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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: Drunk, Wrong-Way Driver Kills Woman in Phoenix

     The Phoenix, Arizona man arrested in the wrong-way freeway accident in which a fire department dispatcher was fatally injured had a blood-alcohol level nearly four times the legal limit…Stephen B. Martin, 39, after the January 27, 2015 accident, told officers that he knew he was drunk and shouldn't have been driving…

     Martin told police and hospital personnel that he was on the road because he had to rescue his girlfriend from being sexually assaulted…

     Megan Lange, a 26-year-old married mother of two who'd recently returned to work after coming off maternity leave, was killed when her small SUV collided head-on with Martin's larger vehicle. Lange was driving home after finishing her shift when the accident occurred at one in the morning on Interstate 17. Another motorist whose vehicle was sideswiped by Martin's SUV suffered minor injuries…

     A woman who was a passenger in Martin's SUV said she told Martin they were going the wrong way on the interstate but they couldn't find a place to turn around. Martin had a blood-alcohol level of .313. The legal limit for driving in Arizona is .08…Martin was jailed on the charge of second-degree murder in lieu of $700,000 bond.

"Man Arrested in Fatal Wrong-Way Accident," chron.com, January 28, 2015  

Friday, January 30, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: Arby's Customer Thwarts Robbery

     A Vernal, Utah man who just wanted to order food at an Arby's restaurant ended up thwarting a robbery attempt by a knife-wielding woman with a criminal history…The customer was placing his order in the drive-thru on Sunday January 25, 2015 when he realized the cashier was not responding to him. He pulled out of the drive-thru, parked his truck, and walked inside to place his order. In the store, one of the cashiers mouthed to him the words "We're being robbed."

     Stephanie Lee Lente, 37, was threatening cashiers with a knife and demanding money.

     "I went back out to my truck and got my gun," the man, a concealed carry permit holder, told a reporter…After retrieving his firearm, he returned to the restaurant and showed Lente that he had a gun and ordered her not to move. She didn't listen. "She came at me," the man said. "That's when I pointed my gun at her." After wrestling the knife from Lente he held her at gunpoint until the police arrived…

     Lente is being held in Uintah County of charges of aggravated robbery and possession of a controlled substance…Her criminal record includes charges of abuse of psycho-toxic chemical solvents, theft, assault, criminal mischief, violation of a protective order, and wrongful appropriation.

"Armed Arby's Customer Stops Knife-Wielding Robber," The Daily Caller, January 25, 2015 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Crimson Stain: "Murder in Amish County" was Re-Broadcast on the Discovery ID Channel January 28, 2015

     On Wednesday January 28, 2015, the Discovery ID channel re-broadcast "Murder in Amish County," the one-hour docudrama based on my book, Crimson Stain. The show, featuring dramatic re-enactments of the 1993 murder of an old-order Amish woman by her husband, Edward Gingerich, premiered in June 2013 as the first episode of the network's new series, "Deadly Devotions."

     The brutal murder, committed in front of two of the Amish parents' children, took place in the couple's northwestern Pennsylvania farmhouse. Found guilty of criminal homicide but mentally ill, Ed Gingerich went to prison for four years. In January 2011, seventeen years after he stomped his wife Katie to death, Ed Gingerich hanged himself in a barn.

     At the time of his death, the shunned Amish man was depressed, isolated from his family, and off his anti-psychotic medication. He was a man without a future. In a message scratched in dust near the suicide site, Ed asked for forgiveness. No one knows what he was asking forgiveness for--killing himself, or killing his wife, or maybe both.   

Criminal Justice Quote: Man Killed in Shootout With Police Outside City Council Meeting

     A volley of gunfire erupted outside the New Hope, Minnesota city council meeting Monday night January 26, 2015 when a man shot at a group of police officers, injuring two of them. Officers returned fire, killing the man…

     The bizarre and shocking event began shortly after the two new officers…were sworn in during the city council meeting that started at 7 PM. The officers along with others who attended the ceremony walked out of the chambers fifteen minutes later. A man with a "long gun" shot at the officers…The wounded police officers are expected to survive….

"Gunman Injures Two New Hope Police Officers, Then is Fatally Shot," startribune.com, January 27, 2015 

Criminal Justice Quote: Top Secret Service Personnel Reassigned

     Four upper management officials at the Secret Service were asked to resign and did so on January 14, 2015. A fifth agent also decided to resign voluntarily. Secret Service Acting Director Joseph Clancy obtained resignations from the agency's top four assistant directors in order to enact "change" at the agency. "Change is necessary to gain a fresh perspective on how we conduct business," Clancy said in a statement to The Washington Post. "I am certain any of our senior executives will be productive and valued assets either in other positions at the Secret Service or the department." [In other words, they weren't fired, just reassigned. In government, competence is not a job requirement.]

     Secret Service director and former professional Disney World costume character Julia Pierson resigned in October 2014 after a man managed to jump the White House fence, get in through an unlocked front door, and run into the White House residence. Pierson previously told colleagues that the Secret Service needed to be "more like Disney World." [Like what? A Mickey Mouse operation?]…

Patrick Howley, "Top-Ranking Secret Service Agents Forced Out," The Daily Caller, Jaunuary 14, 2015


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: NYC Home Depot Employee Murders Manager in The Store Before Killing Himself At The Scene

     Shoppers crowded into a Manhattan Home Depot store to prepare for an anticipated snowstorm streamed into the streets Sunday afternoon January 25, 2015 after an employee shot a store manager and then himself…The 38-year-old manager, who was shot in a aisle of the store, was transported to Bellevue Hospital where he was later pronounced dead…

     The shooting happened in the store at 40 West 23rd Street in the Flatiron section of Manhattan…The shooter, a 31-year-old male worker at the store, was not scheduled to work when he came in. The shooter was pronounced dead at the scene from a self-inflicted gunshot wound…Police recovered a .38-caliber revolver at the murder scene….

"Shoppers in Crowded Home Depot Store Forced to Flee Murder-Suicde," CNN, January 25, 2015 

Criminal Justice Quote: Amazon.Com Investigated in Japan For Child Porn Sales

     Amazon.com's Japan unit has said it is cooperating with the local authorities in an investigation into whether child pornography has been sold on its website…On Friday January 23, 2015, the Japanese police raided Amazon's Tokyo headquarters, a distribution center and the offices of an affiliate…The police were searching for evidence that the site was selling child pornography such as books with photos of nude girls under the age of 18…

     The allegations of child pornography sales have drawn anger from some consumers and nonprofit groups. Amazon said in a statement that, "We are committed to enforcing our policies and the law for items listed on our site."

"Amazon Investigated in Japan Over Child Pornography," The New York Times, January 27, 2015 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Fraternity and Sorority Kids Trash Hotel

     Several fraternities and sororities at the University of Michigan stand accused of wreaking havoc by destroying hallways and hotel rooms at two ski resorts. The total in damages is estimated to be at least $50,000 in two northern Michigan resorts.

