Florida Lawmakers Push Reforms to Lower Prison Population

A group of bipartisan Florida lawmakers hope a flurry of targeted sentencing- and rehabilitation-focused reforms could begin to reduce the state’s massive prison population, relieving some pressure on the corrections department that its own leadership has repeatedly described as close to a crisis point, reports the Orlando Sentinel. The proposed reform bills would create new options to release elderly and sick inmates, increase incentives for prisoners to complete educational and other self-improvement programs and provide opportunities to retroactively reconsider and change some long sentences. The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased challenges for the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC), with FDC Secretary Mark Inch recently alerting lawmakers that more than half of the state’s prisons were understaffed to the point of emergency, and that the agency could not withstand more budget cuts.

At least two more inmate deaths linked to COVID-19 were reported this month, bringing the total to 210, the second highest in the country, and new cases among staff and inmates continue to rise. Two of the bills proposed this session would give FDC officials more autonomy to release inmates before the completion of their sentence, under certain circumstances. Another bill would create a new elderly release program and expand medical release options, under the complete authority of FDC, to account for the growing number of aging inmates, as well as those with terminal or incapacitating illnesses. Another bill would change the minimum amount of time served on a criminal sentence for those eligible to earn time off for good behavior, lowering it to 65 percent instead of 85 percent. According to legislative analysis, such a change would save the state almost $800 million over the next six years.

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March 15, 2021 at 09:53AM

Trump Lawyer Jay Sekulow Ridiculously Demands SCOTUS Stop Teenagers from Using the F-Word

Trump lawyer and self-imagined rockstar Jay Sekulow filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of the United States last week in the case of a cheerleader dropped from her team after Snapchatting “Fuck school fuck softball fuck cheer fuck everything.” In it, he seems really triggered by the word “fuck.”

Sekulow’s brief, filed on behalf of his conservative group American Center for Law and Justice, is like the legal version of muzak: a vapid echo of something better that is rightfully ignored. This “Amicus Brief of the American Center for  Law and Justice In Support of Neither Party” is an absurd pile of bullshit that I would pay good money to watch Stephen Breyer ridicule.

But first, a quick recap on the case.

A Pennsylvania high school student known in pleadings as “B.L.,” was shopping with friends on a Saturday afternoon in 2017 after she’d been cut from the varsity cheerleading squad. She posted a selfie in her Snapchat story showing herself and a friend extending their middle fingers. The caption read, “Fuck school fuck softball fuck cheer fuck everything.” A second post said, “Love how me and [another student] get told we need a year of jv before we make varsity but that’s [sic] doesn’t matter to anyone else?”

When the school found out about the post, B.L. was cut from the junior varsity team too. Her parents appealed the school’s decision, and lost at the school level. They then brought a federal lawsuit arguing that B.L.’s First Amendment rights were violated when the school disciplined her for entirely off-campus speech.

B.L. won at both the district court and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. However, it also raises an issue for which there is a split among federal circuits: exactly how far does the 1969 precedent Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District go to protecting student speech in the context of social media?

Well, thank goodness Jay Sekulow is here.

As Sekulow puts it, “Both sides of this case have the constitutional law wrong.” What SCOTUS should do, he argues, is reject everyone’s argument, make a ruling against cancel culture and blame the girl’s parents for crappy parenting.

Calling the school district’s position on its authority “feeble and problematic,” Sekulow says the school is advocating for “a hopelessly vague and overbroad standard” for regulating student speech. Schools shouldn’t be allowed to “enjoy [] general police power over anything, anywhere,” because that would be way too much.

Selkulow has suggestions. “This case ought never to have been filed,” he chastises. “The proper remedy for dealing with [the cheerleader’s] ‘absurd and immature antic,’  would have been for school officials to advise her parents, who could have addressed the matter as they saw fit.” He goes on: “Once B.L.’s parents learned of her tirade, they could have themselves grounded her from the cheer squad and made her apologize. That they chose instead to sue the school and make this a federal case, despite the mild discipline the school imposed, is a sorry reflection on our contemporary culture.”

Got that? According to Sekulow, the issue isn’t that the school was at fault for infringing on a student’s First Amendment rights. Rather, the student’s parents were at fault, because everyone knows nice girls don’t bring lawsuits.

