Saturday, September 30, 2017

GateHouse: Parental liability: On the hook for a child’s conduct

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
September 29, 2017
Tiffany Dickson, the widow of Cpl. Bryon Dickson — a 38-year-old Marine veteran and Pennsylvania State Trooper killed in the line of duty — is suing the parents of Eric Frein.
Cpl. Dickson and Trooper Alex Douglas were ambushed by Frein in September 2014. Douglas survived and is permanently disabled.
Frein’s case generated international attention when he eluded capture for 48 days while hiding in the mountains of northeast Pennsylvania. During that time it was estimated that the manhunt, that involved about 1,000 police officers a day from three states, cost approximately $1.4 million per week.
In April, Frein was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death.
Dickson’s lawsuit was filed in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania last week. The complaint alleges the Frein’s parents, Eugene and Deborah Frein, not only missed warning signs about their son’s troubles but fueled the very anti-government beliefs that drove Frein to murder.
The suit contends the Freins manipulated their son into “developing a strong dislike for police and acting on that dislike.”
According to The Associated Press, the lawsuit suggests that Michael Frein had a long career in the military, taught his son how to shoot, and that Eric had easy access to weapons in the house, including the rifle used to shoot Dickson and Douglas.
Eric Frein was an adult at the time of the murder. History is replete with examples of parents not being responsible for the conduct of their adult children. As far back as biblical times parents could sever their ties with adult children in dramatic ways. The Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy provides a provocative glance back in time. “This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.” Then, “all the men of his city shall stone him with stones.”
That may be extreme, but should it be a crime to raise a criminal? Or as in Frein’s case, should his parents be financially responsible for his conduct?
Parental liability is the term used to refer to a parent’s obligation to pay for damage caused by negligent, intentional, or criminal acts committed by the parent’s child. State legislators have focused their efforts on liability for the parents of minor children. Statutorily parent liability ends when a child reaches age 18.
Children’s offenses can be civil or criminal in nature. Civil cases are lawsuits, like Dickson’s, brought by a person for money damages. Criminal cases are brought by the government for violations of a specific criminal statute.
Every state has some sort of parental responsibility law that holds parents or legal guardians responsible for property damage, personal injury, theft, shoplifting and vandalism to name a few, resulting from intentional or willful conduct of minor children.
For instance, Oklahoma limits parental responsibility of minor children to vandalism only. In other states — Michigan, Maine, Alabama and Pennsylvania — the legislature capped property damage liability for parents at a few thousand dollars. In Hawaii, Louisiana, New Hampshire and Wisconsin parents are on the hook for the entire cost of property damage.
Laws making parents criminally responsible for the delinquent acts of their children have gained steam in recent years. Most states have laws against contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Those laws may apply to any adult not just a parent.
Parents have been held criminally responsible for a child who is chronically truant from school. More than half of the states and the District of Columbia have child firearm access prevention laws that make it illegal for a parent to leave a firearm within reach of a child.
In California, Civil Code Section 1714.1 provides that parents are held jointly liable with their minor child for acts of willful misconduct on the Internet that result in death, personal injury, or property damage.
When and where does parental responsibility end? Dickson’s lawsuit may help answer those questions.
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 www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
To visit the column CLICK HERE


Friday, September 29, 2017

Hospice for dying Pennsylvania prison inmates

In Pennsylvania, 483 state inmates have died since January 2015. That’s about 180 deaths in prison each year. From 2005 to 2014, the average was 150 deaths per year, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.
That increase is a byproduct, officials say, of the extraordinarily fast-growing elderly population in prison. In 2001, there were 1,892 geriatric inmates in Pennsylvania (ages 55 or older). Today, that’s more than tripled to 6,458. The leading causes of death in the state’s prisons are heart disease, cancer and liver disease. Caring for this population is extraordinarily expensive: It’s estimated that elderly inmates cost three to nine times more than young ones. Compassionate release, meanwhile, is granted to just a few inmates each year.
But since 2004, families of dying inmates at SCI Graterford have had the small comfort of knowing they will not die alone. The prison provides hospice for dying inmates. There is just one nurse on staff at the 23-bed infirmary, and visitors are allowed only an hour a day, but volunteers man the hospice on 24-hour vigils, sometimes caring for two or three inmates at once.
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Senate Committee: Congress may be unable to protect Mueller from Trump firing

Congress may be unable to provide any job protection legislatively for special counsel Robert Mueller, whose wide-ranging investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election continues to anger President Donald Trump, reported the McClatchy News Service.
While Trump confidant Roger Stone was defending himself in front of a separate committee elsewhere on Capitol Hill, legal scholars offered competing views on whether two Senate bills designed to protect Mueller from firing by Trump or someone in the Justice Department would pass constitutional muster during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
A bill sponsored by North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis and Delaware Democrat Chris Coons would allow a fired special counsel to have his dismissal reviewed by a three-judge panel within 14 days. Another measure, put forward by Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., would require the Justice Department to clear such a firing with a panel of judges before it could take effect.
“The bills in their current form are unwise and unconstitutional,” said Akhil Reed Amar, a constitutional law professor at Yale Law School and a Democrat who publicly opposed Trump in the election.
Eric Posner, also no fan of Trump, disagreed. “I’ve concluded they do not violate the principle of the separation of powers and on the contrary advance important constitutional values,” said Posner, a professor at the University of Chicago’s law school.
John Duffy, a law professor at the University of Virginia and former clerk of the late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, argued that parts of both bills were legally questionable, but said they could be tweaked to help pass judicial reviews. He, however, declined to offer an opinion on how the Supreme Court might view them.
“With such judicial variability, I have to balk,” Duffy said.
The complex legal issues and the scholars’ differing perspectives seemed to give senators pause about how, or whether, to move forward.
The law professors referenced almost a dozen Supreme Court cases, most notably Morrison v. Olson, a 1988 decision that held the Independent Special Counsel Act was constitutional.
To read more CLICK HERE


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Indefinite commitment of mentally ill without conviction

