Thursday, February 28, 2019

Violent crime dropped more than 4% in first half of 2018

Violent crime dropped more than 4 percent in the first six months of 2018 compared to the same months in 2017, the best six-month change in at least four years, newly released semiannual figures from the FBI show, reported The Crime Report.
Led by a 12.5 percent decrease in robbery, other violent crime categories showed drops of 6.7 percent (murder and non-negligent manslaughter) and 2 percent (aggravated assault). Rape showed a 0.6 percent increase after the previous year’s 2.4 percent semiannual drop.
The 2017-to-2018 violent crime decreases cut across cities of all sizes and most regions, with police agencies in the West showing the only increase. Year-to-year comparisons for the first six months of each year show a slight decrease from 2016 to 2017, and increases in the previous two years.
The Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report statistics showed property crime down year over year by 7.2 percent, with burglary showing the greatest decrease, at 12.7 percent, its best first-half semiannual drop since at least 2014-15. Arson also showed a significant decrease, 9.4 percent. Brennan Center’s Ames Grawert, senior counsel in the Justice Program, hailed the new report as “rebutting any claims of a nationwide crime wave.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Study: Less than 1% of population is connected to over 50% of urban homicides

Serious violence is extremely concentrated in very particular places and, most importantly, among very particular people, reported CityLab. Dispelling the notion of “dangerous neighborhoods,” extensive research on geographic concentration has consistently found that around half of all crime complaints or incidents of gun violence concentrated at about 5 percent of street segments or blocks in a given city. Moving past “violent communities,” sophisticated analysis of social networks have demonstrated that homicides and shootings are strongly concentrated within small social networks within cities—and that there is even further concentration of violence within these social networks.
For example: In Chicago, a city often used in the media and elsewhere as an example of the worst of American urban violence, researchers found that a social network with only 6 percent of the city’s population accounted for 70 percent of nonfatal gunshot victimizations. Violent crime isn’t waiting to happen on any given block of a poorer neighborhood, nor is it likely to arise from just anyone who happens to live in one.
While violence is concentrated in very particular places, it’s not the places themselves that are committing homicides.
And, despite claims to the contrary about upticks in violence associated with the “Ferguson Effect” or “ACLU Effect”—reductions in street stops when police have opted to, or have been forced to, change enforcement practices—massive levels of low-level enforcement does not produce public safety. In fact, such policing can make communities less safe by pushing people away from formal means of resolving disputes and towards private forms of violence. So how can we explain the nature of serious urban violence?
At the American Society of Criminology’s annual conference, my colleagues and I at the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College recently presented evidence of what many in the violence prevention field have known for a long time, but has yet to become the public common sense. In our forthcoming study of serious violence in over 20 cities, we found that less than 1 percent of a city’s population—the share involved in what we call “street groups” (gangs, sets, and crews)—is generally connected to over 50 percent of the city’s shootings and homicides. We use “group” as a term inclusive of any social network involved in violence, whether they are hierarchical, formal gangs, or loose neighborhood crews. In city after city, the very small number of people involved in these groups consistently perpetrated and were victimized by the most serious violence.
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Americans under the age of 26 more likely to be arrested than previous generations

Americans under the age of 26 are much more likely to be arrested than Americans born in previous decades, with the increase in arrest rates occurring most rapidly among white Americans and women, according to a new study by the Rand Corporation., as reported by The Crime Report.
Author James P Smith, the Distinguished Chair in Labor Markets and Demographic Studies at the RAND Corporation, argues the rising rate of arrests and convictions are associated with lower probabilities of being married, fewer weeks worked, lower hourly wages, and lower family incomes during Americans adulthood.
Data showed that people between ages 26 and 35 were 3.6 times more likely to have been arrested as compared to those who were at least 66 years old. About one-third of the men between the age of 26 and 35 had been arrested during their youth, 2.6 times the rate of those 66 and older.
However, women experienced an even more rapid relative increase in arrests, according to the findings.
Among those aged 66 and older, arrests before age 26 occurred among only one in 100 participants. But among those aged 26 to 35, about one in every seven women had been arrested at least once by age 26.
Moreover, Smith found that black men were more likely to have been arrested during their youth than white men (33 percent for blacks compared with 23 percent for whites), but the probability of being arrested was converging over time between the races.
“Increased enforcement is likely a critical driver of this trend,” Smith wrote in his report. “This evidence suggests that the growing criminalization of American youth is increasingly affecting all races and genders.”
Smith collected data from a survey of participants in the national Panel Study of Income Dynamics, which has gathered information for 50 years about 5,000 American families and 35,000 individuals living in those families
Significantly, Smith found that being arrested for a crime was associated with a 3.5 percentage point drop in the likelihood of being married, with multiple arrests further lowering the likelihood of marriage.
People arrested only once during childhood had about $6,000 less in annual earning as adults, with the earnings even lower (about $13,000 less) if someone had multiple arrests during childhood. People with violence or drug arrests averaged about $11,000 less in annual earnings.
“It is imperative that we better document the relative role played by criminal activity and enforcement because the trends have long-term consequences both for individuals and our society,” Smith concluded.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, February 25, 2019

