Tag Archives: DoJ

Customs Officer Convicted of Stealing Over $65,000 Worth of Checks From International Mail

Carlos Canjura, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at the International Mail Facility in Torrance, California, was convicted of nine counts related to a mail theft ring he had set up. Canjura’s  job consisted of inspecting incoming mail from outside the country for contraband, counterfeit goods, and possible fraudulent financial checks or credit cards. Instead, he used that access to steal checks and money orders from the mail. He then had accomplices launder the money by depositing them using forged signatures.

He was initially arrested on suspicion of stealing three checks totaling $15,000. However, during the ensuing investigation it was determined that he had actually stolen more than a hundred checks with a cumulative value exceeding $65,000. He was convicted on all charges, which included multiple counts each of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, and possession of stolen mail.

Via a U.S. Department of Justice press release:

During the three-day trial, federal prosecutors proved that the defendant stole personal checks, traveler’s checks and money orders from international mail. Canjura then informed his co-conspirator about the stolen checks using messages with coded language like “centurions,” “troops,” “projects” and “cases” to refer to the checks. Canjura gave the stolen checks to his co-conspirator, who fraudulently endorsed the checks or altered them before depositing the checks at ATMs or through mobile phone applications. Canjura stole well over 100 checks with a cumulative value of at least $65,000.

“The public is entitled to use the mail system without fear that officials charged with safeguarding the mail are abusing it for their own benefit,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This defendant not only abused his position as a federal officer by stealing international mail, he also used the stolen mail in an elaborate scheme to defraud banks. In so doing, he violated the public trust he swore to serve.”

Canjura is scheduled to be sentenced on March 6 by United States District Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell. At sentencing, Canjura will face a statutory maximum sentence of 145 years.

That does sound like quite the elaborate code. Incidentally, I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for him to be sentenced to 145 years. My money’s on a really hurtful period of probation and a very sore wrist.

The Blue Mafia: New Book Explores Police Brutality and Consent Decrees in Ohio

The following post was shared with the CopBlock Network by Tim Tolka, via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page. Within the post, Tim discusses “Blue Mafia,” a book he wrote detailing police corruption and violence in Ohio, specifically concerning the police departments in Steubenville and Warren. Also included is a video preview of that book by Tim.

Tim also states:

The book is forthcoming and mentions all the officers involved by name with extensive documentation from the media, court documents, former and current officials and witnesses.

Blue Mafia: An Exploration of Consent Decrees in Ohio

A new book entitled “Blue Mafia” examines the nation’s second ever and fourth oldest Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations of patterns and practices of police misconduct in two small Ohio towns seated in Rustbelt Democratic counties. Ohio has hosted as many federal police misconduct investigations as New York state although it has only a fraction of its population. Only California has hosted more investigations than Ohio, although it has more than twice Ohio’s population. However, nowhere has the DOJ been resisted more fiercely than in Ohio.

In 1995, civil rights lawyer Richard Olivito began to feel hunted while litigating a civil rights case against the Steubenville police. He and his family received death threats. He and his wife survived two failed assassination attempts before placing a desperate call to the DOJ and driving to D.C. to meet with federal attorneys. The DOJ later sent two attorneys to investigate and requested a truckload of documents from the city of Steubenville. In 1997, the DOJ sued Steubenville for a pattern of civil rights violations and the city signed the second consent decree in U.S. history.

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The pattern of misconduct that caused Steubenville to become one of the less than 3% of municipalities saddled with a consent decree was essentially similar to that of the LAPD Rampart scandal. There were one or two allegations the DOJ was aware of against the police in Steubenville that not even the LAPD could touch. Steubenville has a history of corruption and organized crime which persists until the present day. The federal auditor for the consent decree eventually admitted that he couldn’t change the town’s culture or the choices of its powerful families.

Before the DOJ came to town, there were brutal and unaccountable police on the payroll of the mob in Steubenville. In 1986, the chief was accused of beating a white British woman who was with a black man in a Bob Evans, while yelling “niggerlover!” Once, an officer beat a woman with a chair inside the local courthouse, yet the chief famously refused to discipline his officers. Meanwhile, the county prosecutor was recruiting hitmen into an undercover narcotics task force and plotting to set people up, rob them and even murder them. Richard Olivito handled two criminal cases in which it was revealed in open court that an officer planted evidence and trafficked drugs. All these circumstances on top of forty-four court settlements in civil rights cases piqued the interest of the DOJ Civil Rights Division.

Six years after being involved in the DOJ investigation of Steubenville, Olivito again faced DOJ attorneys on the other side of a conference room in 2003. One of them asked, “Is it as bad as Steubenville?” Olivito replied,”I think it’s worse. It’s laced with racism.” Olivito visited the DOJ after he learned of strip searches, beatings and multiple alleged murders by the Warren police.

Warren was Ferguson ten years before the death of Michael Brown and had similar problems as recently reported by the DOJ in the Baltimore Police Department. In 2003, a video of three cops beating an African American was broadcast by national outlets. Strip searches were “routine” after traffic stops, if cops discovered the driver has a suspended license or acted in a way they didn’t like. A spree of volatile new lawsuits on top of more than fifty during the preceding decades as well as desperate calls from community leaders convinced the Bush DOJ to investigate in 2005, but the DOJ didn’t file a suit accusing Warren of a pattern and practice of civil rights violations until 2012.

Still today, no Warren officer has ever been fired for excessive force and no officer has ever been punished in a lethal force incident. The nine-year tenure of the department’s former chief, John Mandopoulos caused DOJ intervention after two years and a pattern of federal involvement which intensified after every presidential election. The WPD now hosts the fourth oldest DOJ investigation in the country, as they “strive everyday to reach compliance with the decree,” which must be maintained for two years in order for the consent decree to be lifted.

Blue Mafia portrays the challenge of civil rights on the frontline against police brutality in the courts and the streets of America. No other book examines the federal process of police reform in comparable depth, revealing the influence of local and national politics as well as insurers, law firms and police unions. Often, the DOJ is the last line of defense for small town residents, but it offers no remedy to those deprived and violated, only the promise of a less brutal future. For residents in Cleveland, Baltimore, Chicago and other cities with ongoing DOJ settlement agreements, there is much to learn from the experiences of Warren and Steubenville.

