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Tag: Texas

FBI Busts Nearly All Top Officials in Crystal City, Texas As Part of Bribery Probe

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 8.36.43 AMBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI swooped into Crystal City, Texas, and arrested nearly all of the top city officials.

The Washington Post reports that five officials were arrested Thursday and accused of taking bribes and helping an illegal gambling operation.

The indictment led to the arrests of the city’s mayor, mayor pro tempore, a current and former city council member and the city manager.

Also arrested the the alleged gambling operator, Ngoc Tri Nguyen, also known as “MR. T.”

And that’s not it for the embattled city. Another council member was arrested on human smuggling charges last month.

There’s only one city official left – Councilman Joel Barajas, who suspected something criminal was going on.

“I knew some things were not being correctly taken care of,” he said.

The indictment alleges town leadership  “used their official positions to enrich themselves by soliciting and accepting payments and other things of value” from Nguyen and others.

CNN Opinion: Cure for So-Called ‘Affluenza’ Is Nothing Short of Prison

Ethan Couch.

Ethan Couch.

CNN

American lawyers have never been accused of lacking creativity in seeking to justify the nefarious deeds of their clients. Texas defense attorney Scott Brown, however, appears to have raised the bar to a new level by asserting the newly minted defense of “affluenza” to obtain leniency in a tragic vehicular homicide case arising out of the reckless driving of his very drunk and very rich 16-year-old client, Ethan Couch.

Affluenza may be a contender for a collection of odd and unlikely defenses that can trace their lineage back to the infamous (and some even say apocryphal) “Twinkie defense.” The notorious junk food defense was asserted in psychiatric testimony as part of a broad claim of diminished capacity caused by depression with at least some success in the 1979 trial of Supervisor Dan White for the assassination of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. Although White was charged with murder, the jury found him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

he current claim in Fort Worth, Texas, is that the condition of affluenza, a combination of the words “affluence” and “influenza” should immunize Ethan Couch from full responsibility for his actions in killing four people and critically injuring two others.

The Oxford Dictionary defines the condition as “a psychological malaise supposedly affecting young people, symptoms of which include a lack of motivation, feelings of guilt, and a sense of isolation.” Defense attorney Brown apparently succeeded in convincing soon-to-be retired juvenile Judge Jean Boyd that this spoiled rich kid syndrome diminished Ethan Couch’s capacity to distinguish right from wrong.

n the face of prosecution demands for 20 years in the slammer, the judge responded with a sentence of 10 years of probation and rehabilitation. Couch’s rich daddy proposes to fund a trip to a $450,000 a year California rehab facility that offers treatment to those with way too much cash and free time on their manicured hands. I wish I was kidding about this, but I am not.

Defense psychologist Dr. G. Dick Miller testified that poor Ethan Couch was never properly disciplined by his wealthy parents, eventually driving at age 13, abusing alcohol, and coming to believe that money could buy him out of pretty much any situation where he hurt someone. Affluenza, the shrink suggests, diminished Ethan’s capacity to obey the law and tragic consequences followed.

Miller’s offensive analysis fails to explain why this strange condition is not mentioned in the diagnostic bible of the psychiatric profession, the DSM-5 and its predecessor volumes. Rich kid syndrome, or the more succinct label affluenza, seems to be made of the same empty calories that made the Twinkie defense so offensive to the public at the time it was served up in a 1970s San Francisco courtroom.

To read more click here. 

‘Affluenza’ Teen, His Mother Were Detained in Mexico After Fleeing Over Probation Violation

Ethan Couch.

Ethan Couch.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A wealthy Texas teenager who was given leniency after killing four people while driving drunk has been captured in Mexico with his mother, The New York Times reports. 

Ethan Couch gained national notoriety when a judge gave him probation in 2013 after his lawyer called a witness who claimed he suffered from “affluenza,” a so-called psychological condition marked by an unwillingness to know the difference between right and wrong because of family wealth.

Couch, 18, was facing prison this month after allegedly violating probation by drinking alcohol.

Authorities said he and his mother, Tonya Couch, 48, fled to Mexico before they were arrested near the Mexican resort city of Puerto Vallarta.

Blaze That Tore Through Mosque in Houston Was Intentionally Set, Officials Said

Detroit fire lightsBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A Christmas Day fire at a mosque in Texas was intentionally set, investigators told The Source.

