ADVERTISEMENT
Advertise Here

Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: FBI

Ricin suspect ordered to obtain psychiatric evaluation

A federal judge has ordered a Spokane man accused of sending ricin-laced letters to government officials, including President Barack Obama, receive psychiatric evaluation to determine if he is competent to stand trial.

Matthew Ryan Buquet has been in federal custody since May, when several letters that initially tested positive for the castor bean-derived toxin arrived at the Thomas S. Foley Courthouse in downtown Spokane. The missives, which included the message “We have a bomb placed we are going to kill you! Hezbollah,” arrived in envelopes bearing the return address of a downtown Spokane law firm, according to court documents since sealed.

A female employee of the firm reported she began receiving notes and gifts, including a can of Coca-Cola, on her desk. Buquet, a member of the janitorial crew that cleaned the office space leased by the law firm, had been dismissed from previous jobs for similar behavior. The FBI detained Buquet at his apartment shortly after the letters were discovered and interrogated him at a hotel, according to court paperwork. An FBI agent with the investigation said at the time Buquet appeared “gravely disabled,” exhibited “bizarre behaviors” and was “delusional,” according to court records.

U.S. District Judge Ancer Haggerty authorized the mental evaluation. Haggerty, an Oregon judge, was assigned to the case after a Spokane judge recused himself because one of the poisoned letters was addressed to a colleague.

Haggerty wrote in his ordered he was “satisfied that there is reasonable cause to believe the defendant may not be competent to understand the charges against him and to assist in his defense.”

A hearing to argue the findings of the competency hearing is set for May, with a potential jury trial in the case pushed to October. Buquet has been indicted on a criminal charge of possessing a deadly biological agent and two counts of mailing threatening communications. If convicted of the charges, Buquet could spend 20 years to the rest of his life in federal prison.

Judge denies stalking suspect’s request to dismiss charges

The Spokane man accused of sending threatening letters to a tribal police officer that included allusions to his belief he was the “Archangel of Death” remains in custody pending trial after a federal judge shot down his contention the mailings were protected by the First Amendment.

Brent Russ, 33, argued earlier this month the letters he sent a former neighbor expressed his religious views, not an intimidating intent. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice denied the claim, as well as a request from Russ that he be released from custody ahead of his upcoming trial after two mental health experts deemed he posed no threat to the community.

“The Court continues to harbor reasonable concerns about Defendant’s mental stability that prohibit it from releasing Defendant at this time,” Rice wrote in an order denying Russ' release. Rice also found the language of the letter suggesting legal action, in which Russ wrote that he would “take everything you have, everything you ever had, and everything you ever will have through the courts,” was not solely a legal communication and thus did not qualify for First Amendment protection.

Concerns about Russ' mental state were raised after a disturbing manifesto was found at his home by federal agents investigating the stalking claims. In the journal, Russ admits slaying nocturnal creatures by slicing through their brains with a Samurai sword and says he experienced a “download” in early 2013 that prompted him to file lawsuits against the nation's biggest banks. He also wrote about sending plans to dissolve the government to President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, according to court documents.

Russ has been in custody of U.S. marshals since his arrest in September. Defense attorney Andrea George has asked Rice to push the trial date from later this month to February to allow more time for experts to determine Russ' mental state.

Ricin suspect appears in U.S. District Court for scheduling

Clad in a white Spokane County Jail jumpsuit and sporting a long, black beard, the Spokane man accused of sending ricin-laced letters to a federal judge and President Barack Obama appeared in court Wednesday to set a tentative timeline for his legal proceedings.

Matthew Ryan Buquet, 38, was mostly silent during an appearance in U.S. District Court for Eastern Washington on Wednesday morning, conferring in whispers with his attorneys and sipping water from a styrofoam cup. Buquet has been in federal custody since he was arrested shortly after mailing letters containing the biological toxin derived from castor seeds in mid-May. His case was recently transferred to District Judge Ancer Haggerty of Portland, Ore., because Buquet allegedly mailed one of the poisioned letters to Eastern Washington District Judge Fred Van Sickle.

According to a federal indictment filed earlier this summer, each of the letters Buquet sent read, “We have a bomb placed, we are going to Kill you! Hezbollah.”

Though the FBI has said field tests have produced positive results for the presence of ricin in the letters, Eastern Washington Assistant U.S. District Attorney Stephanie Van Marter said Wednesday the government expected to have final, peer-reviewed test results by the beginning of October. Judge Haggerty set motion hearings for January and February ahead of Buquet's expected trial date, to begin in May of next year.