Sekulow goes on to say that any claim that schools need to pay attention to off-campus actions in order to safeguard kids in school “makes little sense.” “The question is not whether a particular minor’s behavior should be punished, but instead whether government schools must be the ones to tackle the problem,” he writes. This sounds like a decent argument in favor of the cheerleader, but it’s immediately followed up with lengthy argument beginning, “The student’s vulgar rant, had it happened within the school’s proper jurisdiction, would clearly not enjoy First Amendment protection.”

Sekulow then launches an admittedly G-rated tirade against profanity generally, in which he appears not to know that teenagers could use F-bombs during everyday conversation. According to Sekulow, teens only use bad words when they’re trying to “incite” something.

“B.L.’s expletive here was simply a crude insult of the sort that aims to incite a hostile reaction,” he explains. “The whole point of using foul language instead of ‘I’m sick of’ or ‘The heck with’ would seem to be to offend.” His phrasing here is an implicit analogy to “fighting words” — a category of unprotected speech that encompasses words that tend to incite immediate violence. In doing this, Sekulow advocates for SCOTUS to ignore the actual issue in the case (the on-campus v. off-campus distinction of B.L.’s social media post) and instead, turn the debate into a general referendum on teenagers using bad words.

Quoting a 2009 case between the FCC and Fox Television, Sekulow engages in some Olympic-level point-missing when he interprets the meaning of a scorned cheerleader saying, “Fuck Cheer.” “Even for adults, at the most such ‘references to excretory and sexual material surely lie at the periphery of First Amendment concern,’” argues Sekulow. I guess Jay uses a different vernacular for when he’s frustrated.

Sillier still is that Sekulow appears to be arguing that B.L.’s post has corrupted the morals of an entire generation.

“This is not a case where a minor utters a dirty word in private, or discusses the academic significance of expletives with a friend,” Sekulow preaches. “And this is certainly not a case of adults using salty language among themselves.”

“Rather,” he continues,  “this case involves a blanket spewing of foul language, used as an offensive, provocative expletive, intentionally broadcast to minors in a medium pervasively accessible to those minors.” Sekulow conveniently ignores the fact that B.L.’s single profane post was posted on her Snapchat story — a format specifically designed to limit viewership only to friends, and only for a limited time.

Undeterred by reality, Sekulow goes on to demand, “If an adult stranger could constitutionally be barred from firing a profanity-laced message to hundreds of minors,” then B.L. shouldn’t be allowed to say “Fuck cheer” on Snapchat.

I guess representing Donald Trump for all those years left Sekulow entirely devoid of, well, you know.

[image via Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images]

The post Trump Lawyer Jay Sekulow Ridiculously Demands SCOTUS Stop Teenagers from Using the F-Word first appeared on Law & Crime.

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March 15, 2021 at 12:35PM

Florida man arrested for killing grandfather had man’s ears in his pockets, deputies allege

Sheriff’s deputies found a dead man’s severed ears in the pockets of a Florida man arrested Saturday night for allegedly brutally murdering his grandfather.

Lake County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a report of a stabbing about 6:40 p.m. Saturday at a residence on Lake Mack Drive in DeLand, about an hour north of Orlando.

Deputies found a 77-year-old man, identified as Ronal [sic] Wells Sr., lying dead with stab wounds on the the front porch of the house.

Kolby Parker, 30, was also at the scene. Parker told deputies he lived at the house with his grandfather. Parker said the two men had been smoking marijuana together when a fight began. Parker said Wells attacked him with a knife, but he disarmed Wells and used it against him, according to the sheriff’s office.

Parker said he had stabbed Wells in the heart.

As he was interviewed at the scene, Parker asked a deputy “Do you want to know where Ronal Wells Jr. [sic] is?” Parker then took two human ears out of each his pants pockets, “later discovered to be those of the decedent.” “This is where he is,” Parker told deputies, according to the arrest report.

Parker then asked the deputy, “Can I have your gun?” He then allegedly attacked the deputies, trying to disarm them, but he was secured and arrested. “An agency-issued Taser 7 was used but was not effective,” according to the arrest report.

Detectives who arrived to serve a search warrant on the property found a baseball bat on the porch with apparent bloodstains, and found a large butcher knife on the kitchen table inside, with blood dripping on the floor.

Sheriff’s deputies say Parker later confessed to hitting his grandfather in the head multiple times with the baseball bat, and confessed to stabbing his grandfather numerous times with the butcher knife, and cutting off the man’s ears.

