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Articles by Christopher Zoukis

Lawsuit Over GEO Group "Voluntary" $1 a Day Work Program Survives Motion to Dismiss

by Christopher Zoukis

A federal judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit challenging private prison company GEO Group's "Voluntary Work Program," which pays detained immigrants $1 per day for cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and otherwise running the facility in which they are held. The December 6, 2017 order rejected GEO's arguments that federal law preempts any attempt to force them to pay detainees the Washington state minimum wage of $11 per hour, and that immigrant detainees are not "employees" under Washington law.

The class action suit was brought by Chao Chen, a citizen of the People's Republic of China who was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and held at the GEO-owned Northwest Detention Center (NDC) from October 2014 until February 2016. NDC is a 1,500 bed ICE facility which makes use of GEO's Voluntary Work Program, a program that pays detainees $1 per day, and sometimes more and better food, to keep the facility running.

In a December 6, 2017 ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Bryan weighed GEO's arguments that the case should be dismissed. GEO first argued that federal law, which is the supreme law of the land, preempts any ...

Broward County Deputy Jailed for Sexual Assault of a Minor

by Christopher Zoukis

A police officer with the Broward County, Florida sheriff's office has been arrested and charged with illegal sexual activity involving a teenage girl.

Leon Campbell, a 37-year-old deputy sheriff, was jailed October 19, 2017, but was released the next day on a $15,000 bond. According to TheFreeThoughtProject.com (TFTP), he was charged with second degree felony lewd or lascivious battery and sexual activity with a minor.

Campbell became acquainted with the victim through a friend, the girl's uncle. From the time she was 15, through the date of his arrest, Campbell allegedly carried on a sexual relationship with the teen. He disguised the nature of the relationship by claiming to be a mentor to the young lady.

In reality, according to TFTP, Campbell was beating the child with a black leather whip and sexually assaulting her while she wore a dog collar.

The crime came to the attention of authorities thanks to the victim's aunt. She had observed Campbell touching the girl's breast, and reported the contact to the Lauderhill police. She was also able to obtain a recording in which Campbell admitted to sexually assaulting the girl.

When his fellow officers ...

Overzealous Prosecutors Getting the Boot

by Christopher Zoukis

All across the nation, a major pushback against hardline, tough on crime prosecutors is taking place. In the same election cycle which saw the elevation of "law and order" candidate Donald Trump to the presidency, several high profile prosecutors have been voted out of office.

In Chicago, incumbent Cook County prosecutor Anita Alvarez lost the democratic primary to newcomer Kim Foxx. Alvarez had been dogged with controversy after she allegedly covered up the shooting death of Laquan McDonald by police officer Jason Van Dyke. Van Dyke was eventually charged with murder after a dashcam video surfaced in which he is seen shooting the teenager 16 times.

Foxx celebrated her victory as a mandate from the people to bring reform to a failing system.

"Our struggles here are very real," said Foxx. "The need to rebuild a broken criminal justice [system] here in Cook County is not work that should be taken lightly."

In Cleveland, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty lost to Michael O'Malley. McGinty's short tenure as top prosecutor in Cleveland was marred by his bungling of the Tamir Rice case. McGinty failed to obtain an indictment against the rookie cop who shot to death ...

67 Counts for Cop Who Had Sex With Underage Girl

by Christopher Zoukis

Raul Olmeda, a three-and-a-half year veteran of the NYPD, has been arrested and charged with paying an underage girl for sex and recording the incidents.

According to the New York Daily News, the 40-year-old Bronx cop engaged in the illegal sex acts five times between January and April 2017. Two of the trysts took place after Olmeda's apartment was raided and searched by fellow officers.

Police Commissioner James O'Neill released a statement in which he did not mince his words.

"The nature and scope of the charges in this indictment are egregious," O'Neill said. "The fact that the defendant is an NYPD officer evidences an unconscionable violation of his oath to uphold the law and protect the public."

The charges in the 67-count indictment include rape, use of a child in sexual performance, patronizing a minor for prostitution, and official misconduct, apparently for using a police computer to determine what evidence they had against him.

According to Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, Olmeda paid the teen for sex and "preyed on the vulnerable young woman and videotaped his demeaning and dehumanizing act."

Olmeda, through his lawyer, Stuart London, denied the accusations "from the bottom ...

Cop Who Firebombed Supervisor's House Gets 20 Years

by Christopher Zoukis

A rogue police officer from the Edison, New Jersey police department has been sentenced to 20 years in prison following his guilty plea to a string of violent offenses, including the firebombing of his boss's house.

Michael Dotro was an Edison cop for 10 years before his arrest and conviction. During that time, according to the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office, he engaged in multiple "vengeful" plots, cyberbullied a co-worker, slashed a co-worker's tires, bought and sold marijuana, tampered with witnesses, and threw a Molotov cocktail into now-Deputy Chief Mark Anderko's house in 2013.

Superior Court Judge Pedro Jimenez blasted Dotro during sentencing, referring to his time as a police officer as "a complete fraud." The judge also took umbrage to the fact that Anderko's family was sleeping in the home when Dotro firebombed it, allegedly because Anderko switched his shift and ordered him to undergo a fitness-for-duty evaluation after his 11th excessive force complaint.

