Hammer Award: ADA Chris Scruggs

Daniel Connolly of The Commercial Appeal has recently outed Mike Cross, former Collierville and Shelby prosecutor, and Judge Jim Lammey for racism on social media.

hammerawardWe commend Mr Connolly’s enterprise and, seeing that we have our own research on prosecutorial and other criminal justice misconduct, we decided to follow his lead.

Our criterion for membership of our rogue’s gallery is something an ADA Hammer like Chris Scruggs would appreciate.   Three strikes and you’re in for good.   When we document three perversions of justice, you get our Hammer Award.

Shelby Co. District Attorney’s office has a hammer award, given to prosecutors who break the rules to get convictions.     This is our Hammer Award.

ADA Chris Scruggs

chris_scruggs
Scruggs

The first recipient of our Hammer Award is Chris Scruggs.    He’s a long time prosecutor and has headed up the West Tennessee Drug Task Force, an inter-agency unit, which works with the Multi Agency Gang Unit and its Organized Crime Unit.

Drug prosecutions are especially problematic, as a large part of mass incarceration. There are perverse incentives including civil forfeiture, which engenders corruption, and the imposition of minimum sentencing laws has made this area especially problematic.

Chris Scruggs taken to Federal Court

Celetria_april
Celitria Watson (L) and April Malone

We first encountered Chris Scruggs in the Federal case taken by April Malone and Celitria Watson against three DAs and three MPD police officers.   In this case, Ms Watson had an automated cloud back-up app running on her phone,  She was able to prove that the version of a wiretap log of her text messages had been altered by the prosecution and police to add incriminating statements.    In addition, a bogus bank Suspicious Activity Report was used to obtain the wiretap warrant.    The prosecution team was aware of the fabricated evidence.

Ms Malone and Ms. Watson were able to prove their innocence and their cases were severed and dismissed, but Kendrick Watson, Celitria’s brother and April’s significant other, was given and additional nine years on his sentence using the same fabricated evidence.  April’s mother, Patricia Malone, took a misdemeanor plea for time served.

Chris Scruggs and Planted Weed

thorne_peters_portraitcropOur piece on Thorne Peters‘ bust at Imbiblio’s night club describes how Chris Scruggs had to recuse himself from a second trial of Peters and others because of his misconduct in the first case.

In the initial December 2008 raid, some weed which had been thrown down in commonly accessible areas was found, but this was not allowed as evidence because there was no search warrant.   The arrest affidavit was altered months later to add a small baggie of weed supposedly found in the cruiser used to transport Peters, and the case was dismissed.

In addition to the evidence tampering, this case showed the abuse of bail.   Peters was held on $400K bail and ended up serving 19 months on a charge which had a maximum penalty of less than one year.  Peters’ insistence on his day in court called the DA’s bluff.    The DA’s expected to plead out, which would make the weakness of their case moot.

Peters was again arrested in July 2009 on the evidence of a confidential informant, Ashley Egan, who was paid $2000 for her testimony.   Egan was later sentenced to several terms of imprisonment, was described by her SCSO handlers as a junkie and was a client of the mental health court, which usually requires mental health treatment for its defendants.      Chris Scruggs, who had been cited for his role in the 2008 bust, recused himself from this case in October 2010, after the snitch testimony had been given.

Third Strike:   Jason White’s case

jason_white_cropThe 2016 cases of Jason White, Kristina Cole and Montez Mullins is especially egregious.   Bartlett police intercepted a package containing a pound of meth, relabeled it with Kristina Cole’s address, got a dubious warrant for the altered address, and busted her.   They confiscated her phone and sent some text messages to a phone they thought, but never proved, belonged to her incarcerated boyfriend, Jason White.  They subsequently added Montez Mullins, who admitted to organizing the shipment, to the docket.    The defendants were sentenced to  a total of 113 1/2 years.

The arresting officer testified to the changing of the destination address and the bogus text messages on the stand, so Scruggs, as the prosecutor, would have known these facts while being briefed on the case before trial.   Cole and White were innocent bystanders to Mullins’ prison meth distribution scheme.

Chris Scruggs:  Congratulations

hammeraward

 

Chris Scruggs is a deserving recipient of our first Hammer Award.

We will be awarding future Hammer Awards to prosecutors, judges, law enforcement and individuals who get three strikes for overzealous enforcement of mass incarceration.

 

 

 

–Concluded

 

 

 

 

Bazelon’s book “Charged”: Call to Action

Updated 5/17/2019:  We took the appendix of this book and showed how it could be a questionnaire that a hypothetical selection committee could put to candidates to gauge how committed they are to prosecutorial reform. 

Prosecutors wield extraordinary power in the criminal legal system. How they exercise their power can be the difference between fairness and inequality, justice and corruption, and a community with faith in its justice system or one that feels betrayed by it.”

Emily-Bazelon.jpg
Emily Bazelon photo – Nina Subin

We don’t usually do book reviews, but Emily Bazelon’s book “Charged.  The new movement to transform American prosecution and end mass incarceration” is a phenomenon we can’t ignore.   It is a textbook and a case study of how to replace Amy Weirich.

Local DAs are the officials with the most influence over mass incarceration.

