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5 months ago · by · Comments Off on Jennifer Dulos Disappearance Draws Attention to Domestic Violence & the Family Court System

Jennifer Dulos Disappearance Draws Attention to Domestic Violence & the Family Court System

 

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In Connecticut and around the country, advocates say the case of Jennifer Dulos has helped bring attention to and highlighted questions about how to improve the family court system.  Long before she disappeared, the mother of 5 told the courts that her husband was verbally abusive and that she feared for her life. In filings in the divorce case, Jennifer Dulos said she was worried for her safety and that of the couple’s children. Jennifer wrote in a 2017 affidavit “I am afraid of my husband. I know that filing for divorce and filing this motion will enrage him. I know he will retaliate by trying to harm me in some way.”  Fotis Dulos, 52, denied the claims and argued Jennifer Dulos was unfit to have sole custody of the children. They were involved in a contentious divorce and custody battle when she disappeared in May of 2019, almost 2 years after filing for divorce.  

Though her body has not been found, authorities believe she was killed in a violent attack at her home in New Canaan.  They suspect that Fotis Dulos had been lying in wait for Jennifer and attacked her when she arrived home after dropping her children off at school. Police allege that Fotis Dulos and his girlfriend Michelle Troconis went to Hartford, Connecticut, to dispose of 36 garbage bags containing items with Jennifer Dulos’ blood on them on the night that Jennifer disappeared.  The two were charged with tampering with evidence and hindering prosecution in connection with the disappearance but both later made bail.

On January 7th, 2020, Fotis Dulos was arrested at his home and charged with capital murder, murder, and kidnapping in relation to the disappearance of Jennifer. His former girlfriend, Michelle Troconis, was also charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Fotis Dulos’s friend and former attorney, Kent Douglas Mawhinney was also charged with conspiracy to commit murder.  Prosecutors believe both Mawhinney and Troconis worked with Dulos on his alibi for the day of Jennifer Dulos’ disappearance. Fotis Dulos committed suicide on January 28 2020. His former girlfriend, Michelle Toconis and friend, Kent Douglas Mawhinney both still face their charges in the disappearance. Mawhinney also faces charges of spousal rape.

Karen Jarmoc, CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said warning signs in the case may have gone unheeded.  Jennifer Dulos’ concerns “really didn’t seem to be viewed as a red flag in the court by the judge,” Jarmoc said. The couple also had filed 300 motions in their divorce and child custody cases before Jennifer Dulos disappeared.  State and national advocates say that reflects a need for judges to better recognize and address so-called “litigation abuse,” long stretches of drawn-out court motions and appearances they say can be their own form of abuse or become a possible warning sign for possible violence.  “We find that abusers often file multiple things in order to drag their ex-partner into court, to do that to harass them, to be near them, to cause them financial hardship and stress,” said Karen Jarmoc, whose group is exploring legislative proposals that could lead to criminal penalties for unnecessary filings in family court.

 

Nationally, more than half of killings of girls and women are related to intimate partner violence, according to a 2017 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  State Sen. Alex Bergstein, a Democrat from Greenwich, planned to call for new legislation Friday that would require family court judges to give more weight to claims of domestic violence when handling child custody cases.  “Unfortunately, the loss of her life has brought attention, increased attention to this issue. But this is an issue that is real and present, every day, in all parts of our state and in every community, and we need to address it head on.”

 

Danielle Pollack, an ambassador specializing in family court reform with Child USA, a Philadelphia-based organization, said abuse “gets lost, it gets discredited” when courts look simultaneously at other factors when granting custody, especially claims of alienation.  We’re helping states build their custody statutes in a way that puts the safety of the children first,” said Pollack, whose group helped to pass legislation in Louisiana and is currently working on a similar bill in Pennsylvania. “Kids are still getting in these very dangerous situations.”

