Archive for September, 2008

Morning Links

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008
  • Sarah Palin: the gift to the Obama campaign that keeps on giving.
  • MADD “outs” restaurants that give to the American Beverage Institute, asks customers to boycott them because ABI opposes MADD (or, just as accurately, just “mad”) public policy goals. Sounds to me like a good reason to go out of your way to patronize those restaurants.
  • So remember the kid in Ozark, Missouri whom police tazed 19 times as he lay in a ditch with a broken back and broken foot after falling off an overpass? An internal investigation has cleared the tazer-happy officer of any wrongdoing.
  • Detroit suburbs increasingly (and unfortunately) embracing breed-specific dog bans.
  • I think I’ve blogged this before. But it’s still pretty terrific that Target sells it. If only they still needed one!
  • Nice coverage in the Washington Post of the Institute for Justice’s fight to keep veterinary groups and some overly self-important state chiropractic board from performing massages . . . on horses.

  • Gonzalo Guizan Update

    Monday, September 29th, 2008

    It’s been close to five months, now, and it looks like it’ll be at least another month until we get a report on the Easton, Connecticut police raid that killed 33-year-old Gonzalo Guizan.  Police were acting on a tip from a prostitute who claims she saw a gun and a small amount of cocaine at the house.  They stormed the place hours later, with little investigation.  Guizan didn’t live at the home.  His family says that he was visiting the home’s owner, Ronald Terebesi, Jr.  The two were planning to open an employment business together.  Police shot Guizan at least a dozen times as he ran toward them, likely out of fear.  Guizan was unarmed.

    Police found no guns, and only enough drugs and paraphernalia to charge Terebesi with a misdemeanor.  That charge was dropped when Terebesi agreed to undergo treatment.

    Morning Links

    Monday, September 29th, 2008
  • Given the latest developments in the Ryan Frederick case, this drug raid that occurred at about the same time seems to include some interesting parallels, doesn’t it?
  • So if police have a hard time identifying one another during a raid (and this story isn’t unique in that respect), once again, how is that they expect the people they’re raiding to distinguish them from criminals?
  • The child-proofing of America continues. Now you have to be 18 to buy a magic marker?
  • This week in innocence: Durham, North Carolina man freed after doing seven years for a crime he didn’t commit.
  • DHS gets even creepier.
  • Sound waves + salt grains.
  • Police Beat Diabetic Senseless for Swerving on Highway During Insulin Attack

    Friday, September 26th, 2008
    Elderly Man's Insulin Pump Could Have Been a Weapon, Police Say

    The Associated Press
    Monday, September 22, 2008; 9:24 PM

    DETROIT -- Police officers in two Detroit suburbs are accused of beating a motorist who was suffering a diabetic episode on a freeway.

    Lawyer Arnold Reed says 59-year-old Ernest Griglen had brain surgery after the June 15 encounter with police and has been clinging to life with help from a ventilator.

    Reed filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court seeking at least $20 million from Allen Park and Dearborn police. He says officers mistakenly believed Griglen was resisting arrest when he was having a major medical problem.

    An Allen Park police report says Griglen's car was swerving.

    Allen Park police wouldn't comment on the lawsuit. Dearborn police released a report saying an officer feared Griglen's insulin pump was a weapon. The Associated Press

    The Case Against Ryan Frederick Unravels

    Thursday, September 25th, 2008

    I have a piece up at reason that lays out the latest developments in the Ryan Frederick case.

    How cops see themselves

    Thursday, September 25th, 2008

    A few days ago I wrote a post that referenced a story in POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine. POLICE is a glossy journal of blue thug culture, which includes charming pieces like America Needs a Surge Against Gangs, How to Justify Officer Safety Searches, Working Informants. Here is a collage of cover photos from the past two years of POLICE.

