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Sunday, June 30, 2019

A Manslaughter Indictment And The Politics Of Abortion

     On December 4, 2018, an argument broke out in Pleasant Grove, Alabama outside of a Dollar General store between 27-year-old Marshae Jones and Ebony Jamison, 23. The women were fighting over the man who had impregnated Marshae Jones. During the course of the fight, Jamison shot the five-month pregnant Jones in the stomach.

     Marshae Jones survived the shooting but lost her unborn child.

     A Jefferson County prosecutor presented a grand jury with a manslaughter case against Jamison, the woman who had shot the pregnant woman in the stomach. In what, at least on the surface, appeared to be an unusual ruling, the grand jurors declined to indict the shooter on grounds of self defense. (When one of the combatants has a gun and uses it on the unarmed opponent, the armed person usually loses the self defense argument.)

     On June 26, 2019, a Jefferson County grand jury took the unusual step of indicting Marshae Jones, the wounded pregnant woman, of manslaughter for initiating the fight that caused the death of her unborn child.

    Abortion proponents, who do not believe the killing of a fetus should be treated as a criminal homicide, protested Jones' indictment on that ground alone. Had the shooter, Ebony Jamison been indicted, the pro-abortion people would have been unhappy with that decision as well.

    For obvious reasons, we have not heard the last of this unusual case.

John McCarthy: Professor of Math or Meth?

     In high school, I had a French teacher who came unglued in front of her students. She had been acting strangely for weeks, but nobody had reported her. School officials eventually had to haul the disturbed teacher out of the classroom. We never saw her again. I found this quite tragic because she had been an easy-grader. Her replacement was a monster who flunked half the class.

     During my college years I encountered a couple of oddball professors, but witnessed nothing that compares to what Michigan State University students experienced on October 1, 2012 when math professor John McCarthy went off the deep end.

     Professor McCarthy, described by his students as an eccentric who smoked meth, taught in MSU's Engineering Building. Just before one o'clock on the day his students will never forget, he started shouting in class. The professor pressed his hands and his face against a window, and stated to scream at the top of his lungs. (I was a college professor for thirty years, and while I occasionally lost my temper, I never had the urge to scream into window glass.) The out of control professor walked out of the classroom and continued to make a lot of noise as he paced up and down the hallway. At this point someone called 911.

     Professor McCarthy returned to the classroom, and with his terrified students looking on, took off his clothes except for his socks. (Not a good look under any circumstances.) He then ran naked about the room screaming, "There is no f-ing God," and ranting about computers, Steve Jobs, and that everything in life was just an act. (Except, of course, his breakdown.) Traumatized students were fleeing the classroom.

     Fifteen minutes after the 911 call, a period of time that seemed to the students like an eternity, police officers entered the classroom, placed the screaming, naked man into handcuffs, and hauled him off to a local hospital for observation. His students, for the remainder of the semester, were reassigned to other math classes.

     In an email to his former students, Professor McCarthy, after being discharged from the hospital, wrote: "The incident that occurred Monday was unfortunate." (What ever happened to: "I made a fool of myself, scared the hell out of you, and I'm sorry?") "Although I do not remember what happened, I have been told that I may have caused distress among my students in Monday's class. For that I am sorry." (May have caused distress?)

     Professor John McCarthy was not charged with a crime. While he was probably tenured, the professor must have had a hard time justifying his meth-indiced antics as an exercise in academic freedom. Still, in academia, bizarre behavior is tolerated that anywhere else would be frowned upon and cause for dismissal. If the professor lost his job over this incident, there is no mention of it on the Internet. Assuming he kept his position at MSU, how did he muster the nerve to show his face on campus after that? 

Charles Manson's I.Q.

Charles Manson scored 109 on one prison I.Q. test, when he was 16, and 121 on another a few years later. The first result is slightly above average; the second is said to be in the "high normal" range. Jeff Guinn [the author of The Life and Times of Charles Manson] doesn't identify which tests were given. Was Manson brilliant, as some have claimed? Probably not. He cobbled together his pseudo-philosophy by studying Dale Carnegie and L. Ron Hubbard. He had no sense of how to adjust his conduct, grooming habits or conversation when dealing with the Hollywood producers who might have helped him realize his absolute goal: to become a rock star more famous than the Beatles. He had no clue how to self-censor, shooting himself in the foot over and over. Even so, he proved to be spellbinding to the vulnerable.

Ann Rule in reviewing Jeff Guinn's 2013 book for The New York Times Book Review

Mass Murder/Suicide In Czech Republic

     A man armed with a gun killed eight people at a restaurant in the town of Uhersky Brod in the eastern Czech Republic near Zlin…The shooter then killed himself…Authorities didn't know the identify or motivation of the assailant. However, they do not believe the incident was terror related…

     The attacker was a local man in his 60s…He rushed into the restaurant just after noon on February 24, 2015 and fired multiple times before using the gun to kill himself…Two other people were wounded in the shooting. Uhersky Bond, a town of 50,000, is located near the border with Slovakia.

"8 Killed In Czech Restaurant Shooting," CNN, February 24, 2015 

The Problem With the Fantasy Genre

     …Fantasy, I'm convinced, is the genre that's constantly waiting for you to let down your guard, and pull the rug from under your feet without any warning.

     On the face of it, I should have no problem with fantasy. I am, after all, a fan of science fiction, someone who grew up reading comic books filled with fantastic, amazing tales of people who can do things far outside the reach of mortal men, whether it's flying faster than speeding bullets or shambling through the world as an undead monster seemingly unable to remain six feet under. Surely superheroes and science fiction are fantasies? If I can accept them easily enough, why do I have such a problem with the fantasy genre?

     The trouble, I suspect, is in the world-building aspect of each genre. Superheroes, for the most part, exist in worlds that are intentionally meant to mirror our own, with the differences becoming part of the story and out in the open. The same applies to much of science fiction; although the far future may be filled with inventions and ideas that don't exist in our world. They too have to be specifically mentioned in order for them to exist and matter. There's a sense that forewarned is forearmed.

     In fantasy, I can assume that all bets are off. Fantasy stories tend to take place in worlds that are like ours, but not ours, where countries have different names, and magic--something that purposefully defies categorization, and thus threatens deus ex machina twists and resolutions--is witnessed and wielded without a shrug. As much as I appreciate imagination, there's something about fantasy that feels too far removed from the world in which I live….

Graeme McMillan, "Fantasy Genre," entertainment.time.com, April 5, 2013 

J. Edgar Hoover: The Man, The Myth

     My interest in J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI is both scholarly and personal. I became an FBI agent in June 1966 and left the bureau--on good terms--in November 1971. Eight months after I mustered out, J. Edgar Hoover died. Since his death in May 1972, other than late-night jokes alluding to his cross-dressing--an unfounded rumor injected into mass culture by a hack-written book--serious interest in the FBI's fourth director (1924-1972) faded.  Hoover briefly came back into cultural news in 2011 with the release of  "J. Edgar," a big-budget film directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Leonardo Di Caprio as Director Hoover. While the film covered Hoover's career from the gangster era through the Lindbergh kidnapping case, the McCarthy witch-hunt, and the cold-war spy v. spy period, the real buzz concerned the film's depiction of Hoover as a closet gay.

     Over the years I have written pieces, mostly critical, about Hoover and the FBI. I have been particularly critical of the FBI Crime Lab. However, regarding the director and his views of militaristic law enforcement, I wrote the following in my book, SWAT Madness:

     "FBI agents in the Hoover era dressed like businessmen. Hoover would have considered the now common FBI lettered jackets, ball caps, and quasi-military wear unprofessional. If agents needed more firepower [agents didn't carry guns until 1936] for a high-risk arrest or raid, they called on the local police for assistance. But his was rare. Most of the time FBI agents used patience, stealth, intelligence, and timing to arrest fugitives believed to be armed and dangerous. During Hoover's tenure, only a handful of agents lost their lives on duty, and very few civilians died at the hands of his agents. Although Director Hoover had his faults and excesses, he did not believe in a national police force, and he did not want his beloved agency over militarized. He preferred the image of the professional, scientific criminal investigator to the crime-fighting warrior. Today, the FBI has at least 56 SWAT teams attached to its field offices around the country. Mr. Hoover must be turning in his grave."

Thornton P. Knowles On Noir Detective Fiction

This excerpt from Charles Bukowski's novel, Pulp illustrates noir fiction at its best: "Killed four flies while waiting. Damn, death was everywhere. Man, bird, beast, reptile, rodent, insect, fish didn't have a chance. The fix was in. I didn't know what to do about it. I got depressed. You know, I see a box boy at the supermarket, he's packing my groceries, then I see him sticking himself into his own grave along with the toilet paper, the beer and the chicken breasts." There is something about noir writing that is so--and this sounds strange--up lifting!

Thornton P. Knowles

Saturday, June 29, 2019

P.J. Williams and the Florida State University Football Hit-And-Run Case

     At two-forty in the morning of October 5, 2014, in Tallahassee, Florida, Florida State University cornerback P.J. Williams and two passengers in his Buick Century drove into the path of an oncoming Honda CR-V driven by 18-year-old Ian Keith. Keith was returning home from his job at a nearby Olive Garden. Williams and his friends, one of whom was a teammate, had been celebrating the previous afternoon's football victory.

     Both vehicles in the accident were totaled. Keith's Honda sat in the street leaking fluid with its front end crumpled amid auto part debris. Bruised and cut from his deployed airbag, the teen climbed out of his car and waited for the police.

