Tag Archives: lawsuits

Texas Judge Abel Limas Casually Discusses Accepting Bribes During Recorded Phone Calls

The following post was shared with the CopBlock Network by a reader who goes by the pseudonym “The Poor & Unknown,” via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page. It details the case of a Texas District Court judge who basically put his services within the courtroom up for sale, accepting bribes from lawyers in civil rights lawsuits. In exchange for ruling in their favor during pretrial motions (thus avoiding having to present the case to a jury), Judge Abel Limas was payed kickbacks from portions of the damages awarded.

In order to facilitate this, some attorneys actually placed Judge Limas on the payroll of their firm and paid him a counsel fee. In the most prominent case mentioned below, he pocketed $250,000 from an award in a case involving a helicopter crash. Eventually, Limas was caught by the FBI, who recorded him talking about the deals he was making with those attorneys on the phone. (One of those phone calls is embedded below.)

Once he realized that they had enough evidence to convict him, Judge Limas made a deal to act as an informant. As a result of that ten other corrupt officials were also convicted. This included Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos, who accepted an $80,000 bribe to release a murder suspect without bail. That murder suspect subsequently skipped bail and is now a fugitive.

The details of that FBI deal showed that Judge Limas still has a gift for working out a deal to his benefit. Once Limas was finally sentenced for racketeering in 2013, he was allowed to serve his time at the Pensacola Federal Prison Camp in Florida. That prison has been described as one of “America’s cushiest” prisons. It’s anything but hard time as described by Valley Central.com:

Forbes Magazine once ranked the prison camp as No. 2 out of “America’s 10 Cushiest Prisons.”

According to a the magazine, inmates get to visit with their families in a tree-filled park on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Forbes reported that because the prison camp is located on an outlying base of the Pensacola Naval Air Station allowing inmates enjoy better jobs and recreational activities than those at other federal prisons.

The magazine reported that one high-profile white collar crime inmate got an air-conditioned office job on the base and got to see movies at a theater for servicemen.

Ironically, in that recorded phone call embedded below judge Limas joked about “leaving the money to you and going to jail for five years.” His sentence for the racketeering conviction ended up being six years.

Public Corruption: Courtroom for Sale

Abel Limas, 59, a lifelong resident of Brownsville, Texas, served as a police officer and practiced law before becoming a state judge in Cameron County in 2001. He served eight years on the bench, during which time he turned his courtroom into a criminal enterprise to line his own pockets.

“The depth of the corruption was shocking,” said Mark Gripka, a special agent in our San Antonio Division who was part of the team that investigated the case. “What was more shocking was how cheaply Judge Limas sold his courtroom—$300 here, $500 there—in return for a favorable ruling.”

There was plenty of big money involved as well. Limas received more than $250,000 in bribes and kickbacks while he was on the bench. He took money from attorneys with civil cases pending in his court in return for favorable pre-trial rulings, most notably in a case involving a Texas helicopter crash that was later settled for $14 million. Referring to an $8,000 payment Limas received in that case, our investigators listened on the telephone as he described the cash to an accomplice as eight golf balls. “Their code language didn’t fool anybody,” Gripka said.

Evidence also showed that Limas made a deal with the attorneys in the helicopter crash case to become an “of counsel” attorney with the firm. He was promised an advance of $100,000 and 10 percent of the settlement—all while the case was still pending in his court.

Over a 14-month period beginning in November 2007, investigators used court-authorized wiretaps to listen to the judge’s phone calls. “That’s when we really learned the scope of what he was doing,” Gripka explained. The judge’s nearly $100,000 annual salary was not enough to support his lifestyle, which included regular gambling trips to Las Vegas.

In 2010, when Limas was faced with the overwhelming evidence against him, he began to cooperate in a wider public corruption investigation—and our agents learned that the Cameron County district attorney at the time, Armando Villalobos, was also corrupt. The investigation showed, among other criminal activities, that Villalobos accepted $80,000 in cash in exchange for taking actions that allowed a convicted murderer to be released for 60 days without bond prior to reporting to prison. The murderer failed to report to prison and remains a fugitive.

Limas pled guilty to racketeering in 2011. By that time, he had helped authorities uncover wide-ranging corruption in the Cameron County judicial system. To date, 10 other defendants have been convicted by a jury or pled guilty as part of the FBI’s six-year investigation, including a former Texas state representative, three attorneys, a former investigator for the district attorney’s office, and Villalobos, who is scheduled to be sentenced next month on racketeering, extortion, and bribery charges.