    Here's a cover with a photo of an armed cop standing next to a National Guard soldier with a flag in the background, captioned "Standing Guard" Here's a cover with a photo of two armored SWAT police coming around the corner, with the one in front pointing a huge shotgun obliquely towards the camera. Here's a cover with a photo of a cop aiming a gun at the target on a training range. Here's a cover with a photo of heavily armed SWAT police standing in the door of a huge armored vehicle, aiming a shotgun obliquely at the camera, with the headline "Heavy Metal Thunder: Armored Vehicles Give SWAT the Winning Edge" Here's a cover with a photo of a cop standing in darkness, pointing a lit-up handgun obliquely at the camera. Here's a cover with a photo of a heavily armed SWAT police, with a helmet and body armor, charging directly at the camera with a shotgun pointed directly at the camera, with the headline "SWAT Saves Lives". Here's a cover of a patrol cop's rear end and gun holster, with the cop about to pull the handgun out of the holster. Here's a cover with a photo of a gang of heavily armored SWAT police, with face-plated riot helmets and heavy body armor, forcing a prisoner in an orange jump suit to the ground, captioned "SWAT behind bars". Here's a cover with a photo of a cop in an ordinary blue duty uniform looking through the site of a huge assault rifle, pointed at a target off-camera. Here's a cover with a photo of an armored SWAT police firing a huge TASER shotgun obliquely at the camera, with the shock-delivery projectile actually flying out towards the viewer. Here's a cover with a photo of a patrol officer crouched in combat posture behind a huge SUV with police markings, with her handgun drawn and pointed at a target off-camera to the left. Here's a cover with a photo of an armored SWAT police charging towards the camera, holding an assault rifle that's currently pointed at the ground. Here's a cover with a photo of a line of about 5 or 6 armored SWAT police in body armor and helmets, coming around the corner of a yellow school bus, with the caption "Are Terrorists Targeting Our Schools?" Here's a cover with a photo of a SWAT police in body armor, wearing sunglasses and squared off facing the camera, with a large assault rifle in his hands.

    This is a selective collage—but the selection includes the majority of the covers POLICE has printed over the past two years. That’s the way that a magazine staffed and written almost entirely by current or former police, and written for an audience of professional police, on the subject of policing, has chosen to brand itself and its contents for its prospective audience. What do you think that says about the way government cops see themselves these days? What sort of model do you suppose images like these suggest for police to use to understand the ethics and the attitude that they need to adopt in their professional lives? What do you think that a publication like this encourages them to think of when they think of what their job is all about, and what kind of posture they should adopt when they deal with non-police — with people like you and me and our neighbors — on the street or in our homes?

    Do you feel safer now?

    See also:

    Ryan Frederick Update: Virginian-Pilot Columnist Gets Her Facts Wrong

    Thursday, September 25th, 2008

    What a strange column by Virginian-Pilot columnist Kerry Dougherty this morning.

    Dougherty, you might remember, wrote a column last February in which she excoriated bloggers, activists, and other journalists for daring to question the police in the Frederick case, then floated the idea (later adopted by the prosecution) that the state somehow deserves a change of venue because as they learn more about the case, the Chesapeake jury pool seems to be showing less and less deference toward the police.

    This morning, Dougherty basically turns her column over to Chesapeake Police Chief Kelvin Wright, so he can refute what Renaldo Turnbull, Jr. said in interviews with me and with Virginian-Pilot reporter John Hopkins.

    Doughtery begins with a non sequitur, invoking a prior case where a convicted murderer protested his innocence to the media, and was later proven to have lied. I guess her point is that criminals sometimes lie. It’s a bizarre way to begin a column defending the police, given that much of the state’s case against Ryan Frederick right now rests on the word of two men that the prosecutors acknowledge are criminals.

    But it gets worse. In her rush to defend the honor of Chesapeake PD, Dougherty then botches the details of what Turnbull actually told her own paper’s reporter.

    First, Dougherty writes:

    In a front-page story in The Pilot last week, Turnbull not only claimed to be one of the confidential informants Chesapeake police relied upon to get a search warrant for the address of suspected drug dealer Ryan Frederick earlier this year, but he said the cops knew in advance that he and another thief were going to burglarize Frederick’s property.

    The first part of this sentence simply isn’t true. Turnbull didn’t tell me or Hopkins that he was the informant in the Frederick case. He was rather clear that the other man, “Steven,” was the informant. Steven was picked up on charges of credit card theft and fraud, then cut a deal with the cops. According to Turnbull, Steven then contacted him to assist in the break-in, because the two had worked together with the police on other cases for several months. The two of them then broke into Frederick’s home. But it was Steven who worked directly with the cops on the Frederick case, and Steven is the one police refer to in the warrant as the informant. Turnbull explicitly told me he had no dealing with the police on Frederick’s case.

    It was Steven who told Turnbull that the police had okayed the burglary ahead of time.  But that obviously jibed with Turnbull’ss own dealings with the police on prior occasions, where the police similarly either encouraged or gave tacit approval to burglaries for the purpose of gathering evidence.

    Dougherty is flat wrong on the facts, here.

    Dougherty makes a similar mistake later in the column:

    The chief dismissed Turnbull’s claims that he had a private phone conversation with Shivers in which the detective gave him permission to burglarize Frederick’s garage.

    It was Shivers’ partner who was the lead investigator on the Frederick case, Wright said, not Shivers himself. Besides that, Chesapeake officers communicate with informants only when another officer is present.