We previously reported on the Fair Punishment Project’s report “The Recidivists: New Report on Rates of Prosecutorial Misconduct“.   One of the four DAs profiled in the book was Amy Weirich, with an account of six of her cases which had been reversed by appeals courts.   Weirich was nailed for repeat Brady violations and due process violations.    Amy Weirich was, in 2017, fast becoming the poster child for prosecutorial misconduct.

weirich_testifies“Charged” confirms Amy Weirich as the most corrupt champion of mass incarceration in the country.   The book is structured as two case histories, one of Amy’s persecution of Nuora Barnes for murdering her mother, and the other following a young Black man, pseudonymously named Kevin, as he wends its way through a diversion program in the Brooklyn office of DA Eric Gonzales, who has slashed mass incarceration since his election.

nuora
Nuora Barnes

This is the most complete account of the Nuora Barnes case, and Weirich doubles down on vicious and illegal tactics throughout the case.   Jackson eventually took an alford plea after the Tennessee Supreme Court vacated her conviction.   Weirich did not have the grace to release Nuora on bail, and, rather than releasing her after ten years, forced her to accept a plea deal to avoid further incarceration.   Bazelon forged a close relationship with Nuora Jackson and paints an intimate portrait of a soul in Amy’s hell.

In the midst of alternating through six chapters each on Kevin and Nuora’s cases, Bazelon adds organizational chapters.

KimFoxx
Kim Foxx, Chicago DA

Chapter 5 is an account of a national movement to replace bad prosecutors with reformist DAs.   Groups such as the Illinois Safety and Justice PAC, funded by George Soros, helped Kim Foxx get elected in Chicago.  The Civic Participation Action Fund, the ACLU campaign for Smart Justice, the Open Society Foundation, Texas Organizing Project and others supported fourteen DA reform candidates in 2016-2018.   Most of them won. Even the Koch brothers supported DA reform on the basis of waste.  It is a bipartisan issue.

Chapter 8 is a survey of the new reformist DAs, including Kim Foxx in Chicago, Eric Gonzales in Brooklyn, Mark Dupree in Kansas City, Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, Tori Verber Salazar in San Joaquin Co, CA, Aramis Ayala in Orlando and many others.   Organizations like NYC Court Watch and Fair and Just Prosecution weighed in.   We have a court watch in Memphis now.

The final chapter is a survey of the issues faced by some of the new reform prosecutors and how they were tackled.   It’s a troubleshooting guide for reform DAs.

Possibly the most valuable resource in the book is the appendix, a list of 21 principles for Twenty First Century Prosecutors, grouped under the objectives of reducing mass incarceration and increasing fairness in the system.  This is a great starting point for a questionnaire for new DA candidates.

charged-book-emily-bazelon-1This book is a gift to criminal justice advocated in Memphis.   It contains a motivational story, potential national sources of support, accounts of the pioneer reform DAs who are already elected and helpful organizational principles.

Amy Weirich is the Public Enemy Number One for national reform advocates, who are well funded.

— concluded —

Witnesses to Jobs for Cash conspiracy murdered in Sheriff’s Office Cover-up?

We now enter a truly bizarre world of cover-ups, conspiracy and corruption.   In our “Prosecutor!!!” series, we picked up on the first Sheriff Dept. cover-up, where Earley Story’s evidence of jail conditions, as provided to the FBI, is discredited by a bogus prosecution.   The evidence in his case was created by confidential informant #2282, Alfredo Shaw at the behest of deputies and prosecutors.   Twenty years later, convicted death row inmate Tony Carruthers gets evidence about Shaw in discovery and sends it to Mr. Story, who, decades after his conviction, is still fighting to prove his innocence.  We looked into Shaw and found that he has apparently given testimony in up to fourteen other cases.

ACGilless
Sheriff AC Gilless

We looked for the other cases where Shaw might have helped fabricate evidence for prosecutors.    We found two jailer deputies, Bernard Kimmons and Victor Campbell, who were arrested with Earley Story on January 31st 1997.  They were prosecuted by the same team of deputies, prosecutors, judges, undercover officer and confidential informant Alfredo Shaw.   We found at least four alleged weed buys by Shaw that were not documented in the CI ledger which Carruthers provided.     So we looked into this and talked to dozens of witnesses.   Bernard Kimmons would not comment, and we have not found Victor Campbell yet.

 

Alfredo-Shaw-mugshot-36147747.400x800
CI #2282 Alfredo Shaw

We examined the evidence provided at the trial of Roderick Cobb and found that it had been fabricated.   Evidence had been planted, including a pair of handcuffs of the wrong type, and the gun that did the killing.  The since-discredited Deputy Medical Examiner OC Smith, the one who gagged himself with barbed wire, hung a bomb around his neck, lied to the FBI and was convicted and fired, created testimony.  He moved a bullet wound and concocted a bizarre story of how Cobb was supposed to have drawn a twice-searched-for gun, while handcuffed in the rear, and shot the deputy.   In addition, the GSR (gunshot residue) tests had a focused concentration at the driver’s seat, while, to comply with Smith’s proposed evidence, it should have been around the passenger seat and rear of the car, in the inverse of the actual pattern.

OC_Smith
Former Deputy ME OC Smith

 

 

We were struck by the fact that people connected to the case had had their lives, and the lives of their loved ones, threatened to remain quiet, and no-one would go on the record.   So, from the hard evidence of the Alfredo Shaw cover-up and the many discrepancies in the official case against

SherryHopperGoodman
Deputy Sherry Goodman

Roderick Cobb, we concurred with the general opinion of our sources that Cobb had been convicted to cover up the fact that a deputy did the killing.   The Kimmons and Campbell framing, in conjunction with the Earley Story cover-up proves they were also being silenced and covered up.    The planted evidence could only have been laid by someone who is part of the investigation.   So we wrote it up as a triple cover-up.  We concluded that Kimmons and Campbell had been targeted in cover up #2 because they had connected the dots in the cover-up of the Goodman murder while they were Cobb’s custodians.

We did not know why Deputy Goodman has been assassinated, but soon our informants started talking about why.   Goodman was linked to yet another FBI inquiry, the one into the jobs for cash scandal.   She was said to be a cooperating witness.    At this point our story takes a bizarre leap into the territory of fact being stranger than fiction.

