Archive for September, 2011

Obama Singles Out Sheriff Joe During Immigration Discussion

September 29, 2011

President Again Shows Disdain for Law Enforcement Officers Trying to Uphold U.S. Laws & Protect the Country

From www.myfoxphoenix.com – Wednesday, 28 Sep 2011

WASHINGTON – President Obama criticized Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s immigration tactics during a round table discussion on immigration Wednesday. The president was asked about a federal investigation into the sheriff’s office and appeared to dodge the question.

A trio of Latin American journalists brought forth questions to president Obama, and their conversation turned towards the government’s investigation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

“What happened to the investigation of the many violations and challenges by the federal government on Sheriff Joe Arpaio?” asked the foreign journalist.

“I have to be careful on commenting on individual cases, that’s handled typically by Department of Justice or other agencies. I will say the approach that has been taken to immigration in Arizona has not always been as productive.”

He later said, “We challenged the Arizona law that was supported by the sheriff because we thought there was a great danger that naturalized citizens with Latino surnames could be vulnerable to questioning.”

Today, the sheriff weighed in on the president’s round table discussion.

“He’s a lawyer he is pretty sharp to avoid direct questions… he made some comments talking about people being stopped because of their name. He didn’t like the 1070 law, he connects me with 1070. And my answer is I am just doing my job and I arrest everyone that violates the law and I am not going to stop.” He adds: “Stop saying boots on the ground and stop saying we must secure the border first.”

“We can’t have a patchwork of 50 states with 50 immigration laws,” Obama said.

Despite the comments, the sheriff is pleased the president knows who he is and what he stands for.

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US Court Rejects Plea to Stop Davis Execution

September 21, 2011

Man Convicted of Murdering 27 Year-Old Police Officer in 1989

JACKSON, Georgia (AP) — Troy Davis, the condemned inmate who convinced hundreds of thousands of people but not a single court of his innocence, waited to be executed Wednesday as his supporters held vigils outside Georgia’s death row and as far away as London and Paris.

This undated file photo of Troy Davis provided by the Georgia Department of Corrections.

His offer to take a polygraph test was rejected. So was his request for the pardons board to give him one more hearing. The Georgia Supreme Court rejected a last-minute appeal.

Davis was convicted of killing off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail in 1989. His attorneys say seven of nine key witnesses against him have disputed all or parts of their testimony, but state and federal courts have repeatedly ruled against granting him a new trial.

Davis’ supporters tried increasingly frenzied measures, urging prison workers to stay home and even posting a judge’s phone number online, hoping people will press him to put a stop to the 7 p.m. (2300 GMT) lethal injection. But mostly, they declared “I am Troy Davis” on signs, T-shirts and the Internet, hoping to sway authorities.

“They say death row; we say hell no!” a crowd of about 200 chanted outside the Jackson prison where Davis was to be executed.

Many of the roughly 150 demonstrators in Paris carried signs emblazoned with Davis’ face. “Everyone who looks a little bit at the case knows that there is too much doubt to execute him,” Nicolas Krameyer of Amnesty International said at the protest.

Davis’ execution has been stopped three times since 2007, but on Wednesday the 42-year-old appeared to be out of legal options.

As his last hours ticked away, an upbeat and prayerful Davis turned down an offer for a special last meal as he met with friends, family and supporters.

“Troy Davis has impacted the world,” his sister Martina Correia said at a news conference. “They say, ‘I am Troy Davis,’ in languages he can’t speak.”

Correia, who is battling breast cancer and using a wheelchair as she helps coordinate rallies and other events, called on people to push for change in the justice system. Then she said, “I’m going to stand here for my brother,” and got up with help from people around her.

His attorney Stephen Marsh said Davis would have spent part of Wednesday taking a polygraph test if pardons officials had taken his offer seriously.

SC Teen Arrested After Shining Laser into Officer’s Eye

September 21, 2011

From www.greenvilleonline.com – September 21, 2011  

UNION, SC — Authorities say a 16-year-old Union High School student was arrested after pointing a laser at a school police officer’s eye.

Police say the officer was at the school last week giving a presentation on why students shouldn’t misbehave in class when he saw a bright red flash in his eye. The officer says he felt pain and his vision was blurred.

Investigators say the officer saw the student with the laser and arrested him. The student was charged with third degree battery and released to his mother. His name was not released because of his age.

Officials say the officer recovered from his eye injury.

