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How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Weekend Series on Crime History: Crack in the 1980s

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Lengel: President Obama Needs to Show Backbone and Nominate an ATF Director

Thomas Brandon

Thomas Brandon

By Allan Lengel

President Obama gets very angry and expresses frustration when he talks about how common mass shooting have become in this country. He wants America to get tougher and implement stricter gun laws.

Enough talk. Step up, Mr. President. Show some backbone.

Start by standing up to the NRA by nominating acting director Tom Brandon as permanent director of ATF, you know, the agency that is tasked with enforcing the current gun laws and fighting gun violence. Show the public that you’re willing to expend some political capital and take on the NRA, a bully-organization that has done everything it can to undermine gun control and ATF’s mission.

In general, the NRA has historically opposed confirmation of a permanent director for ATF, its nemesis. Lawmakers on the Hill – and presidents for that matter – have bowed to the NRA, which realizes ATF is weaker without a director.

Why is this directorship issue so important?

Politico reports that the Obama administration has no plans to name Brandon permanent director for the agency. It doesn’t want to expend political capital on what would be a tough battle. And mind you, Brandon is one of the best to come along. He was named Fed of The Year in 2011. It’s not as if the President would be fighting for a candidate that’s not worthy (and believe me, there have been some that have not been).

By law, Politico notes, that Brandon can’t hold that interim title for longer than 210 days. It runs out Oct. 27. That means after that date, Brandon will still run the agency, but ATF will not officially have a director. He’ll be the deputy director.

That’s not good.

First off, it’s bad for morale for agents not to have a director.  It sends a message that the President and Congress don’t think much of the agency.  That can impact funding, staffing and mission. The DEA was without a permanent director for years, and I think that hurt the agency and morale.

The White House would never leave the FBI director’s post open. Why? Because it believes that agency’s mission is far too important.

In this case, the message is: We fear the NRA far more than we respect ATF.

Don’t be mistaken:  To be sure,  ATF is not the answer to our gun violence. Yes, we need tougher federal gun control laws that apply uniformly across the county.  And the president needs to push again for tougher laws and see what he can accomplish through executive orders.

That being said, ATF is part of the answer.

So President Obama, if you really care about the gun crisis in this country, you need to show it.

Talk is cheap. And with these mass shootings, so are lives.

Have some balls. Keep pushing for tougher gun control laws. And while you’re at it, nominate Tom Brandon.

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Ross Parker Takes A Look At Some Key Supreme Court Cases That Impact the Legal System

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.

By Ross Parker

Supreme Court Justices have a busy November with, among their other duties, six days of Oral Argument, including five cases of interest to criminal justice folks on both sides of the aisle.

US Supreme Court

Death Penalty Jury Selection:   No Court calendar would be complete without a contentious death penalty case. Foster v. Chatman involves the issue of whether Georgia courts bungled in failing to recognize and remedy a racially discriminatory jury selection.

In Batson v. Kentucky (1986) the Supreme Court held that equal protection is denied to an African American defendant if members of his race are purposefully excluded from the jury. That includes the prosecution’s use of peremptory challenges. Once the defendant makes a prima facie (on the first appearance) case of discrimination, the prosecution must prove that the challenges had a neutral, non-racial basis.

In this case the defendant, an 18 year old African American man with an IQ measured to be between 58 and 80, was charged with killing an elderly white woman. The prosecution challenged all four of the black prospective jurors but presented numerous neutral explanations for having done so.

Ross Parker

Ross Parker

In the habeas corpus proceeding decades after the defendant’s conviction and sentence to death, the defendant obtained the prosecutor’s jury selection notes. These marked the names of the black jurors with a “B,” highlighted their names, and ranked them against each other in case “it comes down to having to pick one of the black jurors.” The notes were contradictory as to neutral bases for challenges and listed all of the black jurors as ”Definite NOs,” along with a single white juror.

The Georgia courts during direct appeal and habeas proceedings blithely rejected the defendant’s arguments and accepted the prosecutor’s assertions, despite the clear plan evidenced in the notes.

Prediction—reversal by a 7-2 vote. Affirming this conviction would confirm the opinion of many that Batson challenges are meaningless as long as the trial prosecutor has disingenuously prepared neutral explanations which have been found acceptable in previous cases and as long as trial judges lack the courage to challenge the prosecutor’s veracity in the face of such questionable circumstances. The case does a disservice to all of the honest prosecutors who seek a fair and impartial jury regardless of race.

