Thursday, February 28, 2013

Former Maryland Correctional Officer Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Assault an Inmate

Philip Mayo, a former correctional officer at the Roxbury Correctional Institution (RCI) in Hagerstown, Md., pleaded guilty to conspiring with other RCI officers to assault an inmate at the state prison during the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. (midnight) shift on March 8-9, 2008.  
Mayo, 41, of Randolph, N.Y., pleaded guilty to conspiring with other RCI officers to beat K.D. during the midnight shift on March 9, 2008.     
According to court documents filed in connection with his guilty plea, Mayo and other officers met at RCI during the midnight shift and agreed to assault K.D. in retaliation for a prior incident involving K.D. and another officer.   Mayo and three other correctional officers then entered K.D.’s cell in order to assault inmate K.D., while a fourth officer watched.   Officers then assaulted K.D.
“Mr. Mayo has admitted that he and other officers conspired to use unlawful force to punish an inmate,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.   “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute those officers who violate the rights of inmates.”
Mayo faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.   Sentencing is set for Oct. 28, 2013, before U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar.
In connection with an assault on inmate KD that occurred during the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift on March 9, 2008, former RCI Correctional Officers Ryan Lohr and Dustin Norris each recently entered guilty pleas before Judge Bredar.  
The investigation by the Frederick, Md., Resident Agency of the FBI is ongoing.   The case is being prosecuted by Special Litigation Counsel Forrest Christian and Trial Attorney Sanjay Patel of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.

29 Arrested in Multiple Jurisdictions Following Texas Racketeering Indictment, Including 17 Former Corrections Officers

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A sealed indictment charging numerous defendants with racketeering violations has been unsealed following their recent arrests in Texas, Louisiana and Florida. The arrests include 17 former Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) correction officers and 12 others. A list of those taken into custody is attached.

The indictment was announced today by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson along with along with Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Brian M. Moskowitz, Inspector General Bruce Toney with TDCJ – Office of the Inspector General (TDCJ – OIG), Special Agent in Charge of Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS–CI) Lucy Cruz, Special Agent in Charge Melvin King Jr. of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Corpus Christi, Texas Police Department (CCPD) Chief Floyd D. Simpson and Postal Inspector in Charge Robert B. Wemyss of U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).

Following an operation involving federal, state and local law enforcement personnel, a total of 22 have been arrested on criminal charges in the indictment. Seven defendants named in the indictment were already in custody. As a result, a total of 29 people are now in custody in connection with the four–year investigation. Thirteen former correction officers were arrested on racketeering charges and four others on separate drug charges. The indictment remains sealed as to those charged but not as yet in custody.

The arrest of the former correction officers was a joint effort between TDCJ–OIG and federal authorities to attempt to break the "culture of corruption" that permeated the McConnell Unit Prison during a period between 2005 to the present. State and federal authorities worked together in a determined effort to disrupt and dismantle the violent criminal gangs who were profiting through the corruption of guards at the prison.

According to the indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury last week, 13 former TDCJ correction officers were part of a criminal enterprise that engaged in bribery and narcotics trafficking. The indictment details specific acts, wherein the correction officers assisted prisoners incarcerated in the TDCJ McConnell Unit Prison in Beeville, Texas by smuggling cellular telephones and drugs into the prison system. The drugs and phones were allegedly sold inside the prison to other inmates. The phones were used by inmates to assist in their coordination of criminal activities outside the prison, according to the allegations.

Today’s announcement caps a four–year investigation conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, HSI, TDCJ–OIG, IRS–CI, ATF, Gang and Organized Crime Units, USPIS and the Bee County District Attorney’s office. The investigation was initiated in 2009 when several Aryan Circle Gang Members were apprehended attempting to transport stolen vehicles from Corpus Christi to Brownsville, Texas. The vehicles were destined to be smuggled across the border and sold to Mexico Cartel members. The operation was coordinated by inmates incarcerated at the McConnell Unit through the use of illegal cell phones.