Mexico Horror: Gunmen Dump 35 Bodies on Major Roadway

September 21, 2011

By OLGA R. RODRIGUEZ – Associated Press Writer- September 21, 2011

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Suspected drug traffickers dumped 35 bodies at rush hour beneath a busy overpass in the heart of a major Gulf coast city as gunmen pointed weapons at frightened drivers. Mexican authorities said Wednesday they are examining surveillance video for clues to who committed the crime.

Soldiers and police block off an area where 35 bodies lay under an overpass in Veracruz.

Horrified motorists grabbed cell phones and sent Twitter messages warning others to avoid the area near the biggest shopping mall in Boca del Rio, part of the metropolitan area of Veracruz city.

The gruesome gesture marked a sharp escalation in cartel violence in Veracruz state, which sits on an important route for drugs and Central American migrants heading north.

The Zetas drug cartel has been battling other gangs for control of the state.

Prosecutors said it’s too soon to draw conclusions from the surveillance video.

“We’re not going to confirm or deny anything,” Veracruz state Attorney General Reynaldo Escobar Perez told the Televisa network Wednesday. “We’re looking at it in different ways, we’re seeing different numbers, that’s why we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.”

Escobar said the bodies were left piled in two trucks and on the ground under the overpass near the statue of the Voladores de Papantla, ritual dancers from Veracruz state. He said some of the victims had their heads covered with black plastic bags and showed signs of torture.

Among the bodies was a local police officer who had gone missing two weeks ago, Escobar told W Radio in Mexico City. He told MVS Radio many of the victims were strangled, some bled to death and one person had been shot dead.

Escobar did not return phone calls from The Associated Press.

Police have identified 32 of the victims so far and maintain they all had criminal records for acts such as murder, drug dealing, kidnapping and extortion and were linked to organized crime, said Magda Zayas, spokeswoman for the Veracruz Attorney General’s Office.

State Gov. Javier Duarte said on his Twitter account “the killing of 35 people is deplorable, but it’s even more deplorable the same victims chose to extort, kidnap and kill.”

Duarte said an intelligence database shows the 35 victims had a criminal background.

Motorists posted Twitter warnings said the masked gunmen were in military uniforms and were blocking Manuel Avila Camacho Boulevard.

“They don’t seem to be soldiers or police,” one tweet read. Another said, “Don’t go through that area, there is danger.”

Veracruz is currently hosting a conference of Mexico’s top state and federal prosecutors and judiciary officials.

Local media said that 12 of the victims were women and that some of the dead men had been among prisoners who escaped from three Veracruz prisons on Monday, but Escobar denied the escaped convicts were among the dead.

At least 32 inmates got away from the three Veracruz prisons. Police recaptured 14 of them.

Drug violence has claimed more than 35,000 lives across Mexico since 2006, according to government figures. Others put the number at more than 40,000.

 

Police Find Woman’s Body in Freezer

September 21, 2011

From The Associated Press – September 20, 2011

VIENNA, Austria (AP) — Police have found the body of an 89-year old woman stuffed in her freezer and say her nephew has admitted placing her there.

Police spokesman Markus Haindl said Tuesday the unidentified suspect claims that his aunt died a natural death. He cites the nephew as saying he put her in the freezer instead of reporting her death to be able to collect her monthly care allowance check.

Police are waiting for autopsy results to see if there was foul play involved in the death, in Neuhofen/Ybbs, a town about 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Vienna.

Fullerton, CA Officers Charged in Beating Death of Homeless Man

September 21, 2011

By AMY TAXIN and GREG RISLING – Associated PressWriters

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Prosecutors charged one police officer with murder and another with manslaughter Wednesday in the killing of an unarmed, mentally ill homeless man who was pummeled, shocked with a Taser and slammed with the butt of a stun gun in a beating that lasted nearly 10 minutes.

Fullerton Officer Manuel Ramos was charged with one count each of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas after a violent confrontation with officers on July 5, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said at a news conference.

Police Cpl. Jay Cicinelli was charged with one count each of involuntary manslaughter and excessive force.

A review of the evidence, including audio from the officers’ body microphones and surveillance video, showed Thomas was acting “in self-defense, in pain and in a state of panic,” Rackauckas said.

“His numerous pleas of ‘I’m sorry,’ ‘I can’t breathe,’ ‘Help Dad’ (were) all to no avail. Screams, loud screams, didn’t help,” the prosecutor said.

Lorie Fridell, an associate professor of criminology at the University of South Florida, said it is highly unusual for a police officer to be charged with murder.