Parker “stated he wanted his grandfather to be with his deceased grandmother,” the sheriff’s office said.

Kolby Parker was charged with second-degree murder in a domestic violence incident; battery on a law enforcement officer; and resisting with violence. He was held at the Lake County Jail without bond.

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March 15, 2021 at 04:00PM

Assistant Principal And Her Daughter Charged With Hacking To Rig Homecoming Queen Vote

An assistant principal and her daughter have been arrested and charged with illegally accessing students’ computer accounts at a Florida high school to rig the vote for homecoming queen, officials said.

Laura Rose Carroll, 50, who is an assistant principal at an elementary school, and her 17-year-old-daughter have been charged with a variety of offenses, including conspiracy, unlawful use of a two-way communication device and criminal use of personally identified information, said a statement from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Carroll’s daughter was crowned homecoming queen at Pensacola’s Tate High School last year before the fraud was discovered, officials said.

Hundreds of votes were later tagged as fraudulent after an investigation. Some 117 votes alone came from the same IP address linked to Carroll’s phone, investigators discovered.

Several students reported that Carroll’s daughter talked about using her mother’s school computer account to access student files in order to cast votes that appeared to be from them, according to officials.

Carroll was booked into the Escambia County Jail on Monday, and her bond was set at $8,500. Her daughter was taken to the Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

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March 16, 2021 at 12:39AM

EFF’s Crowd-Sourced Atlas of Surveillance Project Honored with Award for Advancing Public’s Right to Know About Police Spying

Partnering with University of Nevada, Reno Reynolds School of Journalism Students, EFF Collects and Aggregates Data about Police Surveillance

SAN FRANCISCO—The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is pleased to announce it has received the James Madison Freedom of Information Award for Electronic Access for its groundbreaking, crowd-sourced Atlas of Surveillance, the largest-ever collection of searchable data on the use of surveillance technologies by law enforcement agencies across the country.

The Atlas, launched in July, contains data on more than 7,000 surveillance programs—including facial recognition, drones, and automated license plate readers—operated by thousands of local police departments and sheriffs’ offices nationwide. With a clickable U.S map and a searchable database of cities and technologies, the Atlas sheds light on the devices and systems being purchased locally, often without residents’ knowledge or any oversight, to surveil people and neighborhoods.

EFF shares the award, presented by the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, with students and faculty members at University of Nevada, Reno Reynolds School of Journalism (RSJ). Over the course of two years, hundreds of students have researched and collected public records, news articles, and open datasets to build the Atlas of Surveillance database. The project also compiles for the first time research collected by news organizations, nonprofits, and academics, including the ACLU and the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College.

“Law enforcement agencies around the country have collected more and more advanced surveillance systems to gather information en masse on the public. But details about which police departments have acquired what systems had never been aggregated before into a single place,” said EFF Director of Investigations Dave Maass, who leads the project. “When the Reynolds School approached EFF about working together with as many as 150 students each semester on a project, the Atlas of Surveillance was born.”

“Thanks to Dave Maass’ leadership and Reynolds School of Journalism students’ enthusiasm, we were able to visualize the data and present the seriousness of the issue,” said Gi Yun, Director of the Center for Advanced Media Studies and Professor at RSJ. “It is our hope to be able to continue the project and provide valuable information to the public.

Students working on the Atlas have also generated three special reports, including a comprehensive guide to surveillance along the U.S. border, an investigation into the growing trend of real-time crime centers, and, most recently, a deep dive into surveillance on university campuses. “Scholars Under Surveillance: How Campus Police Use High Tech to Spy on Students,” released in February, uncovered records showing public safety offices are acquiring a surprising number of surveillance technologies more common to metropolitan areas that experience high levels of violent crime.

The project has served as a training ground for the next generation of reporters and advocates—students learned how to gather data, file FOIA requests, search public meeting documents, and read news articles about surveillance with a skeptical eye. In turn, the Atlas of Surveillance now serves as a key resource for local and national reporters investigating law enforcement in the wake of last summer’s marches and the Black-led movement against police violence.

“Police have long used surveillance tactics to observe and undermine civil rights movements, from the 1960s to the Black Panthers to Black Lives Matter,” said Taylor Johnson, a 2021 senior at Reynolds who is building datasets of surveillance technology in Atlanta Detroit and Pittsburgh in collaboration with EFF and Data 4 Black Lives. “It is our role to finally right the wrongs of the past and do better. That begins with transparency, which the Atlas of Surveillance provides. Through transparency and advocacy, blocks built up by racism can begin to be dismantled.”