     The Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity and Sigma Delta Tau sorority did significant damage in the Treetops Inn in Gaylord, Michigan…Four other Greek houses were implicated in ruining furniture and fixtures and trashing 12 condo units at the Boyne Highlands resort in Harbor Springs, resulting in thousands of dollars of damage…The university said the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and the Chi Psi and Delta Gamma sororities had caused that damage.

     About 120 men and women were staying in 45 rooms at the Treetops resort. They damaged ceiling tiles in the hallway, ripped lights out of fixtures, broke furniture and windows, and generally left the place filthy….

"Several Michigan Fraternities, Sororities Accused of Trashing Two Resorts," huffingtonpost.com, January 22, 2015 

Criminal Justice Quote: Video Shows Cop Abusing Man in Wheelchair

     The San Francisco Police Department announced Wednesday January 21, 2015 that it is launching an internal investigation after videos emerged showing an officer pushing a man in a wheelchair into the street and trying to dump him there…The incident occurred at four in the afternoon on Sunday, January 19, 2015…

   According to bystanders' videos posted to YouTube, the incident began when Bo Frierson--who is in a wheelchair due to a spinal cord injury--approached officers who were questioning his friends. The officers didn't appreciate the intervention and angry words were exchanged. One of the officers pushed Frierson over the curb into the street…"He tried to dump me out, you can see, a couple times," Frierson told a local TV reporter. "Lucky for the seat belt. What if I were to just fall on my face? I mean, I could have died."…

"Police Launch Investigation After Video Shows Cop Shoving Man in Wheelchair Into Street," huffingtonpost.com, January 22, 2015 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: Murder-Suicde in Queens, New York

     The man who shot and killed three of his relatives in Queens, New York early Saturday January 23, 2015 is dead. Investigators said Jonathon Walker, 34, shot his mother-in-law, common law wife and their two daughters. He had previously lived in Buffalo and attended Daeman College [a liberal arts school in Amherst, New York].

     Viola Warren, 62, Shantai Hale, 31, and Kayla Walker, 7 were found dead inside a Queens home shortly after 5:30 PM on Saturday. Authorities said Jonathon Walker also shot his daughter Kristina Walker, 12 in the head--but she was able to call the police. She was taken to the Long Island Jewish Hospital where she underwent surgery and is in critical but stable condition….

"Former Buffalo Man Shoots Self Dead After Killing Three Relatives in Queens," twcnews.com, January 24, 2015  

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Writing Quote: The Short Story Rejection Slip

Virtually all magazines have printed rejection slips. Some make their points succinctly with little attempts to soften the blow. The basic message is straightforward: "We've decided not to publish your story." Some rejection forms make a half-hearted effort to explain the obvious: "We're not reading fiction for the time being" or "another editor may think differently" (i.e., the problem may be ours and not yours). A few try diplomacy: "We're grateful for the chance to read your work." And others are mildly apologetic: "We're sorry that the quantity of manuscripts we consider makes it impossible to reply to each one personally." At bottom, however, the message is no more and likely no less than, simply, "No."

C. Michael Curtis in On Writing Short Stories, edited by Tom Bailey, 2000

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: Drug Drones

     On January 21, 2015, police in Tijuana, Mexico said that a drone overloaded with methamphetamine crashed into a supermarket parking lot. The authorities were alerted after the drone fell the night before near the San Ysidro crossing at Mexico's border with California.

     Six packets of the drug, weighing more than six pounds, were taped to the six-propeller remote controlled aircraft…Authorities are investigating where the flight originated and who was controlling it.  This was not the first time drug enforcement officers had encountered drones used for smuggling contraband across the border. Other efforts include catapults, ultra-light aircraft and tunnels….

"Drone Overloaded With Meth Crashes in Mexico Border City," Associated Press, January 22, 2015


89-Year-Old Murder Suspect Dies

     An 89-year-old man charged with fatally beating his 86-year-old roommate at a Buffalo area assisted living facility has died. Chester Rusek's attorney said he died Wednesday January 21, 2015 in the lockup at Erie County Medical Center where he was being treated for medical problems.

     The authorities had charged Rusek with manslaughter in the November 2012 killing of Salvatore Trusello. Rusek had used a 2-pound magnet to pummel Trusello as he lay in his bed at a senior living community in the town of Tonawanda. The victim died a month after the assault…Investigators believe Rusek attacked Mr. Trusello because he thought his roommate was stealing from him.

"89-Year-Old Man Charged With Killing 86-Year-Old Roommate Dies," Associated Press, January 23, 2015 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Writing Quote: The Ideal Children's "Chapter Book"

Most chapter books (ages 7-10) are 1,500 to 10,000 words long or forty to eighty pages. These books, divided into eight to ten short chapters, are written for kids who can read and who can handle reasonably complicated plots and simple subplots. Written with a lot of dialogue, the vocabulary in chapter books is challenging, and words can often be understood in the context of the sentence. Most chapters are self-contained with a beginning, middle and end. But some chapters move the plot forward by means of cliffhanger endings.

Nancy Lamb, Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories For Children, 2001 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: University Decides Not to Arm College Cops With Assault Rifles

     Administrators at Idaho State University, on January 11, 2015, canceled an order for eleven AR-15 rifles for its campus security detail. The school ordered the weapons in August 2014 to have them on hand in case of a campus shooting. "On second consideration," said the school's vice president, "we determined it was in everybody's best interest if we let the local SWAT team deal with that sort of issue, and that our officers on campus would deal with containing the situation."

     The gun cancellation followed concerns among local law enforcement agencies that the school's campus public safety officers had overstepped their authority on several occasions…In September 2014, city officials in Pocatello said campus security officers delayed calling the police after an assistant chemistry professor shot himself in the foot during a lecture when a gun in his pocket went off. By the time city police arrived, the scene had been cleaned up.

     In late December 2014, the director of the Idaho State Police rescinded permission for university security vehicles to use red emergency lights after campus officers used the lights to stop motorists on and near the campus and issue traffic citations. The authorized use of the red lights were only to alert motorists, not to stop them…

     On other occasions, campus security administered an alcohol breath test on a driver before calling police and seized marijuana from a dorm room without notifying the authorites for days. Unlike some other large universities that have their own police departments, safety officers at ISU don't have broad authority. Campus officers can make citizen arrests and detain suspects for police questioning….

"Idaho State University Cancels Order for AR-15 Rifles," Associated Press, January 12, 2015 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: Pizza Gal Takes Down Robber

     Papa John's Pizza is standing by a pizza delivery woman who opened fire on an armed robber on January 11, 2015…The employee will not be fired from the company. She was making a delivery in Decatur, Georgia when a man approached her vehicle and forced her onto the ground at gunpoint…The woman, who had a gun in her pocket, was able to fire at the man while she lay on the ground, striking the assailant--Donquaz Stevenson--in the face.

