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Monday, June 30, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: The Boy in the Basement

     A suburban Atlanta couple accused of locking their son in the basement of their home for more than a year has surrendered to police…Ricardo Wimbush, 33, and his wife, Therian, 37, turned themselves in to the police Friday evening, June 27, 2014. Police said the couple is accused of confining the 13-year-old to a small room with a mattress and makeshift toilet. They face charges of child cruelty and false imprisonment.

     The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services received an anonymous tip on June 15, 2014. The boy's parents told authorities their son was locked up for disciplinary reasons. Police said the teen didn't appear malnourished, and neither he nor his nine siblings showed signs of physical abuse.

     The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services took custody of all the children...

     "The boy was essentially being treated as a prisoner would be treated," officer Jake Smith said when the warrant was issued for the couple earlier in the week. "The window had been painted over. There was a bucket the child used as bathroom, a mattress and a box spring," Smith said.

     In the arrest warrant, a detective wrote: "Therian and Ricardo justified the treatment of the boy saying he had molested three of the younger siblings. The child stated he was locked in... the basement for taking the family DVD player and lying about it…

     Wimbush played for Georgia Tech from 1999 to 2002 and led the team in tackles for three years. He signed a contract with the Atlanta Falcons in 2003 but was cut before the season started.

"Georgia Couple Accused of Locking Son Up Turns Selves In," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 27, 2014  

Writing Quote: The Romance Mystery Hybrid

When I was writing romance, I realized that I needed more than just relationships to pull the characters through three hundred pages. I didn't like writing the detailed sex scenes, but I loved the action parts. So I decided to move into crime fiction. Truth is, I made a sort of hybrid--I took the things I loved about the romance and squashed those things into a mystery/adventure format. It's always risky to try something new like that, but it will work if you give the reader something compelling and appropriate for the emerging market.

Janet Evanovich, How I Write, 2006

Sunday, June 29, 2014

CJ Quote: How Many Pet Dogs Do the Police Kill?

     A man who's dog was shot and killed by Salt Lake City police has posted a video of an exchange he had with officers minutes after the shooting. Sean Kendall's 3-year-old Weimaraner, named Geist, was shot in the head on June 24, 2014 after officers entered the homeowner's house while searching for a missing child…."Which officer shot my dog? Please," Kendall asked several officers standing in his front yard when he arrived at the scene.

     "We were looking for a lost child," one officer responded. A neighborhood parent had reported her 3-year-old child missing earlier in the day. The child was later found asleep in the basement of the family's home. [Why didn't they start the search in the missing boy's house?]

     "And that gives you probable cause to enter a private residence without permission from the owner?" asked a livid Kendall who asked for the names and badge numbers of the officers.

     "He [the shooting officer] was threatened by the dog, and he shot the dog. That's as simple as it gets," one officer said. [Cops like to keep things simple.] The officer who shot Geist was not at the scene at the time, though the officers gave Kendall his name. [The cop was probably meeting with his union rep.]

     "So backing up slowly and leaving the residence was not an option?" Kendall asked, his voice growing more agitated. "I understand it wasn't you personally," Kendall said, "but you guys killed my dog. I had this dog for three years. He was my best friend, and he was shot because an officer couldn't back out of my house! Is that against policy? Is that against training?" Kendall asked….

Chuck Ross, "Man Confronts Police After They Shot His Dog," The Daily Caller, June 26, 2014


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Child Sex Trafficking Arrests

     Nearly 170 victims of child sex trafficking, many of whom had never been reported missing, were rescued as part of an annual nationwide crackdown, the FBI announced on June 23, 2014. Besides the 168 children rescued from the sex trade, agents arrested 281 pimps during the same period on state and federal charges.

     "These are not kids in faraway lands," FBI Director James Comey said in announcing the annual enforcement push known as Operation Cross County. "These are America's children," he said….

     Since its creation in 2003, the FBI's program has resulted in the identification and recovery of about 3,600 children who have been sexually exploited….

CBS News, "FBI: 168 Kids Rescued," June 23, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Incarcerated Mother of Truant Kids Dies in Jail

     A mother of seven children who was sentenced to 48 hours in jail for her children's excessive truancy violations died during her sentence….Eileen Dinino, 55, died on Saturday, June 10, 2014 in a cell at the Berks County Jail in Reading, Pennsylvania….She died one day into her two-day sentence.

     Initial autopsy reports indicate that the cause of death was natural. However, the coroner is still waiting for toxicology tests to come back.

     The number of truancy violations charged to Dinino because her kids played hooky was the same as her age: 55. They had been accumulating since 1999. Under Pennsylvania law, parents can go to jail for five days for every single time their kids have an unexcused school absence. Dinino had the option to pay $2,000 in fines but she couldn't afford it….

     The sentencing judge, Dean R. Patton, said he sentenced the mother to jail reluctantly. He later criticized the sentencing guidelines he said he was required to follow….Local politicians have also expressed outrage about Dinino's death.…Since 2000, according to the Associated Press, more than 1,600 people have gone to jail in Berks County because of truancy violations and an inability to pay the resulting fines.

Eric Owens, "Mom of Seven Died in Prison After Judge Jailed Her For Her Kids' Excessive Truancy," The Daily Caller, June 14, 2014


Writing Quote: Character Development in Serious Fiction

     In a detective story, the hero often has no development. Hercule Poirot [Agatha Christie] is pretty much the same from beginning to end of a particular novel; he merely changes in the way he perceives things. Popular action heroes such as James Bond, Dirk Pitt, or Captain Kirk don't develop much either; they are pretty much the same beginning to end, from book to book. [The same is true of Sherlock Holmes.] But in a more serious work of dramatic fiction, the characters do change, often profoundly.

     Scrooge in A Christmas Carol turns from unrepentant miser to generous celebrant; Charles Allnut in The African Queen changes from a drunken sot to a responsible husband. Fred C. Dobbs in B. Traven's The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is changed from a rather likable, down-and-out tramp to a greedy paranoiac by his lust for gold.

     Well-plotted, serious dramatic fiction is transformational by its very nature. The vicarious experience of this transformation is the most important reason people read serious fiction. A plot isn't just a matter of one thing happening after another; it's the progress toward the resolution of a predicament that transforms the character.

James N. Frey in Novel Writing, 2002 edited by Meg Leder and Jack Heffron 

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Kentucky Fried Chicken Case: Outrage or Scam?

     In April 2014, a pit bull in Jackson, Mississippi mauled a 3-year-old girl named Victoria Wilcher. The attack left the toddler with healing facial scars and an eyepatch. On June 12, 2014, the girl's grandmother, Kelly Mullins, on a Facebook site called "Victoria's Victories," posted an account of an outrageous incident involving her granddaughter that supposedly had occurred at a Jackson KFC restaurant on May 15, 2014.

     According to Kelly Mullins, after ordering their food at the KFC place that day, an employee asked them to leave the premises. The employee, according to the story, kicked Mullins and her granddaughter out of the place because the other customers were disturbed by the girl's eyepatch and facial scars.

     The day after Mullins posted her account of the KFC insult, the story went viral. Victoria's family quickly took advantage of public sympathy generated by the Facebook posting by setting up a GoFundMe website to solicit donations on behalf of the humiliated little girl.

     Investigators looking into the KFC scandal uncovered information that cast doubt on the veracity of Kelly Mullins' story. Initially, members of the girl's family said the incident took place at the KFC restaurant located at State and High Streets. But later, according to family accounts, the fast-food expulsion occurred at the KFC place on Woodrow Wilson Drive not far from the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children.

     A review of restaurant surveillance footage at both KFC restaurants failed to reveal a woman in her forties and a toddler matching the descriptions of Mullins and the girl. The investigators found no video evidence that the couple had entered the restaurant on May 15, 2014. Moreover, cash register entries did not confirm the food items Mullins said she had ordered that day.

     On June 21, 2014, a plastic surgeon responding to Mullins' story flew to Mississippi to consult with the family regarding the girl's disfiguring injuries.

     As doubts grew regarding the truthfulness of the grandmother's gut-wrenching story, the GoFundMe website released a statement regarding the Mullins account. In less than two weeks since the inflammatory Facebook posting, the site had raised $135,000 in donations, money the website would return to donors. GoFundMe personnel also shut down the Mullins site.

     Kelly Mullins, amid the expanding scandal, insisted that her accounts of the KFC incident were "true and accurate."

     A local prosecutor charged the owner the pit bull, the girl's grandfather, with child endangerment. The prosector charged Donald Mullins' girlfriend, Rita Tompkins, with the same offense. There was no doubt that the little girl had been mauled by the dog. At least that part of the story is true. If Kelly Mullins fabricated the KFC part of the story, she might end up in trouble with the law herself. Whatever the outcome of this case, public sentiment has turned against the grandmother.


Writing Quote: Creating a Protagonist

A well-developed character is multidimensional, with quirks and flaws, dreams, motivations, and values. A mystery novel's major character--the protagonist--must always want something. That desire is what sends him out in the middle of the night looking for a criminal when he could just as easily be sleeping in a warm, comfy bed. When something or someone stands in the way of your character getting what he wants, you get the beginnings of conflict. It's the conflict that sets up the story. How that character meets the challenge and overcomes the obstacles of the conflict defines that character.

Janet Evanovich, How I Write, 2006

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Writing Quote: Romance Fiction

In 2008 in the United States romance fiction is said to have been worth $1.37 billion in actual book sales, quite apart from subsidiary rights income. Over 7,000 novels were published in the genre. The Romance Writers of America Association provides the...flag-waving statistics that 74 million people read at least one romance novel in 2008. Most readers--perhaps as many as 90 percent--are female.

