served as Marshall’s mayor from 1937-1953 and his daughter-in- law was mayor from 1994-2001.

However, in the 1960s when I was a law enforcement officer in California, I continued to experience some anti-Semitism. A good friend, San Bernardino Police Chief Neal Pyatt, tried to get me into the San Bernardino Elks Lodge, but they blackballed me because I was Jewish. (Some FBI agents did get me into the Riverside lodge some time later.)

And another one of my friends, a doctor, owned a cabin at an exclusive club in the Big Bear area. He invited my family to spend a weekend there with his family. In order to have any guests, he had to get the club’s permission ahead of time. When he submitted my name, he was told the club did not allow any Jews on its premises. (I wonder if they also did not allow any dogs there.)

Anti-Semitism in this country did not subside until the advent of the civil rights movement when the hate mongers and those opposed to integration of the races turned their focus away from Jews and onto African-Americans.

Ironically, surveys have consistently shown that blacks as a group are the most anti-Semitic people in this country. Apparently it doesn’t matter that Jews were among the most prominent and active supporters of the civil rights movement. Nor that two Jewish college students gave their lives in Mississippi so that backs could achieve equal rights. And it didn’t help when Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Obama’s mentor Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Louis Farrakhan and their ilk kept carping about Jewish store owners in black neighborhoods selling inferior merchandize at inflated prices and other anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Make no mistake about it though, America truly is the land of opportunity if you’re willing to work for it. My father was never without a job. Because he could speak no English when we arrived in New York, the former department store executive took a job as an elevator operator in a Manhattan building. Eventually he became the simultaneous manager of two shoe stores in Galveston County, one on Galveston Island and the other in Texas City.

And what about those ‘no Jews or dogs allowed’ apartment complexes? As a slap to the face of the bigoted owners and renters, some of the complexes were bought out by wealthy Jews.

I’ve fared fairly well in this great land of ours. I obtained a good education, married a wonderful woman and raised two children. And I loved my career in law enforcement. I am especially proud of the fact that I founded the Texas Narcotic Officers Association and that I was elected to the board of directors of the International Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association. Not too bad for someone who is nothing but a nigger turned inside out.

And despite the anti-Semitism, my fellow Jews have done well in this country. They didn’t wallow in victimhood. They did not allow demagogues like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to represent them. They succeeded because Jewish families put a high premium on education. Instead of being school dropouts, Jews obtained a good college education – none of that ethnic and gender study crap – and went on to achieve recognition in medicine, science, technology, law and business.

There is no doubt that had we not come to America, my parents and I would eventually have been shipped off to one of the Nazi extermination camps in Poland – Auschwitz, Treblinka, or Sobibór. That’s the fate that befell some of my family members, including one of my grandfathers.

Having been a refugee myself, I have to disagree with those who oppose letting any Syrian refugees enter this country. With the proper screening to weed out any potential terrorists, those refuges pose little if any risk. Where Donald Trump sees the Syrian refugees as strong young men, I see them as pitiful parents carrying little children in their arms or on their backs. To deny them the chance that my parents and I got back in 1936 is just plain un-American!

Despite its flaws, America the Great is an opportunistic and generous land. I love it! May God protect America from its enemies, both foreign and domestic. And may the voters smarten up and elect a president with the smarts to keep our country safe with our freedoms still in place. God bless America!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


By Paige St. John

Los Angeles Times
November 22, 2015

SACRAMENTO -- As he pushes a proposed ballot initiative cobbled together from gun-control bills that died in the Legislature or on the governor's desk, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom frames the battle he hopes to wage next year as a personal one.

"Since Sandy Hook, I have sat back as a father and been mesmerized by the inability of the federal government to do anything substantively on gun safety," he said in a recent telephone interview, referring to the 2012 shooting deaths of 26 children and staff at a Connecticut school.

But the expanded background checks and stolen-gun reporting requirements that Newsom seeks to put on the state ballot next fall also fit neatly into an unfolding national effort championed by billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Bloomberg announced last year that he was launching Everytown for Gun Safety, a tax-exempt social welfare organization into which he merged gun-control groups he had formed or funded. He started the new group with $50 million of his own money.

Bloomberg's stated strategy: Confront the gun lobby at the local level, by backing legislative candidates who favor gun control and supporting gun-control initiatives on state ballots, rather than rely on Congress, where the National Rifle Assn. is perceived to have its greatest political influence, to foster change.

Campaign finance records show Everytown last year provided more than $4 million to a successful $11 million campaign in Washington state that widened background checks on gun buyers. By contrast, the NRA and its supporters spent less than $600,000.

Additional support for the Washington initiative came from other foundations and a short list of billionaire donors, including more than $1 million from Napster co-founder Sean Parker.

Similar measures proposed this year in Nevada and Maine suggest more of the same.

Campaign finance reports filed in those states show Everytown is providing staff and most of the money for the moves there. The political committee filing the Nevada ballot proposal registered with the secretary of state as an affiliate of Everytown, for example.