     P.J. Williams, the 21-year-old football star who had been named the most valuable defense player in last season's national championship game, fled the scene on foot with his friends. The accident had clearly been his fault, and he had been driving on a suspended license. He had also been drinking.

     Officiers with the Tallahassee Police Department responded to the scene. They asked Ian Keith where the occupant or occupants of the other vehicle had gone. Keith said the three men in the Buick had run off. A check of the Buick's license plate revealed it was registered to P.J. William's grandmother in Ocala, Florida.

     Twenty minutes after fleeing the accident scene, Williams returned with several friends and teammates. He apologized to the officers for leaving the scene of an accident, explaining that he "had a lot on the line." As the local football star rambled on incoherently, a female friend told him to stop talking. "You sound like you've been drinking," she said.

     The Tallahassee officers did not give Williams a field sobriety test or even ask him if he had been drinking or using drugs. Instead, they called two ranking officers with FSU security (no doubt ex-cops) and the director of the athletic department. Because the accident was off-campus, the security officers had no jurisdiction in the case and no business being there.

     At three-thirty that morning, the director of football player development came to the scene and drove Williams home. Ian Keith rode home in a tow truck.

     The FSU campus police officials did not write up a report on the accident. The Tallahassee officers, without conducting an investigation, submitted a report stating there was no evidence of alcohol or drug use associated with the accident. The crash involving the football star went unreported in the local media.

     Rather than being charged with hit-and-run, the police issued Williams a ticket for making an improper left turn and a ticket for driving on a suspended license. His fines totaled $392. Had Williams not been a Florida football star, the officers would have placed him in handcuffs and hauled him off to jail where he would have been tested for alcohol and drugs. He would have been charged with hit-and-run, driving under the influence, and driving without a license. He would have been in big trouble.

     Two days after the accident, Williams paid $296 in overdue fines related to an earlier speeding ticket. I wonder who gave him the money for that.

     In the American criminal justice system, we are not all treated equally under the law. That's just how it is and the way it has always been.

The Serial Arsonist

     Robbers and thieves commit their crimes for financial gain. Arsonists, on the other hand, set fires for a variety of reasons. As a result, motive and criminal profiling is an important lead in arson investigations. Regarding motive, unlawful fire setters generally fall into one of two categories: rational and irrational. The rational arsonists can be put into two groups: people who set fires for direct gain, and those who do it for indirect benefit or gain. Direct gain arsonists torch their homes, cars, and businesses for the insurance money. (January is usually a busy month for these people.) The indirect gain fire is set, for example, as retaliation, revenge, competitor elimination, or to cover-up another crime such as homicide. People who set fires for reasons that make sense are usually not repeat offenders. If they do repeat their crimes, it's rarely more than twice.

     Arsonists who are irrationally or pathologically motivated are almost always young men. They are powerless losers who are mad at the world. They set fires to get even with society, to experience feelings of power, to play the role of hero, and in a small percentage of cases, for sexual gratification. Many of them have had problems at school, with their parents and with the police. Some are mildly retarded, others have mental health problems. Older pathological fire setters often have drug and/or alcohol addictions.

     Because the vast majority of serial arsonists are pathological fire setters who have no regard for human life, they are the most dangerous. Unlike rational fire setters, they tend to hang around the fire scenes soaking up the excitement they have created. When taken into custody, they should be interrogated by arson investigators trained and experienced in questioning this type of suspect. For the pathological arsonist, the bigger the fire the bigger the rush. Serial arsonists have been known to set several fires in one night.
   

High School Teacher Gets Probation For Sex With Student

     On January 7, 2015 former high school teacher Kinsley Wentzky was sentenced to probation for a fling she had with a 17-year-old male high school student. Wentzky, an honors English teacher at Dreher High School in Columbia, South Carolina, was charged in January 2013 with sexual battery for dalliances with two students in her home. The ex-teacher pleaded guilty to a single charge of unforced, non-coerced sexual battery with a student…The judge sentenced her to five years in prison, but immediately commuted that sentence to a much more lenient three years of probation…

     Wentzky was married when she had sex with the students and when the affairs came to light…She had taught at the school seven years...

     The age of consent in South Carolina is 16. However, in 2010, the state passed a law making it a crime for teachers and other people in positions of authority from having sex with any of their charges under the age of 18. [Why do so many of these cases involve English teachers?]

"High School Teacher Gets Probation," The Daily Caller, January 8, 2015 

Writer Biographies

It is no accident that the popularity of literary biography has increased most notably in the past century and a half, a period which has also been marked by a growing sense that the artist as a person is detached from society, indeed a special kind of person quite apart from the common run of men.

Richard D. Altick, Lives and Letters, 1965 

Assailants Who Assault With Acid

     In December 2012, a female employee of a company in Gotemba, Japan, a city 120 miles southwest of Tokyo, burned her feet in acid that had been poured into her shoes. The victim worked in a laboratory that produced carbon-fiber products. (In Japan it is customary for employees to remove their shoes when entering controlled areas.)

     The victim's feet were severely burned by hydrofluoric acid, a highly corrosive chemical. After gangrene settled into the assault victim's left foot, doctors had to remove the tips of five of her toes.

     On March 28, 2013, a prosecutor in Gotelmba charged Tatsujiro Fukazawa with attempted murder in the acid attack. The suspect worked in the laboratory with the victim. According to the police, Fukazawa had feelings for the woman who had rejected his romantic overtures. The acid planting was in revenge for that rejection. Although Fukazawa pleaded not guilty to the charges, he was convicted of the assault in 2015, and sentenced to seven years in prison.

     In 2013, two British girls were doused with acid while doing volunteer work in Zanzibar. Two years later, a South African teenage girl poured acid on her boyfriend's private parts. "I was just angry," she said "and all I wanted to do was to make him feel the pain I was feeling."

     According to the Acid Survivors Trust International, 1,500 people are attacked with acid every year. In addition to Japan, India has a long history of horrific acid attacks against women. In Afghanistan, Islamist extremists have thrown acid on girls' faces to scare them away from attending school.

    Anyone familiar with the annals of crime is aware that the ways people have found to be cruel to each other, to inflict pain and suffering, has no limit. 

Thornton P. Knowles On The Art Of Boredom

So-called "Literary" novelists avoid great plots and exciting, dramatic storytelling because these pretentious, showoff writers associate such qualities with genre fiction. Moreover, writing a novel a reader can't put down takes a degree of literary talent "literary" writers do not possess.  Essentially, "literary" novelists practice the art of boredom. Their books are not written to be read but to be possessed by readers trying to appear literarily sophisticated. The whole literary fiction game is really quite fraudulent.

Thornton P. Knowles

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Aaron Jackson Murder Case

     The ideal eyewitness is a person with excellent eyesight who is unbiased, honest, sober, and intelligent. Unfortunately, most eyewitnesses are not sober, intelligent, unbiased, honest, or sure of their identifications. Moreover, they can be bribed, misled, and intimidated. Eyewitness misidentification has caused thousands of wrongful convictions. In the 1930s, pioneers in the field of forensic science hoped that the scientific interpretation of physical clues--fingerprints, bullets, blood, and the like--would make this form of direct evidence unnecessary. That day hasn't come. Police and prosecutors still rely heavily on eyewitnesses, and often at their peril.

The Aaron Jackson Murder Case

     In 2001, police in Springfield, Illinois arrested Aaron "Chill" Jackson, a 36-year-old ex-con who had served 6 years in prison for armed robbery. Charged with the shooting death of 27-year-old Durrell Alexander, Jackson, a vicious and dangerous criminal, was held on $1 million bond. A pair of eyewitnesses said they had seen the defendant shoot Alexander in the chest and abdomen. A year later, just before the trial, the eyewitnesses took back their identifications. Without this testimony, the state's attorney in Sangamon County had no choice but to drop the case. Investigators believed that Jackson had threatened these witnesses.

     In Washington Park, Illinois on April 1, 2010, at 5:47 in the morning, a passenger in John Thornton's 1998 Buick Regal shot him three times in the chest, causing the car to crash. John Thornton, the mayor of Washington Park, had been cracking down on local crime. Two women who saw the 52-year-old's car go off the road, told a detective they had seen Aaron Jackson climb out of the wrecked Buick and limp to a vehicle waiting nearby. Police arrested Jackson that day.

     The state's attorney, in addition to the eyewitnesses, Nortisha Ball and Gilda Lott, could link the suspect to the scene of the shooting in three ways: a latent fingerprint on the Buick's outside rear passenger door; a trace of his blood on the passenger's side deployed airbag; and a speck of the victim's blood on the suspect's left pant pocket. While this last piece of physical evidence was too small for a complete DNA profile, the state DNA analyst determined that the suspect was among a small population of black people--one in 4,200--who could not be eliminated as the donor of the blood speck.

     In October 2010, the Jackson trial blew up in the prosecutor's face when one of the eyewitnesses, Nortisha Ball, testified that a police detective named Kim McAfee, who had since been convicted in federal court of 39 white collar felonies, had forced her to pick Jackson's mugshot out of a photograph line-up. Another witness, Lequisha Jackson (no relation to the defendant) testified that Detective McAfee had offered her money to testify that he had not been at the scene of the shooting. (Apparently McAfee had initially been a suspect himself in the Thornton murder case.) The judge declared a mistrial.

     On April 12, 2012, Jackson's second murder trial got underway. The prosecutor, Steve Sallerson, put eyewitness Nortisha Ball back on the stand. Now serving time on a burglary conviction, the 23-year-old had led the prosecutor to believe she would identify the defendant as the man she had seen limping from Thornton's Buick after it had crashed. Instead, she threw him a curve ball by testifying she did not get a good look because it was dark that morning. Moreover, she was 150 yards away from the car, and was under the influence of alcohol and drugs. On cross-examination, defense attorney Thomas Q. Keefe III got Ball to say that Detective McAfee had forced her to pick the defendant's photograph out of the spread of mugshots.

