New York Detective Helped Convict the Innocent


 

c37aNew York Detective Helped Convict the Innocent

http://www.salon.com/2013/06/22/retired_nyc_homicide_detective_investigated_for_misconduct_wrongful_convictions_partner/

This officer’s work apparently involved railroading the innocent with the full cooperation of a number of prosecutors in more than fifty cases.
I hope you have the opportunity to work in a prosecutor’s office. I believe in justice but prosecutorial discretion is too broad and the desire not for justice but for a good “kill” ratio often outranks justice as a priority in some of these offices.
Here is an important quote from the article:

“The prosecutor’s duty to the truth arises from several sources,” Gershman wrote. “The most important source is the prosecutor’s role as a minister of justice. In this role, the prosecutor has the overriding responsibility not simply to convict the guilty but to protect the innocent. The duty to truth also derives from the prosecutor’s constitutional obligation not to use false evidence or to suppress material evidence favorable to the defendant. The duty to truth also arises from various ethical strictures that require prosecutors to have confidence in the truth of the evidence before bringing or maintaining criminal charges. The duty is found as well in the prosecutor’s domination of the criminal justice system and his virtual monopoly of the fact-finding process.”

This quote parallels my views on the subject. Justice is not equal to God but stands high in its importance to morality and a life worth living.

Please read the full article.

James Pilant

From around the web:

From the web site, TOT Private Consulting –

http://privateinvesigations.blogspot.com/2013/03/nypd-detective-who-got-innocent-man.html

The NYPD detective whose corner-cutting investigative work, combined with a community’s blood lust for quick justice, put an apparently innocent man in prison for 23 years insists he’s being scapegoated by the very district attorney who pushed for the conviction.
 
“They threw me under the bus,” Louis Scarcella told The Post yesterday after DA Charles Hynes indicated he’d asked a judge to vacate David Ranta’s conviction, more than two decades after Ranta was found guilty of murdering a prominent rabbi in Williamsburg.

“I was appalled when I got the news,” the retired cop said outside his Staten Island home. “I stand by the confession 100 percent. I never framed anyone in my life. You have to be a low devil to frame someone. I sleep well at night.”

While Scarcella was sleeping, Ranta, 58, was languishing in a Buffalo prison, convicted of the February 1990 murder of Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger after a botched jewelry heist in the Orthodox Jewish community.
From the web site, General Strike –

An ‘overwhelmed’ David Ranta left prison with a small bag of belongings and  family members ecstatic to see him outside of his cell. His conviction began to  fall apart when it was revealed that case detectives used questionable tactics  in his case, including coaching witnesses.

An innocent man was sprung from prison Thursday — more than 20 years after he  was wrongfully convicted of killing a beloved Brooklyn rabbi.

David Ranta, 58, could barely contain his excitement, smiling broadly at  relatives who hadn’t seen him as a free man since his 1991 conviction. Ranta was  found guilty of shooting Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger in a botched jewelry heist in  Williamsburg.

The conviction crumbled after a year-long investigation revealed case  detectives coached witnesses, did not keep notes and gave incentives to felons  who provided information.

And from the web site, From the Trenches –

http://www.fromthetrenchesworldreport.com/who-protects-new-yorkers-from-the-nypd/44295

Heyward is not alone in his suspicion of foul play in Hynes executions of justice. The DA has recently come under great scrutiny for spending years refusing to review convictions that he and his predecessor obtained through working with a homicide detective of such dubious repute. Last week, the Hynes office was forced to reopen 50 cases in which NYPD Detective Louis Scarcella was involved, after the Times uncovered that he obtained false confessions, lied, and relied on testimony from a single, crack-addicted prostitute to obtain a number of convictions. While families of those convicted through Scarlla’s police plan to start bird-dogging Hynes, others, like Heyward, have vowed to win justice for those they will never see again.

“It doesn’t matter how long I have to be out here fighting and exposing the reality of what happened. I’m going to keep at it,” said Heyward who believes there is a clear conflict of interest between New York City’s DAs and the NYPD since they are both on the same side of the law. “When cops are involved, it’s like district attorneys forget how to prosecute.”