“It is quite appropriate in such cases to hold officers to account,” Fridell said. “Often, however, prosecutors will give officers the benefit of the doubt.”

Citing the video and audio recordings, Rackauckas said Thomas appeared to be cognitively impaired as officers approached him. He was shirtless and wearing just a backpack as Ramos made a show of putting on Latex gloves before ordering him to put his hands on his knees.

“He made two fists with his gloves on, two fists. He lifted his fists in front of Kelly Thomas so he could see them and he said, ‘Now see my fists? They are getting ready to (expletive) you up,'” Rackauckas said. “That’s when it went from a fairly routine investigation, a fairly routine police detention, to an impending beating by an angry police officer.”

Ramos allegedly swung his baton at Thomas but it was unclear if he hit him. The prosecutor said Ramos then chased Thomas, eventually punching him in his ribs and tackling him before holding down his neck and lying on top of Thomas to pin him down.

The coroner listed the cause of death as mechanical compression of the thorax, which made it impossible for Thomas to breathe normally and deprived his brain of oxygen, Rackauckas said. Other injuries to the face and head contributed to the death, the prosecutor said.

Cicinelli, who arrived on the scene later, kneed Thomas twice in the head and used a Taser four times on him as he screamed and yelled in pain, Rackauckas said, adding that Cicinelli hit Thomas in the face eight times with the Taser, and Thomas didn’t respond.

“When Kelly didn’t scream in response to these blows it should have indicated to Cicinelli that Kelly was down and seriously hurt,” he said.

Rackauckas, a longtime prosecutor known for his strong backing of law enforcement, said it was the first time he had filed charges against police officers for excessive force leading to death.

“Police officers have a right to use reasonable force in the performance of a lawful duty but citizens have a right to self-defense, even against the police,” he said.

Ron Thomas, Kelly Thomas’ father, cheered as he watched the prosecutor’s news conference on TV with a group of supporters. He later said he was pleased with the charges.

“That’s exactly what I hoped for,” he said in a phone interview. “It makes me feel fantastic that this is happening, it’s the justice we need.”

Still, he said he suffers every day as a result of his son’s death.

Ramos’ attorney, John Barnett, said the charges were unfounded and disputed Rackauckas’ accounts of events. Thomas violently resisted arrest by kicking and swinging at officers, he said, adding that he had seen the same video cited by the prosecutor.

In response to claims that Ramos put on latex gloves and told Thomas he was going to hurt him, Barnett characterized his client’s attempt to get compliance as “the lowest type of force.”

“It was an attempt by the officer to use words not force to get the suspect to do what he’s supposed to do,” Barnett said. “He sought to avoid physical confrontation with words. There was no compliance by Mr. Thomas.”

Bill Hadden, an attorney representing Cicinelli, didn’t immediately return a call for comment. A call to a home number for Ramos rang unanswered.

Arraignment was scheduled later Wednesday.

Six officers were placed on paid administrative leave after the incident that occurred while police were investigating reported vehicle break-ins at a transit hub. The other officers were not charged Wednesday and were not expected to be charged.

Thomas suffered severe head and neck injuries and was taken off life support five days after the incident.

Thomas suffered from schizophrenia and lived on the streets even though he received support from family and friends.

Police said Thomas ran when officers tried to search his bag and a struggle followed when they tried to arrest him for investigation of possession of stolen goods.

Video from a bystander’s cell phone taken from a distance showed parts of the bloody encounter in which Thomas can be heard screaming for his father.

Surveillance video aboard a bus showed agitated passengers telling the driver that officers beat and repeatedly used a stun gun during the arrest.

After the incident, the police chief went on medical leave and the embattled City Council hired a law enforcement expert to investigate Police Department practices.

Incensed community members held demonstrations and started an effort to recall the mayor and two council-members over the incident.

Ron Thomas filed a claim seeking damages from the city.

He has previously released his son’s medical records showing Thomas suffered broken bones in his face, choked on his own blood and was repeatedly shocked with two stun guns.

News reports indicate Cicinelli left the Los Angeles Police Department after losing an eye in 1996 while working as a probationary officer.

Cicinelli, who was 25 at the time, was shot during an on-duty gunfight during a traffic stop less than three weeks after graduating from the Police Academy, according to a 1997 article in the Los Angeles Times.

If convicted of all charges, Ramos could face a maximum sentence of 15 years to life in prison. Cicinelli could face a maximum sentence of four years if convicted.