According to a 2017 study conducted by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, more than 10,000 mentally ill Americans who haven’t been convicted of a crime — people who have been found not guilty by reason of insanity or who have been arrested but found incompetent to stand trial — are involuntarily confined to psychiatric hospitals, reported The New York Times Magazine.
While seemingly every conceivable data point in America’s prison system is meticulously compiled, not much is known about the confinement of “forensic” patients, people committed to psychiatric hospitals by the criminal-justice system. No federal agency is charged with monitoring them. No national registry or organization tracks how long they have been incarcerated or why.
In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled, in Foucha v. Louisiana, that a forensic patient must be both mentally ill and dangerous in order to be hospitalized against his will. But in practice, “states have ignored Foucha to a pretty substantial degree,” says W. Lawrence Fitch, a consultant to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors and former director of forensic services for Maryland’s Mental Hygiene Administration. “People are kept not because their dangerousness is because of mental illness. People stay in too long, and for the wrong reasons.”
The insanity defense has been part of the American judicial system from its founding, carried over from our English forebears. British law has long reflected the moral sense that society has a duty not to punish people who can’t comprehend or control their crimes. But the insanity defense has always sat uneasily with the public, which tends to regard it as a means to escape justice. In the United States, such sentiments reached fever pitch in 1981, when a 25-year-old named John Hinckley Jr., hoping to win Jodie Foster’s heart, tried to assassinate President Reagan and instead shot James Brady, the White House press secretary. Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity (N.G.R.I., as it is frequently abbreviated) and sent to St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington. The country was outraged. Dan Quayle, then a senator from Indiana, called the verdict “decadent” and said the insanity defense “pampered criminals.” His Senate colleague Strom Thurmond equated it to a free ride.
In fact, despite its reputation as a “get out of jail free” card, the insanity defense has never been an easy way out — or easy to get. After a defendant is charged, the defendant, her lawyer or a judge can request evaluation by a psychiatrist. A defendant may be found incompetent to stand trial and committed for rehabilitation if she isn’t stable enough or intellectually capable of participating in the proceedings. If she is rehabilitated, she may be tried; if she cannot be, she may languish in a psychiatric hospital for years or decades. But mental illness is not exculpatory in itself: A defendant may be found mentally ill and still competent enough to stand trial. At that point, the district attorney may offer an insanity plea — some 90 percent of N.G.R.I. verdicts are plea deals. If the district attorney doesn’t offer a plea, or the defendant doesn’t take it, the case goes to trial. The defendant may still choose insanity as a defense, but then her case will be decided by a jury.
If N.G.R.I. was always difficult to get, it became even harder after Hinckley. With the Insanity Defense Reform Act of 1984, Congress restricted the judicial definition of “insanity” to only the most severe cases. Some states — Idaho, Utah, Kansas and Montana — have eliminated the defense 
altogether. In trials in which it is attempted, doctors may disagree, and jurors are often influenced by emotional considerations. Today, only an estimated one-120th of 1 percent of contested felony cases end in a successful N.G.R.I. defense — that is, the prosecutor disputes the insanity defense, the case goes to trial and the jury finds the defendant not guilty by reason of insanity. In addition, the legal standards for “insanity” vary among states; some define it as a defendant’s inability to know the crime was wrong or the inability to act in accordance with the law, but most define it, post-Hinckley, as only the first of these. At the trial of James Holmes, who killed 12 people and injured 70 in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., one psychiatrist testified that he was mentally ill but that he knew right from wrong and should be considered “sane.” Another testified that he was mentally ill and incapable of reason (and, by extension, guilt). All four who examined him agreed that he had some form of schizophrenia. Jurors rejected his insanity plea.
And when an N.G.R.I. defense does succeed, it tends to resemble a conviction more than an acquittal. N.G.R.I. patients can wind up with longer, not shorter, periods of incarceration, as they are pulled into a mental-health system that can be harder to leave than prison. In 1983, the Supreme Court ruled, in Jones v. the United States, that it wasn’t a violation of due process to commit N.G.R.I. defendants automatically and indefinitely, for the safety of the public. 
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Vindicator: Lawmakers keep piling on those convicted of sex crimes

Matthew T. Mangino
The Youngstown Vindicator
September 24, 2017
How much is too much? Ma’lik Richmond must be asking himself that very question. The on-again, off-again Youngstown State University football player is embroiled in a controversy of his own making.
Richmond served about 10 months in a juvenile detention facility after he and a high-school teammate were convicted in 2013 of raping a 16-year-old girl.
In January, he joined the YSU football team as a nonscholarship walk-on. In August, Richmond was informed by university officials that he would be required to sit-out a season.
He filed suit against the university, and a federal judge granted him a temporary injunction. He played against Central Connecticut State University on Sept. 16. A hearing on a permanent injunction is scheduled for Thursday.
Prison population
Richmond was convicted of a horrible crime. People charged with sex offenses are the most rapidly increasing segment of the U.S. prison population, according to Marie Gottschalk, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. Politicians and the general public talk about sex offenders in terms of danger, deviance and pathological pariahs. In some instances that may be warranted, particularly with regard to offenses against children.
Gottschalk said during a recent interview, “According to the latest statistics on federal prosecutions, we are meting out longer sentences on average to people who view child pornography than to people who actually sexually abuse children.”
To use a football metaphor lawmakers across the country keep “piling on” convicted sex offenders.
Just last week, I wrote for GateHouse Media about the proliferation of onerous sentences and ever-longer registration requirements being fueled, in part, by an assertion in a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2002 wherein Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote that the recidivism rate for sex offenders was about 80 percent.
According to Reason magazine, there was never any evidence to support the assertion, and research conducted during the period within which it proliferated indicated that it was not even remotely true. “Nearly every study – including those by states as diverse as Alaska, Nebraska, Maine, New York and California as well as an extremely broad one by the federal government that followed every offender released in the United States for three years – has put the three-year recidivism rate for convicted sex offenders in the low single digits, with the bulk of the results clustering around 3.5 percent.”
If fact, in some states–including Pennsylvania and Ohio – a sex offender can be detained after completing his or her sentence. The process is called civil commitment. Nearly 5,400 people are currently civilly committed in sexually violent predator programs in 20 states and by the federal Bureau of Prisons. According to The Marshall Project, 13 states allow this practice for people who committed their crimes as juveniles.
All 50 states and Washington, D.C., have developed sex-offender registries. More than 800,000 people in the U.S. are registered sex offenders.
Registries
While civil commitment and sex-offender registries are perhaps the most extreme examples of “civil” punishment tagged on at the conclusion of the “criminal” punishment imposed on people convicted of sex crimes, they are by no means the only tag -ons.
Driven by a pervasive fear of sexual predators, and facing no discernible opposition, according to the New York Times, “politicians have become ever more inventive in dreaming up ways to corral and marginalize those convicted of a sex related crime.”
As Richmond now knows, marginalizing former offenders is not exclusively for politicians.
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 www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
To visit the column CLICK HERE


Monday, September 25, 2017

White supremacists infiltrating police departments?

Over the last three years, at least 24 officers — in California, Florida, Missouri, Georgia, and Alabama – have been fired or forced to resign after they were caught exchanging racist texts, emails, or Facebook messages, reported Buzzfeed News.
 Another officer, in South Carolina, was fired after he scrawled a racist slur on a black person’s house last year. In September, a police department in Gainesville, Florida, opened an investigation into an officer who’d made anti-Semitic comments on Facebook. In August, a police chief in Colbert, Oklahoma, resigned after local reporters discovered that he was listed as an administrator on websites selling neo-Nazi merchandise. Since 2009, at least four officers, in Louisiana and Florida, were kicked out of their departments when local officials discovered evidence that they were members of the Ku Klux Klan. One of those officers, from Lake Arthur, Louisiana, initially claimed he had been working undercover at a Klan gathering in 2014, then changed his answer to “standing at a rally against illegal immigration,” then eventually admitted that he had indeed been a member of the group’s Loyal White Knights chapter.
Federal authorities have been concerned about white supremacists infiltrating police departments since at least 2006, when an internal FBI memo stated that investigations into right-wing extremist groups “often” found members who had “active links to law enforcement officers.” The memo, which leaked in late 2016, discussed the possibility of a strategic effort by racist hate groups to embed “ghost skins,” a term used to describe “those who avoid overt displays of their beliefs to blend into society and covertly advance white supremacist causes.” But just as troubling, and perhaps just as hard to catch, is the threat of prospective officers “sympathetic to white supremacist causes” pursuing law enforcement careers for more a straightforward reason: The job simply appeals to them.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Nationwide people suffering a mental health crisis are sent to jail not a hospital

