December 2012 Archives

The Courthouse Christmas Spirit

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The Christmas spirit was lively Thursday morning at the Hall of Justice.

A group of inmates inside a detention cell in the courtroom were chatty as they wait for the public to be let into the courtroom and Judge Kevin McGee to begin the proceedings.

The inmates joke about justice north of the LA city limits.

"Come here on vacation," a male voice says loudly.

"Leave here on probation," a female inmate - a few people down from him - chimes and completes the familiar chant.


A few chuckles surface from inside the cell.


On the opposite side the of the courtroom, the bailiff, Deputy Ramirez, is directing the people traffic. Deputy Ramirez greets people as though they were walking into his new car showroom with a lot of "yes, sir," "No, ma'm" or "Good Morning" as they approached his desk to ask questions.


Deputy Ramirez always seems to be in good mood, always professional and always polite. 

His smile helps to ease some courthouse fears and concerns. Sometimes, he plays music - Vivaldi, Oldies, County and Western - in the afternoon.


He said he started playing the music because it helped drowned out attorney-client conversations between inmates in custody who are standing close to the metal while talking to their lawyers on the other side.

People on the front row can often hear these private conversations.

The music, especially Vivaldi,  also seems to put the whole court in a mellow mood. 


I admire Deputy Ramirez's patience and professionalism, and that in his heart, the Christmas spirit seems to be 24/7, 365 days a year.

He is also a scoutmaster, and proudly told me that his son is one merit badge from being an Eagle scout. The boy has 42 merit badges and only needed 21 but the one he needs is the emergency preparedness badge. It is a required merit badge to be an Eagle Scout, the highest level in scouting.


Before the public is allowed into the courtroom, I bumped into a lawyer with a white bag.

She gives me one of the wrapped, small banana bread gifts she has inside the bag.

"Don't think I am trying to bribe the media," she jokes.

I smile, "I won't. Thank you."

She walks over, reaches inside her bag and also gives Deputy Ramirez one of her banana-bread gifts. 


The door is open to the public and dozens and dozens of people file into the courtroom.

It is not a packed courtroom today. So it will not be as busy in the large courtroom as other days.

Most people are there to know their fate or to support loved ones, friends and family.


I am there waiting for Gina Drake to be arraigned for murder.

Like clockwork, Deputy Ramirez recites the courtroom rules: no talking, no cell phones, no sunglasses, not talking, no trying to communicate with the inmates, period or a person will be asked to leave.


Judge McGee enters the courtroom and sits on the bench. There are many files ready to go.

Lawyers, the court reporters, court clerks, additional deputies and an interpreter are all in place.


The judge is flanked by two poinsettias sitting at the lower level wooden counter. There are three more poinsettias in the courtroom.

The judge, who is one of the courthouse workhorses, begins hearing one case after another 


One young defendant learns his fate early in the court proceedings.

The judge tells him that the district attorney isn't going to file misdemeanor criminal charges against him.

"Yessss," he says in a low voice as he leaves the courtroom with a smile that looks like it was lifted from Vegas jackpot winner.

I'm sitting on the front row and I'm  thinking: Meeeerry Christmas, dude, as I watch him leave.


Ms. Drake pleads not guilty and leaves the court with her attorney.

I get some quotes from Drake's lawyer and the prosecutor Rameen Minoui.


Mr. Minoui and I wrap up our conversation outside the courtroom.  He spots a small amount of cash waded up and lying on the long courthouse floor, which is used by  hundreds of people every day.  Another prosecutor walks past the money, and tells Mr. Minoui that it is not his money.


A woman who had a court case earlier, passes by and hears what is going on. She asks what Minoui plans to do with the money because she has a friend that can really use the money.


Yeah, right, I am thinking, and I just got off the turnip truck.

Mr. Minoui ignores her. She leaves.

He tells me that he is going to give it to a homeless person.

Good idea, especially at this time of the year, I said.

He then has another idea and asks me to give the cash to a homeless person.

Why me? You do it, I replied.

You're going outside the building so  just hand it to someone, he said.

Okay.

I told him it would be nice to see this person's smile when i hand him the money.

I took the money and decided to add some bucks of my own to the newly found cash.

I go to the newsroom in Camarillo and quickly bang out the Gina Drake arraignment story, update files, work on an annual work performance report that's overdue.

Hours later, I leave work and walk up to a homeless shelter and see a man in his early thirties cross the street, heading toward the shelter.

