Tag Archives: taxes

Seven Baltimore Police Officers Arrested on Multiple Federal Charges in Racketeering Indictment

Baltimore Gun Task Force Racketeering Indictments

Yesterday, seven cops from the Baltimore Police Department were charged with multiple federal crimes in a racketeering indictment. Sgt. Wayne Jenkins and Detectives Momodu Gondo, Evodio Hendrix, Daniel Hersl, Jemell Rayam, Marcus Taylor, and Maurice Ward were all accused of “shaking down citizens” for cash, as well as filing false court paperwork and making fraudulent overtime claims. All seven were part of the “Gun Trace Task Force,” which worked to remove illegal guns from the streets in Baltimore.

In addition, Det. Gondo was also indicted on drug charges with five other people that are not police officers. That indictment included using inside information to tip off drug dealers regarding BPD investigations. Gondo was also accused of being directly involved in the drug operation itself.

The crimes were uncovered in the process of an ongoing probe by the FBI into a pattern of civil rights abuses perpetrated by members of the Baltimore police. That probe was initiated after attention was focused on the city by the murder of Freddie Gray in April of 2015 and the subsequent riots.

Via the Baltimore Sun:

(United States Attorney Rod J.) Rosenstein accused the officers of participating in “a pernicious conspiracy scheme” that “tarnishes the reputation of all police officers.”

“These defendants were allegedly involved in stopping people who had not committed crimes, and not only seizing money but pocketing it,” he said. “These are really robberies by people wearing police uniforms.”

All seven officers appeared in handcuffs and street clothes for initial hearings in U.S. District Court in downtown Baltimore on Wednesday afternoon. Each was represented by a court-appointed attorney. Each affirmed he understood the charges against him.

All of the officers were ordered held pending detention hearings. Hearings for Gondo, Hendrix, Hersl, Jenkins, Rayam, and Ward were scheduled for Thursday. A hearing for Taylor was scheduled for Friday.

Prosecutors and the officers’ attorneys will argue at those hearings about whether the officers should be released before their trials.

Family members of several officers were in the courtroom and voiced their support and love before the officers were taken away. Family members declined to comment.

Defense attorneys for the officers said they were still getting acquainted with the allegations in the indictment.

Police union President Gene S. Ryan said union officials were “very disturbed” by the charges against its members.

“These officers are entitled to due process and a fair trial in accordance with the Constitution and the laws of our state,” Ryan said in a statement. “It would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment until the charges leveled against these officers are finally resolved.”

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said the involvement of federal authorities “confirms the inherent difficulties with the BPD investigating itself,” and warned the indictment would have “pervasive implications on numerous active investigations and pending cases.”

Her office was not involved in the investigation, and was not informed of it until Wednesday morning…

Some of the officers have long been accused of using excessive force or of other wrongdoing. The city has paid out more than $500,000 in settlements in cases involving the officers, according to a review by The Baltimore Sun.

Members of the city’s state legislative delegation called for a federal investigation into Rayam in 2009 after he was involved in three shootings over the course of two years. The city has settled multiple lawsuits involving Hersl.

“The majority of these officers have been known to my attorneys as having significant credibility issues,” Baltimore Deputy Public Defender Natalie Finegar said. “We have aggressively been pursuing personnel records to be able to highlight the issues with their credibility on the force.”

Rosenstein said federal prosecutors quietly dropped five cases involving the Gun Trace Task Force while the officers were being investigated.

As recently as October, the Police Department was praising the unit in an internal newsletter for its work getting guns off the streets. The unit made more than 110 gun arrests in less than 11 months last year…

In one incident in September, federal prosecutors said in court papers, the officers stopped an individual leaving a storage facility and said they had a warrant to search his storage unit. They did not, authorities said. Hersl, Jenkins and Rayam then took a sock containing $4,800 and removed $2,000, prosecutors said.

Rayam was recorded telling Gondo that he had “taxed” the man, prosecutors said.

“He won’t say nothing,” Rayam was recorded saying, according to prosecutors.

A month earlier, prosecutors said, officers pulled a man over, detained him and took drugs and $1,700 from him. No incident report was prepared regarding the stop, prosecutors said.

In another incident in July 2016, prosecutors said, they stole $70,000 and divided the money up.

Prosecutors said the officers alerted each other to potential investigations into their activities, coached each other to give false testimony to internal affairs investigators, and turned off their body cameras to avoid recording their encounters.

