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PA Probers Didn't Enlist Schools In Busting High School Drug-Sales Ring

The investigation into a Philadelphia area high school drug ring began months ago. Police arrested one alleged ringleader in February. School administrators tell the Philadelphia Inquirer they didn't know about the probe until hours before authorities Monday announced the arrests of 11 people and unveiled a cache of seized drugs, cash, and weapons. The admission underscores a frustration among some law enforcement agencies vying to root out networks that peddle to teens: Collaborating with schools during investigations can be difficult or counterproductive.

"School systems, historically, just are not interested in working with law enforcement," said Jonathan Duecker, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Narcotics Investigation and Drug Control at the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office. Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan said the issue is an image problem. "No school wants to be known as the school where we found drugs," he said. Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said Neil Scott, 25, and Timothy Brooks, 18, organized and operated the drug trafficking operation they nicknamed "the main line take over project." The men, both alumni of the Haverford School, a private prep school, recruited student dealers and sold marijuana and other drugs at four High Schools, plus several colleges.

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DOJ Announces Six Criteria For Inmates Seeking Clemency In New Drive

Why is the Obama adminstration changing its policy on clemency for federal drug offenders, and will it amount to much? NPR's Carrie Johnson discusses those issues in an interview on her network. Johnson says the change happened after the message from reform advocates "reached the ears of Barack Obama at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. ... this issue is personal to him in part because the drug laws are enforced in ways that disproportionately hurt minority defendants. And the notion that nonviolent offenders could be locked up for decades he thinks is a civil rights issue and a public safety issue." The fact that sentencing reforms have been in enacted in some Republican-dominated state gave the Obama administration "some political cover for making these reforms because in the past, many Democrats have been wary of being perceived as weak on crime," Johnson says.

Organizations like Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers are getting the word out to people eligible to apply for clemency. One question now is how well the Justice Department, dominated by prosecutors, will process all the applications. So far, Obama has granted only 1 out of every 175 petitions for pardons and commutations. That is fewer than Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Clinton and both Presidents Bush. DOJ today announced six criteria for inmates applying for clemency: They likely would have received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of the same offense(s) today; they are non-violent, low-level offenders without significant ties to large scale criminal organizations, gangs or cartels; they have served at least 10 years of their prison sentence; they do not have a significant criminal history; they have demonstrated good conduct in prison; and they have no history of violence prior to or during their current term of imprisonment.

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How Parlave, FBI's Highest-Ranking Female Field Exec, Runs D.C. Office

Valerie Parlave, 49, the FBI's highest-ranking female agent in the field, is the first to run the Washington, D.C. field, office, with 800 agents and 800 other employees, reports Bloomberg News. She is known for her "attention to detail, contemplative attitude and concern for line officers and agents." Within minutes of last year's Washington Navy Yard shooting, she was "calmly drawing on relationships she had cultivated during her two-decade career in the bureau, calling in help from tactical teams, evidence technicians and extra agents to conduct interviews. Within hours, more than 500 bureau personnel descended on the facility."

Her regular contacts with local police leaders, including Washington, D.C., Police Chief Cathy Lanier and U.S. Park Police Chief Theresa Chambers, meant that there was none of the typical federal-local friction at the Navy Yard scene, Lanier said. “When she first came in, she invited me over, and I went over and we talked, and she took notes,” Lanier said of their first meeting last year. “She’s quiet and reserved, and very easy to work with. There is no ego with her.” When Parlave joined the FBI in 1991, about 12 percent of agents were women. Today, the bureau says 19.4 percent of its 13,598 agents, and 21.5 percent of its senior executives, are women.

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Supreme Court Voids $3.4 Million Judgment For Child Porn Victim

The Supreme Court  today ruled, 5 to 4, that federal law limits how much money victims of child pornography can recover from people who viewed their images online, reports the Associated Press. The opinion voided a a nearly $3.4 million judgment in favor of a woman whose childhood rape has been widely seen on the Internet. The justices said courts can order people convicted of child pornography to pay restitution to their victims, but only to the extent that there is a strong tie between the victim's losses and the convicts' actions.

In the case decided today, Doyle Randall Paroline was held liable by a federal appeals court for the entire amount of the woman's losses, though his computer contained just two images of her. Justice Anthony Kennedy said for the court that federal judges should exercise discretion in awarding restitution. AP said the ruling steered a middle ground between the woman's call for full restitution and Paroline's argument that there was no relationship between his conduct and the woman's losses, so that there should be no award of restitution.


