By Olivia Demarinis (email@example.com)
Animal advocates are raising awareness about the high rates of law enforcement officers who shoot pet dogs while answering calls on duty.
Several pet owners are suing police departments and state legislatures for their mistreatment of their animals.
While there is no official data on how often these killings occur in the U.S., media reports suggest that at least a few dozen pets are killed each year, but many activists suspect more go unreported. Outcry against these senseless killings say that it is an abuse of power by the police and officials should be better trained to deal with pets in the line of duty.
An argument citing a violation of the Fourth Amendment was upheld when a San Jose chapter of the Hells Angels sued the police department and city in 2005 for killing members' dogs during a gang raid in 1998. In federal appeals, a judge found that "the Fourth Amendment forbids the killing of a person's dog ... when that destruction is unnecessary." The Hells Angels won $1.8 million in damages.
Similar lawsuits have been filed in Idaho, California and Nevada, among other states.
Animal-rights activists are concurrently lobbying for increased pet training for police officers. Illinois and Colorado have already implemented some measures to reduce dog shootings, other states are currently considering such legislation.
In 2011, the Department of Justice published a report on police incidents involving dogs along with advice on how to avoid killing the animals.
"It's much more likely that a cop is going to encounter a dog than a terrorist, yet there's no training," Ledy Van Kavage, an attorney for the advocacy group Best Friends Animal Society, said. "If you have a fear or hatred of dogs, then you shouldn't be a police officer, just like if you have a hatred of different social groups."
BY DEANNA BOYD
FORT WORTH — A Fort Worth police deputy chief is under investigation for shooting a dog while off-duty Monday night.
Kenneth Flynn has been stripped of his gun and badge and placed on restricted duty pending the outcome of a criminal and administrative investigation, police officials confirmed Thursday.
Flynn’s attorney, Robert Rogers of Dallas, said the shooting occurred after the dog, which he described as a German shepherd, “attacked and killed the deputy chief’s cat.”
“There was an eyewitness to the attack of the cat,” Rogers said.
Rogers said Flynn was aware of the fatal mauling of his cat when he shot the dog.
“He had that knowledge when he encountered this dangerous, vicious animal running loose,” Rogers said.
Police Chief Jeff Halstead said the shooting was reported to a police supervisor.
“The allegations are serious and our department will fully investigate these matters, holding any and all employees accountable, to sustain the public’s trust for our department and our profession,” Halstead said in an email to the Star-Telegram.
The shooting occurred Monday night in the 1300 block of East Oak Grove Road, according a Fort Worth police report.
Detectives with the department’s special investigation unit were called out to the scene. The call, the report states, involved “shots fired inside the city limits.”
“A white male in a black SUV was reported to have shot at a dog with a handgun,” the report states.
At the time of the report, the dog could not be located and it was unknown if it had been hit. On Thursday, Sgt. Steven Enright, a police spokesman, confirmed that the dog had been shot and is now dead.
Police officials declined to answer other specific questions regarding the incident.
“There is a criminal and administrative investigation being conducted involving the shooting of a dog by a Fort Worth police officer that occurred on Monday night,” Enright said in an email.
Flynn was named deputy chief in March 2008 by then acting Chief Pat Kneblick.
Halstead later demoted him to a newly created rank of major in 2011 under a management reshuffling that whittled the number of deputy chief positions to three. The rank of major was later eliminated and Flynn’s title returned to deputy chief.
He is currently over the investigative and support command, according to the department’s website.
By Kaitlyn Naples
By Susan Raff
This all stems back to an incident in April where a video showed a man being repeatedly punched by a police officer.
In a 35-page report the investigation concluded that the man was beaten up and did nothing to provoke it.
After the investigation determined there was an act of police brutality, one Enfield officer was fired and two others were suspended.
Mark Maher has a scar above his eye after being beaten up by a police officer. Maher and three others were in a car parked at the town's boat launch when they were approached by police.
A dash cam inside of the police cruiser captured pictures of Maher being punched several times by officer Matthew Worden, even though Maher was being restrained by two other officers.
Maher was arrested for assaulting an officer, but the charges were dropped.
“All of them that were there - they did nothing to stop it - they stood there and let it happen. They are there to protect and serve and they didn't,” Maher said.
