Criminal Justice News

Thursday, February 27, 2014

DEA Publishes Proposal to Reschedule Hydrocodone



Today the U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) published in the Federal Register a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to move hydrocodone combination products (HCPs) from Schedule III to Schedule II, as recommended by the Assistant Secretary for Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and as supported by the DEA’s own evaluation of relevant data.  This NPRM proposes to impose the regulatory controls and sanctions applicable to Schedule II substances on those who handle or propose to handle HCPs.  The public is invited to review the proposed rule, which is posted on the DEA’s website at http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/fed_regs/rules/2014/fr0227.htm

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) places substances with accepted medical uses into one of four schedules, with the most potentially harmful and abusable medications being placed in Schedule II, and medications with progressively less potential for harm and abuse being placed in Schedules III through V.  (Schedule I is reserved for those controlled substances with no currently accepted medical use and lack of accepted safety for use.)  HCPs are drugs that contain both hydrocodone, which by itself is a Schedule II drug, and specified amounts of other substances, such as acetaminophen or aspirin.

When Congress passed the CSA in 1970, it placed HCPs in Schedule III even though it had placed hydrocodone itself in Schedule II.  The analysis by HHS and the DEA shows HCPs have a high potential for abuse and abuse may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.  The many findings by the DEA and HHS and the data that support these findings are presented in detail in the NPRM and supporting materials on the website.  Data and surveys from multiple federal and non-federal agencies show the extent of abuse of HCPs.  For example, Monitoring the Future surveys of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders from 2002 to 2011 found that twice as many high school seniors used Vicodin®, an HCP, nonmedically as used OxyContin®, a Schedule II substance, which is more tightly controlled.

All substances placed under the control of the CSA since it was passed by Congress in 1970 are scheduled or rescheduled by the DEA, as required by the CSA and its implementing regulations, found in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations.  Scheduling or rescheduling of a substance can be initiated by the DEA, by the HHS Assistant Secretary of Health, or on the petition of any interested party.  (Detailed information on the scheduling and rescheduling process can be found in the first chapter of Drugs of Abuse [link] on the DEA’s website.) 

The rescheduling of HCPs was initiated by a petition from a physician in 1999.  The DEA submitted a request to HHS for a scientific and medical evaluation of HCPs and a scheduling recommendation.  In 2013, the U. S. Food and Drug Administration held a public Advisory Committee meeting on the matter, and the committee voted to recommend rescheduling HCPs from Schedule III to Schedule II by a vote of 19 to 10.  Consistent with the outcome of that vote, in December of 2013 HHS sent such a recommendation to the DEA.  With the receipt of that recommendation, the DEA initiates the formal rulemaking process by publishing a notice and soliciting public comments, as we are doing today.

After reviewing today’s NPRM, members of the public are invited to submit comments or request a hearing through www.regulations.gov (follow the instructions at that site).  Electronic comments must be submitted, or written comments postmarked, by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on April 27.  Requests for hearings must be submitted by March 31.  Additional instructions about this may be found in the NPRM. 

Once the public comment period has closed and the DEA has considered all comments, the DEA will publish a Final Rule in the Federal Register.

NAS Kingsville Holds Active Shooter Exercise



By Jon Gagne, Naval Air Station Kingsville Public Affairs

NAS KINGSVILLE, Texas (NNS) -- Naval Air Station Kingsville joined with community mutual aid partners to conduct an active shooter training exercise Feb. 20.

The training evolution focused on an active shooter at the command headquarters building targeting command leadership officials.

"This active shooter exercise was conducted as part of our command preparations for the annual Navywide Solid Curtain-Citadel Shield training," said NAS Kingsville commanding officer Capt. Chris Misner. "We made the training scenario as authentic as possible to allow us to fully test our Security personnel to respond effectively and communicate with our Mutual Aid partners like they would in a real-world event. Planning and execution was the key to success in this evolution, and lessons learned will prove to be invaluable for future active shooter training opportunities."

The shooter gained direct access to the building by climbing the stairwell and opening an unlocked door. He made his way down the hallway into the command suite and began shooting. The base commanding officer was one of his victims.

