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Sunday, August 26, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On The Power Of Imagination

Character, courage, intelligence, imagination, talent, and charisma are all good personality traits to have. But if I had too choose one of these, I would choose imagination. When I was a lonely kid I had imaginary friends. In difficult times I can imagine better times, or at least how to get through the bad times. I can imagine how things could have been worse. I couldn't be a writer without my imagination. It's my imagination that has saved me from boredom, loneliness and despair.

Thornton P. Knowles

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Tip of the Catholic Church Sexual Abuse History Size of Mt. Everest

     On August 25, 2018, CNN reported that according to BishopAccountability, an organization that has been tracking Catholic Church payoffs in sex abuse cases, the church and its insurance companies have dished out $3.8 billion since the 1950s. This report came out in the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report documenting the abuse of 1,000 victims by 300 priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses.

     Based on BishopAccountability findings, the largest Catholic Church payoff took place in Los Angeles when, in 2007, the church paid $660 million to 508 sexual abuse accusers. The allegations involved 221 priests, lay teachers and other church employees.

     Unfortunately, these reports merely reflect the tip of the Catholic Church sexual abuse iceberg. One wonders how long hush money, cover-ups and victim intimidation will keep the Catholic Church afloat. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Seeking Political Office

What is it about elected office that attracts so many fools, charlatans, crooks, and idiots? It's no wonder that so many citizens hold politicians in such low esteem and don't even bother to vote.

Thornton P. Knowles

Monday, August 20, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Point Of View

I don't know what is worse, being on the outside looking in, or being on the inside looking out. I guess it depends on who you are. Like a lot of novelists, I've always felt like I was on the outside of society looking in, never fully belonging. It's a lonely life, but there's nothing I can do about it. You're either in or you're out, and that's just the way it is.

Thornton P. Knowles

Friday, August 17, 2018

Lifting Latent Fingerprints In The Cold

     We got a call. There had been a break-in and a murder of a man in his cabin. This was in the North Woods; there were still some cabins up there without electricity. We went up there, and it was about ten or twenty degrees below.

     The first thing we had to do was build a fire in the old wood stove to get the cabin up to heat. When it's that cold, you can't do any latent fingerprint processing. The reason is, if you put a fingerprint down in freezing temperature, the moisture you transfer, perspiration, is going to freeze. And the fingerprint powder will not stick to the print. It'll run right off. You basically need a little bit of humidity in the air to process latent prints. If it's cold, you warm the area up, and what your doing is, you're thawing the fingerprint out.

     We spent the first five hours at the scene building a fire and warming the place up just so we could go through and process the cabin for fingerprints.

Crime Scene Investigator in Connie Fletcher's, Crime Scene, 2006

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Who Started The Black Forest Wildfire?

     A wildfire is generally defined as an uncontrolled fire in an area of combustable vegetation that occurs in the countryside or a wilderness area. Fires of this nature can be brush fires or forest fires. Wildfires are caused naturally by lightening strikes and accidentally by careless campers. Occasionally controlled fires set by government fire officials to reduce highly combustable underbrush grow out of control and burn down the entire forest. Wildfires are also caused by arsonists whose motives are usually pathological.

     At two in the afternoon of Tuesday, June 11, 2013, a fire that started in the Black Forest north of Colorado Springs, Colorado, quickly raged out of control. When finally contained and extinguished on Thursday, June 20, the blaze had killed two people, destroyed 509 homes, and blackened 22 square miles of land. The Black Forest disaster is the most destructive wildfire in the history of the state.

     Fire investigation specialists with the ATF, the U. S. Forestry Service, and the El Paso County Sheriff's Office have ruled out nature and accident as the cause of the Black Forest Wildfire. That meant the fire had been intentionally set. Because the blaze killed two people, the case was being handled, under the felony-murder doctrine, as a possible arson-murder case.

     At the suspected area of the wildfire's origin, investigators were seen crawling on their hands and knees in search of physical clues pertaining to the method of ignition, and the identity of the fire setter.

