Friday, June 30, 2006

A Pen Pal For Kimball Mason?

Thanks to Grits for Breakfast, via the wretched of the earth, I might have found a pen pal for former Idaho Falls City Prosecutor Kimball Mason. It seems a now-former district attorney in Texas, Richard James Roach, was sentenced on June 26 for charges related to methamphetamine. Apparently, part or all of Roach's source was the evidence collected in cases he was prosecuting. Sound familiar? At the time of sentencing on the state charges, Roach was already serving time on federal charges f0r a firearm violations. Roach now has 18 years to serve on the state charges.

State charges mean state prison. Texas prison, in fact. So, I wonder if Mason and Roach could just skip the pen pal stuff and put in joint requests to be bunk mates in Texas.

A Stiff One For Ex-Judge?

Former Oklahoma state judge Donald Thompson was convicted on June 29 of four counts of indecent exposure. Apparently, Thompson wasn't just exercising his discretion during court proceedings. According to his court reporter, she saw him expose himself several times and traced an unfamiliar "sh-sh" sound during proceedings to the judge. A police officer eventually noticed a penis pump in the courtroom. The conduct was alleged to have occured during four different trials.

The jury didn't recommend the stiffest penalty available. It recommended 1 year jail and $10,000 fine for each count. The offense also requires Thompson to register as a sex offender. Formal sentencing is set for August.

Thompson had also been charged with misuse of a state computer for allegedly keeping explicit photos of himself on his office computer. The probable cause affidavit is available online.

I can't help but think of the scene in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery where Austin is struggling to disclaim association with the penis enlarging pump that was in his property box. I wonder if Thomas will be signing the pump out of evidence when he gets out of jail. And, I hope there weren't any errant "Ya Baby!" comments from the bench during any of these trials.

News link:
Ex-Judge Convicted of Indecent Exposure
Court TV coverage

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Federal Magistrate Grants Odd Request By A.U.S.A.

Here's a feel-good story out of Kentucky: Judge Donates Kidney To Ailing Prosecutor. Federal Magistrate J. Gregory Wehrman donated a kidney to Assistant U.S. Attorney E.J. Walbourn.

The only thing that has me scratching my head on this one is the suggestion that Walbourn may still be able to make limited appearances before Judge Wehrman. At least with Idaho state judges, it would arguably be a violation of the judicial cannons of ethics for Walbourn to continue to appear before Wherman because of the appearance or possibility of bias. However, maybe that wouldn't be a problem if Walbourn is appearing on an uncontested or stipulated matter. In any event, tip of the hat to Judge Wehrman.

On The LIGHTER Side Of Prison Life

WATT the heck! I was doing a bit of lunch time net surfing and came across this article describing how an inmate in Pakistan had an operation to remove a light bulb from his anus. The only effort to illuminate anyone as to how it got there was the guy's story that someone must have drugged him and put it there. Hmmm. Maybe the guy just had another one of those brilliant ideas that went awry - like the one that put him in jail in the first place. Doctors emphasized how important it was to remove the bulb intact, stating that if it broke it could have made matters very complicated. G.E., ya think?

Bog Down In Blawg Town

It has been a couple of weeks since I visited my Blogger dashbord to pop out a post. Work and "honey do-s" have kept me out of sight. But, I see can see a light, yes, light at the end of the tunnel. In other words, the weekend is coming. I really believe that I will be able to spend some quality time at the computer without my wife giving me that Are-you-going-to-spend-your-whole-day-on-that-thing? look. On second thought, maybe that's about 50% belief, 50% hope.

Anyway, I have five drafts of things I intended to put out in June, but haven't got them done. Many required some deeper thought or reflection; others a bit of research before I spouted my mouth off. Either way, I found myself getting bogged down in blawg town. Now I'm faced with a situation where some of the topics are really not all that timely. But, I've decided I'm going to put them out in the blogosphere anyway. Most of the topics are going to . . . suprise, suprise . . . cover my thoughts on issues and questions raised about prosecutors - their behavior, their ethics, their role in the big picture, etc.

