Jurors convict ex-cop who shot man after entering wrong apartment; ‘castle doctrine’ is at issue

Jurors convicted a former Dallas police officer of murder Tuesday for shooting and killing a black man after she mistook his apartment for hers.

Jurors convicted Amber Guyger even though they were allowed to consider whether the “castle doctrine” protected her, the Washington Post and NBC News reports.

Guyger was accused of shooting and killing 26-year-old Botham Jean, whose apartment was directly above hers, after opening his unlocked door in September 2018 and seeing him seated on his couch. Jean was unarmed and eating ice cream. Guyger said she feared for her life after opening the door and seeing a “silhouette figure” in the dark apartment.

Judge Tammy Kemp ruled Monday that jurors could consider whether Guyger was protected by the castle doctrine, according to prior reports by the Washington Post, the Texas Tribune, the Dallas Morning News and CNN.

According to the Dallas Morning News, the castle doctrine holds that people have the right to use deadly force, without retreating, to protect themselves or their home (their “castle”) when they know or have reason to think such force is immediately necessary. They also have the right to be present at the location where the deadly force is used, provided that they didn’t provoke the other person, and they weren’t engaged in criminal activity.

Another section of the law cited by the Texas Tribune says people’s use of force is presumed to be reasonable when they know or have reason to think the other person is unlawfully on their property.

Prosecutors have said Guyger was distracted on the night that she entered Jean’s apartment because of sexually explicit text messages from her partner on the police force. She had just finished a shift of nearly 14 hours when she parked on the wrong floor of her apartment building and went to the wrong apartment.

Prosecutor told jurors in closing arguments that the Castle doctrine didn’t apply to Guyger.

Lead prosecutor Jason Hermus argued that Guyger’s use of force wasn’t reasonably necessary. Another prosecutor, Jason Fine, also argued that the doctrine doesn’t apply.

“Who does castle doctrine protect? Homeowners. It protects homeowners against intruders, and now, all of a sudden, the intruder is trying to use it against the homeowner. What are we doing?” Fine said.

Fine said Guyger missed several cues that she was in the wrong apartment, including Jean’s red doormat, the carpet in his home and the apartment number on the door.

Shannon Edmonds, director of governmental relations for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, told the Texas Tribune that the castle doctrine is an ambiguous term, and lawyers disagree about the doctrine’s protections.

Many people were surprised when the judge allowed use of the doctrine, legal analyst Pete Schulte told the Washington Post. Schulte was among them.

“This case is so rare. You couldn’t even make this up for a law school exam,” Schulte said.

via ABA Journal Daily News https://ift.tt/1jXmrxS

October 1, 2019 at 01:25PM

Suspended Margate cop arrested in undercover drug buy, police say

A Margate cop who was already suspended for testing positive for methamphetamine has been arrested during an undercover drug deal, a Lantana police report and court records show.

Christopher Kanan, 31, was arrested Wednesday, posted $19,500 bond and was freed from the Palm Beach County jail in fewer than five hours, records show.

Lantana police used an informant to nab Kanan for trying to buy an ounce of methamphetamine for $500 and a liter of GHB for $300, according to an arrest report.

Because Kanan already had a container of GHB in his truck when he showed up at an apartment near Lantana Road and Federal Highway to make his purchase, he also was charged with felony possession of the psychoactive depressant better known as the date-rape drug.

The road patrol officer they had suspended with pay on July 16. Kanan’s suspension on Wednesday was converted to unpaid leave and the agency launched a second internal affairs investigation, said Sgt. Michael Druzbik, a spokesman for Margate police.

The agency is restricted from commenting on active criminal and internal investigations, he said.

Kanan was hired on June 6, 2016 and has an annual salary of $61,904.96, Druzbik said.

Kanan’s name was blacked out on an arrest report filed on the Palm Beach County Clerk of Court’s website. The clerk’s online record, however, listed the defendant as Kanan and showed he was facing the exact same charges as the arrestee on the redacted police report.

The police informant had previously been arrested with over 16 ounces of methamphetamine, Lantana police aid.

The informant told police he knew a police officer who was willing to buy methamphetamine and GHB.

GHB has been dubbed the date-rape drug because of its ability, especially when combined with alcohol, to induce unarousable sleep. It gained popularity in the dance club scene because, in small doses, it induces euphoria and sociability and acts as an aphrodisiac.

