TIME Courts

Boston Bomber’s Friend Jailed for 6 Years for Concealing Evidence

Dias Kadyrbayev
Jane Flavell Collins—AP Dias Kadyrbayev, center, a college friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is depicted in federal court in Boston on Aug. 21, 2014.

Prosecutor said Dias Kadyrbayev's actions displayed "callous disregard" for bombing victims

Nearly three weeks after a federal jury condemned Boston Marathon bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev to death, the first of three friends currently on trial in connection with the bombing has been sentenced to six years in jail.

Dias Kadyrbayev, a 21-year-old Kazakhstan native, pled guilty last year to charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice, the Associated Press reports, after admitting that he removed key evidence from Tsarnaev’s dorm room when he recognized his friend in images released by the FBI on April 18, 2013, three days after the bombing.

The evidence included Tsarnaev’s computer and a backpack of fireworks emptied of their explosive powder—which, prosecutors argued, could have helped prevent additional violence that ensued in the days following the April 15th bombing. MIT police Officer Sean Collier was killed in an April 18 shooting, leading to a firefight in the early morning of the 19th in which Tsarnaev’s brother and alleged co-conspirator Tamerlan was killed. The bombing also killed three and injured more than 260 runners and spectators situated near the race’s finish line.

Kadyrbayev, who had faced up to seven years in prison, apologized to these victims and their families before his sentencing on Tuesday, saying, “I can’t believe that I acted so stupidly.” He will be deported to Kazakhstan at the end of his prison sentence.

Two other college friends of Tsarnaev who accompanied Kadyrbayev to the suspect’s dormroom are expected to be sentenced on Friday.

[AP]

TIME justice

Attorney General Loretta Lynch Makes a Big Splash in Her First Month

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch appears before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 7, 2015.
Mark Wilson—Getty Images U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch appears before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 7, 2015.

After months of delay

Attorney General Loretta Lynch hit the ground running. After a months-long delay of her confirmation, the nation’s top cop faced a crowded docket of some of the most difficult issues the Department of Justice can face, from domestic police misconduct to a complex international investigation.

The first African-American woman to hold the post, Lynch has gotten high marks so far, though she still faces some major challenges seeing those cases to the end.

On the home front, Lynch announced a review into the Baltimore police department following unrest sparked by the death of a black man in police custody. She then met with civil rights leaders and law enforcement in the city as well as on a separate trip to Cincinnati designed to highlight its success on restoring trust with the black community. For now, she’s managed to keep both sides happy.

“I haven’t seen or heard any place where anything she’s said should be broadly offensive to police,” Ron Hosko, president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund and a vocal critic of Attorney General Eric Holder, tells TIME. “That’s a plus.”

On the international side, she spearheaded the arrest of international soccer executives on corruption charges, garnering positive attention from the international press. “It was interesting, from this side, that there’s a woman calling the shots for the U.S., and a black woman at that. In particular, going up against football, which is such a boys’ club,” South African sports reporter Thabiso Sithole told the New York Times.

While police misconduct was an issue thrust upon the new attorney general, the charges against FIFA executives were just the latest step in a long-brewing investigation that Lynch began when she served as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

For Lynch’s longtime supporters, the success of her first few weeks has not been surprising.

While working as a federal prosecutor, Lynch brought successful convictions against members of the mafia, terrorists, public officials, gang members and shady bankers. When Obama announced her nomination he said she “might be the only lawyer in America who battles mobsters and drug lords and terrorists, and still has the reputation for being a charming ‘people person.’”

“She’s eminently well qualified for this position so doesn’t surprise me that she would do the job as well as she has done it,” says Ronald Weich, the dean of the University of Baltimore law school and former assistant attorney general in the Obama Administration. “These are challenging times and she seems especially well-suited to take on the demands of the office.”

Still, Lynch faces some tough decisions down the road. She still has to decide whether to bring charges against the New York police officers involved in the death of Eric Garner. Her office is closely involved in many of the Patriot Act investigations that have become a point of controversy in Congress. And as her predecessors learned, there will be issues that no one has even heard of yet to deal with in the future.

