Tuesday, April 12, 2016

White privilege and prison reform

Chandra Bozelko, left (photo:
EMMA REYNOLDS news.com.au)

"Diary of a Prison Princess: Connecticut It Girl shares reality of life behind bars." July 24, 2015

Really incredible. This is an Aussie newspaper story about the white, privileged face of those seeking "prison reform," meaning "don't send ME or my friends to prison."

Chandra Bozelko, a Princeton graduate from Connecticut's upper crust, brags in her blog about her dozen-plus felony convictions and a smaller number of misdemeanors. http://prison-diaries.com/just-the-faqs/

Obviously well-educated, she deflects any real discussion on how she got six years in prison in a state with one of the lower incarceration rates in the nation.

But she does blame ALL the lawyers her parents hired and were provided for her. She informs us she's suing them. Sounds like she hasn't forgotten how entitled she is.

Somehow SODDI (Some Other Dude Did It) on case after case of credit card fraud, theft, and most astounding, an incredibly ballsy attempt to intimidate jurors and then claim somehow the jurors called HER! Much of this can be verified by reading the numerous online appellate court decisions.

Apparently this runs in the family. Her lawyer, once a respected attorney, was disbarred for stealing half a million dollars from the trust fund for a mentally handicapped son of a dead client. Chandra issued a "news release" claiming her father...was the real victim.

There are pics of her with US Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, former USDOJ big shot, apparently promoting "Second Chance" programs. But wait, she says they don't go far enough! Repeat and violent felons should be easily able to wipe their records.

Having watched the devastation of embezzlers draining family businesses for their gambling or just to buy a new car every year to sociopaths who just like hurting people (and animals) this "author" represents the "not my fault" excuse for ANYTHING.

You gotta read it.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

"A chill wind blowing"

Over the last year there have been some major, and disturbing, changes in what passes for discussion of "criminal justice reform." Most recently it has come from the United States Congress, where both well- and ill-intentioned Senators and Congresspeople have little to no understanding of how the justice system works on the ground.

One of the tropes of popular culture is that people seek election to the office of District Attorney (although called a variety of titles, about 95% of chief local prosecutors in America are elected) so that they may vault to higher office. My story is pretty typical. Having spent almost all my 34 years as a lawyer as a prosecutor, the last 22 as an elected DA, I have never sought other political office. Of the 535 members in Congress, less than 10 ever held office as chief state prosecutors. In Oregon, NO district attorney has ever been elected Attorney General, Governor, or to Congress, and of the current 20 appellate and Supreme Court justices, none were ever District Attorneys. The last elected DA on the U.S. Supreme Court was Earl Warren, 50 years ago.

So why are members of the farther left joining with the far right to demand that we stop what they call "mass incarceration"? In no small part most of them have no clue what they are talking about, but receive their talking points and big bags of money from either left-wing oligarchs like George Soros (usually laundered through his Open Society Institute), or right-wing oligarchs like the Koch Brothers (laundered through their Freedom Forum).

It used to be a joke that a conservative was a liberal who had been mugged. The more recent line is that a conservative is a liberal whose friend did time for some white-collar crime. But both miss (and myth) the point.

The discussion over fair and effective criminal justice is not a classic "liberal/conservative" or Democratic/Republican issue. Most crime victims tend to be poor and disenfranchised. What goes unsaid is the wistful nostalgia for days when judges were free to grant probation to young men convicted of grave crimes because "They just made this one mistake" or "They come from a family that has done so much for our community."

But it's not fair to lay unfairly lenient sentencing on judges. In Oregon, like most states, there has been a 30-year turn away from "indeterminate" sentences that often told criminals (and victims, and the community) that the sentence was "5 years to life." Or the sentences were just a sham. In Oregon, prior to the voter passed Measure 11 in 1995, the average time spent serving "life" for murder was 8 years. Now it's 25. Still NOT a life sentence for the most dangerous demographic, males of all ethnicities ages 18 to 25.

