The stories of those who were betrayed by their fellow man, cornered by corrupt institutions and executed without cause nor crime in the name of "justice". These are our stories.

November 7, 2009

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished In Chicago

Rachelle Jackson
In November of 2002 in downtown Chicago, a car raced through a stop sign at high-speed crashing into the side of a CPD squad car. The crash trapped two police officers in their vehicle as the car began to burn.

Horrified Chicagoans, unlike the stereotypical Southsiders, immediately began pulling the injured to safety before the vehicles could explode. Among the bystanders trying to save the officers lives was 41-year-old nurse Rachelle Jackson. Jackson was credited with saving the life of Officer Kelly Brogan who sustained injuries from the crash. Brogans partner, also injured, was knocked unconscious during the crash.

Soon after the rescue it was discovered that Officer Brogan's partner's side arm was missing. Mrs. Jackson, staying on the scene until medical personel arrived was accused of the theft. The weapon was not found in Jackson's possession nor has it ever been recovered.

Jackson, wanting to clear her name, went to the local police station as a witness to the crime and not as a suspect. After walking into the Chicago police station Rachelle Jackson would remain in police custody for nearly a full year on suspicion of battery, theft and false informing as a result of attempting to save the life of an injured police officer.

Days after the incident, in perhaps an attempt to save public face for the CPD, Officer Brogan accused Ms. Jackson of trying to steal her badge and gun during the rescue attempt. Consequentially, Jackson was given an extremely high bond during her arraignment. For the next 10 months she waited in the Cook County jail for a trial.

When Jackson went to trial, the criminal case was thrown out due to lack of evidence, no prior criminal record and the fact that Ms. Jackson had spent 20 years as a positive member of the community as a medical professional.

In 2008, Rachelle Jackson won her law suit against the City of Chicago due to her wrongfull arrest and imprisonment. The jury awarded originally her $7.9 million dollars in damages. This amount would be modified by the ruling judge, Judge Castillo, in 2009 to $1.9 million.

“This was an innocent woman who saved a police officer from a burning car,” said Jackson's lawyer, Chris Smith, who tried the civil case. “There were many heroes out there who helped the police, but they all turned into suspects because some guy ran away with the gun.”

References:
Chicago Tribune, Federal Jury Verdict
Reuters, Chicago Woman Wins $7.9 Million in Suit
Police America Blog, Chicago Woman Was Falsely Accused

November 6, 2009

State of Denial: The 21st Century Russian Republic

The funeral of slain lawyer and investigative journalist Stanislav Markelov.

Neo-nazi and nationalist hate groups in Russia are called a dark secret within the former Soviet Union. Their existence is down-played by the new, leaner Russian government as inconsequential. Some members of the Russian media question whether many of these groups are, in fact, used as state sanctioned secret police to assassinate voices of dissent against the new government.

These groups, like most groups bound together with a common hatred, claim to fight for their own specific race's civil rights. But, in modern Russia, unlike most hate groups their only measurable effect is in murdering members of their own communities and doing so under the guise of being a "radical nationalist group". Leaders, including new Russian President Dimitri Medvedev, insist despite mounting evidence to the contrary, that it is only a matter of coincidence that these murder victims were also critics and political dissidents with voices heard by the West.

Such was the case with the murder of prominent human rights lawyer and investigative journalist, Stanislav Markelov. Markelov was shot dead before a stunned crowd of onlookers in the middle of a crowded Moscow street on January 19th 2009.

The Moscow street corner where Markelov and Baburova were killed.
The Moscow street corner where Markelov and Baburova were shot and killed.

Law, as an international concept, exists as society's shield to protect all of its citizens, particularly the poor who are regularly the most victimized. Russia and it's satellite state-nations, like the Ukraine and Chechnya, are overwhelmed with these victimized poor. In claiming first world status Russia is obligated to maintain this shield, made of ethics and enacted by men, as the most basic of first world statutes - to protect it's own people.

Consequentially, 21st Russia is a place where men like Markelov are badly needed. Fighting for the rights of citizens and the sovereignty of individuals within the republic became the bulk of Markelov's work in the post-authoritarian era of his nation.

Markelov was a staunch defender of the rights of the Russian people. Rights that guarantee a citizen a legal defense and a legal recourse. He chose extremely difficult cases. In 2006, he represented survivors of the Moscow Opera House Stand-off in which a group of 39 Chechen terrorists were killed along with 129 Russians civilians. Although this rescue operation saved the lives of 800 others it was largely viewed as a debacle. Markelov successfully sued the government on behalf of the survivors and victims families.

