NEWS of the Day - May 22, 2012
on some LACP issues of interest

NEWS of the Day - May 22, 2012
on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist across the country

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view ...

We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...


From Google News

Dharun Ravi's sentence a surprise to legal experts, though appeal could come

by Alexi Friedman and Sue Epstein

NEW BRUNSWICK — The clock is now ticking.

Dharun Ravi was sentenced Monday to spend a month in county jail, but the former Rutgers University student convicted of spying on his gay roommate via a remote webcam won't know his fate for another nine days. That's how long the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office has to appeal the judge's surprising sentence in a case that has captured national attention and sparked a debate on cyber bullying and gay teen suicide.

For now at least, Ravi remains free.

Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman shocked the New Brunswick courtroom Monday when he ordered Ravi to spend 30 days in jail, departing from established sentencing guidelines that called for up to 10 years in state prison. Visibly upset with the sentence, First Assistant Prosecutor Julia McClure immediately told the judge she would appeal.

Berman's decision means there will be even more drama before the long legal battle is over in a case that has already stretched 20 months.

Ravi's defense team has indicated it will appeal the March 16 conviction, in which the 20-year-old was found guilty of bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and related charges.

The prosecutor's office must file its appeal before May 31, when Ravi is ordered to begin his month-long sentence in Middlesex County jail. Ravi would remain free pending the appeal.
Video: Judge delivers sentence of 30 days in jail to Dharun Ravi Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman delivered a sentence of 30 days in jail to Dharun Ravi. In addition to the sentence he has to do community service and pay a $10,000 fine. (Video courtesy of News12 TruTV/InSession) Watch video

In assessing Monday's sentence, legal experts say the prosecutor's office has a case now that the judge gave Ravi jail time on lesser charges of hindering apprehension and tampering with witnesses. Both charges carry a presumption of no jail time. Meanwhile, the three bias counts, which the judge gave Ravi probation for, do carry a presumption of prison time.

Rutgers Law School professor Louis Raveson said because the bias counts are second-degree crimes, Ravi ordinarily would have been sentenced to prison. The only way around it, Raveson said, is "if doing so in this case would constitute a serious injustice. It's a hard standard to meet," he added. If it wasn't an injustice on the lesser charges, Raveson said, how could it be an injustice on bias?

But in explaining his decision, Berman said he was convinced "the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating factors" when it comes to the bias counts. As he had at trial, Berman reiterated his problems with the state's existing bias statute. Referring to the bias law as it relates to Ravi's actions, Berman said, "the legislature was not envisioning this behavior, regardless of how reprehensible." Of the 39 states that have bias statutes, Berman found that most were for violent behavior. "That's what I believe the Legislature had in mind when they adopted this statute."

But Leslie Sinemus, immediate past president of the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey, said the prosecutor's office could have a good shot at overturning the sentence because the second-degree bias convictions do carry a presumption of incarceration, even for a first-time offender like Ravi. "I'm not sure 30-day sentence as condition of probation sends the defendant or future defendants the message," she said.

In addition to 30 days jail, the judge sentenced Ravi to three years probation and told him to contribute $10,000 to a state licensed community based organization dedicated to assisting victims of bias crimes. Berman also said he would recommend Ravi, who has lived in this country most of his life but is not a citizen, not be deported to his native India. Defense attorney McClure did not comment on the sentencing, but in a statement to reporters, Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan said he would appeal. He called the judge's decision "insufficient under the sentencing laws of this state, the facts that were determined by a jury and long-standing appellate precedent."

Gay activist responds to the Dharun Ravi sentence Bill Dobbs, a gay activist from Manhattan, responds to the sentencing of Dharun Ravi at Middlesex County Court House in New Brunswick. Dobbs felt that this case triggered public outrage nationally because of a tabloid flavor that gave many people the idea that Ravi caused Tyler Clementi's death. According to Dobbs, the outrage may have pushed the justice system a bit off track, creating too many charges and potential punishment. Ravi was sentenced to a 30-day term in the county jail for intimidation and invading the privacy of his roommate, who later committed suicide. The 20-year-old former Rutgers University freshman was facing as much as 10 years in state prison. (Video by Andre Malok / The Star-Ledger) Watch video

While noting that the prosecution does have a case, Fordham Law School professor Annemarie McAvoy said "the appeal will be hard. Unless there are mandatory guidelines, it's hard to force a judge to sentence someone to jail time. The judge listened to all sides. He had a reasoned view."

Berman called Ravi's actions "cold, calculated and methodically conceived" but said they stopped short of hate. Berman also showed his hand by placing more emphasis on the witness tampering and hindering apprehension than on the bias. "The jury essentially convicted you of lying," he told Ravi to a hushed courtroom. The sentencing was broadcast live and included two overflow courtrooms for onlookers and journalists.

