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Manslaughter Charges Filed Against Philadelphia Officers

From CBS Philly:

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has filed numerous charges, including voluntary manslaughter, against two former police officers in connection with a fatal shooting in 2008.

DA Seth Williams is following the recommendations of a grand jury which spent nearly two years investigating the case against 39-year-old Chauncey Ellison, Sr. and his ex girlfriend, 44-year-old Robin Fortune.

Both officers were off-duty on November 17, 2008 when they drove around in search of a local teen who had stolen a pizza from the couple’s two sons.

They found the suspect on the 1900 block of Renovo Street in front of Lawrence Allen’s home.

Williams says when Ellison drew his gun, Allen stepped in and tried to be a peacemaker.

“He actually said to Sgt. Ellison, ‘why do you have a gun out? All this over a pizza? I will give you money for the pizza. Let’s just calm all this down’.”

But witnesses told the grand jury that Ellison, who was egged on by his enraged girlfriend, shot Allen once in the back. The victim died nearly three months later.

Ellison faces 33-and-a-half to 67 years behind bars. Fortune is looking at charges of reckless endangerment and conspiracy and could go to prison for a minimum of 11 years.

 

 

After Baby Dies in Jail Cell, Mother Sues Sheriff

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Deshawn Balka, 25, who was 5 1/2 months pregnant at the time, is alleging a lack of adequate medical care and a slow response to her cries for help when her son was born prematurely in April.

“I wish and I pray that I would have gotten the care that I requested,” she told Channel 2.

Balka’s baby boy was delivered in the toilet of her jail cell. The suit alleges that it took about three hours for someone to respond to Balka’s calls after the pain started. She said jail staff arrived five to 10 minutes after the baby was born.

Sheriff Kem Kimbrough did not comment to Channel 2 Tuesday on the pending litigation, but in April he said Balka received adequate medical care.

Balka was in jail on a probation violation for marijuana possession, the report said. That warrant was later dismissed.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 07-04-12 to 07-05-12

Here are the 10 reports of police misconduct tracked for July 4 – July 5, 2012:

  • Bath, Maine ex-state trooper, Gregory Vrooman, who was convicted of assaulting a girl under the age of 14, has to serve just 21 months of his 5 year sentence. The remaining time was suspended. His lawyer indicated that there will be an appeal. http://bit.ly/M3yeuL
  • Pasadena, California: A man is suing the Pasadena police department. The suit alleges a corrupt culture, where officers flaunt the law, rough up residents, and are rarely punished for their transgressions. http://bit.ly/KVBber
  • Homestead, Florida undercover detectives witnessed police officers brutally beating people outside a bar that is well-known for being frequented by migrant workers. An internal investigation was launched about the alleged beatings, and the officers have since been arrested. Homestead Police Chief Alexander Rolle says, “We stand firm in what we did. We think we took the proper and right actions for this community.” bit.ly/R75bc4
  • Kansas City, Missouri Police Sergeant Mark Stinson has been suspended without pay for stealing more than $75,000 from his mother. Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said, “We ought to be able to expect police officers to obey the law in all respects. Sadly in this case, we allege an officer did just the opposite and stole from his own mother.” bit.ly/LkbxpW
  • Update: Readston, Wisconsin police chief was accused of sexual assault and misconduct while in office. The trial date has been set, and will focus on 3 charges of misconduct. http://bit.ly/NDHNya
  • Kansas City, Missouri officer was arrested following an accusation that he convinced two women to sleep with him in exchange for not being arrested. He has been suspended, without pay, and is facing two felony counts. http://bit.ly/Lhy1rA
  • A Mount Laurel New Jersey man is filing suit for being wrongfully arrested. An appellate court ruled that because the police officer did not have a warrant, the man can argue to a jury that the arrest was illegal. http://on.cpsj.com/Rl2IuL
  • An Owasso, Oklahoma police officer was reinstated following a review of his case. An arbitrator found that Lt. Mike Denton did not use “unreasonable and unnecessary force.” Although he did not record the entire arrest, as is required by the department, his actions did “not rise to the level of excessive force within the meaning of existing case law.” He received a written reprimand. http://bit.ly/M7FzIh
  • A Kane County, Illinois school teacher, Ryan Wlodek, has filed suit against the Carpentersville police department for alleged false arrest and excessive force. Wlodek, among other accusations, says that he was handcuffed and not buckled into the back seat of the police car, and that the police drove erratically so as to toss him around in the back seat. Police declined comment. http://bit.ly/MTxWYm
  • Long Beach, California officers raided a marijuana dispensary, stepped on a cooperative employee, destroyed the surveillance cameras, and then proceeded to toss and damage the dispensary. The incident is now under investigation. http://bit.ly/NCiGvH