Enfield's police chief said the officers were justified in questioning Maher and the others in the vehicle, but not in their use of force.
Officer Jaime Yott has been suspended for 60 days for neglect and inattention to duty. The investigation found that her police report lacked details and that she failed to write her use of force in the report based on her own observations.
Officer Michael Emons has been suspended for 90 days for violating ethics codes, conduct unbecoming of an officer, using unnecessary force on another person in the car and for turning in a report containing inaccuracies.
"I know there are good cops out there - it's just that when something like this happens it really makes people concentrate on all of the bad,” Maher added.
Enfield's police chief said that out of 150 calls for service over the past three years, the department has only investigated 16 internal affairs complaints.
Maher is suing the department.
APPEALS COURT UPHOLDS DISMISSAL OF KILLER COP CHARGE IN AIYANA JONES CASE, DESPITE ‘WILFUL DISREGARD OF ORDINARY CARE’
UPDATE: COA panel, headed by Michael Talbot, one of the most racist, backward judges on the bench, has denied the prosecution’s appeal of Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway’s dismissal of involuntary manslaughter charges against Aiyana Jones’ killer, Joseph Weekley.
The appeals court order was posted in George Hunter’s article in the Detroit News before it was even up on the court website, indicating that he got it from his usual source, defense attorney Steve Fishman. The decision is at Weekley final COA order.
Supporters of Aiyana Jones and her family are calling for all to come out to Ferguson, MO this weekend, Oct. 10-13 for a national protest against police killings and the disregard for Black lives in this country, called by the Organization for Black Struggle. See post below at http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/10/06/ferguson-weekend-of-resistance-justice-for-mike-brown-oct-10-13-2014/ for all details.
VOD published stories months ago that a scenario where Weekley would plead guilty to the high misdemeanor charge of reckless use of a firearm resulting in death, and get probation, was being planned. See http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/04/18/dad-of-aiyana-jones-7-killed-by-detroit-police-sentenced-to-40-60-years-in-blake-killing. AND
By Diane Bukowski
A state Court of Appeals panel is currently reviewing the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office appeal of Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway’s order dismissing an involuntary manslaughter charge against Detroit Police Officer Joseph Weekley in the death of Aiyana Jones, 7, on May 16, 2010.
The panel is headed by Appeals Judge Michael Talbot and includes Kurtis T. Wilder and Kirsten Frank Kelley.
In their appeal, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, Chief of Research on Appeals and Training Timothy Baughman, and Asst. Prosecuting Attorney Thomas Chambers argue that the case should go to the jury as presented. They say that Judge Hathaway’s ruling was a “legal error” contrary to her actual finding in the case, and cite a 1995 Michigan Supreme Court opinion defining involuntary manslaughter.
Hathaway said as part of her ruling that “the trier of fact can decide if the Defendantfailed to use the ordinary care to avoid injuring another when to a reasonable person it must have been apparent that the result was likely to be serious injury.”
The prosecutor then cites People v. Datema, where the high court ruled that the crime of involuntary manslaughter can be committed EITHER with the intent to injure OR in a grossly negligent manner.
“In the latter instance,” it says, criminal liability is imposed because, although the defendants’ acts are not inherently wrong, the defendant has acted or failed to act with awareness of the risk to safety and in willful disregard of the safety of others.”
According to the transcript of the Oct. 3 arguments, Asst. Prosecutor Robert Moran said, “He [Weekley] knew what the standard was, he knew what ordinary care was required because they go in there with all this powerful equipment, an MP5 submachine gun, a ballistic shield, vest, whatever the case may be, they’re trained how to use it, they’re trained the proper way to use it. He could have avoided injury if he had followed his training, he didn’t. As a result of not following his training and not following the mandates of ordinary care, someone was killed.”
Numerous Special Response Team members testifed earlier that they are repeatedly trained to keep their index finger on the slide of the gun, off the trigger, even if involved in a confrontation. One officer said the training results in automatic “muscle response.”
A weapons expert said Weekley’s gun could not be fired accidentally, only by exerting eight to nine pounds of pressure on the trigger.
