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Archive for April, 2013

4,900 drug cases may be overturned in Texas due to a lab tech who tainted evidence

courtesy http://www.texastribune.org/2013/04/05/commission-looks-misconduct-dps-worker/

drug testing lab

A report adopted on Friday by the Texas Forensic Science Commission concludes that the potential reversal of thousands of drug convictions by the Court of Criminal Appeals was due to the incompetence of a Department of Public Safety crime lab employee. Members of the commission said it’s unclear whether every conviction connected to the employee’s work has been scientifically compromised.

At a commission meeting on Friday, the members discussed whether their findings regarding a DPS crime lab worker who replaced the results of one test with another mean that all of the drug samples that passed through his hands are now compromised. They also found that interviews with colleagues supported the conclusion that the employee “struggled with corrections and an overall understanding of the chemistry, especially in difficult cases.”

The Court of Criminal Appeals has reversed more than 10 convictions due to the mistakes of the DPS Houston crime lab worker, Jonathan Salvador, who left the department last year. In the reversal of the conviction of Junius Sereal, from Galveston County, the judges wrote that all of the cases Salvador touched could be jeopardized.

“While there is evidence remaining that is available to retest in this case, that evidence was in the custody of the lab technician in question,” according to the judicial opinion. “This Court believes his actions are not reliable therefore custody was compromised, resulting in a due process violation.”

“This one analyst handled thousands of cases in the Houston area, and due to the breadth of the opinion, they may all be jeopardized,” the Texas District and County Attorneys Association wrote in a letter to its members.

But Sarah Kerrigan, a member of the commission and the chairwoman of the forensic science department at Sam Houston State University, said “there aren’t systematic issues we’re aware of with property control,” and that in some of the cases, there may be other drug evidence left that was uncorrupted by Salvador.

Jeff Blackburn, a lawyer with the Innocence Project of Texas, told the commission that the court is applying the same opinion to all of the cases involving Salvador simply as a practical matter. The Court of Criminal Appeals, he said, cannot possibly look at every single case connected to Salvador’s testing along with their normal work and so they are indicating that they will always rule in favor of the defendant in these cases. “I think it’s the numbers and judicial economy,” he said.

Part of the problem, Blackburn added, is that Texas has no centralized public defender system, so each county handles the problematic convictions differently. “We have to go piecemeal,” he said, “but we’re doing the best with what we’ve got.”

Salvador, who could not be reached for comment, was suspended from his duties as a forensic scientist with DPS in February 2012, when the department discovered the falsification of results in a controlled substance test. Salvador had worked on 4,900 drug cases in 30 counties since he took the job in 2006, DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said, adding that a Harris County grand jury chose not to indict Salvador.

After the discovery, Vinger said, “the department implemented more stringent quality control measures to help prevent similar issues in the future.”

In its report, the commission found that other workers in the lab described Salvador as quick to correct his mistakes when they were pointed out. His work, they found, was “’right on the edge of acceptability,” but his supervisors “made good faith efforts to help Salvador improve” because his “attitude was always so positive.”

“Salvador’s easygoing and collegial demeanor contributed to management’s reluctance to more aggressively discipline or dismiss him” before the incident where he replaced the results of one test with another, which the commission called “professional misconduct.”

Mom claimed her son had cancer to collect donations, police say

Courtesy of: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/04/26/mom-convinced-son-had-cancer-to-get-donations-police-say/?test=latestnews

Jail-Cell

Police say a New Jersey mother falsely claimed her son had cancer in a months-long scheme to collect donations from her friends.

MyFoxPhilly.com reports that 35-year-old Susan Stillwaggon faces charges of theft by deception, forgery and child endangerment for her role in the alleged scheme.

Police tell the station Stillwaggon had convinced her son he was sick. More than $1,000 was collected as part of the alleged hoax, which began six months ago, the station reported.

The Courier Post reports that investigators began looking into the mother’s story after receiving an anonymous tip. Numerous fundraising events were held in the son’s name, according to the report.

Stillwaggon’s mother tells MyFoxPhilly.com her daughter is sick and is currently hospitalized.

