Florida to Initiate Sweeping Consolidation of Justice Data

Under a new law that takes effect July 1, Florida will begin consolidating criminal justice data from multiple agencies, including prisons, law enforcemers, and courts, into a single data base that will make the information easier to access and analyze, reports the Capitol News Service. Lawmakers call it the gold standard in crime reporting. The goal is to get a better understanding of criminal justice trends in the state to help inform policy decisions.

The new system will require law enforcement agencies, court clerks, state attorneys, public defenders, jails and the Department of Corrections to submit statistics to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The data will be available to the public on FDLE’s website. Florida has the third-largest prison population in the country, costing taxpayers $2.3 billion a year. Barney Bishop of the Florida Smart Justice Alliance said that a long view of better data will bring into relief certain trends that may not be apparent now–for example, whether the system is discriminatory. Agencies that fail to comply with the new reporting requirements can be declared ineligible for state funding for up to five years.

Read more…

Former law student obtains $6.45M judgment in revenge porn case

A former law student in California has obtained a $6.45 million default judgment against a former boyfriend accused of posting her intimate photos after their breakup.

The woman, identified as “Jane Doe”in the case, was awarded $3 million in compensatory damages, $3 million in punitive damages and $450,000 for copyright infringement, report Law360 and CNN.

Read more…

F.B.I. Raids Office of Trump’s Longtime Lawyer Michael Cohen

The F.B.I. on Monday raided the office of President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, seizing records related to several topics including payments to a pornographic-film actress.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan obtained the search warrant after receiving a referral from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, according to Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, who called the search “completely inappropriate and unnecessary.” The search does not appear to be directly related to Mr. Mueller’s investigation, but likely resulted from information he had uncovered and gave to prosecutors in New York.

Read more…

Court Vacates 11,000 More Convictions in MA Based on Former Drug Lab Employee’s Misconduct

Massachusetts’ top court issued another sweeping dismissal order stemming from misconduct by a former chemist at the Amherst, Ma., drug lab and two former state prosecutors, the Boston Globe reports. The order vacates an estimated 11,000 convictions in 7,700 criminal cases, most of them from Hampden County. “Today, the burden of an unjust criminal conviction has been lifted off the shoulders of thousands of people, people who can now apply for jobs and housing and move forward with their lives,” said public defender Rebecca Jacobstein of the Committee for Public Counsel. The order is the latest development in the Amherst drug lab scandal. In January 2013, former lab chemist Sonja Farak was arrested on charges of stealing from the evidence locker to feed her own addictions. After pleading guilty, Farak was sentenced to 18 months in jail. The scandal was compounded by misconduct by two former prosecutors from the Massachusetts attorney general’s office. A judge ruled Anne Kaczmarek and Kris Foster, who worked under former attorney general Martha Coakley and have since left the office, blocked defense attorneys from obtaining key evidence about Farak’s drug use. The thousands of cases vacated on Thursday are those that were voluntarily dismissed by the state’s 11 district attorneys after litigation brought on behalf of “Farak defendants.”

Read more…

EPIC, Consumer Groups Urge FTC to Investigate Facebook’s Use of Facial Recognition

EPIC and a coalition of consumer groups have filed a complaint with the FTC, charging that Facebook’s use of facial recognition techniques threaten user privacy and “in multiple ways” violate the 2011 Consent Order with the Commission. “The scanning of facial images without express, affirmative consent is unlawful and must be enjoined,” the groups wrote. Last week the organizations urged the Federal Trade Commission to reopen the 2009 investigation of Facebook, arguing that the disclosure of user data to Cambridge Analytica violated the consent order, and noting that the order also prohibited Facebook from “making misrepresentations about the privacy or security of consumers’ personal information.” In 2011 EPIC and consumer groups urged the FTC to investigate Facebook’s facial recognition practices. In 2012 EPIC advised the FTC “Commercial actors should not deploy facial techniques until adequate safeguards are established. As such safeguards have not yet been established, EPIC would recommend a moratorium on the commercial deployment of these techniques.” EPIC President Marc Rotenberg said today, “Facebook should suspend further deployment of facial recognition pending the outcome of the FTC investigation.”

Read more…

FL to Cut Family Prison Visits; Inmates Blame Staff

Nearly 100 relatives of Florida inmates appeared in Tallahassee on Tuesday to protest a new policy that will reduce by half one of the most effective tools the Florida Department of Corrections has to manage the prison population: contact visitations, reports the Miami Herald. Under the proposal, the state will allow inmates to meet with visitors every other weekend instead of every weekend. The agency says staff shortages and a continued increase in illegal drugs, cell phones, weapons and other contraband have forced the change in policy. The goal is to spread out the crowds to allow staff to provide more time and attention to searching visitors to reduce the introduction of contraband, said corrections spokesperson Michelle Glady. Family members told a panel of senior prison officials that they are being punished for the failure of the agency to police its own staff, whom they believe smuggle in cigarettes, drugs and cell phones to augment their low salaries. “We’re not bringing in the contraband. It’s them,” said Lisa Teets, who visits her imprisoned son every weekend and holiday and undergoes a pat down every time, including when she goes into and out of the restroom. Kyle Williford testified that he was released from prison last week after a three-year sentence served for burglarizing his parents and sister to feed his drug habit. “My experience is the contraband at the Department of Corrections comes from staff members,” he said. “These men and women have to watch child molesters, rapists, murderers, and they get paid as much as your average Wal-Mart employee.”

Read more…

Pennsylvania DA is charged with protecting drug dealers, trading favorable treatment for sex

A long-time district attorney in Pennsylvania has been arrested on 31 charges that accuse him of thwarting drug investigations and trading favorable treatment for sex.

Bedford County District Attorney William Higgins, 43, resigned Wednesday morning and pleaded not guilty, report the Legal Intelligencer, the Altoona Mirror, the Centre Daily Times and the Philadelphia Tribune. The charges include obstruction of law enforcement, reckless endangerment, official oppression, hindrance of a prosecution and witness endangerment.

Read more…

Tech Firms Helping Police ID Faces in Real Time

Several technology companies are working with police departments to develop capability to add artificial intelligence to video surveillance and body cameras that could identify faces in real time, potentially expanding the reach of police surveillance, the Wall Street Journal reports. The body-camera technology, expected to be ready by the fall, hasn’t yet been purchased by police departments and is still in the development stage. Police departments already use facial recognition to review surveillance footage after a crime has occurred. The new software uses an algorithm to tell an officer on the spot, through a body camera or a video surveillance camera, that it has found a suspect. The officer then must decide whether to stop the suspect or take some other action.

Read more…

Feds: There are hostile stingrays in DC, but we don’t know how to find them

The federal government has formally acknowledged for the first time that it has located suspected and unauthorized cell-site simulators in various parts of Washington, DC. The revelation, which was reported for the first time on Tuesday by the Associated Press, was described in a letter recently released from the Department of Homeland Security to the offices of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon). “Overall, [DHS’ National Protection and Programs Directorate] believes the malicious use of IMSI catchers is a real and growing risk,” wrote Christopher Krebs, DHS’ acting undersecretary, in a March 26, 2018 letter to Wyden.

Read more…