At the time of the murder, Markelov was part of another controversial case. He made up a part of the state prosecution's team investigating the murder of author and journalist Anna Politkovskaya who was brutally killed in 2006. Anna Politkovskaya was a fierce anti-war campaigner who wrote exhaustively about atrocities in Chechnya. She was allegedly killed by neo-Nazis with suspected involvement with the FSB, the infamous KGB's successor spy agency.

The 2006 funeral of writer Anna Politkovskaya.
The 2006 funeral of writer Anna Politkovskaya. The family of Politkovskaya was being represented by Markelov when he was murdered.

The 51-year-old woman, due to her investigation into Russian policy, was reportedly told that she "deserved a bullet in the head" by the high-ranking Russian installed rulers of Chechnya during the course of her own research into the civil war that still rages there. Her body was later found in an elevator at her building shot 5 times. Her accused killers were tried but not convicted in February of 2009.

Markelov also gained infamy when representing the family of Elza Kungayeva, an 18-year-old Chechen girl, who former tank commander Yuri Budanov freely admitted strangling in his quarters in March of 2000. Budanov was given a 10-year sentence but released early for good behavior. Today, Budanov enjoys a wide spread approval among the general Russian populace. He was released from prison 4 days before Markelov and Baburova were murdered.

On that cold winter day in Moscow, January 19th of 2009, 29-year-old Nikolay Tikhonov and 24-year-old Yevgenia Khasis, allegedly members of a radical neo-nazi nationalistic group, waited for Markelov outside a news conference. The conference was held just a half mile from the Kremlin in the very heart of new, united Russia. As Markelov exited, Tikhonov, wearing a stocking-style mask, approached.

Markelov and Tithonov had met before. Two years prior, Markelov had represented the prosecution of Tikhonov and seven others in connection with the murder of Maria Rozalskaya - another murdered human rights activist. Tithonov, who went into hiding shortly after his conviction, fired a silenced weapon multiple times into Markelov's chest. When Markelov's friend, Anastasia Baburova, a 25-year-old journalist, boldly tried to interfere - Tikhonov turned the silenced pistol her as well. Her attacker shot them both where they had stood and fled.

Tikhonov was captured by the FSB and confessed to the murder a few months later.

The funeral of journalist Anastasia Baburova.
The funeral of slain journalist Anastasia Baburova who was killed with Markelov.

Both victims of the assassination were passionate, outspoken critics of Vladimir Putin's new facist leaning government. Russia has experienced a string of contract-style killings of human rights workers and journalists in recent years. This murder, in particular, is so unlike the rest due to the near military precision of the attack and use of a silenced pistol - the hallmark of international spys and assassins. As a rule, most hate groups attack with crude improvised explosives, grenades and drive-bys using cheap machine guns.

If these were in fact contract killings - then who ordered the contract? Why are none of the suspects in these targeted murders members of Russian Mafia or involved organized crime? Why are the targets vocal opponents of Russian government and not police or rival or fellow Mafia?

This dramatic double-murder has led progressive minded Russians to believe that their new democratic government is not very different from their old communist one. Instead of opposition leaders being "disappeared" by KGB they are now apparently brutally murdered in broad day light by puppets of the FSB.

References:
Wikipedia, Stanislav Markelov
San Diego Union-Tribune, Man says he killed lawyer and journalist
New York Times, Two Held in Killings of Russian Lawyer
Robert Amsterdam, Stanislav Markelov 1974-2009
Open Democracy, Stanislav Markelov
New York Times, The Last Article By Anna Politkovskaya

Tradegy, Meth and New Mexico

Mile marker 126 on EB I-40 in New Mexico
It was a hot late summer day outside Grants, New Mexico a small town 70 miles west of Albuquerque. Two men had just robbed a Wal-Mart for a key ingredient for meth, escaping store security and getting away with about $600 worth of antihistamine from the Wal-Mart Supercenter.

The date was August 1st 2001. At the end of the day, a 37-year-old man who had served his small community for seven years would be run down like a wretched dog in the streets by a man who could barely count to ten.