“During the course of this investigation, FBI interviewed over 800 people, including many local attorneys in Cameron County,” Gripka said. The scumbags are all in it together the judges, cops, attorneys the whole lot of these devil’s.

– The Poor and Unknown

Abel Limas describes the bribery plot to an accomplice in a phone call that was recorded by the FBI via a wiretap. A transcript is also available here. Hear the judge for yourself explain how he steals money. He was caught in a recording red handed the RAT SNAKE.

The Many Ways That Police Brutality Payouts Cost Taxpayers

The following post was shared with the CopBlock Network by Martha K. Huggins, via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page. The post was originally published at the dailygazette.com under the title, “Police Brutality Raises Costs to Taxpayers.”

Martha K. Huggins is a Tulane Professor Emerita and scholar of Brazil, who has researched police violations of human rights in Brazil for 40 years. Huggins is now transforming that work to the US, where she is studying municipal government and the insurance industry’s direct complicity in promoting, covering up, and hence rewarding police violence.

Police Brutality Raises Costs to Taxpayers

Schenectady’s City Council has voted to use the general fund to pay the already bargained 2 percent raise for police. I assume the annual $2.5 million casino licensing fee — 80 percent of it — will now go for public education? Education must never be back-staged by ravenous “public safety” interests, yet addressing a police raise from the general fund is very problematical.

About 53 percent of Schenectady’s general fund comes from property, sales and use taxes, with the general fund’s single greatest expense, “law enforcement” — mostly for police salaries and pensions.

Schenectady police enhance their salaries with overtime, which elevates officers’ base pay and raises the city’s pension indebtedness.

Chicago’s taxpayers carry multiple general obligation bond indebtedness just for retroactive pension arrears and mounting police brutality lawsuits. Schenectady’s general fund itself is burdened with police brutality payouts: one in 2015 (man’s head slammed on sidewalk), another just filed (family brutalized), and yet another moving toward filing (woman’s head shoved in fecal-filled toilet).

Schenectady’s city officials “risk-manage” such police civil rights abuses by taxpayers’ insuring against expected police brutality, suggesting that police civil rights abuses are far from unusual. Schenectady’s general fund buys police-related liability insurance — around $100,000 annually — but police brutality payouts increase premiums and reduce deductible levels. Taxpayer money covers costs from deductibles and private attorneys’ fees to defend Schenectady police.

But the bitterest aspect of “risk-managing” police brutality is that the poor — statistically most likely to be abused by police — are those whose taxes go disproportionately toward lawsuit payouts and police salaries.

Schenectady must freeze police salaries, and now that a police chief is in place, a transparent system for evaluating police merit collaboratively must be worked out among city managers, taxpayers and the Police Benevolent Association (PBA). A public educated in city schools enhances “public safety;” police who violate civil rights weaken security and are taxpayer costly.

– Martha K. Huggins

Schenectady

Former Union College Professor

Pasco Police Who Shot Antonio Zambrano-Montes While His Hands Were Up Won’t Be Charged

Pasco Antonio Zambrano-Montes

Antonio Zambrano-Montes

The prosecutor for Franklin County, Washington announced on September 9th that none of the three Pasco Police officers, who shot Antonio Zambrano-Montes as he was surrendering in February of this year, would be charged with a crime. Zambrano-Montes, a Mexican immigrant and farm worker, had initially been throwing rocks at cars and other people, reportedly including the police. He had tried to run away from the police before he was shot. The shooting led to weeks of protests in Pasco and on a lesser scale among Latino immigrants throughout the country.

The shooting was caught on video and pretty clearly showed Zambrano-Montes had stopped and raised his hands above his head when Officers Ryan Flanagan, Adam Wright, and Adrian Alaniz fired the shots that killed him. However, according to Prosecutor Shawn Sant, no criminal charges could be filed because it could not be proved that the officers acted with malice when they shot an unarmed man who no longer represented a threat to them in any way.

Via King5.com:

“Sant said the evidence showed the officers used legal force as they tried to arrest a man who had assaulted them. Sant said he could not meet the high bar for criminal prosecution, which would require a showing that the officers acted with malice.

“Law enforcement officers do not have the option of walking away to dial 911. They are 911,” Sant said.

Sant said there was probable cause that Zambrano-Montes posed a serious threat to others.

“I believe a jury would not find the evidence of malice and the absence of good faith beyond a reasonable doubt in this case. We legally cannot charge police officers with a crime for exercising their discretion for using force in good faith and without malice,” he said.

As Sant read his statement, people in the courtroom called out, protesting his decision.”