Once base security was notified of the attack, a shelter in place notice was passed and workers in the building, mostly civilian employees, locked their doors and hid in a designated 'safe place.'

NAS Kingsville security responded by sending teams to cordon off the area to traffic and set a response perimeter. They also dispatched two personnel to approach the building. Once inside, they began checking office spaces, eventually locating the shooter and cornering him. They then provided a radio update on the situation to security officials, who then contacted the Kingsville Police Department asking for assistance.

When the Kingsville SWAT team arrived on scene, control of the response was turned over to them. Asst. Security Officer Carlos Jones briefed the SWAT team on the status.

"With recent events on DoD installations involving active shooter, the training conducted yesterday at NAS Kingsville provided valuable training for our Force Protection team and our mutual aid partners," Jones said. "Our security forces established a combined Incident Command post, deployed the first response team, and secured the scene while awaiting the arrival of the Kingsville SWAT team to apprehend the active shooter. Communications and execution went pretty smoothly."

NAS Kingsville first responders included Fire and Emergency Services, security, safety and the Installation Training Team. NAS Kingsville Training Officer Jim Lawrence coordinated the exercise.

"Conducting base-wide training exercises like this active shooter event, enhances knowledge for all personnel that work at NAS Kingsville," Lawrence said. "Being able to exercise with our mutual aid partners like the Kingsville Police Department's SWAT team brings a tremendous amount of experience in law enforcement during valuable training evolutions for all of our first responders."

Lawrence added that sharing procedures, protocols and response for any incident that could occur on the installation is critical to mission accomplishment. He also stressed the training exercises need to be conducted safely while still challenging personnel that would have to respond to incidents at their work places.

"Training continues to be the driving factor on how personnel react and respond to incidents," he said.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

R.A.D. Rape Aggressor Defense

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
673d Air Base Wing Public Affairs


2/25/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- Army Staff Sgt. Stephanie Kiser, 725th Brigade Support Battalion truck driver, was nervous. Her eyes were closed and her world threatened. Someone was toying with her ponytail, teasing and bullying her.

The suspense of the moment built up around her. She didn't like the situation.

This creep is touching me, she thought. I need to get him off me somehow.

Her mind whirled around her optional reactions -- various ways to attack the groin, strikes to the nose or face, stomps and other moves. The ultimate goal: to get the guy off her so she could get to safety.

His arms wrapped around her then and tightened into a bear hug. She reacted reflexively, and soon her Rape Aggressor Defense instructor was on the floor in his full body protective gear, praising her swift reactions as she simulated running to safety.

"It was really fun," Kiser said, "Your adrenaline's rushing and you're like 'oh man, I don't know when they're going to attack me' and it's actually really good. Once they do grab onto you, you feel a lot more confident once you've gotten that person off of you and you're running away from them. You feel this wave of confidence come over you."

The mission of R.A.D. Systems is to establish an accessible, constantly improving and internationally respected alliance of dedicated instructors. The instructors provide educational opportunities for women, children, men and seniors to create a safer future for themselves. They challenge society to evolve into an existence where violence is not an acceptable part of daily life, their website says.

"This R.A.D. course is used to give women a set of tools to get away from a bad situation," said Sgt. 1st Class Virgil Allen, U.S. Army Alaska Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment noncommissioned officer in charge of the Arctic Warrior Combatives Academy, certified R.A.D. instructor and a native of Fort Worth, Texas. "It's not rape self-defense; it's defense against getting into a bad situation. That's what it really is; teaching a female to get away."

According to the program director Lawrence Nadeau, R.A.D. has trained more than 900,000 women since the program began in 1989.

The course starts by educating women on how to avoid bad situations. This included avoiding texting or otherwise actively using a cell phone while walking through an isolated area like a parking garage at night, or dark alley, Kiser said.

"I think it's really important to be aware of your surroundings and to know what to do if somebody attacks you," she said.

One goal, Allen said, is to give females confidence so that any potential aggressors don't find them easy targets.

