Governor appoints replacements for two judges in Broward!!

Governor Rick Scott appointed two new judges to the bench in Broward County on Monday.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Michael Davis will fill the Broward County Court seat vacated by Judge Eric Beller, who resigned Feb. 1 to pursue a private career opportunity.

Defense lawyer Jose Izquierdo will replace Broward Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Imperato, who resigned at the end of February under pressure from the Florida Supreme Court over her conduct following her arrest on a DUI charge in November 2013. She was convicted of the charge the following year and was sentenced to 20 days of house arrest.

Davis, 37, of Fort Lauderdale, received his bachelor’s degree from State University of New York at Stony Brook and his law degree from Hofstra University. From 2012 to 2014, he was a Senior Child Best Interest Attorney with the Florida Guardian Ad Litem Program.

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Baltimore officer acquitted on all charges in Freddie Gray case

A Baltimore officer was acquitted of assault and other charges Monday in the arrest of Freddie Gray, dealing prosecutors a second straight blow in their bid to hold police accountable for the black man’s death from spinal injuries suffered in the back of a police van.

The judge who decided Officer Edward Nero’s fate in the non-jury trial concluded Nero played little role in the arrest and wasn’t responsible for the failure by police to buckle Gray in during the jolting ride.

Upon hearing the verdict, Nero hugged his attorney and appeared to wipe away a tear.

Nero, who is white, was the second of six officers charged in the racially combustible case to stand trial. The manslaughter case against Officer William Porter ended in a mistrial in December when the jury deadlocked. Prosecutors plan to retry him at some point.

The next case to go to trial is that of the van driver, who faces the most serious charge of all, second-degree murder. His case is set for June 6.

Gray died a week after his neck was broken during the ride while he was handcuffed and shackled but not belted in. His death triggered rioting, looting and arson in Baltimore, and his name became a rallying cry in the nationwide furor over the deaths of black men in clashes with police.

Nero, 30, waived his right to a jury trial, choosing to argue his case before Circuit Judge Barry Williams.

“The state’s theory has been one of recklessness and negligence,” the judge said. “There has been no evidence that the defendant intended for a crime to occur.”

The assault charge carried up to 10 years in prison. Nero was also found not guilty of reckless endangerment and misconduct.

Nero remains on desk duty and still faces a departmental investigation that could result in disciplinary action.

About a dozen protesters gathered outside the courthouse as the verdict was read, but they were far outnumbered by members of the media.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake noted the departmental review and pleaded for calm.

“We once again ask the citizens to be patient and to allow the entire process to come to a conclusion,” she said. “In the case of any disturbance in the city, we are prepared to respond. We will protect our neighborhoods, our businesses and the people of our city.”

Marc Zayon, Nero’s lawyer, said that Nero and his wife and family are “elated that this nightmare is finally over.”

“The state’s attorney for Baltimore City rushed to charge him, as well as the other five officers, completely disregarding the facts of the case and the applicable law,” Zayon said.

On the morning of April 12, 2015, Nero, Officer Garrett Miller and Lt. Brian Rice were on patrol in Baltimore’s high-crime area of the Western District when Rice made eye contact with Gray and he ran away. Rice called for backup, and Miller and Nero responded.

According to testimony, Miller, who had jumped off his bicycle, caught up with Gray and placed him in handcuffs.

Nero’s attorney said Nero touched Gray to help him up from the ground after he had been handcuffed and was asking for an inhaler.

Gray was placed in the back of the van, seated on the wagon’s bench.

A few blocks away the van stopped, and Rice and Miller took Gray, who police said had been kicking, screaming and shaking the van, out of the wagon, placed him in leg irons and replaced his metal cuffs with plastic ones. The officers, with Nero’s help, loaded Gray back into the van, sliding him into the compartment on his belly and head-first.

That was the second and last time Nero touched Gray, his attorney said during the trial.

Miller testified that he alone arrested Gray, and the judge said he believed him.

Gray’s family settled with the city for $6.4 million in September. An attorney for the family, Billy Murphy, said they respected the verdict, and he commended the judge for resisting “enormous pressure” and showing “tremendous courage in ruling against public opinion.”

“I don’t see any impact on the other cases. He was very careful to make no judgment about the other officers,” Murphy said.

Prosecutors said the officers should never have arrested Gray without first patting him down to determine whether he was armed. In failing to do so, the officers violated the rules for a routine stop, they said. Because they had no probable cause to make an arrest, Gray never should have been taken into custody, they said.

