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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Carie Charlesworth: Forever the Victim

     In 2012, Carie Charlesworth, after having divorced her husband who had abused her for years, lived in Spring Valley, California with her two sons, ages nine and eleven, and her twin seven-year-old girls. Carie's ex-husband, 41-year-old Martin Charlesworth was under a court restraining order that prohibited him from contacting his former wife. (Martin did have child visitation rights.) Carie earned $37,000 a year as a second grade teacher at the Holy Trinity Catholic school in El Cajon, a town not far from San Diego.

     Carie Charlesworth's troubled life took a turn for the worse in January 2013 when Martin, in violation of the restraining order, went to the school's parking lot in an effort to contact his ex-wife. Alarmed school official responded to Martin's presence by locking down the school and calling the police.

     Police officers rushed to the elementary school where they arrested the ex-husband for violating his restraining order. Shortly thereafter, Martin pleaded guilty to the charge of stalking in violation of the domestic court mandate. The judge sentenced Martin to a year in jail minus time served. He was also given four years probabion.

     According to Martin Charlesworth's attorney, he had gone to the school that day to discuss child custody issues with his ex-wife. In speaking to reporters, the attorney said, "He just wants what's best for his children and Carie." In addressing the media, Carie Charlesworth said that based on her ex-husband's past behavior, she was afraid for her safety when he showed up at her place of employment.

     Shortly after the January lockdown, the principal of Holy Trinity placed Carie on paid administrative leave. But in June 2013, an official with the San Diego Catholic diocese informed the 39-year-old teacher that she would not be offered a teaching position for the upcoming school year. In the letter containing this devastating news, the diocese administrator justified the decision by pointing out that according to public records, Martin Charlesworth "has a 20-plus year history of violence, abuse and harassment of people--mostly women--and he has continued the pattern to the present."

     In June 2013, Martin Charlesworth was released from prison.

     Thirty Holy Trinity parents held a rally outside the school in support of the diocese's decision to discontinue Carie Charleworth's employment. These parents felt that her presence in the school, given the nature of her relationship with her violent and unpredictable ex-husband, endangered their children.

     Carie Charlesworth, in discussing her situation with a reporter, said, "I followed all the things they tell domestic abuse victims to do. Now I feel I was the one who got punished. This is why other victims do not come forward."

     Following her dismissal, Carie Charlesworth championed legislation to insure that no other woman would experience what she had been put through by her employer.

     In July 2013, after being out of jail less than a month, Martin Charlesworth was arrested for contacting his wife in violation of the terms of his probation. Before the judge, Charlesworth admitted his violation and in return was allowed to continue on probation.

     On October 1, 2013, police officers arrested Martin Charlesworth again when he broke the terms of his probation and his ex-wife's protection order. This time the judge sentenced him to five years in prison.

     In October 2013, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that protected victims of domestic abuse from losing their jobs. A month earlier, she filed a lawsuit against the diocese contesting her dismissal. (In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that religious organizations can claim ministerial exemptions from employment discrimination laws.)

     As of April 2020, Carie Charlesworth's lawsuit against her former employer remained unresolved or unreported.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Sex For Rent

     On April 24, 2020, United States Attorney General William Barr, in a memorandum to U.S. Attorneys across the country, instructed federal prosecutors to pursue cases involving landlords accused of coercing their COVID-19 era tenants into giving them sex instead of rent money. "This behavior is not tolerated in normal times, and certainly will not be tolerated now, "the attorney general wrote.

     The federal Fair Housing Act protects tenants from sexual harassment by landlords which includes taking sexual advantage of women who cannot afford to pay their rent. (Women who voluntarily offer landlords sex in lieu of rent is, under the laws of most states, are acts of prostitution. These cases, however, are never prosecuted.)

     In Hawaii, the state has an organization called the Commission on the State of Women. According to Khara Jabola-Carolus, the executive director of the agency, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, ten cash-strapped female tenants have accused their landlords of soliciting sex in lieu of rent. Jabola-Carolus said more cases of this nature have been reported during the pandemic than in the past two years.

     In Chicago, Illinois, Sheryl Ring, the legal director at Open Communities, a legal aid fair housing agency, reported that her organization has seen a threefold increase in housing-related sexual harassment cases since the coronavirus shutdown. According to the legal director, "landlords have been taking advantage of the financial hardships many of their tenants have in order to coerce them into a sex-for-rent agreement which is absolutely illegal."

Monday, April 27, 2020

Banning Homeschooling: Are They Your Children or Children of the State?

     Due to the coronavirus pandemic, 50 million children are not attending school. Many of them are being homeschooled by their parents or guardians.

     In the May-June issue of Harvard Magazine, Harvard law professor Elizabeth Bartholet, in her eighty-page article entitled "Homeschooling: Parents Rights vs Child Rights to Education and Protection," asserts that giving parents more access to their children through homeschooling is harmful to them. "I think it's always dangerous, she writes, "to put powerful people [parents, not teachers] in charge of the powerless, and to give the powerful ones total authority." For this reason Professor Bartholet wants to ban homeschooling.

     The professor argues that in normal times--when the vast majority of children are being taught in public schools--teachers are the ones who most frequently report child abuse to child protective services. According to Bartholet's thinking, mass homeschooling will increase incidents of child abuse, noting that none of the fifty states requires homeschooling parents to be checked for prior reports of abusive behavior. "The issue is," she writes, "do we think that parents should have 24/7, essentially authoritarian control over their children from ages 0 to 18?"

     In Bartholet's concern for protecting America's children from their parents, the Ivy League professor doesn't seem bothered by the mediocracy of public education. Moreover, she fails to acknowledge how corrupt teacher's unions exert their power to protect pedophile teachers and coaches. Instead of firing sexual predators, and alerting the police, school administrators, under the influence of teacher's unions, simply transfer these sex offenders to other schools. This practice is so common it even has a name: "passing the trash."