“She’s going to get big wins but it’s not the wins that sustain you,” Hosko says. “It’s what you do in the face of conflict. What do you do when things turn bad? How does she navigate those waters? It’s navigating the whitewater that will tell the tale at the end of the day.”

TIME Supreme Court

What the Supreme Court Didn’t Say About Rap

Alex Wong/Getty Images

For months, First Amendment scholar Clay Calvert awaited the Supreme Court’s ruling on whether a threat issued on Facebook in the form of rap lyrics was indeed a threat.

On Monday, Calvert got an answer, but it wasn’t nearly what he or many others in the free speech community had hoped.

“It’s anti-climatic,” Calvert, a professor at the University of Florida tells TIME.

The Court ruled 8-1 on Monday to overturn the conviction of Anthony Elonis, whose violent and derogatory Facebook posts about his ex-wife and the FBI were interpreted as threats. But Elonis argued he was just letting off steam. The court, he said, needed to consider his intent. The Supreme Court on Monday agreed in part, saying prosecutors needed to show that the defendant meant for the messages to be considered as threats and sent the case back to a lower court. The Court on Monday opted not to consider the First Amendment argument Elonis presented, instead focusing on a federal threats law instead.

For Elonis, Calvert says, the decision was a small win since he still faces the possibility of conviction in the lower court. But many wannabe rappers across the country who’ve raised the issue of whether the use of their lyrics in criminal proceedings is a violation of their constitutional right to free speech say this was a missed opportunity.

“Six months [after the oral argument] you get a decision that misses the entire First Amendment question and hones in on this one statute,” says Calvert, who wrote an amicus brief on the issue. “It’s really highly disappointing. It didn’t clarify much in the long run.”

Take the case of Jamal Knox, a Pittsburgh man who was convicted of issuing terroristic threats against police officers in the form of a rap song posted on YouTube. Months after police found heroin on him during a traffic stop, Knox recorded a rap song under the name Mayhem Mal that named his arresting officers and included the lyric “Let’s kill these cops.” He later claimed he didn’t mean the threat, saying he was using his life to inform his art, no different than the poet Langston Hughes or the rapper Tupac Shakur. He even told the court he didn’t mean for the song to be released to the public.

Defense attorneys and the Pittsburgh-based legal organization Legal Means who are working on an appeal for Knox are reluctant to give an all-out praise of the ruling, but one of the attorneys working with Knox says the ruling can been seen as positive.

“It doesn’t take legal expert or a rocket scientist to see that the fact patterns kind of match up and there’s room to be optimistic,” says Daniel Muessig, who is working alongside attorneys Patrick Nightingale and Mikhail Pappas on Knox’s case.

The Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday also made strange bedfellows out of those in the free speech community and the dissenting judges, both of whom found fault with the Court’s failure to address the First Amendment issues of the case.

Justice Clarence Thomas said in his dissent that the failure to address the threats standard head-on “throws everyone from appellate judges to everyday Facebook users into a state of uncertainty.”

Justice Samuel Alito, who concurred in part and dissented in part, in no way agrees that threats should be taken lightly or that Elonis’ notes about smothering his estranged wife with a pillow and dumping her body in a lake should be considered works of art. “A fig leaf of artistic expression cannot convert such hurtful, valueless threats into protected speech,” he writes. But by not explaining what type of intent is necessary to prove his words were a threat leaves far too much room for interpretation.

“This will have regrettable consequences,” he writes.

Muessig says, too, that had the Supreme Court ruled on the First Amendment grounds it would have been better for their cases and others like it.

“The point [Justice Thomas] brought up in his dissent where he said that they didn’t address the issue fully, I think that would have made a lot more sense,” Muessig says. “But, I’m not going to look a rare victory for the underdog in the mouth here.”

The unaddressed issue of speech, though, means rappers and aspiring rappers who’ve increasingly found their lyrics used against them at trial were denied a concrete answer to the question of when recorded rhymes become considered a criminal act or a legally recognized admission of guilt.