The FBI discovered a total of five ricin letters mailed from Spokane in May, including missives directed to Fairchild Air Force Base, the CIA and a post office. Buquet's legal team declined comment on the pending investigation Wednesday. No one was injured as a result of the poisoned letters.

Buquet has pleaded not guilty to the three counts against him: one charge of developing, producing or possessing a known biological toxin and two counts of mailing a threatening communication. The first count carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Mailing threatening communications carries a maximum penalty of five years under federal law.

Feds join Spokane shooting probe

A man charged with attempted second-degree murder in connection with a shot targeting three black youths was ordered held in jail Tuesday as federal authorities also indicated that they would investigate the shooting as a possible hate crime.

Jimmy J. Blackburn, 29, pleaded not guilty before Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza, who ordered Blackburn to remain in custody on a $500,000 bond. Cozza set Blackburn’s trial on the three attempted murder charges for Nov. 19.

Blackburn was arrested Sept. 13 as Spokane police officers converged at the Days Inn, at 120 W. Third Ave., to investigate the shooting of Paul A. Haney, 33, who was found dead in the parking lot.

According to court records, investigators believe Kevin M. Heaton, 35, is responsible for that shooting and remains on the loose. Heaton had paid for the room in which Blackburn was found at the Days Inn, but the court records don’t indicate whether Blackburn had any involvement in the Haney shooting.

Double amputee made threats, police say

HOUSTON (AP) — The FBI will help investigate what led a Houston police officer to shoot and kill a wheelchair-bound double amputee who was agitated and threatening police with what turned out to be a ballpoint pen, the city's police chief said Monday.

Police Chief Charles McClelland also asked the community to “reserve judgment” on the officer and his actions this weekend at the Healing Hands group home for the mentally ill, and sought to reassure the public that all of the city's officers are trained to deal with people with mental problems.

Officer Matthew Marin shot 45-year-old Brian Claunch early Saturday after responding to a call that the one-armed, one-legged man was causing a disturbance inside the home. Police have said Claunch cornered and threatened Marin, who reportedly told investigators he didn't know the object in Claunch's hand was a pen.

“It is my desire to have everyone reserve judgment until all the facts and evidence in this investigation have been gathered,” McClelland said in a statement.

Police spokeswoman Jodi Silva said she didn't know if FBI assistance in officer-involved shootings was rare, but said “it's the step we're taking at this point.” She referred other questions to McClelland's statement.

Marin, a five-year veteran of the department, has been placed on three-day administrative leave. That is standard department procedure for all officer-involved shootings, and Silva said no unusual measures were being taken that would prevent Marin from returning to duty this week.

It's the second time Marin has killed a suspect while on duty. In 2009, investigators said Marin came upon a man stabbing his neighbor to death at an apartment complex and fired when the suspect refused to drop the knife.

Marin and a partner arrived at the group home around 2:30 a.m. responding to a disturbance call made by the group's caretaker. Police have not elaborated on the nature of the disturbance before they arrived.

Once inside the home, the department said in a separate statement released Monday, they found an agitated Claunch threatening to kill the officers and other residents. While yelling at the officers, Claunch “waved a shiny object in his hand in their direction,” according to the statement.

Police say Claunch refused an officer's direction to drop what turned out to be a ballpoint pen.

“As the suspect backed one of the officers into a corner, he attempted to stab the officer with the object,” the statement said. “Officer Marin, fearing for his partner's life, and his own safety, discharged his duty weapon one time, striking the suspect.”

Feds seek Ariz. property in Ridpath probe

Federal investigators are attempting to seize an Arizona property owned by Spokane real estate investors as part of a broader probe into alleged fraud by the couple, who are tangled in the complicated ownership of the former Ridpath Hotel complex.

FBI agent Lisa Jangaard filed a request last week to seize an office building in Sun Lakes, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix. According to court files, Greg Jeffreys and his wife, Kimberly Jeffreys, obtained $600,000 from an investor as partial payment for the purchase of an upscale office building in San Francisco.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Woman gets 10 years for shooting

A woman who shot a man three times after he accidentally hit her with a half-pint bottle has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.

Leona Sutton, 34, is a methamphetamine addict who federal prosecutors say is very dangerous.

“Defendant's livelihood has been a criminal one. Daily use of methamphetamine and distributing it to feed the habit,” according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by the U.S. Attorney's Office. “The public is not safe when she consumes alcohol or methamphetamine. It also is not safe when she has access to a firearm.”

Sutton shot the man, with whom she frequently used meth, on Oct. 2 with a .22 caliber rifle in Keller, Wash., on the Colville Indian Reservation.

