“Catastrophic flooding is now underway and expected to continue for days.”
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Flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey is overburdening resources as authorities in and around Houston scramble to save those trapped by the high waters.
Hopes for an immediate respite from Harvey’s wrath seem unlikely as the National Weather Service calls the flooding “unprecedented” and warns things may become more dire if a record-breaking 50 inches of rain falls on parts of Texas in coming days.
The rainfall threatens to exacerbate an already dangerous situation, as Harvey’s rains have left many east Texas rivers and bayous swollen to their banks or beyond.
“The breadth and intensity of this rainfall are beyond anything experienced before,” the weather service said. “Catastrophic flooding is now underway and expected to continue for days.”
The storm killed two people in Texas, authorities said, and the death toll will likely rise. More than 1,000 people were rescued overnight, and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner warned that some 911 calls are going unanswered as operators “give preference to life-threatening calls.”
Here are the latest developments: Read the rest of this entry
Have you heard of 24-year-old John Hernandez? What about Harris County Deputy Sheriff Chauna Thompson?
John Hernandez was at a Denny’s restaurant on May 28, 2017 in a town not far from Houston. Wait staff said he was celebrating his soccer team winning and was drunk, but he was not behaving belligerently. Chauna Thompson was off-duty and had just left Denny’s with her husband, Terry Thompson, when John Hernandez came outside the restaurant and urinated while standing close to the Thompson’s vehicle.
Terry beat John who landed on the ground and then Terry proceeded to place John in a choke hold and got on John’s back. Chauna, pinned down one of John’s arms. His other armed was underneath him. On her knees, Chauna yelled at Hernandez to “stay the f— down.” Her husband said to Hernandez: “Do you want me to hit you again?”
John’s wife and daughter were inside of the restaurant as the confrontation was happening. Hearing the commotion, they rushed outside.
Melissa Trammell, a Denny’s employee, said she was standing next to John’s daughter and begged Terry Thompson to let go of John Hernandez. Hernandez “was kicking for his life, struggling. At first I thought it was legitimate,” Trammell told reporters after testifying before the grand jury. “He was just going to hold him down, whatever. When I seen the man turning purple, there was no letup. And [Thompson] looked me in my face and told me he’s not getting off him.”
After paramedics arrived, John Hernandez was rushed to the hospital. Some witnesses say that it took paramedics 40 minutes to arrive. John was brain dead, went into a coma and died three days later.
A by-stander filmed the incident. He retained an attorney before turning the video over to the Sheriff’s office. Read the rest of this entry
This is one of those cases where after I read it, I was filled with numerous emotions. I was saddened by knowing there are heartless people who take advantage of the vulnerable. I was saddened that those financially and emotionally damaged will not recover their losses. I felt despair because the perpetrators ran their scam for 7 years before they were brought to justice. I felt anger that the perpetrators would use the federal judicial system to illegally enrich themselves.
I was frightened because based on the charges, had they not used mail and wire in conducting their activity, they might have gotten away with it unless the states where they operated found an appropriate charge.
As Benjamin G. Greenberg, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, describes this case;
“Sentencing reduction fraud schemes that prey on the desperation, vulnerability and trust of federal inmates and their families exploit both the victims and the justice system. Federal partners across the nation will continue to target such schemes and prosecute the offenders.”
That is one reason why I feel this case is important to write about; i.e., there might still be con artists conducting this crime. The public needs to know about this.
Imagine that you have a relative serving time in federal prison. Along comes a company that promises they will get the sentence reduced by filing a Rule 35 Motion. They require payment for their services.
As an average person who knows little to nothing about Federal Rules, would you know how to look it up? Would you know about “standing” to understand the correct procedures?
In the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 35 allows the court to reduce a defendant’s sentence if the defendant is found to have provided substantial assistance in investigating or prosecuting another person. ONLY GOVERNMENT PROSECUTORS CAN FILE SUCH A MOTION, AND THEY DO IT WITHOUT CHARGE.
