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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Whackademia: The Absurd Professor

     At first blush, one might consider the politically radical professor as someone who dangerously poisons the minds of vulnerable, easily influenced college students. In reality, except for wasting their tuition money, these academic fanatics are nothing but grandstanding fools looking for attention. Take University of California at Davis professor and poet Joshua Clover. Dr. Clover, an academic in the oddly combined disciplines of political theory, political economy, poetry, poetics, and Marxism, has been calling attention to himself by making outlandish statements regarding his hatred of police officers. He is probably a member of the only profession that would tolerate such irresponsible, foolish rhetoric.

     In November 2014, after officer Darren Wilson was appropriately cleared of wrongdoing in the police-involved shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Clover tweeted, "I am thankful that every living cop will one day be dead, some by their own hand, some by others, too many of old age." A month later the professor was at it again with this tweet: "I mean, it's easier to shoot cops when their backs are turned, no?"

     In an interview published in January 2016 in The California Aggie, Professor Clover was quoted as saying, "People think that cops need to be reformed. They need to be killed. I think we can all agree that the most effective way to end any violence against officers is the complete and immediate abolition of the police." (Great, if an armed intruder breaks into my house in the middle of the night I'll call a poet.)

     I imagine that most of Professor Clover's adoring students are future radical academic poets who will probably turn out to be as ridiculous and irrelevant as he is.

     This is how it goes in the protected world of the pontificating academic fanatic. Moreover, in whackademia, it seems that the crazier the professor, the more renowned and expensive the school.

     

A Short History of the Polygraph

A Short History of the Polygraph

     The polygraph was invented in 1921 by Dr. John Larsen, a 27-year-old University of California Berkeley medical student with a Ph.D. in physiology. Dr. Larson worked as a part-time police officer at the Berkeley Police Department under Chief August Vollmer. Larson had read a 1908 book called On The Witness Stand by the Harvard psychiatrist, Hugo Munsterberg who had been searching for a method of scientific lie detection since the turn of the century.

     In his chapter "The Traces of the Emotion," Dr. Munsterberg wrote that three physiological events take place whenever a person lies. First, the liar's blood pressure and heart beat increase; second, there are respiratory alterations; and third, telling a lie chances the person's galvanic skin response, or GSR. To measure GSR, Dr. Munsterberg used a galvanometer that picked-up variations in the body's resistance to electricity. (Munsterberg found that when the brain is excited emotionally, the individual's sweat glands alter the body's resistance to electricity.)

     In 1921, Chief Vollmer asked his "college cop" to fashion a lie detection instrument detectives could use to detect deception in the people they interrogate. After working several weeks on the project, Dr. Larson informed Vollmer that he had rigged an apparatus that could detect truth and deception, an instrument he called the polygraph.

     The cumbersome tangle of rubber hoses, wires, and glass tubing was five feet long, two and a half feet high, and weighed thirty pounds. The device could be taken apart and moved from one place to another, but it took an hour to set up.

     Larson's instrument advanced Munsterberg's technique in four ways. The polygraph recorded the physiological responses on a continuous graph while the subject was being questioned. This was an improvement over the technique of asking a question then taking the examinee's blood pressure. The second advantage involved the ability to adjust the instrument in order to control such variables as high blood pressure or extreme nervousness. Larson's invention also produced a tangible and permanent record of test results that could be later analyzed by other experts. And finally the polygraph detected and recorded the subject's breathing patterns in addition to blood pressure and pulse rate.

     In the spring of 1921, John Larson tested the polygraph on Chief Vollmer and members of the Berkeley Police Department. The results of these experiments convinced Vollmer that Larson had invented a device that would revolutionize the art and science of criminal investigation. Larson, as the department's polygraph examiner, began using the instrument to solve a series of petty theft cases at the University of California.

     Today, for a polygraph result to be accurate, the instrument (vastly more sophisticated that Larson's invention), has to be in good working order. Moreover, the examiner must be properly trained and experienced in question formation and line chart interpretation. (Police polygraph examiners have to fight against their own bias.) Subjects have to be willing participants in the process, not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, be obese, retarded, or mentally ill. People who are very old or under fourteen do not make reliable polygraph subjects.
   

A Senseless Murder in Poughkeepsie

     Fannie Gumbinger lived in a middle-class, residential neighborhood in Poughkeepsie, New York, a Hudson Valley town of 75,000, 65 miles north of New York City. The 99-year-old had lived in the house on Underhill Avenue for 38 years. She had lived there alone since her husband died in 2007.

     At seven o'clock on the morning of August 21, 2013, Mrs. Gumbinger's caretaker, sensing that something was wrong in the elderly woman's house, called 911. Poughkeepsie police officers entered the dwelling and found Fannie Bumbinger dead. She had been beaten and her house had been burglarized. Detectives assumed the victim had been murdered by the burglar.

     On Friday night, August 23, police officers arrested Javon Tyrek Rogers. Investigators believed the 20-year-old had recently broken into at least five homes in Poughkeepsie. On August 24 at his arraignment, Rogers pleaded not guilty to burglary and first-degree murder. He was held, without bond, in the Dutchess County Jail.

     Poughkeepsie Police Chief Ron Knapp, who called the crime a "truly senseless killing," told reporters that Rogers had admitted burglarizing the Gumbiner home as well as killing its occupant.

     In November 2014, following his guilty plea, Dutchess County Judge Stephen Greller sentenced Rogers to 50 years to life in prison.

Thornton P. Knowles On J. Edgar Hoover

If the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1924 to 1972 thought much about his legacy, he probably hoped to be remembered as the man who professionalized criminal investigation, and elevated the image of the FBI agent. As the man responsible for the FBI fingerprint bureau, crime laboratory, National Police Academy, and the "FBI Bulletin," one could argue that Mr. Hoover played a major, innovative role in the history of 20th Century law enforcement. Instead, Mr. Hoover, thanks to a combination of tabloid journalism and the truth, is remembered as a power-hungry, cross-dressing, mother's boy. For a quick and easy laugh, late night TV jokesters just have to mention his name. But Americans have short memories, and in a few years Hoover's legacy will lie with him in his grave. The late night funny guys will move on to other disgraced public figures, an endless source of monologue humor.

Thornton P. Knowles

The World's Fastest Patrol Car

     Dubai, an oil-rich international playground for the wealthy on the Persian Gulf Coast of the United Arab Emirates, is one of the most expensive places in the world to live. If you are arrested by the Dubai Police, you'll be driven to jail in one of their green-and-white patrol cars.

     In April 2013, the deputy police director of Dubai announced that the department had upgraded its patrol fleet with several Camaros and other American-made muscle cars. But the crown jewel of the Dubai fleet is a new Lamborghini Aventador, and Italian-made V-12 sports car that sells for $404,000 and can reach speeds up to 225 mph. In addition to the tallest building in the world, the largest shopping mall, and what will become the biggest ferris wheel on the globe, Dubai now has the fastest police car.

     I'm sure the officer driving the Lamborghini will not be using the sleek vehicle to haul drunks to jail. I don't even know if the car has a backseat.

     The Lamborghini is obviously for show, an advertisement promoting the city's wealth and prosperity. In America, money-strapped police departments show-off high-dollar SWAT tanks to project the image of power and authority. These are completely different messages that distinguish the two nations. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Dr. Thomas Dixon Love Triangle Murder-for-Hire Case

     The casts in murder-for-hire plots feature three principal characters: the instigator/mastermind who solicits/contracts the homicide; the hit man (or undercover agent playing the triggerman role); and the victim, the person targeted for death. While these cases, in terms of the principal actors, have a somewhat common anatomy, they differ widely according to the socio-economic status of the participants, the nature of their relationships to each other, and the specific motive behind the murder plots.

     On July 11, 2012, someone broke a window and climbed into the Lubbock, Texas home of Dr. Joseph Sonnier III, the 57-year-old chief pathologist of the Covenant Health System in that city. The intruder shot Dr. Sonnier to death. The victim lived alone, and because nothing had been taken from the house, police ruled out robbery as the killer's motive.

     Later on the day of the murder, Lubbock detectives questioned Dr. Sonnier's girlfriend in an effort to determine who may have had a reason to kill the doctor. When she mentioned she had been having trouble with her former boyfriend who insisted on seeing her even though she was dating Dr. Sonnier, the detectives had a suspect, and a potential motive. Their person of interest was a 48-year-old prominent plastic surgeon named Dr. Thomas Michael Dixon who practiced in Amarillo, Texas, a panhandle city 120 miles north of Lubbock. Because the homicide detectives didn't think that Dr. Dixon had climbed into Dr. Sonnier's house through a window and personally shot him, they considered the possibility of a murder-for-hire conspiracy. But who was the hit man?

     Less than a week after the murder, detectives caught a break. A longtime friend and former business associate of Dr. Dixon's told investigators that David Neil Shepard had killed Dr. Sonnier. According to the informant, Shepard, who had attempted suicide two days after Dr. Sonnier's murder, told him Dr. Dixon had given him three bars of silver worth $9,000 as an advance on the hit. (On June 15, 2012, Shepard sold one of the bars for $2,750.) Shepard told the informant that after watching Dr. Sonnier's house for weeks, he broke in through a window and murdered him.

     Because the suspected hit man revealed to the snitch information only known to crime scene investigators, the tipster's story rang true. (Shepard had described, for example, how he had muffled the sound of his gun, and  how many times he fired the weapon.)

     The 51-year-old accused hit man had a crime history of two convictions for theft and burglary. Detectives believed David Shepard and the plastic surgeon had met on the day before Dr. Sonnier's murder. The fact Shepard had sold the bar of silver at an Amarillo pawn shop tended to support a piece of the informant's story.

