Sessions Proposes Opioid-Making Limits

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the Drug Enforcement Administration should be able to reduce a company’s opioid production if it believes the drugs are being diverted for misuse. Dozens of people were arrested Tuesday in the takedown of a drug distribution network in Ohio, West Virginia and Michigan.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has proposed to limit the volume of opioids that certain companies can manufacture each year, in an effort to fight what has become a nationwide epidemic, the Washington Post reports. Under the plan, the Drug Enforcement Administration, which sets opioid production limits, would be able to reduce a company’s opioid production if officials believe the drugs are being diverted for misuse. Sessions said the DEA has reached an agreement with 48 attorneys general to share information from a database that monitors the flow of painkillers from manufacturer to distribution point to aid investigations. States will provide the DEA with information from their prescription-monitoring programs, which track the prescriptions that doctors write for patients.

The DEA’s database, known as the Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System, is confidential. Some information that has been released is staggering: In two instances, millions of pills were shipped to pharmacies in tiny West Virginia towns. The data are being sought as part of a mammoth federal court case in Cleveland, where hundreds of lawsuits against drug manufacturers, distributors and others in the pipeline have been consolidated. Judge Dan Polster ruled last week that the DEA must turn over business data and suspicious-order reports that companies filed for activities in six states from 2006 to 2014. The data could provide a road map for the opioid crisis, perhaps showing a correlation between shipments of opioids and deaths in communities. Dozens of people were charged with distributing heroin and fentanyl — also opioids —in the takedown of a drug distribution network operating in West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan. Nearly 100 people were targeted for arrest in the operation that dismantled the multistate Peterson Drug Trafficking Organization. Authorities seized enough fentanyl in the ongoing takedown to kill more than 250,000 people, Sessions said.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Starbucks Issue: Who Decides Among Patrons, Trespassers?

As Starbucks plans to close 8,000 stores for an afternoon of training on racial bias, the Philadelphia case raises questions about how businesses and police are supposed to distinguish between customers and illegal interlopers.

Public outrage over the arrest of two African-American men at a Philadelphia Starbucks prompted a corporate crisis that led the company to take the unprecedented step of closing more than 8,000 stores for an afternoon in May to train baristas on how to recognize their racial biases. The scene of two black men in handcuffs being led out of the coffee shop by police delivered an uncomfortable reminder of the country’s racial disparities, the Washington Post reports. The incident illustrates a pervasive bias that can affect even the most mundane activities in U.S. public spaces. The two men were waiting for a business associate when the manager called the police.

Nowhere else in Philadelphia are African Americans more disproportionately stopped by police than in the neighborhood surrounding the Starbucks, two blocks from ritzy Rittenhouse Square, where luxury apartment rents can run $10,000 a month. While African Americans make up three percent of the area’s residents, they account for 67 percent of pedestrian police stops, found a 2017 analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has monitored racial disparity in Philadelphia policing for eight years. Businesses in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown area operated a private messaging app that allowed retailers to alert police officers about people they considered suspicious. Most suspicions in the wealthy, predominantly white community were about blacks. The service was suspended in 2015 amid concerns about racial profiling. “It raises all kinds of questions. How long can you be on a property? Can you not browse at these stores now? Who gets to determine whether you’re acting as a patron or as a trespasser?” asked the ACLU’s Jason Williamson.

from https://thecrimereport.org

McConnell Blocks Bill to Protect Mueller from Trump

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) won’t allow consideration of a proposal to prevent President Trump from firing special counsel Robert Mueller. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), objects, saying, “We ought to head off a constitutional crisis at the pass.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says he will block bipartisan legislation intended to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired by President Trump, the Los Angeles Times reports. “I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor,” McConnell told Fox News, adding, “We will not be having this on the floor of the Senate.” McConnell said that while he wouldn’t support Mueller’s removal, he doesn’t think Trump would take that step. The president in the past has ordered aides to fire Mueller or he considered doing so. “This is a piece of legislation that’s not necessary in my judgment,” McConnell said.

