Uso de Prendedor de Estrella de Sheriff se Vuelve Polémico En Tribunales

February 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Un juez federal le prohibió a Lee Baca, ex Sheriff del condado, de usar un pequeño prendedor con la estrella del sheriff durante su próximo juicio por acusaciones de corrupción, pero la decisión sobre si el ex agente de la ley podrá usar gemelos decorativos en sus mangas está pendiente.

Durante una audiencia, el juez de distrito Percy Anderson concedió la petición de la fiscalía de que Baca se abstenga de usar el pequeño prendedor de seis puntas con la estrella del sheriff en su solapa, como lo ha hecho durante cada cita con la corte desde que se presentaron cargos contra él hace un año.

“El lo usa para comunicarse con el jurado”, dijo el Asistente Fiscal de los Estados Unidos Brandon Fox al juez.

En los documentos de la corte, Fox argumentó que al usar la estrella, Baca está enviando un mensaje sutil a los jurados de que él es un hombre de ley honorable, y respetuoso de tal anterior y que cuenta con el apoyo del departamento.

La defensa, sin embargo, describió tales preocupaciones como “paranoicas”.

El abogado defensor Nathan Hochman argumentó que el alfiler de solapa es similar a un anillo de clase o una insignia y no tiene poder para perjudicar al jurado.

Según el gobierno, el ex-legislador de 74 años “testificó esencialmente” sin tomar el puesto de testigo o ser sometido a un contrainterrogatorio con el uso de la pequeña insignia durante el juicio que duró dos semanas, considerado nulo el 22 de diciembre.

Al usar el prendedor de solapa Baca “intentó cubrirse con la credibilidad, autoridad y apoyo del Departamento del Sheriff”, sostuvieron los fiscales en los documentos de la corte.

Hochman respondió en su moción diciendo que el gobierno está simplemente atribuyendo su fracaso en condenar “al poder casi místico y talismán que una estrella del sheriff de una pulgada” pudiese haber tenido sobre el jurado federal de Los Ángeles. Él describió los temores de la acusación como “acusaciones paranoicas”.

La prenda “era apenas visible para el jurado”, escribió Hochman, señalando que su cliente se sentó a 20 o 30 pies de distancia de la caja del jurado.

Anderson, sin embargo, ordenó que Baca no use el prendedor en presencia del jurado en cualquier situación en la que pueda entrar en contacto con los panelistas, incluyendo en la cafetería del juzgado.

Poco tiempo después, Fox notó que Baca también llevaba puestos gemelos en sus mangas adornados con la estrella del sheriff y también lo trajo a la atención del juez indicando que la joyería decorativa también debería de ser prohibida. Se espera que el juez emita una orden incluyendo los gemelos decorativos juntamente con el prendedor.

Las acusaciones contra Baca se centran en un período de tiempo en que el sheriff de la cárcel central de los hombres según tropezó una investigación secreta del FBI sobre presuntos abusos contra los derechos civiles y golpes injustificados de reclusos dentro de la cárcel.

Los fiscales afirman que Baca estaba tan resentido por la investigación de las cárceles que él intentó forzar al FBI a retirar a sus oficiales ilegalmente al mandar a oficiales a enfrentar a un agente en su apartamento. La fiscalía también alega que Baca ignoró por años las quejas sobre la fuerza excesiva usada ilegalmente contra presos en instalaciones del condado manejadas por el departamento del sheriff.

La tercer acusación es por presuntamente haber hecho declaraciones falsas al mentirle al FBI en abril de 2013 sobre su conocimiento de los esfuerzos del departamento en subvertir investigaciones federales sobre el sistema penitenciario.

Hate Crimes Are Up — But the Government Isn’t Keeping Good Track of Them

November 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

In 2015, the authorities in California documented 837 hate-crime incidents, charting a surge in offenses motivated by religious intolerance toward Muslims and Jews, while crimes against Latinos grew by 35 percent.

Last week, shortly after Donald J. Trump was elected the country’s next president, the Southern Poverty Law Center put up a form on its website encouraging people to share details about potential hate crimes. By the next day, they’d received about 250 reports – more than they’re used to seeing in six months.

