Archive for May 5th, 2010

4 in Custody After Robbery, Police Chase

May 5, 2010
By NewsChannel 36 Staff
WCNC
updated 7:02 p.m. ET, Wed., May 5, 2010

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — Four people are in custody after leading police on a chase from Charlotte to Huntersville.

 

Police say the suspects — three men and a woman — allegedly robbed a man on Seigle Avenue in Charlotte’s Belmont neighborhood.

They fled the scene in a black Nissan Maxima and drove north on Interstate 77.

Officers stopped the car in the parking lot of a Bi-Lo on Gilead Road in Huntersville.

Police say they recovered several guns at the scene.

Stay with WCNC.com for more details on this developing story.

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Top 10 Places for Speeding Tickets

May 5, 2010

provided by

By Sean Tucker and Jamie Page Deaton

If you’re feeling the need for speed, we’ve got a list of states you might want to avoid.

 Ford Police Interceptor

Ford Police Interceptor

Driverside.com has put together a list of what it calls the “Top Ten Speediest States.” Because they count speeders by the number of speeding tickets issued, we think it’s more like the 10 states with the busiest traffic police. After all, are there more fast drivers where the police issue a lot of tickets, or where they issue very few? Maybe these are just the top 10 states where speeders are likely to get caught. At any rate, they’re the states with the most speeding tickets issued per capita.

Jalopnik adds, “A lot goes into these statistics besides how fast residents are driving, including the number of law enforcement officers on the road and the population of each individual state.”

Whichever way you look at it, the list has some important information for those of you who tend to find their right foot getting a little heavy on the highway.

Try the cruise control in wide-open spaces, for instance — states like North Dakota and Wyoming have a lot of highway miles through beautiful, sparsely-populated country, and a lot of cops who patrol them. Another important lesson: when a state is generous with its speed limits, don’t push your luck. New Mexico is happy to let you go 75 on many of its highways, so why do New Mexico police have the opportunity to issue so many tickets? Are drivers really pushing 90 out there? Won’t 75 get you there fast enough?

We also tried teasing out some of the psychology of speeders in other states. Delaware has no sales tax, so maybe drivers there feel like they have extra cash to spend on speeding tickets. Or maybe, since Delaware bills itself as “The First State” (it was the first state to ratify the constitution), Delaware drivers feel the need to be first everywhere.

Massachusetts has universal healthcare, so maybe drivers there speed because they’re not worried about medical bills. But we’re stumped as to why Vermonters are speeding. We’ve always been under the impression that Vermont is populated by aging hippies driving beat-up cars running on biodiesel, not speed machines.

If you’re looking to avoid a ticket, you shouldn’t apply for jobs here at U.S. News Automotive. In the nation’s capital, where our offices are, Driverside says police managed to issue 434,301 traffic citations last year. That’s impressive, considering that the District of Columbia has only a little over 550,000 residents. Of course, many of us commute in from Maryland (which made the list) and Virginia (which missed it). At this rate, perhaps we should begin reviewing bikes.

The complete list ranks these places from low to high, based on the number of speeding tickets issued per capita.

10. Massachusetts

9. Delaware

8. South Carolina

7. New Mexico

6. Maryland

5. Mississippi

4. North Dakota

3. Vermont

2. Wyoming

1. Washington, D.C.

Murder Charge Filed in Killing of Minnesota Officer

May 5, 2010
By STEVE KARNOWSKI, Associated Press Writer  Mon May 3, 6:28 pm ET

MINNEAPOLIS – A slain Maplewood police officer didn’t have time to unbuckle his seat belt before one of the two carjacking suspects he confronted shot him in the head. While on the run, the other suspect told a friend who gave him a ride, “We jacked that guy and we smoked that cop,” authorities said Monday.

This image provided by the Saint Paul Minnesota police department shows Joshua Michael Martin, 21, a suspect in the shooting death of Maplewood Police AP – This image provided by the Saint Paul Minnesota police department shows Joshua Michael Martin, 21, a …

Those were among the details in a criminal complaint charging Joshua Michael Martin, 21, of St. Paul, the only surviving suspect, with aiding and abetting second-degree intentional murder in the death of Sgt. Joseph Bergeron, 49. Prosecutors also charged Martin with kidnapping for the carjacking.

