Archive for the ‘law’ Category

questions about Mobilisa scanners and other such technology

April 10, 2007

The Port Townsend, Wash., wireless technology company says its handheld electronic scanner can identify within a second whether someone is a fugitive from justice, has a violent criminal past or is a convicted sex offender.

I think that the sentence above may be an exaggeration of capabilities. There is no master list of all convicted sex offenders, for example.

If one of the scanners says that someone was once arrested for committing an act of violence (like Zsa Zsa Gabor or Naomi Campbell for example), what happens next? Would that person person be not allowed into the area; or would the person be watched and followed?
(Remember that not 100 percent of people who are arrested or convicted are actually guilty.)

“It’s a technology whose time has come,” says Nelson Ludlow, Mobilisa’s CEO. He says he came up with the idea for the scanner after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks for use at military bases.

Was he worried that after the idea of crashing airplanes into buildings became more famous that people would take airplanes from military bases and fly them into buildings?

Ludlow says activity on a scanner can be recorded and searched by investigators for law enforcement purposes. The data remain the property of the law enforcement agency using the scanner, he says.

Would the data that a law enforcement agency collects be subject to public records laws? For example could someone request the phone number of every blonde female under age 17 whose card was scanned and get those records?

Could the data be sold to anybody at anytime based on state laws, for example to bill collectors, or to sneaky criminal gangs?
If a police department needed money, could they or would they auction off such data to the highest bidder or mail a DVD containing the collected data to anyone with a credit card?

What is the potential of abuse for such technology?
For example, think about a country were everyone is required to carry an identification card, and then the country’s government changes for the worse.
The new government wants to kill or capture all people in that country of a certain religious, ethnic, or political status, and such data is encoded on the identification cards.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-04-09-handheld_N.htm

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DC Police accused?

April 8, 2007

In response to the suit, D.C. police at first said that no police intelligence officials were involved in the arrests. Last year, city officials revealed under additional questioning that five members of the police intelligence unit were present.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/02/AR2007040201568_pf.html

man accuses FBI of having him lie

March 27, 2007

Living under the gag order has been stressful and surreal. Under the threat of criminal prosecution, I must hide all aspects of my involvement in the case — including the mere fact that I received an NSL — from my colleagues, my family and my friends. When I meet with my attorneys I cannot tell my girlfriend where I am going or where I have been. I hide any papers related to the case in a place where she will not look. When clients and friends ask me whether I am the one challenging the constitutionality of the NSL statute, I have no choice but to look them in the eye and lie.

I resent being conscripted as a secret informer for the government and being made to mislead those who are close to me, especially because I have doubts about the legitimacy of the underlying investigation.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/22/AR2007032201882.html

snitching

March 27, 2007

To be certain, the issue of snitching is neither restricted to nor rooted in hip-hop culture. Within most American communities, reporting other people’s bad acts is a practice that is strongly discouraged. Judaic, Islamic, and Christian laws all speak negatively about backbiting and gossip.

Prominent white Americans like New York Times writer Judith Miller, who recently came under attack from her neo-conservative comrades for failing to expose Lewis “Scooter” Libby, have paid dearly (multi-million dollar book deals notwithstanding) for their commitments to secrecy. Even the police, who are among the strongest opponents of the “Stop Snitching” movement, have a ‘blue code’ of silence that protects them from internal snitches. Nevertheless, the hip-hop community has absorbed the brunt of the public attack on snitching, with little effort given to examining the unique significance of snitching within urban communities.

While critics dismiss the “Stop Snitching” campaign as a rejection of civic responsibility that further verifies dominant public beliefs about the moral incompetence of the hip-hop generation, a closer analysis reveals a much more complicated set of issues that have gone unaddressed. In its a priori dismissal of the “Stop Snitching” campaign, the general public has failed to acknowledge the moral complexity and legitimacy of an anti-snitching position. In all fairness, this is partially the fault of the hip-hop industry itself, which has marketed “Stop Snitching” in ways that undermine any claims to moral authority by not placing any conditions or caveats on its pleas for silence. While it is certainly problematic to condemn all acts of communication with authorities, it is equally shortsighted and irresponsible to advocate an absolute pro-snitching position.

