OpenCDA

April 22, 2017

‘ALL’ ? Really?

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , , — Bill @ 7:39 am

DisingenuousSeveral earlier OpenCdA posts beginning with the one entitled ‘In Search of Facts’ on October 20, 2015, commended Reggie Nault’s family for engaging attorney Lee James to try and shovel the details of the investigation into Mr. Nault’s death from under the increasingly lumpy Kootenai County rug.

The headline of the article in today’s Coeur d’Alene Press says it all:   ‘Judge:  Release Nault Records‘.

As reported, First District Court Judge Rich Christensen has ordered Kootenai County Sheriff Benton Wolfinger to turn over ALL of the Nault records to Mr. Nault’s family.   Sadly, the Nault family had to get a court order to force Wolfinger to release the records.  Unsurprisingly, Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney Barry McHugh sought to help Wolfinger keep information in the records from ever seeing the light of day.

There were some questions we would expect to have been fully and completely answered in the investigative reports prepared by the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office investigators.  They include:

What adults were present on the boat and at the dock?  Whose boat was it?  Who was operating the boat?  What was the boat operator’s degree of impairment?  Or was the operator’s impairment even determined by Sheriff’s deputies?  What was the unexpurgated timeline of events surrounding the incident?  From the moment Mr. Nault went into the water, who did what and when did they do it?  Was evidence of alcohol consumption by minors concealed by the minors or any adults present?  If other crimes were committed which contributed to Mr. Nault’s death or which hindered the investigation into it, why were those crimes not charged by the Kootenai County Prosecutor or a ‘conflict’ attorney from another county?

Now we hope either or both our local and regional skews papers do their  job as (alleged) newspapers and file public records requests to examine ALL of the records Judge Christensen ordered to be released.   We would also hope that the papers publish complete and accurate stories that enable readers to fully evaluate the competence and performance of the County Sheriff and the County Prosecuting Attorney.

We’re not holding our breath on that.

In the past, both the Coeur d’Alene Press and The Spokesman-Review have appeared inclined to under-report stories revealing the job performance of public officials they favor in Kootenai County.

We think that in particular, both papers ought to look closely at the number and nature of ‘conflicts’ that Prosecutor Barry McHugh declares when he farms cases out to prosecuting attorneys in other counties.   That information is one of the valid job performance assessment tools available to voters.

We also think that the papers ought to look at the quality of the investigation done by the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office.  A poor or incomplete initial investigation into an unattended death reflects as badly on a department’s leadership, supervision, and training as it does on the investigators who completed it.  At the same time, it is not unheard of in some law enforcement agencies to occasionally have investigators’  reports adjusted by supervisors in the interest of political expedience or out of consideration for the social standing of some involved.

As we did in our initial OpenCdA post on October 20, 2015, we once again sympathetically commend the Nault family for their decision and efforts to pursue the facts surrounding Reggie Nault’s death.   Unfortunately, it took an order of the Court to get it done, but we offer a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ to the Nault family and their attorney Lee James for fighting to get it.

January 13, 2017

What About The Public Interest?

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , , — Bill @ 7:04 am

Questions copy copyThe Coeur d’Alene Press published an article on Thursday, January 12th, headlined Nault’s Family Wants Answers.   The article’s lead read, “A year and half after a popular Coeur d’Alene High baseball player drowned in Lake Coeur d’Alene, his mother and sister still don’t know exactly what happened.”

Unfortunately, it was a typical Press “emotion” piece, an article more focused on telling the public how the Nault family feels rather than giving the Nault family or us substantive information.  It’s information the public needs to evaluate how well or how poorly the Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger and the Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh are performing their official duties.

The Nault family is absolutely entitled to know the answers to the questions Mr. James posed in the article.

So is the public.  There is a valid  public interest in determining if Reggie Nault’s death was thoroughly and competently investigated and if all those who contributed materially to his death were prosecuted.  There is certainly a valid public interest in knowing if official favoritism was shown toward some who should have been prosecuted for incidental crimes (e.g., Destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence) but were not.

The county sheriff and the county prosecutor are elected officials.  The questions posed by the Nault family in Thursday’s article and the questions OpenCdA raised in our earlier posts in 2015 and 2016 are still valid.  It appears they’re also still unanswered.   The results of the Nault death investigation and any investigations into the related conduct of involved adults  and juveniles will allow the public to better evaluate the official performance of elected officials including the sheriff, the prosecutor, and judges.

Certainly the Nault family’s feelings are important. OpenCdA gives attorney Leland James respectful credit for pushing the feckless Coeur d’Alene Press to perform as a newspaper rather than the image protector of elected officials.