Suspect charged in death of Minn. officer Slideshow:Suspect charged in death of Minn. officer

The complaint identified Jason John Jones, 21, of St. Paul, as the man who shot Bergeron on Saturday. A St. Paul police officer later shot Jones as they struggled. Martin told police he regarded Jones, a fellow ex-con, as a “brother.”

He said he thought Jones shot Bergeron because he was wanted for a parole violation and didn’t want to go back to jail, the complaint said.

Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said her office may decide later to ask a grand jury to indict Martin for the first-degree murder of a police officer, but the investigation was continuing.

Bail was set at $2 million. Martin qualified for a public defender but it was not immediately clear who would get his case.

Also Monday, police said they had arrested a brother and sister from St. Paul on suspicion of helping Martin elude authorities. The 21-year-old man, arrested Sunday, has the same initials as the friend identified by only his initials in the complaint who gave Martin a ride. Martin was arrested at the 23-year-old woman’s apartment. She was arrested Monday. Police said she had information about Martin she did not disclose earlier. The two have not yet been charged.

According to the complaint, the carjacking victim said Martin and Jones pointed guns at his head just after he bought gas a St. Paul filling station. He told police they wanted money. He said he didn’t have any. He drove them around and eventually told them he had money at home. He was pretending to bring them there when he stopped at a home in Maplewood and fled on foot.

Martin and Jones also ran off, the complaint said. Bergeron responded and radioed he was checking out two people.

Shortly after, a passing jogger used Bergerson’s radio to report an officer was shot. He told police he saw the officer open his door as two men approached. He said a man matching Jones’ description shot the officer once at point-blank range.

The complaint said police soon suspected Martin and Jones, based on prior contacts with them. Security video from the gas station showed they had been there just before the carjacking.

Among the officers sealing off the area was David Longbehn of the St. Paul Police Department. He was several blocks away when he saw Jones walking toward him, talking loudly on a cell phone and carrying what looked like a tool box, the complaint said.

Longbehn ordered Jones to stop and was frisking him when Jones struck him in the face with a large bolt wrapped in cloth, breaking the officer’s nose and causing potential fractures to the bones around his eyes, the complaint said. In the ensuing struggle, Longbehn took out his gun and fired several times. Jones died at the scene.

As the manhunt went on, Martin’s parents called police several times and eventually put him on the phone. Martin told police he was angry they had killed Jones, the complaint said. By the time squad cars arrived at his parents’ home, he was gone. Martin later called police and said where he was hiding.

“Joshua Martin stated that he would not be taken alive and was going to kill himself or have the police kill him. Martin then said he slit his wrists but did not hit the artery and was bleeding ‘pretty good.’ Martin then agreed to give himself up and was arrested by police,” the complaint said.

U.S. Takes Early Lumps in Case Against Michigan Militia

May 5, 2010
By ED WHITE, Associated Press Writer  Tue May 4, 5:18 pm ET

DETROIT – Federal authorities touted the arrests of nine members of a Michigan militia as a pre-emptive strike against homegrown terrorists, declaring at an initial court hearing that the suspects with “dark hearts and evil intent” wanted to go to war against the government.

David Brian Stone, David Brian Stone, Jacob Ward, Tina Mae Stone, Michael David Meeks,  Kristopher T. Sickles, Joshua John Clough, Thomas William Piat AP – FILE – This combo of eight file photos provided by the U.S. Marshals Service on Monday March 29, 2010 …

Five weeks later, prosecutors are scrambling to regroup after a judge questioned the strength of their evidence by ordering the so-called rebels released until trial and saying they had a right to “engage in hate-filled, venomous speech.”

“The government is falling short,” said David Griem, a former federal prosecutor who’s not involved in the case. “The message that’s been sent to the community is there are problems with this case.”

During two days of hearings last week before U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts, prosecutors tried to show how dangerous they perceived the Hutaree militia to be by playing secretly recorded conversations. Those talks, however, revealed no specific plot. Under questioning by defense attorneys, the FBI’s lead agent on the case seemed unprepared.

Roberts ordered the nine released from jail under very strict conditions, including electronic tethers and curfews. They were supposed to go home Tuesday, but she froze her decision until Wednesday to give prosecutors time to consult the U.S. Justice Department about a rare appeal.