     On July 16, 2012, police in Amarillo arrested Dr. Thomas Dixon and David Shepard on charges of capital murder. The suspects were booked into the Lubbock County Criminal Detention Center under $10 million bond each.

     This murder-for-hire case was especially newsworthy because the accused mastermind and his victim were physicians. The case was also unusual because David Shepard was much older than the typical hit man. But the love triangle motive was fairly common.

     In April 2013, the mother and sons of Dr. Sonnier filed a wrongful death suit against Dr. Dixon. However, before the civil action could proceed, the murder case had to be resolved within the criminal justice system.

     The suspected hit man, David Neal Shepard, in September 2013, pleaded guilty to breaking into Dr. Sonnier's home and stabbing and shooting him to death. The judge sentenced him to life.

     Lubbock County prosecutor Matt Powell announced in November 2013 that the state would seek the death penalty against Dr. Dixon, the accused mastermind behind Dr. Sonnier's murder.

     In November 2014, at the conclusion of Dr. Dixon's three-week capital murder trial, the jury of six men and six women, after eight hours of deliberation, were unable to reach a unanimous verdict. Judge Jim Bob Darnell declared a mistrial.

     Doug Moore, the jury foreman, in speaking to the media following the mistrial, said that although the case against Dr. Dixon was strong, two jurors refused to find him guilty. The foreman described these jurors as being not very bright. "For me the evidence of guilt seemed very clear," he said.

     Shortly after the mistrial, the judge denied the defendant's request for a reduction of his $10 million bond. However, in September 2015, the judge reduced Dixon's bail to $2 million. A few days later the accused murder-for-hire mastermind paid $200,000 and was released from jail pending the disposition of his second trial.

      On November 19, 2015, the jury in Dr. Dixon's second trial found him guilty of capital murder. The judge sentenced him to life in prison without the chance of parole.
      

Thornton P. Knowles On What Sociologists Have Done To The English Languish

The language of sociology is made up of vague, often meaningless jargon designed to dull the senses and distort reality. This is particularly true when criminologists talk about crime and criminal justice. The destroyers of precise, vivid English have given us mindless phrases such as "anti-social behavior," "juvenile delinquent," "root causes," and "reform school."  In the vocabulary of sociology, depraved behavior became "deviant behavior." The concept of "root causes" makes society, not the individual, responsible for horrific criminal acts. Sociologists are responsible for the concept of "social justice," code word for collective guilt. In the world of sociology, personal responsibility for one's behavior simply does not exist. The English language is being sacrificed for the insidious, fantasy world of modern sociology.

Thornton P. Knowles

Who Is That Woman In My Wife's Casket?

     Evan Davidson, the moment he looked into his wife's casket at the Simpson Family Mortuary in Inglewood, California, had a serious complaint. The woman on display was not his 82-year-old wife Darlene. When the stunned widower alerted mortuary personnel that they had placed the wrong corpse in his wife's casket, the morticians informed Mr. Davidson that he was mistaken. The confused and upset husband, who had been married to Darlene for 51 years, said he knew what his wife looked like. The morticians didn't budge. They insisted that the grieving husband was wrong. (I guess in the funeral business the customer is not always right.) Mrs. Davidson, the funeral people explained, looked different because she had been ill, and was embalmed. Case closed.

     Three days after Darlene Davidson's funeral, the funeral home called to inform the 73-year-old widower that another mortuary customer had flipped out when the body on display wasn't her departed mother. Could Mr. Davidson come to the funeral home and look at this corpse?

     When Mr. Davidson looked into that casket he was shocked to see his dead wife. The grieving daughter's mother had already been buried as Mrs. Davidson. Mr. Davidson's attorney asked the California State Cemetery and Funeral Bureau to investigate the mix-up. (If I were an agent with the Cemetery and Funeral Bureau, I'd be curious to know how many people who attended Mrs. Davidson's funeral noticed that the woman in the casket wasn't her.)

     

Thornton P. Knowles On The Unlikable Politician

In politics there are two kinds of sociopath: likable and unlikable. The likable politician has learned how to behave like a normal person and gets by under a veneer of oily charm. A sociopath who can act like a regular person will occasionally apologize, not because he feels bad about something he's done or said, but because it's politically advantageous. The unlikable sociopath survives by intimation and fear. When forced to apologize for something, the unlikable comes off wooden and insincere. The unlikable politician should never apologize. The better approach for the politician who can't fake contrition is to deny, blame others, or claim some kind of victimhood. Since a sociopath cannot conceive of doing anything wrong, this approach is at least sincere.

Thornton P. Knowles

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Ruby Klokow Murder Case

     In 1957, 21-year-old Ruby Klokow, a resident of Sheboygan, a Michigan Lake town of 50,000 in southern Wisconsin, physically abused and murdered her 6-month-old daughter, Jeaneen. Following the baby's suspicious death Klokow told the police the child had fallen off the sofa. Although the autopsy revealed two brain hemorrhages, a partially collapsed lung, and three scalp bruises, injuries inconsistent with a fall from a couch, the Sheboygan County Corner ruled the baby's death accidental. As a result of this bogus manner of death ruling, the police did not conduct a homicide investigation. This stunning example of criminal justice incompetence (or indifference) was particularly tragic because the dead child had a two-year-old brother, and Klokow would give birth again.

     In 1964, Ruby Klokow's infant son Scott died mysteriously in his crib. Given the suspicious death of her daughter Jeaneen seven years earlier, it's hard to understand why the authorities in Sheboygan didn't investigate the passing of this child. (Had there been an autopsy there would have been signs of past injuries caused by abuse.)  Instead of putting this homicidal mother away for life, local criminal justice personnel made it possible for this woman to continue practicing her sadistic style of parenting.

     Finally in 2008, Klokow's 53-year-old son James who was two-years-old when his mother murdered his sister Jeaneen, came forward with his own story of parental abuse. According to James Klokow, his mother repeatedly beat him as far back as he could remember. At school he would lie to his teachers regarding how he had collected all of the bruises on his body that included choke marks on his neck. His mother frequently made him stand in a corner all day long during which time she threw knives and scissors at him. She also blinded him in one eye. When he turned thirteen, James, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, ran away from home. After that he was abused by a series of foster parents until the age of eighteen.

     After James Klokow came forward with his story of child abuse, Judy Post, Ruby Klokow's younger sister, told the authorities that Ruby had physically abused her when they were children. Post also reported having seen Ruby throw her infant daughter Jeaneen to the ground.

     In February 2011, a Sheboygan County prosecutor charged the 74-year-old Klokow with second-degree murder in the 1957 death of Jeaneen. A forensic pathologist took the stand at a preliminary hearing and testified that the infant's autopsy revealed injuries too severe to have been caused by a fall off a sofa. Klokow's attorney, after getting her released on bail, delayed matters by claiming that his client was not mentally competent to stand trial.

     On February 25, 2013, the day Ruby Klokow was scheduled to go on trial for the murder of her daughter, she entered a plea of no contest to the second-degree murder charge. Klokow, who had admitted killing Jeaneen, was scheduled to be sentenced on April 15, 2013.

     Sheboygan County Judge Angela Sutkiewicz, pursuant to the plea-bargain agreement worked out between the defendant's attorney and the prosecutor, was asked to sentence Klokow to 45 days in jail and ten years probation.

     To reporters following the no contest plea, Klokow's attorney Kirk Obear said that trying his client for murder after all of these years would be "unfair" because so many witnesses have died. The defense attorney went on to say that Klokow was "dealing with a lot of heartache." (Give me a break--serial child abusers don't experience heartaches--they give them.)

     District Attorney Joe DeCecco, in explaining to the media why he signed-off on the plea deal, mentioned Klokow's age and poor health. (Who cared about this woman's health?) The prosecutor also said that because the statute of limitations did not allow him to charge Klokow with the lesser homicide offense of manslaughter he had to prove a case of murder which, under the circumstances, may have been difficult. (So what?)

     It's not that the prosecution in this case didn't have evidence. In addition to the defendant's confession, the district attorney had her sister's testimony and a compelling witness in her son, James Klokow. This prosecutor, in the name of justice, should have pushed forward with the trial. What did he have to lose? What was the point of 45 days in jail and ten years of probation?

    Judge Sutkiewicz, apparently disgusted with the lenient plea deal, sentenced Klokow to ten years in prison. While judges rarely disregard the terms of a plea deal, in this case such an action was justified.

      

Thornton P. Knowles On Ambulance Chasers

To become a successful ambulance chaser, one doesn't need a prestigious legal education, a high law class ranking, or family connections in the profession. To flourish as a personal injury hustler, one must possess an aggressive, slightly sociopathic personality, and a narrow but well refined set of legal skills. All successful ambulance chasers have one big trait in common, and it's a talent that cannot be taught. They are bull-shit artists.

Thornton P. Knowles

Monday, February 25, 2019

Wrong House SWAT Raid

     In Gwinnett County, Georgia, a suburban community of 700,000 within the Atlanta metropolitan area, narcotics officers had been watching a house in Lawrenceville for three months. Members of the county police department's Special Investigations Section suspected that the man living at 2934 Valley Spring Drive was selling methamphetamine. At 9:15 A.M. on December 9, 2008, 20 officers with the department's 60-member SWAT unit began making final preparations for a no-knock raid. Thirty minutes later, after a detective with the Special Investigations Section pointed out the meth suspect's house, the SWAT team moved in on the target. The officers didn't know it, but the detectives had sent them to the wrong house. The suspected drug dealer lived a few places down the street.

