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Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Nicholas Bennallack Police Shooting Cases

     Just before eleven o'clock on the night of January 2, 2012 in Anaheim, California, police officers responded to several 911 calls regarding a man with a shotgun at an apartment complex. SWAT officers at the scene ran down a 200-foot alleyway, and as they rounded a corner, saw Bernie Villegas holding a rifle. Anaheim police officer Nicholas Bennallack shot Villegas who was pronounced dead at the scene. The 36-year-old immigrant from the Philippines had been holding his son's BB gun. Villegas, an alleged drug dealer, had a 14-year-old daughter, and a son who was twelve.

     The Orange County District Attorney's office, following an investigation of the shooting, cleared Officer Bennallack of criminal wrongdoing. Villegas' family filed a wrongful death suit against the city.

     On July 21, 2012, about six months after the Villegas shooting, Officer Bennallack and his partner Brett Heitmann were patrolling an Anaheim neighborhood considered a hotbed of gang activity. The officers spotted a car parked in an alley surrounded by several men. Officer Heitmann recognized the man standing on the vehicle's passenger side as 25-year-old Manuel Diaz. Diaz, a known gang member, had prior gun possession convictions.

     When officers Heitmann and Bennallack got out of the unmarked police car, Diaz ran down an alley leading to an apartment complex. As he fled, Diaz used both hands to hold up his trousers. The fleeing suspect ignored the officers' orders to stop. The officers caught up to Diaz at a wrought-iron fence. As they approached the suspect Diaz had his back to them. When he started to turn toward the officers, Bennallack, thinking that Diaz might have a gun, fired twice. One bullet hit Diaz in the buttocks, the other in the head. He died shortly after the shooting. Diaz was not armed.

     A toxicology report revealed that Diaz, at the time of the shooting, had in his system methamphetamine, amphetamine, and a prescription medicine to prevent seizures.

     Following the Diaz shooting, Dana Douglas, the attorney who represented Bernie Villegas' relatives, filed a $50 million suit against the city on behalf of the Diaz family. Following Diaz's death, the Orange County District Attorney's Office opened an investigation of Officer Nicholas Bennallock. The officer had been an Anaheim police officer for five years.

     On March 20, 2013, Assistant District Attorney Dan Wagner announced that Officer Bennallack had been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in the Diaz shooting. According to the Orange County prosecutor, at the time of the fatal incident, the officer "believed he was in imminent danger. In such a scenario, one can have only a split-second to decide how to proceed."

     The Diaz family attorney, Dana Douglas, had a different take on the shooting. "This is like a rape case," she said. "Let's blame the victim." (In my view, that was not an appropriate analogy.)

     In May 2016, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court decision to dismiss the Villegas lawsuit. The suit against the city of Anaheim went forward.

    When a police officer, within a period of five years, shoots and kills two people, both of them unarmed, some might call him trigger-happy. Given the circumstances of these two police-involved shootings, the term does not apply to Officer Bennallack.

     Both lawsuits were settled out of court.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Reinventing Al Capone

     Except for books about writers and the writing life, the memoir has become my least favorite literary genre. I'm sick of manufactured sob stories; celebrity drivel you can get from People Magazine; fiction passed off as fact; revisionist, self-serving history; autobiographical narcissism; and memoirists trying to create something out of nothing. While there are very few of us worthy of a memoir, everybody seems to be writing one, including people with relatives who were once famous, or better yet, infamous. A memoir published in 2010 by Deirdre Marie Capone, the grandniece of the prohibition gangster Al Capone, represents this form of literary exploitation.

     When Al Capone died on January 25, 1947, the author of Uncle Al Capone: The Untold Story From Inside His Family," was 7-years-old. During the first six years of her life, uncle Al was doing time at Alcatraz for the least of his crimes, tax evasion. When they released him in November 1939, Capone's brain was partially destroyed by untreated syphilis. He spent his last months on earth in a bath robe fishing in his swimming pool on Palm Island in Biscayne Bay, Florida.

     It's safe to say that the author of this memoir had no direct contact with her great uncle. And even if she had, she was 7-years-old. This book was obviously not written from her journal entries. Nevertheless, Deirdre Capone wants us to believe that Al Capone was the victim of heavy-handed law enforcers who exaggerated the extent of his criminality. The author is telling us that Capone was nothing more than a successful businessman giving the American public what it wanted--illegal booze. Moreover, the man loved his family and liked to cook. If half of what has been written and said about Al Capone is false, he is still one of the most violent and evil criminals in American history.

       As a "businessman," Capone killed his competitors, and anyone who refused to buy his alcohol. Sure, people wanted their prohibition era booze, but they didn't bargain for the extortion, arson, kidnapping, aggravated assault, and first-degree murder that went with doing business with a man who employed more than 600 thugs and gangsters. Having paid-off most of the cops and federal prohibition agents in Chicago, Capone had a license to kill, and he used it. Calling Al Capone a "businessman" is like calling Adolph Hitler a statesman who loved his dog

     Like most mob leaders, Capone moved up the gangster career ladder by murdering people who stood in his way. He killed several men over petty arguments and barroom insults. Those he didn't murder ended up with broken arms, legs, and skulls. At an organized crime banquet he once hosted, Capone beat an associate to death with a baseball bat as he sat over his pasta. And on February 14, 1929, he masterminded the execution style mass murder of seven members of a rival gang in the so-called St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Some businessman.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Meeting a Published Author


When people meet a published author, many of them respond in one of two ways: "I have a terrific idea for a book, we can split the royalty 50-50." Or: "You ought to write a book about my uncle, he's a card!"

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Boy in the Shed

     A witness--perhaps a neighbor or a relative--called the Dallas Police Department at 11:00 PM on Friday, May 9, 2020 to request a welfare check at a home on Coston Drive occupied by 53-year-old Esmeralda Lira and her live-in boyfriend, Jose Balderas, 66. The caller reported that three youngsters living in the house, believed to be Lira's grandchildren, were starving.

     Just before midnight, police officers arrived at Lira's house, and while checking on two children asleep in a bedroom, heard noises coming from a padlocked shed behind the house.