Though prosecutors have been using hip-hop lyrics to bolster their cases since the early 1990s, the practice is becoming increasingly popular in courtrooms across the country. In the past three years alone, prosecutors have used rap lyrics to help secure convictions in dozens of cases. Sometimes prosecutors say the lyrics describe the suspect’s alleged crime, as in the case of Ronald Herron, a.k.a. Ra Diggs, who was sentenced in April to life in prison after attorneys tied his rap persona to actual crimes. In other cases prosecutors use lyrics recorded long before a crime to convince grand juries and judges of a suspect’s mindset.

“The Supreme Court case involving threats isn’t likely to affect the larger tradition of using rap as evidence in an underlying crime,” says Erik Nielson, who often serves as a legal expert alongside University of California Professor Charis Kubrin on cases involving the use of rap. “The cases in which rappers’ or aspiring rappers’ lyrics are perceived as threats still comprise a minority of cases.”

Calvert agrees. “They totally missed the rap issue,” he says. “It’s kind of much ado about nothing.”

TIME Crime

Police Shootings Killed Nearly 400 in 5 Months, Report Finds

police shooting
Joe Amon—Denver Post/Getty Images A Northglenn police officer was shot twice and a suspect killed as authorities served a narcotics search warrant at 10909 East 109th Place on May 28, 2015 in Northglenn, Colo.

Two-thirds of those who were unarmed were Hispanic or black

At least 385 people were killed in police shootings during the first five months of this year, according to a new analysis, a grim tally that aims to put a more realistic figure against a federal estimate that is considered to be significantly underreported.

While about half of the victims were white, the report released Saturday by the Washington Post found that two-thirds of those who were unarmed were Hispanic or black. Among the other findings: 92 of those killed were identified by family or authorities as mentally ill, 49 people had no weapon and the guns held by 13 people were actually toys.

The analysis relied on police records, media coverage and other sources. While the federal government keeps data on fatal police shootings, it’s widely considered to be incomprehensive, as only some of the nearly 18,000 police departments across the country contribute information.

The findings aim to keep attention on the national debate over police force in the wake of several high-profile police killings of unarmed black Americans over the past year, from Eric Garner in New York City last July and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., the next month to 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland last November and Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C., this past April.

Read more at the Washington Post.

TIME

Hastert Paid to Hush Up Sexual Misconduct, Reports Say

Several outlets reporting former House Speaker paid to hush up misconduct of a sexual nature

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert allegedly paid an individual to keep quiet about sexual misconduct, according to multiple media reports.

The Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and Buzzfeed reported, citing anonymous federal officials, that the “prior misconduct” mentioned in the seven page indictment of Hastert was sexual in nature.

The New York Times reports a man told the FBI Hastert had fondled him when Hastert was a history teacher and wrestling coach at Yorkville High School. Hastert was at the school between 1965 and 1981.

Hastert was charged on Thursday for lying to FBI agents about bank transactions he made to allegedly “compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct” against the person identified as “Individual A.”

The Northern Illinois U.S. District Attorney’s office declined to comment on the specific misconduct, noting that the 73-year-old had only been charged for the two crimes mentioned in the indictment. Calls to representatives at Dickstein Shapiro, where Hastert worked before the indictment, were not immediately returned.

Hastert will not be arrested, according to a spokesperson at the U.S. Attorney’s office, but no court date has been set. A judge, however has been assigned to the case— Obama appointee Judge Thomas M. Durkin.

TIME justice

Feds Say No Evidence Black Man Found Hanged in Mississippi Was Murdered

Investigators rule out the possibility of hate crime prosecution for the death of Otis James Byrd

Investigators concluded that there was no evidence that a 54-year-old black man who was found hanging from a tree in Port Gibson, Mississippi was the victim of homicide, the Justice Department announced on Friday.

Officials with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division met with Byrd’s family on Friday to convey the news that the investigation would conclude without charges of a federal hate crime.

