Graham Says Cotton Can’t Stop Prison-Sentencing Bill

“We shouldn’t release serious and repeat-violence felons, which is what the bill will do. It will be bad for anyone who votes for it,” says Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) disagrees, saying, “Taking [the argument] to its logical conclusion, you never let anybody out for anything.”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) has been able to defeat several major bills, but he may have met his match in the pending sentencing-prisons bill that has been endorsed by Trump and a large bloc of the Senate GOP caucus, reports Politico. Cotton is trying to use the same hard-edged tactics he used in the past to beat back the bill, arguing that Republican supporters will be held accountable if someone let out of prison under the bill’s terms commits a serious crime. “We shouldn’t release serious and repeat-violence felons, which is what the bill will do. It will be bad for anyone who votes for it,” Cotton said, adding that political strategists “think this bill will be as toxic as immigration. Or more so. You’re not going to be insulated from it” just because the president backs it. Cotton says won’t allow quick passage unless he gets votes on amendments that could rupture the bill’s fragile coalition.

Asked whether Cotton has any hope of derailing the bill, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) replied: “Uh, no.” He adds, “I like Sen. Cotton but that argument? Taking it to its logical conclusion, you never let anybody out for anything.” The latest version of the legislation makes more categories of offenders ineligible to earn “good time” credits for early release, though Cotton argues there are still too many gaps in the bill that allow serious criminals to win early release. The bill’s supporters say it won’t just automatically allow the release of people just because they are eligible. Cotton says he’s seen enough to know he hates it, blasting out news releases identifying 35 types of violent criminals he says are still eligible for release.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Cohen Sentence, Media Deal Implicate Trump

The sentencing of Michael Cohen and the disclosure of a key agreement with the parent company of the National Enquirer intensified the focus on Trump’s alleged role in coordinating efforts to suppress the stories of two women to protect his 2016 campaign.

The sentencing of Michael Cohen and the disclosure of a key agreement with another one-time ally of President Trump intensified the focus on Trump’s alleged role in coordinating efforts to suppress the stories of two women to protect his 2016 campaign, the Wall Street Journal reports. The legal saga has led Trump’s own Justice Department to implicate him in federal crimes, exposing him to potential legal and political peril as he enters the second half of his term. Cohen, Trump’s longtime fixer and personal lawyer, was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison. He had pleaded guilty to nine felonies, including campaign-finance violations related to payments he arranged during the 2016 presidential campaign to silence two women who said they had sexual encounters with Trump.

Prosecutors said American Media Inc., the National Enquirer’s parent, admitted to coordinating with the Trump campaign in making an illegal payment. The company said paid $150,000 payment to a former Playboy model to quash her story of an affair with Trump to prevent it from influencing the election—not for legitimate editorial reasons. Because American Media has provided “substantial” assistance,  the government won’t prosecute the company. Cohen, 52, apologized for lying to the public and told the judge his “blind loyalty to Trump” had led him astray from his values. “Time and time again, I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds, rather than listen to my own inner voice,” Cohen said. Statements by Cohen and American Media could undercut Trump’s ability to argue the payments weren’t intended to protect his campaign. U.S. District Judge William Pauley said Cohen admitted to a “veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct,” including crimes that undermined democratic institutions. He ordered Cohen to pay $1.3 million in restitution and $100,000 in fines, as well as forfeit $500,000. Cohen reports to prison March 6

from https://thecrimereport.org

Ex-Judges to ICE: Stop Arrests in Courthouses

Dozens of former state and federal judges are asking U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to add courthouses to the list of “sensitive locations” where their officers generally do not go. saying, “Our justice system cannot function effectively — if victims, defendants, witnesses, and family members do not feel secure in accessing the courthouse,”

For 25 years, schools, hospitals and places of worship have been off-limits to federal immigration officers. Now, dozens of former state and federal judges are asking U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to add courthouses to the list of “sensitive locations” where their officers generally do not go, reports NPR. “Judges simply cannot do their jobs — and our justice system cannot function effectively — if victims, defendants, witnesses, and family members do not feel secure in accessing the courthouse,” the judges told Acting ICE Director Ronald Vitiello. “ICE’s reliance on immigration arrests in courthouses instills fear in clients and deters them from seeking justice in a court building.”

