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Detroit U.S. Attorney Roy Hayes, a Contributor to the Rule of Law (1940-2013)


Roy Hayes

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

Roy C. (Joe) Hayes, the 45th United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan (1986-89), died earlier this month.  Although his contributions extended to several other venues, it is this service that stands out for those of us who were privileged to work with and for him in the federal system.

Considering the epochal changes that occurred to the federal criminal justice system during his term, Joe’s common sense and leadership provided a steady hand at the Office tiller. Plus he was one of the nicest guys you could work for. His personal and professional history made a significant contribution to the rule of law in Michigan, in both the state and federal systems.

He was born on June 19, 1940 in Detroit, and he grew up in the city, where his father operated an advertising and public relations business.  At an early age, he was given the nickname “Joe,” and it stuck throughout his life among his friends and co-workers. He was graduated from the University of Notre Dame High School in 1958, and with his strong Irish and Roman Catholic background, he naturally chose to attend the University of Notre Dame, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1962.  He then went to law school at the University of Detroit, graduating in 1965.

Joe was selected in 1966 to be the Editor of the Detroit Lawyer, the primary publication of the Detroit Bar Association.  During this same time, he served as public relations counsel of the State Bar of Michigan and of the Detroit Bar Association.  In 1967, a tumultuous time for the city, he became an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. 

He was soon assigned to a heavy schedule of trying major felony cases in one of the busiest criminal courts in the nation.  He developed an expertise in trying murder, arson and fraud cases.  In 1969 he left the office to be Assistant Director of the Crime Control Project for the American Bar Association in Chicago.  The experience of working under the direction of famed trial lawyers Leon Jaworski and Edward Bennett Williams left a strong impression on him.

From 1970 until 1975, Joe Hayes headed the Wayne County Organized Crime Task Force in Detroit.  As the director of the operation, he supervised a task force of prosecutors and law enforcement officers who investigated major corruption. His most important case of was the 10th Precinct Police Corruption trial, which involved one of the longest trials in Michigan history.  The nine-month trial involved the first use of metal detectors in a Michigan courtroom.  The case resulted in the conviction of fourteen police officers and six drug traffickers.

In January 1976, he left the task force to accept the appointment as Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney.  In 1978 he formed the law firm of Hayes and Beatly in Charlevoix and, for seven years, engaged in a diverse legal practice, which he left in 1986 to become United States Attorney.

Few USAs have managed the changes and challenges Joe Hayes faced in his term. The biggest of these was probably the Sentencing Reform Act which caused one of the most important changes in the federal criminal justice system in the twentieth century.  Under the prior “indeterminate” sentencing system, there were almost no limitations on the range of sentences a judge could impose for a particular offense committed by a particular defendant.  The result was a wide disparity of sentences for similarly situated defendants.  The other complaint about this system was that defendants were eligible for parole after serving only one-third of their sentence.  That fact plus a generous good time system made the actual time served by an offender impossible to predict until his or her release on parole.

The Sentencing Guidelines system tried to avoid disparity, uncertainty and unfairness by requiring judges to impose sentences within a narrow range.  The Sentencing Commission developed a time grid based on the category of the offense and the criminal record of the offender. 

The defendant would serve “real time” sentences, minus the prescribed good time allowance. Parole was replaced by a mandatory period of supervised release tacked on after an inmate left prison. Although it had several important benefits, the system was incredibly complicated and many practitioners predicted disastrous chaos. Plus mandatory minimums could be indiscriminately harsh. AUSAs faced criticism for the new system on a daily basis. Joe’s patience and encouragement got us through a challenging time of adjustment.

Another development in sentencing was the reinstatement of the federal death penalty in 1988.  Eventually, Congress would enact statutes making murders occurring during kidnapping, use of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime, a bank robbery, or child molestation as capital crimes.  Since Michigan had no death penalty, some of us were queasy about being thrust into these cases, but Joe’s predictions about its infrequency and limitations proved to be correct.