     The day after the raid, John Louis, the 38-year-old whose house the police wrongfully entered, described the intrusion to a television reporter: "They came in here and put guns on us. The house was full of police. I never had a gun in my face before...All I see is a bunch of police, guns drawn, yelling, 'Hands in the air! Hands in the air!' "

     When the SWAT officers broke down the front door, Heather Jones, John Louis's girlfriend who had been asleep with their three-month baby, stepped out of the bedroom in her nightgown. Police ordered her to the floor at gunpoint. The couple asked the police what they wanted and were told to shut up and remain still. The raid came to an abrupt halt when one of the officers, seeing the baby, realized they had broken into the wrong place. As the SWAT unit decamped to raid the suspect's house, one of the officers apologized for the intrusion and promised to have the front door repaired.

     In an interview with a TV correspondent the next day, a Gwinnet Police Department spokesperson pointed out that the narcotics officers had been watching the meth suspect's house for three months. In response to this, John Louis said, "If you had this house under surveillance for three months, why did you come here? You broke in and put all our lives in danger, and all you can say is you're sorry?" (Mr. Lewis was lucky to get an apology. That was unusual.)

     The police spokesperson, in explaining what went wrong, said, "Somehow there was an investigator that had been working closely with the case that...mistakenly pointed out the wrong house, the wrong location." When asked if the police department had any kind of policy regarding no-knock raids, the police representative replied, "We double check the address, there's a description of the location as well as an address of the house that we're looking at on the search warrant, and we always have someone double check that every time." (Always?)

   Three days after the raid, the commander of the Special Investigations Section, in a news release, announced that the detective who had directed the SWAT team to the wrong house had been transferred to the uniform division. Without identifying this officer, the commander characterized the incident as a "case of human error and not deliberate malfeasance on the part of the investigator."

     Had Mr. Louis, thinking that his home was being invaded by criminals, picked up a gun for self-protection, he would be dead. As long as the war on drugs rages on, and officer safety trumps all other considerations, SWAT teams will be deployed in low-risk situations. Non-violent criminal suspects and innocent people will continue to be traumatized, injured, and in some cases, killed.

Murder or Justified Killing?

     In 2010, in Kalispell, Montana, a town of 20,000 in the northwest corner of the state, 38-year-old Dan Fredenberg, a divorced father of two, met and started dating a 20-year-old cocktail waitress named Heather King. After Heather became pregnant with twins, she and Dan got married. The marriage didn't work out. He drank too much, they had financial problems, and he was a bit of a lady's man. The couple fought, and talked frequently of divorce.

     In June 2012, Heather informed her husband that she was having a friendly but nonsexual relationship with Brice Harper, a 24-year-old resident of Kalispell. Dan Fredenberg did not take the news very well and was understandably jealous. (He probably didn't believe the nonsexual part.) That month the two men were involved in a nonphysical confrontation at Fat Boy's Bar & Grille in Kalispell.

     On September 22, 2012, Brice Harper called Heather Fredenberg with a request. He was moving out of town the next day and wondered if she could come to his duplex and help him clean house. Heather put her twin sons into her car and made the five minute trip to Harper's dwelling. That day, while at Harper's place, Heather and her husband exchanged angry text messages. When they spoke on the phone, Dan asked his wife if she was with Harper. She didn't answer his question so he swore at her and hung up.

     At eight-thirty that night, Heather, about to leave Harper's house, put the twins into her car. Before going home, she asked Harper to ride around the block with her. Perhaps he could determine what was making the clunking noise coming from under the hood of her car. Harper climbed into the vehicle. They hadn't traveled very far when Heather realized they were being followed by her husband. When she pulled back into Harper's driveway to drop him off, Heather suggested that he go directly into his house and lock the doors. Harper replied that he was not afraid of her husband. He also told her he owned a gun. Anticipating trouble, Heather backed out of the driveway, but did not pull away from Harper's house.

     Dan Fredenberg, who was not armed, climbed out of his car, walked up Harper's driveway and into his garage through the open door. Harper came out of his house and into his garage carrying a handgun. From a distance of a few feet, he shot Fredenberg three times.

     As Dan Fredenburg bled on the floor of Brice Harper's garage, Heather, screaming at the top of her lungs, ran to him. "Call 911," he said. Pronounced dead a short time later at the Kalispell Regional Medical Center, these had been his last words.

     Ed Corrigan, the Flathead County attorney, had to determine if under Montana's so-called "castle doctrine" (because a man's home is his "castle," he does not have to retreat from using deadly force against an intruder), Brice Harper had committed murder. Did this killer have the legal right to stand his ground against an unarmed intruder in his garage?

     In most of the twenty states that justify the killing of a home invader by the dwelling's legal occupant, the use of deadly force is an affirmative defense to criminal homicide. This means that the use of lethal force under these circumstances is presumed unjustified, placing the burden of proving this defense on the accused. (The defendant must prove his case by a preponderance of the evidence, a less rigorous evidentiary standard than proof beyond a reasonable doubt needed to rebut the presumption of innocence.)

     In Montana, the state legislature, in 2009, modified this self-defense doctrine by shifting the burden of proof to the prosecution. In other words, the state has to prove that the homicide defendant's actions were outside the castle doctrine. On October 9, 2012, the county attorney, in a 4-page letter to the Kalispell Police Department (the dead man's father was a retired police officer), announced his decision not to prosecute Brice Harper for criminal homicide. Prosecutor Ed Corrigan wrote that under Montana's revised statute, "you [referring to the defendant] didn't have to claim that you were afraid for your life. You just have to claim that he [the victim] was in the house illegally. [An attached garage is considered part of a dwelling.] If you think someone's going to punch you in the nose or engage in a fistfight, that's sufficient grounds to engage in lethal force."

     It is not, in my view, good jurisprudence to write a law that makes the use of deadly force, under certain circumstances, legal. There is a danger that this type of law will actually encourage violence. The better approach is to allow the use of deadly force, under clearly defined circumstances, as a homicide defense, a defense the accused has the burden of proving.

     In another state, Brice Harper would probably have been prosecuted for voluntary manslaughter on the grounds he had used excessive force against an unarmed man. In his defense, he could have argued that he felt that his life was in danger, and because the confrontation took place in his house, he didn't have to retreat. In my view, Harper may have had a difficult time convincing a jury that his life was in danger. Moreover, jurors may not have liked the fact Harper had been fooling around with the dead man's wife.
   

       

Archaeological Protection Gone Wild: The Lynch Case

     In 1979, Congress passed the Archaeological Resource Protection Act (ARPA) which makes it a federal crime to excavate, remove, damage, alter, and/or deface (without a government permit) archaeological resources from federal and Indian lands. Under ARPA, an "archaeological resource" is an item of past human existence, or archaeological interest, more than a hundred years old. First time ARPA offenders, in cases where the value of the artifacts and the cost of restoration and repair of the damaged archaeological site is less than $500, can be fined no more than $10,000 or imprisoned for more than one year. However, if the value or restoration costs exceed $500, the offender can be fined up to $20,000 and imprisoned for two years on each count. Under ARPA, federal authorities can pursue violators civilly or in criminal court, imposing fines and confiscating vehicles and equipment used in the commission of the prohibited activity.

The Ian Martin Lynch Case

     Although he didn't know it at the time, 23-year-old Ian Martin Lynch made the mistake of his life when he picked up a human skull lying among hillside rocks on an uninhabited island off the shores of southeastern Alaska. In July 1997, Lynch and two of his friends were deer hunting on public land in an area called the Warm Chuck Village and Burial Site. They had no knowledge of this place, were unaware it had once been the home of Native Americans, and were not looking for prehistoric artifacts. There were no indications, other than the skull, that the men had stumbled upon an ancient grave site.

      While exploring the area as his friends were breaking camp, Lynch scraped the dirt away from the back of the skull then picked it up for a closer look. He guessed the skull, and the bones scattered around it, had been there for some time because of the absence of clothing. He had no way, however, of knowing that the remains he had stumbled upon were archaeological resources.

     Shortly after taking the skull home, Lynch decided to turn it over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service Office in Anchorage. He described how he had come in possession of the skull to a government employee and revealed the circumstances surrounding its discovery. A short time later, an agent with the Forest Service asked him to come to the federal building for an interview.

     When the Forest Service agent asked Lynch if he knew the skull was old, the interviewee said, "So, I mean, it's definitely been there for awhile. Oh, man, it's definitely old. There's not a stitch of clothing or nothing with it." (To make a federal case against Mr. Lynch the Forest Service agents would have to establish that he knew, or should have known, that he was taking away a skull more than a hundred years old.)

     The Forest Service archaeologist for the region examined the evidence but was unable to  determine the age of the skull. This prompted the Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) to call in a physical anthropologist to determine, through visual analysis, the age of the head. This expert also declined to scientifically declare the skull an archaeological resource. The AUSA, determined to establish a crime under ARPA, sent the skull out for carbon dating. This analysis revealed that it was at least 1,400 years old. This opened the door for a federal prosecution.

     In 1998, a federal grand jury sitting in Anchorage returned an indictment charging Ian Martin Lynch with one felony ARPA offense. If convicted, he would face up to a year in prison and a $10,000 fine. Lynch's attorney filed a motion to dismiss the indictment on the ground the government had not met its burden of proving that Lynch, in taking the skull, had sufficient knowledge to establish the requisite criminal intent to violate this law. Specifically, the prosecution had not proven that Lynch knew the skull was an archaeological resource.