December 8, 2016

‘Warnings Unheeded: Twin Tragedies at Fairchild Air Force Base’

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 7:04 am

warnings-unheeded

On June 20, 1994, Dean A. Mellberg, a former US Air Force airman returned to Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, with a rifle.  He specifically targeted Major Thomas Brigham, M.D., and Captain Alan Landon, Ph.D.  After entering the base hospital and killing his intended targets, Mellberg continued to shoot and kill everyone he could including eight year old Christin McCarron.  Mellberg’s mass murder attack was stopped only when he was shot and killed by Senior Airman Andy Brown, a security police officer assigned to the 92nd Security Police Squadron at Fairchild.

Then on June 24, 1994, a U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress crashed at Fairchild Air Force Base while rehearsing maneuvers for an annual air show.  The B-52 was piloted by Lieutenant Colonel Arthur “Bud” Holland.  The crash killed Holland and three other crew members.

Aside from geographic coincidence, the two incidents had something else in common:  There had been many credible warnings that both Dean Mellberg and Bud Holland represented a serious, likely life-threatening danger to their fellow airmen.  The warnings had gone unheeded.

In his just-released book Warnings Unheeded:  Twin Tragedies at Fairchild Air Force Base,  (WU Press, Spokane, Washington, (c)2016 Andy Brown, ISBN 978-0-9978634-0-6,) author Andy Brown explains the unheeded warnings in a remarkably well-researched and very readable book.    If his book stopped there, it would be worth reading by every supervisor at every level of public service and private industry.  But Mr. Brown went further and revealed the personal challenges he faced in his own journey from Trauma to Recovery.   His revelation elevates the importance of his book to an entirely new level.

Andy Brown’s book has not received much national attention.  It should.  Warnings like the ones unheeded at Fairchild Air Force Base leading up to the events of June 1994 are not restricted to any particular institution or by geographic location.

Warnings Unheeded:  Twin Tragedies at Fairchild Air Force Base is available from Amazon.com.  It is also available from the Hayden Branch of the Community Library Network of Kootenai and Shoshone Counties in Idaho.

Author Andy Brown is scheduled to appear on Saturday, December 10, 2016, from noon until 2 p.m. at a book signing at Center Target Sports, 3295 E. Mullan Avenue, Post Falls, ID 83854.

September 10, 2016

Exceptional Police Work

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 12:13 pm

irvine-pd-patchAt a time when citizens throughout the United States are being propagandized by various media including the skews media to ridicule and deride law enforcement officers, it was not only refreshing but also inspiring to see the Los Angeles Times newspaper run its six-part series entitled ‘FRAMED – She was the PTA mom everybody knew.  Who would want to harm her?

The series highlights the exceptional and insightful work of the Irvine, California, Police Department.  It is worth noting that the Irvine officer who was first assigned the call was an experienced police officer, not a rookie.  The article rightly raises the question:  Would the outcome of this case have been different if a less experienced and less patient patrol officer had been the first to respond?

The series was written by LA Times staff writer Christopher Goffard.  Goffard’s bio states, “He shared in the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for the paper’s Bell coverage …”  Attentive readers may recall the Kootenai County connection to the Bell scandal which the LA Times reported and for which it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

The entire six-part series can easily be read in half an hour.  It’s worth the time.

September 9, 2016

Report: ‘Bringing Calm to Chaos’

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 8:17 pm

farook-malik-copyOn December 2, 2015, Islamic terrorists Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, attacked Farook’s office holiday party in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 and wounding 22. Farook and Malik were killed in a shootout with area law enforcement on the same day.

Now the US Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and the Police Foundation have released a 162-page critical incident report entitled ‘Bringing Calm to Chaos — A critical incident review of the San Bernardino public safety response to the December 2, 2015 terrorist shooting incident at the Inland Regional Center.’

It is a ‘lessons learned’ report that focuses specifically on the San Bernardino incident.  However, it has much broader applications to the range of active shooter and hostile events generally.  The report discusses leadership; command and control; planning and response; investigations; community engagements, relationships, and public information; and responder and victim welfare and mental health.

July 29, 2016

Deputies Won’t Be Charged in Yantis Shooting Death

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 9:45 am

19117510-mmmainIdaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden reported today that there was insufficient evidence to file criminal charges against the two Adams County deputy sheriffs who shot and killed Council, Idaho, rancher Jack Yantis on November 1, 2015.

Here is a link to today’s Idaho Statesman story with more details.

Here is a link to all OpenCdA’s posts about the shooting.

June 20, 2016

NYPD Brass Arrested — Corruption

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 12:52 pm

NYPDCorruptAccording to a press release from Preet Bahrara, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, NYPD Deputy Chief MICHAEL HARRINGTON, Deputy Inspector JAMES GRANT, and Sergeant DAVID VILLANUEVA were arrested today, along with a Brooklyn-based man, JEREMY REICHBERG, on bribery charges.

