Wednesday, March 31, 2021

New report on the 'trial penalty' in New York

The New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NYSACDL) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) released the first-ever report on the decades-long impact of the trial penalty in New York State—The New York State Trial Penalty: The Constitutional Right to Trial Under Attack—including statistical analysis of the prevalence of the trial penalty, personal stories demonstrating how the issue impacts all New Yorkers by effectively removing a critical check on the state’s justice system, and recommendations for how policymakers and prosecutors can reverse this trend and protect New Yorkers’ constitutional rights, according to a Press Release.

Over the past three decades, the proportion of criminal cases that progress to trial in New York state has steadily declined. As of 2019, 96% of felony convictions and 99% of misdemeanor convictions in New York State were the result of guilty pleas — a troubling phenomenon that severely weakens the integrity of the justice system by circumventing juries. One of the most significant contributing factors behind this trend is the trial penalty, or the empirically greater sentence a criminal defendant receives after trial compared to what prosecutors offer in a pretrial guilty plea. The coercive impact of the trial penalty induces individuals to surrender a panoply of valuable rights under pain of far greater punishment, and it has been shown to induce innocent accused persons to plead guilty.

To better understand the scope of the trial penalty and its impact in New York, NYSACDL and NACDL conducted a survey of criminal justice practitioners across the state. More than three hundred criminal defense attorneys responded and shared how they and their clients experienced the trial penalty firsthand. NYSACDL and NACDL also conducted a statistical analysis of criminal case dispositions, including a sample of 79 cases from Manhattan criminal defense organizations with plea and conviction data to investigate the prevalence and impact of the trial penalty in the borough.

Key findings from the resulting report include:

  • 94% of surveyed criminal justice practitioners agreed that the trial penalty plays a role in criminal practice in their county. Data analysis supported practitioners’ insights — in 66% of cases sampled, defendants experienced a trial penalty.
  • The trial penalty in New York manifests in numerous ways, including by limiting transparency and removing a critical check on law enforcement overreach and abuse.
  • The trial penalty is driven by a broad range of different factors — including aggressive charging, judicial pressure to plead guilty, and the prospect of severe criminal penalties, sentencing enhancements, and mandatory minimums — and therefore requires a broad range of solutions to overcome.

The report outlines 15 policy recommendations, which can be summarized in three overarching categories:

·         Reducing defendants’ exposure to severe and disproportionate sentences: Eliminate mandatory minimums; reduce the kinds of conduct subject to criminal penalty; and provide second-look statutes, compassionate release legislation, and an expanded clemency process that ensures sentences remain proportionate while offering safety valves for older and sicker defendants or those with other extraordinary circumstances, including extraordinary rehabilitation.

·         Protecting defendants who exercise their rights: Prevent judges and prosecutors from penalizing defendants with longer sentences solely based on their decision to go to trial or challenge the government’s case through pretrial motion practice; and prohibit conditioning pleas on the waiver of constitutional or statutory rights, like the right to appeal, and ensure that criminal defense organizations have the resources to provide a zealous defense.

·         Using data to drive reform: Do not evaluate judges or condition judicial assignments on pretrial disposition quotas, hearing and trial volumes, or other disposition rates; and collect data on plea offers and sentencing dispositions to explore further how the trial penalty manifests in New York state.

“This report makes absolutely clear the trial penalty has metastasized in the system well beyond individual punishment. It is a threat to our constitutional rights and simultaneously allows—even encourages—the abuse of power by prosecutors and judges and too often buries police misconduct which never sees the disinfecting light of a courtroom,” said Susan Walsh, Trial Penalty Project Chair at NYSACDL. “Policymakers must recognize the devastation the trial penalty has caused in New York and take steps to reform the system. Some changes, like collecting data to further study the problem, are simple. Others, like providing greater sentencing flexibility and opportunities to revisit excessive sentences may be more complex. But we must resist the systematic assault on the fundamental right to a trial. No one, including defense lawyers, should be complacent about practices that inhibit the exercise of basic rights and punishes those merely for asserting them.”

“Punishing those who choose to exercise their right to a jury trial is not just unconstitutional, it lets prosecutors and law enforcement exercise authority unchecked, with disastrous results,” said Norman L. Reimer, NACDL Executive Director. “The ability to coerce the waiver of basic rights under threat of the trial penalty undermines transparency, shields unlawful law enforcement from judicial review, and perpetuates racial disparity in the criminal legal system.”

In 2018, NACDL released a groundbreaking report detailing the consequences of the trial penalty across the country, The Trial Penalty: The Sixth Amendment Right to Trial on the Verge of Extinction and How to Save It. In 2020, NACDL and FAMM (formerly known as Families Against Mandatory Minimums) released a documentary film on the trial penalty, “The Vanishing Trial.” A trailer for the film can be viewed here.


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

California Supreme Court: Keeping people in jail based solely on inability to post bail is unconstitutional

The California Supreme Court recently ruled  that keeping people in jail based solely on their inability to post bail is unconstitutional, reported Jurist.

The purpose of bail is to protect the public interest and to assure that those who are released from jail will return to court. However, the court found that it was not serving these functions because it “[did] not depend on a careful, individualized determination of the need to protect public safety, but merely—as one judge observes—on the accused’s ability to post the sum provided in a county’s uniform bail schedule.” The court stated that while the accused’s potential threat to the public was not balanced in any meaningful way when making bail determinations, “those incarcerated pending trial—who have not yet been convicted of a charged crime—unquestionably suffer a “direct ‘grievous loss'” of freedom in addition to other potential injuries.”

The issue came before the court when a 66-year-old man charged with robbery and burglary for allegedly robbing a fellow resident of a senior home was assigned bail of $600,000. The court later reduced his bail to $350,000, but he was still unable to pay.

The California Supreme Court stated:

Detaining an arrestee [without regard for his ability to pay bail] accords insufficient respect to the arrestee’s crucial state and federal equal protection rights against wealth-based detention as well as the arrestee’s state and federal substantive due process rights to pretrial liberty.

This decision follows California voters’ rejection of Proposition 25 in November. Proposition 25 would have replaced cash bail with a risk assessment model labeling the accused as low, medium and high risk based on their likelihood to pose a threat to the public and to fail to return to court. The proposition was originally passed as a law in 2018 by the state legislature, but it was put on hold by referendum until California voters could decide the issue.

To read more CLICK HERE


Monday, March 29, 2021

Mangino on WFMJ-TV Weekend Today

Watch my interview on WFMJ-TV21 Weekend Today examining gun legislation pending before Congress.

To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Sunday, March 28, 2021

House passes bills strengthening gun background checks

 The U.S. House of Representatives approved a pair of bills aimed at expanding and strengthening background checks for gun buyers, as Democrats pushed past Republican opposition to advance major gun safety measures after decades of congressional inaction, reported the New York Times.