Michael Schmidt, The Novel: A Biography, 2014 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Writing Quote: Literary Versus Commercial Fiction

     In general, fiction is divided into literary fiction and commercial fiction. Nobody can definitively say what separates one from the other, but that doesn't stop everybody from trying…

     Literary fiction pays more attention to style than does commercial fiction. It also probes characterization more deeply. It's often slower paced than commercial fiction because added description and character development take up many words. The typical worldview implied by literary fiction is complex and ambiguous, trying to be faithful to the complexity and ambiguity of life. A traditional "happy ending" is possible but not common.

     Commercial fiction can be just as well written, but in an entirely different way. It's usually faster paced with a stronger plot line: more events, higher stakes, more danger. Characterization can range from good to practically nonexistent. The style is usually transparent, which means the writer wants to tell the story in words that don't call attention to themselves, so the story itself--and not the style--receives the attention.

Nancy Kress in Novel Writing, 2002, Meg Leder and Jack Heffron, Editors

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Ex-Cop Wanted for Rape Arrested in Alaska

     Joseph Keenan May's quiet life on the lam in Alaska unraveled after he used his late stepbrother's name to apply for a driver's license and unemployment benefits…May, a former sheriff's deputy wanted since 1991 for capital sexual battery in Bradenton, Florida, was arrested on identify theft charges early Friday, June 20, 2014. Federal officers took him into custody at his home in Eagle River, Alaska.

     "Sometimes Alaska draws people who want to run away from things," Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Bradley said."We find that there's an inordinate amount of fugitives here…Authorities say May, 60, has been the subject of a federal warrant for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution since 1993. For years May lived under the identity of stepbrother Michael Camp who died in his teens in Pennsylvania…

     May faced up to 12 years for the federal charges in Alaska and potentially the death penalty in Florida…A former road patrol deputy, the authorities arrested May in 1990 for the rape of a 6-year-old girl in the 1970s. May fled before he could be tried.

Ray Sanchez, "Ex-Florida Deputy Arrested in Alaska After More Than Two Decades on The Lam," CNN, June 21, 2014

Writing Quote: Writer's Block

Writer's block usually manifests out of anxiety. This is simple to say, but when you're a writer, anxiety is a way of life. [Really?] So don't be hard on yourself. There are just too many variables that are out of your control, and it's normal for you to be anxious. The key is not to let it overwhelm you. According to the Mayo Clinic, general anxiety disorder symptoms can include restlessness, being keyed up or on edge, difficulty in concentrating, fatigue, irritability, impatience, being easily distracted, muscle tension, trouble falling or staying asleep, and excessive sweating. [Good heavens, if being a writer causes you these kinds of problems, stop being a writer. It's not worth it. A writer with writer's block is, by definition, not a writer.]

N. M Kelby, The Constant Art of Being a Writer, 2009

Writing Quote: Even Novelists Have to Get Their Facts Straight

Research is something that all novels need. If you say that in Santa Fe, Guadalupe Street intersects with Paseo De Peralta, these streets should intersect. People know these things, and if they find that you've made a mistake, you break that delicate trust that a reader extends to a writer. Always check those kinds of facts. [Writers of nonfiction, of course, are held to an even higher standard of factual accuracy. In a novel, so what?]

N. M. Kelby, The Constant Art of Being a Writer, 2009

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Stripper Gang Credit Card Scam

     Dr. Zyadk Younan, a cardiologist from Homdel, New Jersey, refused to accept responsibility for $135,000 in credit card debt he had supposedly incurred in early 2014 at a strip club in Manhattan, New York called Scores. Dr. Younan claimed that strippers at Scores had spiked his drinks with drugs to incapacitate him while they swiped his credit card without his authorization or knowledge. Had the physician's credit card tab not been so outrageously high, his claim of victimhood may have fallen on deaf ears.

     In the spring of 2014, DEA agents and officers with the NYPD launched a undercover investigation into Dr. Younan's allegations. As it turned out, it seemed the doctor and several other club patrons had been drugged and ripped-off.

     According to the results of the joint investigation, strippers from Scores and the RoadHouse Gentleman's Club in Queens conducted fishing expeditions at bars in Manhattan and Long Island looking for potential credit card victims. They began looking for patrons they could drug and rip-off in September 2013. The suspects allegedly set up club dates with these men, encounters that led to spiked drinks and credit card fraud. Once the suspects dropped the stimulant methylone, commonly known as molly, or the tranquilizer ketamine into their targets' drinks, they were able to take advantage of their drug addled customers. (I presume strippers earn commissions based on bar tabs.)

     According to investigators, the suspects believed that if challenged, their victims could be blackmailed into silence. According to reports, some of these men were blackmailed by members of the credit card scam.

     On June 11, 2014, police officers and federal agents arrested four strippers and the manager of Scores on charges of grand larceny, assault, and forgery. At their arraignments in Manhattan, all of the suspects, including club manager Carmine Vitolo, and the suspected ringleader, Samantha Barbash, pleaded not guilty to the charges. 

Writing Quote: Phony Memoir or Phony Couple

     Jason Biggs' wife, Jenny Mollen, recently pubished her memoir, I Like You Just The Way I Am: Stories About Me and Some Other People in which she recounts a story about buying a hooker for Jason to have sex with while she watched. [One of these people is a celebrity. If you want to know which one, you will have to google them. I couldn't muster the interest.] Mollen appeared on "The View" on June 17, 2014 to promote her book. However, she shied away from the hooker story. Guest host Candace Cameron Bure [no idea] said she wasn't a fan [of hiring prostitutes for one's husband].

     "How is hiring a hooker for your husband's birthday, how is having threesomes…celebrated? I have a sense of humor, but I have a hard time finding humor in that." Bure said she felt Mollen wasn't being genuine. [Wow, a celebrity memoir that is full of crap. What a surprise!]...

     "This is not a habitual thing on our part," Jason Biggs said. "We don't have a group of prostitutes who come in and out of our house on a regular basis….My wife found the whole thing to be quite hysterical even while it was happening. She was actually on the bed, watching, eating a bag of potato chips, laughing. So you can imagine, I wasn't really performing to the best of my abilities. Also, said prostitute wasn't engaging with my wife the way I hoped she would so it all kind of fell apart, and the rest is in the book." [As far as I'm concerned it can stay in the book.]

Seth Richardson, "Jason Biggs Recounts His Time With a Hooker While His Wife Watched," The Daily Caller, June 20, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Patronizing Prostitutes: One Old Customer

     According to New Castle, Pennsylvania police, two officers observed  35-year-old Brandy Lynn Bartley loitering on South Mill Street. They saw her get into a car driven by Harry Anthony Mooney, 83, about 9 PM on Wednesday, June 28, 2014. Officers arrested Bartley and searched her purse. They found a glass pipe commonly used to ingest crack cocaine.

     A Lawrence County prosecutor charged Bartley with promoting prostitution and possession of drug paraphernalia. The 83-year-old suspect was charged with patronizing a prostitute….

"Man, Woman to Face Prostitution Charges," New Castle News, June 20, 2014 

Writing Quote: Creating Characters Through Dialogue

We introduce our characters to our readers through dialogue. Dialogue combined with facial expression and body language indicates to readers who our characters are. In real life, this is how we get to know one another. We start interacting. Sometimes this goes well, sometimes it doesn't. Through dialogue, we decide if we like someone or not. This is also how our readers decide if they like our characters. As they listen to them and watch them interact with each other, they decide if these are good guys or bad guys or a combination. It's in our power to evoke positive or negative feelings in our readers for our characters through the dialogue we create for them.

Gloria Kempton, Dialogue, 2004 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Writing Quote: Getting Interviewees to Provide Interesting and Original Information

Some people love to talk about themselves. A few people love to talk about themselves but don't say much that is useful. They say such things as "The Lord made me do it," or "I've got to hand it to my teammates." [Being a sports journalist must be brutal.] Your job as an interviewer is to turn the subject into a storyteller. Ask questions so layered, so deep, and so odd that they elicit unusual responses. Take the person to places he wouldn't normally go. Ask questions that require descriptive answers.

Jacqui Banaszynski in Tell True Stories, 2007, Mark Kramer and Wendy Call, Editors 

Criminal Justice Quote: Intoxicated Driver Fatally Runs Over Her Father

     A southern California man identified by family members as a former Laotian military officers who aided U.S. efforts during the Vietnam War, was run over and killed by his daughter while he attempted to prevent the woman from driving drunk….Thirty-seven-year-old Soukvilay Barton ignored her father's pleas not to drive and backed her BMW convertible out of the garage, striking him.

      Bounmy Rajsombath was rushed to Riverside Hospital where he was pronounced dead Friday night, June 13, 2014. Witnesses say Barton had been drinking and arguing with family members. She stopped the car after seeing that her father was injured and sat sobbing before being taken into custody.

     Barton was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and gross vehicle manslaughter and was held on $75,000 bail….

"California Father Run Over Trying to Stop Daughter From Driving,", June 15, 2014 

Hellementary Education Quote: Kiddie Boot Camp

     The principal at a North Carolina elementary school is in hot water after parents say she forced a group of students to trudge around a dirt track for over two hours without water because they failed to wear their uniforms on the last day of school. The incident occurred on Tuesday, June 10, 2014 at Manchester Elementary School just outside Fayetteville, North Carolina. The principal is Tammy Holland.

     Complaining parents say the trouble began when their kids showed up at school in regular garb instead of khakis and white polo shirts….The temperature was in the high 70s when the slog started and in the high 80s when it finally ended more than two hours later. The high humidity made the air seem hotter….

     School district officers are investigating the allegations….The superintendent noted that forced physical activity is illegal under school district rules….

