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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Tucson Police Officer Diana Lopez: Behavior Unbecoming and the Loss of Police Accountability

     In August 2012, internal affairs investigators with the Tucson Arizona Police Department learned that between May and August 2011, Lieutenant Diana Lopez, via her personal cellphone, had sent sexually explicit videos of herself to a subordinate officer on the force. The subordinate showed the videos to several other Tucson Police Officers who kept the whole thing quiet for about a year.

     The Tucson Chief of Police, in February 2013, on grounds that Lieutenant Lopez had violated departmental regulations and standards of conduct, demoted her to patrol sergeant. Assistant Chief Kathleen Robinson, in her departmental report, wrote: "Lopez used extremely poor judgment in sending these images undermining her credibility as a commander. Her actions have negatively affected not only her reputation, but the reputation and mission of the Tucson Police Department."

     Officer Lopez's attorney, Michael Piccarreta, announced that his client was considering filing a civil lawsuit against the city and the department for wrongful demotion. Lopez would also, according to the attorney, appeal her demotion to the state Civil Service Commission.

     Attorney Piccarreta, in speaking to a local reporter about the case said, "The case raises constitutional issues when there is lawful off-duty behavior, and a wrongdoer [the subordinate officer] violates your trust and privacy rights without your permission or consent by making it public."

     In the summer of 2013, the state Civil Service Commission upheld Lopez's demotion.

     In May 2014, Superior Court Judge Charles Harrington reversed the department's demotion of Lopez. The judge rationalized his decision on the fact the police department did not have an explicit policy warning officers against making and showing sexually explicit materials. (In order to foresee all the stupid things a police officer might do, the department's manual of professional conduct would have to be massive.)

     In addressing attorney Piccarreta's points, I'm not sure how the police department violated officer Lopez's constitutional rights by demoting her for sending sex tapes to a lower ranking member of the force. On the violation of privacy issue, cellphone images carry no expectancy of privacy. In fact, one can expect that sexually oriented videos sent by cellphone will eventually go public.

     While attorney Picarreta's strongest argument might have been the off-duty activity aspect, police officers, in reality, are never off-duty. If you punch an off-duty cop you will be arrested on the spot. Obviously, what police officers do on their own time can affect the department and the profession. The fact that Lopez's embarrassing off-duty actions were not criminal offenses misses the point.

   Judge Harrington, in interfering with the internal administrative workings of a police department, lowered the bar regarding what is considered professional police conduct. The fact this officer wasn't fired for embarrassing the profession reveals a serious lack of police accountability. Public employees have become immune from being fired. Citizens have lost control of a government that serves itself rather than the public.

     Diana Lopez, as Lieutenant Diana Duffy, filed a claim against the city in April 2015. According to Michael Storie, her attorney, as a result of the wrongful demotion, Lieutenant Duffy suffered from financial and emotional stress. The attorney was asking the city of Tucson to pay his client $120,000 in damages. The current chief of police supported this claim.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Animal Suffering

I've adapted to the reality of human tragedy. Sickness, violent death, war, poverty and crime is in the news every day. What I can't endure is the mere thought of an animal being abused. There must be something profoundly wrong with me for not being as generally sensitive to human suffering. Could it mean that I like animals more than people. I hope not.

Thornton P. Knowles

Monday, April 23, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On The So-Called "Golden Years"

Losing touch with you youth is a hard pill to swallow. Thinking of yourself as middle-aged is a difficult adjustment. What's really tough is going from "I'm getting old" to "I am old." Old age often brings illness, uselessness, and the feeling that one should apologize for still being alive. The golden years? Give me a break.

Thornton P. Knowles

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Internet Worship

I can see a day when the Internet replaces God. The new Holy Trinity: Facebook, Google, and Virtual Reality. Passwords will replace prayer, computer technicians will comprise the priesthood, hackers will become the Devil, and computers will serve as our sacred places of worship.

Thornton P. Knowles

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Courtroom Humor

In my novels and short stories the humor often takes place in the courtroom. For example: "Your honor, because I plan to represent myself, I request a three year postponement to get a law degree."

Thornton P. Knowles

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Moore Catholic High School Coach-Student Sex Scandal

     Founded in 1962 by nuns, Moore Catholic High School, a 450-student institution located in the Bull's Head section of Staten Island, New York, is prestigious, and with its $10,000 a year tuition, not cheap.

     In December 2013, a person close to the school learned from the friends of a 16-year-old male student that the boy was involved in a sexual relationship with Moore's women's basketball coach, Megan Mahoney. A former basketball star at Staten Island's Wagner College, the 25-year-old was also a gym teacher and the school's assistant athletic director. The person who learned of the affair from the student's friends reported the allegation to the principal, Bob Manisero. Manisero, in turn, reported it to the athletic director, Richard Postiglione.

