Friday, January 17, 2014
By Terrence McCoy
No one thought twice about the gunshots. It was just before midnight on NW 77th Street in Little Haiti. At that time of night, neighbors would later tell police, they often hear gunfire. Usually, it's some jacked addict playing around like a fool. Other times, it's significantly worse. But in this Miami neighborhood, where nearly one in 60 is a victim of violent crime, you don't mess with someone else's business.
So when a curvaceous 18-year-old woman named Ciara Armbrister ducked out of her one-bedroom apartment just minutes after hearing multiple gunshots, she wasn't worried. Wearing Spider-Man socks, she padded down the weedy alley behind her building toward the apartment of the teenager she'd recently started sleeping with. She knew 18-year-old Jonathan Volcy, confident and smooth, was a drug dealer. But so were a lot of people in this neighborhood.
Her mood darkened, however, when she saw Volcy's back door wide open. Strange, she thought. The back door's never open. She crept into the 500-square-foot apartment, cluttered with Moon Pie wrappers and baggies of coke. Peeking her head around the corner, she saw them: two bodies, face-down, drenched in blood.
Armbrister couldn't breathe, couldn't think. She had to get out of there. Moments later, she was pounding at the door of a neighbor, who put down his X-Box controller. Armbrister's socks, he noticed, were sopping crimson. "Somebody shot them boys!" she shrieked. "Somebody shot them boys!"
It didn't take long for the cops to arrive. Close behind was a camera crew filming an episode of The First 48, one of television's most-watched reality crime programs. The A&E show hinges on the premise that detectives have 48 hours to solve a murder before the trail goes cold. And in the double murder of Volcy and his 14-year-old housemate, Raynathan Ray, the clock was already ticking.
Under the camera's gaze, detectives quickly assembled a grisly assortment of facts. Seven bullet holes pockmarked the apartment. Four 9mm Luger bullet casings littered the floor. The side window was open six inches. Bloody footprints and shoe prints marked the white tile floor like a macabre piece of art. And most important, both victims had been killed by a single gunshot to the back of the head. Whoever executed the boys had been inside the apartment. This had been an "inside job," as the episode would later be named.
It was great television. And sure enough, within days, barely past the show's deadline, Miami Police had their man. The missing roommate, 21-year-old Taiwan Smart — who'd been present before the murders but conspicuously absent afterward — was charged on November 18, 2009, with two counts of second-degree murder. "What we have is a circumstantial case, but the circumstantial evidence that we have tells a strong story," Detective Fabio Sanchez said into the cameras as Smart was carted away in handcuffs. Sanchez paused. "It's a shame that these two victims, who were very young, had to lose their lives to a person who they thought was their friend."
But the cops' case wasn't nearly as strong as Sanchez made it sound. To lock up Smart — which they'd do for a staggering 20 months — Miami Police would grossly misrepresent witness statements and tell outright lies. They'd take an impoverished kid and destroy his character not only on the streets but on a national scale. Finally, they'd ignore the man who was fingered as the real killer.
The tragedy inflicted upon this wrongfully accused man, however, is only the latest injustice in this show's history. In Detroit, city police shot a 7-year-old girl in the head in a bungled attempt to catch a suspect on The First 48. In Houston, another man was locked up for three years after cops wrongfully accused him of murder within the first 48 hours. And in Miami, according to a New Times examination of court records, at least 15 men have walked free of murder charges spawned under the program's glare.
Despite it all — sloppy crime scenes, rushed arrests, ruined lives — The First 48, which has now reached its 13th season, is as popular as ever. Millions of Americans tune in to every new episode, and with ratings as seductive as these, who cares about a few botched investigations?
|It's not just for aliens anymore!|
By STEVEN NELSON
A New Mexico man forced by police to undergo a colonoscopy has quietly settled his legal case against officials from Hidalgo County and Deming, N.M.
KOB-TV reports that _____, 64, will be paid $1.6 million by the local governments – $650,000 from Hidalgo County and $950,000 from the city of Deming – to resolve the case, which was filed in U.S. District Court in November.
