February 2009 Archives

Central Connecticut College student's class presentation, supporting the idea of "free gun zones" on campus, gets him reported to police by professor.

CCSU Reporter reports

For CCSU student John Wahlberg, a class presentation on campus violence turned into a confrontation with the campus police due to a complaint by the professor.

On October 3, 2008, Wahlberg and two other classmates prepared to give an oral presentation for a Communication 140 class that was required to discuss a "relevant issue in the media". Wahlberg and his group chose to discuss school violence due to recent events such as the Virginia Tech shootings that occurred in 2007.

Shortly after his professor, Paula Anderson, filed a complaint with the CCSU Police against her student. During the presentation Wahlberg made the point that if students were permitted to conceal carry guns on campus, the violence could have been stopped earlier in many of these cases. He also touched on the controversial idea of free gun zones on college campuses.

That night at work, Wahlberg received a message stating that the campus police "requested his presence". Upon entering the police station, the officers began to list off firearms that were registered under his name, and questioned him about where he kept them.

They told Wahlberg that they had received a complaint from his professor that his presentation was making students feel "scared and uncomfortable".

"I was a bit nervous when I walked into the police station," Wahlberg said, "but I felt a general sense of disbelief once the officer actually began to list the firearms registered in my name. I was never worried however, because as a law-abiding gun owner, I have a thorough understanding of state gun laws as well as unwavering safety practices."

Professor Anderson refused to comment directly on the situation and deferred further comment.

"It is also my responsibility as a teacher to protect the well being of our students, and the campus community at all times," she wrote in a statement submitted to The Recorder. "As such, when deemed necessary because of any perceived risks, I seek guidance and consultation from the Chair of my Department, the Dean and any relevant University officials."

Wahlberg believes that her complaint was filed without good reason.

"I don't think that Professor Anderson was justified in calling the CCSU police over a clearly nonthreatening matter. Although the topic of discussion may have made a few individuals uncomfortable, there was no need to label me as a threat," Wahlberg said in response. "The actions of Professor Anderson made me so uncomfortable, that I didn't attend several classes. The only appropriate action taken by the Professor was to excuse my absences."

The university police were unavailable for comment.

"If you can't talk about the Second Amendment, what happened to the First Amendment?" asked Sara Adler, president of the Riflery and Marksmanship club on campus. "After all, a university campus is a place for the free and open exchange of ideas."


Thanks to the Agitator
58 Year- old Denver bus driver hit by a car while helping two elederly women cross busy road during a snowstorm; then ticketed.

AP reports

A good Samaritan who helped push three people out of the path of a pickup truck before being struck and injured has gotten a strange reward for his good deed: A jaywalking ticket.

Family members said 58-year-old bus driver Jim Moffett and another man were helping two elderly women cross a busy Denver street in a snowstorm when he was hit Friday night.

Moffett suffered bleeding in the brain, broken bones, a dislocated shoulder and a possible ruptured spleen. He was in serious but stable condition Wednesday.

The Colorado State Patrol issued the citation. Trooper Ryan Sullivan said that despite Moffett's intentions, jaywalking contributed to the accident.

Moffett had been driving his bus when the two women got off. In the interest of safety, he got out and, together with another passenger, helped the ladies cross.

Moffett's stepson, Ken McDonald, said the driver of the pickup plowed into his stepfather, but not before Moffett pushed the two women out of the way.

When he awoke in intensive care, he learned of the ticket. "His reaction was dazed and confused. I was a little angry," said McDonald.

The other man also was cited for jaywalking, while the pickup driver was cited with careless driving that led to injury. Sullivan said the two elderly women haven't been cited but the investigation is ongoing.

Thanks to Lew rockwell.com

Protecting America from Terrorist Mule-Drivers

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From the "common sense solutions" Dept. TSA mandating biometric ID cards for mule-skiiners at Pennsylvania historical park.

CNN Reports:

A federal anti-terror law that requires longshoremen, truckers and others to submit to criminal background checks has ensnared another class of transportation worker -- mule drivers.

Yes, so-called mule skinners -- in this case, seasonal workers who dress in colonial garb at a historical park in Easton, Pa. -- must apply for biometric Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWIC), according to the Transportation Security Administration, which says it is bound by federal law.

The requirement has officials of the Hugh Moore Historical Park perplexed.

"We have one boat. It's pulled by two mules. On a good day they might go 2 miles per hour," said Sarah B. Hays, the park's director of operations.

The park's two-mile canal does not pass any military bases, nuclear power plants or other sensitive facilities. And, park officials say, the mules could be considered weapons of mass destruction only if they were aimed at something resembling food.

In December, Hayes wrote to Rep. Charles Dent, R-Pennsylvania, about the requirement. Dent, in turn, wrote to the TSA requesting a waiver, noting the mode of transportation involved was "mule-drawn canal boats."

In January, the TSA responded, noting the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 applies to all mariners holding U.S. Coast Guard-issued credentials.

"We encourage the crew members... who possess Coast Guard mariner credentials to obtain a TWIC at their earliest convenience to comply with these requirements and not risk suspension or revocation of their other credentials," the TSA wrote.

On Wednesday, the mule skinner debate reached Capitol Hill, when Dent asked new Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano about the necessity of conducting background checks on mule drivers. He displayed a photo of two mules, Hank and George, tugging a canal boat in the company of two park employee mule drivers in colonial working attire.

"Now Hank and George, while sometimes are ornery, they are not terrorists," Dent said. Napolitano said she would try to be flexible.

"Obviously this is a picture designed to say 'Hey, isn't it absurd that they be required to have TWIC cards.'" Napolitano said. "Um, let's work with you on this particular case, if we might."

Park officials say four or five park employees typically have Coast Guard credentials to operate the canal boat, and the extra expense of a TWIC card, which is at least an extra $100 on top of fees for Coast Guard credentials, is unwelcome.

"I think the rule was written and the policy was set up for all the big shipping, and they never even considered something outside the normal bounds," Hays said.

Dent said he will work on a "common sense" solution with Napolitano.

Thanks to Joanthan Turley
I can't improve upon the great Radley (The Agitator) Balko's headline. Nor his commentary below. So I'll just link it and run it as is:

Sorry, but I'm having a hard time conjuring up any sympathy for these guys. They're due to be sentenced this week. To put it into perspective, all three are expected to receive about the same sentence as Ryan Frederick. That ain't justice.

I will say, however, that evil and inexcusable as these bastards are, there's some truth in this excerpt:

Tesler said when he joined the narcotics unit, he was told to "sit, watch and learn" from superiors who cut corners to meet performance quotas for arrests and warrants. "I was a new part and plugged into a broken system," Tesler said.

Tesler said when he saw Smith about to plant baggies of marijuana inside Johnston's home to make it look like a drug house, he shook his head in disapproval. Tesler said he falsified the police report and later lied about the raid because Smith told him to follow the cover-up script. Tesler said he wasn't about to "rat" on a senior officer.

His father, Jack Tesler, said his son was "being vilified and over-prosecuted."

Smith said his moral compass failed when he began to think "drug dealers were no longer human."

"I saw myself above them," he said.

This is what happens when you declare "war" on American citizens. You dehumanize them. And you instill an ends-justifies-the-means, win at all costs mindset in your "warriors." This mindset infected the entire narcotics unit at Atlanta PD. You'd have to be awfully naive to believe the problem is limited to Atlanta.

Officers Junnier, Smith, and Tesler are going to prison. But you could make a good case that they were only responding to incentives. A lot of other people have Kathryn Johnston's blood on their hands too, people with names like Bennett, Gates, Walters, Souder, Tandy, and Meese. They've been ratcheting up the war rhetoric of drug prohibition for 30 years. It boggles my mind that I'm "known" for this issue. For this to even be an issue, we had to have reached the point where most of America is now accustomed to the notion that state agents dressed in battle garb can and will tear down the doors of private homes in the middle of the night for nothing more than mere possession of psychoactive substances. And most of the time, they do it under the full color of law.

It shouldn't be at all surprising that this particular war's boots on the ground might start to take all of that war imagery to heart, and take shortcuts around whatever largely ritualistic Fourth Amendment procedures we have left to "protect" against whatever it is we still might call "unreasonable" searches (if a violent, terrifying, paramilitary-style raid in the middle of the night on someone suspected of a nonviolent, consensual crime isn't "unreasonable," I don't know what would be).

Kathryn Johnston's death is tragic. But the real tragedy here is that had the cops found a stash of marijuana in her basement that actually did belong to her-say for pain treatment or nausea-her death would have faded quickly from the national news, these tactics would have been deemed by most to be wholly legitimate, and we probably wouldn't still be talking about her today.

These cops were evil. But they worked within an evil system that's not only immoral on its face, but is rife with bad incentives and plays to the worst instincts in human nature.

Dirty Dancing Crackdown

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High School students must sign "no grinding" pledge before attending campus dance.

FoxNews reports

A public high school principal in Ohio is trying to take the dirty out of dancing by forcing students who attend school formals to sign an agreement that they will not "grind" -- a dance style the educator says "simulates sex on the dance floor."

Michael Mayell, principal of Brunswick High School in Madina County, Ohio, is requiring students to sign a pledge to follow 10 provisions if they are to attend the school's winter formal on Saturday.

Among the provisions, which include a dress code, is one that forbids the student from engaging in grinding on the school's dance floor.

"They're grinding. They're rubbing. It's just inappropriate, and we're not going to tolerate that," Mayell told FOXNews.com.

And if the student violates the agreement, he or she will be forced to leave the dance, he added.

Mayell said the policy has been in place for quite some time but has been difficult for school officials to enforce.