Gov. Wolf talks criminal justice reform at National Governors Association

Rapper Meek Mill’s epic probation battles point to broader problems that continue to plague the criminal justice system, according to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, reported the Pennsylvania Capital Star.
Wolf spoke in a hotel conference room here Saturday during a meeting held by the National Governors Association, where he touted his state’s prison reform efforts and called for more sweeping changes.
The Democratic Pennsylvania governor, a former businessman, criticized a system that keeps people in prison and out of the workforce “simply because they might have made a mistake early on.” And he cautioned against imposing probations that are too long to be effective, pointing to Mill’s case.
Mill, a Philadelphia native, has been a key figure in the national debate about criminal justice reform in recent years. The chart-topping rapper’s legal drama dates back to a 2007 arrest, followed by a 2009 sentencing on gun and drug charges, Vox reported. He was punished several times after that for probation violations, and in 2017, he faced reckless endangerment charges after he was seen popping wheelies on a dirt bike in New York City.
Mill “was confined to 14 years of probation, and his last infraction was popping a wheelie,” Wolf said Saturday. “That’s the kind of thing that is just wrong, but it’s also not very smart.”
Pennsylvania has no caps on how long people can be on probation. That’s a problem, according to Wolf.
That “means that someone like Meek Mill, who does a wheelie, and the judge just apparently doesn’t like Meek Mill — you end up with 14 years being on probation with no end in sight.”
Wolf added, “I’m not sure why that would matter in any case, but it certainly doesn’t help Meek Mill, who is ready and able to make a great contribution to our society. It doesn’t help anybody who’s in a position to get back into the swing of things, help their family, help their community, help their economy. All those things are thwarted by having a bad criminal justice system.”
After a court ordered Mill’s early release from prison last year, the rapper appeared with Wolf at a news conference urging state lawmakers to enact criminal justice reforms, the Associated Press reported.
Wolf, who led a kitchen cabinet and building products company before he was elected in 2014, traces his interest in criminal justice reform back to the private sector.
“Like most business people, for most of the time that I was in business, I automatically excluded anybody who had any brush with the law. We did a background check, you had a record, you did anything, you were out. We didn’t even interview you,” he said.
About six or seven years ago, his company decided to change that “to say, ‘Let’s give a second chance here, see what happens,’” Wolf said. “And we found that they made for better employees. … They’re trying to prove something.”
“This is the holy grail of politics,” Wolf said Saturday. “You can bring extreme right and extreme left together because it’s not only fair, it’s smart and it actually gets people back into the economy.” He added, “Everything we do in criminal justice reform is a jobs bill.”
Beyond that, Wolf called for a broader look at mandatory minimum sentences.
“I think we need to actually move back from the stuff we were doing 20 years ago in this country across the board, not just in possession of small amounts of things like marijuana, but decriminalize a lot of activities that really should not have been criminalized in the first place.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Saturday, February 23, 2019

GateHouse: Google and the reverse location search warrant

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
February 22, 2019
Google knows where you are every minute of every day.
A recent Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store user location data even when the user doesn’t want the location data transmitted or stored.
The privacy issue affects some 2 billion users of devices that run Google’s Android operating software and hundreds of millions of worldwide iPhone users who rely on Google for maps or searches.
So, guess who’s looking for Google - the police. With all of that data about where people go, and where they have been, Google is a hot commodity in the criminal justice system.
For the last couple of years, police departments nationwide have been tapping into Google’s extensive catalogue of cell phone location data to help solve crimes.
Through the use of “reverse location search warrants” crime investigators have been able to track the movements of every cell phone in a given neighborhood, town or even across an entire city.
Reverse location search warrants are not your “founding fathers’” search warrants. When the Bill of Rights were drafted in 1791, the leaders of the new Republic were not far removed from the abusive British Writs of Assistance that were used to enter any colonial home, at any time, without basis to search for contraband.
The Fourth Amendment was what the founders came up with to protect themselves from unlawful searches and seizures. The amendment provides that people shall be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effect and that ”(N)o Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause.”
What is probable cause? An investigator seeking a search warrant must have supporting facts that a search will reveal evidence of a crime.
A reverse location search warrant differs from a traditional search warrant in that it doesn’t identify a suspect and establish probable cause to ask for evidence of a suspect’s crimes. Instead, it asks for information about everyone in an area at a certain time, working backwards to identify a suspect.
Initially, a reverse location search warrant requests anonymized data, data that is not attributed to a named individual, from a specific geographic area during a period of time that is related to a crime.
With the anonymized list, the search warrant may provide that law enforcement will narrow it down by comparing the specific time of crime with the location of a cell phone. Once reduced a second time, the smaller anonymized list is produced. The police then request identifying account information, including user names, subscriber information and devices associated with the specific accounts.
That information is used to connect the same individual to multiple crime scenes or separate areas that are crucial to the investigation.
Law enforcement officials promote the warrants an important new tool in fighting crime organized criminal activity, and it does not infringe on an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy.
Criminal defense attorneys argue that providing enormous amounts of data to law enforcement based on a “hunch” violates the Fourth Amendment. Reverse location search warrants are based on a hunch. The police are operating on the theory that the person responsible for a crime at a given location had an Android or iPhone and - if their hunch is correct - they might be able to pick the suspect out of hundreds or even thousands of other cell phone users.
″(Law enforcement) needs to suspect a particular person or criminal activity, not just go, for example, search every home in a given area,” Jennifer Lynch, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation told NPR.
No one would tolerate the government going into every home in a neighborhood to search for a suspect, nor should one look the other way when the police - without probable cause or specificity or even a suspect - are permitted to analyze data on thousands of law abiding citizens.
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 @MatthewTMangino.
To visit the column CLICK HERE


Thursday, February 21, 2019

Ohio governor halts lethal injection citing cruel and unusual punishment

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said that he is halting executions until the state devises a new lethal injection protocol that overcomes any court challenges, reported the Dayton Daily News.
He did not issue a formal stay of all executions but said “Ohio is not going to execute someone under my watch when a federal judge has found it to be cruel and unusual punishment.”
He directed prison officials to come up with a new protocol, which will likely face legal challenge in federal court, he said. 
 “We certainly could have no executions during that period of time. I don’t want to predict dates, but we have to have the protocol, then it will be challenged, then we have a judge make a decision. So we have to through all that process before we could certainly move down the path toward an execution,” he said.
The next scheduled execution is May 29. DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said the governor will decide whether to go ahead or delay that execution based on the facts at the time, including whether the federal judge’s ruling has been overturned.
When asked if he now has personal reservations about capital punishment, DeWine said, “It is the law of the state of Ohio. I’m going to let it go at that at this point. We are seeing, clearly, some challenges that you all have reported in regard to carrying out the death penalty. I’m not going to go down that path any more today.”
DeWine voted for the capital punishment law as a state senator nearly 40 years ago, long before DNA analysis of crime scene evidence led to exonerations from death rows across the country.
When asked if those exonerations have changed his view of the capital punishment, DeWine responded, “I think there is a lot of things we know today that we have the benefit of seeing how it has played out since 1981. We know more today.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Once again the U.S. Supreme Court reverses death sentence for Texas inmate

