Undersheriff and Captain Indicted on Federal Obstruction Charges

Originally published on May 16, 2015, at NationofChange.org

A former Los Angeles undersheriff and sheriff’s captain surrendered to authorities on Thursday after a federal grand jury indicted them on obstruction and conspiracy charges. Accused of corruptly influencing and impeding an FBI investigation into abuse and bribery within the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD), former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and retired Captain William “Tom” Carey allegedly ordered deputies to secretly transfer an FBI informant under false names and engage in witness tampering. Former Capt. Carey has also been accused of providing false testimony in two separate trials.

In September 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a report documenting over 70 instances of excessive force, misconduct, and sexual assault committed by deputies. A few months later, the ACLU sued the Sheriff’s Department accusing then-Sheriff Lee Baca and Undersheriff Tanaka of covering up and condoning violence against prisoners. After attempting several times to notify Baca and his staff about the abuses, corruption, and misconduct committed by deputies at Men’s Central Jail (MCJ) in Downtown Los Angeles, former sheriff’s commander Bob Olmsted contacted the FBI.

“I knew I had to act, and as a result, I notified the FBI of the department’s culture and acceptance of excessive force, inmate abuse, sheriff’s gangs, and corruption,” admitted retired Cmdr. Olmsted.

According to the indictment, a former deputy, an ACLU employee, numerous inmates, and a chaplain all reported witnessing deputies using excessive force against inmates. In May 2010, a former LASD deputy trainee reported to Carey that the trainee, his training officer, and several other deputies participated in a premeditated beating of an inmate with mental disabilities.

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Video Exposes Police Officer Pepper-Spraying Handcuffed Teens

Originally published on May 14, 2015, at NationofChange.org

The NAACP released a video this week of a police officer shooting pepper spray into the faces of two handcuffed teenagers sitting inside a holding cell. After receiving the video in the mail, the president of the Alton NAACP decided to share the video with the public. Although Alton Police Chief Jason Simmons knew about the abuse since March, he admitted that it took the officers involved two months before finally writing a report on the incident.

In the video dated January 26, 2015, two handcuffed teenagers are waiting in a holding area at the Alton Police Department in Illinois. The teens remain seated when the door opens and Officer Vince Warlick appears in the doorway holding a can of pepper spray. After briefly speaking to them, Warlick suddenly maces both of them in the face without provocation.

One of the teens writhes in agony for several minutes, while the other struggles to remain composed. Both are reportedly residents of the Catholic Children’s Home in Alton.

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Third Blogger Hacked to Death within 3 Months

Originally published on May 13, 2015, at NationofChange.org

Masked men with machetes ambushed a secular blogger on Tuesday morning and hacked him to death on his way to work in Bangladesh. Although the victim’s name was reportedly on a list of targets compiled by Islamic extremists for assassination, police have not arrested anyone for his murder. Ananta Bijoy Das has become the third blogger within the last three months butchered in public for supporting science and reason over religious fundamentalism.

According to police, Das was headed to work at a bank in the city of Sylhet when four masked assailants attacked him on the street with machetes. Sylhet Metropolitan Police Commissioner Kamrul Ahsan told reporters, “They chased him down the street and first attacked his head with their machetes and then attacked him all over his body.”

After the attackers fled into the early morning crowds, Das was transported to a hospital where he was declared dead on arrival. Although Das worked for a bank, he also contributed to the blog Mukto Mona(Free Mind) and was the editor of a scientific magazine named Jukti (Reason). While mainly writing about science and evolution, Das had also been critical of religious fundamentalism and recent violence against secular thinkers.

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LAPD Chief Rebukes Officers for Killing Another Unarmed Homeless Man

Originally published on May 9, 2015, at NationofChange.org

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck expressed sharp disapproval this week after reviewing a security video of two police officers killing an unarmed homeless man near Venice Beach. Although the homeless man appeared to be struggling with the officers in the video, Chief Beck could not justify their actions in taking the unarmed man’s life. Police have refused to release the footage due to recent social unrest.

Around 11:20 p.m. on Tuesday, two LAPD officers responded to a report of a homeless man with a dog harassing customers outside of a building in Venice, California. After briefly speaking with Brendon Glenn, the officers let him go and returned to their patrol car. According to police, Glenn began walking toward the Venice boardwalk with his dog, Dozer.

But a short while later, the officers reported witnessing Glenn physically struggling with a bouncer outside of a bar. They attempted to detain Glenn and engaged in a physical altercation with him. According to witnesses who have seen a security video of the incident, the officers fought with Glenn before successfully taking him to the ground. Just as the officers appeared to gain control over Glenn, one of them stood up and started walking away.