Family told the FBI she had a history of violence and frequently tried to coerce her ex-boyfriend into assaulting people” and “routinely told him that she wanted “to kick someone's ass,” prosecutors wrote.

U.S. District Judge Frem Nielsen on Thursday sentenced Sutton to 120 months and 1 day in prison for discharging a firearm during a crime of violence and assault with a dangerous weapon, followed by three years of probation. She also is to pay $5,796.24 restitution. Nielsen recommended she undergo treatment for drug addiction while in prison.

Mike Ormsby, U.S. Attorney in Eastern Washington, praised the sentence in a prepared statement.

“Crimes of violence will not be tolerated in the Eastern District of Washington, particularly those crimes occurring on Tribal lands,” Ormsby said. “The Sutton case is yet another example of the United States Attorney's Office’s commitment to prosecute vigorously violent crimes.”
  

Jury indicts DSHS worker for child porn

A state social services employee arrested on child pornography charges April 17 has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

Darrell J. Rogers, 51, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to two counts of distribution of child pornography. The charges carry five years to 20 years in prison and registration as a sex offender if convicted. 

Rogers, a married father with no criminal history, was allowed to leave jail a few days after his arrest after undergoing a mental health assessment.

A prosecutor said the material federal agents downloaded from Rogers, who licenses foster homes for children, is some of the worst he's encountered in his 36 years of practicing law.

DSHS worker had ‘disturbing’ child porn

A state social services employee accused of distributing child pornography must undergo a mental health evaluation before he can leave jail, a judge ruled today.

A federal prosecutor said the material distributed by Darrell J. Rogers, who licenses foster homes for children, is some of the worst he's encountered in his 36 years of practicing law.

“This is not normal child pornography,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl Hicks said at Rogers' bail hearing in U.S. District Court. “This is child pornography that is very disturbing.”

The material includes a video of a 3-month-old girl being raped by an adult male, Hicks said.

“This is not like trading baseball cards,” Hicks said. “What kind of person would have an interest in this?…Most people are disgusted by it, and most people would ask 'what's wrong with this person?'”

Rogers, 51, is a married father of two with no criminal history. He's lived in Spokane his entire life and has worked for the state Department of Health and Human Services since 1995. Family, friends and coworkers attended his hearing; some left afterward in tears.

Distributing child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison for each image.

U.S Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno will review Rogers' mental health evaluation. Rogers and his wife must pay $25,000 bond to secure his release from jail. If he is released, Rogers will be confined to his home and must wear an electric monitor. Firearms that FBI agents found in his home during a search on Tuesday must be removed.

Imbrogno called the conditions “perhaps about as stringent as they get for this type of charge,” she said.

Hicks cited Rogers’ employment as a person in a position of trust with children as further reason for a mental health evaluation.

“He's leading a double life, in effect,” Hicks said.

A DSHS spokesman said Rogers will be reassigned to a position in which he does not have contact with children if he's released from jail pending the resolution of his case. Imbrogno said she'll decide if Rogers can be employed after reading his evaluation.

Rogers has been in the Spokane County Jail since Tuesday, when FBI agents arrested him at his home in the 7100 block of North Westgate Place in the Indian Trail area in north Spokane and seized a computer containing sexually explicit images of children.

The FBI began investigating him in February after an agent in Maryland downloaded child pornography from an Internet Protocol address linked to Rogers' home.

The material features the infant and children up to six years old, Hicks said.

Rogers told the FBI the material was on a computer in the guest bedroom when questioned, Hicks said.

Rogers also told investigators he'd never hurt a child and would contact authorities if he knew of someone who was. He said he wasn't sexually attracted to children but was “trying to figure out” child pornography.

Hicks said Rogers' response was typical “even from people who have been diagnosed as pedophiles.”

“I'm not saying Rogers is; I'm saying that's a typical response,” Hicks said.

He called the assertion that viewing and distributing child pornography doesn't harm children “bunk.”

“Fifty-one-year-olds creating generations of pedophiles. If we look at the facts, that’s what happens in a lot of circumstances,” Hicks said.

Public defender Matthew Campbell said a mental health evaluation isn't necessary and said Rogers is not a danger to the community. “He has no criminal history,” Campbell said.

Campbell said prosecutors have not opposed pre-trial release in other child pornography cases, but Hicks said the cases didn't involve three month olds being raped by adult males.

FBI arrests social worker for child porn

A state social services employee who licenses foster care homes was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of child pornography possession.

