Monday, March 3rd, 2014 — Good Afternoon, Stay Safe
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Confines of the 73 Precinct | Brooklyn North Gang
Brooklyn ATV Driver Runs Over Anti-Gang Cop And Drags Him 200 Feet
By Jen Chung — Monday, March 3rd, 2014 'The Gothamist' / New York, NY
Police are searching for an ATV driver who hit a police officer yesterday in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn. The cop suffered numerous injuries, including broken vertebrae.
According to the NYPD, around 3:37 p.m., two on-duty police officers (in the anti-gang unit) in an unmarked police car were on South Conduit Avenue at Pitkin Avenue when they spotted an individual "operating a yellow four-wheel Yamaha all-terrain vehicle in a reckless manner, including weaving in and out of traffic and riding on the sidewalk." The officers say they turned on their lights and sirens and stopped the ATV.
However, when the cops approached the ATV, the ATV driver sped away and hit one of the them—and ended up dragging the cop, who was clinging to the front handlebar area. After 190 feet, the police officer was knocked to the ground and the ATV driver drove on top of his left leg, police say, before fleeing.
The police officer was taken to Jamaica Hospital in stable condition, but he had "extensive cuts and scrapes to his left leg, a broken vertebrae, a broken nose and bruises to his face."
The ATV was eventually found abandoned in front of 257 Hegeman Avenue, an auto body shop. Police arrested a different ATV driver who was hiding in a mechanical lift, but investigators say they are still looking for the one who hit the cop.
Cop hit by ATV in Brooklyn, suffers major injuries
The police officer pulled over the rider of an all-terrain vehicle for reckless driving before the rider took off, dragging the cop with him, and then ran over the officer's leg, cops said. The officer suffered a spinal fracture and broken nose.
By Ryan Sit, Chelsia Rose Marcius AND Mark Morales — Monday, March 3rd, 2014 'The New York Daily News'
A cop in Brooklyn suffered devastating injuries Sunday when the all-terrain vehicle rider he pulled over for reckless driving ran over and dragged the officer more than 60 yards as the fiend sped away in his quad, police said.
The police officer broke a vertebra and suffered a broken nose during the brazen ATV rider's getaway, officials said.
The quad driver, who remains at large, actually knocked the cop off the vehicle and ran over his leg during the wild getaway. Cops detained three people for questioning in the case.
Cops announced initially that they arrested a 23-year-old Brooklyn man and charged him with attempted murder of a police officer and numerous other charges. But shortly later, they said they had arrested the wrong man.
After eyeing the quad rider weaving in and out of traffic and driving his yellow Yamaha ATV up on sidewalks in East New York shortly after 3:30 p.m., the injured officer and his partner made the traffic stop, cops said.
At some point during the stop, the quad driver began hitting the gas on his quad, trying to get away, police said. Just as the crazed quad rider darted away, the plainclothes officer lunged toward the ATV and grabbed its handlebars.
He was dragged 190 feet before the driver knocked him off and ran over his left leg, police said.
"I looked out my window and I saw a cop on the ground, bleeding from his face," said a 57-year-old resident of the Brooklyn Adult Care Center, which is near the scene of the hit-and-run on Pitkin Ave.
The officer was taken to Jamaica Hospital, where in addition to the spinal fracture and nose injury, he was treated for road rash to his left leg and bruises to his face, cops said.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton visited the officer several hours after the incident. The cop was listed in stable condition, police said.
Meanwhile, cops scoured the area looking for the hit-and-run driver.
The injured cop's partner was not hurt, police said.
A witness said the driver of the ATV was part of a motorcycle gang that parades on Autumn Ave. on weekends.
"They come up around on Saturday and Sunday and drive all around here. And sometimes they go on the sidewalk," said Rosetta Sutherlan, 55, of East New York.
Cops, though, said they did not believe the rider was part of a motorcycle gang.
Cop injured by hit-and-run ATV driver
By Kirstan Conley — Monday, March 3rd, 2014 'The New York Post'
An NYPD detective was run over and dragged by an all-terrain vehicle as he and other officers tried to stop its wild driver Sunday in Brooklyn, law-enforcement sources said.
The cop was knocked out of his shoes — and the driver was later found hiding in a car atop a raised lift in a local auto-body shop, the sources said. The officer suffered a broken vertebra, a fractured nose, cuts to his left leg and facial bruises.
The driver had been tearing around Cypress Hills on a quad bike when the detective and other officers from the Brooklyn North Gang Unit tried to pull him over near the corner of Pitkin and Autumn avenues at around 3:30 p.m., the sources said.
Christian Oliviere, 24, allegedly ran the officer over in front of a bus stop and dragged him several feet before speeding off. He was charged with reckless driving, reckless endangerment and fleeing cops in a motor vehicle.
Abraham Quayson, 47, and Goodwin Gould, 31, were charged with obstruction of justice.
NYPD Officer Dragged by ATV, Police Say
By Aidan Gardiner — Monday, March 3rd, 2014 'DNAinfo.Com News' / New York, NY
BROOKLYN — An NYPD officer trying to arrest the driver of an out-of-control all terrain vehicle was dragged along the street when the driver took off with the officer hanging onto the handlebars, police said.
The officer, whose name was not released, and his partner were in an unmarked car driving along South Conduit Avenue when they reached Pitkin Avenue about 3:30 p.m. Sunday and saw Christian Oliviere, 23, zipping through traffic and riding on the sidewalk, according to the NYPD.
The officers turned on their lights and sirens and tried to stop Oliviere, but when they got out of their car, Oliviere throttled the gas on his yellow Yamaha and took off, police said.
The 40-year-old officer clung to the front handlebars and was dragged for about 190 feet, or a half-block, until he let go and the four-wheeler ran over his left leg, the NYPD said.
The officer suffered a broken vertebrae and a broken nose, police said. He was listed in stable condition at Jamaica Hospital.
Other officers found the ATV abandoned outside an auto shop at 257 Hegeman Ave., near Christopher Avenue, in East New York, police said.
They found Oliviere hiding in a car that had been hoisted into the air on a mechanical lift, the NYPD said.
He is expected to be arraigned on charges including the attempted murder of a police officer, reckless endangerment and driving without a license or insurance, police said.
Data Show How Much New York City Workers Earn
The center says the records show that NYPD employees earned $635 million in overtime
By Unnamed Author(s) — Monday, March 3rd, 2014 'NBC News 4' / New York, NY
(Edited for brevity and NYPD pertinence)
The Empire Center for Public Policy says it has posted updated payroll information for all New York City government workers on the Internet, including the names and salaries of more than 475,000 full- and part-time employees.
The center says the records show that NYPD employees earned $635 million in overtime during the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
Fire Department employees had the highest average pay, at $96,681 and highest average overtime at $21,594.
The St. Patrick's Day Parade and the NYPD
Mayor De Blasio Joins Gay-Friendly, 'St. Pat's For All' Parade In Queens
By Unnamed Author(s) — Sunday, March 2nd, 2014; 6:15 p.m. 'CBS News' / New York, NY
(Edited for William Bratton)
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton did not appear at the parade in Queens on Sunday but does plan to march in the Manhattan parade, a decision that the mayor said he respects, CBS 2′s Steve Langford reported.
De Blasio marches in gay-friendly St. Patrick's Day parade
By Kevin Sheehan and Leonard Greene — Monday, March 3rd, 2014 'The New York Post'
(Edited for William Bratton)
"I absolutely respect his decision," the mayor said of Police Commissioner William Bratton. "We have to respect everyone's individuality and their right to make their own decisions. I respect his choice."
Boycott of St. Patrick's Day Parade Puts Mayor in Middle
By VIVIAN YEEMARCH — Monday, March 3rd, 2014 'The New York Times'
(Edited for brevity, William Bratton and NYPD pertinence)
Gay rights advocates want the new mayor to go further and prohibit city workers from marching in uniform at the Manhattan parade. Mr. de Blasio, citing the right to free expression, has said city employees, including those in the Sanitation, Police and Fire Departments, are welcome to march in uniform, as they have for decades. And he said he "absolutely respects" the decision by his police commissioner, William J. Bratton, to participate.
At the St. Pat's for All parade, about a dozen demonstrators milled about carrying signs denouncing Mr. Bratton's participation and that of the officers who report to him. One of the gay advocacy groups that marched in the parade, Irish Queers, is pressuring Mr. de Blasio to order city workers not to wear their uniforms in the Manhattan parade.