Early last year, two suicidal patients showed up at a hospital emergency room in Pierre, S.D., seeking help. Although the incidents happened weeks apart, both patients ended up in an unexpected place: jail, according to The Marshall Project.
Across the country, and especially in rural areas, people in the middle of a mental health crisis are locked in a cell when a hospital bed or transportation to a hospital isn’t immediately available. The patients are transported from the ER like inmates, handcuffed in the back of police vehicles. Laws in five states — New Mexico, North and South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming — explicitly say that correctional facilities may be used for what is called a “mental health hold.” Even in states without such laws, the practice happens regularly.
“It is a terrible solution...for what is, at the end of the day, a medical crisis,” said John Snook, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, a national group that advocates for the severely mentally ill. Research shows that the risk for suicide, self-harm and worsening symptoms increases the longer a person is behind bars.
But in a shift, Colorado recently outlawed using jail to detain people in a psychiatric crisis who have not committed a crime. The state delegated just over $9 million — with $6 million coming from marijuana tax revenue — to pay for local crisis centers, training for law enforcement and transportation programs.
The new law was passed after Colorado’s sheriffs lobbied the state to extend the amount of time a person could be detained. In rural counties, sheriffs testified, lack of manpower meant they were forced to hold onto people longer than the 24-hour legal limit. A state task force instead recommended ending the practice entirely.
There are no national figures on how many people are held each year in jail just because they have nowhere else to go in a mental health crisis. Reports from the federal agency overseeing hospitals — the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — offer a glimpse. Since 2011, at least 22 hospitals in 16 states have been cited by CMS for failing to stabilize patients in need of mental health help, instead handing them over to law enforcement to wait for a psychiatric evaluation or a bed. The hospitals span the country, from Alabama and South Dakota to New York and Ohio.
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, September 23, 2017

GateHouse: ‘Piling on’ offenders, the penalty that never ends

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
September 23, 2017
Much has been made of Harvard University’s decision not to admit Michelle Jones into its doctoral program over the recommendation of the university’s history department.
Jones served 20 years in prison for murdering her 4-year-old son. During her time behind bars, according to the New York Times, Jones compiled a record of accomplishment that would be remarkable even for someone who had never been incarcerated.
Scenario’s like Jones’ play out every day in America. The stigma of a criminal conviction haunts former offenders for life. Recently, on a college campus a long way from Harvard, a student with a juvenile criminal conviction for rape faced an onslaught of public outrage and ultimately the capitulation of the university.
Ma’lik Richmond the on again, off again, Youngstown State University (YSU) football player is embroiled in a controversial lawsuit of his own making. However, does that make what is happening at Youngstown State right?
Richmond served about 10 months in a juvenile detention facility after he and a Steubenville High School teammate were convicted in 2013 of rape a 16-year-old girl during a party.
Richmond was released in January 2014 and attended colleges in West Virginia and Pennsylvania before transferring to YSU in the fall 2016.
Richmond did an unspeakable thing. He committed a terrible crime. As a result, he served time and as a 21-year-old is a registered sex-offender — having to report to authorities once a year for 10 years.
Richmond, by all accounts, was a pretty good high school football player. That, and allegations of a cover-up to protect the “prestige” of Steubenville High School football, contributed to the international notoriety the case received.
In January, he joined the YSU football team as a non-scholarship walk-on. In August, Richmond was informed by YSU officials that he would be required to sit-out a season. He had not broken any university rule or violated any policy of the university or the football program.
He was declared ineligible by the university because public sentiment had turned against him. The Board of Trustees turned up the pressure on the YSU administration and the result was Richmond had to sit.
Richmond didn’t take the decision lightly. He filed suit against the university and a federal judge granted him a temporary injunction. He played against Central Connecticut State University last Saturday. A hearing on a permanent injunction is scheduled for Sept. 28.
Sept. 28 will not be the end of it for Ma’lik Richmond or other people, young and old, with criminal records.
Federal, state, and local laws impose an ever growing set of barriers on people with criminal records, no matter how small. The so called collateral consequences of conviction vary depending on the type of crime committed, but can affect nearly every aspect of a person’s life, including admission into institutions of higher learning and apparently participation in extracurricular activities.
According to the Sentencing Project, many collateral consequences apply automatically to anyone with a conviction, without taking into account the nature of the offense or how long ago the crime was committed. Most apply for life, without any method for relief, even if the person never again commits a crime.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice Department funded a project, run by the American Bar Association, to create a database of collateral consequences. They found more than 44,000 such consequences nationwide.
To use a football metaphor, politicians across the country just keep “piling on” those convicted of a crime. As Jones and Richmond now know, marginalizing former offenders is not exclusively for politicians.
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 www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
To visit the column CLICK HERE

Friday, September 22, 2017

Not guilty doesn't mean free to go in Tennessee prisons

As a former member of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole I found Radley Balko's recent column in the Washington Post very interesting:

From the Tennessean, here’s a crazy story about a man who looks to be doomed to years in prison, despite the fact that the charges that put him there have been dropped. You can thank the state’s parole board.
A judge and prosecutor dismissed the criminal allegations against John Leon Smith, but in the eyes of the Tennessee Board of Parole he’s still guilty.
The man will remain in prison until next year at least — maybe until 2026 …
… Smith served about half of a 40-year prison sentence for a violent armed robbery and threatening to kill workers at a Nashville restaurant in 1992. Smith fired several shots, which wounded one worker, and as he fled from police, fired shots at officers, according to appeals court records.
“I was drinking and drugging and it cost me my life,” he said. “I threw it away in 30 minutes.”
He was released on parole in October 2013, according to state records.
Seventeen months later he was arrested on two felonies, alleging possession of marijuana and a weapon, court records show. At the time, Smith lived at a North Nashville home with two other people.
Because of his criminal history, Smith wasn’t supposed to have guns.
Court records and transcripts say undercover police intercepted a UPS package with nearly 8 pounds of marijuana inside and delivered it to the home, where Smith answered the door. About 30 minutes later, another man arrived and tried to leave with the package before he was arrested, according to a transcript of one detective’s testimony.
Officers later found a handgun in furniture in Smith’s bedroom and three rifles and a shotgun in a separate closet, records say.
A Nashville judge dismissed the gun charge two weeks later after hearing testimony from the homeowner that Smith did not know the guns were in the home and the handgun belonged to someone else, according to a court transcript.
In March 2016, a year after Smith’s arrest, prosecutors dismissed the other charge against Smith — the drug crime — after the man who claimed the package of pot pleaded guilty, court records show.
“Your case is dismissed,” a judge told Smith, according to the transcript. “That’s the end of that, so, for you.”

The problem: Smith’s arrest was a violation of his parole. Such violations can send him back to prison. It doesn’t matter that the charges were dropped. And the ultimate arbiter of whether Smith violated his parole isn’t the judge or prosecutor, but the Tennessee Board of Parole. And that group of seven people, all appointed by the governor, has decided to keep Smith in prison. Bizarrely, the Tennessee legislature has even passed a law that should apply to cases like Smith’s. But the parole board decided, unilaterally, that the law isn’t retroactive.
To read more CLICK HERE


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Opioid crisis is impacting life expectancy in the U.S.

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published an analysis showing the opioid crisis has actually negatively impacted life expectancy in the U. S.  The analysis, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, crunched the numbers recorded by the National Vital Statistics System Mortality file, a storehouse of death data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, from between 2000 to 2015.
According to the Washington Post, the analysis found that the average American’s life expectancy grew overall from 2000 to 2015, but that the astounding rise in opioid-related deaths shaved 2.5 months off this improvement. That’s .21 years, compared to the .02 years taken off the average life expectancy by alcohol overdoses.
No factor negatively affected life expectancy more. “It really underlines how serious the problem of opioid overdose has become in the U.S.,” the CDC’s Deborah Dowell told Time. “In general we don’t see decreases in life expectancy attributable to a single cause that are of this magnitude.” While overdose deaths in general in the U.S. more than doubled in that 15-year span, opioid overdoses more than tripled, the study reported. The average life expectancy for an American born in 2010 was 76.8 years, which grew to 78.8 years in 2015. The study suggested that but for opioid-related deaths, it would have been higher still.
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Former Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort was wiretapped by investigators

Investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election, sources told CNN, an extraordinary step involving a high-ranking campaign official now at the center of the Russia meddling probe.
Manafort was ousted from the campaign in August. By then the FBI had noticed what counterintelligence agents thought was a series of odd connections between Trump associates and Russia. The CIA also had developed information, including from human intelligence sources, that they believed showed Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered his intelligence services to conduct a broad operation to meddle with the US election, according to current and former US officials.
The FBI surveillance teams, under a new FISA warrant, began monitoring Manafort again, sources told CNN.
The court that oversees government snooping under FISA operates in secret, the surveillance so intrusive that the existence of the warrants only rarely become public. 
For that reason, speculation has run rampant about whether Manafort or others associated with Trump were under surveillance. The President himself fueled the speculation when in March he used his Twitter account to accuse former President Barack Obama of having his "wires tapped" in Trump Tower. 
The Justice Department and the FBI have denied that Trump's own "wires" were tapped.
While Manafort has a residence in Trump Tower, it's unclear whether FBI surveillance of him took place there.
Manafort has a home as well in Alexandria, Virginia. FBI agents raided the Alexandria residence in July.
What does this mean for the Trump administration, if anything?
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Vox: How America became the world’s leading opioid prescriber

So how did the US become the world’s top prescriber of opioid painkillers? There are several reasons, according to Vox.
First, there were the pharmaceutical companies. Wanting to make as much money as possible, these companies marketed their drugs as safe and effective for treating pain — even though the evidence for opioids shows that, particularly for chronic pain, the risksoutweigh the benefits in most, but not all, cases. Many doctors and patients were convinced by this campaign. (Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, and some of its higher-ups later paid more than $600 million in fines for their misleading marketing claims, and opioid makers and distributors are now facing many more lawsuits on similar grounds.)
Then there were doctors. On one hand, doctors were under a lot of pressure from advocacy groups (some pharma-backed), medical associations, and government agencies to treat pain more seriously. On the other hand, doctors faced increasing pressure to see and treat patients quickly and efficiently.
The latter is a result of what Stanford addiction specialist Anna Lembke, author of Drug Dealer, MDdescribes as “the Toyotazation of medicine — tremendous pressure on doctors within these large integrated health care centers to practice medicine in a certain way and get patients out in a timely fashion to be able to bill insurers at the highest possible level and to make sure that their patients were satisfied customers.”
Opioids provided an answer to these two problems. Doctors didn’t know how to deal with many of the complex pain problems their patients were dealing with, because in many cases the answers were complicated and simply required too many resources and too much time. So an easy response was to give patients some pills.
In many situations, doctors simply prescribed far too much. With acute pain patients, doctors often gave weeks- or even months-long prescriptions when only a few days’ worth was needed. It was common, for example, to give weeks-long supply for opioids after wisdom teeth removals, even though the procedure usually leads to pain for no more than a week and the pain typically can be treated with milder painkillers like ibuprofen. The prescriptions left patients with a lot of extra pills, all because a doctor wanted to play it safe — and make sure that a patient didn’t come back complaining that a provider gave too few pills the first time around.
And in other cases, the doctors involved were outright malicious — establishing “pill mills” in which they gave away opioids with little scrutiny, often for hard cash.
On the patient side, there were serious medical issues that needed to be addressed. For one, the Institute of Medicine has estimated that about 100 million US adults suffer from chronic pain. Given that the evidence shows opioids pose more risks than benefits in the majority of these cases, patients likely should obtain other treatments for chronic pain, such as non-opioid medications, special physical exercises, alternative medicine approaches (such as acupuncture and meditation), and techniques for how to self-manage and mitigate pain.
With the broader proliferation of opioids, there were so many of these pills — enough prescribed just in 2015 to medicate every American around the clock for three weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — that they were often diverted.
So America got its deadliest drug overdose crisis ever.
To read more CLICK HERE


Monday, September 18, 2017

Despite prosecutorial misconduct verdict stands according to 1,343 page opinion

Senior Judge Christopher Munch from Arapahoe County, Colorado has denied the death penalty appeal of Sir Mario Owens who was convicted of killing three people in two separate incidents, reported the Denver Post. Munch said Owen's ultimately received a fair trial and was represented well enough by his attorneys. The ruling took nearly a decade to reach, and was a whopping 1,343 pages in length. 
“The court concludes that Owens received a fair trial – one whose result is reliable,” Munch wrote on the last of his . “He also received a fair sentencing hearing — one whose result was constitutionally obtained, justified in law, and is rationally based upon the evidence.”
Owens was first convicted of murder in 2007, in connection with the 2004 shooting death of 20-year-old Gregory Vann at a party in Aurora’s Lowry Park. The following year, in 2008, a different jury convicted Owens in the 2005 killings of Javad Marshall-Fields and Vivian Wolfe, both 22. He was sentenced to death.
At the time of his murder, Marshall-Fields had been scheduled to testify against another suspect in Vann’s death, and prosecutors argued that Marshall-Fields and Wolfe, his fiancĂ©e, were killed to silence them. 
Defense attorneys raised numerous concerns about Owens’ convictions, including an allegation of juror misconduct during the Lowry Park trial that Munch denied earlier this year. Munch ruled in his Thursday order, though, that prosecutors improperly withheld evidence during the case — by not disclosing numerous instances in which they provided witnesses money or other benefits.
For instance, prosecutors did not tell Owens’ attorneys that they had promised and later given a car to one key witness. Other witnesses received undisclosed lenience in separate criminal cases facing them. In at least one instance, prosecutors did not reveal that a witness had been present at another shooting while in the witness protection program and preparing to testify in Owens’ case. Prosecutors also withheld information about money that witnesses were paid as informants or in the witness protection program.
Defense attorneys said the evidence could have been used at trial to question the credibility of the witnesses. But, in each instance, Munch concluded that the evidence wasn’t significant enough to overturn the trial. At best, Munch said, the evidence would have been considered “helpful” but not outcome-changing.
To read more CLICK HERE


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Mangino on WFMJ-TV21 Weekend Today

Watch my interview on Weekend Today, WFMJ-TV21 regarding the law suit filed by YSU football player Ma'lik Richmond. To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Saturday, September 16, 2017

GateHouse: High Court has chance to set the record straight

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
September 16, 2017
How did a statement made 30 years ago, in a magazine article with no supporting documentation, set in motion a series of some of the most draconian laws in U.S. history?
In 1986, Robert Longo, a prison sex offender treatment counselor in Oregon, and Ronald Wall, a therapist who worked with him, wrote in an issue of Psychology Today that “Most untreated sex offenders released from prison go on to commit more offenses ... Indeed, as many as 80 percent do.”
Psychology Today, although a respected publication, isn’t exactly Time Magazine when it comes to mainstream distribution and circulation. Yet, that quote took hold with the criminal justice system and among lawmakers, policymakers and decision makers across the country.
The claim really gained traction in 2002. That year, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in a decision that upheld a mandatory prison therapy program for sex offenders, “the rate of recidivism of untreated offenders has been estimated to be as high as 80 percent,” a number he called “frightening and high.”
The following year, Kennedy repeated that claim in a case which upheld retroactive application of registration requirements for sex offenders. As of 2015, according to Reason Magazine, Kennedy’s phrase has been reused in more than 100 opinions and briefs filed with the court.
According to Reason, there was never any evidence to support the assertion, and research conducted during the period within which it proliferated indicated that it was not even remotely true. “Nearly every study -- including those by states as diverse as Alaska, Nebraska, Maine, New York and California as well as an extremely broad one by the federal government that followed every offender released in the United States for three years -- has put the three-year recidivism rate for convicted sex offenders in the low single digits, with the bulk of the results clustering around 3.5 percent.”
What has been the result of broad acceptance of this markedly misinformed data? According to the New York Times, for the past 24 years, Minnesota has detained sex offenders released from prison in a “therapeutic program.” The “patients” are kept in locked cells, transported outside the facility in handcuffs and leg irons, and subjected to a regimen that looks, sounds and smells just like that of a prison.
But unlike prison, the therapeutic program -- which aims to teach the patients to control their sexual impulses and was initially designed to last from two to four years -- has no fixed end date. Rather, program administrators decide which patients are safe enough to release. According to the Times, in the 24 years the program has existed, not a single “patient” has ever been fully released.
Nearly 5,400 people are currently civilly committed in sexually violent predator programs in 20 states and by the federal Bureau of Prisons. According to The Marshall Project, 13 states allow this practice for people who committed their crimes as juveniles. Despite having no adult convictions, these young people are held years into adulthood.
While civil commitment is perhaps the most extreme example of punishments imposed on people convicted of sex crimes, it is by no means the only one. Driven by a pervasive fear of sexual predators, and facing no discernible opposition, according to the New York Times, “politicians have become ever more inventive in dreaming up ways to corral and marginalize those convicted of a sex related crime.”
On Sept. 25, the Supreme Court will have a chance to take a step toward setting the record straight. They will decide whether to hear two cases involving offenders who claim new sex offender registration requirements are punishing them a second time for a single offense.
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 www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
To visit the column CLICK HERE

