TIME

Philadelphia Narcotics Cops Charged With Stealing Drugs, Money

Philadelphia Police Corruption Probe
Officers Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, and from bottom left to right, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman and John Speiser were arrested on Wednesday, July 30, 2014. The six narcotics officers are charged with multiple indictments including racketeering conspiracy, extortion, robbery, kidnapping and drug dealing. Philadelphia Police Department—Associated Press

As part of an ongoing federal corruption probe, six officers are facing a total of 26 indictments for offenses that include drug dealing, kidnapping and robbery.

FBI Agents on Wednesday arrested six Philadelphia cops as part of a federal corruption probe. The officers, former and current members of the Narcotics Field Unit, are facing a total of 26 indictments for offenses that include drug dealing, kidnapping and robbery.

Officers John Speiser, Thomas Liciardello, Michael Spicer, Brian Reynolds, Perry Betts, and Linwood Norman stand accused of stealing over half a million dollars worth of property, drugs, and cash, from February 2006 to November 2012. Officer Liciardello is also charged with falsifying records.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said in a press conference on Wednesday that in over 40 years as a police officer “this is one of the worst cases of corruption I’ve ever heard,” CBS Philly reported.

Sources told prosecutors that the officers allegedly used force to steal money and drugs, even holding one victim over the edge of an 18th-floor balcony, CBS Philly reported.

The arrests this week will reopen several civil rights lawsuits from suspects who claimed they were arrested under false charges.

All six of the indicted officers have plead not guilty and will be held in prison without bail, prosecutors say. Five of the officers could face life sentences if found guilty, while Officer Speiser could serve a maximum of 40 years, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

 

TIME Crime

Police: One Man Dead, Another Hospitalized After Downtown Chicago Shooting

One man is dead and another in critical condition after an apparent murder-suicide

Chicago police say one man died and another is in critical condition after an apparent murder-suicide attempt in a downtown high-rise building.

Officer Jose Estrada, a spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department, said police received a call around 9:50 a.m. local time about shots fired on the seventeenth floor of the building. The suspected shooter was pronounced dead on the scene from an apparently self-inflicted wound. Another man, aged 54, was hospitalized in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head.

Local media reports indicate that the shooting occurred at the Bank of America building in the West Loop area. Police are investigating the incident as a murder-suicide, according to Estrada.

According to the Associated Press, police say the suspected shooter was recently demoted and attacked his company’s CEO.

TIME Drugs

Authorities Arrest Man Who Allegedly Dealt Deadly Electric Zoo Molly

Electric Zoo 2013 - Day 1
Avicii performs during Electric Zoo 2013 at Randall's Island on August 30, 2013 in New York City. Daniel Zuchnik—Getty Images

The arrest comes just weeks before Electric Zoo returns with added safety measures

Federal prosecutors charged a man in Buffalo for allegedly distributing the drugs that led to the death of a concertgoer at the Electric Zoo music festival last year.

Patrick Morgan, 23, was arrested Wednesday after authorities traced the drugs to their alleged source.

According to the criminal complaint, Jeffrey Russ and two friends pooled money to buy pills of MDMA, more commonly known in its street form as ecstasy or Molly, ahead of the three-day New York City festival last year. Russ was one of two people at Electric Zoo who died of drug-related causes, prompting the festival to cut the program short by a day under the advice of the city.

Morgan is charged in Manhattan federal court with one count of conspiring to distribute narcotics and one count of distributing narcotics. Each charge carries up to 20 years in prison.

“As alleged, Patrick Morgan sold drugs that, far from enabling a good time, resulted in tragedy with the death of Jeffrey Russ. It bears repeating that every time people use drugs like ‘Molly’ they are rolling the dice with their own lives, which is a foolish and senseless wager,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

Morgan was released on signature bond, according to the Times.

 

The arrest comes amid a movement by federal and state authorities to pursue people who distribute drugs that end in users’ deaths, according to the New York Times. Earlier this month, a man was convicted of manslaughter for prescribing oxycodone, among other medications, to patients who later died from them, the Times reports.