     Nortisha Ball, perhaps under threat from the defendant, became a prosecutor's worst courtroom nightmare. The other eyewitness, Gilda Lott, a witness with a history of drug related convictions, wasn't much better. She contradicted herself, acted confused, then broke down on the stand. The judge had to threaten her with contempt of court to get her to respond to the prosecutor's questions. At best, as a prosecution witness, Gilda Lott was useless. It seemed the defendant had gotten to her as well.

     While the two eyewitnesses were a complete prosecution disaster, the state DNA analyst, Jay Winters, identified the blood spot on the airbag as the defendant's. Using a more sophisticated DNA analysis on the speck of blood found on Jackson's trousers, Winters placed the defendant in a one in 46,000 population of black people who could not be excluded as the donor of this crime scene evidence.

     State fingerprint examiner Melissa Gamboe testified that the latent print on the rear passenger door of the mayor's Buick had been left by the defendant. 
     On April 27, 2012, the St. Clair County jury took just 5 hours to find Aaron Jackson guilty of murder. The judge, on August 27, 2012, sentenced Jackson to 35 years in prison. 
     The Jackson case is a good example of the value of physical evidence over eyewitness testimony. Because most jurors have seen TV shows like "CSI," they tend to have faith in forensic science and forensic scientists. 

Learning to Write on Your Own

Not too long ago, the concept of studying in a "creative writing program" was unheard of. If you wanted to be a writer, then you became an avid reader and a citizen of the world, learning about life through travel and personal experience until you knew enough to write an essay, short story, or poem that said something. In college, you majored in English literature, philosophy, or history-areas of concentration that would introduce the best books and the most influential thinkers.

Lee Gutkind, The Art of Creative Nonfiction, 1997

Don't Take Your Gun Into The Police Interrogation Room

     Detective Eric Smith, a twenty-year veteran of the Jackson, Mississippi Police Department was assigned to the Robbery-Homicide Bureau. On Thursday, April 5, 2013, Detective Smith was in the third-floor police interrogation room questioning a 23-year-old murder suspect named Jeremy Powell. Detectives suspected Powell of the stabbing death of a man named Christopher Alexander.The suspect wasn't officially under arrest.

     At six o'clock that evening, during the station-house interrogation, the murder suspect attacked the detective. As they struggled, Jeremy Powell got control of the officer's sidearm, a 9 mm pistol. With that gun, Smith shot the detective four times. After killing the police officer, Powell took his own life by shooting himself in the head with Detective Smith's gun.

     Ken Winter, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Chiefs of Police Association, told an Associated Press reporter that it's not unusual for police officers to wear their guns in police department interrogation rooms. But according to Fred E. Inbau, the world renowned authority on criminal interrogation, that should not be the case. In his classic text, Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, Mr. Inbau wrote that when interrogating a suspect in the police station, "Do not be armed. The interrogator should face the suspect as 'man-to-man' and not be police officer-to-prisoner. Another reason for not being armed is the fact that in close quarters the suspect, if so inclined, might be able to seize the interrogator's weapon for use on the interrogator or others...."

     Keeping guns out of the interrogation room was the rule years ago when I went through the FBI Academy. If it's not standard operating procedure to follow that precaution, police supervisors should enforce Fred Inbau's rule. In this case, the enforcement of that simple prohibition would have saved two lives. 

Books on John F. Kennedy

     Bad books by celebrity authors shouldn't surprise us, even when the subject is an American president. The true mystery in Kennedy's case is why, 56 years after his death, highly accomplished writers seen unable to fix him on the page.

     For some, the trouble has been idolatry. Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who wrote three magisterial volumes on Franklin Roosevelt and the new deal, attempted a similar history in A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in The White House. Published in 1965, it has the virtues of immediacy, since Schlesinger, Kennedy's Harvard contemporary, had been on the White House staff, brought in as court historian. He witnessed many of the events he describes. But in his admiration for Kennedy, he became the chief architect of the Camelot myth and so failed, in the end, to give a persuasive account of the actual presidency.

     In 1993, the political journalist Richard Reeves did better. President Kennedy: Profile of Power is a minutely detailed chronicle of the Kennedy White House. As a primer on Kennedy's decision-making, like his handling of the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban missile crisis, the book is fascinating. What's missing is a picture of Kennedy's personal life, though Reeves includes a passing mention of Marilyn Monroe being sewn into the $5,000 flesh-colored, skintight dress she wore to celebrate the president's birthday at Madison Square Garden in 1962….

     Balancing out, or warring with, the Kennedy claque are the Kennedy haters, like Seymour M. Hersh and Garry Wills. In The Dark Side of Camelot, Hersh wildly posits connections between the Kennedys and the mob, while Wills, through he offers any number of brilliant insights into Kennedy and his circle of courtiers, fixates on the Kennedy brothers' (and father's) sexual escapades in The Kennedy Imprisonment.

     The sum total of this oddly polarized literature is a kind of void. Other presidents, good and bad, have been served well by biographers and historians. We have first-rate books on Jefferson on Lincoln, on Wilson, on both Roosevelts. Even unloved presidents have received major books: Johnson (Caro) and Richard Nixon (Wills, among others). Kennedy, the odd man out, still seeks his true biographer.

Jill Abramson, "The Elusive President," The New York Times Book Review, October 27, 2013

Memoirs About Mental Illness

The memoirs of the mentally ill are full of confused action, failed promise, and grinding pain; they do not tend to make good narratives.

Dr. Alice W. Flaherty, The Midnight Disease, 2004 

Charles Manson Follower Bruce Davis

     On August 8, 2014, California governor Jerry Brown reversed a parole board and denied the release of a former Charles Manson follower who served more than 43 years in prison. It was the third time a California governor denied the release of Bruce Davis 71, a member of the murderous Manson Family convicted in the 1969 slayings of musician Gary Hinman and stuntman Donald "Shorty" Shea.

     In March 2014, the parole board once again found that Davis was suitable for parole based on his age, conduct in prison--he became a born-again Christian, earned a doctoral degree in philosophy of religion, ministers to other inmates--and other factors. The governor lauded Davis for his efforts to improve himself. However, he wrote his his five-page decision that the evidence shows that Davis "currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison." [In reality, Davis posed an unreasonable danger to Brown's political future if released. I'm not saying this man should be released. But asserting that he's still dangerous is ridiculous. He shouldn't be released because of what he did. In 2017, Davis was denied parole for the fifth time.]

"California Governor Denies Manson Follower Parole," Associated Press, August 9,  2014 

Thornton P. Knowles On Charles Bukowski's One Sentence Chapter

Chapter 10 of Charles Bukowski's novel, Pulp, reads: "Skip the rest of the day and night here, no action, it's not worth talking about. If Bukowski had been a "literary" novelist, that chapter would have been 10,000 rather than sixteen words.

Thornton P. Knowles

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Brenda Delgado Murder-For-Hire Case

     At quarter to eight on the night of Wednesday, September 2, 2015, 35-year-old dentist, Dr. Kendra Hatcher, parked her car in the garage of her upscale Dallas, Texas apartment complex. As Dr. Hatcher did so, a man hiding in the back seat of a Jeep Cherokee driven by a woman, jumped out of the vehicle and approached her. It was at that moment the assailant shot the dentist one time with a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol, killing the victim on the spot. After stealing two of Dr. Hatcher's purses, the shooter climbed back into the Jeep and was driven off by his driver.

     On Friday, September 4, 2015, detectives with the Dallas Police Department arrested 23-year-old Crystal Cortes on suspicion that she had been the person behind the wheel of the Jeep Cherokee. Cortes, during her interrogation, confessed to her role in the robbery-murder. She also identified the shooter as 31-year-old Kristopher Love.

      After a week or so into the Hatcher murder investigation, detectives came to believe that robbery had not been the motive behind the killing. The officers suspected the slaying had been the culmination of a murder-for-hire plot orchestrated by a 33-year-old dental hygiene student at Stanford-Brown College named Brenda Delgado.

     Two months before the murder, Delgado, a Mexican citizen, and her boyfriend, 38-year-old dermatologist Dr. Ricardo Panigua, had broken up following a two-year relationship. After the split, Dr. Panigua began dating Dr. Kendra Hatcher. Detectives suspected that Delgado had the dentist murdered out of jealousy and rage.

     When questioned by investigators, the murder-for-hire suspect admitted lending Crystal Cortes the Jeep Cherokee, and meeting with Cortes and the suspected hit man, Kristopher Love. She met with the murder suspects at a Dallas apartment complex a few days before the killing. Delgado, however, denied being the mastermind behind a plot to have her ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend murdered. That, she claimed, had been Love's idea.

     On September 11, 2015, a Dallas County prosecutor charged Crystal Cortes with capital murder. Police officers booked her into the Dallas County Jail under $500,000 bond. Cortes' attorney, George Ashford III, told reporters that his client, before what she believed was just going to be a robbery, had tried to call and warn Dr. Hatcher of the hold-up plot. The lawyer said that after the killing, Mr. Love had threatened to kill Cortes' 6-year-old son if she went to the authorities.

     According to Cortes, Brenda Delgado had promised her and the hit man free prescription drugs if they robbed Dr. Hatcher. Also, Delgado had allegedly paid Cortes $500 to drive Kristopher Love to the robbery scene. Just before Love climbed out of the Jeep in the victim's parking garage, Cortes asked him how much money Delgado had paid him to commit the robbery. Love replied, "That's none of your business."

