Category Archives: Crime

Officer Noor: No Statement

 

Some people have been asking why Officer Noor hasn’t been forced to issue a statement or agree to be interviewed about the circumstances surrounding his fatal shooting of Ms. Ruszczyk.

My answer is this:  Because.

Because he is a citizen of the United States and is protected by the Fifth Amendment:

“Any lawyer that would recommend to him that he should give a statement to the BCA should be disbarred,” said Joe Friedberg, a Minneapolis defense attorney who’s not involved in the case. “Nobody should ever speak to law enforcement when they’re the subject of a criminal investigation.”

I would add that you should never speak to law enforcement.  Period.  Ever.

Police Shooting – Minneapolis

By now I am sure that you have heard of the woman shot by police in Minneapolis.  The tragedy is drawing national attention because, let’s face it, the race of the officer and the victim is reversed from the more common narrative AND the fact that the victim is a woman only adds to the optics.

You would have to be in a coma not to be aware of the conversation regarding the shooting of black men by police forces across America.  The narrative is that cops are killing black men indiscriminately and “getting away” with it.  Most recently is the case regarding Philando Castile, in the Minneapolis-metro area, and the cop that shot him.

In the case involving this young woman, I’ll take the stance that I’ve taken with other such cases.  Wait until the investigation is concluded.  And, as in other cases, I have questions.  Such as:

  • Why would Ms. Ruszczyk walk over 100 yards to speak to officers, with their lights off and dark, if she suspected a violent crime was being committed?
  • Why would Ms. Ruszcyzk, after having called 911 twice, not change into clothes?  She was wearing her pajamas.
  • Why would the cop in the passenger seat have his weapon drawn INSIDE the car?
  • Why would she have taken her fiance’s name before they were married?
  • Why would a 22 year old man refer to his father’s soon to be wife as ‘my mom’?
  • Why would you, given that the cops are investigating a violent crime, allow yourself to approach a police vehicle by surprise?
  • Why, after ALL of this time, were the body cams not turned on?

The whole thing doesn’t make sense to me.  Which, I suppose, is not surprising when things go so wrong so fast.

In the end, as always, I hope that justice is done here.  The tragedy that is the death of this young woman is horrible enough.  To wrongfully convict, if indeed not guilty, or to allow to walk, if indeed guilty, would only compound that tragedy.

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?