Associated Press Writers Gillian Flaccus in Orange County and Thomas Watkins and Jeff Wilson in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

 

ATF: Car Bomb Behind Michigan Blast That Injured Father, 2 Sons

September 21, 2011

By JEFF KAROUB- Associated Press Writer

MONROE, Mich. (AP) — A car bomb caused a powerful explosion on a Michigan street that seriously injured a father and his two sons, who are “very fortunate” to have survived the attack, which turned their vehicle into a blackened hunk of metal, a federal official said Wednesday.

Car burns on E. Elm Ave. near I-75 Tuesday Sept. 20, 2011

Investigators were poring over what remained of the vehicle after the Tuesday evening blast, looking for clues about how the bomb was made and who might have planted it, said Donald Dawkins, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“There was a lot of power behind it. The victims are very fortunate, very blessed, to be alive,” Dawkins said.

Among the things investigators are trying to determine is whether one of the victims was targeted or whether the attack was random, Dawkins said. The vehicle exploded on a tree-lined street under a highway in Monroe, which is about 35 miles southwest of Detroit.

Authorities declined to publicly identify the victims, but said they were in serious condition at St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio, about 20 miles south of Monroe.

The victims were lucky to survive, said Dawkins, who described the attack as a “heinous crime.”

“When you have children involved, it really hits home,” he said.

Shawn Remington, 33, said he was working outside his home when he heard what sounded like a heavy, metal Dumpster lid being slammed shut and then saw a big column of smoke.

He said when he got to the scene, firefighters were extinguishing the blaze and rescue workers were loading the victims into ambulances. He said the vehicle was “totally melted.”

“By the time I got there, there was nothing left of the vehicle,” he said. “It was down to bare metal.”

Monroe is a city of more than 20,000 that is one of Michigan’s oldest communities. It has a historic downtown and is home to furniture maker La-Z-Boy Inc.

The ATF has offered a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to an arrest.

 

Iredell Co., NC Man Charged After Girl’s Mother Discovers Sexually Charged Facebook Messages

September 21, 2011

By Meghan Cooke – Charlotte Observer – September 21, 2011

An Iredell County man was jailed this week, authorities said, after a mother discovered inappropriate Facebook messages between the man and her daughter.

Joy.jpg

John O’Neil Joy Jr., 39. Photo courtesy of the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office.

Two weeks ago, the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a possible sexual assault involving a child.

The girl’s mother told investigators she had checked her daughter’s Facebook page and noticed messages exchanged between the girl and a neighbor.

Some of the posts contained sexual references, authorities said.

Authorities said they viewed the messages and then interviewed the girl, who revealed that she’d been assaulted twice within the past six months.

John O’Neil Joy Jr., 39, of Mooresville, was charged with two felony counts of taking indecent liberties with a child. Authorities said they made several attempts to find Joy in the Mooresville area, but he was not arrested until Tuesday, when he turned himself in.

Joy was being held under a $20,000 bond in Iredell County jail.

Ohio Trooper Tied to Money Laundering Activity Resigns

September 21, 2011

By Tara Dodrill | Yahoo! Contributor Network – September 20, 2011

An Ohio State Highway Patrol officer found himself in a lot of hot water this week and his house of cards unfolded. The story of Benjamin W. Richardson made headlines last week, but very few details of the sealed indictment became public until today. Richardson was suspended for the second time during his career while investigators gathered evidence but announced his resignationover the weekend. Fallout from the case will likely stretch from central Ohio all the way to the Mexican drug cartel.

The tangled web of deceit Richardson is charged with includes laundering drug money, lying on bank documents to fraud mortgage companies and false statements to investigators pertaining to his partial ownership of a local bar. Court documents allege the bar was merely a front to launder drug money.

Richardson served in a law enforcement capacity for 23 years, but this was not his first brush with trouble. A capitol employee caught Richardson in Gov. Ted Strickland’s ceremonial office with the lights off several years ago, garnering him a three-day suspension. Richardson appealed the punishment with the aid of his union representative, stating he was making a cellphone call to his then-wife. Regardless of what he was doing in the office, he was not attending to his duties and somewhere he was not permitted.

Perhaps if his union grievance had not prevailed, Richardson’s career would have ended before he disgraced the badge. The dedicated law enforcement officers which serve Ohio communities do not deserve to be painted with a brush of distrust because of the act a criminal who just happened to be wearing a uniform.

According to released court documents, a witness I the case fled the country in 2009. Allegedly the potential witness was held in Mexico by unindicted co-conspirators and members of a drug trafficking crew. In a related case U.S. federal investigators seized a large amount of drugs and $1 million in cash.

