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Monday, December 31, 2012

Sunando Sen: Two NYC Subway Murders in One Month

     New York City, compared to urban murder centers like Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., is a relatively safe place to live. In Chicago, with 500 criminal homicides so far this year, residents of that city were 3.7 times more likely to be homicide victims than New Yorkers. In 2012, New York was the site of 414 criminal homicides, a 19 percent decrease over 2011. This will mark the lowest number of homicides in New York City in 40 years. In 1990, with 2,262 homicides, the city was five times more dangerous than it is today. But even in the Big Apple, murder can raise its ugly head anytime, and in places that are normally safe. These unexpected, high-profile cases, particularly if they suggest a dangerous trend, create a degree of pubic fear out of proportion to the low risk of victimization.

     On Thursday morning, December 27, 2012, in the Sunnyside section of Queens, 46-year-old Sunando Sen stood on the elevated platform at the subway stop at Queens Boulevard and 40th Street. Mr. Sen, who had immigrated to the U.S. from Calcutta, India twenty years ago, was on his way to work. Six months earlier, Sen had started the New Amsterdam Printing Company, a small copying shop located on Manhattan's upper west side. Mr. Sen resided with three roommates in a small apartment in Elmhurst, Queens.

     As Sunando Sen waited for the Flushing-bound No. 7 train, a heavyset Hispanic woman in her late 20s paced the subway platform behind him. This woman, wearing a blue, white, and gray ski jacket and Nike sneakers, was mumbling to herself. She took a seat on a wooden bench near the north end of the platform, then, as the train rolled into the station, rushed up to Mr. Sen, and from behind, pushed him off the platform onto the tracks below.

     When the train ground to a stop, Mr. Sen's crushed body was pinned under the second subway car. His sudden, violent death had come out of nowhere, a reality that makes this kind of murder so frightening. Nobody is safe from that kind of bad luck.

     After pushing Mr. Sen in front of the train, the woman ran up the subway station stairway onto Queens Boulevard where she disappeared into the crowd. In addition to descriptions provided by at least five eyewitnesses, detectives had access to grainy, black and white images of the suspect from a surveillance camera positioned at the top of the subway stairway.

     Two days after the murder, on December 29, New York City detectives arrested  31-year-old Erika Menendez who said she pushed Mr. Sen to his death because she thought he was a Muslim. Menendez has been charged with murder as a hate crime which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison. According the the New York District Attorney's Office, Menendez said this to her police interrogators: "I pushed a Muslim off the train [platform] because I hate Hindus and Muslim ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers. I've been beating them up."

     Erika Menendez and her victim had never met. She had killed a total stranger, a mild-mannered, hardworking man who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

     New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in a moment of uncharacteristic political candor, admitted that there is nothing anyone can do to prevent mentally ill people from pushing innocent victims in front of subway trains. We have to have the trains, and there is no way to keep crazy people off the street. If you throw a ball into a group of fifteen or more people, it will bounce off at least two individuals suffering from some kind of serious mental illness. Moreover, one of those persons will be off his medication. Since most mentally ill people do not walk around in baby steps talking to themselves, it's not always possible to spot and avoid them. Nobody really knows how many out of control meth users and paranoid schizophrenics off their medication are wandering around our big city streets. Also unknown is how many of these people are capable of murder.

     On December 30, 2012, a 30-year-old mentally ill street vendor named Naemm Davis pushed Ki-Suck Han in front of a train at the Times Square Station in mid-town Manhattan. Davis has been charged with second degree murder. His attorney is claiming that Davis acted in self-defense. The 58-year-old victim had a wife and a daughter, and lived in Queens. He and Davis didn't know each other, but had argued after Mr. Han asked Davis to stop frightening other subway patrons. At the time of his death, Mr. Han had been drinking vodka.


     Since 2005, police officers have been called to Erika Menendezs' home five times on reports of a mentally disturbed person behaving violently. On one of these occasions she threw a radio at a police officer. In 2003, police arrested her for punching a 28-year-old man in the face. He had been a visitor in her family's home. That case was dismissed when the victim dropped the charges. Later that year Menendez assaulted a stranger on the street near her house. As she punched and clawed him in the face, she accused the victim of having sex with her mother. According to members of her family, the mentally ill woman becomes violent when she stops taking her anti-psychotic medication. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Crime Takes a Christmas Day Break

     Merry Christmas to everyone. Thank you for visiting my blog. I will resume posting true crime stories and comments tomorrow. It has been a pleasure and honor writing for you.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Daniel Wozniak: A Bad Actor in a Double Murder Case

     Daniel P. Wozniak and his fiancee Rachel Buffett lived in the Camden Martinique apartment complex in Costa Mesa, an Orange County town of 120,000 located 37 miles south of Los Angeles. Wozniak was active in community theater, and Buffett, a 23-year-old aspiring actress, had played princess roles at Disneyland. On a few occasions, the couple had performed together in dramatic plays and musicals in and around Orange County.

     Daniel Wozniak had a problem. The 26-year-old was not only broke, he owned money to everyone he knew. On May 22, 2010, four days before his wedding, Wozniak decided to murder Samuel Herr, another community theater actor who lived in the Camden Martinique apartment complex. It was Wozniak's understanding that Herr, a 26-year-old Army combat veteran who had served in Afghanistan, had $50,000 in the bank. After killing the actor whom he owed $500, Wozniak planned to use the dead man's ATM card to withdrawal cash from his bank in $400 increments over a period of months. Wozniak had decided to murder Sam Herr at the Liberty Community Theater located on the Joint Forces Military Training Base in Los Alamitos.

     On May 23, 2010, on the pretense he needed help moving boxes, Wozniak lured his intended victim to the theater. The two young actors were in the theater attic when, as Herr bent over to pick up a box, Wozniak shot him in the back of the head with a .38-caliber revolver. The combat veteran fell to his knees and looked up at Wozniak and said, "I have just been--something happened. I just got electrocuted." Wozniak pulled the trigger again, but the gun jammed. After fixing the problem, Wozniak fired another bullet into his victim's head.

     Wozniak left the theater in possession of Herr's cellphone, wallet, and ATM card. Before he reaped the monetary benefits of Herr's murder, there was another person Wozniak had to kill. Once he dispatched his second victim, he would return to the theater and deal with Herr's corpse.

     Daniel Wozniak intended to kill Juri "Julie" Kibuishi, a 23-yar-old fellow community actor who lived in the Camden Martinique complex. He'd murder Kibuishi in Sam Herr's apartment, and stage the crime in a way to make homicide investigators think that Herr, Julie Kibuishi, and the dead woman's boyfriend had been involved in a love triangle. Wozniak figured that detectives would think the boyfriend, having caught Kibuishi with Herr, had murdered them both, then disposed of Herr's body. (I think it was Truman Capote who said that the most talented actors were also the most stupid. If this is true, then Daniel Wozniak must have been one talented actor.)

     Using Herr's cellphone, Wozniak sent Julie Kibuishi a text message asking her to come to the murdered actor's apartment. Shortly after Kibuishi showed up as requested, Wozniak shot her twice in the back of the head. The cold-blooded killer removed her clothing, and posed her in a kneeling position with her head resting on Herr's bed. With a felt-tip pen, Wozniak wrote: "All yours, f--- you" on Kibuiski's sweater.

     The next day, May 23, 2010, Wozniak returned to the military base and the Liberty Theater where, in the attic, he used an ax and a saw to cut off Herr's head and both of his hands. Leaving the torso in the theater, Wozniak drove to El Dorado Park in Long Beach where he disposed of the victim's head and hands. Wozniak stupidly thought that by doing this, he had made the dismembered corpse in the attic unidentifiable.

     Later that day, Wozniak met with a 17-year-old boy he knew from the local acting community. Wozniak, once again revealing his stupendous lack of intelligence, gave the teenager Herr's debit card and talked him into using it at various ATM locations. (I presume Wozniak promised the kid a small piece of the action.)

     Homicide detectives with the Costa Mesa Police Department investigating Julie Kibushi's murder and the disappearance of Sam Herr, began monitoring Herr's bank card activity. They began staking out an ATM location at a pizza parlor in Long Beach where the card had been used several times. Three days after the murders, detectives confronted the 17-year-old after he made a withdrawal. The kid said he had pulled a total of $2,000 from the account, money he had turned over to Daniel Wozniak.

     On the eve of Wozniak's wedding, May 25, police arrested him at a place in Huntington Beach called Tsunami where his brother was hosting his bachelor's party. At the police station the next day, Wozniak told his interrogators that "I killed Sam first, and then I killed Julie." Wozniak also led detectives to the spot in El Dorado Park where he had dumped Herr's body parts. Officers went to the Liberty Theater where they recovered the rest of Sam Herr's remains.

     An Orange County prosecutor charged Daniel Wozniak with two counts of first degree murder. The prosecutor indicated an intention to seek the death penalty in the case. Wozniak is being held in the Orange County Jail without bond.

     On November 20, 2012, more than two years after the double murder, Costa Mesa detectives arrested Wozniak's 38-year-old brother Timothy on the related charge of accessory after the fact. The police also arrested Wozniak's former fiancee, Rachel Buffett on the same charge. According to the Orange County District Attorney's Office, Buffett had fabricated a story about Sam Herr intended to mislead detectives and throw suspicion off Wozniak. After spending several days behind bars, Buffett made bail. If convicted, she could be sent to prison for up to 44 months. According the the 25-year-old aspiring actress, she had no idea her fiancee had murdered Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi.



Monday, December 10, 2012

Jerry Sandusky Complains About Prison Conditions, Lost Pension

     On December 7, 2012, a corrections officer at the Blair County Jail in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania near Altoona, found 62-year-old Aaron Dishong hanging dead in his suicide-prvention cell. In November, Dishong, in an effort to murder his ex-girlfriend, had set a house on fire that killed a 3-year-old boy instead. Apparently Dishong's intense remorse over the boy's death led to his suicide.