    Wright said that when the inmate claimed he had an incriminating conversation with Shivers, he cast aspersions on the only officer in the city “who cannot defend himself.”

    Again, that isn’t what Turnbull said. Here’s the passage from Hopkins’ article that Dougherty is referring to:

    Turnbull said he met with Shivers once and talked with him on the phone on other occasions. During a meeting at a 7-Eleven store near the intersection of Battlefield Boulevard and Cedar Road in Chesapeake, Shivers introduced himself.

    “He told me what to look for. He said, if you know of any burglaries or anything, let Steven know… He said no evidence, no pay… He said if you know where it is, go get it.”

    Nowhere in that passage does it say that the 7-11 meeting between Shivers and Turnbull or any of the phone conversations between the two were in any way related to the Frederick case. That’s because they weren’t. Turnbull was recounting his experiences with Shivers in other cases. Remember, Turnbull said he and Steven had been working with the police for several months. Remember also that in the search warrant for the Frederick raid, the officer explained that he had been working with this particular informant for several months. These continuing consistencies between Turnbull’s statements and verifiable facts from other parts of the case–some of which weren’t public at the time Turnbull first spoke with Hopkins last February–are what make this portion of Turnbull’s story so credible.

    The big problem Chief Wright doesn’t address, of course, is why the police didn’t disclose on the warrant that their probable cause had been obtained via an illegal burglary. The fact that the burglary wasn’t disclosed, again, lends credence to Turnbull’s statement that these burglaries were common practice. If you’re an honest, by-the-book narcotics cop who serendipitously happened upon a marijuana grow thanks to information you gleaned from someone you arrested on an unrelated burglary charge, you don’t neglect to mention the burglary in your search warrant affidavit, and then accidentally refer to the burglar as a trusted informant with whom you’ve been working for several months.

    Also of note: It has since been revised, but in Hopkins’ original article yesterday, he noted that Chief Wright wouldn’t answer any of Hopkins’ questions about Turnbull.  Wright told Hopkins both that he didn’t have time, and that he wouldn’t comment on police informants (no one at Chesapeake PD returned my calls, either). The article is now edited to appear as if Wright’s denials went straight to Hopkins. They didn’t. Wright’s comments in Hopkins’ article are just a rehashing of what he said to Dougherty. You might note that Dougherty is now listed as a contributor at the bottom of Hopkins’ article.

    Strange, isn’t it?, that Chief Wright wouldn’t have the time to speak with Hopkins, but would have time to speak with Dougherty, an opinion columnist and pro-police partisan. Hopkins has a better grasp on the details of the case (obviously), was the person who spoke directly with Turnbull, and would have been able to ask pointed follow-up questions of Chief Wright.

    Okay.  So come to think of it, maybe Chief Wright’s inability to find time to talk with Hopkins isn’t so strange after all.

    Finally, Chief Wright denied to Dougherty that Turnbull was ever a police informant, and also denied that he was one of the burglars prosecutors referenced at the hearing earlier this month. If that’s true, Turnbull’s a pretty gifted bullshit artist. Because he gave Hopkins details about the raid and about Frederick’s home that weren’t public at the time. He also seems to know quite a bit about being an informant. At the hearing, prosecutors also very clearly mentioned “burglars,” in the plural. If Turnbull wasn’t one of them, it’ll be interesting to see who they do end up trotting out as Steven’s accomplice.

    Oh yeah, one more question: At the hearing, prosecutors acknowledged that the two “burglars” on whose word much of their case rests did in fact illegally break into Ryan Frederick’s home–their choice of the word “burglar” sorta’ implies as much. It’s been eight months since that burglary. Why haven’t the two men been charged for it?

    More on Ryan Frederick

    Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

    Let me add a little color commentary for Agitator readers to the post below:

    I think special prosecutor Paul Ebert really shot himself in the foot on this.

    I don’t know how he thought he could admit evidence from these two “burglars” without having to explain who they were, how the police came to know them, or without anyone noticing the obvious similarities between the “burglars’” stories and the information in the police affidavit for the search warrant. I was speculating that the informant was also the burglar within a week of the raid.

    When I first reported all of this back in June, no one seemed all that interested (which I guess is a rather humbling account of my influence!). Not Ebert’s office, not Chesapeake PD, not the U.S. attorneys office. The Virginian-Pilot knew about these accusations (I can now say that their reporter is the one who initially tipped me off), but their editors decided to sit on the story unless and until they could get more confirmation for Renaldo Turnbull’s story.

