Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Law Enforcement’ Category

How Predator Priests Avoid Jail

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The previous post contains a detailed example of how a large and strongly hierarchical organization failed its expressed ideals, and this video describes another large and strongly hierarchical organizations failure in ts expressed ideals. It seems to me the source of the problem is not the size — even small organizations, as small as a family, sometimes provide glaring examples — but the strong hierarchy. The families that fail — for example, Amish families that conduct and conceal the rape of their children — are also typically strongly hierarchical. 

Something about a strong hierarchy corrupts those to whom the hierarchy delivers power — perhaps it’s as simply as Lord Acton’s dictum that power corrupts, perhaps because those near the top see themselves as free from rules that apply to the lower ranks, granting themselves privileges by virtue of their position. The lesson is clear: beware strong hierarchies.

Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2022 at 3:07 pm

Abolish Coroners

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Eleanor Cummins writes in the New Republic:

They’re responsible for a massive undercounting of Covid deaths in America. But that’s just the latest reason to get rid of this poorly regulated, overly politicized, and utterly unscientific relic of the colonial era.

Wavis Jordan “doesn’t do Covid deaths.” That’s what the pastor and Republician coroner of Cape Girardeau County, Mississippi, told Missouri Independent last month. He requires families to submit a positive test if they want coronavirus listed on the death certificate. Otherwise, the cause of deaths at home in his county are attributed to a range of other conditions that might be exacerbated by Covid-19, including Alzheimer’s, heart attack, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease—but never the virus itself.

Jordan isn’t the only death investigator undercounting Covid-19. In Louisiana’s Lafayette Parish, for example, people are currently being pronounced dead over the phone; without enough Covid tests, the county writes down “what the families tell us,” according to a recent USA Today report. In Rankin County, Mississippi, the local coroner told USA Today that many families initially refuse Covid-19 as a cause of death—until they learn about the federal government’s burial reimbursement program. The cut corners add up: In 2020 and 2021, there were one million excess deaths in the United States, but only 800,000 have been attributed to Covid-19 by the coroners and medical examiners on the ground.

These stories may seem shocking. But they’re no surprise to anyone familiar with the American coroner system, a notoriously underfunded, under-regulated, and often unscientific relic of the colonial era—and the crumbling bedrock of modern public health surveillance. The pandemic has simply shown what many public health experts have been arguing for years: The coroner system has got to go.

Historically, coroners have been political appointees or elected officials associated with the criminal justice system. They investigate any death that doesn’t appear natural—a broad category that includes suicides, homicides, and accidents. They may also pitch in with pandemics, natural disasters, and other mass casualty events that overwhelm frontline services. For those who die in a hospital, the majority of death certificates are signed by physicians. But when people begin to die en masse at home, as happened in the early parts of the pandemic, the responsibility falls on coroners and medical examiners. In 2018, the most recent year for which national data is available, more than 1.3 million deaths were referred for further investigation, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

In the last century, the role of coroners and medical examiners has become increasingly important for tracking diseases, researching outcomes of both chronic and infectious diseases and safety issues, and developing effective public health intervention strategies. But unlike medical examiners, who are physicians and, in ideal cases, trained forensic pathologists, the bar for coroners is often much lower. In some states, anyone 18 years or older with no prior felonies may be elected coroner. Once they’re in office, training is patchwork; some jurisdictions require no further education at all.

The coroner system has its roots in medieval England, where coroners protected the interests of the crown, including investigating deaths and collecting taxes. It arrived in the U.S. in the colonial period, where  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2022 at 11:36 am

How Debt-Based License Suspensions Criminalize Poverty

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This is the kind of injustice that is mostly invisible to those who live in economically segregated neighborhoods and make a good salary. From the video description:

Delaware could end one of the cruelest ways the legal system criminalizes poverty. Millions of Americans have suspended driver licenses due to outstanding fines, leading to lost jobs and endless cycles of debt. Delaware may soon join 22 states working to stop this injustice of debt-based license suspensions.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2022 at 4:49 pm

The Billionaires Funding the Coup’s Brain Trust

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Andy Kroll reports in Rolling Stone:

The Claremont Institute, once a little-known think tank often confused with the liberal-arts college of the same name, has emerged as a driving force in the conservative movement’s crusade to use bogus fraud claims about the 2020 election to rewrite voting laws and remake the election system in time for the 2022 midterms and 2024 presidential election. Most infamously, one of the group’s legal scholars crafted memos outlining a plan for how then-Vice President Mike Pence could potentially overturn the last election.

Conservative mega-donors like what they see.

The biggest right-wing megadonors in America made major contributions to Claremont in 2020 and 2021, according to foundation financial records obtained by Rolling Stone. The high-profile donors include several of the most influential families who fund conservative politics and policy: the DeVoses of West Michigan, the Bradleys of Milwaukee, and the Scaifes of Pittsburgh.

The Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation donated $240,000 to Claremont in 2020 and approved another $400,000 to be paid out in the future, tax records show. The Bradley Foundation donated $100,000 to Claremont in 2020 and another $100,000 in 2021, according to tax records and a spokeswoman for the group. The Sarah Scaife Foundation, one of several charities tied to the late right-wing billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, supplied another $450,000 to Claremont in 2020, according to its latest tax filings.

Claremont’s own tax filings show that its revenue rose from 2019 to 2020 by a half-million dollars to $6.2 million, one of the highest sums since the organization was founded in 1979, according to the most recent available data. A Claremont spokesman said the group wouldn’t comment about its donors beyond publicly available data but estimated that Claremont’s revenue for the 2021 fiscal year had increased to $7.5 million.

The DeVoses, Bradleys, and Scaifes are among the most prominent donor families in conservative politics. For Bradley and Scaife, the giving to Claremont tracks with a long history of funding right-wing causes and advocacy groups, from the American Enterprise Institute think tank and the “bill mill” American Legislative Exchange Council, to anti-immigration zealot David Horowitz’s Freedom Center and the climate-denying Heartland Institute.

Bradley in particular has given heavily to groups that traffic in misleading or baseless claims about “election integrity” or widespread “voter fraud.” Thanks to a $6.5 million infusion from the Bradley Impact Fund, a related nonprofit, the undercover-sting group Project Veritas nearly doubled its revenue in 2020 to $22 million, according to the group’s tax filing. Bradley is also a long-time funder of the Heritage Foundation, which helped architect the wave of voter suppression bills introduced in state legislatures this year, and True the Vote, a conservative group that trains poll watchers and stokes fears of rampant voter fraud in the past.

The Bradley Foundation was founded in 1942 by the Bradley family. Brothers Harry and Lynde Bradley co-founded the Allen-Bradley company, which would later provide much of the funding for the Bradley Foundation. The nonprofit, which has given out more than $1 billion in its history, no longer has any Bradley family members on its board.

But while the Bradley donations are to be expected, the contributions from the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation to Claremont are perhaps more surprising. Betsy DeVos, in one of her final acts as Trump’s education secretary, condemned the “angry mob” on January 6 and said “the law must be upheld and the work of the people must go on.”

A spokesman for the DeVoses, Nick Wasmiller, said Betsy DeVos’s letter “speaks for itself.” He added: “Claremont does work in many areas. It would be baseless to assert the Foundation’s support has any connection to the one item you cite.” While the foundation’s 2020 tax filing said its grants to Claremont were unrestricted, Wasmiller said the filing was wrong and the money had been earmarked. However, he declined to say what it was earmarked for.

The donations flowing into Claremont illustrate that although the group’s full-throated support for Trump and fixation on election crimes may be extreme, they’re not fringe views when they have the backing of influential conservative funders. “Were it not for the patronage of billionaire conservatives and their family foundations, the Claremont Institute would likely be relegated to screaming about its anti-government agenda on the street corner,” says Kyle Herrig, president of government watchdog group Accountable.US.

The Claremont spokesman responded to Herrig’s comment by saying . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2022 at 5:59 pm

Hope on the Horizon

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Matt Stoller writes in BIG:

“Despotism, be it financial or political, is vulnerable, unless it is believed to rest upon a moral sanction. The longing for freedom is ineradicable. It will express itself in protest against servitude and inaction unless the striving for freedom be made to seem immoral.” – Louis Brandeis, 1914

Today I’m writing about how the fight against monopolies is moving into a new stage. We’re actually starting to win some things here and there.

In the courts, the regulatory agencies, and Congress/states, the power of dominant firms is, ever so slightly, beginning to erode. It’s a weird time to say that, because politics is otherwise so dysfunctional. Retail sales are down, so is manufacturing output, inflation is at 7%, and a majority of Americans, pretty evenly across both parties, feel that democracy is in danger of collapsing. So that’s not good.

But beneath the surface, the relationship that the public with the most powerful institutions in American society – dominant corporations – is changing.

Here are eight different examples from the last week showing that monopolists are facing real headwinds.

(1) Big Tech Antitrust Trials Move Forward as Facebook Loses Motion to Dismiss
The antitrust trials against big tech are moving forward, and the government is doing well. There are two big trials, one by the Federal Trade Commission, and one by a group of state attorneys general. On Tuesday, the Federal Trade Commission won an important procedural step against Facebook. Judge Boasberg – who is not particularly friendly to antitrust enforcers – had dismissed the first agency complaint filed in 2020, but Lina Khan filed a new complaint with stronger claims. Facebook asked for another dismissal, and even more aggressively, for Khan to be recused. The judge ruled against Facebook on both counts, so the case will be going to trial. (I was on Marketplace talking about this development, which you can listen to here.)