GHB is comparable to ecstasy. Slang terms for it include liquid ecstasy, lollipops, liquid X or liquid E.

Through an exchange of text messages between the informant and Kanan, a drug deal was negotiated, police said.

Kanan, according to his arrest report, said he was in the market for one ounce of meth for $500 and a liter of GHB for $300 and he would be there in 45 minutes.

When Kanan got there he must have sensed something was amiss.

He was greeted by an undercover cop and told the person he’d negotiated the deal with — the informant — was in the shower.

“[Kanan] examined the water bottle [containing GHB] and the sham methamphetamine several times,” the police report said. “[Kanan] kept saying something doesn’t look right.”

Kanan said he wanted to take a bottle of water to his girlfriend who was outside in his truck, police said.

When he stepped outside, Kanan was arrested.

He carried two bundles of cash, one contained $500 and the other $300, and had a gun in his silver Ford pickup, along with a container of GHB, the report said.

At the police station, Kanan told investigators he “was currently on administrative suspension for testing positive for methamphetamine.”

He denied going to the apartment to buy drugs. Instead, Kanan told police he went there to pick up plastic bins for a friend who was moving into a new apartment.

“[He] stated he did not remember sending any text messages and refused to show me his messages on his phone,” Kanan’s arrest report said.

Kanan was booked into jail at 11:14 p.m. Wednesday, posted bond and was out by 4:08 a.m., records show.

His 29-year-old girlfriend, Zamantha Kluger, was not arrested but might be, Detective Sgt. Jim Eddy, of the Lantana Police Department, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

“I’m hoping she’s going to be charged,” he said.

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September 27, 2019 at 02:34PM

Ex-MMA Fighter Pleads Guilty Over 2011 Miami-Dade Murder

A former MMA fighter accused in the 2011 killing of a man linked to one of the former co-owners of Presidente Supermarkets has submitted a guilty plea and agreed to testify against others, according to prosecutors.

In a statement released Friday, Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said Ariel Gandulla’s guilty plea and willingness to testify will “add important evidentiary pieces to our efforts to bring Camilo Salazar’s alleged killers to justice.”

Gandulla will testify against Manuel Marin, Roberto Isaac and Alexis Vila-Perdomo.

Gandulla, 51, was booked into the Miami-Dade jail Tuesday night to face charges of second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit second-degree murder and kidnapping, jail records showed.

Ex-MMA Fighter Wanted in 2011 Murder in Miami-Dade Captured: Cops

(Published Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019)

Gandulla is one of four suspects in the June 2011 killing of Salazar, 43, the alleged lover of the wife of former Presidente co-owner Marin.

Salazar’s body was found on a dirt road in the Florida Everglades in northwest Miami-Dade on June 1, 2011. He was bound, beaten, tortured, had his throat slashed and his body was partially burned, according to a police report.

Marin was taken into custody in Spain last year after years on the run and is facing trial in Miami on the same charges Gandulla faces. Also accused in the plot is another former mixed martial artist, Vila-Perdomo, and fight trainer and promoter Isaac. Vila-Perdomo and Isaac remain in custody in Miami-Dade.

Ariel Gandulla Appears in Bond Court

[MI] Ariel Gandulla Appears in Bond Court

Ariel Gandulla appears in MIami-Dade bond court on Sept. 25, 2019.

(Published Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019)

Marin’s son, Yaddiel Marin, was arrested last year after he was accused of helping his father while he was on the run, authorities said. Yaddiel Marin owns and operates many of the supermarkets once operated by his father.

Presidente has been one of the fastest-growing Hispanic grocery chains in the country.

“The June 1, 2011 torture and murder of 43-year-old Camilo Salazar should not be lost within the notoriety of the alleged perpetrators and the lurid details of the crime,” Fernandez Rundle wrote. “Wealth, infidelity, rage, conspiracy and murder, all a part of this prosecution, are usually seen as the stuff of Hollywood movies and tabloid headlines. Too often lost in such cases are the basic humanity of the victim, the pain of the victim’s family, and the deep commitment … to ensure that justice is properly served.”