     Inside the outbuilding, officers discovered a 6-year-old boy locked into the shed with his hands bound with shoelaces.

     According to the child, his grandmother, Esmeralda Lira, over the past two weeks, had locked him inside the shed from ten at night to eight in the morning. She gave him a plastic bag in case he needed to relieve himself. The boy also had to contend with insects and rats. When Lira put him into the shed without food or water, she reminded him of what a bad boy he had been. She also had the habit of kicking him and pulling his ears.

     Child protection officers removed all three children from the dwelling. Officers arrested Esmeralda Lira, and took Jose Balderas into custody the next day. When questioned by detectives, the boyfriend admitted that he had been aware of the abuse but had done nothing to stop it.

     Both suspects were charged with felony abandoning or endangering a child with imminent danger of bodily injury. At their arraignment hearing, the judge set each defendant's bail at $100,000.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Media Promotion of Magical Thinking

In an era of magical thinking and stupid beliefs, millions of people buy into a lot of paranormal nonsense. The media, particularly television, with supposedly serious shows about ghosts, Big Foot, fortune tellers, alien abductions, spontaneous human combustion, psychic detectives, and the Lock Ness Monster, lends credibility to this kind of hogwash. Print and TV journalists, people who know better, pretend to take this stuff seriously because they are popular subjects that attract readers and viewers. These media hacks are part of the problem. Americans are losing the ability to think critically and reason clearly. For many, it's no longer what they know that counts, it's all about what they believe. In this world of fantasy, O. J. Simpson can be innocent, and Elvis Presley can be alive. We are losing our ability to think straight and recognize reality. This is dangerous because it opens the door to politicians who can manipulate the gullible into giving up their freedoms in exchange for promises the politicians know they can't keep. The blind trust of elected officials can destroy a country. Democracy requires a population of clear-eyed citizens smart enough to recognize the charlatans and the crypto-fascists. (Lower and higher education is worthless if it can't give students the intellectual tools to do this.) At least most Americans continue to distrust the politician, and are beginning to distrust the news media. 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

The Juan Elias Garcia MS-13 Gang Double Murder Case

     In 2010, 17-year-old Juan Elias Garcia, a resident of the Long Island community of Central Islip, New York, belonged to the street gang MS-13, also known as the Mara Salvatrucha Gang. This violent, criminal organization, with ties to several Mexican drug cartels, had a strong presence on Long Island with more than a dozen chapters. The gang also flourished in other areas of the U.S. with substantial Salvadoran populations such as in southern California, Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia.

     The five-foot-four inch Garcia, nicknamed "Cruzito," dated 19-year-old Vanessa Argueta. A problem developed in their relationship when Garcia learned she had ties to two rival gangs, the Latin Kings and the 18th Street Gang. Pursuant to gang culture, Argueta's association with the rival groups amounted to "disrespecting" MS-13.

     To save face, Juan Garcia acquired permission from a gang leader named Heriberto Martinez to have his girlfriend murdered.

     On February 4, 2010, Garcia, as part of the murder plot, invited Argueta to dinner in Central Islip. She accepted his invitation and arrived with her 2-year-old son. From their meeting place, Garcia forced Argueta and the boy to accompany him to a nearby wooded area where they were met by a pair of gang assassins, Rene Mendez Meja and Adalberto Ariel Guzman.

     Meja shot the mother to death in front of her son, then, as the boy cried in terror, shot him in the head as well. The bodies were discovered the next day. To avoid arrest, Garcia fled to El Salvador.

     In 2012, Heriberto Martinez, the gangster who sanctioned the murder, was convicted for his role in the assassinations. The judge sentenced him to life plus 60 years. A year later, Meja and Guzman were found guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. They each received the same sentence.

     Juan Garcia, the gang member behind the killings, remained at large in Central America.

     In February, 2014, one day after the fugitive turned twenty-one, a federal grand jury sitting in Central Islip indicted the fugitive Garcia for murder and conspiracy to commit murder. The FBI, on March 26, 2014, placed Garcia on its Top Ten Most Wanted List. Two days later, Garcia turned himself in to law enforcement authorities in Nicaragua. After being briefly detained at the U.S. Embassy in Managua, FBI agents took Garcia into custody. He was immediately extradited to America.

     A U.S. District Court judge, on March 31, 2014, ordered Garcia held without bail. Speaking through an interpreter, the suspect entered a not guilty plea.

     In October 2014, Garcia changed his plea to guilty. The judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. (In researching this story, I could find no mention in the press regarding whether or not these cold-blooded killers were in this country illegally.)

     In May 2018, in referring to the growing incidents of MS-13 brutality in the United States, President Donald Trump called these sadistic rapists and murderers "animals." Trump's sob-sister adversaries in politics and the media immediately criticized this characterization as inhuman and cruel. What's inhumane and cruel is the fact that government authorities had allowed these gangs of illegal aliens to flourish in the United States.

     Suffolk County (Long Island) District Attorney Timothy Sini, in December 2019, announced that as a result of a two-year investigation, his office had charged and arrested 96 MS-13 gang members for a variety of crimes including murder, robbery, kidnapping, rape, and aggravated assault.

Sam Mullet: Amish Outlaw

     During a three week period in late September and early October 2011, a dozen Amish men from a breakaway Amish sect located in the village of Bergholz in southeastern Ohio, on Bishop Sam Mullet's orders, invaded Amish dwellings in nearby counties where the intruders forcibly cut the hair and beards off the men, and shaved the heads of the Amish women. These terroristic raids were intended to degrade, intimidate, and humiliate the targets of Sam Mullet's wrath. The bishop had asked his raiders to bring back photographs and clippings of his Amish enemy's hair as proof his orders had been carried out. (According to author Donald B. Kraybill, Amish men's beards and the uncut hair that Amish women roll into buns are treasured symbols of religious identity.)

     On October 8, 1011, Jefferson County Sheriff Frank Abdulia's deputies arrested Sam Mullet's sons, 38-year-old Johnny and 53-year-old Lester. The deputies also arrested Levi and Lester Miller. Johnny and Lester Mullet were charged with burglary and kidnapping in connection with the hair and beard cutting invasions in Holmes, Carroll, and Trumbull Counties. Shortly after the arrests, the Amish men were released after making bail.

