June 2009 Archives

Dateline June 28 2009, not 1969.

Raw Story reports

Forty years to the day after Stonewall -- when a police raid of a New York gay club led to riots and launched the modern gay-rights movement -- police in Fort Worth, TX, are being accused of repeating the incident.

Early Sunday morning, Fort Worth police, accompanied by agents of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, raided the Rainbow Lounge, a newly-opened gay club in Fort Worth.

According to CBS 11 News, "seven people were arrested for public intoxication and at least a dozen more were restrained. The incident was captured on camera and posted on local blogs. The scene was the topic of conversation at Sunday's Million Gay March in Dallas."

Police say they were investigating allegations that the club was over-serving its customers. They also allege one of the officers was "groped" during the raid, an allegation that witnesses dispute.

The Dallas Voice blog quotes an eyewitness identified only as Alison, who says the police "only arrested men and seemed to be targeting effeminate men."

CBS 11 News quoted a witness, Raymond Gill, who said he was pulled aside by officers "because of the way I was walking. He said I looked like I was drunk. But ... I got to the bar 30 minutes before they got there. I sat down had not got up before police got there. No one saw me walk."

According to the Dallas Voice, one man has been hospitalized with a brain hemorrhage after being thrown to the ground by police officers. Pictures of the incident have made their way to the Internet, sparking further anger among the gay community.

Thanks to jgodsey
This is a month or so after the fact, but haven't seen this incident very widely reported.

SFScope reports

Boom! Studios sends word that comics writer Mark Sable was detained by TSA security guards at Los Angeles International Airport this past weekend because he was carrying a script for a new issue of his comic miniseries Unthinkable. Sable was detained while traveling to New York for a debut party at Jim Hanley's Universe today.

The comic series follows members of a government think tank that was tasked with coming up with 9/11-type "unthinkable" terrorist scenarios that now are coming true. (See this article for more on the series.)

Sable wrote of his experiences: "Flying from Los Angeles to New York for a signing at Jim Hanley's Universe Wednesday (May 13th), I was flagged at the gate for 'extra screening'. I was subjected to not one, but two invasive searches of my person and belongings. TSA agents then 'discovered' the script for Unthinkable #3. They sat and read the script while I stood there, without any personal items, identification or ticket, which had all been confiscated.

"The minute I saw the faces of the agents, I knew I was in trouble. The first page of the Unthinkable script mentioned 9/11, terror plots, and the fact that the (fictional) world had become a police state. The TSA agents then proceeded to interrogate me, having a hard time understanding that a comic book could be about anything other than superheroes, let alone that anyone actually wrote scripts for comics.

"I cooperated politely and tried to explain to them the irony of the situation. While Unthinkable blurs the line between fiction and reality, the story is based on a real-life government think tank where a writer was tasked to design worst-case terror scenarios. The fictional story of Unthinkable unfolds when the writer's scenarios come true, and he becomes a suspect in the terrorist attacks.

"In the end, I feel my privacy is a small price to pay for educating the government about the medium."



Thanks to jgodsey
Acknowledging that Pittsburg officer Paul Abel's off-duty altercation with a pdestrian was inappropriate, imprudent and ill-advised Judge Jeffrey Manning nonetheless cleared Officer Abel of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and DUI charges and perhaps cleared a path for his return to the police force, noting that police have after all  wide "discretion in the use of force"

The Pittsburg Post-Gazette reports

His methods, the judge said, were "inappropriate, imprudent and ill-advised."

But Pittsburgh police Officer Paul Abel's off-duty altercation with a South Side man last year wasn't criminal, Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning ruled yesterday.

Following a nonjury trial, Judge Manning cleared Officer Abel of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and DUI charges and perhaps cleared a path for his return to the police force.

Officer Abel, who has been suspended without pay since his arrest, was not reinstated yesterday and a decision has not been made about his status with the department, police spokeswoman Diane Richard said.

After the ruling, Officer Abel declined comment except to say he wanted his job back. Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1 President Dan O'Hara said the union would fight to get Officer Abel reinstated, but it is a process that could take some time.

Officer Abel, 35, an eight-year veteran of the force, was arrested June 28 after he shot 21-year-old Kaleb Miller in the hand. Officer Abel claimed Mr. Miller had punched him moments earlier while he was in his car at a stoplight. Officer Abel, who testified he had four beers and two shots that night while celebrating his wife's birthday, grabbed his service weapon from his trunk and pursued the suspect.

Officer Abel drove around the block until he spotted Mr. Miller, whom he knew from the neighborhood. Witnesses said the officer hit Mr. Miller on the neck with the butt of his Glock and the gun went off, grazing Mr. Miller's hand.

Officer Abel said he was trying to make an arrest for aggravated assault and had to be aggressive because Mr. Miller did not obey his commands to lie on the ground.

Mr. Miller denied punching the officer, and two other witnesses said Mr. Miller looked nothing like Officer Abel's assailant.

But the case hinged on whether Officer Abel was arresting a suspect or acting in retaliation -- regardless of whether or not he had the right man. Judge Manning noted that the law allows officers discretion in the use of force, and police officers can act in their official capacity whether they're on- or off-duty.

Thanks to William Grigg

The MotorHome Diaries interviews Asheville, NC couple, who give their account of being chased out of their home at gunpoint and arrested for flying the US flag upside down.




In for a small pot misdemeanor, out dead

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
29 year old woman brought in to Harris County, Texas on two week jail stint possession of small amount of pot dies in custody, with no explanation offered. Apparently that kind of thing happens a lot down there, at least 141 times in the past 10 years.

Raw Story reports

A woman serving a short sentence in a Houston, Texas, jail for possession of marijuana died in custody over the weekend, and officers are not saying how or why.

The 29-year-old, identified as Theresa Anthony, had expected to spend just two and a half weeks behind bars in the Harris County lockup. On Saturday, Cynthia Prude, Theresa's mother, received a phone call from the jail's Chaplain informing her that her daughter was dead.

"I almost got in a wreck," Prude told the local Fox affiliate. "I thought somebody was playing on the phone. I would like to know what happened to my daughter."

Prude has not been allowed to see the body, nor has the Harris County Sheriff's Department even spoken with her, according to area media.

"Today I still don't know if that's my daughter," Prude told Houston news station KHOU. "I'm only going by a Social Security number that we got from Ben Taub Hospital."

Houston's Fox affiliate noted that an autopsy has not yet been conducted on Theresa's body.

The Harris County Sheriff Department's public information officer was not available to answer RAW STORY's questions.

Not the first time

It is hardly the first time serious questions surrounded the death of a Harris County inmate.

On 4 June 2009, the Justice Department concluded a 15 months-long investigation into the Harris County facility and determined in the subsequent  27-page report that over 142 prisoners had died there since 2001. Most expired due to lack of medical care, the report claims.

The Associated Press noted that after the Justice Department declined to make its findings public, The Houston Chronicle was able to obtain a copy, which it released on the Internet.

The findings, addressed to Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, lauded the prison's efforts to maintain security, booking and intake programs and take basic fire safety precautions. The Justice Department said that by these measures, the facility "complies with constitutional requirements in a number of significant respects."

The Justice Department added that in spite of these marginal safety and procedural issues, "certain conditions at the jail violate the constitutional rights of detainees. Indeed, the number of inmate deaths related to inadequate medical care [...] is alarming."


Undercover students

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
Intelligence scholar's program will fund unidentified government agents in training to attend colleges.

Counterpunch reports

As the continuities and disjunctures between the Bush and Obama administrations come into focus it becomes increasingly clear that while Obama's domestic agenda has some identifiable breaks with Bush's, at its core, the new administration remains committed to staying the course of American militarization. Now we have an articulate, nuanced president who supports elements of progressive domestic policies, can even comfortably say the phrase LGBT in public speeches, while funding military programs at alarming levels and continuing the Bush administration's military and intelligence invasion of what used to be civilian life.

The latest manifestation of this continuity came last week when Dennis C. Blair, Director of National Intelligence, announced plans to transform the Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program (PRISP) from a pilot project into a permanent budget item. Blair also announced plans to establish a "Reserve Officers' Training Corps" to train unidentified future intelligence officers in US college classrooms. Like students receiving PRISP funds, the identities of students participating in these programs would not be known to professors, university administrators or fellow students--in effect, these future intelligence analysts and agents would conduct their first covert missions in our university classrooms.

Four years ago I wrote a series of CounterPunch exposés on the Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program (PRISP), then a pilot project funded under section 318 of the 2004 Intelligence Authorization Act. PRISP links undergraduate and graduate students with US security and intelligence agencies like the NSA or CIA, and unannounced to
universities, professors or fellow-students, PRISP-students enter American university campuses, classrooms, laboratories and professor's offices without disclosing links to these agencies. PRISP was originally conceived by anthropologist Felix Moos, long a proponent of using anthropological knowledge in waging of counterinsurgency campaigns--an area of growing interest to the Obama administration as it prepares for prolonged soft power counterinsurgency campaigns in Afghanistan.

It seems likely that many of the affected disciplines will offer little resistance and some may quickly warm to announcements of any new funding stream. Traditionally, the disciplines of political science, history or area specialists coming from the humanities have seldom resisted such developments; but for disciplines like anthropology, these undisclosed intelligence-linked programs present devastating ethical and practical problems, as the non-discloser of funding and links to intelligence agencies flies in the face of the basic ethical principles of the discipline. But even without the problems for individual disciplinary ethics codes, the presence of these undisclosed secret sharers in our classrooms betrays fundamental trusts that lie at the core of honest academic endeavors.

