Posts Tagged ‘Clark County’

The Las Vegas Police Beat: Officer-Involved

  • Officers William Mosher, Joshua Stark, and Thomas Mendiola. Las Vegas Metro Police Department. Last weekend, at the Costco in Summerlin, Erik Scott got into an argument with some workers at the store. A Costco employee noticed that he was carrying a handgun in his waistband, so they freaked out and called the cops, then evacuated the store. Three Las Vegas Metro police officers — William Mosher, Joshua Stark, and Thomas Mendiola — rolled up and waited outside the store. When they saw Scott walking out of the store, they came up behind him and grabbed him on the shoulder and screamed at him to get down. He turned around and obeyed less than instantaneously, so the cops opened fire and stone cold gunned him down in the parking lot. The cops claimed that before they lit him up with 7 shots, Scott had reached for his gun in his waistband. Then, later, they claimed that he refused orders [sic] and instead withdrew a handgun and pointed at them.. Most of the witnesses, including a friend who was standing right next to Scott when the police gunned him down, say that he never did. A few witnesses differ — they say they did see him take out his gun but that he never pointed it at the cops. Metro said that Scott was ripping merchandise apart, kind of going berserk, and that they had received numerous 911 calls for his erratic behavior and reporting he was carrying a gun. Turns out that what actually happened is that another customer saw Scott opening up a box of aluminum water bottles putting some in his cart and some on the floor, in order to find out how many would fit in his cooler; when store security tried to confront him about it, Scott’s voice got elevated. A number of later 911 calls, provoked by the store’s panicky evacuation, recorded parts of the cop’s confrontation with Scott; the police have refused to release the 911 tapes. The Costco has surveillance cameras on the parking lot; the police took the tapes, but claim that they haven’t looked at them yet because of technical issues. The investigation of this police shooting by Las Vegas Metro is, of course, being handled by more police from Las Vegas Metro. There will almost certainly never be any kind of public trial; a coroner’s inquest hasn’t been scheduled, but will probably happen sometime in September. (There has been only 1 Clark County coroner’s inquest in 34 years that ever found any Metro police shooting to be neither justified nor excusable.) Meanwhile, the three cops who gunned down Erik Scott have been given a paid vacation from their jobs. The local newsmedia has been all over this story, mainly because Scott shops in Summerlin and used to be a tank commander in the United States government’s Army. Bill Scott, Erik’s father, has said that he hopes this case will draw attention to how many people Metro has gunned down: There are a lot of people who have been killed in Las Vegas, a lot of them by the police. They didn’t have a voice. This time, quote me: they killed the wrong guy.

  • Officer Bryan Yant. Las Vegas Metro Police Department. For example, one of the people who has been killed in Las Vegas was Trevon Cole, an unarmed man who police shot in the face with an AR-15 assault rifle in the bathroom of his own apartment, while his 9-months-pregnant fiancee, Sequioa Pearce, was forced to get on the ground and watch. Metro was in his apartment because they had forced their way in in an extremely violent late-night raid to serve a drug search warrant. (Trevon Cole was violently seized and killed because he allegedly might have sold marijuana to an undercover narc, a crime which posed no threat at all to any identifiable victim’s rights.) So late at night while Pearce and Cole were relaxing in bed, a gang of police wearing camouflage and masks smashed in their windows and broke down their door, blitzed into the room holding assault rifles on their terrified victims. Trevon Cole was surrounded by a gang of heavily armed, masked men, was obeying their commands to get down, and had put his hands up in the air, but Yant decided he’d seen a furtive movement, so he stone cold shot Trevon Cole in the face at close range in front of his terrified fiancee. Officer Bryan Yant had already gunned down two other people in his career before he showed up to shoot an unarmed man in the face; An inquest jury into Yant’s 2002 fatal shooting found the officer justified in his actions despite a serious discrepancy between his story and evidence at the scene. The shooting will be considered by another Clark County Coroner’s Inquest on August 20. In the meantime, Bryan Yant, who is being investigated to determine whether or not he murdered an unarmed man, is being given a paid vacation from his government job. Meanwhile, his buddies on the force decided to show up at Sequoia Pearce’s mother’s house in order to mau-mau the only surviving witness and toss the house looking for guns and ammo that aren’t there.

  • Officer Luis Norris. Las Vegas Metro Police Department. Another cop working for the local government in Las Vegas opened fire on an unarmed man this past Tuesday, for the crime of taking a shortcut through a residential neighborhood while the cop was Investigatin’. The man appeared on the wall while the cop was talking to a local homeowner about a possible prowler. Of course, all kinds of people live in a residential neighborhood (by definition), and all kinds of people pass through, so a civilized person might take this as a reason to shout What are you doing here? but Officer Luis Norris was packing heat and startled so he whipped out his gun and opened fire on this innocent man, who was not the prowler, was unarmed, had committed no crime, and posed no threat to anything other than the cop’s composure and poise. Thankfully, Officer Luis Norris is a bad shot: he missed the man he was trying to gun down in a moment of irrational panic, so his intended target lived through the night long enough for Authorities to later determine he was not a threat. Since Luis Norris just recklessly endangered the life of an innocent man, but didn’t kill him in the process, there will not even be a coroner’s inquest. Instead, Officer Luis Norris’s has been given a paid vacation from his government job, and eventually, his actions will be reviewed by the department’s use of force board, which may hit him with such serious consequences as a written reprimand or even firing him from his job. In case you were wondering, the process is not open to the public.

Las Vegas Metro is full of heavily-armed, twitchy, terrified cops who are easily startled and ready to open fire on helpless or harmless people at even the most furtive motion. Whether you’re resting in bed with your fiancee on Eastern and Bonanza, or going shopping with your fiancee in Summerlin to celebrate your new life together, or just talking a quiet walk through the neighborhood out at Desert Inn and Sandhill, there is a heavily armed force, patrolling 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, constantly ready to come down on you and gun you down at even a moment’s hesitation to obey their bellowed commands, or the slightest twitch that they don’t understand, or just for startling them. If they shoot at you, or even if they kill you, they will almost certainly never be held accountable for their actions; the worst that’s likely to happen is that they might lose their job, and what’s more likely is that they will be put back onto the streets to continue a long and storied career of killing unarmed people. We are told that we need this heavily armed, omnipresent, domineering, hyperviolent, completely unaccountable paramilitary occupation force constantly in our lives and at our throats in order to stop our community from being overrun by small-time possible neighborhood prowlers, by erratic men who take aluminum water bottles out of their boxes at Costco, and from black men who might maybe be willing to sell a bit of pot to willing customers. We are told that we need this heavily armed, omnipresent, domineering, hyperviolent, completely unaccountable paramilitary occupation force in order to keep us safe. But who will keep us safe from them?

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See also:

Rapists on patrol (#6) / Men in Uniform (#4)

Trigger warning. This post includes narrative descriptions of sexual violence, sexual coercion, assaults, stalking, and harassment by police officers against women, men, and children, including several cases of extreme violence. It may be triggering for past experiences of sexual assault. It is certain to be extremely grim reading for anyone.

All of these news stories appeared in my feed reader at some point within the past month and a half. There are actually about four or five more on my list that I could have included (mostly domestic violence assaults), but I had to give up because I’ve been working on this for about twelve hours now and I cannot stand to type up even one more case tonight.

