Citizenfour

I’m not great at watching movies. Sometimes I fall asleep. Sometimes I just don’t pay attention. Sometimes I watch and forget I’ve even seen a movie a week or two later.

I don’t think I’m going to forget Citizenfour, though.

I’ll admit to not paying a ton of attention to every minute detail of Snowden’s disclosures when they were fist reported. I knew he’d blown the top off of electronic spying. I knew he fled the country, and I knew he’s facing charges that will likely land him in prison the rest of his life if the U.S. intelligence committee ever catches up with him.

I didn’t need to know much more in order to connect the dots. So, I’ll probably forget a lot of what is in the movie, which is fine- it’s completely aggravating.

One thing I won’t forget, though, is the connection to the movie, “Unconstitutional.” Continue reading “Citizenfour”

Cop Games, Due Process and the CPD “Black Site.”

“Sorry to disrupt, but I’m here for Mr. Innocent.”

One of my favorite things to do at this job is to show up at police stations.  If a client is inside an interrogation room, manages to wade through the coercive Reed Technique garbage and get a call out to me, I’ll drop almost anything I’m doing and try to get there if I can.  It hardly every happens, though.

Cops play all sorts of games to prevent it- despite what the Constitution says.

If I can talk to the cop directly, they’ll do everything they can to interfere. My favorite is when I ask “You’ve arrested Bob Innocent, my client…” to which the response is always, “No, sir, Mr. Innocent has not been arrested“,  Because, as you know, even though a man is handcuffed and locked in a police interrogation room, he might be arrested to you or me, but that’s not “arrested” to the cops.

So, you have to say “detained”.  That’s the magic cop word that means “arrested” to everybody else. If you don’t use their magic words, they play dumb. Continue reading “Cop Games, Due Process and the CPD “Black Site.””

The Legalization of Marijuana Doesn’t Solve Financial Problems. So What.

For years I’ve been saying that legalizing marijuana so we can “tax the stuff” and put the money to good use was a really bad idea.  That’s not to say that marijuana should be prohibited. It shouldn’t.  That is to say, however, its legalization shouldn’t be championed by people claiming the extra tax revenue would solve the world’s problems. Continue reading “The Legalization of Marijuana Doesn’t Solve Financial Problems. So What.”

Honoring Columbus Day: Can I get a mug shot?

Light the tree, set off the fireworks and pass out the candy… it’s Columbus Day in America!  Today is more than just the day we get to watch Bears/Lions on Monday Night Football.  In Canada, of course, they mistakenly call today Canadian Thanksgiving.  Although, we don’t really care what they’re doing up in America’s Hat.  As I’ve already explained, Canada is backwards.  I guess this Thanksgiving/Columbus day mix-up is just Exhibit #2 to that effect. Continue reading “Honoring Columbus Day: Can I get a mug shot?”

Driver sober AND get pulled over.

Nothing warms my jaded, criminal defense attorney heart more than when law enforcement comes up with cute catch phrases.  I’ve always loved it when Illinois State Troopers talk about the “Fatal 4”.  I especially love “click it or ticket” because the Illinois law really only lived up to a “watered down” version of the phrase until the decidedly “big government” Bush administration tied changes in the law to eligibility for federal funding:

SENATE BILL 50: Primary Seat belt Legislation
The new law changes the Illinois Vehicle Code’s seat belt law from a “secondary” violation to a “primary” violation. Formerly, law enforcement officials could not stop a motor vehicle solely on the basis of a violation of the seat belt law. This law removes that exception, enabling law enforcement officials to stop vehicles solely on the basis of seat belt violations. The law provides that a law enforcement officer may not search or inspect a motor vehicle, its contents, the driver or a passenger solely because of a violation of this law. The law took effect immediately upon signing by the governor. Illinois is the first state this year to enact primary safety belt legislation and the 19th state across the country.

No discussion of cute-catch-phrases-tied-to-federal-funding would be complete without “Drive Sober Or Get Pulled Over” though.  As I explained back in December, that propaganda (and, more accurately, the funding behind it), is why you start seeing news of all the “checkpoints” that pop up everywhere around the holidays (I really should go back to see exactly how many St. Charles DUI arrests were made as a result of that weekend… and then check that number against the number of DUI arrests made on a “normal” weekend to see if the the money and resources spent were actually justified).