Earlier this year, Electric Zoo announced plans to increase safety measures at this year’s event, being held next month. They also plan to crack down on drug use by using drug-sniffing dogs and undercover security officers.

TIME Crime

Man Arrested for Stabbing Transgender Teen on D.C. Metro

A suspect has been charged with assault using a deadly weapon and could face a longer sentence if convicted of a hate crime

Authorities say a 15-year-old transgender teenager who was stabbed on the Green Line Metro in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. is currently recovering from her non-life-threatening injuries at a local hospital, and remains in stable condition. The police apprehended a suspect, 24-year-old Reginald Anthony Klaiber of Greenbelt, Md., after witnesses identified him at a nearby station.

The victims’ friends told local news that Klaiber approached the group, singled out the victim, and ridiculed her for her appearance. Dan Stessell, a Metro spokesman, told CBS DC that Klaiber allegedly stabbed the victim in the back one time before he fled to Fort Totten Station, where he was later arrested.

The attack comes shortly after a report released by Trans Violence Tracking Portal (TVTP), revealed that 102 transgender people were murdered in 12 countries from January to April this year. Allison Woolbert, the founder of TVTP, says an antitransgender stigma has led to a disproportionate rate of violence against transgender people in 2014. “The suicides, the violence, the missing persons, and the murders are all directly related to a person’s gender identity,” Woolbert wrote to Vox.

The District of Columbia’s hate-crime laws offer some protection to transgender victims by enhancing sentences for offenders. The Metropolitan Police Department is also required to federally report hate crimes each year.

Klaiber was charged with assault using a deadly weapon and could face additional hate-crime charges, according to NBC Washington. If found guilty, the suspect’s sentence could be extended 1.5 times under District of Columbia law.

TIME Crime

Lone Seattle Police Officer Responsible for 80% of City’s Marijuana Citations

Seattle Police Chief
Seattle police chief Kathleen O'Toole salutes during a singing of the national anthem with Mayor Ed Murray at her side on June 23, 2014 Ken Lambert—AP

Cop in question reportedly issued 66 of 83 marijuana tickets handed out in the Emerald City during the first half of 2014

Seattle police chief Kathleen O’Toole has been forced to reassign an officer on her staff after the employee in question reportedly issued 80% of the city’s marijuana citations this year.

Officials are investigating the matter following the publication of the department’s first biannual report relating to marijuana enforcement, according to a statement released by O’Toole on Wednesday afternoon.

The Seattle Police Department report found that 66 of the 83 marijuana tickets issued this year was done so by a single officer, who at times would scribble peculiar notes in the margins of the citations in question.

“Some notes requested the attention of city attorney Peter Holmes and were addressed to ‘Petey Holmes,’” said O’Toole. “In another instance, the officer indicated he flipped a coin when contemplating which subject to cite.”

The police officer implicated in the incident has been taken off his regular patrol duties during the course of the investigation.

TIME Crime

Former Detroit Tiger Charged with Sexual Assault of Michigan Woman

Detroit Tigers pitcher Evan Reed throws against the Houston Astros in the seventh inning of a baseball game in Detroit on May 6, 2014.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Evan Reed throws against the Houston Astros in the seventh inning of a baseball game in Detroit on May 6, 2014. Paul Sancya—AP

Evan Reed is accused of sexually assaulting a 45-year-old woman in late March, while knowing the victim was "physically helpless or mentally incapacitated or mentally incapable to consent"

A former Detroit Tigers pitcher was charged with sexual assault on Wednesday for allegedly attacking a woman he met at a bar in March. Evan Reed, 28, a minor league pitcher for the Toledo Mud Hens, is accused of committing the alleged rape while the victim was “physically helpless or mentally incapacitated or mentally incapable to consent,” according to a release from the Wayne County Prosecutors office.

The victim, a 45-year-old woman from Oakland County, says she “began to feel odd” after finishing a drink at a bar in Royal Oak, Mich. The alleged assault took place in late March.

The Wayne County Prosecutors office has charged Reed with two counts of criminal sexual conduct, which could result in a maximum of 15 years behind bars. Reed is expected in a Detroit court on Thursday.