     Journalist Kelly Marcum, in an April 23, 2020 article in The Federalist, wrote that behind Professor Bartholet's "veneer of concern for children's welfare," lies her real agenda: "disdain for Christians and conservatives."

     According to Kelly Marcum, Professor Bartholet is not concerned about failing school systems and the serious problem of student bullying. Academic curricula and bullying are the principal reasons most parents cite for pulling  their children out of public schools. And she is obviously not concerned about the intense left-wing political indoctrination students are exposed to in lieu of a straightforward education.

     In authoritarian societies, children are essentially raised and indoctrinated by the state. Parents have little control over how their children are brought up. These kids are treated as children of the state. If parents in these countries dare contradict the political teachings of the government, they are often turned in to the state by their own children. In America, this form of collectivism, outside of academia, is rejected by citizens who want to maintain control of their children. Parents want to have a say over what is being taught in government run schools. Many believe that over the years in America, parents have been losing control of their children to a massive and powerful public education bureaucracy.

     For "social justice" collectivists like Harvard professor Elizabeth Bartholet, when it comes to teaching and indoctrinating America's children, the state knows best. 

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Celebrity Journalism: The Rise and Fall Story

     When ordinary people commit crimes, abuse drugs and alcohol, and kill themselves, it's local news. When celebrities or former celebrities do this, it's entertainment. O. J. Simpson's popular culture legacy will not be football. Marilyn Monroe will not be remembered for her film career. Oscar Pistorius, the South African "Blade Runner", after being convicted of killing his celebrity girlfriend, become even more famous. His case entertained millions of people for more than a year.

     Celebrities are manufactured personas. These people have relinquished ownership of themselves to the public. In that sense they are not real people. They exist for our amusement and entertainment. We celebrate their successes and triumphs, and revel in their misery. Ripe for exploitation, celebrities need fame like the rest of us need oxygen. When they don't get it, they whither away and die. Sometimes they take things into their own hands by committing suicide.

     Country western singer Mindy McCready's prolonged substance abuse, law enforcement problems, and domestic turmoil provided celebrity journalists with a lot of material. The girl from Cleburne County, Arkansas made it big in Nashville with her 1996 debut double-platinum album, "Guys Do It All The Time." She spent the next 16 years trying to replicate that success. During this time, McCready struggled with drugs and alcohol as well as a volatile love life. She never regained the fame she had lost.

     In 2004, McCready pleaded guilty to filling out fraudulent prescription slips for the addictive painkiller OxyContin. A judge in Nashville sentenced her to three years of supervised probation. In May 2005, after her ex-boyfriend, Billy McKnight was charged with attempted murder for allegedly breaking into her Herber Springs home outside of Nashville, police arrested her for driving under the influence. A couple of months later, the singer was found unconscious from a drug overdose in the lobby of a Pinellas County, Florida hotel.

     In September 2005, McCready, pregnant with Billy McKnight's child, was hospitalized after attempting suicide by drug overdose. Police arrested her eighteen months later for misdemeanor battery that occurred during a fight with her mother. In September 2007, McCready spent a year in jail for violating her probation from the 2004 OxyContin sentence. A year later, she was back behind bars for falsifying her community service hours in connection with the 2007 case. The country western singer attempted suicide again in 2008.

     In 2009, Mindy McCready was talked into becoming a cast member in VH1's reality TV series, "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew." (Dr. Drew is Dr. Drew Pinsky.) The series was ostensibly about giving viewers insight into the serious problem of substance addiction, and the importance of professional treatment. On the show's third season, McCready appeared with, among other "celebrity" cast members, Dennis Rodman, Tom Sizemore, MacKenzie Phillips, and Heidi Fleiss.

     Fans of this exploitation of fallen stars must have found the program reassuring. While their own lives were far from perfect, they were at least better off than McCready and the other human disasters showcasing their flaws and failures. After former "Celebrity Rehab" cast members Mike Starr, Joey Kovar, Rodney King, and Jeff Conaway died young, VH1 canceled the series after five seasons. But the spirit of the show lived on in the non-celebrity version called "Rehab with Dr. Drew." The freak show also spawned a pair of spinoffs, "Sober House," and "Sex Rehab", a series about people addicted to sex.

     After her stint on "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew," McCready's life continued to spin out of control. (Apparently the TV counselor didn't do her much good.) She had more arrests, drug overdoses, and attempted suicides. In January 2013, McCready's boyfriend, David Wilson, the father of her 9-month-old son, shot himself to death on the front porch of her Herber Springs, Tennessee home. On Sunday, February 17, 2013, McCready, on the same front porch, used a gun to take her own life.

     By dropping the curtain on her own show, McCready gave her audience a tragic ending to a sad story. It won't be long before the public forgets that she ever existed.    

Friday, April 17, 2020

The Edward Williams Murder Case: The COVID-19 Effect

     So-called social justice advocates do not, in general, like the idea of jails and prisons. These self-righteous do-gooders do not believe non-violent criminal offenders should be put behind bars. They don't think these crimes are worthy of incarceration even though the criminal law calls for prison sentences in non-violent crimes such as theft, burglary, stalking, drug trafficking, felons in possession of guns, vandalism, pornography, perjury, forgery, arson, property hit and run, and other crimes against property, morality and public order. The vast majority of crimes committed in this country are non-violent.

     These soft-on-crime proponents have used the COVID-19 crisis to further their agenda of emptying our jails and prisons. Because the general public does not support lighter sentencing for non-violent criminals, taking advantage of the pandemic is the only way these criminal justice sob sisters can achieve their goals.

     In Los Angeles County, at any given time, the jail system holds 17,000 inmates awaiting trial. Since early April 2020, the sheriff of Los Angeles County, citing the potential spread of the coronavirus, has released 4,000 suspects of non-violent crimes.