“I’m overwhelmed,” Ranta said outside a courtroom in downtown Brooklyn,  carrying a purple laundry bag with all his belongings. “Right now, I feel like  I’m underwater, swimming.”

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Smart on Crime


Smart on Crime

Oregon Prosecutors Vie For Reduced Drug Sentences | ThinkProgress

Increasingly, conservatives who have historically followed a “tough on crime” mantra are embracing a “smart on crime” approach that reallocates resources to move away from over-criminalization and towards more efficient, effective criminal laws. Earlier this month, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed two laws that embrace alternatives to incarceration to nonviolent drug and property offenders, and eliminate jail time for juveniles who merely misbehave. And ten bipartisan members of Congress have formed a committee devoted to over-criminalization.

Oregon Prosecutors Vie For Reduced Drug Sentences | ThinkProgress

A few years ago, it was not clear whether or not America’s preoccupation with long prison sentences for even minor crimes would even be possible of change. But now, there is a definite away from such policies as “three strikes,” etc. It is one of the most historically important changes in the history of criminal justice in the United States.

Over the past forty years, we went from a nation that relied much more heavily on rehabilitation to a nation with the highest incarceration in the world. That high incarceration emasculated state budgets causing cuts in all kinds of traditional services and made it impossible for states to deal with long term problems like deteriorating infrastructure.

I am delighted that these policies are changing. The freed up human potential and the enormous sums of money available because of these changes will make American a better place to live.

James Pilant

 

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MIT to Release Swartz Files


 

Aaron Swartz
Aaron Swartz

MIT to Release Swartz Files

MIT agrees to release redacted Aaron Swartz files – Salon.com

The president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced on Tuesday that the school will voluntarily release public documents related to the prosecution of the free-information activist Aaron Swartz, who killed himself in January as he faced trial on hacking charges.

The email announcement by MIT president L Rafael Reif came in response to a request on Friday by lawyers for Swartz’s estate to have the US district court in Boston make the documents public. The university has come under fire for what critics say is its compliance with federal prosecutors in the legal case against Swartz. Supporters of Swartz have painted him as a zealous advocate of public online access, a martyred hero hounded to his death by the government he antagonized.

MIT agrees to release redacted Aaron Swartz files – Salon.com

 

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Big Banks Immune to Prosecution


Big Banks Immune to Prosecution

Mike Lux: Holder Confesses

I rarely agree with Chuck Grassley, but when he calls this “stunning,” he couldn’t be more right. This is the ultimate Big F’ing Deal: the nation’s top prosecutor openly admitting that some people and institutions are so big, wealthy, and powerful that it is the policy of the United States to hesitate to prosecute them no matter how terrible their crime. And it isn’t just American banks, either: HSBC, while operating here, is a foreign-based bank.

Look, that this is the policy of the U.S. Justice Department has been pretty obvious for quite a while. The unwillingness to prosecute the big banks in spite of some of the most egregious and obvious financial fraud in American history in the run-up to 2008’s financial collapse has become legendary. But the HSBC case, where thousands of emails over many years along with a great deal of other evidence proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the bank was laundering money for some of the most murderous and evil drug cartels and terrorists on the face of earth, made it crystal clear that once your bank becomes a certain size, the DOJ considers you beyond prosecution. For anything. Too Big To Jail, to the hundredth power. And the penalty they did get? A fine worth approximately five weeks worth of profits — after raking in massive profit from these drug cartels and terrorist-linked groups for many years.

So, yes, it has been obvious that this is the unspoken policy of the DOJ. Now, in front of a Senate committee, fully on the record, it is the official stated policy of the American government that if your bank is big enough, and the judgment is that prosecuting you will have a negative impact on the economy, DOJ will be “inhibited” in, and will find it “difficult,” to prosecute you.

We have truly crossed the Rubicon here. This is a tragic moment in the history of our nation, that we are willing to say on the record to some of our richest and powerful people and institutions that no matter what you do, you will not be prosecuted. What kind of society have we become? How corrupt are we as a nation?