The National Rifle Assn. characterizes the state initiatives as an assault by Bloomberg on the 2nd Amendment.

"We want voters to know this is the work of one billionaire," said Amy Hunter, spokeswoman for the NRA's political lobbying arm in Virginia, the Institute for Legislative Action. "We know they are working on the ground to get on the ballot in other states too."

Everytown representatives declined to discuss whether the organization intends to become involved in the proposed California initiative. Neither would Newsom or his political advisors talk about how deeply he plans to tap the Bloomberg vein if his measure is cleared to circulate petitions to place it on California's November 2016 ballot.

But Newsom acknowledges he has met with Bloomberg. He used his Twitter account to thank the former mayor for seeing him seven days after announcing his Safety for All campaign last month.

In the interview, he said he was encouraged to pursue a California initiative by both local gun-control advocates, whom he called "lawyers in the trenches," and "national groups … who feel we need a sustained conversation with the public."

Bloomberg is not Newsom's only connection to the gun-control push in other states.

He was a guest at Parker's wedding and has received campaign donations from the Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

Parker has already contributed the legal maximum to Newsom's 2018 gubernatorial effort and has agreed to provide millions for a Newsom-endorsed initiative, also proposed for next fall's ballot, that would legalize and tax general use of marijuana.

Newsom's proposed gun initiative was written by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a San Francisco organization that drafts model regulations and defends such measures in court. Tax records provided by the center show it is funded largely by national foundations, including former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords' Americans for Responsible Solutions.

Ari Freilich, a staff attorney for the center, said much of the group's discussion with Newsom and his political strategists over the summer concerned what to seek from voters in a state that already has strong gun laws.

"But we thought we could do more. California can lead the nation," he said.

Freilich identified nine unsuccessful bills in the Legislature in recent years as the "loose foundation" of the Newsom proposal. He said its central provision — background checks on anyone buying ammunition — was based on legislation championed by Senate leader Kevin de León.

The Los Angeles Democrat has twice won passage of such checks in the Legislature. But he was defeated the first time in 2010 by a successful court challenge to the new law and again two years later by Gov. Jerry Brown, who vetoed a revised version of the proposal, quipping, "Let's keep our powder dry" while legal appeals to restore the first law ran their course.

If Newsom's measure qualifies for next year's ballot, the battle with the NRA is likely to be high profile and expensive.

"The whole country will be watching. The whole world will be watching," said Darry Sragow, a veteran Democratic strategist. "That makes the stakes even higher, and that probably draws even more money."

He said the exposure could greatly benefit Newsom's 2018 gubernatorial run.

"There are a whole lot of Democrats eyeing the governor's race in 2018," Sragow said, "and becoming known to the voters is the single biggest hurdle to that candidacy."


California’s Riverside County approved one of every five U.S. wiretaps last year, but most were not legal because the tap applications were not personally reviewed by the district attorney as required by federal law

By Brad Heath and Brett Kelman,

USA Today
November 20, 2015

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Prosecutors in the Los Angeles suburb responsible for a huge share of the nation’s wiretaps almost certainly violated federal law when they authorized widespread eavesdropping that police used to make more than 300 arrests and seize millions of dollars in cash and drugs throughout the USA.

The violations could undermine the legality of as many as 738 wiretaps approved in Riverside County, Calif., since the middle of 2013, an investigation by USA TODAY and The Desert Sun, based on interviews and court records, has found. Prosecutors reported that those taps, often conducted by federal drug investigators, intercepted phone calls and text messages by more than 52,000 people.

Federal law bars the government from seeking court approval for a wiretap unless a top prosecutor has personally authorized the request. Congress added that restriction in the 1960s, when the FBI had secretly monitored civil rights leaders, to ensure that such intrusive surveillance would not be conducted lightly.

In Riverside County — a Los Angeles suburb whose court and prosecutors approved almost one of every five U.S. wiretaps last year — the district attorney turned the job of reviewing the applications over to lower-level lawyers, interviews and court records show. That practice almost certainly violated the federal wiretapping law and could jeopardize prosecutors’ ability to use the surveillance in court.

“A district attorney is playing with gunpowder if he ignores the potential implications of letting somebody else handle the entire process. That’s potentially catastrophic,” said Clifford Fishman, a Catholic University of America law professor who studies wiretapping.

That also creates a legal problem for Riverside’s massive wiretapping operation, which had come under scrutiny from Justice Department lawyers. Last week, USA TODAY and The Desert Sun reported that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had secretly helped turn the county into the nation’s wiretap capital, even though federal prosecutors repeatedly warned that the surveillance orders violated a separate part of the wiretapping law and would not withstand a legal challenge.

Federal drug agents used information from Riverside wiretaps to make arrests as far away as Kentucky and Virginia, sometimes concealing the surveillance from judges and defense lawyers.

