Category Archives: Crime

Jeronimo Yanez – Not Guilty

The verdict is in:

ST. PAUL — A Minnesota police officer, whose fatal shooting of a black motorist transfixed the nation when his girlfriend livestreamed the aftermath, was acquitted of all charges on Friday.

Tragic.

Insufficient words, to be sure, to describe the events that unfolded that day when Philandro Castile was shot and killed by Officer Yanez.  By all accounts, a fantastic example of a human being was lost that day.

I’ve watched this trial more closely than some of the others.  Part because it was another in a long chain of such tragedies, part because it was in Minnesota, part because I thought that the cop might have been wrong.

Additionally, I’ve been back and forth on my feelings  of guilt or not guilt.  It really seemed that Castile did all the right things.

In the end, before the verdict, I had come to the conclusion that I felt the verdict should have been as it is – Not Guilty.

Officer Yanez suspected Castile of being involved in a robbery, he knew he had a license to carry a gun.  And, by his account, felt that Castile didn’t follow directions.  In the moment, the officer felt his life was in danger and he had to protect himself.

I resonate.

I don’t know if Yanez acted illegally, or with undue force or out of bias.  I don’t.  But I do know that traffic stops are inherently dangerous to officers.  That suspects fire on cops often enough that cops are right to be worried.  It took the jury days to come to this decisions.  We’re asking cops to make that same decision in a split second.

Finally, the publicity of the case cannot be ignored.  This case received national attention due to the fact that Castile was black during a time when the Black Lives Matter movement was in the national discussion.  I don’t know how this verdict is going to be received by the community in St. Paul.  Or the nation.  However, I think that it is important to notice that many people of multiple races lost their lives in confrontations with police in 2014 and 2015.

None of those cases resulted in a conviction of the officer.

 

 

 

America’s Prisons

Prison

For awhile now there has been a growing awareness that America’s prison system is failing society.  The fact that we incarcerate so many of our young folks only to see them emerge from the system as hardened criminals is repulsive.  I have been excited to hear talk of prison reforms during the campaigns but am left disheartened as Rand Paul seemed to be the only candidate seriously and earnestly addressing the issue.

We have to do something.

But I don’t know if this is it:

Pennsylvania is on the verge of becoming one of the first states in the country to base criminal sentences not only on what crimes people have been convicted of, but also on whether they are deemed likely to commit additional crimes. As early as next year, judges there could receive statistically derived tools known as risk assessments to help them decide how much prison time — if any — to assign.

In theory, and in a nearly perfect world, this method could be a good one.  For example, today we lock up minor drug offenders for far too long.  This method could be employed to demonstrate that a first time weed arrest at age 15 requires very little prison time.  On the other hand, a single arrest may very well occur for unique experiences resulting in a ‘signature’ that is otherwise inappropriate.

And say nothing of the potential problems when sentencing takes into account socio-economic conditions or race.  Not to mention the libertarian arguments against punishment for a crime not yet committed.

Social “Presenting”

Kenneth Morgan Stancil III

About two years ago I posted on the ‘hoodie’ controversy as it pertained to the Treyvon Martin case:

In both cases, the individual in question could be the coolest, most intelligent and compassionate guy you would ever wanna meet.  But when first met, in the restroom, or in the bar, on the street or in the elevator, the level of suspicion will be elevated and the level of societal trust will be less than it otherwise would have been had the person signaled or presented in a more mainstream manner.

I don’t think that this is surprising or even controversial.  In fact, I suspect that societies signal mainstream as a means of survival and cohesion.

All of which is a very long way of saying that when people wear a hoodie, in certain and specific contexts, they are presenting or signalling in a more suspicious manner than they otherwise might have.

Well, a similar case occurred in Carolina today:

Goldsboro, N.C. — A 20-year-old man wanted in connection with the Monday morning shooting death of a longtime employee at Wayne Community College was taken into custody early Tuesday in Florida, according to the Goldsboro Police Department.

This guy, pure and simple, presents as an asshole and looks like a criminal.

New York Food Stamp Fraud

Food Stamp

Two lessons in one story:

 

Last week, The Post revealed how New Yorkers on welfare are buying food with their benefit cards and shipping it in blue barrels to poor relatives in the Caribbean.

But not everyone is giving the taxpayer-funded fare to starving children abroad. The Post last week found two people hawking barrels of American products for a profit on the streets of Santiago.