Reynolds students who put more than 120 hours into the project include Johnson, Madison Vialpando, Christian Romero, Matthew King, Dominique Hall, Javier Hernandez, Jessica Romo, Hailey Rodis, Olivia Ali, Dylan Kubeny, and Jayme Sileo. In addition, student volunteers Tiffany Jing and Zoe Wheatcroft were invaluable in getting this project off the ground.

“Police surveillance technology poses an incredible threat to our 4th Amendment rights, so tracking the use of this technology is vital to protecting those rights,” said Madison Vialpando, a 2020 RSJ graduate who worked on the project over three semesters and is now pursuing a masters in cybersecurity. “Working on the Atlas of Surveillance project with the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been one of the most rewarding and profound experiences that I have ever had.

The annual James Madison Freedom of Information Awards recognizes Northern California individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to advancing freedom of information and/or expression in the spirit of James Madison, the creative force behind the First Amendment. SPJ NorCal presents the awards near Madison’s birthday (March 16) and National Sunshine Week.

For more on the awards: https://spjnorcal.org/2021/03/16/spj-norcal-36th-annual-james-madison-freedom-of-information-awards/

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March 16, 2021 at 12:23PM

Chauvin Attorney Says $27M Floyd Family Settlement Impedes Fair Trial

The defense attorney for the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with George Floyd’s murder, on Monday asked the judge to delay the trial now under way, saying the announcement by the city of a record $27m settlement for Floyd’s family could make a fair trial impossible and raising the possibility of renewing his previously unsuccessful motion to move Chauvin’s trial to another city, reports The Guardian. Although the payout is unconnected to the criminal trial, the timing of the announcement, coming during jury selection, is surprising. The judge, Peter Cahill, expressed frustration, calling it “unfortunate” and said he would recall seven jurors seated last week to ask if they had seen news of the settlement and whether it would affect their impartiality. The first potential juror questioned Monday was quickly dismissed after volunteering that she’d heard about the settlement and presumed it meant the city didn’t feel it would win the civil case.

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March 16, 2021 at 11:19AM

Psych Eval For Florida Man Accused of Accosting Stuffed Doll

MARCH 8–A judge today ordered a psychological evaluation to help determine the competency of a Florida Man charged with having sexual contact with a pair of large stuffed animals at a Target store, court records show.

During a Circuit Court hearing this afternoon, Judge Cathy Ann McKyton appointed a psychologist to examine Cody Meader, 22, who has been charged with criminal mischief and exposure of sexual organs, both misdemeanors.

A further hearing on Meader’s ability to stand trial has been scheduled for next month.

As detailed in police and court records, a Target loss prevention officer told cops that he watched as Meader took a stuffed unicorn to the children’s bedding department, where he exposed himself and “took the unicorn and placed it against his penis and began a sexual motion like the subject was trying to have sex with the unicorn.”

The Target employee said that when he walked into the aisle where Meader (seen above) was, the suspect “stopped and placed the unicorn back on the shelf.”

Meader, wearing shorts and a Star Wars t-shirt, then went to the front of the St. Petersburg store and “picked up an Olaf snowman stuffed animal and began having sex with this stuffed animal and it was all on video,” according to the Target worker’s witness statement. “The subject finished having sex with the stuffed animal and ejaculated on it and then wiped it off.”

While Meader was engaged with the Olaf doll, police were already en route to the store, which is about 10 miles from the defendant’s residence. As seen above, a store surveillance camera recorded Meader’s interaction with Olaf, a character from the Disney movie “Frozen.”

After watching the video, a cop reported that Meader could be seen “on top of the Olaf doll behind the table display. He was face down and appearing to be ‘humping’ the doll.” When Meader was finished, the cop added, he “got up off the floor and wiped the doll off on the front of his shorts.”

Upon being read his rights, Meader “admitted to doing ‘stupid stuff’ and admitted that he had ‘nutted’ on the Olaf stuffed animal,” according to an arrest affidavit. As seen in images below and at left, police photographed both stuffed animals before the merchandise was “destroyed due to circumstances.”