Wiretaps in Riverside more than quadrupled under the county’s former district attorney, Paul Zellerbach, who left office in January. Despite a federal court ruling that only the district attorney himself should usually approve wiretaps, Zellerbach said in two interviews over the past month that he could not recall having reviewed or personally authorized any of the county’s wiretap applications and said he was unaware of the details of the requests. Instead, he said, he delegated that job to one of his assistants.

“I didn’t have time to review all of those,” Zellerbach said. “No way.”

Because wiretap applications are secret, it is difficult to gauge how often they were approved by other lawyers. A report based on information Zellerbach’s office submitted to federal court administrators lists an assistant, Jeffrey Van Wagenen, as the person who authorized nearly all of the county’s wiretap applications. Van Wagenen’s signature appears on a sealed wiretap application approved last year by a Riverside County judge and obtained by USA TODAY. Van Wagenen, who left the office last year, said it would be inappropriate for him to comment.

Delegating that job poses a legal problem because federal law — which regulates wiretap applications even in state courts — carefully restricts who must approve a surveillance request. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1974 that those restrictions were serious enough that it threw out wiretap evidence in a drug case because the surveillance had been approved by the wrong senior official at the U.S. Justice Department.

The federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reiterated that point in 2013 after federal prosecutors sought to use evidence from a wiretap police obtained from a state court in San Bernardino County, just north of Riverside. The prosecutor who signed off on the wiretap was not the county’s district attorney, Mike Ramos, but one of his deputies. That, the appeals court ruled, wasn’t good enough: Wiretaps had to be signed by the district attorney himself unless he had turned over all of his powers to someone else while he was away from the office.

Since this decision, Ramos has begun signing all wiretap applications himself and urged other district attorneys to do the same. “This is our responsibility. We are talking about people’s rights, the Fourth Amendment, cartels, drugs, gangs. It should be handled by the elected DA,” he said.

Riverside County’s new district attorney, Mike Hestrin, who replaced Zellerbach in January, instituted a similar policy. Hestrin said the 9th Circuit ruling makes clear that district attorneys have a “legal obligation” to approve wiretaps themselves, but his office will defend his predecessor’s wires if they are challenged in court.

Ramos said in interviews that he warned Zellerbach about the implications of the 9th Circuit’s decision. “We had a conversation about wiretaps, and he said that he had so many that it would be impossible for him to sign them all,” Ramos said.

Records and interviews show no evidence that Zellerbach changed his approach. Records from the federal court administrative office show Riverside prosecutors obtained at least 738 wiretaps in the years after the appeals court’s decision. They identify Van Wagenen as the person who authorized nearly all of the surveillance applications.

The scope of those apparent violations is “staggering,” said defense lawyer Michael Garey, and the ramifications are “endless."

"And what I mean by endless is, if you have a wiretap authorization that is invalid, all of the material that is obtained as a result of that wiretap is subject to suppression," he said, "and anything derived from that material is also subject to suppression.”

American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Nathan Wessler said Riverside prosecutors should warn agencies that made use of the wires that the surveillance may have been illegal and notify the people whose conversations were recorded, even if they were never arrested as a result. “They should know that these were illegally obtained,” he said.

The 9th Circuit’s decision left one exception: Lower-level officials can authorize wiretaps if the district attorney is “absent” and authorizes another lawyer in the office to act in his place.

Zellerbach said he “often was absent” because his job required him to travel across a county that stretches from the Los Angeles suburbs to the Arizona border.

Still, records show Riverside prosecutors routinely requested wiretaps on days when he was working. Federal court records show prosecutors applied for five wiretaps Feb. 18, 2014, for example, when Zellerbach appeared at a news conference to talk about metal thefts. The next week, prosecutors applied for nine more wiretaps on a day when Zellerbach’s office posted a photo on Twitter of him meeting with a delegation of Chinese officials in his office conference room. In each case, reports by the federal court administrative office list Van Wagenen, not Zellerbach, as the person who approved the surveillance.

Zellerbach declined to answer questions about his office’s approval of wiretap applications. “I did nothing wrong other than have my office assist law enforcement in their effort to obtain a wiretap,” he said Thursday.

It is impossible to know how often prosecutors in other jurisdictions improperly turned the job of approving wiretaps over to lower-level attorneys because those orders almost always remain secret. In submissions to the federal courts’ administrative office, Los Angeles prosecutors reported that hundreds of wiretaps had been approved by the head of the office’s drug crimes unit, not the district attorney. A spokesman said the information in those reports was incorrect.

Ramos, the president-elect of the National District Attorneys Association, said he planned to raise the issue with other top prosecutors at a meeting this week.

Kelman also reports for The (Palm Springs, Calif.) Desert Sun.

Monday, November 23, 2015


Illegal immigrants and legal Latinos rally in support of Obama’s ‘Deferred Action for Parents of Americans’ (DAPA) policy

Whether you’re for or against immigration, here is an interesting perspective from the Houston Press on the problem of illegals who have been working in this country for decades and have children that are U.S. citizens.