     Not long after receiving this disturbing information regarding coach Mahoney and the student, the athletic director informed the principal there was no truth to the allegation. According to Postiglione, Mahoney, coming from an upstanding Catholic family, was above reproach. The athletic director reminded the principal that the school was a notorious hotbed for gossip and rumor.

     That December, the person who had gone to the school principal with the allegation sent an email to school board chairman Anthony Ferreri that read: "If you remember I had reported some activity about a basketball coach that I learned the athletic director thought was untrue. I know it is true. I was told they are in love. Hope you have followed legal protocol even through there are no witnesses."

     According to the 16-year-old student's friends, in September 2013, coach Mahoney approached the boy in the school gym and offered to coach him in basketball. Later, she drove him to secluded places where they had sex in her car. The friends of this student quoted him as saying the following regarding his relationship with the teacher: "We were never boyfriend-girlfriend. It was cool. I knew it wasn't going anywhere."

     According to the student's friends, Mahoney picked him up one night at his house for a date. His parents saw her and assumed she was a high school student.

     After athletic director Postiglione received information from a second person who also told him coach Mahoney and the boy were having an affair, he did not notify the police. According to this whistleblower, Postiglione went to the coach and made her promise to stop seeing the boy.

     In January 2014, the basketball coach and the 16-year-old were seen eating at a pizzeria by the boy's ex-girlfriend who had followed them there. The girl called 911 and the police showed up. To the officers the student identified coach Mahoney as his cousin.

     Later that month, after the Moore Catholic High School teacher-student situation blossomed into a massive scandal, Mahoney resigned. While she left the school under pressure, she continued to maintain her innocence.

     Following the coach's resignation, the student at the center of the scandal complained that the other Moore teachers were trying to flunk him out of school. The boy's mother, referring to these teachers, claimed that they wanted her son out of the institution because he had embarrassed the school.

     In an April 2014 email to the New York City Archdiocese, the mother complained that a school investigation of her son had been conducted without her knowledge and that teachers were trying to drum the boy out of the school. The Archdiocese did not respond to the mother's email.

     In June 2014, a social worker paid a visit to the mother's home. The child protection agent said she was there pursuant to a complaint that the mother was an unfit parent. The complaint was unfounded and quickly dismissed. The embattled mother felt she was being harassed.

     To the dismay of Moore Catholic School administrators, the scandal heated up with allegations from one of the whistleblowers that in 2012 coach Mahoney had been involved with another 16-year-old boy. According to this claim, athletic director Postiglione also failed to pass this allegation on to the police. It also surfaced that in 2006 or 2007, a female coach under Postiglione's direction was accused of sleeping with a female Moore student. That coach also resigned under pressure.

     The allegations of Mahoney's sexual relations with the student as well as claims of an institutional cover-up were under investigation by the Staten Island District Attorney's Office.

     On October 21, 2014, after a Staten Island prosecutor charged Megan Mahoney with thirty counts of statutory rape, police officers took her into custody.

     The Mahoney case prosecutor, on May 7, 2015, dropped all charges against the former coach. In discussing this decision at a news conference, the prosecutor cited a lack of DNA evidence, no confession and no eyewitness. Outside the courthouse following the dismissal, Mahoney refused to talk to reporters.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Marriage Made In Hell

     In August 2010, the body of Johana Casas was found in a field on the outskirts of Pico Truncado, a city in southern Argentina. The 20-year-old model had been shot twice. The authorities arrested Victor Cingolani, the victim's former boyfriend, and Marco Diaz, the man she had been living with at the time of her death. Diaz and Johana, hours before the discovery of her body, were seen at a party together.

     In June 2012, 28-year-old Victor Cingolani was found guilty of participating in Johana Casas' homicide. The judge sentenced him to thirteen years in prison.

     At the time of Johana Casas' murder, her twin sister Edith had been dating the man who would later be convicted of her homicide. Following his conviction, Edith visited him in prison and expressed her belief that he was innocent. In the fall of 2012, she announced, to her parents' horror, that she and Victor Cingolani planned to get married.

     Edith Casas' mother, on December 22, 2012, filed a court motion requesting the suspension of the wedding on grounds that her daughter was "psychologically ill" and "not in full control of her mental faculties." The judge suspended the wedding pending the results of a psychological evaluation of the convicted killer's fiancee.

     In speaking to the media regarding her daughter's bizarre plan to marry Cingolani, her mother referred to the marriage as a "terrible betrayal." In response to her parents' concerns, Edith, in speaking to a reporter said, "Victor is not a violent person and I'm not mad. We've got no doubts about what we are doing. We love each other."

     The judge considering the suspension of the wedding, on December 31, 2012, following the court-ordered psychological evaluation, ruled that the couple could get married. Cingolani's attorney, pursuant to his efforts to have his client's conviction overturned, had been arguing that Marco Diaz had been the sole perpetrator of the homicide. In an interview with a newspaper reporter, the attorney said, "The cigarette butt found near Johana's body belonged to Diaz, and all the witnesses have incriminated him. I can understand Johana's parents' attitude. But Edith is not marrying a killer or anything like it. She is marrying a man who was convicted in a judicial scandal. All we want is justice."

     On Valentine's Day, 2013, Edith Casas and Victor Cingolani, in the presence of a jail guard and another witness, were married by a magistrate in the civil registry office in Pico Truncade. Following the brief ceremony, Cingolani, disguised in sunglasses and a beret, was ushered out the back door en route to his cell. His bride, when she emerged from the government building, encountered a cluster of people who did not wish her well. Instead of rice, these angry folks threw rocks and eggs.

     Earlier that morning, before the wedding, Cingolani, when questioned by a TV reporter, said, "I'm getting married because I love Edith. (Many believed he was marrying her to gain an advantage in his quest to clear his name and get out of prison.) I didn't think the wedding would have so many repercussions worldwide." Really? Women who marry imprisoned murderers attract media attention for the single reason that it's such a deviant and stupid thing to do. It's hardly surprising that when a young, beautiful woman marries the man who is behind bars for murdering her twin sister, it excites the media, upsets people close to the victim, and angers a segment of the public.

    As of April 2017, Marco Diaz has not been tried for Johana Casas' murder.


Friday, April 13, 2018

Attempted Honor Murder in Pakistan

     Shot twice. Tied up in a sack. Thrown into a canal. Yet somehow, 18-year-old Saba Maqsood lived to tell her story. Had she not, Pakistani police say, it could very well have been another honor murder. Those responsible for the horror, Maqsood told reporters on June 6, 2014, are her father and brother. They shot her because they didn't approve of her marriage to a neighbor….

     The first bullet hit her cheek, the next one her hand, after which the teenager says she "was slightly conscious, but alive. They put me into a sack, tied up the mouth of the sack and threw it into the canal," Maqsood recalled. "They thought I was dead, but I was not."

     [Maqsood was thrown into] a canal in the city of Hafizabad, a city in Punjab Province about 75 miles northwest of Lahore. Workers at a gas station spotted the sack and the young woman inside and immediately alerted authorities, Halfizabad police officer Ali Akbar told CNN. After corroborating the basics of Maqsood's story, including her injuries, Akbar said, "This seems to be an honor-related crime."

     Such crimes--which the perpetrators rationalize as necessary because the targeted women have somehow brought dishonor on a family--are hardly unprecedented in Pakistan…."The accused are on the run," the police officer Akbar said. "We are hopeful to apprehend them soon."

Aliza Kassim and Greg Botelho, "Pakistani Woman: My Relatives Shot Me, Threw Me in Canal for Marrying Neighbor," CNN, June 6, 2014

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Minister Farrakhan on American Criminal Justice

     In a fiery speech Sunday, February 16, 2014 delivered to 18,000 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Minister Louis Farrakhan blasted the judicial system in the U.S. as being biased against African Americans, calling upon the community to set up their own courts….Farrakhan spoke for nearly three hours, reiterating the Nation of Islam's view that the U.S. is a land headed for destruction because it has disobeyed the word of God.

     Farrakhan suggested that African Americans rely on the Quran and Bible to help them set up their own legal system that would be more fair to African Americans….Farrakhan railed against Christian pastors who endorse gay marriage, which he said contradicts the teachings of Christianity and Islam….Noting that the Nation of Islam started in Detroit in 1930, Farrakhan said: "I want Detroit to know we're back to stay. This is a great city."

"Farrakhan: African Americans Deserve Their Own Courts," USA Today, February 22, 2014 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Being Lonely At The Bottom

They say it's lonely at the top. I wouldn't know about that. But I do know this, it can be lonely as hell at the bottom. But at least you don't have as many adversaries.

Thornton P. Knowles

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Holding Phony Literary Fiction Guilty As Charged

I like to think of myself as a crime fighting crusader in charge of prosecuting phony works of "literary fiction" for fraud and theft by deception. The novelist James Parker said it best: "Imagine, if you will, a book on trial for being boring. Imagine the arguments: the solid citizens called by the prosecution to testify that this book bored them senseless. Imagine the authors and hip professors brought in by the defense to assert that the book was not boring at all, but on the contrary a work of great and lasting interest."