Reed’s lawyer called the charges “ridiculous” in a statement Wednesday, saying the 28-year-old has been cooperative and the evidence should prove he is not guilty.

“Evan fully cooperated with the police, gave witness statements, and provided other documentation supporting his innocence. Evan will be demanding a speedy trial and is looking forward to his day in court where he will be vindicated of any alleged wrongdoing,” lawyers Ben M. Gonek and David Gorcyca said in a joint statement. “When 12 jurors hear the facts of this case, there is no doubt in our minds they will find Evan not guilty of the charged offenses.”

The Detroit Tigers organization is also reportedly “closely monitoring” the situation. “As an organization, we take matters like this very seriously, and we are closely monitoring the situation,” the Tigers said in a statement. “Evan Reed’s representatives are handling his legal proceeding that must run its course before there is any further comment from the ballclub.”

TIME politics

Former Virginia Governor: My Dysfunctional Marriage Proves I’m Innocent

Bob McDonnell, Maureen McDonnell
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, accompanied by his wife, Maureen, speaks during a news conference in Richmond, Va., Jan. 21, 2014. Steve Helber—AP

Defense lawyers say the gov's wife accepted gifts because she had a crush on a political donor. Will the jury buy it? We asked the experts.

Lawyers for former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, argued Tuesday that the couple didn’t conspire to take over $165,000 in cash, shopping trips, and vacations from a wealthy donor, but instead only accepted the gifts because Mrs. McDonnell had a “crush” on the donor.

McDonnell, who left office in January, is accused of taking cash and gifts from Jonnie R. Williams Sr. in return for help promoting his dietary supplement company. But the couple’s lawyers are arguing that the Maureen McDonnell let Williams pay for expensive shopping trips and vacations because she had a “crush” on the charismatic businessman, and was unhappy in her marriage to the Governor. “Unlike the other man in her life, Jonnie Williams paid attention to Maureen McDonnell,” her defense attorney William Burck said. The couple face over 20 years in prison if convicted on federal corruption charges.

But will a jury believe the “crush” defense? Some lawyers think they just might.

“I think it’s ingenious, and I think it may work,” says Solomon L. Wisenberg, a D.C. based white collar defense lawyer who served as deputy independent counsel to Kenneth Starr during the Whitewater-Lewinsky investigations. “It certainly doesn’t make either one of them look good, but that’s not the same thing as committing a crime.”

Wisenberg notes that the McDonnells had filed a motion to sever, which would have allowed the co-defendants to face separate charges, but that this motion was denied, which means they had to coordinate their defense arguments. “This allows them to have kind of a complementary defense without pointing fingers at each other, yet it helps him because she’s obviously the principle player, and she’s the first one who roped this guy in,” he says.

“This strikes me as a more atypical defense, but that doesn’t mean it’s a Hail Mary pass,” says Josh Bowers, a professor at University of Virginia Law School who specializes in criminal procedure. “It could very well be the truth, and sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.”

But is Maureen McDonnell falling on her sword to protect her husband? “She’s got a lot less room to maneuver than he does,” Wisenberg explains. Mrs. McDonnell would have frequent private meetings with Williams, one former staff member called him her “favorite playmate,” and the two allegedly exchanged over 1,200 texts and phone calls over two years. “What’s she gonna do, say ‘It’s all my husband?’ The facts don’t seem to support that. What are her options other than what she’s doing?” he adds. The defense team also argued that Mrs. McDonnell was never a public official, and so shouldn’t be held to the same standards as her husband.

Wisenberg also notes that it might have been a misstep for the prosecution to start off with testimony from the McDonnell’s daughter Cailin, whose wedding was partially funded through gifts from Williams. Cailin McDonnell Young cried on the stand when she testified Tuesday that Williams had footed the bill for the catering at her 2011 nupitals. Wisenberg says Cailin’s tears on the witness stand could bode well for the defense, since a crying young woman makes the prosecution look like bullies, especially since juries are more likely to remember what happens at the beginning and end of the trial. “She’s an attractive young female testifying about the wedding, asking for Kleenex,” he says. “If I’m on the defense, I’m doing high-fives under the table.”