"This is my first time taking this class," said Army Reserve Chaplain (Capt.) Angie Erickson, Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention victim advocate. "For me, I think it's really important to be vigilant in your surroundings. It gave me awareness that I'm not without options when I come up against someone trying to hurt me."

The program is an internationally recognized alliance of self-defense educators dedicated to enhancing defensive options for women, children, men and seniors, while developing their individually unique abilities to manage aggressive and violent behavior. R.A.D. is the largest network of its kind with more than 11,000 instructors who teach at various colleges, universities, municipal law enforcement agencies, and various other organizations. It is the only existing program with a free lifetime return and practice policy, honored worldwide, the website says.

The classes are offered in colleges and police departments across the country, Allen said. He and others were able to invite R.A.D. instructors from the University of Anchorage, Alaska, onto the base and then got certified to be instructors themselves. The instructors from UAA were certified in teaching the R.A.D. class for females.

"We only have instructors certified for R.A.D. for females right now," Sgt. 1st Class Tawrence Smith, program manager for R.A.D. on JBER. "The statistics of the installation suggested that females were the highest group to focus on at that time. There was also more support locally."

The course is offered free on base, whereas off-base classes can cast anywhere from $35 to $50, he said. A graduate can attend another class anywhere for free.

"I really enjoyed the R.A.D. program," Kiser said. "I've learned new things; it's really easy and it's fun."

Justice Department Announces Results of Investigation into the Death of Milton Hall

The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan and the FBI announced today that they will not be pursuing federal criminal civil rights charges against the Saginaw Police Department (SPD) officers who shot and killed Milton Hall on July 1, 2012.  After a thorough investigation, federal authorities have determined that this tragic event does not present sufficient evidence of willful misconduct to lead to a federal criminal prosecution of the police officers involved.
 
The Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the FBI conducted an independent investigation that carefully considered all of the evidence.  During the investigation, prosecutors thoroughly reviewed the criminal investigation previously conducted by the Michigan State Police in conjunction with the Saginaw County Prosecutor’s Office and the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.  State authorities collected the physical evidence at the scene; photographed the scene; interviewed the two non-shooting SPD officers and dozens of eyewitnesses; acquired the patrol car dashcam and civilian videos of the incident; gathered the dispatch logs, 911 calls and other investigative materials related to the incident; obtained the involved officers’ police reports; and conducted a ballistics and autopsy examination.  At the conclusion of the state investigation, the Saginaw County Prosecutor and the Michigan Attorney General declined to prosecute any of the SPD officers involved in the incident.
 
In addition to reviewing the evidence previously collected, FBI agents interviewed a number of witnesses who had not been interviewed during the state investigation, including individuals whose names were provided to prosecutors by Hall’s family.
 
To pursue prosecution under Section 242 in the U.S. Code, the applicable criminal civil rights statute, the government would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the SPD officers deprived Hall of his constitutional right to be free from an unreasonable use of force.  The government would also have to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers acted willfully, that is, for the specific purpose of violating the law.  Law enforcement actions based on fear, panic, misperception or even poor judgment do not constitute willful conduct prosecutable under the statute. 
 
The evidence in this case shows that on July 1, 2012, SPD officers responded to the Riverview Plaza in Saginaw, Mich., after receiving a 911 call about a confrontation between a man, later identified as Hall, and a clerk at a Mobil gas station.  An SPD sergeant was the first officer to arrive at the scene, where she located Hall in the plaza’s parking lot and saw that he was carrying a knife with an approximately three-inch blade.  After encountering Hall and seeing that he was armed with a knife, the sergeant requested backup.  When the second officer arrived, Hall approached that officer’s patrol car and jabbed the hood of the vehicle with a knife.  The six remaining SPD officers on duty that day, including a K-9 officer and his dog, reported to the plaza, approached Hall and repeatedly ordered him to drop his knife.  Hall did not comply with the officers’ commands, and verbally responded that he would not put the knife down.  While the SPD officers came together on the scene, the K-9 officer and his dog approached and retreated from Hall several times.  During this time, Hall was intermittently shifting his feet and getting into and out of a crouching stance.  When Hall, with the knife still in his hand, moved toward the K-9 officer and his dog, six SPD officers fired at him and fatally wounded him.
 