On the second case against Facebook, with state attorneys general, the judge had ruled against them on obscure procedural grounds. In a different context, the states would have given up in a fight against one of the biggest companies in the world. This time, however, they appealed.

Meanwhile, in the Texas case against Google, a judge unsealed the price-fixing deal between Google and Facebook in which Google paid Facebook to withdraw from the third party online market, further revealing that Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg both personally signed off on the deal. Oh, and there are more details on exactly what Google was doing in its rigging of advertising auction markets, which is known in technical terms as ‘stealing.’

(2) Antitrust Law Hits Individual Executives
Martin Shkreli, the infamous pharma bro put in jail for securities fraud, was found personally liable for directing a scheme to inflate the cost of the life-saving drug Daraprim by excluding competitors from the market. A judge order him to pay $64 million, and also barred him from the pharmaceutical industry for life. More than the obnoxiousness of the villain, the precedent here matters. It’s rare for an individual to be found liable for monopolization, so this decision means that judges are getting more comfortable seeing antitrust violations as immoral behavior, instead of seeing the problem as well-meaning businessmen being a bit too zealous.

Antitrust expert Dina Srinivasan had an interesting comment. . .

Continue reading. There’s more, and we could all use some cheering up.

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2022 at 11:10 am

Judge Tosses Teen Rape Conviction, Says 148 Days in Jail Is ‘Plenty of Punishment’

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Just to be clear: the judge reversed his own decision because he decided that raping someone was not that big a deal. (The rape was of a minor (16 years old) and done by an adult (18 years old).) Zoe Richards reports in Yahoo! News:

An Illinois judge had a shocking outburst in court Wednesday, kicking a prosecutor out with minimal explanation as outrage grows over the judge’s decision to reverse his own ruling on a teen accused of rape.

“Mr. Jones, get out,” Adams County Judge Robert Adrian fumed as he ordered Josh Jones of the Adams County State’s Attorney’s Office to leave the courtroom. The Muddy River News, whose journalist was in court, reported that Jones was set to appear in an unrelated case but had apparently “liked” a Facebook post supporting domestic violence survivors in the wake of Adrian’s extraordinary ruling in the rape case .

“I’m not on social media, but my wife is,” Adrian said. “She saw the thumbs up you gave to people attacking me.”

He added: “I can’t be fair with you today. Get out.”

Adrian declined The Daily Beast’s request for comment about the outburst on Wednesday, citing a Supreme Court rule that urges judges to abstain from public comment about pending or impending proceedings.

The move comes as critics slam Adrian for tossing out a sexual assault conviction for 18-year-old Drew Clinton, who allegedly stuffed a pillow in a girl’s face as he raped her at a graduation party in May last year.

Clinton’s accuser, 16-year-old Cameron Vaughan, broke her silence Tuesday days after Adams’ reversal on Jan. 3.

“I woke up at my friend’s place with a pillow over my face so I couldn’t be heard and Drew Clinton inside of me,” Vaughan said, according to WGEM. “I asked him to stop multiple times and he wouldn’t.”

After finally pushing him off, Vaughan said, Clinton jumped up to play video games “as if nothing had happened.”

During a bench trial in October, Clinton was found guilty of one count of criminal sexual assault. But last week, Adrian changed his mind and sensationally declared the teen “not guilty” during a sentencing hearing.

According to a copy of last week’s hearing transcript, the judge insisted that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2022 at 4:28 pm

Police power and its misuse to incarcerate the innocent

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Lara Bazelon reports in New York:

At 7:45 p.m. on December 27, 1986, Faheem Ali was shot dead in the streets of Baltimore. No physical evidence tied anyone to the killing, and no eyewitnesses immediately came forward. But Baltimore homicide detectives Thomas Pellegrini, Richard Fahlteich, and Oscar “The Bunk” Requer were not going to give up easily.

Requer was later immortalized as a central character in David Simon’s iconic HBO series The Wire. As Simon wrote in the afterword for his acclaimed 1991 nonfiction book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, Requer “lives on in Wendell Pierce’s portrayal of the legendary Bunk Moreland on The Wire, right down to the ubiquitous cigar.” Pellegrini, meanwhile, was the jumping-off point for Detective Tim Bayliss, a character in the long-running television show Homicide: Life on the Street, which was inspired by Simon’s bookRequer and Pellegrini are among a constellation of Baltimore Police Department officers who have, through Simon’s work, defined what it means to be a homicide detective in the popular imagination — and whose biggest cases are starting to fall apart or have been overturned.

Determined to find out who killed Faheem Ali, Pellegrini, Fahlteich, and Requer homed in on 12-year-old Otis Robinson, who was outside when the shooting happened. They allegedly brought Robinson and his mother to the police station and separated them, questioning the seventh-grader alone. Robinson told the detectives that when he left his house to go to the corner store, he saw a few men across the street in conversation, though he didn’t notice much in the dark. As he continued walking toward the store, he heard a gunshot and fled.

Even though Robinson insisted he could not identify a shooter, the detectives showed him an array of photos, including one of Gary Washington, a 25-year-old Black man, according to a lawsuit Washington filed against the city and the detectives in 2019. Robinson knew Washington, but he made clear that he did not see who shot Ali. The detectives wrote down this statement.

Then, according to the lawsuit, the questioning took a turn. “Cooperate,” the detectives allegedly told the 12-year-old, “or you’ll never see your mother again.” Unless Robinson identified the shooter, the officers allegedly continued, he could be charged with homicide.  Robinson “crumbled under the pressure” of threats from the detectives, according to the lawsuit, and signed a second statement falsely identifying Washington as the shooter. His first statement was never turned over to prosecutors or defense attorneys for Washington. (Attorneys for the defendants have denied liability in court pleadings but declined to comment, stating that they were “constrained to speak only through the judicial process.”)

Five months later, Pellegrini testified at a pretrial hearing. The lawsuit says he “committed perjury” by telling the court that Robinson was not threatened or coerced when he implicated Washington. The next day, Washington was tried on first-degree murder and weapons charges. On the witness stand, Robinson testified that Washington was the shooter. Washington’s attorneys called multiple witnesses who testified that the killer was a man named Lawrence Thomas, but the jury believed Robinson. As a judge later wrote, “For all intents and purposes, Otis Robinson was the state’s entire case.” Washington was convicted of Ali’s murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Robinson recanted his testimony in 1996 to an investigator for Washington. He did the same in court in 1999 and again in 2017, explaining he had been strong-armed by detectives. In 2018, a judge overturned Washington’s conviction. In 2019, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges against him. Lauren Lipscomb, the deputy state’s attorney who oversees both the Conviction Integrity Unit and Police Integrity Unit, stated, “We respect the finding of the judge who found Robinson’s recantation credible. Evidence insufficiency is not the same as factual innocence and evidence insufficiency is the reason we dismissed.”

Washington, now 57, walked free. He spent more than three decades in prison. Whether the detectives who put him there will face any repercussions remains to be seen.

Since 1989, 25 men convicted of murder in Baltimore have been exonerated, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. Official misconduct was present in 22 of the cases. “The history of BPD officers and detectives withholding exculpatory evidence from the accused, coercing and threatening witnesses, fabricating evidence, and intentionally failing to conduct meaningful investigations is decades long,” wrote the attorneys for Clarence Shipley, a Baltimore man who spent 27 years in prison for a murder he did not commit before he was exonerated in 2018. “BPD’s misconduct in [Shipley’s] case,” they said, is “yet another chapter in the long story of BPD’s pattern and practice of wrongdoing during homicide investigations.”

Baltimore homicide detectives have coerced witnesses (including children), fabricated evidence, ignored alternative suspects, and buried all of that information deep in their files, attorneys for Washington and other exonerees say. “So much of this is a war mentality that is infused with a strong racist edge,” said Michele Nethercott, who retired in July as the director of the University of Baltimore Innocence Project. “It is a war out here and we just do whatever we have to do and if that means threatening kids and threatening witnesses, we will do it. They use the same tactics on the witnesses as they do on the suspects.”

More than a dozen such cases can be traced directly to misconduct by the Baltimore Police Department in the 1980s and 1990s. Many of the detectives accused of being bad actors — Pellegrini, Requer, Fahlteich, Donald Kincaid, Gary Dunnigan, Terrence McLarney, Jay Landsman, and several others — were chronicled in Simon’s book Homicide. Some of them, like Pellegrini, Landsman, and Requer, inspired beloved television characters on Homicide: Life on the Street or, later, The Wire.

On The Wire,  . . .

Continue reading. What the police did was disgusting, and the fact that they will not be punished is even more disgusting.

Written by Leisureguy

12 January 2022 at 4:57 pm

The Police Will Never Change In America. My experience in police academy.

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Using a temporary username, a person posted the following on Reddit:

Throwaway for obvious reasons. If you feel If i’m just bitter due to my dismissal please call me out on it as I need a wake up call.

Over the fall semester I was a police recruit at a Community Colleges Police Academy in a midwestern liberal city. I have always wanted to be a police officer, and I felt like I could help kickstart a change of new wave cops. I am passionate about community oriented policing, making connections with the youth in policing, and changing lives on a individual level. I knew police academy would be mentally and physically challenging, but boy oh boy does policing need to change.

