Archive for January, 2009
This is the audio of the police interview with Ryan Frederick taken 30 minutes after the raid. It was played at Frederick’s trial yesterday.
Trigger warning. The video of a local news story, below, may be triggering for experiences of sexual violence.
When anarchists suggest that a civilized society can do without government or its cops, we are always asked how people in an anarchistic society would be protected from violent criminals like murderers and rapists. If we suggest that people could handle their own protection through consensual private arrangements — individual self-defense, cooperative community defense, or hiring out help, if need be — we are constantly told that we need monopolistic government control in order to ensure that professional police go about their policing in a way that’s transparent and accountable to the people.
In northern Ohio, a woman named Hope Steffey is suing the Stark County sheriff’s office and several of the deputies and prison guards working for them. Here’s why.
So, a gang of uniformed women and men, violently exercising the power of the State, pinned a screaming woman down on the floor of a jail cell and tore off her clothes to search her, over her screams of protest, while male guards were not only still in the cell, but in fact wrenching her arms behind her back, and then left her naked in the freezing-cold cell for six hours, in full view, without even a blanket to cover her body or keep herself warm. This was, of course, justified by means of unilaterally declaring Hope Steffey crazy, so that they could officially record that they had to inflict that kind of extreme violence and sexual humiliation on an imprisoned woman, over a period of hours — for her own good. Afterwards, when a local news station interviewed Hope Steffey, and aired video of what the cops and prison guards did, they ended up facing a series of unkind words about their character and professionalism. And here is how the dedicated public servants of the Stark County sheriff’s office have transparently and accountably responded the strains resulting from public exposure of their treatment of Hope Steffey:
CANTON — Stark County sheriff’s deputies who were vilified after a Cleveland television station aired video of them stripping a woman at the Stark County Jail have filed a lawsuit saying they are victims of one-sided reporting.
Last year, WKYC Channel 3 began airing reports on a lawsuit filed by a Salem woman who says she was strip-searched at the jail in October 2006. The reports included video of sheriff’s deputies and corrections officers pinning Hope Steffey to the floor of a jail cell and removing her clothes.
This week, those deputies — Kristin Fenstemaker, Laura Rodgers, Tony Gayles, Richard T. Gurlea Jr., Andrea Mays and Brian Michaels — sued reporter Tom Meyer, WKYC and its parent company, alleging defamation and invasion of privacy.
The lawsuit seeks damages of more than $25,000 and is assigned to Stark County Common Pleas Judge Charles E. Brown Jr.
The lawsuit may seem obviously retributive; it may indeed seem like a thuggish attempt to silence criticism by shooting the messenger. But the strip-searchers would like the press, and a judge, to consider how hard it’s been on them, having their privacy invaded like that.
When you write about politics — and the politics of policing, especially — the problem is that, if you try to write anything more articulate than just expressing how much the whole thing makes you want to spit nails, you’ll soon find that the usual tools of satire, or even simple sarcasm, end up useless: the facts themselves, just as they are, constantly outstrip any sort of ridicule, no matter how over-the-top, that you could possibly craft.
- GT 2008-02-05: Rapists in uniform
- GT 2008-03-07: Rapists in uniform #2: four more women come forward
- GT 2008-03-08: In Their Own Words:
Just following ordersedition
- GT 2008-05-10: Rapists in uniform #3: a sixth woman comes forward
- GT 2008-06-23: We need government cops and government courts because private protection forces and private arbitrators would be accountable to the powerful and well-connected instead of being accountable to the people. (#2)
- GT 2008-11-13: Rapists in uniform #4: Standard Operating Procedure
- GT 2008-09-14: Omerta
Shouldn’t a prosecutor required to do even a bare bones investigation into the reliability of his witnesses?
Jailhouse informant Jamal Skeeter’s credibility took more hits at the Ryan Frederick murder trial this morning, as a defense attorney introduced about 30 letters Skeeter wrote to various authorities offering his assistance in homicides, police shootings and even the Michael Vick dogfighting investigation.
Called back to the witness stand, Skeeter didn’t deny that he’s a “professional witness.” But he denied writing some of the letters, even though acknowledging they were in his handwriting with his name on the envelope…
When Skeeter entered the courtroom, he initially refused to answer any questions, saying his safety was in jeopardy. He also tried to order the removal of the media. The judge refused and ordered him to testify.
Over the weekend, I’ll put up a more thorough review of the last few days in the trial of Ryan Frederick, the Chesapeake, Virginia man charged with capital murder for shooting a police officer during a botched drug raid.