Supermarket Mogul Suspected in Murder Arrested

[MI] Supermarket Mogul Suspected in Murder Arrested

One of the former co-owners of Presidente Supermarkets who was wanted in the 2011 killing of his wife’s lover in Miami-Dade has been taken into custody in Spain. NBC 6’s Ari Odzer reports.

(Published Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018)

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September 27, 2019 at 05:12PM

‘One, two, three, four, get your booty on the floor.’ DUI stop gets weird, cops say

A Key Largo woman was booked into jail Thursday night after police say she led them on a short chase, refused to exit her car and danced her way through a field sobriety test while counting her steps in French, according to an arrest report.

Virginia Renae Blake, 48, was still in Monroe County jail Friday afternoon on $6,000 bond.

A sheriff’s deputy first tried pulling over the Jeep Wrangler she was driving north on U.S. 1 shortly after 10 p.m. The sheriff’s office had received a call about a reckless driver. The two men who called in the report were off-duty cops from Indiana saying she “was all over the road.”

They drove their car in front of her with their hazard lights on so deputies easily spot the Jeep. While helpful, it was not necessarily needed, according to Deputy Joel Torres’ report. Blake was doing fine drawing the deputy’s attention all by herself.

Torres stated the Jeep was “weaving wildly” across both northbound lanes on U.S. 1. She almost hit several trees in the median, Torres wrote. He turned on his lights and siren to get her to stop, but she didn’t, according to the report.

She made a U-turn, then drove onto a residential road, almost taking out a stop sign, Torres wrote. He used his P.A. speaker to order her to pull over, but she continued driving, at times barely staying on the road.

She finally stopped at a house on Belmont Lane, where she lives, Torres wrote in his report.

Blake at first refused to get out of the car. When she finally did, Torres wrote that he smelled an “overpowering odor of an unknown alcoholic beverage on her breath.”

Blake said she didn’t do anything wrong. When Torres asked her why she didn’t stop, she replied, “I’m trying to change the world. I’m a real woman.”

When deputies asked her if she was willing to take a field sobriety test, she responded, “I’m not going to give you a b— job,” according to the report.

Blake began going through the stages of the test, but then began dancing, Torres stated, adding, she was counting her steps in French.

Asked if she could keep her balance, Blake replied, “Of course I can, I’m a yoga instructor,” Torres stated in his report.

At one point, she said, “One, two, three, four, get your booty on the floor,” Torres wrote.

She then agreed to take a breath test to measure her blood alcohol level, but she repeatedly faked breathing into the machine, according to Torres’ report.

“At no time did she provide a usable sample, despite my repeated instructions on how to properly submit the sample,” Torres wrote.

When Torres arrested her and drove her to the Plantation Key sheriff’s office station, Blake asked why she was being booked. He responded, according to his report, that it was because she was “drunk as a skunk.”

Her reply, Torres wrote: “I am not drunk as a skunk. I’m inebriated.”

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September 27, 2019 at 05:12PM

Judge Suspended Without Pay After Pleading Guilty to Underwear Burglary

Robert Cicale, a district judge in Suffolk County, was suspended without pay by the New York Court of Appeals late Friday after he pleaded guilty earlier this month to sneaking into a former intern’s home and stealing her underwear.

Cicale had been suspended by the high court last year, but with pay, after he was arrested on burglary charges.

The unanimous decision from the Court of Appeals late Friday changed that status to suspension without pay following Cicale’s guilty plea earlier this month.

He admitted to entering a young woman’s home with the intent of stealing her underwear during the court appearance in Suffolk County two weeks ago. The victim had been identified as a former intern of Cicale’s when he was the town attorney for Islip in Suffolk County, according to media reports.

He was represented in the proceeding by Michael J. Brown, a solo practitioner from Central Islip. Brown was not immediately available to comment on the Court of Appeals decision.

Cicale, who was first elected to the bench in 2015, could not immediately be reached for comment Friday evening.

He was arrested for the incident last March, after which he was immediately suspended from the bench. Prosecutors in Suffolk County had alleged that it wasn’t his first time in the home. They said he’d gone in before and stolen clothing from the woman.