1. Officer Thomas Tolstoy, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Cont’d.)

You may remember Officer Thomas Tolstoy, the serial rapist on Officer Jeffrey Cujdik’s elite narco-police shake-down squad, who, besides participating in repeated evidence-less paramilitary drug raids, also repeatedly took the opportunity to pull women aside during these hyperviolent home invasions and sexually assault them. The police department’s response to three independent complaints from April 2008 to February 2009 was to temporarily place Tolstoy on desk duty (from October 2008 to January 2009), then put him back on the street to do more drug raids with Cujdik. The other stories about Cujdik’s wolfpack appeared in local newspapers in March 2009; Tolstoy was finally put back on desk duty in May 2009. Meanwhile, while Tolstoy is rewarded for his sexual assaults with an easy desk job, he continues to receive not only his regular salary of $57,800, but also thousands of dollars in overtime pay for sitting his ass on a court-house bench while the DA extends subpoenas on tainted drug cases in which he will almost certainly never testify. The bill for maintaining Tolstoy in the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed will, of course, be sent along to Philadelphia taxpayers, including Tolstoy’s three known victims. Deputy District Attorney John Delaney explains that the D.A.’s office continues to issue these money-wasting subpoenas on dead-end cases because We want to maintain the status quo. No doubt.

2. Police Chief Michael Classey, Atlantic Beach, Florida.

The city government in Atlantic Beach, Florida hired a lawyer, allegedly to investigate charges that chief Michael Classey had forced unwanted sexual contact on a female officer, Renee Jackson, who works sex crimes for the department. Instead, the lawyer put together a legal brief to defend the city from a lawsuit for sexual harassment — a charge that Jackson never made. Both the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have refused to investigate the charges. Professional courtesy, I guess.

3. Deputy Gary C. Handley, Rogers County Sheriff’s Office, Rogers County, Oklahoma.

Earlier this month, Deputy Gary C. Handley turned himself in to face charges on one county of sexual battery for forcing unwanted inappropriate touching on a female courthouse employee.

4. Officer Jeffrey John Sung. San Francisco Police Department. San Francisco, California.

Earlier this month, veteran San Francisco motorcycle officer Jeffrey John Sung plead not guilty to charges for sexual battery and false imprisonment without violence [sic] for grabbing a female friend in her home, forcing unwanted groping on her while he talked about having sex with her, and refusing to let her leave when she tried to get away. When the victim managed to break free and call a relative for help, he ran away and left on his government-issue police motorcycle. Sung’s lawyer has told the media that it was a misunderstanding of sorts.

5. Officer Roberto Pagan. Staten Island, New York.

Roberto Pagan, a patrol cop working for city government police on Staten Island, was suspended without pay last week after he started choking his girlfriend and then punched her in the eye during an argument on a public street. He has been suspended without pay and is facing misdemeanor charges; since he is a cop, this batterer was released on his own recognizance pending trial.

6. Officer Johnnie K. Hicks. Newport News, Virginia.

Last week, Johnnie K. Hicks, a cop working for the Newport News city government’s police force on the South Preinct High Impact Patrol Unit, was arrested for assaulting a woman in her home around 2:00am and brandishing a gun. While the Incident is being Internally Investigated by his coworkers, Hicks is being given a paid vacation at taxpayer expense.

7. Deputy Brian Gillespie. Broward Sheriff’s Office. Oakland Park, Florida.

Last week, Deputy Brian Gillespie, a cop patrolling turf in Oakland Park, Florida for the Broward County government’s sheriff’s office, was arrested and charged with domestic violence battery after he grabbed his wife’s arm during an argument, in order to force her not to leave the house without his permission, and then punched her several times and threw her down two steps onto the floor. This dangerous batterer has been given a paid vacation, at taxpayer expense, while under investigation, and was released from jail on a $250 bond.

8. Chief Deputy David E. Gidley. Tucker County Sheriff’s Department. Tucker County, West Virginia.

Earlier this month, while he was on duty and in police uniform, Chief Deputy David E. Gidley, a cop working for the Tucker County government’s police force, drove out in his police car to confront his estranged wife; in the course of an argument, he grabbed her by the arm hard enough to leave marks, and then chased her around her car while waving his ASP tactical baton and beating on her car with it. Unhinged wife-beater Chief Deputy David Gidley has been arraigned on misdemeanor assault and domestic battery charges, and has been released on a $600 personal recognizance bond.

9. Police Chief Robert Peterson. Maysville Police Department, Maysville, Oklahoma.

Earlier this month, the Maysville city government decided to fire boss cop Robert Peterson, the chief of their government police force, after witnesses (including two fellow cops) saw him slap his girlfriend in the face during an argument outside of their apartment.

10. Police Chief Anthony Batts. Oakland Police Department. Oakland, California.

In California, on the other hand, city governments don’t even maintain those minimal standards. Anthony Batts, formerly a cop working for the Long Beach city government’s police department, had at least four crime reports taken against him for domestic violence charges in the cities of Long Beach, San Pedro, and San Diego. At one point he gave his then-wife, Laura Richardson-Batts, a black eye; she later sought refuge in a friend’s house to get away from him. That didn’t stop Batts from being promoted by the Long Beach city government to chief of police, and once he was, he put the domestic violence reports under lock and key in the police chief’s office and altered reports to conceal their contents. Other cops working under him kept copies of the originals and used the reports to blackmail Batts to insulate themselves from disciplinary actions during a scandal over unprofessional conduct and retaliation and vandalism against whistleblowers within the department. Batts’s domestic violence history has caused him problems in securing FBI security clearances and in maintaining his permit to carry a firearm. None of which, of course, has stopped the corrupt wife-beater Anthony Batts from being named chief of police for the city government in Oakland, California.

11. Officer Ronald Montgomery. Tulsa Police Department. Bixby, Oklahoma.

Officer Ronald Montgomery, a cop working for the Tulsa city government’s police force, was arrested earlier this month for allegedly beating his wife and pointing his government-issued gun at her during an argument in front of their infant son and 8-year-old daughter. His wife went to the hospital with bruising and swelling to her arm and wrist; Officer Ronald Montgomery claims that he had not touched her during the argument. This dangerous batterer, who beat a woman and pointed a loaded gun at her during an argument, is currently roaming free on $11,500 bond.

12. Police Officer Sam Parker. Lafayette Police Department. Lafayette, Georgia.

Sam Parker, a cop formerly working for the Lafayette city government’s police force, is currently on trial on charges he abducted and murdered his ex-wife, Theresa Parker. The story this past Friday was that a former coworker, a Lafayette cop named Stacey Meeks, testified that Officer Sam Parker spent years openly bragging about killing people while on the job, and kept trophies to show off from people he had killed, such as the lethal bullet and crime scene photos from the killing. According to Meeks, Officer Sam Parker also carried a loaded weapon to the Grand Jury and said he planned to go out in a hail of bullets rather than get arrested if the jury voted to indict. After another Incident in 2003 where Officer Sam Parker fired off his gun on the job, several shrinks ruled him homicidal; Officer Sam Parker bragged about that with his coworkers, too. He also repeatedly watch Officer Sam Parker use chokeholds to take people down while on the job. None of this deranged, attention-seeking, hyperviolent behavior seems to have endangered his position with the Lafayette city government’s Police Department, or to have caused any legal consequences whatsoever for Officer Sam Parker; I wouldn’t be surprised if he expected no more consequences when he went on to murder his wife.

13. Officer Jared Rohrig, Orange Police Department, Orange, Connecticut.

In Milford, Connecticut, Officer Jared Rohrig, a cop working for the Orange city government’s police force, posed as his twin brother Joe to deceive his girlfriend into having sex with him. She realized while they were having sex that he wasn’t Joe, and tried to get up and leave, so he grabbed her by the arms, threw her down, and forced her to continue having sex with him while she cried and struggled to push him off of her. The woman reported the rape to the government police three days later; Rohrig was given a paid vacation from his job starting the next day pending the result of an Internal Investigation.

