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Remember the corrupt juvenile judge scheme in Pennsylvania the prosecutors dubbed "Cash for Kids?" The scheme involved the judges taking money from private detention centers in exchange for sentencing kids to the facilities.
Defiant former Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr., convicted of racketeering, has been sentenced to 28 years in prison.
Ciavarella, known for his harsh and autocratic courtroom demeanor, filled the beds of the private lockups with children as young as 10, many of them first-time offenders convicted of petty theft and other minor crimes.
....In the wake of the scandal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed about 4,000 convictions issued by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008, saying he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles, including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea.
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A New Orleans jury has convicted five former police officers of charges related to their unjustified shooting of six unarmed people and attempt to create a cover-up in two incidents on the Danziger Bridge in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Two of the shooting victims died, including a 17 year old and a 40 year old man who was severely mentally disabled. One woman lost her arm.
Four of the shooting victims were from one family. None were armed and they were crossing the bridge looking for food when police opened fire. Not long after, police shot at two unarmed brothers who were also walking on the bridge looking for food. The 40 year old disabled brother was shot seven times in the back.
At trial, lawyers for the cops claimed they were fired on first and feared for their lives. Not so. One of the cops, Retired Sgt. Arthur Kaufman, who was assigned to investigate the shootings, staged the cover-up for the other cops, using his own gun. He was also convicted today. [More...]
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Former Georgia federal judge Jack Camp was sentenced to 30 days for his illegal drug use. As I wrote here, his lawyers argued in their sentencing memorandum that Camp had brain damage:
Camp's sentencing statement contains a plethora of mitigation, from his bi-polar disorder for which he received the wrong kind of medication, to complications from a difficult operation for prostate cancer that required the removal of his entire prostate, to a bicycle accident in 2000 that caused brain damage. Interestingly, the defense says the temporal lobe damage caused by the accident didn't affect him cognitively, it just caused him to have poorer impulse control.
So from 2000 until his resignation in 2010 (which was required by the plea agreement) this judge, who was sentencing drug defendants and others to jail, was suffering from bi-polar disorder and temporal lobe damage, as well as engaging in illegal drug activity
The disclosures by Camp's lawyers have prompted several defendants to seek to resentencing and in some cases a new trial. [More..]
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The Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, has issued a report finding the New Orleans police department engaged in misconduct that violated the Constitution and federal laws.
Among the findings are that the police department has used excessive force, made unconstitutional stops and searches, and illegally profiled people based on race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. The investigation also found a number of practices that contributed to the illegal conduct, including failed systems for recruiting and promoting officers, poor training and lack of supervision, among others.
The report finds the misconduct is "serious, wide-ranging, systemic and deeply rooted in the culture of the department." [More...]
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San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced today that his office will drop at least 57 drug cases due to perjury, illegal searches and other misconduct by police officers.
The investigation has been prompted by a series of surveillance videotapes — released by Jeff Adachi, the city’s public defender, and private defense lawyers — showing officers suspected of falsifying reports, illegally entering residences and, in one instance, making a purposefully flawed arrest for drug possession.
“This is not a game,” Mr. Gascón said. “This is real, this involves people’s lives, not only for those who have been incarcerated, but for victims.”
The feds are now investigating officers from the city's Southern Station. The public defender says thousands of cases may be in jeopardy. [More...]
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Jabar Collins was released from prison last year after serving 16 years for murder. He's now filed a lawsuit claiming the Brooklyn District Attorney's office under DA Charles Hynes routinely engaged in misconduct.
Michael F. Vecchione, a top assistant in the district attorney’s office, was accused of improperly using court orders to detain witnesses, physically threatening them and coercing them into providing false testimony that would benefit the prosecution’s case.
The 106 page lawsuit alleges these illegal practices were widespread in cases prosecuted by Hynes' office.
When a subpoena is issued, it is to appear in court, at a specific day and time when a hearing or trial is scheduled. It is not acceptable to subpoena someone to the DA's office for an interview. If the DA thinks a witness won't testify and a material witness warrant is necessary, the person picked up on the warrant should be brought before the court and provided counsel to challenge the warrant and seek bail, not brought to the DA's office for interrogation and threatened with jail unless they cooperate. [More...]
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CNN has a feature up on FBI employees (agents and others) who have been terminated for breaking rules or engaging in criminal conduct. Here's the document showing the instances over the preceding three years.
There are very few drug allegations, most seem to pertain to sexual misconduct and misuse of funds and databases.
At least the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility takes its duties seriously. There are bound to be a few bad apples everywhere and the OPR seems to be good at weeding them out. (Although the report does says these are "examples" which implies there are more instances.)
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A federal judge in Benton, Illinois today sentenced former sheriff Raymond Martin to two life terms for marijuana distribution. (He was also convicted for a failed plot to kill witnesses and carrying a firearm (his service revolver)during his drug activity.) Charges against his ex-wife and son are pending. His son Cody testified against him at trial. The judge said today: "Words cannot adequately describe how despicable it was for what you did to your son, Cody....Animals protect their young more than you did yours."
More from the Judge: "You represent the worst of humanity. You are a pathetic person and a sorry excuse for a human being for involving your son."
So a crooked cop in Podunk involved with marijuana who made threats that never came to pass and possessed guns gets two life sentences, while Jon Burge, a crooked cop in Chicago, who used guns as one method of actually torturing innocent arrestees for decades gets 4.5 years.