Instructors taught us to view citizens as enemy combatants, and told us we needed a warrior mindset and that we were going into battle everyday. It felt like i was joining a cult. Instructors told us supporting our fellow police officers were more important than serving citizens. Instructors told us that we were joining a big bad gang of police officers and that protecting the thin blue line was sacred. Instructors told us George Floyd wasn’t a problem and was just one bad officer. I tried to push back on some of these ideas and posed to an instructor that 4 other officers watched Chauvin pin Floyd to the ground and did nothing, and perhaps they did nothing because they were trained in academy to never speak against a senior officer. I was told to “shut my fucking face, and that i had no idea what i was talking about.”

Sadly, Instructors on several occasions, and most shockingly in the first week asked every person who supported Black Lives Matter to raise their hands. I and about a third of the class did. They told us that we should seriously consider not being police officers if we supported anti-cop organizations. They told us BLM was a terrible organization and to get out if we supported them. Instructors repeatedly made anti-LGBT comments and transphobic comments.

Admittedly I was the most progressive and put a target on my back for challenging instructor viewpoints. This got me disciplined, yelled at, and made me not want to be a cop. We had very little training on de-escalation and community policing. We had no diversity or ethics training.

Despite all this I made it to the final day. I thought if I could just get through this I could get hired and make a difference in the community as a cop and not be subject to academy paramilitary crap. The police academy dismissed me on the final day because I failed a PT test that I had passed multiple times easily in the academy leading up to this day. I asked why I failed and they said my push up form was bad and they were being more strict now it was the final. I responded saying if you counted my pushups in the entrance and midterm tests than they should count now. I was dismissed on the final day of police academy and have to take a whole academy over again. I have no plan to retake the whole academy and I feel like quality police officers are dismissed because they don’t fit the instructors’ cookie-cutter image of a warrior police officer and the instructors can get rid of them with saying their form doesn’t count on a subjective sit up or push up tests. I was beyond tears and bitterly disappointed. Maybe policing is just that fucked in America.

The warrior-mindset (vs. the guardian-mindset) training is indeed prevalent, and specifically viewing every citizen as a potential hostile threat — see, for example, this article. And it is common for those who have power in a particular organizational culture will use that power to resist changes to the culture (which, they fear, will mean a reduction in their own power).

The comments to the post are worth reading — and see also this Harvard Law Review article on the problem of the warrior mindset and this article that advocates in favor of a warrior mindset.

BTW, I believe a warrior mindset is totally appropriate in soldiers in a shooting war, and totally inappropriate in an organization that is supposed to be a guardian of the public’s safety and Constitutional rights — and even the accused have rights, something many police disapprove of (because the public is the Enemy).

Written by Leisureguy

11 January 2022 at 5:59 pm

Ivy League Cartel Sued for Price-Fixing

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Matt Stiller writes in Big:

Last April, Sam Haselby and I wrote a piece titled “Break up the Ivy League Cartel,’ offering a history of the elitism of top universities in America. For hundreds of years, these top schools have policed the moral, cultural, and economic boundaries of what forms the American elite, and in the post World War II era, the global elite. They are in many ways a cartel of institutions that share strategy on endowment funds, academic trends, cultural capital and student management.

But it’s not just this informal elite-production model that makes such universities a cartel; they are also an *actual cartel.* Today, a group of class action law firms sued 16 universities for price-fixing against low-income students in the admissions process, which is the key gatekeeping mechanism designed to enhance prestige. The defendants are the wealthiest and most powerful academic institutions in America: Brown, CalTech, the University of Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Emory, Georgetown, MIT, Northwestern, Notre Dame, the University of Pennsylvania, Rice, Vanderbilt, and Yale.

The specific charge is that these universities colluded to price-fix the terms of financial aid. Working together to provide scholarships isn’t necessarily illegal. A lot of universities give out scholarships based on income, under the premise that higher education should be an equalizing force in American society. Some schools even say they make admissions ‘need-blind,’ which means that they don’t take into account ability to pay when determining which students to accept. Instead, the admissions department accepts students based on merit, and then gives accepted students scholarships to make sure they can afford the schooling.

But what specifically makes someone ‘needy’ in a ‘need-blind’ system? The answer to that is an accounting question, so universities work together through an organization called the 568 President’s Group to set the terms for what makes someone needy. Now, if this also sounds like open price-fixing, that’s because it is. But done properly, it’s not necessarily illegal. The reason is universities have been caught before for price-fixing, and part of the settlement of that suit was that they were given an antitrust exemption so they could work together to price scholarships, within certain bounds.

In 1991, the Justice Department investigated 23 prestigious Northeastern universities – including Harvard, Yale, and MIT – for holding an annual meeting in which they “discussed the financial aid applications of 10,000 students who had been accepted to more than one institution in the group,” ultimately colluding to offer the same financial package to these students. The Attorney General called them a “collegiate cartel.” After the settlement, top universities agreed to stop the meetings, but it’s hard to watch the Ivy Leagues without concluding that they are watching each other and mimicking each other carefully.

This settlement was codified when Congress passed the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994. Universities were allowed to work together to establish standards for who is needy, and how much they would need. However, to qualify for the antitrust exemption, universities had to admit “all students” on a need-blind basis. If they aren’t need-blind for everyone, they can’t work with other universities to price admissions.

Do these universities have a need-blind policy for all students? Most of them say that they do. But as it turns out, admissions officers have a nasty habit of letting in the children of the wealthy and powerful, in return for donations and prestige. “At Dartmouth,” so goes the complaint, “development officers meet with admissions staff to review a list created by the development office. Each year, up to 50 applicants may be considered through this special process, most of whom are admitted, accounting for 4-5% of Dartmouth’s student body.” Selling admissions to the powerful is policy at many of these schools.

Sometimes the individual cases are jaw-dropping. For example, the CEO of Sony, Michal Lynton, was trying to get his daughter into college, and the private equity baron Leon Black, who had been on the board of Dartmouth, tried to recruit her to that school, because of the assumption that a large donation would accompany her to campus.

Alas, Black failed. Lynton went to Brown, as did her father’s $1 million donation.

 

It’s not always about money. At Georgetown, the dean of admissions said, “On the fundraising side, we also have a small number of ‘development potential’ candidates. If Bill Gates wants his kid to come to Georgetown, we’d be more than happy to have him come and talk to us.” But don’t worry, he added, “not all those special cases end up being people who give a lot of money. We have children of Supreme Court justices, senators, and so on apply. We may give extra consideration to them because of the opportunities that may bring.”

So these schools do not accept all students on a need-blind basis. And that creates a problem, because high-end universities restrict their incoming classes, which generates scarcity and prestige. Class size doesn’t increase with increasing population size, it is fixed, with the goal of these universities turning themselves into, as Scott Galloway notes, luxury brands. For instance, in 1940, the acceptance rate at Harvard was eighty-five percent. In 1970, it was twenty percent. For the class of 2025, it was 3.4 percent.

This zero sum situation means that if there are a preset number of slots that go to the wealthy, to alumni, or to the powerful, then that number of slots is not going to people who don’t have the money to attend. If you do favors for the wealthy in the admissions process, then you aren’t a need-blind admission system, and you don’t quality for the antitrust exemption. But the complaint also shows that, far from merely letting in the children of the wealthy while otherwise in all other areas being need-blind, many of these institutions actually discriminate against students who need scholarships. Vanderbilt, Penn, and Columbia don’t seem to be need-blind, with Penn and Vanderbilt officials conceding that who they accept off the waiting list depends in part on who needs financial aid. So they really don’t qualify for any antitrust exemption.

Is there really harm? Yes. The complaint shows that when universities move away from the consensus methodology for calculating the cost of college, the price they charge goes down. So there are financial costs at issue, and the 170,000 alumni who were overcharged when they went to these schools with underpowered financial aid packages deserve compensation.

It’s a very clever suit, legally speaking. No one can reasonably dispute whether universities have colluded, or whether they maintain policies favoring potential donors. There’s no need to establish a secret conspiracy, as it’s out in the open. The only real question is whether what universities have done is illegal. It’s a simple question of law, with few disputes on the facts. It’s no surprise that the suit was brought by some of the savvier plaintiff firms (Roche Freedman, Berger Montague, FeganScott, and Gilbert Litigators & Counselors).

It’s also a profoundly embarrassing suit. Every university gets a little profile in the complaint, showing how basically the students are nearly all rich kids, and the endowments of these schools are ridiculousHere, for instance, is the profile of the University of Pennsylvania. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 January 2022 at 7:14 pm

What lies behind the murder of Ahmaud Arbery and the murderers’ conviction

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Heather Cox Richardson wrote last night:

oday, Judge Timothy Walmsley sentenced the three men convicted of murdering 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery on February 23, 2020, as he jogged through a primarily white neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia. Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan chased Arbery in their trucks, cornering him on a suburban street. Travis McMichael shot and killed the unarmed Arbery, while Bryan filmed the encounter from inside his truck.

While the men were convicted of several different crimes, all three were convicted of felony murder or of committing felonies that led to Arbery’s death. Under Georgia law, they each faced life in prison, but the judge could determine whether they could be paroled. Judge Walmsley denied the possibility of parole for the McMichael father and son, but allowed it for Bryan. Under Georgia law, that means he will be eligible for parole after 30 years.

The state of Georgia came perilously close to ignoring the crimes that now have the McMichaels and Bryan serving life sentences.