Eric Owens, "Grade School Principal Makes Kids Walk For Hours in Heat Without Water," The Daily Caller, June 15, 2014

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Writing Quote: Creating Dialogue

Dialogue not only creates space on the page, which is visually appealing, it's also what brings characters to life in a story, which is emotionally appealing. We're much more interested in a story's setting when it comes through a scene of dialogue. Our characters' tense words let readers know where our characters are internally and create suspense for what's ahead in the story. The onset of a dialogue scene immediately propels the story into high gear. [Not necessarily. It depends on the conversation. I've read a lot of boring dialogue created by so-called "literary" novelists.] Through dialogue, we can give readers a very real sense of a story's setting. If done well, dialogue can even communicate the story's theme. [My advice to aspiring novelists--forget theme and focus on story.] Effective dialogue delivers all of these things to eager readers. This is the kind of dialogue we, as writers, want to create.

Gloria Kempton, Dialogue, 2004 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Wife Beater Gets Off Light

     Some call it creative ruling; some call it bench buffoonery. In 2012 Joseph Bray was accused of shoving his wife and putting his hands around her throat when she snapped at him for forgetting her birthday. Judge John Hurley decided to hand out a unique punishment: a little romance.

     Not only did Judge Hurley order Bray to take his wife on a date, he also specified that it must be dinner at Red Lobster, followed by bowling, and that he must purchase flowers.

     Sounds like a good sentence, right? Bray can throw his wife around all he wants, as long as he takes her out to dinner afterward.

Neil Patrick Steward, Headlines! Headlines!, 2012 

Criminal Justice Quote: The Bergdahl Stalking Case

     The father of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl…harassed a pair of twin sisters in Hailey, Idaho, for several months, according to police reports obtained by The Daily Mail. In 2011, long before Robert Bergdahl began learning Pashto and Arabic…the bearded dad stalked Lacey and Allie Hillman, police documents say….

     The Hillman sisters told police that Bergdahl, a UPS deliveryman, harassed them for more than four months. Bergdahl's son Bowe was into his Taliban captivity during this period….The twins said Bergdahl, 51, drove by their residence--apparently they lived together--several times each day. On one occasion, the sisters claimed, he left an angry note charging that one of the girls [in their twenties] was "two-timing" him. Later, he allegedly left a note saying, "I am sorry for whatever I did."

     A few weeks later, the sisters told the police, Bergdahl confronted Allie Hillman at her front door after her boyfriend had left her house. She told police Bergdahl knocked on the door and said, while laughing, "Why are you two-timing me, bitch?"…

     Another time, Bergdahl allegedly sneaked around the outside of the home for a few hours and approached the house as Lacey Hillman was taking a shower. Lacey told local cops that she heard a noise and stepped out of the shower wearing a towel. She walked to a glass door. There, she told police, she saw a "shadowed person." It was Bergdahl, she said. He tried to get her to come closer to the door….

     It was after this voyeuristic episode that the sisters went to the police, saying they were "very scared," reports The Mail….

     The cops had a chat with Bergdahl, warning him to stay away from the twins's residence and places of work. He agreed to the terms. The Hillman twins agreed not to press charges.

     Bowe Bergdahl, a soldier in the U.S. Army, was held captive by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network in Afghanistan from June 2009 until his release in May 2014. The release was part of a five-for-one prisoner trade with the Taliban….

Eric Owens, "Twin Sisters Say Bowe Bergdahl's Dad Was Obsessive Peeping-Tom Stalker," The Daily Caller, June 14, 2014  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Hot Bacon Grease as a Weapon

     A woman is wanted for allegedly throwing bacon grease on a man with whom she had been arguing. New Castle, Pennsylvania police charged Shawntay Hope Thomas, 37 in connection with the incident that happened about 10:15 PM on Thursday, June 12, 2014 at her house.

     Police say they were called to Jameson Hospital regarding a man suffering from burns and redness on his face, neck, and chest. He told officers that he and Thomas had been arguing and he had gone out to the porch. A short time later, he said, she went outside carrying a cup of hot bacon grease and threw it on him….She is charged with simple assault and harassment….

"Woman Charged With Bacon Grease Assault," New Castle News, June 18, 2014

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Great Impostor: Ferdinand Waldo Demara

     While most people aren't con artists, charlatans, and swindlers, many are, in various degrees, cheats and pretenders. Men without military experience impersonate war heroes, politicians pretend to lead, bureaucrats impersonate competent employees, and job applicants falsely claim qualifications and work histories. It's not uncommon for young men to break the law by impersonating cops and FBI agents. Because most law enforcement impostors are inept, they are quickly caught.

     In 1937, 16-year-old Ferdinand Waldo Demara, Jr. ran away from his home in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He took up residence with Cistercian monks in Rhode Island, then in 1941, joined the U. S. Army. A year later, Demara went AWOL. Under the name Anthony Ignolia, he lived in another monastery before signing up with the Navy. Demara next faked his suicide, adopted the name Robert Lincoln French, and began playing the role of a religiously oriented psychologist. This led to a teaching position in a college psychology department.

     Bored with teaching, Demara worked as an orderly in a Los Angeles sanitarium, then moved to Washington State where he taught at St. Martin's College. The FBI interrupted his impersonation career by arresting him for desertion. That resulted in an 18-month stretch in a federal prison.

     Following his release from the federal penitentiary, Demara joined the Brothers of Christian Instruction order in Maine. There, Demara became friends with a young physician which led to the impostor becoming a trauma surgeon aboard a Royal Canadian Navy destroyer during the Korean War. Demara actually operated on 16 South Korean soldiers wounded in combat. He managed this by speed-reading surgical textbooks. All of his patients survived Although later exposed as a phony physician, the Canadian Navy did not press charges.

     In 1951, as Brother John Payne of the Christian Brothers of Instruction, Demara founded a college called La Mennais College of Alfred Maine. He left the state shortly thereafter. (In 1959, the college moved to Canton, Ohio, and in 1960, changed its name to Walsh College.)

     In the early 1960s, Demara worked as a prison administrator in Huntsville, Texas, and as a counselor at the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles. In 1967, at age 46, he received a Graduate Certificate in Bible from Multnomah Bible College in Portland, Oregon. In the late 1970s, Demara became a chaplain at a hospital in Anaheim, California. He became ill in 1980, and on June 7, 1982, died at the age of 62.

     Demara had become famous in the late 1950s after he sold his story to Life Magazine. In 1961, Tony Curtis played him in a popular movie called "The Great Impostor." Demara credited his impostor success to his high IQ, his photographic memory, and his understanding of institutional politics. (It also helps to move around a lot.) 

Kids, Don't Threaten Your Fellow Students With Rolled Up Paper

     A little boy, in May 2014,  got himself into big trouble at an exclusive, private school for pointing an object that merely represented a gun. Eight-year-old Asher Palmer rolled up a piece of paper, called it a gun, and pointed it at other kids….Officials at the special-needs school in New York City then expelled him.

     The Lang School is a ritzy, private institution that specializes in educating students with language difficulties. In 2014, annual tuition was $51,500. [Parents who spend that much a year for a kid's elementary eduction have a special need themselves--common sense.] "Asher is exactly the type of student Lang is supposed to be serving," the boy's frustrated mother, Melina Spadone told The New York Post. "Why they did this doesn't make sense."

     The principal at Lang, Micaela Bracamonte--who called herself the "head of school" reportedly informed school employees that eight-year-old Asher "had a model for physically aggressive behavior in his immediate family." The boy's mother wasn't sure who that model would be, but she said she imagined that Bracamonte was referring to her husband who had been an American soldier during the Gulf War. "I find it offensive and inappropriate," the angry mother told The Post.

     Spadone explained that her son, a first grader, fashioned the rolled-up piece of paper after he talked with his father about weapons in the military. Asher's teachers didn't take the piece of paper away. Instead, they just warned him not to point the menacing piece of paper at anyone. [Remember what they say--there is no such thing as an unloaded, fake toy gun.]

     Eventually the boy pointed the piece of paper at another kid. School officials claimed that Asher declared that he would "kill" a girl, apparently in separate incident. Consequently, Bracamonte alleged that the little boy had a "concrete plan" for killing another student. [Perhaps he had reached out to a second grade hit man armed with an eraser.] The boy's mother suggested that her eight-year-old son wasn't using the word "kill" literally.

     The angry mother said she and her husband, in the past five months, had spent $120,000 for tuition and one-on-one tutoring at Lang School with the understanding that their son would attend the school long-term. 

Criminal Justice Quote: Some Retirees Golf: Others Take Up Cooking

     Fresno, California police arrested a 64-year-old man suspected of cooking methamphetamine in his apartment at a retirement community….Robert Short was pulled over as part of a routine traffic stop late Saturday, June 14, 2014. Officers found meth in his car.

     Investigators then went to Short's apartment in the California League-Fresno Village, where they found a half pound of meth, heroin and materials for a meth lab. Police said the street value of the drugs Short was carrying was close to $1,700. Officers also found scales and baggies in his car….

     Short's neighbors at the senior housing facility say despite the tight-knit community there, they didn't know Short. He kept to himself. Short has been on supervised release for previous drug sales.

"Meth Lab Found at California Retirement Community," Associated Press, June 14, 2014 

Writing Quote: Flashbacks

I try to make my books linear, which means that the starting point is at the beginning and it travels along a chronological line toward the end, with no flashbacks. I do this because it makes for an easier read.