Cicale is scheduled to be sentenced for the crime in November. Because he pleaded guilty to a felony, he’ll also lose his license to practice law in New York.

via Law.com – Newswire https://www.law.com/

September 27, 2019 at 06:39PM

Lawyer Begs To Be Disbarred In Obnoxious Letter To Bar Discipline Authorities, Gets What He Wants

Please don’t kill trees, waste taxpayer resources and ODC personnel on me. ODC has no credibility or legitimacy to me. Or the drivel you generate. You are simply dishonest lawyers who do nothing to regulate dishonest lawyers. And racists to boot. Rather than wasting time, money, and paper on your sophistries, please disbar me. Disbarment by ODC would be an honor. To date, aside from competing in the triathlon world championships, my greatest honors are my PhD from UCLA and my law degree from Boalt. But a disbarment letter from ODC will be framed and go up right alongside those diplomas. Please do me the honor of disbarring me. I will be so very very proud.

— Soon-to-be disbarred attorney Glenn Stephens, in an email sent to the D.C. Office of Disciplinary Counsel, where he “unequivocally, and colorfully, sought to be disbarred,” rather than respond to or participate in any of the four discplinary matters that had been brought against him during his time investigating employment complaints at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Earlier this week, D.C. Court of Appeals Board on Professional Responsibility happily obliged Stephens, recommending that he be “disbarred without an analysis of the merits of his case” due to his “clear request that he be disbarred.”


Staci Zaretsky

Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

via Above the Law https://abovethelaw.com

September 27, 2019 at 04:25PM

Florida city commissioner confronts deputy at awards ceremony over arrest

“You’re a bad police officer and you don’t deserve to be here,” Tamarac City Commissioner Mike Gelin told Broward County Deputy Joshua Gallardo.

South Florida city commissioner confronted a deputy at an awards ceremony honoring members of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office for falsely arresting him four years ago.

The confrontation happened Wednesday at an Officer of the Month program at the Tamarac City Commission meeting. After Deputy Joshua Gallardo and others received their honors, Commissioner Mike Gelin is seen in a video grabbing the microphone and calling Gallardo back down to the floor.

“It’s good to see you again. You probably don’t remember me. But you’re the police officer who falsely arrested me four years ago,” Gelin says in a video obtained by NBC Miami. “You lied on the police report. I believe you are a rogue police officer, you’re a bad police officer and you don’t deserve to be here.”

Gallardo just nods his head, gives a thumbs-up sign and walks away after the commissioner finishes talking. Mayor Michelle Gomez then takes the microphone and thanks the sheriff’s office.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we appreciate as a whole BSO and everything you do for us,” Gomez says. “Thank you for your service to our community. We appreciate you. Please take that away from here today.”

Gallardo arrested Gelin in July 2015 for allegedly resisting and obstructing without violence, according to NBC Miami. Gelin had allegedly recorded police as they responded to a battery incident, the Miami Herald reported.

Gelin was not a city commissioner at the time, and the charges were dropped. Tamarac is about 14 miles northwest of Fort Lauderdale.

Gomez and the Broward County Police Benevolent Association have publicly criticized Gelin for confronting the deputy at the ceremony.

“As a public official, Commissioner Gelin’s behavior towards a Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy is unacceptable,” PBA president Rod Skirvin said in a statement posted on Facebook. The labor union said it had withdrawn its endorsement of Gelin.

“The Broward County PBA will not endorse any elected official who treats law enforcement officers with a complete lack of respect and common courtesy the way Commissioner Gelin did in his official duties representing the city of Tamarac,” Skirvin said.

Gomez said in a statement Saturday that Gelin’s comments were “highly inappropriate.”

“This was neither the time nor the forum to air personal grievances. I believe this clearly violated the City’s civility code,” she said. “This is NOT the way we treat employees or people who work for our City. There are proper channels to follow, but the Commissioner chose not to use them.”

The mayor said she has talked with the city attorney about what actions can be taken and thanked Gallardo for handling the situation in a “professional way.”

“I speak for the City of Tamarac when I say that we have the utmost respect for BSO and the Deputies who put their lives on the line each day to safeguard our community,” Gomez said.

Fellow Tamarac Commissioner Julie Fishman said in a Facebook postthat Gelin should have confronted the deputy in private.

“One of the most important ideas of being an elected official is conducting oneself with dignity and in an ethical manner; not using the office you are in for personal gain or personal use,” she wrote.

