Couple seek to have convictions thrown out, cite corrupt Chicago cop

Couple seek to have convictions thrown out, cite corrupt Chicago cop

Ben Baker had long been a thorn in the side of corrupt Chicago police Sgt. Ronald Watts, who framed the part-time drug dealer on a narcotics charge in retaliation for refusing to pay a protection payoff of $1,000, court records show.

While Baker was on bond awaiting trial in December 2005, he and his wife, Clarissa Glenn, were stopped by Watts and one of his team members. Once again, the officers claimed they found a bag of heroin in Baker’s car and tagged the couple with major felony drug charges, according to the court records.

Faced with up to 15 years in prison and frightened that their young children would be left without parents, the couple copped deals with prosecutors in order to spare Glenn from prison. Baker, though, had an additional two years tacked on to his sentence for the other drug case — a total of 14 years behind bars.

Now Baker and Glenn are seeking to have those guilty pleas thrown out, claiming in a court filing last week that Watts had planted the heroin — this time as retribution for blowing the whistle on him. Watts had been tipped off that Baker had gone to the Chicago police internal affairs division about his earlier shakedown, records show.

To buttress their claim, the couple has produced court records that show the judge who took their guilty pleas in September 2006 was already aware that Watts’ crew was under investigation, according to the petition filed in Cook County Criminal Court.

In fact, Judge Michael Toomin told the couple that if the allegations were ever proved, they could come back to court and he would gladly throw out their cases.

The court filing marks the latest fallout over the corrupt squad led by Watts, who in 2012 was charged along with one of his underlings, Officer Kallatt Mohammed, with shaking down a drug courier who turned out to be an FBI informant. Both were convicted and sentenced to federal prison.

Baker was freed in January after serving more than a decade of his 14-year sentence. Cook County prosecutors agreed to drop the original drug charge against him after his lawyer, Joshua Tepfer, revealed dozens of pages of court and law enforcement records showing that police internal affairs had been aware as far back as the late 1990s of corruption allegations involving Watts’ team — yet failed to take them off the street.

At the time of Baker’s arrest, Watts and his entire crew also were the target of an ongoing FBI investigation, according to records uncovered by Tepfer, of the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School. One FBI report from September 2004 showed that an informant had told federal agents that Watts and other officers were routinely shaking down drug dealers for thousands of dollars in cash in exchange for police protection at the Ida B. Wells public housing complex.

But it wasn’t until five years later that agents were able to build a criminal case against Watts and Mohammed, based in part on the undercover work of two whistleblower officers, Shannon Spalding and Daniel Echeverria.

Tepfer told the Tribune on Friday that the latest filing shows how Watts and his crew were able to terrorize a community for years with their illegal schemes, using their police powers to keep the largely poor and vulnerable people who lived in Ida B. Wells in line.

“These cases were brought by vindictive and corrupt police officers who were framing individuals for things that they did not do,” Tepfer said. “(Baker and Glenn) are likely just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to victims of the decadelong criminal enterprise headed by Sgt. Watts.”

The experience was particularly rough on Glenn, a churchgoing mother of three who had never been arrested before and has not been since, according to her lawyer, Jonathan Brayman.

“Every step of the way, Clarissa has told anyone who would listen that she and Ben were innocent,” he said.

According to the petition, Baker and Glenn were stopped by Watts and Officer Alvin Jones on Dec. 11, 2005. Jones claimed in police reports that as he walked up to the car he saw Glenn hand a clear plastic bag filled with heroin to Baker, who put it in the driver’s-side console.

But Baker and Glenn claimed Watts had pulled the bag out of his sleeve and placed it in the car after a search had turned up no drugs. Back at the Wentworth District police station, Jones and several other members of Watts’ team typed up a false report, adding officers as witnesses who weren’t even at the scene, the couple alleged.

Before the couple pleaded guilty, Judge Toomin acknowledged in court that he had been shown reports that indicated Watts’ crew had been under investigation by internal affairs and that a prosecutor with the state’s attorney’s office’s public integrity unit was involved. But there had been no concrete evidence of wrongdoing and no move by prosecutors to drop the charges, so the judge said he couldn’t do anything with the information, according to a transcript.

“Let me say this to both of you,” Toomin told Baker and Glenn, according to a transcript. “There has not been sufficient showing to me that these are renegade police officers, that they are bad police, that they are outlaws.”

But, Toomin said, “police officers do get charged with doing things that are wrong, breaking the law.”