Joe was one of the few USAs in the district to assume the office without prior federal criminal experience. Some thought this would be a serious handicap, but his wide background, experience as a litigator, and quiet confidence made him a quick learner, and his perspective frequently provided a fresh look at old problems.

Much of Hayes’ time as United States Attorney was spent in developing policy and procedures for the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.  As the Core City U.S. Attorney, he had oversight responsibility for investigations and prosecutions in the Great Lakes Region, which consisted of nine federal districts.  He was also chosen by the Attorney General to serve on the Economic Crime Council, the White Collar Crime and Public Corruption Subcommittees.  He was also a member of the National Drug Policy Board’s Prosecution Subcommittee.

Joe Hayes had extensive experience as a state prosecutor, as well as running a law practice in Charlevoix. These experiences pointed out the importance to him of well-staffed branch offices in the United States Attorney’s Office. He took several steps to strengthen those offices in Flint and Bay City and made sure those staff members knew they were not the Office’s step children. Consequently both offices were able to maintain a high volume of widely diverse criminal and civil litigation.

Hayes himself led the prosecution of the Chambers Brothers Gang, which had one of the most extensive operations of crack cocaine houses in the country.  The four brothers moved from Marianna, Arkansas to Detroit and came to control about 300 crack houses during the period of 1983-1988.

They employed strict business practices by establishing high volume retail outlets, quality control and a trained work force.  The operation made a profit of $1 million per week, and the brothers maintained a luxurious life style. They controlled their territory and their 500 employees by violence and intimidation. The leaders were so well insulated that state prosecutions had proved impossible. In 1986, a state-federal task force was formed which combined aggressive search warrant executions and arrests with a historical grand jury investigation, and in  February, 1988, twenty-two members of the gang were indicted.  During the seven-week trial, the prosecution team presented dozens of witnesses who testified as to the details the operation.  All of the defendants were convicted and received lengthy prison sentence.

One of the most important prosecutions of the Office initiated during Hayes’ term was Operation Brahman, an investigation of corruption in the Detroit court system.  A local store owner of the Broadway Market in downtown Detroit reported to the FBI that he had been solicited by several state judges and lawyers for bribes to affect the disposition of state court cases.  The FBI installed elaborate video and audio recording devices in the store and recorded hours of meetings with local officials. 

An undercover FBI agent was “arrested” and went through the Detroit jails and court system to determine if bribe offers were made by   corrupt officials.  After a two-year investigation, two Detroit Recorders Court Judges, one 36th District Court, an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, as well as several clerks and other individuals were convicted and received jail sentences.

Other high profile cases, like the Kozminski involuntary servitude case at an Ann Arbor dairy farm, and the largest drug seizure in Michigan history (576 kilos of cocaine and 17,000 pounds of marijuana at Grosse Ile Airport), were almost daily occurrences. But Joe had fun amid the pressure, and he helped the rest of us have fun as well. I remember the ribbing we gave him when MSU beat Notre Dame in football in 1987, but he repaid us in full when the Domers beat the Spartans the remaining three years of his term,

Family responsibilities were always important to Joe Hayes, and he urged his staff to maintain an active presence in their children’s lives. He kept a photograph of his wife Jacquie and his son and daughter, Joe III and Amy, on his desk and more than once he urged AUSAs to remember who they really worked for. His love of his family, unabashed patriotism, and management by walking around, taught us all some important lessons that lasted well beyond his term. He will be missed.

 

Counterfeiting in the 21st Century and the Response by Michigan State University

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

Counterfeiting brings to the public mind a rare fake $20 bill, knockoff handbags (spelled “Gucchi”), and a bootleg Tom Cruise DVD. The typical consumer attitude about product counterfeiting ranges from tolerance to apathy, nothing threatening or particularly sinister.

But the reality today is more sobering. Not only does counterfeiting and product fraud mean global big bucks, but it directly affects all of our everyday lives in areas we do care about—food safety, organized crime, pharmaceutical drug fraud, whole industries at risk, and health and safety in the Third World.