In two votes that fell largely along party lines, the House passed legislation that would require background checks for all gun buyers, and extend the time the F.B.I. has to vet those flagged by the national instant check system.

Despite being widely popular with voters, the measures face what is expected to be insurmountable opposition in the Senate, where Republicans have resisted imposing any limits on guns, including stricter background check requirements.

The House voted 227 to 203 to approve the expansion of background checks, and 219 to 210 to give federal law enforcement more time to vet gun buyers.

Both pieces of legislation are aimed at addressing gaps in existing gun laws, including the so-called Charleston loophole, which restricts to three days the period the F.B.I. has to conduct a background check, allowing many buyers to evade them. The provision allowed Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who killed nine people in 2015 at a historically Black church in Charleston, S.C., to buy a handgun even though he should have been barred from doing so. The bill would extend the amount of time the F.B.I. has to complete a check for an additional week, to 10 days.

The other measure passed on Thursday would require those buying firearms from private sellers online or purchasing them at gun shows to have their backgrounds vetted before they could receive the weapon. They are not currently required to do so, although in-person buyers, who make up the majority of gun purchases, are.

 To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, March 27, 2021

MCN/USA TODAY NETWORK: Commonwealths unite in disdain for capital punishment

 Matthew T. Mangino
March 26, 2021

This week, the Commonwealth of Virginia officially abolished the death penalty, making it the first Southern state to ban capital punishment.

“Justice and punishment are not always the same thing, that is too clearly evident in 400 years of the death penalty in Virginia,” Gov. Ralph Northam said during remarks ahead of signing the legislation, saying that it is both the right and the moral thing to do.

While Virginia has now become the first state of the former Confederacy to ban the death penalty, it is the 23rd state overall, following Colorado last year.

A total of 1,390 people have been put to death in Virginia, with the first documented execution being a Spanish spy in the Jamestown colony in 1608, according to NBC News. Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, Virginia has executed 113 people, second only to Texas. However, Virginia has only two men on death row and not a single jury in Virginia has imposed a death sentence since 2011.

Virginia is one of four commonwealths in the United States—the other three are Massachusetts, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. What is the difference between a state and a commonwealth? Nothing, according Merriam-Webster Dictionary the term commonwealth was preferred over state by a number of political writers in the years leading up to 1780.

Regardless of their designation, the four commonwealths seem to be in step when it comes to disdain for capital punishment.

The last public execution in the United States was carried out in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. On August 14, 1936, it was reported that nearly 20,000 people crowded around the gallows in Owensboro to witness the execution of Rainey Bethea. He was convicted of the rape and murder of a 70-year-old woman.
            The murder was committed on June 7, 1936. Bethea pleaded guilty, was sentenced and his appeals were disposed of by August 5, 1936. He was executed a little more than a week later.    The Commonwealth was portrayed in a less than favorable light by the throng of media that descended on Owensboro for the hanging. The Kentucky legislature, embarrassed by the unfavorable attention, moved to abolish public executions.

            Today in Kentucky the death penalty is rarely imposed and only one person has been executed in the commonwealth in the 21st century.

The last executions in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts were gangsters Philip Belino and Edward Gertson on May 9, 1947.

After going 35 years without an execution, Massachusetts voters approved, by a whopping majority, a constitutional amendment providing that no constitutional provision shall be construed as prohibiting the death penalty.

Nevertheless, the commonwealth’s capital punishment statute was struck down in 1984 as a violation of due process. The state legislature passed a statute to reinstate capital punishment in 1986 but it was vetoed by then-governor Michael Dukakis, who became the Democratic nominee for president in 1988.

Since 1999, the governors of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have signed approximately 205 execution warrants without a single execution, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

There have been three executions in Pennsylvania since 1978. All three—Keith Zettlemoyer and Leon Moser in 1995; and Gary Heidnik in 1999—waived their appeal rights and volunteered to be executed.
            Three-hundred forty-eight men and two women were executed in the state's electric chair between 1915 and April 2, 1962, when Elmo Smith was executed for the rape and murder of a young girl. Smith was also the last person involuntarily executed in Pennsylvania.

The current governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, has imposed a moratorium on executions. Although there are approximately 142 inmates on death row, don’t expect an execution in Pennsylvania any time soon.

(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, March 26, 2021

Ninth Circuit: 'The government may regulate, and even prohibit [guns], in public places'

The Second Amendment doesn’t protect an unfettered right to openly carry a gun or pistol in public, according to the en banc 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at San Francisco, reported the ABA Journal.

In a 7-4 decision Wednesday, the appeals court upheld a Hawaii law restricting open carry.

The San Francisco ChronicleCourthouse News Service and CNN have coverage, while How Appealing links to the March 24 decision and additional coverage.

The law requires residents who want to obtain a license to carry firearms in public to demonstrate an “urgency or need” and to be “engaged in the protection of life and property.” The restrictions don’t apply to police officers, military personnel and hunters.

Judge Jay S. Bybee, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, wrote the majority opinion.

“The contours of the government’s power to regulate arms in the public square is at least this: The government may regulate, and even prohibit, in public places—including government buildings, churches, schools and markets—the open carrying of small arms capable of being concealed, whether they are carried concealed or openly,” Bybee wrote.

Bybee reached that conclusion after reviewing the history of early English and American gun regulations.

“For centuries, we have accepted that, in order to maintain the public peace, the government must have the power to determine whether and how arms may be carried in public places,” Bybee wrote. “There is no right to carry arms openly in public; nor is any such right within the scope of the Second Amendment.”

Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain was among the dissenters. He said the majority decision makes the Second Amendment an “inkblot.”

Three other federal appeals courts have also upheld laws that restrict open carry, according to Courthouse News Service. They are the 2nd Circuit at New York-based, the 3rd Circuit at Philadelphia the 4th Circuit at Richmond, Virginia.

But two appeals courts have issued contrary opinions. They are the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and the 7th Circuit at Chicago.

The plaintiff in the Hawaii case is George Young, whose open-carry application was denied twice. A lawyer for Young, Alan Beck of San Diego, said other courts that upheld open-carry regulations did not go as far as the 9th Circuit.

“The 9th Circuit’s opinion, which finds the Second Amendment right does not apply outside the home at all, contradicts the decisions of every federal circuit court in the country that has ruled on this issue,” Beck told Courthouse News Service in an email. “We will be seeking Supreme Court review in order to overturn the 9th Circuit’s erroneous decision.”

 To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Virginia abolishes the death penalty

Virginia, the state that has executed more people than any other in the nation, has abolished the death penalty, reported The Appeal.