Another unknown in our previous installment was why the cover-up of Goodman’s murder mattered to the crew who engineered the framing of the three deputies.    We know they were working for the same top level of SCSO management, because of Earlie Story’s involvement.     What connected Goodman’s assassination with top SCSO management?

People connected with the deputies’ cases and the Goodman case, and their families, are still being threatened with reprisals for talking, more than twenty years after the events.    The statute of limitations has expired for every possible offense, except murder.

Editorial Disclaimer

Normally we don’t publish anything that is not provable by documentary or on-the-record witness statements.  We have publishing guidelines.   In this case, because of the evident threats to witnesses and their families, which are very credible, and because of an effort to conceal official records and court documents, we are making a departure from these guidelines.

We are scientists by training and we will use the scientific method of documenting a theory to proceed

The Sheriff Dept. Jobs for Cash Scandal.

PhilCampbell
Phil Campbell, Memphis Flyer reporter

This happened over twenty years ago and many won’t remember the details.   Phil Campbell of the Flyer gave a cogent account in September 1998.    The story starts in 1991, with a conspiracy in the Sheriff’s department, for which Alton Ray Mills and Stephen Toarmina were convicted years later.   Applicants paid amounts up to $3,930 as bribes to obtain jobs in the Sheriff’s Dept.   There were unindicted co-conspirators, including Cliff Avent and unidentified victims including Robert Wilson together with six identified victims, including Derick Feathers who were named in the case, but not identified in the case documents .

 

From February 1991 until he was fired, Alton Ray Mills served as Chief Deputy Sheriff of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department in Memphis, Tennessee.  By all accounts, Sheriff AC Gilless gave Mills free rein in day-to-day operations.

RayMills
Alton Ray Mill

Stephen Toarmina is a North Memphis grocer, whose convenience store is at 1486 Chelsea.   At that time he was a political crony of Sheriff AC Gilless and was appointed as a special advisor in the Sheriff’s office.   Toarmina liked to play cops and robbers, rolling around the county in a department cruiser, wearing a deputy’s uniform with a sidearm.   He would harass members of the public while impersonating an officer.      Toarmina got loans for bribes through his business for five named victims and processed a credit card payment for the sixth, laundering the proceeds through the store accounts.

 

Harold Hays Discovers Jobs for Cash

From the Flyer: “Between working for the FBI and for the Germantown police, Hays had been (appointed)  Sheriff Gilless’ internal-affairs director in 1994. It took only six months for him to get fired. Hays had to report to Mills about his investigations, but after a short while he started getting reports about Mills himself. Hays took advantage of an out-of-town trip by the chief deputy to bring his findings to Gilless.  Hays and the sheriff’s legal advisers then presented his evidence to

toarmina_grocery
Toarmina’s convenience store

then-DA John Pierotti. The next day, Mills came back into town and had Hays fired. Gilless approved…”.

 

Hays had reported the case to the FBI in early 1995, which started an inquiry.  The Federal indictment of Mills and Toarmina came down on April 18, 1996.

The Shape of the Cover-ups

We know the first cover-up, that of Earley Story, was a matter of concern to the top levels of management at SCSO.

Earley_Story_H&S
Earley Story

The second cover-up was related to the Early Story cover-up, as it was carried out by the same team at the same time.   As the cover-up of the Goodman murder might just be an operational matter carried out by a member of the investigational team, we need to explain why covering up Goodman’s murder was of concern to the individuals who framed  Story, Kimmons and Campbell, unless the murderer had infiltrated the first two cover-ups.    Top management, namely Gilless and his immediate reports, surely knew about both matters being covered up.

 

We are looking for a root cause, that is of concern to the Chief Deputy management level at SCSO.

Probability analysis of a deputy murder at SCSO.

taylor150x
Deputy Sgt Deadrick Taylor

This SCSO fallen officers memorial page lists nine officers who were murdered, all by gunfire, between 1900 and 1999.   We left out Deputy Cranford’s 1946 killing as it was a car crash.  Deputies Mitchell and McDermott (1904),  Goad (1907), Nelson (1917), Reeves  and Applebury (1920) and  Stelling (1945) all died in the first half of the century.    Then there’s a gap of over 53 years between Stelling and the killing of Deadrick Taylor on April 19th, 1996.    This is the day after Mills and Toarmina were indicted.   98 days later, Deputy Sherry Hopper was murdered.     The gap between Stelling’s killing and Taylor’s was about 200 times the interval between Taylor’s and Goodman’s.   You can’t do statistics with numbers this small, but we can say that Goodman’s and Taylor’s killings formed an outlier cluster.

 

murder_graphWe can calculate some probabilities.   The probability of a deputy being killed in any given year, P(A) is 9/100 or 0.9.   The probability of a second murder, P(B|A) in a given year is 8/100, because one of the murders is already counted.    The probability of two deputy murders in the same year, by Bayes  theorem, is (0.9 * 8/100)/(9/100)  = 0.0072, less than one in a hundred.     Bayes theorem only works if the events are independent, or unrelated to each other, so this result means that two murders happening in the same year are almost certain to be causally related.

We could also say that the probability of being a deputy and getting murdered between 1950 and 1999 are zero, unless you are Deputy Taylor or Deputy Goodman.

We also note a high incidence of deputy deaths by other violent causes around the time, including four reported suicides.    The US national rate of suicide was 11 per 100,000 in 2006, and, given 1506 deputies and four suicides, the rate in the Sheriff’s Dept. was 266 per 100,000 – about 24 times the national rate.    The most likely occupational group to commit suicide, marine engineers, is said to be 1.89 times the national average, and police and jail workers don’t even make the top 19 occupational groups for suicide risk.   266 suicides per 100K is literally off the scale.