     When reading about the suicide of a man who had done a terrible thing, my mind jumped to Jerry Sandusky, another Pennsylvania inmate who for decades did terrible things to dozens of young boys. The former Penn State football coach, convicted in June 2012 of sexually molesting ten children, is serving a thirty to sixty year sentence at the State Correctional Institution in Greene County in southwestern Pennsylvania east of Pittsburgh.

     Because Jerry Sandusky is a sociopath who deep in his heart doesn't believe pedophilia is wrong, and that he's therefore a victim of a corrupt criminal justice system, the thought of suicide would not cross his mind until all hope was lost. And even then, it is unlikely he would give his victims and others the satisfaction of his death.

     Instead of sitting in his cell feeling guilty about the lives he has directly and indirectly ruined, the 68-year-old pedophile is defiant, and combative. He and his lawyers are currently discussing his post-conviction sentencing motions and appeals. (For example, Sandusky blames his trial attorney for his conviction. He believes that had he taken the stand on his own behalf he could have convinced the jurors of his innocence. In reality, he hadn't been able to convince sports broadcaster Bob Costas that he wasn't a child molester. A typical sociopath, Sandusky has no insight into his own repulsiveness.)

     Karl Rominger, one of Sandusky's post-trial attorneys, in speaking to an Associated Press reporter recently, said, "I was meeting with a man [Sandusky] who was ready to press forward, who has regenerated his energies and has clearly devoted his time and energy to perfecting that appeal. His fight is 100 percent back." Really? Is this supposed to make us feel better? Are we supposed to say, "Yea Jerry!" Forgive me, but I would rather be reading a story about Jerry Sandusky's prison suicide than his resurgence as a sociopathic pain in the ass.

     On November 21, 2012, attorney Charles Benjamin wrote a letter on Sandusky's behalf to the Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System (SERS) appealing the forfeiture of his client's $59,000 a year pension. "We trust," the lawyer wrote, "that SERS, upon further reflection, will agree that no legal basis exists for forfeiture of Mr. Sandusky's vested retirement benefits." When Sandusky retired in 1999, he collected a $148,000 lump sum benefit. By September 2012, when the state cut off his benefits, Sandusky had received a total of $900,000 in pension payments. Under Sandusky's circumstances, most pensioners would leave well enough alone. But Jerry Sandusky is not like most people. He's a sociopath and sociopaths feel entitled, no matter what. Who cares about his "vested interest?" His victims have a vested interest in his misery.

     Jerry Sandusky not only wants to keep the state pension money rolling in, he is not happy with his living conditions at the state prison. Because of the nature of his crimes, and his high profile inmate status, prison officials are holding Sandusky in protective custody. This means he is alone in his cell 23 hours a day during the week, and locked in his cell around the clock on weekends. The prisoner is allowed two phone calls a month, and has been issued a television set.

     In speaking about Jerry Sandusky's living hell in Greene County, Pennsylvania, attorney Rominger said this: "It's a tough life. And I know some people in the public will say, 'who cares?' " Well Mr. Rominger, you took the words right out of my mouth.         

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Actor Sherman Hemsley's Disputed Will and Delayed Burial

     Born in 1938, Sherman Alexander Hemsley studied acting as an adolescent at the Philadelphia Academy of Dramatic Arts. He served four years in the Air Force, and worked eight years as a postal clerk while acting in New York City workshops and theater companies. In 1973, Hemsley became a regular on the popular television sitcom, "All in The Family." Two years later, he began starring as George Jefferson in the spin-off show, "The Jeffersons." In that sitcom, Hemsley played the role of a feisty, bigoted owner of a dry cleaning chain. In his later years, the actor retired and took up residence in El Paso, Texas.

     The 74-year-old actor, on July 24, 2012, died from complications related to lung cancer. At the time of his death he had been scheduled for radiation and chemotherapy treatment. Had Mr. Hemsley died in California, because he was a celebrity, his body would have been autopsied pursuant to state law. Since there was no reason to think that Hemsley's manner of his death was anything but natural, the authorities in Texas did not arrange an autopsy.

     According to Mr. Hemsley's last will and testament, his entire estate, valued at $50,000, would pass to Flora Enchinton Bernal, his live-in friend and manager. But when two people came forward to challenge the disposition of Mr. Hemley's assets, Bernal could not proceed with his funeral and burial. As a result, his remains were put on hold at the San Jose Funeral Home in El Paso. Probate battles are not uncommon, particularly following the deaths of wealthy people. However, due to the size of Mr. Hemsley's estate, one would not have predicted such a challenge.

     The first person to challenge the Hemsley will and claim the dead actor's estate was the deceased's half-brother and former manager, Richard Thornton. In his probate petition, the resident of Philadelphia questioned the will's authenticity by casting doubt on Hemsley's signature that "looked like a tracing." (I don't know if this was the opinion of a qualified forensic document examiner or Tornton's.)

     The second challenger to enter the probate battle was Hemsley's cousin, Reverend Michael George Wells, the minister at Philadelphia's Arch Street United Methodist Church. On August 16, 2012, Reverend Wells officiated at a memorial service held for his cousin at the Deliverance Evangelistic Church in North Philadelphia.

     By October 2012, because of the probate challenges, Sherman Hemsley's body had still not been buried. Probate court judge Patricia Chew scheduled a hearing for November 9, 2012 to resolve the dispute.

     A few weeks before the hearing, Reverend Wells, in speaking to a reporter with the El Paso Times, pointed out that Flora Bernal, the beneficiary, had not been on good terms with the deceased actor. When the reporter asked the reverend why he was going to such lengths over such a tiny estate, Reverend Wells said he believed Hemsley's estate was much larger than $50,000. "We are family," he said, "and we are not looking for money. But if we are entitled to something, we don't want anyone else to have it."

     As the probate hearing grew near, Reverend Michael Wells continued to wage his probate battle in public. To a Fox News correspondent he said, "What the media needs to know is that Sherman Hemsley's body being in the refrigerator for this amount of time is unnecessary and uncalled for. He could have been buried with his family within a week or ten days of his passing. His will...was found seven days after he died. No one reached out to me, my mother, or any person with a relationship to Sherman. In the beginning they said he died of natural causes. Then it came out he had cancer. [Cancer is a natural manner of death.] We have no knowledge of the doctors, hospitals, no one talked to us about his cancer....[Flora Bernal] knows my family, this is what perplexes me. I called there on June 1, and why did she not tell me Sherman was dying of cancer? There needs to be an investigation."

     On November 9, 2012, Judge Chew ruled that Sherman Hemsley's last will and testament was valid. That put an end to the probate challenges. On November 21, following a service at the Cielo Vista Church in El Paso, Mr. Hemsley was buried at the Fort Bliss National Cemetery.

     You can choose who to put in your will, but, as they say, you can't choose your relatives.     

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The David H. Petraeus Scandal: Bring in the Spin Doctors, Celebrity Lawyers, and Media Hired-Guns

     In today's America, fame is power, and unless you're someone like Jerry Sandusky, it generally doesn't matter if you acquired it by hitting home runs, with musical talent, or having your sex-tape go public. Fame can also be fleeting, and can turn into a curse. According to Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the wife of the 1920s aviation hero Charles Lindbergh, "Fame is a kind of death because it arrests life around the person in the public eye. If one is recognized everywhere, one begins to feel like Medusa. People stop their normal life and actions and freeze into staring mannequins."

     Anne Lindbergh, a private person who did not want to be famous (her father Dwight Morrow was a wealthy and well-known banker) lived before the age of television and the dawn of America's celebrity culture. While fame made Charles Lindbergh rich and powerful, it led to the kidnap and murder of his first child. Today, the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean is remembered by many as a Nazi sympathizer who cheated on his wife. (The latter is true.) Charles Lindbergh's fame did not fade, but it did become a nightmare for him and his wife. He died in 1974 harboring an intense hatred of the media.

     In Charles and Anne Lindbergh's day, there weren't many famous people. Today, there are thousands of celebrities. There are so-called A-list stars down to D-list personalities. Many of these people pop onto the public stage, make a big splash, then just as suddenly, pass into obscurity. For people who crave public attention, the loss of fame is their own form of death.  Film actors, successful athletes, and TV personalities, in an effort to gain some control over their reputations and images, hire public relations professionals who help them create favorable personas and manipulate the media. Knowing a celebrity through the media is like knowing a cartoon character. Charles Lindbergh might have benefited by hiding behind a fictitious persona created by a public relations expert. But in those days, media consultants and news manipulators didn't exist for people who weren't movie stars.  

     Today, even for people who want to become famous, overnight fame brought on by public scandal is not the best way to achieve celebrityhood. For these folks, the question becomes, how can I turn bad publicity into an asset? In other words, how can I create a phony but positive persona, and most important of all, hold onto my fame? This is where the professional scandal lawyers, spin masters, and public relations specialists enter the picture to manage the publicity fallout.

     The current sex/political/national security scandal involving ex-CIA Director David H. Petraeus, his former mistress Paula Broadwell, and Jill Kelley, the Tampa area social-climber who received Broadwell's threatening emails and contacted the FBI, illustrates how the second phase of a national political scandal unfolds. The Petraeus scandal is now being managed, from the inside, by four well-known media management hired-guns who have been brought in for damage control, image rehabilitation, and fame exploitation that could include lucrative book deals, movie rights, and television gigs. The fact professional media spin doctors, legal advisors, and news manipulators exist reflects the celebrity-obsessed nature of our popular culture. Simply being represented by one of these high-profile media experts confers celebrity status on the scandalized client.

     David Petraeus, the scandal's central figure, is being represented by Robert B. Barnett, a Washington, D.C. super-lawyer who has represented our last three presidents. Barnett is also known for negotiating big money book deals for his clients. The fact Petraeus' career came to a premature end as a result of a sex scandal will accrue to his monetary benefit when it comes time to negotiate the advance for his future memoir. The average reader is much more interested in illicit sex that the war in Afghanistan.

