Posts Tagged ‘judge’

ACLU sues over man’s arrest for videotaping police

August 14, 2009

By Jill King Greenwood
Thursday, August 13, 2009

The ACLU of Pennsylvania has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Hill District man who was arrested for recording an incident between his friend and police.

The suit, filed today, stems from an April 29 incident between a friend of Elijah Matheny, 29, and University of Pittsburgh police officers. Matheny and his friend, who isn’t named in the suit, went to Oakalnd to search for furniture and other items discarded by Pitt students leaving for the semester and were picking through a Dumpster outside Bouquet Gardens on Oakland Avenue when the University police approached, according to the suit.

The officers asked Matheny and his female friend for identification. His friend gave police her name but did not have ID and was placed in handcuffs after police could find no record of her in their system, the suit states.

Matheny took out his cell phone and began recording the incident. Police were able to verify his friend’s identity and she was released but Matheny was arrested for violating the state’s Wiretap Act, said Witold Walczak, ACLU-PA legal director and one of the attorneys representing Matheny.

Matheny was also charged with “possession of an instrument of crime” in regards to his cell phone, Walczak said.

The Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office is also named in the lawsuit because Assistant District Attorney Chris Avetta talked to Pitt officers and agreed that Matheny had violated the state statute and authorized the arrest, Walczak said.

In July, a judge dismissed all charges against Matheny.

A message left with University of Pittsburgh police Chief Tim Delaney and with Mike Manko, spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. were not immediately returned.

Walczak said the state law is “absolute” in its terms regarding obtaining permission to record people in public but said case law states that public officials — including police officers — are exempt.

“This is a widespread misunderstanding among law enforcement and the staff at the District Attorney’s office,” Walczak said. “If the police are doing something wrong, a citizen has a right to record it. For the same reason the police want cameras on the front of their police cars, citizens should be able to record the behavior and actions of police officers. It’s for everyone’s benefit.”

Walczak said he worries that “dozens of lawsuits” will result in September if police arrest protesters and others recording interactions between them and officers at the Group of 20 summit.

“If there are problems at the G-20 you can bet people will be whipping out their cell phones and recording what is happening,” Walczak said. “The police will have enough going on with people vandalizing and breaking things, and they don’t need to be arresting people who are simply recording them. We need to educate local police before the G-20 or this is going to be a nightmare.”


Suspended Pa. trooper denies killing dentist

March 18, 2009

From the Associated Press via Yahoo! News

March 18, 2009

INDIANA, Pa. – A suspended Pennsylvania state trooper denied killing a dentist who was divorcing the lawman’s live-in girlfriend and testified Wednesday that he was only joking when he told colleagues he wished for the man’s death.

“I never made a threat with the intention of carrying it out,” Kevin Foley said during questioning by the prosecution at his trial.

Foley, 43, has been on unpaid suspension since he was arrested in September 2007 in the slaying of Blairsville dentist Dr. John Yelenic, 39. An Indiana County jury was expected to hear closing arguments and begin deliberating later Wednesday.

Yelenic was found dead on April 13, 2006, a day before he was to sign the final divorce papers from his wife, Michele. The couple’s separation was so rancorous that Yelenic’s attorney asked a judge to issue a posthumous divorced decree — saying Yelenic would have wanted it. The judge refused, saying she couldn’t legally end a marriage that ended with Yelenic’s death.

A pathologist found that Yelenic was sliced with a knife and died of blood loss after his head was forced through a window, causing even more cuts.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Anthony Krastek contends Foley killed Yelenic while on his way home from playing in a pickup hockey game.

On Wednesday, Krastek questioned Foley about testimony by other troopers who said he talked about wishing for Yelenic’s death. One trooper testified that Foley asked for his help to kill Yelenic.

Foley acknowledged that he didn’t like Yelenic, but said he was a practical joker and commented in jest.

“Is it funny when you asked … that you wanted help killing John Yelenic?” Krastek said. “What’s so funny about that? Tell me the joke.”

“There isn’t any joke,” Foley replied. “It’s just my personality, my behavior.”

Under earlier questioning by his defense attorney, Richard Galloway, Foley said he was innocent.