– Tim Tolka

Don’t Call the Pigs: An Informal Guide to Alternative Policing Within an Anarchist Justice System

This post was written by  and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Don’t Call the Pigs: An Informal Guide to Creating an Anarchist Justice System.” Posts and other content you think are worth sharing with the CopBlock Network can be sent in to us via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page. Some tips to make it more likely that your submission will get posted to the CopBlock Network can be found here.

(Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links may have been added within the text and images have been added. In addition, the conclusions expressed within this initial introductory summary represent my own interpretation of what is being stated within Logan’s own writings.)

In the post below, Logan discusses some alternative options for policing and specifically options which might arise within an Anarchist society. Initially, he also addresses the many issues with the current police, court, and prison systems and ways to counteract or avoid them. One of the most obvious and frequent questions asked of those who advocate replacing the current “justice” systems, is what would replace them and how regular people would defend themselves against criminals.

Don’t Call the Pigs: An Informal Guide to Creating an Anarchist Justice System

Anti-police sentiment is on the rise in America and around the world. In the wake of the death’s of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and countless others (Rest In Power), even the DoJ admits that at least some police departments are highly racist in practice and the Black Lives Matter movement has sprung up in response. Those from all sides of the political aisle have come out against police militarization. Pigs have been routinely denied service at various business establishments across the nation. On the inside, prisoners around the country have been on strike since September 9th, the 45th anniversary of the Attica uprising, with guards having recently gone on a solidarity work strike in support of the prisoners at Holman in Atmore, Alabama. So how do we, as anarchists, help provide tactics in the here and now for dealing with the state’s armed injustice system? But more importantly in the long run, how do we build alternative defense and justice systems?

How to Deal With the Pigs

It’s almost inevitable, especially if you’re working class, queer, a person of color, or an activist, that you will have to interact with the pigs at some point in your lifetime. This is why it’s important to hold community “Know Your Rights” workshops such as those offered by the ACLU or the National Lawyers Guild. Hold these workshops at your local infoshop, library, church, community center, or anywhere else where people, activists and non-activists alike, can learn how to hopefully more safely interact with the police. The ACLU also has an app which allows you to film police interactions and upload them automatically to the ACLU’s database for protection in case you phone is confiscated or broken. Groups like Copwatch and Cop Block also encourage people to film the police and hold them accountable for injustice and police brutality.

Movements like Black Lives Matter are currently fighting to curb police brutality by calling for police demilitarization, body cameras, community review boards, community election of police officers, disarming the police, actual punishment for pigs who break the rules, and the end of policies such as Stop and Frisk and Stand Your Ground. These demands hope to curb the worst violence on the way towards abolition.

Unarresting” people can be very risky, especially when you don’t have much support, but has been used as a tactic to free people who are being kidnapped by the pigs both at protests and elsewhere. If you’re up for the challenge then go for it! We need more people like you.

And don’t believe any of that sovereign citizen crap. Some of it sounds good in theory, but none of it has ever really held up in court.

How to Deal With Statist Courts

If you are arrested and/or have to go to court, finding a lawyer is usually key. Sometimes you can luck out and find a more radical public defender who took the job to truly help poor people but chances are you’re better off crowdfunding or throwing other fundraisers or looking for a lawyer who will work pro bono. Some groups, such as the Industrial Workers of the World’s General Defense Committee, are also set up to help pay for bail and legal fees for activists victimized by the state. If you’re looking for a good radical lawyer, depending on your case you could look towards the National Lawyers Guild, the Institute for Justice, or the American Civil Liberties Union. You could also ask you other radical friends for their local recommendations.

The now defunct nonviolent agorist defense agency Shield Mutual offered anarchists and libertarians protections against the state. Instead of armed protection, they promised services attuned to the needs of the individual. They could help with obtaining lawyers, crowdfunding for legal fees, setting up a public freedom campaign website, public relations, media promotion, and networking. They’ve even paid for a woman’s new plane ticket after she was detained by the TSA and missed her flight. The group operated as a friendly society where members paid monthly or yearly dues which went to the cost of helping its membership. They also had a peer-to-peer mutual aid network where members could request funds from other members for emergencies, business ideas, or other projects. Sadly this group has since disbanded (although their website is still up) but it still serves as a model for other agorist defense services.

If you ever happen to be summoned for jury duty, don’t try and skip out. Instead try and use the practice of jury nullification to keep people from being thrown in the state’s cages. The Fully Informed Jury Association has plenty of materials to read and learn from and regularly canvases outside courthouses where they’re active. Join or form a chapter, spread the knowledge. We can decide their laws are not worth enforcing.

How to Deal With the State’s Prisons

If you get locked up, it can seem like the end of the battle but that is far from true. Groups like Books for Prisoners supply reading materials, both radical and non-radical alike, to inmates for entertainment and education. Black and Pink and other letter writing groups provide companionship through becoming pen pals with those held hostage by the state.

In order to help change prison conditions and aid their eventual abolition, groups like Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the Free Alabama Movement, the Free Virginia Movement, the Prison Ecology Project, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty are essential. While some of these groups are inherently reformist, groups like FAMM and NCADP help fight against specific issues which will roll back the power of the state. Groups like the Prison Ecology Project focus on the high environmental costs of prisons. While on the inside, groups like the Black Guerrilla Family, IWOC, and other prison gangs, organizations, and unions offer a way for inmates to collectively organize against the pigs holding them hostage. IWOC, as a project of the Industrial Workers of the World, helps prisoners set up IWW branches inside prisons to organize against prison slavery and unfair living conditions.

The Anarchist Black Cross is dedicated to fighting for political prisoners and prisoners of war within the radical movement. They collect dues from its membership which are used to help prisoners with little to no resources obtain them, usually in the form of a monthly donation to an inmate’s commissary fund. They also help fundraise and advocate for POWs as well as doing letter writing and in person visitation. The Black Cross is organized by both allies and inmates who control the organization through directly democratic means.

For those trying to obtain freedom, having an outside network fighting for your freedom with online promotion, political pressure, phone blasts, demonstrations, etc. is a huge help. Nobody is going to pay attention to your case unless there’s enough pressure, such pressure works better in numbers, and such support comes through public awareness and media campaigns.

