Pittsburgh police chief wants to fire cop who beat up teen

matakovich

Last year, Pittsburgh Police officer Sgt. Stephen Matakovich was captured on camera beating up a 19-year-old outside Heinz Field. After lying about the circumstances, he was charged with assault—only to find the charges dismissed last week by a judge.

When video of the attack found its way to the media, however, the story changed: police chief Cameron McLay has now suspended Matakovich and says he will fire him, while prosecutors are planning to refile charges against the officer.

WPXI 11 reports that it'll be hard to make it stick: Matakovich can appeal the decision to city executives who can overrule McLay, then take it to an arbitration panel, where he can select one of the three people tasked with the final decision.

Deja vu: in 2003, Matakovich was recorded threatening to assault a superior officer, but was let off the hook over his own supervisor's objections. Read the rest

Freedom of the Press Foundation sues Justice Dept. for info on its push to block transparency reform

Reuters

Freedom of the Press Foundation has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Justice Department for all correspondence the agency has had with Congress over proposed FOIA reform bills that died last year in Congress, despite having unanimous support of all its members.

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Man jailed for a month when cops said his artisanal soap was cocaine is now suing the crap out of them

Soap. Not cocaine.

A New York man who spent a month in jail after Pennsylvania state police mistook homemade soap he was traveling with for cocaine has filed a lawsuit.

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Arizona tried to illegally import an execution drug not approved for use in U.S.

Outside Phoenix's "Tent City" jail REUTERS//Joshua Lott

Arizona tried to illegally import a lethal injection drug that is banned in the U.S., but the state never got the drug after federal agents halted the shipment at Phoenix airport. The Associated Press has the documents, and the resulting scoop.

Arizona paid nearly $27,000 for sodium thiopental, an anesthetic that has been used to carry out executions but is no longer manufactured by FDA-approved companies, the documents said. When the drugs arrived via British Airways at the Phoenix International Airport in July, they were seized by federal officials and have not been released, according to the documents.

"The department is contesting FDA's legal authority to continue to withhold the state's execution chemicals," state Department of Corrections spokesman Andrew Wilder said Thursday.

Arizona and other death penalty states have been struggling to obtain legal execution drugs for several years after European companies refused to sell the drugs, including sodium thiopental, that have been used to carry out executions. States have had to change drug combinations or, in some cases, put executions on hold temporarily as they look for other options.

The Arizona documents obtained by the AP were released as part of a lawsuit against the corrections department over transparency in executions. The AP is a party in the lawsuit.

"Documents: Arizona tried to illegally import execution drug" [AP] Read the rest

Give me blood, cash, or jail time, Alabama judge orders defendants

Photo: The Montgomery Advertiser

What's worse than courts demanding that poor people pay extortionate fines to the state for minor offense? Asking them to literally pay with their own blood.

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Mentally ill man jailed over $5 worth of snacks dies in cell after waiting months for mental health care

Jamycheal Mitchell [Facebook]

Man, the first few paragraphs of this Washington Post story about a mentally ill man who died in a jail while waiting for medical care are so devastating. Read the rest

Prison islands

napoleon-island-exile

Ruined and strangely beautiful, the island prison of Coiba was once a truly ugly place. This concrete extrusion from the Central American jungle is now a silent guardian of Panama's dark secrets.

The prison was established in 1919, a safe distance from the mainland, and virtually inescapable for inmates. During the back-to-back military regimes of Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega (1969 to 1990), the site transformed into a penal colony for political subversives. Here, prisoners—known as Los Desaparacidos, or “the Disappeared”—were held in secret, never to return. Reports of abuse, torture, and politically motivated murder soon surfaced from this time in the island’s history.

Even this, however, seems to pale before the horror of Devil's Island in French Guiyana, closed in 1953.

Devil's Island, French Guiana

Devil's Island and associated prisons eventually became one of the most infamous prison systems in history. While the prison system was in use (1852–1953),[1] inmates included political prisoners (such as 239 republicans who opposed Napoleon III's coup d'état in 1851) and the most hardened of thieves and murderers. The vast majority of the more than 80,000 prisoners sent to the Devil's Island prison system never made it back to France. Many died due to disease and harsh conditions. Sanitary systems were limited, and the region was mosquito-infested, with endemic tropical diseases. The only exit from the island prisons was by water, and few convicts escaped.

Not all prison islands were nightmares—the British kept Napoleon in relative comfort, though somewhat less so after his first escape—but history favors them as a safe place to store the most dangerous among us. Read the rest

Man jailed four months for "meth" that was epsom salt

Magnesium_sulfate

While an Australian man cooled his heels in jail for 16 weeks, forensics took their sweet time in determining the "ice" he was busted for was epsom salt. Read the rest

Cops: Helpful burglar reported lit stove in victim's home to 911

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Mary Smith was looking for prescription medicine and cigarette filters in a neighbor's home when she noticed the stove was going, so she made the neighborly decision to report the fire hazard to 911. Read the rest

#BlackLivesMatter activists are monitored by U.S. Homeland Security and cybersecurity firms

Image: Wikipedia.
In a Reddit AMA, activists DeRay McKesson, Johnetta Elzie and ACLU’s Nus Choudhury talked policing and police reform in America, and surveillance of activists.

Another day, another movie theater shooter in America: Nashville Edition. Open Thread.

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The shooter is reported to have died at the scene. America: What the fuck?

How did an Ohio inmate get prison administrators' usernames and passwords?

Lebanon prison, Ohio

Lebanon prison, Ohio

Ohio authorities are investigating how a prisoner obtained a list of the usernames and passwords for prison administrators.

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What should the next Aaron Swartz do when the DOJ knocks?

Aaron Swartz found out the hard way that you can't expect justice from the Department of Justice: what should the next Aaron Swartz do when facing decades in prison for information activism?

Barrett Brown’s sentence is unjust, but it may become the norm for journalists

Jailed, in part, because he shared a link to a stolen document that he did not steal, and despite the fact that this is not a crime.

Strong Female Protagonist Book One

After a successful Kickstarter campaign, several years' worth of the wonderful webcomic Strong Female Protagonist has been collected in a book called Strong Female Protagonist Book One, and the story is now available in a single, powerful draught. Cory Doctorow reviews a comic that has a lot more to say about justice than the typical superhero story.

Matt Taibbi's The Divide: incandescent indictment of the American justice-gap

Matt Taibbi's The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap is a scorching, brilliant, incandescent indictment of the widening gap in how American justice treats the rich and the poor. Taibbi's spectacular financial reporting for Rolling Stone set him out as the best running commentator on the financial crisis and its crimes, and The Divide -- beautifully illustrated by Molly Crabapple -- shows that at full length, he's even better. Cory Doctorow reviews The Divide.

House approves 'media shield' amendment, as reporter reveals 2011 subpoena fight

The House of Representatives today voted 225-183 to approve an appropriations bill amendment that bars the Justice Department from forcing reporters to testify about their confidential sources.

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