6,910,000 pageviews

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Crime Bulletin: FBI Agent Kills Suspected Terrorist Ibragim Todashev

     In 2008, the U. S. Government granted 22-year-old Ibragim Todashev, an immigrant from the turbulent Russian region of Dagestan and Chechya, political asylum. (Todashev had been in the county some time before that.) The mixed martial arts fighter attended college in the Boston area. In 2010, officers with the Boston Police Department arrested the hot-tempered Chechen after he used his car to cut off another motorist in a road rage incident. According to the police, Todashev had threatened the other driver by yelling, "You say something about my mother, I will kill you."

     Todashev, after moving from Watertown, Massachusetts to Orlando, Florida, ran into trouble with the law again. On May 4, 2013, he got into an argument with a father and his son over a parking space at an Orlando Shopping Mall. Todashev split the son's lip and knocked out several of his teeth. Charged with aggravated battery, the unemployed Chechen spent the night in jail before posting his $3,500 bond.

     In the aftermath of the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Todashev, an acquaintance of Tamerlan Tasarnaev, the terrorist killed on April 19 in a shootout with the police, became the subject of investigations conducted by the FBI and the Massachusetts State Police. In interviews with FBI agents and officers with the Massachusetts State Police, Todashev had reportedly implicated himself in a September 11, 2011 triple murder that took place in Waltham, Massachusetts. In that case, three young men were found in an apartment with their throats slit. The killer or killers had sprinkled marijuana over their bodies. One of the victims was an amateur boxer who knew Todashev and the Boston bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

     On Wednesday morning, May 22, 2013, an FBI agent accompanied by two investigators with the Massachusetts State Police were in Todashev's Orlando home interrogating him about the Waltham murders, his relationship with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and his possible involvement as a co-conspirator in the Boston bombing plot. At some point in the interrogation, Todashev lunged at the FBI agent who shot him dead. (According to some news reports, Todashev attacked the agent with a knife. In other reports the knife isn't mentioned. It has also been reported that just before the attack, the suspected terrorist was about to sign a confession related to the triple murder.)

     According to media reports, Imbragim Todashev had Tamerlan Tsarnaev's phone number in his cellphone. The FBI agent who shot Todashev was treated at a local hospital for minor injuries. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Criminal Justice Chaos: Rogue, Out of Control Law Enforcement

     In America, law enforcement is inefficient, heavy-handed, militaristic, zero-tolerant, and out of control. Virtually every law enforcement agency in the country has a SWAT team used for predawn, no-knock raids in the hopeless war on drugs. Wrong houses are raided and innocent people are injured and killed. (Family pets are frequent victims as well.) Cops are using taser guns on misbehaving kids, and police officers are regularly shooting mentally ill adults.

     U. S. Secret Service agents on duty to protect the president have hired prostitutes. The FBI has accused a television journalist of criminal behavior for simply doing his job. IRS agents have targeted more than 400 groups because of their political and religious beliefs. The tax collectors have also harassed the president's political opponents with audits and other forms of intimidation. ATF agents have shipped hundreds of assault rifles to Mexico where they have ended up in the hands of drug lords. Border Patrol officials have released illegal aliens who have been charged with felonies. American drones have killed four U. S. citizens without due process. (Contrast the drone-killings with the bleeding-heart governor of Colorado who recently commuted a mass murderer's death sentence to life.)

     In California and other states, convicted rapists and pedophiles are serving their sentences on unsupervised parole and re-offending at an alarming rate. Federal officers have recently lost track of a pair of terrorist snitches who, after being given new identifies, entered a witness protection program. These two terrorists left the program and have disappeared from government view. The president, who seems reluctant to concede that organized terrorism is a problem, wants to shut down Gitmo, and to bring terrorists to justice in civilian courts rather than military tribunals.

     As federal and local law enforcement agencies abuse their power, pandering politicians keep passing unnecessary criminal laws. Thanks to sexual harassment related regulations promulgated by the Executive Branch, college students, already burdened by university-imposed speech codes, are losing their First Amendment rights. A student can be punished criminally simply for saying the wrong thing.