Failing that, there’s always escape.

Don’t Call the Pigs

One of the biggest things we can do in the here and now is stop relying on the police for protection. Don’t call them, don’t report crimes, don’t allow them in your businesses, don’t snitch. There are better ways of dealing with crime then turning to state violence.

Instead of calling the police, set up your own emergency networks. Have a network of friends, family, or neighbors who are willing and able to respond to emergencies and call them instead. Apps such as Peacekeeper and Cell411 make this process simpler allowing multiple people to be contacted at once with GPS directions and everything. Choosing the right network could lead to a faster response time and more adaptive tactics ranging from arbitration and conflict resolution to armed defense.

Essential to living in a society without pigs is learning self-defense. Martial arts, kickboxing, women’s self-defense courses, and firearms training allow individuals to help protect themselves and others from violence. Groups like the Sylvia Rivera Gun Club for Self Defense, Pink Pistols, and the Huey P. Newton Gun Club offer community firearms training to those in their community. The Huey P. Newton Gun Club actually promotes the idea of arming every black and brown citizen that can legally be armed in order to effectively protect themselves from police and white supremacist violence.

The Huey P. Newton Gun Club also advocates Black Panther style community patrols where they both protect the community from internal crime and violence in their communities and track police activity, filming them and yelling legal advice to those being harassed by the pigs while making it known that they are fully armed just in case the pig has any violent inclinations. Other anti-statist directly democratic community watch groups have also sprung up throughout history to protect communities without the need for the pigs.

In some places, especially in those where war or violence is more prevalent such as Rojava, these community watch groups take the form of voluntary militias. From the Zapatista Army to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, community regulated militias have proven an effective response to statist military and police forces. Currently the militia movement in america is of a decidedly more right-wing viewpoint, with groups like the 3%ers, and tend to carry with them underlying statist messages of patriotism and nationalism, but one can hope that a leftist militia movement will grow into a reality.

Grassroots rape crisis centers offer support geared towards the needs of the survivor and most will not go to the pigs unless asked. Some already offer restorative and transformative programs to help deal with the perpetrator as well while others should be so encouraged by their communities. And as communities look towards other institutional alternatives, the creation of private detective, forensics, and arbitration services can offer attempts at filling those needs.

Dispute resolution organizations (DROs) have been proposed as an alternative to police, insurance, and alternative dispute services. According to wikipedia, “The firms would be voluntarily contracted to provide, or coordinate with other firms to provide, services such as mediation, reimbursement for damages, personal protection, and credit reporting.”

Don’t Use Their Courts

Instead of relying on the state’s court system to solve disputes, turning to arbitration services, trained mediators, direct negotiation between either the two parties, or non-statist alternative dispute resolution between the parties’ lawyers or DRO(s) can offer solutions that are more adapted to the specific needs of the victims and the perpetrators. Community tribunals or courts could also be established in smaller communities to deal with situations directly as a community. Retribution for damaged property can be negotiated in such ways as could the establishment of a restorative and/or transformative justice process which normally takes the form of an accountability process negotiated by the victim and voluntarily fulfilled by the perpetrator. Indemnity services can also help pay for property damages in certain situations especially if no victim is caught.

Don’t Fill Their Cages

Establishing accountability processes for perpetrators of violent crimes helps address the needs of both the victim and perpetrator, helps to repair the damages made, and transform the perpetrator’s behavior in hopes that they do not continue to harm others. Un-cooperative perps are subject to social ostracization and denial of community services or support until they are cooperative. Repeatedly violent criminals are likely to eventually see the wrong end of a barrel of a gun in an armed anarchist community as self-defense is encouraged but in the here and now it’s best to familiarize yourself and your community with the local gun laws so as to know your rights when being attacked. Hold workshops to spread the knowledge you discover in your research or find a radical lawyer who will help you put together a workshop. Sometimes there are laws that make shooting to kill is legal while warning shots are illegal and that is just one example of such strange and backwards laws. Very rarely is shooting someone worth going to prison yourself so know the laws and weigh the options.

Freely available mental health resources such as medication and counseling or even support groups such as the Icarus Project would help alleviate the crime rate as those who suffer from mental health issues won’t be left untreated. This will not only allow for a way to deal with criminals who are mentally unstable in becoming stable but will help prevent crimes before they happen. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other addiction and rehabilitation programs offer a way to deal with drug and alcohol addiction without turning to punishment as the answer.

Creating a Less Violent Society

Moving forward we must continue the fight to demilitarize and disarm the police, to train in self-defense, and to set up our alternative justice systems but we must also get at the root of most crime in this country. Excessive laws and regulation, racism, sexism (including heterosexism and cissexism), and poverty are at the heart of most crime in this country. Repealing prohibitions on guns, drugs, prostitution, squatting, conducting business without a license, and the myriad of other prohibitions the state enacts will empty their prisons of a majority inmates who are locked up for victimless crimes. Taking care of their economic needs by making sure folks have food, shelter, medical care, and their other needs met either through better job opportunities in a freed market (or the agora as it stands today) or through mutual aid such as through groups like Food Not Bombs, free clinics, community lending programs, and grassroots labor unions will help combat economic crimes. As it stands most of those caught for theft, embezzlement, identity theft, robbery, and other economic crimes more often than not did so out of desperation to escape poverty. Taking care of the basic needs of your local community helps relieve such desperation and offers them the resources of survival so that they do not have to steal to obtain resources.

Nonviolent parenting, education, nonviolent communication techniques, and conflict resolution training can help to lead us to a better future where we can solve our own problems instead of relying on the state’s goons to kidnap and throw our enemies – and friends – in cages. The Audre Lorde Project’s Safe OUTside the System campaign teaches people how to set up safe spaces where police are not needed or welcomed. All of these ideas and more are things we could establish and do in the here and now to create our own justice systems in the traditions of agorism, dual power, and “building a new world in the shell of the old.” And with people begging for solutions with both the current ongoing national prison strikes and the movements for black lives and against police militarization, now is as good a time as ever to begin building and put these ideas into practice.

Spread the Word, Break the Chains!

