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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Jerry Sandusky's Personality Disorder and Confession

     The Jerry Sandusky sexual molestation trial began on Monday, June 4, 2012 at the Centre County Court House in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. The 58-year-old former Penn State Coach under Joe Paterno faces 51 counts of sexually molesting, over a period of 15 years, 10 boys. Sandusky met and groomed many of his victims through a charity he started in 1977 called The Second Mile. The defendant stands accused of having sex with boys at his home, and in Penn State locker room showers.

     In November 2011, shortly after the scandal broke, Sandusky was interviewed on NBC TV by sportscaster Bob Costas. During that interview, Sandusky admitted that he enjoyed horsing around in a shower with a boy. In a portion of the interview that didn't air, Costas asked Sandusky if he used his charity for troubled youth to lure in victims. Instead of angrily denying any such thing, Sandusky said this: "Well, you might think that....I would guess that there are many young people who would come forward [with accusations of molestation]. Many more young people who would come forward and say that my methods and what I had done for them made a very positive impact on their life. And I didn't go around seeking out every young person for sexual needs that I helped. There are many that I didn't have, I hardly had any contact with who I have helped in many, many ways."

     Sandusky, in response to Bob Costas' question, made a statement so incriminating it borders on being a full confession. (I'm guessing the statement was so explosive, producers as NBC decided not to air it. These people are not stupid, they knew what they had. They were either afraid, or acted out of some misguided sense of justice.)

     Sandusky, who fits the textbook profile of a pedophile, was telling Bob Costas that he had helped more boys than he had raped. The fact he was a do-gooder earned him the right to pick out a few of the boys for molestation. This rings true because this is exactly how these sexual predators think.

     Prosecutors, who have rested their case against the defendant, have asked for the unaired portions of the Costas interview.

     Sandusky's first two defense witnesses, a pair of his former coaching colleagues, testified that at Penn State and elsewhere in the world of athletics, adult coaches regularly shower with young boys. This revelation took prosecutor Joseph McGettigan by surprise. When defense witness Richard Anderson said he had seen Sandusky showering with youngsters, and that he showered with kids as well, the prosecutor asked, "Eleven-year-olds?"

     "Yes," answered the witness.
     "[Boys] you don't know?"

     "Yes. I do it all the time. There are regularly young boys at the YMCA showering the same time that are older people showering."

     If Richard Anderson's testimony is true, they need to make changes at the YMCA, and Anderson and his former Penn State colleagues need to be investigated. Until the authorities get to the bottom of what happened to young boys under Joe Paterno and his staff, the Penn State football program should be shut down.

     A psychologist named Elliot Atkins took the stand, and in a effort to explain Sandusky's undisputed weird relationship with young boys--the gifts, overnight trips, love letters, and the like--the witness said the defendant has a personality disorder called "histronic personality disorder." According to the psychologist, people with this syndrome try to get attention by being over-dramatic and emotional. The disorder can cause them to be sexually inappropriate. What a load of psychological crap. If Sandusky has a personality disorder, it is this: He is a pedophile. (This case is making me over-dramatic and emotional.)

     By law, Jerry Sandusky is presumed innocent. That is the law, but in this case it's not the reality. The man is a serial pedophile who has, for decades, been raping boys under the noses of his wife, Joe Paterno, and Paterno's staff. They must have known what was going on, no one could be that blind, or stupid. If this trial ends without a guilty verdict on at least some of the counts, Jerry Sandusky will still be a pedophile, and the jurors, accomplices after the fact. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Houston Crime Lab: The Nation's Worst

     The fact that forensic science is a service commonly delivered by government agencies makes solving its problems a real challenge. Government is slow, resistant to change, and difficult to hold accountable. The stratified nature of our criminal justice system--federal, state, county, and local levels of law enforcement--and the adversarial nature of the trial process, exacerbates the difficulties of improving crime lab services. Most problems in forensic science can be placed into three general categories: personnel, jurisprudence (courts and law), and science itself. The principal source of the problems within the Houston Police Department's crime laboratory have involved personnel.

     Since 2003, the Houston Crime Laboratory has been a disgrace to forensic science. At times the lab's services have been so subpar the entire operation has been shut down. Physical evidence has been lost, tampered with, and contaminated. Convictions have been overturned due to discredited forensic analysis. Lab personnel have resigned, been suspended, and indicted. Because of a decade of scandal, corruption, and incompetence, innocent defendants have been convicted, and guilty persons set free.

