Patterico's Pontifications

3/24/2008

Yagman to Surrender to Prison Officials on March 31

Filed under: Crime,General,Scum — Patterico @ 9:59 pm

When we last checked in on the endless saga of Stephen Yagman’s efforts to avoid prison, he was supposed to be appearing in Judge Wilson’s court on March 17. Patrick Range McDonald of the L.A. Weekly reports that the hearing actually occurred today, and that Yagman was ordered to surrender in one week, on March 31.

At the U.S. Federal Courthouse in downtown today, civil rights attorney Steve Yagman has finally been ordered to surrender to prison authorities on Monday, March 31, at a federal prison and medical facility in Butner, North Carolina. The renegade lawyer, who’s made a career of battling the LAPD and the feds, will soon no longer be a free man.

Read Patrick’s post to see how Yagman tried to weasel out of it yet again.

Slate Screws Up the Explanation of California’s Three Strikes Law

Filed under: Crime,General — Patterico @ 7:43 pm

A Slate article on California’s Three Strikes Law significantly misstates the impact of the law:

Why would stiffer penalties increase violent crime? To understand this seeming paradox, you first need to understand the nature of California’s three-strikes law. Not just any offense gets you a first strike. It must be a so-called “record-aggravating” offense, which includes violent crimes like assault and rape as well as serious nonviolent crimes such as burglary or drug sales to minors. But after strike one, strikes two and three can come from any felony, including minor offenses like possession of marijuana or even stealing golf clubs or videotapes. A third strike carries with it a mandatory sentence of at least 25 years in prison.

Mmmm . . . not quite.

First of all, simple assault is not a strike; assault with a deadly weapon is. And “burglary” isn’t one; residential burglary is.

But the bigger problem is the claim that “after strike one, strikes two and three can come from any felony” — especially when followed by the claim that “[a] third strike carries with it a mandatory sentence of at least 25 years in prison.” This phrasing suggests that one serious or violent felony, followed by two nonserious and nonviolent felonies, can subject a defendant to a “mandatory” 25+ year sentence. Not so.

In order to be subject to a 25-to-life sentence under the Three Strikes Law, a defendant must have at least two previous felonies that qualify as serious or violent: murder, rape, robbery, arson, kidnapping, residential burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, and the like. Then one must commit a third felony.

What’s more, even then, a 25-to-life sentence is not “mandatory.” A judge always has discretion to dismiss one or more strike priors in the interests of justice, if he reasonably concludes that the defendant falls outside the spirit of the Three Strikes Law. In Los Angeles, if the third felony is not serious or violent, judges will generally dismiss one or more strike priors. [UPDATE: Prosecutors can do this too. It’s such second nature to me, I forgot to mention it.]

There are situations where a sentence is enhanced when a second felony is not a strike — but they aren’t 25-to-life situations. If a defendant has one serious or violent felony on his record, and commits a second felony of any kind, his sentence can be doubled. Here, too, the strike prior can be stricken — and often is, in drug cases, minor theft cases, and/or where the prior is very old, to name some examples of typical situations.

The Slate article is substantially misleading and should be corrected.

Incidentally, I’m working on getting a copy of the study discussed in the article. I have a feeling it’s flawed, but you never know until you read it.

P.S. Possession of marijuana is generally a misdemeanor in California, unless it is possessed for sale. Stealing golf clubs or videotapes is generally a misdemeanor, unless the defendant has a prior theft conviction for which he received jail or prison time, or the property exceeds $400 in value. Even then, you can get a misdemeanor with a relatively clean record.

Hillary Backtracks on Bosnian Peril

Filed under: 2008 Election — DRJ @ 6:47 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

On several occasions, Hillary Clinton has described a harrowing 1996 trip to Bosnia in which she had to shield herself during the landing and run off the plane to avoid sniper fire. She stated she had gone places that were “too dangerous” for husband President Bill Clinton to go. The story supported her claim that she has significant foreign policy experience.

One small problem was that she was accompanied on the trip by her daughter Chelsea and entertainers Sheryl Crow and Sinbad, who has said the “scariest part” was deciding where to eat.

Over the weekend, the Washington Post published a picture from the Bosnia trip showing Hillary being greeted by an 8-year-old girl at the airport. The Post went on to list other inaccuracies in Hillary’s story and awarded her Four Pinocchios for telling “real whoppers.”

CBS News accompanied Hillary and Chelsea on the trip and has video that also contradicts Hillary’s account.

Today the Politico reports that Hillary Clinton has refreshed her recollection and admits she may have misstated the danger on that Bosnia trip:

“Clinton acknowleged today for the first time that it was a “misstatement” when she said in a major prepared foreign policy speech last week that “I remember landing under sniper fire” but also tried to brush off the entire issue as “a minor blip.” She also gave a revised account of her airplane landing and her tarmac greeting at the Tuzla Air Force base 12 years ago — seeking to explain a picture re-published this weekend in the Washington Post showing her and daughter Chelsea calmly greeting an 8-year-old girl.

In her speech last week at George Washington University, Clinton maintained “[t]here was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base. Today, she told our group at the Daily News that she was informed that we “had to meet this 8-year-old girl,” so “I took her stuff and left.”

Hillary would have been better off had she followed Sinbad’s lead and claimed the food was dangerous.