I walked up to him as he is about to enter the building.

I hand him the cash.

"Here you go. It's from me and Rameen, Merry Christmas," I said.

There is no smile on the bearded man with black glasses, just a soft, very appreciative voice.

"Thank you. You didn't have to do this," he said. "And Merry Christmas to you. Thank you."

"You're welcome," I said and left.

 

FOOTNOTE: I will be on vacation until Jan. 4, heading to El Paso to visit some relatives.

 

 

Today's Quote

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"It's silly talking about how many years we will have to spend in the jungles of Vietnam when we could pave the whole country and put parking stripes on it and still be home by Christmas." - Ronald Reagan

California Man Caught Trying to Sell A Baseball Glove By Falsely Claiming It Belonged To Babe Ruth

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A California man was sentenced today to two years of probation for trying to sell a 19th  century baseball glove that he falsely claimed was owned by Babe Ruth.

Irving Scheib, who pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, was also ordered by a New York federal judge to refrain from selling any memorabilia while on probation.

On January 12, 2012, Irving Scheib purchased a 19th century baseball glove on eBay for $750, which was described as an "1890's Full Web Workman Baseball Mitt," according to federal authorities.  At the time he bought the glove, Scheib knew that the glove had no connection to Babe Ruth, federal officials stated.

After buying the glove, Scheib set out to resell the glove by fraudulently claiming that it was used by Babe Ruth.

Scheib told a sports memorabilia broker in Nevada that the glove was a family heirloom that was given to them by Babe Ruth.

Scheib claimed that the deceased Hollywood actor, Robert Young, to whom Scheib is related by marriage, obtained the glove from Ruth. Scheib also sent fake documents to the memorabilia dealer corroborating this fabricated provenance, and falsely claimed in a letter that the glove "was gifted to Babe Ruth's personal friend and Golden Era Star Robert Young in 1944...[and that Ruth] was so affectionate towards this glove that he slept with it under his pillow at the orphanage."

These fake documents, in turn, were sent to an individual interested in purchasing the glove (the buyer). After paying for the glove, the buyer asked Scheib to notarize one of the letters attesting to the glove's provenance that was signed by Scheib and purportedly signed by Scheib's wife, who is Young's granddaughter. Scheib refused to do so, and the buyer accordingly returned the glove.

Scheib then tried to con another man by alleging that Babe Ruth owned the glove.

But the other potential buyer turned out to be an investigator for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

In addition to probation, the judge ordered Scheib, 50, of Bonsall, California, to pay a $25,000 fine. He also agreed to forfeit the glove to the United States.

 

 

Cell Phones Are Fair Game for Police to Search After an Arrest

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Got incriminating texts or emails or data in your cell phone?

If you are arrested in California, police can search the contents of a phone. If you have incriminating stuff,  it can lead to an investigation and possibly, additional criminal charges.

In the 2011 ruling in the case of California vs. Nottoli, the California Supreme Court ruled that cell phones are fair game for police to search.

Basically, this is what the case is about:  on Dec. 6, 2009, Santa Cruz County Deputy Steven Ryan pulled over Reid Nottoli for speeding and then, Ryan suspected that the 25-year-old  Nottoli was under the influence of drugs.

Nottoli wasn't arrested for driving erratically or for driving under the influence.

But Nottoli's license was also expired, so the Sheriff decided to impound the vehicle.

Nottoli wanted to leave his car parked on the side of the road.  Ryan said no, and decided to conduct an "inventory" search before Ryan had it towed.

During a  search of Nottoli's vehicle, the deputy found a legal Glock 20 pistol and he also noticed Nottoli's Blackberry Curve and clicked it on.

 Voila, the cell phone's "wallpaper" was a photograph of a masked man holding two AR-15 assault rifles, according to the court case.

"The phone's screen showed a photograph of someone wearing a mask, a white smock, and camouflage baseball cap. The person was "wielding two rifles in akimbo fashion." The hat in the photograph was "remarkably similar" to the hat that Reid was wearing when stopped that night and the person in the photograph and Reid were both "larger in stature, more full body [sic]," according to the appeals court ruling.

Deputy Ryan believed the individual in the photograph holding the rifles was Nottoli, according to the court

Another deputy looked through the cell phone text messages, photographs and emails for about 10 minutes, and he found many photographs of different firearms.

