Tag Archives: arrests

Lawyers preparing to defend, protect inauguration protesters in D.C.

The National Lawyers Guild is coordinating with the DC NLG Chapter in preparation for mass protests surrounding the 58th presidential inauguration.

Mass demonstrations are planned for Jan. 19-21 in the capital and across the country.

Large numbers of people are expected to converge in the nation’s capital to protest the swearing in of Donald Trump as the 45th U.S. president.

The inauguration is National Special Security Event. So the swearing in and other events will be accompanied by an intense degree of policing coordinated by over three dozen federal intelligence, law enforcement and military agencies, with security costs expected to exceed $100 million.

Such high levels of security and policing at previous national events have led to mass arrests, surveillance of protesters, unconstitutional restrictions of permits and free speech and intimidating shows of force by police, according to a statement from the guild.

“Tens of thousands of people are answering the call to resist the incoming administration at inaugural protests next weekend. As always, the NLG is mobilizing its dedicated team of radical lawyers, legal workers, and law students, to provide the critical legal support infrastructure needed for such large scale demonstrations,” said Maggie-Ellinger Locke, DC NLG Mass Defense Chair.

From the various actions on the day of the inauguration to the Women’s March on Washington planned for Jan. 21, the NLG is organizing a mass defense infrastructure of Legal Observers , jail support and lawyers.

Legal observers will monitor on-site at protests and document any arrests and potential abuses inflicted on demonstrators by law enforcement, according to the guild.

The jail support team will handle hotlines, track arrests and assist people as they are released.

Attorneys who can practice in D.C. will represent arrestees and do jail visits.

In preparation for the inauguration, DC NLG members have been holding trainings in the capital, as well as online trainings for those coming from other parts of the country.

The NLG also recently released an analysis of recent trends in protest policing, based on an updated version of the Field Force Operations training manual for crowd control produced by the Department for Homeland Security and FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness.

Get involved

Lawyers, legal workers and law students interested in assisting with legal support can fill out this form to volunteer.

Resources

  • Website: dcnlg.wordpress.com
  • Legal Support Hotline:  202-670-6866
  • NLG Know Your Rights Booklets in English, Spanish, Arabic, Bengali and Urdu.

‘High threat’ Texas border busts aren’t always

Drivers in Texas busted for drunken driving, not paying child support or low-level drug offenses are among thousands of “high-threat” criminal arrests being counted as part of a nearly $1 billion mission to secure the border with Mexico, an Associated Press analysis has found.

Having once claimed that conventional crime data doesn’t fully capture the dangers to public safety and homeland security, the Texas Department of Public Safety classified more than 1,800 offenders arrested near the border by highway troopers in 2015 as “high threat criminals.”

But not all live up to that menacing label or were anywhere close to the border — and they weren’t caught entering the country illegally, as Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is Texas’ chairman for GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, has suggested.

In response to the AP’s findings, the Department of Public Safety said it will recommend removing child support evaders from the list and signaled a willingness to stop classifying other arrests as “high threat.”

However, it defended the data overall, saying it isn’t intended to measure border security, even though the figures are included in briefings to lawmakers.

“It’s deceptive to say the least,” Democratic state Rep. Terry Canales, from the border city of Edinburg, said of the data. “I would say it’s shocking that a person arrested with a small amount of cocaine in Odessa is used to show supposedly high-threat criminal arrests on the Texas-Mexico border.”

The AP used open records laws to obtain a list of 2015 Texas Highway Patrol arrests classified as “high threat” in a broad 60-county area that the DPS has defined as the border region, then reviewed online court and jail records for cases in Hidalgo and El Paso counties, which had the most such arrests.

Among the “high threat” incidents was a trailer that unlatched from an RV and rolled into oncoming traffic, killing another driver in a town more than 150 miles from the border. Other crimes lumped in with suspected killers and human traffickers were speeding teenagers and hit-and-runs that caused no serious injuries.