     Paula Broadwell, Petraeus' ego-stroking, opportunistic mistress, is being handled by Dee Dee Myers, the former Clinton White House press secretary. Since her time with Bill Clinton (a public relations handful) Myers has kept up her public profile as a cable TV talking-head. (These people prefer to be called television pundits.) Broadwell, Petraeus' biographer and former lover, has made it known to  her friends and acquaintances that important people have been encouraging her to run for the U.S. Senate. This notion sounds absurd until you realize that it doesn't take much to do the job of a senator. Really. You accept special interest money and cast votes, usually without any idea of what you're voting for. We may have, one day, if Dee Dee Myers has anything to do with it, a Senator Broadwell.

     Jill Kelley, the bankrupt Florida party hostess whose complaint to the FBI ignited the Petraeus scandal, is being represented by Abbe D. Lowell, the top Washington, D.C. lawyer who got John Edwards, the disgraced ex-senator and presidential candidate, off the hook. (Edwards was accused of using campaign money to keep his mistress and the mother of his "love child" in comfort and hiding while he ran for president.) Edwards is not in the White House, but thanks to attorney Lowell, he's not in prison. Who knows, we may see Mr. Edwards back on the campaign trail.

     Even Natalie Khawam, Jill Kelley's twin sister who had prevailed upon Mr. Petraeus and General John R. Allen to write letters on her behalf in a messy child custody case, has armed herself with celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred. The famous "wronged-woman" attorney has already held a news conference at Washington's Ritz-Carlton Hotel aimed at correcting "misconceptions" about her client.

     Media hired-gun Dee Dee Myers, in speaking to a reporter with The New York Times, laid out her Paula Broadwell mission statement as follows: " To help Paula and her legal team (wow, she now has a legal team), navigate a crowded media environment, manage incoming requests, and ensure that her story is accurately told." (These people have "stories," us ordinary folks merely have daily routines.)  Dee Dee went on to say, "It's really impossible for anyone in Paula's situation to manage the daily avalanche of interview requests, let alone rebut rumors, correct supposed misconceptions and put the client's story in a sympathetic light." Who better to make a person like Paula Broadwell "sympathetic" than Dee Dee Myers, one of Bill Clinton's former bimbo-erruption spin doctors. All of this is enough to make you sick.


     According to reports, David Petraeus has been offered teaching positions at four universities. He is also weighing book offers from several publishers, and is contemplating various positions as a television commentator. This is a former general who has no intention of fading away. This guy is on a mission to become even more famous. Big surprise. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

David Petraeus and the Disgraced Celebrity Sociopath Syndrome

       In a celebrity-obsessed nation under the leadership of sociopaths who play by their own rules, sex scandals are predictable and common. This is particularly true in a country under constant government surveillance. The current political/sex scandal involving ex-CIA Director David H. Petraeus; Marine General John R. Allen; and their power and influence groupies, Paula Broadwell and Jill Kelley, should not surprise anyone.

     Sociopaths exist in all walks of life. They populate prisons, halls of government, television studios, movie sets, police departments, corporations, sports arenas, churches, and military bases. When these highly intelligent, super-ambitious, amoral narcissists find themselves in positions of power and authority, they often behave as though the rules of society and the laws of the land do not apply to them. They stupidly believe they can get away with reckless, outlandish, and often puerile behavior that eventually brings them down.

     People who aren't sociopaths have a difficult time understanding why a former top general and Director of the CIA would risk his marriage, career, reputation, and the nation's national security on a 40-year-old ego-stroking opportunist like Paula Broadwell. The same question has been asked about President Bill Clinton. Why did the leader of the free world risk his marriage, career, and the dignity of his office by engaging in White House sex with an intern? How could Marine General John R. Allen allow himself to get tied-up with an aspiring influence peddler and social climber known for lavish parties and crushing personal debt? What could possibly explain why these high-level government officials would let themselves get involved with a pair of reality television types? These men are not alcoholics, on drugs, or insane. And they surely aren't stupid.

     The only explanation for this kind of reckless behavior that makes any sense is sociopathy. The generals did these things because sociopaths feel entitled, and immune from scrutiny and criticism. These powerful men knew better, but sociopathy is a personality disorder that overrides the ability to restrain oneself.

     Someone once said that old generals don't die, they just fade away. While that may be true for some, for hard-core sociopaths like Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, fading away is not an option. Look at Larry King. The poor guy looks like he has a week to live, but refuses to slip into obscurity. He can't. They will have to carry the former talk show host off the stage. A sociopath who gets a taste of fame is like a vampire getting its first taste of blood. They are hooked for life.

     Disgraced celebrity sociopaths are a sad but interesting story. They almost always find a way to get back into the limelight. Following the obligatory apology tour, the disgraced sociopath often resurfaces as the promotor of a ghost-written memoir bearing his name. Take ex-congressman Anthony Wiener. It's just a matter of time before we will see this disgraced politician on television talking about his memoir, My Package (or something like that.) Sociopaths who became well-known because they possess some kind of expertise, often end up as cable television commentators. Regular people who publicly embarrass themselves feel too ashamed to leave the house. Not so for sociopaths who are born without a sense of shame. When it comes to embarrassment, they are bullet-proof.

     The disgraced, celebrity sociopath can't live without attention, and because he has a personality disorder rather than a curable illness, change is out of the question. It's my guess that former general and ex-CIA director David Petraeus will not fade away. As for Paula Broadwell and Jill Kelley, expect to see these sociopaths on a reality television series featuring married women who become mistresses and/or confidants of powerful men.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Heather Kowalczik, Robert Rodriguez, and The Boy Buried in Their Backyard

     In July 2010, Heather Kowalczik and her boyfriend Robert Rodriguez, the father of two of her children, moved from upstate New York to East Farmingdale, Long Island. The couple took up residence in a rented house with 6-year-old Alex, and Robert, Jr., age 9. The pair also came to Long Island with Justin, a 17-month-old boy fathered by another man.

     A Suffolk County Child Protection Services (CPS) agent, pursuant to a routine welfare check, visited Heather on October 3, 2012. During the visit, the CPS worker noticed that Justin, who would now be about three years old, wasn't in the dwelling. When asked where the toddler was, Kowalczik said he was with relatives. When the CPS agent pressed for details, the mother's vagueness led the social worker to suspect foul play. For that reason, she reported her suspicion to the New York State Police.

     Two days after the CPS call, detectives with the state police paid the 29-year-old mother a visit. When the officers insisted that she tell them where to find Justin, Kowalczik told them the boy had died in August 2010 shortly after she moved to East Farmingdale. She said her 30-year-old boyfriend, Robert Rodriguez, had buried the child in the backyard next to the back fence line. The mother said she had not reported Justin's death because she feared retaliation from Rodriguez. Later, to a reporter with the New York Post, Kowalczik said, "He [Rodriguez] was pretty much keeping watch of me. He hit me in the head, smacked me in the face if I'd say anything."

     On October 6, the police recovered Justin's remains. The boy had been buried in a three-foot grave. The police searched the Kowalczik/Rodriguez house, seizing, among other things, a shovel, a post-hole digger, a video camera, and a photograph album. CPS workers had already taken custody of Alex and Robert, Jr.

     The Suffolk County Medical Examiner's Office has not released information regarding the cause and manner of Justin's death. Because the child's remains have been severely altered by the passage of time, the forensic pathologist didn't have much of a corpse to work with. Perhaps the postmortem examination will determine if the child had died a natural death, or had been killed.

     On October 9, the owner of the East Farmingdale house evicted Kowalczik and Rodriguez. Robert Rodriguez has retained a lawyer, and is not cooperating with the police. While he is considered "a person of interest," no one in this suspicious death case has been charged. Even if Justin wasn't murdered, his mother could be charged with not reporting his death. And if Rodriguez buried the body, he could be charged with abuse of corpse. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Philadelphia Cop Jonathan Josey Sucker-Punches Aida Guzmani: "To Serve and Protect?"

     On Sunday, September 30, 2012, Philadelphia police were out in force to provide security for the city's annual Puerto Rican Day Parade. A group of officers, just off the parade route, were putting a man into handcuffs when someone nearby threw water or something like silly string on them. Lieutenant Jonathan Josey, in reaction to this harmless act, grabbed 39-year-old Aida Guzmani whose back was to him. Josey turned her around, punched her in the face, and then hit her in the back of the head. The mother of three collapsed to the ground with blood running out of her nose and mouth. Other officers slapped handcuffs on the stunned Guzmani, lifted her to her feet, and hauled the bloodied woman off. She was charged with disorderly conduct.

     A witness to officer Josey's assault recorded the event on her cellphone, then posted he 94-second video on YouTube where, over the next couple of weeks, it was seen by millions of viewers. It's hard to imagine anyone who has watched the video concluding the officer Josey's actions were justified. The Philadelphia Highway Patrol Lieutenant's attack on Guzmani seemed unprovoked, and entirely uncalled for.

     The day after officer Josey decked Aida Guzmani, he was placed on "restricted status," meaning assigned to a desk until internal affairs officers completed their investigation. But as more and more online viewers witnessed this egregious overreaction, the Philadelphia's police commissioner and the mayor came under increasing pressure to act more aggressively against this officer. A week or so after the incident, the police commissioner suspended Lieutenant Josey "with the intent to dismiss." The department also dropped the disorderly conduct charges against the women he slugged.

     In response to growing public outrage of Lieutenant Josey's gratuitous brutality, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, in publicly apologizing for this officer's indefensible behavior, used the words "appalled," "sickened," and "ashamed." This apology did not sit well with members of the Philadelphia Police Department. (Cops never apologize, and don't look kindly on people who do it for them.)

     So, who is this female-punching, 19-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department? In 2006, Josey, pursuant to some puerile contest sponsored by the Philadelphia Daily News, nominated himself as the city's sexiest man. In support of his quest for the title, the cop submitted a photograph of himself in a pair of red shorts, a shot that featured his pierced nipple. According to Josey's sexiest man resume, the officer described his most outstanding character traits as charm, and a "magnetic personality." (Really.) This charming and magnetic law enforcement hunk wanted to make it known that he was in search of a "sexy, sexy, sexy" woman. How ironic.