     Aware of the reality that merely because a person who is in custody on suspicion of a relatively minor offense does not mean this person is not a major criminal, the sheriff warned citizens there would be increased crime in their communities. This meant law abiding citizens in southern California who had lost their jobs to COVID-19, were essentially imprisoned in their homes, and were prohibited from buying guns to protect themselves, had to worry about being victimized by people who should be in custody.

     On March 19, 2020 in Hillsborough County, Florida, a local judge authorized Sheriff Chad Cronister to "release any pretrial detainee [jail inmate] arrested for a municipal or county ordinance, a misdemeanor offense, a criminal traffic offense [DWI, reckless driving, property hit and run], or a third-degree felony offense." The stated justification for springing these prisoners: "To protect the inmates, deputies, and staff working within the jails."

     So, due to COVID-19, public safety was no longer a law enforcement priority. Safety was now about protecting inmates and government employees. Inmates, instead of infecting each other, had the freedom to disobey social distancing and other public health guidelines, get sick, and infect law abiding citizens. This, of course, makes sense to social justice advocates who blame society for turning people into criminals.

     One doesn't have to be clairvoyant to predict what happens when suspects awaiting trial for "non-violent" crimes are prematurely turned loose. Take the case of Edward Williams.

     On March 19, 2020, 26-year-old Edward Williams was one of 164 Hillsborough County jail inmates set free. Williams, a resident of Tampa, had been arrested on March 13, 2020 on charges of heroin possession, a third-degree felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor offense. While these are relatively minor crimes, Mr. Williams was not a minor criminal. He wasn't some businessman who got drunk and wiped out a telephone pole.

    Edward Williams had an extensive criminal history involving 35 criminal charges that included theft, burglary, drug possession, drug sales, and firearm violations. His five convictions involved felony charges reduced to misdemeanors pursuant to plea bargains. The fact he had tattooed his face suggested he wasn't preparing himself for gainful employment.

     On Saturday night, March 20, 2020, the day after Sheriff Cronister opened the jail doors, a Hillsborough County 911 dispatcher received several calls regarding shots fired in Progressive Village, a low-income housing community in suburban Tampa.

     At the crime scene, deputies found a man lying on the sidewalk who had been shot. Paramedics rushed the victim to Tampa General Hospital where, a short time later, he died.

     On Sunday, the day after the fatal shooting, Hillsborough deputies arrested Edward Williams on the charges of second-degree murder, illegal gun possession, violently resisting arrest, and possession of heroin. The charges stemmed from the murder of the unidentified victim in Progressive Village.

     Following Williams' arrest, the "non-violent" criminal was back in a Hillsborough County jail, this time under a $280,500 murder bond.

Joe Biden's List of Favorite Books

Joe Biden recently referred to COVID-19 as COVID-9. Not surprisingly, the list of his favorite books include: Catch 21, Two Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Stalog 18, The Postman Rings Trice, A Tale of Three Cities, Slaughterhouse-Six, Fifty-One Shades of Grey, and Eight Days in May.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

A Nation of "Heroes"

America is a nation of "heroes." There are tens of thousands of them. Television news readers and commentators often refer to all military personnel, law enforcement officers, and firefighters as heroes. Now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, even grocery store cashiers have been referred to as heroes. There are, of course, true war heroes, brave cops, heroic firefighters and health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus battle. But all of them? If everybody is a hero, then no one is. In the fields of education, literature, science, business, law, and journalism, there are real heroes, too, but we seldom hear of them. I guess there are even political heroes, but at the moment, none come to mind. If there is one segment of American society where there are no heroes and a lot of heels, it is the media.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Governor Whitmer, Tear Down That Wall

     Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, on March 23, 2020, issued an order that "all public and private gatherings of any size are prohibited." A few days later, the governor extended the order directing residents to stay in their homes until May 1, 2020. The order barred citizens of Michigan from "buying nonessential items or traveling between residents." (Big government politicians like the power of determining, for everyone under their rule, what is essential and what is not. These people think that government leaders know what's best for their subjects.)

     As a result of the most aggressive--one could say oppressive--COVID-19 related order in the country, people who live in Michigan cannot visit their vacation cottages while residents from outside Michigan can travel to their summer homes in the state. (This is what happens when we let government types think for us.)

     Under Whitmer's decree, Michigan residents cannot go out and purchase paint and garden equipment but they are allowed to buy lottery tickets.

     If Americans sit back and continue to allow government officials like Whitmer control their lives, the day may come when we no longer live in a free country. If we're lucky, we may still be allowed to buy lottery tickets. 

Vandalism: A Pathological Crime

      A pathological crime is a crime that, to a rational person, doesn't make any sense. Acts of vandalism often fall into this category. Most vandals are either mentally ill, emotionally unbalanced and/or acting under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Some of them are dangerous.

     At seven o'clock on Friday morning, April 10, 2020, health care workers at the New York-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt, New York, upon completing their overnight shifts, found that someone had slashed 22 tires in the hospital parking lot.

     Later that day, officers with the New York State Police arrested Daniel Hall, a 24-year-old from Peekskill, New York. Booked into the Westchester County Jail, Hall faced charges of criminal mischief in the second degree, auto stripping, and possession of a controlled substance (PCP) in the fifth degree.

     The magistrate set Daniel Hall's bail at $1,500.
     A spokesperson announced that the hospital would pay the costs of repairing or replacing the 22 tires the vandal had slashed. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Audrey and Edward Cramer: Victims of a Bungled Marijuana Raid

     Although they didn't know it, the nightmare for Audrey and Edward Cramer began in September 2017 when a tree in their neighbor's yard came down. The couple resided in Buffalo Township, a Butler County, Pennsylvania community about 35 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. Edward Cramer was 69 and his wife Audrey 66. They had never been in trouble with the law, or had any experience with the police. They were good, law abiding citizens, the kind of people who trusted and supported law enforcement.