The judges cited reports of a marked increase in ICE activity in courts over the past two years. The Immigrant Defense Project found a 1200 percent increase in arrests and attempted arrests across New York state from 2016 to 2017. Arrests have been documented in dozens of states affecting survivors of domestic violence, parents seeking to protect their children from unsafe living conditions, and even victims of human trafficking. ICE has said it would limit its civil immigration enforcement actions inside courthouses to certain people, such as gang members, those with criminal convictions, or people who pose national security threats. ICE officers won’t go after family members of arrest targets unless they try to intervene. Officers “should exercise sound judgment when enforcing federal law and make substantial efforts to avoid unnecessarily alarming the public,” the agency says. That assurance didn’t go far enough, the judges wrote. “Following nearly two years of high profile ICE courthouse activity, only unequivocal guarantees and protections will restore the public’s confidence that it can safely pursue justice in our nation’s courts.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Critics Call for Facial Recognition Regulation

In an unusual consensus, artificial intelligence researchers, activists, lawmakers and many of the largest technology companies agree that facial recognition software breeds bias, risks fueling mass surveillance and should be regulated.

An unusual consensus has emerged among artificial intelligence researchers, activists, lawmakers and many of the largest technology companies: Facial recognition software breeds bias, risks fueling mass surveillance and should be regulated, Bloomberg reports. Deciding on effective controls and acting on them will be a lot harder. On Tuesday, the Algorithmic Justice League and the Center of Privacy & Technology at Georgetown University Law Center announced a Safe Face Pledge, which asks companies not to provide facial AI for autonomous weapons or sell to law enforcement unless laws are passed to allow it. Microsoft Corp. said the software carries significant risks and proposed rules to combat the threat. “Principles are great – they are starting points. Beyond the principles we need to be able to see actions,” said Joy Buolamwini of the Algorithmic Justice League. None of the biggest makers of the software – companies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc. and IBM – has yet signed the pledge.

Large tech companies may be reluctant to commit to a pledge like this because it could mean walking away from lucrative contracts for the emerging technology. The market for video surveillance gear is worth $18.5 billion a year, and AI-powered equipment for new forms of video analysis is an important emerging category. “There are going to be some large vendors who refuse to sign or are reluctant to sign because they want these government contracts,” said Laura Moy of the Center on Privacy & Technology. Microsoft is still selling facial recognition software to governments. The American Civil Liberties Union  asked Microsoft to halt the sales and join the organization’s call for a federal moratorium on government use of the technology. The use of facial recognition for surveillance, policing and immigration is being questioned because researchers have shown the technology isn’t accurate enough for critical decisions and performs worse on darker-skinned people.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Meth a Larger Factor in Overdose Deaths, CDC Says

The number of fatal overdoses involving meth more than tripled between 2011 and 2016, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The percentage of overdose deaths involving meth grew from less than 5 percent to nearly 11 percent. Fentanyl was involved in the highest percentage of fatal overdoses in 2016, followed by heroin and cocaine.

A bigger share of U.S. drug overdose deaths are being caused by methamphetamine, say federal health officials. The number of fatal overdoses involving meth more than tripled between 2011 and 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. The percentage of overdose deaths involving meth grew from less than 5 percent to nearly 11 percent. Meth is not the main killer among illicit drugs. Fentanyl was involved in the highest percentage of fatal overdoses in 2016, followed by heroin and cocaine. Meth was fourth. It was eighth as recently as 2012.

It’s not clear why meth overdoses are growing, but some people who had been abusing opioid pain pills or shooting heroin have turned to meth, a stimulant, to offset the downer effects of those drugs, said Theodore Cicero, a Washington University researcher who has studied the rise of meth use among people who use opioids. Meth is ususually smoked, snorted or injected. Chronic use has been tied to sleeplessness, paranoia and other mood and mental health disorders. “It’s a very dangerous drug to mess around with,” Cicero said. Meth has become more prevalent in certain states — including West Virginia, which has the nation’s highest overdose death rate. The CDC report looked at death certificates on 64,000 U.S. overdose deaths in 2016 and compared them with the five previous years. Many of the people who died had used multiple drugs — fentanyl was often in the mix.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Do Police Cameras Deter Crime or Displace It?

