Welcome to the LSIS Investigative Journal

Welcome to the LSIS Investigative Journal

Friday, April 24, 2015

Philadelphia Police-Corruption Probe story

Philadelphia Police-Corruption Probe story

Associated Press
April 16, 2015 3:39 PM


Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A disgraced ex-police officer testifying against his drug squad colleagues acknowledged Tuesday that he stole drug money, planted evidence and lied on police paperwork too many times to count.

Jeffrey Walker told jurors that the Philadelphia Police Department drug squad targeted white "college-boy ... khaki-pants types" who were "easy to intimidate."

That matches the description of some of the drug dealers who have testified at the six-week police corruption trial that the squad stole as much as $110,000 at a time during violent, no-warrant raids.

Lead defendant Thomas Liciardello always got a cut of the stolen money, while the others split "jobs" that they worked, Walker said. The city's police brass often celebrated the squad's work with splashy news conferences to announce large seizures.

"They liked that, as far as the bosses and supervisors were concerned. It made them look good. It was nothing but a dog and pony show," Walker testified.

More than 160 drug convictions have been overturned since Walker pleaded guilty and the others were named in a 26-count indictment. Scores of civil-rights lawsuits are pending over the arrests. Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey has voiced his disgust with the squad's alleged crimes while continuing his effort to clean out and reform the 7,000-member department.

Walker, 46, said he first stole money as a uniformed patrolman when he chased a dealer into a house and spotted a large bag of cash on top of the refrigerator.

"I never saw that much money. I was a young kid," Walker told jurors. "I took some money, put it in my jacket pocket."

Defense lawyers have attacked his credibility and will no doubt point out on cross-examination Wednesday the times he admits acting alone, even before he joined the elite undercover drug unit. He also said he developed a drinking problem and became forgetful.

Walker had nearly 24 years in when he was arrested in an FBI sting in 2013. He was making $119,000 a year, and padding overtime for court appearances and undercover work. The illicit drug money provided yet more "gravy."

Walker and defendant Linwood Norman were known as "The Twin Towers," often assigned by Liciardello to rough people up.

In one of their more memorable assignments, Norman leaned drug suspect Michael Cascioli over a high-rise balcony to elicit the passcode for his Palm Pilot, according to Walker, who helped scare the suspect.

City police officials later held a news conference to announce that the 2007 search had yielded more than $1.5 million in marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms, and $440,000 in cash. Federal prosecutors now say the squad raided the apartment before they got a warrant.

In another episode, Walker admitted carrying a heavy safe full of drug money down 17 flights of stairs to avoid being seen on the elevator security camera. And he described another heist when he stuffed so much bundled cash into his police vest that he had to wear Liciardello's vest over his to cover the bulges.

Walker agreed to cooperate after the FBI caught him stealing $15,000 from a suspect and planting drugs in his car. He has been in custody ever since and hopes to avoid a life sentence through his testimony.

Liciardello, he said, warned squad members not to change their spending habits so dramatically that they attracted attention. The other ex-squad members on trial are Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts and John Speiser.

Walker said he once worked closely with Liciardello and Reynolds but was ostracized as he went through a divorce, weight loss surgery and other personal problems. Assistant U.S. Attorney Maureen late Tuesday introduced a series of threatening texts Liciardello sent Walker once he suspected Walker was talking to Internal Affairs.

"Your now a rat I hope you die," Liciardello wrote. "I will have you locked up by midnight. Goodbye loner."

"You will be in jail before me," Walker replied.

That didn't quite prove true. Liciardello — the only defendant denied bail after the July 2014 indictment — was jailed a year after him.

LINK: > Philadelphia Police-Corruption Probe story


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Woman submits profanity-laced tirade after lawsuit is dismissed ... " FUCK THIS COURT "

Woman submits profanity-laced tirade after lawsuit is dismissed ...  " FUCK THIS COURT "

Atlanta - After a woman's civil rights suit, filed on behalf of her son and husband, was tossed out in court, she responded with a nine-page, profanity-filled submission to the court

Link to Document: > FUCK THIS COURT

In September 2010, Tama Jada Clark was pulled over in Camilla, Georgia. Police searched her vehicle and discovered she had a AK-47 rifle and a .45-caliber pistol, both fully loaded, plus wilderness survival gear. Officers also allegedly heard cell phone recordings suggesting Clark was trying to break her husband — currently serving a 30-year sentence — out of jail, and she was arrested.