     The U.S. District Judge, reasoning that Lynch's picking up the skull was "a wrong in itself," ruled that the prosecution did not have to prove that Lynch had specifically intended to commit the crime. Based on this legal rationale, the judge denied the defense's motion to dismiss the indictment. In response to this ruling, Lynch pleaded guilty to the single ARPA count while retaining his right to appeal the judge's decision. In 1999, the judge sentenced Lynch to six months in prison and fined him $7,000 to cover the costs of the burial site restoration. (Lynch had picked up one bone, what restoration?) At his sentencing, Lynch told the judge he had not intended to offend Native Americans. He remained free on bail pending the results of his appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

     In 2000, the federal court of appeals overturned the ARPA conviction. Judge Alfred T. Goodwin, one of the three jurists on the panel, wrote: "The Government must prove that a defendant knows or had reason to know he was removing an 'archaeological resource' before that defendant can be found guilty of an ARPA offense."

     The reversal of Lynch's conviction makes sense, but what doesn't make sense is why the U.S. Forest Service, and the federal prosecutor in Alaska, went after Mr. Lynch in the first place. Congress, in passing ARPA, intended to punish and deter the for-profit looting of archaeological sites. Mr. Lynch was not even an artifact collector. It's hard to believe that federal law enforcement officers would waste taxpayers' money by pursing such a questionable case. And finally, what kind of judge would sentence a harmless defendant like Mr. Lynch to six months in prison?
   

      

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Harvard Bomb Hoax Case

     At 8:40 in the morning of Monday, December 16, 2013, officials at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts received a bomb threat via email. The sender of the email wrote that "shrapnel bombs" were hidden in Emerson, Thayer, and Sever Halls as well as in the Science Center. As more than 100 police, federal agents, and emergency personnel rushed to the university, Harvard security officers began evacuating the four buildings. The bomb threat came on the first day of final exam week.

     Four hours after the threat, after bomb searchers failed to find any suspicious devices, faculty, students and others were allowed back into the buildings. The feared terrorist attack turned out to be a hoax.

     Shortly after the bomb threat disruption that had little effect on students, university sob-sisters sprang into action. In an all-student email from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, students were advised that if they felt unable to take an exam for any reason "including anxiety, loss of study time, lack of access to material and belongings left in one of the affected buildings, or travel schedule" they could skip the final and take a grade based on coursework to date. (At Harvard, professors not only make it easy for academic slackers, they provide them with a menu of excuses. No wonder kids want to get into this school.)

     Because the Faculty of Arts and Sciences email came under intense ridicule, the professors sent a followup memo that required bomb threat affected students to acquire documentation from the school's mental health service. (Universities today have mental health services. When I was in college, if you went nuts your parents pulled you out of school. That's why you tried not to go crazy.)

     Later on the day of the bomb hoax, investigators traced the email threat back to a 20-year-old Harvard sophomore named Eldo Kim. The naturalized citizen from South Korea graduated from high school in Mukilteo, Washington. He played the viola and had interned with a newspaper in Seoul. On the staff of the Harvard Independent, Kim's academic focus involved psychology and sociology.

      On the day of the disruption, FBI agents arrested Eldo Kim on federal charges related to the bomb threats. If convicted as charged, he faced up to five years in prison. He could also be fined $250,000. Freed on $100,000 bond, the authorities released Kim to the custody of his sister who resided in Massachusetts.

     According to Ian Gold, the federal public defender appointed to represent the bomb hoax suspect, Kim had emailed the bomb threat to avoid taking a final exam in his government class. Attorney Gold told reporters that his client had been having difficulty coping with his studies and the upcoming anniversary of his father's death. "It's finals time at Harvard," attorney Gold said. "In one way, we're looking at the equivalent of pulling a fire alarm….It's important to keep in mind we're dealing with a 20-year-old man who was under a great deal of pressure."

     Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, in addressing the media, took issue with the "great deal of academic pressure" defense. Dershowitz pointed out that due to run-away grade inflation, it's very difficult to flunk out of Harvard. The median grade awarded to Harvard students is A-minus. "I doubt that anyone who got into Harvard would fail a government exam," said Dershowitz. "People come to Harvard with major problems. It's not that Harvard causes them." (I once read that professors at the Ivy League schools are intimidated by their students. For that reason they function more like camp counselors than teachers.)

     After confessing to the bomb hoax, Eldo Kim pleaded guilty in return for probation and mandated counseling. He was also also kicked out of school. 

New York Cockfighting

     More than 70 people were taken into custody and upwards of 3,000 birds rescued Sunday, February 9, 2014 after investigators cracked down on a savage cockfighting ring that stretched from an underground rooster coop in Brooklyn to a breeding farm upstate….Nine people were arrested on felony charges amid "Operation Angry Birds"--the largest cockfighting crackdown in state history….

     State investigators and other officials said they carried out three dramatic raids….They busted a bloody cockfighting event in Queens, rounding up 65 fighting birds and 70 people--including bettors and spectators--and charging six of them with felony prohibition of animal fighting….

     At the same time, investigators arrested the 74-year-old proprietor of a Brooklyn pet shop where officials said roosters were stuffed inside metal cages showing "all the physical hallmarks of having been bred, trained and altered for fighting."

     And early Sunday, February 9, 2014, investigators and other officials raided a farm in upstate Plattekill, New York, recovering as many as 3,000 birds….

Daniel Arkin, " 'Operation Angry Birds' Busts New York Cockfighting Ring," NBC News, February 10, 2014 

The Fat Thief

     Facing five years in prison after being convicted for his role in a real estate scam, a Florida man says he's too fat to be incarcerated. [If they can keep hippos in zoos, they can keep fat criminals in prison--Benjamin Franklin--just kidding]

     In March 2014, James Olivos told an Orlando TV reporter that he couldn't serve hard time because he wouldn't get the proper treatment for his obesity if he was behind bars. [Nonsense. A sparse prison diet is just what the doctor ordered.]….This marks the third time that Olivos has cited a medical condition to avoid surrendering for prison following his conviction on bank fraud and money laundering in December 2013. The swindler missed his previous surrender dates, claiming he was suffering from rectal bleeding, was coughing up blood, and suffering foot pain.[Generally the rectal bleeding comes after one is sent to prison.]….

Chuck Ross, "Convicted Scammer Says He's Too Fat For Prison," The Daily Caller, March 12, 2014 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Lee D. Smith: Murder-For-Hire Mastermind Gets Off Light

     Lee D. Smith lived with his wife Lana and their daughter in Basehor, Kansas, a suburban community of 5,000 across the line from Kansas City, Missouri. The 37-year-old and his wife had been arguing about money which led to his decision to hire someone to kill her.

     On May 8, 2012, Smith offed the job to a man who seemed interested. Smith drove the potential hit-man to his wife's place of work and showed him where she parked her car. Smith also outlined her daily routine, and described what she looked like to the man he hoped would kill her. Smith even offered this man advice on how to accomplish the job. He suggested catching his murder target's attention by calling out her name then shooting her when she turned in response. The man solicited for the hit accepted the assignment, and was given $400 in upfront money. Smith promised the rest--$1,800--when his wife was dead.

     The next day, instead of carrying out the murder of Lana Smith, the would-be hit-man went to the police. Working as an undercover operative, the phony hit-man called the murder-for-hire mastermind and reported that he was holding his wife and his daughter hostage. Did  Mr. Smith want them both murdered? Smith instructed the informant to release his daughter. But kill his wife, he said.

     The undercover hit-man, an hour later, called Smith back. He informed the murder-for-hire mastermind that his wife was dead. They agreed to meet later that afternoon at a grocery store where Smith would pay the hit-man the balance due on the murder contract. Before he had a chance to meet the hit-man, Smith received a call from a police officer who asked him to come to the station to pick up his daughter. When Smith showed up for the girl, officers took him into custody.

     The local police turned the Smith case over to the FBI, and on May 28, 2012, an Assistant United States Attorney in Kansas City charged Lee Smith with soliciting his wife's murder. In October, Smith pleaded guilty to the federal charge.

     A federal judge in Kansas City, on February 28, 2013, sentenced the murder-for-hire mastermind to eight years in prison. Eight years. Had Smith picked a hit-man who had been willing to complete the job, his wife would be dead. How is this any different than Smith putting a gun to his wife's head, a firearm he mistakingly believed was loaded, and pulling the trigger? Eight years for this cold-blooded murder attempt was extremely lenient, and wrong.

Wearing Down Your Fingerprints

People who do manual labor, such as construction work, have long been known for wearing down their fingerprints…Many other occupations also have a similar effect, although for different reasons. Musicians such as guitarists can abrade their prints into oblivion; typists may wear them down from so much keyboarding. Even surgeons sometimes rub off their prints from washing their hands repeatedly. The fingerprints don't disappear permanently, but they may not be recognized by biometric access control devices based on fingerprint identification. [Criminals with worn down finger ridges may also leave behind less defined latent prints at crime scenes.]

Marilyn Savant, Parade, December 7, 2014 

Middle School Hit List

     Parents and guardians of students at Gateway Middle School in Monroeville, Pennsylvania were alerted to a possible threat after a student was found with a list of 25 students he allegedly wanted to harm, as well as himself. A letter and phone call went out to parents and guardians Thursday afternoon, April 10, 2014. Gateway Middle School Principal Anthony Aquillo says that a parent informed school administrators and counselors that their son had a list of students he wanted to harm. The school has around 900 seventh and eight graders….

     The parent had found the list in the male child's bedroom while he was at school. Administration and Monroeville Police Chief Doug Cole pulled the student from class, and he was searched, detained and removed from the school. The students who were on the list met with school administrators and their parents were notified….