The act of snitching necessarily creates a social and ethical quagmire in which an individual must sacrifice one set of loyalties for another. More specifically, the potential snitch is forced to choose between competing ethical codes and social commitments when making their decision. Often, this process entails deciding between locally defined rules and larger, more official ones. For example, Lil’ Kim’s refusal to identify her crew members as assailants during a shootout at the Hot 97 radio station was an anti-snitching gesture that privileged her friendship bonds and street ethics over the established laws of the land regarding obstruction of justice. While it is tempting to condemn all such acts on moral or ethical grounds — in this case, arguing that Kim should have protected the interests of the assaulted and not those of the assailants — it is necessary to consider the validity and value of the particular rules and issues at stake on a case-by-case basis. It is also important to understand the various ways that snitching is considered and discussed within the context of hip-hop culture.

Dry snitching is one of the most common practices within contemporary hip-hop culture. The term emerged from prison culture to describe an inmate who, in an effort to avoid a confrontation, would talk loudly or otherwise draw attention to himself in order to attract a nearby correctional officer. This is done as a way of “snitching without snitching”. Dry snitching also refers to the act of implicating someone else, intentionally or unintentionally, while speaking to an authority figure. Dry snitches are typically considered to be weak, naive, passive aggressive, or self-centered, all of which present ethical and practical dilemmas that must be weighed when discussing the practice of snitching.

http://www.popmatters.com/columns/hill/060224-1.shtml

a stop-snitching creed

March 27, 2007

• Don’t snitch on others just to save yourself. “Stop snitching is for those guys out there … selling more drugs than Noriega, and their only out is to tell on somebody. … If a (criminal) wants to be a Good Samaritan, OK. But send (him) to jail. Don’t give him immunity to do what he wants on the street.”

• Stop Snitching doesn’t mean stop talking to police. “It’s always misconstrued by the public, or the powers that be, that we’re trying to intimidate the regular people or the law-abiding citizens. That’s not what it’s about. … If that is your only outlet, to call the police, that’s what you do.”

• But witnesses have no obligation to help police. “Do your job — you’re the police. … I’ve been wronged by the system. Do you think I would help the system? … Do cops snitch on other cops?”

• The authorities can’t protect witnesses. “What’s happening to the innocent witness? They get dead or … terrorized for life.”

• Sometimes you must right wrongs yourself. “I’m a man, and I can handle my own situations like a man. … I’ve done dirt. I’ll admit that. So I can’t run to the police.”

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-03-28-stop-snitching_x.htm

what “Stop Snitching” / “Stop Snitchin'” really means

March 27, 2007

Some criminal informers who are allowed to remain free commit more crimes; some return to crime after a shortened prison sentence; some frame others, or tell prosecutors what they want to hear. Boston defense lawyer Harvey Silverglate says the system encourages defendants “not only to sing, but to compose.”

According to a study by the Northwestern University Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, 51 of the 111 wrongful death penalty convictions since the 1970s were based in whole or in part on the testimony of witnesses who had an incentive to lie.

Alexandra Natapoff, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, says that, based on federal statistics, one of every four black men from 20 to 29 is behind bars, on probation or on parole, and under pressure to snitch. She estimates one in 12 of all black men in the highest-crime neighborhoods are snitching.

She says informers strain the social fabric of poor minority neighborhoods, where as many as half the young men have been arrested. “Every family gathering, every party, every backyard barbecue probably has someone who’s secretly working as an informer.”

This is the world Rayco Saunders inhabits. It’s filled, as he puts it, with “guys doin’ all this crime and not doin’ no time, because they’re telling on the next man.”

“If the word ‘snitch’ comes out of someone’s mouth, I go insane,” says Pellegrini, the Pittsburgh prosecutor.

Saunders says he hates snitching so much that he not only wears the T-shirts himself but has given them as gifts to friends and relatives. “They love the T- shirts,” he says. “It’s way overdue for somebody to step up and speak about these things that’s going on with these informants and these guys walking around here with immunity to do whatever they want to do.”