TIME Crime

Detroit 8-Year-Old Shot Dead in His Sleep

Jakari Pearson was killed in the early hours of Wednesday morning

An eight-year-old boy was fatally shot Wednesday whilst sleeping in his Detroit home, the Detroit News reports. Police are interviewing a man identified as a “person of interest.”

Jakari Pearson was killed in the early hours of the morning in his bed in Detroit’s near east side. The Detroit Police Department said shots were fired around 1.15am into the home.

Pearson was hit once in the upper body and taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. His mother was also wounded, though her condition is unknown. Family at the site of the shooting said the gunman may have been a former partner of the boy’s mother.

“The person we are talking to has not been arrested or been identified as a suspect in the shooting,” a Detroit Police spokesperson said. “He’s nothing more than a person of interest in this case and is being interviewed.”

The spokesperson, Sgt. Michael Woody added: “We have a pretty good idea of who it is that we are looking for… We hope the community continues to talk to us and feeds us information so we can track this individual down and get him into custody very quickly.”

[The Detroit News]

 

TIME Crime

Murdered Teen Texted Boyfriend ‘I’m Being Kidnapped’

April Millsap
April Millsap, in an undated photo provided by the Millsap family via Michigan State Police, July 27, 2014. Michigan State Police/AP

Middle schooler was found dead hours after she left her home to walk the family dog

A 14-year-old Michigan girl who was found murdered last week reportedly texted her boyfriend just before her death.

“Omg… I think I’m being kidnapped,” was the text April Millsap’s boyfriend received from her phone the night she was killed last Thursday, the Detroit Free Press reports. Millsap, who was due to start high school in the fall, was found dead by the side of the road, hours after she had left her home in Armada, Michigan, to walk the family dog. A couple found her body later that night, guarded by the collie, named “Penny.” An autopsy report confirmed that April was murdered, but authorities declined to say how, specifying only that she was not shot or stabbed.

Police have interviewed Millsap’s parents and boyfriend, but said they are “not considered suspects in her death.”

[Detroit Free Press]

TIME States

Family of Georgia Teen Found Dead at School Files New Lawsuit

Kendrick Johnson rally in Atlanta, Georgia
Jacquelyn Johnson, center, and her husband Kenneth, right, speak at a rally on behalf of their dead son Kendrick Johnson at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Dec. 11, 2013 Erik S. Lesser—EPA

They insist that the death of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson was murder, and that its aftermath has been a comprehensive cover-up

The family of a Georgia teenager found dead in his high school gymnasium last year has sued school officials, accusing them of ignoring patterns of harassment that some believe culminated in his murder.

On Jan. 11, 2013, a group of students at Lowndes High School in the south Georgia town of Valdosta discovered the body of Kendrick Johnson rolled up in an exercise mat in the school gymnasium. His death, local police investigators determined, was an accident — he had climbed into the center of the mat to fetch a shoe and got stuck — but his parents, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, were not convinced.

They have filed two lawsuits against the school system in the past three months, CNN reports, both claiming that the relevant authorities willfully ignored a string of incidents in which white students antagonized Kendrick, who was black. The most recent, filed this week, points directly at Lowndes High School’s principal, Jay Floyd, as well as Lowndes County’s Board of Education and its superintendent.

Because of their indifference, the suit says, Kendrick was “violently assaulted, severely injured, suffered great physical pain and mental anguish, and subjected to insult and loss of life.”

His parents insist that his death was a homicide, and its aftermath a conspiratorial cover-up. After local authorities officially dismissed this claim, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson solicited the services of an independent pathologist, who identified “unexplained apparent nonaccidental blunt force trauma” to their son’s neck. When that pathologist, Dr. Bill Anderson, opened up Kendrick’s body for a second autopsy, he discovered its organs were missing, and it had been stuffed with newspaper.

Coroners typically remove organs during the initial autopsy but are expected to replace them; Kendrick’s parents complained they were not consulted.

Federal agencies launched an official investigation last fall, but the process of justice has been torpid. An anonymous email sent in January listing four students responsible for Kendrick’s death is not credible, authorities say.

[CNN]

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