Immigrant Families Rally for DAPA After Obama Requests Supreme Court Review

By Meagan Flynn | Houston Press | November 23, 2015

When President Barack Obama announced an immigration policy change last year, Maria Carachure's parents, who are undocumented immigrants, were feeling hopeful. Her parents had come to the country two decades ago, and to provide for the family, her father traveled across the country picking fruits while her mother sewed clothes in a factory. Those were the only jobs her parents could find. And in 20 years, that struggle for work has not changed much. Now, because her father can only find temp jobs as a plumber when work is available, her mother is the only one with a steady job, cleaning offices in a downtown building.

“We're always fearing what might happen—what if she loses her job?” 19-year-old Maria Carachure said. “What if they call immigration? We never know what's going to happen to my mom.”

The policy that could have quelled those fears was the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, which would have provided nearly five million immigrants like Carachure's parents a renewable work permit, a driver's license, and reprieve from the threat of deportation. But shortly after Obama announced it, then-Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration, claiming Obama acted outside of his authority and unilaterally rewrote a law. Twenty-five states backed Texas in the suit. In February, Brownsville U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen agreed with Abbott—and then roughly five million immigrants faced the daily fear of deportation again.

After the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals twice declined to grant the Obama administration's emergency request to lift the injunction, on Friday, Obama filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court to review the lower court's ruling. In the filing, the administration asks the court to grant the case "immediate review," given the instant protections the policy would provide for thousands of immigrant families. The main question the appeal raises is whether the states had proper standing to sue the president in the first place and challenge his choices in pursuit of their own immigration policies. In the past, Obama has argued that, if we're going to deport people, it should only be those who are a threat to others, such as felons—not hardworking people, like Carachure's parents. By blocking the reform, U.S. Solicitor General said in the appeal that the courts will force millions of people—who are not removal priorities under criteria the court conceded are valid, and who are parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents—to continue to work off the books, without the option of lawful employment to provide for their families.

Within hours of the administration filing the appeal, Texas immigration reform advocacy groups and a few dozen immigrant families gathered outside of City Hall to urge voters to back politicians who would support DAPA.

“We have faith that the Supreme Court will ultimately rule in favor of American principles—of inclusion,” said Elsa Caballero, president of SEIU Texas.

One woman, Virginia, who declined to give her last name for fear of deportation, said she was at first afraid to even attend the City Hall rally, eyeing Houston police officers who walked past her. Should DAPA be implemented, the first thing she would do after getting a license is start volunteering at elementary schools again. Her children are grown now, and she spent much of her time as a volunteer with younger kids before a policy change requiring her to show a valid ID for a criminal background check took that opportunity away.

In her closing remarks, Caballero reminded the Latino community—who held signs saying "Strong Alone, Unbeatable Together” and “28.5 Million Latino Voters Eligible in 2016”—of the importance of making sure that candidates like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, staunchly opposed to immigration policies such as this one, stay out of office. “We're tired,” Caballero said. “We're tired of the politicking that's being done, that's preventing our community from moving forward. It's preventing us from coming out of the shadows.”


by Dara Lind

November 19, 2015

Desperate people, fleeing a terrifying, bloodthirsty regime, try to find refuge in the US. But the American government and the public don't want to accept them. They worry that accepting refugees would put citizens at risk, and they don't see the refugee crisis as their problem to fix. So they are turned away.

This is what could happen in the US in 2015, if the governors and members of Congress pushing to stop the admission of Syrian refugees have their way. But it's definitely what happened in 1939 to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. The US (and other countries in the Western Hemisphere) could have saved thousands of Jews from the Nazis. They didn't. At one point, the US literally turned away a ship of 900 German Jews. Shortly afterward, it rejected a proposal to allow 20,000 Jewish children to come to the US for safety.

At the time, the US didn't know how terrible the Holocaust would become. But Americans did know that Nazis were encouraging vandalism and violence against Jews — many Americans had been alarmed by Kristallnacht in 1938, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt had issued a statement condemning it. But America didn't feel strongly enough about the mistreatment of Jews to allow them to find a safe harbor in the US.

That is a moral stain on the nation's conscience, and it's what led the US and other countries, after the war, to create a way for persecuted people to seek and find refuge. Modern refugee policy, in other words, is largely a response to the failures of the Holocaust era.

The St. Louis: the ship the US turned away

On May 13, 1939, 935 people — almost all of them German Jews — set sail from Hamburg, Germany on a ship called the St. Louis. The St. Louis was headed for Cuba, but for most of the Jews aboard, the ultimate destination was the United States. Most of the passengers had applied for US visas and were planning to move from Cuba to the US once a visa became available for them.

At the time, US immigration laws set strict quotas that limited immigration, especially from southern and eastern Europe. Germany had a relatively generous quota — more than 25,000 immigrants from Germany could be admitted a year. But the US was a lot stingier in handing out actual visas to German emigrants (most of whom were Jews) during the early years of Nazi rule in Germany than it had to be. From 1933 to 1938, about 30,000 German Jews emigrated to the US — but the government only gave out 30 percent of the visas it had available for Germans. So while the passengers on the St. Louis were likely to face a long wait to enter the US, the US certainly had room for them.