Gregory McMichael was connected to the first two district attorneys in charge of the case, both of whom ultimately recused themselves, but not until they told law enforcement that Georgia’s citizens arrest law, dating from an 1863 law designed to permit white men to hunt down Black people escaping enslavement, enabled the men to chase Arbery and that they had shot him in self-defense. In late April, the state’s attorney general appointed a third district attorney to the investigation. “We don’t know anything about the case,” the new district attorney told reporters. “We don’t have any preconceived idea about it.”

On April 26, pressure from Arbery’s family and the community had kicked up enough dust that the New York Times reported on the case, noting that there had been no arrests. Eager to clear his name, and apparently thinking that anyone who saw the video of the shooting would believe, as the local district attorneys had, that it justified the shooting, on May 6 Gregory McMichael arranged for his lawyer to take the video to a local radio station, which uploaded it for public viewing.

The station took the video down two hours later, but not before a public outcry brought outside oversight. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case, and two days later, on May 7, GBI officers arrested the McMichaels. On May 11, the case was transferred to Atlanta, about 270 miles away from Brunswick. On May 21, 2020, officers arrested Bryan.

On Wednesday, November 24, a jury found the three men guilty of a range of crimes on the same day that the first district attorney turned herself in to officials after a grand jury indicted her for violating her oath of office and obstructing police, saying she used her position to discourage law enforcement officers from arresting the McMichaels.

The Arbery case echoes long historical themes. Arbery was a Black man, executed by white men who saw an unarmed jogger as a potential criminal and believed they had a right to arrest him. But it is also a story of local government and outsiders, and which are best suited to protect democracy.

From the nation’s early years, lawmakers who wanted to protect their own interests have insisted that true American democracy is local, where voters can make their wishes clearly known. They said that the federal government must not intervene in the choices state voters made about the way their government operated despite the fact that the federal government represents the will of the vast majority of Americans. Federal intervention in state laws, they said, was tyranny.

But those lawmakers shaped the state laws to their own interests by limiting the vote. They actually developed and deployed their argument primarily to protect the institution of human enslavement (although it was used later to promote big business). If state voters—almost all white men who owned at least some property—wanted to enslave their Black neighbors, the reasoning went, the federal government had no say in the matter despite representing the vast majority of the American people.

After the Civil War, the federal government stepped in to enable Black men to protect their equality before the law by guaranteeing their right to vote in the states. But it soon abandoned the effort and let the South revert to a one-party system in which who you knew and what you looked like mattered far more than the law.

After World War II, returning veterans, civil rights lawyers, and grassroots organizers set out to register Black and Brown people to vote in their home states and got beaten and murdered for their efforts. So in 1965, Congress stepped in, passing the Voting Rights Act.

It took only about 20 years for states once again to begin cutting back on voting rights. Then, in 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, and states promptly began to make it harder to vote. Since the 2020 election,  . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

8 January 2022 at 12:45 pm

The failure to protect

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Heather Cox Richardson writes about January 6:

Just before sunrise on a November day in 1861, Massachusetts abolitionist Julia Ward Howe woke up in the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. She got out of bed, found a pen, and began to write about the struggle in which the country was engaged: could any nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” survive, or would such a nation inevitably descend into hierarchies and minority rule?

Howe had faith in America. “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,” she wrote in the gray dawn. “He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword; His truth is marching on.”

She thought of the young soldiers she had seen the day before, huddled around fires in the raw winter weather, ringing the city to protect it from the soldiers of the Confederacy who were fighting to create a nation that rejected the idea that all men were created equal: “I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps; They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps; I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps, His day is marching on.”

Howe’s Battle Hymn of the Republic became inspiration for the soldiers protecting the United States government. And in a four-year war that took hundreds of thousands of lives, they prevailed. Despite the threats to Washington, D.C., and the terrible toll the war took, they made sure the Confederate flag never flew in the U.S. Capitol.

That changed a year ago today.

On January 6, 2021, insurrectionists determined to overturn an election and undermine our democracy carried that flag into the seat of our government. Worse, they did so with the encouragement of former president Trump and members of his party.

This morning, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol tweeted out a brief timeline of what happened:

At 8:17 in the morning, Trump lied that states wanted to correct their electoral votes and pressured Vice President Mike Pence to send the electoral votes back to the states. If Pence would cooperate, he tweeted, “WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”

Starting at 12:00 noon, Trump spoke for an hour to supporters at the Ellipse, telling them, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country any more.” He urged them to march to the Capitol.

Between 12:52 and 1:49, pipe bombs were found near the Capitol grounds at Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee headquarters. (We learned today that Vice President–elect Kamala Harris, then a senator from California, was in the DNC at the time.)

At 1:00, Congress met in joint session to count the certified electoral ballots, confirming Biden as president. Pence began to count the ballots. He refused to reject the ballots Trump wanted thrown out, writing in a letter before the joint session, “My oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”

From 1:00 to 1:13, the mob began to charge the Capitol.

Between 1:30 and 1:59, Trump supporters continued to move from the Ellipse to the Capitol, overwhelming the Capitol Police, who were ordered to pull back and request support.

Between 2:12 and 2:30, the mob broke into the Capitol building, one man carrying the Confederate battle flag. Both the House and the Senate adjourned, and members began to evacuate their chambers.

From 2:24 to 3:13, with the rioters inside the Capitol, Trump tweeted that “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done…. USA demands the truth!” and then “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement…. Stay peaceful!” (One of Trump’s aides today revealed that the former president did not want to tweet the words “stay peaceful” and was “very reluctant to put out anything when it was unfolding.”)

At 4:17, shortly after Biden had publicly called on Trump to end the siege, Trump issued a video insisting that the election was fraudulent but nonetheless telling the mob to “go home. We love you, you’re very special.”

At 5:20, the first of the National Guard troops arrived at the Capitol. Law enforcement began to push the insurrectionists out of the building and secure it.

At 8:06, the building was secured. Pence reopened the Senate, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reopened the House.

When the counting of the ballots resumed, 147 Republicans maintained their objections to at least one certified state ballot.

Early on the morning of January 7, Congress confirmed that Joe Biden had been elected president with 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232. It was not a particularly close election: Biden’s victory in the popular vote was more than 7 million.

For almost a year, . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

7 January 2022 at 2:34 am

Capitol Rioter Admits False Statements to FBI, but Prosecutors Haven’t Charged Him With a Felony

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The reason, I imagine, is that the FBI is strongly conservative and so has considerable sympathy for the “patriots” who attacked the Capitol. Certainly, Muslims who lie to the FBI get no slack.

Trevor Aaronson reports in the Intercept:

IT WASN’T HARD for the FBI to identify Jeff Grace as one of the rioters in the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. A 61-year-old long-haul truck driver from Washington state, Grace was in the background of one of the most ridiculous and iconic photographs from that day: the shot of a man in a red, white, and blue Trump hat waving to the camera while carrying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern through the rotunda. Grace’s bald head was visible in the background.

“You know the guy carrying the lectern out?” Grace would later ask a Texas police officer, in a video Grace recorded and posted online during a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border while he was on pretrial release.

“Yes, sir,” the officer responded.

“Look at the old man behind him,” Grace boasted. “That’s me.”

FBI agents arrested Grace at his home in Battle Ground, Washington, near the Oregon border, about three weeks after the Capitol riot.

According to a review of court records by The Intercept in collaboration with the Prosecution Project, Grace is one of 707 Americans charged in federal court in the District of Columbia with crimes related to the January 6 riot, during which five people died. As with 316 of those criminal defendants, or 45 percent of the total, Grace faces only misdemeanor charges for his part in a violent mob that overran barricades and killed and injured police officers at the Capitol as part of an effort to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election as president

After his arrest, Grace told FBI agents that he had lost track of his son, Jeremy, with whom he had traveled from Washington state, during the melee and that he entered the U.S. Capitol without him. He also denied to federal agents that he was a member of the Proud Boys, a far-right militant group that has been responsible for violence throughout the United States.

According to The Intercept’s analysis of federal court records, the Justice Department has charged at least 47 alleged members and affiliates of the Proud Boys with crimes related to the Capitol riot, including some with conspiring to obstruct a congressional proceeding. The Proud Boys represented the largest militant-group contingent during the insurrection; the far-right Oath Keepers made up the second-largest contingent, with 29 alleged Oath Keepers charged for their roles in the insurrection. The FBI appeared to be concerned in advance about possible violence from the Proud Boys on January 6, 2021, with at least one informant providing firsthand details about the group’s activities to the FBI.

Federal prosecutors allege that Grace made two false statements to FBI agents: when he said he wasn’t with his son in the Capitol and when he said he wasn’t a member of the Proud Boys. Grace’s son has since also been charged with misdemeanors related to the January 6 riot, after investigators found videos among deleted files on Grace’s phone showing father and son together inside the Capitol.

Months after Grace pleaded not guilty to the federal misdemeanor charges, Justice Department prosecutors alleged in court that he engaged in armed clashes in Texas and Oregon. Prosecutors asked a judge to force Grace to relinquish his guns while he awaits trial. “Grace’s recent escalation in which he twice brought a firearm to pre-planned confrontations with others and vowed to continue doing so establishes that the proposed amendment is reasonably necessary to protect the safety of the community,” Mona Sedky, a federal prosecutor, wrote in a court filing.