     FBI agents and Jefferson County deputies, on November 22, 2011 arrested Sam Mullet, three of his sons, and three other men from the Bergholz group on federal civil rights charges as well as a number of state violations related to the hate crime home invasions. The United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio said, "While people are free to disagree about religion in this country, we don't settle those disagreements with late night visits, dangerous weapons, and violent attacks."

     Four of the home invasion defendants were released on bond. The United States Attorney successfully kept the bishop behind bars by arguing that he had a "penchant for violence," and was a danger to society. (Mullet had allegedly threatened to kill Jefferson County Sheriff Frank Abdulia.)

    Sam Mullet's Attorney suggested that his client be placed on electronic monitoring like many other defendants awaiting trial in federal court. The problem was, being old-order Amish, the bishop's house wasn't connected to the power grid. In one of his release requests, Mr. Mullet asserted that he was needed at home to tend to his household and farm related chores. The prosecution argued that because Mullet had 16 children, and many more grandchildren, that was a lie to get him out of jail.

     Found guilty in September 2012 of several federal hate crimes and related offenses, the judge sentenced Mullet to 15 years in prison.

     In March 2015, a U.S. appeals court overturned the hate crime convictions on procedural grounds. As a result, the federal judge re-sentenced Mullet to ten years behind bars.

    Mullet underwent triple bypass heart surgery in 2017 to repair blockages in his arteries.

     On March 4, 2020, Sam Mullet was transferred from a federal prison near Cleveland to a halfway house in Youngstown, Ohio. He was scheduled to complete his prison sentence on January 18, 2021.

    The 74-year-old prisoner, on March 17, 2020,  asked United States District Court Judge Dan Polster to reduce his 10-year-sentence to time served due to his underlying health problems that made him vulnerable to the coronavirus. Three days after the request, Judge Polster ruled that Sam Mullet could finish out his prison sentence at home in Bergholz.

The COVID-19 Expanded Surveillance State

     The response by governments and the tech industry to the coronavirus outbreak has already raised many concerns about privacy from contact tracing apps, mobile location data tracking and police surveillance drones. The outbreak has also brought new privacy issues, as companies beef up surveillance with technologies like thermal cameras and facial recognition in preparation for when people return to their everyday lives.

     Surveillance technology has slowly integrated into our daily lives, with facial recognition getting added as a "convenience" feature for casinos and ordering food. The coronavirus has sped up that process, in the name of public health. Shopping centers have long used Bluetooth trackers to determine crowd sizes and whereabouts, and the pandemic his shifted its use to enable contact tracing.

Alfred Ng, "COVID-19 Could Set a New Norm For Surveillance and Privacy," May 11, 2020, CNET

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Coronavirus Crisis: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

     A national crisis, like the one right now, exposes the good among us and those who are not so good. Some of the good people rise to the occasion and do what they can to make things better for their communities. Most try to do no harm. The worst among us look for ways to exploit the crisis for personal benefit.

     Examples of this are everywhere. Unscrupulous retailers gouge their customers; con artists use the crisis to swindle the gullible out of their savings; politicians use the crisis to fund their special interests, and some cases, line their pockets; bureaucrats take the opportunity to expand their influence and power; and race-baiters try to use the crisis to inflame division among racial and ethnic groups.

     A handful of fanatical "social justice" advocates and their bureaucratic handmaidens in several states, counties, and cities, have successfully used the coronavirus pandemic to prematurely release jail inmates. For example, in Los Angeles County, since February 2020, 5,000 inmates have been released from the county's jails. Some of these former inmates were violent criminals.

     In April 2020, Los Angeles County corrections officials noticed a one-week spike in coronavirus cases within a single module at the North County Correctional Facility in Castaic, California. Out of 50 inmates in that module, 21 had tested positive for the virus.

     The sudden jump in coronavirus cases in that one jail unit prompted jail officials to review surveillance video footage of that cluster of inmates. What these corrections officials uncovered caused Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva to call what he saw "disturbing."

     The North County Facility surveillance footage, released on Monday, May 11, 2020, showed inmates drinking from the same bottle of hot water and taking turns breathing through the same face mask. The inmates were obviously trying to catch the infection in order to get themselves out of jail.

     Under the current circumstances, it should not be surprising that Los Angeles County jail inmates would try to game the system by making themselves and others sick. Like politicians, power-hungry bureaucrats, unscrupulous retailers, and scam artists, these inmates were simply taking advantage of a crisis for personal gain. Policy makers responsible for the COVID-19 early release program should have predicted that inmates would pull stunts like this.

     Instead of making things better, these criminal justice sob-sisters, for their own ideological interests, have made things worse for everyone else.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Debasing Our Language

Today everyone is "pissed;" pissed at this, pissed at that. Even commentators on national television say the word. So much for upset, cross, or angry. We are debasing our discourse, and destroying the English language. When did crude become cool? 

Monday, May 11, 2020

Will COVID-19 Dethrone the Kings and Queens of Academia?

     A recent survey by ABC Insights, an organization committed to reducing the cost of higher education, found that due to the coronavirus pandemic, 83 percent of colleges and universities are considering hiring freezes. More than half the schools report plans to furlough professors and to lay off staff. Schools are also thinking about reducing employment benefits and reducing other expenditures such as athletic programs in an effort to balance their budgets. Some college and universities might have to merge with other schools, some may close altogether. It appears that the good times are over in American academia, and the overspending that has been going on for decades might come to an end. However, it remains to be seen if the outrageous salaries and benefit packages given to college and university presidents and chancellors will come to an end as well.

     On average, presidents of private and public institutions of higher learning make, in annual salaries, benefits, and perks, more than $450,000 a year. Even the heads of small, private liberal arts colleges make five or six times more than the highest paid professors in their institutions.

     Presidents of at least twenty public universities earn well over $1 million a year. For example, the president of Ohio State University pulls in $2 million a year in benefits and salary. Graham Spanier, before he was fired as president of Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia scandal, took in $3 million a year. Spanier "earned" $600,000 a year as a tenured professor even though he didn't teach. $1.2 million of Spanier's compensation was deferred, presumably for tax purposes. He received $700,000 for a one-year sabbatical. (Why would a college president need a sabbatical?) Graham Spanier was later sent to prison in connection with the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal.)

