Tag Archives: civil liberties

9 Month Old Baby Arrested and Put on Trial

20140404-the-independent-9-month-old-baby-arrested

(Source: “Nine-month-old boy charged with attempted murder in Pakistan granted bail by judge,” The Independent, 4 April 2014)

The accused Muhammad Mosa Khan, released released on bail, due back in court on 12 April 2014…

* * *

A nine-month-old boy charged with planning a murder, threatening police and interfering with state affairs in Pakistan has been granted bail after appearing in court this week.

Toddler Muhammad Mosa Khan was booked in February along with 30 other people, including a number of members of his family, after stones were allegedly thrown at police and energy officials during raids on homes in Lahore. Residents had been accused of not paying for electricity.

Apparently deciding that the nine month old was capable of – and had – taken part in the alleged stone throwing, Sub-Inspector Kashif Ahmed decided to arrest the child.

What followed were farcical scenes in which the toddler was fingerprinted and made to sit on his grandfather’s lap in court, drinking his bottle.

The judge quickly granted bail for the child, along with the other people accused in the case.  Baby Muhammad is however currently expected back in court on 12 April – although the judge apparently noted the absurd nature of the charge, he does not have the powers to dismiss the case against him.

The toddlers grandfather, Mohammad Yaseen told Reuters: “He was booked under Section 326 and was presented before a court. He doesn’t even know how to pick up his milk bottle properly. How can he stone the police?”

Sub-Inspector Ahmed has reportedly been since suspended as a result of making the arrest and Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif said stern action will be taken against the police officials who registered the case.

The age of criminal responsibility in Pakistan is supposed to be 12-years-old.

Advertisements

Family calls Ankeny police raid excessive

(Source: “Family calls Ankeny police raid excessive,” Des Moines Register, 4 February 2014, by Grant Rodgers and Jens Manuel Krogstad)

Justin Ross was in the bathroom next to his bedroom when a squad of Ankeny police officers rammed through a side door of his home.

It was just before 10:20 a.m. Thursday, and the officers — wearing body armor and carrying rifles — used a battering ram to enter the house on the east side of Des Moines. According to a search warrant, they were looking for cellphones, a television, other electronics and clothes they say might have been purchased with stolen credit cards.

“I want to know why they didn’t just knock, why they didn’t communicate with anybody outside of taking a battering ram to the door,” Ross, 24, said. “I’ve never been anything but cooperative so they had no reason to believe anybody was going to resist … If they’d have just knocked and said, ‘Hey, can I search,’ we would have let them.”

Critics say the search, which is gaining national attention, was an excessive, military-style raid for a credit card theft case. Ankeny police are defending the raid, saying they needed to use that approach to protect officers’ safety.

Ankeny police Capt. Makai Echer said officers knew at least one person in the house had a permit to carry a firearm. She said the department isn’t currently investigating how officers handled the search, nor does the department have a written policy for executing warrants.

“Every warrant that we do is based on information we have about the subjects in the residence we’re entering,” she said.

No one had been charged by Tuesday with crimes stemming from the credit card theft, but Echer said police have requested arrest warrants after finding items purchased illegally. She would not say how many warrants were requested, for what specific charges or what items police believe were purchased with the cards.

Radley Balko, a journalist who blogged about the incident on WashingtonPost.com, said the type of force used by Ankeny police is on the rise nationally.

“I think there is cause for great concern when it comes to the idea of state and local governments using more and more force for increasingly petty crimes,” said Balko, the author of “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces.”

At least two doors kicked open by police were damaged, as well as a side door that police used a battering ram to open, said Ross, who lives at the east Des Moines house.

He and three others were in the house in the 2100 block of East 41st Street, where he lives with his mother, when the officers arrived. Ross said he originally thought people were in the house fighting.

Ross said he had his 9mm handgun with him and took it out, but quickly holstered it when he heard someone call out “police.”

Ross said he handed the weapon to an officer who entered the bathroom and was handcuffed as police began their search.