14. Officer Matthew Raymond, Eliot, Maine.

In Maine, Officer Matthew Raymond was allowed to take a two-month-long paid vacation (to keep getting paid while using up vacation and sick time) before finally losing his job yesterday, so that he could continue to extract his $45,000/year regular salary from perfectly innocent Eliot taxpayers, while awaiting trial on charges of domestic violence stalking against his ex-lover. Besides common stalking behaviors like showing up constantly at her hous, tracking her whereabouts, and incessantly calling her wherever she went, Officer Matthew Raymond also specifically used his legal privileges as a police officer to intimidate her and facilitate the stalking. After she moved out and went to live in another town to get away from him, he parked his marked police cruiser outside her house at least 68 times within a two-month period. He also used his police car, and his legal powers of detention and arrest, to force her to pull her car over so that he could ask her to come back to him.

15. Officer Jeffrey Luff. Bakersfield Police Department. Bakersfield, California.

Last month, Officer Jeffrey Luff was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery and misdemeanor sexual battery committed while in uniform and on duty. He went out on a call to break up a loud party, which turned out to be a lingerie party; he then drove out to an after-party later that night and picked up two women there who he offered to drive back to where the first party had been. Then he took opportunity to grab one of the women’s buttocks and genitals without her permission.

16. State Trooper Derek S. Snavely, West Virginia State Police, Jefferson West Virginia.

Last November, State Trooper Derek S. Snavely pulled a woman on a chickenshit traffic stop (the claim is that she was driving left of the center line). He used the threat of a bogus DUI arrest (which would have cost the woman her job) and getting her car towed to detain her, force her to kiss him and unbutton her blouse, and then take him back to her house, where he repeatedly raped her. The story’s in the news now because his victim recently filed a civil-rights lawsuit after State Police Internally Investigated the Incident and the government prosecutor decided — in spite of records from home surveillance cameras and text messages sent by Trooper Derek S. Snavely to his victim’s cell phone — not to press any criminal charges.

17. Unnamed officer. Dunbar Police Department, Dunbar, West Virginia.

A woman in her 20s has come forward, through a public statement from her lawyer, with allegations that a police officer working for the Dunbar city government’s police force used intimidation and the threat of legal charges to force her to have sex with him, after pulling her over on a routine traffic stop. (She had been caught driving on a suspended license before the stop. The cop threatened her with charges on the traffic violations unless she would have sex with him, and then drove her to a dark remote location, where she was afraid for her safety not to comply.) The city government refuses to confirm whether or not the police force is investigating the report. As it happens, Sergeant R. O. Conley is currently on administrative leave with pay for an indefinite period, which is to say a mandatory paid vacation, but the city government refuses to say in public whether or not Conley is the cop accused of the rape.

18. Unnamed deputy. Bexar County Sheriff’s Office. San Antonio, Texas.

Earlier this month, n unnamed Bexar County sheriff’s deputy used his uniform and gun to pull a woman aside while she was walking down the street on the south side of San Antonio. He claimed (falsely) that she had an outstanding warrant for her arrest, and ordered her to get into his patrol car. Then he drove back to her house and then he grabbed her by the neck and forced her to have sex with him. As of the most recent news reports I could find (from about a week ago), the survivor had bruises around her neck, had been hospitalized for her injuries, and was being treated in a hospital psych ward for post-traumatic stress. The deputy, who was caught naked on the survivor’s couch by the San Antonio city government’s police, claims that the sexual relationship was consensual. So far, the San Antonio city government has filed no charges against the rapist deputy, although his own bosses at the Bexar County government’s Sheriff’s Office have forced him to take a vacation from his job while he is under investigation.

19. Deputy Donald A. Harder III. Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office, Edinburg, New York.

Last week, Deputy Donald A. Harder III, a cop working for the Saratoga County government’s Sheriff’s office, was released on $25,000 bond after being arrested for forcing sex on a 27-year-old woman in his patrol car while on duty on a patrol car, armed, and in full police uniform. According to the Sheriff’s office, his victim believed she had to comply [with his demands for sex] because she was in the vehicle and he was in uniform.. Before raping women on the Saratoga County government’s police force, Deputy Donald Harder was a Marine working for the United States in its invasion and occupation of Iraq.

20. Officer Cleveland Reynolds. Birmingham Police Department, Birmingham, Alabama.

Last month in Alabama, Cleveland Reynolds, a cop working the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. patrol shift for the Birmingham city government’s police force, was arrested for repeatedly raping a 23 year old woman while he was out on duty. Pending the outcome of the trial, Reynolds is being given a paid vacation at taxpayer expense.

21. Officer Perry Young. Birmingham Police Department, Birmingham, Alabama.

Also last month in Alabama, Officer Perry Young, a patrol cop who formerly worked for the Birmingham city government’s police force, finally went to jail for forcing a 19-year-old woman to have sex with him while he was on duty, armed, and in uniform, after he used his legal powers to force her into his custody and took her to a remote location to force sex on her.

22. Deputy Jonathan Bleiweiss. Broward Sheriff’s Office, Oakland Park, Florida.

In addition to wife-beater Deputy Brian Gillespie, the town of Oakland Park, Florida is also patrolled by serial-rapist Deputy Jonathan Bleiweiss, who repeatedly used his uniform and his legal privileges as a government police officer to target Latino men on routine traffic stops or bike stops, roust them out of their cars or off their bikes, force them to show identification, and then, if he found that they were undocumented immigrants — therefore legally vulnerable easy targets — threw them down against his patrol car, forced them to submit to frisking, grabbed their penises during the search, propositioned them in Spanish, and then forced them to have sex with him in his patrol car under the threat of being arrested or reported to ICE for imprisonment and deportation. He repeatedly demanded phone numbers after raping the men in his custody, which he would later use to stalk his victims and try to arrange future encounters. Bleiweiss is known to have assaulted at least eight different undocumented Mexican and Salvadorean immigrants ranging in age from 17 to 30 years old. The Internal Investigation into Bleiweiss’s targeting of legally vulnerable men for serial rape began in early April when the boss of one of the victims approached police with a report — but Deputy Jonathan Bleiweiss was allowed to continue patrolling his regular turf for three more months while under investigation, during which time (beginning April 23) he repeatedly assaulted and later stalked at least one more undocumented Mexican immigrant who he had hunted down while out on patrol. Deputy Jonathan Bleiweiss was finally moved to a desk job and then later suspended without pay in July. His boss, Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti, says they were giving an accused serial rapist on active patrol duty the benefit of the doubt until they completed their investigation. The case is likely to be difficult for government lawyers to prosecute because Deputy Jonathan Bleiweiss deliberately targeted undocumented Latino immigrants for his serial rapes; his lawyer has already used their undocumented status to smear the victims in court, and given that all of the victims face a standing threat of being arrested, imprisoned, and deported by the United States government’s federal immigration cops if they come into contact with the government criminal justice system, [many of the victims have been extremely reluctant to come forward to the government police or to testify in a government court]((http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/broward/sfl-bso-deputy-arrested-sex-abuse,0,1484852.story).

23. Officer Billy Ray White. Louisville Metro Police Department, Louisville Kentucky.

In 2006, serial rapist Officer Billy Ray White, of the Louisville Metro Police Department, was found guilty of raping a woman at gunpoint in front of her 9 month old daughter of threatening to kill her if she reported it, and of using the threat of jail to coerce sex from another woman that he had arrested. The story is in the news again because an appeals court judge recently threw out Billy Ray White’s conviction and ordered a new trial, on the grounds (1) that the coerced sexual relationship with a woman he had arrested, conducted under the threat of imprisonment, was in some sense of the word consensual (?) and so different enough from the forcible rape that the joinder of the cases as impermissibly prejudicial, and (2) that the trial judge should not have allowed testimony from several women about Officer Billy Ray White’s repeated and insistent use of his badge and uniform to stalk and try coerce sex from them after an arrest. According to Honorable government judge Thomas B. Wine, evidence that the Officer Billy Ray White, a heavily-armed, legally-privileged enforcer for the state, while acting in uniform and under color of authority over women under his legal power, was constantly on the prowl to use his uniform in furtherance of his lust, has little probative value in determining whether or not the man had a propensity to force sex on unwilling women. As a result of the reversal of the conviction, the new trial judge, rather than scheduling a trial date, told the government prosecutor to cut a plea bargain with White; they eventually agreed that this serial-rapist would cop a plea, get sentenced to time served, and get back out on the street.