Nevertheless, I’m very saddened to read today that not everywhere lives by “drive sober or get pulled over.”  In fact, in Wisconsin, it looks like they’ve bought into quite the opposite- drive sober and get pulled over:

Tanya Weyker was hurt so badly, she couldn’t blow into a breath-testing device or perform field sobriety tests. But a Sheriff’s deputy arrested her for drunk driving anyway. And the County hung those charges over her head for nearly a year, even long after blood tests proved she was perfectly sober.

Wait. She was just driving down the road and got a DUI?  Nothing is that simple. Obviously, there’s a catch.  That catch is that you’ve got to let the cop run into you, first (and lie about it, second):

A Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Deputy rolls through a stop sign and causes a violent crash. So why was the victim placed under arrest?
A FOX6 Investigation finds that a deputy’s changing story may have changed one woman’s life forever.
* * *  

Continue reading “Driver sober AND get pulled over.”

The hypocrisy of your outrage over Donald Sterling.

I didn’t even know who Donald Sterling was until this whole Clippers/mistress/racism thing went down. In case you’re living under a rock (like I typically try to), Donald Sterling is an older-than-dirt, mega-rich, crusty, white dude who also happens to own a pro basketball team that nobody knew existed (except me of course, I still have my Terry Dehere jersey in the closet… seriously) until some guy named Blake Griffin jumped over a car.

At least that’s what Donald Sterling was.  Now, he seems to be an exposed racist with a mistress less than half his age and a long history of discriminating against minorities.  The general public is outraged at these “revelations.”  We’re not going to let this man say these racist things, dammit! I mean, we didn’t have a problem with him doing racist things for the longest time but now that he actually said it? Now there’s a problem.

To my bitter, sarcastic mind, there’s a problem with our collective thinking on Sterling.

While our dislike of him may be rooted in his racial views (and even actions), the flames of our hatred fan most intensely towards the man because we don’t want to be hypocrites.  Sterling was exposed as a racist years ago.  Even so, we didn’t know or care enough about the man to pay him any mind. Now, though, we care. We care because everybody knows. Even worse, everybody knows that we know.

When everybody knows that you know that Donald Sterling is racist, you’ve got to be outraged.  After all, they know you know he’s racist, and if you’re not as mad as them (or even more mad), then you’re probably racist too, right?

Look, I’m not defending Donald Sterling. He’s clearly a jackass. Crude as that sounds, there’s not a better word for it.  The outrage is seemingly overdone, though.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hit the nail squarely on the head with his piece for Time Magazine. If you haven’t read it yet, you’re doing yourself a disservice.  Kareem takes a spectacularly rational position, and is as much upset at the general public for blowing the story up as he is at Sterling:

What bothers me about this whole Donald Sterling affair Isn’t just his racism. I’m bothered that everyone acts as if it’s a huge surprise. Now there’s all this dramatic and very public rending of clothing about whether they should keep their expensive Clippers season tickets. Really? All this other stuff I listed above has been going on for years and this ridiculous conversation with his girlfriend is what puts you over the edge? That’s the smoking gun?  

Continue reading “The hypocrisy of your outrage over Donald Sterling.”

Drugs, Schools, Parks and completely random drug/school/parks laws.

Sometimes a drug deal in Elgin is just a drug deal.

I’ve given up reading some of the local papers each day to catch up on my crime news.  At this point, I’d rather go straight to the source- the police and State’s Attorney’s media releases.  After all, if they’re accurate and objective enough for the newspaper, they must be good enough for me, right?  So, allow me, if you will, to do what I often see in some of the news outlets by cutting and pasting part of the Kane County State’s Attorney’s latest media release as though it’s real news:

[section_alt background_color=”]

ELGIN MAN GETS 15-YEAR SENTENCE FOR COCAINE SALE

April 18, 2014 – An Elgin man with a history of violent offenses has been sent to prison for selling cocaine near a public park. Samuel E. Span, 31 (d.o.b. 7-27-1983), of the 300 block of North Liberty Street, Elgin, was sentenced late Thursday, April 17, 2014, by Circuit Judge John A. Barsanti to 15 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Span was convicted Feb. 28, 2014, by Judge Barsanti of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a park, a Class X felony, and unlawful delivery of a controlled substance, a Class 1 felony.