Darrell J. Rogers, 51, is in the Spokane County Jail without bail after appearing in U.S. District Court Tuesday afternoon. FBI agents arrested him at his home in the 7100 block of North Westgate Place in the Indian Trail area in north Spokane, where he lives with his wife, Kim Rogers, 49.

Kim Rogers also is a social worker with the state Department of Social and Health Services who specializes in finding homes for children who are wards of the state. Her husband licenses those homes, a neighbor said.

Darrell Rogers told FBI agents his wife had nothing to do with the child pornography they were investigating, according to court documents. The FBI began investigating Rogers in February after an agent in Maryland downloaded child pornography from an Internet user in Spokane.

The material includes children as young as approximately three months old being sexually assaulted by men and women.

Darrell Rogers was a social worker for 10 years beginning in 1995, said Thomas Shapley, DSHS spokesman. He began licensing foster homes in 2005, Shapley said.

Rogers is barred from entering his workplace, and his computer access has been locked. Should he be released from jail pending the resolution of the case, “we've already prepared an alternative work assignment for him where he would not have any contact with children,” Shapley said.

FBI agents say Rogers admitted Tuesday to using Internet file sharing programs and said no one else in the home, including his wife and two sons, would have used the screen names associated with the explicit material.

“Agents asked if he knew of any really bad people who he traded with that specifically harmed children,” according to court documents. “Rogers responded that he did not know of anyone who was abusing children, and had he known he would have reported it.”

Rogers told federal agents he had had no sexual interest in the material but was “trying to figure it out,” documents say.

“When asked about how long he had an interest in child pornography, Rogers stated that he did not know, and that he would never touch a child, and would never molest children,” agents wrote.

Rogers is due back in court Friday for a hearing to determine if he can be allowed out of jail on bail pending trial.

Moses, McIntyre face charges for Zehm

Federal obstruction charges are expected to be filed soon against two more Spokane police officers in connection with the city’s handling of the Otto Zehm investigation, which U.S. Department of Justice officials have called an “extensive cover-up.”

  Attorneys representing Officers Sandra McIntyre and Tim Moses both confirmed Thursday that they have entered discussions with federal prosecutors about the potential charges relating to their clients’ testimony during the investigation into Zehm’s death.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Nov. 17: Tim Moses resigns as police spokesman

Nov. 2: Bugbee: Tim Moses didn't cover anything up

Oct. 21: Tim Moses: Thought I could trust the FBI

Oct. 21: McIntyre described 'intimidation' by feds

1 officer cleared, 1 charged in shooting

(AP and staff reports) — A Nez Perce Tribal Police officer has been cleared in the fatal shooting of a Lewiston man, but one of his colleagues could be in trouble.

U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson announced Thursday that the officer who shot 46-year-old Jeffery Allen Flinn would not be prosecuted.

But another officer, Trevor Michael Garrett, had been charged with making false statements to FBI agents investigating Flinn's death.

Flinn died following a 50-mile car chase that ended in gunfire Nov. 12.

Police say earlier that day, Flinn had been released from jail following a drunken driving arrest and then got involved in a one-vehicle crash outside Lewiston. Police say he then stole a truck from another motorist and fled before officers arrived.

Tribal police say they tried to pull Flinn over, but he refused.

The indictment, returned Wednesday by a grand jury in Coeur d'Alene, alleges Garrett lied to FBI agents when he told them he didn't remember the details of what happened between the time he fired at Flinn and the time another officer secured Flinn's rifle.

The indictment alleges those statement were false “because Garrett knew that he remembered that Flinn exited a truck, and that Flinn stood facing law enforcement officers with his hands in the air for three to five seconds before he was shot and killed,” according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. “The indictment further alleges that Garrett's statements were false because he did know the name and identity of the police officer who shot Flinn.”

The incident was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Idaho State Police. 

In a prepared statement Thursday, Olson called the investigation “detailed and thorough.”  “We pursued and obtained all the information necessary to make a prosecutive decision,” she said.  

To prove a violation of the federal criminal civil rights statute prohibiting law enforcement officer misconduct, prosecutors must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer intentionally used more force than he or she could reasonably have thought necessary under the circumstances, according to a news release. 

“That issue was the focus of the investigation,” said Olson.

A decision not to prosecute may be made for a variety of reasons, Olson said, including insufficiency of evidence to prove the police officer intentionally used more force than was necessary.  

“The statute sets out a tough standard in cases involving allegations of unreasonable force by a police officer,” she said.  “It requires that we be cautious, thorough and deliberative, and that's what we've been in this case.  We determined that under the circumstances, including the weather conditions, lighting and officer's knowledge and state of mind leading up to the shooting, we could not prove all of the elements of this offense beyond a reasonable doubt.  In such situations, we are obligated to decline prosecution.  We do so here.”