Republican leaders have used crime, smuggling and immigration data to justify an intensified deployment of troopers, armored boats and spy planes to the border since 2014. And Trump’s promises to wall off the border with Mexico resonate with many in Texas, where Republican lawmakers tripled border security spending last year, and in 2017 will consider approving another $1 billion.

A threat overview published by DPS in 2013 defined high-threat criminals as “individuals whose criminal activity poses a serious public safety or homeland security threat.” But about 40 “high threat” offenses can be overly broad. For instance, nearly half the 2015 arrests were for possession of a controlled substance, but DPS doesn’t distinguish between a gram of cocaine and a drug smuggler’s 50 pounds of marijuana. And failure to pay child support is included with sex crimes under offenses against the family.

High-threat arrests, which are tracked statewide, are among nearly three dozen “border security related” metrics collected by DPS, according to agency briefings given to lawmakers.

But DPS Director Steve McCraw told the AP that high-threat data isn’t used to assess border security but rather is included in briefings for the sake of transparency. McCraw said the term “high threat” was never meant to suggest only the worst of the worst, but rather to distinguish more serious crimes.

“I don’t care, we can change the name,” McCraw said. “Just so long as, internally, we have a way of differentiating.”

Hidalgo County, in the Rio Grande Valley, is one of the busiest corridors for drug and human trafficking in the U.S., and where Texas deployed an influx of troopers, National Guard patrols and camera surveillance. While dozens of 161 high-threat arrests for drug possession were alleged pot smugglers, about 1 in 5 were charged with having less than a gram or other low-level drug charges. Drunken drivers who didn’t pull over are also counted the same as fleeing traffickers.

In El Paso County, more than half of 190 high-threat arrests last year were for drug offenses. Of those, about three in 10 were arrests for less than a gram of drugs such as cocaine or small amounts of marijuana.

Some lawmakers, including members of Texas’ House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety, said they didn’t pay attention to high-threat arrests and that the data isn’t included in high-level briefings.

But following a border visit in March, Patrick incorrectly tweeted that DPS had arrested about 14,000 high-threat criminals in the previous year. Patrick senior adviser Sherry Sylvester said the lieutenant governor had been “unintentionally unclear,” but then herself falsely described the arrests as “criminal illegal aliens” who she said pose a “serious threat to public safety in Texas.”

Justice Dept: 2 Milwaukee men charged with support for ISIL

Jason Michael Ludke, 35, of Milwaukee, has been charged in a criminal complaint with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Yosvany Padylla-Conde, 30, also of Milwaukee, was charged in the same complaint with aiding and abetting Ludke’s attempt to provide material support to ISIL.

The announcement was made by assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin and U.S. Attorney Gregory J. Haanstad of the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

Ludke and Padylla-Conde were arrested near San Angelo, Texas. The complaint alleges they were traveling from Wisconsin to Mexico, where they intended to acquire travel documents necessary to travel overseas to join ISIL.

“The United States is committed to identifying and arresting persons intent on providing material support to foreign terrorist organizations. Those organizations pose a threat to United States’ interests at home and abroad.” said Haanstad.

Special Agent in Charge Justin Tolomeo of the FBI’s Milwaukee Division stated in a news release, “The arrest of these two individuals from Wisconsin, underscores how the real threat of terrorism can occur anywhere, at anytime.”

If convicted both men face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.00.

A criminal complaint is an allegation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes.

Milwaukee police: August homicides highest in 25 years

More homicides were recorded in Milwaukee in August than in any other month over the past 25 years, police said.

Milwaukee’s total of 24 homicides in August was the highest since July 1991, when the victims of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer were discovered, according to police. The department said the city’s per capita rate was even higher than that of Chicago, which recorded 90 homicides in August.

Chief Edward Flynn discussed the violence at an afternoon news conference on Sept. 1, saying police have recorded a slight increase in domestic violence homicides this year, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

“But the biggest driver of our homicides is arguments and fights and retaliation among people with criminal records,” Flynn said.

A statement from the department said it is being stressed by recent unrest in the Sherman Park neighborhood, where a black man died after being shot by a police officer earlier this summer.