In 2014, Clark filed a lawsuit, saying her civil rights were violated. She claims she was not in the same city as the jail her husband is being kept in, though the town she was pulled over in is close by. She also says she legally owned the two guns.

During her court appearance, she apparently claimed to be born in Pensacola, Florida, though she says she's not a "citizen or national" of the United States. Her lawsuit was dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge Willis B. Hunt on March 31. In response she submitted a nine-page legal filing accusing the court of favouring authorities and ignoring her more than 100 pages of "proper rebuttals."

"F*ck this court and everything it stands for," Clark said in the document. "Look here, old man, when I told you I AM Justice – I meant it." She goes on to say she took a month to study the "history of the world" and "American jurisprudence" and that the FBI and CIA have been trying to recruit her. She also said she thinks the court ignored her because it couldn't defend itself against her legal arguments.
She also submitted 25 pages of supplementary materials, including an article she wrote called "Why Most Americans Do Not Inherently Owe Federal Income Taxes."


Sunday, April 19, 2015

FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades

FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades

The Washington Post
By Spencer S. Hsu
April 18, 2015 

The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’slargest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions.

The FBI errors alone do not mean there was not other evidence of a convict’s guilt. Defendants and federal and state prosecutors in 46 states and the District are being notified to determine whether there are grounds for appeals. Four defendants were previously exonerated.

The admissions mark a watershed in one of the country’s largest forensic scandals, highlighting the failure of the nation’s courts for decades to keep bogus scientific information from juries, legal analysts said. The question now, they said, is how state authorities and the courts will respond to findings that confirm long-suspected problems with subjective, pattern-based forensic techniques — like hair and bite-mark comparisons — that have contributed to wrongful convictions in more than one-quarter of 329 DNA-exoneration cases since 1989.

In a statement, the FBI and Justice Department vowed to continue to devote resources to address all cases and said they “are committed to ensuring that affected defendants are notified of past errors and that justice is done in every instance. The Department and the FBI are also committed to ensuring the accuracy of future hair analysis testimony, as well as the application of all disciplines of forensic science.”

Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, commended the FBI and department for the collaboration but said, “The FBI’s three-decade use of microscopic hair analysis to incriminate defendants was a complete disaster.”

“We need an exhaustive investigation that looks at how the FBI, state governments that relied on examiners trained by the FBI and the courts allowed this to happen and why it wasn’t stopped much sooner,” Neufeld said.

Norman L. Reimer, the NACDL’s executive director, said, “Hopefully, this project establishes a precedent so that in future situations it will not take years to remediate the injustice.”

While unnamed federal officials previously acknowledged widespreadproblems, the FBI until now has withheld comment because findings might not be representative.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a former prosecutor, called on the FBI and Justice Department to notify defendants in all 2,500 targeted cases involving an FBI hair match about the problem even if their case has not been completed, and to redouble efforts in the three-year-old review to retrieve information on each case.

“These findings are appalling and chilling in their indictment of our criminal justice system, not only for potentially innocent defendants who have been wrongly imprisoned and even executed, but for prosecutors who have relied on fabricated and false evidence despite their intentions to faithfully enforce the law,” Blumenthal said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), urged the bureau to conduct “a root-cause analysis” to prevent future breakdowns.

“It is critical that the Bureau identify and address the systemic factors that allowed this far-reaching problem to occur and continue for more than a decade,” the lawmakers wrote FBI Director James B. Comey on March 27, as findings were being finalized.

The FBI is waiting to complete all reviews to assess causes but has acknowledged that hair examiners until 2012 lacked written standards defining scientifically appropriate and erroneous ways to explain results in court. The bureau expects this year to complete similar standards for testimony and lab reports for 19 forensic disciplines.

Federal authorities launched the investigation in 2012 after The Washington Post reported that flawed forensic hair matches might have led to the convictions of hundreds of potentially innocent people since at least the 1970s, typically for murder, rape and other violent crimes nationwide.