"With Mayor de Blasio, there should be some wiggle room," Emmaia Gelman, an organizer for Irish Queers, said of the negotiations. "That's why we're talking to de Blasio and protesting Bratton."
If the city did not relent, she said, the advocates were willing to sue.
Allowing city workers to wear their uniforms in a "bigoted parade," said Bill Dobbs, who carried an anti-Bratton sign at the St. Pat's for All parade, "raises questions about how they will discharge their duties and their attitude about fairness to all New Yorkers."
Troop NYC; NYSP Interagency Liaison to the NYPD Lt. Michael Greco
NYS trooper official starter of St. Pat's parade
By Unnamed Author(s) (The Associated Press) — Monday, March 3rd, 2014; 7:08 a.m. EST
COMMENT: Congratulations Mike! Lt. Greco may not be Irish, but he's a good guy and a real gentleman. - Mike Bosak
NEW YORK — A New York State trooper has been selected to be the official starter for New York City's St. Patrick's Day Parade.
Parade organizers have named Technical Lt. Michael Greco of Troop NYC.
They say it marks the first time that a state trooper will officially blow the ceremonial starting whistle.
The 253rd annual parade is scheduled for March 17. It's the largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the nation.
The New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade and Celebration Committee says Greco was chosen for his loyalty and dedication to the New York State Police.
He's a 32-year veteran of the force.
NYPD Muslim Surveillance
'One Police Plaza'
New Jersey Judge or Jersey Pol?
By: Leonard Levitt – Monday, February 24th, 2014 'NYPD Confidential.Com'
(Op-Ed / Commentary)
The reaction of the city's mainstream media is the only thing wackier than U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martini's ruling last week that the NYPD's widespread spying on New Jersey Muslims did not violate their civil rights. Further, he ruled, whatever harm Muslims suffered was caused by the Associated Press, whose series on the department's spying received the Pulitzer Prize.
"Ray Kelly was right," headlined a Wall Street Journal editorial, of the former NYPD commissioner. "Put an asterisk next to the prizes for The Associated Press."
The Journal's downscale cousin, the New York Post, agreed in similar language ("Ray was right"),suggesting that "Perhaps the AP should return the prize."
Or as the Post's pale imitation these days, the Daily News, put it: "For good measure, Martini blamed AP, not the police, for ruffling feelings."
Martini dismissed a lawsuit by Muslims groups against the NYPD, justifying the spying on Muslim schools, mosques, restaurants and so-called "hot spots." In his decision, Martini said that "The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself."
Their motive, he wrote, "was not solely to discriminate against Muslims but rather to find Muslim terrorists hiding among ordinary, law-abiding Muslims."
Of the AP, Martini said: "The Associated Press covertly obtained the materials and published them without authorization. None of the plaintiffs' injuries arose until after the Associated Press released un-redacted confidential NYPD documents and articles expressing its own interpretation of those documents.
"Nowhere do plaintiffs allege that they suffered harm before the unauthorized release of the documents by the Associated Press."
To put a fine point on his logic, it was the AP's reporting on the spying — not the spying itself — that caused harm to Muslims. He seemed to be saying that Muslims couldn't be harmed if they didn't know the spying was occurring.
Martini, however, did not say that none of the NYPD's spying efforts was prompted by a specific allegation of a crime. Nor did he say that the NYPD operated with no accountability to anyone. Perhaps most importantly, Martini did not say that the NYPD's spying produced a single arrest.
So who is this great legal mind and what were his bona fides before his appointment as a federal judge by President George W. Bush — hardly an avatar of sound judicial appointments. (Recall Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court in 2005 to replace a retiring Sandra Day O'Connor. Miers's qualifications were so lacking that opposition from Bush's Republican allies forced him to withdraw her nomination.)
Martini is a Jersey pol. He served a year as a Hudson County prosecutor before becoming an assistant U.S attorney, and later going into private practice. In 1990, he was elected to the Clifton, N.J., city council. Two years later, he joined the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders. He won election as a Republican to the 8th Congressional District, serving a term before being defeated in a re-election bid. His last job before Bush appointed him to the federal bench in 2002 was as a commissioner of the now-beleaguered Port Authority.
While on the bench, Martini hit a daily double on June 15, 2012, when the Court of Appeals removed him from two cases on the same day, both for judicial bias.
Calling removal "an extraordinary remedy that should seldom be employed," an appeals court panel concluded that during the trial of a prominent defense attorney accused of orchestrating the murder of a government informant Martini's rulings and conduct raised questions of his bias toward the defendant.
Martini, the panel wrote, "usurped the jury's role" by excluding some testimony from the trial in a ruling that "cannot be reconciled with a sound exercise of discretion."
In the second case, which involved heroin and gun-possession charges, a separate appeals court panel concluded that Martini had undermined the prosecutor's professionalism and questioned the integrity of the government.
When "a judge openly questions the integrity of the government's evidence collection practices, undermines the professionalism of the prosecutor, and accuses the government of prosecuting in bad faith — all without evidence of governmental misconduct — a reasonable observer could very well find neutrality wanting in the proceedings," the panel wrote.
Baher Azmy, the legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, which was co-counsel representing the Muslim plaintiffs, said he would appeal Martini's decision.
Let's see what the Journal, the Post and the News say if Martini's decision is overturned.
THE PIMENTEL PLEA. What to make of the guilty plea by Jose Pimentel, a so-called "lone wolf" terrorist, after his attorney had said just two weeks before his trial that she planned a strong entrapment defense?
Pimentel, who will receive a 16-year prison term when he is sentenced later this month, is the third lone-wolf terrorism case that the NYPD brought to prosecutors, resulting in a conviction, without the assistance of the FBI.
On the surface, his plea appears to further vindicate former NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly and his aggressive anti-terrorism-fighting stance.
As the Daily News chortled: "When the NYPD busted Jose Pimentel on a terrorism charge in 2011, FBI agents scoffed anonymously that the case did not meet their high standards. Who's laughing now?"
But these lone-wolf terrorism cases are more complicated than that.
Each was announced with great public-relations fanfare. Each defendant turned out to be someone with either emotional or mental problems.
Matin Siraj was convicted by a Brooklyn jury of conspiring to blow up the Herald Square subway station on the eve of the Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden in 2004. He had an I.Q. considered borderline-retarded.
We learned during his trial that the police paid $100,000 to the informant who provided the evidence against him. His co-conspirator, who testified against him, had recently been released from a mental institution.
Siraj's entrapment defense failed, and he drew a 30-year sentence.
Last year, Ahmed Ferhani and Mohamed Mamdouh pleaded guilty to plotting to blow up a synagogue. The FBI had refused to take the case, concerned with the credibility of the NYPD's undercover who had developed the evidence against the two men.
Ferhani's attorneys claimed that he had been in and out of mental hospitals for years. They also said they would use an entrapment defense.
Instead, both Ferhani and Mamdouh pleaded guilty. Ferhani was sentenced to 10 years, Mamdouh to five.
A Dominican immigrant, whom the NYPD charged was an al Qaeda adherent preparing to make bombs in his mother's Washington Heights apartment, Pimentel has been described as broke, unemployed, and also beset with mental problems.
Sources said the FBI refused to take the case because the bureau did not trust the NYPD informant who provided the evidence against him.
Pimentel's attorney, Lori Cohen, told this reporter just two weeks before his trial that she planned a strong entrapment defense.
Yet in the end, she accepted a plea. No doubt, like Ferhani's and Mamdouh's attorneys, she realized, as Siraj had learned the hard way, that when it comes to terrorism entrapment, New York City juries aren't interested.
NYPD's Transit Crime Unit
Army vet hopes to reunite with NYPD war dog
By Dana Sauchelli — Monday, March 3rd, 2014 'The New York Post'
The former handler of the first military dog adopted by the NYPD is hoping to reunite with his long-lost war buddy after spotting the pooch's mug in The Post.
Retired Army vet Brian Connelly, who served with bomb-sniffing pooch Cezar in Afghanistan, was elated when he recognized his old pal's picture in a Feb. 21 Post story.
"I just knew it was Cezar," Connelly said.
"The way his look was veering off [in the photo], it looked like he was going to go after something. He's a funny dog. He likes to stalk things . . . He would crouch down like a tiger and go after it."
The retired National Guard Infantry sergeant handled the 4-year-old German shepherd during one of his three tours overseas. But the two were separated when their deployment ended in 2012.
Now a cop himself in Columbus, Ohio, Connelly said he was happy to see Cezar with the NYPD's Transit Crime Unit, but he wished he could see his old friend again.
