Crime & Justice

Crime & Justice
11:36 am
Tue January 14, 2014

Civil Rights Groups Say Video Jail Visits Too Costly, May Violate Civil Rights

The Travis County Jail's video-visiting system has been called into question by some alleging it serves as a pipeline for prosecutorial evidence.
flickr.com/duluoz_cats

This is an article from our Austin City Hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor (formerly In Fact Daily).

A two-way video conferencing system that has all but replaced in-person visits by friends and family members with those incarcerated at the Travis County Jail is coming under fire  as being too expensive, too impersonal and possibly even dangerous to an inmate’s health. Critics are also concerned about the possibility that attorney-client conversations are being illegally recorded and provided to prosecutors.

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Crime & Justice
6:56 am
Thu January 9, 2014

How Would You React In A Shooting? Have A Plan, Experts Say

Newtown, Conn., Dec. 20, 2012: Stuffed animals and a candle arrangement at a streetside memorial for the 20 children and six adults killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
John Moore Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 9, 2014 9:28 am

The annual number of mass murders and attempted mass murders in the U.S. has tripled since 2008, to 15 last year, according to statistics that the FBI and Justice Department have been citing in recent weeks.

In a new study posted online by the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, experts make the case that "police have, generally, done an excellent job responding to active shooter events quickly."

But, they add:

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Crime & Justice
2:51 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

Montopolis Residents Battle Alleged Housing Scam

A home in the Montopolis area. The Texas Civil Rights Project says a group is tricking seniors into signing over the rights to their homes.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The Texas Civil Rights Project is calling on local authorities to investigate a string of suspicious housing deals that could cause seniors to lose their homes.

A company called Castro has been approaching Montopolis residents to see if they qualify for free home repairs paid for by the government. According to homeowners, the solicitors urged them to sign contracts granting Castro full legal rights over their homes.

Texas Civil Rights Project attorney Brian McGiverin says the Travis County District Attorney and the Texas Attorney General must investigate immediately.

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Privacy
3:47 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

Intelligence Panel Recommends Limits On NSA Surveillance

The National Security Agency campus in Fort Meade, Md.
Patrick Semansky AP

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 6:31 pm

(This post was updated at 6:30 p.m. ET)

A panel looking into U.S. electronic surveillance activities in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations has recommended removing the NSA's authority to collect and store Americans' telephone data.

The key recommendation was one of dozens that the panel put forward; however, it did not propose a wholesale scaling back of domestic spying by the National Security Agency and other intelligence branches.

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Privacy
2:33 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Federal Judge Rules NSA Bulk Phone Record Collection Unconstitutional

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 3:31 pm

A federal judge in Washington says the National Security Agency's program for bulk phone record collection violates Americans' reasonable expectation of privacy.

The ruling (pdf), however, has been stayed pending a likely appeal.

Judge Richard Leon says the sweeping NSA collection of U.S. phone metadata constitutes an unreasonable search or seizure under the Fourth Amendment.

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Crime & Justice
10:19 am
Tue December 10, 2013

Study Shows Texans Support Changing How The State Punishes Drug Crimes

Rather than locking people up for non-violent drug offenses, the latest poll shows Texans favor rehab, which experts say also saves money.
Flickr user 710928003 cc

Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 9:43 am

A new poll released this week shows Texans strongly support reforming how the state punishes non-violent drug offenses. The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Effective Justice polled over 1,000 people about how Texas currently punishes non-violent drug offenders with prison time vs. drug rehab and probation.  

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CPRIT
12:12 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Former Executive at CPRIT, Texas' Cancer Agency, Indicted

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg announces the indictment of former CPRIT executive Jerald Cobbs.

A Travis County grand jury has indicted Jerald Cobbs, a former executive with the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), in connection with an $11 million grant the agency approved without putting it through required reviews.

The charge of securing execution of a document by deception carries a potential jail sentence of five to 99 years or life, and a fine of up to $10,000.

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Keller Day Care Case
5:02 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

Jailed For 'Satanic Abuse' Few Believe Happened, Fran & Dan Keller Free After 21 Years

Jordan Smith's 2009 article on the Keller case set the couple’s appeal in motion.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Update: Dan Keller walked out of the Travis County Jail this afternoon after 21 years in prison. He was greeted with an embrace from his wife Fran, released from her own imprisonment last week.