Mike Lux: Holder Confesses

 

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Aaron Swartz is Dead


 

 

Aaron Swartz at a Boston Wiki Meetup
Aaron Swartz at a Boston Wiki Meetup (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Aaron Swartz is Dead

 

Aaron Swartz suicide: Prosecutors have too much power to charge and intimidate people for their crimes. – Slate Magazine

 

The underlying point Boyd is making, I think, is that the government doesn’t understand hackers and isn’t good at distinguishing between miscreant vigilantes like Swartz who are trying to free information systems and profit-driven or diabolical hackers who are trying to bring down those systems. That’s when an expansive law like the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act becomes dangerous. Prosecutors persuaded of their own righteousness, and woodenly equating downloading a deliberately unprotected database with stealing, lose all sense of proportion and bring in the heavy artillery when what’s in order is a far more mild penalty.

I’d like to tell you that the prosecutorial overreach that took place in Swartz’s case rarely happens. But that’s not true. There are many principled prosecutors who only bring charges they believe they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. But there are also some who bring any charge they can think of to induce a defendant who may be guilty of a minor crime to plead guilty to a major one. These cases usually are hard to call attention to: They’re not about innocence, easy and pure. They’re about the muddier concept of proportionality. If any good at all can come from Swartz’s unspeakably sorrowful death, maybe it will be how this case makes prosecutors—and the rest of us—think about the space between guilt and innocence.

 

Aaron Swartz suicide: Prosecutors have too much power to charge and intimidate people for their crimes. – Slate Magazine

There are some real villains here. The federal prosecutor, Carmen M. Ortiz and, of course, MIT.

I’m disgusted by the government’s and MIT’s actions in the case. There is nothing that Swartz did that was worthy of a day in prison much less 35 years of prison time. MIT did everything they could to actively push the case while giving the public the impression that they weren’t. Nice try, but the simple fact is, that without MIT’s heavy cooperation, the government would have had great difficulty making a case at all.

A few days ago, the government decided not to prosecute HSBC, a bank, that laundered nine billion dollars of money for drug cartels but they were pursuing a case against a man who “stole” documents that should have been accessible to the public for free, a man who sought no monetary  profit at all.

James Pilant

I find these remarks by Lawrence Lessig to be dead on point:

Here is where we need a better sense of justice, and shame. For the outrageousness in this story is not just Aaron. It is also the absurdity of the prosecutor’s behavior. From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. The “property” Aaron had “stolen,” we were told, was worth “millions of dollars” — with the hint, and then the suggestion, that his aim must have been to profit from his crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.

Aaron had literally done nothing in his life “to make money.” He was fortunate Reddit turned out as it did, but from his work building the RSS standard, to his work architecting Creative Commons, to his work liberating public records, to his work building a free public library, to his work supporting Change Congress/FixCongressFirst/Rootstrikers, and then Demand Progress, Aaron was always and only working for (at least his conception of) the public good. He was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.

For remember, we live in a world where the architects of the financial crisis regularly dine at the White House — and where even those brought to “justice” never even have to admit any wrongdoing, let alone be labeled “felons.”

 

From around the web –

From the web site, Shikhar Tech Labs:

This is the most shocking news for the Computer and Internet industries, a deafening blow for all those campaigners who demand internet freedom and for technology enthusiasts in general. Aaron Swartz is dead. Worst still is the fact that he has committed suicide. As the web mourns the demise of a computer prodigy whose body of work had very few parallels, the injustice done to him by the US prosecution and the MIT is very visible and very disheartening, and that’s putting it mildly.

Aaron was facing criminal charges for stealing more than 4 million articles from JSTOR, an online archive and journal distribution service. And if found guilty he faced 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine. But then he was also the face of the struggle against US laws of SOPA and PIPA as well as other government imposed sanctions that threatened to restrict internet freedom and which have been opposed by all major internet organizations including Google and Wikipedia.

A lot of people close to Aaron smelled foul play on the part of the US prosecution and the MIT because even JSTOR decided not to press charges against Aaron.

From the web site, Inundated, Things Matter Only When It Hits Hard:

The Guardian quoted the statement given by Aaron’s family, “Aaron’s death in not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach.”