On Feb. 22, 2013, Span and co-defendant Mateo Cedillo, 26 (d.o.b. 6-3-1987) of the 200 block of South State Street, Elgin, sold 5.5 grams of cocaine to an undercover officer at Cedillo’s home. The home is within 1,000 feet of Ryerson Park in the 300 block of Ryerson Avenue on Elgin’s near west side…[/section_alt]

Of course that’s not the entire press release. I cut it off before it got too boring.  I also took the liberty of highlighting the silly parts- that this man’s house is an especially bad place to sell drugs, and its especially worse because it’s within 1000 feet of a park or school.

Now, I know you’re confused because you think I just said that people should be able to sell drugs by schools.  That’s not true. What is true is that the 1000 feet is a completely arbitrary distance with no real significance.

Police ask to meet drug dealers within 1000 feet of parks all the time.

Continue reading “Drugs, Schools, Parks and completely random drug/school/parks laws.”

The Geneva Police Crash Jenny McCarthy’s Party.

You knew Jenny McCarthy lived in Geneva, right?  If you didn’t (and you should have) you know now.  She’s been around a while.  She even posted some Swedish Days pictures on twitter earlier this year.

Now she’s been associated with some of the cities biggest scofflaws.  How do I know that?  There’s not exactly a lot of crime in Geneva. But, it seems that she had a party the other night and a lot of her fancy California guests got busted.  From the Kane County Chronicle:

GENEVA – A night out with Hollywood stars at a Jenny McCarthy charity event ended with tickets for public intoxication for some outside a nightspot in Geneva, records show.

McCarthy’s event, which took place Aug. 24 at the Hotel Baker in St. Charles, raised money for Bridges Montessori Academy in St. Charles. Among those cited were actors and dancers.

Then, at about 12:30 a.m., Aug. 25, 30 to 40 guests came with McCarthy to EvenFlow Music and Spirits, 302 W. State St., Geneva, according to Michael Knuth, who, along with Nicholas Mercadante, owns the bar, dinner and live music venue.

“It was a very nice night,” Knuth said. “Jenny invited her guests from Baker Hotel. She was very nice and enjoyed music and spirits.”
Knuth said the last call for drinks was 1:50 a.m. The guests did not drink any alcoholic beverages in that time, he said, because it’s against the city’s liquor code to serve alcohol between 2 and 6 a.m.
“They were not here at 5 a.m.; they were outside waiting for a cab,” Knuth said. “I don’t know how long they were waiting. Who knows where they went or what they did, but as for me and my bar, they were not drinking.”

Oddly enough, the police reports seem to give a different version of events:

According to reports, Joanne McCarthy told police they arrived at EvenFlow at 1:45 a.m. for an after-hours party and they drank alcoholic beverages, up until they went outside, right before police arrived at 5:45 a.m.
Also according to reports, Monaco was belligerent to officers at times, and “repeatedly stated she was a celebrity on the television shows ‘General Hospital’ and ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ “
The report states that Monaco’s demeanor changed when police advised her of the consequences of of her behavior.
Gault, a server at EvenFlow, told police she drank alcohol herself as well as served it to the group after the business closed.
According to police reports, Mercadante told police he admitted serving alcohol to the group until their departure at 5:45 a.m. because he wanted to “accommodate some ‘famous’ people and made a poor choice for his business.”

Uh, oh.

That last version of events tells me a couple of things.  First, EvenFlow could be in a lot of trouble.  Whatever good benefit they may have received from being the place that Jenny McCarthy parties at might very well get wiped out by a liquor license suspension.  Second, people need to do a better job of reading what I write when it comes to dealing with the police.  Your friends (or the people you think are your friends) will always rat you out- just ask Lance Armstrong.

Don’t Break Your Arm Patting Yourself On The Back. Or, Really, Maybe You Should.

