Monthly Archives: April 2015

Judge allows later curfew for defendant in drug-bust case

On April 21, Judge Douglas Shepherd, of the 41-A District Court, granted the third adjournment of the pretrial examination of a Shelby Township man charged with delivery/manufacture of marijuana and maintaining a drug house, and also allowed him to have a later curfew.

At the request of Colin Daniels, counsel standing in for defense attorney Neil Rockind, Shepherd modified the tether of Najah Zetouna, 51, to allow Zetouna to be out of his house from 10 a.m.-10 p.m., two hours later than his prior conditions of 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

On March 23, Rockind requested and was granted a change in tether conditions to allow Zetouna to be out from 8 a.m.-8 p.m., instead of 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Rockind’s reasoning was for Zetouna to spend more time with his wife and children.

On April 21, Daniels requested the two-hour shift so that Zetouna could work.

“Right now, he is looking to get a job at a party store, and those times he needs to work would be 10-midnight or 10-2 on the weekends,” Daniels said. “I don’t believe he’s a flight risk. He’s been to our firm. He’s been to court every time. There’s no reason to believe he’s a flight risk at all.”

Shepherd said the tether allowance had to fall within a 12-hour period, so Daniels requested a period of 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

Stephanie Stager, an assistant prosecutor in the district court division, objected on the people’s behalf to changing the tether times.

“The purpose (of the original tether change) was so that Mr. Zetouna would be able to see his children and be an active part of their lives, not be able to work. We believe that 8 a.m.-8 p.m. would also suffice to allow him to work at a party store,” Stager said. “We would also note that much of his narcotics trafficking happened at night.”

She warned against Zetouna working in a party store until midnight or 2 a.m.

Shepherd allowed the change in tether times, citing his intent to accommodate the defendant, as well as protect the community.

“It goes without saying, but no criminal activity, no selling of drugs, no issues. We’ll modify it by a two-hour period, but otherwise, you better be staying out of trouble. And if not, we’re going to be revoking bond and sending you to the Macomb County Jail,” Shepherd told Zetouna.

In February, police arrested Zetouna after a monthlong investigation and drug seizure worth an estimated $125,000. Police said the seizure involved approximately 32 pounds of high-grade marijuana packaged for sale, as well as synthetic marijuana.

Daniels declined to comment on the case.

William Dailey, chief of the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office drug unit, could not be reached for comment by press time.

via C&G Newspapers


Supreme Court Limits Drug-Sniffing Dog Use in Traffic Stops

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the police may not prolong traffic stops to wait for drug sniffing dogs to inspect vehicles.

“A police stop exceeding the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made violates the Constitution’s shield against unreasonable seizures,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority. The vote was 6 to 3.

The case, Rodriguez v. United States No. 13-9972, started when a Nebraska police officer saw a Mercury Mountaineer driven by Dennys Rodriguez veer onto the shoulder of a state highway just after midnight. The officer, Morgan Struble performed a routine traffic stop, questioning Mr. Rodriguez and his passenger and running a records check. He then issued Mr. Rodriguez a written warning.

That completed the stop, Justice Ginsburg wrote. But Officer Struble then had his drug-sniffing dog, Floyd, circle the vehicle. Floyd smelled drugs and led his officer to a large bag of methamphetamine. About eight minutes elapsed between the written warning and Floyd’s alert.

Mr. Rodriguez moved to suppress the evidence. Lower courts, relying on a 2005 Supreme Court decision that allowed drug-sniffing dog use during traffic stops, said brief prolongations of those stops to allow for such inspections did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

Justice Ginsburg, who dissented in the 2005 case, Illinois v. Caballes, said that decision had merely “tolerated certain unrelated investigations that did not lengthen the roadside detention.”

“An officer, in other words, may conduct certain unrelated checks during an otherwise lawful traffic stop,” she wrote. But, she added, “he may not do so in a way that prolongs the stop, absent the reasonable suspicion ordinarily demanded to justify detaining an individual.”

The majority sent the case back to a lower court for a determination of whether that reasonable suspicion existed.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Justice Ginsburg’s majority opinion.

Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, saying the majority had drawn artificial and unworkable distinctions. He was joined by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. and, for the most part, by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

“If a driver is stopped by a particularly efficient officer,” Justice Thomas wrote, “then he will be entitled to be released from the traffic stop after a shorter period of time than a driver stopped by a less efficient officer. Similarly, if a driver is stopped by an officer with access to technology that can shorten a records check, then he will be entitled to be released from the stop after a shorter period of time than an individual stopped by an officer without access to such technology.”

In a separate dissent, Justice Alito added that much will now turn on the order in which police officers complete their tasks during traffic stops. Issuing a ticket or warning, he said, will now become the last step.