The fatal shooting of Sylville Smith on Aug. 13 sparked two nights of violence, including gunfire and fires that destroyed businesses. Police have said Smith was holding a gun when he turned toward the officer who shot him.

The department’s statement also cited the use of two-officer squads as a strain on its resources. Milwaukee police have patrolled in two-person teams since July, after an officer was shot and wounded by a suspect, according to the newspaper.

Bogus guide, client from Wisconsin guilty of poaching in Canada

Two Wisconsin men were found guilty of illegal guiding and poaching across the border in Canada and it’s partly because of their own Facebook posts that they were caught.

U.S. Attorney Gregory J. Haanstad of the Eastern District of Wisconsin announced the two Milwaukee-area men pleaded guilty in federal court for violating the Lacey Act and lying about it to a federal officer. The violations are related to the unlawful importation of wildlife into the United States that had been killed in Ontario, Canada, in violation of Canadian law.

In late 2013, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry conservation officers looked into complaints relating to the illegal hunting activities of Reid Viertel, of West Allis,  and various associates, including Terry Schmit, of Franklin. The complaints partly were based on public Facebook posts by Viertel and Schmit in which they bragged about their successful hunting trips in Canada.

As a part of their investigation, Canadian officials reached out to a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to interview the men. Together, with assistance from wardens with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Law Enforcement, the agent learned this was much more than a hunting trip.

At the time of the interviews, Viertel was suspected of operating an illegal guiding service in Ontario to hunt for wolves, bear and white-tailed deer and was also suspected of poaching on those trips.

Viertel, a medically-retired firefighter, was doing business as Hero Driven Outfitters during this time, a self-described nonprofit whose mission, as noted on the group’s Facebook page was “to take disabled firefighters, law enforcement officers, and military personnel to the woods hunting and fishing.”

Schmit was one of those clients.

As a part of this scheme, Schmit was suspected of killing a black bear illegally during his trip in Ontario and allegedly used a bear license from a mentally disabled Canadian resident to make his black bear look legitimate.

“Wildlife crime knows no borders and I commend our Canadian counterparts, Wisconsin’s conservation wardens and our special agents for a solid investigation,” Edward Grace, deputy assistant director for law enforcement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, stated in a news release.

Along with Canadian law enforcement agents, the Wisconsin-based investigative team determined that Viertel shot and killed a timber wolf in February 2012 without having an Ontario license.

The team also determined that in August 2013, Schmit traveled to Ontario with Viertel, where Schmit had shot and killed a black bear, also without a license. Schmit used a bear license from a Canadian resident to make his bear kill look legitimate. In both instances, Viertel falsified export documents from Ontario for the purpose of illegally importing the animal carcasses into the United States.

“This case illustrates the partnership that takes place among conservation agencies,” stated Todd Schaller, chief warden with the Bureau of Law Enforcement in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

In June, Schmit pleaded guilty to a single count of violating the Lacey Act, and was sentenced to a $1,000 fine, the forfeiture of the black bear, and a ban on hunting, fishing, and/or trapping in North America until Jan. 1, 2019.

Following this verdict, Viertel pleaded guilty to two offenses and was sentenced to three years of probation, to include at least 25 hours per year of environmental community service, forfeiture of the wolf and black bear, and a ban on hunting, fishing, and/or trapping in North America until Jan. 1, 2021.

Viertel also was ordered to serve the 2016 deer gun season from Nov. 19 through Nov. 27 in the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and to pay the cost of his incarceration.

In the court proceedings, Haanstad said “the prosecution of offenders who intentionally violate wildlife laws helps protect and preserve natural resources both within and outside the United States.”

The prosecution was handled by assistant U.S Attorney Paul L. Kanter.

The court case follows the Canadian proceedings from December 2015, when Viertel and Schmit were convicted and collectively fined a total of $11,000 for a number of infractions.

In addition to these fines, Viertel lost his Canadian hunting privileges for 15 years and Schmit’s lost his for five years.