     On October 5, 2017, Jonathan Yeamans with the Nationwide Mutual Insurance company came to investigate the neighbor's fallen tree claim. In so doing, he saw in the Cramer backyard what he believed to be budding marijuana plants. In reality, the insurance adjuster was looking at Hibiscus plants. Thinking that he had stumbled upon a marijuana pot growing operation, Jonathan Yeamans surreptitiously took photographs of the plants and turned them over to the Buffalo Township Police Department.

     Armed with the photographs of the Cramer Hibiscus plants, Buffalo Township police officer Jeffrey Sneddon acquired a warrant to search the Cramer house and property for evidence of marijuana. Apparently officer Sneddon didn't visit the neighbor's house to look at the Cramer plants himself. If he did, he had no experience in drug investigation and no business obtaining a warrant to search someone's dwelling for drugs.

     At noon on October 7, 2017, a drug raiding squad made up of twelve officers armed with assault rifles, showed up at the Cramer house. Audrey Cramer was home alone on the second floor in her underwear and bare feet. Without getting dressed, she responded to loud knocking on her door and the voice of a man identifying himself as the police.

     When Audrey Cramer, who had absolutely no reason to expect a SWAT team on her front porch, opened the door, she encountered twelve assault rifles pointed at her head. If she had panicked and made what police officers interpret as a furtive move, she could have been shot dead in a marijuana case.

     Sergeant Scott Hess, the leader of the raiding party, ordered Audrey Cramer to put her hands in the air. "I have a search warrant," he said. The stunned Mrs. Cramer asked if she could see the warrant. Instead of showing her the document, Sergeant Hess ordered the partially clothed resident to wait on her front porch while he searched the second floor of her house. When he returned ten minutes later, Sergeant Hess placed Mrs. Cramer under arrest, advised her of her Miranda rights, and handcuffed her behind her back.

     After being denied the chance to put on a pair of pants and shoes, an officer marched the handcuffed women, in her underwear and no shoes, down her gravel driveway to a police car.

     As the drug raiders ransacked the Cramer house looking for marijuana, Mrs. Cramer, on a 82 degree day, sat in the hot patrol car. When she asked an officer what was going on, he told her they were looking for marijuana.

    Mrs. Cramer had been sitting in the hot patrol car two hours when her husband Edward returned home. Officers, with assault rifles pointed at his head, pulled Mr. Cramer out of his car, placed him into handcuffs, and sat him in the police car with his handcuffed, partially clad wife. At this point it is impossible to image what was going on in the minds of these helpless, confused, and innocent people.

     When under arrest in the police car, Mr. Cramer repeatedly asked for the chance to show the officers that what they though was marijuana was really flowering hibiscus plants. His offer fell on deaf ears.

     Four and a half hours after the police stormed the Cramer home looking for marijuana, the Cramers were un-handcuffed and removed from the police car. They were told they would not be charged with any crime. The officers had seized the hibiscus plants even though Sergeant Hess acknowledged they were not marijuana. He labeled the fruits of the bungled raid as "tall, green, leafy suspected marijuana plants." Following this mind-boggling fiasco, the police left the scene as abruptly as they had arrived, and without an apology.

     On October 26, 2017, Mr. and Mrs. Cramer received a letter from Nationwide informing them that marijuana had been found on their property, and if they didn't remove it, they would lose their insurance policy.

     Attorney Al Lindsay, on behalf of the Cramers, filed a lawsuit against the Buffalo Township Police and the Nationwide insurance company. The suit charged the police with excessive force, false arrest, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional stress, and invasion of privacy. The plaintiffs asked for monetary and compensatory damages.

     On November 19, 2017, Audrey and Edward Cramer gave an interview to a reporter with a Pittsburgh television station. Mrs. Cramer said, "I was not treated as a human being. I was just something they were going to push aside. I asked them if I could put pants on and he [Sergeant Hess] told me no and I had to stand out on the porch." Regarding how the experience had affected her, she said, "I didn't sleep at night and you don't leave me at the house by myself."

     Edward Cramer had this to say about the horribly bungled raid: "Sometimes I think they [the police] look for a crime where it doesn't exist in order to justify their existence."

     If I were advising Buffalo Township in this case, I would recommend they settle. If a jury hears this story, the Cramers will end up owning the township. 

Monday, April 13, 2020

Attack Journalism in the Era of Fake News

Decency and justice requires that before the accusation of a serious crime of moral turpitude is made public by the authorities or the media, there must be, at the very least, enough evidence to support an arrest of the accused. This is particularly true if the accused is a public person of excellent reputation whose career depends on his or her high character. This also applies if, due to the passage of time and vagueness of the accusation, it is extremely difficult for the accused to establish his or her innocence. Just because an accused is presumed innocent in law does not mean that person will be presumed innocent by the public at large. Shame on any politician or journalist who intentionally violates this basic tenet of human decency. Stirring up public anger and resentment through unproven crime accusation puts everyone at the mercy of an angry, politically motivated mob. This has happened in the McCarthy era, the McMartin Preschool Child Abuse Case, the Memphis Three Murder Case, and the JonBonet Ramsey Case. And as politics in America has degenerated into what Vincent Foster once called "blood sport," and objective journalism has been replaced by fake news, the unfounded accusation has become the politician's weapon of choice.

Science Fiction Versus Fantasy

If the story is set in a universe that follows the same rules as ours, it's science fiction. If it's set in a universe that doesn't follow our rules, it's fantasy. [It's the rocket ship versus the magic carpet.]

Orson Scott Card, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, 1990

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Coronavirus Kills Brooklyn Civil Court Judge

     In New York City on March 12, 2020, 64-year-old Brooklyn Supreme Court Civil Judge Johnny Lee Baynes conducted business as usual in a courtroom packed with lawyers, clients, court officers and clerks. One of the attorneys in the room that day asked the judge if it were appropriate, given the COVID-19 pandemic, for so many people to be crowded in such a small place. In response, Judge Baynes said, "If you don't like it you can leave." Following that exchange, the court session continued.