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a statement Saturday on Facebook, Gelin thanked his supporters, writing: “Wrongful arrests can have life long and career altering consequences. It is important that justice applies to everyone.”

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September 28, 2019 at 06:01PM

White-Collar Prosecutions Down Nearly 50% Since Obama Years

Federal white-collar prosecutions have declined by nearly 50 percent since the peak years of President Barak Obama’s administration, according to figures compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.

In the first 11 months of FY 2019,the government launched 4,973 prosecutions—most of them cases of fraud by wire, radio or television—a drop of 8.5 percent since the previous year.

Compared to eight years ago, the 2019 figures so far represented a drop of 46.6 percent, TRAC said.

The decline was particularly notable since it covered a period that included the aftermath of the 2008 financial meltdown and the opioid crisis, both of which have fueled allegations of serious wrongdoing by major corporations and business leaders.

And the continuing low level of white-collar prosecutions represents a stark contrast to the “wide range of corporate, securities, health care, procurement, telemarketing, computer, consumer and other serious frauds that are believed to be perpetrated each year,” TRAC said.

Federal white-collar prosecutions amounted to just 3.3 percent of the 170,487 new prosecutions launched so far this year by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Internal Revenue Service, the Secret Service and other major federal agencies. The FBI alone accounted for a third of the white-collar cases.

Although the decline actually started in 2012, in Obama’s second term, following a peak of nearly 10,000 cases in 2011, the administration of President Donald Trump has accelerated the downward trend to the lowest number of recorded cases since at least 1999.

An earlier TRAC report, in March, found that fraud and other white-collar cases had dipped by 37.5 per cent in the previous five years.

But the newest report made clear how dramatically priorities have changed in the past two decades. Under the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations between 1999 and 2007, white-collar crime cases rarely fell below 8,000 each year.

The business-friendly policies of the Trump administration are the most common explanation for the continued drop, but one financial journalist says the real culprit is the change in “culture” among federal agencies investigating corruption.

In a 2017 interview with The Crime Report, Jesse Eisinger, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former Wall Street Journal reporter, argued that ambitious government attorneys were going after fewer cases in order not to alienate future employers in the private sector, in what has become a “revolving door” between the Department of Justice and private corporations.

Speaking about his pungently titled book published in 2017,  The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives,  Eisinger described a “seamless world, where prosecutors– mostly young— in the Southern District and Main Justice, the hottest shots from the Department of Justice (DOJ), almost all go to white collar criminal defense work after their stint at the DOJ.”

He added: “Essentially, the DOJ is being treated like a training ground for future criminal defense lawyers.”

Editor’s Note: Read the full TCR interview here.

According to TRAC, bank fraud and mail fraud represented the second and third, respectively, most frequent charges so far this year.  But those two charges—once the most common sources of federal white-collar prosecutions—each amounted to half of the cases in what was now the biggest category: wire, TV and radio fraud.

The largest number of white-collar prosecutions in 2019 was recorded in the district of Rhode Island, followed by the Southern District of New York and the Southern District of Florida.

New York South, once one of the most active districts, recorded the largest single drop in the country compared to the previous year: 38.8 percent.

The other most active districts in the country pursuing white-collar investigations during 2019 included the Middle District of Louisiana, which covers Baton Rouge; the Western District of Tennessee, which covers Memphis; and the Northern District of Oklahoma, which covers Tulsa.

The full TRAC report and tables can be downloaded here.

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September 26, 2019 at 08:06AM

Courts Are Intervening to Dismantle Unjust Cash Bail Systems Across the U.S.

A series of victories for advocates reflects a shift in the ‘popular narrative’ around bail.

Roughly 482,000 people are held in jails across the country each night awaiting trial, many because they are too poor to pay their way out. In recent years, criminal justice reformers and activists have set their sights on ending the cash bail system, arguing it has created a two-tiered justice system. And increasingly, their work is paying off. In recent weeks, they’ve won court battles that have chipped away at the country’s reliance on cash bail as a condition of pretrial release.

Elected judges are responding to pressure from activists, who raised awareness about the harms of cash bail through protest and mass bailouts, and by enlisting prominent advocates, attorneys told The Appeal.

