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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Supreme Court To Hear Appeal Of Bail Ruling

Police have been granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court to reverse a ruling that could see tens of thousands of violent criminals escape prosecution.
The controversial ruling, made by a district judge and backed by the High Court on Wednesday, declared suspects could not be on bail for longer than 96 hours.
It said that once the four days is up, they would have to charge or release the suspect and could only re-arrest them if any new evidence comes to light.
The move sparked fears policing will be drastically hindered and the Supreme Court has now agreed to hear an appeal on July 25.
The announcement came after Policing Minister Nick Herbert told MPs the Government would urgently bring forward emergency legislation to overturn it.
Mr Herbert said the issue was of “grave concern” and warned there was not enough time to wait for the appeal to the Supreme Court.
The minister said urgent action was needed because the judgment would have a “serious impact” on the police’s ability to investigate crime.
“We cannot, must not and will not ask the police to do their work with one hand tied behind their backs,” he said.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper claimed the Government should have acted sooner.
“There has been considerable chaos in the Home Office around this, not just this week but for the last few weeks,” she told Mr Herbert.
Mr Herbert admitted officials were told of the oral judgment in May but said its full impact only became clear when the written judgment was handed down on June 17 and ministers were alerted on June 24.
He said emergency legislation will “clarify the position and provide assurance that the police can continue to operate on the basis they have been operating for many years”.
He added: “This judgment upsets a careful balance which has stood for a quarter of a century and impedes the police from doing their job. That is why it must be reversed.”
The ruling came from Salford Magistrates Court where a judge decided murder suspect Paul Hookaway could not be held for further questioning because the application to detain him for 36 hours expired months before, even though officers released him after 28.
The approach was then backed by the High Court but has consequences for thousands of other cases.
If this sudden new bail system was working in 2000 then Roy Whiting, horrible paedophile killer of eight-year-old Sarah Payne, would probably have walked free.
Martin Brunt, crime correspondent
Estimates suggest up to 80,000 people are currently on bail and could be affected, prompting fears thousands of criminals may not be questioned enough for the cases to be taken to court.
Chief constable Sir Norman Bettison, from West Yorkshire Police, said on Wednesday that officers were “running around like headless chickens” as they sought to understand the implications of the decision.
“It’s on the verge of a disaster now because the question being asked by my custody sergeants is, ‘what do we do, boss?’
“I cannot countenance turning people away from the charge office and telling them all bets are off and they are free to go,” he said.
James Welch, legal director for the civil rights group Liberty, said: “Being out on bail pending investigation is not the equivalent of being detained.
“Limits on the time that suspects can be held in police custody are necessary but there are good reasons why the police should be allowed to bail suspects for more than 96 hours.”

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Thousands of sex offenders left unmonitored as tracking system crashes with 2 MILLION records

Thousands of sex offenders across the U.S. were left completely unmonitored after an electronic tagging system shut down earlier this week.

The GPS monitoring system – which holds more than two million records – went offline on Tuesday leaving authorities in 49 states blind to offender’s movements for around 12 hours.

BI Incorporated, which runs the system, said the problem was caused by a data overload.

As a result, prisons and correction agencies were prevented for receiving notifications on tens of thousands of people nationwide.

In Wisconsin prison officials made local police and probation agents detain around 140 offenders at local jails until the system was back up.

Those temporarily imprisoned had not previously been aware they were being tracked, Wisconsin Department of Corrections spokeswoman Linda Eggert confirmed.

Correction Secretary Rick Raemisch declared in a statement: ‘Due to a system failure beyond our control, we faced a challenging and unprecedented event for our Electronic Monitoring Center.’

He added though ‘the situation was managed safely and efficiently with the number one priority being public safety’.

BI spokesman Jock Waldo said the company had significantly increased its data storage capacity but ‘in retrospect… should have been able to catch this’.

Mr Waldo said tracking devices had continued to record the movement of offenders, parolees and other convicts, but the information was not immediately available to local authorities.

He added those being tracked, and not brought in as a precaution on Tuesday, were unaware of any problems with the system.

Along with GPS systems, the outage affected in-home radio monitoring – commonly used to check curfew compliance and breathalyser tests – Mr Waldo told the AP news agency.

BI workers were unaware how quickly the offender database was filling up before exceeding its limit on Tuesday, he added.

‘People in our development group knew there was a threshold,’ the spokesman said. ‘They’ve never in their careers… seen a system hit such a database threshold. It speaks of the enormity of the data we collect.’

BI has contracts with around 900 government agencies across the country for monitoring and notification services.

