Friday, June 23, 2017

PA looks to make animal cruelty a felony

The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed an overhaul of the state’s animal abuse statutes restricting tethering and strengthen abuse penalties.
The bill by Rep. Todd Stephens, R-Montgomery, makes five major changes to current Pennsylvania animal abuse laws, Humane Society Pennsylvania director Kristen Tullo told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The bill is heading to Gov. Tom Wolf for his signature.
Under current state law, Tullo said there are no mandatory forfeiture laws for those who are convicted of abuse. There are also currently no statewide tethering regulations. Horses are not awarded the same protections as dogs and cats, and extreme animal abuse is not a felony charge. And vets and humane society officers can currently be sued for reporting cases of animal abuse.
This would all change under House Bill 1238: Convicted abusers would have to forfeit their animals; tethers would need to be triple the length of a dog’s body and dogs could only be tethered for nine hours before a mandatory 30-minute break; horse abuse convictions would result in a misdemeanor charge; heinous animal abuse would result in felony charges; and vets and humane society officers would be granted civil immunity, granting them the freedom to report cases of abuse without fearing legal ramifications.
“We really are thankful for the Pennsylvania General Assembly for their action to see this through to law,” Tullo said.
The law protects not only animals, but also citizens, Stephens wrote in his memo on the bill, citing a 2014 study from the National District Attorneys Association, which shows links between animal abuse and future abuse of humans.
“I am proud to be a long-time supporter of Libre’s Law and eager to sign the bipartisan, comprehensive House Bill 1238 into law,” Wolf said in a statement. “I applaud the sponsors and advocates who have fought for too long to improve Pennsylvania’s protections for animals.”
He continued, “Pennsyl­vania is only one of three states that does not have a felony statute for severe animal abuse. We are long overdue to join the rest of the country in having higher standards of care for our pets and other animals.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Can malicious speech constitute violence? A Massachusetts court says yes

Robby Soave an associate editor at Reason magazine asked in the New York Times, can malicious speech constitute violence? No, but a recent court decision which found Michelle Carter guilty of sending lethal text messages — is bound to confuse the issue.
Judge Lawrence Moniz, of Bristol County Juvenile Court in southeastern Massachusetts, ruled that Ms. Carter, 17 at the time of her crime, had committed involuntary manslaughter by urging her depressed 18-year-old boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, to kill himself. Mr. Roy had flirted with the idea for weeks, and Ms. Carter — after initially telling him to seek counseling — seemed to warm to the idea, consistently egging him on via text: “The time is right and you’re ready, you just need to do it! You can’t keep living this way. You just need to do it like you did last time and not think about it and just do it babe.”
On July 12, 2014, Mr. Roy drove to a Kmart parking lot and connected his truck to a water pump that released carbon monoxide. At one point, sick from the fumes, he got out of the truck. Ms. Carter told him to “get back in.” His body was found on July 13.
Ms. Carter also struggled with mental illness. Her lawyers claimed antidepressant drugs influenced her behavior; though the prosecution preferred to cast her as a callous narcissist who craved the sympathy of her peers and believed a suicidal boyfriend would earn her a popularity boost.
In either case, Ms. Carter’s conduct was morally reprehensible. But — at least until today’s ruling — it was clearly legal. While some states criminalize the act of convincing people to commit suicide, Massachusetts has no such law. Moreover, speech that is reckless, hateful and ill-willed nevertheless enjoys First Amendment protection. While the Supreme Court has carved out narrowly tailored exceptions for literal threats of violence and incitement to lawless action, telling someone they should kill themselves is not the same as holding a gun to their head and pulling the trigger. Nor is it akin to threatening to kill the president, which is specifically prohibited by law — and in any case, only considered a felony if done ”knowingly and willfully.” (Merely expressing hope that the president dies isn’t enough.)
Judge Moniz’s verdict is a stunning act of defiance against this general principle. By finding Ms. Carter guilty of involuntary manslaughter — rather than some lesser misdeed, such as bullying or harassment — the court has dealt a blow to the constitutionally enshrined idea that speech is not, itself, violence. That’s cause for concern.
“Mr. Roy’s death is a terrible tragedy, but it is not a reason to stretch the boundaries of our criminal laws or abandon the protections of our constitution,” wrote Matthew Segel, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, in a statement. “The implications of this conviction go far beyond the tragic circumstances of Mr. Roy’s death. If allowed to stand, Ms. Carter’s conviction could chill important and worthwhile end-of-life discussions between loved ones across the Commonwealth.”
This one-off decision in juvenile court may not sway legal precedent. But it will undoubtedly draw the attention of school officials and police officers in the state of Massachusetts and negatively affect an area of the law already suffering from authoritarian governmental overreach: teen discipline.
For decades, efforts have been underway to criminalize every obnoxious or problematic social interaction between K-12 kids in American schools. Hardly a week passes without a national news story about teenagers who were arrested on child pornography charges — and face unfathomably long prison sentences — because they had inappropriate pictures of classmates (or even themselves) on their phones. In Iowa, in June 2016, authorities tried to brand a 14-year-old girl as a sex offender for Snapchatting while wearing a sports bra and boy shorts. The following month, Minnesota police officers busted a 17-year-old for swapping consensual sexts with his 16-year-old girlfriend. Such matters should be handled by parents and teachers, not the cops. The same is true for the various issues that plagued Ms. Carter and Mr. Roy.
By all means, let’s empower teachers to confront harassment and refer troubled teenagers to mental health professionals. But we don’t need to broadly criminalize teen cruelty to do that. Nor should we continue down the path of pretending that the First Amendment’s ironclad protection of hateful expression is voided whenever someone says (or texts) something that makes us squirm.
What Ms. Carter said to Mr. Roy was outrageous. Sending her to prison on a possible 20-year sentence is both outrageous and unjust.
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