"At the scene, Deputy Ryan was shown five text messages, two photographs of guns, and an e-mail. The text messages related to marijuana cultivation. There was an e-mail receipt from gunbroker.net for  'the purchase of incendiary projectiles for 50 BMG caliber.' Incendiary projectiles contain highly flammable material that may set an object on fire upon impact. They are illegal in California," the appeals court ruling states.

Ten days later, Ryan got a search warrant. The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's SWAT team executed the warrant at Nottoli's house.

The SWAT team found a cache of weapons, marijuana-growing paraphernalia and $15,000 in cash.

On January 22, 2010, a five-count complaint was filed against Notolli in Santa Cruz County Superior Court for possession of marijuana for sale; cultivation of marijuana, possession of hydrocodone, possession of an assault weapon, possession of a deadly weapon.

Nottoli's lawyers argued in court that his client's 4th Amendment right had been violated and that all the evidence found by deputies was now tainted and inadmissible in court because of the way it was discovery.

In their opposing papers, the district attorney maintained that there was probable cause to arrest Nottoli for being under the influence:  Deputy Ryan lawfully searched the area of Notolli's car where  Notolli was sitting incident to arrest, the vehicle was lawfully inventoried and towed for safekeeping, and a lawful limited search was conducted.

The judge agreed with Nottoli and ordered that the evidence be suppressed at trial.

Citing             a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the state appellate court overturned the judge's ruling on the grounds that the search of the cellphone was part of the inventory check needed to process an impounded car

The appellate court justices, however, left it up to the U.S. Supreme Court to impose greater restrictions on cell phone searches.

"It is up to the United States Supreme Court to impose any greater limits on officers' authority to search incident to arrest," the justices stated.

The Notolli case could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

FOOTNOTE:  There is an excellent article published this month on the website ProPublica titled "No Warrant, No Problem: How The Government Can Still Get Your Digital Data."

The article is about how law enforcement  can snoop on a person's digital trails that are created every day such as emails and texts by going to Google or AT&T with a simple subpoena, usually the person won't even be notified if this search was done, according to the article.

For further information go to ProPublica: http://www.propublica.org/special/no-warrant-no-problem-how-the-government-can-still-get-your-digital-data

 

Today's Quote

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"The difference between a job and a career is the difference between forty and sixty hours a week."  -- Robert Frost

 

 

FBI Releases Hate Crime Statistics for 2011

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U.S. law enforcement agencies last year reported 6,222 hate crimes involving 7,254 offenses, according to Hate Crime Statistics released by the FBI.

The report, which was released last week, stated that these incidents included offenses like vandalism, intimidation, assault, rape, murder and other crimes, according to the FBI.

Highlights from the 2011 Report:  Of the 6,222 reported hate crimes, 6,216 were single-bias incidents--46.9 percent were racially motivated, 20.8 percent resulted from sexual orientation bias, 19.8 percent were motivated by religious bias, 11.6 stemmed from ethnicity/national origin bias, and 0.9 percent were prompted by disability bias, according to the report.

Law enforcement agencies reported 7,713 victims of hate crime --victims can be individuals, businesses, institutions, or society as whole, the report stated.

The FBI stated that the 6,216 single-bias incidents 46.9 percent were racially motivated. There were  20.8 percent of incidents were motivated by a sexual orientation bias while 19.8 percent were motivated by a religious bias.

Former Missouri Detective Sentenced to Prison for Sexually Abusing Women Enrolled in a Drug Program

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WASHINGTON-- Scott Edwards, a former Lincoln County, Missouri Sheriff's Department detective, was sentenced last week to 10 years in prison for violating the constitutional rights of five women through aggravated sexual abuse and sexual contact, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The incidents occurred when the women were participants in the Lincoln County Drug Court program from February 2009 to November 2010, according to federal authorities.

The Lincoln County Drug Court contracts with the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office to employ law enforcement officers to serve as part-time "drug court trackers" who monitor the whereabouts and curfews of drug court participants, according to federal officials.

While engaged as a "drug court tracker," both on duty and off duty, Edwards, 50, abused his position of authority and engaged in sexual acts with five female drug court participants without their consent. These sexual assaults resulted in bodily injury to one or more of the victims and included aggravated sexual abuse and sexual contact with the female victims, according to U.S. Attorney.

Ex-Cowboy Football Player Sentence to Prison for Wire Fraud

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DALLAS--A former Dallas Cowboys football player was sentenced last week in federal court to more than four years in prison for his role in a massive mortgage fraud scheme that he and others ran in the Dallas area, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Eugene Lockhart, Jr., of Carrollton, Texas, played for the Cowboys from 1984 to 1990 and used his name and fame to get business and further the scheme, according to federal authorities.