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Officer Flanagan is no longer with the Pasco Police Department, having resigned to take some (undisclosed) job within the “local building industry” in June, although it was reported to be unrelated to the case. The other two officers have been on paid leave (AKA paid vacation) since Zambrano-Montes was killed.

Prior to the announcement by Prosecutor Sant, Gov. Jay Inslee sent a letter to the state attorney general requesting a review of the decision, regardless of whether the officers ended up being charged or not. In addition, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office is conducting it’s own investigation. There are also several lawsuits that have been or will soon be filed over the shooting.

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LVMPD Budget Cuts: Finally, Minorities and Poor People Benefit from the Recession

Guess who lives in the neighborhoods LVMPD “saturates.”.

Recently, Sheriff Doug Gillespie made an announcement that, due to budget shortfalls, Las Vegas police would be forced to shift 26 cops from the D.A.R.E program and one of four “saturation teams” back to patrol duty. This along with hiring freezes instituted earlier in the year, was of course couched in terms of Las Vegas area residents becoming less safe, as a result:

“Sheriff Doug Gillespie’s face was grim as he described the largest budget shortfall yet facing Metro Police: an estimated $46.5 million deficit for 2013…

‘Should the community be concerned,” Gillespie said in a Metro video. “Yes. They

Las Vegas Sheriff Doug Gillespie looking very much like he needs a hug.

should be concerned…’

Deputy Chief Kevin McMahill said in a Metro video he’s worried about the demands placed on remaining officers and the community.

‘Will it be less safe? That’s a tough thing for me to sit and say to you,’ McMahill said. ‘The truth is probably…'”

And not surprisingly, either, the affected programs are characterized as essential crime prevention tools that should take priority over everything else:

“They’re cops dedicated to preventing crime in the valley.

But now they’re a luxury the Metropolitan Police Department can’t afford…

“I think it’s one of the few ways we could keep kids off drugs. It’s bothersome to me and bothersome to the community,” he (Las  Vegas Police Union head Chris Collins) said.

But the cuts will continue until Las Vegas and Clark County, which fund about 70 percent of the Metropolitan Police Department’s budget, figure out their priorities, he said.

“You still see city and county parks are being built. Why are you building parks but not funding the Police Department to the level it needs to keep citizens safe?” he asked.

All this teeth gnashing and hand wringing over being unable to fund cops and stuff that the community actually benefits from kinda explains why the city recently implemented what amounts to a protection racket style extortion scheme against local artists participating in First Fridays a few months back.

However, reality tells a very different story in regards to both of these programs.

A License to Harass: Saturating Certain Communities

They’ll find an excuse to stop you (unless you’re in Summerlin).

The so-called “saturation teams,” which were conceived and implemented by Metro Capt. Jim Dixon and Gillespie (prior to him becoming the sheriff) back in 2005, are actually glorified harassment squads that descend upon designated areas looking for any excuse to stop, search, and arrest the people within those neighborhoods.

“They use whatever laws are at their disposal: jaywalking, riding a bicycle without reflectors, outstanding warrants. They work together, swarming “hot spots” around the valley…

‘We’re like wolves,” officer Justin Gauker says. “We travel in a pack.'”

Those of us that are familiar with the way these wolves usually hunt aren’t exactly shocked by the selective nature of their prey or even how brazen they are when discussing it:

 Sat team officers have to make constant judgment calls. They won’t pull over and arrest someone in Summerlin (a more affluent, predominantly white section of Vegas), for example, who doesn’t have bike reflectors…

It’s old-school policing with professionalism…

I wouldn’t exactly disagree that “old-school policing” often included a lot of  swarming through minority and poor neighborhoods rousting anyone that they arbitrarily decide “is up to something” or “doesn’t belong there.” However, the professionalism of punishing everyone who lives in a certain location for the actions of a small segment of that location’s residents is a little more subjective. Also, it’s no secret that police stop minorities more often, look harder for an excuse to search them once stopped, and are much more likely to make an arrest if something is found. There is a reason that “old schools” get closed down. Usually they provide really shitty educations.

 DARE: A History of Failure and Community Destruction

Meanwhile, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program is actually an overly expensive program that has consistently been found to be ineffective and even potentially counter-productive. DARE programs really are nothing more than a product of police desire to justify increased funding, allow access to children for propaganda and informant recruitment purposes, and even convince them to turn their own parents in for minor, victimless drug “crimes.”

The advent of DARE programs has correlated with a steep increase in drug use among school children.

