Archive for May 11th, 2010

U.S. Breaks up Mexican Drug Ring, Arrests 34

May 11, 2010
Reuters 

Tue Apr 27, 5:38 pm ET

PHOENIX (Reuters) – U.S. police arrested 34 people and broke up a drug smuggling network that hauled at least 20 tons of marijuana over the Mexico-Arizona border, authorities said on Tuesday.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said the three-year operation targeted a ring smuggling marijuana over the border into Cochise County in southeast Arizona.

The organization used advanced counter surveillance techniques to spot for police, and deployed ramp trucks to drive vehicles loaded with marijuana over barriers along the border with Mexico.

Arizona straddles a heavily trafficked corridor for both human and drug smugglers from Mexico.

Last year, U.S. Border Patrol agents made more than 241,000 arrests in the sector south of Tucson, Arizona and seized more than 60 tons of marijuana.

The U.S. government is under pressure to crack down on cross-border crime in the desert state after a prominent cattleman was shot dead on his ranch in southeast Arizona late last month. Police followed tracks from the scene of the shooting to the Mexico border, but made no arrests.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a measure this week cracking down on illegal immigrants in the state, which gives state and local police the authority to determine whether people are in the country legally.

Among those arrested in the operation was an employee of the Cochise County Attorney’s Office, who is charged with accepting cash in exchange for passing confidential information to one of the smugglers.

(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; editing by Todd Eastham)

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Police: Man Makes Up Robbery to Get Ride Home

May 11, 2010

Story Published: May 9, 2010 at 4:39 PM PDT

Story Updated: May 9, 2010 at 4:39 PM PDT

LA PLATA, Md. (AP) – The Charles County sheriff’s office said a man called 911 and made up a story about being robbed so that he could get a ride home.

Police car lights at night

Authorities said they were called to Hawthorne Road near Manor Drive in Ripley for a reported armed robbery on Thursday.

The man told officers that he had been walking on Route 225 when a car stopped and a someone put a gun to his head and demanded money. The man claimed to have complied and the suspects fled.

But as officers searched the area and noticed inconsistencies in his account, the man admitted fabricating the robbery story because he wanted a ride home.

He said his cell phone was out of minutes and 911 was the only number he could still call.

Officials say charges against the man are pending.

Michigan Inmates get Work Picking up Roadkill

May 11, 2010

Story Published: May 9, 2010 at 4:41 PM PDT

Story Updated: May 9, 2010 at 4:41 PM PDT

SAGINAW, Mich. (AP) – Saginaw County inmates are being asked to volunteer for work picking up roadkill.

Sheriff William L. Federspiel told The Saginaw News that he got the idea to put inmates to work on the “Dead Carcasses Patrol Unit” after seeing a slew of dead skunks, deer and raccoons while driving to the office.

Federspiel said it’s “not real pleasant” to see animal carcasses rotting on the side of the road.

A two- or three-person crew, wearing goggles and latex gloves, is expected to pick up animals on Mondays starting May 17.

The Saginaw County Animal Care Center’s four road officers currently pick up most dead animals, but not deer because of their size or skunks because of their smell. The agency welcomes the help, saying there’s enough work to go around.

Man Convicted of Shooting Himself in Groin

May 11, 2010

Story Published: May 9, 2010 at 4:42 PM PDT

Story Updated: May 10, 2010 at 6:08 PM PDT

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. (AP) – A Colorado man who claimed he was trying to defend himself from a mugger when he shot himself in the groin has been convicted of illegal discharge of a firearm.

Investigators said there was no evidence to substantiate David Leroy Blurton’s self-defense claim and jurors convicted the 50-year-old on Wednesday.

The shooting happened at the parking lot of a grocery store in Dillon, Colo., on May 2009. Prosecutors say Blurton had been drinking.

Jurors also convicted Blurton of “prohibited use of a weapon – drunk with a gun” and reckless endangerment. Prosecutors said they will request that Blurton be sentenced to probation.

