Dissent, Infighting Said to Be Rife at Sessions’ DOJ

“I can’t recall a time when morale has been as low as I have heard from some former colleagues,” said Robert Litt, a DOJ official during the Clinton administration.

During his 20 months as Attorney General, Jeff Sessions has brought in perhaps the most dramatic political shift in memory at the Justice Department, from the civil rights-centered agenda of the Obama era to one that favors his hard-line conservative views on immigration, civil rights and social issues. Discontent and infighting have taken hold at DOJ, in part because Sessions has ignored dissent, at times putting the Trump administration on track to lose in court and prompting high-level departures, reports the New York Times, citing employees who asked not to be named for fear of retribution. People interviewed, one-third of whom worked under both the Bush and Obama administrations, said their concerns extended beyond political differences they might have with Sessions, who is expected to leave after November’s midterm elections.

“Since I’ve been a lawyer, going back to the late 1970s, I can’t recall a time when morale has been as low as I have heard from some former colleagues,” said Robert Litt, a DOJ official during the Clinton administration. Sessions spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said he is committed to the mission of upholding the rule of law and knows of “no department employee who is opposed to policies that uphold the rule of law and protect the American people.” Sessions’s shift in priorities reflects President Trump’s promises to be tough on crime and crack down on illegal immigration. Trump appointees ignored advice of career lawyers, current employees said. Sessions directly questioned career lawyer Stephen Buckingham, who was asked to file a lawsuit to crack down on sanctuary laws protecting undocumented immigrants. Buckingham could find no legal grounds for such a case, but Sessions asked him to come to a different conclusion. Buckingham resigned a few months later, and  Sessions got his lawsuit, most of which a judge dismissed.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Feds Start Probe of PA Catholic Clergy Sex Abuse

“It’s something we always we wished for but thought it would never happen,” said Judy Jones of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “Now it’s happening, and it’s all because of the Pennsylvania grand jury. Hopefully this is going to spread and go into other states.”

Federal investigators have launched a broad and unprecedented investigation into sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, issuing subpoenas to dioceses across Pennsylvania and bringing a potent set of law-enforcement tools to follow up on a scathing state grand jury report, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. All Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania have already undergone state- or county-level grand jury investigations, but longtime advocates for victims never have seen a federal effort on this scale. “It’s something we always we wished for but thought it would never happen,” said Judy Jones of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “Now it’s happening, and it’s all because of the Pennsylvania grand jury. Hopefully this is going to spread and go into other states.” She said victims are “very excited about this,” especially after their disappointment Wednesday when a measure they favored, enabling lawsuits over long-ago abuse, died in the Pennsylvania Senate.

The Associated Press, which first reported the subpoenas, said federal authorities sought documents in the church’s so-called “secret archives,” and records related to the dioceses’ organizational charts, finances, insurance coverage, clergy assignments, treatment and other documents. The subpoenas issued by U.S. Attorney William McSwain in Philadelphia demanded the bishops turn over any evidence that anyone in their ranks took children across state lines for illicit purposes; sent sexual images or messages via phone or computer; instructed anyone not to contact police; reassigned suspected predators; or used money or other assets as part of the scandal. An Aug. 14 report of a statewide grand jury into six Catholic dioceses reported that more than 300 priests had abused more than 1,000 children across seven decades. “I think this is really good news, and it’s a long time coming,” said David Hickton, former U.S. Attorney in Pittsburgh and now a professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh.

from https://thecrimereport.org

4,000 CA Three-Strikes Inmates Have Parole Chance

Thousands of California inmates serving life sentences for nonviolent convictions will have a chance at parole under the state’s decision to let stand a judge’s ruling saying those prisoners are eligible for freedom under a voter-approved law, The change results from the 2016 Proposition 15, which was designed to reduce the prison population.

As many as 4,000 California inmates serving life sentences for nonviolent convictions will have a chance at parole under the state’s decision to let stand a judge’s ruling saying those prisoners are eligible for freedom under a voter-approved law, the Associated Press reports. The state will craft new regulations by January to include the repeat offenders in early release provisions. Gov. Jerry Brown will not appeal a court ruling that the state is illegally excluding the nonviolent career criminals from parole under the 2016 ballot measure he championed to reduce the prison population and encourage rehabilitation. The state parole board estimates between 3,000 and 4,000 nonviolent third-strikers could be affected, said corrections department spokeswoman Vicky Waters, “but they would have to go through rigorous public safety screenings and a parole board hearing before any decision is made.”