While the National Intelligence Director's move to make PRISP a permanent budget item will damage the academic freedom and integrity of American universities, it will likely be met by the open arms of university administrators facing crashed university endowments and dwindling budgets. That some administrators would so easily accommodate themselves and their institutional integrity for the promise of funds should be of little surprise, but I fear that the combined forces of the current economic collapse conjoined with President Obama's ability to bring a new liberal credibility to the this warmed-over Bush era project will induce many faculty and students to seriously consider participating in these programs. Times are hard and as funds get scarce it will be increasingly difficult for many to say no.

This development is just the latest installment in on ongoing efforts to increase the militarization of American higher education. None of this should be surprising in a nation that alone spends about 48% of the planet's military budget. In the social sciences, these shifts away from broad funding sources designed to create independent knowledgeable scholars, to those now requiring indentured servitude has been a long time coming.

Back in the early 1990s when the National Security Education Program (NSEP) was first introduced it was widely condemned by professional associations like the Middle East Studies Association and the African Studies Association, Latin American Studies Association for blurring the lines between independent scholarship raised by NSEP's its requirements that program participants later seek employment in governmental agencies. But with the depressed economy, plummeting endowment funds at universities and foundations, the difficult academic job market, and scarce academic funding sources, I fear that professional associations' reactions against these developments will be muted. As pilot programs, PRISP and the Intelligence Community Scholars Programs made scarce funds available to students, as traditional non-payback funding programs were being cut. Programs like PRISP that seek to tie young scholars to agencies like CIA early in their career as a means of bringing new ideas and skills to these agencies will fail in meeting the claimed goal of getting these agencies to think in new ways because such ties to institutional culture early in student-agent careers will increase the influence of agency cultural groupthink while diminishing the impact of academic culture. If the Obama administration really wants to improve governmental agencies' knowledge of and approaches to the world, they need to increase funding to a broad range of educational funding programs that do not encumber or limit the range of knowledge in the ways that programs like PRISP do.

This move to establish PRISP as a permanent budgetary item is the sort of program that likely will speed through congress--which can then claim it is both supporting education funding, and military and intelligence sectors, with a bonus feel-good work-ethic mandate thrown-in by requiring students to payback their funds through required future governmental service. But this push will be done without an outside assessment of PRISP as pilot program. PRISP needs an independent assessment of what it has accomplished--including an assessment of the impact of the predatory penalties facing former PRISP students who come to realize that they do not wish to fulfill their commitments to work for these agencies upon graduation. Because of the lack of transparency surrounding PRISP, we have little idea what is really going on with the program. Last year I was able to identify one social science recipient of PRISP funds who explained to me that PRISP had been such a failure in finding social scientists to fund that PRISP had sought out this person and provided them with funds for work that was already underway just to spend-down the PRISP budget. Given these recent difficulties with the program, I wonder if the current expansion of PRISP is a supply-side effort to troll the pool of increasingly underfunded and debt-carrying desperate young scholars with few other funding options.

Professional associations like the American Association of University Professors, the American Psychological Association and the American Anthropological Association need to speak out in opposition of the permanent establishment of PRISP. PRISP risks further blurring already hazy borders marking proper independent academic roles, and it stands to confuse academic identities in ways that many will not even realize. Some of these processes are reminiscent of a recurrent motif in Philip K. Dick's stories where protagonists becomes unclear of their own agency and identity; becoming unsure of their own histories and memories, or true political alliances--in effect becoming undercover agents with identities unknown even to themselves. As this new generation of programs covertly brings undeclared and unidentifiable students into our universities they disrupt university identities and transforms the roles all who teach, research, study and work there in ways that they will not necessarily understand--as institutions of higher learning further lose their independence and become unwitting agents of state intelligence functions.


Thanks to Alternet

DC librarian claims city school district requested lists of "gay themed" books in order to "scrub" any of them from school summer reading lists.

School Library Journal reports

You won't see books like And Tango Makes Three (S & S, 2005), The Geography Club (HarperCollins, 2003) or any other gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLTB)-themed title on the summer reading lists for the District of Columbia Public Schools. But is there any chance that could change? 

That's the answer the capitol's gay and lesbian community--and many librarians--are awaiting, pending a finalization of the district's summer reading list on Friday, June 26th.

Officials are taking a second look at the list after a post appeared on the American Library Association's GLBT listserve that said, "The DC (District of Columbia) Public Schools decided to scrub their summer reading list of all GLTB related books. This seems outrageous. We're thinking that if a parent writes a strong letter, it'll be the most effective. I'm thinking it should go to the mainstream press, and perhaps someone in the school system too."

The post was originally made by Jeanne Lauber, a librarian at the DC Public Library on the Yahoo! discussion group "Lezbrian". She goes on the say, "Apparently the public library system told the schools which books were GLTB (not knowing why they were being asked) and the schools removed them."

Upon seeing the post, School Library Journal contacted both the DC Public Schools and the DC Public Library, and spokespeople at both said they had no knowledge of the situation. Since then, both institutions have ignored calls and emails from SLJ.

Summer break started June 15 for D.C. public schools, but the district's summer reading Web site says the list is tentative with a final list being released on June 26th.

Nevertheless, pdf versions for each grade level are marked as final. The lists were created jointly by D.C Public media specialists, the Department of English Language Arts, and the District of Columbia Public Library. An introduction to the lists reads, "There are a variety of books from pre-kindergarten to grade twelve to satisfy every reading interest."

Sources say that a meeting between the school district and public library took place late last week in the hope that GLBT titles will be included on the lists before printed copies are released to students.

Thanks to Natl. Coalition against Censorship


Spytown, USA

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
Lancaster, Pa., a small city of 55 thousand, now has 165 surveillance cams and counting, recording practically everything that goes on in public space (and that definition appears to be shrinking) throughout the community.

The LA Times reports

This historic town, where America's founding fathers plotted during the Revolution and Milton Hershey later crafted his first chocolates, now boasts another distinction.

It may become the nation's most closely watched small city.

Some 165 closed-circuit TV cameras soon will provide live, round-the-clock scrutiny of nearly every street, park and other public space used by the 55,000 residents and the town's many tourists. That's more outdoor cameras than are used by many major cities, including San Francisco and Boston.

Unlike anywhere else, cash-strapped Lancaster outsourced its surveillance to a private nonprofit group that hires civilians to tilt, pan and zoom the cameras -- and to call police if they spot suspicious activity. No government agency is directly involved.

Perhaps most surprising, the near-saturation surveillance of a community that saw four murders last year has sparked little public debate about whether the benefits for law enforcement outweigh the loss of privacy.

"Years ago, there's no way we could do this," said Keith Sadler, Lancaster's police chief. "It brings to mind Big Brother, George Orwell and '1984.' It's just funny how Americans have softened on these issues."

"No one talks about it," agreed Scott Martin, a Lancaster County commissioner who wants to expand the program. "Because people feel safer. Those who are law-abiding citizens, they don't have anything to worry about."

A few dozen people attended four community meetings held last spring to discuss what sponsors called "this exciting public safety initiative." But opposition has grown since big red bulbs, which shield the video cameras, began appearing on corner after corner.

Mary Pat Donnellon, head of Mission Research, a local software company, vowed to move if she finds one on her block. "I don't want to live like that," she said. "I'm not afraid. And I don't need to be under surveillance."

"No one has the right to know who goes in and out my front door," agreed David Mowrer, a laborer for a company that supplies quarry pits. "That's my business. That's not what America is about."

Hundreds of municipalities -- including Los Angeles and at least 36 other California cities -- have built or expanded camera networks since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In most cases, Department of Homeland Security grants helped cover the cost.

In the most ambitious project, New York City police announced plans several years ago to link 3,000 public and private security cameras across Lower Manhattan designed to help deter, track and detect terrorists. The network is not yet complete.

How they affect crime is open to debate. In the largest U.S. study, researchers at UC Berkeley evaluated 71 cameras that San Francisco put in high-crime areas starting in 2005. Their final report, released in December, found "no evidence" of a drop in violent crime but "substantial declines" in property crime near the cameras.

Only a few communities have said no. In February, the city council in Cambridge, Mass., voted not to use eight cameras already purchased with federal funds for fear police would improperly spy on residents. Officials in nearby Brookline are considering switching off a dozen cameras for the same reason.

Lancaster is different, and not just because it sits amid the rolling hills and rich farms of Pennsylvania Dutch country.

Laid out in 1730, the whole town is 4 square miles around a central square. Amish families still sell quilts in the nation's oldest public market, and the Wal-Mart provides a hitching post to park a horse and buggy. Tourists flock to art galleries and Colonial-era churches near a glitzy new convention center.

But poverty is double the state's average, and public school records list more than 900 children as homeless. Police blame most of last year's 3,638 felony crimes, chiefly thefts, on gangs that use Lancaster as a way station to move cocaine, heroin and other illegal drugs along the Eastern Seaboard.

"It's not like we're making headlines as the worst crime-ridden city in the country," said Craig Stedman, the county's district attorney. "We have an average amount of crime for our size."

In 2001, a local crime commission concluded that cameras might make the city safer. Business owners, civic boosters and city officials formed the Lancaster Community Safety Coalition, and the nonprofit organization installed its first camera downtown in 2004.

Raising money from private donors and foundations, the coalition had set up 70 cameras by last year. And the crime rate rose.


Detroit Police: Stop and Cop a Feel

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
Detroit officers accused of fondling male crotches and giving full body cavity searches without a warrant.

In pockets of southwest Detroit, they were known as the Booty Boys -- two Detroit cops with a reputation for conducting stop-and-frisk searches on men that went too far.

But within the Detroit Police Department, Sgt. Michael Osman and Officer Michael Parish are considered accomplished officers with awards to reflect good police work.

