Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Two Ohio Cities To Vote On Traffic Camera Bans
Red light cameras and speed cameras have been put to a vote at the ballot box in eight Ohio towns, more than anywhere else in the nation. Residents of Cleveland and Maple Heights on Monday submitted petitions that to raise that figure to ten.
In Cleveland, volunteers spent four years circulating petitions to gather 12,930 signatures. If the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections certifies at least 6013 as valid, the city council will have to put the measure either on the November 4 ballot or call a special election in February. September 5 is the deadline to have a measure ready for the fall election. Proponents of the measure say the public is enthusiastic about the camera ban.
"It's probably the easiest petition that I've ever circulated to get people to sign," Jason Sonenshein with the group Liberate Ohio told TheNewspaper. "People are very eager to sign this. It's an issue that voters generally feel passionate about. Everyone who drives through Cleveland sees one or more of these cameras on a daily basis."
If the petition is certified for the ballot, voters will be asked to approve a charter amendment that borrows language that has successfully been used in several other cities to block the use of automated ticketing machines.
"The city, including its various boards, agencies and departments, shall not use any traffic law photo-monitoring device for the enforcement of a qualified traffic law violation, unless a law enforcement officer is present at the location of the device and personally issues the ticket to the alleged violator at the time and location of the violation," the proposal states.
In Maple Heights, a bipartisan group of activists filed over 1200 signatures to place a photo ticketing ban on the ballot. It will go on the ballot if elections officials certify 694 of them as valid. Already, city officials have taken steps to keep the measure from reaching voters.
Christopher Finney, attorney for the Coalition Against Spending and Taxes, says he will sue the city if it tries to block the people from having a voice on the traffic camera issue. Finney's group promises to go "city by city" to take down the cameras if it has to. This is no idle threat, considering voters in Ashtabula, Cincinnati, Chillicothe, Heath, Garfield Heights, South Euclid and Steubenville have banned speed cameras and red light cameras.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Appeals Court Orders More Prison Time For Cop Who Beat Motorist
Twenty months in jail is nowhere near sufficient punishment for an Iowa cop who brutally beat a motorist, the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled on Thursday. Des Moines Police Officer Mersed Dautovic had been convicted assaulting Octavius Bonds with a baton during a September 12, 2008 traffic stop.
Around midnight, Bonds left a movie theater with his girlfriend, Erin Evans, who was behind the wheel when Officer Dautovic approached from behind with emergency lights flashing, en route to a call. According to Officer John Mailander, Dautovic's partner, Evans took five seconds to move over into the right lane because other traffic was in the way. The emergency call was canceled and Dautovic decided to stop Evans for failing to yield.
"Are you from America?" Officer Dautovic yelled as Evans rolled down the window. "Are you stupid? Didn't you know you are supposed to yield to the right when you see an emergency vehicle approaching?"
Evans took too long producing her license and registration, so Officer Mainlander pulled her out of the car, dragging her along the ground to be handcuffed. Bonds got out of the car, so Officer Dautovic sprayed him with mace. Bonds put his hands on top of the car, faced away from Officer Dautovic and begged him to stop spraying.
Instead, Officer Dautovic reached under Bonds' arm to spray him directly in the face. Bonds pulled Dautovic's arm away. Officer Dautovic responded by slamming his baton onto Bonds' skull. Bonds resumed consciousness only to see both Dautovic and Mainlander hitting him with their batons as he was on the ground in a fetal position. A hospital treated Bonds for severe head injury, a broken right forearm and a broken left hand that required surgery.
Bonds was charged with assaulting a police officer and Evans with interfering with a police officer. Three witnesses at trial confirmed that Bonds was not resisting, and a jury acquitted them despite the perjured testimony and falsified police reports of Officers Dautovic and Mainlander.
Another jury found Dautovic guilty of using excessive force and obstructing justice. He faced a twenty year maximum sentence for his crime. Dautovic was without remorse throughout his trial, insisting he did the right thing. US District Court Judge John A. Jarvey determined that the federal sentencing guidelines recommendation of eleven to fourteen years in prison was "unreasonable" and that twenty months was sufficient. The Eighth Circuit disagreed.
"The district court acted within its discretion when it decided to vary downward based on Dautovic's history and characteristics and on its policy disagreement with the guidelines, but these considerations do not justify the imposition of a twenty-month sentence in this case," Judge Roger Leland Wollman wrote for the three-judge appellate panel. "Dautovic's offense conduct involved aggravating circumstances, including the use of a dangerous weapon, the physical restraint of Bonds during the course of the beating, and the infliction of serious injury. Moreover, acting under the color of law, Dautovic tried to conceal his wrongdoing by falsifying a police report and lying under oath. When the totality of the circumstances is considered, a variance from the guidelines range of 135 to 168 months' imprisonment to a twenty-month sentence is unreasonably lenient"
The court vacated Dautovic's sentence and ordered A copy of the decision is available in a 100k PDF file at the source link below.