     In terms of establishing the cause of a fire--locating its point of origin or origins--the debris analysis of a structural fire generally provides a more complete and clearer picture of the fire's cause. Signs of an incendiary structural fire might include heavy burning and intense heat at a spot without an ignition source, multiple points of origin, and traces of an accelerant such as gasoline. These arson indicators usually don't exist at the scene of an intentionally set wildfire.

     Because wildfires begin in remote areas, there are usually no eyewitnesses to the event. In home and business arson cases, investigative leads include the standard motives of insurance fraud and the elimination of a business competitor. In fatal fires, all of the motives that go with criminal homicide are available to the investigator. These leads and pool of usual suspects are rarely available in wildfire arson cases.

     In November 2014, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office completed its investigation into the Black Forest Wildfire. According to a sheriff's office spokesperson, while the fire was caused by a person, investigators had been unable to identify that person or whether or not the fire had been an act of arson. Perhaps it had been a campfire that had not been properly extinguished. Having exhausted all leads, the case was closed and would go into the books as unsolved.
     

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Killing Monroe Isadore

     Police officers in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, a town of 48,000 forty-five miles south of Little Rock, responded to a call on September 7, 2013 regarding an elderly man who had pointed a gun at two people in his house. Shortly after arriving at the scene at 4:30 that Saturday afternoon, officers managed to get the endangered people safely out of the dwelling. The man with the gun, 107-year-old Monroe Isadore, locked himself into his bedroom and refused to come out.

     Police officers who surrounded the house had the legally blind, dementia-confused old man contained. Although Mr. Isadore wasn't holding hostages or posing a threat to the general public, the officer in charge of the situation called for a SWAT team, law enforcement's heavy artillery.

     By inserting a camera into Monroe's room, SWAT team officers were able to confirm that he still possessed the handgun. After a couple of hours of trying to talk the old man out of the house, a SWAT officer tossed a teargas canister through a bedroom window in an effort to flush the subject out of the dwelling. When the teargas didn't work, SWAT officers entered the home and destroyed the bedroom door with a battering ram. The second the door went down, a SWAT officer rolled in a concussion grenade that produced a loud noise and a disorienting flash of light.

     As SWAT officers charged into the bedroom, Monroe fired his handgun. Several officers shot back, killing Monroe Isadore on the spot. The county coroner pronounced the bullet-ridden old man dead at 7:30 that evening. Just three hours had passed since the initial police call. In Pine Bluff, Arkansas, the cops don't mess around. You can come out of the house now or be shot to death a couple of hours later.

     While the police-involved killing of Monroe Isadore was legally justified, was it absolutely necessary? Were innocent lives at risk? Of course not. The police had the 107-year-old trapped in the house. Had the half-blind, confused old man stumbled out the front door holding the gun, a healthy 80-year-old woman could have disarmed him.

     With the police camera in the bedroom, officers could have watched and waited until Monroe either passed out, fell asleep, or set the handgun aside. At the opportune moment,  SWAT officers could have stormed the house and taken this man into custody. But in an era where police officer safety trumps civilian safety, this is not how they do it. It's kill the armed son-of-a-bitch, then go home to your family.

     The Monroe Isadore shooting reflects, perhaps in the extreme, the effects of a highly militarized style of law enforcement where citizens are either treated like enemy combatants or potential enemy combatants. The armed public servant has been replaced by the crime-fighting warrior.

     What is truly concerning here is the stupendous lack of good judgement and police discretion. Also, where was the public outrage over the unnecessary killing of a confused, legally blind 107-year-old man? People demonstrate and wring their hands over the execution of a cold-blooded serial killer, but shrug their shoulders when the police use unnecessary deadly force. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On The First A-Word

During my grade school years, the worst thing a kid could say in class was "ain't." I remember sitting next to a kid in fourth grade who, upon being accused of chewing gum, said, "I ain't got no gum in my mouth." Suddenly every kid in the room stopped breathing. Lying to a teacher was bad enough, but using the A-word to do it constituted a major offense. The teacher yanked the hapless offender out of his desk and frogmarched him straight to the principal's office for a paddling. I still don't chew gum and never utter the A-word.