Did ‘Whitey’ Bulger write his memoirs?

By DENISE LAVOIE,AP Legal Affairs Writer

BOSTON (AP) — Mobster James “Whitey” Bulger may have written two autobiographies, according to prosecutors, who have notified his lawyers that they may use the memoirs against him at his upcoming trial.

Bulger, the former leader of the Winter Hill Gang and a longtime FBI informant, was captured last year in Santa Monica, Calif., after 16 years on the run. He is charged with participating in 19 murders and is awaiting trial.

In a status report filed in court Tuesday, federal prosecutors said they found one document, entitled “My Life in the Irish Mafia Wars,” at a South Boston home in 1995 and a second document at the apartment in Santa Monica where Bulger was captured last year with his girlfriend.

Prosecutors say it's unclear whether Bulger wrote the document found in South Boston. They say the document found in California “appears to be autobiographical.”

The government included descriptions of the documents in a list of evidence prosecutors have turned over to Bulger's lawyers but didn't reveal specifically what was written in them. Prosecutors informed Bulger's lawyers that they may use the document found in 1995 “as evidence in (the) case-in-chief and/or to impeach the defendant” at his trial, which is scheduled to begin Nov. 5.

Bulger's lawyer J.W. Carney Jr. did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on Tuesday. A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz declined to comment.

In the new court documents, prosecutors list hundreds of pieces of evidence they say they have turned over to the defense, including: surveillance photos and video of various locations frequented by Bulger and other members of his gang; crime scene and medical examiner photos of people Bulger and his gang are accused of killing; and statements made by Bulger, including those included in his FBI informant file. The list of evidence was filed in court ahead of a March 19 status conference in the case.

Bulger, who gave the FBI information on the rival New England Mob, fled Boston in late 1994 after being tipped by his former FBI handler, John Connolly Jr., that he was about to be indicted. Connolly later was convicted of racketeering for warning Bulger about the impending indictment.

Bulger, now 82, has pleaded not guilty. His girlfriend, Catherine Greig, 60, (pictured right) is expected to plead guilty Wednesday to charges she helped Bulger evade capture during their 16 years on the run together.

June 29: Case continues against 'Whitey' Bulger

June 24: Boston mob boss hid in plain sight

Testimony continues in Mich. militia trial

This combo of eight photos provided by the U.S. Marshals Service shows from top left, David Brian Stone Sr., 44, of Clayton, Mich,; David Brian Stone Jr. of Adrian, Mich,; Jacob Ward, 33, of Huron, Ohio; Tina Mae Stone and bottom row from left, Michael David Meeks, 40, of Manchester, Mich,; Kristopher T. Sickles, 27, of Sandusky, Ohio; Joshua John Clough, 28, of Blissfield, Mich.; and Thomas William Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Ind., suspects tied to Hutaree, a Christian militia. (Associated Press)

By ED WHITE,Associated Press
DETROIT (AP) — An FBI informant who was embedded with a southern Michigan militia ended his testimony Thursday after more than a week, answering questions that were intended to portray the group's leader as a man with unusual beliefs but who wasn't a warrior against the government.

Dan Murray said Hutaree leader David Stone was greatly concerned about the arrival of the Antichrist and wanted Christians to be ready to defend themselves.

At one point, Murray said Stone believed the federal government was the Antichrist, but the judge struck the remark because it wasn't directly related to a question asked by defense attorney William Swor.

Stone, his wife, two sons and three other men are charged with conspiring to commit rebellion against the government, first by killing a police officer and then attacking the funeral. They also face weapon charges in the trial, which began Feb. 13 and has weeks to go.

Murray, 57, was paid about $31,000 in cash for months of work for the FBI. He secretly recorded conversations while attending meetings and military-style drills in Lenawee and Washtenaw counties in 2008 and 2009. By the end of 2009, three months before Hutaree members were arrested, he wanted to get out.

“I was getting burned out by the whole thing. … I didn't think there was any more I could get,” Murray testified, adding that he never felt threatened by the Hutaree.

Murray, who works for Ford Motor Co., acknowledged that he once tried to bait Stone during a late-night recorded call by saying, “God, I hate the government.”

Swor asked if Stone replied: “Me, too.”

“I don't believe so,” Murray said.

He said Stone on another occasion talked about Christianity and salvation — not fighting the government — during a meeting with a pastor in southwestern Michigan. They had driven across the state to attend a church service but were late.