The review confirmed that FBI experts systematically testified to the near-certainty of “matches” of crime-scene hairs to defendants, backing their claims by citing incomplete or misleading statistics drawn from their case work.

In reality, there is no accepted research on how often hair from different people may appear the same. Since 2000, the lab has used visual hair comparison to rule out someone as a possible source of hair or in combination with more accurate DNA testing.

Warnings about the problem have been mounting. In 2002, the FBI reported that its own DNA testing found that examiners reported false hair matches more than 11 percent of the time. In the District, the only jurisdiction where defenders and prosecutors have re-investigated all FBI hair convictions, three of seven defendants whose trials included flawed FBI testimony have been exonerated through DNA testing since 2009, and courts have exonerated two more men. All five served 20 to 30 years in prison for rape or murder.

University of Virginia law professor Brandon L. Garrett said the results reveal a “mass disaster” inside the criminal justice system, one that it has been unable to self-correct because courts rely on outdated precedents admitting scientifically invalid testimony at trial and, under the legal doctrine of finality, make it difficult for convicts to challenge old evidence.

“The tools don’t exist to handle systematic errors in our criminal justice system,” Garrett said. “The FBI deserves every recognition for doing something really remarkable here. The problem is there may be few judges, prosecutors or defense lawyers who are able or willing to do anything about it.”

Federal authorities are offering new DNA testing in cases with errors, if sought by a judge or prosecutor, and agreeing to drop procedural objections to appeals in federal cases.

However, biological evidence in the cases often is lost or unavailable. Among states, only California and Texas specifically allow appeals when experts recant or scientific advances undermine forensic evidence at trial.

Defense attorneys say scientifically invalid forensic testimony should be considered as violations of due process, as courts have held with false or misleading testimony.

The FBI searched more than 21,000 federal and state requests to its hair comparison unit from 1972 through 1999, identifying for review roughly 2,500 cases where examiners declared hair matches.

Reviews of 342 defendants’ convictions were completed as of early March, the NACDL and Innocence Project reported. In addition to the 268 trials in which FBI hair evidence was used against defendants, the review found cases in which defendants pleaded guilty, FBI examiners did not testify, did not assert a match or gave exculpatory testimony.

When such cases are included, by the FBI’s count examiners made statements exceeding the limits of science in about 90 percent of testimonies, including 34 death-penalty cases.

The findings likely scratch the surface. The FBI said as of mid-April that reviews of about 350 trial testimonies and 900 lab reports are nearly complete, with about 1,200 cases remaining.

The bureau said it is difficult to check cases before 1985, when files were computerized. It has been unable to review 700 cases because police or prosecutors did not respond to requests for information.

Also, the same FBI examiners whose work is under review taught 500 to 1,000 state and local crime lab analysts to testify in the same ways.

Texas, New York and North Carolina authorities are reviewing their hair examiner cases, with ad hoc efforts underway in about 15 other states.

LINK >  Federal review stalled after finding forensic errors by FBI lab unit spanned two decades


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

V. Stiviano to appeal order to return $2.6 million to Sterling Family Trust

V. Stiviano to appeal order to return $2.6 million to Sterling Family Trust

LA Times
By Matt Hamilton
April 15, 2015

V. Stiviano, the former companion of Donald Sterling, will appeal a Los Angeles County judge’s tentative decision that she return more than $2.6 million in cash and gifts to the former NBA team owner, her attorney said.

On Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin Jr. ruled a home worth $1.8 million and more than $800,000 in luxury cars and cash gifts that Sterling gave his 32-year-old companion were assets he shared with his wife, Shelly. He ordered Stiviano to turn them over to the Sterling Family Trust.

Her attorney, Mac Nehoray, said Stiviano would appeal.

"We are very disappointed," Nehoray said. "Judges are supposed to interpret the law, not make them."

Stiviano contended the gifts were made when the Sterlings were separated.

The judge was not swayed, however, finding that the couple didn’t live separately “during any part” of 2011 through 2014.

“Their marriage had difficulties,” wrote Fruin, noting Shelly Sterling’s interview with Barbara Walters in which she admitted being estranged from her husband.

“However, the parties continued to live together, to travel together, to hold parties together and to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries together.”