24. Officer Julian Steele, Cincinnati, Ohio.

In Ohio, Cincinnati city government cop Julian Steele falsely arrested and imprisoned a teenage boy while investigating a robbery. Then he used this bogus imprisonment to force the boy’s mother to have sex with him in order to get her boy released from jail. Remarkably, the county government is actually calling this exactly what it is by charging Steele with 10 felony counts including abduction, extortion, sexual battery and rape.

25. Officer Jesus Sanchez and the Lorain Police Department. Lorain, Ohio.

A woman named Sarah Long recently came forward with a lawsuit against the city government governing Lorain, Ohio after the city government and its hired police department repeatedly ignored complaints that Officer Jesus Sanchez, a 28-year veteran cop working for their police force, repeatedly forced kisses on her, groped her, stalked her, made phone calls every day threatening her safety, and used the power of his badge and his legal privileges as a police officer to force her to pull over her car and deal with him 15 to 20 times. When Long complained about this pattern of harassment and the use of legal power to facilitate sexual violence, nothing happened; when she finally forced the issue by talking to the federal government’s Department of Justice and filing a civil lawsuit, Sanchez was charged with menacing by stalking. After he was convicted, the penalty for singling out a woman for unwanted sexual contact, imprisoning her in her own home, and using police powers to make her constantly afraid for her safety was 60 days in jail. During his trial, Sanchez’s defense lawyer said that he had been disciplined … by Lorain police years ago for his stalking and sexual coercion — purely administrative discipline which, of course, resulted in no legal consequences whatosever for Sanchez for six years, until the lawsuit forced the issue. Sanchez was allowed to retire from the police force after his trial in spite of his conviction. The story is in the news again because Sanchez, and fellow retired cop Dennis Davis, recently filed statements in Long’s lawsuit stating that pervasive harassment, sexual abuse and rape against women had been well-known and tolerated by the boss cops for years. Sanchez himself stated in his affadavit that I have observed what I believe is a pervasive pattern of sexual misconduct by Lorain police officers committed while they are on duty. The Department persistently ignored these reports. I believed that nothing would happen to me as a result of my sexual advances …. The primary reason I made sexual advances …. while on duty was my knowledge of the City’s policy of tolerating such conduct and deliberate indifference toward such conduct by on-duty police officers. Retired cop Dennis Davis stated in his affadavit that other cops working for the Lorain city government’s police force repeatedly forced nonconsensual sexual misconduct on women while on duty and that It appeared to me that Lorain police officers engaged in this misconduct without receiving meaningful discipline to the best of my knowledge. Boss cop Cel Rivera admitted that he had handled 30 complaints relating to non-consensual sexual contact involving a police officer and a third-party since he took the job in 1994. Court documents list numerous other incidents of alleged misconduct by other officers, including stalking, forced sexual encounters, armed threats and other behavior he contends shows a pattern of ignoring misconduct by Lorain police over the years.

26. Officer Timothy Gerek, Jr. Lorain Police Department, Lorain, Ohio.

One of those cops working for the city government in Lorain was Timothy Gerek, Jr., who was indicted in 2002 for beating and then raping his estranged wife in December 2001. Gerek threatened to murder their children if his wife left him or if she called police. When she told government prosecutors that she was too afraid to testify against Officer Timothy Gerek Jr. in court — while he was violating the protection order that required him to stay away from her and her children — the prosecutors decided to offer Gerek a plea-bargain that dropped the rape charge and reduced the domestic violence charge to misdemeanor assault. When Gerek accepted the bargain and plead guilty, this rapist and wife-beater was sentenced to a year of probation and ordered to pay a $500 fine to the county government. Some years later, Gerek tried to pull strings to try to get prior criminal charges expunged from his record, including getting the record of his misdemeanor assault charge from the beating and rape in 2002 sealed. If he had succeeded in getting the record sealed, it would have eliminated the public record of his agreement never to work in law enforcement again.

27. Officer Stanley Marrero. Lorain Police Department. Lorraine, Ohio.

Another cop working for the Lorain city government’s police force, who was frequenty mentioned in those complaints was Officer Stanley Marrero, was accused of raping a woman while responding to a call at her home in 1993. Then he was accused of using a routine traffic stop in 1995 to hit on the woman he was detaining, ask her personal questions and get her phone number, which he later called at 4:00 in the morning. The Incident was Internally Investigated and Marrero was exonerated. In 2003, another woman filed a complaint that Officer Stanley Marrero had followed her while on duty and in uniform and asked her personal questions. The Incident was Internally Investigated and he was ordered to leave her alone, with no further consequences. In 2000, when Officer Stanley Marrero was sent out to a woman’s house on a domestic violence call in 2000, allegedly to help keep her safe from an abusive husband, he took the opportunity to use his legal powers to order her husband to leave, then, once he had her alone, forced the traumatized domestic violence victim to have sex with him. When the woman filed a complaint with the police department, they Internally Investigated, pressed no charges against Officer Stanley Marrero, and gave him a 3 day suspension. In 2006, Officer Stanley Marrero was finally arrested and sentenced to 60 days in the county jail for public indecency, dereliction of duty, and intimidation of a witness after forcing sex on two different women while on duty and after forced his way into an acquaintance’s neighbor’s house under cover of an investigation, exposed himself to her and demanded oral sex from her, and then, after she refused and unleashed her dog to defend herself, threatened her with retaliation and arrest if she told anyone what happened. Officer Stanley Marrero is only now, finally, being investigated for the rape in 1993. When he was finally convicted in 2006, after years of acting with impunity as a stalker and serial rapist under color of legal authority, the judge in the case, Edward Zaleski, said The evidence appears overwhelming. Mr. Marrero, police scare the hell out of me. They sure scare the hell out of most people.

28. Deputy William Hatfield. Pike County Sheriff’s Office. Pike County, Kentucky.

In Kentucky, William Bill Hatfield, a volunteer sheriff’s deputy working for the Pike County government’s sheriff’s office in return for gas money, a gun, and power, used that power to sexually assault a woman he had forced to the side of the road and detained for a routine stop.

29. Officer Dewayne Curtis Hart. Pittsburgh Police Department. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Back in 2007, Dewayne Curtis Hart, a cop working for the Pittsburgh city government’s police force, went out on a burglary call at a woman’s house; a few minutes after he left, he came back, told the burglary victim that there was a warrant for her arrest on a robbery charge, threatened to arrest her, and then used the threat to forcibly undress and fondle her, then force her to fondle him. The story is in the news again because Officer Dewayne Curtis Hart’s trial on the sexual assault charges was recently delayed until October; meanwhile, while the charges are still pending, the Pittsburgh city government’s personnel refuses to say whether or not this accused rapist cop is still on the job.

30. Trooper Carlos Torres. Washington State Patrol.

Back in June 2005, a Washington State Trooper named Carlos Torres forced a woman to pull over on the highway on suspicion of drunk driving, placed her under arrest and forced her into his patrol car to give her a blood test, then drove her to a weigh station to be picked up by her fiance. (She wanted her fiance to pick her up at the jail; Trooper Carlos Torres refused, and forced her to go with him to the weigh station.) The whole time he asked her invasive personal questions about oral and anal sex; then, while keeping her locked in the back of his patrol car at the weigh station, he demanded her to undress and forcibly fondled her through the divider in his patrol car. The story is in the news again because Trooper Carlos Torres recently made an unsuccessful attempt to get a custodial sexual misconduct charge thrown out on the grounds that his victim was not in fact being detained by him while she was locked in the backseat of his patrol car with no ability to open the doors or windows and no way to get out without his permission, after he had already forced her to get into the car against her will.