The legislation abolishing the death penalty, which passed the House and Senate in February, was signed this afternoon by Governor Ralph Northam. “It is the moral thing to do,” he said during the signing ceremony. “The death penalty is fundamentally flawed.” Virginia becomes the first formerly Confederate state to abolish capital punishment. 

“That’s a really clear and powerful denunciation of the death penalty,” said Cassandra Stubbs, director of the Capital Punishment Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Virginia has executed more than 1,300 people since its founding as a colony in the 1600s. It executed 113 of those people in the years since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC). Only Texas has executed more people in the last 45 years.  

But the death penalty, both in use and popularity, has steadily declined in Virginia and throughout the country. In addition to the 22 states that had already abolished capital punishment, another 12 have not carried out an execution in at least 10 years, according to DPIC. In Virginia, a death sentence has not been handed down since 2011. 

There are only two people on death row in Virginia, Anthony Juniper and Thomas Porter. Under the new legislation, their sentences will be changed to life in prison. Because they were 18 or older at the time of their offenses, they will not be eligible for parole or conditional release. 

Even those who once defended executions have embraced abolition. State Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw, a Democrat, was among the 21 senators who voted to abolish the death penalty. But throughout his career, he had supported capital punishment, and in 2016 he joined then Governor Terry McAuliffe in protecting pharmacies that supply lethal injection drugs. 

“There’s only two people on death row; juries are just not handing out the sentences anymore,” said Saslaw about his vote, the Washington Post reported. “That option’s not there right now.”

To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Former Trump attorney Sidney Powell has problems

Sidney Powell is fending off dueling legal fights over her false claims the 2020 election was rigged against President Donald Trump, a balancing act that legal ethics say could put her in a bind, reported The National Law Journal.

In the Eastern District of Michigan, Powell is facing motions for sanctions over a lawsuit she filed seeking to overturn the election results. Separately, Powell is fighting a federal defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems in Washington, D.C., over statements she made alleging the voting company played a role in causing Trump’s election loss.

On Monday, Powell’s legal team claimed her comments about Dominion are protected because it was political speech and made in furtherance of her “Kraken” lawsuits challenging the election results. All of those lawsuits were thrown out of federal court. 

“Analyzed under these factors, and even assuming, arguendo, that each of the statements alleged in the complaint could be proved true or false, no reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact,” Powell’s attorneys wrote in the motion to dismiss. 

While her attorneys argue the comments were simply legal theories and political commentary, some legal ethics experts say it looks like Powell is trying to have it both ways.

“Ethics rules permit a lawyer to take inconsistent legal positions in different courts at different times on behalf of different clients. But that’s not what we have here,” Renee Knake Jefferson, a law professor with the University of Houston, said in an email. 

“Powell’s defense in the defamation lawsuit undermines her defense in the disciplinary proceeding,” Jefferson said.

Stephen Gillers, a law professor with New York University who studies legal ethics, concurred. “Powell is in a bind,” he said in an email. “If she claims that her statements, though false, could not reasonably be believed and therefore not defamatory, she will risk discipline if she said the same things to a court. There is no ‘political hyperbole’ defense to lying to the court.”

To read more CLICK HERE


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Mangino talks jury selection on Law and Crime Network

Watch my interview on the Law and Crime Network discussing jury selection in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin accused in the murder of George Floyd.

To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Pittsburgh area police FB forum spews hostility and intimidation

In a private Facebook group called the Pittsburgh Area Police Breakroom, many current and retired officers spent the year criticizing chiefs who took a knee or officers who marched with Black Lives Matter protesters, whom they called “terrorists” or “thugs,” reported The Associated Press. They made transphobic posts and bullied members who supported anti-police brutality protesters or Joe Biden in a forum billed as a place officers can “decompress, rant, share ideas.”

Many of the deluge of daily posts were jokes about the hardships of being officers, memorials to deceased colleagues or conversations about training and equipment. But over the group’s almost four-year existence, a few dozen members became more vocal with posts that shifted toward pro-Donald Trump memes and harsh criticism of anyone perceived to support so-called “demoncrats,” Black Lives Matter or coronavirus safety measures.

In June, Tim Huschak, a corporal at the Borough of Lincoln Police Department, posted a screenshot of an Allegheny County 911 dispatcher’s Facebook page indicating that the phrase “Blue Lives Matter” used by law enforcement supporters is not equivalent to the slogan “Black Lives Matter” because policing is a choice, not a fact of birth. He wrote:

“Many negative posts on police. And we should trust her with our lives???”

Some angry members rallied quickly and organized phone calls to her supervisor demanding she be fired.

“Multiple officers should call and report it. Remember NO JUSTICE NO PEACE LOL,” West Mifflin Borough Police Department officer Tommy Trieu responded under his Facebook name, Tommy Bear.

Trieu was one of two West Mifflin officers seen in a video last year restraining a 15-year-old Black girl after responding to a call about a fight on a school bus. Activists called for firing the officers, but borough officials said the recording started after a student hit an officer and that they “did nothing wrong.”

A few members of the group also were bullied or left the page, including an officer who said the Fraternal Order of Police’s Trump endorsement did not represent her and a Black officer who was accused of creating a fake Facebook account to complain about the lack of diversity in local departments.

The Associated Press was able to view posts and comments from the group, which has 2,200 members, including about a dozen current and former police chiefs -- from mainly Allegheny County and some surrounding areas stretching into Ohio -- and at least one judge and one councilman. After the AP began asking about posts last week, the group appeared to have been deleted or suspended from view.

To read more CLICK HERE


Monday, March 22, 2021

Oregon last state to allow non-unanimous jury verdicts in criminal cases

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum on Friday filed a “friend of the court” brief in a U.S. Supreme Court case that has the potential to invalidate thousands of non-unanimous jury convictions, reported The Oregonian.

Although Rosenblum personally opposes the provision of the Oregon Constitution that allows non-unanimous jury verdicts, she argued in the amicus brief that the Supreme Court should not overrule a 1972 case called Apodaca v. Oregon that upheld split jury decisions.

“A ruling in this case that the Sixth Amendment requires unanimity in state prosecutions will overturn hundreds if not thousands of past convictions, convictions that Oregon has a legitimate reliance interest in maintaining,” Rosenblum wrote in the brief.

Oregon is the only state in the nation that still allows convictions for crimes short of first-degree murder by non-unanimous juries. Voters in Louisiana, the other state to most recently allow non-unanimous convictions, voted in November 2018 to amend their state’s constitution to end the practice.

Read Rosenblum’s brief here.