The court decision bookends a tumultuous year for 80-year-old Donald Sterling, a real estate magnate who owned the NBA’s Clippers franchise for 33 years.

Shelly Sterling’s attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, announced the court decision Tuesday night.

"Shelly is thrilled with the decision,” said O’Donnell, who also called it “a victory for the Sterling family.”

Public outcry erupted in April 2014 after TMZ.com posted a recording of Donald Sterling scolding Stiviano for associating with blacks in public. On the recording, Sterling warned Stiviano not to bring blacks to Clippers games.

In the ensuing uproar, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million, banned him for life and moved to force the sale of the team, which was held by the Sterling Family Trust.

Following a probate trial, a Los Angeles County judge ruled Shelly Sterling had acted properly when she ousted her husband from the trust and said she had the authority to sell the Clippers. Former Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer subsequently paid $2 billion for the team.

During the nearly 2-½ years that Stiviano and Sterling were companions, he gave her a Bentley, a Range Rover and a Ferrari. He also bought her a Los Angeles duplex valued at $1.8 million.

Shelly Sterling contended Stiviano was her husband’s mistress, but they denied it.

At trial, Stiviano argued family members contributed a portion of the home’s payments. But the judge, after analyzing banking records and ledgers from Sterling’s company – along with testimony from both Sterling and Stiviano – found the octogenarian alone had bought the property. 

“Ms. Stiviano testified that Donald Sterling made payments to her or for her benefit that she acknowledged were gifts,” Fruin said.

The judge gave the parties 15 days to file objections or seek changes before his order becomes final.

LINK: >  V. Stiviano to appeal order to return $2.6 million to Donald Sterling

Thursday, April 9, 2015

LA Times Exclusive: Scientology head's father was spied on, police report says

Exclusive Scientology head's father was spied on, police report says

LA Times
Kim Christensen
April 8, 2015

For 18 months private detectives tracked every move made by the father of David Miscavige, leader of the Church of Scientology, as they eavesdropped, spied on his emails and planted a GPS unit on his car, according to police records.

The church paid the two detectives $10,000 a week through an intermediary, the records indicate, all because Miscavige feared that his father would divulge too much about the organization's activities.

The episode, detailed in documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times, is the latest in a decades-long series of allegations that the church has intimidated, harassed or abused current and former members, at times going to great lengths to dissuade them from discussing their experiences or knowledge of the secretive religion.

The surveillance of Ronald Miscavige Sr., a longtime Scientologist who had recently parted ways with the church, was described by Florida private eye Dwayne S. Powell, after he was arrested in July 2013 near Milwaukee with two rifles, four handguns, 2,000 rounds of ammunition and a homemade silencer in his rented SUV.

When confronted by West Allis, Wis., police responding to a report of a suspicious man in the neighborhood, Powell said he was house-hunting, according to the documents.

"Do I have to give you my name?" he asked the officers. "What law did I break?"

Police placed Powell, now 43, under arrest on suspicion of obstruction and in his pockets found a folding knife, a flashlight and his Florida driver's license and private investigator credentials. His Ford Edge also contained two laptop computers, binoculars, a GPS tracking device and a stun gun.

Powell initially declined to name his employer. But at the police station, he told Det. Nicholas Pye that he was hired by the Church of Scientology to conduct "full-time" surveillance of the elder Miscavige, now 79, who lived in a nearby town, the records state.

David Miscavige and the church deny any connection to Powell.

"Please be advised that Mr. Miscavige does not know Mr. Powell, has never heard of Mr. Powell, has never met Mr. Powell, has never spoken to Mr. Powell, never hired Mr. Powell and never directed any investigations by Mr. Powell," Michael Lee Hertzberg, Miscavige's attorney, said in an email to The Times.

Gary Soter, an attorney for the church, said Scientology lawyers hire private investigators "in matters related to litigation" but he called the allegations involving David Miscavige "blatantly false." He declined to answer questions about David Miscavige's relationship with his father.

Once, while tailing Miscavige on a shopping trip, Powell and his partner watched him grasp his chest and slump over while loading his car. After his arrest, Powell told police he'd thought Miscavige was having a heart attack and might die. He said he phoned his intermediary for instructions.