31. Deputy Police Chief Jody Beaudry, Mulberry Police Department, Mulberry Florida.

Back in 2004, a 40-year-old man Jody Beaudry, a cop working for the Mulberry, Florida city government’s police force, used his position as a police officer to threaten to revoke a 16-year-old girl’s probation, and used this threat of arrest and jail to force her to have sex with him. By the time he was arrested in 2008, he had been promoted to Deputy Police Chief. The story’s in the news because he just recently plead guilty to unlawful sexual activity with a minor, a crime which may put him in jail for up to 7 years in prison. (The crime that he actually committed, by using the threat of retaliation and his powers of arrest to commit sexual battery, is, under Florida state law, a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison.)

32. Patrol Deputy Michael Jared Boulware, Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, Wedgefield, South Carolina.

26-year-old Deputy Michael Jared Boulware is out on bond awaiting trial for sexually assaulting a 14 year old girl. According to the government prosecutor, who asked the judge to deny bail, the victim is extremely upset and worried he will locate her. According to his defense attorney, the fact that Boulware is a former cop is supposed to provide a reason for lowering bond. Actually, I think it’s a reason for thinking that he’s potentially more dangerous to the victim.

33. Kevin Yuhas, Streator Police Department, Streator, Illinois.

Earlier this month, Kevin Yuhas, a 42-year-old 911 dispatcher working for the Streator, Illinois city government’s police force, was arrested in Wisconsin for inviting a 14-year-old boy into his home, plying the boy with 10 to 15 shots of hard liquor, and then raping him. Yuhas admits that he invited the boy over and got him drunk, but can’t remember anything that came after.

34. Officer James Stackhouse. Nashville Metro Police Department. Nashville, Tennessee.

Earlier this month, Officer James Stackhouse, a cop working for the Nashville local government’s Metro Police Department, was forced out of his job as a result of an ongoing investigation into allegations that he had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 12-year-old girl in Clay County.

35. Donald Silcott. Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. Jacksonville, Florida.

Earlier this month, veteran police officer Donald Silcott, an evidence technician working for the county government’s Sheriff’s office was arrested for sexually assaulting a teenage girl in his home. The victim was taken to the hospital after she was found crying on a doorstep holding a photo of Silcott and a note with his name, address, and the date of the incident. The girl, apparently distraught and terrified, hid in the bushes and asked the woman who found her to dial 911 so she could be taken to the hospital. According to the arrest report, they performed a rape kit and recovered DNA evidence at the hospital.

36. Officer Aaron L. Jones. Harrington Police Department, Harrington, Delaware.

Aaron L. Jones, a 40-year-old cop working for the Harrington city government’s police force, was arrested earlier this month for having sex with a minor female who was staying in his home. Jones was released on a $2,500 unsecured bond and the government police have put him on a paid vacation from his job while they investigate the charges.

37. Officer Todd Spikes. Florala, Alabama Police Department. Florala, Alabama.

After driving to Flagler Beach for what he thought was a meet-up for sex with a 13 year old girl he met on the Internet, Officer Todd Spikes, a cop working for the Florala, Alabama city government’s police force was exposed as a sexual predator on national television and arrested in December 2006. The case is in the news again because government prosecutors recently offered their former colleague Todd Spikes a plea bargain which would give him probation with no prison time. Spikes turned the offer down, because it would have required him to register as a sex offender.

38. Officer Todd Lengsfield, Newnan Police Deartment, Newnan, Georgia.

Earlier this month, Officer Todd Lengsfield, a 34-year-old cop working for the Newnan, Georgia city government’s police force, was arrested for having sex with a 15-year-old girl. His bosses were tipped off by inappropriate contact with the girl using a government-issued cell phone. A blogger at eXaminer.com claims that the story is a reason why Parents have to be careful with children and technology. Actually, it sounds to me like a reason parents and children have to be careful around cops.

39. Officer Luke Morrison, Henderson Police Department, Henderson, Nevada.

You may remember Officer Luke Morrison of Henderson, Nevada for the time when he shot and killed a distraught Albanian ice-cream truck driver after she had already been knocked to the ground with a taser. Before lighting up Deshira Selimaj for the Henderson city government’s police force, Officer Luke Morrison was a former soldier who fought in the United States government’s army’s war and occupation in Iraq. Anyway, it turns out that when Officer Luke Morrison is not busy gunning down middle-aged women with no legal consequences, he also enjoys sleeping with 15 year old girls. Commenter lv2gen on the Las Vegas Sun website wants us to know that A few bad apples don’t mean every cop is dirty.

40. Officer Nathan Amosa. Hurricane Police Department, Hurricane, Utah.

Last year, Officer Nathan Amosa, a cop working for the Hurricane, Utah city government’s police force, responded to a call from a distraught mother and went to her house, allegedly to help her find her missing child, who had wandered away. Instead, he threatened to cite her for child neglect and have the government take her child away from her unless she would have sex with him. The victim says that she felt she had to do what he demanded because of the threat against her child and because Officer Nathan Amosa was in uniform and had a gun. After raping her, Officer Nathan Amosa later went on to intimidate his victim at a local grocery store. This rape is dignified by the news media as an on-duty sex episode; the story is in the news again because the government prosecutor and government judge agreed to let Officer Nathan Amosa — who had been charged with forcible sodomy and two counts of forcible sex abuse — plead no-contest to a charge of custodial sexual relations,, for which he will spend 60 days in county jail and get three years’ probation. According to the government prosecutor, this confessed rapist will get only 60 days in jail (and, because custodial sexual relations convictions don’t require it, will not be required to register as a sex offender) because he is a cop and (therefore?) because he believes that it would have been difficult to prove the victim did not consent. During sentencing, the government prosecutor told the government judge that If this was anyone other than a police officer, we would not even be here. No doubt. Over at the Desert News website, a commenter going by Cops wants us to know that There’s a lot of great cops out there and just a few high-profile incidents like this that can give them all a bad name.

41. Officer Anthony Rollins. Anchorage Police Department, Anchorage, Alaska.

Last month in Alaska, Officer Anthony Rollins, a 13 year veteran of the Anchorage city government’s police force was arrested on 10 charges of sexual assault for raping at least 6 women that he encountered while on patrol and lured into his police car, from March 2006 to April 2009. This serial rapist, who repeatedly used the power of his uniform and his legal privileges to force sex on unwilling women (including at least one rape committed at a police substation) was finally arrested after a local anti-rape group approached the police department in April, and during the investigation five more women came forward to report sexual assaults. The investigation is ongoing and more survivors may yet come forward. Meanwhile, although unwilling Anchorage taxpayers were forced to pay Anthony Rollins over $142,892 last year for his unrequested services as a patrol officer, and were forced to pay him $78,668 this year prior to his arrest, and have been forced to pay him and his wife (who also works for the city government’s police department) over $1,100,000 over the last five years, this millionaire government cop has been declared indigent by the government judge handling his trial, so that innocent Alaska taxpayers, including his six victims will be forced to pay for a government-appointed defense lawyer for his trial. Rollins’s former boss, Anchorage boss cop Rob Heun, issued an angry statement to the press in which he called Rollins’s career as a serial rapist aberrant and detestable. Well, I certainly agree with him about the latter.

42. Officer Kenneth Moreno and Officer Franklin Mata. New York Police Department. New York, New York.

Last December in New York, a pair of cops working for the city government’s police force responded to a 911 call from a cab driver about a woman he had driven home who had gotten sick from being extremely drunk. They showed up around 1:00am, allegedly to help her get home safely; instead they decided to make up a cover about their whereabouts, go back to the apartment, and rape her while she was half-conscious, violently sick, and physically helpless. (Apartment security cameras show them returning to the apartment; Officer Kenneth Moreno was recorded on the phone admitting to the victim that he had sex with her.) NYPD boss cop Ray Kelly — who knew about the case for months before any charges were filed or any allegations made public, and who didn’t even suspend the cops accused until the charges hit the newsmedia — claims that The allegations are so egregious here that its imperative that I speak out. This is a shocking aberration in stark contrast to the good work that the members of the New York City Police Department do every day.