As the two left the jail, Dan Keller denied any bitterness over his two­-plus decades in prison. 

“I forgave everybody,” Keller said. “It’s no use to hate somebody … man ain’t supposed to do that. Lord didn’t hate anybody when they put him on the cross. He said ‘I forgive you,’ and I forgave them. It’s an experience I wouldn’t wish on anybody.”

Original story (Nov. 27): A Central Texas woman is now free after spending more than 20 years behind bars.

Fran Keller and her husband Dan were both sentenced to 48 years for so-called “satanic ritual abuse” at their Austin-area day care.

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Crime & Justice
3:14 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

In Austin, Less Than 10 Percent of Property Crimes Get Solved

Theives broke into the reporter's home through a glass door in October.
Joy Diaz/KUT News

If you live in Austin, chances are you or someone you know has been the victim of a property crime. 

That’s because Austin is one of the worst cities nationwide when it comes to property crime.

FBI numbers show Austin’s property crime rates are worse than New York, Chicago or even Los Angeles. Property crimes are so prevalent that a couple of years ago, the Austin Police Department created its very first Burglary Unit.

Every month almost 4,000 property crimes happen in Austin.

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Same-Sex Marriage
10:43 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Same-Sex Couples Await Federal Judge's Injunction Decision On Texas Marriage Laws

Mark Phariss (red hair) and his partner Vic Holmes, two of the main plaintiffs in the Texas.
Photo provided by Mark Phariss

Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 1:03 pm

Two same-sex couples from Texas are waiting for a decision on a temporary injunction filed in federal court against the Texas laws that ban same-sex marriage. The case in Texas is just one part of seven cases in other states with the goal of having the U.S. Supreme Court resolve the issue.

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Ritual Abuse
2:14 pm
Tue November 26, 2013

Austin Woman Set To Be Released From Prison In "Satanic Ritual Abuse" Case

Fran Keller at the Crain Unit in Gatesville on August 26, 2013.
Karen Bernstein for KUT News

Originally published on Tue November 26, 2013 10:26 am

The National Center for Reason and Justice is reporting that Francis Keller will be released from prison in Texas. Keller has spent the last 20 years behind bars for a crime that many say never even happened.

Debbie Nathan of the National Center for Reason and Justice told Texas Public Radio that the release could happen as soon at today.

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Crime & Justice
3:59 pm
Fri November 22, 2013

Bastrop Student in Coma Days After Being Tased by Sheriff's Deputies

Noe Nino de Rivera is in a coma after being tased by a Bastrop County Sheriff’s Deputy at Cedar Creek High School on Wednesday.
Adam Loewy

Some Cedar Creek High School students walked out of class today in protest of the tasing of a fellow student on Wednesday. That student, 17-year-old Noe Nino de Rivera, has been in a coma ever since the incident.

Officials and Rivera’s family members are far apart in their descriptions of the incident.

Bastrop County Sheriff’s Deputies Randy McMillan and Timothy Stalcup, who work as school resource officers for the Bastrop school district, were called Wednesday morning to a fight between two female students.

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Internet Privacy
10:38 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Can Texas' Supreme Court Force Google to Unmask Anonymous Bloggers?

"We haven't had a high court decision in our state to determine how hard, or how easy, it should be for a company to unmask an anonymous blogger,” says professor Nicole Casarez.
flickr.com/grahamsblog

Let's say you're angry with your boss.  You go online and vent in an anonymous post. It's therapeutic, sure. But now your boss wants to sue for defamation.  

In Texas, courts haven't settled on guidelines for online defamation. But a little-discussed case before the Texas Supreme Court could help determine if the state can force companies like Google to identify anonymous bloggers.

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Gun Violence
11:31 am
Tue October 22, 2013

Teacher Who Died Trying To End Shooting Remembered As A Hero

A Sparks Middle School student cries with family members after a fellow student killed a math teacher and himself Monday in Sparks, Nev.
Kevin Clifford AP

Originally published on Tue October 22, 2013 11:46 am

Michael Landsberry, the 45-year-old middle school math teacher and Afghan War veteran who was killed Monday trying to talk down a student shooter at a Nevada middle school, is being remembered as a hero.