Experts question if tactic was necessary

The search has sparked debate over whether the show of force was necessary or violated civil liberties.

A search warrant given to Ross indicates officers were looking for a variety of electronic devices and clothes. It does not detail what led officers to the east-side home or its occupants; such information is regularly provided when warrants are filed in Polk County District Court.

Drake University law professor Mark Kende, who watched video of the incident, questioned whether a group of armed officers was necessary and “professional” for a simple credit card theft case. Bringing so many firearms into the house could have caused more danger unless officers believed the people inside would be combative, he said.

“As a matter of common sense, it’s really bad policy, even though we expect police officers to take extra precautions to protect themselves,“ Kende said. “To come in with that much firepower and in that particular way is just an invitation to a terrible, tragic accident, which fortunately didn’t occur in what appears to be a credit card case.”

Credit card fraud cases typically involve a detective or two knocking on the door, said police consultant and former Des Moines Police Chief William Moulder.

However, the number of officers involved in last week’s incident and a quick entry with a battering ram suggests Ankeny police believed the team was searching a dangerous home, he said.

“What I observed is a high-risk entry plan that’s usually associated with knowing there are armed and dangerous people on the inside,” Moulder said. “None of us know — outside of the Ankeny police — what information they had going in.”

Two arrested on unrelated warrants

Two of the people in the house, Richard Forstier Adair, 35, and Miranda Nikol Scigliano, 27, were arrested on unrelated warrants, Ross said.

Adair faces charges of narcotics possession with intent to deliver, while Scigliano was charged with a probation violation. The couple has lived at the house for about a month.

Ross said he and his mother took the couple in but did not know about the outstanding warrants.

As police entered the house, one officer tore out one of the security cameras Ross installed to monitor the property. He said they had cameras because he and his mother had trouble with car burglaries.

In the basement, Ross said, an officer tried to cover another camera with blankets.

He questioned why police didn’t want to be taped.

Covering or disabling cameras is standard procedure for officers executing a search warrant or raid to ensure people inside can’t monitor approaching officers, Moulder said.

Ross, who has a clean criminal record except for traffic violations, said that he feels lucky that he realized the commotion was coming from police officers and put down his gun before the door was opened.

He said he also gets nervous when he hears the doorbell ring or a knock now.

“Every time somebody knocks on the door, every time somebody’s here, I have to wonder, ‘Are they coming back?’” he said. “Have they found a reason they want to arrest me?”

Troubling new details about the violent police raid in Iowa

(Source: “Troubling new details about the violent police raid in Iowa,” Washington Post, 5 February 2014, by Radley Balko)

The Des Moines Register has the latest on that volatile police raid that I wrote about yesterday. The raid was apparently for suspected credit card fraud. Ankeny Police Department officials are now speaking out. But I’m not sure they’re helping their cause:

Ankeny police are defending the raid, saying they needed to use that approach to protect officers’ safety.

Ankeny police Capt. Makai Echer said officers knew at least one person in the house had a permit to carry a firearm. She said the department isn’t currently investigating how officers handled the search, nor does the department have a written policy for executing warrants.

So they see nothing wrong with how the raid was handled, and the department has no stated policy for executing warrants. All of that is troubling enough. (The lack of a written policy also suggests a lack of training.) As is the “officer safety” justification, as if that in itself trumps the rights of the people inside the house.

But citing the fact that one of the occupants in the house — Justin Ross — had applied and was approved for a gun permit  is probably most disturbing of all. First, hardened criminals who are a threat to kill cops tend not to be the sort of people who bother with permits, or to register their firearms with the government. I don’t think that point needs more elaboration.

Second, Ross was not one of the suspects for whom the police were looking. It seems highly, highly unlikely that had the police knocked on the door, announced themselves and waited for someone to answer it, a law-abiding citizen like Justin Ross would be a threat to suddenly decide to kill some cops. But it’s much more likely that Justin Ross might feel the need to defend himself upon hearing unidentified parties break down two doors, followed by the sight of several armed men in his home. Indeed, that’s very nearly what happened.