 

Hot wings: $10,000 worth of chicken and other meat stolen, police say

Courtesy of: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/25/17908443-hot-wings-10000-worth-of-chicken-and-other-meat-stolen-police-say?lite=

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An employee of a meat and poultry company has been arrested, accused of stealing $10,000 worth of chicken wings and other meat from the company.

The larceny happened at County Distributors in South Windsor, Conn., in February 2012, according to police.

The owner of the business reviewed surveillance footage from his warehouse and noted that an employee, identified as Boris Delisser, 43, of Bloomfield, Conn., had taken products from the warehouse and loaded them into a vehicle, all while there was no sales transaction, according to police.

When police investigated, they found that Delisser had done this on several occasions and the total loss is estimated in excess of $10,000 worth of chicken wings and meat, according to police.

More news from NBCConnecticut.com

Police obtained a warrant charging Delisser with larceny in the first degree, which was served on Tuesday.

He was released on a $10,000 surety bond and is scheduled to appear at Manchester Superior Court on May 2.

Woman unknowingly takes 30 pounds of pot across U.S.-Mexico border

Courtesy of: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/woman-unknowingly-takes-30-pounds-pot-across-u-144432116.htmlpotpackage

This is awkward. A woman who lives in Mexico and works in San Diego called the cops on herself when she apparently unknowingly transported 30 pounds of marijuana across the border.

According to a report by NBC New York, the unnamed 33-year-old drove her car to work Friday morning, arrived early and was sitting in her car in a parking lot around 4 a.m. when two unidentified men approached her car and began removing packages from underneath it.

The driver surprised the men, who got in their car and drove off. She called the police, who discovered 30 pounds of pot divided into six packages attached by heavy-duty magnets to the undercarriage of the vehicle.

Who put the drugs there—the woman said it wasn’t her—remains a mystery. Police tell NBC New York that no arrests have been made.

Officials want to remind people who regularly cross the border to check their car—as some people become targets by drug cartels as unwitting mules in the narcotics business.

Regular border travelers may be a boon to drug smugglers. Last year, CNN reported a similar story of a
regular commuter from his home in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, to the University of Texas at El Paso.

Even though the man, who goes under a fake name to protect his identity, said he was targeted and ferried drugs without his knowledge, he was sentenced to six months in prison.

Samurai sword-wielding Mormon bishop comes to aid of woman being attacked

Courtesy of: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/04/23/samurai-sword-wielding-mormon-bishop-comes-to-aid-woman-being-attacked/?intcmp=trending

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A Samurai sword-wielding Mormon bishop helped a neighbor woman escape a Tuesday morning attack by a man who had been stalking her.

Kent Hendrix woke up Tuesday to his teenage son pounding on his bedroom door and telling him somebody was being mugged in front of their house. The 47-year-old father of six rushed out the door and grabbed the weapon closest to him — a 29-inch high carbon steel Samurai sword.

SUMMARY

Hendrix, a bishop in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said it was the first time in 30 years of practicing martial arts that he’s used the sword. He didn’t swing it at the man, only showing him he had it.

He came upon what he describes as a melee between a woman and a man. His son stayed inside to call 911 while he approached the man along with other neighbors who came to help. The martial arts instructor didn’t hesitate in drawing the sword and yelling at him to get on the ground.

‘He was staring down 29 inches of razor’

– Kent Hendrix

“His eyes got as big as saucers and he kind of gasped and jumped back,” Hendrix said by phone Tuesday afternoon. “As he was coming through the fence, this is where I drew down on him and told him to get down on the ground,” Hendrix told Fox13Now.com. He continued, “he was staring down 29 inches of razor.”

The man ran down the street with the barefoot Hendrix and others in pursuit. Hendrix said he couldn’t catch the man before he fled in his car, but he picked up ChapStick that the man dropped and memorized his license plate.

“I yelled at him, `I’ve got your DNA and I’ve got your license plate: You are so done,”‘ Hendrix said.

The suspect, 37-year-old Grant Eggersten, turned himself in to police an hour later, said Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal. He was booked on charges of robbery, attempted burglary, trespassing and violation of a stalking injunction.