The resulting investigation led to a December 2010 federal indictment charging 14 alleged members and associates of the Raza Unida Street and Prison Gang with committing violent acts to support racketeering (VICAR). These violent acts included home invasions, shootings and conspiracy to commit murder. During the course of the investigation, agents and officers seized approximately 13 pounds of crystal methamphetamine with an estimated street value of more than $300,000. Additionally, seven assault rifles, 14 pistols, five shotguns, five bullet proof vests and approximately 1,000 rounds of ammunition were seized from the gang. All were subsequently convicted, two of whom were sentenced to life imprisonment.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark Patterson and Michael Hess.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Former Correctional Officer Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Assault an Inmate

Dustin Norris, a former correctional officer at the Roxbury Correctional Institution (RCI) in Hagerstown, Md., pleaded guilty to conspiring with other RCI officers to assault an inmate at the state prison on March 9, 2008.  
Norris, 28, pleaded guilty to conspiring with other RCI officers to beat K.D. on March 9, 2008.     
According to court documents filed in connection with his guilty plea, Norris and other officers met at RCI and agreed to assault K.D. in retaliation for a prior incident involving K.D. and another officer.   Norris and four other correctional officers then entered K.D.’s cell and assaulted inmate K.D., while a fifth officer, Ryan Lohr, watched from the cell door.   The officers beat inmate K.D. even though the inmate already had visible facial injuries.   Following this assault, K.D. was transported to a local hospital.  
Norris further admitted that he lied to state investigators when he was asked about the injuries K.D. suffered while held in a single-occupant segregation cell.
“Mr. Norris has admitted that he and other officers used unjustified and unlawful force to punish an inmate,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.   “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute those officers who violate the constitutional rights of inmates.”
Norris faces a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.   Sentencing is set for Oct. 28, 2013, before U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar.
In a related case, former RCI Correctional Officer Ryan Lohr entered a guilty plea on Jan. 30, 2013, also before Judge Bredar.  
The investigation by the Frederick Resident Agency of the FBI is ongoing.   The case is being prosecuted by Special Litigation Counsel Forrest Christian and Trial Attorney Sanjay Patel of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

New Study: Teen Driver Deaths Increase in 2012

Preliminary Data Indicate Deaths of 16- and 17-Year-Old Drivers Up 19 Percent

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A report released today by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reveals that the number of 16- and 17-year-old driver deaths in passenger vehicles increased dramatically for the first six months of 2012, based on preliminary data supplied by all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Overall, 16- and 17-year-old driver deaths increased from 202 to 240 - a 19 percent jump.

The new report -- the first state-by-state look at teen driver fatalities in 2012 -- was completed by Dr. Allan Williams, a researcher who formerly served as chief scientist at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Dr. Williams surveyed GHSA members, who reported fatality numbers for every state and D.C. The increase in teen driver deaths coincides with a projection from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in which all traffic deaths increased by 8 percent. It is particularly concerning that 16- and 17-year-old driver deaths appear to have increased at an even greater rate.

Deaths of 16-year-old drivers increased from 86 to 107 (a 24 percent change), while the number for 17-year-old drivers went from 116 to 133 (a 15 percent change), a cumulative increase of 19 percent. Twenty-five states reported increases, 17 had decreases, and eight states and the District of Columbia reported no change in the number of 16- and 17-year-old driver deaths.

Dr. Williams attributes much of the increase to the fact that the benefit of state Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws may be leveling off, as most of these laws have been in place for some time. Additionally, Dr. Williams speculates that improving economic conditions are contributing to an increase in teen driving, thus increasing their exposure to risk. Dr. Williams notes, "Based on 2011 final data and the early look at 2012, it appears that we are headed the wrong direction when it comes to deaths of 16- and 17-year-old drivers."

Dr. Williams stresses that while today's news is certainly not good, deaths in this age group remain at a historically low level. He notes, "We are still at a much better place than we were ten or even five years earlier. However, the goal is to strive toward zero deaths, so our aim would be that these deaths should go down every year."

Kendell Poole, Chairman of GHSA and Director of Tennessee's Governor's Highway Safety Office, said, "Any increase in highway deaths is unacceptable, particularly among our teens. We know from research and experience that teen drivers are not only a danger to themselves, but also a danger to others on the roadways. So these numbers are a cause for concern." He continued, "As the report notes, a widespread strengthening of laws is still possible, and utilizing effective tools outside of GDL should be a focus. These include improving driver education and ensuring that scientifically based educational programs are available to new drivers."

Chairman Poole added, "In my state of Tennessee, we have worked extensively to keep teen drivers safe. Despite our efforts, teens remain our most vulnerable population. With the advances in technology, we suspect distracted driving deaths among teen drivers are rising. We continue to work with teens, parents, educators and law enforcement to address this problem."