Two SPD patrol car dashcams captured a video recording, with no audio, of much of the encounter between Hall and the SPD officers.  The dashcams on the other SPD patrol cars were either not operational or not activated during this incident.  Several civilians witnessed the incident and recorded portions of it on their cellular phones. 
 
After the shooting, all of the SPD officers at the scene wrote reports.  In these reports, the officers who discharged their weapons explained that they did so because they believed Hall posed an imminent threat to the officers’ safety.   
 
A fter a careful review of all of the evidence, experienced prosecutors from the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan have determined that t he evidence in this case is insufficient to prove , beyond a reasonable doubt, that the SPD officers willfully shot Hall for an unlawful purpose, rather than for their stated purpose of preventing Hall from harming SPD staff.  Even if the officers were mistaken in their assessment of the threat posed by Hall, this would not establish that the officers acted willfully, or with an unlawful intent, when using deadly force against Hall.  Accordingly , this tragic event does not present sufficient evidence of willful misconduct to give rise to a federal criminal prosecution of the police officers involved. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

U.S. Marshals Arrest Suspect Wanted for 2011 Homicide/Rape



Cincinnati, OH – This morning, at approximately 7:00 a.m., the U.S. Marshal’s Southern Ohio Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team (SOFAST) arrested Karl Davis Coleman, age 25. A Montgomery County grand jury indicted Karl Coleman on Murder, Felonious Assault, Rape, Attempted Rape, and Tampering with Evidence. The charges stem from a homicide that occurred on May 6th, 2011. Investigators have been working on the case since May of 2011, when the body of 27 year old DeMisha Mattison was found in her Clover Avenue home in Dayton.

The Southern Ohio Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team (SOFAST) was given the case by the Dayton Police Department. Through the investigation SOFAST developed information that Coleman had fled to the Cincinnati area. The SOFAST teams from both Dayton and Cincinnati worked together and determined that Coleman was staying at an address on Goble Street in Cincinnati. SOFAST went to the residence and located Coleman inside. Coleman was transported to the Hamilton County Jail where he will remain until extradition back to Montgomery County.

SOFAST is a multi-jurisdictional task force comprised of the U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, Colerain Township Police Department, Ohio Adult Parole Authority, Warren County Prosecutor’s Office, Dayton Police Department, Springfield Police Department, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, Miami County Sheriff’s Office, Wright State University Police, Greeneville Police Department, Grandview Hospital Police Department, Oakwood Police Department, Ohio State Highway Patrol, and the Springboro Police Department.

The U.S. Marshals Service is the nation’s primary fugitive hunting organization and captures more federal fugitives each year than all other law enforcement agencies combined.

Alleged Child Murderer Arrested by Marshals Task Force



Memphis, TN - A mother who allegedly abused her medically troubled child to death is being brought back to Shelby County to face justice thanks to the U.S. Marshals Task Force.

Andrea Ruth, aged 12, was neglected by her parents, Errol Johnson and Raven Ruth, to the point she developed gangrene in her legs and passed away. On 2-14-14 warrants were issued for Johnson and Ruth for First Degree Murder and Aggravated Child Abuse. Errol Johnson was arrested on 2-18-14.

Investigators with the U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force (GCRFTF) began researching the location of Ruth immediately. Raven Ruth was located in the 1700 block of Andrey Street in New Orleans, Louisiana on 2-19-14. She was taken into custody by agents with the U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force without incident. At the time of this press release she remains in the Orleans Parish Jail awaiting extradition back to Shelby County.

The U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force is a multi-agency task force with divisions in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. The Western Tennessee Division of the GCRFTF has offices in Memphis and Jackson, and its membership is primarily composed of Deputy U.S. Marshals, Shelby County Sheriff’s Deputies, Memphis Police Officers, Madison County Sheriff’s Deputies, Jackson Police Officers, and the Tennessee Department of Corrections Special Agents. The primary mission of the Task Force is to arrest violent offenders and sexual predators.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Statement on the Apprehension of Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman Loera


Today Mexican authorities announced the capture of Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman Loera, the alleged leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. The Sinaloa Cartel is designated a Significant Foreign Narcotics Trafficker by the U.S. Government.
 