"Sneaking up on a home in the early morning hours while everyone was asleep and knowing that other people were in the home, that's depraved, there's no doubt," said Jimenez. "This was a targeted effort by ...

Report: Police Killings on the Rise

by Christopher Zoukis

A report from KilledByPolice.net, a website that tracks police killings, indicates that the number of such killings is up as compared to last year. According to the site, police have killed 884 people as of September 26, 2017. Over the same period in 2016, police had killed 867 people.

The slight rise in police related fatalities doesn't tell the whole story, though. The Washington Post, which also maintains a count of police killings, indicated that the numbers as of July 2017 were nearly identical to the same period in 2016. The rise in fatalities reported by KilledByPolice.net is bad, but what is worse is that the numbers are not going down.

This is despite the visibility that nationwide protests and calls for reform have brought to the issue. Indeed, President Trump's skirmishes with the NFL over player protests has put police violence on the front page of almost every newspaper. Some law enforcement agencies have responded by taking steps to curb the violence by police, yet little has changed.

"These numbers show us that officer-involved shootings are constant over time," University of South Carolina criminologist Geoffrey Alpert told the Post. "Some places go ...

Civil Asset Forfeiture: Unfair, Unjust, Un-American

by Christopher Zoukis

Founding Father George Mason once said, “When the same man, or set of men, holds the sword and the purse, there is an end of liberty.” Mason, along with many other founders of the United States of America, believed strongly in the separation of government powers. These men knew firsthand the potential for abuse and oppression that exists when a single governing authority has both the means to take property from citizens and the incentive to do so.

The development of civil asset forfeiture in modern America is likely causing George Mason to turn over in his grave. Law enforcement authorities at both the state and federal level use civil proceedings to forfeit assets seized from private citizens allegedly involved in a crime, sometimes without even filing any criminal charges, and then keep the forfeited assets for themselves. This creates a powerful incentive for police agencies to seize whatever property they can get their hands on, which leads to abusive and liberty-threatening policies and practices. Mason was right, and what he observed is taking place all across the country.

Civil asset forfeiture has been around since medieval times. According to the Institute for Justice (“IJ”), a ...

Research Needed: Do Drug Dogs Respond to Drugs or Handler?

by Christopher Zoukis

The use of drug detecting dogs in law enforcement is ubiquitous across the country. They are a popular tool among police agencies, because a drug dog’s “alert” provides the probable cause necessary to legally search a vehicle without warrant or permission. But are these alerts a response to the smell of illegal drugs or a response to unconscious cues from a handler?

As noted in an article on TechDirt.com, dogs like to please their handlers. They are also highly sensitive to behavior that leads to reward. While there is no denying the power of a dog’s sniff, there is a worrisome shortage of data on what, exactly, a drug dog is doing when it alerts.

According to the TechDirt.com article, “there’s a deliberate dearth of data when it comes to drug-sniffing dog fallibility. Tracking this data would undercut the dogs’ raison d’etre: to act as probable cause for warrantless searches.” Of course, the lack of hard data “makes challenging drug dog ‘alerts’ in court almost impossible.”

One study, reported more than seven years ago by NPR, showed that drug dogs tend to respond to handler cues more than to actual drugs. Researcher Lisa ...

Questioning the Use of DNA Testing Software in Criminal Prosecution

by Christopher Zoukis

The use of DNA evidence in criminal trials has become ubiquitous. Because DNA evidence is highly persuasive to judges and juries, several new tests purport to make positive DNA matches using minuscule amounts of matter, or even matter that has been polluted. As defense attorneys push back on these new methods, they are running into a brick wall: The companies that create these tests and the forensic labs that use them refuse to turn over the source code for defense analysis.

In California, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”) recently filed an amicus brief arguing that courts should require the government to turn over the source code of any software used for DNA analysis. In the case at issue, the government used a DNA matching software program called TrueAllele to produce a DNA match. The defendant requested the TrueAllele source code but was denied.

The EFF argued that both due process and the rules of evidence require handing over the code. Without it, the defendant is unable to examine how the software works, and is thus unable to mount a proper challenge to the results. EFF staff attorney Stephanie Lacambra said that a defendant’s right to a fair ...

Louisiana Indigent Defendants Face Death Penalty Without Lawyers

by Christopher Zoukis

The indigent defense crisis in Louisiana continues, but it is now taking a new and more ominous direction. In order to fund local public defenders, the state has taken $3 million from capital defenders, leaving at least 11 Louisiana defendants who are facing the death penalty without a lawyer.

New Orleans Chief Defender Derwyn Bunton’s decision to refuse new clients made national news, and the Louisiana legislature took action. In June 2016, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law a bill requiring the state’s indigent defense agency to spend more on local public defenders. A $5 million infusion propped up local indigent defender offices statewide.

But $3 million of that came from the fund used for the defense of those facing the death penalty. “They robbed Peter to pay Paul,” said Jay Dixon, chief defender for the Louisiana Public Defender Board. “We’re still in crisis; it’s just a different crisis. And now they can’t shift any more money around, so we could be facing an even greater crisis next year.”

A Marshall Project report issued on November 28, 2017 indicates that of the 11 indigent defendants facing a death sentence without a lawyer, five have ...




 

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