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Archive for April, 2017

Homeland Security Secretary Kelly Considers Body Cams for Border Patrol Agents

Body cams, via Wikipedia

Body cams, via Wikipedia

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

As complaints continue about President Trump’s toughened immigration policies, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Tuesday that he will consider body cameras for Border Patrol and ICE agents, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

Kelly met with Congressional Hispanic Caucus members and said he would investigate credible charges of civil rights violations.

In a meeting three weeks ago with Democratic lawmakers, Kelly insisted the agency lacked enough money to buy body cameras.

“We believe that this would increase transparency and would make sure that ICE agents are doing their jobs properly, that Border Patrol agents are doing their job properly,” said U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, who has led the push for the body cameras. “He (Kelly) said he is committed to that, and hopefully that will become ‘part of our job.’”

Castro called out Kelly’s claims that the agency doesn’t have enough money for body cams, noting that Trump’s budget calls for an infusion of $2.8 billion for discretionary spending at Homeland Security.

“There are tremendous safety and accountability benefits to having video records of law enforcement activity – both for the officers and for the public,” Castro wrote.

Justice Department May Weaken Police Reform Agreements

police lightsBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department plans to review reform agreements with troubled police forces nationwide to determine if the consent decrees will sacrifice the Trump administration’s goals of establishing law and order.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the agreements between local police forces and the DOJ’s civil rights division will be reviewed by his top two deputies, the Washington Post reports. 

“The Attorney General and the new leadership in the Department are actively developing strategies to support the thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country that seek to prevent crime and protect the public,” Justice officials said in a memo. “The Department is working to ensure that those initiatives effectively dovetail with robust enforcement of federal laws designed to preserve and protect civil rights.”

The move comes after the Justice Department asked a federal judge to postpone a hearing on police reform agreements with the Baltimore Police Department for up to 90 days.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh opposed the extension request, saying the consent decree was a helpful tool in reforming the police department, Reuters reports. 

“Much has been done to begin the process of building faith between the police department and the community it seeks to serve. Any interruption in moving forward may have the effect of eroding the trust that we are working hard to establish,” she said. 

The agreement was reached in January following the death two years previously of Freddie Gray, a black man killed while in police custody.

The Justice Department wants to determine whether the consent decree inhibits the enforcement of law and order.

“The Department has determined that permitting it more time to examine the consent decree proposed in this case in light of these initiatives will help ensure that the best result is achieved for the people of the City,” they wrote, asking for a hearing set for Thursday to be postponed until June.

Senate Committee Approves Rosenstein As Deputy Attorney General

Rod Rosenstein, candidate for deputy attorney general.

Rod Rosenstein, candidate for deputy attorney general.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The nomination of Rod Rosenstein as deputy attorney general was approved Monday by the Senate Judiciary Committee, setting the stage for a full Senate vote.

Senators voted 19-1 in favor of Rosenstein. If the full Senate approves the nomination, Rosenstein will take the No. 2 spot at the Justice Department, the Hill reports. 

Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from investigations into Russia’s interference in the presidential election, Rosenstein would be in control of the high-profile probe.

“He is on the American side, not on the Russian side, and I trust that he’ll hold true to that statement,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said.

Watch Ex-FBI Agent Explain How Russian Trolls Influenced Presidential Election

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Russian meddling in the U.S. election was about more than the hacking of DNC emails and covert communication with Donald Trump’s campaign team.

It’s also about Russian trolls who used social media to spread fake news and propaganda, according to former FBI special agent and national security expert Clint Watts, Vice News reports.

“If you looked at [Trump’s] Twitter feed this morning, he cited a Wikileaks release essentially which was conducted by the Russians to attack Hillary Clinton, yet again, even after the election,” Watts said during a live interview Monday with VICE News. “Russia stole information. [Trump] is still using it against his opponent, and he already won the election. So he’s giving Russia a victory even after the election, and they were already winning before.”

