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In Issue Raised By Ferguson, MO Sues Towns Over Traffic Case Profits

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has sued 13 municipalities in St. Louis County, accusing them of violating a state law limiting profits that cities can take from traffic cases, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The law caps traffic court income at 30 percent of a municipality’s general operating revenue and requires that any excess be sent to the state for education. Municipal courts are required to send detailed financial information to the state auditor for tracking.

Koster said he found a “pattern of noncompliance” in those financial statements. He said more cities could be added after December, when more cities’ financial reports will be filed. He said it wasn’t clear whose job it is to prosecute violators. Several of the municipalities shot back, saying Koster unfairly judged them for failing to report traffic fine data before the law required them to. Some criticized him for filing suit without knowing whether they had actually exceeded the cap, or contacting them with questions first. The issue of towns' financing their operations by relying on fine and court fees has been in the news since protests erupted after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson on Aug. 9

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PA Paramedic Apologizes For Photo Of Blacks Pointing Guns At White Cop

A Philadelphia Fire Department paramedic has apologized for posting on Instagram a photo of two black men pointing handguns at a white police officer with the caption: "Our real enemy." The Philadelphia Inquirer says paramedic Marcell Salters said, "need 2 stop pointing guns at each other & at the ones that's legally killing innocents." Mayor Michael Nutter condemned the post "in the strongest possible terms," calling it "reprehensible." "We celebrate the exercise of our First Amendment right to expression," he said, "but there are clear limits, and this posting went far beyond standards of decency. Inflammatory speech or behavior like this is simply irresponsible and could potentially incite others to inappropriate actions."

Salters said on Facebook, "That post was out of anger of what is going on around the world," mentioning the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, black men who died at the hands of white police officers, along with his own experiences with police. The image he posted is from a music video for a song by the rappers Uncle Murda and Maino called "Hands Up," which the men wrote after the deaths of Brown and Garner. Salters said his post was not meant to hurt anyone, including the police, whom he called his "brothers in blue." Yet in a since-deleted Facebook comment Salters said he "never did or will like police."

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Nebraska, Oklahoma Ask Supreme Court To Halt CO Pot Legalization

Nebraska and Oklahoma have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to close a “dangerous gap” in federal drug enforcement by making marijuana illegal again in Colorado, the Omaha World-Herald reports. Attorneys General Jon Bruning of Nebraska and Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma took the extraordinary step of suing another state when they asked the Supreme Court yesterday to settle an important question: How can Colorado circumvent federal law that bans the cultivation, trafficking and possession of marijuana?

The lawsuit will be closely watched by groups with interest in law enforcement, drug legalization and states’ rights, who say the case marks the first time the justices have been petitioned to directly decide a marijuana dispute between bordering states. Bruning said Colorado’s voter-approved pot laws violate the U.S. Constitution, which says the federal government decides which drugs are legal and which are illicit. When the highly potent pot grown and sold in Colorado rolls across the border, Nebraska’s criminal justice system feels the effect. “This contraband has been heavily trafficked into our state,” Bruning said. “While Colorado reaps millions from the production and sale of pot, Nebraska taxpayers have to bear the cost.”

 

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Secret Service Panel Seeks Reforms, Starting With New White House Fence

The Secret Service must change the way it trains agents and hire more of them, says a panel that reviewed the agency that has endured a string of embarrassing lapses, NPR reports. The panel calls its suggestions "a road map for reform" under a new director. Some suggestions are practical, such as the one that "the fence around the White House needs to be changed as soon as possible to provide better protection." The panel stated, "the ease with which 'pranksters' and the mentally ill can climb the current fence puts Secret Service personnel in a precarious position." Agents must quickly decide whether a threat requires a potentially lethal response. Three months ago, a man scaled the 7 1/2-foot fence and ran inside the building.

The panel also recommended everything from increasing accountability to being more open to input from officers and agents. Saying that the Secret Service's "training regimen has diminished far below acceptable levels," the panel recommended a "Fourth Shift," shorthand for a process in which personnel on its presidential protection detail would devote two weeks out of every eight to training. It recommended a boost in staffing to make that training possible.

 

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Court Says Law Can't Keep Man Who Was In Mental Hospital From Owning Gun

In what the Wall Street Journal calls the first legal ruling of its type, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled unconstitutional a federal law that kept a Michigan man who was briefly committed to a mental institution decades ago from owning a gun. The court said the federal ban on gun ownership for anyone who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution” violated the Second Amendment rights of Clifford Charles Tyler, 73.

“The government’s interest in keeping firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill is not sufficiently related to depriving the mentally healthy, who had a distant episode of commitment, of their constitutional rights,” wrote Judge Danny Boggs for a three-judge panel. Lucas McCarthy, Tyler’s lawyer, called the ruling “a forceful decision to protect Second Amendment rights,” and said he hoped it that it would have “a significant impact on the jurisprudence in the area of gun rights.” Adam Winkler, a Second Amendment expert and law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the ruling could give momentum to the gun-rights movement. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see legal challenges to other parts of the [federal gun] law now,” he said.

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Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia Fired For Insubordination

After a tumultuous 2 1/2-year tenure marked by continual clashes with police unions and a string of high-profile controversies, Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia was fired after he defied an order from his boss and called a press conference to unload on his critics, the Arizona Republic reports. Less than two hours after Garcia's press conference ended, Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher called his own to announce that he had terminated Garcia for insubordination for holding court with the media after Zuercher had forbidden it.

"I think Chief Garcia has done a good job — all the men and women of the department have done a good job. But let me be clear, this issue is about following orders, about obeying an order from a supervisor," Zuercher said. Garcia held a blistering news conference in which he fired back at his critics, called for more power over internal disciplinary actions and demanded a two-year contract. Assistant Chief Joseph Yahner was named acting chief. In what would be his final press conference as chief, Garcia fiercely defended his years in charge, citing a continual reduction in crime while managing with 600 fewer officers.

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Associated Press Trial Reporter Linda Deutsch Retires After 48 Years

Linda Deutsch, whose 48-year career at the Associated Press made her a witness to some of the most sensational trials in U.S. history, is ending a career that saw her report Charles Manson's murder conviction, O.J. Simpson's acquittal and countless other verdicts involving the famous and the infamous, the AP reports. Deutsch was thrust onto the court beat in 1969 when a rag-tag band of young hippies, influenced by a petty criminal who had reinvented himself as their guru, broke into two upscale Los Angeles homes and killed seven people, including actress Sharon Tate.

Deutsch had been covering trials for 25 years when the public finally put a face with the veteran AP reporter's byline. After one of America's most beloved sports stars, O.J. Simpson, was charged with killing his wife and her friend, Judge Lance Ito made her the pool reporter during jury selection. She went on to appear on television every day to summarize what had transpired. Then, after the yearlong trial ended, Simpson tracked her down while she was vacationing and called to give his side of the story. It was the first of many conversations over the next 13 years that would lead to exclusive interviews with the fallen football hero. Deutsch, 71, plans to write a memoir recapping those moments and others in her life.

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TCR at a Glance

Justice Returns to Navajo Nation

December 22, 2014

Federal funds to construct detention facilities allow tribal authorities to end a moratorium on prosecution that has fueled one of the co...