One law professor commended Berman on the sentence.

Mark Poirier of Seton Hall University said he was "very impressed" with the judge's decision and says it won't be overturned on appeal.

"I'm not sure these facts support bias," Poirier said. "Berman did his homework."




Chief: Community policing curbs crime

FORT MYERS, FL - Fort Myers Police Officers are working to fight crime with a different approach. They're subscribing to the community policing philosophy and targeting law abiding citizens instead of criminals. We saw the concept in action Monday morning.

Officers say in a bold move, two teenagers wearing ski masks and carrying semi-automatic firearms robbed a corner store.

"Very bold. In the morning. There were several patrons outside. They went right past them with ski masks and guns in a brazen attempt they robbed the clerk, they robbed the business and they fled on foot," Sgt. Brian O'Reilly said.

Police quickly caught the two suspects, 19 year-old Javonte Walker and 17-year-old Jaquavias Sturgis, with help from a man who saw them take off.

"Without the citizen's involvement we may not have been able to make this arrest," O'Reilly said.

The tip is no accident. FMPD is trying to foster that kind of cooperation through community policing.

"It's important to get that information because when we have that information, we have the ability to act on it," Police Chief Doug Baker said.

The city is split into five areas, with two officers assigned to each. Monday, Baker briefed city council on the concept. Community policing brings citizens and officers together to identify root problems and find solutions..instead of just reacting to calls for help.

"It is a philosophy of how you do business," the chief said.

The policy empowers citizens, allowing them to see how they can affect change in their neighborhoods.

"With the increase in violent crime that we had last year, we have a lot of people that are wanting to participate, wanting to be involved," Baker said.

Baker says community policing is working. Crime numbers are down so far this year. It's not only the 10 assigned officers involved, every officer on the force is expected to make community connections.

"It's not one specific area. It needs to happen throughout the city because I've got crime that happens throughout the city," Baker said.




Fremont police will play Gotcha!

by Brett Ellis

Police officers in Fremont won't just be on the lookout for criminals this summer.

Officers also will be looking to catch young people in the act of being safe as part of the Fremont Police Department's Gotcha! program.

The program, which has been around for more than a decade, is part of the department's community policing efforts.

“It's another way to get our police officers out in the community for positive contacts with area youth,” Lt. Kurt Bottorff said.

Bottorff said officers on patrol will be looking for children from preschool to junior high age wearing helmets while riding their bikes or skateboards, using crosswalks safely, wearing reflective clothing and other things.

“It's anything and everything that we can say, ‘Hey, thanks for practicing safety,' because we really want them to have a safe and happy summer,” Bottorff said.

Officers will issue Gotcha! tickets to the children. Those tickets include coupons such as free passes to Splash Station and Ronin Pool and McDonald's ice cream cones.

Children who receive one of the tickets also are eligible for a drawing at the end of the summer or one of four $25 Walmart gift cards.

Bottorff said he appreciates the support the program annually receives from the police department and businesses.

“The business community and the Fremont Police Department have always had a great partnership,” he said.

Along with rewarding children for safe behavior, Bottorff said the Gotcha! program also sends an important message.

“Police and youth can be friends,” he said. “We can get along, we can communicate. What we really want to see is the positive interaction continue to grow so that if they're ever in trouble or need help or have information to share, they can contact us and we'll work together.”



From the Department of Justice

Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole Speaks on Alternatives to Incarceration Program: the Use of “Drug Courts” in the Federal and State Systems

New York, N.Y. ~ Monday, May 21, 2012

Thank you, Judge Gleeson for that introduction. I am very pleased to be here among this distinguished panel of criminal justice professionals.

I want to thank the Federal Bar Council's Special Committee on Sentencing Reform and Alternatives to Incarceration and the New York University School of Law's Center on the Administration of Criminal Law for hosting this important session.

And let me especially thank Judge Gleeson, Larry Krantz, Caroline Rule, Professor Rachel Barkow and others for bringing us together tonight.

The Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that more than $74 billion is spent on state and federal corrections annually. Today, some 2.3 million people – more than 1 in 100 American adults – are behind bars. Currently, the federal prison population totals over 218,000 and the federal Bureau of Prisons' budget has nearly doubled since 2000 -- to $6.6 billion. At the end of 2010, there were 105,552 federal offenders on supervised release.

More than 700,000 individuals leave state and federal prisons each year. More than 45,000 are federal offenders returning to U.S. communities. Forty percent of federal offenders are rearrested or have their supervision revoked within three years after release. For state inmates, the figure is 67%.

System-wide, the Bureau of Prisons is operating at 38 percent over its rated capacity. Crowding is of special concern at higher security facilities—with 51 percent overcrowding at high security facilities and 48 percent at medium security facilities. The Bureau has had to manage crowding, in part, by double and triple bunking inmates.