The two versions of Osman and Parish have emerged in U.S. District and Wayne County Circuit courts in suits against the city.

So far, 11 people have claimed that Parish and Osman arbitrarily stopped them and performed illegal body cavity searches, and in some cases, grabbed the men's genitalia. Police department policy allows for body cavity searches only with a warrant and when performed by a physician.

Some of the cases have been settled while others are pending. The plaintiffs, all black men, separately claim the cops, both of whom are white, violated their civil rights.

But a city attorney who represents the officers said the accusers, many of whom have criminal records, conspired to file the suits as a way to run the cops out of the neighborhood.

Detroit attorney Ben Gonek, who is not involved in the lawsuits, said a large number of plaintiffs with similar allegations is rare.

"The fact that there are this many plaintiffs certainly may give credibility to the lawsuits," he said. If they don't all know each other, "the city is going to be hard-pressed to say there's some kind of conspiracy."

Men push to have stories heard, but cop calls it 'a sick thing to say'

Marcon Green says it all started with a May 2006 traffic stop by two Detroit cops as he and two passengers drove through southwest Detroit on their way to a restaurant.

Green, a 32-year-old construction worker from Detroit, said the cops pulled him over on Schaefer near Annabelle in an area known for drug dealing under the pretense that his buddy wasn't wearing a seat belt, though tint on the windows make it impossible to see inside, he added.

Green said Osman, then an officer, ordered him out of his 1994 Buick LeSabre, pulled Green's pants and boxer shorts away from his body, then Osman placed his hand down Green's pants in an apparent search for drugs.

(2 of 5)

That search, Green's lawsuit alleges, involved an invasive body cavity probe -- without a glove -- then Osman grabbed and squeezed Green's genitals.

Green said when he complained, Osman then handcuffed him and threw him in the police car. First, Green said, Osman accused him of drinking.

"I told him to go ahead and give me a Breathalyzer," Green told the Free Press. He said the cops never tested him.

Then, Green said, Osman checked his record over the phone and released him with no charges.

"I read his name tag and said, 'You're going to see me again, Officer Osman,' " Green said.

Minutes later, Green, who has no felony record, filed a complaint with the Police Department over the phone.

The guys, Osman and Parish, along with the City of Detroit, are the focus of eight lawsuits filed by 10 men in U.S. District and Wayne County Circuit courts in Detroit.

In April, four men sued the cops in federal court alleging civil rights violations.

Other allegations

Green's allegations mirror others in the lawsuits, many of which refer to the officers as the Booty Boys, a nickname given to them in the Detroit neighborhood, according to the suits.

Some of the alleged victims told their stories to the Detroit City Council in June 2006.

Another one of the suits was filed by Green's passenger, Harold McKinney. McKinney, along with his 15-year-old daughter was traveling with Green on May 19, 2006, when they were stopped.

McKinney's suit claims Parish performed a similar search on him in the presence of McKinney's daughter.

McKinney is now serving time in prison on an unrelated weapons conviction.

Marcus Wrack, 23, also had a criminal record when he claimed either Osman or Parish conducted an illegal cavity search on him in February 2006. Wrack wound up settling a civil suit for $5,000. During an interview with the FBI, Wrack also said two unnamed officers performed a body cavity search and found cocaine on him during a May 2006 incident.

Mark Fancher, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said people should look beyond the criminal records of some of the plaintiffs.

(3 of 5)

"Just because some of these men have criminal records doesn't mean that these things didn't happen," he said.

'I believe these officers'

Osman, 34, who has since been promoted to sergeant, and Parish, 27, declined to comment through the department. But, in depositions obtained by the Free Press, they both deny the claims.

Osman said in a deposition that he placed Green under arrest because he didn't have proof of insurance. He said he turned him loose when a more serious police call came in. He denied ever reaching under Green's clothing.

"I have never, that I can recall, conducted a strip search," Osman said. "I've never reached into a person's clothing to search for anything. If I've ever gone into somebody's clothing, it was always to retrieve narcotics contraband or a weapon that I had felt from outside of their clothing."

Osman, a 12-year veteran, said he has never performed a cavity search but was aware of the allegations against him.

"It's a pretty sick thing to say about a police officer who's never been in any trouble," he said.

Parish, an 8-year veteran who was shot in the line of duty in 2007, also denied ever conducting cavity or strip searches.

"We don't do that," he said in his deposition. "If I am patting somebody down or I'm searching somebody, I am most certainly going to check on the outside of the clothing, the groin area, the buttocks area. ...

"If I feel something on the outermost garment -- and I am aware that it is a private area and it's certainly nothing that I enjoy doing -- but if I feel something that I believe to be a weapon and/or contraband within somebody's pants, I will reach in and recover it."

Assistant City Attorney Paula Cole, who said that Osman and Parish are like sons to her, says the lawsuits are being filed now because the 3-year statute of limitations is expiring.

"I'm very sick about this because I believe these officers," Cole said.

The department's internal affairs unit found no wrongdoing, and both cops were cleared of criminal wrongdoing after an FBI investigation.

(4 of 5)

More cases, more settlements

Melvin Akins, a 31-year-old barber from River Rouge, says that on Jan. 27, 2006, he was walking along Gilroy near Liddlesdale on his way to cut hair when Osman and Parish rolled up and asked him if he had any drugs on him.

He said he told the cops he didn't and allowed them to search his bags. Then, he said, Osman ordered him behind a building and told him to pull down his pants and boxer shorts.

Then, he said, Osman performed a cavity search and grabbed Akins' genitals.

"I was like, 'That's wrong, man.' And he said, 'We do this all the time. You can carry on about your day,' " Akins said.

As with Green, the officers found no drugs. But unlike Green, Akins does have a previous drug conviction that resulted in a probationary sentence.

"I can't believe these guys are still on the streets," Akins said.

Advertisement

'I was humiliated'

Byron Ogletree's case is unique in that a search of his person by the officers did yield drugs, yet the city settled a civil case resulting from the search even before a lawsuit was filed.

Ogletree, 32, of Detroit settled for an undisclosed amount, Cole said. Ogletree accused the officers of strip searching and assaulting him during a traffic stop in which the officers found cocaine.

But Wayne County Circuit Judge Carole Youngblood dismissed the criminal case after a police technician testified that a videotape from an in-car camera that recorded the incident had not been preserved. Ogletree's lawyer, Daniel Reid, declined to discuss the settlement.

In yet another case that was settled, the city paid $20,000 to Elvis Ware, 37, of Highland Park in January.

Ware said Osman and Parish stopped his car at a gas station at Schaefer and Fort in June 2006 and forcibly removed him and handcuffed him. He claimed Parish conducted a body cavity search and squeezed Ware's genitals.

Ware, an Army veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm, said in an April 2008 deposition: "I was sick to my stomach at the time it happened because I was humiliated, and I felt disrespected."

(5 of 5)

Fancher, his attorney, said the incident left Ware traumatized.

"This really changed his entire outlook and his attitude toward police officers," Fancher said.

But Cole pointed out in the deposition that Ware mixed up the descriptions of the cops. She said he also stumbled through the exact date of the alleged incident and later acknowledged that he had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drug charge in Atlanta in 2002 or 2003.

Cole said the city settled the case, in part because her ex-husband, Richard Steinberg, unexpectedly died a few days before the trial was scheduled to start. She said she planned to go to trial but needed time after the death, and U.S. District Judge David Lawson refused to push back the date.

"I feel like the judge forced the settlement because I was unable to try it," Cole said. "I still feel like I let these officers down."

Lawson said there was no motion to adjourn the trial and that another attorney had taken over the lead for the city.

As part of the settlement, the city agreed to instruct officers on proper search procedures by reciting department policy at roll call for three months. It reads:

"Under no circumstances shall there be a body cavity search of an arrested person by department personnel. Where there exists probable cause to support a body cavity search, the member shall apply for a search warrant. If a search warrant is granted, the detainee shall be taken to Detroit Receiving Hospital where a qualified medical professional will conduct the search."

A conspiracy?

The officers remain on duty, though they were transferred out of southwest Detroit during summer 2006.

"I was told ... that the reason for the transfer was to prevent any more false accusations against me and my partner," Osman said in his deposition. "That's the way it was explained to me."

A year later, the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division cleared the cops.

Cole, however, maintains a conspiracy exists.

"These officers helped keep crime down," she said. "A bunch of guys got together and hatched a plan to get them out of southwest Detroit. And it worked."

Thanks to Injustice News Feed



80 thousand bucks a song

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
Brainerd, Minnesota woman ordered to pay Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)  nearly $2 million for illegally downloading  and non-commercially sharing 24 songs.

CNET reports

Jammie Thomas-Rasset was found guilty of willful copyright infringement on Thursday in a Minneapolis federal court and must pay the recording industry $1.92 million.

In a surprise decision, the jury imposed damages against Thomas-Rasset, who was originally accused of sharing more than 1,700 songs, at a whopping $80,000 for each of the 24 songs she was ultimately found guilty of illegally sharing.

In 2007, the Recording Industry Association of America claimed in a lawsuit that Thomas-Rasset pilfered 1,700 songs. The RIAA eventually culled that number down to a representative sample of 24.

Thomas-Rasset lost a previous trial in October 2007 when a jury rendered a $222,000 verdict against the Minnesota native. U.S. District Judge Michael David threw out the decision after acknowledging he erred when giving his jury instructions.

According to Ars Technica reporter Nate Anderson, Thomas-Rasset gasped when the dollar amount was read in court.

For the four largest recording companies, the jury's decision is an affirmation of the legality of the industry's copyright claims.