If Meader’s case proceeds to trial, prosecutors have said they will seek to introduce evidence showing that the Target incident was not the first time he engaged in such illicit activity. Years earlier, police were called to a Walmart in Clearwater to formally trespass Meader from the store. A loss prevention officer told officers that Meader, then a juvenile, was “performing sexual acts with stuff animals located in the store,” according to a Clearwater Police Department report. (3 pages)

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March 8, 2021 at 10:24PM

The FBI Should Stop Attacking Encryption and Tell Congress About All the Encrypted Phones It’s Already Hacking Into

Federal law enforcement has been asking for a backdoor to read Americans’ encrypted communications for years now. FBI Director Christopher Wray did it again last week in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. As usual, the FBI’s complaints involved end-to-end encryption employed by popular messaging platforms, as well as the at-rest encryption of digital devices, which Wray described as offering “user-only access.”

The FBI wants these terms to sound scary, but they actually describe security best practices. End-to-end encryption is what allows users to exchange messages without having them intercepted and read by repressive governments, corporations, and other bad actors. And “user-only access” is actually a perfect encapsulation of how device encryption should work; otherwise, anyone who got their hands on your phone or laptop—a thief, an abusive partner, or an employer—could access its most sensitive data. When you intentionally weaken these systems, it hurts our security and privacy, because there’s no magical kind of access that only works for the good guys. If Wray gets his special pass to listen in on our conversations and access our devices, corporations, criminals, and authoritarians will be able to get the same access.

It’s remarkable that Wray keeps getting invited to Congress to sing the same song. Notably, Wray was invited there to talk, in part, about the January 6th insurrection, a serious domestic attack in which the attackers—far from being concerned about secrecy—proudly broadcast many of their crimes, resulting in hundreds of arrests.

It’s also remarkable what Wray, once more, chose to leave out of this narrative. While Wray continues to express frustration about what his agents can’t get access to, he fails to brief Senators about the shocking frequency with which his agency already accesses Americans’ smartphones. Nevertheless, the scope of police snooping on Americans’ mobile phones is becoming clear, and it’s not just the FBI who is doing it. Instead of inviting Wray up to Capitol Hill to ask for special ways to invade our privacy and security, Senators should be asking Wray about the private data his agents are already trawling through.

Police Have An Incredible Number of Ways to Break Into Encrypted Phones

In all 50 states, police are breaking into phones on a vast scale. An October report from the non-profit Upturn, “Mass Extraction,” has revealed details of how invasive and widespread police hacking of our phones has become. Police can easily purchase forensic tools that extract data from nearly every popular phone. In March 2016, Cellebrite, a popular forensic tool company, supported “logical extractions” for 8,393 different devices, and “physical extractions,” which involves copying all the data on a phone bit-by-bit, for 4,254 devices. Cellebrite can bypass lock screens on about 1,500 different devices.

How do they bypass encryption? Often, they just guess the password. In 2018, Prof. Matthew Green estimated it would take no more than 22 hours for forensic tools to break into some older iPhones with a 6-digit passcode simply by continuously guessing passwords (i.e. “brute-force” entry). A 4-digit passcode would fail in about 13 minutes.

That brute force guessing was enabled by a hardware flaw that has been fixed since 2018, and the rate of password guessing is much more limited now. But even as smartphone companies like Apple improve their security, device hacking remains very much a cat-and-mouse game. As recently as September 2020, Cellebrite marketing materials boasted its tools can break into iPhone devices up to “the latest iPhone 11/ 11 Pro / Max running the latest iOS versions up to the latest 13.4.1”

Even when passwords can’t be broken, vendors like Cellebrite offer “advanced services” that can unlock even the newest iOS and Samsung devices. Upturn research suggests the base price on such services is $1,950, but it can be cheaper in bulk.

Buying electronic break-in technology on a wholesale basis represents the best deal for police departments around the U.S., and they avail themselves of these bargains regularly. In 2018, the Seattle Police Department purchased 20 such “actions” from Cellebrite for $33,000, allowing them to extract phone data within weeks or even days. Law enforcement agencies that want to unlock phones en masse can bring Cellebrite’s “advanced unlocking” in-house, for prices that range from $75,000 to $150,000.

That means for most police departments, breaking into phones isn’t just convenient, it’s relatively inexpensive. Even a mid-sized police department like Virginia Beach, VA has a police budget of more than $100 million; New York City’s police budget is over $5 billion. The FBI’s 2020 budget request is about $9 billion.