Thornton P. Knowles

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Tattoos

I don't understand why so many middle class people are now permanently marking themselves up with tattoos. One would think that in a culturally evolving society, fewer and fewer people would engage in such behavior. At one time, to see a man or woman literally covered in tattoos, you had to fork over freak show admission. Not anymore. Recently, in downtown Wheeling, I saw a shirtless fat guy with a massive tattoo of West Virginia imprinted on his back. I'm a trained psychologist, and I just don't get it.

Thornton P. Knowles

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Erica Jong

Erica Jong once said, "Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow that talent to the dark place where it leads." She has some crazy ideas, but man can that gal write. Talk about guts and talent!

Thornton P. Knowles

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Benjamin Franklin's Self-Help Book

My favorite self-help book may be The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, for Franklin's unrelenting, very American optimism that the effort will make him happy. I have the same delusion.

Atul Gawande, The New York Times Book Review, October 26, 2014 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

America's Stupidity Iceberg

Teenagers are eating Tide pods, snorting condoms, and feeling safe in a school where they're armed with rocks against potential gun carrying intruders. A guy in Oregon who didn't get his cheeseburgers at McDonald's tried to vandalize the golden arches. And this is just the tip of America's stupidity iceberg. We are in trouble here.

A Not So Quiet Easter Morning at Walmart

     At eleven o'clock on Easter Sunday morning, March 31, 2013, Haamid Ado Zaid drove to the Walmart store on the east side of San Jose, California. After circling the parking lot a couple of times in his red Oldsmobile Cutlass, the 33-year-old sideswiped two parked cars before plowing through the front entrance of the building.

     Twenty feet into the store, Zaid jumped out of his car carrying a blunt object. As seventy customers and employees looked on in horror, Zaid started attacking people with the weapon. He struck one of his victims, a cashier, on the head causing serious injury. The employee had to be hospitalized.

     Officers with the San Jose Police Department, following a struggle, took Zaid into custody. He was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, hit-and-run (the parked cars), driving under the influence of drugs, and resisting arrest.

     The crazed Walmart attacker was held without bond in the Santa Clara County Jail. He was later evaluated by a mental health practitioner who revealed what everybody already knew: The man was a nutcase on drugs.

     In December 2016, Zaid dropped his insanity defense and pleaded guilty to ten counts of felony assault with a deadly weapon, felony vandalism, and reckless driving. Superior Court Judge Daniel Nishigaya, in January 2017, sentenced Haamid Zaid to eight years in prison.

     Haamid Zaid, at the time of his attack on Walmart and the innocent people there, was on parole. Serious crimes by criminals on parole has become a serious problem in California. The criminal justice system in that state has broken down. 

Easter Day Mayhem

      Last year the Easter Sunday egg hunt at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington turned ugly when the mother of a 5-year-old pushed someone else's kid going after the same brightly colored egg. This led to a un-Easter-like physical confrontation. The fists and cuss words flew amid frightened and crying 4-to 6-year olds looking on with Easter baskets in hand. The brawling moms had to be separated four times before things settled down. One of the combatants came away from the encounter with a bloody nose. When the police rolled up to the scene, neither of the egg-hunt warriors wanted to press charges. Maybe because it was Easter.

     Can you imagine what it would be like watching your mother rolling around on the egg-covered ground screaming at and punching some woman? Try getting that image out of your head. "Hey Johnny, how was your Easter?"
     "My mom beat-up another kid's mother at the egg hunt."

     What would Mr. Rogers say to this poor kid?  How do you say, in Mr. Rogers-speak, your mother is a jerk.  

Easter Egg Party Goes Violent

     An Easter Egg decorating party that went very wrong led a Brookline, Pennsylvania man to pelt his girlfriend with hard-boiled eggs before attempting to stab Pittsburgh police officers with a sword….

     Aaron Goempel, 27, awaited his arraignment on charges of aggravated assault charges stemming from the disturbance shortly after midnight, Sunday, April 20, 2014. Police say they responded to reports of a fight inside a Wareman Avenue apartment and found a woman with a red and swollen eye. She told officers that when accusing Goempel of cheating on her, he became agitated and began hurling eggs. He barricaded himself in the bedroom with an exercise machine against the door….

     Once officers got through the door, Goempel reached for a row of knives and swords atop the dresser. Police got him under control and took him to a cruiser where he started yelling racist obscenities at one of the officers. Goempel allegedly kicked another officer in the groin.

     According to court records, Goempel's criminal record includes guilty verdicts for disorderly conduct and public drunkenness dating to 2008. He awaited trial on charges of harassment, prowling, assault and traffic violations.

Carl Prine, "Egg Decorating Turns to Fight, Charges in Brookline, Police Say," Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 20, 2014