Court’s Expert Now Called an ‘Imposter’

From Courthouse News Service:

DALLAS (CN) – A presumed expert in alcohol, DNA and drug testing, who has testified in hundreds of family and criminal cases, is an unqualified imposter with no college degree, according to a class action in Dallas County Court.
     Lead plaintiff B.W.D. sued James W. Turnage, his company Forensic DNA & Drug Testing Services, and Medtox Scientific, in Dallas County Court.
     B.W.D. claims that as a result of Turnage’s flawed testimony, thousands of parents have lost access to their children and countless citizens are behind bars.
     B.W.D. claims that Turnage, of Ovilla, wrongfully called him an alcohol and drug user during a custody dispute. Turnage and his Forensic DNA & Drug Testing company claim to seal and ship urine specimens to defendant Medtox Scientific, of St. Paul, Minn.
     B.W.D. says Turnage holds himself out as an expert in drug testing and evaluating drug test results, and that Turnage has been appointed to do drug tests in custody disputes and criminal matters in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties for years.
     “Turnage, however, lacks even the minimal educational requirements to work in any technical job in a licensed drug and alcohol testing laboratory,” the complaint states. “Turner has no college degree and is not a toxicologist; he is an imposter. He has masqueraded for years as a technical or scientific expert in the field of toxicology or drug and alcohol testing and has presented himself to the public and the courts as an expert witness by disseminating non-peer review papers to the legal community that contain false scientific information and data cut and pasted without cited references.”
     The plaintiff claims that Turnage is qualified only to be a specimen collector, and has failed to distinguish between that job and that of a forensic toxicologist, who is a qualified expert with years of scientific training. “The impact of Turnage’s unsupervised, unchecked, unregulated mishandling of specimens and his unregulated and unqualified interpretations of test results or deliberate manipulation of the process has a far reaching effect on the citizens of Dallas, Collin, Denton and Tarrant Counties,” the complaint states.
     “Literally thousands of mothers and fathers have been denied possession of their children and countless number of citizens are behind bars based on Turnage’s handling of the specimens and his interpretation of the test results.”

H/T:  DUI Blog

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 07-03-12

Here are the 10 reports of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, July 3, 2012:

  • Mesa, Arizona police officer, Sgt. Mike Duke, has been indicted on two counts of felony assault, coming out of a road rage incident. Mesa Police Chief Frank Milstead said Duke’s conduct the day of the alleged assault “falls far below the standards of the police department and the community.” http://bit.ly/LgcJL6
  • White Plains, New York man is suing the police department for using excessive force which he claims wound up killing Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., his elderly father. Chamberlain had a heart condition, and he repeatedly told officers through his locked door that he was fine, but they insisted on seeing him, and removed the apartment door. In the following scuffle, Chamberlain was shot and killed. Two months ago, a grand jury found no crime had been committed.  http://yhoo.it/NflqRL
  • The Port Richie, Florida police chief violated state law by not disclosing all of his property assets. He now must either seek a hearing with the Florida Commission on Ethics, or enter into a settlement with the agency. http://bit.ly/OLNqAe
  • Apollo, Pennsylvania Police Chief Paul Breznican’s suspension without pay was voted on by the Apollo Borough Council, and he will continue to be suspended. There is currently an ongoing criminal investigation about a firearm purchased with federal money that was sold to someone and is now missing.  http://cbsloc.al/KGXp3J 
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania police are investigating a scuffle that happened at a bar between an officer, Lt. Ray Evans, and employees of the bar. The bartender says that Evans threatened to punch a patron, which is why he leaped over the bar and tackled Evans. Evans denies this claim. http://bit.ly/NXF7N2
  • Miramar, Florida Police Captain, Juan De Los Rios, has been suspended without pay and faces 2 felony counts of lewd conduct with a child. The 15-yr-old girl said to police that De Los Rios told her she needed to take off her clothing so that he could tell if she had been having sex with the 19-yr-old boy she was with. If he is convicted he faces 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. http://bit.ly/L8EyoC 
  • Edmund, Oklahoma: A lady was forcibly removed from church and subsequently tased because she was playing her tambourine too loudly, and distracting others, during a service. Witnesses say she was staggering and had slurred speech. http://bit.ly/KRziEt 
  • A Bucks County, Pennsylvania former sheriff’s deputy was found guilty of hitting a handcuffed suspect and then lying about it in an arrest and cover up that also cost three fellow officers their jobs. He faces a maximum of two years for the assault.  http://bit.ly/LTra7C 
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin police officer was charged Monday with a felony. She failed to report information about a homicide that involved the father of her child, also her boyfriend. He told her that his accomplice killed someone, and detailed the entire crime shortly after it happened. She never reported it to anyone. http://bit.ly/N6HDTR
  • Colwyn, Pennsylvania: Four Colwyn officers and a Darby man filed a federal lawsuit against several Colwyn police officers, including the suspended police chief. The suit alleges a pattern of police misconduct, including “improper charges and arrests,” a coverup, and retaliation against officers who tried to report the misconduct. http://bit.ly/KYKNda