     On March 16, 2020, trials and hearing at the Brooklyn Supreme Court Civil Administration Building were suspended due to the pandemic. The day before the courthouse closed, a lawyer who had visited the building a few days earlier tested positive for the virus.

     On March 26, 2020, Judge Baynes died of the coronavirus. Three other judges who worked in the building tested positive for the disease. One of these judges, Lawrence Knipel, had to be hospitalized. 

Learning to Live with Big Brother

    We are being watched. Surveillance cameras are all around us. They are installed on traffic lights, toll booths, homes, commercial buildings, utility poles, and police officers. They are inside stores, banks, schools, churches, courthouses, elevators, stadiums, hospitals, buses, trains and home computers. And there are almost as many cellphone cameras around as people. Google is watching us from above, and our daily activities can be surveilled and recorded by drones. There is nowhere to hide from the eyes of big tech, commerce, and big government. Even George Orwell couldn't have foreseen the modern surveillance state. The year 2020 might be remembered as the year 20-20 (surveillance vision).

     On March 21, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy ordered people in public places to stop gathering and to stay at home.

     The mayor of Elizabeth, New Jersey, on April 7, 2020, launched a fleet of drones to enforce the governor's order. While flying above parks and other places where people normally congregate, the flying cameras blast a recorded message telling citizens to stop gathering. They are ordered to go home and stay there. (Unless they have to go for groceries or for drugs. Those who still have jobs can go to work.)

     Citizen who are caught by drone surveillance violating the governor's social distancing order can be fined up to $1,000. This at a time when the people in violation of the COVID-19 inspired order are unemployed and have no money because the government has closed down their places of employment.

     For people who lust for massive, personally invasive all-controlling government, pandemics are a gift from heaven.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Joaquin Garcia: The Failed Rape and Human Trafficking Prosecution of a Megachurch Leader

     In 2019, 50-year-old Joaquin Garcia headed up a Mexican based megachurch with branches in the United States and 56 other countries. The La Lux del Mundo (The Light of the World) christian fundamentalist church claimed on its website to have 5 million followers worldwide. Before becoming leader of La Luz del Mundo, Joaquin Garcia had been a minister in Los Angeles and other places in southern California. Members of the megachurch who followed its teachings were promised eternal salvation.

     Over the past several years, Pastor Garcia and members of the church have been accused of child sexual abuse and rape. None of the allegations, however, led to serious investigations or criminal prosecution.

     In June 2019, a California Attorney General's Office prosecutor charged Joaquin Garcia and four of his female followers with the production of child pornography, rape of a minor, and human trafficking. The 29 felony counts involved three girls and an adult female, and covered the period 2015 to 2018. The alleged offenses took place in Los Angeles County.

     The megachurch leader, among other crimes, stood accused of coercing girls into having sex with him by telling his victims if they refused they would offend God and go to hell.

     On June 4, 2019, Mr. Garcia and 24-year-old Susana Medina Oaxaca were taken into custody after deplaning at the Los Angeles International Airport. At his arraignment, the religious leader pleaded not guilty to all of the charges. The magistrate set his bail at $25 million.

     The day after officers booked Joaquin Garcia into the Los Angeles County Jail, 1,000 of his followers gathered at La Luz del Mundo headquarters in Guadalajara, Mexico to pray for his release.

     A spokesperson for the church proclaimed Pastor Garcia innocent, and described the criminal charges against him as false.

     On April 7, 2020, a California appeals court ordered the dismissal of all the charges against the church leader. The dismissal, based upon a procedural issue, pertained to the state's failure to hold a preliminary hearing on the case in a timely manner.

     Pursuant to the procedural laws of every state and federal government, the prosecution must, within a stated period of time following the defendant's arrest, present sufficient evidence of the defendant's guilt to convince a judge to allow the case to move forward to a trial. The state's evidence does not have to be strong enough to convict, but enough to establish a prima facie case. This requirement is one of the underpinnings of American due process. In American jurisprudence, a criminal suspect cannot be locked up and forgotten.

     In the Garcia prosecution, the defendant's preliminary hearing had been postponed several times because the state had failed to turn over evidence to the defense.

     Joaquin Garcia's attorney, Alan Jackson, said the following to reporters at a press conference: "In their zeal to secure a conviction at any cost, the attorney general sought to strip Mr. Garcia of his freedom without due process by locking him up on the basis of unsubstantiated accusations by unnamed accusers, and by denying him his day in court."

     While the appeals court justices did not, in their ruling, dismiss the charges against Garcia's four co-defendants, those dismissals are forthcoming. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

Too Smart For Our Own Good?

Perhaps we overvalue knowledge and great intelligence. It was, after all, the smart guys who may have drastically shortened the history of life on this planet by inventing the atomic bomb. How intelligent was that? Knowledge is not only power, it is vanity, and it can be dangerous. Advanced intelligence and knowledge does not necessarily come with morality or wisdom. It can, and has been put to terrible use. Humans may have outsmarted themselves into oblivion.

Police Officers are Rarely Prosecuted For Shooting People

     Police agencies have developed policies that generally permit officers to use force when they reasonably fear imminent physical harm. In 1989, the U. S. Supreme Court shaped the standard that governs the use of deadly force. According to the ruling in that case, the use of deadly force must be evaluated through the "perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight."

     Since then, prosecutors usually side with officers in police-involved shooting cases. Prosecutors and grand jurors are reluctant to second guess a police officer's decision to use deadly force. Many of the cases that don't result in criminal charges involve armed suspects who are shot during confrontations with the police. But even an officer who repeatedly shoots an unarmed person may avoid prosecution in cases where he reasonably believed himself to be under risk of serious bodily injury or death.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Pandemic Policing : Uneven and Chaotic

     On Sunday afternoon, April 5, 2020, 33-year-old Matt Mooney and his wife were playing T-ball with their 6-year-old daughter in Donelson Park in the town of Brighton, Colorado. At the time, no other people were in the vicinity.