When the FBI says it’s “going dark” because it can’t beat encryption, what it’s really asking for is a method of breaking in that’s cheaper, easier, and more reliable than the methods they already have. The only way to fully meet the FBI’s demands would be to require a backdoor in all platforms, applications, and devices. Especially at a time when police abuses nationwide have come into new focus, this type of complaint should be a non-starter with elected officials. Instead, they should be questioning how and why police are already dodging encryption. These techniques aren’t just being used against criminals.

Phone Searches By Police Are Widespread and Commonplace

Upturn has documented more than 2,000 agencies across the U.S. that have purchased products or services from mobile device forensic tool vendors, including every one of the 50 largest police departments, and at least 25 of the 50 largest sheriffs’ offices.

Law enforcement officials like Wray want to convince us that encryption needs to be bypassed or broken for threats like terrorism or crimes against children, but in fact, Upturn’s public records requests show that police use forensic tools to search phones for everyday low-level crimes. Even when police don’t need to bypass encryption—such as when they convince someone to “consent” to the search of a phone and unlock it—these invasive police phone searches are used “as an all-purpose investigative tool, for an astonishingly broad array of offenses, often without a warrant,” as Upturn put it.

The 44 law enforcement agencies who provided records to Upturn revealed at least 50,000 extractions of cell phones between 2015 and 2019. And there’s no question that this number is a “severe undercount,” counting only 44 agencies, when at least 2,000 agencies have the tools. Many of the largest police departments, including New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., Baltimore, and Boston, either denied Upturn’s record requests or did not respond.

“Law enforcement… use these tools to investigate cases involving graffiti, shoplifting, marijuana possession, prostitution, vandalism, car crashes, parole violations, petty theft, public intoxication, and the full gamut of drug-related offenses,” Upturn reports. In Suffolk County, NY, 20 percent of the phones searched by police were for narcotics cases. Authorities in Santa Clara County, CA, San Bernardino County, CA, and Fort Worth, TX all reported that drug crimes were among the most common reasons for cell phone data extractions. Here are just a few examples of the everyday offenses in which Upturn found police searched phones:

  • In one case, police officers sought to search two phones for evidence of drug sales after a $220 undercover marijuana bust.
  • Police stopped a vehicle for a “left lane violation,” then “due to nervousness and inconsistent stories, a free air sniff was conducted by a … K9 with positive alert to narcotics.” The officers found bags of marijuana in the car, then seized eight phones from the car’s occupants, and sought to extract data from them for “evidence of drug transactions.”
  • Officers looking for a juvenile who allegedly violated terms of his electronic monitoring found him after a “short foot pursuit” in which the youngster threw his phone to the ground. Officers sought to search the phone for evidence of “escape in the second degree.”

And these searches often take place without judicial warrants, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s clear ruling in Riley v. California that a warrant is required to search a cell phone. That’s because police frequently abuse rules around so-called consent searches. These types of searches are widespread, but they’re hardly consensual. In January, we wrote about how these so-called “consent searches” are extraordinary violations of our privacy.

Forensic searches of cell phones are increasingly common. The Las Vegas police, for instance, examined 260% more cell phones in 2018-2019 compared with 2015-2016.

The searches are often overbroad, as well. It’s not uncommon for data unrelated to the initial suspicions to be copied, kept, and used for other purposes later. For instance, police can deem unrelated data to be “gang related,” and keep it in a “gang database,” which have often vague standards. Being placed in such a database can easily affect peoples’ future employment options. Many police departments don’t have any policies in place about when forensic phone-searching tools can be used.

It’s Time for Oversight On Police Phone Searches

Rather than listening to a litany of requests for special access to personal data from federal agencies like the FBI, Congress should assert oversight over the inappropriate types of access that are already taking place.

The first step is to start keeping track of what’s happening. Congress should require that federal law enforcement agencies create detailed audit logs and screen recordings of digital searches. And we agree with Upturn that agencies nationwide should collect and publish aggregated information about how many phones were searched, and whether those searches involved warrants (with published warrant numbers), or so-called consent searches. Agencies should also disclose what tools were used for data extraction and analysis.

Congress should also consider placing sharp limits on when consent searches can take place at all. In our January blog post, we suggest that such searches be banned entirely in high-coercion settings like traffic stops, and suggest some specific limits that should be set in less-coercive settings.