 

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6 months ago · by · Comments Off on Former CEO Sentenced In College Admissions Scandal

Former CEO Sentenced In College Admissions Scandal

 

 

 

 

 

 

The former CEO of an investment firm was sentenced to nine months in prison for bribing his children’s way into elite universities.  It is the longest sentence yet of any parent involved in the college admissions scandal known as “Operation Varsity Blues.” Prosecutors say Douglas Hodge, ex-CEO of Pacific Investment Management Co., or PIMCO, paid $850,000 in bribes to get four of his children into USC and Georgetown University as fake athletic recruits.  Prosecutors had recommended sending Hodge, 62, to prison for two years

A federal judge branded the former head of bond giant Pimco a “common thief” and sentenced him to nine months in prison for his role in the sweeping college admissions cheating scandal.  Douglas Hodge, who had earlier admitted paying $850,000 in bribes to get four of his seven children admitted to elite colleges, also had his request to serve out part of his sentence at home turned down by the judge.

 “I have in my heart the deepest remorse for my actions,” a teary-eyed Hodge told Judge Nathaniel Groton in Boston. “I do not believe that ego or desire for high social standing drove my decision-making. Rather, I was driven by my own transformative educational experiences and my deep parental love.”  In his statement, Hodge also absolved his children, saying they “did nothing to deserve the consequences they have suffered as a result of my actions.” 

Groton was unmoved.  “Mr. Hodge, your conduct in this whole sordid affair is appalling and mind-boggling,” Groton said. “There is no term in the English language that describes your conduct as well as the Yiddish term chutzpah.”  Groton then imposed on Hodge, a Dartmouth and Harvard graduate, charged with money laundering and wire and mail fraud charges, the stiffest punishment among 14 parents who have been sentenced thus far. Groton also denied Hodge’s request to split his sentence with home confinement int the palatial Pacific Coast mansion in Laguna Beach, California.  He also ordered him to pay $750,000 in fines, and perform 500 hours of community service.

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6 months ago · by · Comments Off on Trial for Ex CIA Engineer Begins

Trial for Ex CIA Engineer Begins

 

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The trial has begun for a former CIA software engineer that allegedly leaked a massive trove of the agency’s secret hacking tools to take revenge on his former colleagues and bosses.  Joshua Schulte, 31, is charged with disclosing classified information to WikiLeaks after allegedly stealing it from a secretive CIA unit where he worked. In more than 8,000 pages of material published in 2017 — known as the Vault 7 leaks — WikiLeaks showed how the CIA breaks into smartphones and Internet-connected devices, including televisions.

The disclosure “was the single biggest leak of classified national defense information in the history of the CIA,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Denton told jurors. Denton said that as a result of the disclosure, CIA operations had “come to a halt,” U.S. intelligence officers serving overseas had been exposed and American adversaries were able to turn cyber weapons developed by the CIA against the United States.

Schulte’s lawyers have described the government’s charges as vague and overreaching. They also complained that prosecutors have been slow to share information about their case with the defense and placed burdensome rules on the handling of classified information.  Sabrina Shroff, Schulte’s lead defense attorney, accused the government of prosecuting Schulte out of embarrassment over losing such a huge volume of sensitive information, and because he was “an easy target.”

Shroff said that the government had no conclusive evidence that tied the leaks to Schulte, and that the network from which the hacking tools allegedly were stolen was open to “hundreds” of people.  Schulte himself has said previously that he was targeted for speaking out against what he described as incompetent CIA management. From 2010 to 2016, Schulte worked in the CIA’s Engineering Development Group, which produced the computer code published by WikiLeaks.

Schulte claimed that he reported “incompetent management and bureaucracy” at the CIA to the agency’s inspector general and to a congressional oversight committee. He asserted that when he left the CIA, he immediately became a suspect in the leak as “the only one to have recently departed the engineering group on poor terms.”

On March 13, 2017, less than a week after the original WikiLeaks publication, FBI agents searched Schulte’s apartment in New York, where he had moved to take a new job after leaving the agency, and found a computer server and several external drives, as well as notebooks and handwritten notes, court filings show. Schulte was not arrested and denied to FBI agents that he had leaked the CIA materials.  In August, Schulte was arrested after investigators searching his computer found evidence of child pornography, including more than 10,000 photos and videos, prosecutors alleged. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges, which will be tried separately.