The judge disagreed.

“This court does not find that the defendant detained Gray without probable cause,” said Williams, who is black and worked in the Justice Department’s civil rights division and as a prosecutor in Baltimore before becoming a judge.

Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP, said the case “speaks to a lack of training, lack of protocol” that officers didn’t see that Gray should’ve been buckled into the seat.

“That’s where the system failed Freddie. Because everyone is passing the buck on who is supposed to strap him in,” she said.

The other officers, two white and two black, are awaiting separate trials over the summer and into the fall. They have pleaded not guilty.


Updated at 12:10 p.m.

BALTIMORE — A Baltimore officer was acquitted Monday of assault and other charges in the arrest of Freddie Gray, dealing prosecutors a significant blow in their attempt to hold police accountable for the young black man’s death from injuries he suffered in the back of a police van.

A judge also found Officer Edward Nero not guilty of reckless endangerment and misconduct in office, saying he acted as any reasonable officer would and only touched Gray after he was in handcuffs.

As the verdict was read, Nero dropped his head down and his attorney placed a hand on his back. The courtroom was quiet. When the judge said he was not guilty, Nero stood up and hugged his attorney, and appeared to wipe away a tear.

“The state’s theory has been one of recklessness and negligence,” Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams said. “There has been no evidence that the defendant intended for a crime to occur.”

The assault charge carried a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and reckless endangerment carried a punishment of up to five years.

Gray died April 19, 2015, a week after his neck was broken in the back of a police transport van while he was handcuffed and shackled but left unrestrained by a seat belt.

Nero, who is white, was one of six officers charged in the case. He waived his right to a jury trial, opting instead to argue his case before judge Williams. A jury trial for Officer William Porter late last year ended in a hung jury when the panel could not reach a decision on manslaughter and other charges. Porter is black.

Gray’s death set off more than a week of protests followed by looting, rioting and arson that prompted a citywide curfew. His name became a rallying cry in the growing national conversation about the treatment of black men by police officers.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement that Nero will still face an administrative review by the police department.

“We once again ask the citizens to be patient and to allow the entire process to come to a conclusion. In the case of any disturbance in the city, we are prepared to respond. We will protect our neighborhoods, our businesses and the people of our city,” she said.

About a dozen protesters gathered outside the courthouse as the verdict was read, but they appeared peaceful in the moments after learning the verdict.

On the morning of April 12, 2015, Nero, Officer Garrett Miller and Lt. Brian Rice were on patrol in Baltimore’s high-crime area of the Western District when Rice made eye contact with Gray and he ran away. Rice called for backup, and Miller and Nero responded. According to testimony, Miller, who’d jumped off his bicycle, caught up with Gray and placed him in handcuffs.

Nero’s attorney, Marc Zayon, said Nero touched Gray to help him up from the ground after he’d been handcuffed and was asking for an inhaler.

Gray was placed in the back of the transport van, seated on the wagon’s bench.

A few blocks away the van stopped, and Rice and Miller took Gray, who police said had been kicking, screaming and shaking the van, out of the wagon, placed him in leg irons and replaced his metal cuffs with plastic ones. The officers, with Nero’s help, loaded Gray back into the van, sliding him into the compartment on his belly and head-first.

That was the second and last time Nero touched Gray, his attorney said during the trial.

Miller testified that he alone arrested Gray, and the judge said he believed him.

Prosecutors said the officers should never have arrested Gray without first patting him down to determine whether or not he was armed and dangerous. In failing to do so, the officers violated the rules for a routine stop. Without probable cause, Gray never should have been taken into custody, they said.

The judge disagreed.

“This court does not find that the defendant detained Gray without probable cause,” Williams said.

The other officers, two white and two black, are set to each have separate trials over the summer and into the fall. They have pleaded not guilty.

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New Video Chronicles the Incarceration of a Sober Recovering Addict

Powerful New Video Chronicles the Incarceration of a Sober Recovering Addict in a Case Where the Judge is Slamming the Sentence He Imposed

High and low density versions of 5 minute video available

Leo Guthmiller, a sober recovering addict, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for conspiracy to distribute illegal drugs. At sentencing, Judge John Gerrard said, The only reason I’m imposing the sentence that I am imposing today is because I have to—that’s what Congress mandates.”