In the meantime, the passengers had arranged documents before their trip that allowed them to enter Cuba. But shortly before the St. Louis left Hamburg, Cuba suddenly changed its visa policy — and declared that the old admissions documents wouldn't be accepted, effective immediately. (There were a lot of reasons for the policy change, none of which were good, and one of which was plain old anti-Semitism.)

A few of the passengers on the St. Louis had managed to get new visas before the ship left. The other 900 had not. When the ship arrived in Cuba, only 26 passengers were allowed to get off.

The boat stayed docked in Havana for several days. One passenger, named Max Loewe — who was a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp — tried to kill himself rather than get sent back to Europe. Loewe was allowed to leave the ship to be taken to a hospital. But his wife and children weren't allowed to visit him there; they were kept on board.

US-based Jewish organizations tried to negotiate with the Cuban government to let in the rest of the passengers. The US itself, however, felt the whole thing was a "specific and internal matter of Cuba" and didn't feel any need to intercede on the refugees' behalf; the head of the State Department's Visa Division declared that the US wouldn't pressure Cuba to accept the refugees. (US diplomats "informally" urged Cuba to take them but steadfastly avoided doing anything formally.)

In early June, negotiations stalled, and the St. Louis was ordered to leave Cuban waters. It turned toward Miami instead.

US officials had already announced that the ship would not be allowed to dock. And when the St. Louis got within a few miles of Miami's harbor, the Coast Guard started tailing the boat to underline the point.

The US could have agreed to allow the passengers of the St. Louis to land and wait in America for their visas to be processed. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who a few years later would use an executive order to round up tens of thousands of Japanese Americans and put them in concentration camps, could have ordered that 900 German Jews be allowed to stay. He did not do so. FDR's defenders (like his presidential library) stress that he never issued a "specific or official order to turn them away." But he didn't have to. His government was doing that for him.

After a few days of the St. Louis sailing in circles off the coast of Miami, the negotiations with the Cuban government fell apart for good. The ship started back across the Atlantic Ocean, and the refugees were divided up and sent to various European countries.

The luckiest St. Louis passengers were sent to Great Britain; all but one of them survived the war there. The rest went to the Netherlands, Belgium, and France — all countries that would later be invaded by the Nazis and their Jews sent to the camps.

So 254 of the passengers on the St. Louis died in the Holocaust.

Congress rejected a bill to take 20,000 Jewish refugee children

A few months before the St. Louis set sail — in February 1939 — Sen. Robert Wagner (D-NY) and Rep. Edith Rogers (R-MA) introduced a bill that would allow 20,000 German Jewish children to come to the US, over and above the annual quota for German immigrants.

As far as we can tell, the American public strongly opposed the proposal. A Gallup poll from January 1939 asked if Americans would support bringing even 10,000 German refugee children into the country, and public opinion ran 2 to 1 against. But polling wasn't yet a science, and it's possible the public was less anti-refugee than Gallup's methods indicated.

More importantly, politicians weren't in the habit of consulting polls to determine the public mood. When the Senate and House immigration subcommittees held joint hearings on the Wagner-Rogers bill in April, they were extremely enthusiastic about the idea. Fourteen hundred Americans had written unsolicited letters to Congress offering to adopt a refugee child. Star actress Helen Hayes testified before the committee and promised to adopt a refugee herself. The bill passed out of the subcommittees unanimously.

But it was already doomed. To get to the floor of either the Senate or House, it had to pass the chambers' full Judiciary Committees. The committees were dominated by members from the Southern and Western US — who had no interest in taking in refugees.

Southern and Western members of Congress had already scared pro-refugee Rep. Emanuel Celler out of introducing a bill to give unused visa slots to refugees fleeing Germany — by warning him that if he brought up such an idea, they'd come up with new ways to restrict immigration further. And now they openly boasted, before the full committee had even had a hearing, that they had "11 votes in their pockets" to kill the child-refugee bill.

The bill's opponents (both in Congress and groups like the Immigration Restrictionist League, the American Coalition of Patriotic Societies, and the American Legion) took an "America first" approach to rejecting refugees: America should focus on helping its own needy and homeless citizens rather than taking in anyone new. But as is often the case, there was a fine line between "America first" and outright xenophobia. The wife of the US immigration commissioner (who also happened to be a cousin of President Roosevelt) testified that "20,000 charming children would all too soon grow into 20,000 ugly adults."

The bill's supporters simply couldn't marshal the support to counterbalance those arguments. And again, President Roosevelt declined to take a stand — and let restrictionist opposition carry the day. First lady Eleanor Roosevelt supported the bill, and FDR gave her permission to advocate for it as a private citizen. But she didn't. And FDR himself refused to take a stance on the bill. When a member of Congress wrote asking what his position was, his secretary filed the inquiry as "File: No action FDR."