     Forensic science is supposed to improve the quality of criminal justice, not make it worse. If you want to know what can go bad in forensic science, study the recent history of the Houston Crime Laboratory. It's a textbook of failure.  

     In the field of DNA analysis, the backbone of any major forensic science operation, the work of the Houston lab has been particularly atrocious. In 2008, plagued by backlogs, evidence contamination, and inaccurate test results, the DNA unit had to be closed. There have also been persistent problems in the latent fingerprint, firearms identification, and toxicology sections of the lab. In 2010, an audit disclosed 7,000 untested rape kits sitting in the evidence room. That year a lab supervisor quit over the number in inaccurate blood-alcohol test results.

     On June 6, 2012, the Houston City Council voted 15-2 to hand control of the crime lab to an independent 9-member board. The $21 million a year operation will be overseen by lawyers, academics, business people, and a state legislator. I would  hope that at least some of these board members know something about forensic science. Only time will tell if taking control of the crime lab from the Houston Police Department will end a decade of forensic science disgrace. Separating lab personnel from the direct influence of law enforcement should make these scientists more objective. Perhaps the reorganization will mark the start of a new era of forensic science in Houston. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Disappearances of Ray Gricar and Stephen Ivens: Evil Forces V. Tragic Lives

     Ray Gricar, the Pennsylvania district attorney who vanished from Centre County on April 15, 2005, and Stephen Ivens, the FBI agent who went missing from his Burbank California home on May 11, 2012, have two things in common: they were officers of the law, and their disappearances sparked speculation regarding why they went missing, where they are, and whether or not they could still be alive.

     The fact Ray Gricar has been linked to the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case, and Special Agent Stephen Ivens worked counterterrorism cases for the FBI, has stoked the imaginations of hundreds, if not thousands, of armchair detectives and espionage buffs. The variety of explanations that have surfaced regarding the fates of these men reflects how people think and reason according to their experiences, personal beliefs, and personalities. Offering a theory of what happened to Gricar and Ivens is bit like taking a Rorschach test.

     People who are generally cynical, extremely distrustful of authority, and given to bouts of magical thinking, tend to view mysteries such as these as the tips of conspiracy icebergs. This kind of thinker--one who bases his opinions more on what he believes than what he knows--isn't usually interested in mundane explanations that do not involve intrigue and foul play. These theorists are perhaps less interested in getting to the bottom of an event than weaving narratives reflective of their noir, gothic visions of reality. This doesn't mean, however that such thinkers are always wrong. People in authority shouldn't be trusted, and our government has been caught covering up all kinds of crimes, big and small.

Ray Gricar

     The fact that Ray Gricar had declined to prosecute Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky for child molestation in 1998, then in 2005, took a drive and never returned home, is ripe for theories of foul play. Perhaps, in the face of continued accusations of child abuse by Sandusky following the 59-year-old district attorney's decision not to prosecute, Gricar had changed his mind. Maybe a couple of homicidal Penn State football fans decided to take matters into their own hands. Connecting Ray Gricar to the Jerry Sandusky case, and people who would do anything to save the reputation of Penn State, gives conspiracy theorists the evil forces they need to make his disappearance really interesting.

     Theorists and investigators who search for the most simple, direct, and reasonable explanation behind events and crimes, thinkers who use the inductive rather than the deductive process of reasoning, would probably hypothesize that Ray Gricar's disappearance had been motivated by personal rather than work-related problems. Many of the people who knew Gricar do not believe he was murdered, or that he committed suicide. They think he died accidentally, perhaps by drowning in the Susquehanna River. Gricar's fellow prosecutors don't think he declined to prosecute Sandusky in 1998 because he was afraid to take on Penn State. They therefore don't believe he killed himself because he felt guilty about not putting a pedophile behind bars. However, the belief that Gricar killed himself is not, under the circumstances, unreasonable. And the fact he was not intimidated by Penn State is not inconsistent with the theory he was murdered. While Gricar was officially declared dead in 2011, there are probably people who think he is still alive, living somewhere under a new identify. (There are Lindbergh kidnapping buffs who believe the Lindbergh baby still lives among us.)