Janet Evanovich, How I Write, 2006 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Activist Students Accuse Campus Men of Rape Through Graffiti and Flyers

     Pursuant to a federal law called the Clery Act, the nation's colleges and universities are required, among other things, to promptly report allegations of campus rape and other sexual offenses to the appropriate law enforcement authorities. Congress passed the law amid valid complaints that colleges and universities, to avoid bad publicity, routinely discouraged campus rape victims by making it difficult to file these complaints. Moreover, college administrators were reluctant to pass on these allegations to the police. The Clery Act was passed to solve this problem. Results have been mixed.

     It hasn't been a secret that on the campus of Columbia University in New York City, rape has been a campus problem for years. On April 25, 2014, twenty-three Columbia students filed a Clery Act complaint with the U.S. Department of Education. Through this document, the university stood accused of discouraging campus rape allegations to the authorities. These complainants also accuse university administrators of protecting students suspected of rape by refusing to kick them out of school.

     On May 7, 2014, a group of activists wrote the names of four accused rapists on the stalls in a Hamilton Hall women's restroom. Under the headings "Sexual Assault Violators" and "Rapists on Campus," the published names had been written in four different sets of handwriting with each writer using a different color marker. The last person on the lists was labeled a "serial rapist."

     The Hamilton Hall bathroom rape lists were posted less than 24 hours when university officials got wind of the "graffiti" and removed it. This not only prompted the activists to spread their message to other women's restrooms, it resulted in the publication of rape list flyers that were posted around the campus. For university administrators, the lists presented a public relations nightmare.

     On May 16, 2014, after Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz filed a rape complaint against one of the students on the rape lists with the New York City Police Department, the school paper, the Spectator, published this male undergraduate's name.

     A few days after the rapist's name appeared in the Spectator, Emma Sulkowicz, one of the Clery Act complainants, held a press conference. In describing her experience at the New York City Police Department, Sulkowicz said, "the officer basically treated me as if I was the criminal. After you've been physically violated the last thing you want is to have a policemen who is high on his own power telling you that everything you've just experienced is invalid."

     Regarding the Columbia rape lists, campus opinion seems divided between students who consider the lists the work of out-of-control vigilantes, and others who praise these students for standing up for victims' rights.

     At present, federal agents are investigating 55 colleges and universities for violations of the Clery Act. 

Hellementary Education Quote: Drink Up Kids, Tomorrow You'll Be Smoking E-Cigarettes

A superintendent says a Michigan teacher on March 6, 2014 gave non-alcoholic beer to a classroom of fifth graders as part of a history lesson. The superintendent says the teacher allowed Hyatt Elementary students in Linden, Michigan to sample O'Doul's that was brought to school by a student to represent ale common in the 1700s and consumed at the time because of the scarcity of clean water. The superintendent said the teacher made an "inappropriate choice." [Yes, the real thing would have been much more authentic.]

"Michigan Teacher Gives Fifth Grade Students O'Doul's Non-Alcoholic Beer," the Flint Journal, March 17, 2014  

Criminal Justice Quote: School Security Has Not Reduced Shootings

     There has been no real reduction in the number of U.S. school shootings despite increased security put in place after the rampage at a Connecticut elementary school in December 2012 left 20 children and six educators dead. An Associated Press analysis finds that there have been at least 11 school shooting this academic year alone, in addition to other cases of gun violence in school parking lots and elsewhere on campus when classes were not in session. Last August 2013, a gun discharged in a 5-year-old's backpack while students were waiting for the opening bell in the cafeteria at Westside Elementary School in Memphis. No one was hurt.

     Experts say the rate of school shootings is statistically unchanged since the mid-to-late 1990s, yet still remains troubling….

"No Reduction in U.S. School Shootings Despite Increased Security, Analysis Finds, Associated Press, February 2, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Child Molester Spared Prison

     In 1984, a Kalamazoo, Michigan man was found guilty of sexually assaulting his underage stepdaughter over a period of seven years, until she ran away. Rather than serve prison time, the judge ordered that he undergo chemical castration, a drug therapy that would diminish his sex drive.

     The craziest part is this: the drug was manufactured by the Upjohn pharmaceutical company, which was founded by the grandfather of the accused, making him the heir to the fortune. He'd go on to get rich off the company, but not before being forced to sample his own products.

Neil Patrick Steward, Headlines! Headlines!, 2012

Monday, June 16, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Couple Murdered for "Defriending" Girl on Facebook

     In the most awful case of overreaction ever, a young Nashville, Tennessee couple was brutally murdered after they "defriended" a girl on Facebook in 2012….

     It was the girl's father who decided to exact retribution for the snub. He went to the couple's house, shot them both, and slit the husband's throat for good measure. In an appalling testament to the senseless savagery of the crime, the killer left the couple's crying eight-month-old baby in her dead mother's arms.

Neil Patrick Steward, Headlines! Headlines!, 2012

Criminal Justice Quote: Unlawful Shooting at the Moon

     An Arizona man arrested for unlawfully discharging a firearm told authorities he was trying to shoot the moon. On June 6, 2014, Prescott Valley police responded to the home after a woman reported that her boyfriend had fired several shots from a handgun and still was armed.

     The woman and her teenage son told police that 39-year-old Cameron Read was talking about seeing the Halley's Comet and fired a round out of the window. They heard several more shots before fleeing.

     Police say Read has been booked into the Yavapai County Jail on suspicion of felony counts of unlawful discharge of a firearm, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, endangerment, and misdemeanor criminal damage. [Obviously not to the moon.]

"Arizona Man Arrested For Shooting at Moon," Associated Press, June 11, 2014 

Whackademia Quote: Campus Sex Crime on the Rise

 A new federal report says sex crimes reported at American colleges and universities went up in the last decade even as overall campus crime decreased. The report, released on June 10, 2014 from the U.S. Education Department, says 3,330 forcible sex offenses on college campuses were reported in 2011, a 51 percent increase from the 2,200 reported in 2001. The number of crimes in every other category, such as burglary, declined during the same period….

"Report: Sex Crimes Were Up at US Colleges," Associated Press, June 10, 2014


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Car Burglar Dies of Heart Attack After Struggle With Police

     A 30-year-old man suspected of breaking into cars died of an apparent heart attack following a foot chase and struggle with officers early Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Yonkers, New York police said a resident called 911 at 3:58 AM to report that a man was attempting to break into a vehicle on Bolmer Avenue. The caller said the man was running away through backyards.

     Police said officers from the Fourth Precinct responded and that the man was spotted on Corbalis Place. Police said a struggle ensued and the man was taken into custody. While being treated by Empress Ambulance personnel, police said the man went into cardiac arrest. He was treated at a local emergency room but died….

     The Yonkers Police Department Internal Affairs Division and the Westchester County District Attorney's Office are investigating the incident….The death comes about two and a half months after another suspect in Yonkers died during a police investigation. David Tena, 45, jumped out a window of an apartment and fell three stories to his death as police conducted a drug raid…

Thane Grauel, "Yonkers Suspect Dies After Struggle With Police,", June 11, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Burglar Set Free By Mistake Stabbed to Death

     A jury's confusion over how to fulfill their duty must have felt like a ticket to freedom for Bobby Lee Pearson, who was cleared of a burglary charge and set free. Unable to reach a verdict, Person's Fresno, California jury mistakenly signed a not guilty form on June 11, 2014. If fact, the jurors had actually deadlocked on his verdict….

     Pearson and a co-defendant, Terrell Minnieweather, were accused of burglarizing an apartment in 2013 and stealing a video system and a gun. The homeowner allegedly caught the intruders and wrestled with one of them….It was too late when the judge finally learned that the jury was unable to reach a verdict, stalling on an 8 to 4 vote in favor of guilt….

     After being released from jail, Pearson went to the home of his sister, Lasandra Jackson, to pick up some clothing and belongings….Pearson apparently got into a fight with his sister's boyfriend, 35-year-old Willie Gray. The two had a history of problems….Investigators believe Gray killed Pearson, who was found dead in the street with a chest wound from a knife and a cut on his stomach. Investigators found a steak knife near the body….

     Gray was arrested and treated for injuries to his hands before being booked on suspicion of murder….

Scott Smith, "California Man Dies Hours After Freed by Jury Mistake," Associated Press, June 13, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Good Thing the Robber Assaulted Jerimiah Willey

     Call it a mixed blessing--one that may have saved an Arizona convenience store employee's life. When Phoenix Circle K manager Jerimiah Willey was pistol-whipped during a robbery last month, he landed at St. Joseph's Hospital with a head injury that required eight staples. "He hit me in the head twice, and then throughout the whole thing, he was nudging me with the gun." Willey said.

     The hospital did a CT scan and discovered something far worse--a massive and potentially life-threatening brain tumor. "They said that had this not been found and found soon, he probably just would have gone to sleep one night and not been able to wake up," his wife, Alisha Willey said.

     Jerimiah is recovering from the first of what's expected to be three brain surgeries….The surgery has left him partially paralyzed, with slurred speech and some loss of hearing. He's undergoing therapy. Although the road ahead for the Willeys and their three children is uncertain, they're hopeful that the slow-growing tumor is benign and was caught before it was too late. A fund has been set up to help pay for the family's medical expenses….

Ed Payne and Dave Alsup, "Arizona Store Employee Discovers Brain Tumor After He's Pistol-Whipped," CNN, June 13, 2014

Saturday, June 14, 2014

President Obama and the Battered-Wife Syndrome

     If Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born radical Muslim cleric accused of playing a role in a failed plot to bomb two cargo planes in 2010 had been shot in the United States by a police officer instead of being taken out by a drone in Yeman, would the shooting, under standard deadly force law, be legally justified? Under the legal rationale that al-Awlaki, at the time of his death, had not posed an imminent threat to anyone, probably not. Could he have been taken into custody without the use of deadly force? We'll never know. Did the government have proof beyond a reasonable doubt that al-Awlaki was a terrorist? We'll never know because al-Awlaki didn't get his day in court, a right given to all American citizens under the U.S. Constitution.