"We appreciate the jury's service and that they take this issue as seriously as we do," said Cara Duckworth, an RIAA spokeswoman. "We are pleased that the jury agreed with the evidence and found the defendant liable. Since day 1, we have been willing to settle the case and remain willing to do so."

According to Ben Sheffner, a copyright advocate and former attorney for 20th Century Fox who attended the entire hearing, one of Thomas' attorneys is willing to discuss a settlement with the music industry.

Thanks to Anthony Gregory


In the process of throwing the book at a Virginia man for possessing Japanese manga, cartoon child pornography, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also uphold charges against him for e-mailing his "obscene" sexual thoughts to like-minded  and consenting internet friends.

Wired News reports

Sharing an obscene sexual fantasy over e-mail is a federal crime that enjoys no protection under the First Amendment, a federal appeals court said Monday, in a decision that drew sharp dissent from one judge and potentially set the stage for a Supreme Court appeal.

In a 10-1 decision, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to rehear the case of Dwight Whorley, a Virginia man whose  criminal trial marked two firsts for the American justice system: the first conviction for possession of obscene Japanese manga, and the first for authoring pornographic fiction and sending it over e-mail.


"Whorley violated criminal statues regulating obscenity,"  Judge Paul Niemeyer wrote for the majority, "and his convictions may not be forgiven because his conduct was prompted by his sexual fantasies."

But in a lengthy dissent, Judge Roger Gregory urged the Supreme Court to take up the case and reverse it.

"I am hard-pressed to think of a better modern day example of government regulation of private thoughts than what we have before us in this case: convicting a man for the victimless crime of privately communicating his personal fantasies to other consenting adults," Gregory wrote.

Whorley was convicted in 2006 and sentenced to 20 years in prison, in part for possessing genuine child pornography.  But the Justice Department -- perhaps sensing a chance to smuggle bad law onto the back of an unsympathetic defendant -- also charged  Whorley for having unsavory manga under the recently-enacted Protect Act, which outlaws obscene cartoons depicting minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

More surprisingly, prosecutors charged him under an older statute outlawing the possession of "any obscene, lewd, lascivious or filthy book, pamphlet, picture, motion-picture film, paper, letter, writing, print or other matter of indecent character" as defined by a jury. That violation was for writing out his sexual fantasies involving children, and e-mailing them to like-minded internet friends. Though Whorely is apparently a pedophile, the law applies to any obscene content.

A three-judge panel voted (.pdf) 2-1 to uphold the manga and e-mail convictions last December, with Gregory dissenting (.pdf) . The judge repeated and expanded on his dissent this week, when the full court rejected Whorley's rehearing request.

Gregory, a President George W. Bush appointee, also argued that it was wrong to convict a man for manga art depicting children having sex. Obscenity laws, he wrote, should not apply to "images of purely imagined children." But he was particularly alarmed over the e-mail convictions.

In 1969, the Supreme Court ruled that Americans have the right to possess obscene material in the privacy of their own homes. But trafficking in such goods through interstate commerce -- which today includes the internet -- is illegal under that ruling.

Gregory argued that the law has not kept up with technology and should be changed.

"This is a difficult case. The e-mails were admittedly transmitted and received through channels of interstate commerce and were found by a jury to be obscene," Gregory said. He added that, "In today's world, our e-mail inbox, just as much as our home, has become the place where we store the memorabilia of our thoughts and dreams."

Following Whorley's conviction, federal authorities convicted an Iowa man last month of possessing manga art depicting children having sex. But unlike Whorley, the defendant did not also have any real, obscene pictures of nude children having sex.


City "background check" for all job applicants includes giving up passwords to social networks.

Montana's News reports

Applying for a job with the City of Bozeman? You may be asked to provide more personal information than you expected.

That was the case for one person who applied for employment with the City. The anonymous viewer emailed the news station recently to express concern with a component of the city's background check policy, which states that to be considered for a job applicants must provide log-in information and passwords for social network sites in which they participate.

The requirement is included on a waiver statement applicants must sign, giving the City permission to conduct an investigation into the person's "background, references, character, past employment, education, credit history, criminal or police records."

"Please list any and all, current personal or business websites, web pages or memberships on any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo, YouTube.com, MySpace, etc.," the City form states. There are then three lines where applicants can list the Web sites, their user names and log-in information and their passwords.

The requirement raises questions concerning applicants' privacy rights.

Article 2, Section 10 of the Montana Constitution reads "the right of individual privacy is essential to the well-being of a free society and shall not be infringed without the showing of a compelling state interest."

The City takes privacy rights very seriously, but this request balances those rights with the City's need to ensure employees will protect the public trust, according to city attorney Greg Sullivan.

"So, we have positions ranging from fire and police, which require people of high integrity for those positions, all the way down to the lifeguards and the folks that work in city hall here. So we do those types of investigations to make sure the people that we hire have the highest moral character and are a good fit for the City," Sullivan said.

Another concern the applicant raised was that by providing the City with a Facebook user name and password the City not only has access to the applicant's page but also to the pages belonging to all of the applicant's Facebook "friends."

"You know, I can understand that concern. One thing that's important for folks to understand about what we look for is none of the things that the federal constitution lists as protected things, we don't use those. We're not putting out this broad brush stroke of trying to find out all kinds of information about the person that we're not able to use or shouldn't use in the hiring process," Sullivan said.

When asked about creating a separate Bozeman Facebook page, then asking applicants to add the City as "friend," thus allowing the City to view the applicant's profile, Sullivan said officials could explore the option. This would limit the city to only view the page of the applicant.    

No one has ever removed his or her name from consideration for a job due to the request, Sullivan added.


Justin Denney's mildly hammy  and harmless theatrics at a HS graduation ceremony, taking a bow and throwing a kiss to his mother, cause school superintendent to snap,and have Denney's diploma taken away.

WMTW-TV reports
Justin Denney's family watched on as he ascended the Cumberland County Civic Center stage during graduation Friday night to accept his diploma, but the superintendent told him to return to his seat.
The Bonny Eagle High School senior's mother wants an apology, and her son wants his diploma, News 8's Will Lewis exclusively reported Monday night.
"It's all I can think of now," Justin Denney said. "Why did that happen. What just happened?"Mary Denney said she can't believe how her son's taking a bow and blowing a kiss on stage was grounds for the superintendent to withhold his diploma."I'm like, 'Did she not hand him his diploma?' I'm like, 'What's going on?'" Mary Denney said.She said she and Justin both signed a code of conduct regarding the graduation when she picked up graduation tickets on Friday, but she doesn't think he violated it."There was no misbehavior. Showboating is not misbehavior," Mary Denney said. "A bow, a kiss to your mom is not misbehavior. There was no need of my son not getting his diploma."Before the school began handing out diplomas, some students pulled out beach balls. One student was forced to sit away from his classmates with staff while police escorted another student behind the stage."No arrests were made. The individual that was escorted off the stage was asked to leave the civic center. He was to the point where the deputy wanted to arrest the individual, but gave him several opportunities to settle down. Eventually, he took off his cap and gown and threw it at the deputy and walked out of the civic center," Cumberland County Sheriff's Department Deputy Chief Kevin Joyce said.The deputy returned to the crowd and took another beach ball away from the students, but Mary Denney said School Area District 6 Superintendent Suzanne Lukas was still upset."When she got up there and started speaking, they threw out a couple more balls and she turned around and said, 'More people may not be graduating today if this continues,'" Mary Denney said.While in his seat or waiting in line for his diploma, Justin Denney never touched a beach ball. After his name was called, he took a bow, blew a kiss to and pointed to his family and he pulled out a necklace made for him after he won a state track final, but he didn't get his diploma, leaving a whole family in disbelief. "
"I said, 'What did she ask you?' And, he goes, 'She said, 'There's no fooling around up here,'' and he just kind of looked at her because he wasn't fooling around. He didn't consider that fooling around or misbehaving in any sense of the word, and she goes, 'Why do you feel you deserve your diploma?' He goes, 'Because I worked hard and I earned it,' and she goes, 'No go take your seat,'" Mary Denney said.The crowd booed, but Justin Denney still doesn't have his diploma. Now, his mother wants her son to get what he's worked so hard for."It was appalling, and I want justice for my son. I want her to apologize to my son and I want her to hand him his diploma while he is in his cap and gown," Mary Denney said.Carl Hoffses described his son as a good kid who never caused trouble."It was embarrassing. it was humiliating for my son, and I think we need some answers, something needs to be done," he said.Both of Justin Denney's grandparents are ill and one of their wishes was to see their grandson graduate from high school, something they didn't get to see happen Friday.Mary Denney said she is planning a graduation party for her son in two weeks, which, by then, she said she hopes she will have a photograph of her son with his diploma.News 8 tried to contact the district's superintendent and the school's principal, but neither returned the calls by Monday evening. The superintendent is out of the office for the next few days, but an assistant superintendent said Justin Denney will receive his diploma.Hoffses said what's done is done: "It's a once-in-a-lifetime event. It's like a wedding, it's like a birth. There's no do-overs. She stole his once-in-a-lifetime dream of graduating high school with pride and honor and she squashed it and left him feeling humiliated in front of the entire high school."

Thanks to Jonathan turley

Illinois Republican Mark Kirk introduces bill to make distribution of high-THC potency "kush" a federal offense punishable by up to 25 years in jail for first time offenders.


The Chicago Tribune reports

U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk will call for legislation Monday that would toughen drug-trafficking laws regarding a highly potent form of marijuana, with penalties of up to 25 years in prison for a first-time offense.

The law would target offenders who sell or distribute marijuana that has a THC content exceeding 15 percent, which is between 5 and 10 percentage points higher than average marijuana, according to Kirk's office.