Finally, think of the implications if this were the policy everywhere. It would mean that if you’re a gun owner, the police could cite that fact in and of itself as justification for them to violently tear down your door, rush your house with guns and point those guns at your family — even if their warrant is for a nonviolent crime, even if it’s for a white collar crime, even if you’ve dutifully registered your gun with the government. In fact, given that Ross’s permit is how the police knew he was armed in the first place, especially if you’ve dutifully registered your guns with the government. If I were a gun owner in Des Moines, I’d be asking some questions.

Aside from the gun issue, the paper also asked William Moulder, Ankeny’s police chief, about how the officers dealt with the family’s security cameras:

Covering or disabling cameras is standard procedure for officers executing a search warrant or raid to ensure people inside can’t monitor approaching officers, Moulder said.

I don’t know that this is true. It might be reasonable to cover an outside camera as they approach if they had a no-knock warrant. But this wasn’t a no-knock raid. They had a knock-and-announce warrant. The entire point of a knock-and-announce warrant, at least in theory, is to give the occupants of the home the opportunity to answer the door peacefully, thus avoiding damage to their property and violence to their persons. (As I pointed out in the previous post, in many jurisdictions the knock and announcement have become perfunctory, but at least we’re supposed to have that protection.)

Even conceding the point, I’m not sure how it justifies ripping a camera from the wall, or covering a camera once they’ve already broken into the house. That suggests more that they didn’t want an independent account of how the raid was conducted. And with good reason.

CORRECTION: The police cited Ross’ permit to carry a gun, not to won one. So the language in my post about him registering his gun with the government is technically incorrect. But the general point still stands. It was Ross’s decision to get a government-issue permit that the police say justified the raid.

Scenes from a militarized America: Iowa family ‘terrorized’

(Source: “Scenes from a militarized America: Iowa family ‘terrorized’,” Washington Post, 4 February 2014, by Radley Balko)

Watch this video, taken from a police raid in Des Moines, Iowa. Send it to some people. When critics (like me) warn about the dangers of police militarization, this is what we’re talking about. You’ll see the raid team, dressed in battle-dress uniforms, helmets and face-covering balaclava hoods take down the family’s door with a battering ram. You’ll see them storm the home with ballistics shields, guns at the ready. More troubling still, you’ll see not one but two officers attempt to prevent the family from having an independent record of the raid, one by destroying a surveillance camera, another by blocking another camera’s lens.

From the images in the video, you’d think they were looking for an escaped murderer or a house full of hit men. No, none of that. They were looking for a few people suspected of credit card fraud. None of the people they were looking for were inside of the house, nor was any of the stolen property they were looking for. They did arrest two houseguests of the family on what the news report says were unrelated charges, one for a probation violation and one for possession of illegal drugs.

(UPDATE: Troubling new details in Iowa police raid)

A couple other points about this story. First, note that the police say they knocked and announced themselves before the raid. The knock and announce requirement has a long history in U.S. and English common law. Its purpose was to give the occupants of a home the opportunity to avoid property damage and unnecessary violence by giving them time to come to the door and let the police in peacefully. As you can see from the video, the knock and announce today is largely a formality. The original purpose is gone. From the perspective of the people inside, there’s really no difference between this sort of “knock and announce” and a no-knock raid. (The covering of the officers’ faces is also troubling, though also not uncommon.)

Historically, the other purpose of the knock-and-announce requirement is to avoid the inevitable tragedy that can result if homeowners mistake raiding police for criminal intruders. As the requirement has been eroded, allegedly to protect the safety of police officers, we’ve seen plenty of tragedy — and many of those tragedies have been the deaths of police officers. There was another one just last December. And it almost happened here:

Prince’s son, Justin Ross, was in the bathroom when police burst in, and he was carrying a gun that he has the legal right to carry. “I stood up, I drew my weapon, I started to get myself together to get out the door, I heard someone in the main room say police. I re-holstered my weapon sat back down and put my hands in my lap,” Ross recalls.