     Stevenson was found later in a neighbor's yard…A second robbery suspect stole the delivery woman's silver 2000 Honda Accord... Stevenson was charged with armed robbery and treated for his gunshot wound at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta…

     While Papa John's prohibits employees--including delivery drivers--from carrying firearms on the job, a pizza company spokesperson said the woman would remain on the job. She will be reassigned to another position. [Perhaps they should put her in charge of corporate security.]…

"Papa John's Pizza Stands By Employee Who Shot Armed Robber," Fox News, January 15, 2015

     

Criminal Justice Quote: Clerk Confronts Liquor Store Robbers

     A Tulsa, Oklahoma liquor store clerk took on four masked men during an attempted robbery…shooting and killing two and bringing an end to a serial robbery ring. The four men entered Ryan's Liquor store at ten-thirty Tuesday night January 13, 2015…One of the robbers, 27-year-old Brian Powell, pulled a handgun and fired it while demanding money. But the clerk didn't comply. Instead, he pulled out a semi-automatic handgun and fired, hitting and killing Powell and 16-year-old Kevin Dobbs.

     The other two robbers, 20-year-old Lakeit Thompson and 17-year-old George Williamson, fled the scene but were later arrested and charged with armed robbery and felony murder. Both suspects had been involved in previous hold-ups…Powell was on probation for a larceny conviction…

Chuck Ross, "Store Clerk Takes on Four Armed Robbers," The Daily Caller, January 16, 2015 

Breaking Into the Science Fiction Genre

Short story writing is the best place to start in the science fiction field. Many writers who start with short stories go on to acquire novel contracts. I'd say there are almost no science fiction novelist who were not published first in magazines.

Kim Mohan in Novel & Short Story Writer's Market, edited by Robin Gee, 1994

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Whackademia Quote: California Teachers Arrested for Student Beach Sex

   A pair of high school teachers in Orange County, California were arrested on January 17, 2015 on suspicion of having sex with students during an alcohol-fueled party at a beach. Melody Lippert, 38 and Michelle Ghirelli, 30 were taken into custody after rumors of the party circulated among students and staff at South Hills High School…

     South Hills teacher Melody Lippert allegedly met a group of male students in November 2014 at the beach where she gave them alcohol and engaged in sex with one of them….A few weeks later, Lippert allegedly set up an overnight camping trip to the same beach with students. She was accompanied by Ghirelli. The two teachers are suspected of having sex with the students during that outing…

     Lippert has been charged with conspiracy and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Ghirelli has been charged with oral copulation and unlawful sex with a minor. Both suspects were booked into the Orange County Jail…

"California Teachers Accused of Having Sex With Students on a Beach," huffingtonpost.com, January 19, 2015 

Criminal Justice Quote: Say Goodbye to Charles Warner

     Oklahoma's first execution in nine months was carried out at 7:28 Thursday night January 15, 2015. The state of Oklahoma pronounced Charles Warner dead from lethal injection. Warner, who was sentenced to death for the 1997 rape and murder of an 11-month-old girl, had his last minute appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court denied. Less than 90 minutes later he was dead…

     Warner offered a full statement before the execution in which he said that he apologized for the pain he caused by his crime. He said he was not a monster.

     This was the first execution in the state since the execution of Clayton Lockett which did not go as planned. Lockett's execution in April 2014 went wrong when one of his veins failed. The lethal drug was not injected directly into his blood and his death was drawn out. Executions in the state were suspended until authorities conducted an investigation into the process. Changes were implemented…

     After Warner's microphone was turned off, he said loud enough to be heard: "No one should have to go through this. I'm not afraid to die. We are all going to die."

"Convicted Child Killer Charles Warner Executed," Fox News, January 15, 2015 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: Prep School Headmaster Convicted of Child Porn Dealing

     A judge has convicted a former headmaster of an elite Delaware prep school on 25 counts of dealing in child pornography. Christopher Wheeler was arrested after police, prompted by child sex abuse allegations involving two Pennsylvania brothers, searched his home and office at the Tower Hill school for evidence of witness tampering or intimidation and instead found child pornography.

     The conviction on all counts on December 22, 2014 came after a bench [no jury] trial for the 54-year-old ex-headmaster of the school founded by members of the DuPont family. The school's graduates include DuPont company CEO Ellen Kullman and U.S. Senator Chris Coons…

     Each of the 25 counts carries a minimum two-year prison term.

"Ex-Delaware Headmaster Guilty in Child Porn Case," Fox News, December 22, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: FBI to Offer Active Shooter Training Drills

     The FBI will hold active shooter training drills at sports stadiums as part of a program to prepare for what the agency says is a growing concern for law enforcement. FBI agents will take part in the training sessions designed to help local officers deal with active-shooter situations at businesses, schools and public places…The FBI began developing the project after the 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut…Two-hundred agents will help conduct the two-day training sessions that will be held around the U.S. and in Puerto Rico…

     Sports stadiums will be one focus of the program. Authorities worry that these sites could be the venues for future shootings by gunmen bent on achieving mass casualties…

     Though the shooting at Newtown--where 26 children and teachers were killed at the Sandy Hook elementary school--served as the catalyst for the program, the FBI found additional evidence to support the new training effort.

     Reviewing shooting incidents from between 2000 and 2013, the agency found that mass shooting incidents went from 6.4 per year in the first half of the review to 16.4 in the second half. Though two-thirds of the 160 incidents included in the FBI study came to an end before law enforcement arrived at the scene--either because the shooter committed suicide, fled, or was stopped by a citizen--the FBI believes the training will save at least some lives….

Chuck Ross, "FBI to Train 30,000 Officers for Active Shooting Situations," The Daily Caller, December 22, 2014 

Judge Let Man Out On Bail Who Threatened To Kill Cops

     A Brooklyn judge cut loose a gang member who had posted online threats to gun down cops in the hours after two NYPD officers were executed in their patrol car--ignoring prosecutors' pleas to keep him behind bars…

     Criminal Court Judge Laura Johnson let Devon Coley, 18, waltz free without bail despite the fact that he faces seven years behind bars on charges he made a terroristic threat--complete with an image of a killer shooting cops in their car--and was awaiting trial in two unrelated cases involving assault and gun possession.

     Johnson's stunning no-bail decision came just two days after the December 20, 2014 broad daylight slayings of officers Rafael Ramos and Wenijan Liu by a gunman bent on avenging the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown at the hands of the police.

     "The judge should resign from the bench," said Dennis Quirk, head of the state court officers union. "She's not fit to be a judge."

"Judge Turns Loose Thug Who Posted Gun Threat Against Cops," New York Post, December 24, 2014 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Case of House Speaker John Boehner's Ex-Bartender

     Michael P. Hoyt, known as "Bartender Mike" at the Wetherington Golf and Country Club in West Chester, Ohio, lived in Deer Park, a suburban community in Butler County not far from Cincinnati. For the past five years the 44-year-old bartender had served wine to Ohio Republican and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, John Boehner. The congressman is a member of the club.

     Suffering from mental illness for which he had been prescribed anti-psychotic medication that he did not always take, Mr. Hoyt had trouble at work. On October 22, 2014 his boss at the country club fired him.

     In his psychotic state, Mr. Hoyt blamed John Boehner for many things, including his dismissal from the country club. In an October 28, 2014 email to the speaker's wife Debbie, Hoyt wrote: "If I had any intention of hurting Mr. Boehner, I could have poisoned his wine at Wertherington many, many times."

