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Leon Cannizzaro doth protest too much

Leon Cannizzaro doth protest too much


Today, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a bar complaint with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel against Leon Cannizzaro, the District Attorney for New Orleans Parish, Louisiana.

The gist of the allegations involve a series of fake subpoenas Cannizzaro’s office was using to coerce people not accused of a crime to come to the DA’s office and submit to interviews, as detailed by The Lens. The subpoenas threatened “fines or imprisonment,” but were not legal documents; they just looked kind of legal to the normal person. Of course, this was the point — to frighten people into compliance.

In the normal course of business, prosecutors can subpoena witnesses, but they must do so through court order. Prosecutors are powerful, but they cannot simply unilaterally decide that someone must testify. They at least need to talk to a judge first. Failure to do so violates local and state law as well as rules of professional conduct.

Of course, Cannizzaro and his staff are prosecutors, so they should know better.

Cannizzaro won’t back down, and, like a bulldog, he pursues his narrow-minded ideal of justice vigorously. But, people are catching onto his tactics. Now, with the revelations of the fake subpoenas, members of the New Orleans City Council are calling for an end to the practice as well as an investigation. “We need to be sure this did not result in any kind of miscarriage of justice,” one councilman told a reporter.

Cannizzaro’s office went through a number of contortions to explain itself. First, Cannizzaro argued that there was nothing wrong with the practice. Then, once it was clear the issue would not go away, his office announced it would stop using the fake subpoenas. But, Cannizzaro has continued to claim that his office cannot (or will not) figure out how often they were used. The ACLU sued and won, so the DA’s office is now compelled to look for this information, at least in some cases. Now this complaint.

But will it stop? New Orleans has a troubled history with wrongful convictions, extremely punitive prison terms, and plain dishonesty. But, thus far, New Orleans prosecutors have not been deterred by lawsuits, wrongful convictions, U.S. Supreme Court scolding, or bar complaints. What will it take?


Thanks to Josie Duffy Rice.

Honolulu prosecutor criticized for prosecuting woman who accused major campaign donor of sex discrimination

Honolulu prosecutor criticized for prosecuting woman who accused major campaign donor of sex discrimination


A Hawaii judge has blasted Honolulu prosecutors for bringing charges against a woman who’d previously filed a sex discrimination suit against a major donor.

Judge Karen Nakasone dismissed all charges against Laurel Mau, an architect who worked for Mitsunaga & Associates, an influential architectural and engineering firm that had been one of the top donors to the campaigns of Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro, with about $40,000 being donated by employees of the company from 2012–2016.

Mitsunaga & Associates claimed that Mau had stolen money from the company by doing independent projects when she was supposed to be working for the company, and was telling clients for those side projects that she was representing Mitsunaga & Associates.

Kaneshiro’s office charged Mau with four counts of second-degree theft, and Mau would have faced up to five years in prison on each count if she’de been convicted.

But Nakasone threw out the case and criticized prosecutors for relying on the word of the architectural firm, and not police.

“Ordinarily, law enforcement agencies, such as (the Honolulu Police Department) could have and should have conducted the investigation, but that was not done in this case,” Nakasone said, according to City Beat. “In fact, no law enforcement agencies, such as HPD or the Department of the Attorney General or any other state or federal law enforcement, was involved.”

Nakasone also pointed out that Mau was charged with no grand jury proceeding or preliminary hearing.

Mau had previously sued Mitsunaga & Associates for sexual discrimination and lost. The firm countersued her and won $1.

Kaneshiro has said he will appeal Nakasone’s ruling.

The chief prosecutor has become scandal plagued due to a federal investigation involving one of his chief prosecutors and the former Honolulu chief of police. Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha is under investigation due to both ticket fixing allegations and charges that she may have attempted to frame her uncle for a mailbox theft. She runs the career criminal unit that goes after repeat offenders and people on parole who are accused of violating the terms of their release.

Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, Katherine Kealoha’s husband, has already resigned due to the investigation.

Federal officials are now looking at how Kaneshiro reacted as the ticket fixing allegations surfaced, and whether he used his office to help cover for the wrongdoing of his subordinate.

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Response to Trump’s speech fails to acknowledge police brutality

Response to Trump’s speech fails to acknowledge police brutality


In a speech last week to a group of law enforcement officials in Suffolk County, New York, President Trump suggested that America was under threat “because police [aren’t] allowed to do their job.” He decried laws that he sees as “heavily stacked against [police]” and “made to protect the criminal.” In the face of this perceived imbalance, Trump pledged to “support our police like our police have never been supported before.” He derided the idea that police departments are “not allowed” to have “rough people” doing police work. And, most notably, he appeared to advocate police violence towards suspects and urged the officers in the audience, “please don’t be too nice.”

The response from law enforcement agencies and policing organizations was fast and notable. Many issued statements distancing themselves from Trump’s remarks, as the press dutifully reported.“Police leaders across the country moved quickly to distance themselves from — or to outright condemn — President Trump’s statements about ‘roughing up’ people who’ve been arrested,” reported the Washington PostA similar article in the New York Times was entitled “Police Criticize Trump for Urging Officers Not to Be ‘Too Nice’ With Suspects.”