 

 

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6 months ago · by · Comments Off on CDC Prepares For Coronavirus Outbreak in US

CDC Prepares For Coronavirus Outbreak in US

 

 

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is preparing for the new coronavirus, which has killed at least 1,115 and sickened more than 45,000 worldwide, to “take a foothold in the U.S.”  Health officials have confirmed 13 U.S. cases of the virus, now named COVID-19, short for Corona Virus Disease. They are awaiting test results of 61 additional test subjects. A total of 420 people in the US have been investigated for possible infection with 347 testing negative.  

Since mid January, the CDC has monitored more than 30,000 travelers coming to the U.S. from China. They have not detected any cases from returning travelers. Health officials are asking the travelers to monitor their own symptoms and limit their outdoor activities.  A mistake at a lab led U.S. health officials to release an infected coronavirus patient from a San Diego hospital. The patient had been evacuated from Wuhan. The CDC said there are new measures in place to make sure it does not happen again.

World Health Organization officials have said they are worried about the virus mutating.  The coronavirus produces mild cold symptoms in about 80% of patients. About 15% of the people who contract the virus have ended up with pneumonia, with 3% to 5% of all patients needing intensive care.  

The city of Wuhan, where the outbreak originated, has ordered residents to report their body temperature daily, and the large port city of Tianjin said it would restrict residents’ movement, part of steps across the country to stop the coronavirus outbreak from spreading. The city is conducting door-to-door inspections as well, and will send someone to check on people displaying a fever, according to a notice posted by the provincial government. People with symptoms will be sent to a community health center for evaluation.

In Beijing, the Chinese government voiced anger as countries placed more restrictions on travelers.  More than 50 countries or territories have imposed travel restrictions and tightened visa requirements to contain the spread of coronavirus, according to the International Air Transport Association.  The U.S. government has continued to charter evacuation flights for US Nationals departing Wuhan, China.  All evacuees spend a mandatory two weeks under quarantine while they’re monitored for symptoms of the flu-like virus. 

A cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, is still under quarantine after a former passenger, who disembarked in Hong Kong last month, tested positive for the virus.  The ship, which is currently off Japan’s coast, now has 174 confirmed cases of coronavirus as the virus spreads. There are more than 3,700 passengers and crew on the ship under quarantine.  

 

 

 

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7 months ago · by · Comments Off on Chicago Police Ordered To Release Misconduct Records

Chicago Police Ordered To Release Misconduct Records

 

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A Cook County judge has ordered Chicago police to release police misconduct investigation files from 1967 to 2015, by the end of the year.  A judge set a timeline for the release of all of the files by December 31, 2020, after the city failed to comply with a previous court-ordered deadline to turn over 4 years of the files.

At the center of the case is Charles Green,  who was 16 years old when he was arrested in 1985 for a quadruple murder on the city’s west side. He was accused of accepting $25 to knock on the door of a drug dealer’s apartment so rivals could go in and kill the people inside. He says his confession was coerced.  Green said he gave in eventually and just said what they wanted me to say.

Green walked out of prison in 2009 after a judge reduced his sentence and he’s been fighting to clear his name. In 2015, his attorney sent an open records request asking for police misconduct investigation files for the entire department dating back to 1967 to preserve evidence not only in Green’s case, but for others who may be wrongfully convicted.  Green’s attorney, Jared Kosoglad said the order threatens to expose decades of police corruption and other skeletons out of CPD’s closet.

Activists have argued for the release of complaint files, but most have remained hidden.  Legal experts say police could have argued Green’s request was overly burdensome. But the department didn’t respond, in violation of state law, and Green filed a lawsuit.

A spokesman for the city Department of Law says the Lightfoot Administration is asking the judge to reconsider the decision to order the release of the files.  The department released a statement that said: “The City of Chicago is committed to the highest level of transparency and responds to tens of thousands of Freedom of Information Act requests every year, including requests regarding allegations against Chicago Police officers. This request is different, however, as it seeks every Complaint Register file created since 1967 – approximately 175,000 files, each of which contain dozens to hundreds of pages.  The City is currently involved in litigation regarding this request, and the matter is still pending before the court. Complying with this request would present numerous challenges, including millions of dollars in costs and expended public resources.”