     The next day, Hoyt called the Deer Park Police Department and asked to speak with an officer. Questioned at his home, the former bartender said he had been fired because John Boehner had complained about his job performance. He said voices in his head had informed him that Mr. Boehner was an evil man who was responsible for the Ebola outbreak. Claiming to be Jesus Christ (this gave him a lot in common with many politicians), Hoyt said his supervisor had fired him before he had the opportunity to poison Mr. Boehner's wine. He also informed the officers that he owned a loaded .380 Beretta pistol, a weapon he could have used to kill the Speaker.

     Police officers took Mr. Hoyt into custody on suspicion of making death threats against the Ohio Congressman. A judge ordered a 45-day mental evaluation of Mr. Hoyt at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

     Officers searching Mr. Hoyt's home on October 31, 2014 found boxes of ammunition but no guns. (Hoyt's mother, aware of her son's deteriorating mental health, had taken his SKS assault rifle to her home in Hebron, Kentucky.) In the dwelling, officers found a notebook containing Hoyt's psychotic ramblings on John Boehner.

     As assistant United States Attorney in Cincinnati, on November 6, 2014, presented Mr. Hoyt's case to a federal grand jury that promptly indicted him for making terroristic threats against a public official. If convicted as charged he faced up to thirty years in prison.

     It wasn't until January 14, 2015 that a federal spokesperson announced Hoyt's indictment. The spokesperson did not explain why the government had waited so long to make this information public.

     

Criminal Justice Quote: Two Albuquerque Cops Charged in Police Involved Shooting

     A New Mexico prosecutor on January 12, 2015 filed murder charges against two Albuquerque police officers who fatally shot a homeless man in March 2014. The shooting set off violent protests across the city…Former detective Keith Sandy and SWAT officer Dominique Perez were each charged with one murder count in the death of James Boyd. An open murder charge allows the prosecutor to decide later whether a first-degree or second-degree charge will be brought. [It's also a plea bargaining tool.]…

     Perez and Sandy were accused of fatally shooting the 38-year-old man after a four-hour standoff. Video from an officer's helmet camera showed Boyd, armed with two knives, appearing to surrender before he was shot…Boyd suffered from schizophrenia and other mental disorders…Police Chief Gordon Eden ignited controversy for saying the shooting appeared justified…

     Luis Robies, an attorney for Perez, said he was "confident the facts will vindicate Perez's actions in the case."

"Albuquerque Officers Charged in Fatal Shooting," Associated Press, January 12, 2015  

Criminal Justice Quote: Oklahoma City Police Officer Accused of Rape Fired

     Oklahoma City's police chief fired an officer accused of sexually assaulting 13 women while on duty…Daniel Holtzclaw was fired on January 8, 2015. He pleaded not guilty to 26 charges of sexual assault that include first-degree rape, sexual battery, forcible oral sodomy and indecent exposure...

     Police began investigating Holtzclaw in June 2014 after a woman filed a complaint. Chief William Citty called the charges against the former officer "the greatest abuse of police authority" in his 37 years on the force. Holtzclaw is free on $609,000 bail….

"Oklahoma City Policeman Facing Sexual Assault Charges," Associated Press, January 9, 2015 

Friday, January 16, 2015

69-Year-Old's Teen Girlfriend Orchestrated His Kidnapping

     "I thought this was going to be my last car ride," said a 69-year-old man. "My own personal car was going to be my hearse." The Southgate, Michigan man was the victim of a plan involving robbery and kidnapping set up by his 17-year-old girlfriend and two men in their 30s.

     On the night of January 2, 2015, the victim's girlfriend, Destiny Marie Gerwatowski, came up with the plan with suspects Alphonso Straughter Jr., 31 and Tajak Lewis Jackson, 36. "After they got my wallet they were ticked off because their was only $90 in it. That's when the crime became serious," said the unidentified victim. "They threw me in the trunk of my car and started backing out of the driveway."

     The man imprisoned in his own trunk used a lighter to find the emergency trunk release…"When I felt the car creep forward I bailed out."…He ran across the highway to a liquor store where he called 911…

     Gerwatowski, Straughter and Jackson were locked up on charges of carjacking, armed robbery, home invasion and unlawful imprisonment. The local prosecutor, despite the fact Gerwatowski was 17, charged her as an adult…All three could be sentenced up to life in prison….

"Southgate Man, 69, Escaped Kidnap," myfoxdetroit.com, January 7, 2015

      

Criminal Justice Quote: Female Cop Goes Nuts in New Jersey

     An Irvington, New Jersey police captain was arrested early Tuesday morning January 6, 2015 after allegedly trying to run over a city councilman with her car…Monique Smith, 43, was taken into custody on charges including aggravated assault, stalking, harassment, criminal mischief and multiple weapons charges related to the incident involving South Ward Councilman John Sharpe James…

     James was close to his home…when he was confronted by Captain Smith around 11 PM January 5, 2015. As she yelled at him, James got into his car and drove off. Smith climbed into her personal vehicle and followed the councilman, allegedly striking his vehicle several times. James proceeded to his parents' home where his father, former longtime Newark Mayor Sharpe James, intervened on his behalf…

     Police were called to the scene, but were unable to locate Captain Smith until early the next morning…The confrontation came just hours after Smith was promoted to captain during a ceremony at Irvington Town Hall….

"Irvington Police Captain Arrested," blognj.com, January 6, 2015 

Criminal Justice Quote: Problems in Florida's Prison System

     After a spate of questionable inmate deaths in Florida prisons and a steady increase in the use of force by guards, a legislative committee has begun discussions on what it described as substantial reforms to the system…The Senate Criminal Justice Committee heard from a former psychotherapist at Dade Correctional Institution who condemned the system as "riddled" by a minority of guards who are "sadistic, amoral sociopaths." The interim commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement explained to the committe why his department needs to hire 66 more staffers and spend $8.4 million to investigate inmate deaths.

     Committee members heard the recommendation from a prison reform task force that suggested the only way to change the system is to impose a new oversight board that will "change the culture." According to the task force, the work environment for corrections employees has to be improved. Corrections personnel have not received a raise in seven years. [Perhaps people who tortured prisoners and those who allowed it didn't deserve raises.]...

"Seeking Florida Prison Fix," thecrimereport.org, January 6, 2015 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: Driver Drunk On Vanilla Arrested

     Did you know vanilla extract contains 41 percent alcohol? A woman in New York likely did, which is why she drank enough of it to get wasted. Police officers pulled her over in a Walmart parking lot for driving erratically.

     Seneca Falls resident Carolyn Kesel was charged with felony DWI when her blood-alcohol content registered at 2.6 percent, three times the legal limit. The 46-year-old admitted possessing and consuming at least two bottles of the baking ingredient….