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March 8, 2021 at 12:56PM

Lawyer Who Bragged About Storming Capitol Asks Judge If He Can Get a Drink with His Steak Tonight

Georgia attorney William McCall Calhoun Jr. previously expressed no uncertain amount of pride for taking part in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol Complex. As a judge considered his release on Tuesday, however, Calhoun essayed a different note altogether.

“If I had to do it over again, I would not have gone into the Capitol,” he told U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich. “I know that I messed up doing that. I apologize for being difficult.”

The judge ultimately okayed Calhoun’s bail request but not before the defendant made a remark that very well could have tanked his second bid for pre-trial release.

“I know my friends are probably going to want to take me out tonight to buy me a steak and a glass of wine,” the admitted participant in the siege of Capitol Hill said near the end of the hearing. Luckily for him, the court was largely receptive and accommodating.

“Not doing his defense lawyer any favors,” Reuters legal reporter and onetime attorney Jan Wolfe mused via Twitter.

In the end, the libationary ask didn’t really matter.

Over the objection of federal prosecutors, Calhoun was granted bail with relatively lax conditions. After the government pushed for internet monitoring provisions, the defense pleaded that such a regime would not be conducive to attorney-client privilege. The judge gave in. That request transformed into a proposal that Calhoun steer clear of all social media—that he even refrain from reading the news.

According to Inner City Press, Calhoun protested that sites like YouTube aren’t strictly social media because they contain how-to videos. After a bit more deliberation, the court, the government and the defense settled on a more narrowly-tailored solution: a full-on posting ban. Calhoun will not have his internet use monitored and is not barred from visiting certain websites, he simply cannot send his thoughts out into the semi-public ether of online forums or blogs.

The posting prohibition is salient in Calhoun’s case.

Judge Friedrich noted that the defendant’s posts, previously marshaled and cited in service of denying his first bail request by the government, were “deeply disturbing.”

In one post from his late January initial appearance, Calhoun wrote of his desire to place Black Lives Matter protesters in “body bags.” He said he wanted racial justice advocates “stacked up high.”

“Standing by and when Trump makes the call, many heavily-armed patriots [will deal with] the Chicom Democrats,” another post said. “Oh yeah, the military and police are on our side.”

Calhoun also repeatedly expressed his desire for “violent retribution against the media and the Democrats,” and told one Black Lives Matter supporter on Twitter that they “won’t be laughing when patriots go door to door executing you commies.”

In another post, apparently telegraphing his desire to honor Tiffany Trump, Calhoun promised “headshots” for certain members of the media who were seen to be poking fun at her.

“God is on Trump’s side,” the veteran lawyer wrote in yet another post. “God is not on the Democrats’ side. And if patriots have to kill 60 million of these communists, it is God’s will.”

“Think ethnic cleansing but it’s anti-communist cleansing,” he added.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles H. Weigle agreed with the government the first time around. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Friedrich agreed with the defense’s earlier contention that “[w]ords do not equal action.”

Noting Calhoun’s lack of charges for having actually engaged in violence and his familiarity with court orders due to his years as an attorney, the court signed off on his release with GPS monitoring.

The once-proud but now demure defendant also predicted an end to his law practice, saying that no one would want to hire someone facing the charges he’s indicted for. Calhoun, effusively apologetic and offering the contrition of an artist, added that he was also a musician and would focus his attention on making money that way.

The court seemed to like the song it heard.

[image via screengrab/11Alive/Twitter]

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March 9, 2021 at 05:01PM

‘Insulting’ a Cop Could Become a Crime in Kentucky

In Kentucky, it would become a crime to insult or taunt a police officer during a riot under a new bill proposed by the state’s legislature, according to WTRF.com. Supporters say the bill targets people who unlawfully “cross the line” but opponents call it an attempt to crush protests and a violation of First Amendment rights. Senate Bill 211 mandates up to three months’ imprisonment for a person who “accosts, insults, taunts, or challenges a law enforcement officer with offensive or derisive words,” or makes “gestures or other physical contact that would have a direct tendency to provoke a violent response from the perspective of a reasonable and prudent person.” A person convicted of this misdemeanor could also face a $250 fine and be disqualified from public assistance benefits for three months. The bill passed through the Senate with only Republicans supporting it. It now moves to the full Senate and could be passed there as early as next week, and would then need to be passed in the House. Republicans control both chambers of Kentucky’s legislature.

via The Crime Report https://ift.tt/2myW3Gx

March 9, 2021 at 09:40AM