The Department of Justice has (Finally) Decided to Start Keeping Track of How Many People the Police Kill

As everyone knows, the FBI and Department of Justice keep track of everything from how many people die sticking a fork in the toaster to how many times I stubbed my toe last year. So, of course, their is data and statistics on every crime committed in every city and state, no matter how minor they might be.

Similarly, you can easily look up how many and in what manner everybody who died in any given year met their ultimate fate. Except the one giant, glaring exception to that is the complete lack of any information related to the use of force and killings of citizens by police. It’s almost like they don’t want you to know just how bad it is or to realize that it is progressively getting worse every year.

This obviously has led to some people questioning why they would compile statistics on every  minor crime reported in the entire country but would not keep track of fatalities caused by police at all. One thing that does have to be pointed out is that this is a bit of a trick question because for some time the FBI has been mandated to include police related deaths. Local police departments across the nation have simply refused to comply (which for anyone not wearing a Magical Suit will often get you killed) by providing those numbers. Meanwhile, instead of requiring them to do so the FBI instead just threw their hands up and declared it an impossible task.

Now, however, after much criticism the DOJ has announced that they will begin actively compiling stats related to police killings and other types of violence.

Via the Hampton Patch (NH):

Until now, there has been no official nationwide effort to monitor the rates of police violence and killings in the United States.

“Accurate and comprehensive data on the use of force by law enforcement is essential to an informed and productive discussion about community-police relations,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch in a press release.

“The initiatives we are announcing today are vital efforts toward increasing transparency and building trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve,” she continued. “In the days ahead, the Department of Justice will continue to work alongside our local, state, tribal and federal partners to ensure that we put in place a system to collect data that is comprehensive, useful and responsive to the needs of the communities we serve.”

One of the biggest struggles in creating such a database is bound to be the localized nature of law enforcement, which gives a lot of administrative duties and day-to-day decision-making power to individual departments.

Prior to the Justice Department’s announcement, some news outlets have tried to provide as much data as they could on national police violence. By tracking local reports of police killings around the country, the Guardian, for instance, has found 847 incidents of civilians dying at the hands of cops in this year alone, in its database called “The Counted.”

It remains to be seen if the police will actually bother to report the amount of people they kill or if they will just ignore it again. Plus, the DOJ may once again respond by proclaiming it an impossible task instead of saying pretty please with sugar on top to see if that gets them to do it. Of course, the fact that it is so hard to keep a count of just how many people are killed by the police each year is pretty telling in and of itself.

US Marshals Assault Man Holding Sign and Filming on Public Sidewalk at Federal Courthouse

The video and content within this post were shared with the CopBlock Network by Kevin Bradley, via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page.

At the beginning of this video, a male U.S. Marshal walks out of the Herman T. Schneebeli Federal Bldg. & U.S. Courthouse, followed soon after by a female marshal. The male marshal begins telling Kevin that he has to leave the public sidewalk in front of the courthouse. Kevin refuses to do so, telling him repeatedly that he has a First Amendment right to protest on public property.

Eventually, the marshal goes back inside and Kevin continues his protest. In the process, he talks to several passersby, but otherwise there are several minutes of inactivity. However, at the end of the video another male U.S. Marshal, accompanied by the original marshal, walks outside the building and assaults him in an attempt to stop him from filming them.

After Kevin steps back and away from his reach, the newly arrived marshal begins telling him that he has to go across the street in order to protest while (very incorrectly) insisting that the public sidewalk is federal property. At one point, the marshal states, “you can go across the street or we can go another route.”

Kevin responds by (very correctly) asserting that the public sidewalk is public property and begins asking him for his name and badge number. The Marshal soon turns and walks back into the federal building, presumably realizing that he can’t intimidate Kevin into crossing the street. Throughout the video, all of the marshals refused to identify themselves and several times incorrectly claimed that public property actually belonged to the Federal Government.

Although it’s not shown in the video, Kevin states in the Youtube description that he stayed there for another 15 minutes without further incident. He also stated within the comments on Youtube that he has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Date of Incident: September 26, 2016
Department Involved: U.S. Marshals (Williamsport, PA)
Officers Involved: Wouldn’t give names or badge numbers
Phone Number: (570) 323-6380
Fax Number: (570) 323-0636
Address: Herman T. Schneebeli Federal Bldg. & U.S. Courthouse
240 West Third Street, Suite 218
Williamsport, PA 17701

If you have a video, personal story involving police misconduct and/or abuse, or commentary about a law enforcement related news story, we would be happy to have you submit it. You can find some advice on how to get your submission published on the CopBlock Network within this post.

Click the banner to submit content to CopBlock.org

Click the banner to submit content to CopBlock.org

I was walking around town with a protest sign that said, “Cops are the REAL TERRORISTS that we should all fear. Cops kidnap, torture, and extort money from people. Always film the cops.”

At the time of the video, I was standing in front of the Herman T. Schneebeli Federal Bldg. and U.S. Courthouse in Williamsport, PA. That is when the assault by the U.S. Marshals happened.

I think the lawyers in this town are nothing more than cop suckers, because no one is willing to represent me.

– Kevin Bradley

  Nepa Copblock

Two Georgia Cops Fired After Making Racist Facebook Posts Bragging About Targeting Black Drivers

Racist Georgia Deputies Fired

Note: If you have videos, stories, upcoming events/protests, or personal interactions with the police (and/or “justice” system) that you would like to share, send them to us and we will do everything we can to bring it to the attention of the world. In addition, you can visit the Nevada Cop Block resources section for information and links to the rights of citizens when dealing with police, during which you should always be filming.

Newly released information reveals that two cops from Georgia recently lost their jobs after making racist posts, in which they joked and even bragged about targeting black drivers. Deputy Brant Gaither was fired on July 25th and Deputy Jeremy Owens was forced to resign on July 26th.

Both had worked for the McIntosh County Sheriff’s Department. They also both worked on a special unit of Road Pirates that was assigned to generate revenue in the area between Savannah and Brunswick on Interstate 95.

They often commented back and forth on Facebook posts using language that was sexist and also derogatory toward black people. The messages also referenced intentionally targeting black drivers for traffic stops.