Today, with these statistics, we face real criminal justice challenges that we must address to protect public safety and be cost-effective. Few would dispute that public safety requires incarceration, and that imprisonment is, at least partially, responsible for the dramatic drop in crime rates nationwide in recent decades. But it is in our interests to find alternative ways of dealing with offenders rather than a sole focus on incarceration.

The Attorney General and I are committed to a criminal justice system and a sentencing policy that are both tough and fair; that deter those contemplating serious criminal conduct and that are guided by research that show when non-incarceration is the best sanction. We know that dangerous people need to be incarcerated for the crimes they commit. And we need to have the capacity to incarcerate these serious offenders. But there are also those individuals whom we can hold accountable in the community and consider giving a chance to meaningfully turn their lives around. These offenders don't present the same public safety risks as the serious offenders. And imprisonment does not serve the same deterrent effect. Giving them the chance to overcome an addiction or providing them with the opportunity to get help before sending them directly to prison, could result in the avoidance of a criminal conviction that can affect employment, family, education and housing prospects for years to come. By supporting and expanding drug court, reentry and other related programs, we not only improve public safety and public health, but protect and leverage taxpayer dollars, safeguard communities in need and assist individuals and families in crisis.

Within the Department, we have taken steps to ensure a greater availability of alternatives to federal prosecution through pre-trial diversion programs and referrals to state drug courts. The federal criminal justice docket is quite different from those in most states, and as a result, proportionately fewer federal defendants will be eligible for diversion from prosecution. For example, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, more than a third of all federal defendants are convicted of immigration crimes, most of whom are ineligible for pre- or post-trial release and thus will not be eligible for an alternative to prosecution. Similarly, according to the Sentencing Commission, most federal drug offenders have been involved in trafficking substantial quantities of illegal drugs and thus are ineligible for an alternative to prosecution. Nonetheless, there are low-level offenders in the federal criminal justice system for whom an alternative sanction may be appropriate.

About two years ago, the Department supported changes to the federal sentencing guidelines to permit the use of drug or mental health treatment as an alternative to incarceration for certain low-level offenders. The Department also changed its own policies – codified in the U.S. Attorneys' Manual – to make alternatives to incarceration more available. In March 2011, we expanded the permissible pretrial diversion programs to include those that address addicted defendants through treatment and monitoring, rather than prosecution.

Our U.S. Attorneys' Offices also work collaboratively with the judiciary, probation and defenders offices in drug court programs across the country.

For example, in the Central District of Illinois, we are active in the Pretrial Alternatives to Detention Initiative (or PADI Program) where defendants charged with felony drug offenses deemed minimally culpable and who have a substance abuse problem may be offered pretrial diversion, may have their charges reduced or dismissed, or may receive a non-incarceration sentence upon successful completion of the program.

As of May 2012, 57 defendants have successfully completed the program, which provides a successful completion rate of 90%. 27 have received a sentence of diversion, 27 have received sentences of time served with supervised release to follow, two cases have been dismissed entirely with no type of supervision to follow and 1 defendant graduated but has not yet been sentenced. Thanks to this one program alone, over $4.7 million in imprisonment expenditures have been avoided based on the average sentences these individuals were facing. Think of the savings that could be achieved if we could bring these programs to a larger scale.

We are also active in the CASA (Conviction and Sentence Alternative) program in the Central District of California and the BRIDGE court program in the District of South Carolina. These are all programs that provide diversion options for defendants with substance abuse problems.

In the Western District of Virginia, we are active in a program geared solely toward veterans charged with non-violent crimes who are struggling with significant substance abuse and mental health issues. This program entails both post conviction sentence reductions and “front end” diversion options.

The Department's Office of Justice Programs is actively supporting drug courts -- conducting research and providing training and grants to state, local and tribal governments. In FY 2011, the Department awarded more than $28 million to support juvenile, adult and family drug courts.

Rigorous studies have shown how [state] drug courts work and have validated that they reduce both recidivism rates and public safety costs. In fact, they've been found to reduce crime more than any other sentencing option.

By promoting sobriety, recovery, and personal accountability, drug courts help to break the cycle of drug use, crime, imprisonment, and release without rehabilitation. Of course, these programs give no one a free pass. They are strict and can be extraordinarily difficult to get through. But for those who succeed, there is the real prospect of a productive future.