The indictment unsealed in March called Hutaree an extremist organization in southern Michigan preparing to wage war against the federal government by first mowing down police officers and bombing a subsequent funeral. Besides seditious conspiracy, the nine were charged with attempted use of weapons of mass destruction.

The militia is led by David Stone, 44, of Clayton, Mich. — “Captain Hutaree” — who was recorded saying he wanted to burn down homes of four police officers and “just start huntin'” others along the road. His attorney, William Swor, has dismissed it as “stupid, hateful talk.”

The judge’s task was to determine if the eight men and one woman — Stone’s wife, Tina — were too dangerous to be released. Roberts found that the secret recordings of militia members by an undercover agent contained “offensive and hate-filled speech,” but nothing that signaled a conspiracy to levy war against the government.

“The defendants laugh, make sounds and appear to talk over one another,” Roberts said, referring to a Feb. 20 recording. “There is also a discussion of strippers.”

She was not ruling on anyone’s guilt or innocence. The legal threshold to keep people in jail, especially with major allegations of weapons violations, is not high, which raises questions about the broader case and why prosecutors didn’t have evidence to persuade the judge.

“They weren’t prepared,” said John Freeman, a former federal prosecutor. “What strikes me is the appearance that the government took detention as a given based strictly on the nature of the allegations.”

At last week’s hearing, the FBI’s lead case agent, Leslie Larsen, said she was hastily told by prosecutors that she had to testify. Defense lawyers pressed her for information about each defendant, but she said she hadn’t lately looked at her reports and couldn’t answer many questions.

The judge found her testimony “vague,” noting the agent said militia members “may have been planning something.”

A firearms agent was quickly summoned from Grand Rapids, 150 miles west, to testify about four weapons seized by investigators. But Roberts removed him from the witness stand when defense lawyers said they had no notice.

“It’s fair to classify this as sandbagging,” attorney Mark Satawa complained.

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said a detention hearing is a limited stage for evidence. She expressed confidence about her office’s handling of the case.

“Trial is another forum. We’ll present all our evidence,” McQuade said. “It’s our position that they pose a danger to the community and detention is appropriate.”

Freeman, the former prosecutor, said appealing the release of the militia members to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati is risky for the government.

“You don’t go unless you really think the judge made a serious error and you’re fairly certain you will prevail,” he said. “You’re elevating this thing to a much higher level.”

He cautioned that while government lawyers may be taking some lumps, the nine defendants still face serious charges.

“It’s a big leap to say somebody’s released on bond and that means the government has a poor case. These are seasoned prosecutors,” Freeman said. “Hate speech alone is probably not going to get the government where it wants to be.”

Jury in Case of U.S. Navy SEAL Charged with Punching Iraqi Terror Suspect Hears From “Victim”

May 5, 2010
By LARRY O’DELL, Associated Press Writer Tue May 4, 6:18 pm ET

NORFOLK, Va. – A jury in the court-martial of a Navy SEAL accused of punching a suspected terrorist in Iraq heard the alleged victim testify Tuesday that he was blindfolded, handcuffed, beaten and kicked after his capture in September.

Ahmed Hashim Abed’s testimony was recorded in Baghdad and played for the seven-member jury considering the case of Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe, who pleaded not guilty. Two other SEALs who were accused of covering up the assault were acquitted last month in Iraq and are expected to testify in McCabe’s trial at the Norfolk Naval Station.

Abed is suspected of masterminding the gruesome 2004 killings of four American contractors in Fallujah. The bodies were burned, dragged through the streets and strung up on a bridge. The incident sparked a fierce, weeks-long battle.

In the audio recording of his nearly three-hour deposition, Abed denied any involvement in the killings and any connection with terrorist organizations. He also described through a translator the night American and Iraqi forces stormed his home and took him to a U.S. base where he claims he was abused for about five minutes.

Abed did not identify McCabe as the assailant, saying he only caught a glimpse of a man’s bare legs when he fell to the floor and his blindfold was partially dislodged.

A Navy petty officer who claims McCabe was the attacker is expected to testify. Petty Officer 3rd Class Kevin DeMartio also testified at the trials of McCabe’s co-defendants, but his account was contradicted by a several other witnesses.

The SEALs have received an outpouring of support from people on the Internet, as well as more than 20 members of Congress who signed a letter urging Defense Secretary Robert Gates to put a stop to the prosecution. Lt. Nicholas Kadlec, the Navy prosecutor, urged the McCabe jury to “find your moral courage” and put all that aside.