For the second time, the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' way of determining if a death row inmate is intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for execution, reported the Texas Tribune.
The high court made that determination in the case of Bobby Moore, whom the court decided is intellectually disabled.
Moore's case highlights the complexities surrounding intellectual disability and the death penalty. The Supreme Court has ruled that those with intellectual disabilities can’t be executed, and after reviewing Moore’s case in 2016, it tossed out the way the Texas court determines the disability in 2017. The Texas court previously relied on decades-old medical standards and a controversial set of factors created by judges to make the determination, including how well the inmate could lie.
After that ruling, the prosecutor sided with Moore and said that he is intellectually disabled, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals still disagreed, claiming last Junethat he was eligible for execution under current medical standards as well. Now, the high court has stepped in again, and this time, the majority of justices made clear that Moore has shown he is disabled and therefore ineligible for execution. The court's opinion knocked the Texas court for relying on the same methods it had ruled against in the 2017 opinion, like focusing on Moore's strengths instead of his weaknesses, especially strengths gained in a controlled prison environment.
The justices also said that despite the Texas court saying it had eliminated its controversial set of factors, which the high court said were problematic for advancing stereotypes, "it seems to have used many of those factors in reaching its conclusion."
"To be sure, the court of appeals opinion is not identical to the opinion we considered in Moore," the justices wrote. "There are sentences here and there suggesting other modes of analysis consistent with what we said. But there are also sentences here and there suggesting reliance upon what we earlier called 'lay stereotypes of the intellectually disabled.'"
Moore, 59, was sentenced to death more than 38 years ago after he fatally shot a 73-year-old clerk during a Houston robbery in 1980. In 2014, a Texas court determined under current medical standards that Moore was intellectually disabled — with evidence including low IQ scores and his inability to tell time or days of the week as a teenager.
But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overruled that decision, saying the lower court failed to use its test in making the determination. The Supreme Court invalidated that method upon review.
"By rejecting the habeas court’s application of medical guidance and clinging to the standard it laid out ... the CCA failed adequately to inform itself of the 'medical community’s diagnostic framework,'" Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the 5-3 opinion in 2017.
In an unusual step, the prosecutor — Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, a Democrat — filed a brief to the Texas court after that ruling stating that she agreed with Moore that he was intellectually disabled and should not be executed. In a surprise June opinion, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed to use current medical standards as a method to determine if a death row inmate had an intellectual disability but said that Moore still did not qualify.
 To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Wyoming lawmaker invokes Jesus in support of the death penalty

The Wyoming Senate recently defeated a bill that would have repealed the state’s death penalty, ending the most successful legislative attempt to do away with capital punishment in recent memory, reported the Casper Star Tribune.
Having passed the House by a safe margin, the bill was swiftly voted down by the Wyoming Senate on its first reading. The final vote was 12-18.
“The vote was different than I expected to see from talking with people beforehand,” said the bill’s sponsor in the Senate, Brian Boner, R-Converse. “There’s a lot of different factors and, at the end of the day, everyone has to make their best determination based on the information they have.”
Sen. Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne, argued that without the death penalty, Jesus Christ would not have been able to die to absolve the sins of mankind, and therefore capital punishment should be maintained.
“The greatest man who ever lived died via the death penalty for you and me,” she said. “I’m grateful to him for our future hope because of this. Governments were instituted to execute justice. If it wasn’t for Jesus dying via the death penalty, we would all have no hope.”
Wyoming has not executed a prisoner since 1992. According to Wyoming Department of Corrections Director Bob Lampert, the average death row inmate costs the agency 30 percent more to incarcerate than a general population prisoner, with an average stay of 17 years.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, February 18, 2019

Book Review: Butterfly in the Rain, The Abduction and Murder of Marion Parker

Author: James L. Neibaur
Rowman & Littefield (2016)
Reviewed by Matthew T. Mangino for
The Champion            
             James L. Neibaur has written prolifically about the motion picture industry and Hollywood.  His first foray into true crime is worthy of the silver screen.  Neibaur’s Butterfly in the Rain, published by Rowman & Littlefield, tells the story of William Edward Hickman, a vain and diabolical egotist who kidnapped and savagely murdered Marion Parker, the 12- year-old daughter of a banking executive.
            Hickman, who was 19 years old, had delusions of grandeur.
            In 1927, he entered an elementary school in Los Angeles, California and asked to take Parker out of school, claiming that her father had been in an accident. Despite seemingly obvious inconsistencies in his story, a member of the school staff—enamored by the suave and well-spoken Hickman—released the child into his custody.
            That night, Marion’s father, Perry Parker, received a telegram from Hickman demanding a meager ransom, even by early twentieth century standards. The payoff ended in a graphic and heart-wrenching exchange between Hickman and Perry Parker.
            Hickman was quickly arrested. His detailed justification for the murder of Parker is chilling—if not evidence of a mental defect.  He said he killed Marion to (1) evade detection; (2) avoid disappointing Marion; and (3) an uncontrollable desire to commit a great crime.
            Neibaur’s narrative is based almost exclusively on newspaper accounts of the murder and investigation. There was no shortage of news account because the sensational nature of the crime and the closely followed trial generated national attention. Neibaur also had access to trial transcripts which he quotes from at length.  The transcripts reveal arguments and testimony that would undoubtedly merit intense scrutiny by modern appellate courts.
            The book is easy to read, and the pace is quick.  Neibaur’s prose can capture a reader’s attention.  There is some repetition which is either to add length to the book or an ill-conceived effort to build on the sensational subject matter.
            Parker’s murder came on the heels of the famed Leopold and Loeb trial and shortly before the infamous Lindbergh kidnapping, lending to the fact that, although riveting, the Parker murder had been lost to history.
            Through the work of Neibaur this tragic story has been introduced to a new generation of true crime readers. The book comes at a time when “stranger danger” has driven lawmakers to enact draconian laws that keeps those who prey on children locked-up for years and in some instances indefinitely.
            Hickman’s attorneys would raise an insanity defense on behalf of their client. Neibaur wrote at one point “It was considered by some that his ploy was to appear like an insane person trying to seem that he was sane.”  Neibaur conceded that the scheme was “a bit convoluted.”
            It would have been interesting to learn more about Hickman’s defense and how it played out in court. The early use of the insanity defense would have provided a unique glimpse into the California legal system in the early twentieth century—unfortunately, that sort of detail was not provided.
            Neibaur had a noticeable bias against Hickman.  Certainly Hickman was not a likeable figure, but Neibaur crossed the line from storyteller to anti-Hickman zealot as the book progressed from murder, to arrest, to trial. Neibaur writes, Hickman “was a frightened, angry, confused, egocentric, petty thief and cold-blooded killer who ended the life of a little girl . . . “ 
            Scientific America wrote of lepidopterists “describing butterflies darting into protective vegetation and scrambling beneath leaves when dark skies, strong breezes and the first raindrops signal an imminent storm.”
            Marion Parker, unlike the butterfly, didn’t recognize the “imminent storm” as it gathered in the form of William Edward Hickman.  We’ll never really know Hickman’s true intentions when he went to pick-up Parker at school, nor his ability to appreciate the difference between right and wrong. However, this long forgotten tragedy deserves our attention and we owe a debt of gratitude to Neibaur for bringing it to us.
(Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. in New Castle, PA. His book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010 was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino)