Then on Monday, the FBI released its latest national tabulation of hate crimes, data that showed an overall uptick of 6.8 percent from 2014 to 2015. The accounting, drawn from information passed on to the bureau by state and local law enforcement agencies, charted a 67-percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes.

The mix of information – state level, anecdotal, federally collected, dating from two years ago to last week – is sure to fuel the country’s evolving conversation and concern about the potential for violence in a divided America. Already, those worried about the consequences of Trump’s triumph have seized on some of the reports to stoke worry about emboldened white nationalists. And Trump’s supporters have moved quickly to try and debunk the swirl of alleged incidents of intimidation and violence that have surfaced in social media

But even in the early stages of what promises to be a prolonged focus on crimes colored by prejudice and politics, there appears to be one irrefutable truth: the data is deeply flawed.

James Comey, the director of the FBI, said as much even as he announced the bureau’s latest batch of numbers.

“We need to do a better job of tracking and reporting hate crimes to fully understand what is happening in our communities and how to stop it,” Comey said.

More than 3,000 state and local law enforcement agencies don’t report hate crimes to the FBI as part of its annual national survey of crime in America. Professor Brian Levin, who heads the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, said the entire state of Hawaii fails to file any such reports.

And many of the law enforcement agencies that do choose to participate do not appear to be particularly rigorous about documenting hate crimes and passing that information onto the federal authorities.

“A lot of agencies just submit a piece of paper saying they had no hate crimes,” added Levin, noting that the vast majority of police and sheriff’s departments reported no hate crimes last year.

The data appears particularly spotty in much of the South, a region with a long history of racial strife. Police in Mississippi reported zero hate crimes in 2015. In Arkansas, the number was eight. In Alabama, it was 12.

It seems the number of hate crimes on college campuses is also undercounted by the FBI. The most recent statistics gathered by the U.S. Department of Education appear to show at least twice as many offenses occurring at colleges and universities as the FBI data.

The FBI “data system is of little help to authorities who investigate and track hate crimes,” wrote Ronald L. Davis, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, in an essay published earlier this year. “This is a significant problem because, if the authorities do not know how many hate crimes are committed, they cannot get an accurate picture of whether hate crime laws are effective, which can lead to fewer resources allocated to combatting hate crimes.”

An FBI spokesperson acknowledged that nearly 20 percent of law enforcement agencies don’t participate in the program, but said the bureau was working “to improve the data collection.”

A key problem, said Phyllis Gerstenfeld, author of a well-known book on hate crimes, is that the FBI has no legal mechanism to compel law enforcement agencies to file crime reports or ensure that they submit accurate information.

Still, some states are doing an admirable job, noted Gerstenfeld, a criminology professor at California State University, Stanislaus. In California, for example, police officers receive training on hate crimes as part of their initial education at the police academy, which can help officers identify bigotry-driven offenses. California law requires police and sheriff’s deputies to closely monitor hate crimes and share their findings with both the California Attorney General and the FBI.

In total, the FBI documented 5,850 hate-crime incidents in the report it issued Monday, most targeting people on the basis of race or ethnicity, religious affiliation or sexual orientation. For some, the surge in crimes against Muslims was not surprising.

“It confirms what we’ve been seeing on the ground since late last year – a spike in hate crimes against Muslims,” said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group.

Since Trump claimed the presidency on Nov. 8, social media has been deluged with first-person accounts of racist incidents and attacks on Muslims, prompting BuzzFeed to compile a listicle titled “Here Are 26 Reported Racist Incidents After Donald Trump’s Victory.” This catalog of abuse included graffiti (lots of swastikas, and, in upstate New York, an exhortation to “Make America White Again”); violence (an African-American college student assaulted in Ohio); and intimidation in myriad forms (black students receiving online invitations to a lynching in Pennsylvania, a Muslim woman who was told “Your time’s up, girlie” on the New York subway, etc.).