Hendrix, a pharmaceutical statistician, was one of several neighbors who came to the woman’s aid after she began yelling for help, Hoyal said.

The incident began just after 7 a.m. when the 35-year-old woman came out of her front door, Hoyal said. Eggersten was hiding behind her carport and attacked her, knocking her to the ground, Hoyal said.

He took her keys and tried to open the door into her house, Hoyal said. That’s when the woman ran down the street calling for help.

The woman did the right thing by fighting back and calling for help, Hoyal said. She suffered minor injuries.

Hendrix, a bishop in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said it was the first time in 30 years of practicing martial arts that he’s used the sword. He didn’t swing it at the man, only showing him he had it.

He said he’s proud of his 14-year-old son for alerting him and quickly calling 911. He said the family is still abuzz about the events.

“That kind of thing doesn’t happen every day,” Hendrix said. “Our neighborhood is a pretty quiet place.”

A fourth-degree black belt in the Kishindo form of martial arts, Hendrix owns a collection of swords and weapons that he trains with, said his wife, Suzanne Hendrix. He has trained with the sword he used Tuesday for 20 years and keeps it by his bed.

“Some people have bats they go to,” said Hendrix. “I have my sword.”

All Hail the Power of Nicotine

courtesy http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20130422/NEWS/304230024/Police-use-cigarettes-to-lure-standoff-suspect-out-of-house

cigs

A pack of cigarettes.

That’s all it took to lure Michael Wayne Reed out of his east side home early this morning during a standoff with Des Moines police that stretched over 31 hours.

Police on scene of the standoff wanted an end to the ordeal but they were reluctant to risk officer safety by going into the house, Des Moines Police Chief Judy Bradshaw told the Des Moines Register today.

Reed had fired on officers at the scene early in the standoff and had threatened he would shoot anyone who tried to enter the house, located in the 3100 block of Wright Street, officials said.

At about 6:30 p.m. Sunday, more than 24 hours after the standoff began, Reed asked for a pack of cigarettes. That’s when commanders on scene began to hatch a plan to lure the 53-year-old out of the house, Bradshaw said.

“We knew that nicotine addiction would work against him,” Bradshaw told The Register. “And it did. He took the bait and came out.”

Commanders approved the plan’s execution shortly before midnight. SWAT team members dressed in all black crept to the base of the porch while snipers stayed trained on the house.

Waiting until nightfall was key to the operation, Des Moines police Sgt. Jason Halifax said. Hours earlier, officers had shot out two street lights closest to the house, where Reed lives with his mother.

Reed stepped onto the porch to retrieve the cigarettes and was disabled by a stun gun. He was taken into custody at 12:11 a.m. today. He was taken to Broadlawns Medical Center for evaluation, as is procedure with all suspects who are shot with a stun gun. After he was released from the hospital this morning, he was transported to the Polk County Jail.

Reed was charged with two counts of intimidation with a dangerous weapon. He also had a warrant for first-degree harassment and remains in the Polk County Jail with no bond.

No shots were fired during the arrest.

“This is as good as it gets in these situations,” Bradshaw said. “The officers weren’t injured, neighbors weren’t injured, he wasn’t injured. It played out exactly according to plan.”

In 2008, the Register reported Reed spent tens of thousands of dollars on props, costumes and plastic surgery while acting as an Elvis impersonator. Reed goes by the stage name Micky King.

Halifax said officials did not want the standoff to stretch long into Monday.

“Later today we’re going to have kids going to school. We’re going to have people going to work,” Halifax said early Monday morning. “We chose to do it this evening because the darkness is on our side in the incident… and with the negotiations we were comfortable coaxing him out.”

The standoff began around 5 p.m. Saturday when an officer responded to a report of what police call a half domestic – a domestic situation where one party has already left – and a property dispute. A neighbor of Reed’s told The Register that Reed’s girlfriend had recently broken up with him and Reed was trying to retrieve some of his belongings from her.

Des Moines police have responded to 246 domestic trips in the past seven days and 74 of those were either half-domestics or property disputes. “They are very, very common,” Halifax said.

