Boing Boing 

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.

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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.

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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.

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

houseofrep232way_wide-4bac6d92f39d630d0f94f3c708ca06710a717d2f-s6-c30The 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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Marshall Islands sues 9 nuclear powers, including US and Russia, over failure to disarm nuclear stockpiles

The Castle Bravo nuclear test on Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands. A 15-megaton device equivalent to 1,000 Hiroshima blasts was detonated in 1954. Photograph: US Air Force - digital version


The Castle Bravo nuclear test on Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands. A 15-megaton device equivalent to 1,000 Hiroshima blasts was detonated in 1954. Photograph: US Air Force - digital version

The Marshall Islands is suing the nine known nations with nuclear weapons at the international court of justice at The Hague, over charges they have violated their legal obligation to disarm under the 1968 nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). From the Guardian:

In the unprecedented legal action, comprising nine separate cases brought before the ICJ on Thursday, the Republic of the Marshall Islands accuses the nuclear weapons states of a "flagrant denial of human justice". It argues it is justified in taking the action because of the harm it suffered as a result of the nuclear arms race. The Pacific chain of islands, including Bikini Atoll and Enewetak, was the site of 67 nuclear tests from 1946 to 1958, including the "Bravo shot", a 15-megaton device equivalent to a thousand Hiroshima blasts, detonated in 1954. The Marshallese islanders say they have been suffering serious health and environmental effects ever since.
Named in the lawsuit are the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel, an undeclared nuclear weapons state.

US federal judges resisting law enforcement demands for electronic evidence

(Photo courtesy of Stephen Smith) - One of the shirts that Judge James Orenstein of Brooklyn designed.


Photo via Washington Post, courtesy of magistrate judge Stephen Smith: A t-shirt designed by Judge James Orenstein of Brooklyn.

"Judges at the lowest levels of the federal judiciary are balking at sweeping requests by law enforcement officials for cellphone and other sensitive personal data, declaring the demands overly broad and at odds with basic constitutional rights," reports the Washington Post.

"This rising assertiveness by magistrate judges — the worker bees of the federal court system — has produced rulings that elate civil libertarians and frustrate investigators, forcing them to meet or challenge tighter rules for collecting electronic evidence."

An interesting footnote observed by Freedom of the Press Foundation's Trevor Timm: "All federal magistrate judges are on a giant email list where they ask each other legal questions."

Ugotarrested: Man charged with operating revenge porn site Ugotposted.com

California State Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the arrest of a man said to have owned and operated a so-called revenge porn website. According to the arrest warrant (PDF), the site operated by Kevin Christopher Bollaert published over 10,000 sexually explicit photos. The young women who appeared in these images, some of whom were minors at the time they were taken, were charged up to $350 each to be removed from the site.

California Department of Justice agents arrested Bollaert, 27, in San Diego where he lived. He is in San Diego County jail on $50,000 bail, and has been charged with 31 felony counts of conspiracy, identity theft and extortion. If he is convicted, penalties may include jail time and fines.

The arrest warrant is well worth a read. It includes the stories of a number of young women who ended up physically exposed and personally identified on the internet against their will. In some cases, private photos made their way online after their accounts were hacked or phones snatched. The women speak about how that violation damaged their lives and destroyed their sense of privacy.

During an in-person interview with two special agents, Bollaert bemoaned the burden of all those emails he was receiving from young women and teens, asking for images to be removed -- a service he charged hundreds of bucks for.

"At the beginning this was like fun and entertaining," he said to the agents, "But now it's ruining my life." At the end of the meeting, the agents served him with search warrants.

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Sociology goes inside the police state

The Chronicle of Higher Education talks to a sociologist who spent years living with and learning the stories of people affected by mass incarceration.

Argentine Judge wants to place officials from Franco regime on trial

"Spain, whose judges have aggressively pursued human rights abuse cases far beyond its borders, finds itself on the receiving end of such an inquest." A judge in Argentina is trying to extradite and bring to justice Spanish police officials accused of torturing opponents of the regime under Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator who died in 1975. Victims of those abuses "filed a lawsuit in Buenos Aires in 2010, after getting nowhere in Spain because of a 1977 amnesty law meant to smooth Spain’s return to democracy." Raphael Minder has more in the NYT.

Family of slain Chilean folk singer Victor Jara file suit against his accused torturer and killer, with help from CJA

Huge human rights news from Latin America today: the Center for Justice & Accountability and the family of Victor Jara are suing the man indicted by Chilean prosecutors for torturing and killing Jara in 1973. Pedro Barrientos is accused of firing the shot that killed the Chilean folk singer and activist, but Barrientos currently resides in Florida.