“Most officers will learn the prescribed sequence of events even if they cannot fathom the reason for that requirement,” he wrote. He added, “I would love to be the proverbial fly on the wall when police instructors teach this rule to officers who make traffic stops.”

Justices Thomas and Alito also said that there was no reason to have further proceedings about whether Officer Struble had a reasonable suspicion that justified using Floyd, as they said he had ample reason to be suspicious. There was, they said, an overwhelming odor of air freshener in the vehicle. The reasons Mr. Rodriguez offered for veering onto the shoulder and for his trip were open to question. And the passenger appeared nervous.

“These facts, taken together, easily met our standard for reasonable suspicion,” Justice Thomas wrote.

via New York Times

Detroit cop accused of robbery maintains his innocence

Detroit — Two suspended members of a disbanded Detroit Police Department drug unit were released on $10,000 unsecured bond Thursday after being indicted and accused of robbing and extorting people while on duty.

Lt. David “Hater” Hansberry and Officer Bryan “Bullet” Watson were arraigned in federal court on charges that include robbery conspiracy. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in federal prison.

The indictments come almost three months after another officer under investigation in the case, Detective James Napier, 35, of the 12th Precinct, died of a self-inflicted gun shot. The charges also come five months after Hansberry, 34, and Watson, 46, were suspended for alleged criminal wrongdoing.

“Officers who violate the law cannot be tolerated because effective law enforcement requires public trust,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in a statement Thursday after the indictment was unsealed.

A third man associated with Hansberry, Kevlin Brown, also was charged in the case and accused robbing and extorting a victim in January 2012.

Lawyers for Hansberry and Watson did not return calls seeking comment early Thursday.

Hansberry and Watson sat next to each other in federal court, hunched over while reading copies of the eight-count indictment. Hansberry appeared animated, arching his eyebrows and smirking while reading portions of the criminal case and slowly shaking his head.

While free on bond, Hansberry and Watson are barred from possessing firearms.

The indicted officers are suspended without pay as the department looks to restore public trust eroded by the accusations, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said at a brief press conference Thursday.

“The vast majority of the men and women in the Detroit Police Department are honest and hardworking. They honor the badges they wear and the oath they took to protect the citizens of this city,” he said. “But criminal allegations of this magnitude tend to affect the erosion of public trust and the tarnishing our badges.”

Craig called the allegations “troubling” and stressed they should not reflect upon the rest of the department.

“It does not suggest that everybody assigned to the former narcotics unit was somehow involved in illegal narcotics activity,” he said. “We should remember allegations of criminal conduct by a few should never paint a picture that the entire police department is corrupt.”

Hansberry, a 16-year veteran, and Watson, a 22-year veteran, were suspended with pay in October along with multiple other officers from the former narcotics unit, Craig said.

“That’s been a consistent process that I’ve adhered to,” Craig said. “If there are criminal allegations and it moves into a charging situation then the status changes to no pay.”

Craig said he did not know how many other officers remain on suspension. He declined to comment on if the department expects charges to be brought against those individuals.

Craig disbanded the Narcotics Section in July because of what he said were systemic problems uncovered during an Internal Affairs investigation that began in May, including how drugs and evidence were handled.

An internal probe started last year is ongoing, Craig previously told The News, and is separate from the federal investigation. The internal probe stems from accusations of wrongdoing by Lt. Chuck Flanagan, which is also an ongoing internal affairs probe. The federal investigation started before Flanagan took over the drug unit.

Since then, the department has launched a new Major Violators Unit with more oversight and limits on time officers spend serving in the unit, Craig said.

“The narcotics units and the vice units of today have a limited tenure, or limited duration of assignment of three to five years,” he said. “By doing that it certainly …eliminates stagnation.”

According to the indictment, Hansberry and Watson carried out traffic stops and fake arrests before stealing drugs, money and property.

The alleged conspiracy started in June 2010, ran through October and involved Hansberry and Watson also arranging drug deals and then stealing money, drugs and property, prosecutors alleged.

They “would also identify themselves as law enforcement officers performing official law enforcement duties in order to coerce their victims into complying with their demands and to encourage their victims to flee, leaving behind their controlled substances, money or personal property,” prosecutors alleged in the indictment.

Bernard Cybulski, vice president of the Detroit Police Officers Association, said: “Just because they’re indicted doesn’t mean they’re guilty. They should be given their day in court.”

Instead of turning over the money, drugs and property to the Detroit Police Department, Hansberry and Watson sold the drugs — sometimes through informants — and split the money, the Justice Department alleged.

“I can only imagine the number of people that have been victimized by this crew,” Southfield defense lawyer Neil Rockind said.

He defended a Detroit man in 2013 charged in a drug case investigated by Hansberry, Watson and Napier.

The police lied to obtain a search warrant and lied about finding cocaine during a raid at a home owned by the man’s mother, Rockind said.