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7 months ago · by · Comments Off on Monsey NY Machete Attack

Monsey NY Machete Attack

 

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On December 28, 2019, the seventh night of Hanukkah, a masked intruder wielding an 18 inch machete entered the home of a Hasidic Rabbi in Monsey, Rockland County, NY where a Hanukkah party was underway and began attacking the guests. Five people were wounded, two of whom were hospitalized in critical condition. Grafton Thomas, 37, was arraigned in a Rockland County court and pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one count of first-degree burglary. He is also charged with a federal hate crime and his bail was set at $5 million. 

The frenzied attack took less than 2 minutes at the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, where almost 100 people had gathered to watch the rabbi light the candles and to celebrate a Hanukkah party.  Around 10 pm, Thomas entered the home with his face covered by a scarf and immediately began stabbing guests with a machete. Rabbi Rottenberg’s son was among the injured. Guests struck back, hitting the attacker with chairs and a small table, forcing him to flee the home. 

Thomas attempted to enter the synagogue next door, Congregation Netzach Yisroel, but the doors were locked.  Thomas then fled the scene in a car but a witness provided police with the license plate number of the car. At 11:45 pm, a license plate reader on the George Washington Bridge captured the license plate of the car as it entered New York City.  Police stopped the car in Harlem and arrested him without incident after midnight.  Rockland County Senior District Attorney Michael Dugandzic said police found the suspect with blood on his clothes and smelling “strongly” of bleach at the time of his arrest. 

Thomas’ family said in a statement Sunday night that Thomas has “a long history of mental illness and hospitalizations” and that his attorney, Michael H. Sussman, had been instructed to seek “immediate mental health evaluation of Grafton.” Thomas was arrested at least seven times since 2001, on charges which include assault, resisting arrest, killing or injuring a police animal, driving under the influence, possessing controlled substances, and menacing a police officer. In 2013, he was arrested for punching a police horse and was jailed briefly for possession of a controlled substance.  In 2018, he was charged with weapon possession, endangerment, and menacing a policeman.

 

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One of the two gravely injured victims is 72 year old Josef Neumann, who has been in a coma since the attack and is connected to a breathing tube. According to his family, he had been struck three times in the head and suffered a wound that penetrated directly into the brain.  His doctor does not have high hopes of a recovery. He turned 72 on Dec. 30 while unconscious.

 

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8 months ago · by · Comments Off on Former Resource Officer Charged For Body Slamming 11 Year Old

Former Resource Officer Charged For Body Slamming 11 Year Old

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A former North Carolina school resource officer was fired after video surface showing him body slamming an 11 year old child went viral. The assault at Vance County Middle School was caught on surveillance video, which shows the school resource officer and a small boy walking down the hallway when the officer picks the boy up and throws him to the ground. The officer then picks the boy up again and slams him to the ground again. The officer, Warren Durham, was first placed on paid leave and was then fired as the disturbing video went viral.
District Attorney Mike Waters said Durham is also facing a misdemeanor assault and child abuse charges. The announcement came a day after the State Bureau of Investigation finished its probe into the incident. While the family wanted Warren Durham to face stiffer felony charges, Waters said state law left him no choice but to pursue misdemeanor charges against the ex-officer. “Despite the violent nature of this assault depicted in the video, the student did not suffer any fractured or broken bones, or sustain any injuries that could be defined under North Carolina law as serious bodily injury,” which are a prerequisite for filing felony charges, the district attorney said during a news conference.
Waters said he didn’t know what prompted the incident, but he echoed the sentiment of Vance County Sheriff Curtis Brame in saying that the cause wasn’t relevant. “Ï don’t think there’s any kind of training or anything like that that would lead someone to act in that way with an 11-year-old,” Waters said. The maximum sentence Durham will face is 120 days in jail. The video shows the Vance County Middle School resource officer walking down the hall with the student. He is then seen grabbing and slamming the child to the ground, then picking him up and doing it again before yanking the child up and continuing to walk down the hall.

The school alerted the sheriff’s office minutes after the incident. Durham had been with the department for two years and had had no prior incidents that raised concern.
The boy’s grandfather, Pastor John Miles said at a news conference that the family was
disappointed in the misdemeanor charges, but he thanked officials. “We wanted them to be felony charges,” he said. “But as the D.A. said, they went by the law book and they went by the guidelines.” Miles said previously that his grandson called his mother after the incident, and that an assistant principal at the school took him home. The boy’s
mother has said he has a bump on his head from the incident but was not hospitalized.