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Journalist Convicted of Hacking, Accused FBI of Manipulating Evidence

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys

By Steve Neavling

A journalist convicted of hacking Wednesday claims the FBI provided misleading evidence in his case because he would not reveal a source, the Washington Post reports. 

Matthew Keys, a former Reuters social media editor, was accused of providing login credentials to a group of hackers who broke into the Los Angeles Times’ networks to alter an online story.

“The FBI agent admitted on the stand to editing chat logs,” Matthew Keys said in an interview Wednesday night. “They presented this case with edited and misleading evidence and facts that told a brilliant story that was total bulls––t.”

Keys, who was found guilty on three counts of hacking, faces up to 25 years in prison when sentenced.

The Justice Department denied any wrongdoing.

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Three ex-East Cleveland Cops Charged with Stealing Money from Suspected Drug Dealers

eastclevelandpdBy Steve Neavling

Three former East Cleveland police officers accused of stealing money from suspected drug dealers, often while conducting illegal searches, were charged in federal court Thursday.

Charged were Torris Moore, Antonio Malone and Eric Jones.

“The three officers charged today—unlike the overwhelming majority of police officers—did not protect and serve, but rather pillaged and plundered,” Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said in an FBI press release. “They viewed the drug trade as an opportunity to enrich themselves, and lied to the court, their fellow officers and the citizens of East Cleveland to pull off their criminal conspiracy.”

Moore was a sergeant supervising the Street Crimes Unit, where Malone and Jones were detectives.

They also are accused of fabricating reports.

“These three officers acted like cunning criminals rather than honorable public servants that are sworn to protect and serve,” said Stephen D. Anthony, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Cleveland Office. “They will be held accountable for their reprehensible conduct.”

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Border Patrol to Hire 1,000 New Agents in Largest Hiring Spree in Nearly a Decade

Border PatrolBy Steve Neavling

Border Patrol is taking up to 30,000 applications for field agent jobs, marking its largest recruitment effort in nearly a decade, the Monitor reports. 

“With the arrival of the UTRGV School of Medicine, SpaceX, increased international trade, increased private businesses and government jobs there is no doubt the Rio Grande Valley is experiencing economic growth,” said RGV sector Acting Chief Raul Ortiz.

Congress enacted a law in 2006 requiring Border Patrol to have at least 21,000 agents.

Border Patrol plans to hire about 1,000 agents.

Applicants must be between the agents of 18 and 37.

The process is expected to take about seven months.

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Politico: White House Thinks Head of ATF Is Doing Such a Good Job They Plan to Demote Him

Tom Brandon/atf photo

Tom Brandon/atf photo

By Sarah Wheaton
WASHINGTON — The White House thinks the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is doing such a great job, they’re planning to demote him.

The unusual move allows the administration, which has said fighting gun violence is a top priority, to avoid a nasty confirmation hearing for a troubled agency.

The Obama administration has no plans to name a permanent director for the agency, and career agent Thomas Brandon has been serving as the acting chief since April. But by law, he can’t hold that interim title for longer than 120 days, and that clock runs out on Oct. 27.

Brandon confirmed to POLITICO on Wednesday that he has agreed to stay on while re-assuming his previous title of deputy director – but still serving as the agency’s highest-ranking official.

“We’re not going to nominate you, but we have full confidence in you if you stay at the ATF,” said Brandon, recounting the explanation he received from the White House.

To read more click here.


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Justice Department to Let Loose 6,000 Prisoners in Largest One-Time Release

jail2photoBy Steve Neavling

Marking the largest one-time release of inmates, the Justice Department is releasing 6,000 prisoners to reduce overcrowding and help correct harsh sentences imposes on drug offenders over the past three decades, the Washington Post reports. 

The department’s Bureau of Prisons is setting the inmates free between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2, when about two-thirds will end up on supervised released after being placed in home confinement and halfway houses.

An additional 46,000 of the approximately 100,000 drug offenders also could be released early under a chance in sentencing guidelines.

“The number of people who will be affected is quite exceptional,” said Mary Price, general counsel for Families Against Mandatory Minimums, an advocacy group that supports sentencing reform.

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