Caught on Tape: The Long Beach Marijuana Collective Raid

From Jonathan Turley:

More than a dozen Long Beach Police officers raided the store and show officers forcing one employee on the ground. Officers then proceed to step on him. The volunteer employee Dorian Brooks was entirely cooperative at the scene before being stepped on.

The officers then notice the security cameras and proceeded to destroy them with a metal bar. The after-raid video shows extensive damage to the store. The dispensary lacked a city permit, but was operating in compliance with state law. Five people were arrested.

There’s a video at the link above.

Report: Local Governments Taxing the Poor With Fees, Surcharges

From the New York Times:

In Georgia, three dozen for-profit probation companies operate in hundreds of courts, and there have been similar lawsuits. In one, Randy Miller, 39, an Iraq war veteran who had lost his job, was jailed after failing to make child support payments of $860 a month. In another, Hills McGee, with a monthly income of $243 in veterans benefits, was charged with public drunkenness, assessed $270 by a court and put on probation through a private company. The company added a $15 enrollment fee and $39 in monthly fees. That put his total for a year above $700, which Mr. McGee, 53, struggled to meet before being jailed for failing to pay it all.

“These companies are bill collectors, but they are given the authority to say to someone that if he doesn’t pay, he is going to jail,” said John B. Long, a lawyer in Augusta, Ga., who is taking the issue to a federal appeals court this fall. “There are things like garbage collection where private companies are O.K. No one’s liberty is affected. The closer you get to locking someone up, the closer you get to a constitutional issue.”

The issue of using the courts to produce income has caught the attention of the country’s legal establishment. A recent study by the nonpartisan Conference of State Court Administrators, “Courts Are Not Revenue Centers,” said that in traffic violations, “court leaders face the greatest challenge in ensuring that fines, fees and surcharges are not simply an alternate form of taxation.”

J. Scott Vowell, the presiding judge of Alabama’s 10th Judicial Circuit, said in an interview that his state’s Legislature, like many across the country, was pressuring courts to produce revenue, and that some legislators even believed courts should be financially self-sufficient.

In a 2010 study, the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law examined the fee structure in the 15 states — including California, Florida and Texas — with the largest prison populations. It asserted: “Many states are imposing new and often onerous ‘user fees’ on individuals with criminal convictions. Yet far from being easy money, these fees impose severe — and often hidden — costs on communities, taxpayers and indigent people convicted of crimes. They create new paths to prison for those unable to pay their debts and make it harder to find employment and housing as well as to meet child support obligations.”

Most of those fees are for felonies and do not involve private probation companies, which have so far been limited to chasing those guilty of misdemeanors. A decade or two ago, many states abandoned pursuing misdemeanor fees because it was time-consuming and costly. Companies like Judicial Correction Services saw an opportunity. They charge public authorities nothing and make their money by adding fees onto the bills of the defendants.