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-03-28-stop-snitching_x.htm

Perhaps the most dangerous form of snitching that takes place in urban spaces is wet (also known as hard) snitching. Unlike dry snitching, which maintains a degree of indirection and unawareness, wet snitching occurs when an individual acts as a government informant in order to eliminate or reduce his or her own legal liability. Given the nature of most commercial anti-snitching messages — for example, recent t-shirts contain quotes like “I’ll Never Tell” and “Niggas Just Lookin’ For A Deal” — wet snitching is both the most reviled and relevant form within hip-hop culture.

While informants have always played a critical role in the government’s surveillance, infiltration, and destruction of countless progressive social organizations, informants have become increasingly central to the prosecution of ordinary citizens. According to the United States Sentencing Commission, nearly 40 percent of drug trafficking prosecutions that resulted in sentences of 10 years or more (a population in which blacks and Latinos are grossly overrepresented) were directly connected to the contributions of informants. While at first glance this type of data may signal progress in the government’s ostensible war against crime, a closer look reveals both moral and practical shortcomings.

While the practice of snitching has drastically increased the amount of drug arrests and convictions, it has also undermined the overall well being of America’s most economically and politically vulnerable communities. According to Loyola professor Alexandra Natapoff, who published a groundbreaking 2004 article, “Snitching: The institutional and Communal Consequences”, mandatory (and, I would argue, race targeted) drug sentencing laws, combined with the reduction of judicial flexibility have created tens of thousands of snitches who are mainly operating within poor, crime ridden neighborhoods. While snitching does not only occur within black and Latino communities, such areas are particularly susceptible, since one out of every four black and one out of every eight Latinos between 20 and 29 are under criminal supervision at any time. Given this reality, it is not surprising that, according to Natapoff, one out of every four young blacks are under pressure to snitch at any time. It is also not surprising that one out of 12 black men currently function as snitches within their communities in exchange for reduced criminal liability and continued police “protection”.

At a moment when civil liberties are in jeopardy for all Americans due to the Patriot Act and sophisticated forms of domestic spying, the proliferation of snitches creates a new set of problems for ghetto denizens. Increased violence, sustained crime rates, growing distrust of fellow citizens (imagine going to the basketball court, barbershop, or the local bar knowing that one in twelve people in your community — and possibly that guy sitting right next to you — is a government informant), destruction of positive community-police relationships, and the invasion of privacy for law-abiding citizens are all consequences of the ghetto snitch industry. Instead of merely enabling the drug culture’s foot soldiers to “flip” on big bosses (the expressed governmental intent of wet snitching), the current system often allows everyone to trade information for leniency, not least because the government is drowning in overstocked dockets and the criminals are masterful manipulators of the truth.

Indeed, in addition to fracturing communities with their deeds, snitches are notoriously unreliable in their testimony. To satisfy the conditions of their agreements, settle personal scores, or support their own criminal activity (which must be sustained in order to continue procuring information for the government — how’s that for a catch-22?), snitches often manufacture stories and falsely accuse friends, family, neighbors, and rivals of criminal acts. According to the Northwestern University Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, nearly half of the nation’s wrongful death penalty convictions are due to the information provided by snitches.

It has become increasingly apparent that the practice of snitching is undergirded by tragically flawed public policies that have vicious effects on the stability and integrity of black and Latino communities. Given this reality, it is no wonder that many within the hip-hop community have openly rejected the practice of snitching. Unfortunately, the “no snitching” code, now appropriated as a fashion statement, has often been articulated without critical nuance and has resulted in an extremist position that betrays its own inherent complexity.

In order to fully understand the legitimacy of the “Stop Snitching” movement within hip-hop, it is important to make a distinction between snitching and witnessing. While witnessing can be rightly considered a necessary civic practice in order to create and sustain safe communities, snitching is itself an act of moral turpitude. While a witness is an asset to truth and justice, the snitch is motivated primarily or entirely by self-interest. While witnesses are committed to upholding social contracts, snitches inevitably undermine them. Given this distinction, it seems that the bulk of the public outcry in favor of snitching is actually a plea for witnesses.