 

Buju gets bail

JAILED Reggae artiste Buju Banton was this afternoon offered $250,000 bail in the Sam M Gibbons Federal Court in the United States.
But Banton, real name Mark Myrie, is still not in the clear as his lawyer David Oscar Markus will now have to seek bond in the immigration court to prevent his deportation to Jamaica. Banton’s entertainment visa was revoked when he was arrested last December.
As part of Banton’s bail condition, he will have to wear a monitoring device and will be subject to house arrest and 24 hour security, to be paid for by the defence.
He can only leave his house for meetings with his attorney and for doctors’ appointments and to purchase medication. He will also be subjected to drug testing.

 

The Right Way to Shrink Prisons

Provo, Utah

LAST week the Supreme Court ordered California to reduce its prison population after finding that the state’s penal system was so overcrowded that it constituted cruel and unusual punishment. What the court didn’t do, however, was provide any guidance about how to do it, giving rise to fears of violent convicts being set free and increasing crime rates.

Rather than seek major criminal justice reforms to reduce the prisoner numbers, including scrapping California’s harsh “three strikes” sentencing laws, Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed simply moving the surplus state prisoners to county jails. This does nothing to reduce California’s disproportionately high incarceration rates and could just transfer the overcrowding to local jails.

Fortunately, there is a more lasting solution to overcrowding, one that gets to the heart of exploding inmate populations nationwide: reform the rules governing pretrial detention, in part by using formulas to help judges better determine which defendants are unlikely to commit crimes while on bail. Doing so not only would make the system more fair, but also would significantly reduce the number of people who are unnecessarily jailed and even reduce crime rates.

Every year America spends close to $66 billion to keep people behind bars. But almost 500,000 of the 2.3 million prisoners aren’t convicts; rather, they are accused individuals awaiting trial.

While some defendants are able to pay their bail and go free, most cannot, because many judges, lacking firm insight into what types of prisoners are too dangerous to release, set high bail amounts knowing the accused can’t afford them. Though some of these defendants will eventually be found not guilty and go free, keeping them incarcerated before their trials creates a burden on the prison system.

What’s more, detention begets more detention. Defendants detained before trial are more likely to be convicted if they go to trial, more likely to receive prison sentences rather than probation when sentenced, and, given their weak bargaining power with prosecutors while locked up, are more likely to have longer sentences.

A few jurisdictions, however, have begun to think outside the prison cell. In line with recommendations endorsed by the American Bar Association, Miami-Dade County cut costs associated with detention by supervising defendants outside jail at a total cost of around $400 per defendant per year, compared with $20,000 for incarcerated defendants. In Iowa, alternatives to pretrial detention saved the state’s Southern District $1.7 million in 2009.

These and other jurisdictions have also cut costs using technology, like G.P.S. trackers and ankle bracelets, that allow defendants to remain at home — with supervision — while awaiting trial.

True, while these solutions may make sense from a budgetary standpoint, critics worry that increasing pretrial releases will present a threat to public safety, especially since judges are typically left to make bail decisions based simply on a gut feeling.

The risk of release can be largely reduced by arming judges with more data to inform their decisions. Frank McIntyre, an economist, and I recently examined data from over 100,000 felony defendants over a 15-year period, and we found very clear trends regarding which defendants are more likely to commit crimes while free on bail.

For example, judges often detain too many older defendants (people over 30), defendants with clean records and defendants charged with fraud or public order offenses — in other words, people who are less likely to commit crimes while out on bail. On the other hand, judges release too many young defendants with extensive records, people who are more likely to break the law while awaiting trial.

This data could be used to create a set of guidelines that would give judges a better sense of which defendants to release. Of course, judges must use individual discretion and carefully consider local data with pretrial detention decisions. However, our models indicate that such guidelines could safely lead to the release of up to 25 percent more defendants — and a significant reduction in prison costs and crime rates.

Given eye-popping local, state and federal deficits, it’s unlikely that California will be the only state to face the tough choices involved in reducing its prison population. With the right data on pretrial defendants, though, judges can help make that task a lot easier.

 

1 dead, 3 held in marijuana rip-off

BREA – Police have identified a 20-year-old man who was shot and killed at a Brea apartment complex Wednesday night while he and at least three friends apparently tried to steal marijuana from a Los Angeles dispensary employee making a delivery.
Minh Kinh Dang of Santa Ana was fatally shot in an alley in the sprawling Birchwood Village apartment complex in the 1700 block of East Birch Street just before 8:15 p.m., Brea police Sgt. Jim Griffin said.

Police arrived Wednesday evening to find an 20-year-old man on the ground suffering from gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead near this spot in the apartment complex’s alley.