Though there is debate on whether Congress can limit the president’s power over the executive branch, a bipartisan group of senators has drafted legislation that would write into law current Justice Department regulations holding that only department leaders can fire a special counsel. The bill would allow the special counsel to appeal a firing in court. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) criticized McConnell’s opposition, saying, “We ought to head off a constitutional crisis at the pass, rather than waiting until it’s too late.” Last week’s FBI seizure of records from President Trump’s personal attorney deeply rattled the president, souring him on his long-stated preference to sit down for an interview with Mueller and prompting him to renew efforts to hire more legal firepower, sources told the Washington Post. Trump’s team has contacted Robert Bonner, a former federal judge and former Customs and Border Protection commissioner, about possibly representing the president.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Patrick Kennedy: Go-To Man for Opioid Funding

The former Democratic representative and scion of the political dynasty is the go-to player for firms seeking to benefit from the Trump administration’s multibillion-dollar response to the opioid crisis. He is paid more than $1 million in salaries and equity stakes in companies.

Patrick Kennedy, former Democratic representative and scion of the political dynasty, is the go-to player for companies seeking to benefit from the Trump administration’s multibillion-dollar response to the opioid crisis. He is taking in well over $1 million in salaries and equity stakes in the firms, Politico reports. The 50-year-old son of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, who stepped down from Congress in 2011 amid his own battles with addiction and mental illness, is a high-profile mental health advocate who sat on President Trump’s opioid commission.

Kennedy heads the behavioral health nonprofit Kennedy Forum, which is funded partly by major drug makers and addiction-treatment companies. He received more than $1.1 million in compensation from the organization between 2014 and 2016. He sits on the boards of eight corporations deeply invested in Washington’s response to the opioid crisis, from which he collects director fees and holds an equity stake. Many of those firms stand to benefit from efforts in Congress and the Trump administration to combat the opioid crisis by expanding treatment and speeding anti-opioid drugs to market. Kennedy has met regularly with his former congressional colleagues to advocate for more spending. The many jobs make Kennedy a one-man nexus of government, private-sector and patient-advocacy work, which he calls an expression of his lifelong goal to erase the stigma surrounding mental health and addiction. He acknowledged that his battles for more government funding and broader use of medication dovetail with the financial interests of the firms he advises and the Kennedy Forum’s corporate backers, but said the treatments are also medically sound.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Ex-FBI Agent Admits Leak, Cites Minority Profiling

Former FBI agent Terry Albury pleaded guilty to leaking classified documents to a reporter, saying he knew it was illegal but felt he had to act against a culture in the bureau that often treats minority communities with suspicion and disrespect.

A black former Minnesota FBI counterterrorism agent pleaded guilty Tuesday to leaking classified documents to a reporter, saying he knew it was illegal but felt he had to act against a culture in the bureau that often treats minority communities with suspicion and disrespect, the Associated Press reports. Terry Albury, 39, appeared in federal court in St. Paul on one count of unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and one count of unauthorized retention of national defense information. Albury faces a likely sentence of between 37 and 57 months in prison. U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright did not set a sentencing date.

Albury’s attorneys, JaneAnne Murray and Joshua Dratel, said that after working for the FBI in Iraq, Albury “was assigned to the counterterrorism squad and was required first-hand to implement FBI investigation directives that profiled and intimidated minority communities in Minnesota and other locations in which Terry served.” Albury was accused of sharing documents with an online news organization including a 2011 document classified as secret on how the FBI assesses confidential informants, and an undated document “relating to threats posed by certain individuals from a particular Middle Eastern country.” The Intercept published a story on Jan. 31, 2017 citing the document in the Albury case and discussing the FBI’s process of assessing informants and recruiting them by identifying their “motivations and vulnerabilities.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

How the FBI Reformed After Branch Davidian Siege

A quarter-century since federal agents and Branch Davidians died in a 51-day standoff, the Austin American-Statesman reviews the important lessons the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives learned from the episode.

Marking 25 years since the Branch Davidian siege near Waco, Tx., the Austin American-Statesman reviews the episode that exposed shortcomings in policy and tactics in the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Both agencies made major changes after the siege to better prepare for critical incident responses. The death toll included four ATF agents and more than 75 Branch Davidians, including 21 children. The initial ATF raid on the compound led to a 51-day standoff involving FBI negotiators. Authorities believed the Branch Davidians had a stockpile of weapons, and ATF obtained a search warrant for the compound as well as an arrest warrant for the group’s leader, David Koresh. On Feb. 28, 1993, nearly 100 agents moved in to execute the warrants.

“The biggest problem we had was internal,” said Byron Sage, the lead FBI negotiator. “We brought it on ourselves. We created a crisis within a crisis.” After Waco, to improve communication and cohesion among the different elements involved in critical incidents like the Texas siege, the bureau created the Critical Incident Response Group. Notably, the agency’s tactical and negotiating teams now train together. The group houses five sections: the FBI’s aviation program; crisis management and command posts; bomb technicians and the hazardous devices school; all the behavioral analysis units; and the tactical section, composed of the Hostage Rescue Team, negotiators, the tactical helicopter unit and support. “The negotiators are occupying, living in, training with, exercising with, and operating with the tactical operators every day. We’re housed in the same place,” said David Sundberg, chief of the Tactical Section and commander of the Hostage Rescue Team. “So, not just at a critical incident, but at all times before, we are working together.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

MA Officer’s Killing Prompts Calls for Death Penalty

The killing of Yarmouth, Ma., officer Sean Gannon has some Republicans calling for the reinstatement of the state’s death penalty for the murder of law enforcement officers.

The killing of a Massachusetts police officer has some Republicans calling for the reinstatement of the state’s death penalty for the murder of law enforcement officers, the Associated Press reports. Recent attempts to restore capital punishment in the state have faltered, most recently after the killing of another police officer two years ago and in 2013 after the Boston Marathon bombing. The death of Sean Gannon, a Yarmouth K-9 officer who was fatally shot in the head while serving an arrest warrant last Thursday, has again raised the issue. Gannon’s funeral is scheduled for Wednesday. The Massachusetts Republican Party sent out a message on Twitter reaffirming the party’s backing of capital punishment for criminals who kill police officers.

An aide to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said he also “supports the death penalty for the offense of killing a police officer.” Baker on Friday signed an overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system that imposed a new mandatory minimum for assault and battery on a police officer causing serious injury. There seems little appetite in the Legislature — controlled overwhelmingly by Democrats — to debate the death penalty again. “I am personally opposed to the death penalty and I do not foresee Massachusetts reinstating capital punishment,” said Senate President Harriette Chandler. “That being said, the death of Officer Sean Gannon is a heartbreaking tragedy and I hope that the justice system enacts swift punishment to those responsible.” Brian Kyes, president of the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs of Police Association, said his “knee-jerk” reaction would be to support the death penalty as a potential deterrent to acts such as the killing of Gannon.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Oklahoma Criminal Justice Reforms Near Passage

Senate Floor Leader Greg Treat said the proposals that could reach Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk this week will help reduce Oklahoma’s prison population, but he acknowledged there’s still more work to do.

After almost a year of doubt and weeks of waiting for movement at the Oklahoma Capitol, lawmakers advanced seven bills that would mark the state’s next step in criminal justice reform, The Oklahoman reports. Senate Floor Leader Greg Treat said the proposals that could reach Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk this week are significant to reducing Oklahoma’s prison population, but he acknowledged there’s still more work to do. “If we take all the bills together, (it) will have a drastic impact on beds in the prison system in Oklahoma,” said Treat. “It will not eliminate the problem of overcrowding, but it will definitely slow the growth.”