If you’re going to kill a guy so you can start the second movie on time, shouldn’t the “triple crown” standards dictate you at least dignify the man by explaining the damage to his larynx?

A funny thing happened yesterday morning.  As typical, I was laying in bed putting off the start to the day by skimming the early headlines.  An article about the McHenry County Sheriff’s Police caught my eye.  Looks like they were bragging about gaining “Triple Crown Accreditation:”

No horses, but McHenry Sheriff nets triple crown award

The McHenry County Sheriff’s Department recently won a “Triple Crown,” but it has nothing to do with horse racing.

The “Triple Crowd Award” is a distinction held by less than 1 percent of sheriff offices across the country. It is the National Sheriffs’ Association’s term for attaining accreditation through three key groups: the Commission on the Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, or CALEA; the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections, or CAC; and the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare, or NCCHA….

I’ve seen the CALEA signs around the courthouse, so I knew something was going on. I wasn’t quite sure what this meant, though. Are they more accurate in their arrests?  Do they arrest less guilty people? Are their investigations more accurate or trustworthy than others?

By yesterday afternoon, another story had appeared in the Northwest Herald.  This one had more details. Not important details, mind you, but details given to the NW Herald though and interview who is currently running for Sheriff.  He explained exactly what the triple crown meant:

“This assures [the community] that the Sheriff’s Office is one of the best the United States,” Zinke said. “It’s like sending your kid to college, we’re in the ivy league.”

Yeah.  Just like the ivy league. Except it’s not.

You know how I know?  Not because I looked into it and it appears that most of this accreditation stuff has to do with policy and management and procedure.  No, no no. That’s not it.

What’s that you say?  It’s not like the ivy league because the Chicago Police Department is on the list and they are not, in any regard, ivy league in anything?  I wasn’t even going to go there.

Where I was going to go was that the Frederick County, Maryland Sheriff’s Department is on there.  Are you familiar with them? You’re not?  Well, allow me to refresh your memory:

A shade over 6 months ago, a fellow named Robert Ethan Saylor went to watch Zero Dark Thirty at a movie theater in Frederick County, Maryland.  Mr. Saylor had Downs Syndrome.  I hate to generalize like this, but anybody familiar with Downs Syndrome would have known this was likely at first glance.

Rest in Peace, Robert.

He attended the movie with his caretaker.  I won’t regale you with the entire story, it’s still popping up all over the internet, but Mr. Saylor did not want to leave when the second showing of the movie came on. He clearly threw a bit of a fit- and he was a large man.  Despite the caretaker’s request that Mr. Saylor not be touched and be allowed to calm himself, he was forcibly removed from the movie theater by the Frederick County Sheriff’s Police.  And, by “forcibly removed” I mean they “handcuffed the flailing, 294-pound man as he screamed, cursed and cried for his mother.”

During the course of this, Mr. Saylor was killed.  In determining the cause of death,  the “state medical examiner’s office found signs of “positional” asphyxia, or having been in a position in which he couldn’t breathe. There was also unexplained damage to Saylor’s larynx.”

If his death wasn’t so upsetting, the quote from the medical examiner would make me laugh.  Hundreds of police reports generated.  Dozens of witness to various parts of the police action.  Numerous officers accredited by the “Ivy League” of police accreditation.  Nobody can explain the damage to this kid’s windpipe? How does that even happen? Did everybody sneeze at the exact same time?

What are the triple crown standards on that?  What’s CALEA have to say about that?  If you’re going to kill a guy so you can start the second movie on time, shouldn’t the “triple crown” standards dictate you at least dignify the man by explaining the damage to his larynx?

I guess the ivy league of police accreditation doesn’t care.

I’ve talked about what I like to call the “meatball police mentality” before- the idea in certain law enforcement communities that it’s “us” against “them” and that they’re all just out there doing what is “necessary” to keep “us” safe from the evil lurking in each and every corner.