In building their case, anti-snitching pundits often cite instances in which acts of random or unnecessary violence go unpunished due to the public’s refusal to act responsibly. A classic example of this “Bad Samaritan” behavior occurred in 1997 when seven-year-old Sherrice Iverson was molested and strangled in a Las Vegas bathroom stall by Jeremy Strohmeyer. Although Strohmeyer eventually confessed to the crime, police were unaided by his friend David Cash, who acknowledged witnessing the event but did not feel compelled to notify authorities.

While the public disgust and rejection of Cash’s acts were nearly unanimous, such examples often serve as straw arguments — even the most ardent anti-snitching voices would condemn Cash’s decision — that obscure more legitimate and commonplace moral dilemmas. For example, what should Cash have done if he had caught Strohmeyer stealing chips from the casino or smoking marijuana instead of assaulting the young girl? In this instance, the necessity of acting as a witness becomes more debatable. The potential reasons for this shift in sentiment are varied: a lack of deference for the particular laws that protect gambling establishments, a collective distrust of the particular casino or the casino industry, a lack of interest in punishing recreational drug use (they may smoke marijuana, as well), or fear of repercussions from the offender. For these and many other reasons, many people would opt to “mind my own business” under such circumstances. Like the hip-hop community, the larger American public makes decisions about snitching based on their own level of commitment to particular rules, laws, and groups, as well as their consideration of the particular stakes attached to intervening. We all make this decision to some degree or another, many times in our lives.

The most prominent critiques of the “Stop Snitching” campaign represent yet another failure of the general public to acknowledge the depth and truth-value of the hip-hop community’s social commentary. Upon closer examination, an anti-snitching posture is a response to a set of circumstances, some unique and others universal, that many members of the hip-hop generation face. Clearly, the complexity of these circumstances cannot be adequately addressed through an “either-or” position on snitching. By advocating snitching under all circumstances, we ignore the moral dilemmas that are part and parcel of the practice. Also, we ascribe a level of unearned trust and moral authority to formal institutions, such as the government, despite its consistent indifference to the well being of its most defenseless citizens.

Conversely, by not articulating the particular rules and conditions under which snitching is highly problematic, the hip-hop community creates the conditions for a fundamentalist reading of a “don’t talk to cops” social text. Surely this can lead to the type of moral irresponsibility and social decline that snitching advocates believe already exists. The solution, then, rests upon our ability to cease looking for simple answers to complex issues and begin the difficult work of open, engaged, and public dialogue about both snitching and witnessing.

http://www.popmatters.com/columns/hill/060224-2.shtml

The shirt wars, however, obscure the fact that there are different types of reluctant witnesses. There are the bystanders, who fear retaliation. There are the shooter’s crew, who are loyal to their friend. There are the victim’s crew, who often prefer to handle payback themselves.

Finally, there are the liars — criminals who allegedly bargain for lenience on their own offenses by testifying falsely against innocent persons. The shirtmakers claim that this is the type of snitching the shirt condemns. “We were thinking about how the legal system uses people to turn on each other in exchange for plea deals,” says Tangg. “How they give people a motive to lie.”

That’s also how the shirt was apparently intended when the mother of Joseph Cousin, who was on trial for the murder of 10-year-old Trina Persad earlier this year, infamously wore it into court one day. The key witness in the case, a 15-year-old male, admitted to stealing the car used in the crime, helping to plan the shooting, and acting as lookout. Homicide detectives let him off with no jail time, in exchange for testifying against Cousin. Cousin’s mother believes — rightly or not — that her son is innocent, and therefore that this witness is lying to save his own skin. (A mistrial was declared for unrelated reasons, and a retrial will be held next year.)

Tangg insists the shirt was not intended to intimidate witnesses at a trial. “In no way are we saying that people should not testify,” he says, adding that “there are places to wear the shirt, and court is not one of them.”