Dang’s friends – James Yi, 18, of Irvine, Earl Augustus Austin, 19, of Santa Ana, and an unidentified man – were arrested at the scene, Griffin said. They were booked on suspicion of robbery and murder.
Griffin said the initial investigation revealed that Dang and his friends confronted the delivery man and his security guard, who was armed, Griffin said.
“Dang approached carrying a handgun,” Griffin said. “The security guard fired three rounds striking the victim.”
Officers responded to reports of shots fired and found Dang on the ground. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Officers detained the suspects at the scene.
The delivery man and the security guard were questioned and released, Griffin said.
The investigation is continuing. They Are being held on $1,000,000.00 bail.

 

Pair accused of killing infant denied bail

Jennifer Barrise burst into tears as she entered a Wayne County courtroom wearing a yellow prison jumpsuit and shackles on Wednesday, with her mother, family and friends sitting in the front row.

“I love you,” her mother, Debra Schiavone, called to Ms. Barrise before her arraignment on one count each of criminal homicide and concealing the death of a child.

Ms. Barrise, 28, and Christopher T. Fitzpatrick, 20, both of the Hideout, Lake Ariel, appeared separately before Wayne County President Judge Raymond L. Hamill for arraignments on charges related to the killing of their daughter on May 28, the day she was born.

In addition to single counts of criminal homicide and concealing a death of a child, Mr. Fitzpatrick also was charged with abuse of a corpse.

Both Mr. Fitzpatrick and Ms. Barrise were denied bail and returned to the Wayne County Prison.

State police arrested the pairon June 10 after discovering that Mr. Fitzpatrick allegedly dropped a cinder block on his newborn daughter twice on May 28.

State police said Mr. Fitzpatrick then left the child’s corpse beneath the block, just inside the tree line behind M n’ D Lawn Care, 1178 Hamlin Highway, where he was employed.

From the time she was having contractions inside a supermarket that night, state police said Ms. Barrise knew her unborn daughter’s father would kill the child once she was born.

She then gave birth in a car as Mr. Fitzpatrick told her to hurry up so he could do what he had to do, according to the complaint.

“Have this (expletive) baby,” Mr. Fitzpatrick told Ms. Barrise, according to the complaint. “I just want to get rid of it. I gotta do what I gotta do.”

Before killing the infant, police said Mr. Fitzpatrick dropped off Ms. Barrise and his sister at their home in the Hideout.

Acting on information provided by relatives of Mr. Fitzpatrick – who state police say admitted to an uncle at a family party that he had killed his daughter – troopers executed a consensual search in the area behind M n’ D Lawn Care on June 10.

At about 1:15 p.m. that day, Mr. Fitzpatrick arrived in one of the business’s trucks, was approached by troopers and agreed to reveal the location of the deceased newborn, according to the complaint.

In addition to denying bail for both defendants Wednesday, Judge Hamill also denied motions made by each defense attorney to have their clients’ written statements to police sealed.

One statement by Mr. Fitzpatrick and two by Ms. Barrise were entered as exhibits in the prosecution’s case.

After Mr. Fitzpatrick’s attorney made a motion to have his client’s statement sealed, Wayne County District Attorney Michael Lehutsky supported that motion when asked by Judge Hamill, explaining that the statement should be sealed to avoid “unnecessary publication and publicity.”

Judge Hamill reserved judgment on the motion.

When Ms. Barrise’s attorney later made an identical motion, which Mr. Lehutsky also supported, Judge Hamill questioned the district attorney.

“You filed an affidavit of probable cause; that’s not sealed, is it? And did the affidavit of probable cause quote these statements?” asked the judge, who then denied both motions.

Copies of the three statements were not available Wednesday, as they had not yet been filed with the prothonotary’s office.

Mr. Lehutsky declined to release copies of the statements, citing ethical concerns.

Outside the courtroom, Ms. Schiavone said she loved her daughter and hated the father of what would have been her second granddaughter.

“I want him to stay there (in prison) and never come out,” she said.

Ms. Schiavone said she never saw or expected violence out of Mr. Fitzpatrick – who lived with Ms. Barrise in her mother’s Franklin, N.J., home for a time before the couple moved to the Hideout in mid-April.

Ms. Schiavone described her daughter’s two-year relationship with Mr. Fitzpatrick as “rocky” and said she did not even know Ms. Barrise was pregnant until after the child was born.

“If I knew she was pregnant, that baby would still be alive,” Ms. Schiavone said. “I would have taken care of her.”