I see this stuff, though, and feel so bad for all the great people who have become cops. I feel bad for the departments, many of the small ones, who are responsive to their community and work as hard to help out in the community as they do to “keep us safe from ourselves.”  There are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of cops out there who aren’t on “Triple Crown” departments but who could have done a better job acting like a normal human and taking care of Mr. Saylor.  The CALEA-accredited thugs who either damaged his larynx or weren’t properly trained on how to remove somebody of his physical capacity from a movie theater get to brag about being “ivy league.”

Maybe I have a chip on my shoulder because the MCSP is “ivy league” and I’m just a dumb guy with a public university Philosophy degree from a MAC school.  Maybe that’s it. Or maybe I prefer substance over style.

Either way, I know that Mr. Saylor didn’t have to die, and that’s all I need to know about this “triple crown” nonsense.

This right here explains why you people are so angry.

In a few days the good people over at Excessivebail are going to post a little thing I wrote about plea bargains (Edit: It’s now up here).  It’s not really so much about plea bargains as it is about how the public and victims (you people) react when somebody you “know” is guilty gets “too good” of a deal.  It was inspired by Billy Curl recently getting a “good” deal for murdering that NIU student.

I won’t spoil it for you. Rather, I’ll allow it to underwhelm and disappoint you when it’s posted.

In light of that, though, I came across something I had to mention.  This case in the Northwest Herald is one you have to keep your eye on: “Former Private School Principal Arrested in Johnsburg.”  Why do you have to keep your eye on it?  It’s exactly the kind of case that the public (you people) is going to react to when it’s resolved in the Woodstock Courthouse.

To save you actually having to click over, here’s the main gist of the article:

JOHNSBURG – A former private school principal in Johnsburg has been arrested after she sent “offensive” letters to parents of students, according to the Johnsburg Police Department.

Pamela Dvonch, 63, was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct on Sunday in connection with at least 16 letters recently sent to parents of students at St. John the Baptist Catholic School.

The letters — a sheet of paper in an envelope with a few words on it — forced authorities to post officers at the school April 2 as a precautionary measure.

The cards were sent to parents on the school’s parent advisory board and fundraising committee, as well as the pastor at the church and a separate parishioner, Johnsburg police Chief Keith Von Allmen said. The cards were homemade.

An investigation later linked Dvonch to the letters, and she turned herself into police on Sunday. She previously worked at the school for more than 20 years.

“Inside the cards, there were offensive statements directed at the parent,” Von Allmen previously told the Northwest Herald. “I want to make it clear that it was not a threatening comment.”

Dvonch was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct due to the disruption the letters caused at the school, Von Allmen said Monday.

“Disorderly conduct is a breach of the peace,” he said. “The disruption that occurred at the school was caused by these letters.”

Folks, this is a bad case.  How do I know?  First clue is the description of what she wrote.  Look how vague it is.  Were the letters threatening? No.  They were offensive? Yeah?  How so?  Would you have been offended by those words?  Would I have? Offensive to whom?

Go ahead and Tell me what the words were. I’m a big boy. I can handle it.  What were they?

Oh.  You‘re not going to do that?

And when I say “you” I mean the cops who charged the case (and who are the source of the report).  There’s a reason they’re not telling us.  That reason probably isn’t because it makes it look like this is an awesome case for them.

How else do you know it’s a bad case?  Well, those same cops who charged the case and gave this information to the newspaper don’t know what they’re talking about.  Disorderly conduct isn’t a breach of the peace.  A breach of the peace can be disorderly conduct.  It can be only if several other elements of the offense were met (like the defendant’s actions must be unreasonable).

Oh and, by the way, even if all those other elements are met and there was a breach of the peace, it’s still not disorderly conduct if it’s based on words and those words are what is called “protected speech.”  Were they?  Maybe that’s why they aren’t telling us what the words were.

Did the cop know all this?  Maybe he just didn’t have time to go into that much detail with the reporter. Or, maybe he doesn’t really know all those other pesky details. I guess we’ll find out.

Either way, this article is one of those things that looks scary.  I’m sure members of the public are alarmed.  Keep an eye on the reaction when this case gets resolved.  If you’re angry when it gets resolved, don’t be mad at the prosecutor.  Don’t be mad at the defense attorney. Be mad at the guys who charged the case and left out all of the minor details when they told you about it.