When the Wagner-Rogers bill was taken up by the full Senate Judiciary Committee, committee chair Richard Russell — a Southern Democrat from Georgia who would later, during the civil rights era, become the Senate's most powerful segregationist — amended it so that the 20,000 Jewish refugee children would count against the German immigrant quota for the year. This totally defeated the purpose of the bill, and the restrictionists knew it. It passed out of committee on June 30, but no one was interested in pushing it into law anymore, and no further action on it was ever taken.

After the Holocaust, the US decided helping refugees was a moral imperative

It's not that the United States wasn't interested in helping Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis in the 1930s. The government helped set up an international committee to try to figure out a place to settle them. But the US simply didn't think it was obligated to take in Jews itself.

After World War II, that changed. The international community recognized the importance of helping refugees.

The UN set up its office of the High Commissioner for Refugees in 1950, and the Refugee Convention was passed the next year. But even before the UN got its act together, the US was engaging in ad hoc refugee programs during the 1940s in the aftermath of the war. This wasn't just a shift in policy — it was a shift in attitudes. After World War II, the US started believing it had a moral obligation to help people fleeing persecution. It became something for Americans to be proud of. It became a value people saw in America itself.

"The American commitment to bring refugees to the US really is birthed in the post-World War II era," historian Carl Bon Tempo told me last year. "And the example of the pre-World War II era that stands out to everyone is what happened to European refugees, especially Jews, in the run-up."

America has spent 70 years atoning for its sin by becoming the most welcoming country in the world to refugees. Half of all refugees who are permanently resettled in new countries are resettled in the United States. That is a legacy that Americans are proud of, and should be. It's the closest America has come, in the 20th century, to honoring the inscription on the Statue of Liberty.

But America started being welcoming only after it had been cruel. America could have saved Jews from the Holocaust, but instead turned them away. The Statue of Liberty was standing in 1939, but just because the statue said the United States opened its doors to "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" didn't mean it was true.

America's refugee legacy isn't just about our decades-long record of welcoming the stranger and standing up for human rights. It's about what happens when we don't.

Sunday, November 22, 2015


Crystal Sweigart says, “I'm not saying that I'm not guilty, I'm just not a prostitute”

By Wesley Robinson

November 20, 2015

MOUNT JOY, PA — A Mount Joy woman accused of running a prostitution ring out of her home said her only crime is operating a massage business without a license.

"It was massages with free fun after work," said Crystal Sweigart on Thursday in her home in the 10 block of Hopewell Street in the borough. "Being labeled as a prostitute isn't what I was doing. I was giving pleasure without expecting any money."

Sweigart, 32, is charged with misdemeanor prostitution. She was arrested on Tuesday around 5:30 p.m. and released on $2,500 unsecured bail.

Mount Joy police Chief Maurice Williams said a two-week investigation found that Sweigart was advertising massages on Craigslist. Police raided Sweigart's home Tuesday when the woman was arrested. He added that he was not releasing any additional information to prevent compromising the investigation and because more charges may be filed.

Sweigart declined to comment on others involved in the case. A neighbor, Bonnie L. Aulthouse, 49, of Mount Joy, was arrested with Sweigart on Tuesday for felony promoting prostitution. A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Charles E. Ford, 39, of Modena, for felony promoting prostitution as well.

According to charging documents, police received numerous complaints of heavy traffic at Sweigart's home, noting that several people thought prostitution was occurring at the home. Multiple men told police that Sweigart and Aulthouse were operating a prostitution ring at the home, police said.

Police confirmed the high amount of traffic through surveillance, according to charging documents. Police said Sweigart and Aulthouse confirmed that prostitution was occurring at the home, according to charging documents. reported that Sweigart told police she made $400 daily and had five to 10 clients per day. Aulthouse and Ford were responsible for managing the Craigslist page, booking clients and assisting in taking money in exchange for sex acts, according to the report.

Three men were arrested after they were seen leaving Sweigart's home and charged with soliciting prostitution: Todd A Morris, 52, of Middletown; Andrew G. Reynolds, 44, of New Cumberland; and William B Trousdale, 63, of Harrisburg.

Sweigart said she studied to be a licensed masseuse but circumstances prevented her from obtaining a license. She noted that licensed masseuses cannot perform any sex acts.

"Anything that happened when the massage stopped becomes two consenting adults having fun," Sweigart said. "What I'm complaining about is (police) labeling it as [prostitution]."

Throughout an interview with PennLive, Sweigart maintained that she did not ask for money for sex or sex acts. She said she charged $50 for a massage and anything after that was between friends who sometimes gave her money.

"Did I refuse the money? No," Sweigart said. "Should I have or would it have looked better on me if I didn't? Probably."

Pointing to her phone, Sweigart said she had at least 222 clients. Many more clients were coordinated through email or Craigslist, she said. Some of the men became the friends with whom she would engage in sex acts with, adding that she knew all of the men who paid her above the rate for a massage.

