Category Archives: Crime

A Polish rebuff to American Polanski injustice

Polish prosecutors issued a remarkable and extremely accurate riposte to Los Angeles courts and the district attorney’s office that precisely parallels our own concerns from witnessing the case firsthand, concerns we raised in many previous posts.

From Mariella Rudi of Westside Today in Los Angeles:

In a statement released today, the Krakow prosecutors said Polanski would be denied rights that are guaranteed by the European Constitution.

They cited “excessive vulnerability of judges and prosecutors to criticism by the American news media” which would prevent a fair sentence from being imposed for the rape of the girl.

The prosecutors also blasted Los Angeles judges for having consulted with prosecutors without Polanski or his attorney present, a violation of European legal codes.

The prosecutors also blasted the American system of sentencing fugitive convicts in absentia.

The point is, Polanski had already served the sentence stipulated in the plea agreement, and fled only after learning that Judge Laurence J. Rittenband had breached the agreement and now sought a longer sentence.

The judge violated basic judicial standards in extensive ex parte discussions not only with members of the district attorney’s office but also with at least one journalist [esnl], assorted pals from his country club, and wives of friends, his mistresses [at age 70, he had three], and others.

In subsequent years, after Rittenband’s retirement, other judges assigned to the case had similar ex parte conversations about the case with representatives of the district attorney’s office but not Polanski’s own attorneys, again, a fundamental violation of judicial standards and Polanski’s own rights.

Most certainly Polanski committed a crime. But he has had no legal problems in the four decades since, and his victim, her family, and the DA who prosecuted the case [scrupulously, we might add] all agreed that Polanski has become the victim of an ongoing injustice.

It’s nice to see that Polish prosecutors also agree.

Headline of the day II: ISIS, American-style

From the Washington Post:

Multiple injuries reported in active shooter situation at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs

Roman Polanski wins another legal battle

If California Gov. Jerry Brown had a lick of common sense, he’d pardon Roman Polanski and end a wrong-headed and probably illegal campaign by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office to drag the world famous director back to the U.S. to “serve out” a prison sentence that he had already completely 39 years ago.

Yet even the American press, which covered the case extensively at the time, fail to note that Polanski’s time at a California state prison was the sentence agreed to by all parties in the case: Polanski, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, the young woman on whom Polanski committed statutory rape, her family, and the corrupt judge who presided over the case, Laurence J. Rittenband, whose best friend was one of the country’s most powerful gangsters.

We know about the case firsthand, covering every court session and interviewing the key legal figures in depth as a reporter for the Santa Monica Evening Outlook. And we have posted extensively about the case and the corruption at the heart of the ongoing extradition efforts.

A few years ago we even played a major role in a documentary film about the case, Roman Polanski, Wanted and Desired.

The woman at the center of the case has repeatedly called for the Los Angeles District Attorney to stop the extradition efforts and leave Polanski alone, and the deputy district attorney who prosecuted Polanski has stated for the record that the director fulfilled all the obligations imposed by the plea agreement.’

But the DA’s won’t given up, even though Rittenband demonstrably breached the canons of judicial ethics by discussing the case with reporters [us most notably, and with pals from the Hillcrest Country Club, once he began to have second thoughts after drawing criticism from the spouses of those Hillcrest pals].

We have no idea how many hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars have been wasted on the DA’s office, fueled in part by frankly erroneous reports from newspaper like the Washington Post, which ought to know better.

The Swiss rejected a prolonged attempt to extradite Polanski from their country, declaring, as the Guardian reported at the time, that:

[I]ts decision to reject extradition for Polanski was based in part on US authorities’ failure to provide transcripts of secret testimony given by the attorney who originally handled the director’s case [Deputy District Attorney Roger Gunson, one of the most honorable people we have ever met — esnl]. The testimony “should prove” that Polanski actually served his sentence while undergoing a court-ordered diagnostic study after charges were filed, the Swiss justice ministry said.

“If this were the case, Roman Polanski would actually have already served his sentence and therefore both the proceedings on which the US extradition request is founded and the request itself would have no foundation,” the ministry said. They also noted that Polanski’s victim, Samantha Geimer, has repeatedly asked that the case be dropped.