Stephen B. Bright, president of the Southern Center for Human Rights, who teaches at Yale Law School, said courts were increasingly using fees “for such things as the retirement funds for various court officials, law enforcement functions such as police training and crime laboratories, victim assistance programs and even the court’s computer system.”

Lawsuit Claims Sheriff’s Deputies Filed False and Misleading Search Warrant Applications, Then Seized Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars

From the Daily Press:

After the Newport News Sheriff’s Office seized hundreds of thousands of dollars from Jayson Mickle and several of his companies last summer, the tobacco shop owner says he didn’t initially have the cash to pay his workers….

Earlier this month, [Mickle] sued Newport News Sheriff Gabe Morgan and eight of his sheriff’s deputies in U.S. District Court in Newport News. He contends the deputies ran roughshod over his rights and that the searches and seizures–of the cash and the store product–were illegal.

The searches and seizures were illegal, Mickle’s suit contends, because deputies included false or misleading statements on affidavits that were submitted to judicial system magistrates in order to get them to sign off on search warrants. Warrants were then issued to search stores and residences, and to confiscate money.

Several of those affidavits, the suit said, stated as a fact that deputies had earlier seized synthetic marijuana from Mickle’s properties. But in fact, the suit says, at the time of those statements the seized product had either not yet been sent to the state lab or the tests had not been performed.

And when the seized product later came back from the Virginia Department of Forensic Science, nearly all the products came back as negative for synthetic marijuana listed in Virginia law.

In several cases, however, the tests came back saying that the product appeared to be synthetic marijuana, but it wasn’t on the state’s list of banned chemicals. “No controlled substances listed in (state law) were identified,” the lab said in several cases. “An unlisted synthetic cannabinoid was indicated but not identified.”

The suit claims that only one package–found in a “dusty suitcase” in a warehouse–tested positive for synthetic marijuana. Mickle said that package was not for sale and was picked up at a trade show in August 2010, well before the new state law went into effect….

Mickle said that he can’t control things “as far as what people are doing” with the product once it’s sold. He said he won’t sell the product to someone who indicates they will smoke it. “But other than that, we can’t not sell the product to someone who wants to buy it legally.”

Gray Broughton, Mickle’s lawyer with the firm of Williams Mullen, said of his client: “He is an entrepreneur, who has started up and is running a number of businesses. He has done everything he could along the way to make sure the goods and services he provides are legal.”

Broughton pointed out that no criminal charges have been filed against Mickle as a result of the sheriff’s investigation. “It’s not some seedy drug-dealing operation under the cover of darkness,” he said. “He’s opened these businesses openly, legally and honestly and doing his best to make sure they succeed.”

 

NYPD On the Alert For … Citizens With Smart Phones!

From the NY Daily News:

A pair of  Occupy Wall Street lovebirds has been branded “professional agitators” by the NYPD, who have plastered their mugs on flyers the couple says look like wanted posters.

Christina Gonzalez, 25, and Matthew Swaye, 34, of Harlem say they’ve been singled out for simply posting dozens of videos on YouTube of cops conducting stop-and-frisks.

“What we do is not a crime,” said Swaye, adding that the NYPD flyer looks more like a “wanted poster” than a police department advisory.

“It’s more insidious than a wanted poster because it’s undefined,” Swaye said. “People can take their pick: Are we dangerous, criminal, insane?”

Swaye and Gonzalez, who met at a Pace University rally in December and shared their first kiss on New Year’s Eve at the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park, insisted, “There’s nothing radical about us.”

The couple said they first learned they were featured in an NYPD be-on-the-watch poster when they attended a precinct council meeting at the 30th Precinct stationhouse in Harlem on Thursday.

The poster with their mug shots from previous arrests for civil disobedience was taped to a precinct podium.

“Be aware that above subjects are known professional agitators,” read the flyer, warning cops that the “subjects’ MO” is to videotape officers “performing routine stops and post on YouTube.”

“Subjects’ purpose is to portray officers in a negative way,” the poster reads.

Gonzalez said she was shocked when she saw it. “I came in. I’m sitting down. I’m looking around, and all of a sudden I glanced to my left and I just see my face. And I am just like, ‘Oh, my God,’” Gonzalez said.

“My neighbors will look at it and think we are criminals and think we are bad people.”

Posting the couples’ home address too? 

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