     On October 3, 2015, Dallas detectives arrested Kristopher Love on suspicion of capital murder. At the time he was taken into custody, Love was still in possession of the murder weapon. A magistrate set his bail at $2.5 million. In Texas, a capital murder conviction can lead to the death penalty.

     About the time Kristopher Love was arrested, a Dallas County prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for Brenda Delgado. At that time, the murder-for-hire suspect's whereabouts were unknown.

     In speaking to reporters regarding Delgado, Major Max Geron of the Dallas Police Department, said: "Ms. Delgado was involved in the planning and the commission of Kendra Hatcher's murder."

     On April 7, 2016, a spokesperson with the FBI announced that murder-for-hire fugitive Brenda Delgado had been placed on the bureau's "Ten Most Wanted" list. A day later, the authorities in Torreon, Mexico took the fugitive into custody.

     In October 2018, a jury sitting in Dallas, Texas found Kristopher Love guilty of murder. The judge sentenced the hitman to death.

    Before Delgado could be extradited back to Texas, the U.S. prosecutor would have to agree not to pursue the death penalty against the suspect. According to the Mexican authorities in charge of the case, it could take up to a year to complete the extradition process.

     On June 7, 2019, a jury in Dallas, Texas, after deliberating only twenty minutes, found Brenda Delgado guilty of the plot to murder Dr. Kendra Hatcher. The judge sentenced her to life in prison.

Jack Abbott On His Prison Life

I know how to live through anything they could possibly dish up for me. I've been subjected to strip-cells, blackout cells, been chained to the floor and wall; I've lived through the beatings, of course; every drug science has invented to "modify" my behavior--I have endured. Starvation was once natural to me; I have no qualms about eating insects in my cell or living in my body wastes if it means survival. They've even armed psychopaths and put them in punishment cells with me to kill me, but I can control that. When they say "what doesn't destroy me makes me stronger," that is what they mean. But it's a mistake to equate the results with being strong. I'm extremely flexible, but I'm not strong. I'm weakened, in fact. I'm tenuous, shy, introspective, and suspicious of everyone. A loud noise or a false movement registers like a four-alarm fire in me. But I am not afraid--and that is strange, because I care very much about someday being set free. I want to cry when I think that I'll never be free. I want to cry for my brothers I've spent a lifetime with. Someday I will leave them and never return. [After the publication of his prison memoir, Abbott was paroled. Not long after he got out, this psychopathic time-bomb murdered a waiter in New York City. So Abbott did leave his prison brothers for awhile, but he came back to them after a short period of freedom. Assuming that his prison memoir is true to the facts, Abbott, though his violent behavior, invited the institutional violence directed against him. He couldn't live without violence in prison or out.]

Jack Henry Abbott, In The Belly of the Beast, 1981  

Lapdog Journalism

I think the principal problem with the establishment press, at least in terms of political journalism, has been excess deference to, and closeness with, the most powerful political factions, precincts over which journalism is, at its best, supposed to exercise oversight and serve as a watchdog. Instead it serves as a kind of amplifying mechanism and as a servant to them.

Glenn Greenwald [The Guardian journalist who published surveillance stories leaked by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden.] Quoted in The Daily Caller, December 7, 2013 

The First Date From Hell

     Efren Molina experienced a smaller scale but real-life version of what Clint Eastwood and Michael Douglas went through in the classic thrillers, "Play Misty For Me" (1971), and "Fatal Attraction" (1987). In both films, Eastwood and Douglas scored quickly with women they didn't know who turned out to be violent psychopaths extremely adverse to rejection.

     On Tuesday evening, November 20, 2012, 39-year-old Efren Molina, a week after meeting Jillian Martone, took the 35-year-old out to dinner in Boca Raton, Florida. It was their first date. Following food and drinks, the couple returned to Molina's apartment.

     Shortly after midnight, things turned ugly when Martone referred to herself as Molina's girlfriend. Taking exception to that characterization of their relationship, he corrected her. She flew into a rage. Molina asked his date to leave the apartment, but instead of stomping out of the place, Martone allegedly punched him in the face, then tried to stab him with a kitchen knife.

     After disarming the furious woman, Molina told Martone to leave his apartment. She refused. Molina and his roommate had to drag the screaming woman down the stairs and out of the building. Moline returned to his apartment and called the police.

     Before the police arrived at the scene, Martone threw two rocks that smashed Molina's apartment window. When officers with the Boca Raton arrived at the scene, they found a hysterical Martone still outside Molina's building.  After questioning Molina and Martone, the police took the woman into custody.

     Martone was charged with aggravated assault with intent to kill, battery, and burglary. (Why burglary? Once she refused to leave the apartment, Martone became an intruder.)

     This was not the first time Jillian Martone had run afoul of the law. In January 2011, she had been arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct and causing a public disturbance. Three months later, the police took her into custody on charges of DUI and possession of a harmful drug without a prescription.

     While first dates are risky, and don't always turn out well, not many end up with bloody faces, broken windows, and hysterical women being hauled off to jail on charges of aggravated assault. It could have been worse. Who knows what would have happened had there been a second date. (I have been unable to determine the disposition of this case, but will venture a guess that the criminal charges were dropped in exchange for some kind of mental health treatment.)   

Writing the Novel's Opening Line

My favorite struggling writer is the Billy Crystal character in the movie Throw Momma From the Train who spends much of the film trying to write the first line of the book that will free him from his crippling writer's block. "The night was," he writers over and over, never getting beyond those first three words. In the end, comic and harrowing events in his life cause him to throw away the line and just start writing. The lesson is, there is no magic opening line. The magic is what creates the line in the first place.

Loren D. Estleman, Writing the Popular Novel, 2004 

A World On Drugs

According to the 2019 World Drug Report, 35 million people worldwide suffer from some kind of drug abuse. Only one in seven receive any kind of drug treatment.

Charles Bukowski On Franklin D. Roosevelt

I liked Franky because of his programs for the poor during the depression. He had style too. I didn't think he really gave a damn about the poor but he was a great actor, great voice, and he had a great speech writer. But he wanted us in the war. It would put him into the history books. War presidents get more power and later, more pages.

Charles Bukowski, Ham On Rye

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Sheriff Larry Dever: A Sudden, Violent and Unexplained Death

     In 2008, the citizens of Cochise County elected Larry A. Dever to his fourth term as Sheriff of this southeastern region of Arizona adjacent the Mexican border. (Cochise County, with a population of 132,000, shares an 83.5 mile border with Mexico. Bisbee is the county seat.) Larry Dever resided in St. David with his wife, a retired special education administrator. He had grown up in the town of 1,700, and had helped raise a family there. Three of the sheriff's six sons worked in Arizona law enforcement. Sheriff Dever began his law enforcement career in 1976 as a Cochise County deputy sheriff. In Cochise County, Sheriff Dever was well-liked and respected as a law enforcement officer and member of the community.

     Because Cochise County had experienced crime and other social problems associated with the wave of illegal immigration from Mexico, Sheriff Dever, an authority of border enforcement, had testified before Congress, and had appeared numerous times on national television.  In 2011 and 2012, Sheriff Dever spoke out as a strong proponent of Arizona's new immigration law (SB 1070), and publicly criticized the Obama administration for under-enforcing current immigration laws. Dever believed that the federal government had intentionally lost control of the U.S./Mexican border.

     On September 18, 2012, less than two months before he would have been elected to his fifth term in office, Sheriff Dever was driving alone in his 2008 Chevrolet Silverado on a graveled U.S. Forest Service Road in the north central part of the state just west of Flagstaff. He was en route to White Horse Lake to participate in a two-day hunting and camping trip with his six sons.

     On that day, at 6:30 in the evening, a motorist called 911 to report a single vehicle accident on U.S. Forest Road 109 in Coconino County two miles north of White Horse Lake. The witness said he had been following the extended-cab Silverado, but lost sight of the pickup when it rounded a curve. When the witness rounded the bend, he saw a cloud of dust, and the truck off the road sitting in an upright position. The caller told the 911 dispatcher that the man in the vehicle showed no signs of life.

     Coconino County Sheriff's detective Jerome Moran, in his six-page accident report dated September 19, 2012, wrote: "The initial investigation indicates that [the] driver was traveling southbound on the dirt road when it lost control, veering off the lefthand side of the road then rolling over and crashing into the righthand (west) side. [The] driver was pronounced dead at the scene and later removed by the county medical examiner to the M.E. Office."

     In his accident report, Detective Moran indicated that the Siverado's airbags had not deployed. The detective also noted that Sheriff Dever had not been wearing his shoulder and lap belts. The report contained no information regarding the presence of alcohol in the vehicle, or the odor of beer or liquor in the cab of the truck.

     On October 1, 2012, a spokesperson for the Coconino Sheriff's Office reported that according to the Siverado's "black box," Sheriff Dever, at the time of the accident, had been traveling 62 MPH. Moreover, there had been containers of beer and liquor in the vehicle.

     The Cochise County Sheriff's Office, on October 5, 2012, issued a statement that Sheriff Dever, at the time of his death, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.291 percent, three times the legal limit (0.08) in Arizona. (A company in Indianapolis, Indiana called AIT Laboratories, performed the toxicological urine analysis in this case.) In the prepared press release, the sheriff's office informed the public that Sheriff Dever had been under "stress and pressure" due to the recent death of his 86-year-old mother, and the upcoming deployment of one of his sons to Afghanistan.