“The courts themselves have been aware of the money bail system for decades. They’ve been using it. They’ve been the ones inflicting the pain on people,” said Alec Karakatsanis, executive director of Civil Rights Corps, a nonprofit that challenges inequity in the legal system. “So it’s only the result of a big shift in the popular narrative that has made people understand how unfair and unjust and irrational it is to make decisions about who’s in a jail cell and who’s with their family based on who has access to money.”

Since June, courts have ordered that defendants be provided with attorneys at their bail-setting hearings, have ruled that judges can’t profit off bail payments, and have dismantled bail schemes from the ground up. Here’s a look at the reforms:

Galveston, Texas

On Sept. 11, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction in an ongoing lawsuit over the cash bail system in Galveston County, Texas, ruling that people have a right to defense counsel at their initial court appearances when bail is set.

The case revolved around Aaron Booth, 36, who was arrested for felony drug possession in 2018 and detained at the Galveston County Jail because he couldn’t afford bail. According to the complaint, no attorney was present during his bail hearing so his inability to pay was never raised.

District Attorney Jack Roady’s office and magistrate judges in the state argued that the injunction was “impermissible and unjustified expansion of the Sixth Amendment.” Felony judges asked the court to delay the order to avoid chaos in the courts, but the federal judge denied the request.

As a result of the injunction, attorneys for poor arrestees will be able to argue for release, challenge any potential finding of probable cause, and help arrestees secure evidence.

“These are all of the things that need to happen immediately in a criminal case that you are far more likely to see the benefits of if you have a lawyer with you,” said Twyla Carter, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project who is part of the team representing the plaintiffs in the litigation.

Studies show that the presence of an attorney at a bail-setting hearing increases the likelihood an individual will be released on their own recognizance, the bail amount will be lower, and they will not be jailed pending disposition of their case. Given that initial bail hearings are often very short and judges have little time to consider each case, it’s difficult for a defendant to effectively advocate for themselves. Judges’ racial biases may also come into play and affect bail decisions.

“It should shock absolutely nobody that the failure to have counsel during an initial bail hearing, when a critical decision is made concerning pretrial release, leads to concrete harm in the form of outcomes that are far worse than if counsel were provided,” Magistrate Judge Andrew Edison wrote in a recommendation last month that was adopted by U.S. District Judge George Hanks when he issued the injunction.

Houston  

The injunction in Galveston isn’t the only recent example of court-ordered bail reform in Texas. In September, a federal judge approved a settlement between officials in Harris County, home to Houston, and arrestees who had filed a federal lawsuit over the county’s bail practices.

The decision stemmed from a 2017 ruling that found the county’s bail practices were unconstitutionally infringing on “equal protection rights against wealth-based discrimination and violating due process protections against pretrial detention.”

Under what Carter called a “landmark settlement,” judges agreed to no longer ask for cash bail as a release condition for most criminal defendants charged with misdemeanors. The agreement also included the installation of a monitor to oversee bail practices for the next seven years, public defense services for poor defendants, and data collection to allow the country to analyze its practices.

Officials with Harris County’s pretrial services division told The Appeal that under the new arrangements, about 85 percent of people charged with misdemeanors will be released pretrial without bail.

District Attorney Kim Ogg objected to the settlement, saying in an interview with Houston Public Media that she supports bail reform, “but this proposed settlement is not bail reform that adequately protects the public” because it doesn’t take into account anyone’s interests except the arrestee. Republican misdemeanor judges had also opposed the reforms, but the November 2018 election brought a new wave of Democratic judges and county officials who supported dismantling the county’s bail system.

New Orleans

In late August, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling that a New Orleans magistrate judge has a conflict of interest when he sets bail for criminal defendants because bail fees help fund court operations.

A district court judge ruled last year that the fines and fees system at Orleans Parish Criminal District Court is unconstitutional. Karakatsanis, whose group filed the lawsuit, called the district court judge’s ruling an unusually comprehensive decision limiting cash bail because it meticulously spells out all of the equal protection and due process principles that bail violates.

“Plaintiffs have been deprived of their fundamental right to pretrial liberty,” Judge Eldon E. Fallon wrote. Given that “deprivation of liberty requires a heightened standard,” he said, a judge has to prove that there is “clear and convincing evidence” that someone should be detained.

Under the order, arrestees must be given hearings with counsel before they can be detained pretrial. The judge, meanwhile, has to present findings that detention is absolutely necessary before holding someone.