The criminal activity occurred throughout 2016, prosecutors said. The Justice Department was investigating the department for much of the year.

Justice Department investigators reported that the department routinely violated individuals’ constitutional rights by conducting unlawful stops and using excessive force, among other problems. They concluded that those practices overwhelmingly affected residents of poor, predominantly black neighborhoods.

The Justice Department and the city agreed to terms of a consent decree in January outlining sweeping reforms to the department. That agreement awaits approval by a federal judge.

“We wouldn’t be under a consent decree if we didn’t have issues,” Davis said. “We have issues.”

Meanwhile, the officers’ work was celebrated by the department. Lt. Chris O’Ree wrote in October that the seizure of 132 guns in less than 11 months was “no small task.”

“Their relentless pursuit to make our streets safer by removing guns and arresting the right people for the right reasons has made our City safer,” O’Ree wrote.

Prosecutors also said the officers filed for overtime they didn’t work. On one day in July 2016, prosecutors said, one of the officers told another about being in the poker room at the Maryland Live Casino in Anne Arundel County. The second officer said he was going to get a drink, prosecutors said. Both filed for overtime that day, prosecutors said.

Jenkins nearly doubled his annual salary of $85,400 with $83,300 in overtime in 2016, prosecutors said. Hersl was paid $66,600 in overtime on top of a base salary of $77,600. Taylor made an extra $56,200 on top of his $66,800 salary.

There’s several things that are interesting about this case. One is the fact that, just several months ago the Baltimore Police Department, who was not informed of the investigation until the indictments were ready to be filed, was praising the great work of these same officers. Despite that praise, even before these indictments, several of them already had a history of misconduct complaints, including allegations of violence.

Beyond that, the very nature of the case involves a bit of irony in the characterization of the crimes committed. In his speech while announcing the indictment, Rosenstein described what they were accused of this way: “These defendants were allegedly involved in stopping people who had not committed crimes, and not only seizing money but pocketing it. These are really robberies by people wearing police uniforms.”

Of course, if they had limited themselves to finding an excuse to stop drivers out on the highway, oftentimes whose only “crime” is having out of state license plates, then they could have legally and without any recourse taken whatever cash those drivers had on them. Such cash seizures require no conviction or even so much as the filing of criminal charges. In reality, you could say that the only difference between what they did and drug forfeiture laws was the part about them personally pocketing the money.

In fact, in essence the only real difference between the officially sanctioned robberies by people wearing Magic Uniforms and the ones these guys will eventually be given probation and/or community service for was that they didn’t give the government its cut of the profits from their self described “taxation.”

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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

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Oppose the Return of the More Cops Tax to Las Vegas: Tuesday Sept. 1st

lvmpd_badge1Last year, former Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie’s continuous attempts at a “More Cops Tax” failed to pass in the County Commission, after dozens upon dozens of citizens commented in person against the proposed tax hike, and hundreds of signatures against it were submitted to the commission. Shortly after, Gillespie announced his decision to not run for re-election, and recently, the big pusher on the commission during the last attempt, Tom Collins, resigned. Even current Sheriff Joe Lombardo and the Police Protective Union were against the More Cops Tax. Well, now it’s back, as a proposal to increase the county sales tax rate by .05 percent.

In case you haven’t been keeping up with the local scale of the police brutality issue, we are not spared and have still not seen ONE Metro cop arrested or jailed for any murder, no more than one ever fired. Just a couple weeks ago, this hit really close to home for me when a friend of a friend, Abel Correa, was killed by Metro police, apparently for holding a screwdriver a few feet away from them in a closet he was cornered in. The body cam footage shows how their statement that he “lunged at them” was another exaggeration and surely their latest tally in forever getting away with murder. Another man was killed just this weekend.

More Cops Tax Form

If you’re unable to attend the county commissioners’ meeting in person you can still use this online form to make sure your voice is heard. Click the image above to go here: http://www.snwatchdog.org/more-cops-tax-form/

We have not seen some drastic rise in crime and even though Sheriff Gillespie last year took the dramatic reactionary gesture of stopping police from responding to fender-benders, they still show up in 4s and 6s to detain pedestrians and arrest people for traffic violations. And of course, no need to even mention the overt intimidation tactics used by Metro on opponents of the tax as a whole following last year’s commission battle… but you can look back through my 2014 blog if you’d like a taste.

