Category Archives: Justice System Abuse of Power

All your emails and phone calls are recorded

With the Boston bombings having become a perpetual fixture in all network news reporting, media outlets have been interviewing anyone and everyone who can claim to be an expert in crime or terrorism investigations.  One such expert is former counter terrorism agent, Tim Clemente who recently came right out and said that everything you say on the phone is recorded so it can be accessed later.

The discussion on CNN’s Out Front was about whether Katherine Russell, wife of Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, might have had prior knowledge of the bombings.  And how might they be able to ascertain that?  By reviewing past phone conversations between the two.  Calls made before the bombings and before they were under investigation. When Out Front anchor, Erin Burnett challenged Clemente on that claim, Clemente responded:

“All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not.”

Welcome to “the land of the free” where the government does is becoming increasingly secretive about what it does at the same time as it is increasing surveillance over  everything us citizens say and do.

Greenwald’s whole article is here.

Assault with intent to destroy: The Central Park 5

The_Central_Park_Five_poster

I just finished watching a 2012 PBS/Ken Burns documentary called “The Central Park Five“.  The Central Park Five are five black teens who were arrested, convicted, and served prison time for the rape and beating of a white female jogger in New York’s Central Park on April 19th, 1989.  The single most striking aspect of the case, aside from the fact that the teens didn’t do it, is that they confessed to having done it and the confessions served as the sole basis for the convictions.

One thing the establishment media seems to steer away from is naming the people who are actually responsible for justice system failures.  After all, they were just trying to do their jobs to the best of their ability, right?  Below is a brief list of some of the characters in this story.  If you ask the cops and prosecutors, I’m sure not a one will take any responsibility for this miscarriage of justice.

Trisha Ellen Meili.  The victim.  Not only was she white, but she was a 28 year old Solomon Brothers investment banker and daughter of a Westinghouse executive.  She was one of 3254 rapes reported in New York City that year and one of 28 first degree rapes that week.

Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise and Yusef Salaam.  The accused, aged 14-16.  They were also victims.  Victims of over-zealous investigators and prosecutors.

Matias Reyes.  The guy who really raped and beat the Central Park Jogger.  He was arrested for rape and murder less than 4 months later in August 1989.  The cops were already so focused on The Central Park Five, they never checked Reyes DNA to see if he did it even after being told that the DNA excluded the five kids they had locked up.

Ed Koch.  Mayor of New York City and vocal supporter of the prosecution of the Central Park Five.

Robert M. Morgenthau.  New York County District Attorney.

Linda Fairstein. head of the sex-crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.  Fairstein managed the prosecution of the Central Park Five.

Elizabeth Lederer.  Prosecutor in The Central Park Five case.

Benjamin Ward.  NYC Police Commissioner (until Oct 1989)

John Hartigan.  NYPD Detective in the Central Park Jogging Case.

Michael Sheehan.  NYPD Detective in the Central Park Jogging Case.

Robert Nugent.  NYPD Detective in the Central Park Jogging Case.

August Jonza.  NYPD Detective in the Central Park Jogging Case.

Carlos Gonzalez.  NYPD Detective in the Central Park Jogging Case.

Harry Hildebrandt.  NYPD Detective in the Central Park Jogging Case.

Tom McKenna.  NYPD Detective in the Central Park Jogging Case.

Police and prosecutors controlled the story from the beginning and the establishment press, with the ritualistic predictability they are known for, repeated everything they said as if it had been delivered directly from the lips of God.   While they protected the name of the victim, the mainstream media readily broadcast the names of the five juveniles accused of the crime.  The media fueled fervor became so intense that the public outcry became a referendum on the death penalty.

There was absolutely no physical evidence attaching The Five to the crime scene.  DNA evidence excluded them from the rape.  There were serious time line conflicts that placed the kids in a different area of the park at the time of the rape.  The only case against them was their confessions and the people who elicited those confessions sending those kids to prison, never got so much as a slap on the wrist.