Stephen Ivens

     Stephen Ivens, the 35-year-old FBI agent who walked away from his Burbank home on the morning of May 11, 2012, and hasn't been seen since, has presented a perfect slate upon which to write a narrative featuring a governmental conspiracy of secrets and wrongdoing. The fact there has been a virtual news blackout on the case adds fuel to theories ranging from Ivens was a victim of murder; is being held by the government in some secret place; or, as an exposed Russian spy, has been sent back to Russia. While there is no direct or even credible circumstantial evidence supporting any of these rather fantastic theories, there is no proof these scenarios couldn't have occurred. For people drawn to conspiratorial explanations, that's enough.

     Assuming that Ivens' remains are found in the wilderness not far from his home with a contact head wound, and his FBI revolver next to his body, conspiracy theorists will interpret the death scene in a way consistent with murder. To wit: the Vincent Foster case. Some psychologists believe that in big crimes like presidential assassinations, people find comfort in conspiratorial explanations. The thought that a deranged lone wolf can change history with a couple of shots is unsettling. The realization that a district attorney and a FBI agent can come unglued and disappear on their own volition is also a bit disturbing. If it can happen to them, it can happen to anybody.

     Unless there is strong evidence to the contrary, the more straightforward theorists will assume that Stephen Ivens' disappearance, like Ray Gricar's, came about as the result of personal demons rather than the evildoing of others. We will probably never know the story behind the Gricar mystery. The Stephen Ivens case is still relatively fresh, and has the potential of being explained. At least to most people.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Charging Marijuana Growers With Child Abuse

     Although voters in California have legalized medical marijuana, police and prosecutors in the state continue to raid growers who they believe are illegally cultivating the cannabis for resale. (Cops also get a kick out of the raids themselves. If there was no drug war, SWAT teams would have to be disbanded, or called out in shoplifting cases.) To further criminalize pot growing, cannabis cultivators with children are being charged with child endangerment, and in some cases, abuse. In the medical marijuana community, these raids and arrests, and charges of child abuse, are considered harassment tactics by the cops and prosecutors who are against the legalization of medical marijuana. They argue that living in a house with marijuana plants is not equivalent to growing up in a crack house.

     Generally, people who support marijuana decriminalization include libertarians, liberals, potheads, and the relatively small number of sick people cannabis actually helps. Opponents include social conservatives, religious groups, and the law enforcement community. Judges, caught in the middle of this social and legal debate, will have to sort it out case by case.

     Daisy Bram and Jayme Walsh grow medical marijuana in their garage and on their property in Concow, California, an unincorporated community in Butte County. This remote, mountainous area in the north central part of the state is named after the Indian tribe indigenous to the region. Bram and Walsh have two children, 15-month-old Thor, and 3-week-old Zeus. (I'm going to take a wild guess and speculate that Daisy and Jayme play the guitar, and sing folk songs.)

     At eight in the morning of September 29, 2011, members of the Butte Interagency Narcotics Task Force, accompanied by child protection service agents, raided the Bram-Walsh house on Yellow Wood Road. They seized 96 marijuana plants, a plastic bag containing syringes and spoons, and both of the children.

     Assistant District Attorney Jeff Greeson charged Daisy Bram and Jayme Walsh with a total of 8 class A felonies that included cultivating and possessing cannabis for sale, and two counts of child abuse.

     On November 30, 2011, Judge Steven Howell dismissed the child abuse charges for lack of evidence. Six weeks later, the defendants got their children back. Prosecutor Greeson, on March 8, re-filed the child abuse charges against Daisy Bram. The re-instatment of these charges upset local medical marijuana supporters who called for a grand jury investigation of the drug task force, and the child protection agency.

     At the preliminary hearing on June 11, 2012 held in Oroville before Butte County Superior Court Judge Steven Howell to determine if the state had sufficient probable cause to hold Daisy Bram over for trial on the child abuse charges, prosecutor Greeson presented an expert witness.

     Dr. Angela Rosas with the Sutter Medical Group, testified that the psychoactive chemical in cannabis--THC--is hazardous to children. If a child eats raw marijuana plant leaves, the effect could be toxic, she said. Defense attorney Michael Levinsohn put on his own medical expert, Dr. William Courtney. Dr. Courtney, who studies the effects of marijuana on users, testified that THC isn't activated unless it's heated. He said a child would have to eat a pile of raw leaves to get sick. And not only that, the leaves have a bad taste.

     Judge Howell has not made his ruling on the child abuse issue. I think he will dismiss the charges and allow Bram and Walsh to keep Zeus and Thor. (If there's child abuse in this case, it's giving your kids dogs' names.)     