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Ohio executes cold blooded killer of two

The 18th Execution of 2017
Gary Otte died on September 13, 2017 at 10:54 a.m. following the administration of three lethal drugs at the Southern Ohio Correctional Faciltiy in Lucasville. He was executed for killing two people in back-to-back robberies 25 years ago in a suburban Cleveland apartment building.
In his final statement, the 45-year-old Otte professed his love for his family, sang a Christian hymn and quoted the Bible. He said, “God is good all the time,” and added, “I’m sorry.” Then he sighed deeply and began singing, “The Greatest Thing,” with words such as “I want to know you, Lord” and “I want to serve you, Lord.” He stopped singing at 10:39.
Otte quoted the Bible with his last words: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they’re doing. Amen.” The words were derived from a Bible account of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.
Otte gave a thumbs-up sign, and then his abdomen rose and fell several times between 10:41 and 10:42. Two members of the state execution team did a consciousness check at 10:42. Otte’s abdomen continued to rise and fall a couple of more minutes, then he appeared to go still.
Defense attorney Carol Wright said she believes the rising and falling of Otte’s chest and tears she saw on his face during the administration of the first drug, the sedative midazolam, indicated that he was suffering from a phenomenon known as air hunger. Those occurrences “indicated to me that he was feeling pain or sensations,” said Wright, who was initially blocked in her attempt to leave the room to alert a federal judge about her concerns.
Security protocol was followed and the execution was carried out without complication, prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said.
“Once (Wright’s) identify and intention was verified, she was given permission to exit the room,” Smith said.
Otte had unsuccessfully argued  that Ohio’s lethal-injection method put him at risk of serious pain because the midazolam might not render him deeply unconscious. The rising and falling of his chest was similar to reactions in past executions when a different drug was used.
Otte was sentenced to die for the Feb. 12, 1992, killing of Robert Wasikowski and the Feb. 13, 1992, killing of Sharon Kostura.
Witnesses on Wednesday included the daughter and brother of Wasikowski and the sister, brother-in-law and niece of Kostura.
Otte didn’t sleep after arriving at the prison at 9:46 a.m. Tuesday and spent his time on the phone with friends and family and visiting with his parents and other relatives.
His legal appeals ended about two hours before his scheduled execution, when the Ohio Supreme Court declined to weigh in on his contention that he shouldn’t be put to death because of his age at the time of the crime.
Otte was 20 when he killed Wasikowski and Kostura.
Authorities had said he asked to go inside Wasikowski’s apartment to use the phone and then shot the 61-year-old and stole about $400. The next day, authorities say, Otte forced his way into the apartment of the 45-year-old Kostura in the same building, shot her and stole $45 and her car keys.
Both the state Parole Board and Republican Gov. John Kasich denied Otte’s request for clemency.
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Junk science, sex offenders and the U.S. Supreme Court

This month the Supreme Court will have a rare opportunity to correct a flawed doctrine that for the past two decades has relied on junk social science to justify punishing more than 800,000 Americans, reported the New York Times. Two cases that the court could review concern people on the sex offender registry and the kinds of government control that can constitutionally be imposed upon them.
In Snyder v. Doe, the court could consider whether Michigan’s broad scheme of regulating sex offenders constitutes “punishment.” The other case, Karsjens v. Piper, examines the constitutionality of Minnesota’s policy of detaining sex offenders forever — not for what they’ve done, but for what they might do.
And while the idea of indefinite preventive detention might sound un-American or something out of the film “Minority Report,” the larger problem is that “civil commitment,” like hundreds of other regulations imposed on those required to register, has been justified by assertions about the recidivism of sex offenders. But those assertions turn out to be entirely belied by science.
For the past 24 years, Minnesota has detained sex offenders released from prison in a “therapeutic program” conveniently located on the grounds of a maximum-security prison in Moose Lake. The “patients” are kept in locked cells, transported outside the facility in handcuffs and leg irons, and subjected to a regimen that looks, sounds and smells just like that of the prison it is adjacent to.
But unlike prison, this “therapeutic” program, which aims to teach the patients to control their sexual impulses and was initially designed to last from two to four years, has no fixed end date. Rather, program administrators decide which patients are safe enough to release. In the 24 years it has existed, not a single “patient” has ever been fully released. There are now about 850 people in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, some with no adult criminal record, and others who, despite having completed every single program ever offered at the facility, have remained civilly committed for over 20 years.
While civil commitment is perhaps the most extreme example of punishments imposed on people convicted of sex crimes, it is by no means the only one. Driven by a pervasive fear of sexual predators, and facing no discernible opposition, politicians have become evermore inventive in dreaming up ways to corral and marginalize those forced to register — a category which itself has expanded radically and come to include those convicted of “sexting,” having consensual sex with non-minor teenagers or even urinating in public.
These sanctions include being forced to wear (and pay for) GPS monitoring and being banned from parks, and draconian residency restrictions that sometimes lead to homelessness. In addition, punishments can include, on pain of re-incarceration, undergoing interrogations using a penile plethysmograph, a device used to measure sexual arousal. They have also included requirements that those on the registry refrain from being alone with children (often including their own) and barred from holding certain jobs, like being a volunteer firefighter or driving an ice cream truck.
And when these restrictions have been challenged in court, judge after judge has justified them based on a Supreme Court doctrine that allows such restrictions, thanks to the “frightening and high” recidivism rate ascribed to sex offenders — a rate the court has pegged “as high as 80 percent.” The problem is this: The 80 percent recidivism rate is an entirely invented number.
A few years ago, Ira Ellman, a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley, and Tara Ellman set out to find the source of that 80 percent figure, and what he found shocked him. As it turns out, the court found that number in a brief signed by Solicitor General Ted Olson. The brief cited a Department of Justice manual, which in turn offered only one source for the 80 percent assertion: a Psychology Today article published in 1986.
That article was written not by a scientist but by a treatment provider who claimed to be able to essentially cure sex offenders though innovative “aversive therapies” including electric shocks and pumping ammonia into offenders’ noses via nasal cannulas. The article offered no backup data, no scientific control group and no real way to fact-check any of the assertions made to promote the author’s program.
Nonetheless, because that 80 percent figure suited the government lawyers’ aim of cracking down on sex offenders, Solicitor General Olson cited it, and Justice Anthony Kennedy, seemingly without fact-checking it, adopted the figure in a 2002 opinion that Justices William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas joined. (Justice Sandra Day O’Connor concurred.) Their decision blew open the doors to the glut of sex offender restrictions that followed.
But in the 30 years since that Psychology Today article was published, there have been hundreds of evidence-based, scientific studies on the question of the recidivism rate for sex offenders. The results of those studies are astonishingly consistent: Convicted sex offenders have among the lowest rates of same-crime recidivism of any category of offender.
Nearly every study — including those by states as diverse as Alaska, Nebraska, Maine, New York and California — as well as an extremely broad one by the federal government that followed every offender released in the United States for three years, has put the three-year recidivism rate for convicted sex offenders in the low single digits, with the bulk of the results clustering around 3.5 percent. Needless to say, there is a tremendous difference between claiming that 80 percent of offenders will re-offend and that more than 95 percent of them won’t. And it is in that basic difference that the Supreme Court’s doctrine has done its most lasting damage.
This profound misrepresentation of social science has led to extraordinary real-world harms. For example, while the public almost universally embraces the strict residency restrictions the Supreme Court and lower courts have ratified, study after study has shown that rather than reduce sexual violence, these residency restrictions actually increase recidivism.
The merciless enforcement of the conditions routinely placed on those on the registry has resulted in the constant re-incarceration of offenders — not because they have committed new crimes but for technical violations of the conditions themselves, like failure to maintain a driving log, being late for curfew or failing to pay polygraph fees.
Indeed, a study by the California Department of Corrections concluded that 91 percent of sex offenders returned to California prisons were returned for these technical violations, while only 1.8 percent were returned as a result of having committed a new sex crime. In short, the entire scheme of registration and restriction that the Supreme Court condoned 15 years ago in McKune v. Lile has done enormous violence to a huge number of Americans now branded forever as sex offenders.
Now more than ever, Americans should be able to look to our highest court and expect decisions that are based on reason and grounded in science rather than fear. The court must rule wisely and bravely, including being willing to acknowledge its mistake and finally correct the record. More than 800,000 Americans have needlessly suffered humiliation, ostracism, banishment re-incarceration and civil commitment thanks to a judicial opinion grounded in an unsourced, unscientific study. Simple decency and perhaps more important, intellectual honesty demands better.
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Florida sheriff sued for arresting people with pending warrants at hurricane shelters