Blurton maintained that someone hit him in the back of the head and he was trying to defend himself

Police: Philly Sergeant Lied About Being Shot

May 11, 2010

Story Published: May 11, 2010 at 9:02 AM PDT

Story Updated: May 11, 2010 at 9:02 AM PDT

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – A white Philadelphia police sergeant made up a story about being shot by a black man while on patrol last month and actually intentionally shot himself, possibly to get attention or a transfer, the city’s police commissioner said Tuesday.

Sgt. Robert Ralston, 46, confessed to making up the story and will have to pay the costs of the massive manhunt that followed, Commissioner Charles Ramsey said. Ralston has been suspended with intent to dismiss, but will not face criminal charges because granting immunity was the only way to obtain his confession, Ramsey said at a news conference.

Ramsey said the case was especially troubling because Ralston, who is white, identified his alleged attacker as black. Ramsey said Ralston apparently did so because the area where the shooting took place is predominantly African-American.

“It’s troubling in a lot of ways,” Ramsey said. “It inflames racial tensions in our community, and that’s certainly something we don’t need.”

A telephone listing for Ralston could not be located and he could not immediately be reached for comment by The Associated Press.

Ralston, a 21-year veteran, told police he was on patrol in the city’s Overbrook section early on April 5 when he stopped two black men for questioning.

He told investigators that one of the men put a gun to his head, but that he knocked the weapon away and suffered a graze wound to the shoulder when it fired, investigators said. Both men fled, he said.

Police combed the neighborhood for hours looking for the men. Officers never stopped or arrested anyone matching Ralston’s description of the alleged gunman, Ramsey said.

Ramsey said, “There’s some speculation he did it to get attention, or to get transferred.”

A message left with the Fraternal Order of Police, which had put out a $10,000 reward for information leading to the alleged suspect, was not immediately returned.

Ferndale Man Accused of Sex with Goat

May 11, 2010

Story Published: May 11, 2010 at 7:01 AM PDT

Story Updated: May 11, 2010 at 9:05 AM PDT

FERNDALE, Wash. (AP) – The Whatcom County sheriff’s office says a 27-year-old Ferndale man was arrested last week for investigation of bestiality after a family member accused him of sexually abusing a goat.

KGMI reports the Whatcom Human Society took custody of the goat.

In another bestiality case, Sheriff Bill Elfo says detectives continue to investigate an animal sex operation that was busted last month near Sumas.

Elfo told The Bellingham Herald charges are possible against Douglas Spink who was arrested April 14 and held on suspicion of violating a drug probation.

A British man was arrested for investigation of animal cruelty after agents found a video of him with a dog.

The Humane Society is caring for four horses and seven dogs seized in the raid.

Hemlock May Have Caused Woman’s Death

May 11, 2010
Submitted by Associated Press on Monday, May 10th, 02:56pm
If the April 1 death of a Tacoma woman was due to hemlock poisoning, it would be the first such fatality in 11 years in the state, the Washington Poison Center said.

Sakha Keo, 55, apparently put hemlock in a salad she ate, thinking it was something else, said Annie Waisanen, a Pierce County medical investigator.

The medical examiner’s office is awaiting test results to confirm hemlock as the cause of her death, Waisanen said Monday.

The Bellingham Herald reports that hemlock poisoning is occurring more frequently as people eat more vegetables they grow or find.

A 35-year-old Bellingham man, David Westerlund, spent hours in an emergency room April 25 after he put what he thought was a carrot in a bowl of fermented vegetables.

He expects to make a full recovery, but Laurel Baldwin of the Whatcom County Noxious Weed Control Board said Westerlund is lucky he wasn’t killed – by the same poison that killed Greek philosopher Socrates.

Three other known cases of people eating or being exposed to poison hemlock already have been reported for the year in Skagit, Thurston and Whitman counties.

“That was an unusual number for us,” said Katie Von Derau of the poison center.

The cases prompted the center and state Noxious Weed Control Board to warn about the perils of mistaking poison hemlock for edible plants, such as parsley, parsnip, wild carrot and anise, which have similar-looking flowers, leaves and seeds.