On June 29, 2017, 40-year old Alvin James Warrick of Beaumont, Texas was sentenced in Miami, Florida to 235 months in prison. On the same day, 36-year old Colitha Patrice Bush of Port Arthur, Texas was sentenced in Miami, Florida to 96 months in prison. They have been ordered to forfeit $4.4 million. U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard of the Southern District of Florida entered the sentence.
Previously, Warrick and Bush pled guilty to wire and mail fraud conspiracy charges in connection with the scam they operated that targeted federal inmates and their families in Miami-Dade County and elsewhere.
In addition to their sentences for the Southern District of Florida matter, Warrick and Bush were also sentenced in a related case originally brought in the Eastern District of Texas, and subsequently transferred to Florida.
A third person was involved named Roland Bennett Shepherd, 32, of Houston, Texas, was sentenced to 28 months. He pled guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud in the scam.
The scam was run from 2009 through September 7, 2016. The perpetrators held themselves out as owners and operators of Private Services, a company that reportedly worked with a network of informants and law enforcement personnel to identify and provide information and third party cooperation that could be credited to federal inmates in Rule 35 proceedings.
They used aliases such as “Peter Candlewood,” “Diane Lane,” and “Diane Rice,” targeting federal inmates and their families by phone, text, email, mail and in-person services. Read the rest of this entry
On July 10, 2015, Texas Department of Public Safety trooper Brian Encinia stopped Sandra Bland for failure to signal a lane change. Sandra was 28-years old. She was in Texas to start a job on August 3, 2015 as a summer program associate with Prairie View A&M University in Waller County, Texas.
Upon returning to Sandra’s car with citations for her to sign, Encinia asked Sandra to put out her cigarette. When Sandra asked Encinia why she would need to put out her cigarette in her own car, Encinia ordered Sandra out of her car, and taking out his stun gun, threatened to “light” her up if she did not comply. Encinia accused Sandra of assaulting him and she was taken to jail.
On July 13, 2015, Sandra was found dead in her jail cell. She was found hung with a plastic trash bag around her neck, from a partition that was shorter or about the same height as Sandra, who was 6 feet tall.
In January 2016, a grand jury indicted Brian Encinia (the arresting officer) for perjury. The grand jury did not believe Encinia’s statement that he wanted Sandra removed from her car so he could conduct a safer traffic investigation. The Texas Department of Public Safety terminated Encinia for violating department standards. Encina was freed on a $2,500 bond. If convicted for perjury, he faced up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
In March 2016, Brian Encinia was formerly fired from his law enforcement job. Read the rest of this entry
On April 29, 2017, 15-year old Jordan Edwards was leaving a party with two of his older brothers. He was in the passenger seat of a vehicle when shot in the head by Balch Springs, Texas patrol officer Roy Oliver.
The Balch Springs Police Chief was quick coming forth with the officer’s side of the story. It was reported that Officer Roy Oliver was called to investigate reports of underage drinking at a house party. When they arrived, they heard what they believed were gunshots. A car of teenagers leaving the party was driving toward the police in reverse in an “aggressive manner.” Oliver opened fire, striking Jordan Edwards in the head. Jordan died at a hospital.
Roy Oliver was placed on administrative duty while the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department and the Dallas County District Attorney’ Office began investigating the shooting. The Balch Springs Police Department began an internal investigation.
The following Tuesday, Roy Oliver was fired on the basis that he violated department policies. Police Chief Jonathan Haber stated that he rushed to get information out to the public, but since watched two body cam videos showing that the teens were driving away from the officers when Oliver fired. Read the rest of this entry
In December 2016, we followed the trials of Michael Slager and Dylann Roof. There was also another trial.
In August 2012, Officer Patrick Tuter of Garland, Texas led a vehicle chase of unarmed 25 year old Michael Allen. Tuter fired at Michael 41 times, reloading several times and hitting Michael 3 times. The Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Officer performed the autopsy and determined that Michael suffered gunshot wounds to his upper back, side, and left elbow.
Tuter’s official report was that he opened fired after Michael rammed a patrol car. The dashboard video however, showed that it was Tuter’s patrol car that rammed into Michael’s truck. Tuter fired his gun from the back, left-side of Michael’s truck.
