Friday, June 28, 2013

New Jim Crow in LA County

2013-06-28 "DOJ: Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies in 2 desert cities unlawfully targeted blacks" 
by Greg Risling from "Associated Press" []:
LOS ANGELES — Sheriff's deputies in two desert cities northeast of Los Angeles unlawfully targeted blacks living in public housing, subjecting them to unnecessary stops and seizures and using unnecessary force even when people were handcuffed, the U.S. Justice Department announced Friday after a two-year investigation.
Federal authorities released the findings of a two-year investigation into the Sheriff's Department's Lancaster and Palmdale stations in Mojave Desert, about 70 miles north of Los Angeles. The report was in response to complaints made by some minority residents who moved to the area and said they were met with discrimination by law enforcement and government officials.
The report found the nation's largest sheriff's department engaged in a "pattern of unreasonable force" and investigated only one misconduct complaint out of 180 made by residents over a one-year period. Despite the findings, federal officials were encouraged by the response from Sheriff Lee Baca.
"While our investigation showed significant problems in LASD's Antelope Valley stations, we are confident that we will be able to reach an agreement that will provide meaningful and sustainable reform," said Roy Austin Jr., deputy assistant attorney general.
Baca disagrees with the report's conclusions, but has instituted reforms to improve the department, said Steve Whitmore, a department spokesman.
"We stand resolute that we have not discriminated against members of the public," Whitmore said. "We haven't seen any racial profiling."
The discrimination issue in the Antelope Valley has been simmering for years as the demographics shifted from primarily white to black and Latino. Blacks and Hispanics account for more than two-thirds of the city of Palmdale's roughly 150,000 residents, according to census statistics. The Antelope Valley also had the highest rate of hate crimes of any other area in Los Angeles County as of 2010, federal officials said.
Federal officials said black and Latino residents were more likely to be stopped and searched than other ethnicities, but were often released without being cited. Sheriff's deputies also unnecessarily put African-Americans in the backseat of their patrol cars for minor offenses, a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
In one instance, a domestic violence victim was placed in a patrol car, which agitated the suspect and let to both a physical struggle between the man and deputies and the victim getting pepper-sprayed because she also grew upset.
"Unjustified backseat detentions contribute to tension and diminished trust between Antelope Valley deputies and the community," federal officials wrote.
Sheriff's deputies also harassed and intimidated blacks and others during enforcement of a housing voucher program. Sometimes as many as nine deputies would accompany housing investigators during checks and would often have their guns drawn, federal officials said.
"The sheer number of armed, uniformed deputies who participated in many of the compliance checks call into question whether voucher holders were able to give meaningful consent," to inspections, according to the report.
The government and Los Angeles County have reached preliminary agreements to make broad changes to policing in the Antelope Valley and to enforcement of the housing voucher plan. Some of the reforms include revising training and use-of-force policies as well as participating in community meetings to gauge feedback from residents.
Whitmore said the department now has an exhaustive process to determine whether deputies need to come out during inspections. Deputies also carry complaint forms when they are on patrol. The forms are also available at the front desk of the two stations.
Baca has served four terms as sheriff and was named as the nation's Sheriff of the Year earlier this year by the National Sheriff's Association. Baca has been criticized for alleged misconduct by his deputies in the jails. The FBI is investigating.
The department's actions in the Antelope Valley have been scrutinized before. A July 2010 report by the nonprofit Police Assessment Resource Center found deputies were more likely to use force against minorities during an obstruction arrest than against whites.
The NAACP and the Community Action League also filed a lawsuit in 2011 accusing the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster of racial discrimination at low-income housing projects.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Personalized radiation-emitting weapons