“After a careful and thorough review, a team of experienced federal prosecutors and FBI agents determined that there was no evidence to prove that Byrd’s death was a homicide,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

“Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that an individual willfully caused bodily injury because of the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity or disability.”

TIME Education

Chinese Nationals Accused of Vast SAT Cheating Conspiracy

They helped foreign students cheat on college entrance exams, according to an indictment

A group of 15 Chinese nationals are accused of orchestrating a vast conspiracy to help foreign students cheat on standardized college entrance exams administered in the U.S., in what appears to be one of the more brazen testing-related scandals in the past decade, according to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed Thursday.

For the past four years, the defendants provided counterfeit Chinese passports to impostors, who then sneaked into testing centers, mostly in western Pennsylvania, where they took the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), while claiming to be someone else, according to the indictment.

It’s unclear how many students used these fraudulent test scores to gain admission to American colleges and universities, and to therefore illegally obtain F1 Student Visas.

“These students were not only cheating their way into the university, they were also cheating their way through our nation’s immigration system,” said special agent John Kelleghan of Homeland Security Investigations in Philadelphia. “HSI will continue to protect our nation’s borders and work with our federal law enforcement partners to seek out those committing transnational crimes and bring them to justice.”

A federal grand jury in Pittsburgh issued an indictment on May 21 on 35 charges, including conspiracy, counterfeiting foreign passports, and defrauding the Educational Testing Services (ETS) and the College Board, according to U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

If the defendants are found guilty, they face a maximum total sentence of 20 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

TIME justice

Cleveland Police Restrictions by DOJ Among the Most Extensive, Expert Says

Cleveland Police Shooting Protest
Tony Dejak—AP Protesters congregate in front of city hall Tuesday, May 26, 2015, in Cleveland. Members of about 40 churches are protesting the acquittal of a white patrolman charged in the deaths of two unarmed black motorists with a march through downtown Cleveland.

The 110-page report's mandates rank alongside New Orleans' requirements

The U.S. Department of Justice’s 110-page settlement agreement with the Cleveland Police Department released Tuesday includes one of the most extensive sets of restrictions ever placed upon a law enforcement agency, according to a federally appointed monitor working on a similar case.

The agreement requires Cleveland’s police to adopt hundreds of new policies and procedures to fix what the federal government has called a pattern of systemic abuses and unconstitutional practices. It includes mandates to adopt community policing strategies, prohibitions on use of force for people who are handcuffed or restrained and restrictions on firing from and at moving vehicles, as well as extensive mandates on logging use of force incidents—including each time officers unholster their weapons.

The agreement also includes a mandate to invest in police resources like computers, vehicles and other equipment. Geoffrey Alpert, a federally appointed monitor working with police in New Orleans, says he’s never seen a DOJ agreement that included a pledge to boost resources.

“I think that’s essentially the Justice Department saying, ‘Part of the problem is you didn’t fund your police department adequately,'” Alpert says.

Alpert monitors the implementation of what is generally considered the most extensive comprehensive agreement handed down by the DOJ to a law enforcement agency: the 2012 consent decree involving New Orleans police.

MORE: The Problems With Policing the Police

Following a DOJ report that found a history of corruption, use of excessive force and discrimination throughout New Orleans police, the government issued a 122-page agreement calling for a new reporting system to track all use of force incidents; prohibiting threats of violence during suspect interviews; requiring recordings of all interrogations; and even offering guidelines on how officers should refer to transgender residents.

But just as important, says Alpert, the agreement was the first to include outcome measures to determine whether the department was fulfilling its mandated requirements. And since then, he believes the DOJ agreements with departments like Ferguson, Mo., Newark, N.J., and Albuquerque, N.M., have improved over time for each agency.

“Justice has a learning curve,” Alpert says, referring to the DOJ. “You learn from your mistakes, and the agreements after those are oftentimes better versions.”

As the department implements its reforms, Cleveland is awaiting a decision on whether officers will be charged in the deaths last fall of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was fatally shot as he was playing with a replica gun, and Tanisha Anderson, who died following an altercation with police. Rice’s family is suing the police department for negligence.