"We're going to change the enforcement. Any student who is doing that will be removed from the dance immediately."

He said his decision to ban that form of dancing has been met with widespread approval from the community -- adding that school officials and parents throughout the state have inundated him with phone calls and e-mails expressing their support.

But the principal acknowledged that tickets sales are down and many students are encouraging their peers not to attend the formal.

Mayell said he does not care if it infringes on a student's freedom of expression.

"They can do that freedom of speech somewhere else. This is not the forum for it," he said.

Tennessee legislature mulling bill that would give state wide authority to drug and alcohol test pregnant women on the basis of : No prenatal care, Late prenatal care after twenty-four (24) weeks gestation, incomplete prenatal care; Abruptio placentae;Intrauterine fetal death; Preterm labor of no obvious cause; Intrauterine growth retardation of no obvious cause; Previously known alcohol or drug abuse; or unexplained congenital anomalies.

Women's Health News reports

A proposed bill in Tennessee:
SB 1065 by Marrero B (HB 0890 by Hackworth)

AN ACT to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 68, relative to testing for certain substances in pregnant women.

SECTION 1.Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 68, Chapter 5, is amended by adding Section 2 of this act as a new part thereto.

(a) The general assembly declares that, as a matter of public policy of this state and in
the interest of public health, pregnant women who abuse alcohol and drugs pose a risk to their unborn children. Pregnant women who meet certain criteria, as determined by the department, through rules and regulations duly promulgated in accordance with the provisions of the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, compiled in title 4, chapter 5, shall be tested for alcohol and drugs in order to encourage them to seek immediate treatment for an alcohol-related or drug-related problem.

(b) If the department levies a fee or charge for the cost of testing, it shall use the same billing and collection methods normally used by independent private laboratories. Any fee shall be waived for patients who are unable to pay.

(c) The department, in promulgating rules to implement this act, shall consider the following as indications of the necessity for alcohol or drug testing:
(1) No prenatal care;
(2) Late prenatal care after twenty-four (24) weeks gestation;
(3) Incomplete prenatal care;
(4) Abruptio placentae;
(5) Intrauterine fetal death;
(6) Preterm labor of no obvious cause;
(7) Intrauterine growth retardation of no obvious cause;
(8) Previously known alcohol or drug abuse; or
(9) Unexplained congenital anomalies.

(d) The commissioner of health is authorized to adopt rules, using criteria established by the United States department of health and human services as guidelines for modeling the drug and alcohol testing program pursuant to this act, concerning, but not limited to:
(1) Standards for licensing drug and alcohol testing laboratories and suspension and revocation of the licenses;
(2) Body specimens and minimum specimen amounts that are appropriate for drug or alcohol testing;
(3) Methods of analysis and procedures to ensure reliable drug or alcohol testing results, including the use of breathalyzers and standards for initial tests and confirmation tests;
(4) Minimum cut-off detection levels for alcohol, each drug or metabolites of the drug for the purposes of determining a positive test result;
(5) Chain-of-custody procedures to ensure proper identification, labeling and handling of specimens tested; and
(6) Retention, storage and transportation procedures to ensure reliable results on confirmation tests and retests.

(e) Prior to acting on the proposed rules to implement this chapter, the commissioner shall submit the proposed rules to the house health and human resources and the senate general welfare committees of the general assembly for their review and comment. The committees shall have forty-five (45) days to review the proposed rules and transmit any comment it may have to the commissioner.

(f) Any woman who tests positive for alcohol or drugs on a test administered pursuant to this chapter shall be referred to treatment for an alcohol-related or drug-related problem. Every physician, surgeon or other person permitted by law to attend a pregnant woman during gestation shall report each woman who refuses to seek treatment for an alcohol-related or drug-related problem or who misses two (2) or more appointments to the department of children's services. Such reports shall be in a manner specified by the department, either by contacting a local representative of the department or by utilizing the department's centralized intake procedure, where applicable.

(g) A health care provider who makes a report of alcohol or drug abuse, as required by subsection (f), shall not be liable in any civil or criminal action that is based solely upon such report.

(h) Nothing in this section shall be construed to confer any immunity upon a health care provider for a criminal or civil action arising out of the treatment of a woman about whom the report of alcohol or drug abuse was made.

(i) All information, interviews, reports, statements, memoranda and drug or alcohol test results, written or otherwise, received by the covered employer through a drug or alcohol testing program are confidential communications and may not be used or received in evidence, obtained in discovery or disclosed in any public or private proceedings, except in accordance with this section.

(j) Laboratories, medical review officers, employee assistance programs, drug or alcohol rehabilitation programs and their agents who receive or have access to information concerning drug or alcohol test results shall keep all information confidential. Release of the information under any other circumstance is authorized solely pursuant to a written consent form signed voluntarily by the person tested, unless the release is compelled by a hearing officer or a court of competent jurisdiction pursuant to an appeal taken under this section, relevant to a legal claim asserted by the employee or is deemed appropriate by a professional or occupational licensing board in a related disciplinary proceeding. The consent form must contain, at a minimum:
(1) The name of the person who is authorized to obtain the information;
(2) The purpose of the disclosure;
(3) The precise information to be disclosed;
(4) The duration of the consent; and
(5) The signature of the person authorizing release of the information.

(k) Information on drug or alcohol test results for tests administered pursuant to this act shall not be released or used in any criminal proceeding against the woman who was subject to the test. Information released contrary to this section is inadmissible as evidence in the criminal proceeding.

SECTION 3. For the purpose of promulgating rules and regulations, this act shall take effect upon becoming a law, the public welfare requiring it. For all other purposes this act shall take effect January 1, 2010, the public welfare requiring it.

No change from Bush policy when it comes to terror suspect detainees.

AP reports

The Obama administration, siding with the Bush White House, contended Friday that detainees in Afghanistan have no constitutional rights.

In a two-sentence court filing, the Justice Department said it agreed that detainees at Bagram Airfield cannot use U.S. courts to challenge their detention. The filing shocked human rights attorneys.

"The hope we all had in President Obama to lead us on a different path has not turned out as we'd hoped," said Tina Monshipour Foster, a human rights attorney representing a detainee at the Bagram Airfield. "We all expected better."

The Supreme Court last summer gave al-Qaida and Taliban suspects held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the right to challenge their detention. With about 600 detainees at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and thousands more held in Iraq, courts are grappling with whether they, too, can sue to be released.

Three months after the Supreme Court's ruling on Guantanamo Bay, four Afghan citizens being detained at Bagram tried to challenge their detentions in U.S. District Court in Washington. Court filings alleged that the U.S. military had held them without charges, repeatedly interrogating them without any means to contact an attorney. Their petition was filed by relatives on their behalf since they had no way of getting access to the legal system.

The military has determined that all the detainees at Bagram are "enemy combatants." The Bush administration said in a response to the petition last year that the enemy combatant status of the Bagram detainees is reviewed every six months, taking into consideration classified intelligence and testimony from those involved in their capture and interrogation.

After Barack Obama took office, a federal judge in Washington gave the new administration a month to decide whether it wanted to stand by Bush's legal argument. Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd says the filing speaks for itself.

"They've now embraced the Bush policy that you can create prisons outside the law," said Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who has represented several detainees.

The Justice Department argues that Bagram is different from Guantanamo Bay because it is in an overseas war zone and the prisoners there are being held as part of a military action. The government argues that releasing enemy combatants into the Afghan war zone, or even diverting U.S. personnel there to consider their legal cases, could threaten security.

The government also said if the Bagram detainees got access to the courts, it would allow all foreigners captured by the United States in conflicts worldwide to do the same.

It's not the first time that the Obama administration has used a Bush administration legal argument after promising to review it. Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder announced a review of every court case in which the Bush administration invoked the state secrets privilege, a separate legal tool it used to have lawsuits thrown out rather than reveal secrets.

The same day, however, Justice Department attorney Douglas Letter cited that privilege in asking an appeals court to uphold dismissal of a suit accusing a Boeing Co. subsidiary of illegally helping the CIA fly suspected terrorists to allied foreign nations that tortured them.

Letter said that Obama officials approved his argument.

Oklahoma Driver Pulled Over for Political Sticker

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Man investigated over "Abort Obama, Not the Unborn" sticker on car.

An Oklahoma City police officer wrongly pulled over a man last week and confiscated an anti-President Barack Obama sign the man had on his vehicle.

The officer misinterpreted the sign as threatening, said Capt. Steve McCool, of the Oklahoma City Police Department, and took the sign, which read "Abort Obama, not the unborn."

Chip Harrison said he was driving to work when a police car followed him for several miles and then signaled for him to pull over.

"I pulled over, knowing I hadn't done anything wrong," Harrison said in a recent phone interview.

When the officer asked Harrison if he knew why he had been pulled over, Harrison said he did not.

"They said, 'It's because of the sign in your window,'" Harrison said.

"It's not meant to be a threat, it's a statement about abortion," Harrison said.

He said he disagrees with the president's position on abortion.

"I asked the officer, 'Do you know what abort means?'" Harrison said. "He said, 'Yeah, it means to kill.' I said, 'No, it means to remove or terminate.'"

Harrison said his sign was to be interpreted as saying something like: Remove Obama from office, not unborn babies from the womb.

The officers confiscated Harrison's sign and gave him a slip of paper that stated he was part of an investigation.

Harrison said he later received a call from a person who said he was a lieutenant supervisor for the Internal Investigations Department and wanted to know his location and return his sign to him.

According to Harrison, the supervisor said the Secret Service had been contacted on the matter and had told them the sign was not a threat to the president.

Harrison was asked if he would like to file a complaint. He said he was not sure but would take the paperwork, just in case.