Via USuncut.news:

According to records obtained by the Atlantic Journal-Constitution, the officers referred to African Americans as “N*ggs” and “colored people.”

One message featured an image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., underneath the two men denigrated King’s famous “I have a dream speech.”

  • “I have a dream. That one day my people will not act like animals,” posted Gaither.
  • “Lol. That’ll never happen,” replied Jeremy Owens.

There was also an exchange in which the men made light of domestic violence against women, and in another, the men shared an offensive joke about fried chicken and a black pregnancy test.

But, perhaps the most disturbing message made reference to their patrols on the highway and seemed to suggest that the men targeted African American motorists. Owens said:

  • “It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. Might not get too many niggs.”
  • “I hope we get a few but (expletive) if we don’t,” Gaither responded.

The Southern Center for Human Rights believes this case could be indicative of a much larger cultural problem within the department. The sent a lawyer to the county in September to investigate both the deputies and their former employer.

According to Sarah Geraghty, the center’s managing attorning (sic) for impacting litigation, the non-profit firm is in the process of preparing a formal request for the U.S. Department of Justice to open an investigation.

  • “This case goes deeper than two officers caught using racist language on their personal social media pages,” Geraghty said. “The messages reference an explicit intent by these law enforcement officials to ‘get’ black motorists. Our investigation to date suggests that this may be the tip of the iceberg.”

According to Sheriff Stephen D. Jessup, the racist posts were uncovered in July when another deputy was issued Owens’ old computer, which still contained access to his Facebook account.

Reportedly, once Deputy Gaither learned that he was going to be fired, he admitted it and stated: “It was just a joke, we all do it.” Whether that was some sort of Freudian Slip or Gaither actually meant consciously to acknowledge that “all” cops make racist jokes and target black drivers is a bit speculative at this point.

Related Content on NVCopBlock.org:

One-Third of Bad Apples Fired in Wisconsin are Hired by Good Cops in Another Police Dept

Recently a local news station conducted an investigation after learning that a newly hired officer at Wisconsin police department was previously fired for misconduct. Not only that, but it turns out that Police Captain Steve Lesniewski, who recommended that officer be hired, knew about his history and failed to disclose it.

Back in 2012, then Milwaukee PD Officer Kurt Kezeske was involved in a high speed chase with a motorcycle that included “blazing through Bay View blowing through red lights and stop signs, nearly hitting a semi, and driving over a curb.” The chase eventually culminated in the cyclist almost being killed and another driver’s car being totaled. (See embedded video below.)

Except in the case of violent felonies, high speed chases had been banned by the Milwaukee Police Department two years earlier. Due to that policy and the fact that he lied, both during and after the chase, about the motorcycle attempting to ram his police car to justify it Kezeske was fired.

None of that was disclosed to administrators involved in hiring police officers in the Village of Eagle. Instead, they were just told about his 18 years of experience. Greg Hein, chairman of the Eagle Police Committee that vets candidates, has no recollection of that being mentioned. According to Hein, they based their recommendation to hire him on Captain Lesniewski’s positive referral.

The Eagle Village Board of Trustees in turn voted to approve his hiring based on the recommendation of the Eagle Police Committee. Village Supervisor Mike Rice states that had he known about Officer Kezeske’s history of committing perjury on official police reports and to investigators he would not have voted to hire him. Captain Lesniewski for his part admits to knowing about Kezeske’s history, but uses the old fall back of it being a “personnel matter” to avoid commenting on the issue.

Of course, people might say, “this is just one small town with just a handful of cops that got duped into hiring a proven liar to a position that has the power to throw people into jail based on his word or even “fear for his life” knowing that he can lie and get away with it, then just go apply for a police job in another city.”

However, this is far from an isolated incident. The Village of Eagle is just one example of the rampant problem of bad cops moving to a new city and getting rehired as a police officer. In fact, in the state of Wisconsin over one-third of cops fired by one department are now working in another department within the state.

Via Fox6Now.com:

Kezeske is hardly the first fired cop to get hired by another department.

The FOX6 Investigators asked the Wisconsin Department of Justice for a list of every police officer in the state who’s been discharged from duty since 2012 — and where they work now. It took the department 42 days to turn over the list. And when they did, every officer’s name was blacked out.

In a letter to FOX 6 News, attorneys for the Department of Justice argue that releasing officer’s names might subject them to personal attacks and could have a chilling effect on recruitment. The records they did release show that more than one-third of the officers discharged since 2012 are already back on the job somewhere else.

Sharon Royston says she’s not surprised it happened in Eagle.”I don’t think it should’ve happened,” she said, ” I was never allowed to see any background checks. Never.”   Royston is a former member of the Eagle Village Board, ” 40% of our village budget is going towards the police department and I didn’t think, and a lot of villagers didn’t think, we were getting our money’s worth.”

It was Royston who exposed a secret deal that allowed the last police chief to retire with a two-year severance package. A highly unusual deal the village is still paying for, but can’t explain  because of a confidentiality agreement.  “We’ll never know. They are prevented from telling any details,” Royston said.

So Royston spearheaded an effort to eliminate the Eagle Police Department and have Waukesha County patrol instead, but voters shot it down. That was before officer Kezeske was hired full-time in May.

After the Fox 6 Investigators started asking questions, the Eagle Police Committee met to talk about their hiring practices, but they declined to talk about any officer in particular.

“I think we’re gonna have to… I don’t know what we’re gonna have to do, to be honest with you,” Hein said to colleagues in the meeting.

Rice says he never would have voted to hire Officer Kezeske had he known about his background.

“The biggest thing is the falsifying reports and I think that would concern anybody here,” Rice said.

But the one man who admits he knew, didn’t seem to share his concern.

“Did you know about the background? ” (Fox 6 Investigator) Polcyn asked.
” I did,” Captain Lesniewski said.
” You did? And you were ok with that? Polcyn asked, as Lesniewski walked away.

It’s kinda odd that all these Good Cops we here about so often never seem to have any concern about what the Bad Apples are up to and are always more than happy to help one of their “brothers” out, even after they’ve been fired for blatant misconduct. And sending the list with every name blacked out was a cute touch by Wisconsin DOJ to keep their end of that bargain.