“Two men accused of bizarre radiation plot”
2013-06-19 by Mike Krumboltz from “Yahoo! News | The Lookout” []:
Two men from upstate New York have been accused of trying to make and sell a portable X-ray weapon that they "intended to sell to Jewish groups or a southern branch of the Ku Klux Klan," and which could be fired at people perceived to be enemies of Israel, the Times Union reports [].
Glendon Scott Crawford, 49, and Eric J. Feight, 54, have been charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, according to the paper. The two men could face 15 years in prison and $250,000 fines.
A press release from the Department of Justice [] explains investigators said that Crawford reached out to Jewish organizations (at least one of which reported his strange behavior to the police) for assistance with the technology involved in making the X-ray weapon. The remotely controlled X-ray weapon they designed would supposedly have been able to deliver lethal doses of radiation to unsuspecting victims.
The weapon was never operable, according to reports.
"This case demonstrates how we must remain vigilant to detect and stop potential terrorists, who so often harbor hatred toward people they deem undesirable," U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian said in a statement.
According to the Department of Justice, "This was an undercover investigation and, unbeknownst to the defendants, the device that the defendants designed and intended to use was rendered inoperable at all times and posed no danger to the public." The men are accused of trying to sell the weapon to Jewish groups and the Ku Klux Klan.
Crawford works as an industrial mechanic with General Electric and is allegedly a member of the Ku Klux Klan. In a statement to the Times Union, GE said Crawford has been suspended and that the company is "cooperating fully with the authorities on their investigation."
The Times Union reports that Crawford recruited Feight to help with the device's construction.
Via the Times Union:
FBI agents were able to get a "confidential human source" and an undercover agent close to Crawford in May 2012, recording their conversations and meetings. In December, the FBI obtained a search warrant that enabled them to monitor Crawford's and Feight's cell phone calls, emails and text messages.
Under the plot described by the FBI, Crawford concentrated on building the radiation device while Feight was building the electronic controls. The two men met May 20 in Albany and Feight gave a remote-transmission device to Crawford. They had planned a test to take place at an undisclosed hotel in the Albany area.
In interviews with the Times Union [], neighbors of Crawford described the accused terrorist as a cordial family man.
"Capital District men charged in conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists; Scheme included cration of remotely operated X-ray radiation emitting device designed to kill humans silently"
2013-06-19 press release from United States Attorney Richard S. Hartunian at the Department of Justice, Northern District of New York 
CONTACT: Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney John G. Duncan [] [518-431-0247]
ALBANY, NEW YORK - United States Attorney Richard S. Hartunian and Special Agent in Charge Andrew Vale of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Albany Division, today announced that Glendon Scott Crawford, age 49, of Galway, New York and Eric J. Feight, age 54, of Hudson, New York have been arrested and charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339A. The arrests followed a lengthy investigation by the Albany FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force that began in April 2012 when authorities received information that Crawford had approached local Jewish organizations seeking out individuals who might offer assistance in helping him with a type of technology that could be used against people he perceived as enemies of Israel. If convicted, each faces a maximum sentence of fifteen years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and a term of supervised release up to five years following any period of incarceration.
Crawford and Feight are scheduled to appear today at 1:30pm before Magistrate Judge Christian F. Hummel in U.S. District Court in Albany, New York.
As charged in a Complaint1 filed in U.S. District Court in Albany, the essence of the defendants’ scheme was the creation of a mobile, remotely operated, radiation emitting device capable of killing targeted individuals silently with lethal doses of X-ray radiation. The defendants plotted to use this device against unwitting victims who would not immediately be aware that they had absorbed lethal doses of radiation, the harmful effects of which would only appear days after the exposure. This was an undercover investigation and, unbeknownst to the defendants, the device that the defendants designed and intended to use was rendered inoperable at all times and posed no danger to the public.
United States Attorney Richard S. Hartunian stated, “This case demonstrates how we must remain vigilant to detect and stop potential terrorists, who so often harbor hatred toward people they deem undesirable. We give special thanks to those who quickly alerted law enforcement authorities to this devious plan. I also commend the members of the Albany FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force for their unwavering commitment over the past 14 months to uncover the details of this plot, before anyone could be harmed bringing about today’s arrests.”
Special Agent in Charge Andrew Vale stated, “I would like to thank all members of our Joint Terrorism Task Force for their continued commitment in ensuring the safety of our community against all threats. It is the obligation of the FBI and our law enforcement partners to protect the public when individuals create plans to commit violent acts such as those charged today. I would like to stress that operations to thwart violent plots are only successful with the cooperation of members of the public and with collaboration among federal, state and local agencies.”
New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico said, “The interception of this alleged terrorist activity would not have been possible without the determination and cooperation between state police investigators and the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force. This investigation revealed unthinkable plotting and planning of terrorist activity that targeted unsuspecting innocent citizens. We remain committed to ensuring the safety of all citizens and will work diligently to identify these types of threats and stop those who seek to cause harm.
The charges today resulted from a long-term investigation conducted by the Albany FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes the Department of Homeland Security, New York State Police, Albany Police Department, Troy Police Department, and New York City Police Department. The United States Attorney’s Office also acknowledged the assistance of the Criminal Division and National Security Division of the United States Department of Justice. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Stephen Green and Richard Belliss, and Counterterrorism Section Trial Attorney Joseph Kaster.
Further questions or inquiries may be directed to Executive Assistant United States Attorney John G. Duncan at 518-431-0247.
Note: The allegations contained in the Complaint are mere accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
“Men built X-ray gun to shoot Israel opponents – FBI; Industrial mechanic and engineer were caught in sting after tip-off from Ku Klux Klan, investigators say as duo are charged”

2013-06-20 from “Associated Press” in New York []:
Eric J Feight, one of two men charged with building an X-ray weapon to fire at opponents of Israel. Photograph: Skip Dickstein/AP/Albany Times Union