Without having distributions among smaller populations, we can say with certainty that the suicide rate among deputies was well more than ten standard deviations from the normal rate and therefore the probability of this cluster is significantly less than 0.01%.    Combining probabilities, we can also say that the probability of four deputy suicides in a year where there were also two deputy murders must be tiny, well less than one per million.

Another witness was murdered, the juvenile Etienne Harmon, who was arrested with the three deputy jailers in 1997 and was killed in November 1998.   We are now very curious about the Deputy Taylor and Harmon killings.   Could there have been up to seven murders to cover up the Jobs for Cash scheme?

Deputy Goodman as cover-up target.

goodman_shrine
Sherry Goodman Fallen Officer memorial

 

We note that Goodman was a four-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Dept, so she was recruited after the Jobs for Cash scheme started in 1991.  We don’t know if she was a victim of the jobs scheme. We know that the indictment came in April 1996 so the FBI investigation at the Sheriff’s Department was creating lots of reasons for damage control by the conspirators who were operating at a high level in the department.   Combine this cover-up with the jobs for cash scheme, involving AC Gilless’ second in command and his political appointee, Toarmina, the Goodman murder cover-up and we have a fourth conspiracy with the same people in it, and this conspiracy includes a cover-up that silenced Taylor and Goodman.

We have been told by two sources in the system that Deputy Sherry Goodman was cooperating with investigators of the Jobs for Cash scheme and may have been scheduled to testify in the Federal trial, which was heard in August 1998.

Gilless in Cover-up

Campbell writes: The next day, Mills came back into town and had Hays fired. Gilless approved; the sheriff says that Hays was fired because, the day before he would sit down with Gilless, Hays refused to disclose the exact nature of the meeting he requested.   This obviously trumped-up trivial excuse for firing Harold Hays suggests that Gilless was part of the cover-up.

Additional coverage from Police One. (The Commercial Appeal is quoted).

More cover-ups.

The federal documents on the PACER system are very deficient, which is unusual for Federal court documents except where they have been ordered sealed.   There’s no discovery, witness depositions, grand jury indictments and most of the judgments are missing.   There’s also no motion to seal these documents.

Here are the documents we found in the case.   All documents are in PDF format.  The PACER case designation is 2:96-cr-20080-BBD USA v. Mills, et al.  A logon is required to access PACER but is automatically granted.

In Toarmina sentence appeal , he falls out with his co-conspirator and drops the names of unindicted co-conspirator Cliff Avent and unnamed victim, Robert Wilson.
Appeal ruling 1998.

DA Cover-up

bill.Gibbons
Bill Gibbons

The Shelby DA at the time, Bill Gibbons, as a Republican, was a political ally of AC Gilless, the Sheriff, who stood for re-election in August 1998, just days before his deputy and political advisor were tried in Federal court on 8/10/1998.  Gilless narrowly won amid the swirling news of the Jobs for Cash scandal.

In Phil Campbell’s Memphis Flyer story, (Federal Judge Jerome) ‘Turner, in fact, stated from the bench that “it’s disappointing” that District Attorney Bill Gibbons hasn’t done anything yet. Gibbons may still act, but so far his lackluster “no comments” suggest that the district attorney is in no hurry to prosecute the former allies and employees of Gilless, a professional colleague and a fellow Republican. There are political as well as legal considerations for Gibbons. If he doesn’t prosecute within the statute of limitations, and if Turner’s ruling survives a federal court appeal, then the DA’s tough-guy “No Deals” reputation could be tarnished’.

Bill Gibbons was Amy Weirich’s mentor at the DA’s office and is now the president of Memphis Shelby Crime Commission, after an unsuccessful stint as State Commissioner for Public Safety.

Sheriff Gilless announced that the deputies who paid for their jobs in the scheme would not face disciplinary action, consistent with a desire to suppress information about the scheme.

Phil Campbell

Campbell figures twice in our long series on the cover-ups at SCSO.  He was remarkably well-informed on the Mills / Toarmina trial, and he also made a tape recording at the Flyer, of CI #2282 Alfredo Shaw withdrawing his allegations against Earley Story.   Phil Campbell left the Flyer and Memphis soon after these events and is now in Broolyn, NY, far out of reach of Shelby Co. deputies and prosecutors.

Fourth Cover-Up

The fourth cover-up in our series is part of a known conspiracy in the Sheriff’s Department, the Jobs for Cash scheme, which extended to Gilless’ political advisor and second-in-command.   It includes at least one, and possibly as many as seven murders, of people related to the jobs scheme or the subsequent cover-ups.      The murderer or murderers have not be found, and, more than twenty years later, people with knowledge of the case, and their families, are being threatened and intimidated.     It explains why the Kimmons and Campbell frame-ups were done by the high-level team that perpetrated them.

We are continuing to look into the Deadrick Taylor murder.

— To be continued

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Authorization of Agency: Initial analysis

In our most recent post, we revealed the extent of MPD’s Authorization of Agency (AoA) program, inspired by Memphis Shelby County Crime Commission (MSCCC).

We did some preliminary analysis of the data and there are updated spreadsheets (CSV, ODS, XLSX).  The update includes some address corrections and the addition of a business category field.

AOA_bar_chart
Analysis of AoAs by race

We saw the racial disparity in the initial AoA post.  The profiling nature of the scheme, with seven times (84.9% vs 12.3%) the number of Black versus white victims of AoA is confirmed.