Michael Allen’s body was pulled out of the cab of his truck by a K9 who chewed his face.
In March 2013, Tuter was fired for violating department policies on pursuits and use of force. He had been on the force 7 years.
In 2007, Daniel Willis applied for work with the Travis County Texas Sheriff’s office. He entered in his employment application that he had applied to the Round Rock Police Department. However, he missed the exam date. He had also applied to work for the Austin Police Department but failed the department’s psychological exam.
Travis County hired Daniel Willis as a jail correction officer. Beginning in 2010, Willis applied to be a patrol deputy for the Travis County Texas Sheriff’s Office. He applied three times, and failed three times.
In 2012, one of Willis’ jail supervisors wrote in his review that Willis needed “more development in handling explosive situations and the utilization of common sense.”
Notwithstanding his past failures and the review, in May 2013, Willis resigned his job with Travis County for a position as a patrol deputy for Bastrop County. Less than a year later, on February 16, 2014, Willis killed an unarmed woman without warning. Less than 2 weeks after Willis killed 47-year old Yvette Smith, Bastrop County Sheriff Terry Pickering told the Austin American-Statesman newspaper that some of his staff tampered with Willis’ training records to fix mistakes. Read the rest of this entry
Brian Encina, the Texas trooper who arrested Sandra Bland, has been fired from his job with the Texas Department of Public Safety. In December, he was indicted on a perjury charge. He’s accused of lying about his July 10, 2015 arrest of Sandra Bland and their confrontational traffic stop. It was caught on dashcam video and also filmed by a passer-by. The perjury charge is a misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
Twenty-eight year old Sandra Bland was found dead in the Waller County jail. Although her death was ruled a suicide, an investigation is taking place, including involvement by the FBI. Read the rest of this entry
Mindyme62 posted about in open discussion in December 2014 about a stand your ground case. That’s more than a year ago, so I wanted to follow-up. In November 2015, we got a verdict, for the second time.
In 2010, Raul Rodriguez went to his neighbor’s house, taking his video recorder, cellphone, and gun with him. The neighbor was having a birthday party. Rodriguez thought that the music was too loud. Kelly Danaher, then 36-years old and a teacher, Kelly’s dad and other men argued with Rodriguez over the volume of the music. Rodriguez was filming when he said “I am in fear for my life” and shot, fatally wounding Kelly.
In 2012, Raul Rodriguez, 49, of Harris County, Texas, was convicted of murder and sentenced to 40 years in prison. Rodriguez appealed and Houston’s First Court of Appeals said the jury’s instructions on the law on self-defense was so confusing that Rodriguez did not get a fair trial.
In 2015, Rodriguez went back to trial. On November 20, 2015, jurors deliberated about 3 hours before siding with prosecutors that Rodriguez provoked the situation.
“This case is about provocation, pure and simple. The law doesn’t allow you to create a situation and then claim self-defense.” Prosecutor Kelli Johnson stated in closing arguments.
A Waller County grand jury has indicted Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Brian Encinia on perjury charges. The charge is a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, Encinia could face up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
Grand juries typically review felony cases. Darrell Jordan, one of five special prosecutors assigned to the case, stated “Because he [is] an officer, they have to go through an indictment process, regardless of whether it’s a felony or a misdemeanor.” The grand jury’s indictment stemmed from a statement by Encinia
Encinia pulled Bland over on July 10, 2015 for making an improper lane change near Prairie View A&M University, her alma mater, where she had just interviewed and accepted a job. Dashcam video from Encinia’s patrol car shows that the traffic stop quickly became confrontational.
The video shows the trooper holding a stun gun and yelling, “I will light you up!” after Bland refuses to get out of her car. Bland eventually steps out of the vehicle, and Encinia ordered her to the side of the road. Read the rest of this entry
Remember this photo of bikers in Waco, Texas? 177 of them were arrested. On Tuesday, a grand jury returned indictments against 106 of them for engaging in organized criminal activity.