PA Supreme Court permits access to police videos

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled the public should have access to dash camera video footage unless the police agency can prove it amounts to criminal investigative material and may be redacted, reported the Associated Press.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-2 in favor of a lower-court decision granting access to video shot by the dash cameras of two state troopers’ vehicles as they responded to a 2014 crash near State College. The majority says police vehicle recordings, as a general rule, are not exempt from public disclosure.
The state police had argued the recordings always contain criminal investigative material, but Justice Kevin Dougherty wrote that such determinations must be made on a case-by-case basis.
In the dispute before the court, he said, the video showed troopers investigating the crash scene and talking to the drivers and bystanders.
The decision said the only part of the recordings that is potentially investigative was the audio from witness interviews — portions that had been ordered redacted by a lower court.
“PSP simply does not explain how the video portion of the (recordings) captured any criminal investigation,” Dougherty wrote.
State police had argued the videos should be exempt under the Right-to-Know Law and a state law limiting access to criminal records. An agency spokesman said the case was under review.
The state associations of county commissioners and township supervisors had supported the state police’s position, arguing the response to a traffic crash made the recordings investigative in nature.
The requester, Michelle Grove, wanted videos taken after a crash in Potters Mills, about 15 miles east of State College. One driver was cited for not wearing a seatbelt and the other for failing to yield.

To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Police Chief: Open-carry law makes our job harder

Columbia, SC Police Chief Skip Holbrook writes in the Columbia State, Violent crime is on the rise in many large cities. Columbia is not immune. Targeted attacks on law enforcement (Dallas, Baton Rouge) and a rise in line-of-duty deaths have further complicated an incredibly stressful and dangerous job.
It’s against this backdrop that the S.C. House passed a bill to make it legal for people to openly carry handguns in the state, with certain location exceptions. The bill won’t become law this year, but it will be front and center when lawmakers return to Columbia in January, and we need to understand its implications.
The right to bear arms is fundamental to our democracy, but the sale, purchase, ownership and carrying of guns comes with great responsibility and use of common sense, and I firmly believe an open-carry law will significantly complicate police interactions with citizens, resulting in many unintended consequences. Open-carry law or not, when citizens see someone with a gun, they will call the police. When responding to “person with a gun” calls, officers have few details to help them quickly determine an armed individual’s intent and whether that person poses a threat to public safety or the individual.
No doubt, we would encounter many innocent, law-abiding people who were armed in compliance with an open carry law. But some will be violent criminals, perhaps even gang members, who don’t yet have a felony on their record that prohibits them from possessing weapons. Also let’s not forget the numerous and frequent protests, demonstrations and marches in our city.
Open carry could make it extraordinarily difficult for police to protect those exercising their right to assemble and protest peacefully. There is no denying that easily accessible firearms add fuel to already emotionally charged situations, which too often results in tragedy.