But here’s one item of note: Earlier this week, we heard the unlikely testimony of Steven Wright, the police informant in the case. Wright gave damning statements about buying marijuana from Frederick dozens of times over about a six month period, and state that Frederick threatened to kill both him in his family. Wright also admitted to both illegally breaking into Frederick’s home three days before the raid (to collect probable cause for the search warrant), and to lying to the police about said break-in for months. His testimony was not only harmful to Frederick, it helped assuage allegations that Chesapeake police officers were sending informants to break into private homes in order to look for evidence for search warrants.
Wright has been in jail since last October on several charges stemming from his theft and use of credit cards, including a charge of grand larceny. He was supposed to appear in court last December on those charges, but that appearance was delayed, rather conveniently, until two days after his testimony in Frederick’s trial.
Yesterday, Wright was released on bond. He still hasn’t been charged for breaking in to Frederick’s home, nor has he been charged for obstructing the investigation of Frederick and the raid by allegedly lying to police about the break-in for months.
[Georgia Bureau of Investigation] spokesman John Bankhead said state agents along with Gwinnett and Hall County police narcotics officers had been keeping watch over a drug suspect’s home at 4237 DeJohns Way for about three weeks. Officers thought they saw the suspect enter the duplex around 2 p.m. Tuesday and moved to arrest him, Bankhead said.
A no-knock search warrant had already been obtained from a judge — allowing law enforcement to enter the suspect’s home without knocking or announcing their presence — because the duplex was in a known gang area, Bankhead said. However, the agents and officers mistakenly forced entry into a duplex adjacent to the suspect’s home.
No one was home at that unit, Bankhead said. The agents also banged on the door of the other unit in the same duplex, startling residents inside. Within minutes, Bankhead said the officers figured out that they were at the wrong building.
Jainet Rios, 25, a Home Depot supervisor, said she was at work when the officers came to her parents’ home. She said her parents, her two sisters ages 18 and 19, and the 19-year-old’s infant baby were terrified when drug investigators began yelling at them with their guns drawn. She said the incident especially shook up her mother, who suffers from bipolar disorder and was recently released from a psychiatric treatment facility.
It’s the second wrong-door raid in Gwinnett County in two months.
Bob Kaercher hipped me to the fact that my post How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? is being featured today at the front page on Antiwar.com. I’m flattered; and presumably this also means that for the time being I’ll be getting a lot of readers who are more or less new to the blog.
So—welcome! By way of introduction, I’m Charles Johnson, also known as
Rad Geek. I’m an individualist anarchist, originally from Alabama, now living in Las Vegas. I am a founding member of the Southern Nevada Alliance of the Libertarian Left and an occasional writer for The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty. If you’re new to the blog, here’s some things you might want to read which will give you some idea of where I’m coming from, and what I care about:
In addition to the Rad Geek People’s Daily, I also run an occasional blog of anti-war cultural artifacts, Dulce Et Decorum Est. I have been writing and organizing against the Iraq War since Bush began his public war-mongering in 2002.
GT 2005-08-09: A day that will live in infamy, GT 2007-12-26: Bomb after bomb, and GT 2009-01-05: In which commentary becomes copy-and-paste explain some of the reasons why I’m not just opposed to The War here and now, but in fact condemn all government wars, on principle, and in all nations and all ages. I don’t believe in
bad wars;in fact, I think that the wars people tend to be most invested in passing off as
good wars— wars like World War II or the American Civil War — are typically the worst, most ghastly wars in recorded history.
GT 2005-09-17: International Ignore the Constitution Day, GT 2007-09-06: Marching orders, GT 2007-12-28: A Higher Law Than the Constitution, GT 2008-07-04: Revolution Day explain why I’m not a Constitutionalist, and why I think appeals to the paper Constitution are either useless or harmful to the struggle for liberty and the struggle to end war.
I believe that the nationalistic violence of the warfare State is closely linked with the paramilitary patrols, police state, and nationalistic violence of government border controls — which are nothing other than international apartheid. See for example:
- GT 2008-05-14: Voyage of the S.S. St. Louis (on the use of government border laws against war refugees)
- GT 2008-01-31: Bordercrats Against Joy and Plenty (on government border controls in the perpetual military siege of Gaza)
- GT 2007-11-12: Sin Fronteras
I also believe that the violence of the U.S. government’s imperial military abroad is closely linked with the repressive violence of (increasingly militarized) paramilitary police forces within the U.S. See for example:
- GT 2008-09-25: How cops see themselves
- GT 2008-09-19: No, seriously, I could swear the water in this pot is getting a little hotter…. (#6)
- GT 2008-05-10: Cops are here to protect you (#3)
And I think that the violence of men’s wars and of men’s
law enforcement are closely linked with the violent ideals of masculinity and patriarchy that men are brought up with in our society. For more, see:
- GT 2006-07-31: War and Manhood
- GT 2008-05-16: Women and the Invisible Fist
- Charles Johnson and Roderick Long (2005): Libertarian Feminism: Can This Marriage Be Saved?
