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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I found this article while web surfing. It is so well written I just reprinted the whole thing. I think the author is right on target.

constable-texas2I talking with my employer, Elliot Schlissel, Esq., about my post yesterday regarding the case of the Tenaha, TX police department’s use of apparently unreasonable searches and seizures to obtain money and property from travelers through their town to bolster their local budget. I told him that the individuals involved are being sued for violations of the victims’ civil rights. He suggested that those individuals involved  may potentially be prosecuted criminally for violations of the Federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (“RICO”) law.
After reviewing some of the basic RICO statutes, I think the U.S. Attorney’s office prosecutors may have a case against the officers and individuals involved.
The RICO law, 18 USC §1962(c), prohibits “any person employed by or associated with any enterprise engaged in… activities… which affect[] interstate… commerce, to conduct… such enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity…” (emphasis added)
§ 1961(1) defines a “racketeering activity” as
(A) any act or threat involving murder, kidnapping, gambling, arson, robbery, bribery, extortion, dealing in obscene matter, or dealing in a controlled substance… which is chargable under State law and punishable by imprisonment for more than one year [or] (B) any act which is indictable under any of the following provisions of title 18, United States Code: Section 201… (emphasis added)
One of the acts “indictable under any of the following provisions of title 18″ is extortion, which is defined by § 1951(a) as when someone “obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce, by robbery or extortion or attempts or conspires so to do (sic)…”  That section further defines extortion as “the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.”
And § 1961(5) defines a “pattern of racketeering activity” as “at least two acts of [even the same] racketeering activity…”
While the town of Tenaha itself is not a proper subject of RICO prosecution because it is not a “person” under the RICO statute, the Marshall, Mayor, Constable and Shelby County D.A., in their individual capacities, would be proper “persons” for RICO prosecution. See Pelfresne v. Village of Rosemont, 22 F.Supp.2d 756, 761 (N.D. Ill. 1998).
If the facts are indeed as the San Antonio Express-News has reported, then over 140 motorists have been stopped and been “willingly” induced to sign over their property with the threat of bogus prosecutions for crimes they were never charged with and which involved searches that probably violated their fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Furthermore, the Mayor’s comments defending  the practice indicated that it was their intent to use these means to bolster the cash-strapped budget of the town’s police force. This implied that their the use of the Texas forfeiture statute to confiscate travelers’ money and property using abuses of their 4th Amendment rights was a coordinated conspiracy.
Travelers’ freedom to pass and bring property between states appears to have been impeded by “wrongful use of… fear… under color of official right.” If indeed this has occurred in over half of the 140 instances of the induced property forfeitures between 2006 and 2008, and it can be shown that the officials involved took part in at least two instances of extortion each, then it would appear that the Marshall, Constable, Mayor and D.A. in Tenaha and Shelby County may be susceptible to criminal (and perhaps civil) RICO prosecution.
At the very least, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas ought to look into whether an investigation should be opened to determine if criminal RICO prosecution may be appropriate.

Tribute to Brave Men - Fighting the Klan in Mississippi

When my family moved to Natchez, Mississippi in 1966 it was almost a low intensity war zone. It's a beautiful town on a bluff over the Mississippi River, with more intact antebellum homes than any other city. But it also had the strongest, most violent chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. The first year we lived there (I was in high school) the klan blew up a black man named Warlest Jackson who had the audacity to believe he had the right to be treated fairly at his job at the local tire and rubber plant.  Jackson was a brave man who bucked the system when that could get you killed. There were many others.

The FBI agent who led the investigation was Mr. Gamblin. He moved into Natchez with his family and they became our next door neighbors. I think his first name was George, but to me he was always "Mr. Gamblin," who could have come out of central casting - tall lean, steely eyed.

He must have lived under terrific strain, knowing the klan would love to kill him. He also had to deal with an active presence of the Mafia, across the river in Louisiana. He was a courageous, decent man. He died, I think of a heart attack, shortly after he retired.

All the FBI agents in cases I've been involved in have been cool professionals. J. Edgar Hoover had his flaws but he built a great institution.