There’s also several issues beyond what is mentioned in the Fox6 article that points to this being a much larger problem than one-third of the Bad Apples being rehired to point guns at people. Their investigation didn’t look into cops being allowed to quietly resign or retire. I guarantee you that number is dramatically higher than the ones outright fired. And it’s not hard to deduce that their rate of being rehired is a lot higher than one-third.

It’s also not clear from the report whether they looked into fired Wisconsin cops being rehired by out of state police departments. That potentially could change the percentages quite a bit. This obviously isn’t a problem just in Wisconsin, either. It’s not at all unusual to trace the history of police involved in severe cases of misconduct or egregious use of force and find out they have a long list of complaints against them and in many cases a firing or resignation from a different department in their past.

“Justice” For The Wealthy, Law Enforcement For The Poor

This post was written by  and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “America’s Divided Justice System.” Posts and other content can be submitted to the CopBlock Network via the CopBlock.org Submission Page. (Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links were added within the text.)

The post consists of a book review of “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gapby Matt Taibbi. That book relates to what is effectively two different “justice” systems faced by the wealthy and the poor, minorities, and immigrants. The latter group is the target of enforcement policies such as “broken windows” and “zero tolerance” that emphasize cracking down on even the most minor of crimes, often times consisting of victimless crimes. In contrast, the former group benefits from policies that have come to be referred to as “too be to fail” or “too big to jail” that effectively allow fraud and other financial crimes when committed by wealthy people.

Obviously, the disparity between the ability of wealthy people and poor people to hire lawyers, expend time, and utilize personal connections within that system in order to fight any charges they may face exacerbate those differing experiences with the judicial system even further.

America’s Divided Justice System

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap by Matt Taibbi (2014).

One does not often find it a pleasant surprise to receive unpleasant information, but this is a reaction many readers will get from Matt Taibbi’s 2014 book The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. While the book has largely been billed as a piece on the evils of growing economic inequality in the US, a more accurate description would be that it documents the discrepancy in how the American legal system treats wealthy offenders as opposed to poor ones. Taibbi’s thesis is that America’s legal system lets the wealthy get away with massive injustices, while the poor, racial minorities and immigrants are faced with draconian punishments (not to mention nightmarish bureaucracy) for minor violations and even unsubstantiated allegations. The picture he paints is not a pleasant one, but the author’s storytelling ability and grasp of the subject matter make for a surprisingly enjoyable read.

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap

Matt Taibbi is best known as a generally left-of-center columnist for Rolling Stone, for which he is arguably the star political writer. He has also written for The Nation, Playboy and New York Press as well as several books of his own. While Taibbi is clearly in the liberal or social democratic camp, The Divide offers much that is of interest to libertarians, especially where it criticizes the excesses of bureaucracy and the prosecution of victim-less crimes. Left libertarians especially will appreciate that the book strongly echoes their concerns that the state actively takes actions that make the poor even worse off. While Taibbi uses statistics to make his case, the real driving force of the book is his depictions of specific examples of injustices. In these anecdotes the human consequences of plutocracy are vividly illustrated.

Taibbi alternates between stories of white collar criminal activity going unpunished and mean-spirited state aggression leveled at poor people. This does well to illustrate Taibbi’s point that the rich and poor in America live in two different worlds when it comes to treatment by law enforcement. However it may be the book’s biggest weakness for some readers who will find the back and fourth changes in setting distracting. To his credit, Taibbi ultimately ties his narratives together, asserting that lax treatment for the rich and overly harsh punishment of the poor combine to form a dystopian reality.

Taibbi begins with Eric Holder, the Clinton administration official who would become Attorney General under Barack Obama. In the late nineties Holder authored a memo which made explicit the concept of “Collateral Consequences.” Holder argued that courts could consider the indirect negative economic consequences of subjecting large companies to legal penalties if a court ruled against them. This idea would later become known as “too big to fail” and by extension “too big to jail.”  Between his time with the Clinton and Obama administrations, Holder worked with Covington and Burling, a law firm that pioneered the use of “Collateral Consequences” to keep major companies from facing legal penalties. Taibbi largely credits the Clinton administration for passing laws which  exacerbated the disparity in legal punishment between the rich and the poor. Specifically he notes that Clinton’s presidency marked a time of agreement between democrats and republicans on “getting tough on crime,” specifically crime committed by poor people. leading to the escalated war on drugs and increased prison population (specifically the black prison population) during Clinton’s presidency. This was coupled with an increased leniency towards crimes committed in the financial sector. Taibbi claims it is no coincidence that Goldman Sachs was among the biggest contributors to both Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns (not to mention Hillary Clinton’s current campaign).

All of this occurred during a sharp decrease in overall crime, which continued through the 2000’s. Taibbi notes that as crime decreased police officers whose performance and promotion potential was evaluated on numbers of arrests were forced to chase increasingly pettier offenses. Police adopted a wide net strategy, comparable to fishing with dynamite, in which large numbers of ostensibly “suspicious” poor or working class people would be searched, arrested, ticketed, or issued summons for minor violations which they may or may not have committed. These offenders almost certainly did not have the time or money to fight the allegations in court. Arrests for marijuana and violations like “blocking pedestrian traffic” sky-rocketed. Taibbi discusses one instance where the accused chose to fight this particular allegation due to the fact that the supposed offense took place on a morning when there was no pedestrian traffic. His own defender and the judge had little knowledge of how to handle this as the entire system is set up to encourage guilty pleas for such offenses. In another instance cops accuse a young man of drawing graffiti in black ink with a pink highlighter. Unsurprisingly police cruelty, dishonesty and downright stupidity are often on full display in this book.

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Taibbi gives a great deal of attention to Howard Safir, the Giuliani-appointed New York Police Commissioner, who expanded the “Broken Windows” and “Zero Tolerance” policies of his more well known predecessor Bill Bratton, with an even greater focus on arresting and fining people for petty offenses. Under Safir, arrests for marijuana sky rocketed. Taibbi notes that the accused faced hours on end at court hearings, in which large numbers of cases are reviewed by judges who themselves would rather be anywhere else. The court appearances and other bureaucratic red tape often forced the accused to take time off from work or seek child care that they otherwise would not have to. Taibbi discusses many of the violations reviewed as “administrative crimes” which while technically illegal do not cause demonstrable harm to anyone. While crime with actual victims had gone down, police focused on violations of arbitrary statutes. Illegal immigration is one example. Taibbi relates this to occurrences of police setting up “drunk driving” checkpoints at the roads going in and out of immigrant neighborhoods during times when people would come and go to work. He notes that the increased deportations that occurred under the Obama administration enabled a massive kidnapping industry in Latin America, in which kidnappers would locate deportees while seeking ransoms from their remaining relatives in the US.