After the Wal-Mart robbery was reported a police officer stopped two young men in a vehicle matching the one used in the robbery. In it were the Craig brothers Aron and Zacharia, a 21-year-old and 19-year-old, both were the gaunt, eerie product of a run-down Albuquerque satellite town called North Valley. The Craig's get-a-way vehicle was a stolen 1995 Toyota pickup truck. It's license plate matched those taken down by Wal-Mart employees. As the officer questioned Aron on the side of the road Zacharia, the younger of the two boys, slid over from the passenger side of the truck, started the engine and sped off.

Zacharia Craig in a Grants/Cibola County court for arraignment in 2001. Photo by Jeff Jones.The police chased Zacharia Craig, while Aron Craig apparently seized the opportunity to run for it but was quickly apprehended. Police say Zacharia Craig, leading them on a 45 mile chase, drove toward Albuquerque on I-40 when he encountered two New Mexico State patrolmen: Officer Billy Cunningham and Officer Lloyd Aragon.

The officers had just laid down stop-sticks on the highway when Zacharia gunned the Toyota's engine and swerved towards the median - directly at Officer Aragon. The truck struck the State patrolman killing him instantly. Officers at the scene later testified that Zacharia Craig had aimed the truck at Aragon who was standing in the median after placing the spiked strip across the road.

Craig's stolen truck continued after the impact only stopping when it struck a guardrail. Zacharia got out of the truck and ran until he was tackled by Officer Cunningham and two other officers. After the arrest police found 40 boxes of the antihistamine Actafed in the truck.

As the hot August day in New Mexico ended, Zacharias Craig was booked into jail and Lloyd Aragon was wheeled into the Grants/Cibola County morgue.

Five years later, in September of 2006, Zacharia Craig, now 24, was presented by his defense counsel as a young man who grew up in abject squalor in shacks and trailers without electricity or running water. His parents never attempted to seek medical attention for his thyroid condition known as Grave's Disease which causes physical and mental deterioration. His parents were depicted as cruel alcoholics that forced their three children to live in trash covered shacks. The meth only made Zacharia's poor judgement worse.

Officer Lloyd Aragon is laid to rest in August of 2001.Photo by Craig Robinson of the Gallup Independent.
The body of Officer Lloyd Aragon is laid to rest on August 4th 2001. Photo by Craig Robinson of the Gallup Independent.

However, the prosecutor's set aside the Death Penalty, which it had previously swore to pursue, for a plea. Zacharia Craig was sentenced to 25 years in prison for 2nd Degree Murder. With a ten year credit, five years for his time served and five more years based on psychiatric evaluations, Craig's actual sentence was 15 years.

In November of the same year a memorial marker was laid at the 126 mile marker of I-40 at the the section of freeway where Officer Aragon was struck and killed. Officer Lloyd Aragon is survived by his widow, Monica Aragon, his son Lloyd Jr. and his daughter Adriana.

References:
A Police Officer Died Today, Lloyd Aragon
Gallup Independent, Trial set for brothers
Gallup Independent, Cop killer gets 15 years
Gallup Independent, Set in Stone: The Lloyd Aragon I-40 memorial
Albuquerque Tribune, Environment of neglect by Joline Gutierrez Krueger

November 5, 2009

The State of Arizona vs Jeff Pataky


Re-printed from the original article at Citizen and Media Law

In March 2009, Phoenix police raided the home of Jeff Pataky, a blogger who runs Bad Phoenix Cops, a blog that has been highly critical of the Phoenix Police Department. According to The Arizona Republic, Pataky's home was raided by ten Phoenix police officers who handcuffed his girlfriend for three hours while they conducted the raid.

"We have heard internally from our police sources that they purposefully did this to stop me," Pataky told the Republic. "They took my cable modem and wireless router. Anyone worth their salt knows nothing is stored in the cable modem."

The search warrant lists petty theft and computer tampering with the intent to harass as potential crimes. Pataky, who was away on a business trip when the raid occurred, says he has yet to see an affidavit that explains why they had probable cause to conduct the raid.

The search warrant provides little insight into what police believe Pataky has done. It does, however, mention repeatedly that police were to search for personal correspondence between Pataky and "Dave Barnes." According to The Arizona Republic, Barnes is a former Phoenix homicide detective who went public in 2007 with claims of mismanaged evidence at the city's crime lab. In May 2009, Barnes' home also was raided by police due to his alleged "involvement in what some officers perceived to be a connection to a blog critical of the policeleaders," the Republic reported at the time.