"It's sad because I miss my puppy, but I'm glad he's able to work and do what he loves," Connelly said.
The duo first met in September 2011 at a training facility in Indiana that prepares dogs for work in war zones.
They were matched and completed their training together before shipping off to Afghanistan, where Cezar helped secure roads by sniffing for explosives.
"He was out there searching for what he thought was a toy," Connelly said. "He didn't know that a toy he was coming up on might be a bomb or ammonium nitrate."
Cezar once saved a squad of Navy SEALs when he detected two bombs yards from their camp, Connelly said.
He said he expects Cezar will make the NYPD proud and serve the city just as dutifully as he did his country.
"I think the enemy was afraid of him," Connelly said. "He gives off this nice and curious personality, but he knows who [his handler] doesn't like, and if there is someone suspicious, he will do anything to chew them up."
Connelly said he wanted to adopt Cezar but was told that, as long as they are fit to serve, veteran dogs are offered to law enforcement first.
But now that he knows his buddy's whereabouts, Connelly is eager to pay a visit to Cezar and his new handler, Officer Juan Rodriguez, who is also a military veteran.
Cezar is on track to be adopted by his handler after his run with the Finest. But if Rodriguez can't take him, Connelly's door is open.
"I would love to adopt him," he said. "I love dogs."
NYPD Forgotten History
NYPD's First Canine Unit
By Michael E.J. Bosak
Preface: Before you read this, you've just got to remember these two long time NYPD tenets. # 1 "The job is on the level."; and # 2 "The hook is dead." If you don't believe me, just ask 67 Precinct D.I. Kenneth Lehr and Bishop Orlando Findlayter.
With that said, Police Commissioner Theodore Bingham in 1907 sent NYPD Inspector George R. Wakefield to Europe, "to purchase an adequate supply of wolfhounds for the organization of a squad of police dogs."
Not one to take his duty lightly, Insp. Wakefield spent over a whole month touring Europe to bring back only the finest of all pooches. He found four (4) Belgian shepherds: Max, Jim, Nogi and Dona, the only female.
After months of training at the department's stables in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn, the four dogs and their patrolmen handlers began their first day of patrol in the Parkville Section of Brooklyn [Today's 70 Precinct] as "Dog Patrol Squad 1 NYPD" at midnight on January 27, 1908 [Late tours on foot]
The dogs answered to police whistle commands at up to five blocks away from their respective patrolmen handlers.
Within a month, Arthur Woods, at that time 4th Deputy Police Commissioner - later to become Police Commissioner - issued a report claiming that, "the newly formed Dog Squad has been very successful, bringing about a reduction of approximately 90%, in the suburban crime wave." That encouraged Commissioner Bingham to order additional dogs.
At its peak, the NYPD dog squad numbered 35 dogs - one dog to one patrolman.
However, the dogs started dying from accidents and/or sickness and other dogs displayed no aptitude for police duty. One dog even chomped down on an innocent civilian. Furthermore, the department had a hard time finding patrolmen who knew how to correctly handle the hounds.
With only three dogs left, Police Commissioner George McLaughlin did away with NYPD first "Dog Patrol Squad 1" in October of 1926
Monday, March 3rd, 2014 'The New York Post' Editorial:
Bill's high horse
If, as Mayor de Blasio and his friends say, it's cruelty to animals simply to have them working in the city, we have a question: Where's their big campaign against the mounted police?
We ask this because there are 46 NYPD horses. Funny, we don't see celebrities and socialites and activists holding galas to stop the cruelty to these animals.
It can't be because they don't fit the definition of animal cruelty that the mayor and his activist friends have been pushing. The president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Matthew Bershadker, has said "the ASPCA does not oppose horses working. We oppose horses pulling carriages in New York City. These horses are surrounded by buses, cabs and traffic."
Likewise, another big player in the movement against the horse carriages, New Yorkers for Clean Livable and Safe Streets. It says "horses do not belong in a congested, urban setting."
Or the mayor himself, who says "horses do not belong in the middle of traffic in New York City. They do not belong in an urban environment like this."
Which invites the obvious question: Why hasn't the mayor eliminated the mounted police? Surely police horses find themselves in city traffic. Come to think of it, what about the NYPD police dogs, who sniff out drugs and help apprehend criminals? Sounds far more dangerous than ferrying tourists through Central Park.
More to the point, in going after the horse carriages the mayor aims to dictate what happens to animals he does not own. Meanwhile, the police dogs and police horses are under his authority. So why hasn't he ordered Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to get rid of them?
If the mayor and the activists are honest in their claim that making animals work in the city is inherently cruel, surely they ought to be demanding the city lead by example.
Williamsburg led city in traffic deaths last year: study
By Lorena Mongelli, Reuven Fenton and Rebecca Harshbarger — Monday, March 3rd, 2014 'The New York Post'
Williamsburg led the city in traffic-related deaths last year, a new analysis shows, prompting Brooklyn officials to demand that Mayor de Blasio focus his "Vision Zero'' efforts on the hipster neighborhood.
"We hope Mayor de Blasio will use North Brooklyn as the first neighborhood for implementing Vision Zero — including a comprehensive study that looks at safety for pedestrians and cyclists, traffic, and more," said City Councilman Antonio Reynoso, whose district includes Williamsburg, on Sunday.
According to a heat map of city traffic deaths based on preliminary NYPD data and compiled by the blog I Quant, Williamsburg was the scene of eight fatalities in 2013. Four of those killed were pedestrians.
And just Saturday, an MTA bus killed 21-year-old Marisol Martinez as she walked across the street.
Her grieving cousin José Gonzalez said he watched her get crushed by the bus.
The city neighborhoods with the next highest number of traffic deaths in 2013 were Canarsie in Brooklyn and Sunnyside in Queens, according to the data. They each had seven.
The Web site put the city's total number of traffic fatalities at just below 80, although the NYPD registered several more.
NYPD $$ 100 Million Dollar $$ Lawyer Lotto: Flaking Allegations Made Against 1995 Bronx Detectives
Man wrongly jailed blames NYPD for killers' murder spree
By Bruce Golding — Monday, March 3rd, 2014 'The New York Post'
The real killers of a Bronx livery driver were free to murder at least four more victims because NYPD cops railroaded five innocent people in the notorious 1995 slaying, a stunning new lawsuit charges.
Eric Glisson, who spent nearly 18 years in prison before being exonerated, alleges in his Manhattan federal suit that Bronx homicide cops "fabricated evidence and false witness testimony" that convicted him and four co-defendants in the fatal shooting of Baithe Diop.
As a result, vicious gang members Jose "Joey Green Eyes" Rodriguez and Gilbert "Gorgeous Indian" Vega were never busted for Diop's murder and went on to kill at least four other people before the feds busted them and they cut a deal, admitting they shot Diop from the back seat of his livery car, the court papers say.
The additional victims include two men who were gunned down in 1997 during an annual Thanksgiving Day football game between residents of two Bronx housing projects, according to court records. Rodriguez pleaded guilty in that crime.
That shooting, in which three others were wounded, was ordered by "Pistol" Pete Rollack, the imprisoned leader of Rodriguez and Vega's gang — called Sex Money Murder, or SMM — to keep one of the slain victims from testifying against him.
Vega pleaded guilty to being the getaway driver for a 1999 robbery and murder at an auto-parts business in Hunts Point.
I think it's a tragedy that these other people had to lose their lives because of the negligence of the New York City Police Department," Glisson said Sunday.
Cops also allegedly stymied a federal investigator who in 2003 tried to corroborate Rodriguez and Vega's confessions to shooting Diop, the suit alleges.
"I guess if you're sitting up there [in The Bronx] and you're the cops who put five people in jail for something they didn't do, you probably have an incentive to let sleeping dogs lie," said Glisson's lawyer, Peter Cross. do not cut Cross
Glisson was freed from prison in 2012 along with co-defendant Cathy Watkins, but three others convicted in Diop's murder are still serving time for unrelated crimes.
Glisson's suit against the city and four NYPD cops doesn't specify damages but came after he filed a $100 million notice of claim. The NYPD didn't return a request for comment, while the city Law Department said only: "We will review the suit once we are served."
Crime in Jamaica Drops As Police and Community Groups Battle Gangs and Guns
By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska — Monday, March 3rd, 2014 'DNAinfo.Com News' / New York, NY
(Edited for brevity and NYPD pertinence)
QUEENS -- NYPD statistics show a dramatic decrease in crime over the past two decades, similar to the rest of the city.