The Lacey Act

The Lacey Act is a federal law enforced by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service that makes it illegal to knowingly transport or sell wildlife taken in violation of state, federal, tribal and foreign laws or regulations. The act defines the sale of wildlife to include the sale of guiding services for the illegal taking of wildlife. When the act was passed in 1900, it became the first federal law to protect wildlife. It enforces civil and criminal penalties for the illegal trade of animals and plants. Today, it regulates the import of any species protected by international or domestic law and prevents the spread of invasive, or non-native, species

Bracing for the return of ‘Summer of Mercy’ anti-abortion protests

Twenty-five years after tumultuous mass protests led to nearly 2,700 arrests outside local abortion clinics, Wichita is bracing for a Summer of Mercy.

The Wichita Police Department has spent months putting together a 60-page operational plan that aims at ensuring that everyone is safe.

“I don’t think that we are anticipating an event like 1991,” said Police Capt. Brian White. “However, we have to be prepared for all possibilities and we want to ensure protesters have the ability to exercise their rights to protest, and we also want to make sure that we balance that with the legal right for the businesses to operate.”

The return of the Summer of Mercy, slated for July 16-23, is being organized by Operation Save America, a Dallas-based Christian fundamentalist group led by Rusty Thomas. Group leaders say they hope to complete in 2016 what activists started in 1991.

About 100 to 150 police officers have been assigned to the protests.

“While we have had good lines of communications with protesters, we have to be prepared for the unexpected and that is what we are doing,” White said.

Donna Lippoldt of Operation Save America’s Wichita affiliate did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Pastor Rob Rotola, whose Word of Life Church is hosting the Summer of Mercy, also did not return a call from the Associated Press.

Abortion provider George Tiller and the clinic where he performed abortions had been a target for decades. His clinic was bombed in 1985 and Tiller was shot in both arms in 1992. He was murdred in 2009 at his Wichita church by an abortion opponent. For years afterward, no abortion services were available. Then, in April 2013, the group Trust Women opened the South Wind Women’s Center in Tiller’s former facility.

Director Julie Burkhart said the clinic plans to stay open during this year’s protest, but a decision was made not to do any counter protesting.

“It is a new approach,” Burkhart said. “That our work is here inside and it is out talking to people who would like to have meaningful conversations in the community and not standing out basically wasting energy on folks that will never be able to understand that sometimes some people need or want to access abortion care.”

Instead, abortion rights supporters put together other events, including a rally and reception as part of what they’ve dubbed the #ShowSomeMercy Celebration.

Germany to overturn 1000s of gay convictions

Germany’s justice minister is drawing up legislation to annul the convictions of thousands of gay men under a law criminalizing homosexuality that was applied zealously in post-World War II West Germany.

Heiko Maas’ announcement that he will seek to overturn the convictions and create a “right to compensation” came after an expert study commissioned by the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency found that there is no legal barrier to the annulments.

“We will never be able to eliminate completely these outrages by the state, but we want to rehabilitate the victims,” Maas said in a statement. “The homosexual men who were convicted should no longer have to live with the taint of conviction.”

Some 50,000 men were convicted between 1949 and 1969 under the so-called Paragraph 175 outlawing sexual relations between men, which was introduced in the 19th century, toughened under Nazi rule and retained in that form by West Germany.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969, but the legislation wasn’t taken off the books entirely until 1994.

In 2000, Germany’s Parliament approved a resolution regretting the fact that Paragraph 175 was retained after the war.

Two years later, it annulled the convictions of gay men under Nazi rule, but not post-war convictions.

The Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany said that the Anti-Discrimination Agency study “makes clear that the government can no longer hide behind spurious arguments that annulling the (post-war) convictions would not be legally possible.”

Maas said that the study will be taken into account in drawing up legislation, which would need parliamentary approval.

“We can only appeal to all political voices who have struggled with this issue so far not to use abuse it now for political trench warfare,” he said.

Arrest of NYPD officer brings filming of officers into focus

Charges against a police officer accused of arresting a man for filming him with a cellphone camera have drawn fresh attention to a decades-old issue: citizens’ rights to record police.