Through the lawsuit, Jara's family hope to prove his culpability in a federal courtroom in Jacksonville, Florida, with rarely-used US laws addressing human rights violations committed outside of the country.

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Update on "Capturing the Friedmans" story

NewImageIn 2003, the excellent documentary film Capturing the Friedmans told the story of a family falling apart under a 1980s investigation and subsequent trial of the father, Arnold Friedman, and his son, Jesse Friedman, for child molestation. Both pled guilty but shortly after the trial, Jesse insisted that he was innocent, had been pressured into the guilty plea, and began pushing the courts for a re-investigation. Arnold Friedman committed suicide in prison in 1995. On Monday, the Nassau County District Attorney released a new 160-page-report they say supports their investigation and prosecution of Jesse Friedman.

According to the report, "by any impartial analysis, the re-investigation process prompted by Jesse Friedman, his advocates and the 2nd Circuit, has only increased confidence in the integrity of Jesse Friedman’s guilty plea and adjudication as a sex offender."

Friedman isn't giving up though.

“Today is not the worst day of my life," he said. “I’ve had many, many worse days than today and I’m standing strong and I’ve got as much fight in me — I’ve got more fight in me — than I’ve ever, ever had before. So, game on.”

Subject of Oscar-nominated ‘Capturing the Friedmans’ vows fight for exoneration will go on (Washington Post)

"Exonerating Jesse Friedman" (FreeJesse.net)

Ex-CIA officer Kiriakou, who fought torture, sentenced in leak case

John C. Kiriakou, a former CIA officer whom the government spent five years trying to convict for disclosing classified information, was today sentenced to 30 months in jail.

He is the first CIA officer in history to face prison for a leak.

From the NYT report by Michael S. Schmidt:

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Fred Willard avoids going to trial following his lewdness arrest in July

After getting caught in the act -- specifically, the act of masturbating at Hollywood's Tiki Theater (for adults) -- Fred Willard has avoided trial after completing a "diversion program for minor sexual offenses" in September. I'm going to pretend that this program was conducted by a Christopher Guest character to make this story extra fun, now that it looks like it's over. (via Huffington Post)

Pennsylvania police post perp pix on Pinterest

The Pottstown Mercury, a newspaper in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, recently started posting police mugshots of wanted criminals on Pinterest. Sounds crazy, right? Well, the novel use of a social networking site known best for nail art, cupcakes, and motivational posters with bad typography has become quite a success for local law enforcement. As you can see by scrolling through the board, users are sharing comments on where police might look for each wanted man or woman. Here's an interview with one of the paper's "Pinners," and more context on Poynter. According to an interview with police in the Pottstown Mercury, the project has resulted in a 58% increase in arrests.

In the NYT, a judge who has cancer argues for the legalization of medical marijuana

Admittedly, I am biased, but New York state supreme court judge Gustin L. Reichbach speaks for me when he writes in a New York Times op-ed today that medical marijuana "is not a law-and-order issue; it is a medical and a human rights issue."

Like me, justice Reichbach has cancer. He has pancreatic cancer, and a prognosis that involves a short window of survival, and great pain and suffering during treatment.

"Medical science has not yet found a cure," he writes, "but it is barbaric to deny us access to one substance that has proved to ameliorate our suffering."

Read it and demand change: A Judge’s Plea for Medical Marijuana.

(NYT, via Clayton Cubitt)

Reflections on the acquittal of Byron Sonne

Yesterday, Byron Sonne was acquitted of all charges against him. Sonne is the Toronto-area security researcher who pointedly demonstrated the inadequacy and incoherence of the heavy-handed, $1.2B security arrangements for the G20 summit in 2010. Denise Balkissoon has done some of the best reporting on the bizarre trial that followed (after Sonne spent nearly a year in jail), and now she's got good commentary on the acquittal:

“Byron Sonne, you’re a free man,” said one of his lawyers, Joe DiLuca, as Sonne stood outside the courthouse.

“I can be a moron again on the internet,” Sonne said, as he ripped up court documents that listed the bail conditions—including a curfew and not using a cellphone—that he has lived with since May 2011...

Later on the day of the verdict, in Kensington Market, Sonne stood having a cigarette and discussing Anonymous and Gandhi with Alex Hundert, who pled guilty to counselling to commit mischief during the G20. “They took a somewhat radical person like me and said, ‘Let’s put the guy in jail with real radicals,'” said Sonne, who was not involved with organized activists in advance of the summit. “I’m not interested in playing by the rules anymore.”