     At a time when higher education costs were rising along with student debt (at $1 trillion), these ridiculously excessive compensation packages amounted to white-collar crime against students, parents, and taxpayers. A college or university president shouldn't be paid much more than a full professor. And why do these administrators need free housing? How did the compensation of these kings and queens of academia get so far out of whack?

     For a good example of how overpaid and over-valued university presidents had become, one didn't have to look beyond Janet Napolitano. After bungling the job of Homeland Security Director, Napolitano was chosen (out of 300 candidates) to head the University of California's 13-campus system. Napolitano received a relatively modest annual salary of $570,000. In addition to $8,916 a year in car expenses (you'd think she could afford her own car), she was paid $142,500 to cover her "relocation" expenses. (Most people would be happy to just have their new employers pick up their U-Haul bills.) Napolitano was also given, of course, free housing.

     Eventually, the 55-year-old chancellor took up residence in the Blake Mansion, a 3,500-square foot monstrosity built in the 1920s for movie stars like Fatty Arbuckle. Located in a community called Kensington four miles north of the University of California at Berkeley, the estate had been vacant since 2008. As a result, Blake Mansion was in a state of disrepair.

     The chancellor's home was rehabilitated at a cost of $6 million. The renovation project took three years. During this period, the state paid $10,000 a month to rent a suitable palace for the newly crowned academic queen.

     It's hard to image the residents of bankrupt California sleeping well in the knowledge that Ms. Napolitano was living like royalty. University of California students, realizing how Queen Napolitano's reign would significantly improve the quality of their educations, must have been jumping for joy.

     It is very possible that the COVID-19 pandemic will put tens of thousands of professors, coaches, and college administrators out of work. Many of them will probably never find new jobs in academia. Some, like Sociology, English, Philosophy, Psychology, and History professors, may have a hard time finding any work at all. And what will happen to all those people who taught in black, women, gay and film studies programs?

     It remains to be seen if college and university boards of trustees will wise up and simply pay their presidents and chancellors what they are truly worth. Will COVID-19 dethrone these kings and queens of academia?

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Bad Blood at the Bolshoi

     In Russia, they take ballet very seriously, perhaps too seriously. One would assume that the Bolshoi, the world's largest and most prestigious ballet company, would be one place in this corrupt, crime-ridden country immune from criminal violence. But this was not the case. Professional and artistic rivalry in the Bolshoi world of dance was intense, and vicious.

     Sergei Filin started dancing at the famous Moscow theater in 1988. He left the Bolshoi in 2007, returning in March 2011 as the artistic director of the ballet company. Filin's predecessor, Gennady Yanin, the target of threats and harassment during his tumultuous tenure, had to step down after an artistic rival posted erotic photographs of him on the Internet. There have also been incidents of performance sabotage including an alarm clock going off in the audience during a particular scene; a dead cat being tossed on stage in lieu of flowers; needles inserted into costumes; and broken glass planted in the tip of toe shoes.

     It seemed the artistic director of the Bolshoi, like the head of a Mafia family, was in constant danger of being unseated by a jealous, power-hungry challenger. Who would have guessed that behind the scenes, these world-class ballet dancers were Tony Sopranos in tights?

     Shortly after assuming his role as artistic director, Sergei Filin became embroiled in a variety of ballet disputes and feuds. One of the performers he crossed swords with was Nikolai Tsiskaridze, a famous principal dancer. In December 2012, someone scratched-up Filin's car, slashed his tires, and hacked into his email account. The artistic director's tormentor/stalker also posted a derogatory Facebook page under Filin's name.

     The harassment became so intense, friends of the 42-year-old Bolshoi director recommended that he hire a private bodyguard. (A big business in Moscow.) Filin, believing that the intimidation tactics would not become physical, rejected the suggestion.

     At eleven o'clock Thursday night, January 16, 2013, when Sergei Filin opened the gate to his central Moscow residence, someone called out his name. A man wearing a face-mask emerged from the darkness carrying a bottle of acid which he threw into the artistic director's eyes. After the attack, the masked assailant fled the scene on foot.

     The acid caused third-degree burns on Filin's face, and partially destroyed his sight. There were plans to send him to Belgium for treatment, a process that could take up to six months. Police investigators in Moscow were working off the theory that the assault was work-related.

     In the fall of 2013, Bolshoi Ballet dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko was found guilty of ordering the attack on Sergei Filin. Two others were also convicted of the assault. All three defendants were sentenced to six years in prison.

     In May 2016, the authorities released Dmitrichenko on parole. While admitting that he had orchestrated the attack, Dmitrichenko told reporters that he had not intended his accomplices to use acid.

     The Bolshoi management, in November 2016, gave Dmitrichenko a pass to return to the site of the assault in order that he could practice. The building was also the place where his victim, Sergei Filin, practiced ballet.

    This case illustrates that in Russia, ballet is much more important than criminal justice. In the United States, in a similar case, Tanya Harding, following the assault of a fellow figure skater, was thrown out of the sport even though she was not convicted of the crime.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio: The Criminal's Best Friend

     On April 2, 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, while New Yorkers were bring told to stay at home, the mayor of New York City released 2,000 jail inmates onto the already dangerous streets of the city. James Little was one of the criminals turned loose that day.

     On March 3, 2000, New York City police officers had taken 41-year-old James Little into custody for allegedly beating and choking his girlfriend in her Brooklyn home. Little, a man with an impressive criminal history, had been convicted in 1995 of murder. He served several years behind bars for that offense, then was released on parole.

     Before being released from Riker's Island on April 2, James Little had tested positive for the coronavirus. Instead of being isolated and treated in jail, Bill de Blasio's corrections authorities, unwilling to risk the health of jail personnel and other inmates, risked the health of law abiding citizens by releasing this man from custody.

     On April 7, 2020, New York City police officers arrested James Little for attempting to rob a bank in lower Manhattan.

     On April 15, 2020, city corrections authorities released, from Riker's Island, 57-year-old Robert Pondexter. Mr. Pondexter had served three separate prison sentences for armed robbery, and was cooling his heels in Riker's Island on a parole violation.