To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, June 19, 2017

Should Bill Cosby be tried again?

Pennsylvania judge declared a mistrial Saturday in the case against Bill Cosby after a jury was unable to come to a unanimous decision, an inconclusive finale to one of the most high-profile sexual assault cases in years.
Cosby was charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault in an incident involving former Temple University basketball staffer Andrea Constand at his home in suburban Philadelphia in 2004.
Over the last 10 days, jurors heard the entertainer's defense that the encounter was consensual, while Constand, taking the stand and facing Cosby for the first time, testified that Cosby drugged her and robbed her of the ability to consent.
The split of the jurors remains unknown. Jurors were not polled on the reason for their deadlock or the split among them, and their names remain sealed.
Before dismissing the jurors, O’Neill encouraged them not to speak to reporters about the details of their deliberations, which he said could impact any retrial.
Had he been found guilty, Cosby, 79, would have faced a maximum of 10 years in prison on each count.
Prosecutors said immediately they would retry the case, and Judge Steve T. O’Neill said he would try to schedule a new trial within 120 days.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Mangino talks obstruction of justice on WFMJ-TV21

Watch my interview regarding the Trump obstruction of justice investigation and the Bill Cosby mistrial on Weekend Today on WFMJ-TV21.  To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Saturday, June 17, 2017

GateHouse: The irony of an expanding obstruction probe

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
June 16, 2017
A grim pall hangs over the White House. As the Russian investigation evolves into a probe of obstruction of justice by the president of the United States the irony seems lost on Donald Trump.
A grim pall hangs over the White House. As the Russian investigation evolves into a probe of obstruction of justice by the president of the United States the irony seems lost on Donald Trump.
This week the Washington Post and New York Times, both reported that the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller is seeking interviews with current, and recently resigned intelligence officials.
Questions have been raised about whether Trump sought the help of National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, to derail the FBI investigation led by former FBI Director James Comey.
To date, the penultimate White House scandal is Watergate. Then President Richard Nixon had incriminating audio recordings that he refused to turn over to the independent counsel Archibald Cox. He fired Cox in an effort to curtail the investigation. The tapes led in part to Nixon’s resignation.
President Trump has talked of tapes that could refute the allegation that he tried to influence Comey before he fired him. In fact, Trump used the threat of tapes to try and muzzle Comey. However, instead of providing those tapes to congress or the public they remain unheard, unseen, unverified. The lack of tapes could lead to a host of unfortunate scenarios for the president.
Nixon was the poster child for the adage that the cover-up is worse than the crime. Now 43 years later, Trump -- and America -- may have to learn that lesson all over again.
Unfortunately, the irony and significance of history seems to hold little sway with President Trump. This is a president that thinks the Civil War could have been avoided if the country would have listened to President Andrew Jackson, who died 16 years before the war began. He also spoke of Frederick Douglass as though he were still alive, “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.” Douglas has been dead for 123 years.
The evidence of a cover-up continues to mount. Trump has admitted the Russia investigation motivated him to fire Comey; Trump asked Comey to end the investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn; Trump’s not-so-veiled threat to Comey about possible tapes of their conversations; Trump demanded that Comey pledge loyalty to him; and now the revelations that Trump may have enlisted other administration officials to influence Comey.
Consider Dana Milbank’s commentary in the Washington Post summing up Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Comey’s account of why he wrote extensive, real-time notes of his conversations with President Trump. “The nature of the person,” Comey explained, “I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, and so I thought it really important to document.”
Here is the real irony as Milbank continued:
Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper No. 68, “that the office of president will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single state; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of president of the United States.”
Hamilton, a man who lived in turbulent political times -- he was killed in a duel with the sitting vice-president -- could not fathom America in its current predicament.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.
To visit the column CLICK HERE