Oren Segal, the director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, believes it’s too early to tell if reports are higher than normal because incidents are happening more frequently or because people are simply more aware of them. But he said the direct connection to a single politician is unique. “The fact that so much of it is being linked to our presidential campaign is very, very disturbing,” he said.

Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, agreed.

“This is way out of the norm,” she said of the striking number of reports collected in a single day last week. “People feel emboldened by Trump.”

A.C. Thompson covers criminal justice issues for ProPublica. He has been a reporter for 12 years, mostly in the San Francisco Bay area. Ken Schwencke is a journalist and developer building news apps for ProPublica’s Electionland project. See his full article here.

 

The FBI’s ‘October Surprise’

November 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

With just five days to go until the Presidential Election, we are surprised that the “October Surprise” candidates fear is coming from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and specifically from FBI Director James Comey who in a letter light in details to Congress just 11 days before the election stated that the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails had been restarted. Comey wrote that the FBI had become aware of more emails “that appeared to be pertinent to the investigation.”

No other information was initially released leading to wild speculation about what the emails contained. Trump and other Republicans used the news to claim Comey’s letter is proof that the emails contain evidence of wrong doing by Clinton.

It has since been learned that the emails were found on a laptop computer shared by longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin and her former husband Anthony Weiner, who is under investigation in an unrelated case. But there is no information as to what those emails contain, proving that if a lie is continually repeated people will after a while believe it’s true.

Comey is being criticized by both Democratic and Republican members of Congress and former attorneys general who say his action is paramount to meddling in the election.

Nonetheless, Trump’s constant assertions that Hillary is a liar has been a way for him to deflect attention from his own pervasive habit of lying.

We guess that Trump’s practice of throwing mud at the walls to see what sticks has inured voters to such an extent that folks no longer question his outlandish remarks, such as Putin being his friend and that he knew him well, but  later admitting he’s never met the Russian president. Or that he can’t release his tax returns because he’s been audited; there’s nothing in the IRS rules that prohibit him from releasing the returns.

Both Trump and his surrogates claim he donated millions to charity. There’s little evidence to support the claim and what evidence there is shows he used money from his charitable foundation to pay for a portrait of himself.

When the video of him saying he had admitted to groping and sexually assaulting women, and they let him do it and liked it was released, he called it “locker room talk” that men engage in, and denied ever acting on his boasts. When dozens of women came forward to say he had lied and they were victims of his assaults, he called them liars and threatened to sue them: we bet he never does.

The list of Trump’s lies and innuendoes could fill an entire newspaper, so our take is that Trump is the bigger liar.

Trump claims to be the only one who can save the economy, but gives few details, only saying he will bring jobs lost to other countries back. But his claims fail to take into account the U.S. manufacturing industry’s greater reliance on technology to do jobs once done by humans, or that there’s not much incentive by manufacturers to fire their robots.

Giving U.S. corporations large tax breaks will add to the country’s deficit, so it’s hard to understand how that will help the economy.

As for Trump being the best person to protect the U.S. from its enemies, particularly Muslim radicals, we don’t see it happening with a man who shows little understanding or knowledge of geopolitics, and whose fall back position is that he knows more than the country’s top generals. Really?

And let’s not forget his plan to do away with Obamacare, to repeal it as soon as he takes office.

People should ask if more people have insurance since the law was passed, if their coverage is cheaper or more expensive, and if they have pre-existing conditions, would they be able to get insurance coverage if Obama Care is done away with?

So, yes, Hillary Clinton has made mistakes. There are questions about her emails, but there is no foundation for the accusations of criminality and absent of that evidence, there is nothing to disqualify her from being president.

We strongly object to Trump’s statements that if elected he will investigate and “jail” his opponent. Its something we would expect from Russia’s Putin or Syria’s Assad, or the Philippines’ Duterte, not from the person who proposes to run a free and democratic country.

Baca Se Declara Culpable de Un Cargo Federal

February 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

El ex Alguacil del Condado de Los Ángeles, Lee Baca, se declaró culpable el miércoles de un cargo federal por mentir al FBI durante una investigación acerca de la corrupción en el sistema carcelario.