Two days before this event, there was another assault in the park.  The woman escaped and reported to police that the perpetrator had a scar on his chin that had stitches.  A resourceful police officer went to all the local hospitals and came up with the name Matias Reyes as a possible suspect.  Had the NYPD followed up on that lead, if they had compared his DNA to the DNA collected from the Central Park Jogger, they would have found the real rapist, instead of pinning the crime on whomever was handy.  Reyes escaped justice long enough to rape and murder another woman, this one 24 years old and pregnant.

The bottom line is that investigators and prosecutors decided to pin this crime on five kids who knew nothing about the rape and, through intimidation, deceit, and coaching actually got them to confess to it in enough detail to sound convincing.  Only the most naive of idiots could believe that was an innocent mistake and only the most naive of idiots could possibly think that case was an anomaly rather than a result of ingrained police and prosecutorial culture that values convictions over justice.

Even after Reyes confessed and his DNA proved he was the rapist, Linda Fairstein opposed the recommendation to vacate the convictions of the Central Park Five.  New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, instituted an internal investigation back in 2003 clearing NYPD officers of any misconduct in the case (what a surprise!) and stands by the convictions saying that the Central Park Five assaulted Meili before Reyes  or simultaneously.  He is still NYC Police Commissioner today, helping to perpetuate that same level of ineptitude and delusion.  After all, if nothing is broken, there’s nothing to fix.

The PBS Central Park Five documentary is based on a book by Sarah Burns, daughter of Ken Burns.  Nepotism reigns supreme in the media business.  New York City officials have condemned the documentary as advocacy rather than journalism.  I won’t argue against that claim because it may be true.  Anyone who looks to a single source of information expecting to find truth is deluding themselves.  Truth usually comes only by examining many sources and adding a heavy dose of skepticism and commons sense.  I don’t think Burns is above bias.  He would be a real rarity if he were.  Objectivity doesn’t usually breed that kind of success.  Nevertheless, any confession by an adolescent elicited during the course of 14-30 hours of intense interrogation by people who routinely use deceit, threats, and intimidation, all without benefit of a lawyer or parent, can’t be considered reliable.  And, since this is all the prosecutors had on these kids, the convictions can only be seen as a travesty.

The movie is about two hours long and is available to buy, rent, or watch for fee on line.

Former DA charged for misconduct. It’s a miracle!

From statesman.com:

Former Williamson County [Texas] District Attorney Ken Anderson was arrested and booked into jail and then released on bail Friday after a specially convened court found that he intentionally hid evidence to secure Michael Morton’s 1987 conviction for murder.

Of course, to any District Attorney looking for a pathway to, say, a judgeship, all that matters is getting convictions.  Innocence just isn’t all that important.

Sturns told the standing-room-only courtroom that the evidence showed that Anderson improperly concealed two pieces of evidence that could have helped Morton fight the murder charge:

• The transcript of a police interview revealing that the Mortons’ 3-year-old son, Eric, witnessed the murder and said Michael Morton wasn’t home at the time.

• A police report about a suspicious man who had parked a green van near the Morton home and, on several occasions, walked into the wooded area behind the house.

Sturns’ ruling is the first step in a potential criminal case against Anderson, who was Williamson County’s celebrated law-and-order district attorney for 16 years before he became a district judge in 2002. His current term as judge will end in 2014. State law does not require him to step down as the case against him progresses.

Interesting.  Where I work, it takes a lot less than sending an innocent person to prison for a quarter century to get my ass thrown out on the street.  I guess this shouldn’t be surprising when you consider that politicians tend to protect their own when making of the rules of conduct.

Afternoon links

The U.S. considers sanctions against Pakistan over a $7B “peace pipeline” deal with Iran.  Such a deal threatens U.S. efforts to bring Iran to its knees for failing to prove that it is not manufacturing nuclear WMDs in a repeat of the same strategy used to start a war with Iraq.

Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.S. will not accept North Korea as a nuclear state.  Wait a sec.  Aren’t they already a nuclear state?  Surely the recent U.S. strategy of flying strategic war planes around over the peninsula will calm things down.

A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced a man who stabbed his best friend ten years ago, paralyzing him, to be paralyzed himself if he can’t come up with $266,000 in compensation for his victim.

What happens to persecutors who abuse their trust and destroy people’s lives?  Nothing.

From reason.com:  A Texas state trooper charged with sexually assaulting two women during a traffic stop was providing them with “customer service,” says Dale Roberts, the executive director of the Columbia Police Officers Association (CPOA) and a professor at the University of Missouri. (The CPOA is a part of the Fraternal Order of Police, one of the country’s largest police unions.)

After 23 years in prison, murder conviction vacated

From Reuters:

David Ranta, 58, spent 23 years in prison until the conviction integrity unit of the Brooklyn district attorney’s office concluded after a year-long investigation that the case against him was fatally flawed.

The whole case reeks of sleazy self-serving police work wherein an innocent man was convicted in 1991 and the real killer went free.  Police coached a 13 year old witness who to pick out of a police line-up.   A jail house snitch testified against Ranta in exchange for a lighter sentence.   One of the investigating cops claimed to have elicited a confession, but provided no corroborating evidence.  The actual target of the robbery testified that Ranta was “100 percent not” the killer.

When the case started to fall apart, prosecutors aggressively maintained the validity of the conviction.  In 1996 a woman testified that her deceased husband confessed to the murder and, in fact, an anonymous tipster actually identified the same man shortly after the murder.

It’s not about catching the bad guys.  It’s about getting a conviction, sometimes at any cost.

The case is the latest in a string of wrongful convictions that have gained media attention in recent months, creating a headache for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, who faces a rare primary challenge in September as he runs for a seventh four-year term.

On Wednesday, a federal judge blocked Hynes’ office from retrying a man, William Lopez, whose 1989 murder conviction was overturned earlier this year after questions arose about witness accounts.

In 2010, a federal judge freed another man, Jabbar Collins, after he spent 16 years in prison for allegedly shooting his landlord. U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry concluded that Brooklyn prosecutors had relied on false testimony and threatened a witness and faulted Hynes’ office for continuing to deny any wrongdoing.

You can be sure that none of the cops or prosecutors responsible for these corrupt life-destroying convictions will ever face any consequences, which is precisely why these abuses of power are repeated constantly everywhere in the country.  Ranta’s lawyer plans to sue New York, but any judgement will be paid, not by the government employees who destroyed Ranta’s life, but by New York taxpayers.  The U.S. justice system takes care of its own.

Want to know the latest tactics used by marcs to keep your lawyer in the dark?

Well, maybe you should have been at this course offered by the California Narcotics Officers’ Association:

narc-darkWith the growing use of informants, wiretaps and sealed search warrants, it is imperative that law enforcement can conduct investigations and prosecutions without having to disclose sensitive information to the defendant and his attorney.

Because if government, at all levels, has learned anything over the last decade or so, it’s the importance of secrecy.  After all, it’s not about justice.  It’s about getting convictions and pumping fresh warm bodies into the prison industrial complex.  It’s about law enforcement versus ordinary peasants and it’s about winning.

Morning Links

Obama is worse for press freedom than Nixon says Pentagon Papers lawyer James Goodale.

The next country on the NATO target list is apparently Syria.  Pretty soon it will be easier to count the middle east countries that the west hasn’t attacked than the ones they have.

And if Syria weren’t enough to keep the war industry going, Obama is also going to be discussing the fate of Iran on his visit to Israel, where some officials in the U.S protectorate believe Obama has been dragging his feet on attacking Iran.  While Obama has clearly been pursuing a strategy to justify a war with Iran nearly identical to the Bush administration’s lead-up to the Iraq invasion, it has not yet culminated in an actual war as powerful Israeli political powers have wanted.