In the anxious days leading up to Hurricane Irma’s landfall in Florida, first responders flooded social media with information about safety and shelter. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office was no exception.
It warned about the potential dangers of filling a bathtub with water, posted information about hurricane shelter openings and retweeted an offer from a local fire department that was helping people fill up sandbags.
Sheriff Grady Judd had a different message for anyone with a pending arrest warrant or a checkered past: Come to a shelter with an arrest warrant and we'll take you to jail, reported the Washington Post.
Now a man is suing the Polk County sheriff, saying the statements and deputies’ attempts to run background checks at hurricane shelters were unconstitutional and, worse, an unethical attempt to get desperate people to sacrifice their rights for safety.
“Sheriff Judd’s true motives are clear, and have been expressed by him explicitly: The purpose of these pedestrian ‘checkpoints’ is to conduct a fishing expedition to find any possible basis, no matter how tenuous, for issuing citations to or arresting human beings seeking refuge from a Class 5 hurricane,” the lawsuit says. “The problem is that these searches and seizure are not based on any suspicion of criminal conduct. Suspicion is not raised by trying to gain entry into an emergency shelter to save one’s life and the lives of family members.”
The suit was filed by Nexus Services, a company that connects people arrested for immigration offenses with bail bondsmen, and by Andres Borreno, who said Judd’s deputies demanded he submit to a background check before letting him into a shelter Saturday. Borreno refused and never entered the shelter, said his attorney, Mario Williams.
Further action on the lawsuit hasn’t been taken because courts were closed due to the storm. The company made a copy of the lawsuit available online.
Judd was managing his department’s response to the storm and would not be available for comment, said Scott Wilder, the director of communications for the sheriff’s office. But in a Facebook message, Wilder said the people who filed the lawsuit “are lying to you.”
“We have not read whatever they say they have filed,” the message said. “Whatever it is, it’s frivolous and without merit.”
Wilder defended the sheriff’s statements, saying he was trying to protect people seeking shelter from dangerous elements in the community. “We are not allowing sexual predators or offenders into the shelters,” Wilder said, adding that at any point, there are about 8,000 active warrants in Polk County.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, September 11, 2017

Miami homeless involuntarily removed from street for protection from hurricane

On what is likely the last clear day in Florida before Hurricane Irma’s monster wind and rain, social workers and police officers are giving Miami’s estimated 1,100 homeless people a stark choice: Come willingly to a storm shelter, or be held against their will for a mental health evaluation.
With the outer edge of the storm approaching Friday, these officials — backed by a psychiatrist and observed by an Associated Press team — rolled through chillingly empty downtown streets as dawn broke over Biscayne Bay, searching for reluctant stragglers sleeping in waterfront parks.
“We’re going out and every single homeless person who is unwilling to come off the street, we are likely going to involuntarily Baker Act them,” Ron Book, chairman of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust told the Associated Press.
Invoking the “Baker Act” — a law that enables authorities to institutionalize patients who present a danger to themselves or others — is not something law enforcement does lightly, but officers detained at least six people by Friday afternoon. Under the law, they can be held up to 72 hours before the state would have to go to court to prolong their detention.
By then, Irma’s howling winds and terrifying storm surge should be somewhere north of the city.
 “I am not going to sign suicide notes for people who are homeless in my community. I am just not going to do it,” Book added. “That’s why you have a Baker Act. It’s there to protect those who can’t otherwise protect themselves.”
Book’s group was working closely with police, who acknowledged that the effort is unusual: Officials said it is the first time Miami has invoked the law for hurricane preparedness.
About 70 people willingly climbed into white vans and police squad cars Friday, joining others who already arrived at shelters. About 600 others were thought to remain outside somewhere, exposed to the storm, despite mandatory evacuation orders for more than 660,000 people in areas that include downtown Miami and coastal areas throughout the county.
One older man pushing his belongings in an empty wheelchair in Bayfront Park tried to wave them off.
“I don’t want nothing,” he said, insulting a social worker.
Finally, the man was handcuffed without a struggle and taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital for a 72-hour psychiatric evaluation.
“A person who has a history of mental illness and who is staying in harm’s way, and doesn’t have a logical cohesion of what is right or what is wrong at that point, is a harm to himself, and at that point we can Baker Act them for his own protection,” Nisar explained later.
To read more CLICK HERE


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Wilmington, DE leads the nation in shootings among young people

Wilmington, Delaware is a city of less than 72,000 people known primarily as the birthplace of chemical giant DuPont and as a cozy home for big banks and Fortune 500 firms. But an Associated Press and USA TODAY Network analysis of Gun Violence Archive data — gathered from media reports and police press releases, and covering a 3½ year period through June of this year — reveals that Wilmington far and away leads the country in its rate of shootings among young people under 18.
"It's nonstop, just nonstop," said William Rollins V, father of the teenagers. "Around every turn, they're taking our kids."
Of the 10 cities with the highest teen shooting rates, most had populations of less than 250,000 people. Among them were Savannah, Georgia; Trenton, N.J.; Syracuse, N.Y.; Fort Myers, Fla.; and Richmond, Va. Chicago was the lone large-population city high on the list.
Poverty and a sense of hopelessness in the most violent neighborhoods is a common thread. Syracuse, a university town that once cranked out air conditioners and televisions, now has a poverty rate of 35%.
Others, like Savannah, are deeply divided. While its antebellum mansions, gnarled live oaks and marble monuments to war heroes drew more than 13 million visitors last year, away from picture-postcard oasis of Southern Charm the scenery here quickly shifts to decaying neighborhoods, abject poverty and deadly violence.
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, September 9, 2017