Dr. Jeremy Wilson, the Director of Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Program (hereafter A-CAPPP) at Michigan State University, estimates the annual global trade in counterfeit goods to exceed $600 billion, about 5-7% of world trade. The FBI figure is roughly the same. Not only does the practice wreak havoc on the economies of industries and governments, it threatens the health and safety of individuals worldwide.

Take food, for example. A-CAPPP estimates that inferior products make their way to almost every American’s dinner plate. Examples are endless, from watered down milk, vodka laced with methanol, diluted olive oil, tomato sauce, candy bars, virtually every kind of food we eat.

The counterfeit product list goes on to other categories involving public safety. Shoddy auto parts, weakened medicine and pharmaceuticals, unsafe propane tanks, even a fake nuclear reactor component (in Michigan no less). Over half of the drugs used in Third World countries are counterfeit. Dr. Wilson estimates that counterfeit goods are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries around the world every year.

I would guess that despite the salutary efforts of several federal law enforcement agencies (FBI, FDA, DHS, ICE to name a few), out of the law enforcement dollar less than a penny is spent on counterfeiting and product safety investigations and prosecutions. In a world that wakes up each day to a new mass murder or terrorist plot, product safety rarely grabs a headline. And stretched-thin federal law enforcement budgets are focused on other crimes which the public considers more important.

Read more »

Ex-soldiers Plotted to kill DEA Agent, Traffic Cocaine

By Selim Algar
New York Post

They’re real-life Rambos gone bad.

A squadron of former elite military personnel from the US and Germany plotted to assassinate a DEA agent and an informant — both undercover agents – who were interfering with a cocaine distribution ring, according to a Manhattan federal court indictment released Friday.

Led by former US Army Sgt. Joseph “Rambo” Hunter, the international crew of veteran snipers and ex-counter-intelligence officers formed a security detail and hit squad for a supposed crew of heavyweight Colombian drug smugglers, who were working with authorities, the feds said.

In meetings held from Asia to Africa, the fearsome unit was caught on surveillance casually discussing killing the DEA agent and informant and similar executions they had coldly committed in the past.

To read the full story click here.

Congress’s Brutal Sequester of Federal Defenders Offices Harms Law Enforcement

 
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com
 

Congress has modified the Miranda rights:

You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, an attorney will be appointed to represent you, that is, if he or she is not furloughed, laid off or too busy to pay any attention to you.

The initial reaction by some federal prosecutors and agents to the disproportionate and devastating sequestration cuts imposed on Federal Defenders Offices by Congress’s absurd sequester might have ranged from indifference to outright glee. But the reality is that the crisis for that program has harmful implications for the government’s side of the aisle in addition to undermining criminal defendants’ rights. The cuts result in hidden costs to the public and will damage both public safety and the rule of law.

In the 2013 fiscal year FDOs were forced to impose over 100.000 furlough hours on their staff, an average of about four weeks of unpaid leave per person. Many offices have permanently laid off attorneys and staff, including investigators. They have terminated future involvement in death penalty cases as well as curtailed representing complex fraud defendants and in other time consuming and expensive cases. Most have greatly curtailed or eliminated expenses for experts, investigations, and interpreters.

In contrast the Department of Justice has gotten off relatively lightly by being allowed to reallocate its budget in order to avoid most furloughs with some belt tightening. No such clemency for defense attorneys.

FDO caseloads have been creeping up for years because of Congress’s decisions not to allow defense budgets to keep up with DOJ’s. Decimating their budget further can only pile on more cases to this crushing load. A diehard FDO attorney told me recently that work he used to love had become so oppressive that he was casting about for any kind of employment to escape the impossible demands.

That’s the bad news for FDOs. The really bad news is that starting on October 1st in Fiscal Year 2014, the cuts will double. Many offices will be forced to lay off from one-third to one-half of their offices. They may be the lucky ones because those left will inherit a crippled system incapable of functioning effectively even with reduced caseloads. The Attorney General has stated that the cuts threaten the integrity of the criminal justice system to ensure due process.