Last year, there were 30 shootings in the 103rd Precinct, which covers Jamaica and Hollis, a decrease of more than 30 percent compared to the year before. The 113th Precinct, which covers South Jamaica and St. Albans, recorded a similar decline of about 30 percent, with 36 shootings.
There were eight murders in the 103rd Precinct in 2013 compared to 10 in 2012, and seven murders in the 113th Precinct in 2013 compared to 16 in 2012. Those are the lowest levels since computerized police data were first recorded in the early 1990s.
Major crime is also down sharply this year in both precincts — more than 25 percent in the 103rd Precinct and nearly 9 percent in the 113th.
Police officials from each precinct said targeting gangs and illegal guns — two main factors behind violence in the area — contributed to the drop.
"Last year we made numerous arrests of gang leaders," said Deputy Inspector Miltiadis Marmara, commanding officer of the 113th Precinct. "And they are still in jail."
Marmara said that in addition to the NYPD's Gang Division, the 113th Precinct has also received help from a recently created unit assigned to the area about a year ago called SET (Strategy Enforcement Teams). Its primary task is to target youth gangs and crews, using tactics including monitoring their posts on social media.
With the aid of additional officers from Operation Impact, which floods trouble spots with rookie police officers, and a Mobile Response Unit, which allows police officers to move around the area quickly, the precinct has been making progress. Periods without violent crimes can sometimes last for weeks, police officials said.
"From October 29 till December 20 [last year] we had no shootings," said Marmara, who remains cautiously optimistic, as overall crime in the precinct declined by 13.5 percent last year, compared to 2012.
But the dramatic turn of events shouldn't be taken for granted, officials said. Major crime in the 113th Precinct decreased from 1993 to 2010 by 76 percent, only to rise again by 7 percent from 2009 to 2010.
"We are making headway, but there is still a lot of work to do," Marmara acknowledged.
Last year, the precinct saw the second largest decrease in major crimes, but it still ranked No. 7 in overall crime citywide, Marmara said.
Feurtado, the former gang member, estimates that there are at least 20 gangs and crews in South Jamaica, many of them affiliated with the Bloods and the Crips, as well as a number of Latino gangs, including the Latin Kings.
Despite police efforts, easy access to firearms remains a problem, he said.
"Guns are easily accessible," Feurtado said, adding that there are also a lot of so-called "community guns" in the area that are shared by a number of people.
"Tremendous amounts of guns are coming in from out of state," said Inspector Charles McEvoy, commanding officer of the 103rd Precinct.
He said his officers confiscate them "through search warrants, through concerned community members calling on somebody, tips to gun stoppers" — and they are making progress.
Last year in the 103rd Precinct, 62 illegal guns were confiscated and 118 people were charged with illegal weapon possession in the area, compared to 57 illegal guns confiscated and 93 people charged the year before, McEvoy said.
During the past two years, there have also been two gun buyback events in the community, organized by former Borough President Helen Marshall and the NYPD, during which more than 80 guns were surrendered.
Long Island [More Thomas Dale]
Cop in influence scandal defied superiors in past, records show
By SANDRA PEDDIE — Monday, March 3rd, 2014 'New York Newsday' / Melville, L.I.
A former Nassau sergeant under investigation for his role in the political-influence controversy that cost Police Commissioner Thomas Dale his job defied orders and talked back to frustrated superiors who saw him appeal directly to the commissioner's office to avoid discipline, department records show.
Sgt. Salvatore Mistretta's supervisors filed disciplinary paperwork against him in early October accusing him of inappropriate conduct and tried to discipline him again in late October for insubordination. But Chief of Department Steven Skrynecki told Mistretta's supervisors that it was a "difficult time for the commissioner," and they agreed to delay further discipline until after the Nov. 5 election, according to a source familiar with the discussions.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice began an investigation that same month that ultimately led to the ouster of Dale.
At the same time, Mistretta was actively supporting County Executive Edward Mangano's re-election campaign. Mistretta was listed as one of four points of contact for an Oct. 28 Mangano fundraiser at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, and he contributed $500 to Mangano's campaign on Oct. 18, according to state contribution records.
Rice later found that Dale, Mistretta and Chief of Detectives John Capece intervened in an election dispute involving the validity of signatures that Democrats had filed against former Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick, who was attempting to run a third-party campaign for Nassau County executive. Democrats alleged that Hardwick's campaign -- which was funded entirely by Oheka Castle owner Gary Melius, a Mangano supporter -- was launched to help Mangano by siphoning votes from Democratic candidate Thomas Suozzi.
Mistretta retired from the department in November, shortly before Rice released details of the investigation. He and his attorney did not respond to several calls and emails for comment. Dale also did not respond to requests for comment.
Asked about Mistretta's ties to the Mangano campaign and whether he used those ties to avoid department discipline, Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said top county officials do not know Mistretta and never intervened on his behalf. Mistretta was just one of the hundreds of people who supported Mangano's campaign, Nevin said.
Mistretta's ability to bypass his supervisors and get an audience with the department's top brass is unusual in an organization predicated on a chain of command. Such access is especially noteworthy for a cop with a history of misconduct, including a yearlong suspension in 1997 for beating teenage boys in handcuffs, records show.
Mistretta returned from the suspension and spent the rest of his career in the administrative support staff, making only two arrests between 1998 and 2013. He made more than 600 arrests in the four years prior to the yearlong suspension.
Before retiring, Mistretta had been in charge of the department's Firearms License Section, where he oversaw the processing of pistol licenses. Three department sources told Newsday that an audit of the pistol bureau's operations is underway, but did not specify the reason for the review.
Mistretta earned about $202,000 in 2012, his last full year on the job, records show.
Rice has an active investigation into Mistretta, who served a civil subpoena to former Hardwick campaign worker Randy White while White was in police custody. Rice said the subpoena Mistretta served was "deeply troubling" in a Dec. 12 letter to Mangano. Although Rice found no criminality on the part of Capece and Dale, they immediately retired.
Rice spokesman Shams Tarek declined to explain the focus of the ongoing investigation into Mistretta but said his office had not released all aspects of the probe.
Court and police department records show Mistretta's disciplinary problems date at least as far back as 1997, when he was suspended for a year without pay. A suspension without pay is the stiffest penalty short of termination, and in the past 10 years, the longest suspension of a police officer was six months without pay, records show.
Mistretta's suspension stemmed from the October 1994 arrest of three teenagers after a fight in Valley Stream. While the boys were handcuffed in a holding cell and offering no resistance, Mistretta repeatedly banged one teenager's head against a concrete wall and ripped a gold chain off his neck, according to departmental hearing records. Mistretta then hit another teenager in the face because he was trying to protect his friend, records show.
A hearing officer found Mistretta guilty of excessive force and conduct unbecoming an officer. The hearing officer ruled that Mistretta was not guilty of other allegations against him: squeezing one teenager's testicles and improperly handcuffing another one with his arm extended above him.
The hearing officer noted that Mistretta's actions were "not an attempt to control the situation, but an attempt to hurt the arrestee."
After the June 1997 decision, then-Commissioner Donald Kane issued the suspension. Mistretta challenged it in court, saying he was denied due process because he was not adequately notified of the charges against him and that the penalty was too severe. The county's attorney defended the suspension.
'A unique position'
"Police officers are in a unique position of absolute authority, especially so when a person is under arrest. As such, conduct such as the violence exhibited by Mistretta cannot be tolerated," the county's attorneys said in court papers.
A state appellate court upheld Mistretta's suspension.
Mark Gallagher, one of the teenagers beaten by Mistretta, sued the county and collected an undisclosed amount in a settlement. Now a businessman in Port Jefferson, Gallagher said in an interview that the experience scarred him.
Gallagher, who said he had never been arrested before, said Mistretta "grabbed my face and slammed it into a wall 15 times. It was a cement wall. I was sitting down handcuffed."
"You don't forget something like that," Gallagher said.
The charges against Gallagher and his friends were dismissed.
After Mistretta returned to work following his suspension, he was assigned to the Records Bureau, an administrative position where he would not be in a position to make arrests. He took over the Firearms License Section in October 2008.
Records obtained by Newsday show that Mistretta had a contentious relationship with his immediate superiors and that they first tried to reprimand him and then tried to move to more formal discipline last year. They felt stymied in their efforts because of his perceived influence with Dale, Skrynecki and First Deputy Commissioner Thomas Krumpter, according to a source familiar with the situation.