“DARE is costly and ineffective. It wastes educational and police resources. The link between schools and drug police has become a sacred cow that leads to a false sense of security, despite clear evidence that DARE is a failure. Since its curriculum went national, two patterns have emerged: more students now do drugs, and they start using drugs at an earlier age…

DARE has a hidden agenda. DARE is more than just a thinly veiled public relations device for the police department. It is a propaganda tool that indoctrinates children in the politics of the Drug War, and a hidden lobbying strategy to increase police budgets.”

Even the psychologists that created the basis for the model DARE uses have since denounced it as “misguided and outdated.”

“DARE is rooted in trash psychology,” Colson told me two years ago. “We developed the theories that DARE was founded on, and we were wrong. Even Abe Maslow wrote about these theories being wrong before he died.”

Which is true, said Boulder psychotherapist Ellen Maslow, Abraham Maslow’s daughter. She called DARE “nonsense” in 1996, saying the program represented widespread misinterpretation of humanistic psychology.

The Economy isn’t the Only Reason Metro is Over Budget

A reenactment of local governments’ spending policies over the past few years.

At the root of all this is the basic question of why Metro is over budget in the first place. The economic downturn that has hit Las Vegas especially hard certainly plays a part in it, although the reserve fund area police accumulated during the good times has been able to offset that up until this year. The real reason that local police departments’ funds are running dry is because they spent the past few years throwing cash around like a drunken sailor on shore leave.

Local governments throughout Southern Nevada decided to disregard the economic crash that everyone else in the world saw coming and go on a spending spree beginning in 2009. The city of Las Vegas, which is responsible for 40% of Metro’s budget, spent $146 million building a new city hall building that they couldn’t afford to staff five days a week anymore by the time of its opening.

North Las Vegas, which flirted with bankruptcy last year prior to taking advantage of a loophole that allowed them to declare a state of emergency in order to circumvent mandated spending requirements and also has been threatened with a takeover by state overseers, spent $130 million on their own fancy new city hall.

LVMPD’s fancy new (and expensive) digs.

Not to be outdone, LVMPD decided that they needed to have a “place of their own” after getting by all these years using space within the old city hall building and rented spaces throughout different areas of town. Instead of joining in on the move to the new city hall or taking over an existing government owned property (including the old city hall), they began construction on a brand new 370,000 square-foot complex.

While the construction costs seems to be a better kept secret than the location of the Holy Grail, it’s been widely reported that they are paying over $12.5 million per year, plus an annual increase of 2%, on top of that to lease the land the new headquarters was built on from a private real estate company.

All of this spending is usually explained away by the fact that they were planned back during the “good times,” even though everyone of them actually received their final approval late in 2009, well after the recession had already begun. The other go-to justification was (as is often the case for these sort of things) job creation, which in reality has amounted to nothing but temporary construction jobs during the building phase.

In fact, the expenditures from that construction has actually eliminated permanent jobs. As mentioned, the Las Vegas city hall is now only open four days a week. North Las Vegas has not only laid off public workers (including cops and firemen), but has also closed down it’s jail and has been rumored to have made unsuccessful ovatures to merge their entire police force with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Sheriff Gillespie has up until now been able to stave off large scale layoffs at Metro by not replacing retiring officers, drawing off the once large reserve funds, and doing a bit of creative math to shift expenses around.

Las Vegas Police Shooting Themselves in the Foot

Not an actual Metro police training illustration.

Another factor that has become a negative draw on Metro’s budget has been their tendency to beat, kill, and otherwise abuse people around the valley including completely innocent people and people they just don’t feel like chasing. The 150+ settlements that Las Vegas area police have paid out over the last five years alone (plus another $20 million lawsuit already in the pipeline) come out of that reserve fund and, of course, your pocket. Between the $6.5 million in direct cash paid out and all the salaries being paid to cops sitting home on paid vacation while their friends in the department figure out a way to exonerate them, a lot of Metro’s personnel woes could be alleviated if they just started asking a few questions before shooting or at least afterwards.

The propensity that cops in and around Las Vegas have for brutalizing its inhabitants has both monetary and physical consequences. Since local taxpayers foot the bill for these settlements and most of the offending officers are still on the payroll, these budget cuts are actually one of the few times that local cops have in any way felt repercussions for instances of police brutality.

Unfortunately, it’s not the actual cops responsible for these transgressions that will suffer, but rather it will be new (as of yet) untainted recruits that won’t be hired as a result. However, on the upside, there will be one less saturation team available to harass and abuse people that can’t afford to live in Summerlin.

And that’s a good start…