     According to the sign posted at the park entrance, people were allowed to use the park "To engage in outdoor activity individually, or in groups of no more than four persons. The park remains open for walking, hiking, biking, running and similar activities provided that individuals comply with social distancing requirements (6 feet)."

     When three Brighton Police officers approached the Mooney family that Sunday afternoon, Mr. Mooney, because he and his family were complying with the rules of the park, was not concerned. The sight of the officers, however, worried his daughter who said, "Daddy I don't want you to get arrested." Assuring his daughter that she had nothing to fear, the father replied, "There's no way they're going to arrest me, I've done nothing wrong."

     When one of the officers asked Mr. Mooney for identification, the stunned father asked why he had to identify himself to the police. What had he done that was  illegal? The officer informed Mr. Mooney that the park was closed and the he was violating the state's social distancing guidelines.

     As Mr. Mooney tried to explain that the park was open, and that he and his family were obeying its restrictions, the officer, in front of Mooney's wife and daughter, placed him into handcuffs and led him to a patrol car.

     From a distance, an onlooker who happened to be former city councilman Kirby Wallin, recorded the police confrontation and arrest on his cellphone.

     After sitting in the patrol car ten minutes with the police officer (who was not wearing a face mask), Mr. Mooney was allowed to rejoin his family in the park. To justify the arrest, the police officer muttered something about how COVID-19 policing was something new, something police officers were just learning to cope with. The officer did not, however, offer an apology. (They rarely do, it's not in their DNA.)

     A spokesperson for the Brighton Police Department issued a statement that the agency was looking into the matter.

     While police officers in big cities like Los Angeles and New York City are not allowed to arrest grocery store looters, a police officer in Brighton, Colorado arrested a man playing in a park with his daughter. In some parts of the country inmates walk out of prison into a cop-fee criminal paradise, in other places, law obeying citizens are afraid to leave their homes for fear of being arrested. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Spreading the Word--And the Virus: Civil Rights Versus Public Health

     On March 25, 2020, the authorities in Hillsborough County, Florida issued an order, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, that prohibited the gathering of more than ten people. At the time, Florida had more than 5,000 coronavirus cases.

     On Sunday, March 29, 2020, 58-year-old Rodney Howard-Browne, pastor of the River of Tampa Bay Pentecostal megachurch, held two services in violation of the Hillsborough County COVID-19 group restriction law.

     That Sunday, Pastor Howard-Browne, on his Facebook livestream video broadcast, in open defiance of the Hillsborough County COVID-19 order, said, "I have to do this to protect the congregation not from the virus, but from tyrannical government."

     The day after the Sunday church services, and Howard-Browne's livestream broadcast, the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office issued a warrant for the pastor's arrest. Howard-Browne was charged with the misdemeanor offenses of violating a quarantine order during a public health emergency and unlawful assembly.

     After being taken into custody, the pastor posted his $500 bail and was released from custody.

     On Wednesday, April 1, 2020, on his livestream Facebook broadcast, the River of Tampa Bay pastor announced that the church would be closed until further notice. By now, there were 8,000 cases of COVID-19 in the state.

     On his April 1, 2020 livestream program, Pastor Howard-Browne, portraying himself as a crusading civil rights leader, called the criminal charges against him "bogus" and criticized Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister for "caving" to outside political pressure. Regarding his arrest and the closing of his church, the pastor said, "It will be on his [Sheriff Chronister's] record that he shut down a food ministry that feeds up to 1,000 families every week.

     Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne was not the only religious leader to hold religious services in violation of a COVID-19 group restriction order. On April 5, 2020, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Reverend Tony Spell of the Life Tabernacle Church, held Palm Sunday services. In response to being charged with violating the state's gathering ban, Reverend Spell said, "We don't get our rights to worship freely from the government. We get those from God. We'd rather obey God than man."

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Cases For Home Schooling

     In Tucson, Arizona, a judge sentenced elementary teacher Joseph Chanecka, 44, to seven years in prison and lifetime probation after the defendant pleaded guilty to possessing 300,000 child pornographic images on his computer. The judge could have sentenced Chanecka to 25 years behind bars but gave him a break because he had already lost his home, fiancee, and their newborn son. Chanecka said he was "extremely sorry" for his "foolish behavior."

     In Toms River, New Jersey, detectives arrested a 38-year-old elementary computer science teacher charged with one count of endangering the welfare of a child, and one count of second degree sexual assault. On the same day, in Orlando, Florida, a 50-year-old elementary teacher was arrested for child molestation. This teacher was already in custody for downloading images of child pornography.

     In Shawnee, Oklahoma, police arrested a former "Teacher of the Year" for taking photographs of some of her third grade students dancing around in bras and panties. (Bras?) The kids were attending a pizza party at the teacher's home.

     In Philadelphia, members of a police special victims unit arrested three boys--ages ten and eleven--on charges of attempted rape, deviant sexual intercourse, and unlawful restraint in connection with an incident that allegedly took place in an elementary school restroom. The complainant was an 8-year-old boy the defendants had allegedly bullied. After this incident, students in the West Philadelphia school had to go the the restroom in pairs.

     A tenured fourth grade teacher at the Wilson Elementary School in Granite City, Illinois was charged with possessing heroin and drug paraphernalia. She posted her $15,000 bond and was released.

     In Boone County West Virginia, a kindergarten teacher, after being pulled over for running a stop sign, consented to a search of her car which led to a charge of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. The teacher admitted to consuming hydrocodone while on her lunch break.