Many articles cited the Suffolk County, NY police department’s statements criticizing Trump, since it was the county where he delivered the speech and the department whose officers made up a portion of the audience. “As a department, we do not and will not tolerate roughing up of prisoners,” they tweeted. In another tweet they said that it had “[S]trict rules & procedures relating to the handling of prisoners” and “[v]iolations of those rules are treated extremely seriously.”

Except, of course, we know that’s not the case. The Suffolk County Police Department has a record of unusual brutality and widespread cover-up that permeated the organization and led to a 46 month federal prison sentence for the department’s recent chief. As the New York Times reported late last year, James Burke, “[t]he once popular and swaggering chief of the Suffolk County Police Department” was convicted in federal court for roughing up a prisoner in the department’s custody. In fact, Chief Burke brutally attacked a young man with a heroin dependence and a pattern of petty theft, after he’d been arrested for breaking into Burke’s SUV and stealing a duffel bag. Chief Burke punched the arrestee, “shook his head violently,” and threatened to give him a “fatal dose of heroin” while the man was handcuffed and “shackled to the floor of an interrogation room.” At one point, after the man talked back, Chief Burke “went out of control, screaming and cursing at [the arrestee] and assaulting him until a detective finally said, ‘Boss, that’s enough, that’s enough.’”

In stark contrast to their assertion last week that they hold members of the department accountable for police brutality, the Suffolk County Police Department responded to this vicious beating by covering it up. They were largely successful until the F.B.I. and United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York investigated the matter. Though the investigation is ongoing, by the end of last year, Long Island Press reported that court documents showed “numerous” members of the Suffolk County Police Department have been indicted and pled guilty to crimes stemming from the incident and its cover-up. Among other things, the indictments allege that officers threatened to kill the arrestee, threatened to rape his mother, and choked the arrestee until he lost consciousness. When the arrestee asked for an attorney, one detective told him, “This isn’t Law & Order; you’re not going to get an attorney.” In addition officers allegedly tampered with physical evidence and entered false information into police logs in order to cover up their actions.

As the breadth of the cover-up suggests, the incident is part of a broader culture of abusiveness and disdain for the law at the Suffolk County Police Department. As Reuters reported, just one day prior to Trump’s speech, a Suffolk County officer was charged with forcing a female arrestee to perform oral sex on him in a police station earlier this year. And, as Mother Jonesreported, the department has been under federal oversight since 2013, following an investigation into allegations of discrimination against Latinos and immigrants.

Indeed, Chief Burke’s rise through the department was part and parcel of the department’s comfort with brash, aggressive, toxic policing. As the New York Times reported, as a young police officer Chief Burke had a reputation as an “aggressive street cop” who was noted for “a streak of risky behavior.” He also was alleged to have used police resources to surveil his girlfriends. Neither prevented his rise. After the attack that eventually brought about his federal conviction, Chief Burke bragged that it reminded him of his younger days.

The chasm between the Suffolk County Police Department’s statement distancing itself from Trump’s speech and the actual culture and behavior of the department was no aberration. For example, several articles, including ones by the Washington Post and CNN cited a tweet by Portland, Oregon’s police department stating: “Portland Police Bureau officers are expected to treat everyone with dignity & respect, even when they are a suspect.” These articles failed to mention that Portland police have shot and killed two suspects this year, neither of whom posed a meaningful threat to the officers. The articles also failed to mention that, like Chief Burke in Suffolk County,Portland’s acting police chief has a history of violent behavior and a history ofusing police resources to improperly engage his erstwhile romantic partners.

Other articles, including one by ABC News cited a tweet by the Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department stating that his department too “does not condone the mistreatment of prisoners” and “treat[s] arrested persons with respect and dignity.” That ABC News article failed to mention thePhiladelphia Police Department’s “long, fraught history” of “rough rides,” in which “police throw arrestees into police vans and take them on seatbelt-less drive[s] aimed at knocking them around on the way to the station house.”

Similarly, numerous articles cited a statement from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) distancing themselves from Trump’s comments, without mentioning that the current Commissioner of Baltimore’s Police Department — the department famous for the “rough ride” that ended in Freddie Gray’s death — sits on the IACP’s board of directors. Anthony Batts, the Baltimore Police Commissioner at the time of Freddie Gray’s death wasalso a member of IACP.

The most notable thing about Trump’s speech in Suffolk County was neither what Trump said nor the statements police departments issued in response — rather it was how the law enforcement personnel in Trump’s audience spontaneously reacted in real time. As Trump gave the thumbs up to police gratuitously roughing up arrestees, the officers in the audience laughed and cheered. That reaction speaks volumes. It is the behavior of police, not the formal public statements police departments issue for media consumption, that best reveals the culture of American policing.

What that behavior reveals is that, despite those public statements distancing the profession from what Trump said, Trump’s speech was not so much a break with the culture of policing, as it was the unabashed, forthright expression of that culture. For the policing profession, the problem with Trump is not that he threatens their values, but that he reveals their values and expresses them too frankly.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are mine and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Fair Punishment Project.

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