For fifty years since Gideon v. Wainright the 6th Amendment has been held to require the effective representation of counsel in serious cases. Since this right is a mandate, the reduction and elimination of FDOs will mean that private attorneys must be appointed to represent indigent defendants, who now make up 90% of those charged with crimes.

Although there are many fine and qualified panel attorneys, my own experience is that, as a whole, they are less experienced and less skilled in criminal defense than FDO attorneys, especially in the federal system. Simply put, FDOs in most districts like Detroit are the best criminal law firms available. So why should the elimination of such opponents matter to the guys who wear the white hats?

First off, the cuts will cost more. Gutting FDOs will cost taxpayers more than any “savings” from the budget cuts. Panel attorneys cost, on average, about 30% more per case than FDO attorneys. Shifting representation will result in other less obvious costs as well. Continuances are always more prevalent from private defense attorneys. Some are masters at delaying the inevitable for clients on bond.

The resulting transition as well as involvement of less experienced attorneys will also mean increased pre-trial detentions and inevitable delays which will slow down the system and increase judicial and prosecution expenses. Even the increased caseloads for the FDOs left standing will cost more in terms of scheduling as well as their making more mistakes which create appeal issues.

Second, although some of my former colleagues will be reluctant to agree, reducing the role of FDOs will negatively affect the outcome of cases. Every prosecutor can point to cases in which an effective defense attorney has revealed facts and circumstances which are unavailable to federal investigators. A more complete understanding of the case leads to a better assignment of culpability.

Good defense attorneys usually mean more defendant cooperation in continuing investigations. They have the confidence and experience to know when this is in their clients’ best interests. Cooperation leads to more cases, better results and more arrests of those up the ladder who would otherwise escape justice.

FDO attorneys are sometimes accused of encouraging plea bargaining. But the fact of the matter is that 95% of the federal defendants end up being convicted. Advice by experienced attorneys not only increases the system’s efficiency but almost always mitigates the eventual disposition for most defendants.

Finally, the DNA reversals have punctured the myth that the criminal justice system is perfect. Once in a great while factually innocent defendants get convicted although in the federal system the number is surely far less than the 1-2% estimates for the state system. I have a visceral belief that FDO attorneys nearly eliminate even this small number.

Third, crippling the FDO system will erode public confidence in the entire criminal justice system. The public perception will be that the “government” has placed its meaty finger on one side of the scales of justice. The intangible effects of such a perception will show up in juror bias, witness cooperation and judicial attitudes. Judges, even more than some do presently, will conclude that the adversarial system has broken down and that they must step in to assist the defense in key decisions in order to balance things out.

An eroded public confidence will also impact law enforcement officers in their already difficult jobs. It will discourage public assistance for investigators, make witnesses less willing to testify, and encourage bad guys to intimidate and influence witnesses.

Public cynicism is that justice is for sale. Rich defendants get off because of the legal representation they pay for. I happen to think this is not a fair perception of the federal system as a whole. But, valid or not, this rich-poor gap perception will certainly be enhanced by the results of the sequester cuts.

Finally, on a more speculative note, what effect will these draconian cuts mean to some simmering, long term public policy issues? Anyone who doubts the ability of financial considerations to influence substantive policy questions need only examine the effect of the economy downturn on the administration of the death penalty. See my earlier columns on this subject. The pressure to reduce spiraling corrections costs have certainly affected who we think should go to jail and for how long. And no one should be so naïve as to conclude that economic considerations played no part in the Attorney General’s recent announcements of changes in mandatory minimum and drug enforcement policies.

So what else is vulnerable to the kind of meat-ax approach wielded by our elected and unelected politicians? Legalization of drugs? Law enforcement cuts? If you think there are limits, buy a copy of This Town by Mark Leibovich and prepare for an at times hilarious and at other times depressing appraisal of Washington at “work.”

For all of these reasons and probably others that my prosecutorial bias has obscured, eviscerating the Federal Defender system will be bad for criminal defendants. But it will be even worse in the long run for the public, law enforcement and the rule of law

 

The Annual Talk With U-M Football Team About Gambling

The author (right) Greg Stejksal and late Michigan coach Bo Schembechler

 
By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com
In 1982, legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler asked the Ann Arbor, Mich., FBI office to talk to his team about the perils of illegal sports gambling.