Barbara Harsha, Executive Director of GHSA, stressed that while data are preliminary, she is concerned that signs point to a significant increase in 16- and-17-year-old driver deaths for 2012. She advises states to focus on strengthening GDL and programs that are data-driven. Harsha adds that states should consider implementing parent programs to help parents keep their teens safe. She says, "Parents have a huge responsibility to ensure safe teen driving behavior. States can facilitate this by providing innovative programs that bring parents and teens together around this issue."

The full report, including state-by-state data, is available online at Image files are also available.

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)® is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Contact GHSA at 202-789-0942 or visit Find us on Facebook at Follow us on Twitter at @GHSAHQ.

High Ranking Gulf Cartel Member Convicted in Washington for Drug Trafficking

Aurelio Cano Flores, a Mexican national and high ranking member of the Gulf Cartel, was found guilty today by a federal jury of conspiring to import multi-ton quantities of cocaine and marijuana into the United States, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Administrator Michele M. Leonhart of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Cano Flores, 40, aka “Yankee” and “Yeyo,” was convicted by a federal jury in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia.  Cano Flores was one of 19 defendants charged in a superseding indictment on Nov. 4, 2010, with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana for importation into the United States.  Cano Flores was extradited to the United States from Mexico in August 2011 and was ordered detained in federal custody pending trial.

“Aurelio Cano Flores was convicted today of leading one of the world’s most notorious criminal organizations in a conspiracy to traffic massive quantities of illegal drugs into the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer.  “Cano Flores is the highest ranking Gulf Cartel member to be convicted by a U.S. jury in the past 15 years, and his conviction demonstrates the Justice Department’s commitment to hold ruthless cartel leaders responsible for importing narcotics into the United States – no matter where they conduct their illegal business.  Along with our domestic and international law enforcement partners, we will continue to bring our resource to bear to ensure that cartel members and associates are brought to justice for the damage they inflict on both sides of the border.”

“Our strategy of targeting the highest levels of the Gulf Cartel continues to pay off,” said DEA Administrator Leonhart.  “DEA and our law enforcement counterparts on both sides of the border remain committed to using every law enforcement tool available to attack these criminal organizations, while taking out their financial infrastructure to thwart their illicit business models and deprive them of their ill-gotten gains.”

Evidence presented at trial included dozens of lawfully intercepted telephone conversations between Cano Flores and other leaders of the Gulf Cartel, as well as testimony from previously convicted Cartel members.  According to evidence presented at trial, Cano Flores began working for the Gulf Cartel in approximately 2001 while serving as a police officer in Mexico.  While serving as a police officer, Cano Flores recruited others into the Gulf Cartel, collected drug money and escorted large shipments of cartel drugs to the U.S. border.

Cano Flores ultimately rose through the ranks of the Gulf Cartel to become a major transporter of narcotics within Mexico to the U.S. border and became the cartel’s top representative in the important border town of Los Guerra, Tamaulipas, Mexico.  As the “plaza boss” for Los Guerra, Cano Flores oversaw the mass distribution of cocaine and marijuana into the United States on a daily basis.  Testimony also established that between 2000 and 2010, the Gulf Cartel grew from an organization of only 100 members controlling three border towns to an organization of 25,000 people controlling the drug trade over approximately half of Mexico.  As established during the trial, the means and methods of this conspiracy included corruption, murder, kidnapping and intimidation.

At sentencing, scheduled for May 13, 2013, before U.S. District Judge Barbara J. Rothstein, Cano Flores faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Darrin McCullough and Sean Torriente of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in the provisional arrest and extradition of Cano Flores.  The investigation in this case was led by the DEA Houston Field Division’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force and the DEA Bilateral Investigation Unit.

Monday, February 25, 2013

What has four legs and flies?

by Airman 1st Class Soo C. Kim
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

2/25/2013 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

Security Forces Airmen and their K-9 partners learn to fly during Readiness Week Feb. 25 through March 1 at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

Military Working Dogs train with security forces members to familiarize both handlers and the dogs to a unique mode of transportation - the UH-1 helicopter.

"Today, we're conducting helicopter-familiarization training," said Staff Sgt. David Duritsky, a MWD trainer with the 374th Security Forces Squadron. The purpose of the training is to expose the dogs to a new platform, an environment that they haven't been exposed to yet, Duritsky added.

Training starts with exposing the dogs to an inactive helicopter by letting them run and crawl through the helicopter while getting the smell of the environment, Duritsky said. The next step is exposing the dogs to a helicopter with its engine running, letting the dogs get used to the sound before finally flying in one.