Source: US v. Dautovic (US Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit, 8/14/2014)
Monday, August 18, 2014
New Mexico Sheriff Busted Over Brutal Road Rage Traffic Stop
A road rage incident could put the top law enforcement officer in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico behind bars. Federal prosecutors on Friday charged Sheriff Thomas R. Rodella with civil rights violations, brandishing a firearm and falsifying documents related to a March 11 traffic stop of Michael Tafoya on Highway 399.
According to the federal complaint, Sheriff Rodella and his son, Thomas R. Rodella Jr, were speeding in a personal Jeep Wrangler SUV when they approached Tafoya's white sedan, which was observing the 35 MPH speed limit. Rodella tailgated the sedan, and Tafoya tapped the brakes, infuriating Rodella. Eventually, Tafoya pulled to the side so Rodella could pass.
Instead of passing, Rodella also pulled over, got out of his Jeep and motioned Tafoya to fight. Since Rodella was not in uniform, Tafoya had no idea that he was a law enforcement officer, so he got back in his car and took off at high speed. The younger Rodella got behind the wheel of the jeep and began pursuit, eventually blocking Tafoya into a dead-end private street.
Sheriff Rodella allegedly pulled out a revolver, opened Tafoya's car door and began pistol whipping him as the motorist begged not to be shot. The younger Rodella grabbed Tafoya out of the car and threw him onto the ground.
"Don't you know that is the sheriff?" the younger Rodella asked.
When Tafoya asked to see a badge, Sheriff Rodella slammed it into his face. Deputies were called to the scene, and Tafoya was hauled in to the Rio Arriba County Detention Center and booked, charged with assaulting the Rodellas.
"I was concerned for my life and the lives of others as the driver had made more than one attempt to run me over," Sheriff Rodella wrote in his report.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation looked into the incident and found evidence that Tafoya's version of events was credible.
"As the lead agency for enforcing federal civil rights laws, the FBI wants to make it clear no one is above the law, regardless of what uniform you wear or rank you hold," FBI Special Agent in Charge Carol K.O. Lee said in a statement. "Those charged with upholding the law must and will be held accountable."
The Rodellas each face up to twenty years in prison for the falsified document charge and a mandatory minimum of seven years on the weapons charge, if convicted.
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Estonia, France: Speed Cameras Spraypainted, Burned
In Vaana-Jyesuu, Estonia, vigilantes disabled a speed camera last week Sunday. According to the Posttimees, white spraypaint covered the automated ticketing machine's lenses, marking the fourth time since August that a speed camera has been damaged in the area.
White paint was also the weapon of choice in Bellevue-la-Montagne, France. Mon 43 reported that vigilantes used white paint to disable the automated ticketing machine on the RD906. In Firmi, vigilantes set fire to the Decazeville speed camera just after midnight on Thursday, La Depeche reported.
Friday, August 15, 2014
Redflex Unlawful Termination Lawsuit Kicked Back To State Court
After wasting months of the federal court's time, Redflex and the Australian firm's former executive vice president returned Thursday morning to the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles, California to provide Superior Court Judge Susan Bryant-Deason with an update on their unlawful termination dispute.
Redflex fired the first shot in the legal tussle by suing Aaron M. Rosenberg, a former top executive, over his role in the Chicago, Illinois bribery scandal. Rosenberg countersued in a California court, claiming he was merely acting under orders from his superiors at Redflex and that the Australian firm has been using him as a scapegoat. Redflex removed the case to a federal court in May.
Rosenberg has been cooperating with federal prosecutors, freely admitting that he bribed clients in a dozen states on the orders of his boss, Karen Finley, who was indicted for corruption on Wednesday.
Last month, US District Court Judge George H. Wu granted Rosenberg the right to cross-examine Redflex witnesses to establish whether he was the employee of a legitimate California company, or whether "Redflex California" was a sham. The answer to this question would determine whether the state or the federal court should assume jurisdiction over the ongoing employment dispute. Redflex became uncomfortable when Rosenberg began asking too many questions.
"Plaintiff [Rosenberg] has gone well beyond any reasonable boundaries of the court's order allowing 'limited' jurisdictional discovery, by serving two separate notices for lengthy 30(b)(6) depositions with 25 broad topics, in addition to serving separate 26 written discovery requests on each defendant -- 102 total requests," Redflex attorneys complained. "Plaintiff's lengthy, overbroad and unnecessary discovery is plainly designed to harass defendants and to cause a needless increase in the cost of litigation."
Rosenberg asked a number of questions about the corporate structure of Redflex and its subsidiaries, focusing on the Culver City office known as "Redflex CA." Rosenberg filed a number of topics of inquiry, such as: "Deposition Subject Number 7: The business practices of Redflex CA, including its solicitation, negotiation and execution of Redflex CA contracts with Redflex CA contracting parties."
Redflex would only agree to a single four-hour deposition on "limited topics." It also sought a protective order from the court to guarantee that "trade secrets" would not be revealed by Rosenberg's questions.
As soon as Judge Wu refused to grant the protective order, the Australian firm relented and gave in to allow the case to be sent back to the Los Angeles courtroom.