Tag Archive for 'jail'

Students Are Jailed for Skipping Class in Texas School District

News recently broke that the Fort Bend Independent School District just outside of Houston has been incarcerating truant students. In Texas, students are forced to pay fines if they miss 10 or more days of school within a six-month period. Most of these students are of low-income families. When they fail to pay, they are taken into custody. These students in turn miss even more school once in custody, and some are kicked out of school because of the added absence.

student truancyOver a thousand teenagers have been incarcerated for truancy related charges in the past three years within the Fort Bend school district. Because of the recent revelation, the school district announced it will stop sending truant students to court while a review of the attendance policies takes place.

In addition to this questionable practice, the advocacy group Texas Appleseed discovered that black and Hispanic students were disproportionately sent to court for truancy charges.

Serena Vela, an 11th grader, was jailed for nine days for failure to pay truancy charges. She accumulated more than $2,700, and was unable to pay the fines. Once freed, she was kicked out of school for her added absences. A year and a half later, she works at a pizza place and still does not have her high school diploma. She is just one example of the harmful effects this attendance process has on students.

John Payton’s Strict Oversight of Truancy Cases

Judge John Payton oversees about 80 percent of truancy cases in Collin County. On average, he sends 45 to 50 students to adult jail each year. He claims sending students to jail is a wakeup call for them and will motivate them to stay in school. But if students are being kicked out for missing even more school because of incarceration, how is this helping them?

Payton himself he hasn’t even earned his bachelor’s degree, yet he is in charge of almost all attendance cases in Collin County. He claims that he keeps students under the age of 17 away from felons when he sends them to jail, but jail officials have said this isn’t necessarily the case. He also jailed a student for 11 days whose Facebook page revealed his posts about suffering from depressing, suicide thoughts, and pain. This student spent the whole 11 days in solitary confinement.

Due Process Violations

In Texas, an accumulation of absences is a class C misdemeanor. The charges are held before a “justice of the peace” and municipal courts. The judges in these cases are not required to have a law degree. Buzzfeed News interviewed over 20 families whose child was sent to jail under truancy charges. Not one had a lawyer, directly denying their basic right to due process. Every incarceration of a student without proper due process is unlawful.

Will Robert Durst Finally Go to Prison?

Robert Durst, subject of HBO’S The Jinx and heir to one of New York City’s wealthiest real estate families, has been arrested for multiple murders. Durst, 71, allegedly killed his former wife in 1982, Susan Berman in 2000, and Morris Black in 2001.

robert durstThe arrest came just one day before the series finale of the documentary, in which audio is played of Durst seemingly confessing to the crime. After he was shown two letters that revealed evidence linked to the crimes by director Andrew Jarecki, he took a bathroom break in which he still had the microphone attached to him. While in the bathroom, Durst is heard on the audio saying, “There it is. You’re caught…what the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

This seems like pretty damning evidence. But, many questions concerning the audio’s legitimacy to use as evidence arise.

First, the question of reasonable expectation of privacy comes up. Did Durst know he was being recorded while in the bathroom? If he expected privacy, when one usually does when in the bathroom, could the evidence by deemed as faulty? Most likely, this reasoning will not be upheld in court. Durst was well aware he was wearing a microphone, and did not request for it to be taken off before going into the restroom.

A second defense Durst could use is that the film crew for the HBO series acted as agents of law enforcement, therefore violating the Fourth Amendment’s restrictions on proper search and seizure procedures. Jarecki said he handed over the audio evidence of Durst to authorities months ago. The arrest did come suspiciously close to the series finale that showcased his supposed confession though. But, any type of evidence found by citizens and handed over to authorities may be used as liable evidence. Therefore, this argument will not work either.

A third question comes up. The audio recording of Durst occurred in April 2012. Jarecki and his team did not find the recording until June 2014. Who knows if Jarecki is telling the truth. In a two year time period, the audio could have been tampered with or altered. Although not likely, the court could find the recording insufficient because of the amount of time the recording was in Jarecki’s hands.

A final and fourth possible defense is uncovered. The recording could be perceived as a type of monologue. Durst could have been fantasizing, or wondering out loud what he will say to the camera. These do not count as confessions, and in turn could be a valid defense for Durst’s legal team. But again, this argument is rather unlikely to succeed in court.

The written evidence and audio recording will absolutely be used in court to finally land Durst in jail. He has been escaping the law ever since 1982, and it’s about time he’s put in prison for good.