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Stephen Ivens: Why No News on the MIssing FBI Agent?

     Stephen Ivens, a 35-year-old FBI agent assigned to the Los Angeles Field Division, has been missing since he walked away from his Burbank home on the morning of May 11, 2012. Blood hounds tranced his scent to the Verdugo Mountains where a search party of FBI agents, local police, and volunteers looked for him.

     Ivens, a married father of a toddler, has been an FBI agent a little more than 3 years. Before joining the bureau Ivens had been a Los Angeles police officer. The white, 6 foot, 160 pound bespectacled agent worked on counterterrorism cases. Because his FBI-issued revolver is also missing, Ivens was presumably armed when he left his house that morning.

     According to news reports, Special Agent Ivens had been depressed. This has led to speculation that he was suicidal, and has killed himself. However, the fact he worked on cases related to counterterrorism has led some to believe he has been the victim of foul play.

     Special Agent Ivens has been missing one month, and as far as I can tell, since the days following his disappearance, there have been no news stories about his case. I don't know if reporters have been pressing the bureau for information, and have been stonewalled, or if the media has simply lost interest. I do know this: if Stephen Ivens had been even a minor celebrity, particularly someone in the entertainment world, the media would be all over his disappearance. There would be daily press conferences, three-page features in People Magazine, candle-light vigils, and investigative reporting into every corner of the missing celeb's life.

     An FBI agent missing for a month is an event worthy of serious investigative reporting and media scrutiny. The possibility of foul play, and even a government cover-up, trumps issues of personal privacy. The public has a right to know who Stephen Ivens is, why he has disappeared, and the status of the search for him.

     Questions the media apparently havn't asked the authorities about the case include: Have they stopped looking for Ivens? Where have they looked? And why hasn't he been found? After he left his house that morning on foot, could someone have picked him up and taken him away in a vehicle? On a more personal note, what was the status of his marriage? Has Ivens attempted or threatened suicide before? Did he leave a suicide note? Was the agent taking anti-depressant or anti-psychotic medication? Did he have a drinking problem? Was he being treated by a psychologist or a psychiatrist? And why did he leave the Los Angeles Police Department for the FBI?

     The absence of news on this case will create speculation regarding the possibility of foul play and a government cover-up. At a time when White House personnel are suspected of leaking our national security secrets, there is nothing from the government on Stephen Ivens' background and disappearance. In some cases, loose lips sink ships, and in others, tight lips cause suspicion and distrust. Where is Stephen Ivens? 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Paige Parkerson and the Mother's Day Murder

     Clifton "JR" Barkin lived in a rented house in Beaumont, Texas with Paige Parkerson, his 22-year-old fiancee and their two sons. At eleven o'clock Mother's Day night, Sunday May 13, 2012, Barkin's mother, Evetta Wright, drove him to the local Walmart where he bought Parkerson a Mother's Day card and a bouquet of flowers. Wright dropped her son off at his house at 11:20, and drove home.

     Less than an hour later, Paige Parkerson called Evetta Wright and told her that in a fit of rage over the cheap, last minute Mother's Day gifts, she had stabbed JR to death. The distraught mother called 911.

     Early Monday morning, Parkerson was arraigned on the charge of first degree murder. She is being held in the Jefferson County Jail on $75,000 bond.

     While people are murdered every day for reasons even sillier than this one--a man in Ohio was just arrested for killing his wife for refusing to get out of bed to buy a new car--one has to assume that in this case there is more to the story than a Mother's Day slight. I'm guessing that alcohol, drugs, and/or mental illness played a role in the killing.  

Catalina Clouser: Stoned Mother Drives Off With Baby On Car

     On Friday, June 1, 2012, Catalina Clouser, a vacuous-faced 19-year-old with pink hair, a pot habit, and a 5-week-old baby, spent the evening at a Phoenix park near her home drinking and smoking marijuana with her boyfriend. Clouser had brought her baby to the park to enjoy the night, and inhale their second-hand smoke. Parenting in the age of drugs.

     Later that night, Clouser and the squeeze ran out of booze so he and Clouser, with the sleeping baby in the carseat, drove off to get more beer. Along the way, police pulled them over and charged him with driving under the influence. After the cops hauled the boyfriend off the jail, Clouser drove to her girlfriend's house on West Cholla Street.