    Our criminal justice system, in general, has become irrational, uncontrollable, too politicized, and much too intrusive for a nation founded on the principles of individual rights and due process.


Razor Blades in Doughnuts: Utah Couple Try to Pull Off Product Liability Scam

     Michael Condor and his girlfriend Carol Leazer-Hardman worked at a Dollar Tree store in a shopping plaza in Draper, Utah, a town of 40,000 midway between Salt Lake City and Provo. On March 6, 3013, Condor called the Draper Police Department to report that he and his 39-year-old girlfriend had discovered fingernail-sized pieces of razor blade in doughnuts they had eaten. One of their fellow Dollar Tree employees, while chewing on one of the doughnuts the couple had brought to the store, cut her mouth on a razor blade shard. Because the fellow-worker didn't swallow the blade fragment, she escaped serious injury.

     Hospital X-rays revealed that Leazer-Hardman and her 35-year-old boyfriend had each swallowed a piece of razor blade. (I can't find any information regarding their medical status, or if the razor blade pieces they had swallowed have been surgically removed.)

     Condor and Leazer-Hardman informed the police they had purchased the deadly doughnuts at Smith's Food & Drug Store located in the same shopping plaza as the Dollar Tree store. Once notified of the razor blade scraps, Smith's Food & Drug pulled the tamper-proof-packaged doughnuts off their shelves.

     Detectives faced the challenge of determining how the razor blade fragments found their way into the doughnuts. These foreign objects had either gotten into the product at the out-of-town bakery prior to packaging, or had been inserted afterward by someone at the retail location. Given the tamper-proof nature of the packaging, the latter scenario seemed unlikely.

     Condor and Leazer-Hardman, upon being questioned separately by detectives, confessed to placing the sharp objects into the doughnuts. Desperate for money to get out of debt, they had concocted the harebrained scheme in an effort to acquire a civil suit settlement from Smith's Food & Drug Store.

     A Salt Lake City prosecutor charged the couple with aggravated assault and filing a false police report. I presume they are no longer working at the Dollar Tree.

     While I find this case fascinating, local media reportage of the doughnut tampering scam was thin and mediocre. In my view, people who would risk their lives and the life on an innocent victim pursuant to a shake-down swindle are worthy of study. Who was the mastermind behind this potentially homicidal plot? Do the suspects have histories of fraud and other larceny related crimes? Are these people sociopathic, drug-addled, crazy, or simply stupid? Where are the crime reporters? 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Crime Bulletin: Two FBI Agents Killed in Training Exercise Accident

     In 1984, the FBI, in preparation for the Olympics in Los Angeles, formed an elite counterterrorism hostage rescue team comprised of so-called "assaulters," and snipers. Trained in scuba diving, rappelling from helicopters, and close combat tactics, the hostage rescue agents were equipped with military-style gear and assault weapons.

     Unlike FBI SWAT teams that only train a few days a month, members of the hostage rescue unit prepare full-time. This highly militarized squad is more comparable to Navy Seal Team 6 and U. S. Army Delta units. The elite FBI counterterrorism team is headquartered at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

     Since its inception, agents in the rescue unit have responded to 850 incidents including last month's Boston Marathon Bombings. Members of this civilian combat force have also responded to situations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

     On Friday night, May 17, 2013, twelve miles off the Virginia Beach coastline, two hostage team members participating in a maritime counterterrorism exercise, fell to their deaths into the Atlantic Ocean. Forty-one-year-old Christopher Lorek and forty-year-old Stephen Shaw were rappelling from a helicopter when the aircraft suddenly tilted because of a strong gust of wind. As the pilot struggled to regain control of the helicopter, the agents, loaded down with gear, lost their grips and fell.

     By the time the agents were pulled out of the ocean, one of them was dead. The other hostage team member died at a hospital in Norfolk. The men were killed by blunt force trauma. Both agents were married and lived with their wives and children in the northern Virginia town of Quantico.