Sonne said he intends to help non-technologically savvy activists learn to encrypt their computers and online communications. Police were unable to unencrypt one of Sonne’s hard drives, which led the Crown to argue that it must contain nefarious plans. “There’s nothing on there that wasn’t on my other computers,” said Sonne, who said he encrypted it for travelling over the U.S. border. “But it’s good to know that the technology works.”

Sonne aims to get back the computer security certification that was suspended during his arrest, and wants to start rebuilding his professional network.

Sounds like he needs a job. Toronto-area readers, take note!

Here's our previous Sonne posts.

Byron Sonne, found not guilty on all charges, has plans for the future (Thanks, Denise!)

War Crimes trial for Ratko Mladic begins in The Hague

Photo: Jasmina in a former prison. "Despite the scale of the facility, it was densely crowded once." Shot by Bruce Sterling.


This morning, The Hague tribunal commenced the trial of Ratko Mladic, ex commander of the army of the Serbian republic in Bosnia. Mothers of the slain gathered in front of the court.

Twenty years ago, Mladic started his criminal activities, while still an officer of the army of disintegrating Yugoslavia. A year ago, Mladic was arrested, after years of concealment, mostly within Belgrade. Today Mladic, aged 70, is sitting in the court neatly dressed as a civilian, without his legendary military cap.

As the judge reads the indictment, Mladic cheerily waving to the audience and even applauds certain parts of the recitation. "The wolf loses his hair but not his character," as the Serbian proverb puts it.

The indictment precisely proceeds as a short elementary lesson of the bloody fall of Yugoslavia.

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Byron Sonne is an innocent man

Twitter's #freebyron hashtag is alive with the news that Byron Sonne, the Toronto-area security expert who was incarcerated and treated as a terrorist for pointing out and making fun of the security flaws in the $1.2B security scheme for the Toronto G20 summit, has been found Not Guilty on all counts.

A moment of sanity from the Canadian judicial system, and all it cost was Sonne's marriage, house, and freedom.

Here's our earlier Sonne pieces.

#freebyron

Police officer in fatal shooting of Marine vet ID'd, was sued in 2008 racism and brutality case

Democracy Now has a big update in the homicide of 68-year-old Kenneth Chamberlain, a black Marine vet shot dead at his home by police in White Plains, New York, last November after he accidentally set off his wearable medical alert device. A previous BB post on the story is here. The victim's son and other advocates have been pressuring authorities to release the name of the officer involved:

Documented in audio recordings, the White Plains police reportedly used a racial slur, burst through Chamberlain’s door, tasered him, then shot him dead. "The last time I actually really saw my father, other than the funeral, was at the hospital, with his eyes wide open, his tongue hanging out his mouth, and two bullet holes in his chest," said Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr. "And I’m staring at my father, wondering, 'What happened?'"

The alleged shooter, Officer Anthony Carelli, is due in court later this month in an unrelated 2008 police brutality case. He is accused of being the most brutal of a group of officers who allegedly beat two arrestees of Jordanian descent and called them "rag heads."

Video, audio, and transcript here.

Black Marine veteran, 68, shot dead by police after wearable medical alert gadget went off in error

The Trayvon Martin story remains in national headlines this week, but little media attention has been paid to a similarly troubling case: that of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., a 68-year-old Marine vet killed in his home last November by police officers in White Plains, NY.

The officers were responding to a false alarm accidentally triggered by Chamberlain's medical alert pendant while he slept. Instead of helping the man, who had a heart condition, they broke down his front door, tasered him, reportedly called him the "n-word" and mocked him, then shot him dead.

Audio throughout the incident was recorded by his medical alert device.

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Maher Arar on Canada's pro-torture policy

Maher Arar, a Canadian who was rendered to Syria for years of brutal torture on the basis of bad information from Canada's intelligence agencies, writes in Prism about the revelation that Canadian public safety minister Vic Toews has given Canadian intelligence agencies and police the green light to use information derived from torture in their work. Arar cites examples of rendition and torture based on the "Hollywood fantasy that underlines the 'ticking bomb' scenario that minister Toews was apparently contemplating when he wrote this directive."

What makes this direction even more alarming is that the fat annual budgets devoted to enhancing national security have not been balanced by a similar increase in oversight. In fact, the government chose to ignore the most important recommendation of Justice O’Connor which is to establish a credible oversight agency that has the required powers to monitor and investigate the activities of the RCMP and those of other agencies involved in the gathering and dissemination of national security information. Unlike the powerless Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (CPC) or the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) this agency would also be granted subpoena power to compel all agencies to produce the required documents.