On another positive note, I love the television show Justified about a modern day Deputy U.S. Marshall banished to Lexington, Kentucky after shooting a drug kingpin in Miami. Timothy Olyphant (Sheriff Seth Bullock in Deadwood) plays Ray Givins, the lawman. The show, written by Elmore Leonard, does a great job depicting the corruption in some of the smaller cities and rural areas - meth labs, white supremacists, a sheriff on the payroll of the cartel. I hope to give it balance that in future episodes they have story lines about non-white criminal gangs.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Convicted Lawyer Who Couldn't Leave Good Enough Alone

A lawyer named Mark Clark from New Braunfels is (was?) out on bond after his conviction for sexually molesting a young girl. From the San Antonio Express News:

Sex offender denied travel, new trial

Instead, he got higher bond and monitoring device.
Updated 10:02 p.m., Friday, March 18, 2011
NEW BRAUNFELS — Convicted sex offender Mark Clark came back to court asking for leniency.
He didn't get it.
Clark, free on bail while he appeals a February jury verdict that resulted in a seven-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine, asked the court to loosen his travel restrictions and consider a new trial.
Instead, says Comal County chief felony prosecutor Sammy McCrary, state District Judge Doug Shaver on Thursday ordered Clark's $24,000 appeal bond raised to $200,000. He also ordered that Clark wear an electronic monitoring device on his ankle.
And Shaver denied Clark's motion for a new trial.
Clark already has surrendered his law license and is listed on the state' sex offender registry.
Last month, a jury found Clark guilty of charges of attempted sexual performance of a child. Prosecutors proved he tried to coerce a 12-year-old girl into posing in lingerie while the pair was alone in his office. He had told the girl's mother that he needed the girl to help around his office.
In the trial, attorneys also produced other girls approached by Clark, including a 14-year-old middle school student who says the attorney hit on her at a sno-cone stand.
McCrary says Clark wanted the travel restrictions changed so he could travel between Austin and San Antonio, where he wanted to attend church.
What a moron. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why Do We Defend Clients Everyone Knows Are Guilty?

Criminal defense lawyers are often asked, how can you defend someone you know is guilty? The short answer is that by defending people who are probably guilty as charged we are defending everyone's constitutional rights to due process. For example, people like Francisco Carrillo, who spent 20 years in prison for a drive by shooting he didn't commit. He went to Folsom Prison at age 16. He just got out, but has no job, no home, nothing. Lawyers with the Innocence Project took his case pro bono, and their investigation and hard word proved that the eyewitnesses who fingered Carrillo were wrong.

Another reason we defend people is that prosecutors often "overcharge" - they hit the defendant with the worst crime they can with a straight face to use as leverage in plea bargaining.

Then there are cops and prosecutors who will stop at nothing to get a conviction. Plant evidence, suborn perjury, whatever it takes to win and get reelected. History is replete with kangaroo trials - Joan of Arc, condemned as a heretic and witch, the Salem witch trials, even Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What's Wrong With Kerrville? More Keystone Cops With Drugs

A couple of weeks ago former DPS State Trooper Jeff Jerman was sentenced to probation for selling steroids out of his patrol car, in uniform, complete with gun and badge.

Yesterday a former Kerrville Police Dept cop was sentenced for selling methamphetamine. He's already doing time for other drug offenses and assault. From the Kerrville Daily Times:

A former Kerrville police officer already serving 10 years in prison on drug and assault charges will serve an additional three years for an unrelated drug charge.
Benjamin Pieper, who was not an officer at the time of his arrests, was bench warranted out of prison for the sentencing, where he currently is serving four sentences for drug delivery, drug possession and charges of felony assault, family violence.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What's Really Insane - The Futile War on Drugs

If you don't believe the so called war on drugs is crazy, watch this video of a gang of cartel killers taking over Creel, a small town in Mexico, and murdering a family (the actual killings are not on camera). Here's the really scary part: the video was taken by a Mexican Army security camera and the authorities did nothing.

Crazy Like a Fox?

Five hundred years ago the mafias in control of societies called a non-conformist or trouble maker a heretic and burned him at the stake - or her, in the case of thousands of women they called witches. For that matter, the prophet Samuel in the Old Testament skewered some poor soldier who was just doing his job and reported to the king that a big battle hadn't gone so well. Ross Perot, a prophet before his time, was called crazy by the people who brought us NAFTA, unemployment, the financial crash, the war on drugs, and endless Mideast wars. He made a joke of it, adopting Willie Nelson's classic song as his theme song.

In modern times they call such a person a paranoid or conspiracy theorist. Gary Webb was driven to suicide for breaking the story about the link between cocaine smugglers, the CIA and the Contras. His enemies in the government and the mainstream press called him a nut and pressured his employer to fire him. You can read the whole sad story in "Kill the Messenger: How the CIA's Crack-Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb," by Nick Schou and Charle Bowden. 