Skrynecki and Krumpter, the department's interim commissioner, did not respond to requests for comment.
In September 2012, police records show Mistretta's supervisors attempted to discipline him for being disrespectful to a superior and for failing to follow the chain of command.
Mistretta objected to the discipline, writing on a disciplinary report "This isn't true" and that he was responding to an order straight from "P.C. Dale" -- Police Commissioner Dale. The document does not indicate whether Mistretta was disciplined, but a source familiar with the incident said the commissioner's office overruled Mistretta's supervisors and he was not disciplined.
In August 2013, Mistretta challenged his supervisors' handling of a co-worker's schedule change. Unsatisfied with their explanation, Mistretta declared "I am done here" and stormed out of his supervisor's office, according to a report of violation of department rules.
He later returned and said, "This place is run like [expletive]."
When his superiors told Mistretta on Oct. 8 that he would receive formal discipline, Mistretta got up from his chair, ignored his commanding officer's order to sit down and "walked out the door and went straight up to the Office of Commissioner of Police," the report says.
A handwritten notation at the bottom of the report says, "Not the first incident of this type by Sgt. Mistretta in the Records Bureau."
Latino Drivers Report Thefts by Officers
By KIRK SEMPLEMARCH — Monday, March 3rd, 2014 'The New York Times'
CORAM, N.Y. — The story unfolds roughly the same way each time: A Latino immigrant is driving a car with out-of-state license plates, and a police officer pulls him over and asks for his driver's license.
The driver, because he is an illegal immigrant, does not have a license, so the officer tells him to step out of the car and face the other way. The officer may ask to see the driver's wallet; then he starts to search the car. After a few minutes, he hands the wallet back to the driver, tells him that everything is fine and sends him on his way.
Soon afterward, the driver discovers that money is missing from his wallet.
In recent weeks, at least a dozen men, all undocumented immigrants from Latin America, have told immigrants' advocates and the Suffolk County district attorney's office that they were robbed by a police officer during a traffic stop in or near this Long Island hamlet.
Most, if not all, of the incidents occurred even as the county's police department was under scrutiny by the Justice Department, advocates said.
Some of the incidents, the men have said, occurred as much as two years ago. The men said they had remained quiet until now because they feared reprisals by the police, or even deportation.
The surge of accusations commenced after the arrest of a Suffolk County police officer who, officials said, was caught on camera during a sting operation in late January stealing $100 from a Latino undercover detective.
According to a statement by the district attorney, Thomas J. Spota, the officer pulled alongside the sting vehicle "to establish the ethnicity of the driver," pulled the car over, told the undercover detective to stand outside the vehicle, then checked the car. Hidden surveillance cameras caught the officer, a 25-year veteran of the department, taking a $100 bill from an envelope of cash on a seat and slipping it into the cuff of his shirt, officials said.
The officer, Sgt. Scott A. Greene, 50, has pleaded not guilty to charges of official misconduct and petty larceny. His lawyer did not reply to a request seeking comment.
The arrest has given other immigrants the confidence to step forward and make their own allegations, advocates said. The authorities have not released a photo of Sergeant Greene, so it remained unclear whether he matched the description provided by the other accusers; officials from the district attorney's office did not reply to requests for comment on the investigation.
Immigrants' advocates said the accusations were particularly alarming because most of the incidents would have occurred after the Justice Department had begun investigating allegations of discriminatory policing by the Suffolk authorities. The allegations included claims that the police not only discouraged Latino crime victims from filing complaints but also failed to investigate crimes involving Latinos.
The inquiry, which began in 2009, was spurred by the killing in November 2008 of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorean immigrant who was assaulted by a group of teenagers and stabbed to death. After that incident, other Latino residents said they, too, had been victims of racially motivated attacks but that the police had failed to thoroughly investigate many of their claims.
The Justice Department and Suffolk County's police department signed an accord in December that settled the investigation and mandated the implementation of new policies to ensure nondiscriminatory policing among the Latino population and more community outreach by the police department.
Yet this scrutiny has apparently provided only a modicum of comfort to many Latino immigrants, who say they are still intensely wary and mistrustful of the police.
A Mexican worker said in an interview last week that he had been pulled over many times by the police while driving through the county. Though most stops have resulted in a ticket for driving without a license, he said, he has rarely been told what prompted the stops and he suspects he was being racially profiled.
In one of the stops, he said, he may have encountered Sergeant Greene. While driving with a friend through Coram one morning in January 2013, an officer pulled him over, the man recalled. After asking for his registration and wallet — the driver had no license — the officer made him step out of the car and place his hands on the trunk.
"And don't turn around," the officer said, according to the man, an employee of a Long Island construction company who has lived in the area for 15 years. The officer, standing out of view behind the driver, proceeded to rifle through the wallet. Then he handed back the wallet and told the man he could leave.
The man discovered $200 missing. "It started to happen to all my friends," he said. If they were not carrying money at the time of the stop, he continued, the drivers were usually sent on their way with a traffic ticket of some sort.
"People have always been robbed but were fearful that something else would happen or that they would be sent back to their country," he explained.
The man told his story at the home of an acquaintance in Coram. He and several other laborers who claim to have been robbed during police stops had gathered for a meeting about the evolving case.
Several said that despite the arrest of Sergeant Greene, they remained nervous about possible reprisals for their cooperation with the authorities, and they agreed to be interviewed for this article only on the condition that they not be identified. Irma Solis, an organizer from Make the Road New York, an immigrant advocacy group that has been finding and counseling possible victims, said fear of retribution is forefront in the minds of the accusers. "One of their first questions is, 'How can I be sure they won't come after me?' " she said.
Lawyers from LatinoJustice PRLDEF, an advocacy group that helped to spur the federal investigation in Suffolk County, have also been interviewing the men and recording their testimony.
"We're concerned about how forceful and comprehensive this investigation really is," said Juan Cartagena, the organization's president and general counsel. "This is the same police department that has demonstrated an inability to protect Latinos for years now."
Mr. Cartagena said his team was "studying the possibility" of calling for the appointment of an independent prosecutor to handle the cases.
New York State
New York Bill Would Require Smartphone "Kill Switch"
By Pervaiz Shallwani — Monday, March 3rd, 2014 'The Wall Street Journal' / New York, NY
New York officials Monday will support a bill requiring smartphone and tablet creators install a kill switch that lets owners delete data from stolen devices and render them useless.
An announcement to introduce the "Smart Phone Theft Prevention Act" is scheduled for later this morning in Manhattan. The bill will be introduced by state Rep. Jose Serrano, who will be joined by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton.
The state becomes the latest to join the national push for similar legislation, as part of a coalition of law enforcement looking to combat the spike in mobile device thefts—particularly iPhones. California announced similar legislation last month. Congress is also pushing its own bill.
While stolen tablets and phones can no longer be used on domestic mobile networks, overseas they can be reactivated and can fetch hundreds of dollars on the black market, the attorney general's office said.
Mr. Bratton has accused cellphone companies of "basically working in cahoots with the insurance companies" to make money.
"We are responding to a problem they can prevent," he said shortly after taking office earlier this year. "They have the capability to effectively make these phones useless."
Wireless carriers and cellphone makers have increased their efforts in recent years to prevent thefts, including technology that locks phone and a database that helps to block the use of stolen devices.
Theft of smartphones and tablet computers skyrocketed in recent years—the robberies are now one of the single largest property crimes in the country, the state attorney general's office said.
Law-enforcement officials estimate that roughly one in three thefts involves a mobile communications device. A Consumer Reports estimate found that 1.6 million Americans were the victims of a smartphone theft in 2012.
In 2013, smartphones made up 50% of robberies in San Francisco and 20% of such crimes in New York City, a 40% increase from the year before, the attorney general's office said.
iPhones make up the bulk of the thefts in New York. In 2013, the NYPD said it received 8,000 reports of stolen Apple products, or about 18% of all grand larcenies. In 2002, the NYPD had 25 grand larcenies of Apple products.
Monday, March 3rd, 2014 'The Newark Star-Ledger' Editorial:
Newark stop-and-frisk tactics need a closer look:
At its stop-and-frisk peak in 2011, the New York Police Department searched more than 685,000 people — an astronomical rate of 84 stops per 100,000. Across the Hudson, meanwhile, police in Newark have been using stop-and-frisk at alarmingly high rates, too. And much like New York City's program, which was found to be unconstitutional, Newark cops appear to be targeting mostly black men, in searches that often lead nowhere.