 

 

AoA_by_year
Analysis of AoAs by year

We broke down AoAs by the year the initial AoA was signed.   2018 is low because only half a year of data was collected.   Years 211 through 2016 are incomplete because we asked in our FOIA for all AoAs between December 1st 216 and July 9th 2018.  All precincts but one simply sent all their AoA data rather than selecting the data range we asked for.   In addition, we noted many AoAs which were signed on a given date and had additional lines added over the same signature and date later.  We have not quantified this factor as of yet but we think it will skew a couple of percent of the dates earlier.

Adj_AoA_year
AoAs by year adjusted for undercount in 2016 and earlier, and for the 2018 half year

We adjusted the yearly graph by doubling up the 2018 number to estimate a full year, and we added 15% to 2016 and earlier to account for the number of AoAs missing in our sample.

The graphs look similar.  From small beginnings in 2011, the scheme grew to about 240 in 2014, then took a big jump to 665 in 2016 and plateaued out to around 600 each in 2017-2018.

We need to look for the impetus behind the 2014 and 2016 bumps.   Most likely, some form of marketing or promotional assets were assigned to the program to cause these bumps.  We’ll also submit another ORR to obtain the missing data.

AoA_by_cat

We created a new field in the spreadsheet for business category and ran this report.  The biggest category is apartment, which also includes mobile home parks, condos, retirement communities and townhouses.

The dominance of this sector may be the result of “Operation Safeway” which had a focus on apartment managers.   The majority of these had a just a few AoAs, but complexes like Greenbrier with 48 AoAs and a dozen or so with double digits stand out.    Clearly a number of apartment managements embraced the scheme enthusiastically.

The retail sector is largely a handful of AoAs in each store.   All branches of chain stores are included.   Three chains of dollar stores (Family Dollar, Dollar General, and Dollar Tree) had a total of 38 AoAs, which probably reflects the dollar stores’ well known skimping on security staff.   Other chains with large numbers includes Walgreens with 24 and Kroger with 17.   Otherwise, few retailers had more than three or four per location.

We think that, like with the apartment sector, that the heavy retail users had an internal policy to use AoA while the light users were probably recruited by police.

The food sector includes all vendors of prepared food and alcohol by the drink.   The chains with most branches are the biggest offenders, and CiCi’s Pizza in Poplar Plaza’s 17 AoAs were associated with a well-publicized disturbance at the venue.    We know that Operation Safeway targeted food establishments in certain areas, but we think that most of the rest may have been instigated by MPD, including the CiCi’s incident.

The hotel/motel sector includes hotels, motels and boarding houses, has a few stand-outs, probably related to prostitution.  The manufacturing sector, though small, is dominated by Smith and Nephew who initiated 85 of the 100 AoAs.  This is an anomaly which probably reflects a decision in management to use MPD as part of its security apparatus.

The gas sector looks very much like retail, and when you eliminate the effect of supplier chains like Shell or Exxon, not much stands out.

Public facilities include the downtown MATA terminus, with 24 AoAs and three at the Zoo.   We talked about the Zoo political blacklist in the original AoA post.  We dispute the legality of public entities barring members of the public.

Churches banned 37 people.  It sounds unchristian to us to put people in the system.   Even worse, schools had 35 AoAs, and we cannot envision a world where young people can be legally barred from education, or even where a school would involve the police in its disciplinary process.

Summary

We see some high-frequency users of AoA.  These AoAs are probably due to business policy and may have been influenced by Operation Safeway in some way.   The vast majority of AoAs have the potential of being instigated by police, including a handful where we know the case history.

We will follow up with additional analysis, including enriching the data and sampling some case histories to determine the marketing initiatives that shape the AoA usage curves.

–concluded–

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Authorization of Agency: MPD invention.

We’ve been hearing about MPD’s Authorization of Agency (AoA) process.   It surfaced in the media during the A-list controversy, where the actual blacklist was on form AA 0306, the Authorization of Agency form.    We also wrote about a couple of Park Protectors who featured on AoAs at the Zoo.

What is Authorization of Agency (AoA)

Authorization of Agency is generally accepted term in real estate law, where it allows an agent to sign property documents in lieu of a principal.

Some police agencies have the concept of authorization of agency, the San Diego PD being an example.  In the case of all police agencies we could find, the authorization of agency is a blanket measure against all trespassers, so it’s similar to posting your property.

a-listMPD’s AoA is different.   It specified the property, but also has one or more individuals who are barred from the property.   This is unique to MPD’s version of AoA.

Normally, trespass does not occur, in the case of property that is not posted, until an accused person has been informed that she is trespassing, and is given time to leave the property.

The legal theory behind the AoA is that the persons listed has been informed that they will be trespassing without further notice if she enters the property again.  It supposedly authorizes the police to act as an agent of the landlord in giving notice.

AoA is also promoted by Shelby Co. DA Amy Weirich as part of Operation Safeway.   Anecdotally, we hear that it is used against the homeless, by apartment complexes and by businesses who seek to prevent “undesirables” on their premises.   The data tends to confirm this.

Our Open Records Request.

AOA_bar_chartWe submitted an open records request for all AoAs filed since December 1st 2016, and received about 200 files containing over 1800 PDF forms, many of them older than  December 2016.  Most precincts sent all their AoAs.   We think we have over 90% of AoAs.

As can be seen from the chart, there were 1697 unique AoAs in the data, and race was identified in all but 75.   84.9% of listed persons were Black and 12.3% white, with a couple of percent Latinx and a few Asians.     African Americans are over-represented by a factor of 350% compared with the demographics.  There are seven times the number of Black people over whites.

map
Purple: African American/Black, Red: Whie/Cauc, Yellow: Asian, Blue: LatinX, Green: unknown

The original map can be seen on Google Docs.
Click the “Map” tab to view the interactive map, and the “Rows” tab shows the data, with the source field clickable to go to the source PDF.