Following his initial indictment, Leo got married, was employed full-time and serving his community by leading AA meetings.   The Judge praised his leadership in helping other addicts.  Leo loved his new life and was excited to be making plans for the future.  Until  Spring of last year, when two federal agents showed up at his house and arrested him for his role in a drug conspiracy that took place years before. Before Leo got sober, he had introduced a buyer and seller and was paid a small amount so that he could continue to feed his drug addiction.

The US Attorney charged Leo with a conspiracy that carried a mandatory minimum prison term of ten years, a sentence that Leo’s judge would later call “absolutely ridiculous.”

Leo waved goodbye to his devastated wife and family on April 27, 2016. Leo will be in prison until December 10, 2024 when he’s released at the age of 38.

The video was produced by Familes Against Mandatory Minimums, the nation’s preeminent sentencing reform organization.  FAMM celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

 

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This Week’s Corrupt Cops Stories

A sticky-fingered Wisconsin cop gets nailed, a truth-challenged Washington state cop gets canned, and more. Let’s get to it:

In Vancouver, Washington, a Vancouver police officer was fired last week for lying about an affair he carried on with a woman and for smoking and distributing marijuana. Leonard Gabriel, a 12-year veteran, lied when confronted about the affair, violating departmental policy, smoked cannabis oil, and provided marijuana to at least three people. While pot is legal in Washington state, it remains illegal under federal law. Vancouver police are required to obey all state and federal laws.

In Madison, Wisconsin, a former Madison police officer pleaded guilty Monday to stealing nearly $4,000 in what he thought was a drug bust, but was in reality a sting. Andrew Pullman, 31, went down after authorities got a tip that he might be planning a robbery. An undercover agent posing as an informant then told Pullman she was mad at her boyfriend dealing drugs and there might be money and cocaine in the car. Pullman went for the bait, stole the money, and was arrested. He’s looking at up to 10 years in prison when sentenced in August.

In New London, Connecticut, a former Ansonia police officer was sentenced last Wednesday to probation for stealing drugs from the evidence room. Matt Macero, a 15-year veteran, admitted to stealing an Oxycontin pill from the department in one incident and to falsely telling his superiors he had been exposed to cocaine during an investigation and as a result he would test positive. He copped to one count of fourth degree larceny, one count of making a false statement to police, and one count of falsely reporting an incident.

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Medical Marijuana Update

In Oklahoma and Ohio, medical marijuana half-measures are being challenged by initiative campaigns, Oakland tries to create some racial equity in the industry, Maryland medical marijuana hits another delay, and more.

California

On Tuesday, Oakland passed an ordinance designed to encourage minority participation in the industry. The city council unanimously approved a medical marijuana ordinance with an “equity program” that would reserve half of the city’s new cannabis permits for people who live in a designated high-crime police beat in East Oakland or were imprisoned for marijuana-related crimes in Oakland in the past 10 years. But the plan is coming under fire from industry leaders who say it may actually be counterproductive to encouraging minority participation and could undercut a pot economy expected to boom if and when the state legalizes marijuana.

Louisiana

Last Wednesday, the House passed a CBD cannabis oil expansion bill. The House approved Senate Bill 271, but because it amended it, the bill must now go back to the Senate for a final vote. Last year, legislators legalized CBD cannabis oil, but only for a handful of conditions. This bill expands those conditions to include seizure disorders. No one can currently use CBD cannabis oils because the legislature is still figuring out how to regulate them.

Maryland

On Tuesday, the Medical Cannabis Commission announced continuing delays in implementing the program. The state approved commission, which was created in April 2014 and is charged with establishing the state’s medical marijuana program, says patients probably won’t have access to medical marijuana until the late summer of 2017.

Missouri

Last Wednesday, the House rejected a medical marijuana bill. The House killed the bill on a 71-85 vote. That leaves an open path for a medical marijuana initiative whose supporters have handed in signatures and are awaiting confirmation that the initiative has qualified for the November ballot.

Montana

Last Thursday, medical marijuana supporters appealed to the US Supreme Court. The Montana Cannabis Industry Association filed a petition with the US Supreme Court seeking to reverse a state Supreme Court decision that guts the state’s once-thriving medical marijuana industry. Petitioners argue that the state Supreme Court mistakenly held that marijuana is universally illegal under federal law and point to the Obama administration’s decisions to allow states to implement their own marijuana laws.