There are many reasons to oppose the tax, and following are some clips of last year’s dissenting comments, then recent quotes from people opposing the new incarnation as well. You can submit your comments using this form if you can’t make it to the public hearing tomorrow, Tuesday September 1st, 2015, in the Commission Chambers the Clark County Government Center (500 S. Grand Central Parkway) at 10am. Let’s make it another filled-room record number turnout!

(Facebook event page)

More Cops Tax 1 Highlights:

Reasons people are against the current More Cops Tax:

“Because my household is taxed 39% of our income, then we are taxed on sales, then taxed when we leave money to our children! That’s triple taxation and under our constitution, there’s to be no double taxation! Thirdly, we have enough law enforcement in this city.” -Rachel Kline

“The People have not been shown a forensic audit that was requested as far back as 2013. We need to be able to assess if there have been any significant changes made to reel in this huge budget that has had much waste in the past. The liability insurance alone has gone up so high, so we need to see if there has been any special training implemented to change that direction. The forensic audit would help Sheriff Lombardo as well as he also could see where the weak areas are. The forensic audit is a win, win.” -Liberty Shirl

“Las Vegas has a higher per capita ratio of cops to citizens than Chicago or LA. We have enough cops. Their time is being grossly mismanaged. Money is being wasted at an alarming rate. Metro has an undercover fleet that would make NY jealous and is unnecessary. SWAT units that could be its own army. It’s insane. The spending is out of control. We don’t need more cops or more taxes. We need responsible representatives, not millionaire cops and legislators.

(Also) how much money is spent on payouts against metro for unlawful actions….and administrative leave pay. That needs to end before more tax money is taken from citizens.” -Karen Steelmon

Sheriff Gillespie 2.0, Sheriff Lombardo“More $ for police means they will continue the militarization against private citizens, with military assault vehicles, weapons, and attitudes. The people are not the enemy. Fix the system that allows discriminatory practices, like Driving While Black, Shoot to Kill, MMJ patients are Criminals.” -Diane Kuroda

“More Cops Tax is fiscally irresponsible money management. In a quick survey on the average police pay around the country, we find police in Nevada are the highest paid police force, and Clark County being the highest paid in the state. I found that in Arizona, our neighbor to the south, the average starting pay for a police officer is roughly $15,000 a year less than the average starting pay in the entire state of Nevada, and an additional $15,000 more if compared to just Clark County.Our neighbor to the north, Utah, has an average starting pay for police at $56,000 a year, give or take a few hundred dollars. This is roughly $34,000 a year less than the officers in Clark County. The difference in pay is the average starting pay for a teacher in Clark County.

In California, the average pay for a police officer starting out is roughly $59,000 a year. The average pay for a police officer at LVMPD is $89,000 a year. Roughly $30,000 more a year than a state that has 3 of the largest cities in the Nation. Again, the difference in pay is the average starting pay for a teacher in Clark County.

Las Vegas is ranked 29th in in the nation for city size and population, but has a police force ranked 7th largest in the entire country! Our police force is ranked #1 for highest paid police force in the United States. We should not have one of the largest police forces, with the highest pay in the entire United States with a population of tax payers not even making the top ten! It’s greed. It’s misappropriation of funds. It’s malfeasance! It’s falsely thinking the job of a police officer is more important than the job of a teacher! With our school system ranking 50th in the Nation, our administration has the gall to ask AGAIN for an increase of pay for police, but ignores the obvious shortfall in education. We are sick of it!

We have shortages in every industry BUT police. It’s about time we stop giving all our funds and tax dollars to fund an over paid police force, and start funding for our future by hiring teachers, do something about the homeless population besides brutalize them with the use of police force. Do something about the water shortage. Do something about the energy shortage, but seriously, stop trying to increase the police force, their pay or their benefits.

Every police officer hired is directly responsible for lacking one teacher. That’s big because we have a severe lack of teachers and education funding.

They are over paid, underworked, overly aggressive and over privileged! I urge our elected officials to stand with the people who elected them and vote no again on the New Cops Tax until education is fixed!” -Becca Martin

Las Vegas Review-Journal Editorial against the More Cops Tax:

“But this scaled-back, countywide sales tax increase to boost police budgets isn’t worthy of approval because it has the same flaw as its predecessors: It burdens taxpayers to bail out fiscally unsustainable local governments that have no interest in making hard decisions and prioritizing their spending.