State lawmakers were poised to ask voters to end non-unanimous jury verdicts in Oregon earlier this year but after the bill unanimously passed the House, Senate Democrats allowed it to die quietly in the final days of the legislative session. Democrats including Rep. Jennifer Williamson, of Portland, cited the Louisiana Supreme Court case, saying it would be difficult to campaign for a state constitutional amendment at the same time the issue might be under consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Louisiana case centers on a 10-2 verdict against oil rig supply boat worker Evangelisto Ramos, who was convicted of second-degree murder in the killing of Trenice Fedison. Ramos slit Fedison’s throat and stabbed her seven times, then dumped her headfirst into a trashcan near her home the day before Thanksgiving in 2014. No murder weapon was found, but DNA evidence including semen linked Ramos to Fedison and the trash can where her partially clothed body was found, The Times-Picayune reported.

In a news release Friday, Rosenblum made clear she would like to end Oregon’s status as the only remaining state that allows non-unanimous jury verdicts.

“I want it to be understood that I fully support repealing Oregon’s non-unanimous jury rule, the origin of which has been linked to racism and anti-Semitism,” Rosenblum said. “Requiring unanimous juries would ensure fair representation, promote systemic accountability and legitimacy, and bring Oregon in line with all 49 of our sister states. That is why I support referring an Oregon constitutional amendment to voters that would change Oregon’s law going forward.”

To read more CLICK HERE


Sunday, March 21, 2021

Voting rights: 'Jim Crow in new clothes'

Newly elected Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock gave his first speech on the Senate floor last week. The subject? Voting rights, reported The New York Times.

“We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights unlike anything we have seen since the Jim Crow era,” Warnock said, pointing to a wave of bills that limit voting in Republican-controlled states like Arizona and his own Georgia. “This is Jim Crow in new clothes.”

He went on:

Politicians in my home state and all across America, in their craven lust for power, have launched a full-fledged assault on voting rights. They are focused on winning at any cost, even the cost of the democracy itself. I submit that it is the job of each citizen to stand up for the voting rights of every citizen. And it is the job of this body to do all that it can to defend the viability of our democracy.

To that end, Warnock argued, the Senate should pass the For the People Act, which would establish automatic voter registration nationally, provide for at least two weeks of early voting and preserve mail-in balloting, as well as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore pre-clearance to the Voting Rights Act, forcing covered jurisdictions to submit new voting plans for federal approval.

To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, March 20, 2021

MCN/USA TODAY NETWORK: Kentucky wants to criminalize free speech

Matthew T. Mangino
March 19, 2021

In 1987, U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr. wrote in a ruling striking down a Houston ordinance that made it unlawful to oppose or interrupt a police officer, "The freedom of individuals verbally to oppose or challenge police action without thereby risking arrest is one of the principal characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police state."

In spite of Justice Brennan’s admonishment, 34 years after the decision the Kentucky Senate approved a measure that would make it a crime to insult or taunt a police officer.

Senate Bill 211 would make it a misdemeanor offense for someone to taunt "a law enforcement officer with offensive or derisive words, or by gestures or other physical contact, that would have a direct tendency to provoke a violent response from the perspective of a reasonable and prudent person."

The ACLU called the legislation "an extreme bill to stifle dissent."

Kentucky is part of the Federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.  The 6th Circuit has jurisdiction over federal appeals arising from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. 

In 2017, a Taylor, Michigan police officer pulled over a woman for speeding but gave her a ticket for a lesser violation. As the woman drove off, she flashed the officer her middle finger—"flipped him the bird”, i.e., “shot him the finger.” The officer pulled her over a second time and amended the ticket to the more serious speeding offense, reported the Detroit News.

“Fits of rudeness or lack of gratitude may violate the golden rule,” Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote. “But that doesn’t make them illegal or for that matter punishable or for that matter grounds for a seizure.”

According to the ABA Journal, Judge Sutton said that, if the allegations are true, the officer violated her right to be free from an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment, as well as her free speech rights under the First Amendment.

“Any reasonable officer would know that a citizen who raises her middle finger engages in speech protected by the First Amendment,” the court said.

Not that the Kentucky Senate cares—there are a series of cases over the last half-century that have found that insulting police officers is protected speech.

The 6th Circuit also found, in 1997, that an individual has a First Amendment right to shout "f--- you" and “flip off” a police officer from a moving vehicle. The court relied on a 1971 landmark Supreme Court decision that upheld the right of a man to wear a jacket into the courthouse that said "f--- the draft."

In 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled in favor of a New York man who sued after he was arrested for disorderly conduct after making an obscene gesture to a police officer. The court held that the "ancient gesture of insult is not the basis for a reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or impending criminal activity."

Even without a statute prohibiting the insult of police officers, more and more law enforcement agencies are getting creative. In Pennsylvania, the police are using the state’s hate crime statute “ethnic intimidation”—defined as “malicious intention toward the race, color, religion or national origin of another individual or group of individuals”—against people who direct insults towards the police.

According to The Appeal, a Pittsburgh man being arrested called police “Nazis,” “skinheads” and “Gestapo.” The police charged him with a hate crime.

“This is completely ridiculous,” Mary Catherine Roper, deputy legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, told The Appeal in 2018. “This is not what the hate crime statute was for. This is criminalizing pure speech and that violates the First Amendment.”

In deference to Kentuckians, not everyone is on board in the state Senate. Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey told the Lexington Herald-Leader, “We are criminalizing speech.”

(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, March 19, 2021

A third of U.S. states enacted new restrictions on police oversight

More than a third of U.S. states enacted new restrictions on police power or oversight of law enforcement actions in the months after George Floyd’s death, with additional legislatures diving into the politically fraught issue this year, reported Bloomberg.

Minnesota and 13 other states banned the type of chokeholds that led to Floyd’s death outside a Minneapolis convenience store. And the state where Floyd died led the way in requiring officers to step in when they see excessive use of force by a fellow cop—a movement mirrored in at least 10 other states.

“The killing of George Floyd was a watershed moment,” said Scott Wolfe, Michigan State University associate professor of criminal justice. “The amount of policy changes and discussions of law changes concerning how the police interact with the public is like we’ve never seen in the past.”

Floyd, a Black man, died May 25, 2020, as a White Minneapolis officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck for more than seven minutes.

Jury selection in Chauvin’s trial continues; he’s charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter. Three former police colleagues who were at the scene of Floyd’s killing are scheduled to be tried in August on charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.

Floyd’s death triggered Black Lives Matter protests nationwide and a call for changes in laws regarding how police interact with citizens. But it also fueled a political backlash in some circles, and skepticism about whether the legal changes go far enough to make any real difference.

The Minnesota State Legislature convened a special session in July 2020 and in eight days approved legislation that—in addition to the chokehold ban and duty-to-intervene obligation—adopts an independent use-of-force investigation after any death involving an officer, and creates a database to track alleged police misconduct.