Last week, a judge acquitted Officer Michael Brelo, who is white, in the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, both of whom were black. Officers fired 137 shots into their vehicle following a police chase. Brelo, who was acquitted of manslaughter, fired 15 shots into the car after climbing onto its hood. Last year, Cleveland settled a lawsuit with the victims’ families over their deaths.

TIME Soccer

Swiss Authorities to Investigate FIFA Over 2018 and 2022 World Cup Bids

FBL-FIFA-CORRUPTION-US-SWITZERLAND
Fabrice Coffrini—AFP/Getty Images FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio gives a press conference at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich on May 27, 2015

The suspects are likely to be extradited to the U.S.

Swiss officials rounded up seven leading soccer officials in Zurich on Wednesday morning as a part of an operation that will likely see the suspects extradited to the U.S. on corruption charges, reports the New York Times. The arrests come just days ahead of the 65th congress of the sport’s global governing body FIFA, which is scheduled to commence in the Swiss city on Thursday.

Federal prosecutors in Switzerland have opened criminal proceedings related to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and said they have seized “electronic data and documents” at the FIFA headquarters as part of the investigation. Police officials said 10 executive committee members who took part in the 2010 votes will be questioned. The U.S. Department of Justice has also unveiled an indictment against nine FIFA officials, including vice presidents Jeffrey Webb and Eugene Figueredo, and five corporate executives for racketeering conspiracy and corruption.

The soccer organization has been long bedeviled by rumors of graft, especially relating to World Cup bids and broadcast rights.“We’re struck by just how long this went on for and how it touched nearly every part of what FIFA did,” an unidentified law-enforcement official told the newspaper. “It just seemed to permeate every element of the federation and was just their way of doing business. It seems like this corruption was institutionalized.”

[NYT]

TIME Courts

How Attica’s Ugly Past Is Still Protected

Attica After Riot
Santi Visalli Inc. / Getty Images The vacant prison yard strewn with debris at the Attica State Correctional Facility in Attica, New York, on Sept. 14, 1971

Why advocates and survivors are disappointed by a new release of records from the 1971 retaking of Attica Correctional Facility

On the morning of Sept. 13, 1971, New York State troopers, along with other members of law enforcement, shot 39 men to death. They wounded scores of others so severely that many suffered permanent disabilities. Not only did these men shoot countless rounds of ammunition at people who had no guns, but they also decided not to log the serial numbers of the deadly weapons they wielded. Some of them had even removed their badges so they couldn’t be identified.

This carnage took place at one of America’s most forbidding penal institutions—the Attica State Correctional Facility in upstate New York—where, four days earlier, over 1,200 prisoners had begun a historic protest against abysmal conditions and abuses. To ensure that the State of New York would consider their demands and not harm them, these men had taken hostages and also asked that outside observers come to the prison to oversee their negotiations with state officials. On day five, however—despite hostages, observers, and prisoners alike begging them to continue talks—state officials decided to retake the prison with force.

The results were disastrous. Within 15 minutes of hundreds of troopers, as well as some sherrifs, park police and corrections officers storming the prison, Attica’s D Yard was soaked in blood. Hundreds of men lay dead, dying or descending into shock from their gunshot wounds.

Despite this horrific scene, however, no member of law enforcement was ever held responsible for what he did that day. Indeed, even though 39 people had been felled by bullets, including the state’s own employees, no one ever stood trial for these killings. Instead, the State of New York spent the next 40 years resisting any attempt to make public its extensive records regarding who exactly did what to cause so much trauma at Attica.

A few days ago, however, Attica’s survivors and families of the deceased had some measure of hope that this might finally change. On Thursday morning, they waited with bated breath because finally, it seemed, the State of New York was going to release some particularly key records related to Attica, thanks to their relentless pressure and a judge’s ruling back in April. For decades these survivors have wanted the records opened. They believe that, if nothing else, they have the right to know who was responsible for their catastrophic losses. And, at 2:00pm those records were officially released–at least sort of.