Unfortunately, calls for "Why wasn't this guy in jail or prison?!" have taken on special poignancy here in Clatsop County. On February 5, an outstanding police officer and decent man, Seaside Police Sgt. Jason Goodding, was shot and murdered on duty by a man with 17 felony and 21 misdemeanor convictions.

In Oregon, the District Attorney is in charge of all death investigations. Here is the news conference I gave the morning of February 6, in Seaside:

And since the man who killed Sgt. Goodding was immediately thereafter shot and killed by a police officer, that investigation is particularly charged to the DA. With assistance from many outside Oregon State Police officers, we made sure there was a thorough investigation of the shooting death of Phillip Ferry. After about 10 days and aided by body cams worn by both the officer who died and the one who shot his killer, I "called" the shooting as justifiable on February 16. Here is a clip of that, followed by a KOIN6 news report.

In between my only two public discussions, the community laid Jason Goodding to rest. In my 22 years as DA, thankfully no other police officer in Clatsop County has been killed in the line of duty. There have been two other police shootings, both over 10 years ago. One was a tragic error by an out-of-county SWAT team training at Camp Rilea. The second was the shooting of a man who attacked police with a metal bat after Tasers and  bean bag rounds failed to slow him down.

Police shootings have been a major topic of discussion, not only by both Democratic candidates for president, but now also Republican candidates. More significantly, the President and his U.S. Attorney General for most of his two terms, Eric Holder, were extremely critical of police shootings. While some of those shootings were wrong, even criminal, both local and federal investigators found the most well-publicized, the one in Ferguson, Missouri, to be justified. But the automatic reaction from most politicians is to demonize police and accuse (as one major newspaper did) that "DAs and police were each other's secret Santas."

In the week preceding Sgt. Goodding's murder, more U.S. police officers were murdered in the line of duty than during any recent, similar time period. Yet neither the President, the U.S. Attorney General or the Oregon Attorney General thought this recent bloodbath needed mentioning.

Obama appointee James Comey, Director of the FBI, famously - and courageously - noted that, “The question that has been asked of me, is whether these kinds of things are changing police behavior all over the country,” Comey said during a speech at the University of Chicago Law School. “And the answer is, I don’t know. I don’t know whether this explains it entirely, but I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind blowing through American law enforcement over the last year. And that wind is surely changing behavior.”

The memorial for Sgt. Goodding drew over 1,000 police officers from as far away as New York. Over 600 non-uniformed people also packed the Seaside Convention Center. The memorial was live-streamed to several other venues and over the air. The speakers were all chosen by Sgt. Goodding's widow. One of the last speakers was our own beloved State Senator Betsy Johnson, who gave this remarkable eulogy, with the Governor and the Oregon AG sitting 15 feet away. By Oregon political standards this video has gone viral with almost 8,000 views. It's 6 minutes is well worth watching.

Phillip Ferry had THREE Assaulting Police Officer convictions and many other felonies, yet he still had an illegal gun; and in his 30-year felony career he spent less than 5 years in prison. But after reviewing all 8 of the convictions my office obtained on Ferry in the 3 years before his death, even the felonies were ineligible for judges to send him to prison, even with his record.

The reality in Oregon is that prison growth is a fraction of what was projected in the wake of Measure 11 or even 10 years ago. More than 75% of felons never go to prison. Seventy percent of those who do earn their way to prison are violent felons. Fewer than 7% are there for drug felonies; even selling heroin or meth rarely gets much, if any, prison time.
Nobody in my line of work believes you can "imprison your way out" of drug addiction. But when the values, particularly in the State Legislature are to financially reward local governments that DO NOT send felons to prison, something is very wrong.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Loopholes in domestic violence cases

Speaking out on loopholes in domestic violence cases. In Oregon a Municipal Court is NOT a court of record and the abuser/defendant gets a whole second trial if he doesn't like the result. Fortunately in Clatsop County (and most of Oregon) domestic violence cases are referred straight to the "court of record" - Circuit Court.