The collated data table is available on Google Docs, as a comma-separated CSV file, Excel XLSX and OpenOffice ODS files.   These files also contain the name of the barred person, a clickable link to the source .PDF and the page number to search within this PDF.  (Updated 9/11/2017: updated spreadsheet with corrections and added business category field; CSV XLSX ODS.)

The map shows a large concentration stretching through downtown, Midtown, Orange Mound, Parkway Village and Hickory hill, with some outliers in Raleigh and Frayser.    Most of these places are where the races mingle as in downtown and midtown, or in transitional areas where demographics are changing.    But the vast majority of AoA listees are African American.

How AoA is supposed to work.

orifice_dan_adams
MPD officer Dan Adams at the Zoo

The forms are filled in by hand by the property manager and are to be witnessed by a police officer.   They are maintained in the original form via scanning to .pdf.  They are apparently kept in hard copy folders by ward which are carried in police cars.   Many of the forms have a three digit ward number written near the top of the form.    The data are accessed by manually searching through the forms in the book.

As manual, hand-written forms, there are no controls on handwriting, spelling or general accuracy.  Many entries are hard to read, either because the original script is undecipherable or because the documents have been scanned, faxed or copied many times.

Many of the forms have additional data, such as sex, weight, height, and marginal notes with drivers license numbers or scanned licenses, phone numbers, addresses, behavioral notes, details of alleged offenses, car tags or descriptions.   DL numbers, Social Security numbers and photos are redacted.   Access the original documents to see additional data.

Although some property managers keep the forms on hand and initiate the application, the suggestion to file often comes from a police officer.

Problems with AoA administration.

The forms state that the complainant has notified the subject that they are not permitted on the property, but we have many instances where the subjects were not duly notified, and there is no checking or control on

  • Fergus Nolan and Maureen Spain are on an AoA at the Zoo from 31/5/2016 but were not notified, see example.
  • Hunter Demster was placed on an AoA on 9/28/2017 and not notified.
  • Up to 12 protesters at the Mayor’s house die-in from 12/19/2016 were placed on an AoA, and an additional 40+ people who were not at the die-in were also placed on the “A-list” AoA, but only Keedran Franklin was notified, and not by Mayor Strickland, the complainant, but by MPD plainclothes police.

Lack of notification of being on an AoA can expose the subject to arbitrary arrest for trespassing while unknowingly being listed on the property.

The “protection” afforded a property owner by AoA is similar to an order of protection, in that it prevents an subject from approaching a complainant while on her property, but AoA does not embody the same opportunity to legally challenge the listing.   AoA may be viewed as an attempt to bypass the safeguards embodied in the Order of Protection process.

The AoA process is not documented in MPD’s P&P manual, and has no maintenance or purge process.  Conditions attached to the AoA listing, such as limited duration of the listing, cannot be enforced.   We have examples of AoAs which were supposed to have limited one-year duration still being on file after many years.    The AoA my still be in effect after the property is transferred to another owner.

The forms are supposed to be signed by the complainant and witnessed by an MPD member.  We found numerous instances of missing signatures of both types, and signatures that were “witnessed” on a different date to the original signature.

We also found numerous instances where a duly signed and witnessed AOA form had additional names added over the original signature, which is a falsification of official records, as the purported signature and witness do not apply to the subsequent changes.   We have instances where both the original form and the updated version are on file, and also instances where later names were added in a different hand to the original list.   Forms should have unused subject lines crossed out to prevent subsequent additions.

Our example.

From personal experience, this example illustrates several of the problems with AoAs. On 5/31/2016, the day after their arrest at a Greensward protest, this AoA (PDF, see page 7) was created for Maureen Spain and Fergus Nolan, without notification.  Their drivers license numbers were provided to the Zoo by MPD for this purpose, in violation of open records laws, which requires DL numbers to be redacted before sharing with members of the public.

Fergus Nolan unknowingly visited the Zoo on at least three different occasions in 2017.  On one of these visits, he was with Hunter Demster, when both were asked to leave.   Subsequently, on the 28th, an AoA was created for Hunter Demster, who was not notified.

During the incident described in our February blog, the police were seen working on some papers.   Once again, for at least the fourth time, they failed to find the existing AoA for Fergus.   The police added him into the existing AoA for Hunter.   The two versions are shown above, where the second line was added in a different hand.

This illustrates what we think are common problems with AoAs.   They are frequently altered to add more names, making the witness signature fraudulent.   Subjects are often not informed of their inclusion on an AoA, making them subject to arrest if they re-enter the listed property unawares.  The system is ineffective.   Fergus Nolan’s 5/31/2016 AoA was not found on four separate occasions.   In addition, the police often add confidential information to the AoA including driver’s license, social security number and photos, which are required to be redacted before sharing with members of the public, and the complainant gets to see this information.

Legal Basis

I’m not a lawyer.   AoA form AA 0705 is another version of the form, and some are present in our document cache.   It cites TCA 39-3-1201, which was repealed, as the authorizing statute.   These AoA forms are still active.

TCA 39-14-405 is the successor statute to the repealed trespass measure and it does not mention AoA or describe its mechanism.   We have consulted attorneys who believe that the process is not legal, but there has not been a legal challenge to date.

Due Process Issues.

As there is no formal record keeping system for AoAs, and as there are no regulations in the P&P manual, the records are chaotic.

There is no judicial oversight, means of correcting, changing data, purging outdated records, or appeal process.

We saw AoAs as old as 2011, and children as young as eleven listed, with no mechanism for parental involvement.

We saw one situation where the same policeman hawked the same AoA against and individual to four different businesses in an area, suggesting that individual police have a lot of latitude in applying this sanction.