The findings are part of an American Civil Liberties Union analysis released last week, and could display symptoms of bigger problems — though it's too soon to cry racial profiling. At minimum, the numbers demand a deeper examination of the practice.
In its analysis of the last half of 2013, the New Jersey ACLU found that Newark police performed stop-and-frisk searches at a rate of 91 per 100,000 people. Three-quarters of those stopped were African-American; the city's population is 52 percent black.
Most of those who were targeted were innocent of wrongdoing — again, as in New York City. In Newark, 75 percent of the searches ended without an arrest, or even a ticket.
That combination — racial imbalance and innocent targets — is what led a federal judge to rule NYPD's stop-and-frisk tactics unconstitutional last year. And while New York City officials could at least point to steady drops in homicides and violent crime, Newark's murder rate set records during its heaviest use of stop-and-frisk.
This doesn't prove racial discrimination by Newark police. Many of the city's high-crime neighborhoods, where these searches can be more easily justified on public safety grounds, are primarily African-American. But the numbers raise some obvious questions: How do officers decide who's searched? Who was arrested and what were the charges? How is the practice supervised?
Since the report was released a week ago, acting Police Director Sheilah Coley hasn't commented on the lopsided racial math, though she promises to provide more data. Certainly, the Newark Police Department has improved its openness, but there's still a long way to go. Transparency is critical for the public to understand how police do business.
Used with supervision and restraint, stop-and-frisk can be a useful policing tool. Unchecked, it's intrusive and humiliating. The New Jersey ACLU's report sounds a sober warning that Newark's street cops need tighter oversight and scrutiny, as well as training and limits on how stop-and-frisk should be properly used.
Widow of Murdered Police Officer Launches Online Petition to Block Obama Nomination of Cop Killer Advocate to DOJ
By Katie Pavlich — Sunday, March 2nd, 2014 'Town Hall.Com'
Maureen Faulkner, the widow of murdered Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, has launched an online petition to stop President Obama's nomination of cop killer advocate and Mumia Abu Jamal supporter Debo Adegebile to head the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. The vote for Adegbile's confirmation by Senate was scheduled for Monday March 3, but has been postponed due to a snowstorm until Tuesday March 4.
"As early as Monday, the Senate will vote to confirm Debo Adegbile as the next Assistant Attorney General to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. This confirmation must be stopped. Thirty years ago, Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner was violently murdered by Mumia Abu-Jamal, a member of a racist group that advocated violence against police. A jury convicted him and sentenced him to death for the brutal crime. In the three decades that followed, Abu-Jamal filed appeal after appeal – each rooted in lies, distortions and allegations of civil rights violations. Today, as Officer Faulkner lies in his grave, Abu-Jamal has become a wealthy celebrity and continues to spew his vitriol from prison," the petition states at Change.org. "Old wounds were ripped open again, and additional insult was brought upon our law enforcement community when President Obama nominated Mr. Adegbile for the Department of Justice post. Mr. Adegbile previously led the Legal Defense Fund at the NAACP. In that position, Mr. Adegbile chose to throw the weight and resources of his organization behind Abu-Jamal. Attorneys working under Mr. Adegbile's supervision have stood before rallies of Abu-Jamal supporters and openly professed that it was "an extreme honor" to represent the man who put a hollow based bullet into Officer Faulkner's brain as he lay on the ground wounded, unarmed, and defenseless."
The petition urges members of the United States Senate to vote no on Adegbile's nomination. A simply majority of just 51 votes is needed to get Adegbile to a final vote. Republicans, at least six major law enforcement groups, Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams and Pennsylvania Democrat Senator Bob Casey are opposed to the nomination.
"After carefully considering this nomination and having met with both Mr. Adegbile as well as the Fraternal Order of Police, I will not vote to confirm the nominee," Casey told Fox News last week.
The National Fraternal Order of Police has classified Obama's nomination of Adegbile as, "A thumb in the eye of our nation's law enforcement," adding "It demonstrates a total lack of regard or empathy for those who strive to keep you and everyone else in our nation safe in your home and neighborhoods." FOP also credits Adegbile with "turning the justice system on its head with unfounded and unproven allegations of racism," and with taking a "cynical race-baiting approach to our legal system."
Vote "No" to the Confirmation of Debo Adegbile to the Department of Justice
Petition by Maureen Faulkner
The U.S. Supremes
Supreme Court weighs IQ test in Fla. death penalty case
By Michael Doyle — Sunday, March 2nd, 2014 'McClatchy Newspapers' / Washington, DC
WASHINGTON — Florida officials say Freddie Lee Hall is smart enough to die for what he did.
On Monday, 36 years after the double murder that sent Hall to death row, the Supreme Court will consider whether Florida is right. The court's answer could mean life or death for Hall and other inmates whose below-average intelligence puts them on the borderline of eligibility for execution.
More prosaically, the eventual ruling will shape how well the death penalty process works.
"This is a significant case because a decision the wrong way could lead to longer delays in carrying out sentences," Kent Scheidegger, of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento, Calif., said in an interview Friday.
The American Bar Association shares the sense of significance, but for a different reason. The lawyers' organization warns that if Florida wins, "the execution of individuals with mental retardation" could be inevitable. With their competing legal briefs, Scheidegger and the bar association joined others in trying to sway the court in advance of Monday's hour-long oral argument.
The Supreme Court has already ruled out executing those variously called "mentally retarded" or "intellectually disabled," as a violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The case Monday concerns the standards that states can use in defining who's disabled.
Hall is an illiterate 68-year-old high school dropout who's spent well over half his life in prison. His tested IQ has ranged as low as 60 and as high as 80. Most of his IQ test scores have hovered in the low 70s, well below the 100 average but slightly above Florida's strict threshold of 70 for determining intellectual disability.
Besides an IQ of 70 or below, Florida requires "deficits in adaptive behavior" and an onset before the age of 18 for those who claim intellectual disability. The court's focus Monday is strictly on the strict IQ score requirement, with Hall's supporters arguing that a test's margin of error should be taken into account. A margin of error means that someone might score 75 one day and 70 the next.
"Simply put, IQ test scores are not perfect measures of a person's intellectual ability," Hall's Tampa-based attorney Eric C. Pinkard and others wrote in a legal brief.
Pinkard and the rest of Hall's team, including former Clinton administration Solicitor General Seth Waxman, also stress other evidence for Hall's intellectual disability. Hall has poor short-term memory and a profound speech impediment. He can't perform basic arithmetic, couldn't cook for himself while free and "could not understand adult conversation," the attorneys reported.
Waxman will argue on Hall's behalf Monday morning, having previously argued more than 65 times before the high court.
Florida has Idaho, South Carolina and seven other states on its side, arguing that the Supreme Court should give individual states "substantial leeway" in determining intellectual disability. If a state wants to set a strictly numerical IQ threshold as part of the assessment, as Florida has done, the high court shouldn't interfere, these officials say.
"Florida did not manufacture its IQ threshold out of thin air," Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Solicitor General Allen Winsor wrote in a legal brief, adding that the justices have "traditionally deferred to legislative judgments on scientific questions."
Winsor will represent the state Monday.
The Florida officials' brief further puts a spotlight on Hall's actions on Feb. 21, 1978.
At the time, Hall was on parole. He and an accomplice kidnapped a 21-year-old pregnant woman named Karol Hurst and drove her to a remote location. Hall says it was his accomplice who then raped and killed Hurst. The accomplice blamed Hall. The two men subsequently killed Hernando County Deputy Sheriff Lonnie Coburn, under circumstances that remain cloudy.
Hall's accomplice was sentenced to life imprisonment.
The argument Monday will play out against the backdrop of a 2002 Supreme Court decision called Atkins v. Virginia. In that case, a divided court concluded that a national consensus had developed against executing people with "mental retardation," a term that's since been largely replaced.
The court left the specific definition up to individual states, which have taken different approaches. Some effectively consider the margin of error in the IQ test. Others, including Kentucky and Idaho, impose a 70 test-score cutoff similar to Florida's, while Mississippi imposed a threshold of 75.
Justices Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who are still on the court, joined the majority opinion in the 2002 Atkins ruling. Kennedy could be key this time, too. While a believer in giving states wiggle room, Kennedy has also written several opinions scaling back severe punishments.
"Justice Kennedy's vote will be critical," Scheidegger said.
Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, who are also still on the court, dissented from the Atkins opinion and are likely to be Florida's allies this time around.