“Family Man” Cosby May Finally End up Going to Trial

After over two dozen women claimed sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby, this last accusation may finally land him in jail. Chloe Goins, a model, is pursuing charges against Cosby for sexually assaulting her in 2008 at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. She pressed charges against him Wednesday morning with the Los Angeles Police Department.

cosby goins rape accusationShe claims she attended the party with a few friends, and received a drink from Cosby. Her memory immediately went fuzzy and blank, and woke up to a naked Cosby standing over her. He was allegedly licking her toes and masturbating, while she lay naked on the bed. She was 18 at the time.

Why is Cosby not already behind bars? In California, rape has a ten year statute of limitations. Every woman except Goins have made claims that exceed this limitation. The over two dozen women have accused Cosby of sexual assault that spans a 50 year time period. Goins may be the only woman in power to finally land Cosby in jail for his crimes.

Another factor that will contribute to the prosecution of Cosby, are the cameras in the Playboy Mansion. Unlike the other accusations against Cosby that took place in hotel or dressing rooms, video proof of the assault might exist. Kuvin has expressed his desire for the LAPD to obtain video records from that night.

Goins’ attorney, Spencer Kuvin, has not commented on the possible charges against Cosby. He stated the police will decide what the appropriate charges will entail. Meanwhile, Cosby’s legal counsel claims there is evidence Cosby was in New York at the time of the alleged sexual assault, so the accusation is completely false.

If Cosby is prosecuted and video footage proves Goin’s accusations to be true, he could be facing hard time behind bars.

Justin Carter Faces 8 Years in Prison for Facebook Comments

The Facebook Comments That Were Taken as a 3rd Degree Terrorist Threat

Would you be worried if you saw the following words on Facebook?


Need a little more context?

Justin Carter Facebook PostOn February 14, 2013, an eighteen year old Justin Carter was discussing League of Legends, an online video game, with someone else on Facebook. Somewhere during that online conversation, Carter decided to make the comments about shooting up a kindergarten.

Carter’s timing couldn’t have been worse. Sixty days earlier, Adam Lanza had unloaded a .22-caliber rifle into twenty-eight people at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Someone in Canada made an anonymous “tip” about Carter’s Facebook comments. Canadian authorities forwarded the tip and a cell phone screenshot of Carter’s Internet comments to authorities in Austin, Texas. Law enforcement in Austin traced Carter’s name to an address “within 100 yards” of an elementary school. A judge believed the prosecutor’s assertion that there was a third-degree terrorist threat and issued an arrest warrant.

On February 21st, 2013, Carter was arrested at the San Antonio drapery shop where he worked. When police searched Carter’s home, they failed to find any guns or bomb-making materials. Even so, the court posted bail at half a million dollars. Although Carter’s parents were unable to make bail, an anonymous donor paid for Carter’s release in July 2013. Prosecutors still plan to follow up on the charges against Carter in 2014.

We Need Evidence

Image if you were on the jury for Justin Carter’s trial. The prosecutor wants to put him away for eight years based on the following pieces of evidence: testimony from an ex-girlfriend with a restraining order against him for stalking, a few suicidal messages on Facebook, and the three Facebook comments above. Given that the prosecutor must prove that Justin Carter made a third-degree terrorist threat beyond a reasonable doubt, it seems like a tall order.

The prosecution’s case seems silly given that Austin law enforcement have not received or seen Carter’s full conversation on Facebook. As Carter’s attorney points out, “I’m fucked in the head alright” reads like a response to a previous message. Austin police claim that “all caps [to] emphasize his anger or rage.” That is ridiculous on two levels. First, all caps are used on the internet all the time, not just in moments of anger or rage. Second, all caps could be shouting without anger. Comedians shout all the time on stage, but that doesn’t mean they’re about to shoot up a school.

More importantly, the prosecution’s inability to bring forth the full conversation violates court rules regarding evidence. There is a rule that if a party wants to introduce a conversation or a transcript, the opposing party has the right to demand that the jury receive the full conversation or transcript. The rule, sometimes referred to as “completing the story,” is designed to prevent frivolous prosecutions like this one. If Justin Carter’s conversation had ended with a “just kidding,” his defense attorney could reveal this whole case as the faux it is.