Since the ruling, some judges in New Orleans’s criminal courthouse have stopped assessing bail on criminal defendants.

After the Fifth Circuit ruling, an attorney for Cantrell said he is considering whether to challenge the decision, arguing that state law mandates that Cantrell oversee the fund in which cash bail is collected.

St. Louis

In another major decision, a federal judge ruled in June that St. Louis jails cannot hold people pretrial simply because they cannot afford to post bail. The ruling applied both to current detainees, who received new detention hearings, and to any future arrestees going through the city’s legal system, who would get a hearing within 48 hours of their arrests.

Legal groups filed the lawsuit on behalf of arrestees who said judges didn’t consider whether they were financially able to meet their bail amounts. The median bond set in St. Louis is $25,000, according to the lawsuit, but the median income in the city is just over $38,000. One lead plaintiff, David Dixon, told The Appeal in February that he was appalled when a judge ordered him to pay $30,000 in cash.

“At first I thought it was a joke,” Dixon said. “It was impossible. Ain’t no way I can come up with $30,000, let alone $5,000.”

Robert Dierker, an associate city counselor, told The Appeal that his office opposed the ruling and asked for a stay, partly because it could result in the release of “several hundred people charged with very serious felonies.”

But the federal judge blasted city officials, saying in a hearing that she was “somewhat appalled” the city was not abiding by her order and urging the city to implement the changes immediately.

via The Appeal https://theappeal.org

September 26, 2019 at 09:34AM

DoorDash hack spills loads of data for 4.9 million people

A hack on food-delivery service DoorDash leaked the personal data of 4.9 million customers, delivery workers, and merchants, the company revealed on Thursday.

The breach took place on May 4, but DoorDash officials didn’t learn of it until earlier this month when they noticed unusual activity involving an unnamed third-party service provider. That’s what DoorDash says in post, which began: “We take the security of our community very seriously.” Data obtained by the attacker could include names, email addresses, delivery addresses, order histories, phone numbers, and cryptographically hashed and salted passwords.

Also exposed were the last four digits of customers’ payment cards and the last four digits of delivery workers’ and merchants’ bank accounts. Drivers license numbers for about 100,000 delivery workers were also accessed.

DoorDash has no evidence to indicate people who joined the service after April 5, 2018, had their data taken. The 4.9 million figure includes only a portion of users who joined on or before that date. The company said it’s in the process of directly notifying those affected.

Change passwords now

The DoorDash post didn’t provide details about the cryptographic hashing regimen used to protect passwords, and a spokeswoman’s email didn’t answer a question seeking that detail. The type of hashing DoorDash used is crucial to assessing the severity of the breach.

Here’s why:

Hashing is a process that converts a plaintext password such as “Dan’ssupersecurepassword” (not including the quotation marks) into a long string such as 7140e92c2d1e125aabbdab4cdf31cce8. Hashes are one-way, meaning there’s no mathematical way to convert hashes into the plaintext they were derived from. Hackers can sometimes work around this protection by running large lists of password guesses through hash generators and looking for results that match the hashes found in a breach. Many services in the past have used weak algorithms such as MD5 and SHA1, which were never intended to be used to protect stored passwords. The result: it’s trivial for the intruders to crack the hashes generated with these algorithms.

DoorDash’s Thursday assurance that passwords had been hashed means little without knowing the specific algorithm or function used. The fact that the hashing routine included “salt” is encouraging. That’s because, when done correctly, it would require more computational might for hackers to crack millions of hashes. But unless DoorDash says more, people should remain highly skeptical of the company’s claim that the hashing it used made the passwords “indecipherable” and that the company does not believe user passwords have been compromised.

Anyone who has a DoorDash account should change their password to one that is strong and unique. Anyone who has used a DoorDash password to protect other sites should change those passwords as well.

DoorDash said it took actions to block the intruder’s access after it discovered the breach earlier this month. That leaves open the possibility that the attackers had access for more than 4.5 months. Thursday’s post didn’t address this possibility, and the DoorDash spokeswoman declined to answer a question seeking clarification. DoorDash said people can call 855–646–4683 with questions.

via Ars Technica https://arstechnica.com

September 26, 2019 at 07:57PM