     So, if al-Awlaki wasn't killed in self-defense, or in the field of battle, how could his killing be legally justified? The only way I can think of is pursuant to the battered-wife syndrome which a few juries have recently equated with self-defense, even though the defendant, at the time of the homicidal act, wasn't under an imminent risk of serious bodily injury or death. These defendants were acquitted of murder because of what their allegedly abusive husbands may have done to them in the future. So President Obama, in the role of the mastermind in a murder-for-hire trial, could argue that he had ordered al-Awlaki's hit to prevent him from commiting future violence against America.

     As one who is not comfortable with killing people in cold-blood for acts they may or may not commit in the future, I'm not a big fan of the battered-wife syndrome. And I'm uneasy, to say the least, about the way President Obama dispatched this American accused of terrorism. If the al-Awlaki killing isn't a case of unjustified murder-for-hire, what is? (See: "Self-Defense or Premeditated Murder?" October 9, 2011)

Criminal Justice Quote: The Decline of the Coroner's Office

     The office of coroner fell out of favor toward the end of the nineteenth century, as too many coroners were shown to be venal, corrupt, or incompetent. For a fee, a corrupt coroner might certify a suicide as an accidental death, allowing the relatives of the deceased to collect the life insurance. A coroner in Brooklyn, New York, who was paid by the coroner's inquest hearing, had the body of a drowned man moved from place to place around the East River waterfront and held multiple inquests over the same corpse.

     The office of coroner is disappearing around the United States, with coroners being replaced by medical examiners who are medical doctors trained in forensic pathology. In some jurisdictions, such as Los Angeles County, the title of coroner is kept, but the position is filled by a trained forensic pathologist. [In many states coroner offices still exist in rural counties. Coroners are elected into office, medical examiners are appointed.]

Michael Kurland, How to Try a Murder, 1997 

Criminal Justice Quote: How Big is Sex Trafficking in the U.S.?

     Estimates of the number of victims of human trafficking in the U.S. vary widely. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has estimated there are between 100,000 and 300,000 child victims of trafficking, though it no longer uses these figures, acknowledging the difficulty in measuring the scope of the problem.

     The Polaris Project, a nonprofit organization founded to combat human trafficking and "modern day slavery," has counted about 14,000 sex trafficking cases in the U.S. over the last six years, based on the number of calls to its national hotline. In 2012, the Department of Justice convicted 138 human traffickers in cases involving forced labor, sex trafficking of adults and sex trafficking of children, compared to 151 convictions in 2011. The majority of the cases involved sex trafficking.

     Human trafficking is a $9.8 billion annual industry in the U.S., according to the nonprofit Shared Hope International organization.

Monica Alba, "Super Bowl Surge in Sex Trafficking? Maybe Not, But Issue Grabs the Spotlight," NBC News, January 29, 2014 

Whackademia Quote: Fighting Racism in the Engineering Profession

     To become a good engineer or business major, a student must first study the all-important subjects of race and ethnicity--at least according to student government leaders at the University of Michigan, who are working to extend the liberal arts college race requirements to all colleges of the university. A proposal, drafted by the members of the Central Student Government, aims to reform the requirement that all students in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts study race and ethnicity before graduation. Moving forward, all students--even those in the Colleges of Engineering and Business--would be forced to take a class with a racial component, if the proposal were approved by faculty….

     The proposal is supported by the Black Student Union, a race-based group at UM that recently made news for presenting a list of demands to the university. Administrators immediately caved to the group's most costly demand: a $300,000 renovation of the campus's multicultural center….

Robby Soave, "Activists at U-M Trying to Force Engineering Students to Study Race and Ethnicity," The Daily Caller, March 14, 2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Justifiable Homicide

     There is no crime called "homicide." It is simply an umbrella term that includes various types of lawful homicide [executions, valid police involved shootings, and self defense) as well as unlawful homicide (involuntary manslaughter, voluntary manslaughter, felony murder, second-degree murder, and first-degree murder]. The categories of lawful homicide are awfully narrow. One of them is justifiable homicide, which applies mainly to self-defense but can also apply to the defense of one's home from intruders. The latter is known as the castle defense….In such cases, the killing is intentional but "justified" by the circumstances.

     When the act of killing is truly unintentional [as opposed to reckless] the law calls this excusable homicide. Despite the name, it is not enough to say "excuse me" to the victim in order to fit into this category. Rather, the defendant must show that the killing was accidental; for example, when a driver hits a pedestrian who ran into the street without warning. [If a drunken driver accidentally runs over someone, that might constitute involuntary manslaughter.]

Adam Freedman, The Party of the First Part, 2007

Hellementary Education Quote: Two Charged in Connection With First-Grader Bringing Bags of Heroin to School

     Authorities say a man and a woman are facing charges after a first-grader brought 11 packs of heroin to a Philadelphia school. School officials say 20 students at Barry Elementary School in the city's Cobbs Creek section were taken to a hospital after a teacher saw a 6-year-old girl playing with one of the packets.

     No injuries were reported, although police said one of the packets appeared to have been bitten and a girl was complaining of stomach pains. Police and prosecutors said Wednesday, June 11, 2014 that 28-year-old Christopher Troy-Jenkins White and 32-year-old Marie Hunter were charged with endangerment and narcotics possession….

"2 Charged Over Heroin Found in Philadelphia School,", June 11, 2014 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hellementary Education Quote: Another Toy Gun Suspension

     First-grader Darin Simak is a little shy, a little upset and a little confused about why he can't go back to Martin Elementary School in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, but he knows it's the result of him bringing a toy gun to school in his backpack on June 4, 2014. Jennifer Mathabel said her son left his usual backpack in a friend's car the night before, so he packed another one but missed the toy gun inside. "So I sent my child to school. My child discovers a toy gun at about 1:30 PM. He turns it in to the teacher and he's sent to the office and suspended," said Mathabel.

     But she felt her son shouldn't be suspended, and still sent him to school the next morning. "I got a phone call from the principal at 9 AM, and she said, 'Darin is not to be in school,' and I said, 'I'm sending him to school because he's entitled to be in school and be educated,'" said Mathabel. [She should have said, "My God! You people are idiots!"]

     Darin was given an in-school suspension until his father came to pick him up and take him back home. The New Kensington-Arnold School District superintendent said that bringing a toy gun to school violates the district's policy at the highest level [of stupidity] and requires a child to be suspended immediately until a meeting can be held to discuss what happened and whether punishment is warranted.

"First-Grader Suspended After Toy Gun Found in Backpack," June 6, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Mayor Caught Dumping Dog Dirt in Neighbor's Yard

     The mayor of San Marino, California was caught on surveillance camera tossing a small bag of dog poop into a neighbor's front yard, and the homeowner is refusing to accept his apology. Resident Philip Lao said he discovered the small bag outside his home Saturday evening June 7, 2014 before going on a walk with his wife. After returning, he viewed footage from his home surveillance cameras to find out who dumped the bag in his yard. To his surprise, Lao recognized the culprit as Dennis Kneier, mayor of the wealthy San Gabriel Valley community.

     "We have not been able to sleep at night for a while because of this," Lao said. Kneier appears in the surveillance video holding a briefcase in his left hand and a small bag in his right as he walks in the 1400 block of Charlton Road. A woman, who was later identified as Kneier's wife, was walking a few steps ahead of  him and appears to say something to him, then points toward Lao's walkway moments before he tosses the bag.

     Lao called police about the incident and officers took a report, indicating the bag "appeared to have been intentionally placed in the walkway entrance," the San Marino Police Department said in a statement. Although police said Lao does not want to press charges, detectives are still investigating the incident.

     Lao claims the major has not been happy with him since he placed a "No poop zone" sign outside his home and has been vocal about his opposition to a proposed dog park at Lacy Park. But Kneier says he has no opinion about the dog park because it's not up for City Council review. As for the sign, Kneier said it has been a sore subject for many neighborhood residents, who have pleaded with him to convince Lao to remove it. "I personally don't like the sign, but I can't tell him to take it down," the mayor said.

     Kneier has not talked to Lao, but sent him a letter of apology [in which he claimed the dog dirt incident was accidental.]…But Lao says he's not accepting Kneier's apology because he believes the mayor is not being truthful. "He's compounding the situation by lying about how this occurred," Lao said. [Of course the mayor lied. He's a politician.]…

Veronica Rocha, "San Marino Mayor Caught Tossing Bag of Dog Poo in Neighbor's Yard," Los Angeles Times, June 10, 2014  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: What a Rape Case Defense Lawyer Said When His Client's Daughter Videotaped the Attacks

     A lack of so-called hard evidence has been known to unravel even a strong sexual assault case, but that shouldn't be a problem for a 14-year-old French girl who thought to secretly film one of her allegedly abusive father's attacks with a bedroom webcam.

     Even after the victim  had initially come forward, spilling details of the relationship with her father to a counselor at school in Flornsac, a small town in the southern Herault region, police could not arrest him until she delivered video proof of her allegations. Now she's in a woman's shelter, and he's awaiting trial in Beziers Prison. Investigators are still trying to gauge the mother's complicity, though she appears to have been a victim as well.

     Given that there's little disputing the veracity or import of the webcam footage, the father's attorney, Mathieu Montfort, has instead tried to downplay the frequency of such attacks: "There was a period when he was unemployed and in the middle of a divorce," the lawyer was quoted as saying. "He [the defendant] insists that these acts did not stretch back further than three or four months. His daughter says longer. But everyone should be very careful in what they say." [Except defense attorneys, of course.]