     The threat comes just one day after a 16-year-old was accused of stabbing more than 20 students at nearby Franklin Regional High School….

"Police, Parents Contacted After Gateway Middle School "Hit List" Found," CBS News, April 10, 2014 

Thornton P. Knowles On Political Scandals

With so many sociopaths in position of political power, it's no wonder we are in the era of the political scandal. The ongoing exposure of jaw-dropping hypocrisy among the political class has become, for us ordinary folks, a form of entertainment. To see the fall of an abusive, pompous politician, while a frightening reminder of the idiots and fools we put into office, is also intensely satisfying. Yes, I'll admit it, I've become a fan of the political scandal.

Thornton P. Knowles

Friday, February 22, 2019

Karen Sharpe: The Grandmother From Hell

     Karen Sharpe, a 54-year-old resident of New Straitsville, Ohio in the southeastern part of the state, was as far from Norman Rockwell's version of a grandparent as you can get. Sharpe, who strikingly resembled a hungover Winston Churchill in a long, ratty wig, had custody of her daughter's two girls, ages 13 and 11. A person like grandma Sharpe having custody of her granddaughters meant that the girls' mother must have been dead, homeless, in drug rehab, or in prison.

     The oldest of Sharpe's granddaughters had a metal plate in her head as a result of abuse from another family member. This fact did not deter grandma Sharpe, on January 19, 2014, from punching the 13-year-old in the face. Ten days after that assault, this monster grandparent took out her rage--perhaps drunken--on the younger sister. Unbeknownst to Sharpe, the 13-year-old recorded that assault on her cellphone.

     When the 11-year-old granddaughter accidentally stepped on Sharpe's sore foot [she probably hurt it kicking a Golden Retriever], grandma forced the girl to the floor and stuffed a pair of heavily soiled men's underwear into her mouth. [Whose underwear?] Grandma Sharpe added to the girl's misery and horror by taping the disgusting garment into place, then ordering the child to swallow the fecal matter. [If you are eating breakfast stop now because it gets worse. Sorry.]

     The domestic depravity continued. When Sharpe removed the tape, the girl vomited on the floor. The sadistic grandmother responded by ordering the child to lick up the mess.

     The victim's sister, after secretly recording her grandmother's obscene cruelty, called the police. Police officers, after reviewing video, immediately arrested Karen Sharpe. Child services personnel placed the girls into temporary foster homes.

     A Hocking County prosecutor charged Sharpe with kidnapping (a felony which includes confinement), and misdemeanor counts of assault and child endangerment. The thoroughly disgusted officers booked the suspect into the Southeastern Regional Jail. The judge set her bond at $1.1 million.

     The next day at the Hocking County Municipal Court, Sharpe pleaded not guilty to all charges. If convicted of kidnapping, she faced up to ten years in prison.

     Hocking County sheriff's deputy Ed Downs told a reporter with the Columbus Dispatch that the crime was the "most disgusting, heinous" case of child abuse he'd ever seen."

     On June 3, 2014, Karen Sharpe was allowed to plead guilty to the lesser offense of endangering children. Hocking Common Pleas Judge John T. Wallace sentenced the degenerate to three years in prison.

     The public officials responsible for this guilty plea should be thrown out of office. For a crime against nature like this, there are no mitigating circumstances. Such a case makes a mockery of our criminal justice system.

The Arthur Douglas Harmon Murder-Suicide Case

     Arthur Douglas Harmon lived with his wife and grown son in a north Phoenix residential neighborhood. Last April, the 70-year-old sued a Scottsdale corporation that had hired him to refurbish office cubicles at two California call centers. Harmon had been paid $30,000 of the $47,000 agreed-upon sum. The company, however, asked for the return of the $30,000 on the claim that Harmon had not performed the work. Harmon responded by suing the firm for breach of contract.

     On the morning of January 29, 2013, Harmon was present at a lawsuit settlement session before a mediator held at a law firm housed in three-story north Phoenix office complex. At ten-thirty, at the end of the mediation session, Harmon pulled a handgun and shot Steven Singer, the 48-year-old CEO of the company he had sued. (Mr. Singer was pronounced dead at a local hospital.) Harmon also shot and wounded Singer's lawyer, 43-year-old Mark P. Hummels, and Nichole Hampton. (Hummels is in critical condition, and 32-year-old Hampton, shot in the hand, is expected to recover fully.) Spent shell casings at the scene indicate that Harmon used two pistols in the attack.

     As the white-haired, 6-foot, 220 pound shooter, wearing a red shirt and blue jeans, fled the scene, he shot at a person who tried to follow him to take down the license number of his car. Harmon drove from the office complex in his white, 2013 Kia Optima.

     Later that afternoon, a SWAT unit rolled up to the Harmon residence located about five miles from the site of the mass shooting. Detectives were present to arrest Harmon and search his house. A SWAT officer using a megaphone called the fugitive out of the dwelling. Harmon's son came to the door and informed the officers that his father was not home. The son refused to let the police enter the house without a search warrant. (I'm not sure they needed one.)

     As the search warrant was being issued by a judge, police officers waited outside the Harmon residence. Once issued, police officers searched the dwelling and removed several items from the house. A short time later, Harmon's cellphone was found in the front yard of a house three miles from where he lived.

     On Thursday afternoon, on January 31, 2013, police is Mesa, Arizona spotted Harmon's white Kia parked in the lot of a Bass Pro store. Nearby, they found him dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. People who had known this man described him as an unfriendly loner.

     The whole idea of a legal system is to resolve disputes without resorting to violence. But in a nation with what appears to be a growing population of angry malcontents, fewer people seem willing to play by the rules. When these unhappy people don't get what they want, they kill people, and often themselves. As a result, no place is safe, and there is nothing the government can do to stop this. Any politician who says otherwise is either a liar or a fool. 

Shooting the Mentally Ill

     According to a series of guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Justice, individuals suffering from some form of mental-illness are 4 times as likely to be killed in confrontations with police officers than the general population….

     Many officers simply are not equipped to deal with the mentally ill. There are strategies that work though, peaceful strategies. First, generalist police officers need more basic training in the plights and issues surrounding the mentally ill. Second, law enforcement agencies should place greater restrictions on deadly force tactics. Shoot first is not a viable solution. Officers reacting out of fear or choose to use physical force do more harm than good. Third, law enforcement departments need mental health specialists. They need police officers trained specifically for mental health related situations.

David Arroyo, Liberty Voice, October 8, 2013 

Henry Hill On Becoming a Wiseguy

To me being a wiseguy was better than being president of the United States. It meant power among people who had no power. It meant perks in a working class neighborhood that had no privileges. To be a wiseguy was to own the world. I dreamed about being a wiseguy the way other kids dreamed about being doctors or movie stars or fireman or ballplayers.

Henry Hill [The real-life protagonist in the movie "Goodfellas."] In Jerry Capeci, Wiseguys Say the Darndest Things, 2004

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Cracker Barrel Murders: No Escaping Kevin Allen

     In June 1995, the day he received word that he and his first wife were divorced, 35-year-old Kevin E. Allen assaulted his girlfriend, Janice Koerlin. A few months later, the diagnosed manic-depressive from Kirtland, Ohio, a town 20 miles east of Cleveland, married Koerlin. In September of that year, police arrested Allen after he tried to suffocate his new wife with a pillow. This was a man who obvioulsy had no business being around women. This was a man who needed to be locked up.

     In 2004, Allen filed for personal bankruptcy for the second time. (He had filed for bankruptcy in 1991.) Four years later, the police in North Royalton, Ohio arrested him, now married to his fifth wife with whom he had fathered two daughters, on charges of theft and burglary.

     In March 2011, Kevin and his fifth wife Katherina, who went by Kate and was ten years younger than him, lived in Strongsville, Ohio with their daughters Kerri and Kayla. That year Kevin and Kate filed for personal bankruptcy. They were in debt $60,000. Although Kevin Allen, with his short, thinning gray hair and his trimmed white beard looked like a friendly guy, he continued to be a bellicose, bad-tempered husband. People went out of their way to avoid him. In 2011, Allen went several months without paying his gas bill, and threatened to shoot anybody from the utility company who came to his place to shut if off. A gas company employee did go to the house, but with a police escort.

     In early April 2012, the domestic abuse had gotten so intense and frequent, Kate and the girls moved into a friend's house. On April 12, Kate decided to take Kerri and Kayla to the Cracker Barrel restaurant in nearby Brooklyn, Ohio to celebrate Kerri Allen's tenth birthday. Kate had invited her estranged husband, and in the relative safety of a crowded restaurant, planned to inform Kevin that she wanted a divorce.

     After the late dinner, while still at the Cracker Barrel, Kate broke the news that she was leaving him. Infuriated, Kevin stormed out of the restaurant, but instead of driving home, he circled the parking lot in his silver Jeep Liberty. Worried that Kevin might become violent, Kate, at 8:40, called 911. "I'm having some spouse problems," she said.

     Kate informed the 911 dispatcher that she had just told her estranged husband that she was leaving  him, and he hadn't taken it very well. At that moment, Kevin Allen was outside the Cracker Barrel restaurant driving around the parking lot. A few minutes later, as Kate spoke to the 911 dispatcher, Kevin re-entered the restaurant and approached her and the children carrying a single barrel shotgun. The local police rolled up to the scene just as Kevin disappeared inside the building.

     The police officers, aware that Kevin Allen had gone into the restaurant armed with a shotgun, decided to remain outside. They were afraid that if they went in after him, innocent bystanders could get shot in the cross-fire. The police were also worried that Allen, if confronted inside, might take a hostage.