A judge agreed and ordered Grace to turn over his guns to local police in Washington state. But the Justice Department has not brought additional charges for Grace’s false statements to the FBI, which would transform Grace’s case into a far more serious prosecution. Making false statements to FBI agents is a federal felony punishable by up to five years in prison, and in international terrorism cases, prosecutors commonly file the charge. More than 150 defendants with alleged links to foreign terror groups have been charged with making false statements since 9/11, often for alleged offenses similar to Grace’s: misleading statements about their involvement in extremist groups or about people with whom they’re associated.

Grace has complained in videos he’s posted to YouTube that the Justice Department is treating him unfairly. “How do you feel free thinking that I don’t deserve to carry my firearms?” Grace asked in one video.

But Grace is in fact benefiting from a long-running double standard in how the Justice Department prosecutes violent domestic extremists compared with extremists associated with international groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. Since 9/11, for example, Muslims involved in bombing cases are often charged with using weapons of mass destruction, an anti-terrorism charge that comes with decades in prison, while anti-abortion extremists who’ve bombed reproductive health clinics have faced lesser explosives charges for similar crimes.

“There is no question that the FBI and federal prosecutors have treated white supremacist and far-right violence far more leniently than Muslims they accuse of supporting terrorism and even more leniently than nonviolent protesters opposing racism and police violence,” said Michael German, a former FBI undercover agent who investigated domestic extremists and is now a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice.

The felony charge of making false statements to federal agents is particularly emblematic of the double standard. The Justice Department gave Grace a pass on the charge, but federal prosecutors have not been as generous in similar cases involving alleged Islamist extremists.

A few months after prosecutors charged Grace for his role in the Capitol riot, for example, they . . ..

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Written by Leisureguy

6 January 2022 at 2:13 pm

JPMorgan Chase Has Unleashed a Lawsuit Blitz on Credit Card Customers

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In the US, those in the lower deciles of income struggle under the iron heel of corporate greed and power. Patrick RuckerThe Capitol Forum, has a report in ProPublica that gives an example. He writes:

Early in 2020, as the pandemic gripped the nation, JPMorgan Chase offered to help customers weather the crisis by taking a temporary pause on mortgage, auto and credit card payments. Chase’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, sounded sympathetic about a year later as he offered broader reflections on what was ailing the country. “Americans know that something has gone terribly wrong,” he wrote in a letter to shareholders. “Many of our citizens are unsettled, and the fault line for all this discord is a fraying American dream — the enormous wealth of our country is accruing to the very few. In other words, the fault line is inequality.”

But even as those words were published, the bank had quietly begun to unleash a lawsuit blitz against many of its struggling customers. Starting in early 2020 and continuing to today, Chase has filed thousands of lawsuits against credit card customers who have fallen behind on their payments.

Chase had stopped pursuing credit card lawsuits in 2011, in the wake of the last major economic downturn, after regulators found that the company was filing tens of thousands of flimsy suits, sometimes overstating what customers owed. Rather than being backed by extensive billing records to document the debts, according to the regulators, the suits were typically filed with a short affidavit from one of a half-dozen Chase employees in one office in San Antonio who vouched for the accuracy of the bank’s information in thousands of suits.

Chase “filed lawsuits and obtained judgments against consumers using deceptive affidavits and other documents that were prepared without following required procedures,” the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau concluded in 2015. At times, Chase employees signed affidavits “without personal knowledge of the signer, a practice commonly referred to as ‘robo-signing.’” According to the CFPB’s findings, there were mistakes in about 10% of cases Chase won and the judgments “contained erroneous amounts that were greater than what the consumers legally owed.”

Chase neither admitted nor denied the CFPB’s findings, but it agreed, as part of a consent order, to provide significant evidence to make its cases in the future. The company also agreed it would provide “relevant information and documentation maintained by [Chase] to support their claims” in cases — the vast majority of those it filed — in which customers did not respond to the lawsuit.

But that provision expired on New Year’s Day 2020. And since then the bank has gone back to bringing lawsuits much as it did before 2011, according to lawyers who have defended Chase customers.

“From what I can see, nothing has changed,” said Cliff Dorsen, a consumer-rights attorney in Georgia who represents Chase credit card customers.

Chase declined to make executives available for interviews. It said in a statement that the timing of the resumption of its credit card lawsuits was just a coincidence. “We have engaged with our regulators throughout this process,” said Tom Kelly, a bank spokesperson. “We continue to meet the requirements of the consent order.” (Kelly said Chase also filed some credit card lawsuits in 2019.)

Kelly declined to say how many suits it has filed in its blitz of the past two years, but civil dockets from across the country give a hint of the scale — and its accelerating pace. Chase sued more than 800 credit card customers around Fort Lauderdale, Florida, last year after suing 70 in 2020 and none in 2019, according to a review of court records. In Westchester County, in New York’s suburbs, court records show that Chase has sued more than 400 customers over credit card debt since 2020; a year earlier, the equivalent figure was one.

A similar surge is occurring in Texas, according to January Advisors, a data-science firm. Chase filed more than 1,000 consumer debt lawsuits around Houston last year after filing only seven in 2020, the analytics firm’s review of court records in Harris County shows. Chase instigated 141 consumer debt cases in Austin last year after filing only one such case in 2020, according to January Advisors, which is conducting research for a nationwide study of debt collection cases.

Today, just as it did before running afoul of the CFPB, Chase is mass-producing affidavits from the same San Antonio office where low-level employees generated hundreds of thousands of affidavits in the past, according to defense attorneys and court documents. Those affidavits are often the main piece of evidence that Chase uses to win its case while detailed customer records — and any errors they may contain — remain out of sight.

“Our clients deserve to see everything that Chase has in its files,” Dorsen said. “Instead, Chase gives us these affidavits and says: ‘You can trust us about the rest.’”


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Before the robo-signing scandal a decade ago, Chase recovered about a billion dollars a year with its credit card collections business, according to the CFPB. Why would Chase stop suing customers for years, forgoing billions of dollars, only to ramp up its suits once key provisions of the CFPB settlement had expired?

Craig Cowie thinks he has an answer. “Chase did not think it could make money if it had to sue customers and abide by the CFPB settlement,” said Cowie, who worked as an enforcement attorney at the CFPB during the Obama administration and now teaches at the University of Montana Law School. “That’s the only explanation that makes sense for why the bank would have held back.”

Cowie, who did not work on the CFPB’s case against Chase, said he doesn’t know why the agency agreed to a time limit on some settlement provisions. He pointed out that  . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

5 January 2022 at 10:27 am

The Case Against Crypto

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I have close to zero interest in Crypto, but it seems as though a bubble has grown from the idea. Stephen Diehl lays out some reasons to avoid it. He writes:

These days so much of my free time is booked with calls to explain to people outside the software industry why crypto assets are such a destructive force and why I support forceful regulation to halt this financially corrosive enterprise from spreading further into markets. I basically have to repeat myself on the basic arguments for every call covering the same basic monetary theory, American history and technical limitations. Thus I’m going to summarize the basic argument so we have a reference and I don’t have to keep repeating myself all day.


  1. The technology does not solve a real problem.

The crypto project has had 13 years to try and find a problem to solve. It has not found one.

The real world has fundamental constraints that make the technology unworkable, whenever it has to interact with the outside world the benefits of decentralization disappear and the solutions end up simply recreating slower and worse versions of processes and structures that already exist.

Despite that, for the last thirteen years these projects have done nothing but scam people by creating synthetic asset bubbles for gambling and destroying the environment. There are fundamental limitations to the scalability of blockchain-based technologies, and every use case is better served by another simpler technology except for crime, ransomware, extralegal gambling, and sanctions evasion; all of which are a drain on society not a benefit. Taken as a whole the technology has no tangible benefits over simply using trusted parties and centralized databases.

Crypto coins are simply speculative gambling products that only create a massive set of negative externalities on the world. It is introducing artificial volatility into markets untethered to any economic activity and creates an enormous opportunity cost where the only investment opportunity is as an economically corrosive synthetic hedge against all productive assets. This is not innovation, this is technical regression and flirtation with ecological disaster in a time when we cannot afford to gamble our planet’s fate on pyramid schemes and dog memes.

  1. So called “cryptocurrencies” aren’t actually currencies, and cannot fulfil the function of money.

Money exists to exchange for goods and services in an economy. It is created to mediate the exchange of goods so that we have a common unit of account we can trade instead of bartering goods directly. Money needs to have a reliable and stable value compared to a domestic basket of common goods and services, in order to achieve that the supply of the money needs to be controlled by a monetary authority which can expand or contract the supply according to market fluctuations.

A dynamic money supply is a fundamental necessity for a modern economy. A small amount of inflation discourages hoarding and incentivizes investment into productive enterprises which grow the economy and produce prosperity. Conversely a static fixed money supply encouages hoarding, and is inflexible in times of crisis because it does not allow intervention. Economies do not stabilize themselves and require active intervention to curb recessions.

In an environment in which multiple currencies can commingle there is a perverse incentive to create counterfeit currency or to create parallel currencies. Counterfeit currencies dilute trust in commerce, create counterparty risk and catalyze crime. Parallel currencies introduce exchange risk and create artificial barriers to commerce. The optimal solution within any economic region is to thus have a single currency with a single authority to control the supply, protect against counterfeiting and lower barriers to commerce by discouraging other systems through creating demand. The only possible entity that can fulfil this role is the State and it creates demand for a single currency by requiring citizens to extinguish their obligations to the state in that currency. A single currency and single monetary authority is the inevitable role of the state because of its singular monopoly on taxation and justice.