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main active ingredient in marijuana.

Drug dealers are increasingly cross-breeding plants to produce high-potency variants of marijuana, which are called "kush" in street slang when they have 20 percent THC, Lake County Sheriff Mark Curransaid.
Police have been turning up more of the high-potency marijuana in Lake County arrests, he said.

"When you amplify the strength of it, you are increasing the harm to the system," said Curran, who supports the legislation, which would amend a federal law. "They are more dangerous behind the wheel of a vehicle. It's not a good idea to have people that messed up."

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has reported that kush sells for as high as $600 per ounce, creating the same profit potential as crack cocaine, Kirk said.

The Republican North Shore lawmaker said he plans to release more information during a news conference in Chicago on Monday, where he will be joined by representatives from the Lake County Sheriff's Department, the Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group and Waukegan Police Department.

Thanks to Alternet
The raid of a Philadelphia apartment  by the city's Narcotics Field Unit yielded no drugs or arrests, but the "suspect" ended up needing a rape kit at the local hospital, allegedly assaulted by Officer Thomas Tolstoy. Apparently not the first time a drug raid has been an excuse for rape. 

The Philadelphia Daily News Reports

THE BURLY narcotics officer yanked down the young woman's underwear as they stood in the doorway of her second-floor Frankford apartment, she said.

The officer - one of 10 who participated in a drug raid of the apartment downstairs - allegedly jammed his fingers into her vagina. When she tried to pull away, he grabbed her hard enough to rip her shirt, she said.

The penetration of his fingers was so forceful that she began to bleed. She said she thought he had scratched her - or worse, caused internal damage.

A few hours later, she ended up at Episcopal Hospital. Nurses ordered a rape kit and alerted the police Special Victims Unit.

That night, Oct. 16, 2008, the woman didn't know the name of the officer.

But the police Internal Affairs Bureau had a hunch:

Officer Thomas Tolstoy was immediately taken off the street.

"Despite the lack of photo identification at the scene, there was other information that caused us to narrow the scope," said Internal Affairs Chief Inspector Anthony DiLacqua. "We had evidence presented to us that gave us reason to look at [Tolstoy] more closely than other officers."


Tolstoy's alleged victim, "Naomi," is an intensely private 24-year-old woman.

She has never been charged with or convicted of a crime. The Daily News convinced her to talk about the night she says she wants to forget.

At her request, the newspaper agreed to use a false name - Naomi - to protect her privacy and because she's terrified of retaliation. She has had so many threatening phone calls - telling her not to talk - that she has repeatedly changed her phone number, she said.

She said she went to the hospital after the assault simply to "get checked out."

"I felt nasty after it," she said with a grimace. "I didn't know where his hands had been. I felt like with the force he used, like he scratched me."

Naomi is one of at least three women who say Tolstoy fondled, groped or sexually violated them during drug raids.

Lady Gonzalez, 29, of Kensington, and Dagma Rodriguez, 33, of West Kensington, have alleged that Tolstoy stroked their breasts during raids. The Daily News reported their allegations on June 1. Videos of their accounts were posted on the Daily News Web site at philly.com.

None of the three women has a criminal record. The women don't know each other and spoke with the Daily News independently only after reporters tracked them down.

Tolstoy, 35, a 10-year-veteran of the force who has been with the Narcotics Field Unit since December 2002, is one focus of a growing FBI and police probe into allegations of police misconduct.

The alleged misconduct was first reported by the Daily News in February with complaints that Tolstoy's fellow squad member, Officer Jeffrey Cujdik, sometimes lied on search-warrant applications to get into suspected drug homes

Thanks to Injustice News Feed
Frank McCranie, now 34, is still registered as state sex offender by Florida for having sex with Mistie McCranie, his current wife of 10 years, when they were both teenagers. His sex criminal status has, by his reckoning, lost him 17 jobs. 

Click Orlando reports

He was 19 and she was 14 when they first had sex. The teenage lovers now have been married for nearly 10 years, but as a result of that youthful indiscretion Virgil Frank McCranie is listed as a sex offender on a state Web site.That's because he was an adult and she was still a minor. She reported the crime only after finding out he was having relations with another -- adult -- woman.McCranie, 34, told Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet, sitting Thursday as the Florida Board of Executive Clemency, that being on the sex offender list has caused him to lose at least 17 jobs in the last several years and that his four children, ages 7 to 14, have shared his stigma.McCranie, who now has a retail sales job in Panama City Beach, asked for a pardon to lift the cloud over his life caused what's known as a "Romeo and Juliet" case.His name, picture, address, a map showing where he lives, a description of his vehicle and tag number and other information are posted on the state's sex offender Web site for all to see."I just want a chance to just be a regular person again," McCranie said. "I'm not a monster. I don't belong on this list."Crist delayed a decision, saying he wanted more time to think about it and study the facts."It's a difficult case," Crist said. "I'll make my ruling based on what I believe to be true."To get a pardon, an applicant must receive approval from the governor and at least two of the three Cabinet members: Attorney General Bill McCollum, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson.The couple met through their parents, who were friends, when growing up in Jacksonville. McCranie's wife, Misty, now 28, said she became angry and jealous when he developed a relationship with another woman. She told her father she'd had sex with McCranie and they went to the police."I wish I could take it back," she said in an interview. "Once we got back together I realized how detrimental it was to him."The couple have two children together and McCranie has custody of two others he had with the other woman.McCranie said he's never been accused of any other crime and has worked in a series of stores where he frequently has contact with families and children without incident. He said, though, he has been repeatedly fired after some customers and other employees have found him on the sex offender Web site and complained to his bosses.Originally charged with rape, McCranie pleaded no contest to lewd and lascivious behavior with a child as part of a plea deal.He was placed on probation and the judge withheld adjudication. McCranie said he later violated probation "for monetary reasons" and wound up serving about a month in jail."My prison's out here on this Web site," McCranie said after the meeting. "Yeah, I've done about 14-15 years of hard time, believe me. I'd been better off in prison, probably.

Thanks to Wendy McElroy
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, one of 40 state AGs attempting to shut down Craigslist erotic classified ads (despite the fact that print newspapers, including Connecticut's own Hartford Courant have been known to run similar ads), tells CNN that Internet-based content doesn't have the same First Amendment protections as do print publications. One wonders how many of the other 39 state attorneys believe the same thing.

The Huffington Post writes

Yesterday on CNN's morning show, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal continued his full-frontal jihad against Craigslist by proclaiming that Internet-based content doesn't have the same First Amendment protections as do print publications. He could not be more wrong.

Blumenthal, along with more than 40 other state AGs, has dogged Craigslist in an effort to get the online classified ad service to remove all adult services ads from its site. Blumenthal and others claim those ads on Craigslist are thinly veiled come-ons for prostitutes with the ads themselves being "absolutely raunchy," as Blumenthal told CNN yesterday during a live interview about his crusade against Craigslist.

When a CNN anchor pointed out that the Hartford Advocate, the home paper of the state capitol, also carried obvious ads for prostitution services and wanted to know if he was "aggressively" pursuing other publications like he was Craigslist, Blumenthal said (at 4:06 into the interview): "We're also looking at publications, but obviously there are First Amendment considerations there... so I think there are differences here" when we're going after Craigslist.

Blumenthal's assertion that online speech has lower First Amendment protection than speech in newspapers is shocking -- he clearly needs to brush up on First Amendment law. Back in 1996, in a case known as Reno v. ACLU, the Supreme Court reached exactly the opposite conclusion. The Court struck down the so-called Communications Decency Act and held that speech on the Internet merits the fullest protection under the First Amendment. Blumenthal is right that there would be constitutional implications raised by attacks on a newspaper, but those same constitutional problems are raised by his witch-hunt against Craigslist.

Moreover, beyond the clear constitutional protection that online speech merits, the U.S. Congress has extended even greater protections for online sites such as Craigslist. In a law known as "Section 230," Congress made crystal clear that states could not hold online sites liable for content posted to the site by users (and this clearly includes the ads posted to Craigslist).

This madness needs to stop. In the same interview Blumenthal admitted that he is "pursuing other Internet classified ad sites" (4:22) but he wasn't willing to name them. "We have them 'in our sights' so to speak," he said. Apparently, he's also painted a bulls-eye on the First Amendment and free speech.
Marshall Pappert waged a passionate, perhaps slightly obsessive, campaign of protest letter writing to Bridgeville, Pa. politicians and city officials to express his opposition to concrete plant. The city has responded, by arresting him, for criminally harassing the government.  

ABC News Pittsburg reports: A Bridgeville man who was arrested and convicted after making repeated complaints to his local government took his appeal to one of Pennsylvania's highest courts on Tuesday.Team 4 investigative reporter Jim Parsons, who originally broke the story, was in Superior Court for the arguments. At issue: How many letters to borough officials does it take to constitute a crime?

Marshall Pappert freely admits that when you add up all of the letters he has written to government officials -- and include the copies of those letters he has sent to other public officials -- the number of letters is about 350.While waiting for his case to be called, Pappert made no apologies for his letter-writing campaign to Bridgeville Borough.