     In Alabama, it's a violation of the state's ethics law for a legislator to accept a gift from a citizen. The law was expanded to include public school teachers and their students. According to the director of  the Alabama Ethics Commission, "Something of relatively insignificant value--a candle, a coffee mug--is fine. It just can't be a $50 gift to Cosco or Target." Education spokesperson Kathy Kilgor told reporters that elementary school teachers do not like this new rule. "That was a little bit, I think, hurtful, condescending, to think we couldn't accept something from a caring student. That's kind of important to them. Not only is it hurtful to us, it's hurtful to the child."
     A second grade teacher in Nanuet, New York broke the news to her students that the Santa thing was a crock. I assume this educator believed it's never to early to lay life's truths on her naive students. You know, prepare them for the "real world." But why did she stop with the Santa myth? Why didn't she tell them that in a few years at least half of them will be obese, on drugs, under-employed and divorced? And that all of them would eventually die? After that, none of them would give a crap about Santa and his flying reindeer.         

Monday, April 6, 2020

The Beth Potter/Robin Carre Murder Case

     At six-thirty in the morning of Tuesday, March 31, 2020, a jogger in Madison, Wisconsin came upon the bodies of a man and a woman lying in a ditch. The man was dead and the woman was near death. She died a few hours later in a nearby hospital.

     Dr. Beth Potter, 52, and her partner Robin Carre, 57, were found on the University of Wisconsin campus near the entrance to a 1,200 acre arboretum (a place where many kinds of trees are grown for exhibition and study). The park-like area was also a popular recreational site

     The Dane County Medical Examiner's office issued the rather vague statement that the manner and cause of the couple's death was "homicide related trauma." (The couple had been shot to death with a handgun.)

     Dr. Potter had been director of the Winga Family Medical Center operated by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Robin Carre had worked as an independent educational consultant who helped high school students and their parents with the college admissions process. He had also been director of a local youth soccer organization. The couple had three children, two sons and a daughter, together.

     Detectives with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department took charge of the double murder investigation. A spokesperson for the department told reporters that the victims had not been randomly killed. They had been, in his words, "targeted."

     On Friday, April 3, 2020, police officers arrested 18-year-old Khari Sanford. A senior at Madison West High School, Sanford knew the murdered couple's children who attended the same school. The victims' daughter, according to her Facebook page, had been in a relationship with the murder suspect.

     Khari Sanford was booked into the Dane County Jail on two counts of being a party to first-degree intentional homicide. The magistrate denied him bail.

     In late 2019, the high school football player, when his foster parents were visiting Africa, disabled the home surveillance cameras and drove off in the family car. Because he wasn't allowed to use the vehicle, a relative notified the police. A few days later, officers located Sanford in the Madison area sleeping in the vehicle.

     Charged with auto theft, Khari Sanford was admitted into a deferred prosecution program that involved counseling and community service. Once he completed the program, the charge would be dropped and his record wiped clean. In January 2019, while still going through the deferred prosecution program, Sanford posted, on his Facebook page, a photograph of himself posing with a pistol. He also posted comments about policing the police.

     In 2018, Khari Sanford had written the following on his Facebook page: "We gon (sic) change this world, cause it's time to let our diversity and youth shine over all oppressive systems and rebuild our democracy.

     On the day of Khari Sanford's arrest, University of Wisconsin Chief of Police Kristin Roman said this about the double murder: "It was calculated, coldblooded and senseless."

     On April 4, 2020, the University of Wisconsin Police Department spokesperson announced that on Saturday, the day after officers took Khari Sanford into custody, they arrested his friend, Ali'jah J. Larrue. Larrue. The 18-year-old was booked into the Dane Count Jail on two counts of being a party to first-degree intentional homicide. Larrue also attended Madison West High School.

     On April 7, 2020, Khari Sanford and Ali'jah Larrue were arraigned via a video-conducted hearing. Assistant District Attorney William Brown testified that on the night before Dr. Potter and Mr. Carre were found in the arboretum ditch, Sanford and his accomplice entered the victims' home to rob them. Sanford allegedly shot both victims in the back of the head while they slept. After what the prosecutor labeled "an execution," Sanford and his accomplice hauled the deceased Mr. Carre and the dying Dr. Potter to the arboretum where they were found the next morning. Dr. Potter was wearing pajamas and socks. Robin Carre was found in his underwear.

     The Dane County magistrate set the suspects' bail at $1million each. 

COVID-19 Scofflaws

     In April 2020, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Angela Bisig issued a court order requiring a Louisville, Kentucky woman who lived with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 and another individual who had not been tested, to remain in quarantine. Members of this woman's family, after the judge's court order, informed health authorities that this person, referred to as D. L., had ignored the order. As a result, the judge asked the Department of Corrections to fit D. L. with a global positioning device. Under the court order, D. L. was required to wear the monitor for the next 14 days. If D. L. left her house during that period, a prosecutor would charge her with a criminal offense.

     Judge Bisig, a few days before D. L. was fitted with the ankle monitor, had ordered the two other residents of the Louisville home stay inside for 14 days after receiving information that they had refused to self-quarantine. 

Who Said, " People are dying that have never died before?"

Over the past few weeks, Facebook posts shared tens of thousands of times attribute the following quote regarding the COVID-19 pandemic to both President Trump and Joe Biden: "People are dying that have never died before." Neither Trump or Biden said anything like this. In fact, the quote is from a 1930 letter written by the American novelist, Ernest Hemingway.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The First Coronavirus-Involved Criminal Homicide Case

     On Saturday, March 28, 2020, at two in the afternoon, Janie Marshall from the Williamsville section of Brooklyn, New York was in the emergency room at the Woodhill Medical Center in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of the borough. As the 86-year-old stood in a hallway waiting to be treated for a bowel obstruction, she touched a metal stand near a chair on which 32-year-old Cassandra Lundy was seated. Lundy was awaiting psychiatric treatment. Without warning, the psychiatric patient leaped from her chair and smacked Janie Marshall in the face, knocking the elderly woman off her feet. When she fell, the victim's head bounced off the floor.

     When questioned in the emergency room by a hospital police officer, Cassandra Lundy said, regarding the woman she had smacked to the ground, "She didn't stay more than six feet away." Lundy was referring to, of course, the COVID-19 policy of social distancing. The police officer issued Lundy a summons ( ticket) for disorderly conduct. The assailant left the hospital without being treated, or arrested for the brutal assault of an 86-year-old woman.