     Three days after the shocking revelation that Sheriff Larry Dever had been extremely intoxicated behind the wheel of his vehicle, the Coconino County Medical Examiner, Dr. A. L. Mosley, announced that the sheriff had died of "multiple injuries due to a pickup truck crash." Regarding the sheriff's manner of death, Dr. Mosley classified it as "accidental."

     A review of Dr. Mosley's six-page autopsy report revealed that Sheriff Dever had a dislocated shoulder, a rib fracture, a puncture lung, and abrasions, contusions, and lacerations on his face, hand, arm, and neck. There was no indication in the report of severe bleeding, or major trauma to Dever's head, neck or torso. In summarizing Sheriff Dever's cause and manner of death, Dr. Mosley, in my view, was quite vague: "Based on the autopsy findings and investigative history, as available to me, it is my opinion that Larry Albert Dever, a 60-year-old Caucasian male, died as a result of multiple injuries due to a pickup truck crash. [His] manner of death is accidental." (From this I presume that Dr. Mosley was not the pathologist who actually performed the autopsy.)

     "Multiple injuries?" Did Sheriff Dever die of a dislocated shoulder, a rib fracture, or a punctured lung? Surely the sheriff didn't die from his cuts, scrapes and bruises. He didn't bleed to death, or sustain brain damage, and he suffered no injury to his heart. How exactly, did this man die. Exactly what had killed him?

     On October 10, 2012, a freelance writer named Dave Gibson wrote an online article for the Immigration Reform Examiner called, "Sheriff Larry Dever's Autopsy Results in More Questions than Answers." In his piece, Gibson wrote that a man of the sheriff's size--175 pounds--to achieve a blood-alcohol percentage of 0.291, would have, during a short period, consumed 12 beers or 12 shots of 80 proof liquor. According to a longtime friend of the sheriff's who was interviewed by Gibson, Dever was a light drinker. Gibson also pointed out that the sheriff's 4-wheel drive truck had light damage from the accident.

     It seemed odd that a law enforcement officer who had been to the sites of dozens of fatal traffic accidents involving alcohol, would be speeding on a graveled road while extremely drunk and not wearing his seatbelt. It also didn't make much sense that Dever would be driven to such recklessness over the cancer death of his 86-year-old mother. If he had been so distraught over her death, why was he going on a camping/hunting trip with his sons?

     Suicide in this case even made less sense. Had Sheriff Dever wanted to kill himself in a way that looked like a traffic accident why did he get drunk and unfasten his seatbelt?

     Every year in the United States there are hundreds of sudden, violent deaths that, for one reason or another, are mislabeled in terms of their cause and manner of death. Perhaps Sheriff Dever's death was one of these cases. In any case, I think the circumstances surrounding this prominent law enforcement officer's sudden and poorly explained death deserved a closer look. 

Writing Quote: Charles Bukowski On Being A Professional Writer

I have to drink and gamble to get away from this typewriter. Not that I don't love this old machine when it's working right. But knowing when to go to it and knowing to stay away from it, that's the trick. I really don't want to be a professional writer, I wanna write what I wanna write. Else, it's all been wasted…So did Hemingway, until he started talking about "discipline"; Pound also talked about doing one's "work".  But I've been luckier than both of them because I've worked the factories and slaughterhouses and I know that work and discipline are dirty words. I know what they meant, but for me, it has to be a different game.

Charles Bukowski in Charles Bukowski: Selected Letters 1965-1970, edited by Seamus Cooney, 2004 

The Journalistic Legacy of Watergate

     Investigative reporting has taken on every aspect of American society--from government, politics, business and finance to education, social welfare, culture and sports--and has won the lion's share of each year's journalism prizes. No matter how unpopular the news media may sometimes be, there has been, ever since Watergate, an expectation that the press would hold accountable those with power and influence over the rest of us. As Jon Marshal wrote in 2011, Watergate "shaped the way investigative reporting is perceived and practiced and how political leaders and the public respond to journalists."

     Woodward and Bernstein's techniques were hardly original. But they became central to the ethos of investigative reporting: Become an expert on your subject. Knock on doors and talk to sources in person. Protect the confidentiality of sources when necessary. Never rely on a single source. Find documents. Follow the money. Pile one hard-won detail on top of another until a pattern becomes discernible.

Leonard Downie Jr., Washington Post, June 7, 2012 

Prison Health Care: Providing the Best For The Worst

     There is something profoundly wrong with a government that provides convicted felons with better health care than it does to many sick people who haven't committed crimes against their fellow citizens. Perhaps this is what happens when a criminal justice system is organized around the idea of protecting the defendant. In Massachusetts, for example, a judge ordered the state to finance the sex change of a man who had murdered his wife. If Robert Kosilek hadn't strangled his wife to death, taxpayers would not have been forced to pay the cost of changing him into a female.

     In 2005, a judge in California, after determining that prison health in that state was unconstitutionally substandard, granted a so-called "receiver" the power to hire state medical personnel and set their pay levels. In 2004, the prison health care bill cost California taxpayers $1.1 billion. In 2012, the cost of providing California inmates quality health care cost the state $2.3 billion. Between 2005 and 2012, the number of California prison system health care workers--doctors, nurses, dentists, physical therapists, and psychiatrists--jumped from 5,100 to 12,000. The system also employed 1,400 health care paper shufflers.

     In 2011, 44 of California's highest paid employees worked in the prison health care system. A psychiatrist who worked at the Salinas Valley State Prison, made $803,271 in 2012. (This shrink must  have been good.) A prison doctor in northern California made, in 2011, a base salary of $239,572 plus $169,548 in overtime for working nights and weekends. A registered nurse at the High Desert State Prison pulled down $246,000 that year. In bankrupt California, when it comes to health care, nothing is too good for the state's 124,700 state prison inmates. (These prison health care expenses don't cover the tens of thousands of county jail prisoners throughout the state.)

     Since 2006, heroin addicted inmates at Albuquerque's Metropolitan Detention Center, New Mexico's largest jail, have been treated with methadone to ease the trauma of withdrawal. Warden Ramon Rustin, in November 2012, announced that the $10,000-a-month program was too expensive, that the taxpayers of his county simply couldn't afford this in-jail drug treatment measure. Rustin, the former warden of the Allegheny County Jail in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with 32 years experience in the corrections field, said he didn't believe the costly program helped drug-addicted inmates stay out of jail once they were released.

     A month after Warden Rustin's effort to save the county serious money, the  county ccommissioners ordered him to extend the program two months during which time a study of its effectiveness would be conducted. (This is typical government. In the private sector, studies of cost-effectiveness are ongoing, and if a measure wastes money, it's immediately cut.) The county also received $200,000 a year from the state to help fund its methadone program.

     When a person commits a crime that is serious enough to land him in prison, any health care he or she receives while in custody should be treated as a privilege rather than a constitutional right. The rule should be this: If you want good health care, don't murder anyone, rob a store, break into a home, beat your wife and children, or commit a sexual assault. If good health is your priority, exercise, quit smoking, eat right, and stay off drugs and booze. Also, get a job. If you feel the need to switch genders while in prison, fine, but you don't deserve to have law obeying taxpayers foot the bill.

     In the United States, when it comes to health care, crime pays, and at the huge expense of the law obeying tax payer. (Here's an idea, if you get sick and need an expensive operation you can't afford, but don't want to rob a bank or kill someone, stop paying your taxes.)  

Executioners Got No Respect

Accounts of criminal trials published in old books and documents generally go into much deatil of the court proceedings. The judge's name, the lawyers' speeches, evidence given by the witnesses, even the prisoners' protestations, are covered in full. And when executions were held in public, news sheets described each one minutely, dwelling avidly on the victims's behavior, the crowd's reactions. Yet little if anything was said about the official presiding over the dreaded finale. He was referred to only as the "executioner," thereby implying that he was unworthy of further identification, except as an object of scorn.

Geoffrey Abbott, Lords of the Scaffold, 1991

Thornton P. Knowles On Political Movements

In politics and public policy, so-called "movements" start out with good intentions and noble ideas, are eventually taken over by radicals and zealots, then devolve into totally corrupt organizations that end up doing more harm than good. Beware of the movement.

Thornton P. Knowles

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Root Of All Evil: The Cynthia Hoffman Murder Case

     Just when you think that nothing new can roll down the true crime pike, a case comes along that breaks new ground in depravity, evil, and mind blowing stupidity. Once again you are reminded of how dangerous people can be, so-called ordinary folks you might rub shoulders with in your community. The bizarre murder scheme cooked up by a 21-year-old child pornographer from New Salisbury, Indiana exemplifies how an evil and depraved person can use a computer to connect with like minded people willing to help him victimize innocent, unsuspecting victims.

     In May 2019, Darin Schilmiller, using the name "Tyler" and the photograph of another man, hooked up online with Denali Dakota Skye Brehmer, an 18-year-old girl from Anchorage, Alaska. Schilmiller, claiming to be a multi-millionaire, offered Brehmer $9 million to "rape and murder someone in Alaska" and to "send him proof of the crimes in the form of "videos and photographs." Brehmer accepted his offer, and over a three week period, the two hatched a plan, via text messaging, that involved the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Brehmer's acquaintance, 19-year-old Cynthia "Cee Cee" Hoffman, a girl with a learning disability that put her mentally at the seventh-grade level. According to the plan, Brehmer and her accomplices would lure Hoffman into a wooded area where the victim would be raped and killed. Denali Brehmer had selected Hoffman because she was trusting and could be easily manipulated. Brehmer also promised to record the heinous crime on her cellphone and transmit the images to Schilmiller.