It’s the second such loss for the Democratic governor, who leaves office soon after the new rules are due. Another judge ruled in February that the state must consider earlier parole for potentially thousands of sex offenders. The administration is fighting that ruling, which undercuts promises Brown made to exclude sex offenders from earlier release. Prosecutors warned throughout the Proposition 57 campaign that third-strikers would unintentionally fall under the measure’s constitutional amendment, said California District Attorneys Association spokeswoman Jennifer Jacobs. “There is no question that the voters who approved Proposition 57 intended (inmates) serving Three Strikes indeterminate sentences to be eligible for early parole consideration,” the appeals court ruled, adding, “There is strong evidence the voters who approved Proposition 57 sought to provide relief to nonviolent offenders.” Michael Romano of the Stanford Three Strikes Project called the administration’s decision to comply “monumental.” Among the 4,000 inmates he estimated will be eligible for parole are clients serving life terms for stealing a bicycle, possessing less than half a gram of methamphetamine, stealing two bottles of liquor or shoplifting shampoo.

from https://thecrimereport.org

How Cleveland.com Respects ‘Right to be Forgotten’

Cleveland.com editor Chris Quinn has changed the site’s policy of automatically using mugshots (“the worst photos people will ever take”) with minor crime stories. It no longer names perpetrators of minor crimes. The site is also launching an effort to review individuals’ requests to remove their names from old stories.

When you hear “right to be forgotten,” you may think of the European Union, where right-to-be-forgotten regulations allow nearly anyone to ask Google to take down search results they don’t like. The result is a clash between free speech, the public’s right to know, and privacy. Must everything be preserved on the internet forever? If you commit a minor, dumb crime when you’re young, is it fair for articles about that crime to pop to the top of the Google results when a prospective employer searches your name for the rest of your life? The old newspaper standard is: Never change anything that’s true; news values come first. In 2018, it’s clear that standard isn’t exactly working; a brief item on Page A17 in one day’s print newspaper doesn’t have the same sort of impact as a permanent digital record, reports Nieman Lab. Chris Quinn, the editor and president of Cleveland.com/Advance Ohio, is an example of a journalist who is not an absolutist. “It really comes down to: How long does somebody have to pay for a mistake?” said Quinn, who has worked in newsrooms for over 40 years. He’s leading the charge to make newsrooms more compassionate through a unique take on the concept of the right to be forgotten.

Quinn has changed Cleveland.com’s policy of automatically using mugshots (“the worst photos people will ever take”) with minor crime stories. It no longer names perpetrators of minor crimes. Cleveland.com is also launching an effort to review individual’s requests to remove their names from old stories. (Similar efforts have taken place at outlets like the New Haven Independent.) It’s a process that starts from a place of compassion, abandons the idea of doing things just because they’ve always been done that way, and injects nuance throughout a newspaper’s editorial decisions. 

from https://thecrimereport.org

How Cleveland.com Respects ‘Right to be Forgotten’

Cleveland.com editor Chris Quinn has changed the site’s policy of automatically using mugshots (“the worst photos people will ever take”) with minor crime stories. It no longer names perpetrators of minor crimes. The site is also launching an effort to review individuals’ requests to remove their names from old stories.

When you hear “right to be forgotten,” you may think of the European Union, where right-to-be-forgotten regulations allow nearly anyone to ask Google to take down search results they don’t like. The result is a clash between free speech, the public’s right to know, and privacy. Must everything be preserved on the internet forever? If you commit a minor, dumb crime when you’re young, is it fair for articles about that crime to pop to the top of the Google results when a prospective employer searches your name for the rest of your life? The old newspaper standard is: Never change anything that’s true; news values come first. In 2018, it’s clear that standard isn’t exactly working; a brief item on Page A17 in one day’s print newspaper doesn’t have the same sort of impact as a permanent digital record, reports Nieman Lab. Chris Quinn, the editor and president of Cleveland.com/Advance Ohio, is an example of a journalist who is not an absolutist. “It really comes down to: How long does somebody have to pay for a mistake?” said Quinn, who has worked in newsrooms for over 40 years. He’s leading the charge to make newsrooms more compassionate through a unique take on the concept of the right to be forgotten.