     In 2007, the city settled a lawsuit against officer Josey brought by a man who claimed the officer had inappropriately kicked, punched, and threw him against a wall. In March 2010, Josey shot and killed a man who was robbing a 7-Eleven store. The department cleared him of this shooting, and no criminal charges were filed. During his career, Officer Josey has been the subject of 13 complains for both verbal and physical abuse. (Who knows, in the Philadelphia Police Department, this may be a good record.)

     Shortly after the police commissioner announced Lieutenant Josey's dismissal, John McNesby, the president of the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), announced that the organization would be holding a fund-raiser for their fellow union member. The proceeds would go for Josey's living expenses.

     FOP President McNesby, said this to a reporter: "It was inappropriate for the city to apologize to this woman [he couldn't bring himself to utter her name] and drop the charges until the [internal affairs] investigation was completed." (Perhaps the FOP could have held-off the fund-raiser until the facts were in.
     Police officers have become increasingly thin-skinned and militant. They don't like outside interference and criticism by people they think have no idea what it's like to enforce the law. Police officers also hate civilian cellphone cameras. Had the Josey-Guzmani incident not been caught on video, one of Philadelphia's most sexy men would still be in uniform.        

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Matthew Sofka: The Philadelphia Wedding Brawl

     Matthew Sofka, a 26-year-old from Westfield, New Jersey, had attended his brother Michael's wedding in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia on Saturday, October 8, 2012. That night, after the wedding reception held at a nearby restaurant, members of his family who were staying at the Sheraton Society Hill, were partying in the hotel bar. Guests from another wedding that day were also in the lounge having late night drinks. Early Sunday morning, when Matthew Sofka arrived at the hotel bar, more than fifty post-wedding drunks were in the midst of a wild, barroom brawl.

     This massive display of drunken violence in the city of brotherly love was caught on video by Max Schultz, a 15-year-old in town on a birthday sightseeing trip. ( I'm sure the barroom scrap will make a bigger impression on the boy than his visit to the Liberty Bell. His video, portraying the fight from above, and at a distance to give it panoramic scope, has been seen by at least a million people on YouTube.)

     The Philadelphia police were on the scene swinging their batons and firing their stun guns when Matthew Sofka arrived at the bar, and allegedly jumped into the fray. Before the police brought the wildly swinging wedding celebrators under control, Sofka had been struck by a police baton, and tasered. During the melee, a 57-year-old uncle celebrating the marriage of the other bride, suffered a heart attack in the hotel parking lot. A short time after Vincent Sanutti's collapse (I presume he was in the bar when the fight broke out), he died at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

     While no one has been charged in connection with Mr. Sanutti's death, the authorities have charged Matthew Sofka with assaulting officer Sean Dandridge. The defendant has denied punching and kicking the Philadelphia cop. ( I presume the police have the assault on video.) Two other belicose party animals have been charged with disorderly conduct. No one seems to know what started the fight, but I sure it was over something really stupid. Sofka's paid his $25,000 bail and was released from custody. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Jerry and Dorothy Sandusky: The Pedophile and His Enabling Wife

     Just when you think you've heard the last of Jerry Sandusky, the convicted Penn State child molester, he pops back into the news. The current burst of media attention involves a letter his wife Dorothy, aka "Dottie," wrote to John Cleland before the judge recently sentenced her husband to thirty to sixty years in prison.

     In her leniency plea to the judge, Mrs. Sandusky referred to Jerry as a "man of very high morals." While portraying the former football coach as a saint, Dottie labeled the ten witnesses who had testified against him last summer as ungrateful liars. The outraged wife blamed Jerry's sex offense conviction on a vast conspiracy comprised of dishonest criminal investigators, overzealous prosecutors, perjuring witnesses, and a tabloid news media. She also accused Penn State University officials of putting public relation concerns above honesty. She then laid into Matt, one of the Sandusky's six adopted children. Matt, just before the jurors began deliberating Jerry Sandusky's fate, publicly accused the defendant of repeatedly sexually molesting him.

     In 1987, Matt Hiechel, a troubled 8-year-old, met Jerry Sandusky through his charity, The Second Mile. The coach took the boy, who was living in a foster home, to football games, and spent a lot of time with him alone. At one point, Matt told his biological mother, Debra Long, that he didn't want to see Mr. Sandusky anymore. The boy's desire to be left alone by the coach did not end the relationship.

     In 1996, after Matt burned down a barn, Jerry and Dottie Sandusky took the 17-year-old into their home, and a year later, adopted him. In March 1996, Matt tried to kill himself by overdosing on aspirin. (He later described the suicide attempt as a cry for help.)

     During middle of Jerry Sandusky's trial, Matt told investigators that the defendant had repeatedly molested him, and that he was willing to testify for the prosecution. (He didn't testify.) In an audio-taped police interview, Matt said this about his relationship with the coach: "It just became very uncomfortable. With the showering, with the hugging, with the rubbing...."

     In her letter to Judge Cleland, Dottie wrote: "People need to know what kind of person he [Matt] is. We have forgiven him many times for all he had done to our family, thinking he was changing his life, but he would always go back to his stealing and lies. He has been diagnosed Bipolar, but he refuses to take his medicine."

     Mrs. Sandusky reminds me of Anna Hauptmann, the woman married to Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the man convicted in 1935 for the murder of the 20-month-old son of Charles and Anne Lindbergh. Following Hauptmann's electrocution in April 1936, Mrs. Hauptmann, in the face of overwhelming evidence of her husband's guilt, devoted her life to exonerating him. She did this, I think, because she simply couldn't live with the realization she had been married to a baby killer.   

Thursday, October 11, 2012

NYC Detective Hassan Hamdy's Road Rage

     Noel Polanco, a 22-year-old member of the New York Army National Guard, lived with his mother and worked at a nearby Honda dealership in the Astoria section of Queens. At 5:15 in the morning of Thursday, October 4, 2012, Polanco and two passengers were in his black Honda traveling on the Grand Central Parkway in Queens. Diane Deferrari, a bartender at the Ice NYC Bar, an Astoria lounge where Planco worked part time, was riding in the front passenger's seat. Seated in the back was Venessa Rodriguez, Planco's friend and off-duty police officer. (Officer Rodriguez was on restricted duty following a June shoplifting arrest.) The trio were coming from the Ice NYC Bar en route to the building where Deferrari and Polanco had apartments. While at the lounge, Polanco had consumed a beer, and had smoked a hookah (flavored tobacco filtered through a multi-stemmed water pipe).

     When Polanco encountered heavy, early morning traffic on the parkway, he began driving erratically. He crossed into the middle lane from the right, and in so doing, squeezed between two New York City Police Emergency Service Unit (ESU) trucks. (ESU is an elite SWAT-like paramilitary squad within the NYPD.) Polanco suddenly swerved into to the left lane and tailgated the car in front of him. After traveling a short distance, Polanco cut back in between the two police vehicles.

     One of the ESU officers, infuriated by Polanco's reckless driving, gave him the finger and shouted obscenities. The police turned on their sirens, ordering the wild driver to pull over. (The ESU officers had just raided and searched a drug site in the South Bronx, and were on their way to Brooklyn to break into another place.)

     Noel Polanco, in heavy traffic, brought his Honda to a stop alongside the parkway median. Two ESU officers approached the car. Detective Hassan Hamdy walked up to the passenger's side with his gun drawn. When Diane Defarrari lowered her window, Hamdy ordered the car's occupants to show their hands. Polanco complied with the order by placing his hands on the steering wheel. What happened next defies logic: Detective Hamdy, through the passenger's window, shot the unarmed driver in the abdomen.

     The ESU officer on the Polanco's side of the Honda pulled the severely wounded man out of the car and onto the parkway. Paramedics rushed Polanco to New York Hospital  Queens where an hour after he arrived, Polanco died.

     The fatal shooting of an unarmed man following a traffic stop on the Grand Central Parkway by an ESU officer comprised a major news story. While New York Police officers in recent years have shot very few people, over the past few months there has been a dramatic spike in the department's rate of police involved shootings. The killing of Noel Polanco by Detective Hamdy brought media scrutiny upon this officer which has revealed the following:

     In 1998, after four years in the Marine Corps as a sergeant in an artillery division, Hassan Hamdy joined the NYPD. The resident of Centereach, Long Island was not only assigned to ESU, he became a member of the Tactical Apprehension Team (TAT), a paramilitary unit that conducts predawn, no-knock SWAT-style drug raids. In 2001 and 2008, Hamdy was among several defendants in a pair of federal civil rights lawsuits against the city that the municipality had to settle for a total of $516,000. However, in May 2012, when TAT officers were in a neighborhood to conduct a drug raid, Hamdy and his fellow officers helped rescue five people from a burning apartment. Up until he killed Noel Polanco, Detective Hamdy had not fired his weapon in the line of duty.

     It seems unlikely that NYPD internal affairs investigators will find this fatal shooting administratively justified. On October 10, 2012, NYC Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly announced that a local grand jury will determine what happened in the Polanco shooting. In the meantime, the dead man's mother and her attorney will meet with Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. Detective Hamdy's lawyer has said that Polanco didn't comply with his client's orders to raise his hands. Diane Defarrari, the front-seat passenger, has disputed this claim.



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Sentencing of Jerry Sandusky: Goodbye and Good Ridance

     Jerry Sandusky, the 68-year-old former Penn State football coach and founder of the Second Mile Charity for underprivileged kids who was recently convicted on 45 counts of sexually abusing ten boys, could have been sentenced to a maximum of 400 years in prison. Six of Sandusky's convictions carried a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years. That doesn't mean, however, that the judge John Cleland had to impose a minimum sentence of sixty years behind bars. The judge had the discretion of running these sentences concurrently--meaning simultaneously. He could also have imposed consecutive prison terms which means sacking them on top of each other. Theoretically, Sandusky could have received as little as ten years, but as a practical matter, any sentence more than 25 years would consist of a life sentence for this pedophile.