The goal was to make her clients happy, something many of her regulars sought, Sweigart said. She described herself as an open-minded, sexual person who connected with men who were unfulfilled.

"I didn't answer the ads, they answered me," Sweigart said. "I can't take all of the blame."

Sweigart said police seized all of her business equipment as well as sex toys and other items she used when she engaged in sex acts. In am moment of levity, Sweigart joked that she should have done workshops for couples in need.

Sweigart tearfully addressed the fact that people would judge her based on reports of prostitution charges, adding that it was a bad decision on her part to accept money for sex acts and operate a business illegally.

"I'm not saying that I'm not guilty, I'm just not a prostitute," Sweigart said.


The state has revoked the pension of former Trooper Aaron Huntsman, who stole cash and a gold chain from a dying motorcyclist after a crash

By Christine Dempsey

The Hartford Courant
November 21, 2015

HARTFORD, Connecticut -- The state has revoked the pension of a former state trooper who stole cash and a gold chain from a dying motorcyclist after a crash, according to a spokeswoman from the state's attorney general's office.

Judge Constance L. Epstein granted a motion seeking the revocation of Aaron Huntsman's pension on Friday in Superior Court, Jaclyn Falkowski said.

Huntsman pleaded guilty to third-degree larceny and tampering with evidence, both felonies, on July 16, 2014, in Superior Court in Bridgeport. He pleaded under the Alford doctrine, which means he did not admit guilt but acknowledged that the state had enough evidence for a conviction. He was sentenced to a year in prison on Oct. 10, 2014.

According to the warrant for his 2012 arrest, Huntsman, the lead investigator, took $3,700 in cash and a gold chain valued at $5,500 from the Fairfield crash scene, saying he would put it into evidence. When questioned by a supervisor, he admitted to having the chain but denied knowledge of the missing money, the warrant said. He said he left the chain in a cup holder in his police car, inside a glove, and had forgotten about it, it said.

The cash later was found wrapped in a rubber band under the front passenger seat of Huntsman's car, the warrant said.

He left the state police in May 2013. Attorney General George Jepsen filed the request to revoke his pension in October 2014, after Huntsman was sentenced.

Huntsman, who was 43 at the time of his arrest, would have been eligible to begin receiving a monthly pension benefit of about $1,530 on July 1, 2024, Falkowski said.

"Theft related to an individual's state or municipal position is a serious violation of the public trust and this particular case represented an unconscionable violation of that trust on the part of a law enforcement officer," Jepsen said.

"In 2008, the General Assembly granted my office authority to seek a pension revocation or reduction from a state or municipal official convicted of a felony in connection with their public position. With this court order, Connecticut taxpayers will no longer be on the hook for Mr. Huntsman's pension."

Saturday, November 21, 2015


The Donald wants all American Muslims to register so that the government can keep track of them

In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, presidential candidate Donald Trump on Thursday told reporters in Newton, Iowa that all Muslims in this country should be made to register so that the government will have a data base with which to keep track of them. “I would certainly implement that. Absolutely,” Trump trumpeted. He suggested that all Muslims be issued special identification cards.

Trump also told Yahoo News that in view of these dangerous times, he would consider warrantless searches. “We're going to have to -- we're going to have to look at a lot of things very closely,” Trump said. “We're going to have to do things that we never did before.”

Shades of Nazi Germany! Trump would impose a Nuremberg-like law on America’s Muslims.

As part of the Nuremberg Laws, Jews in Nazi Germany were required to carry special identification cards. They not only had to register with the regime, but they also had to register all their personal possessions, both domestic and foreign.

I’ve had some personal experience with crap similar to that which Trump is proposing. My father, who fought in the German army and was wounded during WWI, was forced out of an important position with Karstadt, a large German department store chain, because of the Nuremberg Laws that prohibited Aryans from employing Jews.

Anyone who supports Trump’s registration proposal, must have forgotten about, or never heard about, how we treated all the Japanese-Americans residing on the West Coast following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. They were all uprooted from their homes and interned in concentration camps. Many of their homes and most of their businesses were taken over by “loyal” Americans. After the war, the Japanese detainees were released, but many of them were unable to recover their homes and businesses.

That was a shameful time in our history. Almost all of the Japanese who were living in this country at the time of Pearl Harbor were hard working, law abiding citizens who were loyal to the United States. Yet they were all treated as if they were a fifth column ready to join with imperial Japan in attacking us.

Trump’s Nuremberg-like proposal views all American Muslims like we viewed all Japanese-Americans during WWII. Yet almost all American Muslims are like the Japanese we sent to concentration camps - hard working, law abiding citizens who are loyal to the United States.

Unfortunately there are dangerous Islamists like Maj. Nidal Hasan and the Boston bombers within our Muslim population. It makes good sense to arrest terrorist suspects before they have a chance to strike, but it is downright wrong and shameful to treat all American Muslims as if they are getting ready to attack us like the terrorists in Paris. This is not Nazi America, at least not yet.