Officer Jonathan Munoz pleaded not guilty recently to official misconduct charges in the March 2014 arrest of 21-year-old Jason Disisto.

Even before Munoz’s arrest, Disisto contended in a lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court that New York Police Department officers intimidate or arrest people recording police activity. He cited instances since 2005 when people, including journalists, were arrested after recording police with cameras or phones.

Police spokeswoman Sophia Mason says NYPD employees are reminded not to interfere with people recording police activity.

Patrick Lynch, president of the union representing police officers, said people sometimes abuse their rights, using them to torment or harass officers.

“It escalates the tension and makes it more dangerous for everyone involved,” Lynch said. “The act of recording police starts from the belief that every officer is doing something wrong and that’s insulting to all police officers.”

For officers, problems arise when recording can be interpreted as interfering with police activity, union officials say.

They add that officers understand they may be filmed, but the line between interference and documentation is blurred when a bystander shoves a cellphone into a crime scene from an arms-length away and yells aggressively at officers.

Prosecutors say their case against Munoz, 32, was built in part through surveillance video from a commercial establishment disproving his claim that Disisto entered a “fighting stance” before lunging and swinging a fist at him as officers investigated a young woman suspected of buying marijuana.

“Had this officer’s attempts to conceal his alleged misconduct succeeded, an innocent man may still be facing charges for a fabricated crime,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a news release.

Munoz’ lawyer did not immediately return a message Thursday seeking comment.

Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said court fights over the issue have occurred periodically since a 1973 lawsuit resulted in a settlement four years later.

In it, the city agreed arrests would not result when someone merely takes photographs, remains near an arrest, or speaks out — even with crude or vulgar language — as long as there is no threat to safety and no law is broken.

In a report this year, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates allegations of police wrongdoing, said video recordings _ including those on someone’s phone _ had an increasingly important role in substantiating misconduct complaints. In 2012, only 3 percent of the agency’s investigations included video evidence, growing to 17 percent in the first half of 2015.

Dunn said the recording trend has exposed police.

“There are more and more instances surfacing where it is clear the police officers have lied in their descriptions of what happened in an incident,” he said. “That sort of police perjury is unconscionable and something police departments really have to tackle.”

Unintimidated deer, season’s first snow, high-stakes draw and more

Unintimidated deer: Gov. Scott Walker’s was no more successful in this year’s deer hunt than he was at running for president. He tweeted Nov. 23 that he was “looking for a buck” in Vilas County and posted a picture of snow-covered woods. He tweeted the next day that he was “back at it,” with another picture of snow-dusted trees. He tweeted that it was snowing, his view was amazing and included another picture of the woods. On Nov. 25, he tweeted that he didn’t see any deer and included a picture of himself in the woods holding his rifle.

Season’s first snow: University of Wisconsin-Madison police said more than 100 fans were ejected from the football game against Northwestern, mostly over a snowball fight. Authorities reported 24 fans were issued tickets and 25 calls for first aid were received in the frosty frenzy.

High Stakes draw: In the same month that an island city in Florida decided a tied mayoral election by cutting a deck of cards, Mississippi settled a tied House race by drawing straws. The Democratic winner, incumbent Bo Eaton, pulled a 3-inch plastic straw. Republican challenger Mark Tullos, got stuck with a 2-inch red straw. At stake was a GOP supermajority in the House.

Just chill, grandma: We all know that a little pot can enhance the holiday spirit — or at least take the edge off those feuds, rivalries and debates that tend to surface when loved ones gather to celebrate. A number of cannabis blogs offer the perfect antidote: mouth-watering recipes for marijuana-infused pumpkin pies. Google it. And don’t forget to decarboxylate the weed before cooking with it for the full psychoactive effect. We didn’t know what that meant, either.

Tamale takedown: Federal authorities confiscated and then destroyed about 450 pork tamales at Los Angeles International Airport. The would-be tamale trafficker was fined $1,000 for commercial activity with the intent to distribute. A spokeswoman for border protection said foreign meat products can carry animal diseases.