The quality of the system, in terms of data accuracy, legibility, efficient access and data maintenance procedures is rock bottom.

We are aware of several AoAs which have been removed fro the database.  These include the original AoA signed in January 2017 for the December 19th die-in, which formed the basis of the A-list.   Also missing is a December 31st for Malco theater which had the names of Keedran Franklin and other CCC members who gave out free theater tickets.   The deletions we know about occurred after political pressure was applied.

Summary

AoA is racist in implementation, has no legal basis, has no checks and balances, is unwieldy, capricious and ineffective, violates due process and has been used as a weapon by MPD officers against the weakest members of our community.

It is questionable if a police force can act as the agent of property owners, in violation of the State trespass law, without compromising their oath to uphold the law.

It needs judicial intervention.

–concluded–

 

 

 

As the dust settles: the ACLU court case.

This week has been a game changer.  Memphis history will forever be divided into the pre-ACLU era and the post-ACLU era.  MPD in particular is in crisis, and, because of role of public safety in our local elections, the crisis extends into the political sphere.

aclu case
Pau Garner, Spencer Kaaz, Al Lewis, Elaine Blanchard, Earle Fisher, Keedran “TNT” Franklin at the Federal courthouse, 8/20/2018.

The trial itself.

We saw a steady stream of MPD brass take the stand and be defensive.   The City strategy has been to try to make the police look reasonable, and to paint the activists as crazy fools.   This strategy plain failed, as Paul Garner, Elaine Blanchard, Earle Fisher and Keedran Franklin presented well on the stand.   It is notable that the City did not send Jim Strickland or any of the”public safety” advocates to defend their police buddies.

The defense cut their losses on Thursday and pulled the plug on trying to discredit more activists or putting more police on the stand.   Essentially, they accepted defeat after a very poor display of legal skills.

MPD’s Reaction

MPD is not a monolith.  It has leaders jockeying for position as the next director, a large number of disaffected members who are still disgruntled over pensions and benefits, a degenerate and poorly led MPA and a sizeable contingent of out and out racists who are chafing at being led by an African American director.

We can expect instability at MPD.   At this point I see little benefit in stirring the pot at MPD.    We’ve stirred.   Stirring done.

At this point we need to be concerned that the police will revert to form and lash out at civilians and activists.  We suggest extreme care in interactions with police as we await the verdict from the trial.  We have no need to provoke further reactions from MPD.   We’ve already unleashed the nuclear option.

Political Reaction

Strickland’s administration has not been watching the backs of their police.  He has been declining to comment on the sub-judice proceedings.   We expect this to continue.

In the meantime, the hitherto solid eight or nine vote pro-police Council block is already showing signs of fragmenting.  Joe Brown and Edmund Ford are term limited and won’t need to expend political capital on defending the police.

Berlin Boyd is up for re-election.   He has been at odds with the Kemp Conrad knee-jerk brand of police support, voting against Conrad in the August 2016 marijuana ordinance.  Boyd knows that he needs to put some distance between himself and the law and order lobby.   He’s been reaching out to certain activists with some truly strange proposals.

Jamita Swearengen, as the new chairman of the Public Safety Committee, has been conventionally pro-police, generally following the MPD’s COP community policing line.   She made a speech at CLERB extolling Blue Crush and the deployment of 490 new spycams, which City Council approved a budget of $1.5M for on July 10th.

Patrice Robinson has not been saying a lot about policing.

Of the white Council members, all part of the Caissa group, the more extreme police fans like Kemp Conrad and Reid Hedgepeth, with Bill Morrison, are term limited.   We might see some posturing from them.  Ford Canale remains a cypher, although he rang the Public Safety bell in his August election campaign, apparently with less effect than his predecessor.

We don’t see much incentive for Council members to expend political capital on defending police prerogatives.   In fact, we think some of the previous pro-police coalition, especially Berlin Boyd, are already maneuvering to create some advantage for themselves.

Policy Changes

Activists have ling sought a strengthening of CLERB powers.   CLERB needs subpoena power, and the ability to make binding recommendations for disciplinary actions and policy and procedure changes.    Look to Memphis United, fresh from Paul Garner’s performance on the witness stand, to be making proposals.   In addition, it appears that the administration has successfully sabotaged the ability of CLERB to post documents on its own website and on the City archive site.

It’s hard not to see the canny Garner taking advantage of MPD’s predicament.

Police Director

Mike Rallings, as the officer who presided over the decline in MPD political interference, and because of his unconvincing defense of his policies on the stand, is damaged goods.   He has been left dangling by his political masters.   There is no question that he can survive past the election of the next mayor in 2019.   He either takes control of his fate and resigns, or the political upheaval that now starts will result in his firing.

Rallings has been fully vested in his MPD pension plan for about a year.

It seems very clear that a new director can’t come from the culturally compromised MPD.    The next Police Director must be chosen on the basis of a proven record of community policing.   The internal candidates who have been preened as Ralling’s successor  are infected with the racial disease that infects the force and will be rejected.

Our suggestions for police director include Anne Kirkpatrick, Oakland CA police chief.   She applied for the job in 2016.  Another is John S Thompson, Camden NJ police chief.

The 2019 City elections

The current mayor and most of City Council were elected in 2015 with dog-whistle campaigns, evoking public safety with racial coding to get elected.   The dog whistle was already losing its effectiveness.   J Ford Canale blew the dog whistle in the Super 9-2 election and his vote was down 25% on Philip Spinosa’s 2015 performance.   David Lenoir used the dog whistle in the County Mayor election and was convincingly defeated by Lee Harris.