Elsewhere Taibbi discusses the collapse of Lehman Brothers and its secret backroom deal with the English firm Barclays that ripped off millions from smaller creditors around the world. This section is an excellent primer on the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis. As is the chapter on JPMorgan Chase, which committed massive fraud involving fake credit card judgement. He notes that the business of collecting delinquent credit card debt itself relies on fraud, as it would be uneconomical for collection agencies to review the actual records of the alleged debtors. Often they instead employ “robo-signing” (the practice of having entry level staffers sign as many documents as possible, without actually reading them) and “gutter service” where a server may or may not deliver a summons to an accused who may or may not show up to contest the allegation. In all cases discussed, real people are genuinely harmed and the perpetrators are never given more than negligible fines. He also contrasts the treatment of crimes committed by HSBC (a firm that has worked with murderous drug cartels and Islamist terrorists) to the disproportionately worse treatment of small time drug users.

In one of the more interesting stories of the book, a gang of well-funded hedge fund managers attempt to bully the owner of a smaller insurance firm, Fairfax Financial Holdings, into going out of business through an elaborate campaign of harassment, threats, late-night phone calls, and phony accusations of a criminal activity. This may be of interest to libertarians looking for a starting point to a discussion of what forms of malicious activity do and do not violate the non-aggression principle. Similarly, Taibbi’s discussion of welfare recipients who largely forgo their right to freedom from government search and seizure without probable cause is a potential starting point for conversation. Such people are often subject to inspectors rooting through their underwear drawers and bathrooms looking for evidence of unreported income. While Taibbi’s sympathy for people on welfare may rub some mainstream libertarians the wrong way, he argues that regardless whether one opposes the welfare state or not, one should find this excessive, especially when such zeal for fraud prevention is not matched when it comes to white-collar criminals committing the same crimes on a larger scale.

Banner - Tunnel1Overall Taibbi finds that the poor are subject to bureaucracy while the rich are able to become bureaucracies in and of themselves by hiring lawyers capable of generating decades of red tape for anyone who makes any accusation against them. He feels that America has such love for and fear of people with power and money and disdain for those who lack it, that its people allow two divergent class-based legal systems to govern. The book is an engaging and often entertaining read that will likely find a sympathetic ear from anyone who values justice.

Federal “Investigations” Only Enable Local Police Departments’ Abuses

The following post was originally posted at NationalInterest.org by  under the title “Washington Can’t Fix Broken Policing.” It addresses the idea that having a the Department of Justice (DoJ) or some other federal agency such as the FBI investigate abuses by local police or court official will lead to a fair or meaningful resolution.

Despite the prevalence of calls for the Federal Government to intervene in high profile cases, the truth is that what really happens when the Feds step in is it delays and distracts from the original issues and almost always leads to (intentionally) ineffective and superficial reform proposals, most of which are often not even adopted.

Many times after the “investigation” by federal officials has afforded time for tempers to cool and the spotlight has been removed from those on the local level, they end vindicating the abusers anyway or proposing a slew of hollow changes. When the “cavalry” arrives, they’re usually shooting blanks.

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Washington Can’t Fix Broken Policing

Federal intervention allows local officials to evade responsibility.

It has been one year since Freddie Gray died while in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department. Gray’s death sparked peaceful protests and then calamitous riots that brought international attention and prompted the deployment of National Guard units. While local prosecutors indicted the officers involved in Gray’s arrest, the federal government promised to investigate the entire police department for a “pattern or practice” of constitutional violations. The impending outcome of that inquiry seems foreordained. The real question is whether federal monitoring can truly fix a broken police department. The conventional wisdom is that it can, but experience tells us that it can be counterproductive.

Since the Ferguson riot in 2014, police departments across the country have been under unprecedented scrutiny. When a pattern of wrongdoing or dysfunction is exposed, we hear a familiar refrain: this department is so bad that it is incapable of correcting itself, so federal intervention is necessary. After some initial resistance, the city of Ferguson has now agreed to a federal monitor. Last week, Newark also agreed to a federal monitor, to oversee its troubled police force. The Justice Department has also investigated and instituted reforms in many of the United States’ big-city police departments—Los Angeles, New Orleans, Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, to name a few.

Police StateClearly, police misconduct is more widespread than many want to admit. In Chicago, the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, caught on camera, has roiled minority neighborhoods because they see it as only the most recent episode of police wrongdoing there. It is safe to say that other cities may be one incident away from similar unrest.

Mayors and city councils don’t want police misconduct to occur, but in too many cities they let the problem fester. To the extent that they’re even paying attention, the typical political calculation seems to be this: it’s better to have the support of the police department and police union come election time, so don’t take steps that they will oppose.

There is, however, a cost to that political calculation: minority resentment toward city government—especially the police. After all, the victims of illegal detention, illegal searches and excessive force have friends, neighbors and relatives. And when bad cops are not dealt with, it is not unfair to conclude that the department itself is indifferent to injustice. This explains the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

When a shocking incident of police misconduct comes along, the fecklessness of local governance is exposed in the glare of the media spotlight. Suddenly, reporters are asking pointed questions. Exactly how many people have been shot by the police department? Why was video evidence withheld from the public? What accountability systems are in place to track and remove problem officers?

The optimal moment for police reform comes in the immediate aftermath of a police scandal. The public is aroused, and if the problems run deep into the department itself, voters want those problems corrected. Local politicians find themselves on the spot. They can’t afford to appear uninterested, but they’d rather not fight the police department either. Instead of rolling up their sleeves to make some politically difficult decisions, they posture as reformers by joining the chorus calling for a federal civil rights investigation.

