The Kane County Sheriff’s “Candidate Forum” That Should Have Happened.

Look like I missed a great opportunity to learn a little about the next Kane County Sheriff last night. According to the Kane County Chronicle, there was a “forum” that covered all sorts of interesting stuff.  Compelling topics like who was hired by who’s dad to be a deputy in the Sheriff’s Office in the 1970’s, and how many degrees everybody has:

Each touted their advanced degrees and extensive experience as reasons why they should be sheriff – but also exchanged a few barbs.
Kramer’s father George Kramer was sheriff from 1978 to 1986 and hired him in 1979, giving him his start at the sheriff’s office. 
Kramer said he was one of 12 who passed the test and all were hired. 
“We both talked about our fathers who were previously in law enforcement. At the end of the day, they are not running for Kane County Sheriff,” Mayes said. 
“We talk about master’s degrees – I could make as compelling an argument about experience,” he said. “A degree without experience is nothing. But experience with a degree really allows you be able to work and continue moving forward.”

Continue reading “The Kane County Sheriff’s “Candidate Forum” That Should Have Happened.”

Come on, Daily Herald. You can do better.

When I think of local papers who don’t care about actually “reporting” local court news but would rather cut-and-paste from State’s Attorney press releases, I don’t normally think of the Daily Herald.  They’re doing everything they can to change that, though.  When catching up on my local crime news today, I first came across this article about a man in Geneva who, the paper says, admit to some fairly serious sex crimes and underage porn charges:

[row]
[span6]The Daily Herald article:[/span6]
[span6]The Kane County Prosecutor’s press release:[/span6]
[/row]

Continue reading “Come on, Daily Herald. You can do better.”

The Revolution Will Not Be Twittervised, Apparently.

I like twitter. It’s fun. Not just fun because you can “interact” with Nancy Grace, but also fun because you can “interact” with Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  I like to think he gets as much out of our exchanges as I do. I could be wrong, though.

Twitter can can get a little repetitious.  Sometimes all you want to do is scroll through and learn if the Iron Sheik would prefer to watch “White Chicks” or “Ghandi” and people are blowing up your timeline with 65 straight tweets about #DanceMoms.  Reading all of the repetitious stuff can give a man a fairly distorted view of reality– Especially if you are “subjected” (which I put in quotes because you really don’t have to follow anything on twitter you don’t want to… but I can’t help myself), to the tweets of the “justice system.”

“Justice system” means, of course, police, prosecutors, and those of the rest of them that are just trying to keep the world safe… As opposed to us who are just trying to “get all those guilty people off.”  Because all that they want is for the truth to come out. We’re immoral, hired guns, doing whatever our obviously-guilty clients tell us to do.  We don’t care about truth, right?

One day I’m flipping through the tweets from one of my favorite prosecutor’s offices and I noticed an unusually high number of convictions getting “tweeted” about.  As a tax payer, I suppose I should be grateful for a one-billion-percent conviction rate.  Call me ungrateful, then, but I couldn’t help but inquire about the hall-of-fame batting average they were putting up: 

They never responded because, well, I’m not worth responding to.  So, I let it go. They do their thing, I do mine, and who really cares what happens on Twitter, anyway?

Then a crazy thing happened. Today, while I was doing some work, minding my business, and trying to get pumped I got a text from a friend.  Turns out he was not intimidated by the prosecutor’s office lifetime undefeated streak and he went to trial.  Apparently, the trial wrapped up, the jury went out and, a short time later, the jury returned a “two word” verdict (HINT: “guilty” is only one word).

Immediately I turned to twitter. I was interested to see how their twitter account would deal with the first loss ever in the history of the office. Would there be a link to a press release?  Maybe just a 140 character statement?  Would they explain this inexplicable verdict? “Congrats to the defendant… the evidence wasn’t there and the system worked.”  Would it be like Lou Gehrig, with absolute grace in the face of horrific news?

We’re never going to know.

It’s the unfair fight, again. Police and prosecutors frame the news. We don’t.  We win something, and we walk away. We have to.  Just like I said in February:

If I won a trial today and issued a press release naming names and pointing fingers, it might be fine today.  Tomorrow, though?  Tomorrow I’m right back at it (probably with the same prosecutor) but for a different client.  What I don’t want is this client to get a bad (or no) offer because I embarrassed the prosecutor on the last case.

Thankfully I’ve still got Nancy Grace and Sheriff Joe.  And, thankfully for them they’ve still got me.

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.”

Mental Illness v. Public Safety.