Two minutes later a man who identified himself as David Miscavige called him back, according to records.

"David told him that if it was Ron's time to die, to let him die and not intervene in any way," the records state, noting that the apparent emergency passed "and nothing further happened."

Miscavige's lawyer, Hertzberg, did not specifically respond to The Times' question about the incident.

Scientology was founded in 1954 by L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer who parlayed his self-help system, Dianetics, into a worldwide religion-without-a-deity. It has its own "study technology" developed by Hubbard, a quirky vocabulary and long held secret story of Xenu, a soul-stealing galactic overlord from 75 million years ago.

The church teaches that spiritual freedom — the state of "clear" — can be reached through one-on-one counseling known as auditing, aided by a polygraph-like device called an "e-meter." The sessions, along with extensive training courses, can cost Scientologists hundreds of thousands of dollars.

David Miscavige, 54, who spent his teenage years as an aide to Hubbard, has divided his time between the church's international headquarters near Hemet in Riverside County, known as the Gold Base, and its facilities in Clearwater, Fla.

He rose to the head of Scientology after the founder's death in 1986 amid a federal tax investigation that was later settled, resulting in the church's tax-exempt status. As chairman of the board of the Religious Technology Center, which holds the lucrative rights to the Scientology and Dianetics trademarks, he is the church's ultimate authority.

Ex-members, including four former top officials who told their stories to the St. Petersburg Times in 2009, have accused Miscavige of physical assaults and other violent behavior — all previously denied by Miscavige and the church.

Among other things that day in West Allis, Det. Pye quizzed Powell about the guns in his SUV.

"I asked Powell if he was hired as a hit man to kill Ron if the Church of Scientology ordered such action and he stated that he was not," Pye wrote in his report.

The weapons were for "sport shooting," Powell told Pye. He said his only mission was to keep a close watch on Ronald Miscavige, the records state.

"He explained that Ron and his younger wife, Becky, left the church and David is worried that they will divulge details about the church's activities and that their job was to know who Ron talked to, emailed with, where he went, what he did, etc.," Pye wrote.

Powell told police the church paid him through another Florida investigations firm, Terry Roffler and Associates. Although he reported directly to that firm — hourly, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. — "the main client is a David Miscavige, who is the son of Ronald Miscavige," the records note.

Roffler, reached by telephone, said he was "not too familiar" with the case and declined to discuss it.

In a brief telephone interview, Powell said he had let his investigator's license expire and no longer worked for the church. He declined to comment further.

Ronald Miscavige Sr. also declined to comment, although he and his wife told police as recently as last September that they believed they were still being followed.

"They advised that Ronald's son, David Miscavige, the leader of the Church of Scientology, is obviously having them watched because they left the church two years ago and David is afraid that Ronald will speak with the media about the negative inner workings of the church and David's abuse of the members of the church," a police report states.

In his July 2013 interview with police, Powell said he and a second investigator, his 21-year-old son Daniel, searched the elder Miscavige's garbage, photographed him wherever he went and tracked him with a GPS device attached to his car and linked to an iPad that read out his location, the documents state. Police found marks on the underside of the car that they concluded were made by the magnetic GPS device, the records say.

"When Ron would go to the library to check his emails, they would stand behind him and take pictures of the screen," one report notes. "When he would be eating at a restaurant, they would sit nearby or at his table and listen to his conversations. If Ron was in his vehicle on the phone, they would pull up next to him and monitor his conversation."

Powell's son, in an interview with police, corroborated key details of his father's story, including that they worked for the church, records state. He also recalled the incident in the parking lot and David Miscavige's purported response, the documents say.

"Who could let their father die like that?" he said, according to the records.

Dwayne Powell was indicted last year on one count of possessing an illegal silencer, a federal offense. The indictment was dismissed when prosecutors agreed to allow him to enter a pre-trial diversion program.

His son was not arrested or charged.

LINK: > Scientology head's father was spied on, police report says

Monday, April 6, 2015

Rolling Stone Apologizes, Retracts UVA Rape Article After CJR Review

Rolling Stone Apologizes, Retracts UVA Rape Article After CJR Review

Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism conducted an independent review of the Rolling Stones article, Rape on Campus (at the University of VA), written by Rolling Stone "investigative journalist" Sabrina Rubin Erdely.