"Woman Pulled Over For Driving Erratically on Vanilla Extract," crimefeed.com, January 12, 2015 

Criminal Justice Quote: Three Wrongful Convictions cost NYC $17 Million

New York City will pay $17 million to settle three wrongful criminal convictions…The settlements involve cases handled by retired homicide detective Louis Scarcella. Scarcella's tactics have come under scrutiny and are being reviewed by the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office. He has denied any wrongdoing. The cases involved three half brothers; one died in prison. Robert Hill, Alvena Jennette and Darryl Austin spent a combined 60 years in prison before their convictions were vacated by a judge in May 2014.

"NYC Is Paying $17 M to Settle 3 Wrongful Cases," Associated Press, January 12, 2015 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: America's Most Corrupt States

     A study from researchers at the University of Hong Kong and Indiana University estimates that corruption on the state level is costing citizens in the ten most corrupt states an average of $1,308 per year, or 5.2 percent of those states' average expenditures per year.

     The researchers studied more than 25,000 convictions of public officials for violation of federal corruption laws between 1976 and 2008 as well as patterns in state spending to develop a corruption index that estimates the most and least corrupt states in the country. Based on this method, the most corrupt states were:

1. Mississippi
2. Louisiana
3. Tennessee
4. Illinois
5. Pennsylvania
6. Alabama
7. Alaska
8. South Dakota
9. Kentucky
10. Florida

"The 10 Most Corrupt States in the U.S.," fortune.com, June 10, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Don't Mess With Joquasha

     Angered that a fellow pupil passed gas in her general direction, a New York City high school student allegedly clobbered the male victim in the head with a metal stool and repeatedly punched him in the face…Police arrested Joquasha Rosado, 17, on January 7, 2015 on charges of felony assault, weapons possession and harassment. The attack took place at the South Richmond High School on Staten Island.

     The assault of the 15-year-old boy left him with a gash that required eight staples…After hitting the victim with the stool, Rosado punched him ten to fifteen times with her fists.

"Female High School Student Beats Male For Passing Gas," truecrimetoday.blogspot.com, January 13, 2015 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Writing Quote: Biographers As Messengers

I like to think that biographers can sometimes be messengers between past people and the present. What are all these letters and journals there for? Is it possible that when we're dead we have different priorities, that we no longer wish to be silent as it were? I believe there is a case to be made for bringing the dead to life, for a bit, in a way. To be a messenger going backwards and forwards is worthwhile.

Michael Holroyd, "On Writing: Authors Reveal the Secrets of Their Craft," theguardian.com, March 25, 2011

Writing Quote: The First Novel's Inspiration

Your first novel will grow like a lotus out of something you know and love: a person, a place, an event, a time in your life, an activity, or a book you'd like to emulate.

Robert J. Ray and Jack Remick, The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery, 1998

Writing Quote: Fiction Woven Into a Piece of New Journalism

On the one hand, the New Journalists preach a doctrine of truth shaped like fiction; on the other, they frequently seem to acknowledge that the truth is being mixed, from time to time, with fiction.

Robert Fulford, The Triumph of Narrative, 2000

Monday, January 12, 2015

Rape Underreported in Detroit

     Detroit police on Tuesday January 6, 2015 reported there had been 322 sexual assaults in the city last year, but the actual number was more than five times that: 1,845 reports according to the
Detroit News. Behind the vastly different numbers are two factors: Detroit police, like most departments, release statistics to the public using the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting method that doesn't count all sexual assaults. Also, the city uses old CRISNET reporting software which doesn't automatically update changes in investigations.

     "There's nothing nefarious going on," Police Chief James Craig said. "Nobody's scrubbing anything; this is just the way crimes are reported industrywide." The reporting method gives people a false impression about the scope of sexual assaults, said Jennifer Jones, director of the Sexual Assault Advocacy Center in Colorado, who added that rapes already are underreported. "Even if a victim does call the police, they're sometimes talked out of making a report," Jones said. "Between that and the way sexual assaults are reported, a lot of statistics get left out."

"Detroit Reports 322 Sexual Assaults Last Year; Actual Number 5 Times Higher," thecrimereport.org, January 8, 2015 

Writing Quote: Novels Are Distinguished by Their Characters

If you can't create characters that are vivid in the reader's imagination, you can't create a good novel. Characters are to a novelist what lumber is to a carpenter and what bricks are to a bricklayer. Characters are the stuff out of which a novel is constructed.

James N. Frey, How to Write a Damn Good Novel, II, 1994 

Writing Quote: Benjamin Franklin on Autobiography

If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.

Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, 1791 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: A Rare Mass Murder in Edmonton, Canada

     On Monday night December 29, 2014, a man in Edmonton, Canada shot and killed six adults and two children then took his own life. The gunman, who had a criminal record dating back to 1987, used a stolen 9mm pistol…The six adults, between the ages 25 and 50, and two children under the age of ten were found in two separate residences that Monday night…The man linked to the shootings killed himself in a restaurant in the nearby city of Fort Saskatchewan the next morning…

     Officers had gone to one of the homes twice: once in November 2012 and again in 2014 when a man residing there was accused of domestic violence and sexual assaults...

     There hasn't been a mass killing of this scale in Edmonton, a city of 878,000 in the western part of the country, since 1956…

"Edmonton Murders Linked to Domestic Violence," CBC News,  December 31, 2014

Criminal Justice Report: Bonnie Without Clyde in Sacramento, California

     A woman wanted in a North Sacramento, California robbery was taken into custody after she led officers on a chase through the center of the city…Police identified the woman as Laroia Davis, 38. The pursuit started Wednesday evening January 7, 2015 when officers responded to a call of robbery at a Rite-Aid pharmacy…Davis and another woman, stealing merchandise in the store, assaulted a security officer. As police officers were investigating they spotted the Ford Explorer sought in connect with the robbery and tried to pull over Davis who refused to stop…

     Davis led officers from North Sacramento to the downtown section... At some point during the chase, officers put down spike strips which blew out the tires of the her vehicle. She continued driving on the SUV's rims, crashing into three patrol cars…

     When approached by police officers, Davis refused to get out of her vehicle. Finally, after twenty minutes, she climbed out of the Ford and was taken into custody…The other suspect had fled on foot before the police chase.

"Woman Arrested After Sacramento Police Chase," kcra.com, January 8, 2015 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: False Rape Claim Leads To Murder

     On January 5, 2015, a man was beaten to death by the boyfriend of a woman who falsely claimed he raped her in a Fairbanks, Alaska motel room…The woman, 31-year-old Dominique Vasquez, reportedly did not want to admit to her boyfriend, 39-year-old Abraham Stine, that she had cheated on him so she lied about the rape…She also knew that Stine had a history of violence when she told him that 37-year-old Wesley Lord--who was Stine's cousin--raped her at the Extended Stay Motel…

     Stine showed up at the motel, peeked in the window and came to the conclusion that Vasquez was cheating on him…He entered the motel room through a window and began punching and beating Mr. Lord…The Alaska Bureau of Investigation determined that the victim had died from blunt-force trauma to the head…

     Both Stine and Vasquez face second-degree murder charges…

"False Rape Claim Leads to Alaska Man's Beating Death," The Daily Caller, January 8, 2015 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Father Throws His 5-Year-Old Daughter Off Bridge

      A 5-year-old girl died after being thrown from a bridge into Tampa Bay. Her father, 25-year-old John Jonchuck from St. Petersburg, Florida, is in custody. The crime took place just after midnight on January 8, 2015 on the Dick Misener Bridge.