Homeland Security Employee Gets 18 Months in Prison After Bringing Gun to Work

courtroomA Homeland Security employee who brought a loaded gun to work was sentenced to 18 months in prison Monday. 

Jonathan Leigh Wienke, 46, was convicted in December of making a firearm violation of the National Firearms Act by attaching a silencer to his pistol, NBC Washington reports. 

Wienke was found with a gun, knife, pepper spray, thermal imaging equipment and radio devices at his job at agency headquarters on Nebraska Avenue in northeast Washington D.C.

A search warrant of his home turned up 19 firearms and up to 50,000 rounds of ammunition.

An agent said in cour documents that there was “probable cause to believe Jonathan Wienke was conspiring with another to commit workplace violence, and more particularly may have been conspiring or planning to commit violence against the senior DHS officials in the building.”

ICE Agents Arrest 150+ Undocumented Immigrants in 12-Day Sting

ice-agentsBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Federal agents arrested 153 undocumented immigrants and others throughout Texas during a 12-day operation that ended Friday.

The arrests were made in Austin, Waco, San Antonio, Laredo and Harlingen. Of those detained, 138 were men, and 15 were women, ICE said in a news release. 

Of those arrested, 137 had criminal histories that ranged from aggravated sexual assault of a child to drug possession.

The undocumented immigrants came from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Canada and El Salvador.

Here are five summaries of those arrested:

  • A 27- year-old woman from Mexico was arrested in Laredo March 20. She has a prior conviction for injury to a child with bodily injury. She was processed and removed to Mexico.
  • A 30-year-old man from Mexico was arrested in Austin March 21. He has a prior conviction for delivery of a controlled substance (cocaine). The U.S. Attorney’s Office is prosecuting him for illegally re-entering the United States after being deported.
  • A 48-year-old man from Mexico was arrested in Harlingen, Texas, March 24. He was convicted of intoxicated manslaughter with a vehicle. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is prosecuting him for illegally re-entering the United States after being deported.
  • A 20-year-old man from Guatemala was arrested in San Antonio March 23. He was convicted of injury to a child with intent to cause bodily injury. He remains in ICE custody pending a hearing before an immigration judge.
  • A 46-year-old man from Mexico was arrested in San Antonio March 31. He was convicted of the following crimes: aggravated sexual assault of a child (first degree felony), 2 DUIs and assault. He is in ICE custody pending removal proceedings.

Other Stories of Interest

Retired FBI Agent Flies in to Detroit For Premiere of Movie ‘White Boy,’ Hoping To Help Keep Injustice In Public Eye

Retired FBI agent Herman Groman in the movie "White Boy."

Retired FBI agent Herman Groman in the movie “White Boy.”

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT — As an FBI agent in Detroit for 12 years, Herman Groman often played a central role in some of the most explosive cases in the city that resulted in crooked judges and cops going off to prison.

But Groman says there was more to being an agent.

“It’s not about just locking up bad guys,” says Groman, who retired in 2005 from the Las Vegas FBI office after 25 years in the bureau. “Part of the job description is bringing justice to the situation.”

Last week,  Groman, who for years has been advocating the release of imprisoned drug trafficker Richard Wershe Jr.,  flew in from Las Vegas to Detroit for the premiere last Friday night of the documentary, “White Boy,” at the Detroit Institute of Arts. It’s part of the Freep Film Festival.

Richard Wershe Jr., aka "White Boy Rick" as a teen and now.

Richard Wershe Jr., aka “White Boy Rick” as a teen and now.

The film by Shawn Rech portrays Wershe, 47, (aka “White Boy Rick”) as being the victim of an injustice, suggesting higher ups in the city have worked for decades to prevent him from getting paroled. He’s been serving a life sentence for cocaine trafficking for 29 years, since he was a teenager, something even many law enforcement people have said is not right.