     In December 2019, Pondexter allegedly raped his crack dealer after going to her apartment to score drugs. The prosecution had to drop the case when the alleged victim refused to cooperate with the authorities.

    On April 25, 2020, just ten days after being released from Riker's Island due to the pandemic, Robert Pondexter struck again. At five-thirty that afternoon, while walking across the street from his supportive housing development apartment in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn, Pondexter encountered a 58-year-old woman he did not know. Pondexter grabbed the victim and said, "What can you do for me? I want money. I'm going to rape you."

    After accosting the victim, Pondexter pulled her into a school parking lot, choked her, and forced her to perform oral sex. Before he could rape her, she managed to push him away with her legs and  escape. She called 911.

     Shortly after the sexual assault, New York Police officers arrested Robert Pondexter near the scene of the crime. He was in possession of crack cocaine. The woman he had attacked was transported to a nearby hospital where she was treated and released.

     A Brooklyn prosecutor charged Robert Pondexter with attempted rape, committing a sex act, forcible touching, and drug possession. (He could have been charged with kidnapping as well.)

     Given the unnecessary release of jail inmates, as well as other boneheaded law enforcement policies under the de Blasio administration, one wonders why the people of New York voted such a clown into public office. Surely, in a city of eight million, they could do better than de Blasio. It's also mind boggling that de Blasio thought he could become a viable democrat candidate for president of the United States. At least he was quickly laughed off that stage.

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Nature of Government

I wouldn't want to live in a country where the government protects itself from the people it governs. I'd rather live in a country where citizens are protected from the the bureaucrats. Because it is in the nature of government to seek more and more power, it must be restrained. History shows that citizens, over time, almost always lose this battle. Government, at best, is a necessary evil. Once it takes control of our lives, and the protections against it are gone, so is individual freedom. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

In a Constitutional Government There is No Such Thing as Petty Abuse of Power

     Presidents, governors, and mayors are members of the executive branches of their governments. As such, they exist to enforce laws passed by congress, state houses, and city councils. These leaders do not have the power to create laws. Moreover, there isn't a judge in the country who can enact a criminal law. Judges, members of the judicial branch, can only interpret existing legislation. For example, if the court holds that a particular law violates a clause or article in the U.S. Constitution, the judge or justices can invalidate that statute.

     The only government officials empowered to make specific behavior a crime punishable by law are members of legislative bodies. And there is no exception to this constitutional doctrine, not even a pandemic or good intentions. Therefore, when a governor or mayor sends police officers to arrest people for not wearing face masks or not "social distancing," unless this specific behavior violates a criminal law passed by a legislative body, the governor or mayor is acting outside of his or her authority. This is executive branch abuse of power, and the public should not stand for it.

     In a democracy, there is no such thing as petty abuse of power. 

Just Because You're Famous Doesn't Mean You're Worth Listening To

Americans have become celebrity obsessed. Intensely following the lives and foolishness of entertainers, TV new readers, politicians, athletes, and criminals who have become famous not only steals our attention from important things, it debases our culture. These pathological attention getters should not be taken seriously. It is idiotic to idolize people simply because they are rich and notorious. Fame does not confer wisdom. A society is in trouble when celebrities are treated as important people with important things to say.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Raymond Roth: A Scam Artist Who Faked His Death

     On July 28, 2012, Jonathan Roth reported his 48-year-old father, Raymond Roth, missing. Raymond, his wife Evana, and their 22-year-old son lived on Long Island in Massapequa, New York. According to Jonathan, his father, while swimming off Nassau County's Jones Beach, had been swept out into the Atlantic Ocean.

     As officers from the U. S. Coast Guard and various law enforcement agencies searched for Raymond Roth, he was relaxing in Orlando, Florida at his timeshare condo. A couple of days into the search for Raymond's body, his 43-year-old wife Evana came across emails between her missing husband and their son that laid out their plan to defraud the life insurance company of $410,000.

     According the scheme, Evana would receive the life insurance payout, and Raymond would start a new life in Florida. Evana Roth, not a party to the fraud, called the Nassau County Police.

     On August 2, 2012, Raymond was driving back to New York. He had agreed to meet with law enforcement authorities in Massapequa. In Santee, South Carolina, a police officer pulled him over for driving 90 mph. After Roth failed to show up for his meeting with the authorities in Nassau County, a prosecutor charged him with insurance fraud, conspiracy, and filing a false report.

     Police officers, on August 6, 2012, took Raymond Roth and his son into custody. Both men made bail, and entered not guilty pleas to the criminal charges.

     On March 22, 2013, Raymond Roth and a Nassau County prosecutor agreed on a plea deal. In return for his guilty plea, the judge, on May 21, 2013, sentenced him to 90 days in jail and five years of probation. If Roth didn't pay $27,000 in restitution to the U. S. Coast Guard, and $9,000 to the Nassau Police Department, the judge would incarcerate him up to four years.

     Jonathan Roth pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation.

     People who fake their own deaths as a method of defrauding an insurance company rarely succeed. The most common technique in crimes like this involves staging phony drownings. Whenever a heavily insured person goes swimming or boating and doesn't come back, and the body is not recovered, alarm bells go of in the insurance company's office. In a world in which we are under constant video and computer surveillance, it's hard for insurance scam artists to remain dead very long.

     Shortly after pleading guilty to insurance fraud, Raymond Roth was in trouble again with the law. In Freeport, New York, he identified himself to a woman as a police officer and ordered her into his van. She fled into a nearby store and called the police. Instead of jail, the authorities took Roth to a psychiatric ward where he tried to commit suicide. A local prosecutor charged him with criminal impersonation and attempted kidnapping.

     In April 2014, Raymond Roth pleaded guilty to impersonation of a police officer and attempted unlawful imprisonment. The judge sentenced him to two to seven years in prison.

Monday, May 4, 2020

The Christopher Krumm Double-Murder-Suicide Case

     Christopher Krumm graduated from University of Colorado where he studied computer engineering. In 2009, after earning a Master's Degree in electrical engineering from the Colorado School of Mines, Krumm worked at various odd jobs in Colorado. In 2012, he moved into a one-room apartment on the third floor of a rundown rooming house in Vernon, Connecticut. A quiet, socially awkward person who kept to himself, Christopher worked a blue collar job for a utility company.