Krastek earlier in the trial introduced testimony that DNA found under Yelenic’s fingernails was likely Foley’s and that bloody shoe prints at the scene matched a pair Foley was known to wear at the time.

Foley is charged with criminal homicide, meaning the jury must not only determine his guilt or innocence, but also the underlying murder or manslaughter crime he may have committed.

Prosecutors have said they believe Foley is guilty of first-degree murder — premeditated with malice. The charge carries a mandatory life sentence because prosecutors are not pursuing the death penalty.


Judge dismisses ethnic intimidation charge

February 7, 2009
Updated 02/06/2009 11:05:24 PM EST
A Fayette County judge on Monday dismissed a charge of ethnic intimidation against a Smithfield man, finding that he harbored no hatred toward black people when he allegedly used racial slurs during a bar fight.
Judge Gerald R. Solomon dismissed the charge, which was lodged against Rickey A. Moore, 28. Moore is now charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct in an April 19 fight at Blondie’s Roadhouse in Georges Township.

Richard Blakey, who is black, testified previously that Moore, who is white, called him a racially motivated name at the bar. At the time, police indicated that Moore was arguing with a woman.

Solomon found that the fight wasn’t based on a hatred of black people, rather because Blakey involved himself in an argument between Moore and the woman.

The men allegedly got into a physical fight, and police alleged that Moore’s brother, Randy, arrived and joined in the fray. Randy Moore allegedly kicked Blakey in the face, partially blinding him.

In dismissing the ethnic intimidation charge, Solomon found the incident was “nothing more than a bar fight.” 

Updated 02/06/2009 11:05:24 PM EST

Ex-transit cop accused of murder posts $3M bail

February 6, 2009

In this Jan. 14, 2009 file photo, Johannes Mehserle, right, appears in the East AP – In this Jan. 14, 2009 file photo, Johannes Mehserle, right, appears in the East Fork Justice Court in …

OAKLAND, Calif. – The former California transit officer charged with fatally shooting an unarmed man was freed Friday on $3 million bail as protesters gathered outside City Hall railed against his release.

Johannes Mehserle, 27, was released from Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, according to Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. J.D. Nelson. He had been in custody since his Jan. 13 arrest.

Mehserle has pleaded not guilty to one count of murder in the Jan. 1 shooting of Oscar Grant on an Oakland train platform.

Prosecutors said Mehserle shot Grant, 22, in the back while the man lay facedown and restrained on the ground. Mehserle’s lawyer said his client may have mistakenly pulled his pistol instead of a stun gun.

The shooting, caught on cell phone cameras and broadcast on TV and the Internet, has sparked numerous protests against the former Bay Area Rapid Transit officer, including several that resulted in arrests for arson and vandalism.

Protesters outside Mehserle’s bail hearing last week had demanded that he remain jailed. Judge Morris Jacobson had said he set bail at a high amount in part because the former officer fled to Nevada during the initial investigation.

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums called on protesters outside City Hall on Friday to remain peaceful. About 150 of them had gathered when Mehserle’s release was announced.

“We must treat each other and our city with respect and dignity while the outcome of this case is determined by judge and jury,” Dellums said in a statement.

John Burris, who is representing Grant’s family in a $25 million wrongful-death claim against BART, urged the public to “not create any social unrest as a consequence of this.”

“The family wants peace and the process to flow in the normal course of events,” he said.

As a condition of release, Mehserle was ordered to surrender all weapons.

It’s unclear where Mehserle was headed after posting bail. His attorney, Michael Rains, did not immediately return a call.

The judge has imposed a temporary gag order in the case until the next hearing, set for Feb. 13.


Detention camps? In America?

February 5, 2009

Posted: February 05, 2009
1:00 am Eastern, Joseph Farah WorldNetDaily

© 2009 


What goes on here?

Jerome Corsi’s breathtaking story in WND earlier this week is giving me heart palpitations.

In case you missed it, Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., a former judge impeached in 1981 by a Democratic House of Representatives and only the sixth federal judge ever to be removed by the U.S. Senate, has introduced a bill to establish at least six emergency centers for U.S. civilians in the event of some future, unspecified crisis.