“If that should happen here in this case, I would have no hesitation,” the judge said. “I would toss out these convictions.”

Police body camera

A sweeping set of new regulations regarding police body cameras is aimed at addressing recent controversies over use of force and standardizing practices across the state.

Police departments would not be required to use the cameras, but now there will be statewide rules for those that do. Chiefly, officers will have to keep their cameras on when conducting law enforcement activities but could turn them off when talking to a confidential informant, or at the request of a victim or witness. Intentionally turning off cameras outside the exceptions could result in a charge of official misconduct.

Recordings generally will not be subject to the state’s open records law, however, unless they contain potential evidence in a use-of-force incident, the discharge of a weapon or a death.

To help pay for the body cameras, the state will charge an extra $5 fee on criminal and traffic offenses that result in a guilty plea or conviction. The money also will bolster an expanded training program that includes topics like use of force. In addition, the law bans the use of choke holds, creates a database of officers who have been fired or resigned because of misconduct and requires an independent investigation of all officer-involved deaths. Also, a special prosecutor can be requested if there is an apparent conflict of interest.

Since 1988, firm founder and criminal defense lawyer Louis M. Pissios

Since 1988, firm founder and criminal defense lawyer Louis M. Pissios has been a dynamic and leading advocate for the preservation and protection of constitutional rights—before, during, and following an arrest—as well as the defense of formal criminal charges.

The pursuit of a successful defense strategy, coupled with one-on-one client interaction, has been the hallmark of our practice throughout the past forty years. Our firm is the choice for people seeking cutting edge criminal defense representation that is both personalized and high quality. Guided by the philosophy that the situation of every person facing criminal charges is unique, we tailor our defense strategies to the facts and circumstances of each case, as they apply to the law, in order to attain the best possible results for our clients. A creative and intensive approach to criminal charges can make a big difference in your case’s results, as does the lawyer you choose to represent you.

He would be more than happy to discuss your situation at a meeting in our offices, advise you of the costs involved, and provide you with valuable and practical advice on how best to address the accusations. From DUI charges or violent offenses to crimes related to theft or traffic, or even expunging your criminal record, there is no case too large or too small. In your free consultation, you will learn that our attorneys are not judgmental; instead, we have the utmost respect for your privacy and dignity. All contacts and conversations are strictly confidential, and we accept phone calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

We care about our clients and understand the anguish and stress that a person charged with a crime experiences. Being charged with a crime is a nightmare, not just for the individual charged, but for his or her family as well. We will guide you through the legal process, answer your questions, and provide you with the highest quality representation. We welcome you to compare our reputation, experience, and results with that of any criminal defense lawyer. Our professionalism and skill help us to obtain the best results and satisfaction for our clients.

We provide representation to individuals facing criminal charges in Lake County, and McHenry County. Please call us at (847) 263-0001 or email him directly at [email protected] Our lawyers will answer your questions and take time to ensure that you feel comfortable in fully understanding your rights, your options, and the consequences of your decisions.

Implied Consent

Implied Consent

Illinois law requires you to take a breath, blood, or urine test if you are arrested for a DUI. Illinois’s “implied consent” law says that if you are lawfully arrested by an officer who has probable cause to believe that you have been driving under the influence, then you consent to taking a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining your blood alcohol content (BAC).  You do not have the right to speak to an attorney before you are tested, and the test must be given as soon as possible from the time when you were last driving. Although the arresting officer gets to choose which test you take, you have the option to get additional tests afterward taken by a medical professional of your choice.

You could be arrested for a DUI even if you were not driving. If you have actual, physical control of the vehicle while under the influence, then that can be enough for an officer to arrest you. Whether you have actual, physical control of a vehicle depends on where you are sitting, if you have the key, and if you have the ability to start and move the vehicle. In one case, an Illinois court decided that a person had actual, physical control of his car even though he had not driven it to the place where a police officer found him asleep. This person was lying across the front seat of his car with his head on the passenger side. He had the motor running to keep the heater on. Although this person did not intend to move the car, the combination of his position in it, the running motor, and evidence of his intoxication was enough for the court to uphold his DUI conviction. (This case is City of Naperville v. Watson, 677 NE 2d 955(1997).)

Additionally, Illinois law says that you consent to taking a preliminary breath test, even if you have not been arrested. This works like a field sobriety test. The officer will use the results to establish probable cause that you were driving under the influence. You do not have to take this preliminary test. Refusing it, however, probably won’t work in your favor if the officer has some other reason to think you had been drinking. Based on that other reason, the officer could still arrest you and then you will be required to take a test under the law described above.