Thornton P. Knowles

Thursday, August 9, 2018

In Greece, You're Not a Criminal, Just Disabled

     In Greece, a welfare state in financial crises, the Labor Ministry issues government disability payments to, among others, pyromaniacs, compulsive gamblers, sadomasochists, and peeping Toms. That's right. Before being too critical of this form of governmental generosity, put yourself in the shoes of a pyromaniac. Who's going to hire a compulsive fire setter? (Surely you don't want fire-bugs lying on their job applications.) While sadomasochists can find satisfying jobs as bureaucrats, what do you do with the peeping Toms? (Those not afraid of heights could work as window washers, but how many jobs is that?) Lest you think the Greek government treats is pathological criminals harshly, the labor minister expanded the list of state-recognized disability categories to include: pedophiles, exhibitionists, and kleptomaniacs.

     At the risk of coming off a bit insensitive to compulsive firesetters, child molesters, and serial killers, why aren't these pathological criminals receiving the full benefits of the state while serving time in prison? How can one declare himself a pedophile and not be questioned, arrested, and put in jail?

      Perhaps you have to be a socialist to understand what's going on here. I'm also not an economist, but I do think I know why the country of Greece is in financial trouble.
    

Score One For The Devil: The Arkansas Church Murder Case

     Every once in awhile you hear of a homicide that reminds you that regardless of who you are, where you are, or what you are doing, you can be murdered. It's a sobering thought, but it's true. There are people among us, ordinary-looking people, pushing carts at Walmart, driving around in SUVs, watching their kids play soccer, sitting in movie theaters, and eating in restaurants, that for little or no reason, will take your life. As Charles Lindbergh said after the kidnapping and murder of his son in 1932, life is like war.

     On Sunday morning, June 6, 2010, Patrick Bourassa, a 34-year-old drifter with a shaved head, an ordinary face, and a tattoo featuring three skulls and a flaming dragon, was driving in eastern Arkansas on Highway 64. Slightly tall, thin, and clean-cut, Bourassa, if placed in a group of men his age, wouldn't stand out. Originally from Danielson, Connecticut, he had recently worked in a Dotham, Alabama barbecue restaurant, and had tended bar in Phoenix, Arizona and Wichita, Kansas.

     At eight-thirty that Sunday morning, as Bourassa drove west toward the small town of Hamlin, Arkansas, 80-year-old Lillian Wilson was alone inside the Central Methodist Church. She had gone there to pick-up donation baskets that had been used to collect money for victims of a recent storm. As Bourassa approached the town, his car broke down. Leaving the vehicle along the highway, he walked to the church, and forced his way into the building.

     About an  hour after Bourassa broke into the Methodist Church, he pulled into a nearby Citgo station driving Lillian Wilson's car. A few miles down the highway from the gas station, he used Wilson's credit card to buy food at a Sonic convenience store.

     As Patrick Bourassa drove west through Arkansas, the pastor of the Central Methodist Church discovered Lillian Wilson's body lying on the floor between two pews. She had been bludgeoned to death with a heavy brass cross.

     On Thursday of that week, police arrested Bourassa in Bremerton, Washington on Kitsap Peninsula west of Seattle. He still possessed Lillian Wilson's car, and admitted to the arresting officers that he had murdered the old woman in the Arkansas church.

     On June 16, 2010, after waiving extradition, Bourassa and his attorney stood before a judge in Wynne, Arkansas. Advised that he had been charged with capital murder and several lesser charges, Bourassa pleaded not guilty. He awaited trial without bail in the Cross County Jail.

     On Monday, April 2, 2012, in Wynne, Arkansas, the jury selection phase of Bourassa's capital murder trial got underway. A week later, the prosecutor showed the jury a video-tape of the defendant re-enacting how he had picked the brass cross off the communion table and used it to beat Lillian Wilson to death. In response to why he had killed an old woman he didn't know, Bourassa said it was because he became enraged when she told him that God loved him and would forgive him.