"I'm hoping they're good with it," Duritsky said before taking off with the dogs and their handlers. The dogs' reactions to an active helicopter determine further training, Duritsky said.

With its passengers settled in, the UH-1 helicopter, assigned to the 459th Airlift Squadron, took to the sky and conducted a series of aerial pattern work.

According to Senior Airman Andrew Montgomery, a MWD handler with the 374th Security Forces Squadron, the training went well.

"It was good, it was the first time flying for both of us, so it was a little bit nerve wracking," Montgomery said. "It was a good experience."

Montgomery said his dog, Diesel, was confused at first, but he remained calm and performed the training well.

"(This training is) extremely beneficial, especially with the jet taxiing we get down range," Duritsky said. "A lot of the time we require flying from one area to another, and helicopters provide stable transportation method for the dogs and their handlers."

Montgomery said he found today's training incredibly helpful building experience for him and his dog before they deploy together.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Welcome to the jungle: forecaster supports counterdrug operations

by Senior Airman Natasha Stannard
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

2/22/2013 - SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- He didn't know where it was to or what it was for, but when Charleston, S.C., native Tech. Sgt. Adrian Jackson heard about a short-notice tasking to deploy, he volunteered immediately.

Jackson volunteered he having only been on-station two months.

"Because he was new to base, he was ineligible to deploy for six months, however he wanted to go, so he worked to make it happen," said his supervisor 1st Lt. Richelle Greer, 52nd Fighter Wing weather officer from Antipolo, Philippines.

With his supervisor's approval, Jackson got a waiver to deploy.

He found out he was going to Apiay Air Base, Colombia, to support the Colombian air force with the U.S. Army's 204th Military Intelligence Battalion as a weather operator. The battalion works with Colombian forces to conduct counterdrug operations.

To prepare, he had to act fast.

Greer said that Jackson worked seven-days-a-week and completed computer based training while on leave to get all pre-deployment tasks completed in time.

Jackson is now deep in the Colombian countryside where little to no English is spoken supporting the 204th MIB by providing up-to-the-minute weather data, forecasts and analysis so the battalion can successfully conduct reconnaissance and surveillance.

Greer, who previously deployed to Apiay AB, thought that he was "a good candidate for the job." She described him as a very competent NCO and detailed weather forecaster, which is important in any weather shop, but especially in this two-person shop.

"Forecasting the weather in Colombia is a challenge for many reasons," Jackson said of the weather that includes severe thunderstorms, cyclones, unpredictable winds and extreme temperatures. "The mountainous terrain, radar coverage, language barriers, different combat operations and hostile ground forces only add to the challenges. Weather forecasters here must use all of their training to provide sound, proficient support to accomplish the mission."

Because the weather changes so frequently and the mission is heavily impacted by it, the shop is always on-call. This means that one of the two forcasters must always be on the base. When they do go off base, they must be accompanied by U.S. Army counter-intelligence officers and must be in an up-armored vehicle. This is due to the threat the mission poses against narcotic-terrorist groups in the area, said Jackson.

"If he is called to forecast for a mission and finds there is going to be a thunderstorm, the mission is most likely a no-go, so the weather dictates the mission for the most part," Greer said. "You have to have a reliable forecaster to know if it's safe to do the mission. For him to be able to adjust his knowledge and portray his expertise is testament to his abilities.

"You can send him anywhere in the world and he'll do great things," Greer said.

With three months left, Greer is convinced Jackson is more than ready to work through whatever challenges the jungle's weather throws his way.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Two Men Arrested for Alleged Extortion of Detroit-Area Restaurant Owner

Two men were arrested today on charges of allegedly extorting a Detroit-area restaurant owner, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade for the Eastern District of Michigan and Robert D. Foley III, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Detroit Field Division.

 Giuseppe D’Anna, aka “Joe,” 60, and Girolamo D’Anna, aka “Mimmo,” 48, were charged in an indictment unsealed today in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan.  Both defendants made their initial court appearances today in Detroit.

The defendants are charged in a three-count indictment with one count of Hobbs Act conspiracy and two counts of attempted Hobbs Act extortion, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.  According to the indictment, the defendants and other co-conspirators allegedly attempted to extort the owner of a Shelby Township, Mich., restaurant from approximately 2009 through approximately April 2011.
Indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.