You can read Illinois’s implied consent law in Illinois Statute 625-5/11-501.1.

Illinois DUI Case List

Expert Witnesses
 
People v. Jones, 2015 IL App (1st) 121016 (04/22/2015) (“foundational element” used
to strike a state firearms expert witness)
 
People v. Safford, 392 Ill. App. 3d 212, 221 (2009) (court said that the admission of an
expert’s testimony requires an adequate reliability foundation)
 
People v. McKown, 236 Ill.2d 278 (2010) (HGN foundations case but see King below)
 
People v. Floyd, 2014 IL App (2d) 120507 (March 2014) (retrograde extrapolation based
on a single breath test is more speculation than science)
 
Soto v. Gaytan, 313 Ill. App. 3d 137 (2000) (another case that talks about a foundational
element)
 
People v. Negron, 2012 IL App (1st) 101194 (2012) (another case that allows a
fingerprint expert to testify but discusses Safford’s foundations test)
 
Discovery Sanctions
 
People v. Tsiamas, 2015 IL App (2d) 140859 (December 2015) (State can’t ignore
discovery notice)
 
People v. Moravec, 2015 IL App (1st) 133869 (November 2015) (DUI sanctions
UPHELD)
 
People v. Kladis, 2011 IL 110920 (DUI evidence suppressed after video is destroyed)
 
People v. Aronson, 408 Ill.App.3d 946 (2011) (failure to make a copy is a sanctionable)
 
People v. Strobel, 2014 IL App (1st) 130300 (June 2014) (no discovery violation occurred here so it was error to impose a discovery sanction)
 
People v. Olsen, 2015 IL App (2d) 140267 (June 2015) (error for the trial judge to
suppress evidence due to a purported discovery violation)
 
People v. Moises, 2015 IL App (3d) 140577 (August 2015) (trial court’s decision to grant a discovery sanction is reversed because there was no discovery violation when officer did not record the FST)
 
Probable Cause
 
Navarette v. California, 134 S.Ct. 1683 (2014) (anonymous 911 call justifies traffic stop)
 
People v. Anderson, 2013 IL App (2d) 121346 (October 2014)
 
People v. Butorac, 2013 IL App (2d) 110953 (December 2014) (officers may board a
boat to enforce registration requirements)
 
People v. Cummings, 2014 IL 115769 (March 2014)
 
People v. Gonzalez­Carrera, 2014 IL App (2d) 130968 (September 2014)
 
People v. Timmsen, 2014 IL App (3d) 120481 (July 2014) (it’s ok to avoid a traffic roadblock so long as you don’t break any other traffic laws)
 
People v. Santovi, 2014 IL App 2014 IL App (3d) 130075 (May 2014) (no pc to arrest defendant before cop yells at the women and orders her to open the bathroom door or he’ll kick it down)
 
People v. Taiwo, 2015 IL App (3d) 140105 (April 2015) (proper to stop a car for a lane infraction when the cop had a hunch the car was connected to an accident he was
investigating)
 
Rescissions & Suspended DLs
 
People v. Elliott, 2014 IL 115308 (January 2014) (recession only acts prospectively and
has no retroactive effect, thus rescinding a suspension will not undue convictions based
on that suspension)
 
People v. Smith, 2013 IL App (2d) 121164 (November 2013) (DWLS can’t be revoked)
 
People v. Clayton, 2014 IL App (4th) 130340 (March 2014) (even if
notice was tampered with by the cop defendant had actual notice of his pending suspension)
 
People v. Gaede, 2014 IL App (4th) 130346 (November 2014) (defendant withdrew his consent and implied consent statute found constitutional)
 
People v. Morales, 2015 IL App (1st) 131207 (January 2015) (suspension reinstated defendant received proper notice from the police on the day of his arrest and had more than ample opportunity to challenge the suspension in court)
 
People v. McLeer, 2015 IL App (2d) 140526 (February 2015) (officer amends the report after it was issued, suspension stands because SOS had enough information that the
notice was given)
 
People v. Gutierrez, 2015 IL App (3d) 140194 (July 2015) (A PBT test is not a
statement, thus, the officer’s DL suspension is proper)
 
Blood & BAC
 
People v. Wuckert, 2015 IL App (2d) 150058 (December 2015) (625 ILCS 5/111­501.4
trumps hospital policy that the results should not be used for legal purposes)
 