Gun Laws and Homicide Rates
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson links strict gun control laws in Chicago with a high murder rate
By Unnamed Author(s) — Sunday, March 2nd, 2014 'The Tampa Bay Times Politifact.Com' / St. Petersburg, FL
Even though Chicago has "the most stringent guns laws on the books," it still "has the highest murder rate" in the country.
Ron Johnson on Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 in a public meeting
Citing the number of school shootings since Sandy Hook, a woman asked U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson at one of his town hall meetings why he doesn't support expanded background checks for gun purchases.
The Wisconsin Republican responded by connecting strict gun control with a high rate of homicide.
"I'll repeat it: I think we have enough gun laws on the books; we should enforce those," Johnson told his audience in Appleton on Feb. 18, 2014.
"But, if you really take a look -- again, look at the facts. The most stringent gun laws on the books are in places like Chicago, (which) has the highest murder rate.
"I mean, you see a lot of these -- and let's face it, they're all tragedies. I wish there was some magic solution to end those tragedies, prevent them, but there's not. Some of these tragedies occurred with firearms that were legally obtained. We've got, what, 300 million guns on the streets? These tragedies occur in gun-free zones. So, law-abiding citizens abide by those laws; the criminals don't."
Is Johnson right that Chicago has some of the nation's strictest gun laws, as well as the highest murder rate? And that the two are tied together?
We'll check both parts of his claim.
Chicago gun laws, murders
Two days after the town hall meeting, we asked Johnson spokesman Patrick McIlheran for evidence to support the senator's claim. The next day, a blog post titled, "If stricter gun laws were a magic wand, Chicago would be safe," appeared on Johnson's official Senate web page.
McIlheran referred us to the post and said he didn't have time to discuss Johnson's claim.
In the post, Johnson cited reports from 2013 by National Public Radio and The New York Times in saying that Chicago has some of the nation's strictest anti-gun laws.
Several experts told us there is wide consensus on that point.
But Johnson changed the part of his claim about murder in Chicago.
Chicago doesn't have the highest murder rate among U.S. cities -- as in, the number of murders per 100,000 residents -- but rather the highest number of murders, Johnson wrote.
The blog cited the latest full-year FBI figures, for 2012. Chicago ranked first among cities in raw numbers, with 500 murders. But its 18.5 murders per 100,000 people didn't even put the Windy City among the top 10 cities for murder rate.
Those figures are for all murders. We also found a January 2013 report by economist Richard Florida that said Chicago had a rate of 11.6 gun murders per 100,000 residents, far below the city with the highest rate, New Orleans, at 62.1.
So, on the first part of Johnson's claim, Chicago has some of the most stringent gun-control laws in the United States, but does not have the highest murder rate.
Connecting gun laws, murder rates
By citing Chicago in his remarks at the town hall meeting, Johnson's message was that strict gun-control laws are not associated with low murder rates.
In his blog post, Johnson wrote that Chicago has a much higher murder rate than Racine and Kenosha -- much smaller cities in Wisconsin, which the senator said has "more reasonable gun laws."
But we found that, on any connection between gun control and murder, the evidence is mixed.
For example, had Johnson singled out another heavy-gun-control city -- New York -- in questioning the effectiveness of strict gun control, his audience at the town hall meeting would have gotten an entirely different impression.
In 2012, New York's overall murder rate was 3.8 per 100,000 residents -- far below Chicago's 18.5.
Similarly, the Richard Florida study we noted found that New York's gun murder rate was 4 per 100,000 people and Chicago's was 11.6 per 100,000.
Experts we consulted agreed there is no consensus on whether there is a clear correlation -- much less evidence of cause and effect -- between gun-control laws and a lower murder rate.
They said that is particularly true in assessing the relatively few city-level gun control laws, given that most gun laws are put in place at the state and federal level.
For one thing, even if a city has strict laws on who can own guns, that doesn't mean it is difficult to bring guns into that city, said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. He said one study found that one-third of the guns recovered by police from criminals and crime scenes in Chicago had been purchased in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio or Mississippi -- states that, according to Webster, have the weakest gun laws.
"Not surprisingly, it turns out this is a pretty complex thing to study," he said.
Webster said that while it is difficult to compare cities, given their differences in demographics and other factors, it is possible to examine how a change in gun restrictions is correlated with gun crime.
A study of his released in February 2014, cited by the Think Progress liberal blog, looked at what happened after Missouri in 2007 repealed a law that had required gun buyers in private gun transactions to undergo background checks. It found the repeal "was associated with" an additional 55 to 63 murders per year between 2008 and 2012.
At the same time, there have been studies that found the opposite -- a link between fewer gun restrictions and lower murder rates.
The findings of a November 2013 study by Quinnipiac University economics professor Mark Gius, which examined data from 1980 through 2009 and was cited by the National Rifle Association, "suggest" that states with restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons had higher gun-related murder rates.
The results, the study added, "suggest that restrictive concealed weapons laws may cause an increase in gun-related murders at the state level."
Guis told us that assessing gun laws and crime is difficult because so many factors, including poverty and drugs, affect crime rates. Moreover, gun murders committed in the heat of passion or in mass shootings are often carried out by people with no criminal record, many of whom would pass a gun background check, he said.
"You really can't draw any direct correlation, definitely no cause and effect," Guis said, "especially with city level gun-control laws -- to crime."
Johnson said that even though Chicago has "the most stringent guns laws on the books," it still "has the highest murder rate" in the country.
Chicago does have some of the strictest gun-control laws, but is not number one among U.S. cities for the murder rate. Meanwhile, the evidence is mixed on whether stricter gun control is associated with fewer murders.
For a statement that is partially accurate but leaves out important details, we rate Johnson's claim Half True.
Meth in Tennessee: the danger next door
By Unnamed Author(s) — Sunday, March 2nd, 2014 'The Tennessean' / Nashville, TN
A plague is sweeping Tennessee.
They call it crank, ice, tweak, Okie coke, shards or tina.
Its common name: meth.
This drug has become a menace here, one that has eluded easy remedy despite success in other states in regulating its key ingredient: the over-the-counter decongestant pseudoephedrine.
It touches — directly or indirectly — every person in this state.
Tennessee is the buckle of the Meth Belt, which stretches roughly from Oklahoma to South Carolina. For the better part of the past decade, Tennessee has been in the top three methamphetamine states in the nation, along with Missouri and Indiana.
Our view: Meth blinds us to others' pain
It is a story told daily in the vacant stares of the longtime addicts, in the odd tics they pick up as the disease ravages their brains, in the scars and skin grafts that illustrate how dangerous it is to make the drug — and the burnt-out homes that remind just how dangerous it is to live near.
It is told in dollars and cents and statistics, whether it is the $1.6 billion Tennesseans pay every year to fight and clean up the meth epidemic or the 722 children placed into state custody in 2010 and 2011 all because of meth. It is told in the shrugs of neighbors who have grown accustomed to living near the toxic waste dumps left behind by meth labs.
It is told in broken promises, broken families and broken lives.
This is Tennessee's story.
What is meth?
By Unnamed Author(s) — Sunday, March 2nd, 2014 'The Tennessean' / Nashville, TN
Methamphetamine is an illegal, highly addictive stimulant that is smoked, injected, snorted or eaten. It is made using household materials such as lithium strips from batteries, drain cleaner and over-the-counter cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine.
While meth has been around for more than 100 years, it was widely used in mainstream settings in the earlier part of the 20th century. It was used during World War II to help pilots and soldiers stay awake longer and later by doctors to treat congestion and heroin addictions. By the 1960s, the drug grew in use and abuse, prompting the U.S. government to make it illegal in 1970. The drug faded until the 1990s, when it popped up as a drug of choice in California.
Meth slang terms
Amp, batu, bikers' coffee, black beauties, chalk, chicken feed, crank, crystal, dope, go-fast, go-go, crystal, glass, hirpon, ice, methlies quick, poor man's cocaine, okie coke, shabu, shards, speep, stove top, tina, trash, tweak, uppers, ventana, vidrio, yaba and yellow baron.
Report Calls for Better Backstops to Protect Power Grid From Cyberattacks
By MATTHEW L. WALDMARCH — Monday, March 3rd, 2014 'The New York Times'
WASHINGTON — Despite rising anxiety over the possibility of a cyberattack on the power grid, the industry and government are not set up well to counter the threat, according to a report produced by leading energy security experts. Companies are reluctant to share information with one other, a critical step in reducing vulnerability, because they are afraid of being accused of failing to comply with cybersecurity rules, committing antitrust violations or giving away proprietary information, the report found.