Lockhart was ordered to pay about $2.4 million in restitution following his guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Lockhart was the last of 10 defendants who were convicted in the scheme.

William Randolph Tisdale, of Dallas, also considered a leader in the scheme along with Lockhart was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of bank fraud. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay $1.1 million in restitution, federal officials stated.

Lockhart was involved with real estate entities, some formed by him and Tisdale, which had names that were often derived in some fashion from a reference to the Dallas Cowboys, including America's Team Mortgage; America's Team Realty; America's Team Funding Group; Ace Mortgage; Cowboys Realty; Cowboys Mortgage; and KLT Properties.

Ms. Haverland's Victim Impact Statement

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During the sentencing of the man who killed her son, the mother of Nick Haverland gave an victim's impact statement that seemed to move many people in the packed courtroom.

Susan Haverland described her 20-year-old son Nicholas "Nick" Joel Haverland  as her touchstone, alter ego, inspiration, challenger and conscience.

She wanted the community to know what kind of man her son was and why his loss impacted so many lives.

Nick Haverland had many dreams and inspired to do great things, his mother said.

is curiosity and vivid imagination let him see nature and science in ways that were unique, she told the judge.

She proudly remarked that her son was accepted into the prestigious ethno-botany program at the University of Hawaii.

"He was going to find a cure for cancer in the rain forest," she told the judge.

Singh, 50, was sentenced to 15 years to life on Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

"He brought a light to our lives that we never knew could be possible. He fulfilled my deepest dreams - the ones that for years I dared not to dream. And now, I have no idea how I'm going to get over losing him, Mr. Singh, you took that from me."

Adding, "How do you say goodbye to the son that fulfilled my deepest desires and loved so wisely, so simply, and so purely? What do I do with Nick's hopes and dreams? His future? Our future as a family?..."

Outside the courtroom, I asked Ms. Haverland if I could post her victim impact statement on my blog and without hesitation and a smile, she said "yes, I would love that."

To read the entire victim impact statement click below:



Ventura Settles Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed Against Police

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By Raul Hernandez

Ventura County Star

The City of Ventura agreed to settle a lawsuit filed against police officers who allegedly severely beat a man while officers were searching for a stolen iPad last year.

In a press release issued late Tuesday evening, the city agreed to settle the federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Denny D. Fields for $285,000, according to Assistant Chief of Police Quinn Fenwick.

"While this is a significant amount of money, the city's Risk Manager Ellis Green notes that the potential exposure to the city and its taxpayers was considerably more, as a federal civil rights case can result in an award of hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney's fees in addition to compensatory damages, regardless of any contributory fault on the part of the claimant," Fenwick stated.

Adding that the police department is subjected to very few civil rights lawsuits like the one filed by Fields.

 "Nevertheless, the Department has taken this matter very seriously, thoroughly reviewing its policies and procedures as well as the conduct of its officers, and using the incident to identify and implement training procedures in order to ensure the continued trust in the Department by the public it serves," Fenwick stated.

Adding that the police department is subjected to very few civil rights lawsuits like the one filed by Fields.

 "Nevertheless, the Department has taken this matter very seriously, thoroughly reviewing its policies and procedures as well as the conduct of its officers, and using the incident to identify and implement training procedures in order to ensure the continued trust in the Department by the public it serves," Fenwick stated.

"The incident with Mr. Fields involved the City's officers reacting to a volatile, violent  and dynamic situation," according to Fenwick.

He said the police department would decline further comment on this matter.

In an interview, Fields' lawyer Brian Vogel said he had not read the press release so he couldn't make specific comments.

"I look forward to seeing real changes in the police's policies, procedures and tactics to ensure that the constitutional rights of our citizens aren't violated," Vogel said.

Fields alleged in the civil rights lawsuit that four or five officers, including Craig Kelly and Joel Kline, knocked on the door of his girlfriend's duplex on Dec. 25, 2011, saying a GPS signal indicated a stolen iPad was inside the residence.

Alethia Alvarado, Fields' girlfriend and the mother of his children, was also named as a plaintiff.

Vogel claims that officers searched Alvardo's duplex where the incident happened was searched by police without a search warrant and while she was away.