By way of preview: I have a response to the post by the wretched of the earth, about an experience with prosecutors who laughed at a defendant that refused to take a deal and, subsequently, faced a crushing sentencing because he insisted on exercising his right to a trial. For Anonymous Law Student, I will finish a blawg piece I started back on June 6 about the Supreme Court's decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos , in which they discussed a deputy prosecutor's first amendment right (or, shall I say, lack thereof). I'll lay out my thoughts and predictions regarding South Carolina's legislation to qualify sex offenders for the death penalty. And, I'll throw out a post on that Duke U mess.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Better Butter, Better TV and Better Prices? What A Riot!

As reported by KIFI in Idaho Falls:

85 Idaho inmates housed in a Texas jail are on lockdown after a non-violent protest Saturday morning. The inmates refused to return to their cells inside the building after completing recreation time outdoors at the Newton County Correction Center.The protest lasted for over seven hours.They demanded butter for rolls, more television channels and cheaper commissary prices. The warden said preliminary information indicates the prisoners were plaining their demonstration since arriving at the facility to protest their out-of-state transfer.Currently, there are over 400 Idaho inmates housed at the center.Offenders are being sent out of state because Idaho's prisons are full, and have been for several years.The Idaho Department of Corrections estimates 1,400 Idaho offenders will be incarcerated out of state by the year 2010.

In my "own private Idaho," I would like to see the Department of Correction and the Commission of Pardons and Parole issue a joint letter to all out-of-state prisoners that says the following: (1) all prisoners involved in the incident in Texas will have their parole eligibility dates moved back a minimum of two years, (2) all prisoners involved in the incident in Texas will be denied parole and will be required to "top their time out" if they are engaged in any further disobedient or riotous behavior, (3) any other out-of-state prisoners involved in any similar incidents will have their parole eligibility dates moved back, and (4) any additional prison time to be served will be served at an out-of-state prison. Prison isn't supposed to be vacation with room service. It's punishment. It makes me think even harder about Article VII of the Bill of No Rights I posted last week.

Arbitrary and Capricious recently posted a blawg entitled ID: Idaho inmates, Texas abuse, describing an allegation that at least one Idaho inmate had been handcuffed, beaten, and maced at the same Texas facility this last spring. Director Thomas Beauclair and an Idaho delegation flew down to Texas to investigate the incident. That is at least some indication that Idaho authorities take matters of safety and propert treatment of inmates seriously. The inmate involved stated in a letter to his sister that the treatment stopped once the Texas warden was notified and intervened. This emphasizes the fact that inmates should address concerns through proper channels. If the prison employees abused the inmates in a manner that warrants criminal charges, the investigation should be referred to the appropriate prosecution authority. If abuse occurs again, Idaho needs to consider moving the inmates to a different facility.

This latest act of defiance does not appear to be in response to the prior beating allegation. The prior problem also doesn't legitimize being petty about such things as more butter, more channels and cheaper commissary.

I do not feel sympathy for the inmates that get shipped to other states. I believe that when they decided to engage in criminal behavior, they were simultaneously giving up their right to choose what their living arrangements were going to be and for how long. I think it is incredibly unfortunate that Idaho is shipping inmates out of state. I understand that affects families, people who did not commit the crimes. And, it affects prosecutors too. I was recently informed by IDOC that I would have to pay $3,000 to $4,000 in order to get a prisoner back from Minnesota to testify in a robbery trial. But, like many things, being shipped out of state is something that inmates should have given some consideration to before they decided to engage in the criminal behavior that put them in prison. It is no secret that Idaho ships inmates out of state. It has been happening for years. Would-be criminals need to prepare for it. Out-of-state prisoners need to accept it.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Detroit 911 Dispatchers Charged

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has announced the filing of charges against Sharon Nichols and Terri Sutton. The two were dispatchers in Detroit on February 20, 2006, when Robert Turner, 5 years old, called 911 to report that his mother had collapsed and needed help. The boy was told tht he shouldn't play on the phone and was told he could get in trouble with the cops if he didn't stop. The boy called back 4 hours later. This time an officer was dispatched . . . but, not to assist to his mother. Rather, the dispatcher sent the officer officer to discipline the child and inform the mother that her son was making prank 911 calls. The mother passed away as a result of her medical condition. A civil suit was filed alleging that the mother would have lived had emergency personnel been dispatched in a timely fashion. Nichols received a five day suspension. Sutton received a three day suspension. Both have now returned to work.