I don’t know how I initially missed this story, but it’s very sad.  Apparently a suicidal man in Batavia township managed to find himself on top of a house with a rifle.  Obviously the police were called.  It sounds like there may have even been a shot fired before they arrived:

No charges in officer-related shooting death at Batavia house

By Erika Wurst ewurst@stmedianetwork.com March 4, 2014 1:20PMA Batavia man died at his house at 3S303 Elfstrom Trail in September after being shot by a Kane County Sheriff’s Department sergeant. | Erika Wurst~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 5, 2014 7:51PM
The Illinois State Police and the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office have concluded their investigation into the officer-related shooting death of a Batavia man last July.
The investigation concluded that the 20-year veteran Kane County deputy was justified in using deadly force when he shot 52-year-old Luke Bulzak to death at his home on July 8, 2013, Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon said Tuesday.
Sheriff’s deputies responded to 3S303 Elfstrom Trail in unincorporated Batavia Township at 11:40 a.m. that day after receiving a call about a suicidal male. Deputies were told that the man may have fired a gun.
When they arrived, deputies found Bulzak on the roof of his home with a rifle.
Sheriff’s deputies said they attempted to get Bulzak to drop his weapon, but he refused. Deputies said the man pointed the rifle toward them, and a sheriff’s sergeant shot at him…

The intersection of mental illness and “policing” is what you could call an area of extreme interest for me.  Sadly, too often people afflicted with any sort of condition affecting their normal well-being, aren’t handled in the best way by the police.  Especially when they end up on roof tops.

I’m not implying that the Kane County Sheriff’s officer who was called to this situation did anything improper.  Not that I know a whole lot about about the facts of this case, but when police are called to a man on a roof with a rifle (who may have already fired one shot) there’s going to be a tense situation that can really only end a couple of ways.  That is, of course, assuming the paper’s version of facts is true (and came from an objective source… which isn’t always the case).

What I am wondering, though, is how this might have turned out differently if your average on-the-streets patrol officer got as much training for dealing with the mentally ill as he does in firearms training, DUI detection, or any of the other matters that public has little problem funding with their tax dollars.  I’m betting that as soon as the call came in for this man, the S.W.A.T. team was getting ready to roll, and all sorts of police “resources” were being put into play. I’m betting that there was even a crisis counselor or negotiator headed towards the scene, too.  I’m not sure why they need to be called in, though.

Why not put all of these initial responders- the men and women out there in the patrol cars who are, so often, the very first people to arrive through more complete training?  Shouldn’t they all know the best way to deal with a man with Down’s Syndrome who won’t leave a movie theater, or a senile old man who doesn’t know what planet he’s on? Better yet, why not try to attract people who already have the right background into the profession?  Call it a hunch, but I’m guessing the average social worker or psychologist might be ok at dealing with people on a daily basis.

That won’t happen, though.  For whatever reason, the thinking is that police need to be modern-day warriors.  They need to be trained in the para-military arts… because it’s “them against us”.  Every one of them needs to be trained for the “worst case scenario” even if they’re in Batavia, or Elburn or Mayberry and there are already plenty of cops trained for the worst case scenario around.

I feel bad for the cop who got called to this scene and killed this man– it had to be scary as hell. I also feel bad for the man on the roof. Perhaps, someday, the general public will see the value in changing the way many of the police are trained, and we won’t have to pretend that public safety and mental illness are at odds.

The Unfair Fight.

I’m not willing to let this press release/social media campaign issue die yet.  Like I wrote about a while back, an inordinate amount of your local crime news is cut-and-pasted directly from press releases issued by police and prosecutor’s office.  Don’t believe me?  See for yourself.  I’m not the only one who’s written about this.

Tonight, while I’m minding my own business and getting gnawed on by the dog, I took a look at the Kane County Chronicle to see if there was anything interesting I didn’t catch while at the courthouse.  It doesn’t appear that there was.  On the other hand, I did find this interesting article which got my little brain churning:

Aurora man convicted in North Aurora home invasion
Published: Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014 5:30 a.m. CST
 By KANE COUNTY CHRONICLE – editorial@kcchronicle.com
ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – An Aurora man will be sentenced this spring for his role in a North Aurora home invasion that left a couple terrorized and a dog dead, according to a news release from the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office…
Then it goes on, of course, to essentially re-hash the Kane County State’s Attorney’s press release.  The highlight is the following quote from the Kane County State’s Attorney himself:
“Mr. Mullen took advantage of his friends for his own personal gain by threatening and inflicting violence them,” McMahon said.
Before you get on my case for clearly omitting either the word “upon” or “on” before “them”, let me assure you that I left nothing out.  Read the article yourself, that’s exactly what it says:
newspaper
Of course, it only says that because that’s also exactly what the press release says:
mediarelesae

We’re not here to talk about lazy reporting and sloppy editing today though– certainly I’ve missed my fair share of mistakes in posts here.  So, I won’t judge.  On the other hand, we are here to talk about the substance of these reports.

Therein lies the unfair fight.  Every time I read through my twitter account and see police department and State’s Attorney’s offices patting themselves on the back and bragging about their heroic victories, I’m caused to wonder (and sometimes tweet) if they’ll ever let the public know the other side of the story- about the cases they’ve charged, prosecuted and lost.

Of course they won’t.  You assume I will, though.

Not a chance.

Being a criminal defense attorney is a lot like playing in the defensive backfield in the NFL- you  may have been burned for a touchdown or you may have intercepted a pass on the last play. It doesn’t matter, though.  You need to get the last play out of your mind because the next play is coming up… and you might just get burned for a touchdown (or intercept a pass).