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Baltimore police uncomfortable making some arrests

Most Baltimore Police officers who participated in a recent informal survey feel restricted by the department’s federal consent decree, inadequately trained and unsupported by city leadership, reported the Baltimore Sun.
Some of the officers surveyed said they don’t even feel comfortable intervening in incidents and making arrests without having been called to the scene.
“They’re afraid,” said City Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer, who conducted the unscientific survey. “In this political environment, you have to justify every move you make.”
About 362 of the department’s nearly 2,300 officers responded to Schleifer’s voluntary survey, which was sent at the end of 2018 via department email to police department leadership, officers and civilian members who responded anonymously. The short questionnaire asked basic biographical information, including respondents’ ages and how long they had served on the force, and questions about overall morale.
The results showed 43 percent said they do not feel “comfortable making self-initiated arrests,” which Schleifer said refers to proactive calls when officers are on patrol and they witness an incident and intervene, as opposed to calls they respond to through 911.
The survey also found that 74 percent said they “feel restricted by the consent decree,” while 44 percent said they don’t “fully understand the consent decree.” Only 60 percent said they feel “adequately trained” while 78 percent said they feel the department has “lowered our hiring standards.”
Two of every three officers who took the survey — 68 percent — also said they do not feel city leadership supports law enforcement.
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, February 16, 2019

GateHouse: The southern border a ‘National Emergency’

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
February 15, 2019
Congress and the President Donald Trump reached a bipartisan deal to avert a government shutdown. The recent 35-day shutdown was the longest in U.S. history. The deal only includes $1.375 billion for border barriers and increased border security - far short of the $5.7 billion President Trump had demanded.
President Trump will not take no for an answer when it comes to his signature campaign promise to build a wall. Trump has decided to fund his wall unilaterally - during Rose Garden remarks on Friday, the president declared a “national emergency” on the southern border.
Unknown to most Americans, our Constitution’s system of checks and balances can be easily swept away when a president declares a national emergency.
According to Elizabeth Goitein, writing in The Atlantic, “The moment the president declares a ‘national emergency’ - a decision that is entirely within his discretion - more than 100 special provisions become available to him.”
There are legitimate reasons to declare a national emergency. Usually, those reasons are clear and beyond debate - a catastrophic natural disaster, a threat from a foreign nation or war - but, a border wall?
The U.S. Constitution does not address the emergency powers of the president. It does, however, provide emergency powers to Congress. For instance, the Constitution permits Congress to suspend the writ of habeas corpus - allowing the government to imprison people indefinitely without due process.
However, the lack of authority to act has not stopped presidents from exercising authority they did not have. President Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War.
Chief Justice Roger Taney issued a ruling that President Lincoln did not have the authority to suspend habeas corpus. Lincoln didn’t respond, appeal or release any prisoners. Lincoln was defiant, insisting that he needed to suspend the writ in order to save the union.
Five years later, the Supreme Court held that only Congress could suspend habeas corpus and that civilians were not subject to military courts, even in times of war.
Lincoln was not the first or last president to ignore the law during times of legitimate crisis. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps by order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt following the attack on Pearl Harbor and throughout World War II.
It took the federal government 40 years to address Roosevelt’s abuse of power. Each camp survivor was awarded $20,000 in compensation by the government.
President George W. Bush’s programs of warrantless wiretapping and torture after the 9/11 terrorist attacks have also been acknowledged as an abuse of presidential emergency powers.
Although the courts have often found a way to justify an abuse of executive authority or just look the other way - the High Court, in a ruling out of Youngstown, Ohio, did overturn President Harry Truman’s bid to take over steel mills during the Korean War. This case, having been the exception provides little guidance on the limitations of presidential power.
The Constitution is relatively silent on the issue, but Congress has been anything but quite. Over the past century, Congress has repeatedly passed laws granting the president emergency powers that would otherwise have been reserved to itself.
Lorelei Laird wrote in the ABA Journal that President Trump will use the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to declare his national emergency.
Is there hope that the president’s emergency powers will be held in check?
The U.S. is currently under 31 concurrent states of emergency about a host of international issues, according to a CNN review of documents from the Congressional Research Service and the Federal Register.
The National Emergencies Act is woefully limited. First it doesn’t define what an emergency is and requires only that the president specify the statute under which he’s acting. Second, the Act provides that Congress must meet every six months to vote on whether the emergency declaration is still necessary, a task the Congress has never taken up since the law was enacted.
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 @MatthewTMangino.
To visit the column CLICK HERE

Friday, February 15, 2019

Trial Analyst Matthew Mangino Discusses Chris Watts case on Law and Crime Network

Watch my segment with Jesse Weber on Law and Crime Network talking about the wrongful death lawsuit filed against Chris Watts killer of his wife and two young daughters. To watch the segment CLICK HERE

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Barr redux: Old AG confirmed as new AG 54-45

William Barr, a former U.S. Attorney General and a conservative, will return to head the Justice Department, stepping in to oversee the special counsel probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election as it appears to near its end, reported the National Law Journal.
Barr was confirmed by a 54-45 vote in the U.S. Senate. Three Democratic senators—Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Doug Jones of Alabama—joined the Republican majority to approve Barr’s nomination. Only one Republican—Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky—broke from GOP ranks to oppose Barr’s bid.
Barr was nominated to head the Justice Department by President Donald Trump in December following the forced resignation of then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Since then, Matthew Whitaker has served as acting attorney general—even as his own installation atop the Justice Department became mired in controversy and drew challenges in federal courts.
To read more CLICK HERE

Police look to recruit non-citizens with legal status

My former classmate at Penn, Simone Weichselbaum, wrote for The Marshall Project
Non-citizens with legal status can enlist in the U.S. military and risk their lives in combat. But in most states they cannot be employed as police officers. Now dozens of police chiefs and sheriffs, alarmed at the shrinking numbers of qualified recruits, want to see the long-standing prohibition lifted.
“I don’t think someone’s citizenship is indicative in any way of someone’s suitability to be a police officer,” said Police Chief Tom Manger in Montgomery County, Maryland, a suburb of Washington D.C. He co-chairs a national task force of policing executives, which includes members who are lobbying legislatures to change the law in Maryland and elsewhere.
The movement is part of a broader recognition that the difficulty in recruiting police is not just a result of low pay and battered morale—the so-called Ferguson Effect—but of numerous obstacles thrown up by politicians or police themselves.
Jurisdiction by jurisdiction, those barriers are being challenged, often successfully.
A growing number of law enforcement agencies will now accept applicants who admit past drug use or have arrest records for low-level offenses, who lack college degrees and who sport tattoos or facial hair.
But frustrated cops say they are still being handcuffed by arcane state laws and slow-to-respond state oversight commissions.
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Since Parkland 1,200 young lives snuffed out by firearms