 

New York City Is Owed More Than $2 Million in Delinquent Forfeitures

Bail bondsmen operate under a fundamental premise: Make sure the people bailed out show up to court, or else pay up.
But some bondsmen have regularly failed to maintain their end of the bargain.
New York City is owed more than $2 million in about 150 cases in which judges ordered the bail money forfeited, according to data provided last week by the district attorneys’ offices in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. Some of the forfeitures date to a decade ago, the data showed.
“If an insurance company knows that it can go for an extended period of time without the defendant appearing in court and without having to pay off on the bond,” said Peter Kougasian, a bureau chief with the city’s special narcotics prosecutor who has overseen bail applications, “then there is no financial incentive for that insurance company to expend any resources or make any effort to ensure the defendant’s return to court.”
The problem of unpaid forfeitures has received attention around the country. The issue is part of a larger concern over the transparency and effectiveness of bail bonds.
Many states do not regulate how much bondsmen hold as collateral, which is supposed to be the incentive for defendants to show up to court. In some jurisdictions, bondsmen are not required to reveal how much collateral they collect, and in others they have lied to courts about how much they have received.
It became a heavily publicized issue in Washington State in 2009 after details emerged that Maurice Clemmons, a repeat felon who killed four police officers in Lakewood, Wash., had paid only $8,000 to get a bond company to post his $190,000 bail less than a week before the shooting.
“The judges have got to know what their bail setting really means,” said Mike Carrell, a Republican state senator in Washington who served on a task force examining the issue. “Otherwise, the whole system is a sham.”
A little more than 1,000 people in New York City were charged with jumping bail in 2009.
Although the district attorney’s office in each county in New York is responsible for pursuing companies that owe bail forfeitures, the offices’ collection efforts can be limited. It is often more expensive to go after a forfeiture in civil court than to let it remain unpaid.
The Insurance Department might be in the best position to crack down on unpaid forfeitures; it can suspend the ability of a bondsman or insurance company to do business in the state.
But when shown lists of unpaid forfeitures provided by the district attorneys’ offices, officials with the department said they had never seen the lists and did not know that such lists existed. Queens and Staten Island reported no unpaid forfeitures.
Although state law allows judges to consider the “background, character and reputation” of insurance companies or bondsmen when deciding whether to accept a bond, a judge rarely denies bond because of unpaid forfeitures.
Unpaid forfeitures are generally attached to the insurance companies for which the bondsmen write. This has allowed some bondsmen to go unnoticed as they racked up long lists of forfeitures under multiple insurance companies.
Christian Diez, a bondsman, owes more than a half-million dollars in forfeitures of 18 bonds in Manhattan and Brooklyn, according to the data from the district attorneys’ offices. He has unpaid forfeitures dating to 2004 under four insurance companies.
Mr. Diez offered no explanation for his unpaid forfeitures, but said, “I’ve paid many other ones before.”
The insurance companies that owe the most money are Financial Casualty and Surety, and Safety National Casualty. Each has a tab exceeding $300,000, the data showed.
Collateral is supposed to give bondsmen access to at least some of the money they may need to pay if a defendant jumps bail. But in an effort to generate business, some bondsmen have taken shortcuts, posting bonds with little or no collateral.
Such arrangements have advantages for both the bondsman and the customer. The customer has to put up less cash, while the bondsman still gets clients who pay premiums.
But because judges would be reluctant to accept a bond with little or no collateral securing it, some bondsmen have been suspected of lying in court papers about how much collateral they received.
The Insurance Department received a complaint in 2010 accusing Empire Bail Bonds of falsely representing in a court affidavit that the company had received $1,000 in collateral on the $10,000 bail bond of a defendant named Juan Sanchez. Suspicion arose over discrepancies about who supposedly paid the collateral.
A receipt given to someone who signed for the bond, Elmira Tashkent, indicated that no collateral had been paid. Empire’s owners explained the lack of collateral by saying that Mr. Sanchez’s lawyer, Mitchell Elman, had paid it, and the company presented as proof a receipt made out to Mr. Elman.
But that receipt appeared to contradict Empire’s court affidavit, which said a woman named Marta Salgado paid the $1,000 collateral, raising questions of whether the receipt made out to Mr. Elman was falsified and whether anyone paid the $1,000. State law requires the affidavit to accurately list what collateral was posted and by whom.
Michelle Esquenazi, an owner of Empire, said that Ms. Salgado posted separate collateral, that Mr. Elman provided the $1,000 and that the omission of his name from the affidavit was a clerical error. The Insurance Department closed its investigation without finding wrongdoing by Empire.
Juan Villar, a former bondsman who pleaded guilty in 2009 in Manhattan to filing false records and was sentenced to six months in jail, claimed in bond affidavits that he had collected more collateral than he actually had.
Two men who worked for Aable Bail Bonds, Kisha Dunkley and Andrew Wright, were arrested in Brooklyn in September on similar charges of lying in court documents about how much collateral they took on bail bonds.
Steven Nachman, head of the State Insurance Department’s frauds and consumer services bureaus, said the department was considering imposing new regulations that would not only create accounting requirements for the bondsmen, but would also require the insurance companies to keep tighter control of the finances of their bail-bond agents.