When I got into my struggle with the good ol' boy club in the Hill Country they used the tactic on me. That was before then 198th DA Ron Sutton and Judge Emil Karl Prohl were indicted for their own conspiracy. And now Tana Brown a/k/a Hurt, former probation officer. And a state trooper who was selling steroids out of his patrol car.

The struggle continues. Watch the video of Gnarles Barkley's Crazy, dedicated to my worthy adversaries:

remember when, I remember
I remember when I lost my mind
There was something so pleasant about that place
Even your emotions have an echo in so much space

And when you're out there without care
Yeah, I was out of touch
But it wasn't because I didn't know enough
I just knew too much

Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?

And I hope that you are
Having the time of your life
But think twice
That's my only advice

Come on now, who do you
Who do you, who do you, who do you think you are?
Ha ha ha, bless your soul
You really think you're in control?

Well, I think you're crazy
I think you're crazy
I think you're crazy
Just like me

My heroes had the heart
To lose their lives out on a limb
And all I remember
Is thinking, I want to be like them

Ever since I was little
Ever since I was little
It looked like fun
And it's no coincidence I've come
And I can die when I'm done

But maybe I'm crazy
Maybe you're crazy
Maybe we're crazy

Gnarles Barkley

Victora Texas: Another Case of Corruption

Sometimes it helps me to remember that the Hill Country counties are the only ones with corruption and major problems in law enforcement. Victoria County may be worse. The DA there, Stephen B. Tyler, has been at war with half the local government. He got the chief of police and city manager indicted. It started when he hired the former sheriff, Michael Ratcliff, as his chief of staff. Ratcliff was being investigated for raping a teenage boy while he was still sheriff! The Victoria Advocate reported:

Tyler initially accused Smith and Buentello, along with Police Chief Bruce Ure and Mayor Will Armstrong, of leaking confidential information, interfering with an official case, conspiring against him and lying under oath in 2008.
But more specifically, Buentello and Smith were charged with aggravated perjury, lying to a grand jury that indicted former Sheriff Michael Ratcliff on charges he sexually assaulted a teenage boy while sheriff
Incidentally, DA Tyler is in the forfeiture racket too. His website says he has a lawyer, paralegal and secretary who work full time on forfeitures. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

East Texas - Small Town Hell

What is wrong with East Texas? James Byrd was chained to a pickup truck and dragged to his death. Mineola was the setting for a ring of pedophiles who trained young children to perform live sex shows - except it probably never happened and the defendants were framed. Now Cleaveland,  an old timber town on H.W. 59 about 50 miles north of Houston is on the front page of the New York Times for the repeated gang rape of an 11 year old girl. The Times loves it because of the race angle. The victim is Hispanic, her attackers African-American. Quanell X, the Black Muslim from Houston, is in town screaming racism.

Cleaveland already has its share of problems. A local cop is under federal indictment for stealing guns and other evidence - my guess would be cocaine - from the department's lock-up.

The Times even suggested that the girl was at fault, for dressing provocatively and not staying home like a good little girl. If the victim were black and the rapists white I wonder what the Times' angle would be.
Christine Pelisek's article in the Daily Beast website portrays a Small Town Hell -

The arrests, which happened over a period of a few weeks, turned the town upside down. It turned out that five of the suspects were juveniles in middle and high school. Two of the suspects were on the Cleveland High School basketball team, including a rising star who went by the nickname Golden Child. Another one is the 21-year-old son of a local school board member. Some of the others have rap sheets. One of the suspects was arrested along with a friend in January for robbing a grocery store with a gun and a tire tool. That same suspect is also believed to be responsible for a home break-in where a woman was shot in the arm. Another suspect was indicted in June of 2010 for manslaughter in the fatal shooting of his teenaged friend.

Too bad the perps are star football players - then the Chamber of Commerce would hold fish fries and barbeques to raise money for their defense. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Dark Side of the Internet Age

When I got out of law school in 1980 law firms were still using IBM mag card systems for word processing. A secretary typed on a traditional typewriter - IBM Selectric, I think. Each secretary had a large, heavy cabinet sitting beside her desk, filled with a bunch of wires and circuit boards. I got my first personal computer sometime around 1985, and it was a 'portable' Compaq that weighted 35 pounds and was on rollers. Lawyers still dictated all their briefs, motions, memos, letters and so on into bulky tape recorders.