Defense Attorney Steve Fishman cited only the U.S. Supreme Court case, People V. Evans, which Detroit News reporter George Hunter included in his Oct. 3 story, without acknowledging that Fishman was his source for finding the case.
In that case, Fishman said, “The United States Supreme Court has clearly stated that the trial judge’s ruling cannot be appealed and that retrial on that count is prohibited by the Double Jeopary clause of the United States Constitution. Therefore, the prosecution’s emergency application for leave to appeal should be denied.”
However the Appeals Court rules, courts have proven throughout this country that justice for people of color in particular is rarely rendered, as in the acquittal of George Zimmerman for killing Travyon Martin, and Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper’s refusal to prosecute Northland Mall security officers who killed McKenzie Cochran, 25, as he cried out, “I can’t breathe” and “I’m dying” while they held him down.
Many hope that actions like the protests in Ferguson, including the one planned for this weekend, cited below in VOD’s post at http://voiceofdetroit.net/2014/10/06/ferguson-weekend-of-resistance-justice-for-mike-brown-oct-10-13-2014/, will eventually provide justice.
A former town of Greece police officer has been charged in federal court with possession of child pornography.
According to a criminal complaint and other court papers filed Sept. 5 but unsealed on Tuesday, John Casey III is accused of having images of child pornography on his laptop computer and sharing them via a peer-to-peer (P2P) downloading service.
The charges stem from a two-year investigation that included federal agents downloading videos from Casey's computer and a search of Casey's home on Long Pond Road.
Casey was hired by the Greece Police Department on Feb. 7, 2011 and resigned on May 23, 2014, according to department spokesman Sgt. Jared René.
Chief Patrick Phelan said he could not provide any details of a criminal investigation being conducted by another agency. He said he was aware of the investigation when Casey resigned.
The charges are apparently not linked to Casey's employment.
According to court documents, Department of Homeland Security investigators looking into peer-to-peer file sharing programs in 2012 identified a user making available numerous files with digital fingerprints linked to child porn with an IP address that traced back to Casey. While agents downloaded a file apparently containing child pornography from that IP address at the time, no judicial action followed.
However, in March 2014, when an agent was again investigating P2P file sharing services, the agent came across a user — with an IP address that also later traced back to Casey — who had 64 porn-associated files available for download. The agent downloaded five of the video files, and determined that four of them "contained depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct."
A search warrant was executed at Casey's home on Long Pond Road on April 22 and two laptop computers were seized, according to court documents. Investigators found the same P2P downloading program that agents had used on one of the computers, and they also found digital links and other traces showing that child pornography had at one time been present on the computer.
A second computer taken from Casey's home, which investigators say had registered user information that not only linked back to Casey but also to his profession, contained "multiple images depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct," including at least one image of a female infant being violated by an adult male.
Casey was arrested on Sept. 17 in Iowa and is scheduled to appear Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan W. Feldman in Rochester.
RACHEL M. COHEN
If settlements for police misconduct on citizens came out of the funding for police, incidents of abuse would be reduced, experts say.
As the national conversation around racism and police brutality quickly fades—ramped up briefly in the wake of Michael Brown’s death—U.S. taxpayers remain stuck footing the bills for their local law enforcement’s aggressive behavior. This week alone, Baltimore agreed to pay $49,000 to man who sued over a violent arrest in 2010, Philadelphia agreed to pay $490,000 to a man who was abused and broke his neck while riding in a police van in 2011, and St. Paul agreed to pay $95,000 to a man who suffered a skull injury, a fractured eye socket, and a broken nose in 2012.
In 2013, Chicago paid out a stunning $84.6 million in police misconduct settlements, judgments, and legal fees. Bridgeport, Connecticut, paid a man $198,000 this past spring after video footage captured police shooting him twice with a stun gun, then stomping all over him as he lay on the ground. And in California, Oakland recently agreed to pay $4.5 million to settle a lawsuit a man filed after being shot in the head, leaving him with permanent brain damage. You get the picture.
It’s the taxpayer, not the law enforcement agency, who pays the price.
The thing is, these steep payments rarely come from the police department budgets—instead they’re financed through the city’s general coffers or the city’s insurance plan. It’s the taxpayer, not the law enforcement agency, who pays the price.
