Feds Threaten Denver Over Safe-Injection Site

The Justice Department threatened fines and prison time for city officials who open a site where people can use illegal drugs under supervision. A Denver official responded, “We’re moving forward, maybe even with more vigor.”

With opioids killing more than 115 people a day, several U.S. cities have been toying with the idea of opening a supervised injection clinic for the past few years. Such sites are places where people can safely use their own illegal drugs under the watchful eye of a medical professional who steers them toward social services like drug and mental health treatment. These clinics exist in a few other countries, including Canada, Australia and several in Europe. Dozens of studies have shown that they reduce overdoses without increasing drug use or crime in the community. The federal government recently weighed in on the matter for the first official time, issuing the city of Denver a stern rebuke over its plans to open a safe-injection site next year, reports Governing. 

A joint letter from the U.S. Attorney and the Denver field office of the Drug Enforcement Administration warned the city last week against moving forward with its plan. The letter stressed that such a facility is illegal under federal law. “Just like so-called crack houses, these facilities will attract drug dealers, sexual predators, and other criminals, ultimately destroying the surrounding community,” the letter read. “More importantly, the government-sanctioned operation of these facilities serves only to normalize serious drug usage.” The letter threatens “criminal fines, civil monetary penalties up to $250,000, and imprisonment up to 20 years in jail for anyone that knowingly opens, leases, rents, maintains, or anyone that manages or controls and knowingly and intentionally makes available such premises for use.” That isn’t stopping city officials. “We’re moving forward, maybe even with more vigor,” says Denver City Councilmember Albus Brooks. “Drug users are not the enemy.” Philadelphia, one of the other cities pursuing a safe injection clinic, is similarly defiant.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Two Ohioans Arrested in Alleged Terror Plots

A 21-year-old man inspired by the Pittsburgh synagogue killings was accused of planning to attack a Toledo synagogue. In an unrelated case, a woman was charged with stockpiling bomb materials and planning a mass killing at a Toledo bar.

An Ohio man accused of planning to attack a Toledo synagogue told undercover FBI agents he was inspired by Islamist propaganda and the suspect in the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre that killed 11 people, reports USA Today. The murderous plot is the second to be thwarted in Ohio, say federal prosecutors, who on Monday detailed a separate, unrelated large-scale scheme in which a 23-year-old woman was charged with stockpiling bomb materials and planning a mass killing at a Toledo bar. The suspect in the Toledo synagogue plot told an undercover FBI agent that he appreciated the Pittsburgh assault. “I admire what the guy did with the shooting actually,” wrote Damon Joseph, 21. He added: “I can see myself carrying out this type of operation inshallah,” he said, using the Arabic word for “God willing.”

A gunman shot and killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October. Robert Bowers, a Pittsburgh man with social media ties to the white nationalist movement, has been charged with 44 counts of murder, firearms offenses and hate crimes. Joseph, of Holland, Oh., was charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to ISIS. Police arrested him Friday after he took possession of two semi-automatic rifles to carry out the attack. Agents said Joseph, who used the name “Abdullah Ali Yusuf,” drew their attention by posting support of Islamic terrorists on social media accounts, including images from ISIS propaganda. Joseph told the agents he was deciding between two synagogues, depending on “which one will have the most people, what time and what day.” Agents quoted him as saying, “Go big or go home.” In the Toledo case, unrelated to Joseph’s alleged plot, authorities arrested Elizabeth Lecron, after they said she bought bomb-making materials as part of a terrorist attack.

from https://thecrimereport.org

WA Prosecutors Gather Gun Data for Health Approach

Prosecutors in Seattle’s King County are assembling data on shootings in the area to support a public health approach to gun violence. They hope it will help design interventions to prevent shootings.