     Attorney Montfort also noted that his client said he "took no pleasure" in abusing his daughter and was just "messing around." [Well then, no harm done. What a load of defense attorney crap.] If the alleged rapist's daughter hadn't been able to bank on his ignorance of web technology to outsmart him, odds are he'd still be "messing around" today.

Miles Klee, "14-Year-Old Girl Films Father's Sexual Abuse With Webcam," The Daily Dot, November 6, 2013 

Criminal Justice Quote: Dinosaur Fossil Smuggler Turned Snitch For Light Sentence

     A dinosaur smuggler turned informant will spend only a few months in prison, about two years after Mongolian authorities realized Tyrannosaurus fossils had been pilfered from the Gobi Desert. Eric Prokopi, 29, pleaded guilty last year [2013] to three counts related to the smuggling of dinosaur fossils into the U.S. His biggest find was a 2-ton Tyrannosaurus bataar, about 8 feet tall, 24 feet long, and 70 million years old. Prokopi enlisted a New York auction house to put the dinosaur up for bid, but the quirky offering caught the eye of paleontologists, including an advisor to the Mongolian president.

     The fossils had a grayish-sand hue, which indicated they could have only come from Mongolia. Officials there worked with U.S. authorities to halt the million-dollar sale and prosecute Prokopi. Mongolian authorities even uncovered photographs of Prokopi working at an excavation site in the Gobi Desert.

     But prosecutors eventually requested leniency for him because Prokopi shared details about the fossil smuggling world that helped them recover several other items….Every fossil-smuggling investigation since Prokopi's arrest has been made possible in part by information he provided….

     Prokopi had faced up to 17 years in prison, but a federal judge on June 3, 2014 sentenced him to three months in prison and about a year of probation. Still, Prokopi had sought to avoid prison altogether because his reputation as a professional fossils dealer already has been tarnished, according to his attorney. He must turn himself in by September 2014. Prosecutors said Mongolia plans to open a natural history museum, beginning with the fossils recovered from the Prokopi case.

Paresh Dave, "Dinosaur Fossils Smuggler Turned Informant Gets Short Prison Sentence," Nation Now, June 4, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Another Slender Man Inspired Teen Knife Attack

     A teenage girl's brutal attack on her mother has been linked to an obsession with fictional horror figure Slander Man. An Ohio mother, who was stabbed by her 13-year-old daughter in the kitchen of their home, has told how her child assaulted her after the girl became obsessed with the fictional character.

     "I came home one night from work and she was in the kitchen waiting for me and she was wearing a mask, a white mask," the mother told a local news station. The mother suffered multiple minor injuries, including a puncture wound in her back. "She [the girl] was someone else during the attack," the victim said.

     The attack came to light after two Wisconsin adolescents were charged with the attempted murder of a 12-year-old classmate as a sacrifice to the online demon. Prosecutors allege that Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyster, both 12, stabbed a friend 19 times and left her to die….Police say the girls told detectives they wanted to murder the girl after reading tales about Slender Man on the horror website CreepyPasta….

     Slender Man, the creation of paranormal enthusiasts, is said to be a lanky, faceless creature in a suit who terrorizes and kidnaps children. It is believed the spooky figure was invented in a Photoshop contest on the Something Awful forums in 2009 and became the subject of online paranormal fan fiction….

     The mother who was assaulted has pleaded with parents to monitor the behavior and reading material of their children….

"Mother Attacked by Daughter Says Slender Man Could Be To Blame,", June 9, 2014

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Police Fight and Taser Naked Man on Cocaine Who Died the Next Day

     A 34-year-old…man died Sunday, June 8, 2014 after he was hospitalized following a confrontation with police early Saturday morning….Gilbert, Arizona police responded at about 3:30 AM Saturday…after callers reported that a naked man was yelling for help….Daniel Best assaulted police as they tried to detain him….It took five officers to subdue Best….Tasers were used several times. Police believe that Best had an altercation with his wife prior to their arrival, and that cocaine played a role in his actions….

     Once in custody, Best showed signs of medical distress and the fire department transported him to a hospital, where he died….

Matthew Casey, "Naked Gilbert Man Dies After Police Confrontation," The Republic, June 9, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: The Crappiest Little Whorehouses in Texas

     Fifteen women and three men were arrested on May 19, 2014 after a double prostitution sting in East Harris County, Texas.

     Undercover officers went into the suspected locations, a bar and a cantina located just east of Houston, disguised as customers after several complaints. A makeshift bedroom was discovered in the restrooms. The group had a total of 21 charges of prostitution and other crimes.

"Texas Prostitution Ring Busted,", May 20, 2014 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Writing Quote: Mystery Plot Structures

     …..In a narrative constructed around a mystery, the central mystery, if anything, takes on an outsize importance, one that threatens to blot out everything else. On some level, the only thing that matters in a mystery story is the last chapter. You may think that's unfair, but it's just the way the genre works….

     One theory about the ideal structure of a mystery story…holds that in a mystery there are essentially two kinds of plot: an apparent plot and a revealed plot. The apparent plot is everything that happens up to the final chapter of the story... is immediately apparent, until the very end. The revealed plot is what really turns out to be the case after all the mysteries have been revealed.

     In a really good mystery…the difference between these two kinds of plots isn't just mechanical, it is interpretive. It isn't just about who-appears-to-have dunit and who-really-dunit. It's about what it all--the world, good and evil, women and men, family, justice, society, the truth at the heart of humanity--really means: what it seems to mean when we're wandering in the darkness, and what it means when we come into the light.

     Another theory holds that what the structure of a mystery is really about is story and discourse, signifier and signified. The mystery, in its opening chapters, posits the existence of a coherent, meaningful story: the body in the woods, the blood spatter, the knife in the grass, the partial footprint. But the story is hidden, its meaning obscured. The narrative that proceeds from this point is not, itself, the story--it is, rather, discourse, the system of talk and empty signification and endless deferment that surrounds the story, like planets orbiting a star that can be glimpsed only glancingly, never directly. The story, usually, is revealed in the final chapter, but the story that preceded the story--the story of the detectives finding clues, signifiers throbbing with a meaning that lay just outside their grasp--that wasn't the story.

Andrew De Young, "'True Detective': Just Another Murder Mystery, After All," The Stake, March 13, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Self Inflicted Gunshot Wounds

     Gunshot deaths are relatively straightforward when compared to other deaths that can be easily masked.  [For example, drownings, poisonings, and falls.] The challenge in these fatalities is determining whether the one-shot deaths are suicides, and even those can be difficult because there have been cases of people firing multiple shots into themselves. [That is extremely rare.]

     There are two common characteristics to look for in gunshot wound cases: close contact between the muzzle [the business end of the barrel] and the skin will produce a scorching effect, depositing soot around the wound [tattooing]; and the entry wound wound will be smaller and more rounded than the exit wound, which will be much larger and jagged.

Jarrett Hallcox and Amy Welch, Bodies We've Buried, 2006 

Whackademia Quote: Another Campus Fascist

     An assistant philosophy professor at Rochester Institute of Technology wants to send people who disagree with him about global warming to jail. The professor is Lawrence Torcello. On March 13, 2014 he published a 900-word essay at an academic website called The Conversation. [What conversation?] His main complaint is his belief that certain nefarious, unidentified individuals have organized a "campaign of misinformation." Such a campaign, he argues, "ought to be considered criminal negligence."

     Dr. Torcello, who has a Ph.D. from the University of Buffalo [the university should demand its degree back], explains that there are times when criminal negligence and "science misinformation" must be linked. The threat of climate change, he says is one of those times….

     Torcello says that people are already dying because of global warming. "Nonetheless [only whackademics use this word] climate denial remains a serious deterrent against meaningful political action in the very countries most responsible for the crisis." As such, Torcello wants governments to make "the funding of climate denial a crime…It is time for modern societies to interpret and update their legal systems." [Yes, and while we're at it, let's purge these legal systems of any semblance of free speech.]…

Eric Owens, "U.S. College Professor Demands Imprisonment For Climate-Change Deniers," The Daily Caller, March 17, 2014  

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Gary Dudek Charged With Stealing $357,000 Worth Of Human Skin

     Gary Dudek, a resident of Wallingford, a suburban community outside of Philadelphia, from September 2006 to September 2013, worked for a Massachusetts based company called Organogeness. As a sales representative and "tissue-regeneration specialist," Mr. Dudek had allegedly been given a so-called "open purchase order" that authorized him to acquire human skin grafts from Mercy Philadelphia Hospital.

     During the period November 2011 to July 2013, Gary Dudek ordered 219 human skin grafts from Mercy Philadelphia Hospital. According to hospital administrators, each graft is worth $1,700, money the medical facility has not been paid.

     On Monday, May 26, 2014, detectives with the Philadelphia Police Department took the 54-year-old suspected skin thief into custody. According to reports, Mr. Dudek had been caught twice on a surveillance camera taking skin grafts from Mercy Philadelphia Hospital to his car. Officers booked him into the city jail on charges of theft, receiving stolen property, and tampering with records. He quickly posted his $10,000 bond, and was released.

     Following the accusations in this unusual theft case, a spokesperson for the suspect's former employer, Organogeneness, told reporters that the firm is not in the business of buying or selling human skin grafts. (Skin grafts or patches are used mainly as replacements for serious infections, burns, or wounds.) According to this corporate spokesperson, the company has developed a product called Apligraf, an organic material made of collagen and skin cells that is designed to mimic human skin.

     Mr. Dudek's attorney, Eugene Tinari, in speaking to a television reporter with a local NBC affiliate, said, "If Mercy Hospital has suffered losses they deem to be a result of Mr. Dudek's actions, then perhaps a civil suit could have been initiated. But to take this case into the criminal arena against a man who has been nothing but hard working and law abiding his entire life is a bit draconian, in my view."