“That’s why these enormous financial penalties do not seem to actually impact what police do,” said David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh who specializes in criminal justice issues. “Conceivably, if cities didn’t want this to happen, they could say this will come out of your [police] budget.”
Other scholars have proposed this, too. Between 2006 and 2011, the total number of claims filed for offenses like false arrest and police brutality in New York City increased by 43 percent. So Joanna Schwartz, a law professor at UCLA, suggested the city could take money from its police budget to pay the associated legal costs. “Perhaps if the department held its own purse strings, it would find more to learn from litigation,” Schwartz wrote in the New York Times. This past June, Schwartz published a study that concluded individual cops almost never pay for their misconduct—rather, “governments paid approximately 99.98 percent of the dollars that plaintiffs recovered in lawsuits alleging civil rights violations by law enforcement.”
But the politics of pushing police departments to change or make concessions can be difficult. A recent Gallup poll found that across the country, 56 percent of adults hold “a great deal or quite a lot of confidence” in the police as an institution. If a majority of Americans feel positively about law enforcement, gathering the political will needed to compel change becomes tough.
“Most political leaders don’t have the guts for it, or the stomach for it, so we go around and around and cities pay out buckets of money from their own funds or they buy insurance,” said Harris. “As a result, the settlement costs do not act as a deterrence.”
Video footage might help to change this: The vast proliferation of video recording devices—ranging from individual cell phones to police surveillance cameras—have forced many citizens to watch incidents they might have otherwise tried to deny ever happened. Law enforcement and city officials, too, can’t as easily obfuscate brutal incidents from the record.
It’s possible that the combination of accessible video footage and increasingly expensive lawsuits might at last force cities to re-evaluate the cost of police brutality. This month, a disturbing video surfaced of a Baltimore police officer repeatedly punching a man in June; a $5 million lawsuit was then filed against the cop and the footage will be used as evidence. After seeing the video, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake criticized the police department and directed the commissioner to develop a “comprehensive” plan to address his agency’s systemic brutality.
The following week, two city council members proposed legislation that would require every Baltimore police officer to wear a body camera, in order to reduce instances of improper behavior.
This is all mildly encouraging, but as long as the cost of the jury verdicts, settlements and legal fees fall outside of the police budgets, the economic incentives for departmental reform will stay low. It’s also important to note that filing a civil rights lawsuit is not easy; the overwhelming majority of claims do not result in huge payouts nor is it easy to secure legal representation—even if the plaintiff was clearly wronged, notwithstanding all the new technological means to collect evidence. The cases take a long time and the pay can be precarious. David Packman, a private researcher who established The National Police Misconduct Reporting Project says that both the lack of financial penalties “sufficient to outrage taxpayers” and the fact that “fewer and fewer lawyers take on police misconduct cases” helps explain why localities don’t feel much pressure to introduce meaningful systemic reforms.
Unfortunately, as long as these trends persist, the taxpayer bill is likely to grow.
By Mara H. Gottfried
The St. Paul City Council is due to approve a $95,000 settlement Wednesday to a man who was left with a fractured skull and eye socket and a broken nose after an encounter with police.
Thomas Benjamin Nelson, 30, was unarmed when officers approached him in January 2012, according to a claim Nelson's attorney sent the city seeking at least $100,000 in damages.
"The officers appeared to have failed to identify who they were as they began a pursuit of Mr. Nelson," attorney Christopher Zipko wrote. "Mr. Nelson, fearing for his safety, eventually fled on foot and ran to his ... family member's apartment."
Officers used their fists, feet and a flashlight on Nelson, and he was hospitalized for several weeks, Zipko wrote.
The encounter started, officers said, when they stopped to investigate a suspicious vehicle near University and Avon avenues.
Sandra Bodensteiner, St. Paul claims manager, wrote to Zipko in August 2012 that officers had announced their presence several times. They were in an unmarked vehicle, but their shirts said "POLICE" in large letters, she wrote.
"Your client continued to run and flee from officers, possibly due to an outstanding warrant your client knew he had," Bodensteiner wrote. "Any injuries your client sustained were due to your clients' own actions."