… We already have the best-paid local government workforce in America (including Metro officers), and that comes at a cost. And don’t get us started on the city of Henderson, which just increased recreation fees, provided its police with a 2.5 percent raise that will cost about $1.2 million per year going forward and has too many institutional problems to list here. Henderson doesn’t need more police or more tax money, yet it’s about to get both.

Police funding is not a crisis in Southern Nevada. The money is there. The More Cops tax means more of the same for every local government in the county. We can’t afford that.”

The new tax hike is just as needless as it was in 2013-14, so here is a compilation of links and videos prepared for last year’s fight as well:

Videos and articles to get you ready for the “More Cops Tax” hearing

Here was a compilation of police brutality prepared just before the last tax hike attempt and another created this year:

More related links:

Clark County Budget:

Special thanks to:

Southern Nevada Watchdogs

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Matthew Townsend: Facing a Felony Charge For a Facebook Post

This was received anonymously, via the CopBlock.org submission page:

MeridianPoliceOn February 2nd, 2015, Idaho’s most prominent Cop Blocker Matthew Townsend was engaged in a one-man protest on a sidewalk in Meridian, Idaho when he was accosted by Meridian Police employee Richard Broadbank who accused him of “blocking traffic.” When his attempts to get Matthew to agree with him and submit or incriminate himself failed, Broadbank resorted to saying “well, I saw you…” [blocking traffic.]

 

At this point, Matthew told officer Broadbank “then charge me.” and pushed the crosswalk button, and proceeded to cross. Broadbank was silent for a moment, and when Matthew was halfway across he began to shout that he’s not done with him yet. Matthew was then arrested for “resisting and obstructing,” simply for exercising his rights.

 

Then on the evening of March 20, Matthew was arrested again and charged with a felony for a Facebook post, in which he explained that he intended to protest and shed light on the Meridian police if this asinine charge wasn’t dropped.

 

Matthew is being retaliated against by the Meridian police and city for being an activist, and the local mainstream media simply isn’t going to cover anything that offers the local police in anything other than a glowing or magisterial light. Please share this article by journalist William N. Grigg on Matthew’s abduction in order to help spread Matthew’s side of the story, and protect activism from unjust police abuse and silencing.

 

Will Grigg‘s article on Matthew’s plight is the most complete and informative. That is what I’m looking to spread far and wide. If Matthew isn’t safe to protest and exercise his rights, none of us in Idaho are.

Included below is an excerpt from that article at William N. Grigg’s blog, Pro Libertate:

A Felon for a Facebook Post: The Abduction of Matthew Townsend

Matthew Townsend was made an offender for using a sidewalk without a police officer’s permission, and then accused of a felony for publishing a Facebook post about the incident.

 

“Apparently, holding a protest sign, or condemning government abuse on Facebook, is enough to make somebody a terrorist now,” Matthew wearily observes.

 

A small, wiry man with a luxuriant beard and a contemplative demeanor, Matthew is gainfully employed in Meridian, Idaho as a cook. That is to say, he feeds people, rather than feeding upon them. His abductor, Officer Richard Brockbank of the Meridian Police Department, makes neither butter, nor shoes, nor poetry; instead, he makes “offenders” out of people who have done no injury to anybody.

 

Matthew at home (photo by A.J. Ellis)

On the evening of February 2, Matthew – a part-time liberty activist – was conducting a one-man protest outside the local branch office of the oxymoronically named Liberty Tax Service. That company often pays people to publicize its services by standing on a sidewalk dressed as the Statue of Liberty.

 

A devout believer in the principle of truth in advertising, Matthew attired himself in a Grim Reaper costume holding a protest sign. One side bore the inscription “Taxes [do not equal] liberty”; the other pointed out that “Taxes fund terrorism.”

 

“An officer pulled up and told me that I had to get out of the road, and that I couldn’t be blocking traffic,” Matthew recalled during an interview in his home. “He tried to get me to agree with him that I was blocking traffic. And I didn’t. He asked me for my name; I gave him my name. He asked me for my ID; I told him I didn’t have it on me.”

 

The officer, later identified as Richard Brockbank, continued to “build the stop” – that is to say, probing for an excuse to arrest someone who had not committed an actual crime.

 

“He asked me if I had been drinking and … kept trying to get me to agree with him that I was blocking traffic,” Matthew continued. “He said, `Well, I saw you.’ I said, `Then charge me.’ And he was silent – just stops, silent. I turned around and hit the button [on the crosswalk signal light]. It said `Go,’ so I started crossing. Half-way across the intersection he starts yelling that he’s not done with me. I stopped on the next corner. He walked over there, and other officers pulled up, and I got arrested.”