As Aaron said, ” Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves.” It is really painful to see someone brilliant – in fact, an enfant terrible going by what Aaron had done in a span of handful years – heeding to Plato’s injunction, “The punishment suffered by the wise who refuse to take part in Government, is to suffer under the Government of bad men”, ” making an attempt to change the modern powerful structures, go down.

RIP.

P.S : One of the talks by Swartz How to Get A Job Like Mine, basically his personal story, bookmarked in my folder some time back, is a real classic with “just the facts.”

From the web site, American Everyman:

As I wrote a while ago, the feds decided to push for internet censorship via their last best hope: the free markets.

Big telecom companies are coming up with their own means by which to wipe certain people with certain ideas off the “internets”. I guess it’s payback for all that retroactive immunity they got from the Bush and Obama administrations when they could have been sued out the ying yang for allowing the feds to spy on us.

On the same day Aaron supposedly took his own life, Torrentfreak released a Verizon document detailing their new 6 strikes and your out plan.

The idea is basically this: Verizon will tell it’s customers when someone files a claim against them for copyright infringement. Verizon will give their users “x” amount of warnings then reduce their internet speed to something like a dial-up connection which will basically take them off the web for all intents and purposes.

As Aaron pointed out in a lecture he gave a year or so ago, the use of the ubiquitous “copyright infringement” charge is a dangerous and sweeping tool to use to shut down certain people. Everything is copyrighted by someone out there and the laws governing how much of what one can use are mirky at best.

Verizon claims they will set up a review panel with the American Arbitration Association and if you pay them $35 bucks they will review your case and find in favor of Verizon.

I find it very odd that Aaron just happened to take his own life when Verizon was about to launch this new SOPA/PIPA program of theirs own their own customers. I also find it odd that he was going to try his hacking case in court which would have brought tons of negative publicity down on JSTOR, portraying them as the guardians of knowledge for the elites.

 

 

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Prosecutors Enabling Debt Collector Misconduct


Adam Levin: The Alarming Ties Between Debt Collectors and District Attorneys

Consider what’s happening here. The debt collection companies are using the letterhead of the prosecutor’s office to threaten consumers with criminal prosecution and possible jail time. In reality, they’re in no position to back that threat up — but from reading the letter, the consumer has no way to know that. The truth is that in the vast majority of cases, the prosecutor’s office has no idea when these letters are mailed or who is receiving them, and has conducted no investigation to determine whether the claim of unpaid debt is actually true. Thus, the debt collectors are apparently mailing official letters without effective oversight — and often without even having the evidence they would need to prove that the recipients actually owe the alleged debts. In short, no case.

“I would say that roughly 90 percent of the credit card lawsuits are flawed and can’t prove the person owes the debt,” Noach Dear, a civil court judge in Brooklyn who sees up to 100 such cases a day, told the New York Times.

This is, indeed, outrageous. To have prosecuting attorneys renting out their letterhead to private companies at all diminishes their office and, at the end of the day, betrays the public trust. To do this without weighing the merits of each individual case betrays the fundamental American ideal of due process and turns the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” on its head. Finally, to allow private companies to use the power and prestige of public office to coerce consumers, using the fear of criminal charges and imprisonment to bully them into compliance — well, that is so clearly abusive that it’s hard to imagine how anyone could defend it (not that they haven’t tried).

Adam Levin: The Alarming Ties Between Debt Collectors and District Attorneys

Debt collectors have a terrible reputation in this country for misconduct and often direct law breaking. For prosecutors to form an alliance with them, loaning them some of the powers of the state, is simply unconscionable.

I’m not the only one that thinks so – here’s J.F. Quackenbush from the web site, Disinformation:

So here’s the deal, it’s a crime to write a bad check if you know that the bank isn’t going to honor the instrument. But in most states, in order to be convicted the State has to prove that you knew the check was going to bounce when you wrote it. That’s hard which is as it should be, because the crime here is not owing a debt, it’s fraud. We don’t do debtors prisons anymore, and for good reason. Bankruptcy law is explicitly mandated by the Constitution because it has long been understood that not all debts are equal, and sometimes it’s for the best in our society if we just let people off the hook and give them a clean financial slate to start over.

