Federal agents have busted a Florida man who they say was part of an international ring that used the Internet and U.S. mail to import a so-called synthetic heroin called fentanyl that is sweeping Florida and killing hundreds of users, the Miami Herald reports. The arrest of Aldolphe Joseph, 34, comes as law-enforcement agencies are working to stem the pipeline of synthetic drugs from China, which has helped fuel a spike in fentanyl-related deaths. New data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show that deaths caused by fentanyl overdoses statewide last year jumped a staggering 114 percent.
From Molly to flakka to fentanyl, the wave of synthetic drugs from overseas has become a top priority for South Florida law enforcement and public health officials. The ease of ordering drugs from Chinese websites has created a new breed of drug dealers, who use U.S. mail services to deliver the cheaply made chemicals. With users going on violent rampages in public, flakka has had the most national media attention, with the drug showing up in the blood of over 50 dead people in Broward Count, Fl., over the past year. The chemical alone caused only one overdose death in Broward. Other users died from taking a lethal mixture of flakka and assorted other drugs. Fentanyl and its chemical variants, which are often laced into heroin, have been much more lethal.
As mass shootings have become more common, experts have come to understand them less as isolated expressions of rage and...
President Obama's remarks in favor of gun control after the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College is sparking anger...
The Justice Department is set to make the largest one-time release of federal inmates, nearly 6,000 prisoners, in an effort to reduce overcrowding and provide relief to drug offenders who received long sentences over the past three decades, the Washington Post reports. The inmates will be freed by the Bureau of Prisons between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2. Most of them will go to halfway houses and home confinement before being put on supervised release. The early release follows action by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which reduced the potential punishment for future drug offenders last year and then made that change retroactive. The commission’s action is separate from a White House clemency program for certain nonviolent drug offenders, an initiative that has resulted in the early release of 89 inmates.
The panel estimated that its change in sentencing guidelines could result in 46,000 of the 100,000 drug offenders in federal prison qualifying for early release. The 6,000 are the first group in that process. The Sentencing Commission estimated that an additional 8,550 inmates would be eligible for release by Nov. 1, 2016. Along with the commission’s action, the Justice Department has instructed prosecutors not to charge low-level, nonviolent drug offenders who have no connection to gangs or large-scale drug organizations with offenses that carry severe mandatory sentences. The policy change is referred to as “Drugs Minus Two.” Federal sentencing guidelines rely on a numeric system based on factors that include the defendant’s criminal history, the type of crime, whether a gun was involved and whether the defendant was a leader in a drug group. The sentencing panel’s change decreased the value attached to most drug-trafficking offenses by two levels, regardless of the type of drug or the amount.
Tips about potential mass shootings often are analyzed by threat assessment teams of professionals in law enforcement and mental health, who gather as much information as possible about the suspect and come up with a plan to intervene. NPR interviews Mark Follman, an editor at Mother Jones, about a story the publication did about the process. "Mass shooters don't snap," Follman says, adding that they "are committing a predatory crime. It's not an impulsive crime... (they) almost always ... have been planned over a period of weeks or months or even years."
Follman calls threat assessments "the only really serious major effort going on in our country to deal with mass shootings." He says, "Our political leaders don't act after these happen. So in a certain sense, threat assessment has kind of filled that void. It's really kind of an interesting improvisational solution or a solution of last resort to try to deal with this problem that keeps happening over and over."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has promised that the state will implement federal rules aimed at eradicating rape in prisons and jails, less than two years after his predecessor, Rick Perry, said it would be "impossible" to do so, the Houston Chronicle reports. On the eve of his second unsuccessful presidential bid, then-Gov. Perry refused to sign on to the pledge, costing Texas more than $800,000 in federal grants and drawing the ire of criminal justice advocates. Just 18 months later, Abbott not only has bucked his predecessor, but has agreed to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to ensure the goal is met as quickly as possible. "There's no doubt that Perry did this as part of his preparation to run for president, and Gov. Abbott is obviously much more focused on the health and wellness of folks in his prisons," said Chris Daley of Just Detention International, a Los Angeles-based advocacy organization.