 The recently released case information also details a scenario where the witness was stopped on a traffic violation while in the process of fleeing. According to court released documents, the state trooper at the scene was in the process of searching the vehicle when the witness convinced the officer to call Richardson, who thwarted the search and possible arrest.

Troy Davis, Murderer of 27 Year-Old Police Officer, Loses Final Appeal in US Death Row Case

September 21, 2011

From AFP By Ray Glier  – September 20, 2011

A US parole board has denied clemency to Troy Davis, clearing the way for his execution Wednesday in a racially charged case that has become an international cause celebre for death penalty opponents.

Davis, who is black, was convicted 20 years ago of the fatal 1989 shooting of 27-year-old white police officer Mark MacPhail, a married father of a two-year-old girl and an infant boy.

MacPhail had been working nights as a security guard when he intervened in a brawl in a Burger King parking lot in Savannah, Georgia and was shot in the heart and the head at point-blank range.

There was no physical evidence tying Davis, who was 20 years old at the time of the murder, to the crime and several witnesses at his original trial later recanted their testimony.

During two decades of legal maneuvering, the campaign to spare his life drew high-profile support from former US president Jimmy Carter and Pope Benedict XVI, helping Davis escape three previous dates with death.

Davis, now 42, has always maintained his innocence and is a poster child for death penalty abolitionists who highlight doubts over his conviction and say the state of Georgia is about to execute an innocent man.

The five-member Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles spent Monday hearing from Davis’s supporters, prosecutors and the distraught family of the victim before issuing its verdict on Tuesday.

“The board has considered the totality of the information presented in this case and thoroughly deliberated on it, after which the decision was to deny clemency,” said a written statement. It did not disclose the vote breakdown.

Barring an unexpected turn of events, Davis will be put to death by lethal injection at 7:00 pm (2300 GMT) Wednesday at a prison in Jackson, south of Atlanta, with the victim’s widow and — now grown-up — children looking on.

“We’ve been here three times before,” said Anneliese MacPhail, the mother of the slain police officer. “We are ready to close this book and start our lives. This has been a long haul.”

MacPhail’s daughter Madison, now 23, choked back the tears after Monday’s parole board hearing as she insisted the execution must go ahead because she had been robbed of a life with her father.

“I believe the death penalty is the correct source of justice,” she said.

All avenues for Davis now appear exhausted as Georgia’s governor does not have the power to stay executions and experts said any last-minute filings to the state courts or the US Supreme Court would likely prove unsuccessful.

“I am utterly shocked and disappointed at the failure of our justice system at all levels to correct a miscarriage of justice,” Davis attorney Brian Kammer said, as rights groups and activists rushed to condemn the decision.

Amnesty International called a protest rally for 7:00 pm (2300 GMT) Tuesday at the Georgia state capitol, exactly 24 hours before Davis is due to become the 34th person executed in the United States this year.

African American leaders condemned the parole board’s decision as emblematic of a US criminal justice system riven with racial inequality.

“This is Jim Crow in a new era,” declared Reverend Raphael Warnock of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, referring to American segregation laws overruled by the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The American Civil Liberties Union urged Georgia’s prison workers to strike in a desperate bid to deprive the state of the wherewithal to carry out the execution.

At a protest outside Monday’s hearing, an estimated 150 to 200 demonstrators carried signs saying, “Justice, Free Troy Davis,” and “We are Troy Davis.” Another placard read: “Too much Doubt. Save Troy Davis.”

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said there was next-to-no chance Davis could earn a reprieve in what he called the “biggest capital punishment case in at least a decade.”

“I’m sure his lawyers will try to file something but I think even they are saying there is not much left that they have,” he told AFP. “Unless there is something nobody has heard about, it is unlikely there will be any relief.”

The US Supreme Court became involved in the Troy Davis case in 2009 and ordered a federal judge in Savannah to convene a hearing to consider new evidence.

In August 2010, however, a US District Court in Georgia ruled that Davis had failed to prove his innocence and denied him a new trial. The top US court turned down a subsequent appeal.

Davis supporters say close to one million people worldwide have signed petitions calling for clemency, with petitions last week delivered to state authorities containing about 650,000 signatures.

Some 300 rallies, vigils and events have been held worldwide, including in New York, Washington, Peru, Paris and Oslo.

Thirty-four of the 50 US states still have the death penalty and the Death Penalty Information Center says that since 1973 over 130 people have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence.