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News in Brief

Australia: A Facebook post by the New South Wales Police warned concert-goers headed for the Above & Beyond music festival June 9, 2018, in Sydney that they would be met at the venue gates by drug-sniffing dogs on patrol. The post, by South West Metropolitan Region Commander, Assistant Commissioner Peter Thurtell, stated: “Police will exclude any person from the venue that the drug dog indicates has or who has recently had drugs on them, regardless of whether drugs are located.” Activist Tom Raue and two other festival ticket holders unsuccessfully sued for an injunction to stop what they said was an overreach of police powers that used the dogs as an unreliable tool. According to government statistics from 2011, false positive dog alerts occurred in 80 percent of cases, with 11,248 of 14,102 analyzed cases resulting in no finding of drugs. Festival presenter Symbiotic said in a Facebook post, “Refunds will be made available to anyone that is denied entry to the event due to this circumstance.”

District of Columbia: On April 30, 2018, D.C. police officer Nathan Clinkscale, 25, was discovered in the bedroom of a teenage girl he’d met on a dating website. The child’s mother reported the incident to Prince George’s County police; Clinkscale was subsequently arrested and charged with a third-degree sexual offense. Clinkscale was off duty at the time of the sexual encounter and was immediately placed on administrative leave. According to a police department statement, “The allegations against him are disgraceful, and do not represent the standards of ethics our sworn officers are committed to upholding every day.”

Florida: A report from the Office of Inspector General, withheld from the public until June 8, 2018, revealed that in February 2016 the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stopped performing background checks on tens of thousands of applicants for concealed weapons permits. An employee responsible for conducting the searches of the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System could not log into the computerized system; the problem continued until another worker discovered it in March 2017. Aaron Keller, a department spokesman, said, “As soon as we learned that one employee failed to review applicants’ non-criminal disqualifying information, we immediately terminated the employee, thoroughly reviewed every application potentially impacted, and implemented safeguards to prevent this from happening again.”

Georgia: Officer Taylor Saulters of the Athens-Clarke County Police Department was fired after he chased Timmy Patmon on foot and then in his patrol car, before ramming the suspect with the cruiser and sending him flying over the windshield. Body-cam footage captured the June 1, 2018, incident that sent Patmon, who had been wanted on a warrant for probation violation, to the hospital with a broken arm, an injured leg, and scrapes and bruises. Chief Scott Freeman said, “The Internal Affairs review found that [Saulters] had used excessive force in this specific case because it is not in our protocol to strike individuals in this manner.”

Hawaii: The Hawaii State Auditor issued a report on June 14, 2018, which raises concerns about the state’s controversial asset forfeiture law. According to the audit, some $2 million in forfeited funds intended to be allocated for drug prevention have been mismanaged by the Office of the Attorney General, which administers the program. The report also says the AG’s office has failed to provide guidance and transparency to the citizens, who might have assets seized, and to law enforcement and local prosecutors who might initiate forfeitures. Former state senator Will Espero, who is a candidate for lieutenant governor, commended the audit but remains critical of the program. “There’s a lot more discussion that needs to happen,” he said. “Just about everybody I talk to says, ‘You’re right, if you don’t have a conviction, government should not be taking your property.’”

Illinois: Chicagoans for an End to the Gang Database, Northwestern University’s MacArthur Justice Center, and other civil rights groups filed a lawsuit June 19, 2018, which alleges the Chicago Police Department manages its mistake-filled database of suspected gang members in an “arbitrary, discriminatory” and “over-inclusive” manner. That gives patrol officers “unlimited discretion” to label people as gang members. The suit challenges the overall accuracy of the files and raises allegations of constitutional violations against people who have erroneously been listed as participants in gang activity. An estimated 128,000 adult Chicagoans and up to 68,000 juveniles in the city are included in the data collection. Court filings seek class-action status for the proceedings.

Kentucky: Scott County Coroner John Goble and retired State Police Colonel Mike Crawford were indicted on June 7, 2018, on multiple counts related to the theft of government-owned weapons and ammunition valued at about $40,000. The pair stands accused of receiving stolen property from Kentucky State Police Trooper Robert M. Harris, who diverted shotguns, rifles and two truckloads of ammunition from the state police supply depot where he worked. He was previously indicted for unlawful taking and second-degree forgery. Goble faces an additional drug possession charge after being found with 90 tablets of Oxycodone, as well as charges for abuse of public trust and official misconduct for using a county vehicle to transport illicit items, including moonshine and a pair of human eyeballs – for personal profit.

Michigan: Motorized vehicles are forbidden on scenic Mackinac Island, but, as two Michigan State Police polygraph experts realized too late, stealing someone else’s bicycle is forbidden, too. Lt. Andrew Longuski, 50, and Detective Sgt. Derick Jordan, 45, had been bar-hopping after attending a training conference for state lie detector examiners when they were busted “double riding” on a pink-seated bicycle that apparently belonged to someone who worked on the island. Michigan State Police spokeswoman Shanon Banner confirmed that the officers had been arrested on May 18, 2018, and charged with larceny under $200 and disturbing the peace.

Minnesota: A marijuana sting operation by Minneapolis police was brought to a halt after extreme disparities were discovered in the racial demographic of people targeted for arrest. On June 7, 2018, the force announced that it would dismiss charges against 47 suspected drug dealers after Hennepin County’s chief public defender, Mary Moriarty, noticed the trend that all 47 arrestees, save one, were African-American. Moriarty filed a grievance with Mayor Jacob Frey, who then ordered Chief Medaria Arradondo to cease the operation, which levied felony charges against people who were caught selling one to two grams of weed valued at $10 to $20. Frey, a proponent of marijuana legalization, commented, “The fact that racial disparities are so common nationwide in the enforcement of marijuana laws is one of the reasons I support full legalization.”

Missouri: June 14, 2018 was a deadly day to encounter officers from the Kansas City Police Department. In the span of two hours, KCPD officers shot and killed three people, raising community outrage against the agency’s use-of-force policies. Captain Lionel Colón said in a statement that the officers had “no other option than to use deadly force,” when they fired on a woman who had barricaded herself into a shed while armed with a sword, or when, about an hour later, they gunned down a pair of men who were fighting over a “golf cart and a gun.” Local activist Damon Daniel of the AdHoc Group Against Crime said, “We certainly want law enforcement to return home safely, but we also want them to protect us even when we are perhaps in not in our right minds or on the right side of the law.” 

New Jersey: Cellphone video posted on social media depicts 20-year-old Emily Weinman’s violent encounter with a Wildwood, New Jersey, police officer as she tried to enjoy the May 30, 2018, Memorial Day holiday on the beach with her daughter and some friends. Weinman said in a Facebook post that the attack occurred after she asked the officer and his partner if they didn’t “have something better to do as cops than to stop people for underage drinking on the beach.” After the assault, the young mother was arrested and charged with multiple crimes, including two counts of aggravated assault on police, disorderly conduct, minor in possession of alcohol, and obstruction. Weinman, who passed a breathalyzer test that proved she wasn’t consuming alcohol, is shown in the video falling to the ground while an officer punched her in the head and restrained her in a headlock. An internal affairs investigation into the officer’s use of force is underway.

New York: Attorney Phillip Ohene, who represents 34-year-old probationary NYPD officer Kevin Williams, said his client “blacked out after a night of drinking and doesn’t remember” screaming, “I’m gonna rape and rob you,” at a Staten Island woman before knocking her down and stealing her purse. The May 11, 2018, incident left the woman with minor injuries to her knee, elbow and hand. Williams was arrested on attempted robbery, assault, harassment, and possession of stolen property charges. He was off duty at the time of the attack and was immediately suspended without pay.

North Carolina: Florida lawyer Patrick Megaro allegedly misused and mismanaged compensation funds awarded to a pair of mentally disabled clients for his personal benefit. Henry McCollum and his half-brother Leon Brown, received $750,000 each from the state of North Carolina after being released from prison and declared innocent of murder charges 31 years after their convictions. On April 20, 2018, the North Carolina State Bar opened an investigation into Megaro’s dealings with McCollum and Brown. Megaro was previously reprimanded in 2015 for making false and misleading statements about legal services provided and is currently the subject of another unrelated misconduct case before the Bar. A court-appointed guardian removed Megaro as McCollum’s attorney-of-record, but he continues to represent Brown.

Pennsylvania: In a January 2018 council meeting, Masontown, Pennsylvania, city council president John Stoffa openly called for an audit of “seemingly corrupt and unethical actions” committed by the local police department. His decision to confront law enforcement authorities with his concerns about allegations of previous police misconduct resulted in what Stoffa now considers a clear act of retaliation – his home was raided on January 17, 2018, without probable cause by two local officers and a third from nearby Cumberland Township. Stoffa is suing the Borough of Masontown, police Chief Joseph Ryan, Mayor Toni Petrus and former councilmen Harry Lee and Frank McLaughlin for unspecified damages amid accusations of First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment constitutional violations. The case remains pending. See: Stoffa v. Borough of Masontown, U.S.D.C. (W.D. Pa.) Case No. 2:18-cv-00123-JFC.

Pennsylvania: A cop charged with raping two young boys was extended the judicial courtesy of pleading to lesser offenses and received a sentence that immediately qualified him for work release. Former Dupont police officer David Turkos was charged in 2015 with three counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, two counts of indecent assault, and one count of simple assault. Two years later, he was allowed to plead to two counts of corruption of a minor and sentenced to nine to 23 months at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility, which made him immediately eligible for work release. Work release lets prisoners go to work during the day and sleep nights behind bars. The victims, who are now teens, testified that Turkos sexually abused them multiple times when they were between 4 and 6 years old. They said between 2001 and 2008 Turkos threatened to hurt their pets and loved ones if they talked about the abuse. Another victim told investigators that Turkos zip-tied him to a railing while sexually assaulting him.

Washington: Seattle police officer Martin Harris, 51, was placed on administrative reassignment after being charged with misdemeanor assault for punching a man twice in the eye during an arrest that later revealed to be unlawful. Harris also is accused of misrepresenting the events of June 1, 2018, when he encountered and confronted the unnamed man whom he claimed was trespassing on private property—a fact that the property owner later disputed. Harris burst into a physical attack after the man refused to provide identification, asked for Harris’ supervisor, and asked the officer to verify that the property owner had made a complaint. SPD Sergeant Gary Nelson, who investigated the case, said, “Officer Harris committed the crime of assault 12A.06.010 when first taking hold of the man, arresting him without probable cause, and then striking him in an effort to get the man to comply with an unlawful arrest.”

Washington: Raphael Sanchez was sentenced June 26, 2018, to four years in prison and ordered to pay restitution for wire fraud and stealing identities while working as a chief counsel at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Seattle office. Sanchez devised a scheme to defraud aliens during stages of their immigration removal proceedings with ICE, raking in over $190,000 in four years. A 17-year veteran of the agency, Sanchez had already been earning a “six-figure salary as a high-ranking attorney,” according to The Washington Post. “He represented the agency in all deportation proceedings and asylum hearings throughout Alaska, Oregon and Washington, according to court documents.” The 44-year-old lawyer “falsified documents like public utility accounts for proof of residence and assembled counterfeit IDs, the court documents say. For the male identities, Sanchez used his own photograph, and for the female identities he affixed a picture released in the media of a woman who had been murdered.” He even claimed a few aliens as dependent family members to gain extra tax deductions, according to the Justice Department. In addition, his sham business entities defrauded major financial institutions, court documents show.

West Virginia: According to an indictment issued on June 19, 2018, by a grand jury in Charleston, West Virginia, Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry lied about his personal use of government-issued credit cards and vehicles, and tried to cover up his role in the removal of a desk with significant historical value from Supreme Court offices to his home. Loughry, who was suspended without pay, is, ironically, best known for writing a book on government graft titled Don’t Buy Another Vote, I Won’t Pay for a Landslide: The Sordid and Continuing History of Political Corruption in West Virginia. He was appointed as the court’s chief justice in January 2017, but now faces 22 federal charges, ranging from witness tampering to fraud. 

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