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Crime & Justice News
|May 17, 2013
-- After 12 Years, Federal Consent Decree Ends on Reform of Los Angeles Police
-- Repeat Crimes by CA Inmates Out in "Realignment" Up, Total Recidivism Same
-- EEOC Makes Priority of Prosecuting Cases Involving "Vulnerable Workers"
-- Washington Proposes Rules for Legal Pot System Under Voter-Approved Measure
-- Lawsuit May Test Whether Publishing An Expunged Arrest Report Is Defamatory
-- Advocates Question DOJ Finding On Juvenile Sex Abuse in Adult Facilities
-- ICE Says 32 Released Immigration Detainees Had Multiple Felony Convictions
-- U.S. Lost Track of Suspected Terrorists in Witness Protection Program
-- Mueller Details FBI Failure To Follow up On Marathon Bombing Suspect Info
-- Texas Fusion Center Threatened by Budget Vote, Could be First to Close
-- AP Phone Record Seizure Just Latest Example of Rise in "Leak" Prosecutions
-- Ex-Prosecutor Calls for Civil-Rights Charges Against Cleveland's Castro
On every business day, Criminal Justice Journalists (CJJ) provides a summary of the nation's top crime and justice news stories with Internet links, if any. Crime & Justice News is being provided by CJJ with the support of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, its Center on Media, Crime and Justice, the Ford Foundation, and the National Criminal Justice Association. The news digest is edited by Ted Gest and David Krajicek.
You may go to TheCrimeReport.org to search all archived CJN stories. Please e-mail Ted Gest at CJJ with concerns about the editorial content of our news items, to suggest news stories, or with general comments.
After 12 Years, Federal Consent Decree Ends on Reform of Los Angeles Police
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The federal judge who oversaw a dramatic, forced transformation of the Los Angeles Police Department freed the department from the final vestiges of federal oversight, reports the Los Angeles Times. U.S. District Judge Gary Feess formally lifted the binding agreement the U.S. Justice Department imposed on the LAPD in 2001, which spelled out dozens of major reforms the police agency had to implement and frequent audits it was required to undergo by a monitor who reported to Feess.
The dismissal of the consent decree, which arose largely out of the Rampart corruption scandal and addressed basic problems of accountability that stretched back decades, delivered a largely symbolic milestone for the LAPD as it continues to disassociate itself from a past marked by abuses and turmoil. After revelations in 1999 that officers assigned to the Rampart Division were implicated in serious misconduct, including physical abuse of suspects, evidence tampering and perjury, public trust in the police plummeted and federal officials responded to calls from a growing chorus of critics for intervention. In 2006, as the decree was set to expire, Feess angrily rebuked the department for what he found to be its slow pace of reform and extended the decree for five years.Los Angeles Times
Repeat Crimes by CA Inmates Out in "Realignment" Up, Total Recidivism Same
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Felons released from California prisons are committing new crimes at about the same rate they did before Gov. Jerry Brown switched their supervision to county probation under a "realignment" plan, but a new report says repeat offenses are up, reports the Los Angeles Times. A new study from the state corrections department said there is "very little difference between the one-year arrest and conviction rates of offenders released pre- and post-realignment."
The state chose not to highlight a study finding that repeat offenses increased during the short-term study, and that offenders are much more likely than in the past to be arrested for a felony. The felony rate rose from 34.6 percent to 42.5 percent after realignment. The study of 37,000 offenders released from state prisons between October 2011 and March 2012 showed that almost 59 percent of those released from prison were arrested within a year for a new crime. That compares with 62 percent of the 52,000 offenders released from prison in the same six-month period a year before. The report demonstrates realignment's effect in reducing prison populations. The number of inmates returned to prison dropped from 21,800 before realignment to 2,780 after.Los Angeles Times
EEOC Makes Priority of Prosecuting Cases Involving "Vulnerable Workers"
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is making a priority of prosecuting cases involving "vulnerable workers," reports NPR. Examples include migrant farm workers raped by supervisors in the fields, or those who are the most likely to be exploited and least able to speak out in their own defense. Four years ago, 21 men with intellectual disabilities were freed from a century-old schoolhouse in Atalissa, Ia. They ranged in age from their 40s to their 60s. For most of their adult lives they had worked for next to nothing and lived in dangerously unsanitary conditions.
This month, the EEOC won a $240 million judgment against the turkey-processing company at which the men worked. The civil suit involved severe physical and emotional abuse of men with intellectual disabilities. The judgment will be reduced because it exceeds a legal cap on jury awards. The case highlights the difficulty of preventing and identifying abuse of vulnerable workers, who are also the least likely to come forward about violations. Susan Seehase of Exceptional Persons, a support center that took in most of the men in Iowa, visited their old dwelling. Windows were boarded up, allowing little ventilation or light. The cockroaches were overwhelming. A leaky roof, mildew, accumulated grease, and mice droppings contributed to an overwhelming stench. A fire marshal condemned the building, saying it was the worst he'd seen in nearly 3,000 inspections.NPR
Washington Proposes Rules for Legal Pot System Under Voter-Approved Measure
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Washington residents and out-of-staters could buy an ounce of tested, labeled marijuana, seven days a week, up to 20 hours a day, in state-regulated stores under draft rules for a new legal-pot system proposed yesterdayby the Liquor Control Board, reports the Seattle Times. The rule is more permissive than in Colorado, the other state creating an adult recreational-pot market. Colorado lawmakers limited out-of-staters to buying one-quarter ounce in stores in an effort to impede "smurfing," the practice of making repeated buys and aggregating pot to sell on the black market.