But his run-in with the law wasn't over yet.

"The Secret Service called and said they were at my house," Harrison said.

After talking to his attorney, Harrison went home where he met the Secret Service.

"When I was on my way there, the Secret Service called me and said they weren't going to ransack my house or anything ... they just wanted to (walk through the house) and make sure I wasn't a part of any hate groups."

Harrison said he invited the Secret Service agents into the house and they were "very cordial."

"We walked through the house and my wife and 2-year-old were in the house," Harrison said.

He said they interviewed him for about 30 minutes and then left, not finding any evidence Harrison was a threat to the president.

"I'm still in contact with a lawyer right now," Harrison said. "I don't know what I'm going to do."

Harrison said he feels his First Amendment rights were violated.

McCool said the officer who pulled over Harrison misinterpreted the sign.

"We had an officer that his interpretation of the sign was different than what was meant," McCool said. "You've got an officer who had a different thought on what the word 'abort' meant."

McCool said the sign basically meant Obama should be impeached and it was not a threat.

"(The officer) shouldn't have taken the sign," McCool said. "That was (Harrison's) First Amendment right to voice his concern."

McCool said although the sign should not have been confiscated, the situation was made right in the end.

"We always try to do the right thing and in the end we believe we did the right thing by returning the sign," McCool said.

Enid Police Department Capt. Dean Grassino said such an incident most likely would not have occurred in Enid.

"We wouldn't pull over anybody for a bumper sticker or a sign like that unless it was a safety issue," he said.

Grassino said a safety issue would be a sign that obstructs the view of the driver.

"We wouldn't do it based on the views of the bumper sticker or sign," Grassino said.

If a sign was undoubtedly a threat to the president, Grassino said it is not within the jurisdiction of the city police to handle that and the FBI or the Secret Service would be called before any action was taken.

Missouri middle school accused of confining special needs kids in closet size rooms.

KMOV reports

A local school district is facing strong allegations of physical abuse.

The Missouri Protection and Advocacy Services says those allegations were against some staff members in the Francis Howell School District.

In a press release, the advocacy group lays out a series of complaints against the district.

All of the allegations happened at the Hollenbeck Middle School.

The report says some children were locked in small rooms the size of closets.

The group says there is no padding in the rooms and that there is blood on the walls.

News 4 has also been told by the group that several children were injured when placed in the room and some were in need of medical attention.

The district's superintendent says that the claims are false and that recently the district passed a review from the Division of Children's Services.

thanks to jgodsey

Photographer Arrested for Breaking Nonexistent Law

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It's still legal to take photos of New York City subway trains, though when a student and amateur photographer, after being stopped by police for photographing the Number 2 train in the Bronx, pointed that out (actually producing a copy of current Transit Authority policy bookmarked on his phone) he was cuffed and arrested anyway. 

The NY Times reports

In the map of New York's most forsaken places, it would be hard to top the Freeman Street stop on the No. 2 line in the Bronx, late on a February afternoon. Around 4:30 last Thursday, Robert Taylor stood on the station's elevated platform, taking a picture of a train.

"A few buildings in place," he noted. "Nice little cloud cover overhead. I usually use them as wallpaper on my computer."

Finished with his camera, Mr. Taylor, 30, was about to board the train when a police officer called to him. He stepped back from the train.

"The cop wanted my ID, and I showed it to him," Mr. Taylor said. "He told me I couldn't take the pictures. I told him that's not true, that the rules permitted it. He said I was wrong. I said, 'I'm willing to bet your paycheck.' "

Mr. Taylor was right. The officer was enforcing a nonexistent rule. And if recent experience is any guide, one paycheck won't come close to covering what a wrongful arrest in this kind of case could cost the taxpayers.

Twice in the last five years, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority proposed a ban on photography in the subways as an antiterrorism measure. And in 2007, the city proposed severe restrictions on filming in the city streets, but retreated when visual artists and activists gathered 26,000 signatures on petitions of opposition within a few weeks.

Both times that the transportation authority tried to ban photography, it, too, dropped the idea because of opposition. Even so, people taking pictures in the subways are regularly stopped by the police and asked to let the officers see their images or to delete them.

"They don't have to do that, and it's completely unlawful to ask them to delete them," said Chris Dunn, a lawyer with the New York Civil Liberties Union. "But it comes with the explicit or implicit threat of arrest. It's a constant problem."

Mr. Taylor -- a college student and an employee of a transportation agency that he did not want to identify -- said he had been stopped before when taking pictures, but without problems.

Not this time.

"I said, 'According to the rules of conduct, we are allowed to take pictures,' " Mr. Taylor said. "I showed him the rules -- they're bookmarked on my BlackBerry."

Rule 1050.9 (c) of the state code says, "Photography, filming or video recording in any facility or conveyance is permitted except that ancillary equipment such as lights, reflectors or tripods may not be used."

Then a police sergeant arrived.

"He tells me that their rules and the transit rules are different," Mr. Taylor said. "I tell him, 'If you feel I'm wrong, give me a summons and I'll see everyone in court.' The sergeant told them to arrest me."

In handcuffs, Mr. Taylor was delivered to the Transit District 12 police station, and a warrant check was run. "They were citing 9/11," said Mr. Taylor, whose encounter was described on a blog by the photographer Carlos Miller. "Of course, 9/11 is serious. I said: 'Let's be real. We're in the Bronx on the 2 train. Let's be for real here. Come on.' "

Before he was uncuffed, he got a batch of summonses.

The first was for "taking photos from the s/b plat of incoming outgoing trains without authority to do so," abbreviating "southbound platform." It cited Rule 1050.9 (c).

The second was for disorderly conduct, which consisted of addressing the officers in an "unreasonable voice."

And the third was for "impeding traffic" -- on a platform that is about 10,000 square feet. "I don't know if you can impede traffic with 15 people per hour coming on the station," Mr. Taylor said.

LAST year, the city settled a lawsuit with a medical student who was using his vacation to photograph every subway stop. He got through five before an officer handcuffed him and detained him for about 20 minutes. With legal fees, the cost to the city was $31,501 -- more than $1,500 a minute.

In the case of Mr. Taylor, the "officers misinterpreted the rules concerning photography," said Paul J. Browne, the Police Department's chief spokesman. "The Transit Adjudication Board is being notified that summons was issued in error, resulting in its dismissal."

However, the police will press on with charges of impeding traffic and unreasonable noise, Mr. Browne said.

For his part, Mr. Taylor said he was late meeting his girlfriend: "It wasn't a pleasant sight. I said, 'I'll make it up to you.' What else could I say?"

Thanks to the police, they might end up with more than a nice dinner or two -- at taxpayer expense.

Thanks to jgodsey

Under Arrest: For Texting in Class

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Wisconsin teen busted after body search turns up Samsung Cricket.

Raw Story reports

A 14-year-old high-school student has the dubious distinction of being perhaps the first American ever arrested for texting in class.

The Wisconsin girl was charged with disorderly conduct last week after refusing to stop texting during her math class and then denying she had a phone, according to a police report.

"The School Resource officer at Wauwatosa East High School was asked to go to room 242 and remove a student who refuses to stop texting on her phone during class," the Wauwatosa Police Department officer wrote in his report. "The student [name redacted] (w/f 6-23-94) is known to me and the administration based on prior negative contacts."

It's unclear what those earlier "negative contacts" were. But what is clear is that the arresting officer gave the student a a $298 ticket for disorderly conduct and kept the Samsung, according to the report, which The Smoking Gun published in full Tuesday.

Wauwatosa East High School has a policy against texting during classes. The situation would not have escalated if the student had followed the officer's instructions, Wauwatosa Police spokeswoman Lt. Dominic Leone told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

"The arrest was more for her behavior than for the texting," Leone said. "All she had to do was put the phone away and that would have been that."

Clearly, the student loved her Samsung Cricket. She didn't give it up easily: After repeatedly denying she had it to both her teacher, the school officer and the police officer, the phone was finally revealed after a body search by a female officer called to the scene, according to the report.

In his report, the arresting officer noted that he "had observed that the zipper on [name deleted]'s pants was down," and that "she squirmed in her chair keeping her hands in her lap," while he interviewed her. After told she was being arrested for "not telling us the truth," the officer writes that the girl said "she was not going to stand up to be searched."

"These words alerted me with her zipper open and he [sic] refusal to stand up and be searched she was concealing the phone in her pants," the officer wrote.

Later, the female officer "recover[ed] a Samsung Cricket cell phone from the buttocks area of [name deleted]," and the arresting officer claimed that the girl "was smiling and laughing as Paula told me where she recovered the phone."

The student also apparently gave false phone numbers to the arresting officer, who wished to tell her parents what was happening. "She gave me several numbers all being false by one or two digits wrong [sic]," Officer Jeffrey S. Griffin wrote.

After her arrest February 11th, the student was suspended for a week - but apparently the time away from school was too much to bear. The recalcitrant student received citations Thursday and Friday for trespassing on campus, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported Tuesday.

It's possible, though uncertain, if the student's arrest marked the first time high-school texting has led to an arrest. It's a difficult question to answer, since such arrests would appear in records as "disorderly conduct" or a similar charge, according to Leone.

The student is due to appear in court April 20th to deal with the misdemeanor charge.

Book Dumping

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Government regulation mandates make it unlawful to sell or distribute any children's books published before 1985. 