The investigation of this case was led by the FBI’s Detroit Field Division.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Straus of the Eastern District of Michigan and Principal Deputy Chief David Jaffe of the Organized Crime and Gang Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Former Albuquerque Corrections Officer Pleads Guilty to Obstruction of Justice

Matthew Pendley, 26, a former corrections officer at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Albuquerque, N.M., pleaded guilty today to one count of obstructing justice when he lied to law enforcement during their investigation of the assault on an inmate at the hands of another corrections officer.
According to court documents, during the early morning hours of Dec. 21, 2011, Pendley was assigned to the Receiving-Discharge-Transfer (RDT) Unit at MDC where individuals are brought to be booked soon after they are arrested. During the course of his shift, Pendley entered the shower room/dress out area and witnessed Demetrio Gonzales, another corrections officer, assaulting an inmate. The inmate was not posing a physical threat to anyone, and therefore, the assault was not justified. There was no legitimate law enforcement purpose for Gonzales to use force on the inmate. As a result of the assault, the inmate sustained injuries and began bleeding. When the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) began investigating, instead of telling detectives that he witnessed the assault, Pendley lied, claiming that he did not remember what Gonzales was doing in the shower room/dress out area.
A sentencing date has not yet been set.
Demetrio Gonzales previously pleaded guilty to violating the civil rights of the inmate by choking and striking the inmate multiple times. He was sentenced on Jan. 8, 2013, to 33 months in prison followed by three years of supervised released.
A third former MDC corrections officer, Kevin Casaus, was also indicted by a federal grand jury in June 2012 on related charges. Casaus is charged with violating the victim’s civil right rights when he shoved and struck the victim while in the shower area/dress out area. Casaus is further charged with obstruction of justice and falsification of records, first for making false statements to detectives of the BCSO and then for falsifying his incident report. Casaus’ trial is set for March 4, 2013. He is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
This case is being investigated by the Albuquerque Division of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark T. Baker for the District of New Mexico and Trial Attorney Fara Gold of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Kunsan conducts active shooter training

8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

2/14/2013 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea  -- The 8th Security Forces Squadron worked with the 8th Medical Group to practice an active shooter scenario at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Feb. 12, 2013 to sharpen their skills and practice safely and efficiently mitigating the threat of an armed gunman. The training was part of exercise Beverly Bulldog 13-2, stressing vigilance and testing the readiness of Wolf Pack members.

Act Would Give Veterans Credit for ‘Related’ Military Skills

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

ANNAPOLIS, Md., Feb. 19, 2013 – In its quest to help veterans find employment, the Defense Department is collaborating with states, which represent the center of gravity for jobs, said Frank DiGiovanni, director, Training Readiness and Strategy for the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Readiness.

DiGiovanni testified Tuesday before a Maryland state administrative panel in Annapolis on the benefits of the state’s Veterans Full Employment Act of 2013.  The crux of the act would require licensing units and boards to give credit to veterans for related military training, education and experience. Giovanni heads the licensing and credentialing task force for the Defense Department.

DOD is developing a three-phase program in conjunction with states, he noted.

“The first will be to work with [states’] professional organizations that represent your licensing boards,” he said. “We’ll also recognize states … that have exhibited the best practices in support of our veterans. The third part of our strategy is to look at veterans service organizations and use them as our ‘missionaries’ to talk to folks about what the needs of our veterans are.”

DiGiovanni said putting skilled workers and veterans back to work is an urgent matter.

“In January,” he said, “for 18- to 24-year-old veterans, the unemployment rate was 31.5 percent, as compared to the national average for that same age group of about 7.9 percent”.

The jobless rate among veterans varies between 12 percent and 31 percent, he said, adding that it’s extremely important for the legislation to pass state legislatures “because it does help put our folks to work.”

An important factor in veterans’ unemployment is the 240,000 service members who leave the military each year. “And that includes an end-strength cutdown that will take place over the next five years, and an additional 100,000 people,” he added. “So this legislation is extremely important for those who will depart from military service.”

DiGiovanni said DOD’s licensing and credentialing task force is focusing on such occupational specialties as aircraft and automotive mechanics, first responders, supply and logistics, health care, transportation, information technology and manufacturing. He added the act would provide those in certain military occupational specialties, such as combat arms, with “ready access to employment” when they leave the military.

“From our perspective, this is one of the most comprehensive [bills] that we’ve seen,” DiGiovanni said. “And right now there’s no other bill like it that has passed legislation, so it’s extremely important.”