Witnesses at Sparks Middle School in the city of Sparks, near Reno, described how Landsberry approached the armed 13-year-old boy and tried to get him to surrender a semi-automatic pistol he had used to shoot two fellow students. The boy then turned the weapon on Landsberry, fatally shooting him, before using the pistol to take his own life.

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Crime & Justice
6:01 pm
Sat October 19, 2013

JPMorgan Strikes Tentative $13B Mortgages Settlement

JP Morgan Chase & Company headquarters in New York.
Emmanuel Dunand AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat October 19, 2013 4:28 pm

In what would be the largest such settlement in U.S. history, JPMorgan Chase & Co. has reportedly reached a tentative deal with the Justice Department that would see the bank pay $13 billion to settle civil charges related to wrongdoing by some of its units just before and during the housing crisis.

The deal, sources tell news outlets including NPR, would not absolve JPMorgan from possible criminal liability.

Word of the tentative agreement emerged around 3 p.m. ET. Saturday. We posted when the news broke and followed with background and more details.

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Police
4:46 pm
Fri October 18, 2013

Officer-Involved Shooting in North Austin

Two people are recovering from gunshot wounds after related incidents in North Austin Friday afternoon.

Police say one person was struck by gunfire and then the person who fired that shot was hit by a shot fired by an Austin Police Officer.

It happened in the area of the 10300 block of Quail Ridge Drive, which is near Cook Elementary.

The school was briefly locked down as authorities assesed the situation. 

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Police
12:44 pm
Fri October 18, 2013

Why Are There So Few Women Cops in Austin?

APD Commander Antonia Singletary used to ride patrols on these Kawasaki bikes. The bikes were heavy, but easier to maneuver than the Harley Davidsons. Those, she says, “you have to manhandle.”
Joy Diaz, KUT News

In big cities nationwide, female police officers make up about 18 percent of the force. Those numbers may seem low, but they are similar to female enrollment figures in the military.

Austin’s numbers are even lower. Less than ten percent of Austin Police Department officers in Austin are women. APD wants to change that.

Antonia Singletary is a veteran cop with almost thirty years in the force. She is tiny, just 5’2” and around 100 pounds. She looks even smaller standing next to one of the motorcycles she used to use on patrol.

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Police
4:51 pm
Wed October 16, 2013

Austin Police ID Lt. Clay Crabb as Officer Involved in Fatal Crash

Lt. Clay Crabb was killed this morning in a fatal crash on his way to work.
Austin Police Department

An Austin Police officer was involved in a fatal crash this morning on U.S. Highway 290 near Sawyer Ranch Road.

In a written statement, APD identified the officer as Lieutenant Clay Crabb, a veteran officer who began his tenure with the Austin Police Department in 1998 after four years with the San Angelo Police Department. Crabb, 42, was on his way to work when a truck struck the driver's side of his vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the other vehicle was not seriously injured.

Crabb was awarded 16 commendations in his service including the Superior Service Citation and the Master Peace Officer Ribbon.

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Affirmative Action
7:57 am
Tue October 15, 2013

Supreme Court Returns To Affirmative Action In Michigan Case

People wait in line for the beginning of the Supreme Court's new term on Oct. 7.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Mon October 28, 2013 9:12 am

The U.S. Supreme Court takes up the issue of affirmative action again Tuesday, but this time the question is not whether race may be considered as a factor in college admissions. Instead, this case tests whether voters can ban affirmative action programs through a referendum.

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Death Row
6:17 pm
Mon October 7, 2013

Execution Drug Maker Wants Texas to Give It Back

Barbed wire outside the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville, which houses the state's death chamber
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

The owner of a compounding pharmacy outside Houston says he was told it was "unlikely" that his business would be revealed as the source of the state's lethal injection drug, pentobarbital.

Now that his Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy is known to be manufacturer of the drug intended for use in this week's scheduled execution and beyond, Jasper Lovoi has sent a letter to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), demanding the drug's return.

Lovoi's letter says he finds himself "in the middle of a firestorm" that he "was not advised of and did not bargain for." The identities of Lovoi and his pharmacy were originally revealed by the Associated Press, which obtained the information through an Open Records Request for its story on the new source of pentobarbital.

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