City Journal reports

It's hard to believe, but true: under a law Congress passed last year aimed at regulating hazards in children's products, the federal government has now advised that children's books published before 1985 should not be considered safe and may in many cases be unlawful to sell or distribute. Merchants, thrift stores, and booksellers may be at risk if they sell older volumes, or even give them away, without first subjecting them to testing--at prohibitive expense. Many used-book sellers, consignment stores, Goodwill outlets, and the like have accordingly begun to refuse new donations of pre-1985 volumes, yank existing ones off their shelves, and in some cases discard them en masse.

The problem is the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), passed by Congress last summer after the panic over lead paint on toys from China. Among its other provisions, CPSIA imposed tough new limits on lead in any products intended for use by children aged 12 or under, and made those limits retroactive: that is, goods manufactured before the law passed cannot be sold on the used market (even in garage sales or on eBay) if they don't conform. The law has hit thrift stores particularly hard, since many children's products have long included lead-containing (if harmless) components: zippers, snaps, and clasps on garments and backpacks; skateboards, bicycles, and countless other products containing metal alloy; rhinestones and beads in decorations; and so forth. Combine this measure with a new ban (also retroactive) on playthings and child-care articles that contain plastic-softening chemicals known as phthalates, and suddenly tens of millions of commonly encountered children's items have become unlawful to resell, presumably destined for landfills when their owners discard them. Penalties under the law are strict and can include $100,000 fines and prison time, regardless of whether any child is harmed.

Not until 1985 did it become unlawful to use lead pigments in the inks, dyes, and paints used in children's books. Before then--and perhaps particularly in the great age of children's-book illustration that lasted through the early twentieth century--the use of such pigments was not uncommon, and testing can still detect lead residues in books today. This doesn't mean that the books pose any hazard to children. While lead poisoning from other sources, such as paint in old houses, remains a serious public health problem in some communities, no one seems to have been able to produce a single instance in which an American child has been made ill by the lead in old book illustrations--not surprisingly, since unlike poorly maintained wall paint, book pigments do not tend to flake off in large lead-laden chips for toddlers to put into their mouths.

At any rate, CPSIA's major provisions went into effect on February 10. The day before, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) published guidelines telling thrift stores, as well as other resellers and distributors of used goods, what they could safely keep selling and what they should consider rejecting or subjecting to (expensive) lead testing. Confirming earlier reports, the document advised that only "ordinary" children's books (that is, made entirely of paper, with no toylike plastic or metal elements) printed after 1985 could be placed in the safe category. Older books were pointedly left off the safe list; the commission did allow an exception for vintage collectibles whose age, price, or rarity suggested that they would most likely be used by adult collectors, rather than given to children.

Since the law became effective the very next day, there was no time to waste in putting this advice into practice. A commenter at Etsy, the large handicrafts and vintage-goods site, observed how things worked at one store:

I just came back from my local thrift store with tears in my eyes! I watched as boxes and boxes of children's books were thrown into the garbage! Today was the deadline and I just can't believe it! Every book they had on the shelves prior to 1985 was destroyed! I managed to grab a 1967 edition of "The Outsiders" from the top of the box, but so many!

People who deal in children's books for a livelihood now face unpleasant choices. Valorie Jacobsen of Clinton, Wisconsin, who owns a small used-book store and has sold over the Internet since 1995, commented at my blog, Overlawyered: "Our bookstore is the sole means of income for our family, and we currently have over 7,000 books catalogued. In our children's department, 35 percent of our picture books and 65 percent of our chapter books were printed before 1985." Jacobsen has contacted the CPSC and her congressional representatives for guidance, but to no avail. "We cannot simply discard a wealth of our culture's nineteenth and twentieth children's literature over this," she writes. She remains defiant, if wary: "I was willing to resist the censorship of 1984 and the Fire Department of Fahrenheit 451 long before I became a bookseller, so I'd love to run a black market in quality children's books--but at the same time it's not like the CPSC has never destroyed a small, harmless company before."

Jacobsen also worries that any temporary forbearance on the part of the CPSC, which has said that it does not plan a reseller crackdown any time soon in the absence of evidence of risk, could be abrogated without notice in the future. For one thing, new commissioners appointed by the Obama administration are expected to show less sympathy in regulating business than the current commission. In addition, the 50 state attorneys general have been empowered to enforce the law on their own, and frequently take much more aggressive legal positions than those of the federal government, sometimes teaming with private lawyers who capture a share of fines imposed.

Seizing on the "collectible" loophole, commenter Carol Baicker-McGee declared: "If nothing happens to change this law soon, I promise I will spend whatever money and devote whatever space I can to buying up these older books. I'll be happy to label myself a collector (and I'm subversive enough to leave the books lying around where kids might 'accidentally' read them)." But this strategy, aside from its overtones of furtive evasion, will provide limited legal help to sellers. Under the law, they're liable if their products will commonly be understood as intended for children's use, even if not labeled as such.

A further question is what to do about public libraries, which daily expose children under 12 to pre-1985 editions of Anne of Green Gables, Beatrix Potter, Baden-Powell's scouting guides, and other deadly hazards. The blogger Design Loft carefully examines some of the costs of CPSIA-proofing pre-1985 library holdings; they are, not surprisingly, utterly prohibitive. The American Library Association spent months warning about the law's implications, but its concerns fell on deaf ears in Congress (which, in this week's stimulus bill, refused to consider an amendment by Republican senator Jim DeMint to reform CPSIA). The ALA now apparently intends to take the position that the law does not apply to libraries unless it hears otherwise. One can hardly blame it for this stance, but it's far from clear that it will prevail. For one thing, the law bans the "distribution" of forbidden items, whether or not for profit. In addition, most libraries regularly raise money through book sales, and will now need to consider excluding older children's titles from those sales. One CPSC commissioner, Thomas Moore, has already called for libraries to "sequester" some undefinedly large fraction of pre-1985 books until more is known about their risks.

The threat to old books has surfaced so quickly in recent weeks that the elite press still seems unaware of it. The wider pattern of CPSIA's disruptive irrationality and threat to small businesses has been covered reasonably well by the local press around the country. Some papers have investigated particular aspects of the law--the Los Angeles Times has tracked its menace to the garment industry, and the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal the general plight of thrift stores--but almost no one has cared to consider the law's broad array of unintended consequences, let alone ask what went wrong in the near-unanimous rush to passage of this feel-good law.

The New York Times, which last year vigorously cheered the passage of CPSIA in both its news and editorial columns, occupies a class by itself in almost completely ignoring the law's wrenching effects as its effective date has arrived. The Times used to cover the book business, as well as apparel, retailing, and product design, to name a few of the sectors hit hard by CPSIA. Yet the paper has remained entirely silent on the law in recent weeks, aside from one brief wire-service item and a post on the paper's automotive blog, Wheels, about the law's effect on children's dirt bikes (now forced off the market). On Wednesday, the Times ran an editorial solemnly condemning "book banning"; on inspection, the editorial turned out to praise an ACLU lawsuit against a school district that had removed a library book from the shelves because of its allegedly over-favorable view of Castro's Cuba. In any wider and more systematic prospect of book banning, the paper has shown no interest.

Whatever the future of new media may hold, ours will be a poorer world if we begin to lose (or "sequester" from children) the millions of books published before our own era. They serve as a path into history, literature, and imagination for kids everywhere. They link the generations by enabling parents to pass on the stories and discoveries in which they delighted as children. Their illustrations open up worlds far removed from what kids are likely to see on the video or TV screen. Could we really be on the verge of losing all of this? And if this is what government protection of our kids means, shouldn't we be thinking instead about protecting our kids from the government?

Thanks to Lew rockwell.com
Three Months after their son pleads guilty to misdemeanor pot charges and pays $350 fine, parent's Maryland home is raided by 16 State police SWAT team members with M-16s, despite the fact the son no longer lived there.

Radley Balko in the Agitator reports

I received this email months ago, but for various reasons hadn't had the time to follow up. Yesterday, I was finally able to confirm the details of at least the specific raid described below. I haven't yet been able to find the other examples in Carrol County, Maryland mentioned in the email, but if anyone out there knows of other cases, please let me know. This is outrageous. It ought to put the fear of God into the parents of teenagers. It used to be that if your kid got picked up for possessing pot, they called you down to the police station, and you drug your kid home by the collar. Now, they send the SWAT team to tear down the door and terrorize the entire family at gunpoint.

For now, I'm omitting the family's name and other identifying information. I haven't been able to get back in touch with the woman who sent the email, but I was able to confirm the details of her case in a conversation with the family's attorney.

I am a 45 year old mother of 3 boys ages 12, 18 and 22. I reside inn Carroll County, MD. I have been a federal employee for 17 years. My husband has been employed...with a local firm for over 27 years. Although my husband had some very minor law infractions back in the early 1980's (traffic violations), since that time he has never been arrested for any criminal violation. I myself have never had any type of criminal violation and have had one traffic violation (driving 10 miles over) in over 20 years of driving.

On October 3, 2006 my oldest son was involved in a traffic stop and arrested on a misdemeanor marijuana charge. Just about a year later on September 30, 2007 my son was again stopped and arrested for a misdemeanor marijuana violation. I was present in court on January 4, 2008 when he plead guilty and paid a $350 fine. At about 3:30 a.m.on January 10, 2008 approximately 16 Swat Team Members of the Maryland State Police entered our home with force with M-16s at the ready. Please note that we are the only county in Maryland that does not have a county police department. While the M-16s were drawn they handcuffed four of us (my oldest son has been living with his girlfriend for sometime now) this includes my 12 year old son. After reviewing the search warrant I was horrified to realize these "hut-hut"men came in with M-16s in the middle of the night because my son had been arrested for a misdemeanor marijuana charge. The affidavit filed for the search warrant stated that" it had been the officer's experience that persons who are arrested with illegal drugs continued to use, abuse and/or distribute illegal drugs". This was the probable cause. The affidavit also indicated that other than my oldest son, no person living in our home had any prior criminal history.

