Gov. Rick Perry · U.S. Politics

Rick Perry Veto To Be Reviewed By Special Prosecutor, Judge Says

I know Democrats have issues too, like yet another Anthony Weiner sex scandal.   Also, that Mayor in San Diego, Bob Filner has some serious political problems resulting from sexual harrassment toward many women,  the latest being his inappropriate behavior toward a great-grandmother.  

They don’t go unnoticed on this blog, it’s just that their stories are more personal than political.  Yes, they’re political figures but in my opinion, their stories are not as news worthy.

Now, on the other hand, the GOP 2016 hopefuls and others seem to be getting into political trouble.  Enter…Texas Governor Rick Perry:

The Huffington Post

A Texas judge said Thursday he plans to have a special prosecutor review allegations that Gov. Rick Perry abused the powers of his office and broke the law over a veto that cut funding for state public corruption investigators.

Judge Robert Richardson said he expects to select someone in the coming days to look at a two-page complaint filed by a watchdog group, Texans for Public Justice. The special prosecutor could quickly deem the complaint meritless or decide it warrants further investigation.

Perry’s office denies wrongdoing.

The complaint stems from the April drunken-driving arrest of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, whose office houses the Public Integrity Unit that is the state’s criminal ethics arm. Its high-profile cases include the 2010 prosecution of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and an ongoing investigation into the state’s $3 billion cancer research agency.

Lehmberg pleaded guilty after her arrest and served half of a 45-day jail sentence. But she refused calls from Republicans to resign, including from Perry, who publicly said he would eliminate $3.7 million in annual state funding if she did not step down.

Lehmberg stayed in office, and Perry vetoed the money in June.

In a two-page complaint filed shortly after Perry’s veto, the head of Texans for Public Justice accused Perry of possibly violating laws regarding coercion of a public servant, bribery, abuse of official capacity and official oppression.

“Governor Perry violated the Texas Penal Code by communicating offers and threats under which he would exercise his official discretion to veto the appropriation,” wrote Craig McDonald, the group’s executive director, in the June 26 complaint.

Perry spokesman Josh Havens said Thursday he was not aware of any contact from investigators concerning the veto.

Havens said Perry “exercised his constitutional veto authority through line item vetoes in the budget” as he does each session. He went on to point to Perry’s statement following the veto of the prosecution unit dollars.

“Despite the otherwise good work the Public Integrity Unit’s employees, I cannot in good conscience support continued state funding for an office with statewide jurisdiction at a time when the person charged with ultimate responsibility of that unit has lost the public’s confidence,” Perry said.

The appointment of a special prosecutor is less reflective of the allegations’ possible merits than the unique circumstances of the complaint.

The complaint from the Austin-based watchdog group was originally filed with Lehmberg’s office, where investigators would normally review the complaint and determine whether it was worth pursuing. But Lehmberg recused herself and the complaint eventually trickled to Richardson, a former state district judge, who is now finding his own prosecutor to review the complaint.

Following Perry’s v eto, Travis County commissioners originally voted to send layoff notices to nearly three dozen staff members in the public corruption office. They have since approved a reduced budget for the unit that trims the staff cuts to 10.

As part of the reduced budget, the unit will also drop at least 54 of its more than 400 active cases.

U.S. Politics

Prosecutor Cited Security As Reason For Withdrawing From Aryan Brotherhood Of Texas Case

Aryan Brotherhood of Texas
Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer speaks during a news conference about charges against members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas at the U.S. Attorney’s office Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, in Houston. AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Cody Duty)


TPM LiveWire

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Hileman, who has withdrawn from a large federal racketeering case against alleged members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas prison gang, cited “security reasons” in an email he sent Monday to defense attorneys involved in the case, according to one lawyer who received the email.

“He sent the email to every lawyer representing a defendant in the Aryan Brotherhood federal case, and he said — very short email — that he was withdrawing for security reasons,” Houston attorney Katherine Scardino told TPM on Tuesday.

After the recent killings of two prosecutors in Kaufman County, Texas, media reports have made note of the county district attorney’s office’s role in the investigation of the prison gang. But no material evidence has been found linking the prison gang to the murdered prosecutors. Nevertheless, Scardino said she understood Hileman’s decision.

“I did email him back and told him that I was sorry he was getting off the case, but I certainly understood,” Scardino said.