The charges are for wilful Neglect of Duty, a misdemeanor. The maximum possible punishment for the offense is one year in jail. Audio files of the 911 calls, transcripts of the calls and a recitation of the criminal statute are available at the web site for the Detroit Free Press. There is also an article available online from the Detroit News.

I am going to be keeping an eye on this one mainly to see how the matter is handled by the prosecutor and the city. On the one hand you have the City administration's attitude about the matter, reflected in the fact that the dispatchers each received a suspension for less than a week and are back doing the same job. That would also seem to imply that the City administration does not believe that the dispatchers present an ongoing risk to the community if put back to work in the same positions. The actions of the CityAdministration may also reflect problems with the case against the dispatchers that the administration believes are more significant than the prosecutor does. However, it hard to make any definitive assessments about the City's handling of the matter. Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings has declined to comment because the matter is still subject to an ongoing internal investigation. Apparently, the disciplinary action is not final and may be modified depending one what information is uncovered by the investigation.

On the other hand, the prosecutor seems to believe the actions or inaction of the dispatchers are signifacant enough to warrant criminal charges. According to the prosecutor, "Neither operator treated this as an emergency." The prosecutor refused to comment on whether the two should have been fired. But, he did state that, "They should not be taking 911 calls."

As a prosecutor, these types of cases are always present a mine field of problems. It will be interesting to see how this case is handled to control damage between the city police department and the prosecutor's office.

Other news links:

Boys Ignored 911 Call Lead To Charges

Friday, June 09, 2006

An Oldie But Goodie: The Bill of No Rights

The following has apparently been attributed to State Representative Mitchell Kaye from Georgia. It has been around for a long, long time. I remember seeing this when I was just a political science major in college some twenty years ago.

THE BILL OF NO RIGHTS

We, the sensible people of the United States, in an attempt to help everyone get along, restore some semblance of justice, avoid any more riots, keep our nation safe, promote positive behavior, and secure the blessings of debt free liberty to ourselves and our great-great-great-grandchildren, hereby try one more time to ordain and establish some common sense guidelines.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that a whole lot of people are confused by the Bill of Rights and are so dim that they require a Bill of No Rights.

ARTICLE I: You do not have the right to a new car, big screen TV or any other form of wealth. More power to you if you can legally acquire them. But, no one is guaranteeing anything.

ARTICLE II: You do not have the right to never be offended. This country is based on freedom, and that means freedom for everyone -- not just you! You may leave the room, turn the channel, express a different opinion, etc., but the world is full of idiots, and probably always will be.

ARTICLE III: You do not have the right to be free from harm. If you stick a screwdriver in your eye, learn to be more careful. Do not expect the tool manufacturer to make you and all your relatives independently wealthy.

ARTICLE IV: You do not have the right to free food and housing. Americans are the most charitable people to be found and will gladly help anyone in need. But, we are quickly growing weary of subsidizing generation after generation of professional couch potatoes who achieve nothing more than the creation of another generation of professional couch potatoes.

ARTICLE V: You do not have the right to free health care. That would be nice. But, from the looks of public housing, we're just not interested in public health care.

ARTICLE VI: You do not have the right to physically harm other people. If you kidnap, rape, intentionally maim, or kill someone, don't be surprised if the rest of us want to see you fry in the electric chair.

ARTICLE VII: You do not have the right to the possessions of others. If you rob, cheat or steal the property of other citizens, don't be surprised if the rest of us get together and lock you away in a place where you still won't have the right to a big screen color TV or a life of leisure.

ARTICLE VIII: You don't have the right to a job. All of us sure want you to have a job, and will gladly help you along in hard times. But, we expect you to take advantage of the opportunities of education and vocational training laid before you to make yourself useful.

ARTICLE IX: You do not have the right to happiness. Being an American means that you have the right to PURSUE happiness -- which by the way, is a lot easier if you are unencumbered by an overabundance of idiotic laws created by those who were confused by the Bill of Rights.

