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National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 1-23-13

Here are the 9 reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, January 23, 2013:

  • Fort Deposit, Alabama: An officer was sentenced to more than three years in prison. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy against rights and four counts of deprivation of rights under color of law. ow.ly/h4cXT
  • Fairfax County, Virginia: A 12-year veteran was arrested for allegedly attempting to take a purse and blouse from a department store. ow.ly/h4cHR
  • Florida: At least 74 law enforcers have been suspected of misusing the D.A.V.I.D (Driving and Vehicle Information Database) in 2012. That number is a nearly 400% increase from 2011. ow.ly/h47X6
  • Melbourne, Florida: A police officer has been accused of having sex with prostitutes while on duty. He was fired after investigators set up surveillance video claiming to show him in the act. ow.ly/h42j6
  • Jefferson Parish, Louisiana: A sheriff’s deputy has been fired when an investigation determined that he had been selling synthetic marijuana online after it was outlawed in Louisiana. ow.ly/h3XSJ
  • Chicago, Illinois: A coroner has reversed his office’s ruling from “undetermined” to “homicide” in the case of a man who died after police restrained him, hit him with batons, and shocked him with a Taser. The coroner said he used the “but for” principle; the man probably wouldn’t have died but for the actions of the police. ow.ly/h3SXt
  • New York, New York: A man whose beating by two police officers was caught on videotape has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the officers and the city. He spent two days in jail, and the charges were eventually dropped. ow.ly/h3uJn
  • Multnomah County, Oregon: A deputy has been accused of running a red light and colliding with another car, authorities said. Witnesses said the deputy did not have his emergency lights flashing when his patrol car struck the driver’s side of another car. ow.ly/h3ukJ
  • Cobb County, Georgia: A deputy is accused of sexually assaulting a female inmate. He has been charged with aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual battery, sexual assault by a member of law enforcement, and violation of oath of public office. ow.ly/h2wsQ

More on the Aaron Swartz Case

From the One Generation Away blog:

Aaron Swartz was an influential man with very important friends, and that’s why this case is getting so much attention.  Sadly, this kind of behavior by prosecutors is not an extreme example, but instead par for the course.

“[I]t’s important to realize that what happened in the Swartz case happens it lots and lots of federal criminal cases. Yes, the prosecutors tried to force a plea deal by scaring the defendant with arguments that he would be locked away for a long time if he was convicted at trial. Yes, the prosecutors filed a superseding indictment designed to scare Swartz even more into pleading guilty (it actually had no effect on the likely sentence, but it’s a powerful scare tactic). Yes, the prosecutors insisted on jail time and a felony conviction as part of a plea. But it is not particularly surprising for federal prosecutors to use those tactics. What’s unusual about the Swartz case is that it involved a highly charismatic defendant with very powerful friends in a position to object to these common practices. That’s not to excuse what happened, but rather to direct the energy that is angry about what happened. If you want to end these tactics, don’t just complain about the Swartz case. Don’t just complain when the defendant happens to be a brilliant guy who went to Stanford and hangs out with Larry Lessig. Instead, complain that this is business as usual in federal criminal cases around the country — mostly with defendants who no one has ever heard of and who get locked up for years without anyone else much caring.”

That was law professor Orin Kerr.  He has a proposal for change:  “Felony liability under the statute is triggered much too easily. The law needs to draw a distinction between low-level crimes and more serious crimes, and current law does so poorly.”  Some have proposed “Aaron’s Law” which would remove terms of service violations from the federal criminal code….

Aaron Swartz knew he was breaking the law when he downloaded those articles.  What he did not know, was that if a prosecutor wanted to make his life hell, she could credibly see to it that he was locked up until his mid 50’s.  We should make sure that punishments fit crimes, and that when we collectively threaten to remove a human being from society for a generation or two, they actually did something worthy of such a profound punishment.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 1-19-13 to 1-22-13

Here are the 10 reports of police misconduct tracked for Saturday, January 19 to Tuesday, January 22, 2013:

  • Memphis, Tennessee: An officer has been suspended after accusations of sexual assault were brought up. He has been relieved of duty with pay while the incident is investigated. http://ow.ly/h2vFe
  • Adams County, Colorado: A man is in shock after he says deputies shot and killed his dog. Jeff Fisher said deputies went to his house by mistake. He said when they forced their way through the door his dog Ziggy ran outside and a deputy shot and killed him. http://ow.lyh2uh6 ‪‪
  • Update: Milford, Connecticut: A police officer has been sentenced to five years in prison for a high-speed crash that killed two teenagers. The officer was returning from a mutual aid call in another town when his cruiser struck a car turning in front him at about 94 mph. Authorities say the cruiser’s emergency lights and sirens were off at the time. http://ow.ly/h24f7
  • San Juan County, New Mexico: A deputy who beat a suspect with a flashlight was sentenced to three years probation and a $10,000 fine to cover the expenses of his probation. He will not spend time behind bars. http://ow.ly/h23u6
  • Update: Chicago, Illinois: A police officer was found guilty of committing perjury when she testified in a battery trial. http://ow.ly/h21Z9
  • Morgan County, Alabama: A deputy was accused of domestic violence and attempted murder. He is charged with domestic violence, domestic violence by strangulation or suffocation, and attempted murder. http://ow.ly/h1QiI
  • Hillsboro, Oregon: An off-duty officer has been arrested on suspicion of attempted aggravated murder after a standoff that injured a sheriff’s deputy. http://ow.ly/h1Pl1
  • Update: Boulder, Colorado: Two officers face felony charges for killing an elk. An investigation uncovered that the officers had planned to shoot and kill the elk nearly 21 hours before, and then collect the animal for the “personal gain” of trophy and meat. http://ow.ly/h1AdD
  • Winnemucca, Nevada: An officer has been who has been on administrative leave for six months was arrested following a lengthy investigation into his off-duty conduct. He was charged with sexual assault, battery with the intent to commit sexual assault, and abuse, neglect or endangerment of a child. He also faces two misdemeanor charges of domestic battery. http://ow.ly/h1xJe
  • Durham, North Carolina: Three officers were charged with one count of false imprisonment and one count of assault. All three officers, who were off duty when the incident occurred, are currently on administrative leave. http://ow.ly/h1uPA

Florida Police Abuse Database. 400% Increase in Officers Involved Since 2011.

From the Orlando Sentinel:

Florida’s driver-and-vehicle database, the system that can help law enforcement identify victims of fatal crashes and decipher the identity of a suspect, can be a useful tool for cops.

But the system — known as D.A.V.I.D., for Driving and Vehicle Information Database — can also be easily abused.

Data obtained by the Orlando Sentinel show the number of Florida law-enforcement officers suspected of misusing D.A.V.I.D. skyrocketed last year.

At least 74 law enforcers were suspected of misusing D.A.V.I.D. in 2012, a nearly 400 percent increase from 2011, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Officers who needlessly pull information or photographs from D.A.V.I.D. that would otherwise be private could face criminal charges, sanctions or disciplinary action.

And yet the temptation of looking up a relative, a celebrity’s address or a romantic interest is too great for some law enforcers.

Deputy: ‘You can get a new dog’

From Denver CBSLocal.com:

An Adams County man is in shock after he says deputies shot and killed his dog.

Jeff Fisher said deputies went to his house by mistake. He said when they forced their way through the door his dog Ziggy ran outside and an Adams County Sheriff’s deputy shot and killed him.

“(He went to the door) to see who it was and the police officer shot him three times,” Fisher said. “They killed my dog for no reason.”

Video at the link above.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 1-18-13

Here are the 7 reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, January 18, 2013:

  • Update: Las Vegas, Nevada: A now-former police officer is going to prison for two years. He pleaded guilty to charges of coercing women to expose their breasts after stopping them on the road. The Judge, after hearing victims’ statements, looked right at him and said: “You are nothing short of a sexual predator with a badge.” ow.ly/gWgdQ
  • Garfield, New Jersey: The girlfriend of a city teen fatally shot by police has filed a federal lawsuit claiming wrongful death. In it, she claims he was “viciously and unjustifiably shot” by officers from the city force and the Bergen County Police Department, according to court documents. ow.ly/gW9UP
  • Los Angeles, California: Sheriff’s department investigators are probing a deputy’s allegations that she was the victim of sexual misconduct involving three top sheriff’s officials. “I take this very seriously, and I will find out what did or did not happen,” said the Sheriff. ow.ly/gW9c0
  • Schaumburg, Illinois: Three officers robbed drug dealers of their stash while executing search warrants. They then turned around and sold the heroin, cocaine and marijuana, pocketing the cash, said prosecutors. ow.ly/gVQIy
  • Beacon, New York: A city police officer was suspended from duty with pay after an investigation into his conduct with a police informant, according to court documents. ow.ly/gVAiA
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: According to a federal lawsuit filed, the police have shown a pattern of wrongfully arresting people who videotaped officers in public. It seeks monetary compensation and confirmation of the public’s right to videotape the police. ow.ly/gVxpU
  • Miami-Dade, Florida: Two female officers have gone public with sexual harassment accusations against the school police chief, saying they have lost faith in the district’s investigation of their complaints. ow.ly/gWaPG

The Civil Forfeiture Racket

From Reason.com:

Jerrie Brathwaite was not in her car when Washington, D.C. police seized it in January 2012. She had lent her 2000 Nissan Maxima to a friend, and that friend was pulled over, searched, and found to be in possession of drugs. A year later, Braithwaite—who has never been charged with a crime—still doesn’t have her car back, and no one from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) will return her calls. …

In theory, the government uses asset forfeiture to strip criminal enterprises of resources and “toys”—the cars, planes, boats, and homes that make the illicit life look glamorous. But a glance at the legal notices the department publishes periodically in The Washington Times reveals the city is hardly targeting kingpins. A notice from last September lists these cars: a 1985 Chevrolet, a 1994 BMW, a 1999 Lincoln, a 1994 Lexus, a 1991 Honda, and a 2001 Chevrolet. Most seizures are of cash—generally less than $100 and as little as $7—taken from thousands of people each year.