Incumbents will be forced to run on other issues.   Insurgent candidates will focus on poverty, economics and policing, where incumbents have a dreadful record.   Strickland has not been brilliant at the basics.   The Caissa Seven have been exposed as the next best thing to a political conspiracy.

Expect a lot of surprises as incumbents and challengers jockey for position and make economic arguments.   Expect opponents to rally around retaining IRV in the December referenda, and issues like EDGE, economic development, energy policy, CLERB, policing and poverty to be well aired in the election runup.

Summary

Policing has been the lynch-pin of Memphis politics, especially in the last election cycle.  The pin has been pulled from this grenade.

People need to be very careful out in the streets.

In the halls of power, expect surprises.  2019 will be fought and won on real policies, not the stalking horses of yore.

 

 

 

 

 

The ACLU lawsuit data: answered questions.

Memphis City and the ACLU have, in the last week, released a huge trove of documents relating to the A-list lawsuit.

The UK-based The Guardian today covered the story, as has Esquire magazine and Citylab.  Our local crowdsourcers have only begun to dig in the paperwork, and we are certain that the material will fuel our researches for years to come, but a few vital facts have emerged.

Geofeedia replacement social media “collator”  NC4.

surveillance13n-2-webProbably one of the most significant finding to date is the identification of the Geofeedia replacement.   The ACLU had been after this product as the social media spy tool of choice until the social media powerhouses cut off its data feed in October 2016.  The new replacement is NC4, which was revealed in the new a-list documents, we think for the first time.  All we can find is this PRnewswire piece which was probably paid for by NC4.com as part of its PR aimed at local LE departments.

This alone means that we are already seeing dividends from the ACLU case, before it is even heard.

Activist counter-intel successes.

TN-Rolling-Block-Party-Fedex_tennesseean
Rolling Block Party at Fedex:  4/23/2018 Keedran on the car.

 

Almost as interesting, which squares with what we already knew from our previous blog about CCC’s counter-intel operations, is the fact that LE responses have been repeatedly been triggered by fake news planted by people close to CCC.   Our blog uses Open Record information to document how fake news about an attempt on the Bridge escalated all the way to the top of State LE and to FBI.   That incident appears to have escalated police response to protests, including the arrest of protesters on April 3rd by a snatch squad from the MPD Multi-Agency Gang Unit’s OCU (Organized Crime Unit).   It was a pre-emption intended to abort a 6:30 bogus Bridge occupation.   The OCU is all over the ACLU documents.      The take-away from this is that information gleaned by MPD and TBI’s CIU from social media is even less reliable than the average social media fake news.

LE bites on fake intel, misses the real information.

Bruce_Kramer
Bruce Kramer, longtime ACLU attorney

Also revealed, something we also suspected from our blog:  Not only is State LE liable to fly off the handle and escalate fake news to the top levels of local, State and Federal LE, but they have been doing a very poor job of eliciting the real intel they seek.

Our CCC story reveals that the unknown operational security measures CCC used to safely transmit the real April 3rd itinerary are working.  The unadvertised first stop of the Rolling Block Party arrived at FedEx to find no police presence, and the police made the scene in a time span appropriate to a 911 dispatch.   So, not only is the police intel gathering catching all the fake news, it is missing the real intel they are after.

Here’s the Daily Kos‘ Gary Moore on the April 3 arrests.

MPD gets vindictive from intel defeat.

mlk50_popoFrustration at being totally confounded by this poorly financed, rag-tag group of activists may have led to Keedran Frankin‘s July 6th arrest, and the planting of evidence in his car.  This arrest was allegedly in a traffic stop done by OCU, which is not exactly their beat.

Limitations of MPD’s social media spying.

The strange story of “Bob Smith’s” bogus social media account is also revealed.   We had feared that MPD’s Real Time Crime Center had the ability to penetrate the end-to-end encryption used by Facebook.   However, it appears that MPD was only able to view private data on Facebook to which their fake account, Bob Smith, had ‘friended’ itself.   All the information in the earliest document released by the city suggests that only activists friended by Bob Smith could be accessed by MPD.   In particular, Facebook Private Messages and secret groups which did not include Bob Smith were safe from spying.

We say this with a caveat: private Facebook stuff could be revealed via NSA decryption or by the issuance of a FICA court order, which does not require much in the way of probable cause.   As far as I know, CCC used different means to organize the Rolling Block Party, and I don’t want to know what it was.   CCC keeps ahead of LE spying by eternal vigilance and strict operational security.

BobSmith
Photo: Facebook

I was personally targeted by Bob Smith and the information used to smear me, as searches for “Fergus” and “Nolan” separately will reveal.   In particular, my arrest on Memorial Day 2016 was presented to be because I advocated lawbreaking due to entrapment by Bob Smith as a deliberate act by MPD, which I know to be untrue.   In addition, the story of my uncovering the A-list which I documented in this first party  eye witness account is smeared by a bogus allegation of a fanciful meeting I was supposed to have with a County employee, who is standing for election this week.    I promised I would not out this person until after the election, but this MPD cover story did not surface until after my A-list story needed to be discredited, and is at variance with my contemporary eye witness account.   My story did not change.  Theirs did.

2015-10-fusioncenter-616x369In other news: Office of Homeland Security identified.

At MemphisTruth.org, we have been looking for the MPD’s Office of Homeland Security.   It turns out to be two officers, Sergeant Tim Reynolds, promoted this April but identified in the documents as Detective, Sergeant and Lieutenant, and as Police Officer II in the current City salaries list.   Also Sgt. Edwin Cornwell.

The Office of Homeland Security is part of MPD Special Operations, housed in the Special Operations division, which also houses the Real Time Crime Center which does most of MPD’s electronic spookery.

The ACLU papers will give and give.