“Watson testified defiantly that he was telling the truth,” he said. “And Hansberry attempted to suggest his integrity was beyond reproach.”

Rockind’s client was acquitted in Wayne County Circuit Court in December 2013 after a jury trial.

“My experiences with these officers was very negative,” Rockind said. “These officers are entitled to their day in court and their lawyers will say (Hansberry and Watson) are beyond reproach. They’re going to witness the awesome power of the government that they were a part of. They’re going to see federal agents and prosecutors being given the benefit of the doubt.”

via Detroit News

Parents: If your child gets in trouble at school, DO NOT LET THEM BE INTERVIEWED BY ANYONE

Don’t let them be interviewed with you present, and especially not by themselves.

NO INTERVIEWS. Not by faculty, not by administration, and not by the police.

Your children, though they may be minors, have the SAME RIGHTS as any other person accused of doing something wrong: They have the right to remain silent and they have the right to a lawyer. Those rights exist for a reason! They exist to protect you and your children from improper interrogation techniques, from false accusations, and from those that would seek to do harm to your family.

GET A LAWYER. It doesn’t matter whether or not your child is guilty or innocent of the accusations. Neither you, nor your child can talk your way out of things. A lawyer can protect your child and his or her rights.

Don’t hesitate to contact our office if you need help or have any questions. The number is 248-208-3800.

Jolly Ranchers, Sage and Breath Mints

A closer look at a favorite (and unreliable) law-enforcement tool: drug field tests.

When a Tampa motorist was searched by a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s patrol last July, deputies found a wad of brown goo in his wallet. Police popped the substance into a bag – a field drug test called a NARK II, used by law enforcement across the country — gave it a shake, and watched it turn purple, indicating a positive result for methamphetamine.

The motorist, a military officer, said later it was Jamaican Stone, an herbal “male-enhancement” product, but by then he had been arrested and booked in jail. He bonded himself out, and eventually the state’s crime lab found the substance negative for meth. Prosecutors dropped the charges. (His lawyer declined to give his name. His case was first reported by Gloria Gomez for the Tampa Fox TV affiliate.)

It was hardly the first time a field test yielded a false positive — and a wrongful arrest. Sage has been mistaken for marijuana; motor oil for heroin;jolly ranchers for meth; and breath mints for crack. In February, a Minnesota man spent months in jail after his vitamin powder tested positive for amphetamines.

Soon after the arrest in Tampa, a Hillsborough police lieutenant conducted his own experiment on the NARK II tests, which cost between $15 and $20 for a box of ten. He found that just opening the test bag to the air produced the same shade of purple as exposure to methamphetamine, according to an internal memo. In February, the Hillsborough sheriff’s department announced it had switched to a different field test, made by the same company, which tests for a wider variety of illegal drugs. A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department declined interview requests.

In 2009, researchers sponsored by the Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates legalization of the drug, staged a demonstration of some of the most widely used field tests, all of which rely on similar chemical reactions. “This is just air,” said one presenter, waving an open test as it turned orange, indicating a positive result. The researchers claimed that out of 42 non-marijuana substances placed in the field tests, 70 percent tested positive.

Jeremy Morris, a forensic scientist and president of the Midwestern Association of Forensic Scientists, estimated that false-positives are far less common, occurring in about five percent of cases. “For the most part, it is what the officer thinks it is,” Morris said.

And according to Bob Bushman, President of the Minnesota State Association of Narcotics Investigators, police rarely rely entirely on field tests. Police, who are often trained to use the tests by the companies that produce them, factor in other signs, such as packaging or behavior of the subject.

Bushman added that substances are, in his experience, always double-checked in a lab. “I’m not aware of any place where they follow through with a prosecution without a lab analysis.”

Anthony Rickman, the lawyer for the Tampa motorist, disagrees. “It depends on your definition of prosecution. The moment you walk into criminal court, you’re being prosecuted.” Rickman said lab tests aren’t performed unless the charges are contested. That was also the policy in Travis County, Texas, until 2013, when the discovery of a dozen false-positives led District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to stop accepting plea bargains on low-level possession cases until after the lab results are in.

And while the Tampa motorist was eventually vindicated by the state’s crime lab, that occurred months after his arrest. Meanwhile, he is convinced the criminal charge hanging over him caused him to be passed up for a promotion at work.

Even in cases where an officer suspects that the test result might be faulty, those suspicions might not be enough to override a positive result on a field test. John Wesley Hall, a criminal defense attorney in Little Rock, Arkansas, described a recent case where police found a plastic bag containing a pound of dishwashing soap under his client’s sink. It tested positive for meth, but one officer had his doubts: “He was saying to the other officers, ‘Look, I know it tested positive for meth, but that’s soap.’” Police still charged the man with possession of meth, though a lab test eventually cleared him.

“As long as we use cheap tests,” Hall said, “there’s going to be false positives.”

via  The Marshall Project