Ross says he didn’t hear the police announcement until after one officer had already attempted to kick in the door. Had that officer been successful, there’s a good chance that Ross, the police officer, or both would be dead. The police department would then have inevitably argued that Ross should have known that they were law enforcement. But you can’t simultaneously argue that these violent, volatile tactics are necessary to take suspects by surprise and that the same suspects you’re taking by surprise should have known all along that they were being raided by police. Well you can, and police do, and judges and prosecutors usually support them. But the arguments don’t logically coexist.

Finally, note that police department officials say they “do not have a written policy governing how search warrants are executed.” That’s inexcusable. Most police departments do. But whether or not they’re governed by a formal policy, the use of these kinds of tactics for nonviolent crimes like credit card fraud is hardly unusual, and it’s happening more often, not less. I’ve reported on jurisdictions where allfelony search warrants are now served with a SWAT team. At least one federal appeals court has now ruled that under the Fourth Amendment, there’s nothing unreasonable about using a SWAT team to perform regulatory inspections. To be fair, two others have ruled that such tactics are not reasonable. But it’s concerning that this would even be up for debate. We have plenty of discussion and analysis about when searches are appropriate. We also need to start talking about how.

Washington Post civil liberties blogger Radley Balko is author of the book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces.

David Silva Dies from Beatings During Arrest by Kern County Police in Bakersfield California

[Source: “Dad who died during arrest ‘begged for his life’; witness videos seized,” The Bakersfield Californian, 9 May 2013]

BY LAURA LIERA AND JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writers lliera@bakersfield.com; jkotowski@bakersfield.com

Blood stains are still visible on the sidewalk at the corner of Flower Street and Palm Drive, where a Bakersfield man struggled with as many as nine officers and later died this week.

David Sal Silva, 33 and the father of four young children, died early Wednesday morning after deputies say he fought with them and CHP officers who’d responded to a report of a possibly intoxicated man outside Kern Medical Center.

The question on everyone’s mind: Why hasn’t video footage of Silva been released?
Debate erupts over cell phone video of Silva beating by officers. Witness: “I can still hear him.”
The Kern County Sheriff’s Office says Silva resisted, a canine was deployed, more law enforcement arrived, batons were used and the man later had trouble breathing. He was taken to KMC, where he died. An autopsy was slated for Thursday, but no results have been released.

Some witnesses apparently took cellphone video of the incident but deputies moved quickly to seize the phones. The Sheriff’s Office, after releasing a statement Wednesday and naming its officers Thursday, declined all further comment.

People who say they witnessed the incident as well as Silva’s family members described a scene in which deputies essentially were beating a helpless man to death. They were indignant that cellphone video had been taken away by deputies.

“My brother spent the last eight minutes of his life pleading, begging for his life,” said Christopher Silva, 31, brother of the dead man. He said he’s talked to witnesses but did not see the incident himself.

At about midnight, Ruben Ceballos, 19,was awakened by screams and loud banging noises outside his home. He said he ran to the left side of his house to find out who was causing the ruckus.

“When I got outside I saw two officers beating a man with batons and they were hitting his head so every time they would swing, I could hear the blows to his head,” Ceballos said.

Silva was on the ground screaming for help, but officers continued to beat him, Ceballos said.

After several minutes, Ceballos said, Silva stopped screaming and was no longer responsive.

“His body was just lying on the street and before the ambulance arrived one of the officers performed CPR on him and another one used a flashlight on his eyes but I’m sure he was already dead,” Ceballos said.

Other relatives demanded to know more.

David Silva’s mother, Merri Silva, 54, said, “If I don’t do anything about my son’s death then it will just be pushed to the side and I don’t want this to happen to another person.”

Sheriff’s spokesman Ray Pruitt said a KMC security officer called deputies at about 11:55 p.m. Tuesday to report that there was a man in the area who was possibly intoxicated. A deputy with a canine found Silva at the southeast corner of the intersection and contacted him. It was then that Silva resisted and fought the deputy while the deputy tried to take him into custody, Pruitt said. More deputies and two California High Patrol officers arrived to help, Pruitt said.