The senior resident agent, Tom Love, agreed to make the presentation. Love, knowing I had played college football at Nebraska (read: mostly practiced), asked me to help. We explained that sports gambling is not about who wins but about covering the point spread. That gamblers need to get inside information as an edge to better divine how a team will perform and, the Holy Grail of bookmakers, have a cooperating player or referee with the ability to control the point spread: point shaving.

Sports gambling was and is a potential threat to the integrity of sports. The huge amount of money bet illegally in the United States, estimated at more than $300 billion, is an incentive to control the outcome of a game.

When I started making presentations, Michigan’s football team was housed in a relatively small, one-story building. Michigan’s transition to the state-of-the-art facilities it has today is emblematic of the change in Division I football in the past 30 years. In those days, college teams such as Michigan might be on TV once or twice a year. Now, a dedicated fan or gambler can watch just about any game played anywhere in the country. With the increase in TV coverage, sports gambling also has increased. And with the advent of the Internet, gamblers have access to more current information and can place bets online.

The FBI recognized the need for educating players early on and developed a sports presentation program. I went through the training and attended periodic conferences with representatives from the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and NCAA.

Over the years, I’ve talked to pro and college teams. (I talked to the Michigan basketball teams several times, including the “Fab Five” teams. That might have been a case of a failure to communicate.) The FBI program still exists, in theory, but priorities have changed, and it is no longer as active as it once was.

Schembechler invited us back the next year, and Love asked me to give the presentations on my own.

Little did I know that it was to be the “beginning of a beautiful friendship” between Bo and me — one that would have a substantial effect on my career.

We worked together on several FBI cases — notably the investigation of Norby Walters and Lloyd Bloom, two notorious sports agents, who bribed and signed about 20 blue-chip college football players while they were still eligible to play college ball. Walters and Bloom postdated the contracts and kept them secret, a clear violation of NCAA rules. Under those rules, once a player signs with an agent, his college eligibility ends.

Schembechler would be the “star” witness in the successful federal prosecution of Walters and Bloom. Walters had organized-crime connections, and it was believed that the ultimate goal of signing so many star athletes was to get some of the players involved in point shaving.

Schembechler also convinced me to pursue an undercover operation targeting the illegal trafficking of anabolic steroids. That operation, called Equine, was international in scope and resulted in the successful prosecution of more than 70 dealers. We also learned that a number of Major League Baseball players were using steroids. Ironically, I first warned MLB about the steroid problem in 1994 at an FBI sports presentation conference.

Although illegal sports gambling continued to be the primary topic over the years, other concerns were discussed, such as drugs, steroids, domestic violence and, more recently, the improvident use of social media.

Something I didn’t always do, but learned was important, was to ensure that the head coaches stayed during the presentations, because if the coaches didn’t think it was important to be there, the players wouldn’t, either.

Schembechler had a concept of a “Michigan Man,” a student-athlete who not only demonstrated traditional values such as integrity, honor and responsibility on the field, but lived them, as well.

After Schembechler retired in 1989, I continued to talk to the Michigan football teams. Later, I was fortunate to become friends with Lloyd Carr during his 13-year tenure as Michigan coach. Carr coached my son when he was a walk-on from 2000-03. Those presentations were special for me: I was not only an FBI agent speaking to Michigan’s football team, but a father seeing his son in a group of men representing a program that I had come to respect.

I retired in 2006, but I continue to talk to the Michigan football team and am doing so again this week. Brady Hoke, a former assistant under Carr (1995-2002), is Michigan’s coach now. Hoke has embraced the traditions of Michigan and the concept of the “Michigan Man.”

It is Michigan’s 134th football season, and it will be my 32nd year.

The topics have changed, but the message stays the same: making good choices based on good values.

I always end my talks with a quote attributed to John Wayne: “Life is tough. It’s tougher if you’re stupid.”