     To help her commit this atrocious act, and earn the $9 million reward, Denali Brehmer recruited 18-year-old Kayden Bryan McIntosh and Caleb Allen Russell Leyland who was only sixteen.

     On Sunday, June 2, 2019, Brehmer, McIntosh, Leyland, and the intended victim Cynthia Hoffman were in Caleb Leyland's car en route to a park in Chugiak, Alaska not far from Anchorage. After luring Hoffman to a remote spot off the Thunderbird Trail alongside the Eklutna River, Brehmer's accomplices subdued the victim and bound her hands and feet with duct tape. They also placed a strip of tape over Hoffman's mouth. While the victim was being bound, Brehmer, armed with a handgun, looked on.

     Just before the intended rape, Brehmer removed the tape from the victim's mouth at which time Hoffman threatened to go the police if her captors didn't immediately release her, unharmed. That is when Kayden McIntosh took the 9mm pistol out of Brehmer's hand and shot the victim in the head, killing her on the spot.

     Following the senseless and unimaginably cruel murder, Brehmer and the others dumped the dead girl's corpse into the Eklutna River. Caleb Leyland, the 16-year-old, later helped Brehmer destroy the victim's clothing cellphone, and purse.

     Denali Brehmer, as promised, sent Darin Schilmiller a videoed account of the brutal, cold-blooded slaying. And in a move that defied rational thought, Brehmer texted the victim's parents, informing them that their daughter had been murdered. Brehmer then took steps to what she wrongfully thought would delete the text to the victim's parents as well as all of her online communications with the perverted mastermind, "Tyler."

     On Tuesday, June 4, 2019, after police officers recovered Hoffman's body, detectives with the Anchorage Police Department questioned Brehmer and McIntosh. McIntosh immediately confessed to shooting Cynthia Hoffman to death. He said Brehmer had promised him $500,000 of "Tyler's" $9 million reward.

     Brehmer did not deny being at the murder scene, but said she had no idea that McIntosh would shoot the victim.

     On June 6, 2019, detectives executed a search warrant for the contends of Denali Brehmer's cellphone and recovered all of the incriminating material she thought she had deleted.

     The next day, detectives interrogated Brehmer for the second time and on this occasion she confessed fully to the murderous scheme for money. She still didn't realize that "Tyler" was Darin Schilmiller, and that she had been duped into committing a senseless murder.

     On June 9, 2019, FBI agents and officers with the Indiana State Police arrested Schilmiller who provided his captors with a full confession.

     Six suspects, Schilmiller, Brehmer, McIntosh, Leyland and two unidentified juveniles were federally charged. Although he was a juvenile, the prosecutor charged Leyland as an adult. On June 14, the four named suspects were indicted on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and numerous lesser charges. Brehmer and Schilmiller were also charged with offenses related to child pornography. According to court records, Brehmer was also accused of raping a 15-year-old girl.

The Role of Popular Music in Mass Shooting/Suicides

School shootings, like other mass murders and suicide clusters, reflects the culture of the times. The role of the media takes many forms in such events, but perhaps nothing rules and mirrors the culture of adolescents the way music does. Yesterday's swing and jazz, as remembered in bebop, the Lindy, the shimmy, and the Charleston, have evolved into the music that fills our world today: Rock and roll. New wave. Punk. Heavy mental. Grunge rock. Hip-Hop. Gangsta rock. Death rock. The beat, lyrics, groups and individual artists are held in high regard. Rock-star lookalikes are everywhere. And the fashion follows the music in more than clothing. Attitudes and beliefs systems are born from the messages communicated or reinforced through teen music. [In the U.S., since 1966, there have been 163 mass shootings. All but three were committed by men.]

Loren Coleman, The Copycat Effect, 2004 

Science Fiction Fans

I think science fiction, along with jazz, is America's great contribution to world culture. It's as great as jazz, as profligate, and wonderful. What disappoints me about it is that most of its practitioners have not been as good as they should have been, and the fact that science fiction emerged as a genre of commercial literature, forced to make adjustments and compromises to accommodate a mass audience, which was not its aesthetic interest. I don't segregate myself from those who do so. The readership has contributed to this debasement, I suppose, but any readership does. Norman Spinrod said the worst thing about science fiction is fandom. I don't disagree with that at all. Fandom has destroyed some authors. The need to be a hero.

Barry N. Malzberg, The Man Who Loved the Midnight Lady, 1980 

Biography As The Unwanted Genre

Between history and the novel stands biography, their unwanted offspring, which has brought a great embarrassment to them both. In the historian's view it takes ten thousand biographies to make one small history. To the novelist biographers are simply what Nabokov called, "psycho-plagiarists."

Michael Holroyd, Works on Paper, 2002

Drug Raid Adrenaline

One of the biggest adrenaline rushes on this job [law enforcement officer] is being the first one through the door on a drug raid. You wait on deck, knowing that because you are about to enter a place where the occupants can be both armed and high...You have your gun drawn, sweat salting the corners of your mouth, ready to rumble with a pit bull, ready to shoot, punch, duck, shout commands. You don't know what's on the other side of that door. One suspect? Two? A baker's dozen? That great unknown generates a specific electric charge, one that starts in your stomach and ends up somewhere in your chest, a kind of queasy excitement born of both expectation and resolve. There is nothing like it. [The same is true for the people being raided.]

Adam Plantinga, 400 Things Cops Know, 2014 

Having An Idea For A Book Is Easy, Writing One Is Hard

Most anyone can have a great idea. A smaller group might get it onto paper in some form. A fair number of those will be able to revise parts of it until it is very good. Yet to take all the elements such as character and themes and place, and to think about voice, style and language, just doesn't happen in one fell swoop. Only a few writers can take what first comes out on the page and work it until every bit of it is right, until all of its parts become a beautiful whole. True talent--perhaps even genius--lies not in coming up with the idea but in being able to do the hard, dogged work that brings that idea to fruition.

Carole Burns, Off The Page, 2000

Thornton P. Knowles On The Amish

I like the Amish because they realize that in the scheme of things we are all pretty small, and not that important.

Thornton P. Knowles

Monday, June 24, 2019

The Kareem Andre Williams Murder Case

     On January 11, 2013, Lauren Kanoff from New York City was in Boynton Beach, a Palm Beach County town north of Hallandale Beach, visiting her 80-year-old father, Albert Honigman. Mr. Honigman lived in the Aberdeen Development, a gated retirement community considered safe from crime. Mr. Honigman had grown up on Long Island, New York, and after retirement, had moved to Florida's southeast coast with his wife Phyllis. In 2011 Phyllis passed away.

     At ten o'clock Friday night, January 11, 2013, Lauren and her father were unloading packages from their car in their open garage after an evening of shopping. A man walked up behind Lauren, and when she turned around, he punched her in the eye and side of the face. The blow knocked her down, and for a few seconds rendered her unconscious. When Lauren came to, she saw the assailant over her downed father punching him in the face. "You stay down old man," he said, "I have a friend in the car with a gun."

     Lauren did not see the car, but she got a good look at the attacker, describing him to the police as a 6-foot, athletically built black man in his 20s and 30s. Before the assailant left the scene, he stole several pieces of jewelry and Mr. Honigman's $26,000 Rolex watch.

     Paramedics rushed Albert Honigman to the Bethesda West Hospital where he was given a brain CAT scan. The next morning, the patient went home, but later in the day, was called back to the hospital after the CAT scan revealed blood on his brain. The following day, January 13, Mr. Honigman returned to his retirement condo. He went to bed where, a few hours later, his daughter found him dead.

     The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy determined that Mr. Honigman had been killed by blunt force trauma to the head. The Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's office classified the manner of this 80-year-old's death as criminal homicide.

     In speaking to a reporter after her father's murder, his daughter said, "I don't know if he [the assailant/robber] followed us in, I have no idea. All we know is we turned around...and suddenly I'm down, my father's down."

     In the wake of the robbery and homicide, residents of the Aberdeen Development in Boynton Beach were apprehensive. Mr. Honigman's murder destroyed the sense of security in this retirement community. One of the Boynton Beach retirees said this to a reporter: "It's a very frustrating experience to have someone who lives in [your] gated community get murdered. It's terrifying."

     Homicide detectives, by reviewing surveillance camera tapes,  determined that Lauren Kanoff and her father had been followed home from the Boca Raton Town Center Mall by two young men in a silver Camaro. On February 6, 2013, officers in West Palm Beach arrested 25-year-old Kareem Andre Williams. The murder suspect, a personal trainer with L. A. Fitness, resided in Loxachatche, Florida. In Palm Beach County, Williams had been arrested for grand theft, and carrying a concealed weapon. In 2011, Williams was released from a Florida prison after serving time for armed burglary and several firearms offenses.

     Kareem Williams, the owner of a car that matched the Camero seen following the victims home from their shopping trip, was placed, through cellphone records, at the mall at the same time the victims were there. A mall surveillance camera tape also showed Williams and Albert Honigman in the same proximity near one of the shopping mall's exits.

     On February 15, 2013, a Palm Beach County prosecutor charged Kareem Williams with first-degree murder and other offenses. The magistrate denied bail for the suspect of this brutal home invasion homicide.

     On February 9, 2016, a jury found Williams guilty of first-degree murder, burglary with assault, and robbery. Two days after the verdict, the judge sentenced Williams to two consecutive life sentences.

Prison Escape In The Computer Era

     Inmates have been known to tunnel, climb, sneak, saw, assault, and bribe their way out of prisons and jails. But in central Florida, a pair of convicted murderers managed to escape by forging court documents.

