Saturday, June 13, 2015

Prison: “Everyone thinks of escaping; they just won’t admit it”

Sarah Pender, right. 
The two convicted murderers who escaped from a New York state prison last week are running around freaking everyone out. Stories of fearful residents in areas all over the state are blowing up.
Chances are pretty good they’ll be caught in short order.
Why? They’re male, to start with.
Every so often we hear of an escaped convict who made the break only to be found years later, living a peaceful life as an upstanding member of a community, usually far away from the prison.
Most of the time – not all of course – they’re female.  People don’t seem to fall apart when it’s a female escapee.  In a CNN splash on the escape, the news group pronounces a dozen top manhunts. All are male.
This list of five crazy-ass escapes from 2013 is pretty funny; all are male escapees.
Think of Sarah Pender, the convicted murderer who broke out of an Indiana prison in 2008. She stayed gone for 136 days, befuddling everyone. In the book Girl, Wanted: The Chase for Sarah Pender, I outline how she eluded the cops and how she spent her four months of freedom.
She did in best by blending in. She found a guy who would help her out but the couple cavorted in casinos, ate in restaurants, and she worked a job as a bookkeeper for a Chicago construction firm.
This, despite the fact that she was on American’s Most Wanted several times.
“Everyone thinks of escaping; they just won’t admit it.”
Pender told that to a TV crew in 2009, not long after she was captured after spending 136 days on the run.
Of course. Who doesn’t want to escape from prison?
It’s a little easier than anyone wants to admit. Pender was trading sex to a guard, Scott Spitler, who provided her with some civilian clothes, a cell phone with which to coordinate her break and, as a parting gift, drove her through the gates in the back of a prison van.
Spitler got eight years in 2009 for assisting. He served in county jail, an easier place to deal with.  The authorities claimed it was for his protection.
From the book, Girl Wanted:
Sarah Pender had outwitted an entire prison system that is designed to avoid exactly such flights and had done so with a plan so simple, yet flawless, that it took two hours for prison staffers to determine that she was gone. The usual head count at 4 p.m. showed one prisoner short. As according to policy, a second count was done and again showed one inmate short.
At that point, all inmates were ordered back to their dorms for a one-by-one count. It was a top bunk along the south side that was empty in one dormitory: Sarah Pender was gone.

And the caper also had serendipity all over it. Sarah walked past an unmanned security checkpoint. New security cameras were slated to be installed the week after her brazen walkout, cameras that might have caught her in the act. The gate allowing her to meet Spitler was open. The guard at the gate leaving the prison failed to conduct a search of the van in which she was hiding, allowing her to leave the facility grounds. It was a festival of incompetence and corruption, and Sarah was both the leader and beneficiary of the fiasco.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

It's on - again. Juggalos vs. the Feds, Appellate mix

By now you know whose side you’re on. 
The court's spellcheck is apparently not working
On June 18, lawyers for the Insane Clown Posse will argue that the Justice Department violated the band’s free speech and due process rights – and those of its fans - after a 2011 FBI report determined those fans, “Juggalos,” are a gang.
Appellate arguments are scheduled in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.  Each side gets 15 minutes. It’s one more legal stop in the case of the Juggalos vs. the Feds, a case that was filed in January 2014.
A federal judge in June 2014 ruled that the plaintiffs - ICP and four of its fans - did not prove harm in their arguments in the original case.  They alleged the report led to targeting by police for wearing hatchetman or ICP-related jewelry, clothing and tattoos.
U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland said the U.S. Justice Department is not responsible for how authorities use the bi-annual national report on gangs.
The report "does not recommend any particular course of action for local law enforcement to follow, and instead operates as a descriptive, rather than prescriptive, assessment of nationwide gang trends," Cleland said in his ruling.
The FBI alleged in its 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment that Juggalos “exhibit gang-like behavior and engage in criminal activity and violence.”
The inclusion of Juggalos in the report was based in large part on news clippings sent to the FBI by various, mostly small town law enforcement agencies responding to an email from bureau employee.
Read how it went down in this High Times piece.
The gang designation led to articles in police publications such as this one titled, “Three things cops need to know about Juggalos.”
From the July 2014 article at Their philosophy and dress is derived from the Insane Clown Posse and Psychopathic records “Dark Carnival” from a set of 6 albums. Law enforcement professionals should be aware that this group routinely attracts members who come from difficult lives filled with trauma, parental neglect and, in many cases, serious mental disorders. 
This combination makes them easily manipulated by their leadership of radical organizations such as the Juggalos who have for the past several decades used these groups as recruiting centers.
Dale Yeager of Seraph — a Department of Justice Criminal Behavior Analyst on the Juggalos — said, “As various extreme environmental, animal rights and anti-globalization groups become emboldened by increased funding from NGOs and leftist political action committees, the use of youth movements such as Juggalos for recruitment of members will increase. 
In a legal brief filed in February on behalf of ICP, lawyers allege that the Department of Justice “maintains a digital warehouse containing Juggalo data that – by Congressional design – plays a leading role in law enforcement’s identification of gang members. The warehouse includes an encyclopedia of gang images and a database of materials cataloging distinctive First Amendment-protected Juggalo symbols such as the hatchetman logo and other ICP-related symbols and other information about these music fans. “
It goes on:
“Within these materials, the DOJ does not provide any way for law enforcement to distinguish the vast majority of law-abiding Juggalos from the purported “subsets” of gang members. Now, the DOJ suggests only a circular definition that the good Juggalos are the ones who don’t commit gang-related crimes.”
Read the plaintiff’s brief here.  
The Department of Justice hammers at what it claims is a failure to prove injury on the part of ICP and the four Juggalos, The DOJ insists that the gang report does not designate Juggalos as a gang. Instead, “the Report provides information on trends in gang activity, as reported to [the gang intelligence center] by other law enforcement entities. “
Read the government’s brief here.
Some say it comes down to the way the law is set up. The Feds can declare any group a gang. There is no established way to directly challenge such a designation. That leaves something blandly called the Administrative Procedures Act, which must be named so in order to get us to fall asleep before we can do anything.
But ICP is using that to challenge the FBI. And the Feds claim that the – wait for it – Administrative Procedures Act requires some sort of conclusion. That is, it has to be etched in stone that the Juggalos are forever a gang. And the FBI report didn’t do that for anyone, not the Crips, not the Bloods, not the Juggalos, insists the DOJ. It makes it a legal chore to dispute when the FBI says you’re a banger.
“Even if you have the money, the law is set up to make it difficult to undo either a state or a federal authority calling your group a gang,” says Alex Alonso, who runs the website and has testified over 50 times in gang-related cases.