Scardino client, Terry Sillers, was a “general” in the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. Sillers has agreed to cooperate with the government and pleaded guilty in the case. According to Scardino, Sillers will not be sentenced until after he testifies in the other cases as needed. Sillers is currently under protective custody, and not even his lawyer knows where he is being held.

“I don’t know where Mr. Sillers is, he’s under protective custody,” Scardino said. “And I don’t really want to know.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas refused to confirm or deny Hileman’s withdrawal in response to a query from TPM.


Are white supremacists killing Texas prosecutors?

Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes speaks at a news conference on March 30, after the McLellands were found dead in their home.

Interesting hypothesis…

The Week

Dallas-area District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife were shot dead, two months after McLelland’s deputy was also killed

On Jan. 31, gunmen shot and killed Mark Hasse, an assistant district attorney in Texas’ largely rural Kaufman County, in broad daylight as he was walking from his car to the Dallas-area courthouse. District Attorney Mike McLelland quickly vowed to pull the “scum” who shot his deputy “out of whatever hole you’re in” and prosecute them “to the fullest extent of the law.” Hasse’s murder was still unsolved on Saturday, when police found the bodies of McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, in their home, also shot dead.

Hasse had begun carrying a gun to work and varying his routine because he feared for his life, friends say. And after Hasse’s death, McLelland started carrying a gun, too. “The people in my line of work are going to have to get better at it, because they’re going to need it more in the future,” he told The Associated Press less that two weeks ago. “I’m ahead of everybody else because, basically, I’m a soldier,” he added, referring to his 23 years in the Army. Police officialssay Cynthia McLelland was found near the front door of their house, and her husband was found near the back, still in his pajamas.

Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes said Sunday that there was no evidence that the Hasse and McLelland murders were related, but “the killings of two prosecutors in a county of 106,000 people in less than eight weeks appeared to many officials to be more than a coincidence,”notes The New York Times. Law enforcement sources, speaking off the record, say the the sheriff’s office, the FBI, the Texas Rangers, and other agencies working on the cases assume there’s a strong connection. Local officials are making that case openly, and security is being beefed up for employees of the D.A.’s office.

The lead suspect in the killings is a white supremacist prison gang called the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. McLelland had said he believed the gang could have been responsible for Hasse’s murder, noting that the group has a lot of members in the area and that his office has “put some real dents in the Aryan Brotherhood around here in the past year.” A look at what authorities have so far gleaned about the Aryan Brotherhood’s alleged involvement:

First, McLelland wasn’t exaggerating about the “dents.” In July 2012, his office won a life sentence for an Aryan Brotherhood enforcer over a shoot-out with a wayward member in Terrell, Texas. The bigger hit to the gang, though, was an indictment unsealed in November against 34 alleged Aryan Brotherhood members, including four bosses. The multi-agency task force responsible for the indictment was based in Houston, but the Kaufman County D.A.’s office was among those credited for the “devastating blow.”

In December, the Texas Department of Public Safety issued a statewide warning that the Aryan Brotherhood might be “planning retaliation against law enforcement officials” who participated in the Houston case, adding that “high-ranking members” were “involved in issuing orders to inflict ‘mass casualties or death’ to law enforcement officials who were involved in cases where Aryan Brotherhood of Texas are facing life sentences or the death penalty.” Hasse was not personally involved in the case, but he was gunned down on the same day two of the 34 Aryan Brotherhood members pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges in Dallas.

The FBI and Kaufman County officials are also looking for a connection to the March 19 shooting of Colorado prisons director Tom Clements. Clements, like the McLellands, was shot inside his home. The suspect, Evan S. Ebel, was killed in nearby Decatur, Texas, on March 21 in a high-speed chase and shoot-out in which he used the same weapon used to kill Clements. Ebel was a member of the Colorado white supremacist prison gang 211 Crew.

The case against the Aryan Brotherhood is mostly circumstantial so far — at least as far as we know. And some outsiders point to other possible culprits. Oliver “Buck” Revell, the former head of the FBI’s Dallas office, suggests that methamphetamine traffickers could be responsible. “It’s been known for quite some time that Kaufman County has a huge problem in the drug area, and methamphetamine in particular,” he tells The Dallas Morning News. “This bears the marks of an organized criminal enterprise, and I think the bottom of it is going to be methamphetamine.”