     A St. Petersburg police officer was heading home toward the bridge when a Chrysler PT Cruiser passed him going 100 miles per hour. The driver stopped his car at the top of the bridge, got out with the girl and threw her over the rail into the water 62 feet below. Jonchuck got back into his vehicle and drove south thirty miles before Manatee County deputies stopped him…

     Jonchuck, who did not cooperate with the police, had been arrested in 2013 on battery domestic violence charges in Hillsborough County. Following his conviction the judge placed him on probation. [Jonchuck was in a custody battle with his wife over the girl who lived with him.]

"Father in Custody After 5-Year-Old Girl Thrown to Death From Bridge," Fox News, January 8, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: Woman Strangles Her Cousin Then Falsely Reports His Abduction

     A 19-year-old woman strangled her 5-year-old cousin who had been in her parents' care, then discarded his body along a road before calling in a false report that two masked intruders took the boy from their Albany, New York area home…Tiffany VanAlstyne's bogus 911 call on Thursday afternoon December 18, 2014 set off a search for Kenneth White that lasted into the night…A search dog picked up a scent at 9:00 PM and Kenneth's body was found in a culvert covered with snow…

     VanAlstyne was charged with second-degree murder and said nothing at her arraignment…

     VanAlstyne's parents have been the legal guardians of Kenneth White, his twin sister Cheyenne, and 4-year-old sister Christine since September 2014. The children had lived in the VanAlstyne home for more than a year…

     VanAlstyne strangled the boy and tossed his body over a guard rail along a rural two-lane road about 40 yards from her parents' trailer home in the town of Berne sometime before making the 911 call…The child had also suffered a blow to the head. The 911 call touched off a search that included an Amber Alert describing the kidnappers as two men, clad in black and driving a black pickup truck.

"Woman Falsely Reported Abduction," Associated Press, December 20, 2014 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: "Real Housewives" Star Gets Real Time

     Teresa Guidice, a cast member of Bravo's "Real Housewives of New Jersey," reported to a federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut early Monday morning January 5, 2015 to begin serving a 15-month sentence for bankruptcy fraud…The reality star left her mansion shortly after midnight and arrived at the prison around 3 AM…

     She and her husband Giuseppe "Joe" Giudice pleaded guilty in 2014 and admitted hiding assets from bankruptcy creditors and submitting phony applications to get some $5 million in mortgage and construction loans. Joe Guidice also pleaded guilty to failing to pay taxes totaling more than $200,000.

     At the Giudices' sentencing in October 2014, the federal judge criticized the couple for not disclosing all their assets as required under their plea agreement, calling it "the same pattern of obstruction, concealment and manipulation as they showed in the bankruptcy case."

     Still, the judge sentenced Teresa Guidice to a sentence below the range sought by the U.S. Attorney's office and staggered her sentence with her husband's so they wouldn't be in prison at the same time and unable to care for their four daughters. Joe Giudice will serve his 41-month sentence after his wife's sentence is completed….

" 'Real Housewives' Star Teresa Giudice Begins Prison Sentence," Fox News, January 5, 2014

     

Criminal Justice Quote: A Boston Cop Goes Off The Deep End

     A Boston police officer has been placed on administrative leave after allegedly assaulting an Uber driver. The driver for the ride sharing company told police he drove a passenger to the area of East 2nd Street in South Boston early Saturday morning January 4, 2015. That passenger was off-duty officer Michael Doherty, 40, of South Boston. According to the driver, when he reached the destination, Doherty accused him of trying to drop him off at the wrong location. Doherty then allegedly yelled at then hit the driver.

     When the driver got out of the car, Doherty got into the front seat and drove off. Police say a passing motorist helped the Uber driver follow Doherty until he stopped the car and fled.

     Doherty, who has been on the force for 16 years, was arrested at his home Sunday January 5 and charged with assault and battery and using a motor vehicle without authority.

"Off-Duty Boston Cop Arrested For Allegedly Assaulting Uber Driver," CBS News, January 4, 2015 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: The Naked Burglar

     Police near Salem, Oregon say they arrested a naked man after he broke into two homes, drank booze and used a hot tub…Officers received a 911 call early Sunday January 4, 2015 from a woman who was house-sitting in Keizer, Oregon when she was awakened by noises coming from the laundry room. As she went to check it out, the laundry room door slammed shut. She grabbed a knife and called the police and her husband.

     Police found Guillermo Brambila Lopez, 24, of Woodburn, Oregon inside the house. They arrested the naked man without incident. He had climbed in through a back window after removing a screen. Police also noticed that screens had been removed from windows at a neighbor's home…The suspect had broken into that dwelling as well. In that burglary he had helped himself to the homeowner's alcohol and had used the hot tub and shower.

"Man Broke Into Homes, Used Hot Tub," Associated Press, January 4, 2015 

Criminal Justice Quote: More Guns, Less Gun Control

     A new Pew Research Center survey finds that, for the first time in their surveys, the majority of Americans oppose more gun control. Gallup and CNN pols tell a similar story. Opposition to gun control has been increasing over at least the last couple of decades…

     Perceptions have changed dramatically, with most people now believing the "More Gun, Less Crime" hypothesis. Gallup recently asked Americans if they thought residents are safer with a gun in the home. People answered "Yes" by a margin of 63 to 30 percent. In 2000, Americans gave just the opposite answer by a margin of 51 to 35 percent. In 2013, sixty percent of gun owners listed "Personal Safety/Protection" as the reason for owning a gun.

     Academic research aligns with current public opinion. If you have a gun in the home, that gun is more likely to prevent murder than it is to be used in an accidental shooting or to kill a loved one…

     Between 2000 and 2014, the number of concealed handgun permits soared from about 2.7 million to well over 12 million…According to Gallup, 42 percent of American now have a gun in the house...The Pew Research Center survey found that 57 percent of Americans believe gun ownership "protects people from becoming victims of crime. Thirty-eight percent believe that it "puts people at risk."

     Support for gun ownership has grown particularly sharply among blacks and women….

"Why Most Americans Oppose More Gun Control," Fox News, December 30, 2014 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Teacher Lee Riddle: Out-Of-Control At Widefield High

     In 2009, Lee Riddle, a 25-year-old graduate of the University of Michigan, began teaching German at Widefield High School outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado. By all accounts he was a popular and outstanding teacher with a spotless record at the school. But in November 2013 Mr. Riddle lost his good name and his career as well.

     On November 15, 2013, the El Paso County (Colorado) Sheriff's Office received a tip that the 29-year-old teacher had made inappropriate physical contact with several male students ages 15 to 17. One of the complaints involved the teacher grabbing boys between the legs in what the teacher called "cup checks." (Cup check refers to the procedure used to verify the appropriate installation of protective athletic gear for the groin area.)

     The principal of Widefield High placed Mr. Riddle, who denied the allegations, on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.