     The assault had been captured on a hospital surveillance camera.

     About three and a half hours later, while awaiting a CT scan, Janie Marshall died.

     Hospital personnel, claiming they were swamped with coronavirus patients, didn't notify Janie Marshall's family about her death until ten-thirty that night. And when they did, they told a family member she had died of heart failure. It's not clear how the hospital would have known this since the autopsy had not been conducted. Moreover, there was no mention of the fact Janie Marshall had died after being assaulted by another hospital patient.

     On Monday, March 30, 2020, a forensic pathologist with the New York City Medical Examiner's Officer performed the Marshall autopsy and ruled that the victim had died from heart disease with blunt force trauma as a contributing factor. For some reason, this cause of death determination was backward: In fact, Jamie Marshall had died of blunt force trauma with heart disease as a contributing factor.

     Following the autopsy, Cassandra Lundy was charged with manslaughter and assault. However, officers with the NYPD didn't take her into custody until Thursday, April 2, 2020.

     Cassandra Lundy had been arrested 17 times for offenses such as criminal trespass, drug possession, and assault. One of the assault cases included an incident where she strangled a person. Information regarding her mental health history and whether or not she had served time in prison was not made public. Reportage did not reveal if bail had been set or if she was being held in custody.

     Janie Marshall, born in South Carolina, moved to New York City when she was 17. She earned a bachelor's degree from City College, and was one of the first African-American women to work an accounting job for the Social Security Administration. She had 12 siblings, and had never married.

Trump University

     In May 2005, Donald Trump added a new service to the far reaching and diverse Trump brand. (Bottled water, neckties, golf courses, resorts, hotels, office buildings, condominiums--you name it.) Aspiring entrepreneurs in search of their fortunes could enroll at Trump University, an online educational institution that offered courses and seminars in real estate, asset management, entrepreneurship, and wealth creation. Trump University tuition ranged from $1,500 to $35,000. This was a lot of money for a "university" that didn't confer college credits or an accredited degree. Enrollees knew this, of course. They were attracted to the Trump name and all it stood for.

     Donald Trump himself appeared in television ads for the school that led prospective students to believe that the course instructors had been handpicked by him. The targeted customers were promised a free, 90-minute seminar where they would learn how to make money in real estate through a "systematic method of investing." The free seminar acted as a pitch for the three-day real estate seminar that cost $1,495. The Trump school also offered the so-called "Trump Elite" educational packages that included personal mentorship programs that cost between $10,000 and $35,000.

     Trump University, in June 2010, changed its name to The Trump Entrepreneur Initiative after bureaucrats with the New York State Department of Education declared the use of the word "university" in the company name misleading. The state authorities also felt that because the institution wasn't licensed, accredited, or bonded by the state, it was not a legal operation.

     In May 2011, six years after the founding of Trump University, the New York Attorney General's Office, under Eric T. Schneiderman, launched an investigation of Trump's online educational service. State investigators were looking for evidence of "illegal business practices." The attorney general opened the case against Trump after Trump University graduates from New York and four other states complained they had been misled by deceptive advertising. (According to Attorney General Schneiderman, some of the "Trump Elites" thought they had purchased the right to meet Donald Trump in person. Instead, they were photographed next to a live-size poster of the man. At this point, The Trump Entrepreneur Initiative had essentially ceased doing business.

     The state of New York, in August 2013, filed a $40 million civil suit against the Trump institution. In its quest for restitution, the attorney general's office accused Trump and his operatives of illegal business practices in the form of "false promises." In the suit the plaintiff described Trump University as "an elaborate bait-and-switch" operation.

     Attorney General Schneiderman, in a statement released to the media, said that Donald Trump and his people had made false promises to persuade more than 5,000 students--including 600 New Yorkers--"to spend tens of thousands of dollars they couldn't afford for lessons they never got."  According to the attorney general, "Trump University engaged in deception at every stage of consumers' advancement through costly programs, and caused real financial harm. Trump University, with Donald Trump's knowledge and participation relied on Trump's name recognition and celebrity status to take advantage of consumers who believed in the Trump brand. No one, no matter how rich or famous they are, has a right to scam hardworking New Yorkers. Anyone who does should expect to be held accountable."

     As could be expected, the Trump organization went on the offensive. Trump lawyer Michael Cohen told an Associated Press reporter that he had testimonials from 11,000 former students who had been "extremely satisfied" (odd combination of words) with Trump University. According to attorney Cohen, the attorney general's illegal business practices suit was laden with "falsehoods."

     George Sorial, another Trump lawyer, accused Attorney General Schneiderman of being politically motivated. According to Sorial, Schneiderman had filed the suit after Donald Trump refused to contribute to his campaign. "This [the lawsuit] is tantamount to extortion," he said.

     In April 2018, the Trump organization paid $25 million to settle two class actions that had been brought by former students as well as the illegal practice suit filed by New York State Attorney General Schneiderman. Trump University was gone, money was paid, and the bureaucrats were satisfied.

The Daunting Task of Writing a Book

     Writing a book is a strange job

     "Here you go," a publisher says at the onset, handing you a salary of sorts, and a deadline, "we'll see you in two years." And there you go indeed, in a state of high alarm without any day-to-day ballast--no appointments, no tasks assigned each morning, no office colleagues to act as sounding boards, no clue as to what you are doing: equipped solely with a single idea, which you cling to like driftwood in a great, dark sea.

Patricia Pearson, When She Was Bad, 1997

Friday, April 3, 2020

O.J. Simpson: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Some writers of letters and a lot of kids don't seem to care if I'm guilty or innocent. They just want to believe in me….When I speak to kids, I say that you have to accept responsibility for your own actions…I say to everybody that if I had committed this crime, I would have had to take responsibility for my actions….

O.J. Simpson, I Want to Tell You, 1994 [Letter to a young fan following his arrest for double murder.]