     Bourassa's attorneys did not dispute the fact their client had killed Lillian Wilson. It was their mission to convince the jury to find Bourassa guilty of a lesser homicide charge in order to save him from execution. To get that result, the defense put two expert witnesses on the stand. A psychologist and a forensic psychiatrist testified that Bourassa was genetically predisposed to violence. These mental health practitioners told the jury that the defendant had suffered childhood abuse, and was bipolar. Moreover, he had a personality disorder. (No kidding.) Because these experts were not saying that Bourassa was not guilty by virtue of legal insanity, the relevance of this testimony was not clear. Surely they were not trying to make the jurors feel sorry for this man.

     On April 13, 2012, after four hours of deliberation, the jury found Bourassa guilty of capital murder as well of the the lesser charges. The defendant, at the reading of the verdict, showed no emotion. Having found Patrick Bourassa guilty, the jury had to either sentence him to life in prison or death. The next day, after deliberating two hours, the jury sentenced Bourassa to life without parole. The jurors had spared this killer's life because they didn't think Lillian Wilson, the woman he had murdered, would approve of the death sentence. 

The Christopher Wells Murder-For-Hire Case

    Unlike what we see on TV and in the movies, few real-life murder-for-hire cases involve highly trained, professional contract killers. Most murder-for-hire cases consist of either emotionally unstable or desperate, sociopathic masterminds who hire rank amateurs who almost always botch the job. Identifying a mastermind is one of the easiest assignments a homicide detective will get. Masterminds are most commonly motivated by love, lust, money, rage and/or hatred. They come in all walks of life and often don't have criminal histories. Mothers hire hit men to kill cheerleading coaches, husbands hire losers to kill estranged wives to avoid the cost of divorce, life insurance beneficiaries put out murder contracts on the insured, and teenagers and young adults have parents killed in order to inherit their estates. These cases are not only shockingly common, they are intriguing because of the variety of motives and people involved. Every day someone is arrested for soliciting a contract murder. Most of these masterminds are caught before the homicide is completed because the "hit men" don't realize the people they are talking to are in reality undercover detectives. All of these mastermind/hit-man conversations (many of which take place in Wal-Mart parking lots) are caught on audio and video tape providing detailed insight into the anatomy of this crime.

CHRISTOPHER WELLS CASE

     In August 2010, Amara Wells, the 39-year-old wife of 49-year-old Christopher Wells, declared that she wanted a divorce. The couple lived with their six year old daughter in Monument, Colorado. The day after he received this news, Christopher destroyed $1000 worth of his wife's wardrobe. She and the little girl fled to Castle Rock, Colorado where they took up residence with Amara's sister-in-law and her husband. Within days of the separation, Amara filed for divorce and obtained a restraining order, informing the authorities that she feared for her life. The restraining order did not stop Christopher Wells from stalking and harassing his wife.

     On February 22, 2011, El Paso County (Colorado) police arrested Christopher for violating the restraining order. Instead of posting bail, he chose to remain in custody overnight. That evening someone entered the Castle Rock home and brutally murdered Amara and her sister-in-law's husband. They were beaten, stabbed and shot at close range. Amara's six year old discovered the bodies at three in the morning on February 23. At the time of the killings, Amara's sister-in-law was away on business.

     A few weeks after the double murder, the police arrested Christopher Wells for mastermining the two homicides. Wells and his accomplices, Josiah Sher, Matthew Plake, and Micah Woody had been employed at the Rocky Mountain Auto Brokers in Colorado Springs. Wells stood accused of paying 26-year-old Josiah Sher of Calhan, Colorado, $20,000 for the murder of Amara and her family. Sher's two helpers were charged with buying the weapons, planning the hit, driving the hit man to the scene, and disposing of the evidence. Woody and Plake were each paid $15,000 for their roles in the murders.

     The accused hit man, Josiah Sher, had been arrested in July 2005 for assault, domestic violence, and harassment. Five years later police arrested him for speeding, driving with a revoked license, and being a habitual offender. At the time of this arrest, he was a sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserves.