Our Actions Have Consequences but They Aren’t Always Legal Consequences

Carter did not decide to write “I’ma SHOOT UP A KINDGARTEN” completely at random. It seems obvious to me that Carter got the inspiration for that “joke” from the tragedy which had occurred just a few months ago. I don’t know what could have prompted Carter to refer to the shootings in such a manner. However, Carter needs to understand that what he said was disrespectful of the victims at Sandy Hook.

Does Carter deserve a criminal prosecution for his message? Of course not. Given that police searched his home and found no weapons, Carter does not present any danger to the public, let alone a clear and present danger. The prosecution is stretching and expanding “third-degree terrorist threat” as much as humanly possible. Carter’s attorney is asserting free speech as a defense and I think the First Amendment is one of Carter’s best shields in this case.

Ohio Man Jailed For Mocking 10-Year-Old Disabled Girl

The United States has come a long way as a society. Our country has not only grown economically, but also morally as well. While discrimination and prejudice still plague our nation today, these issues are nowhere near what they used to be during America’s early years. It seems that most modern citizens understand the importance of tolerance. Except, of course, those that still think it’s okay to mock little girls with cerebral palsy.

It’s hard not to read that sentence twice. But yes, it’s true. A 43-year-old Ohio man by the name of William Bailey was caught on tape derisively mimicking the physical symptoms of cerebral palsy. His actions were allegedly meant to make fun of Hope Holcomb-Knight, 10, who has the condition. Hope’s mother recorded the incident on her iPod camera. Bailey was at a school bus stop at the time picking up his son and can be seen in the video walking with a limp while pounding his chest, physical symptoms typical in those afflicted with cerebral palsy.

As you can probably imagine, Bailey’s alleged antics didn’t sit very well with Hope’s family. Her mother posted the video online, viewable here. It soon went viral and a public outcry followed. Hope’s mother then filed a complaint with city prosecutors who, surprisingly, pressed charges against Bailey. And even more surprising is that Bailey was actually convicted and sentenced to a month in jail, ostensibly for taunting Hope.

In Bailey’s defense, he claims that he was only reacting to name-calling directed toward his 9-year-old son. The incident was apparently the result of a culmination of rising tensions between the two families. Regardless, the more interesting aspect of this story is how a person can be criminally prosecuted for taunting another person. Well, prosecutors figured out a way. They charged Bailey with disorderly conduct and aggravated menacing, both misdemeanors in Ohio.

We’ve talked about disorderly conduct many times before. It’s basically a catch-all law that prohibits any conduct that’s likely to cause public alarm and/or annoyance. In Bailey’s case, his alleged cerebral palsy mocking was sufficient to secure a conviction under the state’s statue. However, what’s odd here is that in Ohio a disorderly conduct conviction doesn’t allow for any jail time. Bailey was actually put behind bars because of his aggravated menacing conviction.

Aggravated menacing is basically a form of assault where a defendant causes another to believe that they will cause serious physical harm to that person or their family. Hope’s mother claimed Bailey threatened to choke her with a chain on the same day of the original incident. And this was actually the charge that landed Bailey a jail sentence.

Now you may be thinking that we pulled a switcheroo on you, what with our attention-grabbing headline. “Wait, Bailey was jailed for menacing, not taunting a cerebral palsy girl. You sneaky blogger, stop trying to drive traffic to your website!” However, before you jump to conclusions, the chief assistant city prosecutor for the case actually admitted that Bailey’s alleged mockery was a major factor in securing his jail sentence. Have a little faith in us, geez.

Of course, what this also means is that a somewhat disturbing precedent has been set against the rights of Ohioans. While Bailey’s alleged actions were no doubt heinous and he should be reprimanded in some way for them, jail isn’t necessarily the best way. After all, people make fun of others every day. People also curse each other out and do all manner of rude things to each other, too. What of these people?

Theoretically, Bailey’s conviction could serve as a basis to help justify disorderly conduct and/or menacing convictions for these folks as well. In which case, where does the line get drawn? Certainly, no rational person would agree that making fun of a child with cerebral palsy is acceptable behavior, but how about an overly sensitive person with irritable bowel syndrome or a bad haircut? Such a person could undergo a similar level of trauma as Hope, but should they be able to secure convictions against their mockers, too?

Probably not, but as you can see, the line is murky at best. While there is no word yet on whether Bailey plans to appeal his sentence, as it stands, his conviction sets an uneasy justification against the basic rights of citizens. Certainly, our world would be much better without jerks. But much like our eventual robot overlords will surmise, everyone can be considered a jerk.