New Orleans has 300 cameras on public streets. Police Superintendent Michael Harrison calls them crime-fighting tools, not surveillance. He admits that the cameras might shift crime to other areas.

A camera from the New Orleans Police Department’s $40 million camera system caught high-definition images of the probable killer in a parking garage drug deal murder. Police made an arrest within a few days. Police Superintendent Michael  Harrison is enthusiastic about the cameras, reports the New York Times  “Any sheriff or law enforcement executive who does not have this is living in the Dark Ages and working far behind the times,” he says. The city’s 300 cameras were placed on public poles on public streets and staff members from the city’s Real Time Crime Monitoring Center tap into the cameras’ live feed only when prompted by a 911 call reporting crime in a one-mile radius. He calls it a “crime-fighting tool,” not surveillance.

“Who doesn’t want to identify the murderer?” asks privacy expert Julia Angwin asked. “But what about the protester, the dumper?” Research in surveillance-heavy European cities shows that such cameras don’t deter crime, she said. “It often displaces crime, so it can move it to another area of the city, and can help in solving crimes.” Harrison says that in the year that the cameras have been active, he’s already seen violent-crime hot spots shift. “I would agree that it doesn’t always deter crime, but sometimes displaces it,” he said. A consent decree limits monitoring to local officials and precludes sharing surveillance with immigration officials, he said; federal law enforcement partners have to request access for specific crimes that have been committed. “What you’re describing, of how it turns on once there’s an incident, is actually something we know already in policing — it’s called ‘the probable-cause standard, right?’” Angwin said. “But what is the civilian oversight or the judicial oversight to make sure that’s really true?”

from https://thecrimereport.org

NY Police Misconduct Records Can Be Secret: Court

The latest legal effort by civil rights advocates to make disciplinary records of police officers public failed in the state’s highest court. The New York Civil Liberties Union called the ruling a “terrible setback.”

The latest legal effort by civil rights advocates to make disciplinary records of police officers public failed in the state’s highest court, reports the New York Times. The Court of Appeals ruled that the State Civil Rights Law still allows the department to withhold certain records of misconduct to protect individual officers involved. The  battle over making the disciplinary records public has been raging for years, before the 2014 death of Eric Garner in police custody made the issue of transparency more urgent. At the time, the police said the civil rights law made it impossible to release the disciplinary history of the officer charged with using a chokehold on  Garner. The New York Civil Liberties Union, which brought the suit six years ago, called Tuesday’s decision a “terrible setback.”

“Anyone who has been paying attention to policing over the last several years around the country understands that police misconduct is a major national issue now,” said the group’s Christopher Dunn. “And you can’t have accountability without transparency. When the biggest police department in the country has a secret disciplinary system, that just breeds mistrust and that has to change.” The city’s police unions hailed the decision as a welcome victory. The unions have long contended that disciplinary records can be used to harass officers, especially during cross-examinations. They argue the disclosure of discipline records for police misconduct cases could undermine the faith the public has in law enforcement.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Half of MS Jail Detainees Stay Over 90 Days

Long pretrial detentions are particularly prevalent in Mississippi because of impoverished inmates who can’t make bail, delays in appointing public defenders, slow processing of evidence and infrequent meetings of local courts.

A new survey provided to The Associated Press suggests that the number of Mississippi inmates jailed for short periods may be declining, but that those in jail for longer is holding steady. Criminal justice experts and state lawmakers say they need more data to help determine why so many people are in jail, what’s keeping them there, and what Mississippi should do about it. The survey by the MacArthur Justice Center shows almost half of the more than 5,000 people jailed stayed for 90 or more consecutive days. More than 600 had been in jail longer than a year, but that includes an unknown number of people serving sentences in jails and not just awaiting trial.