Nelson, Zipko and the city attorney's office "engaged in voluntary mediation for over a year to resolve this matter, to avoid the high cost of litigation and attorneys' fees," said St.
Paul City Attorney Sara Grewing in an email Monday. The city does not admit liability.
The Ramsey County attorney's office had charged Nelson with fourth-degree assault against an officer in the case. After Nelson fled into an apartment in the 700 block of Aurora Avenue, he "punched at officer (Erik) Diskerud, hitting him in the face and head," according to the criminal complaint.
"Officer Diskerud, to subdue Nelson, administered four closed fist strikes to the center mass of Nelson's face," the complaint said. "Nelson continued to struggle with police, so Officer (Kevin) Sullivan struck Nelson in the face with his flashlight. Officer Sullivan states that he did not want to put his flashlight down because the apartment was dark and he wanted to immediately stop Nelson's resistance, since both officers were exhausted."
The charge against Nelson was dismissed after prosecutors found in a second review of the case they didn't have sufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, said Dennis Gerhardstein, county attorney's office spokesman.
Before the dismissal, Zipko had filed a motion including a witness' statement that Nelson was "face down and was not in a position that he could have punched at the officers."
Zipko also wrote in the 2012 filing that some officers who were part of the arrest had been involved in an incident at a Lino Lakes bar, where they were alleged to have started a fight with two women and a male acquaintance of the women.
The incident showed that Diskerud, Sullivan and officer Jason Whitney had "a propensity to assault others in an unprovoked manner," Zipko wrote.
"Further, the officers have a propensity to act as one cohesive unit to ... craft their stories to suggest that they are the victims."
Sullivan pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in the Lino Lakes case and the charge was dismissed last summer when conditions were met, according to a court record.
At the police department, Sullivan received a three-day suspension for improper conduct, a prosecutor wrote in another document, adding the "circumstances (in the Nelson case) bear no resemblance, relevance or connection to events in a suburban bar that occurred while officer Sullivan was off duty."
The allegations about the Lino Lakes case weren't a factor in the settlement, Grewing said.
"We asked the City Council to approve this settlement because it was in the best interest of the taxpayers to resolve this case before trial," the city attorney said. "The amount is consistent with the injuries that this plaintiff sustained, along with the hospitalization costs and other medical bills."
The St. Paul City Council has approved about $2.2 million in settlements this year, including $1 million to families of two children killed and one injured in a landslide in Lilydale Regional Park and $800,000 in a lease dispute with Black Bear Crossings in the Como Lake pavilion.
The Nelson settlement will be the largest settlement in an allegation of police misconduct approved this year.
Tad Vezner and Elizabeth Mohr contributed to this report.
Former Jefferson Parish deputy arrested on narcotics, domestic violence and probation violation charges
By Paul Purpura, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
A former Jefferson Parish deputy whose 2013 run-in with Sheriff's Office narcotics agents put him on five years' of probation for a felony traffic offense has had another brush with the law. Albert Morris Jr., 49, was arrested at his Old Jefferson home Wednesday night on narcotics and domestic violence charges, jail and court records show.
He also was accused of violating his probation, in part because of the 108 guns and "large amounts of ammunition including various smoke and gas grenades" hidden at his home in the 800 block of Shrewsbury Road, according to a court record. Morris' probation officer, Patrick O'Brien, filed a request Friday in the 24th Judicial District Court to ask a judge to revoke his probation. If granted, Morris could face 15 years in prison.
Morris was placed on five years' probation after pleaded guilty in July to aggravated obstruction of a highway. That stemmed from his chasing a narcotics agent involved in an undercover investigation off his Old Jefferson property on Oct. 10. Morris caught the agent investigating vehicles parked at Morris' property, which includes four apartments over ground floor businesses.
His son, Albert S. Morris, 22, was convicted Tuesday of several misdemeanors for helping Morris in the chase. It ended in a parking lot at Jefferson Highway and Shrewsbury Road.
Morris testified Tuesday during his son's trial that the narcotics agents were lying about him. He denied knowing he was chasing an undercover officer, and he said he was skeptical that the unmarked cars with police lights that were behind him during the chase were law enforcement vehicles.