A slew of other changes included a ban on warrior-style training “intended to increase a peace officer’s likelihood or willingness to use deadly force in encounters with community members.” Gov. Tim Walz (D) signed the bill into law July 23.

In Colorado, one of the nation’s most comprehensive police-accountability laws was introduced in the state Senate just nine days after Floyd’s death, sailed through both chambers, and was quickly signed by Gov. Jared Polis (D). 

It bans chokeholds, requires body cameras, limits tear-gas use, bars deadly use of force for nonviolent offenses, and bans a qualified-immunity defense for an officer charged with a civil-rights violation.

A similarly sweeping Illinois bill was signed into law last month.

This week, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) signed several police accountability bills, including one requiring a report anytime an officer points a gun or taser at a person. And the Republican-controlled Kentucky Legislature approved a measure to decertify officers who commit misconduct.

Most new state laws involving police were passed in the Midwest, West, and Northeast.

But in the South, Virginia became the sole state in the nation to ban no-knock warrants that let police enter a home without warning— a “Breonna’s Law,” named after Breonna Taylor, the Black woman shot and killed by police last March in her Louisville apartment.

And Georgia joined a dozen other states in requiring investigation at the state level of all officer-involved deaths.

One change several states have made, including comparatively conservative Iowa and relatively liberal New York, is appointing a state attorney general rather than a local district attorney to investigate violent episodes involving police.

Another widely adopted change requires police who witness an officer applying excessive force to step in.

“I don’t think of this as a new concept,” said Taryn Merkl, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. “What I think is new is how widespread people seem to be embracing this as a potential area for reform. And I think it’s an important one to look at in terms of its potential power to change police culture and the need for officers to have cover from above if they do need to report another officer.”

Cities nationwide—including in the South—also stepped in, with their lawmakers and at the ballot box.

Austin, Texas, slashed police department funding to about $290 million from an initial proposed budget of about $434 million, moving several functions out of police jurisdiction and redirecting funds to support domestic-violence shelters.

In Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms imposed a duty-to-intervene policy and required de-escalation tactics before police use deadly force. She signed the order after the death of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks, a Black man shot by a White Atlanta police officer less than three weeks after Floyd died.

Floyd’s killing coincided with a pandemic and already volatile presidential race, and the role of police in American society became part of the political dialogue. In some states, Republican-led legislatures pushed back against what they dubbed “defund the police” efforts.

But even some who specialize in criminal justice issues aren’t convinced the steps to curb police power will make a significant difference, especially when it comes to law enforcement interactions with people of color.

The changes “will improve things, but they won’t dramatically change things,” said Ben Grunwald, a Duke University School of Law criminal procedure specialist.

Black men in America are about 2.5 times more likely than White men to be killed by police, according to a 2019 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Research shows that “one in every 1,000 Black men will die at the hands of police,” Merkl said.

“I think the laws we have seen so far, especially the legislation that has passed, has been more nibbling around the edges,” said Seth Stoughton, a South Carolina School of Law associate professor, who is listed in court documents as a possible witness in the Chauvin trial. “And I think that’s largely because of the political process.”

“There’s no one answer,” said David Alan Sklansky, a criminal law professor at Stanford Law School. “We need to be doing a lot of other things which, quite frankly, aren’t being done enough almost anywhere in the country.”

Fundamental changes not addressed by most states would include redefining the role of police to decrease law enforcement responsibilities, especially in dealing with the homeless and mentally ill; changing how police are hired and police departments are held accountable for wrongdoing; and decriminalizing low-level offenses that are now routinely handled by cops, Grunwald and Stoughton said.

“In some ways, all we’ve seen in policing is incremental change,” Stoughton said. “I am of the view that policing is substantially better today than it was 50 years ago, despite the fact that we have many of the same issues. If we keep our attention on it, if we gain a sense of political will which we have lacked, policing will be better yet in another 20 or 50 years.”

To read more CLICK HERE


Thursday, March 18, 2021

Biden: More resources needed to fight domestic terrorism

new intelligence report delivered to Congress by the Biden administration warned about the rising threat of militias and white supremacists, adding urgency to calls for more resources to fight the growing problem of homegrown extremism in the United States, reported The New York Times.

In particular, the intelligence assessment highlighted the threat from militias, predicting that it would be elevated in the coming months because of “contentious sociopolitical factors,” likely a reference to the fallout from the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob and the increasingly partisan political climate.

Racially motivated violent extremists, such as white supremacists, were most likely to conduct mass casualty attacks against civilians while militias typically targeted law enforcement and government personnel and facilities, the report said. Lone offenders or small cells of extremists were more likely than organizations to carry out attacks, it said.

President Biden requested the comprehensive threat assessment shortly after he took office in the wake of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, which laid bare the toxic domestic extremism that has shaken the country. Only the brief executive summary was declassified and made public while a classified version was sent to Congress and the White House.

The top-line assessment echoed earlier analyses by the F.B.I. and Department of Homeland Security warning of the looming dangers of domestic terrorism, including after followers of President Donald J. Trump embraced his baseless claims of election fraud. An internal F.B.I. report that appeared to have been compiled before Jan. 6 and was published days after the breach predicted the violence to come, saying the events in 2020 were “likely to embolden U.S. domestic violent extremists in 2021.”

The Homeland Security Department also previously issued a rare terrorism bulletin warning that extremists continue to be galvanized over “the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives,” a clear reference to Mr. Trump’s false accusations that the election was stolen.

Domestic extremism “poses the most lethal and persistent terrorism-related threat to the homeland today,” Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, told a House committee on Wednesday.

To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

New York legislature authorizes impeachment investigation of Gov. Cuomo

Carl Heastie, Speaker of the New York State Assembly, has authorized the Assembly Judiciary Committee to commence an impeachment investigation into Governor Andrew Cuomo after multiple women accused the governor of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, reported Jurist.

Among the six women who have come forward, Lindsey Boylan, Candidate for Manhattan Borough President, published an online essay detailing her unpleasant encounters with Cuomo.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected. His inappropriate behavior toward women was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right. He used intimidation to silence his critics. And if you dared to speak up, you would face consequences. … I hope that sharing my story will clear the path for other women to do the same.

Following Boylan’s claims, other former and current aides to Cuomo came forward with their stories reported by the New York TimesTimes Union and other sources.

Cuomo issued a statement apologizing and calling for “an outside, independent review” to look into the allegations:

I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm. … I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that. To be clear I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to.

Earlier this week, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced the investigation into the allegations against Cuomo. She appointed former Acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon Kim and employment discrimination attorney Anne Clark to lead the investigation.

James said:

We are committed to an independent and thorough investigation of the facts, Joon H. Kim and Anne L. Clark are independent, legal experts who have decades of experience conducting investigations and fighting to uphold the rule of law. This team is charged with conducting a thorough and independent investigation of, and the circumstances surrounding, allegations of sexual harassment against Governor Cuomo, including his administration’s handling of such matters.