_____'s lawsuit alleged his Fourth Amendment rights were violated after Deming police pulled him over on Jan. 2, 2013, for allegedly rolling through a stop sign. Hidalgo County authorities arrived on the scene and played a role in justifying a lengthy series of medical procedures.
No drugs were found by police in _____'s vehicle or within his body by doctors at the Gila Regional Medical Center, who administered two digital anal probes and an X-ray scan, then inserted into _____'s anus three enemas and analyzed the resulting stool samples, then performed another X-ray and – ultimately – conducted a colonoscopy with anesthesia.
A judge granted police a search warrant authorizing a probe "up to and including [_____'s] anal cavity." The warrant's limits allegedly were exceeded by the colonoscopy and it's unclear why that procedure was necessary after enemas and X-rays did not reveal hidden drugs.
_____'s lawsuit further alleged the colonoscopy was performed without consent. His attorney, Shannon Kennedy, told U.S. News in November her client was sent a $6,000 bill by the medical center. _____ refused to pay the bill.
"This is essentially medical anal rape, numerous times over a 12-hour period," Kennedy said. "I can't imagine anything more horrifying than what happened to our client. It's just sadistic."
One possible reason for the fruitless pursuit of drugs is that authorities were using a drug-sniffing dog named Leo whose certification allegedly expired in April 2011. The dog, under the supervision of Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office deputies, signaled _____ had drugs.
In at least one other case, Leo appears to have incorrectly alerted authorities to drugs, resulting in another innocent driver being brought to the same hospital for probing.
_____ was anally probed at the Gila Regional Medical Center in October 2012 after being pulled over for allegedly failing to use his turn signal. The same law firm is representing _____, but it's unclear what the status of his case is.
KOB-TV reports that the city and county governments quietly settled with _____ in December. The station learned the settlement amount from a public records request.
_____'s lawsuit also named two doctors, the medical center and Deputy District Attorney Daniel Dougherty, who helped acquire the search warrant. Those defendants have not settled.
Among the alleged issues in _____'s case were that the colonoscopy began on the morning of Jan. 3, 2013, hours after the search warrant expired.
It's unclear what _____, a scrap metal tradesman, will do with the settlement money or if he will move from the area.
"I feel that I got some justice as I think the settlement shows they were wrong to do what they did to me," he said in a written statement. "I truly hope that no one will be treated like this ever again. I felt very helpless and alone on that night. My family and I hope that people understand that I don't want my face linked with jokes related to anal probing. For this reason, I asked my attorneys to issue this statement in the hopes that the media will respect my privacy."
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Why not put all sinners on an online registry? If an online hit-list is good enough for one group, then so all are treated equally, all should be on an online list, right?
PROVIDENCE - A bill pending in Rhode Island's General Assembly would require convicted murderers to register with local police when they are released from prison.
- Will they also be forced to be evaluated to make sure they are not still a threat, and if they are, civilly committed?
The registry would be similar to the existing sex offender registry. Convicted murderers released from prison would have to notify local authorities.
The legislation was introduced this week by Sen. Leonidas Raptakis and Rep. Raymond Hull. Hull says residents should know if there's a convicted murderer in their community.
Other bills proposed this year would seek to make it harder for convicted murderers to win early prison release.
Hull, a Providence Democrat, expressed concern last year after the early release of _____, who served 13 years of a 35-year sentence for killing a Woonsocket woman that he and an accomplice picked at random.
A 22-year-old Savannah woman was charged with false report of a crime after she admitted to investigators she’d fabricated a report she’d been raped by two men.
Kaleigh Wilson reported to Savannah-Chatham police Sunday she’d been forced to the ground and attacked by two men as she was leaving her residence in the South Victorian District Sunday night.
Officers transported her to a local hospital for examination and began searching for the men she’d described as her assailants, said police spokesman Julian Miller.
Special Victims Unit detectives Monday charged her with filing the false report, Miller said.