The Vance County school district said the incident was “unacceptable and egregious.” “We are disappointed, embarrassed and most of all, want to express our apologies to our community that this occurred,” the district said in a statement Monday. “No student should ever experience this anywhere, especially not in our schools. We are better than this.” Vance County Schools plans to modify its agreement with the sheriff’s office, Superintendent Anthony Jackson said at a news conference. He did not go into detail about what the modifications meant, but said the district will review protocols and procedures and ensure it is using best practices.

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8 months ago · by · Comments Off on Police Say NJ Shooting Was Hate Crime

Police Say NJ Shooting Was Hate Crime

 

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On December 10, 2019, 6 people were left dead in what authorities are calling a hate crime at a Kosher store in Jersey City, NJ.   A day later, the shooters, both of whom were killed by police during the siege, were identified as David N. Anderson, 47, and his girlfriend Francine Graham, 50.  Anderson and Graham were suspects in the murder of an Uber driver in Bayonne the weekend prior to the attack.  Authorities say Anderson had made posts on social media that were anti-police and anti-Semitic. They also reveal a prior connection with the Black Hebrew Israelites, a group which has no connection to mainstream Judaism but has been reported to be anti-Semitic.

The first victim was Police Detective Joseph Seals, 39, a 15-year law enforcement veteran and a father of five.  Detective Seals was meeting an informant when he encountered the two shooters at the Bayview Cemetery.  Authorities believe that he approached the suspects, who were in a stolen U-Haul van that was related to the murder of the Uber driver the previous weekend.  Seals was shot and killed.  The suspects then fled in the stolen van and drove about one mile to the grocery store and opened fire upon exiting the vehicle.

Once inside the store, they fatally shot the owner, a worker, and a customer.  Two other customers were able to escape.  In the ensuing shootout, the assailants exchanged gunfire with the police for over an hour until being shot and killed.  A BearCat vehicle rammed through the storefront 4 hours after the incident began- ending the siege.  Two officers, one male and one female, were wounded in the shootout and were released from the hospital the same day.  A wounded man escaped out the back door of the store. He was also treated and released the same day.

The victims of the shooting were identified as Leah Minda Ferencz, 33, a member of the Hasidic community and a mother of three who co-owned the store with her husband; Moshe Deutsch, 24, a Hasidic male customer in the store and Miguel Douglas Rodriguez, 49, who worked in the Kosher grocery store but was not Jewish.  Police say the suspects targeted the store in what they believe was a premeditated antisemitic hate crime.  The stolen van the suspects were driving was later found to contain a live pipe bomb.  Media outlets have reported that a handwritten note, which authorities call “manifesto-style’, was found inside the van.  It said “I do this because my creator makes me do this and I hate who he hates.”

Authorities say Anderson had viewed anti-Semitic materials online, and published reports, linking him to the Black Hebrew Israelites movement, whose adherents believe African Americans are the true descendants of the ancient Israelites.  Authorities say the extent of his involvement in that group remains unclear, the law enforcement official said.  The Black Hebrew Israelites has been described as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal advocacy group that tracks such movements.

 

 

 

 

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8 months ago · by · Comments Off on Guards Suspended After Inmate Suicide Attempt

Guards Suspended After Inmate Suicide Attempt

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Four Rikers Island correctional officers were suspended for allegedly waiting several minutes to rescue an inmate who had tried to hang himself in a cell, authorities and law-enforcement sources said.  Surveillance The video showed the officers stood by for seven minutes while a teenager attempted to hang himself. Video shows one officer even walked up to the holding pen where the teenager was hanging, opened the door, then closed the door and walked away without intervening. The city’s Department of Investigation opened an inquiry into the incident.

The guards — three correction officers and one captain — are accused of inaction during the near-fatal incident when Nicholas Feliciano, 18, allegedly attempted to hang himself at the George R. Vierno Center at about 12 a.m. on Nov. 28.  The captain had witnessed the incident on surveillance footage and went to the inmate to cut him down, sources said.  Feliciano was rushed to a nearby hospital in critical condition with no brain activity and remains in a medically induced coma.  The 18-year-old had been jailed in Rikers since November 19th when he was arrested on a parole violation.  Feliciano had been in an altercation at the jail earlier in the day of suicide attempt and had been moved from general population into a holding cell by himself.