The two-alarm blaze tore the Savory Mosque in Houston at 2:45 p.m., causing significant damage.

No injuries were reported because about 200 people left the mosque about an hour before the arson fire.

The investigation is being handled by the ATF, FBI and Houston police.

Other Stories of Interest

How I Was Locked Up for Not Having Papers At National Park in Texas

border patrol 3By Lisa Ragbir
For The Guardian

In Big Bend National Park my husband, father, daughter and I stood on the banks of the yellow-green waters of the Rio Grande.

On our side – the US side – we planted our feet on a beach of cracked mud. On the other side, a 1,000ft cliff wall rose from the river to run left and right, as far as the eye can see. It was the sort of picturesque photo-op that National Parks are built for.

I pointed across the river and told my father: “That’s Mexico,” to which he replied: “Well if that’s Mexico, why does Donald Trump need to build a wall?”

The adults laughed at the joke and my three-year old asked if she could go potty – all of us unaware that we were in an area that is sometimes referred to as theborder zone.

I didn’t imagine that within the next six hours, I would be locked in a cell by US Border Patrol. My offense? I’m Canadian and I didn’t have my permanent resident card with me.

It began with a stop at the Border Patrol station approximately 80 miles north of the entrance to Big Bend, and just over 100 miles north of the Mexico–US border.

“You all American?” a Border Patrol agent asked.

“No, I’m Canadian!” I said cheerfully – not thinking that my answer would prompt furrowed brows.

“What’s your status?”

Another easy question, I thought. “Permanent resident.”

They asked for my permanent resident card – which I didn’t have with me. But I did offer my driver’s license and my university ID, neither of which were of interest to the agents. When my septuagenarian father identified himself as a Canadian citizen visiting from Montreal, he was asked for his passport. “I didn’t think I needed to carry it because we weren’t crossing any borders”, he said. “Why do I need it?”

I thought it was a good question.

My husband asked: “Do you need to see my ID?” The agent’s replied: “What for?”

It might be worth mentioning here that my husband is Italian-American, from New Jersey. I am a first-generation Canadian of Trinidadian-descent. My husband and I aren’t the same color.

In the mid-1990s, I moved to the US for graduate school before moving to Austin, Texas, in 2007. I was born and raised in Montreal – less than 50 miles from the Canada-US border and only a seven-hour drive to New York City. Growing up, my family made that drive countless times to visit relatives who lived in Brooklyn and Long Island.

In those days, we presented our passports and politely answered all of the questions asked of us. It was a routine that always occurred at the border – not in a border zone – which I didn’t know existed before I traveled within 100 miles of the frontier between Mexico and the US. Aside from the picture-worthy mesas, glimpses of roadrunners and a string of Rock Shops, the border zone is the thing you pass through when you leave a day of family-fun in Big Bend.

It took almost an hour, but the agents were able to confirm that my father had flown into the US, from Montreal, on a Canadian passport. Yet they could not verify that my permanent resident card had not expired. Three agents repeatedly explained that I am required to carry my permanent resident card with me at all times – a fact that I only became aware of in the border-zone. There, after an hour of circular-questioning, a bullet-proof-vested agent said: “Ma’am, we need you to step out of the car.”

To read more click here. 

FBI Joins Search for Teen with ‘Affluenza’ Who Sheriff Believes May Have Fled the Country

Sheriff Dee Anderson, via Twitter.

Sheriff Dee Anderson, via Twitter.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Teenager Ethan Couch made national news when his attorney argued he suffered from “affluenza,” a condition stemming from being coddled so much that he lost his sense of responsibility, CBS News reports. 

Now federal officials are helping Texas deputes search for Couch, who was 16 years old when his drunken driving crash killed four pedestrians.

In 2013, Couch was sentenced to 10 years of probation, but now he and his mother are missing.

Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson suggested that Couch may have hit the left the country, making him a top fugitive.

A warrant was issued for his arrest.

“I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so,” Anderson said. “I said, we’re going to see him again. He’s going to be back in this system.”

His disappearance follows a video that show what appears to be Couch drinking, which would be a probation violation.

Parker: Supreme Court in December Will Hear Case on Texas Businessman Convicted of Illegally Accessing Protected Computer

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.