     During the past thirteen years, six other FBI Agents have died in the line of duty. There are currently 14,000 special agents in the bureau. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Police Kill Andrea Rebello and the Robber Who Took Her Hostage

     Andrea Rebello and her twin sister Jessica attended Hofstra University located in Hempstead, Long Island. In 2012, the second-year students from Tarrytown, New York moved from the dormitory into a rented, two-story house a half block from the campus.

     On Thursday night, May 16, 2013, Andrea, Jessica, Jessica's boyfriend John Kourtessiss, and a third student named Shannon Thomas, were celebrating the end of the school year at McHebes Bar in Hempstead. The four students returned to the twin's off-campus dwelling a little after midnight.

     At two-thirty in the morning of Friday, May 17, 30-year-old Dalton Smith, a wanted criminal with a long history of robbery and assault convictions, entered the unlocked front door of the Rebello house wearing a ski mask and carrying a 9 mm handgun with a filed-off serial number. (Smith was wanted on an April 25, 2013 warrant for absconding from parole.)

     Once inside the house, Smith asked the occupants where they kept their cash. One of the victims told the armed intruder there were valuables on the second floor. Unsatisfied with what he found in the upstairs bedrooms, Smith said, " I saw you at the bar drinking. I know you have more money than this!" Smith asked if any of the students could withdraw money from a bank account. Shannon Thomas said she would bring Smith cash from a nearby ATM. Smith sent Thomas out for the money. He told her she had eight minutes to return. If she wasn't back by then, he'd start killing people. Once out of the house, Thomas called 911. (Nobody said criminals were bright.)

     When a pair of officers with the Nassau County Police Department rolled up to the robbery scene, they saw Andrea Rebello's twin sister Jessica running out the front door. Dalton Smith and Andrea were on the second floor while John Kourtessiss hid behind the living room couch. The officer who had been with the Nassau Police Department twelve years, and before that the New York City Police, entered the dwelling.

     Once inside the house, the police officer encountered Smith as he descended the stairs holding Andrea Rebello in a headlock with his gun pointed at her face. "I'm going to kill her," he said. When Smith turned his pistol toward the officer, the officer fired eight shots at the hostage-taker, killing him on the spot. One of the bullets hit Rebello in the head, killing her as well.

     In the wake of the fatal shootings, the police officer, who has not been identified, placed himself on sick leave. The police involved shooting will be the subject of an internal investigation. There should also be an inquiry as to why a career robber like Dalton Smith was out on parole. No doubt there will be questions why the officer didn't call in a SWAT team and a hostage negotiator.

     Shortly after the fatal shooting incident, Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Dale traveled to Tarrytown where he explained Andrea Rebello's death to her parents. I don't believe most police administrators would have the fortitude to face the parents of a child accidentally shot by one of their officers. Over the years, officers with the Nassau County Police Department have not shot many citizens.



Sunday, May 19, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: The IRS Scandal

The IRS calling taxpayers their "customers" is like a rapist calling his victims "girlfriends."

Keisha Jackson 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Did State Department Officials Commit Involuntary Manslaughter in the Four Benghazi Deaths?

     There are, theoretically, two sets of perpetrators criminally responsible for the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and the three Americans--Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyrone S. Woods--who fought the terrorists who attacked the U. S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012. These four men were murdered in the first degree by Islamist terrorists. State Department officials who knowingly, or at least recklessly failed to perform their duty to protect the Benghazi compound and its personnel could, theoretically, be prosecuted for negligent homicide. (This theoretical discussion of homicide law as applied to the Benghazi deaths does not take into consideration procedural issues of jurisdiction or sovereign immunity.)

     In many states involuntary manslaughter is also called negligent homicide. The offense involves victims who have been killed as a result of defendants' reckless or highly negligent behavior. For example, a drunk driver who runs over and kills a pedestrian will likely be charged with involuntary manslaughter. It is a lesser homicide offense because the culpable party did not intend to take a life. In most states, pursuant to sentencing guidelines, defendants found guilty of involuntary manslaughter are sentenced to 10 to 16 months in prison. Generally, the more reckless the behavior, the more serious the sentence.