It took the grand jury 9 hours to reach the decision on the 106 bikers. District Attorney Abel Reyna said that the grand jury will return to consider charges against the other 71 bikers.
Nine people died and 20 were injured, which authorities say arose from an apparent confrontation between the Bandidos and the Cossacks motorcycle clubs. More than 430 weapons were recovered from the crime scene, including 151 firearms. No one has been charged in the deaths and injuries because investigators cannot determine whose bullets struck those who died or were injured.
A Texas couple, Mark Lesher, 63, and his wife, Rhonda, 50, were accused by a woman of sexual assault. Mark Lesher is a prominent attorney, and Rhonda was running a successful day spa. The accusation included a man who works on the Lesher’s ranch. Before they stood trial in January 2009, there was a steady stream of attacks on the Web forum Topix.com. The comments accused the couple of murder, encouraging pedophilia, drug abuse and other crimes that materially attack their characters.
In January 2009, the couple and their ranch hand were found not guilty on all charges.
Three years ago, the couple filed a 365-page lawsuit naming 178 pseudonyms used to post what they considered the most defamatory messages. They posted the lawsuit on Topix and served the company a subpoena to obtain the IP addresses. A Texas judge ordered Topix to turn over the identifying information about the anonymous posters. The Internet Protocol (IP) addresses led to a couple that owned a business, and accused the Lesher’s of sexual assault in 2008.
In July 2009, the Leshers filed an amended petition in the District Court of Tarrant County, Texas naming Shannon Coyel, the couple’s accuser; her husband Gerald Covel and his brother, James Coyel. Also named as a defendant was Apache Truck & Van Parts of Kennedale, Texas and two of its employers, Charlie and Pat Doescher.
On Friday, a jury awarded the Leshers a judgment of $13.78 million.
Mark and Rhonda Lesher stand on the steps of Collin County Courthouse in McKinney, Texas, shortly after their acquittal of sexual assault charges Jan. 16, 2009. On Friday, the couple were awarded
The Gazette reported a malicious prosecution suit is pending that names as defendants the Coyels and Red River County District Attorney Val Varley, who unsuccessfully prosecuted the sexual assault case against the Leshers. That suit accuses them of conspiring to convict the Leshers of a crime they did not commit. The newspaper reports that a jury trial is scheduled for August.
Ryan Calo, who teaches privacy law at Stanford Law School and is joining the faculty at the University of Washington School of Law, said
“Defamation is one area of law in which a jury or court have to figure out how much damage has been done. It’s not a car accident where you can calculate medical bills and how much work was lost after an injury. There’s something more ephemeral in a reputation.”
There is a difference between free speech, which states an opinion, and accusations stated as fact that have no basis in fact and causes harm to the personal lives of others.
There’s more on this story and other internet defamation stories on ABC News.
Based on the dash cam video, Sandra’s car was searched. I would like to know Texas law for illegal searches of vehicles.
On Monday afternoon, Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis announced the death of Sandra Bland, which was initially ruled a suicide, would be treated “as it would be in a murder investigation.” Mathis also said while the Texas Rangers were leading the investigation, the FBI was now supervising it.
“It is very much too early to make any kind of determination that this was a suicide or a murder because the investigations are not complete,” Mathis reportedly said at a press conference.
On July 10, police officers pulled over Sandra Bland for failing to indicate before changing lanes in Waller County, Texas. She was violently arrested, according to a passerby’s video, after becoming allegedly combative with the arresting officer. She was found dead in her jail cell three days later.
After discussing Bland with those closest to her and those who saw her…
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The same thing is happening on the internet. There is a group of White Supremacists that do not want people of different races to associate and support each other online.
Josh Joseph went to visit his good friends Darren and Hayli Frank in Spring, Texas, just north of Houston, for the 4th of July weekend. He never expected that he was going to be offending anyone in the neighborhood by doing so. For the record, Josh is black, and his friends are white. They were celebrating the holiday out in their front yard, and one of their neighbors likely saw their black guest. When they woke up the next morning, the Franks’ $50,000 truck was covered in racist vulgarities that the vandals had spray-painted.