The officer talked to Reed on the home’s back porch, with Reed remaining inside the house. That officer was still sitting in his car completing a report when someone called dispatch to report Reed may be suicidal and possibly armed.

More officers responded, and Reed allegedly fired at least one shot at officers and the stand-off began. Reed later told investigators an officer had fired at him first. Des Moines police disputed that claim.

As the hours passed, and as Reed became increasingly agitated, officers on scene struggled to end the ongoing incident without any injuries or deaths, officials said.

“You want to make them uncomfortable so they don’t want to continue the stand-off posture,” Halifax said.

They considered options like cutting off power or water, but the only way to cut either off to the individual house would have involved officers and technicians getting too close to the house. A wider shutdown could have affect blocks, Halifax said.

Monday morning, less than eight hours after the situation ended, police remained at the home but the east side neighborhood began to return to normal.

Four police cars, a mobile command center and a crime scene unit van still occupied most of the block in front of the house and yellow crime scene tape stretched across the front yard. The barricades blocking the street had been moved to the side and neighbors who evacuated the area started to return to their homes.

Adam Kehrwald was returning to his house on the corner of Wright and Tiffin streets just before 8 a.m.

He said he was home with his wife and son when they heard a series of shots.

“That’s when we knew something was up,” he said. “We took cover in the basement.”

The family left during the voluntary evacuation but Kehrwald, 34, said he didn’t expect the ordeal to last so long.

“I certainly didn’t,” he said. “But I’m glad it’s over and nobody was hurt.”

The neighborhood is normally quiet, Halifax said. A nearby bar draws a typical variety of calls but trips to the surrounding houses are rare.

“It’s a typical east side neighborhood,” Halifax said. “It’s pretty quiet.”

The only call to Reed’s home in the past six months was Saturday’s property dispute.

Halifax said a shotgun was confiscated from the house but investigators were searching for possible additional weapons.

The house was stacked to the ceiling with items, leaving just narrow paths through rooms, so it was a slow process, he said.

Bradshaw was on scene Sunday evening, around the time Reed requested cigarettes, she said.

“I’m really pleased with the outcome,” she said. “This was a really dangerous situation. An individual had already fired a shotgun and was threatening officers. These are the most volatile situations a police department can face.”

 

Burgler calls police mid-burglary only to find himself arrested

courtesy http://metro.co.uk/2013/04/22/scared-burglar-arrested-when-he-calls-police-after-hearing-cat-3661645/?

burgler

A scaredy-cat burglar was arrested after he became frightened when he heard a strange noise and rang police from under a bed.

Marius Ionescu, 31, mistook the family cat for another burglar in the house in Benesti, Romania, causing him to head for cover and wait for the authorities to come and rescue him.

When the police turned up they did not discover anyone else in the house except for the burglar himself and promptly arrested him.

‘The noise he heard was probably just the family cat,’ said police spokesperson Mihaela Straub.

‘He already has a criminal record for similar break-ins, and given his nervous disposition, he probably should look for another job.

‘He’s likely to have a lot of time inside jail to consider things.’

We’re not sure what other occupations Mr Ionescu could take up but it’s probably a good idea if he avoids anything to do with cats.

Texas District Attorney Caught Drunk Driving

courtesy http://news.sky.com/story/1080946/texas-district-attorney-caught-drunk-driving

A District Attorney in Texas has been sentenced to 45 days in jail after being caught drunk-driving.

Rosemary Lehmberg, who is in charge of prosecuting in Travis County, was caught on video in a police station obstructing officers as they attempted to process her arrest.

The video, which was taken by jailers for evidence purposes, shows the 63-year-old slurring her speech and behaving erratically.

She was filmed kicking her cell door and shouting at officers.

She had been arrested earlier after being seen driving dangerously, with an open bottle of vodka found in her car.

The lawyer is considered one of the most powerful district attorneys in the US state of Texas.

She also was also filmed asking officers to “call Greg”, referring to Travis County Sherriff Greg Hamilton.