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Reducing Gun Violence and Preventing Future Tragedies

February 13th, 2013 Posted by Tracy Russo
The following post appears courtesy of Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole. It was adapted from recent remarks made to the National District Attorneys Association Winter Conference.

Gun violence has touched every state, county, city and town in America.  While we have seen the devastating examples of it over the years, since December’s horrific events in Newtown, Connecticut, the need to address this problem has been center stage.  And we at the department — led by the Attorney General – have been working with Vice President Biden and agencies and departments across the Obama Administration to formulate concrete, common-sense recommendations for reducing gun violence and preventing future tragedies.

The Administration has proposed a range of legislative remedies – along with 23 executive actions – to address mass shootings and reduce gun violence. The Department of Justice is working to implement a number of those executive actions.

For example, we are working to strengthen the national background check system by addressing gaps in the federal and state records currently available in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).  Those gaps significantly hinder the ability of NICS to quickly confirm whether a prospective purchaser is prohibited from acquiring a firearm as a felon.

There are also still 12 states with fewer than 10 mental health records in the system.  To help fix this problem, we are providing $25 million in grants to states to assist them in finding ways to make more records available, especially mental health records.

We are also making it possible for local law enforcement officers to run a full NICS background check before returning a firearm to someone after the criminal investigation is finished.  For example, when a stolen firearm recovered by police is returned to its original owner, the police need to be sure they are not returning that weapon to a prohibited person.

In addition, the ATF will soon be publishing instructions on how to trace recovered firearms.  All it takes is a computer and an internet connection.  We encourage local law enforcement officers to do this every time they recover a firearm.  ATF will also be publishing an annual report on nationwide lost and stolen gun data.   Making this data available gives us a great opportunity for us to work together, at all levels of government to use our limited resources as effectively as possible, to make our communities safer.

We’re also taking a hard look at our federal laws and our enforcement priorities to ensure that we are doing everything possible at the federal level to keep firearms away from traffickers and others who should not have them.

And while most of our efforts will be focused on keeping guns out of the wrong hands, we also want to help those on the ground prevent and mitigate violent situations when they do occur.  To this end, the FBI will be providing a new specialized training course for active shooter situations for law enforcement officers, first responders, and school officials.

We recognize that it is not just a federal problem and our law enforcement partners at the state, local and tribal levels are doing some of the hardest and most important work to keep our people safe, and our cities, neighborhoods, and schools secure.

Working together, on these and other efforts, we will help reduce gun violence and prevent future tragedies.

Former Oklahoma Jail Superintendent and Assistant Jail Superintendent Indicted on Multiple Civil Rights Offenses

A federal grand jury in Muskogee, Okla., has indicted Raymond A. Barnes, 42, and Christopher A. Brown, 31, the former jail superintendent and assistant jail superintendent, respectively, of the Muskogee County Jail (MCJ) on multiple counts of civil rights offenses related to allegations of excessive force on inmates at MCJ on or between August 2009 and May 2011.   Brown is also charged with making material false statements to the FBI.
The indictment charges both Barnes and Brown with one count of conspiring to violate the rights of inmates housed at MCJ by assaulting inmates themselves or by directing other jailers employed by MCJ to do so.   Specifically, the indictment alleges that as part the conspiracy, the defendants did the following:   unjustifiably strike, assault, harm and physically punish inmates at MCJ who were restrained, compliant and not posing a physical threat to anyone; organize “meet and greets,” whereby jailers would scare, punish and harm incoming inmates from neighboring counties by throwing and slamming the handcuffed inmates to the ground upon their arrival at the MCJ; threaten to fire MCJ employees if they reported abusive behavior directly to the sheriff or to outside law enforcement authorities; require and encourage MCJ jailers to write incident reports that falsely justified uses of force and contained misleading or inaccurate accounts of what had occurred when force was used; and perpetuate an environment within the MCJ that allowed unlawful beatings and assaults against inmates to continue indefinitely and without consequence.
The indictment further charges the defendants with  aiding and abetting each other in violating the rights of two different inmates when the MCJ jailers slammed and threw the inmates to the ground while they were handcuffed.   The indictment alleges that these offenses resulted in bodily injury.
Brown is additionally charged with one count of making material false statements to the FBI.   According to the indictment, Brown falsely claimed that during “meet and greets,” when an inmate from an out-of-county jail arrives at MCJ, the inmate is ordered out of the transport vehicle, and then is “gently placed” on the ground.   The indictment alleges that this was false in that the defendant knew at the time of his statement to the FBI that during “meet and greets,” when an inmate arrived from an out-out-county jail, the MCJ jailers routinely threw and slammed inmates to the ground even though the inmates were restrained and not posing a physical threat to anyone.
Barnes and Brown face a maximum penalty of 10 years for each of the three civil rights offenses.   Brown faces a maximum penalty of five years for making material false statements to the FBI.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
This case is being investigated by the Muskogee Resident Agency of the Oklahoma City Division of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Fara Gold and Dana Mulhauser of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Dover EOD technicians conduct joint training with local bomb squads

by By Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Larlee
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