Historically commodity-based money (so called “hard money”) was based on backing by metals and was used extensively in the 18th and 19th century. Instead of vesting power in democratic controls, it instead vested power in non-elected international parties who could source, mine and mint metals. Under a gold standard, inflation, growth and the financial system were all less stable due to trade imbalances. This led to frequent recessions, larger swings in consumer prices and perpetual banking crises. When these events occurred in one part of the world, the distress would be transmitted more quickly and completely to others and thus created a politically unstable, unequal and more violent world. We saw this in the Gilded Age of the 1870s to 1920s in which hard money created a world of massive wealth inequality, thus ultimately leading up to the speculative market manias that lead to the Great Depression. The United States ultimately devalued its currency with the policies of the New Deal which slowly decoupled the dollar’s dependence on gold and which led to an era of economic growth and prosperity. Conversely Europe largely did not engage in these corrective policies and this era saw the rise of populist strong men and fascists who promised to correct the wealth inequality of the common man, and ultimately plunged the continent into the most violent period in human history.

Money is always going to be inseparable from politics. As much as some libertarians want to believe that value should be determined by a God-given order independent of the will of men, they cannot escape the logical and historical contradictions at the heart of this idea. The fixed-supply ideas of deflationary coins like Bitcoin fundamentally misinterpret the properties of fiat money as bugs when they are in fact features. The crypto project contains unresolvable logical and economic contradictions in its stated purpose. State controlled money embeds control and accountability for fiscal stability and market intervention in the democratic process where it inevitably and rightly belongs.

  1. The history of private money is one of repeated disasters that destroy public trust.

Even playing devil’s advocate and assuming cryptocurrency could function as money—which they can’t—we come up against the hard limitation that . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

3 January 2022 at 8:30 am

Investigation developments reported by Heather Cox Richardson

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

A quick review to get us up to speed for what promises to be a fraught week, launching a fraught year.

The big story of the new year is what we will learn from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, whose members have announced they will hold public hearings early in 2022. As the New York Times editorial board put it in the paper’s January 1, 2022, edition, “Every Day Is January 6 Now.”

The New York Times editorial board—which consists of opinion journalists who weigh in on important issues—warned that the attack on democracy we witnessed so traumatically on January 6 has not ended. It persists in ongoing threats to election officials, threats to murder opponents, and new state laws skewing elections toward Republicans.

“In short,” they wrote, “the Republic faces an existential threat from a movement that is openly contemptuous of democracy and has shown that it is willing to use violence to achieve its ends.”

The board called for Republicans to be honest with their voters and to fight their party’s extremists. It called for Democrats to end the filibuster for voting rights legislation, at least. And it called for “Americans of all stripes who value their self-government” to “mobilize at every level…to win elections and help protect the basic functions of democracy.”

There were two stories that dropped late on Friday, December 31, New Year’s Eve, that reflect on the ongoing story of the attempt to undermine our democracy.

First, former New York City Police commissioner Bernard Kerik, a high-school dropout who began a meteoric rise to prominence after working as Trump loyalist Rudy Giuliani’s chauffeur and bodyguard, delivered documents to the committee. Convicted in 2010 of tax fraud, ethics violations, and making false statements to loan officers and the federal government when being investigated for government positions, Kerik has been fiercely loyal to Trump, who granted him a full pardon in February 2020.

The documents Kerik’s lawyer delivered on Friday included a 22-page document titled “STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS PLAN—GIULIANI PRESIDENTIAL LEGAL DEFENSE TEAM.” Its subtitle was “We Have 10 Days To Execute This Plan & Certify President Trump!”

The document laid out a pressure campaign directed at “SWING STATE REPUBLICAN SENATORS—AZ, GA, MI, NV, PA, WI,”  “REPULBICAN [sic] MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE, and “REPUBLICAN MEMBERS OF THE SENATE.”  It laid out the false argument that the election had been stolen, offered messaging to push these false claims, and provided a list of outlets and influencers to use, including the House “Freedom Caucus” members. It called for protests around the country, including at “weak Members’ homes.”

Kerik’s lawyer also delivered a list of documents Kerik is withholding on the grounds that they are “attorney work product.” Although Kerik is not himself an attorney, the list indicates that the documents he is withholding were reviewed or written by an attorney.

The documents Kerik is withholding included a three-page letter with an eye-popping title: “DRAFT LETTER FROM POTUS TO SEIZE EVIDENCE IN THE INTEREST OF NATIONAL SECURITY FOR THE 2020 ELECTIONS.” Drafted on December 17, the letter might well refer to the plan advanced by Trump’s disgraced national security advisor Michael Flynn and then-attorney Sidney Powell in mid-December 2020 that Trump should declare martial law, seize voting machines, and “rerun” the 2020 election.

Meanwhile, the Big Lie behind this document—that our election system is hopelessly corrupt and Trump was cheated—continues to be proved false. Also on Friday, the first piece of the audit of the 2020 election in Texas, launched in September after former president Trump demanded that Texas governor Greg Abbott investigate the election in the state, came out. Friday’s report said the investigators found nothing out of the ordinary.

Today, members of the January 6 committee revealed some of what they have learned. On ABC’s This Week, committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) told host George Stephanopoulos that “we have uncovered some things that cause us real concern,” and that “[i]t appeared to be a coordinated effort on the part of a number of people to undermine the election.”

On the same program and on CBS’s Face The Nation, committee vice chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) painted a picture of Trump watching the attack on the Capitol from the private dining room in the White House, refusing to call off the rioters despite the pleas of his staff, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and even his own daughter Ivanka.

His refusal to act, Cheney continues to emphasize, was a “supreme dereliction of duty.” He was the only person who could have stopped the rioters—many of whom have since told courts that they were there because they believed he had called them to be—and he refused to act. Instead, he tweeted that Vice President Mike Pence was a coward, and made at least one phone call to a senator demanding a delay in counting the electoral votes. When he finally did release a video telling the rioters to leave, more than three hours after the attack started, Trump acknowledged that he did, in fact, know that he commanded them.

We’ll see where this goes, but to this historian and non-lawyer (!) it does seem like he’s coming perilously close to being called out for leading a conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.

Aside from the story of what Trump was doing—or not doing—in those crucial hours, Cheney’s interviews this morning revealed that . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

2 January 2022 at 8:20 pm

“innocence Isn’t Enough”: Arizona Urges the Supreme Court to Send Barry Jones Back to Death Row

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Liliana Segura reports in the Intercept:

THE MORNING OF the oral argument in Shinn v. Ramirez, the last case on the U.S. Supreme Court’s calendar in 2021, Barry Jones’s children gathered around a large flat-screen TV in Tucson, Arizona. Jones’s daughter Brandie was there, as well as her younger brother James. Their youngest sibling, Andrew, whom Brandie often relied upon to explain the confusing litigation in their dad’s case, was working a remodeling job in Nevada. He’d try to listen to the argument on his phone.

Now in their 30s, the siblings were just kids when their dad was sentenced to die. He’d been accused of an unfathomable crime: the rape and murder of his girlfriend’s 4-year-old daughter, Rachel. Jones swore he was innocent — and the case against him was flimsy from the start. In 2017, an evidentiary hearing finally dismantled the evidence that sent Jones to death row. The next year, a federal judge overturned his conviction, ordering the state to retry Jones or release him. But that never happened. Instead, Arizona appealed the decision all the way to Washington, D.C.

The siblings gathered at the home of their aunt Deborah Wheeler for the oral argument in early December. “I’ve always believed he was innocent,” Wheeler said. Although Jones had problems with drugs when he was younger, that didn’t make him a murderer, she said. “And I know he would never hurt a little kid.” Wheeler recalled a time when Jones stayed with her while working part time at a copper mine east of Phoenix. She was struck by Jones’s kindness to her daughters, as well as her disabled son. “Barry was always so good to him,” she said.

Wheeler was living in Phoenix when Jones was arrested in Tucson on May 2, 1994. Rachel’s lifeless body had been found earlier that morning in the trailer Jones shared with the child’s mother, Angela Gray. As they would later discover, Rachel had died following a rupture in her small intestine, which developed into a fatal condition called peritonitis. Although Jones was distraught after taking Rachel and Gray to the hospital, he soon became the sole suspect.

Wheeler was disturbed by the little she saw of Jones’s 1995 trial. “I remember thinking then, he had no defense, everything was just accusations,” she said. Jones’s court-appointed lawyers called no witnesses at the guilt phase apart from Brandie, who was 12 years old. When Wheeler was called to testify at the sentencing, “nobody prepared me,” she said.

Had Jones’s lawyers been up to the task, there was plenty they could have done to defend their client. They could have pointed out that the lead detective, who examined Rachel at the hospital, didn’t bother to investigate how or when the child sustained her fatal injury — or consider a single other suspect aside from Jones. They could have called a medical expert to show that there was no real evidence that the child had been raped. Most crucially, Jones’s lawyers could have called a pathologist to challenge the state’s theory of the crime, which rested on a narrow timeframe during which Jones had supposedly assaulted Rachel the day before her death. Medical experts now say that Rachel’s abdominal injury could not have become fatal so quickly. One doctor said she was unaware of any reported cases in which such an injury could have resulted in death in under 48 hours.