Yeah, a huge fucking aberration. Just like all the others.

Back in Anchorage, when a reporter asked him how serial-rapist Anthony Rollins could get away with attacking at least six women while he was out on patrol over a period of three years before the police began an investigation, boss cop Rob Heun responded that there was nothing other police could have done about Rollins because No policy or procedure is going to preclude anybody who wants to break it to do just that … This is a matter of behavior — just like no law will preclude anyone from breaking the law. Of course it is true that any written law or policy can be broken, but the problem here is not just the laws that are being broken; it’s the laws that are being followed, government laws which create an institutional environment of entitled privilege, and which give any male cop who happens to be a sexual predator an arsenal of legally-sanctioned weapons and immense unaccountable power over any woman or man who he wants to place under his power while out on patrol. As I said in December 2007 about a case involving several male patrol cops in San Antonio:

What as at stake here has a lot to do with the individual crimes of three cops, and it’s good to know that the police department is taking that very seriously. But while excoriating these three cops for their personal wickedness, this kind of approach also marginalizes and dismisses any attempt at a serious discussion of the institutional context that made these crimes possible — the fact that each of these three men worked out of the same office on the same shift, the way that policing is organized, the internal culture of their own office and of the police department as a whole, and the way that the so-called criminal justice system gives cops immense power over, and minimal accountability towards, the people that they are professedly trying to protect. It strains belief to claim that when a rape gang is being run out of one shift at a single police station, there’s not something deeply and systematically wrong with that station. If it weren’t for the routine power of well-armed cops in uniform, it would have been much harder for Victor Gonzales, Anthony Munoz, or Raymond Ramos to force their victims into their custody or to credibly threaten them in order to extort sex. … And if it weren’t for the way in which they can all too often rely on buddies in the precinct or elsewhere in the force to back them up, no matter how egregiously violent they may be, it would have been much harder for any of them to believe that they were entitled to, or could get away with, sexually torturing women while on patrol, while in full uniform, using their coercive power as cops.

A serious effort to respond to these crimes doesn’t just require individual blame or personal accountability …. It also requires a demand for fundamental institutional and legal reform. If police serve a valuable social function, then they can serve it without paramilitary forms of organization, without special legal privileges to order peaceful people around and force innocent people into custody, and without government entitlements to use all kinds of violence without any accountability to their victims. What we have now is not civil policing, but rather a bunch of heavily armed, violently macho, institutionally privileged gangsters in blue.

GT 2007-12-21: Rapists on patrol

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In twenty words or fewer: Comparative Politics edition

From a short article in the most recent issue of reason (Citings, p. 13) taking notice of recent changes in the Cuban government’s policies towards private taxicabs:

But in January, the Cuban government took a surprising step, announcing that it would loosen up the rules, even going so far as to let taxis set their own rates in the city. Rates are still capped, and the number of licenses will be determined by local officials, but it’s a pretty big step for Cuba, where nearly all aspects of commercial life are state-controlled.[1]

Taxi drivers and passengers in communist Cuba now enjoy freer markets for transit than their counterparts in hypercapitalist Las Vegas.

1 Katherine Mangu-Ward, Connecticut vs. Cuba, reason (2009.05), p. 13; originally appeared in Hit and Run (2009-01-13). Emphasis added.

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Las Vegas tax protestors arrested by government terrorist task force

You tell me when you spot the terrorism in this case.

Four members of an anti-government movement, known as the Sovereign Movement, have been arrested after a three-year investigation by the Nevada Joint Terrorism Task Force on allegations of money laundering, tax evasion and possessing unregistered machine guns.

The four men were arrested Thursday in the Las Vegas area, said Greg Brower, U.S. Attorney for Nevada.

Samuel Davis, 54, of Council, Idaho; Shawn Rice, 46, of Seligman, Ariz.; Harold Call, 67, of Las Vegas; and Jan Lindsey, 66, of Henderson, were taken into custody, Brower said.

Davis and Rice are charged in a federal indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 30 counts of money laundering. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine on each count.

Call is charged in a federal indictment with two counts of possession and transfer of a machine gun and three counts of possession of an unregistered machine gun. If convicted, Call faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.

Undercover agents working for the FBI infiltrated the anti-government group, which often met at a Denny’s restaurant at Fremont Street and Boulder Highway, and for $750 purchased parts from Call to turn guns into machine guns, the search warrants said.

Call in one phone conversation said he phoned the IRS to see whether his account had been credited. He said that after asking a woman IRS four times for his account balance, Call learned the IRS had not credited his account. In the phone call with the undercover FBI agent, Call said, Every time I talk to the IRS, I just want to go kill somebody.

In addition to the STEN machine gun, the task force seized a mill and other equipment that allowed Call to transform weapons into machine guns and he demonstrated an AR-15 rifle he had converted to allow for fully automatic firing.

Lindsey is charged in a federal indictment with one count of evasion of payment of tax and four counts of tax evasion. If convicted, Lindsey faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.

The indictments were returned by a federal grand jury Tuesday and unsealed on Thursday. The defendants were to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lawrence R. Leavitt on Friday.

From March 2008 through the date of the indictment, Davis and Rice allegedly laundered about $1.3 million for FBI undercover agents, court records show. Davis and Rice were told by the undercover agents that the monies were proceeds of a bank fraud scheme, specifically from the theft and forgery of stolen official bank checks.

Davis and Rice laundered the money through a nominee trust account controlled by Davis and through an account of a purported religious organization controlled by Rice. The men took about $74,000 and $22,000, respectively, in fees for their money laundering services before handing the rest of the funds to the undercover FBI agents.

Davis is allegedly a national leader of the anti-government movement, traveling nationwide to teach different theories and ideologies of the movement, court records said. Rice allegedly claims that he is a lawyer and Rabbi, and uses his law school education and businesses to promote his sovereign ideas and to gain credibility in the community.

Call allegedly possessed and transferred an auto sear or lightning link, a combination of firearm parts designed to convert a weapon from a single-shot manual one to automatic use, on Sept. 11, 2008, and Jan. 20, 2009, the court records said. Call allegedly possessed a STEN machine gun on Oct. 9, 2008, which was not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.

Lindsey is a retired FBI agent. He and Call are leaders of the Nevada Lawmen Group for Public Awareness, a group that is associated with the sovereign movement.

Lindsey allegedly failed to timely file or pay federal income tax for the years 1999 through 2006, and committed various acts designed to hide his income and assets from the IRS, including filing false tax returns, making false statements to the IRS, placing funds and property in the names of nominees, using fake negotiable instruments to attempt to pay his taxes and filing false documents with the IRS and Clark County.

In a detailed search warrant unsealed Friday, authorities said Lindsey underwent and passed a background investigation in 2000 for his work conducting FBI background checks, but in 2005 he revealed he had not filed his income taxes. The FBI’s Security Division determined he was a security risk and did not grant him clearances.

The search warrant said Lindsey owes the IRS $333,397.78 for unpaid taxes from 1999 to 2002.

On May 7, 2008, Lindsey filed a false tax form for 2000 saying his wife earned $13,638.33 from Azurix and $7,249.77 from Enron, when IRS wage records show she earned $169,109 and $174,142, respectively, from the two companies.

Unsealed search warrant affidavits allege that Rice, Davis, Lindsey and Call are heavily involved in the Sovereign Movement, an extreme anti-government organization whose members attempt to disrupt and overthrow government and other forms of authority by using paper terrorist tactics [N.B.: paper terrorism is a melodramatic phrase for using a flurry of fraudulent legal filings in order to harass an intended target], intimidation, harassment and violence, court records said.