The Franks live in a pretty nice neighborhood. They never thought that they would be the victims of a hate crime, especially not in their area. But, as people are finding out, racism is everywhere, including places you’d least expect to find it. Even though the Franks lived in a decent area overall, Texas…
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Caterpillars, moths, butterflies, and all creatures great and small,
It’s been a busy week.
The pool party in McKinney, Texas resulted in constant headlines including the resignation of officer Casebolt and the employment termination or suspension of several people who were either involved in the originating physical altercation, or who made bigoted racial statements on social media.
Regarding the death of 12-year old Tamir Rice, in response to citizens’ affidavit, a judge has decided there is probable cause to charge Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann with murder, manslaughter, reckless homicide and negligent homicide. Judge Adrine also found there is probable cause to charge Cleveland police officer Frank Garmback with negligent homicide.
Some are reporting this as actual charges, but they are not. They are probable cause findings. The State’s Attorney has stated that he is taking the evidence before a grand jury to decide whether to charge the two officers. You can read the judge’s decision here.
This week, three more people have been killed by members of law enforcement, one being a homeless man in Overtown, Florida, in front of dozens of witnesses including children. Read the rest of this entry
It’s no big deal, but because of some people promoting it as a lost for Baltimore’s State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, I thought it important to write this so those interested can discern fact from ignorance. It’s easier for me to understand the structures of courts than how Baltimore has its own State’s Attorney because in most states, State’s Attorneys are elected to represent a county and not a city.
Each state has its own court structure, and that structure can differ from state to state. For example, California has Superior Courts that in other states, are considered Circuit Courts. Pennsylvania has courts of Common Pleas, Commonwealth Courts, Superior Court, and a Supreme Court. In Maryland, there are District Courts and Circuit Courts. District Courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.
The jurisdiction of the District Court is concurrent with that of the circuit court in criminal cases that are classified misdemeanors and certain felonies, in which the penalty may be confinement for 3 years or more or a fine of $2,500 or more. The District Court does not conduct jury trials.
The Circuit Court for Baltimore City is a State trial court of unlimited jurisdiction. It handles all types of cases and is divided into four main divisions: Family, Juvenile, Criminal, and Civil.
The charges against the six Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray were filed in the District Court. It is in that court that State’s Attorney Mosby filed a motion for a gag order. However, the officers were indicted and the cases transferred to the Circuit Court on May 21, 2015.
Kent Sprouse, 42, was the fifth convicted killer executed this year in Texas. In 2002, Sprouse killed Ennis Police officer Harry Marvin “Marty” Steinfeldt III, who was 28-years-old, and 38-year old Pedro Moreno. Although charged in Moreno’s death, Sprouse was not tried for it.
Sprouse, a meth addict, had used the drug and other drugs 48 hours before the shoot-out that took place at the Ferris Food Mart. Jim Jenkins, who was Sprouse’s lead lawyer at his trial said Sprouse suffered from the effects of methamphetamine addiction.
“He just didn’t know what he was doing, but the jury has to buy that. It’s sort of like being drunk and killing somebody. That’s really not a defense, not a legal defense. … The whole thing is extremely sad.”
Thursday, Sprouse was given the drug pentobarbital intravenously. He took several deep breaths and was pronounced dead 22 minutes later.
Associated Press reports:
Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials said a recent purchase of pentobarbital means they have enough of the sedative to carry out three other executions set for this month, including one next week. But at least three more are set for May and June, meaning they would have to find a new supply or switch to a different drug to carry out those executions on schedule.
Death penalty states have found it increasingly difficult to acquire execution drugs because traditional manufacturers now refuse to sell their drugs for use in executions. States now rely on compounding pharmacies for their made-to-order execution drugs.
In three weeks, the Supreme Court of the United States will consider a challenge from three death row inmates to Oklahoma’s lethal injection method. A ruling against the use of midazolam, a sedative that lacks the knockout punch of pentobarbital, is part of a three-drug cocktail. Read the rest of this entry