Many people haven't successfully made the transition from the 'stone age' to the internet age. It's just too easy to fire off an email or make statements on Facebook or Twitter without thinking through the possible ramifications. Criminals monitor Facebook looking for personal information so they can steal identities, or rob your house while you're sunning on the beach. A new scam is to email or call you and say it's your grandaugther, locked up in a jail in Turkey or some other hell hole, please wire bail money. This week all the lawyers in Kerrville got one supposedly from a local lawyer who had her luggage with all her money and passport stolen and needed money to fly home. There's a thousand mutations of the Nigerian scam.

National Security Agency has a massive facility in San Antonio next door to a Microsoft facility that handles most of the internet traffic in Texas. NSA computers read it all.

Then there are the criminals who can take over your computer without you even knowing it.
zombie computer (often shortened as zombie) is a computer connected to the Internet that has been compromised by a crackercomputer virus or trojan horse and can be used to perform malicious tasks of one sort or another under remote direction. Botnets of zombie computers are often used to spread e-mail spam and launch denial-of-service attacks. Most owners of zombie computers are unaware that their system is being used in this way. Because the owner tends to be unaware, these computers are metaphorically compared to zombies

I bet you didn't know that your account with Amazon.com may be an open book to anyone. Unless you specifically alter the security settings, people can see what you've bought, your wish and purchase lists, and even all the things you have browsed. I almost posted a link directly into my account trying to just do a link to the book mentioned above.

I'm still trying to figure out how to make all my data secure, and when I learn enough to share any useful information will write another post on it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Does Castle Doctrine Allow You to Shoot Someone in Your Front Yard at Night?

I been following the murder trial in San Antonio where homeowner Ray Lemes was on trial for shooting Tracy Glass, a 19 year old college kid, who allegedly broke into Lemes' home at night. The judge declared a mistrial yesterday because a juror looked up the definitions of the terms murder and manslaughter (online apparently) and shared his or her new knowledge with the other jurors. This is verboten and the judge was right to declare a mistrial.

If the homeowner is to be believed, he and his wife were awakened in the middle of the night when their dog alerted to an intruder in the house. The news articles have not reported whether there was any sign of forced entry - jimmied lock, broken window, or a burglar alarm going off. What we do know is that Lemes went outside and shot the alleged intruder multiple times, once in the back. State witnesses testified, based on the location of the body and shell casings that the deceased was shot in the cul de sac.

The "Castle Doctrine" is the legal principle that lets a homeowner use deadly force against an intruder inside his home, especially at night. A man's home is his castle and all that. Another Texas statute allows deadly force outside the home to stop someone from fleeing with your property. I've always thought that was a little broad - it made sense in the old days when losing your horse or mule or cattle could be a matter of life and death.

Anyway, once you're outside the law gets really murky. It turned out that the young man who was killed was possibly drunk, visiting his sister who lived in the same neighborhood and may have gotten confused and gone to the wrong house. He had no criminal record and no weapon. The prosecutors say they will retry the case. So, Mr. Lemes faces the prospect of life in prison. If he beats the rap, he will still pay thousands of dollars in legal fees. And he and his wife have to live with the guilt of killing young Mr. Glass. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

South Texas and Hill Country Pervert and Crooked DA Roundup

xas pervert and crook roundup-meth dealing fireman, crooked DA's, a degenerate swami and a crooked (redundant) lawyer

A San Antonio area firefighter was busted today for using and selling methamphetamine.  I guess he needed to bulk up so he could lug those heavy hoses up the ladder.

San Antonio lawyer Diana Minella was convicted of stealing from her clients (I know, you're saying what's the punchline, right?). She took thousands of dollars to get rid of traffic tickets and kept the money.

Swami Shree Samijii   bugged out of San Marcos after a jury convicted him of multiple counts of sexually molesting young girls in his temple. It's a disgusting thought, that fat, bald, bearded bastard even touching a child. Just goes to prove that the Catholic priests and their ilk in the fundamentalist Bible thumper churches don't have a monopoly on being perverts.

Ex Jim Wells County DA Joe Frank Garza pled guilty to looting his asset forfeiture fund and got a probated sentence. Maybe he knows some of the same fixers and ex-Kimble County DA Ron Sutton and can get early termination of his probation.