2/8/2013 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del.  -- Airmen from the 436th Civil Engineer Squadron's Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight teamed up with Delaware and New Jersey State police EOD personnel to conduct training Feb. 7, 2013 at Dover Air Force Base, Del.

The breaching and improvised explosive device training took place at the former Arnold Elementary School that is scheduled to be demolished in the near future.

Master Sgt. Jennifer Allara, chief of 436 Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, said the fact that they were dealing with a building that was about to be torn down provided a great chance to conduct some valuable realistic training.

"We thought it would be the perfect opportunity to run a full-spectrum exercise on current threats," she said. "It is very valuable, not just for the explosives, but getting with our local brothers and getting to train together."

Allara, a native of Seaside, Ore., said that EOD personnel try to minimize damage within reason, but personal safety is always the first consideration.

Delaware State Police Sgt. Christopher Ennis, commander of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, said this type of training is hard to find.

"It's a fantastic opportunity," he said. "We enjoy getting with the military and seeing how they operate in the field. We learn a lot from each other."

Ennis said he has been working for a long time and he has noticed that the frequent deployments his military brothers have been serving have greatly increased their knowledge base.

"Back when I first started we were not at war and we were a bit ahead of them in dealing with military ordnance," he said. "Now they are coming back from overseas and teaching us some amazing techniques. We are now the ones behind the curve a bit."

The native of Lewes, Del., said the fact that personnel from the New Jersey State Police traveled the long distance to the base proves just how valuable the training was.

"We are collecting data off these doors in a real environment that we can only collect in this situation," he said.

Ennis said the shockwaves from blasts travel differently inside of a building than they do in an outside environment. He said they experimented with different levels of explosives to gather data on the right amount of explosives.

"We are aiming for the minimum amount of explosives necessary for a positive entry," he said. "Being able to experiment here totally takes the guess work out of the process."

The sergeant said the data could prove to be invaluable in a real-world emergency.

"It is great to get some more value out of this school before they tear it down," he said. "It has served the community for so long in the education of our youth. Now the last lessons it is facilitating could save lives."

Justice Department Moves to Intervene in Lawsuit Alleging Sex Discrimination Against the State of Maryland, Queen Anne’s County and the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff

The Justice Department today moved to intervene in Murphy-Taylor v. State of Maryland, et al., a private lawsuit alleging sex discrimination by the state of Maryland, Queen Anne’s County and the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff. The United States’ complaint in intervention alleges that Kristy Murphy-Taylor’s supervisors in the sheriff’s office subjected her to severe sexual harassment and retaliated against her when she complained.   The complaint alleges that these actions violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
According to the complaint, over a number of years Ms. Murphy-Taylor was subjected to numerous acts of unwanted sexual conduct by multiple supervisors including, multiple incidents of unwanted sexual touching, sexually explicit comments about Ms. Murphy-Taylor and other female officers, and derogatory comments about Ms. Murphy-Taylor based on her sex and about women in general.  
Despite Ms. Murphy-Taylor’s complaints to supervisory officials about the unwelcome conduct, the complaint alleges that the defendants failed to take prompt and effective corrective action, subjected her to intolerable working conditions intended to make her quit, and ultimately terminated her for complaining about the sexual harassment.  
The United States determined that this case represents a matter of general public importance and that the Department of Justice should participate in it.   By intervening, the United States will ensure that the law continues to protect employees and that the price of earning a living will not be enduring constant sexual harassment. The relief sought by the United States is past and future lost wages and compensatory damages for Ms. Murphy-Taylor as well as the implementation of effective sexual harassment policies and procedures and training on these policies and procedures.
Ms. Murphy-Taylor filed a charge of sex discrimination and retaliation with the Baltimore District Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).   After investigating these charges, finding reasonable cause to believe that the charging party was subject to discrimination because of her sex, and unsuccessfully attempting to conciliate the matter, the EEOC referred the charges to the Department of Justice.    This lawsuit is brought by the Department of Justice as a result of a project designed to ensure vigorous enforcement of Title VII against state and local governmental employers by enhancing cooperation between the EEOC and the Civil Rights Division.
“The Department of Justice will not stand by while women are forced to endure unwanted sexual conduct in their workplaces and then penalized for protesting it,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Through our partnership with the EEOC, the department continues its commitment to vigorously enforcing the right of employees to be free from sex discrimination in the work place.”
“The work of the commission is made more effective and efficient with interagency coordination,” said Jacqueline A. Berrien, chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “Our ongoing project with the Justice Department helps to ensure that employees receive the full protection of the laws prohibiting workplace discrimination.”
“By working more closely together in appropriate cases, EEOC and DOJ are able to use our resources more efficiently to ensure the vigorous enforcement of Title VII in the public sector,” said EEOC District Director Spencer H. Lewis Jr., of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office.    The Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.  