"I did what any citizen should do when you see something that's unhealthy to the community," Pappert said.Pappert lives across Union Street from a Bridgeville concrete plant. The dust, the noise, the idling diesel trucks all combined to cause him to complain to the borough. He wrote letter after letter -- hundreds of them -- and he left voice mail messages for the borough manager.In one message, Pappert said, "I'm asking you as a Bridgeville resident of 56 years to resign and get off of your position. Do the right thing."Instead, Pappert got arrested on a harassment charge and was convicted.At Tuesday's appeal hearing, Assistant District Attorney Peggy Ivory told the court that Pappert "clearly crossed the line to a course of conduct designed to harass" the borough manager.Ivory declined an interview with Team 4 on Tuesday."We really maintain that this is about the First Amendment and that public officials just have to tolerate it," said Bruce Boni, an attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union who's representing Pappert.Bridgeville Councilman Pat DeBlasio said he doesn't just tolerate Pappert's actions, he embraces them."We go to Memorial Day and stand there and listen to 'Taps' and honor the people who died. Well, they didn't die so we could have five different choices of breakfast cereal. They sacrificed their lives so that you have the right to complain when you see something wrong," DeBlasio said."If you can't talk and do what I did to your government, what can you do? What are they going to do next to you?" Pappert said.A decision on whether to overturn Pappert's criminal conviction is not expected until sometime in the summer.Team 4 also learned on Tuesday that Ed Bogats -- who arrested Pappert -- submitted his resignation as Bridgeville police chief last month.The borough council unanimously accepted Bogats' resignation. DeBlasio said Bogats cited medical reasons.Bogats did not return Team 4's call to his home on Tuesday.

Thanks to Jonathan Turley


Charles Lynch, a medical marijuana provider in the state of California, which has voted consistently to allow what he does, faces a year in federal prison. This after Obama and the new "drug czar" have expressed support for state autonomy in regulating medical marijuana.

The Marijuana Policy project writes

LOS ANGELES - June 11 - The Marijuana Policy Project strongly condemned today's federal sentencing of Charles C. Lynch, a California medical marijuana provider who worked scrupulously to follow state and local laws but now faces one year and one day in federal prison.

"Years from now, Mr. Lynch may well be remembered as the last American to go to federal prison for a mistake, the final victim of an already repudiated policy well on its way to the ash heap of history, but whose mean-spirited effects still linger," said MPP executive director Rob Kampia. "This sentence is a cruel and pointless miscarriage of justice. Mr. Lynch and his attorneys say they plan to appeal, and we hope they succeed. With federal law enforcement at the Mexican border so overwhelmed that traffickers coming through with up to 500 pounds of marijuana are let go, even one more penny spent persecuting a man who is not a criminal in any rational sense of the word is an outrageous waste of resources."

In February, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that henceforth the Drug Enforcement Administration would only conduct enforcement actions against medical marijuana defendants who were violating both state and federal law, reversing the Bush administration's policy of ignoring state medical marijuana laws.

Lynch's medical marijuana collective was licensed by the city of Morro Bay, and officials routinely inspected the facility to monitor compliance with state and local laws. But because federal law makes no statutory allowance for medical marijuana, all evidence related to California's medical marijuana law was barred from his trial.

With more than 27,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit http://MarijuanaPolicy.org.


The latest seizures represent the first time that the United States' DoJ has attempted an action against entities associated only with online poker, as opposed to sportsbetting or casino gaming concerns. Up to 24 thousand banking accounts may be affected.

Poker News reports

Widespread but previously unverified reports of a Department of Justice-ordered seizure against three bank accounts operated by online poker sites servicing US players have now been confirmed, with the Poker Players Alliance announcing that as much as $33 million in temporarily frozen funds may be involved. The seizure centers on a rumored 24,000 accounts involving customers of Full Tilt, PokerStars and one other site.

Three separate banks were involved in the seizure, with the order emanating from the United States District Court of Southern New York. That U.S. district court has been at the focal point of Department of Justice efforts against various online gambling concerns and online-poker sites, which the DoJ maintains are illegal, though no case involving online poker has ever been tried. The New York district is the same one involved in prominent recent cases or settlements against NETeller, PartyGaming, and that company's co-founder Anurag Dikshit, each of which involved a settlement of over $100 million.


While the DoJ based its seizures here under the 1961 Wire Act , poker-only sites such as those affected by this latest order have long maintained that online poker is not covered by the cited laws. In fact, the latest seizures represent the first time that the United States' DoJ has attempted an action against entities associated only with online poker, as opposed to sportsbetting or casino gaming concerns. (Citing the pending legal situation, none of the online sites contacted for this story were able to provide a comment on the seizure.)

Checks affected by the seizure were issued during a roughly one-week span in late May and early June, but not all checks were affected by the seizure, which in itself has already been alleged to be unlawful. In addition, alternate methods for re-sending payments to impacted players are already being put in place.

The Poker Players Alliance quickly issued a statement protesting the seizure, citing several potential legal issues as outlined in a June 8th communication to the US Southern NY court. In its statement on the matter, the PPA promised some form of pending legal action, while also requesting the opportunity to be heard "in any future warrant hearings" regarding poker. From the PPA release:

"The PPA is disappointed that this unprecedented action has been commenced against law abiding poker players. The payment processor funds frozen by the Southern District of New York belong to individual poker players - not operators of poker websites - and do not represent the proceeds of any gambling activity, much less illegal gambling activity. This money should be immediately released by the Southern District to ensure that player payouts are not further disrupted. To that end, the PPA is coordinating a legal strategy to appropriately protect PPA members who are impacted by the Southern District's actions. Further, the PPA has contacted the affected poker websites and has been informed that deposit and payout issues of players are being addressed and will be fully satisfied."

From later in the PPA statement: "We are also concerned that the Southern District has selectively taken action against online poker when the current law regarding the activity is far from clear, and policies from various levels of government are inconsistent at best. In fact, no federal or state court has ever found a payment processor or a player accessing an Internet poker site to have violated the federal laws alleged by the Southern District in this case."


Thanks to Wendy McElroy

Civil Liberties=Right to Burn Books?

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
Christian Civil Liberties union files suit seeking legal right to burn the young adult title Baby Be-Bop.

The American Libraries Online reports

Life grows more interesting by the day for officials of the West Bend (Wis.) Community Memorial Library. After four months of grappling with an evolving challenge to young-adult materials deemed sexually explicit by area residents Ginny and Jim Maziarka, library trustees voted 9-0 June 2 to maintain the young-adult collection as is "without removing, relocating, labeling, or otherwise restricting access" to any titles. However, board members were made cognizant that same evening that another material challenge waited in the wings: Milwaukee-area citizen Robert C. Braun of the Christian Civil Liberties Union (CCLU) distributed at the meeting copies of a claim for damages he and three other plaintiffs filed April 28 with the city; the complainants seek the right to publicly burn or destroy by another means the library's copy of Baby Be-Bop. The claim also demands $120,000 in compensatory damages ($30,000 per plaintiff) for being exposed to the book in a library display, and the resignation of West Bend Mayor Kristine Deiss for "allow[ing] this book to be viewed by the public."

The unanimous vote rejecting the Maziarkas' challenge came after trustees heard several dozen comments for and against restricting the materials, as well as being presented with opposing petitions: 700 signatures on the petition circulated by West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries, a group formed by the Maziarkas, and more than 1,000 on an anti-restriction petition from the newly formed West Bend Parents for Free Speech. Ironically, four of the trustees were denied reappointment in April as a rebuke from city council members for adhering to the library's reconsideration process instead of complying immediately with the Maziarkas' changing reconsideration requests. The trustees are serving until their successors are appointed.

Accusing the board of submitting to the will of the American Library Association and the American Civil Liberties Union, Ginny Maziarka declared, "We vehemently reject their standards and their principles," and characterized the debate as "a propaganda battle to maintain access to inappropriate material." She cautioned that her group would let people know that the library was not a safe place unless it segregated and labeled YA titles with explicit content. However, after the meeting board President Barbara Deter emphasized that it was the couple's "freedom of speech" to challenge any individual library holding, according to the June 3 Greater Milwaukee Today.

For the immediate future, West Bend officials will be dealing with the CCLU's legal claim. Describing the YA novel by celebrated author Francesca Lia Block as "explicitly vulgar, racial, and anti-Christian," the complaint by Braun, Joseph Kogelmann, Rev. Cleveland Eden, and Robert Brough explains that "the plaintiffs, all of whom are elderly, claim their mental and emotional well-being was damaged by this book at the library," specifically because Baby Be-Bop contains the "n" word and derogatory sexual and political epithets that can incite violence and "put one's life in possible jeopardy, adults and children alike."

The complaint points out that library Director Michael Tyree has "publicly stated that it is not up to the library to tell the community what is appropriate." Citing "Wisconsin's sexual morality law," the plaintiffs also request West Bend City Attorney Mary Schanning to impanel a grand jury to examine whether the book should be declared obscene and making it available a hate crime.

Thanks to Jonathan Turley


Fla. HS Orders Valedictory Speech cut

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
School, saying prepared speech was "too individualized" demanded Jem Lugo's re-write her ironic, irreverent address, and make it properly banal.

Tampa Bay Online reports

Jem Lugo aimed to give a valedictorian speech that would stay with her classmates long after they shed their caps and gowns.

The 17-year-old, Harvard-bound student took the whimsical, comical route.

Lugo wanted to poke fun at what she thought were the typical, unimaginative graduation speeches. The Springstead High School senior wanted something fresh and funny for tonight's ceremony.

"I was stuck with this arduous task of extra writing to create this speech, and I decided to make this different," she wrote, thinking she would someday read it to her 434 classmates at graduation. "I'm not (going to) get up here and start spouting these crazy, incomprehensible, seven-syllable words I probably can't even pronounce. Why would I do that? ... I would never, ever put you all through that pain."

She turned in her speech on March 1, and a week later her faculty advisor, Nancy Urling, summoned her to her classroom. Urling, she said, called the speech "appalling" and thought it had the tone of someone who hated her high school experience.