Asked to respond to the family and witness allegations, Pruitt said no one from the Sheriff’s Office will comment or release information regarding the case until the investigation is over.

The office did identify the officers involved in the arrest as Sgt. Douglas Sword and deputies Ryan Greer, Tanner Miller, Jeffrey Kelly, Luis Almanza, Brian Brock and David Stephens.

The CHP hasn’t released the names of its officers at the scene.

On Thursday afternoon, Christopher Silva said the family had not yet been able to see his brother’s body, but had learned about different witnesses who had taken video footage of the incident.

“The true evidence is in those phones witnesses have that apparently the sheriff deputies already took,” Silva said. “But I know the truth will come out and my brother’s voice will be heard.”

John Tello, a criminal law attorney, is representing two witnesses who took video footage and five other witnesses to the incident. He said his clients are still shaken by what they saw.

“When I arrived to the home of one of the witnesses that had video footage, she was with her family sitting down on the couch, surrounded by three deputies,” Tello said.

Tello said the witness was not allowed to go anywhere with her phone and was being quarantined inside her home.

When Tello tried to talk to the witness in private and with the phone, one of the deputies stopped him and told him he couldn’t take the phone anywhere because it was evidence to the investigation, the attorney said.

“This was not a crime scene where the evidence was going to be destroyed,” Tello said. “These were concerned citizens who were basically doing a civic duty of preserving the evidence, not destroying it as they (sheriff deputies) tried to make it seem.”

A search warrant wasn’t presented to either of the witnesses until after Tello arrived, he said, adding that one phone was seized before the warrant was produced.

Tello said the phone of the first witness was taken after the deputies told him he was either going to give up the phone the easy way or the hard way.

“They basically told him they were either going to keep him at this house all night until they could find a judge to sign a search warrant or he could just turn over his phone,” he said.

The witness gave up his phone two hours before he had to get to work and was told by deputies that he could collect his phone the next day after they had extracted the evidence they needed, Tello said.

However, the witness never got his phone back, Tello said, and was told it could take years before he does because the investigation could take a long time.

“My main concern is that these witnesses are not harassed by deputies because this case can make others who see crimes happening not want to speak up because of the way law enforcement handles situations,” Tello said.

Local defense attorney Kyle J. Humphrey said, generally speaking, he believes law enforcement can seize cellphones or cameras at the scene under the theory that they’ve captured evidence of a crime. Because of the digital nature of the evidence, they could argue that it’s urgent they immediately take the cameras.

“It’s one of those murky areas that’s come about by the existence of modern technology,” said Humphrey, who is not involved in this case.

He said he thinks law enforcement officers would first ask for the person to voluntarily hand over the evidence, but they could just seize it and hold it until they get a court order to search it.

Silva left behind four children, ranging from ages 2 to 10 years old. As of Thursday afternoon, his mother said, they hadn’t figured out how to tell the children their father is dead. Merri Silva remembers her son as a happy person who loved his kids.

“We’re all hurt and it’s not something that I can comprehend and in part (it’s) because I feel that it still hasn’t hit me that he is gone,” the mother said.

* * *

Additional Reading

Videos

Rutherford Instituted Defends Brandon J. Raub – A Pro-Liberty Activist Political Dissident Detained by the FBI

Brandon J. Raub, shown here, was detained by the FBI for questioning after posting comments on his Facebook page that suggest we live in a country where our freedoms are being eroded and government agents could preemptively arrest anyone, without having an specific charges, and detain people indefinitely.

Because of these outrageous statements, government agents came and arrested him without having any specific charges and he is now being detained under the authority of the NDAA.

Brandon Raub does not own a gun, however he does have a puppy that may pose as a threat to national security. Federal agents did not disclose if any contraband was found on Raub’s property such as American flags, copies of the Constitution, or copies of the Bill of Rights. Below is an official press release from the Rutherford Institute – the organization defending Raub.