Coming back to the directive one can only cite two examples here which I believe are sufficient to illustrate the hollowness of the argument presented in the directive. The first relates to the invasion of Iraq which we now know was based on false intelligence (see this video) that was extracted from Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi while he was being tortured in Egypt. Al-Libi was later found dead inside his prison cell. Some human rights activists believe the Gaddafi regime liquidated him three years after he was rendered to Libya by the CIA.

Torture Directive 2.0 (Thanks, Richard!)

(Image: Rothenburg Germany Torture Museum, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from nanpalmero's photostream) (Thanks, Richard!)

One more response to Boing Boing post on "Police Pad" gadgets in Georgia, by Some Guy from Georgia

People walk past graffiti on a street in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, Jan. 13, 2012. (REUTERS)

Editor's Note: In response to an anonymously-sourced wisecrack we published about police corruption in former Soviet states, the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs responded with a statement, which we published in full. A Boing Boing reader from Georgia also asked to respond to the anonymously-sourced wisecrack, with which he takes issue. Like the wisecracker, this person requests anonymity.


The police in Georgia are definitely not fat or lazy. They are not corrupt on the street level, either. But the whole system still retains elements of corruption  (in enforcement, in the judiciary, and in the legislative realm). The problem lies more in the definition of corruption: the fact that you can no longer bribe the policeman in the streets or at the sovereign borders does not mean everything is crystal-clean.

The fact that citizens are still afraid  of police in Georgia as if they were monsters is still an expression of the damage of corruption. The fact that you can be imprisoned for smoking pot weeks before actually being tested by cops (because you might seem suspicious to them, not because you've been caught smoking pot) is a kind of corruption, I believe.

There is a terrible feeling of vulnerability in Georgia. Police are still used as a tool to terrorize people and make money, but these days, paying bribes to individual policemen is no longer normal.


Georgian policemen stand to attention during a daily shift change at the Interior Ministry in Tbilisi, Jan. 12, 2012. (REUTERS)

There are lots of pros and cons about the reforms in Georgia, but still, no—the "fat lazy cops" comment was not fair. The police have changed greatly for the positive.

At least you don't have to pay mandatory bribes to drive around any more; the government fought very effectively against organized crime and turned Georgia into what is almost a drug-free country. In the past, the city was covered in used syringes. You could buy heroin as easily as bread.

Now, the city is clean, and it is very hard to buy any kind of drugs. I really appreciate this, as may of my friends have stopped using heavy drugs over the past two or three years.


An employee assembles a "Police Pad" at the production line of the Algorithm factory in Tbilisi January 11, 2012. Five thousand police officers will receive portable field computers assembled at this factory, according to local media. (REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili)

Response to Boing Boing post on "Police Pad" gadgets in Georgia, from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia

Editor's Note: In response to an anonymously-sourced wisecrack we published about police corruption in former Soviet states, the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs has responded with a statement, which we are more than happy to publish in full.

Georgian Police: Model for Successful Transformation

The article published on [Boing Boing on] January 12, 2012, about the initiative by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia to introduce new portable field computers (so called “Police Pads”) ends with an anonymous quote declaring that "100% guaranteed those crooked, fat, lazy cops will be using these devices primarily for porn and Russian gambling services."

Stereotypes like this are easy to toss out—but are quite simply incorrect. This quote does not reflect the productivity, effectiveness, transparency, and reliability of the police force in Georgia today, but rather the bygone era of the 1990s, a reality that has drastically changed thanks to an ambitious and successful reform process.

The reform process in Georgia began immediately after the 2003 Rose Revolution. The new government inherited a completely corrupt and bloated law-enforcement system. The systemic corruption and the high level of crime throughout the country resulted in a very low level of public trust: fewer than 10% of Georgians had confidence in the police, according to 2003 polls. And the very low average policeman's salary (approximately $68 per month) made the soliciting of bribes routine. 

Georgia has since made the creation of an efficient and modern police force a national priority, undertaking a series of reforms that sought to rebuild the national police force literally from the ground up. The entire national police force was fired, and a new force hired, trained and deployed with the aim of meeting the highest international standards of professionalism.

These reforms are widely regarded as an unqualified success. Having reduced corruption and bribe taking to levels comparable to those in Europe, the police in Georgia have earned the trust and respect of the public they serve:

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In former Soviet state of Georgia, an iPad knockoff for police

An employee demonstrates a "Police Pad" at the Algorithm factory in Tbilisi, Georgia, on January 11, 2012. Five thousand police officers will receive portable field computers, equipped with features that will assist them with their work, assembled at this factory, according to local media.