In the video, Glenn manages to stand up while allegedly struggling with the other officer. Witnesses assert that Glenn was not reaching for the officer’s firearm when the other cop shot him at least twice from a few feet away.

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DEA Agents Reprimanded for Forcing Student to Drink His Own Urine to Survive

Originally published on May 7, 2015, at NationofChange.org

According to the Department of Justice, six DEA agents were either reprimanded or received short suspensions for leaving a UC San Diego engineering student jailed for five days without food or water. Although the student almost died of dehydration, near-kidney failure, and a perforated lung from a suicide attempt, no DEA agents were fired or indicted on criminal charges.

Engineering student Daniel Chong was smoking marijuana at a friend’s apartment in San Diego early on the morning of April 21, 2012, when DEA agents raided the residence. Chong and the other detainees were transported to a DEA field office in Kearny Mesa and interrogated. After the agents determined that Chong had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time, they decided to release Chong without charges and even offered to give him a ride home.

Instead of releasing Chong, the DEA agents claimed that they simply forgot about him. Left handcuffed in a windowless five-by-ten-foot holding cell, Chong endured the next five days without any food, water, or human contact. Dying of dehydration, Chong was forced to drink his own urine in order to survive.

“I had to do what I had to do to survive…I hallucinated by the third day,” Chong recalled. “I was completely insane.”

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NY Senate Leader and Son Arrested on Corruption Charges

Originally published on May 5, 2015, at NationofChange.org

New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam Skelos, were arrested on Monday on federal corruption charges. Accused of committing fraud, extortion, and accepting bribes, Skelos allegedly abused his official position to solicit nearly $220,000 in payments to his son. After NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested in January for accepting roughly $4 million in bribes and kickbacks, Adam purchased a burner phone and naively shared the number with a confidential informant working with the FBI.

On December 20, 2010, Dean Skelos met with a senior executive, a lobbyist, and the founder of Glenwood Management, a real estate development firm. According to the complaint against him, Skelos directly asked them to send Glenwood’s title insurance commissions and other business to his son in exchange for negotiating upcoming legislation renewals. Unbeknownst to Skelos, the senior executive at the meeting would end up cooperating with the FBI and secretly recording their conversations.

After several meetings with Skelos, the FBI informant at Glenwood caused a $20,000 check to be issued to Adam from a title insurance company dependent on Glenwood for business even though Adam did no work for them whatsoever. The informant also arranged for an environmental company named AbTech Industries to hire Adam in 2011 as a consultant and pay him $4,000 each month for his father’s political influence. With financial investments in AbTech, the informant and Glenwood’s founding family had substantial influence in hiring Adam at AbTech. In a conversation recorded in February 2015 by a senior AbTech executive who recently began cooperating with the FBI, Adam admitted that he became a consultant for the company even though he “literally knew nothing about water or, you know, any of that stuff.”

When Skelos felt that AbTech was not paying his son enough money, he threatened to block Nassau County’s approval of a $12 million contract with the environmental company unless payments to Adam were sharply increased. AbTech’s CEO begrudgingly agreed to increase Adam’s payments to $10,000 each month in exchange for the contract’s approval.

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13 Current and Former Law Enforcement Officers Arrested for Drug Trafficking

Originally published on May 2, 2015, at NationofChange.org

Thirteen current and former law enforcement officers, a 911 dispatch operator, and a civilian were indicted this week for allegedly participating in a drug trafficking conspiracy. After a two-year undercover investigation, the FBI arrested all 15 alleged conspirators on Wednesday as they attempted to transport what they thought was a shipment of illegal narcotics. Several of the defendants have also been charged with money laundering, extortion, bribery, attempted possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, and carrying firearms while trafficking drugs.

According to Halifax County Sheriff Wes Tripp, his office contacted the FBI after receiving numerous tips about police corruption taking place in Northampton County. The FBI began investigating these reports and launched a massive sting operation codenamed Operation Rockfish. Between 2013 and 2015, the FBI discovered numerous sheriff’s deputies, correctional officers, a police officer, a 911 operator, and a civilian participating in trafficking multiple kilograms of cocaine and heroin.

“We received numerous tips and information from confidential informants. We follow up on every lead and every tip to make sure it’s credible,” stated Sheriff Tripp. “I have a sick feeling in my stomach right now because we all take an oath to defend and protect the state and federal constitution. We’re not supposed to break the law.”

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