Fenwick, stated in the press release that a residential burglary was reported on Dec. 22, 2011 and three days later, officers received information that one of the items stolen was at a particular residence in the city.

Officers went to that residence where they encountered Fields, and following brief questioning, Fields started to close the door on the officers and a physical altercation ensued which resulted in Fields and two of the officers being injured,  Fenwick stated.

But Vogel had said that Fields told the officers that he was there waiting for his children so he could give them Christmas presents. One officer accused him of "delaying our investigation," the lawsuit stated. Fields denied being on parole or probation.

Vogel had said his client showed them his driver's license. Fields denied that he knew anything about the iPad, Vogel had said. As Fields was trying to call his lawyer, Vogel had said the officers then rushed inside, beat and used a Taser on Fields, and allowed a police dog to bite him.

Alvarado's house was searched by police without a warrant and officers didn't find the stolen iPad inside the residence, Vogel had said.

Fields was taken to the hospital where an officer identified as "Officer Henderson" drove Fields to an emergency room, cursed at him and accused him of breaking an officer's hand. Fields denied the allegation, saying the officer's hand probably was broken when he struck Fields in the face with his fist, according to Vogel.

According to the lawsuit, a doctor told an unnamed detective who was taking photographs of Fields' injuries that Fields needed a CAT scan, the lawsuit states. The detective refused to wait and spent at least five more minutes questioning Fields. Another officer told a nurse at the emergency room that Fields' wasn't bitten and to "just wipe it and it would be fine."  But the ER nurse, however, insisted that it was a dog bite and that the wound needed stitches

Fields, of Ventura, was arrested on suspicion of mayhem on Dec. 25, 2011. The District Attorney's Office declined to prosecute him two days later, citing insufficient evidence, the lawsuit states.

Shortly before his release from jail, Fields was taken to a conference room, where he met with Fenwick and Green, according to the 52-page lawsuit filed Aug. 6.

Fenwick and Green apologized to Fields for the incident and offered him $500 for each day he was in jail, an additional $5,000 and Christmas presents for his children, Vogel had stated.

The lawsuit states that Fenwick allegedly mentioned Fields' 2010 arrest for possessing drugs for sale and stated: "What I would like to do right now is clear what happened on Christmas. Even though one of our officers got hurt, we are willing to forget about this. We won't file against you if you don't file against us basically as of right now, I'd like to know what we can do to make your Christmas better."

Today's Quote

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"Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." - Theodore Roosevelt

Former Congressman and LA Native Going to Prison for Tax Fraud

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LOS ANGELES--A former U.S. congressman has been sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison in a tax fraud case related to his failure to disclose to the IRS nearly $500,000 of investor funds he received from a $10 million investment fraud scheme, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced today.

Wester Shadric Cooley, 80, a native of Los Angeles who now resides in Bend, Oregon, was sentenced Monday afternoon in federal court.

Cooley will begin serving the prison term on March 11, federal officials stated.

Cooley, who represented Oregon's 2nd congressional district during a two-year term that began in January 1995,  pleading guilty in November 2011 to subscribing to a false tax return. He admitted receiving about $1.1 million during the scheme and that he failed to report approximately $494,000 on his 2002 tax return.

The tax fraud case relates to a mail fraud and wire fraud scheme that defrauded more than 400 victim-investors out of over $10 million.

In the FBI and IRS investment fraud scheme, former IRS Revenue Agent George Tannous and convicted felon De Elroy Beeler Jr. solicited hundreds of victims across the country to purchase unregistered stock in the Tujunga-based Bidbay.com, Inc. and related companies AskGT.com and Rose Laboratories.

Cooley was the vice president of Bidbay and an executive of AskGT.com and Rose Laboratories.

Federal official stated that victims were enticed to put money into the companies by several false statements, including that the companies would conduct initial public offerings.

Investors were also told that Bidbay.com and/or the shell companies would soon be acquired by Ebay, Inc. for $20 per share, federal prosecutors stated.

 Ebay never had any intention of acquiring Bidbay.com and had even sued Bidbay.com for trademark infringement over the use of "bay" in its name, according to federal officials.

Tannous pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of subscribing to a false tax return in 2008. Tannous was sentenced in March to 33 months in prison.

Beeler pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of mail fraud in late 2008. Beeler is scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 4, 2013.

Federal Indictment Targets South L.A. Gangs Controlled by a Mexican Mafia Member

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LOS ANGELES  --  Law enforcement officials this morning arrested 18 defendants named in three federal indictments stemming from an investigation into South Los Angeles street gangs that took more than two years.