Quinn has changed Cleveland.com’s policy of automatically using mugshots (“the worst photos people will ever take”) with minor crime stories. It no longer names perpetrators of minor crimes. Cleveland.com is also launching an effort to review individual’s requests to remove their names from old stories. (Similar efforts have taken place at outlets like the New Haven Independent.) It’s a process that starts from a place of compassion, abandons the idea of doing things just because they’ve always been done that way, and injects nuance throughout a newspaper’s editorial decisions. 

from https://thecrimereport.org

WA Court Halts Juvenile Life Without Parole Terms

In a 5-to-4 ruling, the Washington Supreme Court said a life sentence for juveniles convicted of aggravated murder constitutes cruel punishment and is unconstitutional. The case involved a 16-year-old who fatally shot his parents and drowned a five-year-old brother.

A divided Washington Supreme Court ruled that a life sentence for juveniles convicted of aggravated murder constitutes cruel punishment and is unconstitutional, reports the Seattle Times.  Justice Susan Owens said, “the direction of change in this country is unmistakably and steadily moving toward abandoning the practice of putting child offenders in prison for their entire lives.” In a minority opinion, Justice Debra Stephens, argued the majority is reinterpreting a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Miller vs. Alabama, and that the majority improperly eliminated trial judges’ discretion.

Thursday’s 5-to-4 ruling upheld a Court of Appeals decision on Brian Bassett, who was 16 when he fatally shot his parents with a stolen rifle and drowned his five-year-old brother in a bathtub in 1995. The appeals court agreed with Bassett that a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release for juvenile defendants violates the state’s prohibition against cruel punishment. “It’s an excellent decision. The U.S. is the only country in the world that sentences people to life for something they did as a child,” said Bassett’s attorney, Eric Lindell. “It’s very consistent with our state constitution and the science that’s developed and proved the minds of juveniles are different from the minds of adults.” Grays Harbor County Prosecutor Katie Svoboda said, “When someone commits a triple homicide like Bassett did, that wasn’t a youthful impulse kind of crime, like a drug deal gone bad or a robbery gone bad. It was a premeditated triple homicide crime, including a 5-year-old child who was drowned in a bathtub. I think the facts of the case matter and the victims matter.” There are 30 Washington inmates serving life sentences without the possibility of release for killings when they were 17 or younger. Washington joins 20 other states and Washington, D.C., in abolishing life without parole for juvenile offenders.

from https://thecrimereport.org

FBI Agent Gets Four-Year Term for Leaking

Terry Albury, 39, of Minneapolis, admitted leaking national defense material because he was unhappy about the FBI’s treatment of minorities. He is the second to be sentenced in a Trump administration crackdown on leaks.

Confronted with what he saw as the FBI’s mistreatment of minorities, former Minneapolis special agent Terry Albury felt the need to act. What he did led to a four-year prison sentence, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Albury, 39, who joined the bureau in 2000 and was most recently assigned as an airport liaison, was sentenced Thursday. He had pleaded guilty to making an unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and unlawful retention of national defense information. Prosecutors say Albury shared documents — some considered classified — on evaluating potential informants, along with a document “relating to threats posed by certain individuals from a particular Middle Eastern country.”

He is the second person sentenced as part of the Trump administration’s crackdown on government employee leaks to the media. The other, Reality Winner, a former National Security Agency contractor, got a five-year prison term for disclosing a top-secret report on how Russian operatives gained access to U.S. election databases. In delivering Albury’s sentence, U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright said that while his motivations may have been pure, he didn’t have the right to break the law. “You put the United States at risk,” she said. “In your mind, a noble cause and a just action; in the minds of those who understand national security, a fool’s errand.” Albury admitted last spring to leaking the documents to an unnamed reporter. While never identified in court filings, it’s widely believed that the information ended up in the hands of The Intercept, which used them in its “FBI’s Secret Rules” series on how the bureau assesses potential informants. The case has worried press freedom advocates, who see it as fulfillment of Attorney General Jeff  Sessions’ pledge to crack down on government leakers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

FBI Agent Gets Four-Year Term for Leaking

Terry Albury, 39, of Minneapolis, admitted leaking national defense material because he was unhappy about the FBI’s treatment of minorities. He is the second to be sentenced in a Trump administration crackdown on leaks.