“It’s a really easy way to make money, and it doesn’t cost me anything,” a seller named Maria-Teresa said Friday.

Maria-Teresa said she uses some of the products but vends the rest out of her Santiago home, providing markdowns of $1 to $2 compared to what her buyers would pay in local shops.

“I don’t know how much of a business it is, but I know a lot of people are doing it,” she said.

The black-market maven even takes her customers’ requests for hot-ticket items. Her best-sellers include a 19-ounce box of Frosted Flakes, which goes for $6.50 at Dominican supermarkets. She sells it for $2 less — after her sister buys it on sale for $2.99.

But because the sister uses her Electronic Benefit Transfer card, she actually pays nothing — taxpayers foot the $2.99.

Maria-Teresa also offers a 24-ounce Kellogg’s Corn Flakes box for $2, compared to the $4 Dominican counterpart. The Kellogg’s variety costs $2.99 on sale at Western Beef.

A 23-ounce container of powdered Enfamil baby formula goes for $25 in the United States and $19 in Santiago but Maria-Teresa sells it for $15. “People want the best quality for the price, so they buy the formula made in the US,” she said.

The average monthly wage in Dominican Republic is about 7,000 pesos, or just $167, and that’s why the black market has become so profitable, Maria-Teresa said.

So, lesson #1:

The inefficiencies of the government programs are everywhere.

And the 2nd lesson:

Markets in everything.

But, why even bother buying, packing, shipping and then selling fraudulent goods?

And the food-stamp fraud doesn’t stop there. She said her sister has Bronx grocers ring up bogus $250 transactions with her EBT card.

In exchange, the stores hand her $200 cash and pocket the rest. No goods are exchanged. Instead, Maria-Teresa’s sister sends the money to Santiago — when she’s not spending it on liquor or other nonfood items.

“We do it all the time, and a lot of people do this,” Maria-Teresa said. “It’s a way of laundering money, but it’s easier because it’s free.”

It’s easier, she says, because it’s free.

Indeed.

ABC News Defense Of Gun Rights

Guns

A little old to be sure.  And maybe beside the point now that the moment has passed, but I found this defense of gun rights by ABC News to be very interesting:

  • Few prosecutions of denied gun buyers.

  • There are already enough gun laws.

  • They’re an invasion of privacy.

  • They might be too broad.

  • Criminals don’t submit to background checks.

Go read.

More Thoughts On Treyvon

The more I think through the Treyvon Martin case, the more convinced I am that any profiling that Zimmerman did was appropriate.  We all profile everyday.

If we see something out of the ordinary that we feel poses a potential threat to our safety, we have a right to notice and take action.  That action might only be to take metal note.  It might be to take literal notes.

It might be to call 9-1-1.

It might be to follow while on the phone with 9-1-1.

I’m here to tell you that if my neighborhood begins to experience heightened levels of crime and I’m driving through my neighborhood, watching or just going to get a quart of milk, and I see someone that I find suspect – I’m following them.

Period.

And living in a free society with laws based on liberty of the individual, I get to do that without having to answer to questions of motive or prejudice.

More and more as I talk to people I know and meet I find myself swayed by only one argument as it pertains to the Treyvon Martin case:

Shooting an individual over simple assault is unacceptable.

That is, if one white guy were the victim of another white guy beating him, firing a gun to kill would be inappropriate.  Or, if a woman were being beaten by a man, that woman would be wrong to draw a gun and shoot to kill.

This argument is simple: deadly force to avoid further bodily harm is wrong.

I think that reasonable people can disagree with the conclusion, but it is the one argument I find valid.

Voter Fraud: North Carolina

Voter Fraud

For the record, I am FOR voter ID.  To think otherwise is nothing more than pure political gamesmanship.  In today’s world, to obtain a photo ID is next to trivial.

With that said, I acknowledge that voter fraud is rare.

Ladies and gentleman, North Carolina:

Interesting Thought Experiment Combined With Legal Process

scales of justice

So, this story is interesting:

WASHINGTON — Worried the Internal Revenue Service might target you for an audit? You probably should be if you own a small business in one of the wealthy suburbs of Los Angeles.

You might also be wary if you’re a small-business owner in one of dozens of communities near San Francisco, Houston, Atlanta or the District of Columbia.

A new study by the National Taxpayer Advocate used confidential IRS data to show large clusters of potential tax cheats in these five metropolitan areas. The IRS uses the information to target taxpayers for audits.