The attorney general’s office also issued a statement Thursday following the commencement of the impeachment investigation that their investigation would be independent and would run parallel to the impeachment investigation.

Several calls for Cuomo’s resignation were issued by New York State Legislators, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jamaal Bowman and Jerry Nadler.

To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Tucson Police will not send officers to non-urgent calls

Tuscon's Mayor Regina Romero’s security detail will shrink under a Police Department plan to address a staffing shortage by no longer sending officers to non-urgent calls, reported Arizona Daily Star.

Two full-time members of the team that protects the mayor will return to patrolling the streets when Romero is not at high risk of harm — one of nearly 20 “critical changes” Tucson’s police chief said are necessary to cope with the department’s chronic staffing shortage.

Calls TPD will no longer handle include reports of non-criminal homeless activity on public property, minor noise complaints, panhandling, requests for welfare checks and suicidal subjects who are not a threat to others.

Many of those calls will go instead to mobile crisis teams, which are staffed with specialists in mental health, substance abuse or homeless outreach and are funded by state and federal tax dollars.

TPD will continue to respond to calls of any type that involve violence, large, disruptive gatherings or an immediate threat to public safety, Police Chief Chris Magnus said.

The transfer of some police calls to support services is in line with public sentiment favoring a non-police response in non-violent situations, Magnus said. And it’s necessary to ensure enough patrol officers are available to respond to serious threats, he said.

TPD already isn’t responding to many lower-priority calls due to its officer shortage, Magnus said.

“The reality is some of these calls are holding all night. If you call us at 9 p.m. saying your neighbor’s stereo is too loud and we can’t get there until seven the next morning, why are we even going?” he asked rhetorically.

Some of the other call types to be phased out over time include:

  • Reports of contraband at schools, hospitals and courts (except firearms.)
  • Deaths at medical care facilities.
  • Requests for rides to places such as homeless shelters or addiction treatment facilities.
  • Reports of city bylaw violations.
  • Financial crimes.
  • Runaways.

Magnus released the new plan internally last week and has faced questions about whether he did so to pressure city leaders to approve a multi-million-dollar pay raise for his officers.

The chief rejects the suggestion he is trying to force the council’s hand. There’s no need for pressure tactics, he said, because city leaders already know what’s at stake if police officers continue to quit and go elsewhere at the rate they have been.

“I believe they are taking it seriously,” the chief said of his recent presentation to council, which cited a recent study that found TPD officers make an average 13.4% less than surrounding police agencies. It would cost about $10 million a year to make TPD pay rates competitive, he said.

To read more CLICK HERE


Monday, March 15, 2021

Mangino discusses Derek Chauvin trial on WFMJ-TV21 Weekend Today

Watch my interview on WFMJ-TV Weekend Today about the murder trial of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.  He is charged in the death of George Floyd.

To find the clip CLICK HERE

Sunday, March 14, 2021

In Kentucky it may soon become a crime to taunt police

It could become a crime to taunt a police officer in Kentucky, under a bill that passed the state Senate reported The Associated Press.

The measure was filed months after Louisville, the state's largest city, became the site of huge protests in the wake of the police killing of Breonna Taylor. The bill passed the Republican-dominated Senate 22-11 and now awaits House input.

Under the legislation, anyone who “accosts, insults, taunts, or challenges a law enforcement officer with offensive or derisive words, or by gestures or other physical contact, that would have a direct tendency to provoke a violent response” would be guilty of a misdemeanor and face up to 90 days in jail and fines.

The proposal also increases penalties for rioting. For instance, those charged with rioting would be required to be held for a minimum of 48 hours. Another provision would criminalize aiming “a light, a laser pointer, an activated horn or other noise-making device towards the head” of a first responder.

Several Republican senators who voted against the bill shared concerns that some parts of it would violate First Amendment rights and strain the judicial system. Nevertheless, they signaled support for the bill if some parts of it were amended in the House.

State Sen. Danny Carroll, a Republican who sponsored the bill, said he filed the proposal in response to last summer's Louisville protests against police brutality and racial injustice. Demonstrations — some of which turned violent — were a frequent occurrence, as protesters called for charges to be brought against the officers involved in Taylor's death. Many gathered peacefully in Jefferson Square Park in downtown Louisville for weeks. Dubbed “Injustice Square” by protesters, it became an impromptu hub during months of demonstrations.

Taylor, a Black woman, was shot in her Louisville home multiple times by police during a botched drug raid. A grand jury indicted one officer on wanton endangerment charges in September for shooting into a neighbor’s apartment, but no officers were charged in connection with her death.

Police had a no-knock warrant but said they knocked and announced their presence before entering Taylor’s apartment, a claim some witnesses have disputed. No drugs were found in Taylor’s apartment.

Republicans hold supermajorities in both the House and Senate.

Democratic lawmakers warned that the proposal could be used to unfairly target peaceful protesters. State Sen. Gerald Neal, a Democrat who represents Louisville, called the legislation “unnecessary” and “unreasonable."

“This is a hammer on my district,” Neil said. “I personally resent it. This is beneath this body.”

To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, March 13, 2021

MCN/USA TODAY NETWORK: The passing of the ‘Matriarch’ of the families of fallen officers

Mathew T. Mangino
March 12, 2021

            One of the few living people with a direct connection to the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy has died. Marie Tippit, the widow of Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit, who was shot to death by Lee Harvey Oswald 45 minutes after Kennedy was assassinated, died on March 5, 2021.

            On the morning of Nov. 22, 1963, Tippit made breakfast for her husband.  J.D. Tippit would leave early in the morning to begin his shift as a Dallas patrolman. He patrolled the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas.  November 22 was a hectic day in Dallas. President Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline were visiting along with Texas native, Vice-President Lyndon Johnson and his wife Lady Bird. 

            J.D. returned home for lunch as well that day.  Within minutes of her husband leaving, Marie learned that the president had been shot.  According to eyewitnesses, within minutes of the president being shot, Oswald had hurriedly left the Texas School Book Depository, the building from where the deadly shots were fired.

            About 18 minutes before Tippit’s murder, Oswald returned to his Oak Cliff rooming house where the housekeeper said he briskly walked in and left within minutes without speaking. He left an empty holster on his bed in his room.

            A witness to Tippit’s murder, Helen Markham, told Marie, “J.D. stopped him, and Oswald walked over and put his hands on the side of the car . . . He looked in the window and spoke with J.D., who got out of the car. When J.D. was even with the front wheel of his car Oswald shot him.” He was shot four times with a handgun.