We also know that these programs are labor intensive to run and require a serious commitment of federal resources. Any given federal drug court graduation may involve only 10-15 offenders annually – which is clearly small-scale when considering our current prosecution and imprisonment statistics. This is just one more reason why we need to expand these programs on a large scale. Within the Department, we are looking for appropriate ways to do this. And we are working with our federal criminal justice partners as well. It is time to consider what we can, and must, accomplish. And it is time to determine how we will put drug courts within reach of every individual who needs and would benefit from these programs

As we face the growing challenges of our criminal justice needs, we should be innovative and strategic in determining “what works” -- even before an arrest is made. During a trip to the District of South Carolina last year, I learned about an operation that did just that. Operation AStand@ (Stop, Take A New Direction), a combined effort of the South Carolina U.S. Attorney's Office, the North Charleston Police Department, the Charleston County Solicitor=s Office, and community and faith-based groups in the City of North Charleston, SC is a project designed to stop open air drug markets in the community. It began with looking at crime data and identifying a particular drug market to be targeted by police. This was followed by several months of undercover buy operations. Of the 31 individuals who sold drugs to undercover officers, it was jointly determined that 23 who had primary culpability for the drug transactions would be arrested. The other eight, who had lesser culpability, were chosen as candidates for the call in program.

As part of this program, the Chief of Police gave the eight men letters indicating that police knew they had been dealing drugs, asking them to appear at City Hall on a certain date, and promising them that they would not be arrested as long as they showed up. All eight men showed up, on time. That night they heard from local residents about the effects of their activities on the community and from representatives of various church groups and community service groups who were willing to help them. They also heard from prosecutors and law enforcement agencies willing to forego possible charges if these men turned their lives around.

All eight men pledged that night to do just that. They took advantage of a variety of services such as drug treatment and job training. Unfortunately, four of the eight returned to dealing drugs and have since been arrested and prosecuted. However, one of those is now a spokesperson for the program and tells about his regrets for not seeing it through. But there is success. Four men have not returned to dealing drugs, are employed, and are on a better course in life. Moreover, the open air drug market has disappeared and the community has seen a remarkable improvement. Efforts similar to Operation “Stand” have been conducted with our law enforcement partners in districts all over the country, such as in the Middle District of North Carolina and District of Rhode Island. These efforts exemplify what can happen when we work together innovatively and responsibly to protect public safety.

Traditionally, we have talked about our efforts to combat violent crime as involving the three elements of prevention, intervention, and incarceration. But there is a fourth element that is now recognized as being just as important – Re-entry. Along with efforts described earlier, the Department is engaged on the “back end” to provide services and supervision to formerly incarcerated individuals after release. By assisting these individuals in becoming productive, tax-paying citizens, our goal is that they will no longer engage in behavior, such as drug use, that will result in a supervision revocation or a new arrest – likely sending them back to prison.

The Department is involved with reentry courts across the nation. The Federal Judicial Center is currently undertaking a multi-year review of the effectiveness of reentry courts. While we look forward to the results of this study, we've already had some reentry court successes. For example, the District of Massachusetts' Court Assisted Recovery Effort – or CARE – reentry program focuses on defendants with an identified drug addiction and offers successful participants up to a one-year reduction in their term of supervised release. A 2009 evaluation found that 43 percent of individuals who participated in the CARE reentry court were rearrested, while 63 percent of the control group were rearrested following regular supervision.

The Department also provides drug treatment to inmates while they're in prison through its drug abuse reentry programs. This option provides treatment for those often ineligible for a diversion program. Specifically, the Bureau's Residential Drug Abuse Program (or RDAP), provides cognitive behavioral treatment to inmates with a medical diagnosis of substance abuse or dependence. RDAP is proven to reduce recidivism and non-violent offenders who complete RDAP are eligible to earn up to a 12 month sentence reduction. While we make every effort to provide RDAP to each eligible inmate, prison crowding and related costs have hurt our ability to do so. However, we plan to expand to allow more inmates to participate and earn the full 12 months early release, resulting in reduced incarceration costs.

Lastly, the Attorney General has convened a Federal Interagency Reentry Council representing over 20 federal departments and agencies to help reduce barriers to successful offender reentry after release from prison.

I attended the third Cabinet level meeting of this group earlier this month and I can tell you personally that substantial progress is being made. For example, a study, funded by the National Institute of Justice and conducted by the American Bar Association, catalogued over 38,000 statutes that impose collateral consequences – or “extra punishments” – on people convicted of crimes, and over 80% of them constitute barriers to employment. Based on these findings, the Attorney General recently wrote to every state Attorney General asking them to assess their state's collateral consequences and determine which ones are needed to promote public safety, and which ones should be eliminated because they serve no valid purpose. The federal government is also conducting this same review. It is a basic concept that a key to successful re-entry is getting the person a job. We hope that this effort will broaden job opportunities for offenders upon release and provide them with a positive alternative as opposed to reengaging in a life of crime.

While we have made strides in recognizing that imprisonment alone, with its high economic and social costs, is not a complete strategy for criminal law enforcement, we know that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. Expanding drug courts and reentry and other related programs are an integral part of the solution -- the Department remains committed to finding out which of these programs work and using them to keep the momentum going.