But that decision came only after Polanski had been jailed, then subjected to nine months’ house arrest.

And now a second effort by the L.A. District Attorney has been conclusively overturned by yet another European government.

From Reuters:

A Polish court’s decision to deny the extradition of film-maker Roman Polanski to the United States over a 1977 child sex conviction became legally binding on Friday after an appellate prosecutor’s office said it found no justification to appeal it.

The case of the Oscar-winning director, now 82, who holds Polish and French citizenship, has been an international cause celebre nearly four decades after the crime, with some demanding harsh punishment and others urging the case be let go.

“Speaking for Polanski, I can say that we feel a great relief that this case has ended,” Jan Olszewski, one of Polanski’s lawyers said. “And this means that it will be possible for Polanski to start making a planned film in Poland.”

The appellate prosecutor’s office in the city of Krakow said in a statement on Friday that its analysis of the evidence collected in the case showed the earlier court decision on denying extradition had been correct.

So get on with it, Jerry Brown, issue a pardon and spend the state’s money on more worthy causes, like building housing for the poor.

Map of the day: The turf of the Mexican cartels

From the Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment [PDF]:

BLOG Cartels

Operation Condor is coming home to roost

Operation Condor, by Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff.

Operation Condor, by Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff.

Wednesday marked the 40th anniversary of the start of Operation Condor [previously], a U.S.-backed pogrom of leftist and populist leaders in Latin America, carried out with the help of then Sceretary of State Henry Kissinger and the Central Intelligence Agency.

In the ensuing purge a thousand or more political activists were tortured and murdered, and a leader figure of the Latin Left, along with a young American woman, died in a car bombing in this nation’s capital. An unknown number of dissidents were disposed of by being stripped naked as they were flown out over the South Atlantic and dropped into the ocean, the basis for the Latuff cartoon.

As for that bombing in Washington, the National Security Archive of George Washington University reported on 8 October:

The CIA concluded that there was “convincing evidence” that Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet “personally ordered his intelligence chief to carry out the murder” of exiled critic Orlando Letelier in Washington D.C., according to a SECRET memo prepared for President Ronald Reagan in 1987. “Pinochet decided to stonewall on the US investigation to hide his involvement,” the CIA review also noted, and as part of the cover-up considered “even the elimination of his former intelligence chief,” DINA director Manuel Contreras, who had overseen the assassination plot.

The CIA intelligence review remains classified. But it was quoted in a dramatic report to President Reagan, dated on October 6, 1987, from his Secretary of State, George Shultz, as part of his efforts to convince the president to cut U.S. ties to Pinochet and press for the return of democracy in Chile. “The CIA has never before drawn and presented its conclusion that such strong evidence exists of his [Pinochet’s] leadership role in this act of terrorism,” the Secretary of State informed the President.

The National Security Archive today said it would file a Freedom of Information Act petition to secure the declassification of the CIA assessment and the raw intelligence reports it was based on. “This document is clearly the holy grail of the Letelier-Moffitt case,” said Peter Kornbluh who directs the Archive’s Chile Documentation Project. Kornbluh called on the agency “to release this document to complete the Obama administration’s special declassification project on Chile.”

Letelier, a former minister in the Allende government, and his 25-year old colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt, were killed by a car-bomb planted by agents of the Chilean secret police on September 21, 1976, as they drove to work down Massachusetts avenue in Washington D.C. Moffitt’s husband, Michael, was the sole survivor of the bombing.

The memory of the horrors of Operation Condor remain very much alive, and a trial now underway may finally win some small measure of justice for the survivors.

From CCTV America:

Operation Condor: A dark time for Latin America

Program notes:

On November 25th, 1975 – high-ranking officials from several South American countries gathered for a meeting in Santiago with a dark agenda. It was then that Operation Condor was launched and military dictatorships were able to swap information to hunt down political opponents.

Trump trumps Trump for arrogant bombast

First this form David Horsey, editorial cartoonist of the Los Angeles Times:

BLOG Assinine

Just how sociopathic is Trump?

Well, consider his latest demonstration of his total lack of compassionate humanity.