Westerlund, who said he didn’t think “something toxic or deadly could be in my garden,” is trying to spread the warning. A proponent of local food, Westerlund said he wanted to educate the public partly because of the recent growth in school gardens.

Westerlund pulled up the hemlock from an area of his garden where carrots and onions had been planted last year. It had a top that looked like a carrot. He chopped it all up, threw it into a jar with cabbage, garlic, ginger, onions, sea salt and whey to ferment, then ate a bowl six days later.

Fifteen minutes later, while he was headed down winding Chuckanut Drive to visit friends in Bow, Westerlund noticed his eyes weren’t tracking.

“My eye muscles were delayed,” he said. “It’s not a good thing for Chuckanut.”

Then his body started to shake a little. He made it to Bow and friends there took him to United General Hospital in Sedro-Woolley.

Westerlund spent four hours in the emergency room and doesn’t expect to have long-term health problems.

Baldwin, coordinator for the Whatcom County Noxious Weed Control Board, said poison hemlock is in the same plant family as carrot.

“That whole plant family is either very edible or very deadly, and it’s important to know the difference. It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes,” she said.

Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) grows along roadsides and waterways, in pastures and playgrounds, in vacant lots and cracks in the pavement.

“This plant is very adaptable,” Baldwin said.

The plant grows 4 to 6 feet tall. It has white flowers and leaves that look like a cross between Italian parsley and a fern.

All parts of the plant are poisonous and affect the nervous system. Initial symptoms could include a burning sensation in the mouth, nausea, confusion, and muscle paralysis.

NAACP Says Seattle Police Kicking Was Hate Crime

May 11, 2010
AP 

Tue May 11, 12:48 pm ET

SEATTLE – The NAACP on Tuesday asked that prosecutors treat a Seattle police beating caught on video as a hate crime.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also is asking for the Justice Department to intervene.

The department already asked the FBI to conduct a preliminary inquiry of the April 17 attack recorded by a freelance videographer.

It shows an officer using a racial epithet and kicking a suspect’s head and stepping on his hand. Another officer comes over and stomps on the man’s leg. He was taken down as a robbery suspect but later released when officers realized they had the wrong man.

A tearful Detective Shandy Cobane apologized Friday to the Latino community for his role and said the words he used “were offensive and unprofessional.”

___

Information from: KOMO-TV, http://www.komotv.com/

Mass. Woman Pleads to Impersonating FBI Supervisor

May 11, 2010
AP 

Tue May 11, 3:03 pm ET

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A Massachusetts woman has pleaded guilty to impersonating an FBI agent after fooling her former neighbors in northern Virginia into taking jobs as her assistant.

Twenty-nine-year-old Brenna Reilly of Holyoke, Mass., was living in Arlington last year and told neighbors she was the FBI’s director of forensics. Two neighbors agreed to work as Reilly’s assistant. She gave them tasks that included writing condolence letters to family members of slain agents. But Reilly was never an FBI agent, the jobs were phony, and the assistants were never paid.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, says it remains unclear why Reilly conducted the hoax.

She faces up to three years in prison.

Kansas Lawyer is Architect of Many Immigration Laws

May 11, 2010
States Must Act Due to Federal Failure to Stop Illegal Aliens That Are Destroying America!
 
By JOHN HANNA, Associated Press Writer Mon May 10, 4:41 pm ET

TOPEKA, Kan. – When politicians and police across the country want to crack down on illegal immigration, they often reach out to the same man: a little-known Kansas attorney with an Ivy League education who is the architect behind many of the nation’s most controversial immigration laws.

Kris Kobach

 AP – In this May 3, 2010 photo, attorney Kris Kobach poses for a photo

Kris Kobach could not attend West Point because of diabetes, but he regards his efforts on immigration as a substitute for military service.

“They can’t call him trailer park trash, which is the kind of comment you hear about advocates on our side,” said Michael Hethmon, director of the Washington-based Immigration Reform Law Institute.

Kobach helps draft proposed laws and, after they are adopted, trains officers to enforce them. If the laws are challenged, he goes to court to defend them.