Mainstream press outlet, UPI, reports that  : The Iraq War killed 190,000 people, 70 percent civilians and 4,488 U.S. service members and will cost the U.S. taxpayer $2.2 trillion, U.S. researchers say.  But, a respectable 2006 study claimed death toll of 650,000 and there have been many more since then.  And this article says the dollar cost could total $6T.

Maryland Senate votes to decriminalize small amounts of pot and the House is also expected to pass it.  The federal government, corrupt as ever, remains under the control of the beneficiaries of the drug war.

Fifteen benefits of the drug war.  Not for you.  For the government.

Transportation Security Administration inspectors forced a wounded [active duty] Marine who lost both of his legs in an IED blast and who was in a wheelchair to remove his prosthetic legs at one point, and at another point to stand painfully on his legs while his wheelchair was examined, according to a complaint a congressman has registered with the TSA.  Nice work, TSA.

Know your rights at increasingly common U.S. police state checkpoints.

Tell your dog, Rover, to start saving more for his health care.  Obama care is expected to hit veterinarians by forcing them to pay an excise tax on any equipment that can also be used for human care.

There are no bad people…

There are only people with a great capacity to rationalize.

Pat HedgesThis is certainly the case with the state and federal officials who joined together to crucify Charles C. Lynch, who meticulously followed state law and set up a medical marijuana dispensary in Morro Bay, California in 2006.   And no one was more enthusiastic in that crusade to destroy Lynch  than San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Pat Hedges (pictured at left).

While Lynch had the blessing of the city and repeatedly solicited guidance from the DEA on the federal ramifications of operating a dispensary under California state law,  he was still targeted by Sheriff Hedges.  Lynch was never charged under state law and Morro Bay police did not participate in the 2007 raid that started the train of events that would ultimately leave Lynch bankrupt.  But, the DEA was a willing partner in the sheriff’s campaign of against Lynch.

lynching-charlie-lynch-coverI just finished watching “The Lynching of Charlie Lynch” available in disc or streaming video from Netflix.  This documentary tells the story of a man who is, by any common sense definition, the epitome of a responsible member of the community and the absolute antithesis of a criminal.  His only crime was that he chose to follow the wrong set of conflicting laws and not a single member of the entire federal justice system had the courage or integrity to stand up and say “stop” to this vindictive little shit of a sheriff and his equally self-important buddies in the DEA.  About the only bright spot in the case was that the Judge, with no help from the Obama Justice Department, doled out the lightest prison sentence he could justify under federal mandatory sentencing requirements.

What is most disturbing about the Lynch prosecution is how clearly it illustrates the point that the federal government is willing to act completely contrary to the welfare and wishes of the population in pursuit of its own self-serving interests.   The only beneficiaries of the crusade against Lynch were members of the machine of state and most of that gain simply served to enlarge their already swollen egos.

I recommend the movie because it angers us and helps remind us that there are a lot of real casualties in the war against the drug warriors.  It’s the Charlie Lynches of the world who do the most to convince the public that the drug war is destructive and ineffective.  But it’s also the Charlie Lynches of the world who make up the wake of death and destruction left in the path of organizations like the DEA.  When it’s finally all over and the drug war is just painful memory, I wonder if we’ll ever see a monument to the fallen heroes who had the balls to challenge the mindless government automatons whose job it is to destroy other people’s lives in exchange for a weekly paycheck.

Of course, I’m sure the folks at the DEA easily manage to rationalize what they do.  Destroying people to save them probably makes perfect sense to them.

Carry a condom, go to jail

The problem with “crimes” like gambling, drug use, and prostitution is that there are no victims to file complaints with the police or testify against the perpetrator in a trial.  So, to catch people engaged in these kinds of consensual activities, police resort to sleazy deceptive sting entrapment tactics to trick people into doing something for which they can be arrested.  In effect, police become complicit in creating the crime for which they ultimately arrest someone.  This, by itself, makes the phrase “the land of the free” utterly ridiculous.  But, going after consensual criminals is a big part of the criminal justice industry, so don’t expect it to end anytime soon.