According to the investigative report, Rolling Stone:
(1) Failed to engage in basic, even routine journalistic practices,
(2) Failed to check even the most basic details of the story,
(3) Failed to give the accused a fair opportunity to respond,
(4) Allowed their trust of one source to override their basic tenets of investigative journalism,

Additionally, Police found No Witnesses, No Victims, No Corroboration

The UVA President, Teresa Sullivan said, "Irresponsible journalism unjustly damaged the reputations of many innocent individuals and the University of Virginia."

The reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely called the review "brutal and humbling".  I wonder how much more brutal than her article? 

Rolling Stone has issued a retraction of the story, however they DID NOT fire the writer, Sabrina Rubin Erdely or the editors. 

I wish the media in general would take note ... we may not have had a Ferguson, if reporters had merely dug a little deeper which would have revealed "key eyewitnesses" were liars.  Or Duke lacrosse, etc., etc., etc.


Rolling Stone Apologizes, Retracts UVA Rape Article After CJR Review

Apr 6, 2015, 12:45 AM ET

 Rolling Stone issued an apology for a November 2014 article that detailed allegations about a gang rape at the University of Virginia, retracting the article and posting a critique of the magazine's editorial process on the story in its place.

The Columbia University Journalism School review published Sunday on the Rolling Stone web site said that it found the journalistic failure was avoidable, and encompassed problems with reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking.

Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the author of the article, "A Rape on Campus," also issued an apology.

"The past few months, since my Rolling Stone article 'A Rape on Campus' was first called into question, have been among the most painful of my life. Reading the Columbia account of the mistakes and misjudgments in my reporting was a brutal and humbling experience. I want to offer my deepest apologies: to Rolling Stone’s readers, to my Rolling Stone editors and colleagues, to the U.V.A. community, and to any victims of sexual assault who may feel fearful as a result of my article," she said in the statement.

Erdely concedes that she "didn't go far enough to verify her story."

"I allowed my concern for Jackie’s well-being, my fear of re-traumatizing her, and my confidence in her credibility to take the place of more questioning and more facts. These are mistakes I will not make again," she wrote in the statement.

“Reporting on rape has unique challenges, but the journalist still has the responsibility to get it right. I hope that my mistakes in reporting this story do not silence the voices of victims that need to be heard.”

The article prompted an investigation by police in Charlottesville, Virginia, that concluded last month with officials saying they found "no evidence" that the allegations were true.

The woman, identified as "Jackie," alleged in the article that she was gang-raped by seven men at a UVA Phi Psi fraternity party in September 2012.

After the article was published, the magazine backpedaled on the story and Rolling Stone Managing Editor Will Dana said Erdely did not talk to any of the students involved in the alleged rape before publishing the story out of respect for Jackie.

Alex Pinkleton, a friend of Jackie's and advocate for sexual assault victims, shared her own story with Erdely.

"I did encounter skepticism with Sabrina because it seemed like she was unwilling to listen to anyone besides Jackie," Pinkleton said.

"I think in the report, the most surprising part of it was that there seemed to be a lack of ownership on the terms of the Rolling Stone. They still talked a lot about Jackie and what she had supposedly done wrong, when in reality the article should not have been written at all," Pinkleton told ABC News. "I don't think the review can help the damage that was done to Jackie and I think it's been an unfortunate situation and something that should not have been published."

University of Virginia Student Council President Abraham Axler said he did not find the report particularly shocking, and was pleased to see that it vindicated particular university figures.

"I think the most important lesson to be learned from all this stuff is that when we read something really evocative, we read something that really hits us at a visceral level that we wait until we hear all of the facts before rushing to judgement," Axler told ABC News. "I think one lesson that our community has learned is that we cant target people on the basis of a narrative."

University President Teresa A. Sullivan addressed the review, and the article's negative impact, in a statement.

"Rolling Stone’s story, 'A Rape on Campus,' did nothing to combat sexual violence, and it damaged serious efforts to address the issue," the statement reads. "Irresponsible journalism unjustly damaged the reputations of many innocent individuals and the University of Virginia. Rolling Stone falsely accused some University of Virginia students of heinous, criminal acts, and falsely depicted others as indifferent to the suffering of their classmate. The story portrayed University staff members as manipulative and callous toward victims of sexual assault. Such false depictions reinforce the reluctance sexual assault victims already feel about reporting their experience, lest they be doubted or ignored."