     A preliminary hearing in the Dudek case is scheduled for June 10, 2014. Law enforcement authorities have not revealed what the suspect did with the 219 skin grafts. Did he sell them? If so, to whom? And for how much? 

Criminal Justice Quote: Drunk Mother Recklessly Kills Her Infant

     A Maryland woman who killed her 2-month-old daughter by passing out drunk on top of her while breast-feeding is going to jail. Twenty-two-year-old Yadina Morales of Hagerstown was sentenced on June 3, 2014 to fifteen months after entering an Alford plea to involuntary manslaughter. An Alford plea is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgment that the state has enough evidence to convict.

     Prosecutors agreed to drop some charges, including child abuse and reckless endangerment, as a part of the plea deal. Morales was arrested in November 2013 after the girl's father came home and found her passed out on top of the unresponsive infant. Morales registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.256, more than three times the level needed for a drunken driving conviction. The judge says her actions were grossly negligent.

David Disheau, "Woman Who Drunkenly Smothered Baby Gets 15 Months," Associated Press, June 3, 2014 

Whackademia Quote: University of Alabama Coach Makes More Than 70 Professors

     The highest paid college football coach is about to get richer. The University of Alabama's Board of Trustees compensation committee collectively approved a contract raise for head football coach Nick Saban on June 3, 2014. Saban, who was already the highest paid college football coach in 2013 with a salary of $5.5 million, will now make $6.9 million a year….

     Since taking over the head coaching job at Alabama in 2007, Saban has guided the team to three national championships. Saban's contract cements his presence at Alabama until January 2022. The contract also includes a clause guaranteeing an increase of salary for Saban in certain circumstances if other football college coaches start making more than him….

Jane Bartless Pappas, "Highest Paid College Football Coach Gets $1.4 million More Than Last Year," The Daily Caller, June 3, 2014 

Writing Quote: Types of Third-Person Narration

     Third-person narrators are identified by the degree and manner of access the reader is afforded to the hearts and minds of the characters….You should decide, for example, that your narrator will not get into the consciousness of any of the characters. [In other words, does not know what they are thinking.]…That's called third-person objective or dramatic point of view or fly-on-the-wall point of view….

     Or you might decide that your narrator will get into the mind of the central character only. This is called third-person limited. We get the thoughts and feelings of the central character, but no one else's. Or you might shift points of view from character to character in what's called multiple selective omniscience. Or go all the way and use an omniscient narrator who knows all, but can't tell all….

John Dufresne, Is Life Like This? 2010 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: The Golden Gate Bridge: A Jumper's Paradise

     Bridges have always been natural magnets for suicide, but not all bridges qualify. The number one bridge in the world for suicides is the Golden Gate Bridge, sitting astride San Francisco Bay between San Francisco and Marin County. The appeal of the Golden Gate Bridge cannot be understated.

     "It's what I like to call an aura of grandeur. It's a magnificent setting,"San Francisco professor of psychiatry Jerome Motto told the Associated Press in 1996 when campaigning to get a suicide barrier built on the bridge. "Some persons are very, very sensitive to appearance, style, and so on. With the certainty, the sort of aesthetic appeal, along with the quickness, and [alleged] painlessness, I think that is one important reason why the Golden Gate Bridge is used…I talked to one person who went to the bridge to shoot himself, and when I asked why did he go to the bridge, his reply was 'what a beautiful place to die.'"…

     More people leap from the bridge than are known to have jumped. An individual may only have been known to leap because his or her body was found later in the water or on the rocks. A suicide victim who was seen to have gone off the bridge may never be found. Because of the large gaps in the loss of bodies and some people slipping over the rails in the dark, the unofficial yearly average of fifty suicides is difficult to confirm….

     By 2003, upward of 1,300 people were said to have died from throwing themselves off the Golden Gate Bridge, a yearly rate of nearly forty-three people a year. But one Coast Guard coxswain who works closely with others on the bridge recently told the media that the yearly average is, incredibly, closer to three hundred.

     These deaths are not painless. The four-second falls end in fatalities that the local coroner reports are caused by "multiple blunt-force injuries," which The New Yorker's Tad Friend writes, "euphemizes the devastation. Many people don't look down first, and so those who jump from the north end of the bridge hit the land instead of the water they saw farther out. Jumpers who hit the water do so at about seventy-five miles an hour and with a force of fifteen thousand pounds per square inch. Eighty-five percent of them suffer broken ribs, which rip inward and tear through the spleen, the lungs, and the heart. Vertebrae snap, and the liver often ruptures." [By 2014, an estimated 1,600 people ended their lives by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. The structure still does not feature a suicide barrier.]

Loren Coleman, The Copycat Effect, 2004


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Man Stabs Two Children in Housing Project Elevator: NYC Mayor Blames His Predecessor

     A successful politician must do three things well: Raise a lot of money for himself and his family; lie convincingly to constituents; and avoid responsibility or blame for anything that could make him look like a political hack. High rates of crime make politicians look bad because to get elected, or re-elected, they promised to reduce crime, a task they have no ability to achieve. The politician also hates the commission of a high-profile murder in his backyard. When that happens, the hack looks around to see who else or what else he can blame. This is the dirty politics of murder.

The Public Housing Elevator Murder Case

     At six in the evening on Sunday, June 1, 2014, 6-year-old Prince Joshua Avitto and his 7-year-old friend Mikayla Capers, residents of a Brooklyn, New York housing project complex called Boulevard Houses, were riding the building's elevator on the way to get some ice cream.

     When the elevator stopped at the lobby and the door opened, a heavy-set black man wearing a gray shirt, dropped a bloody knife, then fled the building on foot. He left, on the elevator floor, the bloodied bodies of two children. The Avitto boy, stabbed in the torso, lay unconscious and unresponsive. The girl, Mikayla, had been stabbed in the chest, and had cuts on her hands.

     At the Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center, doctors pronounced Prince Avitto dead. His friend, in critical condition, was transferred to New York-Presbyterian Hospital for specialized surgery.

     Unfortunately for homicide detectives, the elevator compartment had not been equipped with a surveillance camera. Investigators were working off the theory that the man who stabbed the housing project children might be the same person who, on Friday May 30, 2014, stabbed 18-year-old Tanaya Copeland to death. That homicide had been committed just a few blocks from the housing project. The unidentified perpetrator in the Tanaya Copeland case had left the murder knife at that crime scene as well.

     On Tuesday, June 3, 2014, New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio, appearing before reporters gathered at a press conference, blamed the housing authority bureaucracy for failing to install surveillance cameras in the housing project elevators. The mayor specifically pointed his finger at his predecessor, Mayor Bloomberg.

     Since politicians create bureaucracy, this criticism is rather ironic. Moreover, while surveillance video is an excellent investigative tool, the presence of a camera in the elevator would not necessarily have prevented the stabbings.

     On Wednesday, at eight o'clock in the evening, New York City detectives arrested 27-year-old Daniel St. Hubert as a suspect in the elevator stabbings. According to a police spokesperson, Hubert has a criminal history. He is currently on parole in connection with a domestic dispute assault case. Hubert is suspected of using a Duro Edge knife in the attacks.

     Because Mayor deBlasio can't blame guns in this case, he blames the housing authority and the former mayor. Maybe he should blame himself as a big government politician who revels in massive bureaucracy. Or better yet, maybe he could blame the man with the knife.

     In the end, the Avitto boy's murder will not be the fault of failed mental health care, or a dysfunctional criminal justice system. This tragedy will be, in addition to the former mayor's fault, society's fault. We are to blame. This case reveals how our elected hacks play the dirty politics of murder.     

Criminal Justice Quote: Judge and Public Defender Get Into Fistfight

     A judge allegedly struck a public defender on June 2, 2014 after a verbal confrontation in a Brevard County, Florida courtroom….The public defender's office says Judge John Murphy is accused of hitting Andrew Weinstock.

     During a court session in Viera, Florida, Murphy asked Weinstock to waive his client's right to a speedy trial, but Weinstock refused….The confrontation leading up to the fight was captured on video….

     The two went into a hallway, where Murphy allegedly grabbed Weinstock by the collar and started hitting him….A Brevard County sheriff's deputy stopped the fight….The video shows the judge being applauded as he returned to the courtroom, alone. Another public defender says it appeared that the public defender had been hit in the head.

     The participants refused to press charges, and no arrests were made….Both men could lose their jobs and possibly be disbarred.

"Florida Judge Accused of Hitting Lawyer Outside Courtroom," CBS News, June 3, 2014 

Writing Quote: Boring Dialogue

     Letting a scene drag is one of the worst mistakes a writer can make. [Unless he is an established "literary" novelist.] Bringing two or more characters together and letting them chat on and on about nothing is inexcusable. The problem is many writers aren't even aware that their characters are doing this, even when it's in front of their noses. They're sitting right there writing the story and fail to see they're boring their reader to death with going-nowhere-fast dialogue.

     There are many reasons dialogue scenes bog down. The main one is that we clutter them with so much added narrative and action that the reader has to muddle his way through and the going becomes a little clunky. Sometimes, the scene is weak when it comes to tension and suspense, and the reader is yawning….

Gloria Kempton, Dialogue, 2004 

Whackademia Quote: High School Teacher with HIV Accused of Sexual Relations With Student, 16

     A Louisiana high school teacher is accused of having sex with a 16-year-old male student and intentionally exposing him to HIV….Sheriff deputies arrested Derrick Nesby, 37, on May 28, 2014 at H.L. Bourgeois High School in Terrebonne Parish, the school where he teaches.