People v. Armer, 2014 IL App (5th) 130342 (October 2014) (warrantless blood draw
suppressed when not done with consent nor under exigent circumstances)
 
People v. Harris, 2015 IL App (4th) 140696 (May 2015) (consensual blood draws ok)
 
People v. Weidner, 2014 IL App (5th) 130022 (March 2014) (no error to wipe
defendant’s arm with an alcohol wipe before hospital took his blood)
 
People v. Hutchinson, 2013 IL App (1st) 1023332 (November 2013) (no error in
admitting report of lab results as a business record)
 
People v. Harris, 2014 IL App (2d) 120990 (May 2014) (state had problems showing the
breathalyzer was certified)
 
People v. Eagletail, 2014 IL App (1st) 130252 (December 2014) (logbook and printout
admissible even though printout was made years after the breath test)
 
People v. Chiaravalle, 2014 IL App (4th) 140445 (December 2014) (officer made a
continuous observation even though he may have had his back to the defendant from
time to time)
 
People v. Thomas, 2014 IL App (2d) 130660 (May 2014) (speedy trial violated when
police waited to issue BAC citation they already knew what the hospital blood BAC was)
 
People v. Torruella, 2015 IL App (2d) 141001 (August 2015) (no error here when the
trial judge accepted calibration records of the breathalyzer as a business record and no
error when the court disregarded the defense expert’s testimony)
 
People v. Smith, 2015 IL App (1st) 122306 (August 2015) (state failed to establish that
the machine was properly certified within the 62 day window required by the
regulations)
 
Evidence
 
People v. Blakey, 2015 IL App (3d) 130719 (November 2015) (prior inconsistent
statement in this DUI huffing case was admitted in error)
 
People v. Phillips, 2015 IL App (1st) 131147 (October 2015) (defendant blew under .08
and attacked that the officer’s opinion he was intoxicated)
 
People v. Way, 2015 IL App (5th) 130096 (September 2015) (proximate cause defense,
error to deny the defendant a chance to defend her aggravated DUI by arguing that the
cannabis in her system did not contribute to the accident)
 
People v. King, 2014 IL App (2d) 130461 (November 2014) (officer can testify to how
defendant acted during instructions of HGN even though the results themselves not
admitted)
 
People v. O’Donnell, 2015 IL App (4th) 130358 (March 2015) (officer committed error
when she testified it was her belief that Defendant was lying to her at the scene of the
one car accident and that he was showing deception
 
People v. Kathan, 2014 IL App (2d) 121335 (August 2014) (a drug driving case with an
admission, bad driving and impairment leads to guilt)
 
People v. Morris, 2014 IL App (1st) 130512 (July 2014) (actual physical control
established when defendant passed out in front seat of parked car, the ignition off, the
driver’s side door open, and keys in his right hand)
 
Sentence
 
People v. Lake, 2015 IL App (3d) 140031 (April 2015) (9 year sentence for aggravated
DUI Death conviction upheld; it was not excessive; defendant was racing a horse)
 
People v. Rennie, 2014 IL App (3d) 130014 (May 2014) (16 year olds 6 year sentence
for aggravated DUI upheld she had weed in her system when motorcyclist died in an
accident)
 
People v. Stutzman, 2015 IL App (4th) 130889 (August 2015) (defendant inappropriately plead guilty to reckless homicide and aggravated DUI in violation of one
act one crime principles)
 
People v. Mischke, 2014 IL App (2d) 130318 (December 2014) (enhancement to a Class 2 felony occurs whenever a defendant has two prior convictions for any form of DUI, not just aggravated DUIs)
 
People v. Guillen, 2014 IL App (2d) 131216 (November 2014) (misdemeanor plea dismissed after defendant plead guilty and double jeopardy did not attach during the sentencing hearing)
 
Miscellaneous
 
People v. McGuire, 2015 IL App (2d) 131266 (December 2015) (section 11­501(a) of the Vehicle Code does not govern the operation of a watercraft)
 
People v. Hasselbring, 2014 IL App (4th) 131128 (November 2014) (defendant was a biker riding with friends when a friend hit his tire and died there was an error in an answer to a jury instruction)
 
Village of Bull Valley v. Zeinz, 2014 IL App (2d) 140053 (September 2014) (local
conviction for DUI reversed because the village failed to prove that it happened in their
jurisdiction)

Utah trooper accused of making false DUI arrests The officer, once praised for her knack for finding drunk drivers, is out of a job and facing lawsuits

 

SALT LAKE CITY — During her 10 years as a Utah state trooper, Lisa Steed built a reputation as an officer with a knack for nabbing drunken motorists in a state with a long tradition of teetotaling and some of the nation’s strictest liquor laws.