The governor's office this week confirmed the federal government has accepted Abbott's assurance letter, the first time the state has become compliant with the law's mandates since it was passed, ensuring Texas would not lose another $771,742 in federal money. Now, four states remain noncompliant with the law. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which owns and operates 109 state jails and prisons, has audited and found 37 of its facilities in compliance with the law, with four more on the way. Audits of the other facilities are expected to be completed by 2017, when the inspection deadline ends. (The Crime Report discussed Texas' compliance with the federal law in this story in August.)
During the past dozen years, the now-decaying 350-bed jail in Grant County, Ky., has been plagued by abuse, indifference, ineptitude and malfeasance, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting reports. Inmates have died needlessly or have been raped, abused and neglected. Lax security, flawed medical care, inadequate training and other administrative failures flourished. In an effort to cover up misconduct, some jail employees concocted bogus stories, ordered others to lie or destroyed incriminating evidence. The failures have occurred largely under the watch of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Kentucky Department of Corrections and the Grant County government. All of them, despite red flag after red flag, have been unwilling or unable to achieve lasting change at the jail.
Two inmates committed suicide in 2010, after what DOJ called "serious breakdowns in jail medical care." Among other serious lapses, a teenager arrested on a traffic charge in 2003 was raped by inmates who had been encouraged by guards to attack him, and a mentally ill man serving time for a probation violation was sexually abused in 2002 by another inmate after being falsely labeled by guards as a child molester, a devastating accusation in a jail. Inmates and staff have filed more than 50 lawsuits against the jail during the past 15 years. Nearly $5 million has been spent to settle claims, with more payouts likely. "Nobody has been able to manage that jail," said James Crawford, the longtime commonwealth's attorney for Grant County. "They simply have not done it. If they had, you wouldn't have had that volume of litigation. I don't see how anybody, just looking at the lawsuits, could call it anything else but troubled."
Last summer, Bensalem, Pa., police interrupted a burglary and caught two suspects. Eleven days later and 10 miles north, someone threw a rock through a window to get into a home and steal three handguns. In the past, says the Philadelphia Daily News, investigators might have been hard-pressed to solve the second break-in, let alone link it to the first. Thanks to a new countywide, multijurisdictional DNA database, cops cracked both cases within weeks, after finding DNA evidence at the first burglary that proved the suspect in the second was behind both crimes.
Bucks County officials announced the new database, the first of its kind nationally, yesterday. They recounted case after case in which the new database solved crimes that might have gone cold with few other clues. Most states and big cities have their own DNA databases, but smaller towns and rural burgs don't. They must send DNA swabs to their bigger brethren for testing. That has left many small police departments waiting months to more than a year for results from overburdened state or city DNA labs that prioritize murders and other serious crimes. Bucks County's new database delivers results within 30 days, or 24 hours for urgent cases, said Fred Harran, Bensalem's public safety director. With all 40 Bucks County police departments participating, authorities expect to catch lawbreakers who have dodged justice in the past by hitting the road to a different town.
The Supreme Court, which started its new term this week, will hear today a plea to reinstate death sentences for two brothers convicted in the notorious slayings of four people in Kansas, a case that has roiled the state's politics and prompted calls to remake its judiciary, the Associated Press reports. The cases involve Jonathan and Reginald Carr, sentenced to lethal injection for the killings in Wichita in 2000. The justices also are hearing the case of Sidney Gleason, sentenced to die for the 2004 murder of a woman and her boyfriend after she witnessed a robbery. The Kansas Supreme Court overturned all three death sentences, and Attorney General Derek Schmidt appealed. Kansas reinstated capital punishment in 1994 but has yet to execute any convicted murderers since then because the state's highest court hasn't upheld any death sentence. The state's last executions were hangings in 1965.
Faced with tens of thousands of parents and children crossing the Southwest border last year, the U.S. Border Patrol pledged to hire up to 1,600 women. Female migrants, many of whom are sexually assaulted on their journey, often prefer to be searched by women and would be more likely to share information about smugglers with an agent of their own sex. The Border Patrol, whose ranks have long been dominated by men, embarked on its first-ever female recruitment spree, getting rare dispensation to target only women. The deadline for the effort was the end of the fiscal year last week. It netted just 50 women.