How many people get shot in Seattle’s King County every year? It was a simple question no one could answer until two prosecutors and a data analyst spent two years scrutinizing shooting incidents, those that resulted in death or injury, as well as those that didn’t, reports the Seattle Times. The data, gathered from eight of the county’s 40 law-enforcement agencies, confirmed what police and agencies working with youth and families intuitively knew: 67 percent of this year’s firearm homicides and 58 percent of non-fatal shootings occurred south of Seattle city limits. The county is using the data to advance an emerging perspective on gun violence: that people shooting one another is as much a threat to public health as it is a problem for law enforcement. They view gun violence through a public-health lens and, for the first time, are analyzing the relationships between victims, witnesses and perpetrators of gun violence the same way an epidemiologist studies the spread of contagious disease. It’s a philosophy that’s gained traction across the U.S.

The goal is to find ways to intervene in the lives of the most vulnerable individuals before bullets start flying and prevent future violence, said Senior Deputy Prosecutor Karissa Taylor, who with Senior Deputy Prosecutor Dan Carew and Data Analyst Rafael Serrano make up the Crime Strategies Unit spearheading the gun-data deep dive. What those interventions will look like remains to be seen. Programs to prevent gun violence must be developed by community providers and public-health officials, Taylor said. The data give them a starting point. “When we started, there was no data, no sharing of information, everything was siloed,” Taylor said. The eight police departments involved in the Shots Fired Project each had different report-management systems for tracking gun violence, and had different definitions of what constituted a shooting.

from https://thecrimereport.org

FBI Issues Incident-Based Crime Reporting Data

The Federal Bureau Investigation released data on more than 6 million criminal offenses submitted to its National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) last year. With more-detailed data collection, NIBRS is scheduled to become the national standard for crime reporting in 2021.

The Federal Bureau Investigation released data on more than 6 million criminal offenses submitted to its National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) last year. With more -detailed data collection, NIBRS is scheduled to become the national standard for crime reporting in 2021. The FBI says the new system “offers more context and allows law enforcement agencies to use resources more strategically to prevent and combat crime.” Last year, 6,998 law enforcement agencies reported data to NIBRS. About 42 percent of law enforcement agencies that take part in the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program are submitting their crime data to NIBRS.

FBI director Christopher Wray says the NIBRS data “will give us a more complete picture of what’s really going on in our communities and allow us to do what we need to do to keep people safe.” The NIBRS data released on Monday said that of the 4,524,968 people who were victims of crimes, 23.4 percent were between 21 and 30 years old, and a little more than half were female. More than half (52.2 percent) of victims knew their offenders  but were not related to them. Of 5,266,175 known offenders (meaning at least one characteristic about the person is known, such as age, gender, or race), 1.9 percent were between the ages of 16 and 30. The majority of known criminals (62.4 percent) were men, and 25.5 percent were women.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Alleged Russian Agent Butina to Plead Guilty

Gun-rights activist Maria Butina has spent months in U.S. custody on charges of improperly pursuing Moscow’s interests in Washington, D.C. She is likely to be sent back to Russia.

Alleged Russian agent Maria Butina is expected to plead guilty, her lawyers and prosecutors signaled in a court filing, after the gun-rights activist spent months in U.S. custody on charges of improperly pursuing Moscow’s interests in Washington, D.C., the Wall Street Journal reports. Whether Butina will plead guilty to the original charges or to a different offense remains unclear. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan set a plea hearing for Wednesday afternoon. Butina has been in custody since her arrest in July and would likely be sent back to Russia upon her release.

The unusual case, brought by the U.S. Attorney, accused the former American University graduate student of working with a Russian banking official to develop back-channel relationships with U.S. politicians through the National Rifle Association, in an effort to advance Russia’s aims. Butina has denied acting improperly, saying she was only pursuing policy interests similar to other 20-somethings in Washington. The case has linked Russian officials, the young Russian gun-rights activist and student, the U.S. gun lobby, a Rockefeller heir and a longtime conservative political activist from South Dakota. Prosecutors withdrew salacious allegations they made accusing Ms. Butina of offering sex in exchange for a position. The Butina case is unfolding at a time of public scrutiny of Russian efforts to influence U.S. politics and policy. The case is separate from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Russian officials have said they view Butina as a political prisoner and hostage who is being unfairly prosecuted.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Doctors Warn of Suicides by Patients Denied Opioids

“We have a terrible problem. We have people committing suicide for no other reason than being forced to stop opioids, pain medication, for chronic pain,” said Thomas Kline, a North Carolina family doctor and former Harvard Medical School program administrator. “It’s mass hysteria, a witch hunt. It’s one of the worst health care crises in our history.”