     On Monday, October 8, 2012, the day before his date with the judge, the Penn State radio station played a jailhouse taped statement by a defiant Sandusky in which he blamed his accusers, the investigators, his attorneys, the media, and the university for his convictions. He said, among other ridiculous things: "They can take away my life, they can make me out as a monster, but they can't take away my heart. In my heart, I know I did not do these alleged, disgusting acts. My wife has been my only sex partner and that was after marriage. Our love continues." (I think I'm going to be sick.)

     Only a hardcore sociopath could make a statement like this. The guy not only believes he hasn't victimized anyone, he sees himself as a criminal justice martyr. I'm sure in the vast pedophile community, Jerry Sandusky is a hero. It will be interesting to see what happens if he tries to sell this line of bull in prison where everybody is innocent, and has a tale of woe.

     On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, Judge John Cleland, after hearing from several of Sandusky's victims, and the sex offender himself, sentenced the Penn State pedophile to thirty to sixty years behind bars. When escorted out of the courtroom handcuffed and in his red jumpsuit, Sandusky smiled for the TV cameras.

     It will be up to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to determine where Sandusky will serve his time, and under what conditions. Just because he is a sex offender does not mean he will automatically be placed in administrative segregation for his own protection. At present, there are 6,800 sex offenders serving time in the state's prison system. Most of them live in the general prison population.

     When I visualize Jerry Sandusky's future as an imprisoned serial pedophile, I see a big, gray-haired guy in black and white striped overhauls breaking big rocks with a small sledge hammer. Sometimes I see him frightened and helpless, cowering in the prison yard, or looking furtively over his shoulder for a heavily tattooed guy armed with a homemade dagger.

     This, of course, is not how it will be for Penn State's famous child molester. Sandusky will probably be incarcerated in one of the state's minimum security correctional institutions. He will have his own dorm room where he can watch Penn State football on his $275, prison-issued, 13-inch TV set that will bring in 15 channels. (HBO and networks like it are excluded, as well as movies that are R-ratred.) He will enjoy two hot meals a day, full health care services (including a sex change operation if he wants one), and whatever medication he needs.

     The coach will be able to exercise daily, have a prison job if he wants one, buy things at the commissary, go to church on Sunday, and have regular visitors. If he wants, he can play cards and other table games with his fellow sociopaths, many of whom will be disgraced politicians and crooked bureaucrats. He'll probably make a lot of new friends, people, as compared to him, are pretty nice.

     Okay, Mr. Sandusky's life behind bars is not going to be that great, but it might be better than the lives he created for some of his victims. One thing is sure, this man has violated his last child. Perhaps that will be his greatest suffering. In the meantime, the scandal and legal mess he left behind for Penn State University will continue, for years.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Crime Lab Crisis: Too Many Cases, Not Enough Money

     So far this year, forensic science auditors have reported serious quality control problems in crime labs throughout the state of Michigan, St. Paul, Minnesota, Houston, Texas, Raleigh, North Carolina, Los Angeles, California, and Boston, Massachusetts. Over the past few years, dozens of crime laboratories across the country have lost their accreditation or have been closed. There have been major problems in drug testing units as well as in the fields of toxicology, DNA analysis, latent fingerprint processing, and firearms identification.

     While there has been some budget cutting that affects street policing, SWAT operations, anti-terrorism programs, and drug enforcement, crime labs have suffered the most from economic austerity. The lack of adequate crime lab funding has created personnel shortages, diminished training, physical plant deterioration, and attenuated administrative oversight.

     Overworked, and in many cases under-qualified lab personnel have produced scientifically unreliable results which have put tens of thousands of criminal cases in jeopardy. Moreover, virtually every crime lab in the country is plagued with substantial caseload backlogs which has seriously eroded the nation's criminal investigative services. Detectives are gathering the physical evidence, but getting it tested is a problem. While investigators wait for crime lab results, criminals remain at large committing more crimes. Crime labs have been closed down because forensic scientists have been caught taking short cuts, lying under oath, and mishandling evidence. As a result, the nation's crime investigation services have become less productive.

     On August 30, 2012, in Massachusetts, after revelations that a forensic chemist had deliberately mishandled drug samples, and failed to follow testing protocols, the state crime lab was shut down. Between 2003 and 2012, this lab analyst had handled more than 50,000 drug samples involving some 34,000 defendants. Now all of these cases are in jeopardy.

     The crime lab problem in Massachusetts reveals how much damage a single forensic scientist can cause. It also shows the effects of a grossly imbalanced criminal justice system. The government spends an enormous amount of tax dollars catching drug dealers and their customers which in turn overloads our underfunded crime laboratories. While television series like "CSI" has created high forensic science expectations among the general public, American criminal investigation, as it is actually practiced, is becoming less scientific and more militaristic. In the relatively short history of American forensic science, the golden era lays behind us, and the future looks bleak.   

Rodrigo Carpio: The Tiny Terror of P.S. 330

     John Webster, a 220-pound former college football player taught physical education and health at P.S. 330 elementary school in Queens, New York. On April 26, 2012, the 27-year-old teacher filed an "occurrence report" with the school principal regarding an incident involving a first grade student named Rodrigo Carpio. According to Mr. Webster, the 40-pound student had "acted out" while walking to the cafeteria with his classmates. The boy had allegedly kicked the teacher in the knee and ankle.

     The 6-year-old's kicks had supposedly produced injuries so severe, John Webster has not been able to return to work. Moreover, he has acquired a lawyer, and is contemplating suing the city of New York, the state department of education, and his attacker's family.

     As reported by The New York Daily Post, Webster's attorney, Andrew Siben, said, "This young boy repeatedly attempted to hit Mr. Webster 20 times and landed two serious kicks, one to his right knee and one to his right ankle. With the kick to the knee, he sustained a meniscus tear that required surgery, and with the the kicks to the ankle, an avulsion fracture which might also necessitate surgery....What's truly sad is that Mr. Webster and teachers within the school were not afforded adequate security to prevent injury which ultimately happened to Mr. Webster."

     Attorney Siben, in speaking to a correspondent with ABC News, said, "This young boy [Carpio] was clearly a tiny terror." The student's parents took exception to the "tiny terror" label, but did acknowledge that their son was now taking medication to "help him focus."

     If elementary education has become a physically dangerous occupation for young, former college football players, we are all in danger. The fact that so many grade schoolers have to be drugged into civilized behavior is also not a good sign. When these kids grow up, they will have to deal with the police, and in those confrontations, the cops will be the ones who inflict the pain. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Eric Dean Lewis: The Secret Life of an Elementary School Principal

     Eric Dean Lewis, before settling in California in 1999, taught at elementary schools in West Palm Beach Florida and New York state. In 2005, before he became principal of Montague Elementary in Silicon Valley's Santa Clara, he taught at Zanker Elementary and four other Santa Clara County schools in the Milpitas (a town of 70,000 north of San Jose) Unified School System. In 2012, the popular 42-year-old principal of Montague Elementary lived by himself in a San Francisco apartment.

     In early September 2012, a member of a multi-agency drug task force received a tip that Lewis was selling drugs. An undercover agent with the Santa Clara County Special Enforcement Team, using the name "Anthony," made contact with Lewis on a dating site for gay men. In an email to the undercover cop, Lewis suggested that they get together and "blow some clouds," meaning smoke methamphetamine. The principal also promised to bring Anthony a "bomb," slang for meth.

     On September 20, Eric Lewis and the undercover agent met at a Caltrain station in San Francisco. After the agent purchased a quantity of drugs from the elementary school principal, Lewis was taken into custody and transported to Santa Clara County's Elmwood Jail where he was held in lieu of $25,000 bail. Officials in the Santa Clara school district placed Dean on unpaid administrative leave.

     If the drug arrest of an elementary school principal wasn't bad enough, the case took an even more disturbing turn when the police searched Lewis' San Francisco apartment. Members of the task force seized seven ecstasy pills, a small amount of meth, and four vials of GHB, a liquid date rape drug. Lewis also possessed a syringe without a needle, a device commonly used to dole out precise doses of a drug. Police officers also discovered miniature surveillance cameras hidden in a watch, a cigarette lighter, and a teddy bear. The searchers also seized three of the principal's computers.

     At his September 24 arraignment, Eric Dean Lewis was charged with drug-related offenses that exposed him to a maximum of eight years in prison. It's quite possible that the drug aspect of the case will turn out to be the least of the principal's problems. Those covert cameras and the date rape drug suggest something even more disturbing. What the investigators might find on this man's computers may end up defining the nature of this case.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Larry Chidester SWAT Raid: Boots in the Wrong House

     At ten on the night of May 25, 2005, the Utah County Metro SWAT team was about to break into a house on South State Street in Springville to confiscate methamphetamine, guns, and other contraband they might find in the dwelling. The Sierra Team, one of the four Utah County SWAT groups involved in the raid, pulled into the neighborhood first. The six snipers in the unit took up positions 50 yards from the target house. The Sierra snipers were in place to watch the house and report any activity at or near the dwelling to the other SWAT units as they moved into their attack positions. From this point on, any bystander who happened onto the surveillance are would be viewed through the cross-hairs of rifle scopes.

     The remaining 24 SWAT officers arrived at the scene. Alpha Team members, taking up positions 70 yards from the house, would break into the dwelling through the front entrance. Team Charlie had the side door. The Bravo squad, setting up behind a wooden fence in the back, 500 yards from the target, would enter the  house through the rear door.

     At 10:30, the Alpha, Charlie, and Bravo teams were supposed to reach the target at the same time, tossing flashbang grenades into the front, side, and rear of the  house. Because of some kind of miscommunication, the Bravo team entered the back door ahead of the other two units, which were moving toward the dwelling from 65 yards away.

     Forty-year-old Larry Chidester lived in the basement quarters of his parents' place next door to the SWAT target. Awakened by the flashbang explosions coming from the other side of his house, Larry came out his side door to investigate what he thought was a car accident. Instead, he saw a group of SWAT officers charging toward his neighbor's house. Before he got back inside, Larry heard one of the officers yell, "There's one?" Alpha Team member Jason Parker, a reserve sheriff's deputy, ran up to Larry and ordered him to the ground. Each time Larry lowered his arms to help himself down, Deputy Parker, his rifle pointed at Chidester's head, yelled, "Keep you hands up!"