“It’s a simple case, a simple assault,” Kadlec said during opening statements. “But the case is going to challenge you because the accused is a decorated Navy SEAL.”

Defense attorney Neal Puckett, however, told the jury that the evidence will suggest Abed intentionally bit into a canker sore on his lip to cause bleeding that he could claim was inflicted by an American captor. He said a terrorist training manual teaches that tactic.

Puckett said the injury may have caused DeMartio, who was in charge of watching Abed, to panic.

“It’s entirely likely that the source of this blood that caused an officer to be alarmed was self-inflicted,” Puckett said.

McCabe, 24, of Perrysburg, Ohio, is charged with assault, dereliction of duty and lying to investigators. He could get up to a year in jail if convicted.

Relatives of McCabe and of some of the Blackwater contractors who were killed in Fallujah are attending the trial, which is expected to last most of the week.

Man accused of Taking Murdered Ohio Boy’s Identity

May 5, 2010
By TODD DVORAK and JEFF BARNARD, Associated Press Writers Tue May 4, 8:58 pm ET

BOISE, Idaho. – An Oregon liquor control investigator accused of assuming the identity of a murdered Ohio boy waived an extradition hearing Tuesday and awaits transport from Idaho back to Oregon, where authorities have been trying to determine the man’s true name.

Federal prosecutors have alleged that a man calling himself Jason Robert Evers assumed the identity of a 3-year-old boy who was kidnapped and murdered in Cincinnati in 1982. Investigators have said the man was 17 and living in Colorado when he took the name in 1996.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Magistrate Judge Candy Dale referred to Evers as Mr. John Doe, a name also listed on court records.

Doe, wearing an orange and white striped Ada County Jail suit and a shaved head, said little during the 20-minute hearing in U.S. District Court.

Doe was hired by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission as an investigator in 2002, the same year he submitted a passport application listing his occupation as law enforcement. He went through an Oregon State Police background check that turned up nothing to stop him from being hired by the commission.

Doe’s fingerprints were sent to the FBI, and he was run through the Law Enforcement Data System, commission executive director Steve Pharo said.

“He passed all those,” he said. “We also had copies of his Social Security number and driver’s license from him.”

Doe rose to become a regional manager in Bend, Ore., before asking to be reassigned as an investigator to the office in Nyssa, Ore., close to Idaho, where he owned a home in the town of Caldwell.

Prosecutors said the case grew out of a routine check of a passport application against death records by a division of the U.S. State Department.

Investigators started gathering evidence with Google searches that turned up news stories of the murdered boy and later compared a 2002 passport application against an Ohio death certificate for the child, according to an April 26 affidavit from Special Agent Calvin Sherstan of the Diplomatic Security Service in Seattle.

The Social Security Administration found that the Social Security number used on the passport application had been obtained in Colorado in 1996, leading Sherstan to believe that Doe assumed the dead boy’s identity when he was just 17.

The birth dates on the passport application and the death certificate are the same, but the passport application listed a different birth date for Robert Evers, the boy’s father.

“This is further evidence to me that the passport applicant is an impostor because he did not know his purported father’s birth date,” Sherstan wrote in the affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, Ore.

Investigators also established that the man making the passport application was the same man who worked for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission by comparing his picture against a news video on the Internet, and calling the telephone number listed on the application, which rang through to the commission’s Portland, Ore., office, the affidavit said.

Doe is charged with providing false information in applying for a passport, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Friends from his time in Bend said they were shocked at the charge against him.

“He seemed to me to be a great person,” Janelle Hess said in an e-mail. “I always listed him as a mentor on job applications. He was as close as a brother. Would do anything for me. Loaned me money time after time in an instant.”

The Bulletin newspaper in Bend reported another friend, 73-year-old Helen Wohlen of Redmond, said Doe was like a grandson to her, going on vacations with her. She even listed him in her will as the person to get her house when she dies. She met him in Denver, where they often played tennis.

Assistant U.S. Attorney George Breitsameter said Doe will soon be transported by the U.S. Marshal to Portland, Ore., where his first court appearance will be a detention hearing.

He was put on administrative leave without pay last week after failing to show up for work, Pharo said.

