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Archive for June, 2021

TSA Workers to Receive Full Collective Bargaining Rights, Better Pay

By Steve Neavling

The TSA’s 46,000 officers are set to receive full collective bargaining rights and better pay, the Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday. 

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued an order that boosts the rights of TSA officers.

“TSA employees are outstanding public servants who work on the frontlines, including throughout the pandemic, to keep the traveling American public safe,”  Mayorkas said in a news release.  “They deserve the empowerment of collective bargaining and a compensation structure that recognizes and rewards them for their contributions to our safety and security.”

The directive is aimed at improving the morale and retention of TSA employees. 

For a decade, TSA officers have lacked the same protections that are afforded to other unionized government employees. 

President Biden’s administration has called for extending workers’ rights to unionize. 

FBI Investigating Postmaster General DeJoy Over Campaign Fundraising Activity

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy

By Steve Neavling

The FBI has launched an investigation into Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s campaign fundraising activity while he was working in the private sector. 

The Washington Post first reported that FBI agents have interviewed current and former DeJoy and New Breed Logistics employees about their political contributions and have issued a subpoena to DeJoy.

“Mr. DeJoy has learned that the Department of Justice is investigating campaign contributions made by employees who worked for him when he was in the private sector,” DeJoy spokesman Mark Corallo told The Post. “He has always been scrupulous in his adherence to the campaign contribution laws and has never knowingly violated them.”

DeJoy is a prominent GOP fundraiser who was selected by former President Trump to lead the U.S. Postal Service last May.

The Post reported in September that DeJoy, when he led New Breed Logistics from 2000 to 2014, was accused of pressuring employees to donate or attend fundraisers for Republican candidates and then reimbursing the employees using company bonuses.

Trump’s DOJ Secretly Seized Phone Records from New York Times Reporters

court

By Steve Neavling

President Trump’s Justice Department admitted it secretly seized phone records from four reporters for The New York Times as part of a leak investigation.  

It’s the third time in the past month that federal authorities disclosed they had surveilled journalists in an attempt to identify sources for national security stories during Trump’s presidency.

The Times reported Wednesday that the Justice Department had informed the newspaper of the seizure of phone records and secured a court order to take logs of the reporters’ emails.

The leak investigation occurred over a nearly four-month period in 2017. 

The Justice Department also disclosed that it had seized the phone logs of reporters for The Washington Post and the phone and email logs for a CNN reporter. 

“Seizing the phone records of journalists profoundly undermines press freedom,” Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, said in a statement. “It threatens to silence the sources we depend on to provide the public with essential information about what the government is doing.”

The Justice Department did not identify the stories that were being investigated. But based on the reporters and timing of the investigation, The Times believes the probe was related to an April 22, 2017 article about then FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the 2016 presidential election investigation.

FBI Investigates Louisville Police Accused of Throwing Slushies at People

By Steve Neavling

The FBI is investigating Louisville Metro Police officers for allegedly throwing slushies or drinks at residents from police vehicles. 

Two officers have been demoted to desk duty while the investigation plays out, The Louisville Courier-Journal reports.

Chief Erika Shields said she became aware of the allegations last week. 

“Everything I’ve gotten to date has largely been hearsay,” Shields said at a Public Safety Committee meeting. “My sense is it will be another black eye to the department, and it’s going to show some very, very poor judgment by a select few individuals on this department.” 

Councilwoman Jessica Green said she’s “very disturbed” by the allegations. 

“I am very disturbed about the idea of narcotics detectives throwing snowcones on homeless Black people in West Louisville,” Green said. “I hope nobody makes excuses for that kind of behavior.” 

Trump Bills Secret Service Nearly $35,000 to Rent Portable Toilets

By Steve Neavling

They aren’t golden toilets, but they’ll cost taxpayers a lot. 

The Secret Service was charged nearly $35,000 to rent portable toilets for the next four months at former President Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, The Daily Beast reports

Trump recently moved to the club from Mar-a-Largo in Palm Beach, Fla. and plans to stay there until early fall, CNN reported.