The gangs were allegedly controlled by an imprisoned Mexican Mafia member who ran criminal activities through his daughter, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The investigation focused on the activities of the Harpys street gang, which claim a territory southwest of downtown Los Angeles and north of the University of Southern California, federal officials stated.

Mexican Mafia member Danny Roman allegedly controlled the Harpys, which is known as the Harpys-Dead End gang,  along with a dozen other Hispanic gangs of South Los Angeles, federal officials stated.

Roman gave his daughter and son-in-law orders to tell gang members to engage in criminal conduct including collecting "taxes" from businesses and gangs that are sent back to Roman in state prison, according to federal authorities.

The gang enforces the collection of "taxes" through threats of violence, including murder, for any business or gang that fails to pay or reports the collection of taxes to police.

In addition, Roman and the Harpys gang were allegedly involved in the distribution of methamphetamine cocaine, cocaine and crack cocaine and heroin, the murder of a gang member who owed a debt to another gang member, say federal officials.

The indictment accuses Roman of orchestrating the extortion of vendors at the Alameda Swap Meet, which has been a central location for criminal activity by gang members of the 38th Street gang who are also under Roman's control, federal authorities allege.

During the course of the investigation tabbed Operation Roman Empire, federal officials stated that investigators seized about eight and a half pounds of methamphetamine, a half-pound of heroin, a pound of cocaine, 23 pounds of marijuana and 22 guns.

Also 10 children were removed from several residences by the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services' Multi-Agency Response Team, according to federal authorities.

 

Two Mississippi Men Plead Guilty to Committing Hate Crimes

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Two Mississippi pleaded guilty Wednesday to using dangerous weapons, including beer bottles, sling shots and motor vehicles, to try to injury African Americans, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

William Kirk Montgomery, 23, from Puckett, Mississippi, and Jonathan K. Gaskamp, 20, from Brandon, Mississippi, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Mississippi, to conspiracy and federal hate crime charges in connection with their roles in the assault of African-Americans in Jackson.

Defendants Deryl Paul Dedmon, 20; John Aaron Rice, 19; and Dylan Wade Butler, 21, all from Brandon, Mississippi, have previously entered guilty pleas in connection with their roles in these offenses.

The conspiracy culminated in the death of James Craig Anderson, who was assaulted and killed on June 26, 2011.

Montgomery and Gaskamp were both charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of violating the Matthew Sheppard James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Federal officials stated that beginning in the spring of 2011, Montgomery and Gaskamp and others conspired to harass and assault blacks in and around Jackson.

Specially, federal authorities states that the men targeted those they believed to be homeless or under the influence of alcohol because they believed that such individuals would be less likely to report an assault.

 "We hope that today's guilty pleas provide further closure to James Craig Anderson's family and to the community that has mourned his senseless death and been further disheartened by the scope of the conspiracy to commit racially motivated assaults in Jackson by these and other co-conspirators,"  Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division stated in a press release. "The Justice Department's focus in this matter is ongoing and broad; we will vigorously pursue those who commit racially motivated assaults and will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that those who commit such acts are brought to justice."

According to plea documents presented in court today, the defendants engaged in a series of racially motivated assaults in and around Jackson. On one occasion, Montgomery, Gaskamp, Deryl Paul Dedmon, John Aaron Rice, and two other co-conspirators chased down and stopped an African-American man's vehicle and then beat the man to the point that he begged for his life. Gaskamp kicked the victim in the head and body at least two times.

On another occasion, federal officials stated that Montgomery, Gaskamp, and others attended a birthday party/bonfire in Puckett, Mississippi, during which they discussed going to Jackson to harass and assault African-Americans. Montgomery, Dedmon, Rice, Butler, and three other co-conspirators agreed to carry out the plan. At around 4:15 a.m. on June 26, 2011, Montgomery, Rice, Butler, and another co-conspirator drove to Jackson in Montgomery's white Jeep with the understanding that Dedmon and two other co-conspirators would join them a short time later. Gaskamp did not go to Jackson on this occasion. Upon arriving in Jackson, Montgomery and the other three occupants of the Jeep drove around and threw beer bottles at African-American pedestrians.