Confronted with what he saw as the FBI’s mistreatment of minorities, former Minneapolis special agent Terry Albury felt the need to act. What he did led to a four-year prison sentence, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Albury, 39, who joined the bureau in 2000 and was most recently assigned as an airport liaison, was sentenced Thursday. He had pleaded guilty to making an unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and unlawful retention of national defense information. Prosecutors say Albury shared documents — some considered classified — on evaluating potential informants, along with a document “relating to threats posed by certain individuals from a particular Middle Eastern country.”

He is the second person sentenced as part of the Trump administration’s crackdown on government employee leaks to the media. The other, Reality Winner, a former National Security Agency contractor, got a five-year prison term for disclosing a top-secret report on how Russian operatives gained access to U.S. election databases. In delivering Albury’s sentence, U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright said that while his motivations may have been pure, he didn’t have the right to break the law. “You put the United States at risk,” she said. “In your mind, a noble cause and a just action; in the minds of those who understand national security, a fool’s errand.” Albury admitted last spring to leaking the documents to an unnamed reporter. While never identified in court filings, it’s widely believed that the information ended up in the hands of The Intercept, which used them in its “FBI’s Secret Rules” series on how the bureau assesses potential informants. The case has worried press freedom advocates, who see it as fulfillment of Attorney General Jeff  Sessions’ pledge to crack down on government leakers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Fort Worth’s Joel Fitzgerald Eyed as Baltimore’s Top Cop

Fort Worth, Tx., police chief Joel Fitzgerald will be Baltimore’s selection for the city’s next police commissioner, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price told Dallas media. Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh refused to confirm Fitzgerald’s selection.

Fort Worth, Tx., police chief Joel Fitzgerald will be Baltimore’s selection for the city’s next police commissioner, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price told Dallas media. Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh refused to confirm Fitzgerald’s selection. She said she was still in her vetting process and is on track to name the new commissioner by the end of the month after a nationwide search, the Baltimore Sun reports. The incoming police commissioner will become the fifth to lead the Baltimore department since 2015. The department has struggled with unprecedented violence while trying to regain the community’s trust after the unrest surrounding the death of Freddie Gray from injuries suffered in police custody and the federal racketeering case against members of the rogue, now disgraced Gun Trade Task Force.

City Councilman Brandon Scott, chairman of the public safety committee, said he has no information from Pugh on the choice. If Fitzgerald is chosen, Scott wants to know whether Fitzgerald’s track record is one of effectively reducing violence using community policing and if he has ever had to deal with a consent decree, as Baltimore must. Fitzgerald was also a longtime Philadelphia police officer and is from the Philadelphia area. He has previously served as police chief in Missouri City, Tx., and Allentown, Pa. He took the Fort Worth position in 2015. In Fort Worth, after the leak of body-camera footage led to the discipline of two high-ranking police commanders in 2017, two local ministers called for Fitzgerald’s removal. Also last year,  a survey of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association showed 84 percent of respondents indicating morale had declined during Fitzgerald’s tenure.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Boston Officer Sues Online Gun Marketplace

Boston police officer Kurt Stokinger sued Armslist.com, the online marketplace where the gun used to shoot him was sold, alleging it lacks necessary safeguards to prevent weapons from getting into the wrong hands.

A Boston police officer sued the online marketplace where the gun used to shoot him was sold, alleging it lacks necessary safeguards to prevent weapons from getting into the wrong hands. The lawsuit filed by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence for Kurt Stokinger accuses Armslist.com of enabling illegal gun trafficking by allowing users to buy and sell guns with “essentially no rules,” the Associated Press reports. Stokinger, 39, a nine-year member of the police department, was shot in the leg in 2016 by Grant Headley, who the lawsuit says illegally bought the gun on the street from a woman who had purchased weapons through Armslist.

“This is not an anti-gun case. Certainly officer Stokinger is not an anti-gun person in any way,” said the Brady Center’s Jonathan Lowy. “It is about ensuring that guns are sold the right way instead of the wrong way and that’s something that all of us, whatever our views are on gun policy, should agree on.” Armslist has argued it can’t be held responsible for the actions of its users. Courts had agreed in at least two cases until a Wisconsin appeals court this year reinstated a lawsuit against Armslist, rejecting its argument that federal law absolves its operators of liability. The case is being appealed to the state’s highest court.

from https://thecrimereport.org