     On November 17, 2012, Christopher Krumm embarked on a 30-hour, 2,000-mile road trip from Vernon, Connecticut to Casper, Wyoming, a town of 56,000 in the central part of the state. His father, James Krumm, had been teaching computer science at Casper College since 2002, and was head of the department. The two-year institution was one of seven colleges in the state's community college system.

     Professor Krumm possessed a B.A. and a M.B.A. from the University of Wyoming, and a Master's in computer science from Colorado State University. The 56-year-old professor lived two miles from the 200-acre, 5,000-student campus in a quiet, residential neighborhood with his live-in girlfriend, 42-year-old Heidi Arnold. Arnold, a graduate of the University of California at Davis, held a Master's Degree in math from the University of Oregon. She taught mathematics at Casper College.

     Christopher Krumm pulled into Casper Thursday night, November 28, 2012, and checked into a hotel on the outskirts of town. The next morning, shortly before nine, he showed up unannounced at the house his father shared with Heidi Arnold. Because James Krumm was teaching a morning class at the college, Professor Arnold was the only person in the house when Christopher, armed with two large knives, knocked on the front door. A few minutes later, Heidi Arnold's bloodied body was lying along the curb in the street in front of her house. Christopher Krumm had stabbed her to death.

     From the scene of Heidi Arnold's murder, Christopher Krumm drove two miles to the Casper College campus. He walked into his father's building carrying two knives and a high-powered, compound bow that was wrapped in a blanket. (A compound bow is one of those complicated-looking hunting bows that has pulleys.) Once inside the classroom, in front of six computer science students, Christopher, from a distance of four feet, shot an arrow into his father's head. James Krumm, with the arrow lodged in his skull, managed to get back on his feet. He wrestled with his son long enough to allow his students to get safely out of the room.

     Christopher finished his father off by stabbing him several times in the chest. When police officers burst into the classroom, the professor was dead, and his son, on the floor next to his father, was dying from self-inflicted stab wounds.

     Matt DiPinto, one of Christopher Krumm's neighbors in Vernon, Connecticut, said this to a reporter with the Hartford Courant, "He [Christopher] told me his dad gave him Asperger's Syndrome and that his dad should be castrated. I didn't know him that well, he just kind of said it out of nowhere, so that kind of threw me off a little." According to Christopher Krumm's uncle, when he last saw his nephew three years before the murders, he did not seem depressed or angry.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Releasing Green River Killer Gary Ridgway: Fanatics On the Bench

     Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the so-called Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway, murdered at least 71 teenage girls in and around Seattle and Tacoma, Washington. Police officers took the serial killer into custody in November 2001. Two years later, Ridgway, in order to avoid the death sentence, pleaded guilty to 48 murders.

     Gary Ridgway is serving a life sentence without parole at the maximum security prison in Walla Walla, Washington.

     Since the COVID-19 pandemic, 1,000 "non-violent" criminals have been released from Washington state prisons. But for advocates of the free-prisoner movement, these releases were just the beginning. These "social justice" warriors wanted to use the coronavirus epidemic as an opportunity to release 11,715 Washington state inmates from the state's prisons. That number amounted to two-thirds of the Washington state prison population.

     Of the 11,715 criminals the social justice people hoped to see back on the street, 470 of them were violent criminals serving life sentences without parole, and 5,272 of them were behind bars for crimes such as murder, rape, aggravated assault, kidnapping, and child molestation.

     In March 2020, lawyers representing Washington's get-out-of-prison movement filed a petition with the state supreme court asking the justices to authorize the early release of any prisoner who was more than fifty years old, had a underlying health condition, or had less than 18 months to go on his or her sentence. If a prisoner met any one of these conditions, he or she would be eligible to walk free.

     Based upon this prison release criteria, serial killer Gary Ridgway met the requirement for early release. A man who had murdered 71 girls would be set free to murder again. Also eligible for release was Spokane serial killer Robert Yates. Between 1975 and 1988, Yates murdered at least 13 women.

     The Washington Supreme Court petitioners demanded the release of  qualifying prisoners regardless of what they had done, or if they posed a serious risk to public safety. And this included convicted serial killers Ridgway and Yates.

     In late April 2020, the Washington Supreme Court, in a 5 to 4 decision, rejected the early prisoner release petition.

     According to Spokane prosecutor Larry Haskell, even if the supreme court had authorized the massive release of prisoners, serial killers Ridgway and Yates would not have been set free. Nevertheless, the four dangerously radical justices who voted in favor of this reckless petition should be, at the very least, immediately removed from the bench, disbarred, and denied their pensions. 

The Bad, The Bizarre, and the Ugly: Welcome to Police Work

     If you want to encounter strange people and bizarre situations first-hand, join the police force. Cops function in a parallel world where normal behavior is the exception and deviant behavior is the rule. It's easy to understand why many police officers become cynical, wary, and downright disgusted with the human condition.

Soccer Player Kills Referee

     On June 29, 2014 on a soccer field in Livonia, Michigan, adult league referee John Bieniewcz issued Baseel Adul-Amir Saad a red card that meant the 36-year-old player had been ejected from the game. Saad responded to the penalty by punching the 44-year-old referee in the face. The husband and father of two collapsed to the ground unconscious. To spectators who voiced their disapproval of the sucker punch, Saad gave them the finger.

     As paramedics rushed Mr. Bieniewcz to a hospital in Detroit in critical condition, police took the Dearborn automobile mechanic into custody on the charge of aggravated assault.

     On July 1, 2014, after John Bieniewcz died from the effects of the punch, a prosecutor upgraded the charge against Mr. Saad to involuntary manslaughter.

     Judge Thomas S. Cameron, on March 13, 2015 following Mr. Saad's guilty plea to the involuntary manslaughter charge, sentenced him to eight to fifteen years in prison. The judge also ordered the convicted man to pay $9,000, the cost of his victim's funeral.