Carlos Miller, who runs the Photography is Not a Crime Blog, is reporting that Pataky recently filed a lawsuit over the raid, which netted three computers, routers, modems, hard drives, memory cards and everything necessary to continue blogging. Pataky told Miller that he has not let the raid stop him from blogging, however, "They thought they were going to scare us into a corner but they just made us stronger."

UPDATE: 07/14/09
Pataky filed a lawsuit against the City of Phoenix and the officers involved in the raid. Pataky's six-count complaint alleges abuse of process, intentional infliction of emotional distress, harassment, and violation of privacy.

Related Links:
Details:
Website(s) Involved: Bad Phoenix Cops
Subject Area(s): Censorship
Location of Filing/Threat: Phoenix, Arizona
Court Name: County of Maricopa, State of Arizona
Relevant Documents:Pataky Search Warrant (03-09-2009), Affidavit for Search Warrant.pdf (03-09-2009), Pataky Complaint.pdf (07-14-2009).

November 4, 2009

A Bad Idea or A Federal Crime?

Reinhold Aman Former Medieval Studies and Philosophy Professor Reinhold Aman calls himself the World's Most Dangerous Postcard writer. Aman, an academic from Bavaria with no prior criminal record and a long history of teaching at both local high schools and the collegiate level, was sentenced to five years in federal prison in 1993.

The problem: he never lifted a finger to hurt anyone. Nor did he directly threaten to do so. At the time of his arrest, he was an intelligent and productive member of society working at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee in the middle of a very nasty divorce.

Aman's mistake came during the prolonged legal battle with his soon-to-be ex-wife. The 57-year-old Professor cut out two headlines from a local newspaper reading "MAN KILLS EX-WIFE" and "ESTRANGED WIFE IS FOUND SLAIN IN HER HOME" and mailed them to his wife. This implied and ominous warning was clearly intended to cause his wife mental distress. It was a nasty way of saying "be afraid of me". This, in itself, is a crime, but it is not on par with the Federal case it was eventually made to be.

As a minor State misdemeanor case, Aman, as a first time non-violent offender should have recieved, at most, 6 months in a county jail. Instead, due to his previous outspoken stance on the application of federal justice in Wisconscin - he recieved two concurrent 27-month sentences in federal prison - a total of four and a half years. Aman was also ordered to pay a $250,000 fine. His ex-wife, when the divorce was final, was awarded another $250,000 in divorce proceedings.

Professor Aman was given a total of five years in federal prison and fined half a million dollars in criminal and civil court over a minor misdemeanor that occured during his divorce proceedings.

After his conviction, Aman was shipped 2,300 miles west to spend time in the maximum security wing of Sonoma County Jail in Santa Rosa, CA. Aman began a institutional rotation that sent him to the Federal Building in San Francisco and Alameda County Jail in Santa Rita, CA. He was moved an incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution at Terminal Island, CA., then transferred to a federal prison camp in Lompoc, CA., before being transferred to another federal prison camp at Dublin, CA. At the end of his sentence he was finally moved to a federal half-way house in the dicey Tenderloin District back in San Francisco.

15 months and half a million dollars later, it seemed like that Professor Aman's case of "impending harm" was completely unfounded. In the 14 years since his release in 1995, there have been no new charges involving Aman and his ex-wife. There are no new charges, no new reports - nothing to suggest this man was an impending danger to anyone. His non-violent misdemeanor crime was turned into a serious federal case due to incompetence and greed.

This is a clear example of gross abuse of the justice system - both criminal and civil. Aman's case, that he was a threat to his wife or judges w/out any evidence/priors, is a draconian punishment both in severity and scope. Today, as an ex-con and former federal prisoner, freed after 15 months in federal prison, Aman is now unable to do what he has done for nearly 30 years w/out incident - teach.

Today, the deep distrust of the American justice system still reverberates in Aman's fiery denunications of injustice. After spending time in many federal prisons with men who had lost decades of their lives due to minor or non-violent infractions such as marajuana cultivation or petty theft. In his writing and web site Aman details how he and his fellow prisoners were unable to recieve the smallest bit of education in federal prisons due to Bureau of Prisons guidelines barring classes of any sort.

Aman Reinhold, now 74, decribes his time in federal prison with career criminals as a "cruel netherworld". Since his 1995 release, he has continued to has write exhaustively about specific reforms for the justice and prison system in America.

References:
Wikipedia, Reinhold Aman
Reinhold Aman's Official Web Site
OPEN LETTER TO JANET RENO ATTORNEY GENERAL: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF INJUSTICE, J'accuse!