     When Kevin Allen got to his wife's table, without saying a word, he aimed his shotgun and fired on her and their two children. The transcript of the 911 call, just before the shooting went like this:

DISPATCHER: "Wait in the lobby for the officers. Do not go outside. Let them talk to him, okay? "

KATE: "He's here and the police are here, too. I have to...." (Gunfire could be heard on the dispatcher's end.)

DISPATCHER: "Ma'am?"

     After murdering his wife and his daughter Kerri, and seriously wounding Kayla, Allen walked out the front door of the restaurant where he encountered the police. When he refused to drop his shotgun, the police opened fire, killing him on the spot.

     When Kevin Allen strode into the Cracker Barrel carrying the shotgun, bedlam broke out with patrons running for cover. The manager helped many diners exit the place through a rear door. None of the customers were injured.

     Medics  rushed Kayla to a nearby hospital where she survived her wounds. People have criticized the officers for not immediately entering the restaurant. But they were faced was a difficult dilemma. Had the police gone in, more people could have been killed. In reality, there is only so much the police can do. They cannot always save families from abusive, murderous husbands. There was no escaping Kevin Allen.
     

Dr. Arthur Waite: The Happy Poisoner

     In 1917, on trial for his life, accused of double murder, Dr. Arthur Warren Waite laughed at the law. It was, he agreed, all true. He had indeed murdered his mother-in-law by mixing germs in her food. He had also killed his wealthy father-in-law, but when germs failed, and arsenic too, Waite had used chloroform, suffocating the old man with a pillow to finish him off. Why? "For the money," said Waite.

     Waite's trial was the New York City sensation of its day. The debonair young dentist cheerfully explained how he had poisoned his mother-in-law mixing pneumonia, diphtheria and influenza germs into her meals.

     Dr. Waite's father-in-law had been a hardier soul, resisting tuberculosis bacteria sprayed up his nose, chlorine gas, and various attempts to give him pneumonia, including dampening his bed sheets. Science caught up with Dr. Waite when arsenic he'd poured into the old man's soup was detected at autopsy. [Waite was found guilty and hanged.]

Roger Wilkes, ed, The Mammoth Book of Murder & Science, 2000

A Discussion of the True Crime Genre

Crime fiction spends a great deal of time sorting through the chaos to find some order, a sense of resolution for the often inexplicable madness of murder. Real crimes, however, don't work that way. Evidence is misfiled, suspects evade arrest on technicalities, investigations stretch out for years before an end comes in sight--if at all. True crime is a messier affair….

Sarah Wienman, The Daily Beast, May 2010


What is there to say about true-crime books? They're fun. They can be intellectually compelling, and, like the fictional variety from [crime novelists] Hammett, Cain and that crowd, they're more often than not rooted in the far side of respectability or polite society. Most every writer wants to write one. The trick is to come up with the right crime, the right crook or issue.

Peter Manso, The Huffington Post, July 2011


A number of popular true crime writers today (and yesterday) like to fluff up their narratives with figments from their imaginations, and often sugarcoat the details about a crime for what they think will bring them a wider reading audience. But I don't do that. It's not fair to the memories of the victims, their families, or the cops who worked the cases and brought the killers to justice. I tell it like it is, and I've been told time and time again by victims' families that this is the way they want their loved ones' stories to be told--truthfully, even though it is painful. Seeing things made up, they tell me, is more painful to them because often times the criminals become glamorized in a sense. You won't find glamorized killers in my books.

Gary C. King, All Things Crime, July 2013


True crime writing draws upon the methods of nonfiction and fiction, turns the American dream of picket fences and summer picnics into the American nightmare; solicits a particular kind of reader response, and cautiously toes the line between fact and fiction, and the temptation on part of the author to "create and embellish" for the sake of art. True crime writing can be understood as a style, a form, and a genre of universal appeal forever embedded in our popular culture, however sensational and exploitive it has become. Styles of writing and the themes portrayed are often grisly, morbid, and voyeuristic, thus obscuring the work of serious crime historians attempting to establish important links between economic conditions, social mores, and the day-to-day living conditions of people in a given place and time.

Richard Lindberg, richardlindberg.net, 2002 

Thornton P. Knowles On Good Luck

I once knew a police officer who tripped getting out of his patrol car in front of a store being robbed. His gun went accidentally off and the bullet hit the robber right between the eyes. They made this officer marksman of the year. I put this into one of my novels, but the editor took it out because it was unrealistic. I never spoke to that editor again.

Thornton P. Knowles 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Tiffany and Emani Moss: The Brutal Life and Death of a Girl Georgia Failed to Protect

     In 2004, prosecutors in Gwinnett County, Georgia charged Emani Moss with assaulting the biological mother of his one-year-old daughter, Emani. Because Emani attacked his girlfriend in front of their daughter, the prosecutor also charged him with second-degree child cruelty. In return for his guilty plea, the judge sentenced Emani Moss to probation.

     Six years after the domestic assault, Emani and his daughter resided in Lawrenceville, an unincorporated suburb of Atlanta. Eman's new girlfriend, Tiffany Nicole Brown, lived in the apartment with them. In March 2010, the six-year-old told a teacher at Cooper Elementary School that she was afraid to go home with her bad report card.

     Emani's extreme fear of being punished at home prompted an inquiry by the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services. After finding evidence of abuse, the child protection agency turned the case over to the Gwinnett County Police Department.

     Gwinnett County investigators determined that Tiffany Brown, the girlfriend of the Emani's father, had repeatedly beaten the girl with a belt. On Emani's body doctors found scars, abrasions, scabs, and bruises on her chest, arms, back, and legs. A Gwinnett County prosecutor charged Tiffany Nicole Brown, an elementary school teacher, with first-degree child cruelty. Emani, the girl's father, was charged with child cruelty as well.

     Pursuant to an agreement with the prosecutor, Tiffany was allowed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of second-degree child cruelty. Because he and his girlfriend promised to take parenting classes, the charges against Emani were dropped. (The child services agency had signed-off on the plea bargain.) Everybody came out ahead in the deal except Emani who remained exposed to abuse. (I don't know if Tiffany Brown kept her teaching job.)

     In July 2012, Gwinnett County detectives opened another child abuse case on Emani and Tiffany whom he had since married. When investigators were unable to find sufficient evidence to back up Emani's claims that she was being beaten and denied food as punishment, the police closed the case. Shortly after being abandoned again by the government, the nine-year-old ran away from home. After finding Emani, the authorities not only returned the child to her private hell, they charged her as a runaway juvenile.

     At four in the morning on Saturday, November 1, 2013, Emani Moss called 911 from the Coventry Pointe apartment complex in Lawrenceville. Moss told the 911 dispatcher that his daughter had consumed some kind of poison and died. He said her body was in the apartment and that he was thinking of committing suicide. (Unfortunately this turned out to be a hollow threat.)

     Gwinnett County police officers encountered Emani outside the apartment complex standing in a breezeway. The 30-year-old led the officers to a trash can in the recreation area. Inside the garbage bin officers discovered the badly burned body of a girl. The girl in the trash was ten-year-old Emani Moss.

     The county medical examiner's office ruled the girl's death a homicide. According to the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, Emani had died of starvation. Her body had been burned postmortem. The medical examiner did not believe she had been poisoned.  (A toxicology report would later confirm the lack of poison in the girl's system.) According to the pathologist, the dead girl had endured periods of up to twelve days without food. She had been dead about three days.

     Emani and Tiffany Moss, charged with first-degree murder, cruelty to children, and concealing a body, were booked into the Gwinnett County Detention Center. The magistrate denied them bail.

     On June 8, 2015, Emani Moss pleaded guilty to the charge of felony-murder. As part of the plea bargain deal, he agreed to testify against his wife, Tiffany. Detectives believed that Tiffany had been the driving force behind the murder. Mr. Moss, according to investigators, had played a passive role in his daughter's torture and death. He had failed to protect her. In return for his plea, Emani Moss was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Tiffany Moss, if found guilty as charged, could be sentenced to death.

       In November 2017, Tiffany Moss fired her two state appointed attorneys after they recommended that she plead guilty in return for a life sentence. She asked the court to allow her to represent herself. As of February 2019, the Tiffany Moss case has not come to trial.
     

A Violent Way To Reduce Prison Overcrowding

     An inmate killed his cellmate at a Pennsylvania prison because he wanted his own private cell. Forty-five-year-old Lawrence Peterson Jr., formerly of Easton, will now serve a life sentence on top of the 40-to 80-year term he had been serving for a violent robbery.

     Clearfield County District Attorney Bill Shaw said he had planned to pursue the death penalty but decided to skip the trial after Peterson, on February 21, 2015, said he wanted to plead guilty to first-degree murder and take a life sentence. The beating death of inmate William Keitel, 59, took place on August 2, 2013. Keitel died nine days later in the infirmary at the state prison in Houtzdale.

"Cellmate Killed Man So He Could Have His Own Cell," Associated Press, February 23, 2015 

Thornton P. Knowles On West Virginia's Death Penalty

Unlike most West Virginians, I'm for the death penalty. That's because I don't like the alternative--making the convicted murderer spend the rest of his life in a cage with other violent men. What is the point of that? Take Elmer Brunner, the last man executed in West Virginia. The 47-year-old Brunner robbed an elderly woman in Huntington by clubbing her to death with the claw end of a hammer. He died on the electric chair on April 3, 1959. Six years later, thanks to death house lawyers and their likeminded activists, West Virginia abolished the death penalty. As a supporter of executing criminals like Elmer Brunner, I was not happy with that. Without the death penalty, there can be no justice in the most brutal, cold-blooded murder cases. Surely there are other ways the bleeding hearts can amuse themselves.