“Even now, taxpayers continue to spend many thousands of dollars to facilitate Donald Trump’s businesses,” Noah Bookbinder, executive director of watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a former federal prosecutor, told The Daily Beast. “He is of course entitled to protection, but from the beginning, it has been about his advancement and convenience, rather than what is good for the country. Forcing taxpayers to spend all of this money for porta potties at a business that surely has sufficient bathrooms is confounding.”

The Secret Service did not comment. 

The portable toilets are just the latest extravagant cost of protecting Trump. In 2017, the Secret Service couldn’t afford to pay hundreds of agents who were responsible for protecting Trump’s large family.

Trump ordered the Secret Service to continue protecting 13 members of his family and at least three appointees beyond his first presidential term. 

FBI Agent Charged with Attempted Murder Following Shooting on Metro Subway Train

FBI Agent Eduardo Valdivia

By Steve Neavling

An FBI agent was charged with attempted murder and other counts after he shot another passenger aboard a moving Metro subway train near Washington D.C. last year, according to court records unsealed Tuesday.

Eduardo Valdivia, 37, was off duty on Dec. 15 when he shot the unarmed passenger during a confrontation.

He also was charged with first-degree assault, use of a firearm and reckless endangerment, ABC News reports

Valdivia was released on personal bond. 

Valdivia’s attorney Robert Bonsib said his client acted in self-defense. 

“The law does not require that you wait to be struck before you take action. Had this resulted in a hands-on fight and a struggle for Agent Valdivia’s gun, only God knows what could have happened,” Bonsib said.

Following the hearing, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy declined to elaborate on the charges. 

“We would not have brought the charge if we thought that it was protected by law,” McCarthy told reporters. “To explain all of the reasons why we came to this conclusion would be effectively for me to give you a closing argument as to a five-month investigation. This is not the appropriate time.”

Alleged Neo-Nazi Accused of Plotting a Mass Shooting at a Walmart in Texas

Coleman Thomas Blevins Jr. Photo: Kerr County Sheriff’s Office

By Steve Neavling

A man arrested on allegations of plotting a mass shooting at a Walmart in Texas had a stockpile of guns, ammunition and racist and extremist materials in his home. 

Coleman Thomas Blevins, 28, of Kerrville, Tex, has been charged with making a “terroristic threat to create public fear of serious bodily injury,” the Kerr County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release Sunday.

Authorities intercepted a message from Blevins that said he planned to shoot up a Walmart. 

During the investigation, the sheriff’s office made contact with Blevins and confirmed he was affiliated and networking with “extremist ideologies” and was capable of “following through with the threat.”

“Our investigators did outstanding work in this case, and possibly saved many lives,” Sheriff Larry Leitha said in the news release. “The plot interrupted in this case is unthinkable.”

Among the items found in Blevins’ home were flags depicting the swastika and other Nazi symbols and extremist books that advocated neo-Nazi ideas. 

“Firearms, ammunition, electronic evidence, concentrated THC, and radical ideology paraphernalia, including books, flags, and handwritten documents” were also seized, cops said.

FBI Agent Accused of Conning Woman Out of $800,000 As Part of ‘Secret Probation’

By Steve Neavling

A retired FBI agent accused of conning a woman out of roughly $800,000 by telling her she was on “secret probation” has been charged with multiple crimes. 

William Roy Stone Jr., 62, was indicted last week on seven counts of wire fraud, one count of wire fraud conspiracy, one count of false impersonation of a federal officer, one count of engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from unlawful activity, and one count of false statements to law enforcement, the Justice Department announced

The indictment alleges Stone convinced the victim she was on “secret probation” for drug crimes in front of a fictitious federal judge in Austin, Texas, in November 2015. As a condition of the made up probation, Stone told the victim she must pay him for the expenses he incurred while supervising her and that she was prohibited from disclosing her probation status. If she failed to comply, he told her she could be imprisoned and lose her children, according to the indictment. 

Prosecutors say Stone concocted an elaborate ruse to convince the victim that she was on probation. 

Stone purchased a home and cars with the money that the victim allegedly paid him. 

“Stone allegedly conned, threatened and stole from his victim, exploiting her trust in law enforcement for his own financial gain. The OIG is committed to holding accountable those who commit this type of conduct,” Cloey C. Pierce, special agent in charge of the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General Dallas Field Office, said in a statement.

Stone faces up to 178 years in federal prison.