Bajo un acuerdo de culpabilidad con la Oficina del Procurador de EE.UU., Baca podría recibir hasta seis meses de prisión federal. La sentencia fue fijada para el 16 de mayo.

Read this article in English: Baca Admits to Lying to Federal Investigators

Los fiscales dijeron que Baca mintió a los investigadores en 2013 cuando dijo que no estaba enterado de que oficiales del alguacil iban a ir a la casa de una agente del FBI en 2011 para enfrentarla y amenazarla sobre su implicación en el caso de corrupción del Departamento.

Baca no sólo estaba consciente del plan, pero le dijo específicamente a los oficiales que “deberían hacer todo menos esposarla”, según los fiscales.

“Este caso ilustra que los líderes que fomentan y luego tratan de ocultar una cultura corrupta tendrán que rendir cuentas”, dijo la procuradora de EE.UU. Eileen Decker.

Baca es el funcionario más reciente—y de más alto rango—del departamento en estar involucrado en el escándalo de corrupción derivado de la violencia en el sistema carcelario.

Baca, de 73 años, se retiró en 2014 en medio de una investigación federal. Él estuvo como alguacil desde diciembre de 1998.

“Quiero que quede claro que esto no es un día de celebración para nosotros”, dijo Decker. “De hecho, es un día triste cuando el líder de una agencia del cumplimiento de la ley no cumple con su juramento y en lugar de defender la justicia, decide obstruirla”.

Ex alguacil del Condado de Los Ángeles se declaró culpable por mentir a agentes del FBI. (EGP archivo)

Ex alguacil del Condado de Los Ángeles se declaró culpable por mentir a agentes del FBI. (EGP archivo)

Pese a que la petición de Baca sea vista como la culminación de la investigación de corrupción, Decker dijo que las autoridades federales se mantendrán vigilantes en su supervisión del departamento.

Anteriormente otros dos ex oficiales del Alguacil, Joey Aguiar y Mariano Ramírez fueron condenados por falsificación de registros que documentan la golpiza de un preso esposado en 2009, pero fueron absueltos de un cargo federal de derechos civiles y los miembros del jurado dieron punto muerto a un cargo de fuerza excesiva. Los fiscales habían planeado volver a intentarlo, pero según el acuerdo, serán retirados del cargo excesivo de la fuerza, y los oficiales recibirán penas de entre 21 y 27 meses.

Aguiar y Ramírez fueron los últimos de los 21 oficiales actuales y anteriores juzgados por las autoridades federales en conexión con la investigación del FBI que se llevaba por años debido a la brutalidad y otras faltas en el Dept. del Alguacil de Los Ángeles.

La investigación de corrupción anteriormente llegó sólo hasta el ex alguacil interino Paul Tanaka, que se enfrenta a juicio en marzo por cargos de conspiración para supuestamente la gestión de un plan secreto en 2011 para “ocultar” a un preso que se convirtió en informante para el FBI durante la sonda de cárceles.

Ese preso, Anthony Brown, fue escondido de los encargados del FBI durante un tiempo cuando las autoridades federales llevaban a cabo una investigación sobre la presunta violencia de oficiales contra los prisioneros.

Ocho ex funcionarios del Dept. del Alguacil—incluyendo un capitán, dos tenientes y dos sargentos—fueron condenados por su participación en el encubrimiento.

Todos afirmaron que habían estado siguiendo órdenes de sus superiores en la asistencia a una investigación legítima sobre cómo y por qué un teléfono celular había sido introducido de contrabando en la Cárcel Central de Hombres.

Tanaka y el capitán retirado Tom Carey, que encabezó una unidad interna de investigaciones, fueron acusados en mayo con el presunto intento de descarrilar la investigación de las cárceles federales.

Carey se declaró culpable el año pasado de un cargo de mentir en el estrado de los testigos durante el juicio del ex oficial James Sexton en 2014, quien fue condenado a 18 meses de prisión por tratar de obstruir la investigación de la cárcel.

Los abogados de Tanaka, Jerome Haig y H. Dean Steward, emitieron una declaración diciendo que el acuerdo con la fiscalía de Baca hace que el caso “sea más interesante”, pero todavía están dispuestos a llamar Baca como testigo durante el juicio de Tanaka.

