PA supreme court: was illegal to steal elderly woman's home because her son sold $140 of weed

It took four years, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has finally ruled in favor of 72 year old grandmother Elizabeth Young, whose house was seized by the Philadelphia District Attorney under asset forfeiture rules when her son was caught selling $140 worth of marijuana to undercover agents.

Under civil forfeiture rules, cops and DAs get to steal property suspected of being the proceeds of a crime, then they sue the inanimate objects. The owners of the objects can hire lawyers to represent their property, while the taxpayers foot the bill for the state's side of the suit. If the government wins, it gets to keep the property or sell it and pocket the proceeds.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court blasted the DA for the seizure and reminded the state's lawyers and cops that they can only invoke civil forfeiture when there is good reason to believe that the property's owner "knew of and agreed to the crimes" in question.

The cop who bought the marijuana from Young's son is currently serving a 3.5 year federal prison sentence for planting drugs on suspects.

Young is far from the only person to have her house seized by the Philadelphia D.A. for a minor drug crime that she didn't even commit. In 2013, Philadelphia police seized the house of Christos and Markela Sourovelis after their son was arrested for selling $40-worth of drugs outside of it.

The Sourovelis' sued, with assistance from the libertarian-leaning Institute for Justice, a nonprofit law firm that has challenged asset forfeiture laws in several states.

Read the rest

Thai police arrest three Chinese nationals in raid on social media "like"-farm

Immigration police arrested three Chinese nationals in a raid on a rented room in Tambon Ban Mai Nongsai, charging them with work-permit violations and for "online trading of contraband goods." Read the rest

Lawsuit: sicko Sheriff ordered 900 teens groped in illegal mass-frisking at school

A lawsuit is underway in Worth County, Georgia, where Sheriff Jeff Hobby is defending a mass-frisking of 900 high school students, performed in public without warrant or even the pretense of probable cause, during which cops reportedly manipulated student's breasts, inserted fingers inside bras, exposed bare breasts and reached into underwear and cupped and groped kids' genitals. This ostentatious display of power, by cops armed with guns and dogs, was supposedly a drug search. No drugs were found. Not a scrap.

[Interim Worth County Superintendent Lawrence] Walters said in March Sheriff Jeff Hobby told him his department was going to do a drug search at the school after spring break.

"We did not give permission but they didn't as for permission, he just said, the sheriff, that he was going to do it after spring break," said Walters. "Under no circumstances did we approve touching any students," explained Walters. ...

In the student handbook it says school officials may search a student if there is reasonable suspicion the student has an illegal item. Hobby says he was able to search every student, simply because he had an administrator with him.

The intimidatory purpose of this unconstitutional search is made disgustingly clear by the sexualized quality of the touching, as reported by the victims and their parents. From the lawsuit:

The purported justification for the mass search was to discover drugs. To that end, Sheriff Hobby had a list of thirteen students on a “target list” that he suspected of possessing drugs.

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Ninth Circuit creates groundbreaking jurisprudence for "sexy cops"

The Ninth Circuit's opinion in Santopietro v. Howell marks an important turning point in US jurisprudence, marking the first-ever time that a federal judge has used the phrase "sexy cop" in a decision. Read the rest

ACT NOW! In 9 days, the European Parliament could pass a truly terrible copyright expansion

When MEP Julia Reda conducted a wide-ranging and open consultation on updating EU copyright, she came up with some great, sensible reforms: making it legal to take pictures of buildings, making it legal to link to newspapers, creating a Europe-wide set of fair dealing exceptions to copyright, capping copyright terms at life-plus-50 years, and making sure that the rights you get to analog media (like the right to give your books and music to your kids when you die) carries over to digital media. Read the rest

Supreme Court to Lexmark: when you sell something, the buyer then owns it

Lexmark has spent nearly 20 years fighting the war on carbon, trying to stop you from refilling your laser printer cartridges. In 2003, they attempted to use the DMCA and DRM to argue that it was an act of piracy (the courts didn't buy it) and then in 2015, they went all the way to the Supreme Court with the idea that you were violating their patent license terms if you treated the cartridges you purchased as though you owned them. Read the rest

Ticket checker on the Minneapolis metro thinks he's an immigration cop

A transit officer in Minneapolis, whose main job is to ask "Tickets, please!", was filmed May 14 wanting "Papers, please!".

The video posted on Facebook on May 20 has over 1 million views. In the clip, the officer asks the man, “Do you have a state ID?” The man appears to shake his head no.

“Are you here illegally?” the officer asks next.

Morales then intervenes and asks the officer, “Are you guys authorized to act as immigration police?”

“No, not necessarily,” the officer says.