Attorney General Holder stated:  "Today's apprehension of Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman Loera by Mexican authorities is a landmark achievement, and a victory for the citizens of both Mexico and the United States.  Guzman was one of the world's most wanted men and the alleged head of a drug-running empire that spans continents.  The criminal activity Guzman allegedly directed contributed to the death and destruction of millions of lives across the globe through drug addiction, violence, and corruption. We salute the Government of Mexico, and the professionalism and courage of the Mexican authorities, for this arrest.  We are pleased that we were able to work effectively with Mexico through the cooperative relationship that U.S. law enforcement agencies have with their Mexican counterparts.  We look forward to ongoing cooperation, and future successes."
 
Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson stated: "The operation led by the Mexican government overnight to capture Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman Loera is a significant victory and milestone in our common interest of combating drug trafficking, violence and illicit activity along our shared border. We congratulate our Mexican partners in this achievement and we will continue to work collaboratively with them to ensure a border region that is safe and secure, for the communities and citizens of both our nations."

Friday, February 21, 2014

Reputed Aryan Brotherhood of Texas Gang Leader and a Fellow Gang Member Plead Guilty to Federal Racketeering Charges


An alleged general of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas gang (ABT) and a fellow gang member pleaded guilty today to racketeering charges related to their membership in the ABT’s criminal enterprise, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas.

James Francis Sampsell, aka “Skitz,” 44, of Odessa, Texas, and Fredrick Michal Villarreal, aka, “Big Mike,” 35, of Houston, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Sim Lake in the Southern District of Texas to one count of conspiracy to participate in racketeering activity.

According to court documents, Sampsell, Villarreal and other ABT gang members and associates agreed to commit multiple acts of murder, robbery, arson, kidnapping and narcotics trafficking on behalf of the ABT gang.   Sampsell, Villarreal and numerous ABT gang members met on a regular basis at various locations throughout Texas to report on gang-related business, collect dues, commit disciplinary assaults against fellow gang members and discuss acts of violence against rival gang members, among other activities.

By pleading guilty to racketeering charges, Sampsell and Villarreal admitted to being members of the ABT criminal enterprise.

According to the superseding indictment, the ABT was established in the early 1980s within the Texas prison system.   The gang modeled itself after and adopted many of the precepts and writings of the Aryan Brotherhood, a California-based prison gang that was formed in the California prison system during the 1960s.   According to the superseding indictment, the ABT was primarily concerned with the protection of white inmates and white supremacy/separatism.   Over time, the ABT expanded its criminal enterprise to include illegal activities for profit.

Court documents allege that the ABT enforced its rules and promoted discipline among its members, prospects and associates through murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, arson, assault, robbery and threats against those who violated the rules or posed a threat to the enterprise.   Members, and oftentimes associates, were required to follow the orders of higher-ranking members, often referred to as “direct orders.”

According to the superseding indictment, in order to be considered for ABT membership, a person must be sponsored by another gang member.   Once sponsored, a prospective member must serve an unspecified term, during which he is referred to as a prospect, while his conduct is observed by the members of the ABT.

At sentencing, scheduled for Oct. 7, 2014, Sampsell and Villarreal each face a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Sampsell and Villarreal are two of 36 defendants charged with conducting racketeering activity through the ABT criminal enterprise, among other charges.   To date, 21 defendants have pleaded guilty.

This case is being investigated by a multi-agency task force consisting of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Drug Enforcement Administration; FBI; U.S. Marshals Service; Federal Bureau of Prisons; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations; Texas Rangers; Texas Department of Public Safety; Montgomery County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office; Houston Police Department-Gang Division; Texas Department of Criminal Justice – Office of Inspector General; Harris County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office; Atascosa County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office; Orange County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office; Waller County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office; Alvin, Texas, Police Department; Carrollton, Texas, Police Department; Mesquite, Texas, Police Department; Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office; and the Atascosa County District Attorney’s Office.

The case is being prosecuted by the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Texas.