Oklahoma

Last Friday, the governor signed a CBD cannabis bill into law. Gov. Mary Fallin (R) has signed into law a CBD cannabis oil expansion bill. Last year, the state approved the use of the oil, but only for people under 18. This bill removes that age restriction.

Last Saturday, medical marijuana advocates began an initiative signature gathering drive. CBD cannabis oil isn’t enough for Oklahomans for Health, which began gathering signatures over the weekend for a full-blown medical marijuana initiative. The group has 90 days to gather 66,000 valid voter signatures to get the measure on the November ballot.

Ohio

Last Wednesday, a new poll had overwhelming support for medical marijuana. A new Quinnipiac University poll has support for medical marijuana at very high 90%. The poll comes as a restrictive medical marijuana bill is working its way through the legislature and as a medical marijuana initiative is in the signature-gathering phase. The poll also asked about support for legalization, which came in at 52%.

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Former Lee Police Chief Sentenced to Prison for Extortion

BOSTON – The former chief of the Lee Police Department was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Springfield for extorting a $4,000 payment from a couple facing prostitution charges in Southern Berkshire District Court.

“Mr. Buffis abused his position of authority by extorting cash for his own benefit and greed,” said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz.  “This degrades the respect and trust that communities place in their law enforcement officials, and is contrary to the values promoted by those who uphold the law.”

“Mr. Buffis turned his back on his law enforcement profession and his community, choosing instead to break the laws he was sworn to uphold,” said Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division.  “The FBI hopes this sentence sends a clear message—corruption at all levels of government will not be tolerated.”

Joseph Buffis, 57, of Pittsfield, Mass., was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Mark G. Mastroianni to 27 months in prison, two years of supervised release and forfeiture of $4,000.  He was convicted following a three-week trial in June 2015 of extortion under color of official right.

As the Lee Police Chief, Buffis solicited and controlled public donations to the Edward J. Laliberte Toy Fund, a children’s holiday toy fund.  On Feb. 21, 2012, Buffis extorted a $4,000 “donation” check to the toy fund from two individuals who were facing prostitution-related charges.  Buffis deposited the $4,000 check into the toy fund’s bank account and then quickly withdrew $3,990 of these funds in three checks that he wrote to “cash.”  Buffis did not cash these checks, but instead deposited them into a personal bank account, and then used the diverted funds to pay various personal expenses.  When law enforcement commenced an investigation into this activity, Buffis repeatedly lied about the funds.

At today’s sentencing, Judge Mastroianni stated that, “Mr. Buffis used his position as the highest ranking police officer to essentially auction off his own concept of justice.”  He went on to say, “To impugn the integrity of a department like you did is a monumental, terrible, unfair thing, a selfish thing.”

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Former Tukwila, Washington, Police Officer Charged with Using Excessive Force Against Restrained Arrestee

Former Tukwila, Washington, Police Department (TPD) Officer Nicholas Hogan was charged today with using excessive force on a restrained arrestee on May 20, 2011, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes of the Western District of Washington.

The indictment alleges that Hogan, while acting as a TPD officer, deployed oleoresin capsicum spray (commonly referred to as OC spray or pepper spray) against an arrestee who was in four-point restraints and shackled to a gurney in a hospital.  The indictment identifies the arrestee only by the initials M.S.  The indictment further alleges that M.S. suffered bodily injury as a result of Hogan’s use of excessive force.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.  If convicted, Hogan faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the civil rights violation, as well as a potential $250,000 fine.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Seattle Division.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Miyake of the Western District of Washington and Trial Attorneys Jared Fishman and Rose E. Gibson of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.

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Former Clayton County Police Officer Charged with Soliciting Bribes

ATLANTA – Former Clayton County Police Department Officer Grant Kidd, Jr., has been arraigned after being charged for soliciting a bribe to dismiss pending criminal charges against two Clayton County defendants.

“A law enforcement officer who is allegedly looking to line his own pockets by obstructing justice undermines the dedication and hard work of his fellow officers as well as the community’s trust and respect for its police officers,” said U. S. Attorney John Horn.

“When a law enforcement officer strays from his sworn oath, as is alleged in our investigation and in the resulting federal grand jury indictment, it is extremely disheartening to us and others who work so hard within the criminal justice system and do so with integrity and commitment.  Due to the vast potential harm that these cases can cause, the FBI will continue to dedicate significant resources toward investigating such matters involving allegations of public corruption involving police officers,” said J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office.

