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Parker: Five Tough Criminal Cases for the Supreme Court in February

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.

Ross Parker

Ross Parker

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

Tough sledding for the Supreme Court in February with oral arguments on five thorny criminal justice cases.

Judicial Bias : What was he thinking? In Williams v. Pennsylvania the DA of Philadelphia, Ronald Castille, personally authorized the pursuit of the death penalty against Terrence Williams in connection with the office’s prosecution for a brutal murder. Williams was tried, convicted and sentenced to death. Castille supervised the direct appeal, which was denied. During post-conviction proceedings, with Castille still heading the office, a lower court found that his office had violated the Brady rule in failing to turn over exculpatory evidence during the penalty phase (that Williams had been abused along with other minors by the victim) and in presenting false argument.

Shortly thereafter Castille ran for election to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and boasted during the campaign that he had personally sent Williams and others to death row. He won the election. By the time the case reached the state supreme court, Castille had become the Chief Justice.

Incredibly, Castille refused to recuse himself from the case when the appeal arrived in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The court unanimously reversed the lower court and reinstated the death sentence. Chief Justice Castille wrote a scathing concurring opinion criticizing the Defender’s Office as “ringmasters, with their parrots and puppets as a side show.”

US_Supreme_Court

Prediction: Reverse. It is astounding that this guy failed to appreciate that his direct participation in the case created a risk that he could not decide it fairly. The appearance of actual and potential bias was obvious particularly when the issue was his former office’s misconduct.

The voters should turn him out of office. He has damaged the reputation of good prosecutors and judges, as well as the reputation of the state’s highest court. The remedy for the Supreme Court is the conundrum. Merely remanding the case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court without Castille sitting on the case seems hardly enough. A different vote by the other Justices is an admission of that they were previously influenced by Castille’s involvement, but reaffirming their former votes smacks of continued injustice.

Search Attenuation Doctrine:  In Utah v. Strieff the issue is whether evidence seized incident to a lawful arrest on an outstanding warrant should be suppressed because the investigative stop was not supported by reasonable suspicion or probable cause.

The officers had some reason after surveillance to stop the defendant’s vehicle on suspicion of drug dealing, but the information did not meet the reasonable suspicion standard. To their happy surprise, however, after the stop they learned that there was already an arrest warrant outstanding.  A search incident to that arrest produced evidence. However the Utah courts threw the evidence out and tossed the case. A great law school exam case.

Read more »

Weekend Series on Crime History: Most Dangerous Double Agent in FBI History – Robert Philip Hanssen Documentary

FBI Defends ‘Deliberate And Measured’ Response to Occupation of Wildlife Refuge in Oregon

Burns, Oregon

Burns, Oregon

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A day after Oregon’s governor criticized federal authorities for their handling of the occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge, the FBI defended what it called a “deliberate and measured” response, NBC News reports. 

“The FBI recognizes that many in the community have questions about why we are here and our role in helping to end the occupation of the wildlife refuge,” the FBI said Thursday.

“This occupation has caused tremendous disruption and hardship for the people of Harney County, and our response has been deliberate and measured as we seek a peaceful resolution,” the FBI said.

The armed militia has occupied the refuge since Jan 2. to protest a prison sentence for a pair of local ranchers convicted of setting fire to public land.

Since then, the group has destroyed camera surveillance and paved roads at the expense of archaeological sites important to the Burns Paiute Tribe.

“There are any range of cultural artifacts that might have been impacted by this illegal construction,” Federal Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson Miel Corbett said.

Gov. Kate Brown on Wednesday said “federal authorities must move quickly to end the occupation and hold all of the wrongdoers accountable.”

FBI Operated Child Pornography Websites to Help Identify Thousands of Hidden Users

Data securityBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI took over one of the Internet’s largest child pornography websites last year, allowing users to download thousands of images and videos in an effort to identify the culprits.

The USA Today reports that the FBI has taken control of at least three child pornography sites while keeping them online to capture the users who have hidden behind behind an encrypted and anonymous computer network.

The FBI was able to identify hundreds of users by infecting the sites with security-busting software.

