Thursday, December 31, 2015

Justice Department Announces Franklin County, Ohio, Sheriff's Office Has Fully Implemented Agreement Regarding Use of Tasers

The Justice Department announced today that it has jointly sought and received court approval to terminate a settlement agreement with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) in Columbus, Ohio, regarding the deployment of tasers in the Franklin County jails.  The move recognizes the successful implementation of reforms by the FCSO that resulted in a dramatic reduction in the use of tasers overall, as well as substantial improvements in policies, procedures, training and accountability and review mechanisms in those limited circumstances that tasers are used.  

The settlement agreement resolved allegations that the FCSO inappropriately used tasers against detainees, including persons with disabilities, in violation of their constitutional rights.  The allegations were initially brought in a class action lawsuit filed by Ohio Legal Rights Service (now Disability Rights Ohio), a federally designated protection and advocacy organization for persons with disabilities.  The department filed a statement of interest and later intervened in the lawsuit under its enforcement authority under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. 

The U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Ohio approved and entered the settlement agreement on Feb. 4, 2011.  The agreement prohibited sheriff’s deputies from using tasers against any detainee who is not reasonably perceived to pose a threat to the safety of the deputy or others and is not resisting by use of physical force.  The agreement further restricted the practice of using tasers against persons who question a deputy’s commands in a non-violent manner, or who remain in a limp or prone position.  Critically, the settlement agreement prohibited the use of tasers against persons who are known or reasonably believed to be pregnant, are intoxicated due to drugs or alcohol, or are mentally ill or physically impaired.  To achieve these reforms, the agreement detailed changes to FCSO’s policies, procedures, training, accountability and supervisory review mechanisms, including the use of de-escalation techniques, heightened reporting requirements by each deputy involved in a use of force and triggers for automatic higher-level review by the Internal Affairs Bureau.

On Dec. 24, 2015, the department joined the FCSO and Disability Rights Ohio in a motion to terminate the settlement agreement, citing the sheriff's sustained substantial compliance with the terms of the agreement for more than two years, as required by the agreement’s terms.  On Dec. 28, 2015, the federal court granted the parties’ joint motion to terminate the settlement agreement in light of these improvements.

“We are pleased to see the Franklin County Sheriff's Office reform its use of force practices in its jails, especially with respect to persons with disabilities,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  “The accountability mechanisms implemented through this agreement will ensure that the positive outcomes will be sustained long after the agreement is terminated.” 

“The termination of this agreement illustrates the positive changes implemented by the Franklin County Sheriff's Office in its policies, training and accountability in regard to taser use, particularly when involving those with disabilities,” said U.S. Attorney Carter M. Stewart of the Southern District of Ohio.

Section 14141 authorizes the department to bring a lawsuit seeking remedies to eliminate a pattern or practice of misconduct by law enforcement agencies.  The Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section partnered with the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Ohio and attorneys with Disability Rights Ohio to investigate, negotiate and monitor the successful implementation of reforms to the use of tasers in the Franklin County jails. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

'Fugitive of the Week' Surrenders After Reward Announced

Concord, NH - “Fugitive of the Week,” Matthew Martin, 31, surrendered to the Vermont State Police during the very early morning hours on Sunday.

Martin had been wanted on two outstanding arrest warrants issued by both the New Hampshire and Vermont State Police for several robberies, including multiple armed bank robberies. After being featured as the “Fugitive of the Week,” early in December, the U.S. Marshals offered up to a $5000 reward and re-featured Mr. Martin as the “Fugitive of the Week,” just last Wednesday. Over the past several weeks, the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force, VT & NH, along with the State Police investigated the countless tips that came in.

Late Saturday, family members of Martin contacted the Weathersfield (VT) Police Department indicating that Martin would surrender to them, later in the evening. After several missed meeting times, Martin eventually was arrested by the Vermont State Police when he arrived at his parent’s residence during the early hours of Sunday morning. Martin was booked on the outstanding arrest warrants by the Vermont State Police and is currently being held at the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, VT.

This arrest culminates an extensive and cooperative investigation by several local police departments in both VT and NH; the NH and VT State Police, and the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force in NH, VT, and Massachusetts.

Martin had been featured as the “Fugitive of the Week” on December 9th & 23rd, which was aired on WTPL-FM, WMUR-TV, The Union Leader, The Nashua Telegraph, The Patch, Foster’s Daily Democrat, Manchester Information, The Manchester Ink Link and prominently featured on the internet. This program has been a remarkably successful tool that has resulted in the location and arrest of numerous fugitives since its implementation in 2007. This case received a lot of additional media coverage throughout New England once the reward was announced.

U.S. Marshal, David Cargill, Jr., said “The announcement of the reward offered by the U.S. Marshals Service is suspected of being a highly motivating factor in Martin’s surrender.” Cargill continued, “We are glad that Mr. Martin made the correct decision and this manhunt has come to a safe and quick conclusion.”

Since the inception of the New Hampshire Joint Fugitive Task Force in 2002, these partnerships have resulted in over 6,216 arrests (Updated as of 12/24/2015). These arrests have ranged in seriousness from murder, assault, unregistered sex offenders, probation and parole violations and numerous other serious offenses. Nationally the United States Marshals Service fugitive programs are carried out with local law enforcement in 94 district offices, 85 local fugitive task forces, 7 regional task forces, as well as a growing network of offices in foreign countries.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Universal Aryan Brotherhood Member Pleads Guilty to Racketeering Charges

A member of the Universal Aryan Brotherhood (UAB) prison gang pleaded guilty today in federal court to charges of conspiracy to conduct a racketeering enterprise, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and two charges of violence committed in aid of racketeering, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Danny C. Williams Sr. of the Northern District of Oklahoma.

Ronnie Dean Haskins, aka Dirty Red, 43, of Oklahoma, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Frank H. McCarthy of the Northern District of Oklahoma.

In connection with his guilty plea, Haskins acknowledged his membership in or association with the UAB, a violent, “whites only” prison-based gang with members and associates operating inside and outside of state prisons throughout Oklahoma.

As alleged in the indictment, Haskins conspired in racketeering activities to advance the UAB enterprise, including possessing and selling 500 grams or more of methamphetamine.  Haskins also admitted that he orchestrated and participated in the kidnapping and maiming of a former UAB member who violated the UAB by-laws.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; Tulsa, Oklahoma, Police Department; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations Division; FBI; Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office and Oklahoma Department of Corrections investigated the case.  Trial Attorney John C. Hanley of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Allen Litchfield and Jan Reincke of the Northern District of Oklahoma are prosecuting the case.