At approximately 5:00 a.m., federal authorities stated that Montgomery and the other three occupants of the Jeep spotted Anderson in a motel parking lot off Ellis Avenue. Rice and another co-conspirator decided to get out of the Jeep to distract Anderson while they waited for Dedmon and the other co-conspirators to arrive. After Dedmon and the other two co-conspirators arrived, Dedmon and Rice physically assaulted Anderson. After the assault, one of the co-conspirators yelled "White Power," with Dedmon responding by also yelling "White Power." Dedmon then deliberately used his vehicle to run over Anderson, causing injuries that resulted in his death, according to federal authorities.

 "As the agency responsible for investigating criminal violations of federal civil rights statutes, the FBI takes very seriously its responsibility to uphold the civil rights of all citizens,"  Daniel McMullen, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Jackson Division stated in a press release.  "The FBI will continue its efforts to identify and bring to justice all those individuals who participated in depriving Anderson and other citizens of their civil rights because of the color of their skin."

Check It Out

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Rights at Risk: The Limits of Liberty
in Modern America by David K. Shipler

Book Review By: Timothy Sandefur is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and author of The Right to Earn a Living: Economic Freedom and the Law (2010).

 

Excerpts from Sandefur's review that was published in the December issue of California Lawyer magazine:

 

"Early this year, Beverly Greer went to the jailhouse to bail out her son Joel. She visited an ATM and borrowed money from family, because the sheriff's office in Brown County, Wisconsin, told her it wouldn't accept checks or credit cards, and bail bondsmen are illegal in that state. But when deputies ran her $7,500 in bills past a drug-sniffing dog, it "alerted" to the presence of drugs, and the cops confiscated the money under asset-forfeiture laws that do not require them to prove guilt. It took four months for Greer to get her money back."

 

"It's just a day in the tawdry life of America's half-century war on drugs - a cruel and unending conflict with no victors, no conquests, only casualties. And as David K. Shipler explains in Rights at Risk - concluding his two-volume study of the pulverizing of constitutional rights in the drug and terrorism wars - the reliability of drug-sniffing dogs may be the latest mass delusion. However keen their noses, undertrained dogs and biased handlers can lead to arbitrary and subjective enforcement. A 2011 Chicago Tribune study found that K-9 units falsely alerted far more often when led around cars with Hispanic drivers than when sniffing cars driven by whites. Worse, 90 percent of U.S. currency contains detectable traces of cocaine and other drugs."

 

"Shipler's reserve on such matters gives the impression that threats to freedom come primarily from zealous conservatives - when in fact, even vigilant defenders of speech, privacy, or the rights of criminal procedure share the blame for shrugging at the Constitution's promises."

Audio Recording Chicago Cops Doing Their Jobs Okay

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American Civil Liberties Union lawyers were audio recording Chicago police officers while they were performing their duties in public as part of an effort to monitor policing practices in that city.

Enter another group of lawyers from the Cook County State's Attorney who wanted block the ACLU lawyers and the public, in general, from audio recording cops doing their jobs.

The cops were speaking loud enough to be heard by a passerby, according to the ACLU.

But the  state lawyers said it is eavesdropping on cops and against Illinois state law.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit blocked the Cook County attorneys from prosecuting ACLU staff for audio recording Chicago cops as part of its advocacy for changes in police practices in that city.
The State Attorney barristers appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the high court refused to hear the case and let the federal appeals court ruling stand.

Two Illinois state court judges have ruled that the application of the law to prosecute people for recording police in a public place is unconstitutional, according to the ACLU.

The ACLU also noted that a Cook County jury last year acquitted a young woman who was charged with the eavesdropping offense.

Harvey Grossman, Legal Director of the ACLU of Illinois stated that nation's high court decision not to review the case will have a ripple effect throughout the state of Illinois.

"We are hopeful that we are moving closer to a day when no one in Illinois will risk prosecution when they audio record public officials performing their duties. Empowering individuals and organizations in this fashion will ensure additional transparency and oversight of public officials across the State," Grossman stated.

 

 

NM Probation Officer Arrested for Fondling and Groping Female probationer

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A probation officer with the New Mexico Corrections Department of Probation was arrested Tuesday for fondling and groping the breasts of a female probationer under his supervision, according to federal authorities.

Gordon Chavez, 35, was arrested for violating the civil rights of the victim by depriving her of her right to bodily integrity, officials with the U.S. Attorney's Office Stated.

Chavez commented on the victim's appearance, the clothes she was wearing, and her sexual activity, federal officials stated.