Video footage of the suicide attempt described to the Times shows him wrap one end of a piece of clothing around his neck and another to a pipe on the ceiling of the cell. He then stepped off a wall that separates the toilet from the rest of the cell and hangs from his neck.  At one point during the attempt, Feliciano appeared to have second thoughts and struggled to get his feet back on the wall. He hung from the pipe for about seven minutes before he was rescued.  The area of the attempted suicide was in view of a guard desk where officers can monitor activity through video feeds. The actions of the officers were recorded by a separate camera.

Rikers Island has housed jail inmates since the 1930s and has long been known for brutality.  The jail complex saw hundreds of stabbings every year during the 1980s and early 1990s.  In 2014, an Associated Press investigation detailed dozens of inmate deaths including that of a homeless ex-Marine who essentially baked to death in a hot cell.  In 2016, “60 Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker reported that a lack of adequate training and a rising mentally ill population have made an already bad situation in the jail worse.  New York City lawmakers voted in October to close the Rikers Island jail complex, which has become synonymous with violence and neglect, and replace it with four smaller jails in separate boroughs by 2026.  The plan has been met with pushback from communities where the new jails would be located.

 

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8 months ago · by · Comments Off on Video Shows Arizona Deputy Tackling Quadruple Amputee

Video Shows Arizona Deputy Tackling Quadruple Amputee

 

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An Arizona sheriff’s deputy has been placed on administrative leave after disturbing cellphone video footage surfaced showing the deputy tackling and pinning a 15-year-old quadruple amputee to the ground.  The incident sparked an internal affairs investigation by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department and a spokesman for the sheriff’s department said Deputy Manuel Van Santen was placed on leave pending the investigation.

The Sept. 26 incident started when the 15-year-old, who was in a group home after being abandoned by his family, allegedly knocked over a garbage can and verbally threatened a worker.  Van Santen was called to the group home to restore order.  In the video, Van Santen is seen holding the boy down for more than a minute as the teen struggles to break free.  The deputy is shown in the video kneeling next to the amputee and putting the teen in a headlock.  The teen can be heard becoming more upset, asking the deputy not to hold him down.

When Van Santen loosened his grip, the boy attempted to break free but did not get far before the deputy tackled him, wrapping his arms around the teen to subdue him.  Eventually, the boy stops protesting and the officer lets him get up, asking him what his problem is, and why he kept moving when he was told not to move.   As the 15-year-old insists he doesn’t have a problem and only threw a trash can, the deputy gets louder, bending over so that his face is inches away from the teenager’s as he yells and swears at him.

The teen recording says to the deputy, “Hey, you asked him a question, and he answered,” he tells the deputy.  “Shut the hell up!” the deputy snaps back.  He orders the teen out of the room and the boy responds that he can’t eat his cereal in his room.  The deputy storms over, screaming at him to stay out of something that doesn’t involve him. “You shut the hell up!” he yells again. Both teens were arrested on disorderly conduct charges but Arizona prosecutors dropped disorderly conduct charges against the quadruple amputee.

Pima County public defender Joel Feinman said the incident likely would not have come to light if it had not been recorded by another teen living in the home since Van Santen was not wearing a body camera.  It is not clear how long the incident lasted, as the 8 minute video began in the middle of the struggle.  Feinman said the 16-year-old boy who recorded the incident had his head pushed into a wall by deputies during the incident.  “These are kids who have already been traumatized in some way,” Feinman, whose office is representing both boys.  “Men with badges should not be acting this way,” Feinman told the television station. “Men and women who do act this way should not have badges and guns.”

Feinman stated that given that Immanuel has no legs and is missing most of his arms — and wasn’t even wearing a shirt, making it unlikely that he could have somehow been hiding a concealed weapon –it is hard to fathom that he posed a threat to “this very large policeman with a badge and a gun.” Regardless of what the teenager said to the officer, he argues, the better response would have been to sit down and try to de-escalate the situation.

 

 

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