Steed used the uncanny talent — as one supervisor once described it — to garner hundreds of arrests, setting records, earning praise as a rising star and becoming the first woman to become trooper of the year.

Today, however, Steed is out of work, fired from the Utah Highway Patrol, and she — and her former superiors — are facing a lawsuit in which some of those she arrested allege she filed bogus DUI reports.

“If we don’t stand up to Lisa Steed or law enforcement, they just pull people over for whatever reason they want,” said attorney Michael Studebaker.

Steed declined to comment, but her attorney Greg Skordas said she denies the allegations. She is trying to get her job back.

The people snared by Steed say the arrests disrupted their lives and were costly to resolve.

Michael Choate, a now-retired aircraft logistics specialist at Hill Air Force Base, said he nearly lost his security clearance and job.

Steed stopped him because he was wearing a Halloween costume and booked him even though three breathalyzers tests showed no alcohol in his system. Choate said he spent $3,800 and had to take four days off of work to get his DUI charged dismissed.

The 49-page lawsuit includes two defendants, but Studebaker said dozens of others are lined up and willing to tell their stories. He said they are requesting the lawsuit be broadened into a class action lawsuit.

Every one of her DUI stops back to at least 2006 should be under suspicion, he said, adding that could be as many as 1,500 people.

The lawsuit, filed in December, also accuses the Utah Highway Patrol of ignoring Steed’s patterns of higher-than-normal DUI bookings and waited too long to take her off patrol. The agency declined to comment.

Steed joined the agency in 2002, and during her first five years, she earned a reputation as a hard-worker whose efficiency led to high arrest totals. By the time she ascended to trooper of the year in 2007, she was held up as one of the agency’s top stars.

In 2009, Steed became a member of the DUI squad. Her 400 DUI arrests that year were thought to be a state record, and more than double the number made by any other highway trooper. She earned special recognition at the state Capitol.

“With her training and experience, it’s second nature for her to find these people who are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” her DUI squad boss at the time, Lt. Steve Winward, told the Deseret News.

During a ride-along with the newspaper, Steed said it was simply a “numbers game,” noting that one in every 10 drivers stopped for a violation is driving impaired. “It’s a lot of hard work, but you make a ton of stops, and you’re going to run into them,” she said.

Steed’s career, however, turned. In 2012, while on the stand in a DUI court case, Steed acknowledged purposely leaving her microphone in her patrol car so that superiors wouldn’t know she was violating agency policy.

By April 2012, her credibility had come into question so much that a prosecutor said he would no longer prosecute DUIs if Steed’s testimony was the only evidence.

In October, the Salt Lake Tribune obtained a memo written in May 2010 in which Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Rob Nixon flagged Steed’s “pattern” of questionable DUI arrests. He wrote that the bulk of Steed’s arrestees had no signs of “impairing drugs” in their systems.

The memo said she based most of her arrests on signs of impairment such as dilated pupils and leg and body tremors.

Steed was taken off road patrol in April 2012 and fired in November. She was accused of violating department policies, falsifying police reports and using questionable practices when making DUI arrests.

The lawsuit is based on two defendants: Thomas Romero and Julie Tapia.

Romero was stopped after Steed said he was swerving, according to the lawsuit. After Romero said he wasn’t drinking, Steed gave him a roadside sobriety test anyway. She booked him for DUI even though his blood alcohol content was 0.00. Charges were dismissed.

Tapia went to pick up her ex-husband, who had been drinking. Steed approached Tapia as she got out of her car at her house, saying Tapia had been speeding, the lawsuit said. Steed said she could smell alcohol, and Tapia told her it was coming from her ex-husband.

Tapia was arrested for a DUI; her ex-husband for public intoxication. Tapia’s blood test showed no alcohol. Charges were dropped.

Choate, who hopes to join the lawsuit, said the entire agency should be held responsible for the damage Steed caused to him and others. “They let her get away with it for a long time,” he said.

Secret police? Virginia considers bill to withhold all officers’ names.

Secret police? Virginia considers bill to withhold all officers’ names.