Murray said Stone feared that the government was planting chips in people through flu shots. He said Stone in August 2009 urged him to go to Selfridge Air National Guard Base in southeastern Michigan to see if German troops had arrived and raised their flag. Murray declined.

Defense lawyers claim prosecutors have turned senseless conversations between Hutaree members into a plot to overthrow the government. They say the talk was offensive at times, but not illegal. Jurors last week heard Stone saying he would kill police officers and their families, although there was no mention of a specific plan.

Conn. mayor blasted for ‘taco’ quip

By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN,Associated Press
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — The mayor of a working-class city roiled by allegations of police discrimination against Hispanics faced scathing criticism Wednesday from officials including the governor for saying he “might have tacos” as a way to do something for the community.

The comments by East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo brought unwanted attention to the leadership of the New Haven suburb, where four police officers were arrested Tuesday by the FBI on charges including deprivation of rights and obstruction of justice. The mayor was also criticized for his recent reappointment of police Chief Leonard Gallo, who was apparently referred to in the indictment as a co-conspirator.

The four officers are accused of waging a campaign of harassment against Latino residents and businesses, including assaulting people while they were handcuffed and intimidating people who tried to investigate or report misconduct allegations. All four have pleaded not guilty.

The taco comment came as Maturo, a Republican, was being interviewed late Tuesday by a reporter from New York's WPIX-TV, Mario Diaz, who asked, “What are you doing for the Latino community today?”

Maturo's response: “I might have tacos when I go home; I'm not quite sure yet.”

He initially defended his response and said it was being unfairly twisted. But he later apologized, saying he'd had a long day of interviews.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the comments are “repugnant.”

“They represent either a horrible lack of judgment or worse, an underlying insensitivity to our Latino community that is unacceptable. Being tired is no excuse. He owes an apology to the community, and more importantly, he needs to show what he's going to do to repair the damage he's done. And he needs to do it today,” Malloy said.

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, a native of Puerto Rico, said he was “disgusted” by Maturo's comment. East Haven Democratic Town Committee Chairman Gene Ruocco called for Maturo's resignation.

The comment “goes to the root of the racial profiling allegations here in East Haven,” Ruocco said in a statement. “Everyone knows the seriousness of this matter and for him, as the leader of our community, to say something so utterly insensitive is a complete disgrace.”

East Haven resident Marcia Chacon said she and other Latinos in her community were offended by Maturo's comment.

“This is an insult against us,” she said. “I thought 'Wow, here we are in East Haven, and this is the person who is supposed to help us.'”

Racial profiling complaints surged in recent years in East Haven, a predominantly white suburb on Long Island Sound where the Hispanic population more than doubled in size over a decade to 10.3 percent of its 28,000 people. Last month, a lengthy civil rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice concluded there was a pattern of biased policing in East Haven, where only one of the roughly 50 police officers speaks Spanish.

Neighboring New Haven, in contrast, has drawn national attention for its sympathetic approach to immigrants, including becoming the first city in the nation to issue municipal identification cards for all residents — including illegal immigrants — to provide services such as banking and using the library.

The indictment of the East Haven police officers says a leader in the police department, described only as co-conspirator 1, blocked efforts by the police commission to investigate misconduct allegations. That refers to Chief Leonard Gallo, according to his attorney, Jon Einhorn, who denied that Gallo blocked the investigation and said it was unfair for him to be mentioned when he is not charged.

The allegations show federal authorities are concerned not just with the actions of the four police officers but also with the wider culture, said Jeffrey Meyer, a law professor at Quinnipiac University and a former federal prosecutor.

“The significance of the allegations against co-conspirator 1 go to the overall tolerance and permissiveness of this police department with respect to the abuses committed by the indicted officers,” Meyer said.

The investigation was continuing, but experts said federal authorities sometimes don't charge a person named as a co-conspirator.

“He's probably losing some sleep,” Stan Twardy, a defense attorney and former U.S. attorney for Connecticut, said of Gallo. “The uncertainty of it is going to be uncomfortable for him.”

Maturo is a lifelong East Haven resident and Republican who was mayor from 1997 to 2007 and re-elected again in the fall.

After taking office Nov. 19, he reinstated Gallo as police chief. Gallo had been on paid administrative leave since federal authorities began investigating in 2010.

“I stand behind the police department,” Maturo said Tuesday. “We have a great police department.”

The Rev. James Manship, a priest at St. Rose of Lima Church in New Haven who has advocated for East Haven's Latinos, said he was incredulous that Gallo was welcomed back.