     On November 18 and 19, 2013, investigators with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office questioned several of Mr. Riddle's male students. All of these boys had experienced classroom encounters with the teacher, behavior that put Mr. Riddle in an extremely bad light.

     According to investigators, the suspect had "cup checked" several students, pinched one boy's nipple and called him "Cutie," spoke graphically to students about gay sex, showed sexually explicit cellphone photographs, and while giving one boy a ride home, asked him if he were bisexual.

     On November 20, 2013, an El Paso County prosecutor charged Lee Riddle with 18 counts of sexual assault on a child under 18 by a person of trust. The suspect pleaded not guilty to all counts. The judge set his bail at $25,000.

     Mr. Riddle's trial got underway in August 2014 in Colorado Springs. A week later, the jury found the defendant guilty of all charges. School officials immediately fired him.

     At Riddle's sentencing hearing in November 2014, the judge, before handing down the sentence, noted that the convicted man didn't seem to appreciate the seriousness of his crimes due to the fact that none of the boys had been physically injured. The judge, noting the seriousness of these offenses, sentenced the 31-year-old former teacher to an indeterminate sentence that will keep him behind bars for a minimum of eight years.

     Compared to much lesser sentences given to rapists and pedophiles, this sentence seems a bit harsh.  

Criminal Justice Quote: Family Dollar Stores in St. Louis Area Ban Hoodies

     Some Family Dollar stores in the St. Louis area have been experimenting with signs asking customers to take off their hoodies before they enter the stores. The signs read: "All Customers: Please remove hoods before entering Family Dollar." Managers at Family Dollar stores would not reveal the reasoning for the signs. However, the signs seem likely to be a response to an outbreak of shoplifting and armed robbery at St. Louis-area Family Dollar stores.

     For example, a man allegedly held an employee at gunpoint during a December 2014 robbery at a Family Dollar store on South Jefferson Street in St. Louis. At another area store on South Grand Avenue someone started shooting a gun…

     Some customers think the hoodie ban is discriminatory…Other customers were more supportive of the anti-hooddie signage…

     Family Dollar is a chain of discount variety stores with 8,100 locations in several states across the country. Most of the stores are located in low-income neighborhoods.

"Family Dollar Stores Face Scrutiny For Asking Customers to Remove Hoodies," The Daily Caller, January 5, 2015 

Writing Quote: What Children and Young Adults Look For in a Novel

Novels for children and young adults are soothing and reaffirm the young reader's sense of worthiness. The child, who may have few friends, gathers around himself or herself an array of characters who are entertaining and forgiving and enlightening.

Jane Smiley, 13 Ways of Looking at The Novel, 2005

Criminal Justice Quote: U.S. Death Sentences and Executions at Historic Lows

     The number of executions in the United States hit a 20-year low in 2014, a dip driven in part by lethal-injection drug shortages and legal battles stemming from botched procedures. Thirty-five death-row inmates in seven states were killed last year, the lowest number since 1994…Executions peaked in 1999; there were 98 that year…

     Death sentences hit a 40-year low last year and have been in steep decline for the last two decades, plunging from 315 in 1994 to 72 in 2014. According to Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, "The realization that mistakes have been made, that innocent people are still being freed, has made juries hesitant. They are willing to convict but not sentence to death. There is a demand for perfect proof, and so prosecutors are taking more plea bargains."

     Seven death-row inmates were exonerated last year, the most since 2009.

     A majority of Americans still support capital punishment. In a May 2014 poll by NBC News, 59 percent said they favor the death penalty as the ultimate punishment for murder, while 35 percent said they are opposed. That reflects the erosion of support since the 1990s, when more than 70 percent backed executions.

"Number of Death Sentences and Executions at 20-Year Low," Associated Press, December 17, 2014

     

Writing Quote: Book-Friendly France

Whatever the cultural reasons, books in France are indeed an "essential good"--the designation coined by the French government that serves to justify the very concrete steps it has taken over the years to protect its precious literary culture. The most prominent of these are laws outlawing the advantages (deep discounting combined with free shipping) that big chains and Amazon enjoy over independent booksellers in the United States and other countries. These help explain a phenomenon that inevitably strikes American visitors to France today: As even big chains such as Borders and Barnes & Noble have faltered here, every block in central Paris seems to sprout at least two small, intelligently stocked bookshops.

Daniel Mendelsohn, The New York Times Book Review, November 16, 2014 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: Thomas Gilbert: Manhattan Hedge Fund Founder Murdered

     A 70-year-old hedge fund founder has been shot dead in his New York City apartment. Thomas Gilbert was shot in the head in his Manhattan apartment on Beekman Place on the East Side of Manhattan. He was pronounced dead at the scene. [Detectives were questioning the victim's 30-year-old son as a suspect.]

     Mr. Gilbert started Waincott Capital Partners Fund in 2011. The fund has $200 million in assets and focuses on the biotech and heath care industries…The murder was a rare act of violence on Beekman Place, a tony enclave just north of the United Nations building.

"Hedge Fund Founder, 70, Slain in NYC Apartment," sfgate.com, January 5, 2015 

Criminal Justice Quote: Abducted Baby Found Dead in Imperial Beach, California

     Long Beach, California police confirmed that a baby found Sunday January 4, 2015 is that of a 3-week-old abducted from her home after fatal shootings. The identification of Eliza Delacruz came after detectives from Long Beach traveled to San Diego County to help detectives investigate the discovery of an infant's remains found in a dumpster behind an Imperial Beach strip mall. The baby had been taken Saturday night January 3, 2015 from a Long Beach home, the scene of the shootings…

     Police went to the site of the abduction after receiving a 911 call about the shooting. At the house they found two brothers and the baby's mother. All three had been shot to death. One of the brothers was Eliza's father. Detectives are looking for an adult male suspect. The authorities have not revealed if the gunman is related to any of the victims.

"Baby Abducted After Shooting Found Dead in Dumpster," Associated Press, January 5, 2015
     

Writing Quote: Bob Hope's Influence on Modern Humor

Comedian Bob Hope's heir at NBC, Johnny Carson, not to mention Carson's legion of successors, proves that Hope's flippant, topical monologue has never left us. There's also Hope's obvious influence on comedians in the 1970s who played versions of themselves as show-business boors, like Albert Brooks and Steve Martin.

Ben Schwartz, Bookforum, Dec/Jan, 2015 

Criminal Justice Quote: The Cost of Identity Theft

While identify theft is certainly a global problem, experts say it's difficult to measure worldwide losses. However, a Department of Justice study estimates identify theft of all kinds was responsible for U.S. financial losses of $24,7 billion in 2012--nearly double the $14 billion lost from all other property crimes such as burglary and theft.

"Identity Theft Costs U.S. Billions," Associated Press, December 21, 2014 

Writing Quote: Alien Societies in Science Fiction

Stephen H. Doyle, in Habitable Planets for Man, attempted to estimate the abundance of planets in which human beings could live without life-support systems such as domes or spacesuits. He estimated that there were something like 600 million human-habitable planets in our galaxy alone. Other galaxies should have comparable numbers.