When the chase ended, the narcotics agents said, Morris emerged from his car with a pistol. Morris denied it and said he was getting his vehicle license and registration information when "I was assaulted by men with guns," who pushed him to the ground and kicked him in the back of his head and face, he testified.
"I think I got some hits," he said. "Nothing real big on my body."
Judge John Molaison of the 24th Judicial District, who presided over Tuesday's trial, said he found Morris' testimony "incredible." He described it as "verbally sparring with the assistant DA" who cross-examined Morris.
Morris remained in the parish jail Friday His bonds on the domestic abuse battery, false imprisonment and ecstasy possession total $8,500. However, he has no bond set on the probation hold. He had not yet retained an attorney, his former lawyers said.
His latest arrest followed a tip to authorities from a person who is not identified in court records. Probation officers and Sheriff's Office narcotics agents and street crimes deputies went to Morris' home about 7 p.m. and found one gram of Ecstacy in a plastic bag "in plain view" on his bedroom nightstand, according to an arrest report.
The Sheriff's Office also booked him with domestic abuse battery and false imprisonment involving his girlfriend. And because he was on probation, he wasn't supposed to have the weapons.
A judge had given Morris until Oct. 16 to remove the weapons from his home. On Wednesday, he told his probation officers in a text message that he and his son had done so, O'Brien wrote in the probation revocation request.
During the search Wednesday, probation officers found the weapons "secretly hidden" in a large tool chest, obscured by carpet and plywood underneath a staircase leading to the upper-floor apartments, court records show. The Sheriff's Office seized the weapons.
Probation officers also accuse Morris of breaking the rules by "failing to refrain from consorting with disreputable persons," because of his association with people with criminal histories. He also hasn't submitted to random drug screens, his probation officer says.
Morris has testified he was a deputy for 19 years. Court records show he was investigated for suspicion of rape and later charged in court with extortion, leading then-Sheriff Harry Lee to fire him.
He was acquitted of extortion and sued to get his job back. A federal jury in 2000 sided with Morris and awarded him $5,000 in punitive damages and $47,000 in lost wages and back pay. Three years later, a federal judge ordered the Sheriff's Office also to pay $31,500 for Morris' legal fees and interest.
By Gabriel San Roman
Yesenia Rojas gave Anaheim Deputy Police Chief Julian Harvey what she thought was a courtesy call yesterday morning. She's a noted community activist in the city's Anna Drive neighborhood, which gained international attention two years ago for a police killing there that led to days of riots in Anaheim.
"I called...to invite him to events we are going to have in our community," Rojas says. He was busy but returned her call later with some urgent news. "That's when I found out I had an arrest warrant for me."
Rojas walked into the Anaheim Police Department headquarters that afternoon to turn herself in at Harvey's suggestion. After meeting with him, she was booked and held on $10,000 bail for charges of interfering with police before being released late into the night.
The police are mum about the details, but back on September 6, neighbors and family in Anna Drive held a surprise party for Rojas' 37th birthday. Just before 10 p.m., Rojas had just invited her neighbor Donna Acevedo, a city council candidate who's is the mother of someone killed by the Anaheim PD, to come to the fiesta when a mother came screaming for help.
In a nearby alley, Anaheim police were arresting the mother's son. Residents quickly rushed to the scene, whipped out their smartphones and began filming. Footage seen by the Weekly shows gang unit officers standing stoically in the alley keeping people away from the scene.
Rojas walked with her hands up, Ferguson-style, berating police to respond; she claims a cop grabbed her arm and pulled it down. The activist tried clearing a path through the crowd as officers carried a handcuffed man to the street and into the backseat of a gang unit patrol car."Why are you taking him?" residents can be heard screaming. "Let him go!"
"We were trying to get names, badge numbers, and they didn't even answer," Rojas says.
Anaheim police told the Weekly that two arrests occurred that night. Eriberto Castro, 20, was taken in for violating the gang injunction in effect around Anna Drive. Police booked Esgardo Villa, also 20, for drug possession and resisting arrest.
Police units eventually left the alley to angry residents telling cops to get out of their neighborhood. "I don't see any changes," Rojas said, about whether relations have improved between the police and Anna Drive residents. "It's the same."