The Justice Department confirmed that the FBI operated a site known as Playpen from Feb. 20 to March 4, 2015. During that time, more than 215,000 registered users were able to access more than 23000 sexually explicit videos and pictures of children.

Authorities said the new tactic of maintaining the sites allowed them to identify people who otherwise couldn’t be tracked.

“We had a window of opportunity to get into one of the darkest places on Earth, and not a lot of other options except to not do it,” said Ron Hosko, a former senior FBI official who was involved in planning one of the agency’s first efforts to take over a child porn site. “There was no other way we could identify as many players.”

Homeland Security Investigates High School Student Who Substituted ‘ISIS’ in Pledge of Allegiance

ISIS flag

ISIS flag

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Homeland Security is investigating a 15-year-old high school student in Connecticut who substituted “ISIS” for the “United States of America” during the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Hartford Current reports that police and school administrators said the student never posed a risk to school safety.

“The Ansonia police received a complaint from the Ansonia High School administrators on Oct. 9, 2015. The [school resource officer] completed a report and we forwarded it off to Homeland Security as we would with any case that we feel needs to be brought to their attention,” Lt. Andrew Cota said.

The boy was removed from the school out of  “an abundance of caution,” but school officials declined further comment.

“In response to press reports concerning an Ansonia student making reference to ISIS during the Pledge of Allegiance, we did not deem the incident a legitimate threat to the safety of students or staff,” Superintendent Carol Merlone said. “As far as Ansonia Public Schools is concerned, the matter is resolved.”

Democrats Demand Apology from CIA Director After Agency Spied on Senate Staffers

CIA Director John Brennan

CIA Director John Brennan

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A group of Democrats is calling for President Obama to demand an apology from CIA Director John Brennan for spying on Senate staffers, The Hill reports. 

“We believe that it is necessary for you to address this matter directly,” Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) wrote in a letter to Obama on Thursday.

“We ask that you instruct Director Brennan to acknowledge that the CIA’s unauthorized search of Senate files was improper and will not be repeated.”

The Democrats said it’s “wholly unacceptable” that Brennan never acknowledged publicly “that this search was improper.”

Senators revealed in March 2014 that the CIA broke into a walled-off computer and searched Senate files.

The documents were related to an investigation by the Intelligence Committee of the CIA’s use of torture.

The CIA’s inspector general discovered that five agency employees had “improperly accessed” the computer in mid-2014.

Other Stories of Interest

Former FBI Director Freeh May Be Tapped to Help Volkswagen with Emissions Scandal

Louis Freeh

Louis Freeh

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Looking for help with its emission scandal, Volkswagen is reportedly planning to hire former FBI Director Louis Freeh.

The automaker wants Freeh to deal with investigators who are probing the alleged manipulation of diesel-emissions test, Fox Business reports. 

Freeh currently operates a risk management group called Freeh Group International Solutions.

Interestingly, Freeh wouldn’t be the only former FBI director involved in the case. Robert Mueller, who served 12 years at the helm before retiring in 2013 has been named the “settlement master” to deal with 500 lawsuits against the company.

The Justice has accused Volkswagen of violating the Clean Air Act and is seeking as much as $46 million in a suit against the automaker.

Kent State Professor Accused of Ties to ISIS Denies Wrongdoing, Suggests Witchunt

Professor Julio Pino, via You Tube.

Professor Julio Pino, via You Tube.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A Kent State University professor accused of having ties to ISIS denied supporting terrorism and dismissed the complaints as absurd.

“I’ve never broken the law. I support no violence or violent organizations,” history professor Julio Pino told the Akron Beacon Journal. “One man or one woman’s interpretation of events can be very different from another’s. As they say, ‘Haters gonna hate.’ Truth always prevails, and truth will prevail in this case.”

Pino said he believed the FBI is investigating him because of his outspoken positions on the Middle East.

“I can only imagine, given my past record at Kent State dealing with controversial issues about the Middle East, some people may be favorable or unfavorable,” he said. “Rumors start, and that’s the only thing I can think would draw attention from a government agency.”

The FBI confirmed that the professor is under investigation but declined to elaborate.

A university spokesperson said the university is fully cooperating.