When it comes to voting, Americans are not too bright. They proved that when they elected and reelected Obama. Should the voters be dumb enough to make the billionaire and TV personality our next president, will we then be shouting, “Heil Trump, heil Trump”?


By Colin Lecher

The Verge
November 13, 2015

Police said Quartavious Davis was part of a stunning crime spree. Armed and masked, Davis, with a group of others, robbed a string of businesses in the Miami area: witnesses put him at stick-ups at Little Caesar's, a gas station, a Walgreens, an auto parts store, a beauty salon, a Wendy's, and a jewelry store. One witness claimed Davis pointed a gun at his head and robbed him. Another witness said, when he attempted to write down the plates on the getaway car, Davis opened fire. The witness fired back.

Davis was eventually found guilty and sentenced to 1,941 months in prison — nearly 162 years. At the trial, prosecutors called on an array of evidence. DNA tied Davis to the car, and surveillance video put someone matching his description at multiple robberies. Others involved in the robberies testified against him. And then there was Davis' phone: through a controversial use of records, known as cell site location data, police were able to place Davis' mobile device near the location of six of seven robberies when they occurred.

Cell site location data can provide police with a rough idea of a suspect's location during a given time period, or even in real time, and its use in cases like Davis' has become a rallying cry for activists around the country. Multiple robbery cases have already turned into major circuit court battles over such data, resulting in a range of decisions governing how it can be used. And that broad legal patchwork has turned into something even more complicated, as various lower courts across the country have also made rulings governing how and when the data can be obtained. The result is that a Texas cop doesn't need a warrant for some data, while a Montana cop does; Indiana police need the information in certain circumstances, but there are no protections for the information in Wisconsin.

In the Davis case, as with the other robbery cases, police obtained location records on customers without a warrant. Wireless companies — in the Davis case, the small service provider MetroPCS — keep records of which nearby cell tower carried a customer's call, or in some cases a request like an email ping, and in which direction the ping was sent. (The service providers keep the records on a rolling basis, some for a few months, some for years.) Although the science is imperfect at best, and is much more effective in cities than rural areas, prosecutors can use the evidence to sway juries.

After the verdict, Davis filed an appeal, in part based on the prosecution's use of the cell records. Without a warrant, the argument went, police were in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches. The government in turn argued that it only needs permission under the Stored Communications Act, or SCA, which will hand over a court order to law enforcement if "there are reasonable grounds to believe that" such records "are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation." That standard is much more achievable than the "probable cause" bar needed for a warrant.

The ACLU, taking up the Davis case and others, has argued that the higher standard must be applied, as the information can be extraordinarily revealing. With thousands or tens of thousands of data points, representing weeks or months of location data, police may be able to show a suspect was near a bank robbery, but will incidentally find much more. Which nights, for example, was the suspect not sleeping at home? When was the suspect at church?

"There's really a lot of private and very sensitive information at stake," says Nathan Wessler, a staff attorney on the ACLU's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. Police, in rebuttal, have argued that such data is no longer protected when it's handed over to a wireless service provider, under a legal theory known as "third party doctrine," which has also been used as a defense in lawsuits against the NSA.
Ultimately, after winning an early appeal, the full Eleventh Circuit Court of appeals sided with the government in the Davis case. This week, the Supreme Court rejected a request to hear the case, making Davis' conviction final.

A similar robbery conviction in Baltimore was overturned, but is now being heard by the full Fourth Circuit court, which oversees cases in Maryland, the Carolinas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Yet another robbery — over stolen phones from a Radioshack, tracked with historical location data — is facing appeal in front of the Sixth Circuit court, affecting Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. The Fifth Circuit court — which has jurisdiction over Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas — has determined that police don't need a warrant for historical cell site data.

Without a Supreme Court decision, various other states have moved to govern cell site data in different ways, and the ACLU recently mapped the decisions. Some, like Pennsylvania, let individual judges decide whether a warrant is required. Others require a warrant for real-time tracking of location — when a suspect is not in police custody, but can be tracked through location data — but not for historical data. In many states, including Missouri and New Mexico, no binding decisions have been made at all.

"Something that people forget about cellphones in general, of any type, is that you're leaving a permanent record of all of your physical locations as you move around," Edward Snowden told The Intercept in an interview published yesterday. The ACLU and others say that sensitive information is only becoming more sensitive. As location-tracking tech improves, the data obtainable by police will reveal more and more about our locations and habits, making it too powerful a tool to be governed idiosyncratically across states. In the worst case, the most lenient protections could mean the private lives of innocent people are more likely to be combed over by police.

Meanwhile, as the appeals and subsequent rulings sweep over the states, wireless carriers have offered a window into how frequently such requests are made by police. In recent transparency reports, the major wireless carriers have logged tens of thousands of yearly law enforcement requests for historical and real-time location information. Pending changes in law, those requests show no sign of relenting, and it's unclear if the Supreme Court will ever elect to rule on the matter. "The one thing we do know is that there will be more opportunities to take up this issue," Wessler says.