     "I'm not resisting! I'm not resisting!" Larry pleaded as Deputy Parker tackled him to the ground and kept him there for a minute or so with his knee pressed into the middle of his back. Although not seriously injured, Chidester had the wind knocked out of him, and suffered abrasions to his forehead, nose, shoulder, back, and knees.

    As Larry Chidester lay pinned to the ground under reserve deputy Parker's knee, Sergeant Deke Taylor and another Alpha Team officer stormed into the Chidester house. Deputy Taylor encountered Larry's mother, Emily, in the kitchen, and at gunpoint, ordered her to the floor. The other officer found Lawrence Chidester in the bedroom sitting on the edge of his bed putting on his trousers. This deputy grabbed Mr. Chidester by the shirt and threw him to the floor, ripping the garment off his back. Shortly after the two Alpha Team officers left the Chidesters shaking and bruised, a third deputy entered the house and apologized for the armed intrusion.

     Sheriff Jim Tracy insisted that the Chidester incident did not fall into the category of a wrong-house raid. His men were merely protecting themselves by taking control of the target area. From a law enforcement point of view, the only mistake involved the deputy's on-site apology, which suggested police wrongdoing.

     The Chidesters filed suit against the Utah County Sheriff's Office and deputies Jason Parker and Deke Taylor individually for violating their Fourth Amendment rights of privacy. The deputies raised the issue of qualified police immunity, arguing that they had acted in good faith. A federal district court judge, in August 2006, ruled that the Chidesters had grounds to sue the officers as individuals. The deputies appealed this decision, and in March 2008, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Deputy Parker's actions did protect him from personal liability under the immunity doctrine. However, the appeals court judges did not bar the plaintiffs from suing Utah County and Deputy Taylor as an individual. The lawsuit is pending. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

The High Cost of Cops Shooting People in Wheelchairs

     On January 4, 2011, Randal Dunkin, a 55-year-old mentally ill man who had been born with polio and was confined to a wheelchair, was creating a disturbance in the street outside San Francisco's Department of Public Health building. That morning at ten o'clock, Dunkin started slashing tires with a knife, and throwing pieces of concrete at passersby. Someone called 911.

     An officer in plainclothes arrived at the scene first, and when he approached the agitated subject to disarm him, Dunkin, from his wheelchair, slashed the officer in the arm with the knife. (The wound, which was not life-threatening, required 21 stitches.) Following the assault, uniformed officers squirted Dunkin with pepper spray, and shot him with a bean bag gun. These nonlethal modes of force did not calm the subject down. As the erratic behaving Dunkin tossed the knife onto the street, Sergeant Noah Mallinger, from range of ten feet, shot him twice in the groin as he sat in his wheelchair.

     Following Dunkin's discharge from the hospital, the police transferred him to the city jail on charges of police assault, resisting arrest, vandalism, and brandishing a knife. San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon, in speaking to the media about the incident, said, "I believe from a legal stance, this shooting will be deemed an appropriate, lawful shooting."

     In reaction to public outrage over the shooting of a crazy man armed with a knife in a wheelchair, the police chief, a few weeks later, announced the proposed formation of a specialized crisis intervention team to deal with mentally ill subjects. (Cops have to be trained not to shoot people in wheelchairs?)

     On March 2011, Randal Dunkin filed a civil rights suit against the city of San Francisco and its police department. Two months later, the department announced that following an internal investigation of the shooting, officer Noah Mallinger had been cleared of any wrongdoing. In other words, the shooting, in the eyes of the police, was justified.

     Randal Dunkin, in November 2011, went on trial for his alleged police assault and the lesser charges. Although convicted of vandalism and brandishing a knife, the jury inexplicably acquitted Dunkin of slashing the officer. (The defendant had claimed self-defense, that the officer in plainclothes had not identified himself.) The jurors split on the resisting arrest charge.

     Use of force experts who studied this case were critical of the shooting. A man in a wheelchair should not have been given the opportunity to inflict a knife wound on an officer. Once Dunkin had tossed the knife, he was no longer a deadly threat to the police. And even if he hadn't dropped the weapon, the police could have prevented, without the use of deadly force, a man in a wheelchair from hurting anyone. (In downtown Pittsburgh recently, police negotiators talked a mentally ill man, who was in possession of a knife and holding a hostage, into surrendering. The stand-off lasted five hours and no one was hurt. In Pittsburgh last year, the police shot three people, killing one. In San Francisco, officers in 2011 shot eight, killing three.)

     In Houston, Texas, at two in the morning on September 22, 2012, Brian Claunch, a resident of the Healing Hands group home, created a disturbance when a caregiver refused to give him a cigarette and a can of soda. In his mid-40s, and diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, Claunch was confided to a wheelchair after having lost an arm and a leg in a train accident.

     Officer Matt Marin, a 5-year-veteran of the Houston Police Department, arrived at the group home with another officer. Shortly after responding to the call, officer Marin shot Brian Claunch in the head as he sat in his wheelchair, killing him instantly. According to a police spokesperson, "He [Claunch] was approaching them [the officers] aggressively. He was attempting to stab them with what is now found to be a felt-tip pen." This statement begs the question: just how aggressive can a pen-wielding man in a wheelchair be?

     In October 2009, officer Matt Marin had shot and killed a knife-wielding man who had stabbed his girlfriend and a neighbor. In 2011, officers with the Houston Police Department shot ten people, killing three.

     For the city of Houston, the police killing of an unarmed man in a wheelchair is going to be costly. For example, a jury in Los Angeles just awarded a known gang member who was shot by the police in September 2005, $5.7 million. In 2009, 24-year-old Robert Contreras pleaded no contest to his role in the drive-by shooting that led to the police wounding and paralyzing him. After being released from prison in 2011, Contreras filed the excessive force suit against the city and the police department. In Los Angeles, police officers put a violent criminal into a wheelchair, and the taxpayers of that city will foot the bill. In Houston, where the officer killed an unarmed man in a wheelchair, taxpayers can expect a lawsuit, and a forthcoming multi-million dollar court settlement. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Downgrading Crime in New York City: How the Police Control Crime Rates

     Crime statistics have always been unreliable indicators of crime rates because a substantial percentage of felonies are not reported to the police. This is particularly true in cases of spousal abuse, child molestation, and rape. Even criminal homicides are underreported. And of the crimes that do get reported to the authorities, not all of them become part of the official record. Crime statistics do, however, reveal trends, and for that reason they are important.

     Politicians and police administrators hate high crime rates because they are afraid the public will blame increases in crime on them. Because mayors and police chiefs take credit for low crime rates, they are held responsible when the numbers go the other direction. This is a problem politicians and police administrators have brought upon themselves. If politicians were honest (an odd thought), they would inform the public that the police have little control over the rate of crime in their jurisdictions. That's because law enforcement is not about preventing crime as much as reacting to it after the fact. The level of crime in a particular city has little bearing on the quality of that municipality's law enforcement services. While there are many ways to judge a police department, the local crime rate is not one of them.

     Because politicians and police administrators have misled the public into believing they are protecting us from criminals, they try to control crime statistics the only way they can, by manipulating the reporting process. This kind of bureaucratic skullduggery has been going on forever.

     In New York City during police commissioner Raymond Kelly's tenure, he has taken credit for the city's declining crime rates. But in 2011, New York's crime statistics revealed a slight increase over 2010, and so far in 2012, this trend has continued. So it's not surprising that when researchers with The New York Times reviewed 100 police reports submitted over the past four months, they found that the police were falsely downgrading felony offenses to misdemeanor crimes (that are not counted) to manipulate crime stats and mislead the public.

     In an article published on September 16, 2012, The New York Times published examples of several cases that feature obvious felonies reported by the police as misdemeanors. (A friend of mine who worked 20 years as a patrolman in New York City, has said the first thing you learn as a NYC cop is that nothing is on the level.) What follows are examples of how the NYC police control crime statistics by mischaracterizing felonies as misdemeanors.

     In 2010 a 17-year-old gunman fired several shots into a group of young men on the street in the Bronx. Nearby, two teenage girls were hit by the shooter's stray bullets. Because their injuries were minor, police officers, in their reports, didn't mention that two girls had been shot in the shooting spree.

     In Brooklyn, the police characterized an attempted rape as "forcible touching," a misdemeanor. When a prosecutor in the Brooklyn district attorney's office learned of the facts of this case, he charged the subject with attempted rape, a felony. After a man in a domestic violence case choked his wife to the point of unconsciousness, the police wrote up the crime as a misdemeanor offense even though the attack clearly fell within the legal guidelines of a felonious assault.

     Numerous New York City police officers admitted to the reporters reviewing these cases that they are encouraged, whenever possible, to downgrade felonies to misdemeanors in order to keep the city's crime rates low, and the politicians happy. Sometimes police supervisors will actually show up at a crime scene to make sure officers are following this program of crime statistics manipulation. Sergeants and lieutenants have been known to modify police reports to achieve this result.

     Crime rates fluctuate but what never changes is the fact that in law enforcement, nothing is on the level. My ex-cop friend was right.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Azerbaijan Lieutenant Ramil Safarov and the International Politics of Murder

     In February 2004, Azerbaijan Army Lieutenant Ramil Safarov was in Budapest, Hungary enrolled in an English class under the auspices of a program called  Partners for Peace. This NATO sponsored event was designed to build ties between former Soviet allies in Eastern Europe. While attending the class, participants were housed in a campus dormitory. This co-mingling of military personnel, some of whom were from countries like Azerbaijan and Armenia that decades earlier had been at war, was intended to promote goodwill and understanding among the attendees. (Azerbaijan and Armenia are currently involved in a dispute over territory.)