Members of the group believe they do not have to pay taxes and believe the federal government deceived Americans into obtaining Social Security cards, drivers’ licenses, car registrations and wedding licenses, among other official records. The group believes that if these contracts are revoked, persons are sovereign citizens.

Members of this group also believe that U.S. currency is invalid. They widely use fictitious financial instruments, such as fake money orders, personal checks and sight drafts, and participate in redemption schemes where the false financial documents are used to pay creditors.

The FBI-led Nevada Joint Terrorism Task Force includes the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Henderson Police Department, IRS Criminal Investigation, Metro Police, the Nevada Department of Public Safety and the North Las Vegas Police Department in addition to other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in Nevada, Council, Idaho, and Flagstaff and Seligman, Ariz.

Mary Manning, Las Vegas Sun (2009-03-06): Anti-government group members arrested for money laundering

The Federalis would like you to know that the charges have nothing to do with persecuting the targets for their political beliefs. Yeah, I’ll bet. Which is exatly why an anti-terrorism task force spent three years using federal anti-terrorism laws to infiltrate activist groups, in order to produce a bunch of money laundering, tax evasion, and firearms possession charges, all of which have exactly nothing whatever to do with even a single threat of a terrorist attack. And I’m also sure that the timing of these arrests also had absolutely nothing at all to do with the fact that your deadline for filing your federal income tax return is coming up in just over a month. And if you believe that, I’ve got some mortgage securities that you may be interested in buying.

Leave South Hills Church alone

Here’s my February 10 letter to the editor of the Las Vegas Sun, which apparently will remain unpublished (by them). It’s in response to their recent story on a political tussle between the South Hills Church and some folks living by it in Green Valley, over a series of big-ass crosses that South Hills Church was planning to put up on their own property:

Editor, Las Vegas Sun:

I was saddened to read (Neighbors at odds with church over huge crosses, 2/4/2009) the Clark County government, at the behest of busybody neighbors, has forced South Hills Church to scrap plans to build three large crosses on the their own property.

The bellowing blowhard busybody brigade complains these crosses — built on land the church owns, with money freely given to the church for that purpose — would encroach upon the views from their yards. Sad as that may be, the view from your yard stops being your own private property once you start looking over another’s land.

South Hills Church’s plans to build symbols of their own faith on their own property are their own business; they’re not interfering with anybody else’s property and they’re not forcing anyone to look. Yet they get harassed in the name of politically-enforced aesthetic correctness. Neighbors and county government have no more business butting in to tell them how tall or short to make accessory structures on their own land, than they have call to make the church change the logo on their own sign, or the color they painted their walls, just to better please the neighbors’ aesthetic sensibilities.

Of course, we are informed government zoning laws require shorter crosses. No doubt; that’s exactly why government zoning is a ridiculous and petty tyranny. Such laws should be immediately and completely abolished.

Leave South Hills Church alone. What goes up on their own property is their own business.

Sincerely,
Charles W. Johnson
Southern Nevada Alliance of the Libertarian Left

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How local government in Las Vegas and Clark County deals with the worst joblessness crisis in a generation

  1. By trying to force working folks out of their jobs driving ice cream trucks, since it is far more important that a handful of bellyaching neighborhood grouches can avoid hearing Turkey in the Straw for 30 seconds around 8:00pm, than that working folks actually be left alone to make an honest living, using a few fittings to trick out a truck they may already own, by providing a cold treat to willing customers and a little bit of happiness to neighborhood children in the midst of a sweltering summer. (The Las Vegas Sun, apparently with a straight face, describes briefly hearing an ice cream truck pass by is akin to aural torture. If so, it may be the only form of torture that you can avoid by turning up your damned hi-fi for a minute or two.)

  2. By forcing working folks out of jobs driving taxis, by artificially limiting the number of taxicabs that can legally operate in Las Vegas, thus limiting the legal cab market to only 16 companies, cartelized into a controlled oligarchy protected from outside competition — notably from any possibility outside competition by independent cabbies, who might otherwise be able to set themselves up in one of the largest and most lucrative tourist markets in the world, with nothing more than a car they already own. As a result of all this, anyone who does manage to get work as a taxicab driver is forced to work at somewhere around minimum wage for one of the 16 government-approved taxicab companies; while lots of people who could otherwise make a living driving a taxi are forced out of work because, thanks to the arbitrary fiat of the Nevada Taxicab Authority, based on sheer guesswork about how many cabs Las Vegas needs, the only legal way to drive a taxi in Vegas is to rent yourself out to one of these big taxi companies — and the Authority, again based on absolutely nothing other than pure guesswork, tourist-industry gossip, and impressionistic first-hand observations about how many cabs Vegas needs, won’t even let those companies hire on any new cabs this year.

  3. And finally, rather than just getting the hell out of the way and let working folks make an honest living with resources the already own, by shutting them down at every turn, running them out of business for the benefit of neighborhood power games or established insider companies, and then, to crown all, by sticking their hands into working folks’ increasingly empty pockets, and grabbing out a million dollars while they still can, to hand over to the tax-funded Las VegasConvention and Visitors Authority, in order to run a bunch of ads on behalf of big casinos to beg other big businesses to send their executives on more trips out to Vegas, apparently on the theory that those poor ol’ casinos just can’t be expected to pay for their own damned advertising.

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Simple solutions to stupid problems, part 2: By The Power Vested In Me edition

Reporting from Las Vegas — In a city launched by shotgun weddings and quickie divorces, and which offers the chance to be wed by faux Liberaces, King Tuts and Grim Reapers, there remains at least one nuptial taboo: You can’t be married by an atheist.

Michael Jacobson, a 64-year-old retiree who calls himself a lifelong atheist, tried this year to get a license to perform weddings. Clark County rejected his application because he had no ties to a congregation, as state law requires.

So Jacobson and attorneys from two national secular groups — the American Humanist Assn. and the Center for Inquiry — are trying to change things. If they can’t persuade the state Legislature to rework the law, they plan to sue.

[…]

When Lipman and his wife moved to Florida this spring, Jacobson — a balding man with a thin, white mustache and a trace of his native Philadelphia in his voice — decided to become the local atheist celebrant.

But I’m not going to do it by saying I belong to a religious organization, he said. That’s a sham, because atheists are not religious.

Jacobson filled out an application to perform marriages, but sidestepped the questions on religion. County Clerk Shirley Parraguirre said she had little choice but to reject it.

As Nevada law requires, all of the county’s 2,500 or so licensed officiants are connected to a congregation — though some are as small as two people, Parraguirre said. (Judges and commissioners of civil marriages can also lead ceremonies.)

Some of the state’s regulations hark back to the 1960s, when ministers were dumping their flocks to become wealthy Marrying Sams, according to the book Las Vegas: An Unconventional History. One would-be officiant apparently hoped to marry enough people to finance his divorce.

Lawmakers, trying to ferret out the profit-hungry, said weddings must be among a minister’s incidental duties. Drive past the string of neon-lighted downtown chapels, and you’ll see that didn’t quite pan out.

Clark County issues nearly 100,000 marriage licenses a year and boasts dozens of places to exchange vows — atop Harley-Davidsons, in Renaissance costumes, aboard gondolas — 24 hours a day. The competition is so fierce that in recent years, employees at rival chapels have accused one another of slashing tires and shouting death threats. Someone is working at all of these chapels, said Parraguirre, whose office doesn’t have the resources to track down ministers flouting the law. In fact, she worries that if the criteria to become an officiant changes, her staff will be bombarded with people coming in and just doing it for a job.

[…]

Judges performing ceremonies, for example, don’t have to meet religious criteria, so it’s absurd to make anyone else do so, [Lynne Henderson, a law professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas] said. Officials could regulate celebrants in other ways, such as making them get training.