— DRJ

Christopher Hitchens on Obama’s Grandmother

Filed under: 2008 Election — DRJ @ 2:01 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The subject of Barack Obama and Rev. Jeremiah Wright has been hashed and rehashed but I’m linking this Christopher Hitchens’ article in part because I was intrigued by the opening paragraphs and in part because the portion I bolded made me laugh:

“It’s been more than a month since I began warning Sen. Barack Obama that he would become answerable for his revolting choice of a family priest. But never mind that; the astonishing thing is that it’s at least 11 months since he himself has known precisely the same thing. “If Barack gets past the primary,” said the Rev. Jeremiah Wright to the New York Times in April of last year, “he might have to publicly distance himself from me. I said it to Barack personally, and he said yeah, that might have to happen.” Pause just for a moment, if only to admire the sheer calculating self-confidence of this. Sen. Obama has long known perfectly well, in other words, that he’d one day have to put some daylight between himself and a bigmouth Farrakhan fan. But he felt he needed his South Side Chicago “base” in the meantime. So he coldly decided to double-cross that bridge when he came to it. And now we are all supposed to marvel at the silky success of the maneuver.

You often hear it said, of some political or other opportunist, that he would sell his own grandmother if it would suit his interests. But you seldom, if ever, see this notorious transaction actually being performed, which is why I am slightly surprised that Obama got away with it so easily. (Yet why do I say I am surprised? He still gets away with absolutely everything.)”

In the following paragraphs, Hitchens gores oxes that are both black and white, Democrat and Republican. Ultimately, however, I think Hitchens’ point is that Obama’s response to the ministry of Jeremiah Wright “negates everything that Obama says he stands for by way of advocating dignity and responsibility over the sick cults of paranoia and victimhood.”

But see for yourself and read the whole thing.

— DRJ

Reining In the Internet (Updated)

Filed under: Blogging Matters — DRJ @ 10:41 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

I love the internet and even though I don’t browse any controversial websites, I don’t mind that they exist. But articles like this from Oregon make me think twice about whether we need to rein in the internet:

“A pair of hoax ads on Craigslist cost an Oregon man much of what he owned.

The ads popped up Saturday afternoon, saying the owner of a Jacksonville home was forced to leave the area suddenly and his belongings, including a horse, were free for the taking, said Jackson County sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Colin Fagan.

But Robert Salisbury had no plans to leave. The independent contractor was at Emigrant Lake when he got a call from a woman who had stopped by his house to claim his horse.

On his way home he stopped a truck loaded down with his work ladders, lawn mower and weed eater.

“I informed them I was the owner, but they refused to give the stuff back,” Salisbury said. “They showed me the Craigslist printout and told me they had the right to do what they did.”

Salisbury lost most of his property to numerous people, although he was able to take down the license plates of some. Apparently most of the people who took items were convinced they had the right to take the items because of the notices they saw on Craigslist.

Fortunately for Salisbury, the woman who wanted the horse had the sense to check to see if the notice was valid or he might not have had any information about what happened. In addition, authorities are working to track down who placed the Craigslist notices.

It’s an interesting dilemma. The law can deal with property issues like theft and conversion, and the fake notice may be actionable as criminal or civil fraud. However, I don’t think people will be happy with an unregulated internet if stories like this become more common.

UPDATE 4/1/2008: The perpetrators have apparently been caught. See NK’s comment.

— DRJ

Jack Dunphy on Changing Standards at SWAT

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:18 am

Jack Dunphy’s article on SWAT is up at National Review Online. (H/t Jeff Hazeltine.)

The last true meritocracy in the Los Angeles Police Department, perhaps one of the last to be found anywhere in America outside the military, is about to pass into memory. The LAPD’s Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, which since its inception in 1971 has confronted and captured thousands of murderers, robbers, kidnappers, and every other type of crazed thug imaginable, will soon be crushed under the accumulating weight of a foe it is ill-equipped to oppose and can but hope to vanquish: misguided but nonetheless inexorably advancing notions of political correctness and social engineering. And what a shame this is.

I agree. Dunphy has this to say about Sharon Papa’s denial of any knowledge of standards changing in SWAT:

Responding to an e-mail sent by one of the SWAT wives, an LAPD assistant chief, the department’s highest-ranking female officer, wrote that she is “not aware of any actions being taken to lower the standards for getting into SWAT.” One might be inclined to give the woman the benefit of the doubt by assuming she is merely uninformed, but given that she was charged with overseeing the Board of Inquiry — whose report was completed more than a year ago — her denial lacks even a modest claim to credibility.

I have two things to add. One is that I do find it odd that no women ever passed the original tests. I feel confident that there are women within LAPD who could. Maybe not as many women as men — but some. I still find myself perplexed as to why not one woman has been able to. Which makes me wonder how many have applied, among other things. I’d like to see more reporting on this.

Also, now that I have read the report, I find myself in agreement with one general problem it identifies (even if I don’t necessarily agree with the particular recommendations the panelists make for fixing it): the way the department in general (and SWAT in particular) deals with mentally ill suspects. The report gives numerous examples that can be faulted for excessive second-guessing, but that nevertheless provide some evidence that there is a better way to deal with the mentally ill. Often a nonconfrontational approach is better — not always, but often.

I’ll be writing on this more this week, hopefully, drawing on lessons I learned reading Pete Earley’s excellent book “Crazy,” which discusses the successes the Memphis and Miami police departments have had with Crisis Intervention Teams that are specifically trained to deal with such situations. I believe LAPD has such a team — and I believe that expanding such teams and their role is a preferable solution to lowering SWAT standards to get women into SWAT — but I want to learn more about how LAPD actually uses the CITs before I go around pontificating about them.


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