“This is a serious issue,” said Metro Interim Police Chief Julie Tolbert. “Our officers and detectives take special care with Special Victims cases and the extent of our investigations is substantial and expensive. False reports not only waste time and money, but they unnecessarily alarm the community and could discourage actual victims from reporting crimes.”
JOHNSTOWN - A Johnstown police officer charged with rape is due in court Thursday.
Adam Schwabrow, 32, was arrested by his own department in mid-September on allegations that he had sex with an underage girl.
Police say the alleged rape was not forcible; however the female involved was not old enough to give consent. Details of the crime or how long he and the alleged victim knew eachother are not being released.
Schwabrow, a nine year veteran and K-9 officer for the department, was arrested at the police department Friday morning. He posted bail and is due back in court next week. The District Attorney is asking for a special prosecutor to handle the case because of Schwabrow's position.
If convicted, he could face the possibility of one to four years in state prison.
By Joel Rubin
A woman who accused two Los Angeles police officers of threatening her with jail unless she had sex with them will be paid $575,000 to drop her lawsuit against the city.
The City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the payout to the woman, whom LAPD investigators believe is one of at least four women James Nichols and Luis Valenzuela coerced into sex. The Times generally does not name alleged victims of sex crimes.
Nichols and Valenzuela, both 41, were working as narcotics detectives in Hollywood in 2010 when they arrested the woman, according to one of her attorneys, Dennis Chang, and a search warrant affidavit LAPD investigators filed as part of their criminal investigation into the officers’ conduct.
The officers offered to help free the woman from custody as she awaited trial and win her a lenient sentence if she agreed to work for them as an informant on other investigations, according to Chang and the affidavit.
“Their power over her was abundantly clear from the get-go,” Chang said.
Over the next year, Nichols and Valenzuela confronted the woman repeatedly, telling her they would no longer help her in her case unless she had sex with them, Chang and the affidavit said. She agreed, she told investigators, out of fear the officers would send her back to jail if she refused.
In March 2010, Valenzuela showed up at the woman’s apartment when he was off duty and, several months later, had sex with her in the back seat of an unmarked undercover car when he was working, according to the affidavit. Nichols, the woman told investigators, brought her to a hotel and, on a later encounter, had sex with her in her apartment.
The officers used similar threats on three other woman who also worked for them as informants or knew the officers from previous arrests, the affidavit showed. One of the alleged victims said the two officers pulled up alongside her in a Volkswagon Jetta as she was walking her dog in Hollywood. The officers, whom she recognized as the same cops who had arrested her previously, ordered her into the car, according to the affidavit.
The woman said she felt compelled to comply. Valenzuela, she said, got into the back seat with the woman and handed her dog to Nichols, who drove the car to a more secluded area. "Why don't you cut out that tough girl crap," the woman recounted Valenzuela saying as he forced her to perform oral sex on him, according to police records contained in the warrant.
The woman who filed the lawsuit was “pleased to get it behind her,” Chang said. “She was not excited to have to go through a trial.”
Attorneys for the officers could not be reached. In an earlier interview, Nichols’ attorney, Robert Rico, said the woman and the other accusers “had no credibility.”
Valenzuela, a 16-year department veteran, and Nichols, who has been an officer for 13 years, are awaiting disciplinary hearings, where it will be decided whether to fire them. City prosecutors, meanwhile, are reviewing the case to decide whether to file criminal charges, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office said.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck declined to comment on the settlement, citing the on-going internal proceedings against the officers. “The department will do the right thing, even if these officers didn’t,” he said.
By John McNeill
KALAMAZOO (WKZO) - A reserve Lieutenant in the Prairieville Township Police Department has been stripped of his badge and gun and suspended indefintiely after he was caught trying to swap drugs for homosexual sex at a Kalamazoo County Motel.
37-year-old Michael Strong was caught in a sting operation set up by State Police in a room in Oshtemo Tuesday night.
He is charged with possession of a controlled substance and a gun charge, both felonies. He could get up to 7-years if convicted.
As a condition of been freed on a personal recognizance bond, he was ordered to stay away from guns and drugs.