Ojai Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Trying to Kill Sheriff's Deputy

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By Raul Hernandez

Ventura County Star

John Steven Atkinson who was found guilty of trying to kill a sheriff's deputy who was responding to a 911-call got a lengthy prison sentence today at Ventura County Superior Court.

Before Atkinson was sentenced to 23 years to life, he turned around and apologized to the female deputy's family who sat in the front row behind the prosecutor's table.

"I'd just like to say, I am horribly, horribly sorry for the thing that happened," said Atkinson.

In September, a jury found Atkinson guilty of attempting to murder a sheriff's deputy Traci Salmon during a struggle in the Ojai Valley in December 2010. Jurors also found Atkinson guilty of assault with a deadly weapon, second-degree robbery, false  imprisonment of his parents and two misdemeanor counts of elder abuse.

In addition, jurors found that Atkinson, 34, used a weapon, including a stun gun and radio, against  Salmon.

Salmon who wasn't in court had a prepared a one-page statement that was read to the judge by a district attorney employee.  It stated that she couldn't attend because it was more important to go on a field trip with her daughter than be in the same courtroom with her assailant.

She stated that on the morning of the assault she "stared at pure evil in the eyes" and all she thought about was what she would need to do to go home to her family.

 Salmon told about the fear of having a gun pointed at her face and hearing it click.

"I thought for a moment I was already dead," Salmon stated.

Salmon described how this incident had left her mentally scarred, leaving her with a feeling of isolation, having nightmares, and trying to deal with an emotional roller coaster that also impacted her family. She said she tried to go back to work but found that she was unable to do so because of her mental problems caused Atkinson, who, Salmon described, as a dangerous man.

"I am trying everything within my power to gain normalcy," Salmon stated in her statement.

Prosecutor Richard Simon said the entire community along with the law enforcement  were also victims because of what happened.

 Atkinson has schizophrenia and depression. He was admitted to Patton Hospital, a state mental facility, in October 2009 and released in September 2010, according to his lawyer Rebekah Mathis.

"He was suffering from mental illness. He had a complete psychotic breakdown. He didn't understand what was going on."

Mathis said Atkinson had two arrests for taking a vehicle and vandalism.

"His behavior has been good in jail," said Mathis.

Salmon, 33, was alone when she responded to a 911 hang-up call from a home in the 4900 block of Casitas Pass Road. Police say Atkinson had been terrorizing his parents John and Diane that morning and had struck his mother.

Soon after Salmon arrived, Atkinson attacked her as she was reaching for her Taser after she heard Atkinson's father, John, ask for help.

Atkinson's mother Diane Atkinson said the family loves him very much, asking the judge for some leniency in hopes that one day he can be released to be with his family again.

"John was a good boy growing up;. He never gave us any trouble," said Atkinson's father John, adding that all this changed when his son turned 30 and began displaying bizarre behavior.

 

Today's Quote

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"You better cut the pizza into four pieces because I am not hungry enough to eat six."  -- Yogi Berra

A Hells Angels Sgt. at Arms Sentenced to Prison for Drug Conspiracy

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The Hell's Angels  Sergeant at Arms for the San Diego Chapter was sentenced Monday to more than 21 years in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Michael Ottinger  Jr., 43, is facing state charges in San Diego for murder, attempted murder, mayhem, assault with a deadly weapon, robbery and criminal threats,  federal officials stated.

Ottinger, who was considered a highest-value target in a methamphetamine investigation by law enforcement, has been implicated in the murder of rival Mongols motorcycle gang member Fernando Fernandez and with using both threats and violence to control the methamphetamine trade in Ocean Beach and Point Loma.

The year-long investigation conducted by the FBI Violent Crime Task Force, which focused on methamphetamine trafficking and violent crimes, resulted in the indictment of 36 defendants, federal officials stated.

Federal Judge Marilyn L. Huff found that Ottinger was a career offender whose crimes include convictions for false imprisonment, a firearms offense, auto theft, evading an officer while driving recklessly, and three drug trafficking crimes, according to federal officials.

Ottinger was awarded the Hells Angels patches of "Filthy Few" and "Thug Crew," which are given to members of this criminal organization who commit acts of violence on behalf of the Hells Angels, according to federal authorities.

The Court Reporter
Raul Hernandez has spent years writing stories about the drama that unfolds in the courtroom. Here he answers common questions, share some insights on the judicial system and passes along some of the little things that make the Ventura County courts an interesting place to be. You can contact him at rhernandez@vcstar.com.