Update: An official response to this blog post from the government of Georgia is here. And a response from a Boing Boing reader who is a Georgian native is here.


From the Tbilisi-based Georgian language news organization Rustavi 2:

Five thousand police officers will be handed over portable computers. New police pads were produced in Georgia by the Algorithm Company. Minister of Interior Vano Merabishvili observe the process of police pad production in the factory personally. `I have an honor to inform Georgian society and the officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, that in a few days five thousand police officers will be equipped with such field computers, which will allow the citizens and the police officers to provide services offered by the ministry to our citizens more comfortably,` Minister said adding Georgian police would soon become the most developed and modernized police in the world.

Says a friend who travels to the region often: "100% guaranteed those crooked, fat, lazy cops will be using these devices primarily for porn and russian gambling services."

Update: A counselor from the Georgian embassy to the United States has contacted Boing Boing to express disappointment that the quote above was included in this article. The remark is unfair, the official says, and it's something of a sore point for a country that has done so much to address the issue in recent years. They direct our attention to the Georgian government's efforts to reform police and fight corruption—with results, they say, that are a global example of success for an emerging democratic state. We've invited the government of Georgia to share those comments in longer form, and we'll gladly post them here as a guest opinion piece in entirety. It should also be noted that the source of the critical quote in this article loves Georgia, its people, and its culture, and travels there frequently to this day. Some who applaud the success of reforms still argue there's more work left to do.

(photo: REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili)

Open letter from an Army vet to military servicepeople: what will you do when they send you to fight Occupy?

Mitch Green, a US Army vet and economics PhD candidate, has written an open letter to members of the US armed forces, who, he believes, will soon be called upon to put down the Occupy movement in America:

Those that take this oath seriously are faced with a terrible conflict. You must battle internally between the affirmation that you will place your body between the social contract embedded in the Constitution and those that seek its destruction, while maintaining your loyalty to the government you serve and the orders issued by its officers. Sadly, society has placed a twin tax upon you by asking that you sacrifice both your body and your morality. This tax has been levied solely upon you overseas, and soon they’ll come to collect domestically. Your government in its expression of corporate interests relies upon your tenacity to endure, and your relentless willingness to sacrifice. And so you do.

Now, more than ever we need your sacrifice. But, I’m asking you to soldier in a different way. If called upon to deny the people of their first amendment right to peaceably assemble and petition their government for a redress of grievance, disregard the order. Abstain from service. Or if you are so bold, join us. Make no mistake: The consequences for such decisions are severe. You will be prosecuted under the full extent of the law. But sacrifice is your watch word.

An Open Letter to the Winter Patriot

Why is Portland Police Dept. posting mugshots of Occupy Portland arrestees to Facebook?

UPDATE: I spoke with a sergeant from the Portland Police department today. I will post a longer update on the story soon, with notes from our conversation. The short version: yes, they do have a long history of posting mugshots in cases of high public and media interest, online. They're not only doing this with Occupy arrests. And Occupy arrests are of high media and public interest. The PD's news releases (some of which are lists of arrests, with photos) are all auto-posted to Twitter and Facebook now and not just to the PD's website. Apart from that, I do think it's fair to say that the prevailing character of their response to the local Occupy has been respectful and mellow compared to other cities (Oakland, yes, I'm looking at you). I told the sergeant that some BB readers had written in from Portland to say they are proud of the lack of tear gas or rubber bullets. "So are we," he replied.
—XJ


As inadvisable police tactics around Occupy Wall Street go, this feels like it's right up there with tear gassing people in wheelchairs: The Portland, Oregon police department is posting mugshots to Facebook of people arrested at Occupy Portland.

@newyorkist has been dogging them about it on Twitter, and the Portland Police replied publicly via Twitter and Facebook that they do this with any "arrests in cases of a significant public or media interest," as part of the department's "efforts to be continually transparent."

Is that a violation of the arrestees' civil rights? Some of the demonstrators arrested were minors (and I am not sure if their photos were among the ones published). How does the fact that they are not adults change this story? Remember, these people aren't convicted pedophiles, they're just participants in a peaceful protest who were arrested, and haven't yet seen their day in court.

There is some precedent to police departments posting mugshots on a police department website, but the fact that it's Facebook just feels weird. As BB reader Bryan Coffelt tweeted, "I feel like the next step would be for the PDX PD to start 'poking' the arrestees or inviting them to play FarmVille."

Below, a response to the practice by Joey B'Shalom of Portland, identified as a US Air Force veteran "Airman of the Year" whose son Benji and daughter Hannah were arrested there.

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