     On September 27, 2013, an official with the Florida Department of Corrections ordered convicted killer Joseph Jenkins released from the Franklin Correctional Institution where he had been serving a life sentence. In 1997, Jenkins murdered Roscoe Pugh in an Orlando robbery that went bad. The 34-year-old's ticket to freedom was a phony court document that reduced his life sentence to fifteen years. The release order bore the signature of Chief Circuit Judge Belvin Perry. The forged corrections paperwork included a motion filed by a local prosecutor in support of the new sentence. The phony documents had been processed by the Orange County Clerk of Courts Office.

     On October 8, 2013, another convicted murderer serving a life sentence at the Franklin County prison near Tallahassee walked out of the joint a free man. Charles Walker had killed Cedric Slater in 1998. At his trial, Walker claimed that because the victim bullied him, he fired three shots to scare him off. Instead of scaring Slater, Walker shot him dead. The Orlando jury found Walker guilty of second-degree murder.

     Corrections authorities released the 34-year-old Walker after receiving the same set of forged documents that had freed Joseph Jenkins. It is extremely rare for a trial judge, in cases involving convictions affirmed on appeal, to order reduced sentences. Moreover, prosecutors rarely support shortened sentences. To say that someone at the Florida Department of Corrections was asleep at the switch would be an understatement. After their releases, both men went to the Orange County Jail where they registered as felons as required by law.

     According to investigators with the Florida Department of Corrections, the forging lifers had been helped by a jailhouse lawyer with computer skills, or by an outside person with paralegal experience.

     Judge Belvin Perry told an Associated Press reporter that "Someone with the aid of a computer lifted my signature off previously signed documents, which are public record." [Judge Perry, in 2011, presided over the Casey Anthony trial. As a result, his signature is available on public documents, and accessible online.]

     According to judge Perry, "In my 35 years in the judicial system, I have never seen the state of Florida file a motion to correct an illegal sentence. One of the things we have never taken a close look at is the verification of a particular document to make sure it is the real McCoy." [One can't help wondering if there are Florida inmates currently enjoying freedom on the strength of bogus court documents.]

     In speaking to reporters, the niece of the man Joseph Jenkins murdered, said, "I just don't believe it. I know for a fact it [the forgery] was an inside job."

     At 6:40 PM on October 19, 2013, U. S. Marshals and officers with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, arrested Charles Walker and Joseph Jenkins at the Coconut Grove Motor Inn in Panama City. A tip from a person who knew both men led to their arrests. When taken into custody, Walker and Jenkins were unarmed. 

Math Teacher Joyce Quiller: Hero or Victim?

     In January 2014, students and parents filed complaints against a veteran math teacher at Ribault High School in Jacksonville, Florida. The teacher, 51-year-old Joyce Quiller, taught tenth and eleventh graders enrolled in Bridge to Success, a program created to help students two or more years older than normal for their class levels. In other words, most of Quiller's students were not the best nor the brightest. The 21-year classroom veteran had the difficult and unrewarding job of trying to teach math to mostly unmotivated and undisciplined teenagers.

     In the context of today's lax public school education standards, Joyce Quiller had the reputation of being a strict, demanding teacher who didn't dumb-down and didn't suffer fools. She expected her students to show up for class with pen, paper, and completed homework assignments. When students didn't live up to her academic expectations, they failed the course. In fact, she gave 77 percent of her students Fs with all but a few of the rest receiving Ds. It seemed this teacher had imposed a toll on the so-called Bridge to Success, and most of her students didn't want to pay it. It's easy to see why this woman was not a popular teacher among students, their parents, and school administrators.

     The six or so complainants accused Quiller of being foul-mouthed and insulting in the classroom. In speaking to a student who showed up for class without pen or paper, she allegedly said, "What's the point of coming to this motherf--ing class if you don't bring materials?" Moreover, according to her accusers, she told another kid to "shut the f---up."

     Joyce Qullier also faced the allegation that she called her students "stupid" and "ignorant," and once used the n-word. (The complainants in this case are black and so is the accused.)

     This was not the first time Joyce Quiller had been called on the carpet for using inappropriate classroom language. In 2001 and again in 2013 the school superintendent reprimanded her for telling a student to "get out of my f--ing class." She also supposedly instructed a kid to pull up his pants. (Wow, the kid must have been devastated.)

     In response to the accusations of unprofessional (but hardly abusive) classroom demeanor, Quiller submitted a written statement that she was "appalled and disturbed" at the allegations against her. She denied using profanity in class and accused the complainants of having a vendetta against her.

     In March 2014, following an internal inquiry and a hearing, the superintendent of the Duval County School District sent Joyce Quiller a letter of termination. She appealed her firing to an administrative law judge.

     Administrative law judge Bruce McKibben, in August 2014, ruled that the school district had violated the terms of Quiller's employment contract by skipping step three of a three-step system of punishment. According to the judge's interpretation of the case, the school superintendent should have suspended Quiller without pay. The judge ordered the school system to reinstate Joyce Quiller.

     In his 21-page decision, Judge McKibben found that a preponderance of the evidence (a standard of proof less demanding than proof beyond a reasonable doubt) supported the claims she used profanity in class. He did note, however, that one of Quiller's B students testified that she had never heard the teacher swear.

      Regarding Quller's work environment at Ribault High School, Judge McKibben wrote: "Quiller was placed in an almost untenable situation. She did not have all the tools needed to work with students, and her classes were too large. Nevertheless, she was expected to maintain her composure and professionalism."

     The judge, perhaps out of political correctness, did not point out the obvious fact that many of Quiller's students were probably idiots. More school supplies would not have solved that problem.

     On September 8, 2014, after Joyce Quiller answered questions and pleaded her case before the Duval County School Board, board members ignored the administrative judge's reinstatement ruling by voting again to fire the former math teacher.

     Three Florida appellate court judges, in July 2015, ruled that teacher Quiller should have been suspended, not fired, and ordered the school board to rehire her.

Charles Bukowski On Not Selling Out

     I think that over-ambition kills. I think that trying to be a writer kills. Writing simply has to be a sickness, a drug. It doesn't have to be, it just is. When one thing or another cures your sickness, that's it. And, of course, there are no guidelines.

     I've been lucky. For decades now I haven't had to force myself to write anything in any particular way…If you slant your writing it means you want to make money, you want to get famous, you want to get published for the sake of getting published. I think that only works for a while. The gods are watching us. And they extract their toll. Without fail.

Charles Bukowski in Charles Bukowski: Selected Letters 1987-1994, edited by Seamus Cooney, 2004 

Thornton P. Knowles On Schools Of Journalism

For an old school journalist, teaching journalism to college students must be one of the worst jobs in academia. What could the professor say to students about to enter a profession that no longer embraces journalistic objectivity, professional integrity, or freedom of the press? How could such a teacher encourage a student to work in a profession that is no longer trusted by a large percentage of the American public? Perhaps the true question should be: Why do universities still support schools of journalism, and where do they find the teachers to staff these programs? Is that the problem? Should we blame the university for the dismal state of journalism in this country? The decline of honest, objective reporting is more than just disgraceful, it poses a threat to our freedom.

Thornton P. Knowles

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Mary O'Callaghan Police Brutality Case

     The vast majority of police brutality complaints are filed against male officers. While this is not surprising since most officers are men, when it comes to the use of physical force, male officers tend to be more physically aggressive than their female counterparts. Out of the thousands of excessive force complaints filed against male officers, only a handful result in civil court settlements. Even fewer of these cases lead to criminal prosecutions.

     Female police officers are rarely sued for excessive force, and almost never prosecuted for police brutality. But in Los Angeles, a female cop was charged with felony assault in connection with the beating of an arrestee named Alesia Thomas.

     On July 22, 2012, 35-year-old Alesia Thomas left her two children outside the Southeast Police Station in South Los Angeles. Suffering from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and drug addiction, Thomas knew she couldn't take care of her kids who were age three and twelve. She felt she had no choice but to leave her children at the police station.

     Police officers arrested Thomas that day at her home on charges of child abandonment. As officer Mary O'Callaghan struggled to put the arrestee--wearing handcuffs and leg restraints--into the patrol car, she was caught on another cruiser's dashboard camera kicking Thomas in the stomach and groin area. The police officer, a former Marine and 19 year veteran of the force, was also recorded punching Thomas in the neck.

     The arresting officers at Thomas' house called for medical assistance after she lost consciousness in the back of the patrol car. Notwithstanding the efforts of the responding paramedics, Thomas died a short time later at the hospital.

     A police administrator, pending an internal departmental investigation, placed O'Callaghan on unpaid leave.

     The forensic pathologist with the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office who performed Thomas' autopsy listed cocaine intoxication as a "major factor" in her death. Because the pathologist was unable to assess what role, if any, being kicked and punched by officer O'Callaghan played in the arrestee's death, Thomas' official cause of death went into the books as "undetermined."

     In the course of the internal affairs investigation, detectives learned that two of the arresting officers that day had disregarded Thomas' request for medical help. Moreover, a third officer at the scene may have lied to investigators looking into the incident. According to the internal affairs inquiry, a police sergeant involved with the case had failed to provide supervisory leadership. In other words, there may have been a cover-up.

     On October 9, 2013, a Los Angeles County assistant district attorney charged officer Mary O'Callaghan with felony assault. The ambivalence regarding Thomas' cause of death ruled out the charge of involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, O'Callaghan faced a maximum prison sentence of three years. Following her arrest she was released on $35,000 bail.