At one point, when a female police officer tells Lehmberg she has been arrested for driving while intoxicated, the DA says: “That’s y’all’s (your) problem, not mine.”

At another point, as officers are trying to remove her jewellery, she says: “Y’all are gonna be in jail, not me.”

Officers who looked after her in custody accused her of being uncooperative and aggressive, saying they were forced to restrain her with handcuffs and leg irons.

She was also forced to wear a “spit mask”, a white mask used on prisoners who attempt to spit on jailers, which officers said was for her own protection.

Police found the DA’s blood alcohol level was nearly three times over the legal limit.

At a court hearing, Lehmberg was fined $4,000 (£2,600) and banned from driving for 180 days after pleading guilty.

Many people in Texas have called for her resignation, but so far Lehmberg has refused to quit.

The position of District Attorney in America is a political one, with lawyers elected by the public to the position of public prosecutor.

Dad of West Virginia boy arrested over NRA shirt says he’ll fight punishment

Courtesy of: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/04/23/dad-west-virginia-boy-arrested-over-nra-shirt-says-hell-fight-punishment/?intcmp=HPBucket

NRA

A West Virginia teenager who was arrested and suspended from school after he refused to remove an NRA T-shirt is back in class.

Fourteen-year-old Jared Marcum of Logan returned to Logan Middle School on Monday after serving a one-day suspension.

His father, Allen Lardieri, told 13 News that the situation was exaggerated and said, “I don’t see how anybody would have an issue with a hunting rifle and NRA put on a T-shirt, especially when policy doesn’t forbid it.”

The school district’s dress code prohibits any profanity, violence, discriminatory messages, but the report noted that gun images are not on the list.

“I will go to the ends of the earth, I will call people, I will write letters, I will do everything in the legal realm to make sure this does not happen again,” Lardieri said, according to the report.

Logan County Schools Superintendent Wilma Zigmond didn’t immediately return a telephone message Monday.

The teen’s lawyer, Ben White, says school administrators maintain that Marcum disrupted the educational process. He says Marcum was exercising his right to free speech and wasn’t disruptive.

Logan police arrested Marcum at the school last Thursday after he refused a teacher’s order to remove the shirt. White says prosecutors are reviewing the case to determine whether to file charges.

Marcum has said that he was arrested on charges of disrupting an educational process and obstructing an officer, though White said Monday that the Logan County prosecutor’s office is reviewing the case to decide whether to proceed.

Marcum wore the same shirt to school Monday. It displays the NRA logo and a hunting rifle.

Other students across Logan County wore similar shirts, which display the NRA logo and a hunting rifle, to school in a show of support for 14-year-old Jared Marcum, said his lawyer Ben White.

Logan County Schools Superintendent Wilma Zigmond didn’t immediately return a telephone message.

Police seek Pennsylvania boy, 15, in ‘Cain and Abel’ slash attack

Courtesy of: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/04/22/pennsylvania-boy-15-reportedly-sought-in-cain-and-abel-slash-attack/?test=latestnews

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A 15-year-old Pennsylvania boy is on the run and his 17-year-old brother reportedly remains in serious condition after a “Cain and Abel” slash attack, police said.

Upper Darby Police Superintendent  Michael Chitwood told the Philadelphia Daily News that the brothers were alone in their house on St. Laurence Road Saturday afternoon when they began fighting about money the older brother allegedly owed to his younger brother.

Chitwood said the younger teen at one point retrieved a butcher knife and began swinging it at his brother, saying he was going to kill him. The older boy put up his left arm in defense and almost lost his hand. He then put up his right arm and the 15-year-old caused a significant gash to that as well, Chitwood said.

The unidentified 17-year-old was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where he remained in serious condition Sunday, police said. His brother, identified by police as Tyree Wilson, had not been apprehended as of Sunday afternoon. Chitwood said Wilson would be charged as an adult with aggravated assault and related offensives.

“He’s lucky he didn’t kill him. If the kid didn’t defensively put the block up, he would have killed him,” Chitwood told the newspaper. “The tragedy is that here’s two brothers, and now one’s almost dead and the other is wanted over something stupid.”