     Christopher Wells, a hot-tempered drug user, had a history of violence himself. Thirteen years earlier he had asked a cellmate in Fairfax County, Virginia to burglarize his ex-girlfriend's home, and in the process beat her up. Wells gave the cellmate, Richard DeLilly, a checklist detailing the M.O. along with a hand-drawn map of the target's neighborhood and a blueprint of the interior of her home. Wells told DeLilly to take what he wanted then destroy the woman's furniture. Instead of going through with the criminal assignment, De Lilly went to the police. The intended victim told the officers that he, a former Chippendales dancer who did odd jobs and abused methamphetamine, wouldn't take no for an answer. He had called her incessantly, damaged her pickup and jammed the lock on her front door. She considered him wierd and dangerous.

     On September 14, 2011, a judge ruled that the prosecutor in the Castle Rock double murder had sufficient evidence against Wells and the other three to hold the defendants without bond until their separate trials. They were charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and felony murder. All of the defendants are eligible for the death penalty.

   On January 31, 2012, the Douglas County District Attorney's Office announced that prosecutors intended to seek the death penalty against 27-year-old Josiah Sher, the suspected hit man. Two weeks later, Christopher Wells entered a plea of not guilty in a Douglas County Court.

     In March 2012, Micah Woody and Matthew Plake each pleaded guilty to  two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Both men agreed to testify against Christopher Wells and Josiah Sher. The judge sentenced each man to 48 years in prison.

     On January 30, 2014, Christopher Wells and his hit man, Josiah Sher, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder. The judge sentenced both men to life in prison. 

Thornton P. Knowles On Mankind Outsmarting Itself

The smart boys gave us electricity, the radio, the combustion engine, television, nuclear fusion, the computer, and the Internet. In the end, it's the smart boys and their technology that will bring us all down: Mankind outsmarting itself.

Thornton P. Knowles

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Wrong House SWAT Raids

No one is entirely safe from the wrong house, pre-dawn raid by a SWAT team looking for drugs. In the drug war, a man's home is no longer his castle; it's simply a structure that can be forcefully entered by heavily armed cops operating on the word of some drug addled snitch. Over the years dozens of innocent citizens have been killed while trying to protect their homes from people they thought were criminal intruders. Moreover, countless dogs have been slaughtered in the never ending drug war. When the first SWAT teams were created in 1969, they were not intended for this. Now, because of the war on drugs, there are thousands of SWAT teams across the country engaged in a dangerous form of militaristic policing.

Thornton P. Knowles

The Father Edward Belczak Embezzlement Case

     Reverend Edward Belczak, the pastor of the 2,500-member St. Thomas More Catholic Church in the Detroit suburb of Troy, Michigan, lived extremely well for a priest who made less than $30,000 a year. In 2005, the well-known and popular 60-year-old man of the cloth purchased, with a $109,578 down payment, a luxury condo in Palm Beach, Florida from his longtime church administrator, Janice Verschuren.

     In late 2012, an internal audit of Reverend Belczak's church commissioned by the Archdiocese of Detroit, led the auditors to suspect that the priest, during the period 2004 to 2012, embezzled at least $429,000 from the parish. The archdiocese reported the audit results to the local police who turned the case over to the FBI.

     Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, in January 2013, suspended Reverend Belczak. Church administrator Verschuren, suspected of helping the pastor divert church money, resigned.

     Father Belczak's suspension did not sideline him altogether. With advanced permission from the archdiocese, he was allowed to conduct church services at other parishes throughout the Detroit area. He also continued to draw his salary.

     On April 23, 2014, a U.S. Department of Justice spokesperson announced that a federal grand jury sitting in Detroit had indicted Reverend Belczak and Janice Verschuren of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. According to the indictment, Belczal had purchased the Palm Beach condo with funds he had diverted from a parish bank account.

     Another act of theft alleged in the grand jury true bill involved the unlawful taking of $420,204, money bequeathed to the church following the death of a parishioner. That money, according to FBI investigators, had ended up in a secret money-market account in Belczak's name. Forensic accountants with the FBI reported that the 69-year-old priest and his 67-year-old former manager diverted more than $700,000 of the church's money, then filed false financial reports to the archdiocese in Detroit in an attempt to cover the embezzlements. If convicted as charged, the defendants faced up to twenty years in prison.

     Shortly after the indictments came down, Father Belczak's attorney, Jerome Sabbota, in speaking to reporters said, "My client is innocent. He is not happy. Nobody who gets indicted is happy. He looks forward to doing what he has to do."