On economics, I often write about the relationship between the economic privileges granted by the State, class, poverty, and labor solidarity:
- GT 2008-01-11: Scratching By: How Government Creates Poverty As We Know It
- GT 2008-09-29: Not One Damned Dime
- GT 2004-05-01: Free the Unions (and all political prisoners)!
- GT 2008-09-22: You got served and protected #4
In terms of strategy, I discuss my views on the most effective ways to work against government war and the violence of the State in:
- GT 2008-01-25: Take the A-Train
- GT 2008-01-26: In which I fail to be reassured
- GT 2008-06-16: ALL I need to know about the Revolution is what I heard in Vegas
- GT 2008-06-24: U.S. out of Las Vegas!
Welcome, enjoy, and feel free to drop me a line about any thoughts, questions, comments, concerns, applause, brickbats, &c. &c. &c. that may occur to you — in the comments sections, or in private if you prefer.
Big development in the Ryan Frederick trial today.
This morning, Frederick’s attorney, James Broccoletti, requested and was granted a recess after three attorneys contacted him last night with concerns about state’s witness Jamal Skeeter, a jailhouse snitch who testified on Tuesday.
According to local TV station WVEC, one of the attorneys was actually another prosecutor, Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney Earle Mobley.
Broccoletti said Mobley told him Skeeter is well-known to prosecutors for giving false testimony and is considered a “professional witness.”
Ebert apparently told the court, “he did not realize Skeeter had questionable credibility.”
His long felony record and wholly implausible testimony didn’t give it away?
A spokesman for Mobley said this morning that Portsmouth prosecutors had used Skeeter as a witness but stopped. The spokesman, Bill Prince, could not immediately identify what cases Skeeter testified in.
“We didn’t find him to be trustworthy. We felt an obligation to turn that over to the Chesapeake people,” Prince said this morning. “We got to the point where we wouldn’t use him anymore.”
To sit on such information, he said, would be “offensive.”
Mobley’s office also sent a letter last year to the Norfolk commonwealth’s attorney upon learning that Skeeter was scheduled to testify against a homicide suspect.
Norfolk did not use Skeeter as a witness.
You don’t often hear about one state’s attorney undermining another’s case in the midst of a trial. Mobley deserves a ton of credit, here.
Informant and jailhouse snitch testimony dominated yesterday’s proceedings at the Ryan Frederick trial. Frederick is the 28-year-old Chesapeake, Virginia man facing murder charges for killing a police officer during a drug raid (see this wiki for more on Frederick’s case). My prior coverage of his trial here. Virginian-Pilot coverage of yesterday’s events here. Coverage from the local libertarian blog Tidewater Liberty here.
The star for most of yesterday was Steven Wright, the informant who tipped police off to Frederick, and who illegally broke into Frederick’s home three nights before before the raid to obtain probable cause.
A few observations, before I excerpt from the Virginian-Pilot’s coverage of his testimony:
• The Virginian-Pilot article doesn’t mention it, but Wright was arrested a few days prior to the raid on charges of credit card theft and fraud. Those charges were dropped shortly after the raid, then reinstated months later, when Wright was arrested again. He was due to stand trial last month. Conveniently, his trial date was moved to tomorrow, two days after his testimony against Frederick.
• Wright’s portrayal of Frederick as a vengeful killer with a gangsta’ vibe runs contrary to everything I’ve heard about Frederick from neighbors, coworkers, and friends and family.
• According to Wright and the police detectives the state has put on the stand, Wright not only illegally broke into Frederick’s home, he lied to police about it for months, possibly compromising not only a drug investigation, but an investigation into the killing of a police officer. Yet he’s never been charged—not for the break-in, nor for lying about it for months.
Here’s the Virginian-Pilot’s account of Wrights testimony:
Ryan Frederick threatened to kill police informant Steven Rene Wright after learning that Wright broke into his garage and stole five marijuana plants, Wright testified at Frederick’s murder trial Tuesday.
“I had a week to turn myself in to him or he was going to go after my family,” Wright said from the witness stand. “He said he was going to… kill me if I didn’t come.”
Wright said he and a friend, Renaldo Turnbull Jr., broke into Frederick’s garage on Jan. 14, 2008, and stole five of about 10 plants growing in a sophisticated hydroponic tent. They then went to another friend’s house where they made a cell phone video of the plants.