In other news, Cyclist Floyd Landis today called for the legalization of doping.
And Bradley Manning has filed a complaint about the conditions of his detention.
This is an open thread, all topics welcome.
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Bump and Update: Burge was sentenced today to 4 1/2 years in prison. More here. The Judge told Burge, "The case "demonstrates at the very least a severe lack of respect for the due process of law and your refusal to acknowledge the truth in the face of all this evidence," she said."
Jon Burge, the Chicago cop who allegedly tortured arrestees until they confessed during a period of 40 years, will learn his punishment today in a Chicago federal court.
His name has become synonymous with police brutality in the nation's third-largest city, with allegations stretching back nearly 40 years and the case even affecting the state's debate over the death penalty. Dozens of suspects — almost all of them black men — claimed Burge and his officers tortured them into confessing to crimes from robbery to murder.
Burge's sentencing hearing began yesterday, with the Government asking for 30 years. The Probation Department concluded his guideline range is 15 to 21 months. Burge agrees but is asking for a below guideline sentence. Because Burge was only convicted of lying and obstruction in relation to a civil case, and the judge, as explained below, has sided with Burge and the Probation Department on the calculation of his guidelines, his sentence is likely to be in the 15 to 21 month range, or close to it. [More..]
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Federal forfeitures are handled by the U.S. Marshals Service. It's a huge business, involving $2 billion in seized and forfeited assets. Among their duties:
The U.S. Marshals manage and dispose of all assets seized for forfeiture by utilizing successful procedures employed by the private sector. The agency contracts with qualified vendors that minimize the amount of time an asset remains in inventory and maximize the net return to the government.
Forfeiture Support Associates LLC (FSA) has a $613 million contract with the Marshals Service to help administer the asset forfeiture program. Brian Aryani is a former former federal agent and CPA who worked for FSA and the Marshals Service in the Complex Assets Group of the Asset Forfeiture Program. (He says he was employed by both, although it's not clear if his contract was only with FSA.) He has filed a whistleblower and civil rights lawsuit alleging fraud by the former head of the Complex Assets Group, Leonard Brisksman and retaliation by FSA, the Marshals Service and its Assistant Director, Eben Morales, for bringing it to light. [More...]
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USA Today has a series, Justice in the Balance, exploring 201 cases of federal prosecutorial misconduct.
A USA TODAY investigation has found that prosecutors have little reason to fear losing their jobs, even if they violate laws or constitutional safeguards designed to ensure the justice system is fair.
...The Justice Department consistently conceals its own investigations of misconduct from the public. Officials say privacy laws prevent them from revealing any details of their investigations. That secrecy, however, makes it almost impossible to assess the full extent and impact of misconduct by prosecutors or the effectiveness of the department's attempts to deter it.
Today's installment reveals that prosecutors rarely lose their jobs even after they recklessly break the rules. One example: the case of the wrongful charges brought against the parents of missing baby Sabrina Aisenberg. AUSA Steven Kunz was admonished by the Florida bar (order here) and removed from handling criminal cases in Tampa. [More...]
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Former U.S. District Court Judge Jack Camp is in the news again. The feds are probing whether he sentenced African American defendants more harshly because of alleged racial bias. Some defendants may either be resentenced or get a new trial.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer has the results of a nine month investigation, "Presumed Guilty: Prosecutions Without Evidence" in which it examined hundreds of cases ordered dismissed by courts because the prosecution failed to establish even basic elements of a crime.
In the past decade, Cuyahoga County judges have dismissed 364 cases mid-trial because they said prosecutors failed to provide the most basic evidence to sustain a conviction....The judges' rulings indicate that county Prosecutor Bill Mason's office has pushed hundreds of marginal criminal cases to trial in the past decade.
The DA's office prosecuted hundreds of people with little or no evidence. The grand juries serve as a working arm of the DA's office instead of as an independent panel. There's a lack of uniformity among judges in tossing cases for lack of evidence, which raises a question of whether justice is delivered evenly.
It's a terrific series, I recommend reading all five parts, including the profiles of the acquitted defendants.
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Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey announced yesterday there will be no criminal charges brought against the four deputy sheriffs who tased jail inmate Marvin Booker, put him face down in a cell, and sat on his back for 90 seconds, after which Booker died.
Booker, a homeless minister, was in the booking process on a petty offense charge of drug paraphernalia possession when he disobeyed a deputy's order to go to his cell, leaving his shoes behind. He wanted to take his shoes with him.
Morrissey said he viewed the video camera footage four times, the deputies were justified in their actions and Booker was responsible for his death:[More...]
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Denver recently got a new spiffy courthouse and jail. The jail opened in April and is called the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Facility. Our old county jail was deplorable. But I don't recall any inmates there being tased to death by guards.
In July, Marvin Booker, 56, a homeless ordained minister who helped the poor and who had a history of petty offenses that occurred a long time ago, was arrested on drug paraphernalia charges and brought to the new jail. He never made it out alive. The coroner's report released today labels the death a homicide.
Booker was asleep on a chair in the holding tank when a guard told him to go to processing desk and sit down. He was wearing his socks and wanted to get his shoes which were nearby. The guard told him not to and directed him to go to an isolation cell. He began walking back to the holding tank, and the guard went to physically restrain him. He tried to shake her off and she and three other guards jumped him. Here's what witnesses say happened after that. According to the autopsy report released today (available here) the coroner finds: [More...]
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