I would like to provide you with more details but the bottom line is that they did find small amount of marijuana in our downstairs basement and confiscated a shotgun that my husband had since he was 18 years old. The gun has never even been fired. The two of us, my husband and myself, were taken to the local barracks and held for over 8 hours without being read our rights or being granted a phone call.

We have since learned that over 100 of these warrants have been issued by the judges here in Carroll County during the past year. Apparently if your son or daughter is arrested with even a trace of marijuana in Carroll County, they will follow up and issue a warrant based on one officer's belief that the person will abuse the drug again. We have now heard horror stories of other families just like ours that have also been traumatized in much the same way....

The state's attorney has contacted our attorney....and indicated they will be dropping all charges against me and they would be willing to drop all charges against my husband if he agreed to an out patient type drug program. Please understand that acting as a father first my husband told the cops that anything they found in our home was his regardless of where it was found. We have decided not to agree to this because we believe this is no longer about us. This is about the next family that is terrorized in this way. This is about an innocent person that could be killed the next time for a misdemeanor pot charge. We go over and over what could have happened. We feel blessed that it didn't. But we feel a duty to make sure our feelings are known.

I hope you look into what is going on here in Carroll County. I'm beginning to believe that we live in a police state.

The attorney who represented the family told me yesterday that the husband eventually plead guilty to possession of marijuana, though the marijuana was a trace amount, and likely belonged to the son who had moved out. He was given what's called a "probation before judgment," which means the charge will be cleared from his record if he stays clean for three years. The state also dropped the ridiculous gun charge.

I cringe when I hear the phrase "police state," because it's so often overused. But to be honest, I'm not sure how I'd argue to this woman that she doesn't live in one. Two misdemeanor pot charges against a kid who no longer lives at home, and they send the paramilitary squad barreling into his parents' house in the middle of the night.

Punk band's bicycle sticker closes down airport

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Pensacola band "This Bike is  a Pipe Bomb" sticker leads to evacuation of Memphis airport.

CNN reports

A bicycle with a sticker advertising a Florida punk-folk band forced the evacuation of a Memphis, Tennessee, airport terminal late Monday afternoon, authorities said.

A pilot alerted airport police when he saw a bike with a sticker that read "this bike is a pipe bomb" parked near the passenger ramps of Terminal C at Memphis International Airport, according to the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority.

"Terminal C ticketing and baggage claim at the airport were cleared out," said airport spokesman John Greaud. "A K-9 unit responded and found no explosive materials at the scene."

"This Bike is a Pipe Bomb" is the name of a band based in Pensacola, Florida, and this is not the first time in the band's 12-year history the name has caused a commotion.

Bikes sporting similar stickers at college campuses in Ohio and Philadelphia led to building closures, arrests and the bikes' destruction by bomb squads acting on the assumption the sticker was announcing a real threat.

The owner of the Memphis bike was taken into custody by airport police, Greaud said, but was later released because they had no grounds to hold him. Greaud said federal authorities were discussing possible federal charges, but a federal source said it was "a non-event."
Thanks to jgodsey
States considering prohibiting abortions without ultrasounds.

AHN reports

Nebraska Sen. Tony Fulton filed the Ultrasound Bill which seeks to require a pregnant woman contemplating abortion to undergo an ultrasound and see her fetus before she undergoes the procedure.

Fulton explained that the aim of the legislation is to have an informed consent, especially for young women who are on the verge of making grave choices prior to an abortion.

Nebraska is just one of 11 states contemplating on a mandated ultrasound. The other states include Indiana and Texas. Earlier, Wyoming legislators attempted to pass a similar law, but were defeated on the state House committee level before it could even reach the floor.

So far 16 states have laws that are related to mandated ultrasounds before an abortion is allowed. Oklahama's law, which is facing a court challenge, requires the ultrasound image to be showed to the woman and for a physician to describe the picture.

Fulton has a second less restrictive bill which merely requires the doctor to tell the woman seeking an abortion that an ultrasound test is available.

Abortion takes center stage once more in the U.S. as a national issue with the creation last week by President Barack Obama of a faith-based outreach office which seeks to strengthen family life and reduce abortions, beyond the usual social programs funded by the federal government.

Thanks to Wendy McElroy

Pa. Judges: Kids (and the Constitution) for Sale

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Two Pennsylvania juvenile judges accused of taking millions of dollars in kickbacks, selling kids off to prison terms in private youth detention "boot camps".

MSNBC reports

For years, the juvenile court system in Wilkes-Barre operated like a conveyor belt: Youngsters were brought before judges without a lawyer, given hearings that lasted only a minute or two, and then sent off to juvenile prison for months for minor offenses.

The explanation, prosecutors say, was corruption on the bench.

In one of the most shocking cases of courtroom graft on record, two Pennsylvania judges have been charged with taking millions of dollars in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers.

"I've never encountered, and I don't think that we will in our lifetimes, a case where literally thousands of kids' lives were just tossed aside in order for a couple of judges to make some money," said Marsha Levick, an attorney with the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, which is representing hundreds of youths sentenced in Wilkes-Barre.

Prosecutors say Luzerne County Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan took $2.6 million in payoffs to put juvenile offenders in lockups run by PA Child Care LLC and a sister company, Western PA Child Care LLC. The judges were charged on Jan. 26 and removed from the bench by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court shortly afterward.

No company officials have been charged, but the investigation is still going on.

The high court, meanwhile, is looking into whether hundreds or even thousands of sentences should be overturned and the juveniles' records expunged.

Among the offenders were teenagers who were locked up for months for stealing loose change from cars, writing a prank note and possessing drug paraphernalia. Many had never been in trouble before. Some were imprisoned even after probation officers recommended against it.

Many appeared without lawyers, despite the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1967 ruling that children have a constitutional right to counsel.

'I have disgraced my judgeship'
The judges are scheduled to plead guilty to fraud Thursday in federal court. Their plea agreements call for sentences of more than seven years behind bars.

Ciavarella, 58, who presided over Luzerne County's juvenile court for 12 years, acknowledged last week in a letter to his former colleagues, "I have disgraced my judgeship. My actions have destroyed everything I worked to accomplish and I have only myself to blame." Ciavarella, though, has denied he got kickbacks for sending youths to prison.

Conahan, 56, has remained silent about the case.

Many Pennsylvania counties contract with privately run juvenile detention centers, paying them either a fixed overall fee or a certain amount per youth, per day.

Thanks to Anthony Gregory, Lew rockwell.com
According to girl's lawyer a middle school guidance counselor, based on hearsay from another student, had girl removed from class and pulled into bathroom by school nurse for on the spot pregnancy test.

The Grass Valley (Cal.) Union reports

Lawyers for a 12-year-old Seven Hills Middle School student are waiting for the Nevada City School District's response to allegations that a school counselor forced the girl to take a pregnancy test.

Local attorney Troy Vahidi, who is affiliated with the conservative legal group Pacific Justice Institute, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the girl in October, alleging the counselor, Steve Davis, violated her right to privacy and inflicted emotional distress. The school district has denied the original claim, but Vahidi filed an amended complaint Jan. 30.

The suit alleges that in late March 2008, Davis pulled the student, identified only as C.R., out of class because he had heard rumors spread by another student that she was pregnant. C.R. denied she was pregnant and told Davis that false rumors had been spread about her in the past. According to the suit, Davis got a pregnancy test from the nurse's office and ordered C.R. into a bathroom to give a urine sample.

"Feeling intimidated, coerced, scared and alone," C.R. allegedly complied; the test was negative.

According to Vahidi, C.R.'s parents had not given their consent for such a test and they were never notified of the incident.

Nevada City School District Superintendent Roger Steel denied the allegations.

"There is no merit to the claim," he said. "The district has never had pregnancy test kits on the school site."

The suit is being handled by the school district's attorney, Carol Wieckowski, who decried the institute's decision to publicize the case.

"I just hope the resolution of this case gets as much press," she said. "It's a difficult situation because there's a minor involved. We have to protect her rights."

The issue could have been resolved easily, Vahidi said.

"What we wanted initially was an apology and a promise not to invade the student's privacy ever again," he said.

Vahidi said he asked the Pacific Justice Institute -- where he clerked as a McGeorge School of Law student -- to come on board.

On its Web site, the institute is represented as a "nonprofit legal defense organization specializing in the defense of religious freedom, parental rights and other civil liberties."

"I know they specialize in these kinds of cases," Vahidi said. "It's right up their alley. And as a solo practitioner going up against the school district, you need a little more firepower."

The attorney said he wanted to take on the case because of the larger issues of parental control and the right to privacy.

"There are lots of issues with schools doing things without parental consent or notification," he said. "Protecting individual rights and freedoms -- this is the kind of case I've always wanted to defend."

Vahidi said he considers himself "on the conservative side," but denies he took the case solely due to his politics.

"I don't think people even on the liberal side of the spectrum would want their kids asked about their sex life and being forced to take a pregnancy test," he said. "Why would the school do this? The only answer is, because they're trying to act like parents ... it's a creeping of the state and schools' authority."

Vahidi also denied that his decision to involve the Pacific Justice Institute -- whose Web site features testimonials from the likes of popular TV and radio commentators Bill O'Reilly and Dr. Laura Schlessinger -- was a political one.

"You can say, to be a devil's advocate, that the only reason you're taking this case is to make a political point along the lines of parental notification -- but it would not be fair to say that," he said. "Wouldn't it be nice if this case made people think about these points? That's certainly a nice residual effect, but ... if there's an implication I'm using my client to make a larger political point, then no."