Virginia debates whether to make names of officers private

Virginia’s House is considering a bill that would make all names of police officers and fire marshals “personnel records,” exempting them from mandatory disclosure under the state’s freedom of information law. (Ashleigh Joplin/The Washington Post)

It started with a reporter’s attempt to learn whether problem police officers were moving from department to department. It resulted in legislation that is again bringing national scrutiny to the Virginia General Assembly: a bill that could keep all Virginia police officers’ names secret.

In a climate where the actions of police nationwide are being watched as never before, supporters say the bill is needed to keep officers safe from people who may harass or harm them. But the effort has drawn the attention of civil rights groups and others who say police should be moving toward more transparency — not less — to ensure that troubled officers are found and removed.

If it is made law, experts say the restriction would be unprecedented nationwide.

The Virginia Senate has already approved Senate Bill 552, which would classify the names of all police officers and fire marshals as “personnel records,” exempting them from mandatory disclosure under the state’s freedom of information law. The Republican-dominated Virginia House will consider the bill in hearings starting Thursday. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has not taken a position on the bill yet, his spokesman said.

State Sen. John A. Cosgrove Jr. (R-Chesapeake) — citing that he knew many police officers and their families — said: “The culture is not one of respect for law enforcement anymore. It’s really, ‘How, how can we get these guys? What can we do?’ . . . Police officers are much more in jeopardy. There’s no nefarious intent behind the bill.”

Pushback has been strong. “To say every officer’s name ought to be confidential,” said Claire Gastañaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, “is just a step too far in government secrecy. We are dangerously close to a police state in some respects.” She said shootings and attacks on police are rarely committed by anyone using public records.

Although other states have made moves to shield the identities of some officers, none would go as far as the proposal in Virginia.

In Oregon, the state House passed a bill last week allowing the name of an officer involved in a police shooting to be withheld for 90 days if a judge finds there is a credible threat to the officer. This followed the killing of a protester from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, held by armed occupiers for more than a month this year. And the Pennsylvania House passed a bill in November mandating the withholding the name of an officer involved in a shooting while the investigation is pending — which would be a change from the Philadelphia Police Department’s policy of releasing the name within three days.

Kevin Carroll, president of the Virginia Fraternal Order of Police union, said he knew of one instance when a citizen had taken an officer’s name and committed financial fraud, adding that the potential existed in other cases for danger to an officer’s family. “This is not about trying to keep information from the public, to have secret police,” Carroll said.”But it is about wanting to keep our officers safe.”

Carroll said: “With the current trend across the country, law enforcement officers have been attacked and even assassinated because of issues being driven in the media. . . . With technology now, if you have a name, you could find out where they live. It puts them at risk.”

Completely withholding officers’ names from the public is a new step nationally, according to Dan Bevarly, interim executive director of the National Freedom of Information Council. “Usually legislation is related to a specific incident, but not as a preventive measure,” he said. “To do such a blanket exemption for a high-profile government employee, what are you trying to accomplish?”

John Worrall, a criminology professor at the University of Texas at Dallas specializing in policing in legal issues, said that in his review of state freedom of information laws, “none that I’ve found have gone to this extreme. In fact, the opposite is occurring” in many states, Worrall said, with more governments and police agencies posting information promptly about police-involved shootings.

Although police supporters fear the use of publicly available records against them, “that’s largely based on a total lack of data,” Worrall said. “There’s no data on retaliatory actions against police officers. And even if the problem exists, I’m not convinced that hiding their names is the solution.”

Worrall and others noted that keeping officers’ names secret seems to conflict with the idea of community policing and building trust with citizens. “I don’t know how you have community policing,” Gastañaga said, “when nobody knows your name.”

Should the Virginia bill become law, the practical implications still aren’t clear. Some worry it would allow an officer who pulls over a driver, or stops someone in the street, to refuse to provide his or her name. Officers’ names would still appear on traffic tickets or court documents.

Police would still have the discretion to release any officer’s name if they wanted, and police officials said they would not withhold names without specific reasons. Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. said he and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors remains “committed to increasing our transparency.” He said that officers would never be removing their names from their uniforms, as some have suggested the bill would allow, and that he would withhold a name only to protect a particular officer’s safety or the sanctity of an ongoing investigation. Fairfax police waited 16 months to release the name of the officer who shot an unarmed Springfield man, John Geer, in 2013. The release came only after a judge ordered it.

Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said police in the commonwealth already have the option to withhold names, and Cosgrove’s bill merely codifies that discretion. She and Carroll, the police union president, both noted that 1,500 Virginia state employees had fraudulent tax returns filed last year, which officials think originated with an online database of employee names and salaries.