Most teens and young adults in Boston’s high-crime areas questioned by this reporter over the past year define snitching as agreeing to testify against a friend in exchange for a reduced sentence. Few think the shirts are a warning that bystanders will be shot for cooperating.

But neither O’Toole nor Menino seems to appreciate the enormous resentment and ill will that comes from the high-pressure deals for testimony that go on routinely inside the BPD walls, which pit friend against friend, and family against family. Individuals guilty of little or nothing get threatened with harsh charges if they don’t cooperate, while known criminals work deals that send them back to the streets.

Besides, the mayor’s righteous indignation over the “code of silence” in the streets looks awfully hypocritical: the same code exists within his police department, and he’s never complained publicly about that.

But perhaps most important, by grouping all witnesses together — and all of the shirts’ tens of thousands of wearers together (Tangg says roughly 25,000 to 35,000 have been sold in Boston and elsewhere) — Menino has drawn a line between “us” and “them” in exactly the wrong place. Menino, the Boston Police Department, and the district attorney need those bystander witnesses to side with the authorities against the relatively small number of violent criminals causing the trouble. Instead, Menino has effectively labeled hip-hop culture as the enemy of law enforcement.

According to reports, Menino had no idea that the people selling the shirt are popular local rappers and businessmen, as well as trendsetters of hip-hop fashion who are also responsible for the currently hot faux-bulletproof vests. Certainly nobody expects Tom Menino to have Tangg’s “Rap Star (All I Ever Wanted)” loaded on his iPod. But his unfamiliarity with the culture’s leaders only reinforced the distance between city authority and city youth as he rushed to demonize the shirts.

http://72.166.46.24/boston/news_features/top/features/documents/05133928.asp

Few law-abiding citizens would agree that legitimate witnesses to a crime should be intimidated into refusing to cooperate. Yet it’s also true that there is a long history of abusive law-enforcement practices, in which witnesses are pressured by police and prosecutors to “sing” their way to less severe punishments — not to mention those taught to “compose” false testimony. As a result of using some of those tactics on witnesses, Massachusetts has seen a rash of false convictions in recent years, particularly in Suffolk County (See “Let Us Now Praise Framed-up Men,” News and Features, April 9, 2004). Hence, there’s legitimate controversy surrounding the social benefits of “snitchin’,” where witnesses are subject to improper pressures and suggestions as to what they should be testifying.

http://72.166.46.24/boston/news_features/this_just_in/documents/05133511.asp

We rely on MySpace.com to help spread the Movement, which is one of educating people on the Snitching (Criminal Informant) aspect of the legal system and it’s effects on communities.
This page, this movement, and our website, StopSnitching.com, are in no way advocating Witness Intimidation. While the local authorities and the Government would like people to believe that Witness Intimidation is our goal… It is NOT.

http://www.myspace.com/stopsnitchingdotcom

Bush Administration accused of illegal behavior

March 18, 2007

“This House cannot avoid its constitutionally authorized responsibility to restrain the abuse of Executive power,” Kucinich said on the floor today. “The Administration has been preparing for an aggressive war against Iran. There is no solid, direct evidence that Iran has the intention of attacking the United States or its allies.”

Kucinich noted that since the US “is a signatory to the U.N. Charter, a constituent treaty among the nations of the world,” and Article II states that “all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state,” then “even the threat of a war of aggression is illegal.”

“Article VI of the U.S. Constitution makes such treaties the Supreme Law of the Land,” Kucinich continued. “This Administration, has openly threatened aggression against Iran in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the U.N. Charter.”

http://www.rawstory.com/news/2007/Kucinich_Impeachment_may_well_be_only_0315.html

man called sex offender for public urination

March 14, 2007

Deltona, Florida

A Deltona sex offender was told he needed to move Monday after being found in violation of a May 2006 city ordinance, though he said the offense was urinating in public after drinking alcohol to celebrate his daughter’s birth 21 years ago.