It was not until the evidentiary hearing 22 years after the trial that Jones’s federal public defenders presented this evidence, not to a jury but to U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess. After seven days of testimony at Tucson’s federal courthouse, Burgess concluded that Jones’s trial had been marred by ineffective assistance of counsel — a violation of his Sixth Amendment rights. But for the failures of Jones’s trial attorneys, Burgess wrote, “there is a reasonable probability that his jury would not have convicted him of any of the crimes with which he was charged and previously convicted.”

But the Arizona attorney general challenged Burgess’s ruling, appealing first to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which sided with Jones, and then to the U.S. Supreme Court. In their petition for certiorari, the brief asking the court to hear the case, Arizona prosecutors argued that Burgess and the 9th Circuit had violated the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. The law, known as AEDPA, limits the avenues for challenging a criminal conviction. According to Arizona, Burgess should never have been allowed to use the evidence presented at the hearing to overturn Jones’s conviction. In May, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear the case.

Jones’s attorneys had sent Wheeler a link to the oral argument. Over bacon and eggs, the family gathered to listen at 10 a.m. Tucson time. There was no video, only an image of the Supreme Court building, so it was hard to tell which of the justices was speaking — let alone what they were talking about. Jones’s family quickly got lost in the sea of legalese. “I kept asking, ‘Are they still talking about Dad?’” Brandie said. But one thing jumped out. The attorney for the state repeatedly told the justices, “Innocence isn’t enough.”

A Bellwether Case

Although the question before the court is highly technical, the decision in Jones’s case will have far-reaching implications for people in prison and on death row. For those who are innocent, the stakes are uniquely high: The justices are effectively deciding whether new evidence — like that presented at Jones’s 2017 evidentiary hearing — should be ignored by the federal courts, even when it exposes a wrongful conviction.

In an amicus brief filed in September, the Innocence Network, a consortium of organizations that works to correct wrongful convictions, argued that exonerations won through Sixth Amendment challenges often hinge on evidence uncovered long after a defendant’s trial. “Without such evidence, basic failures to investigate cannot be corrected, faulty forensic evidence cannot be unmasked, and the innocent individuals who are the victims of these deficiencies have no route to justice,” the brief read.

News of the Supreme Court’s decision to take up Jones’s case arrived on the same day the high court announced that it would hear the Mississippi abortion case threatening Roe v. Wade. Although Jones’s case flew mostly under the radar, many legal experts saw the move as another emblem of the court’s extreme rightward shift since Justices Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsberg were replaced by Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. “I think that if Justice Ginsberg and Justice Kennedy were still on the court, it’s not likely they would have granted cert to begin with,” said Jones’s longtime attorney, Arizona Assistant Federal Defender Cary Sandman. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

2 January 2022 at 4:30 pm

Prosecuting in the Police-less City: Police Abolition’s Impact on Local Prosecutors

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Harvard Law Review has an interesting article that begins:

What good is a prosecutor without police? On June 26, 2020, that question gained unexpected importance when the Minneapolis City Council unanimously approved a proposed amendment to the city’s charter that would allow the city to dismantle its police department. The city’s Charter Commission eventually rejected the proposal, but had it been enacted, the amendment would have broken with American cities’ two-century-long approach to public safety and raised serious questions about the role prosecutors play in a city without police.

The City Council’s vote was spurred by weeks of protests that erupted following George Floyd’s killing at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) on May 25, 2020. Beyond Minneapolis, the killing sparked a nationwide movement to abolish the police, and advocates have used the opportunity to agitate for legislative change at the municipal, state, and federal levels.

The police are only one thread in the complex knot that comprises America’s criminal legal system, however. In the event that activists in Minnesota achieve unmitigated success, dismantling the MPD and redirecting its considerable budget toward a new kind of public safety department, there would still be other officials and offices that have roles to play, the existence of which, unlike that of the police, is not necessarily under the direct control of municipal government.

Chief among the actors who are likely to survive police abolition are local prosecutors. Whether known as district attorneys, county attorneys, states’ attorneys, or some other title, local prosecutors’ offices are the legal counterparts to local police, prosecuting crimes in state or municipal court. In light of this role, activists have likewise argued for the reform or abolition of local prosecutors.

Generally, however, municipal governments lack the power to abolish whatever prosecutor’s office possesses jurisdiction over their cities. This is because the office of local prosecutor is almost always mandated by state statutory or constitutional law, whereas whether to create a local police department is a decision that lies almost entirely at the discretion of the municipal government.As a consequence of this distinction, municipalities that eliminate their local police departments will remain under the vestigial jurisdiction of a statutorily mandated prosecutor absent state-level reforms. The possibility that a municipality’s criminal legal system might be partially dismantled in this way raises two obvious questions: How will that system look and — more importantly — how should that system look?

Prosecutors in jurisdictions whose police departments are abolished may retain their offices, but they are likely to find their jobs fundamentally altered. The two institutions are so interdependent that the elimination of one will undoubtedly destabilize the other. Successful police abolition will demand that local prosecutors adapt to changing circumstances, but it also provides an opportunity to challenge long-standing assumptions about how laws are enforced and remake what it means to be an American prosecutor. This Note will speculate about the impact that police abolition would have on local prosecutors and set forth a vision of what local prosecution should become in a city without police.

To that end, Part I of this Note establishes the status quo: it provides an overview of the statutory schemes that establish local prosecutors’ offices and the relationship that those offices have with the police.

Part II explores the ways in which police abolition might have downstream effects on local prosecutors.

Part III argues that the most natural way for local prosecutors to adapt to police abolition is to replace the contemporary, punishment-oriented approach to prosecution with one rooted in theories of transformative justice. It briefly describes transformative justice and illustrates what the approach might look like in practice as well as the sources of law that might be relied on in its implementation.

Finally, Part IV addresses the risks that accompany serious attempts at prosecutorial reform. Chief among these is the concern that state legislatures might counter prosecutorial reform with reforms of their own. The Part also discusses the worry that reforms will simply serve to strengthen an institution that has traditionally proven to be an untrustworthy steward of power. Part IV then argues that the transition away from carceral justice toward transformative justice makes instrumental use of an institution that is insulated from abolition while potentially reducing prosecutors’ power in the long term.

I. THE STRUCTURE AND RELATIONSHIPS OF CONTEMPORARY PROSECUTION

Local prosecutors’ offices and local police departments share a mutually dependent relationship, but their existences are generally derived from very different sources of law: prosecutors from state constitutions or statutes, and police from city charters, municipal ordinances, or municipal officers’ power to appoint subordinates. Despite municipal police’s “inferior” place in the legal hierarchy, they exercise considerable control over the criminal process.. This influence begins with the decision of whom to police and what laws to enforce and continues through pretrial proceedings and trial itself.

The position of local prosecutor can take many forms, but it is almost always

Continue reading. Much more.

In the above, I have deleted the really excellent in-line notes that appear in the article at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

27 December 2021 at 12:49 pm

The FDA is a poor agency (because it does not do its job) and Congress is doing a poor job of oversight regarding the FDA

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After Congress told the FDA to move on setting standards and issuing approvals for over-the-counter sales of hearing aids (i.e., directly from manufacturer to consumer), the agency did nothing for four years. It was only after President Biden came into office and order the agency to move that they grudgingly did their job. (Matt Stoller in Big has some good columns, which I blogged, on the hearing-aid cartel and how it sells in the US for an average price of $2400 a device that costs $68 in the UK — see this post.

But the FDA not only allows people to be (in effect) defrauded, it also sits back and watches as they are killed. Here are two reports from ProPublica. The first from August 5, 2021, is “Thousands of Patients Were Implanted With Heart Pumps That the FDA Knew Could Be Dangerous,” by Neil Bedi, and it begins:

John Winkler II was dying of heart failure when doctors came to his hospital bedside, offering a chance to prolong his life. The HeartWare Ventricular Assist Device, or HVAD, could be implanted in Winkler’s chest until a transplant was possible. The heart pump came with disclaimers of risk, but Winkler wanted to fight for time. He was only 46 and had a loving wife and four children, and his second grandchild was on the way.

So, in August 2014, Winkler had surgery to implant the device. A golf-ball-sized rotor was attached to his left ventricle to pump blood through a tube and into his aorta. A cable threading out of a small incision in his waist connected to a battery-powered controller strapped to his body. If something went wrong, an alarm as loud as a fire drill would sound.

Winkler returned home weeks later and, as he regained his strength, became hopeful about the future. He started making plans to visit colleges with his daughter, and was able to host his parents and new grandchild for Christmas. “He was doing so much better,” his wife, Tina Winkler, said. “We thought he was coasting until he got his transplant.”

What John Winkler didn’t know: Months before his implant, the Food and Drug Administration put HeartWare on notice for not properly monitoring or repairing HVAD defects, such as faulty batteries and short circuits caused by static electricity, that had killed patients. The agency issued a warning letter, one of its most serious citations. It demanded fixes within 15 days, but took no decisive action as problems persisted.

Ten days after Christmas 2014, Winkler’s two teenage children heard the HVAD’s piercing alarm and ran upstairs. They found their father collapsed on his bedroom floor, completely unresponsive. Kelly, 17, dropped to his side and tried to copy how people on television did CPR. She told her brother to call 911, and over the device’s siren did her best to hear instructions from the operator.

When paramedics arrived and assessed her father, one made a passing comment that has haunted Kelly ever since: “Well, his toes are already cold.” He died two days later. Medtronic, the company that acquired HeartWare in 2016, settled a lawsuit by the family last year, admitting no fault. Tina Winkler believes her children blamed themselves for their father’s death. “Those two kids have never been the same,” she said. “I think they feel like they didn’t do things they needed to do.”