An unknown number of the nation’s 20 million chronic pain sufferers chose suicide after being cut back or denied prescriptions for opioids. The suicides have motivated many of those who continue to suffer from pain, and family members and advocates of those who took their lives, to call for a re-evaluation of the rush to reduce opioid dosages for those who most need them, Fox News reports. “We have a terrible problem. We have people committing suicide for no other reason than being forced to stop opioids, pain medication, for chronic pain,” said Thomas Kline, a North Carolina family doctor and former Harvard Medical School program administrator. “It’s mass hysteria, a witch hunt. It’s one of the worst health care crises in our history.”

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Preention doesn’t have numbers of those who commit suicide after having their pain medications cut. Many doctors know of patients who took their lives after losing access to opioid treatment, and being turned away from other doctors who now see prescription painkillers as a hassle. “Clearly, there are patients now who feel like life is not worth living if they return to living in pain,” said Diederik Lohman of Human Rights Watch. “Many of the patients we spoke to are very law-abiding, and would turn to suicide before going to the street to get illicit drugs. The government has a duty to respond to the overdose crisis but to do so in a way that is harming people who have a legitimate medical issue is a human rights issue.” former Attorney General Jeff Sessions said before he left office, “We’re not telling any doctor that they can’t make a legitimate prescription. Maybe some doctors are getting too cautious. We don’t know.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

TN Gov Weighs Clemency for Teen Murderer Brown

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is weighing whether to grant clemency to Cyntoia Brown, a Nashville woman serving a life sentence in prison for a murder she committed at 16. Brown’s advocates say the sentence was too harsh and that she was a sex-trafficking victim.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is weighing whether to grant clemency to Cyntoia Brown, a Nashville woman serving a life sentence in prison for a murder she committed at 16, The Tennessean reports.”We  are reviewing every aspect of it, just like we are with several other … similar cases,” Haslam said Monday. He said he wants to treat the case fairly, along with cases that are similar but have not received the same level of publicity Brown’s case has received in recent months. Brown’s advocates say she was the victim of sex trafficking, that her sentence was too harsh and she deserves to be released. Haslam has until Jan. 19, when he leaves office, to decide how he will handle the case. The state parole board, which was split in its recommendations, sent the case to the governor’s office in July.

Last week, the Tennessee Supreme Court said that Brown could be eligible for release after she serves 51 years in prison. She is also asking a federal appeals court to overturn her sentence. Those proceedings are separate from any decision Haslam makes as governor. Brown, now 30, was convicted in 2006 and sentenced to life in prison for shooting real estate agent Johnny Allen. Her legal team launched a challenge to her life sentence in the federal court system, citing a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling saying that giving juveniles life sentences without parole was cruel and unusual in most cases. Brown’s case has drawn national attention. Celebrities such as Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West have taken to social media to push for her freedom.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Ex-TX Fraternity President Gets Probation in Rape Case

A Waco, Tx., judge accepted a controversial plea deal for a former Baylor University fraternity president accused of sexual assault, granting Jacob Walter Anderson no jail time. A former district attorney says the deal “stinks to high hell.”

A Waco, Tx., judge accepted a controversial plea deal for a former Baylor University fraternity president accused of sexual assault, granting Jacob Walter Anderson no jail time. He will not have to register as a sex offender. Judge Ralph Strother made the decision on the deal on Monday, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Anderson, 23, was accused of raping a 19-year-old student, at a Phi Delta Theta party in 2016. He was arrested, expelled from the university and indicted on four counts of sexual assault. On Oct. 15, Anderson was offered a deal that would result in probation and counseling but no jail time, prompt declarations of outrage and protests in the community.