The 49-year-old took the stand before Volusia County Judge Peter Marshall in DeLand on Monday to say he never molested anyone back in 1986, but just got drunk and urinated at the side of a car along a Massachusetts street when three people passed by and saw him. He requested he not have to move his two young sons to an area with a concentrated number of sex offenders.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17589219/

another man arrested at a California bank

January 3, 2007

Once again, David Lazarus from the San Francisco Chronicle and radio talk show host Clark Howard are reporting about a bank customer arrested and jailed for trying to cash or deposit [a] check/s.

I heard that Steven Chesser originally took the checks to a Washington Mutual bank branch and the teller did not like the looks of the checks or something, so Steven went across the street to a Wells Fargo bank branch and the checks were accepted there.

Unlike the earlier Bank of America story, Wells Fargo probably will not lose any customers because of this incident.
However, some local criminal justice establishments in California may be slowly losing their credibility because of their seeming lack of organization skills and their arbitrary actions.

I do not think that the stated charges of “check forgery” “commercial burglary” are actually applicable here. I do not think that receiving a check in the mail and then presenting the check to a bank teller should be considered an illegal act. However, the people making the fake checks should be sought out and prosecuted.

Jay Boyarsky, the supervising deputy district attorney, acknowledged that “the criminal justice system does not always deal well with people who have mental disabilities.”

For the time being, however, Chesser remains behind bars. He’s being held in a special wing “for inmates who need mental health treatment,” according to jail spokesman Mark Cursi.

Chesser doesn’t read very well and doesn’t always comprehend what’s going on around him, his father said. He’s worked as a janitor and held other unskilled jobs. He’s easily taken advantage of by others.

“When he’s working, his friends always come around on payday and get him to buy them beer,” William Chesser said. “That sort of thing is common.”

William Chesser said his son went to a Wells Fargo branch in Cupertino with a couple of checks he’d received, ostensibly worth a total of about $2,000. Chesser opened a checking account, deposited the funds and asked for some money.

So Chesser went to the bank yet again with even more checks. And this time, bank officials suspected something was up. They called the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department and Chesser was promptly arrested for passing bad checks.

“He was attempting to deposit numerous checks,” said Deputy Serg Palanov, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department.

Chris Hammond, a Wells Fargo spokesman, said, “There is more to the story, but we are not able to disclose it because we must respect the privacy of the customer’s information.”

He added: “Wells Fargo does not make decisions based on a customer or potential customer’s appearance. However, if a team member observes questionable or suspicious actions or behaviors in our banking store, it may be appropriate to contact authorities to ensure the safety of our customers and team members.”

“I asked him if he knew why he was there,” the father continued. “He said it was for opening an account at Wells Fargo.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/12/20/BUGK2N2M051.DTL

“If you are underage, you are going to drink”

December 22, 2006

Alber’s mother, Robynne, said her son only ordered a hamburger and was humiliated in front of his parents and their friends, she wrote in a letter filed with the commission. After Alber’s mother protested, she too was asked to leave.

Dan Puerini, POP’s owner, said he won’t stop his 21-and-over policy. He said the rule is part of the restaurant’s attempt to enforce liquor laws.

“If you are underage, you are going to drink,” he said. “It’s impossible to keep track of minors in a bar where it’s like POP and its jampacked.”

http://www.boston.com/news/local/rhode_island/articles/2006/08/13/21_and_over_policy_prompts_age_discrimination_complaint/

Is he implying that all people under age 21 are going to drink alcohol?

Would Rhode Island law require restaurant employees to monitor all people inside that are under age 21 at all times, or just people when they are attempting to buy alcohol?

When Dan Puerini was 19, he borrowed some start-up cash from his mom and opened a restaurant. He had never trained to cook professionally, but he liked the kitchen and loved cooking.

http://www.tasteri.com/projo/reviews/20030327_puerinis.htm

Hmmm. 19 years old. Maybe laws were different back then.

But restaurant owner Dan Puerini says his policy is designed to prevent underaged drinking. Without the policy, he says his staff might accidentally serve alcohol to a minor on a busy night.

http://ww2.wpri.com/global/story.asp?s=5274282