When the feds do intervene, everyone seems to be pleased. The heat is off the local officials to address police misconduct. They say they’ll have to await the outcome of the federal investigation before taking any action. Federal officials are pleased because they are seen as the cavalry coming to the rescue. Civil rights activists are satisfied because they think a federal lawsuit will bring about needed reforms. The police department and police union benefit as well. The intense media scrutiny will now fade as the months roll past.

Unfortunately, federal intervention has a counterproductive “enabling” effect: it allows local officials to evade their responsibility to fix broken police organizations. When the local politicos make a plea for federal intervention, it deflects attention away from their oversight failure and actually squanders the prospect for sweeping changes at a pivotal moment.

There is a borderline reverence for federal intervention among academics and journalists, which has blinded them to political dynamics that should strike us as odd. On the surface, it appears as if the feds are imposing wide-ranging reforms on local officialdom. In truth, however, the local officials chose that outcome once the feds were invited in. Here’s the quandary: the local politicos had the capability to enact reforms all along, so why didn’t they embrace such measures to head off a federal lawsuit? Experience has shown, time and again, that local officials would rather cope with federal monitors than fight powerful police unions.

Federal monitors have not succeeded where local officials are intransigent about reform. Arizona’s Joe Arpaio, sheriff of Maricopa County, is an example. Arpaio may lose a case in court, but he remains defiant and wins reelection. There have been improvements in the cities with reform-minded mayors and police chiefs—but in those cases, federal monitors were never really necessary. The monitors merely provided the local officials with additional political leverage against the police lobby. Local political fights, however, should not be considered an appropriate basis for federal lawsuits and federal takeovers of local police operations.

Police misconduct is a serious problem. If the solution was simple, it would have already been adopted. The hard truth is that a good police department requires the sustained commitment of locally elected officials to that goal. If that commitment is absent, federal intervention will only obscure that reality, and make it more difficult for voters to hold the local politicos accountable for their neglect.

Jails and the “Justice” System Punish the Poor For Being Poor

This post was written by and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Prisons Don’t Bail Out the Poor.” Posts and other content can be submitted to the CopBlock Network via the CopBlock.org Submission Page. (Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links were added within the text.)

This post relates to the exploitation of the poor and vulnerable members of society by law enforcement and the court system. Oftentimes, people of lower economic classes and especially minorities within that demographic end up in jail and/or prison simply because they don’t have the means to defend themselves from allegations made against them. This also makes it that much more likely innocent people will accept plea deals just to avoid serving more jail time while awaiting trial and/or to avoid the risk of more severe punishment should they lose.

A significant percentage of those “crimes” they are prosecuted for are victimless crimes in the first place and many are actually predicated on conditions created by poverty. In addition, minor crimes of that nature often lead to more harsh punishments for future transgressions by creating a long criminal record that is used to justify tougher sentences, even though that record consists of things more affluent people would never be arrested or prosecuted for. In many cases, building a criminal record based on such minor offenses is an intentional strategy used by law enforcement against the poor for that very reason.

Previous posts by Nick Ford that have been shared on CopBlock.org can be found here, here, here, and here. If you appreciate the things Nick has written, you can support him directly here.

Prisons Don’t Bail Out the Poor

The New York Times recently reported that on March 13th, Jeffery Pendleton was found dead in his jail cell. Pendleton was a homeless man who lived in New Hampshire and had been arrested on March 8th for outstanding fines and possession of small amounts of marijuana. His set bail of $100 was prohibitively costly for him and he was left to languish in his cell until trial, over a month later.

According to New Hampshire’s state experts, there were no sign of foul play.

Pendleton’s family disagrees, saying on a GoFundMe campaign that aims to bring Pendleton’s body home: “His body has been viewed by a second source and we have found that we were lied to by the medical examiner in New Hampshire as well as the jail. … The second report completed in Arkansas states there are clear indications that Jeffery was harmed prior to his death and likely that harmed caused his death.”

Pendleton’s death, whether a freak accident or something more, reflects a disturbing trend of individuals, particularly lower-income and people of color, dying in jail cells. Another high-profile victim, a black woman named Sandra Bland, died after only three days in jail in 2013. Her death was ruled a suicide but her family, like Pendleton’s, disagreed.

Prison Profits Poor PeopleIn practice, jails tend to work as places where lower-income people must be processed and held until they can be processed again. As Gilles Bissonnette, a director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire said of Pendleton’s case, “at that point, he would have effectively served his sentence before he ever had an opportunity to contest the charge — an outcome that only a poor person would be confronted with.”

The issue of prohibitively high bail is serious enough that the Department of Justice (DoJ) released an official statement around the time of Pendleton’s death. Such statements don’t have the force of law, but they can influence shifts in policy by making the federal government’s position clear on a given issue.

At one point the statement says “[b]ail that is set without regard to defendants’ financial capacity can result in the incarceration of individuals not because they pose a threat to public safety or a flight risk, but rather because they cannot afford the assigned bail amount.”

As such, jails are often used as pre-detention centers that skirt around Constitutional requirements of “fair and equal treatment” under the law. If poor people are regularly locked up and have bail set without regard to their ability to pay then equality under the law seems like an unlikely outcome.

But even if we tried to make bail set partly on the basis of financial stability and well-being, this would not be enough. Whether it comes to police and civil forfeiture, the criminal justice system and plea deals, or the prison industrial complex, the state’s profit motive leads them to seek monopoly profits to the disadvantage of the accused and convicted.

As the New York Times notes, this report by the DoJ, “…echoes the conclusions of the Justice Department’s investigation of the Police Department and court in Ferguson, Mo. Investigators there concluded that the court was a moneymaking venture, not an independent branch of government.”

But “independence” is a meaningless term when the government has created and reinforced perverse incentives that treat individuals as a stream of revenue. Fixing that isn’t going to be accomplished by sending letters to courts and politely asking them to change. In fact, the way to affect change isn’t to ask nicely for the government to play by its own rules. We’ve been doing that for too long to no avail.

It’s time we made up our own rules and played by them ourselves in peaceful and creative ways. This means building alternative forms of dealing with crime that don’t rely on punishment being the focus of rehabilitation. It also means not treating money as the sole way that people can help atone for their offenses.

But of course, Pendleton didn’t do anything wrong.

Well, besides being poor.