GateHouse: The myth of lawlessness in the wake of disaster

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
September 8, 2017
As Floridians scramble to prepare for Hurricane Irma and its impending devastation — how much thought is going into law and order after the hurricane makes landfall?
In the wake of massive disasters, fears about crime and other forms of disorder almost always rise, reported the Chicago Tribune. But while some people do take advantage of the collective distraction, the fear of crime — particularly looting — typically outstrips the reality, say the experts who study storms and recoveries.
The Tribune reported there were about 63 people charged with storm-related crimes including burglary and theft after Hurricane Harvey made landfall last month. Harris County, home to Houston, Texas, has a population of nearly 5 million people.
Violent crime in the wake of a natural disaster is often exaggerated. In fact, violent crime often decreases after a disaster. In New York City, in the weeks following Hurricane Sandy, crime fell precipitously. Murder was down 86 percent; rape down 44 percent; and robbery down 30 percent. One crime that is often played-up following natural disasters is looting, the theft of goods from commercial businesses, wrote John Stringham in “Natural Disaster and Crime.” In the two weeks following the devastating Moore, Oklahoma, tornado in 2013, police arrested only 17 looters, some of whom came from as far away as California and New York. The media often portrays neighborhoods struggling after a natural disaster as lawless havens for criminals and predators.
“Fears of looting are common in disasters and maybe even more common than actual looting itself,” Andy Horowitz, an assistant professor of history at Tulane who focuses on disasters, told the Tribune.
He said fear of crime is typical after a massive disaster, when peace of mind goes with the rest. If a person lacks basics like ... a dry place to put their children to sleep, feeling frazzled and grasping for anything that will restore a sense of order becomes attractive, Horowitz said.
Researchers in disaster science have debunked the idea that catastrophe causes social breakdown and releases the ugliest parts of human nature, reported Slate. Research done for the National Hazards Center has found, “that panic is not a problem in disasters; that rather than helplessly awaiting outside aid, members of the public behave proactively and prosocially to assist one another ... social cohesiveness and informal mechanisms of social control increase during disasters, resulting in a lower incidence of deviant behavior.”
However, a crime that invariably increases after a disaster is fraud. For example, people who are not entitled to disaster relief will apply for and obtain benefits intended for disaster survivors. There is no universal protocol for the distribution of such benefits. Some nonprofit groups and public agencies in the rush to provide relief to needy victims often fall prey to fraudsters.
Sometimes benefits are handed out quickly and widely, with little verifying documentation required from persons who claim them. In other cases, disaster benefits are more difficult and take longer to obtain, with a series of verifications built into the application process. In either case the victims often feel the pain.
Kelly Frailing of Loyola University New Orleans recommends the following strategies to deal with crime after a natural disaster. Initially, rapid response by law enforcement, related agencies and the National Guard can protect hard-hit areas from property crimes.
Fostering community ties and collaboration play an important role in helping people hit by disasters deal with the short-term crisis and long term rebuilding efforts.
She also suggests that fraudulent claims for disaster benefits can be reduced in a constructive way. Demanding appropriate verification from applicants while being mindful that the process must move quickly is paramount.
It is too late for some remedies in south Florida — if not already in place — like a computerized cross-verification system among agencies responsible for distributing benefits. However, it is not too late to implement an aggressive and vigilant post-disaster guardianship by government agencies and law enforcement.
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 www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
To visit the column CLICK HERE

Friday, September 8, 2017

Crime rate projected to drop in 2017

Researchers at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law collected crime data directly from local police departments in America’s 30 largest cities, and then used historical trends to estimate 2017 year-end crime numbers. Several key findings include:
- The overall crime rate in 2017 is projected to decrease slightly, by 1.8 percent. If this estimate holds, 2017 will have the second-lowest crime rate since 1990.
- The violent crime rate is projected to decrease slightly, by 0.6 percent, essentially remaining stable. This result is driven primarily by stabilization in Chicago, and declines in Washington, D.C., two large cities that experienced increases in violence in recent years. The violent crime rate for this year is projected to be about 1 percent above 2014’s violent crime rate, the lowest recorded since 1990.
- The 2017 murder rate is projected to be 2.5 percent lower than last year. This year’s decline is driven primarily by decreases in Detroit (down 25.6 percent), Houston (down 20.5 percent), and New York (down 19.1 percent). Chicago’s murder rate is also projected to fall, by 2.4 percent. The 2017 murder rate is expected to be on par with that of 2009, well at the bottom of the historic post-1990 decline, yet still higher than the lowest recorded rate in 2013.
- While crime is down this year, some cities are projected to experience localized increases. For example, Charlotte’s murder rate doubled in the first six months of 2017 relative to last year. 
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, September 7, 2017

NY AG joins Mueller investigation, Trump pardon power only applies to federal crimes

Donald Trump’s ability to issue presidential pardons has been the ultimate weapon looming over Robert Mueller’s investigation, reported New York Magazine. Trump could potentially pardon himself of any crimes. More important, he could dangle a pardon to his former staffers to encourage them not to supply Mueller with any incriminating information on Trump. Mueller is apparently handling his investigating like the prosecution of a mob boss, pressuring underlings to flip on the boss. Trump’s advantage is that, unlike a mob boss, he can give out an unlimited number of get-out-of-jail-free cards. Trump has reportedly mused in public about using the pardon — and his pardon of Joe Arpaio flaunted his willingness to use it on behalf of a political ally, even in outrageous fashion.
But it turns out that there is a flaw in Trump’s strategy. The presidential pardon only applies to federal crimes. 
As NBC reported, it is possible for state governments to press charges in some of the alleged crimes committed by Trump’s cronies. “You would have to find that one of those [election] crimes occurred in New York,” Jennifer Rodgers, a former federal prosecutor, told NBC. Of course, some of the alleged crimes almost certainly did take place in New York. And sure enough, Josh Dawsey reports, Mueller is teaming up with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “One of the people familiar with progress on the case said both Mueller’s and Schneiderman’s teams have collected evidence on financial crimes, including potential money laundering,” he notes.
Trump can pardon anybody facing charges from Mueller, but not from Schneiderman. It is probably significant that Mueller is letting this fact be known to Trump’s inner circle. Trump’s biggest source of leverage over Mueller just disappeared.
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Not all DNA evidence is equal

For three decades, forensic DNA evidence has been a valuable tool in criminal investigations, incriminating or exonerating suspects. Matching a defendant’s genetic material with a sample found on a weapon or at a crime scene has proved extremely persuasive with judges and juries.
But not all DNA evidence is equal, reports the New York Times
Sometimes it’s clear: blood or semen identifies a single person. If it’s just a few skin cells left on an object, or if it contains more than one person’s genetic material, it can be more ambiguous. In such situations, labs used to report that the results were inconclusive, or the defendant could not be excluded from the mix.
New types of DNA analysis have been introduced in recent years to interpret trace amounts or complex mixtures, spawning an industry of testing tools, chemical kits and software. As analysis has become more complex, the techniques and results are coming under fire nationwide.
In the past three years, flaws in DNA methods have temporarily shut down testing in public crime labs in Austin, Tex., and Washington. Lab analysts “make it seem like it’s a completely objective process,” said Bicka Barlow, a lawyer in California with a master’s degree in genetics and molecular biology. “But I’m 100 percent convinced that there are many people who are incarcerated who were convicted with DNA evidence who are innocent.”
The two techniques that New York’s lab introduced were the “high-sensitivity testing” of trace DNA amounts, and the Forensic Statistical Tool, or FST, in which software calculates the likelihood that a suspect’s genetic material is present in a complicated mixture of several people’s DNA. By its own estimate, the lab has used high-sensitivity DNA testing to analyze evidence samples in 3,450 cases over the past 11 years, and the FST in 1,350 cases over the past six. Cases in which both methods were used may be counted in both totals.
A New York crime lab DNA analysis methods are under the microscope, with scientists questioning their validity. In court testimony, a former lab official said she was fired for criticizing one method, and a former member of the New York State Commission on Forensic Science said he had been wrong when he approved their use. The first expert witness allowed by a judge to examine the software source code behind one technique recently concluded that its accuracy “should be seriously questioned.”
Earlier this year, the lab shelved the two methods and replaced them with newer, more broadly used technology.
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Judge strikes down Colorado sex-offender registry