Thornton P. Knowles

Novels That Inspired Real-Life Murders

     At his sentencing hearing in 1981, after he was convicted of John Lennon's murder, Mark David Chapman read aloud from J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye: I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over…I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all."

     The Catcher in the Rye was the book Chapman had been reading at the crime scene when he was arrested. It was the book that held, as he claimed, his message for the world. He was standing at the cliff; he was just doing his work.

     A few years later, the serial killers Leonard Lake and Charles Ng embarked on what they called "Operation Miranda," a violent spree of torture, rape and murder named for the woman abducted by a deranged butterfly collector in John Fowles' novel The Collector, which they cited as their inspiration.

Leslie Jamison, The New York Times Book Review, September 14, 2014 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The William Keitel Murder Case

     William Keitel and his wife Michele were married in 1989. The couple resided a few miles north of Pittsburgh in Ohio Township, Pennsylvania. In October 1996, following a tumultuous marriage and two children--William, 5 and Abbee, 3--William and Michele separated. Shortly after the split, Michele, 35, became engaged to Charles Dunkle, a 34-year-old from nearby Moon Township.

     In the evening of New Year's Day 1998, 45-year-old William Keitel sat in his Mercedes in the parking lot of the Stop 'N Go convenience store on Mount Nebo Road. He and his father, William Keitel senior, were waiting for Michele to arrive with the children pursuant to an a prearranged exchange. As on numerous occasions in the past, Michele had either forgotten about the exchange or was late.

     At nine-thirty that night, after William called the police, Michele, accompanied by the children, her father, and her fiancee, pulled into the convenience store lot.

     As William pulled out of the Stop 'N Go parking lot with his children in the car, Michele saw that he was armed with a handgun. (William had been issued a permit to carry the .38-caliber revolver.) Screaming that he had a gun, Michele ran after the Mercedes as it eased back onto Mount Nebo Road.

     William, realizing that his estranged wife was chasing his car, pulled into a neighboring beer distributorship parking area and climbed out of his vehicle with the gun in his hand. As Michele, her father--Mr. Charles Walker--and Charles Dunkle rushed him, William shot Dunkle in the chest at close range. With Michele on her knees next to Dunkle's body, William placed the barrel of the .38 to her forehead and pulled the trigger. When Mr. Walker tried to disarm William, the father-in-law was shot in the stomach.

     Michele Keitel and Charles Dunkle died on the beer distributorship's parking lot. Charles Walker survived his bullet wound. The Keitel children witnessed the mayhem a few feet away from their father's car.

     Charged with first-degree murder of Michele Keitel, third-degree murder of Charles Dunkle, and the aggravated assault of Charles Walker, William Keitel went on trial in Pittsburgh in October, 1998. His attorney, William Diffenderfer, presented a case of self defense that included putting his client on the stand to testify on his own behalf. Allegheny County prosecutor Edward Borowski, in the murder of Michele Keitel, sought the death penalty.

     The jury, following the one-month trial, found William Keitel guilty as charged. The jurors, however, rejected the death sentence by an eight to four vote. In January 1999, Common Pleas Judge Jeffery A. Manning sentenced Keitel to life in prison without parole. Three months later, prison administrators assigned him to the State Correctional Institution at Houtzdale located in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.

     In 2010, William Keitel's 18-year-son, a high school senior, died when his car collided with a telephone pole.

     At one in the afternoon of August 2, 2013, after returning to his cell following a work assignment, William Keitel's 43-year-old cellmate beat him severely. The 59-year-old convicted murderer was rushed by helicopter to a hospital in Altoona, Pennsylvania where, nine days later, he died from the beating.

     The federal appeal of William Keitel's conviction and sentence pending before the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia died along with him. 

The John Mallett Stabbing Spree

 
     As a teenager growing up in New York City, John Mallett spent time in the juvenile wing of the jail on Rikers Island. He had stabbed a boy in a fight over a girl. As a young adult, Mallett, a paranoid schizophrenic, continued to have problems with the law. He served three years in prison for robbery. Mallett's family tried to get him help through the courts and public health, but were ignored. They learned that the criminal justice system is of no help to a family of a violent, mentally ill person until that person commits a heinous crime. Then, of course, it is too late.

     In 2002, Mallett moved to Nashville, Tennessee where his mental illness continued to lead him into trouble. In March of that year, he was convicted of resisting arrest, and in July 2010, for criminal trespass. In February 2011, just before moving to Columbus, Ohio, the authorities in Nashville charged Mallett with the unlawful possession of a weapon. (That charge was later dismissed.)

     In Columbus, Mallett moved in with his aunt. He became such a problem for her she asked him to move out. This may have placed the mentally ill man under considerable stress. On March 14, 2012, while in downtown Columbus a few blocks from the state capitol, Mallett entered the 25-story Continental Centre building carrying three knives, one of which came from his aunt's kitchen. The office building housed, on the first floor, a for-profit trade school (criminal justice, security, investigation, and court reporting) called Miami-Jacobs Career College. The school, owned by the Delta Career Education Corporation headquartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia, consisted of 37 campuses and 16,000 students around the country.

     In the trade school's admissions office, Mallett, carrying a knife in each hand, repeatedly stabbed two employees and a criminal justice student. Back outside, he knifed an attorney who worked for the state attorney general's office, also housed in the building. Several bystanders tried but failed to disarm Mallett. One of the witnesses dialed 911.

      Within minutes of the 911 call, Columbus patrol officer Deborah Ayers pulled up to the building. The 15-year veteran of the force confronted Mallett near the building's entrance. "Sir," she yelled, "you need to put the knife down. Sir, please put the knife down!" Instead of complying with the officer's command, Mallet lunged toward her with his knife. Ayers fired 11 shots at Mallet, hitting him several times. Before he collapsed to the pavement, a second officer shocked him with a stun gun.

     The 37-year-old Mallett and his four victims were rushed to a local hospital. They were expected to survive their wounds. The fact Mallett lunged at the officer with the knife suggested a suicide-by-cop attempt.

     On Thursday, March 15,2012, he day after the rampage, the local prosecutor charged John Mallett with four counts of felonious assault.

     A battery of psychiatrists appointed by the court to examine Mallett concluded that he suffered from severe paranoid schizophrenia. On June 10, 2013, Franklin County Judge Kimberly Cocroft found Mallett not guilty by reason of insanity.

     A few weeks after the verdict, corrections officials assigned the schizophrenic to a Columbus area forensic psychiatric facility where he was to remain incarcerated until his doctors declared he was sane enough to rejoin society. 

The Innocent Youth Fallacy

     My brother Ed is a criminal lawyer who often handles juvenile cases. He once told me, "I look at some of my young clients and tell myself, 'That's a kid.' Then I say to myself, 'That's also a criminal.'" Perhaps none of us can easily resolve this conflict in our own minds.

     The television version of crime usually portrays middle-aged offenders or victims. When the young are there, they are portrayed as innocents corrupted by those older. This is the innocent youth fallacy.

     Are you people really so innocent? I have heard many people say, "Let's keep the young offenders separate from the hard-bitten older offenders, who will be a bad influence on them." If you ask the prison officials, they tell you something different. The young offenders give them the most trouble. The reason to keep the ages separate is to protect the older prisoners from the young thugs.

Marcus Felson, Crime & Everyday Life, Second Edition, 1998

There's No Such Thing as an Evil Gun

The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles.

Jeff Cooper, The Art of the Rifle, 1997

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Marissa Alexander Stand Your Ground Assault Case

     Marissa Alexander, when she married Rico Gray in June 2010, was six months pregnant with their child. She had two children from a previous marriage and Gray had five with five other women. One of his sons, and two of Marissa's children, lived with them in their rented Jacksonville, Florida home. She was 30 and he was 35.

     Rico Gray had physically abused his former partners and was beating up Marissa. In July 2010, he had thrown his pregnant wife across the room, then given her a black eye with a head butt. Marissa and her children moved out of the house and into her mother's place. She also filed for an order of protection against her husband.

     At the domestic violence injunction hearing, Rico Gray reportedly said this to the judge: "I got five baby mamas and I put my hand on every last one of them except one. The way I was with women, they was like they had to walk on eggshells around me. You know, they never knew what I was thinking...or what I might do...hit them, push them." The judge granted the order of protection.

     Marissa had the baby on July 23, 2010, and on August 1, returned to the rented house to gather up more of her clothes. While there, she showed Gray a cellphone photograph of their baby. After she entered the bathroom, Gray looked through her cellphone and came across text messages she had sent to her former husband that suggested she planned to leave him permanently and get back with her ex-spouse. Enraged, Gray stormed into the bathroom and allegedly said, "If I can't have you, no one can." He put his hands on her throat, threw her against the door, and threatened to kill her.

     Breaking free, Marissa ran into the attached garage and from her car grabbed her handgun. (It was licensed.) She returned to the house (She claims she couldn't exit the dwelling through the garage because the automatic door opener didn't work.) and encountered Gray standing in the kitchen next to his two sons. Fearing for her life, she (according to her account) fired a warning shot into the air. (Ballistics analysis, however, suggested that the bullet hit a wall and ricocheted up into the ceiling.)

     Rico Gray called 911. In reporting the shooting to the dispatcher he sounded more angry than frightened. A short time later, the house was surrounded by a SWAT team. Marissa was arrested and charged with three counts of aggravated assault. (Three counts because she had allegedly endangered three people.) Under Florida's so-called 10-20-life law, any person convicted of aggravated assault involving the discharge of a firearm is subject to a mandatory 20 year sentence.

