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. "Dautovicís 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.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
Redflex Officials Charged With Bribery, Fraud, Conspiracy
The former head of US operations for Redflex Traffic Systems was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury. Karen Finley, 54, was charged with nine counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, three counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy to use bribes to win and expand a lucrative red light camera contract with Chicago, Illinois worth $124 million. "Rooting out public corruption remains one of the FBI's highest priorities," Robert J. Holley, special agent-in-charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said in a statement. "Today's indictment underscores our commitment to work in a collaborative effort to promote honest and ethical government at all levels and to prosecute those who allegedly violated the public's trust." In May, federal prosecutors indicted John Bills, Chicago's deputy transportation commissioner, for accepting $643,000 worth of cash and benefits from Redflex in return for his providing essential insider information on how to win the lucrative contract for what became the world's largest municipal red light camera program. The money and gifts were delivered through Martin O'Malley, a Redflex contractor who was friends with Bills and was also indicted Wednesday for his role in the plot. Prosecutors say that they have emails that show Finley not only knew what she was doing, but also that she tried to cover it up in 2007 after O'Malley accidentally sent an invoice to a Redflex employee who was not aware of what was going on. "In an e-mail exchange with Individual A [Aaron M. Rosenberg] regarding the drafting of documents that would give Redflex an advantage in obtaining the contracts, defendant Finley admonished Individual A that Individual A's discussions with O'Malley about the drafts should not be in writing and advised that Finley was deleting her e-mails regarding the drafts as she was sending them," the indictment states. On September 23, 2008, Finley signed an economic disclosure statement for Chicago falsely certifying that no Redflex employee had attempted to bribe any Chicago employees. When Bills retired from the city, Finley and Rosenberg arranged to have the Traffic Safety Coalition, a front group funded and controlled by Redflex, hire Bills. When Bills left the group, Redflex hired his girlfriend. Federal prosecutors are looking to seize $613,400 plus the proceeds of the sale of a condominium in Gilbert, Arizona as funds directly related to the bribery scheme. Finley faces up to twenty years in prison for each count of wire fraud. In a statement to Australian investors on Thursday, Redflex shrugged off the charges by pointing to a hundred jurisdictions that have renewed automated ticketing contracts in spite of the cloud of corruption hanging over the Australian company.