This, of course, drives the vampires of the collection industry, who make money by buying debts for pennies on the dollar and then brutalizing the people who owe those debts who can’t afford to pay them, and in the meantime making all manner of threats and coercive promises to keep those debtors out of bankruptcy so that the vampires can continue to feed.

And here are some more thoughts on the subject from Caveot Emptor, Seeking Justice for Consumers

Prosecutors’ job is to enforce the law. One important part of that job is exercising some discretion over who to prosecute. That’s especially important in bad check cases. People bounce checks all the time, usually unintentionally. That doesn’t make them crimes. So a prosecutor’s job is to sort out the crimes from the accidents. Under the new arrangement, everybody gets contacted by a debt collector, which then demands even more money for a budgeting class — the profit from which goes into the collector’s pocket.

Here are some thoughts from Naked Capitalism

The excuse for this program is that district attorneys’ offices were overwhelmed with merchant requests to go after bounced checks where they were unable to collect the debt and alleged fraud. Um, what about saying “no” unless the amount at issue was significant, say at least a few hundred dollars, or having the merchant provide evidence of intent? Instead, this scheme allows the debt collectors to get a windfall from people who’ve stuffed up on relatively small checks (the two examples in the article were each under $100) as well as contributing to erosion of public faith in the legal system.

Consumer attorneys did succeed in getting one debt collector that engaged in this practice, American Corrective Counseling Services, to file for Chapter 11 in the face of class action suits. But its successor CorrectiveSolutions carries on with the same dubious practices and has “partnerships” with more than 140 district attorneys’ offices.

And here is a comment from Tech Dirt
The DAs office, it appears, is literally selling the use of their stationary. In exchange for letting debt collectors appear both a lot more official and for falsely suggesting that law enforcement is pursuing criminal action, the debt collectors “sell” a “financial accountability” class, from which some of the proceeds get kicked back to the DAs’ offices.
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Is the Justice Department Gutless?


How do we make sense of this? Goldman Sachs emails call their own investments “junk” and “crap,” and Goldman Sachs salespeople refer to clients as “muppets” and “elephants.” Yet the Justice Department says there is not enough evidence to bring a case on behalf of Goldman Sachs investors who lost vast sums of money.Seal of the United States Department of Justice

Seal of the United States Department of Justice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Goldman Sachs prosecution fails: Why can’t the Justice Department fight Wall Steet?

Now that that’s out of the way, I can say what we are all thinking: Really? Are you kidding me? Wall Street continues to get away scot-free? The Justice Department prosecutes Roger Clemens for perjury—spends countless resources, hours, and energy worrying about steroids in baseball—yet seems incapable of making cases against the big Wall Street firms that engineered the greatest lies, frauds, and scams in our economic history. I am as outraged, disappointed, and furious as you are. Have they no backbone, shame, or sense of what justice is all about? It does nothing for my already waning faith in this Justice Department.

Goldman Sachs prosecution fails: Why can’t the Justice Department fight Wall Steet?

Apparently the great “vampire squid,” is immune to prosecution. In their e-mails they virtually admitted they were committing fraud. What does the Justice Department need in the way of evidence to prosecute? It seems to me if you are well connected enough and big enough, an infinite amount of evidence would still not be enough.

This is another example of America’s two tiered justice system – one for regular citizens and another for the privileged. There is a certain irony in the phrase, land of the free. It seems that some are apparently more free than others.

Business Ethics – Did that play any role here? You bet it did. By systematically breaking the rules, abusing it customers and blatantly lying, Goldman Sachs made billions of dollars. It is a pure lesson in why the phrase, business ethics, often evokes sneers or knowing giggles. I’ve seen and heard them.This is a lesson in negative business ethics, the other side of teaching what is right, teaching to do what is wrong.

We are systematically educating our young to be financial criminals, to reject the values of the righteous and embrace less than the moral minimum.

Our society has an opportunity here to create a society fit for no one but the predators.

Is that where you want to live?

James Pilant

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