Under the deal, Anderson agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge of felony restraint. The deal includes a recommended three years of deferred adjudication probation, a $400 fine and psychological, alcohol and substance abuse counseling for Anderson. Prosecutor e, Hilary LaBorde said she believes the sentence was the best outcome given the facts in the case. “Conflicting evidence and statements exist in this case making the original allegation difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt,” she said. “This offender is now on felony probation and will receive sex offender treatment, a result which was not guaranteed, nor likely, had we gone to trial.” Attorney Vic Feazell called the plea agreement “a sweetheart of a deal” and said he had not seen anything like Anderson’s plea in his many years as an attorney and district attorney. “I’ve been at this a long time and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Feazell said. “It stinks to high hell.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

NYPD Probing Officers’ Seizure of Child from Mother

Video of the incident went viral on social media. Two agency “peace officers” forced a woman to the ground and removed her one-year-old child from her arms. Police Commissioner James O’Neill called the incident “very disturbing.”

Two New York City “peace officers” were placed on modified duty Monday after they forced a woman holding a one-year-old to the ground at a city agency’s office and removed the boy from her arms with the help of New York police officers, reports the Wall Street Journal. The peace officers work for the city’s Human Resources Administration, and were assigned to a Brooklyn office that administers food stamps.  Cellphone video of the incident went viral on social media, prompting demands for a probe into the officers’ actions from politicians, lawyers and advocates. Jazmine Headley, 23, was arrested after the incident on Friday and charged with resisting arrest, acting in a manner injurious to a child, obstructing governmental administration and trespassing. The city’s child welfare agency took her son and placed him with a relative.

The cellphone video begins with Headley on the ground, cradling her child and shouting, “They’re hurting my son,” as the officers attempt to pull him away. A raucous crowd of bystanders surround the officers, and at one point, an NYPD officer points a stun-gun at onlookers. Police Commissioner James O’Neill said police are reviewing video of the incident, which he described as “very disturbing.” He said, “It was obviously a very chaotic situation, you can see that in the video. And we have to see what the decision-making process was.” Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks, who oversees the agency, said he is “deeply troubled” by the incident and directed de-escalation training for the peace officers and security staff. Headley wemt to the agency to learn why she stopped receiving government assistance with her child care. When there were no seats available, she sat on the floor, prompting a security guard to tell her to move.

from https://thecrimereport.org

2018 is Worst Year on Record for School Gun Violence

The US Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security counted 94 school shooting incidents in 2018, a near 60 percent increase over the previous high, 59, in 2006.

This year has been by far the worst on record for gun violence in schools, the advocacy group Sandy Hook Promise said, citing research by the US Naval Postgraduate School (NPS). The NPS Center for Homeland Defense and Security counted 94 school shooting incidents in 2018, a near 60 percent increase over the previous high, 59, in 2006, reports The Guardian. The NPS database documents any instance in which a gun is “brandished, is fired, or a bullet hits school property for any reason,”regardless of the number of victims. In 2018, high-profile attacks in in Parkland, Fl., and Santa Fe, Tx., have intensified a national conversation about gun violence in schools.

Seventeen students and staff members were killed in Parkland. Ten students and teachers died in Santa Fe. “This is beyond unacceptable,” said Nicole Hockley of Sandy Hook Promise. “It is inexcusable. Everyone has the power to stop violence before it starts, and we want to arm as many people as possible with the knowledge of how to keep their schools and communities safe.” Hockley’s six-year-old son, Dylan, was shot dead at at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Inn response to the NPS findings and to mark the sixth anniversary of Sandy Hook, on 14 December, Sandy Hook Promise will release a jarring public service announcement this week.

from https://thecrimereport.org