            The Warren Commission concluded that Oswald killed the president in Dealey Plaza and then, 45 minutes later, gunned down Tippit at the corner of 10th Street and Patton Avenue in Oak Cliff.

            Marie Tippit was referred to as the “Matriarch” of all widows of all fallen officers. The carnage never ends. As of the end of 2020, across the country there were 264 officers killed—federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial—in the line of duty.  Many of those officers, like J.D. Tippit, left for work and never returned. However, none of the widows and widowers received the notoriety that Marie Tippet received after the death of her police officer husband.

            Marie received over the 40,000 letters, including more than $600,000 in donations from around the world. She even got a letter from the president’s widow, Jacqueline, expressing sorrow for the bond they shared.

            The president’s brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, called her and lamented that if the president had not come to Dallas, her husband would still be alive.

            According to the Morning News, Tippit told Kennedy, “But you know they were both doing their jobs. They got killed doing their jobs. He was being the president, and J.D. was being the policeman he was supposed to be.”

            Rick Janich, a retired Dallas police detective and family friend recently told the Morning News, “She really was an ambassador for all the widows . . .  of fallen officers.” He went on to say, “You and I have no idea what these ladies and gentlemen go through. They have a special bond. She was always the one who told them, ‘The way to survive this is baby steps. Think of your family. Survive with your family. You will never get over it, but you have to do the best you can for your family.’ ”

            Nearly sixty years have passed since that fateful day in Dallas.  Although Marie Tippit is gone she left an indelible mark on the people she touched.  She never stopped working for the families of fallen officers. Her obituary suggested that “[m]emorials can be made to the Dallas Assist the Officers Foundation.”

She told the Morning News in 2003, “I knew I was loved. You know, that is the most important thing in your life. To be loved. And to be able to express that love to others.” In the face of tragedy, anguish and despair, Marie loved.  

(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, March 12, 2021

New York sends more people back to prison for technical parole violations than any other state

New York State sends more people to prison for technical parole violations — like missing a curfew, failing a drug test, or being unable to secure employment — than any other state in the country, according to The Crime Report.

Not only does this have a lasting impact on the justice system, but it impacts taxpayers, as they are the ones that supply a large sum of the enormous reincarceration cost, according to a groundbreaking report released Thursday by the Justice Lab at Columbia University and The Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform.

The latest report, titled The Enormous Cost of Parole Violations in New York, analyzes state department budgets, spending, and taxpayer dollars of 2019 to narrate how much money New York State is spending to incarcerate people for parole rule violations. It also analyzes how much money the state could be saving if they enacted reform.

The report  found that New York State spent $319 million in 2019 to incarcerate people for parole rule violations in state prisons. In addition, New York counties—excluding the five counties in New York City—collectively spent more than $91 million to jail people who were accused of technical violations. And New York City alone spent more than $273 million to jail people accused of technical violations.

That put the total cost to taxpayers at a “staggering” $683 million, the report said.

“New York State’s parole system is not only inequitable — it is also extraordinarily costly,” said Judge Jonathan Lippman, Commission Chair and Former Chief Judge of the State of New York. “Taxpayers are picking up the tab for a system that sends too many people to jail and prison for minor technical violations, rather than for committing actual crimes.”

Some advocates would argue that “too many people” is an understatement, considering in New York State alone, there are approximately 35,000 individuals under parole supervision on any given day.

Moreover, of the New Yorkers sent back to prison in 2016, 65 percent were reincarcerated for technical parole violations — like missing a curfew, failing a drug test, or being unable to secure employment.

What’s also striking is the clear racial disparity: “Black people are incarcerated in New York City jails for technical parole violations at more than 12 times the rate of whites,” the Less Is More NY campaign details.

All of this, researchers say, has an “enormous cost.”

“Currently, New York State is spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year on locking Black and Latinx people up for minor technical parole violations — upending lives and harming communities with little to no benefit in terms of public safety,” said Vincent Schiraldi, Co-Director of the Columbia Justice Lab and former New York City Probation Commissioner.

Schiraldi continued, “Imagine what more New Yorkers could accomplish if our state stopped wasting money on incarcerating people for technical parole violations and invested in programs and services that have been proven to produce actual safety and community wellbeing.”

After analyzing the number of people reincarcerated for parole violations, the budget for the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, the researchers calculated the annual cost to reincarcerate someone, as well as the annual cost to keep someone behind bars.

The researchers found New York State spent approximately $319,516,000 to incarcerate people for parole rule violations in 2019 — amounting to an average annual cost of $79,879 per incarcerated person.

To add to that, the researchers note that this doesn’t include the estimated and associated cost for benefits and pensions for DOCCS employees.

Extrapolating these numbers, the researchers estimate that New York taxpayers will pay over $6.8 billion over the next 10 years simply to incarcerate people for rules violations.

Because of the fixed cost it takes to run and operate a carceral facility, the researchers say the best way to keep costs down is to reduce the jail or prison population.

“Recent figures released by DOCCS suggest that reducing prison capacity by 1,200 beds is expected to reduce spending by $35 million, resulting in marginal savings of $29,000 per bed,” the report details. “These figures are consistent with previous DOCCS statements that eliminating 6,650 prison beds since 2011 saves $193 million annually.”

The authors add that these findings suggest to state policymakers that change must occur, and that the state government must reach out to make meaningful collaborations with communities that are already heavily impacted by this injustice.

Moreover, the funds should be reinvested into services, an idea that is gaining traction in legislative reforms.

The full report can be accessed here.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

PA county without a DA?

Luzerne County Council’s decision to declare the office of county district attorney vacant led to chaotic maneuvering, with the district attorney’s office sending seemingly contradictory memos to local police departments about arrests and warrants procedure, reported The Citizens-Voice.

On Tuesday, council declared the district attorney’s seat vacant after longtime District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis filed to run for a seat on the county court of common pleas in the May 18 primary. The county charter stipulates that a district attorney must resign if he or she files a nominating petition for another office.

Salavantis said she will resign as soon as she is certified as a candidate for judge, in about two weeks.

Late Tuesday night, Salavantis said council’s decision to declare a vacancy forced her to seek legal counsel.

First Assistant District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce emailed a memo to police departments in the county, stating the office would not approve search warrants or wiretaps, or authorize charges that require the office’s approval until the vacancy issue was resolved.

“As you may have heard, at last night’s Luzerne County Council meeting, council voted to approve a resolution attempting to remove Stefanie from office based on her filing petitions to run for judge,” Sanguedolce wrote. “Although we believe the action is unlawful, it has raised a question as to whether she is now lawfully the District Attorney under whom we are authorized to effectuate certain acts under the crimes and judicial codes.”

However, an email Sanguedolce sent hours later reversed some of the stipulations in the first memo.