While the district's stance is that the allegations simply are untrue, Vahidi said it would have been "stupid" for him to take the case if he thought the girl was lying.

"You can't make up these kinds of details," he said. "For what benefit? There's no motivation. This is not about money."

The father of the girl did not want to comment.

The lawsuit asks for both monetary and punitive damages, but the Vahidi declined to estimate the amount being sought.

"This is not like a car accident case where you add up the damages," Vahidi said. "You can't put a number on it. What are my parental rights worth?"

Vahidi seemed prepared to take the case to trial, saying that local residents feel strongly about personal rights and family values.

Both Vahidi and Pacific Justice Institute chief counsel Kevin Snider said they are looking to the discovery phase of the lawsuit for more answers.

"Our client was told to urinate into a depository and the counselor brought out a pregnancy test," Snider said. "Whether or not the school keeps those things in stock in the nurse's office or whether he went out on his own to purchase them will be for future discovery to determine."

Snider suggested, too, that the incident might have been a "sick joke" perpetrated on a "shy and emotionally fragile girl."

"Either he's a rogue counselor or this is school policy," Vahidi said. "That's the question."

Thanks to Wendy McElroy
Man claims native plants environmentally friendly. Town imposes ordinance outlawing uncut weeds on lawns.

Ann Arbor News reports

A Pittsfield Township man lost his fight over what he views as an environmentally friendly yard Monday night when a district court judge found in favor of the township, which had issued the man a $100 ticket last June.

The ruling, following closing arguments in 14-A District Court, ends a nine-month legal battle between the township and Stanislav Voskov over the yard at his Dalton Avenue home.

It was a debate in which the finer points might have had persons who possess the greenest of thumbs scratching their heads. Central to the case is what it means to "cultivate,'' and to a lesser degree, what constitutes a weed.

The ticket was issued for violating an ordinance that states that weeds may be no longer than 10 inches.

In his ruling, Judge Cedric Simpson threw out a definition provided by a University of Michigan horticulture specialist, who said that if a gardener took a "plant-and-watch'' approach and did nothing else, it could be considered cultivation.

There was a bit more to cultivation, Simpson said, reading definitions from a Webster's Dictionary.

"I'm not here to say whether or not maintaining one's property with native plants or whatnot is a good thing,'' Simpson said. "The sole question is whether the (defendant's) property was in violation of the ordinance on the date in question.''

Voskov and his attorney, Stephen Safranek, argued that the yard was an environmentally friendly project filled with native plants that should not be considered weeds. Safranek, arguing that the plants had matured and weeds were removed as indicated in photos from one year to the following year, said emphatically at one point, "There aren't any dandelions! There aren't any dandelions!''

Jennifer Charnizon, the attorney for the township, said the township was fair in its dealings. After complaints from neighbors since 2006, it was not until 2008 after several contacts with Voskov that the $100 ticket was issued, she said.

"The property looks abandoned,'' she said. "It's for that kind of condition ... that ordinances like this one are put in place.''

The case drew the attention of local environmental groups who supported Voskov. Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner Janis Bobrin said that, based on the photos that appeared in The Ann Arbor News, it appeared Voskov was growing flowers known to be effective at managing stormwater, such as purple coneflowers and black-eyed susan varietals.

Voskov said he was disappointed with the outcome of the court proceedings. He said he has not ruled out an appeal.

"We do think regulations about yards are a good thing,'' he said. "But this is an extreme over-response to our yard.''

Simpson instructed the township to submit its restitution request for attorney fees.

Thanks to Jonathan Turley

Party Patrol

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As part of state wide war on underage drinking Worcester, Mass. local police will patrol streets and surveil homes in search of any sign of teenage partying, undercover cops will get behind counters at liquor stores, regular sting operation swill be conducted in bars,  and underage "decoys" will be sent into stores and bars while police officers watch.

The Worcester Telegram and Gazette reports

Alcohol enforcement investigators will concentrate on late night parties and do stings on liquor establishments as part of a program involving the state and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Worcester police were among several in the state to receive grant money from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security for underage alcohol enforcement.

Detective Lt. James J. Johnson of the department's Alcohol Enforcement Unit said his department will do various types of investigations over the next six months.
Late night drinking parties will be one focus. In the past, authorities have seen violence erupt during late night drinking parties. Patrol officers who notice such parties in the city will inform the Alcohol Enforcement Unit about the activity, Lt. Johnson said.

About 50 drinking age compliance checks will be done in at least one-third of all licensed establishments to determine if any are selling alcohol to minors.

The unit will have underage people enter stores and bars while police officers watch. Officers will also don regular clothes and get behind the counters at some liquor stores, Lt. Johnson said.

Worcester police received just under $20,000 in grant money. The money will double personnel used for alcohol enforcement in the next six months. Lt. Johnson said patrols will also be placed on the streets at night.

In Shrewsbury, police received $10,000 for the Underage Alcohol Enforcement Grant Program. The grant money will reimburse the police department for overtime as officers enforce alcohol laws, a department news release said.

Shrewsbury police said reverse stings, underage stings, compliance checks, Cops in Shops, party and surveillance patrols will all be used.

Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, Angola Prison, Louisiana

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Charges of widespread torture at US state prison.

The Indypendent reports

he Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola is already notorious for a range of offenses, including keeping former Black Panthers Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, in solitary for more than 36 years.

Now a death penalty trial in St. Francisville, La., has exposed widespread and systemic abuse at the prison. Even in the context of eight years of the Bush administration, the behavior documented at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola stands out both for its brutality and for the significant evidence that it was condoned and encouraged from the very top of the chain of command.

In a remarkable hearing that explored torture practices at Angola, 25 inmates testified last summer to facing overwhelming violence in the aftermath of an escape attempt at the prison nearly a decade ago. These 25 inmates -- who were not involved in the escape attempt, but were in the same building -- testified to being kicked, punched, beaten with batons and with fists, stepped on, left naked in a freezing cell and threatened that they would be killed. They were threatened by guards that they would be sexually assaulted with batons. They were forced to urinate and defecate on themselves. They were bloodied, had teeth knocked out, were beaten until they lost control of bodily functions, and abused until they signed statements or confessions presented to them by prison officials. One inmate had a broken jaw, and another was placed in solitary confinement for eight years.

While prison officials deny the policy of abuse, the range of prisoners who gave statements, in addition to medical records and other evidence introduced at the trial, present a powerful argument that abuse is a standard policy at the prison. Several of the prisoners received $7,000 when the state agreed to settle -- without admitting liability -- two civil rights lawsuits filed by 13 inmates. They will have to spend that money behind bars -- more than 90 percent of Angola's prisoners are expected to die behind its walls.


During the attempted escape at Angola, in which one guard was killed and two were taken hostage, a team of officers -- including Angola warden Burl Cain -- rushed in and began shooting, killing one inmate, Joel Durham, and wounding another, David Mathis.

The prison has no official guidelines for what should happen during escape attempts or other crises, a policy that seems designed to encourage the violent treatment documented in this case. Richard Stalder, at that time the secretary of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, was also at the prison at the time. Yet despite -- or because of -- the presence of the prison warden and head of corrections for the state, guards were given free hand to engage in violent retribution. Cain later told a reporter after the shooting that Angola's policy was not to negotiate, saying, ''That's a message all the inmates know. They just forgot it. And now they know it again.''

Five prisoners -- including Mathis -- were charged with murder, and currently are on trial, facing the death penalty -- partially based on testimony from other inmates that was obtained through beatings and torture. The St. Francisville hearing was requested by Mathis' defense counsel to demonstrate that, in the climate of violence and abuse, inmates were forced to sign statements through torture, and therefore those statements should be inadmissible.

The behavior documented in the hearing not only raises strong doubts about the cases against the prisoners, known as the Angola Five, but it also shows a pattern of systemic abuse so open and regular, it defies the traditional excuse of bad apples. Inmate Doyle Billiot testified to being threatened with death by the guards, "What's not to be afraid of? Got all these security guards coming around you everyday looking at you sideways, crazy and stuff. Don't know what's on their mind, especially when they threaten to kill you." Another inmate, Robert Carley testified that a false confession was beaten out of him. "I was afraid," he said. "I felt that if I didn't go in there and tell them something, I would die."

Inmate Kenneth "Geronimo" Edwards testified that the guards "beat us half to death." He also testified that guards threatened to sexually assault him with a baton, saying, "That's a big black ... say you want it." Later, Edwards says, the guards, "put me in my cell. They took all my clothes. Took my jumpsuit. Took all the sheets, everything out the cell, and put me in the cell buck-naked ... It was cold in the cell. They opened the windows and turned the blowers on." At least a dozen other inmates also testified to receiving the same beatings, assault, threats of sexual violence, and "freezing treatment."

Some guards at the prison treated the abuse as a game. Inmate Brian Johns testified at the hearing that, "One of the guards was hitting us all in the head. Said he liked the sound of the drums -- the drumming sound that -- from hitting us in the head with the stick."


Two of Angola's most famous residents, political prisoners Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, have become the primary example of another form of abuse common at Angola -- the use of solitary confinement as punishment for political views. The two have now each spent more than 36 years in solitary, despite the fact that a judge recently overturned Woodfox's conviction -- prison authorities continue to hold Woodfox and have announced plans to retry him. Woodfox and Wallace -- who together with former prisoner King Wilkerson are known as the Angola Three -- have filed a civil suit against Angola, arguing that their confinement has violated both their Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment and Fourth Amendment right to due process.