They suspect this isn’t the first time and investigators are looking for anyone else who may have been solicited by Strong.
By Seth Morin
INDIANAPOLIS - Law enforcement officials could be charged with a level six felony for touching a minor under a proposed Senate bill.
- You already have laws on the books for this so why do you need more laws?
Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, authored Senate Bill 43 after a series of incidents in Elkhart County in which a law enforcement officer inappropriately touched a child.
The bill says that a law enforcement officer could be charged with a level six felony if they to fondle or touch the child with intent to sexually arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of the child. The child must be 16 or 17 years old. Additionally, the officer must be at least five years older than the child.
The crime then becomes a level five felony if the law enforcement officer engages in sexual intercourse or conduct. Last year the General Assembly established a six-level felony system – with one being the highest – to replace the current A-D felony system.
Kevin Deary, the president and chief executive officer of the Boys and Girls Club of Elkhart County, testified in support of the bill. He also represented the Boys and Girls Statewide Alliance.
“Protecting and keeping children safe is our priority,” Deary said.
Deary also said that law enforcement officials “need to be held at the same standard as other public officials who deal with children, not higher, just equal.”
And Correction and Criminal Law Chairman Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, said the issue isn’t just about “police officers, it’s everyone that falls in with this professional responsibility.”
David Powell, executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, testified in favor of the bill. He said he supported the bill’s creation of strict liability for officers. This means an officer could be found guilty regardless of fault.
But Young said strict liability is unnecessary.
“Strict liability does not do away with the elements. You still have to prove that they had a relationship and that the officer fondled the other person,” Young said. “The prosecutor would still have to prove these elements.”
- In today's age of sex hysteria, all you need is an accusation to ruin your life!
The bill was put on hold until next week when an amendment will be made to take away the strict liability.
Kim Nguyen, a 27-year-old pharmacist, says she was thrown from a squad car after police kidnapped and sexually assaulted her. Nguyen was shown on camera tumbling from a moving LAPD cruiser last year, after being handcuffed in the early morning hours of March 17, 2013.
Nguyen says that officers confronted her and two male friends outside of a downtown Los Angeles restaurant at 2 am, waiting for a cab. They had been drinking and didn’t want to drive home intoxicated. The two men were told to leave or they would be arrested. After they complied, Nguyen was cuffed and placed in the cruiser.
Video of the incident appears to show Nguyen sprawled on the ground with her dress removed from the waist down.
The deposition taped last month claims that while the officer who was in the back seat with Nguyen grabbed her left inner thigh and began forcing her legs apart. Nguyen says the officer also grabbed her chest and pulled her by the ear to bring her head towards him. As she struggled to get away from him, she says officer negligence led to her being thrown from the high speed, moving vehicle.
Nguyen spent two weeks in the hospital as a result of the injuries she sustained. Her jaw was wired shut and she lost all of her teeth from the impact, after being ejected from the cruiser.
Watch the video below and spread the word about these rogue cops! The more we remain silent about these abuses, the more people like these officers are able to abuse their positions of power.
LINCOLN - Two Springfield women are seeking $500,000 in a lawsuit against a Lincoln man, two Lincoln police officers and the city of Lincoln after they said a video recording of the women changing clothes was played for other police officers and several firefighters.
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Springfield by the women who were identified as Jane Doe I and Jane Doe II. The suit alleges that in October 2012, Jackson Johnson, 33, of Lincoln secretly recorded the women after inviting them to use his home to clean up and change clothes following a group run.
Johnson was charged with making an unauthorized video recording. He was fined $2,437, ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and placed on probation for two years.
The suit filed Jan. 7 contends the video was taken to the Lincoln Police Department and that Sean Pettit, a Lincoln police officer, played the video for other police officers and firefighters. The suit also contends Robert Sherren was Pettit’s supervisor and acquiesced or allowed the taped to be played.
The plaintiffs contend that in January 2013, the Logan County state’s attorney’s office notified them the videotape was played and that, as a result, they continue to suffer severe emotional injuries, according to the lawsuit.