Trump Picks Adler for Bureau of Justice Assistance

President Trump named Jon Adler, former president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, to head the DOJ Bureau of Justice Assistance, which gives grants to state and local governments. Adler has been the chief firearms and tactical training instructor for U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan.

President Trump has chosen Jon Adler,  former president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, as director of the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). For 26 years, Adler has served as a professional and volunteer leader in law enforcement, the White House said. He has served as the chief firearms and tactical training instructor for the United States Attorney’s office in Manhattan, as well as a lead criminal investigator.

Adler served as the vice chairman of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, and as the first chair of the Department of Justice’s Congressional Badge of Bravery Federal Review Board. BJA is the principal Justice Department agency that gives grants to state and local governments and tribes. Its current strategic plan stresses the reduction of violent crime, the improvement of community safety, and support for public safety officers; the reduction of recidivism and prevention of unnecessary confinement; use of evidence-based, research-driven strategies, and increasing program effectiveness with a renewed emphasis on data analysis, information sharing, and performance management.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Ex-U.S. Attorneys Call Sessions Policy “Recipe for Failure”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has returned the Justice Department to the failed mindset of its past, former U.S. Attorneys Joyce Vance and Carter Stewart write in the National Review. Sessions’ requirement that prosecutors charge the most serious offenses and ask for the lengthiest prison sentences doesn’t work, they say.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has returned the Justice Department to the failed mindset of its past, former U.S. Attorneys Joyce Vance and Carter Stewart write in the National Review. Sessions’ requirement that prosecutors charge the most serious offenses and ask for the lengthiest prison sentences doesn’t work, say Vance and Stewart. They say that the goal of the policies originally was to create nationwide uniformity in the justice system, but they “resulted in the proliferation of questionable prosecutions, and the Bureau of Prisons’ population swelled to its highest level in history.”

Vance and Stewart contend that the 2013 “Smart on Crime” initiative of then-Attorney General Eric Holder included good prisoner re-entry policies. They conclude that Sessions’ policies amount to a “recipe for failure,” favoring what they say is Holder’s proved approach that has reduced prison populations, costs, and crime in some states. “Justice is about more than just putting people in prison,” say Vance, former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and Stewart, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.

from https://thecrimereport.org

No Federal Charges Against Police in Freddie Gray Case

The Justice Department said that after “an extensive review of this tragic event, conducted by career prosecutors and investigators,” officials concluded that “the evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that the officers involved in Gray’s arrest “willfully violated” his civil rights.

The U.S. Justice Department will not bring charges against Baltimore police officers in connection with the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray from injuries sustained in police custody in 2015, the Baltimore Sun reports. The department said that after “an extensive review of this tragic event, conducted by career prosecutors and investigators,” officials concluded that “the evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that the officers involved in Gray’s arrest “willfully violated” his civil rights. The decision means no officers will be held criminally responsible for Gray’s death. The state filed criminal charges against six officers in the case, but failed to secure a conviction.

Former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced a criminal civil rights probe into Gray’s death on the same day as Gray’s funeral and the eruption of rioting, looting and arson in Baltimore. DOJ said the evidence did not show Gray was given a “rough ride” in the back of a police transport van — a theory of state prosecutors — and did not prove that officers were aware that their failure to secure Gray with a seat belt put him in danger. Evidence did not show that officers knew he was injured and needed immediate medical care, DOJ said. Five officers still face internal discipline hearings in the case. Prosecutors said Gray died after suffering a fatal spinal cord injury in a police transport van after his arrest on April 12, 2015. His death a week later sparked widespread protests against police brutality in Baltimore. Clashes between police and civilians spiraled out of control on the day of his funeral, erupting into rioting that caused millions of dollars in damages. The city was put under a weeklong nightly curfew.

from https://thecrimereport.org

House Opposes Sessions on Expanding Asset Forfeiture

By a voice vote, indicating overwhelming support, the House votes to roll back Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ expansion of civil asset forfeiture. Sessions has revived a program that has allowed local law enforcers to avoid state laws limiting forfeiture.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved an amendment aimed at rolling back Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s expansion of asset forfeiture, The Intercept reports. The measure was sponsored by a bipartisan group of nine members, led by Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash. He was joined by Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna of California; Washington state’s Pramila Jayapal, a rising progressive star; and Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard. Using civil asset forfeiture, law enforcers can take assets from a person who is suspected of a crime, even without a charge or conviction. Sessions has revived the Justice Department’s Equitable Sharing Program, which allowed state and local police agencies to take assets and then give them to the federal government, which in turn gives a chunk back to the local police. This served as a way for these local agencies to skirt past state laws designed to limit asset forfeiture.

The amendment would roll back Sessions’ elimination of Obama-era reforms in the process. Amash said that, “Unfortunately these [Obama] restrictions were revoked in June of this year. My amendment would restore them by prohibiting the use of funds to do adoptive forfeitures that were banned under the 2015 rules.” Virginia Democratic Rep. Don Beyer backed Amash, saying, “Civil asset forfeiture without limits presents one of the strongest threats to our civil, property, and Constitutional rights. It creates a perverse incentive to seek profits over justice.” The amendment passed with a voice vote, meaning it had overwhelming support.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Sessions Misstated Obama Policy on Police, Military Gear

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Obama administration limited police ability to obtain Kevlar vests and helmets from the U.S. military. Kevlar vests and most helmets were not restricted, however.

The Trump administration made false assertions to justify an executive order expanding police forces’ access to military equipment such as tanks and grenade launchers, ProPublica reports. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last week that President Trump would make defensive gear available to police again by undoing an Obama administration policy. “He is rescinding restrictions from the prior administration that limited your agencies’ ability to get equipment through federal programs, including life-saving gear like Kevlar vests and helmets and first-responder and rescue equipment like what they’re using in Texas right now,” Sessions said.

That is not what the Obama administration’s restrictions did, according to DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. Kevlar vests were never subject to any restrictions. Most helmets weren’t, either. Riot helmets (defined as those with shields over the face), Humvees and helicopters that are used in rescue missions were still available to police forces as long as they explained why they needed them and certified that they had protocols and training in place so officers would use them safely. “Kevlar vests were never on any lists. That part is simply lying about what we did,” said Roy Austin, Obama’s aide handling police issues. “He was being untruthful about helmets as well.” A Justice Department spokesman acknowledged that the items Sessions cited were never prohibited by the Obama administration. The spokesman contended that, “There is absolutely nothing misleading about what the Attorney General said.” What the Obama administration prohibited were tanks, weaponized vehicles, .50 caliber guns, grenade launchers, bayonets and digital-pattern camouflage uniforms.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Jury Acquits Defendants in Bundy Ranch Standoff

A jury in Las Vegas refused to convict four accused gunman in a 2014 standoff with federal authorities near the Nevada ranch of states’ rights figure Cliven Bundy. The verdict delivered what the Associated Press called a stunning setback to federal prosecutors.

A federal jury in Las Vegas refused to convict four accused gunman in a 2014 standoff with federal authorities near the Nevada ranch of states’ rights figure Cliven Bundy.
The verdict delivered what the Associated Press called a stunning setback to federal prosecutors. The jury acquitted Ricky Lovelien and Steven Stewart of all 10 charges against them, and Scott Drexler and Eric Parker were found not guilty of most charges against them. The defendants’ supporters broke into applause after Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro ordered Lovelien and Stewart freed immediately.

Prosecutors said the men conspired with Bundy family members and wielded weapons to threaten the lives of federal agents enforcing lawful court orders to remove Bundy cattle from public land after he failed to pay grazing fees. Each man faced 10 charges including conspiracy, interstate travel in aid of extortion, weapon possession and assault and threatening a federal officer. Defense attorneys cast the tense standoff as a peaceful protest involving people upset about aggressive tactics used by federal land managers and contract cowboys.

from https://thecrimereport.org

DOJ to End Obama’s ‘Operation Choke Point’

Under the Obama administration, the department said the effort was intended to root out fraud by banks and payment processors and to cut off the banking system from wrongdoing by merchants. Karl Frisch of the group Allied Progress said “Operation Choke Point has been incredibly effective at cracking down on the flow of money to fraudulent merchants.”

The Justice Department will end a controversial Obama-era program that discourages banks from doing business with a range of companies, from payday lenders to gun retailers, Politico reports. The move hands a victory to Republican lawmakers who charged that the initiative — “Operation Choke Point” — was hurting legitimate businesses. Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd told House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) that the program is “a misguided initiative.” Boyd added, “We share your view that law abiding businesses should not be targeted simply for operating in an industry that a particular administration might disfavor. Enforcement decisions should always be made based on facts and the applicable law.”

Under President Obama, the department said the effort was intended to root out fraud by banks and payment processors and to cut off the banking system from wrongdoing by merchants. Karl Frisch of the group Allied Progress said “Operation Choke Point has been incredibly effective at cracking down on the flow of money to fraudulent merchants that violate the law and target vulnerable consumers.” Republicans in Congress argue that the program hindered banks from serving legitimate businesses and tried to get officials to back off by using legislation and investigative powers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Anti-Trump Website Fights DOJ Demands for IP Info

DreamHost, which hosts the resistance website disruptj20.org, is opposing the DOJ’s search warrant demanding it hand over “every piece of information it has about every visitor.” The site organized protests against President Trump’s inauguration.

The U.S. Justice Department is ordering a web-hosting provider to turn over the IP addresses of people who visited a website organizing protests against President Trump’s inauguration, the company claims. DreamHost, which hosts the resistance website disruptj20.org, is fighting the DOJ’s search warrant demanding it hand over “every piece of information it has about every visitor”, according to a blog post on the company’s website, the New York Daily News reports.

Citing a Washington, D.C., law regarding rioting or inciting to riot, the purported search warrant encompasses 1.3 million IP addresses, along with the contact information, email content, and photos of thousands of visitors, the blog post states. “That information could be used to identify any individuals who used this site to exercise and express political speech protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment,” the company says. “This is, in our opinion, a strong example of investigatory overreach and a clear abuse of government authority.” A week after the inauguration, DreamHost received a grand jury subpoena forcing the company to turn over information about the person who registered the Disruptj20 website.

from https://thecrimereport.org

DOJ Scraps Scientific Panel on Forensic Evidence

In another rejection of ex-President Obama’s legacy on criminal justice, Justice Department guidelines on forensic evidence will be directed by a former state prosecutor, not a panel of scientists.

Prosecutors won a victory over academics and defense attorneys in the debate over what qualifies as sound crime-scene evidence versus “junk science” used to convict defendants wrongly, the Wall Street Journal reports. Guidelines for the use of forensic evidence in court, previously developed by a partnership between the Justice Department and a panel of scientists, will be spearheaded by former Missouri prosecutor Ted Hunt, who reports to the DOJ leadership. Forensic science has come under heightened scrutiny since the National Academy of Sciences concluded in 2009 that hair samples, bite marks, ballistics reports and handwriting analysis used to prove guilt were scientifically flawed. The FBI used scientifically questionable microscopic hair comparisons to help identify suspects in hundreds of convictions dating back to the mid-1980s.

Prosecutors say defense lawyers can persuade courts to question techniques that are entirely solid. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said yesterday that the new initiative to guide what forensic examiners and prosecutors can say about clues collected from crime scenes would counter “efforts in the courtroom and elsewhere to reject reliable and admissible forensic evidence.” The move reflects Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ crackdown on violent crime and is another step toward dismantling former President Obama’s legacy on criminal justice. Sessions declined in April to renew the National Commission on Forensic Science, an advisory group of scientists and lawyers created in 2013 after a series of crime lab blunders by federal, state and local police.

 

from https://thecrimereport.org

Six Months In, AG Sessions’ Job Security Is Teetering

President Trump and his team continue to poke needles at the former Alabama senator, who at times during the presidential campaign was the rare politician of national standing willing to stand beside Trump. That history has not saved him from the petulant president’s ire.

Jeff Sessions faces increasingly pointed questions about his future as U.S. attorney general, says the Los Angeles Times. President Trump tweeted out another swipe at Sessions Tuesday morning: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!” That followed his public slap Monday, when he tweeted that Sessions was “beleaguered”–mostly due to Trump’s public harangues. Later Monday, Trump’s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, refused to say in an interview whether Trump wanted him to resign. “They need to sit down face to face and have a reconciliation and a discussion of the future,” he told CNN. “They need to speak and determine what the future of the relationship looks like.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reiterated on Monday and again Tuesday morning that Trump is “very disappointed” that Sessions chose to recuse himself from an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Sessions, an Alabama Republican, was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump and was a strong influence during the campaign. A longtime advocate for reduced immigration, both legal and illegal, Sessions helped shape Trump’s aggressive anti-immigration policies. He has also moved quickly to steer the Justice Department back to tough anti-crime and drug policies that Trump favors. None of that has saved him from the president’s ire.

from https://thecrimereport.org