The 12-month period starting Feb. 14, 2018, saw nearly 1,200 young lives snuffed out by firearms, reported McClatchy Newspapers. That’s a Parkland every five days, enough victims to fill three ultra-wide Boeing 777s. The true number is certainly higher because no government agency keeps a real-time tally and funding for research is restricted by law.
The Trace, an online nonprofit news organization that covers firearms issues, wanted to commemorate those lost lives. It assembled a team of more than 200 journalists — kids themselves — to research and write short portraits of every victim, 18 and under.
On the anniversary of the Parkland massacre, The Trace is publishing those portraits. In conjunction, the Miami Herald and McClatchy are presenting a series of stories on the year in gun violence against children.
When they weren’t taking cover from school shooters, young Americans died as a result of murder-suicides, jealous rages, indiscriminate drive-bys, targeted attacks and horrific preventable accidents.
Several died in explosive video game disputes. One young man was killed when, according to a witness, a loose gun inside a box he was hauling discharged. A 10-year-old girl was gunned down while scampering toward an ice cream truck. A father shot his 6-year-old girl by accident while cleaning his gun.
Older teens were more commonly victims, followed by small children, ages 2 and 3. Cities were deadlier than rural areas.
Although the data collected didn’t include race and ethnicity, it is clear that most victims were minorities in communities awash in firearms.
“This is America. Anyone who wants a gun will be able to obtain one and at competitive prices,” said Thomas Hargrove, founder of the Murder Accountability Project, whose searchable website features homicide data and analytic tools. “That’s simply the truth.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Prosecutors want new sentencing for officer who killed Laquan McDonald

Special prosecutors and the Illinois attorney general’s office want the state’s highest court to order a resentencing for Jason Van Dyke, a move that if granted could result in a much harsher prison term for the former Chicago police officer convicted in the slaying of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, reported the Chicago Tribune.
Their petition, filed Monday, does not explicitly target the length of the 6 3/4-year sentence, which many activists criticized as lenient. But Kane County State’s Attorney Joseph McMahon, appointed to handle the Van Dyke case, and Attorney General Kwame Raoul argue that Judge Vincent Gaughan sentenced Van Dyke under improper legal guidelines, and note that a significantly longer sentence would be justifiable under state law.
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Monday, February 11, 2019

SCOTUS on religious freedom: final prayer v. cake maker

Domineque Ray died at 10:12 p.m. Thursday night, by lethal injection at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama. The execution was allowed to proceed after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to stay it, reported Slate. The request for the stay came via a religious argument—the prison’s policy only allowed a Christian chaplain into the execution chamber. Ray’s attorneys argued this policy violated his religious freedoms—Ray was Muslim.
By a 5–4 vote, the court vacated the stay. As NPR later reported, the Christian chaplain was not in the execution chamber, at Ray’s request. He died with his imam, Yusef Maisonet, witnessing from an adjoining chamber. Maisonet said there are prayers required of a Muslim before he dies. Maisonet told, “We want to make sure his last words are, ‘There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his prophet.’ ” He was not permitted to so do.
The injury to a death row inmate who may not have the spiritual adviser of his choosing is seemingly lesser than the injury to the state that needs to kill him immediately. This is a court that has staked its moral legitimacy on the proposition that religion, above all, is at the very core of humanity, to be elevated in all instances no matter the competing interests. In so many faiths, there is no more sacred moment than entry and departure from this life.
But never mind. For a court that cannot bear the thought of a religious baker forced to frost a cake in violation of his spiritual convictions to be wholly unaffected at the prospect of a man given last rites by a member of another faith borders on staggering. The court that had no problem with a transparently anti-Muslim immigration ban, promised and performed as an anti-religious measure, looks more and more like it has two standards for protecting religious liberty.
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Sunday, February 10, 2019

Longest serving congressman leaves us with his final thoughts before departing this world

John D. Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who served in the U.S. House from 1955 to 2015, was the longest-serving member of Congress in American history. He dictated these reflections to his wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), at their home in Dearborn, on Feb. 7, the day he died and published by the Washington Post:

One of the advantages to knowing that your demise is imminent, and that reports of it will not be greatly exaggerated, is that you have a few moments to compose some parting thoughts.
In our modern political age, the presidential bully pulpit seems dedicated to sowing division and denigrating, often in the most irrelevant and infantile personal terms, the political opposition.
And much as I have found Twitter to be a useful means of expression, some occasions merit more than 280 characters.
My personal and political character was formed in a different era that was kinder, if not necessarily gentler. We observed modicums of respect even as we fought, often bitterly and savagely, over issues that were literally life and death to a degree that — fortunately – we see much less of today.
Think about it:
Impoverishment of the elderly because of medical expenses was a common and often accepted occurrence. Opponents of the Medicare program that saved the elderly from that cruel fate called it “socialized medicine.” Remember that slander if there’s a sustained revival of silly red-baiting today.
Not five decades ago, much of the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth — our own Great Lakes — were closed to swimming and fishing and other recreational pursuits because of chemical and bacteriological contamination from untreated industrial and wastewater disposal. Today, the Great Lakes are so hospitable to marine life that one of our biggest challenges is controlling the invasive species that have made them their new home.
We regularly used and consumed foods, drugs, chemicals and other things (cigarettes) that were legal, promoted and actively harmful. Hazardous wastes were dumped on empty plots in the dead of night. There were few if any restrictions on industrial emissions. We had only the barest scientific knowledge of the long-term consequences of any of this.
And there was a great stain on America, in the form of our legacy of racial discrimination. There were good people of all colors who banded together, risking and even losing their lives to erase the legal and other barriers that held Americans down. In their time, they were often demonized and targeted, much like other vulnerable men and women today.
Please note: All of these challenges were addressed by Congress. Maybe not as fast as we wanted, or as perfectly as hoped. The work is certainly not finished. But we’ve made progress — and in every case, from the passage of Medicare through the passage of civil rights, we did it with the support of Democrats and Republicans who considered themselves first and foremost to be Americans.
I’m immensely proud, and eternally grateful, for having had the opportunity to play a part in all of these efforts during my service in Congress. And it’s simply not possible for me to adequately repay the love that my friends, neighbors and family have given me and shown me during my public service and retirement.
But I would be remiss in not acknowledging the forgiveness and sweetness of the woman who has essentially supported me for almost 40 years: my wife, Deborah. And it is a source of great satisfaction to know that she is among the largest group of women to have ever served in the Congress (as she busily recruits more).
In my life and career, I have often heard it said that so-and-so has real power — as in, “the powerful Wile E. Coyote, chairman of the Capture the Road Runner Committee.”
It’s an expression that has always grated on me. In democratic government, elected officials do not havepower. They hold power — in trust for the people who elected them. If they misuse or abuse that public trust, it is quite properly revoked (the quicker the better).
I never forgot the people who gave me the privilege of representing them. It was a lesson learned at home from my father and mother, and one I have tried to impart to the people I’ve served with and employed over the years.
As I prepare to leave this all behind, I now leave you in control of the greatest nation of mankind and pray God gives you the wisdom to understand the responsibility you hold in your hands.
May God bless you all, and may God bless America.
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Saturday, February 9, 2019