Stanley Schmidt, Aliens and Alien Societies, 1995 

Writing Quote: A Mystery Novelist's Work Habits

I write from 10 AM to 6 PM, Monday to Friday. I try to write eight pages a day. When I had a 9-to-5 job, I used to write at night and on weekends, but not anymore.

Ed McBain, bookreporter.com, January 21, 2000

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Norman Mailer on Interviewing

I don't even like interviewing people, because I feel once I've interviewed someone, it's much harder to write critically about them unless you bring up every critical feeling you have in the course of the interview.

Norman Mailer in Conversations With Norman Mailer, edited by J. Michael Lennon, 1988 

Writing Quote: The Influence of Virginia Woolf on Ursula K. LeGuin

You can't write science fiction well if you haven't read it, though not all who try to write it know this. But nor can you write science fiction if you haven't read anything else. Genre is a rich dialect, in which you can say certain things in a particularly satisfying way, but if it gives up connection with the general literary language it becomes a jargon, meaningful only to an inner circle of readers. Useful models may be found outside the genre. I learned a lot from reading the ever-subversive Virginia Woolf.

Ursula K. LeGuin, "Virginia Woolf," theguardian.com, May 14, 2011 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Camera Shy Cops

     An Orlando, Florida man jailed for filming a police officer got more than his money back. Alberto Troche, who sued Orlando police for wrongfully jailing him and taking his phone, received $15,000 in an out of court settlement. According to the lawsuit, Troche saw police arresting a man late one night in December 2013. Based on cries of pain from the man being arrested, Troche thought police were using excessive force and pulled out his cellphone to record the incident. Several others did the same.

     Police arrested Troche for recording the officers. Troche claimed he stood 10-15 feet away from the arrest and never interfered. He spent 15 hours in custody and didn't get his phone back for three weeks.

     In a video of the incident, police can be heard yelling at an indignant crowd. Police threatened to take their cell phones because they were recording the arrest. The officers claimed the phones were needed for evidence. In the video, a police officer can be heard shouting, "We need the camera now!" Someone in the crowd responded, "They can't take your camera," followed by "Aw hell no! They cannot do that!"…

Casey Harper, "Man Jailed For Filming Cops," The Daily Caller, December 26, 2014


Writing Quote: The Value of Documents in a Journalistic Piece

Secondary sources are most useful when they lead to primary documents. The legislative hearing transcript would be a primary document as would be a real estate deed, political candidate's campaign finance report, lawsuit, insurance policy, and discharge certificate from the military. Documents can be just like human sources because they are prepared by humans. However, unlike humans, documents do not talk back and do not claim to have been misquoted.

Steve Weinberg in Leaving Readers Behind, 2001 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: Teacher's Aide Burglarized Homes Of Fellow Employees

     A teacher's aide in Park City, Utah has admitted breaking into the homes of several of her Park City School District co-workers in order to steal money and prescription pills. On October 20, 2014, Summit County Sheriff's Office deputies responded to an attempted burglary at a Park City home. The homeowner, an employee with the Park City School District, recognized the woman trying to break in as 27-year-old Kayla Goodrich.

     After the teacher's aide's arrest, the chief prosecutor for the Summit County Attorneys Office told reporters that, "From what we can tell, Goodrich may have used some school records to determine where people lived. She entered their homes when they weren't around to steal controlled substances."…

     After police seized the burglary suspect's cellphone, they found photographs of documents with emergency contact information regarding the suspect's fellow school employees. The officers also found loose pills and more than $3,000 in cash in Goodrich's car. The principal of the McPolin Elementary School fired the teacher's aide following her police confession.

     The prosecutor charged Goodrich with burglary, attempted burglary, and possession of a controlled substance.

"Teacher's Aide Faces Felonies After Allegedly Using School Records in Burglaries," Fox News, November 6, 2014 

Writing Quote: The First Novel as Fiction Light

The first novel is a good place to put in things that would be awkward to use elsewhere. No one requires much fiction from a first novel.

Peter S. Prescott, Never in Doubt, 1986

Writing Quote: The Sports Writer

Newspaper people speak of journalists who cover the news as police reporters, City Hall men, and Washington correspondents. Print journalists on the sports beat are usually referred to as sports writers. The sports writer is not expected merely to tell us what happened. Upon small, coiled springs of fact, he builds up a great padded mattress of words. His readers escape into a dream where most of the characters are titanic heroes, devouring monsters, or gargantuan buffoons.

A. J. Liebling in Wayward Reporter by Raymond A. Sokolov, 1980 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: The Vulnerability of Fingerprint Scanner Systems

     Jim Krissler, a member of Europe's oldest hacker collective, the Chaos Computer Club, said he has developed the ability to copy fingerprints using a common digital camera. He made the announcement at the Chaos Computer Conference on December 27, 2014. His demonstration included creating a digital copy of a fingerprint of Germany's federal minister of defense, Ursula von der Leyen, using commercially available software called VeriFinger.

     Krissler said he had a photographer snap high-resolution photos of von der Leyen's fingers while she was giving a presentation in October 2014. The photographs were taken from nine feet away from the subject. Krissler said he wasn't able to verify von der Leyen's fingerprint was accurate, but was confident it was a workable copy…

     Krissler's presentation potentially calls into question the efficacy of fingerprint scanners as a security measure. While they have been around since the 1990s in consumer technology, it was Apple's move to include a fingerprint reader, which it calls Touch ID, into the iPhone 5S that revitalized the idea of using biometric readers. Samsung and HTC quickly followed by adding fingerprint readers in select smartphones. The reader replaces the need to enter a code to unlock a device or, in the case of mobile-payments system Apple Pay, verify a purchase…

     This isn't Krissler's first tangle with fingerprints. He was one of the first to demonstrate how to fake a fingerprint with wood glue to fool the IPhone 5S. "We hope that this finally puts to rest the illusions people have about fingerprint biometrics," Chaos Computer Club spokesperson Frank Rieger said in a statement. "It is plain stupid to use something that you can't change and that you leave everywhere every day as a security token."…

Seth Rosenblatt, "Hacker Claims You Can Steal Fingerprints With Only a Camera," cnet.com, December 30, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Marine Accused of Murdering Transgender Woman

     A U.S. Marine has been charged with murder in the death of a transgender woman who was found strangled in a Philippines hotel room…Pfc. Scott Pemberton is accused of killing Jeffrey Laude, who was also known as Jennifer…Laude's naked body was found with her head in a toilet in an Olongapo hotel room shortly after midnight on October 12, 2014…

     Witnesses told police that Pemberton was with Laude at a local disco before the two checked into the hotel on the night of October 11…

     Pimberton was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina…The Marine Corps said it was "working closely and cooperating fully with the Philippine National Police to ensure that a thorough investigation is completed and due process of law is followed."

     Three other Marines from the same unit have been identified as potential witnesses….

"U.S. Marine Charged With Murder in Death of Transgender Woman in Philippines," CNN, December 15, 2014 

Writing Quote: The Romance Novel's Central Theme

In romance novels, the general theme is the taming of a man.

Nicholas Sparks in Writer's Digest, October 2002