 

At least two other officers responded to Brockbank’s urgent call for assistance. As he conversed with his supervisor, another officer took the opportunity to lecture Matthew about his civic responsibilities.

 

“He told me that I need to read the Constitution,” Matthew told me. Either out of politeness or a prudent desire not to antagonize his captor, Matthew refrained from pointing out that he has probably forgotten more about that document than the officer has ever learned…

 

…His kidnappers demanded a $300 ransom – or, as they would insist on calling it, “bond” – and designated March 19 as the date for a court hearing to validate the abduction.

 

On the eve of that pretrial hearing, Matthew posted a notice on his Facebook page describing Brockbank’s actions as “terroristic in nature and in other ways unconstitutional and criminal.”

 

“The cop refused to charge me for said `crime’ that he was accusing me of and so I walked away,” he explained, “and was soon after kidnapped and hauled away by several costumed State goons for my disrespect of officer Brockbank’s harassment towards me.”

 

Given that the charge against him was entirely devoid of merit, Matthew continued, he would seek its dismissal. If this didn’t happen, he advised, “I will begin a non-violent and legal shame campaign that will be remembered. HOA [Home Owners Association]`upsets,’ protests in the aggressors neighborhoods (I know where you all live- this is notification of knowledge and future protests, not a threat), mailers, door hangers, online ads, local and (hopefully) national media- I’ve done it before and I can do it again as well as other peaceful, but… annoying avenues will commence.”

 

Nothing in that post constituted a threat or an incitement to violence. It was a pure exercise of what we are told is the constitutionally protected right to petition for a redress of grievances – in this case, armed abduction under color of “law.” When Matthew showed up for his hearing a few hours later, however, his court-appointed attorney informed him that the Ada County Sheriff’s Office was prepared to arrest him at the courthouse.

 

Matthew’s Facebook post was being treated as a “terroristic threat” – and a warrant was sworn out by Meridian Police Officer Shannon Taylor accusing him of “attempted intimidation of a states [sic] witness.”

To read the post on Pro Libertate in it’s entirety, click here…

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Larken Rose is Coming to Las Vegas – Saturday, August 2nd

(This was originally published at: EYEAM4ANARCHY)

“Government Is Not Your Friend” 

Learn why government is not merely inefficient and corrupt, but can never and will never be conducive to civilized society.

Larken Rose will be coming to Las Vegas Saturday, August 2nd, to do a talk about the government and its true effects on society. The talk will start at 5:00 p.m. (but feel free to be early) lasting until 7:00pm and will be held at “The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf” (4550 S. Maryland Parkway) right across from the main entrance of the University of Nevada Las Vegas (see below for map). Food Not Bombs Las Vegas, a grassroots mutual aid group that reduces waste and supports the local community by preparing food that would otherwise be thrown out and sharing it with hungry people, will be sponsoring the event and Nevada Cop Block will be hosting it.

Larken Rose is a well known Anarchist writer and political activist. He’s also pretty well known for having challenged the legitimacy of income taxes and for subsequently being sent to prison. In addition, he has been published on the Cop Block site, including a post and video entitled “When Should You Shoot a Cop?” That video was the subject of a lot of controversy as a result of it’s provocative name and subject, which consists of asking at what point people are justified in physically opposing the actions of an oppressive government. It should be a very informative and entertaining evening.

Larken plans his talks to be at a level that is good even for the 99.9% of the population who haven’t really thought much about the basis of statism before. So if you’re in the area, find a way to bring along a statist or two! It will be casual, fun and comfortable (it’s happening at a coffee shop, after all).

Plus, it will be free. HOWEVER, while he doesn’t like charging people to attend the talks and presentations he gives, he also doesn’t like being destitute, and it does cost him money to get from one place to another around the country, which is one reason he doesn’t plan on any more speaking tours after this trip (and that is another reason you shouldn’t miss this one). So, if you plan on attending–or maybe even if you don’t–and want to chip in a few bucks so the thing isn’t a loss for him, he would very much appreciate that. It’s also a good way to encourage other speakers and personalities to add a Las Vegas stop to their schedules.

If you are so inclined you can send contributions in one of two ways (or even both, if that’s what you want to do):

via PayPal to:
[email protected]

via Bitcoin to:
16rhWV17H3HCCQw6hUfHsZ93fYMS1kvUeL

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