 

Release of Camarena’s Killer Threatens U.S.-Mexican Law Enforcement Relations


Enrique Camarena

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

Both the U. S. and Mexican governments face some difficult policy questions in light of the surprise release from jail last week of one of the murderers of iconic hero DEA Special Agent Enrique Camarena. With no advance warning and under highly questionable circumstances, an intermediate Mexican court overturned the conviction of drug kingpin Rafael Caro Quintero on the grounds that he had been convicted in federal rather than state court.

The decision was kept secret for two days from the media and the U. S, government. Quintero was released from Jalisco jail before any steps could be taken to review the ruling. His release blindsided the U. S. government. Quintero’s current whereabouts are unknown.

Mexican legal authorities say that the decision was contrary to Mexican Supreme Court precedent and that the court avoided the logical remedy of simply remanding the case to the appropriate state court. These anomalies and the secrecy that surrounded his release have raised questions on both sides of the border in light of the Mexican legal system’s reputation for corruption when dealing with the cartels.

Although the United States has lodged a protest over the matter, DOJ has not yet announced a decision to pursue extradition of Quintero. Nor is it clear whether extradition was ever formally sought on existing U.S. drug charges. This is somewhat surprising given the fact that Mexican authorities had allowed him to flee in 1985 before he was captured in Costa Rica.

Law enforcement sources indicate that Quintero, considered the godfather of the Mexican cartels in the 1970s and 80s, has continued his criminal activity from prison, operating a substantial money laundering operation for the Similoa cartel. This, of course, could be the basis of future charges and an extradition request.

It would be a mistake for the Obama administration to underestimate the depth of outrage by U. S. law enforcement over this incident. As summarized in a column a couple weeks ago, “Kiki” Camarena continues to be remembered as a courageous and effective federal agent whose efforts under constant threat were successful in dealing a serious blow to the cartel’s operation in Guadalajara.

His kidnapping, torture and murder mobilized federal agents as few such atrocities on foreign soil have. U.S. agents crossed the border to hunt down his killers. Customs agents deliberately slowed cross-border traffic to put pressure on Mexican authorities. The killers were brought to justice on both sides of the border, but the incident affected the relations between respective law enforcement officers for a generation.

Attorney General Eric Holder has sent a letter on the Quintero release to his counterpart in Mexico but the contents have not been made public. A failure of DOJ to take concrete steps to bring Quintero to justice would damage law enforcement morale, as well as the already problematic relationship with Mexican law enforcement.

Moreover, the message to both the cartels and the vulnerable members of the Mexican legal system would be extremely negative. American submission to the caprice and corruption of Mexican justice would only encourage future manipulations. There is good reason to believe that the Quintero case is only the first of many potential releases of high level traffickers. An attorney for a co-defendant in the Camarena murder case has already publicly announced his expectation that his client will also be freed.

Other Mexican legal authorities have speculated that the continuing reform of the Mexican justice system from its former activities of forced confessions and other such practices will provide fertile ground, even years later, for high-priced defense attorneys to seek the reversals of the convictions of high level traffickers. Apparently Mexican post-conviction proceedings lack the strict limits and finality of the United States Code.

U. S. federal prosecutors may react to such developments in Mexico by bringing a host of insurance indictments to serve as bases for future extradition requests to cope with wholesale releases of culpable traffickers.

Beyond case-by-case reaction to this situation, the U. S, administration will face some tough decisions about relations with Mexico on this issue. The U. S. has spent billions of dollars to support Mexican law enforcement in their efforts to cope with violent offenders. Some have suggested that the billion-dollar-a-day economy between the two neighbors under the North American Free Trade Agreement will make American authorities reluctant to do more than express their displeasure with such releases.

Mexico, too, has some awkward policy choices to make. The law enforcement and prosecutorial systems have many brave and dedicated professionals who have had some success in battling the deep pocket resources of the cartels. Releasing some of the cartel leaders not only threatens this success but increases the danger they face every day.