Recent statements by Angola Warden Burl Cain makes clear that Woodfox and Wallace are being punished for their political views. At a recent deposition, attorneys for Woodfox asked Cain, "Lets just for the sake of argument assume, if you can, that he is not guilty of the murder of Brent Miller." Cain responded, "Okay. I would still keep him in (solitary) ... I still know that he is still trying to practice Black Pantherism, and I still would not want him walking around my prison because he would organize the young new inmates. I would have me all kind of problems, more than I could stand, and I would have the blacks chasing after them ... He has to stay in a cell while he's at Angola."

Louisiana Attorney General James "Buddy" Caldwell has said the case against the Angola Three is "personal" to him. The testimony presented at the Angola Five trial indicates that this vigilante attitude pervades New Orleans' criminal justice system, and Caldwell and Cain's comments show that the problem comes from the very top.

The problem is not limited to Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola -- similar stories can be found in prisons across the United States. But from the abandonment of prisoners in Orleans Parish Prison during Hurricane Katrina to the case of the Jena Six, Louisiana's criminal justice system, which has the highest incarceration rate in the world, often seems to be functioning under plantation-style justice.

Once we say that abuse or torture is an acceptable practice to use against prisoners, the next step is for it to be used in the wider population. A recent petition for administrative remedies filed by Herman Wallace states, "If Guantánamo Bay has been a national embarrassment and symbol of the U.S. government's relation to charges, trials and torture, then what is being done to the Angola 3 ... is what we are to expect if we fail to act quickly ... The government tries out it's torture techniques on prisoners in the U.S. -- just far enough to see how society will react. It doesn't take long before they unleash their techniques on society as a whole." If we don't stand up against this abuse now, it will only spread.

Despite the hearings, civil suits and other documentation, the guards who performed the acts documented in the hearing on torture at Angola remain unpunished, and the system that empowered them remains in place. In fact, many of the guards have been promoted, and remain in supervisory capacity over the same inmates they were documented to have beaten mercilessly. Warden Burl Cain still oversees Angola. Meanwhile, the trial of the Angola Five is moving forward, and those with the power to change the pattern of abuse at Angola remain silent.

Jordan Flaherty is a journalist based in New Orleans. This article was originally published at southernstudies.org. Research assistance for this article was provided by Emily Ratner.

Detain First Ask Questions Later

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From the mission creep dept. High-profile program designed to arrest immigrants with violent criminal records actually spending most of its time and money hassling and intimidating non-violent non-fugitives, report says.

The LA Times reports

For more than five years, U.S. immigration authorities have touted the success of a national program aimed at arresting and deporting dangerous criminals and fugitives.

In frequent early morning raids at homes in Los Angeles and around the country, federal fugitive teams have sought out immigrants with criminal records or outstanding deportation orders.
And year after year, the Department of Homeland Security has received congressional support and funds to expand the program.

But new data released Wednesday showed that 73% of the nearly 97,000 people arrested by the fugitive operations teams between 2003 and early 2008 did not have criminal records, according to a report by the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

The data, along with newly released internal memos, show that the agency abandoned its stated mission to go after dangerous fugitives and instead targeted noncriminal undocumented workers -- the "low-hanging fruit," said Peter L. Markowitz, director of the Immigration Justice Clinic at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law in New York, who sued the government to get the documents.

The memos show that in 2006, Immigration and Customs Enforcement changed its focus from criminals and fugitives to increasing the number of arrests.

Each seven-member fugitive operations team was expected to increase its annual arrests from 125 to 1,000. At the same time, the agency stopped requiring that 75% of those arrested be criminals and allowed the teams to include non-fugitives in their tally, the memos show.

That, the report said, meant teams were arresting any illegal immigrant they encountered during their operations, regardless of whether the person had an outstanding deportation order or a criminal conviction.

Those early morning home raids drew criticism for splitting families and instilling fear in immigrant communities.

"Maids and landscapers are precisely the people being rounded up by this program," said Margot Mendelson, coauthor of the report.

Fugitives with criminal histories made up 9% of arrests in fiscal year 2007, compared with 32% in 2003, according to the report, which relied on Department of Homeland Security numbers.

Unauthorized workers with no criminal records or outstanding deportation orders made up 40% of arrests in fiscal year 2007, compared with 18% in 2003.

The policy change coincided with increased demands by the Bush administration to step up enforcement, Markowitz said.

"At the time they were inflating these arrest quotas . . . they were under tremendous pressure from the right of the Republican Party to look tough on immigration enforcement," he said. "The law enforcement strategy was hijacked by the politics of the day."

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice said the agency had always focused on fugitives who posed a threat to national security or public safety but that agents enforced federal law if they came across other illegal immigrants.

"The reality is that when we go to locations looking for individuals with prior deportation orders, it is not uncommon for us to encounter other immigration violators," she said. "When that occurs, we are going to take proper enforcement action."

The program continues to be a success, with the fugitive population declining by 12% in the last 18 months, she said. The teams carefully plan their arrests and go to addresses based on intelligence information about immigrants' whereabouts, officials said.

But the report said the addresses were part of an inaccurate database and often resulted in searches at outdated addresses.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has not made any changes to the fugitive operations program, but she issued a directive calling for a review.

There are 104 teams, up from eight when the program started in 2003.

During that time, the budget has grown from $9 million to $218 million.

If the Department of Homeland Security decides to maintain the program, it should be used "strategically to target the worst of the worst," Markowitz said.

"That way, they can get the most bang for their buck on this program," he said.

Thanks to Bill of rights Defense committee

DEA Goes on Post-Inaugural Pot Raid Rampage

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Since Obama, who as a candidate pledged to not to use federal resources to circumvent state medical marijuana, laws was inaugurated, the Drug Enforcement Agency has launched at least seven raids against state approved marijuana providers in California and Colorado.Prompting the question: is the DEA out of control?

Alternet reports

Okay, try and stay with me if you can.

While campaigning for the US presidency, Barack Obama pledged not to "use Justice Department resources to try and circumvent state (medical marijuana) laws."

Nearly three-quarters of the American public agrees with this position. According to a new national poll of 1,053 likely voters by Zogby International and commissioned by the NORML Foundation, seventy-two percent of voters say that President Obama should "stop federal raids against medical marijuana providers in the 13 states where medical marijuana has become legal."

But since President Obama took office two weeks ago, the US Drug Enforcement Administration has undertaken at least seven separate raids of state-authorized medical marijuana providers in California and Colorado. Most recently, on Wednesday DEA officials -- acting without the cooperation of state or local law enforcement agencies -- served federal search warrants on at least four Los Angeles based medical marijuana collectives. Agents seized medicine, cash, financial records, and computers, but did not make any arrests.

Still with me? Good, because things are about to get even more confusing.

Today, in a front page article in The Washington Times White House spokesperson Nick Shapiro said, "The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind."


Okay, maybe I missed something but last time I checked Barack Obama is, in fact, the 44th President of the United States -- which means he has the authority to tell both the US Department of Justice and DEA Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart: "No more raids. Period!" (NORML podcaster Russ Belville has already drafted Obama the requisite memo here.)

Or, if Obama doesn't want to be the one who personally rains on the DEA's eight-year parade, then he can demand his newly sworn in U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to tell Ms. Leonhart and the DEA: "When President Obama says 'no more raids,' he means no more raids! Any more 'smash and grabs' in California -- or any other state that's legalized the medical use of cannabis -- and you're all out of your jobs. Got it?"

Of course, given the likelihood that President Obama won't be making such demands of his new Attorney General any time soon, why don't you?

Click here and tell US Attorney General Eric Holder to uphold the will of the President and the public. It's time for the DEA to stop circumventing state medical marijuana laws. It's time for the raids to come to an end.

Actually the court objects to the judgemental notion that book-banning is involved. All the Miami-Dade county school board did, after all, was order all copies of remove Vamos a Cuba  and its English-language version, A Visit to Cuba, from school libraries for being insufficiently critical of communist Cuba.

AP reports

Miami school officials can remove from library shelves a book about Cuba that depicts smiling children in communist uniforms but avoids mention of problems in the country, a divided federal appeals panel ruled yesterday.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the Miami-Dade County School District wouldn't be infringing on freedom of speech by removing 49 copies of Vamos a Cuba and its English-language version, A Visit to Cuba, from its libraries. The board has argued that the books, for children ages 5 to 8, present an inaccurate view of life in Cuba.

The board voted to remove the book in 2006 after a parent who was a former political prisoner in Cuba complained. A federal judge in Miami later ruled that the board should add books of different perspectives instead of removing offending titles.

However, the 11th Circuit majority sided with school board officials yesterday in ACLU of Florida v. Miami-Dade County School Board.

"There is a difference between not including graphic detail about adult subjects on the one hand and falsely representing that everything is hunky dory on the other," Judge Ed Carnes wrote for the majority.

Judge Charles R. Wilson wrote in dissent that it appeared the book was removed for political rather than educational reasons.

"For decades, residents of Communist Cuba have emigrated to the United States to escape the repressive totalitarian regime of its dictator, to seek freedom, and to enjoy the privileges of United States citizenship," Wilson wrote. "Prominent among those privileges is the freedom of speech, protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The banning of children's books from a public school library under circumstances such as these offends the First Amendment."

Carnes took issue with the lower court's and Wilson's use of the term "book banning." "The dissenting opinion not only adopts that pejorative label from its very first sentence, but also builds its entire attack on the Board's action on the premise that this case involves book banning," Carnes wrote. "That is a faulty foundation. The Board did not ban any book. The Board removed from its own school libraries a book that the Board had purchased for those libraries with Board funds. It did not prohibit anyone else from owning, possessing, or reading the book."

Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, promised "further legal action to prevent the shelves of Miami-Dade school libraries from being scrubbed of books that some people find to have an objectionable view point."

Simon added, "However much they try to evade the facts and bend the law into a pretzel, censorship is censorship is censorship."

Schools Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho said in a statement he was glad the issue was resolved.

The 2001 book by Alta Schreier contains images of smiling children wearing uniforms of Cuba's communist youth group and celebrating the country's 1959 revolution. In discussing daily life, the book says children work, study and play the same way children in other countries do.

Juan Amador, whose complaint prompted the board to pursue the book's removal, was outraged that the book made no mention of lack of civil liberties, political indoctrination of school children, food rationing or child labor. He said in his complaint to the school board that the book "portrays a life in Cuba that does not exist."

ACLU attorney JoNel Newman had argued at a 2007 hearing that political discussions need not be required for books for elementary students. She questioned whether a book about the Great Wall of China must mention Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong.

Physicist Robert Oppenheimer fought successfully to keep nuclear weapons research under civilian control and oversight, where it currently resides with the Department of Energy. Ronald Reagan fought, and failed, to bring weapons research into the Pentagon in the 80s. Now, apparently the Obama administration may be preparing the way for a transfer of authority to the military, a curious decision for an administration pledged to expanding public accountability. 

The Marine Corps Times reports

The Obama administration is considering moving the nation's federal weapons complex, including New Mexico's Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories, under military control, ending decades of civilian oversight.

The Albuquerque Journal, in a copyright story Wednesday, said an internal memo it obtained shows the administration is looking into turning over control of the labs to the Department of Defense. They currently are controlled by the Department of Energy.

The Office of Management and Budget memo, which carried no date, said such a change would not occur until at least 2011.

The chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said Tuesday he told OMB chief Peter Orszag he had concerns about such a plan, which he called shortsighted.

"I will fight it tooth and nail if they intend to proceed with it," he said he told Orszag.

More than 20,000 New Mexicans work for Sandia and Los Alamos labs.

Civilian management stems from a World War II decision by J. Robert Oppenheimer, the top scientist on the secret Manhattan Project that built the world's first atomic bomb and led to the founding of Los Alamos lab. Oppenheimer had the weapons designed by civilian scientists rather than military officers.

After the war, government officials concluded the "ultimate weapon" should be left in civilian control.

A shift to military oversight "would be very dramatic," said nuclear weapons historian Robert S. Norris of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Norris said the Reagan administration tried unsuccessfully to move the weapons program to Pentagon control in the 1980s.

The OMB memo outlines plans for a study to be done by the end of September on costs and benefits of the proposal. The plan would move the National Nuclear Security Administration, an arm of the DOE that oversees the labs, to the defense agency. Congress created the NNSA in 2000 as a quasi-independent body but under DOE jurisdiction.

Former Sandia lab president C. Paul Robinson, in written responses last year to questions from members of the House Armed Services Committee's Strategic Forces subcommittee, said he thought Pentagon management should be considered.

Robinson, a senior government adviser on nuclear weapons issues, said he's long supported civilian control. But in recent years, long-term management has become a problem because of "short-term upheavals" as different administrations come and go, repeatedly changing the direction of the nation's weapons program.

"The presence of a uniformed military could provide a continuity that has been lacking," he told the subcommittee.

He said Tuesday the NNSA hasn't worked.

The team that will study the possibility of a shift will include members from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and "other major NNSA stakeholders," the memo said.

Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Carrie Rindal says that she was forced to ram the van of a man attempted to flee in his van and then succeeded in arresting him. The only problem is that Sam Salter was only suspected of an unlawful lane change and his flight was for only one mile at a slow speed. Salter had his children in the van and says that he was trying to find a safe place to pull over when Rindal rammed his van and came at him with his gun drawn.
Salter ended up in jail for two days while his kids had to be picked up at the jail.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports

More than a month after Sam Salter wound up in the Ramsey County jail for two nights, the 40-year-old adjunct college instructor from Hudson, Wis., is still fuming. "You feel totally helpless," he said.

At the end of a New Year's Eve traffic stop on Interstate 94 in St. Paul, State Patrol Sgt. Carrie Rindal rammed Salter's 2001 Toyota Sienna van, causing $1,500 damage to his vehicle, and arrested him at gunpoint while his three children, ages 2, 3 and 6, sat in the van. His wife had to pick up the kids as he was taken to jail.

Rindal said Salter was attempting to flee. He said he was merely looking for a safe place to pull over.

The Ramsey County attorney's office declined to charge Salter after reviewing the evidence, including a video of the stop. "It was our belief there was insufficient evidence to prove that the suspect was knowingly fleeing police, and that is what he had been arrested for," said Paul Gustafson, a county attorney spokesman.

In late January, the State Patrol mailed Salter a ticket for making an illegal lane change. He faces no other charges.

The squad car's video shows that Rindal first noticed Salter about 11:40 p.m. Dec. 31. She said in a report that she had witnessed him weaving within a lane, changing lanes without signaling and going 70 miles per hour in a 55-mph zone on I-94. She turned on her lights to pull him over, and the video shows what followed: A one-mile pursuit that ended on a side street off I-94, where Salter said he had turned to look for a safe place to pull over.

It was never a high-speed chase. After Rindal rammed Salter's car -- a police tactic sometimes used for stopping fleeing vehicles -- he stopped abruptly and emerged from the van questioning why she had hit his vehicle. Rindal emerged from her squad car and, with gun drawn, forced him against the side of his vehicle and arrested him. Salter registered zero in a preliminary alcohol-breath test.

The incident raised questions among police experts who reviewed it: Should Salter have stopped on the I-94 shoulder no matter whether he considered it safe? And was Rindal right to conclude Salter was fleeing and ram his vehicle?

What the video shows

The video of the incident captured a lively debate between Rindal and Salter on those very points as he sat handcuffed on the back seat of her squad car.

"I was obviously slowing down and pulling over," Salter told the officer. "You hit me when I was next to the curb, so I don't know where you thought I was going."

Said Rindal, "When you see red lights and sirens, you don't keep on driving and driving and driving [so] you decide where you are going to stop. We decide that."

Mark Robbins, a professor of law enforcement at the University of Minnesota, Mankato, said the video does not indicate Salter was fleeing. He said the ramming was unnecessary. "If that was me, I would have cited him for failure to yield to an emergency vehicle and sent him on his way."

However, former Minneapolis Police Chief Tony Bouza, after hearing details of the case, said Rindal had reason to believe Salter was evading her. He said she was right to ram him. "My sympathies are with her, not with him," he said.

Lt. Mark Peterson of the State Patrol said Rindal would have no comment. And he said the patrol would not comment on the details of the case while it is conducting its own investigation, which takes place whenever there is a pursuit and an officer uses such a ramming maneuver in a traffic stop.

If Salter has a complaint, he can file one with the State Patrol's internal affairs division, Peterson said. An attorney for the state Department of Public Safety would conduct the investigation, he said.

Safety: Salter's defense

Salter, who teaches oral and interpersonal communications at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in New Richmond, said he had had two beers during a six-hour period that day and was driving home from a family party, headed east on I-94 on the east side of St. Paul. His three children were strapped into the back seats.

Traveling in the left lane, he saw Rindal's flashing patrol car lights in his rear-view mirror and thought the patrol car was trying to pass. He moved right one lane, but the patrol car moved behind him, so he concluded she wanted to stop him. He shifted three lanes to the right to get to the shoulder.

"The shoulder had a big icy snowbank that did not allow me to get all the way off the freeway," Salter said.

Fearful of getting hit by traffic if he stopped, Salter said he took the U.S. Hwy. 61 exit. But he did not stop there. "It's a real blind corner," he said, "so I didn't feel comfortable stopping on that. I am not sure the people behind would have time to react if they were in the right lane."

Ahead on Hwy. 61 was the Burns Avenue cross street, and Salter signaled right. He said he was pulling to the side and estimated he was going 5 mph when Rindal used a "pursuit intervention technique," or P.I.T. maneuver, designed to knock a fleeing vehicle sideways so the driver loses control and stops. The van traveled a few more feet and stopped.

Salter got out of his van and recalls yelling, "What are you doing? I have three kids in the car." Rindal pointed her gun at Salter, arrested him, and let him call his wife, Megan Laney, to come get their children. Salter was taken to jail and booked for fleeing police. He spent most of the next 37 hours in a jail cell before being released.

Bouza, the ex-chief, said it was proper for Rindal to ram Salter's van, draw her gun and arrest him for fleeing. "She was chasing him," said Bouza. "He was ignoring her."

Bouza said it was also right for Rindal to arrest Salter for fleeing after hearing his side. "Explanations are cheap. Actions matter," he said.

But Robbins, a professor who is a former police watch commander, said the report Rindal filed describes actions that do not constitute fleeing based on Minnesota law. He said there is no indication Salter increased his speed after Rindal turned on her lights and siren, nor did he turn off his headlights or attempt evasive maneuvers. He was "simply taking more time than I would like to pull over."

Sam McCloud, a Shakopee defense attorney who has represented thousands of drivers in traffic stops, said Rindal overreacted. "He wasn't, based on my estimation, doing anything evasive," McCloud said after viewing the video. "He wasn't speeding up. He signaled his turns other than initially. If you are trying to outrun a cop, why would you signal the way you are going?"

Salter said Tuesday that in using the P.I.T. maneuver, Rindal used excessive force, and he plans to file a complaint with the State Patrol. He also plans to go to small claims court to try to get the State Patrol to pay for $1,500 in damage to his van and a $140 tow job.

"If it happened to me, it could happen to anyone," he said.

Thanks to Jonathan Turley

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