What survivors hoped to see was insider information about the retaking of Attica, information that is contained in two previously-sealed volumes of the so-called Meyer Report—a report commissioned back in 1976 when the state was accused by one of its own of, among other things, covering up law-enforcement crimes committed at Attica. Finally getting to read volumes two and three of this report might mean, for example, that surviving hostage Michael Smith could finally find out who had riddled his lower abdomen with bullets, almost killing him and causing him years of agony. These volumes might also allow Traycee Barkley, the younger sister of slain 21-year-old prisoner L.D. Barkley to learn who had shot her brother to death and perhaps also to learn whether in fact, as various prisoners as well as respected state assemblyman observer Arthur Eve kept insisting back in 1971, he was shot to death after the retaking was complete. Or possibly the family of Attica prisoner Kenny Malloy might finally learn the name of the trooper who not only shot him to death, but also then proceeded to shoot out his eyes. Maybe the family of correction officer John Monteleone could finally learn how he ended up bleeding to death from a bullet wound to his chest.

Instead they learned little more than many of them already knew firsthand.

Prisoners’ decades-long insistence that police officers had brutalized them long after the state had regained control of the prison was, for example, confirmed in this release of records. This is no small thing since, for decades, state officials firmly denied that such abuses ever took place. Notably though, the prisoners who endured the retaking of Attica already knew that they had suffered mightily at the hands of law enforcement and, thanks to their tenacity in the courts over the last 40 years, their trauma had been acknowledged legally; juries awarded them damages for that trauma back in 1997 and in 2000 the State of New York was forced to pay them a settlement. That troopers had used excessive force when they retook Attica had also been confirmed and legally censured in 1982 when a judge issued his scathing ruling in a case brought against the State of New York by the widow of a slain hostage.

But, remarkably, of the 340 pages of the Meyer Report that the judge viewed for release, only 46 pages were given to the public and even these pages were partially redacted. It was no surprise that there would be redactions: To the satisfaction of the state’s Police Benevolent Association, the April ruling that led to the release of the papers had specified that no grand-jury testimony would be disclosed, in respect for the traditional secrecy of such proceedings. Still, the extent of the omissions came as a shock. The crucial names and the hoped-for details contained even in non-grand jury materials also remain hidden.

And so, despite the fanfare that accompanied the recent release of records related to the Attica uprising, Attica’s victims are left disappointed. Still they remain in the dark as to whom state officials knew, or believed strongly, had killed 39 people during the retaking or who had worked so hard to make sure those shooters would never be held accountable. Still those who retook Attica with such ugliness are protected–those individuals who unloaded round after round of buckshot and countless explode-on-impact bullets into the backs and bellies of hundreds of unarmed men. Indeed, in this disclosure of the Attica records there is no mention of these acts or these men–let alone any information revealed about them that might allow Attica’s victims some sense of closure.

Perhaps the State of New York is right to be concerned about disclosing all it knows about what exactly happened at Attica back in 1971. After all, there is no statute of limitation on murder in this country, and not only has the public been glad to see quite a few decades-old cases reopened in recent years, but men have gone to prison for crimes they committed long ago. And, what is more, for many months now Americans in cities across the country have been taking to the streets to demand that law enforcement be held accountable for citizen deaths. But Attica’s survivors don’t seem to be out for that kind of justice—or at least they hold no hope that it might be attained. Yet individuals, along with organizations like the Forgotten Victims of Attica, continue to press for an opening of the records. They just want closure. One day, they hope, state officials will finally care more about Attica’s victims than protecting those who caused the chaos.

The Long ViewHistorians explain how the past informs the present

Heather Ann Thompson is a professor of history at the University of Michigan who writes regularly on contemporary issues of incarceration and policing and soon will be publishing the first comprehensive history of the Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its legacy for Pantheon Books.

Read TIME’s original coverage of the events at Attica, here in the TIME Vault: The Bitter Lessons of Attica

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