The current President of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, was elected last December. He took immediate steps to cut back on the access by U. S. law enforcement agents to investigative and intelligence activity with their Mexican counterparts. His predecessor, Felipe Calderon had forged a strong working relationship with DEA, ICE, and other federal agencies. The U. S. provided extensive resources, manpower, and financing to bolster Mexican efforts to target drug kingpins. That policy has been reversed in the last six months in favor on concentrating on the violence on the streets.

In their meeting in May, Presidents Obama and Nieto discussed American concerns over this development. President Obama, however, concluded the meeting by announcing that he accepted this change as a matter of Mexican domestic policy. The result has been a serious deterioration in the working relationship and trust that had developed between the two countries’ law enforcement forces. The Quintero debacle and the looming threat of other releases are the latest blows to this delicate situation.

Mexican acquiescence to these questionable releases runs the risk of losing whatever control there is over drug enforcement there. Continued massive violence and a collapse of integrity to the legal system are at stake. Then there is the risk of backlash in the United States resulting in eliminating the billions in foreign aid as well as damaging the burgeoning economy between the two countries.

Mexico has justifiably taken steps to re-balance their legal system by providing due process guarantees to criminal defendants. But such efforts must be based on integrity in enforcing the rule of law and the effects that such reforms could have on the fragile law enforcement system and the catastrophic loss of life. Weakening the structure of Mexican society will be a devastating price to pay for such reforms.

The U. S. must continue to assist Mexico to navigate these treacherous waters and work to reverse the retrenchment of joint efforts by the two nations’ law enforcement.

Such efforts will not succeed without a re-doubling of efforts to reduce America’s insatiable demand for illegal drugs.

 

Congress and DEA Should Legalize Hemp

 
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com
Among the many varieties of weeds on my father’s Southwest Iowa farm in the 1950s and 60s was the hemp weed. Dad called it “ditch weed’ because that was where it mainly grew, along with in fence rows and sometimes in our cornfields. My brothers and I hated ditch weed because the plants grew to a considerable height if you didn’t keep it mowed or cut down, and they had extensive root systems which made it difficult to pull out of the ground.

Little did we know that these Cannabis Sativa L plants were cousins to a variety that would swamp the country, defy law enforcement for the next half century, and become the root cause of countless murders and violent crimes and the most widely used illegal drug in the world.

Awhile back, this column weighed the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana. The conclusion was that the unknown medical effects and health dangers of continued usage of today’s marijuana with its greatly increased THC content as well as the potential for escalated use particularly by America’s youth made legalization a bad idea. Some readers probably doubted the conclusion’s objectivity coming from a career drug prosecutor but that’s what I continue to think.

The continued prohibition of hemp cultivation and manufacturing, however, poses an entirely different set of questions.

The hemp plant has a long and storied history. It was used in the Neolithic Age in China to make paper more than 10,000 years ago. Its hardy nature and versatility spread its cultivation until it became one of the most produced agricultural plants in the world.

Its uses ranged widely from ropes on ships, clothing, food, and dozens of other products. It is claimed that Columbus’s ships’ riggings, the Gutenberg Bible, the paper on which the Declaration of Independence was written, and the first American flag were all made of hemp products. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were hemp farmers.

During World War II hemp was used to make uniforms and for other military products. The government considered it so important to the war effort that it produced a film entitled “Hemp for Victory” in 1942. Some irony there.

Hemp’s industrial future crashed in 1970 by its inclusion with marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance which was illegal to grow, sell or possess. Its close relationship to marijuana plants and the possibility of its use as a recreational drug perhaps made that a not unreasonable policy decision at the time.

There was limited scientific understanding of the psychoactivity of Cannabis varieties in 1970 and, even if that had been known, the difference of THC content between the two was not as dramatic as it is today. Ann Arbor pot dealers, when confronted with a dearth of product to sell to University of Michigan students were known to travel to Iowa, cut up some ditch weed, bag it up and sell it to eager consumers. Considering the low THC content, they would have had to share some monster joints for many hours on the Quad to get high. But they still bought it.