“It could be local meth lab people down there in Kaufman County, it could be Mexican cartel, it could be the Aryan Brotherhood,” adds former Dallas chief public defender Brad Lollar, who hired McLelland to work in his office in 2006. “Or it could just be someone with a personal grudge” tied to one of the mentally ill defendants he represented in Dallas. These theories aren’t entirely mutually exclusive, since both the Aryan Brotherhood and Mexican cartels are involved in the meth trade.

If McLelland was killed by the Aryan Brotherhood, though, at least this time the assailants left some clues: The house was reportedly littered with shells from a .233 caliber rifle. The gunmen in the Hasse shooting left no casings behind. There may also be surveillance video from McLelland’s house. But some attorneys worry about a “chilling effect” such high-profile killings will have on the law enforcement profession.

Glenn McGovern at the Santa Clara County, Calif., D.A.’s office says that attacks on prosecutors, judges, and senior law officials have jumped sharply in the past three years, even if they’re still rare. McLelland himself couldn’t understand Hasse’s murder, calling it “such an anomaly.”

This doesn’t happen. The bad guys, they don’t hate the prosecutors. They know that we’re doing our job just like they are. It’s so completely out of the ordinary and so strange that people are having a hard time getting their head around it because this is not business as usual. [Mike McLelland, via The Dallas Morning News]

U.S. Politics

Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Pulls Ad That Blames Women For Getting Date-Raped

What the hell is wrong with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board?  Why did they publish that ridiculous ad in the first place?

Think Progress

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board provoked an enormous backlash by airing ads that tell women who are date-raped that they have only themselves and their friends to blame. The ad was part of a $600,000 campaign aimed at curbing excessive drinking.

After hearing from hundreds of rape victims that the ads were extremely upsetting, even traumatizing, the board has decided to pull them:

The ads send the message that women are not only at fault for getting themselves raped—a societal bias reflected in and re-enforced by too many court decisions—it’s your fault if your friend gets raped, too.

Last night, after receiving hundreds of phone calls and hundreds of email complaints, the PLCB has yanked the ads.

“We feel very strong, and still do, that when we entered the initial discussion about doing a campaign like this it was important to bring the most difficult conversations about over-consumption of alcohol to the forefront and all of the dangers associated with it—date rape being one of these things,” says PLCB spokesperson Stacey Witalec.

“That being said, due to the number of concerns that we heard about that specific ad, and the victims especially that we heard from talking about how the image … made them feel victimized all over again, we felt it was prudent to pull it.”

The board undoubtedly had good intentions when they launched their campaign, but there are better ways to go about it. As Jezebel pointed out, “Shock tactics aren’t necessary to increase awareness of the possibility of rape. We know what can happen after a night of drinking.”

And their blame-the-victim message reinforced the difficulty prosecuting rapists in the state. It’s easier to get away with sexual assault in Pennsylvania than anywhere else in the country because it’s the only state that doesn’t allow expert testimony in rape cases. Because experts aren’t allowed to educate jurors about the behaviors of sexual assault victims and assailants, “jurors are left making judgments based on the biases perpetuated in the PLCB ad.”

“We’ve had several cases where juries have acquitted serial rapists because they felt the victims’ behavior after the assault was counterintuitive,” says Deborah Harley, chief of the Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit of the District Attorney’s Office.

Related articles

NYPD Police Abuse · NYPD v. Wall Street protesters

Lawyer wants ‘psycho’ NYPD cop charged for punching protester

Are NYPD supervisors and managers in white shirts worse than their patrolmen?

The Raw Story

The attorney for an Occupy Wall Street protester who was allegedly punched by New York City Police Department Deputy Inspector Johnny Cardona last month is calling on the district attorney to charge the officer like any other civilian suspect.

Civil rights attorney Ron Kuby and his client, Felix Rivera-Pitre, met with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office Monday to discuss video tape that appears to show Cardona’s violent actions.

“It was a careful questioning,” Kuby told Raw Story Tuesday. “The sort of very meticulous kind of questioning that you would expect from somebody doing an investigation. … I’ve seen this act before. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and, historically, they have always acted like they are taking it seriously, but they seldom do.”