     When deputy sheriffs escorted the handcuffed Saad out of the courtroom en route to his cell, the victim's wife Kris raised a red card signifying his ejection from civilized society.

Being Nude Down At The Donut Shop

     On March 1, 2015 in Greenacres, Florida not far from Palm Beach, 32-yar-old Shakara Monik sat down at a table outside a Dunkin' Donuts shop and started talking to a man enjoying a donut and a cup of coffee. Not only didn't Monik not know this man, she was stark naked.

     A Dunkin' Donuts employee, concerned that the nude woman was freaking out customers and driving donut lovers away, called the police. In the meantime, donut patrons, figuring this woman was nuts, offered her pieces of clothing to cover her body. She refused their offers.

     When police officers arrived, Monik turned apologetic and explained that her nudeness involved a dare she had to complete before she could join a sorority dance troop. (Thirty-two seems a bit old for sorority membership.)

     The officers booked the West Palm Beach woman into the county jail on the charge of indecent exposure. The judge released Monik on her own recognizance and ordered her to stay clear of the donut place.

Stinking Drunk

     On March 1, 2015, police officers in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania encountered Maurice Franklin who appeared under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The 45-year-old was on foot darting in and out of traffic. When questioned by officers, Franklin, who slurred his words, claimed he had been walking erratically to avoid stepping in dog poop.

     Before the officers could handcuff Franklin and haul him off to jail for public drunkenness, he dropped to the sidewalk and rolled in a pile of dog feces.

     Perhaps Mr. Franklin thought he could avoid arrest by making himself so disgusting the officers wouldn't put him in the patrol car. He was wrong. For these officers it was just another day in paradise. 

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Rapists With Badges and Guns

     At three in the morning, March 17, 2013, 28-year-old Kim Nguyen and two of her male acquaintances were waiting for their designated driver outside a bar in Los Angeles' Koreatown. Police officers David Shin and Jin Oh, in a marked LAPD patrol car, pulled up to the trio. Following a brief questioning of Nguyen and her friends, the young officers drove off.

     For some reason the officers circled back to Nguyen and her companions. As the patrol car approached the bar's parking lot, Nguyen crossed the street to an all-night coffee shop. At this point the officers decided to arrest the Loyola Marymount University graduate student for public intoxication. One of the officers handcuffed Nguyen behind her back and placed her into the back of the patrol vehicle.

     The young woman's friends asked the officers where they were taking Nguyen. The officers drove off without answering that question.

     Video footage from a surveillance camera at an intersection not far from Nguyen's arrest showed her lying on her back in the street with a badly bloodied face. The video did not reveal how Nguyen had exited the patrol vehicle. Because she was not moving, it appeared she was either dead or unconscious.

     A patrol car occupied by another set of officers pulled into surveillance camera view. These officers were followed thirty seconds later by the car containing the arresting cops. Officers Shin and Oh were observed standing over Nguyen's body. Finally one of them crouched down next to her and rolled her onto her side. (Perhaps to take off the handcuffs.) Nguyen had regained consciousness and was writhing in pain. Paramedics arrived at the scene, gathered up Nguyen, and took her to a nearby hospital.

     Nguyen's jaw had been shattered and she suffered bleeding on the brain. She had also lost several teeth. Doctors kept her heavily sedated for several days.

     According to the responding paramedics, the LAPD officers told them that Nguyen had fallen out of the patrol car as it accelerated to 10 miles-per-hour from a stop sign. Surveillance camera footage, however, contradicted this account. Video footage showed the patrol car carrying Nguyen traveling through a stop sign at a much higher speed.

     Since Kim Nguyen had no memory of how she got from the patrol vehicle to the street, and patrol cars are equipped with locks that officers can engage when transporting arrestees, how this woman exited the patrol car remained a mystery. Moreover, it was apparently a mystery that no one at the LAPD was interested in solving.

     In September 2013, a reporter with the Los Angeles Times doing a story about Nguyen's lawsuit against the police department asked a police commander if the department had launched an internal investigation into the matter. Commander Andrew Smith said that he didn't know if such an inquiry had been conducted. According to Commander Smith, now that a lawsuit had been filed against the LAPD an investigation would be conducted for sure.

     In May 2015, the UCLA graduate, with her state civil lawsuit unresolved, filed a suit against the police department in federal court. Her attorney told reporters that the officers involved had sexually assaulted her. Surveillance camera footage revealed that Nguyen's left bra strap was broken and the top of her dress was pulled down to her waist. According to the lawsuit, when she awoke from the trauma days later, she found bruising on the inside of her thighs.

     On February 17, 2016, in a case not directly related to the Kim Nguyen case, Los Angeles police officers James Nichols, 43 and Luis Valenzuela, 40, were charged with sexually assaulting four women in their patrol car, while the officers were on duty. The alleged rapes occurred at various locations between 2008 and 2011.

     The Los Angeles Police Department, on February 4, 2017, settled Kim Nguyen's lawsuits for $35 million.

     In February 2018, officers Nichols and Valenzuela pleaded no contest to sexually assaulting several women, ages 19 to 34, in the back of their unmarked police car. The judge sentenced the former police officers to 25 years in prison.

     As of this writing, the city of Los Angeles has paid out millions in civil suit settlements to the victims of rogue officers Nichols and Valenzuela.

What Happened to Kristi Richardson?

     In 1979, Ronald Richardson and his wife Kristi started the Richardson Trucking Company, a Casper, Wyoming business that specialized in the transportation of oil and gas industry equipment.

     On April 29, 2013, Ronald Richardson, at age 63, died. Kristi, his 60-year-old widow, took control of the company. She resided in an affluent suburb of Casper, a city of 55,000 in the central part of the state that had become the center of a booming oil and gas industry that had brought crime and violence to a community with a traditionally low crime rate.

     Late in the afternoon of October 6, 2014, Kristi Richardson drove to her daughter Amber's house a block from her residence to drop off a birthday card and visit her grandchildren. At seven-forty that evening, she took a routine call from one of her drivers. The next call, one made to Kristi's cellphone at eleven that night, went unanswered.

     The next morning, when Kristi Richardson didn't show up for work at the trucking company, an employee called the house. When no one picked up the phone, the employee notified the owner's daughter.