LINK > Rolling Stone Apologizes, Retracts UVA Rape Article After CJR Review

Thursday, April 2, 2015

California Court Issues Ruling About out-of-Control Kids

California Court Issues Ruling About out-of-Control Kids

SAN FRANCISCO — Apr 2, 2015, 4:42 PM ET
By SUDHIN THANAWALA Associated Press

The state can remove an out-of-control child from the custody of a parent even if the mother or father is not to blame for the child's behavior, a California appeals court said Thursday.
If children face substantial risk of harming themselves, it doesn't matter whether the parent did anything intentional to put them in that position, the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled.

"When a child thereby faces a substantial risk of serious physical harm, a parent's inability to supervise or protect a child is enough by itself to invoke the juvenile court's dependency jurisdiction," the court said in its 3-0 ruling.

The ruling came in the case of an unnamed Los Angeles County mother whose teen daughter repeatedly ran away from home and had a child at the age of 15. The appellate court said the girl remained incorrigible despite her mother's best efforts, which included looking for her each time she left home, sending her to live with her grandparents and calling the police and Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services for help.  "(The) mother in this case was neither neglectful nor blameworthy in being unable to supervise or protect her daughter," the court said.

But state law is clear that children can still be taken if they have suffered or are at substantial risk of suffering serious harm that a parent is unable to stop, Associate Justice Brian Hoffstadt wrote.
The court's ruling upheld a juvenile court's decision to assert control over the child and allow the county to place her elsewhere. The county placed her back with her grandparents.

The mother appealed the decision, and the girl turned 18 while the appeal was pending. The court disagreed with another state appellate court that ruled in 2010 that a parent had to be shown to be culpable for a failure or inability to supervise or protect a child.

 Calls to the mother's attorney and Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services were not immediately returned.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Blurring of Work, Personal Tech Drives Privacy Disputes

Blurring of Work, Personal Tech Drives Privacy Disputes

The Recorder
January 30, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO — Administrators at Granada Middle School had first grown suspicious of Charles Brautigam after noticing a 17-year-old former student seemed to spend a lot of time hanging around his classroom.

Brautigam, who taught social studies and language arts at the southern California school, assured them he was tutoring the girl—nothing more. Then, in 2008, shortly after she turned 18, the two married. Brautigam was 36.

Complaints began pouring in from parents. Brautigam photographed his underage students without permission, "stalked" them on Twitter at night, and humiliated them in front of their peers, according to a statement of charges filed against him by the East Whittier School District.

District officials placed Brautigam on administrative leave in 2013 and went to work building a case to fire him. During a search of Brautigam's work laptop, an administrator found passwords to his personal Facebook and Gmail accounts saved in the browser, and logged on. According to Brautigam's lawyers, the "online surveillance campaign," went on for months, during which time officials accessed messages Brautigam sent from home to his friends, family, attorneys and union representative.

"If plaintiff had left his house keys in his classroom," Brautigam's attorneys wrote in a 2014 suit against the district for violation of privacy, "one wonders whether defendants would have donned ski-masks and pried into his home."

Brautigam's case may be an extreme example, but disputes involving employees' personal accounts and communications represent a new front in the workplace privacy war. Today many workers use personal cellphones to conduct business or check private email from work computers, blurring the line between work and personal technology.

While U.S. companies have vast leeway to monitor computer use, it's unclear just how deep employers can pry into employees' online history or under what circumstances they can read private emails or social media posts.

Lawrence Julius Turman, an employment partner with Reed Smith in San Francisco, said clients are increasingly asking how to monitor their employees' online activities without setting themselves up for a lawsuit.

Supervisors may be concerned that employees are uploading trade secrets to the cloud or disparaging the company brand on social media, he said. But as the law evolves, often far more slowly than technology, employers aren't sure how to watch for those things without stepping on privacy rights.

"The rules change," Turman said, "and the employers have to keep up with that."