A federal court judge’s ruling finding that Colorado’s sex-offender registry violated the Constitutional rights of three sex offenders who sued could change the way the public gets access to the list, reported the Denver Post.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch found that the Colorado Sex Offender Registration Act violates the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and the due-process rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.
Thursday’s ruling came in a civil case filed against Colorado Bureau of Investigation director Michael Rankin in 2013 by registered sex offenders David Millard, Eugene Knight and Arturo Vega.
Matsch found that the men are entitled to compensation and attorney fees, which will be determined later.
Technically, the ruling only applies to the three plaintiffs in the case, but it could lead to more universal impact — particularly if the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the decision on appeal, said Boulder attorney Alison Ruttenberg, the attorney for the three plaintiffs. There are similar cases in other states challenging sex-offender registries.
Ruttenberg said she expects the cases will eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I would characterize this as a landmark case. My goal eventually is to get rid of this sex offender registration altogether, at least as it applies to a public registry that people can pull up on a website,” Ruttenberg said Friday. “I would be surprised if the state doesn’t appeal the decision.”
Ruttenberg said that faulty research suggests that sex offenders have a high recidivism rate when only 5 percent of offenders are arrested for new crimes.
Matsch found that Colorado’s registration act poses a “serious threat of retaliation, violence, ostracism, shaming, and other unfair and irrational treatment from the public” for sex offenders and their families.
“The registry is telling the public — DANGER, STAY AWAY. How is the public to react to this warning? What is expected to be the means by which people are to protect themselves and their children?” Matsch wrote in his ruling.
In answering his own question, he determined the law exposes sex offenders to punishments “not by the state, but by fellow citizens.”
“The fear that pervades the public reaction to sex offenses — particularly as to children — generates reactions that are cruel and in disregard of any objective assessment of the individual’s actual proclivity to commit new sex offenses,” Matsch wrote. “The failure to make any individual assessment is a fundamental flaw in the system.”
The ruling also criticized Colorado lawmakers who claimed that the sex offender act is not punitive.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, September 4, 2017

AG Session's claim of violent crime wave debunked

Since becoming attorney general in February, Attorney General Jeff Sessions routinely has warned of a violent crime wave sweeping the nation — spurred primarily by increased violence in major cities, reported the Washington Post.

“After decreasing for nearly 20 years because of the hard but necessary work our country started in the 1980s, violent crime is back with a vengeance.”
— Attorney General Jeff Sessions, remarks at the 63rd Biennial Conference of the National Fraternal Order of Police, Aug. 28, 2017

“In the 1980s, Miami-Dade was plagued by drugs. Violent crime followed. Police regularly recorded upward of 500 murders a year. The city seemed to be crumbling. But the people of Miami-Dade refused to tolerate this level of violence. And last year, Miami-Dade’s homicide count was barely a third of what it was in the 1980s.”
— Attorney General Jeff Sessions, remarks on “sanctuary cities” in Miami, Aug. 16

Sessions uses the alleged crime wave as evidence for the need to return to “law and order,” which President Trump has vowed to make a top priority during his presidency.
First, let’s start with Sessions’s central premise: across the country, violent crime is back with a vengeance. Sessions has made the claim several times since taking office:
“All of us who work in law enforcement want to keep people safe. That is the heart of our jobs; it is what drives us every day. So we are all disturbed to learn that violent crime is on the rise in America, especially in our cities. And that is what I want to talk about with you today.” (March 15)
“As you have experienced right here in Memphis, violent crime is on the rise in America.” (May 25)
“As all of you know first-hand, our nation’s violent crime rate is rising. In many of our urban areas, this increase is staggering.” (June 20)
To support his claim, Sessions cites an increase in violent crime from 2014 to 2015 as well as a preliminary report citing an increase in violent crime in 2016, according to a Department of Justice official.
In 2015, the total number of violent crimes increased by 3.9 percent nationwide, and the violent crime rate increased by 3.1 percent nationwide, according to data from the FBI. The increases represent the largest single-year increase in the violent crime rate since 1991, but it is hardly a staggering rise. Sessions uses the one-year increase and incomplete data for 2016 to make a sweeping statement about crime across the country. But, one year of data does not constitute a trend. Many criminologists recommend using a minimum of three years to understand crime trends and to account for small, but random changes in crime over short time intervals.
“Crime is at historically low levels,” said Nick Petersen, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Miami. “There may be small increases month to month and year to year, but there is a little random noise in the fluctuations.”
In 2006 and 2007, the national violent crime rate increased for the first time in nine years, but the spike did not usher in the return of high rates of violent crime. In contrast to Sessions, then-Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales did not make sweeping generalizations about the return of violent crime across the country. Instead, he noted that the increase was due largely to changes in specific areas.
When you zoom out to look at the violent crime rate over a three- to five-year period, the data show just the opposite of Sessions’s claim. Every year, the FBI compiles and analyzes crime statistics from police departments nationwide. Violent crimes include murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. The violent crime rate shows the reported frequency of these crimes per 100,000 people.
In 1991, the nation’s violent crime rate peaked at 758 violent crimes for every 100,000 people. Since that point, violent crime across the country has declined. In fact, in 2015, the violent crime rate was lower than it has been in almost 45 years, and it is lower than it has been for most of the 2000s save for 2013 and 2014. The violent crime rate would need to more than double to reach the same levels of the 1990s, when violent crime peaked across the country.
To support his argument about a violent crime increase, Sessions routinely highlights crime in major cities like Chicago. On Aug. 16, while addressing the Justice Department’s policy on “sanctuary cities,” Sessions praised law enforcement agents in Miami-Dade County, which includes the city of Miami, for dramatically reducing the violent crime rate amid the alleged nationwide increase. In the same speech, he derided Chicago for its soaring crime rates. The comparison earned Sessions Four Pinocchios.
In 2015, Chicago recorded 478 murders, up from 411 in 2014 and 413 in 2013, and every murder factors into Chicago’s violent crime rate. Like most cities around the country, murders in Chicago peaked in the 1990’s, with a high of 943 murders recorded in 1992, and then declined by more than half. Overall, violent crime in Chicago is lower than it has been since the 1960’s. Miami-Dade, which has roughly the same population of Chicago, experienced the same decline in violent crime over the past two decades. Violent crime in Miami Dade reached record highs in the ’80s and ’90s. Since then, violent crime has declined. And this decline mirrors the national trend.
Sessions held up Miami-Dade’s crime reduction as “proof that the entire nation can do better.” Sessions employs the same tactic to dramatize crime in cities as he does to dramatize crime across the country. By zooming in on one city, like Chicago, and looking at violent crime rates over a short period of time, he can claim crime is rising.
“It is really easy to cherry pick the data point you want in order to make the claim that decades of progress is being rolled back,” said Ames Grawert, an expert on criminal justice issues at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. “Sessions is pinpointing cities and making the case that they are representative when they are not. If you look at any city crime is way down.”
A Brennan analysis of declining crime rates over the course of several decades shows the link between mass incarceration and crime reduction is thin. Instead analysts cite a multitude of factors — from increased economic prosperity to the increased use of crime mapping software like CompStat.
Sessions has also made similar claims about the national murder rate. From 2014 to 2015, the rate did in fact increase nearly 11 percent. But like the violent crime rate, the rate is at a historic low. To reach the same levels the murder rate hit at its peak in the 1980s, the rate would have to more than double.
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