     At her friend's place, Clouser, distraught that the police had interrupted a fun night by busting her boyfriend, added to her high by smoking two bowls of marijuana. Around midnight, she staggered to her 2000 Ford Focus, laid the carrier containing the sleeping infant on the roof of the vehicle, slid behind the wheel, and drove off. As she motored mindlessly through the intersection of Cholla and 45th Avenue, the baby, wearing only a diaper, bounced off the car and landed in the street.

     Arriving home, the stoned mother discovered that her baby wasn't in or on the car. Instead of calling 911, she phoned her friend and asked her to retrace the route she had taken from her house. Clouser said she would do the same from her place back to the friend's dwelling. In the meantime, passing motorists spotted the baby in the intersection and called 911. Miraculously, the child (probably half-stoned) had not been seriously injured.

     Clouser and her girlfriend, when they converged at the intersection of Cholla and 45th Avenue, encountered police officers who were questioning the citizens who had called in the emergency. Identifying herself as the mother of the baby in the street, Clouser admitted she had driven off with the infant on her car roof. An officer at the scene arrested Clouser for aggravated DUI, and child abuse. Paramedics with the Phoenix Fire Department transported the baby, who appeared to be okay but hungry, to a nearby hospital. The next day, officials with the Arizona's child protective services took control of Clouser's baby.

     Clouser bailed out of the Maricopa County Jail, and is awaiting her trial under house arrest. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Jury Nullification in the Jerry Sandusky Sex Molestation Case?

     The Jerry Sandusky sexual molestation trial began on Monday, June 4, 2012 at the Centre County Court House in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. The 58-year-old former Penn State football coach under Joe Paterno (who died of cancer last January), faces 52 counts of sexually molesting, over a period of 15 years, 10 boys. Sandusky met and allegedly groomed his victims through a charity he started in 1977 called The Second Mile. The defendant stands accused of having sex with these boys in his home, and in Penn State locker room showers.

     Prosecutors wanted to try the case before jurors from outside the immediate Penn State area. The defense argued for a jury of locals. On this important issue, Judge John Cleland ruled in Sandusky's favor.

     Since Centre County is home to Penn State's massive main campus in State College, there wasn't a single prospective juror (600 of them) who wasn't intimately familiar with Jerry Sandusky, the case, and the school. State College and Bellefonte are company towns, and the company is Penn State University. America is red, white, and blue. Centre County is just white and blue.

     By June 6, twelve jurors and four alternatives had been seated. Eight of the jurors had direct connections to Penn State, as did two of the alternates. Some had graduated from the school, others currently work there, and one is a student. Several of the jurors acknowledged that they regularly attend Penn State football games, and one of them has a cousin who played for Joe Paterno. Good heavens.

     Trial lawyers know that a case is essentially won or lost after the jury is selected. The acquisition of jury members who will be sympathetic to one's client has become an art and science. A litigator who doesn't know how to tailor a jury to a defendant can hire a jury selection consultant.

     In the Sandusky trial, if the prosecutors wanted a panel of jurors unaffiliated with Penn State, they are in trouble. With limited jury selection challenges, there was no way for them to carve an impartial group out of a pool of prospective jurors from Centre County.

     In the O. J. Simpson murder trial, the Los Angeles County prosecutors were careless in selecting the jury because they assumed that no person with a brain, when presented the DNA evidence against Simpson, would acquit this defendant. They were wrong. The Simpson prosecutors failed to anticipate the real possibility in that case of jury nullification. They should have known that some jurors will simply ignore the evidence and vote according to how they want the case to come out. (In one celebrated trial, the jury voted to acquit because they believed an acquittal would make a better movie.)

     Jury nullification explains the O. J. Simpson verdict, and many believe it led to the acquittals in the Casey Anthony and John Edwards trials. (I don't believe it played a role in the Edwards case.)

     While the Sandusky jury has not been tailored to the defendant through professional juror profiling and screening, I think, thanks to Judge Cleland, it has come to the defense ready-made. The Sandusky verdict, or lack of verdict, could be more about school loyalty than one man's guilt or innocence.  

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Luka Magnotta's Arrest and the Mailing of More Body Parts

     Luka Magnotta, the 29-year-old porn actor who videotaped his murder and dismemberment of Chinese student Jun Lin in mid-May, dumped his torso behind his Montreal apartment building, then mailed the victim's hand and a foot to two addresses in Ottawa, is now in custody in Germany.