“We do not expect this to be abused,” said Schrad, who sent an email to state police chiefs saying: “We caution all of our agencies to use discretion in exercising this exemption. In order to build a trust relationship with communities, agencies should make sure that the communities know who their officers are. This exemption should only be exercised when trying to protect the identity of an undercover officer or when protecting the integrity” of an internal affiars investigation.

Schrad and Carroll helped launch the bill after the Virginian-Pilot newspaper and the state Department of Criminal Justice Services reached an agreement last summer for the state to release the names, agencies and dates of employment of every law enforcement officer in Virginia. Schrad opposed the release because she said the database was old and inaccurate, saying that providing the mass data was her chief reason for pursuing the bill.

Virginian-Pilot reporter Gary Harki said he wanted to check tips he had received that officers who were fired from one department were simply rejoining a police force elsewhere, similar to the reporting done by the Boston Globe on reassignment of pedophilic Catholic priests in Massachusetts. The newspaper negotiated an agreement with the state to obtain the names of only current officers, not to publish the entire database or share it with anyone, and to indemnify the state from any legal claims.

After the agreement was signed, Schrad and Carroll objected, and the state changed its mind. No deal. But the state failed to cite a legal exemption for its refusal in the required time under the state Freedom of Information Act, and a Norfolk judge ruled that the data had to be given to Harki. The judge also ruled that police names are personnel records that can be exempt under FOIA, but he said the state had already agreed to release them. The ruling at the circuit-court level does not have the weight of legal precedent and so Schrad and Carroll sought to put it into law.

“The public has a right to know who their police officers are,” Harki said. “To me, it’s just a fundamental principle of democracy [to know] who our public officials are.” He said that the database he got was “just a piece of a larger puzzle to a problem that may or may not exist” and that he hasn’t published anything about it since the Virginian-Pilot won the court ruling in November.

When Harki worked as a reporter in West Virginia, a similar investigation of troubled officers moving between departments resulted in legislation adding oversight to the movement of officers.

Megan Rhyne of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government noted that many public servants take actions that could anger citizens — prosecutors, social service workers, judges — but their names remain public. She also said that withholding names would result in a lack of accountability for a variety of unsavory acts, such as profligate spending or hiring friends and family, actions that often are caught only when names are linked to illegal deeds.

The bill is scheduled for a hearing Thursday afternoon before a subcommittee of the House General Laws Committee, chaired by Del. James M. LeMunyon (R-Fairfax). He declined to offer his views on the bill, but he said if it passed, it would be heard again next Thursday before the entire committee, then possibly sent to the full House.

Improper phone taps alleged in Lake County RICO case

 

The lawyer representing a man accused of leading a group of gang members charged in Lake County’s first RICO case filed a court motion Monday claiming the state’s attorney’s office improperly ordered telephone wiretaps.

“Operation Shut Down the Hustle” led to the arrests of 21 alleged members of the Four Corner Hustlers street gang, including Gregory Harris Sr., authorities announced in October 2014. According to a criminal complaint, Harris was the leader of the group.

A multiagency and months-long investigation, headed by an FBI-led task force, led to the recovery of drugs, guns and money, Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim said in 2014.

The 21 people were charged under the Illinois Street Gang and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Law (RICO), and face various charges under RICO guidelines related to murder and trafficking of guns, heroin, cocaine and prescription drugs.

On Monday, Harris’ lawyer, filed a motion claiming two assistant state’s attorneys ordered telephone “overhears” during the investigation even though their position does not allow them to do so under state law. Judge Victoria Rossetti is scheduled to hear the motion next Monday.

Roberts said the guidelines for such overhears — usually used in federal investigations — are very specific, and were not followed in the case against Harris.

Harris was released from federal prison shortly before being arrested on RICO charges of delivery of cocaine and street gang criminal drug conspiracy and enterprise. Harris was not a member of the Four Corner Hustlers — or any other gang — and “was not in charge of anything.”

Nerheim would not comment about the recent motion, but said several other defendants had also filed motions in the wake of the arrests.

The defendants are represented by a number of defense attorneys and public defenders, some of whom have raised civil rights issues.

Evidence in the case includes video and audio recordings, phone taps and testimony from undercover agents who infiltrated the gang, authorities said.

All of the arrests were coordinated between the FBI, the DEA, the Lake County sheriff’s office and the Mundelein, Zion and Waukegan police departments.