Washington would not allow the sale of marijuana concentrates, such as hash or hash oil, unless they were infused in edible or liquid products. The high-potency concentrates have become popular to vaporize, particularly with younger users. Washington's 46-page raft of rules covers issues from product testing to growing licenses to advertising restrictions to package labeling. The draft rules would allow sun-grown pot in greenhouses - with rigid walls, roofs and doors - but not open fields. They would not initially cap the number of growing licenses issued by the state, in an effort to include smaller growers in a seed-to-store system untested on the planet. The rules would not cap processing or retail licenses either, for similar reasons. Alison Holcomb, primary author of the initiative to legalize recreational pot, was pleased with the rules' balancing of public safety and health with the desire to create a workable system.Seattle Times
Lawsuit May Test Whether Publishing An Expunged Arrest Report Is Defamatory
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Lorraine Martin, a Connecticut nurse, was arrested with her sons when the police raided her home and found a small amount of marijuana. The charges were later dropped and the official record was purged, says Philly.com. Martin has been unable to find a job, and she claims it is because when you type her name into a search engine, articles like one titled "Mother and Sons Charged with Drug Offenses" are still available through online news outlets. Martin filed a class-action suit against local news outlets on behalf of those who were arrested but whose criminal records have since been expunged. The suit claims that the online media outlets defame them by continuing to make available content about the story. The novel question is: Can an article written about an incident that accurately describes an event that did take place be false if the record of that event was later expunged?
In other words, does the truth change into a falsehood over time such that what happened after the fact makes the event described at the time defamatory? And if it does, then does the online news agency have an obligation to take down content that hurts a person's reputation or ability to earn a living if the subsequent events make it clear that the arrest should not have happened or where the prosecutor has, by expunging the record, shown that the person who was arrested for a crime should not continue to be judged on the basis of her arrest for it?Philly.com
Advocates Question DOJ Finding On Juvenile Sex Abuse in Adult Facilities
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Youth advocates have long argued that juveniles incarcerated in adult prisons and jails are at heightened risk for rape and other forms of sexual abuse. A Justice Department survey issued yesterday(and reported in this digest) found that juveniles did not report significantly more sexual victimization than adult inmates, says the New York Times. The survey offers the first national estimates of the prevalence of sexual abuse among juveniles housed in adult facilities.
The report's lead author said he believed the findings "are far more reliable and representative of the experiences of such youth nationwide than the anecdotal data from the past." Advocacy groups contested the numbers, arguing that many juveniles housed with adults are afraid to report sexual abuse and that the true figures are likely to be far higher. Allen Beck of the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics said extensive precautions were taken to preserve confidentiality for inmates who participated in the survey and to ensure that the reports were as reliable as possible. Liz Ryan of the Campaign for Youth Justice, a group that aims to keep minors out of the adult criminal justice system, said, "We think that this study is inconsistent with previous studies that have been done on this topic."New York Times
ICE Says 32 Released Immigration Detainees Had Multiple Felony Convictions
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Under pressure from Congress, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has disclosed new details about the criminal backgrounds of some of the approximately 2,200 immigration detainees let out of custody in February in anticipation of spending cuts, saying that 32 of the 622 convicted criminals released nationwide had multiple felony convictions, reports the Arizona Republic.
The new details raised more questions about the decision in February by Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials to release 2,226 immigration detainees from facilities in several states in order to slow rising detention costs in the face of $300 million in automatic budget cuts known as the sequester, which kicked in March 1. During two congressional hearings in March, ICE Director John Morton insisted that only detainees who did not pose a threat to public safety were released and that all remained under supervision. Information released by DHS in response to requests from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations shows that ICE has taken back into custody 58 of the convicted criminals released nationally after a review showed the seriousness of their offenses. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told the newspaper: "You should be concerned with people who are guilty of second-degree robbery, DUI, stalking convictions - those kinds of things. They're just released out into the public when they are in this country illegally."Arizona Republic
U.S. Lost Track of Suspected Terrorists in Witness Protection Program
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The U.S. has lost track of two known or suspected terrorists given identities under the federal witness protection program, says a Justice Department audit that indicated the program was so poorly monitored the department didn't even know how many such individuals were in it, reports the Christian Science Monitor. The new identities of individuals who had cooperated in terrorism investigations were not properly shared with other agencies, the Justice Department's inspector general reported yesterday.