     Because all of the doors were locked at Kristi's house, her daughter gained entry into the dwelling by using a garage door opener. Kristi's car sat in the garage and her purse, containing her credit cards and $800 in cash, lay on the kitchen counter.

     In the bedroom, Amber found her mother's cellphone lying on the bed. The only items missing from the home were Kristi's garage door opener and a hoodie she regularly wore. The daughter reported her mother missing to the Casper Police Department.

     Over the next several days, officers with the Casper Police Department, Natrona County Sheriff's Office, fire and EMS personnel, and citizen volunteers searched for the missing woman. The authorities used a helicopter to search parts of Casper Mountain.

     Members of Kristi's family, who believed she had been the victim of foul play because she never left the house without her car, posted a $25,000 reward for information regarding her disappearance and whereabouts. Kristi's daughter told a reporter that "I believe someone was at the house before she got home."

     The Casper Star Tribune reported that crime scene investigators had found traces of blood and urine on the missing woman's bed. Detectives were looking into the possibility that Kristi had been abducted and murdered by either an employee, customer, or business competitor.

    In February 2015, Casper police officers executed a search warrant on a credit report of a man who wanted to have a romantic relationship with the missing woman. Prior to the search, detectives had interrogated this man as a "person of interest."

     On May 5, 2017, with Kristi Richardson still missing and no arrests in the case, the mayor fired Casper Chief of Police Jim Wetzel. Reporters covering the case believed there might have been a police cover-up regarding the locally influential person of interest. On May 18, 2017, interim Chief of Police Steve Schultz turned the Richardson investigation over to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation.

     As of this writing, Kristi Richardson remains missing and no arrests have been made. The missing woman's family has offered a $250.000 reward for information regarding her disappearance.

Friday, May 1, 2020

The Father Eric Freed Murder Case

     Eric Freed, while living in Japan in 1979, became a Catholic priest. Twenty years later, Reverend Freed joined the greater Santa Rosa Diocese in northern California's Humboldt County. In 2003, Father Freed began teaching in the Religious Studies Department of Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. At the school, which is part of the 23-campus California State University system, Father Freed also directed the Newman Center, a Catholic student organization. In August 2011, Reverend Freed became pastor of St. Bernard Church in the coastal city of Eureka located 275 miles north of San Francisco.

     At nine in the morning, on New Year's Day 2014, Deacon Frank Weber went to the St. Bernard rectory after Father Freed failed to show up for morning mass. The deacon called 911 after discovering the priest dead from what appeared to be a head wound caused by a blunt object.

     At the murder scene, police officers found signs of forced entry as well as evidence of a struggle. Father Freed was last seen at 6:30 New Year's Eve following the evening service. The victim's gray 2010 Nissan Altima was nowhere to be found. Investigators had no immediate suspect.

     Humboldt County Sheriff's Office deputies, early in the afternoon of Thursday, January 2, 2014, arrested a 43-year-old man from Redway, California named Garry Lee Bullock. The officers took him into custody near the southern Humboldt County town of Gaberville.

     According to investigators, there was no indication that the murder suspect and the victim had known each other, or had met before the church break-in. Detectives believed that Bullock had broken into the rectory looking for money. When he encountered the priest, the two men fought until the intruder struck Reverend Freed with a blunt instrument, a blow that killed him.

     In tracing the suspect's activities in the days leading up to the murder, detectives working the Freed case learned that early Tuesday afternoon, December 31, 2013, Humboldt County deputies had arrested Bullock near Gaberville for public intoxication. After becoming agitated at the hospital where he was being evaluated, deputies handcuffed Bullock and booked him into the Humboldt County Jail.

     Just after midnight, January 1, 2014, the authorities released Bullock. A few hours later, a security guard found Bullock loitering near the St. Bernard Church rectory. The guard chased Bullock off church grounds. This happened just before or after the suspect had murdered Father Freed.

     On January 6, 2014, the Humboldt County Coroner announced that Reverend Freed had been beaten to death with a wooden stake and a metal gutter pipe. Bullock, held under $1.2 million bond, pleaded not guilty.

     On January 21, 2014, Eureka Police detectives at the preliminary hearing to determine if the state had enough evidence to go forward with the Bullock case, testified that when they arrested Bullock for the murder of the priest, they found what looked like pieces of mushrooms in the pockets of his trousers. Moreover, the suspect's hands were so swollen and covered with abrasions, officers took him to the hospital for x-rays. Bullock also had scratches on his face, arms, and back.

     According to the autopsy report, the victim had died either of blunt force trauma to the head and trachea, or by suffocation caused by compression, or having a broken vase shoved down his throat. The prosecuting attorney said the suspect had tortured Father Reed "for his own sadistic purpose."

     The judge ruled that the prosecution had presented sufficient evidence against Bullock for the case to go forward to trial.

     On November 4, 2016, a Humboldt County jury made up of two men and ten women, after four days of deliberation, found Gary Lee Bullock guilty of first-degree murder. Judge John Feeney sentenced Bullock to life in prison without the chance of parole.

     In December 2017, a panel of California appellate court justices rejected Gary Lee Bullock's bid to to overturn his life without parole sentence.

Life Under Socialism

In a socialist society there is no need for money because everything is free. That means that ordinary citizens are essentially broke. High socialist officials, on the other hand, have money and live high on the hog. But if you believe that money is the root of all evil, socialism sounds like a good idea. This is particularly true if you're not ambitious, timid and don't mind giving up your personal freedoms in exchange for a guaranteed but substandard existence. That socialist/communist countries are places where people do not want to live is testimony to the human spirit. You never hear of people fleeing from capitalist democracies to communist countries for a better life. Most people are willing to work hard and take chances to get ahead. That doesn't mean that life in America is perfect. Even hard working, ambitious people suffer setbacks through no fault of their own. In a capitalist country these citizens deserve and receive some help. But at least these aspiring but unfortunate citizens are free, and do not live under the thumb of an oppressive government, a key feature of socialism which cannot exist without it. The better life, for most people, is one of aspiration and freedom. If you need proof of the harm a socialist/communist can do even within a capitalist country, look no farther than New York City.