“I remain absolutely dumbfounded on how the mayor would reinstate Chief Gallo, who was at the helm of the police department when the culture and these things were happening,” said Manship, who was arrested in 2009 while videotaping East Haven police officers to document harassment complaints as officers removed license plates from the wall of a Hispanic couple's store.

Maturo released a statement Wednesday to express his “sincerest apologies” to East Haven and its Latino residents and business owners for the taco comment, asking residents to “have faith in me and our community as we address the challenges arising out of the past days' events.”

“Unfortunately, I let the stress of the situation get the best of me and inflamed what is already a serious and unfortunate situation,” he said. “I regret my insensitive comment and realize that it is my job to lead by example.”

Warrants already required in Wash. for GPS

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring law enforcement obtain search warrants before attaching GPS devices to vehicles will have little effect in Washington state.

State and local agencies in Washington have for several years been required to get a judge's approval before using GPS devices in investigations.

“The decision doesn't affect us on our state cases,” said Washington State Patrol Lt. Mark Brogan. The requirement stems from case law.

Members of local agencies assigned to federal task forces may have used GPS devices without obtaining warrants because they were operating under federal law.

But that must change after the nation's high court ruled 9-0 Monday that it was unconstitutional for the police to attach a small GPS device to a drug-dealing suspect's bumper and track his car for a month

Frank Harrill, agent in in charge of the Spokane office of the FBI, said the agency is “immediately adapting.”

“But in terms of particular steps, I'm not able to make a detailed comment,” he said.

Gang probe includes 2 murder suspects

Two of 24 suspects named Thursday in a long-term gun and drug investigation by the Spokane Violent Crimes Gang Task Force already are in jail on murder charges.

Edward L. “TD” Thomas, 26, (left) already faces life in prison under Washington's three-strikes law if convicted of second-degree murder.

He's been in custody since September 2010 for the Jan. 17, 2010 shooting death of John S. Williams, 38, outside a birthday party for a reputed gang member at 5405 N. Crestline St.

He’s also accused of trying to kill Williams’ son during the shooting, which  police believe resulted from lingering tensions between Thomas and a rival gang member who has a child with the mother of Thomas’ child.

Thomas' murder trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 27 in Spokane County Superior Court.

It's unclear what charges he faces in the federal investigation - no indictment naming him has been unsealed.

 David C. McLaughlin, 21, (right) is charged with second-degree murder along with his girlfriend, Melinda R. Barrera, 31, for the Dec. 7 shooting death of Robert A. Nelson, 46

McLaughlin said he hit Nelson with a bat because Nelson had thrown a phone at Barrera and hit her in the head, detectives say.  Barrera reportedly told detectives that she loaded the gun and “somehow my finger pulled the trigger.” Nelson reported his own shooting to 911 and was found dead with a phone in his hand.

Prosecutors said McLaughlin and Barrera were under separate federal investigation when arguing against their bail being reduced last month in Superior Court.

Judge Michael Price said the alleged crime - murder - did not fit the lack of criminal history for either suspect and reduced Barrera’s bond to $350,000 and McLaughlin’s to $300,000, from $500,000.

It's unclear what charges McLaughlin faces in the federal investigation - no indictment naming him has been unsealed.

Also named as a suspect in the federal probe is Tyrone J. Carell, 23, (left) who is in jail on assault charges related to the Nov. 27 shooting death of Jose J. “Junior” Solis, 21, at the Quality Inn. John A. “Lil Danger” Castro, 27, is charged with Solis's murder.

Again, it's unclear what federal charges Carell faces - no indictment naming him has been unsealed.

See a complete list of suspects and read more about the federal investigation here. 

Kevin Harpham sentenced to 32 years

Leaving a bomb laced with anti-coagulant along the planned route of the Martin Luther King Day Unity March was merely a “creative idea” to protest multiculturalism, domestic terrorist Kevin W. Harpham told a Spokane judge Tuesday.

The explanation was an 11th-hour bid by Harpham, an admitted white supremacist, to withdraw his guilty plea and face trial.

But an unsympathetic U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush told Harpham, “It’s beyond my comprehension that you would stand there and not accept responsibility for what you have done,” then sentenced the 37-year-old to 32 years in federal prison. It was the

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

$100k bond for robbery, bomb suspect

A U.S. Marshal guides a dog around parked vehicles outside Banner Bank in downtown Spokane after a bomb threat by a robbery suspect Tuesday. (SRPhot/Dan Pelle)

A man accused of making a bomb threat while robbing a downtown Spokane bank on Tuesday remains in jail on $100,000 bond.

