Trump Hopes His Own Delusions Will Protect Him From Criminal Charges

“Donald Trump claimed he never asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the votes necessary to reverse Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in that state. Trump also said he had “the absolute right” to do whatever he wanted with presidential documents when he left the White House in January 2021. Both of those statements are false, and both go to the heart of potential criminal charges against the former president.
In a notorious phone conversation with Raffensperger on January 2, 2021, Trump pressed him to validate one bogus election-fraud claim after another. Among other things, Trump mentioned “300,000 fake ballots” that “were dropped mysteriously into the rolls”; asserted that “dead people voted, and I think the number is close to 5,000”; said election workers counted Biden votes “three times” and took “18,000 ballots” out of “suitcases or trunks”; and cited a “rumor” that “they shredded ballots in Fulton County.”

Raffensperger and his office’s general counsel, Ryan Germany, patiently refuted these allegations, saying there was no evidence to support them and no reason to believe that Biden had not in fact won Georgia’s electoral votes. Trump was unfazed. He insisted that all of the alleged irregularities amounted to “many, many times the 11,779 margin” by which Biden had won. “All I want to do is this,” he said. “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.”

Trump was frustrated by the resistance from Raffensperger and Germany. “Why don’t you want to find this, Ryan?” he asked. “What’s wrong with you?” Addressing Raffensperger, he asked, “Why wouldn’t you want to find the right answer, Brad, instead of keep saying that the numbers are right? ‘Cause those numbers are so wrong.”

If Raffensperger refused to “find the right answer,” Trump implied, he could face criminal charges. The conspirators who supposedly stole the election for Biden had committed crimes, he said, and “it is more illegal for you than it is for them because you know what they did and you’re not reporting it….That’s a criminal offense. And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer.””

Congress Tries Again To Reform Civil Asset Forfeiture Abuses

“The FAIR Act sets a higher bar for seizing private property, but still allows for civil forfeiture in the absence of a criminal conviction. The legislation requires:
“If the Government’s theory of forfeiture is that the property was used to commit or facilitate the commission of a criminal offense, or was involved in the commission of a criminal offense, the Government shall establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that…there was a substantial connection between the property and the offense; and the owner of any interest in the seized property—(i) used the property with intent to facilitate the offense; or knowingly consented or was willfully blind to the use of the property by another in connection with the offense.”

The bill requires that seizures be conducted in court rather than through administrative processes and also guarantees legal representation for federal forfeiture targets.

The FAIR Act isn’t a perfect bill. Many reformers will object that forfeiture should require the criminal conviction of the person whose money and property is being taken. Draining somebody’s bank account and nabbing their car keys may not be as dramatic as throwing them in a prison cell, but it’s a harsh punishment all the same and should require full due process. Still, some improvement is better than none for a practice that has largely served as an exercise in legalized highway robbery.”

“”Police abuse of civil asset forfeiture laws has shaken our nation’s conscience. Civil forfeiture allows police to seize — and then keep or sell — any property they allege is involved in a crime,” the ACLU points out in a summary of the practice. “Owners need not ever be arrested or convicted of a crime for their cash, cars, or even real estate to be taken away permanently by the government.””

“”Civil asset forfeiture—which allows the government to take property supposedly linked to crime without charging, let alone convicting, the owner—exploded after Congress started letting law enforcement agencies keep the loot in the mid-1980s,” Reason’s Jacob Sullum wrote in 2015. “Many states followed the federal government’s example, giving police and prosecutors a financial interest in forfeiture by awarding them anywhere from 45 percent to 100 percent of the money it generated.”

That empowered a powerful bloc supporting the status quo at the state and federal level, and it’s not shy about calling out opponents. In Missouri, supporters of forfeiture reform were labeled “anti-police and soft on the war on drugs,” St. Louis Public Radio reported in 2019. That was enough to scare away many lawmakers who traditionally defer to cops and prosecutors.”

Salt Lake City Suspended Use of Police K9s and Nothing Bad Happened, Study Shows

“Cops have long partnered with dogs, claiming they help keep officers safe. But a study published in January suggests that police do just as well without canine colleagues.
In 2020, Salt Lake City suspended the use of police K9 units after The Salt Lake Tribune published body camera footage of an officer ordering his dog to bite a 36-year-old black man who was on his knees with his hands in the air. That abrupt policy shift gave researchers at the University of South Carolina, the University of Utah, and Clemson University a chance to test claims about the benefits of police dogs.

Police say dogs help find hidden suspects, deter resistance, protect officers, intimidate potentially violent crowds, and improve public relations. But the researchers, who reported their findings in the Journal of Experimental Criminology, found that the “sudden suspension of K9 apprehension was not associated with a statistical increase in officer or suspect injury, or suspect resistance, during felony arrests.” The authors concluded that restricting or eliminating police K9s is “unlikely to impact aggregate officer or suspect safety negatively.””

‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws Are Back in the News, but It’s Not Clear Why

“The distinguishing feature of “stand your ground” laws is that they eliminate the duty to retreat for people confronted by threats of violence in public places. The shooting of Ralph Yarl did not happen in a public place; it happened on the doorstep of the man who shot him. The shooting of Kaylin Gillis likewise happened on the property of the man who killed her. New York, in any event, is not one of the 28 states with “stand your ground” laws. And as Reason’s J.D. Tuccille notes, the Texas cheerleaders, Payton Washington and Heather Roth, “were chased by their assailants, which isn’t self-defense by any understanding.”
So why does NPR suggest that any of these defendants might successfully invoke a “stand your ground” defense? You got me.