The circumstances surrounding Rojas' arrest remain unclear at this time, as police wouldn't elaborate. But getting arrested three weeks after her party for trying to keep the peace isn't going to stop Rojas from trying to see real improvements in Anna Drive.
"I think they are doing this to intimidate my community, but this injustice against me is only going to make me stronger," Rojas says. "I'm going to continue fighting for the rights of the community I live in."
Stephen Kass, a 73-year-old lawyer and grandfather of seven, was walking to his cello lesson one day last September when cops arrested him. The charge? Talking to an Occupy Wall Street Protester, a new federal lawsuit alleges.
Kass, an environmental lawyer who works on Wall Street, ambled by Zuccotti Park on his way to the train Sept. 17, 2013, the second anniversary of Occupy. There, Kass says, he stopped to look at a sign reading “Tax the Rich,” and tried striking up a conversation with two protesters, one of whom was carrying the sign.
“I didn't think I was doing anything in the slightest bit unusual,” Kass told Newsweek. “I thought I was being a reasonable, responsible citizen. I was actually trying to find out what it was they were advocating.”
During this brief chat, Police Officer K. Ernst approached Kass and told him to move. Kass, who maintains he was not blocking pedestrians on the sidewalk or vehicles in the road, declined. Other officers joined Ernst and demanded Kass move. Then, Police Officer Michael Alfieri grabbed Kass’ right arm “in two places,” the suit alleges. Kass said “take your hands off me,” but Alfieri did not—instead, Alfieri and another officer cuffed Kass.
They patted him down, searched his shoulder bag, and “pushed” Kass into a police car at Liberty Street and Broadway, and told him that he was being taken to Central Booking. A few minutes later, two other officers told Kass that if he “stayed ‘quiet’ and did not ‘cause any trouble’ he would simply be taken to the precinct and given a summons.’” They indeed took Kass to the precinct, and then asked him whether he had ever been arrested or detained, Kass said.
His reply: “I told them the only time I had been detained was when I was as a member of a New York City Bar Association delegation that went to Asuncion, Paraguay to investigate human rights abuses by the police,” Kass said. “They did not respond to that.”
Kass received a summons, and he complied, appearing in court twice, but the “officers failed to show up at court,” according to the civil complaint. The case was dismissed.
A spokesperson for the NYPD denied that Kass was arrested, stating in an e-mail to Newsweek that he was issued a summons in lieu of an arrest.
"That’s absurd," Andrew Celli, a partner with Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff + Abady LLP, who is representing Kass, said in response to the NYPD's position. "He was handcuffed, detained for over 90 minutes, transported to the precinct, and required to appear in court several times. It was an arrest and a prosecution. If their lawyers argued in court that it wasn’t, they would be sanctioned. Seriously."
Kass’ civil rights lawsuit—which alleges false arrest, malicious prosecution, assault, and battery—comes amid drastically increased scrutiny of NYPD tactics toward protesters, accused quality-of-life offenders, and minorities.
Added Kass: "I bet that if I were a younger person, or if I were a person of color, they would have been even more aggressive or violent. I didn't say those things, but I certainly thought them."
Celli said that their goal with the suit is to educate police officers about protesters’ and observers rights.
“Unfortunately, cases like this arise with depressing regularity,” Celli said. “It seems that in New York, sometimes police don't understand that sidewalks and public spaces are for more than transportation, but are places where people engage. When they don’t understand that, people get arrested, and that’s what happened to Stephen Kass.”’
The New York City Law Department commented to Newsweek that: “We are reviewing the lawsuit.”
By ARIN MIKAILIAN
CrimeProstitutionLaw EnforcementAmerican International GroupCalifornia Public Employees' Retirement System
Glendale cop is set to receive $10,579 a month on paid leave despite his arrest in a prostitution sting
A Glendale police sergeant arrested last month for allegedly soliciting a prostitute will make more than $10,000 a month on paid leave until he retires at the end of 2015, records show.
The arrangement was reached months before Sgt. Vahak Mardikian’s arrest during an investigation of a Nevada prostitution ring, the Glendale News-Press reported.
Glendale police Sgt. Vahak Mardoun Mardikian was charged with soliciting an undercover Las Vegas police detective at the Flamingo casino. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Mardikian was one of five officers who filed a lawsuit in 2010 against the Glendale Police Department alleging discrimination, retaliation and harassment because they're Armenian.