Ross Parker

Ross Parker

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

The only oral argument before the Supreme Court during the last month of 2015 on an issue involving criminal law or procedure is Musacchio v. United States. The case involves the conviction on three counts of a North Texas businessman for conspiracy and for making unauthorized access to a protected computer of a competitor (for which he was previously employed) through a back-door password. He was sentenced to 63 months in prison. The civil case for his conduct was settled for $10 million.

The case presents two issues:

  1. Whether the law-of-the-case doctrine requires the sufficiency of the evidence in a criminal case to be measured against the elements described in the jury instructions where those instructions, without objection, require the government to prove additional or more stringent elements than do the statute and indictment?
  1. Whether a statute-of-limitations defense not raised at or before trial is reviewable on appeal?

Sounds like pretty dry stuff, huh? The kind of legal fare appetizing only to criminal lawyers and probably few of them. It, however, should present a meal of delicious irony during oral argument.

Stripped of its legal minutia, the fact is that both parties lapsed at the trial level on different issues and are now seeking appellate forgiveness under an application of the “plain error” rule. But each will want no such forgiveness for their opponent on the other issue. The government offers in addition a multitude of other reasons why the defense legal analysis is erroneous and, in any event, not applicable.

As to the first issue the statute permits alternative theories of proof for conviction. The evidence can establish that the defendant agreed to make unauthorized access (or made such access) or that he conspired to exceed authorized access (or actually exceeded such authorized access). The proofs in this case relied upon the former alternative both as to the conspiracy count and the two substantive counts.

The statute was properly charged in the indictment. But the trial judge, apparently in disregard of the government’s correct requests, presented the erroneous charge to the jury that the evidence had to be proven conjunctively (and) rather than disjunctively (or) as to the two alternative elements in the conspiracy count. The government did not object to the instruction, which it asserts was inadvertent and “clerical.” Now the government argues, among other things, that this was plain error which could be excused on appeal.

The defendant, however, relies on cases holding that the error waived appellate consideration and correction of the issue and that the appellate review of the sufficiency of the evidence requires proof of both alternative theories. Hence, the “law of the case” applies. And the Circuit Courts are somewhat split.

On the second issue, the tables are turned. The defendant, in effect, argues for forgiveness for his counsel’s failure to raise at trial the statute of limitations defense. This was plain error which can, in the view of some Circuit Courts, be raised on appeal. This time the government counters that the issue is not jurisdictional, unreviewable on appeal, and that the defendant waived the issue. And, again, there is some difference in the Circuits on the reviewability of this issue.

Of course few things that find their way to the Court are ever simple. The plain error/waiver rule for the two issues involves different rationales and case law threads. The Court could excuse both parties’ lapses, neither of them, or one and not the other. A decision behind door # 3 might seem anomalous to common sense, but there are a host of related arguments and sub-issues that bear on the analysis of the contexts of both questions.

Prediction: The government should win this round of the litigation. The jury found that both of the alternative methods of proof were established by the evidence, and it is weird to require the Court to, in effect, create a crime requiring both methods to review the sufficiency of the evidence just because the government didn’t object to a single erroneous instruction. As to the statute of limitations issue, the defendant should lose this one, also, since there is no reason to believe that the statute was intended to make the question jurisdictional. To make the question reviewable on appeal would prevent the government from raising factual issues at trial that could convince the jury to reject the claim.

However, in round # 2, the defendant will undoubtedly file a post-conviction, habeas corpus claim that his trial attorney rendered ineffective assistance of counsel in failing to file a statute of limitations objection. He could win a reversal of the conspiracy conviction although, unless he gets a re-sentencing, his concurrent sentence on one of the remaining counts makes it unlikely he will be home to watch the Dallas Cowboys games anytime soon.

Border Patrol Employee Posts Sign That Reserves Halloween Candy for ‘American families’ Only

Border PatrolBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A Border Patrol employee posted a sign outside of a government building in the border town of Presidio, Texas, that reserved Halloween candy for “America families” only.

The sign, written in Spanish, translated to, “Only American families will receive candy,” the New Civil Rights Movement reports. 

The town of Presidio is more than 87% Hispanic.

CBP quickly apologized, saying it supports all cultures.

“We respect all people regardless of their culture, nationality or origin. We apologize for any harm this incident may have created in our relationship with the community,” the statement read.

Residents were outraged and offended, including the mayor, John Ferguson, who said he’s never been excluded from holiday celebrations in Mexico.

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