Shawn P. Hoffman, 31, handed a bank teller a note claiming he had a bomb that would detonate if she called police, according to court documents.

Hoffman also told Spokane police there was a bomb inside the bank and a man outside with a trigger who would detonate it if they went outside, documents allege, prompting road closures and evacuations.

Detective Paul Lebsock was near the bank when the robbery was reported and held Hoffman at gunpoint before taking him to the ground. Cash flew out of Hoffman's clothes during the take down, police say.

Even in interviews with FBI and police after his arrest, officials say, Hoffman continued to claim a bomb was in the bank, but a sweep turned up empty.

Hoffman appeared in Superior Court Thursday on charges of first-degree robbery and threats to bomb or harm property.

FBI: Indicted racist had terrorism plans

A reputed white supremacist convicted last month of a gun charge related to an alleged domestic terrorism plot has been indicted by a grand jury for an alleged identity theft scheme.

Wayde Lynn Kurt, 53, is accused of producing fraudulent identification cards for a “task” for which he had been preparing for years, according to a briefing federal prosecutors wrote for his gun trial last month.

Kurt likened the plan to the Oklahoma City bombing and said he would do everything in his power to stop President Obama from being reelected, prosecutors say.

Kurt said “he didn't want innocent people to die but it was possible they would die,” according to the briefing. Kurt “stated that it would be an act of terrorism of the worst kind and would mean a death sentence if he was caught.”

Kurt wrote a letter to an FBI informant in May 2010 discussing the need to establish a white government based on the gold or silver standard, prosecutors say.

“Kurt also wrote that he would need 30 days to establish a new identity, noting the name 'Wayde Kurt would only bring a bad reputation to a publicly exposed political movement,'” according to the trial briefing.

A jury in U.S. District Court in Spokane convicted Kurt last month of felon in possession of a firearm for five firearms he possessed while target shooting with a white supremacist, David Johnathan Udseth, in August 2010, according to court documents.

Kurt told jurors he spoke of a racist plan with Udseth only to infiltrate the group because its members had assaulted a friend, and he wanted to monitor them. He denies being a white supremacist, said his lawyer, Richard Wall.

Kurt alleges Udseth and the FBI entrapped him, but Judge Wm. Fremming Nielsen ruled not reasonable person would believe that prohibited jurors from considering the entrapment defense during deliberations.

Wall expects Kurt will appeal his conviction.

“If he had given that instruction the jury would have acquitted him,” Wall said. “Without the entrapment instruction the only thing they could do was convict him because there was no question he was in possession of the weapons at one point.”

Kurt was arrested on Aug. 30, 2010. He was considered such a risk that the FBI didn’t give him a chance to surrender - an agent ran up and tackled him. He faces up to 10 years in prison at his sentencing, which is scheduled for Jan. 26.

Now he faces new charges of aggravated identity theft, two counts of unlawful production of an identification card, two counts of unlawful possession of an identification card and one count of making a false statement under a grand jury indictment filed Wednesday. The charges carry up to 15 years in prison.

Kurt was a member of a racist group led by Keegan VanTuyl, 29, (right) who was released from federal prison last week after serving time for violation his probation on a firearms conviction.

Kurt was recruited into the group in late December 2008 after exchanging a racist greeting with key member Daniel “Church” Wilson (left) when encountering him and other group members in downtown Spokane, according to the trial briefing. The group “routinely traveled around Spokane looking for minorities to bait into a verbal and/or physical altercation, a practice referred to by group members as “coon hunting.”“

 Kurt was asked to become the leader of the group after VanTuyl and Wilson were imprisoned, but the group instead disbanded, prosecutors say.

The jury deliberated just a few hours Oct. 21 before convicting Kurt, who has been in jail since his arrest. The conviction is the latest for a convicted currency counterfeiter whose experience with the criminal justice system dates back to at least 1988, when he was acquitted of murder in Snohomish County.

Udseth was sentenced to three years probation Wednesday in U.S. District Court for manufacture of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute marijuana in relation to 90 plants and six pounds of harvested pot found during a search at his home in May.

Udseth said he had a medical marijuana card, according to his plea agreement, but such a card only authorizes 15 marijuana plants and a pound and a half of marijuana, and federal law doesn't recognize medical marijuana.

Get blog updates by email

About this blog

Public safety news from the Inland Northwest and beyond.

Latest comments »

Read all the posts from recent conversations on Sirens & Gavels.

Search this blog
Subscribe to this blog
ADVERTISEMENT
Advertise Here