“Habíamos planeado llamar al alguacil Baca como testigo y continúa siendo nuestro plan”, según los abogados. “Su declaración de culpabilidad no cambia para nada nuestra defensa.

Paul Tanaka no se ha declarado culpable firmemente, y esperamos nuestro día en la corte”.

George Hofstetter, presidente de la Asociación de Alguacil de Los Ángeles, el sindicato que representa a los agentes del alguacil, dijo que Baca “merece castigo” por sus acciones.

“El acuerdo de declaración envía un fuerte mensaje de que nadie está por encima de la ley”, dijo. “Debe haber tolerancia cero para este tipo de fallido liderazgo. Esto de ninguna manera socava la dedicación y el duro trabajo de los más de 9.000 alguaciles que ponen sus vidas en peligro para proteger a los residentes del condado.

Al salir de corte, Baca se negó a ofrecer comentarios.

Su abogado, Michael Zweiback, dijo que su cliente tomó el acuerdo de culpabilidad, porque “era importante para el alguacil seguir adelante. Él sentía que era el momento para aceptar la responsabilidad de lo que había hecho”.

Zweiback dice que va a pedir que Baca no sirva tiempo en prisión, teniendo en cuenta que “se trata de un hombre con una reputación de 50 años en el cumplimiento de la ley”.

Family of San Bernardino Massacre Shooter Denies ‘Terrorist’ Claim

December 4, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Relatives of the two people who carried out the massacre at a San Bernardino health facility never saw any sign the pair had violent tendencies, and were stunned when they learned of their involvement, family attorneys said today.

“None of the family members had any idea that this was going to take place, they were totally shocked,” said Sherman Oaks attorney David Chesley, who represents the two sisters, brother, brother-in-law and mother of Syed Rizwan Farook. “To the point where when they got word that there was an incident that had taken place, they were worried about the health and safety of Syed and (wife) Tashfeen (Malik) because there’s never been any evidence that either of the two alleged shooters were aggressive, had extremist views. They (the family) were totally shocked that this could take place, as shocked as anyone else was.”

Chesley and fellow attorney Mohammad Abuershaid stressed, however, that despite the FBI confirming that the attack is being investigated as an “act of terrorism,” there is no evidence linking the couple to any larger terrorist group or terror cell.

“Just as late as 1 p.m. today, the FBI chief James Comey came out and said that there was no sign that the alleged shooters belonged to a larger organization, a larger organized terrorist group or terrorist cell,” Chesley said. “ … They have come up with some things where they’re trying to say
they were inspired by some groups, but there hasn’t been any clear, smoking-gun evidence that they were part of any particular cell or any group. They (investigators) are pointing to things that they saw on Facebook under different account names in the case of Tashfeen Malik. She supposedly had a Facebook account set up under a different name that they say visited some group that may have been had ties (to radical groups).”

Chesley said that just because she may have looked at something on Facebook, it doesn’t mean she agrees with the views — noting that he has seen posts about Britney Spears but “hates” her music.

The attorneys said they have already met with the FBI, and even the investigators are having a hard time figuring out why the couple might be involved in such a violent act.

“The FBI actually said, `Look, we’re trying to find evidence or information that could cause us to believe that Syed Farook was some way affiliated with this incident, something inspired him to be involved in this incident, but the problem we’re having is we’re not finding any evidence of any
behavior that would show us that this would be the alleged shooter. So why is that happening?’

“We were like, we don’t have any explanation for you other than that there is no evidence,” he said. “None of the family knew of him being extreme or aggressive or having any extreme religious views.”

Abuershaid asked the media not to link the shootings to the fact Farook was a Muslim.

“Just because he had a religion, that he was a Muslim, it had nothing to do with these acts,” he said. “Islam does not agree, does not support any type of actions like this. It does not support killing. It does not support murder of innocent individuals. And the family would never support anything like this. And they’re giving their hearts and their prayers and everything else that they can do to assist the victims who lost their life that day as well.”

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