     Prior to his arrest in Berlin, the cannibal and snuff-video maker was seen partying in the Bastille section of east Paris. On Friday, June 1, a surveillance camera caught Magnotta boarding a bus to Berlin. In his rundown hotel room in Bagnolet, a town northwest of Paris, police found a cache of pornography magazines and an air-sickness bag from the plane he had taken from Montreal.

     In Berlin, on Monday, June 4, an employee of an internet cafe recognized Magnotta from his newspaper photographs. The cafe worker flagged down a police car, and shortly thereafter, 7 officers took Magnotta into custody without incident. At first Magnotta gave the police a false name, then said, "You got me."

     On Tuesday, June 5, as Magnotta appeared before a German judge regarding matters of his extradition back to Canada, innocent victims were still being subjected to the aftermath of his macabre handiwork. In Vancouver, in British Columbia, Canada, staff members at the False Creek Elementary School, and at St. George's, a private school for boys, opened packages containing, respectively, Jun Lin's other hand and foot. It is not clear, at this point, what Magnotta's connection is to these institutions. (Lin's head has not been recovered.)

     Detectives on Montreal's major crimes unit are conducting cold-case reviews of old murder cases for possible links to Luka Magnotta. 

DUI Suspect Amanda Bynes to Obama: "Help! I'm a Celebrity!"

     At three in the morning on April 6, 2012, in West Hollywood, California, a 26-year-old TV actress named Amanda Bynes, while making a right-hand turn in her BMW, sideswiped a police car. Suspecting that she was driving under the influence, the officer asked her to take a breathalyzer or a blood test. She refused both.

     On Tuesday, June 5, Bynes received a summons charging her with misdemeanor DUI. If convicted, she could be sentenced to 48 hours in jail, and get three years probation. Bynes would also have to enroll in a 9-month alcohol program, and could lose her driver's license for up to a year.

     Apparently outraged by the DUI charge, the actress sent the following tweet to the President of the United States: "Hey Barack Obama. I don't drink. Please fire the cop who arrested me. I also don't hit and run. The end."

     At first blush, asking the leader of the free world to fire a local cop over a wrongful DUI arrest seems puerile and stupid even for an entertainment celebrity. But on second thought, maybe not. Obama is known for sticking his nose into criminal cases. In 2009, after a local police officer in New Jersey detained Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Obama called the arrest "stupid." (Basing this analysis, I guess, on his vast experience in law enforcement.) More recently, the president injected himself into the Treyvon Martin case by telling the world that if he had a son, the boy would look like Treyvon. (Upon hearing that, I proposed that we make shooting anyone who looks like the president of the United States a federal crime.) And we know that Obama loves Hollywood celebrities, not for their fame, but for their money.

     Since Obama is not above trying to intimidate members of the U.S. Supreme Court, if I were the Hollywood police officer who busted the airhead, I'd get ready for a late night visit by, say, George Clooney.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Missing FBI Agent Stephen Ivens and Accused Child Porn Ex-Agent Donald Sachtleben: A Connection?

     Most of the comments directed at my blog about the May 11, 2012 disappearance of FBI agent Stephen Ivens take issue with my opinion that Ivens, who is still missing, walked into the Verdugo Mountains near his Burbank, California home to kill himself. The 35-year-old agent, a former Los Angeles police officer, had been in the bureau three years, and worked counterterrorism cases out of the Los Angeles field division. According to reports, the agent had been struggling with depression, and left his house carrying his service revolver.

     The blog commentators who consider my theory of Stephen Ivens' disappearance the height of naivete (or worse), believe he has been the victim of foul play. They think Agent Ivens was murdered, and that his killing is connected to his work in the FBI. One of the commentators also believes there is a connection between the Ivens case and the arrest, on the day Ivens disappeared, of a former FBI agent named Donald Sachtleben.

Donald Sachtleben

     On January 9, 2012, investigators with the Illinois Internet Crimes Against Children task force searched two computers in Rosco, Illinois owned by a man who admitted trading child pornography via email with people all over the country. One of the porn exchanges involved a person with the email address pedodave69@yahoo.com (why would anyone include the letters "pedo" in their email address?). The last known IP address for pedodave69 belonged to Donald John Sachtleben, a 54-year-old former FBI agent. Sachtelben lived with his wife in Carmel, Indiana, a town just northeast of Indianapolis.