     Take the hypothetical case of an apartment building fire that results in the death of a tenant. Assume that fire scene investigators determine that the blaze quickly raged out of control because of a sprinkler system that had fallen into disrepair. If fire safety inspectors had repeatedly cited the owner of the building with code violations pertaining to a faulty sprinkler system, broken fire-escapes, and blocked exit doors, the landlord could be held criminally culpable for the tenant's death. The appropriate charge would be involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide. The landlord, by knowingly or recklessly putting his tenants at risk, had violated his legal duty to protect them from fire. In cases like this, prosecutors have to prove a direct causal link between the defendants' negligent behavior and the victims' deaths.

     In the weeks and months prior to the terrorist attack of the U. S. Consulate in Benghazi, State Department officials in Washington received a steady stream of warnings from the Ambassador and others that the Islamist threat in the region was severe, immediate, and growing. The CIA had warned the State Department that ten Islamist militias including members of Al Qaeda had set up training centers in Benghazi. Moreover, the consulate, already attacked by terrorists, was under constant enemy surveillance. British diplomats and their staff had already fled the city. American Red Cross personnel, feeling threatened by terrorism and political instability in the region, had also departed. Ambassador Stevens, aware of the impending danger, pleaded with State Department officials to send help in the form of added security.

     Under these conditions, a reasonable and prudent person would expect that security at the U. S. Consulate would either be beefed-up, or the foreign service personnel in harm's way would be pulled out of the danger zone. Instead, Ambassador Stevens received a State Department cable signed by Hillary Clinton proposing a scaling back of consulate security, a proposal that was carried out. Despite repeated requests for added protection, Ambassador Stevens and his people, already in harm's way, were placed, by their colleagues in Washington, into even greater danger. (While it is not necessary in criminal law to prove motive, the only explanation that makes any sense regarding why the State Department knowingly placed Ambassador Stevens and his people in such danger is politics.)

     Ranking State Department officials have a legal duty to protect the people they send to dangerous places. In the Benghazi case, these officials breached that responsibility. Unfortunately, no one will be held criminally responsible for not protecting these four Americans. A few low-level bureaucrats may lose their jobs while the people truly responsible for this dereliction of duty will probably not even be held politically accountable.

     Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while testifying before a Congressional Committee on the Benghazi affair, said something to the effect, "Who cares how these men died?" Since I believe the Ambassador and the other three Americans were essentially murdered by politicians and bureaucrats, I found this comment not only ironic but offensive.

     It is not surprising that because of the Benghazi outrage and the other government scandals involving the IRS and the Department of Justice, an increasing number of citizens do not believe or trust politicians and bureaucrats and the political pundits and journalists who lie for them. Watergate involved the cover-up of two burglaries. Benghazi involves the cover-up of four homicides.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: Last Words of Executed Prisoners

I just want everyone to know that the prosecutor is a sorry son-of-a-bitch.

Edward Ellis, executed March 3, 1992

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: Crime in Black Communities

     Experiencing a violent crime rate of 2,137 per 100,000 of the population, Detroit is the nation's most dangerous city. Rounding out Forbes Magazine's 2012 list of the 10 most dangerous cities are St. Louis, Oakland, Memphis, Birmingham, Atlanta, Baltimore, Stockton, Cleveland, and Buffalo....In most of these cities, blacks have been mayors, chiefs of police, school superintendents and principals and have dominated city councils....

     Law-abiding poor black people suffer the nation's highest rates of criminal victimization from assaults and homicides. More than 50 percent of homicide victims are black.

     In addition to victimization, the level of lawlessness in many black communities has the full effect of a law banning economic growth. That's because the thugs are equal-opportunity thugs who will rip off a black-owned business just as they'd rip off a white-owned business....

Walter Williams, columnist, 2013

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: America the Medicated

In 1996, 13 million Americans were taking an antidepressant; nine years later, in 2005, that number had more than doubled... One in ten Americans over the age of six is now taking an antidepressant. Other mind medications are on the rise as well. The use of sleeping pills doubled from 2000 to 2004, and in 2006 it was estimated that 8.6 million used the medications regularly. Stimulants like Ritalin and Dexedrine are also a growth industry, with 5 percent of American children taking stimulants every day.