    I even sent my article to Frederick attorney James Broccoletti, who replied through his secretary that he had “heard some rumors” but didn’t put much validity in them. (I’d add here that I don’t know Broccoletti’s strategy–he may have simply been playing me off because he didn’t want to tip his hand, or didn’t want to consort with a reporter. What’s clear is that he wasn’t actively pursuing the informants-as-burglars angle at that time.)

    In any case, if Paul Ebert had tried to make his case simply on the fact that Frederick had a small amount of pot in his house and shot and killed a cop, he could have avoided all of this. It certainly worked for the prosecutors in Cory Maye’s case.

    Instead, Ebert wanted to tack on the felony drug charges. And the only way he could do that was to introduce the evidence the informants claim to have found when they burglarized Frederick’s home. The kicker was the phone call from Frederick to one of the informants police found in Frederick’s cell phone records (the burlgars rather stupidly called Frederick ahead of time to see if he was home–another pretty good indication that they were working for the police). That call opened the door for the unlikley threat Turnbull is now saying Frederick made against the police, which I’m sure had Ebert salivating.

    Unfortunately for Ebert, his admission of the existence of these “burglars” was enough to persuade editors at the Virginian-Pilot to run their own reporter’s interview with Turnbull from last February, in which Turnbull was quite a bit more candid than he was with me (by the time I got to him, the cops had already added new charges to his rap sheet, in what he says was clear retaliation for his talking to the other reporter). When that article ran, Broccoletti got interested, as did much of the rest of the community in Chesapeake.

    My upcoming piece for reason will call for a federal investigation into all of this. Ebert is a longtime Commonwealth’s Attorney, so anything coming from the Virginia Attorney General’s Office won’t do.

    These two “burglars” aren’t going to tell the truth unless they have immunity and no longer fear Ebert and local authorities. What they know is not only critical to ensuring a fair trial for Ryan Frederick, it will also likely impact a great many more narcotics cases in Chesapeake.

    More on the Ryan Frederick Case

    Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

    Ryan Frederick is the 29-year-old Chesapeake, Virginia man who shot and killed Chesapeake Det. Jarrod Shivers during a drug raid on Frederick’s home last January.  Police say an informant told them Frederick had an extensive marijuana-growing operation in his garage.  They found only a few joints—enough for a misdemeanor.

    I’ll have a more detailed look at the incredible recent developments in the case in a bit, but the short version is that the prosecution’s case against Frederick is unraveling.

    Last June, I reported the possible existence of a second informant in the case, and in an interview, this informant told me that he and the other informant had broken into Frederick’s home three days prior to the raid.  Such a burglary would have been illegal, and the police would have been required to note in their search warrant affidavits that the probable cause for the warrant had been obtained illegally (they didn’t).

    Worse, last February this man told a reporter for the Virginian-Pilot (who then told me) that the police both knew about and encouraged the break-in, and in fact had encouraged informants to break into private homes in other cases for the purpose of collecting probable cause.

    At a pre-trial hearing earlier this month, prosecutors in the case announced that they had testimony from two "burglars" who say they had stolen marijuana plants from Frederick and that, more dubiously, Frederick had then called them and made an explicit threat about killing a police officer.  The prosecutors did not say if these "burglars" were also the informants, or if they had been working with the police before the burglary.

    That surprising revelation from prosecutors persuaded editors at the Virginian-Pilot last week to publish the details of reporter John Hopkins’ interview in February with the same guy I interviewed, essentially confirming what I reported in June.  The details of Hopkins’ interview leave little doubt that the "burglars" who broke into Frederick’s home were also the police informants.

    Today, Ryan Frederick’s lawyers filed a brief asking the judge to quash all evidence seized from Frederick’s home after the raid:

    Police showed a “reckless disregard for the truth’’ and misled a magistrate to get a search warrant for the home of Ryan Frederick, the man accused of killing a detective during a drug raid on his house, according to his attorney.

    Police failed to tell the magistrate that their confidential informant had burglarized Frederick’s property to get evidence to support a search warrant, asserts attorney James Broccoletti. The drug raid that followed on the night of Jan. 17 was a violation of Frederick’s Fourth Amendment right; therefore, all evidence collected should be thrown out, he said in a motion filed in Circuit Court.

    This could become another major drug informant scandal.  More to come.

    Records Sealed in Canton Drug Raid Death

    Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

    Yesterday, I mentioned the case of Darryl P. Ross, a man shot and killed during a drug raid on his home. Curiously, there’s been no mention of what, if any, illicit drugs police found in Ross’s home. His family is calling his death a murder, and trying to raise money for a private investigation.

    That may now prove difficult. A judge has ordered all police documents in the case–including the search warrant, police affidavit, and evidence return sheet–sealed. The given justification was to protect the identity of the confidential informant in the case.