GateHouse: Roberts splits with conservatives on abortion issue

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
February 8, 2019
Chief Justice John Roberts recently voted with the Court’s liberal members providing a victory to opponents of a 2014 Louisiana law that required doctors offering abortion services to have hospital privileges within 30 miles of their office.
Those challenging the implementation of the Louisiana law argued that it was identical to a Texas law the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. In that ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy joined with the liberal block of the Court finding that the Texas law imposed an obstacle on women seeking access to abortion services.
In 2016, Roberts voted with the conservatives in support of the Texas law. Why did Roberts change his position on this hot-button political issue? Some would suggest that he didn’t change his mind, the High Court set a precedent in 2016 and Roberts now supports the Court’s precedent.
However, there may be more to Roberts’ change of heart than just upholding precedent.
Last fall, after California Federal District Court Judge Jon Tigar put a temporary hold on the Trump administration’s plan to no longer consider asylum applications from immigrants who illegally cross the border, President Donald Trump referred to Tigar as an “Obama judge.”
Chief Justice Roberts shot back, “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.”
So what is Roberts trying to accomplish with his rebuke of the president and his unlikely vote on abortion?
According to the Alliance for Justice, it is well known that Roberts cares deeply about his own legacy and about the reputation of the Court as an institution, so he wants to avoid the appearance of partisanship. The Court now has five dyed-in-the-wool conservatives - two appointed by President Trump.
In the last 20 years, conservatives on the Supreme Court have been responsible for a number of decisions that, at a minimum, have the appearance of partisanship starting with Bush v. Gore. In 2010, the High Court turned politics on its head with the Citizens United decision and in 2013 the Court eviscerated the Voting Rights Act.
It is no secret that Roberts is concerned with the appearance of a partisan Supreme Court. In an interview with The Atlantic Roberts said, “Politics are closely divided. The same with the Congress. There ought to be some sense of some stability, if the government is not going to polarize completely. It’s a high priority to keep any kind of partisan divide out of the judiciary as well.”
If the Supreme Court becomes mired in hyper partisanship then the court will be no better than the politicos who inhabit the White House and D’s and R’s that occupy the capital.
What does the Louisiana decision mean for a woman’s right to choose? During the salacious confirmation hearings for the newest member of the Court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the alarm sounded that a fifth conservative justice could mean the end of Roe v. Wade.
Women’s rights groups were assured by GOP Senator Susan Collin when she said she was satisfied that Justice Kavanaugh would protect reproductive rights. Well, that hasn’t gone as planned. Not only did Kavanaugh support the immediate implementation of the Louisiana law, he wrote a dissenting opinion.
Chief Justice Roberts intervened and tilted the scales away from implementation. But, what will tomorrow bring? The Louisiana law has never gone into effect. It was blocked by a U.S. District Court Judge. The Fifth Circuit overturned the District Court.
However, the Supreme Court did not overturn the law. The Supreme Court only granted a delay to review the matter.
The Court may still refuse to hear the case and leave the Circuit Court decision in place. According to NPR, that would be a tacit acknowledgment that a majority of the justices no longer support the 2016 decision and may be an easy way out for Roberts.
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 @MatthewTMangino.
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Friday, February 8, 2019

Alabama executes Muslim man without his imam

The 2nd Execution of 2019
Alabama death row inmate Domineque Ray died by lethal injection on the evening of February 8, 2019, reported the Montgomery Advertiser. 
Prison officials recorded his time of death as 10:12 p.m. 
Ray was executed after an 11th-hour ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a stay of execution pending a religious rights claim. Ray, a Muslim, had argued Alabama's practice of including a Christian prison chaplain in the execution chamber was in violation of the First Amendment. Ray sought to have his imam present at the time of his death. 
Imam Yusef Maisonet, Ray's spiritual adviser, witnessed Ray's execution from an adjoining chamber, which held media and prison officials. Two lawyers accompanied Maisonet. 
When the curtain opened at 9:44 p.m., Ray lifted his head from the gurney, looking into the witness room. With his right hand in a fist, he extended a pointer finger. 
Maisonet appeared to mirror the gesture and murmured that it was an acknowledgement of the singular God of the Islamic faith. When asked if he had any final words, Ray gave a brief faith declaration in Arabic. 
At 9:48, Ray made a fist with his left hand, raising his head slightly to look at his arm. His left arm shook briefly, before his eyes closed a minute later. 
When the curtains to the witness chamber were drawn at 10:05 p.m., Ray's right pointer remained extended. 
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals had previously stayed the execution, writing that there was a possibility Alabama had "run afoul" of the religious freedom clause of the First Amendment. 
The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to vacate the stay "because Ray waited until Jan. 28, 2019, to seek relief." 
Justices Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor dissented to the ruling.
"Here, Ray has put forward a powerful claim that his religious rights will be violated at the moment the State puts him to death," Kagan wrote in her dissent. "The Eleventh Circuit wanted to hear that claim in full. Instead, this Court short-circuits that ordinary process — and itself rejects the claim with little briefing and no argument — just so the State can meet its preferred execution date."
Ray was sentenced to death for the 1995 rape and fatal stabbing of 15-year-old Tiffany Harville of Selma. Months before his death penalty trial, he was sentenced to life for a 1994 slaying of two teen brothers.
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Thursday, February 7, 2019