     A few days after her arrest, Marissa was released on bail under orders from the judge to stay clear of her husband. But four months later, Marissa, in violation of the judge's order, went back to the house and punched Gray in the face. (She would later plead no contest to domestic battery.)

     With the approach of Marissa's aggravated assault by handgun trial, prosecutor Angela Corey, explained to the defendant that if convicted she would be sentenced to 20 years. The prosecutor offered her a deal: if she pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, the judge would sentence her to three years in prison. Marissa rejected the plea bargain offer.

     In defending Marissa Alexander, her attorney planned to rely on Florida's "stand your ground" law that was in the news as a result of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin  murder case. (Angela Corey, the state's attorney in Marissa's case was the leading special prosecutor in the February 2012 Sanford, Florida shooting.) Under the "stand your ground" self-defense doctrine, a person who is threatened with death or serious bodily injury in a place where he has a right to be, has no duty under the law to retreat and can meet force with force.

     In a pre-trial hearing on the stand your ground issue, Judge James Daniel  ruled that the law didn't apply to Marissa Alexander because she had no reason to fear for her life in that confrontation with her husband. The defendant could therefore not rely on self-defense and the stand your ground doctrine.

     On March 16, 2012, a jury found Alexander guilty of the three aggravated assault counts. The judge, bound by Florida's 10-20-life law, sentenced her to 20 years in prison.

     Critics of mandatory sentencing laws, along with anti-domestic violence advocates, expressed outrage over the outcome of the Marissa Alexander case. Other than winning an appeal, Marissa Alexander's only other legal remedy involved a grant of clemency by Florida Governor Rick Scott. For that to happen, a member of the state clemency board would have to initiate the action. Marissa could only make application herself after she has served half of her sentence.

     In the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin murder trial, on July 13, 2013, the jury found defendant Zimmerman not guilty of second degree murder. He was also acquitted of the lesser homicide offense of manslaughter. In this case, the jury of six women found that because Zimmerman reasonably feared for his life during a fight with Trayvon Martin, the neighborhood watch leader was legally justified in standing his ground and eventually using deadly force against the 17-year-old. The jury had accepted the defense theory that at the time of his death the 17-year-old was on top of the defendant, banging his head against the sidewalk. Following the February 2012 shooting, Zimmerman had told police officers that he had been afraid the attacker would get control of his handgun.

     In 2013, an appeals court overturned Marissa Alexander's conviction on procedural grounds. The prosecutor immediately announced a second trial that was later scheduled for December 1, 2014. Marissa Alexander remained in custody pending the outcome of the second trial.

     On November 24, 2014, after spending 1,030 days behind bars, Marissa Alexander accepted a plea deal that consisted of two years probation during which time she would wear an electronic ankle bracelet. 

The Three-Card Monte

     The Three-Card Monte is the mother of all card cons….The Set-Up: 1. Two or more people are standing around a cardboard box on a busy street. The dealer has three cards; two are black and one is red. The red is usually a queen. The dealer shows all three cards, lays them face down on the table and rapidly picks up one card with his left hand and the other two with his right hand, and drops them back on the table in new positions. He repeats this scheme a number of times. The onlooker has to bet the position of the card which is alone in it suit (i.e. the queen). 2. Some always seems to be winning; this person is the accomplice or shill, working alongside the dealer with the intention of luring unsuspecting marks. 3. Additional accomplices will include the look-out, who watches for the cops and signals their approach so that the game can be folded up quickly; the roper, who seeks out the marks; and the muscle man, who takes care of anyone who tries to complain.

     The Sting: 4. The mark is persuaded to join the game. He never wins. 5. The dealer holds two cards in his right hand. The upper card is held between the thumb and forefinger and the lower card is held between thumb and middle finger, with a small gap between both cards. According to common sense, the dealer should drop the lower card first, but his forefinger surreptitiously ejects the upper card first, which causes the mark to lose track of the right card (the queen). This is especially difficult to see if the dealer's hand makes a sweeping move from his left side to his right side while he drops the cards….

Joel Levy, The Scam Handbook, 2004    

The JonBenet Ramsey Investigation Bungled By Hacks

     ….The Boulder police union's contract requires that police officers regularly and frequently rotate through the various units--traffic, patrol, and investigations--rather than developing extensive experience in a particular area. Thus, Boulder police rotate in and out of detective duty, which is highly desirable for the officers because they don't have to work weekends or wear uniforms, but also means that relatively untrained detectives have to handle criminal cases. This is a major difference from employment contracts in other Colorado cities.

     Imagine how we [John and Patsy Ramsey] felt when we learned that an officer who had only been a detective for several months was one of the major police investigators on the case.

     Our friends began telling us that the Boulder police detectives were contacting them and saying things like, "The Ramseys think you may have something to do with the death of their daughter. Would you like to tell us anything about the Ramseys?" A standard interrogation technique. Bias the witness against a suspect and let them spill their guts out. We also heard the police made comments like, "The Ramseys refuse to talk with us. Will you help us?"

John and Patsy Ramsey, The Death of Innocence, 2000

Thornton P. Knowles On The Execution Of Someone He Knew In High School

A guy in my high school class was so small we nicknamed him Elf. Elf didn't have many friends because nobody liked him. Barely over five feet tall, Elf tried to join the Army. They turned him down because of his height. A couple of years later, three men in a bar made fun of Elf. Elf pulled a gun and shot all three of them. He was tried and convicted of three counts of first-degree murder. This was back when West Virginia still had the death penalty. When it came time for the execution, the electric chair operator had to make adjustments for Elf. You know, adjust the straps, build a platform for his feet, adjust the flow of juice, things of that nature. Still, when the executioner threw the switch, the little guy burst into flames. It was not a pretty sight, for sure. In fact, one of the death chamber observers, quoted in the paper, said that Elf, perched on Old Sparky, looked like a kid sitting on a throne. Another execution witness opined that extremely short people like Elf should be spared the electric chair. I believe, however, that if you are tall enough to kill three people, you are tall enough to be electrocuted. As I say, nobody in high school liked the guy, and West Virginia no longer has the death penalty. I hope I wasn't the kid who nicknamed him Elf.

Thornton P. Knowles 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Team Stomping and Kicking

     California University of Pennsylvania, one of 14 schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Learning, sits on 290 acres in California Borough 35 miles south of downtown Pittsburgh. A good number of its 8,600 students come from southwestern Pennsylvania.

     Shortly after midnight on Thursday October 30, 2014, California University student Shareese Asparagus, a 22-year-old from West Chester, Pennsylvania, walked out of a restaurant on Wood Street in the college town. She was with her 30-year-old boyfriend, Lewis Campbell, also from West Chester. He did not attend California U.

     The trouble started outside the restaurant when a California University football player, accompanied by four of his teammates, said something to the young woman that offended her. This led to an exchange of angry words that prompted Lewis Campbell to step in to defend his girlfriend.

     The football players reacted to the situation by punching and kicking Mr. Campbell to the pavement. As he lay injured on the ground, the assailants kicked and stomped him into unconsciousness. As the teammates strolled away from their battered victim, they chanted, "football strong!"

     As paramedics loaded Mr. Campbell into a medical helicopter, they noticed a shoe print on his face. Emergency personnel flew the unconscious man to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh where physicians determined that the lower part of Mr. Campbell's brain had shifted 80 degrees. The beating had caused the victim serious brain damage.

     Later on the day of the gang assault in front of the off-campus restaurant, as Mr. Campbell lay in the intensive care unit, police officers showed up at football practice armed with arrest warrants for five California University players. Taken into custody that afternoon were: James Williamson, 20, from Parkville, Maryland; Corey Ford, 22, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Jonathan Jacoma Barlow, 21, from the East Liberty section of Pittsburgh; Rodney Gillin, 20, from West Lawn, Pennsylvania; and D'Andre Dunkley, 19, from Philadelphia.

     Police officers booked the five college football players into the Washington County Correctional Facility on charges of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, harassment, and conspiracy. The judge set each man's bail at $500,000.

     On Friday October 31, 2014, interim California University President Geraldine M. Jones issued the following statement: "California University does not tolerate violent behavior, and the five student-athletes charged in connection with this incident [incident?] will face university sanctions, along with any penalties imposed by law. The police investigation is continuing and the rights of these accused will be upheld. But in light of these allegations, I asked Coach Keller to cancel Saturday's game [with Gannon University]. Behavior has consequences, and all Cal U students, including student-athletes, must abide by our Student Code of Conduct if they wish to remain a part of our campus community. [Aggravated assault hardly falls into the category of a college code of conduct violation.] At the same time, it must be clearly understood that the actions [crimes] of a small group of individuals are not representative of our entire student body, nor of all Cal U student-athletes. [Then what do these "actions" represent?] I ask our entire campus community to recommit to our university's core values, and to demonstrate through their words and their actions the best that our university can be."

     Good heavens, what a mealy-mouthed public relations department response to a vicious attack worthy of a violent street gang. Where is the outrage in this statement?

     The charges against James Williamson were dropped after surveillance footage revealed that he had not participated in the beating. In response, Williamson filed a lawsuit against the district attorney, the police and the borough.

     Corey Ford, on June 7, 2016, pleaded no contest to assault. He received, in return, a sentence of one to two years in prison. (Ford had earlier pleaded guilty to a hit-and-run that killed a bicyclist in Washington, D.C. In that case the judge had sentenced him to 36 months in federal prison.)

     In July 2016, Rodney Gillin and D'Andre Dunkley, in return for their guilty pleas, received sentences of probation.