Cops have long since figured out that real criminals hide and don’t commit their crimes where anyone can see.  That makes them hard to catch.  But, ordinary non-criminal people are everywhere and they don’t hide what they do because they don’t have any criminal intent.  So, if their behavior can be criminalized, arrests would be easier and the assembly-line justice system can more easily be supplied with fresh bodies to prosecute and incarcerate.

Such is the case in New York City where, not only prostitution is illegal, but merely looking like some cops idea of a prostitute is cause for suspicion.  Suspicion then becomes justification for a search.  If condoms are found in the search, the cops can justify an arres based on the twisted logic that the person might commit prostitution in the future.  This is referred to as “precrime” and was popularized in the movie, Minority Report.

Molly Crabapple has a few words about this practice:

Like most laughably cruel tricks of the justice system, you probably wouldn’t know that you could be arrested for carrying condoms until it happened to you.

But, it’s just an arrest.  How bad can that be?

Arrest is always violent. The NYPD may or may not break your ribs, but the process of arrest in America is still a man tying your hands behind your back at gunpoint and locking you in a cage. Holding cells are shit-encrusted boxes, often too crowded to sit down. Police can leave you there for three days; long enough to lose your job. If this seems obvious, I say it because the polite middle classes trivialize arrest. They talk about “keeping people off the streets.” They don’t realize that the constant threat of arrest is traumatic, unless it happens to them or their kids.

This is not a legitimate function of a justice system in any free country.  This is state sponsored persecution, plain and simple.  Of course, historically, persecution is never recognized as such by the people doing it.  As an adult, your sex life is your business and that applies even when sex is your business.  The government should have no more control over you than they have over any other business (which, by most libertarian standards, is way too much).

NSA: Our spying on you is Constitutional. Trust us.

Glenn Greenwald comments on governmental use of secrecy to avoid Constitutional challenge to its warrantless wire-taping.

Both the Bush and Obama DOJ’s have relied on one tactic in particular to insulate its eavesdropping behavior from judicial review: by draping what it does in total secrecy, it prevents anyone from knowing with certainty who the targets of its surveillance are. The DOJ then exploits this secrecy to block any constitutional or other legal challenges to its surveillance actions on the ground that since nobody can prove with certainty that they have been subjected to this eavesdropping by the government, nobody has “standing” to sue in court and obtain a ruling on the constitutionality of this eavesdropping.

Amnesty International sued the government over this very strategy and…

The Obama justice department succeeded in convincing the five right-wing Supreme Court justices to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the 2008 law, the FISA Amendments Act, which vastly expanded the government’s authority to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants. In the case of Clapper v. Amnesty International, Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion, released today, which adopted the argument of the Obama DOJ, while the Court’s four less conservative justices (Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan) all dissented. This means that the lawsuit is dismissed without any ruling on whether the US government’s new eavesdropping powers violate core constitutional rights.

So, the bottom line is this:

When the new 2008 FISA eavesdropping law was passed, all sorts of legal scholars debated its constitutionality, but it turns out that debate was – like the Constitution itself – completely academic. As both the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly proven, they are free to violate the Constitution at will just so long as they do so with enough secrecy to convince subservient federal courts to bar everyone from challenging their conduct.

Now, what’s all this crap I keep hearing, often from libertarians, that the government’s job is to protect our rights?  Naively putting the government in charge of limiting its own powers is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.  The government couldn’t care less about your rights and when some politician suggests otherwise, he should be laughed off the stage.

P.S.  As you may have noticed, I tend to post about almost everything Greenwald says in his column at The Guardian.   Readers would do themselves a favor by skipping my posts and going directly to Greenwald’s column.  Nonetheless, I will continue to highlight his writings because he is a rarity in his prolific even-handed criticism of the rapid expansion of the police state under both political parties.  I am grateful that The Guardian gives him the means to reach a really broad audience.