UPDATE – 23 August 2012. Federal agents clearly stated their intention was to detain Raub for at least 30 days (possibly longer). However, as a result of social pressure, and by the order of Circuit Judge W. Allan Sharrett, Brandon Raub was released from custody. The release order from the judge stated, “The petition is so devoid of any factual allegations that it could not be reasonably expected to give rise to a case or controversy.” [source] A video from Raub’s primary defense attorney is below.

* * *

ORIGINAL PRESS RELEASE FROM THE RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE

Rutherford Institute Defends Marine Arrested, Incarcerated in Psych Ward & Detained Indefinitely for Posting Political Views, Song Lyrics to Facebook [source]

August 20, 2012

CHESTERFIELD, VA— The Rutherford Institute has come to the defense of a former Marine, 26-year-old Brandon Raub, who was arrested, detained indefinitely in a psych ward and forced to undergo psychological evaluations based solely on the controversial nature of lines from song lyrics, political messages and virtual card games which he posted to his private Facebook page. Although the FBI and Chesterfield County police have not charged Brandon Raub, a resident of Chesterfield County, Va., with committing any crime, they arrested Raub on Thursday, August 16, 2012, and transported him to John Randolph Medical Center, where he was held against his will due to alleged concerns that his Facebook posts were controversial and “terrorist in nature.” In a hearing held at the hospital, government officials disregarded Raub’s explanation that the Facebook posts were being interpreted out of context, sentencing him up to 30 days’ further confinement in a VA psych ward. In coming to Raub’s defense, Rutherford Institute attorneys are challenging Raub’s arrest and forcible detention, as well as the government’s overt Facebook surveillance and violation of Raub’s First Amendment rights.

“For government officials to not only arrest Brandon Raub for doing nothing more than exercising his First Amendment rights but to actually force him to undergo psychological evaluations and detain him against his will goes against every constitutional principle this country was founded upon. This should be a wake-up call to Americans that the police state is here,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “Brandon Raub is no different from the majority of Americans who use their private Facebook pages to post a variety of content, ranging from song lyrics and political hyperbole to trash talking their neighbors, friends and government leaders.”

Brandon Raub, a former Marine who has served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, was detained by FBI agents and police officers at his home in Chesterfield County based upon the nature of content posted to his Facebook page in recent months. Like many Facebook users, Raub uses his Facebook page to post songs lyrics and air his political opinions, as well as engage in virtual online games with other users. On Thursday, August 16, police and FBI agents arrived at Raub’s home, asking to speak with him about his Facebook posts. They did not provide Raub with a search warrant. Raub was cooperative and agreed to speak with them. Without providing any explanation, levying any charges against Raub or reading him his rights, law enforcement officials then handcuffed Raub and transported him first to the police headquarters, then to John Randolph Medical Center, where he was held against his will. Outraged onlookers filmed the arrest and posted the footage to YouTube. Law enforcement officials have stated in press reports that Raub was not arrested. However, as attorney John Whitehead points out, if the police have put handcuffs on you and you’re being held against your will, that qualifies as an arrest. In a hearing before a special justice on August 20, government officials again pointed to Raub’s Facebook posts as the sole reason for their concern and for his continued incarceration. Ignoring Raub’s explanations about the fact that the Facebook posts were being read out of context and his attorney’s First Amendment defense, the special justice agreed that Raub should be incarcerated at a VA hospital for up to 30 more days. Rutherford Institute attorneys are working to challenge Raub’s detention and the highly unconstitutional nature of the government’s actions.

Press Contact:
Nisha Whitehead
(434) 978-3888 ext. 604
(434) 466-6168 (cell)
nisha@rutherford.org

Police Brutality

In tense situations that are potentially life threatening, the military, police, and other members of law enforcement must act quickly. Videos may be manipulated or depict only part of a situation. That said, there are still some circumstances where it appears that police have used unnecessary force or cohered individuals to the point that violence and/or an arrest is necessary. This video shows some examples.