Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter was discharged from the Navy Reserve this year after testing positive for cocaine, reports the Wall Street Journal. Hunter Biden, a lawyer by training who is now a managing partner at an investment company, had been commissioned as an ensign in the Navy Reserve, a part-time position. After failing a drug test last year, his brief military career ended.
Biden, 44, decided to pursue military service relatively late, beginning the direct-commission process to become a public-affairs officer in the Navy Reserve in 2012. Because of his age—43 when he was to be commissioned—he needed a waiver to join the Navy. He received a second Navy waiver because of a drug-related incident when he was a young man. Military officials say such drug waivers aren’t uncommon. Biden said, "I deeply regret and am embarrassed that my actions led to my administrative discharge."
Two alleged victims of underage sex trafficking in Massachusetts filed suit against Backpage.com, accusing the company of assisting in the abuse that occurred approximately 2,000 times by allowing pimps to advertise sex with minors on its website, reports the Boston Globe. The purported victims, identified as Jane Doe No. 1, now 17, and Jane Doe No. 2, now 20, were sold for sex in Massachusetts and Rhode Island more than 1,900 times combined when they were from 15 to 17 years of age.
Their attorneys wrote that the illegal services were advertised in the escorts section of Backpage.com, which the plaintiffs allege “took various steps to sustain the impression” that the site is “a safe and effective vehicle for transactions involving young girls and boys.” Elizabeth McDougall, general counsel for Backpage, said, "We vigorously dispute those allegations. We do more, to my knowledge, than any other online service provider to try to prevent the use of our service” for trafficking minors. McDougall told an Arizona task force that the company’s preventive measures include subjecting every adult ad to review by moderators and blocking e-mail and IP addresses tied to illegal activity.
Whenever Dewan Smith-Williams sees Janay Rice, former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice's wife, on television, she feels like she’s looking into a mirror, say the Washington Post. Smith-Williams, 44, remembers the denial, the secrecy, the sense of isolation, the shame. Most of all, she remembers the fear of ruining her husband’s career as a National Football League player, the feeling that coming forth, or seeking justice, would destroy her four children’s financial security. She understands that struggle not only because she, too, was a domestic-violence victim, but because she watched many other NFL wives, many of them her friends, go through the same nightmare. For each of them, it began with their husbands’ attacks and worsened with a culture that, they felt, compelled silence.
“We’ve told agents about it, called the NFL Players Association when things were really, really bad,” Smith-Williams recalls. “They would say, ‘Oh, we’re really sorry that you are going through this. We’ll look into it.’ But you never heard back. There’s no one available for the wives.” She and another former NFL wife describe an insular and intensely secretive organization, where loyalty extends only in one direction – everyone protects the NFL brand, but the NFL protects its own interests over everything else. Teri Patterson of the NFL Players Association says her organization beefed up its communication with wives after she arrived in 2009.
Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown is drawing criticism for using uniformed Baltimore police officers in a campaign ad attacking his Republican challenger over guns, reports the Baltimore Sun. The police department is investigating whether the officers broke its rules. Department policy says officers are "strictly prohibited" from appearing in uniform in political ads. The television ad has prompted a torrent of comments on Brown's Facebook page from other officers, who say it does not represent their views.
The police union and the Brown campaign contend that because the officers' uniforms were stripped down — their "Baltimore Police" patches are blurred, and they are not wearing their badges — they were not actually in uniform. "The only thing we have to do per general order is not be in full uniform," said Robert Cherry, president of the city's Fraternal Order of Police lodge. "The full uniform is the patch, the badge, and the name tag." The video features two city officers, one male and one female. The woman looks into the camera and says that Republican candidate Larry Hogan's "record on guns … would make my job more dangerous."
Sex offenders at a treatment center in Minnesota, fed up with political gridlock over their controversial program, are taking matters into their own hands by running for elected office, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. For the last three months, a group of sex offenders has quietly run a voter-registration drive up and down the hallways of the prisonlike treatment center in Moose Lake, where about 460 convicted rapists, pedophiles and other offenders are locked away indefinitely.
Some 155 are now registered to vote, nearly 20 percent of all voters registered in Moose Lake. Their goal is to elect sex offenders to as many as eight city and county offices, where they can push for more freedoms and reintegration into the community. Among their demands, offenders want the right to leave the facility without shackles and handcuffs; and for the city of Moose Lake to allow for halfway houses for offenders who progress in treatment for their sexual disorders.
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Christy Lopez, the Justice Department official charged with reforming the Ferguson Police Department after the shooting of Michael Brown, helped pioneer the federal government’s approach to police misconduct in the 1990s and has overseen a dramatic spike in civil rights probes of law enforcement organizations during the Obama administration, reports the Huffington Post. Lopez, who rejoined the Justice Department in 2010, is a deputy chief in the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division. She has been closely involved with DOJ-led reforms in large cities like New Orleans and smaller ones like East Haven, Connecticut.
Lopez is overseeing the broader civil rights investigation, the "pattern or practice" probe, into the practices of the Ferguson police, which seeks to determine whether the department deprives citizens of their civil rights systematically. Lopez will work with police and Ferguson residents to understand problems between officers and residents. She will then make recommendations and will likely enter into an agreement with the city to implement reforms. “Christy is one of the real pioneers in the area of oversight of the police, having been involved since the inception of the program within the Civil Rights Division to enter into consent decrees, calling for the reformation of law enforcement agencies,” said Merrick Bobb of the Police Assessment Resource Center, who has worked with Lopez. “She seems to deal with relative equanimity in all these very highly political, charged, and difficult cases.”
Journalist Jennifer Gonnerman interviewed former Rikers Island inmate Kalife Browder 10 times over seven months to get the story of how the teen spent three years in the troubled New York City jail without being convicted of anything, she tells the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. The resulting story, reported earlier in Crime & Justice News, appeared in the New Yorker magazine. "The two dysfunctional bureaucracies laid out in the piece — both Rikers Island and the Bronx court system — have received attention from other reporters in the past ... but I think this story hopefully will just add to that body of work in both educating the folks in power and prompting them to pay closer attention and really try to make some changes," she says
Gonnerman was denied permission to visit Rikers but had been there previously to do a story for the Village Voice. "It’s so difficult to get access to jails and prison systems that often the voices of the folks most directly impacted are left out of the public debate, out of the national conversation," she says. "And I was trying in this piece to let us see this world from the point of view of somebody who was going through it himself as a teenager, giving his first-hand account, and I think that can be very powerful to read. And in a lot of ways, these folks are the true experts on everything that is wrong with our criminal justice system, and I feel like anything that we can do as reporters to incorporate their voices, their insights into this larger conversation is going to benefit all of us."