Now before I get any comments popping off about how I'm insensitive or a fascist, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah, please undertand that I read this Bill of No Rights to be merely a social commentary on issues facing our country. And, I will admit, for the most part, I'm too busy laughing about it to have really considered whether anyone might be offended or whether I really care that they would be. If you find it amusing, I'm glad you enjoyed. If you are offended, then, you need to lighted up and quit taking everything so seriously. You might also want to consider that the displeasure you are suffering from is one of the occassional ill side-effects of the real First Amendment.

When Justice Goes To The Dogs

District Judge Norene Redmond was recently directed by the Michigan Supreme Court to quit bringing her dogs to work with her. The two terriers, Lurch and Lizzard, never came to court together but were otherwise allowed to roam in the main office away from the public, in the jury room if jurors didn't mind, and to sometimes sleep beneath the court bench. The judge would have employees take the dogs out to urinate.

This type of behavior creates a double standard. Judges require that parties treat courtroom attendance with appropriate seriousness and respect. There is a dress code; no cell phones; reading newspapers is frowned upon; if you need to have a prolonged conversation and you are not involved in the immediate hearing, take your gab session into the hallway. There are countless other rules of common courtroom etiquette. So, a judge bringing a dog into the courtroom is hypocrisy. Especially this judge who, according to some comments posted with the article from the Detroit News, had directed people to leave the courtroom and come back when they were appropriately attired. In fact, a sign outside the building reads: "Proper dress required (or you will be told to leave to change your clothes)." How can we expect parties, especially criminal defendants, to respect the court system if judges are lowering the bar on acceptable courtroom behavior or engaging in hypocrisy?

What makes things worse is that Judge Redmond states that she did not see a problem with her actions. She is either trying to white-wash her behavior or she really doesn't get it, making this particular "justice" truly blind - and not in a good way.

And, I found that this is not the only bout of questionable behavior with Judge Redmond. She also allows web surfers to vote on which criminals should be released from jail in order to deal with jail overcrowding. In an article from WZZM13 Online entitled Let 'Em Go? It's Your Call, the author states: "There's always something new on the Internet. Now you can sentence criminals in your pajamas." After reviewing the article, I'm not sure what purpose this "survey" serves other than to assist Judge Redmond to delegate her discretionary responsibility. I'm not really buying the motivate-people-to-come-up-with-ways-to-solve-the-jail-overcrowding answer she provided. Sounds to me like it is more a reason for criminals to go to myspace.com, obtain as many on-line friends as they can recruit, and run up as many votes as they can for themselves in order to win a night out on the town.

And, I'm not finished. Another article from the Macob Daily describes an incident where a defendant was before Judge Redmond for an arraignment on an attempted robbery charge. The defendant refused to approach the podium and talk when directed to do so by Judge Redmond. She threw him back in jail figuring he would be more willing to talk on Thursday. When the defendant reappeared before her, he again refused to talk. Judge Redmond stated: "You have enough of a vocabulary to stick a gun in a woman's ribs and tell her to give you her keys, but you can't talk here." Apparently, Judge Redmond does not comprehend what a Fifth Amendment right is. She also, apparently, does not know what the presumption of innocence is.


Oh well. Just another thing that has me shaking my head.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A Slice Of Judicial Economy With Chuckles On Top

I take no credit for finding this gem. All credit goes to Minor Wisdom and May It Please The Court. I learned about this from reading their blawgs.

Here's the story: The lawyers to a civil dispute cannot agree on the place where depositions should be held. One party files a motion to have the court set the location for the depositions. So, the presiding federal judge, Gregory Presnell, makes the ingenous move of ordering the parties to settle the dispute through a game of paper, rock scissors. Winner gets to pick the deposition location.