According to U. S. Attorney Horn, the indictment, and other information presented in court: Kidd was employed by the Clayton County Police Department (CCPD) as a patrol officer.  In July 2015, Kidd allegedly used a friend to contact two Clayton County criminal defendants who were charged with theft and forgery.  Kidd arranged to meet with the two defendants in a parking lot of a shopping center shortly after they were released from the Clayton County Jail.  During a recorded conversation, Kidd allegedly assured the defendants that their charges would be “administratively dismissed” if they paid him $1,500.  Kidd even offered a money back guarantee to the defendants if their criminal charges were not dismissed.  After these allegations surfaced, Kidd resigned from the CCPD.

Grant Kidd, Jr., 52, of Hampton, Georgia, was indicted by a federal grand jury May 11, 2016.  He was arraigned before United States Magistrate Judge Russell G. Vineyard.

Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges.  The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Assistant United States Attorney Brent Alan Gray is prosecuting the case.

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Ex-Police Chief Arrested by U.S. Marshals

Montgomery, AL - The U.S. Marshals of the Middle District of Alabama arrested former Tallassee Police Chief Chris Miles on Thursday, May 12, at 7 a.m. Miles was wanted for a pre-trial release violation where he failed to self-surrender to the Federal Bureau of Prisons on Friday, May 6. On Thursday, Marshals responded to a residence in Notasulga, Alabama, where Miles was arrested without incident and transported to the Frank M. Johnson Federal Building to await an initial appearance before a Federal Magistrate Judge. 
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Federal Agent, Police Officers Facing Drug Charges near Texas Border!!

EDINBURG, Texas — A federal agent, various police officers and a mixed martial arts promoter have all been charged in connection a complex scheme to steal drugs from smugglers. The conspiracy involved officers from the Rio Grande Valley to Houston.

On Friday afternoon, the U.S. Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Sector and Edinburg Police separately confirmed to Breitbart Texas that officer Border Patrol Agent Daniel Polanco and Edinburg PD Officer Hector Beltran were the individuals named in a multi-count federal indictment accusing them on drug charges.

According to information provided to Breitbart Texas by the U.S Attorney’s Office, both Polanco and Beltran turned themselves in to authorities on Friday. 

Former Houston Police Officer Esteban Carrion was in custody on separate charges and will go before a federal judge in Houston in the near future. Authorities have also issued a summons for Precinct 7 Deputy Constable Juan Ignacio Leal  from Houston who is expected to go before a judge on May 31. 

The charges come from a superseding indictment filed in court this week that accused 15 defendants of which at least three are law enforcement officials on 11 counts of drug possession and conspiracy charges. 

Since 2013, agents with Homeland Security Investigations began looking into drug trafficking organization that would use law enforcement officials to carry out the seizures of drug in order to steal from other drug traffickers, court records obtained by Breitbart Texas revealed.

The group was contacted by drug traffickers looking to get loads of cocaine and methamphetamine into northern cities. According to authorities, the group would then dilute the drugs to a minimum in order to have law enforcement seize the diluted load while the group kept the actual drugs. The group would then tell the drug traffickers that their loads had been seized by law enforcement. 

The case first came to light in March when federal authorities arrested Dimas De Leon, a local mixed martial arts promoter in connection with his criminal organization. Dimas De Leon, a Mexican national living legally in Edinburg, is one of the owners and promoters of South Texas Fighting Championships (STFC) a mixed martial arts league that regularly holds professional bouts. 

The indictment of law enforcement officials in connection to drug trafficking comes after a long line of public corruption cases. One of the most notable cases dealt with the Panama Unit, a drug unit made up of deputies with the Hidalgo County Sheriff’’s Office and Mission Police. The members of the unit earned time in federal prison for stealing drugs from drug traffickers and then selling them on the side. 

The Panama Unit scandal spread to other law enforcement officials including former Sheriff Guadalupe “Lupe” Trevino and his right hand man Commander Joe Padilla who are both serving a federal prison sentence for taking money from a Mexican drug cartel boss who was living in Texas. 

In April 2015, federal authorities arrested Rio Grande City Detective Noel Pena for his role in the theft of drugs during narcotics seizures.

In July 2015, federal authorities arrested Hector “Jo Jo” Mendez, a Mission Police officerfor his alleged role in the theft of narcotics. In that conspiracy, the drugs were also diluted in order to be seized by authorities. 

Police Corruption Scandal

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