“The bill also appears to expand the president’s emergency power, much as the executive order signed by President Bush on May 9, 2007, that, as WND reported, gave the president the authority to declare an emergency and take over the direction of all federal, state, local, territorial and tribal governments without even consulting Congress,” the story continues.

And here’s some further context: “As WND also reported, DHS has awarded a $385 million contract to Houston-based KBR, Halliburton’s former engineering and construction subsidiary, to build temporary detention centers on an ‘as-needed’ basis in national emergency situations.”

I don’t like it.

I don’t trust Washington.

And I sure don’t trust Alcee Hastings.

In 1981, the former judge, appointed by Jimmy Carter, was charged with accepting a $150,000 bribe in exchange for a lenient sentence and a return of seized assets for 21 counts of racketeering by Frank and Thomas Romano, and of perjury in his testimony about the case. He was acquitted by a jury after his alleged co-conspirator, William Borders, refused to testify. Borders went to jail.

In 1988, the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives took up the case, and Hastings was impeached for bribery and perjury by a vote of 413-3. Even Nancy Pelosi and John Conyers and Charlie Rangel voted to impeach Hastings. He was then easily convicted by the U.S. Senate and removed from office.

The Senate had the option to forbid Hastings from ever seeking federal office again, but – unwisely – did not do so.

So Hastings came back in 1993 to win his House seat.

Now he is promoting the building of “camps” for U.S. civilians.

It is Hastings who clearly belongs behind bars, not in the House of Representatives sponsoring draconian legislation.

The biggest “emergency” this nation faces is the overreaching of our federal government and its lack of concern over constitutional limits on its power.

Maybe we need detention facilities for out-of-control Washington powerbrokers.

I don’t know what’s behind this move.

Maybe it’s no more than a distraction to make us nervous and persuade Americans to keep their big mouths shut and follow orders.

Maybe it’s no more than an effort to create more make-work jobs for the constituents of Alcee Hastings and his colleagues.

Maybe it’s all just a big misunderstanding.

But, whatever it is, I don’t like the way it smells.

I don’t like the way it tastes.

And I know it is spawned in this the-Constitution-be-damned mentality that pervades Washington.

So let’s expose it.

Let’s kill it.

Let’s lock it up and throw away the key.

And let’s declare a real emergency – one that has already hit us like a smack in the face with a baseball bat: The Constitution is daily being breached by the very people sworn to uphold and defend it. If anyone in America deserved to be rounded up and detained for the good of the country, it is those who are blatantly exceeding the strict limits on their authority and remaking our nation in their own corrupt and power-hungry image.

Court Reinstates Washington Murder Conviction

January 28, 2009

The Associated Press, Wednesday January 21, 2009

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court has reinstated the murder conviction of the driver in a gang-related, drive-by shooting that horrified Seattle in 1994.

By a 6-3 vote, the court on Wednesday reversed a federal appeals court that had thrown out the second-degree murder conviction of Cesar Sarausad II.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco overturned the conviction because of unclear jury instructions. But the high court, in a majority opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas, said there was “no evidence of ultimate juror confusion.”

“Rather, the jury simply reached a unanimous decision that the state had proved Sarausad’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” Thomas wrote.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice David Souter said an uncertain instruction from the trial judge merged with a “confounding prosecutorial argument” that included a “clearly erroneous statement of law.”

“In these circumstances, jury confusion is all but inevitable and jury error the reasonable likelihood,” wrote Souter, who was joined in his opinion by Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Sarausad was convicted for his role as the driver in the shooting that killed a teenage girl outside a Seattle high school.

Sarausad was a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Washington at the time of the shooting. He drove the car from which Brian Ronquillo shot and killed 16-year-old Melissa Fernandes. She had nothing to do with the gang rivalry that led to the shooting.

Ronquillo was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 52 years in prison. Sarausad got a 27-year sentence.

Sarausad admitted being the driver but denied knowing that Ronquillo had a gun, much less that he was planning to kill anyone.

The jury instructions at issue concerned whether, to be convicted of second-degree murder, Sarausad had to know that Ronquillo intended to use a gun and that someone could die as a result.

The case is Waddington v. Sarausad, 07-772.