     Following the priest's suspension in January 2013, many of his parishioners expressed their belief in his innocence. One of his supporters created a website called, "Friends of Father B." The internet site featured photographs of a smiling Father Belczak conducting a variety of church related activities. Supporters were also encouraged to write letters of support to Archbishop Vigneron and even to Pope Francis. (The pope had his own problems with Vatican related embezzlements involving staggering sums of money.) Believers in Father Belczak were asked to donate money to his legal defense fund.

     The "Father B" website also included a statement from the accused priest written after his suspension from St. Thomas More Church. Father Belczak wrote: "I would have never expected a year like this, yet I am at peace with all that has happened. Losing my job, home, and good reputation has brought me to my knees and here I found God awaiting me. His grace has never left me and His assurance continues to direct me. I sense his presence every day working on my behalf and I struggle to align myself to His time frame and not my own. I am reminded daily that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, perceiving as real what is not yet revealed to the senses."

     Faith is good I guess, but in the world of criminal justice, a good lawyer is even better. Imagine, if you will, a teenager confessing to Father Belczak that he had shoplifted something from Walmart. There is petty theft and there is grand theft. If FBI agents and the federal prosecutor were right about Father Belczak, he was not a petty thief, and the parishioners who supported him were victims of his crimes.

     As it turned out, Father Belczak was a big time thief. In September 2015, Father Belczak pleaded guilty to mail fraud in connection with stealing $573,000 from his church. As part of the plea deal, the priest agreed to forfeit the plush Florida condo he had purchased with parish money. The proceeds from the sale of the Palm Beach condo would go back to the parish in the form of restitution.  When asked why he had pleaded guilty, the priest replied, "Because I am."

     After the guilty plea, fifty parishioners and a handful of priests wrote letters to the federal district judge asking for a lenient sentence in the Belczak case.

     On January 1, 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Tarnow sentenced Father Belczak to 27 months in prison. In speaking to the court, Father Belczak said, "I have stained the reputation of being a priest. I ask for the forgiveness of St. Thomas More parishioners."

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Collateral Damage: Militaristic Policing In The War On Drugs

     Let's face it, no one is safe anymore from raiding drug cops who can be armed and mindless. A man's home is no longer his castle; it's simply a structure that can be forcefully entered by combat cops on the word of some lowlife snitch. Today, not all armed home invasions involve criminals.

     Eugene Mallory, a retired engineer who had worked for Lockheed Martin forty years, resided in an unincorporated community east of Palmdale, California called Littlerock. The 80-year-old shared a home with his 48-year-old wife, Tonya Pate, and her grown son.

     Drug enforcement deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's office arrived at the Mallory house at 7:30 on the morning of June 25, 2013. The officers were in possession of a search warrant authorizing them to search the house for methamphetamine and the chemicals used to manufacturer it. The probable cause underlying the search was flimsy at best. Officers, from outside the house, claimed to have smelled the odor of the ingredients used to produce meth. The narcotic officers didn't have an undercover buy or even an informant. Moreover, the suspected meth factory hadn't been subjected to a prolonged drug surveillance. All the cops had to go on was the smell of meth chemicals. (The fact that some rubber-stamp magistrate authorized this raid is frightening.)

     After forcing their way into the dwelling without notice, deputies encountered Mr. Mallory in a bedroom at the rear of the house. It was there they shot him six times as he lay in his own bed. Officers justified the lethal force by claiming that the old man had pointed a semi-automatic handgun at them.

     As it turned out, the Mallory dwelling did not contain meth or any evidence that the drug was being manufactured in the home. Deputies did come across a quantity of marijuana in Mrs. Pate's son's bedroom.

     In speaking to the media about the fatal, wrong house raid, Los Angeles County spokesperson Steve Whitmore said this: "There was a drug operation that was certainly going on in this house." (Are you kidding me? The accidental finding of grass justifies the killing of a 80-year-old man in his own bed?)