     Donald Sachtleben left the bureau in 2008 after a 25-year career as an explosives specialist and bomb scene investigator. Special Agent Sachtleben had worked on a number of high-profile cases including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000, and the crash of Flight 93 in central Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. He also led the team that processed unabomber Ted Kacznski's Lincoln, Montana cabin where the schizophrenic manufactured his package bombs. After leaving the FBI, Sachtleben became a visiting professor and Director of Training at the Oklahoma State University for Improvised Explosives Research and Training Center.

     On May 11, 2012, the day Stephen Ivens left his house in Burbank never to be seen again, FBI agents and officers with the Indiana State Police showed up at Sachtleben's house with a federal warrant to search his computers. The former agent had just returned home from the Indianapolis airport.

     On Sachtleben's computers, the searchers discovered 30 images and video files of child pornography featuring girls under the age of 12. Sachtleben's wife told the officers she had no knowledge of her husband's possession of this kind of material. FBI agents took Sachtleben into custody. That night he was incarcerated in the Marion County Jail.

     The United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana charged the former FBI agent with the federal crime of possession and distribution of child pornography. If convicted, Sachtleben faces up to 20 years on the distribution count, and an additional 10 years on the possession charge. He could also be fined up to $250,000. At his arraignment on May 15, Sachtleben, in custody without bail, pleaded not guilty to both charges. He resigned his position at Oklahoma State University.

     So, how are Stephen Ivens and Donald Sachtleben connected? They couldn't have worked together at the FBI because when Ivens became an agent in Los Angeles in 2009, Sachtleben had already retired from the Indianapolis office. While there is obviously a lot I don't know about these two men, the fact Ivens disappeared on the day agents arrested Sachtleben doesn't convince me these two men, and the events involving them, are related.

     Conspiracy buffs are adept at weaving coincidences into foul play and intrigue, especially when the federal government is involved. Instead of connecting the dots, people with active imaginations and a taste for spy v. spy scenarios, create their own dots. Of course anything is possible, and if I'm wrong about this I will be quick to admit it. Although I'm a former FBI agent myself, I've never carried water for the bureau. (See: "FBI: Tarnished Badges," January 3, 2012.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Is the Hernandez Confession in the Etan Patz Case False?

     When a schizophrenic with no history of violence or pathological crime says he committed a 33-year-old child murder in a case recently in the news, chances are the confession is false. On May 16, 2012, Pedro Hernandez, a 51-year-old from Maple Shade, New Jersey, told detectives he choked 6-year-old Etan Patz to death in the basement of a lower Manhattan, New York bodega. The confession led to Hernandez's arrest and psychiatric evaluation at Bellevue Hospital. (See: "Pedro Hernandez's Confession in the Etan Patz Case," May 25, 2012.)

     The Hernandez confession has been the subject of debate between forensic psychiatrists, law enforcement personnel, and legal scholars, over its reliability. Everybody knows that celebrated crimes like the Lindbergh kidnapping case, the John F. Kennedy Assassination, and the JonBenet Ramsey case draw false confessors out of the woodwork. In the Patz case, a known child molester and mental patient named Jose A. Ramos confessed to sexually molesting, but not killing Etan. In 2004, the boy's family won a wrongful death lawsuit against Ramos who is currently serving time in a Pennsylvania prison. While the burden of proof in a civil suit is not as high as a criminal trial, there was obviously enough evidence to convince the civil jurors that Ramos' confession was true, and that he had murdered Etan.

     Dr. Michael H. Stone, the New York City Psychiatrist who wrote the 2009 book, The Anatomy of Evil, doesn't put much stock in the Pedro Hernandez confession. According to Dr. Stone, the vast majority of men who kill children do it for sexual reasons. Pedro Hernandez has not admitted to a sexual motive in the Patz murder. In his confession, Hernandez told the detectives that "something just came over me." This does not ring true.

     Men who are convicted of sexually molesting and murdering children, long before their convictions, were considered dangerous sexual predators. Mr. Hernandez not only doesn't have a history of this kind of behavior, he is married, and helped raise two children. Had Hernandez murdered Etan Patz in 1979, how did he control his deviant sexual urges for 33 years? According to Dr. Stone, "For him to go from being that person to a marriageable, somewhat pleasant guy with his own children--that's a very unlikely scenario."

     There is a good chance that Pedro Hernandez's confession is a schizophrenic's delusion, and not the solution of a 33-year-old murder case.