Ashley Powers, Los Angeles Times (2008-12-14): Atheist may sue if law on Las Vegas officiants won’t change

Let’s suppose it’s true that County Clerk Shirley Parraguirre’s office just hasn’t got the resources to deal with all the applications that would bombard them if Nevada did away its mandates for state discrimination against religiously unconventional marriages. It seems to me there’s a simple solution: save County Clerk Shirley Parraguirre the work by abolishing the laws that require wedding officiants to get a license from the State in the first place. If there’s no licensure requirement, there will be no discrimination lawsuits, and also no applications to bombard poor County Clerk Shirley Parraguirre.

If your Elvis-impersonating streetside neon-chapel minister’s motives are really focused on making a living rather than on serving the Lord, who cares? Couples who want a religiously serious wedding will presumably go to a church or temple or mosque where they can get one.

If your Starfleet-uniformed Captain of the Starship of Love hasn’t had some State-sanctioned course of training (training in what?), who cares? Couples who want to vet their celebrants for training or competency will do so.

Even if you think that the State has some legitimate business using a licensing system to pick and choose which marriages it will or will not recognize (I don’t), what possible purpose can it serve to require not only the couple, but also the third party that they hire to officiate — whose only legal function is to witness the vows and attest that these folks mean what they say — to get specially vetted and licensed by the State? Really, seriously, bureaucratic rationality aside, who could possibly care, and why?

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On Blaming the Victim, Part II

From Frances Vanderploeg, Las Vegas Sun (2008-12-04): Henderson students discuss controversial issues during event

Part of the problem may be attendance, some students said. Schools are trying out different policies to encourage students to be in class and on time, such as forcing parents to sign in a student who was late the morning before.

They’re trying to fix the attendance policy, but they’re going about it the wrong way, Josh Rivera of Canyon Springs High School said.

The requirement to have parents sign in late students, for example, encouraged students to just skip the entire period, because the penalties were less harsh that way.

For the students with chronic truancies, however, students thought it was about time their peers answered up.

Shouldn’t there be harsher punishment because they’re wasting our time and money? Nick Rattigan of Green Valley High School said. They’re wasting the teachers’ time.

Actually, seeing as how the students are being made to go to class against their will, and the government schools seem unable to give them any reason to go other than the threat of harsher punishment, it seems to me like it would be more to the point to complain about the teachers wasting the students’ time than vice versa.

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Don’t turn your back on the Wolfpack

[This story has been censored for the time being due to an ongoing campaign of legal extortion being conducted against bloggers by Righthaven LLC.]

Yes, Virginia, government roads really are government subsidized, and no, they don’t approximate freed-market outcomes

When left-libertarians argue with more conventionally pro-capitalist libertarians about economics, one of the issues that often comes up is government control over roads, and the ways in which state and federal government’s control over roads has acted as a large subsidy for economic centralization and national-scale production and distribution networks (and thus, to large-scale big box retailers, like Wal-Mart or Best Buy, dependent on the crafty arrangement of large-scale cross-country shipping as a basic part of their business model). People who have a problem with this analysis sometimes try to dispute it by arguing that government roads aren’t actually subsidized — that heavy users of government roads are actually getting something that roughly approximates a freed-market outcome, because users of government roads pay for the roads they get, in proportion to how heavily they use them, because government roads are funded by gasoline taxes, tire taxes, and government-imposed licensing fees, which all go up in cost more or less proportionally to increases in use of government roads. Thus (the argument goes), funding for government roads is more like a fee-for-service transaction on a freed market than it’s like a classic case of government subsidies. But in fact, this argument is completely bogus, for at least three reasons.

The first reason is that, contrary to popular misconception, government-imposed gasoline taxes and user fees on road users do not actually fully fund the costs of government road-building and maintenance; government funding of roads actually includes a substantial subsidy extracted from taxpayers independently of their usage of the roads. Government budgets for road building and maintenance in the US draw from general funds as well as from earmarked gas taxes and user fees, and those budgets are subsidized by state, local, and federal government to the tune of about 20–70 cents per gallon of gasoline expended.

The second reason, which ought to be obvious to libertarians given how much we have talked about the use of eminent domain over the past few years, is that government road-building is substantially subsidized by the fact that government can — and routinely does — use the power of eminent domain to seize large, contiguous stretches of land for road building at arbitrarily fixed rates below what the land-owners could have demanded in a free market land sale. Even if it were the case (as it is not) that usage-based levies like gasoline taxes and government licensing fees were enough to cover the budget for government road building and maintenance, that budget has already had a massive, unmentioned government subsidy factored into it due to the use of eminent domain.

The third reason is that a freed market is able to match the supply for roads to the demand at something like the appropriate cost not only because people pay for the roads in proportion to their use of the roads, but also because the prices for road use are set by negotiations between road users and road builders in a competitive market, and because the ownership and management patterns of roads are determined by patterns of free economic decisions to buy, sell, lease, develop, abandon, reclaim, and subdivide land. Freed markets aren’t just a matter of paying for what you get (as important as that is); they also have to do with the freedom to get what you get by alternative means, and with patterns of ownership and control based on consensual negotiation rather than on force. No matter how roads are funded, there is no way to approximate freed-market results with government monopoly on sales or politically-determined allocation of ownership. (Again, this is something that ought to be obvious; it is just the socialist calculation problem applied to the market for road transportation.)

And roads funded by government-imposed gasoline taxes will always be either noncompetitive or subsidized: if there were any significant private roads competing with roads funded by government gasoline taxes, the taxes on the gasoline that drivers burn on those roads become a subsidy to the government-controlled roads. The more users use the non-government roads, the more they would be subsidizing the government roads.

Further, the ownership and management patterns of government roads are determined by electoral horse-trading and arbitrary political jurisdictions, not by free economic actors. As a result, decisions about what roads to build, how to direct funds to those roads, how to price the use of those roads, etc. are typically made by state or federal legislatures, or state or federal executive bureaus. Governments are far more responsive to political than to economic pressure; governments generally will not, or cannot, sell off roads or spin off control over local roads to the people who use them most and can best manage them; state and federal governments exercise centralized control over far larger fiefs than it would ever be possible or profitable to amass on a free market. Thus, for example, because the building and maintenance of roads in Las Vegas is controlled, not by free market actors in Las Vegas, but rather by the Nevada state government, we have Las Vegas drivers paying in 70% of the state’s gas taxes and getting back only 61% of the state’s spending on roads (which is an increase over the 2003–07 average of 53%) — meaning that we are forced to turn tens of millions of dollars over to subsidizing highway building and maintenance in the rest of Nevada. Here’s NDOT’s reasoning as to why we should get stuck with the bill:

If NDOT based its road building program strictly on usage, [NDOT assistant director of engineering Kent] Cooper said, then no new highways would be built outside of Clark County.

He noted that freeways in Las Vegas attract 150,000 to more than 200,000 vehicles a day. No other area in the state has such high use.

Ed Vogel, Las Vegas Review-Journal (2008-11-26): Southern Nevadans get less bang for their road tax buck

Now, maybe Kent Cooper thinks that it is just and wise to force Las Vegas drivers to pay tens of millions of dollars in subsidies so that NDOT can build expensive roads that nobody wants to use.

Maybe he’s right about that, and maybe he’s wrong. But whatever the case may be, the only way to get freed market results in roads is by freeing the market. Under government ownership, government funding, and government control, roads are subsidized by taxes that are levied independently of road usage, built using a subsidy created by forced seizure of land, and users of high-volume local roads are typically forced to subsidize expensive, long-distance cross-country roads that they aren’t using. This kind of allocation of resources for long-distance, non-local highways — which further distorts an already subsidy-distorted system by distorting the flow of money within that system away from the heavily-used local roads and into the high-cost, high maintenance long-distance roads, can certainly not be called any kind of approximation of a freed market in roads.