NFL 'Players Coalition' pushes for criminal justice reform

The NFL season came to a close on Super Bowl Sunday, with the New England Patriots beating the Los Angeles Rams 13-3.
For the league itself, 2018 was a success. Television ratings were up five percent, with a per game average of 15.8 million viewers.
Several players did continue to protest police brutality and racial inequality during the National Anthem, but on-field activism didn’t define the season. At the same time, activism did continue on in the NFL, reported The Takeaway.
A group known as the Players Coalition, founded by Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin, has pushed the league to donate money towards issues including criminal justice reform and education equity. In 2017, the NFL made a deal with the coalition to donate $89 million to social justice causes over the course of seven years.
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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

'Trump Slump' continues, gun sales fall again in 2018

Gun sales tumbled for the second year in a row in 2018, according to an analysis of background check totals by Jurgen Brauer, an economist at Augusta University whose consulting firm, Small Arms Analytics, monitors gun transfers, reported The Trace. 
That’s despite one of the highest-profile mass shootings in American history at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, as well as sustained gun control activism, and electoral victories by Democrats who almost uniformly promised to pursue stronger gun laws.In past years, similar factors have bumped firearm sales to record highs. But last year, shootings and demands for gun control failed to arrest what has been called the gun industry’s “Trump slump.”
Americans bought an estimated 13.8 million firearms in 2018, according to Brauer. That’s still historically strong: in only five of the last 20 years have American bought more guns than they did the previous year. But the 2018 total is down from an all-time high of 16.6 million guns sold in 2016 and 14.7 million in 2017. Few observers were surprised when sales fell during the first year of the Trump administration: With pro-gun Republicans at the height of their power at both the federal and state level, the gun-buying public had reason to believe the president and Congress would block new firearm laws, even after the Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs massacres.
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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Prosecutors seek Trump inaugural documents

Prosecutors in New York have reportedly ordered President Donald Trump’s inauguration committee to hand over documents related to donors and finances, reported the Huffington Post.
According to ABC, which first reported the news, a lawyer working with the committee received a subpoena from federal prosecutors seeking documents related to the organization’s donors, event attendees, perks, contracts and vendors, among other things.
Prosecutors also are looking for any illegal foreign contributions and whether committee staff members were aware of such illegality, The New York Times reported. Federal law prohibits foreign donations to federal campaigns, political action committees and inaugural funds.
The Trump inaugural fund raised $107 million. The committee was chaired by Trump’s longtime friend Thomas Barrack, who the Times said is not mentioned in the subpoena.
A committee spokesman told the Times the organization is still reviewing the subpoena but plans to cooperate with the investigation, which prosecutors opened last year amid scrutiny over the committee.
A spokesperson for the Southern District of New York didn’t immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
The investigation into the committee was sparked by the investigation into Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer who is expected to begin his prison sentence in March after pleading guilty to campaign finance-related crimes in which he implicated the president.
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Monday, February 4, 2019

ICE officers stalking Pennsylvania courthouses

The Philadelphia the United States, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement  (ICE) office is the most aggressive in the country, seizing more undocumented immigrants with no criminal convictions than any other. Courthouse arrests are a key part of its strategy, reported Slate. ICE agents stake out Pennsylvania courts and persuade personnel to reveal the immigration status of plaintiffs, defendants, parolees—anyone with business before a judge. Then they arrest these immigrants, either in the courthouse or just outside it, placing them in detention and thwarting their access to justice.
The Pennsylvania judiciary does not have to be complicit in ICE’s assault on the integrity of its justice system. On Wednesday, the Sheller Center for Social Justice at Temple University Beasley School of Law released a new report detailing the devastating impact of ICE’s tactics on Pennsylvania’s immigrants—and urged the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to halt state courts’ collusion with the agency. Its findings bolsters proposals put forth by the ICE Out of Courts Coalition, a collection of public defenders and immigrant advocates led by Community Legal Services. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court can’t stop ICE from snatching immigrants in their homes, schools, and offices. But it can keep ICE agents out of the courthouses where immigrants have a constitutional right to be.
Unsurprisingly, the Temple report notes that ICE activity in Pennsylvania surged after Trump’s election, partly because the president encouraged officers to target individuals without criminal records. ICE conducted courthouse arrests in at least 13 Pennsylvania counties, most of which have large immigrant populations. Probation officials, meanwhile, regularly collaborate with the agency, telling ICE agents which probationers are undocumented. Some probation officers inform ICE when probationers are scheduled for a check-in—allowing ICE to wait at the courthouse and arrest them when they arrive. Others share probationers’ personal information with ICE so agents can seize them at their homes.
Judges, too, help ICE identify undocumented individuals whose immigration status has nothing to do with their claims before the court. A Cumberland County judge called ICE on a couple seeking to get married because she suspected the groom, who is Hispanic, was undocumented. (He wasn’t, but ICE came to the courtroom and fingerprinted him just to make sure.) A Lancaster County judge pressed a defendant about his immigration status during a traffic hearing; when he acknowledged that he was undocumented, the judge had him jailed and asked a police officer to notify ICE. Chester County judges have asked individuals with “Spanish surnames” about their immigration status in an effort to identify undocumented immigrants to report.
The Temple study’s authors implore the Pennsylvania Supreme Court—which promulgates rules for the state judiciary—to convene a task force to craft a response to ICE’s assault on courthouses. Luckily, the ICE Out of Courts Coalition has already proposed a number of sensible policies for the courts to adopt. Among other things, the coalition has called on the courts to prohibit immigration arrests at courthouses, including their “outlying premises”; to prohibit collusion between ICE and court personnel; and to compel ICE officers to identify themselves upon entering a state courthouse.
In 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court proved it was not afraid to take bold action to safeguard individuals’ rights under the state constitution, striking down a GOP gerrymanderdespite a relentless assault by Republican lawmakers. Its progressive majority should not back down from a fight with Trump’s deportation machine. The justices do not have to stand idly by as the Pennsylvania judiciary becomes a stalking ground for ICE agents. They have the power to stop ICE’s immigrations arrests at state courthouses. And Pennsylvania’s victimized, vilified immigrants have nowhere else to turn. 
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Sunday, February 3, 2019