“The usual process that I’ve seen over and over and over again is that they conduct a very long, very thorough investigation. They present it to a grand jury. It’s a secret proceeding. It’s a black box of law. And then the district attorney announces that the grand jury has failed to indict. … It provides the perfect political cover for timorous prosecutors.”

Instead of complicating the case with the grand jury process, Kuby and Rivera-Pitre are asking the DA to file a misdemeanor complaint against Cardona just like they would with any other assault suspect.

“They do this every day against other people,” Kuby explained. “When some angry white guy, instead of an angry white shirt, goes off and slugs someone in the street and its captured on video, he’s charged with a third-degree assault. … We just want [Cardona] treated like everybody else. And since the DA’s office can do that in an hour and they have not done that, it makes me even more suspicious than I am ordinarily.”

“I think they do recognize that Cardona, at least, is a genuinely dangerous individual who needs to be separated from his badge and his gun.”

Kuby has documented at least three alleged assaults by Cardona against protesters in the last month alone. It wasn’t immediately clear if he had a previous history of violence.

“Even by any standard, even Commissioner Kelly’s standards, that’s worrisome,” Kuby pointed out. “[Officer Anthony] Bologna is just a dick and always has been. And he’s one of these old school cops who does not expect pretty young women to be disrespecting him. When they do, he pepper sprays them or probably as a younger man, would slap them around. He’s just a dick. I understand that but Cardona seems like a bit of a psycho.”

“I’ve got him on video tape throwing the identical punch at another protester. It’s eerie.”

Watch this video from NY1, broadcast Oct. 31, 2011 here…

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U.S. Politics

Topeka, Kansas City Council Considers Decriminalizing Domestic Violence To Save Money

If this is true, it’s absurd! It appears that we’ve been forced to turn the  clock backwards on a number of social issues, all in the guise of saving a few bucks.   I think it’s beyond absurd…

Think Progress

Faced with their worst budget crises since the Great Depression, states and cities have resorted to increasingly desperate measures to cut costs. State and local governments have laid off teachers, slashed Medicaid funding, and even started unpaving roads and turning off streetlights.

But perhaps the most shocking idea to save money is being debated right now by the City Council of Topeka, Kansas. The city could repeal an ordinance banning domestic violence because some say the cost of prosecuting those cases is just too high:

Last night, in between approving city expenditures and other routine agenda items, the Topeka, Kansas City Council debated one rather controversial one: decriminalizing domestic violence.

Here’s what happened: Last month, the Shawnee County District Attorney’s office, facing a 10% budget cut, announced that the county would no longer be prosecuting misdemeanors, including domestic violence cases, at the county level. Finding those cases suddenly dumped on the city and lacking resources of their own, the Topeka City Council is now considering repealing the part of the city code that bans domestic battery. […]

Since the county stopped prosecuting the crimes on September 8th, it has turned back 30 domestic violence cases. Sixteen people have been arrested for misdemeanor domestic battery and then released from the county jail after charges weren’t filed. “Letting abusive partners out of jail with no consequences puts victims in incredibly dangerous positions,” said Becky Dickinson of the YWCA. “The abuser will often become more violent in an attempt to regain control.”

The YMCA also said that some survivors were afraid for their safety if the dispute wasn’t resolved soon. Town leaders and the district attorney all agree that domestic abuse cases should be prosecuted — but no one would step up to foot the bill. The city council is expected to make its decision on decriminalizing domestic violence next week, but the back-and-forth over funding has already put battered women and their families at increased risk of harm.

Domestic violence is still at epidemic levels in the United States, and too few cases are prosecuted as it is. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in four women will be a victim of domestic violence. And domestic abuse is a crime that damages entire communities, not just women. Witnessing violence between one’s parents is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next: boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partner when they grow up.

And while not prosecuting domestic violence cases may seem to save money in the short term, it actually has staggering financial consequences. The health-related costs of domestic violenceexceeds $5.8 billion each year. Nearly $4.1 billion of that is for direct medical and mental health care services, and nearly $1.8 billion are for the indirect costs of lost productivity or wages. Victims lost almost 8 million days of paid work because of the violence.

It should go without saying, but apparently doesn’t, that preventing domestic abuse is essential to promoting communities’ economic and social well-being. That the Topeka City Council would even consider such action is a heartbreaking illustration of the consequences of austerity.

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