Sadly, most of the cases in criminal court get resolved through deals.  Nothing can mess up an attorney’s ability to work a good deal for their client than too much ego- on either side of the case.  If I won a trial today and issued a press release naming names and pointing fingers, it might be fine today.  Tomorrow, though?  Tomorrow I’m right back at it (probably with the same prosecutor) but for a different client.  What I don’t want is this client to get a bad (or no) offer because I embarrassed the prosecutor on the last case.

That’s not to say that defense attorneys don’t beat their own drums on occasion.  It is to say, however, that there’s a practical reason it’s a lot less prevalent than what we’re seeing with police and prosecutors right now.

That’s just another reason you’ve got to be skeptical whenever you’re reading local crime news.  Those news articles are often a battle for public sentiment and support.  It’s largely a one-sided battle. It’s an unfair fight.

Crime News… Whose Perspective?

Obviously I love to troll the press and media releases for local crime.  They amuse me.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  What’s not really amusing, though, is how much they influence what shows up in the newspaper…. and how they get there.

If you read a newspaper article and don’t know what’s going on, you’d think a newpaper reporter was sitting in a courtroom watching trials as they unfold.  That certainly does happen a lot of the time.  What happens more often is that a reporter sits in for parts of a trial.  That’s exactly what was going on when the back of my head made the Huffington Post last year. Of course, in that case, the parts of the trial the reporters weren’t sitting in on were the ones where we presented our side of the case.  Crazy how that works.

Anyhow, what seems to be happening more often (especially in Kane County) is that media and press releases are pushed out to media outlets, who then write stories based largely on the reports.  Of course, those reports are coming from the Kane County State’s Attorneys office, and the police departments.

For example, take this story in the Elgin Courior News:

South Elgin woman guilty of filing false child abuse reports

From Submitted Reports December 6, 2013 4:42PM
Updated: December 9, 2013 12:30PM
A South Elgin woman has been found guilty of making a false report of child abuse that included coloring her young son with ink and claiming it was bruising caused by the boy’s stepmother, the Kane County State’s Attorney Office said.
Kimberly Carlyle, 47, of the 200 block of Nicole Drive, was convicted Friday in a trial before Circuit Judge Susan Clancy Boles of two counts of disorderly conduct, each a Class 2 felony

This story says it’s from “submitted reports” on December 6, 2013.  I wonder what “submitted report” that might be?

It’s not hard to find, really.  On December 6, 2013 the twitter account for the Kane County State’s Attorney’s office posted as follows:

If you follow that link, it takes you right to a prepared, pre-formatted press release from the Kane County prosecutor’s office.  If you go ahead and look through the Kane SAO twitter account, you’ll find all sorts of links to press releases, too.

It doesn’t take much investigation to figure out that that press release was a major source for the newspaper story.  According to the press release:

Kimberly Carlyle, 47 (d.o.b. 7-29-1966), of the 200 block of Nicole Drive, South Elgin, was convicted today by Circuit Judge Susan Clancy Boles or two counts of disorderly conduct, each a Class 2 felony.

Carlyle waived her right to a jury trial.

According to the newspaper:

Kimberly Carlyle, 47, of the 200 block of Nicole Drive, was convicted Friday in a trial before Circuit Judge Susan Clancy Boles of two counts of disorderly conduct, each a Class 2 felony.

Carlyle waived her right to a jury trial.

Press release:

On Sept. 6, 2009, Carlyle called the Kane County Sheriff’s Office to report that her young child had been physically abused during a visit with the child’s biological father and his wife. Carlyle claimed that bruises she said appeared on her child were the result of physical abuse. When a sheriff’s deputy told Carlyle that she had contacted the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to investigate further, Carlyle acknowledged that the bruises were actually ink that had since washed off. When contacted later by DCFS, Carlyle apologized, acknowledged that the bruising marks were actually ink and said that she had no reason to believe that the child was being abused.

Newspaper:

According to prosecutors, on Sept. 6, 2009, Carlyle called the Kane County Sheriff’s Office to report that her young child had been physically abused during a visit with the child’s biological father and his wife. Carlyle claimed that bruises she said appeared on her child were the result of physical abuse. When a sheriff’s deputy told Carlyle that she had contacted the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to investigate further, Carlyle acknowledged that the bruises were actually ink that had since washed off.

When contacted later by DCFS, Carlyle apologized, acknowledged that the bruising marks were actually ink and said that she had no reason to believe that the child was being abused.

I could keep going on, but I won’t. You get the idea- the article is practically a word-for-word regurgitation of the Kane County State’s Attorney’s media release.  It’s not so much an article as it is a rebroadcast of a prosecutor’s statement about the outcome of the case.  If the defendant had been found not-guilty, then what would the Kane County State’s Attorney’s press release say?  There wouldn’t be one, of course.

This happens nearly every day, all over Chicagoland.

So, when you’re reading the news are you really reading the news? Or are you reading propaganda from a prosecutor or police department?  I certainly have my opinion on that.