The order is a real gas. It reads:


ORDER


This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to designate location of a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition (Doc. 105). Upon consideration of the Motion – the latest in a series of Gordian knots that the parties have been unable to untangle without enlisting the assistance of the federal courts – it is


ORDERED that said Motion is DENIED. Instead, the Court will fashion a new form of alternative dispute resolution, to wit: at 4:00 P.M. on Friday, June 30, 2006, counsel shall convene at a neutral site agreeable to both parties. If counsel cannot agree on a neutral site, they shall meet on the front steps of the Sam M. Gibbons U.S. Courthouse, 801 North Florida Ave., Tampa, Florida 33602. Each lawyer shall be entitled to be accompanied by one paralegal who shall act as an attendant and witness. At that time and location, counsel shall engage in one (1) game of "rock, paper, scissors." The winner of this engagement shall be entitled to select the location for the 30(b)(6) deposition to be held somewhere in Hillsborough County during the period July 11-12, 2006. If either party disputes the outcome of this engagement, an appeal may be filed and a hearing will be held at 8:30 A.M. on Friday, July 7, 2006 before the undersigned in Courtroom 3, George C. Young United States Courthouse and Federal Building, 80 North Hughey Avenue, Orlando, Florida 32801.


DONE and ORDERED in Chambers,


Orlando, Florida on June 6, 2006.


What a hoot! And, what a judicious way of settling the dispute. This judge probably saved the parties a bunch of money by eliminating what I can only imagine would have been one of those drawn-out, hard-to-control, bickering, whiny-laden, cross-accusation-making, both-sides-being unreasonable, hearings. I have been witness to far too many of those types of disputes as a judge's law clerk and as a lawyer sitting in the back of the courtroom waiting for my hearing to start. These types of petty motions are almost impossible to make a "well reasoned" ruling on. The decisions themselves usually end up being decided on some ground that is just as arbitrary as paper, rock, scissors. So, well done Judge Presnell! And, how symbolic - settling a childish dispute with a child's game.

This story is a reminder that lawyers can be prone to take things, and themselves, way too seriously. We need a story like this from time to remind us to lighten up and not to get so petty. Who knows, with a ruling from your judge, your dispute could get you national attention. And, I'm glad to see that there are judges that also recognize when its time to taker a lighter approach to their jobs.

Press link:

Court orders lawyers to play game

Friday, June 02, 2006

Window Bashing = Pro-Gay Bashing

An interesting criminal justice news story: Someone in Idaho Falls took offense to a bumber sticker on a car that advocated against same-sex marriages. They beat up the car and left a note. I'm not sure what exactly the threating message said. But, I like to think it was something like: "Watch your bumper! If you keep driving around with this message, I'll be back. And, next time, I'll proceed to punch out your headlights. Or, worse, I'll bring a tire iron and break your hub caps."

News Link: Vandal's Break Car Window Because of Bumper Sticker

Problems Ahead For Convicted Former Prosecutor?


Today police officers from the City of Idaho Falls Police Department executed a search warrant on the home of former City prosecutor Kimball Mason. The search warrant was sought after a yet-undisclosed source informed city police officials about the existance of firearms at Mason's home. Mason had previously indicated to investigators that law enforcement had recovered all the property that he had taken; the rest had been given away or discarded. The Idaho Falls Chief of Police stated that officers had recovered several firearms pursuant to the search warrant. Some of the guns that were recovered were among those Mason indicated were no longer in his possession. There were several other firearms that were found that law enforcement will now investigate to determine if they too were evidence illegally taken by Mason.

What does this mean for Mason? At least a couple of things. It could mean that the Court will relinquish its jurisdiction and Mason will serve out his prison term. In other words, Mason was sentenced to serve a fixed minimum 1 year to serve with the possibility of 4 years following that. The Court retained its ability, within the first 180 days, to suspend the sentence and place Mason on probation. That decision normally hinges on a defendant's performance and behavior while in the retained jurisdiction program at the prison facility in Cottonwood. However, this latest discovery contradicts Mason's assertion that he no longer had any of the illegally taken property. It could be (and I hope it is) devastating to his chances of having the court suspend the sentence and grant probation. What else could it mean? It also could mean that the Idaho Attorney General's office will move forward with filing additional charges based on the newly discovered evidence. Why would they do that? Because it shows that even after he was found out, Mason remained arrogant, unrepentant, greedy, etc., etc., etc. He's still pompous enough to think he can outsmart everyone and complete his caper. He is essentially taking a piss on Lady Justice's sandles. I hope she reacts by lifting her foot up, kicks him right where it hurts and drops him like a sack o' . . . uhm . . . potatoes.

News links:
Kimball Mason's House Searched
Search Warrant

KPVI has posted the documents from the investigation on their web site.

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