A recent New York Times article that begins by citing the shootings in Missouri and New York is equally hazy on the relevance of “stand your ground” laws. Reporter Adeel Hassan compounds the confusion by mentioning a Florida jury’s 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, who was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter after he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Zimmerman argued that he reasonably feared for his life when Martin pinned him to the ground, punched him, and smacked his head against the pavement. That account was supported by physical evidence and witness testimony. Given those circumstances, the absence of a duty to retreat did not figure in Zimmerman’s defense or in the verdict.

Politico reporter Brakkton Booker nevertheless asserts that Florida’s “stand your ground” law was “central” to Zimmerman’s trial. Booker also thinks the shooting of Ralph Yarl “has all the ingredients to revive the national debate over ‘stand your ground’ laws,” although he never explains why.

Hassan at least correctly distinguishes between “the common-law ‘castle doctrine'” and “stand your ground” laws. The castle doctrine says people have no duty to retreat when they are confronted by intruders in their own homes. “Stand your ground” laws, Hassan notes, “go further” because they “apply anyplace where a person has a legal right to be, not just at home.” He cites Florida’s law as an example.”

“Texas has a similar law. It allows someone to use deadly force when he “reasonably believes” it is “immediately necessary” to protect himself against the “use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force.” It adds that “a person who has a right to be present at the location where the force is used, who has not provoked the person against whom the force is used, and who is not engaged in criminal activity at the time the force is used is not required to retreat before using force as described by this section.””

“Homicide defendants do sometimes invoke the absence of a duty to retreat in public places, although often implausibly and unsuccessfully, and there is a legitimate debate about whether that extension of self-defense law is fair and prudent. But that debate is muddied whenever news outlets bring up the controversy in contexts where it is plainly irrelevant.”

Greg Abbott’s Pardon Promise Ignores the Shakiness of Daniel Perry’s Self-Defense Claim

“a Texas jury found Army Sgt. Daniel Perry guilty of murdering Garrett Foster, a protester he encountered at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in July 2020. Less than 24 hours after that verdict, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he would pardon Perry if asked.
Abbott’s hasty announcement, which seemed to be driven by conservative complaints that Perry had been unjustly prosecuted for shooting Foster in self-defense, illustrates how political prejudices convert empirical questions into tests of team loyalty. That bipartisan tendency is the antithesis of what jurors are supposed to do when they are confronted by the clashing narratives of a criminal trial.

Abbott took it for granted that Perry’s account of what happened the night he killed Foster was accurate. Texas has “one of the strongest” self-defense laws in the country, the governor wrote on Twitter, and that law “cannot be nullified by a jury or a progressive District Attorney.”

Contrary to the implication, the jurors who convicted Perry did not ignore the state’s self-defense law, which allows someone to use deadly force when he “reasonably believes” it is “immediately necessary” to protect himself against the “use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force.” The jurors simply did not believe the circumstances of Foster’s death met those requirements.”

Jan. 6 defendant fired on deputies ahead of expected arrest, court records show

“A Jan. 6 defendant wanted on misdemeanor charges opened fire at sheriff’s they checked on him ahead of his expected arrest, leading to a lengthy standoff”

Trump appeals verdict finding him liable for sexual assault

“Former President Donald Trump is appealing a jury’s verdict finding him liable for sexually abusing and defaming writer E. Jean Carroll. Trump’s lawyers filed a notice of appeal in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday, two days after the nine-person jury ordered

Trump Commuted His Sentence. Now the Justice Department Is Going To Prosecute Him Again.

“Esformes was not convicted of the most serious charges leveled against him. The government failed to convince a jury, for example, that he committed conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud. So his 20-year sentence—handed down by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola of the Southern District of Florida—may appear grossly disproportionate to his convictions.
Until you realize the judge explicitly punished Esformes for charges on which the jury hung.

That is not an error. “When somebody gets sentenced [at the federal level]…they get sentenced on all charges, even the ones they’re acquitted on, [as long as] they get convicted on one count,” says Brett Tolman, the former U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah who is now the executive director of Right on Crime. It is a little-known, jaw-dropping part of the legal system: Federal judges are, in effect, not obligated to abide by a jury’s verdict at sentencing. They can, and do, sentence defendants for conduct on which they were not convicted. In this case, Esformes was already sentenced—and had that sentence commuted—for the crimes that the DOJ now wants to retry.

“This defendant, as much as you might not like him…do you think he should be punished two or three times for the same conduct?” asks Tolman. “I don’t find anybody who thinks that’s fair.””

Oklahoma Almost Killed Him 3 Times. Now, the State Is Trying To Vacate His Conviction.

“Oklahoma’s attorney general has filed a motion to overturn the capital murder conviction of Richard Glossip, who has spent almost 26 years on death row. The move comes after the release of a new report detailing considerable issues in the state’s case against Glossip, concluding that he was “deprived of a fair trial.””