Morales tells the officer, “Then I would stay out of that. It’s very touchy legal territory.”

After the video went viral, Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington released a statement assuring travelers it was not Metro policy to inquire about immigration status and promising an investigation.

“It is the policy of the Metro Transit Police Department that all members make personal and professional commitments to equal enforcement of the law and equal service to the public. Confidence in this commitment will increase the effectiveness of this department in protecting and serving the entire community and recognizing the dignity of all persons, regardless of their immigration status.”

Never trust someone wearing a shiny badge: they think they have all the other ones, too. Read the rest

Murderer rants at execution: "You can kiss my white trash ass"

Death Row inmate JW Ledford, after enjoying a 5,000-calorie last meal, was killed with a lethal injection by the U.S. State of Georgia this morning. He quoted Cool Hand Luke, smiled and said "you can kiss my white trash ass," then had his mic cut as he began ranting.

For his final meal on Friday, Ledford requested filet mignon wrapped in bacon with pepper jack cheese, large french fries, 10 chicken tenders with sauce, fried pork chops and a blooming onion.

For dessert he had pecan pie, vanilla ice cream and sherbet, washed down with a Sprite, according to WGLC-TV, an Atlanta news station.

Ledford robbed and murdered his neighbour, Dr Harry Johnston, stabbing him in the neck at his home on 31 January 1992.

He then threatened the victim's wife before stealing money, four guns and vehicle from the house.

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Across America, employers are using noncompetes to claim ownership of employees' skills

Noncompete agreements have historically been the provision of highly-placed execs and critical "knowledge workers" (and even then, fast-growing economies like California have banned them in the interests of encouraging competition and growth) but now employers are routinely making the "agreements" a condition of unskilled waged labor, from making sandwiches to digging holes for $10/hour. Read the rest

Louisiana's public defender's office is largely nonexistent so poor people just plead guilty

Louisiana has always been a backward place for criminal justice, the only state in the union that funds its public defenders' office with conviction fees, leaving a public defender's office that averages $238 spent on each accused. Read the rest

Pueblo, CO bust falls apart because cop staged his bodycam footage to frame his suspect

Colorado prosecutors have dismissed felony drug and weapons charges against a suspect because they learned that Pueblo Police Department offier Seth Jensen defrauded the court by faking his bodycam footage, "recreating" his bust after the suspect's car was in the impound lot. Read the rest

Prank bro learns that removing stop signs ain't smart

Charles Ross recorded himself removing stop signs for sweet, sweet YouTube views. He found an audience in the local police who pranked him back with a 3rd-degree felony charge. Read the rest

US government tells Supremes it could strip citizenship from virtually all naturalized Americans if it wanted to

The Supreme Court heard arguments in Maslenjak v. United States, a case about whether minor omissions or falsehoods in an immigration application can cost a naturalized American their citizenship, decades after the fact. Read the rest

What happens legally if you shoot someone's drone out of the sky?

Probably not much, as Brad Jones learned over Easter when a neighbor allegedly blasted his DJI Phantom. Even if his prime suspect confessed, there's not much precedent for prosecutions. Read the rest

Juvenile criminal defense attorneys forced to agree to Taser's terms of service to see the state's evidence

California criminal defense attorney Rick Horowitz had a juvenile client, he was shocked when the prosecutor in the case told him that to see the evidence against his client, he'd have to log in to evidence.com, run by Taser International (now rebranded as Axon). Read the rest

100 phones found in accused festival thief's backpack

What a haul: 100 handsets in a single backpack, found after festival-goers at Coachella trained the "Find My iPhone" app on their missing gadgets.

Reinaldo De Jesus Henao, 36, was busted after several concert-goers activated the “Find My Phone” feature on their lost smartphones and noticed that the signals led them directly to him. The ordeal was several days in the making and, according to the Indio Police Department, it took an equal effort by authorities and music fans to catch the prolific smartphone bandit.

“I noticed some chatter on social media about phones disappearing on Reddit,” said Indio Police Sergeant Dan Marshall in an interview with Gizmodo. “One of the common threads [among Reddit posters] was that they were all losing their phones at the Sahara tent.”

There's something funny about a crowd of marks so distracted and unware of their surroundings that a thief could work a hundred people before being caught by a computer program.

Photos: Indio Police Department, composited by Gizmodo. Read the rest

Possible reprieve for Hungary's Central European University

After 70,000 people marched in Budapest against a new Hungarian law that targeted the liberal Central European University, the Hungarian government has dangled a possible escape rope: Education Secretary Laszlo Palkovics said that "CEU could issue diplomas if it extended a license agreement with its Hungarian sister school to teach its courses." Read the rest

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