He was demoted in early 2012 following claims that he was pressuring fellow officers to join the lawsuit, but he successfully appealed and was reinstated last year.
Under the settlement deal, Mardikian will receive $10,579 a month in paid leave through Dec. 29, 2015, after which he will be required to retire from the police department, according to settlement documents.
By Tim Ghianni
NASHVILLE (Reuters) - Four Memphis police officers have been suspended with pay for tipping over a portable toilet where a suspect had tried to hide, after a video of the Sept. 19 arrest circulated widely on social media, the Commercial Appeal newspaper reported on Thursday.
The video showed the officers closing in on the portable potty at a construction site where the suspect had hidden.
The officers tipped the portable toilet over and then put it upright again. The police kicked the suspect and handcuffed him after he came out of the potty, the video showed.
The Commercial Appeal said the man in the toilet was Joseph Hampton and that he had run away from police who had responded to a call from an apartment where he was unwanted.
Hampton was arrested on trespassing and evading arrest charges and released on $250 bond, according to local media.
The Memphis Police public information office did not respond to calls and e-mail requests for information on Thursday.
(Editing by Fiona Ortiz)
By Ron Barnett
PICKENS, SC — A Pickens city police officer has been arrested on child neglect charges, after methamphetamine was found in his home, according to warrants.
Christopher Aaron Gilbert, 35, of 385 Duncan Road, Travelers Rest, was charged by the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office with three counts of unlawful neglect of a child or helpless person, according to arrest warrants.
The warrants say methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia were found in the room where Gilbert and his 14-month-old child sleep. They also say a loaded handgun was in the floor of the same room.
Investigators with the sheriff’s vice and narcotics unit went to Gilbert’s home, along with agents from the state Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, after an anonymous tip about drug use involving children, according to Deputy Drew Pinciaro.
“Vice and narcotics investigators observed methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia in plain view,” he said. “At that point, a search warrant was obtained for the residence.”
Gilbert was in a bedroom asleep, Pinciaro said.
Two women who live there, Meghan Leaghia Tesner, 22, and Maranda Jeanette Dickerson, 26, were charged with possession of less than one gram of meth and three counts of neglect of a child.
Tesner is the mother of Gilbert’s 14-month-old child, and Gilbert also and two other children, ages 11 and 13, who live there, according to Pinciaro.
Investigators with the Greenville County Crimes Against Children unit assisted in the case, and the children were placed with an alternative caregiver by the state Department of Social Services, Pinciaro said.
Gilbert was terminated from the Pickens Police Department for violation of city policy, Police Chief Rodney D. Gregory said in a statement.
“It was determined that Officer Gilbert was in violation for lack of good judgment pertaining to his personal life which reasonably could create concern and affect the reputation of the city, employees and the community,” Gregory said.
According to Greenville County Detention Center records, Gilbert was being held Friday on a $10,000 bond.
Patrick McGovern | The Jersey Journal
Closing arguments were given yesterday in the trial of an Essex County Sheriff's officer accused of threatening a woman inside his truck before she jumped from the vehicle.
John Warnock, 39, of Newark is charged in a 2012 incident in which he allegedly threatened to kill a woman he picked up at a bar in West Orange.
A phone call made to an acquaintance during the alleged incident was at the center of the closing argument given by Betty Rodriguez, acting assistant prosecutor and special deputy attorney general for Essex County.
The trial was heard before Judge Mitzy Galis-Menendez at the Hudson County Courthouse in Jersey City. The trial was moved to Hudson County because Warnock works as an Essex County Sheriff's officer.
According to Rodriguez, after Warnock picked up the woman at a West Orange bar on Oct. 5, 2012, he mistakenly made a call from his cell phone, which was in his pocket, to a woman who heard him tell the woman in the truck, "Take your panties down," followed by "Take your panties down or I'll kill you."
The accuser, 22, at the time of the incident, feared for her life and jumped from the moving vehicle in Nutley, said Rodriguez.
Defense attorney Patrick Toscano argued that the accuser was looking to score a big payday from the case.