Long pretrial detentions are particularly prevalent in Mississippi because of impoverished inmates who can’t make bail, delays in appointing public defenders, slow processing of evidence and infrequent meetings of local courts because of the state’s rural nature. Cliff Johnson, a University of Mississippi law professor who has led data collection, blames many extended detentions on judges who set bail that poor defendants can’t pay. MacArthur has repeatedly sued cities and counties in Mississippi for jailing poor people who can’t afford to pay bail or fines. He says prosecutors often drag their feet on indicting jailed suspects and said the state Supreme Court isn’t doing enough to guarantee speedy trials to defendants. “There is no limit in Mississippi on how long a person can be held prior to indictment, so detainees can wait up to a year or more before even being formally charged with a crime,” Johnson said. “They wait months after that for their trial date.” The most recent census conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2013, showed an average pretrial jail stay in Mississippi of 40 days, the sixth-longest in the country.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Ex-TX Frat President’s Lawyers Defend Plea Bargain

A Texas woman protested the failure to jail a former fraternity president she says raped her. The man’s attorneys said her statement didn’t mention her “passionate kissing, groping and grinding” at the party where the alleged incident occurred.

Attorneys for former Baylor University fraternity president Jacob Anderson came out swinging in response to an uproar over Anderson’s plea bargain, as supporters of his accuser criticized the judge and prosecutor and started a petition to remove Anderson from a Dallas college a week before he graduates, reports the Waco Tribune-Herald. Anderson, 23, was placed on deferred probation for three years Monday after Judge Ralph Strother approved a plea agreement in which prosecutors dropped sexual assault charges in exchange for Anderson’s no-contest plea. He will serve no jail time and won’t be required to register as a sex offender. His lawyers said the woman’s victim-impact statement was “riddled with distortions and misrepresentations.” They said it omitted “passionate kissing, groping and grinding by this girl and Mr. Anderson that occurred in front of more than 100 people at this party.” The woman’s claims that she was choked is “absolutely contrary” to the physical evidence and her statements to police and medical personnel that night, they said.

Strother, a former hard-nosed prosecutor known for his law-and-order conservatism, accepted the plea bargain in spite of the victim’s impassioned pleas that he reject it so she could have her day in court. She angrily recounted, often in graphic detail, her claims that Anderson raped her, choked her and left her unconscious at an off-campus fraternity party in 2016. Kelsey Casto, a 31-year-old senior at the University of Texas at Dallas, said she learned Anderson is attending the same college by reading a new account of the sentencing hearing. She posted a petition on MoveOn.org that asks university officials to ban Anderson from campus. Anderson, who works for a Dallas real estate development company, is slated to graduate next week with a finance degree. The petition got more than 1,500 signatures within 12 hours.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Cohen Gets Three-Year Term for Financial Crimes, Lying

“My weakness could be characterized as a blind loyalty to Donald Trump,” President Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen told a federal judge. The judge rejected a plea for no jail time and said “a significant term of imprisonment is fully justified in this highly publicized case to send a message.”

Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former attorney, was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for financial crimes and lying to Congress, reports the Washington Post. The disgraced former “fixer” apologized for his conduct but said he felt it was his duty to cover up the “dirty deeds” of his former boss. Cohen made an emotional, teary apology to U.S. District Judge William Pauley, taking responsibility for crimes that included tax violations, lying to a bank, and buying the silence during the 2016 campaign of women who alleged affairs Trump.

“My weakness could be characterized as a blind loyalty to Donald Trump,” Cohen told the packed courtroom. The judge also ordered Cohen to pay nearly $2 million in financial penalties. Pauley said Cohen’s sentence should reflect the competing interests of the Cohen case — punishing those who repeatedly break the law, and rewarding those who cooperate and provide truthful testimony. The judge said Cohen “selected the information he disclosed to the government. This court cannot agree with the defendant’s assertion that no jail time is warranted. In fact this court firmly believes that a significant term of imprisonment is fully justified in this highly publicized case to send a message.”

from https://thecrimereport.org