“Harrington, Grant, and Villanueva were charged in Manhattan federal court with conspiring to commit honest services wire fraud for a bribery scheme involving the receipt of tens of thousands of dollars in meals, trips, home renovations, and other benefits in exchange for an array of official NYPD actions, including private police escorts, ticket fixing, and assistance in settling private disputes.  VILLANUEVA, formerly a supervisor in the NYPD’s gun licensing division, was charged in Manhattan federal court with bribery offenses in connection with his receipt of cash bribes to expedite and approve gun licenses.”

Here is a link to an Associated Press story which appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune.  It was headlined NYC police officials charged in bribery corruption scandal.

The New York Daily News headline is more bombastic:  NYPD officials busted in corruption investigation took ‘substantial bribes’ from de Blasio fund-raiser, including hookers:  Criminal complaint.

For those readers wanting more specific details, here are links to the U.S. v. Grant Harrington Reichberg Complaint, the U.S. v. Villanueva and Lichtenstein Indictment, and the U.S. v. Ochetal Information.

The investigation and resulting criminal charges are relevant to those of us in northern Idaho.

The charges should remind us that law enforcement officers at all ranks are susceptible to bribes offered by people of wealth and influence.   The honest ones resist; the corrupt ones don’t.

In a state such as New York where restrictive laws make it nearly impossible for an average citizen to get one of the three types of concealed weapons permit, those extra-special friends of the law enforcement brass will have no difficulty at all securing one.  The Ochetal Information linked above describes how NYPD officials took bribes to make sure the “right” people got CWPs.

Finally, political party affiliation will not discourage an aggressive and honest US Attorney from pursuing some offenders.    Competent US Attorneys who pursue politically sensitive prosecutions without regard to political party influences and potential career-affecting consequences effectively insulate themselves from punitive dismissal.

US Attorneys who refuse to look at public corruption in their district only encourage it.

May 18, 2016

Another Significant Public Corruption Case

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 3:42 pm

corruptionThe May 17, 2016, online edition of the Los Angeles Times is reporting another case of municipal public corruption.  This one is particularly interesting because of who it involved and the duration of the corrupt activities.  The article is headlined 7 former top officials of Beaumont charged with corruption.

Beaumont, California, is an upscale town of about 42,000 people.  It is about fifteen miles east of Riverside and a mile or so east of the intersection of US 60 and I-10 on the way to Palm Springs.  Riverside is the county seat of Riverside County.

The officials accused are all former officials of the city of Beaumont.  They include the former City Manager, former Economic Development Director, former Public Works Director, former Planning Director , former Finance Director , former City Attorney, and former Police Chief.

In spite of regular audits of the city’s financial statements, the alleged financial crimes occurred for more than two decades.  Those crimes alleged involved the sale of municipal bonds for projects handled by companies in which three of the officials had a financial interest. Prosecutors also alleged officials secured interest-free loans for friends and colleagues with taxpayer money.  There are more details in the Times newspaper article.

While public corruption crimes of this duration and scale are usually brought in federal court by federal agencies, this case was investigated by the Riverside County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Team.  It will likely be prosecuted in state court by the Riverside County District Attorney.

May 8, 2016

Yantis Shooting Update

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 12:09 pm

19117510-mmmainOpenCdA’s earlier posts reported the death of Council, Idaho, rancher Jack Yantis after his encounter with two Adams County, Idaho, deputy sheriffs on November 1, 2015.

The Idaho State Police was asked to investigate the incident which resulted in Yantis’s death.

On March 10, 2016, the Idaho State Police delivered the results of its investigation to the Idaho Attorney General’s Office.  The AG’s office is serving as the special prosecutor.

Between March 10, 2016, and today, there have been no news releases about this incident on the AG’s office Media Center webpage.  Presumably the AG’s assessment is to determine if any state criminal charges should be filed in Yantis’s death.

Shortly after the November 1 incident, a group of Council-area citizens started a Facebook page titled “Justice for Jack“.  It has been updated fairly regularly.

February 10, 2016

Former Sheriff Admits Lying to Feds

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 5:01 pm

badge-baca-350Eileen M. Decker, US Attorney for the Central District of California, announced that retired Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca pleaded guilty today in federal court to two counts of lying to federal agents investigating allegations of abusive treatment and corruption by deputy sheriffs in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

Baca acknowledged lying about his office’s efforts to hide an LA County jail inmate from the FBI.  The plan to hide the inmate, an FBI confidential source, was named Operation Pandora’s Box.

Several of Baca’s former command staff are scheduled to be tried in federal court on related charges.

Addendum on 02-13-2016Recordings reveal the lies former LA sheriff told prosecutor

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