His most recent project was advising Arizona officials on a new law that empowers police to question anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally. Critics say it violates the Constitution’s provisions against unreasonable search and seizure by allowing police to engage in racial profiling.

But Kobach insists an officer stopping a crowded van for a traffic violation has a reasonable suspicion its occupants are illegal immigrants if none of them has an ID, the van is traveling a known smuggling route and the driver is evasive.

“I could not care less whether they come from Mexico or Germany or Japan or China,” said Kobach, who speaks with the affable air of a college professor, even when making cutting political remarks. “An alien who also is here with terrorist intentions can carry any passport. This isn’t about race or national origin.”

Before the law was passed last month, Kobach spent several years consulting with its main sponsor. And he has a $300-an-hour contract to teach deputies in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, to enforce immigration policies.

Detractors are not impressed by Kobach’s degrees from Harvard, Oxford and Yale, or the coveted White House fellowship he served during George W. Bush’s first term.

While at the White House, he created a post-9/11 Justice Department program requiring immigrants from 25 mostly Muslim nations who were already in the U.S. to re-register with the federal government. Civil libertarians argued that it led to unwarranted detentions of law-abiding immigrants.

“He promotes himself as absolutely, positively being a constitutional scholar on these issues, and he’s just wrong,” said Bill Brewer, a Dallas attorney who has faced off with Kobach in court over immigration laws in Farmers Branch, Texas.

Kobach, a 44-year-old lifelong Republican with movie-star good looks, learned as a Topeka teenager that diabetes would keep him from a desired appointment to West Point. His focus on immigration developed after Sept. 11, when as an aide to Attorney General John Ashcroft, he and other Justice Department officials learned some of the 9/11 attackers had lived in the U.S. illegally.

“It was a missed opportunity of tragic dimensions,” Kobach said. “That realization struck home with me. People were saying, ‘How could we have prevented this?'”

After leaving Washington, he returned to Kansas and to a job on the University of Missouri-Kansas City law school faculty that he’d had since 1996, then launched a campaign for Congress. He lost.

But Kobach drew attention by challenging a Kansas law that reduced tuition rates for illegal immigrants. The law survived, but frustrated conservatives took note of his work.

Mayor Lou Barletta, of Hazleton, Pa., called Kobach in 2006 to discuss a proposal to fine landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and to deny permits to businesses hiring them. Kobach later defended the law in federal court.

The mayor said he contacted Kobach after a news report quoted him saying Hazleton had the authority to enact such an ordinance, contradicting other legal scholars.

“It really only took one conversation to realize that he truly knew what he was talking about,” Barletta recalled.

Kobach largely wrote and then defended a similar ordinance in Valley Park, Mo., that was upheld by a federal appeals court.

Last year, he defended Farmers Branch, Texas, in a federal lawsuit targeting its landlord law. And this year, he represented residents of Fremont, Neb., outside Omaha, as they forced a vote on their own immigration proposals.

Federal judges struck down the Farmers Branch and Hazleton ordinances, but both are on appeal.

Kobach also wrote sections of a 2008 Missouri law cracking down on illegal immigration and this year drafted an unsuccessful proposal in Idaho requiring employers to screen workers.

Kobach said he’s consulted with legislators in at least six other states on various measures.

“I would say he is the brain behind most of them,” said Muzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute’s office at the New York University School of Law.

Kobach, elected Kansas state GOP chairman in 2007, quit early last year to launch a campaign for secretary of state. His first proposal for legislators: require new voters to prove citizenship when they register and make all voters show photo IDs at the polls.

“You can take steps to address the national security issues and still be left with the problem of millions of people here illegally taking jobs in a recession from lawful residents,” he said.

Critics suggest Kobach’s immigration work is designed to boost his political career. A “Krazy Kris Kobach” website features an anonymous blogger who exhorts followers to end Kobach’s career.

Arizona state Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Phoenix Democrat and attorney who voted against her state’s new law, said Kobach is not to be underestimated.

“What I’m concerned about,” she said, “is there are all these legislators in all these states who think he’s a good guy and want to take his advice.”