     Just before dawn on February 19, 2004, Lieutenant Ramil Safarov entered the dormitory room occupied by Gurgen Markarian, a 26-year-old engineer and Armenian Army officer. Lieutenant Markarian and his Hungarian roommate were asleep when Safarov slipped into the room carrying an ax. While Markarian lay in his bed, the 27-year-old Azerbaijan officer hacked him to death with the weapon, then threw a lit cigarette onto the remains of his chopped and bloodied victim.

     According to the Hungarian forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on the Armenian lieutenant, the officer had been struck by the ax 16 times in the face. This ferocious attack had nearly severed the dead man's head. Safarov had also stabbed the victim several times in the chest.

     The Budapest police took Lieutenant Ramil Safarov into custody later that morning. In confessing to the brutal murder, Safarov, who said he had lost relatives in the Azerbaijan-Armenian war, claimed he had become increasingly angry over repeated insults from the Armenian officers enrolled in the English class. But as the interrogation proceeded, it became obvious that the butchering of Lieutenant Gurgen Markarian constituted a premeditated revenge murder motivated by Safarov's general hatred of Armenians.

     When an interrogator asked Lieutenant Safarov why he had tossed his lit cigarette on his victim's corpse, he said, "Since I hate Armenians so much and I [had] prepared for revenge so long, it was a relieve [sic] for me. As long as I didn't care about him it didn't [matter] whether I threw the cigarette onto the ground or on his bed or into his eyes."

     Ramil Safarov went on trial in the spring of 2006. Found guilty of premeditated murder, the Hungarian judge sentenced him to life in prison with no chance of parole until he had served 30 years behind bars.

     Politicians in Azerbaijan pandering to the hatred of Armenians, began lobbying for Safarov's extradition to his homeland. On August 31, 2012, after serving eight years in a Hungarian prison, during which time Safarov translated several Hungarian novels into Azeri, he stepped off a plane in his hometown of Baku, Azerbaijan. His extradition had been predicated on assurances from Azerbaijan's president Ilham Aliyev to the Hungarians that the 35-year-old convicted ax murderer would serve 25 years in an Azerbaijan prison.

     Lieutenant Ramil Safarov not only received a hero's welcome in Baku, President Aliyev issued him an immediate pardon, awarded him with eight years of military back pay, provided him with a new apartment, and promoted him to the rank of major.

     Major Safarov's brief public relations tour came to an abrupt end as a result of an intense international backlash from citizens and diplomats in Armenia, Hungary, Russia, and the United States. Even in Azerbaijan, President Aliyev's political opponents accused him of using the Safarov affair to help him in his upcoming bid for re-election.     

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Charles Hammer and Carl Ericsson: Grumpy Old Killers

     In January 2011, in Madison, South Dakota, Carl Ericsson, the supposed victim of a 53-year-old locker room prank, murdered one of his imagined high school tormentors. A decades old grudge had turned this life-long misfit and loser into a cold-blooded killer.

     Pretty much everyone's life is full of petty humiliations, slights, and insults. However, it seems that some people don't move on, and mellow-out with age. These codgers, instead of sitting around McDonald's drinking coffee and telling lies, sit in darkened rooms brooding about the past, and fantasizing about inflicting revenge on former spouses, girlfriends, neighbors, relatives, bosses, and fellow employees. As the population grows older, more and more of these ticking time-bombs might be walking among us. Grumpy old men could be turning into grumpy old killers

     In the South Dakota murder case involving the long-simmering resentment over something that happened decades ago in high school, Carl Ericsson, the killer, was an unhappy, unpopular loser living on the fringes of society. The man he murdered in cold-blood, a popular high school football coach, was a winner and a pillar of the community.

     In Tompkinsville, Kentucky, a town of 2,600 in the south central part of the state near the Tennessee state line, an elderly misfit harboring a long-festering grudge, recently murdered a man who was his exact opposite. Herbert Proffitt, the winner, lived with his wife of 53 years in the small Kentucky town situated in the Appalachian foothills. His son served as mayor of Tompkinsville. After serving in the Army, Proffitt returned to his hometown where he was elected sheriff of Monroe County. He later became chief of the Tompkinsville Police Department, and before retiring in 2009, worked at the county courthouse as a bailiff. After enforcing the law for fifty years in this community, people liked and respected him.

     In the 1980s and 90s, Herbert Proffitt arrested Charles Hammer several times for relatively minor offenses. One of these arrests resulted in a short stretch in a Kentucky state prison. In 2002, Chief Profitt arrested Hammer for harassment, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. A judge dismissed the disorderly conduct charge, and a jury acquitted the defendant of resisting arrest. Hammer was, however, convicted of harassment, and received a probated sentence. Charles Hammer, over the years, made no secret of the fact he felt persecuted by Proffitt, a man he resented and did not like.

     In 2012, Charles Hammer, divorced from his wife, was living on a small farm outside of town. He had two daughters, a school teacher, and an employee of a local bank. In the community, Hammer was considered to be an unfriendly man who kept to himself. Even people who knew him weren't sure what he did to support himself.

     Late in the afternoon of Tuesday, August 28, 2012, as 82-year-old Herbert Proffitt stood at the end of his driveway picking up his mail, Charles Hammer allegedly drove up and gunned the former cop down in what was the town's first drive-by shooting. Mr. Proffitt died that day at the local hospital.

     Not long after the murder, a Monroe County prosecutor charged 81-year-old Charles Hammer with first-degree murder. Revenge was the only motive that made sense in this homicide.

     On the day after her husband was shot to death outside his home, Bernice Proffitt fell ill. On September 2, five days after the murder, she died while being treated at the nearby hospital.

     At his arraignment on September 11, 2012, Charles Hammer pleaded not guilty to murdering Herbert Proffitt. The judge denied him bail.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What Made Cage Fighter Jarrod Wyatt Mutilate and Murder Taylor Powell?

     On the morning of March 21, 2010, in a house in Requa, California, a small town in the northwestern corner of the state at the mouth of the Klamath River, Del Norte County sheriff's deputies and officers with the Yurok Tribal Police responded to a murder scene reminiscent of of Hannibal Lector movie. The officer discovered, lying naked on the living room sofa, the blood-drenched and mutilated corpse of 21-year-old Taylor Powell. The victim's chest had been sliced open and his heart torn out of his body. An officer found the charred organ in a wood-burning stove. Powell's attacker had cut off the dead man's tongue, and had stripped all the skin off his face. Signs of a struggle included the presence of blood around the room as well as breakage, and knocked-over furniture.

     Jarrod Wyatt, a 29-year-old mixed martial arts fighter, told officers that he had killed and mutilated his friend and sparring partner, Taylor Powell. According to Wyatt, before the murder, he and Powell, along with two of their acquaintances, had been drinking hallucinogenic mushroom tea. Under the influence of this psychedelic drug, he had murdered and dismembered Powell in what he called a battle between God and the Devil.

     According to Dr. Neil Kushner, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, the victim's organs had been removed while he was alive. (I presume this means that his heart was taken out last. If there are toxicological results supporting the ingestion of mushroom tea, this information, or any other drug-related findings, have not been made public.)

     Del Norte County District Attorney Jon Alexander charged Jarrod Wyatt with first degree murder, aggravated mayhem and torture, and a special circumstances count of extreme cruelty and depravity. If convicted of all three charges, the defendant could face up to three consecutive life sentences which means no possibility of parole.

     While the northern California cage fighter had confessed to a drug-induced homicide, his attorney, James Fallman, entered a double plea of not guilty, and not guilty by virtue of insanity. (In other words, I didn't do it, but if you find that I did, while I'm not mentally ill now, I was when I committed the murder I am denying.)

     In May 2012, a Del Norte County judge, after hearing from a battery of psychiatrists, ruled that Jarrod Wyatt was mentally competent to be tried for murder and the accompanying charges. The judge scheduled his trial for September 3, 2012.

     Just four days before the Crescent City trial was to get underway, the district attorney and the defense agreed to a plea deal. Under the judge-approved plea bargain, Jarrod Wyatt would be sentenced to 50 years to life. Pursuant to the sentencing agreement, the prisoner would not be eligible for parole until 2062. If he lived to be 79-years-old, he might have a chance for freedom. The cage fighter would probably die inside a large, state run cage.

     Following the announcement of the plea arrangement, prosecutor Jon Alexander said, "We saved Taylor Powell's family the agony from reliving the incident at the trial." The district attorney said he believed the murder was in fact premeditated, and not the product of a drug-induced delusion. Because there will be no trial, the public will not be informed of the prosecution's theory of the murder. (At least not for awhile. If Jarrod Wyatt had been even a minor entertainment celebrity, we'd know a lot more about this case.)

     James Fallman, Wyatt's attorney, reportedly said, "We looked for an agreement that would at least give him the opportunity to be paroled someday." Insisting the murder had not been premeditated, the defense attorney told reporters that his client had been "too damn high on drugs to premeditate it."

     Left to speculate on what drove Jerrod Wyatt to such a gruesome and violent act against his friend and sparring partner, I suspect the combined use of steroids and designer drugs like meth or bath salts. (It would be helpful to know if Wyatt, at the time of the murder, was also nude.) This murder doesn't look premeditated, and I don't buy the mushroom tea causation. Maybe some day the truth regarding the cause of this bizarre and grisly homicide will surface.  


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Detroit: What Do You Have To Do To Get Arrested in This City?

     At one-thirty in the morning of Saturday, September 1, 2012, an argument broke out at a backyard house party in Detroit involving an ex-felon named Adris McCullough and some other men. The 36-year-old left the house, returned a short time later in possession of a rifle, and opened fire into a cluster of partygoers. Before McCullough fled the scene, he shot four men, killing 37-year-old Leshawn Glover and 23-year-old Chad Berry.

     Two hours after McCullough shot the four men at the house party, he walked into Engine House 40 on Dexter Avenue and informed firefighters on duty that he was the shooter the police were looking for. Someone at the fire station called the Detroit Police Department and reported that Adris McCullough wanted to surrender to the authorities.