But it was the FDA that failed to protect Winkler and thousands of other patients whose survival depended on the HVAD, a ProPublica investigation found.

As HeartWare and Medtronic failed inspection after inspection and reports of device-related deaths piled up, the FDA relied on the device makers to fix the problems voluntarily rather than compelling them to do so.

The HVAD was implanted into more than 19,000 patients, the majority of whom got it after the FDA found in 2014 that the device didn’t meet federal standards. By the end of last year, the agency had received more than 3,000 reports of patient deaths that may have been caused or contributed to by the device.

Among them were reports of deaths the company linked to serious device problems: a patient who vomited blood as a family member struggled to restart a defective HVAD; a patient who bled out internally and died after implant surgery because a tube attached to the pump tore open; a patient whose heart tissue was left charred after an HVAD short-circuited and voltage surged through the pump.

The ineffective regulatory oversight of the HVAD is emblematic of larger, more systemic weaknesses.

For decades, the FDA and its Center for Devices and Radiological Health have been responsible for ensuring that high-risk medical devices are safe and effective. Yet they mostly rely on manufacturers to identify and correct problems. The agency says it can seize products, order injunctions against companies or issue fines, but it rarely does so, preferring instead for companies to make fixes voluntarily.

When federal investigators found repeated manufacturing issues with the HVAD for years, the FDA didn’t penalize the company, even as the company issued 15 serious recalls of the device starting in 2014, the most of any single high-risk device in the FDA’s database. Thousands of patients with  . . .

Continue reading. People at the FDA, including in particular the head of the agency, should be held criminally liable for those deaths.

The other report, published today, is by Neil Bedi and Maryam Jameel. It begins:

For the roughly 2,000 Americans who rely on it to keep their hearts going, the implanted pump is impossible to ignore.

They feel it pressing inside their ribs when they lean over. Or they ache from the weight of its controller strapped to their shoulders. Some can even hear the device’s whirring hum deep inside their chests.

Most of all, they now live with the stress of knowing the HeartWare Ventricular Assist Device has such serious issues — a higher rate of deaths and strokes than an alternative pump and a history of unexplained malfunctions — that the Food and Drug Administration and the device’s maker agreed this summer it should be taken off the market.

Those who already have the heart pump, also known as the HVAD, can’t simply get it removed or replaced. The required surgery is typically considered more dangerous than leaving it in.

They are now stuck in a medical dilemma that could have been prevented.

As we detailed in August, the FDA and HVAD maker Medtronic allowed the device to be implanted into thousands of people for years, even as federal inspectors found serious manufacturing problems, the company issued many high-risk safety alerts and people died after their implants malfunctioned. The FDA and Medtronic said they believed the benefits outweighed the risks for HVAD patients with severe heart failure, until this year when data was published showing a higher frequency of deaths and strokes compared to patients with a competing device.

The company has pledged to do everything it can to support the remaining HVAD users. Medtronic said it would provide patients with educational materials, financial assistance and technical support. “The wellbeing and experiences of patients are vitally important to us, which is why we’ve set up patient support programs, services, and feedback mechanisms,” a company spokesperson said in a written statement.

The FDA said it would “actively provide oversight of Medtronic to monitor their recall of the device and ensure that patient care remains a top priority.”

But when we spoke to people across the country who are living with HVADs, they said they’d experienced little of the promised support and had encountered financial and emotional hardships.

Here, in their own words, is what they told us. . .

Continue reading.

Best healthcare system in the world? I think not.

Boston Police Bought Spy Tech With a Pot of Money Hidden From the Public

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Another rogue police department. Shannon Dooling and Christine Willmsen report in ProPublica:

Across the country, some law enforcement agencies have deployed controversial surveillance technology to track cellphone location and use. Critics say it threatens constitutional rights, and members of Congress have moved to restrain its use.

Nonetheless, in 2019 the Boston Police Department bought the device known as a cell site simulator — and tapped a hidden pot of money that kept the purchase out of the public eye. [It’s a bad sign when a police department does not want the public to know what it’s doing. – LG]

A WBUR investigation with ProPublica found elected officials and the public were largely kept in the dark when Boston police spent $627,000 on this equipment by dipping into money seized in connection with alleged crimes.

Also known as a “stingray,” the cell site simulator purchased by Boston police acts like a commercial cellphone tower, tricking nearby phones into connecting to it. Once the phones connect to the cell site simulator’s decoy signal, the equipment secretly obtains location and other potentially identifying information. It can pinpoint someone’s location down to a particular room of a hotel or house.

While this briefcase-sized device can help locate a suspect or a missing person, it can also scoop up information from other phones in the vicinity, including yours.

The Boston police bought its simulator device using money that is typically taken during drug investigations through what’s called civil asset forfeiture.

An August investigation by WBUR and ProPublica found that even if no criminal charges are brought, law enforcement almost always keeps the money and has few limitations on how it’s spent. Some departments benefit from both state and federal civil asset forfeiture. The police chiefs in Massachusetts have discretion over the money, and the public has virtually no way of knowing how the funds are used.

The Boston City Council reviews the BPD annual budget, scrutinizing proposed spending. But the surveillance equipment wasn’t part of the budget. Because it was purchased with civil forfeiture funds, BPD was able to circumvent the council.

According to an invoice obtained by WBUR, the only city review of the purchase — which was made with federal forfeiture funds — came from the Procurement Department, confirming that the funds were available.

In fact, it was only after sifting through hundreds of documents received through public records requests that WBUR discovered BPD had bought the device from North Carolina-based Tactical Support Equipment Inc., which specializes in surveillance technology.

Sgt. Detective John Boyle, spokesman for the Boston police, did not explain why the department used forfeiture dollars to buy the equipment instead of purchasing it through the regular budget process.

Requests for interviews with Boston police leaders were declined.

Boston city councilors interviewed by WBUR said they weren’t aware that the police had bought a cell site simulator. Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, who represents Mattapan, Hyde Park and Roslindale, said, “I couldn’t even tell you, and I don’t think anybody on the council can necessarily tell you … how these individual purchases are made.”

State Rep. Jay Livingstone, who represents parts of Boston and Cambridge, says this kind of covert police spending is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2021 at 5:18 pm

Inside a district attorney’s campaign toreform the Austin police department

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Police too often enjoy an impunity that turns out to be corrupting. The DA in Austin TX is putting an end to that. (Link is a gift link: no paywall.) The Washington Post report by Neena Satija begins:

AUSTIN — Travis County District Attorney José Garza was at home when he got a call from one of his prosecutors, Dexter Gilford. A grand jury had just indicted two Austin police officers, charging them with aggravated assault in connection with the beating and hospitalization of an unarmed Black man during a drug arrest in 2019.

Garza hadn’t even been district attorney for three weeks.

The indictments of Chance Bretches and Gregory Gentry that evening last January came years after the police department had cleared them of wrongdoing. They were still patrolling the streets. Now, felony warrants would be issued for their arrest. Gilford asked Garza: Should he call Austin’s chief of police to give him a heads-up?

It was not a trivial decision. Garza needed to work with police to keep the community safe, and a courtesy phone call could help maintain a crucial relationship that was already tense. On the other hand, Garza had promised voters a far more aggressive approach than his predecessor’s in holding officers to account.

“Is there any other employer in the county to whom we would give a heads-up call if their employee was indicted?” Garza asked Gilford.

Gilford couldn’t think of anyone. Garza made up his mind. There would be no call.

When the indictments became public the next day, the backlash from police was swift. Police Chief Brian Manley said he learned of the charges from social media and defended the officers in a news release, saying that the man resisted their attempts to restrain and arrest him. The Austin police union accused Garza of using officers as pawns in a “delusional game of political chess.” Three weeks later, Manley abruptly retired, saying it was time to move on.

Garza had no experience as a prosecutor when he was elected last year in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody and nationwide protests against police. He promised to end the over-prosecution of the poor and people of color.

Since he was sworn in on Jan. 1, his office has obtained indictments of five Austin police officers, two county deputies, an assistant county attorney and a sheriff on charges including tampering with evidence and murder.

His office is also prosecuting three additional officers who were indicted during the prior district attorney’s administration. And in many other criminal cases, he has sought sentences that emphasize rehabilitation over punishment.

Those efforts have fueled one of the most heated showdowns playing out nationwide between police and prosecutors who have vowed to overhaul the criminal justice system, from San Francisco to Chicago to Baltimore. Those prosecutors have come under pointed criticism as violent crime has risen nationwide. San Francisco’s top prosecutor is facing a recall election after securing indictments of three police officers. In St. Louis, the prosecutor accused the police union in a lawsuit of interfering with her reform efforts.

Garza gave The Washington Post a rare look inside his office during the first year of his administration. He allowed a reporter to attend weekly leadership team meetings and to conduct regular interviews with his top executives, on the condition that the publication of any quotes from those exchanges would be delayed for at least several months. In many instances, The Post agreed not to disclose conversations about topics including office politics and personnel matters. The Post also periodically interviewed Austin police leaders and officers, the local police union president and attorneys for the indicted officers.

None of the officers have gone to trial. One Austin police officer, indicted in early January on a felony charge of misusing official information, declined to comment, his attorneys said. Through their attorneys, the rest have all denied the charges against them. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more at the link — and no paywall.

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2021 at 2:40 pm

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