And the federal rules intended to protect the electric system from cyberattack are inadequate because they do not give companies an incentive to continually improve and adapt to a changing threat, according to the report, which was released on Friday.
The report was produced by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington nonprofit group, and led by Michael V. Hayden, the former director of the C.I.A.; Curt Hébert Jr., a former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; and Susan Tierney, a former assistant secretary of energy and former utility regulator in Massachusetts. The experts also found that while the government had focused on the high-voltage power grid, less work has been done on the lower-voltage distribution system, which could cause problems that would propagate up the chain.
Cyberwarfare is "a domain that favors the attacker," Mr. Hayden said in a panel discussion on Friday about the report. But he said the United States could reduce its vulnerability and improve its ability to recover. He even quoted a line spoken by John Wayne in the movie "Sands of Iwo Jima": "Life is tough, but it's tougher if you're stupid."
Most hacking against utilities is done by people trying to steal financial data, including that of customers, but experts fear an act of war, or what Mr. Hayden called "recreational espionage."
Not even the public utility commissions are well set up for the new problems, the report said. Regulated utilities can add security costs to the expenses for which they bill their customers, if the regulators find the expenditures "prudent," but "many regulators lack the expertise to make these judgments," the report said. And many entities on the grid are unregulated, in a competitive market, which may make it hard for them to recover their costs. But the report painted cybersecurity in a way that parallels vaccination for disease; wider participation helps both individuals and the community.
The report recommended establishing an organization like the one set up after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 by the nuclear industry, the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, to conduct peer-to-peer audits, and disseminate best practices.
Outside experts who were not involved with the report endorsed some of its findings. Samuel P. Liles, associate professor at Purdue, where he works in the Cyber Forensics Laboratory, said that sharing best practice was "a hit or a miss," although threat information was shared.
At the Utilities Telecom Council, a trade association of electric and water utilities, Nadya Bartol, a cybersecurity expert, said the report was correct in asserting that utilities might not always come forward with helpful information.
"If utilities say, 'I have this vulnerability,' they might get fined if that's a violation," she said. And they may hesitate to talk about their vulnerabilities because, "if I put it out in the public space, I will get hacked more."
The report also raised the issue that public utility commissioners, who decide which utility expenses are "prudent" and thus eligible to be passed on to customers, have trouble determining the value of such investments. At the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, a nationwide organization of state commission members, Miles Keogh, the co-author of a paper on evaluating such investments, said commissioners should approach the problem as a management audit, and not get into the details of security. The normal forum for determining prudence, a rate case, "is "a great place to argue about stuff, but not to take on terra incognita issues," he said.
Bin Laden Relative's Trial May Fuel Debate Over Trying Terrorism Cases in Civilian Courts
By BENJAMIN WEISERMARCH — Monday, March 3rd, 2014 'The New York Times'
In the days and weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, a Kuwaiti-born cleric, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, became a familiar figure in propaganda videos for Al Qaeda, appearing in some with Osama bin Laden, and other times alone, issuing blistering threats against the United States.
"The storms shall not stop, especially the airplanes storm," he said in one speech, a federal indictment charges.
Mr. Abu Ghaith, who later married bin Laden's daughter Fatima, was captured last year and brought to the United States on terrorism charges. When his trial starts on Monday in Manhattan, he will be the most senior bin Laden adviser to be tried in a civilian court since the Sept. 11 attacks, experts say.
"Abu Ghaith held a key position in Al Qaeda, comparable to the consigliere in a mob family or propaganda minister in a totalitarian regime," George Venizelos, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's office in New York, said last year.
Unlike Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described architect of the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Abu Ghaith has not been accused of having advance knowledge of the attacks or being involved in terrorist operations. But prosecutors portray him as a trusted adviser and confidant of bin Laden's, and they believe he was probably aware of the plot in which Richard C. Reid tried unsuccessfully to blow up a trans-Atlantic airplane by detonating explosives in his shoes.
"Abu Ghaith's hands may not be as directly drenched in blood as K.S.M.'s are," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University, but he "was nonetheless at the vortex of Al Qaeda's operations at arguably the most important moment in the movement's history."
The trial, coming more than four years after the disputed and since abandoned plan to try Mr. Mohammed in Manhattan, may further the debate over whether international terrorism cases should be tried in civilian court.
Mr. Mohammed's testimony may yet figure in Mr. Abu Ghaith's trial. His lawyers, citing Mr. Mohammed's potentially "staggering" knowledge of Qaeda activities, have been seeking his testimony, presumably via a video link from the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where he is being detained.
The idea that Mr. Mohammed might help persuade New York jurors to acquit bin Laden's son-in-law seemed far-fetched to some.
"It's hard to see how someone responsible for the murder of 2,976 innocent people could ever be an effective witness for anybody, under any circumstance," said David Raskin, a former chief of the terrorism unit in the United States attorney's office in Manhattan.
But Mr. Abu Ghaith's lead lawyer, Stanley L. Cohen, has said he anticipates that Mr. Mohammed's testimony "will directly and totally repudiate the government's assertion that Mr. Abu Ghaith was a member of, or provided material support to Al Qaeda, or to any conspiracy laid at its feet."
Mr. Abu Ghaith, 48, has pleaded not guilty to charges that include conspiring to kill Americans and providing material support for terrorists; if convicted, he could face life in prison.
The cleric gained prominence in Kuwaiti mosques in the early 1990s, where he offered "charismatic denunciations of the 'enemies' of Islam," according to a draft report by Evan F. Kohlmann, a terrorism analyst with the consulting firm Flashpoint Global Partners, whose testimony the government plans to use at trial.
In June 2000, Mr. Abu Ghaith moved to Afghanistan and became the "official spokesman" for Al Qaeda, Mr. Kohlmann wrote. In some video clips, Mr. Kohlmann added, Mr. Abu Ghaith appears outdoors, seated cross-legged and offering "poetic endorsements for violent jihad and 'martyrdom' while engaged in combat."
From May 2001 through 2002, the indictment says, Mr. Abu Ghaith "served Al Qaeda" by urging others to swear allegiance to bin Laden, speaking on behalf of Al Qaeda's mission and warning that attacks like Sept. 11 would continue.
In June 2002, Mr. Abu Ghaith was quoted on Al Qaeda's website as saying that the organization had the right to kill millions of Americans, including children, and would "fight them with chemical and biological weapons," Mr. Kohlmann wrote.
George J. Tenet, then director of the Central Intelligence Agency, wrote in his memoir, "At the Center of the Storm," that it would have been "easy to dismiss his ranting as the hyperbole of a deranged man."
"But we had to consider the possibility that Abu Ghaith was attempting to justify the future use of weapons of mass destruction that might greatly exceed the death toll of 9/11," Mr. Tenet wrote.
In 2002, Mr. Abu Ghaith arranged to be smuggled into Iran, prosecutors say. Mr. Abu Ghaith claimed in a court affidavit that he was arrested and held there until January 2013, when he was released and went to Turkey. There, he says, he was held for more than a month, before being flown to Jordan and handed over to the United States, a process he has described as being "kidnapped."
The New York Police Department declined recently to discuss any security measures related to the trial, which is expected to last about a month.
"This is a high-profile case," Stephen Davis, the department's top spokesman, said, "and we'll take the necessary steps to ensure safety in and around the courthouse and the city."
At least two men who had been involved in terrorism who are now cooperating with the authorities are expected to testify for the government against Mr. Abu Ghaith. They are believed to be Saajid Badat, who had agreed to carry out a shoe-bomb attack but later backed out, and Sahim Alwan, a member of the "Lackawanna Six," a group of Buffalo-area Yemeni-Americans.
Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, of Federal District Court in Manhattan, has agreed to a government request to have the jury remain anonymous.
Neither the prosecution nor the defense would comment for this article. But Mr. Abu Ghaith's lawyer, Mr. Cohen, has made it clear in court papers that he hopes to portray Mr. Abu Ghaith's role in Al Qaeda as minimal.
Mr. Cohen, for example, has said in court papers that he had sought the testimony of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for bin Laden who said he knew the members of his inner circle, spent hours around them and drove them on occasion.
Although Mr. Hamdan eventually decided against testifying, he told Mr. Cohen that Mr. Abu Ghaith "had nothing to do with this inner group," Mr. Cohen wrote.
Quoting Mr. Hamdan, Mr. Cohen added, "Abu Ghaith was, in effect, a 'nobody.' "