Forget the question, the answer is ‘no’: The examples of the GOP’s reflexive opposition to President Barack Obama’s agenda are many, but this may be the best one yet: By a 27-point margin, Republicans say they disapprove of the president’s executive order last year pardoning two Thanksgiving turkeys instead of the customary one. Only 11 percent of Republicans supported the order, while 38 percent opposed it. 

Pretty plastic: Our literacy and longevity rates no longer top the world’s other nations, but when it comes to plastic surgery, the United States is unrivaled. In 2014, 4.1 million cosmetic surgical procedures were performed in the land of the free, accounting for 20 percent of the world’s total, according to data compiled by The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Business also is booming in Brazil and Japan, where there were 2.1 and 1.3 million procedures last year respectively.

Remember spellcheck: A British woman who tried to kill her husband by lacing his sparkling wine with antifreeze two years ago at Christmas was undone by a spelling mistake. When her husband was being rushed to the hospital, the woman gave paramedics a note she claimed that he wrote expressing his wish not to be resuscitated and to die with “dignerty.” Asked later to write the word, she repeated her spelling error.

Tracking down poopers: Some Florida condo owners are steaming after their homeowners association asked them to submit their dog’s DNA in order to fine owners who don’t pick up after their pets. A letter sent last week asked residents to register their dogs and cats with the association through a DNA test, citing an increase in the amount of animal feces found throughout the property, including inside the elevators. Condo officials said the measure is only meant to help keep the property clean. Some residents said they feel it’s an invasion of privacy. 

Message received: A six-term Georgia sheriff spent more than $500 of his own money to install a sign telling anyone who doesn’t like the way they do things there to get out. The sign reads: “WARNING: Harris County is politically incorrect. We say: Merry Christmas, God Bless America, and In God We Trust. We salute our troops and our flag. If this offends you … LEAVE!” Sheriff Mike Jolley told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer he installed the sign to “stir people’s belief and patriotism” and to give voice to the “silent majority.”

Six protesters arrested during Red Arrow Park Christmas tree lighting

Police arrested six demonstrators on Nov. 19 during downtown Milwaukee’s annual Christmas tree lighting at Red Arrow Park.

According to police, protesters associated with the Coalition for Justice disrupted the ceremony by chanting and blocking the stage during a middle-school choir performance. About 500 people were in attendance.

Police officers made the arrests after protesters ignored orders to stop disrupting the event. The protesters face charges of disorderly conduct.

Among those arrested was Nate Hamilton, whose brother Dontre Hamilton was killed by a Milwaukee police officer outside the Starbucks at Red Arrow Park on April 30, 2014.

Acting in response to complaints by Starbucks’ employees, ex-MPD officer Christopher Manney confronted Dontre Hamilton, who was unarmed and mentally ill, for sleeping in the park. A scuffle ensued and Manney shot Hamilton 14 times.

Police Chief Ed Flynn said his officers have tolerated past protests in the name of free speech, but that this time he said demonstrators decided to make their rights more important than the 500 people who had gathered for the tree lighting.

Speaking for the protesters, Pastor Steve Jerbi of All People’s Church said the demonstration was “intended to show the children that not everyone is celebrating at this time of year and children should know what goes on in the city they live in,” CBS 58 reported.

State Rep. David Bowen, D-Milwaukee, questioned the decision by police to keep the protesters in jail “for an oddly excessive amount of time. He said the arrests were unwarranted.

“Nate Hamilton and other advocates should not have been arrested … for attempting to remind Milwaukee that the Hamilton family did not receive justice and that Black Lives actually Matter,” Bowen said in a statement. “Not one more penny of taxpayer money should be used to prosecute them. They deserve an immediate apology from the City and County officials involved.

“After all, if we truly want to acknowledge the values of the holiday season we should be inclusive and extend those values to how we treat everybody — even protesters who dare to shed light on our wrongdoings,” Bowen added.