Texas Appeals Court Slams Forced DUI Blood Draw

Texas Appeals Court Slams Forced DUI Blood Draw

Second highest court in Texas says police must follow US Supreme Court ban on warrantless blood draws from motorists.

Chief Justice Terrie Livingston

The Texas Court of Appeals told local police officers last month that when the US Supreme Court says warrantless blood draws from motorists are unconstitutional, that means they need to get a warrant to perform a blood draw. Hurst Police Officer Brian Charnock did not believe the McNeely ruling applied to him as he ordered Laura Ann Swan to pull over in February 2012.

Officer Charnock had received a tip that the car belonging to Swan was swerving on the highway, so he drove to her home. Before arriving, he allegedly saw Swan fail to signal a turn. He conducted a traffic stop during which Swan refused to perform sobriety tests and denied drinking anything, leaving the officer with no concrete evidence beyond the smell of alcohol.

Officer Charnock decided to arrest Swan for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), but she refused a breathalyzer test. Under state law, police have the duty to forcibly perform a breath or blood test if the officer has reliable information that the suspect has been convicted twice before of DUI — and Swan was a repeat offender. So without obtaining a warrant, Officer Charnock had Swan’s blood forcibly taken.

The appellate panel reasoned that a state law cannot be used to overturn a constitutional interpretation of the Supreme Court.

“While section 724.012 requires the taking of a specimen in those circumstances, the section does not expressly authorize the taking to occur without a warrant,” Chief Justice Terrie Livingston wrote for the appellate court. “Courts of appeals, including this court, have repeatedly applied the holding from Villarreal to likewise conclude that a warrantless search and seizure of a defendant’s blood purported to be justified only by section 724.012’s requirements is unconstitutional.”

Prosecutors tried to save the conviction by arguing even if the warrantless blood draw was unconstitutional, the evidence so taken should be admitted in court. The purpose of suppressing evidence is to deter bad police conduct, but here, they argued, Officer Charnock was doing what he thought was the right thing to do. The argument did not work.

“In other words, the state argues that Officer Charnock’s good faith in applying what he believed the law to be at the time of the search precludes suppression of the blood test results even if the search and seizure violated appellee’s constitutional rights as determined by later decisions,” Justice Livingston wrote. “But as the state recognizes, we have considered and rejected this argument.”

A copy of the decision is available in a 75k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Texas v. Swan (Court of Appeals, State of Texas, 1/21/2016)

New Cases in Illinois January 2016

New Cases in Illinois January 2016
 
People v. Lerma
Illinois Supreme court acknowledges that eyewitness identification experts have their place in Illinois criminal trials.
 
People v. Cummings
Asking for a driver’s license in a lawfully initiated stop is always reasonable because identifying the driver is within the scope of every traffic stop.
 
People v. Mpulamasaka
In this sex case, the prosecutor was found to have committed prosecutorial misconduct when he argues from the witness stand, attacks the character of the defendant, criticizes the cross examination of the victim by counsel, and persistently tells the jury that the victim was mentally handicapped even though the evidence in the case did not reveal any mental infirmities.
 
People v. Chambers
“John Doe” warrants do not preclude a Frank’s Hearing. A defendant may challenge the veracity of an officer who drags a criminal informant before a warrant judge.
 
People v. Thompson
An officer may provide lay person opinion testimony that the accused is the person depicted in surveillance video images.
 
People v. Williams
The double drug enhancement in the drug act is inconsistent with the code of corrections. Therefore, the double drug enhancement cannot be applied when the code of corrections is applicable.
 
People v. Tolbert
The part of the AUUW section that prevents liability when the accused is “on the land or in the legal dwelling of another person as an invitee” is an affirmative defense that must be proven by the state only when the issue is appropriately brought up.
 
People v. Clendenny
There is a difference between being placed on a county wide organized form of work release and being placed on normal probation with permission to be released to go to work. One has a 12 month restriction the other does not.
 
People v. Pike
In DNA cases, a random match probabilities of 50% is inherently prejudicial and should never be admitted. Go to case.
People v. Wright
Driving a defendant to the location of his girlfriend’s arrest was an interrogation tactic, thus defendant’s statement was suppressed.
 
People v. Gempel
The premature arrest of the murder defendant was followed up by persistently ignoring his request for an attorney, so “no” the taint of the illegal arrest was not attenuated sufficiently to admit his confession. Defendant’s statement was suppressed.

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