As a result, some known or suspected terrorists in the witness protection program who were on the federal "no-fly" list were allowed to travel on commercial flights. "We found significant deficiencies in the handling of known or suspected terrorists who were admitted into the WitSec [witness security] Program," the watchdog agency found. "Therefore, it was possible for known or suspected terrorists to fly on commercial airplanes in or over the United States and evade one of the government's primary means of identifying and tracking terrorists' movements and actions." Since it began in 1971, some 18,300 witnesses, family members, and other associates of witnesses have received identity protection - relocated with new names - under the program. As of a year ago, there were about 700 participants in the program. Witnesses typically testify in cases involving organized crime, drug trafficking, gang activity, and terrorism.Christian Science Monitor
Mueller Details FBI Failure To Follow up On Marathon Bombing Suspect Info
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The terrorist tracking task force in Boston failed to act on notices that one of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers had traveled to and from Russia last year, FBI Director Robert Mueller told the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that handles the Justice Department's budget, reports Politico. Mueller said authorities would "do better" next time in following up on such information.
Mueller said that before Tamerlan Tsarnaev went to Russia last year, the Joint Terrorism Task Force was notified by a database known as TECS (formerly Treasury Enforcement Communications System). Tamerlan's travel was being flagged because the Russian intelligence service told the FBI in 2011 he'd become more religious and was interested in joining Islamic radical groups in Russia. "When [Tamerlan] returned to the United States there as an automatic message that was pushed out that also came to the task force in that way and there was no additional action taken on that," Mueller said. "It may well have been because of the numerous inquiries that we handle. [ ] That particular Joint Terrorism Task Force in any given year handles hundreds of similar assessments and leads and the like." Mueller said changes are being made to make sure such notices are followed up on.Politico
Texas Fusion Center Threatened by Budget Vote, Could be First to Close
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~In a surprising move, Texas House and Senate budget negotiators agreed to wipe out funding for the Department of Public Safety's fusion center, part of a nationwide intelligence gathering initiative that has generated controversy, reports the Austin American-Statesman. If the House and Senate affirm the change, it could make Texas the first state to pull the rug from under one of the statewide fusion operations that began under a Department of Homeland Security offensive that has been criticized for wasting taxpayers' money.
"It's shocking to me," said Ron Brooks, a former director of the San Francisco fusion center, now with a Washington D.C., consulting and lobbying group specializing in criminal intelligence issues. Despite their terrorism-focused origins, Brooks said the more than 70 fusion centers across the U.S. have evolved into "all-crime centers" to coordinate information sharing among local, state and federal agencies. Such information sharing provides "smart policing" of everything from street gangs to homicide investigations, Brooks said. He knows of no other state that has eliminated funds for a statewide center. A factor in the decision, was a report by a U.S. Senate investigative subcommittee that lambasted the fusion centers for "irrelevant, useless or inappropriate" intelligence gathering and wasteful spending on private contractors, while doing little to keep the country safer.Austin American-Statesman
AP Phone Record Seizure Just Latest Example of Rise in "Leak" Prosecutions
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~President Obama had a reputation when he took office as a liberal former constitutional lawyer who had condemned Bush-era national security policies. NPR says he has proved to be tougher than President George W. Bush on prosecuting national security leaks. The seizure of Associated Press phone records is just the latest example. The administration has prosecuted six people for giving reporters information about secret national security operations - twice as many cases as all previous presidents combined. Matt Miller, who used to advise Attorney General Eric Holder, says government officials share a sense that there are more leaks than there used to be, and they must be stopped.
"It has nothing to do with stopping the press from doing their job," he says. "The goal is to stop people who have taken an oath to protect national security from disclosing secrets that harm it." Journalists' groups say that's a distinction without a difference. To First Amendment advocates, the explanation is like saying: "We're not trying to prevent people from drilling for oil - we just want to keep the oil in the ground." Lucy Dalglish, who runs the journalism school at University of Maryland, says the only reason to do this is to send a message. "You send a message to both the media and [ ] to federal employees: You leak - we're going to get you," she says. "And I'm being told by reporters it's being pretty effective."NPR
Ex-Prosecutor Calls for Civil-Rights Charges Against Cleveland's Castro
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Cleveland's Ariel Castro should be named in a civil-rights charge under Ohio's law against violence "based on sex," contends former prosecutor Wendy Murphy of New England Law/Boston in Women's eNews, citing allegations that Castro kidnapped three young women, two as minors, and kept them barricaded as sex slaves, often in chains, for 10 years. One victim was reportedly impregnated five times, then beaten and starved to induce miscarriages. Another became pregnant and gave birth to Castro's child inside the home.
District Attorney Timothy McGinty initially brought only a handful of crimes against Castro, but made it clear that he would seek many more charges during grand jury proceedings. Castro not only selected females to be his kidnap victims, he committed countless gender-specific sex crimes for 10 years, including forced pregnancies and abortions. He also had a past history of extreme domestic violence against his ex-wife and child. Murphy says that adding a civil rights charge won't likely increase the ultimate punishment given that Castro will surely serve at least multiple life sentences, but she says, "it is important for government officials to label civil rights crimes correctly when they happen in order to give value to the harm to democracy itself when people are singled out for violence based on their status as females."Women's eNews