Treat said the changes would reduce the estimated number of future prison beds needed by more than 9,000 if all bills are signed. Treat wants to do more criminal justice reform. “I hope it’s not a task force next year. I hope we work through the interim with the district attorneys and advocates,” he said, referencing prosecutors’ calls for updating how Oklahoma classifies crimes. Treat said the new legislation  upholds the intent of statewide votes that changed drug possession from a felony to misdemeanor and designed a framework for more mental health and substance abuse treatment. Andrew Speno, Oklahoma director of the criminal justice reform organization Right on Crime said the new bills “are diluted from their original form. While they’re a critical next step, they are far from the last step.” He said, “We’re still on an upward trajectory (of prison population). We need to reverse it so we’re actually going down over 10 years.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

After New Accusation, GOP Leaders Ask MO Gov to Quit

After Missouri’s attorney general accuses Gov. Eric Greitens of commiting a felony, leaders in Missouri’s GOP-controlled House issued a stinging rebuke of Greitens and called on the state’s chief executive to resign as scandals continue to consume his administration.

Leaders in Missouri’s GOP-controlled House issued a stinging rebuke of Republican Gov. Eric Greitens on Tuesday evening, calling on the state’s chief executive to resign as scandals continue to consume his administration, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. “When leaders lose the ability to effectively lead our state, the right thing to do is step aside. In our view, the time has come for the governor to resign,” said a joint statement from House Speaker Todd Richardson, House Majority Leader Rob Vescovo and House Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr. Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard of Joplin vowed to start impeachment proceedings. Greitens refused to quit.

The GOP leaders’ statements followed an announcement by Attorney General Josh Hawley that his office had uncovered evidence that Greitens may have committed a felony by using a charity donor list to solicit donations to fuel his 2016 campaign for governor. Hawley, like Greitens a Republican, said Greitens obtained and transmitted a donor list without the permission of the St. Louis-based charity The Mission Continues, which Greitens founded in 2007 but left in 2014. “If proven, these acts could amount to the unauthorized taking and use of property, in this case, electronic property,” Hawley said. “Under Missouri law, this is known as computer tampering. And given the value of the list in question, it is a felony.” Greitens has refused calls to resign, even after a Missouri House committee released an extraordinary report last week containing allegations of violence and sexual misconduct against Greitens. The statute of limitations in the donor-list case expires Sunday.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Trial Ending for Three Accused of Targeting Muslims

Three men charged with plotting to bomb an apartment complex in western Kansas, where Muslim immigrants from Somalia lived and had a mosque, wanted to kill as many as possible and send a message they were not welcome in the U.S., a federal prosecutor said in closing arguments.

Three men charged with plotting to bomb an apartment complex in western Kansas, where Muslim immigrants from Somalia lived and had a mosque, wanted to kill as many as possible and send a message they were not welcome in the U.S., a federal prosecutor said at their trial on Tuesday, Reuters reports. Prosecutors charged Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Eugene Stein with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction in Garden City, Ks., and conspiring to deny others’ civil rights. Stein also faces weapons-related charges, and Wright is charged with lying to the FBI. Officials have said the men were members of a militia group. “Their ultimate goal was to wake people up and to slaughter every man, woman and child in the building,” said prosecutor Anthony Mattivi in his closing argument in federal court in Wichita on Tuesday. “There’s no doubt that these three defendants were deep in the heart of a violent conspiracy.”

Prosecutors said the men were members of a militia group called the Kansas Security Force and formed a splinter group, “the Crusaders.” The defendants tried unsuccessfully to recruit other militia members to join them, prosecutors charged.  One of the men who was approached told the FBI of the plan. Defense attorneys say their clients were entrapped by the federal government. Allen’s attorney, Melody Brannon, said on Tuesday the informant who aided the FBI was the one who provided all the maps and aerial views of the apartment complex, and even encouraged the use of bombs. “The FBI was out to get a headline, to make an example out of these men,” she said. Kari Schmidt, Wright’s attorney, added: “In America, we don’t imprison people for their thoughts and words. There were no bombs.”

from https://thecrimereport.org