"I was shocked," Lugo said about her meeting with Urling. "It's not what I had expected."

Lugo's intention never was to challenge authority or take a political position. She chose something unorthodox, but not for her own selfish reasons, she said. She thought she was honoring her class and giving them what they wanted.

"My classmates enjoyed my speech," said Lugo, who sent copies to her friends. "They got the inside jokes. They connected with it."

Principal Susan Duval did not. She said the speech was "too individualized" and that naming specific students and teachers would not be allowed.

"The valedictorian speech is a reflection over the past four years of a student's life," she said. "It's about what direction the class is going in the future."

She called Lugo a "very bright young lady with a bright future," but said the race for valedictorian was "very tight."

"A lot of kids could've been up there speaking," she said.

Lugo recalled Urling telling her if she did not write a more appropriate speech, someone else would be chosen.

A flabbergasted Lugo cried following her meeting with Urling. Her teachers and friends knew something was wrong. She said it's rare for people to see her cry.

"I felt slighted, disrespected," she said of Urling. "There was no right for me to be treated so rudely over something that could be solved over a nice, peaceful conversation. There was nothing in my speech that directly warranted such a reaction."

Urling refused to comment and hung up the phone on a reporter today.

After Lugo learned she was valedictorian, she searched for ideas on the Internet. She typed in a search for "best valedictorian speech ever" and clicked on the links to at least five of them, she said.

She thought they were too dull. She brainstormed a while longer and decided to go to her friends for advice.

They suggested she mention the unique characteristics of the class -- from the social cliques that hang out at the "Four Corners" intersection to the high volume of videogame enthusiasts (known as "gamers").

"Do something with your life where you're able to have a steady, reliable source of income," Lugo wrote. "Gamers, I'm sorry, but farming for gold in World of Warcraft is not considered a reliable, or socially acceptable source of income."

Superintendent Wayne Alexander had not read the speech, but said the school was justified in its decision to make Lugo rewrite it.

"I can see the inappropriateness of such a speech," he said after a portion was read to him over the phone. "I can see that clearly ... Graduation is a significant day in the lives of students and their families. It should be treated with the respect and significance it deserves."

Lugo has a 4.5 grade point average and said she earned an A in every class except one. She is leaning toward studying law while at Harvard, she said.

She was the school's yearbook editor and a member of the National Honors Society, marching band and National Beta Club. She was elected class president.

Tonight she will give her revised speech, but she promises it will be devoid of sincerity and emotion.

"That speech will not be my voice," she said. "That's not who I was while a student at that school. My classmates are going to know."


Were it not for the video camera above Lawrence's Bar and Grill in Passaic, NJ, the ferocious and seemingly gratuitous beatdown of 49 year old schizophrenic Ronnie Holloway, a local resident out for his nightly walk, would have been lost to posterity, and probably not sparked the city wide protests it now is.

ABC News reports

Ronnie Holloway's eyes were still black and blue one week after he was allegedly beaten by a Passaic, N.J., police officer -- an attack that was inadvertently caught on a video surveillance camera.

Holloway, who is on medication for schizophrenia, joined more than 80 others outside that community's city hall Saturday to demand that Officer Joseph R. Rios III be fired.

The tape shows Holloway, 49, waiting outside Lawrence's Grill and Bar restaurant in Passaic when a police cruiser pulled up and a female officer asked him to zip up his sweatshirt. Holloway appears to comply, but Rios jumps out and begins hitting him with his fists and a baton.

The scene shows baby strollers and other pedestrians walk by in the downtown retail section of this community of immigrants and working poor.

Holloway does not appear to resist, and at one point, Rios seems to stand him back up and then slam him into the police cruiser.

"These cops know him," said Holloway's lawyer Nancy Lucianna of Fort Lee, N.J. "He's lived in the town for 25 years, does the same routine every night. He goes out after dinner, takes a walk, and paces back and forth."







Minnesota man filing law suit against St. Cloud police claiming false imprisonment and excessive force.

St. Cloud Times reports

Five St. Cloud police officers and the police department are being sued in federal court because a man says officers violated his civil rights when they used a Taser while trying to remove him from a convenience store.
Arnold Johnson sued the city and the officers after a January 2008 incident at JM Speedstop, 727 East St. Germain St. when police used a Taser on him several times after he refused to leave the store.

The lawsuit contends the officers used excessive force because Johnson was not arrested nor charged with a crime, wasn't held for any mental health concerns and because no store employee had asked that Johnson be removed.

Johnson is suing officers Derek Peters, Jeremiah Lund, Louis Bunde and Robb Schrom and Sgt. Kelly Simondet along with the department. He is seeking $2.2 million in damages, including a claim for $10,000 for each of the 49 seconds the Taser was used on him. His lawsuit alleges a civil rights violation and assault, battery and false imprisonment.

A reply filed in U.S. District Court by the lawyer representing the officers and the department contends the officers used reasonable force and acted within their duties.

Lawyers for Johnson and for the officers and city declined to comment on the case.

But court records detail what happened in the early hours of Jan. 3, 2008:

Police received a call reporting a man slumped over the steering wheel of a vehicle in the store's parking lot. They determined that Johnson had not been drinking. He told them he was warming up his vehicle after he had left a St. Cloud restaurant.

Officers asked for his license and gave Johnson a breath test that determined he had not been drinking.

Officers kept his license as Johnson went into the store to warm up and call his half-brother. Johnson told his half-brother that the police were harassing him and that he wanted his half-brother to come pick him up.

The officers asked Johnson to wait in the back of one of the squad cars, but Johnson refused to go outside of the store.

The clerk didn't complain about Johnson's conduct and didn't ask officers to remove him.

(2 of 2)

But after Johnson refused additional requests to leave, officers grabbed him by the arms and tried to drag him out.

Advertisement

Johnson grabbed a newspaper rack to prevent the officers from dragging him from the store. An officer then removed a Taser from his holster and told Johnson he would use it on him if he didn't put his hands behind his back.

Johnson didn't comply and the officer used the Taser in drive-stun mode.

That mode is a pain compliance tool in which the Taser is pressed against the skin but it won't incapacitate the person being touched.

In contrast, a Taser fired at a person from a distance releases probes that emit a charge that can incapacitate the person. Both uses of the Taser are considered use of force.

Officers used the drive-stun mode six to seven times on Johnson and once fired in the mode that released the probes, according to the court records. Johnson fell to the ground as officers tried to handcuff him, and he suffered a broken wrist during the incident.

Johnson was not cited for any crimes and was taken to St. Cloud Hospital for a medical evaluation.

Police filled out paperwork seeking a mental health evaluation for Johnson, according to a court filing by Joseph Flynn, the lawyer representing the officers and the department.

A court filing by Michael Gaarder, the St. Cloud lawyer representing Johnson,

takes issue with that, saying officers "allegedly completed the paperwork" to place Johnson on a 72-hour psychiatric hold.

The physician who examined and treated Johnson's broken wrist determined that Johnson didn't need to be placed on a hold and discharged him from the hospital, according to a court filing by Gaarder.


But after Johnson refused additional requests to leave, officers grabbed him by the arms and tried to drag him out.
Johnson grabbed a newspaper rack to prevent the officers from dragging him from the store. An officer then removed a Taser from his holster and told Johnson he would use it on him if he didn't put his hands behind his back.

Johnson didn't comply and the officer used the Taser in drive-stun mode.

That mode is a pain compliance tool in which the Taser is pressed against the skin but it won't incapacitate the person being touched.

In contrast, a Taser fired at a person from a distance releases probes that emit a charge that can incapacitate the person. Both uses of the Taser are considered use of force.

Officers used the drive-stun mode six to seven times on Johnson and once fired in the mode that released the probes, according to the court records. Johnson fell to the ground as officers tried to handcuff him, and he suffered a broken wrist during the incident.

Johnson was not cited for any crimes and was taken to St. Cloud Hospital for a medical evaluation.

Police filled out paperwork seeking a mental health evaluation for Johnson, according to a court filing by Joseph Flynn, the lawyer representing the officers and the department.

A court filing by Michael Gaarder, the St. Cloud lawyer representing Johnson,

takes issue with that, saying officers "allegedly completed the paperwork" to place Johnson on a 72-hour psychiatric hold.

The physician who examined and treated Johnson's broken wrist determined that Johnson didn't need to be placed on a hold and discharged him from the hospital, according to a court filing by Gaarder.

Thanks to Injustice News feed
Madison, WV police, after roughing up and throwing juvenile boy into police van, refuse to apologize for false arrest, claiming boy "assumed the risk of getting arrested by jogging on Main Street."

The West Virginia Record reports

The parents of a juvenile have filed suit against Danville and one of its police officers, saying their son was mistakenly identified and wrongfully arrested as he was jogging down the street.

However, the Danville police officer contends the boy's conduct led to his arrest.

Donna and Harold Gray Woods filed a complaint in Boone Circuit Court on March 26 against the town of Danville and one of its police officers, Arthur Jarrett.

The Woods say their son, Andrew Lee Adkins, was jogging on Main Street in Madison on Aug. 10 when Jarrett approached him at gunpoint.

"Police Officer Jarrett, using foul and abusive language, ordered the juvenile plaintiff at gunpoint to get on the ground," the suit states.

Adkins insisted he had done nothing wrong, but Jarrett again ordered him to the ground, according to the complaint.

Once Adkins complied with Jarrett's orders, Jarrett demanded Adkins spread his arms and legs, the complaint says.

"The Plaintiff complied and once again informed the officer that he was just jogging and had not done anything wrong," the suit states. "Officer Jarrett then handcuffed the juvenile Plaintiff, lifted him from the ground by the handcuffs, causing substantial pain and injury to the juvenile Plaintiff."