San Francisco lawyer Jeffrey Rosenfeld of Kronenberg Rosenfeld, who represents Brautigam, says the district's intrusion was out of bounds. But he concedes the boundary isn't perfectly defined.

"There's not a wealth of authority on these issues," he said. "Email is a relatively new technology. Monitoring people's email is even newer. So I think we're just starting to see the beginnings of these cases."The East Whittier City School District, represented by McCune & Harber in Los Angeles, says its monitoring of Brautigam's accounts was justified because his passwords were saved and anyone could "stumble upon" them. They say the messages uncovered "prove inappropriate conduct" by Brautigam and are "critically important" to the district's case.

Brautigam signed a employee computer-use policy, which stipulated the district could monitor activity on his work computer. But Rosenfeld, counsel for Brautigam, argues the policy said nothing about accessing personal messages sent from outside computers.

Dana McCune of McCune & Harber didn't respond to calls or emails seeking comment. So far judges have sided with the teacher. A Los Angeles County judge denied the district's demurrer in early January, and last year Administrative Law Judge Vincent Nafarrete ruled the school district cannot use the personal messages to make its case for Brautigam's removal, a decision the Whittier district has appealed.

Lothar Determann, a Baker & McKenzie partner not involved with the case, said such disputes often hinge on what is covered in an employer's computer-use policy. A worker might compromise his position by returning his work laptop with the passwords saved in the browser, Determann noted.

"Usually the employee would change the passwords," he said. "Or not store the passwords for confidential accounts."

A similar issue has surfaced in a suit pitting Lyft's onetime chief operating officer against his former employer. Travis VanderZanden, now vice president of international growth at Uber Technologies Inc., accused his ex-employers at Lyft Inc. of reading personal texts and emails he sent after his last day at the company.

Lyft has its own gripes with VanderZanden, who the company's lawyers claim made off with thousands of sensitive documents before defecting to Uber. In a countersuit, VanderZanden insists Lyft learned of his job talks with the company's rival by sifting through his private communications.

The heavily redacted complaint filed in San Francisco Superior Court doesn't make clear just how VanderZanden believes Lyft accessed the messages. A Lyft spokeswoman has said the claims are baseless, though the company has acknowledged conducting a full forensic investigation on VanderZanden's work computer.

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe partner Joseph Liburt said clients have legitimate reasons for monitoring computer use and workplace privacy has become a hot topic at legal seminars. Companies come to him, Liburt said, looking for "bright line" rules.

So far courts haven't created a clear framework. In August, U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong of the Northern District of California ruled for equipment rental company Sunbelt Rentals Inc. A Sunbelt sales representative had synced his work iPhone and iPad to his personal Apple account and neglected to remove the devices when he left the company, allowing his former employer to read messages sent from his new iPhone. In Sunbelt Rentals v. Victor, Armstrong ruled "the transmission of those messages was entirely Victor's doing" and said the company couldn't be faulted for reading them.

A federal judge in Ohio came down differently in a 2013 case, allowing a claim to proceed against Verizon Wireless Inc. under the Stored Communications Act. The judge ruled Verizon had no authority to read 48,000 personal emails still viewable when a former employee turned in her BlackBerry without first closing her Gmail account.

Brautigam's suit in Los Angeles Superior Court includes a federal Wiretap Act claim, which Fenwick & West special counsel Robert Brownstone said can be a difficult one to win. The law, passed in 1968 to address telephone eavesdropping, was last updated in 1986. The archaic language doesn't fit perfectly with email snooping.

Courts in the past have interpreted the Wiretap Act narrowly, Brownstone said. But that could be changing.

"It's possible that over time judges have grown impatient waiting for Congress to update the rules," Brownstone said.

He said the best defense for companies is an airtight computer-use policy.

"What I work with clients on is being very, very clear in the written policy that there's no expectation of privacy," he said, "and it extends to any and all information passing through, received, stored or transmitted on any network device not only provided by the employer, but cost-reimbursed or supported by the employer."

Still, he wouldn't suggest clients draft policies that explicitly say they can log in to employees' personal email accounts. That, he said, is "going to run afoul of too many laws."

Contact the reporter at mkendall@alm.com.

Blurring of Work, Personal Tech Drives Privacy Disputes