     In speaking to a reporter with the Los Angeles Times, the dead woman's mother, Sandra Thomas, lamented the time it took to charge O'Callaghan with a crime. "I am sure," Thomas said, "that Charlie Beck [the chief of police] saw this [dashboard] video long ago. I would like to see that video. They're charging that officer, but what about all of the other officers involved? They did nothing to stop this."

    On June 5, 2015, a jury of eleven women and one man found the former police officer guilty of felony assault by a police officer. Following her conviction, O'Callaghan asked the judge to send her directly to jail where she would start serving her sentence.

     The trial judge, on July 25, 2015, sentenced O'Callaghan to three years behind bars. The judge then suspended twenty months of the sentence. That meant the former police officer would spend about 16 months in the Los Angeles County lockup.

     Had the forensic pathologist in the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office determined the manner of death in this case to be homicide, O'Callahan might have been convicted of criminal homicide and sentenced to a lot more time.
     

Actor Lillo Brancato's Role In A Police Officer's Murder

     In 1993 a 17-year-old actor from the Borough of Yonkers in New York City named Lillo Brancato Jr. starred with Robert DeNiro in the movie "A Bronx Tale." Brancato, in 2000, appeared as a minor character in the HBO series "The Sopranos."

     On December 10, 2005, Brancato and an accomplice, Steven Armento, broke a window at an unoccupied home in Pelham Bay, Queens. The 29-year-old actor and Armento were looking for drugs.

     Daniel Enchautegui lived next door to the house Brancato and Armento were breaking into. The 28-year-old New York City patrolman with three years on the force had just arrived home following his 8  PM to 4 AM shift. When the officer heard the sound of breaking glass he called 911 and went outside to investigate. It was 5:15 in the morning.

     Steven Armento, when confronted by Enchautegui, shot the officer in the chest. Enchautegui returned fire, wounding both of the intruders. Physicians at the Jacobi Medical Center pronounced the police officer dead.

     Brancato and Armento went to trial in 2008. A jury found Armento guilty of first-degree murder. A judge, in 2009, sentenced him to life without the possibility of parole.

     At Brancato's trial, the defendant admitted being in Queens that morning with Steven Armento. The two men broke into the unoccupied house to score drugs. Brancato testified that he was going through heroin withdrawal that day.

     Pursuant to the felony-murder doctrine, if a person is killed during the commission of a felony all of the participants of the crime can be held culpable for the death. Under the law, the fact Brancato wasn't the one who pulled the trigger did not exempt him from legal responsibility for the officer's killing.

     The jury acquitted Brancato of burglary and felony-murder. They did find him guilty of attempted burglary. The judge sentenced Brancato to ten years in prison. (The judge gave him credit for the three years he spent in jail prior to his trial.)

     Lillo Brancato, on December 31, 2013, after agreeing to a five-year period of parole that included a 10 PM curfew, walked out of the Hudson Correctional Facility six months early. Had he served his full term, the 37-year-old would have been freed without parole conditions.

     Brancato's early release angered members of the New York City Police Department as well as relatives of the slain police officer. In speaking to reporters a spokesperson for the New York Patrolman's Benevolent Association said: "It is our firm belief that Lillo Brancato is guilty of the murder of police officer Daniel Enchautegui even though he was only convicted of attempted burglary."

     Enchautegui's sister, Yolanda Rosa, said, "I'm still upset that Brancato was not convicted of murder and that he did not serve enough time."

    In 2018, Brancato starred in a Netflix documentary, "Wasted Talent," that chronicles his time in prison, his decision to get off heroin, and his struggle to redeem himself.

Keep Guns Out Of The Reach Of Children

     Veronica Jean Rutledge lived in Blackfoot, Idaho in the southeastern corner of the state. On December 30, 2014, the 29-year-old mother was visiting relatives in Hayden, Idaho, a town of 13,000 380 miles north of Blackfoot not far from the resort city of Coeur d' Arlene.

     At ten-twenty on that Monday morning, Rutledge, her two-year-old son, and three of her nieces--all under the age of eleven--were shopping at the Walmart store in Hayden. The toddler sat in the shopping cart near his mother's zipped-up purse. What happened next was recorded on a store surveillance camera.

     The boy unzipped the handbag, reached in and pulled out a handgun. The weapon discharged, killing Veronica Rutledge on the spot. She lay dead on a clothing aisle floor near the back of the store.

     The shooting caused an immediate Walmart shutdown. (The store reopened the next day.)

     According to a spokesperson for the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office, "a lot of people around here carry loaded guns." This sheriff's official as well as others have told reporters that guns are an important aspect of the local culture. As a result, no one in the community was shocked by the fact Veronica Rutledge carried a loaded gun in her purse. Some people did express concern that the gun was in such close proximity to the child.

    The police did not released details regarding the make and model of the firearm and did not indicate if Rutledge had a permit to carry it. According to news reports, the gun had been a Christmas gift from her husband. In speaking to reporters, the husband expressed anger that his wife's tragic death was being exploited by anti-gun activists.

     In all probability, no one that young has ever shot and killed another person. 

Thornton P. Knowles On Paying People Not To Commit Crimes

Over the years the one thing you can count on is that politicians will come up with some incredibly stupid ideas. Not only that, sometimes these outlandish proposals become law. One idea that belongs in the Stupid Hall of Fame involves paying people not to commit crimes. I guess the idea is to reward good behavior rather than punish bad behavior. So much for the concept that the reward for obeying the law is not being punished for violating it. And how would these payments work? Would one get less for not committing shoplifting and more for not committing murder? Moreover, if a person received say a year's worth of good behavior money, then committed a crime, would the taxpayers get a refund? And the final, bigger question: Can a country survive so much political stupidity and corruption?

Thornton P. Knowles

Charles Bukowski On Style

     I've always been a sucker for the simple, bare line because I've always had this feeling that Literature, that of now and the centuries, was largely a put-on, you know, like pro wrestling matches. Even those who have lasted the centuries (with few exceptions) gave me the odd feeling that they were screwing me over. Basically, I feel that with the bare line it could be harder to get the lie across; besides it reads easier, and what's easy is good and what's hard to read is a pain in the ass.

     So John Fante gave me the bare line with feeling; Hemingway the line that did not beg; Thurber the line that laughed at what the mind did and couldn't help doing; Saroyan the line that loved itself; Celine the line that cut the page like a knife; Sherwood Anderson the line that said beyond the line. I think I have borrowed from all of these writers and I am not ashamed to admit it. I only hope that I have added, what? If I knew what I were doing I could no longer do it.

Charles Bukowski in Charles Bukowski: Selected Letters 1987-1994, edited by Seamus Cooney, 2004 

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Steven Brooks: A Troubled Politician

     Even in Nevada where hardball politics and corruption often go hand-in-hand, state assemblyman Steven Brooks embarrassed and frightened his fellow politicians. In November 2012, the former Las Vegas city councilman and second-term state legislator, along with a few other democrats in the lower house, tried to unseat the democratic assembly speaker, Marilyn Kirkpatrick. The speaker fought-off the challenge to her throne, and Brooks, as the leader of the failed insurrection, was relegated to legislative oblivion. As long as Marilyn Kirkpatrick ran the Nevada assembly, Steven Brooks had no future in politics.

     While Steven Brooks never directly threatened speaker Kirkpatrick, in speaking to others, he allegedly indicated his intent to shoot her dead. On January 19, 2013, after word of Brook's threats had reached the speaker, she reported the matter to the Las Vegas police. Visibly upset, Kirkpatrick said she was worried that an armed Brooks would find her and pull the trigger.

     Shortly after talking with speaker Kirkpatrick, officers encountered Brooks in his car at a traffic stop. Brooks informed the police, who asked him to open his trunk, that as a Nevada state assemblyman he could deny them permission to search. When officers lifted the trunk lid they found, in a shoebox, a .357-revolver and 41 rounds of ammunition. In explaining his possession of the firearm and the ammunition, Brooks said he had attended a National Rifle Association seminar for legislators earlier in the day. This turned out to be a lie.

     After seizing the revolver and the ammunition officers arrested assemblyman Brooks on the felony charge of intimidating a public officer with physical force. Released on $100,000 bail, Brooks hired a publicist who set-up a press conference to be held on January 22 in his capitol office in Carson City. Brook's attorney, to the dozen reporters who showed-up for the conference, announced that his client couldn't be present at the press conference because he had been hospitalized with a digestive disorder.

     Three days after the press conference no-show, the Las Vegas police responded to Brook's home on a domestic disturbance call. The officers hauled the assemblyman to a nearby hospital for psychiatric evaluation. The next day, the politician returned home. Insisting that his medical problems were physical and not mental, and proclaiming his innocence to the threat charges, Brooks rejected a suggestion from the assembly leadership that he take a leave of absence.

     On February 10, 2013, the Las Vegas police responded to another domestic disturbance call from the assemblyman's residence. He had allegedly assaulted a member of his family. When officers arrested Brooks outside his house he became combative and before being subdued, grabbed for an officer's gun.

     Charged with domestic battery and obstructing police, officers booked Brooks into the Clark County Detention Center. The judge set his bail at $4,000.

     In March 2013 Brooks became the first lawmaker to be expelled from the Nevada State Legislature.

     In March 2014, ex-Nevada assemblyman Brooks pleaded no contest to evading a police officer and resisting arrest. The judge, pursuant to the plea deal, sentenced him to two years eight months in prison.

     In April 2019, police arrested Brooks again for allegedly starting a fight in a convenience store. He was also charged with threatening to kill Las Vegas police officers. As of this writing, that case is pending.