Dr. Daniel J. Carlat, Unhinged: The Trouble With Psychiatry, 2010

Friday, May 10, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: Last Words of Executed Prisoners

I'm ready to roll. Time to get this party started.

James Jackson, executed on February 7, 2007 in Texas

Crime Bulletin: As Violent Crime Drops, Fear of Crime Increases

     Violent crime has always been a staple of local television and newspaper news. Take out crime, sports and weather and there's nothing left. The old saying, "If it bleeds it leads," is accurate. According to researchers at the Pew Research Center, since 2007, national print and television news outlets have significantly increased their coverage of crime. In 2012, the spree shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut as well as the Jerry Sandusky pedophile case dominated the national news for months. Murder-suicide, murder-for-hire, and police involved shooting cases always attract considerable local and national media attention. So far this year, the ex-LA cop's killing spree, the Boston Bombings, the Jodi Arias murder trial, and the three women held captive ten years in Ariel Castro's house in Cleveland, Ohio dominated local and national news coverage.

     Recently, the top story on Fox News--the Benghazi cover-up--was pushed aside by the Cleveland Kidnapping case and the Arias murder verdict. (Immediately following the Arias guilty verdict, a Fox News correspondent in Phoenix landed an exclusive holding-cell interview of the convicted killer. In true crime reporting, this is a grand slam. Jodi Arias, who looks like a mean elementary school teacher who's dying to hit you with a stick, was one of the most unsympathetic female murder defendants in history.)

     Given the nonstop reporting of gruesome crime on national television, it is not surprising that most Americans believe that over the past two decades the rate of violent crime in the country has steadily increased. This spring, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that since the mid-1990s, the rate of gun killings has been cut in half. The rate of other gun crime fell by 75 percent.

     Despite the significant decline in the rate of gun violence, only 12 percent of those surveyed said they believed crimes involving firearms had dropped over the past 20 years. Twenty-six percent think that crime has stayed the same while 56 percent believe it has increased. A poll by the Pew Research Center produced similar findings. Both studies also reveal that a high percentage of gun violence involves black males shooting other black males.

     Criminologists have attributed the drop in violent crime to a variety of factors including a decline in the use of crack cocaine, and the rise in prison incarceration rates.

     Regardless of the reasons for the drop in violent crime, if an American doesn't live in a high-crime inner city neighborhood, that person resides in a country that is relatively safe from gun and other forms of violence. But people who watch television news, and have noticed how law enforcement has become so highly militarized, understandably don't feel safe. This is exactly how politicians and police administrators want us to feel. Citizens who feel threatened by crime will put up with militarized, shock-and-awe-policing, restricted civil rights, and higher taxes.

     In the old days, police administrators and politicians had to do their own fear mongering. Today, the national media unwittingly does it for them.



Monday, May 6, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: Crime Lab Problems in San Francisco

If you had to get caught dealing drugs, San Francisco was the place to be in 2010, especially if the evidence against you went to criminalist Deborah Madden. That's when Madden was accused of pilfering small amounts of cocaine from the lab for personal use. An internal review turned up significant shortages of drug evidence in several cases she handled. But Madden said she was not surprised by that because weight discrepancies occurred frequently at the lab. The San Francisco district attorney's office first said a half-dozen cases might be compromised, then began to drop hundreds of cases. Later, the investigation of the lab expanded to look at the potential involvement of other crime lab employees, and the DA's office had to analyze 1,400 pending felony narcotics cases they might be forced to drop. Madden retired and no charges were filed.

A Miscellany of Murder, The Monday Murder Club, 2011

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: The "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders"

[The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders] is a compendium of expert opinions masquerading as scientific truths, a book whose credibility surpasses its integrity, whose usefulness is primarily commercial.

Gary Greenberg, The Book of Woe, 2013