Today hemp weed still averages about ½% THC, not enough to produce a psychoactive effect. Although marijuana plants averaged about 1% in the 1970s, they can easily exceed 20% today. Plus hemp contains cannabidiol which some scientists believe has an opposing effect both pharmacologically and behaviorally to THC. But these were unknowns in 1970.

Whether it was a reasonable policy at the time to prohibit the production of hemp I will leave to others to debate. Perhaps today’s retrospective analysis of hemp’s aborted future is exaggerated. Maybe hemp’s day was essentially done, and it would have had limited impact in a more complex world of synthetics and agri-business.

Read more »

Crime Stats for Short Attention Spans

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

Recent studies have shown that, because of the barrage of technology like the social media, our attention spans are about half what they were ten years ago. For computer users, like ticklethewire readers, this attention span has been calculated to be 8 seconds, about the same as a goldfish.

For those of you who are still reading this, as a public service the following are the latest numbers in ten law enforcement/crime categories presented as succinctly as possible:

1. Violent Crime Statistics increased 1.2% in 2012, the first increase after a five-year decline of about 15%. Stats were up for murder, robbery, and aggravated assault, down for rape, burglary and arson. Property crime dropped .8%. The largest increase occurred in the West (3.3%), the lowest in the Northeast (-.6%).

2. Law Enforcement Officers Killed, Assaulted—72 officers were killed in the line of duty, a significant increase over the 41 to 57 per year in the previous nine years. Another 53 were killed in accidents, mostly in auto accidents. 54,774 were assaulted (about 1 in 10 officers). The most dangerous time—between midnight and 2 a.m. The safest time—between 6 and 8 a.m. 1,686 federal officers were assaulted, 3 killed. The most dangerous federal agency—U.S. Department of Home Security.

3. Prison Population dropped for the third year in a row, about 1.7%, which interestingly is almost exactly the same decrease as the number of students entering college this year.

4. Capital Punishment—Prisoners under a sentence of death dropped from 3139 to 3082 last year. 43 were executed in 9 states, the same number as the previous year but about half the number a decade ago. Texas executed 15 last year,10 so far this year, including one woman, Kimberly McCarthy.

5. Law Enforcement Officer Employment remained steady at 2.4 per 1,000 people in the U.S. Employees in law enforcement was about 3.4/1.000. Of the officers, 88.2 were male, 11.8% female. Of employees 73.4% were male and 26.6% female.

6. Crime Clearance by Arrest was 47.7% for violent crimes, 18.6% for property crimes. The highest clearance rate was 64.8% for murder, the lowest 11.9% for motor vehicle theft. The highest rate occurred in the South (50.1%), the lowest in the West (42.5%).

7. School Crime increased by 4 % last year over the previous year. There were 1,246,000 victimizations in our nation’s schools. Intentional homicides on school property jumped from 11 to 25.

8. DOJ Police Department Investigations in President Obama’s first term were double the number in President Bush’s second term. Cities under investigation include Miami, New Orleans, Seattle, Missoula, Montana, and East Haven, Connecticut. Subjects of the investigations include use of excessive force, racial profiling, treatment of the mentally ill, and sexual assault investigations. The federal court consent decree against the Detroit Police Department for excessive force, false arrests, and illegal detentions has been in effect for 11 years.

9. Most Dangerous Cities in the U.S. are, in order, Flint, Michigan, Detroit, Oakland, St. Louis, and Memphis. Despite this dubious achievement St. Louis recently slashed its law enforcement budget.

10. Most Dangerous Cities in the World –all 15 were in Latin America. The five most dangerous in order are San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Acapulco, Mexico, Caracas, Venezuela, Distrit Central, Honduras, and Torreon, Mexico. If you are wondering why Honduras and Mexico top the world in this category, see the earlier columns on America’s insatiable appetite for drugs and the effect it has on countries on the transportation route from source countries to the American consumers.

For those of you who made it to the end, you must be over 40 since the attention span plummet seems to occur mostly in our children’s generation.