     The Detroit firefighters and the man who had just shot four people, waited around for a police officer to come by the station and take the double murder suspect into custody. When no one from the Detroit Police Department responded to the call, McCullough decided that if the police wouldn't come to him, he would go to them. So he walked to the 10th Precinct station on Livernois Street where the police had no choice but to arrest him. (Let's hope Mr. McCullough didn't have to interrogate himself, write-up his own statement, then sign the confession.)

     As one can imagine, the local media jumped all over this story. Last month there were news stories about how murderers in the city regularly dump their victims in empty buildings, abandoned vehicles, trash-littered alleyways, and in over-grown vacant lots. Because these sections of the inner city aren't regularly patrolled by the police, these corpses lay around for days and weeks stinking up these decaying neighborhoods. In June 2012, more than a dozen murder victim's had been dumped in this city of rotting corpses.

     At a press conference regarding the Adris McCullough matter, Police Chief Ralph Godbee confirmed that fire department personnel had called the police department's central communications bureau regarding a man who wanted to turn himself in for murder. According to the chief, the dispatcher had been unable to send an officer to the fire station "due to area patrol units being busy handling high priority runs." The chief promised an internal investigation into this embarrassing matter.

     Apparently crime is so heavy in Detroit that the arrest of a suspect of a double murder doesn't qualify as a "high priority run." Motor-Town has turned into Murder-Town, and there aren't enough police officers to handle the cases.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Suzanne Barr Resigns Amid Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Suit

     When President Obama named former Arizona governor Janet Napolitano head of the Department of Homeland Security, a lot of law enforcement professionals saw the appointment for what it was--a political pay-off to a loyal party supporter. (Obama pulled an even bigger political stunt when he made Eric Holder, a political partisan devoted to defending criminals and terrorists rather than prosecuting them, U.S. Attorney General. While attorney general picks are always political, this appointment was even more ideological and unfortunate than President Johnson's selection of Ramsey Clark in the late 1960s.) The Department of Homeland Security itself represents a massive bureaucratic mess created as a feel-good measure following 9-11. When something bad happens that politicians have no idea how to prevent, they simply create more government that ends up making things worse. Because the Department of Homeland Security is an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy over ICE, the FBI, ATF, the U.S. Border Control, the DEA, and other federal law enforcement agencies, the head of this useless mountain of paper shufflers is, according to the federal organizational chart, the nation's top law enforcement officer. Good heavens.  

     Shortly taking office as head of homeland security in 2009, Janet Napolitano rewarded a pair of women who had served under her as governor of Arizona, with plumb administrative positions in the agency. Neither of these women were even remotely qualified for their jobs. (That's assuming, of course, that their jobs had anything to do with law enforcement. If their jobs were irrelevant to homeland security, they shouldn't have been hired in the first place.) Napolitano made Dora Schriro, the former director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, her "Special Advisor." It's hard to imagine what useful advice a corrections administrator could offer the head of homeland security. Special advisor, indeed.

     In another of her first appointments as head of homeland security, Napolitano named Suzanne Barr, her former chief of legislative affairs, to the position of chief of staff to John Morton, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Barr, a 1995 graduate of the University of Arizona, and one time political aide to Arizona's U.S. Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain, was even less fit for her new job than Schriro was for hers.

     Entry level law enforcement personnel have to pass intelligence tests, psychological and physical exams, background investigations, and survive the rigors of training before they are allowed to enforce the law. Their immediate supervisors, and the middle management officers, have been tested on the job. But the closer you get to the top layers of the federal law enforcement bureaucracy, the less qualified, and more political the personnel. That's because the political hacks appointed by the president in turn hire political sycophants to remind them of their greatness. This is an employment phenomenon worse than the so-called Peter Principal where employees are promoted until they reach their level of incompetence. In the federal government, there is no room of the top for these upwardly mobile employees because politicians fill these spots with appointees who begin their jobs as incompetent employees of the agency. Perhaps we could call this the political hack effect, or trickle down incompetence.

     In May 2012, James T. Hayes, Jr., the special agent in charge of the ICE office in New York City, filed a discrimination and retaliation suit against Janet Napolitano. According the the $4 million federal action, the head of homeland security had pushed Hayes aside in 2009 to make room for the less qualified Dora Schriro. Hayes was transferred from ICE headquarters in Washington, D.C. to New York after he threatened to file a lawsuit against Napolitano. (Schriro left her special advisor position at homeland security in 2010. She is currently the head of New York City's Department of Corrections.)

      Hayes, who started out in 1995 as a border patrol agent in Texas, and worked his way up to the position of director of ICE Detention and Removal, an operation with a staff of 8,500 and a $2.5 billion budget, claims in his lawsuit that Napolitano's appointee Suzanne Barr had created a "frat house" work environment at ICE designed to intimidate and humiliate male employees.  

      In mid-August 2012, shortly after The New York Post broke the story of the discrimination and retaliation suit against Janet Napolitano which includes the salacious allegations against Suzanne Barr, the ICE director's chief of staff took a two week leave of absence. In the lawsuit, plaintiff Hayes, in great detail, accuses Suzanne Barr of vulgar, lewd, and highly inappropriate workplace behavior. According to the suit, Barr once called a colleague's hotel room and said, in crude language, that she wanted to give him oral sex. She has also been accused of telling a male subordinate that he was "sexy" before asking him a personal question about a particular part of his anatomy. Barr allegedly stole a male staffer's BlackBerry and sent a message to his female supervisor indicating he had a crush on her, and engaged in sexual fantasies involving the two of them. On another occasion, Barr had "removed the entire contents of the offices of three male employees including nameplates, computer and telephones, to the men's bathroom at ICE headquarters."

     On Saturday, September 1, 2012, Suzanne Barr resigned her high-level position at ICE. In her resignation letter to Director John Morton, she called James Hayes' allegations "unfounded." She was leaving ICE, she said, to spare the agency further embarrassment.

     On the day of Barr's resignation, Congressman Peter King, the chairman of the House of Representative's Homeland Security Committee, said that James Hayes' legal action "raises the most serious questions about management practices and personnel policies at the Department of Homeland Security." No kidding. What else is new? 

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Delaware Daycare Fight Club: Throwing Kids to the Wolves

     In recent days, a father, with his 20-month-old son in the car, led the police on a high-speed chase through the streets of Detroit after he refused to stop for a traffic offense. He ran a stop sign, lost control of the vehicle, crashed, then continued his flight from custody on foot carrying the uninjured child in his arms. Just before the police caught up to him, the father handed his son off to a woman on the street he didn't know. (Whether or not the police should have been chasing a man with a child in the car is another question.)

     Anyone who follows the news will come across, almost every day, a story featuring an irresponsible, clearly unfit parent. However, the fact there are probably thousands upon thousands of kids in this country being raised by drug addicts, child abusers, nut cases, and immature idiots, doesn't mitigate the problem that so many children are being raised in daycare centers by people who shouldn't be anywhere near a child.  

     Millions of children in the United States are being partially raised (or warehoused) in 400,000 or so licensed and regulated child care facilities. Forty-one percent of preschool children whose mothers are employed, find themselves in daycare 35 or more hours a week. In America, daycare has become a big business.

     Suzanne Venker, in an online National Review article entitled, "Will America Ever be Ready for the Truth About Daycare," points out that politicians and media journalists avoid talking about the harm daycare is doing to the nation's children. Politicians don't want to offend female voters, and women in the media rely on daycare services themselves, and are therefore not prone to publicly discuss the issue. Venker and others, consider daycare one of the greatest tragedies of modern America. They see the phenomena as a growing epidemic of parental abandonment.

     In her National Review piece, Venker discusses a recent e-book by May Saubiek called Doing Time: What it Really Means to Grow Up in Daycare. According to the author, daycare children receive very little individualized attention, and when they do, because of the high daycare employee turnover rates, it's often from a stranger. Because daycare is a business that relies on customers who believe their children are happy, and being cared for by people who care, parents aren't told how miserable their children really are. On the contrary, parents receive rose-colored reports of how well their kids are adapting and progressing. Parents are often told that the daycare experience helps "socialize" their children. According to Saubiek, daycare life fosters aggressive behavior by forcing kids into survival mode. If a child wants a toy, he or she learns to fight for it.

     Some child facilities are obviously better than others, and conditions might not be so bleak as Saubiek describes in her book. But it seems to me that, to some degree, a good number of working mothers' children are paying the price for the realities of modern society. Daycare workers are not highly paid, thoroughly investigated, or well trained. And they are being drawn from a society awash in alcoholism, mental illness, drug addiction, pedophilia, and ignorance. Who are these rent-a-parents, and what are they doing to America's preschool population?

 The Delaware Daycare Fight Club

     On August 18, 2012, police officers in Dover, Delaware watched a video that showed two 3-year-old boys engaged in a fight organized and supervised by three workers at The Hands of Our Future Daycare Center. One of the Dover daycare workers recorded the combat on her cellphone. When one of the toddlers cried, "He's pinching me!" one of these fight organizers said, "No pinching, only punching."

     In speaking to a reporter, Dover police captain Tim Stump said, "It's difficult to watch. One of the kids involved ran over to one of the adults for protection, but she turned him around back into the fight. They were just wailing on each other, I mean slapping, pinching, throwing each other onto tables." (The fight viewed by the police had occurred back in March 2012.)

     On August 21, the police arrested 19-year-old Tianna Harris, Lisa Parker, 47, and 21-year-old Estefania Myers. Charged with assault, endangering the welfare of a child, reckless endangering, and conspiracy, these daycare workers were placed into the county jail on $10,000 bond each. All three suspects posted bail and were released from custody shortly after their arrests. They are currently awaiting their preliminary hearings.

     One would think that this case, and the subject of daycare services in America, would be a topic of discussion in the national media. The fact it isn't proves Suzanne Venker's point. If politicians raise questions about the quality of daycare in the country, they will be accused by their opponents of waging a war on working women. And since more than half of the personalities featured on television news shows are women, the subject is off-limits. At least for now.

     Someone should be asking how one daycare center had three abusers working at the facility at the same time. Who are these people? Was this facility licensed? Who in Delaware is in charge of daycare oversight? And finally, is there anyway to protect daycare children from institutional abuse?