The taxpayer advocate, Nina Olsen, runs an independent office within the IRS. She got access to the data as part of an effort to learn more about why some taxpayers are more likely to cheat than others.

The study also looked at tax compliance in different industries, and found that people who own construction companies or real estate rental firms may be more likely to fudge their taxes than business owners in other fields.

This whole concept resonates with me.  In my line of work I’m pretty aggressive in trying to sift through data to find root causes and trends.  I get this idea.  On the other hand, is it legal?  Can certain citizens face increased scrutiny, based only on what might be arbitrary profiling?

What is the difference between profiling wealthy citizens in certain industries that live in certain regions with, say, profiling certain people by age, race, nationality and religion?

Or, for a more pertinent subject, profiling citizens in order to reduce gun violence?

Liberals, Charity And Consistency – Example 2,482,893

Biden Laughing

So, Obama released his 2012 tax filing Friday.  Guess what?

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama reported an adjusted gross income of $608,611 for 2012 and paid an 18.4 percent income tax rate.

Un-freaken-believable!

Anyway, the best part is yet to come:

[O]n June 25 of last year, the Bidens gave ‘Clothing, Boots, Kitchenware, Glassware’ totaling $400 to Goodwill,” the report notes. “Earlier, on May 16, the Bidens gave ‘Furniture and Exercise Equipment’ valued at $1,100 to the Ministry of Caring. And on May 27 of last year, the Bidens gave ‘Bicycles, Toys, Glasses, Pottery, Kitchenware’ valued at $500 to the same Goodwill.

Blink.  Blink.

This piece of garbage, “paying your taxes is patriotic”, next in line to be leader of the free world, donated less than 2% of his income to charity, and of THAT amount, 25% of it was in the form of unwanted shit laying around the house.

Seriously, who itemizes bikes, toys, glasses — GLASSES?!?!?!, pottery and kitchenware when they drop-off at the Goodwill?

Are you kidding me?

But hey, maybe I should go easy on the guy, after all, how is expected to survive collecting $29,761 in Social Security payments.

I would say that Biden is following my theory that the reason liberals are so tight in their personal charity is that they view taxation as charity.  However, a Biden and The Barckness Monster prove, they don’t even like paying taxes at a rate equal to that of Buffet’s secretary!

When Holding A Super Majority Yields Bad Legislation

elephant on a limb

North Carolina has gone decidedly red in recent years.  After voting for Obama in 2008 along with a democrat for governor and senator we have gone red; very red.  In 2010, however, that all changed.  Republicans won majorities in both the house and the senate.  In fact, it was the first time that had been the case since the Civil War ended.

In 2012 the trend continued.  North Carolina was the only battle ground state to switch and go for Romney.  The governor’s race was, in essence, a rematch between the candidate from the 2008 election.  Except the sitting governor chose not to run and instead we saw her Lt. Governor get trampled.  In the state house?  The republicans not only held serve but they extended their majority.  To the point that they hold a veto proof majority.  In fact, they are so in the majority that the republicans are able to submit constitutional amendments to popular vote without even one democrat agreeing.

I think this level of dominance is dangerous.  Dangerous in the same way that I thought the democrats held control of the federal powers in 2008.

So far, the majority has taken to a little political payback.  The democrats, predictably, have squealed, but to be very fair, the fact that they are not getting their way after more than 100 years of uninterrupted control is a bit of righteous karma.

As I feared the republicans are using their muscle in a way and manner that would be checked with a more balanced government:

Resurrecting last session’s bruising battle over the death penalty in North Carolina, a Republican state senator on Wednesday filed a bill to wipe all traces of the Racial Justice Act off the books.

The 2009 law allowed statistics compiled statewide to be used to prove racial bias in the prosecution, jury selection or sentencing in capital cases.

Now, in full disclosure, if I could have the “Eye of God” and be certain that the guilt or innocence of an individual could be ascertained with certainty, I have no problem with the death penalty for certain crimes.  However, we do not possess this “Eye of God” certainty and, in fact, I have no more faith in the government “getting it right” when determining said innocence or guilt, or the sentence associated with that verdict, than I do with that government managing health care, or nutritional needs, or education.

In short, I don’t trust government all that much at all.

So when people tell me that the poor and minorities are subject to sentences of the death penalty in meaningful volumes, I advocate creating a law that has the ability to not change the verdict, but change the sentence from death to life in prison.

And the republicans are changing that.

And it’s wrong.