“Many of these clients don’t have money, don’t have assets, some are innocent,” says criminal defense lawyer Henry Escoto, who is pursuing a class-action lawsuit against the city. “Many times just because police arrest somebody for possession of a controlled substance doesn’t necessarily mean that the money they have on them came from illegal proceeds. It could be many of these guys have jobs and get caught with rent money or their paycheck. That’s pretty significant.”

By law, the MPD must notify property owners of their constitutional right to challenge a forfeiture, but it recently emerged in court that up to 2,000 of the 3,000 property owners who had property seized in 2009 may not have received notice.

H/T: Instapundit.   For additional background, go here.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 01-17-13

Here are the 7 reports of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, January 17, 2013:

  • Blakely, Georgia: A former state trooper has been indicted for stealing marijuana from the evidence locker, and then giving it to teenage girls. He is charged with theft by a government employee, distribution of marijuana, and violation of oath of office. http://ow.ly/gTHmX
  • Chattanooga, Tennessee: A lawsuit seeking $50 million in damages names two officers, the city, and Erlanger Health Systems after an inmate sustained a compound fracture and other injuries from a beating from officers. http://ow.ly/gTKmx
  • Peekskill, New York: After a 4-year investigation into organized crime’s influence on the carting industry in, a 20-year-veteran is facing two extortion charges. He, and two others, is accused of forcing a trash hauler to turn over his business to them. All in all 32 people were indicted on federal charges. http://ow.ly/gTMbv
  • Boston, Massachusetts: A veteran police officer, who has been suspended in the past for a domestic altercation, pleaded not guilty to charges of raping and indecently assaulting a woman, officials said. http://ow.ly/gTFRL
  • Margate, Florida: A rookie police officer has been fired for carrying guns while “extremely intoxicated” at a Fort Lauderdale nightclub. He was carrying two loaded firearms, and one of them was his police weapon. He also had three additional magazines with rounds, and a pocket knife. http://ow.ly/gTGOu
  • Chatham Borough, New Jersey: A police detective has been charged with drunken driving after he drove his vehicle off the road, crashed through a concrete wall, and came to rest on top of a large rock. ow.ly/gTzVU
  • Kentwood, Louisiana: A police chief was arrested and booked with malfeasance of officer and obstruction of justice after there was an investigation into missing evidence. Investigators concluded that he had intentionally tampered with the evidence. ow.ly/gTwdK

The Aaron Swartz Case

There is much buzz surrounding the recent suicide of Aaron Swartz–and whether prosecutorial abuse by Carmen Ortiz played a part.

Glenn Greenwald:

Whenever an avoidable tragedy occurs, it’s common for there to be an intense spate of anger in its immediate aftermath which quickly dissipates as people move on to the next outrage. That’s a key dynamic that enables people in positions of authority to evade consequences for their bad acts. But as more facts emerge regarding the conduct of the federal prosecutors in the case of Aaron Swartz – Massachusetts’ US attorney Carmen Ortiz and assistant US attorney Stephen Heymann – the opposite seems to be taking place: there is greater and greater momentum for real investigations, accountability and reform. It is urgent that this opportunity not be squandered, that this interest be sustained.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that – two days before the 26-year-old activist killed himself on Friday – federal prosecutors again rejected a plea bargain offer from Swartz’s lawyers that would have kept him out of prison. They instead demanded that he “would need to plead guilty to every count” and made clear that “the government would insist on prison time”. That made a trial on all 15 felony counts – with the threat of a lengthy prison sentence if convicted – a virtual inevitability.

Just three months ago, Ortiz’s office, as TechDirt reported, severely escalated the already-excessive four-felony-count indictment by adding nine new felony counts, each of which “carrie[d] the possibility of a fine and imprisonment of up to 10-20 years per felony”, meaning “the sentence could conceivably total 50+ years and [a] fine in the area of $4 million.” That meant, as Think Progress documented, that Swartz faced “a more severe prison term than killers, slave dealers and bank robbers”.

Swartz’s girlfriend, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, told the WSJ that the case had drained all of his money and he could not afford to pay for a trial. At Swartz’s funeral in Chicago on Tuesday, his father flatly stated that his son “was killed by the government”.

More background from Radley Balko and Declan McCullagh.

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