Alabama judge denies condemned man Muslim iman

A federal judge ruled that a Muslim inmate’s scheduled lethal injection can proceed next week without an imam present but said Alabama must keep a Christian prison chaplain out of the execution chamber, reported The Associated Press.
U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins denied a stay requested by Dominique Ray, 42. Ray is scheduled to be executed Feb. 7 for the 1995 fatal stabbing of 15-year-old Tiffany Harville.
Ray says his religious rights are being violated because Alabama has a Christian prison chaplain present at lethal injections, but will not let him have an imam in the room with him as the lethal drugs are administered.
Ray’s lawyers argued that he has the same right to religious comfort in his final moments as a Christian inmate.
Watkins said for security reasons the state can limit death chamber access to prison employees.
The judge ordered the state to keep the prison chaplain out of the death chamber during Ray’s execution. The state already said it was willing to do so.
Condemned inmates in Alabama can visit with their spiritual adviser before their execution and have the person witness the procedure through the glass window of an adjoining room. However, only the prison chaplain and a correctional officer are in the room with the inmate during the lethal injection procedure.
The chaplain will sometimes kneel and pray with an inmate who is strapped to a gurney.
Court records indicate that Ray is appealing.
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Saturday, February 2, 2019

GateHouse: Pittsburgh mayor fights for gun restrictions

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
February 1, 2019
After 11 worshipers were brutally gunned down at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last fall, that city’s mayor, Bill Peduto, took on President Donald Trump’s call for more armed guards at places of worship, or in schools, as a means of thwarting mass shooters.
Peduto told NBC’s “Meet the Press” at the time, that he believed gun restrictions would go further to help stop shootings. “I don’t think that the answer to this problem is solved by having our synagogues, mosques and churches filled with armed guards or schools filled with armed guards.”
At a news conference in December, Peduto took action. Joined by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, he unveiled some of the most significant gun legislation proposed by a Pennsylvania city in decades.
The proposed city ordinance includes three specific components. The first would make it unlawful to manufacture, sell or possess an assault weapon within the city limits. A second component bans bump stocks, armor-piercing bullets and other weapon accessories, and the third gives local courts expanded rights to seize the firearms of citizens deemed a threat by their immediate family members or law enforcement.
From the outset, the proposal has been mired in controversy. Within weeks of introducing the city ordinance, hundreds of armed protesters showed up at city hall in opposition.
Then the district attorney wrote a letter to city council saying the council and mayor have no authority to do what they have proposed. “I understand the desire of local governments to be proactive in reducing gun violence” wrote Stephen Zappala, Allegheny County district attorney. “I believe, however, that the legislative effort needs to come from the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and that the legislation currently before Council, if passed, will be found unconstitutional.”
Peduto’s response to Zappala, “Arrest me.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette apparently agrees with Zappala. The editorial board recently attacked Peduto’s proposal writing, “Instead of passing toothless laws and miring the city in litigation, city officials should harness the outrage over the Tree of Life tragedy and lobby the Legislature to address gun laws comprehensively.”
Things haven’t improved for Peduto. A handful of city residents incensed over the proposal have accused Peduto of “malfeasance in office,” and are seeking to have him impeached. Just this week, Peduto confirmed to WPXI-TV that he has received threats over proposed gun reform legislation.
The controversy is intensified by a Pennsylvania law that provides no city, county or municipality can “in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components.”
Last week, more than 100 people spoke at a day-long public hearing on the proposed gun restrictions. Pittsburgh Councilman Corey O’Connor said council would explore amending the ordinance so people understand the city is targeting only certain types of guns.
Regardless, the ordinance is expected to pass and Peduto said he will sign it.
Gun advocates have vowed to challenge the ban in court and promised to file private criminal complaints against council members and Peduto alleging a violation of state law.
Peduto has vowed to mount a stiff defense. He also said he would welcome criminal charges. He has taken a principled position that he believes is important to the health and safety of his constituents. Someone has to try to move the ball forward in this important debate and Peduto and the city council have taken on that role.
Peduto told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “I’m confident that we have a decent case to make that will not only ultimately be able to uphold what we’re trying to do but also change the discussions in Harrisburg and Washington.”
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 @MatthewTMangino.
To visit the column CLICK HERE

Friday, February 1, 2019

Roger Stone apparently made witness "An offer he couldn't refuse"

Roger Stone, recently indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, is not accepting the indictment passively, reported Just Security. He is, not surprisingly, loudly and publicly attacking the charges — decrying the “inquisition,” the “Gestapo” tactics, and the “war” on his “free speech.” In so doing, Stone is exercising his free speech rights. But in so doing, he also exemplifies a deep misunderstanding of the nation’s First Amendment.
Let’s take a quick look at the indictment.
Start with the witness intimidation charges. According to the indictment, Stone repeatedly demanded Person 2 – widely known to be radio host Randy Credico — to refuse Congressional efforts to have him testify and lie about what he knew.
Not just once, but on “multiple occasions,” Stone told Credico to do a “Frank Pentangeli” before the House Intelligence Committee. Pentangeli is, of course, the character in Godfather II who lies before a congressional committee, claiming not to know information in order to protect his mafia boss.
But Credico is not Pentangali, and Stone was not happy about that. When Stone learned that Credico continued to talk to investigators, he took it a step further.
“Prepare to die,” Stone tells Credico, according to the indictment. Stone allegedly warns Credico that his lawyers were “dying [sic] RIP you to shreds” and that they would take Credico’s therapy dog as well.
Note to Stone #1: Threats to a witness with intent to influence or prevent testimony is not protected speech.
Of course, these are just allegations at this point. Prosecutors may not convincingly establish that these statements were made — although presumably they have them in print or on tape since they include specific quotations. And Stone might convince the jury that they were just made in jest.
But if the facts are as they are appear, Stone threated Credico in attempt to convince Credico not to testify or talk.  This is witness tampering, a crime that carries a maximum 20 years prison term. It is not protected speech.
Other parts of the indictment are rife with damning details about lies made to Congress in testimony before the House and Senate intelligence committees. Stone states that he had no relevant “documents, records, or electronically stored information,” when it fact it later turned out that he possessed a range of responsive texts and emails. He said he hadn’t sent or received any texts or emails about Wikileaks, when in fact he sent and received many. He reportedly lied about just about every aspect of the communications, including the timing, mode, and content of his contact with both Wikileaks and the Trump campaign.
Note to Stone #2: Lying in testimony to and concealing documentary evidence from congressional committees is not protected speech.
Rather, it constitutes the crime of making making false statements to Congress — a crime that carries a maximum of five years for each of the five counts charged. Collectively, the lying to, concealment of documents, and alleged intimidation of Credico provide strong support for an obstruction of justice charge, also carrying a maximum of five years.
Stone is free to exercise his free speech rights in as much as he wants to decry attacks on his free speech. But he would benefit from a lesson on the First Amendment before he does so.
To read more CLICK HERE