CBS News NFL domestic violence case shows system's flaws

Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy may have avoided domestic violence charges for the assault of his ex-girlfriend, Nicole Holder. But he has not been able to dodge public condemnation following the release of photos showing a badly bruised Holder.

The photos confirm what Holder told police on the night of May 12, 2014 -- that Hardy, then a Carolina Panthers player, had choked her and tossed her on a futon covered with firearms in his Charlotte apartment.

While the photos further fueled the debate about the NFL's domestic violence policy, the question remains as to why a North Carolina court dismissed Hardy's assault charges. A CBS News analysis reveals that a loophole in the state's domestic violence law is allowing many abusers to walk away scot-free.

Mike Sexton
Mike Sexton
"The laws themselves are archaic [in North Carolina]," said Mike Sexton, Domestic Violence Information and Education Specialist at Mecklenburg County Women's Commission. "Right now, if you were to drag your girlfriend or your wife down the street it would be a misdemeanor, but if you did that to your dog, it would be a felony."

Under North Carolina law, many domestic violence cases are tried as misdemeanors in district court as a means of saving time and money. These courts are "not of record," meaning a transcript of the testimony is not kept when defendants, like Hardy, plead their case to a judge without a jury.

Defendants who are found guilty in district court can challenge the decision in superior court where a form of appeal known as "trial de novo" essentially gives all defendants a second trial. Trial de novo sets the stage for a new trial, this time with a jury, as if no prior trial had been held. Similar legal practices exist in other states including Utah, New Mexico, Virginia and Colorado.

In July 2014, Hardy was found guilty by Mecklenburg County District Court Judge Becky Thorne Tin and sentenced to 18 months' probation for assaulting his ex-girlfriend and verbally communicating threats. But after appealing to superior court where trial de novo favored the NFL player, Hardy's case was dismissed due to the state's inability to get the accuser to testify again. Last month, his domestic violence record was expunged by a superior court judge.

"It's hard enough to get the victim to show up for one trial and doubly difficult to get them to show up for two," said Joshua Marquis, a spokesperson for the National District Attorneys Association and District Attorney in Astoria, Oregon. "As prosecutors, we are bitterly opposed to any procedure that gives the defendant two free bites of the apple and more importantly [one] that subjects victims, particularly domestic violence victims, to repeated examination. They endure enough trauma as it is."

Also complicating the prosecution of domestic violence cases is victim intimidation. Amber Leuken Barwick of North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys says too many victims file charges and then drop them out of fear or shame.

Ruth Glenn
Ruth Glenn
Ruth Glenn, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, described the current appeal process as not effective saying, "The appeal system for domestic violence cases is not justice or victim-centered" and is a "classic example of why victims are sometimes reluctant to come forward."

In some states like California, New York and North Carolina, prosecutors can continue to pursue charges even after a domestic violence victim chooses to drop them under what is called a "no-drop policy."

Ironically, even with such policies, some domestic violence cases cannot advance without a victim's testimony due to the 6th Amendment Confrontation Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which gives the defendant "the right to confront witnesses against him or her," explained Barwick.

Overcoming this obstacle causes many domestic violence cases such as Holder's to come to a halt.
"It's just a shame when a victim has the strength to testify in the first trial but it's basically rendered meaningless just to go through it again," said Teresa Garvey, Attorney Advisor with AEquitas: The Prosecutors' Resource on Violence Against Women.

The High Point police department, just 75 miles north of Mecklenburg County, is looking to change that and make sure cases are not wrongly dismissed.

In order to hold offenders accountable for their actions, Chief Marty Sumner is compiling criminal histories, which can lead to longer sentences and more prosecutions.

"Our entire response system is very much set up to take all the responsibility off the victim so that it is totally on the police and the state," said Sumner.

read it on the CBS News website