Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a new memo indicating a policy change for Federal Prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense”. This overturns a policy memo issued by Eric Holder two years ago, which instructed prosecutors to avoid charging defendants with offenses that would trigger long mandatory minimum sentences on many drug offenses, in an effort to reduce non-violent drug offenders in our over-crowded prison system.
Prosecutors praised the decision as they enjoy having as much leverage as possible to prosecute offenders, and felt handcuffed by the Holder Memo. Critics feel this is a return to harsh mandatory sentences that do not serve their intended purpose. Under this policy, federal prosecutors would be seeking a 10-year mandatory sentence for a kilogram of heroin. In contrast, the State of Florida mandates a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence for possession of more than 14 grams of heroin (about half an ounce). And yes, there are extended prison sanctions for marijuana offenders, as well.
Posted in Criminal Law, Drugs, Federal, Florida, Uncategorized
Tagged drugs, eric holder, florida laws, jeff sessions, mandatory minimum, new laws, sentencing
The Naples Police Department is currently fighting a Federal lawsuit for police misconduct, and the allegations that have come out in the course of the case are more and more shocking. In an affidavit filed Monday, a former Naples officer stated that he and his fellow officers were “constantly pressured” to increase numbers for arrests, stops, and citations, and that supervisors would chastise officers who did not “produce statistics”. The affidavit makes it sound as though the department had a de facto quota system that encouraged officers to be reckless.
The lawsuit claims over a million dollars in damages against former Officer Kyle Bradshaw, who has since left the department. The city was dismissed from the case, but could still end up on the hook for at least part of the damages Bradshaw could be facing. Bradshaw’s attorney contends he was just doing his job. Naples police, including Bradshaw, initially responded to Bayfront for a noise complaint, and things escalated quickly. There is video of the incident, which has been played to the jury for dramatic effect for the beating allegedly given to the suspects. The trial continues in Fort Myers this week.
We previously covered that the FBI operated a major child porn website a while back, but new papers indicate the operations may be even more extensive. Unsealed documents refer to “Websites 1-23”, which seems to suggest almost two dozen child pornography websites that were operated from a government facility. Apparently the procedure was to attach malware to the distributed files to identify the users. Details are still sketchy, but as with the earlier disclosures about the government actively distributing child porn, the ramifications could be troubling.
This week a federal court ruled that evidence collected by use of a Stingray was inadmissible where a warrant was not obtained. Stingrays are devices that mimic cell phone towers. They allow government agents to track the whereabouts of cell phones without the knowledge of the cell phone users. It is unknown how many agencies employ the use of Stingrays, because they also promise to keep them secret when they acquire them.
The DOJ issued a policy that their agents are supposed to get warrants before using the devices. That was a smart move, predicting the legal outcome when the Stingray evidence was challenged. This investigation occurred before that change in policy, and if the Feds had continued to collect this evidence without warrants… a lot more cases would be in Jeopardy. The DOJ policy does not govern local law enforcement agencies, who stand to have a lot of evidence in jeopardy if they have not been obtaining warrants, in light of this Federal Court decision.
For several weeks last year, the FBI ran what it admits was one of the largest illegal, child pornography distributing/sharing websites online. They had seized the site, but instead of taking it down, let it run to try to track other users who were downloading from the site. The is a major break from former FBI policy, but apparently they have done it several times in recent years. It’s like ATF’s gunwalking scheme, sometimes referred to as “Fast and Furious” that ended up with a bunch of weapons in the hands of violent drug dealers. It has entrapment overtones, not that they are coercing subjects, but that the behavior of the government so shocks the conscious that they should not be permitted to use this type of procedure to arrest people. We don’t want our government in the business of creating crime, and legal challenges are now underway on cases that were derived from these types of operations.
Ultimately, this signals that these law enforcement agents are more interested in making their prosecutions than they are in preventing crime.
Former Lee County Deputy Michael Ronga was sentenced this week to six years in Federal prison (he also worked for Fort Myers PD, at an earlier time). He was convicted at trial a few weeks ago for beating an robbing man he had given a ride while he was on duty in his patrol vehicle. Prosecutors pushed for 10 years, which was in line with sentencing guidelines, though the court opted to go below the guideline sentence and he was only given the six years. His attorneys argued for home confinement. The sentence was surprisingly forgiving, in light of the breach of trust to the community for it to happen by an on-duty officer.
Posted in Bonita Springs / Southwest Florida, Criminal Law, Federal, Florida, Fort Myers / Lee County / Southwest Florida #SWFL, Police
Tagged badcops, federal, fmpd, lcso, michael ronga, robbery, theft
Pablo Escobar, notorious kingpin of the Medellin drug cartel in Columbia in the 1980’s, was known for this extravagances in that poor country. In addition to giving money, housing, and soccer fields to the poor, he own vast estates on which he built palaces, and imported wild animals for his personal zoo. Most of the animals were captured and disbursed to zoos after his death, but apparently they couldn’t handle the Hippos, and left a small, but viable breeding population in a pond.
Fast forward three decades, and the four Hippos have bred into a population of more than 60, and with no natural predators in South America, they are beginning to become a problem. Locals are somewhat enamored with them, and protested when one was shot a while back, but now a drought has forced them into closer contact with populated areas. Scientists are working on a program to sterilize them, but are waiting on the special dart guns needed to sedate them.
In the meantime… stay away. While vegetarian, Hippos are extremely defensive and dangerous to humans.
Wait, what’s this got to do with a criminal law blog? Well, Pablo Escobar was probably the biggest criminal of the 20th century– sorry Al Capone. But really, I just wanted to talk about Hippos. Also, check out the amusement park they made out of Escobar’s old ranch, Hacienda Napoles… I guess featuring Hippos.