In Boise, the magistrate appointed public defender Tom Arkush, who acknowledged that Doe will likely be unable to afford legal counsel. Arkush left the courthouse immediately after Tuesday’s hearing and didn’t immediately return phone messages left by The Associated Press.

___

Barnard contributed reporting from Grants Pass, Ore.

San Francisco Cases at Risk Over Officer Histories

May 5, 2010
By TERRY COLLINS, Associated Press Writer Tue May 4, 11:20 pm ET

SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco authorities on Tuesday were trying to determine whether prosecutors failed to disclose to defense attorneys the criminal histories or misconduct records of police officers who testified at trials.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi said the potential lapse suggests “unethical behavior” that could affect hundreds of cases. District Attorney Kamala Harris disputed Adachi’s claims yet acknowledged there is a problem.

Last month, Chief Assistant District Attorney Russ Giuntini told Police Chief George Gascon in a letter that there were more than 30 officers whose prior backgrounds would have to be disclosed to defense attorneys and they have yet to see any information about it.

But the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Tuesday that a more comprehensive review later turned up about 80 officers whose records could be questioned.

But Gascon and Harris, at a hastily arranged news conference, could not confirm or deny that figure. Gascon even said the initial figure of 30 was preliminary.

“Quite frankly, I think it’s very irresponsible for people to start throwing numbers out there,” Gascon said. “I don’t know what the numbers are yet. The district attorney does not know what the numbers are yet. We still don’t know what the numbers are yet.”

State law requires prosecutors to alert the defense when any witness, including a police officer, has been arrested or convicted of crimes or has been accused of misconduct.

Gascon said by law, police cannot check police personnel criminal records. The state Department of Justice must check officers records before giving them to the DA’s office, he said.

Neither the DA’s office nor the police department had formal policies on how they would disclose witness information.

Harris said last month that her office has implemented a new system and Gascon said Tuesday that his department was developing one. Gascon said he noticed there were problems with disclosing information last fall, but it became more apparent as the city’s crime lab scandal surfaced.

“We are in the process of fixing this system,” Harris said. “But even the best policy relies on close cooperation.”

This latest episode in San Francisco comes as prosecutors have dropped more than 600 criminal cases since March after a crime lab technician acknowledged skimming cocaine evidence she was testing.

Retired lab tech Deborah Madden, 60, remains under investigation. She has not been charged.

Steven Clark, a Bay Area defense attorney and former prosecutor, said Tuesday that the new allegations underscore an obvious “disconnect” between the police department and district attorney’s office.

“There needs to better communication between those two law enforcement entities,” Clark said. “Clearly, there’s a big problem here.”

Clark added that by law, “the final burden is on the prosecution to obtain this information to ensure that justice is dispensed.”

Adachi, whose office handles the majority of felony cases in the city, said Tuesday his staff had not yet been notified by prosecutors or police of the problem.

However, if true, Adachi said, the failure to come forward with the information on officers’ criminal or misconduct records could threaten hundreds, if not thousands of cases.

“If this evidence is true, it is explosive and it will have a tremendous impact on criminal trials and cases that we have handled involving these officers,” Adachi said. “This is either a systematic failure, which would suggest gross malfeasance, or unethical behavior if they knew that these police witnesses had prior convictions.”

Adachi has sent a letter to Harris asking for the number of officers involved.

“I think it’s irresponsible to incite fear especially when there’s no credible information about the number of officers that are involved or the number of cases that are involved,” Harris said.

Adachi called the situation unfortunate because the scenario is being played out as “people getting out of jail for free.”

“That’s not what this is all about,” Adachi said. “This is about ensuring everyone, including prosecutors and police, plays by the rules.”

Case Against Man Charged with Causing the Death of Wilmington, NC Officer Set to Go to Jury

May 5, 2010
WILMINGTON – Closing arguments are expected Wednesday in the second-degree murder trial of Anthony Pierce.

Pierce is accused of committing crimes that directly led to the death of Wilmington police officer Richard Matthews.

Both the state and the defense rested Tuesday.

In February of 2009, police say Pierce led police on a high-speed chase through Wilmington, dumping drugs in the process. Matthews crashed his police cruiser and died less than a mile away while responding to the call for backup.

Prosecutors say Pierce’s actions directly led to the crash, and police charged him with murder.

The defense didn’t call any witnesses. The case could go to the jury by this afternoon.