“Based on our internal research and legal discussions, as to approval of search warrants and charges requiring ADA approval, please proceed as you would have prior to council’s action,” he wrote.

In a text message Wednesday night, Sangudolce said the first memo was meant to place a “temporary hold” on some legal procedures until the district attorney’s office could conduct further research.

That research convinced the office to lift the restrictions on approving warrants and charges, he said.

To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Nebraska governor pushing for $230 million prison

Across the nation officials are closing prisons as crime rates drop and views about drug use change, but not in Nebraska, where the governor is pushing for a new $230 million prison to relieve overcrowding and house a steadily rising inmate population, reported The Associated Press.

It’s not certain that lawmakers will support Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts’ plan to build a 1,512-bed maximum security prison, but the fact that the state is considering what would amount to a 37% increase in bed space runs counter to most states.

Sen. John McCollister, who has introduced bills this year to try to steer more inmates into rehabilitation programs, said he can’t understand it.

 “It’s too bad Nebraska hasn’t learned from the experiences of other states,” McCollister said. “We’re definitely going against the grain.”

As Nebraska is seeking to expand its prison capacity, other states are taking a different approach.

California plans to shutter one prison this year that holds about 1,500 inmates and another as early as 2022, partly in response to state budget cuts. Connecticut plans to close two facilities as the state’s prisoner population fell to its lowest level in three decades.

In 2019, Republican-led Missouri closed one of its maximum-security prisons for an estimated $20 million savings, after cutting the possible prison time for nonviolent drug offenses and allowing parole for more nonviolent offenders.

Similar attempts to reduce Nebraska’s prison population have repeatedly stalled because of opposition from prosecutors and law enforcement. Nebraska’s attorney general has argued that most of those serving mandatory minimums in Nebraska are repeat offenders or have committed major drug crimes, such as manufacturing large amounts of methamphetamine.

Offenders who aren’t ready for living within the law end up committing serious crimes, including home-invasion robberies and murder, and must be kept away from the public, prosecutors said.

“You’ve got to work pretty hard to end up in prison on just a possession case,” said Lancaster County Attorney Pat Condon. In most drug cases, “you’re given several opportunities to turn things around.”

Ricketts and other top officials recently announced a new effort to try to learn why Nebraska’s prison population has grown.

But Ricketts acknowledged it’s “very unlikely” that Nebraska will be able to close prisons as it strives to ease overcrowding. At a minimum, he said, the state needs to replace its oldest prison, the Nebraska State Penitentiary, built in 1869.

“We all know that we are facing a number of different challenges,” he said.

Nebraska had the nation’s second-most crowded prisons as of 2019, according to federal statistics, with 5,500 inmates held in facilities designed for 4,050. Corrections officials project the inmate population will climb to 6,438 by 2025. The state has 10 prisons, but hasn’t opened a new facility since 2001.

Nebraska’s inmate population grew 27% between 2009 and 2019, while the state’s overall population rose by 7%.

The increase is driven by several factors, including a large number of former inmates who violate their parole, said Scott Frakes, director of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services. Frakes said state laws that create new crimes also contribute to the growth.

“Maybe it leads to another five or ten people coming to prison — but as you accumulate that over the years, it leads to our current rate of incarceration,” Frakes said.

One study found that of 1,050 Nebraska inmates paroled in 2016, 429 later returned to prison, mostly for technical violations, such as associating with other felons or drug use. Many inmates fail to complete their drug abuse treatment or other programs, officials said.

To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Right wing groups recruit military and law enforcement members

Based on investigations between 2016 and 2020, agents and analysts with the FBI's division in San Antonio concluded that white supremacists and other right-wing extremists would "very likely seek affiliation with military and law enforcement entities in furtherance of" their ideologies, according to a confidential intelligence assessment issued late last month, reported ABC News.

The document, obtained by ABC News, was distributed to law enforcement agencies both in Texas and elsewhere in the country. It focuses on extremists inspired by the white-supremacist publication "Siege," which served as motivation for the neo-Nazi group known as "Atomwaffen Division," among others. The report is titled "Siege-Inspired Actors Very Likely Seek Military and Law Enforcement Affiliation, Increasing Risk of Tradecraft Proliferation and Color of Law Offenses in the FBI San Antonio Area of Responsibility."

Conclusions in the assessment were based on information from records and informants, some of whom had "excellent access," the FBI authors wrote in the Feb. 25 document.

"In the long term, FBI San Antonio assesses [racially motivated violent extremists] successfully entering military and law enforcement careers almost certainly will gain access to non-public tradecraft and information, enabling them to enhance operational security and develop new tactics in and beyond the FBI San Antonio" region, the document said.

FBI spokesperson Katherine Gulotta said that "FBI field offices routinely share information with their local law enforcement partners to assist in protecting the communities they serve." She did not specifically address the content of the report.

Critics say the document once again shows the nation's top law enforcement agency has been slow to deal with the problem of white-supremacist infiltration of police and the military, even as FBI agents watched evidence mounting.

"When we asked the FBI last year to testify about white supremacists executing plans to infiltrate law enforcement entities across America, the bureau refused and told us it had no evidence that racist infiltration was a problem," Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said in a statement. "Now, the January insurrection -- and the growing evidence of off-duty law enforcement officers being involved in the attack on Congress -- and this newly leaked report confirm in my mind that the FBI's failure to level with the American people about organized racist infiltration of law enforcement is having dangerous and deadly consequences."

To read more CLICK HERE


Monday, March 8, 2021

Chauvn's trial begins for death of George Floyd

The call to jury duty for the trial of Derek Chauvin, the white former police officer accused of murdering George Floyd, a Black man, came with 14 pages of questions about race, policing, martial arts and podcasts, reports The New York Times.

Typically, such questionnaires include submissions from both the prosecution and the defense, with the final selections made by the judge. The court has not disclosed how many questionnaires were sent out or returned, nor is it clear whether the submitted answers will ever become public. But lawyers will use these as a starting point when they begin questioning potential jurors.

What do you know about this case from media reports?

The goal is not to find someone who has never heard of George Floyd — anyone who makes that claim may be seen as incompetent or even dishonest. Still, lawyers will be trying to flag people who have been paying really close attention and may have already made up their minds on the case.

What podcasts do you regularly listen to?

The lawyers will be looking for ideological markers, and podcasts offer an almost infinite range of viewpoints from mainstream to niche. Generally speaking, the defense will be looking for political conservatives with pro-law-enforcement views.

Have you ever been restrained or put in a chokehold, for example, by law enforcement or during a self-defense class? Yes No If Yes, please explain:

This question gets at a tricky part of jury selection — do you want someone with a particular experience related to the case, or not? Sometimes it can be beneficial, but other times the juror may become overly focused on his or her own past.

To read more CLICK HERE