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OK Gov Disputes Court On Executions, Says Two Inmates Will Die Next Week

Saying Oklahoma's highest court exceeded its authority in granting stays to two inmates, Gov. Mary Fallin issued a seven-day stay of execution for one of them, reports the Tulsa World. Fallin's office said the state plans to execute both inmates — Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner — on the same day, April 29. Both executions were ordered stayed indefinitely by the state Supreme Court on Monday while it considers appeals of a lower court's ruling that the state's execution-secrecy law is unconstitutional.

"While I have great respect for the honorable men and women of the Supreme Court, this attempted stay of execution is outside the constitutional authority of that body," Fallin said. Under the state's constitution, the Court of Criminal Appeals is the state's highest court for criminal cases. The Supreme Court generally has jurisdiction over civil matters, including whether state laws are constitutional. The Supreme Court has never issued an execution stay in the past, but the court noted that it has "sole power" to determine which court has jurisdiction to issue a stay. Madeline Cohen, an assistant federal public defender who has represented Warner, said she believes that Fallin "does not have the authority to override the Supreme Court."

 

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UT Courtroom Shooting Shows It's Impossible To Stop All Outbursts

When Utah’s new federal courthouse opened last week, it came with security improvements that are becoming standard: separate entrances and elevators for judges, defendants and the public; bullet-resistant glass and paneling; and vehicle barricades to keep car bombs at bay, reports the Associated Press. Even the design of the courtrooms, with plenty of sunlight and space, can help calm witnesses or defendants in high-stress cases. Nothing can prevent every courtroom outburst. On Monday, a 230-pound, pen-wielding defendant rushed a witness during a racketeering trial and was fatally shot by a U.S. marshal.

Shootings at federal courthouses are rare. Last year, a former police officer said he was dying of cancer was killed by law enforcement officers after he sprayed bullets into a federal courthouse in West Virginia. In 2012, a man committed suicide at a federal courthouse in Alabama. In 2010, a man started shooting in the lobby of the Las Vegas federal courthouse, killing a court security officer and wounding a deputy U.S. marshal. The gunman was killed. Shootings inside courtrooms are even less common, largely because metal detectors ensure that armed spectators do not reach them. Defendants usually are not shackled at trial. That makes their outbursts unpredictable. Courts have held that it is unfair to defendants for jurors to see them restrained. It’s unclear whether the U.S. Marshals Service, which provides security for judges and federal courthouses, had any unusual concerns about security in the Utah case.

 

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Milwaukee Guy Buyback To Produce Garden Tools, But Will It Cut Crime?

A Milwaukee gun buyback program next month will involve melting turned-in guns and forging them into garden tools "to bring life to the city," Marty Forman, owner of Midwest Forman Recycling, tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. About $76,000 has been pledged in private donations to pay for the gun buyback, with support from many other scrap metal companies. No city taxpayer money is involved.

Gun buybacks typically don't attract the guns most frequently linked to firearm homicides and suicides — pistols — says a 2002 study by the Firearm Injury Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin. "I know it's not a panacea, but it works," said the Rev. Mose Fuller, an advocate of the gun buyback. Police Chief Edward Flynn described the gun buyback as an organizing event that is part of a much larger anti-violence effort. "To me, it is a very important symbol of community rejection of violence," he said.

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GOP Congressman Changes Stance, Opposes Federal Gun Research

After the Newtown, Ct., school shooting, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) was one of a few Republicans who expressed a willingness to reconsider the need for gun control laws, says ProPublica. "Put guns on the table, also put video games on the table, put mental health on the table," he said, noting that he wanted to see more research done to understand mass shootings. "Let's let the data lead rather than our political opinions." For nearly 20 years, Congress has pushed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to steer clear of firearms violence research.

As chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that sets CDC funding, Kingston has been in a position to change that. Kingston spoke to the agency after Newtown and said, "I think we can find some common ground." Now, as Kingston competes in a crowded GOP primary race for a U.S. Senate seat, the congressman is no longer talking about common ground. Kingston told ProPublica he would oppose a proposal from President Obama for $10 million in CDC gun research funding. "The President's request to fund propaganda for his gun-grabbing initiatives though the CDC will not be included in the FY2015 appropriations bill," Kingston said. Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR), the vice chairman of the subcommittee, also "supports the long-standing prohibition of gun control advocacy or promotion funding," his spokeswoman said. CDC's current funding for gun violence prevention research remains at zero.

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TCR at a Glance

ACLU: Women in Solitary Face 'Unique Harms'

new & notable April 24, 2014

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Smack Madness

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