     On October 10, 2013, James Bergener, the attorney representing Mrs. Tonya Pate, announced that he had filed, on her behalf, a $50 million wrongful death suit against Los Angeles County. The out of control drug war not only cost Mr. Mallory his life, it will cost the taxpayers of bankrupt Los Angeles County a multi-million dollar court settlement.

     In the minds of our nation's drug warriors, there will always be collateral damage. War is hell.

     In January 2016, Los Angles County settled the Tonya Pate suit by paying the plaintiff $1.6 million. Militaristic drug policing is not cheap.

Monday, August 6, 2018

The Future of Small Town Policing

     Throughout the country small town police departments struggle to exist. Over the last two decades more and more small towns, primarily for economic reasons, have shut down their police departments. These communities were forced to outsource their law enforcement services to county, regional or state police agencies. This is a shame because law enforcement is best administered on a local level. Small towns have their own enforcement priorities and are best served by officers who have intimate knowledge of their town.

     In July 2018, all four members of the Blandford, Massachusetts Police Department resigned in protest. According to Interim Police Chief Roberta Samacki, "We regret leaving the town without a town police force but have no choice given the situation we face."

     The situation these officers faced involved low pay--$15 per hour--old, expired and ill-fitting bullet proof vests, and the condition of the department's best patrol vehicle. The 2010 Ford Crown Victoria, purchased secondhand, had no air conditioning and a front driver's seat stuck in the reclining position.

     Due to budget concerns, officers of the town of 1,200 may have to permanently dissolve the police department. Following the officer's resignations, the Massachusetts State Police began responding to Blandford's 911 calls.

     Unfortunately, the fate of the Blandford Police Department reflects the sad future of small town law enforcement.

The Jared Remy Murder Case

     Jerry Remy played second base for the Boston Red Sox before becoming a Boston area sportscaster. Jerry's son, Jared, a violent man who abused drugs and women, didn't succeed at anything. The only thing Jared Remy became known for was beating up his girlfriends. Between 1998 and 2005 police arrested him six times for assault and battery. The crimes usually included terroristic threats and destruction of property. Except for a man he attacked in 2001 with a beer bottle, Remy's victims were women.

     Notwithstanding his arrests for violent offenses against vulnerable victims, Jared's only punishment involved relatively short periods in jail. In most instances he got off light because his victims refused to bring charges. (Perhaps they were afraid to.)  And it didn't hurt that his father, as the color analyst for Red Sox games on the New England Sports Network, was well known among sports fans.

     In 2009, Jared lost his job as a security guard at Fenway Park in Boston after he and another guard were implicated in a steroid scandal.

     In 2013, Jared resided with his girlfriend Jennifer Martel and their 5-year-old daughter in a Waltham, Massachusetts townhouse. The 27-year-old Martel worked as an assistant store manager while pursuing a degree in elementary education at Framingham University. On August 13, Remy smashed Martel's face into a mirror. She called the police and he was arrested for assault and battery. The next day, Remy walked out of the Middlesex County Jail after posting his bond. In light of the attack, and Remy's history of violence against women, a judge granted Martel an emergency temporary restraining order.

     Just two days after assaulting his girlfriend, Remy returned to his townhouse in violation of the restraining order.  In the outdoor patio, in front of his daughter and in view of several of his neighbors, Remy pulled a knife and stabbed Martel. One of the witnesses, a neighbor named Benjamin Ray, tried to pull the frenzied Remy off the victim. Mr. Ray had to retreat when Remy threatened him with the knife. Several neighbors dialed 911.

     Waltham police officers arrested the blood-covered 25-year-old at the scene. Jennifer Martel died a short time later from multiple stab wounds. This time Remy would not be released on bail.

     On September 24, 2013, a Middlesex County grand jury indicted Jared Remy for murder as well as several lesser offenses.

     A week after Remy's indictments, a reporter for the Boston Herald interviewed Remy at the jail in Cambridge. Staying true to his sociopathic nature, Remy, with a straight face, denied stabbing Jennifer Martel to death. To the reporter, the serial abuser of women seemed upbeat and enthusiastic about his chances of an acquittal. On a more somber note, the inmate said, "I know my life is going to suck when I get out of here." ( Only a hard-core sociopath, under these circumstances, would talk about how life was going to be bad for him.)