     Nesby is charged with felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile and intentional exposure of the AIDS virus….However, Nesby denies all the allegations. Investigators say a school resource officer [security guard] was the first to receive a complaint that Nesty and the 16-year-old were involved….It was during the investigation that detectives learned Nesby had HIV….Deputies say that despite knowing that he had HIV, Nesby exposed the student to the virus without the teen's knowledge.

     Nesby, who had been employed at the school for a year and also coached track, is being held on a one million dollar bond.

"Cops: Louisiana Teacher Had Sex With Student, Exposed Him to HIV," CBS News, June 2, 2014 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Twelve-Year-Old Girls, Inspired by Horror Website, Stab Classmate

     On Saturday morning, May 31, 2014, a bicyclist in Waukesha, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, came upon a 12-year-old girl lying on the sidewalk. She was bleeding from wounds on her arms, legs, and torso. "Please help me," she begged. "I've been stabbed."

     The bicyclist called 911, and the girl was rushed to Waukesha Memorial Hospital where she was listed in stable condition. A team of surgeons performed laparoscopic surgery on injuries to the victim's liver, pancreas, and stomach. According to doctors, the victim had been stabbed nineteen times with a large knife.

     To detectives who questioned the victim at the hospital, she identified her attackers as two middle school classmates, Morgan Geysey and Anissa Weier.

     Two hours after the bicyclist came upon the stabbed girl on the sidewalk, police officers found Morgan and Anissa walking near Interstate 94. The twelve-year-olds were still wearing their blood-stained clothing. In a purse in one of  the girl's possession, officers recovered a large, bloody kitchen knife.

     Interviewed at the Waukesha Police Department, the girls confessed to stabbing their classmate in the wooded section of a park following a sleep-over at one of the suspect's house. One of the girls held the victim down while her accomplice wielded the knife. They traded jobs by handing the knife back and forth between them. In response to the obvious question of why they had stabbed and almost killed one of their classmates, one of the girls mentioned a website they visited regularly called Creepypasta Wiki.

     The Internet site in question posted horror stories, gory videos, and violent images that featured a fictitious character named Slenderman. A faceless man who wears a dark suit and a full-brim business hat, Slenderman haunts children and those who seek to unmask him. For a website devotee to "climb up to Slenderman's realm," the viewer had to kill someone. This website had been the inspiration for the knife attack on the hapless classmate.

     According to Geysey and Weier, the stabbing was not a spontaneous assault. The girls had been planning to murder this classmate since February 2014. Initially, they intended to kill the girl by placing duct tape over her mouth, then stabbing her in the neck while she slept.

     Murder plan B consisted of stabbing the intended victim in a shower stall or bathtub where the victim's blood would flow down a drain. The plan they actually executed involved stabbing the victim in the park during a game of hide-and-seek--child's play with a macabre twist.

     On Monday, June 2, 2014, the arraignment judge informed the twelve-year-old suspects they had been charged, as adults, with attempted first-degree murder. The judge set each suspect's bond at $500,000. Police officers booked Geysey and Weier into the Waukesha County Jail. (If one of these girls was the leader, and the other a follower, that information has not been published.) Both girls have said they regret stabbing their classmate. They say they are sorry for almost killing her.

     No doubt defense attorneys representing these girls will cite their tender ages in challenging the appropriateness of trying them in the adult court system. The prosecutor will probably counter this argument by highlighting the premeditated, cold-blooded nature of the brutal, ritualistic attack.

     Across the country, as pre-teens and slightly older children continue to commit carefully planned crimes of violence, the criminal justice trend has been to treat them as adults rather than juvenile delinquents. Kids convicted of first-degree murder have been sentenced to life without parole. This has become a hotly debated issue among criminologists, corrections officials, prosecutors, and police administrators. I doubt these girls will be tried as adults. They will probably plead guilty and be sent to a juvenile facility until they turn twenty-one.


Criminal Justice Quote: Teen Violence

     At least fifteen million children in the United States are exposed to domestic violence each year….Imagine the confusion and fear in the mind of a young child who routinely watches his or her mother being battered by the other parent or another intimate partner. Imagine the long-standing confusion about what intimate relationships mean.

     Beyond the confines of the home, imagine the world through the eyes of a young child who grows up familiar with the sound of gunshots and where the funerals of young people killed in disputes and by stray bullets are common….In one community in Rochester, New York, the homicide rate for young black men fifteen to nineteen is sixty-five times the national homicide rate, while the rest of Rochester has a more typical homicide profile.

     According to a growing body of research…exposure to violence has a direct link to behavioral and emotional problems such as PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder], aggression, phobias, stress-related symptoms, insomnia, low self-esteem, and depression. We believe PTSD is closely linked to truancy and school dropouts. School performance usually drops precipitously when children are exposed to violence. These children are often unable to concentrate; they develop learning disabilities; they have poor problem-solving skills; they have low self-esteem; and they have difficulty forming attachments to others.

Kamala D. Harris, Smart on Crime, 2009

Writing Quote: Rejecting Stephen King

Stephen King's first four novels were rejected. "This guy from Maine sent in this novel over the transom," said Bill Thompson, his former editor at Doubleday. Mr. Thompson, sensing something there, asked to see subsequent novels, but still rejected the next three. However, King withstood the rejection, and Mr. Thompson finally bought the fifth novel, despite his colleagues' lack of enthusiasm, for $2,500. It was called Carrie.

Noah Lukeman, The First Five Pages, 2000

Criminal Justice Quote: The "Bukowski Man" Shoplifter

In the age of the memoir, some writers confess to shoplifting to advance themselves, and others profess to be aghast at the crime. Ron Rosenbaum, the author of provocative books on Hitler and Shakespeare, once wrote a column for the New York Obsever lampooning the white, middle-class shoplifter he labeled "Bukowski Man" [Charles Bukowski, LA underground, noir poet and novelist], whom he described as a "drunk, suburban" poseur "likely to shoplift the Beats, Kerouac's On The Road, Ginsberg's Howl, Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book, anything by Paul Auster and William S. Burroughs, some French writers, Kafka, Bukowski, and books about sex and marriage." Rosenbaum pointed out that "Bukowski Man" was laboring under the delusion that by stealing he was embracing writers who wallowed in the "lower depths." He said, "Petty and debased ideas of liberation" drive Bukowski Man to shoplift. [To the extent that I have been an avid Bukowski reader, I am a "Bukowski Man." I paid for my books, however.]

Rachel Shteir, The Steal, 2011

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Writing Quote: Eudora Welty on Creating Characters

Characters take on life sometimes by luck, but I suspect it is when you can write most entirely out of yourself, inside the skin, heart, mind, and soul of a person who is not yourself, that a character becomes in his own right another human being on the page.

Eudora Welty, One Writer's Beginnings, 1984 

Criminal Justice Quote: No Cure for Pedophilia

Everything I read said that pedophiles weren't treatable--they never stopped being pedophiles no matter what was done for them, or to them. There'd been fads where they'd tried everything from brain surgery to chemical castration to "aversion" therapy in which after he's been "cured," the pedophile is supposed to snap a rubber band against his wrist every time he wants to rape a child. [The rubber band under this so-called cure was on the wrong organ.] Occasionally there have even been cases in which physical castration has been considered--as if removing a body part could change what someone is, as if they wouldn't just use Coke bottles or broomsticks instead. None of it has worked. The worst part is the way the experimenters have found out they failed: at the expense of children. [Notwithstanding the universal realization that pedophiles are incurable serial offenders, they are never sentenced to life in prison. Why is that?]

Alice Vachass, Sex Crimes, 1994 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Whackademia Quote: School Cop Dumps Student Out of his Wheelchair

     The Oakland, California United School District has fired a high school resource officer [in the private sector we call these people security guards] who is also facing a felony charge after he slapped and dumped a student out of his wheelchair….The district announced the firing of Michael Mitchell Thursday, May 29, 2014, while also apologizing to the parents of the injured…student.

     Mitchell became angry when a group of students were lingering in the school's hallway earlier in the month. District spokesperson Troy Flint says Mitchell grabbed the handles of the wheelchair and began to push the student toward class. The student objected and began to slap the officer's hands.

     The school officer then responded in an extremely emotional manner, basically by...punching the student several times, and dumping him out of his wheelchair and onto the floor….Prosecutors have charged Mitchell with child abuse.

"Security Officer Fired After Alleged Attack on Student in Wheelchair," Fox News, May 30, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: DNA Analysis

     DNA "fingerprinting" has nothing to do with actual fingerprints; the term simply means profiling or identifying….Though it became a byword among the public during the O. J. Simpson trial in 1995, it was first developed a decade earlier, in England.

     The basic principle of DNA testing is that every human being who is now alive, or who has ever lived throughout all time, owns a unique set of genes. Every cell of every human being contains a code unique to that individual, like the bar codes on supermarket products.

     This DNA--deoxyribonucleic acid--is the principal carrier of genetic data in human beings and in almost all other living organisms (with the exception of certain viruses). When studied through an electron microscope, its shape is that of a spiraling rope ladder, scientifically known as a double helix.

     Because each person's DNA is unique, when samples are taken from blood, semen, or other bodily fluids at a crime scene or during an autopsy, and are then compared with the DNA of either the victim or the victim's suspected killer, a match is either made, or not. If it is made, then the degree of certainty that this DNA belongs to this person is authoritative. By that I mean that the standard for most DNA testing is that there be no more than one in a million chances that the test is in error. In practical terms, this means there is little or no chance for error at all. This one-in-a-million standard, moreover, is conservative.

     In DNA tests, possible error is ranked at one in 5 million, or sometimes one in 10 million….

Frederick Zugibe, M.D., Ph.D. and David L. Carroll, Dissecting Death, 2000