That a self-absorbed narcissist could become the leading presidential candidate for the GOP is hardly surprising, given the inherent narcissistic character ofr the neoliberal corporatist agenda the party has adopted.

But that such a candidate could openly mock a journalist for the simple fact of being disabled is simply breathtaking.

From BBC News:

Republican presidential contender Donald Trump has been criticised for mocking a disabled New York Times reporter.

Mr Trump performed an impression of Serge Kovaleski, who suffers from a congenital joint condition, at a rally.

He has used a 2001 article by Mr Kovaleski to back up widely disputed claims that “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the 9/11 attacks.

More from the Washington Post, where Kovakleski worked at the time of the 9/11 attacks:

The gesture was all the more personal because Kovaleski covered Trump while reporting for the New York Daily News between 1987 and 1993, a tumultuous period for Trump in which he struggled through several financial setbacks.

“The sad part about it is, it didn’t in the slightest bit jar or surprise me that Donald Trump would do something this low-rent, given his track record,” Kovaleski said.

Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks declined to comment on the record about the incident. A campaign official speaking on background said Trump was “not aware of any condition and was not mocking his physical appearance in any way.”

A New York Daily News headline sums up:

Donald Trump’s marathon of meanness reaches new low, mocks reporter’s physical handicap during campaign rally

And now for the video of the event, from CNN:

Trump mocks reporter with disability

Program notes:

Donald Trump is under fire again, this time for mocking a New York Times reporter that suffers from a chronic condition. CNN’s John Berman reports.

As for the rumors of celebrating Muslims, here’s an excerpt of a story from the 23 September Newark Star-Ledger:

Hours after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, a story spread across the state: Palestinians in Paterson were celebrating in the streets.

Braced for a riot, the Paterson police rushed to South Main Street, the center of the city’s Middle Eastern community.

“When we got there,” Paterson Police Chief Lawrence Spagnola said, “They were all in prayer.”

In the ensuing days, the rumor went national, lighting up talk radio phone lines. In the end, it was nothing more than rapid-fire urban myth. But it spawned fear of a backlash against Middle Eastern residents that sent this vibrant strip of Turkish pastry shops and Palestinian groceries into virtual lockdown for days. And for Paterson, a downtrodden city struggling to remake itself, it was yet another black eye that is proving difficult to heal.

Ironically, five men were detained after a witness called police to report a group filming the burning towers, apparently celebrating, as ABC News reported:

Maria says she saw three young men kneeling on the roof of a white van in the parking lot of her apartment building. “They seemed to be taking a movie,” Maria said.

The men were taking video or photos of themselves with the World Trade Center burning in the background, she said. What struck Maria were the expressions on the men’s faces. “They were like happy, you know … They didn’t look shocked to me. I thought it was very strange,” she said.

She found the behavior so suspicious that she wrote down the license plate number of the van and called the police. Before long, the FBI was also on the scene, and a statewide bulletin was issued on the van.

The five were all Israeli citizens — three of them in the country illegally — and at one time were suspected of links to Mossad, the Israeli equivalent of the CIA. The intelligence links were never proven and the five were deported.

But Trump never mentioned them, needless to say.

They didn’t fit the narrative.

Quote of the day: A word to mainstream media

From Andrew Cohen of New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice:

It is the opposite of journalism to call something “controversial” when in fact it is demonstrably false. Now more than ever, when so much fiction and hoax is passed off as truth on the campaign trail, journalists have a professional responsibility, if not a moral obligation, to set the record straight, loudly and quickly, before the myth these politicians seek to perpetuate takes public hold. There is no room today for any sort of cheesy false equivalence, for pretending that one idea or thought or theory is equal to every other.

So when Donald Trump or his online handlers re-tweeted patently false statistics about black (and white) crime rates Sunday it was incumbent upon journalists covering that campaign to do more than merely mention the contents of the incorrect Tweet and then chronicle the predictably furious response to it. Trump’s act was “controversial” only because it reveals his flawed judgment, his disregard for facts, and the increasingly ugly direction of his campaign — a series of dog whistles designed to pit citizen against citizen. If Trump today uttered the words “The sun rises in the West” it would not be enough for reporters to run through the litany of people who disagreed.