     During the 30-minute interview, Remy complained to the reporter that having a famous father was working against him. "You know," he said, "I think we're just like normal people. But if our name was Smith, you'd never see any of this in the newspaper." (If Remy's name was Smith, he wouldn't have been free on bail to murder his girlfriend.)

     Following the Martel's murder, state officials took custody of the killer's daughter. The murder suspect's parents petitioned a judge to turn their granddaughter over to them. (Jerry Remy, following the murder, took a leave of absence from his sportscasting job.)

     Jared Remy, in speaking about his daughter with the Boston Herald reporter, said, "If she choses to know me at some point and wants to see me, that's fine. If she doesn't, that's fine too. I just want her to be happy. I love her. I want her to go to high school, I want her to go to college, I want her to have everything in life she deserves." (In true narcissistic form, it was all about what Remy wanted.) "She's in a good place. She has a dog to play with, which makes me happy, because she loves animals. I'm happy she going to be a veterinarian one day."

     Regarding the inmate's parents who had tried to visit him (he had declined to see them), Remy said, "I'm sure they're not thrilled with me right now." (Talk about an understatement.)

     At his October 8, 2013 arraignment, Jared Remy pleaded not guilty to all charges.

     In the aftermath of Jennifer Martel's brutal and predictable murder, Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan came under criticism for her handling of the case.

     In May 2014, Jared Remy pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. The judge sentenced him to life without the chance of parole. Following the sentencing, Remy said, "Blame me for this, not my family."(Who in the hell was blaming his family?)

     

Saturday, August 4, 2018

America's Littering Epidemic: A Problem Government Can't Clean Up

     By the 1960s, America's cities, towns, and suburban areas were being buried in trash. Bottles, cans, wrappers--you name it--covered streets, sidewalks, roads, parks, and other public areas. This unsightly, unhealthy filth led to the installations of millions of public trash containers and an aggressive anti-littering campaign designed to make dumping one's trash in public a behavior considered taboo. Legislatures also made littering a fairly serious crime through the imposition of large fines. Notwithstanding these efforts, littering grew into an even bigger environmental problem. It also represented an alarming display of civic disorder.

     In some cities, sidewalks and streets are now littered with human feces and hypodermic needles which not only lowers the quality of urban life but presents a public health problem.

     Police officers who arrest litterbugs will tell you that offenders either deny littering, or simply shrug it off. There are no apologies. Many litterers are simply indifferent or lazy, and in some cases expect others to pick up after them. Some litterbugs, feeling disenfranchised and powerless, dump their trash as acts of anger or defiance.

     A country cannot solve a littering problem through its criminal justice system. The problem can only be fixed through voluntary compliance and a sense of civic duty. A country that cannot keep itself clean is a nation in decline.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Pedophilia, The Perpetual Epidemic: What Can Be Done About It?

     In the United States and around the world, pedophiles have infiltrated and infected organized religion, public and private education, the sports world, the health care industry, charitable organizations, and even the institutions of criminal justice. They flourish in our families, neighborhoods, and places of employment. Wherever there are children there are pedophiles. This is a harsh, dangerous reality that cannot be wished away. It's time societies, on behalf of children, recognize it and take this enormous problem seriously.

     Over the decades, pedophiles around the globe have destroyed the lives of tens of millions of children under the noses of the people responsible for protecting them against ruthless, serial predators incapable of rehabilitation. Indeed, these sexual deviates, often disguised as respectable people, are routinely protected through victim pay-offs, institutional cover-ups, and law enforcement indifference and/or incompetence.

     On the rare occasion a pedophile is brought to justice, usually on the strength of a plea bargain, the judge often hands down a light sentence.

     Pedophiles will continue to destroy the lives of the innocent and vulnerable until a MeToo movement is launched on behalf of children.

     Those who protect and cover up for these dangerous human beings should be punished as severely as the offenders themselves. And that punishment should be life in prison without the possibility of parole. But the history of this crime wave, and the way societies have refused to deal with it, leaves no reason to be optimistic. The best we can expect is a phony war against pedophilia that is nothing more than feel-good window dressing.