The FBI has charged two men with making a portable X-ray weapon that they intended to use to secretly sicken opponents of Israel. 
An indictment charges 49-year-old Glendon Scott Crawford and 54-year-old Eric J Feight with conspiracy to provide support to terrorists with the weapon. 
Investigators have said Crawford approached Jewish organisations in 2012 looking for funding and people to help him with technology that could be used to surreptitiously deliver damaging and even lethal doses of radiation against those he considered enemies of Israel. He and Feight assembled the mobile device, which was to be controlled remotely, but it was inoperable and nobody was hurt, authorities said. 
"Crawford has specifically identified Muslims and several other individuals/groups as targets," investigator Geoffrey Kent said in a court affidavit. According to the indictment Crawford also travelled to North Carolina in October to solicit money for the weapon from a ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan, who informed the FBI. Crawford claimed to be a member. 
The men appeared separately on Wednesday in federal court and were ordered detained until detention hearings Thursday. They could face up to 15 years in prison. 
The damaging effects of the radiation would have appeared only days later, authorities said. The investigation by the FBI in Albany and police agencies began in April 2012 after authorities received information that Crawford had approached the Jewish organisations. 
Crawford, an industrial mechanic for General Electric, met Feight, an outside GE contractor with mechanical and engineering skills, through work, authorities said. Feight designed, built and tested the remote control, which they planned to use to operate an industrial X-ray system mounted on a truck. 
According to the indictment, the investigators had a confidential undercover source in place within weeks after learning of Crawford's attempts to solicit money and later an undercover investigator introduced by the source. They recorded meetings and conversations, and in December investigators got court authorisation to tap Crawford's phones, the indictment said. 
In June 2012 the undercover investigator brought Crawford X-ray tubes to examine for possible use in the weapon, followed by their technical specifications a month later. At a November meeting with undercover investigators, Crawford brought Feight. Both said they were committed to building the device and named the group "the guild", the indictment said. 
Investigators gave Feight $1,000 to build the control device and showed the men pictures of industrial X-ray machines they said they could obtain.
They planned to provide him access to an actual X-ray system to assembly with the remote control. According to court documents, the sealed indictment was filed the same day and both men were arrested.
A GE spokesman, Shaun Wiggins, said the company was informed on Tuesday of Crawford's arrest and he was suspended from his job. The company had no information that any employees' safety was compromised or that alleged illegal acts were committed at his workplace.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Right to Remain Silent

2013-06-17 "Supreme Court says pre-Miranda silence can be used by prosecutors in court"
by "Associated Press" []:
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court says prosecutors can use a person’s silence against them if it comes before he's told of his right to remain silent.
The 5-4 ruling comes in the case of Genovevo Salinas, who was convicted of a 1992 murder. During police questioning, and before he was arrested or read his Miranda rights, Salinas answered some questions but did not answer when asked if a shotgun he had access to would match up with the murder weapon.
Prosecutors in Texas used his silence on that question in convicting him of murder, saying it helped demonstrate his guilt. Salinas appealed, saying his Fifth Amendment rights to stay silent should have kept lawyers from using his silence against him in court. Texas courts disagreed, saying pre-Miranda silence is not protected by the Constitution.
The high court upheld that decision.
The Fifth Amendment protects Americans against forced self-incrimination, with the Supreme Court saying that prosecutors cannot comment on a defendant's refusal to testify at trial. The courts have expanded that right to answering questions in police custody, with police required to tell people under arrest they have a right to remain silent without it being used in court.
Prosecutors argued that since Salinas was answering some questions — therefore not invoking his right to silence — and since he wasn't under arrest and wasn’t compelled to speak, his silence on the incriminating question doesn't get constitutional protection.
Salinas’ ”Fifth Amendment claim fails because he did not expressly invoke the privilege against self-incrimination in response to the officer’s question,” Justice Samuel Alito said. “It has long been settled that the privilege ‘generally is not self-executing’ and that a witness who desires its protection ‘must claim it.’”

The court decision was down its conservative/liberal split, with Alito’s judgment joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.
Liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented. “In my view the Fifth Amendment here prohibits the prosecution from commenting on the petitioner's silence in response to police questioning,” Breyer said in the dissent.
Salinas was charged in 1993 with the previous year's shooting deaths of two men in Houston. Police found shotgun shells at the crime scene, and after going to the home where Salinas lived with his parents, obtained a shotgun kept inside the house by his father. Ballistic reports showed the shells matched the shotgun, but police declined to prosecute Salinas.
Police decided to charge him after one of his friends said that he had confessed, but Salinas evaded police for years. He was arrested him in 2007, but his first trial ended in a mistrial. It was during his second trial that prosecutors aggressively tried to use his silence about the shotgun in closing remarks to the jury.
Salinas was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The Texas Court of Appeals and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the conviction, with the latter court saying “pre-arrest, pre-Miranda silence is not protected by the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and that prosecutors may comment on such silence regardless of whether a defendant testifies.”
The case is Salinas v. Texas, 12-246.