“Part of the reason I participated in this documentary, which was well researched, was because I wanted to be part of the effort to keep that story alive,” says Groman, who is one of the key characters in the documentary. “It was important to be here for the premiere to lend support to the underlying goal of getting the attention of the folks who need to revisit this injustice.”


Herm Groman after the movie

Groman met Wershe as a teen through his dad who was FBI informant. Wershe also ended up being an informant for the FBI and Detroit Police, starting at age 14.

In the early 1990s, Groman helped head up a major FBI sting dubbed “Operation Backbone,” and convinced Wershe to cooperate from prison in Marquette in the Upper Peninsula where he was serving the life sentence at the time.

Groman convinced Wershe to work with the FBI and get cops to protect drug and money shipments into Detroit for drug dealers, who were really undercover FBI agents. It worked. He sucked in Mayor Coleman A. Young’s niece, Cathy Volsan, whom he dated, and her father Willie Volsan, who had a lot of connections in town. In the end Willie Volsan went off to prison along with a number of cops. Charges were dropped against Cathy.

It was good for justice. Not so good for Wershe, who says in the documentary that his cooperation with authorities in investigations may be a reason he’s still behind bars after 29 years. He said he believes Mayor Young wasn’t happy that he hurt his family and either was the late Gil Hill, the former homicide cop and city council member.

“In the final analysis, I think it did hurt Rick, but that was unpredictable,” Groman says of Wershe’s cooperation in the sting. “It’s my goal has been all along to right that wrong.”


There was a panel discussion after the movie

After becoming an informant, Wershe became a drug dealer, peddling multi-kilos of cocaine and dating the mayor’s niece after her husband, drug dealer Johnny Curry, went off to prison.

“I became addicted to the lifestyle,” Wershe says in the documentary. “I became addicted to the money. I became addicted to the woman. I became addicted to that life.”

Some folks who have opposed his parole up until recently include Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who portrayed Wershe as a dangerous drug kingpin, who should never get paroled. She just recently said she won’t oppose a parole. He’s expected to get a parole hearing later this year.

“There’s someone in there keeping me in prison and it’s not the crime that I committed,” Wershe says in the movie.

As an aside, former homicide inspector Hill is portrayed as a crooked cop.

Hitman Nathaniel Craft, who is out of prison, accuses Hill in the movie of asking him to kill Wershe. He says he tries at one point, but fails.

Groman says Hill was no angel, but he’s skeptical of Craft’s accusation about Hill.

As for Wershe as a teenager:

“He was a bad kid. He needed to go to jail for a few years. But not for the rest of his life. That’s just Draconian.”

WHITE BOY TRAILER from Transition Studios on Vimeo.

FBI Pays Best Buy Technicians to ‘Ferret Out Child Porn” on Computers

Best Buy, via Wikipedia

Best Buy, via Wikipedia

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Technicians for Best Buy’s “Geek Squad City” are being paid by the FBI as part of “a joint venture to ferret out child porn,” according to claims in new federal documents.

The allegations were leveled by lawyers for a California doctor who was charged with possessing child pornography after Best Buy technicians said they found unlawful images on his computer, the Washington Post reports

It has been known that Best Buy’s computer repair facility had a relationship with the FBI, but the new allegations suggest the ties are much deeper the previously believed.

The Post wrote:

While there is no question that Geek Squad technicians have notified authorities after finding child porn, the new court documents assert that there is a deeper relationship than has previously been revealed between the company and federal authorities. The court is now considering the extent of that relationship and whether it is grounds to throw out a pending child porn case, though it could also have ramifications for the dozens of cases which originate from the Kentucky facility annually.

Defense lawyers for the doctor argue that Geek Squad City’s technicians acted as government agents by receiving payments from the FBI, regularly speaking with and referring cases to the FBI, and creating a program to search for child porn. If a government agent wants to search a computer, they need a warrant, and the case has raised issues of privacy invasion and violation of constitutional search and seizure rights.