Jarrett then, in a "very physical and violent fashion," threw Adkins into the police car, the Woods claim.

Minutes later, Jarrett received information that he had the wrong person in custody. So, Jarrett removed the handcuffs on Adkins and released him, according to the complaint.

Although Jarrett admits to bringing the wrong person into custody and to releasing Adkins, he denies the Woods' remaining allegations against him.

The Woods allege Jarrett and the town of Danville violated Adkins's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights

In addition, Jarrett was guilty of battery, false arrest, assault and outrage while the town of Danville was guilty of negligent hiring, retention and supervision, the suit states.

However, Jarrett and Danville contend Adkins assumed the risk of getting arrested by jogging on Main Street and that his behavior was the reason he was arrested.

"The conduct of the Plaintiff was the competent producing cause of his injuries or damages, if any," the suit states.

The defendants say they should be immune to any claims raised in the Woods' complaint because they did not cause the deprivation of any Constitutional rights.

The Woods are seeking unspecified damages for Adkins's medical expenses, lost wages, pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, annoyance, aggravation and psychological distress, plus unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees, court costs and other relief to which they may be entitled.

The town of Danville and Jarrett removed the case to U.S. District Court because they say it involves federal questions, such as whether Jarrett violated amendments to the United States Constitution.

The Woods are represented by Kenneth B. Webb Jr. of Bowles, Rice, McDavid, Graff and Love in Charleston.

The town of Danville and Jarrett are represented by Steven K. Nord and Ryan Q. Ashworth of Offutt Nord in Huntington.


In first ruling of its kind NY county judge says police can use tasers to forcibly take DNA samples. 


The Buffalo News reports

It is legally permissible for police to zap a suspect with a Taser to obtain a DNA sample, as long as it's not done "maliciously, or to an excessive extent, or with resulting injury," a county judge has ruled in the first case of its kind in New York State, and possibly the nation.

Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza decided that the DNA sample obtained Sept. 29 from Ryan S. Smith of Niagara Falls -- which ties him to a shooting and a gas station robbery-- is legally valid and can be used at his trial.

Smith was handcuffed and sitting on the floor of Niagara Falls Police Headquarters when he was zapped with the 50,000- volt electronic stun gun after he insisted he would not give a DNA sample.

He already had given a sample, a swab of the inside of his cheek, without protest the previous month. But police sent it to the wrong lab, where it was opened and spoiled. Prosecutors who had obtained a court order for the first sample went back to Sperrazza, who signed another order without consulting the defense.

Defense lawyer Patrick M. Balkin denounced the ruling in an interview with The Buffalo News.

"They have now given the Niagara Falls police discretion to Taser anybody anytime they think it's reasonable," he asserted. "Her decision says you can enforce a court order by force. If you extrapolate that, we no longer have to have child support hearings; you can just Taser the parent."

A police officer said that when Smith was ordered by officers to give his DNA, he adamantly refused.

"I ain't giving up my DNA again. I already gave it up once. I'll sit in jail. I ain't giving it up. You're going to have to Tase me," the officer's report stated.

The officer wrote that he then applied the stun gun to Smith's left shoulder, a "drive stun" that is regarded as less painful than shooting electric prongs into a person, which is the usual Taser approach. Smith then consented to the sample, and he was arrested on a contempt of court charge.

In her ruling, Sperrazza cited numerous legal precedents and the state's Criminal Procedure Law, allowing the use of reasonable force to carry out a court order.

Although there are no New York cases specifically dealing with using a Taser to accomplish that, the judge did find a Wyoming case where a court ruled it was legal to use a Taser to force a suspect to open his hand for a search.

Balkin and other lawyers familiar with the case say they know of no other case in the country in which a Taser was used to gather DNA.

The decision Wednesday in Niagara County stunned Balkin, who admitted in court that he hadn't been carrying out trial preparation, such as seeking an expert to review the DNA test results.

"It's my fault," Balkin told Sperrazza. "I truly thought it was going to be suppressed."

Balkin thought a victory on the Taser issue would lead to the dismissal of the 24-count indictment against Smith, 21, of Grove Avenue.

Sperrazza granted a postponement of Smith's trial to Aug. 10.

Smith is charged with shooting a man in the groin July 27, 2006, after allegedly invading his ex-girlfriend's home, tying up her two children and forcing the woman to take him to the shooting victim's home.

He is also accused of taking part in the Dec. 24, 2006, armed robbery of a Sunoco station in Niagara Falls. A codefendant in the robbery, Christopher T. Walker Jr., now 21, pleaded guilty and is serving a 10-year state prison sentence.

DNA was found on a can of pop taken from Smith's ex-girlfriend's refrigerator and on a glove dropped at the gas station. It matched a sample he had to give after a previous assault conviction, and prosecutors sought another sample from Smith to confirm the findings.

"Our case is mostly DNA," Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann said.

She also said she didn't agree with Balkin that suppressing the DNA sample would have led to the dismissal of the indictment.

There is a surveillance video of the gas station robbery, Hoffmann revealed in court.

Balkin said he also was most concerned about Sperrazza's reasoning that she didn't have to go through a courtroom procedure for the second DNA sample because Smith had not objected to the first one.

"The court waived my client's due process," the defense lawyer said.

Testimony at a hearing last month partially contradicted the incident report written by Officer George McDonell, who used the Taser on Smith.

Sperrazza wrote in her ruling, based on police testimony, that when Smith refused to give another sample, Detective Lt. William Thomson phoned Hoffmann about it, and Hoffmann "instructed him that they could use the minimum force necessary to obtain the sample."

But McDonell wrote in his report, "It was relayed that officers could use any means necessary to secure the sample."

Sperrazza said the police should have arrested Smith first and brought him to court to be warned about the penalties for noncompliance with a court order.

McDonell testified that he used the Taser for 1z to two seconds. Another officer testified that the data readout on the Taser showed it was on for as long as four seconds.

Court papers filed by Smith's civil attorney, Christopher O'Brien, assert that Smith was zapped three times and lost consciousness. McDonell's report says, "Suspect complained of no injury and none was observed."


US district judge's ruling could squash litigation and further investigation of  warrantless surveillance program.

Wired Threat Level reports

A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed lawsuits targeting the nation's telecommunication companies for their participation in President George W. Bush's once-secret electronic eavesdropping program.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker upheld summer legislation protecting the companies from the lawsuits. The legislation, which then-Sen. Barack Obama voted for, also granted the government the authority to monitor American's telecommunications without warrants if the subject was communicating with somebody overseas suspected of terrorism.


Bush acknowledged the so-called Terror Surveillance Program in December 2005, and claimed as chief executive, his war powers gave him the authority to spy without court authorization.

Walker's decision (.pdf), if it survives, ends more than three years of litigation accusing the nation's carriers of funneling Americans' electronic communications to the Bush administration without warrants in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. The ruling also means that the public may never know how the Bush White House coaxed the telecoms to participate in the program without court warrants, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation alleged in a lawsuit lodged in federal court here three years ago.

"Congress has manifested its unequivocal intention to create an immunity that will shield the telecommunications company defendants from liability in these actions," Walker wrote.

The legislation at issue in the case was crafted after Walker had refused to dismiss the lawsuit the EFF brought in 2006 against AT&T. At the time, Walker's initial decision allowing the case to go forward was idling on appeal before the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, meaning the merits of the lawsuit have never been addressed. All of the nation's leading telecommunication companies have been added to the litigation.

The Bush administration and then the Obama administration argued that the original case should be dismissed on grounds that it threatened to expose government secrets, a legal privilege judges routinely rubber stamp. The EFF, in a bid to revive the lawsuit, challenged the immunity legislation on grounds that Congress was prohibited from legislating what the EFF termed was unconstitutional activity by the telecommunication companies.

"We're disappointed," said Cindy Cohn, the EFF's legal director. "We think the judge is wrong."

She said the EFF would appeal the decision to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The EFF crafted the initial lawsuit around a former AT&T technician's documentation suggesting that AT&T customers' electronic communications were siphoned to the National Security Agency without warrants.

Still, while the lawsuits targeting the telecommunications appear all but dead, litigation testing the president's authority to spy on Americans without warrants is alive and well in a different lawsuit before Walker.

That suit involves two American lawyers accidentally given a "top secret" document showing they were eavesdropped on by the government when working for a now-defunct Islamic charity in 2004. The case tests whether a sitting U.S. president may bypass Congress -- in this case, whether President Bush abused his power by authorizing his secret spying program in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

During a hearing before Walker in that case hours after his telecom ruling, the judge decided to set a Sept. 1 hearing in which he'll decide whether the charity's former lawyers have legal standing to bring the lawsuit.

At least for now, the once-secret documents are not part of the case because the government has declared them a state secret. Walker, despite his earlier threats, on Wednesday refused to order them as part of the case.

Two weeks ago, he also suggested he might rule in favor of the government as a sanction for its refusal to help craft a so-called protective order that would lead to the documents being disclosed to the plaintiffs' attorneys only.

Instead, Walker said Wednesday he would hold a September hearing and rule on whether the case could proceed and be litigated on the merits without the documents.

"The content of the sealed document will not be a part of the court's decision," Walker said.

Either way, the judge noted that the appellate courts, and perhaps the Supreme Court, would have the final say on the matter.

"We'll just see how this plays out," Walker said from the bench.

Tip line

Do you have a news item that we should know about? Drop us a line at tips@donttasemeblog.com!

About us

Don't Tase Me, Bro! is a production of QuestionAuthority (wiki)

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from June 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

May 2009 is the previous archive.

July 2009 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.