The plants were never turned over to police, he said, but Frederick learned Wright took them and called with the threats.
Wright said he met Frederick earlier in 2007 while dating the sister of Frederick’s fiancee.
In the six to eight months prior to the raid, Wright said, he’d been to Frederick’s house at 932 Redstart Ave. 30 to 50 times; he saw the marijuana growing operation at almost every visit; and he smoked the drug with Frederick and others. He said Frederick even explained to him how the hydroponic system produced superior cannabis.
Wright said he became a police informant after seeking help from a drug dealer in an unrelated case who threatened him. He said police paid him $60 for information that led to the arrest of that dealer.
Despite being limited by the judge to testifying about one or two marijuana sales between November 2007 and the night of the raid, Wright blurted out that he bought marijuana from Frederick some 20 to 30 times throughout 2007.
Wright insists he was never asked by Chesapeake police to break into Frederick’s home. Rather, he said he did so voluntarily as part of a scheme he planned with several friends. They’d steal half the plants, then leave the other half for the police to find after Wright tipped them off. The problem for the prosecution, here, is that in order to believe Wright’s testimony, they’ll also have to accept his own testimony that he’s a habitual liar who routinely spins out falsehoods when it’s in his interest.
The state then called Jamal Skeeter, a jailhouse snitch with a long felony record. From the Tidewater Liberty blog:
Mr. Skeeter said that he had been in the Chesapeake jail for a period of about 10 days in June of 2008. He had been brought here from the Correctional facility at Lawrenceville, where he was serving a 14 year sentence. He was here to testify as a witness in another case.
He wore red coveralls, indicating that he is in solitary confinement. (Mr. Frederick has been in solitary confinement throughout his entire stay at the jail). He said that in June he was in the gym (on his one hour daily “break”) when “someone” pointed Mr. Frederick out (thru a glass door) as “the guy who shot a policeman.” Mr. Skeeter somehow arranged to speak to Mr. Frederick (through a glass door) and that Mr. Frederick immediately “broke out in a story” saying that he knew he was shooting a cop, but that he was trying to get off on self-defense.
He said Mr. Frederick told him that he was high when the police got to his house, and that he had hollow points in his gun. When asked about Mr. Frederick’s demeanor, Mr. Skeeter said he “was trying to be a gangsta” and didn’t seem sorry for what he had done.
Mr. Skeeter claimed that he has made no deal with anyone, and that he’s doing this (testifying against Mr. Frederick) for Det Shivers family because “it ain’t right.”
To sum, the career felon Mr. Skeeter took interest in Frederick after “someone” told him Frederick shot a cop. In their first conversation, through a glass door, during an hour-long break in the jail’s gym, Frederick apparently confessed everything to Mr. Skeeter. Skeeter, the felon, then contacted prosecutors, not to get time off his own sentence, but because of the overwhelming sense of empathy he felt for the dead cop’s family, and because Frederick’s confession violated his own personal sense of right and wrong.
Sure. Sounds plausible.
The state then called jailhouse informant Lamont Malone, who is serving time for seven different felonies. Malone has already testified once against someone else, resulting in a reduction in his sentence from life to about 19 years.
Again from Tidewater Liberty:
He said he is currently in the Chesapeake jail (he has also been in Suffolk and Portsmouth), and has “gotten to know” Mr. Frederick. He said Mr. Frederick’s jailhouse nickname is “Calvin.” He said that Mr. Frederick calls his gun “Roscoe” and that Mr. Frederick shot the police after they kicked in his door because he “panicked” and “had to get rid of his product.” He said that Mr. Frederick told him that he grew “Hydro” and that he had to get rid of his plants. He didn’t say how he did this.
He said that Mr. Frederick told him that he wanted to keep his case in Chesapeake because of the support, and that he expects that his lawyer is going to get him off.. He said that Mr. Frederick has expressed no remorse.
He said that Mr. Frederick makes unkind comments about Mrs. Shivers, and that he doesn’t seem sorry for what he did. He said that Mr. Frederick has been “laughing it up” with another prisoner, who is facing similar charges.
Laying it on thick, aren’t they?
When weighing yesterday’s testimony against Frederick’s story, it’s probably useful to remember that Frederick had no prior criminal record, and had a full-time job that required him to get up early in the morning (with kind words from his employers). Friends and neighbors described him to me last year as a shy, introverted guy who smoked pot recreationally.
It’ll be interesting to see if Renaldo Turnbull gets called to testify, and what his testimony might look like if he does.