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Two California Men Indicted in Federal Hate Crime Case Stemming from New Year’s Eve Attack on African-American Youths

A federal grand jury has indicted two members of the Compton 155 street gang on federal hate crime charges related to a racially motivated attack on four African-American juveniles at a residence in the city of Compton, Calif., on New Year’s Eve.
Jeffrey Aguilar, aka “Terco,” 19, and Efren Marquez Jr., who is also known as “Stretch” and “Junior,” 21, were named in a five-count indictment returned late yesterday by the grand jury.
The indictment specifically charges Aguilar and Marquez with one count of conspiracy to interfere with housing rights and four counts of interfering with housing rights. The indictment alleges that they attempted to intimidate African-Americans from living in Compton.
Aguilar and Marquez allegedly are members of the Compton 155 street gang, which uses violence and threats of violence in an effort to drive African-Americans out of their “territory” on the west side of Compton. According to the indictment, members of the Compton 155 gang often refer to themselves as “NK” or “N***** Killers.” To instill fear in African-Americans, members of the gang tag their gang moniker and “NK” throughout their “territory.”
“Hate-fueled crimes have no place in our society,” said U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Andre Birotte Jr. “No one should have to look over their shoulder in fear because of who they are. Incidents like the one described in the federal indictment prove that we must remain vigilant to ensure that the rights of every single American resident are protected at all times.”
“The Civil Rights Division will continue to protect the right of every person who lives in this country to do so free of racially-based violence and intimidation," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.  “The Justice Department will not tolerate those individuals or gangs who would prevent a family from living in a particular neighborhood simply because of their race or the color of their skin.” 
The indictment specifically alleges that on Dec. 31, 2012, Aguilar, Marquez and a co-conspirator confronted an African-American juvenile, who was walking on a street in Compton, and threatened him by referring to themselves as “NKs.” The 17-year-old victim ran to his girlfriend’s house, where three other African-American juveniles were located. Aguilar and Marquez followed the 17-year-old victim to the home, yelled racial slurs at the four juveniles at the residence, and demanded that the African-Americans get out of the neighborhood.   Aguilar and Marquez then allegedly assaulted the 17-year-old victim with a metal pipe and threatened another juvenile with a gun.
After the juveniles managed to escape and run into the house, the indictment alleges that Aguilar and Marquez left the scene and informed other gang members that the African-American juveniles lived in their “territory.” Shortly thereafter, Aguilar and approximately 15 other gang members went to the victims’ home and threatened them by yelling racial slurs and warning the juveniles that they did not belong in the neighborhood. During this time, a member of the gang smashed one of the windows of the house.
“The FBI is committed to the protection of civil liberties,” said Bill Lewis, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office. “No one should tolerate violence based on the color of their skin or live in fear based on the hatred of others.”
 “Hate crimes seriously threaten our society’s democratic principles and affect the entire community,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca. “We had one hate crime in Compton for 2012, but one is too many. Tolerance is the key element of democracy.”
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
Aguilar and Marquez had been in state custody on unrelated charges. They were transferred to federal custody early this morning and are expected to be arraigned on the indictment this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
If convicted, Aguilar and Marquez each would face a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for each of the five civil rights charges alleged in the indictment.
The case against Aguilar and Marquez is the result of an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Reema El-Amamy of the Violent and Organized Crime Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Trial Attorney Saeed Mody of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.